Bullet Proof Your Business
This page has been set up as a blog with new material being added each Monday. You will see tips and suggestions on entrepreneurship, the four pillars of business and how to bullet proof your business. Feel free to bookmark this page so that you can return to it on a regular basis. For more information on business and entrepreneurship, you can email Dr. Abramson requesting your own complimentary subscription to Owl Quarters, our quarterly newsletters for entrepreneurs and business owners. And for now, scroll down to learn about:
- Flying Solo - Tips for Solopreneurs (uploaded 22nd April 2019).
- Key Qualities of Entrepreneurship (uploaded 18th March 2019).
- Helpful, Entrepreneurial Habits (uploaded 25th March 2019).
- On the Four Pillars of Business (uploaded 15th April 2019).
- Useful Entrepreneurial Mindsets (uploaded 10th June 2019).
- Spending Time On the Business as Well as In it (uploaded 13th May 2019).
- Pricing Your Offerings (uploaded 29th April 2019).
- Marketing Your Offerings (uploaded 6th May 2019).
- Making it Easy to Buy from You (uploaded 3rd June 2019).
- Nurturing Your Most Important Resource (uploaded 20th May 2019).
- The Importance of Upskilling (uploaded 17th June 2019).
- More Bang for Your Bucks (uploaded 27th May 2019).
- Staffing Peaks and Troughs (uploaded 8th April 2019).
- Finding a Business Mentor (uploaded 1st April 2019).
Flying Solo - Tips for Solopreneurs
You have decided to hang up your shingle and go out on your own. Awesome! Exciting! But what do you do? How do you do it? What do you need to consider? This blog provides five tips to help you get started as a solopreneur.
Tip 1. Know Your Big Idea: When you decide to go into your own business, it is useful to focus on your big idea: The product or service you would like to proffer to your target market. The more details that you flesh out, the better. Moreover, you want to flesh out your ideas in relation to W.I.F.F.M. (what is in it for me from the vantage point of the customer). The more you have addressed customer W.I.F.F.M., the more appealing your offering will be to them.
Tip 2. Present Your Credentials: Once you have fleshed out your offering, it is time to look at who you are and why you can provide the product or service you say you can. The answer to this question reflects your credentials. Credentials may take the form of formal qualifications and/or experience. It may also take the form of any special licenses, endorsements or awards you may have acquired along the way.
You may find it helpful to highlight your credentials on your website and/or within the space of your professional premises. You may also like to reference your credentials within your marketing materials (such as brochures, information sheets and social media presence).
Tip 3. Identify Potential Referrers For Your Business: New businesses often wonder where they may get their customers from. If you are a retail store, your customers are likely to be passing pedestrians. Service-based professionals may not have that luxury. So, it becomes necessary to identify who you know who could potentially refer customers to you. From there, it is a matter of reaching out to potential referrers to let them know what your business offers and invite them to refer those who might benefit from your offerings. It may also be worth your while maintaining a collegial relationship with them, making sure to touch base with them on a regular basis.
Tip 4. Recognise Potential Collaborators: Just as there may be others who could refer business to you, there may also be business owners with whom you could collaborate. It may therefore be worthwhile to consider whether there is something you could offer that dovetails with something another business offers. Similarly, you could consider whether there is something you could put together and deliver jointly with another business owner. When you have identified the potential collaboration opportunity, feel free to reach out to discuss that opportunity with them and how it might unfold.
Tip 5. Set Up the Right Kind of Business Operation: It would be worth your while to reflect on the formalities of business structure. You can operate your business in your own name, as part of a partnership structure or under a company structure. There are liability and tax implications behind each alternative. As the law will differ across countries, as well as across different states within the same country, you would be well-advised to seek the guidance of a shrewd accountant and/or lawyer to discuss the correct business structure for your business.
Finally, it would be worth your while obtaining professional indemnity insurance for your field; one that travels with you wherever you may provide your offerings. And for the rest, be sure to fully enjoy your newfound independence, autonomy and joy of running your own business. Your way.
Key Qualities of Entrepreneurship
Some time ago, I wrote an article on the four key qualities of an entrepreneur. The qualities are: (1) taking an opportunity focus; (2) integrity and high standards; (3) persistence; and (4) business nouse.
It seems to me that it does not matter about economic cycles, business industries or the element of serendipity, it is these four qualities that make it through the test of time.
The best news of all is that all four qualities are learnable. While the first three may seem to be attributes of the person, those attributes can be developed. The final quality represents a skill that can easily be picked up through training (such as my Bullet Proof Your Business Coaching Program and Workshop series). The reflection time you spend on your business and the results your business currently generates will also contribute to your developing sense of entrepreneurship.
In this way, it does not matter how entrepreneurial you are when you commence your business. By developing these four qualities within you, you will become increasingly more entrepreneurial over time. You can then apply your developing sense of entrepreneurship to your business initiatives and enjoy watching it grow.
Helpful, Entrepreneurial Habits
They often say you need to spend time on the business as well as in the business. Why not routinize the time spent on the business. In so doing, you can develop your entrepreneurial skills and abilities, and ultimately, the effectiveness in which your business operates. Here are some helpful entrepreneurial habits you can use when you are thinking strategically about your business:
- Consider current best practices in your industry and what you do to improve on them so as to deliver a better product or service for your customers.
- Consider trends and developments in fields outside of your own, especially those in I.T. along with how you might utilise them to deliver an even better product or service for your customers?
Here are some helpful, entrepreneurial habits you could employ weekly:
- In light of the strategic goals and current needs of your business, plan the best use of your time over the week ahead. You may even like to allocate one doable task for each of the next five business days.
- Upload latest version of your website.
- Prepare and send an email or ezine for customers on your database.
- Prepare and stockpile video, visual and print content that you can upload on social media. You may also plan a schedule for uploading your content to your preferred forms of social media.
Here are some helpful, entrepreneurial habits you could employ each business day:
- Complete the doable task set for the day.
- Work on one or other aspect of your website. This may include improving design to enhance customer experience. It might also involve preparing new content or updating existing content so that your website remains fresh, timely and up-to-date.
- Upload one video, visual and/or print content on your chosen forms of social media.
You may have other ideas about how to spend your time on your business. At the end of the day, the kinds of helpful entrepreneurial habits you choose to employ is limited only by the extent of your imagination. To the extent that you adopt helpful entrepreneurial habits that align with your business strategic goals, you will find it easier to reach those same goals. And remember, the ultimate fruits of your labour begin with the groundwork you take today. So, what helpful entrepreneurial habits might you adopt from this day forth?
On the Four Pillars of Business
I developed the concept of the four pillars of business for use in my training. But what are the four pillars? Why are they important?
The four pillars consist of Strategy and entrepreneurship; Finance; Marketing; and Resourcing.
In the 20-odd years I have been providing small business training, I have found that business owners are drawn to the marketing side of business. It is natural to attend to the marketing side of business after getting your product or service off-the-ground. However, by focusing primarily on the marketing side of business, other areas of business management will not be as well-developed. And, if so, those areas of business may ultimately hold your business back or hold it down.
Just as all four legs of a table need to be equally stable and secure in order to safely place objects on the table surface, so too do all four pillars need to be stable and secure in order to build a sustainably strong business. If one leg is weaker than the remaining three, that leg will weaken the stability of the overall table. Similarly, if one pillar is weaker than the remaining three, that pillar will weaken the overall stability of the business. It will also place limits on the extent to which your business can sustainably grow over time.
They often say you need to spend time on the business as well as in the business. Using my four pillars approach, that means spending equal time on strategy and entrepreneurship, finance, resourcing as well as marketing. And each time you would like to grow your business, it is time to learn more about all four pillars of business. A good place to start is with the Bullet Proof Your Business Coaching Program and Workshops series. Both Programs are based on my Four Pillars of Business model. [See our Entrepreneurial Page for further details. Bookings for the Workshop series can be made via our Eventbrite Page.
Useful Entrepreneurial Mindsets
In an earlier blog on the Key Qualities of Entrepreneurship, I spoke to the four key qualities of entrepreneurship, [i.e., (1) taking an opportunity focus; (2) integrity and high standards; (3) persistence; and (4) business nouse]. This blog speaks to three entrepreneurial mindsets that dovetail with those qualities of entrepreneurship.
Mindset 1. Can Do Attitude: As a business owner, you want to ask the question how do I?, rather than can I?. When you take a can do attitude, you are more likely to find solutions to problems and you are more willing to change the way a product or service is delivered so that it better meets the needs of customers.
Mindset 2. Focus on Value: Related to the first mindset, you want to focus on delivering great value to your customers; so much so that customers are dazzled about what is included in the business offering, how much is delivered, how it is delivered and the price it is offered.
Mindset 3. Focus on Healthy/Calculated Risk-Taking: What your business offers in the first year of operation may be very different from what it will offer in the 20th or 50th year of operation. Each time you develop and release a new product or service, you are carrying a certain degree of risk. You can reduce the size of that risk by testing a small piece of the business offering before it is rolled out in full. The more you research, test and refine your offering with its target market, the lower the risk of ultimately bringing your new offering to the marketplace.
All three mindsets can be honed and developed. We learn from the results we get. And, as you hone your own entrepreneurial mindset, you will find that you display more qualities of entrepreneurship while your business performance increasingly improves. So, what might you do to hone your own entrepreneurial mindset today?
Spending Time On the Business as Well as In it
It has often been said that you need to spend time on the business as well as in it. But, how best do you do that? What is the best use of your on time? How much of your business day should be allocated to on activities and, by implication, how much can you allocate to actually doing the work that directly brings in the income? This blog answers both those questions.
Your on time can be divided between product/service development and the marketing of same. You want to begin with developing products and services that wow! your customers. And, you also need to make sure they get to hear about what you have to offer so that they can take up the offers of benefit to them.
How much of your business day you allocate to on activities will depend on the nature of your business offerings and income pipeline. Product and service development will always precede delivery. If we are to develop offerings that truly wow! our customers, we need to spend the time necessary to develop them thoroughly. This may mean working with customer groups to ensure that the product or service best meets their needs and aspirations.
After the development of the wow! offerings, you need to consider your income pipeline: If your business works in a field where there are queues of customers waiting to be served and they spend a long time with your business, you may need to allocate very little of your business day to on time activities. By implication, you are free to allocate the bulk of your business day to serving your queuing customers. If, by contrast, your customers are few and far between and their stay with you is very brief, you may have to allocate a great deal of your business day to marketing your offerings. Most businesses fit somewhere between these two extremes. And, over time, we each discover the best ratio between on and in time. Tracking the results you get will go a long way to honing your on versus in time.
Pricing Your Offerings
How do you price your products and services? From a marketing perspective, the answer is what the market will bear - that is, what your customers would be willing to pay. However, the marketplace may not truly understand what you contribute and may therefore undervalue what you have to sell. Pricing your products and services under these conditions would mean that you offer them begrudgingly, if at all. By contrast, if the marketplace regards your offerings as akin to magic and overvalue your offerings accordingly, you may find yourself extremely well-remunerated for your efforts, perhaps excessively so.
There is a second dimension to setting fees and that is a financial one: At what price should you sell your offerings in order to cover costs and earn a reasonable income? Some businesses will use a cost plus percentage mark-up framework to answer this question. Others will consider their income goal for the financial year in determining their fees.
And, there is yet another dimension to setting ones prices. This one is attitudinal: How do you view money itself? Is it something that is hard come by or does it come easily on the strength of an idea? While our money attitudes are not as simple as either black or white, how we view money can influence the fees we charge for our offerings.
I speak in greater depth on each of these dimensions in my Bullet Proof Your Business: Finance and Psychology of Money workshops. You can also find out more about the third dimension by visiting my Psychology of Money blog.
Marketing Your Offerings
Once you have developed your offerings and determined the pricing, it is time to promote your offerings. There is no one right or wrong way to promote your offerings. However, extroverted business owners may find some methods of marketing more of a joy to work with while introverted business owners may find other types of marketing methods more enjoyable.
If you are extroverted, for instance, you may prefer to use public speaking, you-tube and networking as a means of promoting what you have to offer. If you are more introverted, you may prefer email, newsletters, blogging, website management, Facebook and Twitter.
It is therefore up to you, the business owner, to decide how you want to promote your offerings. Whatever method you choose to promote your offerings, only take on as much as you can consistently commit to. You are also free to work within the constraints of your personal preferences and comfort zone. To the extent that you market your offerings within modalities you most enjoy being in, you are more likely to consistently market your offerings using those modalities. So if you prefer Facebook, Twitter or other forms of social media, feel free to play with them. If you enjoy developing your own newsletters, feel free to centre your marketing initiatives around your own newsletters. Similarly, if you prefer networking and public speaking, feel free to immerse yourself in those activities.
At the end of the day, you can reach your potential customers in the marketing modalities you most enjoy using.
Making it Easy to Buy from You
I recently had an interesting experience as a potential customer of another business. What was interesting for me was that it was so hard to buy from this business. In the end, I gave up and looked for an equivalent product elsewhere. While the business did email a quote, they were slow in organising to do a full measure-and-quote. They were also slow in bringing out some samples of what they could do in the job. Moreover, they put blocks in my path that I needed to address before they would do the measure-and-quote. The blocks were not financial ones.
I encourage all business owners to consider how staff from other businesses respond to them when they are the customer. Take note of what other businesses do well and what they do poorly. There will be something in your observations that you can use to hone your own business' processes and procedures when dealing with prospective customers.
At the end of the day, you want to do what is necessary to make it easy for prospective customers to buy from you.
Nurturing Your Most Important Resource
When you operate your own business, you could easily spend your waking hours on or in your business. And, if you really love the work you do, you may not even notice just how hard you are working.
You need to spend time taking care of your most important resource: You! Here are three tips to help you do just that:
Tip 1. 9-5: Treat your role in your business as a 9-5 job. You can choose your own hours of operation. So, in fact, you might be working 10-6 or 9-4 or seven mornings a week or whatever works for you. Whatever hours you set, be sure to be on or in your business during those hours and leave the remaining waking hours for family, friends, self-care and recreational activities.
Tip 2. Leave work at work: By leaving your work materials at your place of work, you are not tempted to do something else on or in your business outside of your working hours. You will also find that by psychologically leaving your work at work, you are free to fully relax on your own time.
Tip 3. Have Fun: Take the time to schedule fun activities after hours and on weekends. The time you spend in activities that sustain and nourish you are their own rewards. You will find that they help recharge your energy so that you are refreshed and energised for the start of your next working day.
At the end of the day, you can have your business and your life too. So, what are you doing to fully enjoy the life that comes from owning your own business?
The Importance of Upskilling
It is useful to keep yourself and each area of your business operating at best practice. When you do, your competitors are put in a position of continually having to play catch up with you while your customers go wow! when they see the extent of what you and your business are doing.
So, why not develop a plan to keep yourself, and your business, continually improving and work your plan from this day forth.
More Bang for Your Bucks
The advantage of being self-employed is that your time is your own. The disadvantage of being self-employed is that your time is your own. Huh? As business owners and entrepreneurs, we want to maximise our profits while minimising our expenses. Yet, much of our advertising and marketing expenditure is wasted - we just do not know which half.
We all want to know how to get more bang for our bucks in everything we do in our businesses. And the biggest bang for our bucks can be divided amongst our time usage as well as our dollar-usage.
It is therefore useful to pay attention to what we should be doing, what we should be delegating and what we should be dropping. And, as entrepreneurs, we are likely to have an abundance of business ideas to pursue. We need to decide which one we want to pursue next and keep focusing on it until it is time to move on to the next business idea.
It is also useful to look at our dollar-spend in our business from the vantage point of efficiency and effectiveness. Each time we can consider whether there is a more efficient or effective way of accomplishing the objective behind that spend.
At the end of the business day, we can get more bang for our bucks in both time and money.
Staffing Peaks and Troughs
There is nothing worse than seeing your staff idle, perhaps reading a novel on company time. You employed them to apply their skills and abilities to your company bottom line. And, while business was busy, they were doing just that. However, when things got quiet, out came the novels.
Staffing peaks and troughs can occur in any business. As a business owner, you will always find something constructive to do for the business, even in the quiet times. But, what can you do with staff under those conditions? Here are three strategies to help make better use of staff skills and abilities:
Strategy 1: Consider whether any other members of staff are currently overloaded. If so, ask underutilised staff to help them out.
Strategy 2: Consider whether any of your own duties could be delegated to underutilised staff (temporarily or permanently).
Strategy 3: Consider whether there any special projects you could give underutilised staff. Special projects may be strategic, product development oriented, marketing or administrative in nature. You may have other special projects in mind for your staff. In considering which projects to delegate to staff, you may like to consider their respective career aspirations. By aligning special projects with their career aspirations, you will find your staff demonstrate a deeper commitment to the projects they take on.
At the end of the day, there are ways of fully utilising the talents of your staff. And, you can do so in a way that contributes to the business bottom line while enabling staff to develop their own professional skills and abilites.
Finding a Business Mentor
A business mentor can guide you to reach the next steps in your business development. With services like zoom.us and skype, you can be mentored by experts across the globe while remaining in the comfort of your own home. So why not seek out a suitable mentor; one who shares your ideals and values, to take you to the next steps in your business development.
Our newsletter, Owl Quarters, provides articles, quick tips, food for thought to help you reach your full potential: Entrepreneurially. If you would like your own complimentary subscription to this newsletter, feel free to email your request to Dr. Rachel Abramson . You can also follow Dr. Abramson on Facebook or Twitter.