I never thought that I’d do it – I just recommended a Donald Trump book

A surprisingly easy and fun read – if taken with a pinch of salt!

As a long time avoider of all things Trump I was surprised to find myself drawn to a copy of a book given to me by a friend recently.  It was not a recommendation but more of a dump of books he didn’t want to include in a relocation. It therefore sat there staring at me for weeks unopened but daring me to read it.  Eventually I picked it up.

It is a series of blunt, broad-brush, black and white observations from “The Donald” and I found it weirdly fascinating.  I learned a little business but a lot about what makes him tick and I was astonished to find myself actually liking the guy.  I don’t agree for a moment that some of his tactics would apply in business in general but that they work for him consistently is interesting.

The big thing that I learned was the care he takes to hire people for whom he has respect.  Too many businesses hire too quickly and are surprised when the quality of the work is poor.  If I could emulate one thing about DT it would be to surround myself with only the very best people that I can find.

It’s a quick read, you can pick it up used for peanuts.  Talking of peanuts, take what he says with a pinch of salt and hang on for the ride at the end when he takes you through a week in the life of DT.  Very interesting.  There I said it.  Donald Trump is an interesting guy.

You can buy the book off amazon here at My Store.

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Lessons from a brain break – Careful what you measure

Before you bring out the driver check that distance really matters.

I just took a brain break and had some lunch in front of my TV.  I was watching an old recording of the Haney Project from the Golf Channel.  I like to see world-class coaches in action regardless of their specialty.  At the bottom of the screen was a ticker of top performers on the PGA Tour this year.  The number of people I had never heard of alerted me to the fact that these guys were ranking in the top 10 in certain criteria in their chosen profession yet they were unknown to me, and believe me I watch a reasonable amount of golf.  So I scrolled back and took some notes.

There are seven categories that are measured and they all make some kind of sense that you would measure them:  Average score, driving distance, driving accuracy, total driving, greens in regulation, ball striking and scrambling.  This was preceded by the top 10 in earned money (from prizes not endorsements).

Here are some interesting facts that I noted:

▪  In the 80 available top ten positions, there were no fewer than 47 individuals. That is an average of 1.7 rankings per player.  The most categories that any golfer was in was four. i.e. No-one was great at everything and some were ranked highly in just one area.

▪  Of the top 10 highest earners there were three who had not made the top ten in any of the previous categories. Their average earnings were about 25% under the top performer (Bubba Watson) who had showed in 4 categories but were equal to another top performer (Tiger Woods) who had showed in 4 categories.

▪  Lee Westwood showed in the top ten on four of the categories but not in the top ten in earnings.

▪  There was no correlation between high earnings and high ranking in any of the seven other categories.  Even being in the top ten in lowest average score only gives a 50% chance of being in the top ten earners.

▪  Rory McIlroy was 2nd in earnings yet only showed up in the overall lowest score category.

▪  Only three players who showed up in any of the driving related categories (distance and accuracy) made it into the highest earners thus reinforcing the cliché “Drive for show, putt for dough!”

I can acknowledge that without any further research it is hard to draw any fixed conclusions from this quick survey other than to point out that measuring and managing some variables clearly has little direct impact on overall results.  The statisticians measure not what is important but what they can easily measure.  This leads amateurs like myself to do ridiculous things like count my GIR (Greens in Regulation) on social rounds.  Unthinking copycat that I am I fall into the same trap as the rest of us when we aren’t paying attention.  Copying what others do rather than thinking for ourselves about what is important.

For me what is important in reducing my score would be something that only I can judge like the correctness of my shot selection (regardless of the outcome).  That has far more bearing on my score than my GIR which tempts me to hit longer shots into the green whereas a conservative approach would make an easier up-and-down or certain bogey.  Sorry if I am turning off my non-golfing readers here but the point is simple.  Instead of managing my game I use irrelevant, even harmful measures because THAT’S WHAT OTHER PEOPLE USE!  Let’s face it, any correlation between the game of professional golf and my game is purely coincidental.

But thankfully I am talking about my golf game.  My income and wealth do not depend on my success or otherwise at that.  So my question to you is what are you measuring in your business?  I hope that you measure a number of metrics but now ask yourself, does this metric directly impact my success?  How do I know that for sure?  If it doesn’t actually impact your success you have you fallen victim to the two common errors in metric setting; copying and/or measuring only what it is easy to measure?  Step back and decide FOR YOURSELF what you should be measuring to get a dashboard of success that means if you hit the top ten there you’ll be in the top ten in earnings too.

I hope that this brain break of mine has given you pause for thought and reflection about the measures at play within your business.  If you have any questions (for instance how can you tell if a measurement is critical or not?) then please call me on 604 339 5369 during Pacific Time office hours and I’ll be happy to have a chat with you about this fascinating subject.

Do you have a brand or just a logo?

Another missed marketing opportunity for white van man.

As I drive around town I often see a commercial vehicle and ask myself “I wonder what they do?”  I can see the name of the business, I see the logo, I see the telephone number but I have no idea what they do for a living.  I even think this about seemingly obvious businesses like electrical contractors and plumbers.  I mean they can’t be all things to all people so do they specialize in residential or commercial?  Are they interested in big projects or small ones?  If they don’t know what projects they are best at and which ones they would do all day if they could then they are headed for a big problem at some point.  That problem is contained in excessive competition, low margins, inefficient work and staff turnover.

I think that the likes of Shaw and Telus dupe businesses into thinking that their way is the proper way to wrap a vehicle.  They have a big logo, catchy picture but no need to tell anyone what you do. We already know what they do. They fix and install residential and business communications services.  What the smaller business owner often seems to fail to appreciate is that the big boys have done their branding elsewhere on TV and radio and at events.  We no longer need to be told what they do and the vans are simply a tool to add to the brand.  In the case of the smaller business, however, the van might be the only time that someone sees the logo.  It is essential therefore to tell us what to associate that logo or business name with in order that the business can claim that top of mind place in our thinking when a need arises.

Unless your business name is Mobile Auto Brake Services (which I saw recently and thought it was genius) then you have to tell the audience what it is that you do.  How else are they going to know to refer you or think of you as an expert in a certain area?

A recent example is of a local electric contractor.  The van is a simple logo, a simple name which inspires confidence in their ability to deliver electrical workmanship but no indication of what they focus on.  I went to their website and although they cast their net wide (“residential & commercial. small and large projects”) they only have a gallery of high end residential projects.  Their brand therefore is one of delivering the best in the business high-end residential new build and renovation projects.  Why doesn’t the business say that?  If people like the work they will still ask this business is they do similar sized commercial projects but in the meantime they will have captured the market for their sweet spot.

So if you have a commercial vehicle is it well branded?  Ask yourself this question: If a stranger had the exact need that fit my sweet spot for service delivery, profitability and enjoyment of the work would they even think to give me a call before my competitor.  If not then you probably need to review your decals.

For more information on how to choose a niche that you can live with and finding the right words that you are confident in wrapping your van with call me at (604) 339-5369.  I help the owners of construction businesses and related trades to thrive and I hope that you found this useful today.

And…….Breathe!

That’s it for today.  Nothing too long, just a reminder to breathe deeply.  Take 30 seconds at least and breathe deeply.  See what a difference it makes?

 

The problem with finding a niche for your business – and why you must

A really powerful “elevator pitch” is delivered smoothly and leaves the listener in no doubt about whether they are interested in the service/product or whether they know anyone who might be.  But hen’s teeth, snowballs in warm ovens and smooth, effective elevator pitches are all equally common.  Why is that?

Let us consider a very common business situation.  The owner is hugely entrepreneurial, flexible and energetic.  So much so that they have established a track record of delivering on tasks and projects that are not in their sweet spot – they know that they can do so many different things, some of them really well.  They have managed (or allowed) their business service or product to stray significantly from the initial idea based on requests from prospects or ideas from friends.  [As a quick aside have you noticed how many of the people who tell you what service your business should be providing never have any intention to buy that service or to help you sell it?  Beware of such “advice” and let’s move on with the main point.]

These exciting, interesting adventures away from their original path have opened their eyes to the incredible world of opportunity out there beyond their initial vision.  All of it seems as sweet and attractive as Willy Wonka’s grass in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  The more they see the opportunity that lies away from their intended path the less they see that path.  Eventually they wander so from from the path that they lose it altogether and they begin to wander aimlessly around the meadow eating whatever they can whenever they can but never actually getting anywhere.  When it comes to selling the business they have NOTHING by way of brand equity.  They can’t sell the business for a dime above the value of the physical assets.

The entrepreneur who does focus on their path therefore has several advantages; firstly all of their effort and momentum is driven in one direction and soon (let’s be honest, ‘soon’ is a relative term, patience is still required) they get a reputation that builds.  They not only become an unstoppable force in their niche but also find themselves blazing a broader trail as they go.  When these people come to sell their businesses they have established a brand for excellence in a specific field and someone will pay a premium for the privilege of operating under that brand.  So why doesn’t everyone do that?

The answer is that they lack the faith that they will even survive on the original narrow path.  They want to cast a wide net in the false expectation that the broader they fish the more they will catch.  I see it all the time and even experience the temptation myself frequently.  The intellectual challenge lies in the perception that the more you niche your business the more potential clients you are turning away.  To turn away prospects is so counter-intuative to an entrepreneur, particularly new ones, and before you know it the habit of wide-net fishing is established.  Failure to break this habit ensures their doom.   Most businesses need the cash and they know that they can (probably) solve the issues so why not tread that path too?  The problem is that the new path doesn’t go their way and it diffuses their momentum.  More significantly also opens themselves up to exponentially more competition.  If everyone can do anything you have to beat everyone to win that opportunity.  If you become the best at something you immediately place yourself ahead of the pack and narrow your competition down dramatically.  All other things being equal who would choose a generalist over an expert?

Consider the example I heard on Thursday this week.  The gentleman ran a construction company and I was being asked to provide referrals to him in “the residential or commercial sectors for new build or renovation and they worked anywhere from 1 hour east to an hour north.  Oh they also do snow management and building maintenance”.  Wow that’s BROAD!  In my opinion that business has zero chance of getting any qualified referrals (at least from me) because he has no USP that I can focus on.  Had he said, “we build high-end new construction single family homes in the XYZ district” (which it turns out is where he wants to focus for a number of reasons) I would know immediately if I had someone in my list of contacts who might like to talk to him.  Right now even if I do I probably have three or four other builders who are vying for top spot in my “Omnipotent General Contractor” referral slot so he would need to be top of mind to win that race.  The fact is that I avoid making referrals to the omnipotent categories because I simply don’t believe that they can be the best at everything in such a broad sector.

How much better therefore to at least be specific in your elevator speech?  If you are a realtor say that you specialize in first time buyers and condos or downsizing boomers and that you have special knowledge of a certain area.  We all know that you’ll buy or sell anything for a commission but at least tell us what you are most passionate about.

Mortgage brokers do you work best with immigrants or investors, self-employed or bad debtors?  Again we all know that you can cover all bases and COULD help anybody but so can all of your competition.  Tell me what you do BEST or BETTER than others.

Plumbers, do you do great home emergency work or would you prefer to fill your days with new build commercial gas installs?  You want to have both but you can’t have it all ways.  I for one don’t trust that you can be passionate about such disparate types of work.

Getting specific will help people deliver leads more easily, they will be better qualified and they will be more likely to buy because they are under the impression that their needs and your sweet spot coincide rather than relying on your generic “excellent customer service” and “competitive pricing” {YAWN}.

Try it for three months.  Pick a niche where you have had success in the past and make a point of telling everyone that you specialize in this area. Then tell me after that time how many more leads you got and how much better your conversion rate was.  It will be through the roof, believe me.  You aren’t committed for life but you need to commit for a period.

As for me I specialize in helping the owners of construction businesses and related trades in the Vancouver and Richmond areas of BC to grow sales and create exit strategies that allow them to retire years earlier than they could do by working alone.  Thanks for reading and I look forward to learning about what you do REALLY well and to passing business your way in due course.

I will soon expand this topic to talk about the little white vans that my clients drive and their business cards.  Missed opportunities abound.

Getting out at the top – Selling your business for top $

Hey, that’s your money that she’s playing with!

One question that eats away at many former business owners is whether or not they let money on the table when they sold the business.  Like any investment there is a huge amount of stress created between fear and greed at the point of sale.  Fear that they won’t ever get to sell it for this much again so sell right now and greed that “if we just make this change or wait for the economy to pick up we’ll get much more”.

How can you avoid such a heavy weight as you enter retirement?  The simple answer is to have an exit strategy.  When you buy a stock or speculate on commodities the experts urge you to know when you will get out before you buy in.  That rule holds for business too.  The trouble is that generally if you are reading this you have already bought but no matter, play the hand you have been dealt.  So the only important  question is when to get out.   That question is much more easily and reliably answered well ahead of decision time, before emotions take hold.

How do you answer the question reliably?  Get a business coach to work with you through the key points of consideration; who will you sell to?; why would they buy?; how do you maximize the value that they see in your business?; when is the best time to start discussions on this?

Call me at 604 339 5369 if you are thinking of selling your business and I guarantee that you will make substantially more money and get out much closer to the top then you would by acting alone.