Small business: Business coaching - Heidi Johnston

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Heidi Johnston, owner Windowmakers, an award winning manufacturer of window and doors systems. Johnston and her husband Bruce, bought the company in 2002

Heidi Johnston, owner Windowmakers. Photo / NZH
Heidi Johnston, owner Windowmakers. Photo / NZH

At what stage did you bring in a business coach to your business?

I wanted to find a way forward for the business. I was looking for different concepts, for innovation and big picture thinking. And when a looked around my industry and fellow fabricators, I didn't see any of that kind of thinking or inspiration so I knew I had to go outside to get the answers for taking my business to the next level. I went to Mike Ashby at the Breakthrough Company in 2009.

What were you looking for from the coaching relationship? What exactly did they address?

Accountability. Not only did Mike and the team at Breakthrough teach me new concepts, they also helped me to set big goals and a forward strategy, then held me accountable for achieving them. I was also introduced to a kick-ass business network from all sorts of industries which has given me access to some valuable relationships and resources.

What has getting advice done for your business?

It has improved my leadership skills, developed a clear direction and forward plan for the business and a strategy for execution. It has helped us survive and prosper in some pretty tough years and changed our mindset about what is really important, the key things to focus on and future potential of the business.

Are you using a number of different coaches?

As well as Breakthrough, I was encouraged by Mike Ashby to do the Icehouse Owner Manager Programme for personal business development. I also have a very good relationship with our accountant, Mike Atkinson of Bellingham Wallace. We operate an advisory board with him, talk monthly and meet quarterly so he is a mentor in a financial sense.

Have you done any business mentoring yourself?

Yes - I have started doing more in the past few years and would like to continue with this in the future.

How would you suggest SME owners find the best business coach for them?

It's about relationship - you have to like your mentor, respect and trust in them. Interview them first and see if you have rapport. This is so important for all key stakeholders in your business. I applied the same philosophy to our accountants and lawyers too - you have to work as a team.

Where can business coaching go wrong?

Your mindset can limit your success - you have to be open to learning and open to addressing shortcomings in your business and yourself. There is a saying: "When things are going well, look out the window. When they are not, look in the mirror."

Any tips for other SMEs on getting the most out of their business coach?

You have to get outside your business - your industry - your self - and understand where you are at in your business and what you need to move forward. Then work with an expert to find the solutions. The irony is, once you start and knock off your goals, you will be inspired to set bigger and better ones so it never ends.

Next week: Hiring a new staff member is a big step for a small business. They need to be reassured that the company can afford it and that the position is absolutely necessary for its growth. Tell us what a new person has done for your business and any tips you might have on your workforce planning.

- NZ Herald

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