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!
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.
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.
We are really excited to announce we have launched a new business plan website, BusinessPlanTemplate.com.
As the name indicates, the site will include business plan templates for all types of businesses. Currently, we have forty templates on the site. Templates are organized into 3 categories: Food & Retail, Service, & “Other” business plan templates.
Crowdfunding is getting a group of regular individuals to collectively fund your venture. And when I say "regular individuals" I am contrasting them to professional investors and lenders like banks, venture capitalists and angel investors.
Clearly, Crowdfunding gives the key benefit of providing funding to your business. But, I have found other key benefits. Below I list those benefits as well as 5 keys to successfully raising Crowdfunding.
5 Benefits of Crowdfunding
1. Market Research
Pre-selling your product is incredible market research. If people buy it, then your marketing message is on target and there is a real need for your product or service.
If people don't buy it, then maybe a market doesn't exist, or you need to adjust your marketing message or target market.
In either case, getting this market research BEFORE raising or trying to raise a ton of money is invaluable. It allows you to test whether you have a winner before going through this process.
2. Built-in Customer Base
When you get others to fund you via Crowdfunding, you build a customer base. If you provide a good product or service, these customers will be prone to buy more products and services from you (the same products, upgrades and/or new products you develop) in the future.
3. Case Studies/Testimonials
Showing case studies and testimonials from customers is a great way to convince new customers to buy from you. And you can get these case studies and testimonials from those customers you gain from Crowdfunding (assuming you delivered them the product/service and they liked it).
4. Word of Mouth Marketing
People who fund your company will tell their friends about it. Particularly if you make them feel like founders/initial investors (which you can easily do via email and on your website).
Done correctly, Crowdfunding can result in thousands of customers, most of whom can tell numerous friends and colleagues about your products and services. This word of mouth marketing can be worth millions of dollars.
Local media sources are enamored with Crowdfunding as it's new and unique. As a result, countless entrepreneurs who have raised Crowdfunding have been profiled in local newspapers, radio shows and TV broadcasts.
So, with some legwork, raising Crowdfunding can get you lots of PR.
So, now that you understand the benefits of Crowdfunding, how do you raise it? Below are five keys.
5 Keys to Raising Crowdfunding
1. Inspire People
When you tell your "story" to potential crowdfunders, inspire them. Yes, they are investing in your product or service, but they are also investing in you. Give them an inspiring story about yourself and why you are building your company. Inspire them to want to help you.
2. Provide Value
When people crowdfund you, they need to get something in return, such as equity in your business or your promise to give them a certain quantity of the product or service you create. Make sure potential crowdfunders feel they are getting value for their investment. If not, they won't fund you.
3. Create Social Proof
Social proof is the psychological concept that if someone sees someone else doing something, they are more prone to do, or want to do, that same thing. For example, a line outside a bar shows social proof that the bar is hip/cool/the place to be, and inspires others to want to go inside.
Social proof can be created in Crowdfunding. Here's how. As soon as you launch your Crowdfunding project, get as many of your friends and family as possible to fund it. Then, when others that don't know you go to your Crowdfunding page, they will see that lots of other people have already funded you. This will make them much more likely to fund you too.
4. Market and Build Buzz
Even if you have the coolest company, product or service in the world, chances are that crowdfunders won't automatically beat a path to your door. Rather, you need to market your Crowdfunding raise. Email all your friends about it and tell them to do the same. Tell everyone on Facebook and Twitter about it. And so on. Even if your company is buzzworthy, you need to first create the critical mass of people who know about it and can spread the word. So make sure you do just that.
5. Don't Slow Down
Once you start getting more and more backers to your Crowdfunding campaign, don't just sit back and let the money roll in. Crowdfunding is a fixed-term capital raise. For example, on Kickstarter, your Crowdfunding campaign can only last 90 days. So, once those 90 days is up, you can't raise more money (you'd have to start and market a separate campaign later). So, during the campaign, try to raise as much money as possible. Communicate with those who have backed you. Thank them and tell them to tell their friends to back you too. And make sure they don't have "buyer's remorse" - assure them that you remain steadfast in achieving the vision you laid out when you convinced them to back you.
Crowdfunding is an exciting new source of funding with many benefits. To get it, prepare yourself and follow these steps.
Want Crowdfunding for your business? Check out Crowdfunding Formula. The program is a series of videos I recorded that walk you through each of the 14 steps to raising rewards-based Crowdfunding. Many of you have already joined the program and raised money. If you haven't, click here to get Crowdfunding for your business now!
In this article, I'm going to give you the secret to highly effective marketing.
Let me start with an example.
Let's say your competitor runs an advertisement that reaches 10,000 target customers and gets these results.
Assuming the ad reached 10,000 target customers, your competitor's gross profit from the ad would have been $8,662.50 (minus the cost of the ad).
Now let's assume that your company did a 20 percent better job on each of these factors. Your results would be as follows:
Now let's look at the results.
If your ad reached the same 10,000 target customers, your gross profit would be $19,596.
That's 2.3 times greater than your competitor's.
Now, what would happen if you generated 2.3 times greater profits than your competitors every time you ran an ad?
The answer is that you would absolutely dominate them.
Now, the key marketing secret that I'm sharing with you here is that you don't have to revolutionize your marketing system. Rather, small, 20% improvements in each part of your system lead to revolutionary results.
So, here are some ways in which you can improve each part of your marketing system:
The more you know about your customers' wants and needs, the more easily you can design advertisements that appeals to them.
And the more you know about them, the better you could craft a unique selling proposition (USP) to attract them.
For example, if you are local hardware company and you know your typical buyer is a busy male with a wife, kids, and dog, you could easily craft ads with a higher response rate.
You could also boost response rates by developing better offers that attract customers, such as an offer for a 90-day money-back guarantee.
Remember, conversion rates are the percentage of prospective customers that you converted into actual customers.
A few ways you could increase conversion rates include having a better process in place for training your staff and sales team, providing better employee incentives (e.g., commissions or bonuses for closing sales), or by developing and testing sales scripts that boost results.
Number of Widgets Per Buyer
To increase the number of units purchased per transition (including purchasing more widgets or related items), you can rely on similar tactics to increasing conversion rates such as better hiring, training, sales scripts and so on.
Remember McDonalds doubled its profits when it started asking "would you like fries with that?" and increased them again when it starting asking "would you like to supersize that?"
Better systematizing your business and implementing the right processes and procedures will allow you to generate higher profits per sale than your competitors.
Finally, to increase repurchase rates, do a better job of communicating with your clients and showing them how special they are. For example, send them emails, call them, or send them letters in the mail to educate them and remind them that you have products and services that can help them.
As you just witnessed, making small improvements to each part of your marketing system is incredible powerful and massively increases your profits. If you want to learn more, check out our "Double Your Profits" program which provides detailed training on how to make these improvements in your business.
Most businesses fail. I hate to be so blunt, but this is the truth. The only thing that varies is just how many businesses fail.
According to research from the University of Tennessee, 44% of businesses fail within the first three years. And within certain sectors, like information (which includes most technology companies), 63% fail within 3 years, or in Retail, 53% fail within 36 months.
On the other hand, according to research from Bradley University, 70% to 80% of new businesses fail within their first year. Bradley University also found that half of those who survive the first year will fail within the next four years.
And the number one cause of this failure? According to Dun & Bradstreet, the primary cause is lack of business planning.
Yes, entrepreneurs and business owners don't plan to fail. Rather, they fail to plan (which causes them to fail).
In my view, there are two types of business plans; (1) the one you develop when you start your business, and (2) the one you develop to grow your business.
When you start your company, the purpose of your business plan is to ensure you have fully thought through your venture.
Among other things, this plan includes significant market research. It assesses your market size to ensure the opportunity is big enough. It analyzes customer segments to confirm that customer needs match your company's proposed product and/or service offerings. And it analyzes the competition to determine how your company will position itself and how you will most effectively compete.
From a strategic standpoint, the business plan must document your marketing plan (how you will secure customers), your human resources plan (who you will hire) and your operations plan (what key milestones you will accomplish and when).
When you're done, your business plan will confirm your market opportunity and give you a roadmap to follow. It will also be required should you wish to gain funding from investors and lenders.
Now, once your business is up-and-running, you still need a business plan in order to succeed. This is the second type of business plan, and I refer to this type of plan as a "strategic plan." I term it as such because this type of plan requires much less research (since you already know who your customers are, the market fundamentals, and lots of information about your competitors). Rather, the focus of this plan is strategy.
Specifically, this plan needs to identify precisely:
1. Where you want your company to be in five years
2. What you need to accomplish within the next year to progress you to that point, and
3. What your strategy is to complete your key milestones in the next 12 months
In determining the optimal strategies, you need to consider your company's strengths, and opportunities that can best leverage them. If you don't take time to do this, you become too tactical. That is, you continue to use the same tactics that have gotten you to the point you are at. And oftentimes, the strategy and tactics that got you where you are today are NOT the strategy and tactics that will get you to the next level.
So, spend time figuring out the best strategies to follow. The good news is that you've already proven you can execute on strategies (which is what got you to where you are now).
After you figure out the big picture opportunities to go after (which often fall into the categories of further penetrating your existing market, going after a new market, or creating new products/services for existing and/or new markets), you need to revisit the three core strategies you developed in your initial business plan.
To start, you need to modify your marketing plan. Importantly, your marketing plan should always be adding new marketing venues or channels (e.g., direct mail, print, radio, search engine optimization, etc.) as the more channels you have, the more customers you will get and the less risk you have of one channel losing effectiveness. For example, think about businesses who used to get all or the majority of their customers from the yellow pages; many of these companies have perished.
Next, consider your human resources strategy. What new people will you need to hire to accomplish your key goals in the coming years? In what areas will you need people, and what skill sets must they have?
And finally, you need to develop your operations strategy. Figure out what key tasks and milestones you need to accomplish over the next year and break them down into smaller projects that you and your team must accomplish. And then create a master schedule showing who, how and when these projects will be completed (I like using a Gantt chart to do this).
Creating a business plan when you start your company, and annually creating strategic plans to grow your company is absolutely essential to your success. Research proves it. So, if you want to avoid failure, and achieve maximum success, make sure you are continuously creating, updating and following your business and strategic plans.
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Whether you are trying to sell a prospective customer on buying your product, a prospective investor in funding you, or a prospective partner in doing business together, you will encounter and will have to overcome objections.
Importantly, you should plan for these objections beforehand. How? By expecting them, and trying to preempt them.
Here are the five universal objections for which you should be prepared.
Objection #1: I'm too busy
This makes it hard to even get your foot in the door in the first place. At the advertisement level, people will skim over your ad and never commit to focusing on and reading it. You've got to show prospects fast that what you're offering is worth their time.
The solution is to get their attention. Tease them with something, promise something, use memorable messages, and/or give prospects value up front.
Importantly, the better you understand who your customer is and can speak to their specific needs, the better you will do in getting their attention and getting them to spend time considering your offer.
Objection #2: Why do I need you?
Particularly if prospects are not actively seeking the product or service you offer, you must show them why they need it. Show them what life can be like with your solution - how it solves a key need or pain.
Sometimes you even need to put them in pain, if they don't know or think they are in pain. For example, while your prospects may be happy with their CPA firm, a message that stated "learn the 3 ways your CPA firm is probably costing you thousands of dollars each year" will make them think they do have a pain/problem and get their attention.
Objection #3: I don't have the money/the price is too high
This objection comes up earlier than you'd think. It's partly because people and companies are both more cost-conscious these days, and partly from people's aversion to spending more money on something at all. So "I don't have the money" is their excuse to bail before getting too invested in the decision-making process.
The solution here is to show prospects the value of what they are getting. Will your product or service enhance their lives, save them money in the future, position them to be more successful, etc.? Let them know the answer to this question!
Likewise, if the prospect is considering an alternative solution to your company which is less expensive, you need to show why the best decision is to go with you.
Objection #4: I'm not sure I believe you
People are skeptical, and don't believe everything you advertise or say. They want to know you're for real and they want to see proof that your product or service does what you say.
Show them you're legitimate by letting them know your credentials, seeing your work, knowing your clientele or how long you've been in business, and also that you're honest, have integrity, and really care.
One of the best ways to prove you can get results is showing testimonials from other customers. This is why "before and after" pictures are used in most weight loss commercials. This can be done with many products.
Other things you can do to overcome skepticism include offering money back guarantees and simple return policies.
Objection #5: Let me think about it/I need to speak with my partner/manager/etc.
Sometimes prospects legitimately need to think about a decision. Or they need to discuss it with someone else. With regards to the latter, ask questions from the beginning to determine if there's another decision-maker. And if so, bring that other decision-maker into the conversation earlier so you can "sell" both decision-makers at once (rather than having to do it twice).
With regards to the prospect requiring time to consider the decision, make sure to follow-up with them while their making that decision. That doesn't mean calling or emailing every hour. But rather periodically checking in on them. Importantly, find reasons to check in. For example, maybe you read about something in the news that you think they'd find interesting. If so, call or email them with the piece of news. When you do, there's no need to even bring up the sale you want to close. Rather, focus on helping them and staying in touch, and each time you do, you'll move closer to securing the sale.
Getting new customers is one of the hardest things a business must do. By considering the objections prospective customer have, and preparing for them (via adjusting your marketing materials and training your sales team), you will more successfully attract new customers. This can and will give you a competitive advantage, and allow you to grow a successful company.
In my last essay, I discussed the three benefits of using outsourced workers (cost savings, reducing overhead, getting work done while you sleep). And then I gave you tips for finding and selecting the right outsourced provides.
In this essay, I'll lay out my system for rapidly training these new hires (it also works for new in-house and/or full-time hires).
Before you start the training
Before you begin their training, take a few minutes to break down the work to be completed into a list of steps, or even a process map (a simple, visual flow chart of how the process will go). As a manager, your job is to create these processes and coach your team to implement them and report the results back to you.
If something goes wrong, it's either because they did not follow the process correctly as you spelled it out -- or there is something less effective about your process to correct. Listing all the steps and putting them in the right order will also clarify your thoughts and give you a guide or agenda to follow when training them.
The simple system for rapid training
Step #1: Explain
This is where you take the time to describe the work to your virtual assistant or outsourced person. Show them the list of action items or an overview of the process. A written summary coupled with a verbal explanation is usually the most thorough way to do this.
Tell them what the task is called (for easy reference later on), what it accomplishes, why it is
important, who will need to do it and when, and how it is to be done, step by step. The
more details you can give, the better, because they will grow to understand you and
your company goals and will be able to handle more things for you later on without
having to ask a ton of questions.
Also, understanding your business model, your customers, and your purpose will help them make more informed decisions along the way -- subtle differences that can turn good work into greatness.
Step #2: Demonstrate
People learn better by seeing an example of how something is supposed to be done. This will teach them better than the longest explanation. Demonstrations can be done in different ways:
1. In person. Example: Demonstrating how to fold and stuff envelopes.
2. On the phone, via webinar. Via phone or webinar you can tell or show a virtual person how to do something.
3. Via video. if you show someone something via a webinar, record the webinar. That way, the next time you need to train someone, they can simply watch the video rather than requiring your time to train them.
4. Hypotheticals. In this case, you would give a few "if-then" scenarios to your hire and tell them what to do or say depending on what happens.
For example, you might write in an email to your hire, "Call Joe Contractor and ask him if the work is about 2/3rds of the way done. If it is, ask him for a range of days and times for me to meet him to do a walkthrough. If not, ask him when he expects it to be and call him back that day."
Step #3: Practice
After learning how to do a task, the hire must then attempt it on their own under your supervision. It's important that you monitor their work for a while until you are certain that it is being done correctly. Otherwise, neither of you will know if it needs improvement.
Find a way to watch them in action or to see the results of their actions. This might be hard for some of you, but let them fail. It is least distracting and demotivating for you to observe the entire process and save your comments for the end.
The whole point of training is for them to get used to the whole process on their own. NOW is the time for them to make mistakes. Hopefully you budgeted enough time for them to practice things a few times and get it right before crunch time.
The way to monitor them could be watching them in person, listening on the phone, or reviewing a finished product of some sort, like a design or written work.
Step #4: Feedback (Positive and Negative)
This is the part of training where you help them to improve at their job by pointing out things that could be done differently or better. I prefer to use the "Feedback Sandwich" approach, in which you tell them what they could do better in between two compliments so it's not harsh or overly negative.
For example, you could say:
Once you have given your feedback, the training cycle begins all over again. Your feedback
is their new explanation (Step #1). You may demonstrate it again if you feel you need to (Step #2), and have them practice it again (Step #3), until you decide that the results are good enough.
A Trained Assassin
When you have decided that your hire is capable of performing the task consistently on their own, they are now officially trained. Be sure to congratulate them on learning the task, and thank them for making your life easier.
And lastly, this rapid training system is not just something to use when they are first hired.
If at any time their performance falls behind, or you want to help them take one of their skill sets to the next level, or you think of something new for them to do, just follow these 4 simple steps again.
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