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The Small Business Turnaround Guide by Sandy Steinman – 5 Stars

The full title of this book by Sandy Steinman is

The Small Business Turnaround Guide: Take Your Business from Troubled to Triumphant

In my review of posted on Amazon.co.uk, I gave it Five Stars. This means it is Very Highly Recommended.

Here is my review.

A very good book for helping under performing businesses

I feel this book gets off to a bad start by trying to be funny about a bad situation. It doesn’t create the right impression. It immediately corrects itself by saying there is nothing funny about a failing business.

Many turnaround books are written about big businesses but this one is aimed at owner managed businesses. It starts by giving you a pep talk. It’s going to be tough to turnaround your business but you can do it.

The first issue covered is improving your cash flow to create time to fix other areas of the business. Cutting staff is covered but it doesn’t mention the cash problem caused by having to pay and fund redundancy and notice periods.

There is a long list of questions during the fact finding stage. These are aimed at a manufacturing company and different questions will be needed to investigate the operations of a service department.

My list of questions takes more of a strategic view of the market opportunity so I suggest you use the questions in the book as suggestions and develop your own. Just like a doctor tailors the medical tests he orders to investigate and confirm his initial diagnosis, you need to identify the problem areas and dig deeper.

You will rarely have time to know everything you’d like to know so you have to prioritise to avoid getting distracted on non-critical activities.

In the section about reviewing the information from the fact finding mission, I have two niggles. First there is an explanation by question number but you either go back to find the question, which isn’t easy with the kindle version or you just read what’s there. I’d have liked a brief question summary. Secondly, we have the situation where extra information is available if you email the author and ask. My experience is that these offers of extra information often disappear by the time I read the book and I haven’t tested the email address. The website exists but it’s just a header with a telephone number and email address.

The book goes on to talk about comparing your business against your competitors. Benchmarking is a great idea in theory but it often fails to deliver in practice. Businesses often don’t know enough about their own performance so how can they get meaningful data about competitors? Over the last 30 years or so in the UK, we have seen a relaxation in the compulsory information presented to Companies House on the basis it was a cost burden. Other types of benchmarking schemes have failed to achieve critical mass.

The book draws on several other books I have in my library, not all of which I’ve reviewed yet:

The Four Disciplines of Execution by Sean Covey et Al (reviewed 4 stars – a great system but the book is too repetitive)
Leading At A Higher Level by Ken Blanchard
7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Steven Covey
The One Minute Manager by Ken Blanchard and Spencer Johnson (reviewed 5 stars)
You Can’t Teach A Kid To Ride A Bike At A Seminar by David Sandler (reviewed 5 stars)

I am finding much of the book interesting and well put together. One exception is the chapter on planning which was superficial once you got past the vision and then started talking about the plan as a budget, setting expectations for each month. This is important and especially for seasonal businesses who don’t have an average month that’s representative of every month. However an opportunity was missed to dig deeper.

There is a lot to like about this book and it’s focus on operational turnaround. Missing the strategy side is a weakness but you can solve it with another book.

I don’t feel it’s right for the business nearing a survival crisis. It’s more for early stage turnarounds where businesses are struggling but not in imminent danger of collapse. This is what I call “being stuck”, the business isn’t growing as you want and you need to change what you’re doing.

I like this book a lot and would give it 4.5 star if I was allowed. Do I go down to four or up to five? On another day, I may decide to go the other way but today I’m feeling positive.




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