Here’s what a fly on the wall would have heard from one of my recent discussions with an entrepreneur:
“Things are challenging. After having opened our boutique coffee shop seven months ago, we’ve fulfilled about 60 to 65 percent of our monthly sales targets. We decided to hold two ultra-creative, themed promotional events with media coverage that would help make up for previous months’ missed targets.
The events were exhilarating! We received extremely positive feedback. It was inspiring to see how the mission for our unique coffee shop was being fulfilled. We fell short of our target by $400 which meant we delivered on 80 percent of our target for the two events combined. Even if we had fulfilled 100 percent of our goal, it would not have been enough to make up for lost revenue from past months.”
I asked how their mentoring relationship was going and they answered, “Oh the mentoring relationship is okay. My mentor’s given me ideas on how to increase sales. That’s been our main focus – as it should be. Sometimes I’m less motivated after our meetings. At the end of the day, he wants to see profit and little else matters.”
Let’s reflect on the above scenario:
The tempo/rhythm of our conversation was heavy, slow and clumsy to begin with (talking about missed targets can do that to anyone!), but at the mention of promotional events and seeing the business mission materialize, the entrepreneur’s face lit up; she spoke faster and had a lighter tone.
What information does this give me?
It tells me this entrepreneur’s motivation to succeed in her business is still alive and well. As her mentor, I know she is motivated by her business’ mission and I would ask myself, how could I help her make a more relevant and obvious connection between her sales targets and her mission?
Is the glass half empty or is it half full?
1. Glass half full: The entrepreneur would like her mentor to recognize and appreciate the positive outcomes from the past seven months. To her, as a first time business owner, she has made great strides. She successfully launched a coffee shop and has been in business for seven months. That’s something worth celebrating!
2. Glass half empty: to her experienced mentor, this entrepreneur needs to meet or surpass her sales target to have a sustainable business.
Here are a few next steps I would consider:
1. Suspending concern for the entrepreneur’s business and start meetings by joining in their celebration of successes by:
• Initiating a conversation about their successes;
• Bringing positive media reviews to the next mentoring meeting;
• Posting their successes on social media to show support.
2. Using positive language to help the entrepreneur help themself:
a) Address the missed sales targets by encouraging them to brainstorm creative ways to increase revenue through existing streams, and choose one to follow through with. For example, extend coffee shop hours so that it opens earlier to catch the mid-afternoon coffee run.
b) Ask the entrepreneur to think of ideas for new revenue streams and choose one that has the most promise (which would involve the least amount of money, time and effort). For example, could the space be used by other businesses during the day?
c) Consider two sides of the same coin. When sales aren’t creating enough cash flow, ask them how they can reduce their costs to make more money available. For example, consider holding a friendly contest with staff to identify cost-cutting initiatives.
3. End the meeting on a positive note – an emotional high that inspires and leaves the entrepreneur wanting more:
a) Consider doing a quick check-in at the end of the meeting to discuss how valuable the meeting was for the entrepreneur
b) Revisit and highlight the entrepreneur’s successes and build confidence in their ability to meet those targets through praise and encouragement.
In this scenario, the entrepreneur’s mentor is concerned about her sustainability. However, focusing only on the missing pieces can de-motivate entrepreneurs. If mentors start their meetings by discussing the entrepreneur’s successes in the past months, it can set a more positive and helpful tone for the hard-to-get solutions.
By Linda Morana, Mentor-in-Residence, firstname.lastname@example.org