Creating Luck

Ideas that will grow your business

Archive for the category “Creative Ideas”

Think Big: Nobody Ever Got Very Successful by Thinking Small

The other day I was speaking with a small business owner who was tired of being an independent consultant. He wanted to grow his business.

think big

He was using all of the right words. “I know I can only make as much money as the hours I bill.  I need to hire more people so I can bill for their time, too,” he said with purpose.

It makes sense. If you provide a service, your product is the number of hours you work. The more hours you have, the more you can bill. He knew the only real way to scale a service business was to get more business so he could hire more people.

That’s when the conversation started to get little shaky.

Instinctively, he knew what he had to do to grow his business. He had to start spending more of his time on marketing and sales and leverage other people’s time for doing the actual service work. But he couldn’t get himself out of the “I have to do everything” mode. Nor was he open to the idea of digging into his wallet to invest in tools that would save him a tremendous amount of time so he could focus on the most important things.

There was a disconnect: he was talking big, but thinking small.

It’s going to be very difficult for him to grow his business until he outgrows the mentality of scarcity, both in terms of time and financial resources. He’ll stay a “do it yourselfer” till he starts to think big.

If you think that buying a Mercedes-Benz is too expensive, then it is. If you continue to think this way, then it always will be. But if you set a goal for yourself to buy a Mercedes-Benz by a certain date, and you really mean it, then you will figure out ways to earn the money you need. You are thinking big. When you think big, your actions are big. You aren’t scared of small investments of time and money because you see the payoff.

Stop thinking small thoughts. Think big and big things will happen.

Slideshow: Summertime IT Marketing an Hour a Week

Just did a webinar last week that you might find useful if you are responsible for growing your business. While the examples are IT related, the concepts span all forms of business-to-business marketing.

Pitching Mr. Know-It-All

Sometimes when you pitch your products or services, you will encounter Mr. Know-It-All. No matter what you ask about his company, he will say he already has it solved. You can tell you are dealing with a “know it all” by his demeanor, often arrogant and sometimes even belligerent – you can see his colleagues reluctant to go to battle with him. His subordinates stay quiet for fear of being ridiculed.mr know-it-all

In the early days of the Internet when I was building my first company, GovCon, a business development portal for government contractors, I was asked to present some technical options to the CEO of a 1,000-person firm. He brought my company in because we had a very strong reputation for helping government contractors like his. He had the reputation of being tough as nails and I wasn’t looking forward to the meeting.

As we started the dialog, I asked about their issues and was met very quickly with Mr. Know-It-All responses. He had a quip for every turn I took. So I finally asked him this:

  • I can see that you have a lot of these issues in good hands. So, what were you hoping to address by having me come here today?

This completely turned the tables. Instead of shooting down everything I said, this question gave him the opportunity to stop attacking and start opening up. At the same time, it acknowledged his need for showing off that he had most of his issues already under control.

Some people delude themselves into thinking that the solution they have implemented is the cat’s meow. If you know you can offer a better option, use this two-part question set to diffuse a Mr. Know-It-All encounter:

  • How is that working out for you?
  • Are you getting all of the results you want from that solution?

These questions usually force them to acknowledge their problem areas, giving you the chance to delve deeper into ways you can help. If you have several people in the meeting, you will see some of them bring up topics on their minds.

When you start asking the right questions, people will open up to you because quite often nobody has ever asked them before. This approach allows you to find opportunities and turn prospects into clients by offering ways to make their businesses better. You become a trusted partner, not just a vendor.

Business Planning Process for an Existing Business

Charting your course plays a major role in the luck you bring to your business. This week, I conducted my company’s annual business planning process and review sessions. It took about 3-4 hours each day over 2 days. The business planning process for an existing business, one that has products and services and customers, is usually different than one for a new enterprise. Existing businesses have to take into account the needs of current customers as well as figure out how to get new ones.business planning process for existing business

Here is the business planning process we use to hammer out our plan:

  1. Discuss last year’s accomplishments and shortcomings, including “small wins”
  2. Review our mission and values that shape what we tackle going forward
  3. Review current status of and new ideas for each component of the business
    • Infrastructure
    • Products and services
    • Customer Service
    • Marketing
    • Operations
  4. Rank the large list of activities we come up with based on estimated time involved to complete and impact to our customers and business
  5. Prioritize the activities we feel will result in the biggest bang for the buck

This exercise results in a one-page action list that we review a few times a year to 1) see if we are on track and 2) see what needs to change. It has been a very useful way to crystallize our collective thoughts and get everyone rowing in the same direction – and that leads to good luck. It is not a 15-20 page document, just a list – see the screenshot below. I’ve blurred out our actual tasks, but you get the idea (D=just about done, 1-5=priority order, WL=wait listed).

business plan action list example

You can take this action list and create a goal list for each team member involved. Short action lists like this are easy to pin on your wall so you are reminded of your key points of focus throughout the year. Mine hang right next to me and are filled with short notes I scratch in as the year goes by. The best feeling is checking one of those items off the list!

Forget New Year’s Resolutions, Use a 3-Word Plan for 2013

Toss your new year’s resolutions. You probably won’t stick with them.

top new years resolutions

I’ve been getting lots of email newsletters with tips on how to plan for 2013. I’ve found that Chris Brogan’s 3-word annual theme is by far the best approach. It’s simple. You just have to remember 3 words. And each of the words you pick will have meaning to you.

I expanded my list of 3 words to have one set for my personal life and one set for my business. Here are my personal growth words for 2013:

Declutter

My old boss used to say that gravity is the most powerful force in the universe. Over the years, everything gravitates to the storage room in the basement. My storage room has been cluttered for too long. During the holiday break, my wife and I got rid of the junk we collected. It appeared to be a daunting task when we started so we took it one section at a time, removing unwanted objects to haul off. By the end of the day – and it was a long day – our storage area was completely cleaned out. Everything was on shelves and fully organized. The best part: it decluttered our minds. I’ve got lots of other areas at my home and office that could use a clean-up so the term “declutter” to me in 2013 means to work on something every weekend until I’m satisfied. This week, the target was my email inbox, which is now fully decluttered. My goal is to be completely decluttered by March 31.

Run

I try to exercise regularly, but sometimes I allow myself to slip on my routine. I’ll then feel guilty about it so it’s a no-win situation – I might as well just do it. Between managing work and a family life with young kids, time can easily escape. Of all of the different types of workouts I’ve done, I’ve found running makes me feel the best. It also provides me with the best return for the time invested. Every time I jog, I feel like I cleaned my body from the inside. I breathe better, have a stronger focus and bubble with creative ideas. It makes me happy and productive. Run has a dual meaning. When I set my eyes on a goal, I want to make sure I don’t put obstacles in my own path or subconsciously slow down. So, “run” in 2013 to me means two things: 1) physically run every week, 2) keep pushing myself hard until I achieve a goal I set.

Read

I love reading. It’s the fastest way to building new skills. I read magazines and blogs all the time and pick up a lot of new ideas that help in growing my business. I find that I do most of my book reading over the summer. My weekends are slower then and I enjoy going out on my deck in warmer weather to relax with a tasty beverage and a good book. So I got to thinking: if I enjoy that feeling so much, why don’t I do more of it year-round instead of in the summer? It prompted me to put “read” to round out my top 3 words for 2013.

Here are some other words and possible meanings that you can use as you develop your own 3-word plan for 2013:

  • Start - stop just talking about starting a company, do it
  • Analyze – evaluate detailed metrics for my business so I make informed decisions
  • Content – write articles to share my knowledge with clients and have a long lasting impact that showcases my expertise
  • Publish – write a book and get it published on Kindle
  • Fund – pitch investors and get financing to grow my business
  • Mingle – join an online dating site to meet my match
  • Laugh – throw at least one party every quarter to enjoy a glass of wine with my friends
  • Hawaii – save for and plan a vacation to Hawaii
  • Participate – find out about openings on local boards or commissions in my county and apply to become a member; plan a strategy to run for a local political office

So forget your new year’s resolution. Create a theme instead. It’s only 3 words so it will be easy to remember. Paste your words on your bathroom mirror so you are reminded of your theme every morning and night. Want something a little longer? Read my big list of sample goals. You will have an amazing 2013!

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