This post is for all business owners — In my 10+ years of coaching around the world, I've seen it happen to many successful businesses. Most people get it, but there are a few who take their eye off the prize and let their house of cards tumble to the ground. Here are some of their regrets:
1. I should have see the change in the marketplace.
This has been a HUGE regret over the past few years. Of course we all know about the economy — but there are so many business owners who think life will just go on if they stick their head in the sand and fervently hope for the best.
First, understand what market pressures are hitting your industry — are prices going up? Hard to get materials? What's changing?
Second, develop 'What-If' scenarios for these changes — if my A clients go away, I need to tap into B clients with this strategy. Also, don't get caught up in developing strategy without taking action — if you see the marketplace changing, take action TODAY.
2. I should have seen my clientele changing.
This is the one that sneaks up on you and suddenly bites you in the butt. Maybe you lose one of your better and oldest customers, then a new one defects. Suddenly, it's a downpour of defections and you don't know what to do.
First, keep your eyes and ears open. See what's happening to your direct (and indirect) competition in the industry — are they getting hit or going out of business first?
Second, retention is a HUGE part of your client relationship. Ensure you have a healthy communication channel with your customers (see #3) and you are personally speaking with them on a regular basis. What do they like? What don't they like (people hate to ask this question)? What could you improve? If you ask these questions now, you won't lose your key customers later.
3. I should have paid more attention to marketing and promoting my business.
Face it — we get comfortable in the house we build. Clients flock to our business, we make gobs of money, and we think we have a winning formula. But life (and your marketplace) changes in a millisecond. Every sustained and successful business KNOWS the secret to success is consistent and focused marketing to communicate to your new (and current) audience.
First, assess what you're doing right now. What's working? What isn't? Ask your prospects and customers how they've heard about you. Track your marketing dollars and develop a monthly ROI trend with all the things you do to market your business.
Second, don't be afraid of abandoning a tried and true method of advertising. I've had so many clients enraptured with radio (and spending thousands of dollars a month on it) and when they did a quick calculation of its current ROI, they found it came in dead last for delivery of qualified prospects. Sometimes you need to put certain marketing avenues on the shelf for a little while and try out new directions — see what happens.
4. I should have kept my eye on the 20% who deliver 80% of my business.
In business, it seems the 80% of bothersome and small-value clients make up the monster-share of our business troubles. They're the ones who are nit-picky about everything, argue about every single penny, and are never satisfied about the final product.
First, understand who are your 20% and who are your 80%. Begin to make a persona for the 20% and go out and find more of them. Actively spend more money, marketing dollars and time to find these people.
Second, clearly define who the 80% is. And start firing them — begin from the bottom and move upwards. You don't make a lot of money from them — why spend so much time trying to make them happy? A great book to read on firing your bad customers is Book Yourself Solid by Michael Port. Great way for you to put the velvet rope in place to access your services.
5. I worked so hard and put in long hours, but it didn't matter.
Welcome to the real world Neo.Every one of my clients need to be shown the red or blue pill — and take the right one to understand you need to work smarter, not harder (or longer). Everyone thinks they need to kill themselves to 'be a success'. Understand, I know there are times when there is an emergency or the delivery of a major project — you will then need to put in the requisite time and energy. But it shouldn't be permanent — only temporary.
First, take a long hard look at how you REALLY spend your time and what REALLY benefits your bottom line. We tend to do the things we like and sometimes, these things really don't contribute much to the bottom line. I had a client, a manager of a major store, spending his time replacing florescent fixtures in the ceiling while he maintained he had no time for marketing his business permanently. I instructed him to delegate the light fixture duty and get his butt out on the street to build his clientele.
Second, be smarter about HOW you work and WHEN you work. Many people ask me how I get everything done AND have a full-book of clients (with a waiting list) all the time. I tell them I get up every day at 5 AM and get 1-2 hours of work in prior to my first coaching session. In addition, I also get up on the weekends at 6 AM and work until 8 AM (when my family gets up). If you do the quick addition, I get in an extra 14 hours of work on my business every week without impacting my regular coaching session hours. Try it!
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P.S. Did this article hit a nerve? If so, let's talk. I've worked with many businesses who have the same questions — and we developed a successful plan to tackle their problems and obstacles. I schedule infrequent complimentary (i.e., free) sessions - catch one today.