The Icehouse was founded in 2001 in recognition of the importance of this sector to the NZ economy. We’re committed to creating a high performing New Zealand economy where ideas and businesses thrive. We believe that to unleash the economic potential, we need to lift the capabilities and aspirations of Kiwi business owners, entrepreneurs and people who run SME businesses to enable them to take their businesses forward.
As a Kiwi business owner, you’re probably used to doing most things yourself. Overseeing every aspect of your growing organisation is exhausting, demanding and can be a lonely experience. However, one day you just have to hold up your hands and say: ‘I can’t do all this myself’.
There are countless courses, qualifications, and online capability development tools such as automated software solutions for accounting, sales and marketing teams to skill up and learn, and make the daily grind more bearable. But where can owners turn for advice and education?
The best owners are objective and agile; quick-thinking enough to understand that there are smart ways to fix problems, and that obstacles are easier to overcome with a little bit of assistance. They also understand that seeking advice is a positive step in the ownership journey.
From topic specific workshops to transformative business development programmes and customised business coaching, it can take new skills, clarity and support to achieve your goals.
Kiwi business owners have to find new pathways to lead them to success, but they are put off asking for help and seeking advice for several reasons – particularly when it comes to learning programmes.
Setting and structure – Many executive capability development programmes are formulaic stand-alone affairs, with mostly one-directional learning. Sitting in a lecture hall isn’t very conducive for learning. ‘Even after very basic sessions, adults typically retain just 10% of what they hear in classroom lectures, versus nearly two-thirds when they learn by doing.’ (McKinsey)
Application – Many executive programmes also fail because the content is too generic or not pitched in a way that encourages you to apply the learnings – it’s only when this happens that the sparks fly! During a programme, you should consistently be pushed to ask “How would this look in the context of me and my business?”
After-care – One month down the line, you’ll be lucky if you can remember two or three key points, and there is no-one keeping you accountable to the change that you said you would make!
Kiwi business owners are understandably more receptive to learning when the textbook they’re reading from is their business. Applying what you’re learning as you go – implementing these ideas into your world is the best case scenario.
Furthermore, you need debriefs and refresher programmes to reflect on what worked well, to question old ideas, and to have your assumptions constantly challenged.
Introducing new skills and frameworks to apply to the business can weigh heavily on owners, but reflection, reassessment and rethinking is a critical part of the process in creating habit-forming behaviours, so making difficult decisions comes as second-nature – and make you a better owner.
Advice is out there for owners and leaders, but sometimes it’s difficult to know where to look.
At The Icehouse, we combine the best in academic teachings and practical learning to offer unique and lasting ownership experiences, based on immediate and relevant advice for your business. What could be better than using your personal business challenges as a template for learning?
A lack of development opportunities is a primary reason why employees leave, according to PwC research, and it could be hurting your business.
‘Firms that train their workers are significantly less likely to close than those that do not,’ Praxis (UK). That’s understandable. When budgets are tight, the thought of sending a team member on an outside capability development course may seem financially daunting, but the cost of development far outweighs the cost of having to replace the person that leaves because they feel their career is going nowhere.
Did you know it costs firms a minimum of 50-60% of an employee’s annual salary just to replace them? And that’s just the conservative estimate – Deloitte believes the true figure is much higher. ‘The cost of losing one employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars, to 1.5-2 times their annual salary.’
Then factor in further costs such as recruitment advertising, setting aside resources for interviews, onboarding processes, and the time it takes for a new employee to get up to speed. New Zealand’s median income is $52,000, so even before all the above happens, this is clearly a lot of money – huge costs that start-ups, SMEs and ‘larger SMEs’ can ill afford.
Research conducted by BNZ, in conjunction with The Icehouse, last year uncovered what is keeping business owners up at night, where they think they need assistance, and the types of capability building workshops that are most appealing.
The results confirm that SME owners know they need help. 8 out of 10 business owners want themselves and their employees to access experts or consultants in specific areas of business skill development, but only 4 in 10 have engaged with this type of education. The limiting factors were clear; time away from the business and value for money.
This is why The Icehouse has developed a range of short, topic-specific workshops, designed to help Kiwi SMEs grow and ultimately get New Zealand GDP back into the top half of the OECD.
Few firms can build a business with high employee turnover. It’s disruptive in an organisational sense, affects the bottom line, and sends out a negative message – telling customers and prospective employees that your business is ‘not a great place to work’.
What can owners do? Employee retention is one of the simplest and strategic, but often overlooked, ways to keep your business on track.
People move on to other jobs for many reasons – not just money. A lack of capability development opportunities for career development and enhancement is one of the four main explanations for why employees call it a day (overselling the position, lack of clarity around expectations and bad managers also matter, according to PwC research).
What's more, approximately 77% of employees feel ‘they’re on their own’ to develop their careers at the company, say The Harris Poll, a US-based Insights and Analytics group. The message is clear: continuous capability development and access to further professional development to upskill will make your employees stay.
The cost of sending an employee on development and upskilling programmes is far more cost-effective than letting your employees go. It’s good financial sense to spend a smaller amount on capability development – to create higher-skilled, highly-motivated, more productive and loyal teams than just having your front door as a revolving door.
Good leaders know that continuous capability development will:
'[Make sure] everyone has access to those opportunities. You might be surprised who takes advantage and benefits the most from your offerings.’ (Forbes).
Developing your teams isn’t just damage limitation. It’s about shaping a brilliant team for now and over many years; a team that possesses the necessary skills to excel at their jobs in an inspiring and supportive workplace. Building a long-serving team that enjoys working for you and wants to work with you to drive business growth will keep you permanently ahead of the competition.
You or staff members are making critical financial decisions every hour of the working day as an owner. From sending an invoice for payment to hiring a new member of staff, your decision-making can affect the profitability and health of your business.
Financial upskilling and improving your financial literacy is a smart way for kiwi business owners and senior managers to understand how financial actions can benefit all areas of the organisation. Exceptional leaders and CEOs are ultimately responsible for the success of a business, and that’s, in part, down to having an astute knowledge and practice of financial management fundamentals.
Understanding what your essential numbers are saying to you, and what they are saying about your wider business, is a great skill to have. It enables you to make better decisions.
But then what can you do with all this new-found expertise?
You can make a greater contribution to the smooth-running of your business. Identify where working capital and cash is being consumed at high rates. Pinpoint where to extract ‘dormant’ cash flow in existing structures so you can invest in overlooked areas of the business that offer greater revenue opportunities – opportunities you may not have spotted before upskilling financially.
A more detailed understanding of financial reporting will also enable you to develop better budgeting and cash flow management, create and manage profit plans and, by forecasting and managing the all-important numbers behind the business, you’ll be able to work with your finance team to develop sensible strategies.
Take something as fundamental as cash flow – the backbone of any business. You need to be as precise as possible when assessing the levels of cash that flows in and out of your business. Managing it properly means you can predict what is going to happen to ensure the business can survive. You can plan ahead, take advantage of any cash surpluses and also spot any potential risks coming down the road.
Likewise, take your Working Capital Cycle (WCC), as another example. The relationship between debtors, cash and stock/WIP. In other words, the time taken to convert net current assets and current liabilities into cash – the ability and efficiency you have to manage your liquidity position.
You have some cash and you buy some inventory. You sell that inventory, issue an invoice, and create an accounts receivable. The customer pays you, and you use that cash to buy new inventory and the extras – office rent and energy bills, employee payroll, and so on.
The WCC is the cornerstone of every business. But this cycle is just like your two-wheeler at home. It needs constant maintenance, care and attention to keep it moving smoothly. Understanding what drives this cycle in your business, where the cycle can run more efficiently and where the bumps are, is a financial basic. The next step is to manage the cycle to make it turn quicker and more efficiently – which will generate more cash for your business and keep the money wheels turning - faster.
The relationship between cash, debtors, creditors and stock is everlasting and ever changing. Once you can get a handle on how this operates you can find many ways to make the cycle spin faster, such as reducing customer credit periods or cutting the time taken for inventory to convert to sales.
Leading, motivating and coaching a sales team can be hard, especially for those who haven’t worked in sales and business development roles. It’s a common barrier we hear from kiwi business owners and managers. A common challenge amongst many of the kiwi business owners and managers we work with is “how do we make more sales?”
A common conclusion many business owners and managers reach is “it’s about the capability of our people,” and sometimes they are right, and we can help with that. But more often the root cause of this problem lies elsewhere up stream…
As a business owner/manager – ask yourself:
We know that there is no shortage of willing advisors who mean well, but are they the best people to help to review your customer offer, help articulate your unique proposition, understand what your customers truly value, why they buy and where your process is going off track? That’s right – process.
A starting point for successful sales and consistently delivering an outstanding customer experience is having a standardised process for delivery. The magic however, is in your sales people doing the following:
Let’s look at some of the things that sets great sales people apart:
If you are lucky enough to have people that tick all these boxes, still ask your self this - do you review performance and plan for success?
Sadly, this crucial part of the process is often overlooked because business owners or managers are just too busy. Think about the message you are sending – are we too busy to invest a few minutes a week with our people? Meet up with individuals in your sales team to determine clear monthly & weekly priorities and expectations, these are critical for building high-performing sales teams.
Every industry, every sector and at every stage in the business growth cycle – whatever you want your business to be, business coaching can help take care of some of the major issues and challenges you’re facing.
Engaging with a business coach can help you refine your strategy, keep you on track and achieve your business goals now and for the short and long-term.
Whether it’s planning an exit strategy, understanding how to sell more effectively, developing ideas around brand and marketing, or pivoting your business during times of crisis, The Icehouse’s business coaches bring value to your business in countless ways.
Advisory services also include facilitated programmes that can also be tailored to your business, in-house training for multiple employees and other customised workshops.
Many business coaches have been owners and founders themselves, starting up successful businesses from scratch, and have held senior management and board positions for many of New Zealand’s most prestigious companies.
‘We’re all part of a team, and that’s why I love working with the Icehouse as well. We’re all whanau, and the only driver is ‘what is best for the client?’, explains Icehouse coach Kim Hill.
‘And we all share that philosophy. I’ve been working with a number of Icehouse businesses recently, and I talk about our shared passion. We're about empowerment and capacity building I know that my ethos aligns with The Icehouse and that's why I love working with them,’ she says.
Maybe you’re feeling stuck or overwhelmed, trying to figure out how to solve a problem, or looking for a sounding board to bounce around strategy – we all need reassurance that we’re doing the right thing. 21% of kiwi business owners rate themselves as the biggest obstacle to success, while 26% lack the confidence to grow their business successfully.
Good coaches understand what it takes to make a business grow – and how difficult it can be. ‘When it's your own company, it's your house that's on the line, your family’s wellbeing and so on. So I like to think I bring both sides to any challenge – knowing how to grow a business, how to do it well and fast,’ says Icehouse coach, Kevin D’Ambros-Smith.
Business owners have struggled in the past to get coaching assistance that comes with real value. The advice is too generic and doesn’t focus on the key areas where they need support, there’s a lack of expertise in a specific sector, or maybe the personalities just don’t ‘click’.
This is where current trends in digital communication help. With the increased adoption of technologies like Zoom, the geographical obstacles and costs of the past can be overcome easily. Kiwi business owners can work with their chosen coach virtually, regardless if they’re in Invercargill or Kerikeri, enabling coaches to work with businesses anywhere in New Zealand.
This also means business owners can connect with the best coaching fit, especially when it comes to experience in unique industries. Owners can drill down to very niche challenges or situations that require highly specialised assistance – often from business coaches who have been in exactly the same business situations from their time as owner managers.
Business owners like Blair James from James Group, who works with coach Ken Leeming, have found a completely new approach and increased success in their business due to the advice and objectivity an Icehouse business coach provided.
‘Ken has been superb thus far, and he constantly challenges me. He brings a new outlook to every aspect of the business and can articulate it in a way I can understand and apply. Ken has taught me, “you are where your feet are”, helping me to control the controllables and he has prevented me on numerous occasions from grazing my knees, having already been through so many challenges I am facing.’ - Blair James.
The overwhelming response we’ve had from kiwi business owners is that they really value advice from an objective, experienced expert who understands what they’re going through. They’re keen to have access to people who have ‘been there, done that’ and can help them avoid the pitfalls.
‘Our Business Coaches are passionate about helping business owners to succeed. They bring all their experience to bear on your business and help you make the right decisions,’ says Darilyn Kane, Coaching and Advisory Lead at The Icehouse.
‘Our team will match you with an Icehouse coach who will get to know you and your business. They’ll guide you through the tough times – we have helped over a hundred business owners deal with the current disruption. Whether virtual or in person, they’ll bring knowledge, experience and an objective view. They’re focused on getting you moving in the right direction.’
Roger Federer has a coach. Is that a sign of weakness? Certainly not, explains Business Coach Richard Poole.
We go to the dentist, doctor and potentially the optometrist & hearing specialist. We take our car to a mechanic. We seek a builder if we’re renovating. We ask an Insurance broker to consider our needs and find the relevant products. We refer to a lawyer for a raft of things. We have teachers to educate our children and grandchildren. We expect the sports teams that we admire to have someone responsible for getting the best from the players. We might even have a personal trainer at the gym.
Oh and we spend money on those things. Sometimes a lot of money.
Our businesses are no different. Some people might even argue that their business is more important than a few of the other things on the list above. In many cases, our business is our most valuable income producing asset or we hope that it has the potential to be, particularly if we’re spending so much time in and on it. Maybe we even wish to leave a legacy for future generations.
Creating, building and even selling a business takes smarts, hard work, hard knocks, energy, vision, relationships, money, sacrifice, resilience, patience, countless other qualities, requirement and experiences – and usually just a little bit of luck somewhere along the journey. The reality is that we simply can’t and shouldn’t do some things in life all alone, no matter how good (and successful) we are.
In my experience, asking for help with your business is not a sign of weakness. To the contrary, I genuinely believe that it’s a sign of honesty, reality and strength. It can help us improve and also excel. It’s also an opportunity to continue to re-energise passion for your business.
When it comes to your business asset and considering whether to work alongside a business coach on your journey to ensure your best shot at success, then there are a few things I’m keen to add here to finish up.
#1 Decide that you’re open to being coached.
I mean it. If you doubt it and think that it might somehow demonstrate a sign of weakness and you’ll worry what others think, then you are simply not open to being coached. So please don’t waste anyone’s time pretending that you are.
Now back to Roger Federer for a second.
Would he trust a tennis coach who didn’t have a successful track record on the tennis court? Not a chance. Roger Federer’s coach is a former world #3, who won 10 ATP titles.
#2 Work alongside someone who has a successful track record as a business owner.
If that person has ridden the roller coaster, experiencing the highs and lows that come with the territory, then that person will have genuine empathy for you and also your team; Then once you get underway, you’ll know whether –
It’s not all one way traffic though. You have to work at this
Make it part of your business journey and recognise that someone has got your back when and if you need it. So…
Good luck! (And no, Roger didn’t appear to consider me as coach material. You win some, you lose some.)
Here you will find blogs, case studies, webinars and podcasts from leading experts and valued members of The Icehouse delivery team, to help clarify and make sense of some of the most pressing topics that are affecting businesses and business owners.
Learn from businesses The Icehouse has helped to grow, succeed and thrive. From a diverse range of business sectors, across a broad range of topics.