Archive for Founder

As an Entrepreneur are you a “Pit Bull or a “Poodle” take the test…

Posted by on September 1, 2010 with 2 Comments

 

As I discuss in my EBook: The 50 Ugly Truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway,… the way of the entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. Chances are you clearly see a problem in a market you know, and you set out to solve it with your product or service solution. One characteristic all entrepreneurs possess is the tenacity of a Pit Bull.

Some time ago I came across a test  I often share with clients that asks the question:

 

Are you a “Pit Bull” or a “Poodle”?

 

Pit Bull Test


1. Do you have a definite purpose backed up by a burning desire to see it fulfilled?


2. Are you continuously in action working on your plan?


3. Is your mind closed towards all negative and discouraging influences from foes, “friends,” dysfunctional parents, music, books, tapes, T.V. etc?


4. Do you hang out with people who are greater than you in what they have accomplished and who utterly challenge you to excellence?


5. Are you self-reliant and independent?


6. Do you take responsibility for your life, both failures and successes?


7. Do you hate it when you waste time?


8. Do you look at life as a game to be played and played like a champion?


9. Have you become impervious to the criticisms of pusillanimous men and women?


10. Do you boldly face your fears with faith and move towards your goals?

 

 

Poodle Test


1. Do you often complain about your life?


2. Do you avoid association with people who have accomplished more than you?


3. Does your life seem futile and your future hopeless?


4. Do you often feel self-pity?


5. Are you envious of those who excel you?


6. Do you worry a lot?


7. Are you overly cautious and negative?


8. Are you indifferent and lacking in ambition and enthusiasm?


9. Do you constantly use excuses and alibis to explain why you haven’t accomplished anything?


10. Do you often fantasize about lying on the front passenger seat of a Cadillac with a pink ribbon in your hair with your favorite chew toy?

Ok, no one else is around….how did you answer the above? You must be real with yourself. Not everyone is cut out for the entrepreneurial game and that’s ok.  Some people are much better as soldiers than generals leading the charge. Some people intentionally chose not to risk letting any of the key plates drop and they serve teams.

The above questions are a great filter to guide you to see if the entrepreneurial game is for you. As I recommend in my EBook make sure you enter this game with a clear understanding of what this role will entail and you have realistic expectations for performance and cash flow.

So how about you…are you a pit bull or a poodle?

 

In your current role what should you be?

 

If you are in a role that requires a pit bull and you find yourself a poodle, what should you do?

“Pushing Mud Uphill” …Launching a New Product or Service Without Four Clear “Yes’s”

Posted by on July 26, 2010 with 9 Comments

launch new products like pushing mud uphill

One of the most exciting things you can do in business is launch a new product, service, or entire business for that matter. As high as six out of ten US adult consumers are thinking about launching a business at any given time. If you chose to take the leap yourself, you will experience what I refer to as the “50 ugly truths…” but in so doing you will become stronger, and if you survive you will ultimately help people solve problems.

I can’t imagine anything more rewarding than helping someone solve a problem they thought there was no solution for. If this is true, then why do over 70% of new products (businesses) fail?

They fail because they failed to answer “yes” to four simple but key questions.

Question 1

Do you clearly understand the problem you are trying to solve and does your product (service) solve that problem completely? (if you have already said “no” stop, gather more data)

Question 2

Are there enough people, a market of people, with this problem to meet your desired ROA? ( if your answer is “I think so” stop and validate)

Question 3

Do the members of the market you validated as big enough have the ability to pay to solve their problem? (there are all kinds of problems we all have, but we are not willing to pay to fix)

Question 4

Are the members of the market you validated that is big enough, with the problem you solve, and ability to pay, “willing” to pay now? (there are many problems we have, and we have the ability to pay for, but not the willingness to pay for)

If you answered “Yes” with current market data (not data from three years ago when you first came up with this idea) go for it!

But remember; An Idea is not a product and it’s definitely not a Business.

Where most entrepreneurs blow it …as Jim Collins refers to it is; Hubris. They believe because they have launched products in the past and they were very successful they trust their gut and intuition that there new endeavor will also be a huge success.


So what happens if you launch based on emotion and Hubris?….

Your sales may come, but slowly

You will miss ROA targets

Need to add investment, instead of cutting bait

Your sales team (who trusted you) will push mud uphill each day…the good ones will leave due to frustration

You strain your entire organization (who is probably already multi tasking) morale suffers

You demonstrate to your market you do not know them

Personally you will become frustrated, aggravated, distracted, and you will loose focus

How can I rattle the above off so quickly?…Because I have done it. I have experienced the rush of growing companies by launching new products and or new divisions and when I find what feels like a huge unsolved problem in a market ….I get excited (emotional).

Instead of gathering current market date, I used to move into; validate my gut mode.

Instead of admitting what I did not know… and finding answers…I relied on past experiences to get me through the unforeseen roadblocks.

I have felt the emotion that builds, and heard that little voice in your head that says; “I don’t care what engineering, marketing, operations, and sales thinks we should do, or the more information they want to gather…we need to launch before someone else beats us to market”

What I lacked back then was a filter…simple filter that quickly cuts through the emotions and feelings and quickly lets you know if you have an “idea” or a “business”. The above four questions are the filter I recommend everyone use PRIOR to launching your new product, service, or business.

How about your company….

Have you ever had to push mud uphill?

While your team loyally pushes mud uphill, what is the opportunity cost of their time?

Do you have other questions to add to the filter to insure the products you launch do not fall into the 70% of those that are an expense without a ROA?

Again, having launched products, services, even new businesses in my career I understand that inner rush of adrenaline that makes your creative juices fire on all cylinders…I do. Maybe it’s an age thing…but I now highly recommend a pause, a strategic pause, before you launch and ask yourself the above questions.

To insure you maximize your percent of wins and your ROA for new products, make sure you use a filter, get the four “yes’s” prior to launch.

If you do not use mine above, I have also used the economic value added model back in the day. This model helps insure decisions are not made of Hubris.

Whatever you do, do not rely just on your gut, and or your key accounts, friends, and family members saying “go for it”.

If you would like to read more about this topic, I recommend you read;

Tuned In

How the Mighty Fall

Delivering Happiness

How Can Marketing Make Your Company Wealthy?

Posted by on April 11, 2010 with 1 Comments

Go to "Energize Growth NOW: The Marketing Guide to a Wealthy Company" page

 

Being diagnosed as an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. Far too many entrepreneurs launch with unrealistic expectations, and if they are members of the 1/3 of companies that do survive more than 18 months, they fall prey to “the entrepreneurs’ dilemma”.

As an entrepreneur you probably were working for someone else and found a market opportunity, a need, and a problem that needed to be solved. Chances are you brought the opportunity to your company and they quickly dismissed your idea. So what are you to do? Do you keep trying to convince your “hippos” the size of this opportunity or do you break out on your own on a quest to solve this problem so obvious to you?

If you are wired to be an entrepreneur you set out to solve the problem, and if you truly understood the problem and designed something that solved it completely, you start experiencing sales. This is a fun time because if you did your research before launch, your marketing message clearly explains what your product or service does and buyers instantly get it.

At first your biggest challenge is how to make more…quicker. The next thing you know you are hiring others and you now have a “team”. You now have a CFO instead of your wife paying the bills. You are hiring others from the industry and training them to meet with the customers you once served personally.

Then it happens one evening, usually after 7:00 pm on the drive home (late for dinner again) you do a gut check; “Am I having fun anymore?” If you are honest with yourself the answer is often “no” as you is now “running “a company. Your days of meeting with customers and potential customers are replaced with meetings, planning, and holding your team members accountable. (You became a hippo) You begin noticing a decrease in the incremental sales growth per new employee hired.

The days of you jumping out of bed at 4:30 am long before your alarm goes off are replaced with the ring of an alarm at 6:30 a.m. and …dread, another day of work. If it sounds like I have been there I have…”been there… done that….have the t-shirt”.

The good news is being an entrepreneur does not have to be terminal. There is a great book I finished not long ago titled: Energize Growth Now, the marketing guide to a wealthy company by Lisa Nirell. If you find yourself in the entrepreneurs’ dilemma or want to avoid it, I recommend you buy this book for yourself and all your leaders within your organization.

I found the book provided high level strategies for plugging back into your market as well as tools and rules that are applicable the day after you read this book.

It is not too late to energize growth in your company.

I particularly liked her chapter on increasing your company’s wealth quotient and seven principles to position your company for higher valuation.

It is time we rethink how we “do “business and break the entrepreneur’s dilemma. This book reminds us how critical it is to stay focused on creating value for your buyers and market , and in so doing your wealth quotient as an organization will continue to climb.

Are you in the beginning to experience the entrepreneur’s dilemma?

Do you find yourself needing the alarm in the morning, longing for the days you did not need an alarm?

Are you looking for a road map on how to increase your organizations’ wealth quotient?

I highly recommend Energize Growth Now.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

Posted by on October 28, 2009 with 6 Comments

 imagesCAO622DS

When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

#3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

#4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

#12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

Posted by on October 26, 2009 with 0 Comments

 duck

As the entrepreneurial leader you have natural gifts. Market leading entrepreneurs understand a key principle; you have the power of choice…chose to exercise your power of choice in choosing the role you will play on YOUR team. Market losers focus on what they are not, and try to become experts in all the areas of business and thus dilute their personal giftedness and ultimately their contribution to the team’s bottom line. Market leaders know what they know as well as what they don’t know.

Our Pastor at church has started a series on how we have a role to play in adding value based on the spiritual gifts we were born with coupled with those skills we developed over our life time. This message resonated with me both personally as well as made me think about a meeting last week.

When I meet with business owners and leaders the first thing I do is perform a triage of sorts. I ask a number of questions. I identify first if this is someone and a business I want to help. For example, I was asked to meet with a local entrepreneur about two years ago and when I discovered he wanted my help launching a smokeless cigarette that could help more consumers get addicted to nicotine and caffeine,..I chose to pass.

 

Secondly is the problem this business experiencing one I can solve? If not I refer them to one of my trusted network partners. I have a number of questions I use to identify what is and is not happening in the organization. Often the owner’s inability to answer some of my questions are answers in and of themselves. One area I need to focus on early is the owner’s objectives and motivations. Once I understand the true goals I can serve their team and provide the maximum value in the shortest time.

One of my questions that consistently creates a “pause” with entrepreneurial leaders is;

What are your dreams, your goals for this business and what do you personally want to do, and where do your gifts add the most value? ( not what you like to do…but what are you good at?)

 

What is often the case the entrepreneur started their business based on their personal gifts and seeing how their gifts can solve a particular market problem. They launch and realize success. Their desire to serve the market grows into a business and things begin to change. They start hiring team members, dealing with vendors, promoting the business, funding the business….and as time passes they move into a role of running versus doing their business. The shame is they focus so much energy on areas they are not naturally gifted in and they end up moving farther and farther away from their personal giftedness. When this occurs the owners stress increases, she feels like she is being pulled in 100 directions and nothing is getting done. The joy they once experienced when they first launched their business is gone…and now their business has become a job and no longer is a passionate quest.

I often shock business owners and leaders in this first meeting when I say;

There is a big difference between “making” widgets, and “running “a business that makes widgets…where are your gifts best used?

 

We are all uniquely wired with blessings we are to use to serve others. As that business consulting expert Jimmy Buffet shares…

“A blessing can become a curse if you keep it to yourself”

 

Our Pastor shared a story Sunday that I have heard before but this time resonated in a new way. It seems at the time of creation all the animals got together and decided they needed to focus on specific gifts as a group ; running, swimming, climbing and flying.

So the duck was an excellent swimmer but struggled with running. Not wanting to let the other animals down, he decided to focus on becoming a better runner. He trained to run faster and in the process got marginally better but tore the webbing in his feet. When he returned to the water he found he could not swim with the same expertise and speed he once had.

The rabbit was an amazing runner, but had difficulty swimming. So he focused on improving his swimming. In the process of doing so the muscles that made him a swift runner atrophied and when he tried to run, he could not run as fast as he once ran.

The squirrel was an amazing climber, but no matter how hard he tried he as not good at flying. After multiple attempts that ended in crashing to the forest floor he permanently injured his legs and this hampered his ability to climb with the same speed and efficiency he once had.

The eagle was amazing and the best at flying high above the earth and then quickly swooping down to capture her prey. He could catch the currents and seemly soar and dive without effort, but he was not efficient as a climber. He worked tirelessly to be a more effective climber, but in the process his wings became weak and he could not catch the updrafts he once could and could no longer soar to the heights he once exclusively owned.

 

Market leaders understand their gifts and use their gifts to serve their internal and external customers.

 

Market losers spend time trying to perfect areas that are not within their natural giftedness and ultimately reduce the value they provide their team and their market.

 

How about you…do you know your natural gifts and are you using them?

 

Are you in a role on your team that uses your gifts?

 

What should we do if we are in a role that does not use our natural giftedness?

 

As a business leader, entrepreneurial owner do you feel comfortable returning to your giftedness and hiring someone to run your business that is gifted in growing businesses?…why or why not?

 

 

I am not saying don’t learn about the other skills that can add value to your business. What I am saying is stay focused on serving your team and your market with your gifts. As the leader you will want to become aware of other skills , but do not try to become an expert in these areas as it will only dilute your gift’s contribution to the bottom line

 

I find one of the quickest ways to help businesses grow is to identify the various team members’ gifts, starting with  the leader and or owner, and making sure the role they play on the team is in alignment with their gifts. What is often he case is I give the owner a pink slip in running the business and I help find someone skilled at running businesses so the founder can return to their gift. They often express a sense of ….”am I allowed to do this…or is it OK for me to have fun again? “and my answer is always Yes! ( after all it is still your business)

If you are a duck…be a duck! You will swim much faster than those other ducks that are spending hours of frustration trying to become faster runners. While they dilute their gift you will remain focused on adding the maximum value by exercising your gifts.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

Posted by on October 22, 2009 with 0 Comments

exit sign

Market leading entrepreneurs value data and feedback. They seek and are constantly sensing the changing needs of their internal and external customers. When an account or employee exits your team, make the time for an exit interview with the mission of identifying roadblocks that are standing in the way of your team’s performance execution and success.

I shouldn’t be surprised, as it happens so often… a key account leaves an organization and very quickly the team moves into “good ridden mode” with comments like; well they were slow pay anyway. Or “they were a pain since the day we signed them” …or “they were not all that profitable anyway”…and so on. Team members assume they know why the customer left and often quickly close the file, and or arrogantly say …” they will be back, our competitor sucks and is not as good as us…”

Market leading organizations understand the value in interviewing customers who chose to leave to improve the overall experience of the customers that stay and future targeted new clients.

When you contact a client that has chosen to leave your organization the key thing to remember is the goal of your call; gain insights into why they left and not try to sell them or win them back. I have often been the one to make those calls as the salesperson who served the account can not help but try to win them back. Your mission is to understand, from the client’s perspective why they chose to leave, take detailed notes without “defending the fort” and reflect on that information. As you review what you learn look for roadblocks and “no-see-ums” in the overall customer service experience. Your team will be “assuming” it was price. However I have found price is rarely the true wedge that drove the relationship apart.

road block

Just as you interview clients that leave, you must also conduct exit interviews with your team members that voluntarily or involuntarily leave. In this interview you are trying to gain insights into roadblocks and or disconnects in initiatives in relation to your teams flight plan or roadmap. You will need the emotional intelligence to handle the often harsh criticism particularly if the separation was not voluntary. However the leaving team member has no incentive to play politics and their raw feedback is actually something market leaders value as it is can be acted upon once verified. For example you may learn you have dysfunctional “kingdoms”, silos within your organization that are more about the silo than achieving the strategic plan. You may learn that a perception senior management has is a significant disconnect with the market reality of today.

Team members who leave have information that others who may be busy blame storming are not articulating.

Interview team members who are leaving before they leave and you may be shocked that a key assumption or two the senior management team has is a significant disconnect with the reality of the market today.

 

How about your organization…..

 

 

Does your team have a procedure to interview clients who chose to leave you?

 

Do you interview employees who are leaving your team?

 

When you conduct those interviews do you have the emotional intelligence to listen and later validate or do you defend the fort?

 

 

Market leaders value feedback. Market losers believe the only view that matters are theirs…what kind of a team do you serve?

 

Entrepreneurial Best Practices: #16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

Posted by on October 14, 2009 with 0 Comments

pic_first-wish

One common trait all market leaders have is passion. When you speak with a market leader they do not discuss their “job” but instead it is more of a quest. Entrepreneurial market leaders have learned how to focus their passion to drive unprecedented results regardless of economic condition and competition. In this post I will share how one entrepreneurs question led to one of the most successful charities for children with focused passion.

I was recently invited to attend a local WITI meeting to get a feel for their venue and meet the director to discuss how my content may be of value to their membership. The night I attended had an inspirational speaker named Frank Shankwitz. Frank is a retired motorcycle state DPS policeman in Arizona. He shared 20 years ago he heard about a young seven year old boy named Chris Greicius who was dying of leukemia. Frank heard little Chris had a few weeks to live and just loved the show Chips about motorcycle patrolmen and how his dream was to be a motorcycle patrol man. So Frank got to together with others in his department and had the police helicopter pick up young Chris from the hospital and fly him to their headquarters. Frank said he expected a very sick boy on IV’s but when the helicopter landed out bounced Chris.

pic_first-wish-founders

 

Frank gave Chris a tour and offered to give him a ride on his motor cycle but Chris said he would prefer a ride in something with doors…so Chris climbed on an officer’s lap and drove a squad car around the parking lot blowing big bubble gum bubbles. The squad had a ceremony and made Chris an honorary DPS state patrolman. Chris was then flown back to the hospital and his doctor said Chris could go home for the night.

Frank went to the local uniform store where all the officers get their uniforms custom made and told the owners about young Chris and the husband and wife owners stayed up all night and make a custom uniform for Chris. Frank drove to Chris’s house and presented the uniform to Chris and he quickly tried it on. Frank set up some cones and had Chris navigate his electric motorcycle around them and Frank certified him and a motorcycle patrolman. Chris then asked if he would have the wings that are displayed so prominently on Frank’s uniform so Frank contacted the company that makes all their wing pins and ordered Chris’s wings. By the time the wings were ready Chris had slipped into a coma back at the hospital. When Frank went to Chris’s bedside there he saw the miniature uniform, hat and certificate at his bedside. Just as Frank pinned Chris’s wings on his uniform Chris came out of his coma and asked if he was now officially a motorcycle state patrolman and Frank told him he was. Chris passed away that night. But his wish to be a state patrolman came true. Chris’s doctors were amazed how Chris seemed to feel so much better when focused on his dream versus his disease.

On a plane ride back from Chris’s funeral in Indiana, a full officer’s funeral, Frank had a question; if we could do this for Chris, why can’t we do this for other children? …and Make a Wish was born. Today Make a Wish has served over 3,000 children like Chris with wishes. Some as simple as a basket ball and some that included trips to Disneyland.

Frank shared this story with such passion that at times he had to gather his composure to keep speaking. He shared how he had the passion and vision and in the early days would not accept no for an answer. Through shear will and tenacity he started Make A wish with a handful of volunteers and a $15 donation from a Grocery store. Today Make a Wish is a worldwide organization that helped over 174,000 children. Franks passion is still just as strong as he shared his vision to serve 500 children a month as they cannot make all the wishes from sick children come true.

Frank shared that as they grew his now organization grew beyond his personal capabilities so he hired a professional staff to insure his vision became a reality.

As I drove home from this evening I was so inspired by Frank. Frank had a vision that started with a simple question in response to a big market problem. Frank had laser like focus and channeled his passion into one of the most successful children’s charities in the world.

If a motorcycle cop can focus his passion into Make A Wish…what can you focus your passion to create?

Market leaders do not just serve their customers they create movements…what movement is your market waiting for you to create?

Once you connect your vision and passion to a market problem, will you have the emotional intelligence to know when to hire a professional team to insure your dream becomes a reality?

How will you know when it is time to hire additional leaders?

Make a Wish Arizona shared a new vision with me and that was the desire to connect with others in the social media space. My challenge to everyone who reads this blog is to follow them on twitter at twitter.com/MakeAWishAZ and re tweet your follow to be a part of 1 million followers of Make a Wish by this time next year. Like the uniform maker, and the company who designed the wings, people like to connect; they like to give their time, money, energy to something bigger than themselves. Please be a part of Make a wish and help them gain 1 million followers by this time next year!

Entrepreneur best practices: #12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

Posted by on October 2, 2009 with 5 Comments

idea

 

 

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

 

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

 

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

 

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

 

When they become millionaires…

 

When they are recognized in their community…

 

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

 

 

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

 

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

 

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

 

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

 

How about your organization….

 

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

 

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

 

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

 

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

 

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.

 

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

Posted by on September 24, 2009 with 6 Comments

 

 

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As an entrepreneurial spirited leader there is always something to do. There are more potential new accounts to call, people to hire, bankers to meet, and the list goes on and on. It reminds me of the plate spinners I would see when I was a child visiting the circus. They start spinning one plate, then two and before long they have 12 plates spinning on long staffs. Just as one more begins to spin, one of the previous plates need attention so they do not stop spinning and fall to the ground.

 

There are only two plates entrepreneurs can never let fall; your family and your values.

 

All the other plates can fall, and often will, and they bounce. If they break they can be glued back together again, adequately enough so they continue to spin.

 

The founder of Kaboodle put it another way at a recent TIE Arizona event; as an entrepreneur you are juggling a number of balls in the air, but two are made of glass and must never fall; your family relationships and your core values. If those balls fall they do not bounce, they shatter and can never be replaced.

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Your Family      

 

At the end of the day, your family is the only real relationship you have that truly matters. We justify the nights and weekends away from home telling ourselves it is for them. The truth, in my case (and maybe yours is) we work like we do for the “rush” the addictive thrill of solving customer problems.

It comes down to making choices. We fail to recognize we have a choice, but we do. I made bad choices over the years. I traveled for example domestically 3-4 nights per week for 15 years. In addition, when I was home on weekends, for two years I completed my Executive MBA. I used to describe myself back then as “focused”. I was focused all right, but on the wrong plates. Missed baseball games, dance recitals and anniversaries almost made my family plate fall. Couple my passion to grow businesses with an international expansion for three years being gone weeks at a time, my family plate almost fell. Today I find myself connecting someplace between Pacing the Cage as I discussed in a previous post and the popular cat’s in a cradle song.

It truly is about “focus”, “intentional focus” to be more precise. We set our priorities each day consciously or unconsciously . When I work with young entrepreneurs, once we have trust built I ask to see their day planner (today it’s often a phone) and their checkbook. These two simple tools very quickly show me an entrepreneur’s focus.

I recommend entrepreneurs consciously put dates and times on your schedule for family. I recommend you take notes, just as you do with key accounts, but at home when your daughter is sharing what is important to her, or when your wife needs her life partner to bounce ideas off of.

I have learned that no matter how much “money” your work can produce, nothing is more valuable than your family, and this plate must never fall.

plate

Values         

Your core values shape your outlook and your actions. Just last Sunday Pastor Jason was discussing how your;” beliefs shape your actions….so what do your actions say about your beliefs”

When I work with new clients one of the first things I need to understand is their values. I do not judge their values I just need to know what they are. Far too often they are not black and white, but land somewhere in the grayness due to compromises made. Values are at the core of you as a leader, and must be at the core of your business. Just as a strong core is essential to strong physical health, strong core values establishes boundaries. Some of my clients struggle with the idea of boundaries, I had one young man who took over the family business put it this way; “it sounds like you are asking me what the rules are…if I wanted rules I would not be working for myself, …I make the rules” and he could not have been farther from the truth.

 

I came to faith in the mid 1990’s in a program called Alpha. In this series of nights watching DVD’s in small groups and discussing our beliefs, the founder of Alpha, Nicky Gumble, tells a story. His son loves to play soccer. One day they arrived at the pitch and there were no officials, so Nicky was asked to fill in so the kids could get started and he agreed. So the ball would go out of bounds, but he would say play on. The players would make a foul and Nicky would say…play on. Before long the match was pandemonium with children being hurt, parents and children frustrated, and no one was having fun. When the referee finally arrived the first thing he did was blow his whistle. He reviewed the rules, established the boundaries, and play began. Nicky goes on to say how much the children actually enjoyed playing the game once they understood the rules and had firm boundaries.

In business we must also establish boundaries. What often occurs is not gross violations of core values, but small, minor compromises…often later justified as…”for the good of the team”. I have never seen those small compromises truly add long term value. I have seen companies short pay vendors, or purposefully pay their bills 45-60 days late thinking they were so clever to use their vendor’s cash to support their growth. However the vendors, if they have boundaries quickly shut down supply until you pay, or they increase your cost of goods to offset the cost of money. The net result always is your customers suffer.

I also see compromises with regards to key team members. A team member does behaviors that are unacceptable based on your company mission and core values…but company leaders look the other way because he or she…”produces”. They produce alright, they may be producing sales, or operational efficiencies or so on, but they also are creating a disruption at the core of what your team stands for. You see, everyone is watching when, let’s call him “Mark” is not living by the rules the team established. The longer Mark is allowed to play outside the boundaries established by your core values the weaker your team becomes internally and in your market. In addition to your team, your market is always watching as well. As I discussed in my post about the “Law of the Locker room” …it truly is a small world” Your market, like a neighborhood talks. I promise you they talk about you. You must insure what they say about you and your team helps grow your business and not make them seek more trusted partners.

Your core values as a leader and as an organization must be defined and they must establish clear boundaries.

 

Failure to do so and your team will make compromises and one day you may have a large company, but not like each other when you get there.

 

You can judge a leader much more by their walk, than by their talk. Their actions do illustrate their beliefs.

 

What do the actions of key leaders and influencers in your organization illustrate about your core values.

(And now the real hard one) What do your actions say about your core values and that of your organization?

 

As an entrepreneurial leader you will often feel like a plate spinner in a circus. You always have something you can be doing. For me I often felt like a “one legged plate spinner” trying do too much, too quick, and I had many sleepless nights over the plates in my mind that were almost ready to fall.

 

There are two plates you must never let fall, for once broken can never be fully repaired; your family and your values.

 

What are your core values and beliefs?

 

Are the right plates still spinning?

 

Entrepreneur Best Practice: # 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

Posted by on September 24, 2009 with 2 Comments

 

Entrepreneurs often spend so much time in their businesses they fail to look closely at their business. Market leaders understand the value of analyzing their customer and sales pipeline to find diamonds in the rough.

 

diamod

I heard a story about a farmer in Africa who farmed land that was in his family for generations. One day he decided he wanted to sell his farm and move to city and make his fortune. The new land owner was out exploring his new property and his son found a beautiful shinny rock in the riverbed. His son brought the rock home and displayed it with pride on the fireplace mantle. As the story goes a friend came to visit and saw the “rock” on the mantel and asked the new owner if he was aware of what they had? If the story is true it was one of the largest uncut diamonds ever found.

All those years, for generations the family members walked by that same stream and did not see nor appreciate the shiny rocks in the stream. Eventually they sold their farm and went in a new direction unfamiliar to them to “make their fortune.

I see the same story with Entrepreneurs, and leaders in both large and small companies. They are so busy chopping the trees; they fail to see trends in the forest of sales data. When you look at your sales data;

Segment sales into groups and rank them

Compare and contrast sales and profits to prior

Review new sales over the past six months, do they have any common elements…

Map trends that emerge objectively

Far too often entrepreneurs have diamonds in the rough they can only identify once they take the time to analyze and trend map their data.

boston market

A quick example; It is a difficult time for most restaurants. I have heard sales decreases as high as 70%. However, I frequently buy lunch at Boston Market. I often see the same people each day and they are all, like me eating the same thing; a meat protein and two servings of vegetables. One guy has lost over 100lbs on their tortilla soup.

I was joking with the employees today as they know me by name. They asked how much weight I have lost, and what was my secret. I shared that I joined the Medifast program, a light workout each day, and I eat one healthy meal per day. Boston Market offers food choices for consumers like me.

mainSide

If the leaders at Boston Market would survey customers, group the data, they would find a revenue diamond in the rough.( and they may have) Once they identify that diamond, they need to share that they have it with others who are trying to loose weight by eating healthy. Their lunches are slightly more expensive than other lunch choices; however their meals are perfect solutions for dieters who need to eat 6-7 ounces of protein and two cups of green vegetables carbs.

Once they verify this trend, Boston Market may even choose to partner with weight loss programs like Medifast, local fitness centers and so on.They may provide other food choices to serve this customer segment and help them share the benefits of eating at Boston Market with other’s in their community dieting. If the segment is verified  be large enough they may even adjust their media buys to include shows like the Biggest Loser.

How about your company…

 

  

Do you have any diamonds waiting to be found in your data?

 

…You sure?

 

  

Has one of your competitors ever discovered a trend and launched positioning for an existing product that made you scratch your head thinking…why didn’t we come up with that?

 

  

Are you taking the time to see the big picture? Or are you too busy chopping down trees?

 

  

What other trend can you track to find your diamonds when sales get rough?

 

Market leaders understand the value in looking at the big picture and identifying trends.