When someone comes to me for one to one business coaching, I ask this one question to cut through to the real issues
What kind of business are we creating here?
It creates some interesting conversations, and I’ll bet these are things you’ll be thinking about, even if you never come to me for business coaching.
What’s your ambition?
Ambition can be about how much money you want to earn, but it isn’t just about money.
In fact, beyond creating enough profit to live a reasonable life, most of my clients’ goals are about the work that they want to do and the impact they want to create in the world.
For some people, their ambition is doing an excellent job for their clients. For others, doing work which is intrinsically interesting for them is crucial. Some of my clients say the relationship they have with their team is the main driver behind the business. And others are ambitious about the impact they want to make in society through their company.
And for all of us, there are our unconscious ambitions as well. We’re all secretly fuelled by our egos. Whether that’s wanting other people to think that we’re great, developing a reputation for brilliant work, or creating something bigger than just ourselves.
These unconscious factors are the most important drivers in our creative endeavour of building a business. Our need for positive feedback which gives us a glowing feeling deep down inside fuels the hard work over and over again to bring us success. Even our ambitions about money aren’t really about money. Cash in the bank is just one way to measure how we’re doing and give ourselves that warm glow.
Working with others
Some of my clients want a business based on them doing the work for their clients. They’re happy to have some help from other people, but they want to do the exciting work for their customers themselves. Because for them, that’s the fun bit.
Others want to grow a strong team because they enjoy the process of working with others and like to have a team to bounce ideas off. These folk will probably build an agency or a large team of people working in the business. Or they’ll attract freelancers or associates who work with them on projects.
And others want to delegate as much as possible, as quickly as possible, with the owner being the strategist behind it all.
You have options for doing any of these. None are necessarily quicker routes to success or higher profitability than others. It’s up to you.
But even if your business is you at the kitchen table when the kids have gone to bed, it’s a good idea to have an idea of how you’d like things to be in the future. You can change your mind along the way as well, that’s okay too.
Virtual or physical?
Some of my clients are determined to run their business from anywhere in the world and set it up that way from the start. Others find that idea ridiculous. They want to have an office where they see all the staff. And some clients are doing physical things, so they need to be on-site to do the manufacturing or the shipping.
Some businesses are very focused on selling within their local area. The Joy of Business used to be like this when I first started, and all of my business coaching clients were from Brighton or Sussex. Nowadays, I can run online business coaching programmes, so I have many clients I’ve never met in person, and they come from all over the world.
Put yourself in a time machine, press the button for three years from today, and think about whether you’ll be running a virtual or a physical company. Or if you just want to have the option at some point of working from a different country. What kind of business you create now will have an impact on what you do in the future.
Are you selling products or services? Or a mix?
Many people start their business by offering a service. Especially if you’ve come to self-employment through being a freelancer. Maybe when you got made redundant, or you decided you couldn’t face the commute any more and set up on your own. Or when you had children, and you needed more flexibility in your life.
But…just because you started with a service business, it doesn’t mean you have to stay that way. You could package up your services differently, maybe with a digital product, or through productised services.
Or maybe you’re already wholly product-based. You might sell physical products like my client who imports mugs from Morocco, or the lovely people at Nutleys Kitchen Gardens. Or maybe you’re selling a membership programme, software as a service, or courses and workshops.
The key difference between selling products and services is the different challenges in how you scale the business.
If you’re purely service-based and selling your time for money on the billable hours business model, there comes the point where you can’t take on any more clients because you don’t have any more time in the day. At that point, you either have to develop some kind of a product to take the business further or employ someone to do some of the client work.
If you’re selling products, either digital or physical products, your challenges scaling up are in the infrastructure. Or in marketing and getting enough of those lovely customers to buy from you.
My guide to business models takes you through the different options you have for your mix of products and services. Then you can make the right choices for the kind of business you want to create for the long term.
Are you planning to leave?
Many of the business coaching clients I work with have a clear plan for when they want to leave the business. Or if they ever want to leave…
Some people are happy to continue working in the business until they retire. They love what they do, and want to earn a good living while they’re doing it. Others are aggressively growing the company for sale in five years.
Most people are somewhere in the middle.
Maybe you’re like Sam. She wants to continue working in her business until the kids leave home. Sam doesn’t want to sell the company then. She wants to grow it enough to have staff who do the client work according to Sam’s methodology. And she plans to replace herself in the business with a manager who will look after it while Sam is travelling the world with her husband. She plans to check-in every fortnight for an online management meeting.
Nice plan, Sam.
Or maybe you’ve been working on this for 20 years already, and you want to incentivise your staff to buy the company from you by giving them some shares now, and then buy the rest of the company from you over the next five years.
It helps to have at least a vague plan in place of when you want to leave, so you can structure the business now to fit in with this. Again, you can change your mind later, as long as you’ve thought this through now and not excluded any possible options through your actions now.
How big do you want to grow?
Some people are delighted to be the only person in their business, or maybe to have a part-time person to help with the admin. That’s still a great model; there’s no rule at all that you have to grow a Richard Branson sized empire.
You can make still make good money, and have fun doing it with a one person (or 1.5 person) company.
Others plan a cosy company of 12 staff. I call this a cosy company because 12 people is an optimum size for a team. When you have 12 people, either all in an office together, or as a virtual team, you can all communicate with one another and back each other up. You still need systems and processes at that size, but this number works harmoniously.
And of course, you might want to do something world-shaking and want to scale up to 30 or 50 people in the next three years.
The next step
These are the kinds of questions I ask when I sit down for a chat with a business owner. The starting point is understanding the sort of business you have now so you can work on the kind of business you want to create.
Take my Business Focus Quiz to find out what kind of business you have right now (and it might not be the one you think). It only takes a couple of minutes and you get the results right away. It will tell you what stage you’re at right now, and what your level of ambition for the future is.
For more thoughts on maximising your options and what kind of business you’re creating, check out:
Photo credits: Thinking Ape and Mountain Top by Pixabay,