Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Billion Dollar Question

You either own or you are thinking about owning a small business.

Your dream is to profit from what you love to do.

You want to control your own destiny and enjoy a lifestyle that gives you freedom to discover whatever pyramids you seek, as often as you please.

Truth be known, you crave freedom and control more than money. But, the reality is often entirely different once you actually jump into the small business foxhole and start slugging it out in the trenches of any market you enter.

Which is why I am sharing a recent Facebook note from a small business owner who is asking questions many have asked for decades.

Questions you may be asking yourself right now.

Hi Gair, I got a question for ya. The question of all questions for a small biz owner. Our customers have a great experience, receive a great product, served by great staff - we are told very often directly. When I am out and about I hear this same message from many in the community as well. Obviously we are not perfect and business is always in need of improvement - this goes without saying. So, here is the question, in our type of business - what do we need to do to drive more business? How do we share what has been mutually created by our customers and our staff to more in our city? Billion dollar question Gair but does it really have to be this complicated? Vulnerably, K

There it is, sitting on the table.

A "billion dollar question".

As you might imagine, the answer is not nearly as simple as the question implies, since these types of answers only come to those who are willing to trade the kitchen table of comfort for a trek through the desert of uncertainty in order to study and learn things at a much deeper level.

Experience teaches you that answering ten dollar questions is one thing, but "billion dollar questions" are another matter altogether. That being said, I can categorically state that what is lacking in most business models, such as the one mentioned above, has absolutely nothing to do with the quality of the actual products or services being sold, how the staff interacts with the community or any number of other tactical or ground level issues.

The real issue here is clarity.

Or lack thereof.

There are no fewer than 7 Key Questions every entrepreneur must answer in order to gain the level of clarity required to take their business to the next level. 7 Key Questions that determine whether you are prepared and possess the capacity to absorb "billion dollar answers".

Your business may well have the right products or services, the timing may even be perfect, but is it in the right place? For example, trying to market a high end, niche-driven gourmet restaurant in an economically depressed neighborhood may not be the wisest approach. Selling skateboards and surfboards in the Yukon might not be a good idea either. In other words, are there enough customers for what you are trying to sell in the market you want to compete in?

In the category called computers, only Apple has created a "brand of distinction". Dell, Samsung, HP, Acer and countless others wear logos and company names that display nothing more than "badges of ownership". This pattern is consistent in any crowded, competitive category. Your family and friends might be in love with your business, maybe even see it as a "purple cow", but what if the rest of the market sees it differently or worse, doesn't really notice? Do you have something that truly separates your business from the rest of the herd?

Is this a company you are trying to create or are you attempting to generate a personal revenue stream? In other words do you really want to own a business or own a job? What sort of grasp do you have on your available market and the share you can hope to achieve? How will you measure success? Can you spell it out? In plain English using simple numbers?

Can you outline their primary characteristics? From the music they listen to, the make of car they drive, the type of sports they play to the books they read and the movies they watch? Do they have a price-driven transactional mindset or would you describe them as more relational in their buying behavior? Can you articulate what would motivate them to buy from you as opposed to one of your competitors?

It is far more important to know your weaknesses than your strengths. What are the limiting factors that will stymie progress? Do you have the available financial, intellectual and emotional resources to stand the inevitable test of time and the inevitable energy depletion that follows? In other words, do you have clarity on what is holding you back or some unleveraged assets that could be put into play?

No business has ever failed from a lack of capital. General Motors led global auto sales for 77 consecutive years from 1931 through 2007, so it wasn't a lack of capital that forced GM into bankruptcy in 2009. Businesses go broke not for a lack of capital but from lacking vivid imagination. Do you have a clear sense of purpose as to how your products or services make a dent in the universe? Or does profit supersede purpose? Would you rather own 100% of a $200,000 company or 51% of a $200 million dollar company? How willing are you to modify the business model? Are you prepared to take on additional partners if need be? Are you the right leader for this enterprise or a loud and lonely prophet who struggles to build a following?

Legend has it that when Cortez landed in Mexico in the 1500s, he ordered his men to burn the ships that brought them there, erasing the possibility of doing anything other than going forward into the unknown. Can you remove obstacles and excuses, storm the shore with attitude and set your boats ablaze? Are you the kind of person who can look fear, doubt and uncertainty square in the eye and still race toward the enemy? Have you learned when it’s time to stop talking and actually make a decision, take action. You might have to cut a cheque or terminate a partner, but can you pull the trigger and do something? Even when you feel you don't have all the "facts"?

For the sake of clarity, The Seamless Brand is not in the business of providing "quick fix" remedies for entrepreneurs who aren't ready to do the heavy lifting required. Nor are we in the business of casually tossing out professional opinions without first acquiring pertinent, validated information. Instead, we work with business owners who are deadly serious about answering the 7 Key Questions; owners who are determined to gain unusual clarity on their “story” and then work to align and anchor an unusually relevant and unexpected message across all mediums. In essence, The Seamless Brand helps cultivate and manage a process that allows the soul of a business to shine through.

It is in that spirit, we offer a free 90-minute Starter Session as a first step towards gaining clarity and recognizing what it takes to propel your business to the next level. Just don't expect a ride on the motivational merry-go-round. We’re not in the business of chirping like parrots and singing songs that sound like "All you need is persistence, faith and you too can go for it and follow your dream!" It takes a lot more than just believing in yourself and Law of Attraction "happy talk" to make it. You will need clarity before creativity in terms of what it is you are trying to accomplish. When it comes to analyzing any business, we examine the model, pull the vision apart, determine results we can measure and figure out the shortest routes possible to take that business to the next level. You might not always like what you hear in these frank discussions, but often the unvarnished truth is the only way any business owner can move forward and grow.

Hopefully, one those truths we revealed today is that long before any business dream is realized, there will be severe tests and challenges along the way as outlined through the 7 Key Questions. To help you diligently dig for those answers, we try and do our part through freely sharing the insights of more than 500 Seamless Brand blogs, through our book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" and the many keynotes and seminars I am invited to present.

This was a dangerous question for me to answer because many business owners tend to be uber-sensitive about issues they tend not to dwell on. So if some of the 7 Key Questions make squirm at the thought at facing the truth or pissed you off in any way, there is a better than even chance you don't enjoy the level of freedom you dreamed about when your business first got off the ground.

Everything you want for your business resides on the other side of fear.

Since faith and fear cannot coexist, what exactly are you afraid of?

"Why do they make things so complicated?", he asked the Englishman one night."So that those who have the responsibility for understanding can understand", he said. "Imagine if everyone went around transforming lead into gold. Gold would lose its value. It's only those who are persistent and willing to study deeply who achieve the Master Work""

Would you like Gair to add snap, crackle and pop with thought-provoking substance to your organization or event? Details on his game-changing keynotes, seminars and speaking programs can be discovered at http://www.gairmaxwell.com/

If you are curious to know more about his moderately bent philosophy that drives it all, Gair's book, "NUTS, BOLTS AND A FEW LOOSE SCREWS" waits patiently for you at Chapters.ca and Amazon.com.

Get to know Gair on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/#%21/gair.maxwell

For more info on The Seamless Brand and how this award-winning team can help your company or organization zig while everyone zags, why not zip on over with a simple click and explore http://www.seamlessbrand.com/.

You can also follow The Seamless Brand on Twitter - http://twitter.com/#!/seamlessbrand or press the "like" button and plug into The Seamless Brand on Facebook - http://ow.ly/3VW68

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