As an Entrepreneur are you a “Pit Bull or a “Poodle” take the test…

 

As I discuss in my EBook: The 50 Ugly Truths about starting your own business …and why you should do it anyway,… the way of the entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. Chances are you clearly see a problem in a market you know, and you set out to solve it with your product or service solution. One characteristic all entrepreneurs possess is the tenacity of a Pit Bull.

Some time ago I came across a test  I often share with clients that asks the question:

 

Are you a “Pit Bull” or a “Poodle”?

 

Pit Bull Test


1. Do you have a definite purpose backed up by a burning desire to see it fulfilled?


2. Are you continuously in action working on your plan?


3. Is your mind closed towards all negative and discouraging influences from foes, “friends,” dysfunctional parents, music, books, tapes, T.V. etc?


4. Do you hang out with people who are greater than you in what they have accomplished and who utterly challenge you to excellence?


5. Are you self-reliant and independent?


6. Do you take responsibility for your life, both failures and successes?


7. Do you hate it when you waste time?


8. Do you look at life as a game to be played and played like a champion?


9. Have you become impervious to the criticisms of pusillanimous men and women?


10. Do you boldly face your fears with faith and move towards your goals?

 

 

Poodle Test


1. Do you often complain about your life?


2. Do you avoid association with people who have accomplished more than you?


3. Does your life seem futile and your future hopeless?


4. Do you often feel self-pity?


5. Are you envious of those who excel you?


6. Do you worry a lot?


7. Are you overly cautious and negative?


8. Are you indifferent and lacking in ambition and enthusiasm?


9. Do you constantly use excuses and alibis to explain why you haven’t accomplished anything?


10. Do you often fantasize about lying on the front passenger seat of a Cadillac with a pink ribbon in your hair with your favorite chew toy?

Ok, no one else is around….how did you answer the above? You must be real with yourself. Not everyone is cut out for the entrepreneurial game and that’s ok.  Some people are much better as soldiers than generals leading the charge. Some people intentionally chose not to risk letting any of the key plates drop and they serve teams.

The above questions are a great filter to guide you to see if the entrepreneurial game is for you. As I recommend in my EBook make sure you enter this game with a clear understanding of what this role will entail and you have realistic expectations for performance and cash flow.

So how about you…are you a pit bull or a poodle?

 

In your current role what should you be?

 

If you are in a role that requires a pit bull and you find yourself a poodle, what should you do?

Attention Entrepreneurs; You Can’t “Manage Fruit Ripe”

 

 

 

They say that which makes us strong can also be our biggest weakness. Entrepreneurs are no exception to this rule as our driven, confident, and focused nature can often inhibit new product success. Entrepreneurs often have such confidence in their personal abilities based on past success they take shortcuts in launching new products and when sales fail to meet plan they believe they can “manage fruit ripe.”

“When it comes to new product sales; you can not manage fruit ripe”

 

After my last post I had a number of people reach out to me saying: “ Ok we get it, we should do research prior to launch …but what should we do if we are in a launch that is not hitting plan?” As I have shared in past posts…I have made a number of mistakes over the years.I have kicked off new products and then had to figure out how to make it work; “make it happen ” on the fly.  So I thought I would do a follow-up post and share what I said to those who contacted me directly.

Entrepreneurs who launch on gut and not market truth often start trying to “manage fruit ripe”. They are so tied to their  plan their failure to achieve goals has to be a sales problem. Based on my experience, over 90% of new product sales falling short of plan are not the result of “poor sales execution” but the result of not having good current data  and or understanding of your market, and is actually a marketing problem. Without current accurate market data one if not all of your four P’s of markting are probably wrong. Entreprenuers are smart people. If given good information they make decisions that grow businesses profitably. If given old or wrong market data one or more of your four P’s will be wrong.

As the owner, leader,you are the boss… so if you want to try to manage the fruit (sales) of your new products ripe… go for it. I have seen many try ( heck, I have tried) and I have yet to see this approach correct new product sales below plan and create sales velocity. 

If you find yourself in a launch based on gut and old or poor data, what should you do?

 

  1. Assess what you have learned ( experienced) during launch so far
  2. Conduct win loss interviews
  3. Identify common roadblocks to sales and bust through them with new sales tools
  4. List what you still need to know and assign priority and timelines
  5. Adjust your strategy based on the current market data you gather
  6. Test new strategies before you scale them
  7. Repeat what works
  8. keep asking questions, determine why customers are buying and not buying
  9. Challenge your four P’s of Marketing ( at least one is off)

 

( or put another way; get the data to answer the four yes’s …as quick as possible)

 

 

So how about you…have you launched a product without having four yes’s first?

 

What did you experience ?

 

What corrective action did your team take?

 

Does it take longer to do research on the front end? Or fix roadblocks during launch?

Start-up’s….Like Wiring a House With The Power On…and getting zapped

The start-up phase is often one of the most difficult phases for entrepreneur as they often try to gain market knowledge while trying to meet sales goals. You know you should gather market data, but you often have limited cash, you are the chief cook and bottle washer, and you need to make sales to fund your future growth.

Start-up leaders need a strong emotional intelligence as many days you feel like you are; wiring a house with the power on and you keep getting emotionally zapped.

 

A number of years ago my wife was redesigning our upstairs bathroom and asked I change the electrical outlets from a cream color to a solid white. So we turned the lights on in the bathroom and I went to the fuse box and flipped switches until the bathroom light went out. I started to remove the outlet and saw a small spark. I thought to myself…”That’s odd as I know the electric power was off…” (My perceived truth) so I continued removing the old outlet. Zap! Next thing I knew I received a shock that sent me up against the wall and I fell into the bathtub. I latter found a new truth…the lights were on a separate circuit than the outlets so I was trying to change the outlet with the power on.

One of the most exhilarating as well as frustrating things you can do is launch a start-up company. Like I discussed in a previous post you feel like a plate spinner with more to-do’s than hours in a day. I go on to discuss how we can’t let the most important plates drop. I have discussed in earlier blogs how 2/3 of start-ups fail within 18 months. The main reasons we are all aware of for start-up failure include;

  • run out of cash
  • lack of a market driven plan
  • if you have a plan, your sales expectation is too high, too soon
  • if you have a plan, you have an unrealistic understanding of the buying process and cycle
  • trying to sell the need for a product you launched because you could and not because you should
  • market is not large enough
  • customers do not want to pay to solve the problem you solve
  • stress

 

Assuming your product and or service solves an unmet need, and you have a large enough market who are willing to pay you to solve their problem, the real danger for entrepreneurs is getting zapped by stress during the start-up season of your business..

To keep you from getting emotionally zapped from stress during the often hectic start-up phase, there are five key Biblical lessons I learned from a sermon recently.

1. Don’t wear yourself out – build the discipline to determine what is important, urgent, and focus on what is :urgent and important

2. Don’t shut out others – the reality is you can’t do it alone. Now more than ever you need your network, family, and friends

3. Don’t just focus on Negatives – that’s what market losers do. Keep your eyes on the prize and look for bright lights of opportunity as you launch.

4. Focus on your physical and Spiritual health – far too often those mounting to-do’s make us drop or delay other key areas of our lives. If necessary put time on your calendar for your fitness and faith.

5. Anxiety and fear are the product of looking back or too far into the future , focus on what is in front of you now, and leverage what you have. The quickest way to stop creatively solving roadblocks is to become fearful.

 

 

What about you? Have you experienced stress during the start-up phase?
What advice do you recommend to entrepreneurs in the start-up phase of their business?
What zapped you most in your start-up?

Choose to be a Builder in 2010….not a Wrecker

 

I enjoyed a recent column in our Scottsdale Republic by Michael Ryan. He published a poem tiled; “Which am I? “ He was not sure who the author was but the message lives even stronger today than it did seven years ago when he first shared it.

When times get tough we usually see one of two behaviors in organizations;

 

Teams begin infighting and blame-storming

 

Teams unite, grow stronger, and emerge as market leaders

 

Ryan goes on to discuss how “Instead of working together to solve problems, some people seemed more willing to battle one another.” I see this far too often with large clients in which managers retreat to their silos and start shooting missiles at each other instead of competitors.

So I have to ask… 

what kind of a team do you work for?….

A market leading team that discusses real issues and works together to solve them?

Or…

A market loosing team of managers so concerned with covering their own rear ends they wouldn’t know an unresolved market problem or a roadblock to providing a positive customer experience if it bit them?

No matter how others in your organization may be acting under the pressure you have a choice.

Chose to be a Builder.

  ( less than 10% of your team will choose to be builders) 

I hope you enjoy this poem as much as I did.

Which am I?

 

I watched them tearing a building down.

 

A gang of men in a busy town.

 

With a ho-heave –ho and a lusty yell,

 

They swung a beam and the sidewall fell.

 

I asked the foreman, “Are those men skilled.

 

And the kind you would hire if you had to build?”

 

He gave me a laugh and said “No indeed,

 

Just common labor is all I need.

 

I can easily wreck in a day or two

 

What other builders have taken a year to do.”

 

I thought to myself as I went my way,

 

“Which of these roles have I tried to play?”

 

Am I a builder that works with care,

 

Measuring life by the rule and the square?

 

Am I shaping my deeds to a well-made plan,

 

Patiently doing the best I can?

 

Or am I a wrecker who walks the town,

 

Content with the labor of tearing down?”

 

unknown author

 

 

I would like to add a few lines….

If you have played the role of wrecker you should not despair,

As wrecking is easy for those who do not care.

 

To add value, now that is the to pass through the camels eye,

It is there leaders are born solving problems that arise.

 

Having the courage to often stand alone, to be a part of the solution,

 

When their peers partake in political pollution.

Ok, so I wasn’t meant to be a poet. But I have worked within a number of organizations that lack leaders willing to be a part of the solution. When we focus on the problem and not attacking the person we are often called “heretics”.

The best way to add value to the team is to be a builder and not a wrecker.

( there are far too few builders these days)

Builders identify and solve problems. They flip what is perceived by most to be a problem and turn them into opportunities to add value.

 

Wreckers take the easy route quickly criticizing and tearing down creative new ideas and they often overlooking roadblocks and broken processes for perceived personal safety.

 

So who will you choose to be in 2010?

 

Thanks again to Michael Ryan for the above Poem.

Top 20 Entrepreneurial Best Practices to Make Sure 2010 is a Profitable Year

 imagesCAO622DS

When I wrote my EBook: 50 Ugly Truths About Owning and Running Your Own Business…and 5 reasons why you should do it anyway I was responding to a number of misperceptions I was hearing from entrepreneurs.

Historically, at any given time six out of ten US adults is thinking about starting their own business. A number of new entrepreneurs are emerging that  I refer to as “necessity-preneurs “who were downsized and can not find new employment, are deciding to launch their own businesses as they want a much more active role in the security of their careers. The last group are cashing in their 401k and or borrowing from friends or family to buy an existing business and in a short amount of time realize they really just bought a job and they are quickly running out of cash.

One thing I have learned over the past 25 years of identifying roadblocks impeding businesses profitable growth is there really is not any new creations in terms of problems and strategies to grow a profitable business. Peter Drucker simplified it even further; there are only two considerations; innovation or marketing.

Just as I shared 12 mentor moments that I have used personally over the years to help businesses grow profitably, I have the Top 20 entrepreneur best practices that I have observed and lived over the years.

#1 “More” Sales or “Create Sales Velocity”?

#2 Dismiss or Distribute “Yafo’s” quickly …

#3; If Sales are Scary, You Can NOT Afford to NOT get Creative..

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

#5 Tailor Questions for your buyers that Illustrate your Expertise and Prepare you to Serve their Needs

#6 Learn To Cut Bait …early

#7 You are Not Your Market

# 8 When Sales Get Rough…Look for Diamonds

#9 Don’t Let the Two Most Important Plates Drop

#10 “How” you “CHASE” New Business Matters….Do you want pepperoni with that new checking account?

#11 Follow the leader is a dangerous game, particularly when you follow Hippos…

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

#13 Hire Strategic Partners… Not “Marketing Tools”

#14 Customers will Stiff you…But Don’t Let Them Burn you…

#15 Beware of “Smores”…Social Media Whores

#16 “Make a Wish” come true with Focused Passion

#17 intentionally reward the customer behaviors you desire …

#18 You will Receive Your Best Tips To Grow Your Company From Prospects Who Do Not Buy From You…

#19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

#20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 

 

The above are by no means an all inclusive list of every entrepreneur best practice but they are some of my favorites. The post that seemed to resonate the most and create the greatest number of discussions was the difference between creating “more” sales versus “creating sales velocity” ( entrepreneur best practice #1).

 

 

How about you….do you have an Entrepreneurial Best Practice you use regularly and would like to share?

 

 

Of the above which best practice(s) resonate most with you?

 

 

Which of the above do most entrepreneurs struggle the most with based on your observations?

 

 

Is there a Key best practice not identified? (If so please add to the discussion)

 

 

As we move into 2010 which of the above Best practices do you feel will resonate most? Why?

 

 

Thanks for hanging with me  in this series of posts and I want to particularly thank those who have reached out to me personally to discuss this series of posts. As I have discussed, I enjoy helping entrepreneurs realize profitable growth and the strategies discussed are not new. One of my goals in blogging is to help business owners who may not be able to afford outside help at this time and I hope this blog adds value.

If you are wired to take on the 50 Ugly truths of starting and owning your own business and you have intentionally chosen to do it anyway I hope the above best practices were of value to you and your team.

Entrepreneurs will lead our country to economic recovery and I am proud to serve this innovative group of passionate problem solvers along with my other clients.

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #20 Exercise Your Power of Choice in Choosing Your Role on the Team…If Your Gift is Being a Duck….Be a Duck!

 duck

As the entrepreneurial leader you have natural gifts. Market leading entrepreneurs understand a key principle; you have the power of choice…chose to exercise your power of choice in choosing the role you will play on YOUR team. Market losers focus on what they are not, and try to become experts in all the areas of business and thus dilute their personal giftedness and ultimately their contribution to the team’s bottom line. Market leaders know what they know as well as what they don’t know.

Our Pastor at church has started a series on how we have a role to play in adding value based on the spiritual gifts we were born with coupled with those skills we developed over our life time. This message resonated with me both personally as well as made me think about a meeting last week.

When I meet with business owners and leaders the first thing I do is perform a triage of sorts. I ask a number of questions. I identify first if this is someone and a business I want to help. For example, I was asked to meet with a local entrepreneur about two years ago and when I discovered he wanted my help launching a smokeless cigarette that could help more consumers get addicted to nicotine and caffeine,..I chose to pass.

 

Secondly is the problem this business experiencing one I can solve? If not I refer them to one of my trusted network partners. I have a number of questions I use to identify what is and is not happening in the organization. Often the owner’s inability to answer some of my questions are answers in and of themselves. One area I need to focus on early is the owner’s objectives and motivations. Once I understand the true goals I can serve their team and provide the maximum value in the shortest time.

One of my questions that consistently creates a “pause” with entrepreneurial leaders is;

What are your dreams, your goals for this business and what do you personally want to do, and where do your gifts add the most value? ( not what you like to do…but what are you good at?)

 

What is often the case the entrepreneur started their business based on their personal gifts and seeing how their gifts can solve a particular market problem. They launch and realize success. Their desire to serve the market grows into a business and things begin to change. They start hiring team members, dealing with vendors, promoting the business, funding the business….and as time passes they move into a role of running versus doing their business. The shame is they focus so much energy on areas they are not naturally gifted in and they end up moving farther and farther away from their personal giftedness. When this occurs the owners stress increases, she feels like she is being pulled in 100 directions and nothing is getting done. The joy they once experienced when they first launched their business is gone…and now their business has become a job and no longer is a passionate quest.

I often shock business owners and leaders in this first meeting when I say;

There is a big difference between “making” widgets, and “running “a business that makes widgets…where are your gifts best used?

 

We are all uniquely wired with blessings we are to use to serve others. As that business consulting expert Jimmy Buffet shares…

“A blessing can become a curse if you keep it to yourself”

 

Our Pastor shared a story Sunday that I have heard before but this time resonated in a new way. It seems at the time of creation all the animals got together and decided they needed to focus on specific gifts as a group ; running, swimming, climbing and flying.

So the duck was an excellent swimmer but struggled with running. Not wanting to let the other animals down, he decided to focus on becoming a better runner. He trained to run faster and in the process got marginally better but tore the webbing in his feet. When he returned to the water he found he could not swim with the same expertise and speed he once had.

The rabbit was an amazing runner, but had difficulty swimming. So he focused on improving his swimming. In the process of doing so the muscles that made him a swift runner atrophied and when he tried to run, he could not run as fast as he once ran.

The squirrel was an amazing climber, but no matter how hard he tried he as not good at flying. After multiple attempts that ended in crashing to the forest floor he permanently injured his legs and this hampered his ability to climb with the same speed and efficiency he once had.

The eagle was amazing and the best at flying high above the earth and then quickly swooping down to capture her prey. He could catch the currents and seemly soar and dive without effort, but he was not efficient as a climber. He worked tirelessly to be a more effective climber, but in the process his wings became weak and he could not catch the updrafts he once could and could no longer soar to the heights he once exclusively owned.

 

Market leaders understand their gifts and use their gifts to serve their internal and external customers.

 

Market losers spend time trying to perfect areas that are not within their natural giftedness and ultimately reduce the value they provide their team and their market.

 

How about you…do you know your natural gifts and are you using them?

 

Are you in a role on your team that uses your gifts?

 

What should we do if we are in a role that does not use our natural giftedness?

 

As a business leader, entrepreneurial owner do you feel comfortable returning to your giftedness and hiring someone to run your business that is gifted in growing businesses?…why or why not?

 

 

I am not saying don’t learn about the other skills that can add value to your business. What I am saying is stay focused on serving your team and your market with your gifts. As the leader you will want to become aware of other skills , but do not try to become an expert in these areas as it will only dilute your gift’s contribution to the bottom line

 

I find one of the quickest ways to help businesses grow is to identify the various team members’ gifts, starting with  the leader and or owner, and making sure the role they play on the team is in alignment with their gifts. What is often he case is I give the owner a pink slip in running the business and I help find someone skilled at running businesses so the founder can return to their gift. They often express a sense of ….”am I allowed to do this…or is it OK for me to have fun again? “and my answer is always Yes! ( after all it is still your business)

If you are a duck…be a duck! You will swim much faster than those other ducks that are spending hours of frustration trying to become faster runners. While they dilute their gift you will remain focused on adding the maximum value by exercising your gifts.

 

Entrepreneur Best Practices: #19 Interview those who Exit and identify Roadblocks to Achieving Your Strategic Objectives…

exit sign

Market leading entrepreneurs value data and feedback. They seek and are constantly sensing the changing needs of their internal and external customers. When an account or employee exits your team, make the time for an exit interview with the mission of identifying roadblocks that are standing in the way of your team’s performance execution and success.

I shouldn’t be surprised, as it happens so often… a key account leaves an organization and very quickly the team moves into “good ridden mode” with comments like; well they were slow pay anyway. Or “they were a pain since the day we signed them” …or “they were not all that profitable anyway”…and so on. Team members assume they know why the customer left and often quickly close the file, and or arrogantly say …” they will be back, our competitor sucks and is not as good as us…”

Market leading organizations understand the value in interviewing customers who chose to leave to improve the overall experience of the customers that stay and future targeted new clients.

When you contact a client that has chosen to leave your organization the key thing to remember is the goal of your call; gain insights into why they left and not try to sell them or win them back. I have often been the one to make those calls as the salesperson who served the account can not help but try to win them back. Your mission is to understand, from the client’s perspective why they chose to leave, take detailed notes without “defending the fort” and reflect on that information. As you review what you learn look for roadblocks and “no-see-ums” in the overall customer service experience. Your team will be “assuming” it was price. However I have found price is rarely the true wedge that drove the relationship apart.

road block

Just as you interview clients that leave, you must also conduct exit interviews with your team members that voluntarily or involuntarily leave. In this interview you are trying to gain insights into roadblocks and or disconnects in initiatives in relation to your teams flight plan or roadmap. You will need the emotional intelligence to handle the often harsh criticism particularly if the separation was not voluntary. However the leaving team member has no incentive to play politics and their raw feedback is actually something market leaders value as it is can be acted upon once verified. For example you may learn you have dysfunctional “kingdoms”, silos within your organization that are more about the silo than achieving the strategic plan. You may learn that a perception senior management has is a significant disconnect with the market reality of today.

Team members who leave have information that others who may be busy blame storming are not articulating.

Interview team members who are leaving before they leave and you may be shocked that a key assumption or two the senior management team has is a significant disconnect with the reality of the market today.

 

How about your organization…..

 

 

Does your team have a procedure to interview clients who chose to leave you?

 

Do you interview employees who are leaving your team?

 

When you conduct those interviews do you have the emotional intelligence to listen and later validate or do you defend the fort?

 

 

Market leaders value feedback. Market losers believe the only view that matters are theirs…what kind of a team do you serve?