How to Be The Expert

John Timbrell - Pink Floyd Tribute Band - London 2014

At breakfast this morning with a friend and colleague I heard a confession that was interesting to me. She said, “I worry I don’t have enough expertise to be able to do this.” This was interesting because of all the people that do not have expertise, she was defiantly not one of them. She is well trained and educated. She has certifications and letter behind her name. She has years of experience and still she worries that it is not enough.

In the book “Outliers: The Story Of Success” by Malcolm Gladwell he demonstrates that success is very different than what we think. The typical ‘over night success’ takes years to achieve and that expertise in any one area is similarly a journey of learning and practice. He suggests that it takes 10,000 hours of focused practice to become an expert in your field.  So the question is then, when is it enough that what you know and are able to do is considered as an expertise? When  do you become an expert?

Take Inventory

Start by simply adding up the amount of time you have been focused on doing what you want to be considered an expert at. If you want to be an expert barista and you work at a cafe for 40 hours a week, 50 weeks a year it would take you 5 years to reach Malcolm’s 10,000 hour level. If you are an entrepreneur and you are taking certifications and teaching others in a specific field like wellness, you may only get to focus on your expertise 20 hours a week, in which case it will take you 10 years.

Add In The Past

Deciding to focus on one field was likely not a single point in time. I highly doubt you said to yourself one day, “today I’m going to start my journey to become an expert guitar player,” and then go out and buy your first guitar. Expertise is an evolution from your past experiences, your passion, and your abilities. Get a friend to help you look back at your past and see where you have been using your expertise and how you are building on those foundational abilities. My friend at breakfast this morning could not see this for herself, yet she had spent many years as an employee successfully doing exactly what she wants to help entrepreneurs be able to do for themselves.

Never Stop

Experts don’t hit the 10,000 hour mark and stop what they do. Now that you are an expert there is no time for a nap, you have to continue to learn and grow. Experts are not ‘know-it-alls’; they are people that live and breathe their knowledge. Experts don’t bring out their abilities, like party tricks, to show off; they are engulfed in their field of expertise all the time. If you are an expert and you don’t get to simply speak your educated point of view without ridicule then you probably are ready for a new group of people to hang out with. It takes a long time to become an expert and the sharp edge of your experience is dulled by disuse, so don’t stop using your gifts.

Put It On

When you get picked to be in a band and perform for hundreds or thousands of people that want to have you back, you can easily see your expertise. When you work hard to be good at something that only a few people at a time get to experience it is sometimes easy to overlook our expertise. If you have the training and the experience and people tell you how good you are at what you do, maybe it is time to start wearing the title of expert. It won’t feel like it fits immediately so don’t discard it. Call yourself an expert and see how people react. Say it in front of people that know you, so they can help you validate your new title. It will fit soon enough and you will hear people refer to you as the expert at ‘X’. If you don’t believe it first, no one else (except your closest friends or your paid coach) will believe it either. You know you are so what are you waiting for.

Say it. “I am an expert.”

 

Image: John Timbrell has been playing guitar for close to 35 years. He has started and managed several bands, written music, and has had his music recorded and published. In this image he and a friend organize an annual rock concert with four of Canada’s top tribute bands, including his band “Brain Damage“.

The Value of Your Reference Group

Last week I was at a luncheon with two friends of mine that I consider very accomplished and focused on the changes they wish to help make happen in the world. We were also joined by 5 other women that turned out to be very similar. How blessed I am to be so often surrounded by such incredibly forward-focused, game-changers with a spiritual/holistic/philanthropic approach to life.

Friends toasting and celebrating together

When I had mentioned this to my friend she said, “it is a mirror reflecting of what you bring to the world.” Interesting as I know 10 years ago this was not me. I know I have grown intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually, but we don’t see ourselves the way others do. What I had not seen was that surrounding myself with this level of business genius had raised me up to that level as well.

As the saying goes, we are the combination of the 5 people we spend the most amount of time with. “How true”, I started thinking after my conversation above. I was doing what my 5 closes friends were doing 10 years ago and now I’m doing what my 5 closest friends are doing now. I wanted to be able to affect more change and help more people so I started spending time with people that affect more change and help more people.

Here are two things I have done to get to a place where I get to have lunch with world-changers because I am one of them.

Act ‘as if’

I don’t like the saying, “fake it ‘til you make it”. One of my core values is honesty, so faking it always seemed like a lie to me. I don’t want to lie to my friends, my peers, my clients, nor to myself simply to get what I want. It felt selfish and wrong. But when I read ‘Act as if’ from Jack Canfield’s book “The Success Principles” and then started seeing the same teaching from others, like Darren Hardy, I realized that there was a significant difference in the semantics of these two statements.

Fake it

Act as if

Pretend you are Believe you are
Wear the right costume Dress the part
Use their language Use ‘the’ language
Pretend you know Learn it and ask
Spend to take part (even if you cannot afford it) Find other ways to take part (to be a part of it)
Do it first Get a mentor – do it after them

Activate your brain muscle to start visualizing what it is you want to be and where. The more your subconscious believes it to be true, the more true it will be. Here is an easy example we should all be able to relate to, as we have all been a teenager at one time in our lives.

Picture two teen girls, both pretty and both academically competent, but one believes she is pretty and smart and the other believes she is average in every way. These two girls will present very differently to the outsider. The one girl may be a leader, doing and belonging to groups that the other girl may not even dream of being accepted to. One will be invited, the other will be overlooked. This does not mean one will have a better life, but it will give the one girl more options and more support to attain whichever goal she chooses.

Know you are and you will be.

Give Generously From What You Have

I’m not talking about digging deep into your pockets and handing out your last few dollars. I’m talking about something more precious – your gifts of wisdom, influence, and skill. What can you do to help others around you?

It is easiest to give money, but that will not get you connected to those that will be key to opening doors for future opportunities. If you want to give, then give with your time to something that aligns with your passion and goals. I love business, I love being creative, and I am a visionary, so my easiest give is to be a part of a board or steering committee that has to help with big-picture decisions. When I am at these meetings I am engaged and energized. My energy is contagious and it makes me fun and interesting to be around, so people want to be with me. It is valuable use of my time and I can add value to the group I volunteer for.

I once volunteered where I was not passionate and the work was mundane, repetitive, and combative. I was drained and angry about the time I had to give. I felt used and wasteful with my time. I did not produce great results for the group, nor did I enjoy being there. I can imagine I was not fun to be around and that certainly did not gain me any new friends for my reference group.

If you want to be surrounded by great people, be a great person. Believe you are worth knowing and give generously to the places you feel most connected. Your people are there waiting for you.

Creating a Successful 2015 – 3 Important Keys to Growth

Are you looking to create a more successful year in 2015? What are you planning on doing different?

If you want something different to happen you must do something different and this is often the challenge of creating more. Different sometimes means ‘more of the same’, but often that is not possible. The challenge with growing a business is usually that we get to a place in our business where we are so busy, and we are so invested that we have no more time and no more money to do ‘more of the same’.

Creating a more successful business takes doing something new. Doing something new is almost like starting a new business. There is new development, implementation, marketing, operations, costs, and customer support. You wouldn’t start a new business without a plan so don’t start a new year with a new focus and no plan.

1. What are You Creating?

Doing what you do

Be very clear about what you are planning on implementing. If growth simply means taking on 5 new clients per month doing what you currently do, then first you need to evaluate if:

  • what you do is selling well enough now to be able to sell more
  • you have enough time to service 5 more clients running the way you currently do
  • you will need the same, more, or different marketing to reach 5 more clients

You may need to change your product, hire someone to manage other things in your business or create a new marketing campaign to be able to attract and handle 5 new clients.

Planning for an increase in sales may take shifting your resources and adding more or new duties. Look at all aspect of your business evaluation and determine where you need to make changes.

Doing something new

If growth means creating a new product or service, reaching a new target market, opening a new branch, selling franchises, or licensing your business model then you have a much bigger plan to make. Don’t skip making a plan just because you have done this before. Success requires knowledge of the endpoint and a grasp of what it will take to get there.

Where to start

Start with the end. Where do you plan on ending? What does your ending point look like? Be specific. Do you plan on creating a new service? Describing the product is likely the easy part. You already have this as it was the vision you had seen when you first thought of growth. But don’t stop at ‘I want to create a new program and it will have 5 levels and take 9 weeks.’ You need to know everything about it.

  1. What will it cost me to run this program (in time)
  2. What will it cost my business to manage this program
  3. How many new clients do I need to cover the cost of creating this new program
  4. How many clients do I need to breakeven on the cost of the program
  5. What will it take to attract these new clients
  6. What other resources do I need (new website, more help, investment, etc.)

2. What is the Plan?

Figuring out how to get your business working should not be left as a surprise for the end of the year. If you set something in motion you should know the outcome and if it is not what you expect you should make changes along the way. Don’t just make your plan and hope you get what you expect to get next New Year’s Eve.

Man surprised at what he was not expecting

Now that you know what the end looks like work backwards.

  1. If you know it will cost you an extra 15 hours a month to run the program, book 15 hours a month for the program in your calendar right now. Figure out when you will offer the programs and make it real.
  2. If running the programs does not cost you any extra money then great, otherwise, figure out how you will pay for that cost when you don’t have any clients. If you cannot afford it (e.g. you have a manufacturing process that must be developed and optimized) then look for other ways you can pay for it (investment, loan, pre-sale deposits, other income) while you build up your sales.
  3. Determine how you will pay for the creation of the new product. My favourite way to launch a new product is to offer it at a reduced price for a short period of time to the people that already love you. Getting your clients to pay you a little to  create something new is a win-win. You get to start, they get to learn, you get feedback, they get support.
  4. If it will cost you more to support this new number of clients than you can afford in time and income, you need to evaluate what you are charging. Know what your time is worth and how much of it you need to get paid for (not your company, but you).
  5. Look at your current marketing. Is there any way you can get more clients from what you are currently doing? It is more likely that you will need to add a marketing channel or invest more time into your current channels. If your new product is a service or a program delivered by you, the best way to get new clients is to get out speaking. If you get your marketing right, you should have the clients you need at your product launch. This will help with the cost to launch a new product.
  6. Know the cost of everything (in time and money). Don’t dismiss a cost just because it only took you an hour. One hour here – 15 minutes there – a week later on. Everything you do will add up and when you don’t know your costs you won’t understand why you have no time or why you are so overwhelmed and it may lead to a failure to launch.

3. What are the Steps?

Doing the work of your business is never a ‘One-off’ event. Everything you do leads into the next event, launch, sale, program start, etc. There must be a continuous process in place with timelines for each event, all the pre-event work that must be done, and all the post-event follow-up booked to be complete. Start with a marketing calendar, it will illuminate the steps and uncover the work that needs to be completed.

For example, let’s assume you plan on launching a new 5-level program on Monday June 1, 2015. It will take 3 months to deliver with 3 hours per week delivery time and 2 hours a week prep-work. You will deliver it 3 out of 4 weeks per month over the three months for a total of 9 weeks (at 15 hours per week).

  • Start at June 1 and put your program delivery times into your calendar.
  • Put your prep time into your calendar
  • Add follow-up time for the week (or more) following the program. Remember to ask for testimonials while you are following up.
  • Add up your new expenses.
  • What are you going to charge?
  • Define your expected sales income.
  • Now work backwards.
    • What is the last date someone can sign up for the program?
    • What events will you host to fill your program? Remember you will need to know your conversion rate for any specific type of event to know how many you will need to do to fill the program.
    • What do you have to do to invite people to the pre-events
    • Where else will you tell people about your program (website, flyers, business cards, ads, Google, networking). Book time and other resource now to ensure these channels get set up early so you are not challenged with technical work when you are trying to focus on inviting.
  • And work forwards
    • What is the next program this will lead into? Make sure that it is in your calendar so while you deliver this program you are talking about the next step up. (The best time to convert a past client into another sale is when they are totally loving what you do and they are seeing the results of working with you.)

Every sale, every launch, every networking event, every speaking engagement, etc. is an invitation to a program or next event you are hosting. It is a constant process of filling your programs through your marketing channels. Fill your calendar with your marketing plan so you can fill your programs with new clients.

 

Growth Through Osmosis

Osmosis is a scientific term referring to a process where atoms or compounds pass through a membrane from one body to another usually caused by a differentiation in concentration.

REALLY! What the F… does this have to do with Business?

We do what we do what we do… day in and day out. We will often look at our business and life and think, “I have to find a way to make a difference.” Every once in a while we go to an event or a networking meeting and we get motivated or inspired to move, but then we get back to our office and go back to our routine and we do what we do what we do…

The reason why we are so motivated or inspired after an event is the energy we get to experience from others in the room. This energy is in the form of conversation, knowledge, learning, value systems, opportunity, and likely several others things that we experience while exposed to the group.

We have an invisible membrane that allows us to function efficiently and stay safe. It keeps our routines and our path on track. As an employee we can safely stay in our membrane and do our work and collect our pay. In business what we quickly find is performing the routine of what we do best is not enough to continue to grow our business.

When we move into a group of people we can sometimes feel drained. If we are the highest concentration of knowledge and energy in the room with the desire to move while others look for safety in the day-to-day, then we are the one giving the energy and doing the lifting.

When we are in a room of like-mined people, all with different skills and abilities, with diverse experience and knowledge, with goals and desires, we are uplifted by them and share energy back and forth, depending on who needs what. When we go back to our routine we look for ways to hold onto it, but quickly go back to our known levels and find the inspiration leaks out of us again.

So what happens to a cell in science that is next to something with a concentration so high that the compounds rush in uncontrolled? The cell bursts because it cannot stretch quick enough to contain the new volume. It is the same for us in business.

When we are in the presents of greatness, like maybe having lunch with Sir Richard Branson, we are overwhelmed by the opportunities that could be ours. The concentration is too high and we cannot take on all the available energy in the form of knowledge as we cannot implement from our current level of knowledge and ability. We can either brush by the greatness, admire and see something smaller that we can do, or we can step in and buckle down for an incredible download and an overwhelming ride of growth, which may make or break us. Not impossible, but not easily sustainable.

So what is the key to retaining the momentum?

If we are surrounded by others that always have something we want, something we need to learn, something of value, we are always in the position to feel the differentiation, to increase our concentration of ability and knowledge, to be a receiver for the new and the wanted. Be with people that are willing to continually seek out the ‘new’ and develop their own abilities and bring it back to share with you. We can grow through the osmosis of learning from a room full of people that are willing to learn and share.

Surround yourself with like-minded people so that you can take sometimes and give others. You will continually grow each other, hold each other accountable, and keep each other in the momentum.

 

 

Use Your Passion & Purpose to Create More Business

Without desire there is no motivation to make something happen that we actually want to happen.

We can certainly create a mess in our lives by doing things without intent. For example, look at the social rates of teen pregnancy, debt, obesity, addiction, etc. These happen because of a lack of passion, purpose and desire, amongst other factors.

Think about a time when you really wanted something; a new car, a house, new shoes. Even if you initially though you could not afford it, you would find a way if the desire was great enough. This is true for love, health, spirituality, stability, family, wealth, and business. If  the ‘WHY’ is bigger than the ‘BUT’ you can make it happen.

Motivation comes from the desire to work in our purpose

The key is if you want a business that you can be happy working in when times are tough and you’re not in love with the work of the time, you have to be doing something you are passionate about. The passion will drive your desire to see it through. The achievement will fulfill your purpose in life, giving you the feeling of worth. We all want to feel what we do matters. We want to feel we add value and that we belong.

I know what I was good at and what I liked doing, but it wasn’t until my forties that i really understood my purpose. Before I understood how I fit into my world, I felt I was forcing my gifts on others. I have to tell you finding this path was not easy and it took outside help to see me for my greatness, release me from my doubt, empower me with my abilities, and help me put words to my gifts. One of my greatest experiences was to work with Nadia Tumas the Life Purpose Decoder. Her reading of who I am and what I do instinctively gave me the words to help great people live their purpose to their fullest.

Find the people that can see you, free your, and empower you to do your work every day with gratitude and you will feel purposeful in all you do.

Recommended Reading – ‘Think and Grow Rich’ by Napoleon Hill – chapter 2 “Desire”.

Failing vs Traditional Education… What is the Fastest Path to Success

Like parenting, running a business does not come with a handbook or guide. There are plenty of experts with plenty of insights, stories, and advice to share, but like kids, every business is different and requires a unique and customizead strategy. Many business owners will start a business thinking that having the knowledge of their product or service will be enough to be able to make money and it might for a while, but the business side will eventually catch up with the owner and overwhelm them with challenges. Just because you are great at something does not mean you don’t need training for everything else and here is why. When you start a business you are of course the expert at what you plan on creating. The hats you wear in your business are more than the expert, designer, developer,  and visionary, because if you have not hired anyone else to work in your business your hats include potentially all of these (or more).

  • C-Level management
  • Marketing strategist
  • Website developer, manager, and support
  • The corporate face (chief networking officer and brand manager)
  • Finances (CFO, accounting, bookkeeping, accounts receivable and payable, clerk, corporate value, contracts & loans)
  • Legal (contracts, customer disputes, employees, contractors, incorporation)
  • Operations (delivery, manufacturing, product creation, development, maintenance, quality control, shipping, inventory, and customer support)
  • HR (payments, contracts, disputes, employee benefits & support, Health & Safety)
  • Sales (prospecting, presentations, contracts, administration of, follow-up, stay-in-touch)

If you have not yet read Michael E. Gerber’s E-Myth books, I highly recommend you do so. In his third book, “The E-Myth Mastery” he tells his story about having a successful business, with over 100 people working for him and grossing millions of dollars in business, that  almost went bankrupt. Hearing his struggle to keep things moving forward, to pay his debts, to save face and integrity is difficult. He attributes this downfall to his lack of focus on his money and the people he hired to look after it. If you are running a business of one or one-hundred, you are responsible for the business growth and failure. You have to know what is going on, and that means training. Here are my top 5 recommendations for training:

#5 Traditional Education

This route will not be right for most entrepreneurs. It requires a longer time commitment (1 year or more). The great thing is it can often be done as a part-time program, allowing you to start or run and grow a small business while you learn. The benefit of this type of education is the recognized credentials that come with it, which can often open doors more quickly. The downfall of this type of education is that the professors and instructors may not have any entrepreneur background and the content may be out of date or too theoretical. My policy is that all knowledge is valuable and can be applied, but if you have to bridge the gap between knowledge and real-world application, you will need more time.

  • Look for Entrepreneur programs in colleges and universities. There is a trend to offer programs that focus on entrepreneurship. I teach at Georgian College in Canada that offers both Entrepreneurship diplomas and post diploma programs.
  • The Kauffman Foundation has created entrepreneur programs that are offered in many other locations.
  • Business programs, like an MBA are offered at many universities worldwide and produce amazing entrepreneurs.

#4 Conferences

Attending conferences that focus on business development can be one of the best ways to get up-to-date knowledge from current, legitimate ‘doers’ (the people in the trenches of business). Choose conferences that have speakers you are interested in hearing from, topics that are current, and content that is valuable to your learning needs. There are literally thousands of conferences every year. On my way to a conference in Colorado I spoke with a woman who was going to attend a conference that focused on apartment management. One of the main speakers this year was Barbara Corcoran and Michael J. Fox and last year they had Richard Branson. If you don’t know these incredible leaders then look them up. I looked through their agenda and all the breakout sessions would have been valuable to any business owner (branding, marketing, managing clients, etc.)

#3 Paid Programs from Experts

Experts in your field are often offering free and paid programs. Go and learn from the best. Don’t just learn what they teach, observe what they do and model the pieces that will work with your growth. Many experts (like me) have free programs to get you started. Do the work, then be ready to invest to go deeper. Darren Hardy has an investment rule for his education. He puts 10% of his yearly earnings into learning from people that are ahead of him in ‘the game’ of business. If you are unwilling to put out any money as an investment in your #1 corporate resource (you) then you are already on a track to fail.

#2 From A Mentor

Do you have someone in your life that is successful and you look up to? They don’t have to be wealthy or running a multi-million dollar business, they just have to be doing something really well that you would like learn from. I have been fortunate to have had many mentors throughout my life. Even as a teen, my boss at the pool store where I worked taught me how to be a strong leader in business and how to treat clients and employees. She was well liked and people treated her with the respect she had earned being friendly, supportive, and a straight shooter. She was no pushover, which in a time when women were not as well respected in leadership roles was impressive and unusual.

Who do you know that could teach you new skills, which you could use to run your business? Always be looking for that person and you will continue to have mentors over the years.

Note – you must also be willing to be a mentor. You will learn a great deal from this position, including how to be a great leader.

#1 By Failing

Yep, the number one way (in my opinion) to learn is to do the work knowing that it is not going to be perfect and that you are going to fail on occasion. The key to learning from failure is to be willing to accept that you did something that did not work and know how to evaluate it. The way to the best answers is to ask the best questions. Questions like “What went wrong?” Don’t just accept the first answer to this question, you need to dive down deep to get all the nuances of everything that could be a factor in the event.

If you would like a tool to help you evaluate a problem then try a Fishbone Diagram. This will help you brainstorm the major categories of causes of the problem, like:

  • Sales process
  • People
  • Training
  • Contracts
  • Tools (like software)
  • Procedures
  • Materials
  • Suppliers

By using this tool you will ask a lot of questions around your company and its processes and it will generate some great ideas for improvement.

Expect to be learning for the rest of your life. You can stop, but I bet your competitors won’t and that is when things will change. It is easier to stay on top when you are acting on new opportunities and learning about the industries trends and economic change, then it is to catch up after the opportunities have passed you by and your competitors have seized the market.

Long Hours in Business and Children – Making It Work for Everyone!

Long hours and children are always a challenge. They need our time, insight, guidance, and love to handle the work of being a kid. Like all relationships (family, friends, co-workers, partners, affiliates, clients, etc.), to ensure a stable understanding we have to find time to invest in them. I think you get this concept as you know the value of investing time in an event to make it perfect for the attendees and you want to ensure you don’t trade that for important time with your kids. Here are three things I believe can help you.

1. You cannot do it alone

If you find you are putting in 17 hours on the day before a conference, that might be OK, but if you are putting in 17 hours a day for weeks before a conference then I would start looking at your support systems. There are many ways to offload work. My 3 favourite are automate, create better systems, and hire someone (or barter services). Let’s just look at hiring.

What are you holding on to that someone else could do quicker, may love to do the work, and may be better at? I have found that people that say they ‘have to’ work for 17 hours are often too afraid to let go of the work because they feel it will not get done properly. This is an issue of systems. Let’s assume you have great systems, so if you say you cannot afford to hire someone then you may not have spent enough time thinking about how you can engage people to help you do the work. Giving someone free access to the conference to take away a few of your tasks is one way that will not require an employee contract. Learn to trade, barter, and delegate are important skills in a manager.

Have other family commit to time with your kids and schedule time to drop in for dinner while your kids are with family. This will help them feel you are committed and love them, even when you are busy.

Get Daycare - Nanny with child playing with toys

Hiring a nanny to bring your kids with you to the worksite is a way many actors find time to be with their kids when they are on the road. I’ve brought a niece or the neighbours daughter to watch my kids when I had to be focused on other work.

Pay your kids to help you with your business. “If you help Mommy get her work done by playing by yourself while I finish this, I will pay you $X”. You can also give them a task to actually get them involved in the business. I remember as a kid collating printing for my girlfriend’s father. We loved being asked and he would pay us so we could go buy an ice cream and still have some money to take home. One of my Mentors pays her kids a percentage of her project profit if they help her get her work done. I hire my kids to shred papers, lick envelopes, wrap gifts, and fill bins.

Put your kids in daycare if they are not already. You cannot run a business from your home and give your kids the attention they need. Those are both full time positions.

2.       You must have great communications

Great communications are important in all your relationship. Let your kids know what you are doing. Let them know exactly how much time you are going to put into it and for how long. Let them know when the event will be over. AND let them know what their reward will be for having to give up time with you. Give them the plan so they can keep track. My daughter loves to look at the calendar. When I am away speaking and traveling, I will call her before bed time and she will look at the calendar to see where I am and when I’m coming home. She will ask me about my day and I will keep answering until she has got enough information to feel she understands and feels included.

3.       Stick to your promises

There will always be exceptions to this, but if that is happening often then obviously you are not making correct assumptions about how to manage your time and you need to stop promising. Call when you are going to be late but better yet, make your promises to your kids as important as your event responsibilities. If I am unsure if I can make it home in time for bedtime or dinner, etc. I let my kids know what I’m doing, why it will take as long as I think it will, what could cost me more time, then I promise a time that I know I will definitely be home, even if it is after they go to bed. Just knowing is better for kids then having no idea at all.

It will not be easy, but planning ahead, getting your kids on board with the plan and sticking to your promises will help you provide the best service possible for your clients and your kids. After all, you’re your kids are the reason you do what you do and you don’t want to treat them any less fair then you would a complete stranger you hope to call client!

Tech-Talk Part 1 – What You Need to Know – Websites

I thought I would do a series of articles on technology. After all I have been in high-tech for over 2 decades and I do know more than most people want to know about technology and how to use it. First let me tell you about my tech-trek (my technology background). Then I want to cover technology for three areas of your business:

  • Websites (Tech-Talk Part 1)
  • Shopping Carts (Tech-Talk Part 2)
  • Communication Software – including webinars, Skype, and teleseminar (Tech-Talk Part 3)

Tech-Trek

When I was in high school we were still using Fortran and punch cards. I learned the Touring language in university, worked on VAX computer systems in College, programmed algorithms and algebraic equations into the first personal computer purchased for the Biophysic lab at the University, ushered out the Cromemco mainframe system for research and followed these introductions with many years of implementing, learning, supporting, and writing manuals & helps systems for hundreds of proprietary software and hardware products.

I loved it and Yes I am a tech-geek at heart.

Old Computers

The old Cromemco looked similar to this with a dot matrix keyboard / printer and no monitor. We were dressed a little more modern in the 1980’s

Tech-Talk Part 1 – Websites

 Why

A website is an absolute necessity for all business today. If a potential client cannot find you online then your business basically does not exist (check out point #3 “No Growth Focus = Decline” in this past article “4 Things That Lead to Business Failure“). Having an online presence is important and a good start. Having an optimized presence  that can be found by search engines in best. If you do not understand what it takes to ‘be found’ or to ‘be optimized for search engines’ then hire someone to implement that for you and create a plan to continue to be found year after year.

Other reasons you will want a website are:

  • Support brand and image recognition
  • For clients to find your business and contact you
  • Provide support and solve problems
  • Connect and stay-in-touch
  • Build a client list
  • Sell services and products

What to Use

For years business owners were at the mercy of web designers as to how their website would be created and managed. Designing a website was an expensive marketing tool for a business sometimes costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Now there are free tools that make it easier to create something that is consistent and will not go unsupported because the company went under. Unless you are a large company needing a lot of customized function (like a bank needs for security, or a manufacturer may need for regulations management) my recommendation for small business is to always to use WordPress. It has a lot of built in function, it is free to use, there are thousands of applications and widgets you can purchase for a reasonable price, and you can customize it with templates that you can purchase from other coders for little money. Since there are so many people writing code for this application it is also likely to be supported for many years to come.

When I set up my website I purchased a template I liked for about $20, I purchased an image I could use to create my banner (~$35), I paid for my brand creation (~$700), I wrote all my own copy (after paying for training ~$1000), I paid for someone to set up my website (~$500), I purchased my web-hosting (~$125 / year), I purchased my domain name (~$30 with email and privacy per year), I had a members site installed (~$150) and 1ShoppingCart added ($250 + ongoing support) and I use WordPress (Free).

I can do most of my own updating but I still pay for ongoing support to update pages and products. As you can see, depending on what you need, free does not mean without cost.

Minimum information

Let me answer this section in a Q&A format.

  • Do I need to know HTML?
    • That depends on what you are trying to do and whether you have a great team to do the work. There is usually a small amount of HTML that must be understood to manage any customization. For instance, I am writing this blog post in my WordPress editor. It looks like writing in Microsoft Word and is very easy to use. Sometimes I want numbering to do something different than the crude tools of this editor will allow, so I have to go in and manually set the HTML lists to number my way. If you do not know any HTML then make sure you have someone on your team that does (an employee, support company, or contractor).
  • How many pages should my website be?
    • A sales landing page is just one page, a branded website may need 4 or more. My website must have links to Contact / Terms and Conditions / Privacy Policy because of the merchant account I use and the regulations for selling online. Some sites are hundreds of pages. The more pages you have the more it will cost in your time or others to set up and maintain.
  • Do I need a blog?
    • A few years ago when someone asked me “do I have to be on Facebook?” I would answer, maybe not yet, but you likely will need to in the near future. Well now you need to be on social media, Facebook included and I’m thinking the same thing about the blog. I think it would be wise to start with a website that easily has the option to turn on and use the blogging feature if you are not going to start now, but I would encourage you to start writing a blog as soon as you can.
  • What other things can I have on my website?
    • The wonderful thing about using WordPress is there are hundreds of thousands of programmers creating widgets and ad-ons for websites. I’m sure there are many different things you can add to a website that I know nothing about. Here are a few things I have on my websites.
  • Do I need more than one domain name?
    • You will need a domain name that matches your business. It is worth trying to get the name that is your businesses name. If it is unavailable that raises red flags for me around trademark infringement. As for other domain names, I like owning the domains for my products. I buy domains for a year based on brand and product development. If I don’t use them I let them go. I usually own between 15 and 30 domains, including my personal name.

Who Can Help

As you can tell I have been at this for a while and know enough to truly enjoy coding directly in HTML. In fact, when I do my sales pages I do code directly in HTML and it is like a little vacation from my day-to-day activities. That said, when I designed my website layout, wrote the copy, and purchased the domains, I did not set it up myself. I got an expert to set up my hosting, implement the template structure, manage the backups, upload the original content, implement additional widgets, and connect my social media. This saved my 10’s of hours, if not weeks of work.

My recommendation is to know what you need, understand your brand, effectively define the best way to reach your target market, and then hire the expert to implement it.

It’s All About You

It’s done – You have done it. You started a business to offer the world your expertise. You took the risk and you launched the business. Like being a new parent there will be plenty of people with advice, suggestions, and insight, but you have the last say. You can veto any idea and create your own.

When we start a business we don’t really think of ourselves as “being at the top.” Yes, we have the final say, but what should we be investing in, focusing on, doing with our time? There are so many things to learn as a new business owner and so many ways to fail. Having that veto is a liability more than a earned responsibility. What advice is the best for your new business and what should you not pay attention to?

In small business startups, there is a tendency for an attitude of “It’s all about me”. After all it was your idea, your money, your expertise, your time and your sleepless nights. It IS all about you. Who else is going to care about your business success as much as you do? Who else will put in the overtime and weekends? Who else will give up taking a vacation for years? It’s all about you because you are the one to make it happen and it will feel lonely.

To be able to manage your business and continue to love it you need to remove the loneliness, and that will not be easy.

Tip #1    Friends without benefits

Befriend employees but do not share your full business and personal struggle insider information with them unless they are the Vice President. By relieving them of the burden of risk and insider issues it will gives them the ability to do what they do best in their position at the company, which is why you hired them in the first place.

Tip #2    Intrapreneurs

Hire intrapreneurs. These are people with excellent entrepreneurial skills that will use their insight, drive, and risk tolerance to help grow your business. Having people like this on your team will make running your business easier. If they are good, then your job will be less stressful as well.

Tip #3    Peer-to-Peer Networks

Surround yourself with like-minded people that will support you when you are struggling, lift you up when you are down, and celebrate with you when you make great choices or accomplish something new.

Tip #4    Don’t Do It Alone

Stop thinking you can do everything yourself. You need people in your life you can share your plan with, trust with your challenges, people that understand what it takes to be there and do what you are doing, as well as people that love you and will support you even if they cannot fully understand what you are up to. It can be very lonely as an entrepreneur but you don’t have to be alone all the time if you consciously choose to involve other people.

You can start a business on your own but NO ONE can succeed in business alone.

Why Leverage Gets You More and Costs You Less

I talk about leverage when referring to business growth. Leveraging what you have allows you to do more with your current resources. It costs less in time and money then setting up something completely new. It does not replace full system upgrades or the addition of all new products, services, or marketing streams, but it can help you make more from the products you currently sell and the time you currently give to your business.

The three areas of your business that are easiest to add leverage to are:

  1. Automation
  2. Systems
  3. Better Time Management

Here is one tip for each area to get you started.

1. Automatione-mail Button

There are thousands of free and inexpensive applications you can download to help make your work easier. If you are sending emails to groups of people then look for a mail program to help design your next email marketing campaigns (e.g. Mail Chimp). If you are speaking online to many people find a free conference calling program (e.g. Free Conference Pro) and reach more people.

2. Systems

Don’t make this an extra step. Record your process as you do the work. Having procedures in place will allow you to create a consistent client experience, evaluate what is not working well, and reduce the time it takes to offload and train someone else to do the work.

3. Better Time Management

Get an accountability partner to help stay committed to doing the work and to keep you on track for your immediate and long-term plans. Set a standing weekly call time, check in with this information:

  1. Did I get the things done I committed to last week?
  2. If not what was your biggest challenge?
  3. What am I committing to completing this week?

Get into the mindset that there are opportunities all around you and you just need to learn to take advantage of them by leveraging the time and dollars you have right now. Make more out of what you already have invested in your business.