“Collaboration and knowledge sharing is invaluable in supporting small businesses to succeed. It really doesn’t get much better than that…”
Author: Miranda Mears, Learning Partnerships
Small business ownership isn’t for the faint of heart. The challenges and rewards generally come in equal doses. The decision to open a small business in the first place requires brevity, patience and an enormous amount of persistence.
I know when I started my first business 25 years ago one of the biggest struggles for me was who do I actually talk to about this? Who do I get advice from or use as a sounding board? It was, at times, an incredibly isolating experience.
It makes absolutely no sense to me that to be a tradie, a hairdresser or a doctor, you have to go and get significant qualification and training. We understand that there’s the skills and experiences that are necessary for us to be able to be effective in those disciplines.
Unfortunately, there’s no similar equivalent when becoming a small business owner. Anyone can go and start up a small business without having to really understand anything about the minutiae or day to day operations of running a successful small business.
While it’s important entrepreneurialism and creativity aren’t stifled, we also need to ensure business owners are being set up for the best chance of success and not spending their days struggling through.
People don’t know what they don’t know, nor should they be expected to.
My own personal experience in not knowing where to find support was a key driver in the development of the Learning Partnerships Small Business Advisory and Facilitation Program. It provides a collaboration between education, mentoring and governance. It is effectively, the support, guidance and knowledge I wish I’d had when I was starting out.
The Program provides a combination of preliminary coaching facilitation and quarterly check-ins. One of the biggest things that has been known to support businesses to succeed is to have very strong goals, KPIs and metrics around when they want things to happen and how do they want them to happen?
A grand idea is fabulous but without a well thought out execution strategy, the chances of success are minimal. Quarterly coaching enables small businesses to have that sense of accountability around knowing that someone’s there to talk to all the time and that they’re being followed up and given some support, while also having someone to be able to understand what the barriers and the challenges are.
We find the barriers are vast and varied- is the business growing too quickly or not quickly enough? Is it a husband and wife working together who are struggling to separate home and work and to not have the challenges of home impact at work?
Many business owners we work with are also concerned about what succession planning and exit planning will look like. Every owner is essentially a key risk to the business and needs to understand how is their business going to survive if they got sick or couldn’t work for an extended period of time?
The Learning Partnerships Small Business Advisory and Facilitation Program puts a framework around the business operations and that more often than not also includes undertaking specific business qualifications to help the business owner manage the day to day more successfully.
So, depending on the person, we have a conversation with them around, well, what does that look like for you, and what’s going to be best? It could be a full certificate in Small Business Management. That includes everything from business planning, marketing, finance, leading and managing teams, which is sometimes our biggest challenge to being effective leaders.
Or it could be something around a skill set in small business growth, small business survival- whatever is relevant to the individual and their organisation.
Another important area is an induction to governance skillset. It’s critical for small businesses to understand that what do as directors may have certain consequences on a personal front. We see a lot of small businesses growing into big businesses that don’t have the governance structures in place to support that growth properly to ensure their risk is minimised.
My favourite part of the Learning Partnerships Small Business Advisory and Facilitation Program is the Advisory Board we set up for our small business clients. Our Alliance Advisory Board allows businesses to come in, get a little bit of practice in that governance sector and around corporate governance, while engaging with other businesses that are both similar and dissimilar to discuss challenges and opportunities.
It really encourages that support network that helps people to grow, both personally and professionally.
The thing that I love the most is those light bulb moments around people going ‘Oh, I get this’, or, ‘Oh, I didn’t realise I need to do that.’ To be able to support people to learn and grow is an incredible honour.
As a small business owner, collaboration and knowledge sharing is invaluable in supporting small businesses to succeed. It really doesn’t get much better than that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Miranda is an experienced and passionate leader and consultant, specialising in providing business advisory assessment and training services to individuals, businesses and government for transformation and growth. Visit www.learningpartnerships.edu.au for more information on the Learning Partnerships Small Business Advisory and Facilitation Program.