I get it, business is tough. From cut throat competitors trying to chip away at your business, to major corporations opening right next door, it’s an all-out war. I’ve always believed that in the battlefield of business, the small entrepreneur has the advantage, the ability to move quietly into new directions and truly listen to the market and this article – when applied – is your secret weapon.
Don’t just “read” this article, study it, learn from it, and make it your business commandments. This article has the power to completely transform your business and catapult you to new heights. Or course, only when applied.
I should warn you thought…it’s a tad longer than usual. I suggest you set aside some time to go through this without distraction, and have a pen handy to take notes along the way.
Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Method 1 – Strategy over tactic
The single strongest method to building a successful business is to formulate a strategy and follow it.
As the old saying goes, make a plan then work the plan.
Most businesses operate on a very tactical level, jumping from one idea (tactic) to another with no sense purpose, direction or strategy.
The first thing is understanding the difference between the two. A tactic is every individual thing you do like run a mailer, build a website or run a promotion. A strategy is the plan, the over-riding idea behind everything, the journey you want to take your prospect on.
Think of the army, where would they be without strategy? In the army, tactics might be coming in with planes, sneaking in by foot or rolling up with a tank, but the strategy is the plan, the mission, the goal.
Without a strategy, business people run from tactic to tactic with no purpose and always chasing the next buck. With strategy, everything serves a purpose, tactics are check post along a journey, and every tactic has substantially greater impact when they are all working on the same strategy.
A tactician says “we need money let’s run a promotion!” so they run it, generate a few sales, and start all over. A strategist says “we’re going to run a promotion so we can get them to buy this item and then put them in this list which will send them this and this and that and …” and builds an entire system around their business.
The same philosophy applies in sports, like basketball for example. Shooting a basket is just a tactic, but the play is the strategy.
Unless you are playing against a team far inferior to you, tactics won’t ever bring you to victory. It’s your game plan, the play’s you’ve practiced, the feedback your coach provides you and the adjusted plan along the way that will lead you to victory.
And business is the ultimate sport, or if you prefer a darker though, it’s the ultimate war. Don’t go in empty handed, have a plan, a goal, a mission, a STRATEGY.
Method 2 – Listen to your market
I know this one is going to tick a few off, but hear me out… Too many entrepreneurs fall in love with their product and are blind to what the market actually wants.
They’re delusional to the needs of the client and, like those first few moments when courting your partner, are blinded by love.
If you’ve ever watched Dragon’s Den or Shark Tank, you’ve surely seen entrepreneurs dump their life savings into a product despite the market clearly saying “we don’t want/need it!” and, despite the Dragon’s/Sharks begging them to let it go, they keep on going.
This isn’t commitment and persistence, it’s stupidy. Listen, if you’re goal is to head South, and you jump in your car and start driving, that’s great! But what if somewhere along the way you start heading East and refuse to let the market – the feedback – tell you you’re going the wrong way? Instead, you press the accelerator and pour more time, money and energy into. If you’re going the wrong way, not time, money or energy is going to fix that.
Blockbuster didn’t listen to their market and they got wiped out.
A quick word of caution…
Beware of the temptation to use this as a crutch. I’ve seen many entrepreneurs spend all their time on minor things, refusing to focus on the majors in business, never get sales and eventually fold claiming the market wasn’t receptive, or the industry is down, or the economy is down, or…
And that takes us to the third method…
Method 3 – Focus on the MAJORS and not the MINORS
I firmly believe that most businesses fail from this alone. They spend their time focusing on minor things, things that may be still need to get done, but are secondary to the majors in business.
Of course, these vary from business to business, and your first job is to establish what is a major and what is a minor, but typically these are pretty obvious.
Let me ask you this: What does your business need to stay alive and thrive?
What do most entrepreneurs spend their time doing?
Everything under the sun except selling.
Here, let me clear this up for you
Minor —–> Major
Making presentation deck —–> Selling
Working on the website —–> Selling
Making a flyer —–> Selling
Planning their day —–> Selling
Getting coffee —–> Selling
Checking emails —–> Selling
Replying to emails —–> Selling
Going through their voicemail —–> Selling
Setting goals —–> Selling
Planning who they are going to call —–> Selling
Doing market research —–> Selling
Studying how to sell —–> Selling
Learning about their competition—–> Selling
Tweaking their website some more —–> Selling
Thinking about selling —–> Selling
Getting a hair cut —–> Selling
Talking to others about how much they are going to sell —–> Selling
Crying about low sales —–> Selling
I think I covered the more common minors, and the “majority of majors”.
“But Al, what are you saying…making my presentation is important, I do need to make my website, I need to set goals, create a flyer, answer my emails…”
Yes, but it’s not a major.
Always remember “You must do the most productive thing at any given time”.
I’m not saying that you CAN’T do any of the minors, I’m saying there’s an appropriate time for minors and an appropriate time for majors.
Most entrepreneurs get up, get ready for the day, head to the office, get there at 8, head to the kitchen and make a coffee, start going through their emails, realize there are several that are “important” and they must reply NOW, grab a snack, start planning their day, work on the website a bit, check their voicemails, tweak their presentation, start planning who they’re going to pitch and oops look at that it’s lunch and boy can’t skip lunch that’s not healthy so they go for lunch, come back to the office at 130 because you know the restaurant was a bit slow today and then darn they have new emails to tend to, calls to return, and shucks a client walked in to chat need to tend to that and now it’s 3pm better head to a prospects office get in the car, wait in traffic, stop for coffee along the way, get a car wash, finally pull into the prospects parking lot only to realize it’s now 4pm and well you don’t want to bother them on their last hour what if they’re leaving the office early for work better just not risk it and head back to the office and try again tomorrow.
Rinse and repeat.
I know, that is a terribly long sentence, but what’s even more terrifying is how accurate it is.
Here’s the real kicker, most entrepreneurs do this day in and day out. Heck, I’ve even heard entrepreneurs complain they’re too busy doing work stuff to actually get out and sell!
Remember, you must do the most important thing at any given TIME. So, you need to work on your sales deck? Great, do it at 7am before it’s appropriate to start calling on prospects, or after the kids go to bed, or in the middle of the night. Don’t like that? Then delegate it to someone else.
In business, you have three choices. 1 – You can run around mindlessly getting nothing important done. 2 – You can put in the long hours and focus on the minors during non-prime business hours and focus on only majors during prime time. Or, 3 – you can delegate everything that’s not a major to someone else.
Those are your only three choices. If you can’t afford to delegate because you’re just starting off, then you are left with two choices. You can either work during off hours OR pretend you’re going to be able to pull it off using approach number 1. I should warn you, it never works.
It is vital to your success to establish what is a major and what is a minor and adjust your time, energy and focus accordingly.
Method 4 – Innovate Continuously
In an age where change is happening at mind boggling speeds, it’s essential to your long-term success that you allocate a portion of your time or resources to innovation.
Of course, innovation doesn’t necessarily mean you need to change WHAT you’re selling.
You could innovate….
· The way you market
· The way you deliver your product
· The way you sell
· The way you price
· The way they pay
· The way you write
· The way you promote
· The way you staff
· The way you conduct business
· The features or benefits
· The way you service a product
· The product or service itself
There are a million and one things any business can change up, add, take away or completely flip onto its head. The key is to allocate a portion of your resources towards innovative efforts and test what you discover.
With that being said, it’s important to remember not to test with your bread and butter! In the assembly line industry, when a new approach is created they set up a side assembly to test the new approach, they NEVER run the test on the main assembly line until it’s been vetted and proven. You should do the same.
As an entrepreneur myself in several industries, I understand that feeling of “what I have is perfect and people love it as it is” … And so did Blockbuster, Sears, Blackberry and Kodak.
Don’t be them. Force yourself to keep an open mind, innovate and remember that change is neither bad or good, it just IS. Change is part of life, and to try and fight it is futile. In world moving so fast, standing still will cause you to fall back.
Method 5 – Be resourceful
When I was in the Kickboxing industry, I would remind my athletes that every minute they spent not training was a minute that the competition could be training.
I remember an old Michael Phelps interview where he explained that the average Olympic level swimmer had one intense training session a day, yet he did three. He believed in outworking everyone, in being the hardest worker in the industry, and it paid off handsomely.
Business is the ultimate sport, and it’s played 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, for the rest of your life.
I like how Mark Cuban says “work like there is someone working 24 hours a day trying to take it all away from you.”
Can’t get much clearer than that!
In business, three things can happen…
1 – You can fail, close your doors, blame whoever you want, and call it quits.
2 – You can achieve average success, get your bills paid, and do alright as long as you’re working.
3 – Play full out, have massive goals, and build an enterprise that goes on to be worth substantially more for you when you’re sick of it than when you’re in it.
The majority of folk’s land in the first pile. In fact, the vast majority of businesses never pass 10 years.
The second largest chunk fall into the second category where they survive, but they don’t ever thrive. They do alright, they’re living comfortably, but if something were to prevent them from working for a week or two they’d feel the pressure. And if they missed an entire month, they’d fall behind and risk the entire business collapsing.
Only a handful ever make it into the third group, the ones that make it big, that seem to continue to grow and amass wealth and leaving the “middle class” behind.
Now let me ask you a question… What makes those in group 1 or 2 different than those in group 3? Resourcefulness.
Your ability to be resourceful will make or break your future, it’ll be the deciding factor on what group you land in. Notice that I didn’t say “resources”. It’s a fact that some are born with more resources than others, but that’s irrelevant. It’s not how many resources you HAVE that matters in life, it’s your ability to be resourceful and find solutions no matter what that truly matters.
And it all starts in the mind.
In the face of a challenge, be trying to make payroll, hire a new staff, solve a major conflict, or even put the kids to bed, a resourceful person thinks to themselves “HOW can I resolve this?” and not “this is impossible I’m defeated”. A resourceful person believes there is ALWAYS a way, it’s just a matter of discovering it.
I can guarantee you that you’re going to face trials and tribulations, and if you want to stay ahead of the curb you must be resourceful and keep a solution-minded attitude. There isn’t anything in this world that can hold down or stop someone who is resourceful.
Let’s Wrap it Up
To recap, the three best ways to stay ahead of the competition and truly thrive in your business are:
1 – Always think strategy over tactic. Understand where your going, why you’re going there, what you need to do to get there, what journey the client needs to go through, etc.
2 – Listen to your market, they are the ones who will tell you what to do next.
3 – Focus on the majors and not the minors.
4 – Innovate continually.
5 – Be resourceful, be solution minded and always strive to turn every situation into a positive one.
Here’s the real kicker… These 5 methods will do absolutely NOTHING for your business if you don’t apply them. Knowledge is NOT power, the application of knowledge is. If there’s one thing you get out of all this I hope it’s this: DO.
Don’t spend your days planning, thinking and dreaming of the good life. Get out there and DO.
To your success,