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.



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.

Why Would You Have Cash in the Bank and No Coach?

As a Business Coach to a wide variety of businesses I am well aware of the many great reasons to have cash in the bank and on hand as a business owner.   This post, therefore, is not directed at business owners who have cash on hand that they have already ear-marked for a purpose.  That’s not really cash in the bank, it’s pre-paid expenses by a different name.*

Confused about how to use your money to best effect? Coaching will help it to multiply.

I am aiming this post at those business owners who are fortunate enough to have cash in the bank “for a rainy day”.  They have no immediate need for that cash yet they have adopted the habit of keeping it on hand as a measure and means of security.  The issue that I have with that is that it generates under 1% interest (if any) so it is actually losing value and they are eroding the value of their time and effort in the past by holding that money there.  They are also subconsciously hoping for a rainy day so that they can justify having held the cash on hand.  What else could that money be doing for them other than providing a limited, and shrinking amount of peace of mind?

What if I offered that business owner a 1000% ROI, guaranteed investment for a small portion of that money?  The returns on that investment would make a huge difference to the overall ROI on their security blanket and provide additional security and peace of mind through preparing the business for growth, protection, sale or any other desirable outcome that they business owner seeks.  What is that investment?  Business coaching of course.

“Guaranteed?  How can that be so?” you might ask. Well, at FocalPoint the guarantee is that if a client does not see an adequate (as defined solely by them) return on their coaching investment at the end of any given month then that month’s investment would be returned.  Wholly.  Immediately.  I have to say “would be” because returning money to clients is not a process which I am personally familiar and neither are most FocalPoint Coaches.  Our clients see immediate, sustainable and substantial results from the very first sessions.  The success rate is as close to 100% as you can get without allowing for outliers (a small fraction of 1% in this case) in any system.  You might like to think of it as a visit to the casino where you bet some money on the roulette wheel and when you win the house lets you keep your winnings but if you lose they give it back to you.  If you knew that would happen at a casino you would go and play, right?  It is no longer gambling.  It has become a guaranteed investment. Well at FocalPoint that’s exactly what we do.

So if you own a company, particularly one where employees are looking to you for security and leadership and you have “rainy day” cash in the bank, I have two suggestions for you:  firstly pat yourself on the back, you are clearly a successful business owner and one that many people would love to emulate in the current economy; secondly I suggest that you contact your local FocalPoint Coach and find out what kind of additional returns a small investment in coaching could create for you and start to build a bigger, stronger umbrella before it starts to rain.

*  For those business owners who do not have the luxury of non-earmarked cash in the bank I still recommend that you consider hiring a business coach. The quick results that you can see from coaching can create that cash cushion that you need and then you’ll have both, cash and a coach.

Special Offer for my Blog Readers

This could be you after we talk on Wednesday!

Many of my clients tell me that they received more value in terms of immediately applicable insights from our first session than they eventually invest in many months of subsequent coaching.  From the first session my value is more than evident and it is effectively free from that point onwards.  We always target a return on their investment of coaching of 10:1 or more. That’s right, they typically get at least $10 back for every $1 invested.  These returns flow back to them by way of increased profits from higher revenues or lowered/avoided costs.  Whichever way they are generated they are real, tangible and vital improvements in business performance.

So here’s the special offer:

The first two business owners to comment on this post (which will be taken down as shortly after the second comments is made) telling me the area of their business that they would like to work on starting this Wednesday will get a free hour of one-on-one coaching from me which can be worth tens of thousands of dollars in received value.

Only two free hours are available.  Leave a short comment and a way for me to contact you and we’ll get started on Wednesday!

Write now!

Dark Knight provides a sad lesson for news junkies

The events at the midnight showing of the Dark Knight in Colorado last night will be very familiar to many of you.  Words like terrible, appalling and tragic  spring to mind.  I for one send my prayers to those affected.  But out of every event, good or bad, it is our responsibility to learn and grow.

I had a client come visit me this morning for a meeting that has the potential to make or break his company.  What had he done on the way to meet me?  Listened to the radio.  He arrived deflated, agitated and focussed on the actions of a madman a thousand miles away and was running through similar incidents  in his head.  Did he arrive in a positive frame of mind,  prepared to focus on saving his business?  Let’s just say not as focussed as he could have been.

Brian Tracy calls music on the radio “Chewing gum for the brain.”  I agree.  Contemporary music lacks nutrition and is just a distraction in the context of setting you up for business.  Whole foods for the brain are quality audio like any of Brian’s programs or Darren Hardy’s, Compound Effect, TED talks or pretty much anything that is not produced with the intention of selling advertising air-time.  Worst of all though is the news.

My first job interview included a section on how up to date I was with current affairs and as a result I lived for a long time with the notion that reading newspapers was somehow a worthy use of my time.   I used to think  that I must keep up to date with current affairs in order to progress my career.  Hooey!.  You learn virtually nothing enriching from the mass media but you do learn about all the bad people.  All of which helps you to achieve your goals how?

You can’t live in a cocoon, totally isolated from the world but please do learn from the events in Denver a few hours ago that nothing good can come from your knowing about it.  Look at how it has impacted your work today.  Were you more or less productive as a result of this news?

And how did I find out about it – same as you – I succumbed to the lure of the news channels and look where it got me.  Don’t do it people.  Turn off the radio and put on the tapes.  If you struggle to do this then believe me I understand.  I actually find it harder to give up my habit of surfing news websites than I did to quit smoking or to stop drinking alcohol.  It is that addictive and also that destructive.

Read more blogs like this instead!

Did you warm up for the game of life this morning?

You expect elite athletes to warm up and down – Are you an elite business person?

I played rugby at a reasonably high level in England and if I had one regret in my twenty or so gloriously happy years of playing my beloved sport it is that I rarely if ever PROPERLY warmed up or down.  Consequently my career was about ten years shorter than it should have been and I suspect it was not as successful as it would otherwise have been either.  I had plenty of muscle but it was all incredibly tight and not very useful to me when it mattered and it has taken me close to ten years of not playing to repair the damage that I did.  I was young enough to repair pretty quickly but I did so in spite of how I treated my body.

How does this apply to your business?  Well if you are charging headlong into your day in the same way that I used to rush on to a pitch, ready for the battle then you aren’t setting yourself up for optimal performance.  Equally if you leave the pitch (the office/working day) in the same way that I used to – i.e. headed for a bath and a beer rather than warming down and letting my body readjust then you are storing up tension and problems that can easily be avoided.

Try this.  Every morning take a few minutes (2-3 only) to prepare your mind.  Write out your goals for the week or month or life and take a moment to remind yourself of what you have to accomplish that day – what’s your game plan?

And when you are done, take some time to decompress through meditation, gratitude exercises, dumping all your to-dos down so that you can relax knowing that you won’t forget them.

This will not only extend your ability to work on what is important to you but it will also immediately improve your performance in the process.

Achieve more consistent performance – For FREE! Today!

What would happen to your business?

This was the marked increase in the performance of an amateur golfer using visualization over his normal pre-shot routine. How does this apply in your business?

Last Friday I took a highly valued client to the golf driving range to help him learn a valuable business lesson.  One about the power of visualization.

I got him to hit single shots with a 3-wood, 4-iron, 7-iron and wedge in rotation until he had hit 10 shots, scoring himself on each shot on a scale from 1-10 based on how satisfied he was with the result (10 being a very good shot).  The point about single shots was to ensure that muscle memory played as small a part in the results as possible.

After ten shots we paused and all I asked him to do for the next 10 shots was to visualize the flight path of the ball to its intended destination.  Nothing else.  I didn’t change his stance, swing or anything mechanical.  My sole instruction was to use his imagination to create a clear image in his head of the ball’s flight.  I asked him to think of it like those images that you sometimes see on the TV coverage where the ball flight is tracked on the camera.  We gave him as long as he needed to get that image clear in his head and it typically took him 20-30 seconds.

We then repeated the exercise of hitting the different shots in rotation.  The graph we created shows the rolling 5 shot average score for the two exercises.  The red ones being his usual pre-shot routine and the green ones being the shots he made after making a concerted effort to visualize the outcome.  Although they both ended up at the same average point for the final shots (which included the last shot being interrupted by the range staff) you can see the huge improvement in the earlier shots.  Regardless that both sets ended up pretty much in the same place I would take that improvement, wouldn’t you?

So don’t underestimate the power of visualization.  In a business context it is useful in determining the outcome of a meeting, a presentation or any other business event.  In this case the goal was short-ter but it works equally well if not better on longer term goals.  Try it for yourself.

This was a simple, immediate feedback exercise that I’ll be using again and again with clients.

STOP RIGHT THERE – Don’t do anything until you read this post!

Morning all,

It’s Monday morning and unless you are reading this late you’re ploughing through your emails ready to start the new week.  Which is why I say “STOP!”  Put your calls on hold.  Take 5 mins to read this post and take the action I suggest and I PROMISE you, you will have a more productive week than otherwise.

Have you got a plan for the week?  Do you have any goals that you must hit in order to make the week a success?  Most of us don’t.  We have stuff we must do, tasks to process and things to tick off a list but not real goals. Not ones that take us closer to a bigger goal.  And that is where we miss a huge trick.

So stop now, write out 5 goals for the week.

“Be sure to call Dave back about the deal.”  is not a goal, that’s a task.  “On or before Friday I sign a contract with David for a minimum order of $40,000 and a minimum gross margin of 40%.”  That’s a goal. “By Friday I will have contacted twenty new or existing contacts and held a meaningful conversation (of five minutes or longer) about my business and where I may be able to add value to their business interests or those of their contacts.”  That is a goal. “On Friday I will have a complete sales plan for the next quarter.”  That is a goal.

This should take you no longer than 4-5 mins.  Write them out by hand.

By thinking about your goals not your tasks this Monday morning you will have a much more productive week and if you can review and rewrite those goals at the start and end of each day the chances are that you’ll have reached them all by Wednesday and you have two free days to accomplish additional goals.  When you have clear goals the tasks take care of themselves.  Review this exercise on Friday and the odds are that you’ll realize that spending some time on Sunday night writing out your goals for next week is the best use of 30 minutes of your Sunday evening.

Good luck and have fun this week.