Cracking The End Game Code for Business Owners: Handling Myths About Sales & Marketing and Structure

When you have business owners who spent a lot of time in their business working really hard, they don’t necessarily want to stay running around in their businesses any more. They typically want to automate and have systems and processes. Sure, they may have a C-Suite handling his or her wishes, but most owners don’t necessarily have their officers focus exclusively on automation, systems and processes because that C-suite has their own responsibilities to complete within that business.

Here’s the pressing question: why wouldn’t it make sense for an owner to sit there, craft their vision statement, craft their mission statement and craft their marketing campaigns with the sole intention of “running to their end game”- either selling their business or actually working on their business for once?

There’s thousands of different ways to market, but the truth of the matter is you should market to your strengths, your vision, and what works for you and the message you want to deliver. You must, of course, perform the heavy lifting to discover this reality for yourself, but you have to have a process and a system in place to handle this action.

You should have a due diligence checklist to say, “Every time I want to market, does this particular system I’m looking to execute in my business match my vision statement? Is it congruent with my mission statement?

As an example, I’m a writer. That’s what I’m great at. And because I’m great at writing, I simply write lots of articles. I can publish that one article and post that same message across 12 platforms with the push of a single button. I’m also great at automating systems. I know how to put systems together. I know how to put the structure of things in marketing and sales together so that things won’t fall apart. You don’t want your sales and marketing processes having holes in them, especially if you’re trying to scale up your business.

You don’t want to all of a sudden get an influx of business and your business falls apart because you can’t handle the volume. That’s what a lot of people don’t look at, especially if they’re trying to get out of their business because they’re like, “You know what? I’d rather wing it or try to figure it out.” Then their business collapses into ruin because they didn’t have a mentor supporting them.

A good example of this is solopreneurs. One of my friends is actually the inverse of this, as he has his system tight, there are no holes, and he’s extremely happy and successful in his practice.

He’s good. He’s only got 2 marketing systems. Systems that can handle high volume that he can single-handedly manage and turn those switches on and off, as needed. He’s care free, has no employees and an amazing quality of life. He’s already discovered that he doesn’t like to manage people- he doesn’t want to do that. Even if we were to put a system together for him to scale out his practice, he kept asking me, “Fred, will you manage the system?” I said, “No, I’m not going to manage the system.” I said, “I’d rather do a joint venture. I have systems that will manage the system, but if you’re talking about being in the day-to-day human element of the business, because it’s more brick and mortar, then I’m not that guy.”

I said, “I take the leadership role in anything that I do because my passion is serving other people and effectively seeing what they want to do in their businesses, with their teams, and how they want to get there. In order to be able to give them exactly what they need to perform I just can’t be held down to one business.”

As far as scaling his business out any further, he’s just like, “You know what? I’m okay, Fred. Unless you can really tell me why I should venture out any further, then I’m fine.” We were talking casually anyway, as scaling out his business wasn’t a pressing thought, or pain. The bottom line is he has choice, and he can choose whether or not he wants to duplicate his efforts. In relations to his vision and mission statement, he’s at his end game and is living the life of his dreams. That’s what it’s all about.

Most people don’t look at it that way. They just look at their business and say, “I’ve got a business. I want to make money, and that’s it.” The truth of the matter is it doesn’t really work like that. You have to lay the foundation instead of just winging it. The process doesn’t have to be perfect, as good enough is good enough.

Some business owners got lucky because they found a starving niche, but most business owners failed because they were winging it. They didn’t have structure. Even for the ones who are winging it, they’re trying to keep it all together because all of a sudden your name gets out there in the marketplace and you don’t have a repeatable way to manage your success. Now you don’t have a way to handle the volume, so you get scared.

It’s just like playing poker. You’ve got that scared money on the table that you don’t want to sitting there, hoping you don’t lose. That money on the table may be your rent, your mortgage, your whatever. And in poker, money on the table is money played. You can’t reach back in there and take it off the table. Once that money is in the pot, that’s it, you’re done, you’re beat. Most people don’t look at business like that. They’re running around here playing with scared money, but yet they need to grow their business. They got to figure out which one they need to do- run a business, or run scared. That’s the reason why automation is so important; to handle your weaknesses while you focus on your strengths and high-payout activities.

It doesn’t matter really what kind of product or service you have. The key is when you offer your product, when you get that one customer in the door, are you able to efficiently handle them from your marketing all the way down to the fulfillment, to the follow up? That’s it. Anything else other in between that is just conjecture, it doesn’t make any sense to exclusively focus on anything else except steering the ship and hiring able people, or having strong processes and systems in place.

And when I’m talking to some of these business owners, I hear the exact same thing. Whether it’s an employee, spouse, CFO, client- whatever- the communication that you, the business owner, is putting out is so important. You are the capstone of your business and what you say carries more weight than you know- it influences the direction, system and processes of your business.

An extremely simplified example of this concept is some practitioners, self-employed or solopreneurs attend networking events and mixers because when I hear them speaking directly to me, I’m like, “What are you telling me? What do you do? Really? I don’t understand.” Their communication is not clear enough for me to want to pursue further communication for me to say to myself; I need to talk to you, or I don’t need to talk to you, either I need to give you my business card, or I don’t need to give you my business card. So they haven’t made the initial sale, on behalf of their company they represent. The sale? They were selling me on their idea. Bottom line; business structure, systems, employees and processes are meaningless without an effective message via marketing and sales.

Getting to the end game is really that basic, but most people don’t see it like that because they’re caught up in their own game. They’re the picture in the frame versus actively engaging in, and having a proven and repeatable process. To me that’s the most important part. Just getting business owners either on a track, or back on track so they can win is the ultimate end game.

Your 50 – Part 2 – The Keys to Starting Your Own Business Now!

In part 1 of this article series we met 3 individuals with unique backgrounds that left corporate and forged their own way. Here we illustrate 2 addition stories along with important strategies and tactics you need s you go forward in your own business. This journey of starting your own business is not for the faint of heart, but the success you will find will be life-changing.

Here is what you will learn:
1. Franchising is a good option for a business.
2. Doing your own business is very rewarding.
3. How coaching is vital to making your business a success.

First Entrepreneur

Our first entrepreneur, was a successful high-level executive first at Ford and then at Terex, a firm focused on lifting and material processing products (e.g. cranes), with all the associated perks and incentives. Meet Pete Gilfillan. He had the good life and no reason to change until one day…

Alan: I saw that your main business is helping people evaluate franchises (FranChoice). How did you get started in your own business? What triggered that decision?

Pete: I was a corporate executive, first with Ford and later with Terex and they literally owned my life. I was traveling all the time. I just decided one day I had had enough and I would be an entrepreneur.

Alan: Tell me more about what happened when you decided to leave corporate life.

Pete: In my last position, I was with Terex. I live in Chicago, but the Terex is headquartered in Connecticut and I was on the road 6 days a week and much of the travel was international. With all the travel I didn’t eat right, didn’t exercise and frankly I was miserable. I was in another country and I woke up in the middle of the night and I couldn’t remember what country I was in. I realized then I had had enough. When I got back to Chicago, I told my wife about the decision. At first my wife wasn’t keen on the idea of my leaving corporate. She saw the practical side of staying in corporate (financial security), but I knew I needed to make a change. I quit my job and I started working with a franchise consultant in order to find a franchise. After a few months we found Junk King and saw that it was be a good fit. I liked that it was a service based business and could be scaled up; such as adding trucks as the business grew and it had little overhead. Later, I started to work with FranChoice, where today I’m one of the top franchise consultants. I really like the way their business model works. There is no cost to individuals (companies pay FranChoice) and it gives me the opportunity to do what I love most, which is to help people find the business that meets their needs.

Alan: That’s great. You are able to do what you love. Let’s change gears for a minute. I saw that you wrote a best-selling book. Writing a book is a big step. How did you come up with the idea for your book?

Writing is a key way to demonstrate your expertise and build your business

Pete: Darren Hardy, who is pretty well known in the entrepreneur circles, is my mentor. I went to his High Performance Summit and Darren said one of the best ways to give back is through writing a book. Since I have a lot of knowledge about the franchise business, doing a book on it was a good fit.

Alan: How did you find the time to write?

Pete: There is many ways to write a book. I found a company that would write the actual words while I talked. I would put together an outline for each chapter and talk for a couple of hours with the writers. We would meet for 2 hours a week, either early morning or late at night. After a draft of the book was created, I had someone edit the book. Even then it took a year and a half to complete the book.

Alan: How did you go about publishing it?

Pete: I was able to find a publishing company through my business coach.

Alan: It had to be daunting to start your own business after being in corporate. What is one thing you wish you knew before you started your own business?

Pete: If I could have been able to keep my corporate job and invested in franchise and then make the leap instead of going in cold to my own business, it would have saved me a lot of angst. I may have done something different than Junk King. I could have started a franchise on a part-time basis, say 15 hours week. With Junk King there was no way to do it on a part-time basis.

Alan: What’s next for you?

Pete: Speaking engagements, so I can reach more people and continue to work with ExecuNet, which is a private community made up of over 750,000 CEOs, VPs and various leaders and influencers.

Alan: Any final words?

Pete: I would say that for franchising, people need to have an open mind. When people ask me about franchising, they have already made up their mind that it would be food (McDonalds, etc.) They have that in mind because they see a lot of people eating at those restaurants so they assume it is a good business to get into. I help them understand that the food business is very competitive; has high capital investment and a high cost of goods sold (the food). There are over 3000 franchises in every conceivable business that may fit their needs. It doesn’t have to be food.
But regardless of what business you go in, whether it is a franchise or not, you need to work hard. There is no substitute for hard work.

Alan: Good words to live by. Thanks for your time.

Second Entrepreneur

Our second entrepreneur was a successful telecom executive before going into his own business. He shares key ideas on making your business grow. Meet Rick Lochner.

Alan: How did you come to be an entrepreneur?

Rick: I’ve known for some time that I wanted to be in my own business and that it would be in the leadership area. I worked with entrepreneurial company and it was sold 2 years after I started. I went to another company and 2 years later it was sold. The turmoil of being at companies that are going through turnarounds is very difficult for everyone involved. It is very long hours, great stress and often the rewards of that hard work just aren’t there. I’ve been laid off 4 times in my career so I knew corporate has no security. I even negotiated my severance package before I went to work a healthcare company.

Alan: How exactly did going into your own business occur?

Rick: My wife and I were having brunch with a couple and we talked about how it would be great to start business and details on what that business would look like when it started in a few years. At the end of the meal, I said, “Why are we waiting; let’s do it!” It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Alan: What do you like best about being an entrepreneur?

Rick: The best thing is I get to do what I love. In corporate, there were many things I had to do that I really didn’t enjoy. Being an entrepreneur, being in my own business, enables me to live with purpose and that is very meaningful to me.

Alan: Is there anything you would do differently now if you were just starting your business?

Rick: I would have pursued the non-profit market right away. I didn’t because people told me there is no money in that business, but that is not true. That market needs to be approached differently than for-profit but they need my services just as much. Now non-profit is 25% of my business. But you asked if I would have done anything differently and the answer is no. The business strategy worked and I would have approached starting the business the same way.

Alan: What challenges did you have starting out?

Rick: I started the business in July 2008. The US was already in a recession and financial markets were in turmoil and little did I know things in the business world were about to get a lot worse. I had worked in telecom for many years as an executive and I had been quite successful. I had a load of contacts at my previous company, Sprint; there were many people that knew me well and respected me but I was not able to get business from them. They still saw me as a telecom executive and not as knowledgeable in leadership development, even though I had been developing leaders at Sprint. I had traveled a lot during me years in corporate and my connections in Chicago were no better than in Atlanta or any other U.S. city. I knew I needed to develop roots in the local community. I joined Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce and started to created circles of influence. In time the contacts I made developed into connections for the business. It wasn’t easy, but I went all in; 100% to make the business work.

Why having a part-time business is so important

Alan: What advice would you give to someone that is climbing the corporate ladder?

Rick: Every corporate employee should have a part time gig to provide a bridge to go into business for themselves or just to have a secondary income source. I started teaching leadership at Keller School of Business in 2004. Teaching helped in the 8 months transition to my business full-time. It provided income after getting laid-off; making it easier to focus on the growth of the business and not where the next paycheck was coming from.

Alan: What has been the biggest challenge in your learning curve as an entrepreneur?

Rick: Marketing was new to me; I had not worked in that area. So I put together my business plan and my marketing plan and discussed it in detail with my two mastermind groups. They both said the business plan was great and was going to work but the marketing plan was not good. So I was tutored in marketing from people that were 20 years younger than me and their advice was spot on. This taught me a couple of valuable things. 1) You have to know what you are good at and what you are not good at and find experts in the areas that you are not good. 2) Spend a lot of time with people 20s to early 40s in order to gain insights on trends.

Alan: What additional advice would you give to someone that was looking to start their own business?

Rick: Know what problem you are trying to solve and position yourself so that is clear that you are the only one that can solve it. Too many people get hung up on their product or service and less focused on the problem to be solved. If you are going to go for it, then you really have to go for it. At the core, you have to know how to solve the problem in a unique way.

Alan: How did your writing a book come about?

Rick: The business model I developed has been a work in progress since 1999. I used that model to align the business at every organization I led as an executive. Often we try to fix a problem in an isolated way which doesn’t work. The process may not be broken; it may be the people, so you need a holistic approach. I wrote the first book in 2012 to complete my initial business strategy and a book does that. I was advised by a couple of authors and self-published it. I needed to promote the business alignment method and the book helps clarify the model as well as promote the business. I asked clients what is perfect length for a book and they said a Chicago to Los Angeles flight, which is about 4 ½ hours.

Alan: You’ve actually published multiple books. How did you come with your ideas?

Rick: The second book was to help the individual leader and the third book was for the entrepreneurs. I write books that apply to the business areas I work in.

Alan: How do you find the time to write?

Rick: The secret to success is having a coach. I’ve had 3 accountability coaches so far and each one helped me in a different way. When I first started the business, I needed an accountability coach; someone that would keep me accountable and keep me encouraged. She was the type of person I needed at that time. Keep in mind, I was starting this business during the depths of the Great Recession and needed that support. The second coach helped me write the books, not from the standpoint that he had ideas for the book, but he was able to get me moving along on the development of the book. I actually wrote the first book while my wife was driving during vacation because I was on a self-imposed deadline and needed to get it done. The third coach has helped me grow the business and take it took another level. If I would have had her in the beginning, it would not have worked well. Now that the business is growing and I am at a different place in my thinking and my business, she is exactly what I need.

Alan: Any final thoughts?

Rick: I talked with 20 different coaches before starting out in leadership coaching and based on my research, billions of dollars is wasted on leadership that doesn’t work. I am on a crusade to change that one leader at a time. It will take time to undo the wrong things that leaders are doing today; takes time to unlearn. But I will continue to work with them, one leader at a time. It is my passion.

Alan: Thanks Rick for these key insights. This is valuable information for anyone at any stage in their entrepreneurial journey.

Six Challenges Facing Business Owners

Having spent the last few weeks meeting with and chatting to small business owners around Essex, it became clear that they all seem to face similar challenges on a day-to-day basis.

As I expected, they are all time poor and there was an ongoing sense from these company owners or directors that they should be ‘hands on’ and across every facet of their business. But, as they told me, they may know all about their business but sometimes they need expert support and guidance to ensure their company grows and increases profitability.

Some of the challenges they faced included:

Customers
Customers are at the heart of any business. Without customers and the revenue generated then the business becomes just a good idea. One of the main challenges they faced was how to attract, retain and maximise their customers?

For me, the key to winning new business and ensuring customer retention is providing not only great products or services but adding a great customer service experience. A strategy needs to be developed for ensuring this customer growth and maximizing revenues from existing customers.

Marketing
Many business owners are not marketing experts and need strategic advice when it comes to developing a business positioning, a marketing plan, a campaign and thinking about the channels they wish to promote their business through.

The challenge is to enable the business to tell its story in a way that enables the business to grow and build customer engagement. Bringing an experienced marketer into the business either in-house or as a consultant to help develop this strategy can allow the business owner to focus on what he does best.

Time
For many business owners there are simply not enough hours in a day. All owners are stretched for time. Creating more time means sometimes saying no and focussing on what is essential for the success of the business.

This is where business owner often seek external advice from a business mentor or consultant to get them to focus on what is critical for the development of the business.

Financial Management
It is imperative for a small or medium-sized business to manage their cashflow effectively but sometimes managing the P&L seemed to be the third or fourth ‘order of the day’ for some business owners.

Getting good financial advice from a consultant who takes the time to analyse business performance, looks at aged debtors, analyses client profitability and puts effective financial planning measures in place mitigates the risk of the business getting into financial troubles.

Profitability
Business Planning seemed to be a bit of an afterthought for some of the business owners I spoke with, they were working more ‘on the fly’. Annual Planning should start a minimum of four months before the end of the financial year and should start with a formal annual budget, understanding the profitability of each client/customer, growth opportunities, business development planning and an analysis of the overheads required to service those clients/customers, market and grow the business, generate a great customer experience as well as delivering a sustainable profit margin.

Successful business owners create wealth and grow their business because they understand how to build a culture where sustainable profitability is a given.

Processes
Many business owners are not across all the processes involved in running a business so the challenge is to make the processes involved in running a business simpler. This is where an external consultant or expert support can prove highly beneficial.

Failure to manage processes such as sales, marketing, business development, building customer loyalty, operational management, HR and employee development can lead to businesses failing. Being stretched across business functions is not the best way for business owners to develop their business.