Tag: Continuous Value

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.

Tech-Talk Part 2 – More of What You Need to Know – Shopping Carts

In part two of this three-part series I wanted to talk to you about Shopping Carts. Being able to sell to your clients in a way they want to purchase is a great strategy for your business. Selling online is a challenge for some, and it shouldn’t be. There are lots of options, including an online-manual approach. There is always the option to do nothing at all. I want to look at reasons why you may want to offer this option to your clients and how it might help your business as well as talk a little about the different options available.

colourful shopping carts

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

Why Offer Online Purchasing?

E-commerce allows your clients to purchase from anywhere with options.

Business online is increasing by 20% per year with some 2013 statistics predicting over 1 billion annual online purchases globally1. There is a global trend to purchasing online. I believe that this is a result of increased access and the growth mobile technology, as well as the shear amount of time we spend online. We are using this time to do as much of our chores as possible, like research and purchase a needed item or service. This is not industry dependant. We are seeing online purchases for all business types and all product offerings, from very small, to very large. If your clients are online and they have this need, you are doing them, and your business, a disservice by not offering this option for payment.

Recently I found a business that could not only not accept online purchases, they were unable to purchase online. The challenge for their business was 2 fold, they could only purchase items and services for their business from places that accepted cash or cheques and they could only accept payment in this same format. My clients ask for many different ways to pay;. e-transfers from their bank account to mine (my favourite payment), credit card (the most popular) and PayPal. Strangely, I stopped offering cash or cheque about 4 years ago and no-one has complained (except that first business owner I mentioned). Initially I did not have a merchant account so I could not take credit cards, and that was not an issue since PayPal had a great support for this. I used Constant Contact to manage my communications with clients but this was manual as well. If a purchase came in via email or through an in-person meeting, I would have to add people to different lists to ensure they got the information that they had purchased. There was no automatic communications, no information delivery, no easy way to follow up, and no way to track the connection between my purchases and my communications. It was very separate and time consuming, but it was what I could manage at the beginning of my business.

What is the Business Benefit?

When I started using online purchasing I still sent a manual invoice from PayPal to my clients for payment. I did not have a shopping cart and I did not feel initially I needed it.  Eventually handling multiple purchases automatically became the goal. I liked the sound of the possibility of getting up in the morning and seeing a payment in my inbox from someone I had never met. I knew this was not possible with a manual system and this is why I opted to go to a full online shopping cart. Here were my top reasons for implementing a shopping cart versus taking online payments through PayPal.

  • The shopping cart is integrated with my communications system.
  • I can create auotresponders that delivered services, products, inquiries, scheduling calendars, files, etc. once or over multiple contacts.
  • When people purchased, the data of the purchase is captured by the shopping cart for review.
  • I can manage all my clients differently and offer them things specific to their needs based on how they purchased in the past.
  • I could integrate my merchant account and accept credit cards without having to manage the privacy of my clients’ financial information.
  • I could sell from my website, from stage, at events, in person, or over the phone.
  • I can easily deliver my ezine (newsletter).
  • I can send notices and invitations to special groups of people.
  • Most virtual assistants have skills for managing shopping carts so I could easily offload the work.

What are the Options?

The most important thing to understand is what your use is right now and what you are planning for the use of your shopping cart in the future. You need to be able to evaluate the shopping cart based on how you will use it. Transferring between carts is possible, but what I have heard and experienced is that you will lose between 30 and 50% of your list when you make this transfer. I lost close to 50% of my followers and clients in my switch from Constant Contact (a communications only application) and 1ShoppingCart.com (a full online shopping cart). Privacy policies are strict and to be compliant the best shopping carts require an opt-in for new imported lists as a verification. Even if people love you, they may not opt-in to continue as an active name on your list. This means you cannot contact them via your shopping cart.

Not every shopping cart is the same. There are many global shopping carts that will not integrate with Canadian Banks online. Here is a list of what I was looking for in a shopping cart.

  • Both text and HTML mailing features that look great and are highly functional
  • Easy template creation and use
  • Integration with Canadian merchant accounts
  • Support recurring payments
  • Able to attach a file for mass delivery
  • Put a product on sale without having to create new product profile
  • Quick uptake on understanding how to use it  (none are easy, but some are harder than others)
  • Low cost of initial investment

Other services you may need.

  • M-Commerce (Sales done through a mobile device)
  • Autoresponses based on calendar dates and not sign up dates
  • Up-sell features at checkout

A shopping cart is a monthly investment in the operations of your company, on top of merchant and banking fees. This expense for my company is ~$120 / month. How much income do you have to be making before you invest in this and when is the right time? I would recommend that you make this investment as soon as you know your company is going to need it for its future growth and you are already pushing out online communications and taking online payments.

1 EMarket Services


Meet Your Clients Where They Are

Recently I went on a road trip with my husband to interview a Magic The Gathering store owner in Orangeville. I was just along for the ride with no real interest in the main reason for the journey, which was to create a blog post about the local store owner and support his business. This article would go on his blog (MTG Realm) as he writes about this game with a focus on spoilers for new card releases. It sounds simple and maybe even un-interesting to those that do not play the game, but he gets up to 14,000 hits a day on this blog, so there are a lot of people following along.

While in Shawn’s store I became very aware of the business skill he possessed. I was expecting a geek that opened a store so he could be close to his favourite game and what I saw as a man providing a service to his clients by meeting them where they are. Here are the top 5 things I believe he has done right and why.

Facebook not website

The clientèle for this business has an average age in their low to mid 20’s with a lot of teens and a few older people. They are primarily male (about 95 % of players are male). Although the store has a website, there is little information on it. The key communications for this game happens on Facebook, where his community of players can take part and be active in the decisions that are being made about their favourite place to hang out.

Young people want to interact not just have information pushed at them.

Games for everyone

In a past blog post I wrote about his business and I talk specifically about how he has created new games to appeal to the youngest of his clients, knowing that as they progress, they will get better and will stay clients longer.

As business owners you need to look at what you have to offer that will keep your current clients coming back. You can sell ‘one offs’ but you want to try and fill your business with clients that are ‘in love’ with your service and return over and over, bringing their friends and spending their time and money.

Invites the community

On the third floor of his business he has a huge room with high ceilings that needed to be painted. He opened up this room and started an non-profit Art Club for young artists to exhibit murals, painting and photography. He hosts regular events and even offers his own walls for the canvas (see image below).

Koros Games upstairs floor - Art Club

What can you be doing to support the community your clients live in. If you have a location, can you open the doors during off hours for a charity to use. If you don’t have a physical location can you commit time or other resources for local events, not-for-profits, or other community engagements. A business that operates without the connection to its community, whether locally or online, is not as connected to it client.

Simple changes

I laughed at this change, but really… it makes sense for everyone. All the prices in his store include taxes. Not only does it make it easier for his youngest clients to know how much money they need to get a new card to add to their deck, it makes it easier for his employees to help people. He said to me, “Why don’t all businesses do this? It just makes sense.”

Big thinking investments

Originally when he started he was renting a small space on the main street in Orangeville, a city of 25,000, just North of Toronto Ontario. With his focus on his clients his business outgrew the location and he had to move. His answer was to purchase a century old building in a prime location and rent out the street level floor space. He still has two floors of space and he can host up to 200 players for tournaments. This is unheard of outside the large cities. The key is he does not need to fill to capacity to make his money, he simply has the space to offer the opportunity without it being a financial burden on the business. It is one of the reasons he is able to run two events simultaneously to attract both the competitive player and the newbie or casual player.

Are you thinking about your best investments in your business that will give you great resources and give your clients a better experience at the same time? Meet your clients where they are and they will continue to follow you and purchase from you.

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)


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


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.

Everyone Has To Be A Writer

ReadingInLibraryThis is a hard pill to swallow for some, even if you are not a bad writer. As a business owner you will be required to write different types of documents to support your business. I hear people saying, “I’m not a writer”, but I argue that you need to be. You may not have to write at the same level as a published author, but you do have to be able to communicate using the written word.

When we think of a writer we think of these types of activities:

  • blogs
  • articles
  • book
  • marketing campaigns

Additional writing required in business

  • email
  • invitations
  • website copy
  • announcements
  • Facebook or other social media posts
  • texts
  • RFP
  • procedures
  • training instructions
  • messages and memos

I’m sure there are more examples but I think you get my point. Your message must be clear so that the action required by the reader is understood. If you need to make an appointment via email you want to make sure both of you end up at the same place in the same time. Have you ever had this happen:

You send an email with details for a meeting and the person agrees by email. When they read the email they misunderstood the choices which resulted in a missed meeting and a waste of your time. I have had this happen and I try to mitigate this challenge by confirming the meeting email with only the meeting details. Like this:



So what are the basics you need to know? Here are three that will help you with your writing responsibilities.

Write to a level that everyone can understand

Reading in a Library on top of book stackI used to work in medical research. The doctor I worked for was an amazing woman. She was a PhD and an MD. She had patients, students, research colleagues, and she was the head of the BioPhysics department. Needless to say, she was intelligent, well read, and highly educated. I was young and new to the science we were studying. At a meeting one of her colleagues gave a presentation on his research that he planned on using at an upcoming conference. When he was done she asked me what I thought. I told her I had found it interesting but difficult to follow because I did not know his focus or the foundations of his science. “Exactly” she said, he spoke over your head. Even though the room at the conference will be filled with doctors and attendees that are intelligent, well read, and highly educated they will not have the same background or foundation of understanding. He must speak to the audience at a common level of understanding.

Even if you are writing a research paper, you must write at a common level of understanding so that your audience will have the foundational pieces to put your thoughts and ideas into context.

Have it reviewed

Everything you send out must be reviewed, including your emails and texts. This does not mean you need to hire an editor, but it might. At the very least you need to read through your copy at least once. I like to read it out loud to ensure what I thought I was writing and what I actually wrote are the same thing. You’d be surprised how often I catch errors this way.

If you are sending a document that can be used for legal purposes, like a contract, then having a lawyer or paralegal review it would be wise. For marketing collateral you definitely want to pay an editor to review it. They are trained to look for language that is confusing or wrong. I heard a story recently where the editor recommended a change to a document being used to secure a space for an annual event. The sponsorship-document wording stated an exact year. This meant when the event came up the following year the space they needed may not be available. The person did not take the advice of the editor and the space was not available.

A second example that you may be personally familiar with is the money wasted on professional printing for marketing collateral when you find an error on the final product – like the phone number is wrong. I had this happen to an image I had created. By editing the image I found the error in my website name. Can you imagine people seeing this image and not being able to get to my website because it was misspelled. Your potential clients are not going to go and Google search your website address. Don’t lose clients by making them jump through hoops to understand your intentions.

Easily fixed up front – A pain after the damage is done.

For other documents, having someone read through it may be enough to ensure it is easily understood. If you have a spelling mistake in a Facebook post it will be easily forgiven – as long as it is not a ‘Rob Ford’ sized mistake. Having a spelling mistake in a contract may cost you your income

Read and Practice

If you want to get good at something you have to practice. No one is great at something the very first time they try. I had been writing for over 20 years, but when I started blogging about 5 years ago I was nervous and overwhelmed. What would I write about? How will I find enough information? How will I find the time? The more I wrote the easier it became. This article took 45 minutes to write and 20 minutes for me to review. Then I had it reviewed by another person and updated. About 2 hours in total.

I suggest you also read often. The more I read, the more I have an opinion worth writing about. It gives me more content.

You do not have to be a world-class novelist to write for your business but you do have to know how to write. Even your emails can make a difference to a deal in your business so get good at it and read it over before you send it out. If you want to be known as intelligent, well read, and highly educated then communicate with your audience so they can understand you and then they will get value from what you have to say.

3 Skills for Getting it Right from the Start – A Foundation of the Successful

There are no guarantees in life. All we can do is find the best path that will help mitigate potential failure. For business owners with a 65% chance of being out of business by year 5, it becomes an imperative action that you need to take from the beginning of your idea right on through every year of your business. There will be lots of things you can do to ensure you are successful, including plans, marketing channels, niche markets, target clients, brand image, etc. Let me give you three foundational skills I see most often in successful people. I have also noticed that these three traits are often weaker or missing in those people struggling and failing.

Do Something You Love

Many people start a business doing something they are good at and often it is not necessarily something they love to do. I know because I have seen this many times in new business owners and my first business was based on this. I had been a technical writer for over 15 years and in technology for over 2 decades when I started my business Clear Comm Information Design, a company that writes for medical device manufacturers and software development companies. Being an expert at technical writing certainly did not make it easier to be motivated and driven when times were tough. If you want to last the course you need to be driven to do the work when the work is not fun. Loving what you do makes that much easier.  In fact, this rings true for all aspects of your life. It is why our children are part of our lives even after they go through their teens <smile> because we love them and we are driven to do what it takes to see them successfully reach adulthood and beyond. You will be sidetracked, mislead, overwhelmed, disillusioned, out of money, out of time and simply exhausted building your business. If you don’t love it then it will be more difficult to develop, plan, grow, and continue to add your energy to get the best results.

Know The Outcome

What are these results I talk of? You have to know what you are working for. It is very hard to get engaged in the first place when you don’t have a goal to work towards, let alone be driven enough to stay motivated through any challenge you might encounter. If you know from the beginning what the business will mean to you, your life, your partners, employees, your clients, and your community,  then you can stay on track when building your brand. Great leaders in business bring their values, mission, and brand into their business systems so that everyone knows what they are buying into and how to support it. Check out the philosophy of Zappos.com president Tony Hsieh and the business strategies that have made them billions of dollars.


If you get to a point in your business and you think you have everything in place to start taking advantage of your creation, you will soon be dealing with new issues. Be prepared to continue to grow for the entire life of your business. There is never a time when you should not be reviewing your industry, new technologies, business strategies, opportunities, and simply keeping skills current. Never stop learning! The companies that learned in the 90’s that SEO was going to get them more business as the world moved to internet shopping are the companies that moved ahead of their competition. Those that learned social media before it was an expected need of marketing were better positioned to take advantage of their virtual relationships. Don’t be the one saying, “There is too much to learn, I just can’t keep up.” Be the one that reads new books and accepts new ideas and then pick and choose which to implement. Start with these three foundational skills to help you and your business have the best odds to succeed well beyond 5 years.

How to Have Motivation to Take Action

Motivation to take action and do the work is abundant when the idea is new and fresh. The excitement of starting something new and creating a dream can propel us forward to develop a plan with a deadline that is likely under-estimated and over enthusiastically envisioned. Daniel Kahneman, in his book “Thinking Fast and Slow”, is a psychologist and statistics champion has discovered in his research that we are more likely to expect to succeed in a new business venture than accept the baseline statistics of known success rates. Even when we know that only about 35% of all new business will last more than 5 years (based on USA stats) we do not give up. Since 70% of us are likely to fold by year 5, what makes the 35% different? Kahneman refers to this as the ‘Planning Fallacy” and we are all susceptible. This means that we are likely to overestimate our level of success and under estimate the time it will take us to complete our plan.

Implementing when you are excited about your vision is easier than creating your new procedures, training a new employee for the hundredth time, or making your tenth sales call for the morning, 4 days in a row. Making your bill payments, consistent marketing, bookkeeping, and any other mundane operation in your business will be less inspiring. Implementation will not be as easy, nor as high on your priorities without an extraordinary effort to create something different. After all, it will likely take you 3 to 5 years to become consistently profitable, if you make it at all.

We can make our estimates more accurate and our plans more valuable when we know the pitfalls, one of which is ‘lack of motivation’. So as our plan matures and our business becomes more routine, how do we continue to motivate ourselves with the excitement and energy of a new business owner?

Know Your Goal

You must review your top goals regularly. You must have an emotional connection to their completion. If your top goal is written as “make more money”, it will not be as impactful or compelling to your motivation as “having $10,000 for a down-payment on a house by the end of the year”. I have talked about SMARTAR goals several times in this blog and I continue to mention them because of how important it is to your motivation to have something you really want to see complete. With more motivation you will be driven to see more opportunities, learn more ways to succeed, and implement more of your plan in a timely manner, and hopefully be able to side-step unforeseen challenges as they arise.

Understand the Path

It is so much easier to be motivated when you have something to do that you know you can accomplish. Make your daily tasks something you can complete. Keep the list short and ask yourself of each task, “will this get me closer to my goal?” It only sounds easy, but managing the routing of working IN and ON your business will make this less likely to happen. If you can make it a routine and add your ‘to do’ list review process to the beginning of your day it will increase the likelihood you will complete the tasks and move closer to completing your plan.


Don’t gloss over your accomplishments. You must spend time being grateful for the tasks you have finished, the deadline you have met, the sales you have made, the people you have helped, and the goals you have completed. Even recognizing the value of a failure will help you learn quicker and move on. Inspire yourself with your own accomplishments so you can continue to push forward and create a successful and profitable business.

Taking action in your business can be hard some days. Laundry, kids, self-pity, and other life experiences can sneak in and steal your resolve to make something great. If you start your day with your plan and your to-do list and end your day with a review of what you have accomplished, you will be completing more work and getting closer to your goals every day.

It’s Not About ‘You’ – 3 Tips to Help you Focus on ‘Them’

This morning at the Barrie Open Coffee Club our discussion was around Clients – good and bad. It was a reminder to me that even though we are often the only person in our business, the focus of business growth is not about ‘you’ it is about ‘them’ [the client]. We forget this sometimes in our development, in our language, in our interaction during a project, in our conversations and our services; we must be looking to what is needed and not what we want to offer. Let me give you three tips to help you remember where your focus should be when you are looking to grow your business.

1. Marketing Language

Our marketing language should speak to our target market in a way that will attract them and make them take notice. If your target market is athletes, then speak about topics and benefits that will appeal to an athlete. This seems rather simplistic but I often see language that is about your service, your features, your options written in a way that you think would appeal to everyone.

1. Know who you are talking to. I like work on an exercise with my clients to create an avatar (detailed description/image) of their ideal client. By knowing exactly who your ideal client is, what they like, where they hang out, what they read, the dynamics of their family and friends, etc. you can more easily understand what will attract them to your business and ultimately buy from you.

2. Find out what your clients really need or want – not just what you want to sell them. For example; we all need a coat for the winter months in Canada, but we don’t all want a ski jacket. If you are selling light-weight jackets for business dress that a professional will use to go from their car to a venue and back again, then knowing this will help you create the language that will focus on the benefit your clients actually want, like that it is light-weight, has an inside pocket for business cards, can be worn easily while driving, and can be worn over a suit jacket. Selling using language that will attempt to attract everyone because of your amazing product features may get your marketing overlooked by the professionals you need to reach. Focus on their needs not your features.


2. Direction

It is hard to let go when we know we have something of great value to offer, but if you find that you are not getting traction with the sales of your product or service then you need to look at why. One reason why may be that you are not using the right language to communicate the benefits to the right people (as mentioned above). Another ‘why’ may be that you have created something that appeals to you but not to your clients. If you are adamant about heading in one direction while your clients look for something different you are not focusing on their needs.

Evaluate your clients’ needs. Ask them what they love about your products or services and what they would like to see changed. If there is something you cannot sell, ask what they would prefer. Do some competitive intelligence research to see what your competitors are doing, especially if they are very successful.

If you find the product or service you expected to sell well is not selling then be quick to head in a new direction. Don’t be so tied to your expectation that you are unwilling to make the change required to meet your clients’ needs.

3. Service

We go into business to create an income for ourselves, to develop something we see as valuable, to follow our passion, or to work at something we are an expert at. When you are in business the only thing that really matters is if we serve our clients the way they wish to be served. What is their experience with our products, our place of business, our employees, our service. Do we fulfill our clients’ needs? Do we meet their expectations? Is what we have to offer what our clients really want? Can we reproduce our clients’ best experiences over and over?

To be able to serve your clients you must ask yourself and your clients these questions so you can evaluate your offering. Always be looking for ways to stay on top of your clients’ needs and be proactively searching for the ways to give the best service possible.

Online, in person, over the phone, or through a distance relationship, your clients are the reason you are in business. Don’t use ego to direct your business growth. Look to your clients for the things that will make you successful.


Don’t Ignore Your Trends

Do you know what trends are driving your industry? Understanding the trends means that you can watch for trend changes and be on top of it in your business if you have to make a course adjustment to your business growth and sustainability.

Trendy_purseFirst – What is the trend your business is built on?

Selling water filters may be based on the trend for healthy living, selling MRI machines for hospitals may be the trend of increased disease awareness and the drive for healthier living, and electric bikes may be driven by environmental concerns and the need to also continue with a healthy lifestyle.

In my business of coaching, speaking, and training I see a couple of trends that affect this market and increase the number of people doing what I do tremendously: the economy collapse and the need for education for people later in life.

In 2008 the collapse of Wall Street brought a lot of unrest and worry to the average person, not only in the USA but also in the global market. People were losing their jobs and their homes at an alarming rate. Getting support to carry on, build something new, apply to another industry, or go back to ‘the market’ is difficult and scary. Getting support from someone that can help find the path and keep you on it was one of the reasons coaching became more popular. A second outcome was that the people in that transition could also become a coach.

When people realized that to make a change and apply for a job they had never done before would require education, the education industry exploded. My understanding is that this is true in unstable markets were job loss and unemployment are high. Being a business expert and a coach meant that I could hit a market of people in transition, starting something new by creating a business for themselves, and needing education to make it last. This is the trend I watch.

Second – What are you going to be watching for?

Knowing the metrics, factors, purchasing habits, etc. are great, but knowing exactly what you will be watching and at what time you need to start looking for a new path is even more important. Businesses that are successful stay on top of the trends in their market. Google broke into an already crowded cell phone market a few years back by knowing that there was still room in the technology for growth and innovation. There was still a lot of people that did not own a cell phone and although the younger buyer may be set with their Apple purchase, the older consumer using Blackberry was now looking for something different. If Blackberry had been on top of this trend they would have released their own button-free, touchscreen phone years earlier and it would have likely helped their sales tremendously.

As the baby boomers continue to retire, many without the funds to live comfortably without work, there will continue to be a need for what I do. After that bubble passes my expertise may be in less demand and changing my marketing strategies as well as my services will be the first places I start.

Find out what the trend is that you are following, and look for new trends in your market so you can be prepared.

Continual Growth Helps Avoid Ruin

I am a business growth mentor so it is my job to ensure my clients know how to find their ambitious growth vision and implement it. Sometimes people think they do not want to grow. There are reasons for this and it is around the fear of being overwhelmed and being unable to deliver a bigger service or product offering. I offer you this thought; without continual growth your business will not be sustainable. This is true for your life as well. Looking forward to what you can do, what you want to change, what excites you, and how you might create something new is a great way to keep your mind active, your soul filled, and your business solvent.

Creating growth has three stages. Let me walk through these with you.

1. Want

You have to want it! Growth requires change and that is really difficult for all of us on some level and at some times. Wanting to change is easier if you have a desire around the outcome. If you want the outcome more than you do not want the discomfort of the change then you can accomplish the growth.

Let’s say you want to double your business income. The desire to double your income will not be enough emotional pull to really motivate you during times when you really need to push through uncomfortable tasks, but your desire will. What if your reason for doubling your income is that if you do not you will have to close your business. Yikes! Now you have a real desire – the continued existence of your business because you love what you do. That will do it – now you have your own ‘Big Why’ for motivation.

So, for instance, if the growth of your business required you to call all your past clients, something you had never done before, you may be thinking of other ways to get around that work. If you think to yourself, “If I get 10 more clients I will be able to meet my goals to double my business” you will be focusing on your desire. You will be more likely to make the calls and get through them so that you will reach that new level in your business.

Vision Road Sign with dramatic blue sky and clouds.

2. Vision

You must have a clear vision as to what you will need to implement and sustain your ‘want’. This is a little like creating a goal statement and adding colour, smells, location, people, and dates, etc. The clearer your vision is the easier it will be to create a plan to make it real.

If in our example above you want to double your income then start by thinking about what a business that makes 10x (Ten Times) as much as you do would look like.

You read that right – to double your income you need to look at a much bigger business.

How many people would they need? How many clients would you have to serve? How many products would you have to sell? Where would you be located? Who would oversee operations, marketing, sales, finances, etc? What is your part in the business? How much money will you actually make (do the math)? How much money will you be spending (again, do that math)?

When you envision something much larger it is easier to pick out the smaller pieces and make it happen. If you try to stretch a small business into something bigger than it can sustain you will struggle and stress.

3. Plan

Create the plan to build the bigger business and then stop at double your current size if you want. Knowing what it will take to coordinate and develop a larger business is so valuable to your business growth mindset. You will be able to handle more challenges and see more opportunities. You don’t ever have to run that 10x business but you do have to know that path to get there so that the beginning of the path is crystal clear all the way to the 2x business.

Start at the end and work backwards. What did you need to do to have a 10x business? Look at these key areas and their details…

  • Operations
    • Management
    • Job descriptions
    • Training
    • Policies and procedures
    • Laws and regulations
    • Positions
    • Responsibility
    • Location
    • Client contact
    • Customer support
    • Partners
    • Suppliers
  • Marketing
    • Management
    • Campaigns
    • Printing
    • Online contact software applications
    • Target Market and sales location
    • Product / service positioning
  • Sales
    • Management
    • Team
    • Quarterly, monthly, weekly, and daily goals
  • Finance
      • Management
      • Funding
      • Credit


  • Tools, inventory, and other capital expenses required
    • Customer relationship management (CRM) software
    • Financial software
    • Real estate
    • Product / service pricing
    • Office equipment and furniture

Thinking big lets you take in all the possibilities and then narrow it down to the things that have to get done right now.

Next step is to look are your endpoint for the 2x growth.

  • What is the # of clients you have to serve or the amount of product you have to sell to make that growth number? How many hours would it take you? Is it more than you have in a day? If so, you will need to hire.
  • Is it more money than you have to put out? If so then you have to get financing.
  • Does it require a new website, video, a mailing list? If so then you have some things to learn, buy, or manage.

Remember if you are not growing your business you are going out of business. Just ask Blockbuster.