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Episode Info

Episode Info:

Wandering the world without a goal is a little bit meaningless.

The same goes for your business or blog.

You may go for a while, simply spinning your wheels, but without any direction you won’t last long.

We all have the same problem at some point, and I have recently gone through the process of focusing my business.

And I was lucky enough to have the lovely Lisa Chilvers to help me through the process.

Enter Lisa Chilvers

Lisa specializes in helping businesses find the direction.

Figuring out what exactly you stand for, and what you are trying to achieve are fundamental things that Lisa and i have been discussing.

So I brought her onto the podcast to help you also find your focus and this is what we discussed:

  • 3.40 – Her enlightenment when she saw how Disney do business
  • 7.27 – What is your ethos? (finding what you are all about)
  • 10.18 – Looking at your USP and differentiating yourself from others
  • 12.58 – Standing out with things other than price
  • 17.05 – Taking time to look at your business and building your “Super Hero Mission”
  •  20.45 – Deviating from your business plan is ok if it’s worth it
  • 28.00 – How to define your Vision
  • 32.00 – How some parts of your business dictate how you work
  • 38.28 – Why a lot of small businesses fail
  • 44.14 – What you can do today to help your business

 

Take a listen to what Lisa has to say and get your business on track

(or read the transcript if that is your thing).

 

Read the Transcript

If you prefer to read the transcript, you can

Download the Transcript PDF

 

Or read it below…

Show Podcast Transcript

 

Ashley: Thanks for joining me today, Lisa.Lisa: Thanks for inviting me, Ash. I’m really happy to be chatting to you, finally, after all this time.Ashley: Yes. It’s a common ailment that we have on the internet. We know each other, but yet we’ve never met.Lisa: Exactly. Though we have seen each other today, so that’s a good start.Ashley: Yes, quickly turn on the Skype video. It’s always interesting when I do a podcast; people are like, “Is it with video? Is it without video?” I say, “Well, it’s up to you.” If you’re decent, we’ll turn the video on, and then we’ll turn it off again later when the bandwidth goes down or whatever. Sometimes that causes problems.

But yeah, it’s great, actually, to finally connect. I’ve had the same experience with a lot of people who have been online, because most of the people I get on, I already know reasonably well from Twitter and so forth.

So, quick 2 minute spiel on your background, what you do, where you are?

Lisa: Oh gosh, 2 minutes? Is that all?

Ashley: All right, I’ll give you 20.

Lisa: I’ve got a background probably like a lot of people who go into self-employment. You try quite a few things and aren’t particularly happy with any of them, and then realize that that takes you to where you really want to be and what you want to do. I was an accountant by trade, and I do apologize for that, and I apologize to all the accountants out there who might be offended by the inference.

But I didn’t like crunching the numbers. There is so much more to business than what I call the hard side of business, the numbers, the profit and loss, the balance sheet. The business is more about the softer side, the people involved, the personalities, what drives those people.

I was very, very fortunate to be offered a role within the finance industry as a practice manager, which took me into all sorts of different areas – HR management, planning, strategy within companies, both for my own company that employed me and my clients. I really liked looking into businesses and finding out how they worked and what made them tick, and the personalities involved. That was the starting point to getting me where I am today.

And then while I was a practice manager, a friend invited me to a Walt Disney Master Class out at Manchester Airport, which was a day’s event presented be Disney executives all about the Disney corporation and how they do business and how you can take those qualities and put them into your own business.

I have to say, I was fascinated by their whole ethos of customer retention, of delivering top quality service, and I decided that this was something that was severely lacking within the UK as a whole. And hence here I am, helping people, through Athena, grow their businesses, but it’s all about growing your business by creating a much better engagement with your customers.

So your customers like you, they know you, they trust you, and they actively want to do business with you, and they want to keep doing business with you. Because at the end of the day, one-off business is never going to make you a fortune; what you need is a steady, reliable customer base who will keep giving you income year in, year out. And that’s basically what we do.

Ashley: We came across each other on Twitter, and most people probably don’t realize, but we’ve been working a little bit together. You’ve been pushing me in the direction of streamlining my thoughts on where my business is going, because I’ve just started.

I thought I would get you on today to go over a couple of those topics, because I think most people, like myself – and you don’t even realize – are missing this really important foundation of what you’re doing, where you’re going, why you’re doing it, and what your main goals are in mind.

I thought we could quickly chat about your philosophy on that and how you go about guiding people with that, and some ideas that people could take away at the end of the podcast and put into their own business.

Lisa: Certainly. Do you want me to go through it as I went through it with you?

Ashley: I don’t know if we missed anything in what we did together, or we could just do the main points till where you left me off last.

Lisa: Yeah. The fundamental thing about growing any business is you have to know who you are and what you’re all about. We call this finding out what your ethos is. Ethos stands for characteristic spirit, so I think it’s certainly different to a mission statement. I think a mission statement is more about what you want to achieve. Your ethos is about who you fundamentally are as an individual.

Because if you can get those values across to your customers, they will necessarily engage with you – as long as the ethos is positive, which we’d always like to think that it is. We don’t want anything with a negative ethos, and those that have a negative those doesn’t last very long.

But it is all about working out what you actually want people to know about you, and when you’ve worked out what that fundamental ethos is, making sure that everything you do in your business communicates that to your clients all the time.

At Athena, we are fixers. We claim that we can solve – and I say “we” because I couldn’t do what I do without some fantastic trusted associates who help me deliver what I do for my clients – but we are able to solve whatever problem that client may have. Because if I can’t do it myself, I will go out and find somebody who can.

But I will only work with those who have the same ethos as myself for reliability, for quality, for attention to detail. So it’s not about what we’re doing for the client; it’s how we’re going about doing it, and that’s what’s most important, I think.

Ashley: Yeah, I think that’s a very important point because in the end, how many businesses out there are really unique, if you look at what you do? Most of us are doing something that there is already competition for.

Lisa: Exactly.

Ashley: Or even if you’re not, you need to convince people that what you’re doing is worthwhile even if it’s a new business. For example, I don’t know when PayPal came out, or whatever, you still need people to trust you and understand you.

I think this is a great idea of picking apart why you’re doing what you’re doing, and what it is that you want people to remember you for. I’m still slowly finding my way in putting that into my business; it’s very difficult to get that in your mind when you’re just so used to focusing on the black and white, as you say, the numbers and the hows and the whats. You’re not really looking at the why so often, which is actually a big mistake.

How does this go together with what they usually call the – is it the USP? Is that the right acronym? The unique selling point or the unique position of yourself as a business, what you stand for. Is that more or less part of that, then?

Lisa: I think it is, and I know someone who actually puts, rather than using the letter “U,” puts the word “you,” as in your USP. Because you’re quite right in what you say: what is it that’s going to differentiate you as Ashley from another web developer or another social media person? What is it that makes you so different?

Because we would like to assume that if you say you’re a social media specialist, you know everything about social media. But then the next social media expert will claim exactly the same. So what is it about you that is fundamentally different?

It can’t just come down to personality. “Well, it’s because I like them. I like the way they sound.” There has to be something deeper than that, and quite often it does come with the things you have done in your career that have brought you to where you are now.

For example, one of my USPs is my Disney connection. The fact that I’ve studied what they do, I’ve worked with them, I know what they’re about, and there are certain things that they do that, love or hate Disney as a corporation, there is no doubt that it is phenomenally successful at what it does.

And what you have to do is, there is nothing wrong with modeling yourself on someone else, of taking almost – not copying the ethos, because your ethos has to be individual, but taking your inspiration from an incredibly successful company in your sector, and go “Okay, what is it that they’re doing that makes them so brilliant at it? And can I incorporate any of that into my own business?”

Ashley: So people should really be starting to think about what it is that drives them and why they can make a difference for their customers and not just provide the service, but impress them, for example, or go above and beyond, or do something.

I think this is also an interesting differentiating factor I hear. People say, again, discounting as a method of getting customers is inherently weak. You should be looking to increase your prices and offer more instead of less.

I think this, partly at least, goes hand in hand with you’re offering something unique and something that the customer’s going to come back to because of you and what you’re given them rather than just the individual service. Because as you say, there’s 10 on the next corner, right?

Lisa: Yes, it is all about the added value. Competition never has had anything to do with price. All you have to do is look at the luxury brands that are out there to see that they are surviving and prospering regardless of the fact that the prices they charge are eye-wateringly high.

Now, when we talk about discounting, I always use the example of say you wanted to buy a luxury car. So you decide you want a Bentley. You can’t get much higher than that. So you go into the Bentley showroom and you go, “Actually, I really like your cars, but I’d like a 20% discount.” They’re just going to hold the door open and suggest that you shop elsewhere, because quality costs, and quality will always cost.

And if you want people to appreciate the quality of what you do, you have to demonstrate that in the price that you charge. Disney is a prime example. Their flagship hotel is the most expensive hotel in the whole of Florida, yet it has a 98% occupancy.

Ashley: Really?

Lisa: Yeah. Now, most hotels would be glad with a 50% occupancy, but Disney managed that because people will actively part with their money to pay for an experience.

Now, a lot of people would argue, okay, you’re going to a theme park, you’re doing something for leisure, you’re enjoying yourself; why wouldn’t you want to pay for that? But their agreement would be, if somebody feels like they’re getting the right experience in any business that they do, price is the last thing they think about.

I’ll use an example. I live near a local small town where I have four drycleaners to choose from. I use one of them where the couple that run it, Mark and Sarah, I know them by name. I go in, I drop my stuff off, they clean it for me, and I go in and pay.

Now the seasons have changed, so I took a pair of curtains and a big heavy duvet in, and I just dropped them off on the counter, asked when they’d be ready, and left. It was only as I was walking away that it never actually occurred to me to ask them how much it was going to cost me. Because at the end of the day, to be honest, it doesn’t bother me.

What I’m more interested in is the service I get when I walk in the door and the quality of the dry-cleaning service they will deliver. I recently found out that the drycleaner about 50 yards down the road is cheaper. Am I going to swap and go to them? No, because I know what I want, and I know I’m getting that extra value.

And that’s what it’s all about. You’ve got to give people – you can charge them whatever you like, but you have to make your client feel like they’re getting their money’s worth. And that’s what it’s all about.

Ashley: The second step that we went through after the ethos – I’m just trying to remember, what did you call that?

Lisa: It’s your vision.

Ashley: The vision, that’s right.

Lisa: Yeah, your vision. Where you want to go.

Ashley: That’s a very important question, actually. I mean, it was something, when you asked me, that I already had a rough idea. Luckily it wasn’t too killer for me, but for a lot of people, you’re so busy – and we were talking about this before we started as well – you’re so busy with daily life sometimes, you don’t stand back or stop and think about what it is you’re doing. You just do, because you’ve got more than enough to do. You don’t have time to think.

But if you don’t take time to think, or you’re not forced to take time to think, then you really don’t see beyond the next step, and then, really, you could be going anywhere.

Lisa: Yeah. It’s very, very easy to get so involved in your business that you don’t spend any time on it. It’s always quite difficult when you’re first starting out; the main primary driving force is making money, because you’ve got to pay the bills. You’ve got to make ends meet. So when you start off, it’s quite easy to just do anything and everything.

But what you’ve got to think about is, going back to your ethos, how does that make you look out there in the market? Do people realize what it is you’re trying to do, or do they just see you as being a bit random? So if you want people to engage with you, you need to be very, very clear about what it is you want to do.

And it’s all about picking – there’s a lady I know; she’s called Isla Wilson, and she runs a company called RubyStar Associates. She’s always called it your Superhero Mission: something that’s so far out there that you don’t realistically have any hope of ever achieving it. But why not think big, because even if you only get halfway to that vision, you travel an awful long way.

I think it’s only by having a big vision for your business – we call it world domination – if you want to achieve world domination, fabulous. We’ll try and help you get there. You might have to start with domination of your local area first. You might even have to start with domination of a 5-mile radius. But you’ve got to know where you want to go if you ever hope to succeed.

I heard a very, very interesting quote, and I can’t credit it because I don’t know who first came up with it, but the quote was “If you want your wishes to come true, a plan is the only magic wand you need.” I thought, you know, that’s really interesting, because we tend to think “Oh, I’ll carry on and it’ll sort itself out,” but how often is that actually true? Not very, really.

If you want your business to achieve great heights, you’ve got to know where you’re headed. And as you know, when you and I talked about it, you’d just gone on a train journey, and I used the example of you traveling to a different destination.

You wouldn’t set off on that journey without planning your route, working out where the connections were, working out what time you were due to arrive, how you would get back. You wouldn’t plan a normal physical journey without going through the right planning process, so why take your business on a journey without doing exactly the same?

Ashley: You end up like those people – I’ve forgotten who they were – who put something into their GPS and they didn’t really know where they were going, and they ended up on a mountain in Italy instead of on the coast.

Lisa: Exactly. Now, as we’ve discussed, there is nothing to stop you deviating from that plan if you think the different route you’re going on is worthwhile. I think too many people fail to plan for their business because they think it’s set in stone. “Well, I’ve made this plan and I’ve got to stick with it.”

Again, I use the example of traveling from Manchester to London to an appointment. If I could fit in a little detour via Birmingham to achieve what I wanted to achieve and still arrive at London at the right time, what would be the problem with doing that? Because I think sometimes people are afraid to investigate opportunities. We think, ”No, it doesn’t fit in with my destination.”

Well, it might do. Don’t obviously go off at a total tangent, but it’s fine to wander off the path a little bit to see where it might take you.

Ashley: That’s very fitting, actually, because yesterday I was on the phone with a woman who contacted me just out of the blue from this women’s online conference yesterday and asked me to be a speaker in July. She asked me to do it for Twitter, which is something I was focused on a lot in the last year.

It’s not something I’ve been focused on in my business recently, but I thought, “Well, should I say no to this opportunity? Because I don’t have 20 people knocking on my door asking me to do speaker gigs and exposing me to thousands of people I’ve never met before.”

So I thought, “Okay, I’ll just ring this woman up and see where it takes me,” because yeah, if you say no to everything that comes your way that doesn’t seem 100% on track, then maybe you’ll miss out on something which might take you somewhere amazing.

Lisa: Yeah. I think that with every decision – and this comes back to the ethos and the vision – the first question you have to ask yourself is, “Does this fundamentally match my ethos? Is it something that I feel comfortable doing? Does it fit with my core values?” Which, clearly, given your background in Twitter, etc., it does.

“Does it fit my overall vision?” Well, yes, as we’ve talked about, you have a vision for your company, but it’s not a singular vision. There are other things tacked onto it, and this could be part of it. So therefore, why not explore it?

It all comes down to I think time and effort. If there’s something that’s going to take a week of your time, you might want to sit back and go, “Whoa, hold on. Is this really going to benefit my business in the long term?”

This actually comes back to something I’ve been blogging about after a discussion with a client today: when it comes to making these business decisions, it’s always good to extrapolate. By that, I mean look at the decision you’re going to take, and then ask yourself, “What is my WCS? What is my worst case scenario? If I take that decision, what’s the very worst that could happen?”

And then you ask yourself, “And if that worst case scenario happens, can I live with it?” And if the answer to that is yes, then there’s your decision made for you. It might not be the ideal outcome, but if you can live with the outcome and it still fits with what you want to do, then do it.

Ashley: I was thinking about it, actually, before I even called this girl, because I thought to myself, okay, it’s not something I’d planned, and focusing on Twitter was not my current focus, so is it going to deviate me too far in terms of time and focus? I thought, okay, I’ve got all the material pretty much already from – this is how the woman found me, through my course, actually.

I’ve got all the material, and she doesn’t want me to present a course; she just wants me to do a 45 minute presentation. She said “From that, you can then decide yourself where you want to take these people. You can get them onto your mailing list or you can offer them coaching or whatever you want to do. It’s up to you entirely.”

So I just need to think about that as a potential future service which I’d put on the site, actually, for the moment, but now I can rejuvenate. I thought to myself, okay, worst case, nobody wants to take any of my services. Well, okay, but now 3,000 to 5,000 people might now know my name. That’s not a bad thing.

Lisa: No. I’ll give you a scenario from my point of view. As an accountant, I can quite easily crunch the numbers. Can I produce a financial business plan for a client? I certainly can. But a client approached me the other day and asked me if I would do a business plan and cash forecast for them, and I said “No. Sorry, but no.”

“Why? But you can.” I said, “Yes, but although I can, doesn’t mean I want to.” I don’t really want people to know me for producing business plans, because I’ve moved far away from that as part of my service. So the fact that you can do it is totally different to “Do I want to do it, and does it help me get my business where I want it to be?” And in the case of me doing a business plan, the answer to that is resolutely no. It’s not what I want my business to be about, so I’ve turned work down.

I think this is what people find very, very difficult when they’re growing their business. It’s hard to say no, because a client is quite often seen as a moneymaking opportunity and taken for its own sake, rather than thinking about “Whoa, hold on a minute. If I do this, again, what are going to be the consequences? Am I going to be known as someone who prepares business plans? And how bad would that be, and how far will that take me from my overall vision for the company?”

So it is all about everything – like we said, your ethos and your vision must fundamentally drive everything that you do.

Ashley: This is the part where I’m at now, which is trying to think how to start getting this information across in your business, like something you mentioned to me the other day on my Twitter account, which is something I’ve been partially correcting but not enough, which is I’m focusing too much on other people and other information and not on – and there’s always a balance, of course, but not on my own business. Of course, it’s very difficult to find the exact balance that works without blowing your own trumpet too much and not blowing someone else’s.

So your idea then is when you’ve decided all of this stuff and you’ve figured out where you want to go – actually, let’s just stop on that for a second. I’m getting off-track. But when you were talking about this vision, just to give people an idea of how you would break that down, what were the three or four things you said to me in order to imagine this future vision of yourself and your business and how to put yourself in those shoes?

Lisa: You have to make your vision quite clear. I think that’s the first thing. Not only for your business, but for you personally. So it’s quite easy sometimes for people to say “I want to be the biggest web developer in Europe.” Fine, okay. That’s fair enough as a vision for your business. But where do you see yourself sitting within that business?

Because I talked to someone the other day, and I said it’s very much “be careful what you wish for.” Because turning yourself into the biggest web company in Europe might sound like a brilliant idea, but think about what that does for you personally. Will you have a personal life? Will you have any life? Will it be making money?

So what you have to do is you have to take almost a mental snapshot of yourself in 5 years’ time, say, and go “Where would I like to see myself? Where do I envision myself being? Would I like to be a Hector Riva type on a boat somewhere in the Mediterranean, just slopping around, doing nothing in particular, having sold my company for millions of dollars? Fine. But it is all about quantifying it.

For a lot of people, it’s not about the money, and we’ve talked about this. It’s more about creating a lifestyle for yourself, and a balance. Yes, perhaps you do need a great deal of money to achieve that, but unless you know where it is you want to be as an individual, you can’t really then translate that into business success.

Because as I said, if you say you want to be the – for example, I’ve worked with someone who was an event organizer. They want to organize the biggest events in the UK. But then I pointed out to them, did they really want to be working all weekend, every weekend, and 5 days a week and then weekends as well? What did they hope to achieve by that? How would it make them feel? Why do you want what you want?
Because you can’t just decide you want to take your business somewhere without thinking about the consequences on you as an individual, how you might grow and develop, and whether or not you can maintain the ethos and the vision that you started out with and carry that through into the future.

So it is all about quantifying. Like I said to you, where do you see yourself? Who do you see around you? Are you a materialistic person? Do you want all the trappings of fame and fortune? Those are the sort of things that you need to focus on personally, as well as focusing on the vision for the business.

Ashley: Yeah, and I think it really goes hand-in-hand – and especially these days, when we have so much potential freedom and travel and all of these kinds of things, because now you have a variety of different businesses which you could model.

So thinking about, as you also said to me, the business model; do you want to be in an office with a bunch of people, or do you want to be at home behind a computer, or do you want to be able to travel and take your laptop with you? Do you want staff, do you not want staff? Do you want a lot of money or do you just want enough to get by?

I think these are all really, really fundamental and important decisions, because once you’ve made a lot of those decisions, what do I want to achieve with my life in relation to my business, it actually will then dictate a lot of what you’re aiming for. Not just the business goals, but how it’s going to be formed and how it’s going to work, because now we can outsource, we don’t have to have staff anymore.

Yeah, I think that’s really important. I had a lot of these ideas already. Luckily, I knew roughly what I wanted to achieve, but I think for a lot of people, understanding the potential business models and the ways that you can work with people these days – because a lot of people are in that mindset that they need an office.

I just listened to a podcast about an Australian guy the other day, and he was working with one of his Mastermind groups and the guy in there, he said, “You’ve got a struggling graphic design business with three employees in an office. Firstly, why do you have an office? You’re doing computer work. You don’t need an office. You own an office. Get rid of the office.”

So the guy sold the office, and he said, “Okay, these three employees, why do you have them? You have seasonal work.” He’s working for a lot of fashion stuff, and they didn’t have work all year round. He said, “As much as it’s harsh to say, get rid of your employees. They’re actually killing your business. Get rid of your employees and contract people.”

He did that, and all of a sudden he went from barely making a living to sometimes making $20 grand a month. The guy couldn’t believe the turnaround in his business, because he didn’t realize that there were other ways of working.

Lisa: Yeah. I hold my hands up and I’m very, very limited in how big I can grow my business, because – yes, go on, I am going to blow my own trumpet. I’m the only person that can do what I do. I couldn’t pass my day-to-day consultancy work on to somebody else to deal with my clients for me.

Yes, there are a certain number of things that I have done for clients in the past which I no longer do. I used to manage the social media for one of my clients; I don’t do that anymore. I subcontract that out. I also appreciate that horses for courses, there are certain things that I just don’t know enough about, that I need to bring another expert in, another specialist.

But I don’t have them on the payroll. They’re actually brought in on a client-by-client need basis, and they charge me a fee, and I charge that fee to the client. Or the client will pay me a global fee and leave it up to me to make sure that the right services are brought in. But it is all about thinking about “Who do I need to help me deliver this, and how can it best be done?”

I don’t have an office. I have an office at home, but I spend so much of my time out and about that my clients – there is one client that comes to my office at home, my biggest client, but all the rest, I go out to their premises or I meet them wherever’s most convenient for them and contacts of theirs.

Yeah, I don’t need my own office space. I don’t need full-time employees. I have various people who I use to do my – although I could do my financials myself, I actually pay somebody to do those for me, because it’s more productive use of my time to be doing other things. Everything that I don’t necessarily need to do, I do farm out to other people on an ad hoc basis.

But I’ve also appreciated that due to the nature of what I do, my business itself will never achieve world domination, because I can’t possibly – there’s only a limited number of hours in every day that I can offer consultancy services.

However, I’m comfortable with that. My business makes me a decent living, and it will never make me a millionaire, but that’s okay with me.

Now, I talk to some people, they go, “I wouldn’t be satisfied with that.” Well, that’s fine, but this is why it’s very, very important to set your own limits and not listen to what other people want and not listen to them say “You should do this and you should do that. Why don’t you want to be bigger?” Actually, I don’t want to be bigger because I like to offer a bespoke service, a personal service that I couldn’t possibly offer if I was relying on other people to deliver that for me.

So it is all about, again, coming back to what are you all about, and how are you best going to deliver that, and then how big, realistically, can you get? And in my case, it’s quite small, really. Small but perfectly formed.

Ashley: Exactly, and that’s where I think people often get stuck or people don’t understand, including myself in the beginning, how to break things down into your wants and needs and then the possibilities of achieving those through the variety of methods and services that we have available nowadays.

And as you’ve said, you can outsource all the bits and pieces that you don’t want to do, and that’s relatively easy. I mean, you need to find the right people, it takes time, but it’s certainly doable. You don’t need to be a jack of all trades. And it certainly doesn’t always help to be one, because there are better people out there to do certain tasks, like you’ve got your graphic designer and this and that and the other.

And people I think need to start to understand that, like “What do I want to do? Do I want to have all the money and just stand back and not doing anything, or do I want to be personally involved?”, like you are. That’s really a fundamental decision. And then do you want to outsource, do you want to have an in-house team, do you want to grow big or do you want to stay small? Do you want lots of money or not lots of money? What do you stand for and what are you trying to achieve?

That’s basically why I wanted to bring you on here, because these are questions which I don’t see that many people talking about on the internet, and I think even as bloggers or small business owners, single entrepreneurs or whatever, you’re sitting there online, you’re working, and if you’re not looking at all of these questions early enough in your business or in your blog or whatever, then you’re going to make a lot of really fundamental mistakes and 5 years later go “Whoops, I didn’t mean to get here. I meant to go somewhere else.”

Lisa: I think you’ve actually hit the nail on the head with so many small businesses that start and then fail. There’s an incredibly high failure rate in small business, and I think an awful lot of it comes down to – as I always say, just because you’re incredibly good at what you do, doesn’t mean you can make money at it.

And you can be supremely talented as a graphic designer, as a fashion designer, as a photographer, as a cake maker, whatever it might be, but unless you actually sit down and think of the consequences of trying to make a living doing it, then you are going to come on stuck. It is very, very easy to hurtle into it thinking “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that because I need to make some money,” and then sit down a year in and go, “Oh my God, how did I get here? Why don’t I have… I now need this.”

I’m actually working with a client at the moment who we’ve been working together for 18 months now, and we have actually achieved world domination to a certain extent. They’ve done a merger with a U.S. company and their projected turnover for the next 12 months is $1.6 million. Which is fantastic.

However, I’m now trying to get them to make sure the new business plan follows the right steps. Because one of the issues they had with the previous business was they tried to shortcut procedures. They tried to do things quickly. They tried the quick fix, and unfortunately, quick fixes never last.

Unless you get it right at the beginning, when you have the time and the energy to devote to it, you will find that when it does go wrong, you’re so busy doing other things that you really don’t have the time to address the problems.

One of the analogies I use is a new building. There’s a new building in the city centre, Manchester, that’s been in the process of going up for the last 18 months or so. It started off with the original building being demolished and the hoardings going up, and for what appeared to be the longest time, nothing was happening. Nothing at all.

And then all of a sudden, you get into the city centre and there is this phenomenally big building, and part of you goes, “Oh, good God, where did that came from?” But what you don’t realize is while the hoardings are up and you don’t know what’s going on, the architects are making the plans. The structural engineers are talking about the different load weights and the measurements and how things are going to fit together. The construction people are digging big holes in the ground to lay the foundations.

This is why I use a building, because your business is very much the same. If you don’t get the foundations of the building spot-on, how long is that building going to last? So look at your business and the foundations of your business, the fundamental things – your ethos, your vision, your message, what you’re all about, what you want to achieve. Get those right from the beginning.

Unfortunately, it takes time, and not a lot seems to be happening. But then once the building starts going up, it’s amazing how quickly it grows. And your business is the same. Get the groundwork and the foundations done properly, and you’ll be amazed how quickly your business can take off, because you can focus on growing your business now, rather than constantly backtracking and trying to shore it up from underneath, trying to put right the things that you didn’t get right the first time round.

My biggest complaint is people bring me in when they’ve been going for 9 months, and these problems are already there. Whereas what I’d really rather is they brought me in on Day 1 so we can start properly. It’s always more difficult to correct things that have gone wrong. It’s much, much easier to start at the beginning, get it right from the beginning, and then there’s far less effort as things progress.

But I think it’s just the way of the world, really. People wait till things go wrong. People are very, very reactive in business. They will wait for things to start falling apart before they go, “Oh, God, this isn’t good. We’d better get someone to put this right.” Unfortunately, I think it’s just a problem of business generally.

Ashley: It happened all the time in my early career as an IT web developer. It’s basically, “Oh, we’d better get the web guys in. We’ve tried to make a website and it didn’t work.”

Lisa: Yeah, very familiar, unfortunately.

Ashley: I think it’s part of human nature. We’ll give it a go ourselves, and when we mess it up, we’ll get somebody else.

Lisa: We’ll get an expert.

Ashley: We’ll get someone in to clean it up. All right, to wrap up and just give people something to walk away with maybe they could do today, what would you suggest as a couple of relatively straightforward tasks to get them on the right track to get started?

Lisa: I think the fundamental, the most important one is getting that ethos right. Because it is almost giving people an impression of who you are, making sure they think the right things about you. We would all like to think that while we’re out and about networking or chatting over Twitter or LinkedIn or whichever platform we’re using, that people are thinking well of us, that people respect us.

And if you feel like you’re not getting that level of respect, perhaps it’s worth asking yourself why that might be. Do they fundamentally understand what it is I’m trying to achieve? Do they know what I’m all about? Because this may be where the problem is. That people go, “Well yes, he’s a lovely guy, but I have no idea what he does.”

And that’s quite a common thing, particularly in something that I do, which is bespoke for every client, which is perhaps a bit more woolly around the edges.

What I think is even more important in somebody like what you do or a printer or a photographer, a social media specialist, someone who is facing an awful lot of competition, you have to think about “How am I going to make people see me? What am I going to do to convince them that I am the person to do business with?”

Reputation will spread, and what you’d like that to be is you’d like that to be an incredibly good one. You would like people to go, “Oh yes, I know that person, and yes, they are brilliant at what they do. They’re very trustworthy, they’re very reliable.” These are the things we’d all like people to think about us, but we perhaps don’t think to convey that in our day-to-day lives.

A lot of it is actually, I would always say to people, you have to give quite a lot. You have to put yourself out there and be seen as one of the good guys. I jokingly say that when I first started in business, I would go to the opening of an envelope if I thought there was something in it for me.

And I would. I networked relentlessly. To the extent that I got an email from someone last week, and all it said was, “Oh good God, you really do know everybody. To which I replied, “Well, no, not quite, but I’m working on it.” Because it is all about not what you know, quite often, but who you know.
Because not only can it help you run your own business, but it can also help you make those important connections into other businesses. Because nothing works better than a referral. And what would be better than phoning someone who you know trusts you to say, “Could you possibly find a way to introduce me to somebody else that you feel is important?”

That is sometimes an easier way to do business, but unless they know fundamentally what you stand for, they’re not going to be comfortable doing that, because they’re not going to be happy that they can do that in confidence. Because who wants to refer someone, only for them to cock-up and then look like a fool?

So it is all about establishing your reputation and what it is you stand for, and then getting it out there, getting people to talk about you, getting known for being good at what you do. That will help you grow your business.

It also helps to give stuff. Get involved in something charitable. Get involved in doing something for nothing, because it will open you up to an awful lot of opportunities, but it will also help you to get your message out there. Because if people find out you’re prepared to do something for nothing, trust me, the invitations will flood in.

Now, they’re not always good invitations, but I’m assuming when you’ve been asked to do this online podcast, is there any fee involved?

Ashley: No, no.

Lisa: Exactly. No, there is no fee involved. You are doing it for the purpose of self-promotion at the end of the day, but other people are benefiting from that. So I would say put yourself out there. If you get an opportunity to speak or present or get involved in something that will demonstrate what you do, take it every single time if it will help you get into the market you want to get into. It will also help people realize fundamentally what your ethos is.

I keep coming back to this, but I think people would do better in business if they put more of themselves into their business. If I go to one more networking event and go “I’m a printer and I print business cards,” and it’s like, “Oh, Lord, it’s so dull, it’s so boring.” So yeah, why would I want to have you print my business cards, because what makes you better? And then it does come down to price, and it shouldn’t be about that.

It’s all about getting your ethos out there, getting people to know who you are, what you’re all about, and it will make people engage with you, because they will fundamentally want to do business with you. And that’s what it’s all about at the end of the day: engagement and building of relationships.

Ashley: Yeah, that’s definitely something I’ve been realizing. I’m going to a conference next week just for that exact purpose, so it’s right on track, hopefully.

We’ve got to wrap up here. I’ve got another call in 10 minutes, as we said earlier. Where’s the best places for people to connect with you? On your website, which is…

Lisa: www.athena-business-solutions.co.uk. It’s a bit of a mouthful; I apologize. I would say the place I do most of my business is on LinkedIn. People find me under my name, Lisa Chilvers. Have a look through my profile.

I like that particularly because the recommendations that I have on there from clients tend to give a better flavor about what it is that I do, because it’s almost like the stories of the successes that I’ve had, which is great.

Or you can connect with me on Twitter, which is always great because, as you know, actually, I am addicted to my social media. It’s @athena_business.

Ashley: I’ll put all of that in the show notes, anyway, so people will have links.

Lisa: Thank you very much.

Ashley: You’ve got your book coming up, which we didn’t get a chance to talk about, although we chatted before the show. Maybe we’ll talk about that later in the year when that’s come out and you’re doing your amazing book tour.

Lisa: That’s fantastic. When I’m rich and famous, we’ll chat again, and I will be chatting all over the world, hopefully. Fingers crossed. But like I say, if you’re not going to think big, why bother at all?

Ashley: Of course. Perfect philosophy. Thanks, Lisa.

Lisa: Thanks, Ashley. Bye bye.

Ashley: Bye.

Send Lisa A Thank You Tweet

If you enjoyed this SEO chat with Lisa, why not send him a thank you Tweet…

Thank Lisa with a Tweet Connect with Lisa

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Lisa on Twitter

Lisa on LinkedIn

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As this podcast is just starting out, I would really appreciate it if you could leave a review on iTunes to help me promote it and reach more people.

I have a quick How To Do a Review on iTunes (only because it may not be so simple to find the place to do it).

Previous Podcast Episodes

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Final Words

Giving your business direction and purpose is one of the most important things you can do.

Without taking these basic steps (early on, or whenever you can) you are just riding in a boat without a rudder!

Take some of Lisa’s pro advice today and find out your Ethos and Vision.

Have you figured out your business purpose? Let us know in the comments below.

 

 

The post Do You Know Where Your Business is Going? appeared first on Mad Lemmings.

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