Helping you to Profit More from your business
Institute for Independent Business (IIB) - a Practitioners view
Martin Ramsden FInstIB
Are you wondering what the Institute for Independent Business really is? There does seem to be confusion and a lot of speculation about.
A Fellow of the Institute for Independent Business, our Managing Partner, Martin Ramsden, graduated as an accredited Associate (Executive Associate) in 2002. He talks candidly about the Institute and what it really is all about, both for independent business owners as well as for Associates.
Institute for Independent Business - IIB
Thousands of business people like me have trained, become accredited, and have helped countless business owners. It's what we do - we know how to successfully run businesses through our own experience. With the support of a network of like-minded business professionals from different industries, sectors, & business disciplines, we make a highly effective and fantastic team. The business development teaching made good sense and covered areas I wish I had known about before. And the methodology for supporting clients (the IIB Business Support Program™) means I have been able to offer the best possible support for my clients - way and above what I could have achieved myself.
Due to its success, the Institute has become more under the spotlight, but it is a an enigma and inevitably this is sometimes seen by people as secretive, having something to hide, a scam, or even a rip off. The plain fact is - the Institute for Independent Business is simply misunderstood.
What the IIB is not
Some mistakenly believe the Institute is a consultancy group or organisation, some even think it is a franchise operation. Some people, especially in the USA, are concerned in case it is a scam or a rip off. It isn't and I will try and clear the confusion.
The Institute, and those of us accredited by it, have enhanced and improved the lives of thousands of entrepreneurs and employees of independent businesses around the world. I know this to be true as I am lucky enough to be part of the network of Associates. The Institute facilitates the IIB Alumni so that we may work together. We communicate and collaborate on a daily basis. The work we do is amazing, the business professionals I work with who are also accredited by the IIB never cease to amaze me, with their phenomenal knowledge, skills, experience and capability in any business area imaginable.
The Institute is a training and accreditation organisation, and measures its success by the number of business professionals trained and accredited. It does not market itself well, and in any case its market is not the independent businesses that benefit. This may seem a paradox but the Institute for Independent Business does not provide any consultancy or advisory services to independent business owners.
The reason the Institute seen as ' secretive', and does not describe itself well, is because it trains and supports the advisors, who in turn support their clients. Working with clients and getting results is what we as independent practitioners do. The success stories have not in the past been communicated by the Institute, as they have nothing to do with our businesses. Indeed we usually sign non-disclosure agreements as clients prefer not to have their previous failure advertised even when we have helped turn those businesses into success stories.
There is no doubt in my mind that the IIB has become a much larger organisation than was ever imagined. Consequently it has changed as it has evolved over the years. The name and legal status changed most recently in 2004, from the Institute for Independent Business Ltd. As a training and accreditation organisation, the IIB had until this point been a registered educational charity in the UK - which is where it all began in 1984. Increasingly the IIB was developing in other countries and became more international. Being an educational charity registered in the UK did not really fit, but you can't just stop being a registered charity, there are many legal issues to resolve.
During the period in which the charitable status was ceased, the Institute for Independent Business International Ltd was formed as a not-for-profit (i.e. non-profit) organisation. Associates already accredited by the IIB had their accreditation status transferred to the newly formed IIBI. It had been known for many years as the IIB and it is still generally referred to as the Institute for Independent Business today rather than the IIBI.
practical advice that works™
In its early days the Institute provided practical advice that works™ to small and medium sized businesses as they were otherwise being largely ignored. It published business advisory / consultancy articles which were directed at managing directors and owners of independent businesses.
This was very welcome but most owner managers need more than this, as they do not have the time or the ability to implement the changes needed. This is as true today as it was then.
In 1991 the Institute established the Consultancy Business Development Programme™ (CBDP), and a business executive selection, training and accreditation programme. This connected senior business professionals with managing directors / owners of independent businesses. It became the role of independent Associates to help business owners - not just with consultancy, but with hands-on support to help implement what is needed.
Thus the Institute's slogan of practical advice that works™ became the mantra for us Associates. It is what we do - we get involved.
Independent business owners / managers
The reason the Institute for Independent Business exists hasn't changed much since then. It is because owners of independent businesses often operate in isolation. They rarely have an effective network of the right contacts to help them, and more often than not have insufficient time, experience or resources to improve or change.
Where the direction and management of a business is up to one or two key people, they often do not have all the specialist skills needed to run a successful business. Indeed as both owner and manager, many owner / managers I have spoken to and have helped, have a common issue in that they did not foresee what they would need to do. They learned the hard way, picking up information in-between doing their job, or after a hard day's work where the next job began - the books, the accounts, the tax, the legal things and so on. I often hear the term 'baptism by fire', thrown in at the deep end with unexpected rules and regulations it's hardly any wonder that any business owners are unprepared, and end up working so many hours.
Of course, all of us running businesses have certain key skills, but the vast majority of owner managers admit that they do not have the time or experience to be effective at every business discipline needed for successful and sustainable profitable growth.
How we Associates help
The Institute for Independent Business does not provide advisory or consulting services to independent businesses, it trains and accredits suitably qualified individuals who run their own independent business(es) to give some of their time to help others, and where appropriate to provide assistance.
This practical hands-on and effective support available to help fill the 'management gap' and is unlike anything else I have seen. It is certainly unlike consultancy.
As practitioners we are part of the largest network of similar like-minded senior executives and entrepreneurs. With a wide range of specialist skills, this is all powerful. We each have access to contacts and clients - collectively this can help make things happen almost anywhere - and fast. Thousands of senior business professionals have graduated from the Institute's Residential Business School and been accredited by the IIB around the world. Clients can therefore quickly gain the support they truly need from the right team of hands-on specialists.
My fellow Associates include managing directors, executive directors and chairmen of successful companies, but importantly they understand and are experienced in the the unique difficulties of running small to medium sized businesses.
Institute for Independent Business scam, rip off, fraud and complaints
Initially it took me a while to understand the proposition, both as a prospective candidate for training, and for my clients. I was concerned as there are so many Multi Level Marketing (MLM) or Network Marketing schemes and reports of pyramid selling rip offs, and 'off the shelf' coaching or advisory franchises that can be run by people with insufficient experience. I was going to be parting with a large sum of money for the training and resources, and suddenly the doubt set in. I was concerned - I remember thinking it myself - 'is the Institute for Independent Business a scam or a rip off?'
As a member of the Institute of Directors (IoD), I asked my local branch Chairman who introduced me to another IoD member who he thought was involved with the IIB, and who I discovered was an accredited Associate. I went through my concerns with him, he invited me to his office and showed me the distance learning manuals, described the depth of training at the residential business school, and the size and capability of the network of Associates. In those days about 800 had been accredited and I thought that was amazing, I'm not sure of the latest figure but as of Jan 2008 it was over 5,000. Amazing. I looked at the daily mass emails coming from Associates, some with with client business opportunities, some looking for Associates to help with client projects, some offering specialist support, some with amazing ideas to replicate, some asking for advice, and so on.
It was then that I realised I had to become a part of this. I knew that I would never achieve this level of support for myself and my clients in terms of supporting skills, specialists, and geographical coverage. It made me wonder how long would it take me to attain just a fraction of this capability, and how much it would cost. It became a "no-brainer", and so I took a leap of faith.
No Big Secret
I discovered that this somewhat secretive Institute was for real, not a scam and not a rip off, and not a fly by night operation filled will false promises. Several years later, with fantastic clients and fantastic fellow Associates around the world, I look back on that doubt and laugh. But I do remember doubting it all, and whenever I hear from those thinking of becoming an accredited Associate, I hear the same fears all over again.
I have recently seen complaints about the Institute for Independent Business, and I suppose there will always be a minority of people who just cannot understand that their failure is their fault, and who have to dramatize everything to make themselves feel better. How very sad. It is a fact that there's a risk of failure in any business - and especially when working for yourself.
Working for yourself
With experience in family run businesses, I knew already that working for yourself and being your own boss isn't easy. It doesn't matter if you're starting out as an advisor / practitioner, or in the environment that our clients operate, starting a new business is never easy. Statistics in most countries show that by the third year of trading, over two-thirds of businesses fail. Higher in some cases. I had experience with start-ups, having done this a few times in my corporate career - working on tight and controlled budgets. I also have done this for my family - equally on tight and controlled budgets!
So I knew what to expect and was under no illusions. You have to be prepared to work hard at a new business, especially to build your own business at a time when you have to give your all to your clients whilst not forgetting to look after your own needs.
Starting and running a business can be quite a lonely place to be when the pressure is on to succeed. Clients tend to see you as a specialist. It is human nature - we love to mentally 'pigeon-hole' people (or put them 'in a box'). Many consultants have told me that even with a range of services to offer, they are only ever considered skilled in the first thing they did for their clients.
But I found that building a practice as an adviser accredited by the IIB was so much easier with the help and encouragement from the network of Associates and IIB Regional Groups. And of course the like-minded accredited Associates with skills, knowledge and experience to help me and my clients.
It was, and still is truly amazing. This is why I have volunteered some of my time to lead an IIB Regional Group (Chairman of IIB Anglia Group from 2005 to Jan 2010), helping with Associate support and continuing professional development (CPD).
Gaining accreditation and becoming an Associate of the IIB is without doubt the best business decision I have ever made in my life. I have never regretted it.
Are you thinking of becoming an Associate?
Stop! Frankly it isn't for everyone. Think about it - please see the panel on the (top) right...
Martin Ramsden FInstIB
About Martin Ramsden
Graduating from the Residential Business School in 2002, becoming an accredited Associate. Martin was elected as a Fellow of the IIB in 2006, and was the Regional Group Chairman of the IIB Anglia Group between 2005 - Jan 2010.
You no longer need feel alone!
Are you considering the IIB?
My advice is - Stop and Think about it...
Becoming an independent practitioner isn't for the faint hearted, my advice is to ensure you are ready for this.
First - are you ready to work hard?
And secondly, do you really have what it takes?
Check you have the capability, think through your skills, knowledge and experience.
See Martin's article on the life of an independent advisor.
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