Friday, 26 August 2011

What help should you get for your business?

In an earlier article article, I asked:

“Is it better to work with more businesses (in a relatively shallow way) or is it better to work with fewer but in a more intense way (and therefore more long-term benefit)?”

(The original question arose out of two sessions working out in Africa (Botswana, Zambia, Malawi and Mauritius). My preference (in terms of giving the biggest benefit to the individual clients and to the group) was to work longer and deeper with fewer people.)

Applied to your own business (and specifically to your marketing) I wondered if it is better to narrow your focus and look for deep knowledge in a narrow field (niche) or is it better to go broader and shallower?

As I reflect on my own activities with business owners and directors (spread between keynote speaking through seminars to mastermind groups and one-to-ones) I have been following the progress and successes of clients and delegates.

All the research points to one blindingly obvious fact.

Yes, the choice of intervention is varied from free workshops, seminars and ebooks through paid-for CDs, videos, events and workshops through to mastermind groups, strategy awaydays, coaching and consultancy support. And yes, business owners should choose the style of intervention that suits them best. However, the medium selected is just that, simply a means to an end. And the end is to significantly improve business performance. So, the question that should be asked is, “which medium gives the biggest and best improvement for my business?”

What is emerging is that the simpler, shorter interventions, especially what can be called ‘one-to-many’ activities (one speaker to 150 delegates, one speaker to 150 people on the end of the phone, one person making a CD and selling 150 copies…) is not necessarily the best catalyst to get the business owner to

  1. Recognise the business’s key issues
  2. Understand the cause and best possible solutions
  3. Understand what decision needs to be made
  4. Take the decision and put in place a plan to roll-out the necessary actions
  5. Make the plan happen
  6. Know how to monitor/evaluate/improve on the plan (and do it).

‘One-size-fits-all’ solutions rarely do fit all. If (as a director) you don’t know what you don’t know then how do you know if you are actually doing the right thing…?

Because business owners need to understand what is wrong with their businesses (and because they probably don’t have the diagnostic skills to identify them) so it can be seen that smaller groups working for longer time-periods (not just one-offs) and actually inter-relating in discussions about the specific business should be more effective.

To that end, we find that mastermind groups, strategy awaydays, coaching and consultancy support are the most effective interventions.

In general terms you can see a continuum going from low price/low result through to high price/high result.

However, a high price-point does not guarantee high results. The key seem to be whether the intervention (at whatever price-point and by whatever medium) actually gets the business owners/directors to take the necessary actions to grow their business.

Regrettably too few of the business interventions actually help the owner to do this.

So, as an owner-director what do you do? I think you have to choose the intervention that you think will best help you to make the decisions and take the actions. Making decisions and drawing up plans is good but actually it is the implementation of the right plan that you are looking to accomplish.

So, is the best intervention (from the point of view of giving the individual client, you, the best result) to work with more clients
(but in a shallow way) or to work with fewer clients (but more intensively)? If you are talking about the future of your business then the shallow solution (a book, CD or workshop) simply cannot be sufficient. You need the intense solution that gets you to take action.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

The Books I Lend Out The Most

From Warren Cass's blog....

Warren Cass has just asked me to write about three books that I think are great (“my favourite business books”) as part of his ‘Big Business Book Month‘.
Should be a doddle I thought as I’ve just put the finishing touches to two chapters for a book on Business Gurus (you’ll have to wait to find out who I wrote about).
To spice things up I have decided that maybe a better title than “my favourite business books” (see this link also) would be “the books I lend out the most” because this reflects the interests of my clients and colleagues.
So, my list of the books I lend out the most is as follows:

Seth Godin: Purple Cow
PC asks the crucial question, “How can you make your business remarkable ie worthy of being talked about?” Godin argues (as I do in Bright Marketing) that the key to success is to find a way to stand out. The book claims that we have now moved into an era where markets are largely satisfied, and that to be noticed a product and its marketing need to be remarkable to be seen at all, let alone to sell. In his language, you need to be the purple cow in a field of monochrome brown cows.
Godin’s blogs and articles always entertain and challenge. For a taster take a look at In Praise of the Purple Cow
He reminds us to keep looking and searching and questioning and to not accept the status quo as being good enough.
4HWW is like Gerber’s E-Myth plus Covey’s Seven Habits but all on steroids – the tagline says it all: “escape 9-5, live anywhere, and join the new rich”. A challenging read and not everyone’s cup of tea. Ferriss explains how to follow a step-by-step process to get yourself a ‘luxury lifestyle’. He advocates using the available tools (that usually tend to actually complicate things) to become more effective and filling your personal time with the things you really want to have.
Ferriss concedes ‘much of what I recommend will seem impossible and even offensive to basic common sense’. Statements such as “everything popular is wrong… be unreasonable… cultivate selective ignorance, interrupt interruptions, management by absence” give you a feel for his approach. The idea of mini-retirements is promoted as an alternative to the ‘deferred life’ career path where many people work their 9-5 until they get to retirement in their 60’s when they are too old to enjoy what the world has to offer.
Again the tagline says it all: “companies that choose to be great instead of big”. 14 companies that choose not to grow just to sell-up. (See more here) There is an alternative to the dream of the big exit strategy; you can choose instead to avoid the pursuit of endless growth deciding to focus on more satisfying business goals, being the best at what they do, creating a stimulating place to work, and pursuing perfect customer service.
Postscript: I’d like to thank Warren for the invitation. On reflection, a couple of points:
  • It is curious that all the books come from over the Atlantic – can’t the UK compete or is it just that I like their style and their attitude?
  • Godin, Ferriss and Burlingham are by no means flawless. Their work is presented as work-in-progress, warts and all. What I love about them is how they get me to think about my businesses and those of my clients. Interestingly enough, while Burlingham is a safer read, it is the companies he describes that are so stimulating
  • All these books kick against the status quo
  • Good books (or at least these books) tell you exactly what they talk about on the cover.