Are You Ready to Recreate a Business That Is Spectacularly Unique?

This is the story of four companies, in the same industry, in the same town. It is a perfect study of mission and vision statements. Even though these business owners were in the same industry, were direct competitors, and had the same prospects, their purpose and companies were amazingly different.

Who you are, what your purpose is, and where you want to go can be completely different and should be from anyone else. When you can differentiate yourself on this high level, you create a business that is not only spectacularly unique but also creates greater happiness for everyone involved.

I once found myself coaching the owners of four separate bookkeeping companies at the same time. I am a bookkeeper magnet! During this time, the economy was at its worst. Everyone was in pain, and many people were scratching for solutions. It became common practice to only look to the industry know-it-alls to be advised on how to be profitable-in this case-as a bookkeeping firm. But I was able to move each of these companies toward their goals in very different ways, not by being a know-it-all, not by knowing everything about bookkeeping businesses, but by allowing them to find their solutions in their own mission and vision.

Let me illustrate first by introducing you to these four owners and what they first presented as their problem when I met them.

Meet Rhonda. Rhonda was very successful, but even though she had a competent staff, she was tired. She had to control and oversee everything in her business. She wanted a vacation. Was there a better way?

Meet Ruby: Ruby had been a CPA for almost 40 years. It wasn’t that she wasn’t able to work hard-she just didn’t see how she would be able to retire comfortably.

Meet Molly: Molly was one of the best and fastest bookkeepers around, but she was broke. If something didn’t give, she’d have to get a job to support her family.

Meet Jane: Jane owned a highly competitive bookkeeping firm, but she was losing clients. She was working hard to keep her staff busy, but she was also broke and didn’t know if her present business model was sustainable.

The antidote: Before setting specific steps and goals for action, which each business owner was used to doing, I asked each of them to spend time articulating their mission, their vision, and their value proposition. Why? So that each tactic and action they decided upon would be aligned with their greater purpose… like this:

Mission: Who are you? Why are you here? What is wrong with the world, and how do you intend to fix it?

Vision: Where are you going? What does your version of success look, feel, and taste like? What will the world look like if you successfully fulfill your Mission?

Value Proposition: The result that your customer gets from working with you.

Here is what each business owner discovered about herself:

Rhonda was very successful, with a niche market for contractors and building companies. She had a small staff and high profits. Business was getting more difficult, but her main complaint was that she couldn’t get away. She was the classic example of an owner who was tied to her business with golden handcuffs. What she dreamed of was a turnkey business that could run without her. Her need: put systems into place that would align her staff to oversee quality control so that she would be free.

Ruby had done taxes, was controlling, and now was preparing books for other tax preparers-solo style. But her dream was to teach. She was tired of shuffling papers, and she was an expert at helping business owners understand their financial information. She was witty, clever, and a seasoned speaker. She desperately wanted to make the change. Her need: make the transition from marketing her service to marketing herself.

Molly had moved from being employed as a bookkeeper to being an independent contractor to having a small staff. Her desire was to become the biggest firm in town and aggressively grow her business and have a large, reputable staff. She’d do anything to dominate her field. She was aggressively improving her own skills (night school for her accounting degree) while at the same time hiring people with degrees and skills above her own. Her need: growth, growth, and more growth.

Jane wanted to reinvent her business by developing online training products to create residual income. She was magnetic and technically adept. She was willing and able to learn how to be successful with Internet marketing. Her need: develop a new skill and start making money as quickly as possible.

Four companies. Four dreams. Their next hurdle was to create their Value Proposition.

Rhonda- The empowered team to be your full solution in the construction industry: from Internet hosting to prevailing wages, bids, cost controls, and analysis.

Ruby- Teaching small-business owners to understand the power of their own financial statements.

Molly- The outsourced bookkeeping firm that becomes a part of your small to medium-size business.

Jane- Helping the small-business owner and bookkeeping professional-online, 24/7 showing how to operate QuickBooks in an easy-to-use tutorial.

Then we created strategic goals according to their Mission, Vision, and Value Proposition. Each one is setting goals and working hard on these actions:

Rhonda is using high-performance techniques to bring her team’s skills to a higher level. She has changed her role as the leader by coaching her staff and not overseeing and solving all the problems. They work together on a regular basis to create and adjust systems that allow them to solve problems, make decisions, and handle all the tasks in the business without her.

Ruby is busy producing her material and getting ready to launch live workshops.

Molly has twice the staff and twice the profits while she works with her team on marketing and selling themselves to new clientele.

Jane has already created the product and is now employing state-of-the-art techniques to launch her tutorials online. The skill is difficult and managing her time is a challenge, but her list is growing, and her online sales are improving.

If you started reading this article thinking all bookkeeping firms are the same, see how different they can be? If you are faced with a problem, how do you make decisions that are strategically aligned with your Mission and Vision? For each of these business owners, it may have looked as if they would all need the same solution. After this work, they were able to create goals well suited to their dreams, and they get closer to achieving these dreams every day.

So, What is it That You Do With All Those Business Cards After the Networking Event

Business cards are my lifeblood for new business. In the networking world, if you are at an event then you will probably exchange business cards with your new business acquaintances. Your initial contact is very important. The impression you make with your appearance, your business card and questions you ask make an important impact on your contacts and leave on the event.

After the event what do you do with those cards and those connections? Do you forget them in your jacket/pants pocket? Do you put them in your desk? A week later after you shuffle through them do you put them at the back of your desk? A month later, after you still haven’t done anything about re-connecting, do the cards get moved into your top desk drawer? Maybe another month will go by before you move them to the back of the drawer or into a box under your desk. At this point why didn’t you throw them away when you left the event and save yourself the time and effort of shuffling the cards around your desk?

Instead of shuffling those business cards, why not connect with your new acquaintances. The connection should be on a level that you and your new contact are comfortable with. A very formal relationship may be appropriate or a very casual connection may be the better way to gain the solid footing you need to build business partners.

When you make that connection do you have a way to remember where or when you met these new contacts? Do you remember the interesting facts about these people? Have you made notes on the back of their business card to remind yourself of these facts and their interests?

If you answered no to these questions you have a fabulous memory. The notes on the back of the card are helpful for the rest of us. Those notes can clarify the type of business you would like to conduct or personal information that is important to your contact.

After you connect with your new business contacts do you have a way to glue the relationship together? Joe Girard, The Greatest Salesman in the World according to Guinness Book of World Records, James Ray a Motivational Speaker and Author, and Ivan Misner, CEO and Founder of BNI (Business Network International) have a simple solution. Send your clients a personal greeting card.

The greeting card should be a personal card. Selling your business in the greeting card is not a way to glue that new relationship. What simpler way to connect with your new networking contact than a heart felt greeting? Give yourself an edge on your competition. If many influential people send greeting cards to their contacts, why shouldn’t you? Why don’t you?

Your Small Business Marketing Guide in a Recession

Your world will never be the same.

Sounds like a bit of an ominous statement doesn’t it?

Considering the amount of bad news that flows throughout our daily lives it’s nearly impossible to look at the above statement and attach a positive meaning to it, however I see great opportunity in what I am writing to you.

We are witnessing our world undergo huge changes almost daily. In the past few years, we’ve seen an historic shift of technology and economy unlike any other, and the transition is not near completion.

“The only constant is change, continuing change, inevitable change, that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be.”
– Isaac Asimov

Change will always occur, that’s inevitable. As Asimov reminds us, a lack of acknowledgment or understanding of this change can make or break businesses [and lifestyles] forever.

Where Did The Money Go?
The advent of global economy and technology-enabled business practices are in a rapid state of flux. Growth and change are a given in business, but we’ve never witnessed such rapid transition in such a short time period, the effects of which are being felt on every streetcorner of the world.

The recent economic events and credit crunch are moving the tectonic plates of business and the cozy confines of national or local economy are shifting to a global platform. These shape-shifting occurrences are too large, too rapid and there are too many moving parts even for the experts to comprehend.

How does this effect you?
For starters, just look around your neighborhood, listen to your neighbors or friends. The global housing bubble has popped. This part of the puzzle will directly effect you, me, and every citizen on this planet as millions upon millions have based so much of their personal wealth, retirement, and family around their homes.

Next, consider that just recently the first of the Baby Boomer generation retired and a trickle began the first stage to what will certainly turn into a raging river of generational change. A large portion of the Boomers base their retirement on two major components: housing and the stock market. This is the largest generation we’ve ever seen. They will be transitioning to their golden years and many will be forced to retire due to health problems, job competition, etc. The problems we’ve experienced in both housing and stocks and the pressures felt by Boomers will shape the future of business significantly.

The massive transfer of wealth and earning potential from Boomers to Generation X is underway. Further, more jobs will be handed down to a smaller group of people, which will cause a ripple effect of opportunity. On the other hand there will be less total disposable income coming from the Gen Xers vs. the Boomers because of this. Many businesses will be effected as their sales are forecast on a premise of Boomer spending that simply will cease to exist.

You + Me + Technology
The advent of web technology and tools such as laptops, e-commerce and social media are contributing to a massive global population shift. We aren’t uprooting and destination-bound like people were in 1849 during the Gold Rush, but the tides are changing nevertheless. We don’t need to move houses, we have moved into a new virtual space in our minds and the impact is huge. We don’t do business like we used to, we don’t shop like we used to, we don’t interact like we used to, we don’t write letters, we don’t do a lot of things that were commonplace as little as 10 years ago.

In addition the growing trend of crowdsourcing will effect every aspect of life from politics and religion to science/technology and business. It’s also becoming common for corporations to listen in and have their customers or focus groups do the thinking for them. This is not a case of the evil overlord manipulating his pawns – many are willing to do the work – they’re even passionate about it. This is smart for businesses and brings about a more community-oriented, inclusive customer relationship in the process.

Do you think the Twitter trend on Capitol Hill will have an effect on politics? Do you think social networks such as Facebook will or the gravitation from television to online media will change business? You bet it will.

Your local shop
The speed and connectivity of web-enabled business has given consumers a power unlike they’ve ever had in history. This will continue to make a huge slice of the business pie disappear. A product seller or distributor will have to really take a look at their business model and ask themselves how they will be able to compete or how they add value. Many local storefronts have already become casualties of this movement. The reality is many store owners will be expecting customers to travel to them in addition to paying the shop overhead when often that same customer can compare dozens of prices, offers and customization options for the same product in an instant online.

Here’s where you’re wondering about the great opportunity I mentioned earlier…

As you’ve probably come to expect from my blog posts I am an eternal optimist for your small business. True, I see many doors closing and many businesses becoming extinct, but these shifts are being nothing more than opportunities for you. These shifts are part of the natural ebb and flow of the business life cycle. They are a reminder that the world will always change.

“Necessity, who is the mother of invention.”
-Plato

When we look to the future we can feel comfort in the fact that we as people always do our best work in times of need. Right now business needs to change. Right now business owners are seeing their profits drop and necessity is staring them in the face.

Pattern-recognition is a survival method innate to many a living creature. The patterns are difficult to detect in the business world because it’s changing by the minute. Not having the time or knowledge to recognize these patterns might overwhelm some business owners into making a bad decision for themselves. The single most important work a business owner can do is to spend time on their identity. What is my business? Who are my competitors? Where is the business world going? How can I be positioned for where it’s headed? These are a handful of a hundred questions to answer for business success. The prevalent pattern is one of flow, of a shift in power from corporation to consumer, from passive television watching to active internet searching. That’s the pattern you need to see here. In addition, if you’re waiting for things to get back to normal, I’m here to tell you, they won’t.

Someone moved the cheese. Let’s find some new cheese.

I see great opportunity for businesses that create their own product. Today’s business world demands not only something to be created but it must be unique in what it offers or it will get lost in the shuffle. Give your business a unique product, something with value and it will be given every chance to succeed. Your business has a global reach. You have the ability to put your product in the hands of someone halfway around the globe. That is mind-blowing. You just have to put a product out there that will do the work for you. You can’t physically travel the globe in ways that your product can. Create a product that will do the walking and the talking for you.

I see great opportunity for unique service-based businesses. The key word here is ‘unique’. The ‘me too’ business doesn’t differentiate itself so it’s already going to have a harder time standing out. Create a service or add to your service by latching on to the wants or needs of your customer. What does your hotel customer need? What does your technology offer to save them time? How can you be unique? There are many free tools available online to help you gain the answers to these questions and distribute your message to your target. The sheer volume of social tools available to you on the web is incredible. These tools are essential to your service. Again, create something that will walk and talk for you.

Now is the time to spend as much time on strategy than ever. Now is the time for you to stop the busy part of business and really ask yourself how you can answer the questions I’ve raised.

The shift is happening.

Your world will never be the same. That’s a good thing.