In my work I meet many small business owners (SBOs) who are very
skilled at their crafts but who lack a broad understanding of how
to build and operate a business. Consequently, their companies are
profitable enough to remain open, but do not generate a livable
income. Often, a business cannot survive long enough for its owner
to gain necessary skills by returning to school or attending
As a performance consultant, I train owners how to run a business
and to identify and correct the limiting factors that have been
built into the company.
A two-pronged approach
A formal on-the-job training program delivered in the form of
one-on-one mentoring revolves around the five disciplines of time,
finances, management, marketing and sales, and human resources.
During these sessions, my goal is to learn what my client thinks
and believes in these areas. This yields valuable insight into why
the business is run the way it is.
Simultaneously, I take a human performance improvement approach to
the entire business. This lets me evaluate the performance of all
the component parts that impact the business success.
During the intense mentoring experience, my job as performance
consultant is to act as a subject matter expert and to provide
knowledge for mentoring the owner.
Time. The focus here is on the SBO's current role
and what it should be. How should the owner spend their time? What
tasks should they be doing, and what should they delegate to staff
members or perhaps outsource altogether?
Finances. Next I work with the SBO to create
operating budgets and teach the owner to allocate funds to support
business objectives. We identify areas of financial concern and
create plans for addressing them. After identifying key performance
indicators, I teach the SBO how to use them to monitor and improve
Management. SBOs need to know how to manage
people, the operation, and the overall direction of the business.
Management is divided into two categories: managing the present and
managing the future. The goal is to educate the SBO so he knows
what to do today to make the future more profitable.
Marketing and sales. Everything the business does
to generate revenue is carefully scrutinized. I teach the SBO how
to effectively market the business, turn opportunities into sales,
and analyze every revenue opportunity.
Human resources. What is the right organizational
structure for this specific business? What is the best strategy for
aligning people with the company direction? Specific subjects
addressed here include compensation, required skill sets, job
structure, and staff planning. The goal is to help the SBO think of
people in terms of talent instead of payroll dollars.
A crucial aspect of this intensive mentoring methodology is that it
allows me to develop immediately applicable knowledge and provide
invaluable feedback to the SBO.
Using HPI to develop solutions
Combining mentoring with HPI analysis ensures the fastest
improvement in performance for both the SBO and the company. As a
performance consultant, I conduct an analysis of each of the five
disciplines listed above (time, financial, management, marketing
and sales, and human resources), and the findings provide a basis
for proposing solutions to the SBO. Solutions are then prioritized
by balancing ease of implementation with those that will have the
It's important that the performance consultant and the SBO
collaborate to design and develop the solutions. This collaboration
deeply reinforces the SBO's learning and assures complete buy-in.
SBOs need to be the primary implementers of the solutions, however.
My job is to orchestrate the process with the SBO from behind the
scenes and play a supporting role on the implementation team. From
the employee's perspective, the owner, not me, is the leader of the
change. This preserves the owner's authority role and helps
position them as leaders of the new reality.
Using a comprehensive mentoring approach helps the SBO learn deeply
and quickly, and this new knowledge can lead to solutions that are
quick to implement. In addition, the SBO's self-esteem is preserved
or even enhanced. This approach also creates a shared
responsibility for results between the performance consultant and
the SBO. The SBO champions each intervention, grows in experience
and knowledge, and has the satisfaction of knowing they did it
themselves. Perhaps the greatest benefit, however, is that the
entire business improves and becomes better positioned for future