Keep It Simple

Especially With Your Money

Among the many things that I’ve learned since becoming a mentor of The Business Wealth Club Birmingham, it’s the importance and power of keeping things simple. That is, when we are able to break down seemingly complex issues and powerful business concepts into digestible, understandable chunks of information.

One of the most common challenges for many businesses (small and large) is the matter of the clear, confident and comfortable understanding of “money matters” such as cash flow.

“Cash is or oil in your business engine. Without it, your business will seize up and die.”

This a quote from Paul Avins and another clear example of how, in this instance, cash flow can be boiled down to clear and powerful metaphors that business people understand. That’s what we do at The Business Wealth Club.

Recently, The Guardian newspaper (the online edition), published one of my articles on the subject of cash flow. In the article. I explain how establishing and maintaining cash flow can also be broken down into three core principles (yes, another tetrahedron)

We have always based our Cashflow management on the following:

  • Relationships
  • Systems
  • Processes that are bound by trust backed up by paper (written agreements made while relationships are good).

To read the rest of this article go to www.bit.ly/i2iguardian

Walking on the Travelator

Moving Without Moving

Do you ever feel as if you are doing a lot of work and putting in a lot of effort but you’re just not moving forward fast enough or at all?

It’s rare that you’re not moving at all because you may, in fact, be moving backwards!

That said, I’m not a believer in ‘moving backward’ as I believe that there’s always something that was gained from the perceived movement in the opposite direction that you may have intended. Whether it was learning ‘just one thing that I know not to do again’ or ‘now I know that I don’t want to feel this way again’

So what does this all mean in the context of business?

In my usual way, I’ll give the answer up front for those who still think that the answer is the answer.

“Movement is perception. Perception can also ensure movement.”

The best metaphor that comes to mind is the travelator.  For those who are unsure what I’m referring to, a travelator is the moving walkway that you find at a lot of large international airports. It’s similar in look and design to the escalators in buildings and malls except it moves you horizontally.

My work as a speaker and coach often requires me to travel internationally. This means that I spend a fair bit of time at airports going from one terminal to another.  There are times where a flight has been delayed and time is short to make the transfer between planes.  On these occasions I have a clear objective: get to the next terminal in the next 10 minutes or risk missing a flight.  Yes, of course, I could get the benefit of the exercise and run between terminals. I could also, where the opportunity presents itself, also use a travelator.  Typically the speed of the travelator is that of a fair paced walk. Additionally, the ‘rules’ of the travelator are that you can stand still and stay to the right or you can walk (even briskly) on the left.

http://youtu.be/6UH0-Gnffl4

The result: even standing still you are moving as fast as someone who is walking briskly. Better yet, if you walk briskly you’re really moving and making up ground.

I say all of that to say this….

Spending time with an experienced Coach or Mentor is an opportunity to step on a ‘travelator’ for your life or business. The strategies, insights and advice will often move you along faster and with less effort than if you didn’t have this valuable resource.

Then, if you decide to put more effort into your journey you’ll move from where you are to the next point faster giving you time to relax, reflect or even cheer on the people who chose to do things a different (harder?) way.

I’m also a believer in the saying “it’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey” That said, there are times where I’d rather use my energy to cheer others on at the destination over struggling to get there.

Puzzle me this, puzzle me that….

Have you read a book or attended a conference, workshop or seminar where you were shown strategies to get ahead BUT you haven’t put them in place?

Do you have a desire to help more people, make more money or feel more fulfilment but just don’t feel like you’re moving as fast as you know you want to?

If so, it’s time to be accountable. First, to yourself. Next to someone who can support you, encourage you and give you sound advice from experience.  If money is a challenge, there are a number of inexpensive or free ways to get started.  It can be as simple as going to Google and searching for a free coaching service. If you are serious about making progress for yourself and your business then (if you’re in the UK or USA) check out The Business Wealth Club. I also offer a 40 minute “i2insight” session that I don’t charge for BUT I do ask you to make a small contribution to one of the charities that I support. To register for a session simply go to www.bit.ly/i2insight01

So get moving today and get more of what YOU want out of YOUR life.

Increase your income – Step 2 (How to sell more)

Making the most of what you already have

A number of businesses act on the belief that to sell more you have to get new customers.  UNTRUE.

An easily and often overlooked resource is your current customer either the customer that has already bought from you OR the customer right in front of you (figuratively speaking) that is about to buy.

As always I’ll give you the answer up front prefaced by my usual ‘heads up’ for the people who want to DO something with the answer rather than gain the benefit of knowing it intellectually.

The answer:  Sell more to your current customer.

How? Well, there are a few ways to do this.

As you read this brief list, be mindful that even if you are already doing these, how consistent are you doing them and what else could you be doing?

1.  Suggest add-on items. 

These are complementary items that are less expensive and don’t require too much thought for a purchase decision. There are examples of this all over the retail industry ranging from “Would you like fries with that?” to “Would you like to take your product protection insurance?”

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2.  Suggest an additional purchase of the same item.

I experienced a classic example of this on my way out of a store here in the US.  As I exited the store I was greeted by a small group of Girl Scouts selling cookies. Knowing that the Girl Scouts is a good cause and that the cookies are delicious I decided to by a box of cookies for the $4. (I’ll discuss the top-notch sales coaching that they get in a later blog.) Before I could hand over my $4, the Girl Scout said (as she pointed to a photograph of some soldiers in fatigues with an American flag in the background) “May I interest you in purchasing an additional box of cookies that will be sent to our troops overseas?  It means a lot to them and reminds them of home.” Politics aside, THAT is a powerful pitch! Especially from a girl who couldn’t have been more than 12 years old!

3.  Tell your customer to use more of your product. 

This may sound odd to some, but many of us obey these commands on a regular basis. By doing this, you can get a customer to double their consumption of the product  or use the service more often.  A product based example of this is “rinse and repeat” – a command that is on the back of many, if not all, shampoo products. A service based example is “come back in for a check up (or review) every six months”  This not only makes sense for many service users but is a great opportunity that is often overlooked by service providers.

I say all of that to say this….

You have already done the hard work of getting customers in the first place. It’s less expensive to service, support and sell to your current customers than it is to get new ones.  There are a number of easy ways to sell, with integrity and authenticity, to your current customers that will make them happier and boost your bottom line.

Puzzle me this, puzzle me that….

From the approaches listed in this article, what opportunities have you overlooked that you could use to increase the sales (either at the point of sale or lifetime sales per customer)?

If you choose to invest some time in exploring this further, the payoff can be significant and fast. To get the most out of this do the review either with your business coach/mentor, your team or (if you don’t have a team) with members of your business network.  If you don’t have a business network, get one! If you live in the UK, my recommendation is to visit www.thebusinesswealthclub.com to find a club near you.

Make it easy to buy and watch your profits grow

Strategy No. 1 to increase profitability – Increase your margin

I’m going to continue using the approach of cutting to the chase and giving the ‘answer’ up front.  If you’ve read any of my previous blogs – or you’re a truly inquisitive lifelong learner – then you’ll already know that “the answer isn’t the answer…”

You can increase your margin in a few ways.

  1. Reduce the net cost (your cost to provide/make it) and keep the selling price the same.
  2. Increase the price that you sell it for
  3. or do both.

For those out there who are shocked or scared by the notion of increasing prices (based upon the fear that ‘If I increase my price then I’ll lose customers”) let me be the Mythbuster on that particular point. A study by the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that the reasons people stop being customers are:

  • 68% Are upset with the treatment they’ve received
  • 14% Dissatisfied with product or service
  • 9% Price
  • 9% Other

That said, your focus should really be on the way you engage/interact with our customer and adding value that looking solely at the price you’re selling for.

It’s easy to buy something that has value to you and where YOU feel valued in the process.

Additionally, I would recommend that if you decide to increase the price, do so at the same time as emphasising and adding value.  This can be as easy as adding a feature that makes it easy to buy the product or service

Product Example – vending machine

How many times have you paid just a little more for something just because it was convenient?  It may have been petrol, a meal at a train station/airport or just a bottle of water at a ‘convenience store’.

This behaviour is perfectly fine and is quite common.  In fact, the busy pace of western life often requires – and caters for it.

On a recent visit to a college campus in the US I was waiting to meet one of the professors before I delivered a talk to business students.  As I waited by the faculty lounge, I noticed a couple of vending machines.  This wasn’t a surprise or interesting in itself until I noticed the added method of payment (MoP) feature that the machine had incorporated.

This feature allows customers to pay for the snack (including healthy snacks) with the ‘tap’ of a credit/debit card.  The cost of the items was slightly more than other vending machines but ‘what the heck it’s only 10 cents more’ – in exchange for the convenience and speed of the transaction. A win, win situation.

Service Example – Pencast & Recordings

The majority of my income is derived from providing consultancy services to organisations who want to make sure that projects are done right, first time, every time AND within the cost and time constraints that were agreed.  Another part of my income is from providing one-to-one coaching for business leaders with teams between 5 and 20 people.

Traditionally, a coaching session involves a conversation that lasts an hour or so. A LOT of things are discussed and even in the best case scenario, what you as a client, may hear doesn’t always really sink in until it’s heard or re-heard during a following session.

With other coaches the other nuggets and gems in the session is lost forever and you would have to wait for (and pay for) another session to hear the same thing.  This is where I do something different to add value.

The value add that I provide as a free opt-in part of my service is a recording (Skype or audio WITH notes).  This allows you to review the meeting at your leisure and often gain deeper insight and understanding by re-hearing the points when they are in a ‘different’ mindset. 

Being a ‘mechanic profile’ (Talent Dynamics Profiles) I’ve naturally systemised the way this happens to reduce the overhead for me and make it easy for my clients.  The result: more value for my clients and more clients for me (as a result of referrals and recommendations).

I say all of that to say this….

Increasing your margin is more about being resourceful than having resources.  You are already successful if you are in business.  You’ve demonstrated the resourcefulness, creativity and stamina to get this far.

You can increase your margins and be more profitable without having to spend excessive amounts on new marketing or computer systems. To do this you must continue to create value and leverage that value with the customer in mind.

Puzzle me this, puzzle me that….

What are some cost-effective and quick ways that you could increase your margin? Who is someone who could help you to become more aware of ways to do this if you get stuck?

Seek out someone to assist you get a new perspective on an old situation. This can be in the form of an advisor, consultant or coach. Most of them provide a 30 minute or 1 hour first consultation – just be sure to ensure that THEY provide results based pricing so that you can be sure that it’s a partnership that everyone has ‘skin in the game’ (That’s what I do).

How do I know if it’s a good idea?

Start by asking the right questions

Recently I was invited to take part in an exercise to support young entrepreneurs.  It was a business plan review as part of the curriculum for students in the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy.  It’s a great initiative and there are a great bunch of people participating and supporting it. I have to say that I am so encouraged by the creativity and passion of the next generation of business owners AND the people who, like myself, are supporting them.

I also saw something that is as common amongst older entrepreneurs as it is with the ‘newbies’.  It has been a recurring theme with the applicants to The Biz Boot Camp programme. 

It was that the passion can often overpower the need to do the basic things that separate a good idea that is an interesting hobby, from a great idea that is the basis of a profitable business.

As great as an idea may be…

ideas are worthless

It’s not the idea, but how and IF the idea can be implemented in a way that adds value. The level of value that is added will determine if the idea is a hobby or a real and profitable business.

Thousands of people have ‘million dollar ideas’ every day.  So what’s the difference between them and the people who MAKE a million from the idea?  (and don’t say “their bank accounts”)

Often it can be the simple activity of asking simple but powerful questions.  These questions allow you to filter good ideas from the bad ideas – or should I say the profitable ideas from the trash.

Some of these questions are:

  1. What problem and I solving?
  2. Who is it a problem to?
  3. How many people have this problem?
  4. How big of a problem is it to them?

It’s that basic. It’s that simple. And it’s just the beginning but a powerful start.

In many cases you may know the answer.  In other instances you may have to do a bit of research.  As with many things in life, doing some clever work up front can save you a ton of heartache and lost time or money.

There are a bunch of free tools on the internet that can help you to answer these questions very quickly.  If you’re interested in how to do this post a comment and request (below) and I’ll send you a few to get you going.