This second-generation manufacturing business was started by two siblings whose children also work in the business. The two owners are nearing retirement age and are at a loss about how to retire.
Currently, both put in between 50 and 60 hours per week in the day-to-day operations within the company. One of the “children” works in operations and the other handles back-end functions that includes many of the financial reports. Both “children” are single and have never worked for an organization other than the family business.
Overall, the majority of the 30 employees are in their fifties and sixties. There are several gaps in the organization that the current owners try to fill on a part time basis. Neither owner believes in the budgeting process.
Orders are accepted to keep cash flowing into the business. The owners have a robust emergency savings account and line of credit. They do not have a strong sense of fixed or variable costs. While there is not a great deal of turnover, there is a very real challenge in hiring new people to support growth.
Decisions are made in isolation. Each owner has a silo of authority with crossovers resulting in disagreements that get loud and have a negative impact on the employees. The second-generation “children” try to avoid the conflicts, accepting more responsibility, and engage in behaviors that the owners dislike.
Today, the company is using tools for conflict resolution, structural development tools for budgeting & financial analysis, operations analysis, tactics for creating psychological safety, talent optimization, and leadership development. While there are very real challenges ahead, this family has taken steps to course correct to increase profitability and to add value to the business.
“We appreciate all you have and been doing for us … your time was so well appreciated. You have no idea how much light you’ve shed.”
Third generation family business run by three siblings. Their father retired some years ago but continues to influence the business in many ways. For years, he visits the office often. He felt free to criticize, make fun of and stand in the way of changes made by his children.
The three “children” were feeling trapped, burned out, and extremely stressed. Two refused coaching, but the third has utilized Ascend’s services to the fullest.
Two of the three children served in seats that did not play to their strengths. The father misassigned the CEO role. That had a huge impact on the power structure and decision making within the leadership team.
For years the company was led by a someone who didn’t want the responsibility of leadership. His siblings covered for him, acting as pseudo-CEOs. The two of them were seldom on the same page. There was confusion, a lack of accountability, as well as loss of revenue.
Today the company is led by two of three children, and the third has retired. The father’s health declined, and he recently passed away. His passing is mourned by his children and the community.
The company has reallocated technical and people resources to tighten systems and processes. There is accountability within the sales team. Despite the challenges of COVID, the company turned a profit last year. The two children who remain at the company are beginning to work together to lead the company into a new chapter.
This company utilized Ascend’s approach of leadership development and structural development to become a less stressful and more profitable place to work.
“Wendy Dickinson is uniquely skilled as a coach in both the psychological aspects of leadership/business management and in the very granular details of business operations. Rare to find those skills in any two consultants much less one person who can apply her skills brilliantly in both areas.”
In January 2020 – the beginning:
- Created Specific Goals
- Conducted a SWOT analysis.
- Identified vulnerabilities in the business.
- Noted measurable benchmarks for success.
- Listed Attainable strategies & tactics to build value.
- Defined Relevant Mileposts for Success.
- Timeline: 5 years
- 99% of sales occurring face-to-face in the store.
- Geographic range approximately 60 miles.
- Less than 1% of sales are generated via phone or internet.
- Inventory averages 71% of expenses.
- Owner coordinated all events, classes, and social media posts.
Action Steps Taken from March through June 2020:
- Created online store.
- New Point of Sale system was purchased and integrated.
- The entire community of customers (mostly women, ages 40+) had the opportunity to learn the technology to attend virtual meetings as a cohort.
- Decision making was decentralized, and the team stepped up to take an active role in all aspects of the business.
Results Reported March 2021:
- 30% of all revenue is from online sales.
- Inventory investment reduced to 27%.
- Store now ships inventory from coast to coast – all over North America
- The owner is considering how best to leverage the opportunities that grew from COVID-19 and that task list.
“What I love about working with Wendy is the fact that I don’t feel the pressure to get it right or have all the answers as we bounce ideas off each other. We work together to come up with strategies of implementation. She is attentive and follows up with frequent check-ins to see how I am doing. I appreciate her calm voice of reason and affirmation for what I’m doing well, especially in these stressful and uncertain times. I trust her, and her advice has been spot on. She is prepared for every session and follows up with summaries after our meetings. Even in these times when money is very tight, I do not even consider cutting the cost of her coaching. I feel she is the one consistent, steady voice in my ear as we navigate through the present. My business and the community I am fighting so hard to preserve will come out on the other side of this pandemic healthier and stronger as a result of our collaborations.”
Wendy and I began collaborating in early 2020. I was put in touch with her through a mutual acquaintance who had worked with both of us on branding. At the time, we were planning an exit strategy for me, so that I would be prepared when I made the decision to walk away from ownership…way down the road. What I immediately liked about Wendy was that she valued my time, and we spent our meetings brainstorming and working on ideas together. This was a much different approach from my other previous coaching experience. With that coach, I felt that the work was left solely to me as “homework” without much guidance and then evaluated. Talk about feeling so inadequate!
Wendy and I were making strides with the exit plan, and then COVID hit. It soon became a survival game, and Wendy helped guide me through pivoting my business model to stay profitable, but she also gave me the tools to position the business to come out the other side of the pandemic in a growth mode. Our expansion into other areas of the fiber arts (spinning and weaving) happened under Wendy’s encouragement and guidance. I say encouragement, because I didn’t recognize that I was ready to move to the next step. She did. With her help, I organized an advisory board who oversaw the growth phase and ultimate expansion of our physical space. That move came in the summer of 2022. Because of her associations within her network, she was able to put me in touch with an amazing contractor, Norman Company, who worked within my budget and timeline. I have also benefited from her associations before during our growth phase with an SEO optimization referral, and a cost reduction specialist. Putting me in touch with the right people has saved me so much time. I haven’t had to do the vetting and cold calls, and all of the referrals have all been wonderful people to work with.
In addition to the new retail space which doubled in size, she also helped me structure the new business (new branding, organizational charts, putting a manager in place, and goal setting to ensure further growth.) We now operate on the twelve-week-year model which allows us to set reasonable and attainable goals. I go over these goals regularly with Wendy and report back to her on the status. This keeps me accountable and allows me to go back to the drawing board if something needs to be tweaked.
Never in a million years would I have been able to do this without her expert guidance. I had no prior knowledge on how to expand a business, and Wendy knew that. She hung with me through all of it. I know there is so much more ahead that I have to navigate and learn, but my knowledge and confidence has grown with Wendy. Her leadership is, and will continue to be, one of the biggest assets to my business.
I started working with Wendy Dickinson in March 2021 while I was completing the Scaling4Growth program for small business owners in Virginia. Wendy helped me navigate the many layers of creating a strategic growth plan by keeping me on task through careful listening and thoughtful recommendations. Her detailed session summaries including action items, discussion reminders and after-reports gave me a roadmap to my own thoughts and decisions of how I wanted to proceed. This allowed me to take a monumental task and break it down into manageable components.
It is 18 months later, and I surprised myself while reviewing the Growth Plan, I was able to check many items off the list as completed. This has given me the confidence in myself as a business owner to embrace the success and stretch for even more moving forward. Her recommendations for recruiting and training consultants that have helped me create a sales department have been a game changer that is truly priceless. To be able to access the level of expertise through her network of professionals has made all the difference between just getting by and truly exceeding all expectations in my industry during a very difficult and challenging time.
Wendy and ascend coaching are the allies you need in your foxhole to survive the warlike business environment of the 2020’s.
Our team leaders are more focused and are more communicative with their teams and among other team leaders as a result of Wendy’s guidance and support.
Wendy has also kept me focused on my main objectives as we work toward our corporate goals. She has helped us look forward and prepare for the near term as well as remain focused on immediate needs.
Having a positive mental outlook is so important to being an effective leader. I always feel better about myself and my business after each conversation with Wendy. It is human nature to focus on problems/negative outcomes, yet there is almost always more good than bad happening in our business each day.
I thoroughly enjoyed Tuesday's Chamber Zoom Meeting. As a small business owner celebrating ten years in business, the timing of the meeting was perfect! Luckily, I was able to take advantage of all the financial resources provided by Federal and local financial institutions which saved my business and prevented staff lay-offs, but I was thinking "how do I plan for the next major crisis?”
The educational tips Wendy provided were exactly what I needed to create a simple but smart action plan. I have already opened a separate savings account with the goal of setting aside enough funds to cover at least 5 months of expenses and am working my local bank to open a line of credit.
These are very easy steps to follow and something all businesses can do immediately. Thank you Wendy!
Based on my recent experience in working with Wendy Dickinson of Ascend Coaching Solutions, LLC, I can say unequivocally that she provides tremendous value to my personal and professional performance.
Wendy’s unique mix of skills, including her knowledge of psychology, particularly as it applies in a workplace setting, positions her to provide anyone with valuable insight into how to interact with fellow team members in the most productive way possible. Her coaching in this regard will improve communication within any organization, facilitate goal setting and reduce conflict.
Without reservation I would recommend hiring Wendy and Ascend Coaching to anyone wishing to improve all functions of their organization and/or to improve their own personal productivity and work life enjoyment.
“YES! YES! YES!!! You have reignited a fire under me that I haven’t had since I was getting this up and running! You have no idea what you’ve done. lol
Thank you for the article too...not taking selling off the table down the road, but here’s the shocker...you’ve made me think outside of the box that I had built myself into...so I want to try something different, but have NO idea how to proceed. That means I am exceptionally grateful to have you in my life for more reasons than I can count!