The Pillars to Successful Business Growth Strategy Series. Pillar 1 – Your Product


pillar-of-autumn-1541725-639x979A successful business is made up of 6 pillars to success, with each needing equal amounts of attention, talent, passion and skill for a business to succeed. Most business owners put their energy into one or two pillars, usually where their comfort zone lies. But business owners who recognise the need for improvements across all pillars have a far better chance at success.

In this blog series we look at each pillar in turn and discuss strategies and ideas for you to improve in each.

 

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Pillar 1. Your Product

This is where every business owner starts. Some (most) start with an idea of something they feel passionate about and want to build a business around. This might be a product they’ve seen and want to sell, or something they want to build, or a service they want to deliver, often based around their own skill set or experience. Others (less frequently) start with a need or gap they see in the market and create a service or product specifically to address that need or gap.

The latter often have a better chance at growth. But why?

It’s called product/market fit. The better the fit, the better the chance at success – especially if the market that needs your product is big enough and has enough customers willing to pay a good price, with good margins for you.

Step 1

Step one to successful product development is to ensure there is a need for it and a market big enough to enable growth. You can do this in the early stages of business by creating simple versions of your product or service and testing it with sample groups of customers who represent your market. If you’ve been going for a while and sales are continuing to grow, then you have proven there is a need for what you sell. If sales are not going so well, you need to look at your product/market fit as well as your marketing. A simple survey out to those customers you do have could tell you a lot about what you need to do to improve your product to make it more appealing.

Step 2

Step two is to ensure you position your product to its market in such a way that it is seen as a more attractive option to all the other products out there. This positioning will form the first strategy in your marketing map (which I explain in detail in a later blog in the series), but before you even get to marketing it, you need to be confident your product is exactly what people want. Again, a survey to existing customers could give you some valuable information about how they see your product as compared to the competition out there.

Step 3

Once you are sure there is a need and you know what it needs to be to fit the need – is to make your product or service the best it can possibly be. This is called product development and of course, is an on-going process that lasts the life of your business. All great companies keep improving their products and services, and they have to keep up with the ever-changing needs in the market. You simply cannot sit still and expect that what you sold last year and the year before will remain relevant tomorrow – especially when things are moving so fast now. Technology is creating new and different solutions to old problems all the time. New, agile companies are challenging existing solutions and finding faster, cheaper ways for customers to get the same outcomes. So you have to keep moving, evolving and challenging your product development.

Step 4

Step four is to know when good enough is good enough. By this I mean that although your product or service is at the very epicentre of your business, and you have no business at all without it, you have to remember that it is only one of the six pillars you need to focus on. If you spend all your time delivering the best service, or crafting the perfect product, and none of it on the rest of the business pillars … your business won’t grow. So make it great, but know when it’s good enough to allow you to put your energy into the other pillars.

In my experience, small business owners spend the majority of their time and energy on perfecting their product or service… but often at the expense of increasing their knowledge and skills in other areas such as marketing or finance.

What about you? How much time do you spend working on, delivering or improving your product versus the other pillars?

Does your product meet the ever-changing needs of your market?

Exercise:

If you haven’t done a survey out to your customer base for a while, now could be a good time to do it. Find out what their current needs are, who else they are using to meet those needs, and what they’d like to see more of (or less of) from you to ensure you continue to remain relevant and necessary in their world.

Happy Growing!

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PS.  More more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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How to grow your business… the Pillars to Business Growth Strategy Series

liber8-pillars-chart-450x289Nearly 5 years ago now, after selling my last business, I accidentally fell into being a business mentor. I found myself speaking at business networks, telling my story about how I went from being an advertising copywriter to creating and ultimately selling my own advertising agency… the approach I took, how I planned the sale right from the start, and what I learned about business along this way – with my agency and my subsequent pet care business. Before long people were asking me if I could help them turn their business into a valuable asset and my business mentoring career began.

 I get clearer and clearer all the time how best to increase a business owner’s understanding of the fundamentals that will determine whether they build a successful business that feeds them wealth and freedom into the future, or whether they build a hard working job that will stop feeding them income the minute they stop doing it.

Over the next seven blog posts I’m going to share the key pillars to growth I believe can help any business owner, regardless of their industry, get a better understanding of what they need to do to be a smart business person.

The Pillars of Business Growth Strategy

Firstly, in Blog 1 in the series, I’m going to explain what the Pillars of Growth Strategy is … and what it isn’t.

What is it not is a revolutionary new concept that will set the business world on fire. There’s nothing new in here. It’s business 101 really.

What it is, rather, is a hopefully easy to understand summary of the fundamentals of what any business needs to grow. It seems obvious to someone who’s been through the journey of creating a business, but experience now tells me that it is not obvious to most small business owners – it certainly wasn’t to me when I started.

Your product is not enough

I meet business owners all the time. They seek me out and ask me for help on a regular basis. I take on 10 – 15 new small business clients a year and work with them intensely for a 12 month period. What I see so often is that business owners typically focus all their energy into creating and delivering a great product or service, based around something they feel passionate about.

And of course, having a great product or service is important, and forms the first pillar in the Pillars To Growth Strategy.

What many business owners don’t do, or realise they need to do, is focus equal amounts of energy into the several other pillars that ensure your great product or service forms the centre of a great business – one that will ultimately have true value.

If you focus on all six of the pillars with equal enthusiasm, and apply yourself to learning what you need to ensure each is operating at maximum effectiveness, you will build a great business – one that is independent of you.

The 6 Pillars to Business Growth

The six pillars are:

1. Product – what you sell, and the need it meets in the market
2. Business model – Where you are taking this business, how it will make money and how it can scale/grow bigger than you
3. Delivery – how you take your product to market, your distribution channels, operational effectiveness and efficiency and the robustness of the systems that support this
4. Sales & Marketing – how you attract new customers and retain and grow your existing customers
5. Team – the structure of the organisation you need to build and the quality of the people you engage, the way you ensure high performance
6. Financials – how you keep tab on your performance by driving revenues and profits up, and the reporting around this that lets you know how you are going

Most business owners are good at a few of the pillars, where their natural skills and experience fall. For instance I was always good at the sales and marketing and ensuring great product delivery. But I sucked at financials and team building. I learned this the hard way, and had to surround myself with people who knew these areas better than me before my business could really grow.

How about you? Which are you best at and which do you avoid because they are outside your comfort zone?

Exercise
Look at each of the six pillars and rate your business 1 – 5 for each, with 5 being “Nailed it” and 1 being “Oh dear not really.”

If you accept your business needs to score a 4 – 5 in each pillar to be truly successful, what areas do you need to put more effort into? And what is your plan to achieve this improvement?

Next blog in series
In the next of the 6 Pillars to Business Growth blogs I’m going to take a look at the Product pillar and see what distinctions we can make to make this rock even harder for you.

Happy growing!

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PS.  More more thoughts on how to make your business more valuable, feel free to download this free booklet, based on my interviews with successful entrepreneurs

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8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 7 …

21503D358DYou cannot build a great business without a team.  And you can’t build a high performance team without a great team culture. Like branding, company culture is another misunderstood and undervalued success factor in business.

As soon as you start employing people you have a need for a great culture.  Again, the biggest and best companies in the world build strong cultures – people know what to expect when they work there. An example of strong brand with a strong culture is Virgin. Everyone knows what Virgin stands for – a fair deal for the everyday person, whether its music, planes or finance.  And you can imagine what the culture is like – full of enthusiastic people who thrive on the optimism of the founder.  Richard Branson is still a figurehead but his offices all around the world don’t rely on hi to be there to keep the same team culture.

Key number 7. Build a strong team culture

Team culture is made up of these key elements:

  1. Vision… what does the company aspire to and where is it going, what is it’s purpose?
  2. Values – how does it behave and what does it believe to be right?
  3. Personality – is it a fun place, a serious place, an earnest place?
  4. Rituals – what are the things your company does that people can rely on – regular meetings each week, celebration of birthdays, rewards, social outings… just like in families, it’s the rituals that tie the people together.

You need to set the team culture before you start hiring.  Be a great employer, have a warm, embracing world for new people to come into – where they are clear where they stand and how they fit.

Be sure of your vision and your culture before you start hiring… that way you can hire the right people to fit your culture, not just people who can do your job.

Exercise:  Team culture brainstorm

Grab that pad of blank paper again.  Divide it into quarters with a pen.  Write Team Culture in the middle of the quarter lines.  Then give each quarter a heading:  Vision/Values/Personality/Rituals.

Under each heading brainstorm your ideas on that topic (do this with your business partners/team if you have them).  Don’t worry about getting it right, just brainstorm.  Then when you’ve exhausted all ideas, go back and circle your favourites.

Vision – what is the company doing that will make a difference in the future?  What’s the purpose that drives your business?

Values – what underpins the integrity of your business, what cornerstone values enable the purpose?  For example, the vision for Liber8 is ‘to set all small business owners free.’  The values are inspiration, motivation, education and liberation.  The values underpin the vision.

Personality – who are you?  How do your people behave?  Are you youthful, fun, exuberant?  Are you trustworthy, innovative yet dependable?  Your company personality should align with your customer needs.  A large accountant firm will want to be innovative, providing leading edge solutions, yet they must also be dependable, trustworthy and sincere.  An online dating company will want a personality that is warm, caring, modern and sincere.

Rituals – these create the expectations for your team that enable them connect with all of the above.  The rituals are the things your company does consistently that enable your team to come together and feel a sense of belonging.  Examples of the rituals I had at my advertising agency are: Monday morning work in progress, 8.30am with muffins and coffee; Friday evening drinks and celebrations of wins, 5pm with drinks; morning tea when it’s someone’s birthday, a paid day off as a birthday present (to be used within 8 weeks of your birthday); champagne when we won new business…. You get the idea.  People knew we cared by the way we made them feel valued.. all done by having rituals that contributed to the culture.

As usual, feel free to email me with questions and ideas at laura@liber8u.com

Happy Growing!

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PS. Early bird pricing for 2016 Acceler8or Programme ends soon.  This is a 12 month journey to accelerated growth you’ll never forget, please email me at laura@liber8u.com for more information. If you are serious about growth or creating financial freedom from your business sooner rather than later, you will want to be involved.  Only 4 places left.

 

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 6 …

NikeIn my view, branding is one is the most misunderstood and least valued weapons an entrepreneur has on the road to success.

To be blunt, I think one if the biggest differences between really successful entrepreneurs and small business thinkers is their commitment to having a powerful brand. If customers love your brand and your teams deliver on your brand promise, they don’t need to love you… and when customers love your business more than they love you… you’ve really nailed it!

Key number 6. Build a brand that stands for something

Your brand is not just a logo and a bunch of colours – despite what many graphic designers will tell you. It’s not what goes on your business card. It’s everything your company stands for. It’s driven by the difference your business is making in the world and by your company vision.  It influences how you stand out from your competitors, how your staff behave, how you approach your marketing and every other business strategy.

The best companies in the world have strong brands. Great CEOs understand what a brand is all about. As the CEO of your own business I encourage you to study branding… look at successful companies you admire, see if you can work out their strategy by studying their brand.

If you are going to invest in anything right now, I’d say invest in your brand. Talk to a good brand strategist and ask them to assess your brand.  And if they tell you that you need to do some work on it…. be willing to spend the money. Look at it as an investment in your future, not as an expense.

Exercise:  study branding

If you really do want to build a valuable business and be a wealthy entrepreneur rather than an owner operator, then you need to understand the power of your brand. If you do already, great. If not, it’s time to educate yourself. Look at brands you love and see if you can work out their business strategy from their brand. Compare your brand to a brand you believe to be really valuable.  How does it stack up?  Google articles on branding, see if you can really understand why a whole industry exists just to help people with their branding.  Why is it so important? Here are a couple of articles I found on the subject as a starter for 10:

http://www.slideshare.net/liquidbranding/branding-booklet-slideshow

http://www.slideshare.net/coolstuff/the-brand-gap

As always, feel free to email me with questions, ideas, thoughts for discussion at laura@liber8u.com

Happy growing!

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PS. Early bird pricing for 2016 Acceler8or Programme ends soon.  This is a 12 month journey to accelerated growth you’ll never forget, please email me at laura@liber8u.com for more information. If you are serious about growth or creating financial freedom from your business sooner rather than later, you will want to be involved.  Only 5 places left.

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 5 …

9ERZUJ4KZDOne of the biggest obstacles to increasing business value  is the dependency of that business on its owner. And an even bigger danger is the unwillingness of a business owner to let go.

Something I often hear people say is that their business is their baby. But it’s not.

Your business is not your baby. Which leads me to key number 8 in my bigger, better blog series:

Key number 8.  Remove dependency on you

I’ll say it again – your business is not your baby. I remember watching this powerful interview of a lady in America who had a bakery. It was doing very well in the town it was in, she was very proud of it and very emotionally attached to it but she needed help to grow, so she brought in two partners. She trusted them and sold third shares to each. Then they ganged up against her and fired her. She was marched from her own bakery at gun point (as you do in America). After the pain of losing her baby she decided that she wouldn’t get angry she would get even. So she started a new bakery business, but this time she decided she wouldn’t get emotionally attached to it. She approached it as a strategic exercise and within a few years had a chain of bakeries across America… whilst her old bakery with its two partners stayed small. I remember her saying that by not seeing it as her baby she could focus on what was really important and grow a business that wasn’t dependent on her.

And back to my earlier blog about exit and creating a valuable asset… a business depending on its owner has no value and no one will buy it. So you have to have removal of dependency on you as a key objective for your business over time.
But how do you do it?
In the early years of business growth, it is to be expected that the business will be dependent on the owner. To go into business and not expect to give it your all in the early years could be somewhat naive. So the goal is to lessen this dependency over time.
There really are only 4 ways to decrease dependency on the owner of a business.
1. Technology – in today’s world, it’s never been easier to find ways to use technology to help scale a business without necessarily using more of your time. In my pet care business, our sophisticated matching and booking system took care of the administrative side of the business for us. Our pet carers and clients met online, they got in touch with each other, they arranged the care they needed together and when the job was completed, the pet carer logged back into the system to close the job online, enabling them to go into the payroll system. Head office was responsible for recruitment, training and marketing. We built a team of 150 pet carers nationwide with a headquarters consisting of just 3 people working part time from home.

2. Products – it’s possible to build value into your business in ways that grow the revenue without growing the need for you to service your customers. This is true particularly in service businesses, where the value is derived from the exchange of expertise for money. Turning the expertise into products that can ideally create recurring revenue can be a way to both increase value and decrease dependency. For example, I have a client who creates internal process systems for his clients. He is creating software that will enable clients to map all their systems and host in one place for easy access. Clients will pay his company to set up the systems then pay a monthly license fee to access the platform that hosts their systems map. Staff can log in and access any information they need at any stage of a process, without having to ask anyone.

3. Systems – what’s clever about the product being created above is that my client recognizes the need for good processes and systems within any organization. If staff know what to do and how to do it at any time, things run smoothly without needing the owner to tell them what to do all the time. Growing a business requires consistency of delivery to your growing customer base. Everyone needs to know what to do and how to do it – the way you want it done – time and time again. The only way to ensure this happens is to document what you want done and how you want it done… then ensure everyone involved knows about it. There is a chapter on creating systems in my book “Liber8 your Business.”

4. Team – a business cannot grow without people. And you will never be free or create true value in your business without a team. People will set you free. You need to create the systems and the culture you want to invite people into, then find the best people you can to join you on your journey. This in turn means you have to learn how to be a leader and a manager. In my experience this is one of the hardest things about growing a business… you have to confront your own leadership style, learn to let go, learn to trust and be willing to let people make mistakes with your business. Which brings me right back to ‘your business is not your baby’. If you are too emotionally invested, you will struggle to allow others the opportunity to grow with your business. You will hold the reins too tight and slow down your own progress. Learning to build a high performance team is not easy… but it is totally necessary. The Liber8 Academy has a good pool of experts who can help you with this, if you are willing and able to do what it takes.

Exercise
Grab that big piece of blank paper again (I have several A3 pads lying around my office and house so I can pour out my thinking at any time). Write in the middle: “Decreasing dependency on me” then put 4 headings: Technology; Products; Systems; Team. Under each heading brainstorm ideas that will free you and your business over time. Write down as many ideas as you can without questioning the practicality of your ideas. When you’ve exhausted your thinking, go back and circle the ideas that have the most merit, and then the ones that you can begin to implement sooner rather than later. Remember, you can’t decrease dependency quickly, it takes time. You need to build it into your long term and short term planning. Financial freedom will come when you have a business that operates smoothly and profitably without you having to be there all the time.

As always feel free to email me with your questions and ideas at laura@liber8u.com

Happy growing!

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PS.Want to build that business that is not dependent on you?  The 2106 Acceler8or Programme kicks off late July and will be transforming life and business for 10 committed business owners. There is a big early bird saving to be had, check out the programme by clicking here then get in touch for the details.

 

 

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 4 …

SF8YGVOUL8Many business owners put all of their energy into the product they make or the service they deliver. Of course it’s important to have a fantastic offer and build customers who love what you do. But the real asset in your business – the thing that’s going to make it valuable – is the business model itself.  How is the business structured to enable growth?  If you were able to spend less time delivering what you offer and more time thinking about how to grow your capability and your market… what would your business become?

Key number 4.  Focus on your business model

If you are going to create an asset – a valuable business that will pay you back for all your hard work – it has to be scalable. It has to be able to grow. Which means you need to think as much about how you do business as what you actually sell.

In a simple services model, like my advertising agency, my growth model was always going to be systems and team.  I needed to build a team that would deliver the result as well as I could… time after time after time.  So I planned for this and put energy into this.

With my pet care services business we used technology to take care of all of the administrative side of the business – a sophisticated search and booking system allowed clients to find and book their pet carers. Head office didn’t have to do anything other than recruit and train carers, and marketing. Our model was infinitely scalable with minimal effort.

So think now about how your business model works and what needs to be changed or re-designed to enable growth.

A note on recurring revenue

The most valuable businesses to a future buyer are those with recurring revenue – money that comes in regularly every month without having to get a new sale. In my ad agency we had most of our clients on fee based contracts, so we knew exactly what was coming in. Most contracts were for three years, so we could plan our growth in advance.  Other recurring revenue models are subscriptions, memberships, franchise or license fees or product dependency (This is where you sell a piece of equipment – say a photo copier or printer, that requires the customer to buy ink, toner and paper every few months for the life of that machine).

If you can build recurring revenue into your business model, you can greatly assist your ability to scale and grow.

Exercise

Two things you can think about now – what do you need to change to enable your business to scale, and how could you add some recurring revenue to your business?  Grab a big pad of blank paper, or white board.  Grab your partners, or your key staff, or your business coach, advisors, friends… whoever you can get to share some time with you.  Brainstorm the growth potential for your business… what impediments do you have to growth, and what can you do to overcome them?  And how can you build recurring revenue into the model?

As always, feel free to email me with ideas or questions.  Love to help if I can.

Happy growing :)

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Newsflash!  Early bird price for 2016 Group Programme ends soon.

The 2016 Acceler8or Group Programme kicks off late July. The programme takes 10 business owners on a 12 month journey to discover the true potential of their business and how they can ultimately create financial freedom through business.  To find out more click here or just email me at laura@liber8u.com to find out more about pricing, early bird deals etc.

Acceler8or Testimonial:

“This has been the best money that I have spent on education ever! My business has gone forward in giant steps that I could not have imagined taking 12 months ago. The program has more than lived up to my expectations, the skills and tools that I have learnt have helped me immensely. I have a solid plan to work to and my business is achieving great numbers. As a result of the program we have changed our image and direction and are making strong confident steps in an area of the global market that I would never have imaged one year ago. I have hired great staff and added brilliant contractors that perform with excellence and have given me great standing amongst my A List Clients. My confidence in my own abilities to lead a team on a successful challenge has risen. We have really kicked some great goals on an international level over the past few months. I believe this is totally due to Laura’s coaching. As a company we have a vision and the brand is performing to expectations. Planning and budgets are now high on my list. I would totally recommend the programme to any business owner who is serious about stepping up. If you have the product this is the course that will take you to the top.”

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 3 …

success-846055_1280When I did a plan to start my own advertising agency I knew right from the start that I was building it to sell it within 10 years.  And I knew that the likely buyer would be a multi-national agency group.  I even wrote down what I wanted to sell it to them for. I painted a really clear picture of what they would be looking for in a boutique agency and I set about building that business for them.  I worked out what I was building and then I put a plan in place.   I was taught to do this at a business school I attended…. It made sense to me, so I stuck to my plan and achieved my sale price within 9 years.

Key number 3. Start with the end in mind

The key to my ultimate success with my ad agency was that I planned my exit right from the start. I knew what my end goal was, which enabled me to work out my plan to get there. I had a clear picture in mind, which kept me on track, even when the going got tough.

This is something I encourage all business owners to do. Plan your exit now – will you sell it one day, or will you build it so that it generates income for you even if you are not there? What kind of business do you need to build to enable this? What does it look like? What do you need to build in order to create value?

Many business owners tell me they will never want to sell their business.  I say that it really doesn’t matter… because if you build a business that is valuable and saleable, it will be ticking all the right boxes and you will have choice.

If you don’t build a saleable business and something happens to you… you don’t have choice… you work hard for years and years and have nothing to show for it.

Here’s an excerpt from my book “Liber8 your Business” on the topic of having a clear end game:

“A business is a project not a life sentence. By having a clear picture of where you are going, you can create your own map of how to get there. When I started and I was alone in my horrid little one-roomed office, with concrete walls and no natural light, I dreamed of a beautiful office with high ceilings, big windows, wooden floors and a big staircase sweeping up the middle. I saw a team of motivated young people all passionate about creating the best boutique agency in the country. I could see the award trophies lined up and could feel the joy of knowing I’d been successful. I painted a picture of exactly how I wanted my agency to be and worked out what it needed to be doing financially to deliver on this image.”

My book and my programmes teach you how to work out a realistic sale price and how to paint the end picture that will deliver this for you, and I’ll cover more of the critical components towards creating a valuable business in my next 5 keys to a bigger, better business.

Exercise

Think about this… if your business could be anything you wanted it to be in the future, what would it look like? Don’t let the obstacles you might see in front of you influence your imagination here. What does success look like for you? Think about the financial return as well as the satisfaction you will feel from building something really special. If someone knocked on your door offering to buy your business, what would be a price you would sell for?  And how would that influence your life? What sort of business would they be buying and what makes you feel proud?  Remember, you don’t have to sell it… but you do want it to be valuable.  Imagine the satisfaction of turning down the offer?

The 2016 Elev8or Group is coming soon!

For ambitious business owners who want to create a clear end game for their business, build a plan and be guided and supported to make it happen.  Only 10 business owners will be selected to join … are you ready for it?  Click here for more information.

 

 

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 2 …

K91LZQUBJI (4)Here it is … key 2 of my 8 keys to a bigger, better business. These keys are aimed at ambitious business owners, those looking to create something of significant value both in terms of what you offer and in terms of what your business is ultimately worth financially. Getting bigger and better isn’t necessarily easy, but if you’re up for it, read this key and think about the exercise at the end before the next blog.

Key Number 2.  Create an asset not a job

If your business is dependent on you for its survival, if it can’t survive for more than a few months without you being there to keep it going… and you haven’t got a plan to change this over time… you haven’t created a business, you’ve created a job.

The difference between an owner operator and a wealthy entrepreneur is that an owner creates a job whereas an entrepreneur sets out to create an asset.

An asset is something that will feed you income even when you are not working… which means it has to have value. A business that is a true asset has to generate profits without dependency on you, and it has to grow value over time so that someone else would want to pay you significantly more than you’ve invested (including your time, sweat equity, opportunity costs and money) in it.

So if you are serious about building a bigger, better business… you have to ask yourself now, have you created a job or an asset? Where is the real value in your business? Is it you and your talent and your skills? Or have you created value through systems, product and team?

And you have to ask yourself if you are willing to make the necessary changes. Because doing what it takes to move from a small business to bigger business, one that has true financial value, takes a shift in mindset. Are you willing to do what it takes to make this shift or would you rather stay inside your comfort zone?

The answers to these questions will determine whether its worth you reading my next 6 keys on creating a bigger, better business.

Exercise

Answer the question honesty: Have you created an asset or a job?

If its the former… you are on the right track, so what needs to happen to increase the value of your asset? Write down the 5 key strategies you have in place to ensure growth.  (Keep reading my keys… we’ll cover this).

If it’s the latter… do you really want to change this? Think about your comfort zone … how willing are you to get uncomfortable in order to grow? In my experience, only those willing to make changes in mindset will do what it takes to create a valuable business. It isn’t for everyone but it is worth it.

As always feel free to email me at laura@liber8u.com with questions or ideas on this topic, or leave a comment below.

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The 2016 Elev8or Group is coming soon!

For ambitious business owners who want to create an asset not a job.  Only 10 business owners will be selected to join … are you ready for it?  Click here for more information.

 

 

 

8 keys to a bigger, better business. Key number 1…

sunset-1331088_1280Over the next 8 blogs I’m going to share my 8 keys (from my own experience and from observations gleaned by interviewing a myriad of successful entrepreneurs) to a bigger, better business and I’m going to invite you to think about each key, with an exercise to complete before the next key appears.

Key number one: Be in business for the right reasons

If you are going to sink your heart, soul, time and money into a business that will most certainly take over your world for a fairly significant period of time, you better be sure you know why you are doing it.

In my view, there are only 2 reasons to be in business:

To make money and to make a difference

Business is a financial game, it needs to make money in order to thrive. And it is not shameful in any way to want to generate profits in order to build a valuable business. If you are going to grow a bigger, better business you must have a good understanding of how this business will make money and how it will grow profits over time.  A business that does not care about growing profitability is more of a hobby or a cause than an actual business. This was a discipline I really had to learn from scratch – I had no business or financial skills when I set out.  But I hired in the help I needed early on – including getting two external directors – to make sure my business had a strong financial backbone.

However a business that cares only about the money is a business without soul. The desire to make a difference is critical because if you can find a way to solve problems for people, to give them something that answers their needs in a positive way, you will always have customers. And you will have a positive impact on the world, which in turn will make you feel good about yourself.  There’s a wonderful karmic attraction that happens when you put your focus onto making a difference – the more people you attract and the more money you make.

So when I work with business owners, we explore their reasons for being in business and we ensure it is a business that makes both money and a difference.

Exercise

Think about how your business is making a difference.  Who is it making a difference to?  What is the problem you are solving and for who? Why is this different and better to other solutions out there?  See if you can articulate the difference you are making in one or two sentences.  Remember the more people you make a difference to, the more people will come… so think scale, think big…

Let me know how you get on.  Feel free to email me any time at laura@liber8u.com … I’ll be happy to help your work out what your ‘make a difference’ mantra could be!

laura-signatureNewsflash!  The 2016 Elev8or Progamme – for business owners ready for the next level – will be kicking off soon.  Click here for more information.

 

The business case for the business case – how to make a good decision

question-mark-1106309_1280As a business mentor I often get asked my opinion on the validity of a particular decision.  Should I open a new regional office?  Should I hire a sales person?  Should I bring on more partners into the business?  Should I invest $50,000 in a new brand?  Should we launch a new product?  Should we open an new shop?

The answer is always the same: “I don’t know.”  Followed quickly by a question: “What’s the business case for it?”

Because rarely, if ever, is the question supported by a rationale containing enough information for me to assist with the decision.

In many cases, after I’ve said “I don’t know” the business owner goes and does whatever it is anyway. And in equally as many cases, after a lot of time, money and emotional energy invested, it turns out the decision to proceed wasn’t the best decision. A fair amount of time is wasted and focus away from the big picture costs the business in growth opportunity.

I’m allowed to comment on this because I’ve been guilty of chasing my own ideas down rabbit holes far too many times in business. I’ve wasted as much time, energy and money as the next person. I’ve learned the hard way the value of time spent upfront assessing the value of the idea. When I hired my first General Manager, Angela Meads, she forced me to run all my ideas through her business case health check. The following steps have helped me to make better decisions, maybe next time you have a great idea, they could help you.

7 steps to making a good decision – the business case for the business case

  1. Articulate the why. Write the best rationale you can for why you want to do this. What problem does this solve? What are the expected benefits?  How will the business be better off? Make sure this includes tangible and measurable benefits, not just emotional ones.
  2. What are the alternatives? List all the other options the business could consider, including doing nothing.  What are the pros and cons of all options considered?  Then re-consider the ‘why’.  Why is this idea better than the others?
  3. What resources are required to implement the idea?  This includes financial investment (what is the real cost – to implement and maintain) and people investment (who’s going to do it and what will they have to drop in order to do it?). This is the bit I see skipped most often when business owners rush into new ideas… it has a high cost of time and money they were not prepared for.
  4. Return on investment – what do you expect to see in terms of financial return, over what time period?
  5. Risks associated – what could go wrong? And how will you handle it? What buffers do you need in place should the worst happen?
  6. Share your business case.  NEVER launch off on a new idea without running your business case past someone wise, ideally someone external to the business. You can be a legend in your own mind sometimes, you are the batman of your own dreams… don’t let your ego drive your decisions. Be willing to listen to the voice of reason. But equally don’t let them talk you out of it if it really is a good idea… just make sure your hear their questions and have confident answers.
  7. Make the right decision based on all above.  Be bold if its the right thing to do.  But be smart if it isn’t.

Good luck with it!  And if you ever want to run your business case past me… feel free to send it to me at laura@liber8u.com … just makes sure it has all the elements above :)

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