On the very first day that I went to university, one senior lecturer gave a pearl of wisdom to all of us fresh faced students: “if there is a simple solution presented to a problem, then it’s probably wrong.” These words have stayed in the back of my mind, and it has been a lesson repeated time and again. Working with small business, I frequently see them looking for that simple solution, that one thing, that silver bullet that will solve their problems. At business seminars, I see so many hopeful faces in the audience, waiting for the guru of the day tell them a magical spell that will turn on the tap for customers, get them a big investor or create some huge opportunity. The reality is that businesses are complex and (at times) unruly beasts and silver bullets are mythical solutions.
In the search for the simple one big solution, it’s easy to overlook the multitude of small decisions that can, when made collectively over time, truly change a business. A slow, steady application of well thought out actions can make a much bigger impact, for those with the organisation and diligence to perform them. A change of mindset that sees opportunity in the detail can bring about transformation.
We have seen this approach in many clients. One such business, an electrician, was struggling with bad advice from their accountant, which resulted in surprise tax bills and chronic cash flow issues - whilst being overcharged and the accountant never available to talk. Simple small decision, change accountant. They found one that they could actually talk to, and in the next few months they saved thousands on fees and developed a strategy to better manage their tax.
Another client, a HR consultant, was struggling with bad payers, meaning 10 clients had been sent to the debt collector and in the end, writing off $9,000 in bad debts. Small decision – change to upfront payments. Not everyone liked it, but the amount of lost clients was worth less than the write offs.
When looking for your small decisions, look for the hurt points. What things drive you crazy? Ask your team. Ask your clients. Look for places where you can do better in your financial reporting, operating reports and analytics.
Once you have some potential solutions, test and try before implementing. Recently at The Business Plan Company, we were questioning whether to have our prices on the website. Prices were displayed, but we had too many visitors to the website that didn’t make contact. We decided to test it for one month - take the prices off, then see what difference it would make. The outcome? Enquiries increased by 100% and conversions up 50%. Small decision, big impact.
Life would be so easy if there were quick fixes and silver bullets. Whilst waiting for that, steadily applying small, well thought out decisions can have a snowballing, exponential effect, where extra cash, time, efficiency and confidence build on themselves. Often the results are better anyway.
By: Warren Harmer