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Assessing Performance of Your Small Business | CEO Mindset Leadership Development Program- March 18, 2014

Take a more in-depth look at how a PESTEL analysis, SWOT analysis and your financials can be a treasure trove and not a burden when you want to know how well your business is growing. Click here to register or for more informationRegister today

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Small Business In Ireland – Time of Doubt, Hard Work and Hope

Irish Small BusinessThere are reports that the Irish economy is growing, fractionally, but growing. And there are reports that things are very bleak. The truth probably contains a bit of both.

 

Conflicting reports about the Irish economy and small businesses

  • In February, 2013, the Irish Independent reported that small business failures dropped by 32 percent
  • In March, 2013, The Irish Times reported that the services sector grew at a slower rate
  • Also in March, 2013, Business + Leadership reported that in a IBEC (Irish Business and Employers Confederation) business sentiment survey, indicators showed strong  improvement in business confidence at the start of 2013
  • In April, 2013, the Journal.ie reported that Davy, a stockbroking firm, revised its projections upwards for the Irish economy due to better performance and foreign investment
  • In April, 2013, FinFacts Ireland detailed that “Half of all lending to SME (small and medium enterprises) business is in arrears, according to the Central Bank”

But I got curious and asked my counterparts and peers in the #SMEcommunity in Ireland. I posted a query on the Facebook page of the #SMEcommunity.

A few perspectives

Geraldine Kennedy : (Jerros) “I have a boutique in Birr and I am seeing a lift in confidence. People are still cautious but definitely more optimistic. We are seeing more people out and about compared to last year which was desperate at this time.”

Debra Harper: (Tús Nua Designs and co-founder of the #SMEcommunity) “From what I can see there is a lot of small guys emerging, a lot of bigger established companies struggling with big overheads. A lot of biz based from home. There is a real fighting spirit going on, its not easy but the desire to succeed is there. A lot of frustration around new government schemes, all the right language is used but they are not moving with the times, not taking into account that the emerging new biz are tech or digital so can not forecast as easily as someone with a traditional shop and stock.”

Ray Wilkins:  (TotalGiftz.com) “There is a change in the air alright, a little more positive than before, small businesses continue to struggle though and changes are badly needed to help these businesses grow and create employment…government need to listen to the needs of small business and stop overlooking them..then we will see a bigger improvement…desire,drive,determination are all there..government ignoring SMEs causing road blocks..unnecessary.”

Debbie McDonnell: (The Marketing Shop.ie) “There are still no realistic options for a small business owner who provides a service or is a sole trader. If you can create a product or you opt to become a limited company you can get more than advice. Frustratingly there are situations where an enterprise board in one region can provide a lot more than one a few miles away too so your postal address can work against you which is all wrong. I think our government are doing a lot of talking about what they’re doing for small business but I know so many with viable businesses that get nothing because of rules, many of which were created pre-recession e.g. innovation vouchers which were last updated in 2007.”

Not exactly bullish

 While this may be not a technically representative sample, their comments reflect the frustration and concerns shared by SME owners in Ireland. There are calls for the Irish government to create policies that support the business growth of indigenous established small businesses. With the overall Eurozone trending downwards  and mixed signals in the Irish economy, it isn’t going to be an easy ride but it isn’t impossible either.

What is your observation about small business in Ireland?

If you could get someone from the Dáil to listen to you, what would you tell him/her?

What do established small businesses need to succeed?

What makes you optimistic about the future of Irish small businesses?

iStockphoto image by Artsy

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Back at TweakYourBiz.com

Elli St.George blogging on TweakMyBiz.comOn this blog, I write a lot about managing the business owner. Sometimes the business owner who needs to do some self-management is…well. me. I took a break from writing on TweakYourBiz.com (formerly Bloggertone) to take stock of what I wanted to do next. (I’ll write about my experience in another post.)

Well, I’m back blogging on TweakYourBiz.com and, frankly, I missed my blogger friends and the comments that often follow the posts. You can read my posts here:

How Collaboration Creates Growth For Your SME  I’m a big fan of collaboration and working with complementary professionals. It is a terrific way to see what you do through another eyes, improve your skill set and serve your customers well.

If you want to be incrementally better: Be competitive. If you want to be exponentially better: Be cooperative. - Unknown. Perhaps it’s due to the upheaval triggered by the global economic uncertainty or maybe the seeds were planted in the 1990?s but there is more talk about collaboration. This could be an underestimated strategy to growing your business. Read more

What You Need To Know Before You Export to the US Growth stages are growth stages, no matter whether you’re aiming to attract a more sophisticated customer, grow within or beyond your region or meet a need in a new market. However, if your SME is poised to export to the US, planning can help prevent some painful lessons.

Are you considering growing your business by exporting your products to the US marketplace? There are  opportunities to grow beyond your local borders for small businesses. Thorough planning will highlight what you need to know before it becomes a problem. Read more

I hope you will find these posts useful, add your comments and share them.

 

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Managing the Business Owner: Ready For the Long Run?

Preparing your small business for next stageThis past Monday, I went with my daughter to cheer on her teacher who was running the Boston Marathon. Every year, I am in awe of the thousands of people who run the 26.2 miles that snakes its way from Hopkinton to Boston. This year, it seemed more personal because I know one of the runners. It was a hot day and the Boston Athletic Association warned runners that the heat could be potentially dangerous.

Preparation is crucial

Even without the unusually high heat, preparing for a marathon is something that people think out and practice running often each week. Their diets and how they hydrate become key pieces of the plan.Their bodies and personality would combine to make it possible to finish or not finish this long race. They make a plan and follow it.

This became apparent as I was watching the marathoners pass by. Some were walking. Some were running very slowly and looked like they were in pain. Others were running by like it was nothing. As I reflected on all of this, it reminded me how running a small to mid-size enterprise (SME)  is analogous to running marathons.

Click here to read more »

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PESTEL Analysis- Snapshot of Your World

Skip the whole half-empty or half-full glass.  Economic news is so mixed that it is easy to paint everything with the same paintbrush. Depending on where you are, you could be optimistic that things are looking up or be convinced that the economy will never improve.

However, that’s unlikely to make your strategic plan useful. You can’t write, “It just all stinks” in big letters (even if it does). As you do a SWOT analysis, how can you get a grip on all of the factors that have an impact on your business?

Use a straightforward tool to take a snapshot of your world

That’s all a PESTEL analysis really is. You may already be familiar with this analysis as PEST, STEEP or STEP. Or maybe you do this informally within your SWOT analysis. Given all of the turbulence small to mid-sized businesses have encountered over the last 3 years, staying aware of your business environment can help you prepare for changes in regulations, respond to your customers more readily or identify emerging trends that your business is well suited to capitalize on. And like a lot of my recommendations, keeping it simple and straightforward is best.PESTEL Analysis

What factors are identified in a PESTEL analysis?

Political- This is how the local and national government might intervene with tax policy, laws, trade policies, subsidies for certain industries, industry-specific regulations, infrastructure and political stability.

Economic- It’s a given that whatever economy (or economies) that you do business in is a factor. Other things to identify within the economic factor are interest rates, changes in taxation rates or policies, inflation and currency exchange rates.

Social- Spells out demographics (age, gender, race/ethnicity, location), employee/career expectations and tolerances, population growth and national cultural trends. Keeping track of these may point to customer wants/needs or finding potential markets.

Technological- This factor includes how quickly technology changes and how your customers use technology to buy from you, technological options (mobile device applications, cloud computing, collaborative tools) that make it easier for you to get the work done internally, social media, e-commerce, research and development and manufacturing practices.

Environmental- There is an increasing emphasis on using more environmentally friendly practices and products. It may be important to your business and your industry to keep track of weather or climate changes.

Legal- Awareness of consumer laws, health and safety regulations, employment law, competition laws, international law, electronic data laws and privacy laws among others may be necessary for your business.

Not all of the factors will apply to you

As you go through each area, you and your team will notice that not everything included in each factor is applicable to your business. This is to be expected but still well worth having a complete picture of the business environment in which you are involved.

Highlights questions you need to answer

 Reviewing each factor supports finding what you and your team don’t know. It’s not unusual for a new regulation to be put in place and questions about compliance and potential penalties to come up in discussions with your team. When it comes time to do your SWOT analysis, you will be able to just plug the information into the Opportunities and Threats categories. This snapshot of your world will remove the emotional overtones and make it easier to design your strategic plan and determine which goals to act on.

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, a small business coach and trainer who guides established small business owners to be comfortable in their own skin. I have a deep appreciation for learning and understanding my client’s business style and culture. Visit my Services page to see how we might collaborate on a PESTEL anlysis for your small to mid-sized business or schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

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Living Business Plan: Financials For Non-Money Small Business Owner

SME Finanical ReportsNot a money person? You’re not alone. Many small business owners are not money people. And there is nothing wrong with being a great idea person or adept at business development. However, thinking that just paying attention to your “cash in, cash out” is the only information you need means you are missing a great deal more information.

In previous posts about living business plans here , here and here, I’ve written about the importance of having a living document and designing it so you use it on a quarterly basis. It’s great to have well written goals that keep you in action and being clear about what you want to accomplish is crucial. But, at the end of the day, how do you know if what you’re doing is working? How do you know if you’re making money? It’s all in the financial reports.

The 3 most important reports

1. The Balance Sheet is like a snapshot of your small to mid-sized business (SME) for a given moment in time. It details the company’s assets, liabilities and net worth.

Now, before you let your eyes glaze over and shut off your brain, let’s take a closer look. It is highly recommended that you read more about   these definitions at AllBusiness.com (highly recommended site) as this post is using just the basic definitions for brevity.

Asset: an economic resource that is expected to provide benefits to a business. A few examples of this include real estate, cash, inventory, machinery or a patent. There are also sub-categories that may be important to understand if you are planning to speak with investors or a banker. In your living business plan, it is important to know what your business owns that carries a tangible or intangible value.

Liability: a debt or financial obligation. A few examples  of this are money owed to vendors, estimated tax payments or loan payments. For those of you who offer a money-back guarantee or warranty, this may also be a liability.

Net Worth: total assets less your total liabilities. This is also sometimes referred to as retained earnings. Imagine it like a simple math problem Assets – Liabilities = Net Worth

If you aren’t using accounting software or have an accountant creating this document for you, you can find a good template here to get you started. Seeing it all lined up in categories and numbers can help you see the overall picture of what your small business is doing right now.

2. The Profit and Loss Statement is another sort of picture of the health of your SME. Simply put, it lists how much revenue (money coming in) is being generated and your expenses (money going out) during a set period of time. This can be done monthly, quarterly, biannually or yearly. Other terms that mean the same thing are income statement or operating statement. This report cuts to the chase. Are you making a profit or posting loss after loss? If you find your business is consistently losing money, it may be time to revisit other parts of your business plan or consider an exit strategy (closing the business, selling it or hiring someone with better skills to run it).

3. The Cash Flow Statement reports revenue and income as well as expenses derived from selling services or products, investing in long term measures for the growth of the company and borrowing and/or selling common stock. This report really highlights the solvency of your business by showing how easily financial obligations can be met.

You can be a “money person” some of the time

You may not become totally enamoured with all kinds of financial reports but you can discover how useful they are as tools. There are moments that you will discover good or bad news. I remember one time in the early days of my business when I was sure things were going south. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the cash flow was healthy and trending upward. There is plenty to lose sleep over. Knowing what is going on financially will help you sleep better and make proactive decisions.

*Want to learn more about living business plans? Join me for a 2-hour interactive Business Planning Workshop on Monday, October 17, 2011 from 6:00pm to 8:00pm at the Lowell Small Business Assistance Center, 88 Middle Street, Room 202, Lowell

Participants will:

  • Revisit their vision, core values, and core purpose to make sure they are on track
  • Learn simple methods to analyze and measure how their business is progressing so you can make course corrections before it’s too late
  • Fine tune their current goals and map out steps so they stay focused on what their customers really want and stop wasting time

During the workshop, there will be written exercises using information from case studies and the participants’ own businesses. At the end of the workshop, participants will leave with a written version of their living business plan. To learn more about the Lowell Small Business Assistance Center, you visit their website or call (978) 322-8400.

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Do What Scares You-Latest Bloggertone Post For Your SME

The recent economic turmoil has triggered a lot of change for many of us. Whether you are seeking the change or it has been imposed on you, it is important to know how to handle any fear that accompanies your change process.

Read more about Do What Scares You…

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Who Gets To Manage Change in SME’s?

Imagine this scenario:managing organizational change

As owner/CEO of a small company, you and your team have been coping with difficult economic pressures but it’s clear that keeping the business afloat isn’t enough. There is enough revenue from existing customers to pay overhead and salaries. However, developing new products has been slow and it’s clear to you that the current business model is unsustainable, particularly if the economy goes into another recession.

Earlier in the year, you and your team hashed out what the ideal customer looks like. It’s clear to you, as the leader, that the organization is going to have to change if you work with this ideal customer. When you try to have this conversation with your staff, Jane expresses concern that the easygoing collegial feeling will go away and it will feel “just like any other business.” Bob wants to know what your vision is and why it has to change now. He asks, “It’s all well and good that we’ve identified that we want to work with Big Firm in Nearby City but what’s wrong with our current customers?” Other staff members say nothing. Fred has made it clear that he thinks you are nice but too unrealistic to take the company to a more sophisticated stage.

Making this transition isn’t easy for anyone.

As anyone who has led a business will tell you, there has to be a process to managing change or the organization will become (more) dysfunctional. In larger organizations, it is easier to assign roles and tasks to the C-level team. However, in smaller organizations, the process is much more intimate.

Basic model of managing organizational change

1. What needs to change? Without identifying what is outdated, wrong or broken, there is no compelling pain or impetus to do something new.

2. Why now? Making changes without a reason is basically shooting an arrow into the wind and hoping it hits the target.  There are so many other questions to ask but it can be summed up as “why is it important now?”

3. What is getting in the way? These barriers can be internal and external. People’s attitudes, market conditions and a host of other things can be obstacles.

4. How can we overcome these barriers? Identifying the strengths of the organization and the individuals involved can provide solutions to removing any obstacles. Couple this with identifying weaknesses and figuring out ways to manage or eliminate these and you will find people are more likely to cooperate.

5. Measuring the change process. Like everything else about your SME, how do you know if it is working? Taking the time as a team to set up milestones gives you two benefits. First, change is big and you’re not going to make it all happen overnight. One step at a time is a good perspective. Second, you can adapt the plan as needed to make the change process successful for everyone.

But…we’re back to our original question. Who gets to manage change in SME’s?

In the opening paragraph, I gave you a scenario. It’s actually a composite of the change projects I’ve done with my coaching clients. Time and time again,  identifying which person will inhabit specific roles, who facilitates the process, who has ultimate responsibility and availability of unanimous support for the change project are essential.

What did you notice about this organization in the scenario?

If you were the leader, what kind of conversation would you have with your team? Why?

When would the business owner/CEO of an SME not be ultimately responsible for a change project?

What level of responsibility would you assign to the team members and/or employees?

When is it most beneficial to bring in a consultant/coach to assist with the change project?

 

This was a topic on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz (formerly #KaizenBlog) on Friday, September 2nd. Please consider yourself invited to join our discussion. If you can’t make the chat, add your comments, thoughts and opinions here.

 *I wanted to cite who created the drawing used as a graphic for this post. However, I wasn’t able to find the origin of the drawing. I found it on the site for the Christ Church Northern Beaches. My apologies to the artist.

About the author:  I’m Elli St.George Godfrey, executive coach and trainer who guides established small to mid-sized business owners and executives to be comfortable in their own skin. Change can be growing your business, expanding in the US or adapting to a new leadership roles. Visit my Services page to see how we can work together or schedule your complimentary coaching session here.

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