Posts tagged: Entrepreneur

Lost on the road to success

By , February 18, 2012 8:18 am

According to David Peterson* an entrepreneur is constantly seeking out opportunities to do things in a new way and has the ability to capitalize on those opportunities.  A small business owner is someone who owns and manages a business for their own goals and agendas.

Each has their own set of characteristics plus there’s overlap between the two. For instance the self-efficiency, networking, time, energy and resources that are totally devoted to the business are commonalities.  But somewhere in this overlap is a hidden no-man’s land where a third type of business personality resides – the Wanderer.

The Wanderer usually has the same drive and vision as the entrepreneur and has no ongoing development of innovative practices, and has a status quo orientation like the small business owner. So he or she “wanders” around looking for money and looking for someone to essentially take care of them.

Wanderers may know they need a business plan but can’t quite focus on actually sitting down and writing one – or they’re in the middle of one that never quite gets finished.  They know you can download a business plan template and do, sometimes several. But that’s as far as they go. They can’t do the bookkeeping or get a spouse to do it for them. Sometimes they wear their idea as a way of telling others (or themselves) who they are. The Chamber and other business and trade organizations are full of these types. They may think of themselves as “the idea guy” who just needs a “do it guy” to partner with. They may even own the intellectual property rights and that’s all they need. Don’t get me wrong. Wanderers are not slackers and they’re not stupid. They may be lazy but not in a traditional sense. They may be waiting for an angel – the real kind, not the investor kind – or some divine force to step in and take care of them. They’re stuck circling this no-man’s land that they’ve created. The fact is…an idea is not a result.

If this is painfully familiar to you, then you could be a wanderer.  But wait. There’s hope. Remember, wanderers are just entrepreneurs who got stuck on the road to success.  How can you get unstuck?   You may benefit from getting yourself to networking groups, friends, advisers, classes, seminars, boot camps, — anywhere where people are grappling with the same issues but moving forward.  Maybe you should put together an advisory board – they can be enormously helpful. All these have one thing in common. They put the Wanderer in the position of being responsible (or just looking good) to others in some way. Sometimes its done by checking in with a business coach or reporting on your progress to a weekly group, especially one that insists you set weekly goals. Even if you lie a little about your progress at least you’re talking the walk and soon you’ll find its just as easy to walk the walk.    You may be happy and feel as if you are thriving as a Wanderer. In that case, I wish you well.  But if you’ve read this far you’re probably looking for a way out of Wander-dom.


Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing. She is the author of Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.




Business Growth Strategies You Must Know – 5 Biz Dev Hacks

By , February 11, 2012 3:00 pm

picture via Flickr Commons

When it comes to growing your business one of the most significant functions is business development. Often people push this off as being just sales, if you are one that does this then you’re making a big mistake. Business Development has a intense focus on growing a business in a sustainable manner.

This charge means that the potential activity list runs the gamut from leading service/product introduction initiatives, to designing and implementing market expansion, to locking down strategic partnerships. It is one of the ultimate transformer roles, however, since it incorporated aspects of marketing, finance, and sales it is easy for a streamlined organization to rely on individuals, or better yet cross-functional teams, versus building out a dedicated department.

But what if you’re a soloprenuer? You can’t do it yourself – well, you can but the execution time would be too costly – but don’t worry you can easily implement the quick start tips below.

Business Development Tactics that Work: The Hacks
If taken seriously this role will deliver solid returns for years to come. But, it requires a significant investment of time and energy. So what do you do if your shop is already stretch too thin or you need to kick start growth now? I’m here to help, here are five hacks that you can run with today.

This is where two businesses work together in their advertising efforts. Ideally they have complementary product or service which they push your product down one or both partners marketing/distribution channels in return for incremental marketing dollars and/or a sales commission. A perfect example of this is the recent agreement between Verizon and Comcast to market each others products as a bundle (wireless, cable TV, landline and internet services) in selected markets.

Leverage referrals
Word of mouth matters. It’s no secret that today, buyers rely more on their friends and peers to help vet buying decisions. According to InsideView, a negative review on Facebook, Twitter or YouTube can cost a company 30 customers. Make yourself available on platforms where your customers congregate and use all of your communication pieces to encourage them to share their experiences.

Improve your unique service proposition
Think Zappos. Ensure that the service that you provide to your customers and potential customer is phenomenal. There is no doubt that you have to supply a spot-on product, it’s just that the overall experience (purchase, fulfillment, and after sales support) is what drives repeat business and referrals. What can you do to better serve your market?

Charge more
That’s right, charge more for your service. This has a two fold benefit:

  • For those that love your service you’ll receive compensation closer to the value your customer derives.
  • More importantly, you’ll drive away marginal customers who’s lifetime value is typically dramatically below that of a good customer.

The fringe benefit is that it will free resources that can be used to attract, service, and retain more core customers.

Work together with another business to realize a shared goal. Granted when businesses collaborate they typically generate a bigger bang for their buck, but the benefits can extend beyond the bottom line and into a more sustainable environment and community. Of all the above hacks collaboration is the hottest growing trend. the most basic form is powered by social media where “communities of interest’ operate as an information exchange.

Getting Started
Pull together a basic business development plan.

  1. Evaluate your environment. Pull together a market research plan. This exercise will help you better understand how you can thrive by uncovering the right opportunities to exploit.
  2. Set your goals for what you want to accomplish; service line expansion, new market entry, more core customers?
  3. Determine how you will recognize success. What are the Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and how will you measure them?
  4. Action plan. What is it the you need to be successful? In house knowledge, strategic partners, freedom for trial and error?

This post is meant to get you started on (and thinking about) very specific opportunities and tactics you can execute.

What’s your favorite? Let us know in the comments…

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 Starting a Small Business.
and follow him on Google+ at +Donald McMichael

Crowd Funding and YOU? Or Not?

By , February 11, 2012 8:21 am

Crowd Funding has been around for a while. In very simple terms, you sign up with a crowd funder (such as Kickstarter), list how much money you want to raise for your project, company, etc. and then use social networking to get people you know and others to contribute. This is in addition to people who will visit the site looking for interesting projects. If you reach your goal you get your money. If you don’t, you don’t.

The good news about crowd funding for your business is that you don’t have to give up a percentage of your business to the contributors – when you use other fundraising methods, you always have to give up a percentage of your business as well as a percentage of control. Because of the good will involved with those who make crowd funding contributions, many people who are raising money offer something in return (like a product sample, a coupon, admission to a film screening if you’re making a film, etc.).

It’s a great process if you succeed. In order to succeed, however, you may have to give up huge chunks of time you would normally be devoting to your company.

The bad news is that crowd funding is not regulated officially so there’s ample room for fraud. BE CAREFUL WHO YOU DEAL WITH. If you decide to investigate and use this route, make sure you go with a known name like Kickstarter.

This link will provide a good primer on crowd funding and other information that you may find of help.

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

How to Build the Right Business Relationship (In 5 Steps)

By , January 12, 2012 11:16 am

Go on a walkabout:
Give yourself the freedom to explore ideas, opinions, and perspectives beyond your, and the entities, comfort level. In a sense undertake a corporate growth journey.

Discover the vein of gold:
Start with a strategy not a partner. Find the intersection at which your entity and another could create significant and sustainable value. Don’t run off of your gut, put into writing what you believe to be the right framework, then share with your advisors the why, how, and what.

Be specific:
You have 8 seconds to grab initial interest. Vague, unfocused general requests will find the circular file because you’ll appear confused and a waste of time. Set the agenda by asking a specific question.

Minimize the swagger:
I know this doesn’t happen to you, but often ego tends to trip people up more than they realize. Almost everyone wants to avoid blowhards. At this point your role is to learn and receive just as much as you give.

Don’t jump ahead:
The glue that holds everything together is relationships and there is no substitute for the hard work of getting to know people / organizations. You each have to get to know, like, and trust one another before serious conversations can be had. To keep from becoming frustrated, set a series of goals (returned email , call, etc.) that build upon one another.

Donald McMichacel teaches
BE 261 Starting a Small Business.
and follow him on Google+ at +Donald McMichael

Hey Retailers: Your Employees Can Kill Your Marketing Efforts & Business

By , December 17, 2011 9:08 am

On two recent occasions, I had bad encounters of the sales clerk kind. The first was in a small chain clothing store where at checkout I asked if I could apply two different coupons I had (hey, no harm in asking…usually). The sales clerk said no. OK. So I continue checking out. But the sales clerk standing next to her at the register made a snide remark under her breath.

The exact same thing happened at Barnes & Noble in the Village. This time it was aggravated when another sales clerk said, “Yahoo” as I walked away. And he wasn’t talking about the internet service.

Both instances left a bad taste in my mouth and a bad impression of the store employees.

If you’re going to send coupons, a sales tactic designed to drive traffic to your store or website, then your staff MUST respect them when they appear at the register. Snottiness undercuts the store’s efforts to maximize sales at this peak time of year. Or any time for that matter.

Your whole sales and marketing effort can be torpedoed by sales clerks. Especially holiday temps. Your business culture must ooze through the pores of every employee, ESPECIALLY THOSE IN DIRECT CONTACT WITH YOUR CUSTOMERS.

A successful illustrator acquaintance hired a rep. Months later business had fallen off. On a phone call a client said that he loved the illustrator’s work but his rep was an a**hole. Rep fired immediately. Most of the damage was repaired. But not so easily in today’s economic environment.

Watch out for this in your business. It can be a $$$ killer.

Send in mystery shoppers. Follow up with your clients on a regular basis. Have open ended conversations so they have an opportunity to talk freely.

And remember, your whole sales cycle can be sabotaged by one lousy employee. So put as much effort into hiring the right people as you do your sales and marketing.

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

3 Things You MUST Know To Grow Profitably in 2012

By , December 10, 2011 11:07 am

Who doesn’t want to be more productive in the coming year?  After pushing hard for the last several we all want a brighter 2012. But there’s no reason to wait on a turn of a calendar sheet, so let’s get cracking.

I have the great fortune of living by the head of Scotwork North America, a division of an international negotiating consultancy. Not only is he a great negotiator he also has proven his metal as a business leader by building out a sizable well regarded business that services the Fortune 500 market. Don’t let this fool you, for through and through he is a SMB entrepreneur. From time to time I have the opportunity to pick his brain about business development.

Here are three insights that can pay dividends for anyone looking to achieve sustainable top line (revenue) growth in 2012:

Continue reading '3 Things You MUST Know To Grow Profitably in 2012'»

Reach Out and … Grab Your Customers!…This is where the luddites hang out! Part 4

By , November 26, 2011 11:56 am

Last week I focused on the General Adopters and their place on the Adopter Pyramid.

This week, I will focus on the third level of the pyramid — #4 – The Latent Adopter.

Adopter Pyramid
A few years ago I walked into a video rental store and stopped cold. I did a very slow 360° turn and realized that, yes, indeed, I must finally go out a buy a DVD player because the walls were now lined with DVDs only.

This is a perfect example of a Latent Adopter.  They adopt your idea long after it has become the standard. Latent Adopters are a mixed bag. If businesses are your customers, Latent Adopters can be slow-moving companies, start-ups with tiny budgets, or new, under-funded divisions of companies. In the case of consumers, they can be those who hate change, have less to spend, or buy only when forced to.

Latent Adopters – the PLUS: they are the largest market on the pyramid and when they buy, they buy in volume; — the MINUS:  you have to stay in business long enough for this market adopter to catch up. If you’re a typical entrepreneur, then there’s a fairly good chance that you will no longer even be with the company at that point (which leads me to this suggestion:  make sure there are provisions in your contract to cover yourself for this influx of money).

Chart and content from my book, Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

Reach Out and … Grab Your Customers!…This is where the big $$$ is! Part 3

By , November 19, 2011 10:53 am

Last week I focused on the Professional Adopters and their place on the Adopter Pyramid.

This week, I will focus on the third level of the pyramid — #3 – The General Adopter.

Adopter Pyramid
General Adopters tend to be more cautious about new trends.  They tend to have big budget constraints which encourage them to have a “wait and see” attitude, especially where new technologies are concerned.  They don’t take risks the way the way the upper two tiers of the pyramid do.  They will never take a risk on a new technology that might fail, which could ultimately cost them their job (see my post “Nobody Ever Got Fired for Hiring Deloitte” to get an idea of the mentality you’re dealing with in this part of the pyramid). Similarly, they don’t want to recommend a restaurant or fashion item that hasn’t been fully proven by others. They look up the pyramid for guidance and assurance.

The pyramid shows that General Adopters are a very large market, and as a rule, they will generate most of your significant revenues. Think of them as your general use market.

This group, like the ones above it, influence the group below, in this case the Latent Adopter market.

Chart and content from my book, Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

What Nobody Tells You About Business Plans

By , November 12, 2011 12:38 pm

This is the sixth and last post in a series that focus on showing you how to improve the prospects of successfully launching a business.

Traditional wisdom dictates that a business financing sequence goes as follows:

  1. Identify a perceived market need/issue.
  2. Craft a plan on how you might address the void.
  3. Present the plan to stakeholders (investors, key partners, etc.) to secure anticipated resources.
  4. Consume resources as you seek to prove your theory right.

Ok, for storytelling purposes the wording above is not the most positive, yet this exact phenomenon occurs over and over again every day in every industry.

The problem is that in today’s environment, unless your concern has a proven track record or you’re launching a ‘business format franchise’ concern the riskiness associated with ‘lets give it a shot’ is to high. So what are we to do?

Present the Evidence

The vast majority of business plans are equivalent to a house of cards. The cards in this case are the assumptions around the need, cost, sales volume, and market receptiveness. Just think about it, you have the profit projections stacked on top of executional assumptions, stacked on market assumptions. With this perspective it isn’t hard to imagine how one well meaning but misguided thought can cause an implosion.

The smarter move is to quantify the validity of the assumptions by exposing them to the market – in essence turning them into ‘quasi’ knowns – before using them to construct a plan. The gathered insights dramatically increase the odds of finding and following the right path. But more importantly, arms you with evidence that can be presented to stakeholders demonstrating the soundness of your concept.

Sounds Good, but How?

The how is not hard but beyond the scope of this post. I encourage you to checkout the books listed below. They will provide you with a better appreciation for this inverted business development process and give guidance on how to justify your case.

  • The Lean Start-up, Eric Ries
  • Business Model Generation, Alexander Osterwalder & Yves Pigneur
  • Four Steps to the Epiphany, Steven G. Blank

Have any comments? Your feedback is valuable.

Donald McMichacel teaches BE 261 Starting a Small Business.

Reach Out and … Grab Your Customers! Part 1

By , November 5, 2011 10:00 am

Customers, as a group, are not all going to be interested in your product for the same reason at the same time – even if they need it or want it.

So what’s the dynamics of reaching your customer?

This is important to know because it will help you focus your selling and marketing efforts to the right group, with the right message at the right time.

There are four basic customer groups as shown below. This post will focus on the top of the pyramid — #1 – The Early Adopter.

Adopter Pyramid

Early Adopters are a critical group of people who will immediately want to buy, wear, or use your product.
You know who they are. They are often the first people on the block with the latest gadget or wearing the latest fashion. They can’t wait to show it to you and explain how it works or tell you why it’s going to be trendy in a few weeks or months. These people are always on the lookout for the latest thing. In corporations, Early Adopters often have the ear of the CEO. They are seen as authorities and, as such, help build your product’s credibility by providing evidence that your product works in the real world.

Every product or service has its Early Adopters. You see them at trendy new restaurants and wearing new fashions.

The pyramid shows that Early Adopters are the smallest market. They are, therefore, the most economical to reach. Like the guy on your block, they are willing to take the risk with something new. They are the authorities and trend-setters that introduce your product to the next group of Adopters called the Professional Adopters. I’ll talk about them next week.

Chart and content from my book, Lies Startups Tell Themselves to Avoid Marketing.

Sandra Holtzman teaches CEO 035: Licensing.

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