Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

How to fix your business FAST – Part 3 – Cut Costs and Improve Productivity

On the face of it, cutting costs sounds pretty simple. In reality, if you know your numbers, it is rather simple.

Here are some ideas to evaluate for potential cost-savings in any business:

  1. Insurance – whether it’s commercial, auto, or health insurance, if you haven’t shopped around in a few years, you need to. This area alone has saved my small business $9,000 over the past 2 premiums with slightly better coverage. Granted, it took a lot of time and energy to get to that point, but how can you argure with that level of savings?
  2. Telephones – cell phones and land lines can both be EXTREMELY over-priced if you don’t shop around. Make sure you have the best group or individual or combination of the 2 for all of your cell phones. For land lines, if your internet is reliable enough, you seriously need to consider VOIP. VOIP stands for Voice Over Internet Protocol and simply means using internet data lines instead of phone lines for your phones. In my business this would save us about $250/month IF we had reliable internet. Our internet is very spotty, has little competition, and relatively slow so we’ve tested with VOIP several times and just can’t make it work. :-/
  3. Vendors – When was the last time you renegotiated with current vendors OR shopped around to make sure you’re getting the best rates? Through buying in bulk, group purchases (with similar businesses), shopping around, and good old fashioned renegotiating (particularly on things like fuel charges and freight expenses) you should shoot to save 5-10% on all of your purchases. While your at it, double-check your retail price list and make sure your mark-ups are sufficient. We found a handful of items on our price list going for little to no mark-up as we performed this exercise.
  4. Pre-payment discounts – While you’re calling to renegotiate prices with your vendors, be sure to find out if they offer pre-payment discounts. Those are simply discounts for paying early which could be within 10 days, or 10 days after the end of the month, or whatever their terms are. If you consider those discounts can range from 1% to 5% this can be VERY significant. If your business buys $200,000 in products each year, at 1% you would save $2,000 year or$167/month just by paying a few days earlier!
  5. Meals & Entertainment – and all other “discretionary” spending. Are those meals, trips, expensive hotels, etc. etc. etc. really necessary? If they’re an integral part of your business recruitment strategy then fine. But make sure your deducted-meals are actually legit. Meals are only allowed for documented business purposes (i.e. names, place, and business discussed all have to be available to the IRS) and overnight travel. Even then, only a portion of those meals can be deducted. The upper-management of Walmart and Sam’s Club are still required to fly coach and book modest rental cars when traveling just like their founder always did.
  6. Shop around for cheaper services – Every business needs the help of other businesses to get things done. This could be your IT firm, your accountant, lawyer, bottled water delivery company, tire and oil change business, uniform company, or even your payroll company. I’m well aware that it’s very hard and expensive to find a lawyer you trust, so if that’s something you already have, I’d leave that one alone, however the others can be done with relative simplicity. Just changing our payroll from Paychex to Quickbooks has saved us over $100/month (though QB prices have just gone up slightly so the gap is lessening).
  7. Improve Efficiency and Productivity – This is probably the most important of all of them which is why I put them as a separate step in a separate category for fixing your business. This all boils down to basically 1 thing: Paying people for the results they deliver.

In a nutshell, that’s what an efficient, productive business will consistently do. It will pay people for their work. What a novel concept, huh? Now you need to determine if your business is a better model for a Results Oriented Working Environment (ROWE) like I discuss in my blog on Intrapreneurship and Entrepreneurship or whether your business simply needs to get away from paying everyone an hourly wage with no incentives.

Here are the steps to take to increase productivity for every employee in your business:

  1. Make job descriptions – If your people don’t know exactly what their duties are, you as a leader aren’t even giving them a chance to succeed. Everyone needs a job description and possibly even a daily, weekly, and/or monthly checklist to make sure they’re taking care of all of their responsibilities.
  2. Create processes, procedures, scripts, and checklists – This goes hand-in-hand with a job description. If you don’t have scripts to teach people how to handle customer inquiries, procedures for how to track those inquiries, and checklists to make sure nothing has gotten missed you will never ensure a consistent customer experience. Making this fundamental throughout your business is the key to successful franchising. If you want a successful, universally applicable, consistent business, this is your foundation. This will also help you determine who on the team needs to stay and who needs to go.
  3. Know your numbers – My last blog dealt with this in detail so to just make the point quickly… If you don’t know the income and profit per person on your team it’s very hard to develop benchmarks, set goals, and recruit new people who you believe can achieve those goals.
  4. Remove temptations to “cheat the system” – In my business this comes in 2 major forms. No temptation to play on the internet for the office people, and no temptation to take extra long lunches or sneak home early for our service guys. The first is temptation is removed but letting everyone know their internet usage is tracked and will result in dismissal if internet use is inappropriate. GPS systems on our service trucks take care of the latter temptation. Very rarely do I ever analyze either item. Basically it’s just there in case a problem develops.
  5. Incentivize and create healthy competition – I still credit the doubling of our profit/day/technician in large part to converting a portion of technicians’ income to commissions. Find ways to incentivize everyone on your team to do their best.
  6. Get rid of those who don’t stack up – If you’re the kind of guy who hates to let people go and so cuts everyone’s pay instead of just letting the weakest link go, you need to change your practice immediately! There is nothing worse for morale then to have everyone “punished” with lower pay when the low-hanging fruit needs to go (and everyone but you knows that). If you really feel that bad about letting an unproductive employee go, cut your income first before any one else’. To keep costs down, review my blog on how to let someone go without paying unemployment.

Keep in mind, that the more drastic the situation the more drastic the cost-cutting measures required. Act quickly and decisively and move on. If you make a mistake in that process, learn from it.

To your cost-cutting success, Bryan

How to fix your business FAST – Part 2 – Know your numbers!

The world lives and dies by numbers. Granted I am an engineer by education so I may be a little bias…

Even more importantly, the world gets answers to questions by the correct numbers. If you’re looking at the wrong numbers, you’re never getting answers to your questions. Let me give you a quick analogy. In the world of internal combustion engine building we’re all looking for a few major numbers – namely horsepower and torque. So we hook an engine up to a dynamometer (a device that measures the power output of an engine) and now we know the horsepower and torque numbers. So what? How do I improve those? Well to do that you have to look at a lot of other numbers such as bore and stroke, number of cylinders, 2 or 4-strokes per cycle, manifold pressure, air-to-fuel ratios, cam lift and duration, ignition timing… And the list goes on and on and on… Without knowing how that engine is currently configured, I can’t possibly tell you what to “fix” to help it make more power.

Your business has 3 “big” numbers, they are # of customers, revenue and profit.  Those are your horsepower and torque. All they tell you is where you’re at right at this moment. They don’t tell me how we got there or how we’re going to make more power (profit) the next time around. Even if you don’t know a single thing about engines, I’m hoping that analogy makes sense. The bottom line is, you have to know your numbers and they have to be the CORRECT numbers.

Let’s break your numbers down into a few basic categories (you’ll notice these are the same as I reference when talking about the 3 leaders every business needs):

  1. Finance/Accounting
  2. Sales/Marketing
  3. Service/Operations

Finance/Accounting – These are the numbers you get from your bookkeeper.

  1. Profit & Loss
  2. Balance Sheet
  3. Current Receivables (along with the aging)
  4. Current Payables (along with the aging)
  5. Cash in the bank

These are the numbers that provide questions, but no answers. Your bookkeeper only knows enough to start asking a few questions. Things like,

  • “I see you spent $40,000 last year on marketing, what was your return on that?”
  • “Your cell phone bills average $115/person, have you shopped around for a cheaper plan?”
  • “You have $6,000/year in Meals & Entertainment, is that necessary or can that be cut back?”
  • “It appears that sales are down 20% but costs are only down 10%, why is that?”
  • “15% of your receivables are more than 60 days past due, what are you doing to collect money?”

As you can see, none of the reports under Finance/Accounting provide any answers except maybe to the question, “Do we have enough money to cover next payroll?” That doesn’t mean we don’t look at these numbers because this is where we measure the results. If we add a turbocharger to an engine, ultimately we want to see that reflected in higher horsepower and torque. The same is true for your business.

To start answering the questions about why your business has less customers, less revenues, and less profits, you need to use Brad Sugar’s business chassis. Buy his book Instant Cashflow, learn the chassis, and use it. You can also learn about the business chassis on Brad’s blog.

Sales/Marketing – Now we’re getting into the fun stuff. Here’s a quick list of the numbers you should know in this realm:

  1. Number of New Leads (daily or weekly, though some establishments will even look at this by the hour of day)
  2. Conversion Rate (i.e. the % of leads who become customers)
  3. Number of New Customers (how many people have bought from you?)
  4. Average Dollar Sale (revenue/total # of transactions)
  5. Average # of Times a Customer Purchases from you Each Year (total # of transactions/total number of customers)
  6. Cost per Lead (for each marketing project)
  7. Cost per Sale (for each marketing project)

Do you see where we’re going with this? If our sales are down, now I can pinpoint if it’s because we’re getting less leads, converting less leads to customers, selling a lower dollar amount per transaction, and/or because our customers aren’t coming back as often. Now we’re getting somewhere! With these numbers you’ll even be able to pinpoint that you’re getting less leads because that radio ad you started 6 months ago is no longer making the phone ring. In the next few blogs, when I get to the step about Improving Marketing and Sales, we’ll look at specific ways to improve each of the numbers above.

Service/Operations – This is your back-end. Once you’ve sold a product, this is how you deliver it, service it, restock inventory, order more inventory, schedule service, and everything else that’s in essence “behind the scenes”. The important numbers for Service/Operations can vary quite a bit from industry to industry however the concepts are the same so make the proper adjustments for your industry.

  1. Profit per income generating person – this could be per plumber, electrician, waitress, sales associate, barista or anything else. If a person on your team has the ability to generate income, you need to know this number.
  2. Income per income generating person – this is important because often these individuals have more control over the income they generate than the costs they incur. That doesn’t mean their choices don’t affect the costs of the business, I’m just saying that a plumber can’t much affect the cost of gas or the distance to his job or the markup for parts or the hourly rate.
  3. Turn-over – how long does it take between buying something for inventory and selling it. Car dealerships look at “average days on lot”, retail stores look at “average day on shelves”, service-based businesses might look at “number of days from inquiry to finished service.”
  4. Profit-margins – In other words, the mark-up of each product or service. If you’re a service-based business you need to determine the cost/hour for your billable people to determine your profit-margins.
  5. Customer Complaints – You might be surprised how close your customer complaints as a % of customers served mimics your net profits.
  6. Uncompleted Work – For retail or restaurant style businesses you don’t really have an equivalent for this. People walk into your business, they buy something, you provide it immediately, and your work is done. For service-based businesses, however, this information is crucial. If work isn’t getting done, or you’re getting behind, or customers aren’t being notified of delays, you’re going to have problems. You need to know how many outstanding work orders, quotes, and return phone calls are out there so they don’t ever slip through the cracks.
  7. Free Work – This means you screwed up an order and gave someone a free meal, or a free hour of labor, or a free part, or a free legal consultation, or you had to go back to their home or business to fix a problem you didn’t fix the first time. You screwed up and had to make amends and the cheapest way to do so was to do it for free.
  8. Daily, Weekly, and Monthly Break-Even – In other words, do you know exactly how much you need to sell today, this week, and this month to break-even. Some businesses will even break this down to per shift if there are multiple shifts within a day.
  9. Lost Customers – Since my blogs have talked quite a bit about recurring revenue, you need to have a very close watch over your recurring revenue customers. If one of them calls to cancel services, you better have someone trained to try and save that account. This is almost impossible to track if you have a retail style business.

Those are your numbers. Obviously there can be more, however those are the most universal and the ones I’d look at for just about every business from a law firm to a candy store to a hospital.

To your “number-knowing” success, Bryan

P.S. If you’re wondering how you track all of these numbers, the simple answer is with industry-specific software. If you don’t have any, make it a priority to purchase or lease some right away.

The fundamentals of Buying, Building, and Selling a business


To my knowledge, there is no other blog or book or lesson or presenter who shows someone the basic pieces necessary to generate wealth with real world experience as I will. It’s the nuts and bolts of the whole buy, build, sell process.

There are basically 4 steps:

  1. Preparing – What you need to know prior to getting started.
  2. Buying – How to find, value, negotiate, and purchase a business.
  3. Building – What you can do quickly to increase the value of the business.
  4. Selling – The ins and outs of selling your business.


Ironically, as my most recent blog has pointed out (it’s ironic because it took me 18 months to write the blog that I should have written first), the most important part is your mindset and your attitude. Next, you’ll also need to take the first 3 steps to becoming wealthy including, always spending less than you earn, understanding the difference between where you are and where you want to be is education, and framing your goals into  Do x Be = Have context. Possibly most importantly, you need to have a clear motivation for being an entrepreneur (even if it’s different than mine) and you need to appreciate that the ethical route is always the most profitable. And make sure you’re able to get over your fear of failure in trying new things.

It’s important to understand that there’s no better, quicker way to go from very little money (let’s say less than $5,000) to a lot of money. You can even take it to the next level and setup a business to generate $1,000,000 per year if that’s your desire. Recently, as part of another blog, I’ve outlined a basic plan for how someone can go from $5,000 or less to $1,000,000 primarily through business. To stress the point even further that buy, build, sell is the best way to generate wealth for the average individual, review my suggestion to skip getting your MBA and just buy a small business for your business education.


In the buy, build, sell strategy, the part that will have the greatest influence on your profit is the purchase price so learn as much as you can for this stage.

First, you’ll want to know some basic questions to ask the seller about their business and maybe even what questions to ask about any given business idea. Then you’ll have to understand how banks value a business in case you need to go to them for financing and also how EBIDTA can tie into business values (since sellers and business brokers may reference it). As you start looking for businesses, you need to have some ideas of where to find businesses for sale for little money down and how to deal with the business brokers once you find one you’re interested in.

Before you start making any offers, it’s very important that you get the seller (or broker) to like you since then they’ll be more likely to accept your business valuation. It’s very simple to turn someone down you don’t like anyway. Once you’re ready to make an offer, make sure you only purchase the assets and then put them into an LLC filing as an S-corp. If you do that, you won’t have to spend nearly as much time fighting with lawyers. But since you may need one anyway here are a few tips for getting the best rates from your lawyer.

When you’re just starting out you may be considering a partner but make sure you don’t take on a business partner unless absolutely necessary.


In the building stage you’re going to need to know what to do your first 2 weeks onsite at a business you’ve just purchased. If you don’t already know the difference between profits and cashflow, I’m sure you’ll learn very quickly.

Immediately you need to work on polarizing your company’s culture, improving teamwork, and communicating effectively. Right out of the gate you need to start setting up your business for running without you through the effective use of technology, incentives, and empowering your team. If you don’t do that immediately, you’ll soon be asked to do lots of things “in” the business that will take away from you working “on” the business. This is vitally important because if you’re not working on the business you’re not taking the time necessary to double profits, improve marketing, teach your team the importance of NLP, create systems, processes and scripts, or improve closing ratios. In other words, your primary focus for building value in your business is going to entail 3 parts:

  1. Increasing Sales – through new and improved marketing and better conversion rates. In other words you have to make sure your system for taking a lead and converting it to a customer is top-notch. Don’t forget that your back-end sales (sales to existing customers) will always be your most profitable business. With that in mind, if you can buy an already profitable business that’s horrible at back-end sales you can quickly increase its value.
  2. Cutting Costs – look at all of your expenses and simply cut those that aren’t needed. We reworked our accounting and phone costs alone to save thousands of dollars per year.
  3. Improving Efficiencies – this is primarily about scripts, systems, and processes for every aspect of your business.

Don’t make the mistake I did and wait until cash gets tight to realize that cashflow is king and then start building recurring revenue while looking for quick, easy, cheap ways to generate immediate cashflow.

Chances are you’re going to run into some issues with team members so it’s helpful to know the proper way to fire someone without having to pay unemployment and effective ways to get your team members to do what they do best.

As you’re building your business you need to work on getting it to achieve critical mass by, in particular, hiring or training the 3 leaders every business needs to succeed.

In summary, you need to have a game plan from day one including an exit strategy or else you might end up like one of the 300 businesses in NYC who failed because they failed to plan for success.


Since this blog is getting long and selling isn’t much different than buying I’ll keep this short. You need to basically understand 3 things:

  1. How to value your business just the same as discussed in buying so you can justify your price.
  2. Where to list your business which is again the same places where you’d go to find a business for sale (such as
  3. How to foster relationships so that when it’s time to sell, you have a few personal contacts in mind.

With regards to the 3rd, you may want to get to know other business owners in your area who have complimentary (or even competing businesses). You may also consider hiring a leader who would like to take over and own their own business some day. If you have a franchise like mine, you will also want to stay in touch with owners in other areas as they might want to expand their operations.

The goal with this post is to organize and direct the many varied posts I’ve written about my adventure buying, building, and now selling my business over the last 18 months. As I add more posts I’ll try to keep this summary updated so you can always reference it for new material.

To your generating-wealth-through-business success, Bryan

Are you putting yourself out there for criticism?

When you want to get better at something, there’s a big difference between tracking your own personal performance and exposing your strengths and weaknesses to your peers openly and publicly. That’s why all business owners should make a habit of exposing all the details of their operations to their colleagues. Why? Because no one runs their best race, plays their best game, or builds their best business behind closed doors. The pressure, the crowd, the feedback, and most importantly the competition always makes us better.

Granted, if you’re like me, your toughest competition is yourself and no one demands more of you than you. However, that’s not the point. The point is if you’re good at what you do you should share that publicly with others for 2 reasons:

  1. It will force you to be great.
  2. It will help others who have potentially helped you.

Now what do I mean by exposing yourself to the public? Do whatever you have to to make your ideas, best practices, and systems public. For instance:

  1. Give a speech.
  2. Do training for your colleagues
  3. Write a white paper on something for which you are an expert and pass it out to everyone you know who knows more than you.
  4. Write a blog.

You get the point. If you can’t receive feedback and criticism (maybe even praise if you really are good) than it’s not good enough. You have to be able to fail for this to be effective.

Let me give you an example of what I’m doing (in addition to this blog) and how it’s helped make me better.

Recently I’ve partnered up with my previous employer – a software company that provides niche software for my business – to host a training seminar for other businesses in the industry. The training is about a month away however knowing that I’ll have to expose my business and also provide value for all of those in attendance has put some pressure on me to produce something great. So this is what I did:

  1. Reviewed my biggest headaches. – Quite simply these are personnel and cashflow problems. Sound familiar?
  2. Reviewed my biggest goals. – Increase profits and limit the business’ dependence on me.
  3. Reviewed my plan for dealing with those headaches and goals. – Determine areas of weakness through efficient analysis of business benchmarks and then come up with a list of ways to improve each area of weakness.
  4. Developed a “system” for continually monitoring and improving my headaches and goals so it can be taught to others. – This is the hardest yet most important part. If I can’t break down my game plan into an easily taught system my business will never run without me.

Number 4 is really the only one that needs further explanation. My “system” was actually quite simple once I sat down for a few hours and thought it all through. It basically started with the big picture of my business – which just so happens to be the same big picture for every business – Brad Sugars’ Business Chassis as he teaches about in The Business Coach. He breaks down the 5 parts of every business that determine the profit of that business. You NEED to know these 5 numbers in your business to know where you’re doing well and where you’re lacking. The next step was to figure out how to use the software to determine those 5 numbers. Finally, I organized some ideas and suggestions on how to improve those numbers for each department in my business. My goal isn’t to provide all the answers on how to make each area better, but to help business owners understand how to find the areas of weakness so that they can then use their own knowledge, experience, and skills to make the most effective improvements.

Now the question that’s bugging me is why didn’t I come up with this game plan 18 months ago when I bought the business? I have no idea. It really only took me a few hours to plan out and it will certainly help guide my business (and hopefully others) in the future. Though I will never know the answer to that question, I do know that I finally took the time to lay out this detailed, systematic, and repeatable game plan because I was forced to prove to others that I am indeed an expert at my business.

The point of this blog is not to explain exactly what my training will encompass, but to encourage you to step out and take a risk by exposing your business acumen to the world and trying on the label “expert” for a few days to see if you can live up to it.

To your success as an expert, Bryan

Skip business school, buy your first business, and make it a franchise…

If you’ve never run a business before, no matter how many blogs or books you read, or seminars or classes you attend, you have a lot to learn. There are just too many things to deal with to pick it all up without actually doing it. For that reason, the first business you own should be purchasing an already established franchise.

Until I owned a franchise business I never quite understood why this is so important. Firstly, I’m assuming you’re buying the business to rapidly build it (less than 2 years) and either sell it or keep it for cashflow with minimal input from you, the owner. If you prefer the hardwork and pride of building your own business from the ground up over 20,30, or 40 years, then by all means do that. Based on that assumption, let’s break up your “building” efforts into 2 basic categories: Front-End and Back-End

  1. Front-End – This simply means your sales and marketing. What are you doing to generate leads, convert those leads to customers, increase the amount each customer spends with you, increase the number of times those customers come back, and get those customers to tell their friends? That’s a quick summary of the front-end of any business.
  2. Back-End – This is talking about what you do once the sale is made. It includes inventory management, delivery of product, servicing customers, dealing with customer service issues, paying billings, billing customers, collecting payments, leading your service team and everything else that isn’t directly associated with your sales efforts.

So when looking for a business to buy, the ideal situation would be to find one with a strong “Back-end” system but weak “Front-End” system. That means when they make a sale they do so consistently, accurately, and predictably. Every customer knows what to expect. Their inventory is managed well, bills are paid on time, customers are billed accurately, and money is collected efficiently. However the business is not real good at creating or closing leads. It’s even worse at taking advantage of referrals and letting customers know all of the goods and services they offer. They have a great, well-maintained, database of current customers, however they fail to know how to utilize it. Why is this the ideal situation? Because if you’re developing guarantees, Unique Selling Propositions, and other direct and specific marketing to set you apart from your competition, you better be able to back it up. For that reason, if you have a weak back-end that MUST be addressed first. If however you have a strong back-end, the only thing left to do is grow the business through improvements in your front-end sales machine. You can put in less effort building the front-end then the back and reap 2-3 times the reward in less time. It’s very difficult to grow a business while improving the back-end, however the whole point of improving the front-end is to increase sales and profits.

Ok, so let’s get back to a franchise. Why is it helpful to cut your teeth on business with a franchise? Well the reality of business is that it’s impossible to only work on back-end or front-end alone. You’re constantly working on improving both and that’s where a franchise comes in. Generally a franchise, through much testing and measuring, will tell you how to run your back-end very precisely. They’ll tell you what to say, what to wear, how to produce, order, install, and/or service your product. You’ll have a large support system of people to help you address problems when they arise. In other words, most of your back-end is already setup.

Moreover, a good franchise, is also providing the necessary resources for the front-end. They provide marketing materials such as radio and TV ads along with direct mail pieces or newspaper ads. They’ll tell you what to put on sale when and while you’re too busy working on your business to come up with new ideas they’re producing new and exciting products for you to present to your customers. Sure you may pay 2%, 4%, 6%, 8% or more in gross revenue to your franchisor but in most instances that investment in learning is well worth it. And that’s exactly how I would view it – an investment in your education. Where else can you make good money and learn all the ins and outs of a well run organization? In fact, if I had the choice between attending business school or just using that money to buy a well-managed franchised business, I’d buy the business every day of the week. They’ll provide me with the tools and certainly the experiences I need to learn about business. After 4 years of running a business do you think you’d be more prepared for the “real-world” than your counterparts with a business degree?

Obviously, that was a rhetorical question. Their is one last important reason to make your first (and maybe second and third) business(es) franchises – Name Recognition. As Brad Sugars says, the most expensive thing in business is buying your customers. That’s right, your marketing dollars are simply you buying customers. If you’re buying a franchise, someone has already been marketing to your future customers for 10, 20, 40, or 60 years. They know and recognize the name. If you’re buying an established franchise in your area (versus bringing one in for the first time) that investment of someone else into your customers and area will ultimately make your cost for acquiring new customers less. Does that make sense? All well-established, professionaly run franchises will provide that benefit. Don’t underestimate it’s power. In my personal situation, without that name recognition my business would be a LOT smaller then it currently is.

To your 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?

What your small business needs to do to weather the economy…

It’s amazing what lessons we learn in tough times that are quickly forgotten in times of growth. Below is my list of necessary remedies for ensuring your business can thrive in a tough economy.

  1. Have cash available – Check out my blog about cashflow first. In essence, if your receivables are high or you have an issue with billing or you just have a slow month, make sure you have access to cash so you don’t have to miss payroll. That doesn’t help team member morale much. Discipline yourself to build up a company savings account with at least enough money to cover 1 payroll. Another way to help cashflow is to pay for performance instead of just hourly or flat salary.
  2. Improve MarketingDon’t cut back on your marketing unless that marketing isn’t producing results. More and more people are skipping the Yellow Pages and going to the internet. Or they’re going to the yellow pages simply to get your phone number once they already know who they’re going to call. How much are you spending on yellow pages? Is it paying off? Invest time into making your website better if that’s an area that drives leads. Try some direct mail campaigns. Place an offer along with your radio and print ads to measure the response. If it’s working invest more money into it. If it’s not, cut or eliminate it completely. Focus on referrals!
  3. Cut Expenses – Use better technology (VOIP, Quickbooks Payroll, Online bill-pay, online backups). Improve employee efficiency with detailed procedures and performance based incentives. Search for better deals before purchasing anything. Shop from multiple vendors and keep a database of vendors available for each part so you know where to get the best deals.  Find out from ALL of your vendors if they have quantity and pay-quickly discounts (i.e. pay in 10 days to receive 2% discount instead of in 30). Cut out some of the owner perks if necessary.
  4. Ask your team for help – It’s a team and they’re all working with your customers every day. What can they bring to the table as potential cross-marketing, upgrade, and add-on opportunities that you’re not taking advantage of right now? Get everyone involved so they “buy into” new programs. At the same time, work to improve the productivity of your team.
  5. Sell to your existing customers – They know and trust you so how else can you help them?
  6. Know your numbers -Taking a page from Michael Masterson, each leader should only have 3 numbers to focus on.
    1. Your office leader needs to know total receivables, outstanding payables, and bank balances.
    2. Your sales leader needs to know # of outstanding leads, # of new sales, and average dollar sale.
    3. Your marketing leader needs to know # of leads coming in from each marketing project, # of sales from each project, and average dollar sale.
    4. Your service leader needs to know # of work orders completed, # of work orders outstanding, and # of customer complaints.
  7. Acquire competitors and/or complimentary businesses – If you have the top 6 under control, it’s time to really take advantage of the economic climate by acquiring more businesses. Competitors are perfect since you can cut out nearly all of their overhead expenses by absorbing them into your business. Generally if they’re for sale they haven’t done as good of a job as you so they should be ripe for new marketing, cross-marketing, add-ons, up-sales, etc. A complimentary business can help you do the same thing. You may not get as many synergies as quickly, but with a complimentary business you can now sell the service your new business provides to your existing customer base and vice versa.
  8. Avoid starting a business – When you start a new business, you have a lot of expenses up-front and NO customers. You have no immediate cashflow, no systems, no marketing, no referrals coming in, no name recognition. Nothing. By relying on an established business as your primary source of cash you don’t have nearly the time invested as starting from scratch. And on day 1 you have sales and money coming in.

There are lots of “little things” you can work on to improve your business to make sure it’s resilient in times of economic slow-downs. However, don’t get bogged down in the details! This was a quick overview of just the most basic things every business should be doing. Obviously all of this is true in good times and bad so when your business starts picking up, don’t forget to stick with it!

To your success, Bryan

Is it hard to be an Ethical Business Builder?

Me on the top of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh

Me on the top of Mt. Washington in Pittsburgh

Since I’m 26 I often go to meetings with other business owners where I’m the youngest one there and certainly look too young to own a business. At one such meeting someone who was quite a few years older than me and was working for another business asked me if its hard to own a business. “Not really. It’s like anything else. If you take the time to educate yourself anything can become easy.” Here’s why building businesses is “easy” for me. Keep in mind I don’t define easy as working 2 hours per week (though that is the goal). Easy for me is simply sleeping well at night, not feeling overly pressured, and welcoming the day. Nothing I encounter troubles me that much because I feel confident I know how to overcome it.

  1. I LOVE it. When you’re totally, completely, absolutely passionate about something and you know its what you were designed to do even the trials are colored positively.
  2. I picked a great partner. The rule of thumb is you only get a partner if you absolutely need one. Since I can’t service or sell my company’s products I needed to make sure I could rely on someone who could if times got tough. Granted that’s far secondary to finding someone I can easily work with and trust.
  3. I’ve spent a ton of time and money educating myself. If you ask an expert programmer if it was hard to write that last program, chances are they’re going to say no. Ask the plumber about plumbing that house, or the salesman about closing that deal and you get the same. Why? Because they’ve spent the time and energy necessary to become experts to the point that doing what’s best is second-nature.

By far, educating yourself in how to ethically buy, build, and sell businesses is the most important part of making it “easy”. If you want the crash-course in business that will far exceed anything else you could ever learn in 3 days I highly recommend saving up $4k and attending Brad Sugar’s Entrepreneur’s Masters class. He’s the best. Or if you don’t have that money and you prefer to get more hands-on, then join my team and we’ll work through the 6 Levels of a business together.

There are really only 2 paths to getting started down the path of being a successful entrepreneur without having to make all of the common mistakes along the way:

  1. Go work with the absolute best entrepreneur you can find with the potential of buying him or her out. Or just eventually take the knowledge you’ve gathered and go out on your own.
  2. Attend Brad Sugar’s Entrepreneur Master’s Class (if you know of a better 3-day training then I’m all ears), read his and the other books I recommend, find a good lawyer and accountant (which is by far the hardest thing to do), and then go do it.

As a motorcyclist, when I first jumped on a bike with no experience and no friends to ask for advice it was a bit scary. I just never felt completely in control. So my first trip on my brand new bike was to the library where I borrowed every book I could find on motorcycling. A few hours later my eyes were forever open and my riding skill improved 1000% as I learned the concept of “counter-steering”. If you’re not a motorcyclist here’s the simplest definition of what it means: to go left you turn the handlebars to the right and to go right you turn the handlebars to the left. In other words it’s backwards or “counter” to how you would turn a car. What? That doesn’t make sense, right? Well without getting into the Tony Foale (Tony is probably the greatest motorcycle chassis and suspension expert in the world who I’ve had the pleasure of learning from) explanation, if you look at it in a few basic steps it becomes perfectly clear. First, all 2 wheeled vehicles turn by leaning. No lean, no turn. It’s impossible. Second, motorcycle tires are rounded, not flat on the bottom like car tires. That’s important because to get the bike to lean you turn the wheel to the right and the front tire immediately drops down onto the left side of the tire – which causes it to lean, and therefore turn, left. This blog isn’t about motorcycles but if you ask any cyclist to demonstrate how it works with the bike sitting still on flat ground you can see it very quickly.

So now you know how something that seems to go against common sense actually works. Business is much the same way. We as business owners think the more time we spend taking care of customers and putting out fires the happier everyone is going to be and the better business will be. Makes sense, right? The problem is, that if you’re so busy putting out fires and helping each customer, who is making sure the customer is happy when someone else helps them? Who is the fire marshal out teaching your team members how to prevent fires? There are hundreds of “common-sense” business practices that you and I would easily understand if someone just told us. That’s why it’s so important to learn from the best. Guys like Brad Sugars, Marcus Buckingham, Michael Masterson, Dale Carnegie, Warren Buffet, Dave Yoho, Duane Sparks, Dan Kennedy, Michael Gerber, etc. etc. etc.. Read the various books that I reference, look for great business blogs, and make as many contacts with business owners as you can possibly make. They may not all be geniuses, but all they need is to fill you in on one great idea, system, or program to make it worth spending time with them. Plus, we entrepreneurs are all egotistical and think our ideas are great. So we’re generally more than willing to share those lightning bolt ideas with you and after we’re done we like you even more since you let us talk. 🙂

To your success, Bryan

P.S. If you really want to know what it’s like to live a hard life then check out American Courage: Remarkable True Stories Exhibiting the Bravery That Has Made Our Country Great and learn about some of the greatest figures in American history who they didn’t teach you about in school. 🙂

How I received 4 unique business building opportunities in 72 hours…

My business building opportunities have been quite crazy since Friday. In that time I’ve finished my 1040c and taxes for my Sole Proprietorship and discussed my planned new business purchase with the seller (just waiting on the bankers right now). So those are 2 businesses already in the works…

Now for the fun part… Since then I’ve had 4 more business opportunities materialize! 😀

  1. In the weeee hours of Friday morning I launched this blog and the “business plan” that goes along with it.
  2. Friday afternoon my boss at the software company called to let me know about an opportunity he’d love to make me a partner in if I don’t go buy another business on my own.
  3. Friday night, my brother tells me about an “underground” website he developed that is not listed anywhere on the internet. It can’t be found through a search engine, or social networking site, and has a very non-common (i.e. not-easy-to-remember) name. Yet he managed to grow it without even trying from less than 5,000 hits last February to more than 51,000 hits in the month of January 2008. All completely from word-of-mouth and personal referrals that he didn’t even ask for. Obviously we’re now looking into how to turn that into a business.
  4. Sunday I get a phone call from a lady I met with a few months ago who is selling a tanning salon. She desperately needs out because of health challenges with her and her daughter. The business has been established for quite a few years, has a loyal customer base, and as she told me “I don’t even care about the money anymore, I just need to take care of my family.” She’ll even vendor finance it. In other words, I can get a decent business at a great price. (No, I’m not taking advantage of her because of her misfortune. On the contrary, without myself or someone like me buying her business she will be in a much more difficult situation.) Unfortunately with my other business purchase in the works I’ll probably have to pass this up.

So you probably have 2 questions:

1. Why work on so many businesses at once?

2. How did you manage to get that many people to come to you with business building opportunities?

The best answer to #1 is found in Michael Masterson’s Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flat. In a nutshell, the philosophy of “Ready, Fire, Aim” vs “Ready, Aim, Fire” is that you and I can NEVER know what’s going to make a great idea. Only the market knows that. And the only way to find out which idea the market likes best is by asking them through trying to sell something. 🙂 In other words, until I make it “big” I’ll keep working on whatever business opportunities present themselves. The market will tell me when I have a good one.

#2 takes a little bit of time. First off, everyone I know knows me to be of the “entrepreneurial spirit.” They know I’m always looking for business opportunities. They also respect my business acumen. So when they have an opportunity they need help with, they bring it to me. That’s what happened with my brother and boss.

Beyond that, is a business idea I’ve had for years. It just wasn’t until last week that I realized how to make it a reality (reference my blog on affiliate marketing from yesterday). So that opportunity I created for myself.

The tanning salon I found out about the old fashioned way. I got online, found businesses for sale, chose some that looked interested, called them, visited them, and did my best to get the seller to like me (that last part is very important). I visited and researched a few other businesses besides that tanning salon, but that just happened to be the one that came back to me. Brad Sugar’s claims that you look at about 50 businesses before you actually find a deal worth taking. My luck on this one appears to be a bit better (though I haven’t done any due diligence yet). Too bad I’ll probably have to pass it up (unless my other business acquisition doesn’t work out).

So if you’re interested in building businesses (the fastest way to create wealth) then get started now! You never know what opportunities might present themselves until you start looking.

To your success, Bryan