By Robert Craven, Managing Director, Director's Centre

The eternal search for the secrets of business success creates wave upon wave of products and services that “unlock the potential” etc., etc. However, some evidence of what actually works does already exist.

What we do know is that the ‘successful’ are very different from the ‘less successful’ (see the Magic Million Survey) and one of the key differences is how the successful take control and ownership of their destinies. They do not blame others.

Other characteristics include a “can do”, “take action now” and “get the best help” attitude. All good stuff. And then, of course, there is the obsession with strategy, marketing and teams… but that’s not what I wish to talk about here.

I chose to chase up a typical group of entrepreneurs and business owners that I had worked with in 2001. The eight businesses had an average turnover of £1.2 million; they varied between £50k and £3m turnovers. They worked with me over the year, coming together in what would now be called a Mastermind Group, to explore and develop their businesses. And what became of them?

Well, the results were almost too good to be true (but I think I can explain that). Depending on how you measure “current business activity” (because of acquisitions, mergers, etc), the average £1.2m p.a. turnover is now between £3.5m and £13m.

All are still trading in one form or another. They have gone on to achieve:

• Sales in excess of £500 million

• One business sold for in excess of £20 million

• One business the subject of a full management buy-out in excess of £10 million

• One business owner able to retire aged 42 and hand over the business to a management team.

So, is there some kind of secret formula? Some magic, silver bullet? Well, the answer is ‘yes’ and ‘no’!

But, mainly no.

Let me explain.

The world is currently littered with get-rich-quick, too-good-to-be-true, money-back-guaranteed promises to help you grow your business. Our inner child looking for relief from the stress and pain of our ‘under-performing’ business responds positively to offers.

Sometimes the “ten things to do in the next ten days” type programme can be the red-hot raw ginger we need to sort our businesses. But, more often than not, the real problem is more, shall we say, ‘structural’ and requires a more considered and bespoke solution to create a long-term improvement. Anyhow I digress.

My point is this. You need to think about whether your business will benefit from a quick fix (a quick tune-up, points, plus an oil change) or whether it needs a more significant, real fix (changing or replacing key components to match what is really required). Either way we all know what we think about anything that claims to be a quick-fix or too-good-to-be-true.

So, why did these businesses do so well?

I believe that there were two reasons:-

1. The nature of the programme: A closed group that meets with the sole intention of improving each other’s businesses. All attendees were looking for profound, significant and measurable growth in business performance; they shared ‘insider secrets’ and best practice from ‘been-there-done-it’ experts. The programme also created intense, supportive business relationships and produced the accountability required to make delegates over-deliver on their action plans.

2. The nature of the people who are attracted to such a programme: Only certain people (the truly success-focused) would be attracted to such a programme; people with the “can do”, “take action now” and “get the best help” attitude that I mentioned before.

This combination of the right programme and the right people creates a dynamic and electric atmosphere.

Government Health Warning: While the results of the individual firms concerned are very impressive, one doesn’t really know whether they would have done much, much better or much, much worse had they not attended!!! We will never know the answer but what we do know is that the sort of people who do attend these kind of programmes see truly significant improvements in their business performance.

You can see more about Mastermind groups at www.robert-craven.com/mastermind

Join us on
Follow @freshbusiness