What makes a great CEO? Here’s what ChatGPT thinks…

I’m always pushing the business owners in my world to think more like a CEO than an owner operator… it’s a different mindset and very empowering for a business owner who often feels they are too busy slashing through the brambles to see what’s available to them on the other side of the forest.

I thought I’d see what ChatGPT had to say about ‘what makes a great CEO’. Here’s the response. What do you think?  And how would you rate yourself against each of the criteria below?

Me: What makes a great company CEO?
ChatGPT:
  1. Vision and Strategic Thinking: A great CEO is able to set a clear and inspiring vision for the company’s future and develop a strategic plan to achieve it. They must be forward-thinking, able to anticipate market trends, and adapt the company’s strategy accordingly.
  2. Leadership: Effective leadership is crucial. A great CEO leads by example, inspires their team, and fosters a positive and motivated work culture. They should be able to make tough decisions and guide the organization through challenges.
  3. Decisiveness: CEOs are often faced with complex decisions that impact the company’s direction. Being able to analyze information, weigh pros and cons, and make timely decisions is essential.
  4. Communication Skills: CEOs must be skilled communicators, able to convey their vision, goals, and strategy to employees, investors, customers, and other stakeholders. Clear and transparent communication helps build trust and alignment.
  5. Adaptability: The business landscape is ever-changing. A great CEO is adaptable and open to new ideas and approaches, willing to pivot the company’s strategy when necessary.
  6. Problem-Solving Abilities: CEOs encounter a range of challenges, from operational issues to market disruptions. Strong problem-solving skills allow them to identify root causes, explore solutions, and implement effective strategies.
  7. Emotional Intelligence: Understanding and managing emotions, both their own and those of others, is crucial for building strong relationships and fostering a positive work environment.
  8. Resilience: Leading a company comes with its share of setbacks and failures. Resilience allows a CEO to bounce back from challenges, learn from mistakes, and maintain a determined attitude.
  9. Strategic Delegation: A great CEO knows how to delegate tasks effectively, empowering their team members to contribute their expertise and freeing up their own time for more high-level strategic decisions.
  10. Ethical Integrity: Upholding ethical values and integrity is paramount. A CEO’s decisions and actions impact not only the company but also its reputation and the broader community.
  11. Industry Knowledge: CEOs should have a deep understanding of their industry, market trends, and competitors. This knowledge enables them to make informed decisions and capitalize on opportunities.
  12. Financial Acumen: A strong grasp of financial concepts and metrics is essential for managing the company’s financial health, allocating resources wisely, and making informed investment decisions.
  13. Customer Focus: A customer-centric approach drives innovation and ensures that the company’s products or services meet customer needs and expectations.
  14. Networking: Building relationships with other industry leaders, investors, and partners can open doors to collaborations, partnerships, and potential growth opportunities.
  15. Long-Term Perspective: A great CEO focuses not only on short-term results but also on building sustainable, long-term growth for the company.

Here’s a challenge…. take each of the above criteria and mark yourself out of 10 for two scores:  firstly, score yourself in terms of your ability; and secondly, on how much time you spend actively applying yourself to the quality or activity described.

Love to hear your thoughts.  And if you would like to be challenged more to improve your ability as a CEO vs Owner Operator… ask me about the Master Moves programme.  There’s one coming up soon….

PS. Book a free 30 minute business chat with with me here.

How to have a win/win financial relationship with your business

A while ago I wrote a blog called ‘your business is not your baby’ where I talked about the importance of treating your business as a separate entity, not as an extension of your family or personal life.

Today in one of the rich and frank Master Moves group discussions, this important distinction came up again.

The conversation came about as a business owner shared that they had been ‘stripping’ money out of the business to fund other projects. Another business owner agreed they had done the same. Which was all well and good until an external factor impacted on revenues, causing an instant and significant drop of income. Then the lack of cash reserves in the business became a problem.

Suddenly he couldn’t pay his contractors on time, and became stressed about their well being as like all business owners, we are always conscious of our responsibility to those who rely on us to make good decisions so they can feed their families and pay their mortgages.

So is it wrong to take the cash out of your business as you go?

My answer is a resounding ‘no’ – it’s not only not wrong but it is important that you do so.  Why would you wait until the end and hope you get your ROI on all your efforts from a sale?  When you can be taking money out as you go and investing it elsewhere, thereby growing your wealth outside of the business at the same time you are growing the business.

But it is critical to do it strategically and in a way that makes your relationship with the business very clear and works for the business as well as you.

Here’s what I shared about how my business was set up and how I learned to have an appropriate relationship with it.

Your business is a separate financial entity and as such needs to stand on its own two feet.  It needs to raise it’s own finance when needed.

It has a responsibility to make enough profit to be able to pay dividends to its shareholders, to give them a fair return on their investment.

It is the job of the CEO to ensure the business performs well for its customers, its staff, its community and also its shareholders.

As the owner, you are the shareholder.

But as an owner operator working in the business you are also the CEO.

It’s good to remember you have two hats – The CEO and the shareholder.

As a shareholder you have every right to expect a dividend paid out of profits

But only if as a CEO you have met the targets and expectations of the business to ensure there is enough capital to do three things:

    1. Allocate a reasonable % of profits to be working capital left in the business for growth and risk management
    2. Allocate a % of profits for profit share/bonus for the key people who have helped achieve the profit
    3. Allocate a % of profits to be declared as dividend pay out to the shareholders

This is how my business was set up and it worked really well.  I was on a salary paying PAYE, that was all I took out of the business until profits were finalised. Then I would receive the agreed % of profits after a capital allocation was made to fund growth and have reserves for tough times, and after key staff had been given a profit share bonus.

The key to win/win

The key really is to always view your business as a separate entity – your job working inside the business is to make sure it’s financially successful so that it can pay you a return that you can use outside of the business.

Take money out yes.  But leave enough money in to feed the business when it needs it… and this my friends is a win/win for you and your business.

I hope that makes sense!

PS. Conversations like this happen all the time in the Master Moves community.  To find out how to join us, hit reply to this email and I’ll fill you in!

Master Moves is a powerful group programme for business owners who really don’t want to keep playing the game alone.  Find out more here. 

Why bother with a company vision?

The following is an excerpt from my book, Liber8 your Business…

Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion.’ Jack Welch.

I’m sure I’m not the first business mentor or advisor to tell you that every great business needs an inspiring vision. I’m pretty sure this has been in business text books since year dot. But what is this vision thing really all about? And why should you bother having one?

A vision is a common purpose, a reason for being.

For the most practical minded, a company vision may seem a woolly, ‘pie in sky’ kind of ideal that has no bearing on today’s sales. And in some ways this is true. A company vision is something that exists well into the future and will most likely never be realised. However, it plays a critical role in your business success.

First, a vision will inspire people. Your vision is not what you do; it’s the reason your business exists and how it makes a difference. Perhaps you’ll remember earlier in the book I wrote of the two reasons for being in business. The first was to make money (and hopefully you are on board with this idea by now!).

The second was to make a difference. A business that sets out to change something is a business with a purpose. And a business with a purpose is one that propels forward, gathers speed and brings people along for the ride … people who care about the same purpose and want to make that change too. The people who work for you, the clients you attract and, ultimately, the buyer who pays your asking price can all be inspired by your vision.

Your desire to change something significant can be a powerful motivator. This change can be within your own industry, if you can see better ways of doing things that will transform the way your industry operates. It could be a difference made to your community, your city, your country or on a global scale.

Your vision allows you to aim for a clear point of difference

A well-considered company vision can also stamp your mark on your industry in a way your competitors may not have thought of. My vision for Red Rocks was to ‘transform the way advertising agencies treated their clients’. I had spent my entire working life in an agency, most of this as a creative person. My experience told me advertising agencies treated their clients with almost a level of distain. The client was a pain to be tolerated on the road to a creative award and was quite literally a meal ticket, needed to cover the costs of excessive long lunches. The agency would take the client’s brief and disappear for several weeks while they worked on the big idea. As a copywriter I was mostly kept away from the client and had to rely on the brief from the client service person (or ‘suit’ as the industry nicknamed such roles).

There was, in my view, a big disconnect between the clients, who had all the industry knowledge, and the creative people who came up with the clever ideas. Surely we should all work together to get the best solution? I hated the arrogance that seemed to go with my own industry and the way clients were kept in the cold. When I started my own agency, it was with a vision to change this … and make a difference to the industry that would live beyond my own tenure as the agency owner. The vision had our clients’ best interests at heart and we made sure we used this to our advantage when pitching against our larger competitors. Did we point out the arrogance that bothered me? Of course we did, and positioned ourselves as the opposite. On many occasions it worked extremely well for us.

 ‘You’ll find what you love by observing what you hate.’

Robert Kiyosaki said the above words to me as we had dinner one night during his Business School for Entrepreneurs workshops in Hawaii. I’ve never forgotten them, nor stopped admiring the work Robert and Kim do to this day to make their difference in the world. If you take a look at Robert’s website www.richdad.com you’ll see his vision on the home page:‘Elevating the financial well-being of humanity.’ It’s a vision that flows directly from his hatred of poverty and the terrible impact it has on people.

If you can find something that frustrates you and others, you can steer your vision towards fixing it. Our vision for our pet care company was ‘to make the world a happier place for pets.’ This was clearly a global vision and one inspired not only by our love of pets but also by our hatred for any kind of animal cruelty.

Though our core business was walking dogs and feeding cats, we saw our role in the world to be much bigger than this. We envisioned ‘an army of Pet Angels across the globe,’ all committed to making a difference. Our vision enabled us to think and act on a much bigger scale than our core services. We became involved with raising funds for our local animal shelter, petitioning for more dog lighting in dog exercise areas, creating pet first aid and emergency training guides, teaching pet handling safety in schools.

Everything we did was measured against our vision and enabled us to keep asking ‘will this help make the world a happier place for pets?’ As a result of these activities, we often found ourselves in the newspapers, or being asked to comment on important pet related issues. We had a voice bigger than our services, and we championed a cause that many people could get behind.

Think beyond your own lifetime as owner

From a CEO point of view, your role is to keep focus on the vision to drive the business. Your company vision is ultimately what unites your people around a common purpose that goes beyond the money. It’s about doing something you love and wanting to change the world. Its most important role is to inspire.

My vision for my work with Liber8 Your Business and other Liber8me tools and programmes is ‘to set all small business owners financially free.’ Of course this vision will never be achieved in my lifetime, but by making this my ideal I am clear that everything produced under the Liber8 brand must increase the chance of this vision happening. There are millions of small business owners in the world, so whatever Liber8me does must be accessible to as many as possible. This vision inspires me and those I work with to keep thinking of more ways to bring the Liber8me message to business owners everywhere.

The Pet Angels vision ‘to make the world a happier place for pets’ was an ideal my business partner and I loved and felt inspired by. We never intended that it be measurable or even achievable. How could we ever know if we really did make the world a happier place for pets?

This is the key difference between a company vision and your business goals. Your target and goals are there to be achieved within clearly defined timeframes. Your company vision, however, is there to inspire, not be measured. Most company visions are created to have a life beyond that of the original owner.

Another of my business super heroes, the late Anita Roddick, created a global empire around her anger about the way human beings treat the planet and other animals. I love this quote from her about her vision for her business”

I just want The Body Shop to be the best, most breathlessly exciting company – and one that changes the way business is carried out. That is my vision.’

Anita wanted to change the way ‘business is carried out’ by demonstrating that business can have high ethics, values and a greater cause behind everything her company did. In her lifetime she may not have changed the ethics of every business on the planet, but she certainly demonstrated how a business can combine financial returns whilst championing a cause for good.

Guess the vision

Here’s a quick quiz to demonstrate how some of the global greats approach their visions. See if you can match these vision statements with their companies:

Vision Company
1.     To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world A.     Walt Disney Corp.
2.     To refresh the world B.     IKEA
3.     To make people happy C.     Walmart
4.     To create a better everyday life for the many D.    Coca cola
5.     To give ordinary folk the chance to buy the same things as rich people E.     Nike

As you can see, none of these visions mentions what the company does or what its targets are. They are all inspirational and totally immeasurable. Did you guess which belonged with which? Here are the answers:

1.E: 2. D; 3. A; 4. B; 5.C

Your vision drives your brand

Later,we’ll look at the importance of having a strong brand to help drive the value of your business. When we further explore the concept of branding you’ll see how important it is to have an empowering vision to guide the values and philosophy of your business. Nike’s vision (‘to bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete’) is an excellent example of how a vision can drive the brand. Whether you are a world class athlete or a humble gym enthusiast, you feel good wearing the latest Nike gear. Its ‘just do it’ attitude stems directly from the vision. You can be inspired to achieve your best, whoever you are.

The following exercise is designed to help you think more about the type of vision you really want for your company. Is it global or local? Is it transformational or inspirational, or both? Give yourself plenty of time to think about this and please don’t be tempted to skip past it. It is such a critical success factor in successful business growth.

 If you’d like a free e book copy of the Liber8 your Business book, email me now at Laura@liber8u.com … I’m giving away free copies for a limited time 😁

Yours in freedom

Advisory Board Video Tip Series – Tip 1. Understand what a Advisory Board is

Have you been wondering if it’s time to look at an Advisory Board for your business? Or has someone else suggested you should have one, but you don’t really know where to start?  I work with business owners every day and often get asked about the need for an Advisory Board.  I think its a great idea but only if you do it properly and at the right time for your business.

So how do you do it properly?

I thought I’d share my advice in the form of a video tip series.

Tip 1 – Understand what an Advisory Tip is

An Advisory Board is a small but perfectly formed group of people who come together to add value to your business growth plans.

There are a few clues in the above statement:

  • Small. You don’t want a committee of people with so many perspectives it confuses you. I think yourself plus 2 or 3 others is ample
  • Perfectly formed. Choose very carefully who you have on board – choose people who have proven experience in both business and in the particular areas you want to grow in. For instance if your growth strategies are likely to include exporting, then someone with exporting experience could add great value.
  • Business growth plans. The right time to bring together an Advisory Board is when you are in a growth phase and have a clear idea of where you want to take the business and ready for the right help to implement your plans – not when you are just starting out or if you are unclear where you want to take the business.

I’ll be sharing all 7 video tips as a blog but if you want to fast track to the full series, just go to https://liber8yourbusiness.com/advisory-board/

And of course feel free to email me at laura@liber8me.com if you have any questions or want to talk more about help with forming an Advisory Board.

Happy growing!

How to create the killer business plan you’ll actually follow this year

money treeToo often annual business plans are so wordy they get stuck in a drawer, or there are too many things that need attending to that the business owner gets overwhelmed and struggles to execute the plan. Or the ideas are so hidden in words that they get lost. The reality is that 12 months is a short period of time and you can’t execute everything that you want to do… so you have to be selective. Set yourself up for success, not for failure.  

Every year, as well as putting out fires, solving problems, managing staff and clients, you need to be executing key strategies that will help you get towards your long term vision faster. The following article and exercise will help you create a quick business plan that your whole team will understand and help you execute.

The 2 Page Business Plan aims to uncover the really important objectives that will drive your success in the coming financial year. The idea is to identify the most important goals for the year – the ones that will make the biggest impact towards your long term goals as well as move you forward in the short term.

It includes three key sections:

  1. 1. The Core Business Drivers – what are the most important objectives for your business this year? With specific targets added (how to quantify these drivers)
  2. 2. The Key Strategies that will turn these objectives to reality
  3. 3. The Action/Project Plan for each strategy – the things you have to do, by when and with what resource in order to execute the strategy.

Note:

Your 2 page business plan sits alongside your annual budget. Your budget should outline your profit goal for the year, your planned expenses and the income targets you need to achieve that profit.

Then your 2 Page Business Plan outlines how you are going to achieve this.

EXERCISE

Compete the following:

  1. 1. Your Core Business Drivers

What are the most important objectives for this year? The key focus areas that will drive the business forward and ensure you achieve financial objectives?

Limit this to 3 or 5 objectives that will make a real difference.

Example:

  • Increase Membership
  • Retain and increase value of existing members
  • Grow partner network
  • Decrease dependency on me
  1. 2. Specific targets

Underneath each ‘driver’ put a specific target

Example:

  • Increase Membership
    • 60 new member firms on this year
  • Retain and increase value of existing members
    • Increase value of membership based by 40%
  • Grow partner network
    • Bring on 4 new suppliers this year
  • Decrease dependency on me
    • Hire part time telemarketer and book keeper
  1. 3. Key Strategies

Commit to 2 to 5 key strategies that you believe will achieve your core drivers

Example:

  • Increase membership:
    • New brand launch PR
    • Lapsed leads campaign
    • Events programme
    • Partner collaboration programme
    • Content marketing
  1. 4. Create a project plan for each of the strategies to make it a reality:

Resources – what needs to happen, who will do it, how much?

Timeframes – when and how long will it take?

Example:

  • Lapsed Leads campaign:
    • Write and send new brand email (date)
    • Prepare scripts and train telemarketer follow up (date)
    • Get appointments (on-going)
    • Use new sales presentation to convert

Follow the steps above and you will have a plan you can stick on your wall and see every day, not in your drawer gathering dust.  Hope you find this useful.

Happy growing!

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PS.  For more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Strategy Series. Pillar 3 – Delivery

pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979If you’ve been following my 6 Pillars to Business Success Series, you’ll know that the first two pillars require you to have a product that matches a need in the market and is unique enough to carve a niche in that market and you need think about and plan for a business model that will enable you to scale and grow beyond the early days of dependency on you.

The third pillar is about ‘delivery’ – the systems and processes you have in place to ensure you can consistently deliver on the promise of your product again and again.

Delivery of expectation

Delivery is really about expectation. When you market your product and service well (we’ll get to the sales and marketing in the next blog), you create an expectation in the minds of your customer. This expectation carries across a number of areas:

Quality and consistency of product

Customers have an idea of what it is they are going to receive and an expectation of the quality they will experience – not just the first time they buy from you, but every time they buy from you. So your company’s ability to deliver a quality experience every single time is critical. As you grow, you have to be able to keep up the quality, regardless of size and quantity.

liber8-pillars-chart-450x289Quality and consistency of service

Your customers will also have an expectation of the level of service they receive – which will be bench marked against your previous service levels (you are expected to keep these up as you grow) and also against their experience with other providers. Each industry will have a standards benchmark that the market expects all players to deliver on. In an ideal world, you’ll know what this is and ensure your company delivers better service than your competitors – each and every time.

Efficiency and timeliness

How well and how timely you are on the delivery of their expectation is also a critical factor. You can have the best solution in the world but if it doesn’t arrive in time to meet your customer’s need, they won’t be happy with it.

A quick example – I ordered a mermaid blanket (yes really) online for my daughter as a Christmas santa present. It was a US based site, and international delivery was within 3 weeks. This was early November. There was plenty of time for it to arrive by Christmas. By early December it still hadn’t arrived. When I emailed, I was sent a link to a parcel tracking site. This was all in Chinese so I couldn’t make any sense of it. Further emails got no reply. A week out from Christmas it still hadn’t arrived, so I found another mermaid blanket on a NZ gift site, with guaranteed delivery before Christmas. This one arrived within 2 days of ordering. Then the original one arrived too – a few days before Christmas.

My daughter was thrilled to get two mermaid blankets from Santa. I was not so delighted. The original company continues to market to me, as I’m clearly now on their database. But I will never buy from them again. They had the superior blanket quality wise, but they let me down on the timeliness of delivery, and also their lack of reply to my emails and their lack of concern about their tracking information being in Chinese. They hadn’t set their distribution systems up well enough to match their delivery promise, they oversold and under delivered to me and many others I’m sure.

Delivery efficiencies

A key thing to consider about delivery is how efficiently your company can continually meet the expectations of your customers. As you grow it gets harder and harder to keep up the quality and control the costs involved to do this. You have to hire more people and invest in more infrastructure. Your costs go up and before you know it, your income is growing but your profits are shrinking.

So how do you grow and continue to deliver on customer expectations?

The answer to that question lies with these 3 things: systems, team, training.

1. Systems

You must have systems for everything. And I mean EVERYTHING. From how a customer is greeted when they first contact you or how the floor of the warehouse is cleaned to how your product is packaged, to how it is disbributed, how you present, how you communicate, how you deal with a complaint, how you do anything at all.

According to the online Business Dictionary, a system is defined as:

A set of detailed methods, procedures and routines created to carry out a specific activity, perform a duty, or solve a problem.

Systems will set you free. And simply cannot be avoided.

To create a system, first prove that a process works (by trialling it for a while), then document it thoroughly step by step, and then ensure everyone in your company knows how to follow the process. One of my fellow mentors and author Mike Brunel, tells the story of how he started what became a $300 million company by following his business partner around with a dictaphone and then wrote up everything he did – this created a system they were able to sell to others all over the world. In their case, the system became the product because they found a way to do something better than anyone in their industry.

Put all of your systems into one ‘manual’ – which can be all stored online or delivered as a lovely glossy ‘welcome’ piece when new team members join. Let this become your manifesto … the ‘how we do things here’ guide to consistent delivery for your company.

Important note: Two of the areas you need systems for – to ensure you can afford to grow – are your sales and marketing, and your financial reporting. We talk more of these in future blogs in the series, but for now, be sure to build systems that enable you to plan your team and infrastructure growth alongside your sales growth – plan to have enough income/capital to be build your delivery systems and have regular financial reporting built into your rituals.

2. Team

You cannot grow without a team. You need people to deliver on the expectations of your promise to market. And you need them to know what to do, how to do it, when to do it and how important it is to do it this way every time. When you start hiring people, you will have to let go of doing everything yourself. You will have to trust others to do the work for you, but of course you’ll feel a lot happier about this if you know they are doing it the way you (and your customers) expect it done. So give them great systems to follow, and minimise the chances of them getting it wrong. Your systems will enable consistency, and will also enable your culture to survive as you grow. Your systems manual can include information on your rituals, meetings you have (and why you have them), values and vision for the company. The how and why of everything … this makes up your culture, and you should only hire people you think will enjoy being in a place that does things this way.

Another quick example: I go to a gym class at 6am three days a week. I get there at 5.30am and there is always a smiling face to greet me, which I appreciate even though I’m still half asleep. As soon as I scan my card to get in, they look at the screen and know two things – my name and the class I’m here for. They greet me by name and hand me my wrist band for my class without me having to say a thing (I do tend to grunt at that time of the morning). Then when I leave an hour later, no matter who is on reception, they always say ‘goodbye’ or ‘see you later’ as I scan my way out again. Always. This is systemised delivery of experience that every single team member knows about, and it makes me feel good about my gym.

3. Training

A business system is only as good as the people who follow it. So make sure to devote enough resources to training your team to deliver on expectations. If they don’t know how you want things done, they’ll do things the way they think they should be done. Train your team to know the company values and the expectations it has around delivery across all aspects of the business. Let them know why these things are important and then … and this is important… give them the freedom to follow the systems without micromanagement from you!

Exercise:

Conduct a ‘delivery audit’ of your business. Firstly consider all of the critical customer touch-points and the expectations they have of what and how you are going to delivery on your promise to them. Make a list of the key areas where you need systems in place to ensure you can meet those expectations.  Then start creating systems to ensure consistent delivery across each area.  You can get your team to help with this… the best person to create a system is the person who is currently doing that job well already.

Happy Growing!

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PS.  For more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Series. Pillar 2 – Your Business Model.

pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979So you have a great product or service. You know there’s a need for it out there, you’ve defined your customers and your market (if not refer to Article 1 in the Pillars To Business Success Series).  You may well have proven just how great your offer is, with consistent sales under the belt. But how much thought have you given to the growth plan for your business?

The true value in your business will ultimately come not just from what you sell, but also how well you grow.

To grow well, you need to think about your business model, sooner rather than later.

There are two key questions to ask yourself when thinking about your business model:

  1. What is the potential for this business in the future (what is your vision for where you are taking it)?
  2. How will it scale?

liber8-pillars-chart-450x289

Let’s look at each in turn.

What is the potential for your business?

When I’m working with new clients, we spend a fair bit of time considering this question. We look at what you personally might want out of the business financially, the size of the market you are in, the competition you are up against, your future portfolio of customers – in terms of both size and value.  We consider what you are offering now and who you are offering this to, and how this might need to change over time to enable the true potential of the business.  We build a picture of what’s possible for the future, check in with your appetite for growth and your commitment to make this happen.

How will it scale?

When we have a clear picture of what’s possible, we look at the business growth plan that will enable this.  How and what is your business currently set up to deliver? How will it need to be set up in the future to enable the size and scale of business you are hoping to build? What changes do you need to make to ensure this growth can happen?  Will you be expanding into new markets? Do you need to make changes to the product or service itself? What team infrastructure is required to support the growth? What needs to happen to the way you make and deliver your product service? How can you reduce dependency on you and other key people, with systems, technology, team and training? We also look at the time frame over which these changes need to take place.  If your vision for future success is five years out, you don’t need to make all the changes necessary right now.  You can map them out over time and determine what you need to be working on right now to ensure you are preparing for growth in the future.

As you can see, there are a lot of questions to consider. Business is really a thinking game, and a planning game as well as a doing game. To be a good business person you need to think about strategy as well as delivery.

Here’s a definition of strategy taken from a well-known dictionary:

Strategy: A method or plan chosen to bring about a desired future, such as achievement of a goal or solution to a problem.

The question is always, are you willing to do the thinking necessary to plan for a successful future? Or are you always going to be too busy delivering your product or service today?

My job as a mentor is to ensure my clients have the structure, support and guidance to do the hard thinking now that will set them up for the future.

If you think you might be ready for this … email me at laura@liber8u.com to find out more about my programmes.

Happy growing!

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PS.  For more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Strategy Series. Pillar 1 – Your Product


pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979A successful business is made up of 6 pillars to success, with each needing equal amounts of attention, talent, passion and skill for a business to succeed. Most business owners put their energy into one or two pillars, usually where their comfort zone lies. But business owners who recognise the need for improvements across all pillars have a far better chance at success.

In this blog series we look at each pillar in turn and discuss strategies and ideas for you to improve in each.

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Pillar 1. Your Product

This is where every business owner starts. Some (most) start with an idea of something they feel passionate about and want to build a business around. This might be a product they’ve seen and want to sell, or something they want to build, or a service they want to deliver, often based around their own skill set or experience. Others (less frequently) start with a need or gap they see in the market and create a service or product specifically to address that need or gap.

The latter often have a better chance at growth. But why?

It’s called product/market fit. The better the fit, the better the chance at success – especially if the market that needs your product is big enough and has enough customers willing to pay a good price, with good margins for you.

Step 1

Step one to successful product development is to ensure there is a need for it and a market big enough to enable growth. You can do this in the early stages of business by creating simple versions of your product or service and testing it with sample groups of customers who represent your market. If you’ve been going for a while and sales are continuing to grow, then you have proven there is a need for what you sell. If sales are not going so well, you need to look at your product/market fit as well as your marketing. A simple survey out to those customers you do have could tell you a lot about what you need to do to improve your product to make it more appealing.

Step 2

Step two is to ensure you position your product to its market in such a way that it is seen as a more attractive option to all the other products out there. This positioning will form the first strategy in your marketing map (which I explain in detail in a later blog in the series), but before you even get to marketing it, you need to be confident your product is exactly what people want. Again, a survey to existing customers could give you some valuable information about how they see your product as compared to the competition out there.

Step 3

Once you are sure there is a need and you know what it needs to be to fit the need – is to make your product or service the best it can possibly be. This is called product development and of course, is an on-going process that lasts the life of your business. All great companies keep improving their products and services, and they have to keep up with the ever-changing needs in the market. You simply cannot sit still and expect that what you sold last year and the year before will remain relevant tomorrow – especially when things are moving so fast now. Technology is creating new and different solutions to old problems all the time. New, agile companies are challenging existing solutions and finding faster, cheaper ways for customers to get the same outcomes. So you have to keep moving, evolving and challenging your product development.

Step 4

Step four is to know when good enough is good enough. By this I mean that although your product or service is at the very epicentre of your business, and you have no business at all without it, you have to remember that it is only one of the six pillars you need to focus on. If you spend all your time delivering the best service, or crafting the perfect product, and none of it on the rest of the business pillars … your business won’t grow. So make it great, but know when it’s good enough to allow you to put your energy into the other pillars.

In my experience, small business owners spend the majority of their time and energy on perfecting their product or service… but often at the expense of increasing their knowledge and skills in other areas such as marketing or finance.

What about you? How much time do you spend working on, delivering or improving your product versus the other pillars?

Does your product meet the ever-changing needs of your market?

Exercise:

If you haven’t done a survey out to your customer base for a while, now could be a good time to do it. Find out what their current needs are, who else they are using to meet those needs, and what they’d like to see more of (or less of) from you to ensure you continue to remain relevant and necessary in their world.

Happy Growing!

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PS.  More more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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How to grow your business… the Pillars to Business Growth Strategy Series

liber8-pillars-chart-450x289Nearly 5 years ago now, after selling my last business, I accidentally fell into being a business mentor. I found myself speaking at business networks, telling my story about how I went from being an advertising copywriter to creating and ultimately selling my own advertising agency… the approach I took, how I planned the sale right from the start, and what I learned about business along this way – with my agency and my subsequent pet care business. Before long people were asking me if I could help them turn their business into a valuable asset and my business mentoring career began.

 I get clearer and clearer all the time how best to increase a business owner’s understanding of the fundamentals that will determine whether they build a successful business that feeds them wealth and freedom into the future, or whether they build a hard working job that will stop feeding them income the minute they stop doing it.

Over the next seven blog posts I’m going to share the key pillars to growth I believe can help any business owner, regardless of their industry, get a better understanding of what they need to do to be a smart business person.

The Pillars of Business Growth Strategy

Firstly, in Blog 1 in the series, I’m going to explain what the Pillars of Growth Strategy is … and what it isn’t.

What is it not is a revolutionary new concept that will set the business world on fire. There’s nothing new in here. It’s business 101 really.

What it is, rather, is a hopefully easy to understand summary of the fundamentals of what any business needs to grow. It seems obvious to someone who’s been through the journey of creating a business, but experience now tells me that it is not obvious to most small business owners – it certainly wasn’t to me when I started.

Your product is not enough

I meet business owners all the time. They seek me out and ask me for help on a regular basis. I take on 10 – 15 new small business clients a year and work with them intensely for a 12 month period. What I see so often is that business owners typically focus all their energy into creating and delivering a great product or service, based around something they feel passionate about.

And of course, having a great product or service is important, and forms the first pillar in the Pillars To Growth Strategy.

What many business owners don’t do, or realise they need to do, is focus equal amounts of energy into the several other pillars that ensure your great product or service forms the centre of a great business – one that will ultimately have true value.

If you focus on all six of the pillars with equal enthusiasm, and apply yourself to learning what you need to ensure each is operating at maximum effectiveness, you will build a great business – one that is independent of you.

The 6 Pillars to Business Growth

The six pillars are:

1. Product – what you sell, and the need it meets in the market
2. Business model – Where you are taking this business, how it will make money and how it can scale/grow bigger than you
3. Delivery – how you take your product to market, your distribution channels, operational effectiveness and efficiency and the robustness of the systems that support this
4. Sales & Marketing – how you attract new customers and retain and grow your existing customers
5. Team – the structure of the organisation you need to build and the quality of the people you engage, the way you ensure high performance
6. Financials – how you keep tab on your performance by driving revenues and profits up, and the reporting around this that lets you know how you are going

Most business owners are good at a few of the pillars, where their natural skills and experience fall. For instance I was always good at the sales and marketing and ensuring great product delivery. But I sucked at financials and team building. I learned this the hard way, and had to surround myself with people who knew these areas better than me before my business could really grow.

How about you? Which are you best at and which do you avoid because they are outside your comfort zone?

Exercise
Look at each of the six pillars and rate your business 1 – 5 for each, with 5 being “Nailed it” and 1 being “Oh dear not really.”

If you accept your business needs to score a 4 – 5 in each pillar to be truly successful, what areas do you need to put more effort into? And what is your plan to achieve this improvement?

Next blog in series
In the next of the 6 Pillars to Business Growth blogs I’m going to take a look at the Product pillar and see what distinctions we can make to make this rock even harder for you.

Happy growing!

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PS.  More more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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

pen and padWhen it comes to business success, there is an underlying trait that every smart entrepreneur has – not just the ability to have a good idea, create a business, to set a vision and dream a dream – but the ability to see it through.

One of the biggest personality disorders I see among business owners is what I call the ‘magpie syndrome’.  This is the tendency to drop everything and run off after the next bright, shiny idea.  I see it all the time. It’s a lack of focus and often stems from not having a clear end goal and a business plan. Sometimes chasing another opportunity pays off, but more often it just weakens focus, takes your eye off the ball and often has a financial cost too.

Key number 8. Be disciplined

The disciplines of business involve having a long term and short term business plan with clear objectives and strategies. It means having an annual budget with forecasts, monthly actuals, clear reporting. It involves having clear job descriptions and performance reviews for everyone including the owners.  It means doing a proper business case to support a decision to do something that isn’t in the annual plan.

So many business owners I start working with are really sloppy when it comes to the infrastructure of their business – they don’t have a business plan, don’t have a budget, don’t set targets and do not have good reporting in place. They have no mechanism for monitoring and measuring their progress. And as a result they often find themselves running round and round the hamster wheel, working hard and going nowhere.

You have to be disciplined.  Business isn’t a fairy tale and it won’t have a happy ending if you don’t learn the rules of business and apply them thoroughly.

Exercise:  Rate your discipline

Do you have a clearly articulated and purpose for your business?  Yes/No

Do you have a business plan that can be shared with your team each year? Yes/No

Do you have measurable targets in place?  Yes/No

Do you have clear and regular financial reporting in place to monitor progress? Yes/No

Do you have a budget forecast that is updated and used as a management tool?  Yes/No

Do you use a business case study approach to making decisions?  Yes/No

Do you run regular performance reviews with your team Yes/No

If you answer mostly yes, you are applying a disciplined approach to business… it will help you grow for sure.

If you answer mostly no, you are most likely taking a more random approach to business which will likely be an impediment to growth.  A willingness to put more structure and focus into your business practices will help you grow, seek some assistance now to ensure you run your business the way it should be run.

As always feel free to email me questions or ideas at laura@liber8u.com

Happy growing!

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PS. Early bird pricing for 2016 Acceler8or Programme ends soon.  This is a 12 month journey to accelerated growth you’ll never forget, please email me at laura@liber8u.com for more information. If you are serious about growth or creating financial freedom from your business sooner rather than later, you will want to be involved.  Only 3 places left.