Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What Are You Managing: A Business Or A Non Profit Organization?

 A Business Or A Non Profit Org? 
A few weeks ago, having an after dinner conversation with some friends, this subject came up: “What are we managing?”. I commented that the goal for any business should be selling, building profits, and one of my colleagues argued that it wasn’t like that, that it was probably done this way many years ago but not anymore. He said that nowadays a business’ goal was to satisfy customers, putting customers at the center of everything.

And maybe it's like asking "What comes first: the chicken or the egg?" because in order for your business to satisfy a customer, it needs to have actual customers. In order for a customer to become “satisfied” by your business, some sort of transaction must have been generated, the exchange of a product or service must have occurred to assist the customer in  solving a particular need or problem. What other ways can a customer be satisfied by you, if it isn’t by solving a problem?

What other reason would push the customer to approach your business to begin with? Perhaps sole curiosity? How long can you keep your business running if you only get visits from "curious" people who don’t buy?

I do recognize this kind of questioning might sound like common sense, but it happens more often than not to business owners to get confused about what their real goal is. It’s often necessary to go back to the basic concepts and remind yourself what goals were you expecting to achieve with your business, and I mean if we are really managing a business, on the proper meaning of the word itself.

Businesses are created to generate economic profits, regardless of the business model you choose to use.

And that’s why it is so important to have all things perfectly clear in your mind: If you own a business, your goal is for it to become profitable, generate earnings, perhaps in a year, two, three or five... but at the end your goal is to have a profitable business, meaning you are bringing in more money than the one going out, so that at the end of the year you have some cash remaining in your account.

Let’s start by talking about time, money and the effort it takes to manage any business. 

Some people say it’s good to put the dots on top of the “i’s” from time to time, to avoid any confusion that could be potentially costly, and I don’t refer exclusively to monetary costs, at this particular point.

I am sure we all will agree that managing your business not only costs you money, perhaps a little if you have done your homework implementing “bootstrapping" techniques, but certainly you have to invest some money to make things happen. But it's not just money you have to invest in your business.

If  you were to assign a monetary value to each of your working hours, you would soon realize how much it costs to manage your business. 

In addition to this investment in money, managing your business also demands a significant amount of time and effort. And if each of your working hours had a face value, you would immediately realize your business has a real cost, and is generally quite a high one.

How long can your pocket support a business which doesn’t generate profits? 

Obviously when we reach this point in the conversation, everyone frowns and shrugs. The answer is always "just for a limited time." Or at least, it is most of the time.

It can be "very, very limited time" when the pocket would only hold for a couple of months of operation without generating profits, or "moderately limited" when you've done your homework properly and have set aside a capital that will allow you to cover your business’ operations for a longer period, perhaps a year or two.

No single pocket can hold a business that produces not profits forever. 

In any case, the answer would never be "for as long as you need", and if it were so, then you’re not managing a business but a nonprofit organization: you're basically spending your time, money and efforts on an activity that could easily be considered a hobby instead of a business, and nothing else.

You might now be wondering why I place so much emphasis on a subject that should be completely clear to all  entrepreneurs and business owners, or to those guys who are planning to launch their own businesses in the near future. The answer comes next.

If you know where you're going, you can choose the way that better suits you. 

Humans have the ability to turn simple things into complex concepts, and we have taken on the habit of coming up with new names for things that continue to have the same meaning they have had throughout the whole life, such as what the goal of any business should be.

Having what your business goals are completely clear in your mind, allows you to better choose platforms to be used, and plan much more efficiently all strategies and actions to be executed to promote it, increase awareness about it among people, bring in more sales and, consequently, to create better opportunities to generate profits.

In addition to all that, you’ll have the main performance indicator that will tell you whether you are doing things right or wrong. As I stated on a post published in this blog a while ago:

"Everything you do, must generate either money or happiness, or a combination of both." 

If what you're doing, is not helping you make even money enough for a living, then you must make sure it’s generating a lot of happiness. And if you call it “a business”, then you certainly have to make sure it’s generating profits.

A big hug and thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you. I hope you find them useful in managing your small, yet big business :-D

If you have time, you may want to read the following post in this blog:
4 Easy Tips To Effectively Managing Your Time.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

If Things Were Easier ... - The Dog Whisperer's Testimony

As my dear friend, Gabriela Pérez Sambucetti says "only what we share acquires a social dimension" now it is my time to add value to a rich conversation, as I want to share with you guys an article written by a dear friend of mine, Mauricio Priego, in which he pays tribute to being perseverant, confident and, above all other things, to always move forward and fight for all those things that are important to us. 

This is the testimony of Cesar Millan, "The Dog Whisperer". I'll post it here the same way Mauricio published it. Please, enjoy! 

“If things were easier, anyone would be able to make them.” 

Sometimes when I find myself exhausted and struggling to simply get by everyday´s task, this phrase has crossed my mind and I have realized this is the sentence life puts in front of us to keep the stress levels high and take away our happiness and joy. But then I realize that it is ourselves who often make things more difficult than they really are, and I turn my eyes and look at those I love and find in them the incentive I need to resume the fight with renewed vigor, focusing again on my dreams instead of simple trying to get by.

But ironically resuming the fight and refocusing our efforts is not an easy task. Not at all. 

Have you heard of the "Dog Whisperer"? The story of Cesar Millan is a true life testimony of hard work and perseverance, which may well serve as an inspiration to all of us when adversity threatens our dreams and goals (Click on the video to view it)

Surely the famous phrase "The more I know men, the more I love my dog" crossed his mind more than once, the difference being that instead of running away and hiding himself in a a barrel, like Diogenes did, César knew how to re-discover what his dream was and build up the strength of mind he needed to start all over again.

As the poet says:

"Try to be happy with what you have, live life intensely ... if you keep on fighting, you'll finally make it."


Mauricio Priego
Personal Finances Advisor, Systems Analyst, Enterprise Architect. Love Reading. Happy Parent.
Twitter: MauricioPriego 

Thank you, Mauricio, for such a special and emotionally filled post. 

I'm sure more than one of the people reading this post now, will feel completely identified with César's story, as I did when I read your post. 

This is the link to the original post, as it appeared in Mauricio's blog
Si las cosas fueran fáciles... - Testimonio del "Encantador de Perros" (In Spanish)

If you liked it, I think you will also enjoy reading this one too: 
Which Habits Are Keeping You From Reaching Your Goals?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What Can You Talk About With Your Customers When You’re Not Selling To Them?

Don't know what to talk about?

This time, I'll share with you my comments and thoughts about a question made by a dear friend of mine from Mexico, who reads this blog regularly. (I also read his, by the way :-D

The question came in the following way:

Sometimes you need to keep track and follow up with your long-term prospects, but this entails two risks for you: 
a) That you become a constant harassment by despairing / boring / troubling them.

b) That they lose interest on what you’re offering along the way, or someone else contacts them with a similar solution (or maybe even the same product) while you’re away. 
These are the two extremes, true, but the challenge is usually how to find the midpoint. On the other hand, there is the issue of what can you use as subjects of your following up contacts: It is clear that if you always talk about your product, the prospect is going to feel "used" and you’ll surely miss the chance to do business... But again, you can’t become best pal with your customer. Again, the point is: how much is too much and how much is too little? 
And it’s also clear that congratulating him on his birthday, or sending a postcard for Christmas, by themselves, are totally inefficient.
What do you think about it? 

And the topic is quite an interesting one, and, in many cases, businesses haven’t fully understood what it means to "keep relevant conversations with their customers and prospects” before, during and after the purchase decision is made.

Where do we begin with?

The most obvious opportunities: Being polite doesn’t mean you’re not brave enough. 

On many occasions I have recommended you in this blog that we should all try to get to know our customers with the finest detail we possibly can, handling information that is relevant to our interests and which also allows us to discover additional ways to be of service, or even open up new business opportunities to develop.

There are small details that greatly enrich the relationship and get you much closer to your customers. 

A greeting card for a birthday, a wedding, a newborn, in the format of your choice, is always a warm gesture to effectively, genuinely approach and engage with your customers.

However, we only celebrate our birthday once per year, we have newborns less frequently and get married, God permits, once in a lifetime (or two, or three… you know what I mean), so these opportunities, by themselves, are insufficient to properly follow up with customers and prospects.

What other stuff can you talk about with customers and prospects, excluding your products? 

If you don’t want to turn your conversations with customers and prospects into boring information exchanges about your products and services, which happens all too often, why don’t you give a try to the following recommendations?

  • Add value to their business, not yours: include within your “conversation subjects”, themes that might be relevant to their industries, their businesses, or even their lives. It's okay if you don’t mention your brand, products and services. Not every conversation has to revolve around you. Dare to open the space to provide real, selfless and genuine value, focusing on providing solutions to real problems your customers are facing. 
  • Show them that you deeply know what you're talking about: You know you have a lot to say about your industry, you know you can offer true, valuable, honest opinions regarding topics of interest. Bring them to the table. Tips, suggestions and recommendations are always welcome in a world where relevant content is King. 
  • Become a reference point for your customers and prospects: Through the value and relevance of the topics you share, your company and yourself become the point your customers want to go to when they need information about industry issues, and you definitely want it to be this way.

How much is enough and when it’s just too little? 

Actually, this is really a total challenge for all of us and a quite complicated one: How can you figure out when you stop being an interesting source for your customers and prospects and simply become an annoying visitor in their mailbox or even on the phone?

Think of it as when you’re drinking whiskey:  You never drink the whole bottle at once. You go little by little. Step by step. Sipping slowly, sip by sip, usually in small vessels. Tasting it, smelling it, enjoying it.

Make your conversations like drinking good whiskey: Let your customers find it so yummy and relevant that they prefer to taste it, instead of wasting it. 

Knowing who your audience is and being close to them will help you find the proper balance.

The decision of how much is too much or too little, will vary according to each case, depending on the relevance of the information you share and generate, and depending on how often you may have access to fresh information. You just have to find the balance that works for you.

If you pay attention to these simple steps, you can follow up with your customers and prospects maintaining relevant conversations for a long time, developing with them strong and long-lasting relationships, and you will have earned a guaranteed place in their minds, when the time for making the purchase decision comes around.

I also recommend you to read the following posts on this blog
Social Networks: From Conversations To A Brand New Sale In 6 Simple Steps. 
Who Follows Who In Social Media?

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

When Delegating In Others, You Must Be Confident They’re The Right Ones For The Job.

Make Sure They're The Ones For The Job.
A few days ago I read the phrase that makes the title of this week's post in an article written by Susan Steinbrecher for www.soyentrepreneur.net, which was titled "5 Golden Rules for Young Leaders". I really recommend you to read it, and as always, you’ll find the link to it at the end of my post.

Delegating responsibilities in others, and trusting they can (and will) be a perfect fit for the task, is a skill that every manager, business owner, or person having the desire to create an efficient and productive team, must nurture and develop.

In fact, at one point in time, most entrepreneurs will need to make use of this skill in order to secure their businesses’ growth, and lay the foundations for further developments.

It’s very difficult for any business to grow on top of its initial creator’s shoulders and his unique strengths, no matter how proactive and efficient that person might be.

But let me keep myself on topic today. As I was saying, that phrase particularly caught my attention, because around the same time, in a group I have with some colleagues on whatsapp, the following picture was being shared:

Translation below :-D 
The picture reads: "In my book "Move away, sucker, I do it myself because you don't have an idea" I referred to the advantages of effective teamworking."

And after recognizing the image was created with an extremely high dose of sarcasm, it reflects a reality that prevails in many companies nowadays: The inability of the company’s "leaders" to effectively delegate tasks on their employees.

If you can not trust their abilities, why did you hire them to begin with? 

And I'll start from this very point: At the basis of every efficient working relationship there must be the confidence, on your side, that the person you’re hiring for the position has the necessary skills to do the job the way you expect them to, and nothing less. It’s very simple.

If this is not so, if that confidence doesn’t exist: What’s the reason that justifies the candidate being hired? Why would you be paying them a salary for? Just because it’s a close family acquaintance whom you wanted to lend a hand?

When hiring a person for any area of ​​your business, you must have the confidence that she/he will be capable of doing the job properly. 

When you make the decision to hire people for your business, you're doing it because you need someone skilled enough to be in charge of a particular area, whatever that area may be. If we start from this basic principle, it is then logical to expect the person who will occupy such position will have the minimum set of skills to do the job right, or at least, the way you expect it to be done.

I remember that among the recruitment processes in which I have participated, there was this one in particular in which the candidate finally selected by my boss, didn’t have the basic skills and professional experience required for the position, and yet the selection process was closed and the person hired.

Which was the final result? As you can easily picture it, all the time I invested in training the person, supervising her job and accompanying her to visit prospects and close some business, was simply wasted because, after a couple of months, we needed to fire her.

"The way you'd expect them to do the job" or expectations management. 

As it’s important to hire people who are properly trained for the position they’ve been hired, it’s equally or even more important to establish on an absolutely clear way, what is expected from them once they join your team and take their position.

There is a phrase that comes to my mind right now, which I've heard a couple of times during my professional career: "You better swim or sink!" and unfortunately I had to live it on first person on the very first position for which I “was hired” here in Spain.

It was with a small, local marketing agency (supposedly “hired” although I didn’t have a contract or any formal relationship with the company, so I was simply put on a probation, no salary period) and I was supposed to do new business prospecting and closing.

I was able to schedule an appointment to meet with the head of advertising for a local government office. I invited my boss to accompany me to this meeting so that we could do it together, and also to show him my way of approaching new clients. The meeting went well (from my own perspective) and we all agreed to put together an initial business proposal for the entity.

A few hours after the meeting, and with no apparent reason, I was surprised by my boss canceling my e-mail account with the company then, when I called him to check what was happening he told me by phone that if I wanted to follow up with the client we just visited together, I would have to do it from my own personal email account.

What happened? Well I never got to know and never will. We had left the meeting very happy with the results achieved, but obviously that was not enough for my boss.

Moral: If your new hires don’t know what you’re expecting from them, little can they do to meet your expectations. 

Do not expect your employees to guess what it is expected from them, and neither plant yourself on the attitude of the supreme leader who is only expecting the best ones on his team to survive, without any support from your side, because by doing so, you will definitely be throwing precious talent out the window.

"Swim or sink yourself" is not going to help build a winning team. Only by taking into consideration the following advice you’ll be able to do it:

  • Only hire appropriately trained and skilled people for the specific area that you need, 
  • Thoroughly review with your new hires what your expectations are and what goals you want them to achieve, 
  • Offer every person the opportunity to grow within your company, and motivate them to reach their best performance, regardless of their position. 

Put these recommendations into practice and you’ll see how your team’s performance will reach new and better levels, creating a very positive environment to work in.

This is the article I recommended you to read at the beginning of this post: 
"5 golden rules for young leaders," written by Susan Steinbrecher for Soyentrepreneur 

You will also find a couple of articles directly related to this one, that will sure make for an interesting read: 
The Oranges Bag Management Model.
It’s Time To Grow: When It’s No Longer Good To Wear Too Many Hats.