Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Business basics–1 of 5

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This is the first in a series of blog posts about improving your business. This method is based on the mentoring techniques I use with my students. It could just as well be applied to anyone who draws an income, however it is really aimed at those people who run a small business. The idea is to look at single concept in each blog post rather than getting to bogged down in the full concept. If you like what you read let me know and I'll keep expanding on these topics in time.

The 5 topics that I will cover in these blog posts when it comes to business are:

  1. Reason
  2. Revenue
  3. Resources
  4. Risk
  5. Reduction

You need to be prepared for concepts from the 'other side of tracks' here. I see so many others providing business growth solutions and advice which in my opinion simply don’t work. They over look the fundamentals and try to get people to apply complex marketing and sales techniques on a shaky foundation. That means their chances of success are low, which again is what I see. My aim in these post is to provide you the foundation of what you should consider before looking to other solutions of business growth. Once you have these good foundations then and only then can you add the additional offerings I see out there in the market and then their chances of success are almost guaranteed.

So let's kick off with the first part - Reason.

Here's a little experiment I'd suggest you try. I call it my 'BBQ test' but it works equally well anywhere. Next time you are talking to your peers ask them why they do what they do. Ask them why they run their business? Most importantly listen closely to exactly what they say and the words they use because that will tell you a lot about their business and themselves.

Most of people whom I mentor on business or ask this question of (say 75%) simply look at me blankly when I ask and can provide no real reason for why they do what they do. Most simply do what they do every day purely because it's the routine they have become used to. In other words they are operating on auto-pilot. This means that they are travelling on a journey without knowing the destination or any points along the way. How can you get somewhere without knowing where you want to get to? Seems silly but most people in business (and perhaps life) really have no clear idea or plan of what they are looking to achieve with their lives.

The next 20% or so do have a reason why they do what they do and will cite things like 'more' money, 'better' lifestyle, 'extra' freedom but all these terms (more, better and extra) are indeterminate. What does 'more' money actually mean? One dollar more? 10,000 dollars more? 100,000 dollars more? See what I mean? If you don’t define exactly what 'more' means then you fall into the trap of acceptance and that acceptance can be quite mediocre. 'Oh, I earned a dollar 'more' than last year so I reached my goals'. Acceptance is purely and simply a cop out, worst of all you are lying to yourself and creating a situation where you are remaining unfocused because your mind is trying to tell you one thing to mask what your gut is really telling you. Acceptance is living a lie and wasting energy on excuses which really should be focused on achieving your goals but it is certainly the easy path that many take. In short, most are afraid to actually define their goals specifically because if they do they may fail to achieve them. Well guess what? Not specifically defining your goals will guarantee that you don't achieve them and isn't the chance of trying and failing better than not trying at all?

The remaining 5% of business owners know EXACTLY what they are after. They want to pay off their mortgage in 5 years, they want an Aston Martin DBS, they want to work 4 days a week to spend more time with their kids, or $1 million, and so on. See the difference? Each of these goals can be precisely measured and the progress towards mapped. It doesn't matter what the goal is, what matters is that it is specific. Every person will have different goals because it is what is important to them, not to anyone else. You'll also find that these people have multiple goals that allow them to continue to achieve even when they reach an initial goal. What this 5% have in common is that they have at least one very specific and personal goal they are looking to achieve, that gives them the focus and drive. That in short, allows them to stand out from the other 95% of the population and achieve what they want out of life.

It is important to remember that the way you make a living is separate from the person who you are. Your business is not, and should not be you. It should be a means to and end that resides outside that occupation, yet how many people do you know where their occupation totally defines who they are and in fact consumes their life? They are always so 'busy' with their business they have little time for family, friends and actually living? As I'll cover in the upcoming resources blog post we are all given the same amount of hours in the day, yet an indeterminate amount of time on this planet. How you use your time is up to you, but remember, once spent you will never get that time back.

When people come to me seeking help with their business I start by asking them what they want from their life because that helps set the direction. if it isn’t there then it no use applying any other techniques. Once they have these goals they can then start mapping out a career path that allows them to achieve this. If you don't have your reasons straight you will find it much more difficult to get through the inevitable tough times because your goals are not tangible enough. You'll be surprised at the difference having very specific goals can have on your motivation and way you look at business. Of course your goals will change over time and as the situation changes, however they should always be there, like a guiding light to focus you on the task at hand. To focus you on leading the life you want, not simply working for works sake.

So ask yourself why you do what you do? What purpose in life does it serve? Chances are, if you don't know and can't annunciate it to others clearly you are putting any success down to luck which is generally not very good or very determinate. Opportunities come at the strangest times and in most cases unfocused people are never ready for them so let them pass in the mistaken belief they will come around again. Relying on luck is a loser's game. Remember, Las Vegas was built on losers where the only winners are generally the casinos who remain very focused on what they are trying to achieve.

You can of course have multiple reasons for doing what you do but you won't get anywhere unless you have at least one. That's all it takes to get the ball rolling, one simple yet specific defined goal will give you direction and purpose. Once you do you'll be surprised at how quickly that goal can be achieved and then you'll need to find another, which is a good thing because it means you are progressing and more importantly living the life you want. That is the key to success and perhaps more importantly happiness, achieving your goals and then settings new ones. It can become quite intoxicating after a while once you starting checking off achievements in short order. The clearer and more defined goals are, the easier they are to achieve. Simple.

As I said in the beginning, if you don't believe me about having a reason for doing what you do go and ask your peers and listen closely to their responses. I'd be pretty certain that at best you'll here generic phrases like 'more time', 'extra money', 'increased freedom' but ask yourself whether this is in fact true for these people? I'd contend that if you look closely it isn't and that they in fact don't really know what they want and simply default to work because they know no better.

So don’t fall into the trap of doing something without a reason. Be very clear in what you want to achieve. Know your end destination because only that allows you to successful start on the path in that direction.

If you have any question or comments on this please don’t be shy to let me know. If you are interested in the formal mentoring programs I offer also please don't hesitate to contact me. Remember, this post only scratches of the surface of what having a reason is all about and should only be thought of as a starting point for further exploration but hopefully it has provided you something to ponder on. If it does, then I have achieved my aim.

Watch out for the next part in this series - Revenue.

Image courtesy of luigi diamanti at FreeDigitalPhotos.net