22 Şubat 2008 Cuma


At this point, you should know that your business will contribute to your ideal life and exactly what benefits you plan to offer to your customers. So who exactly are these customers, and how will you go about reaching them?

Avoid the urge to appeal to a broad audience. In fact, you should seek to appeal to the narrowest possible audience. Yes, this does reduce the size of your potential market. On the other hand, think of this as a distillation process that will allow you to spend less on your marketing and get far better results. Think of it like fishing. If youre after trout, youd do well to fish where the trout live.

How much do you know about your ideal customers? Traits such as age, gender, ethnicity, income level, home ownership, profession, education and location are just a few examples of demographics. Religious or spiritual beliefs, political alignment, hobbies, interests, goals, dreams, desires, etc., are examples of psychographics. What magical combination of demographics and psychographics does your ideal customer possess?

Armed with this information, your next step is to familiarize yourself with these people as intimately as possible. Where do they live? Where do they get their information? What do they read, view, listen to? What criteria drive their buying decisions? What appeals to them? How can you use all of this information to start creating a step-by-step process that converts people to leads, prospects, customers, clients, and referral sources? Remember that marketing is the business equivalent of a courtship ritual that ideally leads to a lifelong relationship.

Now for two really challenging questions: How many ideal customers live within your service area? Out of that number, what percentage can you count on attracting? The first question is fairly easy to answer. The second one is where the guesswork truly begins. Youre going to have to make some assumptions about your ability to penetrate the marketplace and the market share you will gain. As a general rule of thumb, I recommend being as conservative as possible and then halving that number for extra safety.
There are plenty of resources for doing this market research. The US Census Bureau has lots of demographic information. Local newspapers, bulletin boards, churches, schools and more can give you a good feel for the psychographics in your area. Your local Chamber of Commerce can be an excellent resource. Its as easy as attending meetings and listening to what business owners are saying. Parking yourself outside your competitors and checking out the people going in and out can also be amazingly effective. Heres one method you can try: Chat up the competition. Ask questions. Youd be amazed how much information you can get simply by asking for it.

Industry associations, government agencies, universities, trade publications, conventions and more are laden with even more valuable information. Take advantage of it. Hey, if you dont, someone else will.

All of this research is leading you to one critical question: Is your business concept viable or not? Well explore this concept next week. In the meantime, I reiterate what Ive been saying all along: This series of articles is geared towards starting up a new business; however, all of these concepts are equally applicable if you are reexamining an existing business or even mulling over buying a business.


This article continues my series on starting or restarting your business. By this time, you should know your business and how many prospective customers you can reasonably expect to buy from you. Now the moment of truth: Given everything you know so far plus your (hopefully conservative) assumptions, is your business concept viable? Answering this question requires some number crunching. This may not be your idea of fun but if a few hours of math avoids major problems down the road, then its time well spent.

Remember that your business must serve your needs, so you are the logical place to begin. How much does your ideal lifestyle cost? Think abundantly and in terms of your ideal life. Im not saying you need expensive tastes; I am saying that your tastes and then some must be covered.

Armed with the number youd like to bring home, you must now decide how many hours you want to devote to your business. Do you want to work in your business every day? If your business is your passion then the answer may be yes. The basic equation is simple: More personal involvement equals lower cost but lower equity, meaning that youll probably need to look to retirement accounts and other tools for ensuring your prosperity when you can no longer work the business. Less personal involvement equals higher cost and possibly lower profits (especially in the beginning) while buying you more time off, greater independence, and higher resale value. My default suggestion is to plan for a hybrid model that allows you to start your business as quickly and easily as possible and then put systems and processes in place to allow you to separate from its daily workings in the future. Will this work for you? Possibly. See my article Whats Your Exit Strategy? for more information (email me for a copy if you like).

How much can you charge for your products and/or services? Anthonys First Law of Pricing begins by finding the low and high ends of the range your competitors charge and then placing yourself at 80% of the difference. For example, if the low end is $1,000 while the high end is $2,000, then you should be somewhere around $1,800. This is a very general rule of thumb that you must adjust based on your businesss unique benefits and your goals, but it is a good place to begin. Multiply the price for each item by the number of customers you expect to reach each month to find your target income. Got a mix of products and/or services? How much will your average transaction be and how are you arriving at that assumption?

From this figure, subtract your COGS (Cost Of Goods Sold). If you buy items for resale, how much do you pay per item? Multiply this by the number of items you sell to find your total COGS. If you manufacture items, how much do you pay for materials, tools, maintenance, etc? If you offer services, what costs are associated with providing that service? At this point, only look at the direct cost per item. Well deal with other expenses later.

Right off the bat, youve lopped a significant portion off your target income. Time for your first reality check: Is the remainder enough to support your desired lifestyle? If so, great! And if not? If you find yourself in this unenviable position, then something has to give. Do you need to reduce your expectations? Can you expand your market without risking the validity of your assumptions? Can you live with the reduced income as your business grows? Is there a reasonable likelihood that your income will grow to the target level and beyond?

All of these questions and more boil down to one simple yet profound question: Is your business model viable? If so, congratulations! If not, did you overlook anything or is there anything else you can do to make it viable? If so, do it, and then crunch the numbers again. In this case, be very careful if you arrive at a different result to make sure that you have corrected some error and/or modified some key part of your business model. In other words, be totally honest with yourself. If you think discovering that your idea wont fly is tough, imagine taking off only to crash and burn. As my flight instructor says, Its better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than flying wishing you were on the ground. Ive been there. Hes right.

Were not done yet! In my next article, well continue looking at your expenses. Will your idea survive? Stay tuned�


I went to Les Schwab Tires this week. Not only did they do a great job with the pair of new tires I purchased, they found some problems with my good tires and fixed them up at no extra charge. Ive seen this superb standard of customer service every time Ive shopped there and I no longer even bother calling other stores because I know that Les Schwab is a quality outfit. They are a national chain with big marketing money behind them but they havent lost sight of the fundamental truth that good marketing will bring people in but excellent service is the only way to keep them coming back. Far too many small businesses havent learned this lesson. I hope you have.

OK, back to your business startup. Last week you looked at your projected revenue and sliced your share right off the top. If youre still with me, then its safe to assume that your ideas have passed this first step of the financial planning process. If not, then you need to rework your model until the numbers make sense before you can possibly move on.

EBIDTA stands for Earnings Before Interest, Depreciation, Taxes, and Amortization. Its whats left over after youve paid yourself and your operating expenses. What will it take to:

� Hire employees?
� Rent, lease, or buy office space and equipment?
� Purchase raw materials or items for resale?
� Create your marketing (Web site, logo business cards, etc.)?
� Get the legal, financial, and other help youll need?
� Pay utilities, insurance, licenses?
� Cover your many other expenses?

Add everything up and then subtract that figure from whats left over after paying yourself. Remember to always pay yourself right off the top because (you guessed it) your business must serve you, not the other way around.

Having hacked and burned your way through your expected revenue, whats left? If your EBIDTA is greater than $0.00, then your business has a fighting chance for success. If not, then you need to go back to the drawing board to see whether or not you can make it work. The operative question here is not whether you CAN launch this endeavor but whether you SHOULD. Hey, would you rather find out now or would you rather risk losing everything you have in addition to everything youre trying to build?

All of this assumes that your business is up and running at its designed capacity. So far, we havent covered the startup phase. Youre going to need to invest a lot of time and money before your business earns its first cent. Youll then need to keep infusing resources into the business until that magical day when your revenue finally catches up to your expenses, or cash flow breakeven. From there, youll need to pay back the initial investment. Only once all this is behind you will your business be truly profitable.

The trick is to figure out how soon your business will begin earning revenue and how fast that revenue will grow (with comfortable margins of error just in case). You then need to figure out the bare minimum you need to get up and running, when you can add additional components and take on more expenses, and under what circumstances. Dont think that you need a big bang to get started at full capacity. On the contrary, determine the bare minimum you need to get going and how to parlay that into realizing your grand vision.

This may seem a little unorthodox for several reasons; however, think of it this way: Sure, a grand opening is a lot sexier than a slow start, but that sexy beginning requires a massive infusion of resources that greatly increases your exposure and subsequent risk. If you seek outside capital (investors), youll have to fork over a much larger share of your company. Start small and youll need a lot less, which means youll get to keep a lot more. You know me well enough to know why I think the latter is the way to go.

Heres a real-world example: Im building a business plan to greatly expand my own business. My initial guess was that Id need up to $1.5 million in venture capital to get going. I then implemented a phased approach and its looking like Ill be able to start with less than 10% of that amount. Think this will pay off big time down the road? I do too.


If youve come this far in the business planning process then youre ready to make an extremely important decision: Where will you locate this enterprise? The simple answer is: wherever your ideal customers congregate. For example, if youre opening a hamburger joint, locate yourself right next to or even among the chain stores. Counterintuitive? Yes, until you consider that everyone who goes to the chain burger places already wants exactly what you have to offer. Most of them will opt for the mass-produced products but a significant number will choose the homemade option.

In this case, the big chains are doing the hard work and spending the big dollars to attract customers to you. Combine that with excellent products and service plus some creative means to keep people coming back (and bringing your friends), and youll have a winning combination. Locate yourself in another part of town and youll have to convince people to go someplace theyre not accustomed to going for hamburgers- a long and potentially expensive process.

If you dont deal with customers directly, then you have the luxury of setting up shop wherever you like. For example, most of my clients work with me by phone and email, meaning that I can be almost anywhere. My challenge is locating myself in cyberspace, which I am doing through strategic partnerships and other methods.

Does your business rely on foot traffic? What kind of foot traffic (students, tourists, workers, etc.)? Which part(s) of town have the highest concentrations of the right kind of foot traffic? A friend of mine was considering opening a pho shop in Ashland (pho is a cheap, delicious, and nutritious Vietnamese soup). If you were opening such a restaurant, where would you locate it? If you guessed right across from the college, then Im right with you.

One of the single biggest mistakes you can make when opening a new business is basing your decision solely on size and cost. Sure, you need adequate facilities and there are certainly zoning and other considerations that must influence your decision.

Will your potential locations be able to grow as your business expands? Establishing yourself at one address only to close up shop and move across town years later can be disastrous. I dont care how loyal your customers are, relocating your business will drive at least some of them to seek other alternatives. In this case, opening a second location might be the way to go. Why are you thinking about future needs now? Because your business wont grow unless you plan for that growth.

What if there are no suitable locations? You have several choices. You could opt for a less-than-optimal location that may or may not have the correct traffic or that may or may not suit your needs. Can your business survive under these conditions? Sure. But dont you already have enough challenges even under the best circumstances? You dont really want to lower your odds of success, do you? Actually, many people do indeed set out to fail, but that is a topic for another day.

You could alter your business model to suit the current environment. This can save you a lot of headaches down the road. Just remember that youll need to start the planning process right back at the beginning and take an entirely fresh look at what you want to do and how. Anything less increases your risk.

You could decide to place your plans on hold until the time is ripe. Disappointing? Sure. The good news is that nothing ventured, nothing lost. Yes, you can start a business, but the real question is whether you should. You have full control over when and how you take the plunge. If the time isnt right, then you have nothing to lose by waiting.

Any realtor will tell you that the three biggest considerations in real estate are location, location, location. This rule is even more true for your business. You can buy a house anywhere you want. Your business does not have that luxury.


There are lots of ways to structure your business, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. Your decision about the correct path to take will depend on many factors including how big your business will grow, how you plan to raise capital and pay taxes, and liability concerns.

Basic business types include:

� Sole proprietor: This is the oldest and simplest form of business there is. A single person launches a business that may or may not have employees, a storefront, etc. The advantage of a sole proprietorship is simplicity. All business income and expenses are reported as schedules on your personal income tax. The drawback is that there is no separation between you and the business. If the business owes money or is found liable for any damages, you are personally responsible. It is entirely possible that a business mishap could ruin your personal finances.
� Partnership: Same as the sole proprietor except with two or more people. Here again, simplicity is the main advantage. Also, the liabilities are spread among all of the partners according to their share of the business. The bad news is that disagreements between the partners can wreak havoc on everyone.
� Corporation: Think of starting a corporation as giving birth to a separate entity that exists on paper. This entity has many of the same rights and responsibilities of a natural person. Because a corporation is its own entity, it pays its own taxes and handles its own liability, meaning that individual officers (executives) and shareholders (investors) are normally not liable for any expenses or damages. This protection is not absolute, however. For proof, one need look no further than the Enron trial. Liability and financial protection plus the ability to sell shares to investors are a corporations biggest advantages. The drawback is that the paperwork and other legal requirements can be quite complex. There are also tax ramifications. Corporations in the United States come in two flavors: S (typically for smaller companies) and C (typically for larger companies). Corporations have lives of their own, meaning that they continue after their founders leave or pass away.
� Limited Liability Company: What if you could have the simplicity of a sole proprietorship with the liability protection of a corporation? The Limited Liability Company (LLC) is a fairly recent phenomenon that has become increasingly popular because it offers the best of both worlds. Like a sole proprietorship, an LLC ceases to exist when the owner passes away or leaves the company.
� Limited Liability Partnership: An LLP is the same as the LLC except owned by two or more people. This is very similar to the partnership discussed above. The biggest drawback that I see with an LLP is that it ceases to exist when one or more partners leave or pass away.

How youll structure your business will be one of the single biggest decisions youll ever make and one that could have major, even dire, consequences. This article provides a brief overview of the different types of businesses and is meant to get you thinking about how youll structure your own business. Do your homework and learn all you can before even thinking about making up your mind.

There are many companies who will handle the paperwork of filing your corporation and/or LLC. These companies will tempt you with offers like Incorporate Today for only $99! Are these companies fast and easy? Certainly. So why spend $1,500 or more having an attorney walk you through the process? I asked an attorney that very question and got a very simple and compelling answer: security. On the off chance that your business gets into trouble, your attorney will stand behind her or his work and represent you in court. Strike off on your own and finding someone to help you in your hour of need will be more difficult. In my never-humble opinion, this one falls under the category of cheap insurance.
Marriage, buying a house, and launching a business are some of the biggest decisions youll ever make in your life. I cant help you with the first two, but I can advise you to take your time, think things through, and always remember that the key question is not whether you can but whether you should.

This is my seventh article in this series on starting or reinventing a business and we still havent talked about your business plan. No, I havent forgotten. Meanwhile, well talk about professional help and when to get it in my next article.


The short answer is yes. No person is an island and no one has all of the specialized skills or answers needed to open or run a successful business. Your business represents one of the single biggest investments of time and money that youll ever make. Trying to go it alone is a penny wise, pound foolish decision. Try to go it alone and at best youll be leaving profit on the table. At worst, youll blunder your way to failure. Im not saying you need to blow every spare cent hiring every consultant in town. I am saying that you need to assess your skills and knowledge and plug in the gaps. This is especially important when starting or reinventing a business.

Some of the professionals you may want in your corner include:

� Attorney: All jokes aside, a good attorney can be invaluable make structuring, starting, and protecting your business.

� Bookkeeper: Unless you know the ins and outs of tracking your money, this one is best left to someone with those specific skills. You can see your bookkeeper weekly, monthly, or perhaps even quarterly.

� Accountant: This person reviews the bookkeepers work for accuracy and any signs of fraud, and helps you with your taxes and financial matters.

� Cleaning service: Did you know that a dirty shop is one of the easiest ways to make a lasting bad impression on your prospective customers? This small investment alone will return many times its cost, guaranteed.

� Virtual assistant: Lets face it, the many phone calls, letters, errands, etc. that pile up during the day arent any fun. Dont have enough work to keep someone busy fulltime? No problem. A virtual assistant is like having part of a secretary. They work with numerous clients and are both very skilled and equipped with all the tools they need to sweat the details for you. A good virtual assistant can even help with online and other marketing. Another highly recommended investment.

� Employees/contractors: If the time you are spending working in your business doing day-to-day tasks is cramping your ability to work on the business by focusing on strategy and growth, then you may want to consider bringing on help. Refer to my past series on hiring for more on this topic (copies available on request). Remember, as the captain of your business, your place is on the bridge, not in the engine room.

� Coach: Is your business running as efficiently and as profitably as possible? Should you run that ad? Are you experiencing frustrations or other problems that you just cant seem to get a handle on? A good business coach provides a fresh pair of eyes that can give you just the new perspective you need. Just because you do things a certain way doesnt mean that there arent other and possibly even better ways to achieve the desired result. Even if you think your business is running like a well-oiled machine, you have nothing to lose by making sure.

If you are starting or significantly changing your business, then you should be figuring out which professionals youll need, what you expect from each of them, and how youll budget those costs. All of this will go into your business plan, which I am working way towards discussing in this series.

Speaking of costs, dont let the outlay fool you. Yes, some of the professionals I listed can cost hundreds of dollars per hour. Focus on the cost and youll miss out on the benefits. For example, if hiring an attorney for $1,500 can stop a $100,000 lawsuit in its tracks because your corporation has been properly constructed and operated to shield you from liability, Id argue that was money well spent. If the cost of a bookkeeper an virtual assistant frees you to close even one more deal per month, the profits could far outweigh the investment. And if a coach charges you a couple of grand to find ways of doubling your profits without having to double your business, well, thats not too bad either. No one can guarantee results because every business is unique, but that does not weaken my argument.

No matter where you are in your business, youre probably surrounded by people offering all kinds of advice about every imaginable topic. I know. Im one of them. This begs a very important question: Who should you listen to? That, dear readers, is my next articles topic.


In my last article, I presented a small sampling of some of the many professionals you may need at some point in your business, particularly during start-up and major changes. Beyond this, there exists a vast network of friends, family, colleagues, fellow business owners, and more. All of these people will come out of the woodwork offering all kinds of well-intentioned advice. Listen long enough and youll find yourself adrift in a sea of information, much of it contradictory and most of it delivered with a fair degree of passion. This begs a simple yet important question:

Who should you listen to?

A friend of mine once wanted to open up a pho (Vietnamese soup) restaurant. We talked about it and batted a lot of ideas around before she revealed that her family and husband were telling her how hard launching and running a business is.

My first question was How do these people run their businesses? The answer was predictable: Everyone trying to discourage her was running a struggling business and putting in 80-hour weeks. What other kind of advice did she expect from them? To date, she has not opened her restaurant and is stuck in the bowels of one dot-com company after another. Think about this and ask yourself whether you really want to hear how difficult things are at the moment youre on the cusp?

The other extreme is populated by the hucksters and snake-oil pushers of the ilk that normally inhabit late-night infomercials. Let me just say that renting a vacant house, borrowing a boat, shooting the footage, and buying the airtime is a lot cheaper than you might think. Heck, I could almost afford to do an infomercial. In most cases, these people are neither as rich nor living anything resembling the lives of ease they seem to be.

So who should you listen to?

Ive said this before and Im saying it again because it is so critically important for your future success: Learn from people who have been where you want to go. Want to make a lot of money? Talk to people who make a lot of money. Want to run a thriving business? Talk to people who run thriving businesses. Want work/life balance? Talk to people who have excellent work/life balance. Above all, talk to people who love what they do.

Heres a hint: In many cases, the people you need to talk to will not be in the crowd coming from the woodwork. Youre going to have to seek them out. Identifying them is easy. Approaching them? Thats the hard part for many people. How do you do it?

Easy: Ask them. Tell them what youre doing, what you need, and ask for their help.

Ive met and worked with some amazing people and continue forging new partnerships. The one lesson Ive learned is that people who are truly interested in success will always lend an ear. They may not be able to help you but they will almost always point you in the right direction. The key is that you must be sincere about your needs and why you approached them.

I strongly suspect that some of you reading this missive are considering starting or reinventing your business and/or making other lifes choices. Who will you entrust for advice on how to live your dreams?

In my next article, at long last: The business plan.


Each of my past nine articles has been building up to this point: creating your business plan. Most people think of business plans as something that new businesses do; however, there is nothing preventing any business from creating a business plan. In fact, if you own an established business that is not currently following an up-to-date business plan, then it would behoove you to write one up. After all, the business that fails to plan, plans to fail.

I strongly suggest purchasing business plan software unless you are skilled at writing business plans and/or have a qualified person helping you. My personal favorite is Business Plan Pro by Palo Alto Software, Inc., which is located in Eugene. The time and hassle savings are well worth the nominal cost.

Begin your business plan by outlining your goals, your victory conditions. Achieve these victory conditions and youll be able to call yourself a definition. Remember to always think in terms of yourself and the lifestyle you want to have. Your businesss one overarching goal is to contribute to your life, never the other way around. Describe how you will achieve those conditions in terms of the companys driving principles or mission. Finish your introduction by listing the conditions that your business must have in order to succeed. This could include parking, licenses or certifications, location, employees, anything.

Next, talk about your company. Who owns it? How is it structured (sole proprietorship, LLC, corporation, etc.)? If there is more than one owner, who owns what percentage? How much will it cost to start up (and arent you glad you figured out how to get up and running with the least possible expense)?

What exact products and services are you selling? Where do you get these items? Do you manufacture them or order them from manufacturers, distributors, or wholesalers? What mix of products and services do you offer and why? Do any special risks exist in your supply chain (such as if youre heavily dependent on an individual artisan for some of your core offerings)? What ideas do you have for expansion?

Who exactly will buy what you sell and why? How do your ideal customers break down into tight groups that you can easily nanocast to? Why did you select these target groups? What is the current and projected future status of these groups? Each group of customers is called a segment. What segment(s) does your business target? Why are these groups important? How many people are there in each segment and what percentage of each do you think you can capture? Why?

Who are your competitors? What about potential allies or fusion marketing partners? How many similar businesses are operating in your market space (physical or virtual)? How do they sell their wares? To whom do they sell? How much business do they do? How stable are they? What are their competitive advantages vis-� -vis your own offerings? What makes your business special and why?

These are just a few of the many topics youll need to cover in your business plan. Now do you see why its taken me so long to reach this point? If youve been following along since the beginning, then you should have most of these questions answered or at least know where to find the answers. Part of this exercise involves taking research thats been very you based (your goals, your dreams, your lifes mission) and translating it into a document that banks, investors, and others can read and understand.

Translating your business plan into a seemingly straitjacketed format accomplishes two goals: First, as mentioned, banks and others can read and understand what youre up to, which will help immeasurably when seeking funding, leasing a location, working with professional advisors, and much more. It also helps you organize all of your research and see it in a totally different light, which can help you spot weaknesses before you commit to expending large sums of money or time.

Well continue discussing business plans in my next article.


Let's continue working through the business plan. Remember that this is a very high-level overview; your actual plan will need a lot more attention to detail than I can present here. Last week, we left off with your competitors and potential fusion marketing partners. Well begin there and continue.

What buying criteria are important to your target audience? How will you position this business to take best advantage of those buying criteria? Can you define your niche narrowly enough to reduce or even eliminate competition?

How many people will you need to hire and when? How much will you pay them? Will you offer commissions on sales or other perks? Do you have clear job descriptions and an expandable organization chart? What special experience and/or certifications does each person need? How will you minimize employee turnover? Have you budgeted for payroll services, payroll taxes, workmens compensation insurance, etc?

How will your sales grow over time? How many units and dollars do you plan to move? What are you basing these assumptions on and why did you choose these particular sales levels and growth pattern? How does this forecast tie into your market analysis, niche position, target audience, fusion marketing partners, competitors, etc? What has to happen to meet your goals? What are the risks and how can you mitigate them?

What is your marketing plan? The plan itself need be only 7-sentences long (the 7-sentence Guerrilla Marketing plan). Do you have a marketing calendar that will track your efforts and results month by moth so you can pick the winning marketing methods and ditch the rest? What specific step by step process will you use to convert members of your target audience into leads, prospects, customers, clients, and referral sources? Where are the weaknesses and risks in this plan and how will you mitigate them?

Will you have an online presence? What will that look like? Will your Web site be for sales, information, or both? How will you create and maintain this site and any other online tools? Where do these tools fit into your overall marketing plan? If you will be handling sensitive information such as credit card numbers, do you have adequate protections in place? Are you sure? How?

Who are you? What makes you qualified to run this business? What skills, experience, degrees, certifications, etc. do you bring to the table? How about your partners? Why did you select the partners you did? What weaknesses or gaps exist in knowledge or abilities and how will you cover those? What outside professionals (coaches, consultants, etc.) do you need and why?

How much startup funding do you need? Where will you get it from? How will you obtain it? How did you arrive at your figures? What is your breakeven point, and what assumptions did you use to calculate that milestone? What economic, regulatory, political, or other risks exist and how can you mitigate them? How much revenue do you need to achieve break-even and when will that occur?

What will your cash flow look like from month to month? Why? What if it doesnt? What expenses will you have, both fixed (rent, insurance, etc.) and variable (cost of purchasing inventory, utilities, etc.)? Do your projected financial ratios match the typical range for your industry?

How will you actually implement your plan? What concrete steps must happen and in which order? How will you handle delays and unexpected obstacles? How will you handle unexpected opportunities? Will you be able to tell opportunities from diversions? How? What if youre wrong in any one of your assumptions? Do you have any sort of fallback or safety net? If not, why not? If so, can you count on it at need?
This should keep you busy. Well wrap up the business planning next week and move on to talking about retail environments and making a shop appealing to customers. Dont have a retail shop? Most of this will apply to you as well. Meanwhile, if youve done your homework from the beginning of this article series, your business plan should be coming together fairly easily. I hope you know me well enough by now to know that I always look for the ease.


This article concludes my series on starting or reinventing your business. The process I outlined flies in the face of conventional wisdom that begins with the business plan and creates the company around that plan. Let me be very clear: Businesses that fail to plan are literally planning to fail. If you do not have a business plan, then the absolute best you can ever hope for is lower profits and longer working hours. It is that simple. That said, I believe that the business plan first approach has some fundamental flaws that can hobble or even kill the business its supposed to support.

The typical business plan is obviously all about the business, as it should be. So how can this be a bad thing? An excellent question�

Placing the business above all else is by nature a dehumanizing mindset that reduces everyone involved to a cog in a machine. Everything your plan says about you and anyone on your team revolves around how and why you are good for your business. That immediately places you in the role of serving your businesss needs instead of having the business serve your needs. That backward approach alone causes for more business failures than any other possible cause because it forces you to leave your natural state in order to support your own creation. This reversal causes stress, burnout, and eventual collapse. If you have not done so yet, I urge you to read The Emyth Revisited by Michael Gerber, which describes the typical business lifecycle and how to create something truly lasting by bucking that cycle.

If that wasnt bad enough, the same applies to your prospective customers, who also become cogs in your business machine. If I have one unshakable belief about any business, it is that the customer is royalty. So why relegate them to a few line items in a business plan?

I bet youre wondering how I can preach the necessity of a business plan while revealing potentially fatal flaws in that very endeavor. The answer is very simple: My issue is not with the business plan per se, but with the process used to arrive at that plan. Follow the typical business plan outline and youll unconsciously fall into the traps I outlined above. Follow the process Ive laid out over the past three months, and your business plan will reflect a business that revolves around you, your partners, and your customers. The devil is in the details and the biggest detail about running any business is the mindset.

A business plan created through the process Ive outlined serves as a modern-day Rosetta stone that translates your hopes and dreams for a mechanism to live your dharma and follow your dreams into the conventional language used by attorneys, bankers, landlords, insurers, consultants, and many others. This allows you to see into and interact with the normal business world without necessarily selling your soul or mortgaging your future to do so. It also allows the professionals youll inevitably need to work with to understand what youre doing in their terms, making it far easier for you to obtain the financing and other resources you may need to start and grow your business.

Please keep in mind that these thirteen columns cannot possibly convey all of the complexities involved in starting or reinventing a business, nor was it my goal to do so. Rather, my aim was to get you thinking along a different (and probably more profitable) mindset that will at least get you asking the right questions in the right order. If Ive managed to accomplish that much, then Ive met my goal.

Starting a business is one of the biggest decisions youll ever make. It can enrich your life and those of your customers or it can literally suck the life out of you. The choice is yours and the time to start building a rock-solid foundation begins the moment you begin thinking about your new endeavor and continues for the life of the business.

To quote Jay Conrad Levinson, I wish you fame and fortune, especially fortune. You deserve it.

Step into your Dream of Starting your Own Business

What characteristics separate people into those who follow their dreams and those who just dream? Have you been dreaming about starting your own business? How long have you had those dreams and what are you doing to make them a reality? As you work through limiting conversations with yourself, consider these qualities and traits that many entrepreneurs and successful leaders have in common. If you are still in the dream stage, see how you can start to take these characteristics to heart and be one of those people who looks back at life with the satisfaction of knowing you 'went for it', rather than just continued to have a dream. Since life is so short, there's no better time than the present to start to take action!

A commitment to make it happen. Your commitment must start in your heart. You have to believe something can happen before you will actually take action to make it reality. Ask yourself what kind of person you are when it comes to commitment: Are you willing to commit 100% and do what it takes?

The commitment must be complete in order to achieve your goal, however. Some people start working towards a goal, but when things get tough, they cut and run. Or they continue to take tentative steps towards it, but not really committing. Often this action has more to do with a person's own confidence in what she can accomplish than with her level of commitment. If that is the case, if the person wants it badly enough, she can seek help from a coach, to help her work through the limiting conversations she may be having with herself.

When committing to something, however, this also means that something else must be given up. Consider what you would give up if you were to start your own business. Two examples would be giving up free time in order to work on your business plan or organize things towards opening the door to your business. The second example would be giving up the security of a paying job.

It's not always because a person isn't committed that leads to avoiding a dream or ending prematurely. Sometimes it may have more to do with believing in themselves and realizing that they really can accomplish anything if they want it badly enough. Not that this is easy; again, there is a price to be paid, and certainly fear and doubts are prices along the way. I will often ask clients how they will feel if they do not strive for this goal, and as they ponder the alternative, they become stronger in their resolve and more confident that they can achieve their goal.

Do what you are passionate about. Without passion, commitment will be harder to maintain. Desire determines destiny. If your desire is strong enough, you will accomplish what you dream of. Passion will increase your willpower. It helps fuel your commitment. If you follow your passion, you become more dedicated to your goal, and when you allow your passion to come out when interacting with others, you will find that others pay closer attention to you. People love passion and it can be contagious, drawing people to you. With your business, you have to identify exactly what you are passionate about and be sure that is your focus with your business.

Keep your eye on the goal. For anything to succeed, you have to have the end in sight. You have to know what the goal is. This helps you create your plan. As Stephen Covey says in his book, "7 Habits of Highly Successful People", you have to have the end in sight in order to succeed. What is your vision? What do you ultimately want to create? This may sound like a simple question, but once I start pushing clients to really answer this, they find they aren't as sure as they previously thought. I suspect this is why they never took action towards that dream! Once you are clear about what you want to accomplish, then you create the plan to help you get there and the strategies to move forward. Writing down your goals, the steps necessary and an action plan helps you check back to be sure that you are still on track in achieving your goal. Again; how can you get there if you don't know where 'there' is?

Let your courage shine through. Stepping out of your comfort zone and facing your fears is a trait that can make the difference between success and failure. Everyone has fears about something. The difference between those who succeed and those who just dream is what they do with that fear. We all have choices: Face the fear or run from it. The most common action is to run from it. Some may call facing up to your fears courage. Courage begins with an inward battle. Who will win that limiting conversation you will have with yourself? Are you willing to step up and face those fears? Courage is having the power to let go of the familiar and forge ahead into new territory. Courage is the willingness to put it all on the line for possible failure. Many of the top leaders in the world suffered failures. They say that those who succeed the most also have suffered the most failures in their lives. But imagine the feeling of success, and also consider how you will feel if you allow your fears to tame your dreams and allow yourself to look back at your life with just dreams to think about.

Consider these characteristics and think about a goal you have. No matter what goal you have, can you use some of these suggestions to move closer towards that goal? If so, I encourage you to start working on making your goal a reality. Again, life is short, so do it now.

Cast Your Line: Promoting Yourself Through Your Sales Presentation

You are invited to speak on the new product your company just launched. You deliver a killer presentation. You receive questions from your audience. You get a standing ovation. Then nothing happens. You didnt get a lead. You didnt get a referral.

When you speak at a professional or trade conference you have the opportunity to build brand awareness, expand the database, get a referral, attract another client, or close a sale. However these opportunities often vanish like vapor from a fog, and when the fog clears you walk away thinking you arent a very good presenter after all. This is a false assumption and an unfair judgment about your own abilities.

If you arent getting the results you hoped for its not because you arent a good presenter. One reason you aren't getting the desired results is because your hopes and intentions are out of alignment.

You hope you will get interest. You hope to brand your company. You hope to build your database, attract a new client and close a sale. These are your hopes. Unconsciously you have another agenda, your secret intentions. You intend to impress the audience with your knowledge. You intend to get a standing ovation so you can feel warm and fuzzy and tell your friends how you nailed the presentation. You intend to re-live your war stories about the difficult product launch, how you worked with no sleep and how you emerged the hero. How do I know? I know because Ive experienced it myself, and Ive watched people just like you, therefore I know how to identify the red flags. Let me explain.

When you invited your audience to ask questions, (whether that audience is one or one thousand) you missed the buying signal and instead blathered on about back stage stuff.
What is back-stage stuff you ask? Back stage talk is when you start speaking about what is behind the curtain instead of focusing on the performance. You have forgotten you have an audience and the conversation has reverted to your favorite topic�you.

You talk about your dream, your companys history, your great website, your struggles to get the product launched, your process for delivering the product and everything else except solving the customers problem. There is a place for this kind of talk, but that's another article. Another way of saying it is this: giving a good sales presentation is a lot like fishing. The problem happens when you become the fish instead of the fisherman.

With a single question your prospect baits the hook, casts the line and you swallow the bait, hook, line and sinker. Without noticing you just got reeled in with your potential customers question. You forgot that you are the fisherman, not the fish.
Dont feel bad. There is a way to become a better fisherman.

Here are some steps so that you dont take the bait.
1. Get clear on the outcome you desire.
2. Transition, answer briefly then redirect the question.
3. Listen to uncover problems.
4. Step up to the next level.
Heres an example of how it works.

Step one: you become clear that you want to attract new customers. Now that you know your intention, you have to match your actions. This means you stay focused on solving a problem rather than sharing back-stage information and overwhelming to your customer. All your customer cares about is how he benefits from your product.

Step two: when you open for questions, you must recognize the bait. A customers question is your opportunity to transition, briefly answer, then redirect the question back to her.

For example, your customer asks, So tell me how you came up with the idea for this product? You recognize your initial tendency to want to give a dissertation and instead you use the redirect. You transition, Im so glad you asked, then you answer briefly, We noticed customers having problems with�. then you redirect by asking, what kinds of problems do you currently face?

The re-direct is step three wehre you cast the line and listen, listen, listen. After your prospect has finished talking, your presentation at this point needs to be directed toward the next step in the sales process, which is step four.
At step four you must use your wisdom to know what the next level is. the next level may mean an appointment, another presentation, a trial offer, a demonstration or signing the dotted line. Happy fishing

The EMyth Perspective

Michael Gerber in his book "The Emyth Manager," believes that "the role of the manager is to engage with the present in a fully enlightened manner while inventing the future."

He believes this is done not through managing people but can only be done through developing a system of processes over which you can exercise control. You manage the process or system (your management strategy) to keep it, improve it and rally your troops around it.

His system has 3 parts: innovation, quantification and orchestration.

Innovation is the ability to create what could be - but this is only possible if you have a picture in mind of the result - your vision or strategic objective. He believes that every manager should treat the organisation as a small business and think of themselves as small business owners.

So, as a "small business owner," where are you aimed? What is it you intend to do? Is your "business" - the way you've set it up, the way you're managing the process - poised to take you there?

In order to implement the 2nd part of system i.e. quantification effectively, you also need to understand why you're doing what you're doing and for whom. This is because everything you do in your business produces some sort of result - not just an end result but a series of results along the way which need to be understood, interpreted and recreated i.e. quantified.

Quantification - truly knowing the numbers (quantities, time periods, measures, and sets of conditions) that you can record and recall in relationship to the results of the same process, the same event performed at a later date, is critical if innovation is to have any relevance to the results you produce. That relationship between one event and another and a string of events that follow the same action is what Gerber calls quantification.

The 3rd component of his management strategy is orchestration i.e. the organisation of work into replicable systems so that the results you intend to produce are the results you actually produce, as often as you wish to produce them, exactly as you wish to produce them. Although this may seem to fly in the face of the belief that people are our most important asset, he is not saying that people are unimportant, but that how people produce results must be identified and then repeated if any organisation is to leverage itself and its people over time.

He argues that leverage comes from understanding and developing the processes through which people produce extraordinary results, because this will produce much greater returns on investment than any one person can. Orchestration takes the heat off people because it places the attention instead on the way we work rather than who is doing the work.

If these are fairly new concepts to you, do you have the interest in looking at your work from the EMyth Manager perspective? If so then you need to pay attention to all the processes and systems at work - What opportunities are there to innovate what you do? How can you quantify the impact of that innovation? How can you orchestrate it into a system, a series of processes that you can teach to people significantly less skilled than you? Until you can do this, your job will always be dependent on you.

Maybe your starting point should be "what do I know?" and "what don't I know?" These might be the better questions to open the door to this 3 step process.

Good luck!

How To Be Lucky

Have you ever read an article about somebody who was successful because they were born into wealth or they were at the right place at the right time? A Greek shipping tycoon that is worth billions and started with millions from his father? A couple of guys that were able to create an internet business because they hit it big when they cashed their stock options from Microsoft?

You might have thought, "Well, that's great, but they were lucky, I'd be successful if I was in their shoes." So you weren't as lucky. Maybe you worked for a company that never made it big during the rah rah 90's. Or maybe, your lineage didn't include the Rockefellers or Vanderbilts. So what. It's time that you created your own luck.

If you think there is no way you'll get that lucky, you're right. But if you think you're going to get lucky someday, you're right as well.

Luck isn't the same for everybody. Sometimes your luck might be that you come up with an idea because you saw a news segment on TV. Or you happen to find somebody willing to loan you $1,000 to get you started. Luck is varying and different for everybody, what you do with it is your choice.

How can you make your own luck? First, you have to realize that you're going to have to work for it. Second, make sure you know that LUCK it isn't always what you think it's going to be. Here are some pointers:

* Talk to everyone. Luck sometimes means having connections. Even though a direct connection might not have what you need, they might know someone who does.

* Read everything. Do you like to read personal development books? How about business magazines? or industry periodicals? If you see something that interests you, you might be able to spin an interesting idea into a full-blown business.

* Go after your dreams, don't wait for them to come to you. If you are literally waiting for someone to come to you and say, "I've got a million dollars I want to invest with you because I like you," you're going to be waiting a long time. But, if you're proactive, you might get an opportunity you didn't think might happen.

* Life changes on a dime. Have you ever had a really bad day and suddenly something happens to turn it into a great day? That happens in business all the time (and vice versa too), this might sound trite, but every bad day will be followed up someday with a good one.

* Keep a positive attitude. The old expression goes that you attract what you put out. If you're negative and not fun to be around, nobody will want to help you, but if you're generally positive and have a great outlook on life, people will want to be around you. And those who can will be more likely to help you.

I get approached with business ideas, great products and even tips that could be tremendous. Most are not, but because I keep myself "out there" and let people know what I do, I increase my 'luck factor'.

No, I can't guarantee that your luck will translate into millions, nor can I say that you will become amazingly successful, but what I can promise you is that sitting at home doing nothing, wishing you were more fortunate doesn't make it happen.

Go get some luck.

Risk. Have You Had Your Recommended Daily Allowance?

Be careful crossing the street. Chew your food throughly. Don't do that, you could get hurt.

We are raised to avoid taking risks. How many times in life have you been told to not take risks by your friends and family? As well intentioned as they may be, if you decide to become a full-fledged member of your own destiny, you'd better do a little every now and then.

One of my friends from years gone by started out as a client of mine. He was, at first, a very small client, and really didn't warrant me spending much time with him. His business wouldn't make me or my employer much money, but he was a very dynamic guy. He had an idea to start a company where he would sell a service to individuals who wanted support on various software products. He used to tell me about his dream to grow his company from two guys to millions of dollars of revenue. I didn't know much about the business, but I thought he was on to something. This guy risked EVERYTHING in his life to chase his dream. What kind of risk am I talking about? He had a nice secure middle-management job making a six-figure salary, luxury cars, nice home and a comfortable life. He decided to leave all of that to chase that dream.

What happened to him? I watched him go from scraping by to a multi-millionaire in just a few short years. But along the way he took calculated risks, not all were successful, and in the end he not only reached his goals, but far exceeded them.

He has always stuck with me. The risks I watched him take and the ups and downs I saw him go through served as inspiration to me and so when I think about what I need to do to make more of an impact, I think about how I can leave my 'comfort zone' and take a risk?

What kind of risks? Am I talking about flying out to Las Vegas and betting your savings? In short - NO!

Make sure you understand that there is a difference between calculated risk and gambling. One is understanding the situation that you're presented with, realizing that in order to achieve some success, you have to leave the protective womb of safety and go out on a limb. Gambling is just blindly hoping that the situation works out without any rhyme or reason. Don't mix the two up.

What are some risks that you should take? Life presents you with something each day, not all are big risks, here are a couple:

* Go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting and introduce yourself to as many people you can * Call the CEO of that company you know your services would be perfect for even though everyone has said it's impossible to get through and she won't take your call * Tell your client that he's wrong and about to make a big mistake * Train for a marathon * Ask that attractive accountant on the 3rd floor if she'd like to get some lunch * Tell your boss what you really think of him and to stick the extra bonus pack of Hershey Kisses you got as a holiday bonus where the sun don't shine because you're starting your own company.

Okay that last one is a joke, but maybe it's not. Risk is something that can be scary or just makes you hesitate. If you follow your daily life and if you don't change your behavior you're just hoping for something to change.

Don't just hope - risk a little, gain a lot.

Do You Have What It Takes To Become A Preneur?

Becoming an entrepreneur is not for everyone.

Besides the wonderful benefits of working for yourself, setting your own hours, and the ability to choose when and where you work, there are also some challenges. Sure, it's nice not to have to report to your old boss anymore, though your new inner boss could be a lot tougher, and you may find that your new inner boss doesn't have a clue about time management, budgeting, and niche marketing.

According the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word preneur is a derivative of the Old French, "entreprendre," and means to take. A preneur is one who organizes, manages, and takes the risks of owning a small business or enterprise. A preneur is someone who has a vision and wants to take that vision out into the world and see it come to fruition. A preneur is someone who wants to make a difference in the world and is willing to do whatever it takes to make that happen.

Top 10 Characteristics of Preneurs

Fortunately, for those who are considering whether or not to become a preneur, psychologists, sociologists, and historians have been studying the behavior characteristics and traits of successful preneurs for long enough to have come up with a composite list of attributes and characteristics.

Read the list and mentally keep count of how many times you said, "Yes, that's me!" 1. You have a strong desire for autonomy, to be your own boss, and live life on your own terms 2. You are an independent self-starter, not needing or wanting others to tell you what to do 3. You have a powerful drive to make money and accumulate wealth 4. You are a calculated risk-taker with a higher than normal tolerance for failure and consider failure a non issue 5. You like to be in control and call the shots. 6. You are highly self-motivated, and are indefatigably fearless when it comes to getting the job done 7. You had childhood experiences as a budding entrepreneur and/or entrepreneurial parents, grand parents, or relatives 8. You have a high level of energy that is sustainable over a long period of time 9. You are creative and innovative; a strong decision maker, able to think quickly on your feet, and set things in motion 10. You are a big-picture thinker capable of seeing how everything relates to each other

So, How'd You Do?

How many "yes, that's me!'' answers did you have? 1-3: Don't quit your day job. 4-7: Call a coach, start saving start-up money, get the gears in motion! 8-10: Watch out, Donald Trump!

Entrepreneurs are extraordinary people. They value freedom, autonomy, independence, and control. They are creative, driven self-starters, who have plenty of good ideas and are ready to do what needs to be done to make things happen. They have courage and conviction in spades, and don't see failure the same way that other people do. To them, what lies within failure is the answer to what they need to do in order to become a success. They know that within every problem is a solution.

Preneurs understand that the ARE the business. They are its originator, its motivating force, its drive, and its energy. They are remarkable in their inner toughness and strength that aids them in rising above all the self-doubt, apparent failures, and din of their critics.

Being an entrepreneur is what we are all about, folks.

How Not To Sell Your Product or Service

I received an interesting call today. It went like this �

Fred: Hi, this is Fred from ?? Web Design. I just came across your name in the yellow pages. I don't even know what a life coach is, but I found you under Business Consulting.

Me: Uh huh.

Fred: I don't know if you've ever considered having a web site built or if you already have one.

Me: Yes I do. It's thehbbsource.com

Fred: Oh � well, I guess I'm too late. Thank you. (end of conversation)

That was it. And no, I'm not exaggerating.

My question to you is how would you like someone like Fred selling your product or service?

I'm going to assume you answered with an emphatic "Not on your life!"

And here's my next question � have you found yourself being this indifferent in your own efforts to sell?

I know I have been, especially when I started my home business. I couldnt wait to get off the phone fast enough!

Most of us start in the same place. Fearful, inexperienced, intimidated � it all boils down to learning and growing.

First, you need to determine whether or not your prospect has an immediate need for what you offer. If she doesn't, might she some day? Could you possibly give her something to remember you by in case she ever does need you?

After I hung up the phone, I thought about Fred for quite a while. I wanted to call him back and give him a few pointers on how he could have engaged me in a conversation and possibly got me interested in finding out more about his services.

Unfortunately, he blurted out his company name so quickly, I never did get it, but if I could have talked to him, I would have suggested he carry on his call by asking a few simple questions such as:

- On a scale of one to ten, how well do you feel your site is performing for you?

- Most viewers click away in the first 30 seconds of visiting a site. I may be able to spot a couple potential trouble spots and give you some quick fix pointers you can implement right away to get your site working better for you. Would you like me to take a brief 30-second look at your site while we're on the phone together just to give you some quick feedback on what I see at first glance?

- Is there anything you've been thinking of doing with your site that you haven't gotten around to such as search engine optimization?

- If you ever need help with your web site and would like someone closer to home to help out, please visit our web site at � or contact us at �, we'd be honored to help you. We also offer a complimentary 15-minute review of your site and get back to you with any ideas that may help you improve on it.

I know if he had offered to take a 30-second look at my site while I was on the phone with him, I would have said, "Sure." Who doesn't want a second opinion or to show off something they think is already great?

I also would have loved for him to leave me his contact info in the event my web design provider (who is 3,000 miles west of me) isn't available.

As you speak with potential customers, keep in mind a couple of things � 1) they may say they don't need you right now, but may quickly change their tune after you ask a few simple questions, and 2) even though they may not need you today, they may in the future.

Make sure they know how and where to find you because their needs can change in the blink of an eye and wouldn't it be great to know they have you to come to?

I'm sure you also caught the suicidal statement he made by starting the conversation with not knowing what I was, then dismissing it to carry on his mission. We'll save that lesson for another day. ;-)

Be your best.

How Top Event and Meeting Professionals Increase Profits!

Success as an event and meeting professional has never been more challenging, due to increasing competition and higher demands to meet business objectives.

Personal pressures are equally daunting. Long, stress-filled hours at work can strain commitments to family and health.

If you feel a little overwhelmed, youre not alone. Merely projecting a veneer of confidence isnt an option. So what can you do?

The best kept secret to success revealed by successful business professionals

Despite demanding circumstances some event and meeting professionals achieve results that others dont, no matter how hard they try. What is their secret?

Two words: Business Coaching.

Top event and meeting professionals understand and appreciate the value of hiring an experienced and objective guide to reach the next milestone of success - someone to help them make the connection to what matters most to them in the heat of the moment - someone with the skills and experience needed to enhance their own performance.

But despite business coachings proven track record of success, some people resist using a coach themselves. Their resistance or skepticism is often rooted in misconceptions about what business coaching is all about. The most common myths I hear about coaching include:

  • Coaching is for people who cant do it alone

  • Coaching will make me appear inadequate to my peers or team

  • Coaching is a punitive measure for under-performers

  • Coaching is too much like counseling

  • Coaching is time-consuming

  • Coaching is expensive

While these are all valid concerns, this report will reveal that business coaching remains one of the biggest secrets of successful business people. The Return on Investment (ROI) from hiring a coach warrants serious consideration.

Coaching yields average ROI between 500-600%

A recent study on the impact of executive coaching by Manchester Inc. concluded the average ROI on coaching was 5.7 times the investment made. That factor alone could result in over $100,000 according to those who estimated the monetary value.

Key business benefits attributed to coaching in this study included:

  • Improved productivity (reported by 53%)

  • Enhanced quality (48%)

  • Superior organizational strength (48%)

  • Streamlined customer service (39%)

  • Reduced customer complaints (34%)

  • Increased executive retention - those who received coaching (32%)

  • Reduced operational costs (23%)

Executives also reported intangible improvements in:

  • Working relationships with direct reports (77%)

  • Working relationships with immediate supervisors (71%)

  • Teamwork (67%)

  • Working relationships with peers (63%)

  • Job satisfaction (61%)

  • Conflict reduction (52%)

  • Organizational commitment (44%)

  • Working relationships with clients (37%)

The improvement to business profits as a result of coaching was reported at a whopping 22%. What would a 22% improvement in net profit mean to you and your organization this year? Thats the bottom line for many in the event and meeting planning business.

How coaching enhances clarity, capabilities and confidence

A business coach brings three important things to the relationship:

1. Tools
The broad business experience of a coach enables them to bring realistic methods for creating solutions, strategies, and goals. These tools provide just in time learning in a business landscape that changes quickly.

2. Structure
Coaching is a very action-oriented process. Together, both coach and professional uncover the action steps that will move the professional forward towards their goals. But it is the professional who will perform almost all of the steps themselves.

3. Support
Coaching provides you with knowledgeable support and encouragement and a new way of looking at things when you, a professional, need it.

Imagine a place where unbelievable achievement is the norm. This is where the hearts and minds of some event and meeting professionals are. Whether you have a specific issue you need to resolve or a goal that seems unattainable, coaching creates a clear connection between where you are today and where you want to be.

Why not invest in the business tool that's been proven to deliver a dramatic ROI for you, your company, and your personal satisfaction. What's holding you back? Isnt it time you found out?

My Latest Rant!

My list (rant?) of the most important factors of having success in our business today - and a few things that really tick me off!
1.Hire great people! Build great teams! Only A & B Talent will do!
2.Give real-world, experienced training that is cutting edge in its delivery so it will stick!
3.Have great support systems in place for your staff!
4.Make everything a system! Execute the systems!
5.Fill positions, do not replace people!
6.Ask for help when you need it!
7.Execute on the integrity issues every minute of every day!
8.People first!
11.Understand that you only build volume one guest at a time!
12.Do not spend so much time trying to trim costs without spending at least, an equal amount of time training your staff to sell more and serve better. Most restaurants fail when they try to save their way to profitability - kinda like nobody ever shrank their way to greatness!
13.Be a coach, not a boss!
14.Make your relationships work!
15.Get Smarter every day!
16.Follow up. Follow up. Follow up! And when all else fails? Follow up!
17.Measure everything that is important to your success!
18.Stop trying to motivate people and start creating a culture that can inspire them instead!
19.Make everything a product of your culture!
20.Stop treating everyone the same!
21.Face situations head on! Never vacillate!
22.Document every action and reaction!
23.Challenge behaviors that are not productive when they happen!
24.Be a blowtorch, not a candle!
25.Embrace change!
26.Realize that we are all marketers whether you want to be or not! Because its true that marketing is the only thing that can make you money - everything else is an expense!
27.Dont serve your guests, give them an experience that will make them raving fans!
28.Service has become a commodity.
29.Build value for your guests in their experiences with you.
30.Stop discounting yourself into the poor house!

�now for the things that really get me!

1.Operators who say that they never have enough time for themselves or family, but who refuse to hire an operations manager because they do not have the ability to trust in one, or the money, or both.
2.Operators who desperately need a marketing plan, business plan, operation plan, strategic plan, etc� but never seem to get around to getting it done - then wonder why success is not beating a path to their door.
3.Operators who have high turnover and blame it on the market, or the economy etc�
4.Operators who are totally reactive to circumstances.
5.Operators who treat all staff the same.
6.Operators who do not understand that if you are not able to differentiate yourself in your market, you become a price-driven commodity.
7.Operators who do not do their homework.
8.Operators who cheat, lie, steal and abuse any or all of their relationships with vendors, staff, colleagues, guests, etc�
9.Operators who, when blessed with a great sales increase, do not know where it came from.
10.Operators who, not having a days worth of experience in the industry, never ask for help.
11.Operators who, when they get in the weeds, never ask for help.
14.Operators who think that nickel and diming their guests or staff, will make them rich. No one ever shrank their way to greatness�again!
15.Operators who take their staffs, guests, vendors or team for granted.
16.Operators who do not embrace change.
17.Operators who never seem to be ready for change.
18.Operators who do not have a meaningful vision of their business or their brand.
19.Operators who do not understand the importance of branding their business as the way of creating a unique selling proposition.

Im sure theres more to come! Stay tuned!

Expert Envy

Experts have become omnipresent. They're everywhere: on your favorite television show, on drive time radio programming, on blogs and internet discussion forums, between the pages of nationally popular magazines and your local newspaper. You can't throw a dart, it seems, without having it hit an Expert on the way to the dartboard.

Why is this happening? What has motivated all of these people -- financial planners and attorneys, floral designers and wedding planners, massage therapists and ear, nose and throat specialists -- to take on the Expert mantle?

One reason:

Being the Expert is one of the most efficient, effective ways to ensure your professional and financial success.

This trend is consumer driven. According to Chris Anderson, author of The Long Tail, consumers increasingly demand that services and products be targeted directly to them. There's a cycle of specialization at work, resulting in a public that wants experts for everything.

There are many reasons for this, most of which can be traced directly to media and communication outlets. The Internet is perhaps the most pervasive proponent of specialization. In Anderson's The Long Tail, he says that "In an era without the constraints of physical shelf space and other bottlenecks of distribution, narrowly targeted goods and services can be as economically attractive as mainstream fare." You can see this in action at mega-sites like Amazon.com that go out of their way to offer personalized 'want lists', 'recommended titles', and specialized deals based on previous purchases.

At the same time, there has been an explosion of cable and satellite television networks, each targeted to an increasingly narrow demographic. Where once there was a Home and Garden channel, there are now Fine Living, Do It Yourself, and Home Discovery networks, with rumors of more 'shelter' channels on the horizon. The trend is more pronounced in print media. 'One size fits all' magazines such as Reader's Digest are still on the newsstand, but they're being crowded out by specialty titles like Quick Quilts, The Italian Greyhound Magazine, and SciFi -- a title devoted to those who watch shows on the popular Sci Fi Channel. Satellite radio shows are a new trend, with offerings for fans of Howard Stern and Oprah Winfrey.

The public, fed a steady diet of Experts via the media, demands Experts for their own lives. After all, they've been told consistently that this is how things are supposed to work. At the same time, the public has demonstrated a willingness to pay a premium for expertise. Well-known Experts, no matter what field they're in, command top dollar for their products and services. There are home decorating experts who make more money than the average neuro-surgeon, simply by capitalizing on their Expert status.

How do they do it?

Why does one financial planner labor in obscurity while another pontificates for Barrons? How do TV news producers know which attorney to call for insightful legal commentary when the events of the day merit it? What determines who shows up as a guest blogger or speaker at industry conventions?

While it's obvious to see the benefits inherent in Being the Expert, it's not always clear how one comes to be recognized as the Expert. This can lead to a condition known as Expert Envy, especially when you know that you're as skilled, as talented, and as dynamic as the person staring at you from the TV screen.

Why are they in this position, enjoying the heightened visibility, greater profitability, and enhanced reputation, when you're not?

It's not mere chance. It's not good fortune, a lucky roll of the dice, or being born into a family of media moguls -- although all of those help! Experts aren't born...they're made.

Curing Expert Envy

The first step in eliminating expert envy is realizing that Experts are made. Logically, the next step is the realization that if the Experts you see surrounding you were created, then you can go through the same creative process: You can Be the Expert. In my book, Riches in Niches: Making it BIG in a Small Market (Career Press, May 2007), I discuss how you can achieve Expert status by becoming a Nichepreneuer™.

A Nichepreneuer™ uses their professional skills and experiences, coupled with personal passions, to serve a narrowly defined target market. Shrewd use of promotional tools, from media management to industry networking, help position the Nichepreneuer™ as an Expert -- with all the benefits that entails. Voila! No longer are you envying that television pundit or industry guru -- for you will be that person yourself.

There are four key reasons why you should consider becoming a Nichepreneuer™. These four reasons all have one thing in common: They all will help you achieve your business goals and objectives in the most effective, efficient way possible. Whether you want to become wealthier, gain the respect of your colleagues and peers, some degree of fame, or to simply have a little bit more of the success you have right now, becoming a Nichepreneuer™ can help you along the way.

How to Create a Business-Marketable Idea

As you begin your entrepreneurial journey, many questions and concerns will arise: How do I find financing? How do I write a business plan? To whom will I pitch my plan? However, no matter how much information and advice you can, and probably will, obtain about those questions, all of your questions and all of the available information and advice are based on the assumption that you have already created an idea, product, or concept.

What if you have not yet created an idea, product, or concept? Does this mean that you can never advance or achieve your entrepreneurial goals? Of course not! Although creating an idea, product, or concept can be one of the most difficult obstacles to overcome, it is not impossible and can be achieved rather painlessly.

The main problem with idea creation is that ideas are subjective. What one person considers a great idea, another may consider a terrible idea. Another problem with idea creation is that if the idea is forced, it will not be completely thought out, and therefore has the potential to become a "bad" idea.

Let me clarify something, you do not have to have an idea, product, or concept to become or continue to be an entrepreneur. Partnering with others is a large component of being an entrepreneur. Just know that unless you have a lot of money to invest or have specialized education or experience, your options will be limited. Due to this fact, many new entrepreneurs have to possess new, innovative, and creative ideas to make up for their lack of funds.

Some people are lucky enough to be born with creative ability. These people can create ideas and concepts with little or no difficulty. Knowing people who have this gift will benefit your situation. If you happen to know people with this ability, you should create a business relationship with them. They may be able to help you through any creative mental blocks that may occur now or in the future.

Back to the main point; how do you create an idea? First, you have to know what you are interested in and what type of education and experience you possess. Determining these factors will help you focus your thought process. For example, if you are interested in computers, but have no education or experience with computers outside of internet surfing or word processing, it will be difficult to create a marketable idea for computer software components. Know your limits and keep your thought process reasonable. In other words, do NOT let your imagination run wild. When you become good at creating ideas, then you can let your imagination do some work, but not at first.

Second, ideas are like dreams. Have you ever experienced the phenomenon of having a dream, waking up remembering the whole thing and then five minutes later not remembering any of it? In my experience, ideas follow the same pattern. An outside stimulus will trigger an idea and soon after having thought it up, I cannot remember any of it. The way to remedy this problem is to get a small notebook to write ideas in. Get one of the little notebooks that you see police carry in their shirt pocket. Whenever you have an idea, write it down! This way you can look at your notebook and later begin to develop your idea.

Third, ideas occur like magic. I know this sounds cheesy, but hear me out. Have you ever been sitting on your couch and a friend or family member asks, "What is the name of the actor in X movie?" You know the answer, but, for the life of you, you cannot remember the actor's name. You eventually get frustrated and give up. Then, ten, twenty, or even thirty minutes later you are watching television, not thinking about anything and then "poof," the actor's name pops into your head. Ideas also follow this pattern. The truth is every person has had at least one good idea in his/her life. Sometimes, without noticing it, a stimulus awakens something in our subconscious and an idea pops into our head. When this happens (and it will happen because I guarantee it has happened to you before and you have not noticed) write it down in your notebook for further development.

Fourth, if by chance neither of the two phenomenon mentioned above occur or you are not patient enough to wait for them, more practical methods exist to stimulate idea creation. Going back to my first point, focus your thought into a field of interest. For example, if you are interested in cooking, maybe you have a problem with the way an oven can dry out a chicken when cooking. Now that you have identified a problem, brainstorm and think of as many solutions as possible. It does not matter how crazy the solution is, just think about them and write them down. After you have written down every possible solution, no matter how crazy, go through the list and find the solution that you feel you can best accomplish. Surprise! You have come up with an original idea. This does not mean that you should pitch this idea tomorrow. All this means is that you should develop your idea, mold your idea, and perfect your idea into something you think people would buy if in the market. Also, this way of thinking will get your creative juices flowing. You may find yourself traveling a different path from your original field of interest. If this occurs, follow the thought until completion. You may be surprised where it leads!

Remember, do not force your ideas, take a break if you need one, and BE PATIENT! Do not expect miracles the first time. Go through the process and everything should work out. Write down ideas when they hit or sit down, focus your thought, find a problem, think of a solution, and develop YOUR original idea.

Lastly, be proud of your creation. Ideas, like people, need nurturing and development. If you do thee things, idea creation will become second nature to you.

The Evolution of the Entrepreneur

Many people discuss real estate, banking/financial institutions, and other common investments that are know to most entrepreneurs. However, because we are new entrepreneurs, we need to create NEW investments!

Many investors invest money and time into a project. When one buys a piece of real estate, one spends his/her time evaluating the property, discussing and negotiating terms, and preparing and signing contracts. After all of that time is invested, money now has to be invested to conclude the deal. These two elements are very common in the entrepreneurial world. Time and money; time and money; time and money! This is all entrepreneurs hear! "You have to invest a lot of time and money to make this business work!" I do not entirely agree with that common statement, but there is some truth to it. The point is, we as new entrepreneurs need to (at the risk of promoting a cliché) THINK OUTSIDE THE BOX.

You may be asking, "WHATS THE POINT? GET TO THE POINT!!" The point, my fellow business community members, is that if you/me/us/we ONLY invest time and money into a project, we are extremely limited in our choice of investment. The entire premise of being an entrepreneur is that we do not fall in line; we do not conform to the conventional; and we break boundaries and borders in order to pioneer an idea, product, or state of mind!

Keeping that in mind, many people are interested in the "entertainment arts." In other words, many new entrepreneurs are interested in the music and acting industries. This is a GREAT road to travel! I respect and congratulate any person who wants to invest in these types of projects, not only as silent or active partner, but as the actual talent; the actual musician or actor/actress. However, I do NOT want to mislead. Entrepreneurs that have picked this road have a very hard and bumpy expedition in front of them, but, like any risky investment, the payoff can be HUGE!

Now, let's tie these two points together. People who wish to undertake this type of venture need to invest more than just the traditional time and money! Do not be afraid! This additional commitment is what makes being a new entrepreneur lots of fun!

In addition to time and money, one has to invest two other things. First, one has to invest his/her TALENT. If you wish to pursue a music or acting career, your talent is your biggest asset! Whereas you capital may help you invest in a real estate project, your musical or acting abilities are your capital in the "entertainment arts." Second, one must be willing to invest his/her HEART! That may sound "cheesy," but truer words have never been spoken. Unlike a traditional investment, like real estate, emotional attachment to the project is a must! If you do not believe me, ask yourself this question, "do you really expect people to buy, watch, or listen to your music/movie/stage performance if no feeling is involved?" The correct answer is NO! Truthfully, how many people do you know listen to music they like or watch a movie they like without getting emotionally involved. THE ANSWER, ZERO! Everybody who likes the artist they are watching or listening to creates an emotional response from each person. Whether that response is sadness, happiness, thrill, excitement, mellowness, calmness, and/or motivation, to name a few; the point is an emotional response is created, and therefore, fans are created! NO FANS, NO MONEY, bottom line!

Besides investing you time, money, talent, and heart, you must act as an entrepreneur in this business to remain successful. If you are the artist, always remember that no matter how big the paycheck, your art is still a JOB! If you stop singing or acting, the money stops coming. Although it is true that royalties may trickle in from time to time, the "main money" is gone if you stop. We have all seen how people can make millions on one job, and be broke in just a few years. Is this how you want to live? How would you like to be a millionaire that IS WORRIED whether or not he/she will be broke next month?! The whole point of wealth is that one does not have to worry about money!

If you are an artist you also have to be an entrepreneur. When you first start out in the business, people may try to take advantage of you. Watch out for these people, because there will be more than you think. Does this mean that all agents and/or managers will try to take advantage of you? Of course not, but you do have to create income through more than just your talent. Think of yourself as a professional athlete without a contract. When a pro athlete gets injured, in most sports, he/she gets paid even if injured. The same is NOT true in your business! If you do not make a record, movie, etc., you do not get paid!

Making it "big" should be your first concern, but when money starts coming in, DO NOT ASSUME that it will continue forever. Many big musicians and actors spin their fame into clothing products, perfumes/colognes, and restaurants. Investments of that magnitude may be further in the future, but "chance favors the well-prepared mind!" You do not have to be a millionaire to invest in real estate, an internet business, or a magazine; just to name a few ideas.

Musicians and actors/actress need to be entrepreneurs their whole career. The best way to avoid risk is to diversify. If you do not make a record, movie, etc. this year, wouldn't it be nice to know that your magazine endorsement and your real estate investments are going to pay your bills for the next three years?

A few of the above written paragraphs may sound cynical, but for those of you new entrepreneurs that chose this path, you have a long, hard journey ahead and "sugar-coating" it will make it harder. If you go into this investment project with the mindset of an entrepreneur and the talent of an artist, you will do fine!

The Sales Persons Biggest Challenge

Quite simply the biggest challenge that any sales person must overcome is that of �rejection. Rejection is the #1 thing that stops so many people from achieving the success they want, both in sales and in their life as a whole.

What happens with rejection is that it causes people to stop taking action, even if just for a short time. When the person stops taking action then they are not making progress towards their goals and towards the success that they want.

This is something that I have seen in thousands of sales people, across the globe, whether it be people selling insurance or selling products in a retail situation. The general scenario goes something like this:

With the first client of the day people put a lot of effort into trying to make the sale. They are often in one of their best states and do their best to give a good presentation and deal with any objections that arise from the customer. Then what often happens is that the customer decides not to buy and the sales person feels like they have been rejected. Generally after this has happened 2-3 times, the sales persons emotional state declines and because of that the quality of their presentation also starts go down hill very quickly. As all this happens the chances of a customer buying also goes down as the sales person is no longer presenting well or dealing with any objections that come up. The sales person gets into the belief that why should they make the effort as the chances are small that the person will buy and thus this becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

By the 5-6th time of the customer saying �no, the sales person begins to feel that today is not a good day for them and starts to consider today not a good day for selling. At this stage they either give up for the day or begin to look for distractions that they make more important than presenting and selling for the day.

While the exact story and circumstances may change slightly, this is the pattern that almost all of unsuccessful sales people are playing over the world on a daily basis. While they keep this pattern, the majority of their success in sales is contingent on whether they have a good first few customers or not.

Successful sales people have mastered this problem of rejection and are thus able to go the distance keeping a good state and being able to make good presentations even if they have been rejected five times that day already. There are a number of ways that they do this including state management and disassociating out of the rejection.

Another good technique to get over this is to reframe what the actual meaning of what is happening. Very briefly here I will tell you that many of the top sales people are addicted to sales, in the same way someone is addicted to playing slot machines. They are always anticipating the jackpot that is just around the corner and thus they keep playing or in our case selling. What has happened here is that they have actually conditioned a whole new meaning into the action of the customer, that most people would refer to as �rejection. This is a fundamental difference from the average sales person.

In my Persuasion Sales course I go in depth of ways that you can condition yourself and show people some of the conditioning that the worlds top sales people have and how to use it to increase your sales and your companys success.

Sam Witteveen is an expert on persuasion and using persuasion in sales situations. He has expanded on his 16 years of NLP skills by modeling the best persuaders and sales people in the world, to build a model of what it takes to make a great sales person.

The 3 Parts of Persuasion

In any sales or persuasion situation there are three main aspects that you need to take into account to become a master persuader. While persuasion is such a vast, deep and even intricate subject if you can learn to examine, develop and focus on these three aspects then you will be well on your way to becoming a skilled sales person and persuader.

The first aspect that you need to take into account is simply �you. You are the �Persuader and in many ways you are the most important part of the equation. As I have written in many other articles and in my book, everything starts with you. You need to control yourself. You need to control and choose your emotional states, your beliefs and your strategies. Fundamentally, �you are the only thing in the world that you can have any amount of control over. The sad thing is that most sales people have such little control over their states and over the beliefs, that they are setting them selves up for failure right from the start. For more on these elements please refer to some of my other articles on Persuasion and on Neuro-Action Technologies.

The second aspect is simply the opposite of you, your listener or what I call the �Persuadee. The �Persuadee is technically out of your control, but you can influence many things in them and about them. An example of this is their emotional state. For those of you who are in sales, think about some of the prospects that you have gone and pitched to. We all have had the experience of communicating with someone who is in a totally foul mood and is extremely negative towards what we are trying to persuade him or her of. The longer we let them stay in that state, the less chance we have of persuading them.

This is one of the fundamental aspects of persuasion that we all know at a root level if we think about this. Would you go and ask your boss for a raise when they are in a bad mood? No you wouldnt! You know this from your experience in life, but what happens if you are a professional sales person and you only get to meet some of your prospects once. What do you do if they are in a state, which is not conducive to buying? Simply put you have to take responsibility for changing their state. This is a fundamental skill that I teach in my �Persuasion Sales courses

Some of the other parts of the �Persuadee that you need to take into account are their beliefs, their values and even their identity. Each one of these has a big impact on how they will interpret and act on any messages or communication that you give them.

The last element of the three is the Message. This involves all the aspects of the way you present your message and the actual content of that message. This is where such things as language patterns and the way that you present your message comes into account.

Most of you know that often simply saying something in a particular way will make it much more acceptable than saying it another way. As good sales people we often discover these kinds of things by accident through presenting to many different customers and prospects over time. We begin to see what works and what doesnt. This is often the reason why sales people who have been doing the job a long time a better at it than those who dont have much experience. It doesnt have to be like this though. Through the use of modeling I have worked with many top sales people in particular industries to see how they deliver the �message. After taking these strategies and teaching them to other people in the company, including new recruits, they see a remarkable improvement in the performance of a team as a whole.

While this is just a very brief description of how these three elements work together, it does give you an overall picture to consider when you are persuading people in any situation. In my courses I go much more in depth of how to use this to guide you to better and faster persuasion in all situations.
For a diagram on how this works go to Persuasion Diagram