Entrepreneurial Best Practices: #16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

pic_first-wish

One common trait all market leaders have is passion. When you speak with a market leader they do not discuss their “job” but instead it is more of a quest. Entrepreneurial market leaders have learned how to focus their passion to drive unprecedented results regardless of economic condition and competition. In this post I will share how one entrepreneurs question led to one of the most successful charities for children with focused passion.

I was recently invited to attend a local WITI meeting to get a feel for their venue and meet the director to discuss how my content may be of value to their membership. The night I attended had an inspirational speaker named Frank Shankwitz. Frank is a retired motorcycle state DPS policeman in Arizona. He shared 20 years ago he heard about a young seven year old boy named Chris Greicius who was dying of leukemia. Frank heard little Chris had a few weeks to live and just loved the show Chips about motorcycle patrolmen and how his dream was to be a motorcycle patrol man. So Frank got to together with others in his department and had the police helicopter pick up young Chris from the hospital and fly him to their headquarters. Frank said he expected a very sick boy on IV’s but when the helicopter landed out bounced Chris.

pic_first-wish-founders

 

Frank gave Chris a tour and offered to give him a ride on his motor cycle but Chris said he would prefer a ride in something with doors…so Chris climbed on an officer’s lap and drove a squad car around the parking lot blowing big bubble gum bubbles. The squad had a ceremony and made Chris an honorary DPS state patrolman. Chris was then flown back to the hospital and his doctor said Chris could go home for the night.

Frank went to the local uniform store where all the officers get their uniforms custom made and told the owners about young Chris and the husband and wife owners stayed up all night and make a custom uniform for Chris. Frank drove to Chris’s house and presented the uniform to Chris and he quickly tried it on. Frank set up some cones and had Chris navigate his electric motorcycle around them and Frank certified him and a motorcycle patrolman. Chris then asked if he would have the wings that are displayed so prominently on Frank’s uniform so Frank contacted the company that makes all their wing pins and ordered Chris’s wings. By the time the wings were ready Chris had slipped into a coma back at the hospital. When Frank went to Chris’s bedside there he saw the miniature uniform, hat and certificate at his bedside. Just as Frank pinned Chris’s wings on his uniform Chris came out of his coma and asked if he was now officially a motorcycle state patrolman and Frank told him he was. Chris passed away that night. But his wish to be a state patrolman came true. Chris’s doctors were amazed how Chris seemed to feel so much better when focused on his dream versus his disease.

On a plane ride back from Chris’s funeral in Indiana, a full officer’s funeral, Frank had a question; if we could do this for Chris, why can’t we do this for other children? …and Make a Wish was born. Today Make a Wish has served over 3,000 children like Chris with wishes. Some as simple as a basket ball and some that included trips to Disneyland.

Frank shared this story with such passion that at times he had to gather his composure to keep speaking. He shared how he had the passion and vision and in the early days would not accept no for an answer. Through shear will and tenacity he started Make A wish with a handful of volunteers and a $15 donation from a Grocery store. Today Make a Wish is a worldwide organization that helped over 174,000 children. Franks passion is still just as strong as he shared his vision to serve 500 children a month as they cannot make all the wishes from sick children come true.

Frank shared that as they grew his now organization grew beyond his personal capabilities so he hired a professional staff to insure his vision became a reality.

As I drove home from this evening I was so inspired by Frank. Frank had a vision that started with a simple question in response to a big market problem. Frank had laser like focus and channeled his passion into one of the most successful children’s charities in the world.

If a motorcycle cop can focus his passion into Make A Wish…what can you focus your passion to create?

Market leaders do not just serve their customers they create movements…what movement is your market waiting for you to create?

Once you connect your vision and passion to a market problem, will you have the emotional intelligence to know when to hire a professional team to insure your dream becomes a reality?

How will you know when it is time to hire additional leaders?

Make a Wish Arizona shared a new vision with me and that was the desire to connect with others in the social media space. My challenge to everyone who reads this blog is to follow them on twitter at twitter.com/MakeAWishAZ and re tweet your follow to be a part of 1 million followers of Make a Wish by this time next year. Like the uniform maker, and the company who designed the wings, people like to connect; they like to give their time, money, energy to something bigger than themselves. Please be a part of Make a wish and help them gain 1 million followers by this time next year!

Entrepreneur best practices: #12 An “Idea” is not a product…and it’s definitely not a business

idea

 

 

At any given time 6 out of 10 US adults are thinking about starting their own business. Half of those will attempt to launch their own business. As I discuss in my eBook; 50 Ugly truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway, they often enter into their own business with a false set of expectations. One of these false expectations is their “idea” is a product and even more disturbing is when they start investing to support their idea as a business. Recognizing the majority of those who launch a new business will fail within 18 months, one of the common contributors to their demise is not asking the right questions.

 

Before you ask friends and family for start up money, before you tap into your home equity and 401k, and definitely before you quit your day job…you need to play “20 questions”.

 

You must verify your “idea” can be monetized into a viable business before you launch.

 

20 questions to ask before you invest;

 

#1 what problem does your product or service solve?

 

#2 how big of a market is there for this problem? This pain and or need?

 

#3 how are those who have this problem solving it now?

 

#4 clearly articulates your secret sauce, other words what is your unique selling proposition?

 

#5 is there replacement products in existence that could solve the problem?

 

#6 who is the market leader in the space you plan to enter?

 

#7 how many other competitors are there in this space?

 

#8 what is your level of understanding of this market?

 

#9 is your idea a product or IP that can be patented?

 

#10 what stage is this market in terms of its lifecycle? Infancy, growth, mature..?

 

#11 what level of support will be required to serve this market? Do you personally have expertise in running a business?

 

#12 what are the distribution channels of this market?

 

#13 what is the buying cycle?

 

#14 what is the common payment terms for this market?

 

#15 Do the potential buyers of your new product have the ability to pay for it?

 

#16 is there any legal and or compliance issues this product must pass prior to launch?

 

#17 what do you estimate is the total costs per unit of sale, transaction

 

#18 what is the anticipated number of units sold in year one? What % of the market opportunity does this represent?

 

#19 what is the number of units needed to break even with your upfront investment?

 

#20 How much cash will you need, based on the buying cycle, the costs, payment terms and distribution channels to launch this product or service?

 

 

Once you have answers to the above we can start to have a good discussion about your new idea and how you may be able to monetize it. Unfortunately however far too often entrepreneurs get that rush, that “buck fever” and they stop asking rational , needed , questions and they attach their focus on the days when…

 

 

When they become millionaires…

 

When they are recognized in their community…

 

When they sell their business for millions and retire without a care in the world

 

 

All of these When’s can become a reality if you spend the time upfront understanding the market, its buyers and their needs.

 

Entrepreneurs must understand: You are not your market.

 

Although this idea you have may be so obvious to you, you can not assume nor extrapolate that assumption across the market without real market data.

 

If you have an idea, that may be the next iPod, do yourself a favor and play 20 questions before you invest one dime in making your idea a product or service.

 

How about your organization….

 

Do you launch new products or services because one of your Hippo’s says so, without market data?

 

Have you launched products that failed to meet ROI targets?

 

If you are in sales, how did it make you feel when you were given a goal, and told to make it happen …only to find out your marketing needed to “create a need for it”?

 

If you are the president or CEO, what processes and procedures do you have in place to insure your teams are asking at least 20 questions?

 

Market leaders understand the importance of building new products and services from the market need up, versus the ivory tower down.

 

Market losers have a; ready – fire – aim launch process.

 

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #7 You are Not Your Market

look inmirror

Entrepreneurs often make a common mistake …they assume, and then they extrapolate.

They assume because they are a member of a market and they have a problem others too want to pay to have this problem solved. Secondly they fail to do research (after all it’s expensive right?) so they extrapolate.

When Entrepreneurs assume and extrapolate they lose.

When leaders rely on their personal experience, their gut and intuition they become one of the 90% of small businesses launched each year that fail within 18 months. When leaders with an entrepreneurial spirit in large organizations launch without current market data, their products are discontinued and removed from the shelf within 12 months…(and sometimes the leader joins their products in the recycle bin.)

Keep in mind: YOU ARE NOT YOUR MARKET!

 

How about your organization…

 

 

 

Do you have entrepreneurial leaders who shoot from the hip based on their past experience, their gut and intuition?

 

 

 

Have you ever launched something you, your wife, and all your golf buddies thought was brilliant only to sell 1/10 of what you forecasted in the ROI to justify production?

 

 

 

How do entrepreneurial leaders build their discernment muscles to rely more on market data and less on their gut?

 

 

 

Every once in a while someone will get lucky and hit the market with a product that solves a pain they had, and luckily many others have. However I would prefer to mitigate my risk by doing more homework upfront…

 

 

 

How about you?

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices; #4 Remember “The Law of the Locker Room”… it truly is a small world after all

blog pics, tyler apt,kecia riely 114

“The Law of the Locker room”: after your work (out) is done, there is a high probability others too have seen this pain point the buyers in your market have that you set out to solve and will want to share that space. It does not mean you should quit, it just means; As an Entrepreneur never assume you are the only one who saw the problem and set out to make the pain go away.

As I have mentioned before, I like to work out first thing in the morning. If I wake up before the alarm as if often the case I can workout at my gym Mountainside Fitness at 4:30 am. What I like about working out so early is you pretty much have the gym to yourself. There are a few other crazy people there, but unlike Friday nights at 6:00 pm you can get your work done, without waiting on machines, and you are off to start your day.

What never ceases to amaze me is; “The Law of the Locker room”. Simply stated it goes something like this; no matter what time of day, or how little the number of the cars in the parking lot, nor how many lockers they have in the locker room, when your workout is done and you return to your locker…someone will have the locker right next to you, and you will have to share your space.

So what’s the relevance to entrepreneurs you might say? Well just last week I had lunch with two partners of a start up venture who asked for my help. They shared (an awesome product I plan to blog about after we launch) and I put a bit of a damper on their enthusiasm when I asked one simple question;

“Have you researched to see if others have seen the problem you are setting out to solve, and if so does any of them have patents that your new product violates?”

Entrepreneurs who see problems and set out to solve them must never assume they are the only one who sees this problem.

Entrepreneurs must never assume they are the only one who sees the market problem and they are the only one setting out to solve it.

Like the Disney ride my daughter loved when she was young that’s song still echo’s in my mind “it’s a small world after all…it’s a small, small, world.”

 

disney small world

I recommend my clients: assume others are trying to solve this problem, have solved this pain, and ask yourself why a buyer should choose you over the others?

How do you know if others have or are setting out to solve this problem?

Google

Google your product as if it already was in the market. Google the problem you are setting out to solve. You definitely want to Google the name you plan to call your product. For example I will be launching a seminar to help entrepreneurs late this year. When I Goggled what I had planned to call “my” seminar there were 989,000 entries in Google. As I reviewed them further I found one person pretty much owns what I had planned to call my seminar. I could boldly launch as like most entrepreneurs as I am convinced the other content out there can’t be as good as mine…or I need a new name for my seminar that I can own.

The Market

If the need, the pain, you are trying to solve is big enough, ask people in the market how they make the pain go away today. Find out if what others in the space are doing completely solves your market’s pain, or is a just an incremental solution. What you will often find is most people, if presented with something can poke holes in it. If you are an entrepreneur you have learned what most people can not do it create solutions…that is your gift. So listen to your market, let them share their gifts and apply yours.

Patent Search

This part scares most start ups and seasoned pro’s alike but it is a must if you feel you have a unique product or service. What scares most are the perceived fees, and yes this can get expensive. But let me ask you a question;

What is more expensive in the long run, a Patent search before you launch…or finding out after you launch (and you invest your 401k, loans from family and friends, and use your home equity) that you violate someone else’s patent?

Remember “The Law of the Locker room”: after your work (out) is done, there is a high probability others too have seen this pain point the buyers in your market have. It does not mean you should quit, it just means;

As an Entrepreneur never assume you are the only one who saw the problem and set out to make the pain go away.

How about your organization…..

Has your team launched something only to find many others in that space…after you launched?

How did that make your sales guys feel?

How do you think it made you look in the eyes of your current customers and the market that you did not know?

Have you ever designed-built-launched a perfect solution to your buyer’s pain only to be shut down by a patent violation? (I have, when I did not have grey hair and it sucked!)

The good news is you have the “Entrepreneurial DNA Gene”; you too have a spider sense to see and want to solve pains your buyers have.

They say “reasonable people if given accurate information make reasonable decisions” so please take a few extra steps before you invest and launch your product or service.

And if you do, you can thank me by forwarding a link of this post to your other 9 entrepreneur buddies who may not know the law of the locker room…it’s a small small world after all

Entrepreneur Best Practices; #2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

flight plan

 

 

Entrepreneurs are an amazing breed. There is nothing like the thrill of launching a new product, service, and or business that perfectly solves a market need. Entrepreneurs are wired differently. It’s as if we have radar for problems and an inner passion to connect and solve them…we can’t turn it off. I share this in my recent pod cast on the struggling entrepreneur.(Episode 101A)

Market leading entrepreneurs understand how to harness and focus this gift, this blessing.

 

As the biblical prophet Jimmy Buffet says…” a blessing becomes a curse if you keep it to yourself”. So it literally drives us nuts to see problems and solutions so crystal clear that it interrupts our drives home at night, our work outs at the gym, and worst of all time with our loved ones. We just can’t seem to shake it.

However this blessing left unchecked can also become a curse with out a filter. Since entrepreneurs see market needs and create solutions, they often can not turn off the opportunity identification gene. At a recent Tie meeting the entrepreneur who had the vision and launched Kaboodle, said it best;

“One area entrepreneurs must learn to manage is YAFO’S”.

 

Yet

 

Another

 

Frickin (edited)

 

Opportunity 

 

One way entrepreneurs can build that ever so needed filter is ;” Buy a Map” as I discussed in a previous post. When you create your road map, or your “flight plan” as I have always called it, it helps you identify opportunities that are along your flight plan and accelerate your sales velocity to your desired destination. Your flight plan also helps you see that the YAFO you have just identified is too far off the current flight plan (would delay your arrival at your goal location) and helps pull your focus back to the current opportunity.

So what do you do with YAFO’s?

 

 

 

  1. learn to dismiss them…quickly
  2. create a new company to serve the opportunity if its large enough
  3. Distribute (sell) your idea to a current leader in that space and get back to your flight plan quickly.

 

 

As I said, entrepreneurs are wired, deep in our DNA, differently. We see problems and opportunities everywhere we go. We just can’t help it. For example my wife and I were out on date night and we went to see a great date night movie; The Ugly Truth. As we were driving home, and having many discussions about the movie, it hit me; someone ought to share the “Ugly Truths “about starting and owning your own business.

 

4 hour work week

 

Far too often the people that come to me have been sold a false, get rich quick, a four hour work week , expectation. Some accomplish this but for most of the entrepreneurs I have worked with over the past 25 years it is hard work and long hours. So I wrote the eBook you can download on my blog; 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business, and why you should do it anyway. (I literally could not sleep until I set this idea free)

Market leading Entrepreneurs implement clear flight plans, and they quickly identify YAFO’s for what they are.

 

 

 

 

 

How about your organization…..

 

Do you need a filter? Are you chasing multiple opportunities and not getting anywhere fast?

Are your efforts building sales velocity? Or chasing YAFO’s that are taking you off course?

What do you do when you find a YAFO?

 

A blessing can become a curse if we keep it to ourselves. However we must develop a filter, a flight plan that helps us quickly dismiss or distribute opportunities that are not in alignment with our flight plan.

A lack of focus stalls or decimates sales velocity….if you let it.

 

Not dealing with YAFO’s correctly delays and often derails your flight plan to your goal.

 

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform

health care mast head

 

 

Watching the current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has valuable lessons for all leaders throughout the world if we take time to pay attention. I think it was Einstein who said “the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”. The current 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative has strong emotional attachments regardless of which side of the debate you reside.

It is often the life lessons with emotional attachments we remember most.

 

The goal of my last series of blog posts was to share business lessons leaders can learn from watching and living the 2009 Health Care Reform Initiative. I tried to focus on the business principles and not take a partisan view. If you have read any of my posts you will not be surprised to learn I am a Christian, American, and Republican….in that order. I am proud to be an American and I admit we can always improve as a nation, however having traveled the world I can say first hand how blessed I feel to live in the United States.

pres obama

As for our President, I follow what our Lord taught us in the Bible and I pray for him. I pray the Lord gives him and all our leaders wisdom, discernment, and the courage to act upon what the Lord instructs him to do.( and not those of this world) I have received a number of emails since launching this blog thread. A number of those felt I was “bashing” our President, and if my word choice made you feel that way I apologize.

 

As a man, I have no problem with President Obama and if asked I would welcome the opportunity to be a part of the solution.

 

As our leader I must follow him, support him. If he loses, I lose…we all lose.

 

What I challenge is the process of this initiative.

 

My intension was to ;

 

“focus on the problem and not the person”

 

There are a number of lessons we can glean from watching life lessons before us.

 

I am sure there are many more lessons if thought leaders wish to add content:

 

 

  • the impact of social media on the 2009 Health Care reform Initiative

  • Lessons in leadership when a launch goes bad

  • The cost(s) of change

  • The psychology of change

  • When tempers flair seek first to understand and find common ground

  • …and I am sure there are many more

 

 

12 Lessons All Leaders Can Learn About Launching New Products and Services …From the 2009 Health Care Reform?

 

#1: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, You Will Experience “Scope Creep” and Your Launch Plan Will Fail

 

#2: Without a Clear Definition of the Problem You Want to Solve, you cannot write good requirements for your development team

 

#3: Without a Clear Understanding of the Problems to be Solved, and Requirements, Development will Build Solutions Because They Can and Not Because They Should!

 

#4: Your Previous New Product Launch success (or Failures) Affect Current and Future Launches

 

#5: Without a Clear understanding of the Problems your New Product Solves, Marketing will resort to “Buzz Word Bingo” and “Gobbledygook”

 

#6: Without a Road Map Your “Administration” Will Attempt Too Much, Too Fast and Not Achieve Any of Your Goals

 

#7: Asking…and not listening to your market, is worst than not asking at all…

 

#8; Buyers Become Tone Deaf to Lazy Marketing Messaging

 

#9; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…Fix the Right Problem

 

#10, #11, #12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer

 

What other lessons have you learned, or are learning as we watch the 2009 Health Care Reform Imitative?

 

Is your organization making some of the same mistakes? Why?

 

Are you about to Launch a New Product or Service and you adjusted your plan based on the above 10 posts? If so which posts and how?

 

How can we unite as Americans and stop Blame Storming?

 

Do you feel I was wrong to use this real life emotionally charged lesson to blog about? Why, Why not?

 

2009 Health Care Reform Initiative Lessons #10, #11,#12; Make Sure Your Marketing Has All the “Rights” Covered…right time, right customer, right offer

 

 

A basic marketing tenant says make sure you have all the “rights” covered in your New Product launch, New Service Launch. I discussed solving the right problem in my last post and that leaves the following “rights”; Right Time, Right Customer(s), and Right Offer(s).

Failure to nail all the rights puts your new product and or service launch results in jeopardy of missing ROI targets. Let’s take a quick look at these “rights”.

Right Time       alarm clock

One of the difficulties the Obama administration faced when launching the 2009 Health Care reform initiative was bad timing.

Like companies who have launched products in their markets before they were ready, or failed to meet the expectation set by marketing and sales, the Obama administration could not have launched at a worst time. They followed a failed stimulus from the Bush administration, a failed stimulus from the Obama administration, and they tried to begin their launch in the worst economic conditions the United States has seen arguably since the Great Depression.

When you launch products that are not complete solutions, or are not solving a specific problem, your market at first becomes suspicious, and if you repeat the insanity (doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results) you eventually break the trust in your Brand. When trust is broken you turn loyal customers into shoppers again.

Market leaders understand the importance the right timing plays in hitting their new product launch goals and the ROI’s promised the board and or shareholders.

Market Losers are so in love with their new product they fail to listen, they fail to send out market soundings and often their launches crash into the rocks of bad timing

.2009-08-14-Protester

Right Customer       

In the Book Tuned In the authors discuss how to determine if the problem you are trying to solve should even be considered for development. They discuss the need to determine if the problem is urgent, pervasive (a bunch of folks have it) and most important, is your market willing to pay to solve it?

As we look at the “market “of US consumers we have distinguishable groups that can be segmented: Gen Y’s, Gen X’s, Baby Boomers, and Retired Consumers, consumers without health insurance,…just to name a few.

When you launch a new solution the burden is on you and your organization to clearly understand the problems of each market segment and solve them.

Once you solve problems the burden is also on you to clearly articulate the problem(s) you solved in the voice of the market.

Market Leaders understand the importance of segmenting their markets and speaking to each segment in a voice that they understand.

Market Losers launch with one size fits all solutions that require a salesperson to interpret, and fail to be understood and therefore Miss ROI targets.

 

 

Right Offer        reform bill

When you thoroughly solve problem(s) for specific segmented groups in your market, you create offers that are made to stick. The offer is clear and does not require a rocket scientist or an attorney to understand. These perfect solutions instantly connect and become viral in all your targeted market communities. Social media picks up your solution and cannot wait to share how you solved the problem.

Market Leaders understand and value the impact social media can play in a successful Product launch.

Market Losers use Ready-Fire- Aim new product launches that, not surprisingly end in disaster.

Market Losers do not understand the power of Social Media and how it can be a valuable ally or an incredible foe that literally can cause you to go out of business.

How about your business….

Do you have all the “rights” covered in your next new product and or serve launch?

Are you living a launch disaster now?…tell us about it…

Have you successfully launched a product without having all the “rights” covered? If so, tell us about it.

Do you have clearly defined solutions or are you practicing “Agile Product Launches” …how’s that working for your shareholder value?

Are there other “rights” we need to consider?…Right Channel?….