Why Being Nice To Your Coworkers Is Good For Business

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“Who do you want to be? It's a simple question, and whether you know it or not, you're answering it every day through your actions. This one question will define your professional success more than any other, because how you show up and treat people means everything. Either you lift people up by respecting them, making them feel valued, appreciated and heard, or you hold people down by making them feel small, insulted, disregarded or excluded. And who you choose to be means everything.”

Incivility affects your business's bottom line. How? Because how you treat the people you work with and the customers you serve impacts how they interact with you. At the very least incivility demotivates the people around you, makes it hard for them to buy into why they should be working with you and, at worst it turns people way. Incivility could literally be the single biggest driver that is sinking your business. In this TED Talk you’ll see that it literally pays to be kind in your business.

My favorite part of the video is there’s empirical data that supports that nice guys (and gals) don’t finish last. It’s the leaders and business owners that demonstrate civility consistently who prove to be the most impactful leaders in their organizations. I absolutely love this! It’s not about how well your sales funnel works, the colors you choose, or any other tactic; it’s about how you treat people that matters most when it comes to finding success. This even applies for the entrepreneurs and side-hustlers who are a team of one right now.

This week I challenge you to find some inspiration from the most successful CEOs that were mentioned in this TED Talk. Can you find ways to better the culture in which you work, be kinder to the people you serve, or even strive to bring someone up?

Do you lift people up or hold them down? Based on research, Christine Porath shares the costs of incivility and how civility pays. She explains how incivility is a bug—it’s contagious and we become carriers of it just by being around it. Christine reveals the true power of civility and how our little actions matter.

How To Find The Right Price For Your New Program Or Course Offering

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Today I’m going to help you think through how to price your online course, group coaching, or program so that it actually sells.

Let’s start with a scenario:

You’ve spend a big chunk of timing brainstorming, outlining, creating, filming, editing and producing content for an experience you hope to walk your ideal customer through. You’ve done the research, had the customer interviews, set up the platform and have even started to share bits and pieces of your content to start to create awareness around what you’re doing. But, you’re still stuck. You haven’t really launched yet.

Why?

You’re not sure what to charge or the price the internet is telling you to charge feels out of reach for your ideal customers.

You’re worried.

Worried that you put all this time into a transformation you hope to walk people, who need your help, through won’t convert because your price is to high...or too low. You’d be ready for launch if only you found a price you felt was fair, reasonable, worth the time you put into the creation of this course and, won’t scare people away.

You go back to the warm embrace of internet research only to find there’s no real road map for pricing that matches the specialness of the experience that you’ve built. Sure there are pricing tricks and tactics for optimizing online sales but none of them really fit for you. There are no hard and fast rules that dictate "X" number of modules times "Y" number videos equals $"Z". You look to find comparable experiences only to find that prices for courses, programs and coaching swing wildly to virtually nothing to decent used car prices.

And now you’re here. Good! I’m going to help.

Here’s how you can think your way through going from flustered to selling. It’s a framework that helps you think through three very real cost concepts. It will also help you frame the value the work that you’ve done and reinforce the value you’re delivering in exchange for the dollars you’re getting.

The first thing to think through is opportunity cost.

The simple definition of opportunity cost is that it’s the cost of giving up something to gain something. When you’re thinking about the transformation you’re helping people through I challenge you to think of the capital R Real Costs that your ideal customer will continue to incur if they choose not to work with you. The more specific the better. Think about all the things you can actually quantify and how they impact people’s real lives. If you’re saving people time, money, helping them achieve something, work through a personal issue then, what does that mean for them in terms of the things your ideal customers really care about? Here’s an example: If your course is designed to teach someone something that will help them move their business forward faster what does that mean for that customer. Sure generic promises of more money and not wasting time sounds great but you need to go deeper and get specific. You need to do the work to really understand what’s motivating your ideal customer and why they even decided to start that business in the first place.

Here are examples of other questions to think through. Can you quantify time in dollars? Can you quantify what your ideal customer could do with the money instead of spending it on your experience? Can you draw inferences from readily available statistics from places like the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Census.gov, etc relating to consumption trends? Can you reinforce the missed opportunity for your ideal customer in terms of wasting too much time and missing an opportunity because they chose not to invest in you? Can you frame the intangible benefits of working with you that will help your ideal customer achieve success, however they choose to measure it, in a way that makes working with you the smartest alternative? Your ideal customer is giving up their dollars to get your experience, can you frame why that exchange is worth working with you over literally anything else they could be doing with that money?

The second thing I want you to think through are your ideal customer’s sunk costs.

This one can sometimes be a little easier to quantify. It’s the costs of time, money, and/or emotional energy already spent on trying different things to address an issue. If someone in your target market has tried other things to help them achieve their goals that haven't worked, read books, spent time trying to "figure it out" on their own but, constantly come back to the same feelings then you need to talk about it. There might be hard costs associated with using other professionals, medical costs, technology costs, etc that you can estimate for people before they get to you. You might not be able to exactly identify every single cost someone has incurred before they get engage with you which is why your narrative and communicating authentically and emotionally will be important. Going back to our business course example you might be able to identify the sunk costs of inaction for that ideal customer. Time that’s gone by that your ideal customer can’t get back. Staying with time it could the time associated with just being stuck in an endless learning and content consumption loop - how many hours of Gary Vaynerchuk have they watched and are still failing to launch? The ideal customer here may have already tried to hire a coach or invested in other programs or courses. These are all things you can build into the reasons why interacting with you will help your ideal customer actually solve their problem this time.

The last cost concept I want you to think about are the comparative costs.

This one will require you to do a little research and really stretch your understanding of the kinds of substitutes that exist for your offering. From the perspective of your ideal customer there are almost an endless amount of available substitutes they can engage with. Everyone in every market has competition and that competition is also vying for the discretionary dollars of your target market. Your goal is to figure out where you stack and if possible position yourself in a way that makes you the better choice among your competitors. That might mean you’re a little cheaper, your solution walks your ideal customer through a transformation a little faster, or the resources your offering are comparatively a little more robust. I want you to think about comparative costs like bumpers in a bowling alley. They’re there to make sure that even the worst of balls thrown don’t end up in the gutter and missing all the pins. These bumpers will help you avoid pricing too high or too low. Using our business course example again, what real substitutes could someone buy to get a comparable experience? Are there books? Low cost courses on giant e-learning platforms? Similar practitioners with similar offers (possibly with more digital clout than you)? Digital tools that offer the same kind of promise? Free services like SCORE or other incubators that offer resources? Are there national averages or studies from reputable places that can quantify the value of working with someone like you one on one? What about more traditional professionals like attorneys and CPA’s also offering business advice? How do you stack up against the Tai Lopez’s of the internet business growth hacking world? These are all questions that you need to ask because it will help you assess the wants, needs, and the willingness and ability for people to consume your stuff in that market. Don’t forget to think outside the box too. The ideal customer in this example could also be thinking that opening a brick and mortar location will solve their problems so you might need to factor in the real costs of opening a physical location against what you’re trying to help them achieve. See, it can definitely end up being a bit of rabbit hole.

Don’t get lost though you’re almost there.

At the end of this process you’ll have notes and thoughts shooting in all kinds of directions. Ultimately what you choose to charge is up to you but, it should fall somewhere in between or close to what people are already willing and able to pay, what they’d expect to find out in the world, and a bargain compared to the cost of not working with you. To wrap this up with our business course let’s just do a simple accounting of what super basic research might yield:

Opportunity Cost - Years of trial and error, lost customers, less time with family, sinking savings into a slow growing business, forgone interest if just invested that money in a CD, etc.

Sunk Costs - Failed previous coaches, purchased sales management software that didn’t work, books, curated mastermind group, other ecourses, etc.

Comparative Costs - Business Attorney, CPA, Free SCORE, other courses, similar coaches, related coaches/consulting promising same results, etc.

Summary - Your business course promises to cut the growth time in half over using other professionals and shorten the learning curve for your business. Pricing might be somewhere between the cost of spending the same time working with a traditional professional service provider using average hourly rates to get a baseline to the upper ends of what the internet business gurus are charging. Here’s where knowing the ins and outs of your ideal customer really matters in terms of where they are in their lives, where they are in their business journey, and, the real value you’re providing when it comes to getting close to figuring out what they’d be willing and able to spend.

The goal is that you have to use all three of these to tell a complete story and position your offer in the best possible pricing light. Depending on your offering and your target market this process could be really easy or really challenging. That won’t slow you down because at the end you’ll not only have a price that you believe in, you’ll have a price you can justify. Regardless of the words that come out of people’s mouths when it comes to spending or what the news says about the economy; it’s a tried and true fact that people will always spend money on the things they believe are worth it. Seriously, in economics it’s all those conversations around inferior goods, normal goods, and price elasticity of demand. I’m saving you from having to flip through old text books or watch Microeconomics YouTube videos because the moral of the story is that your prices are communicating that you’re the best option to help them achieve their goals.

2 Steps To Better Accountability In Your Business

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Accountability is one of those things that as an entrepreneur, side hustler, and business builder you hear/read a ton about.

It’s almost impossible to flip through an your favorite business podcasts, blogs and even trade publications and not see something about accountability.

And for good reason!

There are probably hundreds of thousands of businesses that never get a fair shake because their founders couldn’t figure out how to keep themselves accountable.

Accountability lore is littered with bits and nuggets of productivity and business building science but, it’s something that you still struggle with. You read, research and consume everything you can so that you can hopefully do the things you said you would. It’s not always easy to get the work out of your head and into the hands and hearts of the people that need it the most.

Sound like you? A little bit? It’s definitely something I struggle with from time to time.

By the end of this post you will have two simple guidelines to follow to help keep you and your business running the way you want. This is not going to be one of those posts that tells you to put sticky notes on your mirrors and to announce your intentions to the universe.

Why?

Because it’s easy to ignore (or rationalize away) a note you posted and even easier to dismiss the universe because the universe is not someone (something?) that you interact intimately with on a daily basis.

When everything is going well in your business you don’t have to think about accountability. You are hitting the milestones you set for yourself, making progress on the goals you set for the business and you may even have repeat customers. It’s when things go a little unplanned, when your launch isn’t as big as you thought or when suddenly you have more competitors that you realized that you have to really lean on keeping yourself accountable as an entrepreneur.

It’s easy to walk away when things get hard. It’s easy to blame any number of externalities if your audience didn’t “get” what you were trying to put in front of them. What’s tough is picking your head up and looking around. What’s tough as an entrepreneur is figuring out how to hold yourself accountable.

Here’s the first step in holding yourself accountable:

1. Give up control.

When you, the person, are the business it’s easy to wake up everyday and change the rules a little bit. It’s harder to do that when you create and establish a business that has it’s own, well communicated, values, mission and strategy for growth. I know it might sound arbitrary if you are a solopreneur or part of a really early stage joint venture but stay with me. When you are out in the world talking to people and engaging with them online, part of what they see is the business that you are representing. Authenticity really starts to take hold when you, the person, mirror what you’re telling the people you interact with what is important to your business. Armed with the knowledge that most people decide to do business with those that they know, like and trust, how you align who you are personally deciding to do each day with what your business claims you do creates a nice feedback loop. Actions always speak louder than words - unless their written words online..then it’s an action, may be. This is not openly telling the universe to hold you accountable. Giving up control forces you to keep yourself accountable because every decision you make is going to be measured against your claims of the business and scored by everyone you interact with.

Just thinking about that dynamic gives me the accounta-goosebumps.

The second rule I’m adapting from my friends in the Lean Startup scene.

2. Validated Learning.

Your business is probably going to change as time passes. Your customers tastes and expectations will change. The technology you choose will change. Your business model might even change. All that is ok and necessary for you to keep your business relevant in the eyes of the people you are trying to serve. Validated learning is important here because it’s a concept that gives you permission to create hypotheses about what’s going on the world around you, take little risks, plan experiments and apply what you learn for the betterment of your business. Validated learning acts as mini booster shots for your accountabilities immune system. It does this because every time an opportunity comes up to apply something you learn in your business you have a choice. You can choose to make the change, that’s holding yourself accountable, or you can choose to do nothing and continue to run your business with systems, processes or products that don’t work so well.

If you are serious about building a better business and earning better profits why wouldn’t you apply the things you learn?! When you build validated learning into your business you are essentially tricking yourself into holding you accountable. It’s a beautiful thing!

These are two very real things you can start to do right now that will force you to take better actions in your business. I’m pretty sure no one likes to be micromanaged but if it’s your business that is micromanaging you it might be ok and validated learning takes the choices almost right out of your hands. So figure out how to structure your first few ideas to test and get (even more) clear on what your business stands for and get to work!

Avoid These 7 New Business Mistakes

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The cost of entry when it comes to starting a new business is literally zero. Well, plus or minus some time and elbow grease I guess. But, it honestly doesn’t even take that long to get your business online and set up. It costs nothing to get an email address from Google that you can then use to sign up for Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and a handful of other platforms. Places like Canva make design super easy, aren’t intimidating, and are also free. You don’t even need a website anymore with how robust and connected a well built Facebook Business Page can be. 

What does that mean? It means you can start a business at any time from anywhere. 

So, when that next brilliant idea strikes should you just jump right int? 

No. 

It’s been a while since I’ve posted anything here so I wanted to ease into it with a punch list of reasons why you should take a pause and some time to really think through your new (or rebranded) business idea. Especially, if you’re expecting to build a lasting business. 

Here’s my list of reasons you should take some time to really think through your new business:

1. Your branding matters. Just because you can slam some text over an image doesn’t mean that you’re communicating your message clearly and effectively. 

2. Just because you can post whatever you want, whenever you want doesn’t mean it’s going to inspire people to pay attention to you. If you can’t get them to pay attention you won’t ever be able to inspire them to take action. 

3. Have you actually thought about your business model? It’s great to post pictures and to try to market your stuff but do you even know if your target market wants what you’re thinking of offering? 

4. Did you take any time in deciding if there was even a market? There’s lots of advice out there that purports that if you scratch your own itch then you’ll have a successful business. Sounds great, often flawed if you don’t think through the value proposition. 

5. A sustainable business needs a cohesive mission. Whether your offerings are unique, clever, useful, a value-adding thing, or any other descriptive marketing buzzword it won’t matter if you aren’t communicating consistent messages. Engagement is a cognitively taxing endeavor for would-be consumers. If you constantly change your messaging (like a restaurant constantly changing a menu) people will ultimately decide that the work isn’t worth the value-exchange anymore. 

6. Building a business takes work. Real life isn’t a Kevin Costner movie and “if you build it they will come” is a bad business model. 

7. Paying for a bunch of software isn’t going magically do the work for you. The same goes for any “partners” or help you may or may not have. Managing expectations has to have a real priority so making sure everyone is on the same page is huge. Setting goals, managing schedules, and planning content so that it serves a purpose (and your audience) should not be taken lightly. 

I could go on but I think you get the idea here. I’m all for acting quickly when it comes to filling a need in a market and building a business. But, that action has to come from a place of strategically thinking through the problem you’re solving or the opportunity your seizing. Just working on something for the sake of working on it is not just unsustainable, it’s a recipe for an unsuccessful business. Plus, it’s really hard to change your Facebook Business Page name if you decide that what you initially decided doesn’t mesh with the rest of your branding once you actually flush it out. 

Save time by taking a little extra time to think it through - then go nuts. 
 

Nail Down Your Business Plan And Elevator Pitch Now!

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Business plans and crafting pitches are a few of my favorite things to talk about. When executed well they are tools that can really support you as you’re working to grow your business. Your plan acts as a bit of a roadmap and your pitch, how you’re getting down the road. I also really like to talk about them because they’re so amorphic. Depending on who you’re presenting to, the presentation style, organization of information, and even some of the business details can change dramatically. 

I know, I’m weird because I think all that uncertainty is really fun. You, dear business builder, shouldn’t be scared though. Because at the end of the day the least common denominator of every business plan is just answering the “how” and “what” questions in your business and your pitch answers the “why”. Here’s an analogy I like to use - your business is like an arcade machine. In the sea of classic arcade games, skee ball lanes, and pinball machines your job is to be entertaining enough to get someone to wander over to you and then engaging enough for you to get them to put their quarters in. Then, once they pay all you have to do is deliver on the experience you promised. 

That’s it! 

So in this post, I’m going to give you two quick frameworks. One to help you nail down a simple business plan and the second framework is a crash course in perfecting your pitch. 

Let’s get into the business planning. 

Now, this framework is designed to help you rough sketch your business plan. Knowing that different audiences will need to see different things in different formats means you’ll need a foundation to draw from. That’s where my 5 Minute Business Plan comes in. It’s designed to help you get refocused on the days that have you wondering if what you are doing actually matters. (You don’t even have to be an entrepreneur to understand that feeling.) Forcing yourself to do something like this every once and a while helps to keep you connected to what you are doing - more than just reading your mission statement over again. It can also help to reveal any changes in how you feel about what you’re doing or if the needs of your market have changed since you’ve started. This can lead to a pivot in your service/product outcome and can keep you relevant. 

This business plan is only five questions long and ideally should have you only thinking about a minute or two for each question. You aren’t trying to create some be-all-end-all plan you are connecting to how what you are doing now matters. My advice is to just copy and paste these questions and then do some free writing for the answers. After you are done you can take those answers and match them against your current list of business activities or mission that you have. If the new answers are different from what you’ve been doing, you know that you have some more exploring to do. 

1. Who are you, what’s your story, and why should I be interested in what you are doing? (Think Mission and Values.)

2. What is the problem you are solving? What are the real pain points for people you are addressing? How is your solution better than your competitors? (Do you know if competitors actually exist?) 

3. What is your solution? How do you bring that solution to the market? What are your factors of production and distribution? How are you organized or structured? 

4. How are you financed? Where do your sales come from? What do your cash flows look like? Are you P/L profitable but don’t have enough cash to pay fixed expenses - if so why? Is your margin high enough to cover expenses? What is your burnout rate? 

5. How are you attracting people to you? How are they hearing about who you are and what you do? Where does your engagement come from? What is your platform or Do you have a platform? Are you tracking your marketing efforts for efficiency?  

If you find your answers changing over time that’s ok - just make sure you are monitoring those changes. Changes that foster an environment for growth are great! I think it’s really important to write these out every once and awhile. Thinking about them is good but you won’t be able to track how your thoughts about your business change because our thoughts are always so fluid. Plus, it’s good to have a standard foundation to build future plans from. Also, in terms of economic players, people, in general, are amazing at rationalizing and you won’t be able to get any real information from the stories you tell yourself on a daily basis about your business. 

One down. One to go. 

Now we’re getting into the pitch framework. 

First I wanted to talk briefly about how important your 90 Second Elevator Pitch is for everyday life. This is not just a skill to have refined but a resource you should have at the ready and it won’t matter where you are: networking events, social events, family events or even professional events. Whenever you meet someone new one of the questions you are probably always going to get asked is “What do you do?” Are you prepared for that answer? As a business builder, how are you going to possibly create enough impact with that person that they might actually want to continue to engage with you? Which can include buying from you, collaborating with you, or referring to you? 

The web and social media make great support tools but you have to be able to confidently convey your mission, values, and efficacy face to face at some point in the transaction - or at least face to video screen. So here is a framework to ensure that your elevator pitch is effective, entertaining, and ideally profitable. 

1. Practice. Developing a pitch takes work.

There is no getting around that. You may know how great you or your products are but you need to be able to tell other people that in a succinct way. Rehearsals, rewrites, and even peer reviews are a great way to sharpen your pitch. Remember most of the time you are going to be talking to your stakeholders and not banks or venture capitalists. So make sure the language you choose is appropriate for the right audience. You should definitely have a few versions so that you can always land right where your listeners are. Practice also means you will have a basic core of information that you know you are constantly giving out each time you present. This makes it easier for people to remember, refer, and talk about you later because it’s the same type of story each time. 

2. Identify the pain points your product or services addresses early on.

Odds are your audience won’t have a lot of time or even interest if you start droning on about how special or unique your process is - worse off how great it will be for them if they try it. So avoid that by asking about an experience that anyone can relate to, the more uncomfortable and universal the better. Don’t be afraid to ask a few well-prepared questions to get a handle on your current landscape. You can get creative here as long as you tie it back to how what you do addresses either the feelings of a situation you described or the problem itself. 

3. Identify what makes you unique (read: better than the rest) and positioned as the best solution to those pain points in the second tip.

This will also give you the opportunity to expand on the needs you satisfy in your market as well as the scale of that market. You should also be mentioning the types of clients/customers you serve as well as how you bring your solution to market. You have to remember though this pitch isn’t really about you. It’s about getting those around you invested in what you do - dropping emotional and even rational anchors on those listening in. 

4. Really avoid filler, buzzwords, and truisms.

Truisms happen when you get too invested and believe your own marketing and hype. That might work for you but your listener might not consider those things entirely true at all or even share the same point of view - think about the last time you heard a financial advisor speak about something with absolute certainty...Yeah, odds are those were personalized truisms based on some nugget of information that might have been factual at the start but by the time you hear the pitch that information was mutilated and has been taken astray. As for filler and buzzwords, they are never good. You want to craft your pitch as though you were talking to a 6-year-old. Not because people aren’t smart but because you want to make sure that all of your audience understands you and what you do. All that extra stuff carries a chance of making people feel left out and distracting from your actual message. 

5. Calls to action are great and hard unreasonable closes are the opposite of great.

When deciding what your calls to action are going to be you really have to think about your goals. Are you looking for referrals, for someone not to throw away your business card, or just information and an introduction? All those things mean you have to build trust in a very short amount of time. Unless you are on the TV show Shark Tank you probably won’t be asking for an instantly massive hard close or sale. Remember you are talking to people and they are the ones who will ultimately decide whether you have proven yourself enough to be engaged with. Be very careful with how you ask someone to take action. If you say you are going to follow up, you better follow up! 

There you have it. 

I know that this post was a bit long and dense but it had to be done. These two concepts are really two sides of the same business development coin. You can’t sell if you aren’t really connected to what you do. My challenge to you is to try to use each of these frameworks earnestly and trust that process will make you a more focused business builder on the other side. 
 

Looking to Innovate or Figure Out What's Possible? Start Here.

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It’s always awesome to listen to a physicist talk about not just what’s possible but what’s attainable when it comes to bringing new ideas to life. Vittorio Loreto definitely gives you a lot to think about and even though it’s through the lens of S.T.E.M. the concepts are absolutely applicable to business and entrepreneurial endeavors. 

With this post, I want to throw down the proverbial gauntlet and challenge you to experience this TED Talk and then apply its framework to what you’re building. Can you create value in a new and interesting way for the people that you serve by thinking about what’s adjacently possible?

Just in case you need a little more before investing 16 minutes of your time to grow here’s this TED Talk’s abstract:

“Where do great ideas come from?" Starting with this question in mind, Vittorio Loreto takes us on a journey to explore a possible mathematical scheme that explains the birth of the new. Learn more about the "adjacent possible" -- the crossroads of what's actual and what's possible -- and how studying the math that drives it could explain how we create new ideas.”

#MondayMotivation

Decoding "Work + Luck = Success" To Help You Grow Your Business

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I’m keeping the math-centric posts rolling as this week we’re blowing up one of my favorite generic business adages…

 WORK + LUCK = SUCCESS

In this post we are going to factor this formula down to its most basic components so that you can actually assess where you are today in your business and create a plan to grow.

If you’ve been following me for a while you probably know that I’m not a fan of buzzwords or generic business cliches because they don’t do anything to actually help you grow. Sure, you might be able to impress people at parties this summer by dropping two-dollar Lean Six Sigma abbreviations and generically quoting how important creating systems are to growing a business but, when it’s just you facing the white light of your monitor what are you actually doing to grow? 

Either not much or the wrong kind of work I’m guessing. 

I’m here to help you cut the B.S., take an honest assessment and start doing work that matters. “Working harder” probably isn’t the answer and throwing yourself a pity party by blaming someone else’s success purely on luck isn’t doing anything to improve where you are today. 

So let’s get into it. 

In the first round of factoring, I want to break each of the three components into either a more meaningful function or a clear definition. When we do that to WORK + LUCK = SUCCESS we get: 

WORK = Skills X Activity 

LUCK = The condition of creating excessive or unexpected value or return. 

SUCCESS = The achievement of some desired goal or outcomes. 

We can do better than this though and drill down another level. 

You know that working in your business is a function of your ability to do something and the actions you take every day. That work doesn’t help you achieve your goals unless you’re doing it directly in the service of the people you’re trying to help. So we need to add an extra variable, and then you can factor that down a little more by breaking out that work function as follows: 

WORK = Skills X Activity >> (Customers + (Skills X Action)) 

Now ontop LUCK. I’m not satisfied with the traditional definition because it doesn’t really paint an accurate picture of the stuff that you can do every day to help your business grow. So let’s massage that definition a bit by asking a question. How do you create conditions that would yield unexpected returns or value? You do that by showing up. Gary Vaynerchuk has a great analogy about “at bats”. To paraphrase, you’re not going to get good enough to hit a home run if you don’t step up to the plate as many times as you possibly can. So LUCK is about showing up consistently and in frequencies that are higher than you’re probably comfortable doing right now. Well, what does showing up mean? It means creating more opportunities for people to find you, engage with you, learn from you, get to know you and trust you. When you do more of that you’re more likely to see more people buy more from you. (Six Flags: More Flags. More Fun.)

LUCK = f(# of times you show up), where f( ) notation represents that it’s a function of the number of times you show up. 

Lastly is SUCCESS. This can mean almost anything to anyone. It really comes down to honestly and authentically understanding what drives you and your what your goals are. Success can be about serving a certain number of customers, hitting a revenue target or even growing enough to hire your first employee. The trick to measuring success is to quantify the outcomes. You can also think about success as a nested function meaning that your success might be the function of a whole bunch of quantifiable goals, benchmarks, and outcomes. 

It might look something like (but not limited to): 

SUCCESS = Specific Goals + Desired Outcomes

We just did a lot of factoring. Let’s put it all together. 

WORK + LUCK = SUCCESS

Really looks like, 

(Customers + (Skills X Action)) + f(showing up) = Specific Goals + Desired Outcomes

My factored out expression looks way more realistic to manage than the cliche adage. With my expression you can look at your business and decide where you need a little more support and focus directly on those parts. 

Neet more customers? Think about where they are coming from, your branding and how you’re showing up. 

Not delivering the results you promised? Think about investing more time into developing skills and knowledge. 

Working 100 hours per week and you aren’t seeing any growth? Think about the kinds of work you’re doing and how that work directly impacts the specific goals you’ve set for yourself. 
I could keep going but I think you get the idea. With this new expression you can create a real plan to not only get better but to track your progress. It also strips away all your excuses because it makes you responsible for everything that happens in your business. It makes it really hard to blame some hard to understand mystic concept of cosmic luck when things aren’t going your way. Are there going to be circumstances where probability plays a big role in an opportunity? Sure. But you can’t control that. What you can control is how often and how real you show up everyday and with that the probability of some unlikely probabilistic circumstance finding its way to you. 

Now that you have this it’s time to take a hard look at your business. Try assessing the work you’re doing against this simple expression. Try to tighten up how you’re measuring the work you’re doing as well as how you’re measuring the results. Then, start making your own luck. 
 

How To Price Your Product Using Weber's Law

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It’s time to talk about a business concept that is literally the melding of science and art. It’s a concept that was brought to life by 19th-century physiologists and psychologists and one that you interact with on a daily basis. I’m talking about Weber’s Law. Weber’s Law, also known as Weber-Fechner Law is a law that helps us understand, or quantify rather, the perception of changes in a given stimulus. The law states that the change in a stimulus that will be just noticeable, barely perceivable, is actually a constant ratio of the original stimulus. 

Expressed as a function it looks like: 

ΔI/I = k

That’s the change in the stimulus over the initial stimulus and the k signifies that this proportion is a constant regardless of the size of the changes in stimulus or initial stimulus. 

Woah, woah, woah here…

I promised you science and art and all I’ve done so far is geek out about a law that illustrates how people perceive changes is things and stuff. The things and stuff that I’m most interested in talking to you about today are how consumers, your customers even, perceive changes in price. 

Weber’s Law is relatively easy to understand as it’s just saying that when initial values are small it’s easier to perceive small changes in them and to tell those two things apart. When things get bigger like prices, weights, numbers of things, it’s harder to perceive the same small change. So, for example, it’s easier to perceive the difference between two goods that have a $5 difference when one of the goods are $10 and the other is $15. Not hard to see that one costs over 30% more than the other. Well, what about that same $5 change when the goods are $95 and $100. It’s still a $5 change but the perception of that change can be a little harder to feel. That $5 change represents only a 5% change. 

When you understand how people are likely to perceive a change in price you can better position yourself within a crowded market or better still figure out how to start thinking about how you should be pricing your products or services. For the sake of simplicity, I’m going to drop one of my favorite phrases when I teach my undergrad Econ class, all else equal. To keep this conversation easy to follow I don’t want to talk about people’s changing tastes and expectations, their propensities to consume, price elasticities of demand, etc. The only thing I want to talk about is how you can apply Weber’s Law to your business right now. 

If you’ve spent any time researching how to build a business on the internet or how to market you’ve likely come across the adage that you should price based on the value you’re delivering and that you should do your best to charge a premium. The premium is a helpful consumer behavior trigger and signal because it shows that if they buy from you they’re on the hook for their experience and if you’re charging a lot it’s because you know what the heck you’re talking about. If you haven’t seen anything like that before, well, it’s pretty standard advice and it’s advice that I plan on kicking up a notch or two with the help of my friend, Weber’s Law. 

Let’s start by setting some pretty common thresholds. These are price barriers or tiers that people seem to use as anchors when they’re deciding whether or not they should buy. To be clear I don’t have rigorously tested empirical data here I’m just leaning on my experiences working with hundreds of business owners of the years and the resources I have access to as a serial adjunct business professor. 

The tiers are as follows: 

  1. $20 and under
  2. $21 to $99
  3. $100 to $499 
  4. $500 +

A relatively small change within each of these items would be almost imperceptible to people that are willing or able to consume your goods or services. For example, Hulu and Netflix have crept up in prices over the years. When the changes happen they are usually in an increment of a few dollars or so. When those price changes are coming, the media does a great job of sensationalizing those changes but when all that media fades those businesses not only retain their customers but they grow. Why?! Because of the perceived value, because of the promise of original content and because the perception of the actual price change isn’t big enough to change most people’s behavior. Wow, I (f*cking) love science! 

Think about it, we chalk up price increases over time as normal. Sure, a part of that will be inflationary pressures on the standards we need and use daily but price levels overall are creeping up and the sizes of goods (bags of chips, candy bars, etc.) are going down because companies know they can change little bits over time and those changes won’t be the thing that alters consumer behavior. 

So how can you apply Weber’s Law to your business? Well first off, take a look at your current pricing. There’s no reason you can’t float your way up to the top of any of the tiers I’ve outlined. Sure you might have to flex your rationalizing muscles a bit and yes you may lose a few customers but, overall your business will benefit as most people won’t have a problem with incremental increases over time. 

What this also means is that you have an opportunity to segment your offerings. Creating experiences that align at the top ends of each of these tiers will communicate that your customers will expect different levels of quality, service, access, materials etc. That’s a good thing! I’m not advocating that you use this as a way to pull the wool over the eyes of the people that choose to spend their money on you. What I am saying is that you can manage expectations and create an environment where your customers know what to expect and are confident that they will get the value you promised them at each of these tiers. 

As a student of the internet, I can honestly say that I’ve fallen victim to the pricing trap having spent money on courses in the $500+ tier thinking they would be the answer to all my problems only to find that in reality, I bought a bunch of poorly made slides repackaging commonly slung information. They may have got my business once but they won’t again. You don’t want to build a business like that. In fact, it’s flat out unsustainable. If you plan on sticking around in your business and are playing the long game you need to build a devoted base of loyal customers and followers. You do that by delivering value every day. 

Sorry, I know I got a little ranty just now but it’s because I know that, as Spiderman’s Uncle Ben is quoted to say, with great power comes great responsibility. 

Ok to sum up what we have here: 

  • Relative small change in small dollar good or service will be perceptible and have a chance to change buyer behavior. 
  • Relative small change in big dollar good or service is borderline imperceptible. 
  • Relative big change in small dollar good or service will most likely change buyer behavior. 
  • Relative big change in big dollar good or service will be perceptible. 

Don’t forget that these changes can be increases or decreases. A good sale is only good if it’s enough to motivate buyers to engage which means it needs to be perceptible. Sales are great for generating revenue in the short term, turning over inventory, or just a little attention grab. 

Now get out there and start charging what you're worth! 

Oh and if you want to see a really awesome (nerdy) math video on Weber's Law then you should definitely check out this video from the Numberphile Channel on YouTube. 


 

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe

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“You know, in the military, they give medals to people who are willing to sacrifice themselves so that others may gain. In business, we give bonuses to people who are willing to sacrifice others so that we may gain. We have it backwards. Right?”

In today’s post, I want to cover leadership through the wisdom of Simon Sinek. In this TED Talk Simon talks about the importance of fostering the feelings of safety as a leader. I believe this applies to those of us building businesses with internal stakeholders like employees as well as the solopreneurs and small businesses that only have external stakeholders like vendors and customers/clients. 

Why? 

To paraphrase from Simon; when people feel safe there’s a natural tendency to cooperate. It’s cooperation that drives success. I don’t necessarily mean the play nice in the sandbox kind of cooperation, that counts too, but it’s the cooperation we earn when we ask of someone. The safety in knowing that your audience isn’t wasting their time or consuming bad content when you ask for your audience’s attention or better to spend their discretionary dollars on you. Being a good leader means creating an environment where the people around you feel safe enough to let their guards down so that there’s an opportunity to get to know, like and trust you. 

Getting people to know, like, and trust you are the foundational pillars for growing a business that lasts. 

Business development isn’t just a quantity game, it’s about developing yourself as a leader, regardless of your perceived position in life, professional experience, or technical knowledge. Leadership is also a choice you have to actively make every day. You know what’s also a choice? Investing about twelve minutes of your time today to help you think about how you’re doing your part to make the people around you feel safe so that you can authentically grow your business.

You choose. 

What makes a great leader? Management theorist Simon Sinek suggests, it's someone who makes their employees feel secure, who draws staffers into a circle of trust. But creating trust and safety - especially in an uneven economy - means taking on big responsibility.

PS - If you’re looking to supercharge your decision-making process you should also choose to jump in on the Disruptive Strategy Newsletter at the bottom of the page. When you join the community you’ll get access to resources and a community dedicated to helping you grow delivered neatly to your inbox. 

Business Development: Heart and Hustle Edition

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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 of 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 murky 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 than 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 the 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 with 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 salesperson blasting their offerings on their personal Facebook Page or real estate professional coldly mining for referrals.  

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. (Here's a link to a post that outlines 10 tactics you can put into action right now.) 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. Your 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 click baited 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. 

Make Better Business Decisions

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Have you been decisive lately?

It may have been a while since you hung your business shingle and opened up shop. Or, you may still be working on hanging that shingle for the first time. Regardless of where you are today on your entrepreneurial journey, there is one thing that's consistent - you have to make choices.

Every. Single. Day. 

Every minute of every day you are making decisions. I mean, you decided that the link to this post/blog title was worth a look. When you did that you made an instant choice. You made a choice that meant you’d be giving up your time, and the opportunity cost that goes with this time, to get a little more insight on making decisions.

(This is very meta.)

I think it was a good choice and I hope you will by the end of this post too. 

When you decide to allocate something as simple as a few moments it might not feel like a significant trade but trust me, it matters. You are, whether consciously or not, acknowledging that you are willing and able to give up that time in exchange for some kind of value. In economics classes all around the world, this phenomenon is explained as the elasticity of demand. In literal fractions of a second, you measured the possible benefit of the insight of this post against a slew of criteria in which the aggregate of totals who you are as a person. 

What you do with your time you do with every other resource. Crazy, I know and it gets better.  

In the early stages of building a business, it feels like you have to make a lot of hard and fast choices. There are tradeoffs punching you in the face from every direction. Things like how you set your prices and deciding on the business activities that will make up what you do from day to day. You're putting the foundation in place so that people can find you, learn about you, like you and decide that your offer is worth their dollars.

It can feel like a lot all at once and it can be exhausting. So, how do you develop the stamina to make good decisions on the regular? 

Let's start by working through the biggest decision-making hurdles. The first trap I see most often is entrepreneurs holding on the freedom to make choices which really means overcoming the "maybes". 

Hoarding your freedom to make choices is a terrible thing.  Being an opportunity miser is actually keeping you from making any real progress. You are constantly burying yourself in the super extremes of opportunity costs and for good reason, so you think. Resources are scarce even for businesses that seem to be thriving, that’s always a barrier you will bump up against. Making bad decisions and hoarding freedom of choice can actually do more damage to your business than making decently-informed-probably-not-perfect choices. Why, because you're missing out on opportunities! If you don't invest your time, money or emotional energy you'll never take any action and you won't make any progress. 

These next few are smaller but worth acknowledging. These are the fallacies that will eat up lots of time, energy, and produce more stress than your body should probably be handling. 

Fallacy busting.

First is the Information Mud Pit. Feeling like you need as much information as possible from as many different experts, gurus and websites is like having your car stuck in the mud while you just hammer the accelerator. Sure it’s going to make lots of noise, throw lots of dirt around, and maybe even start to give you some forward motion but eventually, you are just going to overheat your engine, breakdown and still be stuck.

Don’t let your brain throttle about in the mud and then break down. All those expert sources are just people and they may not be in exactly your situation. Do those people have the same values, personal/professional experiences, or even biases that you do? Work on gathering enough information to cover any of the possible outcomes you can predict (there will be some you won’t be able to predict) and move from there. Just like getting out of the mud in your car it’s going to take a little patience, finesse, and the right tools. Not all the tools ever made – the same goes for research.

Next is being too busy. Everyone is busy so that excuse can’t cut it anymore. What you are doing is finding new and different (read: easier) things to deal with that can give you some satisfaction from safe handling the things on your to-do list that can be completed with the least amount of energy and work. The other part of the being too busy is trying to multi-task a little too much. When your attention is always diverted in lots of different directions the choices you make tend to be less informed, less qualified, less efficient, and just chock-full-of-mediocre. So no more excuses as they will just keep stressing you out as your list of decisions won’t be getting smaller.

The last fallacy I want to kick in the face is that you can’t get what needs to be done because there are always little fires that need your immediate attention. The problem isn’t that you are constantly in a flurry of micro-emergencies, it’s that you have failed to set your priorities. Decision making effectively takes a little work and a little prep time. It’s in the prep time that you should be stripping out your decisions and reorganizing them in a way that reflects their relative importance. I think there is a lot of importance in building momentum in getting things done but you shouldn’t front load your decisions will all the easy stuff. You won’t be taking advantage of the momentum and flexing your decision-making muscles the best way unless you prioritize.

Now that we busted a few fallacies let’s get to some action steps help make you a lean, mean decision making machine.

1. Are you actually making the decision? Sounds like a silly question to ask but it’s important to think about who really has the final say. If you are a solopreneur it may very well be you. But are you part of a team or have a partner you have to run this by? Decide who is going to be making that decision and then move forward with purpose.

2. Set the stage. Very few decisions we make will only affect us. So it’s important to consider how your decision is going to affect the rest of your business and stakeholders. Make sure that everyone is comfortable with what’s going on and understands at least a few of the major consequences of those choices.

3. Make every decision (even the tiny ones) part of the big picture. Remember when you started your business you put a whole bunch of time and effort into your values and mission. Yeah, those still exist. So make sure that your decisions are in line with what you want your business to continue to be and to be perceived being. Everything from color pallets, paper supplies, and even how you package your product will all impact how your brand is perceived.

4. Do your research. At this point I would like to direct your attention up a few paragraphs to part about hiding behind information.  You want to make sure that when you are making your considerations you are using good information – good in, hopefully good out. Keep your information lean and relevant. What that means for you is that you do not necessarily need to be an expert on how paper products are manufactured and distributed to pick a new coffee cup vendor.

5. Consider solutions, side effects and possibilities. You want to make sure you try to anticipate as many possible outcomes as possible. Not all your decisions are going to be of Earth-shattering magnitude but it’s important to be aware of how your decisions will interact with the rest of what your business and environment have going on. Your goal should be to get the most out of whatever your resources are all the time. That and making sure all the different departments continue to play nice together to make your business be the best it can.

Before we finish this post I wanted to cover one more thing.

It’s a concept that goes hand in hand with making decisions and that is managing integrity. Your businesses integrity is more than just making sure that all your decisions are in line with your business mission. It’s about allowing your customers and stakeholders to trust your business. It’s trust in you and your brand that will keep your customers coming back. You get to be a trusted resource by continuing to make decisions (for your offerings and how you manage your business) that continue to improve the experience for the customer and client. That includes how you manage your finances, how you handle bad customer experiences, and even how you choose to interact with your community.

Integrity Pro Tips:

1. Always do your best to meet your commitments – saying no sometimes is ok.

2. Treat everyone with respect that includes your competitors and even naysayers.

3. Always be honest. If a delivery is late, you’ve made an error, or shipped the wrong product out - your customers will always appreciate you being open and upfront. Their compassion and respect for you because of that honesty might actually surprise you.

Get Practical for Real and Sustainable Business Growth

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When you hear the word entrepreneur what do you think about? Who comes to mind? What scenes play out in your imagination? 

Are you taken back to a Gary Vaynerchuk video you watched earlier that day? 

Do you think about what it would feel like to be rubbing elbows with Mark Cuban and Mr. Wonderful on Shark Tank? 

Maybe it’s the Facebook posts of Tai Lopez that you skip over in your news feed? 

Or, it’s none of those. Maybe it’s the process of chasing venture (or angel) capital for an idea and the art of the deal that gets your engine going. 

The point I’m trying to make is that I’m pretty sure there’s a noticeably smaller population of people that hear the word entrepreneur and instantly associate it with the definition of the word practical. 

I’m willing to bet that most of you reading this don’t think of putting in long hours, writing blog posts that go unread for months (or years), showing up to do a Facebook Live every week to an audience of one or two, and writing hundreds of yet to be responded to prospecting emails a month as entrepreneurship. 

The sad thing is that it’s the business builders who understand the reality of their market and who are thinking practically are going to be the ones that win. And, it’s a small proportion indeed. 

Why? 

Because those practical entrepreneurs aren’t distracted and aren’t feeding this romantic disconnect between where they are today and what “could be” for them. The probability of going from where you are today to Taylor Swift levels of success is small. Really, really small. It’s not impossible but it is improbable. This post’s goal isn’t to tell you that you shouldn’t dream big but it is going to help you reframe how you’re building your business so you can attack it practically and build momentum over time. Most importantly I want to help you shake the romantic idea of what it means to be an entrepreneur and instead embrace the work it takes to build a business you care about and that is good enough to contribute to the life you want to build for yourself. 

Whether you’re just starting out or have been at it a while I challenge you to get a little more practical with how you’re investing your time, money, and resources. I challenge you to embrace these three practical tenants. 

1. You’re always going to be racing against obscurity. 

There’s no reason your business shouldn’t be everywhere online. You need to make sure you have a presence in all the places people look for and validate against, information about businesses online. You have to be constantly wearing two hats, the business owner had and the media business hat. From a practical perspective, you are competing against the attention of everyone when it comes to marketing online. You’re competing against someone’s new baby pictures and also against businesses like Tai Lopez who throws six-figures plus per ad on social platforms. That means you are always going to be working on communicating authentically with your audience, striving to build real relationships and interacting in ways that are unscalable to try to rise above that noise. 

It’s going to take work but the tribe that you build, the relationships you develop with your audience will matter more because it’s engagement that will ultimately support the growth of your business. Oh, and it takes time. Lots of time. Fighting obscurity is a momentum game. You have to show up every day because that’s what it’s going to take to get noticed, build trust and create experiences for people that can’t be beaten. 

Practical Pro Tip: Work on creating large pieces of content that you can splinter apart to share on adjacent platforms. For example, if you’re writing blog posts every week maybe you can talk about the topic in a short Facebook Live video or you wax poetic on a microphone about and turn it into a podcast. You get more leverage out of that large piece of content and increase your chances of reaching more people. Try to start a conversation - invite your audience to share their experiences and offer a platform for them to teach something. More engagement means more interest in you which leads to more attention for your business.  

2. Selling is way more work than you think. 

This is one of my favorite things to work on with entrepreneurs. No one really understands how brutal it can be to try to sell a product and sometimes even worse a service. Lots of business builders think that optimizing their site’s SEO, creating a killer About Page and having a clear offer/value proposition means that potential customers will just “get it” and buy. Wrong. It takes time, energy, relationship building skills, and a private-eye level ability to do research to create opportunities to show someone a proposal. Getting practical here means getting comfortable with the fact that you’ll send hundreds of emails that don’t get opened or responded to. You’ll spend hours sending out snail mail marketing materials that end up getting thrown away. And, you’ll get more buyer objections than you thought to prepare for. 

There is hope though. Sales is a game of inertia. When you remove all the personal stuff that goes with selling, like taking people’s rejections personally, from the equation you are left with the beginnings of a system. The more emails you send out the faster you get feedback about what works and what doesn’t. The more opportunities to sell you create the more you’re able to hone your presentation skills. The more research you do about how your product or service could serve your customer the easier it will be to identify potential pain-points and ROI opportunities for your next customers. It takes work though, and going at it for a while with little to no results can be really taxing, even on seasoned business builders. The trick here is to always check in with how you’re framing the work you’re doing and to keep an eye on your macro-view. Just because you get a few “no’s” back to back doesn’t mean you have a bad product or service or that there is no market for you. (I mean if you get multiple dozens of “no’s” you might want to reevaluate what your business is offering or go back to the product-market fit drawing board.) It means you need to revisit what you do, for who, and why they should care. 

Practical Pro Tip: Use tools whenever possible to keep your sales process as neat and as tidy as possible. I personally love Hubspot because I can track emails opens, link click-throughs and add notes on relationships I’m trying to build with people all the time. Also, don’t take local hand-to-hand combat type networking for granted. Showing up at in-person networking events can help you with your presentation skills and help you build relationships that can support the growth of your business. Lastly, DO NOT take this lesson in practicality and just create a canned LinkedIn message and shoot it out to the two thousand people you’re connected to on LinkedIn. Everyone hates them, you look lazy and (at least for me) people will not take you seriously. 

3. Nothing is ever going to be perfect. 

I know this is a tired piece of advice but give me a chance to show you something a little different. Sure, old adages like “perfect is the enemy of good enough” exist and seem simple enough but I’m sure that not enough entrepreneurs really heed this advice. For instance, there is an entire market out there that exists to teach people how to do anything online. I love information products and online courses as much as the next business builder but what I don’t love is the tendency for people to collect course logins like kids (or me sometimes) collecting Funko Pops. (Yes, I collect Batman Pops...I mean he’s one of fiction’s most brilliant strategists.) They do this because they believe that completing “one more” course or getting a little information will finally allow them to perfectly offer, perfect position, and perfectly deliver their value. Unfortunately, that is rarely true and what’s most likely is that they are doing something that feels like work because it’s in the service of building their business but they aren’t actually doing any business building work. 

Don’t let this happen to you. Don’t let weeks, months or even years go by before you build the courage to show someone what you can offer them. 

Don’t let something that feels like work, but isn’t actually work, distract you from going out into the world and building your business. In the LEAN methodology, there’s a lot of weight put on rapid learning, iterating and seizing opportunities to pivot when you’re attempting to provide value for a customer. I’m not saying go out and collect a login to a LEAN online course but what I am saying is that learning as you go when you’re building a business is really ok. I’d encourage it even. Why? Because the opportunity cost of waiting and the sunk costs associated with time and money in a topic you may discover you don’t actually need are huge. So you stumble a few times and lose a customer or two. Big deal, you learned something and can apply that to your next go around. Same goes for any content you produce, no one expects to see super polished right out of the gate. To the contrary actually - raw and authentic win in today’s market.  

Practical Pro Tip: Embrace just-in-time learning. Don’t worry about hoarding every possible skill you think you need right now. Just go! Enter the social platforms, people’s inboxes and your real life interactions with enough information to get the job done in an authentic and meaningful way. You should also choose which tools you want to go deep on carefully. If you’re editing video media, for instance, don’t worry about learning everything there is to know about Camtasia, Adobe Premiere, and Wirecast. Pick the one that you’ll use the most and work on building a functional skill set that will allow you to put out your video content on a regular and CONSISTENT schedule. For everything else, there are YouTube tutorials. Seriously, avoid the feels like work but actually isn’t work trap at all cost. You need to be very careful about how you allocate your time and should always be checking in with yourself to see if what you’re currently working on is actually going to bring some kind of direct value to your customer. 

This was a heavy post so if you’ve made it this far I just want to say thanks and congrats. That’s kind of a big deal. What’s a bigger deal though is that you are hopefully thinking about your business in more practical terms. That’s where you are going to win. Being an entrepreneur right now is a trendy thing. The more entrepreneurs I meet, the more I’m disappointed I am with how diluted their businesses are. People that are trying to build businesses that serve everyone and do everything are not long for this world. 

Focus on doing things that don’t scale right away. Focus on delivering real value consistently for your clients and customers. Focus on building real relationships and investing in your business. That’s the work it takes to be practical and build a business that you are proud of and that provides for you the life you want. An article from USA Today, May 2017, quoted that 20% of businesses survive past their first year. 20%! That’s not necessarily the story that social media tells us with all the “entrepreneurs” and “hustlers” out there. So what does that tell us? It tells us that there is a world of people out there playing business and it’s the few that get serious about being practical every day that really makes it. 

It’s easy to be a wantrapreneur, choose to be one of the 20% and win instead.

PS - Here's my simple call to action. If you're struggling with your entrepreneurial journey and you think a little support might do you some good, go check out the new group program that's launching. Even if it's not for you we can still bond over one of my all-time favorite Disney movies. 

Communicate Authentically for Better Business Results

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Today I want to talk about the impact of communication in your business and work on why taking it seriously is good for business. Being a good communicator impacts everything from marketing and sales, traditionally thought of when it comes to communication, all the way to management and big picture strategy. If you can’t communicate your values, your mission or who you’re trying to serve then how can you expect people to engage with you? I don’t care how tight your business plan is or how dialed in your product or service is - “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry” when you have poor communication and information is poorly managed. 

And yes, you were just literary’d

Communication is the mechanism by which any strategy in your business can be successfully and repeatedly executed. Making sure that everyone understands what’s expected of them, yes even setting your customer’s expectations, is just as important as having a good overall view of your business and a great plan in place. Communicating strategically is not just about leaving clear instructions for the next person on the totem pole. It’s about helping your stakeholders understand the why and the story behind the business. That’s what’s going to get them to care enough about who you are, the problem your solving and the value you’re delivering to engage (and keep engaging) with you. It’s also about empowering your customers to be involved in the process and to take ownership of their experience. 

If you and your business can’t communicate simply, clearly, and effectively how can you expect your customers to engage with you. Better still how can you expect all the rest of your partners, vendors, employees and even interns to jump on board with your strategy, make good decisions, and get information where it’s needed. 

Here are 5 tips to better business communication (even if you are a solopreneur)

1. Go all in on trust. 

The act of communicating - sending an email, answering a text, or chatting in the hallway - means nothing if the people you are communicating with don’t trust you. Getting a plan together and expecting that people get on board with you will only work if they trust that your motivations and incentives are aligned with theirs. Crafting a story is only part of the equation when you are trying to create a movement - it has to come from an honest and real source. Creating any strategy can be a messy ordeal sometimes and it is critical that the people that you rely on and that rely on you can trust that you’ll make good decisions if and when the time comes. 

2. Get simple. (Recurring theme throughout this site) 

Communication through an organization does not have to be multi-level and defined by your org-chart. Great communication happens when ideas can freely flow without the fear of retaliation or judgment. That’s not to say that sometimes you won’t entertain a bad idea but supporting the agency of your employees and partners to share is huge. Simple communication channels also mean shorter turn-around times on getting things done. When problems arise they are easier to spot and easier to deal with. 

3. Have a framework. 

When you are trying to communicate with your stakeholders and customers you should have a few buckets to pull from. This creates consistency and it helps you keep your sanity over the long term. Three of my favorites are trying to inspire, educate, or reinforce. Inspiring every once and awhile is important because it can be a means to celebrate accomplishments and to introduce new ideas or changes. I don’t need to tell you that everyone likes to feel important so use messages of inspiration to keep your people motivated and to keep them connected. Education and reinforcement are important because your stakeholders need direction. Now I’m not saying every communication needs to be extremely detailed and outline very precise direction but they should have some substance and it’s important to encourage learning and improvement. 

4. Clear calls to action. 

The inbox is a very special place for people. So when someone does allocate a little time out of their day to open a message from you make sure there is a clear call to action. If you’re sending an email that’s just rambly, offering no real value and with no clear (easy to take) next steps you will not get a response. You may actually be doing a little damage to the relationship you’ve cultivated with the recipient which will impact the probability of them opening your next email. 

5. Care. 

This is a big one and I wanted it to be last for a reason. If you take away anything from this post it’s to realize that when you’re communicating with someone to remember that they are in fact a real person. In today’s business ecosystem it’s easy to get desensitized to the spammy LinkedIn pitches that clutter inboxes. It’s easy to get instantly turned off because you opened a piece of communication that looks like it was written for a generic, systematized and artificial avatar of a customer. This doesn’t just go for email, it goes with any kind of communication. 

If you really care about the engagement people have with your business you have to treat them like people. You have to think about what motivates them and where the value is for them to be on the other side of your message. Just because we’re in an era where most people look for the quick win, what they can take or how to make themselves look better doesn’t mean it’s right. Care about what your customers have to say, have a little empathy for the decision maker you’re trying to reach with your pitch deck, and try to understand how what you say in your marketing materials impacts your potential audience.  

Running a business is already hard so there’s no need to compound that by being a bad communicator. Focus on communicating in ways that are clear, trustworthy, simple, organized and that show that you care and you’ll save yourself all kinds of headaches. We didn’t touch on it much but one of the biggest bottlenecks in any business process is how information is managed - which includes how you communicate. Every time you reach out to someone or post to an audience you have an opportunity to deliver value and build a relationship. You need to take those opportunities seriously because if the people you’re reaching out to don’t get to know you, like you, and trust you they will definitely NOT be giving you their money. 

PS - Here's my simple call to action. If you're struggling with your entrepreneurial journey and you think a little support might do you some good, go check out the new group program that's launching. Even if it's not for you we can still bond over one of my all-time favorite Disney movies. 
 

How to Beat Procrastination

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Procrastination is an interesting thing to think about and it ties directly to how productive and efficient you are in your business. It can creep up on you, make things on your to-do list seem more complicated than they are and, be the muse to some of your best rationalizations. 

It doesn’t have to be scary though. 

In this Ted Talk, you’re going to see Tim Urban really break down what procrastination is, how it works and best of all - how to manage it. He’s going to give you permission to forgive yourself for procrastinating and some ideas on how to use it to your advantage. 

I think investing a few minutes in understanding how the amazing machines that are our brains work are worth way more than tinkering with any productivity tool you’re working in today. That tool will still be there when you’re done and you’ll have the added bonus of knowing how to outsmart your own procrastination monster. 

Oh and before you hit play on that Ted Talk, I wanted to encourage you not to procrastinate and check out the new Group Coaching program I’m offering. If you’ve been on the fence about starting a business or have been struggling to get any traction then it’s definitely worth a quick peek - after the Tim Urban video that is. 

Tim Urban knows that procrastination doesn't make sense, but he's never been able to shake his habit of waiting until the last minute to get things done. In this hilarious and insightful talk, Urban takes us on a journey through YouTube binges, Wikipedia rabbit holes and bouts of staring out the window -- and encourages us to think harder about what we're really procrastinating on, before we run out of time.

Your Business Model Blueprint

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You can NOT work on growing your business without first taking a look at your business model.

Your business model is the blueprints of your business. It’s the roadmap. If your business was a human body it would be the circulatory, nervous and skeletal systems...probably. Your heart? That’s your passion which, is also important but it’s not your business model. Your business model is the thing that outlines how your business is going to make money. Which would be the blood (and breathing) if we’re going to stick with this vaguely anatomically correct business reference.

There is a lot of hype about growing a business these days. It’s hard not to jump on the hype train when you see an environment of Tai Lopez Facebook ads, new crypto millionaires every week and guys like Gary Vaynerchuk motivating you to hustle harder than you think is even possible. But, even with all the hype and plugs for mentorship programs (shameless plug: be sure to check out my new group coaching program if you’re thinking of finally taking the plunge) and get rich crypto strategies, lots of people still forget to take a look at their “business’s” underlying business model.

At its most basic purpose, a business model answers the “how” question when it comes to you delivering or creating value for your customers. If you plan on being successful, which most people do, you need to make sure your business is organized and your foundation is solid before you can go off and start executing some the business growth strategies and tactics du jour.

If you don’t take the time to really flush out your business model then running your business ends up being kind of like taking a shower with your clothes on. Sure you’re in there and sudsing up with your favorite lufa but are you really getting clean? Probably not and now that sweater vest is never going to really fit right again.

Below is a quick blueprint you can use to see if your business will function how you want it to when you are ready to start executing your business growth strategy. Not only that but sometimes you are so involved in getting your product or service out, dealing with customers, and making sure you are doing enough marketing that you lose track of how your business is actually working.

Wing’ing it is never a good business model.

Think about these concepts and use them to help tighten your business up - most importantly don’t wear your clothes in the shower.

Customer Value Proposition:

- Who are your target customers?

- What important job are you doing for them? What need are you fulfilling?

- How are you packaging that offering so that it is the most effective way to communicate your value to your customer?

Profit Formula:

- Think about your revenue and where is your profit coming from? What kind of volume do you need to have to reach your profit goals? Are you selling at low prices with the hopes of high volume or high price low volume - does that match your market?

- How are costs allocated? Keep track of your spending!!! Remember your time and overhead count too.

- What is the minimum level of margin you need to earn on each sale to reach your profit goals?

- How fast is the turnaround time on the inputs you need to sustain your businesses activities? Think and plan for those cash flow needs.

Key Resources:

- What are the most important factors in bringing your business and strategy to the next level?

- These include people, strategic alliances, technology, how information flows, distribution channels and any specialized equipment.

- When you map these out it makes executing your strategy a lot more efficient!

Key Processes:

- What are the processes that are repeatable (and eventually scaleable) that you use every day to deliver value to customers?

- What are the metrics you use to keep track of your success? What gets measured gets managed!

- What are the norms in your market or industry? Understanding how business is done in your market will help you get in front of your customers faster and in a way that they are familiar with. It will also help to build your social credibility and proof as a business in your market.

These four major concepts help you better outline the model that your business follows. When you break everything out it will help you better focus and avoid doing things in your business that are wasteful or that even are too far away from what you actually wanted to be doing in your business.

Model first then grow!

How To Be More Productive At Work

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If you’re serious about growing your business then I think you should consider playing more strategy video games. You heard (read) this correct. Whether you’re a Clash of Clans “Clasher”, a multiplayer online battle arena type League of Legends or Dota player, or someone who really likes the speed and variety of Hearthstone; I’m going to argue that all work and no play literally makes Jack a dull business building boy (or girl). In this post, I’m going to challenge you to reallocate the time you spend taking social media and online content consumption breaks during the day to playing more casually strategy type video games.

Really.

Let’s start by acknowledging that most people don’t dedicate every “working” moment of their day to adding to their own (or someone else’s) bottom line. There are lots of studies and frameworks that suggest getting the best productivity out of someone they actually shouldn’t be trying to be productive 100% of the time. There is, in fact, a diminishing marginal return type of effect when it comes to productivity. It’s from these studies that you see frameworks like Pareto, Eating Frogs, Personal Kanban, SMART methods, and the productivity hacking list literally goes on forever.

When it comes to time management and productivity there is no shortage of the ways in which you can organize your day. Regardless of how you organize your day though there is a constant and that constant is some kind of downtime or transitional time. This is where the fun begins.

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I want you to get more play time into your day by using your breaks strategically. Before we can do that though I want to cover why breaks are important in the first place.

Why is it important to take breaks?

1. Taking breaks during the workday help stave off boredom and keep us more focused. Keeping boredom at bay and staying focused is important because it directly impacts the return on the time you’re spending and the quality of the outputs regarding your given task.  Alejandro Lleras a psychology professor at the University of Illinois explains, “…Deactivating and reactivating your goals allows you to stay focused. From a practical standpoint, our research suggests that, when faced with long tasks (such as studying before a final exam or doing your taxes), it is best to impose brief breaks on yourself. Brief mental breaks will actually help you stay focused on your task!”

2. Breaks also help to reevaluate goals. I think it’s safe to assume that we’ve all had experiences where it feels like you’ve been working really hard and are throwing a ton of time into something only to find out you deviated from your original goal or intention by the end. Taking breaks along the way allow you to come back to tasks with a refreshed perspective on the work that you are doing.

3. Some of the best problem solving happens when you’re more relaxed. I mean I can’t be the only one that has his best ideas in the shower or when I’m on a 40-minute drive to and from a client site right?! When we are relaxed our brains can better free connect ideas and concepts because our imagination takes the wheel in our brains associative bits. Focused work actually creates cognitive barriers that can actually impede our natural problem-solving abilities.

4. Breaks also allow for the reduction of stress and the management of morale. When you take a break it allows you the opportunity to escape from the demands of the work at the moment. It allows you the opportunity to take some time for yourself and to engage in some self-care. It’s not uncommon for advice like go outside, get up and stretch, talk to someone, etc. These activities are encouraged because they are proven to drive morale up. When you’re happier at work, you’re more engaged and you feel better about getting through the rest of your to-do list. Not to mention all the quantitative benefits that can be gleaned from happier and healthy workers when you start to factor in things like the marginal product of revenue.

Ok so now that we’ve set the table on productivity and the importance of breaks let’s jump into why playing strategy video games is important.

Casual strategy video games afford the same kinds of benefits as the other, more traditionally,  recommended break time activities. You get all the benefits listed in the 4 points above so I won’t be repeating myself but here’s where the extra benefit comes in.

Video game play has been shown to reduce stress, increase cognitive function, increase resource allocation or management skills, and even help people reframe how they think about time management.

Let’s break each one of those points out briefly:

1. Reducing Stress. Building and growing a business is stressful. Giving yourself permission to stop when you can and schedule in some time for some levity, escapism, and adventure can be good for self-care. Allowing yourself to temporarily step away from deadlines, duties, and responsibilities can improve mood and help facilitate feelings of control which can combat the anxiety that entrepreneurs can experience doing the work to grow your business.

2. Increase cognitive function, resource management and problem-solving. Strategy games have been shown to increase cognitive flexibility. Cognitive flexibility the ability to hold different ideas simultaneously or to be able to switch between concepts rapidly. When you’re building a business you’re often faced with having to make decisions in real time. The more practice you have with juggling different, possibly dissident, ideas the better you’ll be at charting your decision throughline to make better decisions consistently. These types of games also often have players manage resources and solve problems in real time which translate to better real-world planning skills and innovative thinking to move past challenges.

3. Time management. A study (link to study) from psychologists at the Plymouth University actually found that playing Tetris helped to improve self-control. Self-control is one of the biggest points of failure when it comes to trying to hold yourself accountable for your time management systems. In the last five minutes, I’ve checked my phone three times during a time that was supposed to be dedicated to creating this content. Ouchies.Circling back to the list of all the different productivity models will show that breaks are built into all of them. While the timing and durations vary the fact that you need a break to do your best work is a pretty consistent theme. Allowing yourself this structured play time can give your brain a dopamine hit to look forward to instead of incentivizing you to go out and find one during predetermined work periods.

Conclusion

I hope that by the end of this post I’ve challenged you to be a little more honest about how you spend your workday. It’s easy to dismiss the idea that playing games in the middle of the day are a wise use of your workday. It’s easy because there’s a stigma about what work should look like. How can you tell your boss, your client, spouse or to-do list that you’re being productive when someone walks in on you as your immersed in a fantasy-strategy world? Well, that same question can be asked of anyone caught mindlessly scrolling through their phone at work? The rub here is that predetermined work breaks that are designed to keep you engaged in your workday are always going to be better for you over the hundreds of times you’re checking your phone through the day. Especially, if it takes on average about 15 minutes to get back to your work after each break.

Moral of the story, play more games at work to do better work - because science.

You're welcome.

Make The Most Out Of Your Business Planning This Year

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To quote a song that will hopefully be an earworm for you, “Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end.” This song has been my jam as we enter into the second week of 2018. 

Why?

Because it’s, “Time for you [and your business to finally] to go out go out into the world.” 

Ok, sorry. 

I’m done with the lyrics. 

But the song applies to the post I promise. 

In order to talk about accountability and growth in a non-cheesy and meaningful way it means you have to accept that some things will have to change and what better to serve as a natural inflection point than the New Year. I want to help you kick start your accountability, business planning and goal setting from a slightly different perspective. To do that I’ve prepared a few things I want you to consider as you’re finding your stride in 2018. 

Here are five things that I would offer anyone looking to start the year off right. 

1. Inventory everything. 

Now I’m not saying that you need to painstakingly document every pen and paper clip but for the love of Mike, please have an idea of what you need to do/have to bring your product or idea to fruition. If you want to start a gym then have an idea of what the minimum amount of equipment you’ll need to open your doors. Have a business that sells a physical product - make sure you have some in stock before you start advertising them. Have a restaurant then make sure you have the ingredients to provide what you have listed on your menu. Everyone is always busy and even more so this time of year so ensure your customers stay happy by making sure you have what they expect you to have when they are ready to engage with you. 

2. Cash Flow. 

Ever been on a cruise ship? Well they know exactly what they need as cash inflows from each passenger on the cruise to make it a profitable one. They have inventory and supply chain procedures that would give Wal-Mart a run for their money. Understanding your cash outs and ins is something that small businesses don’t pay enough attention too. Most of the time, in my experience, they just pay the bills as they come in and deposit the revenues for the day. That’s all well and good but what kind of analysis are you doing so that you can keep steering your business in the right direction. Just because you’ve managed to keep your doors open (physical or digital) doesn’t mean that you are successful. It just means you’ve been paying your bills on time. Plus how do you know what’s working and what’s not if you aren’t keeping score on how efficiently you are allocating your resources. 

3. Time Management. 

How do you keep track of your hours in the day? I’m not just talking about the billable time or the time that you play shopkeep. I’m talking about all the rest of the work that needs to be done. Are you making time for the administrative tasks appropriately or are you just throwing everything into an office and hoping that as more time passes things will just work themselves out. Time is just like money - it’s a scarce resource. You want to make sure you are doing something to so that you are maximizing the time you choose to be working. Remember just because you throw hours at a project doesn’t mean it’s going to be good - I’d take deliberate and focused time over brute strength over-work any day of the week. Extra point: make sure you make the most out of your sleep time. I’ve just started tracking my sleep habits and I’m already impressed by how little changes can make me feel amazing the following day. 

4. Don’t stop learning. 

There is always better ways to do stuff. There are always new tactics and lessons to be learned. So make sure you allocate some of that scarce resource, that is your time, to developing your skills. Personally I’ve been working on my Photoshop skills and I’m having a blast doing it. I will probably never dawn the title of graphic designer but understanding Photoshop will help me deliver better products more efficiently to my clients. This could apply to leadership, being an entrepreneur, a language, and even managing Quickbooks. (I would definitely recommend Freshbooks though if you are looking for a finance manager.) 

5. Stop saying and just do. (Just in case you need a little more support.)

In the last 2 weeks I’ve seen a plethora of articles and posts all about getting you to achieve your goals. Everything from journaling to sharing your goals on social media to create some accountability. While those tips are great they aren’t going to do what needs to be done to get your goals accomplished - you are!! Why would I tweet something if my audience can’t really hold me accountable? Facebook statuses fly by with the speed and fury of a passing fighter jet and most people are just creeping their friends or friend’s photo’s - is that really a place to tell the world you are ready to take your business to the next level? I’m guilty of this too. I download productivity habit tracking apps, I journal for revenue growth, and I’ve even told my friends and family of new happenings. Sometimes those things don’t happen and it’s because I (and you) are great rationalizing machines especially when something feels or seems like it will be work. To get past that you have to start and keep yourself on an action train. Start doing and then keep doing - it’s the only way you will get things done. The GTD is an example of a method that is really great for helping you strategize but don’t get too preoccupied in the planning. Sometimes “good enough” is what you need to get on to the next task. 

I hope this list helps. I know they all aren’t necessarily connected but each of them is important if you want to get your business or life moving in a positive direction. Especially number five. So to recap: take stock of your stuff and money, keep learning to keep yourself as efficient as possible, do work, and limit how long you spend playing in online scavenger hunts for a few laughs. 

Like I said, I’m a people too, and I get a little lost and depressed sometimes too. Over the last week or so - I’ve been making a conscious effort to shake that and put my own advice into play. I don’t like complacency and I’m leaving it behind. Feel free to join me! 

Get Paid What You're Worth In 2018

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Happy New Year! 

In today's post I want to encourage you to make your way through Casey Brown's Ted Talk where she talks about getting paid what you're worth. I think this is a great way to start the New Year because her stories go beyond just the financial gains of making more money as she communicates how getting paid what you're worth impacts how you see yourself, your self-confidence and your self-worth. 

Whether you're an employee, an entrepreneur, have New Year's Resolutions or are just thinking about what you like to get done this year this Ted Talk is for you. It's a mindset reframe as you get back to work this week. 

And, just in case you aren't convinced that it's really worth your time here are a few of my favorite lines from the talk:

"Find your own voice, a voice that's authentic and true to you and communicate your value." 

"No one will ever pay you what you're worth. They'll pay you what they think you're worth and you control their thinking. "

If that second quote didn't reach out and touch the part of your brain that controls motivation then I don't know what will. I mean, it's a really great few sentences to let your brain chew on as you're thinking about how you want to be perceived this year. 

Ok, enough rambling from me I hope you enjoy this video as much as I did! 

Your boss probably isn't paying you what you're worth -- instead, they're paying you what they think you're worth. Take the time to learn how to shape their thinking. Pricing consultant Casey Brown shares helpful stories and learnings that can help you better communicate your value and get paid for your excellence.

Want to get ahead in 2018? Understand these Five Forces!

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I read an article that took me back to my undergraduate economic/business studies at Bentley University (College when I was there). 

Well took me back to the feelings I had as an undergraduate. 

Allow me to take you back. 

Take you back 10+ years ago to young me sitting in my first Microeconomics class - a class that would yield my lowest grade in my academic career to date might I add. What I remember most about this course were the conversations and the breakdowns between what the book said and how we could apply in real life. I loved this course but I seriously struggled, so much so that the professor actually said I should consider a major change. 

But I stuck with it. I knew, even though I didn’t always get the material at the time, that it was important to know about the incentives that motivated how firms interact with each other and how people interact with firms. Fast forward to now and I’m teaching college courses, mostly economics and finance, including designing original economics courses for business programs. Take that Freshman-Bentley-Econ-Professor-Who-Didn’t-Believe-In-Me! It’s being pragmatic in understanding what motivates people and making everyday economics a skill set that I rely on everyday. Getting to the heart of causality and creating strategies that have real impacts for people and firms. 

Why did I share that with you?!

It’s because of Michael Porter. This article reaffirmed the mission that I have for myself and for Disruptive Strategy. Basically when I grow up (professionally) I want to be in a similar position to him. Porter is a strategist, economist, and professor that has done an amazing amount of work touting the benefits of competitive systems to get and keep economies moving and growing.

Reading this article made me feel like that undergraduate that had a world of possibilities in front of them. It helped me remember that the skills and the tools that I’ve been sharpening over the last decade not only have value but are needed by people and firms because it’s more than what simple Google searches and templates can provide. 

One of my favorite systems of his is the Porter 5 Forces Model and I wanted to share it with you. Since its inception strategic consultants, planners, and advisors have been using this system as a basis to create strategy for firms of all sizes. The kicker is that it’s based in pretty topical economic theory - remember the things that “shift” a supply and demand curve, or how markets find equilibrium, or better still price elasticity of demand?? 

Yup, it all comes from there!

Here’s what you need to know about the 5 Forces Model to be a better strategist: 

There are 5 Forces that drive companies in competitive markets: 

- The threat of available substitutes
- Amount of buyers and their bargaining power
- Amount of sellers and their bargaining power
- Rivalry/competition within a market - number of existing players
- Barriers to enter a market

Substitutes 

When bringing a product or service to market you have to consider the available substitutes. How much do they cost? How close is the experience to your product or service? What might differentiate you or how can you increase your value/perceived value? There are lots of tablets out on the market now but, why do people choose to buy an iPad? Why might someone choose Google’s Nexus 7? How can you position yourself to be perceived as a niche product or service?

Buyers

Can the buyers work together to have an affect on a market? What kind of information are you providing for your buyers? What is the collective experience of your consumer? Do you have a product or service that allows for multiple points of entry at differing price levels? Is the experience so streamlined that consumers can always expect a certain experience? Are you building stakeholders or are just banking on perceived obsolescence? Think your cable company. Odds are if you call complain and leave their prices won’t need to change because there are more than enough subscribers willing and able to pay the prices that they ask for. But, if you everyone in your town/city cut the cord and subscribed to Hulu and Netflix then the cable company might have to listen to the concerns of the consumer. 

Sellers 

Can you benefit from pitting sellers/vendors/distributors against each other for your business? Can you diversify the way you collect your inputs? Are there any suppliers that would help you grow your economies of scale - reducing your average costs over the long term. When you enter a market or are thinking about making your product unique it’s crucial to consider your supply chain. If there are any hiccups or if you choose cheap over value then that might have an effect on the quality or consistency of your own products. 

Rivalries between existing firms 

It’s important to assess where other firms are in your market. What kind of market is it? There will be big differences between how you approach an oligopolistic market vs something where there is a bit more competition. It’s also important to monitor how the market behaves. What I mean by that is keeping track of how things are marketed or how fast products/services change. An example would be Apple’s iPads and iPhones. It used to be that those were launched about annually but because technology is changing so fast it’s moved up to about a 10 month release time for new stuff or at least updates to existing stuff. When doing your branding or positioning seeing what the currents are doing will help you better utilize whatever resources you have available. Nothing worse than marketing in a place where no one is looking. So identify your markets and who consumers as well as firms identify themselves. 

Barriers to entry

What will it take to enter a market or just start a business? What are the costs or investment necessary to be a competitor? Are there any obstacles as far as availability of resources to get you going? What are tax liabilities or government policies that need to be taken into consideration? Nothing worse than being in business for a while then getting slammed with a tax bill that you weren’t even close to being prepared for. Are there distribution channels available for what you are doing or do you have to create your own? You might be in business already and need some help gaining some scope on growing - so it’s important that you understand the questions to ask to get the best information to overcome barriers. 

I know went over these 5 Forces really fast and it’s a lot of questions to ask or even try to answer. There's a benefit though in even starting to think about this stuff. When you start to think about these forces and answers these questions some really neat stuff happens. You start to get really clear on what sets you apart in your market. You start to see what your (real) competitive landscape looks like and you start to see how you can continue to add value to people's lives. 

I just realized how long this post is going, so if you are still with me - you are awesome! Awesome and exactly the kind of person I want being part of this community. I want to do more on creating strategy and using the 5 Forces Model so if you have questions on application or making this more pragmatic please shoot them along by signing up for the Disruptive Strategy Newsletter!
 

Prepare for 2018 Like a Pro

Year End.jpg

The last few weeks of the year are always interesting productivity and business growing monsters. It’s a balance between enjoying the holiday season, not giving up on your goals and trying to get a hold of people who may or may not be checked out already. What I love most about these few weeks though is that they are great for putting your head down and sprinting towards making good on your 2017. The close second to that is that they are also great times to reflect a bit in your business. 

It’s a great time to be a little honest and a little raw about the level of effort you put into your business this year. In this post I’m going to share with you an outline you can use to review your efforts this year or as an agenda for year end conversations you may be having with your team. 

Before jumping right into the outline I want to share with you a bit of a framework you should follow first if you really plan on getting anything useful out of this reflection exercise. 

Prepare 

This is a big one most businesses owners I talk to just gloss over. They gloss over it because they think that everything they need to think about in terms of what their business did over the course of the year is just floating around in their brain. Wrong. What’s floating around in your brain are the misremembered experiences and perspectives you’ve help through the year that your brain chose to hold on to. It’s your view of your business through either rose colored or excuse tinted lenses. If you’re going to take this reflection seriously you need to have an objective view of what you were or weren’t able to accomplish. So pull out those financials, bank statements, social media dashboards, etc. 

Set the tone 

Sounds simple but it’s important not to skip. You shouldn’t be going into this exercise looking for only the things you did wrong. You want to celebrate the things you did right too! This reflection process should be about identifying where you can continue to grow in your business and how your current capabilities and capacity map against the goals you want to set for yourself in the coming year. 

Review performance expectations

Whether you actively think about it or not as a business owner you have a job description. These are the task, responsibilities and actions towards outcomes you committed to when you started the business. Reviewing the expectations you set for yourself everyday will help to measure your performance against the reality of growing a business. This is where being honest is important because it’s easy to rationalize why something you committed to didn’t get done when you’re the one holding yourself accountable. The real test is being honest about the dedication or commitment you showed up to work everyday with. Again, don’t get bogged down if you had a spell or two of lacking enthusiasm every time you sat at your desk. The entrepreneurial journey is less of a check mark and more of a rollercoaster - it’s about the patterns of activity over time that really matter. 

Notes on goal setting 

There are a million and a half ways to set goals. Finding the one that works for you is important but regardless of what system you use I want to make sure that you are setting goals in targeted areas, that build on your strengths, that develop you as a professional and finally that are aligned with your values. If you’re setting goals that don’t matter to you or that you can’t commit to then it doesn’t matter what’s at the end of that rainbow because you’re never going to get there. They should stretch and challenge you but not be so far out of your abilities or habits that you just chalk them up as a loss subconsciously before you even start. #newyearnewyou

Make sure you schedule time to follow up

It’s unfair to expect that you can do this work now, file it away and just figure that you’re on the right path without checking in at this time next year. My recommendation is to break your goals and plans out by month so that you can check in along the way. It’s ok if your course changes over time because you’ll be actively assessing what’s important to you and your business and what’s not. Following up will help fight the self sabotage (something that I am super guilty of) and help you build momentum as you start to hit benchmarks and see real growth. Plus, you’re executing on one of my favorite sayings of all time - “What gets measured, gets managed”. 

So now that we’ve set the stage below here is some swipe copy you can use to run your year end review conversations. This works as a self reflection exercise as well as a conversation with your contractors, team members or employees. The headings should apply to most people and I’ve added some question primers to help you think through those headings but feel free to add or subject the reflection questions based on what feels right for the body of your work in 2017. 

Agenda for Annual Review

Planning/Teamwork

What did you accomplish? What worked well? What didn’t? 

Attitude Toward Assignments

Where there types of work that you enjoyed more than others? Types of customers? Where your employees or team on board with what was asked of them? Did the work you do feel authentic to you? 

Knowledge of Duties

Did you feel like an expert in your job? Did you have the technical skills to deliver the value you promised to your customers? 

Your Community

How connected were you to the community you serve? What kind of connections did you create? Where did you add value to the networks that you are a part of? 

Working Relationships and Cooperation with Other Personnel

Did you play nice in your sandbox? Where their situations or relationships that could’ve gone better? Did you (and your team) create an experience or environment that encouraged people to do their best work? Do you feel like you managed your time, team or expectations appropriately? 

Operations 

Did you have a system for moving your business forward every week? How did you measure success or growth? Is that a fair way to measure it going forward? If you breakdown your work process are there places where you might be able to delegate or create efficiencies? How much time did you spend working in your business vs. on your business. 

Response to Assignments or Body of Work

Were their projects or works delivered that you weren’t proud of? Were proud of? What went well? What didn’t? 

Conformance to Work Schedules, Assignments and Instructions

Did you deliver on time every time? Were you honest about the time you put into your business this year? Do you plan on working more? Less? How can you work smarter? Did you manage your customers expectations of your work deliverables and timing? 

By the Numbers

What did this years quantitative data look like compared to last years? Are there any patterns of note? How are you going to use what you learned this year for next year’s: budgets, calendars, sales activities, inventory management, content planning, engagement, and other trackable metrics?

Goals for Next Year

What is important to you? What do you care about? What value are you going to deliver to people? How are you going to measure success? How are you going to get people to pay attention to you? 

That's it! 

Keep the notes before the agenda and the agenda in mind when you're thinking about how you're going to prepare for 2018 and you'll be setting yourself up for success because you're doing it from an honest place. There's no worse feeling then looking at the New Year all bright eyed and bushy tailed only to set goals that will doom you from the start. Don't forget to make this process your own. What I've outlined for you here really is the bones of a process. Some of it may not apply to you or your team and that's ok. Just take some time, mentally prepare to be honest and set good goals to help launch you to your next levels of success in 2018!