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Engine Room: Getting The Books And The Business In Order

Posted by The Icehouse on 17/05/2013 11:30:48 AM

Name: Margaret Holmes
Business: The Engine Room
Industry: Business Services
Location: Auckland
Icehouse Programme: Owner Operator Programme, 2012 - 2013

engine room

In 2008 the recession had stopped the growth of The Engine Room. Until then, Margaret Holmes’ accounting firm had been growing 20% year on year without any significant marketing or push. However, turbulent times in the economy meant Margaret’s current client base and prospective customers started to struggle.

“The recession came, and not only did we as a business stop growing, our new clients were being offset by those whose businesses were struggling, going broke and closing down.”

“We worked hard to stay at the same level to manage this stagnation without reducing our staff, but knew we had to get growing again if we were going to be successful,” she says.

Margaret had tried a business coaching programme targeted at accountants which proved to be the wrong fit for her and the company. “We were unhappy with what we were doing. We were putting a big amount of money into a coaching programme which wasn’t right for us – we weren’t getting any benefit from it,” she says.

Margaret says she knew her goals and she knew what she wanted to achieve, but struggled with the execution. “Especially as we were operating on the smell of an oily rag during the recession,” she says.

Margaret decided to start The Icehouse Owner Operator Programme in 2012. Margaret says the structure of the programme centres around implementation and accountability. It has taken her 12 months to start to really see results on her bottom line – but during that journey she has gained plenty on a personal and professional level which has benefited the business.

“The biggest part for me is fronting up every two months to workshops and knowing I will be amongst peers, comparing what has been implemented since the last workshop – it really keeps you on track,” she says.

Margaret says the unique structure of the programme has worked well for her and is a lot more manageable for business owners who can’t afford to take big chunks of time away from the business.

“The full day workshop sessions bring back things I may already know, but haven’t thought about. Those days allow for a lot of thought about how to action things. I’ve learnt to take one thing from each workshop day and implement that when I return to the business.”

“The workshop days provide a great opportunity to talk to people who have businesses like ours and are trying to achieve the same thing as us – no matter what their specialisation is. The insight into other industries has been invaluable,” she says.

Margaret has also found value in her fortnightly action group and enjoys the regular contact the programme provides. “It’s all about accountability. You take a chunk of learning, you update your group on your progress and then you know you’ll be back in two weeks time having to front up again.”

Margaret says the content of the programme is relevant and has made her realise what needs to be done in the business, and what needs to be put into a framework. "We gained clarity around how we had progressed up to a point, and have implemented new techniques to improve our structure moving forward.”

“Personally I also found great value in the resilience and stress management training. The content of the programme really allows for a holistic view of your business, whilst remaining practical in all its takeaways,” she says.


Margaret says Dr Mike Ashby (programme facilitator) and her assigned coach Ken Leeming have both played a key role in her enjoyment and success on the programme. “I really like Mike. He’s quite practical and he’s done what he’s trying to get us to do. He always brings in great speakers and he challenges the way we should think about things. Mike makes sure everybody is involved and learning new things. An added bonus is he provides recordings of previous workshop sessions so you can review and pick up new things,” she says.

“My business coach Ken Leeming has been fantastic too. I go to him if there’s something I need help with and he’s always willing to work with me to get a solution.”

The programme has forced Margaret to acknowledge the things she is doing in her role and how the business is operating. She now knows clearly what she has to do if she wants to continue growing. “This has come from being challenged, being accountable and taking time out for myself,” she says. “We have upcoming growth on the horizon and this is a very exciting position to be in. We’ve gone from looking for growth to looking at how we’re going to manage it.”

Margaret says her role has changed and she has moved into a CEO position. She only works on high end client work and focuses on the direction of the company. “We have been a lot more focused on getting the right clients. We are exploring opportunities from different perspectives – I’m free to chase new business,” she says.

Margaret can now take time away from the business, and an internal structure change has meant it runs smoothly. “I can go away, comfortable in the knowledge everything is in place and the business will keep ticking over when I’m not there,” she says.

Margaret regularly recommends the programme to others and says she is thrilled to see the tangible results from the business.

“At the end of this financial year – we will have seen our turnover double.”

The Owner Operator Programme has encouraged me to step back from the day to day activities and formulate a plan for the business. The format of the programme and resources provided ensure I am accountable for the implementation of the plan. We are about 6 months into the programme and are already seeing the results in sales growth, better quality leads and team performance.

The opportunity to discuss issues with your peers is another benefit, and the facilitators are great at challenging your thinking and introducing new ideas. Whether it be a programme day or a fortnightly meeting there is always something to reflect on, or improve.

Visit the Engine Room website.

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