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External help could be the game-changer for your business 

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by Paul Holmes - Managing Director PCH Business Support

www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

An external perspective can really help to solve a business problem when the owner recognises he or she needs help to change.

I’ve recently been holding free One-to-One sessions through the fantastic Growth Hub at Cirencester, for local SMEs owners who recognise they need to do something different.

Kay Ransom, a multiple award-winning photographer came along looking for help and as a result of our session together has since become a client and has given permission to share some of her story.

Kay has been running her business for 14 years working locally, regionally and nationally with a focus on events.

During our hour-long session, I asked a series of questions to get a sense of how the company runs as well as its strengths and challenges. This enabled me identify a starting point for change.

We established Kay’s goals, looked at how she operates, what works and what doesn’t, as well as identifying a need to substantially change the revenue stream to better reflect her talents.

Kay has worked tirelessly at building relationships with well-known brands and national corporate clients. This has provided some good revenue, however, as is common with bigger companies, with each change of personnel the relationship has to be rebuilt.

We identified building strategic relationships with a range of event companies would significantly change the way Kay works. The aim would be for them to use her services as part of their own packages.

“Paul combined a great mix of conveying his wealth of knowledge with great listening skills. Paul has lots of positive energy and I see him being a fab influence on my business,” Kay Ransom

Our second aim is to develop Kay’s brand — moving away from ‘have a photographer at your event’ and towards ‘Kay Ransom, narrative story-teller who will bring your event alive using skills built up over 14 years’.

We’ve also identified additional specialist skills which will allow Kay to run photo-related training and development events monthly. This ‘one-to-many’ approach, can increase revenue stream significantly. One is Painting by Light photos — similar to writing your name in the air with a sparkler on bonfire night.

The benefit of working with an experienced external adviser is that they can often see ways forward which are not obvious to you — or you can see the opportunity yet cannot work out how to move realistically towards it.

PCH Business Support offers a monthly business support service, detailed business reviews and help with growing your business.

To find out more or to book your free session contact Paul

www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

07715008521

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“People only need help when it’s going pear shaped, don’t they?”

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Why Planning for success is SO important.

A thank you to a former colleague for that insight, unfortunately it’s a view that is commonly held by many business owners too, that only companies that are struggling or on the verge of bankruptcy need help!

Your latest product/service is fantastic, you have just launched the advertising, fingers crossed that first order lands and you are off and running, but then an exciting and unexpected order lands, its ok you can manage this — going to be busy but its ok, but then it gets picked up and shared by a blogger and interest is suddenly very high — this is everything you dreamed of….

This happened to a small service business in Swindon recently, they came up with a novelty product using their standard services, but it seemed to capture peoples imagination… then the enquiries started, then the orders flowed, in one month they received orders for a whole year’s worth of product. Capacity, cashflow, resources and their systems were completely overwhelmed. Existing customers suffered.

Could planning for this when everything was being developed have helped? — solved the problem? — possibly not, lessened it to a more manageable level? — almost certainly.

Considering what might happen if things go well, looking at ways to handle this or limit the impact, outsource or contain the processes, might have made this more manageable.

– ok this example was an exception on this scale, but it is the same basic mechanism for the vast majority of businesses that fold each year with cashflow problems, trying to service the costs of increasingly large orders.

In reality every business should have someone to bounce ideas off, be able to discuss options with and get valuable objective input from outside the day to day running of your business, whether this is at start-up, as you start to grow, when its manic or when things get a little challenging.

“We would strongly recommend Paul to any business looking to move forward. Paul gets to the core of the business and can quickly interpret ways to help and add value” WTKI

All businesses need help in reality, someone with perspective to look over the business and spot the things that might be changed or improved, help you grow or overcome a challenge , what you need is someone who really understands your business, can work with you and helps you with the specifics.

Business advice can be hard to afford for start-ups and smaller businesses, so PCH Business Support has launched a manageable monthly support service which includes a FREE initial business review to set the path for your business to really get going, then with calls and a follow up session each month, help you to grow and thrive. A monthly professional support service for a fraction of a normal consultant’s single cost per day.

Are you looking at what help your business needs?

To find out more about the monthly support service, development and planning days or business reviews contact Paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk or call 07715008521

Selling is a professional skill – and the earlier you embrace it the better

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Building relationships is at the heart of what I have always strived to do and it’s served me well.

One thing I’ve learned in developing my own business is the ability to sell your products or services is key. Sounds obvious of course.

However for many of us, we don’t really understand how critical it is until we hit a roadblock or we plateau and struggle to move beyond current turnover and profit.

I’ve learned when the ability to ‘sell’ is not natural to you or your team then growing the business is slower, harder and definitely less sustainable.

Personally, I have been running capital projects and helping businesses evaluate and plan for growth over the last two years, yet grasping this fact about selling has seen a really exciting start to this year.

I’m working with new clients, helping existing clients to grow and referrals are now really starting to bear fruit. Getting to this point has been hard fought.  

In hindsight marketing and sales support much earlier in my business evolution would have been a worthwhile investment.

With that in mind, I realise more than ever that having more commercial support for clients will also speed their growth.

I am delighted to announce, after getting to know Ashley Hutchinson at A&S Business Consultants over the last 18 months, we have agreed to collaborate more closely. This allows my business to really develop and offer a sales focussed offering through our strategic relationship.

Over time this should create new opportunities in new markets, adding sales and marketing support for PCH clients and, in turn, offering process, projects and manufacturing support for the clients of A&S Business Consultants.

Ashley has a strong background in sales and marketing and has developed his business over the last seven years.

 “I am looking forward to working with Paul. Since I have known him he has consistently demonstrated a real expertise in manufacturing processes, project management and capital projects. These areas fall outside of my natural expertise and being able to provide a more complete offer to my clients would add value to the relationship,” Ashley commented.

“It is so important in a collaboration you get on with your partner as well as having complimentary skills and expertise. Delivering the best results for my clients is what drives me and I believe, working with Paul will really help that.”

 

To find out how we can drive the growth of your business get in touch.

Paul Holmes – Managing Director -  PCH Business Support  07715008521 paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

 www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

Who wouldn’t want to work with an Ice Cream company?

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by Paul Holmes

I was delighted last year when Swindon based Rays Ice Cream, asked for business support publicly and that I was recommended to Hadi Brooks, this led to an ongoing relationship and looks very exciting for 2019.

Hadi has grown the business organically over a number of years and now has two shops, a new purpose-built kitchen and event units, with the additional capacity she was looking for strategic support and planning, to take the next big step forward and to evaluate the numerous options.

Rays is a much-loved brand with a core following, the ice cream is astonishingly good. It is traditionally made using gelato recipes and processes using the best quality local milk and cream, its quality exceeds many of the best ice creams available. Rays is innovative, developing new products — including high protein ice cream and a vegan ice cream range.

The challenge now is raising the awareness outside those loyal fans across Swindon, the region and well beyond. To show to the world the passion and love that Hadi and the team put into the ice cream.

We have initially spent time evaluating the company, re-establishing the aims and ambitions, defining goals and timescales, then developing the strategy: more stores? new products? Events? Online sales? Developing the distribution? Expanding resale outlets? Developing strategic relationships? Supermarkets? Etc.

Developing strategic relationships topped the effort v return evaluation and almost as importantly excited Hadi’s imagination — to distribute increased volume to a small number of select brands, each with a range of their own outlets. The aim is to identify the companies that reflect the quality of Rays Ice Cream’s own products and work closely as strategic partners.

All the planning rests on the ability to supply increased volumes and my experience in manufacturing and operations has become a significant aspect to the work. An expanded manufacturing and storage space in 2018, will be followed by additional process equipment, efficiencies and throughput in 2019.

Ensuring that as each new partnership develops, supply and quality are already assured. 2019 is going to be an exciting year for Hadi, Rays Ice Cream available in more places and it winning the accolades it deserves.

‘I am really excited about the plans we have to develop Rays Ice Cream in 2019. I have enjoyed working with Paul so far, he brings an informed third party view to the business which has been invaluable in helping me to create the strategy for Rays. I look forward to putting the plans into practice along with him.’ Hadi Brooks

For Rays Ice Cream, PCH Business Support is combining — strategic planning and implementation; project management and delivery; as well as manufacturing and operational expertise.

Are these areas in your business you would welcome support? Or there are any other aspects of your company which need development, then contact me for a free initial conversation.

@holmepc Paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk 07715008521 www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

Facing the Challenge of rapid growth

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Paul Holmes — Managing Director PCH Business Support

I have been working with a great little engineering company now for about a year, more recently in preparation for the role of a General Manager, something I had identified as being critical to the business moving forward.

The company is primarily distribution but has grown steadily, introducing their own manufactured products in recent years.

The success of the distribution side of the business has not allowed the basic systems and processes to be developed, as it’s been all hands to the pumps and the manufacturing side of the business has required a disproportionate amount of time and energy to develop and run.

As a result, the team is running at or beyond capacity, improvements and developments are on hold. The owner is dealing with a constant list of questions from the team, firefighting issues, limited time for strategy, making it hard to engage and develop new business.

The scenario is very common of businesses that have become more successful than the processes and investment can keep up with, but this company now recognizes it needs to change before the intensity takes its toll.

Having identified the need for change, actually making a change is a very different challenge, when no one has time to stop. Working with the team, we have steadily progressed through all the possible areas for improvement, itemized and prioritized them, but now it’s time to implement!

I am fundamentally challenging the way the business works, introducing key management meetings to analyse the issues and start to focus the team’s interaction with the owner, to being more quality time rather than constant questions.

A tough challenge is to increase lead times temporarily, giving the team permission to focus on more cost effective, higher reward customers and begin to limit some of the smaller orders — Saying no to potential business is very culturally difficult, but as the business has grown along with the overheads, so the scale of the customers must do too.

The next step is to agree some time during the week, when every member of the team can start to work on improvement projects. The same too for the owner to allocate protected time, to plan and evaluate.

Investing the time will be invaluable in the longer term, but it may feel like wasted time that could be winning orders and selling products in the short term.

The process has required some tough conversations, working as a partnership, making effective changes to free up time and find capacity by improving the critical processes.

It’s a real journey, but at this critical stage it’s what will separate the company’s deserved future success, from potential failure if it doesn’t.

If you need help in business and would like a no obligation initial session then contact Paul Holmes

paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

07715008521

Goal-setting changes the way you work and drives business growth.

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Last edition I looked at how I help businesses when they are struggling — now it’s time to talk about how I work with companies who want to seriously focus on growth.

A starting point for this will be setting goals.

I often hear phrases like “I want to double the business” or “I want to sell it one day and retire”.

Yet when I enquire about the plan to achieve that ambition, the answer can often be fairly vague:

We have to work harder, maybe borrow some money”.

The idea of ‘just working harder’ probably won’t work. Why? If you just keep on working and thinking in the same way, nothing is likely to change substantially.

For example, I recently worked with a business owner who was looking to eventually sell and they even had a value in mind.

I asked about the plan, as their valuation represented a significant increase in the current position. Their answer was ‘to borrow and invest in a new sales person and see what happens’.

The date for their exit plan was five years on and I was able to plot a path to this point, using their own valuation and demonstrated that they would need to be doubling their revenue every year, assuming margins didn’t change.

The owner looked at the figure for the end of year one and went quiet for a moment and then responded with:

“The only way we could do that number is to take on two more sales people, put three more on the road doing installations, as well as someone else in the office. We would have to drop two smaller contracts and start bidding for some larger ones, then look at how we could improve the margins, reduce supply costs with better bulk discounts maybe…

I pointed out how their language, approach and energy had changed in seconds –just from setting a path towards a goal.

There was a huge ‘wow’ moment and produced a smile on the owner’s face — they had simply not thought in this way before.

We then spent time looking in more detail at how the targets might be achieved — where the margin could be improved, where volume break points would help, whether the current service and products had the potential and where other products or services would be needed.

This led to a growth plan which included expanded premises, a new software system, product development and most importantly, targeting a different tier in the supply chain.

This is the power of setting goals. They focus the energy and activities of the business in a way organic growth probably never will, transforming the chances of success and reducing the risks.

If I can support you to set goals and help your business grow, feel free to contact me for an initial conversation, free of charge.

Email paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk or visit my website at https://www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

Clarity for Business Owners….

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This summer marked the second anniversary of PCH Business Support and as every business is unique, so every client project has been different. It’s not always easy to explain the breadth of the services and support I can offer, yet the scenario below provides a little insight, as its one which has come up several times over the last 24 months.

In many technology start-ups there is an innovative product, process or system which initially sells well. New people are needed as the company grows rapidly and confidence grows. Then things start to slow down, the honeymoon period is over and the MD or directors can feel as if they are in danger of going backwards, overwhelmed with the workload.

In many cases they have had limited management, leadership or business training, it’s all been about the product but once the team gets to five to ten members of staff — managing those staff, the information and business processes, becomes the day job.

Business owners or directors may become stressed with all-consuming workloads, which potentially leads to poor decision making becomes routine. The focus can become exclusively operational. It’s all about ‘how can I get the product out of the door to meet customer demands?’ and not about ‘how can I plan for a sustainable future?’ Planning and strategic development doesn’t happen, overheads grow, and then profits begin to stagnate or fall.

Its typically at this point I get a call. A significant proportion of tech scale-ups collapse due to this failure to plan for sustainability and to remain strategic.

To help companies heading down this destructive route, it’s important to quickly understand the business and get involved in the team. This helps me understand how decisions are made, how internal systems function and clarify roles and responsibilities.

My starting point is to identify the objectives of the owner and then create a plan that moves them — over time — to a position where they no longer run the day to day activities. They need to spend their time on strategic direction, product development, markets, efficiencies and economic factors.

One MD wanted to ensure effective internal communication, stopping the entire team to update them after every customer conversation — up to 20 times a day — without really understanding the damage this was causing to productivity. Let alone frustration of their constant interruptions.

I helped the team to adopt a simple App based system allowing customer calls to be logged, evaluated, prioritised and outcomes tracked. These were shown on screen when a staff member was able to look, assess and respond accordingly.

The impact was instant, achieving better results and staff satisfaction from day one.

I worked with them to develop a management process, generate management information and KPIs, which then allowed the owner to manage without feeling completely overwhelmed.

My role is often like this — working directly with the decision maker as part of the team, for a short, flexible period, developing strategy, creating plans and managing tasks.

I bring an external perspective and the experience of working as a successful project manager, I can see where the bottle-necks are and prioritise where action can be taken quickly, gradually and then more long-term. I get involved and become a team resource for a short period, to help get the changes implemented and deliver results.

For a no-obligation conversation or to discuss a one-day business review, feel free to call me on 07715008521, email paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk or visit https://www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

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Is asking for the help a sign of weakness? Or strong leadership?

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I recently attended a business event which included the usual round table networking opportunities and was sat alongside about a dozen other companies, each of us explaining what we do for a living. We were all attempting to use our 60 seconds to encapsulate our offer.

There were interesting issues, plans and ideas that each person had and it was good to be able to challenge a little, offer ideas and find out more about how each business was being run. 

My fellow networkers that day each thought they had everything pretty much in hand, contact details were duly exchanged and at the end of the evening, planned to follow up over the next few days or so. My expectations were modest.

To my surprise two thirds of those individuals contacted me to ask for a follow up meeting and conversation!

The reality was that they all faced a challenge they’d not mentioned the night before and it got me wondering why those business owners had not felt able to discuss this openly  - or even indicate they would like a follow up chat, in front of their peers?

There was a common thread in their various ‘challenges’. Having grown their businesses to a certain size they’d not wanted to face that inevitable hurdle - change.  Increasingly they have to face circumstances which take them out of their comfort zone or they find issues overwhelming or too difficult. This could be around managing staff, investing in more efficient systems and processes or ‘letting go’ of certain tasks.

Asking for help can feel like a big step – almost like admitting failure. However, accepting you don’t have all the answers is often the sign of a strong leader.

Businesses that survive adversity often emerge far stronger. Their systems are streamlined, efficiencies improved, the teams strengthened out of necessity. This can bring productivity, profitability and motivation as the business becomes more competitive, leaner and fit for purpose.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help, or to plan a strategy to identify and tackle the difficult challenges.

Your value to the business is setting the direction, steering the ship, being able to see the wider risks and opportunities. It will remain your business but will allow you to lead without being lost in the operational detail.

If this resonates with you feel free to call me for a no-obligation conversation or to discuss a 1 Day Business review. Email paul@pchbusinesssupport.co.uk or visit my website at https://www.pchbusinesssupport.co.uk

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Starting out in your own company - It's tougher than you could possibly imagine... some tips on how to make it worth all the hard work!

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I meet people who have created new businesses and start-ups all the time and I’m one of them, I run my own consultancy in a service industry, possibly the hardest start-up to try to create, especially as you have no ‘product’ as such.   I have never worked as hard, for so long, for such little return, yet it’s been an amazing experience so far and I don’t plan on changing it.

“It will take at least two years to get established” was a phrase I’ve heard more than once, now almost two years on, it really has taken this long with still a long way to go.

Trying to be every department in the company, all by yourself, is a very steep learning curve, however wide your previous experience, in my case most of the work appears to happen once the little ones are in bed and the working day seems to start for me about 8pm. During daylight hours you’re chasing every opportunity, each one requiring attention, focus, care and quality – all of which takes time.

The impact on sanity, mind and body, not to mention loved ones, should not be underestimated, weekends have only just started to reappeared in the calendar. If you are considering travelling a similar path, take off those rose-tinted glasses and prepare for the reality. Running your own business provides a great deal of flexibility, you set the timescales and define the workload, there is no sharing the load, you simply have to find the hours in the day, which work around your lifestyle and commitments. For those of you that get late night/early morning emails from me, those are my hours.

I am currently working with a wide range of companies, a manufacturing company looking at the processes and owning of orders through the system, working with a company considering expansion, merger, growth and evaluating options, a new product company, planning the route to market, evaluating the market options and creating detailed plans to move forward, as well as a service company looking at new premises and how to invest in the growth of the business. Each client different, exciting and challenging.

My role now is to help established businesses to grow and overcome challenges, I help business owners and leaders to be strategic rather than just operational. I’ve always been a problem solver throughout my career and now what I have learned from all the highs and lows of setting up my own business has added to that experience and understanding.

My top tips to help the process to be successful

*Find a mentor. The journey will be lonely.

*Search for your support network – create a group of people around you whose opinions you trust and who will give you honest feedback.

*Create simple plans, prioritise and focus on what is critical – it’s better to deliver your top five things well than scrape the top 20 things across the line with only an acceptable level of quality.

*Look for start-up support and programmes – these can help you focus on your business model, your value proposition and learn to set your own goals.

*Identify the areas of running the business you don’t do very well and consider getting help - it will be invaluable.

It will be hard however, making your own decisions, choosing how you want to spend your day has a value it’s hard to put a price on. The variety and surprising opportunities that come along and the amazing people you will meet along the way will more than balance the head-in-hands moments.

For me, it’s been worth it so far and the journey continues.

PCH Business Support - Provides Business Solutions, Innovation and Project Management to help businesses of all shapes and sizes.