Where do you go to learn how to build a successful business?
Business growth often times is accidental and full of problems. The up and downs put many start ups out of business. How do you grow?
While this topic is far too broad to cover in one episode, we are going to cover two strategies that approach growth in very different ways. First, we explore where to look for advice and help that you can count on and discuss TCHEM’s unique role as mentor and vendor to their clients. Then we discuss diversification, and how you can approach it in a way that will stabilize your business and increase the lifetime value of your existing clients.
Distributing Knowledge: Creating A Win-Win Scenario For Everyone
Sometimes the best source of knowledge is getting feedback from those who are in the trenches every day. At TCHEM, learning about products from the manufacturer is just a baseline. The next step is to get feedback from the customer about how they use the product. What works, what doesn’t. By repeating this step with many customers over time the knowledge base grows. Then the knowledge is redistributed back through the customer base helping the customers solve more problems, faster and more efficiently.
When a customer has a question about how to complete a certain job, TCHEM knows exactly what works, and how to do it using field tested methods.
When customers are looking for 1 product to accomplish multiple jobs, TCHEM knows exactly how to help them carry less product and be able to attack more problems.
Now TCHEM can take this information to change or grow their product offerings so they are offering the most useful and effective products to their clients. Streamlining their inventory.
Ultimately the clients become more successful saving time, finishing faster and making more money. This ecosystem of knowledge and mentorship helps everyone win and has helped multiple clients grow successful businesses.
Other Options to Shortcut Your Growth Curve
You should not be looking for ways to shortcut the process of building a successful business. What you can do is avoid avoidable mistakes. And you can emulate successful practices. One of the best ways to accomplish this is through the power of a mastermind. Since the book “Think and Grow Rich” was released almost 90 years ago, the idea of masterminding has gained steam. There’s 2 ways to mastermind.
1 – A group of people is lead by someone who is much further down the road than the rest of the group. They moderate for the group and help to lend experience and knowledge. The challenge is these groups can be expensive to join and may not exist for your niche.
2 – A group of people in the same business or niche who gather with the intent to share best practices, ideas, and problems. And as a group solve those problems.
Here’s the idea, you take 10 people, who do the same thing, and then put them in a room together. Now if all 10 share 1 best practice, what happens? Each person gains multiple new best practices they can implement into their business. That’s a huge shared value. How about if ideas are shared? Then they can be refined by others who have done the same thing, or just see things from a different perspective. These ideas can be developed into new best practices no one in the group is doing. How about if you put all 10 minds towards solving a problem? Well, you get the idea. The challenge will always be either finding and paying for a formally lead group that exists, or putting one together yourself.
Tip: Sometimes finding a FB group, either paid or free can be a great resource.
Some key things to think about:
- Make sure you are all building the same kind of business. Niche specific
- Find others who are willing to openly share their best information
- Try to do this among a group who doesn’t feel like everyone is their direct competition
- Make sure you are interacting regularly
- Make sure your meetings are organized.
Preparing for the future
With the advent of the newest social media platform, clubhouse, a environment of sharing, networking and masterminding is emerging. Joining and leveraging this platform may be the newest and potentially greatest ways to mastermind in the post Covid world.
Another way to find information to guide your business journey is finding a mentor. This is an age-old practice. Find someone who has already done what you want to do and learn from them.
This can be done in several ways
- Through books
- Finding podcasts, Youtube channels, or training programs (and now clubhouse)
- Going to work for someone
- Looking for someone who would consider being your mentor 1on1
It’s always important to consider the time and value of the person you want to learn from. They may not have time or ability to take you on 1on1, but they may have a network or outlet you can learn from. Or they may even have a book. You also may have to pay someone to coach you formally, and understand that their time has that level of value. Most highly successful people are always working with a coach of some kind. Lastly, you may have to be willing to go to work for someone who is highly successful in your field. It is the cheapest way to be a fly on the wall, so to speak.
Remember, if you are asking someone for advice directly, show them the upmost respect. This means listening and not arguing. And if you intend to come back with more questions in the future, you better have put the advice you already received into motion. Nothing is more disrespectful than asking for help and ignoring the advice only to come back later and ask for more help.
Finally, we go back to TCHEM, looking at their business model for hints on how to build a business that can weather times and seasons. If you ask John, a very important strategy has been ongoing diversification. But what does that mean? If you have a winter business shoveling snow, should you have an ice cream truck in the summer? In most cases the answer to this question is no, this is not what it means to diversify.
John defined diversifying as finding ways to serve your existing customers, in areas related to your current business, to solve other problems they are experiencing. Your customer base is the most valuable asset you have in your business, followed closely by your list of ideal prospects. So, if you are selling this group of people wrenches and you find out they need hammers, a good way to start diversifying would be to add hammers to your inventory. Which is completely different than saying, they also get hungry at break time, maybe we should start selling sandwiches.
When looking to diversify, good goals would be to stabilize seasonal revenue or create a recurring revenue stream with your existing customer base. Then, you should look at what do you already have equipment, manpower and expertise in? Finding areas where you are already prepared and already have a reputation around, will lower the barrier to entry. Amazon is the king of diversification. And Jeff Bezos has been willing to sacrifice billions of dollars to chase down the next industry, many have taken years to materialize and some still aren’t profitable. As a small business owner, your resources and time are limited. This means you must turn a profit much quicker. Ask yourself, where is there low hanging fruit in or near my wheelhouse? A good opportunity would be to interview your very best customers and find out what they wish they had from your industry.
Lastly, get ahead of the challenges you know are coming down the pipeline. If you have a business pressure washing business in the summer and then hang Christmas lights in the winter always be thinking about the next season before it gets here. You could carry flyers about your light hanging service that you start distributing throughout the summer, and then sending an email to your clients in the fall. Perhaps you even send them a mailer. Same with your lighting jobs. If you think like the ants you will be ahead of most. In the summer the ants are preparing for the winter, and in the winter, they are thinking about the summer.
This means going back and doing the things we spoken of in previous episodes, so you begin to run your business instead of your business running you.