- THE MAGAZINE
“Lather… rinse… repeat.” — Shampoo instructions
My wife Sioux and I really enjoy a suspenseful drama… on the silver screen! But drama in real life and in running a small business? Not so much! Instead, I would submit that your goal should be to build a stable, predictable and yes - even boring - business!
Think about it. What makes a drama “dramatic?” Crises! These crises (and the actor’s struggles to overcome them) are diverting and exciting when they are happening to fictional characters on screen.
But how about when you personally are constantly struggling with ongoing negative drama(s)? Then real life becomes exhausting, frustrating and very, very scary! Even worse, these daily crises will suck the joy right out of your daily routine!
Instead, why not build a “business that works” and then find your kicks (and drama if you wish) with an exciting hobby. So here are a few thoughts on building a sane, predictable, profitable, even boring business and life by “looking around!” Start by looking for…
Sector niches: Most drama is created by conflict between two entities. In business, this struggle is called “competition.” Of course, capitalism is based on survival of the fittest. (And yes, capitalism, even with its imperfections, is still the best economic system out there today!) However, why not pick your battles and look for under-served or creative business sectors with less competition?
- Example: I have a carpet cleaning friend who many years ago developed a unique (and highly profitable) system for deck renovation. Now this add-on sale to clean and refinish his carpet cleaning clients’ deck has become the “tail that wags the dog” and he offers carpet cleaning as the optional service! And he has virtually no competition!
Of course, even the best mouse trap needs to be promoted, marketed and sold! So you need to look for…
Marketing niches: Most cleaners all use the same marketing mediums selling the same services (see point above) to the same clients. This is so sad since this “follow the follower” approach wastes both huge amounts of money and wasted opportunities. And of course, these lost profits and missed accounts create negative drama in your life! Instead, look for synergistic low-cost (or free!) ways to promote your business.
- Example: Bill Yeadon loves the “hub marketing” concept. This just means finding complimentary services that your customers use and developing a mutually beneficial relationship with these folks. For residential referrals, think hair salons, carpet and furniture retailers, interior designers, veterinarians, pet spas and a host of home repair services. For restoration leads, focus on “hubs” such as property managers (great for maintenance cleanings, too), realtors, fire sprinkler companies (lots of water losses!) along with plumbers, roofers, drywall contractors, painters, appliance repair and delivery people. All of these businesses can either refer you to losses or many times are the cause of the loss! How to start this symbiotic relationship? Here’s a great hint from Bill: “Most cities have a trade show that is designed for the construction industry. Get a booth and offer giveaways at the show. Also mention that you are looking for service providers to work for you in your restoration business! You will probably be the only restorer at the show!” (NOTE: For a free copy of Bill’s complete “Hub Marketing” special report just e-mail me at stoburen@StrategiesForSuccess.com and put “Hub Marketing” in the subject line.)
Once you have identified and developed (OK, kissed up to!) these marketing hubs, you’ll need to actually produce the flood of work they send you! Now you can stay small as a boutique operation charging the high prices an owner-operator deserves. There is nothing wrong with this business model if it is what you want.
However, many owner-operators eventually tire of being chained to the wand and desire more personal freedom. The challenge? For most owner-operators, their business is all about them. Everything about the business is only in the head of the owner, which is a sure-fire prescription for negative drama when you hire employees. So you’ll need to clone yourself as you grow. How? You must …
Create a Business Infrastructure: That’s an intimidating phrase for a simple concept. Traumatic though it might be, just imagine that you have been diagnosed with a terminal illness and have only one year to live! Your business has been doing great, but now you’re not going to be pushing, shoving, flogging and screaming to make things happen. So what instructions, systems and procedures will you put in place now to ensure your business will continue running smoothly/producing profits without you in the future? This effort will produce your business infrastructure. So why wait? Why not build a business infrastructure now that documents everything step-by-step you (and others) do every day in your company? Now make sure all these lists link up and easily hand off the task or customer to the next person or system. Your goal? To make your operation into a smoothly functioning cash flow machine that will run with you or without you!
- Example: Pick one task each day and document it step-by-step. (Or if that is too much, set a weekly goal.) The key is to chip away at reducing every task in your company to such simple steps that anyone can do them. Because “anyone” just might have to! (NOTE: Want to jump start your business infrastructure building efforts? E-mail me with “Business Infrastructure” in the subject line at stoburen@StrategiesForSuccess.com and I’ll send you a list of free downloadable business procedures along with a sample format to produce your own.)
So now you will have achieved the incredible (and very elusive) reward of personal freedom! Think about it - you know you would come up with this business infrastructure to replace you if you were dying! Once again - why wait for a terminal diagnosis to create your very own personal freedom?
Once you have your business infrastructure well started (you’ll never really stop improving it!), you must now finance your growing operation. This means you must look for…
Routine/profitable cash flow: Right up there with employees (more on this next month!) being up against the wall financially creates huge negative drama. So how can you find the absolute luxury of being “flush” financially? By constantly looking for…
- Business “Toll Booths”: Try to never do a job one time only. Always ask yourself, “How can I convert this contact into a ‘toll booth’ that will create regular, routine cash flow?” Example: Never give a one-price commercial bid. Even if the property manager doesn’t ask for it, include in your recommendations several different prices based on the frequency of a service agreement. Your prospect may reply, “I just want the carpets cleaned one time.” But at least you will have planted the seed and you’ll be amazed how many of your accounts will sign a regular service agreement… if you ask! Carefully think about offering your residential customers a pre-paid “stay beautiful” flooring maintenance plan. Just imagine - regular cash flow streaming in for work you haven’t even done yet!
And finally remember my favorite marketing motto: “Marketing should be a process - not an event!” By following a regular, routine marketing calendar (and routine sales efforts) you’ll avoid “binge selling,” which creates way too much negative drama!
Of course, by far the greatest drama in my life was marginal employees and the personal drama(s) in their lives! So in Part II of “How to Build a Drama-Free Business,” we’ll focus on how to find and keep (more-or-less) drama-free employees that are a delight to work with. These great people are out there - let’s go look for them!