“Starting a business is easy. Creating something of value is harder”


TVNZ Interview

TVNZ Interview

If you have a few minutes, take a look at this interview with me on TVNZ Good Morning show earlier this week. To be honest I was quite thrown by the questions asked. I had expected it to be a jolly chat about my book, with a view to inspiring some talented mums at home to consider the opportunities, just like I had. I wasn’t expecting the first question:

 “Why do you think anyone can start a business?”

Wow, that made me think. Watch as I look up into my brain for the answer.

And then it came to me, starting isn’t the hard part. Anyone can start a business. But not everyone has the vision and the fortitude to make it work.

In the interview, I end up back on my own soapbox, showing how passionate I really am about the need to approach business with a long-term view in mind.

The good news is that I got to explain my mantra – ‘start at the end and work backwards’. Think about where you are taking the business and what you want out of it financially, as well as what you want to do right here and now. Plan your business properly – start with a good idea and a clear market for it – and be clear what the end game is.

I’m not sure I inspired those stay at homes to launch into business tomorrow, but I did get to say my piece. The reason I do what I do – helping small business owners become big business owners by planning their way to financial freedom.

I hope things are going well for you in your business right now. I’d love to help you plan your end game and plot the course to get there.

Acceler8me 2014 kicks off July 3rd – for business owners serious about growth. You can find out more about it here – just use the enquiry form supplied to have a chat about it.

Hope to see you soon!


Why are customer surveys so important? And how do you do them properly?

survey workI’ve recommended to three different clients in the past week that they undertake a client and prospect survey to find out what’s really going on with their business.  Each of these clients has different challenges but each will be able to make better decisions by asking the people they are trying to reach.

I was in the advertising industry for over 20 years and the most effective work we ever did for clients came out of insights we had gained from understanding their customers and potential customers.  When I ran my own agency, we would always start a new campaign by talking to both existing customers and potential customers.  We would base our advertising messages on what they told us…. more so than on what the client told us about their business.

Today I am still a huge believer in the power of talking to your customers on a regular basis.

Why and when should you do a customer survey

  • To learn more about customer purchasing and spending habits, and how they are utilizing competitor products – so you can be sure you are positioning your product and marketing in the most appealing way
  • To build a more detailed customer profile for future marketing campaigns – who are your hot clients, what do they want and where can you find more of them?
  • To further define a clear point of difference – what is that you do that your customers love, and why do they choose you over the competition?
  • To learn what frustrates your customers about your industry and how can you package your offering to provide the best solution to this
  • To assist with brand development – if you are undergoing branding work, you can build better strategies with customer insights
  • For new product development – before you spend money building something, make sure it is needed and wanted by matching it against client/prospect needs
  • To find out why clients are not referring others, even with very good incentives to do so

How do you go about it?

I’ve just published a report called ‘Customer Insights: Developing valuable insights for marketing and product development’, which outlines the steps to take and the types of questions you should ask.

You can download it at www.liber8yourbusiness.com/tools

Research is a really important part of product development and positioning so do check it out, and let me know if you have any questions at laura@liber8me.com

Good luck


From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business, the revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

Which is more important… delivery or sales? Should you be in doing or out selling? Learn the 5 steps to the ‘The In-Out Dance” here…

sync swimmingAs a small business owner you’ll be familiar with ‘The In-out Dance’ I’m sure.  It goes like this.  You are busy in the business, delivering your service or product, working hard, working hard.  There’s too much to do and you need help.  So you hire some people and now you have to spend more time training them and managing them as well as doing all the work you already have on your plate.  There’s no time to think about getting out there and selling your wares.   Busy in, bum down, doing it, doing it, doing it.  You’re working hard, putting in the hours, no time to sleep, worrying about dropping balls and hoping your delivery meets client expectations.

Then suddenly the work dries up.

You’ve got the team, but no income on the horizon.  So you have to get OUT there and sell you butt off.  Out, out, out, sell, sell, sell.  The pressure is on, there are mouths to feed and everyone is relying on you to bring home the bacon.  It’s a frightening and stressful time and the buck stops with you.  Now you’ve got time to sleep but you can’t because you’re worried about money. So out you go.  Pick up the phone, network like crazy, press the flesh and try to keep the desperation out of your voice when you talk to people.

Hopefully your efforts pay off.  The orders pour in and back you go to the coalface.  Doing it, doing it, doing it.  Work, work, work.  Late nights, no time to sleep, on and on until…

Suddenly the work dries up.

And out you go again.

You get the picture.  It’s ‘The In-out Dance’ and very exhausting it is too.  It can be really, really stressful – especially when you have to lay people off because you can’t afford to pay them in the quiet periods.

So what do you do to change this pattern?

You need to learn to dance better.  You’ve got the steps all wrong.   Instead of in, in, in then out, out, out, the dance needs to be more like in, out, in, out, in, out.  A gentle rhythm set to an even beat.  You must be out as much as you are in, or at least have a marketing system that allows for constant out focused activity.

 Here are 5 pointers to Strictly Come Dancing In-Out Style:

  1. Understand the in/out balance.  Business is a balance of sales and delivery – you cannot have one without the other.  If you put all your focus on sales but not delivery you will disappoint customers, damage reputation and lose business.  If you put all your focus on delivery and not sales, you will run out of business and the best delivery in the world won’t matter.  So you must ensure you dedicate time to both no matter how busy you are.
  2. NEVER take your eye off sales.  When you are too busy to think about sales, this is the time to think about sales.  Ensure sales and marketing activities are in your weekly work in progress and given equal priority. Try not to bump the sales activity off the to do list because you and your team are too busy.
  3. Keep the pipeline full.  You should always have a number of hot prospects waiting for conversion, a number of proposals in progress, a number of leads to follow up, a database to make irresistible offers to.  This can only happen if you keep the pressure on your sales and marketing at all times.
  4. Have a marketing system.  Create a marketing process that happens every week.  Make sure you have a hot list of potential clients you are targeting and a regular campaign underway.  With a system in place you can get other team members to help with the logistics.
  5. Hire people out of cash flow. Don’t hire new people on the basis of today’s busy period alone.  This can lead to disaster down track if the work dries up.  Try to use contractors to start with if you can until the workflow is more certain.  Ideally you’d be hiring people you know the business can afford, or at least ensure you have money in the bank to cover salaries should there be a quiet period on the horizon.

There is a reason that marketing and sales make up the important pillars to business growth.  You can’t grow without them.  Life for a small business owner is a constant juggling act in the early years.  Your job is to remember to keep both sales and delivery balls firmly in the air.  And learn to be a champion ‘in-out dancer’!

Dance on!





From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free


Business Mentor tip # 80 – The incredible power of partner marketing… and how to sell glasses to people who don’t need them!

No problem with the marketing vision for the folk at Specsavers.  Not only do they have a very funny ad campaign – the ‘Should’ve gone to Specsavers’ series (my favourite is the father on the finishing line of school kids running race where he thinks the kid who comes first is his and goes crazy hugging him, while his own son plods up last).  They also do some clever stuff with their marketing and sales strategies behind the scenes.  On Friday I got an email from AA (automobile not alcohol version) offering me a free sight test with Specsavers plus $50 of their two for one deals.  I started needing glasses for reading a year or so ago and whilst being content with my $50 pair of reading specs from the pharmacy, I thought an eye test could be a good idea.  So I booked in and today went for my test, which was very thorough and examined my eyes from every angle as well as my near and far vision.

The good news for me is that my eyes are very healthy, my vision is pretty good for an old gal and the cheapo pharmacy readers are all I really need.

The good news for Specsavers is I spent $319 on two new pairs of reading glasses.  Well, it was $50 off a $299 two for one deal.  Plus of course I needed to spend the $70 on non-reflective coating naturally.  I walked out of there somewhat dazed yet bemused by my own shopaholic tendencies. Good eyesight does not necessarily equate to good judgement obviously.

However, I was impressed at the marketing process that got me to spend this money on items I didn’t need.  Let’s just recap:

Firstly the email from AA offering a free eye test.  Specsavers have clearly have a partnership arrangement with this organisation, which has opened up one of the largest databases in New Zealand to them.

Then the offer of $50 off.  I didn’t need to buy glasses.  I was told as much by the professional who tested my eyes.  But she did guide me towards the rack showing the lovely range of glasses they had, whilst telling me how much I’d enjoyed the extra comfort of an anti-glare coating.  It was hard to resist.  I mean $50 off.  Come on.  And the $299 options did look so much nicer than the $199 ones…

And to top it all off, the sales.  Oh the sales.  Yes by all means look at those ones, but have you seen these ones.  And are you sure you don’t want anti-glare coating?  Let me show you the difference, take a look through these glasses.  One lens has the coating the other doesn’t. Have a look in the mirror.  What a difference!  Of course I bloody want the coating. Bring it on.

Sold to the lady with the trembling credit card!

Well done Specsavers on a job well done. Am so looking forward to a life without glare and the best looking readers in the cafe next week!


From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies. 


An important lesson on truth from the Bollywood Dentist…

I had a big shock last week on my way back from Tonga.  Upon the recommendation of a client I called into see a dentist for a second opinion on my troublesome tooth.  The dentist was Dr Loy at the Caring4smiles practice in Epsom.  After one hour with him I had committed to spending the next two years and over $20,000 with him, travelling from Wellington to Auckland to do so.  When all I had wanted was advice on one dodgy tooth.

How did this happen?

Quite simply, Dr Loy told me the truth.  And was the first dentist in my nearly 50 years of life to do so.  It wasn’t pleasant.  In fact it was quite horrifying.  The truth is a very powerful thing.  There are lessons to be learnt here.

But first let me tell you more about Dr Loy.  His story is worth telling.

Dr Loy graduated ‘cum laude’ in Dentistry in India in 1978 and started his own private practice in Bombay. He told me how he invested 250,00 rupees in this practice and his ‘uncles’ (indian term for all male relatives) told him he was crazy.  The average start up cost for a business was 60,000 rupees.  He went out on a limb from day one, believing that if he built it people would come.  His commitment from the start was to tell people the truth about their teeth.  Within a few years he had so many customers he could no longer drive his own car to work, because people would follow him trying to get an appointment.  He was the dentist to the Bollywood stars and could command any price he wanted.  It seems when it comes to their teeth, the truth is an important factor.

Dr Loy had a wake up call about the importance of family the day his young son asked him where the bed was at work, claiming his father must sleep at work because he’d never seen him sleeping at home.  Soon after Dr Loy moved his practice and his family to Auckland where after some years working part time to spend time with his kids, he began to build his practice from scratch all over.  Again, he spent a fortune on start up – renovating an old villa in Epson, believing that if he built it, the people would come.  And once again, his commitment was to tell people the truth about their teeth.

Now people like me are travelling all over New Zealand to see Dr Loy, turning their backs on the dentist they’ve had for years in their home town.  Why?  Because he tells you the truth.

So why is the truth so powerful?

Let me ask you this.  Have you ever seen a picture of your teeth?  I mean all of your teeth, inside, close up with a powerful camera?  Have you had someone sit with you for half an hour and tell you the history of your teeth and predict the future based on everything they see?  I suspect not.  I certainly had never experienced this.

It was not a pretty sight.  My back teeth are a mess.  A patchwork of fillings made by different dentists over the years, who have been chipping away at my teeth for decades.  There is very little actual tooth left on my major molars, and what is left is a spiderweb of fine cracks spreading all over, just waiting for me to bite on a popcorn kernel and crack them wide open.  This is why I was visiting Dr Loy in the first place.  A big molar cracked when I bit on a chicken bone causing major pain right into my roots.  There is now doubt as to whether this tooth can be saved.

Dr Loy showed me that all of my molars are the same.  A timebomb of cracks waiting to explode.  It’s a matter of when not if.  Teeth should never be repaired in this manner he told me.  There should be a building plan with long term sustainability in mind, not a lifetime of quick fixes with no care for the future.  He likened dentistry to the building trade.  If you keep patching up a house with no plan, eventually it will fall apart and need total gutting and re-building.  But if you get a good engineer and architect in and build with the future in mind, you can keep a house in great shape forever.

In half an hour Dr Loy did two very important things.  He firstly destroyed my faith in my current dentist, who has been patching up my teeth for the last fifteen years and has never once shown me what they look like.  Not once.  And secondly, Dr Loy gave me total faith in himself by showing me the history and future of my teeth and offering me a solution.

We need a plan, he said.  We can re-build your teeth and give you a healthy mouth for the rest of your life.  It will take time and money.  He was completely upfront about the cost and the options.  He didn’t charge me for the photos.  He said he was happy for me to take them somewhere else and get another dentist to do the work if I wanted.  But how could I?  I left angry at all of the dentists who have been chipping away at my teeth for years without a care for the long term impact.  I only trust one dentist now.  And that’s the one who told me the truth.

There are lessons to be learned here for all of us in business.  What is the truth your customers need to hear that your competitors are not willing to tell? 

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies. Based in Wellington, New Zealand.



Business Mentor Tip #73 – If you build it will they come? @drrobadams

 “If you build it will they come?” is the title of a new book by Rob Adams.  I attended a workshop taken by Rob last week and was impressed enough to make it my next business mentor tip.  Forgive me Rob if my interpretation of your material in any way undersells it!

The key to successful business is having a product or service that enough people will buy to meet your financial targets.  Many (dare I say most) business start out with what Rob calls the ‘ready, fire, fire,fire, aim’ approach which typically goes like this.  Think of a product/service idea that you think people will love, get it ready for market, dress it up in the way you believe your target audience will find attractive and then attempt to sell it.  When sales don’t meet targets you re-visit your sales strategy and try again.  And again.  Sound familiar?

Well think again.  Surely a way to increase your chances of selling people what they want will increase if you ask them what they want and then deliver it to them in the way they want to receive it?  Or in other words as Rob Adams says … ‘ready, aim, fire’.

This is called market validation.  In essense this means that you go out to your market and find out what their problems are first.  Then you develop the product or solution that will meet those problems better than anything else out there.  You get it right before you invest in development and marketing.  It sounds so logical doesn’t it?

So how do you validate your market?  In Rob’s book ‘If you build it will they come?” he takes you through the methods and steps involved.  But before you rush off and buy it, I’ll share the tip he gave us at the workshop:

Before you launch anything new – a new product or service/a new brand or a new campaign – call up 100 people who represent your target market and ask them what they really need.   In Business Mentor Tip #63 – Gather Your Insights I gave you a list of questions that a someone developing a new business planning tool might ask.

In these questions you are looking for the problem to solve.  What frustrates people?  What annoys them with current options?  What are they trying to do that your product or service could make easier for them?  It’s all about easing pain.  Find the pain and offer the solution.  Ask questions that give you meaningful answers to help design your products and marketing campaigns to meet the need.

The added bonus is that people will pay more for something that makes them feel better.  If you can give them what they really want, they are happy to pay for it.

So… as you think about your product development and marketing from now on, remember, Ready, Aim, Fire!

You can buy your copy of Rob’s book here: http://www.amazon.com/You-Build-Will-They-Come/dp/047056363X


From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

OMG! How long can you own a niche?

Remember my blog a few months ago about the wonders of MGP scooters as a brand story? http://www.liber8yourbusiness.com/07/mgp-scooters-rock-the-world-what-a-fantabadooly-madd-business-mgp_scooters/

Well now there’s Slamm scooters… you tell me the difference between the two.  And what lessons can we learn from this folks?


Business Mentoring Tip #63 – Gather your insights

Good marketing is about being very clear who it is you are trying to sell to. It’s about knowing your target audience well.  If possible get inside their minds and learn the triggers that will motivate them.  The more insights you have about your potential customers the better.

Discovering insights doesn’t have to be difficult.  At my advertising agency Red Rocks when we got a new client or were pitching for a piece of business, we would always start by putting our ‘insights’ together.  These insights told us the core messages we would build our campaigns around.  To learn these insights we would find people who represented a typical customer for our client and ask them questions. Sometimes we brought them together as a group and asked them their thoughts in a discussion type format.  Other times we would go out and about and ask people on location, in a shopping mall, at an event or typical situation (such as kids at a skate park if you were selling a new brand of scooter like MGP).

Example questions for ‘insight’ survey

If I were to launch a new business planning tool and wanted to gather some insights from the small business market, here are some questions I might ask:

  • What do you love about owning your own business?
  • What do you like least about owning your own business?
  • What is your biggest frustration as a small business owner?
  • On a scale of 1 – 5 (with 5 being excellent) how would you rate your confidence around business planning?
  • What aspects of running a business are you most confident about?
  • What aspects are you least confident about?
  • What topics in the area of business education would be most useful for you right now? Please list your top five.
  • Which of the following method for learning would you prefer?  Book/Live seminars/webinars/video seminars/ipad app/other (please list)

When you ask such questions of large enough groups of people you start to see some trends happening.  Themes will appear and from the themes come your insights.  If enough people are telling you the same frustrations, you know you have an opportunity to fix this for them with your approach.


From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies. Based in Wellington, New Zealand. 

Business Mentoring Tip #62 – What’s your unique point of difference?

In the advertising industry when we developed a strategy or advertising plan for our clients, we would start by understanding the client’s ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ or their USP.  This is jargon speak for working out what the clear point of difference the product or service had within its industry.  How is what you have to offer different from what everyone else is offering?  This is a crucial aspect to marketing and will make any marketing campaigns you run that much more effective.  It can also keep you away from the need to discount your offering.  I’m going to share a secret with you now:

People are happy to pay more for something they perceive as better. 

If you understand your market, you’ve worked out your niche and you have something clearly special about the way you are doing things… price will not be the barrier that prevents someone buying from you.

Real or perceived difference?

How different do you really need to be for people to prefer your product over everything else in the market? If you are launching something completely new and exciting to the market you have a real point of difference.  Make sure you spell this out in your marketing communications, use your point of difference to drive your messages.

But what if you are offering something very similar to your competition?  How do you differentiate yourself?  The answer is by creating a perceived point of difference.  Add something to your process or brand that gives you a distinct difference.

I did this with my advertising agency, Red Rocks.  I found out three things that frustrated clients about big advertising agencies…the perceived arrogance; the feeling of being sold ‘the one big idea’ without consultation; and the feeling that advertising were more interested in winning creative awards than they were about selling products.  I then positioned my agency to address these problems for potential clients.  When we pitched for new business we told clients boldly that we were not like other agencies.  That we were friendly, easy to approach and never arrogant; we involved our clients in the creative process, consulted them and always presented three ideas so they never felt sold to; and we only entered ‘effectiveness awards’ not creative awards.  These three things underpinned our culture.  Everybody in the company knew how important these things were and we became known as an agency that clients loved to work with. Our service was better, our attitude was better and our work got results… we sold product with our ideas.  Why wouldn’t someone want to work with us?

So what is your unique point of difference?  Do you have something clearly very different about your product or service?  Or can you create a point of difference based on perception?


From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.