You know how sometimes you just wish you had said something? Well, that happened to me when I had the incredible honor to be a guest on John Lee Dumas’s award-winning show, Entrepreneur on Fire. Though the interview went great (click here to listen), we didn’t have time to cover some potentially life-changing ideas for entrepreneurs.
Before John and I spoke, I jotted down a list of the most important things that had made my entrepreneurial journey a success. I was able to share a number of them with John’s “Fire Nation” audience, but because we only had half an hour, there were 10 things that I’m going to tell you now “offline.”
The Free Offer to Fire Nation – Available Here
Before I explain what I believe can revolutionize your business, let me also tell you about the free offer that I made to John’s listeners that I’d like to offer to you now. I put together a short online course called “How to Achieve Exponential Growth in Your Business: The 3 game-changing tactics I used to double, double again, and then triple the size of my business.” The offer was that anyone who bought a copy of Rich As A King: How the Wisdom of Chess Can Make You a Grandmaster of Investing, which I wrote with World Chess Champion Susan Polgar, would get a free ticket to the course. Since you’re taking the time now to read this article, which follows up from my time with Entrepreneur on Fire, I’m thrilled to share the offer with you, too. Click here for more details.
What I didn’t tell John Lee Dumas
1. How to lose. John always asks his guests to start off by sharing their favorite success quote. I referred to something my friend and co-author Susan Polgar says, “Win with grace; lose with dignity.” When I was 12, I used to play tennis with a kid who was quite talented. However, when he played poorly, he would sometimes throw his racket in anger. He was clearly no expert in losing with dignity. Instead of learning from his errors, he would get angry with himself, and that would, he believed, motivate him to do better next time. If he had only thought of the great quote by Thomas Edison: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work”! Businesspeople fail every day. Those who don’t examine their failures are destined to repeat them. At the end of every day, or perhaps weekly, spend some time considering what happened, why it happened, and how you can improve. If possible, engage in a conversation about it with a trusted advisor or in a mastermind group since it can be difficult to be self-critical.
2. Enter partnerships carefully… very carefully. In almost all cases of partnerships that I’ve seen, they end up failing. Surely you can name some that worked, but having worked with businesses for 25 years, I have seen many, many more disasters than successes. Why do partnerships fail? Ego, incongruous expectations, laziness, lack of goals, poorly designed contractual obligations, spouses…. The list really goes on and on. However, if you still insist on going into a partnership, at least consider these three things:
a. Make sure your partner is equal to you on many fronts. Some argue that you should be very different from your partner so that you each bring a different value to the enterprise. In terms of skills sets, sure. There’s no point in having two people who do the same things. However, if you and your partner have different financial needs, then one of you may be more driven than the other. If you have different philosophies on dealing with clients, then you’ll constantly fight about marketing and sales. And if you’ve got vastly different experience in the field, then one will likely feel and act superior to the other.
b. Write it down. Don’t just buddy up with your pal and start working. Spend a lot of time in the beginning talking, pen and paper in hand, about what each of you will do. Not only that, but once you’ve spelled out the ideas, sit with a disinterested third party and each of you should explain what you plan to do and what you expect the other to do. That way, someone who doesn’t have an emotional connection to the project can examine the reasonableness of your plan.
c. Reconsider a partnership. If you want a partner, for example, just because she’s good at graphic design, knows how to make snazzy videos, or has experience with WordPress, stop! You can hire people to do that, oftentimes pretty cheaply if you outsource to websites like ODesk.com or Fiverr.com. You don’t need to give up half your company and profits just to get someone on board who has some easily-outsourceable skills.
3. If you can’t explain your choice, don’t do it. All of the most important business ideas I’ve ever learned have a direct parallel to the game of chess. When I was writing Rich As A King with Susan Polgar, she said that although it’s fine to act based on intuition, you must nonetheless be able to explain your strategy to someone else.
If you can’t able to truly explain why you’re making a specific move or investment, you will likely find that it’s not such a good idea after all. Slow down! Talk to someone like a mentor, friend, or even a professional advisor, before making any “intuitive” moves. After all, lemmings intuitively follow one another… and often end up drowning because they all follow each other into the water.
4. Make your business super-efficient and save hours a day. Business leaders must make sure that their team works efficiently. For years, I’ve used a form-creation website called Formdesk (Formdesk.com). Since most of the tasks that we do in the financial planning and investment services company that I run are the same, it’s important to have systems in place. I’ve developed checklists and work-flows using Formdesk for many tasks like account opening procedures, notes on client meetings, money transfers, and financial planning. If you’d like to see what one looks like, check out this form I designed (which can also help you a lot to get a good look at your personal finances): www.RichAsAKing.com/snapshot.
Using premade forms and systems saves my office support staff time every day, leaving them extra energy to deal with the unexpected, if and when it happens.
5. Don’t worry about the competition. In most cases, businesses are very unique entities. As such, you shouldn’t focus on your competitors, but rather only focus on yourself. There’s a story about a fellow who opened a shoe store. A few months later, a woman opened a similar store right next door. The guy watched as she had new shipments come in every morning, and he observed how customers were greeted in her store, and he kept an eye on how they left carrying bags with their new purchases. After spying on her for weeks, his business began to suffer severely. He ran to his accountant and explained how he had been watching her business destroy his. The accountant gave sage advice: “Instead of spending all day watching her business, use those hours instead to watch your own shop.” Every entrepreneur should follow that lesson. Work on improving your offering, and stop worrying about what other people are doing.
6. Organization leads to freedom. Though it’s not a sexy topic, organizing your day, your business structure, and your team will possibly be the greatest and most profitable move you can make. A great book about organizing your time is a book by Alec Mackenzie called The Time Trap: The Classic Book on Time Management. Click here to buy it on Amazon. I also talk a lot about organizing your business in the course that I’m offering for free, “How to Achieve Exponential Growth in Your Business: The 3 game-changing tactics I used to double, double again, and then triple the size of my business.” Click here for more details.
7. Build relationships. As a financial planner, I spend most of my time talking with clients and prospects. We don’t just talk stocks and bonds, but also about goals and dreams. I love that aspect of my job because I get to connect with great people and then I have the honor to help them do all the things they want to do.
What many entrepreneurs miss, however, is the importance of getting emotionally close to their clients. They presume that they can set up a website, a few autoresponders, write a couple of epic blog posts, and some snazzy tweets, and then people will buy their product. Good luck! Without having a real connection with people, you’ll never succeed. It’s worth taking the time to talk to people, really get to know them, and then share the solutions that you’ve got to help them out. In order to have long-term customers, you need to connect with them. And it’s much more fulfilling to work with people for years than to have to find a new client every day to whom you can ply your wares.
8, Dress for success. This is more philosophical than just determining whether to wear jeans or a jacket and tie. The way you present yourself… how you speak, act, eat, or engage in eye contact… are all part of your appearance.
The most important thing here is to be yourself. Don’t try to act like someone else since you’ll have a hard time keeping it up, you’ll forget who you really are, and you’ll live your life in the shadow of dishonesty. It’s true that lots of people won’t work with you because of how they perceive you; on the other hand, lots of others will find you attractive because of who you are. They’ll be sincere and you will, too. That’s a great foundation for a relationship, and like I said above, relationships are the core of business building.
HOWEVER (I put “however” in all caps to really stress it), if you have some issues about yourself that you’d like to improve, go for it! It’s great to grow; we should all aspire to improve ourselves. Whether you want to learn proper business etiquette or improve the way you look when you enter a business meeting, you can certainly advance. Just make sure you’re always true to yourself and your principles.
9. Share your thoughts. I had a consulting contract with a local bank to help them build their financial planning division. My friends asked me, “Aren’t you afraid that you’ll teach them everything you do and then they’ll dominate the field and put you out of business.” Though I understood the concern, I wasn’t worried. I have always focused on building a fantastic financial planning division of my company. And though I can teach it all day, I don’t think anyone will ever do exactly what I do. So I’m not afraid to teach… even to teach my competitors. Call it karma, or simply being a gentleman: Help others all the time… it makes the world a better place.
10. Get paid up front. Unless you own a business called something like, “Frank’s Payment Collecting Service,” your job is not to chase people for money. Whether you’re a financial planner, a chess coach, a dog walker, or a psychologist, you should not have to spend your time (and your time is the only thing that you really have) asking to get paid.
Set a price with a client and get paid before you do the work. I know some clients might be hesitant about paying up front, but if someone is already in your shop and ready to do business with you, he understands that he is going to have to pay. So why not ask for the money first? When people ask me why I insist on being paid up front, I tell them quite frankly: “I don’t want to have to pay a secretary to have to go after people for money because that would increase the costs to run my business, and we’d have to raise the prices to you. So our policy is to get 100% payment in advance.” Clients fully understand and appreciate this explanation.
Had I covered these ten points with John Lee Dumas on the interview he did with me, it certainly would have taken more than the 30 minutes allotted for the show. But I really wanted to share these ideas with you, in hopes that they will help you – and your business.
If so, share these ideas with others.
Don’t forget to join the course “How to Achieve Exponential Growth in Your Business: The 3 game-changing tactics I used to double, double again, and then triple the size of my business.”