An absolutely incredible and little-noted essay last week in the Wall Street Journal - Understanding the Terror Threat by Paul Campos – should be required reading for anyone in a position of authority in this great country of ours.
Campos main point: - in both business and politics we have become a nation of “irrational cowards," and of Chicken Little "sky is falling" doomsdayers.
And in so doing, we have done a grave dishonor to the sacred heritage of our country. A country built by risk-taking immigrants, by pioneers and action-driven leaders like George Washington, Teddy Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King.
Campos makes his point via citing the actual statistical probability of being a victim of an act of terrorism:
• In the decade of the 2000's, only one out of approximately 25 million passengers was killed in a terror attack aboard an American commercial airliner (all on 9/11)
• To put this in perspective, a person has about a one in 500,000 chance each year of being struck by lightning.
• Deaths from terrorism on airlines were at least five times less common in the 2000s than in any decade from the 1940s through the 1980s.
Campos does point to the one exception in the back of everyone's mind - the threat of nuclear terrorism. He agrees that this is a statistically real serious threat to which an intense, global policy response is very warranted.
Beyond this, though? Fuggedaboutit! The probability of any of us being the victim of a "terrorist attack" is for all practical purposes zero.
Now the pure flip side of fretting over terrorism is, as Teddy Roosevelt so famously said, is to be “in the arena,” to be a "doer of deeds" and to spend oneself in a worthy cause.
And in 21st Century America, it is our nation’s entrepreneurs who are most purely in the arena. It is they that are most courageously pursuing the opportunities that make America fly and thrive.
And you know what else? In terms of public perception, entrepreneurs suffer the opposite problem from terrorists. People think the odds of bad things happening to them (failure, bankruptcy, etc.) are worse than they really are.
For example, while most people think that 9 out of 10 businesses fail within one year, the real statistic is that only 1 out of 2 actually do.
Or while the media portrayal of entrepreneurs and small business is usually one of too much work and too little reward, less reported is how on almost all career satisfaction rankings being an entrepreneur ranks at the top of the list.
Or my favorite – most people consider investing in start-ups and small companies as the riskiest class of equity investing out there. This is anecdotally true but by no means collectively true.
As I pointed out in a recent blog post, over the past 10 years early-stage private company investing was the ONLY asset class other than gold to outpace inflation.
My favorite line from Mr. Campos' essay - Cowardice is among the most shameful of vices.
Washington and Roosevelt and King (to say nothing of the Wright Brothers) would turn over in their graves at the sight and sounds of the irrational fear-mongering that passes as public discourse in this great country of ours.
His advice and mine: Fight back.
In ways large and small, a good place to start is by learning the real odds.
And when you do, you will sleep easier on that next red-eye to JFK.
Recently, I polled my subscribers about online marketing.
I asked, "What is your #1 question about marketing your business online?"
I was thrilled to receive so many responses. Thanks for everyone who participated in the survey!
There was a good amount of variety among all the questions, but after reading through them and categorizing them, there were some definite patterns. Actually, 3 big questions accounted for about half of all the responses.
Here are the top 3 questions, and my answers:
FAQ #1: "How Can I Drive Targeted Traffic to My Website?"
FAQ #2: "How Can I Get Return on Investment (ROI)?"
FAQ #3: "What's the Best Way to Get Started?"
Marketing your business online can be very overwhelming because there are so many options and so much to learn. I hope my answers have helped to "demystify" online marketing for you, and that you have a clearer idea of how to go forward.
In the coming weeks, I'll be providing more content as we get ready to release our new training program.
Do you have any remaining questions about online marketing? Or comments about my answers? Please share your comments below.
Get More FREE Internet Marketing Tips:
What Every Entrepreneur Ought to Know About Internet Marketing
Case Study: How to Generate Leads Online
The "Browser-Shopper-Buyer" Framework
Many of you know that I started my career in market research.
One of the things I learned back then was to be wary of certain research results. Why? Because I learned that it's pretty easy to purposely skew research questions to get the results you want.
Which is why a lot of new products fail, even though the research said they should have succeeded.
While there are no certainties when conducting or reviewing marketing research, one thing is clear. When data from multiple sources continue to say the same thing, than that data is typically true.
Such is the case when it comes to Internet Marketing.
Countless research studies have proven beyond a doubt that virtually every company can profit from improving their online presence. Consider these recent statistics from eMarketer and Cornell University:
* 87% of all Internet users utilize search engines to find information on goods and services online.
* 63% of all Internet users have used the Internet specifically to research a product or service before buying it.
* 49.9% of companies marketing their businesses online realize ROIs exceeding 100%. (that means they make over $2 for every dollar they invest online!)
* 37.1% of B2C and 37.9% of B2B companies who have tried, have successfully marketed their businesses using Facebook.
The research is pretty clear. Getting your company found in the appropriate places online can skyrocket your growth and profits.
But, like with anything else, internet marketing is a bit complex. And, more often than not, business owners don't realize success right away.
It's sort of like riding a bicycle. Once you know how to do it and get the hang of it, it's smooth sailing. But, the first few times, particularly if you don't have anyone watching out for you, you'll fall down.
In fact, I've fallen down quite a few times. Over the past ten years, I have invested over $5 million of my own money into internet marketing. But, while I've gotten knocked down a few times, I've also enjoyed a ton of success. And I've learned a whole bunch of valuable lessons.
And, right now, I'm putting together the final touches on my internet marketing course so I can teach you these lessons.
While I'd love for you to buy the course, even if you don't buy it, I feel obliged to get at least some of this extremely valuable information in your hands. That way you can start using internet marketing techniques to grow your revenues and profits (and not get hammered by a competitor who is a savvier online marketer).
Of all of the variables to evaluate in handicapping the likelihood of success of a business, by far the most important is its "human DNA" - that killer combination of people smarts, vision, creativity, integrity and work ethic present in all great companies.
Here are 7 qualities to look for in a management team worth backing:
#7. They Are, In Fact, A Team. Great companies are not simply the byproduct of a visionary and/or charismatic founder and chief executive, but rather of a multi-disciplinary, multi-faceted, and well-meshed leadership team.
Great companies have cultures of achievement.
The tone of this culture might be, and usually is, set by a charismatic founder. But its enduring success is dependent on how it can replicate and maintain that culture as the company grows, and as its founder's role becomes less pronounced.
#6. It Is Clear Who Is In Charge. This may seem contradictory to the above, but all well led companies have clear and final points of decision making. There are many effective styles of leadership, from greatly autocratic to fundamentally consensual, but all of them share the fact that in them there is one person at whose desk the "buck" truly stops.
#5. They Have Small Business Discipline. To paraphrase Guy Kawasaki -- the worst folks to run a start-up or an emerging company are a group of ex-Microsoft executives. Entrepreneurial companies are first and foremost small businesses. As such, their management must a) fervently guard cash flow and manage it with a cult-like intensity and b) always make decisions with the mindset that they only have so many "arrows in the quiver" in terms of time and capital to pursue initiatives.
#4. They Are Risk-Takers. The proper goal of an entrepreneur with outside investors is not to run a small business in the common sense of the term. With the fear of sounding harsh, the best managers are minimally concerned with protecting their own "middle-class" lifestyles. Rather, they understand that to achieve greatly requires daring greatly.
For investors, a flame-out failure is not the only bad outcome. As damaging is "a muddling along" driven by too conservative decision making influenced by the desire to "protect hides."
Companies that run this way, in fact usually require MORE money, and counter-intuitively can often be riskier than their harder-charging brethren.
#3. They Are "Goldilocks-ish." While there are certainly outliers in this regard, the significant majority of the best entrepreneurial managers are not "too hot" nor "too cold." Again, not a hard and fast rule, but look for leaders where the key people are between the ages of 30 and 50 have had a few past successes and maybe a failure or two.
They are now in that sweet spot between youthful hunger and middle age wisdom. They know what they know, yet they still have the intellectual and emotional flexibility and curiosity to change and grow.
#2. They Are Technologists. All successful 21st businesses are, at their essence, technology businesses. This does not mean that they all would be considered classic "emerging technology" companies (though the majority of them, in fact, are).
Rather, well-run modern companies leverage technology -- from CRM and ERP to SEO and SEM to scenario-planning and simulation to "best practice" their business models. Their managers understand that information technology is not just the domain of a geeky guy to call when computers can't boot up, but is rather the drumbeat of their business.
#1. Their Work Ethic is Off The Charts. More than anything else, successful entrepreneurs work hard. As in very, very, very, very hard. They work nights. They work weekends. They take short vacations, if any. They work when they're sick. They work when they're tired. They work and work and work and then to paraphrase the great (and famously hard-working) golfer Gary Player, "The harder they work, the luckier they get."
Look for this quality above all else. It is almost always the best predictor of success.
After five years of living in our new house, my wife and I decided to buy a new clothes washer and dryer. We figured we'd upgrade to those new, ultra-efficient machines that use really little detergent, water and energy.
But right as I was about to make the purchase, I started to feel really bad for the washer and dryer manufacturer.
Well, we bought it at Best Buy, and before we made it to the front, where the registers are, our son Max stopped us in the video game section.
And so I started thinking. When am I going to buy my next washer and dryer? Maybe in another 5 years? 10 years? 15 years?
And when is Max going to get his next video game? Probably next month. And then the month after that. And then the month after that. (If he keeps up the good behavior and good grades as I expect he will.)
What an amazing difference! The washer and dryer manufacturers may only get one sale from me in the next decade while the video game companies might get 120 sales over the same period. Sure, the washer and dryer are bigger ticket items, but even if I'm satisfied, that manufacturer isn't getting squat from me for a long time.
Which made me think of the mistake I made when we first started Growthink.
When Jay and I first started Growthink, we focused solely on developing business plans for companies. We helped a ton of companies achieve a lot of success. But oftentimes, after we helped a company, they no longer needed us. The used the plan to raise money and grow their businesses, and didn't need to come back to us for another business plan.
We were like the washer and dryer manufacturer.
So, we set out to correct this mistake.
We started offering more services to help clients after developing their business plans. We launched our investment banking practice to help them raise capital and/or sell their businesses. And we began offering marketing and internet marketing services to help them generate new leads and customers.
And then we launched Growthink University to help clients with everything they need to successfully start and grow their businesses.
It took us years to get to this point, but now things are humming.
So, my key takeaway for you is to really think about your business:
How often will customers buy from you?
What is the lifetime value of your customers?
How can you increase the number of purchases that customers make from you?
Can you develop new products or services for them?
Can you offer them value month after month after month?
As we start this new year and decade, I want you to take some time to think through these questions. Make sure that you are adding as much value as possible to your customers; and giving them the opportunity to pay you month after month, year after year to receive this value.
If you're even considering selling your midsize company in the next couple years, here's the bottom line: you should start the process now.
That does not mean you should officially list your business for sale. It means you as the business owner should start some of the "behind the scenes" efforts (that is, preparation) that will enable you to maximize the value of your company during a sale and enhance the terms you'll negotiate as early as possible.
We certainly understand: you've been growing and leading your company for years, not working to sell it. You've been building it to last, not flip. The principals at Growthink have been in your shoes. We've started and grown businesses ourselves. And we've sold them too. We've learned lot of lessons along the way during our collective 100 plus years of start-up and business advisory experience.
But only about one of every three or four businesses successfully reaches a closing after they are listed for sale.
That's a discouraging statistic, but one that can be overcome. And consider, too, that various sources note that up to 75% of all business owners are planning to sell their businesses within five to ten years, creating a massive inventory of available businesses competing with you for buyers' attention.
Why should you care?
What's one of the key differences between those business owners who execute a successful sale of their company on good terms and those who fail to close?
Simply knowing the process well in advance, focusing on a few essential actions as early as possible, and taking a comprehensive approach that is integrated into your overall business management and planning process.
Growthink's approach is unique and designed specifically for business owners. Unlike accountants, lawyers, business brokers and other intermediaries, we believe in a comprehensive approach to optimizing the chances of selling a business for the highest price and on the best terms for the owner.
We recommend you focus on three distinct initiatives months (or years) before you officially offer the company for sale:
1. Enhancing Your Business Plan to Increase Your Value - and Sales Price. Since 1999, we've helped 2,000 clients build their business plans and strategies. We'll show you how to achieve a value for your firm that includes its future growth opportunities, not only its past performance. Consider why the stocks of some public companies in a certain sector command a premium price to others in the sector - it's because investors believe in the future prospects of that company compared to the others. You should work on developing that premium value for your company through maximizing your business strategy - a process you're probably already doing anyway.
2. A Complete Process. These include all the steps involved in selling your business, from beginning to end (and even after the close). Steps include improving your financial statements and records and thinking about future capital gains, estate and other tax issues as early as possible.
3. Creative Financing and Transactions. You don't have to sell your business to your first bidder through a straight asset or stock sale. We'll teach you a variety of structures to choose from, including tax efficient sales to your existing partners, recapitalizing the company so you keep a continued role, and selling to another company in your industry, among others. All options offer advantages and disadvantages. You'll learn why and what type of approach might be right for you.
Experience has shown that only a relative few midsize businesses start the sales process early and focus on a comprehensive approach. Quite frankly, these business owners have a better chance of a successful outcome that those who don't plan.
We encourage you to learn the basics - whenever you think you'll sell your business.
Online Seminar - Thursday, January 7th at 1 PM PDT/4 PM EST
Join the expert Growthink team businesses for 45 minutes, and learn key lessons that will benefit you whenever you decide to sell your firm. The official Growthink "Bottom Line Guide to Selling Your Business" will be provided to seminar attendees.
Thursday, January 7th at 1 PM PDT/4 PM EST
During the online seminar, we'll also disclose the top mistakes owners make when selling their businesses (the land mines to avoid), as well as government actions that may be coming soon and affect your sales process (yup, think capital gains taxes).
Sign up here.
Join the expert Growthink team and two entrepreneurs who recently sold their businesses for 45 minutes, and learn key lessons that will benefit you whenever you decide to sell your firm. The official Growthink "Bottom Line Guide to Selling Your Business" will be provided to seminar attendees.
Seminar Fee Waived for this Program. Strictly First Come, First Serve
Since our webinar system is limited to 200 registrants, sign up right away to attend via the link below.
Sign up here.
Look forward to your participation,
The Growthink Investment Banking Team
Look to the right for a fantastic chart that tracks investment returns for various asset classes over the past 10 and 20 years.
A few points immediately jump off the page:
So that is past. What will the next 10 years hold? Here are three predictions:
My answer - yes but. Yes - because the 2 key factors that drive angel investing outperformance remain the same. One, returns have to be very high as compensation for illiquidity - most angel investments are in private-held, small companies years away from a sale or an IPO. And two, returns are high as compensation for the EXTREME variance of the asset class.
Now for the but. While the asset class returned an average of 30%+, it was attained via the sum of a very, very few winners (aka Google), and lots and lots of losers.
Quite simply, a few investors made a killing, and a giant many got killed.
But here is where it gets interesting. The one thing that has and will continue to drive angel investing returns - namely technology advancements - now allows investors, for the first time, access to smoothed-out returns (i.e. higher likelhood of hitting the 30% average versus the extreme highs and lows).
Enter your email address to get instant access:
It's really easy to make fun of big businesses. With all their bureaucracy, they tend to move slowly. And they tend to be difficult to work with.
But there's one thing that big businesses typically do much better than smaller companies. And that is conducting employee performance reviews.
In fact, many smaller businesses focus so much on solving day to day crises, that conducting employee reviews falls by the wayside.
Which leads to problems. Lots of problems.
Companies that succeed have strategic plans.
And, when you conduct periodic employee performance reviews, you ensure that your employees have objectives that are congruent with your company's strategic plan.
So rather than employees focusing on tasks that they think are right, you ensure that they accomplish the tasks that really allow your company to grow and profit.
Without performance reviews, you get lots of problems. Management gets frustrated because employees are not achieving key objectives. And employees get frustrated because they don't know if they're doing a good job or not.
Interestingly, when I recently interviewed Mike Carden, co-founder of performance management review company Sonar6, he told me that most employees really like performance reviews, even when they are underperforming.
He said, "It's sort of like playing golf. Even if you don't play great, you want to know your score at the end."
Carden gave me some other great tips on conducting performance reviews to ensure that you get the most out of your employees and your company achieves its objectives.
Among other things, Carden mentioned that reviews should typically be done monthly and should take no more than 20-30 minutes per employee.
By getting into the habit of conducting monthly performance reviews, you ensure that your employees remain focused on the RIGHT objectives and that you reward them and/or improve their performance more quickly.
To hear a short clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below:
Growthink University members can download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/384.cfm
Most of us are familiar with Ivan Pavlov and his famous Pavlov dog experiments.
To refresh you, Pavlov found that when dogs constantly heard a bell when they were fed, that subsequently, the mere sound of a bell would cause them to salivate in anticipation of their next meal (even if that bell was not accompanied by food).
Interestingly, when I recently interviewed productivity expert Laura Stack, she compared checking email to a Pavlovian response. Basically, applications like Microsoft Outlook with features like a bell sounding with every new email, or an envelope in the system tray, have conditioned people to check email far too often.
In fact, many entrepreneurs and business managers check email 10 times a day or more. Some check it constantly.
But what happens when you are checking email too often? Well, according to Stack, you are failing to complete the key tasks and projects that must be done in order to grow your business.
Successful entrepreneurs and business managers have the insight to determine the highest value uses of their time. And then they have the self-discipline to ensure that each and every day, they devote time to these uses. It is then, and only then, that entrepreneurs can grow their businesses. If not, every day they might accomplish 20 tasks, but these tasks won't help their businesses grow.
During the interview, I peppered Ms. Stack with a series of productivity questions, and received tons of great answers in return. My favorite was her six-step outline for entrepreneurs to become more productive as follows:
1. Determine what you are supposed to be working on (what has the highest value-add to your organization)?
2. Make room for those activities on your schedule (and do whatever you have to do to get it done, including scheduling meeting with yourself or working offsite)
3. Focus on achieving those things that need to be done. Don't let yourself get distracted.
4. Get organized.
5. Be disciplined. Do the things you need to do. Don't waste time on rituals like checking email, getting beverages, and socializing with co-workers in the morning.
6. Get back the attitude you had when you first started your company. By focusing on the high value-add objectives and freeing up your time from monotonous and low value-add activities, you will feel a renewed energy and excitement for your business.
To hear a clip of the interview, click the blue triangle on the player below.
Growthink University members can listen to and/or download the full interview here: http://www.growthinkuniversity.com/members/383.cfm