How To Raise Funding Using Milestones


 

How To Raise Funding Using Milestones

I wish I could just say that if you do X, Y & Z, you'll magically raise millions of dollars for your venture. But unfortunately, that's not how raising capital works.

One key reason for this is that most sources of money, like banks and institutional equity investors (defined as institutions like venture capital firms, private equity firms and corporations that invest), are essentially professional risk managers. That is, they successfully invest or lend money by managing the risk that the money will be repaid or not.

So, your job as the entrepreneur seeking capital is to reduce your investor or lender's risk.

For example, let's say that two entrepreneurs want to open a new restaurant. Which is the riskier investment?

• Entrepreneur A has put together a business plan for the new restaurant.

• Entrepreneur B has also put together a business plan for the restaurant...and has also put together the menu, secured a deal for leasing space, received a detailed contract with a design/build firm, signed an employment agreement with the head chef, etc.

Clearly investing in Entrepreneur B is less risky, because Entrepreneur B has already accomplished some of their "risk mitigating milestones."

Establishing Your Risk Mitigating Milestones

A "risk mitigating milestone" is an event that when completed, makes your company more likely to succeed. For example, for a restaurant, some of the "risk mitigating milestones" would include:

• Finding the location
• Getting the permits and licenses
• Building out the restaurant
• Hiring and training the staff
• Opening the restaurant
• Reaching $20,000 in monthly sales
• Reaching $50,000 in monthly sales

As you can see, each time the restaurant achieves a milestone, the risk to the investor or lender decreases significantly. There are fewer things that can go wrong. And by the time the business reaches its last milestone, it has virtually no risk of failure.

To give you another example, for a new software company the risk mitigating milestones might be:

• Designing a prototype
• Getting successful beta testing results
• Getting the product to a point where it is market-ready
• Getting customers to purchase the product
• Securing distribution partnerships
• Reaching monthly revenue milestones

The key point when it comes to raising money is this: you generally do NOT raise ALL the money you need for your venture upfront. You merely raise enough money to achieve your initial milestones. Then, you raise more money later to accomplish more milestones.

Yes, you are always raising money to get your company to the next level. Even Fortune 100 companies do this - they raise money by issuing more stock in order to launch new initiatives. It's an ongoing process-not something you do just once.

Creating Your Milestone Chart & Funding Requirements

The key is to first create your detailed risk mitigating milestone chart. Not only is this helpful for funding, but it will serve as a great "To Do" list for you and make sure you continue to achieve goals each day, week and month that progress your business.

Shoot for listing approximately six big milestones to achieve in the next year, five milestones to achieve next year, and so on for up to 5 years (so include two milestones to achieve in year 5). And alongside the milestones, include the time (expected completion date) and the amount of funding you will need to attain them.

Example: Launch billboard marketing campaign over 6 months, spending $18,000

After you create your milestone chart, you need to prioritize. Determine the milestones that you absolutely must accomplish with the initial funding. Ideally, these milestones will get you to point where you are generating revenues. This is because the ability to generate revenues significantly reduces the risk of your venture; as it proves to lenders and investors that customers want what you are offering.

By setting up your milestones, you will figure out what you can accomplish for less money. And the fact is, the less money you need to raise, the easier it generally is to raise it (mainly because the easiest to raise money sources offer lower dollar amounts).

The other good news is that if you raise less money now, you will give up less equity and incur less debt, which will eventually lead to more dollars in your pocket.

Finally, when you eventually raise more money later (in a future funding round), because you have already achieved numerous milestones, you will raise it easier and secure better terms (e.g., higher valuation, lower interest rate, etc.).

It might surprise you what you can accomplish with less money! So write up your list of risk mitigating milestones and determine which must be done now and which can wait for later, focusing first on what is most likely to generate revenues.

Suggested Resource: Want funding for your business? Then check out our Truth About Funding program to learn how you can access the 41 sources of funding available to entrepreneurs like you. Click here to learn more.

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Raise Funding in 2018 with Our Proven Funding Pyramid™ Formula”

If you’re struggling to raise money, it’s probably because your funding strategy is broken.

Here’s how to do it right

As I explain in this video, the key is to start at the bottom and work your way up the Funding Pyramid.

Click here to watch the video now

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The 7 Keys to Raising Funding in 2018


 

The 7 Keys to Raising Funding in 2018

Raising funding is hard. This is actually a good thing. Because if it were easy, everyone would raise money and start a business, and competition would be ferocious. Better yet, since most entrepreneurs won't take the time to read this essay, you'll know this insider information and have a huge leg-up on them in raising capital.

So, here are 7 things you must know to raise money today.

1. Understand That Funding Doesn't Take Place All At Once

No matter how great your company or idea is, you are probably not going to get a $10 million check right away. Rather, you will typically raise several "rounds" of capital.

You start with a smaller round or amount of funding. Then, as your business grows, you are eligible for larger rounds of funding. This is because your business proves itself over time (eliminating some risk to investors) and your valuation rises as you grow (enabling you to raise larger sums of money).

2. Choose the Proper Source(s) of Funding

Choosing the right source of funding is the key to the Growthink Funding Pyramid™. Some forms of funding are much easier to raise than others. And based on your stage of development, different forms of funding are more relevant.

For example, the funding sources available to a pre-revenue startup are very different than the sources available to a 3-year old company generating $1 million in annual revenues. Case in point: Google initially failed when it tried to raise money from venture capitalists. The key is to go after the right sources of funding at the right time.

3. Build Relationships Early

According to Fred Wilson of Union Square Ventures, "The perfect entrepreneur/VC relationship is one where each has established respect and trust with the other well before an investment transaction is broached."

The key is to build these relationships early. So, even if you don't qualify for a $5 million round of venture capital today, start meeting with venture capitalists so they know you when you do qualify a year from now.

4. Keep Your Business Plan Current

One of the most important things to show in your business plan is what you've accomplished in your business to date. And ideally, every month you are accomplishing more. So, be sure to update your plan with this progress.

Importantly, when you meet a lender or investor, you want to be able to give them your business plan in a timely manner. So finish your plan now, and keep it up-to-date, so you can send it off at a moment's notice.

5. Always be a Marketer

In raising money, the best company doesn't always win. Rather, the best marketer wins. That is, the entrepreneurs that are best able to market their companies to lenders and investors are the ones who raise the money.

Marketing is the process of finding the right investor, convincing them to meet with you, and then convincing them to invest in your business. Yes, this is very similar to how you market a product or service. So make sure to use your marketing skills.

6. Have "Thick Skin"

When raising funding, be prepared for a lot of "no's." Going back to the Google example, even when Google was ready for venture capital, the majority of venture capitalist said "no."

When an investor says "no," it doesn't necessarily mean that your venture is not a good one. It simply means that the venture is not a good investment fit for them. You must have "thick skin" and be able to bounce back from lots of "no's" and persevere.

When failing over and over again to create the light bulb, Thomas Edison famously said, "I have not failed. I've just found 10,000 ways that won't work." Have the same mentality with investors. That is, think, "I have not failed. I've just found 100 investors that aren't a good fit."

7. Adapt as Needed

While you must have "thick skin," that doesn't mean to be foolishly stubborn. What I mean by this is that if you hear the same feedback from investors over and over again, you shouldn't ignore it. Rather, you should adapt.

For example, if several prospective investors tell you they want to see a sample of your product or service before considering funding you, create it for them. Don't just plow forward with contacting more and more investors in this case.

By adapting to the needs of investors, particularly when you hear the same feedback multiple times, you can make the requisite changes to raise the money you need.

Understanding these seven funding truths will help you raise the funding you need to grow your business. For additional assistance, this "truth about funding" presentation will prove quite helpful.

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Raise Funding in 2018 with Our Proven Funding Pyramid™ Formula”

If you’re struggling to raise money, it’s probably because your funding strategy is broken.

Here’s how to do it right

As I explain in this video, the key is to start at the bottom and work your way up the Funding Pyramid.

Click here to watch the video now

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The Story That Launched A Billion Dollar Business


 

The right story can grow your business into an amazing success. That being said, consider this great story:

    On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both - as young college graduates are - were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.

    Recently, these men returned to their college for their 25th reunion.

    They were still very much alike. Both were happily married. Both had three children. And both, it turned out, had gone to work for the same Midwestern manufacturing company after graduation, and were still there.

    But there was a difference. One of the men was manager of a small department of that company. The other was its president.

    Have you ever wondered, as I have, what makes this kind of difference in people’s lives? It isn’t a native intelligence or talent or dedication. It isn’t that one person wants success and the other doesn’t.

    The difference lies in what each person knows and how he or she makes use of that knowledge.

    And that is why I am writing to you and to people like you about The Wall Street Journal. For that is the whole purpose of The Journal: to give its readers knowledge - knowledge that they can use in business.


The above story/sales letter, written by Martin Conroy, was used by the Wall Street Journal for 25 years starting in 1974. Doing the math regarding how many people this letter was sent to, the percentage of orders that came from it, and the subscription prices, it is estimated that this story resulted in $1 billion in sales for the paper.

So, what’s the point?

The point is that stories are an extremely effective, but often overlooked, sales tool that can allow emerging ventures to compete with large established companies. Stories allow companies to get their prospects involved in their message. It gets them excited. And then they want to learn more.

Here's an example of another startup who crafted a great story...

    I’m about to tell you a true story. If you believe me, you will be well rewarded. If you don’t believe me, I will make it worth your while to change your mind. Let me explain.

    Lynn is a friend of mine who knows good products. One day he called excited about a pair of sunglasses he owns. “It’s so incredible!” he said. “When you first look through a pair you won’t believe it.” What will I see? I asked. What could be so incredible?

    Lynn continued. “When you put on these glasses your vision improves, objects appear sharper, more defined. Everything takes on an enhanced 3D effect and it’s not my imagination. I just want you to see for yourself.”


The story goes on to discuss all the benefits of Joe Sugarman’s BluBocker sunglasses… over 20 million pairs of which have now been sold!

Does your company have a great story? If you do, great. If not, create one.

And once you have a story, where should it go? To start, it should go in your business plan. Use your story to excite investors, and others like potential partners and employees. And use your story in your marketing like the Wall Street Journal and BluBocker sunglasses did.

Success can be a simple as crafting a great story (and then delivering on the story’s promise of course). So start crafting today!

 

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Get Your Free Copy of “Start at the End”

It’s the 5th year anniversary of my best-selling book -- Start At The End -- and to celebrate, I want you to have a copy for free (just help me out with the shipping).

start at the end cover

The book covers my favorite topic…

… how to create an effective business plan, so you grow a successful, profitable company and achieve your goals.

As I explain in the book, the key is to start by creating the long-term vision of where you want to go… and then reverse engineer it.

Click here to learn more and grab your free copy now (just help me out with the shipping).

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The Starting Point to ALL Success


 

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."

Yogi Berra

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.

------------------------------------------------------------

Get Your Free Copy of “Start at the End”

It’s the 5th year anniversary of my best-selling book -- Start At The End -- and to celebrate, I want you to have a copy for free (just help me out with the shipping).

start at the end cover

The book covers my favorite topic…

… how to create an effective business plan, so you grow a successful, profitable company and achieve your goals.

As I explain in the book, the key is to start by creating the long-term vision of where you want to go… and then reverse engineer it.

Click here to learn more and grab your free copy now (just help me out with the shipping).

------------------------------------------------------------

Categories:
 

Why Most Entrepreneurs Behave Like Drug Addicts


 

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?

Answer honestly.

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.

------------------------------------------------------------

Get Your Free Copy of “Start at the End”

It’s the 5th year anniversary of my best-selling book -- Start At The End -- and to celebrate, I want you to have a copy for free (just help me out with the shipping).

start at the end cover

The book covers my favorite topic…

… how to create an effective business plan, so you grow a successful, profitable company and achieve your goals.

As I explain in the book, the key is to start by creating the long-term vision of where you want to go… and then reverse engineer it.

Click here to learn more and grab your free copy now (just help me out with the shipping).

------------------------------------------------------------

Categories:
 

The Importance of Changing Your Company Offerings


 

 

Nearly 20 years ago, my wife came home from a routine doctor’s appointment and told me she was pregnant. Among other things, this prompted me to think about the kind of employment I wanted. To maximize time with my family, I certainly didn’t want to travel a lot. And I didn’t want to make the family sacrifices I figured were needed to climb the corporate ladder. Starting my own business seemed like the perfect choice.

 

While that moment doesn’t seem like it was too long ago, my son (with whom my wife was pregnant) is now looking at colleges, and I am running a business that’s 18 years old. While my business hasn’t changed as drastically as my son has over this time, it has clearly evolved. And it is this evolution which has kept it relevant and successful for so long.

 

When I first launched my company, it was called Best Business Plan and I purchased the domain name BestBizPlan.com. Being the savvy graphic designer (not really), I choose a unique font and changed the “s” to a dollar sign, so our logo read Be$tBizPlan. Fortunately I brought on my co-founder Jay Turo soon after, and with his guidance, changed our name to something a little more sophisticated -- Growthink.

 

Like BestBizPlan.com, Growthink’s focus was to develop business plans for startups. This is still a core service we offer today. But over the years, we have added new services, products, customer segments and lead magnets as discussed below.

 

Adding Services

 

Particularly when we started, the number one reason entrepreneurs and business owners came to us was for funding. They needed a business plan to present to banks and investors. Naturally, upon completion of client business plans, they would ask if we could help raise funding.

 

Initially, we didn’t offer this service since we didn’t have the expertise and experience nor the required licensing to do so. But, within a couple years, we developed services to help clients raise funding. We also developed M&A expertise to help our clients sell their companies or acquire others.

 

And when we found ourselves spending a lot of time, energy and money purchasing lists of prospective investors, we launched an investor research service to provide such lists to ourselves and clients.

 

Likewise we launched a market research service to conduct market research needed to properly advise our clients and to directly serve the needs of external clients.

 

So, how does this affect your business?

 

Are there any products or services your customers need or are asking for that you don’t provide?

 

Are there any products or services you purchase, but could possible perform yourselves?

 

Identifying and adding such products or services could help reinvent your company and add to your bottom line.

 

Attracting New Customers

 

Our initial focus was developing business plans for startups. This was an exciting business in that we met lots of cool entrepreneurs and heard tons of interesting ideas. On the flip side, there were some frustrations. Startup entrepreneurs don’t have a lot to spend on services. And, most of them never make it, so repeat business is low.

 

For these reasons, we started to expand our client base by attracting new customers. We reached out to mid-sized and even Fortune 500 companies since every business needs a business plan. And every business can use market research and consulting to identify and pursue new growth opportunities.

 

Adding Products

 

While adding new services and new customers proved successful, we didn’t stop there. We realized that we still weren’t serving as many entrepreneurs and companies that we could. For instance, there were many entrepreneurs who wanted us to write their business plans but couldn’t afford it.

 

So, we created a products division to offer for-profit business plan templates, non-profit business plan templates, and business plan software. And we created online training products teaching companies how to raise capital, improve their marketing, and hire better among others.

 

Adding New Lead Magnets

 

Throughout the years, we’ve also evolved our “lead magnets.” A “lead magnet” is an offer that provides enough value for a prospective client to give you their contact information. We have created and offered lead magnets ranging from free business plan guides to funding reports to webinars on company innovation to ebooks on improving company valuation.

 

Each new lead magnet has given us the opportunity to gain interest among clients who otherwise might not have found us.

 

Is it Time for Your Business to Evolve?

 

Evolving our services, products, customer segments and lead magnets over the years has kept our company relevant and allowed us to expand.

 

It hasn’t always been easy. And not every new offering has worked as planned. But, in trying numerous ideas and keeping the winners, we have been left with a more diversified and stable business. Perhaps equally importantly, our new offerings have provided excitement and personal growth. This is in stark contrast to many business owners who burn out after doing the same thing day after day, year after year.

 

So take a moment today to think about your next iteration. What can your company start offering to add value to customers? What expertise do you have internally that you haven’t yet shared with the world? Figuring these out could be just the positive change you and your company need.

 


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Persisting Through a Capital Raise


 

 

Raising funding for your company is challenging. This is particularly true if your company is new and doesn’t have assets or an operating history. In fact, the vast majority of new companies fail to raise capital, and as a result, never fully launch.

The first step to funding is to prepare your business plan. Please feel free to use our for-profit business plan template or nonprofit business plan template to help with this effort.

Armed with your business plan, you’re ready to raise funding. Below, I detail the experience and lessons learned from a new company for which I helped raise several million dollars, to help your business successful raise money if and when needed.

Go After the Right Sources of Funding

The first key to raising funding is to pursue the right sources of funding at the right time. There are numerous forms of funding from which you can potentially choose: bank loans, credit cards, angel investors, venture capitalist, crowdfunding, etc.

Each funding source has different criteria. For example, to receive a bank loan you generally need a 3-year operating history. And to raise venture capital, you typically need to have already proved your concept and have the ability to scale rapidly.

No matter how interesting your company, or how amazing its growth potential, if you pursue a funding source for which you don’t meet the criteria, you will fail.

For my client, which was seeking venture capital, we initially failed to raise venture capital since we didn’t have proof of concept. So, we raised money from angel investors, used it to prove the concept, and then pursued and successfully raised funding from venture capitalists.

It’s Nearly Always a Numbers Game

Even when you have a great product at a great price, success in sales is a numbers game. That is, you still need to present your product to many potential buyers before one purchases.

The same is true with raising funding. No matter how great your company is, most investors will reject you. Even the mighty Google was rejected by multiple venture capital firms when it first approached them.

You must be willing to present your company to many prospects, be it multiple banks, angel investors, venture capital firms and so on. The majority of presentations will result in rejection. You just need one yes to be successful.

In my client’s case, we reached out to 118 venture capitalists. Forty-seven of them requested more information via email. We gave in-person or virtual presentations to fourteen of them. And one ultimately funded the company.

It Takes Time

In my client’s case, the entire funding process took just nearly 2 years. It took approximately 6 months to create a business plan and raising money from angel investors. This money was then used over an 8 month period to build technology to prove the client’s concept. Then, it took an additional 9 months to raise venture capital.

You Must Have a Clear Value Proposition

When we first started presenting to investors, my client explained itself as a MEMS company. You know what a MEMS company is, right? Of course you don’t, and neither did investors.

Likewise, explaining what MEMS stands for, micro-electro-mechanical-systems, didn’t help.

It was only when we focused on the benefits and applications of the MEMS technology (such as its use in improving the range of telecommunications equipment) and how the company had an advantage in the space, did investors get excited and write us a check.

Yes, You Can Ultimately Raise Money For Your Business

While not easy, most entrepreneurs and business owners can raising funding. You need to have thick skin as you’ll face a lot of rejection. You need to be patient as it will take time. You need to focus on the types of funding sources that are fit for your business. And you need to make sure you can clearly articulate the value of your company.

The good news is that if you can assemble each of these pieces, funding will be yours.  

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6 Key Benefits of Building Systems


 

Key Benefits of SystemsI recently attended a presentation by a business systems specialist.

That's someone who builds systems and processes for businesses so they run smoothly.

The system of the day was "how to handle inbound phone calls."

So I'm thinking 2 things...

1) please kill me -- could this be more boring

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The 6 Untold Reasons Why Businesses Fail


 

I originally wrote this article years ago (which is why there are many old comments at the bottom). But I just updated it (even though 99% of what I wrote years ago is still 100% valid today).

Reasons-Why-Businesses-Fail There have been many articles written on the subject of why businesses fail, and most of them point to the same reasons, such as:

-Inadequate funding
-Bad location
-Lack of a well thought-out business plan
-Poor execution
-Bad management
-Expanding too quickly
-Insufficient marketing or promotion
-Inability to adapt to a changing marketplace
-Failure to keep overhead costs low
-Underestimating competitors

These reasons are widespread and no doubt cause many businesses to fail. However, the reason for a company’s failure is not always something so obvious.

 Below are 6 lesser-known reasons why a business might fail.

Why do these reasons remain untold?

Simple. Most of the time, the business owner doesn’t realize that these reasons are what caused their failure, and consultants generally don’t ask the kinds of questions that would identify them.

1) Focusing on Short-Term Profits Rather than Building Long-Term Value

It’s important to be profitable, but NOT when short-term profits come at the expense of the long-term value of the business and the lifetime value of the customer.

Here’s a real-life example: In the late 1990s, there was a franchise of a national smoothie shop located in West Los Angeles, CA. At this store, smoothies sold for about $4. They cost only around $1 to make, resulting in a solid profit. However, certain ingredients, like mangoes and berries, cost more than the other ingredients, such as juice and frozen yogurt. Since juice and frozen yogurt were cheap, the franchisee put more of these ingredients in their smoothies and less of the expensive ingredients. By doing this, their profit margin per smoothie grew by approximately 20 cents, which seemed great… on paper. Unfortunately for the store, customers weren’t satisfied with the taste of the lower cost smoothies, people stopped going there, and the store eventually went out of business.

As you can see here, it’s important to consider the lifetime value of a customer. Repeat business is way more valuable than short-term profits. Saving 20 cents on a smoothie today will cost you big in the long run.

(Another great example of this concept is Google giving preference to relevant ads in order to improve the user experience, even though there are less relevant advertisers willing to pay a higher price per click.)

2) Ego Business vs. Business Opportunity

The foundation of a good business is a good business opportunity. As an entrepreneur, you want to fill a need in the marketplace. Unfortunately, many businesses are started solely to fulfill an entrepreneur’s ego (or, to put it less harshly, to satisfy one of the entrepreneur’s interests).

This can often be seen in the restaurant & bar industry, where too many entrepreneurs open shop because it’s a “cool” thing to do. Such businesses rarely succeed.

3) Life distractions

The best ideas don’t always come between 9 and 5. A person might have a great idea while driving, or in the shower, or while working out. It’s moments like these when an entrepreneur leaves behind the day-to-day tasks of running a business and gains a better perspective of the big picture.

Sadly, there are a lot of things that can disrupt a person’s home life. Illness, death of a family member, divorce, relationship trouble, and problems with a child are just a few of the many issues that can affect a person’s mindset. When things like this occur, moments of clarity are replaced by stress and anxiety.

Many entrepreneurial ventures depend heavily on new ideas and creative thinking, and when an entrepreneur’s head isn’t clear, business can suffer.

4) Bad feedback & white lies

People like spending time with friends and family.

Unfortunately, when it comes to business, friends and family members don’t always give the best advice. This is especially true at the birth of a business. Nobody wants to be a buzz-kill. No one wants to tell an entrepreneur their idea is bad, or their location stinks, or anything else negative. Most people are conditioned to be supportive of their friends and family regardless of the situation.

Plus, nobody wants to be wrong. Imagine your friend has an idea that you think is terrible. You share your objections, but the friend goes ahead with the idea anyways, and it succeeds. Now you’ll always be the naysayer that never believed in them. Nobody wants to be that person.

That’s why you’ll rarely get honest, objective business advice from friends or family members. And yet, oftentimes friends and family are the first people entrepreneurs turn to for advice.

5) Maybe the owner is just a jerk

There are a lot of great people in the business world, but there are also some jerks. And these jerks sometimes start their own companies.

A jerk, in this case, is someone who a lot of people can’t get along with. Maybe it’s because they’re a super-perfectionist, or they yell a lot, or they demand that everything be done in a certain way, or they constantly complain. Or maybe they’re annoying in some other way.

The key is that nobody -- not employees, customers, partners, suppliers, clients, etc. -- wants to give 100% for a jerk. Clients and customers will be turned off, and employees will start cutting corners. Most people believe that life is too short, and don’t want to spend their time working with someone they can’t get along with.

6) The entrepreneur never took the full leap

In most new business attempts, the entrepreneur never leaves their day job, or they create a back-up plan, or they have a job lined up in case the new business fails. In these cases, failure IS an option, as the entrepreneur has a safety net to fall back on. In cases where failure is NOT an option, and the entrepreneur depends on the new business to provide food, shelter and clothing, the business has a greater chance of succeeding.

There’s a great example of this concept in this NY Times article. Xiang Yu was a third century (B.C.) General in the Chinese army. He led his troops into enemy territory by crossing the Yangtze River. Then, in order to inspire his troops, Xiang Yu took some unorthodox measures. He burned all of his troop’s ships and destroyed all of their cooking materials. This left the troops with only two options: Move forward and conquer the enemy, or perish. The maneuver did not make Xiang Yu very popular with his soldiers; nevertheless, the troops advanced and ultimately emerged victorious.

Xiang Yu’s methods might be a little drastic in this day and age, but the moral of the story is what’s important. Author Anita Roddick has said that entrepreneurship is a matter of survival, and the truth is, if you’re not totally committed to your business, your chances for success will be greatly diminished.

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Client Referrals: Why You Need Them and How to Get Them


 

Client ReferralsA recent survey of business owners showed that 41.4% of businesses count on referrals for over 80% of their sales.    

I actually don't believe this statistic; I think it's way too high.    

But the statistic is very exciting. Because it means that these 41.4% of entrepreneurs are doing it right; because getting referrals is absolutely critical to your business' success.    

Let me explain.

To begin, referrals generally don't cost you any money. So rather than spending $X to acquire the new client, you spend $0. This dramatically boosts your profitability.

Second, getting referrals boosts your average profit per client. For example, let's say your average profit per client is $50. Now, let's also assume that 20% of your clients refer you one additional client.

What that means is that for every 10 new clients you get, you actually receive 12 new clients (including the 2 referrals). Since each client gives you a profit of $50, you've generated $600 in profit from the 10 initial clients. So, your profit per new client goes from $50 ($500 divided by 10) to $60 ($600 divided by 10).

Yes, it's exciting that your profit has gone up 20%. But what's even more exciting is that you can use this increased profit to dominate your competitors. For instance, if your competitors are still only earning $50 profit per client, they can only spend up to $50 per client in marketing expenses. But since you're earning $60 profit per client, you can actually spend more than $50 in marketing to acquire a new client.

This allows you to advertise in more places and in places that your competitors can't afford. This will drive tons of new clients to you instead of your competition.

In summary, getting referrals can allow you to significantly boost revenues and profits, and allow you to dominate competitors. It's a surefire way to make your business plan more profitable!

Now, if referrals offer such a great benefit, why do 58.6% of entrepreneurs fail to effectively use them?  The answer is that they haven't set up an effective referral system.

So here are the keys to an effective referral system.

Step 1: Make the Client Want to Give You a Referral

Clearly, your clients must be happy in order for them to give you a referral. So, make sure you satisfy their needs and fulfill the promises you made them when they purchased your product or service.

Step 2: Ask for the Referral

With a job well done, some clients will give you referrals on their own. But you'll dramatically increase the number of referrals you receive if you simply ask for them.

Of critical importance is to ask 1) at the right time, and 2) multiple times. With regards to the former, if a client needs to use your product/service in order to be satisfied, then you clearly can't ask for the referral immediately. Rather, you'll have to wait until they've used your product/service and can vouch for its success.

With regards to the latter, it is critical that you ask clients multiple times for referrals. You need to do this for several reasons. The first is that clients are often busy and if you ask at the wrong moment, they simply might not have time to give the referral.

Secondly, it's possible that today one of your clients does not have a new client they can refer to you. But maybe in a month they meet someone that would be a perfect fit for you company. But unless you ask for the referral again then, they'll probably forget to give it to you.

In asking clients for referrals, don't just ask them who they think might be a good fit for your product/service. Rather, it's more effective if you guide their thinking. For instance, you should ask, "I know you're a member of the XYZ organization; do you know anyone else in the XYZ organization that could benefit from our product/service?" This allows your client to focus their thinking in order to find more potential names for you.

Step 3: Effectively Contact the Referral

Clearly, once you receive the referral, you need to contact them and try to close the sale.

A key tip here is to ask the referral source to let the referral know you'll be contacting them. As such, rather than contacting the referral cold, you'll receive a warm introduction that will make the referral more likely to speak with you and buy your products/services.

Step 4: Putting it All Together

The key to a successful referral program is to formalize and systematize it. It shouldn't be something that one of your employees does once in a while. But rather, it should be a sequence of events that always happens.

For example, your system might include the following: Ten days after a sale is made your client gets an email requesting referrals. Fifteen days after a sale they receive a postcard. And then 28 days after the sale, your salesperson calls them to request referrals.

In addition to systematizing your referral program, you need to maintain statistics so you can see what's working and what's not working. For example, you should track each of your referral attempts and see which ones lead to new clients and which do not. And then you should tweak them (e.g., change your email to offer an incentive for the client to give you a referral), and track which tweaks work and which don't (and clearly keep using the ones that did work).

A quality referral program will increase your revenues and profits, and can give you real competitive advantage. So build your referral program today!

Suggested Resource: Growthink's Ultimate Marketing Plan Template allows you to quickly and expertly create your marketing plan; and exponentially increase your customers and revenues by developing your referral program and orchestrating the 5 key marketing levers. Click here to learn more.

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