It doesn’t matter who you are

Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

When I was a teenager, I had a friend called Billy. He lived in the grounds of Newstead Abbey, which is where Lord Byron frolicked. It was a big house with a load of land in a very very nice area. They even had woods out back, which we used for the filming of our home-made Vietnam War epic “Wham bam thank you ‘Nam”.

Bill’s dad was called Bob. Bob was a plumber. Looking back, Bob taught me some very valuable lessons about running a business.

The single most important thing was it doesn’t really matter who you are or where you come from, you can do it.

Like most people in that area, his family, and his wife’s family, grew up without much. Lots of coal miners in the area, including in their family. Generally people round there didn’t expect much beyond a wage for their hard work. Certainly not running a successful business.

Bob was taught to work hard. He worked very hard. He made sure he had the right skills and more importantly he applied them well. And he reaped the results.

He lived in this amazing house. He had nice cars. His kids went to a posh school (the one I went to). He worked hard, but played hard (rugby union was his thing). And Bill was one of the nicest guys you’d ever meet.

Often, I think I’m not good enough for what I’m doing. I think I don’t belong here, that I’m just winging it, that I don’t deserve what I’ve got. But I think of Bob (and his wonky eye – more on that later) and I realise that I work hard, I’ve got real skills and I love helping people. Of course I deserve it.

Take action: Sometimes you need to remember the Bob’s in your life and realise that you do deserve that better life.

Cheers

Baz

PS: If you’re working hard but not getting the results you deserve, reply to this email (hello@clientrobot.com) and let’s have a quick chat. I’m sure I can help you out, it’s all free and there’s no obligation to buy anything or anything like that. Just message me – hello@clientrobot.com

ClientRobot

New year – new branding.

EchoDek Limited has been the company name for the past few years (and before that it was called 3hv because of a bin). But as I shift my focus away from pure software development into things that are much more business and sales-focussed, I’m going to push the ClientRobot brand forwards much more.

So the company’s still called EchoDek, but everything you see will be all about ClientRobot. And I’ve got a whole load of exciting products and services to share with you.

For now, just remember this – if you know someone with a really small business, who is looking to take it to the next level, ask them if they’d have a friendly, no obligation, chat with me. I know a few tricks that can help you get more done in 3 months than most people achieve in a year.

So here’s to ClientRobot. And your success.

I have no idea what I’m doing

If you’ve never had a formal business education (like an MBA or whatever) but you still run your own business … join the club.

Most of us end up here through circumstance – made redundant, tired of working for an idiot, pursuing a dream, falling into a nightmare.

And somehow, we all muddle through.

But sometimes, it feels like there’s extremely important things that we’re ignoring. Like financial reports. Or … something we don’t even know exists yet. We read various business forums and we see people asking about things we’ve never even heard of. And it makes us feel like the amateurs we are.

Rather than getting lost and confused, it’s time to get educated.

Here’s a list of things that I found incredibly useful over the years.

  • “The E-Myth Revisited” by Michael Gerber. It’s a classic and for a reason – explaining how you can design a business that works for you, without driving yourself up the wall.
  • “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. How to make sure that you pay yourself and earn a profit (even if it’s just a small one) no matter how your business is doing.
  • “The One Thing” by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan. The hardest thing for me is staying focussed on the task at hand. The One Thing explains how.
  • “Growth Club” by ActionCoach. Every quarter, take a day out of your business to review where you’ve come from and decide where you want to go. The draw up a detailed plan to get there.
  • BNI. A lot of people hate it. But it teaches you a lot – from standing up and presenting in front of a room full of strangers (and amend your pitch so it has the most impact), how to get sales (as the techniques you use to get referrals and invite visitors are the same ones you can use yourself in your sales process) and how to structure your business so you can measure how well it’s doing (BNI is a franchise with an easy to follow system).
  • Sleep. Get a good mattress and make sure you sleep enough. Not just so you can get enough done tomorrow, but also to keep you fit and well into old age.
  • Get an advisor. A mentor. Or a coach. Because there will be times when you can’t be arsed and you need someone to hold you accountable.

Hope that helps

How much do I charge to write lead generation emails?

So I saw this question being asked the other day and I thought it interesting.

“How much should I charge to write emails for a company – I’m writing emails to generate leads. It’s my first time doing this .. can you recommend any sites for guidance?”

The thing is, given the information there, I wouldn’t even touch the job.

What conversion rate are they expecting?

What’s the value of the sale?

How many emails are they sending, what’s the target audience and how closely does the list match that target audience?

If you don’t know those things you’re setting yourself up to fail. The campaign will fail, the client will blame you and you will feel terrible.

You need to remember that, deep down, the client doesn’t want an email from you, they want you to get them more sales.

And that information, requested at the top, will help you achieve that.

Then you can use that to calculate a price.

Don’t figure it out on an hourly rate, because that undervalues your expertise. Think of it this way – next month, you’re going to get a similar job and you’re going to be better at writing these emails. Six months on, you’ll get more jobs like this and you’ll be better yet. And each time you get better, you get faster at writing more effective emails. So if you charge by the hour, you’re getting paid less for doing better work.

How minimum should a minimum viable product be?

The idea of a “Minimum Viable Product” is a fantastic one.

Instead of wasting a load of time and effort on something that might not work, you build the bare minimum to prove that your product is viable in the marketplace, and then, and only then, do you invest significant time and resources in growing the business.

It’s something that’s only really possible because of the way we can constantly ship updates to customers using digital technologies – so even if someone gets in right at the start, what they’ve purchased grows as the product grows.

But how minimum does your MVP have to be?

Is it enough to have a demo? Does it need to be ready for heavy duty use? Should you launch to a small section of the market, just to get feedback? Or aim for a general release?

Personally, I think the answer to this is simple.

It needs to be enough to solve an expensive problem. And no more.

It doesn’t have to look great. It doesn’t have to be slick.

As long as it solves the problem then people will pay for it, they will give you feedback and you will learn what works and doesn’t work. Even if it’s dead ugly.

Cheers,

Baz

PS: A quick favour – if you know any freelancers or small business owners, I’ve got a free planner. It helps you decide on the important figures for next few weeks, figure out how much you’ve got to spend and put a plan in place for the coming month. And it’s totally free. So ask your friend to download it here.

How to word an advert

If you’re promoting your stuff on the internet, you need to write it in a way that brings potential customers to you. People have so much information thrown at them, your words are vitally important.

It’s not enough to just write out the facts without making them sound good. Get them right and you could get a sale. Get them wrong and you’re just wasting both yours and the other person’s time.

What about if you had a laundry service?

You pick up the dirty stuff, drop it off and only charge a fixed price – £20 per bag, where each bag holds 15kg of stuff.

Think about why someone would want this service … from my point of view, the big benefit is the pick up and drop off. So I don’t need to waste my time sat in traffic for the sake of some dirty washing. But to someone else, it might be the fact that it’s a fixed price – you always know what you’re going to be paying. And to a third person, it might be that the bags are big, so you can get the whole lot into a single load.

If you were running ads (or putting together a flyer or doing a sign), you’d probably want to run at least three – one for each of those benefits. As each one will attract different people.

So pick one and think – why would someone want this? “No time to do get to the laundrette?

Then think – what would the ideal situation be? “Wouldn’t it be great if you didn’t need to waste your time sitting in traffic, just to get a load of dirty washing clean?

And then, and only then, do you present your solution. “We’ll pick up your washing, get it all done perfectly and drop it off for you. So you can concentrate on more interesting things

A job versus a business

Hi, welcome to “Don’t Panic“, which is a short, to the point, show aimed for business owners who sometimes feel a bit overwhelmed with it all. If you’d like to listen to the audio of this show, click here.

I’m Baz and I’ve had my own company for 11 years now. It’s been renamed, it’s been through a few changes and there have been many, many times when I’ve wished I’d never started it and almost gone back to my day job.

But I’ve stuck at it, and I like to think I’ve learnt a few things over the years.

Which is what this show is about.

Although I’ve had this company for 11 years, something I’ve realised recently is that I’ve never owned a business.

This might sound weird. I’ve worked for myself. I don’t have a boss. My company has its own bank accounts and I’m the sole director and sole shareholder.

But I don’t own a business. I run a business. And I have a job.

So what’s the difference?

Basically, if I was to take a year off. Or take six months off. Frankly, even if I took one month off, I probably wouldn’t have a company to come back to.

I have some people who work with me. But even with them, everything goes through me.

I run the business. It’s my job.

A true business owner doesn’t have that issue. A true business owner can swan off round the world on their yacht, and when they return, the business will still not only be doing well, it will probably have increased its profits in the meantime.

A true business owner has an asset that brings them money. And all they need to do is check in, make sure things are heading in the right direction and that everyone’s doing their job.

That’s a very very different situation to the one I’m in. And if you’re listening to this, it’s probably a very different situation to the one you’re in.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s not a bad thing, having a job. Although the reason I quit my last one was because the people were idiots.

No, it’s not a bad thing at all. Especially if it’s something you enjoy doing and it pays well.

But it’s not owning a business.

And I guess that’s what most of us secretly wanted when we started out down this road.

So what does owning a business entail?

I always used to think a business was defined by the product or service it offered.

You’re a plumber? You fix leaky taps and install great looking bathrooms.

You have a cafe? You create great tasting food in lovely surroundings.

You sell insurance? You have a range of financial products that protect people if the worst happens.

But that’s not what a business is at all. Not at all.

A business is a series of systems that underpin those products and services.

That sounds pretty weird, so let’s say it again.

A business is a series of systems that underpin those products and services.

What on earth does that mean?

Well, most businesses have at least three systems that need to work in order to keep the business going.

There’s your finance system.

How do you make sure that the money comes in at the right time and your suppliers get paid? How do you make sure that you’re covering your costs? How do you make sure that your staff get their wages?

There’s your operations system.

When we get a new order, how do you deliver it? How do you ensure that it’s exactly what the customer is expecting? What do you do to meet the required quality standards? The required health and safety standards? And what do you do if the customer’s not happy?

And, in some ways, most important of all is your sales and marketing system.

How do you get people interested in what you have to offer? Where do you find these people? Why would they be interested in you? What do you say to them when they are interested? How do you choose your prices? What guarantees do you offer?

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter what you sell.

Your business is, at the very least, those three systems.

For most of us, those systems are haphazard, frequently made up on the spot, and generally a bit chaotic.

But if you get them right, you can get to the point where you can hand the day to day running of those systems to other people. And you just need to check in and make sure everyone’s doing what they’re supposed to.

You can move from having a job to owning a business.

And that’s what I’m in the process of doing. And that’s what this show is all about.

Is this the end?

I’ve been writing these daily letters for over a year now. To be honest, I’m surprised at how easy it’s been. I’ve rarely struggled for topics, they don’t take long to write, and although some are a bit light on content, I also think I’ve written some good stuff.

But, I’m now considering stopping the daily letters.

You might have noticed I’ve been thinking about making best use of my time for a while now. And I’m not sure the emails are the best thing for me at the moment. Instead, doing another podcast (something I really enjoy doing), or video (something I don’t enjoy doing, but practice always helps) are what I’m considering.

The issue with both of those is a one or two minute daily episode probably wouldn’t work, so I’d have to switch to weekly. And weekly has challenges when it comes to writing and publishing.

Every day I ask you to take action, hopefully to help you. Today, I’m asking you to take action on my behalf. I won’t write anything else this week, while I think about what to do next.

Take action: Please email hello@echodek.co with one word – PODCAST, VIDEO or EMAIL.

How I turned my business around

I knew I wanted things to change. I just didn’t know what to do next.

I wanted more money coming in, because I had a small team of software developers working with me, and, to be honest, I wanted to pay them and myself.

To do this, I needed bigger jobs. To get bigger jobs, I needed to get more clients. To get more clients, I needed to get out there.

So I went out and started meeting people. And I tried to persuade them that they wanted my services. Because I am good at what I do.

It was awful. I really struggled with it, didn’t enjoy myself and, to make it worse, I was losing money.

But then I had a revelation.

All my clients so far were long-term. It was very rare for me to work with someone who didn’t stay for five years or more.

Why was that?

Because we had a great relationship. We trusted each other. We knew that every decision was made for the right reasons.

So I changed what I said to people.

Instead of trying to get them to say “yes”, I started looking for reasons for me to say “no”.

I asked them questions. Got them to consider the alternatives.

“You can get this cheaper if you choose X”.

“That’s all very well, but it will take me months to get that built for you, you might as well go with company Y, who will get you a system in weeks”.

Because I didn’t want them as a client. Not unless we were a really good fit.

It was astounding. Suddenly I started winning contracts that were ten times the size of my previous work. A lot of people went away and looked at the alternatives that I pointed out. But the ones that stayed had convinced themselves that I was the right person to work with. That we were a good fit together.

Without realising what I had done, I had built myself a sales process. A system, a series of questions and steps to follow, that worked to qualify my enquiries, figure out which ones to follow up with and make sure that we both got the outcome we wanted from it all.

Take action: If you’d like to learn how to do the same, check out our sales seminar, which is being held in north Leeds in a few weeks.

How to win more business

Not all sales people have shiny suits, fancy cars and big egos.

Being good at sales isn’t about closing as many deals as possible, it’s about making sure that when you do close a deal, the client is happy with their decision.

It starts with attracting the right leads and then building trust.

You need to show your potential clients how you add value to their life or business.

Closing the deal should feel natural, not awkward or forced.

Make sure your sales process is effective at every stage, and you’ll find that you win more of the clients you want with less effort.

Take action: Our sales process workshop will help you find inefficiencies in your process and show you how to address them.