Tag Archives: business planning

Relationships are the Building Blocks of Life

If you’ve read my blog before you know I believe life rests on a foundation of relationships. They permeate all of the Three Pillars of Fitness. So I am delighted to share with you a book that addresses the vital topic of building relationships. How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits by Judy Robinett reads fast and serves as a step-by-step guide on the strategy and tactics you need to know to create, build, and improve the relationships you need to direct your life.

While the title focuses on business, Judy addresses familial, personal, and professional relationships. As important, throughout her book, she stresses the importance of shared values as a basic building block for interacting with people.

Darrah Brustein beautifully summarized the book in her article on Entrepreneur.com. Rather than reinventing the wheel, I asked Judy some questions that arose from my reading her book.

Question: How much of your day is devoted to building and maintaining your network?

Answer: Not even a half hour a day. Keep in mind, just because somebody can help you doesn’t mean he will. Be clear about your goals.

Question: In your book, you shared many of your successes. What have you learned from your networking setback besides avoiding bad actors?

Answer: When you hit a wall, just say next. Relationship building requires resilience, and faith in G-d.

Question: There are people who think those who differ with their politics by definition do not share their values or are bad actors. What advice do you have that might help them reconsider this idea?

Answer: You have to be smarter to see the value in two divergent points of view. Just because you have a relationship with someone doesn’t mean you agree with him on all points.

Question: As a person of faith, how would you respond to someone who says if G-d wants me to meet the right people He’ll make it happen?

Answer: This is Santa Claus thinking.

Question: I have found one of the most important functions of experts is to give people permission to do things they otherwise would avoid. [More on this idea in a future blog post] What things will you give people permission to do?

Answer: It’s okay to be afraid. But adopt the good fear – the kind that moves you out and up, known in Hebrew as yira. Keep in mind, almost nothing can be done alone. Know that half of Americans are shy. They feel just like you do. So talk to strangers. Ask people, “What ideas do you have?” “Who should I meet?” Always be thinking - how can I add value?

Aside from being known as the woman with the platinum Rolodex, Judy is a brave woman. Quoting Hebrew to a rabbi!

The other day I was speaking with a colleague about whiskeys and tequilas he found life changing. I had never considered libations could be that impactful. But whether you are a novice entrepreneur or approaching your silver wedding anniversary, Judy’s insight and advice will improve your relationships and help you take your life to the next level. Get her book today!

How would being more strategic about developing relationships help you?

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One Night Stands Don’t Work for Business Either

Prospecting.  New business development.  Finding more customers.  Whatever you call the process, an organization must expand its client base to survive and grow.  Despite having years of practice in the necessary skills, most people are oblivious as to how to go about it.

One Night Stands Don’t Work for Business Either

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This was highlighted to me when a friend brought to my attention the large number of people who show up only once at the meetings of an organization to which we belong.  My response to him became the headline for this post.

Throughout my real estate career, I realized that the cost to acquire and maintain a new client was high. Because of the low margins in the property management and appraisal businesses, generally, it took six months to a year before a relationship became profitable.  As such, I quickly learned:

It is Pointless to Pursue One Off Clients Who Negotiate Hard on Price. 

Aside from their insistence that they squeeze ever last penny out of a situation, repeat business from them was rare. My having learned all of their negotiating tricks the first time we did business meant they had to find someone new to squeeze.  Rarely did I get referrals from them since by the time the matter was completed they had already moved on to someone new.

Most of us carefully choose the people and organizations with whom we do business, especially in the areas of professional services.  Think about how you chose your doctor, lawyer, real estate broker, or pastor.  You probably knew the person well or were referred by someone who previously used his services.

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Why as someone with something to sell would you expect people to suddenly decide the first time they meet you to give you their business?  This is why networking seems so fruitless.  Most people have the unrealistic expectation that one meeting is sufficient to establish them in people’s minds as legitimate for giving referrals.

Finding New Customers is Like Making New Friends.

The difference is that often friendships develop organically as you go through day-to-day life.  But if you examine your friends undoubtedly you note commonalities on which your relationships are built.  Finding new clients is a more intentional process but the end result is the same:  Enough interaction has taken place for prospects to be comfortable with your handling their business.

With respect to networking, you should have two goals:

  1. Establish rapport with a prospect.  Be interested in the person.  The more talking he does the better off you are.  There will be plenty of time later for you to make a presentation, if necessary.  At this stage there is only one question to answer – is this person a viable prospect?
  2. Get contact information.  The point of networking is to get people’s cards, not give yours out.  How will you follow up without a name, email address, and telephone number?

The process is no different being involved in a networking group or professional organization.  Your task is to identify the people who will be the best referral sources rather than clients.

Once you have chosen your prospects, continue the process of getting to know them and their situations while they get to know you.  It is probably not going to happen as quickly as you think.  But the business you do build will be more enduring.

When did restraint improve a situation?  When did it worsen one? 

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Pursue Entrepreneurship Like a Marine

When stationed with the Marine Corps, I learned a concept called maneuver warfare. Attrition warfare was the primary philosophy until World War I. Today speed and agility, also called shock and awe, dominates warfighting.  Typically thought of spatially, Marines broaden it to include psychological, technological, temporal, as well as spatial issues.  As the wars wind down I've been thinking about how to apply this doctrine to entrepreneurship.

Lesson from the Marine Corps

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While I don't equate business to war, the usefulness of maneuver warfare translated into entrepreneurship can ignite your life. Here’s how:

  1. Spatial Maneuver: Merely because another company is larger and better capitalized doesn't mean you can't enter the market.  Its size can be its biggest weakness if it prevents innovation and agility in the marketplace.  Maneuvering spatially means more quickly taking advantage of opportunities than larger, better funded competitors.
  2. Psychological Maneuver: The psychological enemy you face as an entrepreneur ranges from negative self-talk and opposition from family and friends to the lack of knowledge you need to pursue your idea.  Tackling this enemy requires forethought as to how you'll respond.  For example, when someone, including yourself, puts down your concept or your potential to succeed will you simply ignore it?  Can you continue to do so over time?  You'll do better if you analyze the defeatist arguments and have ready answer showing them to be wrong.
  3. Technological Maneuver: Technology is amazing.  But note that this can mean it is amazingly good AND amazingly bad.  Its value lies in how well it helps you get your business underway and makes it run better.  Technology purely for its own sake will hold back your progress.  Maneuvering through the technological morass should lead you to solutions that help you serve your customers and make you a nimbler competitor.
  4. Temporal Maneuver: In war, by creating a faster operating tempo than the enemy, Marines seek to disrupt their enemy’s ability to react.  With entrepreneurship, the temporal enemies are the desire for perfecting your product or service, fear of failure, or other issues that cause you to delay launching.  By setting hard and fast goals for completing each task of your start-up plan and sticking to them, establishing a battle rhythm, you gain the inertia you need to break through the temporal barrier.

Marines constantly train by planning and practicing how to use maneuver to make them the most effective warfighters in the world.  Success means shattering the enemy’s cohesion so badly it can't function.

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The enemies of your success wage a war of attrition.  Everyday they seek to dissuade you from changing your mindset and engaging in tasks that will improve your life.  Undoubtedly your definition of success differs from the Marine Corps'.  But making maneuver a key aspect of your plan will help you more quickly defeat the negative attitudes and lethargy holding you back.

Which type of maneuver will help you most toward your goals?

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6 Things You Can Do Now to Become an Entrepreneur

Frustrating as it is to be unable to pursue your dream, you can still be preparing yourself to become an entrepreneur. Any big goal needs to be broken down into incremental steps. When starting a business you can do these basic things, all of which cost little or no money to accomplish.

6 Things You Can Do Now to Become an Entrepreneur

One vestige of my misspent youth was not practicing my clarinet more diligently. Had I done so I would be able to play swing and big band tunes reasonably well. Now I have the desire to routinely practice. One of the greatest clarinetists of all time, Benny Goodman, says it takes at least an hour a day to gain proficiency. For two years I would get into a regimen and make progress only to have to give it up. When I started blogging and building a platform there was no margin in my schedule.

Yet I feel extremely strongly about learning to play the clarinet well. I decided I would find some way to work toward my goal that would not take more than five minutes a day. A bit of thought and research later, I found some hand exercises for clarinet players that improve dexterity. After several months I have definitely made progress..

Here are the things you can do now to prepare to start a business:

  1. Set the amount of time each day you will work on your business planning. Even if it is only 10 or 15 minutes, that is five to eight hours a month. If you focus even for such a small amount of time you can make progress. As a bonus, you will be building self-discipline.
  2. Decide what product or service you want your business to be about. Assess your skills, inventory your likes, read articles and blogs about likely industries, and talk to entrepreneurs.
  3. Name you business. No matter that you may change it, naming your business makes it more tangible. Play around with logo designs and design some business cards.
  4. Determine its start-up size. Are you going to have a microenterprise run from your home or a larger company? Will you need a workshop, office, or employees?
  5. Work out whether you can start your business while you still have a job. Can you scale what you are doing so that you can keep your “day” job and moonlight starting your business? If not, how much money will you need to set aside so you will not run out of cash during the start-up phase?
  6. Make a list of the things you will need to get going. What equipment will you need? What forms and records will you have to keep? Which skills you do not have can you get before you start-up or fill with an employee or virtual assistant?
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Note that none of these steps will cost you more than your time and perhaps a few dollars for printable business card blanks. And do not forget, you can always be learning more about the subject of your business. The Internet provides a wealth of free information and classes.

There is no reason to delay any longer. Start today, or no later than tonight, to plan for starting your company!

Question – What will be your first step in planning your business start-up?

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Right and Wrong Way to Be Disruptive – And How to Use It for Success

Follow the entrepreneurship press and blogs and you will read plenty about being disruptive. It seems that no matter how things were done in the past they are wrong. I have not seen the term used yet but sooner or later it seems entrepreneurs will be called disrupteneurs. Are radical business concepts the route to success? Are people going to turn their lives upside down to adopt a new way of living or doing business?Right and Wrong Way to Be Disruptive – And How to Use It for SuccessMy answer to both questions is no. Here is why:

Do you remember DOS (short for Disk Operating System)? Complex and hard to use it nonetheless sought to disrupt the way people lived their lives and how commerce functioned. Yet it was not until Microsoft copied the ease and intuitiveness of the Mac Operating System in a DOS overlay called Windows that the personal computing started to become more widely adopted. The Mac OS and Windows helped people move far enough out of their comfort zone that they would try something new. DOS was too disruptive.

The first cell phones hit the market 40 years ago. They were very similar to push button landline phones except you could carry them around. The first smartphone, the IBM Simon, came out in 1994. It allowed people to manage their entire lives on a mobile phone. For all intents and purposes, it was a flop, lasting only six months on the market. It was too disruptive. Almost another decade and several iterations passed before people embraced smartphones.

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Successful business ideas today are no more disruptive than they were in the past. MIT Technology Review shows that with the exception of tablets, new technologies take seven to 30 years to achieve 10% penetration and another five to 39 years to go from 10% to 40% penetration. People’s lives are bettered in an essentially evolutionary way. Calling new products and services disruptive is a marketing ploy.

But before you consign disruptiveness to the trash heap, there is a place for unconventionality in entrepreneurship: at the conceptual stage of your product or service. Visualize combinations of completely unrelated products and services. From such disruptive notions, imagine a radical way of helping people and make it your vision, the end game of your business.

Then, figure out the incremental steps that people can take as their lives are changed for the better.

Question – Are you an early or evolutionary adopter and why?

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