Running a business is not what it used to be. Some things remain—good planning, structure, pricing, and marketing. You do not need a lot of money to get into business—but don’t be undercapitalized. These days, it isn’t enough to want to “disrupt” your industry—it’s been done already. Now is the time to get smart about market forces because volatility has become the norm.
The market belongs to the nimble—three views to keep in mind
Do you have a great product or service? Let’s assume that your marketing is working for you, and then you hit a bump, or you lose an important client—you’re sunk. How do you pivot and what are the factors that can help you keep moving?
I work with entrepreneurs with brick and mortar and virtual storefronts. My goal is to help my clients make money—and keep making more. Profit flows to those who make smart choices, and take necessary, informed chances. That is what I do—help small business owners understand their choices—and chances.
Change is constant, and here are some important features all entrepreneurs should be aware of:
Whether you are a micro-entrepreneur, or a successful CEO planning to step out, it is important to know the right steps to get where—and what—you want. Do you want to struggle for the next ten years for sweat equity? Or make some real money to support your current or hoped-for lifestyle? Work with a mentor, or business counselor to find your place on the curve, develop the right questions and be sure you have the right answers to get your best chance at success.
A big part of a profitable business today is learning how to successfully fit into a world of change. Your biggest assets are what you bring to the table in the form of knowledge, experience, adaptability, and willingness to seek and receive good advice.
When you want to ride the wave, instead of being swept up in it—call me at 585-633-7563. I can help you make the money you want.
Yours in profit,
My business is helping you identify, attract, and land the customers you want, to make the profit you need. As a small business owner, I know what works, and how to use marketing technology to steer business your direction, and keep it coming.
But when it gets down to it, how do you help your client hear your message, and understand your brand, through all the noise? It is not as hard as you think.
The dynamics of choice and marketing
A lot is written about the psychology of choice. Drill into the topic and you’ll find research looking at why people make the choices they do.
Understanding why people make choices is important. As small business owners, we want to know how to influence choice to get more business. Poor marketing and product lines mean your premium clients go elsewhere.
As a consumer, you know what it takes to convince you to buy. Taking that perspective is important when thinking about how to sell to your client base. Consider these points about the experience of choice:
Sales work is mostly psychology, with products mixed in. Know your customer, and know what you are really trying to sell.
To get to the sell, start at the beginning
Most people can sell something once. To profit and grow your business, you have to meet the needs of your customer repeatedly. Marketing hype has its place, but the bottom line is that you have to understand your business from the viewpoint of your customer.
There is a well-known story about the angel investor who kick-started Apple. Everyone starts somewhere and Apple founders, Steve Wozniak and Steve Jobs, originally worked out of a garage. Their first investor was Mike Markkula. As the story goes, Mr. Markkula also wrote a three-part marketing platform that continues to serve this very successful company.
The three mandates written by Mr. Markkula in 1977 remain effective and include:
Take what we know about the science of choice, combine it with rock-solid marketing philosophy, and a great product, and you are on your way to small business success.
By understanding your own business, you can help your customer make a choice that benefits both of you. When you need help understanding the bottom-line of your business, call me at 585-633-7563, I can help.
Yours in profit,
Thinking about starting or relaunching your business? Both require serious consideration and a long-term plan.
Every year small business owners start, relaunch, and sell businesses. There are a million reasons why. I work with entrepreneurs to start and grow their businesses with the aim of turning a profit. A big profit. When you make more money, you can offer the service you want—at the price that sustains your lifestyle choices and family.
Starting up—five things to know
When considering starting your own business, there is a lot of work to be done. There are resources that can help you with the basics, and you need to give careful thought to questions like:
These are just a few types of value that make you different from the also-rans. Your value proposition can make or break your business—make sure you know the reason people would want to spend their money on what you have to offer.
These are the types of questions I work over with entrepreneurs. Make sure you know these metrics inside and out before you invest your money, time, and a good chunk of your life in a new business.
Do you need to reboot?
Relaunch, pivot, and rebrand are all words used to discuss actions needed when you hit a wall—or a profit plateau—with your business.
Let’s say you have a moderately successful business—or you are just getting by. The numbers still look decent, and you want to stay with the business you built—but you are not making enough money. A lot has changed since you started your business and you have no idea how to make the most of the financial, marketing and social media tools now available to you.
Consider these points when you need a fresh start:
Whether starting new—or starting over—think about the reasons to be in the business you are in. Ensure your own personal and financial interests are strong enough before making commitments to move your ideas forward.
When you need help with a start-up, or refining your business plan for a relaunch, call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit,
Do you have a great idea? Do you think it will sell? How do you produce, market and manage your product or service? And how can technology help you? These are all basic questions that challenge every small business owner.
I got my start in small business with an auto repair shop. Plus, I have always been a computer geek. Along the way, I put the two together, and with a lot of hard work, I built businesses with revenue in the millions—by combining traditional business concepts and technology.
Small business owners and tech
A lot of small business owners are dedicated to delivering old-fashioned value and service to their customers. I work with a diverse group of clients who come to me when they have tried everything to get ahead, and are either falling behind, or just not achieving the success they want. I know—I’ve been there.
For me, a turning point arrived when I began to deeply understand the customer lifecycle, not just the single sale. By adding technological solutions to my traditional understanding of business concepts, I achieved success. And now I work hard to offer that opportunity for financial success to each small business owner I work with.
Technology, when used correctly, can help you allocate your time better, offer greater value, save money—and make you money. I use appropriate tech to create personalized, high-touch marketing campaigns and back-office tools that build my brand and extend my reach.
Trends in marketing tech
For me, a high quality customer relationship is a key differentiator. I want my clients to know they matter, and that I value their business. A lot of the time, my go-to method for personalized, old-fashioned client care is technology.
In 2014, Salesforce, a cloud computing company, sponsored a Forrester report on one-to-one, or personalized marketing. The survey queried more than 150 marketing decision makers in a variety of businesses, including leisure, retail, healthcare, financial services, and others. Trends identified in the report include the following:
Together, old fashioned customer service, and meaningfully deployed marketing automation are critical to the future success of small business entrepreneurs.
Trends in IT for entrepreneurs
In the back-office, there are IT trends that business owners cannot ignore. Consider these points about small businesses and technology from the Harvard Business Review:
The model of traditional business has changed, but not traditional values. Do you have an unbeatable offer? Do you have the right technology and workforce in place? How about your business plan? When you know you can succeed, but you do not know what to try next—call me, I can help. My business goal is to make you a millionaire. You can reach me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit.
Along with the opportunity to create and expand your brand, the Internet also offers dissatisfied customers plenty of opportunity if they decide to take their beef online. Search engine reputation management (SERM) and online reputation management (ORM) are two names for the same type of important service—consultants and businesses that keep tabs on your online reputation.
What is it all about?
The importance of reputation management for entrepreneurs
In a recent blog, I talked about the importance of going the extra mile with customer service—especially if your client is unhappy. A negative Internet comment or review can catch fire under the wrong circumstances.
While large companies take Internet hits with some frequency, a smaller, local business can really struggle in the face of negative online backlash.
Good Internet reviews, comments, and information are influential to customers, potential employees, business partners—even lending institutions. While some people believe that any publicity is good publicity, a negative reputation is hard to overcome on the Internet.
The annual 2014 BrightLocal survey of approximately 5,000 consumers made some interesting points about customer use of Internet reviews, including:
These statistics leave no question that positive online buzz is helpful—and that negative comments can damage sales, and your brand.
Damage control—what can you do?
The best way to deal with a negative online comment is not get a bad review in the first place. Train staff, provide exemplary customer service, and be ready to offer coupons, perks, and waive costs if a mistake happens. Preventing bad Internet press is far easier—and less expensive—than controlling the damage caused by an unhappy customer.
But let’s say a customer is unhappy with a product, and does not get the satisfaction they want when they reach out to your company. They post a negative review on a social media channel. What do you do?
Sometimes a fast response to a complaint earns you good will on the web. At other times, a complaint may not have any weight. Your best option is to make it right. The decision, and the investment needed to respond to the issue, is yours.
Reputation management—do you need it? You bet. If you have questions about online branding, your marketing reach, or problem solving customer complaints—call me at 585-633-7563.
Yours in profit.
What is VUCA?
A term borrowed from military leadership in the 1990’s, VUCA is an acronym for volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity. In other words, VUCA is the normal operating environment of a small business owner. Sure, it is crazy world. But it’s more productive to examine the parts rather than become overwhelmed by the whole.
At a glance, the components of VUCA seem to lead to the same conclusion—there is too much to handle, so just do what you can. Much of the time, entrepreneurs are too deeply engaged in helping their business survive the economic roller coaster to apply critical thinking to the mechanism of the ride. Let’s take a look at the pieces:
The excitement of a VUCA world
When I work with entrepreneurs one-on-one, or in my master group, elements of VUCA are never far from the table. A situation is uncertain, supply or labor is volatile—these are everyday components we deal with on the way to success.
VUCA can be explored from an analytic and a hands-on approach. While many focus on how to survive in a VUCA world, I want to talk about how you can thrive in an uncertain world.
Change is certain—especially in the current business climate. We can accelerate and revitalize our business processes to embrace and use change, rather than defend stale business plans against it. Consider these tips:
Many small business owners already have the innate ability to recognize and meet volatile, uncertain times. Successful business in a culture of change means developing readiness, and confident leadership, in the face of continually changing circumstance.
When you need a fresh perspective on turbulent factors impacting your business, call me at 585-633-7563.
To your success.
Quick question—as an entrepreneur, what is the hardest work you do? Let me give you a quick answer. As a small business owner aiming for success, the hardest work you will ever do is thinking about your business.
Let’s think about it right now.
What does thinking have to do with being successful?
Entrepreneurs are people who do. People who take action, and harness resources, with confidence that others may not possess. This comfort with ambiguity and need for speed comes through in the adage sometimes used to describe business: “ready, fire, aim!”
In an earlier blog, I talked about the importance of using time to do the things only you can do. When you take the time to do things that should be handled by others—or not handled at all—you make more work for yourself, and run out of time at the end of the day.
Most small business owners do not have an issue with hard work—it comes with the job description. I work with business owners to align their products, pitch, and processes with success. I know from experience that thinking deeply about the business is one of the hardest things for an entrepreneur to do. Why?
Entrepreneurs are always ready to work, to find opportunity, build outside the box, look at mistakes, and try something different next time. Many have no business plan before they are off and running. Here are areas of thought where small business developers excel:
The tenacity, and ability, to move an idea to market is valuable. It also comes easy to many who find their careers in small business ownership. But forward movement in the face of uncertainty only goes so far. What is needed next? Strategic thinking.
Your hardest work might be sitting still
There are a lot of reasons you can find to avoid sitting down to drill into a strategic plan for your business. Practically anything will work to distract you from a hard look at your bottom line. It is not for the faint hearted.
When I meet with a client, I have a pretty good idea of their business inside of 30 minutes. My work is to help them develop a plan—the core strategy for their product, offer, marketing technology, and workforce, among other factors.
I run live events where our master group of small business owners meets in great locations for three days to talk business. Typically our venue is a super house with great food, scenery, things to do—and plenty of time to talk business. Because I keep my live events small, about 10 people, we are able to really get into, and break down, problems that group members face.
While we discuss business and marketing throughout each day, the toughest part of any live event is when we sit down to brainstorm through strategy questions of those present. We take the busy-ness out of thinking about business. Really sitting down to figure out the right moves, reach an audience, identify potential pitfalls—I watch these highly creative people wilt in front of my eyes.
Because entrepreneurs are so good at concept work, frankly addressing, and readdressing, the flat-out business challenges facing each other is intense. More than once, I have had a business owner come up to me afterward, with a great plan in hand, and tell me they never could have made themselves sit down and do this work on their own.
More heads are better than one
I work with entrepreneurs one-on-one, and in groups. There are advantages to both.
Individually I offer small business owners personal attention and clear feedback on their present business state, and future potential. Working with clients, I develop a step-by-step plan by engaging you in deep thinking about how you are working, and what profit you hope to see. You walk away with a plan that relieves your worry, is based on sound business principles, and gives you rock solid direction on where you are heading, and why.
In a group, you safely discuss what works—and what does not work—with people who know exactly what you face. Too often business owners only have a friend, or maybe an associate, to run ideas with. Whether you join a group like mine, or form your own—get the business support you need to exploit your natural creativity. Don’t go it alone.
The hardest work you will ever do is the most rewarding—and what it really takes to be a successful entrepreneur.
When you need a sounding board, or help with your strategic plan—call me at 585-633-7563
To your success.
I like people. I like to work with people, do good business, and help where I can. If I am lucky, other people feel that I am likable, too—because it matters to the success of my business. Regardless of what kind of business you are in, being likable matters.
Each person has their idea of ‘likable’. Basically, likability is about what you would expect—friendly, engaging, curious, mindful, interested, and interesting. For small business owners, the personal touch matters, and getting your message across means reducing the immediate barrier of first impressions. It all starts with a smile.
Increase your “likes” with these four tips
As an entrepreneur, you know that success is built on a good idea, sound structure and marketing, financial ability, and advanced organizational skills. A big company is largely considered faceless, but one key advantage of small business owners is that they are the faces of their companies. That personal touch can be the difference between success and failure.
To make a deal to sell your goods and services, or buy those of another, demeanor counts. Anyone who has watched Shark Tank knows the Sharks intend to eat you alive – warm and fuzzy is not on the menu. But the reality show is intended to sell ratings, and that it does. In the real world, you have to sell your product—and yourself. So how can you improve your delivery?
Let’s take a look at some keys to presenting a congenial face to your clients and potential clients:
1. What is on the inside? Unless you are a good actor—and you may be—it matters how you feel about your business, your day, and the person sitting across the table from you. There is plenty of research about the psychology of body language and facial expression. While you can practice your firm handshake, relax your voice, and be sure your arms and legs are not crossed, authenticity is your biggest selling point. Humans got to the top of the food chain for good reason – we are born observers who not only passively intuit, but actively watch contextual clues like gesture, eye and facial expression, and body position. Do your best, and be your best. It gets you further than a slick dose of “fake it till you make it.”
2. Empathy matters: Empathy is a higher level human skill. Unlike sympathy, empathy is the ability to genuinely understand and share the feelings of another—even if you have not been in their shoes. Empathy goes a long way to making you likable. No person can be positive, jazzed, and ready to roll at every minute—but they can be empathetic. You may meet someone having a tough day—or a rough couple of years. Do not paste on a smile, tolerate a couple of minutes, and then shift the conversation your way. I am going to go out on a limb here and say, let your client, or customer, talk. Even if they spend time discussing a personal matter of great importance to them—let them talk. People with real empathy are good listeners, and somewhere in there, you will hear what you need to know about this person to help you make your sale.
3. Curiosity: Curiosity is seductive. I find there are few people who do not want to talk about their business. Ask the right questions and scaffold the discussion on those answers. It goes a long way toward likability—and makes you a trusted business connection. I have said it many times before—you need to learn what your customer wants before you can offer it to them. If you are curious about their ideas, vision, and history, they will feel as if you understand them. Being curious about their business also lets you create the perfect pitch based on the free information they just provided.
4. Help first: Remember the slogan, “Commit Random Acts of Kindness”? It is good idea. Create an opportunity, open a door, pass along a contact name—help someone out each day. Being a consistent, trusted resource for others makes you the “go-to,” a highly valued individual inside and outside of your business community. Reach out to others to widen your own network. Not asking for reciprocal favors gives you real power.
There are many tactics, tips, and cues you can use to improve how others perceive you. As a small business owner, genuine interest in others is attractive to those seeking what you have to sell.
Start your day with a smile, and start each phone call the same way. Even when others cannot see you, a smile generates a different business environment for your conversation—one that is…likable.
For entrepreneurs, it is easier to attract the success and income you want, when you feel positive about your direction, and your marketing. When you need sure-fire ideas and a rock-solid business plan, call me at 585-633-7563.
To your success!
You became a small business owner to live your life and career your way. Now your business is your life. Can you be an entrepreneur and still have some kind of work-life balance?
The answer is, it depends.
My definition of an entrepreneur is a person who sets up a business or businesses, and takes on financial risks in the hope of profit. Pretty simple. But being an entrepreneur is also about having the life you want without sacrificing business success.
I work with small business owners. When we meet, many of these entrepreneurs are burned out from years of trying to profit in business and enjoy their lives—and succeeding at neither. It’s not hard to see why.
The business hero model does not support work-life balance
Dedicated to business at all costs, the stereotype of the entrepreneur calls for total economic devotion. In a report in the Wall Street Journal, one small business executive states entrepreneurs cannot have a balanced life. “Successful entrepreneurs derive so much satisfaction from their business that their work is their life.”
This may be the case—as long as it is a choice. Too many business owners—and employees—work long hours for compensation without enjoying the life that passed them by in the meantime.
The recent recession and slow-moving recovery shook up financial markets and world economies. A recent survey from Ernst and Young looked at work-life balance across the globe and discovered the following:
• Globally, almost half of workers who identify themselves as managers are working more than 40-hour weeks.
• Millennials (born between roughly 1980 and 1995) in the United States report having difficulty finding free time for a personal life and even getting enough sleep.
• The top five reasons people quit their jobs are poor wage growth, lack of promotion, too much overtime, lack of teamwork, and not enough work flexibility. The opportunity to build flexibility into a job—and still be considered a valuable, promotable employee—is a high priority in the current workplace.
Some employees, who quit their regular jobs, move on to become small business owners. Eventually they find the same poor wage growth, too much overtime, and lack of flexibility—even when they own the business.
While the sweat equity is all yours, you are the business hero who is still getting home too late to enjoy your children, your spouse, or your life. Work-life balance remains out of reach.
Integration is more important than balance
My passion is working with entrepreneurs like you to find ways to take charge of your business and create the income and flexibility you wanted all along. Consider these points about small business ownership:
• Work-life balance is not important for some: Some entrepreneurs live to work. There is no denying it. These folks are happiest in the middle of a business meeting with the assurance they have another work engagement at 7:00 PM. They are driven to work, whether they succeed or not.
• Work-life balance is important for others: These are entrepreneurs who work to live. Working exceptionally hard, these business owners endeavor to build an economic model, and a life, that fits their dreams.
• Integration vs balance: Integration means understanding the value of your time and how, and where, it is best spent. It means noticing the frustration of employees who deserve promotion to duties that would allow you to move forward with your own plans. And it means bringing flexibility back into the picture—for you, your business, and your workforce.
Is there a process for being successful—and wealthy?
My marketing automation group is composed of successful, wealthy entrepreneurs who were once struggling small business owners. Overwhelmed by longtime efforts to succeed, and suffering from personal burnout, many of these entrepreneurs just did not know where to turn.
In working with these and other business owners, I offer a unique experience that can be used by anyone to achieve the success—and the life—they want. That experience includes three steps:
• A roadmap: By discussing and delivering an action plan specific to your business, I help you see where you are, and where you want to be. Whether your issue is lead acquisition, employee management, outsourcing, automation, or fulfillment, you get the plan you need to achieve success—and work less.
• Personal interaction: Buying into products and ideas goes nowhere if you do not have the mentoring you need. Our work groups meet together for serious business and play during our three-day live events. Bring your specific problems to the table and hear the advice of business owners who were once where you are now. Get tips, techniques, and technical tools specific to your business needs—and enjoy supportive relationships with people interested in helping you.
• Guidance: My business is building your business. That means I offer ongoing guidance to help you remain focused on critical issues and objectives we identified in your action plan.
When you want to shift from struggle to success, I hope you will call me at 585-633-7563.
If you don’t, just remember the three keys you need to make more money and work less hours. Those keys are an action plan, mentoring from people who have been there, and solid business guidance during the bad—and good times.
To your success.
Recent headlines reveal an uptick in the economy for small business owners. If the economy is improving, isn’t this the time to get smart about creating success for you and your business?
In May, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) released its small business employment report. The survey reflects feedback from small business owners like you. Some key points of the report include:
Does this mean the business climate is the best ever? No. But it does mean you have a fighting chance of making it the best business climate for you—and your company.
Why are you here?
My job is to help my clients develop a structured, creative mindset and business plan. It takes both to achieve success as a small business.
Success means something different to each business owner, but for me, it has to do with using your time to do what you love, and what you are good at. Success gives you a chance to offer value to clients, customers, and employees in a way that sustains your business—and your vision for your life.
Entrepreneurs have reasons for being where they are. Small business owners work hard to define what they have to offer, and what they hope to earn. Business owners usually get into their line of work for motives that include:
How to get where you want to go in business
Everyone wants to make money doing what they love—but most people need help to get there.
Most people believe small business ownership means a long struggle to succeed. Part of that is true. Only about a third of small businesses launched in any year will survive for 10 years.
The economy is improving and you already own a small business—or maybe you are just starting out. How do you improve your odds?
The mandate of my company is to help yours. From the big picture to the small details, I help you understand the real meaning of value—of your time and your product. Instead of working harder, our group helps you work better in ways that include:
According to one survey, leading strategies for small business growth in 2015 include:
It’s a great time to be an entrepreneur. When you want to thrive—not just survive—as a small business owner, call me at 585-633-7563.
To your success,