Do you feel like you are stuck in a rut in your business? Or do you feel like things have gotten a little boring, complacent, or slow? Maybe, the growth you used to find easy is not so easy any more?
If you have had your company for a while or have worked at mature company for a number of years, you have no doubt had the these times. You may be going through one right now. If so, this article is for you.
Businesses go through cycles and in those cycles are peaks and valleys, especially as they mature and grow larger.
One of the things I have noticed as companies mature is that many settle into accepting slower growth and sales. The mantra becomes, "That's just the way it is. The old days are over." Far from it.
After being part of organizations with this problem and coaching others out of it over many years, I have found that one thing that is constant when companies hit these valleys. It comes down to this:
When companies have the most trouble is usually when the senior people, the people that built the organization and got them there, stop taking time to learn, listen, and spend time with those in the trenches on a daily basis.
You can understand why this is an issue. If you don't know what is happening on the ground, how can you really make decisions for an organization or with regards to clients? I was once working with a group of senior leaders who were making decisions for a world-wide salesforce of which none had been in the field in years. They were relying on surveys to make their decisions!
Surveys are nice, but they certainly don't give you the full picture. The decisions being made not only affected clients, but also cut commissions to their salesforce - and they hadn't consultant with anyone working the day to day in the trenches. Not the sales reps, not even the front line sales managers. Bad move.
If this group had moved forward with their plan, they would have not only hurt their product and brand with their clients, but greatly disincentivized their salesforce. That would have led to less sales, profits, and the loss of some great talent.
Thankfully, we worked through it and had the group members take some time and get back in the field and trenches with the people doing the work on a daily basis and listening to clients first hand. As you can probably predict, there were some amazing insights that they gained. They ended up reworking everything and not only giving the clients what they really wanted (which was different than what their surveys said), but also created some great incentives for the salesforce that energized them and helped them to further succeed.
Whether you are a large or small business, in leadership, or consult for companies, always remember that the further you get away from the trenches, the harder it is to make decisions that really work well. You have to have the feedback loop of real world information on what is truly happening directly from those doing it. The better you get at that, the faster you will boost your success and the faster you can reach the next peak in your business.
One of the toughest challenges for any entrepreneur or leader is finding and cultivating the best talent to bring your dream and vision to life.
There are a million articles and different systems and philosophies on finding and hiring the best talent - some extremely intricate. Years ago, I was part of a task force in a Fortune 500 to study hiring. We brought in the experts. We analyzed the traits of top hires. We look at what type of interview processes and personality tests gave the best results. It was a year long project. After all the hard work, time, and effort - we found one simple, brutal fact that we could not overcome with any type of system, process, or corporate "crystal ball." It was this, One in Three. No matter what, one in three hires will turn out to be a bad fit or unsuccessful. Even if they have all the traits in the world and are perfect fit for the job in every way, it still happens. The funny (or not so funny) thing was that the one 1:3 ratio was about where we were before we started the whole exercise!
Here's the deal, sometimes people do their best sales job in the interview. They come across as talented, with all the skills and capabilities, but one in three will end up not being what you thought they were. Period.
Once I truly understood and realized this, it made things easier for me as a leader. I resigned to the fact that 1:3 will not work out, but that would mean I would gain two rockstar A-Players for every 3 hires. And if you can do that, you can be tremendously successful.
So how do you find and hire rockstar A-Players? Here are 3 simple steps you can take starting today.
1.) Be Deliberate and Purposeful About Your Hiring
Tell me if this sounds familiar. You get into your office, have a million things coming at you, and you look at your calendar or your assistant tells you, "You have interview you have to do in 30 mins." To which your mind goes, "Damn. I totally forgot. I don't have time for this today." So what happens? You scramble, get into the interview, ask the same old boring questions to check the boxes and move on with your day.
This happens over and over again and it has always astounded me with most businesses. Everyone says that talent is the most important thing and that their people are the most important asset, blah, blah, blah, but for most hiring is where they put the least amount of resources, time, and training.
You've heard a million times that you need to plan for your success, right? Well, if hiring the right people make the biggest impact in your success, then you need to plan and prepare for that area of your business. Be deliberate and purposeful about your hiring. Treat potential talent like a potential client. Do some research on them. Look at their resume and their LinkedIn profile and think through the questions you want to discuss and the topics - and why. Don't "phone it in." You should spend a couple hours preparing and interviewing candidates at the minimum.
2.) Create A Good, Solid Screening Process
Now that you are committed to being deliberate and purposeful in your hiring, if you are going to put the time into these candidates, you want to make sure that you are doing it with the best ones out of the pool you have. In order to do this, you need to have a good screening mechanism. The simplest way is to either have them fill out a questionnaire online or do a 20-30 minute phone screen. You can have someone on your team do the phone screen, but make sure you train them in the specific things you want to look for in the screen and what will constitute whether the candidate moves to the interview. Your screening process should have at least the following:
3.) Make the Interview a Conversation (and one other little secret)
Be wary of HR items of what you can and cannot talk about in interviews, but you should strike to make the interview a conversation. After all, this person might be working for you, so you should be able to get along and have good conversation. Most interviewees have their guard up, so it takes a little while to get them to loosen up and show their true personality. You should always be asking 3rd, 4th, and 5th levels follow up questions on topics you are discussing. Peel back the onion, get to the roots of things. Find our how they think, what they believe, and confirm that what they say their are passionate about is true.
Here's the other little secret. Tell the truth about the reality of the role they are coming into. A lot of advice these days has to do with the fact that "you are competing for talent and you need to sell them on your company, etc." I disagree and think that this is where a lot of hiring mistakes happen. The employer sugar coats the reality of a role so they "can get a butt in a seat." They are concerned more with getting someone hired rather making sure they have the best someone to hire.
Be honest about the role and it's challenges. I tell everyone that comes into my companies that the role will be one of the hardest they ever have, because it will be. We move fast, we are demanding, we expect excellence and results. I also tell them that it can and will be the most rewarding they will every have if they are willing to put in the hard work and stick with it for the first year because I know that is what will take. I ask them to take time and really about what we've discussed and the reality of the role. And if after deep thought, if they truly believe that it is the dream role that they were made for, then we will move to the next step. If it is not - that is OK. I would rather have them find and know they have found the best position to maximize their talents, passion, and capabilities. And if it is not with us, that is fine. In some ways, I am selling against working with us, but telling the truth and giving a very clear picture is most important. I also always tell them to remember our conversation, because if they move forward and we move forward, and things get hard - because they will, they can't say I didn't tell them what to expect. I cannot count how many times a team member has brought that up to me a few months after getting into the role and told me - "Wow, it was tougher than I expected, you were right, but this is why I signed up with you and am excited to get better." As a leader, you cannot ask for anything better.
Picture your vision of a successful person or entrepreneur. Got it? What does it look like?
Do they have they have the perfect business, the perfect life, car, lifestyle, etc.? Making money and growing their business seems to come easy for them. They've got it all figured out, right? Wrong.
The reality of becoming successful is that it is a big hot mess of craziness that never really goes as planned. And it's awesome!
Always remember that people are praised in public for all of the hard work, effort, overcoming adversity, and hustle they do in private. You just see the end result. Grant Cardone, he's got issues and challenges just like anyone else - they are just a lot bigger and more complicated. Gary Vee, same thing. He's works like no other behind the scenes to make his vision a reality.
It's the same for any very successful person you think of. They didn't get there in a straight line. They had many detours, twists, turns, and obstacles along the way.
The good news for you is if they were able to do it so can you.
And that is the lesson. Never forget that people have come before you and have been able to accomplish amazing things. Great things. But they overcame a lot more to reach those levels.
You have to have the same attitude on your journey toward your vision. More importantly, you have to understand that you will have many, many challenges to overcome to get it. You will have to understand that you will want to quit many times. And in the midst of all that, you will have to keep going.
A few pieces of advice that I received and made a huge impact on me persevering to reach my vision were the following:
1.) The bigger the problems you can handle, the bigger your business and you can grow. You have to grow yourself bigger than any problem or challenge you might encounter.
1.) When times get tough, tell yourself, "I'll do it just one more day." Tell yourself that every day until times aren't tough any more.
3.) Focus on what you can control and cope with what you can't. There is no point in wasting time, energy, and emotion on things you have no ability to affect or control. It does you no good and derails you. Instead focus intently on what you can control and affect and make sure that it is as good as it can possibly get.
4.) Beliefs lead to thoughts, thoughts lead to feeling/emotions, feelings/emotions lead to actions, and actions lead to results. Take out every word but the first and last...what do you get? Beliefs = Results. What you believe about yourself, your success, your vision, anything will manifest in the results you have. Make sure you input (beliefs) are the best thing to drive your output (results) and challenge yourself in this area.
Becoming successful is amazing journey in which no one ever fully knows how they will get there, but the ones that succeed are the ones that point themselves in a direction and start walking. The understand and are prepared to overcome challenges and figure it out along the way.
You've got a great idea for a business or product. You've spent a lot of time on a really cool website and marketing materials. You created the perfect logo, set up your social media, and even put together your "kick ass" business plan.
Awesome. You spent countless effort, time, and resources, and you've sold nothing.
You don't have a business yet. You have a lot of potentially wasted time and money.
There is only one thing that matters to make a viable business - that first customer willing to pay their hard earned money for whatever it is you are selling. You don't have a business until you sell something.
Many entrepreneurs forget this and get all excited about the idea and creating everything they think the business needs, except for the most important thing - the lifeblood of the business success, the first sale.
Instead of spending all of the time building the perfect website and creating the marketing materials and website, what if you just focused on your first sale? What if you focused on making sure your product or service can sell and that you have a customer for it? You can create the amazing business plan and marketing materials later.
If you are getting started in business or have an idea for a product or solution, there is only one place to focus, the first sale.
Most people make selling more complicated that it has to be. It is the most innate ability we have as humans. From the moment we are born, we are selling ourselves. And throughout life we continue to do so, whether it is in a job interview, to the one we love, or to get someone to buy into an idea or mission. Sales is a major part of life - embrace it and get rid of any stereotypes or negative connotations about it, because your business cannot survive if you cannot sell.
So, what if you are just starting out? How do you get your first customer?
First, get to where you have an MVP, a minimum viable product or service. This is where your product or service at least works and can deliver a result. Don't worry about it being perfect or having all of the things you want it to have. Just make sure it provides to give core solution it was designed to deliver. For example, if you have created a piece of software to help people better track their spending, make sure the core logic works - don't worry about how good the interface is or if it has all the extras. How much has Google's interface really changed from when they launched? Not much. Simple is good as long as it works.
Second, once you have your MVP, ask yourself who you ideal customer is. Get a good idea of who they are, what they want, their fears, and the things that make them act, or in this case buy. Once you know who they are, focus solely on talking to every person you can find that fits the category. You will want to have
3 big reasons why they should try your product. That's it. There are probably 50 reasons you can put down as to why they need it, but with the short attention span of people, pick the top 3 biggest ones and get them to buy using only those, because that is about all they will remember.
If you talk to 100 people, you will get at least 1 first adopter customer, if not more. And, yes you need to charge them for the product or service. You are putting your heart and soul into this thing - and that is worth something. Don't devalue yourself and set the precedent that you aren't worth anything. I'm not saying you can't offer special pricing to your first adopters to get them aboard. By all means, you should. They are taking a chance on you and should be rewarded because they will be your references and early evangelists. Just make sure you charge something.
Third, once you've got one customer, get some feedback, and use that to get your next 5-10 customers. Now, you are in business. You can then start to gather ideas and feedback from the group to make sure you are finalizing the product in a way that gives the market what THEY want. You'll be amazed at how something you thought that customers want is not that important to them and something you thought was not a big deal is the biggest thing they want. Be careful not to build the product you want, but the one your market wants. That is why getting customers in the MVP stage is so important. It is the stepping stone to get you to your finished product using the ideal customers as the vehicle.
Be careful not to build the product you want, but the one your market wants...
Lastly, once you have your first 10 or so customers and have gotten good feedback and ideas on how to finalize the product, you can then put efforts into your marketing, website, and redo that business plan based on real information. Then, as it is for the entrepreneur, you keep going, keep selling, make adjustments, learn as you go, bust through barriers, and make your dream a reality.
You were born to sell. But always remember, as Zig Ziglar said, "Selling is not something you DO to someone. It's something you do FOR someone." Your goal should always be to solve problems and help people/businesses with your solution. No, go out and help the world with your dream!
I was recently asked on Quora "What were the most Important things learned when starting your business? Good question and there are about a 1000 things to answer with. I thought about it and narrowed it down to these 4 as a starting point.
There are a ton of other things I could give you, but if you can put these 4 into practice, you will have a good foundation to take on the challenge of starting a business, persevere, and succeed. Now, go make it happen!
A man and a woman are standing on a street corner. The man sees another man struggling to get a taxi and shrugs it off as the way it is. The woman sees it and sees an opportunity to create a technology company that enables ordinary drivers to offer the extra seats in their car to people, give them a lift, and create an extra income stream for themselves. She calls it “rideshare.”
Of course, Uber already exists, but the point of the story is that the man has typical mindset and the woman has what I call an “entrepreneur’s mindset.”
Take my friend, John. John doesn’t look like a millionaire, but he is. John makes his living dealing in shit. Literally. Years ago, he was at outdoor event and had to use the rest room. There was only one issue; there were only a few “portable toilets” and the lines were a mile long. In asking one of the event staff why there weren’t more options, they told him that that was the most they could get and that were available. John, immediately saw a lack of supply where there was a lot of demand. He went out and bought some portable toilets and started a business. Nowadays, he not only has that, but portable trailers (If you’ve ever been to a marathon or half-marathon, you’ve probably seen them), and all kinds of other services across a number of states.
John, saw a need, took action, and seized the opportunity.
Everyone has this ability and has an “entrepreneur mind.” They just don’t always tap into it and use it to their advantage or their use it in other areas of their lives. If you have children, you are using your “entrepreneur’s mindset” all of the time. You are coming up with answers to the crazy questions you get, giving out advice on how to succeed, and even using your MacGyver skills to fix toys or pull things together to aid in some issue or problem that is going on.
But how do you take this mindset and flip to create more income and opportunity in your life? It’s simple, you need to remember one thing and use it all the time. You need to constantly be asking “How?”
How can this be done a better way? How can this be easier? How can I solve this problem or issue? How can we change the way things are done?
Asking “how” open the creative side of your mind to start thinking and looking for solutions. It helps you to look at things in different ways and see things differently. It helps you spot opportunities and needs.
Asking “how” activates the “entrepreneur’s mindset” in your brain and can dramatically change your life.
Make it a point to start observing something every day and asking how you can improve it or make it easier. You can start with a routine in your life or a cumbersome task you have to do. Don’t be afraid to fail. Innovate, experiment, and see where it takes you. Let your mind wander on “how” and see where it takes you.
Like I mentioned above, everyone has at “entrepreneur’s mindset,” we just need to take the time and ask the how question to tap into it…and take action on it. Figuring out a great solution to a challenge or problem without implementing it is worse than failing to put the solution in place. Go for it and make it happen. I’d love to get hear from you on trying this out in your life. “How” will you take action on this simple shift in thinking in your life? And after you do take action, let me know what you’ve discovered and /or created!
One of our subscribers sent me this infographic and it was too good not to make a blog post, so with their permission, I am reposting it here. Enjoy!
How can I start a business with no money? This question has been asked a million ways and times. The truth is many businesses, some very famous, started with and as nothing. Consider this: Amazon, Apple, Disney, Google, HP, Harley-Davidson, and even Yankee Candle Company started out of garages with no money. In fact, I love Yankee’s story. At 16, Michael Kittredge, the founder, made scented candles in his garage out of melted crayons as a gift for his mother. His neighbors took notice and asked if they could buy some of his candles, so he started mass producing them!
And that was in 1969. Today, it is so much easier to start a business or startup with no capital. But, it does depend on your startup. For example, if you want to create the next Tesla, you are probably going to need some capital. But, let’s put that aside for a moment. There are some very important ingredients you need that cost nothing to get your startup off the ground. These must be present to succeed with any startup…and eventually attract money.
First, you must be focused and obsessed with your idea and vision. You must eat, sleep, and breathe it. If you don’t have this level of passion, then don’t start - find what you are so passionate and obsessed with that it consumes you (in a healthy way). A good way to test this is if you would have the same passion and put the same time into it whether you were getting paid or not.
Next, you must take action and execute on your idea. It is always 5% idea and 95% execution in anything, especially startups. There may be some things you need money for, but there is a lot you don’t when starting out. Execute on everything possible that is in your control.
You will also need to learn to pivot. You may have a grandiose idea for your business and what it should be, but remember, even the most successful businesses started as something other than they are now. Amazon started very simply as an online bookstore. It is important to narrow your focus to what you can do at this time with the resources you have.
Whatever your startup is, you can start on it and you can do a lot for it. You will have to innovate and think differently. Let me give you an example of creating a million dollar business with no money.
We once had an excellent idea for a product line, but we did not have the expertise or resources to build a major piece of technology we needed to make it work. That did not stop us. We went out and pitched our idea to the companies that would use it. After 15 pitches, we got one to sign on and started the agreement process. While that was going on, we took the fact that we had a written agreement and went to several companies that had the technology we needed. We showed them the agreement, explained our plans on how we would market and make the solution a success and asked them to become our partner. One of them signed on, We agreed to a revenue share (not ownership) since all we had to do was plug their technology into our solutions (that we originally built with no money, just sweat equity). It was a win-win for everyone. If we failed, the technology partner was not harmed, since they didn’t really have to do anything, but let us use their technology. The initial customer got in on the ground floor of a new solution, at ground floor prices - and if it didn’t work, they didn’t pay. There were a lot of late nights and questioning on if we would make it, but we were obsessed with making it work and through ingenuity, will, and shear hustle, we did. This solution does over a million a year in revenues today and continues to grow. We did it with no funding, but just a great idea, execution…and innovation. Find a way or make a way.
Whether you already have your idea and vision or are looking for it still, it will always be true that “necessity is the mother of invention.” If you want something bad enough, you will find a way to make it happen. In today’s age, it is easy to start an information business with no money such as a blog, podcast, Youtube show, etc. You could sell your services (ie special knowledge). Or you could just be obsessed with a niche on Instagram and get 100K+ in followers and start to get influencer marketing dollars. Remember, as I said, how you start out will not determine what your business becomes in the future, but you need to start. You can parlay a blog, podcast, Youtube channel into a million different things. Here is a good article from Entrepreneur mag that can give you some ideas if you are still looking. No Money to Start a Business? No Problem. Try These 5 Options.
Lastly, if you are still in need of funding, remember that people invest in you in a startup. You are the company and it’s future, so if you are not totally buttoned up and all in, it will show easily. Here are the top 3 places to start for funding: