8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 5 …

9ERZUJ4KZDOne of the biggest obstacles to increasing business value  is the dependency of that business on its owner. And an even bigger danger is the unwillingness of a business owner to let go.

Something I often hear people say is that their business is their baby. But it’s not.

Your business is not your baby. Which leads me to key number 8 in my bigger, better blog series:

Key number 8.  Remove dependency on you

I’ll say it again – your business is not your baby. I remember watching this powerful interview of a lady in America who had a bakery. It was doing very well in the town it was in, she was very proud of it and very emotionally attached to it but she needed help to grow, so she brought in two partners. She trusted them and sold third shares to each. Then they ganged up against her and fired her. She was marched from her own bakery at gun point (as you do in America). After the pain of losing her baby she decided that she wouldn’t get angry she would get even. So she started a new bakery business, but this time she decided she wouldn’t get emotionally attached to it. She approached it as a strategic exercise and within a few years had a chain of bakeries across America… whilst her old bakery with its two partners stayed small. I remember her saying that by not seeing it as her baby she could focus on what was really important and grow a business that wasn’t dependent on her.

And back to my earlier blog about exit and creating a valuable asset… a business depending on its owner has no value and no one will buy it. So you have to have removal of dependency on you as a key objective for your business over time.
But how do you do it?
In the early years of business growth, it is to be expected that the business will be dependent on the owner. To go into business and not expect to give it your all in the early years could be somewhat naive. So the goal is to lessen this dependency over time.
There really are only 4 ways to decrease dependency on the owner of a business.
1. Technology – in today’s world, it’s never been easier to find ways to use technology to help scale a business without necessarily using more of your time. In my pet care business, our sophisticated matching and booking system took care of the administrative side of the business for us. Our pet carers and clients met online, they got in touch with each other, they arranged the care they needed together and when the job was completed, the pet carer logged back into the system to close the job online, enabling them to go into the payroll system. Head office was responsible for recruitment, training and marketing. We built a team of 150 pet carers nationwide with a headquarters consisting of just 3 people working part time from home.

2. Products – it’s possible to build value into your business in ways that grow the revenue without growing the need for you to service your customers. This is true particularly in service businesses, where the value is derived from the exchange of expertise for money. Turning the expertise into products that can ideally create recurring revenue can be a way to both increase value and decrease dependency. For example, I have a client who creates internal process systems for his clients. He is creating software that will enable clients to map all their systems and host in one place for easy access. Clients will pay his company to set up the systems then pay a monthly license fee to access the platform that hosts their systems map. Staff can log in and access any information they need at any stage of a process, without having to ask anyone.

3. Systems – what’s clever about the product being created above is that my client recognizes the need for good processes and systems within any organization. If staff know what to do and how to do it at any time, things run smoothly without needing the owner to tell them what to do all the time. Growing a business requires consistency of delivery to your growing customer base. Everyone needs to know what to do and how to do it – the way you want it done – time and time again. The only way to ensure this happens is to document what you want done and how you want it done… then ensure everyone involved knows about it. There is a chapter on creating systems in my book “Liber8 your Business.”

4. Team – a business cannot grow without people. And you will never be free or create true value in your business without a team. People will set you free. You need to create the systems and the culture you want to invite people into, then find the best people you can to join you on your journey. This in turn means you have to learn how to be a leader and a manager. In my experience this is one of the hardest things about growing a business… you have to confront your own leadership style, learn to let go, learn to trust and be willing to let people make mistakes with your business. Which brings me right back to ‘your business is not your baby’. If you are too emotionally invested, you will struggle to allow others the opportunity to grow with your business. You will hold the reins too tight and slow down your own progress. Learning to build a high performance team is not easy… but it is totally necessary. The Liber8 Academy has a good pool of experts who can help you with this, if you are willing and able to do what it takes.

Exercise
Grab that big piece of blank paper again (I have several A3 pads lying around my office and house so I can pour out my thinking at any time). Write in the middle: “Decreasing dependency on me” then put 4 headings: Technology; Products; Systems; Team. Under each heading brainstorm ideas that will free you and your business over time. Write down as many ideas as you can without questioning the practicality of your ideas. When you’ve exhausted your thinking, go back and circle the ideas that have the most merit, and then the ones that you can begin to implement sooner rather than later. Remember, you can’t decrease dependency quickly, it takes time. You need to build it into your long term and short term planning. Financial freedom will come when you have a business that operates smoothly and profitably without you having to be there all the time.

As always feel free to email me with your questions and ideas at laura@liber8u.com

Happy growing!

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PS.Want to build that business that is not dependent on you?  The 2106 Acceler8or Programme kicks off late July and will be transforming life and business for 10 committed business owners. There is a big early bird saving to be had, check out the programme by clicking here then get in touch for the details.

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 3 …

success-846055_1280When I did a plan to start my own advertising agency I knew right from the start that I was building it to sell it within 10 years.  And I knew that the likely buyer would be a multi-national agency group.  I even wrote down what I wanted to sell it to them for. I painted a really clear picture of what they would be looking for in a boutique agency and I set about building that business for them.  I worked out what I was building and then I put a plan in place.   I was taught to do this at a business school I attended…. It made sense to me, so I stuck to my plan and achieved my sale price within 9 years.

Key number 3. Start with the end in mind

The key to my ultimate success with my ad agency was that I planned my exit right from the start. I knew what my end goal was, which enabled me to work out my plan to get there. I had a clear picture in mind, which kept me on track, even when the going got tough.

This is something I encourage all business owners to do. Plan your exit now – will you sell it one day, or will you build it so that it generates income for you even if you are not there? What kind of business do you need to build to enable this? What does it look like? What do you need to build in order to create value?

Many business owners tell me they will never want to sell their business.  I say that it really doesn’t matter… because if you build a business that is valuable and saleable, it will be ticking all the right boxes and you will have choice.

If you don’t build a saleable business and something happens to you… you don’t have choice… you work hard for years and years and have nothing to show for it.

Here’s an excerpt from my book “Liber8 your Business” on the topic of having a clear end game:

“A business is a project not a life sentence. By having a clear picture of where you are going, you can create your own map of how to get there. When I started and I was alone in my horrid little one-roomed office, with concrete walls and no natural light, I dreamed of a beautiful office with high ceilings, big windows, wooden floors and a big staircase sweeping up the middle. I saw a team of motivated young people all passionate about creating the best boutique agency in the country. I could see the award trophies lined up and could feel the joy of knowing I’d been successful. I painted a picture of exactly how I wanted my agency to be and worked out what it needed to be doing financially to deliver on this image.”

My book and my programmes teach you how to work out a realistic sale price and how to paint the end picture that will deliver this for you, and I’ll cover more of the critical components towards creating a valuable business in my next 5 keys to a bigger, better business.

Exercise

Think about this… if your business could be anything you wanted it to be in the future, what would it look like? Don’t let the obstacles you might see in front of you influence your imagination here. What does success look like for you? Think about the financial return as well as the satisfaction you will feel from building something really special. If someone knocked on your door offering to buy your business, what would be a price you would sell for?  And how would that influence your life? What sort of business would they be buying and what makes you feel proud?  Remember, you don’t have to sell it… but you do want it to be valuable.  Imagine the satisfaction of turning down the offer?

The 2016 Elev8or Group is coming soon!

For ambitious business owners who want to create a clear end game for their business, build a plan and be guided and supported to make it happen.  Only 10 business owners will be selected to join … are you ready for it?  Click here for more information.

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 2 …

K91LZQUBJI (4)Here it is … key 2 of my 8 keys to a bigger, better business. These keys are aimed at ambitious business owners, those looking to create something of significant value both in terms of what you offer and in terms of what your business is ultimately worth financially. Getting bigger and better isn’t necessarily easy, but if you’re up for it, read this key and think about the exercise at the end before the next blog.

Key Number 2.  Create an asset not a job

If your business is dependent on you for its survival, if it can’t survive for more than a few months without you being there to keep it going… and you haven’t got a plan to change this over time… you haven’t created a business, you’ve created a job.

The difference between an owner operator and a wealthy entrepreneur is that an owner creates a job whereas an entrepreneur sets out to create an asset.

An asset is something that will feed you income even when you are not working… which means it has to have value. A business that is a true asset has to generate profits without dependency on you, and it has to grow value over time so that someone else would want to pay you significantly more than you’ve invested (including your time, sweat equity, opportunity costs and money) in it.

So if you are serious about building a bigger, better business… you have to ask yourself now, have you created a job or an asset? Where is the real value in your business? Is it you and your talent and your skills? Or have you created value through systems, product and team?

And you have to ask yourself if you are willing to make the necessary changes. Because doing what it takes to move from a small business to bigger business, one that has true financial value, takes a shift in mindset. Are you willing to do what it takes to make this shift or would you rather stay inside your comfort zone?

The answers to these questions will determine whether its worth you reading my next 6 keys on creating a bigger, better business.

Exercise

Answer the question honesty: Have you created an asset or a job?

If its the former… you are on the right track, so what needs to happen to increase the value of your asset? Write down the 5 key strategies you have in place to ensure growth.  (Keep reading my keys… we’ll cover this).

If it’s the latter… do you really want to change this? Think about your comfort zone … how willing are you to get uncomfortable in order to grow? In my experience, only those willing to make changes in mindset will do what it takes to create a valuable business. It isn’t for everyone but it is worth it.

As always feel free to email me at laura@liber8u.com with questions or ideas on this topic, or leave a comment below.

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The 2016 Elev8or Group is coming soon!

For ambitious business owners who want to create an asset not a job.  Only 10 business owners will be selected to join … are you ready for it?  Click here for more information.

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 1…

sunset-1331088_1280Over the next 8 blogs I’m going to share my 8 keys (from my own experience and from observations gleaned by interviewing a myriad of successful entrepreneurs) to a bigger, better business and I’m going to invite you to think about each key, with an exercise to complete before the next key appears.

Key number one: Be in business for the right reasons

If you are going to sink your heart, soul, time and money into a business that will most certainly take over your world for a fairly significant period of time, you better be sure you know why you are doing it.

In my view, there are only 2 reasons to be in business:

To make money and to make a difference

Business is a financial game, it needs to make money in order to thrive. And it is not shameful in any way to want to generate profits in order to build a valuable business. If you are going to grow a bigger, better business you must have a good understanding of how this business will make money and how it will grow profits over time.  A business that does not care about growing profitability is more of a hobby or a cause than an actual business. This was a discipline I really had to learn from scratch – I had no business or financial skills when I set out.  But I hired in the help I needed early on – including getting two external directors – to make sure my business had a strong financial backbone.

However a business that cares only about the money is a business without soul. The desire to make a difference is critical because if you can find a way to solve problems for people, to give them something that answers their needs in a positive way, you will always have customers. And you will have a positive impact on the world, which in turn will make you feel good about yourself.  There’s a wonderful karmic attraction that happens when you put your focus onto making a difference – the more people you attract and the more money you make.

So when I work with business owners, we explore their reasons for being in business and we ensure it is a business that makes both money and a difference.

Exercise

Think about how your business is making a difference.  Who is it making a difference to?  What is the problem you are solving and for who? Why is this different and better to other solutions out there?  See if you can articulate the difference you are making in one or two sentences.  Remember the more people you make a difference to, the more people will come… so think scale, think big…

Let me know how you get on.  Feel free to email me any time at laura@liber8u.com … I’ll be happy to help your work out what your ‘make a difference’ mantra could be!

laura-signatureNewsflash!  The 2016 Elev8or Progamme – for business owners ready for the next level – will be kicking off soon.  Click here for more information.

The business case for the business case – how to make a good decision

question-mark-1106309_1280As a business mentor I often get asked my opinion on the validity of a particular decision.  Should I open a new regional office?  Should I hire a sales person?  Should I bring on more partners into the business?  Should I invest $50,000 in a new brand?  Should we launch a new product?  Should we open an new shop?

The answer is always the same: “I don’t know.”  Followed quickly by a question: “What’s the business case for it?”

Because rarely, if ever, is the question supported by a rationale containing enough information for me to assist with the decision.

In many cases, after I’ve said “I don’t know” the business owner goes and does whatever it is anyway. And in equally as many cases, after a lot of time, money and emotional energy invested, it turns out the decision to proceed wasn’t the best decision. A fair amount of time is wasted and focus away from the big picture costs the business in growth opportunity.

I’m allowed to comment on this because I’ve been guilty of chasing my own ideas down rabbit holes far too many times in business. I’ve wasted as much time, energy and money as the next person. I’ve learned the hard way the value of time spent upfront assessing the value of the idea. When I hired my first General Manager, Angela Meads, she forced me to run all my ideas through her business case health check. The following steps have helped me to make better decisions, maybe next time you have a great idea, they could help you.

7 steps to making a good decision – the business case for the business case

  1. Articulate the why. Write the best rationale you can for why you want to do this. What problem does this solve? What are the expected benefits?  How will the business be better off? Make sure this includes tangible and measurable benefits, not just emotional ones.
  2. What are the alternatives? List all the other options the business could consider, including doing nothing.  What are the pros and cons of all options considered?  Then re-consider the ‘why’.  Why is this idea better than the others?
  3. What resources are required to implement the idea?  This includes financial investment (what is the real cost – to implement and maintain) and people investment (who’s going to do it and what will they have to drop in order to do it?). This is the bit I see skipped most often when business owners rush into new ideas… it has a high cost of time and money they were not prepared for.
  4. Return on investment – what do you expect to see in terms of financial return, over what time period?
  5. Risks associated – what could go wrong? And how will you handle it? What buffers do you need in place should the worst happen?
  6. Share your business case.  NEVER launch off on a new idea without running your business case past someone wise, ideally someone external to the business. You can be a legend in your own mind sometimes, you are the batman of your own dreams… don’t let your ego drive your decisions. Be willing to listen to the voice of reason. But equally don’t let them talk you out of it if it really is a good idea… just make sure your hear their questions and have confident answers.
  7. Make the right decision based on all above.  Be bold if its the right thing to do.  But be smart if it isn’t.

Good luck with it!  And if you ever want to run your business case past me… feel free to send it to me at laura@liber8u.com … just makes sure it has all the elements above 🙂

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8 principles of brand building every business owner must know

brand manOk here comes another rant.  Something else I feel PASSIONATE enough to SHOUT ABOUT IT.  Today’s outpouring is about your brand… and why if you seriously want to grow, you must take this subject very seriously indeed.

I do believe the power of a company’s brand is the single most misunderstood and under appreciated aspect of doing business.

I also believe it’s this simple – businesses with a great brand give their shot at major success a MASSIVE (I’m shouting again) BOOST.

In other words, those that understand brand do better than those who don’t.

Having said this, I’m no brand expert, so I struggle to find ways to articulate the importance of this to my clients – the people I most want to succeed.  So I went in search of some wisdom from someone who can tell you what I really want you to know.

I found this article featuring Scott Bedbury, who grew Starbucks and Nike into global brands (I think you’ll agree that earns him the right to talk about the topic!).  Here he gives us his eight brand building principles – I think every one is a winner, so please read the article fully and think about your own brand as you do so… just click the link below.

Scott Bedbury’s 8 Principles of Brand Building

Please believe me, if you focus on your brand as much as your product, you will grow your business.  It is a worthwhile investment of time and money.

So read Scott’s thoughts and let me know your own thoughts…

Be smart, be brave, be free 🙂

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The darker side of business ownership …

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I don’t have time to write this blog.  But I can’t sit at my desk in integrity and not write it.  Because I’ve owned a number of businesses and I have been to the dark side.  And when my mission is to set business owners free, I can’t ignore the black hole that seems to engulf certain entrepreneurial spirits amongst us.

This week I’ve read about two young entrepreneurs (one in his early twenties, the other thirty years old) in America who have ended their life, seemingly worn down by the immense stress that building a business can place on the founder.  In this latest article, with the tragic headline ‘Start up founder jumped to her death from a roof top bar’, the writer references a study by Dr. Michael Freeman, a clinical professor at UCSF and an entrepreneur, was one of the first to link higher rates of mental health issues to entrepreneurship.

Of the 242 entrepreneurs he surveyed, 49% reported having a mental-health condition. Depression was the No. 1 reported condition among them and was present in 30% of all entrepreneurs.

This statistic doesn’t surprise me.  I talk about this subject a lot with my clients and members… the harsh reality of business that no one tells you when you get started.  I call it the roller coaster of business – a world of extreme highs and extreme lows.  If you are determined to be successful, this is a ride very few dedicated business owners can avoid.  I talk about because I want my clients to be prepared – to buckle up tight and ride out the highs and the lows.

In business, you will have moments of joy, when everything goes right – you win clients, you love your team, the income is looking healthier than it’s ever done.  And you will have times when the bottom falls out of your world.  You lose a big client, you have a rogue staff member, you are worried about money, you are working too hard and sleeping too little.  You can only imagine the worst.  You feel like everything is on the line and you’ve put all you have into the business – your heart, your reputation, your time, your money – the thought of losing it all is overwhelming.  It’s a lonely and miserable place.  Despair can live here if you let it.

But you mustn’t let it.  You must know that this is normal.  Every business owner experiences the highs and lows. I’ve been there, I know.  I nearly had a nervous break down halfway through building my first business.  I will never forget how depressed I  became during that time.

I do think it is very sad that young people such as the woman in the article are losing their way in our entrepreneurial society – becoming so desperate that they feel they must take their own lives.  These are young people with the courage to dream, to step out into the world and take on the challenge of building something amazing.  They don’t know that they are also building their own monster, the beast that grows and can eat them alive if they are not ready for it.

Of course it isn’t just young people.  Success in business takes its toll on all business owners from time to time.  So in writing this I want you to know that this is normal.  If you are reading this, you are a business owner.  And I know you will have found the whole thing unspeakably tough sometimes.  So I just want to say to you something I’ve learned that keeps me sane and grounded, whatever life throws at me:

It always turns out OK.  Always.  

No matter how bad it seems, no matter how desperate the situation feels – it always gets better.  Don’t let things keep you awake at night with worry (although I know you will sometimes).  The worry doesn’t fix it.  Even if the whole thing crashes and burns, you will be OK.  YOU WILL BE OK.  Life will go on.  Your family and friends will still love you.  The sun will still shine.  And as Jack Dawsey says in my favorite line in Titanic, “you will die an old lady (or man) warm in your bed”.  Nothing is ever as bad as it seems.  Just get up in the morning and do the best you can to fix whatever is going wrong.  Whatever happens, you’ll be OK.

I work with business owners because I know I can help them.  I’m there through good and bad, highs and lows.  Mostly we work on the growth and I push people to strive for the dream of a beautiful exit, where they get to live happily ever after.  But I know it’s not a straight line to the top.  So I’m also the voice of comfort and reason when the going gets tough.  I love my work!

If you ever find yourself struggling and feeling like it’s all too much, remember my mantra…”it always turns out OK”.

Thank you for being a dreamer and an action taker.

You rock.

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Does your business ever feel like a life sentence?

My early mentor in business was Robert Kiyosaki. I studied with him all around the world, long before he wrote the Rich Dad Poor Dad books.  One day, at his business school in Hawaii I was sitting next to him at dinner.  We were talking about finding your life purpose and building a business around this.  I asked Robert how to find my purpose, my passion.  He replied, “Laura, you’ll find what you love by looking at what you hate most.”

This thought stuck with me and over time, as I’ve worked with and talked to hundreds of business owners, I realised that what I hate is seeing small business owners becoming slaves to their business – after setting out with a dream of creating their own destiny, being their own boss, running their own lives, they find themselves chained to a business that doesn’t pay them enough, works them too hard and impinges on their quality of life.  It’s not supposed to be like this.

The team at Liber8 are committed to setting small business owners free.  To help them create businesses that are not dependent on the owner for survival, that can grow and prosper and pay the owner back handsomely for all their hard work.

Are you ready to turn your business into a valuable asset?

We’re running our 2015 Acceler8or Programme with a workshop kicking off very soon – designed to help you build an asset not a life sentence.  If you’d like to know more about it, email me laura@liber8u.com and we’ll send you some information.  It’s for a small, select group of business owners how are ready to build the business that sets them financially free.  Are you one of them?

Be free and happy!

motivation-new

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Plan your business with the exit in mind… a mantra I never grow tired of!

If every business owner started their business knowing it was meant to be an asset not a job, we would be a nation of wealthy entrepreneurs and one of the leading economies in the world. My mission is to help every business owner I come into contact with grow a business as it should be… something extraordinary that they can eventually exit from and leave a legacy of greatness.  This short clip explains this… take a look.

Does this sound like something you’d really like from your business?

If so you might want to join us on the ultimate journey to create financial freedom from your business… The all New Acceler8or Programme kicks off this month. We’re helping passionate business owners build the business they really deserve. Click here today for more information.

Yours in freedom and happiness

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3 steps to turning your business into a valuable asset

11156283_10153303242804365_8882445748495223375_nThe Liber8 team held a powerful workshop a few weeks ago.  Twelve people in a room had the courage to look at their mindset around money, wealth and business.  On their feedback sheet after the workshop, 80% of them mentioned the realisation that a business should be an asset not a job, and the keys to getting there were key out-takes for them.  This is what we teach at Liber8.  We are passionate about it and we strongly believe that if every business owner in New Zealand set out to create an asset rather than a job, we would see a very different economy and a very different Country.

In a moment I’ll share three of the keys to building a valuable business… but first let me explain this flip chart from the workshop.

If you business requires you to go to work every day in order for it to continue to exist… and you don’t have a plan to change this in the future – you don’t have a business, you have a job.  And it may even be a job that pays you less than someone else would pay you to do the same job, makes you work twice the hours, puts too much stress on you and doesn’t let you take enough holidays.  Sound familiar?  A job is something that pays you some income, but doesn’t allow you to build wealth on the way.

If your business is able to generate income without you having to be there – it has become an asset.  If your business has value to someone else, who would like to pay you a significant sum of money to buy it – it has become asset.  An asset will feed you long after you stop working.

Which is your business?  A job or an asset?

If it’s still a job, don’t panic.  Every business starts out that way.  But its the business owners who make a conscious decision to transform it into an asset over time that really win.  This is what we teach at Liber8.  Financial freedom by turning your business into an asset.

Here are just three of the steps we encourage our members and clients to take:

1. Decide that you want to create a valuable business not just a job for yourself.  Think about your own mindset and paradigm, what are you telling yourself on a regular basis that would prevent you from striving for this.  Question your own belief systems around growth, wealth and what is possible for you and your business.

2. Address your business model.  What is holding back the growth right now?  Have you created something that is very dependent on you?  If so, what changes could you implement that would reduce this dependence?  Do you need to find a way to duplicate what you do and train others to deliver?  Do you need systems and products that can deliver without you?

3.  Create recurring revenue streams.  The most valuable businesses are those where cash flow can be predicted into the future.  Clients who are locked in to regular income – income not dependent on the owner – this is where value is created.  There are many examples of business models with this value well and truly in place.  I will share some of these in my next blog.

In the meantime, think about the three steps above.  And feel free to email me with your questions at laura@liber8u.com

Yours in freedom

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The all new Acceler8or Programme

We are looking for business owners ready to get serious about transforming their business into a valuable asset.  Our next Acceler8or Programme kicks of end of July.  Do you think you have the right mindset to join us?  Email me laura@liber8u.com for more information.