My last substantial post was over a year ago so it’s an interesting time to reflect on what I’ve learned in that time, particularly since my last post was about balancing the facts with gut. So here’s 8 learnings from last year:
- Hold Your Vision close so you don’t get distracted
I wrote it down in a way that is tangible – with a deadline and I read it all the time. It sustains me when things get tough and keeps me focused when I could be sidelined by other projects. It’s about knowing who you are, where you want to go and why. It’s your compass.
- Test Your Route to Vision
As the year went by the strategy to achieving the vision got tested time and time again and was regularly challenged by those I came in contact with. I’ve found the biggest challenger to be me; so much so I am in the process of realigning the strategy to think bigger about how to achieve the vision and this is exciting.
- Trust Yourself then Surround Yourself with Others you Trust.
It’s your business. You know the what, the where and the why. You feel it in your gut. All you have to do is trust it.Now build a support system around you that helps you make all this possible. These are your advisors, your staff, the team that make it happen. These are your business. Choose wisely.
- Ask for Help
Entrepreneurs for a long time on the journey hate to ask for help. What’s amazing is the shift in the business and in yourself once you do. Its one of the marks of growth of an entrepreneur. I asked and the business grew.
- Build a War Chest for every Leap
For each significant move forward in the business, make sure you have the war chest in place before you take that leap or you’ll find yourself making up for that undercapitalisation of time and money for a lot longer than if you had prepared for it.
- Perfect the Systems at each Stage
Every time you grow the business there’s an opportunity to put processes in place that bed what you’ve learned into the heart of the business. It can be how you price something, an induction manual, templates for x, y, z, a script, a method, a CRM system. Finish them at each stage and it makes each stage of growth firm and solid and ready to hold you up as you move on.
- Follow the Money
Measure it. Monitor it. Manage it. What brings it in. What goes out. Where’s the return. Wheres the waste. Then act on the information and correct at every stage.
- Make it True & Tell People
It’s your business. You know why you’re different. You know what’s unique about you. Have the courage to make it true in everything and for everything you do. Make what you do an art in itself. Then start to tell people about it. Now that’s marketing.
Finola Howard is the CEO and Founder of The Marketing Table. Check Out Table Thinking to find out more about how they can bring a unique voice to your business and make it grow.
- It’s Okay to Ask for Help
Great tweet this morning from @tom_peters:
@GregLimperis @zacharyjeans @guykawasaki Screw up on my own. Succeeed thanks to luck and others.
I talk a lot to entrepreneurs. I’m one myself and consistently we have a conversation around asking for help. Some are great at asking for it even to the point of feeling entitled to it. Some are awful at it and feel it’s a sign of failure if they need to.
Baggage and emotion aside; what I’ve discovered is that asking for help and taking that help and actively using it signifies a change in the growth of a business. You start to move forward exponentially and start to really succeed.
My personal preference is that the help is reciprocated with at least gratitude and a willingness to pay it forward. Either way it’s a mark of change on a path to success and I think the better you get at it in terms of who you ask and what you ask for can play a pivotal role in your success.
It’s our compass. It tells us when something feels right or when there are flags or niggly warning signs. We ignore it at our peril.
Every Entrepreneur knows that feeling. That feeling that you didn’t listen when you should have. That person we tried to go into business with, that brand name that just wasn’t quite right, that deal that smelled too sweet, that employee that promised more than they could deliver – we should have listened but we didn’t. Our impatience to move forward made us ignore what our trusted gut was trying to tell us. Until finally we get it…
Therein lies the next challenge however… to place it in context. We’ve got to remember that it’s our compass and it’s our guide. It isn’t however a replacement for our plan or our strategy.
Too often, entrepreneurs fall into the trap of thinking they can feel their way through a commercial venture. They’ll invest in new machinery, new product lines and often even new markets… just on gut alone.
And yes, don’t get me wrong it often works. What’s worth considering however is how much better it would have worked had the homework been done. If the market had been assessed and quantified… If the existing offerings in the market had been analysed so that a real leverage point could be discovered… If you knew the customer so well that when you spoke they always heard you, simply because you spoke in their language about what they wanted…
If you just spent a little more time could the return on that investment be five fold more… in my experience and in those of our clients… every time…
Trusting your gut alone will keep you small. It will keep you busy but add a little brain and the combination is unbeatable.
So you spend all this time figuring out what’s different about what you do. You know who your customers are and you’ve finally figured out the language you need to use to get them to finally listen to you and ultimately engage with you… And then you get your logo designed/redesigned and you love it… You finally have a true representation of you and your business! Phew! Job Done… and that’s where most people leave the branding journey… what a waste…
Think of it as showing someone the trailer to the best movie ever made. Then you keep showing them the trailer and never release the film. Or you decide to release a different film… Doesn’t make sense does it?
There are a couple of danger points at this stage in the branding process:
- Brand Death by a Thousand Cuts…
You go to print with for example your letterhead / stationery and the printer doesn’t get the colours quite right. You’re busy. You compromise. You let it slide. You think – it’s not a big deal. Who’s going to know the difference – it’s only a shade or two off and I’ve spent all this money I’ve got to use this stuff up. And it happens every time you get something else printed… and you lose the brand.
- Brand Death by Boredom
So you got the logo right. Now all you have to do is lay it consistently onto every marketing piece you do. That’s on brand isn’t it? It’s the same colour. It’s in the same place. They’ll know it’s me every time. Yawn… You’ve effectively blocked your message from evolving, gathering depth and building a deeper relationship with your customer.
You’ve embraced the average. And you’ve set it up that each and every marketing piece you create will be glanced over by your customers. They won’t be read because they don’t bring something new about you to your customer. All they’ll do is bore them.
The trick is to ensure that every marketing piece whether it’s a website, a facebook page, a folder, a piece of stationery etc can stand on it’s own and that it delivers on the purpose for which it is intended. Further that it is unique to every other piece. That it adds something to the story you want to tell. That your customer will want to read everything and see everything because the more they see, the more they know about you and want to know about you.
Think of it like dating. You wouldn’t take someone to the same restaurant, eat the same food, tell the same jokes, have the same conversations every time you meet them – would you? You’d soon bore them and never see them again.
So think of your brand as a story that gets to unfold for your customers every time they come in contact with it. They look forward to the next chapter and they want to keep turning the pages. That’s an engaged customer and one you want to keep. And isn’t that ultimately what you want?
The journey of the entrepreneur is one that is filled with highs and lows and ups and downs. The risks are high and the rewards are many fold. It is a roller coaster ride and one that many never finish. Many stop, get off and leave the fairground… maybe to return another day.
But, if like me you’re still here… think to stop…. when you can… to say thanks and look how far you’ve come… you will be able to appreciate the journey and not miss each and every destination that you achieved. As entrepreneurs we focus on vision to keep us alive… but remember each and every milestone is like a mini vision that has been accomplished along the way.
So take time to stop for a moment… look around… smile at what’s been achieved and thank those that helped you along the way… then hop on for the next round of adventures on your very own roller coaster ride.
So this morning I’m stopping and taking a breath. It’s important to say thank you. So thank you to my wonderful partner and son who believe in me, to my family who built a strong foundation for me, to a great team I have around me, to my clients who keep me in business, to my friends that cheer me on and to those that have inspired me over the years and taught me so much about myself and about business. Thank you !
I worked with this great woman earlier today. We were talking brand, brand positioning, accessing markets, the power of social media and developing her business to suit the restrictions of a current health issue earlier today. What a woman… She was calm, a hard worker and just someone you knew was going to get on with it.
And then I couldn’t help but laugh as she said so matter of factly; Finola… I’m great, i’ve got Leukemia, Emphesema, Heart issues and a few other bits and pieces wrong with me… but other than that I’m really very healthy…
And it makes you think… what have we got to worry about… Let’s just get on with it… Thank you BC for your inspiration today.
Nine times out of ten when I meet businesses whether they are start ups or long established companies I end up having a conversation about vision. I am greeted with furrowed brow and sometimes even skepticism. Vision is often, in reality cornered off into that special place that people hold for that “airy fairy stuff” so should be avoided at all costs… The other scenario is the larger organisations that have read all the management theory and can, by rote, tell me why it’s important. And I ask – so why haven’t you got one?
Vision defines you and it defines the business. It sets the scene for carving the path to a future that is embraced, striven for and ultimately achieved. If you study those we term successful then without exception every one of them knew where they were going, what they wanted to achieve and what it would feel like when they got there. They may not always have had a clear path but they did know what the end game would look like.
A great question is raised in Dan Sullivan’s “How the Best get Better”. Ask the question of people you want to do business with or even the people you hire -
“If we were meeting three years from today – and you were to look back over those three years today – what has to have happened during that period, both personally and professionally for you to feel happy about your progress?”
Whatever answer you get – very quickly you can see how a person looks to the future and decide if that person is someone you want to work with. You’ll know if they have an idea for the future or if they are focused on where they came from.
For ourselves we need to write Vision down, draw it or express it in some way that it can be recorded. It helps when things get tough but most importantly it brings a consciousness to our work, our businesses and ultimately life. It is too easy to fall into a passive approach to the business and therefore be at the whim of every outside influence. With consciousness we can create change and we can create opportunity. Add vision and we bring focus to that consciousness and all things are possible.
My recommendation? Write it down, what do you want to achieve in the business? What does it look like? Whats the Turnover and the Profitability? Who are your happiest customers? How many of them do you have? What did they buy from you? Where are you positioned in the marketplace? What’s your role in the business now? And most importantly of all; what date is it?