Here’s a Banana For Your Baby… (your business)

 

 

One of the most difficult parts of serving entrepreneurial leaders is telling them a part or their entire baby (their business) is ugly.  Some self proposed consulting experts say; “focus on the positives, build on successes” and not to risk their monthly retainers. I choose to ignore the obvious politically correct answers and add value by presenting market truths.

If your baby is ugly I prefer to tell you so we can develop a plan based on current truths to help lead you and your organization to a position of market leadership.

The quickest way for your baby to become ugly is to stop focusing on understanding your market, its buyers and their problems and start focusing on your growth objectives.

 

Last week I had dinner with my friend Graeme from the UK and he told me a joke that made me laugh, and also reflect on what it is often like to serve some organizations and their leaders.

 

 

So this guy is walking through the park and comes upon a woman with a baby stroller and she is crying. Trying to console her asks what is wrong… The young mother goes on to say that everyone says her baby is ugly and it really hurts her feelings. The stranger goes on to assure her that babies are cute and he was sure her baby was no different. The woman stopped crying and thanked him for his kind words. As he started to leave he said “Once again, I am sure your baby is not ugly…and oh, here’s a banana for your monkey”.

Having served a number of teams over the past 26 years I have experienced these integrity moments when I must share market driven truths with aggressive, entrepreneurial leaders. Often discovered truths are ugly. If the leader and his or her team is truly focused on authentically, passionately serving their market and increasing shareholder value they hear the market truths and ask me to guide them in developing a corrective roadmap.

If the leader and or their team however lack the emotional intelligence to hear constructive market driven feedback…I loose a client, and once again I am labeled a Heretic ( the person who stands up against group-think)  as Art Petty discusses in his recent blog post.

I am curious…if your baby needs a banana do you want me to tell you?

Are you sure?

 

Do members of your team have the moral courage to give you a banana when they need to?

 

Have you fostered a culture that welcomes bananas?

What goal is more important to you…your ego or becoming a market leader and increasing shareholder value?

 

One of the first stages of a fall from market leadership that Jim Collins discusses in his book: How the Might fall is; Hubris born of success.

Does this describe your senior leadership team? Your owner?

 

When asked to serve a team that is struggling or just suck, I prefer to gather current market driven data and present the current reality. My clients pay me to help get them back on course and I must be a good steward of their investment and present market truths.

Would this approach work with your senior leadership team? Why or why not?

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When Bootstrapping, Leverage What you Have….

 

boot

So you want to be an entrepreneur? You sure?

 

I am just finishing an eBook that will be titled; 50 “UGLY TRUTHS” about owning your own business …and 5 reasons to do it anyway. I have served entrepreneurs in a variety of industries for 25 years. Some of my clients today are people passionately setting out to launch their new service or product. Some have owned their business for years and want to take it to the next level in revenues and profit.

 

One common area I help entreprenuers  with in the start up, bootstrapping stage, is to focus on; Leveraging what you have….as opposed to making a list of what you need.

 

Look, I’ve been there….you’ve mentally made the commitment, you have made some investment, you’ve told your family and friends about your business… and you are all in. Very quickly what most entrepreneurs do is start making a list of what they need.

 

I often see lists that include; new buildings, office space, people, a new printer, fax machine, a custom showroom, new cell phone, new computer, business cards, stationary….and so on. I spoke with one entrepreneur that went out and leased a new Lexus and he has yet to open his first customer. He contacted me because he needed sales velocity because he had no cash.When I inquired as to why he leased a new car…I heard the common response when buying wants versus needs…” I needed to look successful…” Really? (So he must think I am a real loser driving my 2003 Toyota Camry huh?)

 

 

If you are about to launch your business or planning your growth, focus on leveraging what you have and not making a list of what you need. It is in this phase you build your leadership muscles.

 

In 2005 I was asked by an entrepreneur I was serving at the time to launch a new retail business as an independent division of his company VMI. VMI is the second largest manufacturer of wheel chair accessible vehicles in the world. I was the VP of Sales and Marketing and created a repeatable sales process and adjusted our messaging to be more specific to the problems we solved for our three main buyer persona’s rather than” features and benefits speak”. We modified some of our designs based on customer and user feedback and sales were exploding. The owner asked me to take on the new challenge; open a local retail store.

 

When we launched what soon became Arizona Mobility Products we had arguably…nothing. We did not have a business name, a building, a website, a logo, a sign; computers….you get the idea. So I too quickly went into list building mode. However I quickly learned this business needed to “eat what we killed”…we needed to be self funding.

 

So like my clients, I went off to think at a local restaurant as I don’t know about you, but I do my best thinking out of the office. I took inventory of what I did have;

 

  • as VP of Sales and Marketing I had worked with the most successful mobility dealers in the world for the past four years; I intimately knew best practices of market leading dealers

 

  • I have observed what dealers have done well, and the mistakes like signing leases for expensive elaborate show rooms that only erodes the bottom line

 

  • I knew our customers, our community, from the market research we did for our new corporate marketing, website, and product designs

 

 

  • We had over 400 finished vehicles available for sale in every configuration , ready for sale

 

  • The company had warehouse space vacant, old extra computers, extra phones

 

  • A small customer list of local consumers who have bought accessible vehicles over the last eight years or so

 

  • I had an amazing salesman named Pat with over 30 years of vehicle sales and local connections with car dealers

 

  • I know sales, marketing, and I have developed sales acceleration programs for companies for 20 years

 

  • I know that one common problem consumers who need a wheel chair accessible van have is the ability to see one, they lack transportation to get to the dealer

 

  • I personally have a network of thought leaders in internet marketing, marketing creative, and print marketing support

 

After making the list, I asked myself ;based on what I know from meeting with other dealers and customers, the inventory we did have, how can we… leverage this to grow this business? To make this operation a market leader?

 

We could give our customers what they needed, with the specific options they wanted, and we could do it same day.

 

We didn’t have large fancy showrooms, so we went to our customer’s homes. We did not have an ad budget so I wrote content that was picked up for free in local magazines that served the community, like; Arizona Mobility Products makes doing-good good-business…

 

With each unit we sold we accrued money to support a web site, ads, direct mail to past customers who’s vehicles were about to go out of warrantee, and business cards. I called my network and asked for favors. I offered to barter when possible and thanks to our service partners we launched.

 

In case I never said so, Thanks go out to some amazing partners;

 

John Scott Dixon and his team at Thought Lava for our web site

Jay Wilson and his creative team at Real World Marketing

Phil and Barry at BC Graphics

Bill at Tempe Dodge

 

Within months we were averaging what most successful mobility dealers sell each month, and after the first year we were in the top 10 dealers nationally in total revenue. We had five people, and we were focused;

 

“Serve our customers with what they need and want…we bring mobility vehicles to you”

 

When bootstrapping your business, focus on leveraging what you have as opposed to making lists of what you need.

Lists of what you need are good for the future but they do not fill the cash register…as a matter of fact we did not even have a cash register…smile.

 

Have you launched and business?

 

What can you leverage to serve your market?

 

Did you rush out and buy a bunch of office furniture, equipment, or did you learn to ;“eat what you killed

Your leadership muscles grow in the bootstrapping stage as you learn to leverage and scale what you have. Those expenditures that add value you keep and those that do not produce your desire ROI are removed.

 

Although I left AMP years ago to help other entrepreneurs, Pat now running the store and continues to provide amazing service and bringing vehicles to his customers. Pat continues to serve his market as opposed to selling them, and continues to be in the top 10 mobility dealers nationally.

 

 

More Big-Money-Wasted by BMW in new ad campaign? We will have to wait and see…

I read an article on BrandWeek today by Anthony Crupi titled: BMW Pumps Diesel and Anthony did a particularly good job in grasping BMW’s objectives behind what we are about to see in a new BMW ad;

“For us, it’s about changing the perception that diesel is still that noisy and smelly [technology] many people remember from the ‘70s.” “For us, it’s about changing the perception that diesel is still that noisy and smelly [technology] many people remember from the ‘70s.”

The trouble is, as a potential consumer of one of your driving machines…I really do not care Patrick (the guy in charge at BMW) what it is about “for you”.

What problem are you solving for me?

Affluent Americans don’t want to sacrifice performance for fuel efficiency,” McKenna said. “The 335d can go from 0-60 [mph] in 6 seconds flat …That’s immediate power.”

Now you are talking!

But what about starting my diesel car at the Cleveland airport in the winters…did you solve this?

Although not as focused on the environment and fuel efficiency as I should be, I do follow the cost per gallon of fuel, and if I am not mistaken, one of the historical advantages of why consumers chose diesel vehicles was the lower cost per gallon.

On the one side you have Mercedes, who did a great job of connecting their product to; Luxury, power and torch, and longevity (they run forever)

On the other side you have VW who have raving fans of their economical diesel vehicles that are fun to drive and last forever as well. VW too is tapping consumers on the shoulder today with a message of ““Better performance AND higher gas mileage than a Prius”.

From my days in international sales I still have relationships with past JV partners in Germany that are now friends and they openly share how fun their BMW 3 series are to drive.

GO TALK WITH CURRENT RAVING FANS NOW; CONNECT TO THEIR VOICE, THEIR PASSION, CLEARLY UNDERSTAND, IN THEIR VOICE THE PROBLEMS YOU SOLVE.

What this “feels” like is you are trying to win the hearts and pocket books of “potentials” those people who are not current customers, and are not currently shopping, but thinking about diesel vehicles? So you are actively attacking their perceived problems with your solution. Your current raving fans in the US who own M5’s will pass on your new offering.

So who is your targeted buyer persona?

New buyers of diesel vehicles are more likely to swing into VW’s camp as their position is clearly defined if their need is; fun to drive, economical, and longevity. If what they want is performance and Luxury, they will swing to Mercedes who currently owns this position.

Is this Product Launch (re launch really as you are one of the leaders in diesel vehicles in Europe) an example of “Right idea but late?” We will see…

I am looking forward to see this ad, as I am a huge fan of your vehicles, engineering, fit and finish, just not a fan of your execution of marketing “messaging” as of late as I discussed in my blog post : The Expression of Joy Ad campaign by BMW; May be an Expression of Big Money Wasted https://nosmokeandmirrors.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/the-expression-of-joy-ad-campaign-by-bmw-may-be-an-expression-of-big-money-wasted/ . Business leaders follow you “Big Guys” and I would hate to see smaller businesses clouding their messaging with “creative that requires an interpreter”. (But there I go again being a ROI driven Neanderthal)

Again Patrick, you make amazing vehicles, but because of that my expectation is your messaging will also be amazing. To be amazing I want to “get it” when I see it, and not be like everyone else in a packed movie theater and groan when your ad is played.

I want you to clearly state the problem you solve for me. I do not want some “foo foo marketing creative” that requires an interpreter, because then BMW means Big – Money- Wasted to me.

 

How about your business….

 

Does a big expensive ad add value in your business?

 

Or do they send a message you are disconnected to the market’s true needs?

 

Or worst, do these big budget ads and media buys make you, as a loyal customer feel you must have over paid for their product if they can afford such Big Money Wasted?

 

I predict this campaign will be a flop if I need an art director to explain it to me and they do not explain their distinctive competence clearly with an emotional attachment  that resonates with me.

 

Is your business bleeding?… Three back to basics triage steps to stop the bleeding

 triage

If your revenues are off as of late you are not alone. However knowing others are struggling does not help you know where to make adjustments to achieve your corporate objectives, or for smaller companies to help you make payroll. I call this looking for the real “why.” Once you determine the true “why(s)” you can make strategic corrections and adjustments to correct your business.So what should you do if your business is bleeding today? It may feel like death by a thousand cuts, but I can assure you it is always one of three ailments.

Over the years, when your business was booming you really did not need to be that good. I know that disturbs some people, but the tendency for some is to have taken a position of; “do I know where the business is coming from and why people buy from me? ..Why should I care as long as it keeps coming in?” (as described by one of my customers years ago.) Well, now is the time they are caring.

There are three back to basics business triage reviews I  always asses. If you are not achieving your revenue targets your business is bleeding in one, or a combination of the below;

 

1. Product

 

2. The market

 

3. Your team

 

 

Product

Do you have a product problem? What problem does your product solve? How well does it solve this problem? What have your customers been saying lately? Is your product the perfect solution for an unresolved market problem?

 

Market

Do you have a market problem? Do you have a market or solution for one customer? How pervasive is the problem you solve in your market? What new conditions has your market experienced? Has your market experienced any new market dynamics like new competitors, government regulations, environmental factors, technology changes? Does your market feel the problem you solve is urgent? Does your market have the ability to pay for your solution? ( a word of caution, too quickly leaders determine they are bleeding due to a market problem, be careful)

 

Your team

If your product is a perfect solution (determined by the market) and the market is urgently looking for someone to solve their problem with cash in hand, then your problem is your team. This is one of the most difficult areas to adjust. The quickest indicator I look for is how market driven your team is overall. How focused and passionate are they to serving the market? Does your team possess the skill set required for the market of today? As is often the case some team members provided tremendous value in the past, but now lack the experience or training to meet the market needs of today. In a Fortune article recently it discussed how market leading companies are always training their team members in good times and bad.

Here’s a shocker for some CEO’s …you are a part of the team too!

If you have a product that perfectly solves and unresolved market problem, and a market that desires to pay someone to solve the problem your product solves, and you have an amazing team….then the problem may be you. Ouch!..that hurts , how do you know if you are the problem? You need to ask yourself some tough questions;

How well does your experience and training match the needs of your team and your market?

What area do you feel is your strength?

What area is your weakness?

What skill does your business need today?

What steps have you taken, and or are you taking to offset your weakness and or the needs of your business?

leaders know their strengths and humbly admit their weaknesses. Top leaders are committed to continuously improving their abilities to better serve their internal and external customers. This is accomplished through growing our abilities and balancing our teams with leaders who compliment our weaknesses.

It’s time you go back to basics and perform honest triage if you find your business bleeding.