Time to Hunt

hunting 300x199 Time to HuntI read a salesperson’s resume today in which the individual described herself as a “hunter.” Got my attention immediately because that’s what every business needs and few have. Imagine if your business had a great hunter or two. How much more could you accomplish?

Great hunters love learning, meeting new people and building relationships and moving sales forward. They are engaging and get you sharing information because you know this person genuinely wants to help and can add tangible value.

Here are some other things I’ve observed about the great ones:

  • They truly love the process
  • They make it all about the prospect
  • They move the relationship forward rather than trying to “close”
  • They work very efficiently and
  • They work hard

If your products/services are excellent and your sales performance less so, it’s time for YOU to go hunting….. for a hunter.

Refuse to “Settle”

greatness Refuse to “Settle”Accelerate results with empowering beliefs & assumptions. Settling for less is a self-fulfilling prophesy. Only by striving to accomplish something great do we enable a culture of achievement and excellence that leads to greater results. Underlying the “culture of settling for less” are beliefs and assumptions.

Sales

For example, if we believe that “the sales cycle in my business is at least 12 months” it becomes true for us because we will consciously and subconsciously behave in a manner that reinforces this belief. Far better to have an “empowering assumption” such as “as soon as I bring a superior solution to a funded buyer with urgent need with whom I’ve established great rapport, a sale will occur.” I don’t know about you but I’m allergic to long sales cycles.

Team

If we think we have the team we deserve, we’re right. But what if our “dream team”, the team that is required to fulfill our business vision, isn’t already on board? Think you can attract them with a “settle” attitude?” No way. Be allergic to mediocre performers. Scrub up and go recruit the awesome team you need.

Money

Want to raise capital? It’s really hard isn’t it? Nah! There are billions of dollars sitting on the sidelines but 95% of opportunities are not investment grade. Are you up to the challenge? Simply bring a very well-tuned, compelling story backed by hard evidence and blow-away strategies and tactics with a high probability of success, proving that you’ll generate a high return for investors and lenders and they’ll chase you. Investors are allergic to non-innovators.

You get the picture. If you don’t aspire to greatness, you won’t accomplish great things. But you can do it. Put an amazing Plan together (I can help), gather an amazing team and you’re well on your way.

Set your “settling” aside & show us what you can do!

How to Make Good Decisions

decision making 300x195 How to Make Good DecisionsAs in life, some business decisions carry very significant consequences and others don’t matter a great deal. Nobody has all the answers so it’s good to have a thought process to follow in making decisions, particularly when there is a lot on the line.

3 Common Decision Situations

Many business decisions will fall into one of these categories:

  • Deciding “yes” or “no” to a proposed action, proposal or idea, or
  • Modifying it so that it becomes a “yes”, or
  • Choosing between more than one option

Plan Ahead

Not everything in business should be a complete surprise. If we stay informed about our markets we should be able to anticipate some of the things coming our way. Having a good Business Plan which is reviewed at least annually gives us time to focus and reflect on some of the “what if” scenarios we may encounter.

Criteria for Making Decisions

You’ll make better decisions more of the time if you develop a list of criteria that you use to guide your thinking. Here are some to consider:

  • Financial Impact & Risk-  what investments are required and what returns do you expect on them? What happens if things go wrong? Also, what is the cost of not doing it or choosing another option?
  • Operational impact & Risk– what is the impact on how your company operates? Will productivity improve? Will people or processes need to change? What operational risks are there?
  • Brand Impact & Risk – how will your brand and business reputation be enhanced or hurt by the decision?

What if You Lack Information or Expertise?

You’re willing to use the above criteria to make the decision but you don’t know how to calculate the financial impact and/or risk. Now what do you do? Well, if the decision is really important you engage outside assistance to help you. If the decision is not so important, you make an educated guess.

Two best practices  to address this are (1) to get advice and counsel from your internal team as they may be able to shed light on the subject and (2) have a skilled business advisor or multiple advisors who know you and your business and can lend their assistance when you need it. You can accomplish this with a formal Board, an informal Board of Advisors or a trusted business advisor.

Schedule your Annual Planning Meeting, create your list of criteria for making decisions and line up your Advisors and you’ll be well on your way to making better decisions.

Make every day count!

 

Color My World

colors Color My WorldWatch this simple demonstration of the incredible energy that Color brings to just about any process. We all know how well it serves Marketing/Branding by helping evoke emotional responses and memory of the Brand but today’s message is about helping YOU and your team stay motivated and focused on the right things.

There is a natural flow to business development for service companies (and this can be readily adapted to fit Product companies as well). It goes like this:

  • Networking in organizations where desired prospects congregate leads to building relationships with influential/trusted community leaders known as Centers of Influence (COIs) whose opinions matter to the community at large
  • Building a strong portfolio of COIs will, in time, become a consistent source of Prospects
  • Meeting with Prospects leads to Clients
  • Happy Clients refer others and become an additional source of business

Let’s take this rather obvious process and add some color.

Color-Coding my Calendar yields valuable information instantly:

  • If there isn’t a lot of Client Work scheduled, I need to reach out to existing Clients and make sure that they are well-served on known issues and find if there are additional needs to be addressed. Second, I need to connect with existing  Prospects and schedule more meetings
  • If there is not enough Prospect Meetings, I need to pursue those already in my pipeline and schedule more COI Meetings and attend more Networking Events
  • If I don’t have enough COI Meetings, then I need to attend more Networking Events to meet and begin to build relationships with more of them

As my dad said when we purchased our first color television: “I’ll never go back to black and white.”

 

Wheat. Chaff. Separate.

3269089 487550 separating the wheat from the chaff 210x300 Wheat. Chaff. Separate.It can be very difficult to evaluate the skills of outside resources and advisors to assist your business. And when the pressure is on to fix a problem, the selection task becomes more difficult because our judgment may become clouded by the need to move quickly. Here are some ideas to keep in mind to improve your probability of success:

  • Try to get out in front of this by interviewing resources recommended by people you trust months in advance of when you will need them so that you are under no pressure to decide

When you meet with them:

  • Don’t be too eager to start talking, venting and dumping information. You want the opportunity to learn about their process and ability to find out what they need in order to help you.
  • So, are they asking terrific questions that lead you to believe they bring high value?
  • Ask yourself it their process makes sense to you
  • Are they actively listening & speaking responsively or talking at you, possibly even interrupting or talking over you?
  • How well are they grasping your needs and perspectives? Even if they are listening doesn’t mean they understand.
  • Are they providing concise, direct answers to your questions?
  • Did they show up on time for your meeting?
  • Do they say things that probably aren’t true
  • Do they speak negatively of their Clients, employees, competitors or others?
  • Have they had success solving issues similar to yours? Can they prove it?

You CAN separate the wheat from the chaff!

 

Once Tried, Always Used

barkeepers 300x199 Once Tried, Always UsedI was cleaning our cappuccino maker with a kitchen cookware cleaner named Bar Keepers Friend, which has been around since 1882, and found that it performed really well bringing out a big shine without having to apply very much elbow grease.  When my wife returned from shopping I asked her about it and she confirmed that she absolutely loves the product and uses it in the kitchen and in the bathroom all the time.

On the back of the bottle, right at the top it states “Once Tried, Always Used” and it struck me that they could say it because they can back it up. I’m hooked on this product!

I’m sure that you have better things to do then read a cleaning product review so let’s get to the BUSINESS POINT: can you say the same thing about your business, that, if someone uses your product or service they will be absolutely hooked?

If so, congratulations! Next cup of coffee is on me. If not, WHAT do you need to do to improve your performance? Is the problem with the product/service itself or the customer experience within which it is delivered?

If it’s the product/service, what are the 2-3 most critical improvements to be made and how would you prioritize them?

If the problem is a customer service issue, same thing, what needs to improve and what’s the right order to tackle it.

Once Tried, May Be Used Again is not a recipe for greatness. Thank you to Bar Keepers Friend for shining a light on this problem.

 

JACOBY provides expert Business Planning & Guidance to small businesses who aspire to become successful niche leaders.

 

Stop Talking So Much!

March 21st, 2012 No Comments   Posted in Business Growth, Business Stories

taped mouth 150x150 Stop Talking So Much!I had a cup of coffee with a delightful young entrepreneur who wanted some ideas on how to grow his business. He kept interrupting me because he was so excited to share more information about his company.  I gently asked for a little breathing room and he calmed down for a bit.

I offered to go on a sales call with him because there just happened to be an appropriate target Customer business a couple of blocks away. We walked in and he started trying to sell to the woman behind the counter. Her face turned red, she turned her body physically away from him and she clenched her jaw. He kept talking….

I interceded with some friendly comments and you could just see her defenses melt. I patted him on the back and said that I thought there just might be grounds for a very nice discussion with her husband, the owner.

She didn’t say yes but she left the door open to the possibility.

In all fairness, this young man and his wife just had a baby a week ago and he’s in “daddy” land. When he settles down we’ll have a good discussion about bonding with prospects and not overwhelming them with all that good information before they want to hear it.

It would be a better world – and we’ll sell a lot more – if we stop talking at one another so much.

 

You Can Pay Me Now

check 300x214 You Can Pay Me NowEvery now and then a Client doesn’t pay their bills and deciding how to handle that is a challenge for every entrepreneur. The 3 key variables in this process are: the amount to be paid, the timing of payment(s) and how you move forward. Here is how I do it in my business consulting practice:

  • Establish the amount due: provide written documentation to the Client and ask for confirmation that the amount is correct
  • If they agree to the amount, negotiate a payment schedule, send them notices in advance of due dates (requesting read receipts), call them right away if they are late or miss a payment – staying in touch with them throughout this process is key as you want to hold them as close as possible to their commitment. You are relying on their ethics. It’s easy to get fatigued and stop paying attention but don’t let that happen – stay vigilant!
  • If the Client does not acknowledge the amount, engage them in a discussion to understand their point of view and consider the legitimacy of their claims. Try to find out very specifically the points of agreement and disagreement. Based upon a dispassionate consideration of their statements, was your Company’s performance worthy of the invoiced amount? Are you willing to accept a smaller amount either because they have a legitimate point or simply in order to move on?
  • If you are not willing to negotiate, tell them so in writing with a request for payment. If they do not respond to this in a reasonable timeframe, ask your attorney to send them a demand letter – this will often do the trick and its money well spent.
  • If you are willing to negotiate the amount and the timing of payments, tell them so. You may want to estimate your expected legal fees and the value of your time. Generally speaking, small claims are not worth pursuing from an economic and opportunity cost perspective. Large claims may be worth your time and money.
  • Ultimately, if they won’t pay and the amount owed is large enough to justify your time and investment, you may have to pursue them via legal means.  Unfortunately, in our legal system, it is very unlikely that you will recover your legal costs, and the process may take 1-2 years to complete so make sure you have the stamina and wherewithal to go through it.

A year ago, a business advisory Client did not pay the final amount due on a business plan because he had cash flow problems in his business. It was disheartening because I had gone the extra mile on the Plan and really enjoyed working together. He was never willing to commit to a payment schedule despite my numerous repeated attempts but the amount was not large enough to justify taking him to court. So, I stayed very constructive in our communications – though I was tempted to not be civil – and a year and a half later he stopped by and made his first payment and handed me a note that said “This is a very small part of what I still owe you. You will have the balance in full soon.” Conducting yourself as a professional craftsman sometimes pays unusual dividends.

 

Born to Run

 

tarahumara 300x208 Born to RunBusiness owners and Bruce Springsteen fans, check out the book “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World has never seen” by Christopher McDougall. It will stretch your imagination, improve your stamina, help you sprint past obstacles, increase your appreciation for different running (your business) styles and remind you of just how glorious it can be to achieve great things.

This story of Mexico’s Tarahumara Indians, whose lifelong activity of ultra-running (more than 100 miles at a time, sometimes as long as 48 straight hours) in perilous conditions, will amaze you. And their climactic interaction with some of the most elite ultra runners in the U.S. will really have you huffing and puffing… with sheer joy.

This story reveals scientific evidence that the human race was meant to run – to outlast prey through superior endurance and despite inferior speed and that the introduction of the running shoe by Nike in the 1960s has led to a staggering injury rate for the reason that the supposed protection these shoes offer actually condition runners to not follow nature and do harmful things to themselves.

Business success is not a marathon but an ultra-marathon. You can survive on a minimum diet if it’s the right food (the right team, the right products, the right strategies). You can overcome great obstacles such as heat stroke (intense competition), dehydration (running out of cash) and getting lost (lack of a good business road map).

The camaraderie and shared values of the elite US ultra-runners with these tribal people makes me think of the value of a strong industry – competitors yes but with a healthy regard for the rights of others and an underlying knowing that a strong industry is better for all.

Your ultra-success can be found when you commit yourself to finding the hidden trails, learning the smooth motion of the Tarahumara runners and enjoying the journey.

Business owners like us, baby we were born to run!

 

Baking a Big Pi (π)

July 20th, 2011 No Comments   Posted in Business Growth, Business Stories

Profit that is. The reason others purchase from you (to bake their own Pi). The reason your business exists. Your charter is to help others earn a bigger slice so that your Company gets more too.

You want your Company to be valuable?  Then you must generate a stream of consistent earnings growth over a period of years with performance better than most of your competitors.

There are exceptions to this but they are few: you may have assets i.e. intellectual property, products, land/building which are more valuable than your earnings stream or you may be in a hot market where, for a period of time at least, buyers will pay a multiple of sales to absorb your customer base and reputation. But, these are the exceptions. 98% of the time prospective buyers will value your business on expected earnings and they will base this largely on actual results.

So, business chefs, it’s all about Pi.

Here are some key ingredients:

  • High retention rate of profitable Customers
  • Selling more to existing Customers
  • Steady addition of new Customers (efficient/effective marketing and sales)
  • Maximize Gross Profit dollars (the right price/quantity balance)
  • Minimize expenses (increase high ROI spending, limit low ROI spending)

Fire up the oven, it’s time to bake Pi!

 

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