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Time is limited. We get that. You’d have to be a wizard with some kind of time-turning device to personally check all the boxes on an entrepreneur’s to-do list. And even if you could, why would you want to? This is a business, not a contest. Your objective should be to build the leanest, meanest, sustainable organization possible.
But cash is also limited, especially during the pre-launch phase, before you’ve issued and collected on your first invoice. What entrepreneurs need is a methodology for organizing to-dos, and for determining which are must dos, which should be outsourced, and which could be done at a later date, or not at all. My 4P method does that.
You may have heard of the Four “P”s of marketing: Product, Price, Place, and Promotion. Given my bias for action, my four Ps are verbs, not nouns, and represent a four-step process for successful outsourcing: Planning, Picking, Phasing In/Out, and Partnering.
Step 1 – Planning
In the first step we outline the basic structures you will need in your business for it to be functional. This is unique to every business, but there are some basic areas that are common to all – invoicing, selling, taxes, accounting, etc. Begin this “Planning” phase by listing all the bases that need to be covered in your business, for example:
- Industrial Design
- Product development
- Code writing
- Marketing communications
- Digital marketing
- Warehouse management
Your list will be unique for your company or industry. But you will know what to include because these are all things you’re going to have to deal with in YOUR business.
Step 2 – Picking
The next step is the fun one. Here you will put the above items in an EXCEL spreadsheet and “Pick” the jobs you want to do by putting your name next to them. You should base your decisions on the following criteria:
- What do you do best?
- What do you like to do?
- What do you not like to do?
- What could you pay someone else to do cheaper?
- And, what else could you do, in a pinch, if you had to?
I included the last one in recognition of the fact that resources are limited and you may need to do certain things you may not want to do in the best interest of your company, until you have enough cash coming in to hand off to someone else. Assign ownership to these tasks using three distinct labels:
Step 3 – Phasing in/out
Megatons of thrust are required for a rocket to break free of Earth’s atmosphere. But once the rocket is in orbit, the fuel tanks and similar dead weight are cast off so that the rocket can maneuver more nimbly. Similarly, there are processes required at the launch of a business that are no longer necessary once the business is up and running. The third “P” pertains to “Phasing” tasks in and out, and could also reasonably be called “Pruning.” For this step, add two more columns to your spreadsheet. Label the first column, “6 months,” and the second, “1 year.”
In these columns you will demarcate items you plan to bring in house, consolidate with other activities, or eliminate because they are no longer necessary. This is a discipline that even some of the world’s biggest companies struggle to master, but it critical if you want your business to remain competitive.
Step 4 – Partnering
The fourth and final P is Partnering. This is where you identify strategic third-party relationships that will add measurable value to your business by:
- Providing capabilities or services you would not otherwise be able to offer
- Filling a critical skills or talent gap
- Partnering with other small businesses to share the cost of non-core services and infrastructure
- Sharing office space, administrative personnel, Internet access, and IT infrastructure, with other businesses.
This is, by no means, a comprehensive list. Your list will reflect the needs and profile of your business.
By using the four Ps, you can plan to do only those things you like, you´re good at, and to which you add value within the realm of your company. You can identify processes you’d like to bring in-house, consolidate, or eliminate, and look for ways to share costs and resources with others through strategic and value-added partnerships. And you can outsource within the limitations of cash flow and budget.
Want more Unconventional Wisdom for Small Business Success? Pick up a copy of my book, The Success Factor!
Now that we’ve finally come to Thanksgiving, I thought I would celebrate the holiday by listing all the things I am thankful for this year. In honor of that, here goes my special list.
- I’m thankful first to God who shows me continuously his love, through his abundance, goodness, and kindness.
- I’m thankful next for my parents, but especially for my father, who despite having had a very difficult year, continues to bless us with his presence and the kindness he represents to all who know him.
- I’m next thankful for my loving wife and daughters who everyday make me a better person, husband and father.
- I’m thankful for my health, which allows me every day to dedicate myself whole heartedly to my company and profession, with energy and passion to all that I serve and all that I do in support of my wonderful clients and partners.
- I’m thankful for all my colleagues at Liquid Capital, who are tireless in their dedication to the company, serving our clients with the funding and financial support which help turn small companies into great companies.
- I’m thankful to all the people who together, constitute the network around which my company operates – my publicists at Succinct Social Media, my accountant and his firm, my friends at Regus, Plinth, Legion, Morgan James, Fifth Third, Booked Solid, CC Marketing, KPI Tampa, and many more, who continue to support me and my firm, in their various roles and capacities.
- And lastly, I’m thankful for another year in this miraculous game called life and the chance to share it with you. Have a happy and blessed Thanksgiving.
Shortly after I decided to go into business for myself and was in the initial phases of doing a start-up of my own, I began the process of telling a few close friends and family members of my plans. This, of course, included my mother who, after a few moments of quiet consideration, said, “Why don’t you apply for a good job at a bank?”
Like many women of her generation, my mother did not have the benefit of pursuing a formal education. That’s not to say she’s not a sharp lady. Quite the contrary. Seven decades of wisdom from life experiences coupled to her devotion to Bible studies, daily doses of Oprah, Suze Orman, and most recently, Shark Tank, have all helped shape even further her discerning mind.
Mom comes from a generation where people might spend their entire career with the same company. Someone might occasionally inherit a family business, but people in her circles didn’t go around starting businesses from scratch. It was risky, she said — like swimming less than an hour after eating a meal. And risk was a bad word in my neighborhood.
I was raised to believe that mothers are always right, so imagine my surprise upon learning she was wrong about post-meal swimming. But mom was absolutely right about start-ups. The Small Business Administration reports that about one-third of businesses with employees fail within two years of start-up, with only half surviving more than five years. With stats like that, why wouldn’t you run to the nearest corporate gig that offered a regular paycheck, predictable hours, and benefits?
You have your reasons. And I’m guessing they’re a lot like mine. There’s something about you that makes you want to run your own show.
You have a dream. Maybe it’s a new dream, inspired by a new technology or invention; or maybe you’ve had this dream your whole life and have just been waiting for the right moment to take a leap of faith. You want to bake the world’s best cupcakes, craft beautiful furniture out of reclaimed wood, or distribute a perfect new blend of exotic fish food. You’d like to spend your days running the very best Cuban bakery, dry-cleaning shop, landscaping company, cardboard manufacturer, barbecue sauce bottling plant, uniform supply company, or flooring distributorship that your town has ever seen.
You may never achieve the epic success of Google’s Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, or Amazon’s Jeff Bezos. But who’s to say that you won’t?
I have a dream as well, and that is to be here for you, as your Success Factor, advising, coaching and encouraging you — in print, online, and in person, through my webinars and personal appearances — sharing my lifetime of experiences with you, so that you won’t have to take this journey alone.
So be courageous; believe in yourself and your dream; and you will successfully mount a company with a specific product or service that is uniquely and distinctly yours.
Hold on tight. You’re in for the ride of your life.
The Success Factor – Unconventional Wisdom for Small Business Success
1- Say “Hello from the other side!”
Given the reach of today’s digital world, anyone wishing to expand their Social Capital can do it easily just by following Adele’s advice, by saying “Hello from the other side!” What I mean by this is for you to use the reach and facility of social platforms to connect to anyone, anywhere, just by saying “hello” and introducing yourself.
Use LinkedIn or Facebook to identify persons across 1st and 2nd level contacts, who share a common industry or profession and reach out to them and ask for introductions to key persons in your field, sector, industry, city, or state. No matter if your business is Staffing, Insurance, Banking, Finances, or any other from services to manufacturing, join groups pertinent to your business. Once in these groups begin to interact using “Likes”, “Shares” and “Comments” to expand your contacts, which will eventually place you in contact with new business introductions, or obtain access to capital to potentially grow your business. In a similar manner, use Twitter to like, follow, and retweet on potential contacts, influencers, or even Client prospects.
So whether you do it like Adele and “say hello” from this side, that side, or the other side – it really doesn’t matter, just as long as you do it – reach out and say hello — to your Network that is.
2- “At least buy a ticket…”
There’s an old story of a Catholic priest who dreamed of winning the lottery. One day during his prayers he heard a voice from above inquiring…”Fergus”? Startled, he responded “my Lord, is that you? You’ve heard my prayers and are you going to award me by letting me win the Lottery?” The voice from above then responds, “Fergus…help me out my son…start by at least buying a ticket!”.
My 2nd suggestion is rooted in the notion that to expand your social capital requires a firm, personal commitment toward action from you – analogous to “…buying a ticket”. It requires that you personally and physically interact with your Network, going to trade functions, breakfast meetings, lead groups, luncheons, happy hours, and “Meet & Greet” events. It requires that you join a local chamber of commerce, which could also include ethnic or minority versions such as Indian, Asian, African-American, or Hispanic chambers of commerce, and attend them frequently and consistently. Unlike Fergus who wouldn’t even buy his own lottery ticket, you on the other hand, must buy a ticket, and then stick your neck out, attend, be participative, network actively, and follow-up with all your personal leads either with a call or Email. It’s hard work and can’t be done from your laptop or phone, but instead requires your personal and active involvement, because the only person who can build the relationships which will eventually lead to new opportunities for your business is you.
3- Do like your Browser and “REFRESH”…Yourself!
The “Refresh” button present on your browser tells it to reload the current website and by doing so, reproduces the entire page. Take this notion from your Browser and apply it to your digital profile — and “Refresh” yourself! Invest in a professional headshot and update the profile photo and banners on your LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook pages. Rewrite your profile description, updating it with your latest professional accomplishments, positions, promotions, job changes, or publications. If you write a Newsletter, redo the background artwork with something and create a storyline to attract interest from your network base, both current and new. You’ll be amazed at the results this will produce for you. I recently did all these things in preparation for the August 15th launch of my book “The Success Factor – Unconventional Wisdom for Small Business Success” and the results have been astounding. I had >100% improvement in the open rates of my Newsletter, 30x increase in the click-through rates, 10x-15x increases in the number of followers on my LinkedIn profile and blog articles, and a barrage of personal responses from my Network. All this anchored to an event (my book launch, in this case), but clearly tied to my action of “refreshing” my profile by providing new, interesting content to my Network. So if your profile and social capital becomes stale, static, or “freezes up on you” and you’re at a loss of what to do, then act like your Browser… and Refresh yourself!
As a recently minted first-time author I am learning many things, well…for the first time (hence, the label). I am learning about editing, promoting, publishing, and of course, selling my soon to be released in August book “The Success Factor – Unconventional Wisdom for Small Business Success.”
As a businessman, the sales aspect is an area that I relate to well and know a thing or two about. So you can imagine my delight seeing my book for the first time being listed on the myriad of online sites which specialize in selling books in such faraway places like Canada (well not so far away, but remember, I now live in Florida)…Norway…Sweden…Japan (yup…surprised me too) in addition to the many U.S. sites we are already familiar. One by one, the sites listed my book, all adhering diligently to the retail price suggested by my wonderful publisher Morgan James Publishing – all, except one. This one site, which will go unnamed, chose to single-handedly reduce my introductory selling price by more than 33%…and this before it is even launched! Now I could understand if the book didn’t perform well in sales post-release, and a price reduction could be justified as a very conventional tactic for trying to accelerate sales. However, The Success Factor hasn’t even been released and this one site is already discounting the price! It’s so easy to cut prices – anyone can do it, but rather than choose to “swim upstream and create differentiation for itself” as I suggest in my book, this one site opts for the no-brainer strategy of cutting prices – a decision which negatively impacts them, my publisher Morgan James, and me. Additionally, it’s not just the negative impact from a monetary perspective, but worse, the harmful message a deep discount at pre-launch conveys to potential readers and buyers. This is clearly not the message we (editor, publisher, book retailer, and myself) wish to convey. It’s just the opposite.
As a small business owner, my suggestion to the retailer would be rather than discount prices and margins from the get-go, why not try to captivate and entertain potential visitors with an enhanced user experience through graphics, videos, blogs, or interesting background material on the witty author (me, in this case)? This way, they avoid just reaching into their grab bag and pulling out a hatchet and start cutting – prices that is. Call it what you like – price gouging, discounting, or promotional selling – it’s really nothing more than a bad business decision. Product margins are sacred and should be upheld as long as possible, since once they start their downward spiral they never come back.
So now it’s my turn to do my part. As a result of their shortsightedness in sales strategy, I have chosen to leave this retailer’s site link off my website and by doing so, will not endorse them for sales of my book. This is not a “tit for tat” business decision, but rather one which involves “practicing what I preach,”and as a smart small business owner (me again) choosing to only do business with persons and companies which value their partners, and at the same time avoiding those who engage in tactics like predatory pricing, which end up being a disservice to all involved, including themselves. As I roll-out my book website this week, see if you can guess who the retail villain is. And as I constantly remind my readers in The Success Factor, smart business tactics like mine are not so unconventional after all, are they?
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