Prospects frequently ask me how many of my clients become successful. There’s no simple response to that question because each of my clients hire Positioning Systems for different reasons. Each measures success differently. Often times clients I only work with for several months email me years later and thank me for the work I did with them and how influential its’ been in their success. Where you are when you start a coaching program often determines what needs to be your focus. On Thursday of last week I had lunch with a former client who I’ve referred to several times in this newsletter and on my website. He sold his business several years ago and is now living several of his dreams in retirement. When I first started working with him however he was not even close to achieving this, and indeed was in a precarious position. This is a brief recount of his adventure with his business and the coaching process. The intention is to provide you with a measure of faith and confidence in what you can achieve with your business no matter where you are today.
Dennis and I met in January of 2005. At that point I was an E-Myth coach and we went through the Needs Analysis process to discover where he needed help and he agreed to move forward. At the time his cash flow was very poor. He signed the agreement to start, but with a May start date when he felt his cash flow would be improved.
Dennis’ business is software for the Power Equipment industry with a niche in the lawn and garden area. The challenge for most business owners with the E-Myth Business Development Process was simply setting aside time to work on the business. Dennis demonstrated the most critical behavior necessary for growing his business: discipline. He made it a practice to spend every lunch hour away from the office reading and working on business development.
The financial area of his business was one of his weaknesses. We worked diligently on improving his knowledge of finances, balance sheets, income statement, breakeven and budgeting. It’s not that he hadn’t done this before, but with the tools and coaching the E-Myth provided he learned to understand the process much better. One immediate focus was improving his customer’s payments process. We discovered his current system encouraged customers to delay payments 30-45 days. His business simply didn’t enforce their policy for payment. Consequently customers were often 60-90 days late in payment. Delegating this task to his bookkeeping person resulted in an immediate improvement in collections; the result eliminated his cash flow problems hence forward.
We worked on his sales process to speed up the conversion cycle. Once we had conquered these areas, we moved our attention to his Windows Software model which was still in DOS. He had been considering moving to a Window format for some time. Due to his financial restraints he felt uncomfortable moving forward. The restructuring of his financial area eliminated that obstacle.
The focus of his one thing – the Windows Model proved to be the biggest impact he could have on the business. Once he devoted time to it, he found he had a much improved software program that his competitors had difficulty keeping up with. The result was an outstanding improvement in revenue. October sales revenue increased 56%. Not 56% over the previous month, but 56% over the best month he had ever had in his history. Not only that but the months sandwiched around it showed similar increases in the 25-45% range.
The budgeting process was monumental. It required a significant investment in time, resulting in definitive improvements in control, monitoring and accountability. After having several consecutive years with no profit, his first year with budgeting resulted in profit with subsequent years improving as sales also began to increase.
One of the great values of the E-Myth Business Development Process was how to develop systems. We introduced both a template for documenting system and also began to work on developing the systems for his business including sales, operations and administration and financial processes. A collection system was developed to further enhance and improve cash flow.
After working with Dennis for 3-4 years, improving and documenting systems Dennis decided the E-Myth and coaching process had taken him as far as it could and we disengaged.
We stayed in touch and when I became a Gazelles coach, feeling these new principles could advance his company further I introduced him to Mastering the Rockefeller Habits by Verne Harnish.
At the time Dennis was having some specific challenges in the customer service area.
In the fall of 2008 Ideal Computer Systems was struggling with their customer support system. Customer’s called for help with their hardware and software they had purchased from Ideal and often times had to wait to get the answers they were looking for. They had been working on this area for over a year with almost daily meetings with their executive team to improve the turnaround time their support team was getting back to their customers in. Throughout 2008 it was approaching 60 minutes and now their support manager had given his resignation, moving to New Orleans to be closer to his girlfriend.
Feeling at the cross roads, and realizing the importance of this area for building their business they decided to create a theme who’s primary focus was pressing their ASA [Average Speed of Answer] time down to a more acceptable level. After a third quarter average of 55 minutes they decided to set a very aggressive goal to drop this to 24 minutes and a super green goal of 16. In addition to put more emphasis on this area they decided to hire two managers to serve support, more than doubling the number of managers and attention they had previously dedicated to this vital area of their business.
It should be noted that dissension and strife was ripe in the support area. The group as a whole had taken on a victim mentality feeling that they were being held up as the reason the business wasn’t succeeding to the extent it should because the ASA was so high.
Dennis and his team announced the theme at a companywide meeting. The point of the meeting was not only to proclaim the new goals for the quarter but also to help the entire organization that lowering ASA was a company priority and something they all shared in and were equally responsible for dropping to an acceptable time frame. Instead of focusing on support the emphasis was that everyone was responsible for this number and in addition to lowering support they intended to increase customer loyalty rating as well.
The result was dramatic! Instead of feeling like they were the focal point of the company’s focus and being blamed the support team rallied around the two new managers, the theme’s intention and felt the encouragement of the rest of the team toward achieving their goal.
ASA time dropped precipitously below their goals levels by almost unheard of grades. Not only did support beat their green goal of 24, they beat the super green goal of 16, with support ending the quarter under 10 minutes at 9.6! Just as important the customer approval rating soared to an 8.54 rating also beating their super green goal.
Dennis had several other successes with is business in the time we worked together. The year following this customer service breakthrough he invested in a sales evaluation and training process through Gazelles partnership with Objective Management Group and new software sales increased 25%.
Dennis had disappointments as well. Perhaps his greatest was with two sons discovering they had other passions which did not include taking over the business. This only encouraged him to explore divesting himself of the business and finding a suitable buyer who would preserve the mission and principles he’d worked so hard to create.
From the time Dennis and I started working together the business grew from just over $1.5M to over $3.5M in sales. Not a tremendous increase, yet in a very mature industry, certainly significant. More importantly the business improved in profit, providing the eventual opportunity for Dennis to sell his business and retire.
Working with and watching clients grow is the most gratifying part of my work. Dennis exhibited passion, dedication and commitment for what he did. Most importantly he provided a disciplined approach to growing his business and achieving his priorities.
Are you equipped with the commitment and dedication for what you do? Can you harness the discipline required to work toward your goals to achieve success? Then wherever you are now you can make a decided difference in your future. As always let us know if you’d like help achieving your goals. Positioning Systems Strategic Discipline offers you the tools and resources to accelerate your accomplishment.