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Setting sail for a business that works without me

3 years ago


First Class Sailing (FCS) is a company based in Southampton that runs sailing training courses to enable its customers to experience the freedom and excitement of sailing in an effortless way. However, for the business owner Charlie Tulloch, running the business was far from effortless before he became a client of ActionCOACH.

When Charlie received a phone call out of the blue about ActionCOACH, he was completely swamped with work. Charlie’s office was the spare bedroom at home he was working long hours and just couldn’t see how he was going to break the cycle. Charlie says “I took over the business from my boss when he unexpectedly died of cancer. I had not set out to be a business owner, it just happened and I really did not know which way to go with it. I was very good at the day to day operations and our courses were some of the best in the country, but the business was ME and I could not escape”.

Following that phone call, Charlie met with ActionCOACH Kevin Stansfield and was impressed by the systematic approach that ActionCOACH takes to growing a successful business. “It all made sense to me. Putting in systems, recruiting better people than me, focusing my time, using new marketing techniques on my website and creating raving fans. Since the loss of my boss it had also become very lonely. I had nobody to talk to about my business and what I wanted to do with it. My wife is has her own job, so we try to keep work and our personal lives separate.”

Charlie knew that growing the business so that it would work without him was what he needed to do to move his business forward and to give him back the life he once had, the only hurdle was the price of coaching. First Class Sailing was only a small one man band company making enough money for Charlie to live on. “Kevin showed me that coaching should be seen as an investment, with the growth in business and profits being more than enough to repay that investment over the next 12 months. I also realised that my personal time was also worth a lot as I loved skiing, cycling and other sports which I had virtually given up to work in the business. I also wanted to enjoy my work again and regain the passion I seemed to have lost for sailing. In the end it was not a difficult decision, if I achieved my goal the coaching would be the best investment ever.”

Once he started on the coaching programme, the greatest initial challenges were where to start and the fact that even more time was needed for the coaching process. Charlie explains, “I was already pushed for time and meeting with kevin every week was a big commitment. There was also the work that I had to do in between sessions, but what I quickly came to understand that there is a clear difference between working IN and ON the business and I was actually able to be more effective working IN the business so giving me more and more time to work ON the business.”

Goal setting was another priority for the business. Charlie admitted hadn’t really done it before, and in fact at that time, didn’t really know where he wanted the business to go. The coaching started with an “Alignment” process where Charlie’s personal and business goals were discussed. “We talked about what the business would look like when it was finished, how big I wanted to make it and more importantly what I wanted personally from it.” In fact it was not long after going through this process that Charlie made a huge commitment by proposing to his partner.”

Once we had a goal to aim for the plan of action to get there started to come together. “I knew that I was not happy working from home, there was no separation from work and home and I was spending time working when really I did not have to. I also knew that to have a business that worked without me I needed a good team to run the business. I had some part time help but this was not enough and the wrong person for the job.”

The first step was to move out of the house and as soon as Charlie started focusing on what he wanted things started to happen. He found a nice office in a local marina and then realised this was the perfect time to buy their own house and low and behold their ideal house came up also. ”During this time Kevin kept me focused on the goals I set myself each week, so that I could give enough attention to all of the areas in the business and personal life.

Kevin then taught Charlie the Action 4 hour recruitment process, which uses specific marketing, psychometrics and group interview skills to almost guarantee you get the right person. “I must admit I was at first very sceptical about doing group interviews, however it was such and easy and enjoyable process that I would now not use anything else.” The lady that Charlie selected through this process has been the cornerstone to the changes in the business. “Anne was a completely different character to me and at first I did not think that we would get on. Kevin showed me though that great teams need different types of people and her strengths would complement mine, we now make a great team and I can safely leave the business to run in her hands.”

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With the right person now in the business, Charlie had more time to work ON it, and the first thing to work on was getting more business in the door to pay for the increase in overhead. Over the years FCS has built up a huge number of loyal clients but Charlie only had them in a spreadsheet and never thought to contact them again. Working with Kevin they devised a constant contact programme to get these clients to come back for different training courses and to get them to refer their family and friends. “We also worked on package deals where i could give them extra value rather than a discount”. By measuring the results it was seen that the average transaction value and number of transactions went from XXX to XXXX and XXX to XXXX

With this in place Charlie then looked at lead generation and conversion rate. FCS is mainly an internet business so the website was going to be key. “Kevin showed me what makes good advertising copy and the how psychology can help with sales, selling on emotion rather than logic. Unfortunately the website took slightly longer than we had planned, but the end result was superb and has been a real boost to the business.” While the website was being developed Charlie worked on the sales process and scripts that would increase their conversion rate of the leads they were getting and then trained Anne to use these. “We even had a go at telemarketing, although this proved not to be cost effective. Not everything you try works, but because we test and measure we know what does and do more of it.” Over the last 3 years sales have increased from XXX to XXX.

It wasn’t all hard work though and Charlie admits that the coaching was “enjoyable learning, putting systems and processes into place and seeing the positive impact on the business each month was a great motivation. “It felt like I was on a journey and I was enjoying the ride with somebody at my side.”

Charlie worked with Kevin for nearly two years to get his business so it was a profitable commercial enterprise that worked without him. “As a reward Kevin bought me a 3 day course on property investing, which he had been on and enjoyed. This really made me realise that having a business that works without you is fundamental, because now I only work 1 day a week IN the business I have the rest of the week to invest in property and work on the other business ideas that I have.”

After a break in the coaching process, Charlie is now planning to start working with Kevin again and continue his business education. He sees the new opportunity to practise and become more disciplined, especially with business planning. The coaching and learning is still relevant to First Class Sailing and of course is transferrable across other industries.

As Charlie says, “It is much better to keep stuff in the forefront of the mind rather than forget about it. Anyone considering business coaching should do it straight away” says Charlie, “what you will work on will depend of course where your business is at, but yes, do it, the long term benefits are massive.”

Comments (1)

  • I remember meeting Charlie when I was working with Kevin in a previous business. This blog has made fantastic reading and demonstrated that investing in yourself as a business owner is an essential business cost! Inspiring and well done Charlie … and Kevin + Actioncoach team!

    -Chris Levoi

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