Last Updated on April 13, 2024 by Lorna Barrow


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What are the business turnaround secrets of a small business turnaround plan?


Nooo…that not a trick question. And I bet you think they’re similar to big businesses with deep pockets like LEGO who “engineered a fantastic turnaround of its business.”  And I can’t say I blame you…


But when I think of a “business turnaround plan” I think of all those small business owners, just like you, who need one, and fast. Chances are, first of all, you need to rein in you continuing losses. Then you need to set your businesses on the path to success you set it up for in the first place.


So what’s stopping you?


Well, you like to think that you do not have the deep pockets of a big wall street firm.


But that’s only half the truth.


The other half is that your personality, your approach to doing business and your less-than-helpful attitudes, get in the way of you getting the help you need.


I know, I’ve been there with you…


And because I’ve been there, I learnt what I call “3 Key Secrets of Small Business Turnaround Planning.”


Now, because I ain’t going back “there”, here’re 4 reasons I’m sharing them with you:  

  1.  I want you to understand how you might be getting in your own way; 

2.  So that you can share them with your next Turnaround Consultant; 

3. So that the process will be smoother and even faster;

4. And the chances for success will be greatly increased.


But first, I will share 2 recent “turnaround” experiences I had working with 2 different small businesses. This is to help you really understand why the “secrets” matter and how they can be applied to your circumstances.


So if you’re ready…


Small Business Turnaround Experience # 1

I was invited by another consultant to be part of a team to help turnaround a small business.


Of course I agreed and packed my bag and jumped on a plane and landed in another Caribbean Island. After all this is what I do.


As I listened to family members across generations share the story of how that business was built – from nothing to a multi-million dollar business – the passion, the pain and the emotion tugged at my “small business”  heart.


The results? I found myself desperately searching for business solutions to save a business that I knew I should have advised: Close this! And now!


Small Business Turnaround Experience # 2

A small business owner, colleague and friend of mine asked me to look at his business for him because he was in “a bit of trouble”.


So I threw on my turnaround consulting hat (you know the one…the one that’s  purple and shaped like a crown) and rushed off to his business.


Pretty soon, I was able to spot a number of things in several areas that were wrong in the business. Naturally, I recommended a number of small business turnaround strategies and offered my services for the business turnaround management. And of course he agreed.


Naturally, I quickly submitted my proposal. Then he did nothing. Except paid me.


I don’t know about you but for me, being paid for solutions which are then ignored is not something my ego or my business standards can take.


So my next trip was back to the drawing board in my “intelligence room”.  Sure enough, wisdom came…And I discovered what I am now calling the 3 business turnaround secrets.  


Here they are…with suggestions to address them.


Secret # 1 – Always Remember Who Owns A Small Business 

Here’s the reality. Big and small businesses might find themselves equally in need of a business turnaround for similar reasons, although on different scales.


But if you attempt to apply the same industry solutions to both of them, the results might be very different.




The answer is in the first of the business turnaround secrets. A small business is often owned and led by the same passionate person(s). This is unlike a big business whose management is often different from the owners.


This means that a small business owner will often have personal preferences and a vision which might not welcome the turnaround strategies a consultant is proposing.


In addition, they might have a difficult personality and an ego to match. Add to this, the possibility that they might have to close the business, a reality for them that is much like having to admit that a marriage is over.


So at some point the “human” in them takes control of everything. They become ever more afraid. They procrastinate and show no interest in meeting deadlines and now is NOT the time to mention anything like rewarding staff!


And if they get really emotional, they will attack and question the experience, the knowledge and even the date of birth of the consultant.


What advice would I give your consultant in these circumstances?


First of all, make sure that your solutions are designed to match the personality of the owners. I know this sounds a bit ridiculous but it matters. This can even count as a business turnaround secret in itself.


Forget about operations and strategy or any other technical solutions for the time being.


Turn to your interpersonal skills, HR experience if you have any and remain strong and assertive every step of the way. Also, be sure to communicate as effectively as you can.


You also need to accept that your client might want to terminate the contract. If they do, try to make the process as pleasant as possible for them.


So when you start to help a small business owner to turn around their business, remember that you are dealing with a “human” and not a corporation.


Secret # 2 – How and when you present your solutions really matters 

In experience #2 above, because my friend approached me, I thought he was ready for a solution.


So I really believed that all I had to do was to come up with the appropriate “small business turnaround” strategies. Then I would apply them across the business and we were good to go. 


What an idiot I WAS  (and it rinses out my belly to admit that)!


The man was 70+ years and business management was not his technical competence. Moreover, he intended to leave this business as a legacy of his life.


So as I mentioned previously, he paid me and thanked me. And did nothing else. Huh?!


In experience #1 above, my approach was similar because they were in deep all-round trouble and wanted help fast.


Unfortunately, the “pill” was just too bitter for the family to take, even though we coated it in lots of sugar.


This brings me to the second of the business turnaround secrets. However urgent and dire the business’ circumstances are, you have to choose the right time to share your solutions and deliver them in a manner that the owner can accept. 


What advice would I give your consultant in these circumstances?


Once you get your solutions right, you next have to get your timing right.


Sell each idea or strategy to the owners – one by one. You have to make sure that they understand and agree to each specific strategy, before you introduce another one. 


You also have to show them the benefits of implementing the plan and the consequences of not implementing the plan.


When I went back and took this approach with my overseas client, in the first 3 months from our start date, we were able to achieve the following:


  1.  Plugged  leaks that stop the flow of approximately US$ 53,000 out of the business.

2.  Streamlined a number of processes and implemented several systems to streamline operations.

3.  Improved Staff morale considerably

4.  Increased productivity by about 30%

5.  Improved customer relations significantly 


Secret # 3 – Patience, Patience And Then Some…

Just because a business is hemorrhaging does not mean that the owner is ready for a transfusion. 


Yes, the owner wants to experience improved profitability. But they feel like you are asking them to give up part of their dream. Your solutions might also force them to confront the reality that they are just “playing at business.” Or worse still, they believe you will change the very soul of the business.


And they are not ready for any of this.


This brings me to the third of the 3 small business turnaround secrets: Patience is the key to the successful implementation of whatever plan you come up with.


What advice would I give your consultant in these circumstances?


In cases like these, it is smart to be very patient in all you do.


Therefore, you might need to step back and identify, isolate and address your client’s emotional issues first before you share your solutions.


This is not to suggest you must be a therapist or something. But while they are in this emotional state, this is not the time to share anything practical, logical or technical.


Then you just have to be patient and show empathy…A small business turnaround plan cannot always be rushed, however urgent the situation.


When I took this approach with my friend, combine with secrets #1 and 3, here is what he actually wrote to tell me:

This is fantastic! Truthfully…I did NOT think you could do it. I was anxious about hiring you and I was prepared to close the business but now I can really go out and do the things I want to do and enjoy life. Thank you, Lorna Barrow!!


Because I think that patience is so important, I want to share an article on building patience with you. This article  gives you some practical, easy  ways you can start working on you patience right away.  You have to check it out!

Now you know 3 key business turnaround secrets…

Remember, we live in such challenging and unpredictable business times, that rapidly changing the direction of your  business is often the only answer to its survival.


As such, it is so easy for your consultant to overlook the 3 key business turnaround secrets – as I did, at first. 


But because your business means so much to you, you won’t let that happen to you would you?


So here’s what I want you to do…


Read this post again, so that you get a sound understanding of how you might get in your own way and that of your turnaround manager or consultant.


Then whoever you hire (unless it’s me) your own reluctance  to take the first step which is to accept the need for help in saving your business 


Then, if you want to experience a version of the small business turnaround which worked for my friend in your business, then contact me and find out how I can turnaround your darling business.


To your small business turnaround success…

The 3 Business Turnaround Secrets Your Consultant Needs to Know

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Lorna Barrow

Lorna Barrow is a Business Breakthrough Specialist, an unfiltered Transformational Speaker, a Writer, a Coach and a self-confessed Small Business Junkie. She recognises that small businesses are unique and when it comes to helping you and your business make that BIG breakthrough, she's all in for you!