Where do you find Better Business help?
This month’s article is inspired by the Better Business workshop I did a couple weekend’s ago.
The program is about developing and mentoring businesses – generally established – so they can get past any stumbling blocks and move on to the next stage. The course has three parts – a one day workshop, a one-on-one session with a business coach and backup mentoring support to help with the enacting of new initiatives.
The value in such a program is the support, is the helping to get to the next level or even to restructure the business and daily practices to help create a better business and personal lifestyle.
The Better Business Program is a part of a Federal Government focus on developing strong and healthy small and medium sized enterprises (SME’s). I found my way to it through the GHA – an industry membership group who is being quite active with helping their interested members.
But what I’m learning is that there are a wide range of supportive programs offered by various government groups – local, state, federal. I know from my international friends that this is common in many countries around the world, especially in New Zealand, Canada, UK, USA, South Africa, Singapore, Germany and France – they may be through local provincial governments or even through local universities, but the point is, they are out there and accessible.
Some programs come with funding but I think with the funding the general rule is they need to see demonstration of determination and vision more than anything else. A way to clearly show this determination and vision is with a document outlining strategy – what is the purpose, aim, target, analysis, opportunity, process of achieving the vision. A business plan supported with a marketing plan can be an excellent tool for clearly communicating with yourself and your supporters – sources of funding, mentors, and especially yourself.
I’ve jumped ahead of myself a little by talking about business strategy documents, business plans and marketing plans and many of us get spooked about the idea of doing such work but this is where many of the government and community business support programs come into play and help.
In New South Wales there is the Business Enterprise Centre – BEC’s – and they help new businesses start, help with developing business plans, offer classes, group discussions and funding through the Neis program. To find out more about a local BEC in Australia visit http://www.beca.org.au/
Your local BEC will also be able to tell you about the support services your state government specifically offers. For NSW the Department of State and Regional Development has a host of programs and you can start to find out more at http://www.beca.org.au/
Now sometimes government groups get caught up in the bureaucracy and it can take a little determination and tenacity to find the right person in a department who has the passion to make a difference. So don’t let the others who are happy to let life pass by be stumbling blocks for you. In every discussion I’ve had with people about these government support teams I’ve heard about someone fantastic who is excellently networked, loves what they are doing and delivers. It is finding them that can take some time, or, it can be quick and easy. The point is to give it a go, expand your networks and explore what is out there.
You don’t have to have an established business to be taking advantage of what is on offer. You can use these services to build your education, to keep your eyes open for opportunities and ideas. You can go along to the Women in Business Network group and start building your network. What you may find is a great opportunity to join a business where you can contribute and learn. From there you may find you would prefer to be part of someone else’s business or you may find that the ideal opportunity for you to move into the right business comes to you.
Remember, not all ideal sea changes are about setting up your own business, many include finding the right place for you to belong and generate income. One of the hardest things for a small business (or any size business really) is to find the right people.
So what am I getting out of this Better Business Program? Lots of things on many levels – having a day of being part of a group of other small business owner/operators who all came from different directions and all in need of the next step (that was inspiring and it was healthy to feel part of a group and to belong rather than being an isolated small businesswoman). I had a small business Profit and Loss statement explained (I only really had experience of investment banking P&L’s – rather different) which also explained what sort of pricing margin is needed to make a successful business. Determining how to price your products and services can be the hardest thing – finding what the market will accept and what will also mean you still have a business at the end of the year. I could prattle on for way too many words about what I got out of that single day and I’m all inspired again to get to work on my business strategy document.
I’m now seeing working on the business strategy document (similar to a business plan but a little more tailored to where I am with the business now – a more specific tool for me for now) as being something that I can make into a car to take me to the next stage. The only way my business is to grow is if I work smart, if I work on the business and make the initiatives that are in my head into reality.
I have times where I feel a little lost, a little directionless, a little overwhelmed by what I’m doing and I know that I need to give myself support and that’s why I did took up the opportunity to be part of the Better Business Program – the mentoring component was the most attractive part – the ongoing support, the ongoing discussion with others about my business. I get to share and delight in my creative designs at market each weekend with customers who see the beauty in the beads as I do and that keeps me inspired and designing. What I need also is the inspiration that comes from talking business with others.
An interesting recommendation that came out of the workshop was to setup a board of advisors that you respect that you meet with regularly to discuss your business with – bounce ideas, explain where the money is, listen carefully and respectfully to advice and suggestions and to get the ideas out of the head and into the voice. The advisors can be anyone you like, just as long as you respect (and trust) them.
For me now I’m thinking I want to have an ongoing mentoring program with business advisors. As it is my cash flow budget doesn’t have room for this cost so I’ve realised I need to reorganise what I’m doing because with the right ones on board and me committed to make it work, there is money in it for me and I need to get out of the renting cycle and to buy my own car. No shining knight is going to turn up with a shiny beamer for me and a mansion in Double Bay, I have to do it myself. The upside is that I love what I’m doing now and I’m capable to achieving all of this. None of it is brain surgery. Business and marketing is logical and possible. The trick is in having open eyes to see the opportunities and a determined heart to make the opportunities into reality.
So go exploring with open eyes and a determined heart for what opportunities what is on offer through associations, further education centres, and governments. Get talking with others about what’s possible and remember to pay it forward – help others with leads and information, listen to your friends and family about their dreams and ideas and be constructive about supporting them and offering leads to make it happen.
Remember, the more you look, the more you see.