Have you created a business or a life-long job?

 ‘ball and chainSuccessful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.’ John Maxwell

One of the first questions I ask when I present to business groups is: ‘Why are you here? Why are you in business? Why on earth have you left the security of a job with regular pay to start your own business, with all the uncertainty this holds?’

I always get similar answers.

Mostly, people say they don’t want to work for someone else. They don’t want someone else’s culture.They don’t want to be told how the way it should be done. They want to be in control. They want flexible hours and to spend time with their children. They want to be able to go on holiday when they want. They don’t want someone telling them how many weeks’ holiday they can have a year. They want to do something they really love. These are all honourable reasons for starting a business.

But, ironically, many business owner-operators end up with the complete opposite. They find themselves with little control. They discover their clients have the control and will often demand they work longer hours than they ever did when working for someone else. Most small business owners pay themselves less than they would be paid working for another company.

Crazy, I know, but it’s true. You go into business for freedom and control and end up working longer hours and earning less. Sound familiar?

Many business owner-operators don’t take holidays. They start their business believing they will be in charge of their own holidays, but they find they don’t go on holiday at all. I met a woman who owned a chain of motels with her husband. They hadn’t been on holiday for five years. When I asked her why she got into the motel business in the first place, she told me it was for the lifestyle. Go figure!

If you pay yourself too little, work long hours, and don’t take decent holidays, you can feel resentful. Worse, you can fall sick and be unable to carry on. A high percentage of businesses fail (and by fail I mean they stop; the owner gives up) within five years of start-up. Disillusionment gets the better of them. They go into business to set themselves free and find themselves with a virtual chain around their ankle. Not surprisingly, they decide they don’t want to do it anymore. But that’s not going to be you, is it? Most people who fail to achieve financial freedom through their business do not have the right mindset. Let’s just take a look at a true story for a moment to illustrate my point:

The story of Julie and Fliss

I was having coffee with an old friend one day. Julie is an amazing lady who had started her first business and built it over 20 years until it was bought by a huge multinational group. She became wealthy and continues to build her wealth through angel investing and mentoring start-up businesses. She has a wonderful life. We discussed how special it was to be able to spend quality time with our kids after school each day and how we enjoyed helping other people learn to build a quality life through business. We got to talking about a woman we both knew. I’ll call her Fliss, for the purposes of this story. Fliss opened a business at the same time as Julie. She is a dress designer and opened up a little retail store in the town where she lived.

Twenty years later she still had that small shop and she was still making the dresses. Fliss was no better off financially and she still had to keep designing and making the dresses to sell in her shop. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that as a life choice and as far as I know, Fliss is content in her life. I don’t want to appear scornful of someone doing something they love. If you’ve got a talent for design and you’re happy with a small retail shop in a small town, there’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you are aware that this is where you are at.

But what worries me with the owner-operator mindset is that Fliss, like so many other owner-operators, will wake up one day and won’t want to do it anymore. As much as she loves designing dresses, something will happen that changes her ability to live off its income, for health reasons or, more likely, because she’s lost the passion for it. The danger of not having a plan to sell is that she can end up with a business worth nothing to anyone else, meaning she’s stuck with it. What will she do for income when her desire or ability to make dresses is no longer there?

The freedom mindset

Let’s look at situations of these two friends. Why did Julie go one route and Fliss go another? The key difference was the mindset.

One knew she wanted a business she could sell and create a lifestyle where she never had to worry about money again. The other wanted to make pretty clothes. They both made their choice; probably without even realising they had done so. Fliss chose to employ herself in a job she enjoyed. She did not choose to build a business.

We make choices every day. The most important choice is one you may not have given much thought to – until now. Are you choosing to build a business that will pay you back or are you choosing to work for a living?

My book Liber8 your Business explores this question at length and gives you a practical 8 step process to follow if you decide that financial freedom in the future is something worth working for.

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

6 reasons why business is like golf

golfTalking to a client today about how tiring her month had been with a roller coaster of ups and downs and good and bad, I found myself talking to her about my golf recently and how I was enjoying the ups and downs of it all.  It occurred to me that business and golf are similar in many ways. Here are just six reasons why owning your own business is like playing golf:

1.  You have to be passionate about it and it takes up a lot of your time.

2.  You can just get started anytime you like with no professional help, but you quickly discover that a bit of guidance is a really good idea

3. You won’t get any better at it if you don’t keep playing the game – practice, practice, practice!

4. One day everything will be brilliant and you’ll know exactly why you love it

5.  The next day it will all turn to s**t and you’ll want to give it up forever

6.  You can aim for the hole in one, but small consistent steps can win the game

And here’s one major difference:

With golf you need little balls. With business you need….

Enjoy the game!

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From the desk of Liber8me. Business mentors and author of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

What’s the best weapon for world domination in business? A brilliantly simple tip…

DictaphoneCylinderGuest story with Mike Brunel

How did we take a small Wellington based radio sales consultancy business and turn it into a global success story servicing 400 worldwide markets and selling to 320,000 people?  It all started with a Dictaphone. In the early days we worked out that we could show radio media companies how to move advertisers from a small two week campaign into a 52 week commitment.  I watched my business partner in action and realised that he always did the same thing.  He said the same words, made the same offers and got the same results.  I spent a week watching him, recording him and taking notes.  I created a sales system around what we did, with manuals clearly outlining every single word and action taken.  We then packaged up the system and began selling it to other media companies… all around the world.  In effect we turned a commodity into a system.  Now my business partners and I live in Wellington, our CEO is in Atlanta and we have offices in four different countries… all doing things exactly the way we would.

And so my tip for business owners who want to decrease reliance on you and create a leveraged business is to take time to document exactly what you do.  Use the microphone app on your iphone/android and record yourself as you go about your day… every single little thing that you do and say. Then get it transcribed and turn it into a manual… paper or computer based, whatever works for you.  It may seem laborious – and it is – but this is ultimately what will set you free.  Turn what you do well into a system.  Then train others to use it.

Mike Brunel is co-owner of NRS Media, currently working with over 400 major television, radio, and newspaper companies in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Europe, the United States, South America, Canada, South Africa, the African continent, Australia, and Asia, NRS Media has offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto, and Sydney and employs over 175 staff. Mike is available for sales training and consultations, email mike.brunel@talkingmediasales.com

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free

What’s the number one thing to consider if you ever want to sell your business?

soldIf you are serious about selling your business one day, it’s important to have a good idea who might want to buy it. Imagine spending 10 years building a business you intend to sell only to realise you have created something nobody wants to buy. If you build a business with a buyer in mind, you have a much better chance of building something they really want.

A potential buyer could be a larger player in your industry looking to grow through acquisition. This growth might be regional – they want a presence in your city or town and it’s easier to buy you than start from scratch. It might be strategic – you have a smart product or service they could add to their existing infrastructure – for example, a large accounting firm buying a small book-keeping firm to add value to their client base. Your service or product could become a ‘nuisance’ to a competitor and they buy your company to prevent it competing or to regain lost revenues. It could be a management buy-out, when senior employees raise the funds to buy you out. It could be a competitor of a similar size wanting to grow and willing to invest to gain rapid growth through acquisition. Another type of buyer could be a private equity group or even an individual who sees great potential in what you’ve built.

I’ve sold businesses to two types of buyer. A multinational bought my advertising agency and a local competitor bought my pet care company. My father’s photocopier business sold to his senior management team.

So who might want to buy your business? What are you building that could add huge value to someone’s offering? Now is the time to start thinking about these things.

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary planning technique that will set every business owner free

To achieve a successful exit, it helps to view your business as a product…

man in jarA successful angel investor friend explained to me the concept of exit strategy like this:

To achieve a successful exit, it helps to view your business as a product. A good business person empathises with their customer and understands their reasons for buying your product. You know what need your product fulfils in the market and who will want to buy it. You use your expertise and experience to create the best possible product to meet this need. You build a relationship with potential customers with a view to making sales.

Now, step back and look at your business as a product. Why would someone want to buy your business in the future? Which companies could take your business and create more value with it? What needs do they have that your business could fulfil? How could you build your business to make it easy for them to acquire and integrate it with theirs? This is your market and selling proposition. And just as it takes time to build a customer base for your product, it takes time to build a relationship with your potential buyer. So start now.

Excerpt from Liber8 your Business: The revolutinary business planning technique that will set every business owner free

Here’s to a successful exit!

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The 9 big DON’TS if you want to successfully grow your business

no entryEveryone is always telling you what you should do to be successful in business.  I thought for a change, I’d tell you (based on my own bitter/sweet experiences) some of the things you really shouldn’t do.  Here are my top nine DON’TS when it comes to being successful in business:

1. DON’T start or continue a business with no idea of why what you offer is needed and wanted.  Find your niche, be sure people want what you have and have a plan for how you will grow this business into the future.

2. DON’T believe you are the only one who can do what you do as well as you do. No matter what you do, no matter how specialized it is… there will be others out there who can be trained to do it just as well as you… if not better.  Get your ego out of the way.  Or you will become your business’s biggest liability when it comes to growth.

3. DON’T be afraid to hire people.  You cannot do it alone.  No one will ever buy a business that is dependent on its owner.  You must build a team around you.  This is, however, one of the most challenging aspects of business and most small business owner often make a complete mess of it to start with.  Which leads us to DON’T number 4…

4. DON’T do your own HR.  Most business owners are better leaders than they are managers.  You can probably inspire people to want to work for you with your vision, your passion and great ideas.  But an employee will never share the same level of passion as you, no matter how good they are at their job.  Get an expert (HR consultant) to get the right tools and processes in place to motivate your team and manage their performance effectively.

5.  DON’T try to grow too fast.  You need people – but you need to know you can afford them first.  Make sure there is enough forward cash flow in the business first – don’t hire them hoping the business will miraculously appear out of nowhere to pay for them.

6. DON’T ever believe that doing the work is more important than selling the work.  Learn to do the IN/OUT dance – make the out there selling part of your job as important as the in there doing.  You must have a sales pipeline in place at all times, always thinking about where your income is coming from next.

7. DON’T try to run a business without a budget.  Business is a financial game, and you must lead with the numbers.  Project your sales, set your expenses – have a plan to achieve these and then make the plan happen.  Lead with the numbers.  Create strategies to achieve financial targets and take action.

8. DON’T try to do it on your own.  Business can be a very lonely game.  Especially in the early days when you are doing everything.  Even if you have a business partner or management team, it’s too easy to be introspective and talk yourselves into believing what you are doing is right.  Get an external perspective on your business right from the start – a mentor, advisor, Board, Advisory Board… someone who will challenge your strategies and hold you accountable to your goals.

9.  DON’T let the bastards grind you down!  There is an extremely high probability that at some stage during the life cycle of your business you will want to quit.  You will hate your clients, hate your staff, hate your suppliers and maybe even hate yourself for putting up with all their crap.  You will have days like these.  I call them duvet days.  Go home, pull the blankets over your head and hide.  But come out fighting again the next day, because as I saw on a billboard once:  “I’m not saying it will be easy, I’m saying it will be worth it”.

Hope you liked this blog post.  Now DON’T be shy… share your comments below, let’s get talking about the DO’s and DON’Ts of business success!

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Brought to you by Liber8me.  Business Mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business:  The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every business owner free.

Do you have the right mindset to be successful, rich and free? Rate your freedom mindset here…

welcome to financial freedomAs part of my Liber8me business mentoring programmes, I spend time interviewing successful business people. My key criteria for selecting an interview subject is that the person must have built and sold at least one successful business, which has created wealth and freedom of choice for them. I ask what they believe are the key traits that have made them successful. A pattern has emerged as all interviewees mention similar traits. Ten traits stood out and I believe form the foundation of the Freedom Mindset.

Each of the ten traits is list below with a score against them.  It’s time to take the test. Grade yourself on a score of 1 to 5, where 1 means ‘not at all’ and 5 means ‘totally got it nailed’, against each of the traits. Don’t feel you have to be close to a 5 score to be successful. This is a reality check to identify the areas you will need to work on as you build your business and your path to financial freedom.

1. Vision. Rate the clarity of the vision you have for your business when it is complete and you’ve created financial freedom from it.

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

2. Self-belief. Rate your confidence in your ability to build a business that will generate great wealth and freedom for you.

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

3. Passion. Rate your passion for your business

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

 4. Being goal-orientated. Rate the clarity of the goals you have set for your business

1                      2                      3                      4                     5

5. Planning. Rate your current plan for a business that will feed you wealth

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

6. Being action-focussed. Rate your ability to take action as needed.

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

7. Determination. How do you rate your determination to succeed?

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

8. Willingness to fail. How would you rate your willingness to learn from failures?

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

9.Being wealth positive. How would you rate your willingness to be very wealthy?

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

10. Giving back. Rate your desire to make a difference through your business

1                      2                      3                      4                      5

Review your scores for each of the 10 traits. In which areas do you already feel strong? Which areas do you need to work on? Keep these in mind as you continue to work on your building your business and your success.

Good luck!

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The above is an excerpt from my book Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free. Available now on Amazon.

Why are customer surveys so important? And how do you do them properly?

survey workI’ve recommended to three different clients in the past week that they undertake a client and prospect survey to find out what’s really going on with their business.  Each of these clients has different challenges but each will be able to make better decisions by asking the people they are trying to reach.

I was in the advertising industry for over 20 years and the most effective work we ever did for clients came out of insights we had gained from understanding their customers and potential customers.  When I ran my own agency, we would always start a new campaign by talking to both existing customers and potential customers.  We would base our advertising messages on what they told us…. more so than on what the client told us about their business.

Today I am still a huge believer in the power of talking to your customers on a regular basis.

Why and when should you do a customer survey

  • To learn more about customer purchasing and spending habits, and how they are utilizing competitor products – so you can be sure you are positioning your product and marketing in the most appealing way
  • To build a more detailed customer profile for future marketing campaigns – who are your hot clients, what do they want and where can you find more of them?
  • To further define a clear point of difference – what is that you do that your customers love, and why do they choose you over the competition?
  • To learn what frustrates your customers about your industry and how can you package your offering to provide the best solution to this
  • To assist with brand development – if you are undergoing branding work, you can build better strategies with customer insights
  • For new product development – before you spend money building something, make sure it is needed and wanted by matching it against client/prospect needs
  • To find out why clients are not referring others, even with very good incentives to do so

How do you go about it?

I’ve just published a report called ‘Customer Insights: Developing valuable insights for marketing and product development’, which outlines the steps to take and the types of questions you should ask.

You can download it at www.liber8yourbusiness.com/tools

Research is a really important part of product development and positioning so do check it out, and let me know if you have any questions at laura@liber8me.com

Good luck

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From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business, the revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free.

Can describe your business in one word? Take the challenge here…

freedomHere’s an interesting question: What’s the one word that sums up what you and your business are all about?

A client asked me this question why we were working together yesterday.  I had to pause for a moment.  But only for a moment mind you.  The first word that popped out of my mind for me was ‘Vision’.  I followed this up with a quick explanation.  liber8yourbusiness helps people get clear what their vision for the future looks like, and then build a plan to get there.   Which brings me back to one of my favourite sayings:

“If you don’t know where you are going, how will you know when you get there?”

The other word I wanted to say was ‘freedom’.  My purpose on the planet is to help people create a free and happy life.  Which leads to another of my favourite sayings:

“The purpose of a business is to set the owner free”

So what is it for you?  What one word describes the purpose you and your business fulfil on the planet?

Ask yourself the question and now… immediately… write down the first answer that pops into your head.

Take a good look at it.  What did you say and why did you say it?  How clear can you really get on the true purpose of your business?  Clarity of purpose is one of the most empowering tools of business success.  Take the challenge now… and let me know how you get on.

Love to hear what your one word is and why.

Be free

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From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8yourBusiness:  The revolutionary planning technique that will set every business owners free.

How to impress the world in 5 minutes… getting clear on your business ‘platform’

soaring eagle“What is your platform?”

This is the question I’ve been asking my small business clients recently. But what do I mean?

Here’s an imaginary scenario to help explain:

Imagine you are on a plane with 20 other business owners in the same industry as you, selling products or services in a similar genre to yours.  Your destination is an airport in a country with a massive potential market for your product.  Greeting you all at the airport is the CEO of the largest global company in your industry.  His brief is to acquire a small company he believes has the most potential for growth.  When you get off the plane you firstly have to make the short list by waving a placard that will make him pick you.  Everyone else will be waving a placard too.  He’s only allowed to pick five.  What will your placard say?  What is the message you have to take to the world?  What are you and your business there to champion on a world stage? 

 If you are selected to the short list you will have five minutes to present your business and convince him to buy you.  He wants to know why your product or service is better than the rest.  He wants to know why he should pick your business.  What are you going to tell him?  Remember, your main competitors are also presenting their case.  Why is yours so different?  Why are you so passionate about this?  What is it you really have to say to him?

Now bring yourself back to today and ask yourself the same questions.  What is it that you are really about?  What is your message to the world (or your Country) and why is your offering so important?  Why? Why? Why?

Forget about what you are selling for a moment and focus on why it is needed.  And what makes it better and different from all the others in your space.

This message to the world is your platform.  This is the why behind your business…. the wind beneath your wings.  (Sorry, but I do feel a Bette Midler moment coming on here because this is about emotion… being a hero, flying higher than an eagle, touching the sky…)  With a business you have an opportunity to do something meaningful and to create change in the world around you.  It doesn’t have to be what you sell that makes the difference, it can be the way you go about it.   Whatever you are selling, you will sell a whole lot more if you are clear on your platform. You will have something meaningful to say and people will want to listen.

And on that note I’ll leave you with another lyric that’s bouncing round my head:

‘You’re the voice try and understand it, make the noise and make it clear…’

Make it happen

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From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 Your Business: The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free