Planting In Rocky Ground

Are you planting in rocky soil?

I was listening to a folk song on the radio and the song was about “planting in stony ground”. As I listened I realized the message of the song could have, maybe even should have been directed toward small business owners.

One of the cumulative reasons most businesses do not reach their potential is that they never stopped to clearly identify their customer…., or worse, they are trying to sell or provide service to someone who doesn’t want or need it. The end result is time, energy, and money are lost to an effort yielding weak or non-existent results.

Besides selling to the wrong customer there are also businesses who try to reach “everybody”, and in doing so never create a distinguishing factor. By becoming a “Jack of all trades”, they often fulfill the second half of the saying and are known as a “master of none”. It’s amazing how fast customers figure this out and how it serves to undermine their trust.

Think about it for a minute relating to a service you may use, let’s say, “pest control”. What if after spraying your yard, he then offered to give you a quote on repairing your car and decorating your home? Theoretically it is possible that he or she may have the skills required to do the job, but even so, what about this instills confidence with you?

Even if they could do all these things well, it would be very difficult to administer followup and service, thus leaving you with doubts.

A rule to remember here is: “doubts create distrust, which in turn closes doors to opportunity”.

It would be far more effective if the service professional said, “I specialize in pest control, that’s all we do and we do it best”!

Now before I go further I must distinguish two things that relate to the “Jack of all trades” statement. (Lest I get bombarded with refutations of my analogy)  In reality there are two primary, differing, individual profiles for “Jack of all trades” individuals.  There’s the typical “generalist” who indeed knows a lot about a lot of things, but never masters in any. (These individuals serve well by the way, as “problem solvers” and as those who can “put the pieces of the puzzle together”. They are often consultants, trainers, and trouble shooters.)  Then there’s the rare person who is in fact a “Jack of all trades and master of them all”.  This would be the “renaissance man” or what is known as a “polymathic” person.  These would include Leonardo De Vinci, Galileo Galilei, Isaac Newton, Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and others like them.

Now back to my thought, (yes I am a little ADD and I like it thank you!).

The idea is to find the most “fertile” ground in which to do business.  It is the match of idea and need or “perceived” need that creates a “win”.   If you clearly find what your client wants, then deliver exactly that, you will have a great product client match.

So… your homework!

Contact and interview at least 5 clients, ask all the questions not only about what they liked, but what they didn’t like, what they thought before they bought, what they now think that they own, and so on.  Then take that information and go back to your product or service and see where the easiest changes can be adopted, the “low hanging fruit” in the equation.

Make the change, then for a particularly nice touch, go back to the same customers and show them the changes and ask what they think.  Understand, we are not asking you to “do” what they think, but to listen to what they say and then with your deeper knowledge of the subject correct the imperfections and make your business great.

I assure you if this becomes a standard way of thinking, always making your business match needs in a better way, the odds of your success sky rocket when compared to the antithesis of this system.

Business Plans

I just received an email asking me if I had a “business plan” that could be used to help create a revised plan for a business.  On the surface this seems like a reasonable request, maybe even an simple request to fulfill, but as I thought through the process in detail I concluded it was not as “simple” as it seems at first glance.

I replied to the request with the following email.

“Thank you for contacting me…, you ask an interesting question.

As business plans should each be unique, reflecting the vision of the owner there would be no such thing as a sample plan. (They exist, they  just have little real value)

I have written several highly effective plans and through my coaching have helped numerous pool builders and service companies to refine their vision, and create a n excellent business plan as well.

There are also several types of “plan”.  The most common is an abbreviated plan with a focus on financial satements for the purpose of securing a loan. This is a “purpose specific” plan that works for accountants and banks but is useless as a “road map” to running a business.

A proper “comprehensive” plan is preceded by a bit of research into your own habits, desires, and existing employee and company structure and habits as well.  Without this data, any “plan” would again be completely useless to serve as a road map.  It’s the old adage… “garbage in… garbage out”.  Only with accurate data and clearly defined objectives can a plan be created.

If it is for the bank, there is business plan software that works for that purpose.  if it is to realize your business potential and vision… that is something entirely different.

I offer a detailed program for doing all the above. (Comprehensive planning)  We begin with you… your vision, skills, and existing systems, and we evaluate and fix every element of the business from top to bottom.

It takes most people 1 to 3 years to not only make a plan, but implement all the features so the business functions creating a strong thriving business. ( I have seen it done in less than one year…)

If your business is not what you would like it to be, it is the way it is, not because you don’t care…, it’s obvious you do, but because there were critical elements missing in one or more of three vital areas.  The areas are: “Systems”, “Marketing”, and “Skills”, (I use the aacronym “SMS”).

I have found most entrepreneurs have the technical skills, but often lack the communication, leadership, and management skills.  Likewise, all businesses have systems, most are unintentional, but they are systems none the less.  The idea is to eliminate harmful systems, fix broken systems, and implement missing systems.  Then there’s the marketing…, most is wasteful and ineffective, lacking specific, target, strategy, or system or the metrics to measure the results.

Also needed to consider in the process is the “life cycle” of the business.  Not age mind you, but we are speaking of maturity here.  Simply expressed there is the Foundational, Growth, and Sustainable phases, each corresponding with developmental cycles.

The Foundational stage is the “infant” stage, the Growth stage is the “adolescent” stage, and the Sustainable stage is a still growing but mature and in control stage.

Businesses, like life, develop “behavioral disfunction” as they mature through each phase if not handled correctly.  In this case, like in life, the business must “unlearn” destructive habits and replace them with strong productive habits.

I know this is WAY more than you asked for, but you see, if you write a business plan, you will have a “plan” that more than likely will never reach your destination.

It’s kind of like being dropped into the middle of an unfamiliar country… lets say, Australia, and being required to now sit and create the map to take you in the shortest route to safety.  It is unfamiliar territory.  Sure, you have some basics, you can navigate by sun and stars, and you may even have a GPS.  But you see, even the GPS will only tell you where you are and maybe where you want to go, (assuming you already know), but it can’t begin to tell you the best way to get there.  It’s possible, even likely you will choose a path that may eventually arrive at your destination…, but you will be too late.  It will not be the shortest plan.

Business success needs a plan, but the prerequisite to a good plan is a clear vision of where you are and where you need to go, then the help of an experienced guide who will show you the “shortest path”.  Without the guidance, the plan is likely to achieve about what you have right now.  If so, why waste the time.

A good plan is really worth it.  Great businesses are based upon great plans, but they need a leader who is committed to the task or they will fail.  In many ways, with business as in life, it all comes down to you.

If you would be interested in discussing  your business further, provide me a good time to speak with you and I will give you a call.  I absolutely know I can help you.

I wish you great success and look forward to speaking with you.”

I hope my sharing this with you enlightens your perspective a bit, and maybe even has you considering to use of a “guide”.

Small Business Executive and Management Excellence

Beyond training…

You own or manage a small business… (a business under 500 employees in the US), and things are just not the way you would like them to be.

You might find that your employees are not as motivated as you would like, or maybe they don’t take the pride in their work you and your customers expect.

Maybe time is short and there never seems to be enough hours in a day or days in a month.

You might find yourself putting out “fires” that seem to spring back into flames almost as soon as you put them out.

or….

Maybe things are just the same as they have been for while…, little growth, little excitement, the team.., you, are tired and would love to regain the energy and momentum you once had.

You may even be considering attending a “training” program, or bringing in a consultant to help you through this “barrier” to your future.

The fact is… few if any extremely successful business people ever did it alone.  They all had mentors, guides, trainers, who empowered them to think differently, who helped them keep their perspective fresh, who identified the “barriers” that held them back and provided them a “plan” through to the future.

Training as we commonly think of it is a great start, but it is also lacking in the long term elements required to not only acquire an excellent plan, but to put it into action, watch it grow, and then nurture and sustain that growth and excitement for a very long time.

The phenomenon I identified above as a “barrier” is also called the “Glass Ceiling”.  The glass ceiling describes the characteristics of the barrier, it helps us to understand it’s nature.

First, there’s the “glass”.  It’s transparent, not seen, invisible to the normal processes of observation you now have in place.  Though you can’t see it, it is a barrier all the same.  Once you come in contact, you just can’t seem to get to the other side… and you don’t know why.  You may think you know… maybe not enough time to do it right, or, not the right employee…, but if you really knew, confidently knew, you would fix it.  The reason you don’t move forward is you have doubts.  And the reason you have doubts is you absolutely don’t see the obstacle that is holding you back and that can be very scary.

To excel at the highest levels we need a support system specifically designed to identify, enhance, empower, and indefinitely sustain our abilities and teach us to identify our weaknesses, then create the systems to turn the weaknesses to strengths.

Once this is initiated, developed, and maintained, the potential for increase becomes literally limitless.