If you can’t be a billionaire why bother? Does every small business owner have to be the next Richard Branson?

richard bransonI had an interesting debate on Linked In recently after I posted my blog “Some frightening statistics about small business” onto a discussion group.  I thought my point was that if more small business owner operators were inspired and equipped to grow a valuable asset rather than settle for a low paying job, our economy would be better off – and a whole bunch of people would retire with enough wealth to lead a life of freedom, instead of having to panic when they get too old to keep doing that job any more.

The debate that raged on Linked In seemed to be between me and a strong school of thought that believes if you don’t have the potential to be the next Rod Drury (CEO of Xero) or Richard Branson then you should not have aspirations to grow.  “Leave them alone” the argument went – let the small thinkers stay small and let’s put our energies into the big thinkers who will be the next global dominators.  This is where the real gains are to be made.

Sorry I can’t do it.  For every small thinker I can help become a bigger thinker, I will feel my work is worthwhile.  Between the billion dollar global business and the solo operator plumber there are a myriad of other business types, sizes, aspirations and dreams.  My work is to encourage others to see their business as a potentially valuable asset, not just a job. It could be a desire to build a business that generates $60k per annum passive income, or a $100,000 sale.  Or $500,000 sale, or $3 million or $10 million.  Or $100 million.  I don’t put a judgement on the size of someone’s business or the size of their dream.  I just want people to be aware that they have choice.  To choose the easy road now and not think about building something of value as you go will inevitably lead to a road that’s harder down the track.  To choose a harder road now and learn to build something greater than a job for yourself, will increase your chances of a life of freedom down the track.

I just want to give people more choices through education and inspiration.  Not every owner operator wants to grow of course.  That’s fine, let them work out their retirement their own way, sure.  But some do and don’t know how, some lack confidence, some lack knowledge.  My mission is to provide the motivation and then the tools to give small business owners a better chance at creating value.

So to all small business people who don’t aim to take on the world, but want to make a difference to their lives, their families and their communities.  Rock on.  I won’t leave you alone.

Thanks for listening to my rant!

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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 causes customers to leave you?

leavingWhy do customers leave?

Guest blog by Mike Brunel.

I am continually asked why my advertisers leave me after a few campaigns. I do not think for one moment that has not happened to you. It has me, several times, and every time it does I learn something.

As a business owner why do your clients leave you? Do you know?

It actually stings quite a bit; you are just getting to know them when they stop returning your calls, completely ignoring you.

Here is a typical scenario that often happens. You work on a client for a few months and finally they toss you a little order or money. If you have done your job well, you might get some more.

No one returns your calls

Over time you get to sell them more products and services. Things seem to be going along swimmingly. Then all of a sudden, they do not return your calls. You try to call them a few times. SILENCE.

What have you done? They liked you; they seemed to be getting results from your product.

So, what have you done wrong? What did you do?

It’s not what you think; Here are some tips you might find useful if this happens to you.

Solve the problem before it starts.

  1. These days customers like to be advised. If you start giving them everything they want, they will not take you seriously.
  2. Don’t be like all the others companies who sell similar products. If you really want to partner with them, do crazy things once in a while. Don’t be boring. Push them a little. Be a marketer.
  3. Find out early in the relationship what their interests are outside of work and do all the research you can about the topic. This gives you something else to talk about, and helps build trust.

Finally, if you get the “vibe” that this might not work, be up front with them and say “Hey, I do not think this is working.”

It just might be the tonic to get them thinking a little about your relationship.

“They will spend one day, I promise.”

That is like saying, “That girl will go out with me one day.” Sometimes it can be painful, but you are better off working with the customers that you know will be of benefit to you, and not go after clients that you have no show of getting.

Mike Brunel is partner in NRS Media, the world’s leading provider of Revenue Growth Solutions and Customer Acquisition programs to media companies.  The company has offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto and Sydney and employs more than 175 staff.  Mike teaches people how to sell… he loves it with a passion!

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary 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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Your business is like a shed! A lesson in successful business planning …

shed picHere’s something I tell business owners all the time… “your business is like a shed”.

Whaaaat??!!

Read on for the explanation…

If I asked you to build a shed, what would you do?  You would do what you do with any project, right?  You’d get a picture of what the shed is supposed to look like. You’d look at the plans and follow the instructions.  You’d get the right tools ready and you might even find someone else to help you build it, someone with better expertise in this type of construction.

The key distinction here is when you’re building a shed you know what it looks like, it’s a project.  And a business is a project too, albeit a fairly long one. It’s not something that’s going to go on forever. It’s going to have an end.  Just like any project, if you know what the end looks like you can devise the plan to get there.  It’s a simple concept really but so many people don’t start a business that way.  The majority start a business with no idea where it’s going.   As a result a lot of valuable time is lost following strategies and tactics that are not leading to the ultimate goal… to build a business that works without YOU.

So get your picture clear.  What does your shed look like?  When your business fulfils all of your dreams for it, what makes it so amazing?  Who are your customers?  What is your team like?  What does your office look like?  What’s so special about it?  Why do people love working there?  What makes it irresistible to clients and team members alike?  What makes your business a head and shoulders above the rest?

The clearer the picture of your future business you have, the better your chance of building it just like that.  

Liber8ing Exercise for today:  Spend 15 minutes with a blank sheet of paper and draw a picture (with words or diagrams) of what your business might look like in 5 or 1o years time.  Then think about the tools you might need to get on board today to help get there.

Have fun!

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PS.  For more guidance on creating a clear end picture for your business, my book Liber8 your Business offers a step by step guide

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

5 critical success factors for a future business sale… what every small business owner should be thinking about right now

soldBusinesses do not typically sell by accident.  The owners that end up selling their business for a significant amount of money have usually been preparing for that day for some time.  You don’t have to be thinking about selling your business any time soon to start planning now for the day when you might want to.  If you consider the following five things, you will be in good shape when the big day finally arrives…

1. Set your end goal. Decide how much you want to sell it for and by when, and work backwards. You’ll find a tool to help you work this out at www.liber8yourbusiness.com/tools.

2. Name your buyer. It’s important to have a good idea who might want to buy your business in your early planning. Imagine spending 10 years building a business you intend to sell only to realize 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 to create additional revenue streams. An example of this might be 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 (read more on a strategy called ‘kicking sand in the gorilla’s face’ in my book, Liber8 your Business) 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. 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. A good friend has built three recruitment agencies. The first sold to one of the original partners, who bought out the other partners. The second sold to a multinational looking for regional representation in her city. The third is in its early days of growth and I’ll watch with interest who buys it (I have no doubt it will sell because I know the founders expect this and will build with this in mind). Another type of buyer could be a private equity group or even an individual who sees great potential in what you’ve built.

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.

3. Remove the dependence on you. To make your business attractive to your future buyer, it cannot be dependent on you. That’s a key message I want you to learn:

No one will outright buy a business that’s dependent on its owner.

If the buyer takes you out of the picture and no business remains, they will either insist you stay in the business or they will walk away. So whatever your strategy is, whatever your end goal, whatever that picture is of your shed or your man on the moon … it needs to not have you in it. I did that at my agency by making sure the clients loved the business but weren’t dependent on me. In the last few years, I hired two senior guys and put them in charge of our biggest clients, so my buyer could see the clients were not reliant on me.

4. Start building a team as soon as you can. I couldn’t afford to bring in those big guns until later in my business growth. I started by hiring people I could afford, with a couple of youngsters straight from college. I trained them to do things exactly the way I wanted. I call it ‘training your clones’. I kept building my team that way until we could afford to hire more senior people. And then we had to make sure we had a really strong culture to manage senior people.

5. Secure future earnings. Getting all our key clients on fixed-term contracts was another critical strategy that worked. They all had two or three year contracts so when the buyer looked at my business they saw a high level of spend committed for the next three years. This was an important lesson I learned from my businessman father. Remember I told you about his photocopier business and how he sold it and retired soon after his fiftieth birthday? One of the best secrets to success he shared with me was, ‘you’ve got to have a back end.’ To explain, he gave the example of his own business. While the sale or lease of each copier was worth a lot of money (especially in the 1970s when these huge machines were a relatively new addition to business productivity) the real value came from the additional contract that went with each machine. This locked the customer into buying all their ink, toner and paper for the life of the machine, as well as regular paid servicing – which meant that, for every machine sold, my father had income guaranteed for the next 10 years, enabling him to predict with complete accuracy his future income. You can see why this made by father’s business attractive for a buyer. They could see a guaranteed return on their investment. It made sense to me when I started my own business, and I hope it does to you too. It will get you a higher price when you come to sell!

A business with committed future revenue that is not dependent on its owner to deliver that revenue is a business worth investing in.

Hope these five things have given you something to think about.  Good luck!

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

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.

Winners have a strong brand. Do you? A lesson on branding from The X Factor USA

x-factorI’ve been trying to explain the importance of branding to people all year and then recently I watched the final of The X Factor USA and I saw the power of brand building in action… in a way I think will help people understand.

The three finalists had each been working hard on their personal brand the entire competition:

Carlito-Olivero-The-X-FactorCarlito Olivero is a Hispanic competitor from the Bronx who has been an underdog all the way, even ending up in the bottom two twice.  Every week he tells America that he’s a fighter.  He tells them he’s come from the gutter, and he’s going to work hard and fight his way to the top.  This is his brand.  This is what he stands for.  And we all love a fighter.

jeff guttJeff Gutt is a single dad who is inspired by his three year old son.  He was depressed and gave up music until his son came along. He needs to win for his son.  We’ve all bought into his story.  He stands for sacrifice, determination and parenthood.  He stands for hope. He’s a father. That’s his brand.  We are routing for him to win for his son.

alex and sierraAlex and Sierra are the beautiful young couple who are madly in love.  They are the lovers of the competition. They both have wonderful voices and sing into each other’s eyes week on week.  They stand for love.  That’s their brand.  Love.  And who doesn’t want to believe in love?

Do you see what I’m saying here?  In the X Factor the winner is chosen by the vote of several million viewers.  But it’s not just about the singing. The good contestants have not just demonstrated their talent.  They have also shown us what they stand for.  We have fallen for their story and what the values they represent to us.  We have an emotional connection to what they are about not just what they do.

In the real world (because we can’t all be X Factor stars), your brand is what your business stands for, not just your product or service.  You have to sell an emotional connection.

In the X Factor final, love won the day.  What does your brand stand for that will make you a winner in your world?

Best,

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PS  You can read more about the power of branding in my book Liber8 your Business.  Available on Amazon right now.

 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.

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.