I’m often asked what I think are the secrets for success when you want to build a great business – and there are three answers at the top of my list.
The most important action you can take is to find your niche and focus on it to an almost uncomfortable level. It can be scary, because you might come to the conclusion that there are fewer than 100 people in the world who will buy the product or service you are selling.
However, the advantage of niching down to such a level is that you can identify instantly whether someone is your client – as soon as they walk through the door.
My second piece of advice is to simplify what you are offering. Streamline your product to the most straightforward version that brings value to the customer. One of the principal benefits of this is that you will be able to explain very quickly what it is you do and the value that you deliver.
Third, you should selectively and intelligently automate certain pieces of your sales process, and many pieces of your business. If you can pull together all the tools and technology that are necessary to augment your performance, without in any way damaging your brand, you will notice a tremendous difference in your systems and processes.
Don’t sell on features, talk about the value your service delivers
Let’s look at the flipside of that list and examine the top three mistakes that I believe you must avoid making if you want to grow your business.
The first of these is that people all too often try to sell what they do based on its features rather than the benefits and value it delivers. Customers want to know how your service will improve their lives and businesses, and they want to hear about the difference you will make. It’s a huge mistake to focus on what you do, rather than how you will help them.
Next, you have to manage your cash flow effectively, while looking towards building the sales channels of the future rather than relying on your existing network.
Finally, business owners often hire too fast. It’s crucial that you think carefully about the people you are going to surround yourself with. They have to fit in with your culture and buy into your products, so it’s worth taking the time and patience to make sure you are making the right hire.
Learning a big lesson about cash flow helped me during the current crisis
Of course, nobody goes through life as a business owner without making mistakes. What matters is that you learn from those errors – and I certainly took a salutary lesson from my greatest business failure.
I started my first “real business” in 2007 and, as you know, in 2008 there was a big economic crisis. I found out that you can lose all your clients in the space of a week, and in the process go from $60,000 of monthly revenue to zero just as quickly. I paid my full staff to sit there doing nothing for six months, burned through all my cash and then had to shut the business down.
What I learned is that you have to keep cash in reserve and let things go if necessary so that you can live to fight another day. During the current recession, I did a better job of that, and we kept 150 days’ worth of cash in the bank through it.
I wish I could tell my younger self to worry less and have more fun
It’s always good to learn and to put those lessons into practice, of course, but if I had the chance to give my younger self some advice it would be to take things less seriously.
I would say: “You never know where you are going to end up, and all your plans are a total disaster. So enjoy the day a bit more! You don’t need to get a perfect A-plus on everything – just go out and have a little fun.”
Now, when I have to overcome a challenge life throws at me, the first thing I do is take a deep breath and analyse how important this is going to be later. Then I take one step forward and – as they say in the analogy about eating an elephant, take it one bite at a time.
Making an impact on the people close to you is so important
What is the most impactful book I have ever read? It has to be Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss. I just love the way that he teaches you that you don’t have to walk away from a negotiation feeling like you didn’t get what you wanted.
When people are trying to give you a bad deal, just say no. And say no several times. Generally, you’re going to get what you want!
I do think making an impact is important, especially on the people around you and those close to you. You can make all the money in the world but if you aren’t sharing the wealth and donating time and money, it feels empty – because you aren’t making an impact on people and their lives.
As a parent, I think most about making an impact on my kids. I try to do as much teaching as I can and every day, when I get in the car, my kids say: “Did you close any deals today?”
How would I most like to be remembered?
Right now I don’t have a mentor myself – this is an empty spot that I have been meaning to fill up. I’m actually in the process of interviewing mentors and thinking about how I want to move to the next level.
I serve as a mentor a lot but I don’t have one and I think the result is that there’s a missing piece of growing myself.
Ultimately, I just want to be remembered for being a great dad, who did what I got to do to make things great for their kids. I’d also want to be thought of as somebody who was nice to people, made a difference in their lives – and maybe as somebody who built a really good business!
At Add1Zero, we want to work with founders who have grown their business to about half a million dollars in annual revenue. If founders don’t want to stay in the sales seat, we can work with them and take over all their revenue operations.
My passion is to be an entrepreneur. I love working with people and founders, growing their sales from $500,000 to about $5 million – so that they never have to worry about cash flow again.