Hi, I’m Mike. I’m a horticulturalist and I really know my plants. I own Mike’s Nursery.
Last year, business was okay, but I had difficulty increasing my turnover and profits. I needed practical advice and useful guidance, so I called Rick, a competent business mentor.
Choosing a mentor
Why did I choose this particular mentor? Well, Rick has a reputation for doing what you want done, and he doesn’t use fancy jargon. And his clients endorse him: “…his expert knowledge in so many fields offered me so many options … determination to not give up” says one happy entrepreneur.
He came to my nursery and we agreed on what my expectations were and how we would work together. We drew up an agreement that spelled out what I could expect of him.
Conducting an audit
Rick then conducted an ‘audit’: he went through each aspect of my business to see how well it was working. He looked at how we manage our:
- Marketing and Sales
- Operations and admin
What the audit revealed
Here are some of the things that we found out about the business:
- We were charging too little so we were not making as much profit as we should,
- We didn’t know how much money would be in the bank this time next month,
- We had not put aside money to pay our taxes or for emergencies,
- We could easily offer additional services like landscaping consultancy and pest control – but didn’t,
- We had an lousy list of potential customers and we didn’t actively contact them,
- We could grow our business by selling through the local tuisnywerheid and gift shops – but we didn’t,
- When times were quiet, our staff could have been taking courses, like customer service – but they weren’t,
- We couldn’t tell from our stock records when and how much we needed to order,
- We should have posted a monthly blog on our website giving advice for that time of year – but we didn’t,
- We should have emailed hints and tips to our mailing list and included special offers – but we didn’t,
- We should have tracked prospective customers AND stock levels with smartphone apps – but we didn’t,
- We didn’t know if we complied with all the health and safety regulations,
- We were not insured against natural disasters or a visitors getting injured at our nursery.
And … we worked long hours over the week-ends and were afraid to take a holiday.
first published in SME South Africa
Business Improvement Programme
So, we sat down with Rick and drew up a Business Improvement Programme with:
SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound) goals:
We committed ourselves to achieving the agreed goals. Our business mentor arranged workshops, business tools, training, mentorship.
He got us a lawyer to sort out my client and staff contracts
so I now I don’t need to fight with bad payers or waste time in CCMA,
He helped us draw up and maintain a cash flow projection
so now we always know how much money we have, and will have in a month’s time,
He arranged for an accountant to set up a system to ensure that our salary tax, VAT and provisional taxes are paid on time,
so we saved a lot in penalties and stopped having SARS audits,
He arranged for a tech expert to put all our work ‘in the cloud’
so now it can’t get lost and we can get it even when we are not at the nursery,
He got a graphic designer to clean up our company image and website
so now we look as professional as we are,
He arranged for a risk expert to assess our risks and recommend a recovery plan and insurance
so now if there are water restrictions, we’re compensated if we suffer terrible losses.
Implementation and its benefits
I now write a monthly blog and our office assistant updates the website and emails our customers.
Every couple of weeks, Rick comes in and runs a workshop for our staff or does some training with me. Each month, we review our goals to see if we are achieving them and remedy any shortcomings.
We are now making a handsome profit … and I know how much money will be in the bank account next month. So now I sleep with confidence at night …and I can take my family on a well-deserved holiday.
How can a business mentor help you to do better business?