I have met, interviewed, recruited for, and mentored hundreds of people who have had the dream of owning their own business. In 95% of these situations I’m asking the questions and digging deep to find what their motivation is, what drives them, what outcomes they expect and what problems they face.
Having opened five businesses in the last fifteen years, with the help of a very supportive partner/mentor (who I bought out) and in the same industry, I have developed a game plan that I stick to every time to achieve immense growth that then moves into sustained profitability.
While there are literally dozens of areas a new entrepreneur has to focus on, my experience is that if you stick these three at the top of your list, then you will be on the road to successful and sustainable growth – and I emphasis ‘sustainable’.
- Nothing happens until somebody sells something!
It doesn’t really matter what industry you are in, if your primary focus is not on sales then you are not going to grow. As the owner of growing businesses I always lead from the front, I was always customer facing, I was always looking for the next crop of “low hanging fruit”.
This is where I had realized that, while I wanted to take over the world, realistically I had to conquer the 50km radius around my business first. I had to understand that my next sale is only “one inch” away from my last sale, that my best source of leads was asking my clients who their competitors were, that a business grows one deal at a time and not with starting with a state or global focus – think locally (or within your niche market) and act locally.
So I got out there and created a market, then I expanded that market, and then I handed it over …. which leads me to my next point.
- A monkey in a waistcoat could do this job and be successful!
Systems. Procedures. Policies. Practices. Make the complex simple and make the simple compelling. Make it so that anyone (the monkey) could walk into your business and represent you (the waistcoat) and do the job to 80% of the way you could (the success). Nothing against Monkey’s but I am just that! I follow an amazing system. I am a Monkey – I wear the waistcoat. I am successful.
Look at your work processes. Figure out REALLY QUICKLY what is a profit centre and what is an expense centre. Focus on building systems, processes and procedures for maximizing your effectiveness of your profit centres. All the admin stuff will take care of itself (usually with one good control freak picking up the pieces from all the sales people you employ).
I got my systems right. I made sure they produced the results I wanted. I made sure that when they were done, the people were successful …. which leads me to my next point.
- You don’t have to like them, you have to LOVE them!
Staff. This was my biggest challenge. Very few people want to lead, and by that I mean, they want to be responsible and accountable.
I realized this very early in my entrepreneurial life – people want someone to follow. A leader! Someone who will believe in them, someone who will inspire them and give them self-confidence. I realized that because of my (perceived) “position of power” (hire them and fire them) that purely because of a title (Managing Director), that they depended on me. And because they did depend on me, because I made a promise when I employed them that I would nurture, train, motivate and incentivize them, that I was responsible for them. It didn’t matter whether I liked them or not, I HAD TO LOVE THEM!
Once I had my focus on sales and business development, and my systems in place, I brought together a group of “three legged dogs”. These were ordinary people who, because of my belief in them, did extraordinary things. They did it because they believed they could. And they believed they could because I believed they could and I told them so. And then they did it.
Your staff may not be the best in the market, the most qualified, or the sharpest tools in the shed BUT they are YOUR staff. Train them, inspire them, challenge then, tell them the truth. LOVE THEM! Give them a vision and then lead them to the light.
A final word ….
I’ve said nothing about compliance, accounting, HR, premises, financing, safety, plant, inventory, IP or IT. Yes, I had to deal with this along the way but I did it on the weekends and I made sure that I put ‘first things first’ – Sales, Systems, People. I looked at everything I did and said “How does that make us money?”
That’s my job.
Doing activities that actually mean something.
It never took me more than a year to get to $1M in sales – with five companies, in the same industry, targeting the same markets. There is enough out there for everyone – if they focus on sales, systems and people.
I drove myself (and others) very hard and very fast – it always fascinated me that when you thought you could go no further, you actually could, and it wasn’t that hard. Yes, there were shit fights I had to clear up but I realized that with growth comes pain. Accept it. You chose the path, you wear the consequences – good and bad.
When I moved to ‘managing’ the company, that’s when it all went pear shaped. I forgot my three things and I suffered for it.
Oh, one last thing – go as far as you can see into the future, and when you get there, you will be able to see much further. Small steps lead to big steps. It took me six years to get to $4M in turnover, two more years to get to $10M, and another three to get back to $4M with a 300% improvement in EBIT.
It’s a journey. Enjoy it. You’re doing it because you’re built for it. Don’t try to conquer the world, just get to $1M, then $4M, then $10M. then see what you can see from there …..
Ken Fowler is a successful entrepreneurial leader with 25 years’ experience in Sales, 15 of which as one of Australia’s senior Executive Recruitment Consultants.
He has started five Executive Recruitment Consultancies and has been an employer for over 15 years. During this time he has read over 250,000 resumes and interviewed over 10,000 candidates.
Ken has personally employed and trained over 350 of his own sales staff proving that he puts his money where his mouth is and truly believes in what he does!
First and foremost, Ken is a Salesman – and a passionate one at that – who honestly believes that given the chance, he can sell anything. He has always been devoted to training himself and others in the areas of sales, recruitment, leadership and entrepreneurship.
Ken was appointed as a Fellow to the Recruitment and Consultancies Society of Australia (RCSA) in 2011 for his contribution to the recruitment industry and he is also a Board Member of the Brisbane Chapter of EO – Entrepreneurs Organisation – which is a global non-profit organization whose stated mission is to “Engage leading entrepreneurs to learn and grow.” EO has had an enormous impact on Ken’s businesses and himself personally. If you believe in the ‘Proximity Theory’ that you are the average of the five people you spend the most time with, then if you want to be an entrepreneur, hang around entrepreneurs.
Married for over 20 years to the love of his life, Julie, he has two adult daughters, lives in Brisbane, Australia, and when he isn’t working, he is usually travelling on an adventure somewhere exciting!
Want to learn and network with successful entrepreneur’s like Ken?
Entrepreneur’s Organization (EO) runs a non-profit mentoring and coaching program in Brisbane called EO Accelerator – designed for small business owners with between $250,000 and $1,000,000 in revenue. Limited places are available click here for more information.