What it takes to create your own business and become a talented CEO in tough economic times.
For many small business owners and aspiring CEOs, the state of the economy can be a scary thing. Tough economic times, failing businesses and a crowded marketplace are topics regularly splashed across the headlines. Less buzzed about are the businesses that succeed. Rarely heard are about the inventive ways that solo or small businesses succeed against the odds.
Why don't we hear about the businesses that make it? Because success is boring. The day-to-day activities of a successful business are not newsworthy. However, it's the mundane tasks that create the foundation for a successful business. Help The Economy By Dating An Intellectual Nerd!
According to the Small Business Administration (SBA) the cold, hard facts about small businesses are:
- 7 out of 10 new businesses survive at least two years ... Very good news!
- 51% of small businesses survive at least five years ... Also, good news and better than the mis-quoted stat that 50% fail in the first year and 95% fail by year five.
Additionally, the point of failure income-wise is between $100K and $1mm in revenue. So, while new businesses do make it through the first few years more often than not, the point at which your hard work is intended to pay off is often the point at which your business fails.
1. Know Your Audience
Being a successful business owner is not rocket science. It is about knowing your craft and having a business practice in place that allows you to be successful. The "secret sauce" is in the day-to-day activities, systems and procedures that lead to either a successful venture or a failing one.
What do I mean here? Businesses are built from the ground up. You start with a great idea, a killer passion or a drive to do a certain kind of work. From there — and it doesn't matter if you're a coach, therapist, product developer or a trash collector — your business is only as successful as your lead source. If you fail to have the systems in place to bring in new leads or new interest, then you'll fail. Period. Yes, you have to be good at what you do, but being good is only a part of the larger equation. How Compassion Facilitates Forgiveness
YourTango Expert, Charles J. Orlando's success on Facebook is a testament to this model. He works every single day to put up smart, pithy, insightful posts on his book fan page, The Problem With Women ... Is Men. That dedicated attention brings in thousands of fans. Today he has 546K fans, a remarkable feat he's accomplished in under two years.
For a little perspective, if you added up the fan base of John Gray (Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus) and Glamour Magazine (one of the most popular women's magazines in the US), Charles has almost as many fans as the two pages combined. Why? He puts in his time every day on the things that bring in his fans. He knows his audience and he gives them what they want. He doesn't ask them to serve his needs, he serves theirs, and consquently, they keep coming back.
2. Manage Your Personal & Professional Bandwidth
CEOs often make the critical mistake of believing that they have to do it all. They don't. CEOs have to manage it all, but certainly they don't have to do it all.
I heard a commercial on the radio last week and the man speaking identified himself as the CEO of his company, the "Chief Everything Officer." If they needed staples, he was on it. If they needed to close a client deal, he was on it. The critical flaw in this thinking is that at a certain level, a CEO doesn't have the personal bandwidth or the stamina to do it all and do it well.
Eventually, things slip. Customers don't get the same level of service the brand was built on and often, the pipeline that makes up your client pool doesn't get the attention it needs. As the CEO, if your attention is exclusively on closing a big deal and it's not equally on lead generation, you may have a bird in the hand, but you've lost sight of the one in the bush that will feed you tomorrow.
3. Don't Lose Sight Of The High-Hanging Fruit
The fact is that CEOs who feel like they have to be everything to everyone eventually lose steam. The first things to go are the tedious, monotonous tasks that are long-arms to sales. For example, the client who says "not today but maybe next week" falls off your radar in favor of the client who can pay for services today. In the short run, it isn't a bad thing. We call thisphenomenon paying attention to the low-hanging fruit. But, you also must keep an eye on who is climbing the tree for the fruit that's higher off the ground, i.e. your competition. Divorce: 5 Steps For Surviving The Big D
This pipeline of prospective clients is what allows you to have enough interest in your business so that you can constantly be in a position to sell your goods. And make no mistake about it, not all of your customers will start out as paying customers. Everyone comes to the moment when they are ready to buy. Especially in this Internet age, we read, research, investigate and then eventually buy.
For some people this means that all they will do is read or watch your free offerings. Others will get in your pipeline and begin systematically purchasing all of the different products you offer. The point of "deciding to invest" is different for everyone. As a smart CEO, you need to focus on those who will want/need your products today and those who are simply doing due diligence for another day. A successful CEO has a clear plan and a set of daily tasks that allow their pipeline to remain full and ever-flowing with prospective business leads.
The other thing successful CEO's do is cultivate a team of people who help grow their business. In keeping with the mindset that CEOs are not responsible for doing everything but responsible for managing everything, successful business owners know that there are certain tasks that only they can do for their business. You can't ask your assistant or intern to close a big deal for you, but certainly they can take the first pass at an email to your newsletter list or help you with your Twitter or Facebook calendar.
All of it has to be done. The smart leader knows where they have to step in and where they can delegate. In my talk at Lisa Steadman's amazing Woo-Hoo Weekend, I'm going to dive into the trajectory of success and explore with business owners how to understand their own bandwidth and how their actions make or break their business success.
Join me on Sunday, October 16th to explore your business and see where on the predictable trajectory of success your business is. Take this opportunity to note where a little TLC can make the impact so that you come out on top and not as one of the unfortunate "failed business" statistics.