Third Phase Coaching Ltd

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The Cleaning Company that was a mess

The Problem

Gordon contacted me for business consultation. He had a successful cleaning company which he had been expanding aggressively for several years. He had taken over two other cleaning firms and was now considering his largest acquisition to date.

He wanted to think through the implications of this latest opportunity and was concerned about how this bigger operation would be embedded within the existing operation. And, just like many business owners, he didn’t have anyone neutral and independent he could talk the project through with. He wanted a sounding board.

The Process

Clients sometimes come with a clear idea of what they want help with. Experience has taught me to beware of the apparently simple explanation. Gordon’s situation was much more complicated than it seemed. After getting more details of his issues we went on to examine his motivations.

His ambition was to build the company up to three times its present size in five years - and then sell up. It’s often necessary to help business owners develop an exit plan, but I had never come across one that was so specific. What were the drivers?

There were three elements to his life. Work, family and a hobby. Actually, calling it a hobby does it a disservice. It was a deep passion for instructing a martial art. But he was frustrated with the part time teaching he did. The two venues he used constantly sent him new students. He was reduced to repeatedly teaching the basics, so students didn’t progress, got bored and left. He wasn’t in control of the agenda. And family life was tense and unhappy too. Which left his work as the focus of all his energy.

So why would he want to get out? He planned to have enough money to divorce his wife and to open up his own martial arts studio.

Planning or expecting a divorce so far in advance highlighted just how far family communication had deteriorated. It’s not my role to tell clients that what they should or shouldn’t do. But the very fact that he had revealed all this to me indicated Gordon was in desperate need of rebalancing his life.

The Outcome

I worked with Gordon for just over a year. He didn’t go ahead with the large acquisition but continued to grow the company in a more organic and sustainable way. He then identified staff in the company with potential for leadership roles and started the process of developing them and giving them increased responsibility.

This released time that he used to develop a small martial arts studio that he ran part time. He was able to attract a small number of enthusiasts to train at a level that brought him much more satisfaction. He planned to steadily reduce his day to day involvement in the company and devote more time to the studio. He will also have the capacity to deal with the strategic planning a growing organisation needs.

With increased satisfaction at work and in his hobby, there were also signs that his family life was slowly improving. I make no claims to be any sort of counsellor - marriage or otherwise but I’ve learned with many clients that dissatisfaction and pressure in one part of their lives always affects the rest of their lives. By helping Gordon increase his fulfilment in two areas, we had reduced his frustration and increased his self-worth. My hope is that would continue to give him the time and resources to work positively on the third.

If you can identify with the story of this business owner and would like to discuss how things could be different, please contact us.