The John Broons Approach

A good friend of mine once said that I’m the only one who does what I do.

I’ve had business running through my veins from the time I was a 17. I left school to work in the family timber business in Victoria and learned about business financials, marketing and looking after  customers. More importantly I learned about the politics of running a business, particularly those unique to family businesses.

I worked in my family business for 20 years. In the early 1990s I began the process of “buying” the business from the rest of the family. This experience heightened my awareness of one of the big issues that can arise with a family businesses – that of concrete direction as to how the business should be run and how important a hand-over strategy is for the future.

Over the past 15 years I’ve built on that invaluable grounding by working with hundreds of business owners, either directly as a consultant or in my roles as TEC Chair or Family Business Australia Forum facilitator.

In that time I’ve played the role of confidante, counsellor, coach and facilitator – depending on what was required at the time.

And though my roles often require me to be “direct” with my clients, I’m happy to say that I hold on-going professional relationships with all of them still today. Those relationships are not the result of circumstance. They’re the product of the pleasure I get from my work and the value I place on maintaining relationships.

Clients tell me they appreciate my candour, confidentiality and ability to ask the right questions. They also talk about my willingness to be a sounding board, an independent person they can confide in, air their thoughts with and relate back to past conversations and understandings about goals and values.

When you hire me to work for you, you’re getting much more than a coach or consultant or a facilitator. What you’re getting is a trained professional who can take in the available information and use the power of simple questions help you to identify the best way forward. Confidentially, of course.

It is this capacity to join the dots and to help you to arrive at the right way forward that I think my friend was talking about when he said there is “only one” of me.

I am a generalist consultant. When required I consult on issues concerning family businesses, strategic planning and leadership. More often than not however, my consulting work is less specific – a hybrid of sorts between consulting, coaching and mentoring.

A Case Study in My Consulting Service

To give you a taste of the sort of consulting work I do, I recently helped the newly appointed general manager of a successful IT firm resolve an issue surrounding the respective roles of the two owners of the business (who had appointed him).

According to the general manager, the problem was the result of one owner’s workload falling on to the shoulders of the other owner, largely because his passion for research often saw him neglect other duties.

Having listened to the concerns of the general manager, I decided to conduct a values session with the two owners.

I met with them individually and gave them a list of 374 words to work through and identify their top 10 personal values and top 10 business values.

The three of us then came together to write up their respective Top 10 business values, an exercise that proved incredibly valuable when they realised only two business values matched. From there, I explained that while it is possible for partners to have different personal values, it’s absolutely critical that they find agreement on business values because they are the glue that holds the business together.

Out of that discussion, we worked toward documenting their mutually agreed Top 10 business values.

What came out of that process was clarity for the two owners of the business; and a much easier job for the general manager who had appointed me. What came out of it for me was confirmation that even though I often get called in as a consultant, I’m always willing to tap into my other skill sets – in this case, that of trainer and facilitator – in order to resolve issues.

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