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Small Business Revitalization Blog

Small Business Coaching: Revive Your Profits, Revitalise Your Perspectives, Reinvigorate Your People

What's Missing In Your Business?

You know that feeling you get when you know something is missing, but you just don't know what it is?  You 'should' be making way more money, but you're not.  You 'should' be moving forward faster with your projects, but you're not.  You 'should' be engaging with way more people, but you're not!  

When I looked underneath all of the 'shoulds' in one of my businesses it came down to one thing.  Consistency. I was great at doing lots of the things that were needed to make it work. Occasionally. Randomly. When I felt inspired. When I remembered. When I wasn't distracted with client projects. And when I looked at the times the business had worked really well, it was when I was doing the business generating and expanding activities CONSISTENTLY!

Most of us have some idea of what to do to create growth in our business.  When we first started we figured it out - because it was get it to work or go back to the JOB.  Motivation comes from interesting places!  And once we had it figured out and the business was moving forward, we got busy with other activities.  The actions that sound important, the actions that are required to service our customers. The actions that took us away from the genuinely essential actions.

These are the actions that keep a business running...  Somewhere in your business there are some actions missing that make the difference between a thriving business and a surviving business.  What are they?  It's different for every business.  You know your business model and you know what it takes to keep the engine humming.  And if you aren't sure, that's your first action - find out!!

If you know what it is, how much attention are you giving to the daily, weekly or monthly actions that keep the engine in tune and humming along effortlessly?  If a few things have fallen off the consistency wagon, now is the time to change that.

I know what you are thinking.  "If it was easy for me to be consistent with these things I'd be doing it!"  Yes, I hear you! Consistency not natural for me either - I much prefer to play with new ideas!!  And I'm inviting you to find a way to make it work for you - because you know and I know that when you do these things consistently, your business will grow!

Here are three ways I get myself in the energy of being consistent:
1)  Produce in blocks.  For example, instead of writing random blog posts because I haven't posted lately and I need to show up, I'll write 10 - 15 posts at a time and schedule them in advance.  Faster and easier and everyone feels the love!

2)  Delegate.  There are just some things you'll never get to.  Find someone who is better than you at the task in hand and make it their job to deliver regularly.  Make a diary note so you can check the task is being completed.

3)  Power Hours.  I've talked about these before.  They are one of my favourite things.  Make a list of all those small things that need doing regularly that you just have to do and set aside a daily or weekly power hour.  It might be making client appointments, paying your team.  Whatever it is that will create more space and more possibilities for the future, schedule it!  Some weeks I even have two!  Because I know that an hour of priorities each week saves me many more hours down the track.  And we'd all like to work less right?

So, this week's business coaching challenge is to identify at least two things that would make a difference to your business if you did them consistently, and set up a system for getting them done!  You don't need to be the source, you just need a system that works!

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It's a New Financial Year - What's New For You

It's a new financial year... and it's a great idea to look at what you'd like to be new or different for your business over the next 12 months.    If you would like a new financial future, you need to do things different.

In my 'New Energies of Business' Blog Talk Radio shows I have recently talked about some very different approaches to money - here are two gifts for you:

 

"Creating Money Flows or 'Money Just Goes'!" 

Listen to internet radio with New Energies of Business on BlogTalkRadio

 

Have you noticed how creating money flows isn't working like it used to?  The sharemarket is in flux, property markets in Australia aren't doing much, clients aren't showing up in response to the promotions and advertising that always worked before...are you wondering what else is possible?

Lots of people have been asking me questions about the financial contraction that they are aware of... so let's talk money!

What's different about creating money right now?  How do you create more money when nothing is working how it used to?  What change is possible for the future?

 

"Changing the Meanness in Business"

 On this show I interviewed Kerry Purcell - co-creator of a substantial and successful multi-million dollar business.  We didn't plan to talk a lot about money, but Kerry had some extraordinary stories to tell about how she has contributed to changing the reality with money in her business.  Totally worth listening to!

Listen to internet radio with New Energies of Business on BlogTalkRadio

 

Have a great week... and make some space for considering the future of your business. 

If what you have been doing isn't working as well as you'd like, it's time to make some changes!  We live in a changing world.  What if nothing ever worked the same as it did yesterday?  What would you create today?

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The Mysteries of (Not) Delivering Value



WARNING:  I'm having a rant today... that's what happens when I put on my 'customer' cap instead of my coaching cap... luckily dear readers, it doesn't happen too often!  There's some valuable lessons in here for us all :)

In conversation with a real estate agent he mentioned they charge $990 + GST to upload a property for sale to 14 websites and put a sign out the front.  This was their cheapest advertising package for selling a home.  

I have an extensive marketing background and a pretty good working knowledge of marketing on the internet.  When I expressed my astonishment at the lack of value, all the fellow could say in response was “I’m the principal, this is our cheapest advertising package”.  It seems his job title was supposed to make this lack of value acceptable?    

He then proceeded to stutter and stammer that writing the copy takes him 2 – 3 hours… I know amazing copywriters who could get it sorted in less than an hour for a grand investment of around $80.  So what exactly are his clients paying for?  Someone to sell their home, or an incredibly expensive copywriter??

Big hint to business owners – you should never be doing work that you could outsource for way less than what you could be earning. You need to spend your time doing what you are best at!  If this guy spent those 2 – 3 hours getting new listings or selling properties his business would be infinitely more profitable.  

 Then there is the question of the 14 websites – at roughly 10 minutes each for uploading pictures and copy that’s just over 2 hours for an admin person – say $40/hr.  Of course, this also assumes it is of value to use those 14 sites.  Most real estate traffic goes through just a couple of main sites – those 14 sites are really awesome for his search engine optimization though!  And how wonderful that his clients pay for him to be “#1 on realestate.com.au” as he proudly informed me.  Sounds very impressive… unless you understand what it really means!

Unfortunately, your brand being #1 won’t sell my house.  Most people search by suburb not agent.  Do you not understand your business or do you think your customers are stupid?  Either way that’s not a great value proposition for building a strong business in an industry that is facing tough times.

And lastly there’s the sign for about $150… In total, even my best estimates for marketing costs don’t get much past $350 if the agent is operating efficiently!  So at $990+ that is some profit margin.  Given the extortionate price of housing in our fair country, real estate agents also receive a very generous commission on sales as well.  I know a lot of business owners who would love margins like that!

Now at this point some of you are going ‘what’s wrong with that?’  Isn’t the point of business to make money?  Yes!  Absolutely!  But not in a way that offers no value to your customers or pretty much assumes they are stupid.  The playing field is levelling AND becoming more transparent.  Your business practices need to evolve!

When both you and the customer are satisfied with the deal you will build relationships that will create referrals, repeat business and ultimately business growth – you’ll be irresistible and desirable and you won’t need to charge for something that should be included in the service!  Imagine if that agent had said “we have a basic marketing package that is included free if we sell your house.”  That would have been much more attractive to a prospective seller than what he actually said: “If the client doesn’t pay for marketing up front the price for this service goes up to $1290 + GST.” WOW!  Knock me out… not even banks are getting interest rates like that!  I’m surprised he’s not receiving daily takeover bids!

The reality is if you are not delivering genuine value which is valued by your customers, you’re going to find you are facing more and more resistance.  The era of greed is good is over.  People are saving and considering their purchases much more carefully than ever before.

By the end of the conversation the real estate agent was half-heartedly suggesting he could negotiate on the marketing costs.  Unfortunately, from a client perspective, the preceding conversation had already cost him the listing. He failed to see that selling is no longer about money – it is all about value.  I am unclear as to whether this agent just doesn't get it or his BS sales pitch works on enough people to get by.  What you need to understand is that if you come across customers who see through your BS sales pitch, you look stupid and you are damaging the reputation of your business.

Most of us are no longer interested in working with people who either don’t know what they are doing or think its fine to overcharge.  We, as customers, have choice.  More and more business owners are creating true value for their clients.  Those businesses are building a solid platform for growth.  And therein lie the lessons for us all.

The New Energies of Business are here.  It is just not good business to overcharge your customers.  It’s time to start thinking about where you are not providing value in your business?  Where you are not efficient and need to find more effective approaches?  Where you are not valuing your customers? And where is what you are offering not even relevant to the value they are looking for?  

What can you change? Where there is a lack of value there is always a way to take advantage of that in the market. Look at where customers are pushing back about price and develop value propositions that create new paradigms and standards in your industry.  When you take a leadership position in creating and providing value, your competition becomes irrelevant!  (And if you don’t know what your customers are saying about your pricing, it’s time to get amongst it and talk to them!)

If you are going to have a successful business as we move forward into the new energies, now is the time to put your new platforms in place. 

Would you like to join us at our regular New Energies of Business events?  On August 29 at Peregian Beach we'll be discussing how to create value, how the energy of contribution plays out in business and how loving your work creates profits... if you can't be there you can order the videos.  Our presenters and facilitators are experienced business people who are already living the new energies and know what it takes to transform business.  How does it get better than that? 


What are you seeing with your business and the value it offers?  What value have you experienced in other businesses lately?  Comment below!!


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Why would you reinvent business?


"no matter what the cost to our people..." is the bit that most organisations conveniently forget to add!!


Recently I had a fit of curiosity and asked my LinkedIn connections for ideas on how they would reinvent business.  I had a heap of thought-provoking responses, including the fellow  who wrote back and pretty much said it’s been a fabulous system for the past few hundred years and there’s no reason to change a thing! 

After I got over wondering where he keeps his blinkers while he sleeps, I started thinking about what an interesting response it was – I’ve been searching for years, how could I possibly have missed the Centre of Utopian Business?  Does it exist or is it yet to be created?

Here’s the top 5 things I’ve seen since I’ve been in the workforce that really don’t work…  (hmmm the word ‘workforce’ does not exactly exude joy does it? Could we call our people ‘peopleflow’ or ‘playflow’ instead??)

1.   Since the industrial revolution business has put profits well in front of people, leading to record-breaking levels of bullying, stress, depression, death, slave labour, environmental destruction and many other non-joyful outcomes, all for the benefit of the few at the top.

2.   The business world has a really severe case of ‘meeting-itis’ – apparently no drugs have been found to cure it yet and the virus is confusing people into believing they are leading rich, rewarding, purposeful lives.

3.   The insanely competitive race for profits, efficiency and productivity has seen the death of honesty, integrity and authenticity at pretty much all levels of many organizations, leading to a talent exodus from big business.  The structures that have sustained us for hundreds of years are disintegrating quickly!

4.   There is a lack of innovation and creativity in most businesses – real differentiation is rare except in the new-fangled creative accounting departments which sadly surprise us with their financial ingenuity far too often!

5.   There is little sense of true connection or community, even though bank advertising would have you believe it’s all about the love they have for us (LOL!).  There is mostly surface level connection between shareholders, senior managers, staff and customers – instead it is all about secrets, sabotage and scarcity.  What if there could be true non-competitive collaboration instead?

What would it take to reinvent business in ways that allow new and more blissful business choices?  The good news is, some of the real leaders in business (and generally that’s NOT the CEO’s of big business!) have already started paving the way…  times like these create massive possibilities for those willing to be different!!

Some businesses are choosing to make their workplace an engaging and enticing place to spend 8 hours a day rather than worrying about every last cent – think Google, Red Balloon Days and Carmen’s Fine Foods - (funnily enough they are all growing businesses.)

Some leaders are smart enough to know that ‘meeting-it is’ can be cured using holistic approaches – apparently simply holding a stand-up meeting will bring massive relief to sufferers!

Smart, intuitive, creative people are leaving big corporations to start their own businesses in droves because there is no bliss, love or joy to be found in traditional business and spending 8 – 12 hours a day doing something you hate just doesn’t cut it anymore.  Many are now building their own authentic, collaborative, inspirational communities so that business can be reinvented to sustain purpose, people and profits!  

I predict that over time these new leaders will be teaching the old leaders how it’s done…  Every day I connect with courageous, interesting, creative business owners and employees looking for ways to reinvent business that are ethical, blissful and sustainable… what would it take to be the change you want to see in the world?  (Or you could keep on with groundhog day… how’s it working for you??)

Want to join a conversation of real leaders?  Here’s a couple of choices for you:

Connect with people who are ‘different like you’ for two blissful days of Unconference presentations and conversations at The Bliss Connection in beautiful Maleny (Qld, Australia) on 30/31 October 2010…

or connect with BlissTribe on Facebook!

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Rework Your Business Strategies



If you are tired of throwing out your strategies time after time (or you need to throw out the ones you've got and revitalise your business!), the phenomenally useful book “Rework”, written by the founders of 37Signals, offers some of the best advice on business strategy I have seen in a long time…  consider these five little gems (and there's more Rework inspiration at www.onstartups.com) :

“Great businesses have a point of view, not just a product or service.”  If you ever wondered where to find your twenty of so points of difference to your competitors, this is a fantastic place to start!

“You have the most information when you’re doing something, not before you've done it.”  The best way to answer your strategy questions is to put your toe in the water and get real customer feedback.  Don’t just imagine… test and measure!!

“Saying yes when you should say no leaves no bandwidth available for the great rather than the merely good.”  What’s NOT in your strategic plan matters more than what is in some ways!!

“The longer it takes to develop, the less likely it is to launch.”  Quick wins… quick wins… quick wins are the key to getting traction and profits quickly. I launched a product for BlissTribe before I had a website… I was testing the BlissTribe concept and playing with ideas… now I know it has great legs and is worth putting lots of time into!!

“A business without a path to profit is a hobby.”  This is my favourite… I see this happening every day with new businesses… the funny thing is an hour or two spent on developing your business model (ie the plan of where your profits come from) will solve it!!

If you want some different perspectives on Accelerating Your Business strategically, the next Revive Playshop is for you.  21 June 2010 in Brisbane, Australia – miss it and you’ll miss out on insights that will make your business more profitable than you can imagine!!

There's more Rework inspiration at www.onstartups.com too - what's your best strategic business advice?  Share it below...

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Common Small Business Pricing Mistakes

New business owners often get stuck when it comes to setting pricing. Pricing is determined by factors such as positioning, competition, market demand and, surprisingly, how you value yourself and the services and products that you offer!

Have you ever found yourself pricing a product or service in your business based on what you would pay in your current financial circumstances?  Did you stop to think about whether your personal perspectives are in any way a good match for your ideal customer?

Pricing is a choice.  But rarely do business owners exercise that choice with awareness of the potentials created by different price points.  Let’s consider a brief case study…

Erin is a natural health practitioner who specializes in a couple of healing modalities.  She is making $60 an hour and sees clients for 20 hours a week on average.  This equates to $1200 a week – not quite enough to put her into GST territory, but getting close.  By the time you take out taxes and costs of running the business (eg marketing, hiring space, training etc), Erin brings home closer to $30 a session - $600 a week is not a lot to live on!

So, let’s have a look at the common small business traps Erin has fallen into: She is doing what she loves and is great at, but is not reaping the financial rewards – she needs to charge what she is worth.
  • She is swapping time for hours – there is no leverage in her business – if she doesn’t work, nor does the business
  • She has not differentiated her service sufficiently so that clients will pay a premium.
  • She doesn’t believe people will pay more than she is charging – but she hasn’t tested a higher pricepoint.
  • She doesn’t like asking for money for helping people - her beliefs are in conflict with her purse!
Have you ever fallen into any of these traps?  What choices did you make to improve your financial position?  Share your story below – just click the Comment link.

Need inspiration for making more money in your business?  Book your place for the April 19 2010 Playshop:  ‘Show Me The Money’ – you’ll discover more about money and your business than you thought possible!!

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Where do your brilliant business ideas come from?


(Creative Commons Image:  www.flickr.com)

As a small business owner, once you ‘shut up shop’ for the day do you also shut off thinking about your business?  I find my best ideas come when I’m not doing anything connected with work… I went to Riverfire and the Brisbane Writers Festival on the weekend – a few hours chilling out and five new and amazing business ideas landed in my ideas notebook!  

So, how exactly does that happen?  Most essentially, I am a keen observer, always looking for creative opportunities in unexpected places.  When I see a possible opportunity, I start asking questions… lots of them… until I find an idea that gives me tingles.  Here’s a few questions you can ask when you are out and about…

  • Is anyone here in my target audience?  If so, what would it take for my business to get access to them at an event like this?
  • What would make this audience want to know more about my business?
  • Are there any unmet needs here that my business could fulfil?
  • Are there any existing but underutilized resources here that I could leverage?
  • What business ideas are beyond what I can imagine is possible? What would it take to make these ideas possible?
What other questions do you use to discover creative and  profitable ideas for your business?

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Is Your Service ‘Entry Level’ or Extraordinary?



Has it ever occurred to you that what you think is great service is actually only the ‘entry level’ activities which allow your clients to put you on the list of possible suppliers? If not, you may be in for a rude shock!

Recently I listened to a senior manager from a large transport company talk about the new improvements to their tracking technology and delivery service. The transport company thought they had delivered an exciting groundbreaking service.  

My business coaching client who uses this company was scratching his head wondering what was so special – these were things he’d been requesting for years!   All they’d done was fix the bugs in their systems and provide service basics that should have already been available!

Sadly this amazing new service was at best the ‘point of entry’ from my client’s perspective – so instead of being ecstatic about this news, my client took it as ‘done, thanks, what’s next…’.  

Imagine if this transport company had taken a little time to talk to their clients and include some ‘extras’ which would offer their clients genuine and extraordinary value based on their knowledge of the transport industry and their clients businesses.

What if they invited the top 10 fastest growing clients (yes there are plenty out there even in the GFC!) and took them away for a business building weekend…   Any business owner who has double digit growth in this market would jump at the chance to meet others with similar experiences… who knows what business opportunities could arise from such an event! Most importantly, the transport company would be positioned as the really smart operators who created further growth in their clients business…

Think about this for one second.  If these businesses grow even faster, the transport company grows too -  each of these businesses rely on transport for customer deliveries… it is a total win-win! Why wouldn’t you do it?

What extraordinary experiences and ideas can you offer your clients for mutual benefit?  Take 10 minutes to think of 5 'A List' clients and 5 phenomenal ways to add value to both of your businesses.  Then action at least one and measure your results!  My business coaching tip for this post? You may want to work ON your business more often!!!

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The fastest way to ruin trust in your brand!

This morning I was on the BRW site and saw a banner advertisement proclaiming 'Win a chance to meet Warren Buffett!"  All you had to do was subscribe to the Australian Financial Review.  It sounded great, but in the small print it actually stated that there was no guarantee the winner would actually get to meet Mr Buffett!!  Imagine that - you win the prize, but actually it's only the "chance" that you might run into him!  How disappointed would you be!!

AFR is a publication whose reputation and brand has been built on its high level of credibility and integrity of reporting.  What brand manager would let a promotion like that out the door?  Is the AFR so desperate for subscriptions that they're willing to ruin the credibility of their brand by being a little too 'smart' with their competition wording?  Technically they are not misleading their subscribers, but most people would not take the time to read the competition headline literally - 'meet Warren Buffett' would be the message that sinks in.

How often do you run a promotion or other marketing activity which is ever so slightly misleading for your customers?  Wouldn't you rather be a brand which values integrity in its communications? It is never the reality that matters but the perception.  Whether we like it or not, reputations are built on perception not reality.  The next time you put together a promotion, make sure you check what perceptions you are creating!

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How to Make Your Business Easy and Joyful…

Often I meet business owners who are stressed, stretched or otherwise finding very little joy and ease in their business.  One of the most common causes is they are trying to be everything to everyone!  

Have you ever found yourself spending lots of time doing things you hate and aren’t even that good at?  Have you ever asked yourself why you are doing those miserable things rather than the things that you love and find easy?

When I talk to business owners they can almost always quickly identify the actions which are joyful and easy, and those which are hard.  So why do so many people make themselves suffer?  If you have staff, you have a simple solution… delegate!!  If you have no staff you also have a simple solution… outsource!

Many business people think they can’t afford to do this.  So why are you doing a $20 an hour job when you could add hundreds if not thousands to your bottom line by spending your time on what you are good at and what you enjoy?  

It is often the things we find easy that are our gifts… is it time to recognize your gifts and share them with the world?  Most of us forget that not everyone can do what we do with ease!!

My business coaching clients receive super valuable service from me because I focus on what I’m good at – communicating, generating ideas and creating connections…  If I was spending my time on bookkeeping and administration then not only would I be miserable, but my clients would not get to experience the amazing value that I can contribute to their businesses.  Also, my own business would be growing much more slowly because I’d be caught up in tasks that don’t add value…

What one task can you delegate or outsource today that will enable you to give more value to your clients AND give you more joy in your business?

If you're not sure about the best way to add value to your business and make yourself happier at the same time, schedule a free 30 minute introductory business coaching session with Lisa Murray... it will change your life and increase your profits!

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