MVB 002: Growing and Getting Unstuck

This is more than a year in the making! I'm back in the podcast game everyone. Just a heads up, the audio workflow is a little rusty but I'm committed to getting. Enjoy! 

Show Notes: 

You are listening to the Minimum Viable Business podcast: episode number 2. 

Today we’re talking growing and getting unstuck, two sides of the same business development coin. So let’s get started.  

Hey, everybody. Nunzio Bruno here. Welcome to the Minimum Viable Business podcast. The Minimum Viable Business podcast is a podcast designed to help you get your business ideas off the backs of napkins and into the world. As always, the show notes can always be found at at disruptivestrategy.co 

Now, let’s get into the show.

Over the last few years I’ve worked with, and given advice to, a few hundred business owners. It’s been awesome to hear their stories, their challenges, their successes, and what drives them to show up every day. A handful were big name Fortune 500 companies but most were small businesses run by amazing people trying to build a life for themselves and their families. Across industries, sectors, geographic locations and levels of experience I’ve noticed that there are really two big questions I get asked most often. 

They are: 

“How do I grow?”  

and 

“How can I get myself unstuck?”

These are both really big questions. If you’re reading this and are asking yourself one or both then you’re in the right place. While I won’t be able to give you specific advice for your immediate situation I can give you some great places to start focusing your attention. (If you’re feeling really froggy feel free to shoot me an email and I’ll do my best to give you some honest and authentic feedback - nunzio(at)disruptivestrategy.co)

In this post I’m going to outline a handful of things you can do right now that have a relatively low financial cost but require more of a time commitment. I’m doing this by design because the reality of growing a business and getting unstuck means figuring out what work matters most and creating the bandwidth to double down on it. The goal is to do more of the stuff that gets you the most results. Crazy right?! Unfortunately building enough momentum to create real change in your business can feel like you’re running on a treadmill that’s being dragged through a swamp. 

It can feel like hard work, it can feel slow, it’s can be a muky mess...And sometimes even uncomfortably humid?!

Don’t let that deter you though! Patience and momentum are interesting forces and when harnessed well can yield positive results for your business that you hadn’t even considered. So try a few of these and let me know if you work your way into a pleasant surprise or two. 

1. Remember that doing business is just people connecting with people. 

When you’re scrambling to drum up new business it can be easy to forget that doing business is a person to person sport. It’s also easy to forget that people do business with you because they either believe you can provide the value you promise or you already have delivered that value. It’s easy to forget these things because the stress of finding your next customer or client starts to pile up and your attention starts to shift to actions that will potentially get your message in front of more people. So you’ll spend more time on social, maybe throw a few more dollars that you don’t have at ads (both online and in real life) and even give your local Valpak direct mail contact a call. Those aren’t bad things but the ROI is low and (most of the time) your spending time and money on activities that you can’t sustain. I mean honestly, when was the last time you bought anything from a ValPak - no offense but spammy direct mail doesn’t produce the results it used to. Instead I would suggest going the complete opposite. Don’t think about how you can reach more people by casting a wider net, think about how you can make a real connection to a few people who will actually support you. 

If you’re a small business who are the handful of people that could go to bat for you in terms of: offering referrals, creating other relationships, writing testimonials, or even buy from you? Connecting, or even reconnecting, authentically to these people will provide you more value then any direct mail effort. Why? Because these are people who you’ve walked through the process of getting to know, like and trust you! Who better to go to bat for you or to take the risk of inviting you into their network? 

Lastly, if you’re at the end of this first point and you’re really struggling to identify people then maybe it’s time to get out into the world and find networking groups/events. In lots of communities all over the country, and world, there are networking groups that meet weekly like BNI (Business Networking International), there are Young Professional groups, Chambers of Commerce, etc. These are places you can show up ask lots of questions, shake lots of hands and start to develop mutually beneficial relationships. You just have to make it a priority to get yourself out there! 

2. Get to work in your inbox and start sliding into DM’s. 

Email and DM’s are a double edged sword. On one hand they are awesome tools that can connect you to virtually anyone, in any company, anywhere in the world. On the other hand you have to compete with the millions of people that are vying for your contact’s attention in cluttered inboxes full of spammy and impersonal nonsense. 

Think I’m being hyperbolic? 

Take a look at the current state of LinkedIn’s messaging system and tell me that the messages in your inbox aren’t just impersonal copy and paste jobs. You have the opportunity to stand out though. The odds are low so it’s definitely a numbers game but if you spend the time figuring out how you can add value to someone’s day in a meaningful way there’s a good chance that they’ll open up your next email and the emails after that. So, how can you offer a complete stranger enough value that they engage with you? First I’ll tell you what not to do. Do not send them a cold sales pitch that clearly reads that you’re just looking for their business. No relationship and no value equals no sale. What you should do is try to connect in a real way, just like the first tip. Here are a few suggestions: 

  • You can offer a resource that could help them with their business or problem. 
  • If you’re a designer maybe you offer a recommendation for a site or piece of marketing you came across. 
  • Do you have an audience or market that they could benefit from with a little exposure from you? 
  • If you’re a marketer maybe a suggestion followed up with a little support that could benefit their brand, products or service. 
  • If you’re any other professional services provider, maker, or do’er is there something you can do on “spec” that might be of value to them? 

If you think all that sounds like a lot of extra work with an uncertain return on investment you’re right. It is! But this is part of the process. Creating relationships and proving yourself to someone takes work, deliberate and thoughtful work. You win by embracing that and doubling down on the fact that most (all) of your competitors wouldn’t put in the same time or effort. 

3. Ask for introductions. 

I already explained that I think the current state of LinkedIn’s messaging is a complete mess. That doesn’t mean it’s without hope though. LinkedIn is an awesome place for you to reach out to the people that you already know and ask them to connect you to someone specifically in their network. Just like the first two points you might have to explain yourself a bit but, as long as you’re leading with providing value it’s easy for your contact to make the connection. This is also another numbers game. There are going to be people that you’re connected with that refuse and ignore you. Don’t take it personally, say thank you and make a note to work on the connection you already have with them. 

This strategy works in person too! 

If you’re lucky enough to have a database of people who’ve already done business with you this is a good time to reconnect. Check in with them, really care about how they are post buying from you, and ask to be connected to the people in their lives that could benefit from engaging with you. In general people are AMAZING BS Detectors so if you try this by faking gratitude and appreciation they will freeze you out. No one likes to be sold to and like even less when sales-y people try to sell their friends and family. I’m sure we’ve all known a well intentioned and poorly executing MLM sales person, used car sales person blasting their offerings on their personal Facebook Page or real estate professional coldly mining for referrals.  

Now on to addressing feeling stuck. Feeling stuck is kind of like trying to decide where to go out to eat and you have tons of options. You could go to lots of places but you don’t know what you feel the most like or what will will provide you the best experience. So for this question I have a list of 10 things I want you to remember when you’re feeling stuck..some of them apply to trying to figure out where to eat too. 

Action 1: Decide who is going to get your focus right now. 

You need to be able to articulate those who are the most important in your business right now. Is it a specific kind of customer, a new market segment, the people you’re interacting with online, the neighboring businesses in your community, your fans, etc. Getting clear on who you want to give dedicated focus to will help you better hone how you spend your energy and more articulately measure the return you’re getting on those efforts.  

Action 2: Look Around

Determine who your most relevant competitors are and understand how they do business. This will help you dial in what makes you special and how you deliver the best value to your customers. 

Action 3: Business Aspirations

Get clear on what success looks like for you. Is it a dollar amount, a specific profit margin per transaction or a certain number of customers served? Being clear and SPECIFIC about what success looks like will help you make more consistent decisions in your business. 

Action 4: What Gets Measured, Gets Managed

You won’t know if you are spending your time well if you aren’t keep track of it. The same goes will all your resources. Right now, pick a few things that you think are important and start tracking them. How can you know if your business is on the right track if you aren’t measuring what you are doing? 

Action 5: Communicate Your Mission

For your strategy and your business to be successful, everyone involved needs to understand not just what you are doing but why you are doing it. Is your mission and vision written or presented in the easiest most earnest way possible? People won’t support you if they can’t understand why what you are doing is important. 

Action 6: Stop Planning

Strategy is not planning. Strategy is deciding what’s important, creating a way to make systematically better decisions and taking action. Do something right now that will push your business forward in way you can measure that aligns with your mission. 

Action 7:  Competitive Advantage

It’s really tough to be the lowest cost option and the highest quality {insert what your business does}. Don’t worry about chasing market share and start worrying about what you do better than everyone else around you. Make a conscious decision to focus on keeping what’s special about you and communicating that specialness with everyone.  

Action 8: Look For Trends

Customer’s tastes and tastes are always changing. Look for trends in how people are spending to make sure that you are delivering what they want how they want it. 

Action 9: Do All Of Your Branding Assets Align?

Perspective and perception are everything in business. Take stock of what your business culture looks like. Does how you run your business match how you interact with your customers? What about your social media and other web assets - are all of those personas aligned? People are a big part of your strategy and how you present yourself to people matters. 

Action 10: Simplify Your Business Model

Businesses are most profitable when they are easy and intuitive to deal with. Look at how your business functions from start of customer relationship to finish. Are there any steps you can remove, streamline or products/services you can repackage. Your business model is how you make money, it’s important that you make it as easy and as clear as possible for better engagement. 

Strategy doesn’t get better of more effective unless you actively work on it. You shouldn’t just be winging it! You might not have time to do all of these right now but pick the ones you think could help you get motivated and taking actions first and knock them out. 

So we are at the end of my list for you now. You’ve probably noticed that none of these tips were instant-make-money-now-online-marketing-sales-tactics. It’s not because I don’t believe in the efficacy of those tactics and strategies, because I do. I think well written and well meaning copy, email funnels, and social strategy are awesome tools to support business growth. But if right now, today, you’re sitting looking for your next cut and paste marketing tactic to try to entice your next sale then I say it’s time to take a step back and immerse yourself in the business of connecting with people. You’re business will thrive in the long run because you took the time now to build a community of customers, readers, watchers and listeners that care about you and your business. It will sustain because people will buy from you, keep buying from you and refer the people they care about. Getting one more sale because you clickbaited someone might be good the first time but there’s a decent probability that they don’t try you again. 

This is going to take work. It’s going to feel like a slog and that’s ok. To grow or to get unstuck is going to take the momentum you build as you shift your focus back to serving the people you committed to the first day you opened your doors - even if it’s not scalable. 

Commit a little time to making your business more profitable this year, I mean there’s still half a year left!
 

MVB 001: Better Decisions Lead to Better Business

Transcript:

You’re listening to the Minimum Viable Business Podcast Episode 1.

<Intro>

Hey there, Nunzio Bruno here and welcome to the Minimum Viable Business podcast. This is the daily podcast dedicated to helping you take your business off of the backs of napkins and kitchen tables and out into the world delivering your value to the people that really need it.

In the official first episode I want to tackle decision making. If you’re listening to this around the time that the podcast goes live you’ll notice that making decisions and the month of January kind of go hand in hand. If you’re not no worries because getting better at making decisions is really a gift you can give yourself any time of the year.

Before we get into how to make better decisions I want to talk briefly about why getting better at making decisions matters.

And to do that I want to start by asking a question:

You are thinking about what to do next in your business and you realize you’re going to have to make a purchase, you need some new stuff to get the next phase of your plan into action. Could be a piece of physical hardware, could be software, could even be furniture. (I have been looking at standing desks recently.) The question is what do you do?

Well I’m guessing your process goes like this:

Step 0. Get excited at the thought of how this next purchase will solve all my problems and will be the singular thing to get me over the hurdles I’m currently facing in my business.

Step 1. Hit Google.

Step 2. Open a new browser window and find out if search results in Google are products I can buy on Amazon.

Step 3. Read a few reviews and search for similar items in Amazon. Then open new browsers for products that could be in the running for comparison.

Step 4. Open another browser and search YouTube for reviews, start to watch a review

Step 5. Repeat step 4 a few more times.

Step 6. Get distracted by YouTube for a bit and realized that I’ve just lost 45 minutes to watching videos in my subscription feed.

Step 7. Realize that I have other things to finish and I’ll get back to shopping for this later.
 

So you’ve spent the last hour or so doing what? Research? Well it may have started off as research but it quickly spun out into a distraction and you are no further in your business than when you started. Something like this can be a big blow to your productivity and your momentum.

I can help with this though the first thing I want to do is absolutely squash the notion that the next purchase of anything will be the magic solution to propel your business to the next level.

Are tools helpful, yes. As you grow are you going to need to make sure that you have a minimum level of equipment and support to deliver your value, yes. Will your software, hardware or soon to be purchased standing desk do your work for you, NO!

That brings us to the big point first point which is how you frame the decisions matters. We make thousands of decisions a day, some important and some not so important. Some require focused attention and some are on autopilot. Decisions are not created equal. Thinking that your future success is hanging on the your next Amazon purchase is going to deplete you and make it harder for you to make decisions that matter more later in your business.

Decision Fatigue is real and it’s something you need to be aware of. I’ll link to a great article from  James Clear in the show notes but the gist of decision fatigue is that you wake up everyday fresh and ready to take on the world. Every time your willpower is tested or you have to make a decision your ability and propensity to make decisions dwindles and eventually you’re empty. At that point you’re ability to make good decisions is relegated to the parts of your brain that encourage you to take the easy path, the path that requires the least amount of brainpower to get to some kind of “good enough” outcome.

That is not a good place to be making business decisions from.

So don’t let squirreling off into YouTube binges eat into your decision making power.

Making better decisions also matters because it will make you more productive. You’ll be able to save time and make the most out of your decision making faculties. It makes you more productive because you can acknowledge that all decisions aren’t created equal, meaning deciding when something is good enough vs has to be perfect. Good enough can be an appropriate outcome to some decisions.

You’re able to do this because you’ll have a pre-established criteria for the decisions you make. People like the late Steve Jobs and even Mark Zuckerberg have been credited with doing this with their wardrobes. They wear the same outfits or types of outfits all the time which means they don’t have to waste time thinking and planning out what they are wearing everyday. They just reach into their closets and boom, onto the next set of decisions.

It might not sound like a big deal but they have a process they follow that helps them make the most out of the one constraint we all bump up against which is time.

Ok so up to this point you know that decision fatigue is real and that all decisions aren’t created equal so you have to watch out for the little ones that can sneakily fatigue those decision making muscles.

On to one of my favorite things in life - a process.

If you don’t have a decision making framework then I’d like to introduce you to one and if you do I’d like to add on more to your decision making arsenal.

This is a 5 step framework you can use to help you work out which ideas and decisions will have the biggest bang for your buck. We’re going to go through the steps and a little coaching through each step to help you on your decision making journey.

Step 1. Start with the easy-ish lifting. Identify the problem, opportunity or challenge.

The goal is to get your problem, opportunity or challenge out of your brain where it might be a little muddled because you’re constantly sizing up possible solutions to it and into the world. When you get your first version you should it again only this time strip out any jargon or buzzwords and simplify it to the lowest possible denominator.

Now that you have your issue boiled down to the fewest possible moving parts it’s time to decide if this is something that’s worth pursuing. When you’re stuck you might be weighing a few options, here’s how you can prioritize.

Step 2. Will addressing this issue move your business forward in any (or all) of these? There are four major categories and more boxes you check the more important the issue and the higher a priority it gets.  

Time: Will it save you time? Create time? Bend time?

Money: Will it make you more money? Save you money? Cost you money?

Mission: Does this impact your “why” for the business?

Culture: Will addressing this issue impact how your business delivers value?

Step 3. Can you frame a solution to honor your and your business’ values?

What is it?

Is there more than one solution?

Does the solution feel authentic?

Step 3 is a biggie. Part of getting and staying unstuck and making decisions is making authentic choices and setting a course that feels like work you can do and do well.  If you are just searching the internet for tactics and quick tips you’re essentially yo-yo dieting with your problems/challenges/opportunities.

Step 4. How will you measure success?

One of my favorite sayings is, “What gets measured, gets managed”. At this point you’ve identified what’s important and a way to address it that feels authentic. Now you need to define what success looks like. What are the outcomes that you are shooting for? Get specific with your outcome and your time frame. Don’t get specific because you’re giving yourself an artificial deadline, get specific so that you can keep track of the time, money and energy you're putting into your solution. The WORST thing you can do is throw resources at something and not know if it’s working or not.

Step 5. This is the final step and step and it’s to identify the first thing you need to do?

Then the second, third, etc.

Step 5 is all about breaking down what you need to do into bitesize nugget actions. The goal here is to break down your actions so that when you check one off of your to-do list you’ll be greeted with a nice bits of instant gratification. Meaning each action has a specific outcome that not only feeds into the next action but helps you build momentum. Even if you can’t see the very end of the road, map out as many actions as you can and set a benchmark or two. As you’re creeping towards the end revisit, adjust or heck even go back through the framework if you start feeling that decision wanderlust again.

Using this framework when you have to make decisions and identify the types of stuff that drain your decision ability takes patience and practice but if you’re consistent you’ll start to see the productivity payoffs really quickly. In the show notes for Episode 1 at www.disruptivestrategy.co you’ll be able to find a PDF version of this framework to support you making better decisions as well as a link to the James Clear article I mentioned earlier.

Alright that wraps up this episode. Thanks for joining me now get out there and start making better decisions.  I’ll see you in the next one.

Links:

James Clear Article: http://jamesclear.com/willpower-decision-fatigue

 

MVB 000: Welcome | What to Expect

You made it! 

This is the introductory episode of The Minimum Viable Business Podcast. 

In this kick off episode I welcome you to the podcast and talk about how this podcast will support you as you build your business. Below every podcast I'll be posting the show notes and links to any of the resources that are mentioned throughout the show. 

Transcript: 

You’re listening to the Minimum Viable Business Podcast Episode 0. 

<Intro>

Hey there, Nunzio Bruno here and welcome to the prequel to the Minimum Viable Business podcast. I’m thinking of this podcast as an audio version of the scrolling text in the Star Wars movies but better because I’m only going to do this to you once and not before each episode.  

The Minimum Viable Business Podcast is a daily podcast dedicated to helping you take your business off of the backs of napkins and kitchen tables and out into the world delivering your value to the people that really need it. 

I wanted to use this episode to have a bit of a conversation and talk directly to you. That means, if you’re listening and you’re looking for action items, checklists or advice on how to make your business work better then you should probably skip on ahead to Episode 1 or later. 

No hard feelings I promise. 

If you haven’t stopped this podcast to skip ahead to a future episode or stopped to move on to something else entirely - first thank you, have to celebrate the little wins right?! And second let’s start to talk about what I mean by Minimum Viable Business, about how I think I can help you make the most out of the work you’re doing in your business and just a touch of why I might be worth listening to. 

So, what’s Minimum Viable Business all about. Minimum Viable Business is about ruthlessly cutting out all the stuff that can sometimes feel like work but doesn’t actually help to move you and your business forward. It’s about getting to the work that matters, doing your best to figure out why what you’re doing is worth it for the people you serve and then delivering that value. 

That being said I want to stop for a second and give you a quick peak into my life this afternoon. Here’s a real life example of me not delivering on my promise of Minimum Viable Business to me. I literally spent an hour comparing screen capture softwares. I was flipping back and forth between Adobe Captivate and Camtasia because eventually, not today, tomorrow or even next week but eventually, I’ll need something like that for an ecourse I’m working on. A WHOLE HOUR! 

When I realized that I wasn’t actually doing the work that mattered I closed all my browsers, got up, took a second to collect myself and then sat back down and started back at it. You might not realize it but those little rabbit holes add up and when you’re throwing the label of “work” around them it can really slow you down. 

What else is Minimum Viable Business? It’s a process. When I work with new businesses or businesses that are launching some kind of new product or service there’s always a flurry of to do’s and ideas. It’s really a lot of build first and assume someone will buy later. That’s a terrible way to build anything. Minimum Viable Business is about figuring out what the priorities are, how you’re going to measure success, what your workflows look like, why your customers should care and how you’re going to solve that problem you’ve identified. And if you’re listening to this as a seasoned entrepreneur, no - I’m not just biting Steve Blank’s Minimum Viable Product methodology. I think that’s a great tool set to lean on but there’s more to building a business than just interviewing customers, rapid learning and excel spreadsheets. 

In this podcast it’s my goal to provide you with the tools and conversations that will help keep you running lean and mean as you’re building your business.I want to talk to you about more than just the theories and principals about how businesses “should” be built and get into helping you make better decisions one day at a time. 

This podcast is for you if you’ve ever had a business idea and then instantly run out to claim the domain, all the social media handles and even set up the GMail account only to have done nothing with that stuff for the last 3 months. It’s also for you if you’ve worked with a business coach and you were good while you were working but now without them (or maybe even with them) you don’t feel like you’re getting anything done. It’s also for you if you’ve listened to all the business books your Audible subscription let’s you have and you’re still struggling to figure where you should be focusing in your business. Oh oh and can’t forget the #hustle peeps. If you are a #hustle person but you’re more shift-3 than hustle then this is definitely a podcast for you. 

Sometimes it’ll be just me and sometimes I might have a friend or two on board to help out. I hope that means that this podcast and eventual community is doing a good job of helping you go from stuff that feels like work or wantrepreneuring to actually making a difference peoples lives while earning a decent income doing it. 

Side note to future me: If we really do have a community going I want to give future me listening a virtual high five and to remind me to not mess it up. 

So why bother with me. Well if it means anything to you I literally teach this stuff. I’m a professor and have done everything from re-writing and teaching MBA Capstone business strategy classes to teaching economics to that lovely species of college student called freshmen at 8am. I’ve also been in the management consulting and business strategy game for almost a decade working across the spectrum on projects for Fortune 500’s to helping brand new entrepreneurs write their first business plan and helping them pitch it (successfully) to their local bank. I wouldn’t say that I’ve seen it all but I have seen A-LOT. My goal is to help you either avoid or minimize the bumps in the road that I know will come as you’re building something that matters. 

So I just want to say thanks for finding me and that I’m looking forward to being a resource for you. I’ll see you in the next one. 

You can find me on iTunes here. 

Or on Stitcher here