Its not “advice” that owners crave most

I’m often asked how I can successfully advise clients across so many different industries.

The truth is there is actually minimal “advising” involved.

That isn’t what owners want or need the most.

25 years supporting hundreds of SME owners has taught me that what they appreciate are some simple things…



-Someone who’ll actively and genuinely listen to them

-Someone who’ll uncover their goals

-Help to highlight opportunities already in sight

-with Regular Accountablity

You can wrap all these things into 4 words…

Being their Support Partner

Commonly owners have the solutions to many of their handbrakes inside them already.

They know their business better than anybody.

But they feel unsure, isolated and “stuck”.

Once they feel supported, and a regular structure is put around that, the growth in their confidence and in their motivation are the food for growth.

We all know that business is more challenging than ever these days.

Owners are expected to produce more with less – better quality, quicker response times, more products to market, increased sales and better value for money.

And yet staff-related challenges are increasing. Finding good staff, motivating them, retaining them. Its becoming more and more challenging.

Owners constantly being told they need to work “on” their business rather than in it. Most of them know that already, but they find it difficult to find a way to do that,  without help.

Without support.

Let’s cut to the chase. If you’re running an SME business the chances are that you are up to your elbows in quicksand, so busy with day-to-day operational tasks that you barely have time to catch a breath, let alone pause to think strategically or assemble a plan.

Larger business have a senior management team. There is a support system in place, and  conversations between the senior team around strategy and growth are happening constantly.

Not every day but always regularly.

Contrast that with the situation in SME’s.

I like to build conversations with SME owners around what are the biggest “levers” in their business.

If we strip a business down to basics it has a set of key “levers” that combine to give an outcome, the most desired being solid profit returns and lifestyle benefits for the owner.

But of course there’s a step in the process that precedes this.

In beginning to support an SME owner the starting point should always be honing in on the vision and goals of the owner.

To find out what drives them.

What their dream is for their business.

What so they want to achieve?

What keeps them awake at night?

What are the biggest things holding them back from achieving those identified goals?

Then later moving on to ask them questions around the vital ingredients in their business.

Their pricing mix, their margins, which products are unprofitable, what marketing they’re doing and why, the marketing messages they use, what their customers are telling them, the quality of their people and the culture in their team, the systems they have in place, the training and developing of their staff, their leadership style etc.

All of these present potential opportunities for improvement in the business.

This gives me cause for reflection regularly.

Discussions with the owner, with a laser focus on each of those key ingredients, and what the owner may already have in mind to improve them, will almost always yield opportunities for a better outcome.

Because the reality is they simply don’t have the time, and more importantly the headspace, to think deeply about these things themselves, without someone to talk to.

The magic is in how authentically you ask these questions, how genuinely you listen, how you constantly dig deeper to reveal and extract the truth.

Every meeting needs to end with an action plan.

Action items that come out of the discussions.

A list of things the owner commits to doing, to tweeking, to changing.

With a timetable/deadline attached.

Preferably just a few small things each time. Not too much that the owner is overloaded.

So that its achievable.

Then the vital accountability and follow up needs to be put in place.

I find that monthly meetings are best with my own clients. But quarterly is OK to start with.

If its quarterly then some phone follow-up is critical between the meetings.

Owners need a push.

Ongoing support.

Providing “advice” is simply not necessary, and in fact it sets the wrong tone for this engagement with an owner.

Unless you speak from deep experience on the particular topic of course.

Essentially coaching is about guiding and supporting.

Being the owner’s biggest fan.

Their trusted support partner.

Lindsay King

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