How Success Can Hurt Your Business

By the time you start looking for more work, it is often too late. Here’s a solution to this challenge…

Feast or Famine: The Challenges of Keeping a Business Forward-Focused

Most businesses, especially ones that concentrate on Business-to-Business services, tend to operate in a feast-or-famine mindset. This happens in good times and bad, although it can get worse in times such as these, when economic indicators are worsening on just about every front on which they can be measured.

As a long-time consultant for companies big and small, this feast-or-famine mindset is something I’ve noticed more and more. The interesting thing is that companies actually operate more proactively in times of famine then in times of feast. The problems can start when business is booming, not when business is bad.

It works like this: you get a landslide of business rolling in, which sets your whole company into motion. From your administrators to your people in the field doing the work, your whole company is entirely focused on getting projects completed well and on time. There may even be numerous new jobs lined up, enough to keep you and your staff working overtime for months to come. The ability to grow and adapt to a swelling workload is, of course, the bedrock of any solid business. Not losing your focus, your cool, or the quality of your deliverables keeps your clients happy and your bottom line strong. I’ve seen this sort of adaptation in just about every kind of business, from construction companies to creative agencies to retail-oriented giants to pharmaceuticals. But hidden in this kind of approach are the seeds of a potential problem, one large enough to cause some companies to crumble when the workload begins to dry up. The result can be plunging morale, layoffs, pay cuts, or even bankruptcy.

The reality is that too often, when the workload begins to dry up and the owners and senior managers finally have some time to breathe, they realize there is little to no new work coming in. Suddenly next quarter earnings are in serious doubt. Another scramble must begin – contacts must be made, relationships developed, needs identified, but often the next few big projects can be far off in the future, leaving your company without active work for weeks or even months. This has an obvious impact on your bottom line, but it also affects companies in other ways as well. The sudden lack of work can be toxic to your staff, which can grow bored, develop poor work habits, or lose confidence in senior management. Worries about job security can leak in, and create a rumor mill that might cause some of your best employees to look elsewhere for a more fertile – and stable – company.

There’s an old adage in business: if your business isn’t growing, it’s dying. What I’ve found especially interesting is how truly successful companies take this adage to heart. It is something that is at once obvious and intuitive, and at the same time far more difficult to pull off than most of us realize.

The Role of Business Development in Successful Businesses

The obvious question is how: how do you keep your business growing when you are so busy that you hope for only a 60 hour workweek? One very effective solution is to have Business Development as an integral part of your business model. In many small-to-medium sized companies, the owner/CEO is responsible for this task. The only trouble is when that person gets too busy to focus on new business, and instead has to manage their current workload.

The solution is to hire someone whose only job is to do just that – find, create, and sustain new relationships that, when the time is right, the owner/CEO can help to mature. The job of a Business Development Executive is to go out and make new contacts for the company, especially when times are incredibly busy and the staff overworked.

The Role of the Business Development Executive

Business Development Executives have a reputation as the men and women who “wine and dine” potential clients. Hospitality is certainly part of what they do, but more than that a Business Development Executive needs to know your business inside and out. Just as importantly, they need to be able to self-generate contacts and leads in your industry. A good Business Development Executive will help to “sell” your company to more than clients who need your services in the short-term. The idea is to build enough relationships that as your potential clients grow and come across their own problems, the first company they will contact for help is yours.

This forward-looking approach is the most sure-fire way to keep your business growing, especially when you are too busy to put much energy into it yourself.

Solutions for the Small Company

Fortune 50 companies usually have the bottom line luxury of hiring a six-figure Business Development Executive to help grow the business at all times and in all economic conditions. But many small companies cannot afford that kind of salary output. One possible solution I have seen successfully implemented is to outsource this role to a freelance professional who knows your industry. This person can help you to continue to grow when times are good and your workload is too heavy to wine and dine every potential client yourself. A base salary can be attached to bonuses for any future contracts, which can help to keep things both fair and honest. A freelance Business Development Executive can help your company to continue to add clients even when you’re too busy to worry about it yourself.

“If your business isn’t growing, it’s dying.” My experience says this is true, which is why I’ve always worked with a Business Development Executive. Keep in mind that by the time it occurs to you to start looking for more work, it is often too late. A healthy business stays healthy by always challenging itself to grow and take on new projects. My last blog mentions some ways you can grow your business in busy times without having to hire new employees.

This ONE Thing Can Help Your Business Succeed

Man, do I have a passion. Well, maybe I’m starting a little too far along in the story here – let’s roll back the clock a little bit so you can see where I’m coming from.

I was watching TV the other day and I caught the end of a show about some investors looking to finance the next big product or company. The premise involves amateur inventors and entrepreneurs who try to achieve the American Dream by getting one of these super-rich investors to agree to go in on their ideas – usually with a sizable investment that would allow the entrepreneur to scale their operation in a big way or just launch their product.

During this particular episode, one of the investors was intrigued by the entrepreneurs’ idea, which would do something great for some poor people in Africa while providing a quality product to American consumers at a reasonable price. But this investor, however moved he may have been, responded with something that rang so true I wish I could repeat it to every single investor I meet without coming off as rude or preachy.

What did he say? It was something in the vein of, “this is great and it warms my heart, but HOW WILL IT MAKE ME MONEY?”

Now, before you whip out your list of expletives and email them to me (and compare me to a heartless money monger), let me explain why I think this is a crucial question to ask yourself if you are a serious entrepreneur.

I know most of us have a many things we’re passionate about. Some of these things run so deep in our veins that we feel compelled to make a business out of it. Generally, there’s nothing wrong with that. If you like to get creative with people’s hair or makeup, you may want to open a beauty salon or start a cosmetology business. When I was a kid I met a guy so passionate about baseball cards and comic books that he opened a local “Cards and Comics” store (this is where I met him). I loved going there because this guy knew his stuff. He knew everything that was going on in the various series of comics, and he knew which baseball cards would be the next best ones to save in a hard plastic display case.

I remember wanting to buy some cards off of him, and he wanted more than the cards were worth, because he said Darryl Strawberry and a few others were going to be HUGE.

Here’s the problem with this guy’s business, though: he was too passionate about the business and not passionate enough about making money. There was no question that this guy knew his stuff – he knew the product inside and out – but he didn’t know his business inside and out. The sad reality is that the best he could ever hope for, like the cosmetician or hairstylist, is to make a living, rather than make serious money. And again, if that’s what makes you happiest, then that’s almost all you’ll ever need. Maybe the people on that show I mentioned could start a nonprofit to help these African ladies and they could feel fulfilled for the rest of their lives. But… to make it big, this “Cards and Comics” guy, named Rob, needed to focus more on growing his business.

I found out much later in life that eventually Rob closed shop in the early 2000’s, which serves as proof of his biggest mistake. The key here is that, even a small business needs a plan for at least some growth. Even if to offset any unforseeables like a lawsuit, government regulation, or whatever. But his passion for baseball cards and comic books made him blind to shortcomings in his business. I’m willing to bet that, on a bad month, he convinced himself that the next big “crossover event” in a popular comic book would dig him out of a hole. Or perhaps the next Mickey Mantle would have a special limited edition card that would bring him a big payoff and keep him in the black.

His passion for the sport and the comics, however, blinded him to the possibility of Darryl Strawberry having substance abuse issues, or to Jose Canseco writing a bestselling book naming several top players as anabolic steroid users – which, of course, made many of these players lose all credibility as great athletes. So, cards that could have been worth thousands today, are worth $150 or less. Now, that may sound like a pretty good return on a card that only cost a few cents, but we can’t ignore the time value of money, nor the harsh reality of inflation.

The big takeaway here is that if you have a passion that drives you to open a business, you first need to have an honest soul-searching introspection to determine if your business idea is one that can truly make you a millionaire or if your passion for the product or service would overtake your passion for making money. If it’s the latter, you may be dooming yourself to becoming part of that infamous “80% of businesses fail” statistic – and nobody wants that.

A Critical Mistake 99% of New Home-Based Business Owners Make Before They Sign Up

There are many reasons why people either succeed or fail with a home-based business opportunity. However, there is one critical mistake that most people make before they sign up that will have a major impact on success or failure.

If you are involved in a home-based business you have experienced the recruitment process. You are invited to check out a home business through one of many ways including a hotel or home meeting, business presentation CD, phone presentation, or a one-on-one presentation.

The presentation, generally, is about the business and what it does to make life better for everyone using their products or services. A good presenter will show you how the business makes sense and the exciting opportunity that lies before you. By the time the presentation is over the opportunity sounds so good you can’t understand why anyone wouldn’t join and become a millionaire.

Hopefully, you have done your due diligence. You have checked out the company and its products to make sure they are what they say they are. You have experienced the products and services, believe in them and feel in time that you could develop a passion for them. And, finally, you feel confident you can go out and build a business with this company.

But wait! There’s something that is missing and it is the one critical step that must take place to make sure you have the best chance for success. You have to find out how qualified your potential sponsor is in leading, training and coaching you. How they answer your questions should be key to whether you join their team or not.

Here are critical questions you should ask:

· What kind of business building experience and training do you have?
· Tell me about the team you have built and how you did it
· Specifically, how do you build your business?
· What you do to teach your new business partners to do to ensure their success?
· How much time do you traditionally spend teaching and mentoring your new partners?
· Can I call and talk to several of your business partners to get a feel for your organization and how your work with them?
· How easy are you to contact? Will you be available when I need you?
· IMPORTANT: If your potential sponsor is new to the business, you need to ask these questions to his sponsor before signing up

Most people hardly ever ask these questions. They end up signing with inexperienced and non-mentoring business partners. The result, in most cases, is frustration and failure.

Having a sponsor with strong leadership and training experience mentor you through your first years in a home-based business is critical. Here’s why:

· Most people signing up for the home-based business opportunity have little or no business building experience
· Starting a business is tough work and a strong leader needs to be there to mentor the new business partner through the highs and lows
· You will need to develop a new set of skills: presentation, closing, training, mentoring, etc. including a proven step-by-step business building process or system
· To avoid many of the pitfalls many inexperienced associates fall into
· Help develop the right mindset to succeed

Unfortunately, most prospects are told this is an easy business to build. Anyone can do it! So, the new business partner comes in with false expectations. Only to learn, the hard way, that success comes with the price of hard work, education and commitment. For most, starting a home-based business is a huge challenge.

A sponsor must be honest. A recruit has to understand the benefits of being involved in the business, but counseled that there is much to learn and a long-term commitment to the business is required for success. The sponsor may ask for a one-year commitment with a minimum number of hours a week to work the business before signup takes place. The prospect needs to understand this is a serious business and to make serious money will require constant plugging in and participating over several years.

New partners may never have been involved in sales or recruitment, so, this is foreign territory. The sponsor must have the knowledge and experience to teach the basics and get the new business partner off to a solid beginning teaching a success system that is in place and being used by other business partners.

A leader will work directly with his new recruit to understand the business inside and out. He will teach solid fundamentals that will be the foundation the new partner will fall back to for the rest of his career. And, in turn, teach this system to his recruits, too.

Signing up with a proven experienced leader is a critical part of building a successful business. He will be your mentor, coach and trainer for you through thick and thin and lead you to success.

So, the next time you investigate a home-based business opportunity ask the critical questions that 99% of potential business partners never ask about leadership and training. It could make the difference between success and failure.

How to Find a New Business Agency

It is important to keep a good stream of customers and clients. It is very easy to get complacent when you have enough clients – but if one of those clients disappeared would your business feel the effect? Or worse would it crumble?? Working with a New Business Agency can help you win clients and grow your business. There is no denying that new business / lead generation can be time consuming, hard work and expensive but overall it can be worthwhile and cost effective.

Many Creative and Marketing Agencies work with New Business Agencies; it is an effective way to get your work in front of companies you want to work with. I wrote this article after to speaking to the Directors of Creative Agencies and other Business Development Managers. This article is for small Creative and Marketing Agencies new to new business and looking to work with a New Business Agency for the first time.

I think it fair to say in the world of new business you do get what you pay for. You can get a telesales person to call thousands of companies and pay a minimal fee, or you can choose an agency that approach new business intelligently. The second will be costly but can you afford not to?

New Business Agencies specialise in finding you clients in order to grow your business. Although agencies work in different ways, the long and short of it is that, they will phone companies on your behalf with the view of setting up a meeting between you and the potential client. Sounds simple enough, but the new business process is more than simply cold calling.

Before you jump in at the deep end there are a few factors to bear in mind when choosing a New Business Agency. They are all different and will all have diverse ideas about the way new business should be conducted. Here are a few questions to ask your new business agency before you work with them?

Question 1 -Results or Numbers?

If a New Business Agency promises to target 500 companies a week and guarantees you five meetings, be aware. This can be a potential time waster for some agencies. If a New Business Manager is pressured to get you in front of x amount of clients, they will. Whether the meeting is worthwhile or not, is not their problem they just have to reach their targets.

If the person handling your new business account is a really good sales person with a hard sales technique they may be able to force a potential client to have a meeting with you whether they have work, or you are suitable. These are good sales people, but they may not be producing qualified leads.

For example, if you are a design agency who specialises in content managed websites for small businesses, you do not want to end up at a meeting to rebrand Kellogs. Yes, this would be a fantastic opportunity, but in competition with top branding agencies do you stand a chance? If you only work for big brands similarly you may not want to show up to a meeting to discuss a £300 website.

A good New Business Manager should be keen and results driven but also able to evaluate a qualified lead. By giving too many targets you are ultimately pushing them into a corner to produce meetings. You do not want to attend any old meeting. A perfect meeting is a potential client who is looking for an agency for a particular project or looking to change their roster of agencies. A good meeting is also a simple credentials meeting with one of your wish list companies, who you plan to impress with solid ideas.

Rather than an agency driven by numbers, consider an agency driven by results. Unfortunately, but realistically, new business is not always about getting work now. It is about creating a pipeline and raising your profile. If your Account Handler has a good conversation with a Decision Maker about a suitable project which will be commissioned later that year, this is better than a credentials meeting. You can then keep in regular contact with the decision maker until that project comes up. By the time you have the meeting you will be talking about a particular project rather than running through a portfolio.

Look at the pipeline as much as the amount of meetings.

Question 2 – How Targeted is their New Business Approach?
Are you trying to reach as many companies as possible to offer your services to? For some businesses this may work but I doubt if this works for many. A New Business Agency which suggests a highly targeted approach will more than likely receive better results. For example a design agency looking to build up a client list does not want to target ‘any’ business with “we do design” it really is not going to stand out, and it simply becomes a game of chance.

A web design agency who mainly works with restaurants producing content managed websites could contact other restaurants with a similar offer. However, you don’t need to limit yourself to restaurants, always look to expand your market but do it with careful consideration. If you work with restaurants you could then aim at hotels, pubs, bars and clubs. Of course, you can always expand your market but showing a potential client experience in your field is going to be beneficial. (My next article will go further into this subject).

Look at the size of the business – if you have only ever worked with SMEs build this up gently don’t suddenly aim for Coke. Look at the location of businesses, do you have the time and money to travel from London to Glasgow for a meeting or do you need to stay local. A good New Business Agency will create a database tailored to your business capabilities. In order to tailor a database it is advisable to initially work with your New Business Agency, they should be able to give advice to you. But you need to know which direction you are heading with your business, and where you sit, and would like to sit in the market place.

Although this may sound as if I am stating the obvious, a few of the new business managers I spoke to told me stories of how their clients took little interest in the strategy and simply left to them to get meetings with no direction. These clients then refused to leave London to attend meetings and refused any project under £5000 (although they had never completed a project for this much money).

Question 3 – How do they find the Decision Maker?
When your New Business Agency is going to send your information to the company, how are they going to find the right person? There is plenty of information available on the internet these days on Marketing Directors of companies. Although it would be wonderful to gain a meeting with someone so high up in the company how likely is this?

The Marketing Director of Nike is not generally going to interview agencies for a microsite. In most cases it would be a waste of time and money trying to reach them on the phone to set up a meeting. Aim lower. Nike is a huge corporation and it will take patience and careful research to find the person in charge of commissioning microsites and it won’t be the Marketing Director.

Especially in recent years more and more new roles are appearing in companies, new media managers, advertising managers, mobile managers, interactive managers, account directors, creative directors – who are you looking to work with? Aim for less companies as research can be time consuming, but ensure your representative is talking to the right person. Letters simply addressed to the Marketing Director are hard to follow up with a phone call. Find out how and who your New Business Manager will be trying to contact.

Question 4 – Who else is the agency working with?

It is great to work with an agency that has skills in selling what you are offering, even better to get a New Business Manager with these exact skills. But if your New Business Manager is working with three Mobile Marketing Agencies is your account being kept separate? What is your agencies ethics of sharing potential clients?

Your new business account should be, if at all possible, separate to any other companies. You do not want to paying for someone else’s new business. It can be all too easy for a New Business Manager to find details of a company looking to rebrand all their marketing collateral… and keep two design agencies happy.

Question 5 – Who is your Account Handler?

Always ask to meet the person handling your account. It is your business, and they are representing you, be sure you like the way they come across. Your New Business Manager should not really read from a script and should be confident and knowledgeable enough to hold an in-depth conversation. If you are a New Media Agency does your New Business Manager know their augmented reality from their rfId barcodes, and how far can they carry on with this conversation?

In order to find common ground with a potential client it is good to know about their business before having a conversation with them. This means your New Business Manager has to be knowledgeable about the sectors they are targeting.

New Business Mangers should be versatile. They should be good researchers, communicators and able to pick up information quickly. Providing a New Business Manager has had experience in marketing or creative agencies they will understand the processes and jargon and can generally adapt to other industries that have specialist interests. Someone on the other hand, who has no background in design, marketing or creative industries in general will probably find it harder to learn everything from scratch and find out about niche markets.

If your New Business Manager has built a relationship with a Decision Maker it could be an idea to take them along to the meeting as a part of your company. Does your New Business Agency allow this? In an ideal world your Account Handler should feel they are a part of your team.

It is important for you to go to meetings prepared and know what is expected from you at the meeting. It is down to you to give your New Business Manager all the information they need. You know your market and it never does any harm to keep them updated with your knowledge of industry events. When you launch a new project let your New Business Manager know, keep them involved.

Question 6 – How do you prepare to work with an New Business Agency?

Be prepared to be involved. Most New Business Managers spoken to for this article said, “The closer they have worked with clients the more likely they are to achieve results.” Do not expect a New Business Agency to start work and come back to you a week later with lots of new work – it rarely happens like that. If your New Business Agency is starting conversations with the right people make sure you have the supporting materials. Many potential clients will ask for an email with links to your projects, PDFs, show reels or brochures – it is down to you to provide these. When attending the meetings, that you have essentially paid a lot of money to get, make sure you are prepared for the presentation. Your New Business Agency can only take you so far. Remember that if you run your business you should really be the best person to undertake your new business as you know your business inside out, your capabilities, strengths and weaknesses. If you cannot get yourself a £500,000 contract don’t expect a new business agency to. Be realistic

Many creative agencies I spoke to had worked with at least a couple of New Business Agencies before finding the one they felt they could work with, hence the reason for this article. There are obviously many questions to ask before undertaking the expense of a New Business Agency but I hope this article covers a few! Please see more advice on handling your own new business on my website http://www.kerinewman.com.