Patrick Williams, Owner - Cornstalk Software
The seeds of TKO were planted firmly back in 1991 - this is my own personal experience with systems.
Back in 1991, Australia like many countries after the excesses of the 1980's was in a serious downturn, a time now considered the worst since the great depression, interest rates were 18% and the country was seemingly grinding to a halt.
My business partner and I owned a real estate agency and not long before the start of this downturn we had committed ourselves heavily to buying new premises and moving our 10 staff and business to these new premises.
Not long after our move, the downturn really hit us hard, it seemed as if everyone had decided to stop buying or even enquiring about real estate - all at the same time.
It was like someone had turned off a tap of some sort. It was that quick!
We thought it might have been just us, but other agents were all experiencing the same thing and regional sales figures confirmed it. Months went buy and it was becoming obvious the whole country was in trouble.
Businesses were going broke left, right and centre.
It was a massive struggle, and like a lot of small businesses we had everything on the line the house, the dog , the cat (poor cat) or whatever the "nice banks" would take as collateral so we had no option other than to fight like hell to keep our business going.
At the time, the franchise we were part of held a week long management seminar in Melbourne and being desperate for answers, we attended.
I can't remember the name of the seminar but I can remember two things that stood out to me during that week and they became etched in my mind to this day
- The first one was, learn how to swallow the toad (e.g. get hard and uncomfortable decisions out of the way ASAP) and
- Systemise your business to improve outcomes and eliminate waste and inefficiencies
These 2 ideas were about to change our business entirely.
Immediately on coming back we looked at all those hard "TOAD swallowing" type decisions that we needed to make.
- We first of all looked at our expenses and quickly found a lot of waste and inefficiencies. It was surprising how much we wasted on non core expenses.
- Next, we made checklists and procedures of what we want done each and every time we list,sell or lease out a property. We wanted no stone unturned in an effort to secure more business and streamline our processes.
- We then inducted all staff into our new systems, those who couldn't support our new systems we planned to let go. As it turned out no one was let go, in fact it was amazing how this structure and focus brought us all together.
We had a system for everything because our survival depended on it. Months went by (it seemed like an eternity) it was hard work but we were very focused. Finally there was a light at the end of the tunnel and we started doing numbers that we had never experienced before (amazing numbers!!).
Being a little skeptical we thought it couldn't be just us and instead just a temporary aberration or even an unlikely upturn in the market so we looked carefully at the combined agents sales figures in our area to get the facts.
Woo Hoo! we thought, it was clear we were doing something right, our share of the market had more than doubled. This remained consistent from then on until the time I sold my half of the business.
The lessons I learnt from this period were:
- Documented and clearly understood systems are more valuable than clever marketing, clever people or glib ideas.
- Don't put off difficult decisions (consider things carefully but then execute with decisiveness)
- Do the fundamentals well and do them consistently, there is no replacement for well directed and consistently applied work.
- Employees love a structured environment of decisive leadership and clear systems
P.S. The above experience were the seeds that eventually led to the development TKO Business Modeller.
TKO would have come in handy back then!
Hope you get something from this
CEO Cornstalk Software