When ten minute solutions come with ten years of effort

Say that a client with a full time job, who for the last 10 years has been running a limo service on the w-ends (with the same results), asks me to help him develop his limo business. I sign him up for Uber (www.uber.com), and in a couple of weeks he goes from making $ 300/per w-end to making $ 1, 600 /per w-end (a 400% growth in a few weeks).

He could think:  why would I pay for your advice?  It took you 10 minutes to come up with a solution. It should cost me very little– it took you little to come up with this.

Or he could think:  I will continue to increase revenue because I invested in something that placed me on a growth path. You saved me time (which is money) and increased my revenue tremendously, it should cost me proportional to the revenue you helped me bring in.

What do you think?

Please visit us at InTheWorkZone, where entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers share their business challenges and leave the room with a working plan and with tools for success.

“How much will it cost?”

“How much will it cost?”

Small business owners ask this question immediately without following it with “and what will my return be on this investment?”  While at first, this question may seem to make sense given the whole slew of challenges facing a small enterprise, it’s in fact the wrong question to lead with. It masquerades as a logical consideration, and it removes the focus from a whole more important matter: what is the investment/return ratio.

On the other hand, “If this costs me X, what is the return (or value, or benefit) that it brings me?” is a question that allows you to consider many other data points and factors when you measure the success of your spending.

If you are offered an option to get something for free, or very cheaply, will you consider that the time you put into creating something that may not work is actually costing you real money in the long run, and particularly, that it costs you social capital (your audience, your community), and good will?

When you decide on spending money to grow your company, how do you go about considering the return on investment?   Would you spend, say, $ 1, 000 to make $ 10, 000?   Or will you compare a $ 1, 000 investment with a $ 250 investment, and even with the possibility of getting something for free (obviously with less accountability for the results)?  Even more importantly, have you educated yourself to recognize what investments/spending bring you value?

When you make a strategic decision (especially when every penny matters), do you focus on maximizing the value you receive and your return on investment?  Or instead, do you try to keep your expenses down – at all cost?

If you want to be successful, learn to lead with a focus on your return on every strategic decision you make.  Work with the best people, if possible. Remember that time has value beyond any amount of money, since we can’t buy it back. Keep measuring results on investments!

Please visit us at InTheWorkZone, where entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers share their business challenges and leave the room with a working plan and with tools for success.

A meditation on beauty and perceived ugliness. And more about online communities

I have organized a campaign for a business to help build its online community. The whole thing was centered around beauty, and was meant to create a space where every woman felt cherished and appreciated for exactly where she was in her life.  I happen to be a proponent of the Japanese concept of Wabi Sabi, an aesthetic view of the world that embraces asymmetry, imperfection, and asperity, but this campaign was not extreme; it simply found beauty in “what is”, and did not strive for female standards of beauty proposed by the media and upheld by many.

People have a variety of opinions, to which they are welcome, of course. I don’t engage with every opinion; also, I advise clients to not delete, but to address negative comments.

Still, this situation caught me by surprise.  A woman wrote (what I chose to think was a candid) remark about the ugliness of another woman. That comment about “ugliness” was informed by so many stereotypes, and was written with so many details and with so much repulsion for the perceived ugliness of an unknown woman, that it shocked me.

I am now pondering the cruelty of such random remarks, and the lack of self-reflection and compassion on the part of that woman. In this very case, since her comment had nothing to do with my clients’ business (which she loved and wanted to be part of) I chose to delete the comment. Initially I wanted to defend the woman so viciously attacked.  As with anything we focus on, the evil grows if we give it a chance.  So, I resisted the emotion of commenting in public.

Let’s not be the unpaid guardians of other people’s standards of conformity.  I see how ‘prisoners’ become ‘guardians’, and how those who were constantly judged for not conforming to standards of beauty become keen judges of others.  We are all vulnerable and our lives and businesses are in constant flux.  All that we cherish can disappear at a moment’s notice.  Let’s bring out creativity and value for others in the socially shared space, and let’s realize that every comment posted on the social media channels stays there.  It can affect others people’s lives, and it can affect one’s business.

Please visit us at InTheWorkZone, where entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers share their business challenges and leave the room with a working plan and with tools for success.

Referral Programs that Work! An exploration–

Several of the last workshop’s participants asked me how to build referral programs that work specifically for their product or service.  We live in a network of social interactions, in a social net of relationships with others who could support our work. Still, creating referral programs that work is an immense challenge for many.  When you investigate your success (or lack of success) in selling by using referrals, please consider these five questions as exploratory tools:

  • Is your product or service easy to understand? [Is your message clear?]
  • Have you invested in company-wide training programs to make sure that everyone understands and can explain what you do? [Or, if you are a solopreneur, or a freelancer, have you invested in educating your audience, buyers and vendors, on your value?]
  • Can you put together a comprehensive rewards system that is easy to understand and easy to act on? [transfer some knowledge from Kickstarter]
  • Can you trust outsiders to take your message to prospective clients?
  • Are you willing to share your profits with others in a mutually beneficial way?

Let me know!

Please visit us at InTheWorkZone, where entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers share their business challenges and leave the room with a working plan and with tools for success.

/”And IF you go in, should you turn left or right… or right-and-three-quarters? Or, maybe, not quite?”/ Dr. Seuss

We just don’t know what would happen if we started a new venture. And that can be frightening.

We hear “start where you are” a million times. It means nothing until you do–actually-start somewhere. People want to create. People want to express themselves and to make money. They want to develop something of their own, no matter how small it is.  Some harbor this desire for many years yet somehow never get to start anything. The layers of fear, over thinking, not knowing and paralysis are too thick.

A few months ago, a successful software sales person in his forties, let’s call him Jack, wanted a life change, less stress and less travel. Jack wanted to start a massage practice in his small town.  Jack was a well -trained and licensed massage therapist, had a home office and a massage table, and all the pre-requisites of starting. He and his wife dreamed about this business for a long time. They discussed it for a long time. What would be the right name for their massage business, what would be the right amount to invest in the site, what would be the perfect design of the perfect massage room, and so on.  Jack asked me for help.

These are the three questions I asked Jack when we met for coffee:

  • Do you have an audience?  Do you have customers—aka, do you know people who want to use and buy your service?
  • Do you have the means to reach these people?
  • Can you deliver on the promise you make?

It’s too easy, isn’t it? Or could be it so easy? That is what Jack asked, eyes bright with surprise and excitement. Well, let’s see the specifics of this case:

Do you have an audience?

I asked Jack to write down the names of 50 people he knew in his town or surroundings, people to whom he could send a personal note.  Jack took the pen out and started to write. Turns out that he was pretty well connected in his town and well liked. Being well liked stopped him from telling people about the massage business. What if he would not be successful? What if they never bought a massage from him? He would be such a fool.

Do you have the means to reach these people?

Yes, Jack said. He mentioned a few groups and associations he belonged to and the few meetings where he would go in the next two weeks.  I suggested he created very simple, inexpensive cards with his name and asked people to come try one discounted massage.

Can you deliver on the promise if people came for massage?

Yes, absolutely, if people are willing to try, I can give them a great massage. But, and his eyes darkened, but what if they do not come? And what about the website, I need a website and that costs $ 3, 000, at least– said Jack.

Well, there is only one way to know, right? Get a few people on the massage table.

But what about pricing, and scheduling and all the other challenges of a small business? Once you “test” if your product/service works, it’s time to work with the logistics.  But if you never get to the first step, that of offering your work, your product, your service, you will never know.

A few months later, I heard that Jack started his massage business, and that it was going well. I noticed he posted it on Linkedin, too. I smiled. This true story may seem an oversimplification.  But if you think of it, bigger and smaller dreams are dashed every day by not taking that one, first step. It’s as simple or as complicated as that.

Please visit us at InTheWorkZone, where entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers share their business challenges and leave the room with a working plan and with tools for success.

On embracing inner resistance

I got a note the other day that made me think of the importance of embracing the inner resistance to one’s gifts.

Always thinking about our conversations and your thought provoking advice.  Well, I have finally done it…I have resigned from my current position to start my own consulting firm.  Signed my first contract today….I thought it would be fitting to let you know.  You may not have realized but you helped me get over the mental barriers! Thank you!”  Tom

For a long time I have refused to be a “coach” or be seen as a coach. Every time the opportunity or request would arise, I would say no. I cringed at the word “coach”.  It seemed all too soft, and pep talk-y.  All I wanted was to get the job done, increase revenue, bring in new clients, do great work and not be coaching anyone in the process.

One has to start paying attention sooner or later.

In the process of helping businesses grow I have worked with individuals as well as with groups. Numerous times, I have realized that we were able to increase sales, or attract new clients through a process of facilitation that included every person’s contribution; a process that supported a more creative mindset. Often, I saw how the slightest shift in perception and attitudes would allow for a more strategic and compassionate approach that would resonate with customers.

It took me a while to understand that doing great work could also mean that at times I were soft, and wordy and pep talk-y—a coach, a guide, a supporter, and whatever else was necessary to see everybody thrive in the process of getting results.

How did you learn to embrace the inner resistance to your own gifts?

Please visit us at InTheWorkZone, where entrepreneurs, business owners, and freelancers share their business challenges and leave the room with a working plan and with tools for success