Being an expert in your field is great but being an expert whose expertise is visible to many is what brings elite professional benefits. For starters, the media will seek you to serve on discussion panels or for comments on matters pertaining to your field. Organizations will seek you out to serve on their boards or to speak at conferences. The visibility generated from these activities will give you credibility drawing many prospective clients to you; allowing you the freedom to charge higher fees – and thus, earn more money. In all, you will be in a very strong position to build a very successful brand.
However, achieving ‘expert visibility’ does not happen on the whim. There is a definite process to be followed and I have covered the first part of the process here to help you gain insight that you can leverage to start on your path to making your expertise visible so that you will enjoy extra-ordinary professional benefits. The process involves the following steps:
1. Make a Commitment – Achieving any major goal or objective requires that you make a decision and a commitment to achieving the goal in the first place. A decision to commit yourself to your cause is what will fuel your efforts and drive you to wake up every day and engage in the activities that will get you to your desired end point. Making your expertise visible is no different. Achieving this objective would require you to make a commitment to engage in certain activities on a consistent basis for you to see the result that you desire. Without the commitment to ‘stick with it’, you are likely to get distracted along the way by the demands of other endeavours that will equally require your time and involvement.
2. Decide on a Niche Area to Focus on – It is possible that you are good at more than one thing but at the start of your quest to achieve ‘expert visibility’, attempting to project expertise in more than one area will more likely dilute your reputation than enhance it. So you have to figure out quickly which area of expertise you want to project. Whatever you choose, make sure it is something that you are good at and that reflects your strength. Projecting one clear and definite area of expertise makes you stand out from the crowd. Moreover, it makes it easier for people to find you when they are looking for someone in the field. Once people find you and you start working with them, they will get to discover the other things you are good at and can help them with. For now, stick with just one key expertise.
3. Have Your Own Platform – A Website/Blog – If you really want to take this ‘visible expert’ business seriously then having your own platform is non-negotiable. Fortunately, it is pretty easy right now to own a website or a blog where you can constantly publish content and project your insight and ideas. Having a professionally designed website or blog increases your credibility and makes it easier for people to see you as a figure they can trust as a reliable source of information on your topic. To ensure that your website or blog bears a professional look and feel, see that it is not only fully optimized but that it also has a professional colour theme, logo and an easy-to-remember brand name. If you can design a solid website by yourself, by all means do. If you cannot, then hire a good website designer and work with him to create something that adequately fit your objective.
4. Build a Robust Presence on Social Media – In the digital era, not having a robust presence on social media – particularly on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram – is already a big minus from your image as an up-to-date professional. Having a robust social media presence, with your profiles fully filled out allows people to find you and affords you the opportunity to present your credentials and give people a way to contact you, if they want to. LinkedIn particularly, presents you with a platform to put on display your skills, accomplishments and experience – more like your resume – so that anyone who wants to get an idea of your professional experience and competence can do so by simply viewing your LinkedIn page. However, I have found that there are quite a few people with rather scanty profiles on LinkedIn which is a reality that do a lot of harm to their reputation. Because when someone who wants to know more about you get to your LinkedIn page and do not find useful or detailed information about you, most times, they write you off because they conclude that if you can’t be bothered to fill out your LinkedIn profile then how can they trust your competence and reliability?
5. Create Content Regularly and Share it Widely – This is the one thing that critical in making your expertise shine through. Consistently creating useful and highly informative content and sharing it widely will convey to your audience that you have an in-depth knowledge of the subject and you are the right source of information on your topic. The content you create could take the form of articles, blogposts, videos, podcasts, ebooks or whatever forms that would be best accessed by your audience.
Once you have created the content, you should look to share it as widely as you can, targeting specifically, the platforms where your audience congregate. And mind you, you don’t always have to create new content for each platform. You can always repurpose content that you have already created and used on one platform for use on another platform. For instance, you can repurpose an article into a tutorial video. A collection of articles could easily become an ebook while excerpts from an ebook you have written could become a series of blog posts on your social media pages. Ways of sharing your content include:
Posting on Your Blog/Website – As I said earlier, if you can, get a website or a blog developed for you so that you will have a platform where you can freely post your content all the time. If the website or blog is properly developed, you should be able to upload any form of content on it, whether it is an article, a video or an ebook
Posting on Social Media: – According to Jeff Bullas, 72 percent of all Internet users are active on social media. It’s very probable that this 72% include a chunk of your target audience. If we have this number of people on social media, it will be gross negligence on your part to not post your content on social media after investing time and energy to create it. Set up pages on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Google+ and look to always share your content on these platforms.
Guest-Posting on Other Blogs – This is about finding popular and high-traffic websites or blogs that cater to your niche or target audience and trying to get your content published on them as frequently as possible. The fact that a popular and high-traffic website publish your article will significantly add to your credibility. Moreover, you can always leverage the opportunity to include in your guest post one or two links to articles you have already published on your own website/blog so that readers can follow the links back to your blog.
We are in a world where the people that earn the big money, who occupy the top 1% of their careers are usually not just those who are good at what they do but those are good at what they do and are known for being good at it.
We have seen this time and again, in every industry. A situation where a few individuals are so visible they are considered the stars of the industry. The media quote them; they get selected to deliver keynote speeches at events; they are interviewed by TV talk show hosts; publishing houses sign them up to write books; they sit on panels and are invited to become members of boards of highly reputable organisations.
You may have expert knowledge of your field but you will not enjoy the extra-ordinary career benefits that come with expert status if you are not widely recognized as an expert. And there is basically just one way by which you could become widely recognized for your expertise: make your expertise visible.
Without making your expertise visible, you will be ignored and some other guy who is probably not as knowledgeable as you are in your field but has made the bit they know visible will attract more clients and command more authority and respect than you.
When you make your expertise visible, you become well known as someone who is an authority, a thought leader in your field. As a result, the following happens:
Your Company’s Profile is Raised. – There is a phenomenon known as ‘halo effect’. It’s a situation in which an individual possesses one visible trait which leads to their other traits being viewed in positive light. This phenomenon plays out very strongly when it comes to the positive impact that professionals with a visible expertise have on their company. When consumers view a professional as a high-level expert, they unconsciously extend the positive view to the expert’s company. As a result, the company’s credibility and brand awareness is significantly raised.
Your Presence in Your Company Helps it to Attract More high-Profile Clients – As more and more people become aware of your expertise, more and more of them will seek you and your company out to be their service provider when they have a problem in your area of expertise. Even if you do not end up handling their case or attending to them directly, they are likely to be happy to be assigned to some other professional at your company. Such clients tend to have the attitude that every other person at your company is probably as great an expert as you. And if you run your own company, you will corner a chunk of the market because people will seek you out specifically.
You Become More Valued By Your Bosses/Board – This seems obvious. As you grow in stature and lift your company along with you, it’s only natural that you will rise in value with your bosses or board as the case may be.
You Get Promoted Faster – who should be promoted faster if not the guy whose profile lifts the company, enhances its reputation, attracts clients and facilitates partnerships?
The Media Seeks You Out – Whether they need quotes for articles they write or whether they want expert opinion on their shows, journalist and TV talk show hosts will seek you out when it comes to matters that have to do with your field.
You Are Invited to Sit on Boards – When board selection committees and executive search firms look for candidates to select for board positions; they pick those who have come to their attention as experts in their field. By making your expertise visible, you get noticed and may be selected for a board position.
You Are Invited to Participate on Panels on TV and at Events – Whether it is a talk show host or a conference or a workshop organising committee looking to constitute a panel of experts to discuss a topic, the people they usually turn to are those who are well-known as experts in the field.
You Get Invitations to Speak at Events and Deliver Keynote Speeches – If people are going to spend their time listening to someone speak on a topic, they will prefer to listen to someone whom they consider to be an expert on the subject. Organizing committee members know this that is why they usually select people with a high profile to deliver speeches and keynote addresses at events. By making your expertise visible, you get onto the radar of such selection committees.
You are Able to Charge Premium Fee for Your Service – Establishing yourself as the expert, a go-to guy in your field will mean that you will have the latitude to charge significantly more than the average rate for your industry – and people will pay.
You Earn Significantly More Than the Average Professional In Your Industry – Perhaps the most intriguing effect of being a visible expert is that you earn way beyond what the average practitioner in your industry earns. To start with, by charging a premium fee for your services, you rake in more money. Beyond that, you earn income from your other engagements, such as being compensated for delivering a keynote speech at a conference or a lecture at a workshop or for serving on a board.
All these further amplify your status as an expert, an authority in your field, bringing you more opportunities and opening more doors.
NB: This is the first part of this article. The second part will dwell on: How to Make Your Expertise in Your Field Visible and Enjoy Extra-Ordinary Professional Benefits. It will be published here in a few days.
By Larry Galler
Most people think that 99% satisfaction is good enough… but is it?
If 99.9% was good enough, then:
99.9% quality assurance translates into one fault for every 1000 tries, and that’s just not good enough.
If you want to meet customer satisfaction goals that translate into growing the business, you will have to do better. Don’t shrug and mumble about that one-tenth of one percent. Track errors. Set error elimination goals. Structure or systemize error elimination review. Finally, work to eliminate errors completely.
A “Customer Satisfaction Improvement” project would look something like this:
Obviously, this eight-point list is overly-simplified, but it is an outline of the process. You will want to customize it to fit your company, your limitations, your products, your customer base and their expectations.
The goal of most businesses is to make the customer or prospect feel they are getting either perceived or measurable added-value, not 99.9% value. That means giving customers 100% accuracy, quality, and value 100% of the time and then adding a little more value to that so they feel they received 110% or even 125% value.
Customers today have many choices and they can buy the products and services you sell from companies all over the globe. They no longer have geographic limitations and need to buy from only their local sphere. Customers will choose 100% satisfaction over “good enough” every time. It is that tenth of a percentage point that makes the big difference. Make 100% customer satisfaction a marketing goal in your business; then add some value to that, and 100% of your customers will be back.
About the Author
Larry Galler works with professionals, small-business owners, contractors, and entrepreneurs to increase sales and profits through better, more creative marketing and effective administration systems.
One of the real challenges business owners think about on a regular basis is competition from other businesses offering similar products or service and how to capture a greater market share than the competition.
To attract more customers than their competition, business owners engage in various tactics including lowering prices, giving discount on purchases up to a certain amount, improving customer service, spending more on advertising and a host of other tactics.
In all these, building a strong brand presence, which is a very powerful strategy for elevating a business above its competition, both in the short and the long-term, get ignored or relegated to the background. In fact, there are many business owners who do not see building strong brand presence as a strategy for business growth, and definitely not a strategy to be employed in the fierce battle to outwit the competition. This sort of reasoning is usually borne out of the fact that many business owners believe that a quality product will speak for itself. As a result, they downplay the impact of image and perception derived from logo, colours and tagline.
While quality products and services are good and vital for a business to succeed in the marketplace, many times, consumers don’t get to know about the quality of a product or a service because they refuse to buy it since they do not recognize the name of the product or the company offering it.
This is why it is so important that you build a strong brand presence for your business so as to give it name recognition. When well executed, the strategy of building a strong brand presence for your company will give it the following advantages over its competitors:
(1) Your Company Become More Easily Recognised than Your Competitors
When you devote time and resources to building a strong brand presence, your business gain wide-spread visibility so that its image, including logo, colour, slogan and the product or service it offers become easily recognised by a great number of people. This recognition is vital because consumers need to know that you exist and that you offer a solution to their problem through your product or service. They need to know your company for what it does so that when they need the product or service that you offer, they will look for you.
(2) It Will be Difficult for Your Customers to Leave Your Company for Your Competitors
Given that most people tend to want to patronize brands that are recognized, you immediately put your company ahead of your competition when you make your brand more recognisable than theirs. For as long as your brand recognition remain strong and compelling, you stand a good chance of retaining the loyalty of your clients and attracting even more customers, far more than your completion.
(3) It Positions You as a Leader In Your Industry
Any business with a strong presence in the marketplace is automatically placed higher on the minds of consumers than another business offering similar products or service but with a lesser presence. Such a high placement on the minds of consumers makes you a leader in your industry, making it way easier for you to gain the trust and credibility as well as the patronage of consumers. As a leader in your industry, your company is respected and your products or service demanded by a lot more people than it would be if you didn’t have the status of industry leader.
(4) It Raises Your Business’s Perceived Level of Expertise and Earn You the Trust of Consumers
There is a saying that ‘‘perception is reality’’ and this is especially so in the case of how consumers perceive brands. When your company projects a strong brand presence, consumers tend to conclude that you have a high level of expertise. The truth is that many times, the perception that people develop is not based on concrete facts but on assumptions resulting from what they have seen or heard. By simply projecting a more polished brand presence than your competitors, you will appear more legitimate and competent than them – even if this is not true in reality – and will end up attracting a lot more people who will be willing to trust you with their projects than they will be willing to trust your competition.
There are many factors that determine the pricing of a product or service. And one of these factors is the brand status of the company selling the product or service. A company with strong brand recognition enjoys the advantage of being able to charge more for it service than its competitors. Even at that, they still have more people trooping through their door than they go to the competition. On many occasions, the quality of the product or service do not vary significantly, with brand recognition being the key factor that determines the price the two businesses can set for essentially the same product. Once you have achieved a strong brand presence, customers come after you as opposed to you chasing after them. In that situation, you can raise your price to a premium and they will pay.
(6) You Attract Better Talents than Your Competitors
A well-known brand attracts top talent. The most talented people want to work for companies that are well-recognised. They believe that they will have better opportunities in such organisations and feel more confident disclosing to others where they work. Moreover, such employees will be more likely to go the extra-mile to serve customers and nurture them with patience and empathy because they are proud of the company they work for and want to preserve its good name. Ultimately, your business will achieve far more success than a less recognised brand.
Influencer marketing has grown to become a mainstay form of marketing. Presently, it common to find a business partnering with an influencer – an individual who has established credibility and gained trust from many people as a result of their expertise on a particular area of human interest – in order to create awareness about their products or service or push out their brand message.
While influencer marketing has grown significantly to become a mainstay method of marketing, there are still quite a number of businesses and marketing directors who have not fully jumped on-board the influencer marketing bandwagon mainly because they have not yet fully identified the numerous benefits that are inherent in this marketing strategy.
Like any other method of advertising, influencer marketing requires an investment. However, it brings numerous benefits that far outweigh the investment that usually go into the campaign. These benefits include:
Native advertising is the type of advertising that is designed to fit in and blend with the form and feel of the rest of the content on the platform so that it does not clearly sticks out as sponsored content. The content is provided by, produced in conjunction with or created on behalf of the advertiser.
Native adverts have proven to be effective because they are usually better received by their target audience. Since they blend in with the rest of the platform and are not clearly delineated as advertisement, people are more inclined to view them and consume their content.
Usually, a post by an influencer, recommending a product or service simply blends with the rest of his posts, making it non-intrusive. As a result, his followers view it without discrimination even when they are aware that the influencer is promoting the product or service.
Many consumers have become frustrated with the reality of advertisements being splashed in their faces all the time and have install blockers on their devices to screen them out. Using influencers for advertisements allows brands to overcome this challenge and communicate their marketing messages to their target audience. Since the audience follow the influencer, whatever message he posts on his social media pages reaches the audience directly without being blocked out by an ad blocker.
Moreover, with more than 92 percent of consumers indicating that they trust recommendations from individuals, especially influencers more than they trust advertisements from brands, using influencers to get marketing messages to target audience is obviously a safer bet for brands than investing on traditional advertising. When influencers talk about a brand, majority of their followers believe them because they are independent third parties making recommendation based on their experience with a brand.
Statistics show that 94% of marketers who have engaged in influencer marketing believe that the strategy has been effective. As a result, more and more brands, both big and small, are adopting influencer marketing as a core marketing strategy
If your choice of an influencer is truly someone whose area of influence aligns with your industry, their followers will naturally be your target audience. Since influencers have large audience, working with one to promote your product will ultimately lead to many within their audience visiting your website because your product is of interest to them.
You can work with an influencer to create content which they will post on their on their social media feed and link to your website. Or you can get an influencer to review your product on their website, portraying it in very positive light with a link that people can click on to get to your website. Since many people are inclined to buy when someone they trust make a recommendation, many of the influencer’s followers – who are also your target audience – will ultimately buy after visiting your website.
For many brands, the main goal of engaging in influencer marketing is to generate increased sales. However, the resultant brand awareness that is created is equally as important. The truth is that not everyone within the audience of an influencer who get exposed to content regarding your brand will immediately make their way to your website to buy. However, the fact that the audience is exposed to the content in the first place will create an awareness of your product or brand among them.
Reaching out to a large number of people to create brand awareness requires a heavy investment of time and energy. Engaging in influencer marketing fast-track the process and dramatically cut down on the investment required. A social media influencer already has thousands of followers who consume whatever content they put out. Working with an influencer whose niche aligns with your industry means that, when they share your content, they will put it right in front of thousands of your potential customers. This would significantly raise the level of awareness of your products and brand. If this process is sustained for a while, more and more people who never heard of your brand will get to hear of it. These people will then share the content with their own circle of friends thereby further raising the awareness of your brand.
If you are a start-up or you are looking to bring a new product into the market and you do not have a big marketing budget, your best strategy to gain market penetration fast would be to leverage influencer marketing.
Unlike traditional advertising where you spread your message broadly hoping that some of your target audience will see it, influencer marketing offers you a far better deal because if you work with the right social media influencers, they will get your message directly to your target audience since they already have large following within their niche.
In addition, influencer marketing cuts out the need to seek to build a network of industry peers and veterans who can help to promote your products and push them out through existing channels. It helps you leverage on the network that influencers have already built within the niche in order to facilitate the exposure of your brand and position it to resonate better with the audience than those of your competitors.
Another massive benefit of influencer marketing is the extent of return on investment (ROI) it delivers.
According to a study by Nielsen Catalina and TapInfluence, the ROI generated by influencer marketing is 11 times greater than any other form of marketing campaign.
The key to achieving this sort of result is to ensure that you understand fully who your target audience is and pair up with the right influencer. Using the right influencer, you can generate huge income without spending thousands of dollars on advertising.
It is common knowledge that out of ten businesses that are started, seven fail by the fifth year. If you talked with any of the entrepreneurs whose businesses failed, you will find that when they started, basically all of them had dreams of building their businesses into successful enterprises. Unfortunately, it didn’t work out. They were unable to transform their dreams into sustainable businesses that lasted the distance.
Building a successful and sustainable business requires that the entrepreneur put in place specific structures that will empower the business to withstand the ups and downs that a business usually have to deal with particularly in the early years. These structures allow a startup business to quickly establish itself in the marketplace and secure enough share of the market to be profitable. Once profitability is achieved, there is a great chance that the business will not only survive, it will thrive.
To build a business that will not fail but thrive, look to do the following:
Establish a Long-Term Vision
This is a very crucial step in ensuring that your business does not end up in the grave yard. A long term vision motivates everyone associated with your business, including your employees to give their best because it tells them that they are part of something great. A long-term vision communicates to your employees that your startup business will ultimately become a mega business creating products or offering services that positively impact people in the years ahead. In addition, a long-term vision guides your actions and those of your team members and helps you make strategic plans that when properly executed, will move the business from one stage to the next until it becomes the mega-empire you envisioned at the start.
Establish Clear Goals and Objectives
If you truly desire to avoid your business failing, then you must appreciate the inherent value of setting goals and objectives for your business. Setting goals and objectives will help you achieve your vision for your business both over the short and long haul. That is why you will need to set both short-term and long-term goals with the short-term goals serving as building blocks to reach your long-term goals.
While setting goals and objectives, you should endeavor to cover all areas of your business and not restrict yourself to only some aspect of your operation. And once you have decided on what you goals and objectives are, you should write them down and constantly go over them to refresh them and to check up on how your business is coming along with respect to the set objectives.
Furthermore, your goals and objectives should be SMART, which means that they should be:
Specific – Make the goals as detailed and as specific as possible
Measurable – Come up with yardsticks for deciding or knowing when a goal is accomplished
Achievable – See to it that each of your goal or objective is something you and your team can realistically achieved within the limit of the resources you have at your disposal
Relevant – Your goals should align with your ultimate vision for your business. Each objective, when achieved, should lead you closer to achieving your ultimate vision for your business.
Time-bound – Put a deadline for achieving each goal. This will help motivate and keep you and your team on track.
Make Sure You Understand Clearly What Customers Want
To create products or come up with services that people will buy, you must clearly understand what it is that your target customers want. No one will buy what they don’t want or don’t believe that they need.
When people want something, they are strongly motivated to buy it. At that point, all you have to do is make them see that you have what they want. Businesses that fail to make the efforts to find out what customers want before they create products or services usually struggle to attract customers and eventually fizzle out.
If you endeavor to constantly stay informed regarding what your target customers want and tailor your products or service to satisfy their want, your business will always have customers trooping through your door.
Establish a World-Class Customer Service Culture
According to Sam Walton, “There is only one boss; the customer. And he can fire everybody in the company, from the chairman down, simply by spending his money somewhere else.” Your customers are the lifeblood of your business; they are your greatest assets. Without customers, your business will not exist. This is why you must build a culture of treating your customers excellently if your startup business must succeed and not fail. It is not enough to create products that solve problems for your customers or make their lives easier, you must treat them as kings and queens by ‘rolling out the red carpet’ for them. This means that you should make your customers feel important and cherished each time they interact with your business. And this should be a culture in your business involving everyone on your team. It needs to be a core of your business’s DNA. It should be an attitude that everyone on your team breathe!
Be Aware of the Competition and Strive to Stay on Top of Your Game
No matter what line of business you are into, it is most likely that there are other businesses operating in the industry. Those businesses form your competition. It will be a mistake to focus your entire attention on what they are doing instead of focusing on what you can do in your business to create the best possible products or offer the best possible service to your clients. However, it will also be a mistake to carry on as though competition does not exist. The key is to strike a balance between these two factors: strive all the time to create innovative products or services for your customers and at the same time, stay conscious of the fact that if you let up, your customers will move over to any of your competitors who offer them what you are not offering. Use these twin factors to motivate yourself and your team to stay on top of your game.
Manage Your Finances Wisely
One of the reasons businesses fail is the inability of the business owner to manage company money wisely. During the early stage of a business, money is hardly enough. If the owner fails to maintain a lean model and plough back into the business as much money as is needed to keep the business liquid, he will be setting his business up to fail. One way to avoid this happening is to always work with a budget. Create a budget at the beginning of each business year to cover all aspects of your business and discipline yourself and your team to stick to the budget. Without a budget and the discipline to stick to it, you are prone to impromptu and unplanned spending which will expose your business to the possibility of failing.
Ensure That a Strong Leadership is in Place
If there is any one place where strong leadership is needed, it is in a startup business. A startup business is usually very fluid with products or services that have not yet gained a foothold in the market, a culture that is not yet fully formed, a small team and several unknown. An environment like this require a strong leadership to maintain traction on a daily basis and help everyone align with the vision and goals of the company. A weak leadership will lack the capacity to navigate this treacherous stage resulting in wrong decisions that will fail to inspire employees. Ultimately, the future of the business will be put in jeopardy and whatever promise the business held would be out of the window. If you don’t have the wherewithal to provide strong leadership for your business, then you should bring on board an industry veteran as soon as possible. Someone who has worked in your industry for many years, has built relationships with many industry stakeholders, understands what it takes to get things done and has the personality to inspire others.
Establish Effective Processes and Systems
The startup stage of a business is stage that is constantly evolving. And running a business at this stage usually involves making decisions instinctively on a daily basis. However, if the business continues to be run this way, it will become vulnerable to failing. For the business to survive and thrive, you must develop solid procedures and systems for how the business should operate. You will have to develop procedures and processes to cover all areas of your operation including product development, customer service, sales, and others. Well-defined, clearly-spelt out procedures and systems usually guarantee efficiency, ensure quality control, raise employees’ productivity and strengthen customer service. They also provide a solid foundation for the growth and expansion of the business.
Ensure That Critical Skills are Not Lacking
It is not uncommon for a business to start as a one man with an idea and a dream who sets out to make it happen. However, for the business to grow and become successful, a broader set of skills than those possess by the founder must be brought on board. Without a team with a balanced set of skills, a startup business could end up closing shop. Your responsibility as a startup entrepreneur is to determine the skills that are most critical for your type of business and look to bring into your team people that possess those skills. Generally, most startups require a technical genius or product expert – who is usually the founder, a sales person or revenue driver, a marketing person and a person responsible for organizing everything – including ordering office supplies to keep the business running smoothly.
“A company’s ability to respond to an unplanned event, good or bad is a prime indicator of its ability to compete.” – Bill Gates
The business environment is constantly changing. What was in vogue a few months ago is probably considered obsolete today. As an entrepreneur, your ability to keep up with trends and adapt your products or services as well as business processes is a key factor in determining if your startup business will become a success or a failure. Your aim should be to constantly innovate and align your business with changing trends. Likewise, you should constantly seek to take advantage of trends to reinvent your business and develop up-to-date products and services so as to put your business over the top and ensure that you have competitive advantage.
Develop a Solid Marketing Strategy
If you know who your target customers are; if you find out exactly what they want and you develop products or services that will meet their needs but you fail to develop a solid plan to make them aware of your product or make them buy it, your business wouldn’t last the distance. A solid marketing plan includes all the above but it also involves marketing your products or service using the traditional media as well as digital media. It is important that you get a message out there about your products and services. Use social media, content marketing, PR and any other advertising channel that will get your message to your target audience. If you feel you cannot handle your marketing by yourself and you do not have an in-house marketing team that can do the job, hire a marketing agency or consultant so that they can help you develop a solid marketing plan and execute it. You need a solid marketing plan executed efficiently to attract customers and grow your business.
Build Good Relationships With Your Employees
According to Mary Kay Ash, “If you honor and serve the people who work for you, they will honor and serve you.” If you treat your employees well as valuable members of your team, they will take care of your customers and your business. Therefore, look to build good relationships with your employees and treat them with dignity and respect. By building good relationships with them and honoring them as important team members, you will be motivating them to always give their best shot to their jobs every time. This will ultimately culminate in a culture of excellent service delivery that will rapidly push your startup business up the growth ladder as opposed to failing and becoming a forgotten story.
The history of the United States is littered with examples of people who started businesses from the scratch and grew them into multi-million and multi-billion dollar enterprises. And with the opportunities that technology has provided in more recent times, many people have leveraged these opportunities to either start or are thinking of starting a business. From app developers to blog owners to freelance writers to graphic designers and online shop owners, there are many people who have taken the risk and started their own business.
However, while a number of businesses that were started from scratch grew to become multi-million and multi-billion dollar enterprises, many others crashed along the way. One of the reasons attributed to success of the businesses that grew into successful enterprises is the fact that the owners started their businesses and grew them to significant level of profitability while still employed. They quit their day job only when they were sure they had a sustainable enterprise.
According to the findings of Professors Joseph Raffiee and Jie Feng of University of Wisconsin – Madison, as published in the Academy of Management Journal, people who maintain their regular job while growing their business in stages are a third less likely to fail compared to those who quit their day job to directly start a new company.
This study which cites Steve Wozniak and Henry Ford as examples of entrepreneurs who started their company while still employed suggests that by gradually transitioning from being an employee into running your business, the entrepreneur is able to test waters to determine if their idea actually has real potential. They suggest that since a new venture does not necessarily need the full attention of the entrepreneur to be successful, the entrepreneur should make small commitments at first, feeling out their working style and skills and testing demand for their product without placing all your eggs into one basket.
Realities You Will Have to Face When Running a Business While Employed
While starting and growing your business offers exciting possibilities, it is not exactly a picnic. You will find that growing a business into a successful venture comes with many unique challenges, all of which you must successfully navigate to achieve your objective. Moreover, running a business while still employed requires acknowledging and successfully managing certain realities that are inherent in this arrangement. Some of these realities are as stated below:
It is Wiser to Start a Business That Does Not Compete With Your Employer
The best business to start would be the one that do not directly compete with your employer even if your employment agreement does not contain a non-compete clause. While it is a fact that starting a business based on your line of work, where you have already got experience and competence is the best option, it is good that your business should be in an area of your work that does not directly compete with what your employer does. If at all possible, see that your business idea is such that it enhances your performance in your job for your employer.
Starting a business that directly competes with your employer while still working could potentially destroy good relationships and estrange you from people that would could be of help to you down the road. It is best to avoid this.
If you are under a non-compete clause that makes it difficult for you to proceed, you should consult an attorney for legal counsel.
Your Business Will be as Demanding as Your Day Job
If your business is going to be successful, you are going to have to devote energy to it. And despite the fact that you are running it by the side while still employed, it will be as demanding of you as your day job. You will need to show the same level of commitment that has made you a success on your day job to your business to be able to grow it into a success. This is particularly crucial in the early days when you are just setting up your system, trying to attract customers and looking to create awareness about your service or product(s). To achieving these objectives, you might need to work on weekends in addition to working on the business after your day job during the week.
The Business Will Most Likely Grow Slowly
We all like that when we start a business, it should grow into a successful, profitable venture within the shortest possible time. There is nothing wrong with this aspiration but when you run a business part-time, you will have to accept that the business will most likely not grow as fast as if you ran it full-time. One of the factors that is critical to the growth of a business is the amount of time devoted to running it so if you put in only a few hours a day during the week plus weekends, you should appreciate that it will most likely take a bit longer for the business to get up to speed.
You Will Need To Scale Down On The Activities You Engaged In During Your Free Time
As you are very likely going to be working in the business alone or with only a few people, you will need to limit the time you devote to other causes in order to attend to every aspect of the business to make it a success. You should look to devote as much of your free time – the time when you are not working for your employer – to running your business. To find the time you need to run your business, make a list of activities and commitments that consume your time during the week and over the weekend. Take a look at the list and cross off those commitments that are not necessary. Next, trim the amount of time you devote to entertainment or social activities such as watching TV, playing video games and checking or chatting on social media. Beyond that, consider your other commitments and figure out the ones you can afford to lessen your involvement with and do so accordingly. The more time you are able to free up in order to devote it to running your business, the faster it is likely to grow.
Here’s How to Successfully Grow Your Business While Still Employed
Having explained some realities that you would need to accept as you launch your business while still employed, we will now proceed to consider the specifics of growing your business into a success while still in your day job.
Choose a Business You Can Afford to Run Part-Time
Obviously, there are only certain businesses you can start and run on a part-time basis: the kind of businesses that do not require the active presence or participation of the owner during the working hours of the day. If you start a business which requires the full presence of the owner for it to run successfully, you will be setting yourself up for potential failure. For instance, a restaurant or a retail store will require you to be hands-on and readily reachable especially during the early stages of the business. If you are unavailable to attend to customers and suppliers as well as manage your staff due to your commitment on your day job, the business will most likely go under even before it gets a chance to get off the ground. In considering the business you will start and run successfully while still employed, you should look to choose a business that will not require your full attention during the working hours of the day.
Write a 3-Year Business Plan That Covers Every Detail of Your Business – And Follow it!
Whatever business you ultimately choose to start, you should absolutely develop a business plan to serve as a guide. In the business plan, clearly spell out your goals for your business – including sales goals, financial goals, growth goals and others and your plans for achieving those goals. Also, endeavor to indicate what possible obstacles you are likely to encounter along the way and your plans for overcoming them. Having clear goals from the get-go and a detailed plan of how to achieve them will help to clarify things up for you and enable you concentrate your energies and resources to be able to achieve faster the milestones you have set for your business. Without clear goals and a detailed plan to achieve them, you will most likely end up spinning in circles without making progress.
Run Your Business Strictly on Your Time and Use Your Resources Entirely
One of the major rules you must stay alert to keep as you strive to grow your business while in paid employment is that you attend to your business strictly on your time and use your resources entirely so that your business does not interfere with your job. Your employer pays your salary so she deserves your full attention during the time when you are at work. Keep separate hours for your job and business. Wake up early to attend to your business before you go off to work or stay up late at night to attend to it. Then devote your weekends to it and cut down on the activities that are not crucial in your life. And if you must make a business call during working hours, do so during your break hour and if possible, do it off your company’s premises or at least, away from your office building. Also, see that you do not use your employer’s supplies and equipment for your business. Creating this separation and keeping it can be tasking but if you are conscientious, you will achieve it without much difficulty.
Leverage Technology to Aggressively Market Your Business
As a startup, you may not have a big budget for your marketing but if you play your game right, you can leverage technology and achieve a lot even on a not-so-big budget. The key is to either learn and master social media marketing skills and employ them in your business or engage someone who will work with you to understand your plans for your business as well as your budget and then come up with a plan that will give you the result you are looking. Using the right strategies, you will find that even though you don’t have the amount of resources the more established businesses have, you will be able to give them a good run for their money.
Offer First-Rate Customer Service to Your Customers
Your customers are a very vital asset to your business and offering them first-rate service to ensure that you meet and exceed their expectations all the time is essential to the success of your business. So develop a plan to ensure that each of your customers have a positive experience each time they deal with you as this will ensure loyalty and repeat business. And as it is most likely that you will receive complaints no matter your level of service and feedback mechanism, your plan should also include a strategy to deal with complaints and grievances swiftly and efficiently to the satisfaction of the complainant. This is a key ingredient in building a positive customer relationship.
Constantly Seek Feedback From Your Customers And Mentors
To be able to consistently offer services or create products that provide value for people, you must continually seek and receive feedback from your customers. Getting feedback from your customers helps you improve on your offering and processes based on the changing and diverse needs of your customers. There is always room for improvement and there will always be one customer or the other who is dissatisfied with an aspect of your service or product. So providing opportunity for your customers to communicate their dissatisfaction or what they consider to be an area that needs improvement will enable you improve your offering to your customers and demonstrate that your priority is to offer them service or products that fully meet their needs.
Unless Your Business Stands to Benefit, Don’t Broadcast in Your Workplace the Fact That You Are Building a Business by the Side
Ok, this point is actually a matter of discretion. You will have to decide based on the dynamics of your workplace if you should make it known to your co-workers and even your boss or employer that you are building a business by the side. If you are sure that your boss and co-workers will be supportive of you and your business if they become aware of what you are doing, you can go ahead and make them aware. After all, it is possible that as you go along in your business, you might need to leverage on the expertise of some of your co-workers at some point down the road. And who knows, you might need your employer to put down money when you need to raise funds. However, if you think that your boss and co-workers may see your side venture in negative light, you will be better off keeping what you are up to yourself.
Quit Your Job Only When the Business Can Pay You a Decent Salary and Still Remain Sustainable…..And Quit in Good Faith
Do not be in a hurry to quit your job in order to ‘give your business full attention’. I have seen people left their jobs to go devote their time to their business after just a few wins only to realize that they left their job too early as the initial success in the business did not translate into consistent growth. A new business will go through cycles, so initial success does not necessary mean you have a sustainable venture on your hands. During the next several months after you have launched your business, you should focus on fully exploring your target market while continually fine-tuning your offering in order to enhance the acceptability of your business in the marketplace. Take time to continue to think things through and seek feedback and advice from others on how to build a sustainable venture. When your business eventually achieved several months of consistent growth and income such that it can pay you a decent salary and still remain profitable, you can then consider quitting your day job to focus full-time on the business. Even so, quit gracefully. You never know, you might need the relationships from your former workplace in the future.
With a good idea and the right financial backing, you can start a business and put yourself on the path to becoming an entrepreneurial success story. However, for your start-up to succeed, you will need to assemble a team of competent individuals to work with you to grow the business by handling the aspects of the business that are outside your area of competence. To a very large extent, the fate of your start-up business rests squarely on the shoulders of your team.
While selecting the right people is a crucial process, it is also tricky one. Get it right and your company’s chances of success literally sky rocket. Get it wrong and your start-up business is doomed.
However, knowing how crucial your start-up team is to the success of your business does not automatically mean that you will be able to hire the right people when the time comes for you to do so. To be able to hire the right people for your start-up team, there are some basic steps you must take. These steps include the following:
Identify Your Company Culture
Culture is a set of shared beliefs, values, philosophy and practices. It is an intangible element that connotes a ‘particular way’ about an organization.
As the owner of your business, it is your responsibility to determine the culture of the company. You can do this by listing your core values – including what you believe to be right and what you believe to be wrong, how your business will behave towards your customers – with regards to the quality of products or service you will deliver to them; and how you want the people that work in your business to behave toward each other and to your customers.
By creating such a list, you will give your people a point of reference with which to work. Even if it is not perfect, it will at the very least, give you and your people something you can point to as you work together.
If you succeed in creating a great company culture, you will greatly enhance the output of your team as a great culture usually engender an environment of fun, interactive collaboration, passion, commitment, open communication and authenticity.
Be Very Clear About the Roles (Positions) for Which You Need to Hire People
It is a fact that you need people to help you build your start-up into a successful business. However, you can achieve this objective only if you clearly identify the roles or positions where you need help and bring on board individuals who are experts in those areas.
As the founder, you most likely possess skills in one area or the other. And if you have a co-founder, he or she also possesses a specific skill set of their own. Between the two of you, you can decide on which position each of you should occupy based on your individual skill sets and then move on to hire people for the rest of the positions which must be filled for your start-up team to be complete.
Unless you define the right positions, you will most likely end up hiring people who may not be able to add much value to the organization because their specific competence falls outside responsibility assigned to them.
The key to figuring out what positions you need to hire people for is to first come up with a list of the tasks you or your co-founder cannot handle or will not be able to tackle because your time is taken up by other tasks. Then run through the list to determine if any of them can be merged. If there are any that could be merged, bring them together into one position. Those that cannot be merged can stand independently. These distinct groups of tasks will then form the positions for which you will hire people to form your team.
The interview process is very crucial when you are looking to select the right people for your start-up team. It affords you the opportunity to have personal contact with the people from among whom you will select your team.
But having personal contact with people during the interview process is not enough; you have to interview thoroughly.
This means that you must ask the interviewees questions and give them tasks that will help you clearly determine if they actually possess the competences required in the position for which you are looking to bring them in. You must be thorough enough to figure out if they possess the right skill set to function in the respective roles and if the skills they lack can be easily learnt on the job.
By all means, don’t make any assumptions based on someone’s resume. If their resume says that they achieved a particular feat, say ‘‘under my leadership as the Product Development Manager of the insurance company, we came up with 6 different products’’, probe to know exactly how this happened. You should ask what the products were and how the ideas for the products were generated. Who and who comprised the team? Who and who came up with the ideas? What was the specific contribution of the interviewee in the entire process? Ask them open ended behavioral questions based on what they have done in the past so that you can predict how they will likely behave in the future.
And where you can, test their skills. Choose something that falls within the purview of what they will be doing in the role you are looking to bring them into and test them on it. If they handle it pretty good and tick all the boxes, you then know that you have got your guy. If they fail at it, then you know that they are obviously not a good fit for your team.
Look for Cultural Fit
While competence and expertise are crucial in determining who to select for your start-up team, they are not the only factors that count. Cultural fit is also a crucial factor.
It is important to ensure that each person you choose to join your team fits the company culture you identified earlier. If a person does not fit into the culture of the organization, they will ultimately become an anchor, dragging down the rest of the team instead of adding value.
As you interview each individual, observe how they communicate; how they respond to question; what type of personality they are; how they react when their achievements are downplayed or out rightly dismissed and how they respond when they are back into a corner and put under pressure.
Probe their past to find out if they love working in a team and if they can get along with others. Check to see if their values dovetail with those of the company. Find out if their personal goals align with what the company’s goals are.
Paint pictures of scenarios that represent how you relate with and handle your customers and ask them how they will respond in such situations. You don’t want to bring into the team someone who will struggle with interacting with your customers the way you want your people to. Remember, you are building a brand and your staff are the best representation of your company. So how they relate with and treat your customers is important as this will determine the image that will be engraved on people’s mind about your business.
Look Out for Those Who Are Eager to Learn and Grow
No matter how good an applicant look on their resume or CV, you should probe to know what they have learnt from the respective positions they have held. This matters because a very important quality of a person who will be a great addition to a start-up team is an eagerness to learn and grow.
As a start-up, you need to assemble a team of people who will learn and grow together so hire those who are eager to continually improve themselves. People like this, want to feel like they are part of something big; something that will get bigger and bigger. They want to feel like their work count and that what they do makes a difference in the world. As a result, they are willing to stretch themselves and go the extra mile every time.
So whatever you do, ensure that you don’t hire people who do not have a strong craving to stretch themselves in order to grow.
If You Have Opportunity to Hire Someone With Experience, Do It!
It is a well-documented fact that many – if not most – start-up founders started their companies with limited experience and learnt the skills they needed as they went along. It worked for some but for others, their inexperience cost them their dream.
While I have never advocated that a person should wait until they have got ‘enough’ experience before they launch their start-up, I believe that it pays to have people on your start-up team who are industry veterans with significant experience under their belt.
These people have been there and done that so they are able to notice subtle issues that the inexperience eye wouldn’t see or dismiss quickly but which could turn out to be a major drag to the business down the road. These veterans, because of their experience, can spot a potential problem ten miles out and take the appropriate steps to avert it so that it does not explode into a full-blown disaster. They just have a knack for knowing when ‘something’s not right’. This can only come from several years of experience, not just from being smart.
So if you have opportunity to recruit someone with years of experience in your particular niche; if you can afford to put together a compensation package that will attract them, go ahead and do it. Your group of smart, savvy and driven young professionals working with an experienced head will constitute an unbeatable team. The younger guys will benefit from the experience and insight of the experience head while the experience individual will in turn get their juiced pumped by the energy, eagerness and drive of the younger guys.
Don’t Hesitate to Let a Person Go If it Turn Out That You Made a Wrong Decision Hiring Them
One other factors that is important in selecting the right people for your start-up is your ability to let go of a person who turns out to be a wrong fit for your company. If you determine, after a person has worked in your company for a while, that they are not adding value to the business or are not fulfilling the core duties of their position, you should act decisively and let them go. Do not kid yourself into thinking that they will get better with time. In most instances, such people don’t. If they were fulfilling their core tasks and having a challenge with some minor tasks, then it would be okay for you to bear with them in the hope that they will improve down the road. As a start-up, you need every team member to pull their weight fully in their role. Any team member who fails to do so will drag the rest of the team down. Don’t let this happen.
One of the most difficult experiences to deal with is the challenge of working and earning pay which runs out before you get the next pay check. Beside the fact that this situation makes it practically impossible to achieve any meaningful financial goals, it also creates an intense level of stress that is difficult to deal with.
While it is easy to throw your hands up in the air in despair and declare that it is impossible to dig yourself out of such a hole, there are practical steps that you can take to not only get a firm handle on your finances but to go on and enjoy financial freedom without winning the lottery. These steps include the following:
The first step towards escaping the trap of living from paycheck to paycheck is to make a firm determination that you want to end the cycle. It is this firm determination that will give you the strength to make the needed decisions and changes and stick with them until you achieve your objective. To develop a sense of determination that is strong enough to keep you motivated throughout the journey, you must be very clear within you as to why you are pursuing the goal in the first place. And truthfully, only you can find this reason. Why do you want to end the cycle of living from pay check to pay check? Do you want to end the cycle so that you will have some money set aside to make a down payment on a house? Or is it so that you can start saving for your kids’ college education? Or maybe you are just tired of perpetually lacking money, plain and simple. Whatever your reason, it has to be strong enough to keep you fired up all the way.
One of the major reasons why people live from paycheck to paycheck is because they don’t plan their spending. The way it works for a lot of people is that once they have cashed their paycheck, they spend the money as they go based on the needs and expenses that spring up. Obviously, this is a terrible way to manage money and it can only lead to one end: running out of money before the next pay day!
To avoid this, you should always work with a budget. The budget doesn’t have to be an Excel spread sheet or an advanced budgeting software program like Mint. It could be a simple outline on a piece of paper detailing how the money you earn on your pay day will be spent.
The key is to make sure that all your expenses are built into your budget. Your expenses include fixed expenses such as mortgage or rent and insurance; variable expenses such as groceries and utilities and savings or investment. The budget should also include the date when each of your bills will be due.
When you start the practice of budgeting, you may find that it may take you a while before you get a handle on how much you should allocate to expenses such as groceries, entertainment, and others within the variable expenses category. The most effective way to tackle this challenge is to track your spending by documenting every purchase, whether it is by credit card or cash. Do this for four to eight weeks and you will have a fair idea of where your money goes to and how much you should realistically budget for each expense.
Once you have figured out a realistic budget for each expense, you can set this as a template and use it every pay day with only a bit of tweaking here and there as the situation may demand.
It is one thing to create a budget for your expenses but it is entirely another to be able to stick to it. Beyond coming up with a budget for how you will spend your money, you need to develop the discipline to stick to it exactly the way you outline it. Without this discipline, it is easy to fall back into the practice of spending on impulse or spending without monitoring how your money is going out. To help you maintain the discipline of sticking to your budget, you should always make your purchases from a list that is based on the budget you have drawn up. This way, you can easily track the outflow of your money. It will be difficult for you to go off budget and if you notice that you are violating your budget, it will be easier for you to rein yourself back in.
If after making a budget and sticking with it, you find that you still don’t have any money left at the end of the month, the next step would be to trim your expenditures. Take a look at your expenditures to be sure that you have not locked yourself into a lifestyle that is draining money from you unnecessarily. Take a hard look at the various categories of your expenses such as housing, transportation, groceries and entertainment and see if you are spending amounts that are outside a reasonable range for your level of income. For instance, if you find that you are spending more than 28% of your monthly gross income on housing, you might want to consider moving into a less expensive apartment or into a less expensive neighborhood.
If you have a luxury car that drains money from you, consider trading it in for a reliable, less expensive model. If you have a gym membership that cost $200 a month, look to see if you can downsize to a less expensive one. And if you are on a cable package that cost $150 a month, ask yourself if you really need it. If not, consider going for a package that costs less but will still allow you access to the important channels that will meet your needs. And if you have always relied on takeouts for your meal, you can save a whole lot if you cook your meals at home.
If you are living from paycheck to paycheck, chances are that you have credit card debt. To help you get your finances together, you need to avoid piling up more debt by suspending the use of your credit cards until you have paid off your debt.
Since paying your debt take a sizeable part of your income, getting out of debt will go a long way in helping you escape living from paycheck to paycheck.
If you build all your expenses into a budget and also include in the budget an amount you will set aside to cover emergency expenses, you will find that suspending the use of your credit cards wouldn’t be the end of the world. Even if a catastrophe strikes, you will dip into your emergency savings instead of relying on your credit cards to cover the emergency.
Another way to end the cycle of living from paycheck to paycheck is to bring home more money. Understandably, this can be easier said than done but it’s not entirely impossible. There are actually a number of options you can explore to generate additional income. If you have time to spare, you can take up a second job. Granted, your second job may not bring in so much money but it could help you generate additional income to pay off your debt or start saving up an emergency fund.
If you cannot take up a second job, consider offering your skills as a freelancer on online workplaces such as Upwork and Guru. And if you have any items in your closet that you no longer have any need of, bring them out and sell them off at eBay or Craigslist.