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Business, Focus Edition The BIG Opportunities with Small Business


By: Robert Gerrish •  4 years ago •  

About the author:

An early pioneer of coaching in Australia, Robert Gerrish was on the inaugural Board of the International Coach Federation Australasia gaining his PCC accreditation in 2000. In the same year, serendipity played a part in a valuable profile on ABC 4 Corners that led to an immediate and dramatic expansion of his coaching practice. Ah, the power of media!

With a background in marketing and a desire to narrow the focus of his business, Robert drew on the distinct commonalities of his favourite clients and secured the ‘solo entrepreneur’ niche with the launch of Flying Solo: Australia’s community for solo and micro business.

With this group as its distinct target market, the business has grown to a major online presence and is today home to a community of over 80,000 with a further 40,000 connecting across social networks.

Flying Solo hosts the nation’s busiest small business discussion forums; runs regular webinars and events; broadcasts a fortnightly podcast and features a team of handpicked expert contributors covering daily topics from marketing and finance, to productivity and wellbeing.

These days Robert has two business partners and together they work with a small team of editors and admin support crew.

Every couple of years, Flying Solo surveys its community to determine what issues are keeping them awake at night. This not only helps them plan their publishing and other activities, it also highlights some obvious gaps for the small business coach.

While his own coaching practice may be in hibernation, Robert is committed to the constant pursuit of initiatives to help Australian solo and micro business and was delighted to supply his top tips to engage and support the solo business owner.

As you’ll read the opportunities are huge. Here’s Robert’s summary of the latest survey’s key findings:

1. They want more clients

Well that’s hardly a surprise is it? Ask any small business what they want more of and I’ll wager the response comes down to, ‘money’, ‘customers’ or ‘time’.

As coaches – and I still think like one, even if I’m not working as one – we know what’s going on here, don’t we? At the root of a failure to attract clients (and thereby grow our income) is invariably a lack of true understanding in who the business is trying to reach and what our offering actually does for that person.

Recent research by CB Insights in the U.S, confirmed that of the high number of tech start-ups who fail, the single biggest reason is the lack of a market. To succeed, we have to know who our customer is and what we do for them. D’oh!

Coaching tip: Work with clients to ensure their message is being heard

In my experience this calls for the use of super clear and engaging language and the ability to talk in terms of outcomes rather than processes.

No one cares if we’re coaches, consultants, mentors or any other kind of practitioner, what they care about is ‘what can we do for them’. This concept is a challenge for many a coach. It’s the same for small business at large.

Help them get focus and clarity and both sides win. You get a new client; they get more customers.

2. They’d like more hours in the day

Don’t we all? The bad news is we’re stuck with 24 hours, so the challenge is how to get more done in less time.

Of the 1.8 million or so solo/micro businesses in Australia, the vast majority work from a home base and many juggle business alongside family and other activities. So it’s little wonder we’re under time pressure.

Working by yourself, while wonderful in so many ways, has one humungous downside and that is that it lacks any semblance of accountability.

Coaching tip: Focus on the benefits of accountability (and choose your language carefully)

Not everyone wants to grow a large business and indeed the majority of Flying Solo’s audience are purely looking to create a smart, enjoyable, lifestyle business.

Maybe don’t push the ‘achieve your goals fast’ wording too much. Instead think about a positioning that promises a means of using time more effectively, with much greater focus. Draw the picture of a working day that is balanced, calm and clear.

Be the person who has their best interests at heart. Holding on to a dream can have more resonance than powering to a goal.

3. They’re sick of wearing so many hats

Somewhat related to the previous point, small business owners are overwhelmed and the situation isn’t likely to get better any day soon.

The demands of tech, the explosion of content and the birth of the ‘everyone’s got something to say’ era, means that our attention is being spread very thin as we grapple with more distractions and ‘must dos’ in our life and business.

Not on Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter? Don’t have a blog or a podcast? Like seriously…OMG!!

As Madonna famously remarked in an interview on ABC in the U.S, when outed as a woman who couldn’t cook: “Do I have to do everything”.

Of course she doesn’t and nor do we. Such is the level of angst around rapidly expanding action lists and the FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) phenomenon, far too many soloists are simply paralysed into a totally unproductive state.

After all, when you’re facing an inbox with scores of unopened emails and little red flags appearing on all your gadgets, it’s just too tempting to disappear down some rabbit hole of distraction. Ooh, what is that crazy cat doing in that YouTube video??

Coaching tip: Help people recognize their priorities

At the inception of a business or the commencement of a new project, the path is often clear and the vision strong. A few months or years in, however, and it can all get a bit murky.

Small business owners invariably wear too many hats either because their lack of direction undermines their ability to say ‘no’ or they fail to delegate tasks that can readily be done by others.

By getting back to basics, a coach can help create a means of making the right judgement:

– Will taking this action help me on my journey?

– Will spending time doing this work, stop me from doing more important work?

As we say in the introduction of our bestseller Flying Solo: How to go it alone in business, ‘Lives that are imbued with purpose and lived fully don’t happen by accident.’

Increasingly solo business owners are reaching out and working with buddies, mentors and coaches, but the vast majority do not. We need your help, please speak up and get our attention.

The summary of Flying Solo’s 2016/2017 Understanding Micro Business Survey will be published early in the new year. To get your free copy, become a member of Flying Solo. Basic membership is free and comes with a stack of goodies. Head to

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