When is the right time to start your business?

There is no one answer to the question of when to start your own business. For some people, the right time is when they have a great idea for a product or service. For others, it may be when they have the financial resources in place to support a new venture. And for still others, it may be when they are ready to take on the challenge of being their own boss. Ultimately, there is no perfect time to start a business. But there are certain things that you should keep in mind as you consider making the jump from employee to entrepreneur.

First, you need to make sure you have the right skills and experience to be successful. Are you good at problem solving? Are you comfortable with risk? Do you have a solid understanding of your industry? If not, you may want to gain some more experience before making the transition.

Second, you need to have a clear vision for your business. What are your goals and objectives? What are your unique selling points? What sets you apart from the competition? Without a clear plan, it will be difficult to succeed as an entrepreneur.

Finally, you need to be prepared for the financial challenges of being your own boss. Being an entrepreneur can be a risky proposition, and it’s important to have some cushion in case things don’t go as planned.

If you want to start a business but don’t know where to begin, please reach out to us. We are here to help with business planning and coaching, and we can create a custom-tailored business plans to structure your business and help you receive financial investment. 

6 Tips for Business Growth

  1. Evaluate your business model, generate annual revenue goals, and make necessary changes

As a small business owner, you are probably always looking for ways to improve your business. One important step is to evaluate your business model and set annual revenue goals. This will help you focus on what is important and track your progress. There are many factors to consider when setting these goals, but don’t worry, we’re here to help!

2. Research your competition and find ways to differentiate yourself from them

Don’t be a copycat. It’s an easy trap to fall into, especially when you’re just starting out in business. But if you want to make it big, you need to find ways to differentiate yourself from the competition. So how do you go about doing that? Research, research, research! Find out what your competitors are doing and see if there’s a way to improve on their offerings. You may not be able to offer the same products or services they do, but there are always ways to set yourself apart. Stand out from the crowd and watch your business grow!

3. Increase brand awareness through online and offline marketing initiatives

As a small business owner, it’s important to increase brand awareness through online and offline marketing initiatives. Online marketing is a great way to reach a large audience quickly and efficiently. However, don’t forget about offline marketing initiatives such as print advertising, direct mail, and trade shows. Offline marketing can be very effective in reaching your target market. Choose the right marketing channels for your business and execute a successful marketing campaign!

Are you looking for ways to increase brand awareness for your small business? If so, you’re not alone! A recent study found that 66% of small businesses said increasing brand awareness was their top marketing priority.

4. Develop a strong social media presence and engage with your target audience

As a small business owner, it’s important to stay engaged with your target audience on social media. This means posting relevant content, responding to comments and messages, and being interactive with followers. By developing a strong social media presence, you’ll be able to connect with more potential customers, which can lead to increased sales and revenue. So don’t hesitate – start engaging with your target audience today!

5. Focus on customer service and build loyalty among your existing client base

Are you tired of working so hard to attract new customers without seeing any real return? It’s time to focus on your existing customer base and build loyalty among them. By providing excellent customer service, you can turn casual clients into loyal advocates who are happy to refer their friends and family. And the best part is, it doesn’t take a lot of extra effort – just make sure that you’re always putting your clients first!

6. Offer new products or services to attract new customers

Are you looking for ways to attract new customers to your business? If so, consider offering new products or services. By doing so, you’ll not only stand out from the competition, but you’ll also make it easier for potential customers to find what they’re looking for. So don’t wait any longer; start brainstorming some new ideas today!

Sales Mindset

I can’t tell you how many books I have read or seminars I have attended regarding something to do with sales. I think I lost count at a million.

Sales does not have to be complicated or require endless training. What it requires is the correct mindset. This is certainly not a subject that can be distilled into a 500 word post but it can be clarified to the point where you can process it better and let it percolate. The mindset of sales is very basic. In it’s simplest form, it’s about them and not you. That’s it in a nutshell. There are far too many sales people that when on a sales call expound the virtues of what their company can do or how revolutionary their product is.

The potential buyer really doesn’t care about that. What they care about is themselves and the problems or challenges they are facing. In order for you to connect with them they need to connect with you first. Wrap that around your head…They must feel like there is a rapport and the only way to make that happen is to help THEM establish the rapport. If it comes from them then it will be far more solid and better established. The only way to do that is through questions, questions, questions. When you ask questions, unbeknownst to them, you are controlling the conversation, steering it and uncovering potential pitfalls.

The mindset shift that needs to be made is that the focus absolutely and unequivocally must be them. Let them tell you what they don’t like about their current situation, let them tell you how terrible it is, let them tell you how they need something different. When they start talking like this they begin to trust you and if you can commiserate with them, even better.

A mind shift to them is the only way you will be successful. Once you have made this shift then all the other sales techniques that you have learned will be much more effective and powerful.

Let’s talk if you want to hear more. I can be reached at (603) 783-9333.

Sales and Mediocrity

I had a conversation with a client recently about his sales department and his comment to me was “I’m not sure I have ever really managed my sales department effectively – I’m not really sure how to”.

Considering that the sales department or simply sales in general is the heart and soul of ALL companies this comment struck me as surprising. There are two main components in all companies. Producing and providing. Sales produces the need and purchase and the rest of the company provides. If the first part of that process is mediocre or passive then the rest of the company suffers.

It’s so very important that a company has a robust sales force complete with highly capable sales know how and a strong grasp of what they are selling. But just as important is the sales mechanisms that have in place. Goals, targets, volume, training, proper compensation, interaction and recognition. If you are leaving your sales to their own process then you have a mediocre sales force.

This is really something to think about and focus on. In today’s business climate it’s important to not only compensate correctly but also to challenge and recognize. Re-vamping a sales department is a huge undertaking but certainly one that pays dividends many times over.

Think about it…….

How will COVID-19 Affect Travel in the Consulting Industry?

The COVID-19 pandemic has stopped travel in many professional industries, especially in the field of consulting. A report from Mckinsey & Company noted that US airline capacity declined by 70% in 2020, compared to the previous year. Currently most business travel is completely on hold, but what will happen to travel in the consulting industry once the COVID era ends and things “go back to normal?”

In terms of the corporate world at large, The Wall Street Journal projected that “between 19-36% of all business trips could be eliminated” post-COVID. In large part, this is due to the rapid adaption of the corporate world into a remote, work-from-home-based infrastructure. Bill Gates recently stated that he believed 50% of corporate travel will disappear. The same CNBC report states that “many CFOs who control company budgets don’t see business travel ever returning to the pre-pandemic level.”

But what about the consulting industry in particular? At large MBB firms, consultants usually travel to the client site Monday-Thursday every week. Will that continue to be the case once COVID is over? Or will firms start off with remote work and slowly ramp up to travel every other week, or once a month? At this point in time it is very difficult to tell, as we simply don’t have enough data yet. None of the major consulting firms have released public statements on this issue, and their approaches will likely depend on the ever-changing COVID-19 pandemic situation. Most importantly, their approach will depend on the needs of the client—how will clients feel about travel after COVID? All of this could have a significant impact on world of MBB consulting, which could trickle down the entire consulting industry. Another question is whether consultants will work from home more frequently after COVID, and whether any of these changes will impact their work-life balance? Again, it all depends on the client and what they want—will they be able to justify million dollar contracts for a series of zoom calls? We shall find out, sometime in these next few years.

What do you think? Leave your thoughts and opinions in the comments for some discussion.

Marketing Plans Vs. Business Plans

It’s very important that companies understand the difference between the two plans. I tend to use the river and pond comparison. A pond is, for the most part, static. That is, it remains what it is and there is an entire eco system involved with the pond. A river, in contrast, is always moving and changing direction. A tree falls across the river and the water will find a way around. It’s always adapting to its environment and those unforeseen things that impede it’s progress.

The business plan is the pond. It is an independent eco system that provides a means in which a business is created and developed. It is the necessary steps that need to be taken in order to create a business. A business plan does not indicate strategies or marketing. What it does include, in addition to a multitude of things, is the development of a marketing plan, the river.

The marketing plan is a wholly separate document developed for growth of your company. It is a necessary adjunct to the business plan. It determines marketing channels, demographics, competition and so much more. The marketing plan is something very fluid, remember the river comparison? A marketing plan changes and adapts to the market. The current pandemic is a great example to the fluid nature of a marketing plan. If you own a screen printing company and your marketing plan dictates that you continuously search for an emerging market and the pandemic hits. You immediately identify the need that your customer base would have and you order face coverings and offer to screen print their logo on the covering. That would be an example of something that probably was not in your existing marketing plan but you simply add face coverings to the existing need of t-shirts, etc. You already have a marketing plan in place that is designed to reach new and existing customers, add the face covering to that plan, rinse and repeat.

As a business consulting firm, we work with companies that are starting out and need a business plan developed. That business plan is designed as an instruction manual to move forward and the marketing plan is one of those steps. Often times we are contracted by existing companies that have been in business for some time and need help modifying their existing plan based on emerging market trends or industry shifts and they become lost because they only know what they know. Learning something new is a difficult task to overcome for an established company as many times the company is steering the ship and not the management. They react to fires and internal issue and forget to focus on growth and new technology.

Other times we are asked to develop a new marketing plan simply because the company never developed one to begin with. Take for example a manufacturing company that started producing a specific widget because there was an intense need to be filled and they filled it. No marketing plan or business plan just a startup with a great product – A quick business is formed and grown on the merits on a small market and a need Now, because of new technology, competition, obsolescence or lack of demand the company is sliding. The need for a marketing plan emerges.

Becoming organized with a business structure, process development and strategic goals is becoming more and more critical to the success of any and all businesses. Competition is fierce and speed is a huge factor. To quote Clint Eastwood in the movie Heartbreak Ridge “You must improvise, adapt and overcome”

As always, we are at your service and eager to help.

Passive Income

Passive Income is a term that is thrown around constantly and is often misunderstood by many. Passive Income is defined by Investopedia as “Earnings derived from a rental property, limited partnership, or other enterprise in which a person is not actively involved”.

Generally speaking I think it is understood to be money that a person makes while being uninvolved. Many people will say something like “I have this great stream of passive income where I am making money right now.” Meanwhile the individual is on the beach, on vacation, or involved in some activity that is more fun than working! Now that sounds pretty good if you ask me, making boat loads of money while sipping a corona on the beach, sign me up! But here is where the misunderstanding takes place.

To develop a solid stream of passive income takes an incredible amount of work, time, and often money. It falls under the same misbelief of get rich quick schemes or get rich over night seminars. But solid passive income is very possible and is enjoyed by millions of people every minute of the day so why not you? Whether you are a current business owner, employee, or dreamer it is possible to achieve the American dream which has become far more than simply a nice house with a white picket fence in the suburbs. Nowadays the American dream has become more about achieving wealth and becoming an every day millionaire.

Millionaire, you might be thinking “Craig, that is a big statement I don’t think I can ever become a millionaire like the people I see on TV.” Well fortunately those are not the millionaires that I am talking about, I am talking about the millionaires that are your neighbor and you do not even know they are millionaires. Millionaire is defined as having a net worth of one million dollars or greater. This dream is very attainable by just about everybody.

Many people, 32% of Americans, contribute to a 401K with every paycheck. And this number should be a lot higher considering 59% of Americans have access to a 401K. Well guess what I consider a 401K, passive income. While investing in the stock market you are making 7-10% on your investment every year, this means that you are making money even as you are sleeping. This is by far the simplest way to create passive income.

The more complex ways are to start a self sufficient business, buy real estate (Even owner occupied real estate is passive, as real estate appreciates at 3-5% on average), or some other enterprise. So no matter where you are in life you have an opportunity to create some stream of passive income even if you are not realizing that wealth today. However, in this blog post I want to specifically speak to business owners or prospective business owners.

My number one objective when working with new clients is business valuation. Business valuation is not exactly our specialty but I am talking about the term generally not about actually valuing your business. The entire point of starting a company, owning a company, operating a company is obviously to make money but more importantly to generate wealth. Your business should be the largest item on your balance sheet within your financial statement. Even if a business owner has no desire to sell you should be looking to make it worth more each an every day and thus more desirable to purchase.

Growing your businesses worth can be done through a multitude of ways; increasing sales or revenue, cutting costs, or increasing capacity by hiring more people. Although those aspects are incredibly important, the most important thing about a business valuation is how easy is it for someone to buy you and take over.

How easy is it for someone to buy you and take over, this is an ambiguous statement and what I mean is what systems do you have in place, what processes run your company, are these systems and processes commonly known, is one person largely responsible for more than 20% of your revenue, can the owner be removed from the business and it will run swimmingly?

These are the questions that you need to ask yourself as a business owner or as a prospective business owner looking to develop a business plan. The age old example of this is McDonalds, which we have talked about in our blog before. Every McDonalds has the same procedures, protocols, and manuals. This makes the business very desirable, as just about anybody can own and operate a McDonalds franchise. Your business needs to be more like McDonalds and thus making it more similar to passive income versus active income.

This means every position needs an employee manual, you need a proper succession strategy for every management member, proper CRM (To track past, present, and future clients), solid marketing plan, business plan, goals and plans for minimum 5 years out, and a process for all business operations.

This is why we stress the importance of processes because this allows for a higher valuation for the business, increases wealth on a daily basis, and creates a stream of passive income so that you can go start another business that follows that same model. Starting a business is hard work but the reward should not be working 80 hours a week making a million dollars a year but rather to create a business process that allows you to make a lot of money in a more passive nature while increasing valuation and personal wealth.

If you are a business owner or prospective business owner and you do not have this mindset it is time to change your frame. Begin to remove yourself from the business by creating processes. If you are knee deep in your business and find yourself putting our fires everyday, this process is going to take time but be patient as it will be worth it. As always if you have any questions or need help creating this structure give us a call.

Write that report or have a beer on the deck

Working from home has become somewhat of a standard these days and for many people it is a stark new reality. The discipline required to work from home is not normally something that many people are born with. The idea of waking in the morning and beginning the 1-2 hour craziness that we call “getting ready for work” has essentially acted as a switch that causes us to leave the comfort of home and enter work mode.

Once at work, everything around you fosters and screams, in the eloquent words of Bill Belichick, “DO YOUR JOB”. On the other hand when working from home, you are afforded many luxuries not available at the office like working in your underwear or your inviting deck on a beautiful afternoon. This environment is the antithesis of the office and fosters relaxation and/or a chore list. The question is how to combine the motivation that the office has with the relaxation of your home and still be productive AND relaxed.

From Business News Daily:

Many employees and business owners alike have been working from home for years, thanks to developments in tech that make remote work possible. For a growing number of Americans, this is the norm. Now, amid the recent COVID-19 outbreak, most companies and their workers are following suit, raising the question: Is this working arrangement a productive one?

A 2019 survey by Airtasker says yes. Researchers polled 1,004 full-time employees throughout the U.S. about their productivity, their commutes and other facets of their lives. Among that group were 505 people who worked remotely. The study found that working from home not only benefits employees by eliminating their daily commutes, it also increases productivity and leads to healthier lifestyles. It’s a win-win situation that workers relish for its flexibility – but often at the cost of their work-life balance.

Take a look at the following statistics from Inc. Magazine:

  • As reported in 2020, 5 million employees (making up 3.6% of the entire U.S. workforce) work from home for at least half the time.
  • The number of regular telecommuting employees (excluding the self-employed population) has grown by 173% since 2005.
  • The number of employers offering a work from home option has grown by 40% in the past 5 years. However, only 7% of all employers in the United States offer work from home flexibility.
  • By 2028, one study estimates that 73% of all departments will have remote workers.
  • Two-thirds of managers who offer telecommuting flexibility report that employees who work from home are overall more productive.
  • Larger companies are more likely to offer telecommuting flexibility than smaller ones are.
  • Employers offering at least part-time telecommuting flexibility collectively save $44 billion each year.
  • According to one study, remote employees work 1.4 more days per month than their office-based counterparts, resulting in more than three additional weeks of work per year.
  • 29% of remote employees said they struggle with work-life balance, and 31% said they have needed to take a day off for their mental health.
  • One of the most effective ways workers can stay productive is by taking breaks throughout the day. The Pomodoro Technique is one such method for employees to decompress for a moment and come back refreshed and ready to focus.

As you can see, working from home tends to allow for more flexibility and relaxation. But here’s the rub – Many people working from home tend to find themselves falling into the “work-a-holic” mode and never find an exit strategy for the day. As I wrote at the beginning of this post, the morning craziness acts as a switch that tends to indoctrinate you for your work day. Conversely that ride home and end of day activities helps decompress and allows you to enter the home mode.

When working at home, you do not have these “switches”. the day blends together and creates a very confusing brain pattern. You hear the children playing or your wife talking on the phone but yet you are in the middle of writing a financial summary and you’re brain is caught between two worlds.

Here are some tips for working at home and getting the most efficiency from your workday at home:

Allot a portion of your home for work. Perhaps a spare room or space in the basement or garage. When I started in business almost 30 years ago, I had a very small home with young children and actually converted a 6×10 shed into an office.

If at all possible, do not make your bedroom a part office. This is your sanctuary and you place of rest. If the last thing you see before climbing into bed is your desk filled with incomplete projects, you will tend to have a very unsettled night.

Taking breaks is critical. You are at home, enjoy that freedom and your space. This is your castle and your office is borrowing space from it not the other way around. Enjoy it, push away from the desk at least once an hour and go get a glass of water or refill your coffee and while you are away, enjoy and take in what’s around you – your castle. It doesn’t matter how big or small your castle is, it’s your place of rest and refuge and a spot that you and your family come together.

Be sure to make a distinction between home and office. When you walk away, whether for a break or for the day, be sure to leave it in the office. Conversely, if you are struggling with a challenge in the “office”, many times by walking away and clearing your head you may gain more clarity of mind an be able to solve that problem better because it’s far easier to find peace and clear your mind at home than at the office.

Don’t deny yourself. If the lawn needs to be mowed, go and mow it. If you come out for a refill of coffee and the kids are playing in the yard and you are yearning to participate, go and play with them. If your wife is sitting on the deck taking a break, join her. You have flexibility now and the opportunity to make up the time away. Don’t let your time away become too plentiful but just make sure that you don’t build up a resentment to all that’s going on around you.

Be very attentive and respectful to superiors and co-workers. Understand that during the workday your job is your job and when things are a bit quieter, you can also be quiet. When there are time lines and deadlines make sure that you are not operating on the Pain versus Pleasure principal that I spoke of in a previous post. Like most things in life, working from home required a balance but also a discipline to get the things done that are necessary to complete and do them in a timely manner. If someone is waiting for you to complete something before they can move to their next step, accommodate them and move things along.

All in all there is no secret to effectively working from home. Your efficiency and productivity should increase and your piece of mind should increase exponentially. If this is not the case, re-read this post several times until it clicks.

Pain or Pleasure??

There are primarily two motivating factors in our lives and they are pain and pleasure. I know this may sound a bit risque but it’s true. We will always gravitate to either pain or pleasure depending on the circumstances.

I know you are asking yourself, “where is he going with this??”. Pain and pleasure are the most motivating factors in a persons life. We are motivated by each of them every day. It’s important to understand that both can be shrouded or disguised in a myriad of ways but the bottom line is that pain and pleasure pervade in our lives numerous times each day.

Webster defines motivation as:

The reason or reasons one has for acting or behaving in a particular way.

I am certain that I don’t have to define pain or pleasure but it’s not what you’re thinking. Being motivated by pleasure is a pretty easy concept to grasp. We are motivated to go to an amusement park because we know it will be a great time. We are motivated to be with our children because of the essence of time and often enjoy the goofiness that a child offers and inspires. We are motivated to pack for the trip you have coming up because we are excited for the new experiences that are soon to come. Pleasure is an excellent motivator and often prevails over pain. Innately, we gravitate towards pleasure as a first instinct and fall back on pain only if absolutely necessary.

With that said, pain is a very strong motivator and is the result of spending too much focus on pleasure. An example of the imbalance of pain and pleasure would be, snoozing the alarm clock until you realize that you have a meeting in 30 minutes and you will undoubtedly be late, now that pain of being late becomes the chief motivator and far outweighs the pleasure of lying in a warm comfortable bed. Another example for the golfers out there, it’s too painful to write that executive summary or blog post because it’s more pleasurable to be on the golf course. Now you are on the 18th hole and you realize that that report is due in the morning, you must now race back to the office and begin typing like a crazy person – motivated by the pain of not getting your project completed in time and suffering the consequences.

Although pleasure is magnetic and powerful it is somewhat ephemeral if not balanced with the thought of the pain. Notice I typed “the thought of pain” and not the actual pain. In a combat situation there is a phrase and it’s Left of Bang. If we consider that there is a time line in front of you and at the center of the timeline we have a large red circle. Let’s call that circle “Bang”, anything to the right of bang is very bad and not a place we want to be. It means that we are now in crisis mode, the threat and danger is now. You are now in a situation where you are implementing damage control and trying to create order from chaos. You can no longer be proactive, you can only be reactive. Let’s face it, nobody wants to be right of bang. Right of bang is pain.

The alternative to being right of bang is obviously left of bang. This is where we all want to live and operate. It is a far more peaceful, manageable place to be that allows for far more fluidity. There is a very important tactic that you must possess while left of bang, you must be aware and watchful. The closer you get to bang the more you must be aware that the balance is off as you can very quickly enter into that unpredictable and chaotic stage of right of bang. When you see that big red circle coming your way, pump the brakes a bit and refocus your attention on those things that will keep you on the left side of that circle.

Have you ever played that game Labyrinth? It is a square box with a maze in the middle and you can control the equilibrium gently moving a small ball towards your desired destination. Well pain and pleasure, left and right of bang, and Labyrinth all follow a similar strategy. Labyrinth is not that difficult and can really be completed by anyone. All they need to do is go slow, pay attention and be watchful of what’s ahead of you.

Being motivated by pain is not where you want to find yourself on a regular basis and that’s why being mindful of what’s ahead of you is important. We can create a balance between pain and pleasure and it’s that balance that creates efficiency and high productivity!

Be sure to be alert and watchful, make sure you are looking for the holes in your maze and take the necessary time to navigate each day being mindful of the pinnacle between pain and pleasure. Thats the big red circle I call bang. Each day we consume ourselves with countless tasks and projects quickly finding ourselves in the big red circle. Watch, listen and slow down. Your days will be much more productive.

Wealth Is Discretionary Time

I recently decided to purchase a boat and a slip for easy access all summer long. Now I am sure you have all heard the phrase “better to know somebody with a boat than own one yourself” or “Boat, you know what that stands for, Bust Out Another Thousand”. Despite what everyone said I went forward with it anyways, as I usually do. Unfortunately, these tales have proved to be somewhat true, nothing major but one hundred dollars 10-20 times quickly adds up to thousands invested.

I am telling you this not to brag but to use it as an example for one of life’s greatest dichotomies. Let me outline the issue here using two quick contrasting statements:

  • Having a boat is great but having a boat is expensive.
  • I need time to use my boat but I have to work more hours to afford my boat.

You see, the two statements above perfectly illustrate the dichotomy between time and money. On the one hand the idea of having a boat appears incredible but the reality is that it costs a lot of money to maintain. Furthermore, in concept the next warm day may seem like a great boat day, but in practice you are stuck in the office working.

After reading hundreds of self help, business solution, and influential biography books, I have come to the realization that wealth is in fact discretionary time. If you were to go back to my 15 year old self and tell me that I would give up a half million dollar salary for a 4 day work week, I would have told you that you were crazy.

I talked about goals in a recent blog post and this is truly where it needs to start. When you are beginning with the end in mind, what exactly does the middle look like? Is it really worth earning a million dollars a year even though you have no time to spend it? Or is it better to earn 100k and be able to attend your child’s mid afternoon baseball game or have an 11am tee time?

Those questions are for you to decide and ultimately it is your life but I will urge you to consider the statement “Wealth is Discretionary time”. Better to be able to go to the beach, for free, on a Wednesday afternoon than have to leave your $50k boat docked on its slip all summer because you never had time to use it. 

We can always make more money but time, time is something that is finite. We have what we have, be sure to cherish it.