Ep#13: Challenges Facing Small Businesses Today

An interview with Adelaide’s own Action Coach; George Koritsa about some of the challenges facing small businesses today

In this week’s episode I have an interesting chat with an Adelaide business coach; George Koritsa. When I first met George a month or so ago at the SME Association‘s free Adelaide networking event I didn’t really know what a business coach was so in the interview he straightens me out on that and then we drill down on some of the challenges facing small business owners. Make sure you stick around for George’s time management ideas and his tips for what business owners should be working on.

Some of what’s covered in this episode;

  • What is a business coach?
  • Some of the challenges facing small businesses today
  • Why is differentiation important for small businesses?
  • How should business owners go about differentiating themselves?
  • George’s top tips for what business owners should be working on


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Nick: Welcome back to Episode 13 of the Web Marketing Adelaide podcast. This week, we’ve got a great interview with George Koritsa from Action Coach. George is a business coach, now don’t worry too much if you don’t know what a business coach is exactly because I addressed that early on in the interview. So let’s go to that interview right now.

Good day George, how are you doing?

George: Hey Nick, how are you doing?

Nick: Good, thanks. Welcome to the show.

George: Thank you very much for inviting me, looking forward to it.

Nick: Great. When I first met you, I heard the word Business Coach, but I didn’t really know what a Business coach was, can you just explain to our listeners what a Business coach is and how does it differ from, say a consultant?

George: Great question Nick. A business coach is someone that comes in and looks at your business as an outsider.

Nick: Okay.

George: They’re going to come in and look at it the same way as a consultant who has a specific outcome that he or she wants to achieve. So consultants are always very much to come in and write a report for you or to do a specific task. A coach actually looks at it is a much broader entity and it says okay, how can you actually improve this business?

Now if you use the analogy of a sports person, why do they have a coach? Because they can’t see themselves hit the ball, kick the ball or whatever sport it is that they’re actually doing. They need somebody there that can guide them and also, the biggest part of a coach’s role is to hold you accountable. We all know what we should be doing, we all know we should exercise more and eat less but how many people actually do that?

Nick: Great, great. That makes a bit more sense actually, yeah. Does the word coach come from the sporting sense? Is that how the name came about?

George: Pretty much. Yeah. It’s the same as with working with a sports coach or any sort of coach. A coach is someone there to guide and mentor you and push you a bit further.

Nick: Great. It seems to make, it seems so obvious now that you’ve explained it, because I mean, from a customer perspective, they’re sort of coming at your business from a completely outside view, so you really want to be able to know what the business looks like from that perspective.

George: That’s right. You want to see what your customers are seeing and I find that a lot of people get what I call, store blind, whether we’re working in an office or in a shop or whatever. We just don’t see what’s going on around us because we’re just so used to it. We walk into a retail environment and the first thing you notice is the bin over flowing. The staff don’t see it because it’s always over flowing. So we just don’t see it, or you’re in an office building and there’s a dead plant on the receptionists desk, but no one pays any attention to it because it’s always there but your customers sitting there looking at it and going, oh, are you going to look after me as a lawyer or an accountant when you can’t even look after your own business?

Nick: Yeah, that’s kind of scary to think about, isn’t it? Because it can be so easy for a business owner to just get locked into the day to day work and not think about these little things, or what seem like little things.

Anyway, let’s move along. So, how does one actually become a business coach?

George: Okay. Becoming a business coach, I can only really speak about my own experience. I started with action coach, originally as a client. So, I was actually coached in my own business, and then, once I’ve got to the stage where I didn’t need to be working in the business anymore, I thought, hey there’s something in this. So, I approached a session coach and found out a bit about how you can become a coach.

We have a very extensive training program based in Las Vegas, so, it’s a 10 day intensive program that we do there and then we have an ongoing conferences and training. We’ve got weekly web analysis, we’ve got, twice a year, we have a regional conference and a global conference. So, our training is continuously being upgraded. So, really, of course a core criteria for being a business coach is someone who has experience in business, someone who operates their own business to start with and then following the actual coach system, which is a proven system that should train you in how to become a coach.

Nick: Great, great. It would seem like quite a lot of work to be able to stay on top of various different aspects of running a business and especially since you’re sort of looking at the whole business, rather than like an individual aspect.

George: Very much so. You’ve got to keep your learning up, you’re constantly reading, you’re constantly learning. You’re attending other seminars and workshops. You’re constantly improving yourself because that’s the only way you can add value to your client as a coach, is if you’re constantly growing and improving yourself. It’s the old adage, it’s different for a business coach or a business owner. Your business is either growing or it’s dying, it’s like a tree. A tree can’t stand still, it’s either growing or it’s dying.

Nick: Let’s get more into the meat of the episode with, you have some ideas of some of the major problems that are facing small business owners today. So what are some of those problems?

George: Sure, one of the biggest issues I believe, a lot of small businesses, specifically in South Australia, facing is lack of confidence. There’s a fear out there that the economy is going to go down. There’s a fear out there that people are not going to buy, and sure things are a little bit tough, but people are still buying, people are still shopping. I talked to retailers all afternoon and they’ll say oh you know, but people are going online and then I asked them the question, well why do you think that is, because the online product is not necessarily cheaper than what you’re selling it, plus they’ve got to wait for it to arrive and if it’s the wrong size or the wrong color, they’re going to have to send it back.

All this hassle when I could just buy it from there but one of the biggest issues I think, is they’re not training their staff on how to effectively sell the product, you know. We’ve all walked into a store, we’ve seen a product that we like, a price that we’re happy to pay, we walk up to the counter and the girl behind it, standing there, filing her nails going yeah, what do you want? And most of the time, I don’t really need to buy that from that person, so we put the product down and leave. Now, the retailer would go oh, he couldn’t afford the product, but no, we just didn’t like the service. So, it’s really important that we’re showing the people how to get the best out of your shopping experience with them.

And also, your service experience, how can we get better at what we’re doing? A lot of small businesses are constantly busy, they’re spending a lot of time chasing the wrong sort of things like… On every pool we’ll have a person that might always owe us money, who’s a bad payer, so we spend all our time chasing this person to get the money that he owes us and we’re ignoring the other 80% or 90% of our clients that pay us on time, that order from us regularly. We’re not spending any time working on them. We’d be better off putting that person out to a collection agency, let them worry about collecting the money and focus on contacting our good customers to find out who’s buying, what services they might need and keeping in touch with them. So it’s about modernizing our marketing.

A lot of businesses I think now are still stuck in some older style marketing. We’ve got to have an online presence now. We’ve got to be interactive with Facebook and other media like that, otherwise we’re kind of stuck in there. There are still people who are still advertising in the yellow pages. Unless your client base is very old, you’re really not in the right medium form. You’ve got to be looking at new media to market with.

Nick: Great, yeah. I think most of those things definitely make sense to me, from my experience talking to business owners and stuff. Speaking of a small thing you said there about business owners never seem to have much time. I’ve been thinking about this recently, do you think if as business owner feels like they really have no time to be spending on these, getting into the new mediums and sort of improving their business, should they sort of drop 1 or 2 clients to actually give themselves that time? Or how do they sort of get that time, when they just don’t have it?

George: Most of the time, it’s not about dropping clients. It’s actually where does the time go? A lot of business owners spend their time putting out fires, running around chasing up things that somebody else should be doing or they’re doing low end tasks. I remember working with a manufacturer a while back, and because things were tight, he got rid of his admin team, he got rid of the maintenance guy and he was trying to do all that stuff himself.

So, answering the phone, sending out the invoices even down to washing cups and mowing the medium strip. Now, when I came on board with him I said, okay how much would you be paying someone an hour to do that? Oh you know, you can probably get someone at $15 or $20 to do those job. He was not going to pay someone 20 bucks an hour to do that. He was able to go out one afternoon and sign out $80,000 to $90,000 worth of work because he was able to stop washing cups and sending invoices, and go out and speak to his clients.

So sometimes, it’s about changing what we are doing. Not necessarily stopping the productive stuff, it’s how much is this task generating for me this hour? I could have been paying somebody less to do it for me.

Nick: Yeah that’s a really good point and I think that the other thing to mention is that, with technology these days a lot of the sort of menial tasks can be sort of automated to some degree as well.

George: Yeah, absolutely. We should be automating, we should be outsourcing. Any sort of basic task that we don’t need to be physically doing as the business owner, we need to get it out of our hands and into somebody else’s. Is there somebody else in your team that would love to do that job? I’m sure we’ve all got jobs that we hate, but we do them and there’s somebody that thinks, God, I really wish I had that role.

Give it to them, look at who else in your company could take on a bit more responsibility and one of the most important things to actually manage your time. Actually work out how long you think this task is going to take. I’ve had a client recently do that, where he makes a list every day of the tasks he’s going to do, and how long he thinks each task is going to take and then he records his time against that and what he’s finding, he’s dropped from a 80-hour week to a 40 hour week because he’s now focused on, okay I’ve got 3 hours to complete this task, that’s it.

Nick: Yeah and the other thing, by having the list like that, like you mentioned, before you get kind of an idea of where your time is going, where if you don’t keep track of it, you can seem to waste the entire day without getting anything done, I find anyway.

George: Absolutely, I find that quite often, Nick, with lots of different business owners. We all get caught in that. We sometimes get busy with busyness rather than business. We just look busy , we’re doing stuff, we’re shuffling papers, we’re chasing our tails. We get hooked on for Facebook or Google and then all of a sudden, we’ve lost half an hour researching Tasmanian tigers, or something totally irrelevant to our day in business.

Nick: Yeah I can definitely relate to that. I’ll just put in a little thing that I’ve come across recently, it’s a tool, I do most of my work on the computer. So, there’s a few different tools you can get. One’s called Rescue Time, and there’s another called Time Doctor, where it actually sits in the background and tracks everything you do throughout the day, the programs you’re on. It’s a little bit scary to some degree but you can actually go in and look at reports at the end of the day where you can see where your time is actually being spent. So, I found that’s sort of a useful tool.

George: That’s a great tool. I do a similar thing with my clients with a Chess Clock. I don’t know if you’re familiar with a chess clock Nick, but it’s got, the idea behind it is when one chess player’s playing, he’s got so much time on his clock. I use it somewhat differently. I set both timers to 8 hours a day, and then you click side 1 when you’re being productive, you’re doing your job and side 2 when you’re doing unproductive stuff, other people’s work. Now, I’ve had a client actually throw that clock through the wall at the end of the week when he’s actually figured out how much of his day is taken up with unproductive, time firefighting, time wasters, meetings and that kind of thing. So, it’s really, a great eye opener and it sounds very similar to what you’re saying with the computer programs.

Nick: Wow, yeah. I think actually that sounds cool as well, even as well as the computer programs, I might actually have to follow up on that one.

Great stuff. Well, let’s move along. In preparation for this episode, we were talking about differentiation for businesses. So, that’s what the next few questions are going to be about. So, why is it important for a small business to differentiate themselves?

George: We need to actually stand out from our competitors, you know. What makes you different, why should I buy your product or service? A lot of people and a lot of ads will go, oh we give good service. Nick, can I ask you if you’ve ever seen anyone advertise bad service?

Nick: I don’t think so.

George: No, but have you ever received bad service?

Nick: Plenty of times.

George: Yeah. So, we can’t just say, we give good service and also, if we differentiate yourself purely on price, then we’re really open to abuse because anybody can come and drop their prices even more, and then you’re always chasing the bottom-end spender but if we say, okay, we’re the business that does this, we’re the business that guarantees that. I was recently side working with a nursery, and the guarantee that we’re putting into place, the unique sale proposition for that nursery is that we will replace that plant if it dies, no questions asked. So, why would you go and buy a plant somewhere else?

Nick: Exactly. Yeah, that’s a good idea, you’ve got.

George: Yeah. I worked with a car tinting business who had another opposition, more or less across the road from him and they were both trying to compete on price you know. One would go out for $200, the one across the road would drop it to $180, so you’d be at – none of them was making any money. When I worked with him, one of the things we differentiated with him was the quality of the brand and the product that they were selling and we put a lifetime guarantee on the glass. So, you already got your 1 year manufacturer’s one year warranty, but if you scratch a panel, you scratch a tint, we’ll replace that panel and we sold lots and lots and lots of tints on the back of that guarantee, but in the last 5 years, we’ve had zero people come back and take up that guarantee.

Nick: Right. I think that’s something you’d really like with guarantees often, is the idea of having it, we’ll sell people on them and then you may not necessarily even get them, people returning it, especially if the product’s good then there’s no need to make use of that, just give that extra confidence.

George: Absolutely, it’s no different to taking out travel insurance. You’ll take it out and you hope you’ll never have to use it. You hope your bags will arrive, they don’t get lost or anything like that, but it’s just that surety that yeah, if something goes wrong it’s there. So, it’s just making a point at difference. What makes you unique? What is really different about your product and I have a system which we actually follow. It’s actually quite a big document, but it’s what makes you different and unique and what makes you stand out from not only your competitors but in your industry?

Nick: Right, yeah. My next question is about how should businesses go about doing this differentiation process? So, I guess that’s sort of what you just said there, leads into that. Is it about finding the point of, what’s different about your business, basically?

George: Yeah. That’s right. What makes you special? What makes you different? What can you offer? Could it be the amount of time that you’ve been in business, the awards that you’ve won? Could it be that you have a specific range that isn’t available elsewhere? Is it that you’ve got someone who specializes in, you know, you might breed a specific plant, or you might have access to something that’s imported but nobody else has got. So, you’ve got to really stand out. Also you going to differentiate some of this tangible. Give me a guarantee, we give you the best service or we give you the … That’s it, intangible. Your opinion of service and my opinion of service are two different things. So, we’ve got to give them a real tangible difference.

I can really see that you say this is the best product for me, and build the confidence. Otherwise, we’re just competing on price.

Nick: Yeah, definitely. I can actually see what you’re saying with that. Is this process of coming out with a differentiator, is this something that you find that business owners can do themselves? Because obviously, there’s a lot of people out there who are not particularly doing it that well, or is it something that they really need some outside help with?

George: I believe they really do need some outside help with, because it’s very hard for us as business owners because we’re very passionate about our businesses and we see all the good things and all the bad things about our businesses, but we’re not always good at pointing that out to our customers and some of the things that we take for granted, are really important to our clients. Like a plumber or an electrician, being on time every time is really important to the customer. The electrician may well be on time every time, but if he’s not pushing that as his unique selling point process here, what does that mean? He’s not likely to get an advantage from it?

Nick: Right, yeah. I see what you’re saying. Sorry, did you have anything to add to the differentiation point?

George: I think it is really important that they do look at it and keep modernizing and changing and a point of difference because once you get a good point a difference, you also find that your competition will start doing it.

It brings to mind the story of Budweiser beer, who as a US beer, was going downhill quite rapidly. The sales were dropping, yeah. Things weren’t going great for them, so they got somebody in to look at what makes them different and one of the processes that they do is the double filtration. So, their beer is filtered twice so they took out the marketing again, educating customers that their beer is twice filtered, so it’s a smoother, cleaner beer.

Now, anyone who knows anything about beer making would know that all beers are double filtered. So, there’s really nothing unique, but they were the first ones to go out and say, hey we double filter our beer. Now, anybody else that comes on and say, oh we double filter, it’s the me too guy isn’t he?

Nick: Yeah, and also from the consumers perspective. I don’t know how consumers know about brewing beer, but I didn’t know that beers were double filtered, so from my perspective, it seems like an advantage to have that.

George: Yeah. And that’s the difference. Sometimes it’s just something that we’re already doing. It could be a compulsory guarantee that might be in your industry, that you have to do it because that’s the industry standard, but are we letting our customers know that we’re doing that? Because again, if we’re the first one to actually bring that out, then we’re the ones that people think, oh wow, you started it and everybody else is copying you. So, you can set out your unique selling proposition quite easily once you figure out what makes you different.

Nick: Great, and it pays to be sort of the first to get there, especially if you have perhaps something like the example with the beer, something that other people would do, if you can be the first to sort of trumpet that out and make it obvious, then you can take an advantage from that.

George: Yep, absolutely. And that’s that you want to do, is make your business stand out.

Nick: Perfect. Well, let’s move on and finish off the interview with, you’re going to give us five things that you think business owners should really be working on at the moment.

George: Thanks Nick. I think the top area that they really need to be working on, there’s a few things, but probably lead generation. It’s where their marketing is coming from and how are they getting returns on their investment. A lot of business owners spend a lot of money on marketing. I know when I first started out in business 15 odd years ago, you get the Newseek Journal and the Places Gazette and all these marketing ploys out there and you think, yeah, well market for me and you end up spending a whole lot of money.

I’m not getting any return for them. So, it’s important that you are measuring your marketing. A basic rule is $1 out, $2 back, or otherwise, don’t do it. You’re better of spending a little bit of money seeing if something works, and then investing more in it, rather than going out and spending lot of money on marketing without some measures in place.

And if you are committed to a marketing campaign, can you change it? Can you test out a new ad? You may have bought some newspaper space, well that’s fine. Can you change the ad? We did that with a bakery a few years ago where they had committed to a 16 week, weekly ad and they’ve been running this ad with no return whatsoever. So, we said to them, how can we change that for you? So, what’s a cheap product for you to make? I can make éclairs for about 30 cents. Great, so let’s give them away. So, we changed the ad, where anybody bringing that ad in, got a free chocolate éclair. How many people do you think turned up looking for a free chocolate éclair?

Nick: A few. I’m sure I would.

George: Quite a few. People were queuing at the door for this thing. Now, most people, bought a sandwich, or they bought a can of Coke or they bought something else with the éclair and sure, you got a few that just took the éclair, but they’re all related anyway but you always got a few people like that, but most of the people bought something else. Most of the people got the opportunity to try out the bakery. So, sometimes, it’s not about the medium that we’re using, it’s make sure that the ad works.

Nick: Great and I think one of the advantages of web marketing is that it’s so easy to measure what’s going on with your – where your money is going and measure your conversion and match the two up, so you can actually get the data to be able to make this decision about what works and what doesn’t.

George: Absolutely. It’s a great medium to get out there and get your product out to a variety of different people and really check and balance it out with the return that you’re getting versus the investment so, absolutely.

The other thing as you mentioned there is the conversion rate. A lot of businesses just keep chasing more and more clients but they’re not actually selling to all of those that they’ve already got or those that have enquired. So, if you’ve got a 100% conversion rate, why would you be spending more money on marketing? You need to know why you’re not selling to the people that are already inquiring about your product or service?

The next thing is to get those that are already buying from you to spend more. What are your fries? What does McDonalds do really well? They upsell, they will have a different price points, they’re constantly changing and evolving as well as a company, but they’re very, very good at adding fries. Do you want fries with that? And what are your fries in your business? What can you add on? What are the little bit extras that you can get? So, different to why do you think they put chocolates by the checkouts in the supermarkets? So you can grab that last-minute add-on sale.

What are your chocolates? What are your fries? What are the things that you can add on to make it a little bit more?

Another thing to look as is the frequency of people shopping with you. Is your product or service a weekly or an annual product? Is it something that we can get people to come back again? It doesn’t necessarily have to be the same customer, but could it be their family or friends? How are we setting up a referral program? Does she help them grow the frequency of their shopping?

And the last thing I really want to comment on is profit margins. You’ve got to be doing things that are profitable. I’ve worked with a motor mechanic and he was busy, but there’s no money at the end of the week. Now, when I worked out his pricing and I worked it out properly to what his customer’s – every car he was servicing, was costing him $4.50, more than he was charging. So, you know, we didn’t need to service more cars, we just needed to charge more. We also changed that in there.

Now, we have a formula with an action coach, working on those 5 areas which will give you a guaranteed 61% increase to your bottom line.

Nick: Wow, that’s pretty good.

George: It’s about really following a system that’s proven. Action coaches itself is in 45 countries now around the world. We’re an Australian company, got over 1200 coaches, so, when you’re working with an action coach, you’re not just working with one person, you’re working with a group of coaches around the world that we can actually jump on, assist and say, hey who’s working with a plumber in Sydney, in Kuala Lumpur, or London or wherever else? And we can take some of those learning and ideas from there and bring them back into our Adelaide market.

Nick: Wow that seems like a great way to leverage the knowledge of the network, as opposed to just your knowledge.

George: Absolutely.

Nick: Well, thanks very much for coming on the show George. It’s been was really insightful and some great tips in there. If people want to find out more about you and your business, where can I do that?

George: Good. There’s a couple of ways, you can jump on my website, which is www.actioncoachgeorgekoritsa.com, now Koritsa is k o r i t s a. I also have a Facebook page, georgekoritsaactioncoach, again they can find me through that or on the phone, 04-03-575978 and my email is georgekoritsa@actioncoach.com. Now, I do offer everybody the opportunity to spend an hour of no obligation with me, to actually see how a coach could help them grow their business and enables me to find out a little bit more about them and give them some tips. So, it’s a great way to actually get some value, out of – now, it’s your time to catch up, have a coffee, and you’ll walk out with some great tips, as well as the opportunity to move your business forward.

Nick: Perfect. Great tips and I’ll have those contact details on the show notes for this episode for my listeners to go check out if they didn’t catch it in the episode.

Thanks very much for joining us today George. It’s been a great chat.

George: Thank you Nick, it’s been really enjoyable and I hope your listeners get some great value and tips in there and I’m always happy to chat to anybody.

Nick: No worries. I’m sure they will. See you later.

George: Thank you very much.


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