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The story behind a dramatic turnaround -- you can use it too

The story behind a dramatic turnaround -- you can use it too

October 01, 2012

After having worked with hundreds of businesses the story I'm about to share is one of the most dramatic turnarounds I have ever seen. There are 4 surprising things that you could learn from this that makes it worth spending 2 minutes reading.

Look, If she can do it, you can do it to.

Whatever business you're in, I've found there are just 4 steps you need to know to grow your business.

Best of all, these are things you can do no matter where you may be in your growth cycle. Your business could be trending downward, taking off, just bumping along, or you could be so stuck you don't know which way to turn.

In fact, we met this business owner shortly after she made a very brave decision to come to us for help'

Monique Allen, like many business owners we work with, grew her business out of a passion that helped make the company very successful with projects like these...until the recession. What follows is a dramatic turnaround. Read on to find out how she did it -- and how you can do it too!

Like a lot of business owners, Monique Allen's Garden Continuum in Medfield, Mass. grew out of her passion for landscaping. Sales steadily grew for her and her husband, Chris, until the recession began to take its toll in 2009. Thirty years of digging and hauling also took its toll on Chris' body. Sales 'tanked' in 2010 and just last year Chris had to have his second hip replaced.

The economic and physical pain grew with each passing day. Monique and Chris argued about everything and anything. They were coming apart as a team and as a couple; both were miserable. Monique was working late into the night or was just sleepless with worry. She didn't feel as if anyone could do the work as well as she. And Chris couldn't step down even though his body would no longer do the work the company needed. Ultimately the only solution was to part ways ' professionally.

'It was the worst thing ever,' Monique says. 'The bottom line is that we both have an enormous respect for each other and we adore each other. But I had to initiate a business divorce. It was like an amputation. It really hurt us both.'

Moving the needle'

To see the dramatic difference in Monique Allen's business in terms of sales, operations and her personal well-being click on the image. It's one of the most dramatic before-and-after stories I've ever seen!

A few months later, Monique and I met at a seminar where I outlined the 4 steps that we use at Brand Launcher to help businesses turn around and grow ' and she was completely inspired by the potential I was framing for the group!

Did we move the needle? You bet we did!

'Without Brand Launcher I'd still be working really hard, spinning my wheels and not getting anywhere,' she says.

Today, Monique and her husband are more happily married than ever. She runs the business. Chris is a stay-at-home dad and is realizing a coaching dream of his own. Sales for the business are up 36% from last year and the new clientele is more qualified than ever before. She recently took a week-long vacation (which they haven't done in ages) and never even thought about work while enjoying the time away. This was a HUGE breakthrough. Today, she describes her experience with Brand Launcher as 'one of the best things that I have ever given myself.'

What's my role?

Like most business owners we begin working with, Monique found herself asking, 'What's my role? How can I leverage my strengths? And what do I have to give up so my business can grow?' In other words, "where do I focus my time and energy?"

She loves what she does. She knew early on that landscaping was her calling. At age 18, a friend mentioned that a local landscaping business needed help moving mulch. At the time, she was making $4/hour working in a clothing store. Monique trained as a dancer for 15 years and was actively training with free weights at the time, so she considered herself active and in shape. That day, she started shoveling the biggest mulch pile she had ever seen earning $7/hour and by the end of the day she was exhausted and covered in sweat and mulch. She was ecstatic!

While freelancing and working for various designers and landscapers she continued to outwork the guys ' and tried to learn as much as she could on her own from the designers. By 20, she was being aggressively recruited to manage the gardens at the Dean's residence for the Harvard University Graduate Business School, but she knew she wasn't yet skilled enough for this position. So she passed it on to another designer on the condition that she hire her at $12/hour and teach her about design.

Monique dedicated her life to learning the trade. She earned a graduate degree in design from the Landscape Institute as the Boston Architectural College and over the last 26 years she's worked for some well-known clients including Norm Abram of PBS' This Old House and The New Yankee Workshop, Doris Kearns Goodwin, renowned author and speaker, and Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts. Sales steadily grew over the years until just recently.

The 4 steps revealed

Not knowing where to turn, we began working with Monique to help her turn around her business ' and her life. We use the proprietary 4-step process:

1. Assessment
2. Diagnosis
3. Plan
4. GID (Get It Done) Implementation

Declining sales is NOT usually the problem

Using our proven D-Factor Assessment, we're able to illuminate the red lights (those things that an organization should stop doing), green lights (start doing), and yellow lights (keep doing).

Pay attention to this'.Most clients come to us thinking that if they were able to just increase their sales everything else would fall into place and life would be good again.

WRONG! What we often find is that declining sales is a symptom ' not the problem. It's an indicator of other issues that may be occurring, so we assess the 3 areas of any business: (1) marketing and sales, (2) business and operations, and (3) the business leaders' personal well-being.

We use what we call a D-Factor Assessment so we can quickly determine where we can make the most dramatic impact (that's what the 'D' stands for) in each of those 3 areas. Every organization has something that they need to stop doing, start doing or keep doing to grow. Think of it as approaching a traffic signal. The D-Factor illuminates the red lights (those things that an organization should stop doing), green lights (start doing), and yellow lights (keep doing).

From there, we diagnosis the problems and spell out the issues and opportunities. Next, we develop a prescription to turn around the sales, operations and/or the personal issues affecting the business. And then we help businesses implement the plan.

The dramatic turnaround

As we work with clients such as Monique, we're able to identify the holes in the bucket ... and more importantly, plug them so clients are able to fill their buckets with more leads -- and close them!

For Monique, like many business owners, she needed to stop trying to do everything herself. She also needed to start seeing herself as a salesperson. And she needed to keep working towards building freedom teams and freedom systems so she could rely on her people to take on more responsibilities.

Take sales, for example. Monique admits she didn't want clients to see herself a salesperson. She wanted them to see her as a great landscape professional.

She now realizes that prospects already recognize her and her company as qualified professionals, so she shifted her focus to the important role of helping homeowners make their lives better.

As a result, she's more confident in the sales meetings and she now drives the sales process ' rather than letting the prospects take it from her.

She begins with a 'discovery session' over the phone. She explains to the prospects they will have homework to do, she shares how she will dissect the scope and budget of the project in the first meeting and when she returns for the second meeting, Monique tells prospects she will be asking for a 10% retainer to begin the work.

Closing sales 80% faster'

In the past, she wanted everything thoroughly documented before closing the deal, which could drag on for weeks or months. Today, she doesn't sweat the detail. Jobs valued at $10,000 - $80,000 are often closed in 2 meetings. Jobs under $10,000 are closed by email. And jobs over $80,000 may take another meeting or two. Overall, she says she's closing sales 80% faster. Sales for the fall season are fully booked and they're already booking projects for the spring!

Result: on a scale of 0 to 100; with 0=not existent to 100=spectacular, Monique estimates her company's sales have jumped to 80 from 35 just a few months ago ' a 129% increase!

She's also streamlining her management responsibilities. One of the best things she did was launch Friday JAM Sessions with her key production managers, Jay and Ambro. Every week, they get together to talk about the projects coming up the next week so they can avoid the 'Monday Horror Show' of workers trying to figure out who is doing what. The JAM Sessions give the crews time to prepare for the following week and make sure they have everything they need to begin work right away Monday morning.

Building freedom teams and freedom systems'

This is a terrific tool any business owner can use to build freedom teams and freedom systems in your organization ' and give you the freedom to focus on the things you do best. We also call them 'meeting rhythms.' These are regular meetings you hold with your top people weekly or even daily so just like a band reading from a music sheet, you can ensure everyone is on the same page.

Monique has done this very effectively with her JAM Sessions. The managers love it because they feel they have more responsibility and they have more autonomy ' and the name was developed as a way to honor the people in the meeting (Jay, Ambro and Monique). Some days, Monique says, she may not come into the office until 11:30 am and her staff can run the show without her. 'I'm trying to step out of the way so they don't feel obligated to need me,' she says. 'It's a key step in building their confidence and mine!'

Result: on a scale of 0 to 100; with 0=not existent to 100=spectacular, Monique estimates her company's operations have jumped to 70 from 40 ' a 75% increase!

Personal well-being score triples...

This brings me to my final point ' and one of the most important for business owners. I can't tell you how many business leaders who haven't taken a vacation ' and when they do, they never really leave the work behind them. They're still running the business remotely. That's no way to spend time with the people you love most!

Monique admits she was the same way. She took vacations but she also took her work with her. Not anymore. Because of the freedom teams and freedom systems (such as the JAM Sessions) she put into place, her managers are stepping up. During one week-long vacation this summer, she didn't take her work with her and she never called in. 'I went away and didn't hear 'boo' from my company. It was great! When each of my production managers went on vacation, we made a pact to not call them. It was equally great for them because they too need rest.'

It was never a matter of Monique not trusting her managers. She trusted them to do the job. She just didn't to learn to let go. She's still learning. Monique still works 60 hours per week and is planning to cut back in the spring and take Fridays off next summer. 'I know that's part of the challenge,' she says.

Result: on a scale of 0 to 100; with 0=not existent to 100=spectacular, Monique estimates her personal well-being has also climbed to 60 from just 20 ' a 200% increase.

Moreover, she's spending more time with her husband. They get along better than ever and Monique is taking time to relax and recharge by investing some time in herself. She even just signed on with a physical trainer once a week (during business hours) as a way to get back into shape physically and give her mind a break.

Try the 4-Step Brand Launcher Plan yourself. Monique's story is just one of many success stories we've been a part of here at Brand Launcher and we appreciate her willingness to share it. Most importantly, as you go through the process, you'll face tough decisions about what you'll need to start doing, stop doing and keep doing. As I often say, 'For some things to live, others may have to die.'

Only then will you be able to increase sales, build your freedom teams and freedom systems, and give you the opportunity to develop your personal well-being.

Can you make these changes on your own? Perhaps. Would it be easier if you had Brand Launcher working with you? Definitely. Don't take my word for it ' 'Working with Brand Launcher is like having a coach in your corner guiding you and cheering you on,' Monique says. 'And if you ask them, they hold you accountable to make sure things get done.'

'When you make that financial leap, you are making an investment in yourself and in the pilgrimage toward a satisfying work/life balance which is well worth it,' she adds. If it wasn't for Brand Launcher I'd still be where I was, which wouldn't have been good for anyone.'

Whether you work with a company like Brand Launcher or try it on your own take heart and have courage. Trust the process, it's tried and true. Use the four steps to grow your company and your personal freedom. Here's how:

1. Assessment ' Ask yourself the tough questions? What am I really good at? What areas need improvement whether it's in sales and marketing, operations or in your personal life? Have others you trust analyze those three core areas with you. You may be surprised at what you find.

2. Diagnosis ' Once you've isolated your strengths and weaknesses, dig deeper. This is especially true when evaluating your weaknesses. Where are the holes in your systems? What's causing them?

3. Plan ' Next, develop a plan to leverage your strengths and correct your weaknesses.

4. GID (Get It Done) Implementation ' Finally, and this is the toughest part, begin the work of correcting the problems you've identified and capitalizing on your strengths. As you go, be sure to assign responsibilities to your freedom teams (you don't have to do everything yourself!) and measure their progress.

Always taking you from where you are to where you want to go,


Jon Goldman, President