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Transitioning From the Job to Starting Your Business

What we’re gonna talk about today is making the transition from working a job to starting your business. It is my belief that most people have some business ideas that they believe they’d be good at. What generally happens though is you wake up almost every day, get dressed, and go to work for the entire day, so there seems to be no time to start a real business. Most of us try to plan our lives around our work schedule, and once our life gets on a track, it develops into a routine that’s hard to break. We’re going to look at some different areas of our routine where we can apply a little pressure and squeeze out the time and energy that we need and then look at some areas where we can redirect this time and energy into the focus of generating some new business. Now mind you, I said time and energy. I didn’t say money.

We’ve all heard that you need money to make money. This is true, but it is easily misleading when we don’t understand the fundamentals of making money. Not all of us are born with money, yet we all acquire some throughout our lives. The common way of doing so is through service in solving some problem or need in society. Society doesn’t need money. Society places a value on its needs and these demands are represented in dollar values, but the service to society’s demands is through focused effort and time. So, if you already have $20 that’s great, but what it means is that somewhere you’ve done something in society that society says is worth $20. If you’re at the counter at your local fast food restaurant with this $20 in your hand, it goes without saying that you possess a right to request $20 worth of labor in society, because you’ve done at least this much work in society and you wish to have this request served in fast food service. And they’re going to accept that note. It’s already understood, so it’s easy to forget what the note means. So, yeah, the wealth you are going to be able to reclaim in your own life is going to come in the form of time and energy, but you’ll probably find some good old fashioned money too.

I was in the process of starting over about 2 ½ years ago. I had no money, car, place to live, no job, and the rest of the I-don’t-haves that come along with that. I had to truly build from the ground up. There was and still is nothing glamorous about it. I landed a job at a fast food restaurant, worked 12 hr days, came home and put in 2 more hrs a night at the computer planning, researching the best way to get the things I needed. I budgeted, saved, and made the most informative purchases that I could. Once I found the best companies that offered the best products at the best rates, I became an advocate for those companies to all of my friends because I wanted them to save money too. I became trusted in my circle as someone who knew where to get the best deals from and how to get things done, what the advantages and disadvantages were in many cases. This world is a tricky place to those of us who are not accustomed to the many services and privileges that are here for us every day to make things easier for us.

First rule is “learn to use services”

For example, managing money is hard, but it is especially hard when you don’t take advantage of the many banking services that people work every day to perfect. Banking is more than just a place to put your money. It’s a great way to track your spending and set goals. It’s a great way to add convenience to bill paying. It’s a great way to manage money and make purchases at the push of a button. It opens you up to the option of online shopping which gives you competitive pricing advantages, so you can save money. If the local car parts dealer has a part for 150, there’s a company out in California that may very well have the same part for 80 bucks, but if you’re dealing in cash, you can’t tap into the competitive pricing off companies outside your local market. (Plus if you have a bank card you can play around on Ebay) It’s about the services available to you that provide you with these simple advantages

Growing independence and self esteem in your children is very serious business and it’s hard. But it is especially hard when you don’t take advantage of the many programs and community services that people work every day to perfect. The world is tricky. I mean, you think your children are doing fine, because they’re not doing anything and then one day you realize that, hey, my kids aren’t doing anything. So you probably want to get on top of that, because you know that one day your children will get into some things. The question is will they have the confidence and experience necessary to make good decisions and follow thru. Then we can see the value of the different extracurricular activities available to your family in your community. Again it’s about the services available to you to provide you with simple advantages.
We have to be keen on the advantages. You have to know what’s out there.

We all need a lot of effort and energy to push for success and it’s hard to be energetic when you get paid very little money as consideration for the many hours you put in on the job, only to come home dog-tired with depleted energy and you’ve got two options for putting that energy back – cook or get some fast food. Now how many people, after a long hard day’s work, choose to cook? How many choose the fast food option? And the truth of the matter is that the fast food and junk food have counterproductive effects on our energies. They put extra weight on us, slow our bodily functions down, and they fill us up without the proper nourishment. And this has a lot to do with why we’re so tired in the first place. I mean, how much energy and production we expect to put out of our bodies if we’re putting bad energy sources in it. Our energy must be managed for intake and output. You’ve got to manage your efforts and make sure you’re getting the best possible return.

All this makes life seem so business-intense and the reason why I chose this route to begin our talk is because I believe that the all business begins with the business of how you run your life.

Check this out: We all know that going into business is just that – going in; or putting in, or an investment. You can only invest what you have. Then we must take note that “what you have” means what you have left to spare after your normal expenses. Then you’ll have to spend it on something that has the potential of making you some money. See this is what makes you an owner. You must own something that earns money for you rather than you earning money for yourself or everyone else. Now take a look at your job. You realistically do enough work on your job to earn money more than just for yourself. If you go to work for 8 hrs and in 8 hrs the position you filled generated $80, you cannot take that $80 home and keep it for yourself. Your boss would never hire you to fill a position if all the money that position earned, you got to take home.

So, see, your work must generate enough revenue for you to take a portion of the money for yourself, have a portion to use to keep the system running, and then there must be enough left over for the owner to pocket some himself. And this speaks volumes about the type of energy you put out. It shows you that you already have what it takes to put out more value then what you need for your own lifestyle, b/c you on a regular basis give more to the job than you receive payment for. I don’t say this for you to hate your job. I say this so you know that you have what it takes to produce more than you need and this is the beginning of business. It began when people figured out that they could produce more of a product or service than they needed for themselves, and they took that excess and began to offer it in the form of products or services to others. We’re going to identify some areas of excess in your life and the things you do. Then we’re gonna take that excess and cook.

Now in this most recent process of building my life, I knew I would benefit from being able to track my habits and expenses, so that I could identify areas of waste and excess. The first thing I purchased was a data phone. Yes, even before I bought a car, got a place, or anything. I got a data phone. I knew that the larger things I wanted depended heavily on how I managed my lifestyle. This data phone became the tool I used to do this. What it does is simply process data. It’s a mini-computer. There’s an application for tracking every activity that I value in my life, and let me tell you; in our lifestyles there is so much information and so much going on that it’s hard for us to process and evaluate it all. We value everything in our lives to some degree, no matter how much we hate to admit it, – even the headaches and the heartaches, the losses and the wastefulness – because all of these that seem negative, we keep in our lives for a trade off of something positive, but a lot of this is of sentimental value and not real use value. We allow certain wastefulness to take place in our lives because sometimes we just don’t want the headache of challenging ourselves or our loved ones, so we choose comfort. We’ve grown to depend on the affections and acceptance of our loved ones, and so many of our relationships are measured purely by how much we are willing to sacrifice for their sake. One of the main benefits of remaining in one place and not advancing in our lives is that we can often maintain longer lasting relationships. There are no challenges; no real commitment to anything besides one another and no one dares to venture into the unknown. And this is no small matter. The arms that hold us and the smiles that greet us provide us with sentimental warmth and comfort.

Relationships are a major part of quality of life, so sentimental values do mean a lot. If you ever were to ask my advice I’d tell you I look to find arms that will hold me and smiles that will greet me while we venture into the new and cold. We are talking about the things we value in our life and I included these sentimental values because all of this must be looked at and evaluated. We need to keep all of our efforts in check and bring them to some bottom line to make sure that we are moving towards our goals in the business of life. Out of this business will grow your other businesses.

What we need to do is to squeeze some real use value out of the excess areas in our lifestyles. Here are a few examples of how you can do this. Some great tools are going to be electronic banking and the internet. If you have 6 or 7 bills that you pay monthly and you’re actually driving out to the pay stations to pay them every time you get paid, you’re talking an easy 30 miles and 3 hours of wasted money and time each month, not to mention the distraction that this opens you up to. How many people can’t go out into the town without picking up a little something from the dollar store or a soda or something from the gas station that maybe you wouldn’t have picked up if you weren’t out? Cut those unnecessary trips out and u easily I save $5 – $10/mo in gas plus 3 hours that can be used being productive in other areas.. With my data phone & the banking tools there, I can pay all of my bills electronically and I never have to break my focus on any of them for more than 2 or 3 minutes.

If you find that you’re always in a rush and are forced to eat out a lot, the average fast food lunch order is about $7. If you stopped to grab something for breakfast on the way to work, let’s add another $3. That’s $10/day. Even if you don’t do it every day, we can average it out to 3 times a week. That’s $30/wk or $120/mo. We can’t do away with eating altogether, but we can take one day and cook enough food to take to work for a few days – something that doesn’t spoil quickly just for our take-to-work meals. We can get into the quick meals – tuna fish and other sandwiches. Maybe we could take that 3 hrs that we gained in our switch to electronic billing and shift that into meal planning. It’d cut our fast food bill in half and net us another $60/mo. Now, if we add the $10 that we saved in gas, we’re at a net total of ~$70/mo. And if u count the 10 minutes you spend at these fast food restaurants during the breakfast and lunch rushes twice every day (and we all know that these are the busiest times), you’ll find an hour a week or 4 hours a month extra.

Here’s another area that deserves some attention – the use of public facilities and public services. Many people pay high taxes and higher costs to live in cities and towns that have public libraries, recreation centers, & public transportation, but then they also have in-home libraries or book shelves with lots of books, exercise equipment that goes unused, and they drive everywhere. It is almost as if public services are looked upon as aid for the needy or we are so spoiled that we want our privacy our quick drives everywhere and we want everything in our own home. There’s not a problem with wanting your own space, but this way of thinking generally lines up with country living & it in some cases it doesn’t make since to pay the high costs of living in the cities where space is such an issue. For each case it’s different, so you have to be willing to look at the numbers. Compare the costs of country living to city living. Living in the outer limits of town can sometimes mean living in older homes that aren’t as energy efficient, so your rent may decrease, but your light, gas, & water bill may go up. You’ll probably have a new bill for trash pickup. Taxes and insurance will probably go down. The thing that I want you to take from this, if you live in the city and pay more to be closer to its free services, is don’t blindly pay again to have these same amenities packed up in your little home. At least consider the fact that you’re paying double. And if you are willing to switch to whichever way would earn you a profit, you’d probably find about $75 – $100/mo in this.

So, you see, through these methods and others, you can pull out $100 dollars/mo and I’d encourage you to carve out at least an hour every other day. This is the kind of investment that I put into my first attempt at business in my rebuilding process. I opted in to one of the most controversial business programs out now – MLM, which stands for multilevel marketing, or otherwise known as network marketing. With our nation’s recent economic scares, these opportunities just grew by the multitudes. They appeal to many people because of the freedom of being your own boss, the low entry costs, and some of the greatest self-help coaching available to the non-corporate world. These programs are great for meeting people, staying active and updated with the latest business information. Also, because, in MLM, your sales are directly linked to someone else’s sales, there will be experienced people eager to share tools, tips, & techniques with you. Now, I didn’t make any money at it really, but the tools I acquired are tools that people spend thousands of dollars to get and I was able to take these tools into a business that a little better at. I support MLM for so many reasons, but it’s simply a great way to get into the swing of business and get around some people who can teach you some things. Most of them you can get into for about $35/mo.

Web blogs are my favorite low entry cost business opportunities. They cover topics that are relevant to certain groups and this creates great opportunities to market products to these groups. There are literally millions of products that you can offer online without ever having to purchase them.

Something else I’m personally into – I like the vending machine business. It’s very low maintenance. The largest job is finding places to put them and all you do after that is check them periodically to refill them, clean them, and pull your money out. They allow you the freedom to work your job while your business grows. You can choose an hour every other day to go out and scout businesses that will agree to let you place your machines there.

I’m also not going to cover all of the low-entry-cost businesses. There are tons of them and due to the internet, even high-entry-cost businesses have a low cost alternative that you can start and began to grow into full scale while you generate a stronger demand to support growth. For example, if you want to open a clothing store, but you’ve never done it before, no one knows to come to you for clothes, so it might be a while before you have a large enough following to support a brick & mortar clothing store. But if you first start a clothing website, you can go in for pennies on the dollar and get people used to the fact that you sell clothing. If you use your excess time wisely to push this online business, people will respond with demand. As the demand grows, there will be a stronger demand placed on your time. Then you will need to go to your job manager and request a reduction in hours. This will be a great day because you will be on the road out of your job and into your own business.

This is the route I took and am still taking. I and the guys at the restaurant often joke that I’m the only guy they’ve known to intentionally work his way down the ladder. I quickly became a manager at the restaurant where I took that first job when I was starting fresh. I knew it would require a lot of me, so I was very serious about keeping my energy levels up. I didn’t do energy drinks or drugs or anything artificial. All I did was make a strong effort to eat right. I eat vegetarian only. I exercised regularly to keep my body conditioned. I boast that I could open the store up at 10am, close it and leave @ midnight and still put some energy into my budget and my plans before bed. I’m not saying that you should go to that extreme, but I’m revisiting the fact that energy will play a major role in your success, so do the things that condition your body for the path of success, because it is demanding. However much you want to produce out of your lifestyle, it will have to come from within you as pure energy.

With the excess that you produce from your own life you’ll have to make small purchases of things that have the potential to earn money for you. You don’t want to build a lifestyle where you have to work for everything you have. You want some of the things you have to work and earn for you.

Then you’ll want to dedicate a certain planned amount of effort to making your money earning opportunities work. Most of the failure in business comes from people who were excited to invest in something, but then became disinterested and let their investment grow stale and eventually perish. You’ll want to stay motivated and the best motivator is always results, so work to get some results from your business at least once or twice a week.

Then, as the demand for your business grows, began to decrease your hours on the job. Repeat this process until you are totally out of your job and totally invested in you biz.

I wish you all the best of luck.

10 Strategy Tools For Smaller Businesses

I come from a background in large blue chip businesses, where I spent a fair amount of time helping predominantly large clients with strategic issues and during the last ten years I’ve started and built a couple of smaller businesses. SME owners and directors need to think about strategy, but they need to concentrate upon those elements that are going to produce the most impact – by all means read the business strategy tomes from cover to cover if you want, but this article aims to give you, a busy SME director, most of what you need to know about strategy and analysis in order to make a start.

1 – 3 Types of Excellence. Many commentators would agree that a company has the option to excel (that means really excel so that the market recognises that excellence) in one or two of three possible areas:

Operational excellence – which means doing things really efficiently and therefore probably being able to deal with higher volumes and therefore passing on cost savings to customers (although it is possible to think of examples where operational excellence was so valued by the customer that she would be prepared to pay a premium for it alone). An example might be EasyJet.

Customer intimacy – which means that you have systems and staff who treat customers as royalty (or at least good friends) and they feel loved and valued by your business. An example might be John Lewis.

Product leadership – which means that your product (or service) is highly differentiated from alternatives and substitutes in ways that customers value. An example might be Apple.

2 – Do a McKinsey. As a start-up or small business you may not be able to afford a McKinsey assignment to address your strategy issues, but you can apply one of their most powerful weapons to your advantage. MECE stands for “mutually exclusive, collectively exhaustive” – apply it to your problems and you could see great results. MECE is a useful model for analysing a business problem because it aids clear thinking by ensuring that categories of information do not overlap, and by reducing the possibility of overlooking information by requiring that all of the categories of information taken together should deal with all possible options. Information should be grouped into categories so that each category is separate and distinct without any overlap (mutually exclusive), and all of the categories taken together should deal with all possible options (collectively exhaustive). A “major issues list” should contain no less than two, and no more than five issues, with three being the ideal number. Let’s say that Acme Widgets Ltd use a MECE tree diagram to help them locate the source of declining profitability. The diagram as a whole represents the problem at hand; each branch stemming from the starting node of the tree represents a major issue that needs to be considered; each branch stemming from one of these major issues represents a sub-issue that needs to be considered; and so on. The problem to be addressed in this case is “how can Acme Widget Ltd increase widget sales?”.

You will hopefully find that analysing issues down to the constituent parts using this technique will clarify where the real issues lie and they will now be in more “bite sized chunks” and so be easier to handle.

3 – Markets & Industries. The expressions “What’s your market?” and “What industry are you in?” are thrown around pretty well interchangeably – what exactly do we mean when we say “market” and “industry”. If you use the definitions that I suggest then a great deal more clarity will start to appear around the potential strategy that you should adopt.

I suggest that market should mean – a group of people / organisations who have the desire & ability to buy products to satisfy a certain need or want ie buyers & their needs. Market therefore is not about your product or service (although of course related). I suggest that you spend a reasonable amount of time thinking about who the buyers of your products or services are / could be and what traits or characteristics they share. By being able to describe your market(s) accurately and precisely you will subsequently be able to focus your sales and marketing efforts far more effectively.

When thinking about markets (ie buyers) you should also consider:

* How attractive are your products and services to these buyers
* And how attractive is the market to you – is it clearly defined, growing, shrinking, are external influences going to affect its size in future, are they easy or difficult to persuade to buy, and so on.

I’d suggest that industry should mean – sellers that offer products or services that are similar or substitutes. Sellers sell into markets. So let’s say that you have founded a business offering disposable paper place mats for university canteens where businesses can advertise themselves to students. The classic Dragons Den question is “so what competitors do you have?”. Of course you would be wrong to say “none – we are the only people doing these advertising place-mats”. Rather you need to think about what industry you are in, and the answer is likely to be “the provision of advertising to target students” industry so your competitors would include – Facebook, local radio, advertising hoardings, Google Ads, free magazines etc. The key thing when defining your industry is similar or substitute offerings – you may think that you are unique but if your potential customers consider something else then that something else is in the same industry as you!

When thinking about industry (ie other sellers you should also consider:

* Can you sustain any advantage (indeed do you have any advantage?)

* How attractive is your industry (more on this below)

4 – Attractiveness of an Industry. Of course different industries have different levels of attractiveness and you should be aware of that right at the outset. But it isn’t necessarily the case that you should only operate in attractive industries and disregard unattractive industries. Good business can be created in “unattractive industries” and it is perfectly possible to fail within what would be viewed as an attractive industry. The analysis that you perform to establish that an industry is “attractive” can be carried out by the rest of the business world too, so others might stampede into the industry and change its attractiveness quite quickly. Industry analysis doesn’t ensure that you have picked a winner, it just means that you are well informed about your business environment.

The defining work on industry analysis was carried out by Professor Michael Porter of Harvard Business School and published in his 1979 book “Competitive Strategy” – Porter’s Five Forces.

Porter’s Five Forces

Competition: How strong is the rivalry posed by the present competition? The various factors, include: the number of firms in the industry, rate of market growth, economies of scale, customer switching costs, levels of product differentiation, diversity of competition, level of exit barriers.

Barriers to entry: What is the threat posed by new players entering the market? The various factors include: capital costs of setting up,highly specialised equipment, level of protection of necessary intellectual property, scale and branding of existing competitors, government regulations.

Substitutes: What is the threat posed by substitute products and services? The various factors include: the cost to customers of switching to a substitute, buyer propensity to substitute; relative price-performance of substitutes, product differentiation.

Supplier bargaining power: How much bargaining power do suppliers have? The various factors include: number of possible suppliers and the strength of competition between them, whether suppliers produce differentiated products, importance of sales volume to the supplier, cost to the buyer of changing suppliers, vertical integration of the supplier or threat to become vertically integrated (ie the degree to which a firm owns its upstream suppliers and its downstream buyers).

Customer bargaining power: How much bargaining power do customers have? Factors that will effect the bargaining power of a customer include: volume of goods or services purchased, number of other customers, brand name strength, product differentiation, availability of substitutes.

5 – Spider diagram. Understanding how your business compares to the competition and to customers perceptions of value is a really key element of strategy. A great way to form a better understanding is to establish the key important dimensions (by asking the people who matter, customers) and then representing them graphically using a “spider diagram” such as below. You can map how your business measures up and how the competition measure up and then it will be readily apparent where areas of competitive advantage / disadvantage lie.

6 – SWOT. Dear old SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) – it hardly needs any introduction

Strengths weaknesses opportunities threats

After a business clearly identifies an objective that it wants to achieve, SWOT analysis involves examining the strengths and weaknesses of the business (internal factors); and considering the opportunities presented and threats posed by business conditions, for example, the strength of the competition (external factors).

Don’t fall into the trap of SWOT becoming two lists – one of “pros” and the other of “cons” and make sure that you use it critically and with clear prioritisation. So for example, weak opportunities shouldn’t balance strong threats.

7 – The Sales Funnel. Strictly speaking this isn’t a pure strategy tool but a very powerful sales strategy analytical tool nonetheless.

If your problem is with generating interest and awareness, then look at your PR – where are your target market seeing you talking about what you do? Are you engaging with your target market? If your problem is with generating leads, then how well are you explaining how you meet your target market’s needs with your products or services? If your problem is with converting leads into serious buyers, how well are you encouraging your buyers to take action? How well are you demonstrating your credibility and expertise to solve their problems? If your problem is with closing the sale, what objections are you hearing from your potential buyers? How are you overcoming these objections?

8 – The 4 P’s. Again the purist might argue that this is marketing strategy rather than pure business strategy – but we don’t mind what you call it because it all helps to being a more successful business. There isn’t the space here to do justice to the 4 P’s of marketing but to skim the surface they are a framework for evaluating the marketing strategy for a product.

Price: the pricing strategy employed by a firm for a particular good or service will have a significant effect on profit.

Product: differentiation is a source of competitive advantage. Product differentiation creates value in the mind of the consumer.

Position / Place: the physical location of a good or service can be a source of competitive advantage.

Promotion: is used to enhance the perception of a good or service in the minds of customers. A promotion will draw peoples attention to any features of a product that they might find attractive.

9 – Strategic Advantage. Following on from his work which resulted in the “Five Forces”, Michael Porter suggested that businesses can adopt one of four generic business strategies, as represented in the diagram below.

Generic strategies

The differentiation and cost leadership strategies seek competitive advantage in a broad range of market or industry segments. By contrast, the differentiation focus and cost focus strategies are adopted in a narrow market or industry.

I will write about this more fully in a strategy for smaller businesses booklet soon to be published, but for now it might be best just to suggest some example companies that might fit into each quadrant:

Cost Leadership: Tesco
Differentiation: Mercedes Benz
Cost Focus: Instore
Differentiation focus: The Perfume Store

Generic Strategies Example Companies

10 – Product & Service Life Cycle. The product lifecycle curve was originally the brainchild of another great management thinker, Theodore Levitt and was first published in the Harvard Business Review in 1965. Again space here does not allow for a full description.

Product Life Cycle Curve

Introduction: As a new product much time will be spent by the organisation to create awareness of it’s presence amongst its target market. Profits are negative or low.

Growth: If consumer clearly feel that this product will benefit them in some ways and they accept it, the organisation will see a period of rapid sales growth.

Maturity: Rapid sales growth cannot last forever. Sales slow down as the product sales reach peak as it has been accepted by most buyers.

Decline: Sales and profits start to decline, the organisation may try to change their pricing strategy to stimulate growth, however the product will either have to be modified, or replaced within the market.

Small Business Internet Marketing Blog Strategy

Here’s some fundamental ideas of why small businesses needs a Small Business Internet Marketing Blog Strategy!

Today’s small business internet marketing company needs a business blog. This is guerrilla marketing at its best. As a small business having a blog is part of yourinternet marketing strategy. A business blog is a powerful marketing and branding tool that has the power to attract new business and a like-minded group of individuals.

Your small business blog is a great source of advertising space. Your business blog for your small business internet marketing strategy is not a just a single minded journal. Your blog enhances you online image and brand.

You should note that your business blog can improve your website search engine visibility, increase link popularity, and readily allow for RSS syndication. All these add up to increased site traffic for your small business internet marketing goals. Search engines like crawling through blogs because they offer a large amount of text content that is updated and added to on a regular basis.

Small businesses from a broad range of industries have had success in authoring blogs and hosting online forums for their customers. Some of the benefits these companies have enjoyed include direct communication with influential consumers, higher search engine rankings and the ability to respond quickly to marketplace events.

Your small business internet marketing blog strategy will help you have more people regularly visit your site, which gives you the greater chances of attracting advertisers and earning more money. Combined this with the power of continuing displaying your product in front of your target market, then, you have to realize that you have a winning strategy.

Marketing is the toughest part of running a company and it won’t matter if you have a great idea, product, or service, if you can’t reach your target audience, communicate with your customers and influence their spending habits. You need to make it as easy as possible for people to find you. Creating your business blog marketing strategy is essential.