Every time I moderate a strategic planning retreat, I learn something.
About the investment of life force necessary to build and sustain a successful organization in the modern business day.
About the importance of heartfelt and mutually supportive communication among and between an effective executive team.
About how there is no more efficient use of business time than to step away from the day-to-day, to reset, and to talk about the big “whys “of an enterprise.
And from this talk, to refresh, refine and define the best, most strategic, and highest ROI use of executives’ time and of an organization’s capital.
I have the great, good fortune to moderate 1 - 2 of these “big” strategic planning retreats each month.
This past week, the group was the eight person executive leadership team of one of the larger and more prestigious hospitals here in Los Angeles.
A dynamic and highly experienced group, these eight executives have management and leadership responsibilities for over 1,500 hospital employees - providing care to over 17,000 patients, including 4,000 deliveries and 8,000 surgeries annually.
Yes, these executives have their strategic and tactical hands full to the highest degree.
In addition to the sheer scale and breadth of their organization and of the truly life and death impacts of their decisions, they also must grapple with and adapt to the sea changes beyond their control in our brave, new healthcare world.
The Affordable Care Act.
Payor consolidation, driving down reimbursements.
An increasingly Byzantine thicket of regulatory, liability, and organizational complexity that can easily make a hospital executive feel that even their best work will and cannot “tilt the windmill” toward high quality and cost effective care.
But here’s the inspirational rub of it all…
The bigger the challenge, the more engaged does become the effective executive.
And in this hospital executive team that I had the privilege of working with this past week, well they were engaged and committed at the highest level.
Well, how about this - in spite of having a more than a century of collective experience, and having to travel from their homes an average of more than 50 miles through Los Angeles rush hour traffic, all eight members of the team arrived at the retreat 30 minutes before its scheduled 9:00 am start!
Or, how about the fact that the organization’s CEO, in spite of being on the job for 17 years and being honored as one of the nation's top hospital CEOs, seeking critical feedback from a staff member on the job less than 90 days?
How about a willingness to, in spite of leading a wildly successful and highly respected 100 year old+ organization, to in an afternoon agree to scrap the team's existing meeting structure and try something completely new?
And my favorite, how about a willingness to take on the challenge of fundamentally rethinking the performance review structures of their vast and complex organization, knowing that yes, doing so will result in far more work on their already stretched plates, but committing to it as it is in the profound interest of the organization's mission and reflective of its values to do so?
And that is all that matters.
These kinds of discussions, and of course many more of the highly confidential, and often heated and pointed type, resulted in a high emotion and results-packed retreat day.
Undertake this work like our fair and fine hospital executives did this past week and watch the magic happen.
And, of course, ignore it at your peril.
Because, as Thoreau once famously said an unexamined life is not worth living.
And an unreflecting organization will, in the end, almost always turn into one not worth having.
Typically when I ask entrepreneurs and business owners what their number one challenge is, they reply that it's getting new customers.
And one specific question I often get is which are the best ways to generate new leads and customers? Certainly there are many tactics to choose from: direct mail, radio advertising, referral programs, and so on.
Particularly over the past decade, smart businesses have learned that one of the easiest and most cost effective ways to generate new leads is going online.
Two of the benefits of online lead generation are that it's quick and inexpensive. As you can imagine, it could take a month or more and several thousands of dollars to produce and run a radio, TV or print advertisement. Conversely, you can literally start generating leads online within an hour and with a budget of less than $100.
However, in my opinion, the real beauty of online lead generation is the metrics: you can track everything extremely closely to tell precisely how much money you spent, and calculate your return on investment.
On the other hand, traditional advertising like television, print and radio are much harder to track. For example, it's very hard to accurately tell if a new customer came to you from a print ad or a television ad, and it's even harder to tell which ad they responded to (e.g., the ad from newspaper A or the ad in newspaper B).
So, let me give you some tips and steps for creating an effective online lead generation campaign.
The first step is to determine what a lead is worth to you. For example, is a lead (for now, let's define a "lead" as someone who visits your website) worth 10 cents to you? 25 cents? 5 dollars?
Clearly, you need to understand what leads are worth to you, so you can generate leads at a lower cost than that amount.
So, how do you determine the value of your leads? The answer is to know, track and constantly improve your conversion rates. Conversion rates refer to the percentage of website visitors who take the actions you desire.
For example, let's say that for every 100 visitors that come to your website:
In this example, 15 visitors took a desired action; or you had a 15% overall conversion rate. And your conversion rate on buying online was 3%, on filling out the contact form 4%, and so on.
The next step is to determine how much each of these conversions is worth to you. For example, let's say:
In this example, for every 100 visitors, you would generate $625 in gross profit as follows:
Which means that every visitor to your website is worth $6.25. And as long as you can drive visitors to your website at less than this amount, you will generate profits.
Importantly, as mentioned above, not only must you know your conversion rates, but it is critical for you to continue to test and track to improve your conversion rates. For example, by changing the layout of certain pages of your website, you could boost overall conversions by perhaps 25%. This would mean that the average value per visitor to your website would jump from $6.25 to $7.81.
Not only would this jump allow you to boost profits, but it would enable you to outspend your competitors and advertise in places where they can't (since they perhaps generate only $5 per visitor). This is how you can truly dominate your market.
So, let's discuss where you can generate leads online. Here are my five favorites:
1. Search Engine Pay Per Click Advertising: Via pay per click advertising networks Google AdWords and Bing Ads (which covers ads on Yahoo and MSN), you can reach millions of web surfers. While many advertisers lose money with this method, if you know your metrics and improve them, you can make a killing here.
2. Social Media Marketing: You can drive lots of traffic to your website using social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Pinterest and/or LinkedIn.
3. Social Media Advertising: Some social media sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and more recently Twitter have specific advertising programs to allow you to attract their members and drive them to your website.
4. Online Media Buying: Online media buying is purchasing ad space on desired websites. Unlike pay per click advertising where you pay each time someone clicks on your advertisement, media buying is typically charged on a CPM or cost per thousand basis. That is, you pay every time a visitor sees your ad, regardless of whether or not they click on it. The key is to find the sites on which your target customers are spending time.
5. Search Engine Optimization: Search engine optimization (SEO) is the process of getting your website to be listed at the top of the search engine results for your most desired keywords and keyword phrases. Gaining top positions on certain keywords can drive hundreds, thousands, and even hundreds of thousands of leads to your site each week. However, SEO results do not happen overnight; you need to have a strategy in place and invest in this lead generation technique.
I want to mention a key point here. You are more likely to be successful if you focus on doing an excellent job executing on just ONE of these five tactics, rather than doing an average job executing on ALL five tactics. So, my recommendation for you is to start with just one tactic above and gain success. Then you can start to add the other tactics.
And finally, when marketing online, it's important that you have a lead nurturing process in place. Specifically, not every visitor who comes to your website is ready to buy right away. So, make sure you have processes in place to capture those leads (perhaps by offering a free report or video in exchange for their email address), and then send emails to them to nurture and maintain your relationship with them over time. Because when you nurture them, when they are ready to buy, they will most likely buy from you as they know and trust you more than the competition.
Suggested Resource: Want unlimited online leads? And want a proven step-by-step system to get them. Check out our Ultimate Internet Marketing System to learn how you can build the ultimate online lead generation machine. Click here to learn more.
A great source of funding to start or grow your business is SBA loans.
SBA loans are issued by private banks. However, the United States Small Business Administration (SBA) guarantees a percentage of each loan. What this means is the following: if you, the entrepreneur or business owner, default on the loan (i.e., can't pay it back), the issuing bank only loses a small percentage of the money it lent you. The United States government essentially pays for the rest.
Because of this guarantee program, banks don't bear as much risk and are much more prone to issue SBA loans. This makes it easier for entrepreneurs like you to get these loans. Conversely, without the program, banks wouldn't make as many loans, and fewer businesses would get funding.
When small businesses grow, everybody wins. The entrepreneur can start or grow their business. In doing so, they create jobs. And their employees then have money to buy things. And the economy grows.
Small business funding challenges during the recession
But, as you may have noticed, business owners are still having trouble getting access to capital, namely 1) Small dollar loans, and 2) Loans in the niche industries affected by recession, such as real estate, finance, etc.
If you think about it, most small businesses don't need $1 million or even $500,000, and wouldn't even know what to do with it all. In many cases, even $100,000 can go a long, long way towards boosting revenues (or even doubling them) if invested in more lead generation campaigns, building a sales team, etc.
The odds are you can suffice with a smaller loan amount. In the past this has been more difficult because banks are geared towards extending larger loans since they can earn more interest for the same amount of due diligence per loan.
What the SBA is doing for small businesses
The SBA recently launched two loan-guarantee revisions that simplify and streamline paperwork even more for banks and borrowers.
One of them, the Small Loan Advantage program, is off to a strong start. It allows banks to make loans at more affordable rates, and brings more opportunities to borrow smaller loan amounts, like $50,000 to $100,000 or even less....which is great if that's all you need!
Applying for a small SBA loan from banks
To take advantage of this for yourself, find out which local bank makes the most SBA loans. You can often find this information on the bank's website. Or you can visit the branch or call them. Ask them how many SBA loans they make and how often they fund loans in the dollar range of what you need.
Find the local bank that is most active in the SBA loan program and apply for a loan. If the bank says you're not ready for the loan, don't hesitate to ask them why. Ideally, you can then fix the issue, and come back shortly thereafter and get the loan.
The SBA wants you to succeed as an entrepreneur and business owner. As mentioned, when you do, you will create jobs and stimulate the economy. So consider SBA loans as a funding source; they might be perfect for your business.
Suggested Resource: Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.
Compared to its original intent, Memorial Day has become an overly “leisure” - focused day.
Rather, it is a day where we can and should take pause and remember those that gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we may enjoy our blessed, modern lives.
Along with President's Day, the 4th of July, and Thanksgiving, Memorial Day is one of the Big Four quintessentially “American” holidays.
Yes, days to step aside from our normal work routines and responsibilities, to relax, to have fun, to spend time with friends and family.
But also days to "pay forward" the sacrifices of those that gave their lives, in the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, “so that that nation might live.”
And a great way to pay it forward is to stand strong for freedom.
Freedom is a word that too often has become stripped of much of its inherently spiritual meaning by politicians and others seeking to further narrow agendas.
And, also too often, a distracted (and distraction-seeking) populace has let them get away with just that.
But freedom stands alone as the highest of all of the great “American” virtues - this country’s revolutionary gift to the cultures and economies of the world.
Now, to the degree that the success of the American experience has inspired freedom worldwide - such that economies and cultures and lives of people in places like China, India, Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, Poland, parts of Africa - that until recently have been clothed in medieval darkness, poverty, and rigidity...
... well then if freedom perishes here in the years to come, it will go on living elsewhere to a degree and on a scale many, many multiples greater than on these shores.
And yes, that is inspirational in its own right.
BUT it would not make it any less discouraging and dare I say sinful for those us blessed to be born and living in the cradle of freedom to let it perish here.
Or, as badly, to not take full advantage of the opportunities for self-expression, self-actualization, contribution, and prosperity this freedom affords.
And, of course, on this Memorial Day it would also be highly dishonorable to those who gave the ultimate sacrifices to preserve and protect it.
So how can one rightfully honor this gift of freedom?
Well first from that simple, profound place of gratitude and thanks.
But build on that.
Stand up for justice.
For good, limited, effective and neighborly government.
But stridently and ever vigilantly against corrupted, self-serving, expanding, "celebrity" and far away government.
And when it comes to work, knowing that freedom’s truest modern, civic expression is in the realm of private enterprise.
The realm of business.
So go for it.
Think. Plan. Act. Do.
To the fullest of our ability and with all of our effort.
In the service of noble missions and visions that call to us.
And when done to the fullest of our ability and with all of our effort…
…well on this Memorial Day then, we are honoring the sacrifices of those so they truly did not die in vain.
Last year, according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire, 67,030 ventures received angel funding.
This represented an increase of 1.8% over the prior year. In total, these angels invested $22.9 Billion; that's a lot of money.
Importantly, the Center for Venture Research found that the number of angel investors providing the funding last year was 268,160 individuals. So, clearly, there are a lot of angel investors out there.
So, you're probably thinking: how do I find these angel investors? The good and bad news is that there's no directory of angel investors. It's bad because if there was, it would be easy to find them. And it's good, since if angel investors were simple to find, they would be bombarded with deals; and thus raising capital from them would be much more competitive.
The best way to find these angel investors is through networking.
First, ask everyone you know (e.g., friends, colleagues, family, advisors like consultants, lawyers and accountants, etc. ) who they know that might invest in your business.
After that, the key is for you to keep networking and meeting new people. In many cases you should target individual angel investors directly. For instance, you may realize that a certain executive in your industry would be perfect, in which case you should call them and/or seek an introduction from a mutual acquaintance.
In other cases, you should "get out there" and meet them at different venues. Here are the six best venues I've found for meeting angel investors.
1. Local Business & Networking Events
Every city has local events that attract business owners and entrepreneurs (note that other business owners and entrepreneurs are often angel investors and/or can introduce you to angels).
You can find out about these events on sites like Meetup, Eventful and EventBrite.
For example, if you go to Meetup and type in "entrepreneur," you'll find lots of local events.
2. Industry Conferences & Trade Shows
Industry Conferences & Trade Shows are great places to meet angel investors. These events are filled with successful people who have the means and often interest in funding a company like yours. And, based on the fact that they are attending such a conference, they know your industry. This makes educating them on your venture easier, and also often gives them the ability to give you valuable strategic advice.
You can generally find out about these events in your industry's trade journals.
3. Alumni Events
Particularly at college alumni events you'll find lots of successful people. Many of whom would be very interested in funding your company as an angel investor. You already have a connection with these individuals since you share the same alma mater. So go to these events and meet them.
You may also have access to an online alumni directly. If so, you can use this to directly target certain individuals.
4. Chamber of Commerce Meetings
There's probably no better place to meet a large concentration of business owners (and potential angel investors) than local Chamber of Commerce meetings. So attend these meetings.
5. Volunteer at Local Organizations & Charities and/or Attend Charity Events
As a general rule, you should volunteer to give back to people less fortunate than you. But as a bonus, when volunteering you'll often meet very successful people, including large donors to the cause. These individuals might also be interested in funding your company.
6. Become a Guest Speaker
There are many groups like YPO (Young President's Organization) and Vistage that have monthly meetings during which they bring in outside speakers.
Find groups like these that could benefit from your knowledge. Present great information to them to help their businesses grow. In doing so, you will make great connections, including some that can fund your business.
As you can see, there are many, many places to find angel investors. It's mostly a matter of scheduling the time into your schedule to go do it.
Suggested Resource: In our Angel Funding Formula program, you'll learn exactly how to find and contact angel investors, exactly what information to convey to them and how, and how to secure your financing check. This presentation explains more.
If I say to you, "Hey, you can grow your business into a 10 million dollar company and be very wealthy" would you believe me?
Would you think it's possible? Likely? Easy? Hard? A pipe dream?
You don't have to tell anyone your answer, so be really honest with yourself. Can you envision becoming a multi-millionaire by growing your business?
If you can't see it, first congratulate yourself for that bit of honesty. Next, get to work on your mindset. You will never be a millionaire if you don't think like a millionaire.
Have you read biographies of multi-millionaires in the Unites States? It is rare to find a millionaire who says "I am so surprised I reached this level of success and wealth."
Except for lottery winners, most wealthy individuals are not surprised by their success. Their wealth is intentional. They set out to create that success, they visualized it, they believed it, and they passionately pursued it.
Hope Floats, Action Flies
You can hope to make the front page of Forbes Magazine by wishing that your business goes well. You can create excellent products then sit by the phone and hope that clients order them. You can launch a gorgeous website and hope that internet searchers just happen to find it.
In the course of your daily operations, do you hope for things to happen, or do you work at making them happen?
During your work day you likely create products, provide services, contact clients, process orders, send invoices, order supplies...and hundreds of other actions that generate income. Now let me ask you: would you be willing to stop doing these things and then to simply hope you can still make a living?
Obviously not. So, if you are not willing to give up your income by relying on hope and wishful thinking, why do so many entrepreneurs consider becoming a multi-millionaire a fantasy?
If your actions make you $200 dollars a day, don't you think that over time different actions can bring you $2000 a day, $20,000 a day?
My point? Stop hoping and wishing for abundant wealth and start planning on it.
1. Get The Mind Aligned
What you believe about money, wealth, and success will form the limitations of what you achieve in those areas. If you are comfortable with a 6 figure income, but feel guilty or overwhelmed when considering an 8 figure income, then you have set limits on your income potential.
If you think money is the root of all evil or that rich people are bad, then you have disqualified yourself from wealth. The relationship you have with money in your mind becomes the relationship you have with money in your life. That's why step one is to get the mind aligned.
You can't achieve dreams with lip service. You have to really believe.
2. Find Your Gurus
Ok, so you believe fiercely that you have what it takes to break into the 8 figure income stream. You believe it, you want it, you are seeking it.
Good! Seeking is powerful. You've heard it before, when the student is ready, the master appears. Even reading this newsletter is positive action in the right direction. Now surround yourself with likeminded people who reinforce your beliefs and support your goals. And spend time meeting with and/or studying those with more knowledge or experience that you.
Do not allow yourself to be frozen by fear or intimidated by those who have achieved great success. Find them, interact with them, learn from them, and model them.
3. Be Really Clear
We've mentioned becoming a millionaire or multi-millionaire a few times in this article. That is a great general idea, but it isn't a powerful enough of a goal to ignite action and feed passion.
You need to set very specific goals. Maybe you start with an annual income goal. Maybe you start with targeting a certain number of clients each month. Maybe you do both.
The more specific your goals, the more they will motivate and sustain you. Also, the ability to measure progress is key. If your goal is vague, how do you know if you are achieving it? Let's say your goal is to become a millionaire in your lifetime. You are now 30 and you have $60,000 in the bank - are you on track? Are you encouraged or discouraged? Will you be happy if you reach one million dollars in your bank account on your 90th birthday?
Now let's look at a specific goal. Let's just say that in 2013 your goal was to add 10 new clients per month and end the year with $570,000 in revenue. And now let's say it's December 31 2013 and you look at your results. You total clients for the year were 108 and you're final revenue totaled $563,000. You achieved 90% of your client goal and 99% of your revenue goal. Now how do you feel? You probably feel pretty good because you came very close to achieving your goals. And your results are probably far superior than if you didn't set the goals in the first place.
4. Tell Everyone
I am not talking about strutting around town bragging on how you are going to have gobs of money. I am talking about freely sharing your objectives in socially appropriate ways. For example, if while visiting family over the holidays old Uncle Jim yells across the room "Hey Chris, what are you doing with your life".
This may be an opportunity to say "Well Uncle Jim, this year I am focused on growing my company to $230,000 in revenues and I am on track to produce $5.5M in revenues by the year 2018".
I bet that will quiet the room.
Maybe you are willing to share that with family, maybe you'd rather not. Definitely be upfront about your goals with your staff, partners, and mentors. Go ahead and create accountability. If you really believe in what you can accomplish, you won't be afraid to "put it out there".
While you want passion, not ego to be your main motivator, a little pride can go a long way sometimes.
5. Live the Life
If you want to be a millionaire, you need to live like a millionaire. No, I am not saying you need to buy a car you can't afford or otherwise live beyond your means. On the contrary, there are hundreds of stories of self-made millionaire that got there by living conservatively.
What I mean is that you need to monitor your way of thinking. Do you look at a Bentley and automatically think "I will never afford that." How serious can you be about becoming a multi-millionaire if that is your knee-jerk reaction?
A person planning their success will instead think "In approximately six years, when my annual revenue reaches X, I will be able to buy that car cash."
What is your life plan? If you are a parent, are you optimistic about sending your kids to any college they want to attend? Are you learning about different places in the world you want to visit?
Are you learning a language to support your international business launch? Are you looking forward to and learning about things that are a normal part of the lifestyle you are working to achieve?
Is there something you can do now that will give you taste of your future? Maybe you can buy a pair of expensive sunglasses to remind you to look at the world through the eyes of a millionaire. Perhaps you can start a basic investment account at a firm that is known for high wealth clients.
Identify one thing you can do now that will make you feel like a millionaire, and go do it.
10 Million or Bust
Jack Canfield, one of the creators of the "Chicken Soup" series of books shares a story about setting bold goals. One year, he decided that he was going to sell a mini version of his book for twenty-five cents and wanted to reach $100,000 in sales that year. At the time, that was a huge amount of money for his family.
Well, he didn't make it. He only made $92,000 that year.
Was he disappointed? Of course not! By setting such a huge goal he created a situation in which an "almost made it" was still a raving success. If today, you make $75,000 a year and decide to make $10 Million in ten years, you will still be living a vastly different life if you only make $8 Million.
Now consider this. If in X years, you have 1, 2, 15, or 30 million dollars, are you still you? You may have different characteristic brought on by time and wealth, but you are still the same person, right?
If you are going to be a millionaire in the future, then what is stopping you from having that millionaire mindset now? Don't wait for things to define you. Rather, be defined by the passion, skill, and determination that will ultimately get you the life you want. Get your 10 million dollar mindset going today.
I had the great good fortune this past weekend to co-host Growthink's Business Blueprint Live event at the LAX Sheraton Hotel, next door to our Company’s Los Angeles offices.
At it, 53 entrepreneurs and business owners gathered for two days and nights with the Growthink team to dream, plan, and network as to how to best grow the revenues, increase the profits and better fulfill the missions of their businesses.
What is really neat is that because of its longer group and in-person format, there is time and space to really listen and, correspondingly, to share best business practices, ideas, and inspirations.
Golly - what a weekend!
The attendees that ventured from near and far and from the comforts of their homes and regular routines took a chance.
The chance that by "mixing it up a bit," that breakthroughs would follow.
And they did.
From the aerospace engineer developing new quality assurance processes that make the engines that fly our planes safer and more efficient, to the software entrepreneur helping community banks better manage their loan portfolios (and by so doing freeing up more capital to lend to entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow their companies and create jobs), to the doctor re-designing the nature of care to focus more on prevention than cure, new and powerful business ideas and tactics were hatched and committed to.
And I was reminded of an old wisdom that I forget way too often.
It goes like this: when there is something “nutritious” in my life and business that I am resisting, it is that thing that above all else I need and should be doing.
It could be getting up early and doing that workout.
Or not having that second glass of wine.
Or taking that vacation.
Or, in business, making that call, writing that plan.
Going to that meeting, that conference.
And when you do, hold nothing back.
Don’t let any nagging doubts about whether this strategy, this decision, this job is the right one.
Just dive in.
What is brought to mind is Joseph Campbell, author of a “Hero of a Thousand Faces,” and the world’s great scholar on mythology and the foundational stories of humanity.
He famously said that what we all seek is not “so much meaning in life, as we do the experience of being alive.”
Well, this weekend what I and very many of the attendees that participated and shared with that full-on entrepreneurial commitment experienced this weekend was very much that of being fully “business alive.”
And from it and because of it, new business and conceptual breakthroughs and lovely relationships naturally flowed.
And when I reflect on these amazing outcomes, and then when I think back to the resistance I felt of not wanting to organize, not wanting to go to the event…
Well, it hits home that so important wisdom that when I really don't want to do something that I know in my heart that I should…
…well that is the exact thing that I must do.
And then let the magic happen.
Business systems, business systems, business systems....why is everyone always going on and on about systems in your business?
Well, it's simple really. If you don't have a business system, and your entire operation relies on you personally performing certain actions, then you really don't have a business. You may be a really busy and even profitable self-employed, independent contractor, but you do not have a business.
A true business may require your leadership, strategy, vision, and even daily performance of work. But importantly, it will also continue to operate and make money even if you take a day off, go on vacation for a month, and be prepared for this, even if you die.
What is a Business System?
In its simplest form, a business system is a process or collection or processes that dictate the way your business operates. You may have a system for client acquisition, product delivery, customer loyalty, invoicing, supply chain, etc.
The more automated and error-proof your system, the more you are able to dedicate your time and energy to growing your business rather than simply running the day-to-day operations.
If more time and greater revenue is not reason enough to have solid systems in place, let's consider these other factors that influence why you can't live, or die, without a business system.
Try walking into a bank or a venture capital firm and telling them what a talented widget maker you are and that they should give you money to build your company.
When they ask for your business plan (a first step in building a business system), tell them you don't need any of that mumbo jumbo, you are Joe Blow, Great Widget Maker EVER! What do you think is most likely? That they will hand you a check or that they will laugh you out of the building? 99.99% will laugh hysterically (the other 0.01% are your parents and they are biased).
They will laugh because they recognize that a person is not a business. Yes, one person can create a business, and one person can be the vision and soul behind a company, but no one person is the company.
Apple is moving on without their visionary Steve Jobs, KFC is still selling chicken just fine without the Colonel, and Microsoft is still a giant while Bill Gates focuses on philanthropy. You may be central to your business, but to have real value, the business needs to be sustainable without you.
You Can't Sell Yourself Into Slavery
Let's say you have worked for your business for a few years, developed a good customer following, revenues are high, but you do everything yourself and nothing is documented.
If so, think about your exit plan. Will you someday just close up shop and let all those clients just melt away? Will you pass the business onto your children or chosen successor? Will you sell the business?
If you have a thriving business, selling may be an excellent idea and may significantly contribute to the funds you have to support your twilight years. But how will you sell a business that doesn't have clearly defined systems? How do you sell the business if you are the business?
Ok, so maybe the sale's agreement stipulates you will stay on as a consultant for a few months or years to show the new owners "the ropes" and transition the client base. Guess what you will be doing in those months? That's right, creating systems!
The fact is that you will sell your business for a lot more money and to a wider base of potential buyers if you have clearly defined systems in place. When you are the business, new owners have to hope they can either replicate your actions or have a plan to do it better. When you can show them proven business systems they can easily adapt, they will clamor to buy you.
What Will You Bestow?
Perhaps your dream is not to sell your business, but instead to pass it on as a legacy to your children or a chosen successor. There are many strong family businesses in the United States that have been passed on through generations. Is it your goal to be one of them?
The argument here is the same as in the previous section. How do you bestow a business if you are the business? How will you enjoy your retirement in Tahiti if Johnny Grandson is calling every two hours because he needs to know how you did this and that?
You Can't Die in Peace
Is the income from your business a necessary part of your household income? If you die, and that income stops, how does your family survive?
If you need a solid reason for building business systems, perhaps this is it. A business that can continue running without you, even if not running 100%, but can survive even without you, has value to your family. It can be operated by relatives, it can be passed on to heirs, and it can even be sold.
But if your business evaporates into thin air then minute you stop breathing said air, you are doing your family a disservice.
A business with a solid foundation of systems will survive you. It may even become your legacy. Your brand, when attached to proven processes and workflows, can endure.
Have you felt the tingle of cold sweat as you read this article? Are you wondering how you will ever sell your business when it primarily exists in your head? In many ways, a business is collection of abstract concepts. It's your reputation, your relationships with clients and suppliers, it's the quality of your product and service, and it's the word of mouth on the street.
To solidify your business, you need to give it form by building systems that can be documented, followed, and replicated by others.
Depending on the nature of your business these systems may require a strong team, wise delegation, trustworthy partners, and reliable vendors. Maybe all you need is clever automation that can be passed on to others.
If this article made you feel at risk, then take the time to carefully analyze your business. What can you automate? What can you document? What can you delegate? What can you reliably outsource?
Find ways to truly evolve from a self-employed worker to a smart owner of successful business systems. Build it right and you can live (and die) in peace.
Suggested Resource: Would you like to know how to build business systems that dramatically improve your business, and turn it into one worth $10 million or more? If so, check out Growthink's 8 Figure Formula. This video explains more.
Are you an Empire Builder?
How do you gauge yourself and your business? Do have the potential to turn your business into an empire? You may not know it yet, but you may just be the person to create the next business empire.
Empire builders are ordinary people who perform extraordinary tasks. There are certain traits and actions that distinguish these outstanding individuals from others. By learning certain skills and adopting successful actions you can set your business growth to super-size.
10 Characteristics of Empire Builders
If you have painstakingly built your business from scratch to where it is now, assuming it is growing steadily, you should not be surprised that you possess some characteristics in common with empire builders. Here are the 10 common characteristics.
1. Sacrifice & Hard Work. Empire builders are willing and ready to make sacrifices to be successful. Running a business is quite different from simply joining your workmates at a desk job; it involves hard work.
2. Passion. Empire builders are passionate about what they do. They put in extra effort to achieve their goals. Being passionate about what you do usually means that you are having fun doing it. The journey should be just as rewarding as the destination.
3. See Opportunities. Do you see opportunities where others see obstacles? Another trait of empire builders is that they see an opportunity where others see barriers. Many people think that to be successful you need to come up with an idea that nobody has thought of before. Many successful empires have been built without innovative ideas, just the will to do the same thing others are doing but in different way. Or they dare to tackle a problem others are afraid to tackle.
4. Highly Motivated. Empire builders are highly motivated people. They don't let their determination cool off due to defeats. If they don't succeed at first, they simply try again and again. They use failure as a motivation rather than an obstacle.
5. Disciplined. Another important characteristic of empire builders is discipline. Empire builders are focused on their goals. They do not let distractions derail them from achieving their objectives. They have clear steps that they take every day to bring them closer to their goals.
6. Open Mindedness. Open mindedness is a vital characteristic of empire builders. These are individuals that are ever open to new ideas and new ways of doing things. They get inspiration from different sources and focus it on achieving their goals.
7. Team Builders. They are skilled networkers who build strong contacts needed for success. Nobody ever succeeds alone; rather, success requires team building. Empire builders have persuasion skills that enable them to convince people to work for them even when their ideas may seem crazy.
8. Decision-Makers. Empire builders have good decision-making abilities. Sometimes people may wait for the right time to do something but empire builders launch their projects and then make the necessary corrections later. Decision-making is vital and in many cases, not making a decision is as bad as making a wrong decision.
9. Can Create Or Expand a Market. Empire builders expand the market. Contrary to what many believe, you don't have to launch something completely new to be successful. You can simply get into a business that many have thought of and get your share of the market and grow it.
10. Understand Their Markets. In business, timing can mean the difference between success and failure. Empire builders are capable of predicting the precise time a product will be successful in the market. When Sony launched the walkman, skeptics said people would not be interested in listening to music as they walked. Know the wants and needs of you market.
What Lessons From Empire Builders Can Help You Grow Your Business?
I want you to take a challenge. Pick three characteristics from above and start applying them this week. Keep practicing until they become second nature; aim for 3 to 4 weeks. Then pick three more. Do that until you cultivate all these characteristics of empire builders.
Here's your checklist:
Let us know how this challenge changes you and your business!
Your brand is the unique design, sign, symbol, and/or words that create an image or impression of your product(s), service(s) and/or company.
A strong brand differentiates your product or service from your competitors, and is easily recognized by customers in your market.
Think about Starbucks...Their coffee is not the most affordable in the market, but their brand recognition and loyalty is off the charts. They have a wide-spread reputation for delicious, strong coffee that many people refuse to do without.
Disney is global mega brand. Show a child a black round circle with two round black ears and the screams of "Mickey, Mickey!" will leave you temporarily deaf. Not only is the image recognizable, but it's is associated with fun and happiness.
Developing a strong brand is important and can dramatically impact your success. Below are three surefire strategies you can use.
1. Create a New Product and Constantly Innovate it
Apple's introduction of the iPhone is a classic example of this strategy. While cell phones had been in the market for years, Apple introduced a new sleek design and took the cell phone into the realm of smart phones. Instead of just phone and camera, Apple popularized having music on your phone and later led in the development and release of mobile applications This strategy caused Nokia's market share to drop precipitously.
Not only did Apple innovate with the initial introduction of the iPhone, but the company keeps the product fresh by releasing updated models every 2 years or so.
Puma is also adapting this method by constantly introducing new sports products to the market. The company does this to continue building its reputation as the most desirable sport lifestyle brand.
By creating a new, unique product and constantly updating it, you will build a strong brand. And you will stay top-of-mind for customers since they will always be curious as to what they can expect from you next.
2. Using a New Campaign To Change a Brand's Image
As second branding strategy is to use a new marketing campaign to change your brand image. One example of this is the Dove soap campaign introducing "Real Beauty" in 2011. The concept is that women have real beauty and Dove can help them realize it.
This type of campaign can also be called "rebranding." You use an old product, repackage it, and possibly change its logo too. Your purpose is to change the product's identity and reputation in the view of consumers.
You can also use rebranding to overcome a period of poor publicity. For instance, if your company has been involved in public malpractice litigation, rebranding can help you get rid of negative connotations that may be hurting your sales.
Rebranding can be a powerful tool in helping you differentiate your product from competitors. Think of special stitching and serial numbers high-end purse manufacturers use to differentiate their products from cheaper knock-offs. When you make your product distinguishable, you can gain more customers.
Lastly, when your product has been in the market for a long time, curiosity and interest from customers may lessen. Rebranding can help you regain excitement in the market place and recapture market share. Intrigued customers want to try whatever is new in your product.
3. Advertise While Keeping Up with the Brand Value and Promise
Being seen on television and other advertising channels can do wonders for most products and services. Sometimes, despite being more expensive than other brands, consumers still buy products with which they are more familiar. This is true of the brand Tide. There are laundry detergents that are less expensive, but many customers still buy Tide. Because they hear about Tide frequently, it is top of mind when consumers are shopping.
Still, Tide has to keep up with its promise of being a great laundry detergent. If consumers experienced poor results, they wouldn't buy Tide again despite millions of dollars of advertising. The product must do what your advertising said it would.
It is also important to make sure your advertising, whether local or national, is reaching your target audience. Remember the Chrysler Pacifica? Its okay if you don't; they don't even make the Pacifica minivan anymore.
In 2004, despite warnings from their advertising consultants, Chrysler contracted Celine Dion for $10 million to promote the new Pacifica. The campaign was a disaster. The Pacifica appealed to young professionals, yet Celine Dion resonated with an older age group. The result? Nothing. Flat sales with millions of dollars out the driver's window. Know your target market!
Applying the Strategies
While many of the examples I used are from well known large companies, any business owner, even a one person operation can use the strategies listed above.
And importantly, you don't have to spend a fortune on this. With social media tools like YouTube, Instagram and Facebook, you can create videos and photos that can spread your brand message quickly, inexpensively and with amazing effectiveness.
So focus on building your brand, because the right brand will bring in tons of new customers and dramatically increase the value of your company.