The failed business owner: how to succeed and get on

Ben Shelford the ex-failed business owner.
Ben Shelford the ex-failed business owner.

I wanted to tell you about my experience as a business owner, it first started four years ago, answering the job advert in the West Sussex local paper…SALES, SALES, SALES, no experience needed, call now!!

That was the advert I answered, never did I imagine that it would lead me to where I am now.

The job was a distribution outfit selling household appliances from the States, very expensive but WOW, once I had seen this in action I thought it was the most amazing thing I had ever seen.

They say you have to believe in a product to sell it , well … I did believe and wanted to get going straight away!

I found I could do it, sell these amazing machines again and again, that in itself lead me on a fresh path to starting my own sales office. The seven-day weeks and 14-hour days were worth it, money was flowing, and ego was growing.

A year down the line and I’m looking for premises, this smart cheeky, a little arrogant guy thinking he could rule the world because he could sell, and he has a great product… it was a dead cert!

So office found, in a quiet place named Barnham, near Bognor Regis…what now? Furniture and printers, phone, paper, ink… the list is endless.

The guidance I was given from my promoters was “don’t stop doing what you’re doing, you get the leads, do the shows, sell the product” day in day out!

The problem was the money. I could get people to do the job for me so I don’t have to walk the roads in the rain, knock on door for leads, and I would earn more money than when I was selling them myself!

I put the ads in the paper...SALES, SALES, SALES, no experience needed, call now!

The phone started ringing and the interviews booked in, up to 20 a day, this was going to be simple!

How to interview? Well if they can write their name and are smart and courteous then they are on the right track - skill set can be taught just as I was.

The training was a challenge… I was taught by a seasoned pro of 14 years, I had been doing it for a year! Training done, kits signed out to the new enthusiastic employees, meetings booked for them and off they go!

First two months in business saw me turn over £8k, then 15! This was going to be great I thought, I was earning more money than I had seen before by doing an hour’s training every morning, spend the rest of the day closing sales on the phone and watching movies!

The third month was the first sign that things were changing, I was losing dealers faster than I was hiring them, ‘directoritis’ had firmly set in with me and I was sure things would pick up.

I kept advertising for fresh meat, fewer and fewer people replied, I was slowly running out of money and stock, cheaper deals were being done to pay the bills, and I was on that slippery slope, without a clue how to stop!

They say burying your head in the sand is common, well I was buried up to my ears, people were telling me to get back out there and start selling, too much time had passed and the enthusiasm and motivation for walking the streets and knocking on doors had died.

I had to close the doors for the last time and go back to the promoter’s office, tail well and truly between my legs, I had done everything they told me not to do, the dream was over and it was just a matter of time, I had failed!

The reason I have told this story is because I know I’m probably not alone, whether it be a start-up business owner, or a seasoned pro of many years, the challenges we face stem from the same thing, the thought that we all know it, we know better, we have a better way of doing things.

To be fair some business owners are blessed with the attributes of a good business brain, but they will be the first to admit they needed help and advice to be where they are now, when you realise you don’t have all the answers, only then can you start looking to find them.

I am now involved with a business coaching company called ACS Performance based in Sayers Common, West Sussex for the past twoyears, after I failed, and the frustrating thing is, had I been more open minded to engage such a company the chances of me succeeding would have far outweighed the chances of me failing!

I see and hear all the time whether it be on the phone or in a meeting, the same words I once said…I know! Business today is probably harder than it has been in a long time, the recession taking hold and taking no prisoners, but ask yourself this: Why are there businesses doing well, growing - making more money than they have ever done?

There is one thing these owners have in common, they hold themselves accountable, they take responsibility for the business…. their business, they live and die by their decisions.

Yes things are hard but they take a long hard look at the areas in which they can change within the business, they don’t blame, they just take control!

These fundamentals we call “above and below the line” the starting point for any business owner starting a relationship with a business coach, they have to make the decision that they want things to be different, or they have to make changes in order to get where they want to be.

The business owners I have spoken to have a variety of challenges within their business, but it is a misconceived idea that we only work with struggling businesses.

In fact the majority of the businesses we help are very successful ones, looking to maximise their businesses potential which in turn gives them the choice, the choice to do what they want to do, whether it be sell the business, take a passive income from it or re-employ themselves doing the bits they like doing.

Choice is probably the best way I can explain what we do, we help business owners regain control which in turns gives them the choice.

It is so difficult to explain the workings of a coach, due to the very nature of the people they help.

Every business owner is different, although their challenges, goals and plans can be put into a bracket i.e. cashflow, turnover, culture, and recruitment, hours worked… the list goes on, but the thing which separates them all is the owner themselves.

You only have to take a look one day at the amount of people you may talk to, or each of your family members, how many opinions, way they do things, routines, spending habits, risks they take.

All of these things are the same attributes of a business owner plus some, so understanding how to mentor so many different characters is half the battle, the working of business is basically the same: leads=sales=£££.

Basic I know, but you get the jist, get the relationship right sets the foundation to be able to really put the systems in place to take your business from where it is now to where you want it to be.

ACS Performance will continue to help the local business owner like me, and also the experienced successful business owners like you, no matter what the challenge, dream or lifetime goal, admitting that external help and advice isn’t saying you are a failure, but in fact saying I am open and willing to listen and learn to increase my chances of reaching my dreams, the dreams you probably had when you first started all those years ago.

I’m happy to now call myself an ex-failed business owner who has taken accountability and ownership of his life, both in business and in life, its true what Jim Rhone spoke about “If you change, everything around you will change” and can now call myself a success!