Saturday, May 29, 2010

Going It Alone -- Day 19/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

If you're going to accomplish something truly great with your business, do you really think you are going to do it alone?

Or do you think it's going to be a situation where you can actually take all the credit?  Legitimately?

Your answers to those questions, my friend, should be no.  But entrepreneurs have a really bad habit of trying to do things essentially by themselves.  Or, if they do have a team around them, they still try to position themselves so that the "real results" were created by themselves -- not the team.

Here are the top 3 reasons why I see entrepreneurs trying to hold all the reigns and try to go-it-alone:

  • Greed: They want all the money, or as much of it as possible, for themselves.  They get stuck restraining their enterprise because they don't bring others in and give them a real piece of the action.
  • Pride:  They want to be responsible for the big wins and want all the glory.
  • Fear:  They think they are the only ones on the planet who really can "do it," and so they never hand enough control over to others so they can put points on the board ---- OR ---- they hand over control, and then sabotage the other person's effort (usually subconsciously).

Very few small business owners I encounter are totally free from these vices.  And usually they are guilty -- on one level or another -- of holding their business back for the above (or related) reasons.

TAKEAWAY:  You're a different breed if you're in business for yourself.  "Normal" people go get a job!  Realize that you have a tendency to over-control the world around you, and that as a result -- you're probably significantly constraining the performance of your business in at least one area.

ACTION STEP:  Spend some time in self-reflection.  Figure out where greed might be guiding your decisions.  Uncover the areas where pride is causing you to over-control.  Dig up the fears that keep you from harnessing the strengths others might bring to the table.  Just becoming conscious of these short-comings will help you let go a little and behave a little more productively, growth-wise.

To Your Enduring Success,




Growing you, growing your business, engineering your BREAKTHROUGH.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Are Your "Business Growth Eyes" Open? -- Day 18/365

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Real People. Real Business. Real Life.

Are your eyes open?

Are you really ready to see what you need to see, when you need to see it?

Or are you so focused on "business as usual" that your blind to the growth opportunities flying past you virtually all the time?

There is a lot to be said about persistence, determination, and not giving up. I buy into all that...

But what if you are channeling the power of your will into
an idea, tactic, strategy, or venture that actually is doomed to fail?

There's a thing about being so goal-directed ... yes, it helps you see the things out there that can help you get where you want to go. But it also blinds you to the opportunities and solutions that are not on your "usual radar". AND -- it's keeps you focusing on ideas, tactics, strategies (etc) that are, well... less than ideal...

You've always got to keep an open mind -- and an open eye -- so that you can absorb, process, and apply different approaches to solving your problems. Often times, your best solutions are outside the box ... and as a result, they are often looking you right in the face ... and you don't even see them.

It's true. I see this over and over (and over) with new clients.

TAKEAWAY:  Recognize that being highly goal directed has advantages and disadvantages.  It tunes you in to potential ways to achieve your objectives ... but also tends to tune out the innovative solutions presenting themselves to you --- things you normally wouldn't notice or think of.

ACTION STEPS:  Simply recognize that you, like everyone, are victim to this tendency.  Then consciously begin to work to pay attention to ideas, information, and opportunities that might get you where you want to go --- but that you normally wouldn't consider.

To Your Enduring Success,

Growing you, growing your business, engineering your BREAKTHROUGH.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Finding Your Next "Breakthrough Point" -- Day 17/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

I was working with a client earlier today ... a tech start-up with a killer concept that has the potential to make him a wealthy man.

This guy is awesome.  Every time we talk, he has driven his business forward and made some sort of measurable progress.  It's always a pleasure to work with him.

Our conversation really brought out a crucial point that I'd like to share with you today...

Launching a business, growing a business ... doing anything that moves  your enterprise forward ... involves 2 types of "forward motion".

2 Types of Forward Motion

The first is when the steps you need to take are obvious and clear to you.  There is no confusion about what you should do.  Answers about what has to be done, where you need to go, how to solve a problem ... these things basically fall in your lap.

When a solution falls in your lap, it's only a matter of energy, effort, and self-discipline to get it done.

But here's the hard part ...

Finding the "Breakthrough Point"

The second type of "forward motion" is a bit more difficult to come by.  And this is typically where Breakthrough Points exist.

Your Breakthrough Point is the point at which --- if you were to apply the proper action or activity --- your business would take a serious leap forward.  Or ... it's where a barrier would be knocked down, thus clearing the way for a whole new degree of progress and advancement.

It's that idea and its corresponding application that allows you to go to your "next level".

So ... the 2nd type of forward motion is the type where you don't know what to do, you can't see where to go or how to get a problem solved.  It's when you know the result you want, but you don't know how to create that result.

Where is your next breakthrough waiting to happen?

Right there at that point where (frankly) you don't know what to do.

TAKEAWAY:  So you want to take a big leap forward?  Identify that result that you want and need to cause ... but don't know how to cause.  Figure out what to do at that point --- that Breakthrough Point --- and your business will take the largest strides forward.

ACTION STEP:  Identify your most crucial Breakthrough Point.  Then, start talking to people to get ideas about actions you might take to get your breakthrough.  Talk to more experienced business owners.  Talk to a consultant.  Google a long tailed keyword directly related to your issue.  Do something that will give you ideas that you'd never come up with on your own.

Then, after you've generated several viable solutions, pick the best one and test it on your situation.  Worst case scenario, it doesn't work and you get information to help you try again!

To Your Enduring Success,


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Are You Making Sure You Max Out Your Income? -- Day 16/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

I brought this up in brief yesterday, and today I realized I should give it its own blog post.

When you are in business for yourself, you're only paid when you get results others will pay for.  That was yesterdays topic.  And I made the point that, of everything you are doing, there are typically 3 top tasks that can account for the bulk of the results you are generating --- and thus the bulk of your income.

If you are not clear on what those top 3 tasks are, you'll waste a lot of time and energy spinning your wheels, getting nowhere, and typically taking away from the results you could be getting ... and income you could be generating.

For example, my top 3 activities are:
  1. Writing proposals for potential clients.
  2. Servicing current clients via coaching and consulting.
  3. Continued research and study in my area of expertise.
In terms of measurable, income generating results --- everything else I do takes a far backseat to those 3 activities (even writing on this blog).

As another example, consider a salesman.  Their top 3 might be:
  1. Prospecting.
  2. Giving presentations.
  3. Making follow-up contacts to leads.
One more example - a dozen man online retail operation.  For the head honcho, the top 3 might be:
  1. Making deals with suppliers.
  2. Making deals with distributors.
  3. Managing and motivating the salespeople.
If you aren't super clear about which activities you
do that really make you money ...
you'll go broke as an entrepreneur.

Because you'll spend your time doing things that seem productive, but aren't productive...

TAKEAWAY:  You've got to know, without a shadow of a doubt, what the top 3 daily tasks you engage in that actually directly produce results that create your income.

ACTION EXERCISE:  This is very similar to yesterday (it's that important).  Figure out the top 3 tasks you're engaged in that generate the bulk of your results, and thus the bulk of your income.  Refine your daily schedule so that you invest more time in those 3 tasks.  Reduce, delegate, or eliminate the other tasks that take away from your top 3.

To Your Enduring Success,

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What you REALLY get paid for ... -- Day 15/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

Especially when you're a start-up, this is a crucial lesson to remember...

And many-a-failed business has gone under because they never fully understood this.  I mean really fully understood this.  (We can all do good to remind ourselves of this pretty much daily.)

When you are an entrepreneur, what do you really get paid for?

What answer instantly comes to mind?  ...Let me ask you another question...

When you are an employee, what do you get paid for?

What answer instantly comes to mind?  Most employees are paid for their TIME.  They usually get paid by the hour, or they get paid a salary, or some such arrangement.  Some positions, typically those involving sales, have some sort of results-based pay.  But most normal "employment-minded" people get paid for their TIME.

The time-for-pay paradigm is EXTRAORDINARILY
dangerous for entrepreneurs.

Why?

Because when you are an entrepreneur you get paid for RESULTS.  And if you can generate $1000 worth of value and effectively bring it to market in 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 days ... or 5 whatever ... you still get paid the same.  You get paid for results.  And if you don't generate enough results, you don't get paid, your business doesn't grow, and you might even go under.

TAKEAWAY:  As an entrepreneur, you only get paid for getting measurable results that people will pay you money for.  PERIOD.

ACTION STEP:  Ruthlessly examine the way you are spending your time.  Are you generating value?  If you are generating value, are you effectively bringing it to market so that people can pay you to get that value?  Look at your daily activities and figure out the top 3 things you do that generate results people pay you for.  Refine your routine so you can invest more time in those 3 things.

Usually, of those 3 top activities, 1 clearly stands above the rest as the one that pays you the most.  Focus even more of your time on that one.

To Your Enduring Success,


Monday, May 24, 2010

How To Avoid Revenue Ceilings, Pt. 3 -- Day 14/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

Today we wrap up our brief primer on business optimization.  And again, we're focusing specifically on optimization as is relates to generating revenue in your small business.

CONTINUING OPTIMIZATION - ACTION EXERCISE

HERE’S WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD ON SERIOUS GROWTH.  Once you understand your core success functions and high value tasks, you must begin take your support/complimentary activities (and the high value tasks you are not good at) and choose to do the following:
  • Hire someone to do it for you.
  • Outsource the lower value project, or the high value project that you are not proficient in.
  • If possible, delegate the task down to someone working with or for you.
  • Eliminate the task altogether.  Sometimes we do things that just don’t need to be done at all.
Reaching Revenue Ceilings
  • If you do all the previous steps correctly, you will eventually reach your first revenue ceiling.  That simply means that -i for your current business model and operational capacity -- you just cannot take on more business or facilitate increased cash flow.
  • Assuming:  you are the only true “value generator” in your firm, you have maxed out your workday with $100/hour tasks, and you average the normal 2000 work hours/year, your first revenue ceiling is at $200,000/year.
  • As you approach and reach that ceiling, it will be time to begin the process of increasing your ability to generate value.  You’ll need to ask yourself questions like the following:
How can I generate $200/hour worth of value?
How can my partners/employees/ect generate more value?

Finally --- raising your firm’s capacity to acquire and handle more business, and generate more value for more clients, often boils down to improvement in one of 5 areas:
  • Creating and implementing an improved strategy to guide your business.
  • Improving the marketing you do.
  • Improving the way you manage your firm.
  • Innovating new ways of delivering value.
  • Improving the individual performance of yourself and those in your firm.
Very simply, you can return to your business process flow chart, focus on your core success functions, and develop ways to improve upon them in terms of strategy, marketing, management, innovation, and individual performance.

OPTIMIZATION CONCLUSIONS

Many entrepreneurs don’t view their business as a process.  They never understand it as a simple series of sequential, value-generating events.  They don’t see their business as a system that can be measured and monitored… and thus improved.  This is a very big reason why so many small businesses remain stuck where they are at.

Let me close this series of blog posts by condensing the optimization process down to its most crucial steps:
  1. Examine and understand your business as a process.
  2. Map out the process on paper, from generating a lead, to creating a satisfied customer/client.
  3. Make your core success functions the focal point of the bulk of your activities.
  4. Gradually position yourself so that you are engaged only in the highest value tasks which you perform the best at.
  5. Systematically and continually improve specific components/steps of your ‘business process’.
And let this all be governed by:

.... a mindset of continual improvement.

To Your Enduring Success,

Sunday, May 23, 2010

How To Avoid Revenue Ceilings, Pt. 2 -- Day 13/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

Yesterday we dove head first into an incredibly powerful topic -- optimization.  You could also call it "continual improvement," or "process improvement" ... whatever term clicks with you.

The core of it is simply this:  Learning how to systematically improve your business, little by little by little, so that it performs better and better and better.  And while this concept has a host of applications, we're applying it particularly to the habits of the entrepreneur --- and aligning those habits to generate maximum revenue.

Yesterday's action exercise addressed the stuff you need to do to start optimizing your business.  Today is all about getting started and actually doing it.

It picks up right where yesterday left off:

BEGINNING OPTIMIZATION - ACTION EXERCISE

Start focusing the bulk of your time and energy on your CORE SUCCESS FUNCTIONS that generate the majority of your business results – IE, revenue.
  • Start looking at the activities you engage in and understand how much financial value you are generating each hour. This doesn’t mean what you charge per hour, but rather --- what activities, in actuality, generate the highest financial return?
  • Systematically begin to engage in the highest return activities as much as possible. Avoid low value activities as much as possible. Example: you have to stay on top of the books, but that is not a high value task for you. It is complimentary. Don’t burn unnecessary time there, but don’t neglect it.
  • Think of it this way: Imagine that you want (or need) your activities to consistently generate $100/hour. You must continually ask yourself, “would I pay someone else $100/hour to do what I’m doing now?” If the answer is no, then you are engaged in the wrong tasks.
  • A point: When you are a one-man show, you have to engage in a delicate balancing act here. Yes, you actually do have do ‘do it all’ yourself. But the key is to focus the bulk of your time and energy on core success functions and high value tasks that move your business forward.
  • Something else to consider: You won’t be totally effective at all your core success functions. There might be high value tasks that you just aren’t very good at. Eventually, you will need to discern which tasks you perform the best at and focus on those, while someone proficient in the others handles them for you.
The truth is ... if I was really going to make sure you "got this" fully ... I would dive in much, much deeper -- and perhaps blog about it for a month or so.  But the core boils down to...

...a mindset of continual improvement.  

And if you can read this post, and if it can introduce this mindset, or affirm it ... then the post has been worth it.  Tomorrow we'll address following through with the optimization process you have started.

To Your Enduring Success,

Friday, May 21, 2010

How To Avoid Revenue Ceilings, Pt. 1 -- Day 12/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.


Today's topic is another one that deserves 2 days... so let's dive straight in.

You business is probably built with a "revenue ceiling" in it.  That means that, by design, you can only make a certain amount of money, even in the best conditions...

You
need to engage in an ongoing process of business optimization so that you don’t fill to capacity and hit an ‘operational revenue ceiling’ that prevents you from reaching and exceeding the highest possible revenues.  Most entrepreneurs I encounter don’t understand that they have structured their business with a revenue ceiling built in.  The only way they experience significant growth is by chance luck or some outside factor turning things to their favor.


But --- if you understand that (1) you’ve always got some sort of revenue ceiling, and that (2) you can move the ceiling as you go --- the problem becomes null and void.  You can use it to your advantage to help you plan for each ‘next level’ of business you pursue.

 At a small size, and with most businesses, dealing with this is relatively simple on paper.  Don’t let the succinct nature of the following pointers fool you.  Getting this is critical if you want to generate serious wealth with your business.

POSITIONING FOR OPTIMIZATION -- ACTION EXERCISE

1)  Start to develop and understanding of your business as a PROCESS, or SYSTEM.

2)  Map out the PROCESS that your business follows, from generating the lead, to creating that fully satisfied client who is pleased with the work you have done.
  • You can draft this with pen and paper.  Create a basic flow chart that maps out the core functions of your business, in proper sequence.  Some functions might be parallel, or might merge, or diverge.  Either way, create a sequential chart that shows how you go from potential client, to paying client, to satisfied client.
3) Make sure you absolutely understand what your CORE SUCCESS FUNCTIONS are.
  • Certain activities you engage in will be critical your business.  Others will be secondary, supplementary, or complimentary.  Typically (and I’d argue always) your true core success functions involve the key activities you engage in to generate business (market yourself) and deliver value to your client (provide the actual services being paid for).  Everything else is supplementary, secondary, and is typically an expense – time-wise, energy-wise, or financially.
  • Identify which activities are core success functions on the flow chart.
4) Make sure you truly understand what you COMPLIMENTARY ACTIVITIES are.
  • Again, as discussed above, these are necessary-but-secondary functions that allow you to continue engaging in your core success functions.  This can range from book keeping, to website maintenance, to scrubbing the toilet.
  • Identify which activities are complimentary activities on the flow chart.
5)      If necessary, re-create your flow chart so that the primary flow of activity is centered on your core success functions.
  • You might even want to simply list the complimentary activities to the side, and make the flow chart entirely about core success functions.
  • Getting absolute clarity about how you generate business and how you deliver value to clients is priceless.  Amazingly, many entrepreneurs remain foggy on this.
Look for more tomorrow on this extremely important topic.  I'll shed some more light on it.

To Your Enduring Success,

Thursday, May 20, 2010

3 Types of Positive Business Problems -- 11/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

This topic came up in a conversation with a client yesterday.  Here it is...

Most people see problems as, well, problems.   And they are baffled by those who actually, genuinely see problems as opportunities.

As cliche as it sounds, problems actually are opportunities.  And the better you get at solving problems, the better you will get at driving your business forward.

Think about it for moment.  The biggest business heroes and larger-than-life leaders were the people who solved the biggest, most important problems their world (or corner of the world) was facing at the time.  And the cool thing --- when you become skilled at solving peoples' biggest, most important problems ... you are incredibly rewarded for it.

To help develop this skill, I have found it very, very helpful to categorize the problems that enterprises face into 3 separate areas.  Here are the categories...

The 3 Types of Positive Business Problems

  1. Your market's problems - These are basically problems out there in your audience of actual and potential buyers.  This is the territory of problems that, if you can solve them, your market will reward you by coming to you to do business.
  2. Your competitors problems - These problems are the ones you can exploit to your advantage.  Or, these are the ones you can see, learn from, and avoid ... stuff like that.  (BTW -- if you aren't watching your competitors, you'd better start.  You're missing a world of information you can harness and use to your further your business!)
  3. Your own business' problems - These are the problems that are right there in your face.  These are the ones you are most familiar with.  I don't need to say much here.
First ... keep a view that these are positive problems.  That simply means that there is great reward in solving them!

Second ... understand that, with regards to your business, the problems you encounter are going to fall into one or more of these areas.  And by understanding where they fall, you can get a much better grasp on the opportunity solving the problem represents --- and --- it will attune your mind to appropriate, effective solutions much more quickly.

TAKEAWAY:  As cliche as it sounds, problems actually are opportunities.  View them as a positive obstacles that represents potential reward --- if you will get to work and solve them.  Categorizing the problem will help you mentally frame it in a way that can help you find a solution faster.  Finally --- the more areas the problem involves (1 versus 2, or all 3) the greater the reward in solving it.

ACTION STEP:  List the single largest problem you are facing within each of the 3 categories.  Decide which one that -- if you were to solve it -- would yield the greatest reward.  Devise one simple way you can begin to solve that problem... some sort of tactic that you can execute within the next 24 hours... a tacic that will chip away at the problem and move it toward resolution.  Do it.

To Your Enduring Success,


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Very Simple, But Very Important - Day 10/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

Today's topic is so amazingly simple and self-evident that it should go without saying.

But, from experience, I can testify that something supposedly "going without being said" actually means it absolutely should be addressed.


...This is going to be short and sweet.

When you go into business for yourself, make sure you are doing something you can love.

Even with the greatest business in the world, there are still going to be things about it that are less-than enjoyable.  That's a fact of life.  But you must make sure that -- whatever you are doing -- you take great enjoyment and satisfaction from some major element of the business process.

Stated differently... make sure a HUGE piece of your business puzzle involves doing something you love.

Otherwise, you won't be able to sustain your effort for the long haul, through good times and bad ... and you definitely won't have the drive to take your business to the top.


TAKEAWAY:  If you're going to be in business for yourself, by all means, do something you love.

ACTION STEP:  If you're starting up, and you can't fall in love with a BIG chunk of what you're doing --- or if it doesn't directly help you move toward doing that thing you love most --- then course correct immediately.  If you are up and running, but doing something you aren't passionate about, do some soul searching about how you can revise and upgrade your daily role so that it gets centered on something you are more "in love" with.  And if you love what you're doing... be thankful and squeeze ever bit of enjoyment out of it that you possibly can!!!

To Your Enduring Success,

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Do You Know Yours? -- Day 9/365

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Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life.

I was discussing this issue with a client a few hours ago...

Your business represents a process.  Growth-wise, the sales portion of this process is particularly relevant.  From cold prospect or first-time "window looker" ... to loyal, repeat customer -- people go through a step-wise sequential process from one end of the spectrum, to another.

The better you understand this process, the better you can lead people through it.

For example...

Let's say you retail products through a website.  Your sequential sales process could look something like this:
  1. Potential customer does a keyword search on google.
  2. They land on your homepage that emphasizes your bread-and-butter product line.
  3. Your sales copy gets someone to pick up the phone and call your sales rep about the product they are interested in.
  4. Your sales rep answers questions and asks for the order.
This is relatively simple.  Perhaps it could be fleshed out a bit more (it can, especially #4).  But business, in general, is actually about doing very simple things over and over (and over...).


(BTW, this is the core sales process for several businesses I know that are doing 7-8 figures, solid.)

TAKEAWAY:  In order to sell more effectively, know your business' sequential sales process.  Grasp that, and you can improve each component part significantly and ... sell much, much more.

ACTION STEP: Grab a pencil and paper. Map out your core sales process. Keep it as simple as possible (you can always dig deeper and flesh it out later).  Zero in on the one step in the process that you are weakest at and devise 3 ideas for improving that step.  Pick the best idea and execute it tomorrow.

This impact of little exercises and actions like add up over time ... and they can and will drive some of your biggest breakthroughs.  I've seen this time and time again.

To Your Enduring Success,


Monday, May 17, 2010

Can You See It Now? -- Day 8/365

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Welcome to Week 2 of of 365 straight days of non-stop business growth blogging.  This stuff is straight from the front lines of capitalism, folks.  Not theory.  Not an intellectual exercise.  These are the make-or-break battles I help real entrepreneurs fight and win in the marketplace...

"Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life."

One of the most often discussed (and yet most poorly applied) concepts in small business is vision.

I'm not talking about a "vision statement" or anything cliche.  I'm simply talking about your ability to see where you are going with your enterprise.

Where are you trying to take it?  Where is is actually going?  Can you actually see the future in your minds eye, and are you confidently pursuing it?  Or are you in a fog?

Whether start-up or 7-figure operation,
I consistently see this issue divide the successful from the struggling.

The people who are advancing, making things happen, and seeing their plans materialize --- they have a clear, compelling vision of what they are doing and where they are headed.  They have a strong grasp of it, and they can communicate it to people in a way that makes others believe the vision is real --- not just some pipe dream.

The people who are stuck and struggling... well... they're in a fog..  They might have a few notions about what might become of their venture... but they are operating mostly on hopes and dreams that are largely disconnected from any sort of concrete reality.

Which one are you?

Scenario 1:  Imagine driving your car down the road.  Imagine totally clarity about where you're headed.  You've got a clear view of the road.  You can see the world around you.  And you can see up the road... and have a sense of what lies around the bend.

Scenario 2:  Now imagine driving in a total fog.  You can't really see around you, or in front of you --- let alone up the road a ways.  Now imagine that you aren't even sure where you want to go.  Imagine you are just kind of turning here and turning there, hoping you'll suddenly look around you and say "ah hah!  I've arrived!"

Which scenario is more akin to your situation?  Do you possess clarity?  Or vague notions?  Do you know your destination, or are you just "driving" and hoping you'll know when you've found what you're looking for?

TAKEAWAY:  No one can actually tell the future... but possessing a clear, compelling, near-concrete vision of what you are trying to accomplish is pretty stinking close.  The more clarity you possess, the faster you will move and the sooner you will get where you want to go.

ACTION STEPS:  Honestly answer the question:  "Do I have a clear, compelling vision?  Do I have clarity about what I'm doing, where I'm at, and where I'm going?  If you can't "see into the future" as clearly as you'd like to, take these actions:  Create a list of 6 concrete, tangible actions you can take that will take the dream or vision in your heart and force it to clash with reality.  Something that involves bringing it into contact with the real world in a way that will give you some feedback.  Pitch an idea to a potential JV partner and listen to their feedback... launch a test ad campaign... conduct a customer survey about your customer service... anything that allows you to get real world feedback --- which will then reveal the next actions you can take to gain even more clarity about where you're headed.


"To make your dream a reality,
you must confront your dream with reality."


To Your Enduring Success,

Sunday, May 16, 2010

What Are You REALLY Selling? -- Day 7/365

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"Real People.  Real Business.  Real Life."

Do you ever hear people use a word --- and you can tell they don't really know what it means?

Perhaps they have a shallow understanding ... or a confused understanding ... or no understanding at all?

Can you think of some examples?
...

One such word I hear on almost a daily basis -- which there is much confusion about -- is the word "value".  And in the world of small business... where your enterprise exists to deliver "value" to the world (and by deliver I mean sell)... confusion or misunderstanding about what "value" means can be lethal to your success (and survival).

As entrepreneurs, we must absolutely understand
why our market is willing to pay us for our product or service.

People are willing to pay you because you offer them something they value.  And value is in the eye of the beholder.  Look at it this way...

The guy who buys the expensive sports car, at a deeper level, isn’t really buying the car itself. Even if he’s not conscious of it, he’s buying what the car represents --- the image of success, the expression of power, the aura of sexiness … you get the point. The concrete object is secondary. The benefit it brings, intangible or otherwise, is the primary force driving the sale

That benefit -- or more appropriately set of benefits -- (intangible, tangible, emotional, experiential... whatever) is the value you offer.  The value you offer is why people will trade their time for money, and their money to get what you can give them.

This is true for a someone selling cars.  This is true for someone who fixes plumbing problems.  This is true for someone who gives kids piano lessons.  Wherever someone trades money for a good or service of any kind, this is true.

TAKEAWAY:  The more deeply you understand the real, value-related reasons why people buy from you, (1) the more effectively you can give them more of what they really want, and (2) the more effectively you will be able to sell them more of what they really want.

ACTION STEP:  What are you REALLY selling?  Grab a sheet of paper.  Start listing the things people receive from you in exchange for their money.  Start with the most concrete, most outwardly observable elements of what you deliver.  Then dig deeper, and deeper, and deeper... listing everything you have sold them from tangible, to intangible, to experiential, to emotional... until you can't come up with anything else.  Your list might start with "pitching machine" and end with "hope that they can achieve the dream of going pro someday" Then figure out what you have listed that your market values the most.  Figure out how to give them more of that.

Topics like this, frankly, are ridiculously important --- but often totally overlooked.  You have to know - REALLY - the value that you are selling to your market.  Until you are absolutely and totally clear on this, your performance will be marginal, compared to what it could be.

To Your Enduring Success,

Saturday, May 15, 2010

THE Difference Maker... Part 2 -- Day 6/365

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Yesterday I began a discussion of strategy versus tactics.

The core thing I wanted to do was crystallize --  in your mind -- what the terms really meant.  I used the example of a symphony versus a instrumental soloist to drive the concept home.

Strategy is all about orchestrating multiple factors so that they play upon and compliment one another... thus creating a much larger impact and generating much greater results than the factors ever could alone.

Tactics are the factors that make up the strategy.  They are the pieces of the grand puzzle.  The are the individual players in the symphony.

And in business -- just as in music -- most people haven't cultivated the ability to compose and conduct that finely orchestrated, strategic work.  They dabble in tactics... isolated factors... and wonder why their business isn't having the impact on the market that they think it should.

Here's today's biggest question:

So... have you been strategic with your business?  Have you carefully woven the pieces (actions, activities, daily efforts, etc.) together into an impactful, carefully complimentary whole?  Or do you have a mess of tactics jumbled together... tactics that, yes -- are related, but that don't really advance and enhance one another as you execute them?

You are going to engage in tactics no matter what.
So why not make sure they "harmonize" with one
another to get you the best results possible?

TAKEAWAY:  Impactful, high performance businesses are strategic.  Most businesses, however, are tactical.  That means if you can become increasingly strategic with everything your business does, you can begin to beat the competition in ways you never dreamed possible.

ACTION STEP:  Get some time alone to thing about your business.  Come up with a real answer to this question:  What is the ultimate outcome, or impact, you want your business to have on your market?  Once you have the answer, give it some time to sink in.  The answer will help you identify the strategy you need to create.  Then get alone again.  Come up with a real answer to these questions:  How can I begin to orchestrate the tactics my business is engaged in so that they clearly advance and enhance on another?  What tactics can I eliminate?  And are there any tactics I should add to create a more impactful, effective strategy?

Every time I see an enterprise make the shift from tactical to strategic, the resulting impact is almost always immediate and strikingly dramatic.  So get out there, tune things up, and make the change.

To Your Enduring Success,


Friday, May 14, 2010

THE Difference Maker For Your Business - Day 5/365

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Welcome to day 5 of "Real People. Real Business. Real Life." business-growth blogging.

THE Difference Maker.

What I'm about to discuss, frankly, is so important to your business that it cannot be overstated.  That's why I'm going to devote 2 days to the topic (and that still won't be enough).  Let me set up the topic with an easy to understand metaphor.

Imagine the last great concert you went to.  I'm talking orchestra, symphony, wind ensemble... something a bit more large and complex than a 3-5 piece rock band.

Or --- think of the last movie you saw that had a really fantastic soundtrack.  (That's probably most people will have most recently heard a large music ensemble anyway.)

Think about how wonderful it sounded... how all the instruments combined and complimented one another... how the melodies and harmonies blended to create one magnificent whole.  Each individual played their unique role.  The conductor wove their performance together from the podium.

Before that stunning performance was made possible, it had to exist in the mind of a composer.

Now here's the thing to realize.  The human brain can only hold so many pieces of information in mind simultaneously.  That means that the composer (with few exceptions) probably could not hear the finished work in his head as he was composing it.  He probably could hear certain parts, or a few components together... but unless he was a historically significant musical genius... he had to weave his work together one piece at a time, layer upon layer, until he had created his masterpiece.

Most people can think of melodies, or simple harmonies --- but it takes time, energy, focus, and resolve to put together something that has the impact and effect of a finely orchestrated work.

That -- my friends -- is a picture of strategy versus tactics. A strategy is multi-faceted and varied, like an orchestral composition.  Multiple component parts come together to create a magnificent whole.  A tactic is like a single instrument, playing a single part... and rarely has an impact alone that is as significant and powerful as the entire ensemble together.

(And you, as an entrepreneur, are much more like that composer than you realize.)

TODAY'S TAKEAWAY:  Impactful, high performance businesses are strategic ... carefully orchestrated and well thought out.  Most small businesses, however, are like a lone soloist tooting a melody unto themselves.

ACTION STEP:  Step back and take a serious look at your business.  Answer the question:  Is it strategic? Or is it tactical?  Is it like an orchestrated work, where all the parts carefully compliment one another and create a powerful whole?  Or is it like one person, tooting on a horn at the marketplace, all alone...

The answer to the above, and the ramifications of what actions you take in response, are crucial.  More on this tomorrow.

To You Enduring Success,

Thursday, May 13, 2010

A Sure Fire Way To Destroy Your Business. -- Day 4 of 365

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So --- here's day 4 of some "Real People. Real Business. Real Life." business-growth blogging.

A Sure Fire Way To Destroy Your Business.

When you're a big business, with a big budget, and and a lot of resources --- you can afford to do things a certain way.  Wal-Mart, GE, Ford, Coca-Cola... Etc.

But when you are small, you have to operate.... (drum roll please) ....

LIKE YOU ARE SMALL.

You cannot spend money you don't have.  You cannot employ tactics that are beyond your means to execute.  You cannot follow strategies that are too big for your britches.

Time and time (and time) again, I run into small businesses that are trying to do things the way they see the big boys do it.  Here are the 3 most common examples I encounter:
  • Engage in institutional brand advertising (what most of are used to seeing most).
  • Try to beat the competition on a low pricing strategy (like Wal-Mart).
  • Try to create the illusion of deep pockets with a slick looking whatever-it-is like the big boys have (website, storefront, vehicle, etc).
Small businesses have to understand that they aren't big.  Being small creates certain limitations, but it also has some awesome benefits.

Big businesses are like giant oil tankers.  They are hard to maneuver, slow to change course, and when something goes wrong, it creates a huge mess.  Small businesses are like wave runners.  They can zip back and forth in the water, change course at a whim, go into corners of the bay that a big 'ol  tanker can't even get close to...

If you are a wave-runner sized business,
don't try to do oil-tanker sized things.

Take advantage of your strengths and enjoy being small!  Do highly targeted, direct-response marketing that you only engage in if it proves profitable.  Don't compete strictly on price; create other ways to add value and become a higher ticket "private label" brand.  Set your ego aside, do only what is necessary and what works and don't extend yourself beyond your actual means.

TAKEAWAY:  Your a small business.  Accept it.  Start looking for the advantages that gives you, instead of staying focused on the disadvantages you think are holding you back.

ACTION STEP:  Create a list of 10 things your big-time competitors can't do, simple due to their size.  Pick the best one that has serious potential to help your business.  Go do it.

To Your Enduring Success!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

How An Out-of-Body Experience Can Grow Your Business -- Day 3 of 365

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When you've got your nose to the grindstone, it's hard to see the untapped riches surrounding you.

The truth is -- you and your business are surrounded by opportunities that, properly harnessed, could make your wildest business dreams come true almost immediately.  (And I'm not being hyperbolic.)

Really, the issue is a simple matter of perception and understanding.  Can you see it?  Do understand what you need to do about it?

The answer for most (on both counts) is "no".  As I said above,

When you've got your nose to the grindstone,
it's hard to see the untapped riches surrounding you.

The reality of the matter is this:  When you're stuck working in your business - and don't (or can't) invest serious time working on your business - you're basically blind to the vast array of profitable opportunities looking you right in the face, right now.

This is where the out-of-body experience comes in handy...

Astute entrepreneurs have the ability to stop, take a few steps back... perceive the most crucial areas of their business to tackle (the areas that would produce the biggest, most immediate gains)... and devise concrete action steps for moving their business forward.

This ability is something you must practice, develop, and finely hone --- if you want to survive, thrive, and grow continually in the future.

This ability is much like stepping out of your current mindset, your current perspective, your current attitude, your current assumptions... stepping "out-of-body" (if you will)... and looking at your business as if you were somebody else entirely.

How to Have Your Out of Body Experience

Take yourself through the following exercise to start developing this ability in yourself.

  1. Imagine that you are an outside consultant brought in to evaluate and counsel your own business.  It might even help to choose a specific person you know, imagine you are them, and role play from their perspective as you think it might be.
  2. Since negatives are often easier to spot than positives -- take a sheet of paper and thoroughly shred your business to pieces.  I mean take a ruthless hard look at everything that is wrong.  Put it in writing on the piece of paper.  Make sure you look at your operation as a whole:  the systems, the processes, the people, and (more than anything else) you and the results you're generating as the leader.
  3. After you've exhausted every negative you can come up with and put it on on paper, start listing anything praiseworthy about your business.  List every strength, every positive, everything your business does well.  Take the time to make the list comparable in size to the negative list.  The positives are there; you just have to identify them and let yourself feel good about them.
  4. Return to the negative list.  Identify the single biggest negative that, if you were to eliminate it, would allow you to make the biggest leap forward with your business.  Then, devise one single step you can take to reduce or begin to eliminate that weakness.  Take that step as fast as possible.
  5. Return to the positive list.  Identify the single greatest strength that, if you were to scale it up, ramp it up, or otherwise improve upon and leverage off of, it would generate the greatest breakthrough for your business.  Then, devise one single step you can take to begin to leverage that strength.  Take that step as fast as possible.
  6. See what results the real world gives you after you take each step, and then devise your next steps.  Learn, adapt, overcome, and follow-through with the effort.

The key is to force yourself to play the role of an outside figure.  Become an actor playing the role of someone with an outside, "out-of-body" perspective.  I think you'll be surprised at what you see that perhaps you have been blind to.  You'll gain an understanding of what to do that, perhaps, you've never had before.  And, you just might generate some new results you've never seen before.

An added bonus... as you develop these skills of self-perception, you will also hone your ability to see the opportunities surrounding you, how they intersect with your business, and how to harness them properly.


"Every moment, you have an opportunity to
invest your time in a way that creates a better future."

TAKEAWAY:  The every-improving ability to regularly step outside your usual perspective -- evaluate your business with brutal honestly, for better or for worse -- and then devise strong solutions for leveraging your strengths and eliminating your weaknesses -- is crucial to your continued success and prosperity.

ACTION STEP:  Be sure to set aside some time to complete the exercise I outlined above.

To Your Enduring Success,

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Is Romance Killing Your Business? --Day 2 of 365--

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Getting stuck fantasizing about romantic notions regarding what your business could or should be like is a lethal bad habit.

The Ever Struggling Start-Up.

Take, for instance, the struggling start-up.  This guy is in love with generating ideas, and has absolutely no interest in executing them fully.  He gets his kicks thinking of the "next big thing".  Then he hypes himself up about the potential wealth it will create, the impact it will have... He dreams ad nauseum all the way out into the most spectacular achievements that, frankly, are WAY beyond his current capacity to execute.

And when he gets anywhere close to where all this "romanticizing" has to clash with reality, and he actually has to do something, he balks.  He stops moving forward.  He takes no action that produces any result in the real world.  Or -- he remains stuck taking the wrong actions.  He spins his wheels with ineffective activity.  I meet guys like this all the time.

Eventually, this guy loses interest and moves on to his next dream.

The Stuck Small Business.

Now take the stuck small business. This guy has achieved some success. He's in business and making ends meet (or is staying afloat using massive debt). He may have even had a few good years and grossed 7-figures.

Somewhere along the line, he gets stuck in a holding pattern and can't really grow his business any further.  Any boost in sales is incidental... he can't trace it to anything duplicatable --- things he did on purpose.

He never actually knew what was driving his success.

He gets stuck dreaming and romanticizing about the next big breakthrough.  He chases those dreams, burning time, energy, assets, resources... but to no avail.  He remains victim to the whims of the marketplace.  Jumps in sales are uncontrolled and incidental.  Every momentary drop in sales could signify his demise.

It's not a fun place to be.  ...I see these guys all the time, too.

Then There's the Winner.

This guy has taken the time to get a STRONG grasp of cause-and-effect as it relates to his business.  He understands that, if he does A, B, & C --- it will make D, E, & F happen in predictable fashion.

He romanticizes just enough to come up with a few good ideas... Then he becomes obsessesed with execution and making something HAPPEN.

He tests the concept.  He creates the prototype and gets feedback from his market.  He runs small scale ads to make sure they work, then he scales up and gets the big business.

The winner does stuff that directly causes the results he wants to create.  And if he doesn't know what to do, he quickly engages in safe, small, low-cost, low-risk tests that allow him to identify what needs to be done.  He doesn't romanticize about "could" or "should," and he doesn't chase-the-wind with ineffective actions and activities.

I encounter these guys regularly, but nowhere near as much as the first 2.  And when I meet the Winner, he's almost always got a thriving, excellent business... and a serious amount of cash in the bank.

"Nothing happens until something moves."  (Einstein)

TAKEAWAY:  Business is about understanding and harnessing the power of cause-and-effect relationships in the marketplace.  You do A.  B happens.  You repeat the process.  Ongoing romantic fantasy about "what could/should be" is your enemy.  Taking specific action that produces a specific result is your friend.

ACTION STEP:  Track how you're spending your time.  Literally write down everything you do during your work day for a whole week (this will be an eye opening experience).  Gut your schedule of activities that don't directly product a desired result, or strategically position you to achieve a desired result.  Discipline yourself to stick to this new approach to your routine until it is habit.

Folks, grasping this is a game-changer.  Follow that action step and it will change the landscape of your business, and your life.

To Your Enduring Success,

Monday, May 10, 2010

Are you flying "market blind"? Day 1 of 365

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So... today begins 365 straight days of business growth blogging.

You can check my previous post for more details on this, but let me make one thing abundantly clear:  This isn't theoretical spewing by yet another information marketer.  This stuff is coming straight from the front lines of capitalism.  I'm in the trenches with start-ups and small business owners daily, helping them go after and acquire real business in the real world.

Every post is going to be based on real world events, with real businesses, who have to make payroll, have pay their suppliers,  have make sales day after day, etc. to keep their head above water, survive, and thrive.

Real people.  Real businesses.  Real life.

And in very concise form, I'm going to bring you the solutions to the most pressing and important problems these folks have to conquer in order to succeed in business today, tomorrow, and for the long haul.  Now for today's solution:

Do you really know your market?

If you don't listen to your market, you're flying blind.

Customers and clients (past, present and future)... your competition... your suppliers, vendors, partners, distributors... even your employees... they all are continually giving you pure gold feedback that can help you do what you do better, faster, higher, and more sustainably.

All too often I see entrepreneurs so goal focused and insistent upon getting their own way, that they aren't listening to anyone except themselves.  And their businesses are hurting for it.

If you aren't listening to what is being said in your "market space," here are some of the negative consequences you might face (all based on real world examples):

  • You might waste months (or years) developing a product that, when you take it to market, is a complete sales-failure.
  • You might keep pursuing a start-up concept that is bound to fail, no matter how persistent and positive you might be about it.
  • You might invest time and money in marketing and advertising that produces no actual results, and is thus a complete waste of time, energy, effort and a capital.
  • You might invest hundreds of thousands of dollars to launch a new profit center, only to find out your direct competition had you annihilated before you even got started.
  • .... and on and on...
The costs paid by those flying "market blind" are untold.  The wasted time, the wasted money, the wasted effort... the pressure on your employees, the frustration to your partners, the stress on your family... it's all unnecessary.

The challenges of being in business are enough as it is.  You really don't need to make things harder by proverbially "chopping your feet off" before you even run the race!

Know your space.


TAKEWAY:  Sustainable, wealth building businesses are not built on guesswork.  They are built on a continual flow of solid data coming from the marketplace.  Commit to engage in continual R&D to drive your strategic decision making, or your days or numbered.

ACTION STEP:  R&D your market on 2 fronts:  Your customers and your competition.

  1. Identify your top 3 direct competitors and genuinely asses their strengths and weaknesses.  Honestly, how do you stack up and what are you going to do about it?
  2. If you are a start-up, pitch your concept to real members of your target market.  Can you sell them the idea and get them excited?  Is there immediate evidence that your enterprise is viable, based upon an actual potential customer's response and feedback? (Friends, family, and business partners do not count as actual potential customers!)  If you are in business, start following up with customers shortly after purchase and casually survey them about their experience doing business with you.... LISTEN to what they have to say and then DO something to improve your operations based upon their feedback.  Don't dismiss what your market tells you. 

To your enduring success,
 

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