January 2017
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Business Essentials - Taking Care of Business
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The 5 Immutable Things I've Learned About Business

 

The 5 Immutable Things I've Learned About Business

by Mike Wicks (Author and ex Chamber of Commerce CEO)

I've been in the business world for a very long time. I rose through the ranks starting as a trainee sales representative for a publishing firm; subsequently became an area manager, sales manager, and eventually I headed my own division at a major publishing house in London, England. It was then, in my thirties, that I started my own business and since then I've become a serial entrepreneur. Along the way I've learned a lot about working for small companies, large corporations, and starting my own businesses. What follows are some of the indisputable truths I've discovered about business.

  1. Perseverance doesn't always mean you will succeed. Books, articles, blogs, blithely tell you to persevere, to stick with it even when times are tough. It's as if all you have to do is be courageous, stubborn, hardworking and never give up and success will be yours. What a load of rubbish! Sure, you do need to persevere in business; sure you need to stick with it, but only to a point. Take a fisherman - do you think he will stay in one spot all day when the fish aren't biting? Of course not, he'll move on in search of a spot where they are feeding. So it is with business - you have to learn when to give up, when discretion is the better part of valor. There's no disgrace in giving up, once you've given it your best shot. Don't throw good money after bad.
  2. The honest guy doesn't always win. I realize I am in dangerous waters here, and I'm not suggesting for one minute that you become dishonest, but look around you - how many scrupulously honest businesspeople do you see out there? The winners are mostly the shady guys; it's just the way it is. I suppose the message here is that it's easy to be too nice, too generous, both to customers and employees. First things first - you have to make a profit, or you won't be in business and if you aren't in business you can't service customers, nor employ people. Be above board, but make sure you are making money; remember, you are not a charity.
  3. There's a huge element of luck in business. You are probably thinking; of course there is - what's he getting at? How many successful businesspeople do you know who are idiots? I don't mean your average joker, but someone you would never hire in a million years, but there they are running a business and making money. I know one such guy who owns more than a dozen businesses - he's great, I get on well with him, but he is almost computer illiterate, totally unreliable, and a loose canon in so many ways it's scary. But, he's successful and I can truly only put it down to luck. So, if you have been struggling for years, working hard, doing all the right things, but getting a meager return on your investment it may simply be that you're not lucky in business. I'm supposed to be giving you advice here, but this is one immutable thing I've never found the answer to. Perhaps hiring a lucky person to run your company might work? Hey, it's worth trying!
  4. If you can't sell - get out. Zig Ziegler, the greatest sales guru of all, once said there is only one activity in a business that contributes to profit and that's selling, everything else contributes to cost. That is so true, if you can't sell, or don't enjoy selling you might as well give up now. Good salespeople are as rare as hen's teeth and those that do exist earn big money. Even if you find one, keeping them for any length of time can be a nightmare. The only way around this immutable fact is either to embrace selling yourself, or have a partner that loves to sell and who is fully invested in the business.
  5. Class Counts. As I mentioned earlier, I originate from England and I grew up in a very class-oriented society. It was never what you knew - it was who you knew. For example, I was the only divisional head in my company who was not a director - it simply wouldn't have been right; I came from the wrong side of the tracks! If you had well-connected parents, went to the right school, university, or were a member of one of the best clubs - that is you were 'born with a silver spoon in your mouth' then it was smooth sailing all the way. You would rise through the corporate ranks, or meet all the right people, and make all the right connections to be successful in your own business. Even banks would be more likely to lend you money.

    Now, I'm told this has changed a lot since I left more than twenty years ago, but I am certain it still exists at a certain level. I say this because here in Canada the same paradigm is at work - not with class per se, but with education and social status. Increasingly I see that it helps greatly if one went to a 'better' university, know the right people, and mix in the right circles. I think it was John Naisbitt, in his book Megatrends who stated that 100 people run a town no matter its size and that to be successful you need to know as many of them as possible. I firmly believe that we are more likely to be successful if we socialize with the elite in our town, or our industry. In England I was judged by my accent, which indicated I was from working class stock; luckily in North America that is less of an issue - just act with class, mix with the right people and success will follow. Perhaps, after all, it is about who you know, rather than what you know?

Looking at the five points above I realize they originate from a negative place, but in reality business is tough and it seems that many publications only want to give readers platitudes and only relate positive messages. The truth isn't that simple.

I hope you will take the positive messages from what I have written. Overcoming trials and tribulations is what we as entrepreneurs do every day - better to be forewarned and forearmed. "You need lucky breaks to be successful" Richard Branson

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The 5 Immutable Things I've Learned About Business

 

4 Ways to Overcome Your Fear of Selling

Courage can be summed up as - the ability to do something that frightens you. So overcoming such fear and doing what scares you can make you a hero, or heroine. For many people the act of selling makes them fearful.

Whether you are an experienced sales person, someone entering sales for the first time, or perhaps someone just starting their own business who has suddenly realized they've got themselves a job in sales, these few thoughts on the role of courage in sales may help you face your fears.

The Fear of the Unknown

One of the biggest fears we have is the fear of the unknown. That's why so many people are afraid of death. In terms of sales, many people's fears rise in direct proportion to how ill prepared they are - how little they know about what they are selling. Confidence comes from knowing your stuff - knowing everything possible about the product or service you are selling.

Belief

We're not talking religion here, but a deep-seated belief in what you are selling. Unless you are the type who is happy conning people, the less you believe in what you are selling the more frightened you will be selling it. Study it, learn it, become an expert on it - believe in it, or sell something you can believe in.

Making the First Move

Do you have a fear of the phone? Many people do. If that's you, do you know what prevents you from picking up the phone to call someone? I suggest it is the fear of rejection - the fear of being thought of as 'another pushy salesperson.' Is this the way you think of the people who call you? If so, rethink how you deal with those calls, or even ask one of the people calling you how they deal with rejection. Sales is all about rejection. You may have to get a hundred no's before you get a yes, but the yes's are out there waiting for you, you just have to be brave enough to deal with all those people who really don't want what you have to sell. Expect rejection, expect the no's - it's a natural, and necessary part of selling. Like gold mining, you may have to pan for quite awhile to find a nugget, but if you stick to it when the others have all gone home you will be triumphant.

Braving the Ask

If you've ever read anything about selling you will know you have to ask for the order. Build your confidence by stacking the deck in your favour. Ask a lot of questions that test the waters - questions that test the potential of you getting a yes. Google 'trial closes' and you will see dozens of questions you can ask that will let you know how close you are to a sale. Simply knowing this, will make you braver and more confident.


Unless you are one of those few people that love selling and have no fear of it (do those people really exist?) then you need to spend a little time analyzing where your fears are based. If you know what scares you about selling, you can strategize ways to overcome your fear. By overcoming the fear, your confidence will grow, you will start making more sales and who knows you may start to love selling.

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The 5 Immutable Things I've Learned About Business

 

Curiosity - An Essential Entrepreneurial Asset

Most people, if asked what virtues an entrepreneur needs to be successful, would mention they need to have a creative mind, be hard-working, not averse to risk, be committed, have solid financial resources and perhaps a dozen more. But, how many would mention curiosity? Curiosity is a common factor in every successful entrepreneur you can think of - a natural and abiding sense of curiosity is vital for success.

Research has shown that being curious improves learning by stimulating your mind's reward system. The act of being curiosity actually motivates us and increases the speed at which we learn. Curiosity leads to such observations as:

  • I wonder why that store does or doesn't do this or that?
  • I've noticed that people are complaining a lot about customer service, is there a better way to streamline the way we do things to make people happier and make money from it?
  • How come when people order carpeting, or an appliance, it has to be ordered in and they have to wait weeks for delivery - how can I do it better?
  • I've read that 40 per cent of all consumer purchases are made after 6 pm and yet most downtown stores close at 5:30, why is that?
  • Why does it take more than half a day to buy a car? And why aren't dealers open on Sundays?

This same sense of curiosity and discovery leads entrepreneurs to want to know what's new in the world, or within their industry, or their local business environment.

It has been said that 'readers become leaders' and it's only through gaining an intimate knowledge of the world around us, combined with a high level of curiosity about the WHY of life, that we will recognize opportunities that pass others by.

In today's world of knowledge access, virtually every question can be answered in a matter of seconds through Google or other search engines, via online magazines unique to our industry, or by reading magazines on general business issues.

Curiosity is needed not only at the outset of your business. Curiosity is essential on an ongoing basis: "What would it take to grow our sales by 10 per cent?" "What if I put the staff on an earnings bonus program?"

Here are 3 ways to take your curiosity to the next level:

  1. Pick up a magazine on a subject you know nothing about and read it from cover to cover. When you've finished, think about whether anything you learned could be adapted to your business. You'll be surprised at the connections you make.
  2. Check out how companies in different industries market what they sell. Especially overseas companies. Are they doing something you could adapt for your industry, or market?
  3. Out of the blue, contact someone in a similar business situation to you in a foreign company and ask whether they'd be prepared to chat about their industry and where it's heading. You may have to schedule a conference call, but you'll be surprised at the insights the meeting will generate.

Well-known writer on entrepreneurialism, Michael Gerber, author of the E-Myth says that people only buy a product or service if they have a pain, or a need. Use your natural curiosity to find out how people satisfy that pain or need in today's market. Then figure out a way to do it better than your competitors and you'll have a great business model.

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