Business Mentor Tip #66 – No is spelt with a K

This tip comes directly from my book in progress, from the chapter on sales written together with Mike Brunel (

When someone says ‘no’ you can tell yourself that what they are really saying is that they want to ‘know’ more. What they are really telling you is that you haven’t convinced them yet.  Maybe you haven’t covered everything you needed to for them to make a decision.  You could find ways at this point to get them to be more specific about why they are saying no.  95% of sales people give up after the first no because it plugs directly into their fear of rejection.  But if you are passionate about your product or service and you genuinely believe the prospect will be better off with it, there is no reason to be frightened of the word no.  ‘No’ is really spelt ‘know’ and you can leave the door open to another visit or call with more information for the client.  And remember, every no takes you closer to a yes.

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

Business Mentor Tip #65 – The high performance formula

This tip comes to you from Antonia Haythornthwaite of Blue Dot Human Resources

Once you’ve made the decision to employ people you need to ensure you can get the best possible performance out of them.  Antonia outlines four key elements that need to be in place

1. Skills, Knowledge and Talents. If you’ve followed the recruitment steps outlined previously you can be confident that your people have the technical ability to do their job and the knowledge and attributes to do the work that they’ve been employed to do

2. Direction. Now you need to make sure that they understand the big picture, they know what’s expected of them.  These things come from the direction that their manager or leader gives them.

3. Opportunity.  This is the time or resources that they have to be able to do their job – have you given them the opportunity to excel?

4. Motivation. And finally is the motivation factor which is about ensuring people feel their work is important, that it’s worthwhile and they are making progress towards their personal goals.

Blue Dot is a leading HR consultancy specialising in performance solutions for small businesses.  Check them out at

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

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.

If you don’t ask the answer is always no!

This was one of the slides at my talk to the Bubbles & Inspiration audience last night.  My point being that sometimes to get ahead in life you have to ask for things, even if it seems far too bold an ask.  My example was when I was a secretary in an advertising agency in London I asked the Managing Director if he would pay for me to go on a creative writing course.  It was a huge agency and he was a busy man.  I knew I had no chance of this happening. But I asked anyway.  And he said yes!  Who would have thought?  If I had not asked, I wonder where I would be today.  On a different path for sure.  So just ask.  The worse that could happen is someone will say no.

At the end of my talk a lovely lady came up to me and asked if she could do my twelve month programme and, because I offered a money back guarantee, could she pay at the end of the twelve months?  Of course I said no.  But I loved that she asked.  I knew that she’d been listening and there’s no harm in asking is there?

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

Business Mentoring Tip #61 – How to win a competitive pitch

Just finished the chapter in my book with the same heading, so thought an abbreviated version of this would make a great tip.

As you know, my advertising agency went from zero to billings over $15 million within nine years. To achieve this we had to win some pretty big pieces of business, often coming from the underdog position.  This blog post is based on my experience of what it takes to win business in a competitive situation. If you have a business that involves tender situations, where you’re up against other players to win business, these 11 tips will give you a good head start to winning.

1. Make sure you are invited.  If you have taken any notice of my previous tips you may well by now have created your “Wall of Fame”, listing your top 20 – 50 ideal clients.  The ones you’d love to win one day.  And you would also have contacted them – they know who you are.  If not… do it now, because you never know when such clients will decide to change supplier and go to market looking.  You must make sure you are on their hit list when they do.

2. Discover their needs.  Once you have been invited to tender, see if you can make an appointment to go visit the people who will be involved in the decision.  If not, get the phone number and give them a call if you can.  Be prepared with a list of questions to ask them.  You are on a mission to find out what they really need.  Here are some example questions:

  • What are you looking for in this relationship?
  • What are your core frustrations in this area right now?
  • What’s really working about your current strategies?
  • What’s not working?
  • What are your customers telling you?
  • What would you like them to be telling you?
  • What are your goals/sales objectives this year?
  • How would you describe your ideal relationship with the successful supplier?

3.  Ask their customers. Once you’ve found out as much as you possibly can from the client themselves, go interview the people who represent their customers and find out what their needs are. Show that you know the market.

4. Get the right team.  When you are very clear what the potential client is really looking for, you must make sure you have the right skills and experience on the team you put forward for this business. Make sure you put forward those on your team that have either worked in the same industry or have got something to add that this client was looking for. If you don’t, be prepared to bring in a ‘ringer’ (a substitute with exactly the skills you need) or as many ringers as you need.

5. Write a damn good brief. Before you start to try and solve the problem or develop your approach, create a briefing document you can share with your team.  Put down everything you’ve learned from your meetings and research – the background, all of the objectives as you understand it, the clients’ real needs, the customer needs that you’ve uncovered, and the key insights that you think will help win this pitch.

6. Develop your strategy. When everybody on the team knows what the client’s looking for, you need your strategy for how you are going to win this account.  What have your insights told you?  What can you suggest to the client that is going to make a difference to them?  How are you going to show them that you are the best company for the job?

7. Create a theme. Once you’ve done all that, as part of coming up with your strategy for your pitch, develop a theme, be creative.  A theme ties your whole presentation together – your document, your powerpoint slides, your follow up.  You can base your theme around one of the insights you’ve discovered.  Or around one of the key messages you are giving about yourself.  For example, if you are showing the benefits of a smaller, more responsive company over the larger, more expensive companies, you could theme your proposal around “Boxing above our weight”.  Give it a boxing them, use boxing gloves as your icons for points being made.  We did exactly this one time when pitching for an account.  We even had the ding ding sounds of the bell in the ring each time we changed powerpoint slide!

8.  Plan your presentation well.  Carry the theme through to your presentation, so your t-shirt, your Power Point headings, everything about your presentation is themed so that you look really cohesive.  Make sure in your presentation that you cover off all their requirements, make sure you checklist everything that they’ve asked for in their original tender document plus everything they’ve told you when you’ve met with them.  Make sure your presentation has a really good flow, allocate time well, don’t go over time. Make sure each team player has a clear role. And here’s the most critical thing – practice, practice, practice.  I’ve put that three times for a reason – because you should practice at least three times!

9. Send a teaser.  Here’s how you can get a head start over the others. If you are going to present, or even before you send the main document, send out a teaser.  Something that gives them a taste of the brilliance to come.  Get them excited about your proposal before they’ve even seen it.

10. Show your passion.  On the day of the presentation, just throw it out there. Be excited by what you’ve come up with, excited by the thought of working with this client. Have them walk away thinking that team really, really wants this business and they’re going to work hard for us – they’re the ones we want to work with.

11. Follow up.  After you’ve done your presentation, leave behind a great document summarizing everything you’ve presented.  Then a few days afterwards, send everyone who was on the panel a follow up.  Ideally, a fun little gift along the theme of your presentation.  And a thank you card.  Show them once again how much you want the business and give them a sense of what a great company you’d be to work with.

Next time you are in a competitive tender situation, pull these tips out.  Then go get ’em!

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

Business Mentoring Tip #60 – “Move fast and break things”

Ok Ok I admit it… this is not my quote.  It’s a “Facebookism”.  When smooching around Google looking for inspirational business stories (as I do) I stumbled across this blog entitled “Sh*t Facebook employees say” by Josh Levin.

The blog outlines some things learned about Facebook from their recent IPO filing.  Along with all the accounting and legal information there were  5 “facebookisms”.  And they are BRILLLIANT!  Take note business owners, this is how you build a culture… (All excerpts below are taken from the S-1 filing).

Facebookism No. 1: “Done is better than perfect”

Hackers try to build the best services over the long term by quickly releasing and learning from smaller iterations rather than trying to get everything right all at once. To support this, we have built a testing framework that at any given time can try out thousands of versions of Facebook. We have the words “Done is better than perfect” painted on our walls to remind ourselves to always keep shipping.

Facebookism No. 2: “Code wins arguments”

Hacking is also an inherently hands-on and active discipline. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works. There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: “Code wins arguments.”

Facebookism No. 3:Move fast and break things”

Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster. However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: “Move fast and break things.” The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.

Facebookism No. 4:The riskiest thing is to take no risks.”

Building great things means taking risks. This can be scary and prevents most companies from doing the bold things they should. However, in a world that’s changing so quickly, you’re guaranteed to fail if you don’t take any risks. We have another saying: “The riskiest thing is to take no risks.”

Facebookism No. 5:This journey is 1 percent finished.”

We encourage our employees to think boldly. We also have posted the phrase “this journey is 1% finished” across many of our office walls, to remind employees that we believe that we have only begun fulfilling our mission to make the world more open and connected.

Check out the Josh Levin’s blog here

MGP Scooters rock the world! What a fantabadooly MADD business! @mgp_scooters

You know I love to find inspiring business models to share with you.  And this has to be one of them…. MADD, best known (if you have any children age 7 – 12 right now) as the makers of the MGP Scooters.  You know, those colourful things that have condemned all other, perfectly good working scooters to the back of the shed or onto TradeMe.   Yes, every child has to have an MGP scooter and no other scooter will do.  The wild phenomenon that is MGP only became clear to me when my 9 year old son George insisted that he use his Christmas money to buy a new scooter.  There was some resistence from me as he already had a perfectly good scooter which he hardly used.  He didn’t even seem interested in scooters, hadn’t used his for months. But he was adamant.  He HAD to have an MGP.  Life depended on it.  Only when he scootered proudly into school with it did I realise how many other MGPs were in the playground.  I counted 30 lined up in the new scooter stand (which only seemed to have appeared in order to house the rapidly multiplying number of MGPs hitting the school premises all of a sudden).  From then on everywhere I looked there were colourful MGP scooters.  15 outside the dairy, 9 counted with country kid riders when we went over to our holiday home in Martinborough.  MGP scooters taking over the world.

But it didn’t stop there.  Soon George was talking about wanting to customise his scooter with different handlebars and wheels.  He started learning tricks on his scooter and watching videos on You Tube.  It seems MGP are seriously cool.  I began to realise something very special was happening from a business perspective here so I did a little digging.  When I googled MGP Scooters, the full scope of this great business became apparent.  We are talking cool gear – shoes, t-shirts, hoodies the like.  We’re talking merchandising onto kids’ collectable toys… mini collectible scooters, ramps etc.

 MGP stands for Madd Gear Pro… so I went to the website to discover even more to marvel at.  MGP has teams competing in and are sponsoring major scooter events all over the globe .  The business was started ten years ago by a guy called Mike Horne who had a vision to “create an Aussie Brand for Aussie kids”.  It seems he’s done a lot more than that.  He’s created a brand phenomenon for kids all over.  A company that is living its brand, loving its sport, getting involved in the community, taking its Pro Team on tour to ensure regional fans get to be a part of it.

It’s example to me of a business doing everything right… and a business owner clearly truly on purpose, driving a sporting culture with his MADD enthusiasm.   Mr MADD, if this blog happens to find its way to you, I’d love to interview you to find out more about your journey and your vision for this rocking company.  Thanks for the inspiration!  And in the meantime, I guess I know what will be on a 9 year old’s Santa list this Christmas…

Check out

Business Mentoring Tip #59 – Hire people you never want to fire

Just finished Chapter 16 of The Liber8 Factor – how to hire people you never want to fire.  Some awesome tips thanks to my good friend Lindsay Jackson who has already built and sold two very successful recruitment companies and is now onto her third.  Lindsay lives and breathes recruitment so I’m taking her tips as gospel.

As Lindsay says, “the right fit makes you money, the wrong fit loses you money”.  So getting it right is critical and yet not that easy to do.   In my book I share with you in detail the 10 steps to hiring the right person.  In my blog you get a little taster … getting it right comes down these 10 things:

1.  Writing a great job description

2. Writing a great recruitment ad

3.  Where you put that ad

4. How you manage the process

5.  How well you interview your A list

6. How well you select the candidate after the interviews

7. How well you check them out

8.  How well you negotiate the offer

9.  How good your contract is

10.  How good your induction is…

As you can see, it ain’t easy!  But if you get it right you will never regret it.  Hold out for my book to get the detailed instructions for each step… coming soon!

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

Hiding under your duvet vs making a difference. What to do when you’ve had a crap week…

Have you ever had a day when you wake up wondering what on earth you are doing?  Being positive, visionary and inspired all the time can be exhausting.  Sometimes you just feel small, insignificant and just plain tired.  I had a week like this recently.  Some tough stuff happened and my resolve to live a happy, meaningful life took a back seat to a desire to pull the duvet over my head and shut it all out.  Of course I couldn’t stay there for long.  I’ve never been someone to hide from my problems.  But it can be hard to get yourself motivated again after a downer week.

Here’s something I did for myself to give me the kick up the proverbial I really needed.   I thought about my core life purpose which is “To live a wealthy, healthy, happy life whilst making a difference to as many people as I can”.  And then I started thinking about the people to whose life I have already made a difference.  I didn’t do this to stroke my ego but to remind myself that my life is worthy and to re-connect with my sense of pride and passion.  And you know what… it worked!

My list started really for me after I attended a workshop with Robert Kiyosaki in 1991 (for those who know my story, you’ll know this was a life changing event for  me).  From that moment on I began to make decisions to do things that not only made me wealthy and happy, but also changed other people’s lives for the better as I went.

My list included thousands of people who attended the courses I promoted after I became Robert’s promoter in New Zealand.  People who I’ve seen go on to do amazing things with their lives and in turn make a difference to thousands of people around them.  It included the people I’ve employed, such as the young creative people I brought into my advertising agency and trained, who have gone on to have stellar careers in advertising and design.  It included the thousand plus business people who have attended my talks, done my programmes or worked with me to turn their businesses around and grow their dreams.  It included the people these people employ and add value to as they grow.  It included the friends and family members I’ve helped when they’ve been down or in need.  It included (of course) my children who I gave life to and then given them the security of knowing how much I love them.

I tell you this not to boast but to suggest that you too will have a long list of ways your life has made a difference.  And when the low days hit (which they will, unless you are less than human) it can be a huge motivator to review the things you’ve done that you are proud of.

Then of course, life isn’t over by a long shot.  My goal to make a difference to as many people as possible only gets more important to me as I get older.  Now I can see the avenues clearly ahead of me by which to achieve this.  I’m writing my book to get my business lessons and experiences out to as many small business owners as I can.  I have my mentoring programme to promote for the same reason.  I have talks to give and people to work with, hoping each time that every person I touch in some way then goes on to make a difference with their own success.  I have my life experiences to share and my gifts with which to share them.  I have my friends and family to love and nuture.  I have  my children to be a role model to and help them make a difference in their own way.  I have a powerful reason to get up each day and live a happy, healthy life.

Be gone duvet cover.  Be gone self doubt.  Let’s all celebrate the things we’ve achieved and look forward to the achievements yet to come.