Michael Craig, Checkmate Business Solutions

We provide a range of services such as business consulting, business boot camps and group training to small and medium size entities.

27 February 2016

We ask the tough questions of  Michael Craig, Checkmate Business Solutions

You’ve got a free half hour during your work day. What do you do?

I love coffee and I love people. So naturally, I take myself to a local café, watch the people, take in the atmosphere, read, learn and relax. I always encourage clients to sneak away for some mental rest and recharge.

Who or what is your biggest inspiration?

My dad. Growing up he was always there to support and guide me – but mostly, he challenged me. I remember a strong conversation he had with me one day about working harder than what feels comfortable. I carry those beliefs into my sessions with clients – to challenge them to achieve their vision.

When did you know you wanted to start your own business?

Usually, I can never pinpoint a moment in time when something specific occurred. But the day I chose to start Checkmate I will always remember. Growing up I knew these two wonderful ladies who in their older years decided to buy a franchise for a small wares company. I still remember their enthusiasm when they opened the business, it meant the world to them. Merely a year in these best friends had completely lost their way – they were in financial distress and personal heartache. Despite their best efforts, they weren’t able to turn the business around. They had financially overcommitted and looked to the franchisor for the answers to save their business, their friendship and ultimately their happiness. Those answers never came. They walked away, lost their house and nest-egg, the friendship had broken down and they felt heavy personal shame. My heart broke. That’s when the concept began. I knew I could help smaller operators with the advice and support developed by the bigger players. I knew we could make a difference to the lives of people in the area I knew most about; business.

What’s the smartest bit of marketing you’ve ever done?

Choosing to work with a small business consultant can be a big step for many operators. So I took the stress out of the whole process by running a number of ‘Discovery Sessions’ whereby I’d invite hundreds of local business by territory cluster and provide free advice on particular topics. Usually each session would have 10-15 business owners turn up. This gave me a chance to connect with the business owners in a less confrontational manner and provide some insight into the types of benefits you can get from working with a consultant. This led to many leads and also referrals to business owners who didn’t attend the sessions.

What’s the one resource you’d never be without?

For the last three years I’ve been developing a consultant toolkit, which is essentially the compilation of hundreds (maybe thousands) of resources into different categories. It’s perfect when you have a client who wants some advice in a particular area – I simply refer to the toolkit for ideas and inspiration. I’d spend at least half a day every month updating it with new ideas and case studies from personal experience and industry stories.

What’s the biggest challenge you face at work?

One of my 2016 projects is to scale the business to provide services to more and more operators. As it stands, our team of three can only assist so many people, especially given our focus on shoulder to shoulder support, meaning we can only work with a certain number of clients at any given time. As our business grows, we will focus on growing our talent internally to take on more and more clients, increase availability and our areas of expertise.

What’s the best piece of business advice you’ve ever been given?

My first ever employer was a real people person. She had a background in HR and although tough, was fair and very inspiring. She once told me that when managing people, “the more you pat them on the back, the less it hurts when you slap them in the face”. I never did slap anyone, but the concept made absolute sense to me and as a consequence, my people management skills were always highly regarded.

What would be your advice to aspiring soloists?

Running any business is hard. Really hard. And the small business owner doesn’t have the luxury of a comfy chair and a corporate army. They are the general, sergeant and the foot soldier. And sometime they get so absorbed in the battle they forget to work on the strategy. Take your time to work on the business rather than spending all your time working in the business.

What’s one thing about you few people know?

In my spare time (what’s that?!) I am an AFL Goal Umpire. I started my umpiring journey in 1998 and worked through the ranks from local football to my current standing in the AFL since 2013. It’s very rewarding to be involved in Australia’s greatest game and it’s complimented my business skills in many ways. The ability to manage difficult situations, time management and public speaking are all skills enhanced by my involved with the umpiring community.

What inspires you most about your work?

There’s no substitute for the joy brought about by a smiling business owner. Whether they achieve their results through a strategy contributed by Checkmate or flying solo, it’s rewarding to know those who have taken a chance to start their own business have enjoyed the rewards of personal, professional or financial success.

What do you love most about running your own business?

When working for a big corporate, sometimes the little guy gets forgotten about. The reason I love working for myself is we get to set the vision, our mission and who we fight for. The flexibility of choice and being proud of all business decisions is rewarding enough!

And now comes the plug for  Michael Craig, Checkmate Business Solutions!

What do you do? Who for? And how does it benefit them?

We provide a range of services such as business consulting, business boot camps and group training to small and medium size entities. Our ‘in the trenches’ philosophy means we work a little closer with business owners during the implementation phase of their action plan.

And where can we find out more about Michael Craig, Checkmate Business Solutions?

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