We could all do with some sound financial tips & advice. Unfortunately, your hairdresser, mom, or process designer may not be the best source of information for you.
Here is a selection of brilliant tips to level-up your business.
As always, YMMV (your mileage may vary), and the onus is on you to find what works best for your business.
Start with a small niche market
Absolutely critical. To imagine that everyone is your customer means no-one is your customer. This is an age of specialisation, customisation, client-centred delivery.
Use "Leanness" from The Lean Startup
Lean is brilliant, and puts you on the path to being a Fast Company.
Yet, understand that "leanness" is no excuse for lack of planning, strategy, and tactical positioning.
By all means, be "Lean, Mean, & Dominating", but ensure that you have a map, contingency, structure, etc. Actually, just create your business plan - that should ensure that you cover your bases and minimise business vulnerability.
Time = Money, &
Every time you spend money, your are spending the time that it took you to earn that money. Let that sink in ...
Does your daily cappucino from your favourite cafe still make sense? How many work hours did that latest shiny object really cost you? Was it worth it?
Take a look at Tough Love Solution to Your Productivity Problems - although I talk about productivity, it all reduces to your time, and your money.
Only go into debt for a house & a car; for all else, you pay cash
This has been drilled into my reptile brain since I can remember. Although this piece of advice may not suit everyone, it is a massive help in keeping you out of the "poor-house".
Leverage technology to buy you time to work on your core business
This one is a no-brainer. Even the greenest solopreneur sees the value of technology. The magic part of that sentence is "to buy you time" - the one thing you need so desperately, as a business owner.
2nd step: figure out how you're going to get clients
Of course, the first step is once you have the concept of your service/product - easy, right? The trick is to find people who not only want what you're selling, but are also prepared to pay for it.
Sometimes there is no better way; Sometimes there is only the hard way
This. This is where my mind sometimes gets stuck, a little. I have this powerful conviction, when presented with an obstacle, to believe that there is an easier way, a better way.
Then I remind myself that thousands of incredibly talented & creative minds have applied themselves to similar problems, and found there is only the hard way.
Your customer is the final arbiter on the value of your product / service
No matter how fabulous, awesome, & amazing you may think your product / service is, your opinion is irrelevant - the customer decides. If she wants it, and the price is right, and her Purchase Conditions are met, she will buy. "Purchase conditions?", you ask.
Put yourself in your customer's shoes. If he's a locavore (one who only buys locally-produced products), chances are your exotic product doesn't qualify. Some of the Purchase Conditions I've encountered are:
If you love what you do, and you're passionate about it, your business will work
No. Just no. This is on a par with me being told, as a child, that I could be anything I wanted to be.
Then the disappointments started - I won't bore you with details, let's just say that sometimes you're not tall enough, or physically strong enough, or intellectually sharp enough, or simply not that good at the thing you love to do, for someone to pay you to do it.
We can agree to disagree on this one.
However, this I can fully endorse: "If you love what you do, and you're passionate about it, and great at it, your business could work."
Automate & out-source every single part of your non-core business
Total agreement on this one. I love technology. Except when it breaks - then I hate technology for a while.
Need help figuring out what's core & non-core? I've got you covered here.
Test everything, then test again.
Experimentation, innovation, testing, proof of concept - you are never done.
Nothing in your business is ever "done and dusted"; continually revise, re-vision, improve, test everything. Avoid complacency - the world changes fast, & you need to change with it.
Stop procrastinating; start now, & learn as you go
Brilliant advice. The world is full of people with incredible ideas, they love thinking about it. They love talking about it. They plan everything down to the last detail. They refine, refine, improve, and refine again. Stop that! Good is better than perfect - so implement.
What most people don't do is the single most important thing - Take Action. Without that, you have mental entertainment. Of course, it's lovely and zero-risk to keep thinking about how successful your awesome business is going to be.
Don't be that person. Take action. Else you'll be talking about the same thing next month, next year, next decade.
Here's the reasoning behind why you make your goals and keep schtum about them - don't tell anyone.
Don't buy the next shiny thing!
Ok - this is usually said by thoughtful, caring people who would like to see you succeed. Or the one who is about to re-write the marriage contract if you don't stop buying more & more shiny "How To Start / Run Your Own Business" stuff.
It is rarely said by the guys trying to sell you the shiny thing.
To be fair, it's not their fault. Question: how many books / dvds / courses / memberships have you bought?
Of those, how many have resulted in real, material action? Not planning, not product design, not visualisation - real material action?
Some of us chase shiny objects - hey, the write-up was great & inspiring, they promised results, fast!
Problem is - their promises of results are contingent on you working through their material, and TAKING ACTION. See how it works?
Your customer's default setting is "NO"
True, that. You're dangling your version of a shiny object (ooh, diamonds!), and you need them to become willing to swap their money for that thing. Money, which they kind of tend to hold on to.
Think about your own purchase patterns - yes, we all have those. You only buy when you are good and ready - grant that you ideal client is much the same.
What it takes for you to be ready may vary depending on the price tag. You don't spend the same time scrutinising a $2 purchase as you do $250 purchase, if you're like most of us.
What we look for is value. That is what we're exchanging for money when we transact. And value, as stated above, is in eyes of the customer. Read this to understand your customer buying behaviours.
You've got to get obsessed, and stay obsessed
If you're not obsessed, how are you going to get through the tough parts? For a motivational check, read The Motivational Trifecta.
How will you survive and persevere?
Without obsession, you won't work up to 80 hours a week, you won't sacrifice your social life, you won't sacrifice family time, you won't simplify your personal expenditure. Only obsession can help you with these things.
I'm not saying these things are inevitable - they're just highly likely. As close to inevitable as can be, for a generalisation ...
So. If you're lukewarm about your business, if you're going to "give it a whirl", you're better off working for someone else. You'll be happier.
Truth-time: you will be inconvenienced, exhausted, sometimes almost manic, sometimes in despair. If not, you're not trying hard enough.
Progress lies outside your comfort zone
Logical - you've progressed to where you are through you life experiences.
To progress further, you have to have stretch goals, you have to want more than what you have right now.
And yes - it will be uncomfortable. The unknown always makes us uncomfortable.
How about if you change your attitude to change? Reframe the change in positive terms. Instead of "I'll be missing out on XYZ because I have to work on my biz", try "I'm investing my weekend in my biz, to buy me tons of leisure time later".
Focus on your positive outcomes, not on your immediate sacrifices. Think about that - you'll grow new neural pathways in your brain, I guarantee.
Everything is a test, every encounter is an interview
This is the way we are designed to operate: everything unknown is viewed with suspicion. Just in case it is a threat, like a sabre-toothed tiger, or a meteor shower. The people who said, "Ooh, beautiful!" when they saw a gorgeous predator, seldom survived long enough to breed.
So suspicion of the new/strange is a healthy attribute which we inherited from our ancestors who went "Run!", and admired the tiger / meteor shower from a distance.
Now we rarely encounter tigers and mastodons - but our instinctive behaviours still hold - anything unknown = strange = suspicious / scary. Remember that, when your potential customer first encounters your product / service.
When your potential client first lays eyes on you, or your product, or your website, they form first impressions so fast - in nano-seconds, people. Thousands of past experiences are compared to their current experience, leading them to a simple decision - reject, or investigate.
Reject = No. Usually they go away, or ask you to go away.
Investigate does not equal Yes, it simply means not-No.
Please go back and read that again - I really need you to get this. Just because you don't have a No, doesn't mean you have a Yes. Far from it. You have a not-No, plus your potential client is still there! Win #1.
The investigate / curiosity / interest (go on, you choose the term you like, I don't mind) gives you your next window of opportunity to engage, to impress, to become more attractive to your potential customer.
And so it goes, with every step of your client engagement ...
Business is trial & error in the 21st century
The entire context of business has changed. The world has changed, is changing. What was tried & true 5 or 10 years ago has now become questionable, sometimes even obsolete.
Traditional / conventional ways of doing business should be questioned.
Technology has changed the world, and that has changed Us, and that has changed Everything.
Hotel New Hampshire, by Cal Newport
Zero to One, book by Peter Thiel
Hotel New Hampshire, by John Irving
Need help? Get it here!