Chapter 3: Being a Better Business Owner
You have discovered what motivates you at a level that will drive you to action. You have determined the direction that you want to go and are headed there. Now let’s turn our attention to addressing the other reasons for failure: Lack of skills and knowledge. You can concentrate on improving your skills and knowledge in a number of ways. In addition, you can adopt successful behaviours and habits. These are ways of thinking, ways of doing things, and ways of managing your time every day that when implemented, help lead to success.
To start, in order to be a better business owner or CEO, there are several things you can do to virtually guarantee success. First, you need to be able to think clearly about your life and your business and spend some time strategising and planning. No one else is in a position to do this, so by failing to take the time to do this yourself it will not get accomplished and your business and your life will languish for lack of this direction. You also need to examine the use of your time and how to best apply it to contribute to your success. You do this through examining your particular talents and whether or not you are using them effectively. There are also numerous strategies of successful people that you can adopt as your own and benefit from implementing their techniques and philosophies.
Everybody is born with things that they just naturally do well and things that they naturally don’t do well. For instance, I am very good at getting projects started, taking an idea and turning it into something deliverable. What I am not very good at is the detail work needed to make a project work completely. Because I am aware of that failing, I concentrate on doing what I am good at, and I get other people to do what I am not good at.
There is a huge lesson here. If you focus your energies on trying to improve what you are not good at, you will only waste your valuable time and get frustrated. Instead use others who can do what you can’t, and concentrate on improving your strengths. You will generally progress much faster.
It is so much easier during these Internet times, when it is quite simple to engage virtual assistance from all around the world for often far lower wages than you would pay at home. Why would you want to do what you are not good at? One of the things that we will cover in this book is how to engage and get work done with virtual assistance, but generally the point simply is: understand what you are good at and what you are not good at, and hire somebody else to do the latter.
If you are anything like me, you get your best ideas just before you go to sleep or when you are in the shower. There is a reason for that; it is because you are in a relaxed state and your mind is free of directed thought. New ideas are difficult to formulate if your mind is already engaged in structured thought. That is why most if not all of your great ideas will come when you are in a relaxed state. In a way, your most productive time can manifest during your least productive time.
A saying that illustrates this is:
“Do not think when you are working. And do not work when you are thinking.”
Thinking is about taking time out for planning and considering what you are going to do. Perhaps considering how you are going to solve a particular problem, or planning for the future. That is thinking time. Working time is when you are doing things: looking at what is happening with the business, helping with operations, actually developing the products, or whatever you might actually be doing. Try and spend your ‘thinking’ time separately to your ‘doing’ time
When you are working, do not pause in the middle of working and try and consider something else. You would better off getting up from your desk, going somewhere else, and then spending a little bit of time doing the thinking. That is a great tip that works for me. It is very easy in this ubiquitous communication age to be bombarded with a host of messages: email, instant messages, text messages, mobile telephones, radio, TV, and people wanting things. It makes it increasingly difficult to focus on any one thing. If you want to be productive, you need to focus on one thing at a time. To best do that segregate what you are doing. I block out some time in my diary to do a particular piece of work and I let no one interrupt me. I get things done and I get them done faster.
The same goes for thinking time. Again, block out a piece of time in your diary to say: “I am going to sit and plan and think.” This is an unbelievably useful tip. Always set time aside in your diary to think and plan. You will soon realize how important this is to the smooth working of your business. Sure you are going to have to allow time for interruptions for doing whatever comes up day-to-day, but, the more that you can pre-plan your time to get work done, the more efficient you will be. So try it; there is an exercise. Try and chunk out some time for thinking everyday or every week, and see what happens.
Personal Traits of Exceptional Performers
What makes some business people more successful than others? I’ll tell you a story to illustrate.
Some time back a friend of mine had dinner with his friend Earl Nightingale, the famous radio personality and producer of self improvement cassette programs. Earl made his life’s work studying successful people and how they achieved their successes. My friend had long admired Earl for his ideas and philosophy.
On that occasion, my friend asked him what advice he would give his young son if he had one. What, based on his vast experience and knowledge, would be the prime thing that would help his son ensure success both in business as well as in his personal life.
Earl said told my friend, “You know, I have often thought about that very question. And after all the years and all the study, I’ve come to the conclusion that your success in life, or in business for that matter, can be boiled down to one thing. That is, your rewards will always be in direct proportion to the amount of service you render.
“You only have to look around,” he said. “The people who serve others, prosper. The people who don’t serve others, don’t prosper. And you can tell just how successful a person is by the amount of service they render to others.
“The problem,” he continued, “is that unsuccessful people either haven’t learned that great secret, or they don’t apply it. The successful people are the ones who develop the habits of doing the things that unsuccessful people don’t do for one reason or another.”
What Failures Don’t Like to Do
Earl’s comments hit my friend like a big hammer that night, as he realised how true they were. The more you serve your customers, and help them satisfy their needs, the more you will prosper.
And as a business owner, business manager, professional person or entrepreneur, serving your customer’s needs effectively means that you must do the things that unsuccessful business owners, managers, professionals, and entrepreneurs don’t do. The things that those unsuccessful people don’t do are the things that most of us don’t like to do either.
There is no doubt that it is difficult to work long hours or on weekends when your family is waiting for you at home, and only have a couple of “shoppers” stop by or be stood up for an appointment someone made with you.
It’s tough to make telephone calls, only to be met with hostile and rude people on the other end.
It’s discouraging to set goals, schedule interviews, explain the technical aspects and benefits of the products and services you provide, overcome customer’s objections and misconceptions, and go out of your way to give exceptional service, only to have your customer go elsewhere because they found the same product or service for a few dollars less.
Enough of these experiences can be discouraging for anyone. And after a while, some people just quit trying. But if you keep up the quality of your service to your clients and customers, they will more and more continue to do business with you because that kind of personal service is very hard to find. In the end, it is what makes the difference between the successful and unsuccessful business.
Personal Qualities for Success
Service is essential, but there are also a number of other personal qualities, traits and abilities that, if developed, will help you to become a successful business person and create a successful business.
Sacrifice and Determination
You must determine the price you’ll have to pay to be successful. For everything in life, there is a price. And it must be paid before you can realise the rewards. In many instances, it takes sacrifice. I’ll tell you a story to illustrate the moral.
A few years ago, in an effort to get a little exercise, one of my friends bought himself a bicycle. He had fun for awhile, but one day a group of experienced riders flew by him on their fast and high-priced racing bikes.
Always a competitive person, my friend decided that he would try to catch them and ride with them. But, try as he might, it was to no avail. They soon disappeared in the distance. This happened a couple of more times and my friend could never keep up, however hard he pedalled. That ate on him and it wasn’t long before he found himself back in the bike shop getting the specifications and price for a fast, sleek, high-priced bike.
$2,500 later, he was back on the road just waiting for those riders to catch him so he could ride with them. Not only did he have his new 20 speed racer, but he was completely decked out in cycling shorts and jersey, helmet, and special shoes.
Eventually it happened. The group of riders came up on my friend from behind, and he pumped hard, driving himself to keep up with them. But a quarter of a mile later, breathless and done in, he was “off the back.” Soon the riders were gone again, and that really irritated my friend.
But he didn’t quit. He bought several books on bike riding, obtained some video tapes, and sought out the help of a neighbour who was a pretty good rider. He worked hard trying to develop his cycling abilities. He rode every morning from 4:30 to 7:30, while his family was still asleep.
He rode in the rain and cold weather, he rode in the heat. He even hired a cycling coach to help him develop his skills. Eventually he entered a local race and, to his surprise, he won! This encouraged him, so he entered another race. Then another. And another. And he kept winning.
Now, with the new skills and confidence he was developing, he entered the state and national championships, and placed very high in both. The riders who used to pass him were now coming to him for help and advice. They wondered how he could consistently beat them when he hadn’t been riding for nearly as long as they had.
What they didn’t understand was that it wasn’t how long my friend had been training, as much as what he had put into his training. It wasn’t what he did during the race that counted as much as it was what he did during the long, lonely, solitary hours of training.
It was the sacrifices he made, and his determination to be the best, that made the difference between being a social rider or the national champion that he eventually became.
The same concept of sacrifice applies to operating a successful business. If you want to reap the great and abundant rewards your business can provide, you’re going to have to do some not-so-glamorous things at some not-so-convenient times.
You are going to have to do what Earl Nightingale said. You are going to have to do “…the things that unsuccessful business owners don’t want to do.”
That may mean, depending on the type of business you have or operate, that you’ll have to leave the comfort of your store or office to visit with people about their needs in their homes or businesses at inconvenient times.
If you have a family, this may prove to be a hardship on you, but if you are just starting out in business, or want to increase your existing business or achieve some new goals, you may have to make that sacrifice. It is important to be sure that you have the support of your family as they will be making sacrifices as well.
If you are not willing to make the necessary sacrifices, then you can’t expect to be as successful in business as someone who is willing to make those sacrifices.
You are totally responsible for the success of your business and your life. There are no excuses. There may be setbacks or economic downturns, or problems that affect your and your business. Your family situation may change, your suppliers or vendors may discontinue making or providing your favourite products or services, they may change the way they do business with you or even merge with another company. Economies change, corporate policies change, and prospects don’t buy from you, and the weather is too hot or too cold.
While those things definitely have an impact on the way you do business and the sales you make, it is important to realise that those things are beyond your control, and it’s up to you, and you alone, to accept responsibility for the success of your business.
No matter how bad you might have it, no matter what difficulties or challenges you might encounter, let me assure you that there are many people who have had difficulties and challenges far greater than any you are ever likely to encounter, and somehow, they manage to pull through. And you can do the same.
Here’s a little credo that can help you. It contains just ten, two-letter words:
“If it is to be, it is up to me.”
That simple one-line sentence says it all. It places the responsibility exactly where it should be… directly on your shoulders.
Make a total commitment to your success. Once you have made the decision to be in business, be in that business. Get into it with both feet. Don’t let anything hold you back.
Even more than getting into the business; see that the business gets into you. Make a commitment that you are going to succeed, no matter what. And focus on that one business. Don’t try to work two different jobs or projects at one time. You can’t do either of them justice, and you’ll likely end up frustrated and broke, and never know whether or not you could have been successful. Set your goals and then keep yourself moving toward them
Going the Extra Mile
Another personal quality necessary to achieve outstanding success in business is that you must be willing to go the extra mile. It’s the “Under promise, over deliver” concept, and can be summed up in the following statement:
“If you are always willing to do more than what you get paid for, the day will come when you will be paid for more than what you actually do.”
Robert Cialdini, in his book, “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” discusses what he calls the Law of Reciprocity. Basically, it says that when you do something for someone else there’s an unstated obligation for them to want to do something for you in return.
So, when you go the extra mile for your customers or clients, you’ve just set the stage for that law to take effect. But it’s only on that “extra mile” that this works. When you give what might be considered “normal” service, or “adequate” service, or even “good” service, you haven’t earned the right to expect that law to work for you.
In fact, even performing “knock-out” service often isn’t enough to gain you an advantage. We’ve all come to expect that from any number of businesses.
You’ve really got to do something special in order to gain an advantage in today’s highly competitive marketplace. Then, and only then, can you expect to create that compelling desire in your customer to want to reciprocate.
This simple truth says it all:
“There’s no traffic jam on the extra mile.”
Your time is precious and it is important that you master and take control of your time. Time is a finite commodity. Each one of us has the same 24 hours in each day. When those hours are gone, they cannot be replaced. They are gone forever, never to be recaptured.
You must treat your time as precious, and guard it wisely and selfishly. Don’t let anyone disrupt you or take you away from the focus you have on your goals.
People who don’t have goals are used by people who do. If you let others draw you away from your goals, you are simply saying that their goals are more important than your own.
If you are serious about business success––really serious, then this is one of the most important and critical areas to defend.
Solutions through Ideas- Increasing Your Effectiveness
Your role as a business owner is to solve your customers’ problems. Your ability to determine what your clients want and provide them solutions is a large part of your success. Part of getting you into your best business shape is increasing your effectiveness in coming up with good ideas on how to solve your client’s problems in a unique way.
For example, I have a friend who has a software company that sells engineering software to government agencies and educational institutions.
The software is very expensive and the sales process takes a long time, in many cases it will take his salesmen years to get through all the bureaucracy and close the sale. He had continual cash flow problems as a result. A few years ago, he wanted to develop some smaller products and services that he could market to the same clientele that didn’t have to take the endless route of approval through all the tiers of the accounting systems in the large institutions. The solution came to him one day when he was at one of his client’s offices.
The client showed him some plans to one of the old buildings on campus to help him explain a problem the university faced. The plans were worn and damaged on the edges and even though the client treated them very delicately, even the latest copies were clearly disintegrating.
The University was in the process of having the plans converted over to a CAD program so that they could use them for a remodel they were planning for the building. The problem with the plans, was that some sections were faded or simply unclear, and it took a professional architect or engineer to read the plans and draw them into a CAD program. It was costing them hundreds of dollars just to have each sheet of the plans converted.
In addition, they had a whole room of plans that were in the same state and even though they wanted to preserve them, they couldn’t afford it. It occurred to my friend that nearly every one of his clients had the same issue. He had just returned from a conference overseas where a colleague had approached him about a partnership. The colleague had many architects and engineers that needed work. After ironing out the details, my friend started a plan conversion service that used overseas architects and engineers to enter the old drawings into CAD at a price his clients could afford for their archived drawings. He had a built in clientele, a head start on any competition, and his cash flow problems disappeared virtually overnight.
The point is that my friend knew his market, he knew what his company could do, he had peers and colleagues in the industry and there was no one better suited to put all his resources together to solve the problems he was encountering in his business. As the business owner and CEO, you are the solution. Like my friend experienced, your client’s problems are just lying around waiting to be seen, you just need to be receptive to those problems and creative about the solutions.
For both you and your customer, things are changing faster than ever before. Technology has become more sophisticated, competition more keen, and consumers––the people who buy your products and services––have become more educated and aware. You are in the unique situation to stay current on the latest technologies for your industry and use them in ways that show your customers that you can apply the latest technologies to solve their problems.
In addition, because your client’s choices are ever expanding, regardless of the industry you are in it is very difficult to be either unique, or less expensive. What is important is the service your client receives from everyone in your business. From the receptionist at the front desk to the accounting clerk in the office, everyone who talks to a client must provide them exceptional service and professionalism. You can be the very best at attracting clients and even selling to them, but what will ultimately make the difference between success and failure is your service.
If you’re really going to be effective and successful in the marketplace today, it is necessary, even vital, that you continually change, improve, adjust and update your selling, service, and problem-solving skills, as well as your methods of marketing and general business operation. Keep in mind that:
“People don’t care how much you know,
until they know how much you care.”
One of the best and most effective ways you can show your prospects and customers you care is by helping them solve their problems in a satisfactory, cost-effective, and professional manner.
Getting New Ideas
Since having ideas and recognising opportunities is so crucial to your business. You need to do everything possible to heighten your awareness in this area. You also need to be able to use your knowledge of your customers and their needs, your industry and the new advances in your industry to come up with ideas for products and services for your business. For example, this book is filled with ideas. Yet, how many do you think you will remember once you’ve closed the cover? Being exposed to a new idea is one thing, but what you do with it once you have it is just as important as getting it in the first place.
Studies on retention show that you remember:
10% of what you read,
22% of what you hear,
37% of what you see,
56% of what you see and hear, and up to
86% of what you see, hear and do.
So an idea that is heard but not acted on is only half as likely to be retained as an idea that is actually put into practice. With that concept in mind then, it is important to understand that if the information presented in this book is to be of any real value to you, it must not only be read, it must be applied. That is to say, it must be experienced, or acted on. And that means it’s going to take some effort on your part.
In their book, The Knowing-Doing Gap, authors, Jeffrey Pheffer and Robert L. Sutton mention that every year there are 1,700 new business books published, $60 billion spent on training, $43 billion spent on consultants, and our universities turn out 80,000 graduates with MBA’s. Yet, most businesses continue to operate day in and day out in much the same ways as they have always done.
Again, and this theme will keep coming up because it is so important, knowledge without action is no better than no knowledge at all. Just knowing isn’t enough. You’ve got to do something with what you to know.
The ideas presented in this manual work. They’re not theory. They’re not speculation on what “should” work. And they’re not philosophical musings. These ideas, concepts and techniques are currently in use by business owners across the country in one form or another. They’re being proven in actual field use day in and day out.
They work for others, and they can work for you. You are going to have to take the time to study them, understand them, and make the necessary modifications to tailor them to your own personal and business style and operation. And then finally, you’re going to have to apply them in your business.
Five Steps of Learning and Retention
These five steps will help you to get, use, and keep good ideas. Learning is the acquisition of new information or knowledge, and retention is the ability to capture that information and recall it when wanted or needed. This can be broken down into five steps.
First, is Impact. That is the receiving of the idea into your mind. Impact can be in the form of a word, a visual observation or a concept. It may involve new information, or it may be a new juxtaposition of old information. This mental processing results in a new concept of the world, however small that concept may be. Thousands and thousands of bits of information, loose ideas, and more fully formed concepts continually wash through the mind. Separating out the useful is the first step; it is all too easily swept away in the torrent of everyday thought. Retention is now the more important facility.
To achieve that, the second step is Repetition. One university study revealed that an idea that was read or heard only one time was 66% forgotten within 24 hours. But if that same idea was read or heard repeatedly for eight days, up to 90% of it could be retained at the end.
So once you’ve read this manual all the way through, go back and read it again. But this time read with a highlighter, a pencil and notepad handy. Mark up the book. Write down the ideas you feel fit your personal business situation. This repetition will help you retain more of the information than if you had read it only once.
The third step in the learning and retention process is Utilisation. This is the “doing” step. It is here that neuromuscular pathways are actually developed, creating a “mindmuscle memory.” And according to the study quoted earlier, once you physically experience an action, it becomes twice as easy to recall than if you had heard it only.
Fourth, is Internalisation. That is to actually make the idea a part of you. That may involve some customising or tailoring of the idea to fit your situation or style, but it is vitally important for you to personalise the idea and make it “yours.”
The fifth step is Reinforcement. In order to maximise the effectiveness of an idea, you should continually be looking for ways to support and strengthen it. The more you can support the idea, the more you will believe it, the longer you will retain it, and the more effective it will become in helping you serve your customers’ needs.
Now, what does all this have to do with your business? Simply, this. In your daily business and personal activities, as well as throughout your experience with the information presented in this book, you are going to be exposed to a great number of ideas. Some will be brand new, that is, you’ve never heard them before. Some will be ideas you have heard in the past, but have forgotten. And others will be ideas you come up with on your own as a result of something that was triggered in your mind as you read. Understanding and applying these five steps in the learning and retention process can help you retain more of what you read and experience.
Take Action Exercises
Exercise 5 – What are you worth?
This is a great exercise to help you to understand your position as a business earner, and make sure your basic approach is right. So, what are you really worth? Presumably you have a salary today, and hopefully you earn a reasonable amount of money. However, whatever your annual income, I am going to assume that you would like to earn more. And the sooner, the better. The big question is: how much? Perhaps in five years’ time you would like to be making $500,000, or even a million, or possibly two.
Whatever the amount; write it down, and then get your calculator out and divide that number by 1200. When you divide it by 1200 it will show you an approximately hourly rate for what you think you are worth.
Why 1200? Essentially, there is about 1200 productive hours in a year. There are obviously a lot more working hours in a year than that, but not productive. Assume first that you work a five day week. Then you must deduct annual holidays and potential sick leave. More importantly, only a few hours of that eight-hour day are productive. Maybe it is only two hours a day, maybe it is four hours a day. So I am being reasonably conservative when I say that 1200 is how many hours a year that I would expect you to be relatively productive. So if you selected $500,000 as your desired yearly income, then you should come up with a number $416.67 per hour. That is how much money you need to be earning every productive hour for you to earn half a million dollars a year. That is what you believe you are worth.
Why do we do that exercise? If you do work that somebody else could do for less than $416.67 an hour, you are not making the most of your time. Let us say that you do 10 hours work a week that somebody else would do for $20 an hour. You are loosing $397.33 every hour that you do that work yourself. The point is, if you are really worth over $400 an hour, your business will be far better off financially if you get that work done by a person or company that charges less than that.
The caveat is: if you offload half of your work and then sit around the whole day, all you have done is spent money. You have not earned anything more. However, if instead you concentrate on activities that would generate more money, then you will be on your way to earning your half a million or more dollars per year.
Exercise 6 – Solitary Confinement
Try a set-aside two hours per week, where you find a room, away from work, telephones, any and all distractions. No laptop, no mobile phone, nothing but a pad and pen.
Take the time to think. Write your ideas down. Make plans. Decide to take action.
Do this every week. You might find it energising.