Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Can you boil down your business strategy to one sentence?

A few days ago I was talking to a school teacher friend about my several businesses…

Business Brokerage
Google Adwords Lead Generation
12-Month Business Tune-up

She was amazed at how many hundreds or thousands of dollars people would pay for me to help them with any of those things. The idea that a business would be willing to pay $100 or $200 for a lead that MAY become a new customer was a bit hard for her to swallow.

The thought that someone would pay thousands of dollars for a SYSTEM to consistently generate web leads made more sense.

The fact that savvy business people will regularly spend thousands of dollars for a business coach to provide “advice” seemed like a fantasy to someone working in public education.

“How can you get people to pay that much money!?”

My answer is one simple sentence…

I always deliver several times more value to my clients than they pay me.

She still didn’t quite follow “value” so I broke it down with a bit more detail:

As long as I can increase sales, decrease costs, or increase the business owner’s time (the most valuable item of all) more than they are paying for my help, they’ll gladly pay and tell their friends about it.

Wouldn’t you?

When I was in college I attended a speech by a corporate America CEO who had a different way of expressing his goal for delivering value to his company. He said:

My goal was to always be the most underpaid employee of the company where I worked… And also be the highest paid employee.

I attended dozens and dozens of similar seminars in college and I still remember that concept… If you can do the same for your Business-to-Business clients, you’ll always have a thriving business and ecstatic clients.

To Your Success, Bryan

P.S. If you can’t already, it’s time you boil down your Unique Selling Proposition to a single sentence. Contact me for a list of the 4 questions you need to ask yourself to create that USP.

Small Business Marketing System – Vision, Mission, and Culture

In my last blog I introduced the outline and game plan for your system for marketing in your small business – your Marketing Manual. Now we’re going to look at each of the 5 levels of your plan in more detail starting with your Vision, Mission, and Culture.

Your company vision, mission, and culture define not only WHAT, but WHO you are as a business. Every business decision you make should stem from these values. Your marketing is no different. One of the primary findings in, Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companies, that contradicted the teachings of almost every MBA program on the planet, is that the businesses that survived and excelled over time were often the ones that were centered around a core business concept, not a great product. That’s what your Vision and Mission are all about… That one core business concept that makes your business unique. Something behind which you can rally the troops and lead them.

In the early 1900’s Ford’s vision was to, “Democratize the automobile.” That’s very crisp, tangible, and conclusive. The engineers now had an overlying goal when designing new models; new designs must obviously have mass appeal, be easy to manufacture, and easy to service. It helps the marketing department define their target customer as the average family with approximately the median income looking for reliable, safe transportation. They know they’re not marketing to the ultra-rich or the homeless. It helped every independent dealer and salesman throughout the country understand what their company stood for in 3 simple words. Unfortunately, their vision today is, “To become the world’s leading Consumer Company for automotive products and services.” I say unfortunately because it just isn’t all that exciting and doesn’t really say anything… And who talks like that? For instance, how would you define “world’s leading”? Does that mean most profitable? Highest in sales? Least deaths per mile driven?

The trick, of course, is to have a vision that’s specific enough to have teeth, but broad enough to not limit you…  That being said, I’d rather be specific, achieve our Vision and then rewrite it instead of starting with such a broad vision that it’s meaningless.

Boeing did a similar thing with their vision in the 50’s by making it very concrete: “Become the dominant player in commercial aircraft and bring the world into the jet age.” They achieved their vision and created a new one: “People working together as one global enterprise for aerospace leadership.”  If you were an employee at Boeing, which one would me more helpful when making tough business decisions?

Your Vision is that underlying principle that dictates why you exist. Writing a company vision is one of the most difficult tasks for a business. After all, if multi-billion dollar organizations rarely do it well, how can you be expected to do any better? It has to be specific to your products and services and yet exciting enough to inspire people…  One company that I’ve always admired that I thought would have a tough time with a vision since they do so many different things is 3M. Even though their corporate Vision, Objectives, and Strategies page lists all kinds of different ideas, I think they’re Brand Identity sums it all up very well, “Practical and ingenious solutions that help customers succeed.” Now if I’m an engineer sitting in a lab working on some new inventions, that can certainly help guide my creativity.

One last example of a Vision is the one I created for my Small Business Engineering. It is, “Teaching Entrepreneurs how to Engineer a Business that Works Without Them.” In a single statement my goal is set myself apart but also concretely define how my business is different. I hope that statement does just that. What do you think?

Your Mission statement is an extension of your Vision. It’s generally a bit longer, maybe a few paragraphs, that talks directly about the values of your company.

The final piece is your culture. Your Culture Statements (as Brad Sugar’s calls them) or Operating Principles (as Sam Carpenter) refers to them, define the culture of your organization. It helps define how your team acts, interacts, dresses, eats, hangs out… Your culture can be like that of the blue suits and company songs at IBM or the shower sandals and bean bags at Facebook. Tony Hsheih, co-founder of Zappos.com, had a different approach to culture. In his book, Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose, he describes how his culture developed naturally and, like most businesses, was molded roughly after his own personality. After they had grown to a few thousand employees he decided to more actively define and cultivate his culture. So he put out a company survey to ask his team what they felt Zappos culture was all about and came up with the Zappos Family Core Values.

Now this is starting to seem like an awful circuitous way of getting better at generating leads, isn’t it? After all, what does this have to do with my radio ad? Everything! You see, without a defined vision and goal in mind, you can’t accurately determine if any decision in your business is heading you in the right direction. That includes your marketing. Yes, of course, you can shoot from the hip with a vague, fluffy vision that’s floating around in your head… But if you want to create a business that runs without you, it needs to be in writing so that as you recruit the help of Ad Agencies, marketing experts, web designers, radio personalities, and sales people, they all know the big picture on Day 1. Do you think you might get better results from your Ad Agency when they have a more clearly defined picture of your entire business Vision? If so, just imagine how that can help your own team members and even you make better, more-targeted decisions.

To your visionary success, Bryan

 

Polarizing your company’s culture

In our team meeting 2 weeks ago I introduced our company Vision, Mission, 13 Points of Culture and Company Philosophy. I hadn’t intended to review it with the team as quickly as I did (our 4th team meeting) however we had some issues that required me to be much more specific than “lying is never an option” as I had emphasized at our first team meeting. The details of the incident really aren’t important – basically we just told a customer one thing and did something else. Obviously we corrected that and so it is my responsibility as the Team Leader to lay out for them in black and white EXACTLY what is expected from the team.

You may reference my previous blog, “Your company has a culture, did you choose it?” for the first 12 points of culture and I recently added another point emphasizing safety.

The first week I just handed out a copy of the Vision, Mission, Culture and Company Philosophy to present the concept of each and then allow them a week to “mull it over.” My teammates ensured me that while they had down-time they were reviewing the points and a few questions came up that hopefully I clarified to their satisfaction.

At the next team meeting, a week later, I reviewed each point with a quick synopsis. At this point my goal was to ensure everyone was familiar with the points and knew exactly what our team was about. The 2 things that amazed me most about what happened after revealing the points of culture were:

  1. The number of times I referenced a point of culture with a teammate. – In the first meeting when I was explaining the concept of “Points of Culture”, our most senior technician spoke up and said he’s had an issue at times with pride that prevented him from asking for help when he really needed it.  I immediately got a big smile and said – take a look at #7 on the list “We understand that every person we encounter has something to teach us and so will learn from everyone around us.” He just laughed and whole-heartedly agreed. Throughout the week, I was working on reviewing our “12 Questions” employee review surveys courtesy of First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differently, and in every single performance review meeting I referenced at least 2 points of culture. I never planned to bring up the points in our meetings, they just happened to explain something that my teammate and I were discussing.
  2. The enthusiasm with which everyone embraced them. When I reviewed all of the points of culture one-by-one, I made it clear to the team that in companies where a culture as specific as this is created, not everyone fits. I went as far as to say that I hope this doesn’t happen, but I’m prepared for people who just don’t agree to move on. For me it is extremely important to let them know that this isn’t a game or some feel-good lovey, dovey BS. Everyone on our team has a job to do and the result of that job can be boiled down to black and white. For me, my responsibility is to make the business more profitable. If the bottom line doesn’t improve, then everything I’m doing is a waste. With that being said, of the 4 people I sat down with to have performance reviews all 4 of them said “Bryan, I agree 100% with what you’re doing and I think it’s great for the company.” And I believe that they were all very sincere and excited about what’s to come.

So how does the bottom line look after only 2 weeks of improved culture and a dedicated focus on our service department? Well the “black and white” performance measurement that I use in our service department is the average revenue each technician brings in each day. I know what my daily break-even is for each technician and so I have a target reasonably higher then that. On average, in January thru April 2008 we were losing money each day in our service department. The first 2 weeks in May represent a 60% increase in Revenue/Tech/Day over the average for the first 4 months in 2008. 🙂  Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I do still have to figure in the alotted revenue the service department receives for each new install since my numbers only reflect revenue generated from service. Nonetheless, with a 60% increase, I think we’re on the right track!

Additionally, 2 of my technicians are moving on to greener pastures. One to make 3-4 times more money then I can offer (though he did admit he wishes my programs were in place for longer since he knows they would have helped him do better at his job. He also went on to say that if he could choose his boss, he’d be exactly like me. lol I just had to throw that in.).  The other stopped showing up for work before I ever had a chance to review our Vision, Mission, Culture. There seems to be some bad blood between him and my partner that I really don’t plan to get involved with.

One of my main goals with developing a company culture is to polarize it. Nordstrom’s is famous for creating a culture where you either love it or hate it. According to one of Jim Collins’ books, people who are hired are there either less than 6 months or more than 10 years. There is no middle road. There is no luke warm. You’re either a part of the team or you’re not. That’s the kind of culture I want for our team!

Have you or can you develop that for your team?

To your success, Bryan