Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, December 25, 2012
One problem many entrepreneurs and small business owners run into is that they are simply thinking too small. I often have readers writing to me asking for help getting their business ideas off the ground. I also often hear from folks who have run their small businesses into the ground.
You may have heard of the expression "Shoot for the moon...even if you miss it you'll land among the stars." Plan big and even if you only get halfway there, you're still further than if you planned small.
Here are five key areas where it's possible to think too small - and doom your business to failure.
1. Too Small of a Niche
Is your niche too small? Finding a popular market for your business to target is critical to your success, but sometimes people narrow down their niche too much.
For example, while doggy dental products could be a wonderful niche (as almost any dog owner can attest) you could narrow your focus down to a certain type of dog (such as German Shepherds). But going for one specific breed might be taking it too far, as it would reduce the pool of available buyers by 90% or more (my best estimate on dog breed ownership percentages :).
2. Too Small of a Target Market
Is your target market too small? If you are looking only at one community or small geographic region then you may well doom your product or service to failure.
It is far too easy to saturate a small market and for any marketing mistakes to end your campaign before it gets off the ground. In today's economy, with the availability of global marketing you need to think bigger when you are planning your target market.
Even if dominating your local market is your initial goal, make sure that you're ultimately heading for something greater or you might become a big fish in an inadequately small pond.
3. Too Small of a Budget
Is your budget too small? You don't need a million dollar advertising budget, but you should have some seed money to get your business and its marketing campaign off the ground.
It is possible to build a business from nothing but it is also a lot more difficult and you might find yourself making some mistakes that cost you a lot more down the road than putting a little money up front.
In fact, when planning a project or borrowing money, come up with a figure of how much you'll need and then double it! No one wants to come back to the well later when they run out.
4. Too Small of a Schedule
Is your schedule too small? Do you have enough time to devote to your business? Starting, running, and growing a business takes time. Some people get swept up in the planning and dreaming stages and never really start their business. Other people start before they have completely planned everything out and quickly get mired down by unexpected difficulties.
Some others do everything right in the planning and startup but once the business is running they get overwhelmed by day-to-day business and never think about ways to improve and grow their business.
Schedule some time right now to work on growing your business - launching whatever the next project is that will increase your profits and/or the value of your company.
5. Too Small of a Mindset
Is your mindset too small? You need to open up your mind's eye to see new possibilities, and continually seek new opportunities to find new customers, new potential partners, new ideas for products/services, and new marketing opportunities.
Flexibility and adaptability are key to survival in today's rapidly-changing business climate and you always need to have new ideas cooking to grow and expand your market and your business.
This means raising your head up and out of the trenches once in a while. Yes, you might need to dodge the occasional missile lobbed your way but this is the only way to see those opportunities.
If you do your best to avoid these 5 ways of thinking small, you'll have removed the single largest obstacle to growing your business...yourself.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, December 20, 2012
"I always knew I'd be a millionaire by age thirty-two. In fact, I am going to be the richest black woman in America."
Oprah Winfrey said this in 1987.
And then it took her 19 years to accomplish this goal.
So, how did Oprah achieve this incredible feat and become one of the richest and most successful people in the world.
Well, the first thing she did is set her goal. Seems simple enough, but the vast majority of entrepreneurs don't have concise goals that they physically write down (or type and print out).
Do you have a written goal for your company? If not, create one now using these two guidelines:
1. Be specific. Of course you would like your company to be successful. But how successful? Do you want it to generate $5 million? $100 million? Do you want to eventually sell it? If so, for how much? And when?
The more specific you are with your goals, the more likely you will be to achieve them. And, because they are specific, you will be able to measure your progress towards achieving them.
2. Make your goals realistic. This does not mean you can't set a goal of taking your company public with a billion-dollar market capitalization. But such a goal would be unrealistic if you're running a single restaurant with no plans to develop new locations.
So, make sure your goals are realistic with respect to your business. And go ahead, be aggressive. As Donald Trump said, "As long as your going to be thinking anyway, think big."
Once you've set your long-term goals, the key is to break them into smaller pieces that you can attain in shorter periods of time. For example, over the past year, one of my key goals was to publish my book, Start At The End. In doing so, I created a series of smaller goals including:
- Write the book proposal for the publisher
- Outline the chapters
- Write chapter one, chapter two, etc.
- Edit the book
- Send copies to reviewers in seeking testimonials
- Create the interactive workbook
- Create that book website
Completing all of these tasks took hundreds of hours over many months. But it got done, because I laid out the steps and methodically completed each one.
To do this in your business, figure out what you'd like to accomplish in the next year that will progress you towards your long-term goal (that you developed above). The key question being: what portion of your long-term goal can you accomplish in just one year?
For example, if you ultimate goal is to get to $20 million in annual revenues, what must your revenues be 12 months from now? And if you envision ultimately having 200 employees, how many must you hire and train within the next year?
Once you do this, you'll know what your ultimate goals are, and your goals for the next year. From here, you must continue to work backwards. What are your goals for the next quarter, next month, next week?
By creating your big goal and then breaking it down into smaller goals, you can ultimately figure out what you need to accomplish each and every day to move closer to achieving it. Because that's all you can control right now -- what you do today. And then tomorrow, you can control and do what needs to be done tomorrow. And so on.
As the New Year approaches, make sure you determine the ultimate goal for your business and your goals for next year. Then figure out your goal for next month. And then do whatever you can to accomplish that goal next month.
After doing that, you might adjust your ultimate and/or annual goals. That's fine. You will have made real progress, and whatever your goals, you will have moved closer to achieving them. Just like Oprah Winfrey did every day, week, month, quarter and year for 19 years.
If you'd like additional guidance on setting your ultimate goals and working backwards to create shorter term goals and an action plan for achieving them, pick up a free copy of my book, Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Wednesday, December 12, 2012
The Jumpstart Our Business Startups Act (called the JOBS Act) was passed with support from Republicans and Democrats alike and signed by President Obama in April 2012.
In this article, I will give you an overview of the JOBS Act and most specifically its potential for equity-based crowdfunding, and give you an update on what's occurred since April.
[And for a little trivia, the term "the skinny" as used in my title was coined during World War II. During the war and for years thereafter, military orders in the Marine Corps were copied on paper that resembled the skin of an onion. It was extremely thin and fragile, and translucent in appearance. Orders written on them were referred to as "the skinny."]
The JOBS Act makes equity-based crowdfunding much easier
The JOBS Act makes it possible to raise funding from investors and donors through certain crowdfunding sites in exchange for equity in your company.
If you have tried to raise funds in the past by going a public offering, you'll know that it's expensive. Being able to bypass this is huge, especially if you are raising smaller amounts of funding.
The passing of the JOBS Act also means you won't have to seek out accredited investors specifically (people with incomes of $200,000 or more, or a net worth of $1,000,000 or more-not including their residence). You can receive funds from people of all income ranges, which makes the pool of potential investors MUCH bigger.
What's happened since April
When the JOBS Act was past in April, the SEC (Securities & Exchange Commission) was given until January 1, 2013 to propose the specific terms by which equity-based crowdfunding would operate.
For example, the SEC wants to make sure standards are in place with regards to how much money individual investors can invest (e.g., what portion of their annual income), the type and amount of information companies must show prospective investors, how to monitor the amount of money raised by individual companies, measures to protect against fraud, etc.
However, with just a couple weeks left before January 1, the SEC has not come to an agreement on how things will operate.
One key event which is probably both good and bad is that current SEC chairman Mary L. Schapiro announced last month that she will step down this month. Elisse Walter, one of the agency's commissioners is expected to fill the position. The bad news with regards to this changing of the guard is that it will most likely slow the finalization of equity-based crowdfunding laws beyond January 1st. The good news is that once Walter takes the helm, we can expect the SEC to come to decisions more quickly.
Massive Spike in Crowdfunding Websites
In January 2012, according to the North American Securities Administrators Association, there were less than 900 websites whose names included the word "crowdfunding" in them.
Today, there are nearly 9,000 of them. So, once equity-based crowdfunding laws are set (probably within a few months), there will be many, many websites upon which entrepreneurs will be able to raise crowdfunding dollars.
Preparing for Crowdfunding
Whether you want to raise crowdfunding today via rewards-based crowdfunding, or wait until 2013 for equity-based crowdfunding, here are some things you can do:
1. Broaden your network: the key to Crowdfunding is marketing; the more people that trust and like you, and/or who are convinced you have a winner, the more money you will raise. So continue to network both online and offline to expand the network of people who know and like you.
2. If you're already in business, keep growing it: As with any kind of funding, you will be in a much stronger position to ask for funds if you can demonstrate success in the past. So keep doing whatever you can to progress your business without funding.
3. Work on your business plan: Make sure you have a solid plan for how much funding you need, how you will spend it, and what effects it will have on your operations and revenues. You don't want to raise too much or too little, and once you raise your funding, you want to most effectively use it.
Crowdfunding is an extremely interesting and exciting new way to fund your business. It has grown dramatically as a funding source over the past two years and is poised to grow even more in the coming months and years once the JOBS Act laws are finalized.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, December 9, 2012
There are several reasons why you'd want to build systems and processes in your business. The main ones are:
1. Precision and consistency. By having set processes for how tasks should be completed, you will get consistent quality results.
2. Time and money savings. When employees know precisely how to do something and do it the same way each time, they eventually become much better and faster at performing the task. This saves time and money, and gives you a competitive advantage.
3. Scalability. When you have set processes for completing tasks, it's much easier to hire and train new employees and grow your business.
4. Free your time and build business value. Developing and implementing systems allows your business to run without you. This frees up your time to focus on building your business further (and taking time off) and makes your business more attractive and valuable to potential acquirers (because it's not dependent on you and the acquirer can see how the business could continue to scale and provide value).
Each of these are compelling reasons to build systems and processes in your business, and is why building systems is one of the pillars of an 8-figure business.
Here are 4 simple steps to follow to develop systems in your business:
Step #1: Look at your current business processes
In developing your business systems, you should first look at the key tasks and processes your company performs on a daily basis.
For example, if you operate a laundry business, your business processes will include cleaning the laundry machines, managing customer drop-off orders, sweeping the floors, paying the bills, ordering supplies, etc.
Next, assess each of these processes to figure out which ones to focus on systematizing first. For example, figure out which processes, if improved, could most improve customer satisfaction, revenues and/or profits.
Step #2: Develop your business systems
Once you've identified the initial process(es) to improve, it's time to develop your business systems. In developing your systems, start with the outcome, that is, how should the task or process look at the end when it is completed flawlessly.
Then work backwards to figure out the best steps to achieve that outcome. When doing that, and comparing this to your current processes, try to look for the most efficient steps and eliminate any unnecessary ones.
Importantly, in doing this, you must write down the system on a sheet of paper. Yes, it's as simple as "Step 1, do this" and "Step 2, do that." The key is to make it easy and foolproof so any of your employees could follow it.
Step #3: Test and redesign your system
When I develop a new system, I like to complete it myself a few times in order to test it.
Importantly, when doing this, I look at the most challenging and/or time consuming parts of the system and then brainstorm ways to improve it. Consider this: if you create a process that allows a task to be completed in 9 minutes instead of 11 minutes, and that task is done twice a day by two employees, that improvement will save your company 49 hours of labor each year.
Also look for routine things that can be automated, such as the payment processing. For instance, manually writing customer receipts might take a minute while an automated register could create a receipt in seconds.
Step #4: Test-run with the team
Once you're done with redesigning your first business system, now is the time to implement it. To make teaching others faster, it helps to prepare as much as you can, and to actually demonstrate or allow them to see a demonstration of how the work is to be done.
If you're there in person, show them or have them watch someone in action to model going through the system. If it's work that is done on a computer, create a screen recording so others can watch to learn it.
The best way to train employees is by having them perform the process on a real-life order or project. Then the work that needs to get done is completed, and you get to see their performance and give feedback.
Then, over time, encourage your employees to try to improve your existing processes and systems. Have your checklists and flow charts readily available so they can follow them and propose new ways of doing things. Because as more and more of your business' processes become systematized, and your systems become better and better, your revenues and profits will soar and your business will be the envy of your market.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, December 6, 2012
There is a big difference between marketing and sales. The act of selling generates revenue when a product is sold. Marketing, on the other hand, is the act of attracting attention, branding a product or person, and creating a buzz that will eventually result in sales.
Peter Drucker once said, "The point of marketing is to make selling superfluous." In layman's terms, this means that if you do a great job of positioning your business in your ads and build a strong reputation, you won't have to do a lot of convincing and selling once prospects come in the door (or to your website). They will already be convinced that are the right company for them.
Below are 5 marketing strategies to use to make selling superfluous and to grow your business.
1. Improve Your Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is a critical element of your marketing plan. Your USP separates your product or service from your competitors. It makes your product or service a "unique, must have" item.
In fact, the USP of Domino's Pizza: "Fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in thirty minutes or less, guaranteed," has widely been credited as the reason for the company's success in a highly competitive and fairly commoditized business.
Ideally you can come up with a great USP for your company like Domino's did. But at the very least, you must be able to clearly articulate reasons why customers should buy from you instead of competitors.
2. Use Multiple Marketing Channels
Once you have the right USP, you want as many of your target customers to hear it as possible. That's why you need to market yourself through multiple channels. The key is this: the more channels you use, the more prospective customers will hear about you. Importantly, some of your target customers prefer one channel (e.g., print newspapers) while others may prefer a different channel (e.g., radio ads).
While one marketing channel may be the most profitable for you, the more marketing channels you can make work for you, the more you will be able to dominate your market.
So, which of the following marketing channels can you start using?
- Direct Mail
- Email and Print Newsletter Marketing
- Event Marketing
- Press Releases/PR
- Print Ads
- Radio Ads
- Search Engine Optimization and Marketing
- Social Media Marketing
- TV Ads
3. Understand Your KPIs
"KPIs" or Key Performance Indicators are the metrics that judge your business' performance based on the success you would like to succeed.
Knowing your KPIs and constantly working to improve them is critical to your marketing. For example,
- How many leads do you generate per dollar of advertising (per channel)?
- What % of your leads turn into buyers?
- What is your average revenue per sale (and have you improved this through upselling, cross-selling, etc.)?
- How often do your customers buy from you?
The more you understand and improve your KPIs the more your revenues and profits will grow. In fact, creating and managing your KPIs is one of the pillars of an 8-figure business.
4. Make Buying From You Easy
We've all been to businesses that don't accept credit cards. Or they only accept certain kinds of credit cards. As a result of this, they lose out on some customers. So make sure you offer multiple purchase options, from credit cards to possibly payment plans.
Likewise, you can make buying from you easier by having your products and services distributed elsewhere. For example, if you offer a physical product, you can also sell it on Amazon.com or eBay among other website. These are essentially buyer search engines; people are searching them for things to buy - what a perfect place for your product to show up. Or, if you offer a service, you can develop joint venture partners who sell it to their customers.
5. Provide the Right Information to Prospective Customers
Remember how good marketing will make selling superfluous? Customers need certain information in order to make a decision.
Specifically, be sure to provide information educating your customers on how your product or service can 1) solve problems and/or help them avoid pain, 2) improve their lives and/or increase their pleasure, and 3) save customers time, as that's a growing need for customers today.
Convey this key information in graphics, articles, videos, case studies, interviews and/or any other way that your prospective customers prefer to consume information.
By following these 5 marketing strategies, you can dramatically grow your sales and profits, and not have to resort to high pressure selling.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Tuesday, November 27, 2012
With the 2012 presidential election wrapped up, and January's inauguration looming on the horizon, life is getting (somewhat) back to normal in the United States. But the past few months have been filled with stories of great presidents, leadership and change, and tales of how those have impacted America's direction over the course of the past few centuries.
A few good presidential examples can be used to guide a business toward success, as well. Business owners would do well to follow a few of the examples set by Abraham Lincoln, long considered one of the most respected presidents in American history. His reputation is not an accident; instead, he carefully crafted an expert team, sought leadership from multiple subordinates and cabinet members, and turned debate into his best chance for success.
And while it's true that business owners won't be fighting any wars, Lincoln's policies of leadership and discussion are a powerful way for entrepreneurs to get ahead and maintain strong footing in their industry.
You CAN Hire Others Who Disagree with You
One of the most notorious aspects of Lincoln's administration was that it was largely comprised of his rivals. One of the best examples of this is Lincoln's choice for Secretary of the Treasury. The job is typically reserved for those who agree with the president's policies, and have a strong desire to remain above the political fray while ensuring the nation's fiscal sanity.
Lincoln saw it quite differently, instead believing that the Treasury -- and every other department -- should be run by someone who was highly capable of the job, regardless of their ambitions, political viewpoints, or personal relationships with the president.
Lincoln boldly appointed Samuel Chase to the lead the United States Treasury. Lincoln did this despite Chase's well-known political ambitions, and his thinly-veiled efforts to undermine Lincoln for his own political gain.
The same pattern can be seen in Lincoln's appointment to what was then known as the War Department. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton rarely saw eye-to-eye with Lincoln on policy matters. He was the best man for the job, however, and that was good enough for Lincoln.
At every turn, Lincoln followed a basic business philosophy: hiring capability, regardless of ideology. Business owners could learn from this example, as we often expect the ideal worker or partner to look or think a certain pre-conceived way, which blinds us to possibilities.
Rather than leading without any debate or argument, and rather than picking those who merely agree with everything we, the business owners, believe, pick a team full of rivals and strong-minded professionals who will set the business up for success. All ideas will be properly debated, vetted, and implemented -- but only if they're the best ones for the business.
A business that enjoys healthy debate among its employees and leaders is one that makes the best decisions for the entire company, rather than the best decisions for the company's owner. Out of a brief ideological struggle, a commitment to sound leadership and decision-making can emerge.
Shoulder the Blame and Share the Credit
Abraham Lincoln was well-known as the type of leader who preferred to share credit with his expert cabinet members, while also shouldering the blame of the administration's failings. In fact, he often shouldered the blame for issues that weren't entirely of his own creation.
That type of compassion and leadership is often missing in business, and it creates an adversarial environment that can be damaging to the growth of the enterprise.
Small businesses need to work as a team. That team can debate (sometimes for days on end), but they must work to create goodwill at the end of the day (and individual team members cannot be blamed for problems). When everyone feels good about their coworkers, and about how their ideas are being integrated into the growing company's policies, they're more motivated to do the best job they can.
Additionally, happy employees and executives are more loyal in their positions -- preferring to stick with a business through the good and bad times, as opposed to jumping ship to a competitor or starting their own company.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said, "Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe."
Lincoln knew that before you can achieve success, you must prepare. You must know where you want to go and what you want to achieve, and then create the plan to achieve it.
Have a Commitment to Leadership
Above all else, what Abraham Lincoln showed during his time in office was a commitment to excellent leadership. It takes a very strong individual, and a very capable manager, to hire a team of rivals. After all, a lesser man or woman would find themselves overwhelmed and entirely too stressed by constant debate over company policies.
Lincoln, however, thrived on the discussion. Discussing his views was something he enjoyed; conflicting ideas helped him moderate his own views and policies, allowing him to best enact policies for the majority of a war-torn nation.
In today's business climate, it's all too easy to get wrapped up in a self-centered drive for success, especially for small business owners working mostly alone. But when that motivation is expanded to a larger team, and their conflicting viewpoints are brought in as part of the company's policies, the whole organization stands a better chance of making sound decisions.
With shared credit, proper planning, the right employees (who don't always agree with you), and an understanding leader (You!), your business can grow carefully and strategically, making strong tactical moves that set it up for more sales and profits, and continuous growth.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Sunday, November 18, 2012
What is the goal of New York Giants or any football team?
The answer should be easy. This team's goal each and every year is to win the Super Bowl.
There's no question about this. Every player shows up for pre-season training with that goal in mind. Every practice drill is performed with that goal in mind. And every game is played to win, because each win will put the team one step closer to the Super Bowl.
So, what is your company's end goal? Can you answer this question without missing a beat? Do you clearly know and understand what your organization has set out to achieve? And, just as important: does every employee in your organization know what this goal is?
And most importantly, do you know precisely what you need to do this month, this week, and today, to make significant progress towards this end goal?
If not, then THAT is the real reason why your business is "stuck."
If you don't know precisely what you need to do beyond today, then you're thinking like a drug addict.
Let me explain. The most successful entrepreneurs in the world focus on the long-term. Sir Richard Branson. Donald Trump. Bill Gates. Steve Jobs. And many more -- they all had BIG long-term visions, even when they were just starting out.
In fact, ALL successful people think long-term. These are individuals who build trees under which their grandchildren will sit.
On the other side of the spectrum are drug addicts. Drug addicts don't think at all about tomorrow. They spend all their time today looking for their next quick fix. Their only plans are to figure out how to immediately get more drugs. As a result, they never achieve success. But rather, they fall deeper and deeper into despair.
So, how do you run your business? Do you act like a drug addict and focus each day on trying to increase today's revenues and profits?
Or, do you operate like a successful entrepreneur, with a methodical plan that will BOTH build revenues and profits today AND create the necessary infrastructure for your long-term growth, several years from now?
The key is to start by creating the long-term vision of where you want to go, and then reverse engineer it.
You see, if I asked where you'd like your business to be in 5 years, or 1825 days, you'd probably be able to answer fairly easily.
But how about if I asked you where you'd like to be in 1824 days? Or 1823 days?
And what about 987 days from now?
Or 481 days from now?
Or 84 days from now?
The fact is that you COULD answer these questions for every single day from now until 5 years from now, all the way back to the present day.
And if you did that, you'd know exactly what you'd have to do tomorrow to be on the right trajectory to meet your 30 day, 365 day and even 5 year (1825-day) goals and vision!
Now, in reality, setting goals for each of the next 1825 days is not practical. Not only would it take too much time to complete, but your business and strategy needs to evolve over time. No business operates in a vacuum, and you must be flexible and willing to change.
But, you can figure out where you need to be in the next year, and figure out what you need to accomplish this month to allow you to get there. And then you could plan your days to ensure that progress is continually made.
In summary, to succeed as an entrepreneur, you need to have a clear goal and vision of what you want to achieve. Then you need to create a step-by-step game plan to get there. Because you can't go from A to Z without achieving B, C, D and so on. The key being that you must plan out and execute on the smaller periodic goals (e.g., weekly, monthly, annual goals) that you must accomplish to achieve your end goal.
For my proven methodology on how to create a step-by-step plan to build your ideal company, pick up a free copy of my book, Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, November 15, 2012
The REAL Reason Businesses Fail to Achieve Success
Soon after entrepreneurs and business owners start businesses, they tend to become trapped in the day-to-day, week-to-week, and month-to-month struggles...
At some point, virtually all of us become 100% focused on the short-term and lose sight of our long-term visions. As a result, we begin to wander, and never achieve the initial vision we had when we first started or bought our companies.
Specifically, we set short-term goals and create short-term plans (if any plans at all). And as the United States Small Business Administration found after numerous studies, the #1 reason business owners fail to achieve success is lack of formal business planning.
That's right, you must have BOTH 1) a long-term vision and business plan, AND 2) a short-term vision and business plan that puts you on the right trajectory towards achieving the success you want.
So how do you do this?
The Solution is to Forget About Today And 'Start At The End'
"If you don't know where you're going, you probably won't get there."
This quote from Yogi Berra is so simple, yet so true. If you don't know where you want to go, you'll never get there. It's like driving in a foreign country without a map or GPS system.
And it's the same with your business. If you don't know where you want to take your business, how can you possibly get there? You can't.
In business, as in everything else, you need to have a clear vision of where you want to go. Then, and only then, can you create a plan to get you there. The key is to "Start At The End." Figure out where you want to go. And then reverse engineer the path to get there.
So, oddly enough, the starting point to all success is actually at the end! Now, the reverse engineering process of getting to the end is all about figuring out short-term goals.
Specifically, once you figure out what you want to accomplish by the end, you can estimate what you need to accomplish in the next year to put you on the right trajectory towards meeting your ultimate goals.
And then you can figure out what you need to complete this quarter to get on the path to your annual goals. Further, you can determine what you need to achieve this month to reach your quarterly goals. Likewise, you can figure out what you need to accomplish this week to meet your monthly goals. And lastly, you can figure out what you need to do today to accomplish your weekly goals.
Success really is this easy; it's simply constantly breaking down your ultimate vision into smaller pieces, and then focusing on completing those pieces (rather than getting distracted as most of us do).
For specific tips and strategies to envision the company you'd like to build and to reverse engineer that vision into a step-by-step plan you can follow to achieve it, pick up a free copy of my book, Start At The End: How Companies Can Grow Bigger And Faster By Reversing Their Business Plan.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Saturday, November 10, 2012
This week, I am really excited to release my new book, Start At The End, published by John Wiley & Sons.
I wrote the book for two core reasons.
1. To help entrepreneurs and business owners succeed
For the past 15 years, I've been helping businesses grow. And, in doing so, I started to get really frustrated and upset by so many entrepreneurs and business owners making the same mistake.
Which is this -- they focus all of their energy solving today's problems. And doing this never gets these businesses to where they want to go. Yes, many of them will survive using this strategy. But these businesses never get where they want to go, and the business owners aren't happy; they work too hard, take too little time off, and don't get the results they want.
The solution I have found that works over and over again is to start at the end (catchy book title, huh). That is, to figure out where you'd like your business to end up. Then you create a plan that allows you to both solve today's problems and make big strides towards reaching your eventual goal.
2. To get the word out about the importance of planning
The release of my book will educate thousands, if not tens of thousands (or hopefully more) of entrepreneurs and business owners as to why they need a business plan and how to create one.
This knowledge will make them more successful. At the same time, the book will help establish myself and Growthink as the go-to firm for developing business and growth plans for businesses.
Certainly writing a book has great PR value in that it gets your name and the name of your company out to the masses. A book also increases your authority and credibility. Specifically, if the average entrepreneur was choosing between two firms to develop their business plan, all other things being equal, they would generally choose the firm who has published a book on the topic.
So, to summarize so far, writing a book is a great marketing tool. It spreads the message about you and your company, while increasing your authority and credibility. And, publishing a book gives you great opportunities for PR. The media likes talking about and interviewing authors, which allows them to further spread the word about themselves and their companies.
The "bad" news is that the heavy lifting starts now
While creating a book is a ton of work, that's pretty much the easy part. The hard part is selling it. As I mentioned in a recent article, a successful writer isn't labeled a best-writing author. Rather, he or she is called a best-selling author.
Because even if my book is great (I think it is, and hope you do too), if people don't buy it, it doesn't matter. In fact, there is a very interesting dynamic that takes place in book marketing. That is this: the more people that buy the book, the more likely it is to get to a best-seller list on Amazon, Barnes & Nobles, the New York Times, and others. And, if and when a book gets on these lists, it gets more and more publicity and more and more people buy it.
So, the key is getting on these lists. Personally, my goal is to get on the New York Times best-seller list. This achievement has been on my list of personal goals for some time, and being able to cross it off and say "I did it" would be a very proud moment for me.
I hope you learned some lessons here about how writing a book could help you and your business. And note that even if your book is self-published, you get many of these benefits.
In the coming days, I will be speaking more about the book: including giving unique opportunities to get a copy, and teaching some of the lessons included in it; mainly proven strategies that have allowed clients of mine to achieve phenomenal growth; which is what I want for you too!
Thanks for reading this; I hope you will soon read my book and grow the business of your dreams.
Written by Dave Lavinsky on Thursday, November 8, 2012
Are you looking to boost your sales and profits?
I hope you are, because any business owner or entrepreneur who isn't looking to grow, will surely start to decline.
So, since you ARE ready to grow, here are seven easy ways to do so:
1. Find or build the right product or service
Without the right product or service, you're going to have a hard time growing your business. The right product or service serves the customer segment(s) you want, and solves a real need of theirs. Also, the size of the customer segment must be large enough to make your business profitable.
In addition, the ideal product or service is a consumable item that needs to be replaced on a regular basis, or a product or service that will have recurring sales. If you don't have a product or service with recurring sales, figure out how to create one.
By having a customer base that comes back to you over and over again, you can introduce related products, as satisfied customers will be open to recommendations.
If you don't have the resources to build a new product yourself, consider partnering with another business that already makes the product you want to sell. You can often get them to create a variation of their product and private label it as your own.
2. Learn to sell better
Having the right product or service doesn't help if no one is aware it exists. Someone once observed that a successful writer isn't labeled a best-writing author - he or she is called a best-selling author!
A marvelous product could collect on the shelves if not promoted or distributed. That's where selling comes in. The number one piece of advice for new business owners is, before you learn to build, learn to sell.
3. Improve your unique selling proposition (USP)
Having a strong unique selling proposition (USP) is one of the most important elements of your marketing plan. Your USP separates your product or service from your competitors. It makes your product or service a "unique, must have" item.
In fact, the USP of Domino's Pizza: "Fresh hot pizza delivered to your door in thirty minutes or less, guaranteed," has widely been credited as the reason for the company's success in a highly competitive and fairly commoditized business.
Ideally you can come up with a great USP for your company like Domino's did. But at the very least, you need to be able to clearly articulate reasons why customers should buy from you instead of your competitors.
4. Raise your prices
Entrepreneurs who start a business often think they should charge less, mistakenly assuming that customers will flock to them if they see a low price.
In fact, the opposite is more likely to be true; low price often denotes low quality. When you have a great product or service you'll discover that people will pay more for it and you will earn more. And if your profit margins are too low, that's another sign to increase your prices right away.
5. Do a better job of cross-selling and up-selling
It's said that McDonald's doubled its profits when its cashiers started asking "would you like fries with that?" This simple cross-sell request results in tons of new sales that the company otherwise wouldn't have generated.
Likewise, McDonalds added "would you like to supersize that?" later which is a classic up-sell. This too dramatically increased the company's sales and profits.
Importantly, when you cross-sell and up-sell, you are not only generating more revenues and profits for yourself, but you are better satisfying your customers.
For example, if you owned a hardware store and a customer was purchasing a hammer, you would be doing them a service to offer them the right nails for the job, and a better hammer, or an offer to buy a second hammer at a discount in case they ever lost the first one.
6. Establish yourself as an "authority"
Make sure everyone knows you as an authority and recognizes your expertise. We all know what a "xerox" is, right? In 1959, Xerox introduced its first plain paper photocopier; by 1961, the company had almost $50 million in revenue, by 1965 its revenues were $500 million, and the rest is history - revenues were $22 billion last year!
What was first a company name and then a trademark, in popular vernacular became a noun of common usage, although Xerox fought this use of its name. Do the same with your product. Make sure everyone has a mental picture of a great product or service when they say your company name.
7. Figure out how to gain economies of scale
The key to making a great profit is scale. If you can't produce and sell a product on scale, then you won't generate a lot of profit.
Some ideas may be moderately profitable on a small scale, but can you sell 1,000 units with the same precision and scalability as 10 units? The most important consideration when choosing a product for a business is scalability - the ability to replicate one sale with many sales.
If your current product or service isn't very scalable, figure out how to make it more scalable. Generally, by implementing the right systems, you can accomplish this.
Follow these 7 tips (and see many more here) to maximize your revenues and profits, and keep your business thriving!