How frustrating is it when the video, podcast or business book you consume doesn’t have an action that will help you?

Our recent blog was about how to scale your business in 5 steps. Here’s another 5 steps from various other internet sources:

Evaluate and plan

Find the money

Secure sales

Invest in tech

Find staff

Well yes! But how?

True but useless

These steps and many others are using verbs as actions, but actually they are outcomes. There’s no How, only What. Our friend David Hurst describes this in detail here. He asks “is the opposite also true?” So, you shouldn’t invest in tech, don’t secure sales etc? Of course, you should, so these are no more than truisms. No value at all. True but Useless!

The remedy

I keep six honest serving men

(They taught me all I knew);

Their names are What and Why and When

And How and Where and Who

from Rudyard Kipling’s The Elephant’s Child.

All six questions need answering, but especially the How, which is the one usually omitted.

If the advice you get doesn’t include How, it’s all a bit like a Hallmark greeting card or the motivational tweet – sounds good until you try to do it, and then you are nonplussed as there is no clear road map with clear steps you can take.

Another example – how to manage your sales funnel – lots of good tips out there. Far fewer on getting leads into it in the first place. Everybody can deal with a known unknown (what to do when I get a lead), but few writers deal with important unknown unknowns, like how can I find a lead in the first place?

Linear advice doesn’t work

A lot of business advice is linear – it’s treating the business and people in it like an engineering problem that can be solved. Whereas we know that business isn’t a complicated problem, it’s a complex tension that needs to be managed. There are a lot of interrelated parts to a business that need to be kept in balance, rather like a living organism.

Don’t look for certainty because, apart from being a myth, it limits you, as do most business books.  Their context will never be yours. And let’s face it, most don’t deal with small businesses, as the authors wouldn’t sell many books and definitely wouldn’t land any big consultancy projects.

What can you do?

Act like the entrepreneur you are. Try something that you think might work, quickly get data from the most detailed level you can (small data, not hundreds of customers) analyse it, learn, change direction, act, repeat. Keep agile.

Only accept help if it includes showing you How to do something

If you need outside help, then don’t accept help that doesn’t include the How. Look out for weasel verbs that purport to be actions but are really just outcomes.

Use this as a sales tool

Do this for your customers. Give away a good deal of the How – whatever any customer wants. It doesn’t devalue your expertise. If you give them the Haynes manual and all the tools, ask them to value their time, and show them they will be slower and may not fix the problem. In fact, you may need to fix their mistakes.

Giving away your How to your customers enhances your worth, not devalues it.

As a practice, we do this all the time. We ensure that the basics are up to date and make sense. We know that our clients’ better understanding of their business leads to better questions which means that we can help them get better outcomes.

So, the next time you need help from your advisors or read a business book, be sure that they can answer that all important question – HOW?

Helping hand

At Hixsons we make sure our clients are agile, flexible and resilient so that they are better able to respond to shocks. You can also read the helping in a crisis stories of how we helped 6 local businesses turn things around in the early days of the pandemic.

In the spirit of helping our business community we also have new Brexit resources in our learning centre where you will find various tools and templates for your business. We do not ask for your data, and it’s completely free. No data taken just help given.