Fine line between entrepreneurial vision and illusion or even delusion

Fine line between entrepreneurial vision and illusion or even delusion

In dealing with entrepreneurs we often find the enthusiasm to live their vision absolutely infectuous and even in times of adversity some entrepreneurs manage to live their vision and believe in it’s positive outcome no matter what, some at the risk of being delusional and living an illusion.

Now if you are the employee or the private partner, you may be thinking ‘I always said that’ and ‘see I am right, didn’t I tell you’. Before you start your gloating conclusion, we would have seen a lot of very successful entrepreneurs over the years and they all talk of having to hold onto their vision despite the naysayers and despite challenging economic or business times. So to be clear we don’t want to promote for any entrepreneur to give up on their vision, but we do want them to check whether they are creating it or just living on the edge of delusion without a practical plan.

A delusional person equally has total belief their ideas will become reality, the only problem being they have no backbone or basis to back up these ideas. The visionaries of the entrepreneurial world do have a map even if at times it may be a rough map and the route may change, they have done their research and have valid information to indicate that they are on track. It would be considered irresponsible for an architect to build a house without plans, but entrepreneurs with delusional natures think it’s perfectly fine to build a business without a plan.

In tough economic times it is even more important to believe in your vision, because now the negative people will be out in force telling you that you will not survive and we are sure from talkign to our clients that even the most succesful at times contemplate whether they should keep going. In order to keep your vision real, the key is to establish some ground rules and basics you work towards. It includes having an end game plan or cut-off point where you decide it has been enough or time to sell up or close. We believe some minimum basics to ensure business viability need to be covered, so that your company can still pay bills and then an active sales plan on how you will be growing and what the targets are, after that a case of focusing on selling as much as possible with minimal resources.

Expenditure of great companies is minimal and well managed. Their key resource is always it’s people and they make the turnaround effort to keep the entrepreneurial vision alive. Great companies invest in people and have a strong culture all geared towards the vision and the key role of the entrepreneur is to keep the dream alive and motivate those around him to feel the same. This may mean stepping out and leading from the frontline when those on the front line are losing faith, or spending time in the back office to make sure all runs smoothly there.

In stormy times, the boats that make it through have usually put reefs in the sails, tighten the ropes and sailed a conservative course only to pick up the pace once safety has been found again, their focus is on the telltales and the compass to help the skipper stay on course.

The question is: are you living the entrepreneurial vision or delusion? No matter what the answer is right now, make a plan and then implement it as if your life depended on it.

We wish you a profitable vision

Challenge 100: are you up for it?

Challenge 100: are you up for it?

Challenge 100 was an original brainchild of mine when I first went looking for work after finishing my degree in marketing. I set myself the goal to collect 100 PFO letters, which loosely translates in ‘please find other’ (or some equal words to that effect of lesser printable nature) in other words letters of rejection. My dream job at the time was in management consultancy, so I wrote to every job ad in the Sunday Times, any company advertising through the university or any I could possibly find a HR name and address for. My thinking was that if I collected 100 rejections without any yes,then I would reconsider my career choice and guessed that it wasn’t for me. I had a dedicated file for all the letters and numbered them, so I would know how I was doing… as one does, no?

Well the fact that the target was 100, the whole attachment to the outcome was gone. I wanted a job for sure, but at the same time in my chosen career geting a foot in the door wasn’t easy. I did have a job, which would have been a stepping stone, but not quite what I wanted to do all the same, so I didnt have the financial pressure of having to find something in a hurry hanging over me either. What happened was that the company that held rejection letter 27, actually contacted me (after I received 35 letters) in a rush to have me starting on a project preferably the week after. So sometimes a no isn’t quite a no, because requirements can change so quickly. The company had won an international project and desperately needed people with languages and a business brain, so that’s how I got started.

If you are currently unemployed and looking for work, apply the same approach, although I do believe the days where they actually posted you a lovely ‘thank you for your application, you were unsuccessfull but we we will keep it on file’ is well and truly over. This means you may just need to keep track of all the applications you make in a particular sector and aim for 100 applications in a given career before moving onto another one. Oh, and hint hint to all of those companies hiring, if you want to make a lasting impression on applicants, do send them a nice printed letter (or a lovely e-mail should budget be too tight for letters, ink and a stamp), they won’t expect it, but they will tell other people, which is positive PR free of charge. (In this economy free PR is always helpful).

If you run a business or work in sales, I challenge you to contact 100 new people in 100 days or less to speak about your business or company you represent in order to gain new business. If you just want to have better quality of life, do 100 things to improve your life, starting today. I also think everyone should have a list of the 100 fun things to do this lifetime and 100 places to visit and people to meet, etc. etc. whatever rocks your boat really. But for the last few, the time frame isn’t nearly as important as for those that you want to have short term success with.

The time frame is of importance, 100 attempts over a lifetime may be very achievable but with large time gaps also rather inefficient. I tend to set the challenge for 100 days or less, and yes the overachievers reading this stuff you can do it all as quick as you can… just give it more than 3 weeks all the same… new habits do need nesting time. The minimum action is 1 thing every day, which is achievable in job searches, business contacts or life improvements. If you do nothing 1 day then double up the activity another day, especially in sales or business making good contacts at weekends may not be all that happening, even though they say a lot of business get’s done on the golf course, sailing boats, bars, etc…so be open for opportunity.

The focus of the challenge 100, is to hit 100. You may have a sub-goal whether it is more business, a job, lifestyle change or other target, but the primary one is 100. By focusing on the activity number, you take away the emotional attachment to one rejection on its own. By remaining detached from the outcome, the odds are that you will hit your sub-goal a lot sooner and often from rejections that you had already written off, which was the case with my first job.

If you hit 100 rejections, then I would challenge you to examine seriously what it is you want and set out in a new direction with a new strategy. If 100 people in a row tell you clearly they do not want your business, then maybe it just isn’t viable as it is, then maybe it is time for re-design of your service, product or exploring other options altogether and letting this one go. One thing is for sure when you keep track of your challeng 100 contacts or actions, you will also know that you have given it a good shot and if for whatever reason it didn’t work after 100 good shots, then maybe it’s just not meant to be.

There are two way to approach the challenge you can start by making a list of 100 people, companies, actions and tick them off as you go or as you make a new contact add it to a pre-numbered page. I typically choose the latter approach because new opportunities keep coming up and then when they really become dead leads I cross them out. Some of the items may remain on the list for a while and others will barely be added and then get crossed out, but as I said the aim is 100, so if 20 leads to nothing it is no big deal and who knows in time they may well change their mind.

Currently I have a challenge 100 going for myself and I am on number 20 since this morning, but may still hit 22 before I go to sleep all the same…damn the overachiever in me always has to do this…:-) …
So now I ask you, are you up for the challenge 100????

Spaghetti and Focus: What on earth do they have to do with each other?

Spaghetti and Focus: What on earth do they have to do with each other?

A lot of entrepreneurs in the professional service world are looking for their unique mission and purpose for their business and we deal with them when they face cross roads or changes of directions. In this economy it even is a case of crisis management or changing old ways because they no longer work or deliver the results from the past. Yesterday I heard a very apt saying in your quest for your mission in life don’t get run over or sidetracked by others in search of theirs. Hence I decided to write this post about staying focused and how I work with clients around this topic.

Obviously the starting point is finding out what is you want to stand and be counted for. The very headline statement level, which if you were to have the misfortune of leaving the planet people will remember you for and they would say: ‘Remember him…. he was totally focused on achieving….. or she was exactly this kind of person…’. So I guess if you don’t know what you want to be remembered for, then this is the starting point and this goes for entrepreneurs as well as employees.

Once you have chosen your one headline that you want to be remembered for and for some of my clients that means becoming the best in their chosen field, some want to be recognised for expert knowledge others want to win coveted awards. Whatever it is for you, make the bold statement to someone you trust and write it down in your private goal book and then work backwards what actions are necessary to make sure you are recognised as that person. What in your words do you need to achieve in order to have 100% proof that you have hit your mission. So you can actually rest in peace or move on to the next challenge.

If this all sounds a little bit morbid, it’s only intended to make you think. In my view we all arrived on this planet to share some of our talents and achieve something, what that is we have the liberty to decide on which is a great opportunity or some people’s biggest fear.

Let’s now assume that you have worked out your mission and ambition in your business life and now staying focussed on doing the tasks that will get you to your ultimate goal becomes your next mission, should you choose to accept it. In my business coaching work I often get asked how entrepreneurs can really remain more focused on their core goals as opposed to getting distracted and pulled away into other interesting projects. Most of the time my answer would be different depending on the person, because ultimately we all create focus in our own unique ways.

I did wonder all the same if I could come up with a visualisation or metaphor to help people get rid of distractions and remain completely laserlike in their mission to achieve. This is were my old favourite spaghetti comes in and if you can create this image just by reading this blogpost then I would say use it to your own advantage and let me know if it works for you as well.

Imagine yourself surrounded by all your distractions as if they are all planets floating around you in a magical solar system. Distractions can be people, annoying habits you have or others have, e-mails, phone calls, unhealthy habits, etc, etc. Just make sure the distraction can actually take a visual shape or form even if it is only a feeling, just have it represented in the physical imagery.

Now, imagine all those floating distractions attached to you as the centre of your universe with little strings of spaghetti, the more attached or annoyed you are the more spaghetti you have attached to that distraction. Then when you can see the attached spaghetti straps consciously cut the spaghetti straps with razor sharp, industrial sized kitchen knives and see all teh distractions disappearing like fireworks in the sky as if you were tying them down and now they have been released to splash their colour one last time and then they are gone. If you need to repeat the cutting of spaghetti ties to get rid of all of them, then do the same again.

You are left with a bowl of neat spaghetti ties which you fully own and control and this becomes your bowl of focus, you and only can decide what shape, what form or what time this bowl needs in order to develop into your goals. The bowl represents your business mission, your reason for existing and again your core focus that will ultimately get you were you want to be.

See yourself bringing the bowl to all the successful meetings you will have, all the conversations that need to happen in order to hit your target, all the e-mails, the contracts, the presentations, etc, etc that ultimately make your bowl the success gift from you to you. In order to be successful most of us need other people and that’s why the bowl travels with you to share but only on our terms, in your time and with the people you consider to be of help.

I sure hope you enjoy spaghetti…. do let me know the results of your bowls of focus. Failing any better headlines, maybe people might just remember you for the person that enjoyed spaghetti analogies.

Become a meaningful specific as opposed to a wandering generality!

Become a meaningful specific as opposed to a wandering generality!

In the professional service industry, standing out from the crowd is vitally important. Most services are already available in one form or another, none of them are vastly unique. If you take the coaching industry for example, in the boom times, every second person and their dog was a life coach, thanks to the recession a lot of wannabee coaches are leaving the industry and those that truly mean business are still around.

The difference between working hard and working smart in the service industry is making sure people know what you are offering and who you are aiming at. We at our office recently looked at the services of B/Right Business Coaching and found in our niche audit that we were not specific enough and offering confusing services to a wide base of businesses. Hence our splitting the offering into 3 key areas and this one specifically targeted at start-up service businesses.

How did we make that decision? Well, our client base was already mainly service companies from one-man working from home type businesses to well established multi generation professional service companies. We have built our expertise in this area and have a great track record with start-ups, where we actually beat the statistics of companies making profit in their first 12 to 18 months as well as still being around and thriving after 3 years. So, when it comes to start-ups we know what they need, all we ask of our customers is that they are teachable and implement the suggestions in their companies.

If you are brand new to your service, you have the ideal postion of choice. You can choose who you enjoy working with, what kind of people you want to do business with and the kind of attributes they come with. The sooner you become very specific about your target market, the easier it is for people to buy from you and refer to you. The funny thing about being specific and putting your name to a particular type of work, means that you have an opportunity to have a good profit margin.

The challenge when I give workshops on marketing for professional services, is that business owners are afraid to be specific about their target market and their service, because they feel they might be losing out on other business if they go narrow and specific. In actual fact the wider and more general you remain, the more difficult it is to make money. Crazy fact!

So I guess, if you prefer to make less money, by all means stay general, but the risk of being very specific is that people recognise you for you do and cna refer business to you and you have the door wide open for profit. Funny enough, by being very specific, the other ‘general’ queries still come in and you can choose to take them on or not.

We sell on 3 key points: productivity and focus for high achievers through B/Right Focus Coaching, work/life balance and time-management hrough B/Right work life balance and start-up advice for professional service companies through this site B/Right start-ups. The commonality is that each service involves business coaching and is targeted at the professional services industry, but each have very distinctive needs and demands, hence a niche is available. We had this challenge of making 3 niches, because we decided to become more specific after a number of years in business.

How do you select your niche? First of all look at the various areas of experience you come with, your CV is a good starting point, even if it is an ecclectic mix of odd jobs, there may well be themes and generic trends that are unique to you. You can draw on personal experiences, because if you have personally experienced how to turn particular situations around for the better and you have designed a service around this, it may well work. Basically you are looking for a hook or angle to promote your service to a target market that is identifiable. Take start-ups for example, they are identifiable they tend to go to start your own business events, they can be found in enterprise competitions, they hang out in incubator centres, which is quite specific. Business coaching potential clients however as a target group is wide, varied and very non-specific, so also very hard to find or refer on to you.

The starting point is your own life and business experience and then you bring in the types of people you would like to sell to. I chose professional services, because it’s an industry I have pretty much always worked in from my management consulting days up to now. If your background is in retail, music, sports, etc. there may well be a potential niche angle of people you would like to work with and understand. Narrow it down to their attributes, which are things like teachability, having budgets, innovative, etc. The more specific you are, the easier it becomes to find these individuals.

Once you know your specific service and your specific target market, then it is a case of going out to find them in big numbers, which if you managed to define previous part in great detail, then they should be easy to find. Next step then is to go and spend time with them and truly understand their behaviours.

The real message here is to pick a niche that you know you will enjoy, identify the kinds of people you want as your clients and then go make your mark in this corner of the market. One of my mentors came up with a saying ‘A niche will make you riche’ (imagine a french accent at the end) . Become a meaningful specific in order to be profitable in your service business.

Are you the upstart that will kick-start this economy?

Are you the upstart that will kick-start this economy?

In times of economic recession the small indigenous businesses will be the ones driving economic growth and change. Why? Because big companies will take a while to adjust and small lean organisations can adapt and change to go with the flow of new demands a lot easier.

For large organisations the focus will be on cutting back and increasing efficiency from within, most of them will face redundancies as we can already see in our news reports. Change is typically slow and will receive a lot of resistance despite obvious market conditions. It is also that time when new ideas will hit the market and some of the people looking at redundancy packages finally going after the dream or concept that could be the next big thing.

In my view small adaptable businesses will be the ones to bring our economies back to life and as well as the new start-ups that are yet to find their way to the market. Will it be IT driven, environmental or green theme, cost saving or older generation focussed? That is crystal ball material. However we do know from historic fact that each recession has seen new businesses emerge to become the future employers and giants in local communities.

So if you are the person with that great idea, what should be your focus right now? The first thing to find out is whether there is a market for your product or service. The most frequent failure is that your great idea doesn’t actually relate to anybody else in the market place and when you are doing market research do go well beyond asking your family and friends, who may well just be trying to be nice to you and support you in your madness. If you have watched the TV-programme ‘Dragon’s Den’, the first thing investors look for is market potential and not just finger in the air material, but hard concrete numbers, contracts and sales facts. In an ideal start-up you sell your product or service before you actually go about producing brochures, leaflets, websites, or product for that matter.

The next step is to find out what people are willing to pay for your product and service. In this climate with tightening purse strings you may need to test a few price ranges in order to find the one that will make you profit. Profit is one of those areas to focus on from the start, you need to factor in all your costs and price your product and service in such a way that you at a minimum cover all the costs and have some spare margin for profit. I meet entrepreneurs all the time that forget to do this and after 12 months of hard work they are still not making any money and wonder why, when you look at their costs and pricing structure the 2 often live in a world apart. If you can appeal to different parts of the market for example with a low -end non-branded product and a then a high-end top of the range branded product with all bells and whistles you have an opportunity for bigger profit from one-side and bread-and-butter business on the other. In my view both need to cover all costs of production including wages (even if for now as the entrepreneur you are not taking any money out).

Once you have priced and sold your first items, you are basically in business and in service delivery or production. From here a focus on consistent sales, good customer service and delivery will be critical to your success. To ensure that this happens, you need a plan to work with. Not a business plan that will gather dust in a drawer, but a very basic action plan of daily, weekly, monthly and annual targets is good enough. Basically target figures that will tell you whether you are making money or not. Always know your break even point: where costs and and money made meet and any excess becomes profit.

In this climate most of our conversion rates have come down or slowed down, in other words the number of potential buyers we need to meet in order to generate sales will be slightly higher and slower to make a decision than in a boom market. So be prepared to jump over a few hurdles to make the sale. In our line of work we have started offering a counter proposal to potential buyers, where we will make an offer and if they are not happy they can come back with a counter offer. I then evaluate if we can deliver within these boundaries and based on some of our internal business guidelines, more often than not we proceed with the business. In my view having the business at a rate that both parties can afford is essential to survival of both businesses.

When sales are coming in on a regular basis, keep a close eye at all times on costs and what the competition is doing out there or even alternative services or products that have sprung up, which could potentially take some of your client base.

Remember though if at first you don’t succeed, you may need to tweak or change your practices in order for it to work. In some instances it may mean going back to the drawing board and start from 0. In the USA the average successful business person that receives venture capital investment has failed 3 times. I am not promoting that you fail, but I am promoting that if it doesn’t work the first time and you stumble, to dust yourself off, learn the learnings from your first experience and go again with an adapted plan.

In this climate seek out fellow entrepreneurs and share some of the positives, support each other, and work together to turn this economy around. In a boom economy anybody can make money, in a downturn only those with a solid product & service, some vision and a plan will succeed as long as they have the courage to start and stick with it. So here is the question, are you the upstart that will kick-start the economy or are you the muppet in the balcony that knew it wouldn’t work?