…your business partner out of the window? 

Monty Python understood the raw feelings that co-owning a business can cause…

Hopefully your business isn’t quite at the stage of directors jumping out of windows, but if you have business partners I’ll bet there are times when you don’t feel you’re running off the same plan. 

Last week I helped 50/50 partners in a business to agree a new plan that motivates them both.  Their business is strong but they need different types of goals to keep them energised and positive, especially in a tough market.  One needs a long term, visionary goal while the other needs to know what the business will give him in a much shorter period.

Both of them are committed to the long term of the business, but they are motivated in very different ways.  Without them understanding this, they were getting annoyed with each other and not pulling in the same direction.

At the end of our meeting, they had clarity on how the business will deliver both long and short term goals and were buzzing with excitement to get on with it.

If it feels like you’re not working well together, you might want to consider your business planning process.  I’ve noticed a few bad ways to do this while coaching small businesses on their business plans…

Three Common Approaches To Business Planning…

As a business coach it’s easy to look from the outside and see the things you don’t realise when you’re in the thick of it.  Here are three great ways to sabotage your long term business success…

1 – Business Plan?  We Just Plan To Survive!

You’ll hear this a fair bit when you talk to people running small businesses.  The trouble is, if all you ever set out to do is just survive, you’ll barely manage even to do that.

The most common reason for this is that you don’t have effective business controls in place – you’ll have late paying customers, late invoicing, poor cashflow etc.  It’s no wonder survival is the first thing on your mind!

Perhaps it’s also easier to say that you just want to survive than admitting that you don’t want to change, learn new ways of doing things and make your small business really successful.  This is the complete opposite to the next one…

2 – This TIme Next Year, We’ll Be Millionaires…

Made famous by Delboy Trotter from Only Fools & Horses fame, this is the vague hope that carrying on doing the same things you’ve always done will suddenly produce different results. 

No hope!  If you want to reach a far-off business destination, you’d better choose precisely where you’re going and have a very clear idea of at least the first few steps to get you there. 

The good thing is you are a positive thinker, though, so if you can just get some strategies in place to lift your business performance and get it heading in the right direction, you can easily grow a lot more than you did last year.

3 – The Headless Chicken 

If you’re the headless chicken, you’re so busy running around doing stuff that you never stand back to think about where you’re going.  This is like setting sale for America without a compass – you’ll never get there.  Instead you’ll just keep going around in circles, claiming that "all this vision stuff is a load of bullsh*t".

The headless chicken is always too busy to plan, to improve, to grow.  The headless chicken gets worn out eventually and gives up, switching to the "just surviving would be nice" strategy.

Was Your Last Business Plan Written In A Coffee Break?

For a typical small business, plans are what you talk about over coffee when there’s time.  Nothing gets written down and the partner who shouts loudest, or who has been there longest, rules the roost by dominating the conversation.  Other partners feel surpressed and unable to share their point of view.

One of my clients has a business inherited from family.  Through the generations though, it’s been handed down a bit like a family heirloom and kept more or less the same as the day it opened over a century ago. 

It took a tough session at a round table to sort out the differences – deciding who was really in control of the business and then some rules to let them run the business successfully, instead of suffering constant interference.  Up until then, the previous generation had been meddling in the changes and keeping the business in a time-warp. 

Freeing up the current generation’s MD to get on with the job had a huge impact on sales, reduced stock costs and improved morale and motivation with the staff.

A Parting Shot…

If your business has two or more partners, have you got a written, agreed exit plan to get out of the business at a specific time in the future, or will you struggle to deal with that the day it happens?  You need to consider what would happen if it was forced upon you early.

When my father died unexpectedly, my mother had to deal with the consequences of no clear exit plan for the business at the same time as she was coming to terms with her loss.  It wasn’t easy for her or the business.  The business has now gone altogether and I now know that a bit of exit planning could have made the whole thing a lot easier at a difficult time. 

Will you business be an asset to your family and business partners if you weren’t around anymore, or will they feel like jumping out of the window too?

Some Bloggers’ Thoughts on Exit Plans

Mercer & Horne’s SME Blog talking about exit planning ready for selling your business

Self made minds’ post about the importance of creating your exit plan well in advance for getting out of an Internet business

And finally, SmallBizPod is a podcasting site with some interesting interviews you can download for listening on your iPod or MP3 player.  You do have an MP3 player don’t you?  In the show in the linked post, Martin Webb, the presenter of Channel 4’s "Risking It All" business startup programme is interviewed.  Later in the programme various thoughts are aired about the value of creating an exit plan well in advance.  The show is SmallBizPod #50

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