The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business owners
This is the second article in a monthly series on small business owners I have met or worked with over the years who developed beautiful successful businesses.
Stories of successful real business owners
In 35 years of doing business and working with some of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met, I’ve learned a very important lesson: Success in small business starts by building great habits. I call these practices the “7 Highly Chilled Habits” and I find they’re best illustrated with the stories of real business owners who I happen to have had the pleasure of coaching.
The articles are based on my E-book, The 7 Habits of Highly Chilled Small Business Owners. All of my books and other resources are available for free here
Highly Chilled Habit #2:
Develop a Deep Niche
In order to build a Highly Chilled business, you must develop a niche that’s an inch wide and a mile deep.
In 2004, I was working with Andrew. At some stage, we were discussing the challenges he was having with selling one of his IT services. I asked him to consider if there was enough of a market for this specific offering. Andrew said, “Good question. I might sell the world’s best buggy whips, but the market for buggy whips just isn’t that buoyant anymore.”
Andrew had a great insight. He ended up ditching this particular service and focusing his energy on two other core services. His business never looked back.
However, in today’s world, with the ever-increasing globalisation of commerce and traffic, it may actually be possible to build a Highly Chilled small business selling the best buggy whips in the world.
Better Yet: Be Specific, Like Sebastiaan
I have a brother named Sebastiaan who is doing just that. He is building a Highly Chilled small business selling services that are so niche, so narrowly defined, that there are probably less than 10 businesses in the entire world that offer what he offers – and even fewer that are as good as he is. This is his website.
What’s more, there is only a tiny number of customers for his product in most countries of the world.
Mining Deep Narrow Holes
Sebastiaan has developed a niche that’s only a tenth of an inch wide, but its depth goes right through to the core of the earth. He has even built special little shovels, a tenth of an inch wide, to ensure his business doesn’t stray outside that niche.
Sebastiaan’s team have arguably become the best “buggy whip makers” on the planet, and because of that, their customers come to him from all corners of the world to have their super-specialised projects completed. These people know they have only one shot at getting it 100% right and Sebastiaan’s business simply offers the best chance at that shot.
Highly Chilled business owners know they have to stand out from the crowd, so they develop a clearly defined niche, mine it as deep as it goes and intentionally develop an iron habit, never to stray outside it.
Your Homework (The Chilled Kind)
Here’s a short exercise you could carry out to start the process of making this habit your own.
Ask yourself: What am I really, really good at? What am I SO good at that I can be the best in my world at doing that one specific thing?
Practice Highly Chilled habit #2: Consider focusing your offer to your customers on “that thing”.
Are you a small business owner in need of a chill pill? Explore Highly Chilled habit #3: Be on top of the numbers. Coming soon on this blog.
How to avoid the Spray-and-Pray approach to your marketing strategy
I had a interesting experience at a networking and business building event a few days ago. We met over breakfast and there were various activities designed to get to know each other and to support each other in the development of our businesses.
One of the exercises we did was a group hot seat, where one of our fellow business owners presented himself and his business to the group and asked for help with his greatest challenges.
The business owner in question, let’s call him Adam, told us about all the amazing projects he’s been involved in and how smart the solutions were that he implemented for his clients.
But Adam also shared that he sometimes found it difficult to find new clients.
So we asked him who his ideal clients are, how we would recognise them if we tripped over them and how we could introduce him to them effectively.
Designing solutions for the challenges
In response, Adam, told us he’s worked with government departments, global machinery manufacturers as well as dog kennels and everything in between. He told us how he sits down with business owners and gets to really understand their businesses and challenges, designs solutions to resolve those challenges and implements the solutions for them.
All very well of course, but it didn’t help us much in our quest to support Adam. Most service based businesses do exactly that, they find out about the challenges a client has and then they offer a solution. But we never really got any further with Adam. Every time we asked him to get more specific he gave us more details of the wide range and varied types of clients he’d worked with. Although Adam left us impressed with his experience, his knowledge, and his expertise, at the end of the 15 minute hotseat, the group was no closer to understanding how we could help him find more new clients.
How can we help you?
In the end we left Adam to ponder the following question:
“Let’s say someone wanted to help you, really help you, and they were prepared to set an hour aside today, to do exactly that. Further more, let’s say that person had database of 6000 direct connections in LinkedIn. All business owners, largely in Australia and most of them in Sydney. Amongst such a database, it seems likely for there to be 5 or 10 people who are actual prospects for Adam.
Obviously, it’s not possible for such a person, to send a direct email to all 6000 people in a kind of “spray and pray” marketing outreach. So the question we left Adam to ponder was: How can such a person go about identifying those 5 to 10 perfect introductions for you from amongst the database of 6000?
Because you see, Adam really struggled to answer that question. Adam couldn’t tell us how to filter out 5 or 10 people in such a database of LinkedIn connections.
And I think most of us have that challenge. We don’t actually know how to identify our prospects.
Who are my prospects?
I find it difficult in my own business as well sometimes. I’ve thought about it a lot and often, and the best I can do is this:
I’m looking to connect with business owners
That are in design (Architecture, Interior design, Graphic design) technical services (IT, Communications, Software and Web development) or trades (Building trades, Motor trades, Hospitality trades)
With between 3 and 20 employees
And that have operated the business for 2+ years
Confronted with the same question we left Adam to ponder, using the above criteria I could narrow the search down a little and have a slightly more focused list, but there’s probably still a lot more than a 100 people in that database of 6000 that meet all the criteria.
A direct introduction strategy is very powerful but it can only work with a very limited number of people.
So why does it matter?
Well, I do want to help Adam, he’s a good guy and very good at what he does, and as it happens I do have a database of 6000 direct connections, but I simply don’t know how to help him.
And what’s more, because Adam isn’t clear on who his clients are, he can’t craft a clear marketing message himself either and he can’t focus his own messages on the right people.
If Adam isn’t clear, his prospects won’t be either.
Most of us face that dilemma.
For me, it’s clear that small building and trades contractors, builders, electricians, plumbers, painters, carpenters, architects and engineers are absolutely the people I should to be talking to. Those kinds of people are right in my sweet spot. So if you know any of those, I’d love you to make an introduction, and I’ll send them my weekly tips.
But how would you answer the question we asked Adam to ponder?
I’ve read and thought a lot about marketing and sales in the past few years, as I suspect most business owners do. After all, as I say in my first book, “The Ten Truths for Raising a Healthy Bouncy Business”: Marketing is Everything and Everything is Marketing.
Marketing is one of the most written about topics by the business brains and gurus of the world and there are many grand theories about what works and what doesn’t and how things have supposedly changed in the past 20 years. But when you listen to all of them it’s like having your brain fried by Dr Evil, it’s all just so confusing.
All the theories
The problem lies with the many conflicting theories.
We are variously assured that:
People buy what’s in it for them (WIIFM)
People buy emotionally and justify rationally
People do business with people they know like and trust
Value is remembered long after price has been forgotten
We must sell online otherwise you can’t compete… on price.
We must give our best stuff away for free
Brand is everything
Relationship is everything
Content is King
Search engine optimisation is everything
Search engine optimisation is dead
Google and Facebook advertising is the future
Advertising is dead
And we are told:
To do blogs, Twitter, Linkedin, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook
To produce content
To make videos and to podcast
To build relationships
To add value
To charge for value instead of price
I recently engaged an SEO expert to get me to the top of Google. The expert delivered. In a period of 8 weeks, I started appearing on page 1 for certain search terms.
Yet I sacked him a month or so later. Why? I learnt that Google frowns on many SEO techniques that until recently were considered good practice, and I came to the conclusion that my improved ranking was based on some of those techniques.
I talked to a number of other SEO experts and they assure me they can achieve the same results for me, using only currently accepted ‘safe’ techniques… At 4 to 6 times the cost per month of the previous SEO expert.
So I’m muddling along myself again now. (Let me know how I’m going, will you? Do a search for the kind of service I provide and see if I come up anywhere before page 25?)
I’m one of those who is convinced by one of the previous statements about giving your best stuff away for free, and I do exactly that. I do get lots of thank-you notes, but not much else.
Oh, that’s right, it’s all about content? Doing that, I’m all over it. Again, lots of nice comments on my newsletters and books and videos and webinars.
I read a great book called Go-Givers and another one called “Give and Take” … wonderful books, great messages. The main message being that to market and sell our business successfully we must be Givers, rather than Takers and start by giving more value than we receive.
Love the concept, especially as it’s proven to work for about half the people who practice that mindset; half the Givers of this world are wildly successful … the other half? Sorry, they’re at the bottom of the heap.
How come I’m reminded about that joke: I have a magic coin that can predict the future exactly 50% of the time?
I am aware that I sound as if I’m whingeing… and that will never do.
I’m a business coach after all and we are always positive and optimistic… We are, honestly!
Actually I’m not complaining … it’s just that it’s all so dammed confusing.
I actually know what the answers are to each of the contradictions above, most of us business owners do, well in theory we do at any rate. Let’s look at the contradictions about price for example:
It’s true; people don’t buy on price, except if they have no other way to decide. Being the cheapest is actually a perfectly good strategy to market your business, as long you can maintain it. Walmart in America is the cheapest, consistently and it’s become one of the most successful and biggest businesses on the planet by being the cheapest. It’s what they do. Being the cheapest is their reason for being, and no one can beat them at that game. There are plenty of other businesses that base their marketing on price, and when appropriate I shop there too. But I bet anyone could beat your business on price if they decided to do so. We have to give our customers lots of other reasons to do business with us.
And that’s when we get overwhelmed with all the contradictions and the conflicting demands.
Nearly every client I start to work with tells me they think they need to ‘Do’ more marketing and they need a marketing plan. And you do. Accelerating the speed at which your business has been growing naturally so far can only come from increased marketing. But let’s not make it harder and more overwhelming than it needs to be.
Low hanging fruit
I’m a great believer in always picking the low-hanging fruit first. So the question to ask yourself first is: What is the easiest way for me to generate more leads?
I bet you can actually answer that question just like that, without a marketing plan.
In my case it actually comes down to two things:
1) Making it easier for people to obtain my books
2) Implementing a consistent process of following up with the people who do download my books.
So I’m off to tweak some of the text and stuff on my website, implement a couple of small changes in my CRM, and I’m blocking time out in my diary to make 5 follow up phone calls every Tuesday morning from here forth.
What about you? What’s your easiest way forward to ‘Do’ more marketing?
See it’s not so overwhelming when you think of it, it just takes a little bit of focus.
Tell you what… pop me an email with your decision and I’ll check in with you in a couple of weeks to see how you’re going… nothing like a bit of accountability.
What does it take to make a success of your small business… how can you avoid adding to those frightening statistics about failure rates of small business.
In this series of articles and associated webinars and workshops, by Roland Hanekroot you will learn the basic concepts and get the knowledge you need to become a successful ‘Business-Owner’, as opposed to a struggling ‘Business-Doer’.
The format of each episode in the “First Steps” series is to explain the basics of the topic and then in line with the principles of New Perspectives business development programs, to suggest some small simple “First Steps” you can take straight away to put the knowledge into action.
In the second of these articles we’ll look at Your Market and ask:
What, who and where is my market?
Most of us business owners find ourselves in a market by accident. Not many of us start from scratch in a new market. We’ve either taken an existing business over from a previous owner or we’ve started our business doing something that we happen to be particularly good at and hence we’ve already had a couple of clients and a market from day 1.
Consequently we roll along doing more of what we’ve always done. Our recipe for success is our belief in ourselves and a vague notion that we’ll be able to do it better than the other guys, somehow.
The things that don’t set us apart
This situation is equally applicable to someone with a carpentry business, as it is for a mortgage broker, a café or a fashion store. When asked what sets them apart, most business owners will say 3 things:
1) We give great customer service
2) For a great product
3) At a great price.
And I have no doubt that they do, believe that they do, or at least strive to.
There are two problems with these statements though:
1) The three statements are not special enough, they don’t offer enough value (Customers expect good service, good quality and good price from everyone… as a minimum)
2) And most importantly, all your competitors say exactly the same thing.
Who is the cheapest?
If you and your competitors make the same promise, the customer will make a decision on price because it is the easy factor to compare on.
In small business, there is nothing worse than being forced to compete on price, because there is always someone who is prepared to do it cheaper. You cannot build a long-term sustainable small business based around being the cheapest.
Find a tight niche
One of the most effective solutions to this problem is to find a tightly defined niche market that is either not serviced at all or is underserviced.
If you can find a niche market for your product or service that has few or no other business operating in, you can set out to own that niche and dominate it. Dominating a niche is a recipe for building a long-term sustainable business, like no other.
3 Niche questions
There are 3 questions you can ask to help you find such a niche:
1) Who does not currently use my product or service but might?
2) What are all the factors that we and all our competitors already compete on with each other?
3) On which factors are none of us competing?
I am going to work through a couple of examples to demonstrate how to go about finding a niche and stepping into it.
The carpet cleaners
Re question 1: ‘Who does not currently use my product or service, but might?’
Assume you own a carpet cleaning business and your town has heaps of carpet cleaners and they all offer more or less the same thing so that 75% of the inquiries you get from prospective new clients revolves around the question: How much do you charge per room? The question drives you mad, because you are only just making ends meet as it is and having to be the cheapest all the time just isn’t viable.
One day you decide something has to change and together with your wife you start to have a look through your database of clients and jobs from the last 3 years. You are not sure exactly what you are looking for yet, but you hope to find a specific category of client or job that is either more profitable than the rest, or more fun to do, or is easier, or all of the above.
After an exhaustive search over many evenings, your wife mentions that she’s come across a few big 21st birthday party cleanups and an idea starts to form.
21st birthday parties
You decide to create a special offering and expertise in preparation and cleanup before and after big parties. Especially 18ths and 21sts can be massive messy affairs and a lot of anxiety goes along with them. How about offering a package that includes preparing the carpets for a big party with a protective spray application and then coming back the day after the party to do a thorough clean to make the house smell like new again?
A special package like this is actually not offered by anyone in your city and addresses a great need.
John and Mary’s Party Cleaning is born… a unique product and offering at a price level that you can make good profits on and best of all, prospective customers cannot compare on price.
Your business and your life will never be the same again… I guarantee it.
Kelvin’s bike shop
Now lets have a look at the other “niche questions”. This is a story about a different set of circumstances as experienced by Kelvin who owns a bike shop.
This story relates to questions 2 and 3: What factors are you and your competitors already competing on and what factors are you not competing on:
Selling bicycles is not easy because there is a lot of competition from many different sources. There are other bike shops all around the city; there is the ever increasing number of ‘Big Box retailers’ such as Big W and Kmart and the internet is increasingly impacting traditional retail models as well.
Kelvins shop was still doing just ok but the trends were not looking good at all, and pressure on his margins was constant.
Just at this time Kelvin came across a quote from a bikeshop owner in America, Chris Zane: “The only difference between our competitors and ourselves is the service we provide”
The fish pond
Kelvin realised the obvious truth of this statement. There is effectively no difference between the bikes sold by Kelvin or any of his competitors or the pumps or the bike-shoes. Kelvin and his competitors were all fishing in the same pool trying catch exactly the same fish and the number of fish in that pond was diminishing. The only way forward was to create a new pond and attract enough of the fish away from the old pond to be able to enjoy the fishing again.
So Kelvin set about changing his approach to business completely. First Kelvin looked at all the factors he and his competitors fought over (price, range, convenience, friendly service, speed of delivery, connection with major sporting heroes etc)
Then Kelvin looked at what other factors there were that nobody competed on yet.
The insight that Kelvin had was that the greatest opportunity for his business, lay in creating long term customer loyalty through delivering truly extraordinary service, and absolute peace of mind.
Lifetime free stuff
For example, Kelvin implemented a life time free flat tire repair; Kelvin offered ‘no questions asked’ replacement guarantees for any bikes and products sold if you were dissatisfied with the product for whatever reason. Kelvin taught his staff that from now on the word NO was out of bounds and no request was to be rejected.
A couple of years later, Kelvin moved his store to a new location with three times as much space.
Kelvin created his own fishing pond and he was able to dominate it, year after year.
This is the topic we will be talking about at the March Small Business Masterminds ‘live’ workshop as well as the Masterminds online webinar, both on 10 April. If you would like to attend either the webinar or the workshop, go to http://smallbusinessmasterminds.com.au
Take the first steps:
As mentioned in the opening paragraphs of this article, I will suggest some “First Steps” actions you can take right away, that will get you started on implementing the topics and principles we discuss: The resources page is here: http://tiny.cc/marketlpage
Roland Hanekroot is a business coach who works with Small business owners to help them have more Fun in their businesses and build businesses that sustain them for years to come. Roland is also the author of “The Ten Truths books for Business owners” (more about the books here: http://thetentruths.com.au)
Every month Roland Hanekroot runs a business development workshop as well as a webinar called “The Small Business Masterminds” more information here and to register for the next webinar or workshop, follow this link: http://smallbusinessmasterminds.com.au/ The first time is free.
Small Business Masterminds webinar and Launceston Business Masterminds workshops
Finding your “True Love(s)” and making Sweet Music with them
Marketing is Everything and Everything is Marketing
Have you thought about the marketing impact of how you answer the phones, or the way you send out your invoices? Have you made it easy for your customers to refer you new custmers? Do you know what your pricing policy says about your business? What about the old rule 101 of marketing, that your best source of new business comes from your old clients? Do you know how to differentiate yourself from everyone else out there? Do you know what it means to establish a really tight niche and make it your own? Would you like to have your customers all to yourself, and Make Sweet Music with them without any of the other buggers getting in your way?
We’re going to answer those questions at the next Masterminds Webinar
Webinar recording below
Resources from the Masterminds about your market niche