Planning For Success
Every business starts with the next big idea - but the real skill lies in executing it properly. As many business owners can attest to, developing and sustaining a plan of action is crucial. And while this step is pivotal to success, it may be completely irrelevant to the concept of your business, though it can your success.
Our CEO, Stacy Jones sat down with an expert at developing processes for success and consulting with other businesses to discuss what business owners can do to whether the storm and come out on top. In this blog post, Hollywood Branded examines how to develop systemized processes to strategically run your businesses from the advice and expertise of Push! Business Training and Mentoring Group's Alison Vidotto.
A Little More About Alison
Alison Vidotto is the CEO of both the Vidotto Group and Push Training. She helps small business owners obtain sustainable long term success through training and mentoring. She's also a published author, a professional speaker, and the founder of the Australian Charity for the Children of Vietnam. Over the past 25 years, Alison has successfully run businesses and navigated the path through recessions, floods, and a global downturn in the mining and resources industry.
Interview Transcript Highlights
Question: I'd love to start off with letting our listeners know how you got to where you are today. What brought you to creating these fantastic businesses that are foundational and essential for small businesses?
Answer: Well, I have the business, as you mentioned in the mining and resources, which we've had now for about 28 years. We've navigated it through a number of real challenges. And then we had the Brisbane city floods, which happened like a week after our office was established. So that hit us and then, we had a huge downturn turn, and I managed to pivot and navigate through them.
I was actually doing an MBA, and during the course of that program, I learned that a staggering number of small businesses actually fail. It really bothered me. It was just one of those things that just played in my mind. I just kept thinking, "their families, they're people who poured their blood, sweat, and tears." Of course, you relate it to yourself. We had our house attached to our business. And so, I dug a bit deeper and. I learned that a lot of times it was because they just didn't have the skills to actually equip them to navigate the tough time and to put in strong systems. That's why I developed this arm to my business. I really want to challenge those statistics.
It seems that for so many small businesses, it's not necessarily that we have the tools, and the knowledge, and the training. It's jumping in feet first and saying, "I'm going to be an entrepreneur and I'm going to figure it out." Does that sound right in your experience?
Answer: Yes, and that's what it is. And so, you've got that passion for your product, or your service, or this baby that you've created. But of course, to do that, you need more than to be awesome at creating what it is that you make. You need to actually be strategic. You need to have systems. You need to have an understanding of things like your cash flow conversion cycle.
That was one, if I can tell you a very quick story, when we had explosive growth in about 2010. We were working on big projects. The big end of town, some of our clients had 90 days after submission of invoice terms. Our contractors, who we were hiring to work on the project, had two weeks as their terms of service. So, we had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to our contractors to get the work done, but we weren't going to be paid for three, four months, which would have been enough to sink us. That happens a lot with small business owners. Many businesses that actually go under, they've got money in the pipeline. They just can't stay solvent enough long enough to actually get it through.
So we went to our clients at the big end of town, and we were just really open with them, and said, we can't actually survive like this. We're not able to do it. A lot of them actually reduced their terms, so they paid us much quicker. We then spoke to our contractors and said, look, this is the story we can't get paid. And so, they agreed to extend theirs just a little bit, because they're smaller businesses. It ended up that it more than met, so our cashflow was running all the time. Just little things like being able to know that cycle and to renegotiate the terms can mean the difference between your business surviving and not surviving.
Question: What's another concept, and what is another way that you help position small businesses to be able to be better prepared?
Answer: A lot of times businesses I work with are actually just not aware of what's out there and being able to simplify it. It's easy, as a small business owner, to become very overwhelmed. When my business almost went under, and we lost 80% of our contracts within a couple of weeks, and we had all these bills were still coming in, but just no income. we went off a cliff for a while there. One of the things I did, I strategically came up with a model that I was just so determined that my business would survive. We weren't closing the doors, a family business.
What I actually realized was where we had this strategy, the big end of town, they've got all this support, this infrastructure. They have a sales department, and a finances department, and a PR department, a HR. They've got all these key people with the finger on the pulse. As small business owners, we're busy either putting out fires or chasing leads. And so, we have key areas of our business that don't get the attention that they need. Showing that to small business owners, because I do a lot of business mentoring, and just getting them to look at the key areas of the business, you can usually identify where the gaps are. And so, what I've done is I've taken all that good stuff they've got at the big end of town and I've scaled it down for us guys at the lower end of town, so we get a bit more of the pie than they've got.
Question: If someone was starting their business tomorrow and they're thinking, "I love what I do. I can do this better. I am going to start XYZ company." What would you suggest they do at the very beginning?
Answer: The first thing I would suggest that they do is get a plan, get a plan and a business model. A lot of people, it's not exciting when you say get a business plan, no matter how excitingly you say it. Get a business plan. But it's not nearly as boring or as overwhelming as people think. A lot of times it's just been distorted and it's gone a bit silly. My daughter and her partner, they're personal trainers. They were studying and they actually came to me and said, can we get some help? They were expected to produce a business plan that was 52 pages long.
One of the things that I discovered when I was researching the stats of small business failures, you'd often read in really reputable publications that it was 80% or 90% fail within the first year or the first three years. What I found, I ended up going to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the American Department of Labor and really digging into it. Oftentimes, the figures come out at like 50% within three years leading up to 70% in 10 years, which is horrendous, when you think of those families and those people.
The 80%, 90%, they actually include those that barely get started. Because, they have a great idea. They're so gung ho about it. They raced to get it on Facebook, and Instagram, and all the rest of it, and they buy a store, and nobody wants it. The very first thing you must do, you must test that there is a market for it, that people actually want. And then, you work out, okay, people want what I've got. How am I going to produce it? How am I going to get it to them? And how is this going to look? That's the first thing I would say.
Question: And then, what's the second thing you would suggest to someone starting their business?
Answer: Well, the second would be to get online and especially today. I mean, online business was growing exponentially anyway. Of course, this pandemic hit and everybody is online. And building your list. I have a business mentor and he's built your list, build that list, build that list. It's very true, build your community, and especially in an email list, because Facebook can close your account tomorrow, so can LinkedIn, or YouTube, or any of them. If you have a strong email list, then that's not going to be taken away from you. You can communicate with your audience, and get to know them, and nurture them, and you build your funnel from there. It would be to get online and to build your list.
Check Out The Podcast!
Alison has so much great information from her experience in process development, check out the podcast below to learn more about how to drive your business with developing processes!
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