The #ADDAZERO Story
26 November 2008 wasn’t my finest hour in business, in fact I still regard it as my worst day in business!
The day had started well, I was up early and into the office before the usual morning traffic, nobody had called in sick and we’d got a full complement of fee earners on site, generating revenue for the business (or so I thought!)
It wasn’t until 6pm that evening, I’d just got back home ahead of a planned dinner party that evening when I was stopped so abruptly by the BREAKING news on national television:
“Deloitte announced today that it has been called into the High street retail chain Woolworths, and with immediate notice has suspended trading of group shares and all its subsidiaries”
My heart stopped beating, my mouth suddenly became dry, my mind raced, I had no idea how I should feel or what I should you?…
On 26 September 2007 I’d bought a Health & Safety Consultancy and had spent the past 12 months aggressively marketing the businesses and chasing some regional and a national contract.
In Early April 2008, I’d learned that a major high street chain was about to tendor their national Health and Safety contract, and I’d made a decision THIS was the contract that was going to take us from a Regional business to a national business. I’d worked every spare hour on doing copious amounts of research, in order that when we submitted our tendor, there was NO EXCUSE as to why we couldn’t be shortlisted for the work.
WHEN we won, it would mean I’d have to advertise, interview, recruit and train 11 new members of staff just to honour the commitments of this contract, more than a 125% increase in staffing levels and a considerable shift in payroll, but THIS was the one I was going to hang my hat on. I’d priced it ridiculously favourably in their interest, on the intent we would use winning this, to leverage our ability to manage national contracts and quickly tendor for more work at this level to compensate for the minimal amount of profit I would make.
I was elated to learn in late May we had been shortlisted, and both overwhelmed and extremely nervous to learn in mid-June we had been successful for the contract to begin as of 1 September of that year. I’d got just over 10 weeks to recruit and train the team, and called in EVERY favour from friends, colleagues, other independent consultancies to help me in making this possible.
I’d been SO intent on winning this contract, that when the agreement came through, rather than pushing back on any of their requirements, I broke one of the most cardinal sins in business, and accepted THEIR payment terms, rather than insisting they adhered to ours, or trying to negotiate more favourable terms.
- 8.2.1 As a NEW supplier to the Woolworths Group, monthly invoices shall be submitted no later than Midnight on the 15th day of the month for all work completed the month prior to submission.
- 8.2.2. Payment of invoices (with the appropriate Purchase Order number) shall be submitted for clearing by 28 of the month submitted and payable within 90 days.
I was being instructed to invoice by the 15th October for all work completed in September, for payment by 31 December! In real terms this meant I would have to bankroll the payroll to the sum of £92,500 before we got paid! (IF we got paid on time).
Having invested ALL my savings to purchase the business a little over 12 months ago, and not taken a salary for the first 7 months, choosing instead to re-invest my income into the recruitment of growing the team and extensive marketing to get us thus far, there was simply NO WAY I could bankroll this without GROWING broke!
Factoring was likely to be the only way forward, and so I hurriedly negotiated a deal in order to overcome this 6-figure shortfall, in order we could even start on day 1!
To then learn than just 11 weeks later, one of the biggest retail chains on the UK high street had ceased trading (at the time owing us over £250K) was very difficult to compute. I’d not either taken out or made amendments to our insurance policy, I’d not conducted more than a very basic financial background check or risk analysis on the client, I hadn’t thought it necessary, after all – THIS WAS WOOLIES!
But here I was, with friends due around within the hour for a dinner party, and I was facing the stark reality the company was at risk of bankruptcy.
To this day, I’m not really that certain as to HOW we got through the next 12hours, 12 weeks, 12 months, but it was Mid 2014, before I’d overcome the emotions of anger, resentment, disappointment, guilt, frustration, and everything else I’d gone through in trying to find the answers to so many unanswered questions sufficient for us to keep going and get through.
WHY? Were so many high street brands FAILING. HOW was it possible for a business to grow so significantly that it had made it to become a high street brand and subsequently FAIL? Not just have to make cut backs, to streamline, but to FAIL?
I began looking into the details surrounding the collapse of Woolworths. I soon realised I needed to make comparisons with other failed high street stores, I needed a get a better understanding of what was happening more generally, and; over the next 3+ years, led me to enquire, research, investigate the failure of more than 150 National brands that were no more!
The more I researched, the more shocked I became.
Time after time I uncovered the same 2 FLAWS that determined under certain (not uncommon conditions) they were DESTINED to fail!
I needed to understand more about these flaws, and so approached 2 of the UK’s largest business associations to ask if they would poll their members based on these 2 findings.
Collectively they asked more than 350K business owners in the UK of SME businesses, and the results determined that more than 80% of the respondents potentially had at least 1 of the 2 flaws I had discovered!
So, what was the answer?
I needed to find a method of ensuring we did not develop either of these FLAWS within our own businesses, and then begin sharing this information with other business owners, that they could do the same also.
Firstly, we devised an AUDIT to establish if either of the FLAWS were present within the business, and then created a checklist of tasks, roles, systems, processes, people to have in place to enable a business to significantly and sustainably grow, without either going or GROWING broke!
I invited 12 of our closest clients to beta-test’ our new business growth model. I offered to closely work with them in the implementation of all I had discovered and to review everything that occurred as a result of the application.
A couple of interesting things occurred…
Firstly, only 9 of the 12 completed implementing all we were sharing with them! I was immediately interested in the 3 that chose NOT to progress with this, (After all, my research was all based on failure, and these three had failed to complete). However, the answers were:
- I’ve had an offer to purchase the business. It’s a far larger business than us, and they said in the past few months we’ve begun to make sufficient impact on the industry that it makes sense to make us a sensible offer which enables me to retire, than continue and risk allowing us to become a serious competitor!
- We’ve chosen to move abroad. We’ve had a lot of new clients from the States, and now see the massive potential in taking our business over there. We’ve never had international enquiries before, but its opened our eyes to how much bigger the US market is, and; having always wanted to live over there, see this as the perfect opportunity.
- I’ve never even dreamt of earning as much money. In the past 7 months my salary has gone from £15K per annum to £6K per month. I simply don’t know what to do with it, and it scares me! I need to ‘step off’ whilst I get my head around this, and then I’ll come back!
These weren’t failures, these were anything but. These were business owners where applying the system had enabled them to achieve things, they had not previously been able to. This was GREAT news, and with that I turned my attention back to the 9-remaining beta-testers.
The following year, no less than 7 were finalists in the Entrepreneur of the Year competition, with 3 having won within the category that best matched their business and their achievements.
- BEST Newcomer (For a SME less than 3 years old)
- BEST Enabler (For a business providing support to other businesses)
- BEST ‘Back from the brink’ (For a Turnaround from a failing business to a highly profitable business).
I now knew, this process REALLY works.
The next hurdle was to take this to the masses. To make the information available to EVERYONE. And the easiest method was to turn it into a digital resource.
I spent the next 12 months, working with a digital team, to convert all my teachings into digital resources. Video, Audio, Webinars, Podcasts, Ebooks, Downloads, Checklists the list goes on, we created a membership website where all of this could be accessed, and took it back to market.
To say I’d been shocked at the FLAWS within BIG business, this REALLY got me stumped. I struggled to understand why this wasn’t working. Business owners were not getting the results we’d seen all 12 of the beta-testers get, it simply didn’t make sense.
Further research uncovered an alarming truth.
FEAR. The ONLY difference between ME delivering the content, and the content being available for the owner to consume, was ME! Yet, the things I am asking them to do, the changes required to turn a business into a SCALEABLE business were in many cases significant. It involved thought, and consideration. It might determine a shift in focus, or some infrastructure changes. At certain levels it will require investment, and training and recruitment. And the simple fact is, Business owners were holding out for a QUICK FIX. That wanted that secret elixir that enabled them to wake up one morning with a super successful business.
We’ve seen so many people all over social media profess to the overnight business success, that when they realised IT DOESN’T EXIST, they felt deflated, and failed to put in the hours, the hard work the CHANGE necessary to convert their existing business into a SCALEABLE business.
Disillusioned, I turned back to the drawing board. There HAS to be a way in which we can share our findings with other business owners who ARE ready to do what is required, who ARE willing to work at it, to put the hours in, to make the necessary changes to THEN reap the rewards.
We’ve formed 2 current methods of delivery:
Pathfinder Masterclass (For 5 Figure businesses seeking to grow to 6 figures):
For business owners who want to LEARN. We’ve created a series of MASTERCLASSES based on our teachings from the research I’ve completed. Each month we look at a different aspect of the business and look as to what is its current ‘state’ and what ‘state’ does it need to be in in order to sustain scale. Each masterclass has its own workbook, for the business owner to work through and they are facilitated by myself, in order they have first-hand opportunity to ask, share, learn from the person who conducted the research.
Furthermore, we’ve made the Pathfinder Masterclass program so accessible, by enabling business owners to either invest in an annual program (giving them access to ALL the masterclasses in the program) or as a PAYG member, where they can choose WHICH if the masterclasses, they wish to learn more about.
Each Masterclass is hosted at our offices in Warrington, Cheshire. Are digitally recorded, with the audio being made available to all those who attend so they may remind, review, and revisit them whenever they wish.
Explorer Mastermind (For significant 6/7 Figure businesses looking to hit 8!):
For those who REALLY want to guidance, help, support and accountability to apply all of the learnings with them to their business, we offer Mastermind. A bi-monthly opportunity to meet with no more than 8 other business owners as we support each other to SCALE.
At a beautiful 4* venue in the North West of England (Just 7 miles from Manchester International Airport) we meet for a full 24Hrs. With private dining, fabulous rooms and sports facilities, and a boardroom that awaits, I host a notional BOARD MEETING for each of the business owners within each Mastermind group, in which SCALE is the agenda.
We apply the learnings of the research to our businesses, with access to the knowledge, experience, qualifications, and connections of each of the other ‘board members’ present. This collaborative approach has proven a WINNING FORMULA to so many privately-owned businesses and helped create 7 more millionaires last year alone.
Between each ‘board’ meeting, I work with each member on a 1:1 mentorship basis, visiting them at their place of work and supporting them in the application of the #ADDAZERO Business Challenge.
We are on a MISSION, to help 10,000 Business Owners to #ADDAZERO to their personal disposable income, by significantly and sustainably growing both them and their businesses.
Visit: http://bit.ly/ADDAZEROAudit and complete our #ADDAZERO Foundations audit. Answering these 30 questions shall enable us to produce an in-depth, bespoke report on the current SCALEABILITY of you and your business.
It’s completely FREE with no ties or strings, just our way of beginning to provide support to both you and your business, by highlighting what’s in good order, and what perhaps requires some attention if we are going to move from GROWTH to SCALE.