Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

The most exciting, energizing work of an entrepreneur!

If my business coaching clients could claim I preach about something, tops on the list would be scheduling in at least 4 hours per week to work ON your business… What they sometimes forget is that I have my own businesses where I need to do the same thing.

Not unlike my clients however, sometimes more “important” things come up. When I do take the time to work ON instead of IN one of my businesses nothing is more energizing! Let me explain…

As a mechanical engineer I come from the world of, “put in your hours and get your paycheck.” It’s a fairly well established quid pro quo in the professional world. It’s the hallmark of a “job.” What makes owning a business different is that you have the ability to destroy that paradigm. As a matter of fact, the more you work ON your business the less you’ll have to work IN it. The key to this is one simple word – LEVERAGE.

Working ON your business is defined as the time you spend creating leverage in your business. Leverage is doing ever more with ever less and falls into 2 primary categories for business owners.

  1. Team Members
  2. Systems

Everything you can leverage in a business comes down to one of those 2 areas. Either you hire someone to do something so you don’t have to, or you create a procedure, script, or checklist to pass along knowledge so other people can use it. Software, and technology in general, would be a systematized solution.

Today I started an Auto-Responder Email Campaign that got me giddy with excitement about leveraging my business. If you’re not familiar with an auto-responder it’s simply a series of automated email responses to an inquiry. So if you go to a website and it says, “Enter your email address to learn how to make a guaranteed $1 million in the next 30 days”, most likely they’re putting you on an auto-responder. No one is personally responding to your request, even though the goal is to make you feel like it’s very personal. Reference my blog on conversational marketing.

The website owner wrote a series of emails days, weeks, or months ago that automatically market to you to build a relationship. The beauty of this is that you can build a direct, relevant, and personal relationship simultaneously with dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of people.

Mailchimp.com, Aweber.com, ConstantContact.com, or InfusionSoft.com automatically send those emails to potential clients at pre-scheduled intervals. The emails will discuss your products or services for which they requested more details. Like a great website will generate customers around the clock, this is all done while you sleep or lounge at the beach.

An auto-responder email campaign is just one simple example of a System that helps you leverage yourself however, can you see why this gets me so excited? While I’m out cruising around the country on my motorcycle, I’m automatically building relationships and creating future clients by walking them through my “sales process” in exactly the way I want to.

Now if you come from the online world of sales and marketing, this blog is laughably outdated. Auto-responders have been around for years after all. However, in the brick-and-mortar world of small business do you know how many businesses I’ve encountered that use auto-responders as part of their on or offline marketing? None. Sure, everyone has a website these days, but very few business owners know how to fully engage the power of the web. Do you?

Since the vast majority (probably over 95%) of people who visit your website leave without taking any action, think how much business you’re missing by not actively engaging visitors. With a well-written auto-responder campaign you become THE expert in the visitor’s mind and he stops shopping around. You become a trusted advisor and friend. It really is that powerful.

This is why working ON your business is so important. It’s regularly dedicating time to leverage your operations by replacing a Person or System with work you would otherwise have to do.

One last thought as you wipe the spittle from your lips because you’ve been frothing at the mouth with excitement… When determining what work in your business requires a human or systematize solution, the simple answer is EVERYTHING. That’s right, ideally the business shouldn’t be dependent on you, the owner, for anything. It should continue running smoothly with or without you.

Just remember, systematize the routine and humanize the exception.

To your vastly leveraged success, Bryan

P.S. Navigating the waters of auto-responders is not without its squalls so if you need some help getting started, shoot me an email.

Small Business Marketing – Lead Generators and Implementation

So far I’ve addressed the structure for your Marketing System, your company’s Vision, Mission, and Culture, and how to develop a Strategy and Clarity in your marketing plan. Finally, we get to look at actually generating leads. When you think marketing, this is what pops into your head. Yellow page ads, trade shows, direct mail campaigns, e-mail marketing, Google Adwords, websites, magazine ads, Television, and newspaper ads are a few that come to mind.

At this point, we’re not going to discuss how to create great copy, structure strong offers, or even track the response. At this point in your Marketing System you need to simply outline your Lead Generators according to each revenue stream along with all of the steps for implementation. So how do we do this? There are basically 3 steps.

  1. Write down all of your current marketing programs.
  2. Track which revenue streams each program markets.
  3. Outline all of the steps to effectively implement each marketing piece.

At this point you should already have 3-5 primary revenue streams for your business. Keep in mind, when I say Revenue Streams, that does not mean 3-5 products or services. Each stream can have dozens of products or services, think of a stream more like an area of expertise. Most strong businesses can’t effectively become experts in more than 3-5 areas.

Obviously some of your marketing will overlap revenue streams such as a Yellow Pages ad (though these are dying or already dead for a lot of businesses), Trade Show, or Google Adwords. Your website and direct online marketing, such as Google Adwords, that leads people to your website should have a specific page to address each revenue stream (area of expertise).

So to get an idea of what the Lead Sources and Implementation stage looks like, here’s a quick example. For this example I’ll assume I’m a flooring company who resells and installs flooring.

  1. Revenue Stream #1 – Residential Flooring
    1. Direct Mail Postcards
      1. Goal – Get consumer to come to our showroom.
      2. Budget – $1500
      3. Timeline – Will be mailed first week of May with a follow-up post card 2 weeks later.
      4. Pricing/Offer – Free upgrade to premium option with post card for the next 30 days.
      5. Sales Training – Sales Leader will introduce at next week’s team meeting to all sales, office, and service personnel
      6. 4.5 Points of Copy –
        1. Problem – Worn out, unattractive, hard-to-maintain flooring.
        2. Solution – Newer options that are easier to keep clean and look much better.
        3. Why us – Best Reputation <Testimonials>, Best Prices <guaranteed>, Professional installers
        4. Why now – It’s our slow time of the year so we can afford to upgrade your flooring choice for free.
        5. Risk Free – Stop in or have one of our flooring experts visit your home for a risk-free assessment and quote.
      7. Tracking – Offer is only available on this card
    2. Radio Ad
      1. Goal – Get consumer to visit our showroom
      2. Budget – $300/week
      3. Timeline – 30 :30 second spots per week thru April, May, and June.
      4. Pricing/Offer – Half price carpet padding
      5. Sales Training – Marketing leader will introduce to team at 3/31 Team Meeting.
      6. 4.5 Points of Copy –
        1. Problem – Worn out, unattractive, hard-to-maintain flooring.
        2. Solution – Newer options that are easier to keep clean and look much better.
        3. Why us – Best Reputation <Testimonials>, Best Prices <guaranteed>, Professional installers
        4. Why now – N/A (not enough time to address in 30 seconds)
        5. Risk Free – Stop in or have one of our flooring experts visit your home for a risk-free assessment and quote.
      7. Tracking – Offer only available through radio. Have flooring experts ask people if they listen to 103.7.

And you would continue to do the same thing for each Revenue Stream and Lead Source while keeping your Target Customer, USP, and Positioning Strategy in mind for each step of implementation. In your manual, you’ll want to keep a copy of the Direct Mail Postcard and script of the radio commercial. Preferably your manual will also be digital so you can store an MP3 of your actual radio ad along with a print-ready PDF of your postcard so you can tweak and reuse. Your manual will also include the results of your ad. Those results will include the # of leads, # of sales, and total $ amount of those sales. You’ll compare those numbers to your total cost of the lead source to determine what you paid to buy each customer along with the $ in sales/$ in marketing. The most important number to determine the effectiveness of that lead source and whether you’ll invest in this marketing again is the dollars of revenue generated per dollar in marketing spent. I generally keep all of this information in a single spreadsheet aggregated for the year called my Marketing Analysis spreadsheet that looks something like this:

Lead Source       Date Ran     Cost     # of Leads     # of Sales     $ in Sales     Cost per Lead     Cost per Sale     $ in Sales per $ in Marketing

Direct Mail PC    5/5/11        $750          7                       3                 $9,237             $107                      $250                               $12.32

To learn more about theses numbers and the math involved reference my previous blog on Scientific Advertising. Since you’ve never done this before, getting your marketing manual up-to-speed will take some time and effort. However it’s worth its weight in gold and it’s a commitment to work ON your business that will make your life easier and more profitable down the road. Once your manual is together, maintaining it with habitual rigor will be a lot easier. Make it habit to reference your manual before doing any marketing and then updating it afterward.

Another major benefit is that you can train someone else to take over your marketing with ease. Whether that person is a team member, ad agency, or even a new owner because you decided to sell your business, providing a Marketing System Manual will be the most valuable item you can pass along to them and they know it. As a business broker I can testify that small businesses who have created manuals, systems, and processes like these throughout their business will ALWAYS fetch a higher price than a similar business without these in place.

To your marketing success, Bryan

Every small business needs a Marketing System… And how to create one

Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited and Sam Carpenter in Work the System both talk about developing effective systems, processes, and scripts in your business to help create a consistent front for your customers and also to develop a business that works without you. Brad Sugars wrote an entire book dedicated to systems called, Instant Systems, because he believes so strongly in their value.

The front line system in your business is your system for generating leads through your marketing. You can argue this is your most important system since, without marketing there’s no way to get customers, however without a strong sales system, service system, or finance/accounting system you won’t have a business for very long even if you do have prospects contacting you. My definition of marketing is anything that gets a potential customer to contact you. Whether that’s by phone, walk-in, email, web-form, or even a direct online order. Once they contact you, it’s up to your sales system to take it from there because now they’re in your sales process.

My marketing system goes into the Marketing Manual… The big picture concept of the Marketing Manual is a resource to reference for all marketing you’ve ever tried along with results. It’s a resource for creative along with your entire marketing plan. Say what? You don’t have a marketing plan? Then let’s get to work.

Just like every aspect of your business, your Marketing Manual has to start with your company vision and mission.  The Marketing Manual Flowchart outlines the major pieces in your marketing manual to provide a quick, graphical guide.

  1. Vision/Mission/Culture – If your marketing doesn’t fit in-line with these, then don’t do it. Simple as that.
  2. Revenue Streams – What product lines or services does your company offer to generate revenue? My chart only has 5 revenue streams because, for most businesses, that’s all you can reasonably handle and become excellent at. It’s much better to have 5 strong revenue streams than 10 half-way streams.
  3. Strategy/Clarity – Before you write a sentence of copy, you need to know who your marketing is meant to talk to (target customer); what specifically is going to set you apart from everyone else (Unique Selling Proposition); and what position, if any, your business holds in the mind of the consumer (positioning strategy). Notice I didn’t say what position you want or what position you think you have; you need to know what position you actually occupy. Once you have a position it’s EXTREMELY difficult to change that position so it’s generally best to work with what you have.
  4. Lead-Generators – This is where most small business owners start. They hear the word marketing and think of where they can run ads or what they can do to generate leads. Don’t make that mistake. Start at the beginning and work your way down. Otherwise, when you get to this point, there’s no real way to know if your marketing is actually working.
  5. Implementation – Each lead source has several pieces to it including what it will cost, how long it will run, special offers, training of the sales staff, copy, and most importantly a method of tracking. If you’re in a small business and are thinking of doing some marketing that you can’t track, then don’t do it. Sure it might make you feel good to see your name on a billboard or hear yourself on the radio. But if you can’t actually track its performance, then pass on that marketing piece. Donations and charity work would be an exception since you’re not doing it to generate leads but just to be a good member of your community.

Instead of making this blog exceedingly long, I decided to break this concept up into a few pieces. Your homework for this week is to start thinking about your company’s vision and mission. If you already have those, define your top 3-5 revenue streams and start thinking about the Strategy/Clarity stage. I’ll give you more tips on how to create a Vision, Mission and Culture and then identify your Target Customer, Unique Selling Proposition, and Positioning Strategy in the next few blogs.

Keep in mind that when your Marketing Manual is finished, you can pass it off to someone else to take the reins, they can pick up where you left off, and keep growing the business.

To your marketing success, Bryan

You’re a business owner – you did not buy yourself a job!

This is it. This is the most important concept to grasp as a business owner… This colors and influences every decision you make in your business.

Brad Sugars has another way of saying this. His definition of a business is, “A commercial, profitable enterprise that works without me.” Did you read that last part? Without Me!

In other words, if your business requires you then it’s not a business… You have just bought or created a job for yourself. See the difference? Michael Gerber in The E-Myth Revisited refers to this as the owner being the Technician.

Why is it so crucial that your business can run without you? There are hundreds of reasons but I’ll give you 3.

  1. It’s worth more – A business that is sold including a trained, experienced manager is always worth more than one that doesn’t have one. Consider there are basically 2 types of people who buy business. Investors buy businesses to make a return on their cash investment and these guys REQUIRE a trained manager in place. Entrepreneurs often buy businesses to make a return on their money but to also give themselves something to do. In other words, they want to be the Team Leader or CEO. However, if you have one of these people looking to buy your business how hard do you think it’s going to be to convince them that they can buy the business, get the return they want, AND work on what they want when they want? Worst-case scenario they can easily remove the existing manager if they really want to, however most people won’t do that.
  2. You’ll enjoy it more – All business owners want the same thing – A business that predictably puts money in their bank account with the freedom to choose when they work and what they do. The only way that dream is possible is if you have a go-to guy or gal running the operations every day whether you’re there or not. Now if you like actually doing the plumbing for your plumbing business or tax returns for your accounting business who is going to tell you not to? No one. You’re the owner. You can still choose what you want to do when you have someone else in charge of putting out the fires.
  3. The business will be better for it – If your job and responsibility every day is to work ON your business and not IN it, what do you think is going to happen to your business? Let me tell you. It’s going to get better. When you can start spending your time working on improving your referral system, customer experience, team building and retention, and shopping for better vendors (you know, all those things you don’t have time for now) isn’t it obvious that the business is going to be better?

So if you’re the technician in your business and there’s is just no way you’ll be able to leave for 3 months on a European vacation and return to a healthy business what are you going to do?

You basically have 2 options:

  1. Teach yourself everything you possibly can about building a business to run without you. In other words, learn about business. Not your specific business or industry or niche. Just about building businesses in general. To do this, you’ll realistically need to read about a hundred books and put into action all the things you learn from them. Start with the books on my Entrepreneur Books list. You’ll also want to start learning from owners whose businesses do run without them and start attending seminars and webinars to help you learn how to maximize 3 essential parts to every successful business – Sales/Marketing, Finance/Accounting, and Service/Operations. If you’re this kind of hands-on, self-taught person, then by all means take this route. This is obviously what I have done and continue to do. It will literally take you several years and in the process you may realize that your business just isn’t capable of that vision and decide to sell it and look for one that can accomplish your goals.
  2. Work with a Business Engineer to help get you on the fast-track. Enlist the help of someone who has already done the items in number 1 with one or more businesses and who can quickly evaluate the status of your business and help you put together the plan to move it to the next level. If you’re located anywhere in the US or Canada and have Internet access and a phone line, we can help. Contact me to learn more about the process. You can also read my blog about why business coaches and consultants won’t work to get a better idea of what Business Engineering is all about.

So what are you doing to do today and this week to take that step from a job owner to a business owner? Don’t put it off. If nothing else, email me saying you enjoyed the read and would like to try either option 1 or 2 above and would like to know where to start.

To your business-owning success, Bryan

How to prepare your business for running without you…

As a business builder, the goal of every business you buy should be one of 2 things:

  1. Resell it quickly (within 12 months) for a substantial profit.
  2. Keep it as a great cash producer with minimal work on your part.

This blog is going to focus on one of the most important parts of achieving step 2 above – getting your office used to running without you! For this to happen, you MUST set a goal of being out of the office for at least a few days (preferrably a week) per quarter. If you’ve never done that before, choose a week in the next 3 months and write it on the calendar right now! Seriously, if you don’t make the commitment to be out of the office right now you may never do it. Don’t worry. You will not be 100% prepared for the office to run by itself the first time. Or the second time. Or maybe even the third time. However, each time you’ll learn what your team relies on you for. As you learn more and more what items they just HAVE to call you to take care of, you will immediately know which items you need to create procedures for to replace you. If procedures won’t cut it, you need to pay someone else to make those decisions for you.

Now let’s look at what’s necessary for you to leave the office while your business keeps making money. Firstly and most importantly, you cannot be the one responsible for direct customer interaction. Whether that means taking care of customer service issues or selling your product, if you’re the only one capable of that, then you have a problem. You need to learn how to replace yourself right away. OK, so you’re not looking to retire so what are you allowed to do? Anything that doesn’t require you to actually be in the office. In other words, all of the tasks that can be done or maintained remotely.

A few of those items that I work on regularly when I’m out of the office are the following:

  1. Paying bills – I do this with Quickbooks Pro and Wells Fargo Online Bill-Pay. I can pay my bills electronically from anywhere. My office administrators put all the bills into Quickbooks and scan all of the bills onto my server so I can actually look at every Purchase Order, Order Confirmation, Packing Slip, and finally the Invoice before I pay anything.
  2. Working on marketing – whether it’s updating the website or working on new direct mail campaigns all I need is internet access and my laptop to work on almost any marketing our company might be doing.
  3. Reading and responding to emails – This can always slow down your “productivity” when you’re in the office so a few quick minutes in an airport or in the morning before you hit the beach can help you remain “productive” all day as people are reading and responding to all of the emails you’ve sent out.
  4. Keeping an eye on daily, weekly, or monthly tasks – Since I’m the Team Leader at my business there is no one else to take over management functions while I’m not there. For that reason, all of the girls who work in my office email me their “To-Do” list every evening before they leave. That way I can review and update it at my leisure. I also review our service schedule, inventory, receivables, payables, customer complaints, new leads, and a host of other things remotely. One girl in my office compiles the reports weekly and emails it to me so all I do is read them and make decisions – No matter where I might be sitting when I read those reports. Check out the “Know your numbers” section of my blog on weathering the economy for a better idea of what numbers I watch.
  5. Staying in touch with team members – Whether that means calling, emailing, or reviewing performance there’s a whole lot you can do to make sure everything is “business-as-usual” when you’re not around.
  6. Finding new business opportunities – If you aren’t ready to retire with all the money you have in the bank, you should always be researching new opportunities. As a matter of fact, the number one reason you need your cashflow business to run without you is so you have time to invest buying, building, and selling other businesses.

How to make sure your business is “running without you”.

  1. Leave the office – But don’t just stay at home. If you’re in close proximity to the office both you and your team member’s will be too reliant upon you.
  2. Try not to answer your phone – Let it go to voicemail, listen to the voicemail and respond appropriately. If possible, respond via email or text.
  3. Make yourself available via email (IM if necessary) – I prefer written communication because it’s short and to the point (no time for small talk) and because it’s all tracked. Someone can’t tell you you never told them to do X or Y.
  4. Have access to important information on your server – Whether that means having your invoices, inventory, schedule, or incoming leads on the computer. Whatever is important to you, you need to make sure you have access to at all times. If you can’t get to your important information from anywhere at anytime you’ll never be able to work remotely.

Have you ever had one of those days where you have a list of things to accomplish and at the end of the day the list hasn’t gotten any shorter? You just worked on “little things” all day. It’s amazing to me how many of those “little things” take care of themselves when I’m not around… In my experience if I leave the office for 2 days or 2 weeks, if I’m keeping up on things day-to-day while I’m gone, my list of “catch-up” work when I return is the same length. The list is limited to the items only I can handle. There are no “little things” on my list to catch up on… Every time my list consists simply of the things only I can do. (With the goal being to shrink that list with every trip.)

Since I track customer complaints AND testimonials if there were problems created by me not taking care of those “little things” I’d know about it, too. 😉

So make a commitment to be out of the office!

To your “remote management” success, Bryan

P.S. When you go to sell your business do you think it’s going to be worth more or less when you show the buyer that it can be managed, to a large degree, while sipping red wine on the balcony of your hotel in Italy?