3 reasons why your business is not ‘your baby’

babyBefore you read this blog please take a moment to watch this quick video about Kathleen Turner of  Tate’s Bake Shop – the story of a woman who lost it all then rebuilt it – with major success.

I love how towards the end of the video, Kathleen King talks about the reason for success behind her second business was because she took the emotion out. “I knew I had to execute efficiently and grow a viable business,” she says, “I didn’t have the same emotional attachment that I had with my first business.” Her first business was her baby. And after 23 years, when she was emotionally wrung out and exhausted from caring for this demanding baby for so long, she ended up $200,000 in debt instead of financially rewarded. Her baby bit her in the bum.

It’s not personal. It’s business

How many times have you heard someone refer to their business their ‘baby’? Have you ever called your own business your baby? It’s a very common analogy and one we can all relate to given the blood, sweat and emotional tears we put into our business when we decide to take that leap of faith and build our own dream.

But in my view it’s not a good analogy at all. Here are three reasons why I strongly believe your business is not your baby:

1. Babies are dependent on you for at least 18 years

With business one of your primary goals should be to decrease it’s dependency on you. A business is meant to be an asset, not a job. In the first few years, there are some similarities with parenting a newborn for sure – long hours, sleepless nights, relentless giving of your time and energy to name but a few – but this is not meant to last forever. And certainly not for 18 years! Prepare to start cutting the apron strings long before your business reaches adolesence. Don’t get so attached you are not willing to let go.

2. A baby is the single most emotional connection you will ever have

You will love your baby forever, regardless of who they become. I’ll never forget my mother after a few wines the night before my wedding hugging me tight and saying “I loved you the minute you were born. And then you started taking drugs!”   Yes I was a troubled and troublesome teenager (although I like to think there were a few memories in between birth and my first foray into magic mushrooms). But she still had to love me, and thankfully still does.

The emotional connection is what makes parenthood worthwhile. But in business, the emotion can make us weak and cloud our judgment. Remember Kathleen King in the video? She had her first business – her baby – for 23 years and all it did was leave her with $200k in debt. Her second business she did without emotion – just with a clear plan and a determination to execute the plan. She went from scratch to $6 million in revenue, selling cookies in 50 US states in just 8 years.   A far cry from the 23 years of her previous business where she kept her apron strings on right up to the very bitter end.

3A baby is unlikely to pay you back financially

The days of the younger generation taking care of their parents financially are mostly over. Do you expect your kids to pay for you when you grow old? I know I don’t. That’s why I create businesses with a view to ensuring a financial pay back down the track – so I know I’ll be able to care for myself.

It’s important to view your business as an asset – something that you build to pay you back financially. Sure you have to be passionate about what you do, and love your business for the difference it makes in the world. But don’t be so attached to it you can’t see it for what it really is – one of your primary wealth creation tools. Unlike a baby, it should be feeding you.

In summary

Your business is not a baby. It’s a business. The game is to keep the emotion out of it, decrease its dependency and regard it as an asset that will ultimately feed you financially, not drain all of your resources.

Now, how do you feel about this? Still think your business is your baby?

Love to hear your comments. Post below.

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What causes customers to leave you?

leavingWhy do customers leave?

Guest blog by Mike Brunel.

I am continually asked why my advertisers leave me after a few campaigns. I do not think for one moment that has not happened to you. It has me, several times, and every time it does I learn something.

As a business owner why do your clients leave you? Do you know?

It actually stings quite a bit; you are just getting to know them when they stop returning your calls, completely ignoring you.

Here is a typical scenario that often happens. You work on a client for a few months and finally they toss you a little order or money. If you have done your job well, you might get some more.

No one returns your calls

Over time you get to sell them more products and services. Things seem to be going along swimmingly. Then all of a sudden, they do not return your calls. You try to call them a few times. SILENCE.

What have you done? They liked you; they seemed to be getting results from your product.

So, what have you done wrong? What did you do?

It’s not what you think; Here are some tips you might find useful if this happens to you.

Solve the problem before it starts.

  1. These days customers like to be advised. If you start giving them everything they want, they will not take you seriously.
  2. Don’t be like all the others companies who sell similar products. If you really want to partner with them, do crazy things once in a while. Don’t be boring. Push them a little. Be a marketer.
  3. Find out early in the relationship what their interests are outside of work and do all the research you can about the topic. This gives you something else to talk about, and helps build trust.

Finally, if you get the “vibe” that this might not work, be up front with them and say “Hey, I do not think this is working.”

It just might be the tonic to get them thinking a little about your relationship.

“They will spend one day, I promise.”

That is like saying, “That girl will go out with me one day.” Sometimes it can be painful, but you are better off working with the customers that you know will be of benefit to you, and not go after clients that you have no show of getting.

Mike Brunel is partner in NRS Media, the world’s leading provider of Revenue Growth Solutions and Customer Acquisition programs to media companies.  The company has offices in London, Atlanta, Toronto and Sydney and employs more than 175 staff.  Mike teaches people how to sell… he loves it with a passion!

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free

There are only two reasons to be in business. Do you know what they are?

world arrowAccording to Dun & Bradstreet* reports, “Businesses with fewer than 20 employees have a 37% chance of surviving four years and only a 9% chance of surviving 10 years.” 

I believe that the primary cause of these staggering statistics is that too many people go into business for the wrong reasons.

For me, there are only two reasons why you would start a business: firstly to make money and secondly to make a difference.

Making Money

Business is a financial game.  People who are very good at business understand that business is all about delivering returns to the shareholders.  As the Director and CEO of your own business you have a fiduciary duty to yourself as a shareholder to build a business that delivers maximum returns to you.  To look at it any other way is letting emotions get ahead of business.

Making a difference

And yet a business that cares only about money is a business without a soul. Your business is also there to fulfil a purpose, to add value and make a difference to the lives it touches, whether those people are customers, employees or beneficiaries of the higher purpose your business serves.

There is a fun irony to this concept if you can really grasp it.  If your business is truly focused on making a real difference to as many people as possible, you will attract more people to you.  The more people you attract, the more successful you become and the more people you make a difference to.  It’s a wonderful win/win concept.

Combine the concepts of making money and making a difference and you will build a business that will not only make you rich, but make you feel like a million dollars too!

Are you in business for the right reasons?

I hope so!

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*Dun & Bradstreet is a public company that licenses information on businesses and corporations for use in credit decisions, business-to-business marketing and supply chain management. D & B maintains information on more than 205 million companies worldwide. 

 

From the desk of Liber8me.  Small business mentors and publisher of Liber8 your Business: The revolutionary planning technique that will set every small business owner free

 

Business tip # 86 – Go boldly into the unknown… and make mistakes, they’re good for you!

shane bradleyRecently I interviewed Shane Bradley – former owner of GrabOne and founder of new online retailer pet.co.nz.  Shane’s top tip for small business owners was this: “if you’re not making mistakes, you’re not trying hard enough”.  He told me about his first business, which went under due to bad debts.  It was humiliating and humbling he said.  To go from being a big shot to a big nobody virtually overnight… not a nice feeling!  But he vowed to get back in business again… and boy did he keep his promise to himself.  His business career is full of bold decisions, where he jumped in the deep end and learned to swim very quickly.

I’m sure every successful business owner has horror stories to tell of the things they did badly.  Many of my mistakes happened when I tried to hire people.  I pretty much did everything wrong.  In my first business I wrote my own employment contract.  It was a personal grievance where even my own lawyer laughed at me that taught me this was not a good idea.  Later on, not following due process in a genuine re-structure cost me $40,000.  I learned the hard way to bring an expert HR person in to sort out my recruitment and management processes.

I also started off doing all my own data entry into MYOB… a copy writer doing accounts… mmm… big mistake right there.  Imagine the nightmare my accountant faced when it came to year end accounts!

The lesson is, to quote a famous brand, just do it.  Leap in, do the best you can and learn on the job. Like Shane I’m a believer in going for it, giving it your all and being willing to make the odd mistake.  I can tell you from experience, you only ever make the same mistake once.

Love to hear your mistake stories… when did you stuff up and what did you learn from it?

Laura

PS.  For more of the interview with Shane Bradley, buy this month’s copy of NZ Business Magazine and look for my column, The Exit Factor

From the desk liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentor and author of soon to be released book, Liber8 Your Business.

 

A business or a life-long job? Which is it for you?

guy-with-ball-and-chain1Here’s another extract from my book… to be launched late July…

 A business or a life-long job?

‘Successful and unsuccessful people do not vary greatly in their abilities. They vary in their desires to reach their potential.’

–          John Maxwell

One of the first questions I ask when I present to business groups is: ‘Why are you here? Why are you in business? Why on earth have you left the security of a job with regular pay to start your own business, with all the uncertainty this holds?’

I always get similar answers. Mostly, people say they don’t want to work for someone else. They don’t want someone else’s culture. They don’t want to be told how the way it should be done. They want to be in control. They want flexible hours and to spend time with their children. They want to be able to go on holiday when they want. They don’t want someone telling them how many weeks’ holiday they can have a year. They want to do something they really love.

These are all honourable reasons for starting a business. But, ironically, many business owner-operators end up with the complete opposite. They find themselves with little control. They discover their clients have the control and will often demand they work longer hours than they ever did when working for someone else. Most small business owners pay themselves less than they would be paid working for another company. Crazy, I know, but it’s true. You go into business for freedom and control and end up working longer hours and earning less. Sound familiar?

Many business owner-operators don’t take holidays. They start their business believing they will be in charge of their own holidays, but they find they don’t go on holiday at all. I met a woman who owned a chain of motels with her husband. They hadn’t been on holiday for five years. When I asked her why she got into the motel business in the first place, she told me it was for the lifestyle. Go figure!

If you pay yourself too little, work long hours, and don’t take decent holidays, you can feel resentful. Worse, you can fall sick and be unable to carry on. A high percentage of businesses fail (and by fail I mean they stop; the owner gives up) within five years of start-up. Disillusionment gets the better of them. They go into business to set themselves free and find themselves with a virtual chain around their ankle. Not surprisingly, they decide they don’t want to do it anymore.

But that’s not going to be you, is it? Most people who fail to achieve financial freedom through their business do not have the right mindset. By the time you have finished this section of The Liber8 Factor, you will know how to develop this mindset and increase your chances of success.

The story of Julie and Fliss

I was having coffee with an old friend one day. Julie is an amazing lady who had started her first business and built it over 20 years until it was bought by a huge multinational group. She became wealthy and continues to build her wealth through angel investing and mentoring start-up businesses. She has a wonderful life. We discussed how special it was to be able to spend quality time with our kids after school each day and how we enjoyed helping other people learn to build a quality life through business.

We got to talking about a woman we both knew. I’ll call her Fliss, for the purposes of this story. Fliss opened a business at the same time as Julie. She is a dress designer and opened up a little retail store in the town where she lived. Twenty years later she still had that small shop and she was still making the dresses. Fliss was no better off financially and she still had to keep designing and making the dresses to sell in her shop. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with that as a life choice and as far as I know, Fliss is content in her life. I don’t want to appear scornful of someone doing something they love. If you’ve got a talent for design and you’re happy with a small retail shop in a small town, there’s nothing wrong with that – as long as you are aware that this is where you are at. But what worries me with the owner-operator mindset is that Fliss, like so many other owner-operators, will wake up one day and won’t want to do it anymore. As much as she loves designing dresses, something will happen that changes her ability to live off its income, for health reasons or, more likely, because she’s lost the passion for it. The danger of not having a plan to sell is that she can end up with a business worth nothing to anyone else, meaning she’s stuck with it. What will she do for income when her desire or ability to make dresses is no longer there?

Let’s look at the situations of these two friends. Why did Julie go one route and Fliss go another? The key difference was the mindset. One knew she wanted a business she could sell and create a lifestyle where she never had to worry about money again. The other wanted to make pretty clothes. They both made their choice; probably without even realising they had done so. Fliss chose to employ herself in a job she enjoyed. She did not choose to build a business.

We make choices every day. The most important choice is one you may not have given much thought to – until now. Are you choosing to build a business that will pay you back or are you choosing to work for a living? By reading this book and completing the exercises, you are making a choice to do something different. And that’s a great start!

For about The Freedom Mindset and an exercise on assessing and addressing your attitude to wealth and money, you’ll have to buy my book when it launches late July.  To pre-order a copy just email me at laura@liber8yourbusiness.com

 

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Creating tools to set you free

 

Business Mentor tip #79 – If Apollo 11 can be 97.5% off course, so can you…

You will know by now (if you’ve been reading my blogs or regular column in NZ Business Magazine; attending my talks or just following my random comments on Facebook or Twitter) that I am a dedicated believer in the power of forward planning.  To succeed you must have a clear goal and a plan to get there.  This I believe as strongly as I believe that Wellington is windy.  You must plan to build a great business.  It won’t happen by accident.

However, here’s something else that I believe with equal conviction  – your business plan will change along the way.  Once you’ve mapped out your direction, your business plan has to be flexible enough to allow you to adapt and correct as you go.  You must be willing to change your thinking and your model to keep abreast of the world we are living in.

In my soon to be released book The Liber8 Factor I talk about  how NASA used PERT (Performance Evaluation Review Technique) planning to put a man on a moon. How they set their end target then put their milestones in place. They began their planning in 1961 and gave themselves ten years to achieve their target (just as I did with my advertising agency and my goal to sell it). On July 16 1969, Apollo 11 was launched.  Four days later the lunar module, the Eagle, landed on the moon.

Do you know how much of the time the rocket was on track for its destination during those four days?

2.5%!

This means that 97.5% of the time the rocket was not on target.  So what on earth (or in space) was it doing?

It was correcting. As well planned as NASA ensured they were for that epic journey, they didn’t know exactly it would stay on track once it launched. They just knew it had to go in the right direction to reach the target.  Along the way it corrected and corrected, forming an imaginary zig zag pattern in space.

The lesson here is that it’s important to have an end goal and milestones but it’s equally important to keep reviewing and correcting as you go. You need to ensure your action steps to reach each milestone remain relevant to the trends and market influencers happening around you.

Goal. Plan. Review. Adapt. Got it?

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.

 

 

 

 

Business Mentoring Tip #76 – Your team don’t suck. You do.

Having frustrations with staff seems to be a theme for the small business owners I’ve been working with this month.   Employees under performing, not taking responsibility for their outcomes, having little initiative and being too content to let the owner do the lion share of the income generation.

Does this sound familiar?

It certainly reminds me of my early days in business.   I remember like it were yesterday the mind blowing frustrations of having to take back project after project and do it myself… because no one else seemed to care enough to get it done right and on time.  The resentment ate away at me like a festering wound as once again I was at work before everyone else and working late on jobs I shouldn’t even have had to look at.   And the harder I had to work the grumpier I got with everyone else.  My fuse was short and my tongue sharp.  Mine was not a happy workplace…  for anyone.

It took me a few years and a nasty personal grievance claim to realise where the real problem was.  And it wasn’t with my staff.

It was me.  I was a crap manager.  I’d been so busy expecting everyone to be like me that I’d overlooked a fundamental life truth.  Most people are nothing like me.  I am actually quite unusual.  I am an entrepreneur.  I see the problem, I leap in with the solution, I get it fixed, I charge onto the next problem, seeing opportunities where others see barriers.  I get impatient with other people when they don’t behave the same way.

And this, my friends, is where the real problem with employees lies.

If you have started your own business there is a very good chance that you are not a great people manager.

Ask yourself this:  why are you not an employee?

Because you are a self starter, you want to be in charge of your own destiny, you want to achieve great things and realise your own dreams, in your own way.  You place high expectations on yourself and are willing to push yourself to make it all happen…Right?  You own your own business because you have taken a leap of faith and let go of the pay cheque.

You also have a lot at stake.  You have to make money to survive, to pay bills and grow your team.  Your customers are everything to you and you will bend over backwards to make sure they are happy.  You will do whatever it takes to succeed.

So why don’t your employees feel the same? Why does no one else work as hard as you? Why don’t they care as much? Where is their ambition? Their initiative?  Their drive?

Here’s a newsflash.  If your employees had all the same qualities as you they would not be your employees, they would be your competition!

You simply cannot expect your employees to have the same levels of drive about your business that you do.

But you can create an environment where they find their own sense of empowerment and passion.  Where their own unique skills are recognised and their efforts rewarded.  Where you see their strong points and use them to the company’s advantage, making them feel useful and treasured. They can come to work with a fire in their belly and work harder than you do to achieve amazing results.

As long as you get out of the way!

If you are struggling with your staff right now, take a look at your management skills.  How is the culture of your company?  Are you expecting everyone to behave the way you behave?  Are you behaving like a resentful parent… picking up after your kids then berating them for being messy?

If you are having team problems, it’s time to change your approach.  My world changed the day I realised that I was the problem.  I knew that my strengths lay in other areas, so I hired someone who was an amazing manager.  She took over the hiring and the management of people and left me to do what I was excellent at… being the leader, the visionary and the inspiration.

Maybe you should do the same.  If you are not ready to hire a General Manager as I did, bring in an HR expert on contract.  Get them to help you re-engineer your culture and your management style so that you get to empower more and work a whole lot less.

If you’d like the names of some excellent HR experts email me at laura@liber8yourbusiness.com

 

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.

10 beliefs that will change your life…

Do you believe your beliefs can change the way your life works?  I certainly do. The following 10 beliefs come from an article I just read at inc.com written by Geoffrey James and I was encouraged to see that I subscribe to these pretty much on a daily basis.  What about you?

10 powerful positive beliefs

  1. I always act with a purpose
  2. I take responsibility for my results
  3. I stretch myself past my limits daily
  4. I don’t wait for perfection; instead, I act now
  5. I learn more from failures than successes
  6. I take my job seriously, but do not take myself too seriously
  7. I use rejection to renew my humility and sharpen my objectivity
  8. I use both negative and positive feedback to keep on target
  9. I am careful about what I put into my mind and body
  10. I seek out people who are similarly motivated to improve themselves

What are the positive and negative beliefs you carry around with you that influence your behaviour on a daily basis?

You can find the article by Geoffrey James here: http://www.inc.com/geoffrey-james/positive-thinking-how-to-change-your-future.html

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies.  Based in Wellington, New Zealand.

Business Mentoring Tip #63 – Gather your insights

Good marketing is about being very clear who it is you are trying to sell to. It’s about knowing your target audience well.  If possible get inside their minds and learn the triggers that will motivate them.  The more insights you have about your potential customers the better.

Discovering insights doesn’t have to be difficult.  At my advertising agency Red Rocks when we got a new client or were pitching for a piece of business, we would always start by putting our ‘insights’ together.  These insights told us the core messages we would build our campaigns around.  To learn these insights we would find people who represented a typical customer for our client and ask them questions. Sometimes we brought them together as a group and asked them their thoughts in a discussion type format.  Other times we would go out and about and ask people on location, in a shopping mall, at an event or typical situation (such as kids at a skate park if you were selling a new brand of scooter like MGP).

Example questions for ‘insight’ survey

If I were to launch a new business planning tool and wanted to gather some insights from the small business market, here are some questions I might ask:

  • What do you love about owning your own business?
  • What do you like least about owning your own business?
  • What is your biggest frustration as a small business owner?
  • On a scale of 1 – 5 (with 5 being excellent) how would you rate your confidence around business planning?
  • What aspects of running a business are you most confident about?
  • What aspects are you least confident about?
  • What topics in the area of business education would be most useful for you right now? Please list your top five.
  • Which of the following method for learning would you prefer?  Book/Live seminars/webinars/video seminars/ipad app/other (please list)

When you ask such questions of large enough groups of people you start to see some trends happening.  Themes will appear and from the themes come your insights.  If enough people are telling you the same frustrations, you know you have an opportunity to fix this for them with your approach.

 

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness.  Business mentors and experts in small business exit strategies. Based in Wellington, New Zealand. 

If you don’t ask the answer is always no!

This was one of the slides at my talk to the Bubbles & Inspiration audience last night.  My point being that sometimes to get ahead in life you have to ask for things, even if it seems far too bold an ask.  My example was when I was a secretary in an advertising agency in London I asked the Managing Director if he would pay for me to go on a creative writing course.  It was a huge agency and he was a busy man.  I knew I had no chance of this happening. But I asked anyway.  And he said yes!  Who would have thought?  If I had not asked, I wonder where I would be today.  On a different path for sure.  So just ask.  The worse that could happen is someone will say no.

At the end of my talk a lovely lady came up to me and asked if she could do my twelve month programme and, because I offered a money back guarantee, could she pay at the end of the twelve months?  Of course I said no.  But I loved that she asked.  I knew that she’d been listening and there’s no harm in asking is there?

 

From the desk of liber8yourbusiness. Business mentors and experts in small business mentoring strategies. Based in Wellington, New Zealand.