What is the purpose of an entrepreneur?

Lovely interview with Hans Schuitman of Shape Technology in DomPost today. The introduction of robotics to his technology company has increased productivity by 80% in 12 months. But rather than replacing human beings, robots have created a 15% increase in his 90 strong workforce.

This is a 14 year old company that has embraced technology to the max and now designs and manufactures technology components and products for the electronics industry… which are marketed globally. Hans, an immigrant to New Zealand who quit school at age 14, is confident his company can be a $100 million business if they employ a full-time prototype maker.

But what makes it such an inspiring interview is Hans’ attitude. I love his answer to the question, why did you become an entrepreneur?

“To me, an entrepreneur is someone who makes a difference and reshapes our world to make it better for all and who creates and provides real wealth for others”.

Well said Hans. I agree wholeheartedly!

Undercover Boss Addiction

OK I admit it, I get addicted to certain TV series. And now with MySky, I can set them on repeat record and before I know it I have a whole afternoon’s worth of viewing. I admit, Desperate Housewives and Gray’s Anatomy are not related to my commitment to helping business owners achieve wealth through business. But my latest sick addiction does have some relevance. Have you watched Undercover Boss?? I love it! Owners of large companies in USA go undercover as a rogue employee to learn more about their own business. And boy, do they learn! They work the coal front, do the menial jobs and find out what amazing people work in their companies. I’ve only watched it three times, and each time the ‘Boss’ has had tears in their eyes as they recount their experience at the front line. The people they have working for them are typically overcoming difficult personal circumstances – the solo mother with dyslexic child, the breadwinner coping after the family house burnt down, the recovering alcoholic… the people had stories and the boss go to know them as people. The result in each and every case was a business owner inspired to create better working conditions for their biggest asset…. their people. Call me a sucker (I am when it comes to caring for people who work hard for a business owner)… but I love this corny TV production. It shows the better side of human nature and the need to recognise that people grow wealth for a business owner and their worth should never be underestimated.

Partnerships… not always easy!

Had a great time speaking at the Her Business Network meeting in Tauranga last night. I’m always amazed at the commitment of business women around the Country. There was a strangely high percentage of solo mum entrepreneurs there (naturally I felt a sense of kindred spirit in the room) and I was fortunate that a few of them took me out to dinner after the talk. There’s nothing quite like business women chatting together over a glass of wine about the challenges they face both in business and in life – juggling motherhood and commitments, with a growing family and growing business.

We all listened intently to one woman who shared her key issue in business at the moment. My talk about creating an exit strategy for your business had really struck a chord with her and she wanted to know how she could build a business to sell when her business partner wasn’t the the same mind space. It turns out her business partner is quite a bit younger than her (20 years younger), with a young family and an aggressive need to grow the business, but in no hurry to put a time frame around that. Whilst our friend is hitting 60 and wanting the think about retirement. As business partners they have complementary strengths and skills, and there is a lot going for them as a partnership. But the lack of shared vision is causing some stress on the relationship. In addition her business partner is a male and from the sound of it feeling the pressures of supporting his family, wanting to drive expansion through investment in premises and employing people. Whilst our friend is of a very quiet, organised, efficient and more cautious nature feeling anxious about what such a move might do to her current income.

We talked about it at length and I think we came up with some good advice. I’ll share in my next blog. In the meantime, what advice would you offer? And what are the lessons here for other business partnerships?

And the rich shall inherit the government spending problems…

I read in today’s DominonPost about UK Billionaire Sir Philip Green being enlisted to lead a ‘no holds barred examination of departmental budgets’ in England. Green is a billionaire retailer who’s empire includes names such as BHS, Topshop, Miss Selfridge to name but a few. He’s known for his ‘brutally effective commercial reforms’ and he’s going to lead a team that will scrutinize British government expeniture from the past three years with a view to identifying where savings can be made.

There is kind of a fun irony in the appointment for what seems like an austerity drive being a man who moved to tax haven Monaco and paid a $1.2 billion dividend from his company to his wife who was able receive it tax free as an official resident of Monaco. He also has a $30m yacht, a $20m private jet and spent $5 million on his 50th birthday party. If you’ve got it, flaunt it… I guess.

But that aside, I think the concept of putting a mega successful business person in charge of a government budget review is excellent. With the economies of so many countries now in such a desperate state, we are in a war against billowing debt. And who better to fight this war than the world’s richest business people… surely they know a thing or two about creating a healthy bottom line. As long as John Key doesn’t call upon Terry Serepisos, the idea has merit. What do you think?

Traits of the Rich & Free #7 – Determination

There is no doubt that you have to be determined to succeed in business, or indeed in any field of endeavour. You have to believe in your ability to succeed and just keep on going. In previous traits we discussed the need to have a vision, goals, plan and the willingness to take action. In the words of Rod Drury, CEO of Xero, you have to ‘execute your strategy ruthlessly’. To do this you need to be determined. The day to day of running your own business can be hard work. Decisions have to be made, sometimes they are not easy decisions. Stress can compound. You will make mistakes and go to bed feeling worried about the consequences if these mistakes. You will get tired and sick. Sometimes you just plain won’t want to carry on. No matter what people say, being a business owner is not always easy. When the going gets tough, that clear vision will give you a brightness of the future that reminds you why you want to continue. But its your spirit of determination that will get you out of bed to face another day!

Slippers…What the plumber taught the mayor about business

With my Liber8tv hat on I recently interviewed Mark Blumsky, former Mayor of Wellington. Mark has written a book called Slippers, sub-titled “what the plumber taught the Mayor about business”. Slippers tells the story about how a chance meeting with a plumber gave Mark the ideas behind his successful chain of shoe stores, Mischief Shoes, and how he went on to apply the same lessons to his campaign to become Wellington’s Mayor. To find out the story (and why slippers are so important) you’ll either have to buy Mark’s book or wait until Liber8tv launches (give me a month…). But its the moral behind the story that really motivates Mark these days as he teaches businesses how to find their point of difference. Mark’s three tips for business owners looking to grow their business beyond themselves were:

1. Vision (have a purpose and reason for being that is clear to you and others)
2. Point of difference (find something special and unique that will stand you out from your competition)
3. Attitude (have a clearly defined attitude for your business that defines everything you and your team do, how you treat clients, how you market yourself… everything).

Mark was great to interview, we had a lot of fun. I’m looking forward to seeing those episodes when the production team have finished with them.

Turn yourself into a product

I ran a Q & A Skype session with a few of my liber8yourbusiness clients the other day. I thoroughly enjoyed it and thought I’d share a couple of the key questions and the answers discussed. One was around the right time to enlist help with admin when cashflow is tight. The answer actually came from another client, not me. It was that the sooner you can get someone else doing the admin work that allows you to focus on income generation the better. You can use business services these days that allow you to bring on help whenever you need it, for as many hours a week as you can manage, without the commitment and worries of employing someone. The point to bear in mind is that your primary focus needs to be on growing your business and every hour you spend doing administrative work that someone else could easily do is another hour you could have put towards the important strategies that will see your business prosper.

Another question asked was around what to do today, right now, towards systemising your business in the future. This particular client has seen the value in developing a system around what she does so that she can sell the license to that system in the future. “But what,” she asks, “should I be doing now towards that goal?”. My answer came straight from my recent interview with Mike Brunel. Start looking at what you do now on a daily basis and document the elements that are key to your success. Mike suggested you get yourself a dictophone and follow yourself around, talking through all the steps you take when delivering your core services. Turn what you do into a system, write it down and begin to form the manuals that someone else could follow… it is the manuals and the system that you will ultimately be able to sell.

Turn yourself into a product. This is one of the keys to a business in the future that is not dependent on you!

Liber8tv is on its way!

Talking about leverage

Exciting times…the birth of Liber8tv is not that far away it seems. Thanks to the lovely people at 90secondstv I now have a film crew following me around on my quest to interview successful business people. My plan is to create an online tv channel hosting chat show interviews aimed at small business owners/owner operators looking to learn about growing a business.

The first successful business person to be interviewed for Liber8tv was Mike Brunel of NRS Media. Mike talked about sales and about leverage, the art of taking a core component of what you do well in your business and finding a way to duplicate it so it no longer relies on you. I love the story behind NRS Media’s media sales system that now operates all around the world. Mike watched his business partner perform the same sales seminar over and over again, he wrote down everything he said and did, then build a series of manuals around it. The company was able to sell the system to media companies worldwide and now has offices in Sydney, Toronto, Atlanta and London. With 175 staff and a CEO based in Sydney who runs the show, Mike truly understands the concept of leverage. I can’t wait to see the interviews, when the clever production people have finished with them. In the meantime, I can show you a picture of Mike and I in front of the camera. Smile!