Top 10 Lessons I Learned in ’09 While Starting My Own Business…

December 30, 2009

Patience, Patience, Patience. Keep in mind that the ultimate vision that I am building towards will be my life journey and not an overnight transformation.

Just Be Me. 99.9% of the time, someone is already offering the same product or service that we are now selling. What differentiates me from my competitors is my authentic signature brand.

It’s A Family Affair. The risks, costs and rewards that are incurred in my business venture involve my entire family so I have learned to involve them in any strategy and decision making processes.

Know When To Hold ‘Em, Know When To Fold ‘Em. Evaluate my revenue model regularly and be sure to constantly adapt so that I am spending my time and resources on my most profitable activities.

Adopt A Platform Building Mentality. Construction begins in 2010.

Take Time To Get Inspired. I uncover my greatest ideas and solutions when I am swimming or running, not when I am staring at my laptop and forcing the process.

To The Market We Go! Determine what forms of marketing I can and will do myself and hire someone to manage that which I don’t enjoy. Love it or hate it, either way, we all must embrace social media but be cautious not to lose ourselves in it.

Nothing Ventured, Nothing Gained. #1 way to build my business is through public and private speaking opportunities. Get out of the office and behind the podiums as much as possible.

Prioritize Your Priorities. It sounds so obvious, but now that I am blessed to have a husband and a four month old baby-I am amazed at the challenge of focusing on what needs to get done and what would be  ‘nice’ to get done for my business,  for our family and for myself-each day.

Educate, Entertain, Inspire. By doing these three things for current and future clients, I am slowly but most definitely growing the business of my dreams.


How to Make Your Book a Best Seller

December 21, 2009

My business goal for 2010 is…. to begin (note, my qualifier) to write my first (yes, it may not be the last) book (there, I said it). Do you think you have a book in you?

Many have admitted this same desire to me but fear that it may be pure fantasy as the journey appears to be hugely intimidating.  This is why I wanted to share with you invaluable information from Cindy Ratzlaff, Founder of Brand New Brand You.  Cindy was responsible for the marketing and publicity campaigns for more than 100 New York Times Best Selling Books. Specifically, she was responsible for the launch and publication of ‘The South Beach Diet’ which published 11 best-selling books in 36 countries and sold 22 million copies. Here is what she suggests:

1. Keep in mind these questions as they are the basis for a publisher’s ‘Profit & Loss’ forecasting:

  • Is the book well written and is it unique?
  • Is the content already covered in previous books?
  • What do you, the author, bring to the table that is different?
  • How big is your ‘sphere of influence’?/What is your platform strength?
  • Do 100’s of 1000’s of people know your work? (ouch)
  • Are you dynamic enough to sell this book through television, radio and print interviews or your own network?
  • Will you deliver an audience to the publisher?
  • Are you passionate enough? Do you have the personality and drive to ensure a best seller’s launch?

2. Best Seller List Formula= Distribution + Display (online & in stores) + Media + Marketing + Volume of sales within a one week period weighed against total Volume of sales of all (yes, all!) other books that same week.

3. Begin to create ‘Pre-Buzz Buzz’ a year before your book campaign by:

  • Establishing yourself as an ‘expert’ within your field
  • Connecting with ‘Key Influencers’ within your field/a.k.a  your ‘Fire Starters’
  • Platform Building Activities: blog, establish high visibility across social media, talk radio, internet, tv, webinars, tele-seminars, newsletters, in other words: Be noisy!
  • Building your Email List: they will be your social currency/your key evangelists

4. Identify a ‘Top 25 List’ of the places your ideal reader is likely to find you. Then, go to those places and get involved in the dialogue, ask to be a guest blogger, and engage the group’s leader as a strategic partner whom you can seek feedback on your ‘galleys’.

5. Coordinate your book launch for the publishers. Your goal in attaining best seller status is velocity of sales in a short period of time. The less work the publishers have to do the better.

6. Build a incentivizing campaign for your followers when they purchase your book in the first week of launch.

7. Maintain ‘Maximum Strategic Visibility’ across multiple media channels in order to create the impression that you are everywhere all the time.

And you thought writing the book was ‘our’ biggest hurdle? I will write more about self-publishing in the new year but for now, happy platform building!

Do you have managerial courage?

December 11, 2009

Managerial courage is a skill that some bold entrepreneurs are surprised to find they are not adept at practicing in contrast to their otherwise well honed tool kit.  For some, there is a level of frustration and then avoidance in confronting their employees sub-par performance.  For others, there is sheer discomfort in what they foresee as a confrontational show-down that they don’t think they have the energy, time or experience in navigating. Either way, if you want to survive as a small business owner, as Michael Gerber asserts in his E-Myth series, you have got to divvy up your time and skills into part entrepreneur, part business owner and part manager.

Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger define managerial courage as, “saying what needs to be said at the right time, to the right person, in the right manner’ in their book, ‘For Your Improvement’.  Here are their ten suggested remedies:

1. Check it out. Verify the facts of the situation, analyze the situation thoroughly. When you have clarified what you want to say in a few clear statements and have given yourself the time to ensure your message-it is time to deliver your stand.

2. Delivering the information. Strive to deliver your message directly to the person who can do the most with it. Don’t use indirect messages or messengers.

3. The message. Be succinct, go from specific to general, stay purely factual, non-emotional. If others are not composed,  just stick to your message.

4. Bring a solution if you can. Provide a path toward an improved outcome.

5. Tough concern. Be prepared to convey empathy for their emotional response if needed. Mentally rehearse for worst case scenarios.

6. Timing. Set up the meeting beforehand to deliver you message and explain very briefly what will be discussed in the meeting. Make the meeting private and allow for adequate time to process.

7. Don’t shy away from delivering a message because you fear conflict. You will end up having to spend inordinate amounts of time and energy cleaning up the mess down the road if you don’t manage the situation as it is right now.

8. Is it personal? Separate the event from the person. Just deliver the message enough so you are sure they understand it. Don’t seek instant acceptance-give it time.

9. If you must. If your message is rejected, covered, denied, hidden or glossed over and you have stuck to a message of a specific problem and consequence-go up the chain of command or if you are the top, it is time to enforce consequences.

10. Put balance in your message. Balance the scales by positively reinforcing their changed behavior or outcome.

Do these suggestions resonate with you? Tell me about a situation where you exercised managerial courage.

You’ve got a business plan don’t you?

December 4, 2009

40% of small businesses fail within the first year and of those who survive 80% close their doors within 5 years (Michael Gerber, The E-Myth Revisited).  Gerber explains that the overarching reason that this pattern persists is because talented ‘technicians’ decide to begin their own business banking on their proven talent and do not plan for the equally demanding roles as an entrepreneur and a manager.  On the flip side, 75% of franchises succeed at five years. How can this enormous discrepancy be explained? Gerber asserts that it is the standardization of operations, sales, personnel management, etc. that sets the majority of franchise owners up for survival and success.  So, what’s the takeaway?

First, I highly suggest that all of my clients read this gem of a book.  It will change your entrepreneurial world FOREVER. ‘The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It.’

Secondly, I suggest revisiting, or for some finally writing a business plan.  Here is a general outline of a business plan from the Small Business Association:

I. The Business
A. Description of business
B. Marketing
C. Competition
D. Operating procedures
E. Personnel
F. Business insurance

II. Financial Data
A. Loan applications
B. Capital equipment and supply list
C. Balance sheet
D. Breakeven analysis
E. Pro-forma income projections (profit & loss statements)
F. Three-year summary
G. Detail by month, first year
H. Detail by quarters, second and third years
I. Assumptions upon which projections were based
J.  Pro-forma cash flow

III. Supporting Documents
A. Tax returns of principals for last three years Personal financial
statement (all banks have these forms)
B. For franchised businesses, a copy of franchise contract and all
supporting documents provided by the franchisor
C. Copy of proposed lease or purchase agreement for building space
D. Copy of licenses and other legal documents
E. Copy of resumes of all principals
F. Copies of letters of intent from suppliers, etc.

Thirdly, the ‘manager’ role is typically the more challenging role for many of my clients. Mastering the art of managing not only themselves but their employees in order to run their business at an optimal level requires a call to leadership that many have not had to answer before. I will write further on this topic next week, for now, go get your copy of the E-Myth. If you do not find it enormously helpful, I will offer you a refund. Happy reading!