The search for conformity


 
The question for employers is “Do you want conformity, or something else?”

For employees, it might be “How long before a 3D printer or some other automation technology replaces me?”

For consultants, this is one way billing by the hour can make you average, depending on the work.

No matter what you do, or what others do for you, it’s worth some thought.

Starting A New Business : Part 4 – Profit is not Salary

Treating profit as salary is a common error for new businesses.

It’s unusual for new owners to start by thinking their business through to the “end game” or to its ideal place.

While some plan with an exit strategy in mind, there’s more to business than “do something, grow fast, get bought by Google”.

What happens if you don’t get bought by Google, WalMart or whoever? You’re stuck with the business you designed. Or worse, the one you didn’t.

Design the ideal

It’s far more desirable and strategic to figure out what your ideal business should look like before you start than it is to randomly arrive in your business’ future and realize that it isn’t at all what you planned to build. Much less that it’s not what you really wanted to do.

Hopefully it’s obvious that it’ll be hard to redesign your business two, five or ten years down the road. While it can be done, it won’t be as easy or inexpensive as designing it upfront.

If you design the ideal business, you have a lot better chance of getting there faster (or at least more efficiently) because your decisions have a built-in filter: “Does this decision move us closer to our ideal or not?”

Yes, almost every business owner has turned away from their ideal temporarily because of a job, contract or customer that was low-hanging fruit: A deal they accepted because the revenue was enticing enough to pull them in the wrong direction and distract them from their ideal – even though they knew better.

You’ll be far less tempted by these things when that built-in filter is there from day one.

Working for, Working on

If you seriously ask yourself “What would my business look like, act like, do, sell, etc when it’s exactly how want it to be?”, you’ll find yourself thinking about important things that go way beyond that widget you just have to sell.

One of the really important questions that should come out of that is “When my business is in its ideal state, how much time do I personally want to work there, either as an employee or owner?” The difference is simple: most employees work for a business, but owners should work mostly on their business.

Few think about that when doing budget projections at startup. What often ends up happening is that you create a job for yourself because your business can’t survive without you.

If you started this business to get away from a job, replace the income from a job that you’ve lost or to earn your freedom – do you really want to design and take on another one?

Job or business?

It’s a job if it’d fall apart, fail to generate revenue and/or tick off customers because you stepped away for an afternoon, day, week or month.

A business shouldn’t need you working every minute of every work day to generate revenue. That’s what brings us back to talking about your business model and why I insisted that profit is not salary.

Profit is what an owner/investor receives. Salary is what an employee receives. Today that might seem like a meaningless difference.

As your business grows, you’ll reach a point where you have to hire someone because you can’t get it all done. That may seem like a fantasy today, but if you do enough things right – it could end up more like a nightmare. Planning now is what makes the difference.

Be an investor

If both profit and salary are built into your business model, you’ll be prepared to hire someone to take on the work you can’t get done or no longer want to do.

While you’ll have to give up your “worker salary” when that happens, the “management” salary should still be there. When you delegate the work to someone else, you don’t want your business to be designed (much less required) to stop paying you – and that includes the day you decide to hire a manager to replace you.

Look at it from a buyer’s perspective. They want to invest in a profit producing business, not a job.

To that end, YOU are the first investor in that business. Design with that in mind.

Increasing The Awesome

A simple thought really – and this guy verbalizes it with such enthusiasm.

How are you getting better every day? How is your staff getting better every day?

What are you doing to enable and encourage “increasing the awesome”?

If you aren’t increasing the awesome, what are you doing instead?

 

Running away?

Today’s guest post is a quote from Henry Miller that I stumbled across.

Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such. – Henry Miller

Look at your business through that lens. What do you see?

Execution, Ideas and why “I need a programmer”

Design Is
Creative Commons License photo credit: kasrak

Every programmer, much less anyone who does something that startups need, has had these discussions.

However, that isn’t why it’s today’s guest post.

The thought process from idea to creation. The value of execution.

That’s why it’s a worthwhile read.

After The Honeymoon

Recently, I stopped into a niche retail business for the very first time.

They’ve done a nice job with it. Haven’t been open long, so some of the obvious things I’d suggest to make the place a real customer magnet weren’t in place yet.

I have a feeling they might get there, but time will tell.

What worries me most about my visit is that they did nothing to see that I’d return…

  • I wasn’t asked how I’d be using their product – and it’s a natural question for them, not a nosy none-of-your-business one.
  • I wasn’t offered any additional information showing all the other items they make.
  • I wasn’t asked to check out their Facebook page, which will someday hopefully be full of ways to use their product.
  • There was nothing letting me know that another business in town uses their product, so that if I really loved it I could go there too.
  • There was nothing in the store or on the products that included their website address on it – including the receipt or the label on the product.
  • I wasn’t asked if I’d like to be notified when they make special stuff. Doesn’t matter whether that notification happens by phone, text message, Facebook, email list or even a printed newsletter, just notify me.
  • I wasn’t asked to let them know how I liked their stuff by going to their site or Facebook page (which also doesn’t encourage this) or heaven forbid, filling out a self-addressed postcard or picking up the phone.
  • I wasn’t given a coupon or “send-a-friend” promotion so that I could tell my friends about them if I liked their stuff (that’s also what the Facebook Like button is for).

Doing ALL of this might be a bit pushy. Doing NONE of this is a big mistake.

Look, I know they are a new place and some of this takes time to get going.

You may even think I’m being hard on them, but I’m nowhere near as hard on them as the market will be.

No Second Chances

Re-elected politicians get second chances. Folks who make mistakes, like Michael Vick and Martha Stewart, get second chances.

Businesses are rarely granted that luxury.

You have to take advantage of the “honeymoon of newly open”.

During your honeymoon, people will…

  • Visit your store even if they don’t need what you sell.
  • Tell their friends that they visited, even when they might not normally do so.
  • Click “Like” in Facebook just to give you a little push, when they might not ever use that button.
  • Cut you some slack for mistakes like untrained staff and other stuff that happens when you’re still trying to get all the kinks out.

When you operate a niche business, not every one is going to decide to be your customer. Those who do more or less raise their hands and say “me, me, me!”

When they do that, your job is to make sure to remind them to come back regularly, not just when they remember to return. Leave it to them to return at random and you might not see them for months.

Make the honeymoon last forever

Customers are hard to replace, even in a good economy. It’s particularly difficult to go out and find 100 new customers tomorrow because revenues are tight.

It’s a lot easier (and smarter) to earn just one new customer a week, keep it up year after year, and do whatever it takes keep most of them.

So let’s go over this again.

  • You love whatever you do so much that you quit your job to do it. That’s great.
  • You spent most of what’s left of your liquid retirement money to fund the business.
  • It cost more than you thought it would to get going, so you borrowed from your in-laws, your family and friends.

After doing all that, please don’t tell me you’re going to ignore the very people who said “me,me,me” by letting them walk out the door as if they walked into a box store.

Keep that up and you’ll be back at your old job in no time – if you can get it back.

You didn’t like that job anyway, so please do these things for yourself and your business.

What’s on your plate?

Imagen de Hola Gourmets 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlastras

As I spent the last month mulling over my strategic plan for this year, I started by looking at what I was doing operationally as if I was my own client.

In the software business, it’s called “eating our own dogfood“. In other words, a vendor using their own software for the task it was designed to perform.

But it isn’t limited to software.

From a day-to-day operations perspective, that process quickly tossed a few things in my face.

I thought I’d mention some of the higher level things in case they happen to spark a ToDo item for you.

Technology

I need to automate WordPress updates across several dozen sites (some mine, some not). It was semi-automated, after today, I have it down to one button, right down to opening the site WordPress admin page to make sure I know whether I need to hit the “Database upgrade” button in the WP admin interface. No, I don’t use the built-in update process because I’d have to manually go all over the place to make that happen. Old school.

The upside of systematically handling this critical task is that I can finally hand this task off to an intern because there’s a system in place to make the work happen. Can you say “E-Myth”? Yes, I thought you could.

Last year, I moved all my web and other development work (including marketing/strategic client documents and even blog posts) to source-controlled environments after a few fits and starts in the past. This year, the software projects will get further screw-tightening by adding automated build and test processes.

Accountability

I’ve had some trouble with getting consistent action out of some folks this past year. Dan says I shouldn’t care because I can’t control the actions of others, but it isn’t about control. It’s about encouragement. Worse yet, client results reflect on me and I don’t like seeing folks failing to take advantage of my best efforts. I think I’ve found a way to solve the problem. We’ll see.

As for me, I need to lean on the calendar even more than I have in the past, especially on projects important to me.

The result of pondering this is that…

  • I’ve already chosen my charitable time commitments for the year.
  • I’m actively seeking a new mentor. Yes, pretty much everyone who is getting anything done has a mentor. Even Dan Kennedy has a mentor. Think about that for a minute.
  • I have to be more demanding of my marketing clients in 2011. You may have figured out that I have a certain level of expectation of my clients after creating a strategy, tools and other materials for them. When they don’t get used (regardless of the reason), that hurts them and me (eventually). That level of accountability will rise markedly later this month as I complete a few tasks that will help me “enforce” it. Those who are willing to take their business seriously will be glad I’ve done this. The rest will probably end up working with someone else, if they do anything at all.
  • Because I had to more or less ignore the needs of several prospective clients in 2010, I will be narrowing the clients I personally serve in 2011 while expanding the number of clients that can get my personal help. Yes, I know that sounds like opposite directions. Stay tuned, it’ll make sense as I roll it out. Planet Dan folks – think “ladder”.

Focus

John Haydon mentioned the other day on Twitter that his boss was a jerk. Of course, John works for himself. The hardest person to manage is yourself.

Focus comes up because a few personal projects slid last year. This was mostly due to an abundance of customer work. While I’m grateful for the work, I’ll be more demanding of myself in the selection of projects this year because these other things MUST GET DONE.

That’s already being corrected, partly via the accountability change noted above, partly via the mentor thing, partly via kowtowing even more to the calendar and via a few other steps I’ve taken. Like Jim Rohn said, when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.

My existing clients will get even more attention this year. If you aren’t a client now and you’ve been thinking about it, now would be a good time to make a decision.

Writing

My writing (in the blog) has suffered immensely the last two years. I think it’s gotten better, but the frequency has really fallen off due to my workload.

The upside of this is that it’s given me time to think more about what I write and how you guys consume it and take action on it. That has resulted in the BIP book taking a few turns strategically. Now that I’ve finally, really (no kidding) figured out what I want to do with it, well, it’s moving along much better now.

I’ve also waded most of the way through an editorial calendar for the blog for the year, something I’ve never taken the time to do before. I suspect that’s pretty obvious to long time (it’s been 6 years this week) readers.

Bottom Line

One of the things that stood out in my mildly-freaky conversation with myself was that I need to put even more effort into doing for me what I do best for others. Imagine that.

Oh yeah, by now you should be asking me why you should care. “Boy, doesn’t that seem all about you and not at all about your readers?”

Yes, except that most of what I talked about is…for my readers/clients. And I hope it has made you reflect on what your plans are.

Do your clients know where you’re going? Does your staff?

Meating expectations

When I first came across this meat vending machine, the comment I read introducing it was something along the lines of “Do we *really* need this?”

If this butcher has customers who do shift work – or anything that keeps them from visiting the shop during business hours- it’s worth a try.

Perhaps he had a lot of customer comments about his hours from shift workers and this was how he decided to serve them.

Perhaps it only serves custom pre-paid orders. You don’t really know, but if it works for the shopkeeper and their customers, who cares?

The real question is what can you borrow (and change to suit your needs) from another line of work in order to better serve your customers?

The President of You


Creative Commons License photo credit: dev null

Been talking about this for a good while, glad to find someone else who agrees.

There is one President who matters to your business: The President of you.

What you do today, tomorrow, the next day and every day to improve your products, services, customer support, and to continue to provide better value to your customers makes a ton more difference in the results seen in your business than anything done by anyone else, regardless of party, regardless of office.

Quit fussing over elections and political issues. If you want to make a difference in your business, get to work.

PS: Happy Veterans Day. Thank you to Veterans for all you did. Thank you to active duty personnel for all you’ve done and continue to do.

What’s your superpower, Clark?

The Jumping Spider
Creative Commons License photo credit: williamcho

One of the difficult things about entrepreneurs is maintaining your focus.

Most entrepreneurs are interested in many things, so the BSO (bright shiny object) threatens to pull them away from their core mission cuz that other thing would be soooo interesting to work on.

Still others wonder what their core mission is.

Just this morning I heard a guy ask “What if I don’t know what I want to do?”, in response to a suggestion that he find his purpose in life and focus on finding a way to make a living serving that purpose.

If  YOU don’t know what you want to do, I’m not sure how anyone else would. OTOH, why not ask someone? “What kind of work would you call me in to perform before you’d call *anyone* else?”

One way

We’ve discussed this in the past and one pragmatic suggestion was to consider the things that you get asked to do by the smartest people you know. Stuff you actually *want* do, that is

A bit more entertaining way would be to think about some others who do amazing things in their line of work.

Say for example that you asked Clark Kent. He’s Superman. His answers might be “Leaps tall buildings in a single bound”, “Faster than a locomotive” and “X-ray vision”. In other words, he has super-human strength.

If you asked Peter Parker, he might talk about his ability to walk up a skyscraper.

You get the idea.

So…when you perform from your strengths as if you are a superhero, how would you describe your power? What super-human strengths do you have?

Here’s an example

Mine center around a few related areas.

  • Though I don’t always exercise it, I seem to find it easy to have a conversation between warring parties without either of them wanting to fit me for a pair of Jimmy Hoffa Concrete Galoshes (No, I have no desire to play detente-boy in the Middle East).
  • I find it easy to ask troubling but non-confrontational questions about situations and opportunities that others don’t often see, though I think a good bit of that is because people are too close to their situation to be honest with themselves (or to have clear vision). I’ve been guilty of that as well. We all have forests that keep us from seeing trees.
  • Processes (technical, marketing, operational, you name it) have always intrigued me. I feel very much at home looking at them from perspectives ranging from 10000 ft to piece by piece dissection. “Seeing” how they can be improved has been a core strength. I have to be careful with this one because it’s easy to become the guy wielding the shovel. All I have to do is I let “my altitude” get too low – and thus too close to the process rather than going big picture. Yeah, I know. A little wishy washy.

That last one is what merges the marketing side of my head with the geek side.

Enough about me…has that given you an idea how to describe your super power?

I’d love to hear yours.