Summer Selling – What Else Can You Do?

wine on the beach enjoying summer

Summer feels like a time of year that you cannot get much done. So many people are away on vacation or out enjoying the time with their kids who are off school; basically slowing down. But if you are looking for sales in the summer you cannot slow down, so what else can you do? Here are three ideas I have for you that I have experienced over the last few weeks.

1. Beach Time

If you have access to a great outdoor space then invite some clients to join you for an afternoon event. Add food, great content and learning, and amazing networking. Invite some other experts and add a panel or Q&A that includes them. Make sure you charge enough to cover your expenses and you are highlighting your business. Introduce an offer or let people know you will be calling them to chat about doing some other things together and helping them with their needs.

One of the networking associations I belong to (with a membership of about 150 people) hosted an event for 12 people (first come – first served). You had to be quick to get a ticket and it was worth it. It was hosted at the directors cottage on Georgian Bay. We sat on the deck sipping wine, networking, learning and getting great support for our businesses. The cost at $55 was not excessive but it also was not nominal. She made a little money and supported her members in a unique way, which created a desire for next year. In addition, she did not have to leave the cottage to host an event down in the city, saving her enormous amount of time and extra costs.

2. Think Small

If you do events during the year you know how much time they can take for things like:

  • getting sponsors
  • selling display tables
  • finding a venue
  • selling the tickets
  • arranging food, accommodations, media, etc.

If you want to do something in the summer but you know you just don’t have time to create something big then think small. A small room that sits 15 would create a great atmosphere for learning and sharing. Keep the event to a 1/2 day or less so people can still plan their summer fun around it and add something fun to the program like summer punch tasters or a summer dress code.

This past weekend my friend Beatrice Johnston hosted a Brand building event in Toronto. She was visiting with another friend who had access to a small professional room. The event was from 11 am – 2 pm and was full of great content with a promise to follow up. She used Eventbrite to create the event page and sell tickets. She filled a small room of ideal clients. She left with an open door to follow up with each person and keep in touch. Since we all paid to be there she was not out of pocket for the event.

3. An Extra $2500

Could you use an extra $2500 this summer? My good friend Cindy Ashton had some time in between setting up her new national TV show, “Cindy Uncorked” (launching this fall on the Women’s Television Network) and getting sponsors, to do some coaching for a select few entrepreneurs. She really doesn’t have much time, but she loves to help entrepreneurs have a voice with powerful communications so she created a short $500 program with specific results for 5 people only. It’s an easy purchase for someone looking for those results and an easy marketing setup because it is only a piece of any of her full programs. It required a sales page with a video, the shopping cart for registration, autoresponders to send out the information after the purchase and her time, set in time slots of her choosing.

I loved this so much she gave me permission to use the idea to offer some extra time for my clients and came up with the Growth Explosion offer. Go ahead and copy my template if you want to try this for yourself.

There is still time to get something on your marketing calendar for the summer. Do it now and get more sales while everyone else is taking it easy.

Capturing Ideas – 1, 2, 3…

Do you come up with a lot of ideas? Do you get to act on them? Do you even remember them when it’s time to act? Getting an idea comes as quick as 1, 2, 3, but keeping the idea is harder.

1. When Ideas Come

When ideas come they happen fast. Often we may think, “Wow, that’s random. That came out of nowhere!” but it is likely not the case. Ideas are how our mind puts together concepts to solve problems. Not all problems are our own, so they don’t feel close and familiar. Ideas can come to us in lots of ways and at almost any time. Here are three key places you will likely come up with new ideas.

  1. In your sleep – Often when you are sleeping a great idea can wake you up. It may even keep you awake as you go through the process of evaluating this opportunity.
  2. From someone else – You may hear your next big idea when in a conversation with someone else, listening to others talk, at a conference, from a TV commercial, while reading a book, etc.. The idea that comes out of nowhere is likely an idea that was catalyzed by another experience. Surround yourself with interesting people and events to continue creating great ideas.
  3. While solving a problem – This is the classic time when people come up with some of the world’s greatest inventions. If you are familiar with the saying “Necessity is the mother of  invention” then you are familiar with the idea that having a problem forces our mind to go into solution mode. You will likely generate many ideas and solutions during this period.

2. How to Capture Ideas

The second biggest challenge with ideas is that they are fleeting. If you do not capture the information when you have it, you may not get a chance later. Think about a time you woke in the middle of the night with a great idea and then in the morning you thought to yourself, “now what was that great idea I had last night?” Don’t wait to record your thoughts. Don’t try to evaluate whether it is worth recording, just get the idea down.

  1. Keep paper beside your bed – For those of us that have a brain that creates solutions to problems when they sleep, it is imperative to have something close at hand to record your thoughts. It doesn’t have to be fully fleshed out, just enough information to get you back on track in the morning. I have a sticky note pad and pen on my table beside my bed. I record short reminders of my idea on the page in the dark. It’s hard to read, but I have not yet been unable to recall my idea using this process.
  2. Have an idea book – Once you have a good idea spend a short amount of time fleshing out the details. I like to put the details of my ideas in an idea book. I have ideas for books, businesses, and patentable products in my book. If you are worried about ‘first to market’ or secrecy then get others to initial the pages with ideas on them and date it. They don’t have to read it, just confirm that they signed and the signature is theirs if you do end up fighting over a patent.
  3. Tell Your Team – Get it on the meeting agenda so you can discuss the value for your development for current or future plans.

3. How to Act on Ideas

Once we have an idea it is often difficult to know which one we should act on, if at all. Of course the biggest challenge with ideas is actually getting into action. As entrepreneurs we can be flooded with ideas, you know them, the Bright Shiny Objects that distract us from our core focus. Or do they? Some ideas are in line with our core focus and should be acted on. Some ideas are new and should be acted on in the future. Some are simply distractions and should be ignored.

  1. Enlist others in your circles, like peers, mentors, advisors, investors, etc. to hear out your idea and help you take appropriate action.
  2. Make it part of your goals. Put it into your business plan or create a project plan for it. If my ideas are for the growth of my current businesses then I get them into my business plan where I can act on them. If your idea is the missing piece of a service or product you have been creating then get it into the designs and process of that project.
  3. Have tasks you do each day that will further that action if it is in your current plan. Put it in your calendar to revisit your idea in the future so you can add it to your ‘ToDo’ list at that time.

Ideas are the solutions to your current challenges and your future growth. Don’t let them get away.

 

Small Begets Small – Breaking the Cycle that Keeps Businesses from Growing

In a recent interview with Canadian Business Magazine I was asked about the challenge why small business growth stalls. What do small businesses do when they find themselves plateauing or stalled? We talked about things you can do to help start the growth again but why not avoid the issue all together?

If the law of attraction is correct, and I believe it is, then what you focus on is attracted to you. If you focus on the issue of running a small business, the challenge of managing more than you have now, the problems of growing when you don’t have any more time or money to do so, what you are attracting to you is more of the same. This small mindset focus begets more small business problems that keep owners from taking the really big steps.

If you want to start seeing a significant positive change in your bottom line you need to make a significant change in how you perceive your business. You have to see it as large. And how do you do that?

Understand your “Tens Times Business”

To ensure you don’t stall on your way to a larger income you need to be prepared to do what needs to get done when you get to what would be a typical level to stall. This has more to do with your psychology then money or time which tend to be the excuse for most of us (me included). When we know what the next step is the cost becomes negligible.

An example is when I decided a few years back that I wanted to host several of small evening events in Toronto to help introduce my skill and process to more business owners. I knew Toronto was expensive to rent locations and the places I wanted to go were going to cost me hundreds of dollars. When I did the calculations I felt the price I would have to charge was going to be too prohibitive. If I had not had the insight to understand what my next step needed to be I might have stopped there.

Because I knew what my business structure and needs were going to be in the future I was ready for what I had to do now. I knew I wanted to engage a location sponsor for these small events. Someone that was aligned with my clients’ needs. When I was at an event and in the company of the Business development director for an international business centre corporation all I had to do was ask. I knew what I needed and why, so the ask became easy and very interesting to them.

If you want to know what your business structure and needs are going to be in the future you need to do the work of the ‘Ten Times Business’. This is looking at your business as if it were ten times larger than it is now. Ten times more clients, more income, more expenses, more employees, more markets… choose a factor and evaluate what you would need to be able to handle it. Ask yourself, “What would I have to do if I had X clients?” X is the number of clients you have right now times ten. If you really think about this what you get is insight into what things you will need in the future, just to grow a little beyond your current ceiling.

Act ‘As If”

This is not the same as “fake it ‘til you make it”, but similar. It is not about faking, it is about changing the way you see yourself and your business. Tell yourself, “this is what it will be like” and it will be believable by both your unconscious, which believes everything is real, and your conscious. If, to be more successful you need to have expert status and you have taken all the courses and got all the accreditation then the next step is to be the expert. If you want to be accepted as an expert, then you first have to believe you are an expert. This is true for any aspect of life. If you want to be accepted as a wealthy business owner then you have to believe you are a wealthy business owner.

There is no faking what you are, so start acting as if you are what you strive to be and you will become it.

Up Your Reference Group Level

If you want to see yourself as an owner of a bigger business start spending time with people that see you as you want to be. Find people that will hold you accountable, stop you from spending too much time in ‘pity mode’, see your best and strongest traits, understand your challenges, and won’t belittle you when you run into a block but instead help you see the way around or through it. You want people that are doing what you want to do and have knowledge and expertise to share with you.

If you are always the smartest person in the group, you have no way of learning and growing. Make sure your group is climbing the ladder of expertise with you. If they are not and they are simply content to be where they are, then you will need to find some more people to help fill this void in your ‘growth’ reference group. Find people that challenge your status quo and make you take uncomfortable action to get you out of where you are and on to where you want to be. Remember, owning a larger business is not the same as owning the business you have right now, it has new challenges that require new thinking so stop thinking small.

Your Message Affects Your Money!

First impressions should make people want to get to know you better.

A TV show I have enjoyed in the past is “What Not To Wear” on TLC. It was a show that had people nominated for a makeover. These people were hoping to do some great things in their life, like be a lawyer, run a global charity, have a successful business, or simply be accepted in the circles they were trying to be a part of. One thing that was common about these people was that they almost all would say, “I don’t want to change, people should like me no matter what I wear.” This is true, except as humans we are programmed to make judgements about situations, events and people to ensure we are safe, comfortable, and connected.

If your business language creates a first impression that screams ‘SHAM’, you say things that make others uncomfortable, or your vocabulary does not attract or appeal to your clients and others you wish to be connected to then it’s time to take a look at what you are saying/writing and make it create the right image for those whom you want to receive your message.

First Impressions

First impressions help us determine if we are going to be safe, comfortable, and feel connected. In the history of our evolution our brains have become wired for the ‘Freeze, Flight, or Fight’ reaction. We see or hear something and we have to evaluate immediately if we were going to be safe. We still have this unconscious reaction to new environments and new people, hence the reason why we still tend to make judgements about people we meet, when we first meet them. Although I would not recommend to anyone to make decisions on a first impression it is still important for you to create an image that makes people willing to connect with you again so a decision or a sale can take place. After all, we don’t purchase from people we don’t trust, so having a language that builds trust, especially on your first contact, is imperative.

First-impression Touchpoints

Where are your first-impression touchpoints? These are the places prospects are likely to experience you for the first time. Is it your website, your Facebook page, at a networking event, a video on YouTube, or an ad in a magazine? What does it say about who you are and what you do? Your first impression about you and your business has to say two things:

  • I am trustworthy, likable, and worth knowing
  • I have something of value that you might want

If you want to know if this is true of your message, have someone from outside your inner circle, preferably a client or prospect, evaluate the language they experience.

  • Do they feel like they would want to connect with you or your business? If so they should be excited to have met you or experienced your message.
  • Is your message clear or is there something missing they expected to find or understand about your or your business? For it to be clear they not only have to understand what you are saying, but must be attracted to your message. If they are not, your language is not targeted to the people you want to attract as clients.
  • Do they know what to do next? If you meet them at a networking event do they know what their next step is to stay connected with you. If they see your message in a magazine is there a clear call to action that they will actually act on? Do they want you to connect with them or do they want to simply have a way to stay connected. You need to know what the best way to continue this new relationship will be and have that message ready too.
  • What can you do for them right now that will also build on the trust? If you give first you will create a comfort level that will open the door for future conversations. Remember to give without expectation of reciprocation. This true gift is a language of its own that speaks directly to our unconscious mind.

Your first impression is not a time for sales, it is a time to start a lasting, positive relationship .You might think, like the nominees of the TV program I mentioned earlier, that people should love you for what you do, but until they know you they need to like you for what they see and hear. Since they really don’t have a lot to go on yet your first contact should be a rich, warm experience full of value. The next time they experience you, like in the email, they will be thankful for knowing you instead of fearful of what you make be asking of them. With trust comes the opportunity to have your conversation around money.

 

Create More Income in Mid-Summer Doldrums

Unless your business is a ‘summer seasonal’ business, you may be like many of us where sales are down over the summer. I think it is especially difficult in places where the winters are harsh and the summers short. Where I live (in a snow belt) we get long, cold winters with a lot of snow. This summer we have had incredible weather and no one wants to be inside. For those businesses that sell to other businesses it can actually affect the bottom line.

Yesterday I was talking with a client about her June/July sales which are down over last year. After looking at all the possibilities that can affect sales we thought one of the most likely causes is that her clients (massage therapists) are not seeing as many clients themselves because of the beautiful weather and hence not using as much product. After all, with the Canadian dollar disparity and a looming price increase, they should be purchasing more right now.

If you are having a usual or unusual slowdown in the summer (or another time of the year) here are three things you can do to create more income in your business to drive more sales.

Big Sale sign in red over white background

1. Sale

Have a sale. This is a great time to let your customers and past clients know they can purchase your service or products for a short time at a really great price. It will allow you to reconnect with past clients and get your brand in front of people that have not bought from you before. This may be the opportunity some people have been waiting for to get the product or package they want. Remember that your sale price should not be less than your cost, unless it is a ‘lost leader’ meant to bring in more customers to purchase other ‘on sale’ products.

2. Unique Offering

Offer something you never sell as a one-time purchase. For instance try these unique offerings:

  1. Pair up with another business to give a ‘2-fer’ – two great purchases for one great price. Pair up with someone that offers a product or service your clients would love to have but that you do not offer (e.g. Reiki and massage / weight loss and supplements / coaching and marketing assessment). Remember, you still need to both be making money.
  2. My VA offers a summer ‘try me’ package that gives a month of her time on a trial price (50% off her regular). Believe me once you have someone doing the work for you as a consumer you are likely to continue to purchase. If you do the work for your clients try this last idea out.
  3. I have a client that loves to offer a 10% discount at a local health food store when people come through her nutritional programs. The big win for the health food store is they get new clients in the door and my client looks generous being able to get her clients this discount on food they will need for their new lifestyle.

3. Bonus

Add in something that has great value but costs you little or no additional time or money.  If you have a product that can be downloaded (a program that teaches or relaxes or energizes, etc.) you can add it to any other offering for a short period of time. Remember, it must have true value, not just your ‘free offer’.

Something else I have tried is giving clients access to a personality assessment which I purchase in bulk. This does cost me a little, but it is nominal since I purchase in bulk and it has great value to help my clients understand their marketing language, marketing archetype, or fascination value – all of which makes them better able to cope with the leadership requirements of business ownership. It also gives us language to use when we are working together so we both have a better understanding of what they need to do next for their business’s strategic growth.

Don’t let summer (or any seasonal lull) stop you from making money. Keep your clients happy, keep them coming back, keep them in-the-loop with your offering by making it more desirable to purchase right now.

As for my client with the June/July dip in sales, she has decided to offer her loyal customers one last opportunity to purchase at a lower price after she raises her prices to cover the import costs. After all, who wouldn’t want to stock up before they have to pay more?

 

What is Balance in Business?

I’ve heard people say, ‘it is important to have balance in your life.’ I’ve also heard some people say, ‘you have to learn how to create balance in your business.’ Recently I’ve heard, ‘there is no such thing as balance.’ Wow, so which is it? Is it important, do we need it, or does it even exist? Balance is a tricky word when it comes to non-physical concepts.

When we think of balance we often conjure a vision of two objects equally weighted or a person standing on one foot.

“A state of equilibrium; equal distribution of weight, amount, etc.”1

But in business and life it often means putting up with the things we don’t like so we can have enough time to do what we love. For example working to get 2-weeks vacation. The problem is that doing the negative to have the positive is not balance. Doing what is equally weighted throughout your life is.

“A mental steadiness or emotional stability; habit of calm behavior, judgment, etc.”1

When we say we are working towards balance we forget that it means every day, all day long, not just after the work is done. It is not putting in three 12 hour days so we can go to our kids play at school. It is not getting 90 ‘no’s’ to hear 10 ‘yes’s’ in our sales calls. So if that is not it then what is it?

It is what Buddha calls ‘The middle way’ – This is the path that walks between the extremes.

So how do we add this to our lives and our businesses? We crave stability and yet we seek change. We want calm and achievable and yet we engage in risks that require a long learning curve and a huge investment in energy.

Ohm Symbol

The key I feel has three parts:

1. Know Your Extremes

The Up

When are you pathologically happy? You know… like being in love. That painful ache of love that drives you to do things you would not normally do and keeps you awake at night. It brings you to tears for fear of losing it and makes you pace in anticipation of your next dose of it.

The Down

When are you depressed, angry, overwhelmed and feeling out of control? These are the times that paralyze our actions and stop us from doing what needs to get done.

2. Know Your Ohm

Spend a little time to capture a list of times when you were happiest – when you were most calm – when you felt at peace with your world, your relationships, and your life. It should be a place that makes you smile and fills your heart with a warm remembrance of something worth repeating. It took no effort to achieve it and no payment to experience. It just was a place and time that gave to you exactly what you needed. Understanding what you see as your place of bliss will help you understand your ‘middle way’.

3. Understand Your Why

This may take longer to identify, but anything you start with will be better than having no ‘why’. Try using these questions to help you unearth this truth for you.

  • Why do you love working with the people you work with?
  • Why do you love helping the clients you get to help?
  • What about your product or service gets you excited?
  • What about what you do makes you happy to get out of bed in the morning?
  • How do you feel you are able to affect change in your client, community, country, world?

Now try these three suggestions:

  1. If you know when you are at your extremes (out of your ‘middle way’) you are not balanced and your family, clients, and friends will be able to sense it. Ask others if they think you seem at peace with your business right now.
  2. If you find yourself fighting for every minute of happiness and you really are not present when you get those moments of respite, then you are not in your ‘middle way’. Look for times without extremes.
  3. If you cannot answer the questions to why you are doing what you do, you may be living someone else’s dream. Think of who else you might be living your actions as and then ask the questions again as if you are them. See if you can answer the ‘Why’ as someone else. It is very hard to be your most amazing self and add value to others when you don’t know why you are doing what you do.

Use these tips to help you stay in a place of calm, where you can regenerate your energy easily, add value to others, and feel happy about the life you have chosen to lead. You will be more productive, your days and your duties will feel lighter, and you will be present for the times you are not working in your business. Think of how your kids will respond when they know their mom or dad is truly able to spend a day with them not worried they are missing out on something else. Imagine how you will feel when you know you have not missed out on something because you have time to do all that needs to get done.

 

How To Make Less Risky – More Confident Decisions

If you have ever thought to yourself, “Hey, I’ve thought of that idea before. I could have been rich like that guy.” If you think you could have made money off an idea you had because you see someone else making money off of it, you are right. You can still likely make money off of that idea, but now you have an excuse not to do the work. The main difference between the person that does make money off an idea and those that feel they missed out, is the decisions that were made around what had to be done.

Everybody Dreams – Few Do the Work

Women Thinking

If you want to see a significant change in your business or life, like more clients, more income, bigger target market, larger territory, a new product line, more employees, more notoriety, etc. you have to be willing to decide on the change that must take place and then do the work. Decision making is a core entrepreneurial skill and you MUST learn to be good at this so you can take action when action is required.

As an employee, you were given tasks to complete and core responsibilities to manage. Your decisions were defined by the level of leadership you held.

  • New to the position? – do the work you are given.
  • Manager level position? – decide on events and issues that will affect the people that work under you and how you will respond.

Now that you are a business owner you are responsible for all aspects of your business. You must be able to make decisions easily and with clarity for the benefit of the business and all the people it will affect.

Confident decision making seems to be a weakness of women business owners in particular. I cannot tell you how many times I have had a successful business owner tell me she have identified a specific need for her business and then, after speaking to her non-entrepreneurial spouse, had decided that it would not be a great idea. The spouse, out of fear for a future they cannot perceive, will always default to a safe response, as only money = security to a non-entrepreneur. Money should always be a factor in your decision making for business but not the only factor.

Perspective without a view can hamper good judgement and stop growth. If the person making decisions in your business does not have full view of the big-picture, their perspective will now benefit the growth of your business. Either give them all the details or stop asking them for their advice.

Below are three factors that will help you with decision making. If your business decisions are clear about these three factors then you will start making less risky, more confident decisions.

1. What is Your Business Goal?

You should always be working towards a goal in your business and life. If you have no set goals (and that does mean it MUST be written down) you will not have the motivation to continually do what it takes to make your business work, especially when things are tough. You should have one ambitious long-term goal, a mid-range goal (1-2 years to complete) and several short term goals that support them. For instance:

Long-term goal To have a successful national membership program with a minimum of 500 members country-wide.

Mid-range goal – To create a national program that has monthly meetings in 5 main cities across the country, with 25 members per city, paying a yearly memberships of $200 each, by 2016.

Short-term goal – Launch the first chapter by May 2015 with a minimum of 15 members.

Ask Yourself – How does this decision affect my goals?

2. Know Your Business’s Mission

My mission is to help business owners feel empowered to successfully implement big ideas in their business so they can make a difference to others in the world. When I look at decisions that I have to make for my business I first want to make sure it is in line with what I want to do, who I want to do it for, how I will provide that service, and why I want to do it. If my decision does not support my mission then it is likely a shiny object that I have been distracted by.

Ask Yourself – will acting on this decision further the goals I have set to support my mission?

3. Know How to Calculate Your ROI

Let’s talk about the money. Sometimes it is hard to spend the money required to make more money because all we can see is the expense. I know, I have this same issue. It also does not stop me from making key decisions in my business that will help propel my business growth.

Write down your answers to these 4 questions.

  1. What is the Cost? – This is the obvious number to look at.
  2. What can you change that will make you more money if you do this?
  3. How much money can you generate from this change in your business?
  4. How else can you pay for this?

The last question is the key to making more money. Looking for opportunities to reduce or eliminate costs is the best way to create an easy path to confident decision making. I recently heard a story about Richard Branson starting Virgin Airlines and how he reduced the risk of the expense of purchasing a Boeing Commercial Airplane. He made a deal with Boeing that they would purchase the airplane back from him in a year if he could not make the new airline company work.

In 2013 I was creating my event plans for 2014 and I knew I was going to be spending a lot of money on locations.  I made an arrangement with a business centre to become my sponsor for the year. My clients were their ideal target market. I got the locations for free, they got online advertising with the programs and the opportunity to speak directly to my clients at the events.

Check-in

Does your decision further your goals; Is it in line with your mission and can you make enough money by investing your time, money or energy required to implement this decision so you can continue to grow your business

After passing these three check-points you can now look at your ability to fund the idea and make a less-risky, more confident decision.

Free Can Get You More Sales

Recently I have had several clients developing software applications and mobile apps. I’ve been in the software industry and software implementation in one form or another for over 2 decades so I’ve seen a lot of different models for development and product roll-out. The software I see and use seems to have a very different way of reaching their market: It starts with free.

I’m just taking serious note of it as I have had some friends create a new software program that has some potential for great value and they want to ask $420 a year to use it. When I tested the software and found several bugs and functionality issues I came to the conclusion that although they have something, it is not ready, in my opinion, to be a full offering. Here are a few things I think they have missed with this roll-out of their product, that apply to most businesses and some suggestions I think would gain them more clients up front and potential investors to create the full premium version of the software.

Start with Free

The best way to get people using your product is to offer some portion of it for free. The “Free for Use – Pay for Premium” model is used a lot for some of the biggest and best loved software applications right now. In the software industry it is almost expected. Here are some examples of software programs that have ‘Free for Use’ components and ‘Pay for Premium’ profit models.

Facebook.com and Google.com

Get connected, start relationships, and build a following for free. When you are ready to be in front of your target market on other pages they visit you can pay for ads. I would say Google is the granddaddy of this business model to the scale they have created. For years the founders of Google did not even want to charge. Their investors kept asking, “how are we going to make money if we didn’t charge?”

Well that all worked out for them, the users and the investors, didn’t it?

Hightail.com, Dropbox.com and Anymeeting.com

Hightail (formerly YouSendIt.com), Dropbox, and Anymeeting are all online support software packages that can be used for free. They are completely functional and provide amazing support to a certain level for free. Their profit model comes when people need more.

Hightail will send large files for free. If you want to track the downloads, keep records of your messages, brand your emails, or send extra-large files you can purchase one of their premium packages.

The same applies to Dropbox and Anymeeting. Dropbox is a cloud storage location and Anymeeting is for webinars. Want more storage… Want to record your webinar or host larger groups… that’s when they charge.

TheLadders.com

I admit, I have never used this website but I do know a great deal about it because it was the focus of a book by Bill Murphy (The Intelligent Entrepreneur). I know that they rolled out their software and enticed as many people as possible to use the software for free. Then they transitioned to a paid model.

Here is one way you may be able to use free to get more sales.

  1. Give the software for free to get a large user base
  2. Use the feedback to streamline the product for optimal value for your clients.
  3. Evaluate how clients use the software to create a plan for a premium product.
  4. Leverage the numbers of your current user base to get outside investment.
  5. Use the investment to create a paid segment of your product that answers needs not fulfilled by the free version.
  6. Roll-out the paid product marketing to your current clients first.
  7. Create a marketing campaign to reach new clients and give your current clients bonuses for bringing in new clients.

If you can give something of value to start a relationship with your target market then think about giving all or some of it for free to get more sales later on. It may be the first step to your multi-million dollar enterprise.

Overcoming the Fear of Growth

“Every significant accomplishment begins with one person stepping up and committing to making a difference” ~ John C. Maxwell.

There is a fear around spending more money, committing more time, giving up freedoms, or increasing time away from family and friends that stops so many business owners from doing what needs to get done to ensure their business grows.  To make a difference in business a business owner must be focused on the work required to see it complete and committed to providing the resources needed to get it there.

Recently I had a Client share a story of a client of hers, who is in the wellness industry. They will give up comfort for their customers because they cannot afford the right equipment. They will even be willing to risk their own health by not having ergonomically functional patient examination equipment in their treatment rooms. Their goal is to buy these things, that they know they need to run a functional business by saving up over a 5 year period.

If they think their clients are going to wait 5 years for them to have the right equipment they will be wrong. Until then they cannot charge what they are worth because they don’t have the basics to make it valuable for their customers. By charging less it will take longer to save the money they need to purchase the equipment and likely it will never happen because the habit of ‘good enough’ will already be instilled into all their business practices.

A business owner must realize that there is no free way to start a business. Growth always starts with investment. So how do we overcome the fear of investment when we don’t feel we have the money or the time to give?

Have a Realistic Goal

Five years to purchase the equipment you need to do the work is not realistic. It would be like going into the new Target store and them not having washrooms for their clients. “We know we need washrooms and it is on our 5-year plan to invest in building washrooms in all stores.” Wouldn’t that be a ridiculous thing to hear.

Maybe not as ridiculous, but just as dysfunctional, are the statements that come from many business owners when it comes to their business growth. Statements like:

  • “I can’t afford to hire someone right now,” when they are completely unable to do all the work just to maintain their business. Where do they think the extra money is going to come from if they don’t hire someone so they can take on more business?
  • “My husband is finished school for the summer and he said he would help me,” was the statement from a business owner of 17 years looking for a new growth strategy because she was working too much and loosing clients. Where did she believe her husband’s new business prowess was going to come from this summer?

The intention to grow is not enough, you must have a realistic goal that cannot be reached by applying a little extra effort in the same places. A growth goal requires a clear vision that will propel you to do the things you have not done before so you can overcome the fear of  trying something new.

Follow a Plan

Desert journey

A clear growth vision will give you the passion to do the work during the times when doing the work is difficult and a plan with steps that can be followed helps ensure that we don’t stop before we reach our destination.

Creating a plan takes a little bit of insight and requires the ability to gather knowledge about the resources needed for each component of the plan.

I was chatting with a real estate investor this morning. He has recently acquired several commercial buildings. He completely understands the value of offering an up-to-date space when it comes to renting offices for a premium, so he is on a path to update and renovate. He knows what the goal is, he has a vision for its value, he has created a plan to get there, and now he is collecting the resources needed to get the steps done.

The work feels easier when you can tackle each step in its turn. The fear comes when we don’t have a process and we try to tackle everything at the same time. The real estate investor knows he cannot have all the trades in his building at the same time. In between purchasing the building and gutting it he invested in more knowledge about development, government requirements and the trades so he could manage the project successfully for his business. The steps of his plan are easier because he is not guessing his next move and then having to put out fires as he goes.

Free Doesn’t Mean Without Cost

One of the biggest fallacies in business growth is to expect to use a free tool or cheaply acquired resource and it won’t cost any money.  When I sit down with my clients and go through the costs of their programs or services, they often find that they are paying way more than they thought to create and deliver it. Bringing things from home, using free online tools, printing a few pages, paying for cheap location, etc. all add up. Usually not everything is accounted for. The one thing that is most often overlooked is the business owner’s own time. When they calculate that they have put in 10 hours for a 2 hour service then they do the math and realize they are working for less than $10 per hour.

We feel fear around growth because we know instinctively that we are working for a pittance and we cannot do more because we really cannot afford to do more.

When you build your plan you must include the cost of your time to implement and maintain free resources. For instance, using social media is very costly in time. In your plan, your long term goal will be to have the social media marketing managed by another person, so you must account for those hours in your estimated costs for growth. It will not be surprising to you that you are working for little money and it will not be surprising to you how much money you need to then hire someone to do the work. The timing and the resources will then be known for that growth step.

Fear comes when we don’t know what we are doing, why we are doing it, or how we will get it done. If you want to be on the path for a greater business growth you have to reduce or eliminate the fear you have around doing the work. Make your goals match your vision, create a plan with steps that you can follow, and understand what your costs really are.

 

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.