Know Your Numbers

Now more than ever, businesses need to be aware of their own numbers. There have been many claims of ‘green shoots of recovery’ in the past only for more hard times to be just around the corner. Business owners need to have the finger on the pulse of their own business and look at recovery in their own terms – rather than believing generalised press articles and making expenditure decisions based on media hype.

One challenge which is likely to come up is a sudden fluidity in the job market. Many employees have been staying in jobs they would have previously left – keeping their heads down and being glad of any job in a recession. As signs of recovery become stronger, many employees who’ve been biding their time will look to move on.

This could have a significant impact on smaller employers who were looking at a bright exit from the recession and suddenly find themselves hit with the disruption of a reduced workforce and the unforeseen cost of replacing leavers – the combination of which could send more small businesses over the edge.

So a smart business will either be planning for that cost or working to avoid it. That can be done in one of two ways – taking the opportunity to outsource that particular job function – which is feasible if it isn’t the core business activity; or ensuring their company is such a great place to work that employees aren’t tempted away in the first place.

What’s Done is Done

As yet another busy week flies by – and best laid plans of progressing certain projects fall by the wayside as a constant stream of emergencies and distractions divert your attention and resources – it’s easy to get to the end of the week and feel you’ve accomplished nothing.

To Do lists and Goal lists are essential but sometimes life has a way of sending us off in crazy directions and it’s easy to forget that while we didn’t cross items off our lists, we actually achieved a whole lot of other stuff.

So as well as having a To Do List, think about writing down what you actually did as well as a way of recognising your achievements.

Another important factor is Celebration.

So often when we do achieve something, we just tick it off the list and move onto the next item without pausing to reflect and celebrate.

Watch any football match, from the Premier League down to kids in the park and you will see the team that has just scored a goal take time out to celebrate. Yes, there’s only 90 minutes of play in the game but they take a few precious seconds to celebrate a goal before continuing with the match.

The act of celebrating an achievement gives it significance, it reinforces it as a positive experience in our mind and in our psyche. The Law of Attraction states that we get what we focus on. So giving attention to our achievements, however small, sets the wheels of the universe in motion to drive us towards more success, just as staring at our unachieved To Do list with a feeling of failure is likely to have us focusing on, and therefore receiving, more failure.

I find that even in what we think of as failures there is a success to be found, recognised and celebrated. Instead of focusing on the failure, search for the achievement, the success it contains.

It is said that Thomas Edison had almost a thousand failed prototypes for the light bulb. His view of each of these was that he’d succeeded in finding another way NOT to make a light bulb.

Isn’t that so much more powerful?

Word of Mouth Marketing

I contributed to a discussion on a business networking forum the other day. A fellow member was considering setting up a referral programme to win new clients but had heard there were pitfalls and wanted some opinions.

Having written a long reply (as usual ūüôā ) I thought I’d write a post for my blog on the subject (thereby following one of my pet philosophies of ‘create once, use many times’!)

I think referrals are becoming an increasingly important aspect of marketing and new customer acquisition.

The rise of social media, coupled with a growing mistrust of both officialdom and advertising, mean that people are increasingly making their buying decisions based on the opinions and recommendations of their friends and trusted contacts.

For any referral programme to succeed it has to be easy – both for the referrer to make the recommendation and for the company to manage the reward that follows.

There are many different types of referral system and depending on the nature of your business and your revenue model, some may be more suitable than others.

Delivering a great product or service at a great price to your customers naturally means that many of them will recommend you without needing any reward or incentive to do so – you just need to encourage them to do that. “If you enjoyed your meal tell your friends, if you didn’t – tell us” is often seen in restaurants. Adding social media share and like buttons to your website is another great way of getting your existing customers and prospects to tell their friends about you.

Another kind of referral programme involves rewarding your existing customers by giving them discounted or free products and services. This could be a one off reward or you could have the amount increasing the more people they refer or the more business those referrals generate. Of course, you have to make sure the business gained generates enough revenue to cover the cost of delivery of the discounted/free rewards as well as improving your overall profitability – otherwise at best, there’s no point in running the scheme, or at worst it could be your quickest way to go out of business!

A third kind of referral programme involves rewarding existing customers by giving them rewards outside the scope of what you sell. These should have a high perceived value but a low cost of delivery. Examples may be vouchers for special offers at other businesses or retail outlets, bottles of wine and other luxury items.

That leads on to a fourth kind – cross referral between two complementary businesses. Rather than your customers referring clients to you, you refer your customers to a strategic partner and vice versa – e.g. the hairdressers gives a voucher for money off a manicure at the local beauty salon while the beauty salon gives a voucher for free cut with any colour treatment at the hairdressers.

Then there are affiliate programmes where the people referring business to you aren’t even customers necessarily. You pay them a percentage of the sale generated or a flat fee for each new client.

I’ve become an affiliate/referrer for quite a lot of the services I use on a day to day basis. I’m the kind of person who mentions great things I’ve found anyway, but receiving commission, discounts or freebies just adds a nice touch. Of course, my reputation is vital to me so I’m only ever going to recommend companies I respect and products/services I genuinely believe in.

So to summarise, a referral programme needs to create a win for everyone – you, the referrer and the new customer. It has to be easy for referrals to happen and easy for you to track them and reward the referrers.

So have you tried a referral scheme for your business? Has it worked well? What problems did you encounter? I’m planning more detailed articles in this area so it would be great to know what information might help you.

Oh and if you’ve enjoyed this article, why not share it with your friends!!

Business For Sale – One Carefree Owner

My friend, Richard Heathcote, recently announced the launch of a new aspect to his business.  And that announcement will have far-reaching effects on him and his business.

Richard is a voice-over artist, his mellifluous tones adding professionalism to adverts, documentaries, corporate videos and the like.¬† He’s brilliant at what he does – the problem is that, up until the other day, he had to do something in order to get paid.

Like so many experts, Richard has been providing his skills to his clients by exchanging his time for their money.¬† It’s a classic business model that is probably the most frequently adopted by new entrepreneurs – what am I good at doing that I can get paid for?¬† It comes about because most have worked previously as an employee, where the deal is you turn up and do stuff (or at least pretend to do stuff) and you get to take some money home with you.

But this model creates a number of problems:

  1. You can only work so many hours, therefore once that limit is reached you have to either charge more, or employ people to do more of what you do
  2. There will always be someone willing to exchange their time for less money than you are – so you can lose clients or have to reduce your fees to keep them
  3. Your business is unsellable

And that third point is a key one.¬† If money stops coming in when you stop doing stuff, then you don’t have a business you can sell. Equally you don’t have a business that can support you while you’re away on holiday or recovering from illness. At best you have a mailing list of clients that your competitors could probably get their hands on by other means.

If your business is purely about you exchanging your time for your clients’ money then you are the business – a prospective buyer would need you to come as part of the deal for the business to continue.¬† And my guess is you’d probably be wanting to sell either to retire, or to start a new venture, so working in your old business isn’t desirable or practical.¬†¬†¬† This is particularly true in Richard’s case as his clients not only buy a voice over artist – they buy his particular voice.

So what is the new aspect to Richard’s business that has changed everything?

He’s introduced some products.

Richard has created some downloadable pre-recorded standard messages for businesses to use on their telephone systems.¬† It may not sound like much but it has transformed Richard’s business.¬† He now has an element of his business that is no longer about exchanging his time for clients’ money.¬†

Having these messages available online means they can be earning for him 24¬†hours a day.¬† He’s leveraged a few minutes of his time and turned it into a passive income stream that will continue to pay him for years to come – and it’s very easy for him to grow those earnings – by expanding the library of messages or by increasing awareness of the existing ones.

It also means that Richard has a business that he can sell Рbecause that business now has assets other than him and his voice.  It also means he can go away on holiday (or heaven forbid, be ill) and still have an income.

So what products can you create in your business that will generate passive income – and transform your business into a saleable asset?

Gold Digger v Shovel Seller

California, USA, 1849 – there’s gold in them there hills and almost every man, woman and child capable of wielding a shovel or shaking a pan sets off to seek their fortune.

But what most failed to recognise is that there’s a reason gold is so valuable – it is rare.¬† With thousands of square miles to mine and hundreds of miles of streams to pan, the chances of staking a claim to the right patch of ground, and then actually finding the gold buried there were incredibly slim.¬† Yet still they rushed.

Meanwhile, a few savvy individuals recognised the bigger opportunity Рif all those people wanted to dig for gold, they were going to need the tools to do it.  So why not sell them to them?

And so while thousands lost rather than found their fortune, a handful of entrepreneurs figured out how to really make money out of the gold rush – by selling all the tools and equipment that the gold diggers needed.

So, when you look at your own business with an objective eye, are you digging for gold or are you selling shovels?  Are you doing all the hard graft or are you selling the enabling products and services so others can toil for themselves?

If the main income in your business involves you exchanging your time for money, I can pretty much guarantee that you are digging for gold.¬† Equally if you are the one taking all the risks, you’re probably digging for gold.

Here are some examples:

Gold Digging Shovel Selling
Recording songs and releasing records Running a website for musicians to sell their music
Being a photographer Running courses on how to take better photographs
Staging Homes for Sale Selling an e-course on how to start your own home staging business
Anything where you want people to pay you to do something for them Anything where you sell them your knowledge so they can do it themselves

Now there’s nothing wrong with a gold digging style business – as long as you understand that’s what you are doing and appreciate that you have to dig a lot of dirt before you hit gold, and that plenty of other people are also digging around you.

But transforming your business into selling shovels – or introducing an element of shovel selling – can have a significant impact on profitability, the ease with which you do business – and your overall lifestyle.

The Path to Wealth

Having attended a few property networking events last year, I was interested to see some puzzled looks from people when they discovered that, despite there being one of the best buying opportunities in UK property, I was not currently buying.

You would think that a renowned shopaholic like me would never miss out on the property equivalent of the Blue Cross Sale.¬† But I had chosen not to buy and with very good reason.¬† It’s the same reason why I have shifted my focus in the property industry from being an investor and landlord to being a consultant and agent – and why I’m undertaking other entrepreneurial ventures.
Continue reading “The Path to Wealth”

The Kid In The Candy Store

Choice Рone of the fundamental freedoms we all desire in our lives.  That sense of self determination, control perhaps.  We want to choose for ourselves, not have others dictate the content of our lives.

Yet, sometimes choice can become a burden rather than a freedom.¬† When we are surrounded by too many choices, we end up paralysed – unable to choose.¬† A restaurant menu that goes on for pages and pages, any tile shop these days with thousands of options, the Sky TV guide’s ever growing list of channels.¬† And for me at the moment¬†– the endless choice of themes for WordPress.¬† I thought getting this blog up and running would be a quick job but finding just the right theme from the thousands available is proving a timeconsuming task.

We¬†become the proverbial Kid In¬†The Candy¬†Store, who stares at an endless array of¬†jars of sweets completely enthralled by the wonder of it all, yet unable to choose what to spend¬†their few pennies on.¬† Fear sets in¬†– what if we make the wrong choice?¬† Not such a problem if we’re talking about which TV show to watch, a slightly expensive problem if we are selecting tiles but potentially¬†life changing if we are¬†making choices in¬†business, lifestyle or love.

Early 2008, as I became determined to climb out of the fur-lined rut that my life had¬†become, I asked the universe for lots of opportunities to do business.¬† As we are warned – “be careful what you wish for”.¬† The universe dutifully sent me lots of people with a broad range of products and services that I could promote in¬†exchange for commission and royalties (my¬†best route to wealth – I’ll¬†explain more in a later post).¬† But how could I work with them all?¬† Which one(s) should I choose, which should I turn down?¬† I became¬†that Kid In The Candy Store.¬† I dabbled around, tinkering with one then another and so failed to give any of them enough focus to succeed.

When I finally made a choice, the sense of commitment I felt to that choice drove me to action. There was a terrific sense of relief that all the other options no longer had any influence or power over me. By committing to something I had focused my energy and was able to achieve so much more as a result. As it turned out, that first choice didn’t bring me the success I had hoped for (perhaps another tale for another day) but I do not regret making it for an instant as what followed gave me some of the best learning experiences of my life.

Then there are times when choice is taken away from us¬† – or it seems to be.¬† I had been wanting to spend more time in Cyprus but kept finding myself stuck in the UK.¬† It seemed I had no choice – things just kept coming up to keep me there.¬† But actually I did have a choice.¬† I didn’t realise it but I was choosing to make those interruptions and obligations more important than my dream.¬† So on 27th December I got on a plane and went to Cyprus.¬† With no real plan of what was going to happen next – just a strong desire to be there, knowing that if I got there I would find a way of staying there.¬† I made a choice where it had seemed there had been none.

Sometimes we think we have to choose between option A and option¬†B, without realising that actually we can have both.¬† Perhaps we feel having both is too confusing, too difficult but then we are, without realising it, making another choice – we are choosing to believe we can’t rather than choosing to find a way so that we can.

There is also the question of how our beliefs, past experience and the¬†influence of others affects our ability to choose.¬† How many people have¬†missed out on a fantastic cruise because many years ago they once got seasick and¬†don’t want to get on a boat again?¬† My father spent his whole life convinced¬† that flying was dangerous and so he never travelled.¬† When we allow all this influence in, we choose with our minds rather than our hearts.¬†¬†¬† This can again lead us back to the Candy Store with all our experiences and fears and the opinions of others keeping us hopping from one option to another.

It is only when we quiet all those voices, both internal and external and listen to the quiet voice of our heart that we are able to really choose.¬† Will it be the right choice?¬† Who knows. Only time will tell.¬† But it will be a true choice and one that, even if it doesn’t work out, we will never regret.