Posts tagged Business
It's the process that matters

My grandparents had a dog. He was the cutest, happiest puppy I’d ever met. I was a child, he was a puppy and together we got along well. I remember one sunny afternoon. I was sitting in the shade and the puppy was resting on the ground near my feet. Then, he got up and started chasing his tail in circles, and circles and circles, until he got tired and, with a satisfied look on his face, settled down for a nap. He accomplished his goal.

We all have goals.

More sales, more customers. Better customers. A better business. A sunnier office. More freedom. More fulfillment. There will always be another goal. We will always want more or different, because that’s what life is all about. Wanting and fulfilling.

Goals are beautiful, and goals do lead the way. We want our goals to happen, so we think about them a lot.

But it’s the process to get our goals accomplished that truly matters. It’s the process that changes us and has the most profound impact on us, not the achievement of the goals. It’s the process that occupies most of our living time.

If the process is what truly matters, shouldn’t we enjoy it a little bit more?

My grandparents’ puppy wasn’t just chasing his tail. He was chasing the fun of running around and around and around. He wanted to experience the process of running after his tail, and he did so with playfulness, exhilaration and surrender. Because it was the process that mattered to him, not the tail.

We’re programmed to think that the excitement will come only when we get to the destination. I’ll stop fretting when I get this done. I’ll be happy when I finish my product. I’ll be happy when I get my first 5000 customers. I’ll be happy when I finish my book.

But why not make the process as exciting as attaining the goals? Why wait until it’s all done? Why did I worry so much along the way, most of us think when we reach a milestone. Why didn’t I enjoy it a little more, we wonder with regret.

Like a puppy running after his tail, we too can revel in the experience of chasing our goals.

That book you want to write? It’s the process that matters. Enjoy it all, from allowing the idea to visit with you, to editing it, to sharing your book with the world.

That business you want more customers for? It’s the process that matters. Enjoy it all, from creating something meaningful to sell for money, to putting it in front of people, to saying thank you to the customers who buy it.

I invite you to fall in love with the process. Whatever you’re working on right now, whatever you want, whatever you want to change or whatever you want to become - it’s a process and it wants to dance with you. A jazzy, fluid and beautiful process.

Nine ways to avoid bad business decisions

A woman I love made a bad business decision several years back. She had a thriving online business practice. When her online popularity increased, a TV network approached her to star in a show. She was head over heels. A year later she was completely broke, utterly depressed and unable to take care of her kids.

Another entrepreneur I read about believed in his business and was determined to make it work at any cost. He had a great idea. Everyone around him told him the same. He didn’t want investors, so he took out a big loan to fund his dream. When his business collapsed, he had to move his family with kids to an unsafe neighborhood to be able to afford rent. He felt miserable and years later he’s still paying back that huge loan.

Both of these people made bad business decisions. I’ve made bad decisions too and perhaps so have you.

The first entrepreneur abandoned the most profitable part of her business when she got her big network gig. She didn’t maintain her email list and her online business, focusing purely on her TV dream. When the TV dream fell through, she had nothing to fall back on.

The second entrepreneur underestimated the importance of execution in growing a business. His idea was so good that he was convinced it will work. But nowadays ideas are just a starting point. It’s execution that determines success.

Both of these entrepreneurs are doing great today. They’ve learned from their experience and they now live fulfilling and successful lives. They didn’t die of heartbreak. In fact, from what I’ve seen, they became stronger and wiser.

But I sincerely wish you’ll never make a decision so bad that you’ll end up in depression or bankruptcy, or whatever feels like a dire outcome to you. They say mistakes are good because we learn from them. But I hope you can get to the same place of fulfillment and success without making any bad business decisions for yourself.

I can’t tell you what to do with your business. Only you can make these calls. But I can tell you some of the common pitfalls that cause big heartbreak in business:

1)   Not staying grounded in timeless, basic business principles, particularly marketing ones

Everybody wants their marketing to be “out of the box.” There's nothing wrong with that, but don’t forget about concepts that have been proven again and again - and that work, like:

  • Building and keeping a direct marketing customer list
  • Creating a strong offer
  • Giving people a good call to action
  • Creating marketing that breeds repeat buyers, not one time scavengers
  • Building a relationship with your list
  • Building a brand

2)   Not doing the right math before saying “yes”

Your heart is pounding and you feel so excited about this new business opportunity. You feel like it’s the right choice. To validate it, you make some quick assumptions on a napkin. You’re in for the long ride.

Then, 6 months later you’re hit with the harsh reality of (un)foreseen costs, churn and other outcomes that didn’t fit on that small napkin. All because you didn’t patiently consider realistic scenarios while doing your math.

Yes, I believe you should always listen to your heart. Do let your heart guide you. But after your heart has spoken, you'll want to open up excel or take out your calculator, and determine the best and easiest path to make your desire a reality. Your heart will thank you later.

3)   Not understanding what you’re selling

Are you selling a book or a better life? Are you selling a shirt or a lifestyle that elevates women and makes them feel strong and beautiful? Are you selling an app or a more productive life? Are you selling a toy or accelerated intelligence?

It matters how you define what you’re selling. Products die quickly, but human desires are eternal and universal. Blockbuster didn’t understand what it was selling, so it made some wrong decisions and lost a lot of money.

4)   Working more on improving your marketing than on improving your product

Marketing is a waste of money if the product it sells is not a product people buy again or refer others to buy it. The advice "spend 20% of your time on your product and 80% of your time on promoting it" is utterly wrong and is sure to cause a business to fail in the long term. The companies that last through recessions don't follow this rule. They obsess over their products and always seek to improve them, even when the market has spoken that it wants to buy them as they already are. 

5)   Not being selective with the advice you choose to follow

I personally believe the best advice comes from the people with the most life experience under their belt. They're simply the wisest. 

6)   Not listening to your customers

Your customers are always speaking to you, whether you hear them or not. For example, your current customer metrics are often the clearest point of communication you have with them. Yet, many businesses ignore their metrics and instead waste time and money on complicated survey funnels. If you want to know if people love your product, start by looking at your re-purchase and referral metrics, not by adding another survey. 

7)   Not building multiple streams of revenue in your business

When you make a movie, you can also make money from the merchandise associated with it. When you create a framework of ideas, you can also make money from licensing it to coaches, creating courses, books or experiences around it. When you have a physical store front for your business, you can also host classes. There are always additional ways to use what you already have to build additional revenue streams.

8)   Not making your employees feel proud to work for your company

The best work comes from people who would do it even if they didn't get a paycheck. People should feel a sense of purpose and emotional connection to be at their peak.

9)   Not continuing to learn

Read as much as you can. Have insightful conversations. Look outside of your industry for ideas. Never stop staying smart and becoming smarter. 

Photo credit: Pawel Nolbert

What To Do If You’re Getting Fewer Customers Than You Deserve

Here’s some of the best advice I ever got:
 
“You can’t get different results, by continuing to do the same thing. If you want to see a change, in business or life, you’ve got to make some changes first.”
 
It makes sense rationally, if you think about it. Yet, most of us have a hard time making changes, even when we want different results. Why is it so hard to eat less or better when we want to lose weight? Why is it so hard to go ask for a raise? Why is it so hard to end a relationship with somebody who doesn’t have our best interests at heart?
 
Change is often uncomfortable and uncertain.
 
Maybe you can afford to not make changes in some areas of your life, but when it comes to your business, you don’t have much of a choice. You know with every cell of your body that you want to make your business work, and doing the same thing will only get you the same results.
 
If you’re not getting as many customers as you’d like, here are three changes you should consider making in your business:
 
#1: Go after a different set of customers
 
Do you remember the 80/20 rule? It was invented by economist Vilfredo Pareto in 1897, and nowadays it’s widely applied in every industry. It states that 80% of your output comes from 20% of your input. One application in the marketing world is that 80% of your revenue comes from 20% of your customers (always true).
 
This rule is so publicized and so widely accepted today that few people would believe the circuitous route through which it came to be known. After Pareto created it, he put it aside and sadly moved on to something else.
 
Later, Joseph Moses Juran, a Romanian born US engineer and quality expert (the man behind the Quality Revolution of 1950-90) had the great idea to use the Pareto 80/20 principle to discover quality faults and improve the quality of products created industrially.
 
Unfortunately, no major US industrialist was interested in Juran’s theories.
 
But Japan loved them.
 
In 1953, Juran went to lecture in Japan and found an audience extremely interested in his new ideas. So he stayed for a while, working with several Japanese corporations to help them radically transform the quality of their products using the 80/20 principle.
 
Once Japan started becoming a threat to the US industry in the 1970’s, the US suddenly started paying attention to Juran. So he moved back to the US and helped the US industry in the same way he helped the Japanese one.
 
Juran knew his idea was good. When he couldn’t find the customers he wanted in the US, he looked elsewhere.
 
And so can you.
 
If you believe in your product and in the way you market it, and the customers you’re going after right now are not buying, consider looking for a different set of customers. You might simply be chasing the wrong group of customers.
 
Just because other businesses in your industry are targeting the same customer group, it doesn’t mean you should as well. For example, instead of parents, try grandparents. Instead of entrepreneurs, try medium size businesses. Instead of HR heads, try CEOs.
 
Three things to consider when you test a different audience:

  • Choose people who can afford your products
  • Don’t choose the people who need a massive amount of convincing that your product solves a problem
  • Choose people whose values are aligned with yours as a business

#2: Improve your product
 
Now, the naked truth is that sometimes people don’t buy a product because the product is not ready yet to be sold. It just needs more work. Maybe it needs to be polished more, maybe it needs to be altered somehow, maybe it needs to be packaged differently.
 
Whatever the reason, there’s nothing that can’t be fixed. You know it well in your heart (and from your customers) when you have to go back to the drawing board. It takes time and different iterations to create an amazing product.
 
#3: Set up a reliable marketing system
 
When you have a good product, and when you’re going after the right customers, the only reason why you might not be getting as many customers as you deserve is because you don’t have a reliable marketing system in place to convert people into customers and to bring them back for more sales (or referrals).
 
I call it a system because all the pieces have to work well for the entire system to work. Just like a car engine, if one piece doesn’t work, the car won’t move.
 
For example, one piece of the system is knowing how to get people to buy the first time. But contrary to what many people think, this is just one tiny piece of the entire system.
 
Other pieces include creating an emotional connection with people before they even buy, breeding loyalty, making people feel appreciated after they buy, getting them to buy again (or to refer others), knowing how to research your customers, etc. These are all equally important.

Photo credit: Roman Kraft