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.

Business Mentoring Tip #71 – Think like an alien

Imagine if you had to exit your life for 12 months (to go save the world because you are in fact a secret super hero… we are imagining here) and an alien version of you will be arriving to take over your household.  How will they know how to live your life in a way that doesn’t send everything and everyone around them into a complete spin?  You will need to leave them detailed instructions right? You will have to think of every single aspect of how your life runs – what you do, when you do it and how you do it.  From the moment you get up to the moment you go to bed, including what time you get up and what time you go to bed.  You will need to write down instructions (yes they can read) for how your household runs, including how to work all the gadgets, how to pay the bills, how to access your bank accounts and where to find things.  You will need to explain who is in your family and how the family operates.  You’ll write down the rituals your family needs to function such as your meal times and types of food you eat. What time do the kids go to school?  How do they get there?  Who takes them? What do they do when they get home?  What do you do on the weekends? You will also have to consider what things are really important to your family. How do you treat each other? What are your values? What are your rules, the expectations you all have to guide your behaviour?

The more you think about it, the more things you can think of to write into this ‘manual’ for your life.  You want to make sure the alien you will run your world as close to the way you do it as possible.  You don’t want to miss anything out.

Aliens in the workplace

Now imagine this alien is going to come to work and attempt to run your business for a year. If they walked in today, how would they cope?  Would they know what to do?  How long would it take them to get up to speed?  Would they be able to run things exactly the way you do?  Or would they have to make it up as they go?  How dangerous would that be if they were let loose on your clients and your accounts without clear instructions?

It’s a pretty basic analogy but it works.  The alien in the workplace represents a potential buyer looking at your business and wondering if it will work without you in it.  If the answer to this is ‘no’ they are either going to walk away or insist you stay in the business for some considerable time to help them learn the ropes.

The alien could also represent a senior employee that you hope will take over a large part of the running of the business from you.  You want this person (or this team of senior people) to be willing and able to keep the business running the way you want it run.  You know what works.  You know what sales need to come in the door to meet targets for the year. You know what your clients expect from your company.  You know what keeps your staff motivated and what will create upset. You’ve got everything working well with you at the helm.  But how do you share this knowledge?  How do you ensure someone else will be able to keep everything running as smoothly as you do?

The answer to all of these questions is of course… with systems.

You ensure nothing exists purely inside someone’s head, neither yours nor your key staff members.  If someone holds information critical to your business and they don’t show up for work tomorrow, you have a problem…especially if that person is you.

In the next few blogs I’m going to talk more on systems – which systems you need and how to create them.  Watch this space!

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

Business Mentor tip #69 – Understand the TWO key reasons for being in business

For me, there are only two reasons why you would be in business for yourself: to make money and to make a difference.

1. Making money

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art”. Andy Warhol

Business is a financial game. People who are very good at business understand that business is all about delivering returns to the shareholders. Why do you think the CEOs of large corporate earn multi-million dollar salaries? Because they are good at business and they know their job is to build a business with positive returns each year. They know how to drive a business machine that generates profit. They are hired as CEO’s for this very ability. When I work with business owners I get them to see their business through the eyes of a large corporate CEO. I get them to take their job as CEO and Director seriously. The role of a CEO is to ensure that the business is planned and managed in a way that ensures it is consistently generating healthy returns to its shareholders. The Director of a company has a fiduciary duty to ensure the business is achieving maximum profit year on year. 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.

2. Making a difference

If every business could make an effort to be a force for good then a lot of the problems in the world could be solved” Richard Branson

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 new movement afoot, led to a degree by the champion of business idealism in action, Sir Richard Branson. In his book, ‘Screw business as usual’, Sir Richard encourages business owners to become a force for good. It is no longer OK to just be great at making money. You have to make a difference too. And there’s 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 and something I ask readers continue to think about as you work your way through the ideas and exercises in my soon to be released book, The Liber8 Factor.

The Liber8 Factor shows you how to combine the concepts of making money and making a difference, so that you build a business that will not only make you rich, but make you feel like a million dollars too!
From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Business Mentor Tip #68 – Develop a freedom mindset

To build wealth and freedom from your business, you need a certain mindset.  You must have the willingness and ability to see yourself totally free from the need to work for a living.  And you have to believe that your business is your major wealth creation tool and your ticket to the life of your dreams.

I call this way of thinking “A Freedom Mindset”. From my interviews with many wealthy entrepreneurs I discovered ten traits they all had in common which create the foundation for the Freedom Mindset:

  1. Vision.  Successful business people have a really clear picture of their business when it’s ‘complete’, they can see where it is all heading.
  2. Belief. However big and daring their goal, they believe that they can do it.
  3. Passion.  Starting each day with a fire in your belly and feeling passionate about what you do is another factor that unites the business elite.
  4. Goals. Successful business people are goal setters.  They have the willingness to look out to the future, to see the vision and then set goals along the way to make sure they get there.
  5. Plan. But of course goals without a plan are just goals, so another trait that comes through when you talk to wealthy entrepreneurs that is that they had a plan for their business. They see the vision of ultimate success, they set some really clear goals and then they put a plan in place of how they will get there
  6. Action. A plan is just a plan until you put it into action.  The best plan in the world will not succeed unless someone implements it.  Another trait of really successful people is that they are action-orientated people. They are people who will actually follow through on the plan that they’ve created for themselves.
  7. Determination. Wealthy entrepreneurs don’t give up when the going gets tough. They keep going no matter what.
  8. Failure. Things will go wrong.  The ability to learn from the failure, to take the learning, pick yourself up and carry on – that is a key trait to being a successful business person.
  9. Wealth positive not money negative.  The business elite are not frightened to build a business that makes them phenomenally wealthy.
  10. Giving back.  To share and make a difference on the planet is what drives the difference between the average business owner-operator and those that go forward and create phenomenal wealth.

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

What does financial freedom mean to you?

Here’s another excerpt from my very nearly finished book:

I’ll quickly tell you this story about my father. He died at age 73.  Which seems far too young these days, when most of us hope to live well into our eighties. The good news was that he retired not long after his fiftieth birthday, so he’d had 23 years of freedom before he died.Thanks to the sale of his photocopier sales business he had a grand old time after retirement. Not a flashy life but a very fulfilling one.  He and my mother travelled first class around the world to places they’d always wanted to see.  When my first child was born and we were living in New Zealand, he flew my family first class back to England so he could see his grandson. The ability to do that is really cool, don’t you think?

A story was told at his funeral that I’d never heard before and it sums up the beauty of financial freedom for me.  Apparently one day my mum got a call from a Veterans Association in England wanting to talk to my dad. When she told them he was out, they said “We just want to thank him for the £10,000.”   “What £10,000?” she asked.  “Oh, didn’t he tell you?” they replied. “We’ve just received a cheque from your husband for £10,000.”  So when my dad came home later she asked him what on earth he was doing sending £10,000 to the Veterans Association. He looked at her and said, “I saw their ad in the paper, trying to raise funds to send a party of veterans to a memorial in France where a bunch of their colleagues had died at war.  So I rang them and asked them how much they needed.  They said they needed £10,000 and I gave them the whole lot.” My mum said, “Why on earth did you do that?”  To which he replied, “After everything they’ve done for our country they shouldn’t have to beg.”

To me, thanks to the lessons from my father, finanical freedom means the ability to make a difference to others without having to worry about paying the bills.

What does it mean to you?

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.

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 http://www.slate.com/blogs/browbeat/2012/02/01/facebook_s_ipo_filing_reveals_how_zuckerberg_and_his_employees_talk.html

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 maddgear.com 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 www.maddgear.com

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