Excuse me sir…

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Want to know how to clear a room? Start asking people about your new business idea.

Better yet, tell them you want to see if they might be a potential customer.

Here’s the truth about people and their buying habits.

“People love to buy, but hate to be sold”

Abraham Lincoln

OK, Honest Abe didn’t say that, but I couldn’t find a source, so…

What to do? Nobody will buy from you?

Just keep putting one foot in front of the other right?

An elephant is eaten one bite at a time comes…right?

Well…sorta. 

A couple of things to keep in mind as you charge ahead.

Here’s the point of this post:

  1. Persistence is great, but not without changing up your strategy, even if only slightly.
  2. You should work harder on yourself than you do on your job.
  3. People don’t care about what you know until they know how much you care (hint: Don’t make it about YOU).

Men are anxious to improve their circumstances, but are unwilling to improve themselves; they therefore remain bound.

James Allen

In his book, As a Man Thinketh, James Allen lays the smack down on wannabes with that line.

People try so hard to improve their techniques without improving themselves and it doesn’t WORK! 

So, to recap. Want to start up something and sell people on it? Make it about them, adapt, keep going, work on improving yourself, work on improving your service, and work on improving their experience.

The Right Time

The right time to do something is when you don’t want to do it.

When the thought of doing something makes you feel irritated like you need to find the nearest bathroom, do it.

I think our minds trick us into excuses to save energy. It’s much easier to do nothing than something, right? So our minds use our excuses to save us. At least, that’s what they think they’re doing.

Sometimes I’ll start a project and get really motivated about it and then start to flag. When I get to a point where I like where I’m at, but I see how much further I have to go, I start to wander. It’s probably only 10% of my projects that I get to this point that I actually finish.

And the key to the ones that actually do make it over the finish line is just working on them even when I don’t want to work on them. I push myself to do things with them even when I feel like quitting.

This is how it has to be with your business. If you are having trouble pushing yourself, don’t consider yourself a failure, just get real about what you are doing and adjust. And remember, nobody else is going to do it.

 

 

What are you Worth?

Charge more for what you do.

That’s what this post is about, giving you the ammunition to charge more and feel like a badass.  

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“I bargained with Life for a penny,
And Life would pay no more, 
However I begged at evening
When I counted my scanty store;

For Life is just an employer,
He gives you what you ask,
But once you have set the wages,
Why, you must bear the task.

I worked for a menial’s hire,
Only to learn, dismayed,
That any wage I had asked of Life,
Life would have paid.”

-Jessie B. Rittenhour

If, after reading this post, you are unable to charge more for what you do, fear not. Just come back to it the next time you are feeling underpaid and try to let the ideas sink in a little deeper.

Also, remember rule number 1 of personal change…

Rule #1 – Don’t give up unless you’re dead. 

First, here is why most early stage entrepreneurs don’t charge enough for what they do:

Reason 1 why you aren’t charging enough:  You’re still thinking like an employee, not a business owner. 

Even if you never have employees and only operate this thing yourself, you need to start treating your career as an independent as though you are a business of one. Which means you have to stop thinking about your time in terms of employee time. When you become an employee of an organization, you essentially “sell” your entire working time to that company. You’re essentially giving them a volume discount for

When you become an employee of an organization, you essentially “sell” your entire working time to that company. You’re essentially giving them a volume discount for guaranteeing that you will get paid. You’re also giving them the burden of finding you work to do.

When you are out on your own, you have no guarantees. There is now time spent doing the following activities that must be built into your pricing: 

  • Getting to and from gigs.
  • Finding gigs (this is the one people don’t account for enough)
  • Billing for gigs
  • Chasing money (invoicing, collections, etc…)

So you naturally have to charge more.

Reason 2 why you aren’t charging enough:  You’re worried they won’t give you the work if you aren’t the right price. 

How many times have you asked someone what it cost only to find out you can’t afford it? I’m sure it has happened to you. And it will happen again. It happens to ALL of us and it’s no big deal.

Yet, when you are just starting out and every deal could make or break you, it’s really easy to think that you should come down on pricing. Don’t! It will work out, stay strong.

Reason 3 why you aren’t charging enough:  You associate pricing with self-worth. 

Pricing is all about value. It has nothing to do with “worth”. You are worth a lot more than some money paid out to you by the hour. The money you are paid has nothing to do with your worth. You are worth much more than you think anyway. But the money is completely separate. Money is aimed directly at the value you provide. So don’t be afraid to charge what is fair and makes you a profit.

That’s all I got. Good luck!

Money

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Whenever I have needed money as an entrepreneur, a simple formula has always gotten me out of jams. 

First, I will tell you what I don’t do.

If you’re with me after that, I’ll tell you what you should actually do. If you aren’t reading this, then you may read my first list and think it’s the list of what you should do. That’s understandable because it’s a common list of what most people do, including myself when I was inexperienced. I only stopped because it didn’t work, not because it didn’t feel right. I hope you eventually come back because the first rule of making money when you have none is paying attention.

Don’t: 

  • Focus on money
  • Work hard to find new people to sell your product or service
  • Pay your bills more slowly to conserve cash
  • Incentivize prospects on the fence to sign and pay by offering discounts
  • Immediately change your business model and product offering to try and capture new markets that you are missing.

Why? What evidence do I have not to do this stuff?

Here’s a story.

Once, I had just a few hundred dollars of cash left in my business with a 5 figure payroll coming up. Clearly, this is one of those panic spots when you wish you could run out and force someone to sign with you.

The list you see above is essentially what I did to fix my problem. I started getting desperate to get a prospect to sign that had been on the fence. I gave them discounts. I called them a bunch. I thought about their money constantly and how it could solve my problems. What happened was I took a project I should have never taken. The timeline was too short. The money was too low. But I did it. I felt like I had to take it.

We did our best to serve the customer after we got them, but something wasn’t right. I’ve learned if they meet you desperate, they treat you desperate. First impressions set the tone for a relationship.

It ended up costing me much more in the long run in issues than drawing my line of credit and focusing on serving my customers would have.

So what do you do instead?

When you need money, do the following:

Do: 

  • Focus on service and pay attention to every little detail of what’s going on
  • Make a list of every customer (put NAMES, not just companies, but PEOPLE who need you), now make a list of their needs, desires, strengths, weaknesses, and things you can do to address them. Now set about helping them above and beyond what you are paid.
  • Pay your bills faster than normal. It will feel hellish because you are paying out the money you need to live on.
  • Become more strict on prospect qualification and be very very wary of providing any kind of discount and if anything, use this opportunity to raise prices.
  • Double down on your most profitable customers and try to learn more about what they are doing and what they need.

Why? Another story. 

After I read Emerson’s law of compensation (PDF), I set out to apply it to my business. For those curious, it basically states “If you want more, give more [sic].”

So, I tried it. I started doing more for customers. We started sending update emails when they didn’t ask. Going to their offices and dropping off donuts. Instructing my people to take more blame when things didn’t go right.

I wouldn’t say I stopped looking for new customers completely, but it became a much smaller part of my day.

And what happened? Our business doubled over a period of 6 months. Was I worried about money? Nope. People were flinging money in our faces.

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So, when you need money, buckle down. Don’t look for quick fixes. Do the right thing and look hard at yourself and your services and products and try to make them better. Take any people you are currently working with and make it your mission in life to serve them better.

Be patient. You don’t want to solve this problem quickly. Otherwise, it’s going to come back and bring more problems with it. 

 

 

The Jump

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There comes a point in every entrepreneur’s life when they must jump.

This post is about that wonderful, terrifying, pants-shitting moment that we all must face when going out on our own.

It was June 15th and I had only 2 weeks until I would be completely on my own. 

I had known the date for about 90 days. I had set it as a goal and I had already told my employer, so it was official. It was happening, there was no way around it. I would be on my own without any income for the first time in my adult life. At the time, I was about 7 years into my career.

I had a little money saved up, but not much. Maybe enough to live for a month. I had some credit cards with maybe another month’s worth of living on them. I had no prior experience as an entrepreneur. No formal training in business or anything like that.

“No formal training in business or anything like that.”

There were no gigs lined up. No safe landing. 

The only thing I was confident of, was my skill. That, and my ability to change my habits. Something I’ve come to find out is possible for everyone. I used to think it was my super power.

The first thing I did was the numbers. Over and over I looked at what I had and what I was spending. I shaved everything down to the nub. I stopped going out drinking. Stopped going out to eat. I was on a mission. All I needed was time.

I got a roommate in my 2 bedroom house with one bathroom to reduce my expenses to the bone. 

I sold my bikes, my surfboards, my extra electronics and anything else I could find.

The only thing I purchased, was a top of the line computer.

My logic being that I needed good tools. I could get rid of shit, but I couldn’t work on shit. And since my employer owned my laptop, I had to buy a new one that was my own.

I didn’t read any books about business or how to start one. Whenever I did, it looked like a lot of work before you could even start doing anything for anyone.

“I didn’t read any books about business or how to start one…”

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Once I calculated that I could live like this for about 60 days, I set to the work finding work.

NOTE: I never stopped the work of finding work. And neither will you. Even if you build products. You will learn this is the actual work of working for yourself. Finding work for yourself people will pay for. AKA, sales. 

I did what anyone would do in my situation. I called the people I knew who were already business owners. I reasoned that they were small businesses, so likely they would need some help and would be more willing to take a chance on a one-man band than an established company.

At this point, I didn’t really have an “idea” per se.

I mean, I knew that I wanted to work in technology and I knew I liked e-commerce, but I didn’t really know in what capacity I wanted to help.

So, that’s my story.

That’s how I jumped.

Eventually (about 30 days in), I got my first gig. Hourly projects for local small software companies helping them with tech problems. Somehow (5 years later), it’s become real businesses, employees, etc…

So… What’s stopping you? 

Time? 

Money? 

Fear? 

I could sit here and tell you that you need to address each of these, but you know that. And honestly, the problem is that you can address them until the cows come home and there will NEVER be a right time!

“there will NEVER be a right time”

SO JUST FREAKING DO IT!

IT’S OK IF YOU FAIL!

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Do you want to be wishing you had for the rest of your life?

 

 

 

 

 

Working With Others

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So you got the nerve, you started a business, you got out there and started talking to people, and then…

Someone actually wants to work with you!

Unlike what most people think, it’s actually extremely likely, if you keep asking, that someone is going to say yes to you. There’s just so many people and opportunities out there, it’s more surprising if nobody does

So, what do you do?

In this post, I want to highlight the principle that can guide you to successful business partnerships.

But why do I mention partnerships when we started out talking about people saying yes? 

Because, from experience, when you are first starting out, a lot of opportunities will be partnerships, not just customer relationships.

Why? 

The main reason is that at the point that you first start, you are just one person (or a few) and your resources will be limited.

So you may need other companies, people, or contractors to help you get off the ground (it’s a hell of a lot easier). 

Using the principle outlined here, you can hopefully create any number of creative possibilities for how you can work with others.

So here are the ground rules:

  1. Always know EXACTLY what they want to get out of the situation.
  2. Always know EXACTLY what you want to get out of the situation.
  3. Make sure each other know #1 and #2.
  4. Go for a mutual win. Trying to win over them is just going to invite the inverse.
  5. Have this agreement in writing before you start or as soon as possible.

And the most important part?

KNOW HOW IT ENDS.

If it’s going to end, you should know how before you start.

That’s it, now get going and work with people. Because the key to working for yourself… is working with and for a whole lot of other people.

 

 

 

The Secret to Pitching and Selling

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Selling is one of those things that many non-sales folks don’t like to do, but have to do anyway.

** DISCLAIMER **

This site is for people looking to start a new business. The target audience is between $0 and $250,000 in yearly revenue. Therefore, the type of selling I’m describing is for people at that stage. However, if you know your business, know your customer, and are selling millions per year, this doesn’t apply.

** END DISCLAIMER **

So the secret to pitching and selling for a new entrepreneur?

I say it’s best just not to bother.

?

No seriously, stop stressing about pitching and selling anything to anyone. 

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You’re not there yet. 

At this stage, you really don’t know what you’re selling. And you really don’t know who the customer is.

The most important thing is to talk to a lot of people and don’t stop.

The #1 thing to avoid in the beginning is being in love with your idea.

You must consider your idea to be completely inert; an inanimate object that needs to prove to you there is any merit to it.

So stop pitching. Be normal. Act like you are talking to a friend.

Because people don’t want to be pitched to anyway. They immediately get defensive.

You can call what you are doing “pitching” and “selling” as long as you have the right mentality.

You are uncovering the truth.

You are helping bring a new service or product to market. So, therefore, you need to engage the population and learn their problems and what they will buy.

You are helping someone who doesn’t know you or your product understand what you do and giving them an ability to buy it.

Here is an example from my life.

I wanted to build Android apps. So I went around telling people I was doing Android.

*Crickets*

But I noticed something. People kept asking me if I could build apps for the iPhone.

Finally, one day, I walked into the Apple store and bought an iPhone and a Mac and taught myself how to build apps for it. 

Next time I went around talking to people about apps, I said I did iPhone.

Boom. Success. 

Now, notice I didn’t change what I was doing completely (although, you can). But I did change my approach to what I was doing.

So, to recap, here is how you sell at this stage:

  1. Get a vague concept of what you want to do “Build Android Apps”, “Teach Spanish”. 
  2. Go around telling people.
  3. Listen to what they say. Learn their problems.
  4. Update your concept of what you’re doing and try it again. 
  5. Do this until you get a hit.

You’ll know you have a hit when: 

  1. People refer others to you.
  2. Immediately after telling someone what you do, they either ask you questions or mention opportunities for you.

That’s it. Get going!

 

 

The Secret to Being Your Own Boss…

Practice makes perfect.

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Sorry, I know it’s cliché!

But most people think skills like typing and dancing are the only things that take time to learn. But the truth is, sales, entrepreneurship, running a business, working for yourself, are all skills that are learned as you just do them.

Please watch the following two videos and notice that in both cases they just STARTED and stuck with it and after a year or so, they were awesome. This is exactly what will happen to you if you just start doing what you want to do and do it every day.

Please note also that they suck in the beginning. You will have the same experience with being your own boss!

Honor your moods

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When your moods go south, then go south with them.

Don’t try to change them. That doesn’t help.

Also, don’t treat them as bad things. Treat them as natural things.

One of the core skills of an entrepreneur is listening to your instincts.  

Your moods, emotions, feelings, fears, and self-doubt all inform your instincts.

An example is a time that I woke up in a horrible mood.

I mean it was like I was grumpy from the jump. I didn’t want to go anywhere. I was mad putting my clothes on. Mad putting my shoes on. Probably slammed my door for good measure.

I could not for the life of me shake it.

I was about a year and a half into being an entrepreneur and something vague was bothering me about my business.

If I would have just ignored it, or tried to “positive think” it away, I don’t think I would have come to the realization that I did.  

What happened over the next few days transformed my business.

The bad mood started to turn into signals.

I started seeing things about the business that were making me grumpy. For instance, why was I spending so much time helping people who weren’t my customers? I was running all over town doing proposals and engineering assessments for people that had never paid me a dime. This was my mobile app business.

The result? 

Because of my bad mood that wouldn’t go away, I finally came to the realization that I needed to charge for it. And I was grumpy because I was so worried they wouldn’t pay and I would lose my credibility and my business.

But I listened to my core and I created the App Strategy we use today to help people create apps.

We started charging people good money to take our time to take them through a process designed to figure out if their app ideas were any good.

And suddenly we were making money. And guess what? I wasn’t so grumpy! 

So as an entrepreneur, please pay attention to your moods and your anxieties.

They are trying to tell you something. Honor them. Roll with them. Go about your day, but don’t try to shove them in a box.

Let them change your behavior. Let them force you to stand up for yourself. Let them push you to make more sales calls so you don’t GOOB (go out of business).

But whatever you do, don’t ignore them and don’t let them stop you from acting (that’s depression).