What is a business mentor?

When I started out in business I was fortunate enough to have a business mentor.  However, this was only for the first 3 months of trading as I believed that I had all the tools I needed to run a business.  After all, how difficult could it be?

I didn’t understand that mentoring should continue beyond startup.  I wasn’t aware that some of the top business people in the country…in the world, have business mentors.

A business mentor is someone who works with you on a one to one basis as you work on your business.  It’s not coaching, although coaching skills do come into play. A mentor listens to you, guides you, challenges you, puts you in touch with their business contacts, helps you with strategy, business growth, and all those things that crop up in the life span of a business.  Most of all, a business mentor should understand your business, be a sounding board and work with you to achieve your business goals.

When I had cash flow difficulties, my mentor helped me plan and work through it.  At the point where I needed external finance, I had someone to help me find the best finance available. As my team grew, my mentor worked with me to get the best out of my employees.

After working through the whole business cycle, myself, from start up through to exit (several times), I now work with business owners as a mentor. I help businesses with their growth strategy, business planning, marketing strategy, access to finance and people management.

What I didn’t realise at the outset of my business journey was that I needed to work on my business, as much as I need to work in it! Working with a mentor ensures that you take that time away from your business to work on it.

The following points may be of use in considering a mentor to work with you:

How do I find a business mentor to work with? Most business mentors are found through existing contacts, recommendation and word of mouth.

What skills should my mentor have?  Your mentor should have been self-employed at some point and have knowledge of running a small business.  Very often people with a corporate background set themselves up as business mentors.  This is great if you are working with corporate clients and need to understand the workings of a corporate entity.  However, does the mentor have the requisite skills of managing a small business? Ask your mentor to see their CV or what practical business experience they have. You may decide to have multiple mentors who have specific skill sets for each area of your business.

How often should I meet or speak to my mentor? That is largely down to you, your mentor and what support you need. However, it’s important to have an agenda and to come away from each session with action points. Generally, mentoring is a monthly commitment depending upon what issues arise within your business. Some businesses need a more hands on approach and this may be where the relationship deepens into a Non-Exec role. Find out if the sessions are face to face, by telephone, Skype or similar. Face to face is best wherever possible with phone, email and Skype support.

What type of things can a mentor help me with? Business mentors can help you with anything. However, rather than offering general advice or support, it should be specific to your business. Mentors can support you with any aspect of your business growth, work with you and guide you.

How much should it cost? Mentors either charge a fixed daily/session rate or a monthly support fee. Ensure that you are clear about how much it’s going to cost at the outset and what you will be getting for your money. Be aware that expenses are usually charged in addition. Be careful not to tie yourself into lengthy contracts and the mentoring relationship should have quarterly reviews. Typically, mentoring can cost anything between £250-£1,000 per month.

If you would like to find out more about business mentoring please contact me:

Sandra Garlick is a former business and employment law solicitor and is now a business growth consultant, mentor, trainer and public speaker. Sandra works with business owners and senior management teams and has a particular expertise in the legal and sports sectors. 

Follow @SandraGarlick @SGBusConsulting

http://www.sandragarlick.com

Do you overpromise and underdeliver? Vital things to consider before you agree a sale

Have you ever found yourself getting overexcited at the prospect of securing a new piece of client work or making a sale?

broken-dealIt is so easy to get carried away during those initial discussions and promise the earth with little regard for whether you can actually deliver. Early negotiations are vital in sealing the deal and sometimes, business owners can get a little carried away with the “can do” attitude of wanting to do the very best they can for their client or customer to get the sale.

So, when it comes down to finally putting what has been agreed down on paper (or not as is often the case), there is a sudden realization that you may not be able to deliver what was promised on time, or in some cases not be able to deliver at all!

Here are just a few things to consider:

Do I have the resources to deliver?

This could be raw materials or people, or a combination of both. In fact, for the small business the only resource could be you? If you sell a product, you may make it yourself or you may need to ensure that you have appropriate raw materials in stock. What is the turnaround time to get the raw materials from a supplier? Are you reliant on a team member undertaking the work, do they have capacity or maybe they are currently on annual leave? What other client work do you have to deliver within the timescale proposed?

Do I have the time to deliver in the timescale promised?

So as well as needing the resources, do you actually have the capacity to turn this order around? You must remember that each of your clients or customers believes that they are your most important customer. They are! You need to ensure that they feel that way and manage their expectations from the outset. There is nothing wrong in saying, “Yes I can do that for you but we have a two week wait list” or “We have a 28-day turnaround”. The most important thing here is communication and not promising to deliver something the next day, where you clearly can’t and it will only lead to disappointment.

Remember, if you deliver a service, there are only so many deliverable hours in a working day or you will end up working through the night to meet a deadline.

Do I have the expertise?

When you are starting out in business, it can be tempting to accept every piece of work that comes through the door. Sadly, there are occasions where you are clearly not qualified or simply don’t have the skills or resources to deliver. What then? Do you muddle through and deliver a poor standard of work on the basis that it’s the best you can come up with? Do you outsource and give away your profit margin, or worse, end up paying out more than your profit margin? Worse still, do you fail to deliver completely? Think carefully whether you have the required expertise and skill beforeyou agree to take the work.

Am I communicating?

Things happen. If something does crop up, or prevents you from adhering to your original delivery date, let your client or customer know. If you manage their expectations throughout the process, they are more likely to understand and delay. You may not have the capabilities within your business to have an Amazon style tracking process, but communication via email or a telephone call is the next best thing.

Do I have the agreed terms down on paper?

It is always advisable to have a good set of terms and conditions that apply to your product or service with clear delivery times set out, including payment terms and other key trading provisions. Anything that is agreed between you should be clearly set out. It is where you promise over and beyond these terms that things can get tricky. Be wary of downloading or copying other people’s terms and conditions. These should be drafted and tailored for your business.

Am I going to get paid?

Whilst outside the scope of this article, receiving prompt payment for the work you undertake is crucial for your cash flow. It is essential to charge an appropriate sum for the work you undertake, considering your expertise and the urgency in which it is required. Furthermore, does the customer or client have the ability to pay and will they pay on time? This is so often overlooked. If possible, get a percentage of the payment up front and ensure that you chase overdue payments.

Running through these few simple points before you say “yes” to the sale, can save you time, money and several sleepless nights.

Sandra Garlick is a Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Public Speaker and Trainer. She works with small business owners on planning and strategy to accelerate growth.

Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick

 

 

 

 

Tips for Overcoming Your Fear of Public Speaking

ruby wax 11Standing up for the first time in front of other business owners or an audience can be an extremely daunting prospect.

However, the following tips may help you to overcome that fear. Remember…It’s all about preparation!

Build up your confidence slowly…

Start at a local business network meeting where there is a small group of people you know well. Rehearse in front of your work colleagues or friend. You can slowly increase your confidence and you will soon be speaking to larger audiences with confidence.

Tell a Story…

Rather than doing a sales pitch, tell a story and make yourself memorable for the right reasons. If you share an interesting fact, your personal experiences or a useful piece of information, you are far more likely to be remembered, rather than simply stating who you are and what you do.

Imagine your audience in a different context…

Someone once suggested to me that if you imagine your audience in pyjamas that this will relax you!  However you decide to imagine your audience, pick something that makes you feel comfortable and confident.  Alternatively, have a few people you know in the audience and imagine it’s just a conversation between you.

Engage with your audience…

Smile and most importantly…..don’t forget to breathe. Pause, especially if you lose track of what you are saying.  Ask questions, interact by carrying out polls, ask for volunteers and invite questions from your audience.  When speaking, use your tone of voice, vary your pitch and don’t forget to share personal experiences.  If you have a large audience it’s a good tactic to pick 3 faces (left, right and centre) and focus on them throughout your talk or presentation. That way you appear to be speaking to the whole audience.

Know your topic…

Avoid reading from pages of notes or using excessive content on Powerpoint slides, they should be used as a prompt only.  Try to talk about things you know well and avoid heavy sales pitches. Share your knowledge and expertise, give examples and become a giver and sharer of information.  The sales will soon follow.

Be authentic…

Be yourself. Trying to be someone else or someone you think you ought to be will lead you to stumble.  Just be authentic to who you are and you will come across as genuine.  People buy from people and your honesty and natural authenticity will shine through.

Sandra Garlick is a business consultant and mentor and regularly speaks throughout the UK on various business growth topics.  To enquire about Sandra speaking at your event, please call 024 7621 4440.

You can follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick

 

More Networking Tips for Success

I recently published a post about Networking Tips for Success where I shared my key 3 benefits of networking.

AAW Coventry Open DaySelecting the right networking events and ensuring that your networking is effective is key to the growth of your business.  You need to attend events where you are going to meet, or be referred to, potential customers.

It’s nice to go out everyday for breakfast, lunch and dinner but as well as affecting your cash flow…and your waistline, it will also affect your availability to carry out your work or simply be a waste of your time out of the office.

Sometimes it difficult to attend a networking event once, or even choose the right one to go to, and be able to make an informed decision whether it is right for you and your business.

The following 7 tips may help you:

  1. Ask someone to recommend an event or networking group to you.  Ideally, one that they have found effective.  Ask if you can go along with them;
  2. If you are attending an event for the first time, speak to the host in advance and ask them more details about the event, the type of people who attend, the format and if they can introduce you to people;
  3. Ensure that you speak to as many people as possible while you are there and find out how they have benefited from attending;
  4. Do some preparation in advance and think about your particular goals for attending the event and what you want to achieve as an outcome.  Be specific…”I would like to meet 3 new business contacts“;
  5. Make some notes as soon as you get back to the office… when it is fresh in your mind.  Ask yourself some questions such as “Did I meet any good contacts?”, “Did I enjoy the event“, “Would I recommend it to someone else?”;
  6. Keep an ongoing record of events you attend and more importantly the cost of attending.  Ensure that you monitor the cost versus benefit.
  7. Have fun and enjoy your networking.

Sandra Garlick, Business Consultant, Adviser & Mentor 

Copyright © Sandra Garlick 2016

What does your LinkedIn head shot say about you?

LinkedIn is a powerful and successful tool for networking.Sandra Web 2

I have gained new clients, made new contacts and used the platform as an introduction for face to face meetings.  Of course there are many other things that make LinkedIn the success it is today.

One thing that many people who have LinkedIn profiles fail to get just right is their head shot or profile picture. I am not saying that mine is perfect, but it has several key components that I look for when I connect with someone:

  1. A smile…Straight away the picture gives the impression of someone friendly and approachable.
  2. Eye Contact…By looking straight into the camera there is immediate and engaging eye contact.  I am always wary of people who appear to be looking into the distance on their profile shots.
  3. Head and Shoulders…You can clearly see your features.  It also makes it easier to recognise someone you may have met or may wish to meet in the future.
  4. Professional…Beach shots and those holding an alcoholic beverage in non-work mode demonstrate a lack of professionalism. LinkedIn is a professionals platform
  5. A Photo…There are still a large number of profiles on LinkedIn which have no professional photo or indeed any photo at all.  This demonstrates laziness. If, for security reasons, you are unable to post a picture of yourself online then a logo is the very minimum.

It is so easy to get a professional head shot today, and at minimal cost.  Even a profile picture taken with a smartphone is better than no photo at all.

I no longer connect with anyone who doesn’t have a head shot.  If I know them personally, I send a gentle reminder that they may wish to include one.

Sandra Garlick is a Business Growth Consultant, Mentor, Public Speaker and Trainer

Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick

Do you diminish your value when you discount your products and services?

So often I see companies offering “Free Stuff“, “Special Offer“, “Cheapest” when advertising products and services.

DiscountHaving a special offer or promotion is great, but when you start a business you need to create value.  If you offer free promotions from the outset, then later try to charge for those products or services, the value may already have been lost.

Promotions and free offers have their place…usually when you are established. Obviously, it depends on your sector.  For example… I have seen many events publish their ticket prices, only to find that during the last few weeks of sales they are reduced or sometimes offered on a buy one get one free (BOGOF).  This suggests to me that they haven’t sold enough tickets! The original purchasers get annoyed that they have paid the full price and instantly the value of the event has diminished.  This happened to me when I paid full price for a well known speaker in London.  It was advertised that this was his last event in the UK and I happily paid full price to see him.  I soon realised this wasn’t the case when, after the event, I was bombarded by sales calls from his team offering me half price, BOGOFs and freebies to attend his next event in the UK.  I was quite angry and have never attended since, on principle.

When I started in business, my fees were relatively low for my sector. I soon increased these to demonstrate my value and expertise.  I noticed that when I offered a reduced rate, my customers expected a Rolls Royce service for a bargain rate.  In fact, I started to say “no” and to choose my customers carefully. If they valued my expertise then they should be prepared to pay for it and it worked.

So think carefully about your value.  Are you creating value for the services you deliver or the products you sell?

  • Think carefully about how your offers and promotions will be perceived by your customers;
  • If you are offering something for Free, think about why a customer should come back and purchase from you;
  • If you are going to reduce your prices after you have sold at full price, think about why you are doing this and the impact on future sales.

Sandra Web 2Sandra Garlick is a Business Consultant, Adviser and Mentor.  She works with business owners on growth strategy, from startup through to exit.  Sandra is also a public speaker and trainer.  

Follow Sandra on Twitter @SandraGarlick