Many years ago, I was working with the building designer industry, helping many small business owners not only document the knowledge of their business operations which were unfortunately still in their heads; but resetting their teams to improve productivity and profitability, and coaching them to better manage all aspects of their business.
I had never previously worked with this industry sector but I'm an eager learner and very quickly picked up processes and industry terminology so I could document simple systems to streamline their businesses.
And once I started helping 1, 2 then 3 business owners; word quickly spread within the industry. I also met with the President of the Building Designers Association Queensland and by building that relationship, I started writing for their magazine and speaking at their regional meetings. This opened up further opportunities in other States.
So you could say, I was the Business Coach/Systems Consultant for building designers which was fantastic.
And I loved the work. I was meeting great business owners who were often excellent Technicians but they needed some assistance (as most of us usually do) to bring the love, joy and hard facts back in to managing a simple profitable business they actually love.
And then all of a sudden.... BANG! CRASH! It all came tumbling down. Why?
Not because of something I had done but because the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) arrived. (Sounding a bit too familiar right?)
The building design industry was hit very hard which meant there was no longer any money to invest in working 'on their business', even though this is the time when we need to invest in this the most.
For many in the sector, their businesses moved from steady and thriving to survival and like many in the greater building and construction industry, they had some very dark days.So what did this mean for me?
Over about a month, I went from being fully booked and actually oversubscribed to no clients.
Wow – what a slap in the face reality check, one which cost me financially and personally as I struggled to climb out of this hole I had dug myself.Yep ME!
As much as we don't want to admit it, even when external circumstances hit our businesses and our first reaction is usually something like, 'Why me?' and 'How did this happen?"; when we take the time to reflect on how we got here, it often becomes clear we created this situation.
As I created my financial and business crisis, exacerbated by the GFC, here's my 3 key lessons which may relate to your RTO right now or you want to avoid as you work through the COVID-19 crisis so you don't end up like me.My 3 Business Lessons which are all entwined:
1. Don't become complacent
I was having a grand old time, enjoying the work and the opportunities which were coming my way from this industry sector, so much so that I never thought it would end. I thought I had found my lifelong business niche... finally... but I was wrong.
2. Don't put all your eggs in one basket
Sounds simple doesn't it but so easy to do in the moment. I had put all my eggs into one industry sector and forgotten the golden rule of 1:
Never have 1 client, income coming from 1 industry sector or funding source, or only 1 product or service.
3. Never stop marketing
And this is the hardest one to do, isn't it?
Because when we get busy with work, particularly if we are the business like I am, what's the thing we stop doing because we say 'we're too busy'? Marketing!
And we should NEVER stop marketing. We should be marketing every single day, in a variety of ways and mediums so we always have options available to us if one of our income streams or clients takes a hit.
It is from this experience that I used to recoil at the words 'niche market'.
But now, I can see the benefits .... as long as I remember the lessons learnt.