As business owners, we are so busy with the day-to-day operations it's tough to find time to innovate. This is compounded because many times we lack the confidence about what and how to do so. To make things even worse, as business people, we all have a "blind spot."
What I mean by this is there are things we know about business, things we know we don't know, and things we don't know that we don't know, which is our blind spot.
To give you an example, I started studying sales at age 15. The first program I completed was "How to Master the Art of Selling" by Tom Hopkins, a national sales trainer. Later, between the ages of 18 and 24, I was in sales full time and grew into an assistant vice president role. I spent much of my time during the next six years training business owners on how to sell and have been involved in overseeing sales for the past 10 years as president of the company.
My point in sharing this is I've spent a lot of time in sales, studying sales and teaching others to sell, so I thought I knew almost everything there was to know about it. About five years ago, I came across a sales consultant who pitched our company, and I was very impressed with what he had to say. We investigated his company to make sure it was what he presented it to be, and my gut check came with a $35,000 commitment to have his company work with my sales team and me. I knew if it worked it would pay for itself many times over, but if it didn't work, it would cost too much.
So I decided to believe in this guy, his company and systems and signed an agreement to move forward. Then to my pleasant surprise, the distinctions and improvements we made in our sales were tremendous. We improved our closing ratio by 50 percent and significantly reduced our cycle time from a lead to a close.
Was it worth the investment? Absolutely. Was it as it easy as it sounds in the few paragraphs described above? No. It took a lot of work, time and energy, including developing new habits by my team and me. If you have done anything like this before, you know it stretches you and can feel like a second job for a period of time.
From my experience, working with outside consultants, business coaches and other experts who have proven business models has provided quantum leaps for our business.
One consultant we hired 10 years ago was a gentleman named Marshall Thurber who studied under Edward Deming. Deming stated "profound knowledge comes from the outside, not within."
Here are a few tips when looking to hire a consulting company or business coach:
- Make sure you can work with them. If you don't connect with them, don't hire them.
- There is never a quick fix.
- Sustainable and real change takes time from your team and you.
- Some consultants can come in for a day or two and make a big impact if you do the follow-up work. We have found that, most of the time, it works better if the relationship is set up more as a strategic partnership and you work together over a longer period of time. This creates accountability with someone who's an expert and thus will accelerate your becoming one yourself.
- Do your due diligence. Call two to three of the company's clients and take 30-45 minutes to dig in and ask the tough questions.
- Negotiate part of the fee based on some type of predetermined results being achieved. Look at that amount being 10-30 percent.
It is easy in business to kid ourselves into believing there is a magic bullet that can make everything easy. The reality is that it takes many different things done well in concert with each other to make a great business. One of my favorite sayings is "What appears to be the slow way is the fast way." If you put a plan together and think in three- to five-year windows of time, you will experience greater levels of success with less frustration — and have a lot more fun in the process.
|Doug Dwyer is president and chief stewarding officer of DreamMaker Bath & Kitchen by Worldwide, one of the nation's largest remodeling franchises. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.|