“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!

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Do you have what it takes to grow? The 2 qualities every serious entrepreneur needs

growthThere are only two things I look for when it comes to choosing a business owner I want to work with, or who I invite to join my mentoring programmes.  If I see these two things I know this business owner has a chance at building something amazing – with a little guidance, a lot of determination and a commitment to thinking strategically.

So what are they?  These two things… let’s take a look:

1.  A willingness to grow.  This might seem obvious but when I work with people I often have to battle the mind before I can help uncover the potential.  Too many small business owners are exactly that … small business owners.  They live inside a comfort zone of their own creation. It’s warm and snuggly and safe. But it’s also restricting, limiting and stifling.  When someone really wants to grow, I know I can help them.  When they don’t, I can’t.  It’s that simple.  If I ever invite you to work with me, I will interrogate your willingness to have your comfort zone expanded, along with your dreams.

2. A business model capable of growth.  Even with the strongest desire in the world to grow, you have to have a business model that is capable of expansion.  There has to be a market for what you offer, a need for what you sell and a business structure that can scale up.  If a business owner has the willingness to grow, we can work with a business model and if necessary change it to allow for growth.  But there has to be a willingness to change if this is necessary.

So how do you think you shape up against these two criteria?  Are you willing to grow?  Are you willing to challenge your business model and explore re-engineering to enable growth if necessary?

If the answer is yes to these questions, I’d love to hear from you.

I’m about to launch my annual Acceler8me Programme for business owners seriously looking to grow.  I have two more spots to fill.  Could you be one of them?

If you are willing to move outside of your comfort zone and explore the true potential of your business, email me here today  and I’ll tell you more about the programme.

Growth isn’t always easy.  But you don’t have to do it alone. I’m here to help.

Talk soon

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of multi-award winning book Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

3 reasons why your business is not ‘your baby’

babyBefore you read this blog please take a moment to watch this quick video about Kathleen Turner of  Tate’s Bake Shop – the story of a woman who lost it all then rebuilt it – with major success.

I love how towards the end of the video, Kathleen King talks about the reason for success behind her second business was because she took the emotion out. “I knew I had to execute efficiently and grow a viable business,” she says, “I didn’t have the same emotional attachment that I had with my first business.” Her first business was her baby. And after 23 years, when she was emotionally wrung out and exhausted from caring for this demanding baby for so long, she ended up $200,000 in debt instead of financially rewarded. Her baby bit her in the bum.

It’s not personal. It’s business

How many times have you heard someone refer to their business their ‘baby’? Have you ever called your own business your baby? It’s a very common analogy and one we can all relate to given the blood, sweat and emotional tears we put into our business when we decide to take that leap of faith and build our own dream.

But in my view it’s not a good analogy at all. Here are three reasons why I strongly believe your business is not your baby:

1. Babies are dependent on you for at least 18 years

With business one of your primary goals should be to decrease it’s dependency on you. A business is meant to be an asset, not a job. In the first few years, there are some similarities with parenting a newborn for sure – long hours, sleepless nights, relentless giving of your time and energy to name but a few – but this is not meant to last forever. And certainly not for 18 years! Prepare to start cutting the apron strings long before your business reaches adolesence. Don’t get so attached you are not willing to let go.

2. A baby is the single most emotional connection you will ever have

You will love your baby forever, regardless of who they become. I’ll never forget my mother after a few wines the night before my wedding hugging me tight and saying “I loved you the minute you were born. And then you started taking drugs!”   Yes I was a troubled and troublesome teenager (although I like to think there were a few memories in between birth and my first foray into magic mushrooms). But she still had to love me, and thankfully still does.

The emotional connection is what makes parenthood worthwhile. But in business, the emotion can make us weak and cloud our judgment. Remember Kathleen King in the video? She had her first business – her baby – for 23 years and all it did was leave her with $200k in debt. Her second business she did without emotion – just with a clear plan and a determination to execute the plan. She went from scratch to $6 million in revenue, selling cookies in 50 US states in just 8 years.   A far cry from the 23 years of her previous business where she kept her apron strings on right up to the very bitter end.

3A baby is unlikely to pay you back financially

The days of the younger generation taking care of their parents financially are mostly over. Do you expect your kids to pay for you when you grow old? I know I don’t. That’s why I create businesses with a view to ensuring a financial pay back down the track – so I know I’ll be able to care for myself.

It’s important to view your business as an asset – something that you build to pay you back financially. Sure you have to be passionate about what you do, and love your business for the difference it makes in the world. But don’t be so attached to it you can’t see it for what it really is – one of your primary wealth creation tools. Unlike a baby, it should be feeding you.

In summary

Your business is not a baby. It’s a business. The game is to keep the emotion out of it, decrease its dependency and regard it as an asset that will ultimately feed you financially, not drain all of your resources.

Now, how do you feel about this? Still think your business is your baby?

Love to hear your comments. Post below.

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If you can’t be a billionaire why bother? Does every small business owner have to be the next Richard Branson?

richard bransonI had an interesting debate on Linked In recently after I posted my blog “Some frightening statistics about small business” onto a discussion group.  I thought my point was that if more small business owner operators were inspired and equipped to grow a valuable asset rather than settle for a low paying job, our economy would be better off – and a whole bunch of people would retire with enough wealth to lead a life of freedom, instead of having to panic when they get too old to keep doing that job any more.

The debate that raged on Linked In seemed to be between me and a strong school of thought that believes if you don’t have the potential to be the next Rod Drury (CEO of Xero) or Richard Branson then you should not have aspirations to grow.  “Leave them alone” the argument went – let the small thinkers stay small and let’s put our energies into the big thinkers who will be the next global dominators.  This is where the real gains are to be made.

Sorry I can’t do it.  For every small thinker I can help become a bigger thinker, I will feel my work is worthwhile.  Between the billion dollar global business and the solo operator plumber there are a myriad of other business types, sizes, aspirations and dreams.  My work is to encourage others to see their business as a potentially valuable asset, not just a job. It could be a desire to build a business that generates $60k per annum passive income, or a $100,000 sale.  Or $500,000 sale, or $3 million or $10 million.  Or $100 million.  I don’t put a judgement on the size of someone’s business or the size of their dream.  I just want people to be aware that they have choice.  To choose the easy road now and not think about building something of value as you go will inevitably lead to a road that’s harder down the track.  To choose a harder road now and learn to build something greater than a job for yourself, will increase your chances of a life of freedom down the track.

I just want to give people more choices through education and inspiration.  Not every owner operator wants to grow of course.  That’s fine, let them work out their retirement their own way, sure.  But some do and don’t know how, some lack confidence, some lack knowledge.  My mission is to provide the motivation and then the tools to give small business owners a better chance at creating value.

So to all small business people who don’t aim to take on the world, but want to make a difference to their lives, their families and their communities.  Rock on.  I won’t leave you alone.

Thanks for listening to my rant!

 

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and author of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

 

 

 

6 reasons why business is like golf

golfTalking to a client today about how tiring her month had been with a roller coaster of ups and downs and good and bad, I found myself talking to her about my golf recently and how I was enjoying the ups and downs of it all.  It occurred to me that business and golf are similar in many ways. Here are just six reasons why owning your own business is like playing golf:

1.  You have to be passionate about it and it takes up a lot of your time.

2.  You can just get started anytime you like with no professional help, but you quickly discover that a bit of guidance is a really good idea

3. You won’t get any better at it if you don’t keep playing the game – practice, practice, practice!

4. One day everything will be brilliant and you’ll know exactly why you love it

5.  The next day it will all turn to s**t and you’ll want to give it up forever

6.  You can aim for the hole in one, but small consistent steps can win the game

And here’s one major difference:

With golf you need little balls. With business you need….

Enjoy the game!

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From the desk of Liber8me. Business mentors and author of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

 

 

Some frightening statistics about small business…

lemonade standI’m about to share some frightening statistics taken from 2013 census :
  • Out of 469,118 businesses, 439,920 had less than 10 employees
  • That’s 94%! 
  • 74% of these are deemed uninterested in or unsuitable for expansion
  • 55% self employed people are age 40 – 59
  • Average wage small business owners pay themselves is $40,000
  • What does this picture say to you?  To me is says we have an economy largely made up of small business owners, who are not paying themselves enough and have no plan for growth.  Many of these will hit retirement in the next 10 years, having worked hard in their business their entire life, and will not be able to sell it (no one will buy a business which is unsuitable for expansion).  This is a bleak picture for the business owner and for the economy.  I think it’s time things changed.
  • The two statistics I’d like to see change first are the % of business owners deemed uninterested or unsuitable for expansion, and the average small business owner wage being $40k.  Both can be changed with education and inspiration.  Firstly, there needs to be a movement to change attitudes.  From a small business being more like a low paying job, to a belief that your business is an asset – there to feed you long term wealth.  With some careful planning, a lot of drive and some expert guidance – many businesses can be re-engineered to enable growth.  But it does take a willing owner.  There needs to be a mind shift.
  • Secondly, there needs to be inspirational education and a support network that gives business owners practical steps to follow once they decide they are willing to go for it.My book Liber8 your Business, together with it’s companion workbook, have been designed more as an at home small business course than a book.  The goal is to change attitudes and provide tools to enable change.  I’d now like to see facilitated study groups all over the country, to help take the lessons out of the pages in and into practice in small businesses everywhere.
  • If you’d like to be part of this movement in any way, as a participant, as a facilitator or supporter contact me laura@liber8me.com

Have you created a business or a job? 5 tips for turning your small business into a big asset

looking for a jobMy mantra for small business owners is simple:  Don’t create a job, build yourself an asset.  When you own a business you have the opportunity right there in your hands to build something that can create financial security for you in the future.  You are going to work hard anyway, why waste this valuable time just paying yourself to do a job when you could be setting yourself up forever?

If you are serious (as I believe you should be) about building a saleable business, here are 5 success factors you can be thinking about right now:

1.  Set your end goal. Decide how much you want to sell it for and by when, and work backwards. In my book Liber8 your Business, I show a simple formula for working out your potential end value, with a link to the online calculator.

2. Name your buyer. It’s important to have a good idea who might want to buy your business in your early planning. Imagine spending ten years building a business you intend to sell only to realize you have created something nobody wants to buy. If you build a business with a buyer in mind, you have a much better chance of building something they really want.

A potential buyer could be a larger player in your industry looking to grow through acquisition. This growth might be regional – they want a presence in your city or town and it’s easier to buy you than start from scratch. It might be strategic – you have a smart product or service they could add to their existing infrastructure to create additional revenue streams. An example of this might be a large accounting firm buying a small book-keeping firm to add value to their client base. Your service or product could become a ‘nuisance’ to a competitor (read more on a strategy called ‘kicking sand in the gorilla’s face’ in my book, Liber8 your Business) and they buy your company to prevent it competing or to regain lost revenues. It could be a management buy-out, when senior employees raise the funds to buy you out. It could be a competitor of a similar size wanting to grow and willing to invest to gain rapid growth through acquisition. I’ve sold businesses to two types of buyer. A multinational bought my advertising agency and a local competitor bought my pet care company. My father’s photocopier business sold to his senior management team. A good friend has built three recruitment agencies. The first sold to one of the original partners, who bought out the other partners. The second sold to a multinational looking for regional representation in her city. The third is in its early days of growth and I’ll watch with interest who buys it (I have no doubt it will sell because I know the founders expect this and will build with this in mind). Another type of buyer could be a private equity group or even an individual who sees great potential in what you’ve built.

So who might want to buy your business? What are you building that could add huge value to someone’s offering? Now is the time to start thinking about these things.

3. Remove the dependence on you. To make your business attractive to your future buyer, it cannot be dependent on you. That’s a key message I want you to learn from this article:

No one will outright buy a business that’s dependent on its owner.

If the buyer takes you out of the picture and no business remains, they will either insist you stay in the business or they will walk away. So whatever your strategy is, whatever your end goal, whatever your vision for the future … it needs to not have you in it. I did that at my agency by making sure the clients loved the business but weren’t dependent on me. In the last few years, I hired two senior guys and put them in charge of our biggest clients, so my buyer could see the clients were not reliant on me.

4. Start building a team as soon as you can. I couldn’t afford to bring in those big guns until later in my business growth. I started by hiring people I could afford, with a couple of youngsters straight from college. I trained them to do things exactly the way I wanted. I call it ‘training your clones’ – teaching people to follow your example and do things your way. I kept building my team that way until we could afford to hire more senior people. And then we had to make sure we had a really strong culture to manage senior people.

5. Secure future earnings. Getting all our key clients on fixed-term contracts was another critical strategy that worked. They all had two or three year contracts so when the buyer looked at my business they saw a high level of spend committed for the next three years. This was an important lesson I learned from my businessman father. Remember I told you about his photocopier business and how he sold it and retired soon after his fiftieth birthday? One of the best secrets to success he shared with me was, ‘you’ve got to have a back end.’ To explain, he gave the example of his own business. While the sale or lease of each copier was worth a lot of money (especially in the 1970s when these huge machines were a relatively new addition to business productivity) the real value came from the additional contract that went with each machine. This locked the customer into buying all their ink, toner and paper for the life of the machine, as well as regular paid servicing – which meant that, for every machine sold, my father had income guaranteed for the next 10 years, enabling him to predict with complete accuracy his future income. You can see why this made by father’s business attractive for a buyer. They could see a guaranteed return on their investment. It made sense to me when I started my own business, and I hope it does to you too. It will get you a higher price when you come to sell!

   A business with committed future revenue that is not dependent on its owner to deliver that revenue is a business worth investing in.

 

You’ll find these 5 factors, and a whole lot of other ideas, tips, stories and exercises about creating freedom from business in my book – Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

 

 

Are you brave enough to have a powerful brand? Find out here…

brandingAs anyone who has worked with me will tell you, I’m an avid fan of branding.  I look at a client’s brand and ask myself, does it tell me something exciting, original and impactful about their business?  Does it set the foundation for everything the business stands for?  Does it place them instantly a head and shoulders above the competition?

Often times the answer is no and I recommend that they engage a brand specialist to help them.  One of these specialists, Steve Bailey features in my latest book The Liber8 Disciplines.  Here’s an excerpt from the book about a conversation Steve and I had about branding and bravery:

“Over lunch recently, Steve asked me if I thought the readers of this book would have the courage to create a powerful brand.  I stopped and peered at him over the bowl of hot soup I was enjoying.  “Why do they need to be brave?”  I asked.  To which he replied, “Because if we succeed with creating the right brand for someone, they will get noticed… a great brand doesn’t let you hide away and be safe”.

Steve gave me an example of a small business client he had worked with recently.  They came to him wanting a new brand, something that would build on their existing business but take it to a whole new level of excitement and attraction.  He and his team came up with a new name and brand approach that was so perfect for them, when he told me I laughed out loud. “That’s great!” I cried.  From the name alone I knew exactly what this business did and I could see their growth plan ahead of them in an instant.  I could see a chain of stores nationally or globally; or a franchise model.  The name was so catchy I already knew what the brand would look for and what they stood for.  “But they weren’t willing to change their name,” Steve told me, “which I understand – it can be too big a step for some, especially when they’ve been around for a while. So we did a new brand strategy working with their existing name.  We came up with a positioning platform and graphic device that shifted them into the next league almost as well”.  Steve described this new idea to me and once again I laughed out loud.  “But that’s great too!”  I cried.  “That really works. I can already see all the marketing ideas that go with that idea”.   Steve shook his head, “They were too scared to do this too” he said. “They’ve gone back to their original logo”.  I knew the company he was talking about and I knew that they really needed to change their image in order to become more relevant in the marketplace.  I felt sad for them. They had missed an opportunity to evolve and they didn’t even know it.  Now I understood what Steve meant about being brave.  Being willing to have a powerful brand might mean you have to let go of what you already have to a certain degree.  Or you might even have to change it completely.

I realised from listening to Steve that it is almost as important to understand what a brand isn’t as it is to know what a brand is.  Why would someone go to a brand strategy agency if they were not willing to change their brand?  I wondered if perhaps they just hadn’t really understood what there were really asking for”.

Do you know what it really means to have a great brand?  Do you have any idea how powerful it can really be for you?  Would you like to know more about branding?  I’ve dedicated an entire section of The Liber8 Disciplines to this topic – it’s that important. If you’d like a sneak preview of this chapter, before the book is published – just email me (laura@liber8me.com).

 

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

 

Want to create a business success story? Learn to see the future

fortune teller

I’ve interviewed many wealthy entrepreneurs as part of my mentoring programmes, always seeking to find out what makes them so successful.  How do they build businesses that achieve such growth and generate such great financial returns?  The number one trait that comes through without exception is their ability to look into the future and see what their business looks like five, ten or fifteen years out.  Successful business people have a really clear picture of their business when it’s ‘complete’, they can see where it is all heading.  Rarely do they start a business without a clear idea of where they will take it.  They do not randomly wander into business, nor randomly wander out or give up when it gets too hard or they run out of money.  Successful entrepreneurs know where they are going.

One of the first things a successful entrepreneur will do is create a vision for their business that is set firmly in the future.  They are very clear that the business is separate from them and as such it must have a reason for being that is bigger and more inspirational than the owner/s of the business.  When I started my advertising agency I knew it needed a higher purpose, something clearly articulated that would attract clients and talented staff and give us something to strive for.  We set out to ‘change the face of our industry by setting a new benchmark for agency service and quality of results’.   This vision for our future kept us focused and ultimately created the success that attracted a multi-national company to want to buy us.

What is your vision for the future of your business?

There are only two reasons to be in business. Do you know what they are?

world arrowAccording to Dun & Bradstreet* reports, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have a 37% chance of surviving four years and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.” 

I believe that the primary cause of these staggering statistics is that too many people go into business for the wrong reasons.

For me, there are only two reasons why you would start a business: firstly to make money and secondly to make a difference.

Making Money

Business is a financial game.  People who are very good at business understand that business is all about delivering returns to the shareholders.  As the Director and CEO of your own business you have a fiduciary duty to yourself as a shareholder to build a business that delivers maximum returns to you.  To look at it any other way is letting emotions get ahead of business.

Making a difference

And yet a business that cares only about money is a business without a soul. Your business is also there to fulfil a purpose, to add value and make a difference to the lives it touches, whether those people are customers, employees or beneficiaries of the higher purpose your business serves.

There is a fun irony to this concept if you can really grasp it.  If your business is truly focused on making a real difference to as many people as possible, you will attract more people to you.  The more people you attract, the more successful you become and the more people you make a difference to.  It’s a wonderful win/win concept.

Combine the concepts of making money and making a difference and you will build a business that will not only make you rich, but make you feel like a million dollars too!

Are you in business for the right reasons?

I hope so!

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*Dun & Bradstreet is a public company that licenses information on businesses and corporations for use in credit decisions, business-to-business marketing and supply chain management. D & B maintains information on more than 205 million companies worldwide. 

 

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