The 3 Things Seven Figure Businesses Did to Become Seven Figure Businesses

Half of all business owners are content with the profits that they are earning now. The other half are focused on making more money and gaining more customers. The businesses that are earning over $100,000 a year want to learn how to pass the million dollar mark. Here are 3 tips that seven figure businesses can give to five and six figure businesses.

1. Balance Skills with Dreams
Skills are tasks that you can do exceptionally well. Dreams are ideas that you are genuinely interested in and want to do. Although not all dreams are realistic, some can be turned into realistic goals. Choose an area of business that you have dreamed about pursuing and then develop the skills to get started.

2. Watch Marketplace Trends
Million dollar business owners do not get to that point by making assumptions. They do not assume that a certain product or niche is guaranteed to sell millions of dollars in products. They watch every consumer trend that happens in the marketplace and base their decisions on actions.
Many companies watch the activities that occur within their own marketplace. They use analytics software to keep track of their customers’ buying habits in the past and present. They do not increase sales by assuming that certain customers will buy certain products.

3. Target Unique Populations
Look for under-served populations to target in your sales campaign. Some businesses thrive just by targeting one or two types of customers like the elderly or children. If you’re selling auto products or services, create a plan to target wealthy car enthusiasts instead of the general public. Look for unique individuals who will benefit from using your business.

The work of being a business owner does not stop at choosing your business name and finding the right location. Continue finding more ways to boost your business sales and increase profits. Learn from seven figure businesses that are proven to have succeeded in your industry.

Not Having Enough Time is the Symptom, Rather than the Cause of Your Business Challenges

Being a business owner is an exciting experience for both budding and thriving entrepreneurs. Sometimes, however, there are a few bumps on the road to success. Whether you feel that you lack time to invest in your business or you feel that you invest too much time for it to not be thriving, there are a few factors that could help you understand ways your business could improve.

Poor Scheduling
What’s your schedule like? Do you take time each month to schedule your monthly, weekly, and daily business goals? Not having a written plan could hinder your business from growing as quickly as you’d like.
A set schedule and success go hand in hand. When you’re making a schedule, you’re deciding your work hours. Remember that no work could mean no pay. Allow yourself time for your family, yourself, and other things that matter, but set aside strict times that are dedicated solely to growing your business, and stick to that schedule religiously.

Poor Planning
Perhaps you do schedule time to work your business. If you still feel that you aren’t getting much accomplished, chances are you didn’t set attainable business goals.
Written goals remind us of our tasks for the day. Simply put, when you’re writing your goals, you are writing a to-do list. It is a good idea to write out goals for the entire month. If you don’t feel that you can think that far ahead, however, you can start by writing weekly goals. Weekly goals are especially helpful if your business is new and hasn’t yet started booming.

Poor Execution
So you’ve written out a work schedule as well as tasks to accomplish daily. However, business still isn’t progressing as well as it could. When you’ve perfected the strategies of scheduling and planning, the next factor to look at is execution.
When you could meet your goals a little better, you have to discover ways that will help you and your staff work a little smarter. Ensure that everyone’s task is tailored to his particular skill set, implement steps that will make every worker more efficient, and learn easier, quicker of completing tasks. Taking these steps makes for a more efficient workforce, an easier workload, and will probably leave you with more time to brainstorm new business activities.

Not having enough time to work your business isn’t always the problem. Sometimes, we all just have to learn how to manage our time, our staff, or our daily goals. Proper execution, coupled with scheduling and planning, will help you to be well on your way to owning a more thriving business.

Learning from Companies on the Inc 5000 List

When running a company, one of the best ways to have success in the future is to emulate successful companies. There are many examples of companies that have done a great job of growing sales and profits over the years. There are numerous things that business owners can learn from companies that are growing rapidly. As a general rule, most of these companies share similar traits.

Rapid Growth
If you want to have success as a business owner, you need to grow your company rapidly. There are many people who struggle to grow their company once it gets started. You need to have a vision for how your company is going to look many years from now. Some business owners wrongly assume that the business will grow over time no matter what. You have to be intentional about your business plans if you want to have success in this area.

Financial Planning
Some business owners take on a lot of debt when they get started. Although some business debt is not a bad thing, there are many people who end up getting stuck with lots of debt. This is a major issue for various reasons.
High debt levels tend to restrict your ability to grow in the future. A lack of cash flow is one of the biggest financial issues that any business leader has to deal with. In addition, high debt levels can increase your stress. No one wants to worry about making debt payments because they borrowed too much money at one time. If you decide to borrow money, make sure to have a plan to pay the loans back in a timely manner.

Focus on Goals
Another common characteristic of successful business leaders is that they are always focused on their goals. If you do not have goals for your business, you are going to have a tough time having success in any area. Before the new year, write down some measurable goals that you want to accomplish with your company and will probably leave you with more time to brainstorm new business activities.
Not having enough time to work your business isn’t always the problem. Sometimes, we all just have to learn how to manage our time, our staff, or our daily goals. Proper execution, coupled with scheduling and planning, will help you to be well on your way to owning a more thriving business.

The One Thing You Absolutely Must Change For Your Business For This Year

The dawning of a new year is upon us, and this is a critical time when many people review what they have been doing in their personal and business lives. They take stock of how things have been going, and how they can stand to improve. It is a good idea to go through this mental exercise from time to time to ensure that you are not overlooking critical details that could bring about failure.

One thing worth changing this year in your business if you can change nothing else is how you conduct certain processes. That is to say that you have to take a look around and see if you are doing things because they are actually the most efficient, or simply the most comfortable.

A lot of people are afraid of change deep down. They don’t particularly like to admit it, but it does scare them a little to consider what it might mean if they altered this process or that to make room for something new. Every time someone thinks like that, they are costing their business money and productivity.

Survey the business around you and see if there are areas in which you could stand to improve. For example, you might want to outsource your payroll department or cut back on the number of corporate outings. Things big and small can all add up to the way that the books are balanced at the end of the quarter and the end of the year. You may be flushing money down the drain because you are unwilling to leave your comfort zone even a little bit.

There is only so much time in every day, so why waste it doing things the old way when they are not working out for you as well as you would have hoped?

Consider straightening up your back and making so long overdue changes to reshape your business in a way that makes it as efficient as possible.

Use the Power of a Deadline to Advance Your Business

Blackboard DeadlinesDeadlines are, in essence, goals that you have set for your business for the sake of getting tasks completed in an efficient manner. At times, particularly when clients and external business partners are involved, they can amount to promises, but in many cases, it is the fact that business was taken care of in a reasonable amount of time rather than the exact time of completion that is more important. Nonetheless, without use of deadlines, your business could easily become lax in its efforts, displease customers, and fall behind the competition.

Below, we look at 4 steps involved in setting achievable deadlines that will help your business grow and succeed:

  1. Estimate how long the task will take: In determining the length of time necessary to complete a task, and thus, when to set your deadline, it is important to be realistic. For many, there is a tendency to underestimate how long major projects will take and to overestimate the time needed for small ones. It is advisable to give yourself a buffer to avoid having to move the deadline out due to unforeseen delays since a missed deadline is particularly depressing. Yet, you still should have no more than a few extra days allotted for even a major project. Also account for attention that must be given to other tasks and either allow sufficient time to do both projects simultaneously or put one thing or the other on hold until the more pressing project is completed.

2. Formulate a specific time table: First, the deadline itself should be specific: not “the end of next week” but “Friday at 5pm,” for example. Next, you need to break the task down into smaller tasks and set a deadline for each of these smaller goals. This will create “milestones” that keep the project on track to meet deadline and also serve to motivate workers as they see they are getting closer to achieving the end-goal. Also provide for incentives that encourage your employees to reach each milestone by the designated time.

3. Account for potential problems: Sit down and think of all the problems that could crop up and slow things down. Then set up “contingency plans” to use should any of these issues arise. These contingency plans should outline how you will manage to still meet the deadline in spite of these difficulties.

4. Delegate out each task: Having a goal and steps to accomplish it by the deadline will do little good unless specific employees are assigned to handle each step along the way. Take pains to assign the most qualified person to each task, and don’t overburden anyone. If, however, an employee ends up needing extra time, manpower, or resources, let them know they can ask for whatever they need.

Deadlines help you organize your time, set priorities, and get you motivated when you might not otherwise feel up to the task. Knowing how to set appropriate deadlines and how to meet them will keep your staff motivated and help your business succeed.

Preparing to go on Vacation

time for vacationAs a small business owner, you might think it a nearly impossible proposition that you would get away for even a week on a “real” vacation, one that is not consumed by attention to business matters and then suddenly cut short by a business-related emergency. However, with advance planning and adherence to some basic protocols, it can really be done.

Some tips to help you have a vacation from your daily business duties without allowing your business to sink into a state of turmoil are given below:

  1. Vacation During the Lulls: Most businesses are subject to a cycle of busy and slow seasons throughout the year, and one way to ease the stress of worrying about your business while away is to schedule you vacation during a lull.
  2. No Major Moves While Away: It is best not to begin a major new project, like launching a new website or conducting a big marketing campaign, while away from the helm. Delay signing all contracts as well until you are back and able to scrutinize them in “non-rush mode.” “Major moves” often run into snags and glitches, and you may need to be there personally to deal with such problems.
  3. Delegate Duties and Preempt Problems: Appoint one employee in charge while you are away, and make sure everyone knows they are to follow his instructions. Also leave a list of how to handle various problems, such as computers breaking down, Internet connections failing, or the company website being out of commission. Let everyone refer to that list to handle emergencies when the person you left in charge is not available.
  4. Minimize Communications to the Essential: Have your employees send you only one email at the end of each day summarizing the day’s activities, problems, and successes. Let everything that only you can do, but that can wait, be printed and placed on your desk for when you return. If, and only if, it is a true emergency, should you be called on the phone.
  5. Don’t Call-Forward to Your Cell Phone: Instead of having you business line forwarded to your cell phone, have your employees handle the calls. Also use a voicemail that you can check when your return or at your convenience while away.
  6. Alert Clients You Will Be Away: For those clients you work with personally, alert them you will be unavailable for awhile. It is helpful if you extend the “unavailability” dates you give them by a day or two on each end. That way, those who call at the last minute before you leave won’t really be doing so, and you will also have a chance to catch up after you return before a flood of business calls come in.

You need to bring all your important business contacts and keep track of things through Internet and phone while away, but you must also balance that need with the need to make your vacation a time of rest and diversion. Otherwise, it’s just business as usual via long-distance methods.

The Power of a Business Mastermind Group

Mastermind Group

Mastermind groups are a relatively new concept to most business owners. A mastermind or peer advisory group is designed to help people navigate through challenges using the combined intelligence of others. How does it work? A group of smart, goal-oriented people meets on a regular basis to tackle problems and challenges together. These people lean on each other, share advice and connections, and conduct business together when appropriate. What are the benefits of joining such a group?

Challenging Yourself

Do you want your business to grow beyond your wildest dreams? You need to join a peer advisory group; it will challenge you to grow your company to its fullest potential. In day-to-day life, it is very easy to get distracted – when this happens you lose track of your goals and your business suffers. However, a peer advisory group would keep you from straying too far.

Accountability

As a human being, you need to be held accountable for your actions. Otherwise, you will just do what you want regardless of how it affects the business. At the end of each peer
advisory group meeting, you will have objectives and an action plan that you need to work on before the next meeting. The group will hold you to account for everything, because it takes true discipline to achieve anything in life. Being held accountable by your colleagues will help you keep your focus and succeed in your business.

Lasting Connections

The life of a business owner can be quite lonely. However, if you share your aspirations, challenges and dreams with a team of like-minded people, it will be less lonely. As you spend more time with your peers, you will share ideas and develop strong connections that can last a lifetime. Whether you are looking for lifelong friends or not, you will form lasting bonds with some people.

Brainstorming

As a group, you will be able to share your ideas and come up with better ways of dealing with challenges. If you are not sure which direction you want to go next, seek advice from members of the group. You might be surprised by how helpful your new group mates are. Consequently, you should not be reluctant to help your new team members.

Better Decision Making

When you are alone, it is easy to dismiss an idea as silly. However, with the support of a Mastermind Group, you will be able to make decisions easily. You will have your own due-diligence group to boost your confidence when you need to make an important decision.

Feedback

Get feedback on how to solve problems from successful individuals in your field. If you are facing financial challenges or dealing with staff issues, let your group know and ask them for help. Maybe one of the members has dealt with a similar issue and can offer solid advice. Remember that every person in the group has the same goal: to grow his/her business. There is no hidden agenda – you should all work together for the betterment of your businesses.

Support

Are you going through a hard time? Sure, you can discuss your problems with a close friend or family member, but they would not understand. When you are in a peer advisory group, you can discuss your challenges with a group of like-minded individuals who understand. Some of your colleagues might even be in the same boat. Therefore, you will never lack alternative suggestions on how to deal with your problems. Moreover, you will get sound advice that will stop you from making the same mistakes that your mastermind colleagues made in the past.

Expanding Skills

Each person in a peer advisory group has unique skills and connections. Therefore, it is safe to assume that everyone is an expert at something, and as you forge new connections with them, you will pick up new skills. If you all agree to teach each other something new, you will be armed with the necessary skills to make your business succeed. In such groups, individuals tend to raise the bar by challenging one another to implement goals and brainstorm ideas.

Hot Seats

What is a hot seat? The principle behind it is that each person gets a chance to present his/her biggest challenge to the group. In turn, the group will provide a series of solutions and options to follow up on, and the individual in the hot seat leaves with more ideas. If the mastermind group is too large, not everyone gets a chance to take the hot seat. However, the person in the hot seat might be dealing with the same issues as you, so pay attention. This might help you to gain clarity on the challenges you are currently facing.

Helping Others

When you give a person advice and he or she succeeds because of it, you feel a sense of gratification. Furthermore, offering advice to others gives you the perfect opportunity to forge new and lasting connections. When you help people, most of them will want to reciprocate in any way they can. Therefore, you should think of helping others as a way of earning future favors.

New Business Ideas

The generation of new business ideas is the biggest benefit of joining a peer advisory group. You will come across new ideas that are perfect for your business. The idea may not even be related to your business, but it might jump start something in your brain. Just being in the same room with superior brains in the business world should be enough to give you new ideas.

Increased Profits

The objective of a Mastermind Group is to help you to take advantage of opportunities that come your way. Once you start doing so, your profits will soar and your business will become a great success.

Now that you know why you need to be part of a peer advisory group, you should think about joining organizations that run them, including Virginia Council of CEOs, Entrepreneurs Organization, Team Nimbus, C12 Group, Renaissance Executive Forums, Sage Executive Group, and Vistage. The owner of 1-800-Got-Junk, Brian Scudamore, grew his company’s revenues over a five-year period from $201,532 to $8,057,563. He has won many awards since and been featured on CNN, Oprah, and CBS. What was his secret for success? He joined a small group of entrepreneurs. According to him, ‘the value of peer networking turned out to be more than great business advice’. Brian says that his
peer network enabled him to expand his business. Before he joined a Mastermind network, his profits were low. Why don’t you join a Mastermind Group too? There is no losing; you can only win.

Do You Have a 12-Month Business Plan? If Not, You Are Hurting Your Business

In the world of business, setting clear, obtainable goals and working toward them consistently until they are achieved is indispensable to success. Without a plan of action, the tendency is for your actions to become one of two things: rote and unmovable or random and spur-of-the-moment. Without a 12-month business plan, it will be nearly impossible to focus on your goals in the midst of a hectic business environment. You will inadvertently end up hurting your business for lack of a plan.

Why Is a Written Business Plan Necessary?

Committing your vision for your business over the next 12 months to writing will benefit you in a number of important ways, including the following:

  • Putting your ideas down on paper and/or into a PC will help you to focus on your goals and identify your highest priorities.
  • The finished plan will serve as a point of reference to give you direction as you strive to achieve your stated goals.
  • It will be a starting point from which you can adjust to the changing circumstances (update the plan), and insightful year-on-year comparisons will ultimately be possible.
  • A secondary reason to have an annual business plan is that investors/bankers who may be interested in loaning you some capital will want to see on paper how you plan to manage your business.

How Do I Set Business Goals?

Without clearly defend, specific goals, your larger goals will not likely materialize. Part of your business plan should spell out these goals, covering such areas as:

  • Marketing Goals: Increase sales to existing clients by 15% and increase retention of new customers by 30%.
  • Production Goals: Boost output by 5% within 6 months and by 10% within 12 months.
  • Financial Goals: Reduce overhead costs by 5% while raising the profit margin from 12% to 15%.
  • Environmental Goals: Increase the energy efficiency of my facility by 20% and install solar panels on the building’s roof.

How Do I Strategize and Forecast?

Not only goals but also a step-by-step plan of action to accomplish each goal should form a part of your annual business plan. These steps will then, in turn, guide your daily operations. These steps might, fore example, include things like buying new equipment or holding worker training meetings.

A final section of your plan should be a forecast of the “financial implications” you expect will result from the plan’s implementation. This should include a 12-month cash flow forecast and a profit/loss forecast that extends across two or three years. Monitoring actual expenditures against these projections will help you to keep to goal as much as possible.

Conclusion

As a final note, realize that your 12-month business plan is a tool and not a “straight jacket.” If you need to change it to adjust to a new situation, it is better to update the plan than to miss an opportunity. At minimal, you will “update” your business plan once a year, when you sit down to formulate your goals and strategies for the next 12 months.

Strategy Before Tactics By Arthur Radtke

It’s Monday morning: the start of a new week and we need to make some sales now!

We quickly begin to run through all the tactics that we know looking for the silver bullet that will solve our problem the easiest and fastest way possible. The problem is, this is the same situation we have found ourselves every Monday as far back as we can remember. And the fact is, we are relying on tactics to carry the day when we haven’t developed our strategy enough to even choose the right tactics.

Strategy is the overall plan one is going to execute and tactics are the individual actions used to accomplish the strategy. In football, as an example, a team’s strategy might be to control the clock.  The tactic used to accomplish this might be a series of running plays or short passes. In business developments there are two parts of strategy: first, who are your most likely and best customers and, second, what is your unique value proposition to these customers.

Your best customers are usually not as obvious as we first think. One might think that the best customer is the biggest but this might not be the case. Our best customers are ones that are profitable and excited about our goods and services. These customers are both profitable and reasonably low maintenance. Many businesses don’t know what their profit is on individual customers and retain clients that are actually losing them money. There is a huge difference between revenue and profit. Resist the temptation to broaden your target market. The broader the target market is,the harder it is developing a compelling value proposition.

Once you are clear what the nature of your target market is, you then need to develop the value proposition which is critical to them. The value proposition needs to be one that answers a need of that target market. Example: if your client is a mid-size business that doesn’t have training resources, you might supply the training that they need.  Or if they are challenged to distribute their product, you could do this for them. You need to use the fact that you are an “expert” to your clients’ and prospects’ advantage. You aren’t looking to make a sale but to develop a true partnership with your clients.

With our strategy now in place, we are ready to develop the tactics needed to reach our prospects.  The tactics should take care of two initiatives: first, prospecting and second, converting the prospects we have.

Your Unfair Advantage – by Art Radtke

You have one. You may not know it, but every business owner and sales professional has one. You have a claim to something that makes you truly unique in your industry.  You have something to offer your customers that they cannot get from anyone else.  That something is your unfair advantage.  Do you know yours?

“We have the lowest prices.” Really?  Lower than Walmart’s?

“We offer better, more personal customer service.”  Would you accept a tire being returned to your store if you did not sell tires?  Whether real or urban legend, this very story is a cornerstone to Nordstrom’s reputation.

“No one can beat our selection.”   Can you prove that?

Your unfair advantage does not lie in any general claim to price, selection, or service. Your unfair advantage lives in that which makes you more than just another realtor, broker, deck builder, web developer, or shopkeeper.  It lives in the realization of what it really means to be a local business owner in your community. Once you can articulate that, you will be able to bring a whole new life to your business.  Your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to find out what it is and own it. “It” is where your power lies.

Nancy is a realtor in Marblehead, Massachusetts, who does not sell “houses.”  She offers a lifestyle.  Marblehead is well known among hard-core sailors as one of the premiere sailing communities in the country.  Top-notch sailors and Fortune 500 executives who love sailing flock there because of the incredible sailing environment.  Nancy knows this.  That is why before taking her clients to any listings, Nancy shows them the area.  She takes them to visit the yacht clubs.  She shows them various mooring options available.  She takes them sailing.  If you love the sailing lifestyle, there is only one realtor who can plug you into that community.   Nancy turned her passion for sailing and the lifestyle that surrounds it into the focus of her real estate business.  It is her unfair advantage over anyone else trying to move homes in that area.  Are there homes sold in Marblehead by agents other than Nancy?  Yes.  There are just not many with clients who came there to sail.

In a great comparison, here is another realtor I know with a different unfair advantage.  Momo specializes in finding housing for the elderly. When elderly people are ready to downsize or make a move into assisted living, she helps them sell their current home.  She knows this is very often a difficult transition for families, so she makes a point to keep the transaction as simple and painless as possible.  She also will personally connect families with other businesses she know that offer services they need to get through the move easily.  Her heart for the elderly is the core of her business.

Understanding the concept of your unfair advantage is not difficult.  Where business owners typically fall down is in not “activating” that advantage in their business.  My hunch is greed is the biggest factor. Ugly as it may sound, small business owners typically feel that to be successful we need to “have it all.”  We live under the misguided notion that in order to thrive we must serve as many people as possible, so we need to stay as general as possible.  We believe that moving our business towards our unfair advantage could effectively turn some people away.  My experience shows most small business owners shy away from anything that even smells of leaving money on the table.

Yet, if you are truly trying to yield more money from your business in less time, the quickest, most efficient way to do so is to take advantage of your unfair advantage at ALL TIMES.  For this to work, you must be willing to stake your reputation on “it.”  You need to narrow your focus.  The reality is to grow bigger you need to go smaller.

This can be done in a couple of ways.  One is to have a passion like Momo does for the elderly.   Another is to focus your business geographically (like Nancy in Marblehead) by being “ultra-local.”  Being local is an unfair advantage every small business owner has over big business. Do you love where you live and work?  Do you have strong ties to your community? Then use this to your advantage.  If you are a business-to-business company ask yourself, “How many businesses are within a one-mile radius of me at this very moment?”  If your market is more residential or consumer-driven, find out how many neighborhoods are within a one-mile radius of you right now.

Going after larger markets is an exhausting and expensive process. It requires more physical travel, is harder to wrap your arms around, and keeps you “busy” but not necessarily productive.  If you were to focus your efforts on people or businesses within one-mile radius of where you are, think of how much easier it would be to get things done.  “Going ultra-local” also strengthens your visibility in your immediate surroundings.  The farther out you reach, the less focused your efforts are and the weaker your exposure becomes.   Concentrate on that for a moment…

Going ultra-local also provides you the perfect environment for making your business ultra-personal.  By making your world smaller, you create the time you need to really KNOW your customers.  You find more time to visit clients, to hold more appreciation events, and to deepen relationships in ways previously not possible.  The beauty of this is at the same time you are getting to know your clients better they are getting to know you too.  Your unfair advantage lives and breathes in the strength of these relationships. Larger, more complicated companies and major corporations cannot do this.  Be local.  Make it personal.

In addition to the fear of leaving money on the table, small business owners trip themselves up by not seeing the forest for the trees.  Pizza Hut hands out coupons for free pizza to elementary school students with an A on their report card. Tony’s Pizzeria, right around the corner does not.  Why?  Tony either sees “giving away” pizza as too expensive, or more likely, he never gets around to making it happen.

Tony is missing a main accountability ingredient: a boss.  Pizza Hut has a local manager that has a divisional manager that has a regional supervisor that has a corporate VP pushing the process down.  Tony is focused on keeping the doors open and his employees employed every day. He does not see how free pizza could position him as a champion of education in his community with advertising that is paid for only when it works.  Nine parents out of ten would choose Tony over Pizza Hut, if he would not let the big guys out-localize the local guy.

Make it local.  Make it personal.  Make it happen. One of the great things about being a small business owner is you can choose whose rules you want to play by.  If you want to do business solely with customers within 1 mile of your office, you can.  If you want to sell homes only to people looking for waterfront property, do it.  If you want to build a business that provides work for stay-at-home-moms, that is your business.  Not only can you choose what you want your business to be, you have the unique ability to turn on a dime.  You do not have layers of bureaucracy and corporate decision-makers to muddle though.  It is your business. Just make it happen.

My daughter and I daydream sometimes about opening up a coffee shop together. Our whole purpose in being would be to promote the other local businesses around us.  Instead of pretty pictures on the wall we’d have the local fishing report and the day’s weather forecast.  We’d be known for being a “non-virtual” communication hub of our small town.  It is our own ultra-local opportunity.  It feeds our desire to help small business, to be a part of our community, and to do something meaningful together.

What is your unfair advantage?  It is a fair question.   Work it out.