By Robert Craven, MD Of The Directors' Centre
While the journalists and politicians always want to have sexy stories about business growth, the reality is that most growth comes in what appear to be fairly ordinary industries. There can only be so many zero-to-hero stories that turn the owner into an overnight celebrity. Believe you me, there is no shortage of highly successful businesses that just never hit the award ceremony stage, or the entrepreneur of the year prize or the flash lamps of the paparazzi.
Likewise, there is a fairy-tale belief that high growth only emerges in the thrusting, new industries, but in reality we see more than enough growth in what to many would be considered the dull industries.
I can assure you that these businesses are anything but dull. Their business growth and development are a testament to the bravery and determination of their owners to deliver extraordinary performance.
In my experience, these exceptional and relatively anonymous businesses include: opticians, specialist travel agencies, translation agencies, freshly prepared/chilled food, fish wholesalers, hospitality/meeting room hire, hotels, restaurant chains, software houses, specialist oil importers, outside caterers, 4x4 specialists, car dealerships, recruitment consultancies, haulage companies, marketing and business consultancies, digital agencies, magazine publishers, research agencies, cross-cultural learning centres and so on.
I make no excuse for the length of the list as I am trying to make a point about the breadth of different businesses that can outperform the market.
Either a Mastermind group or one-to-one consultancy assignments have been the main processes to propel these businesses towards what used to be called hypergrowth. And each business went through a similar journey.
Case Study 1: Jane, Marketing Agency
Fed up with an education-focused learning group Jane chose between a Mastermind group and a consultant/coach to help her grow her £1.2m turnover marketing business. Somehow the vast array of very impressive speakers had entertained and educated but hadn't translated into results.
The group quickly focused on her inability to be decisive and wooed, cajoled and virtually bullied Jane to make three tough decisions that she had avoided to date (sacking/replacing her business development manager, launching a new 'platinum' product line, and limiting her workweek to weekdays only).
Results: Almost immediate; the sense of relief and the direct results to the bottom line were instant. Over 12 months profitability and sales both increased 30% after three bumpy flatline years.
Case Study 2: Sheena, Specialist Medical Consultant
Business growth and entrepreneurship courses had led Sheena to look for funding to run a private hospital (despite her international expertise as a specialist surgeon). The penny dropped that she was not a manager or entrepreneur and did not want to actually run a hospital but actually wanted to be the best surgeon in her field. 100% focus on establishing her reputation as a surgeon (and outsourcing the capital intensive hospital side) meant that Sheena was able to radically increase revenue by taking on ground-breaking work with brand name athletes. Sheena was not a born businessperson; she did need clear direction and she desperately needed the support of a business expert and the Mastermind group members to make the leap of faith.
Results: Client Fee rates up. Profit up. Dividends up. Free time up. Worry down.
Case Study 3, Jim, Training Company
Jim had become a training junky. Had all the books, CDs and DVDs but somehow none of the 'one-to-many' products had ever delivered the promised ROI for his £800k turnover business. The hands-on nature of the Mastermind programme, with its obsession with results, had a dramatic impact on Jim and his business. "The group fundamentally shifted my mindset and attitude to business".
Results: With the changed mindset came a new energy that meant that he worked smarter, only working on high-value projects. The group provided him with over £400k of referrals. In one year, turnover was up 35%, prices up, profits up, holidays up.
These case studies reveal an interesting series of themes. Marketing blurbs that hyperventilate and scream of incredible/unbelievable results ("double your turnover in just 17 days") is not particularly helpful to potential delegates, although some hopefuls may believe that the silver bullet is there for the taking/buying.
Most of the delegates had tried training/DVD/CD interventions and had felt short-changed by the one-to-many nature of the beast. Many had tried consultancy/coaching and had found it wasn't able to maintain momentum. Most had tried the DIY option and discovered that they didn't have the time or skills to master someone else's craft. None of the delegates could have made their own respective leaps without the support of the group or the Mastermind leader.
So, what does seem to work is a combination of factors that all create a massive impact on the client business: group support for decisions, joint ventures and referrals; expert support, advice and insider secrets; accountability to the expert and the group; a changed mindset by rubbing shoulders with other highly motivated entrepreneurs; a focus on results, month-on-month; a programme that runs over a year and doesn't disappear if the going gets tough.
Not for people looking for the easy option, not for people looking for someone else to do the hard work and make the tough decisions, the Mastermind programme is only right for a certain type of person at a certain stage of their business career. Is that time now?