Are You Shackled By Your Business?
Are You Trapped By Your Business?
Are You Working Too Many Hours?
Do You Have A Poor Work To Life Ratio?
If you can answer "Yes" to any of these question, you should really read this article.
Several weekends ago, my son arranged for us to join a group on a brewery tour of a successful family brewery in Wiltshire.
I am an ex brewer and in one of my former lives, I ran a very successful microbrewery before selling in 2001. He knew I would enjoy it and I did; it was a great day touring the brewery and seeing how this particular company brewed their beer.
The reason for this article is not to tell you about the family brewery – although I might well do that at a later stage – but to tell you about the small hotel, I stayed in for the weekend whist visiting the brewery.
The brewery was located in a lovely small market town and I booked two nights in one of the several hotels in the town. It was the sort of place that I like to stay – several hundred years old, with many of the original historic features. It not only offered accommodation but also had a full bar where you could enjoy a meal and a drink.
The room was very clean and comfortable, and a good hearty breakfast was served each morning of my stay.
But I felt not all was well with this business.
On talking to the lady of the house, she told me the entire place was run by just her and her husband with both working 100 hours per week each and she said they had both done this for the past 20 years.
She said they employed one person, one day per week to clean the hotel rooms; this was their only employment. She qualified this by saying that if she employed more staff, they would have to increase their prices.
Observing her, I also noticed that she obviously had health issues with a poor hip and leg, probably aggravated by the long hours and the physical toll on her body.
The couple knew I was an ex Publican and an ex Brewer but did not know I was also a Business Coach. They did not seek any advice from me nor did I offer any. I sensed that they were conditioned to this way of working and my advice would probably have fallen on deaf ears.
I know from my pub days that running such a business does involve long hours but after 20 years in this business, they should be working much fewer hours, say, 40 but no more.
During my weekend, I observed that many of the other pubs and cafes in the town were much busier than my host couple, obviously serving more drinks and food. Also when I booked my stay, all the quality hotels were full, except for the hotel of my hosts.
While generally being happy with my stay, I would not recommend it to others and I would not choose to return again. The interior while being historic was tired-looking in places, in urgent need of decoration and of general freshening up.
But one major thing that disappointed me was that my room was not cleaned or refreshed in readiness for my second night’s stay – I had never experienced this before and this seriously spoilt the experience, as far as I was concerned. But importantly, I am sure others staying for more than one night would have felt the same; their policy of not employing more staff was certainly a poor policy in this respect and was contributing to the low occupancy rate for their hotel rooms.
This Couple Are Trapped In Their Business
This couple are trapped within their business, unable to reduce their hours, risking their health and giving them a poor life to work balance.
They are living to work.
The lady of the house said that employing more staff would mean them increasing their prices.
She was very wrong saying this.
They were probably both working to their full capacity, but I could see from the other similar business in the town, they could probably easily double their bar and hotel trade.
This extra trade and gross profit would allow them to afford to employ more staff without increasing their prices. And, the extra staff would allow them to reduce their hours and to give them a better life/work balance.
Long Hours Are Sometimes Necessary In Many Businesses
Long hours are very necessary in many businesses, particularly in the start-up phase, say for the first couple of years, but no business owner should be working long hours after 20 years.
Working long hours for many years is very damaging to health and should be avoided.
Over the past 30 plus years, I have seen many businesses like this one. This couple, sadly, are not unique.
Many businesses in this situation simply do not have the time to think about how they can change things. And, even if they could see how to make the right changes, they are probably too tired to make the changes.
Also, confidence can be an issue – many business owners do not like to make changes in case they don’t work. They are fearful that making changes could worsen their situation not better it.
Many such businesses have low profits and low profitability and the owners are not prepared to risk lowering their profits still further by making the changes.
Changes Are Possible
If you are a business owner who is similarly trapped by his or her business, it is possible to remedy the situation and here is some good advice:
1. Firstly, you must allocate some quality time out of your busy schedule for some regular, quality thinking. The brain works much better when it is not tired and not stressed so choose the right time of day when your thinking will be most effective. You should also make this thinking a daily habit.
2. Being able to afford more help with your business relies on the ability to increase your sales, your profits and your customer numbers. As part of your thinking, you must research your trading market to assess how much all three can be increased.
3. You should look at your products and your offerings to assess whether these are what your target customers really want and whether you can make improvements. A good way to do this is to ask your customers what their views are and to look at the offerings of your competitors.
4. You should look at the customer experience, derived from your products and offerings and assess how good this is. In a highly competitive market, your objective should be for an excellent customer experience.
5. Overall customer satisfaction is the ultimate barometer for the performance of your business. You should ask your customers how satisfied they are with your offerings – this should include your actual products, customer service, pricing, ease to purchase, etc. Really every customer contact point should be assessed with the view of optimising your satisfaction rating.
6. Your marketing should be assessed to ensure your target customers see your marketing and understand what you are offering. For marketing to be effective, it has to be a continual process using all the techniques available.
7. Based on your findings, you should assess what action is needed and put this into a very simple, step by step plan.
8. With all changes, you must think that there could initially be increased costs before the extra sales and profits come to fruition. As part of your plan, you should do a rough profit and loss projection for your business incorporating the new changes. Here you should include projections for your new sales, new margin, new costs and likely net profit, etc..
9. Don’t be frightened to ask for advice. Business can be very lonely when you are trying to do something new and on your own. The best source for advice could be from other experienced business owners, business coaches and business mentors. Be careful about advice from friends and family, though.
This is a very rough appraisal of the minimum changes required for a business owner to release the shackles of long hours.
It is very possible to do it, but you need to have the will to do it and to be able to make the time available to think and to effect the changes.
I really fear for the couple running the hotel in Wiltshire; but I also fear that they see no need to change and have no inclination to do so at the moment.
I really hope that their health does not deteriorate massively in the coming years.
If you wish to discuss this matter more fully with me, please contact me below:
I would love to hear from you.