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.

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’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 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

Want to create a business success story? Learn to see the future

fortune teller

I’ve interviewed many wealthy entrepreneurs as part of my mentoring programmes, always seeking to find out what makes them so successful.  How do they build businesses that achieve such growth and generate such great financial returns?  The number one trait that comes through without exception is their ability to look into the future and see what their business looks like five, ten or fifteen years out.  Successful business people have a really clear picture of their business when it’s ‘complete’, they can see where it is all heading.  Rarely do they start a business without a clear idea of where they will take it.  They do not randomly wander into business, nor randomly wander out or give up when it gets too hard or they run out of money.  Successful entrepreneurs know where they are going.

One of the first things a successful entrepreneur will do is create a vision for their business that is set firmly in the future.  They are very clear that the business is separate from them and as such it must have a reason for being that is bigger and more inspirational than the owner/s of the business.  When I started my advertising agency I knew it needed a higher purpose, something clearly articulated that would attract clients and talented staff and give us something to strive for.  We set out to ‘change the face of our industry by setting a new benchmark for agency service and quality of results’.   This vision for our future kept us focused and ultimately created the success that attracted a multi-national company to want to buy us.

What is your vision for the future of your business?

There are only two reasons to be in business. Do you know what they are?

world arrowAccording to Dun & Bradstreet* reports, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have a 37% chance of surviving four years and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.” 

I believe that the primary cause of these staggering statistics is that too many people go into business for the wrong reasons.

For me, there are only two reasons why you would start a business: firstly to make money and secondly to make a difference.

Making Money

Business is a financial game.  People who are very good at business understand that business is all about delivering returns to the shareholders.  As the Director and CEO of your own business you have a fiduciary duty to yourself as a shareholder to build a business that delivers maximum returns to you.  To look at it any other way is letting emotions get ahead of business.

Making a difference

And yet a business that cares only about money is a business without a soul. Your business is also there to fulfil a purpose, to add value and make a difference to the lives it touches, whether those people are customers, employees or beneficiaries of the higher purpose your business serves.

There is a fun irony to this concept if you can really grasp it.  If your business is truly focused on making a real difference to as many people as possible, you will attract more people to you.  The more people you attract, the more successful you become and the more people you make a difference to.  It’s a wonderful win/win concept.

Combine the concepts of making money and making a difference and you will build a business that will not only make you rich, but make you feel like a million dollars too!

Are you in business for the right reasons?

I hope so!

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*Dun & Bradstreet is a public company that licenses information on businesses and corporations for use in credit decisions, business-to-business marketing and supply chain management. D & B maintains information on more than 205 million companies worldwide. 

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

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.

Tired of being tired? Here are 3 steps to overcome business fatigue.

tiredI talk with small business owners every day and there are two words I hear all the time:  “busy” and “exhausted”.   It’s a common ailment of the business owner operator.  I’m sure you know how it feels.

So how can you look after yourself and try to minimize that feeling of overwhelm that sometimes feels like it will consume you?  Here are three strategies I’ve found useful…

  1. Schedule ‘time out days’ in advance. Make sure you keep a calendar that shows a month at a glance.  Look at your calendar for the next 6 months and see where you can find two whole days that you could take off each month.  They don’t have to be consecutive.  If you can’t see two days, then juggle things around.  Shift appointments onto other days.  This is a discipline and a habit.  I schedule the first week of every month ‘off’. I have no appointments during this week and I won’t allow any to be scheduled for me.  If this means I have some pretty crazy days during the rest of the month, so be it.   Once you have these days scheduled let your team, clients and suppliers (or anyone else who might want a piece of you) that you will not be available on these days.
  2. Plan how you will use your time out days.  Remember the purpose of these days is to help you with those feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.  However, if you are anything like me then you won’t be able to just lie down for the day.  Your brain will be too busy thinking and worrying and going over every little thing that you should be doing.  The guilt will get the better of you and you will be on the phone or answering emails before you know it! So rather than take the time ‘off’, take the time ‘out’ and use it to work on your long term planning and strategies.  Or to write that blog you’ve been meaning to write.  Or to catch up on some important reading that you never have time for.  Use the time constructively but with relish and gusto.  Enjoy being productive rather than busy.  Believe me, it will re-energize you as much as a day at the beach!
  3. Plan your to do’s a week in advance.  A business owner’s to do list is a scary thing and more likely to keep you awake at night than any monster under the bed.  The overwhelm you often feel comes from a sense of being out of control. This happens when the to do list gets longer than the hours in the day and starts to encroach into your personal space in an unhealthy way (you know what I mean don’t you?).   My personal discipline to help combat this involves getting up extra early on a Monday morning (I can’t bring myself to sacrifice my Sunday evening) to map out my to do’s across the week.  I use a paper diary (shock horror!) to do this.  Once I’ve put my appointments in for the week (taken from my online diary) I then spread my to dos across each day, taking into account what else I have on that day.  On days that are quite full I give myself less other items to do and on quiet days I make the to do list longer.  Of course I prioritize them by importance and urgency as I go too.  If my to do list is looking particularly ominous for the week then I won’t allow any other appointments to be booked in.  I make a conscious decision to put my health and well being first at this point.  And note:  my running and yoga times are already scheduled in the diary for the week and are not to be moved.

It does help to know that you are not alone in the feelings of overwhelm and exhaustion.   Many before you have trodden that lonely and sometimes depressing path.  Most survive and as your business grows and  you build a good team around you, it improves I promise.

In the meantime, try my three steps and let me know how it goes.  I’d love to hear of any suggestions you have for managing the busy side of business too.  Share them here and I’ll pass them on to other business owners out there.

Be kind to yourself

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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 business owner free 

What is the single most important question every business owner should ask? Find out here…

bula fiji macBula from Fiji!  I’m enjoying a quick solo break, just to re-charge my batteries (which by the way is something every business owner should do on a regular basis… even if you don’t have time – no wait, especially if you don’t have time).

On my ride from Nadi airport to my hotel I met a lovely Fijian called Junior.  We got chatting about business.  Junior is about to start a new venture with an Australian business partner.  It’s a tour guide business.  They plan to have a fleet of vans to take tourists around the island, visiting the sights.  When he heard that I was a business mentor and soon to be author, he asked me what I thought of his business idea.  So naturally I asked him some questions.

Firstly, how many other tour guides are doing this?  The answer was ‘many, many’.

And then, what will make your business different?  What will make you special?  The answer was a long pause.  Followed by a question back to me:  ‘what do you mean?’

I re-worded my question for him.  Why would someone want to choose your business over all the other choices they have?

And that, my friends, is the single most important question every business owner should ask.

Junior had identified the need.  Tourists want to see the island and they need a guide.  He recognized it was a crowded market.  But had he considered how he’d get people to choose his business over his competition?  When pressed to think about it Junior told me he would offer the best service at the most affordable price.  This would be his point of difference.

At this stage we pulled up outside my hotel, so I didn’t get to question Junior further.  We exchanged business cards and I wished him well.  I walked away full of admiration for Junior’s entrepreneurial spirit and courage, as I always am when I meet someone about to embark on a new business venture.

But I do hope he thinks more about the critical question I asked him.  In the answer to it can be found the difference between an average business and an exceptional one, which will blow the others out of the water.

Have you asked yourself this question lately?  If not, do it now. Grab your team, grab a white board or a big pad of paper and start that all important quest for the singular point of difference that will stand you out from the crowd.

I’ll write more on this soon, it’s that important.  In the meantime, if you are up for more challenging questions, download my business health check – it will get you thinking!

And don’t forget my book Liber8 Your Business will be out soon… find out more here.

Bula for now!

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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.  

Why the best business people fail… and how you can be a successful failure too

failureYou might think failure doesn’t enter the vocabulary of successful people. But willingness to fail is a key criterion for success. Here’s an unavoidable truth about business – you’re going to fail in your business at some stage. You will probably do some really dumb things and at times you may feel like an idiot. You could make bad decisions, decisions that cost you money. You might make poor employment decisions or lousy client decisions. Failure is guaranteed. What’s important is having the ability to pick yourself up and say, ‘That was stupid, I feel like a fool, but what have I learned?’ Successful people learn from their mistakes and carry on.

I love the story about IBM from the 1960s. A manager made a decision that lost the company $10 million. He was summoned to the office of the CEO, Tom Watson. When asked why he’d been called there, the manager said, ‘So you can fire me.’ Watson replied, ‘Fire you? Of course I’m not going to fire you. I’ve just spent $10 million educating you!’

All business people fail at something at some stage. The smart ones learn and use the experience to their advantage next time.

So next time you think you won’t do something important in case you fail… remember Michael Jordan’s famous quote:  “I can accept failure, but I can’t accept not trying”.  And get out there… do it!

This was an excerpt from Liber8 Your Business – The revolutionary business planning technique that will set every small business owner free.  Pre-order your copy here.