Stephanie Calahan is one of the amazing entrepreneurs who made my books Entrepreneur Mind Hacks, parts 1 & 2 possible by contributing super amazing content.
One of the chief things that Stephanie discusses is “Misplaced Actions in Your Business”. Stephanie has noticed that a lot of entrepreneurs are “busy being busy”. But, being busy does not equal being productive, nor does it necessarily move you toward your goals. To contradict this, Stephanie encourages people to take what she calls “inspired action” and move their business forward.
The trick is that there is an innate conflict between “inspired action” and “being busy”.
An example Stephanie often shares is the story of a salesperson who has a route that he regularly goes on and he meets regularly with his prospects, but his sales stay somewhat mediocre and stagnant. Deciding he needs new training, he attends a motivational seminar. Following the seminar, he is inspired and encouraged to do better! Yet, the truth is that he still doesn’t know how to sell any better than before… he is just more enthusiastic about it. And, he actually ends up turning some clients off with his newfound enthusiasm, so his sales actually go down.
That’s “misplaced action”.
He didn’t need more enthusiasm… he was already dutifully going out and making honest attempts at making sales. What he needed was sales training.
One distraction that many entrepreneurs have that leads to this “misplaced action” is all the information that we have at our fingertips today. In addition to the quantity, people have become really GREAT at writing marketing copy today, equating to a ton of “bright shiny distractions” coming at us from everywhere. It seems like every entrepreneur guru has something new that each of us “has to do”. So, many people end up doing all the things that the experts say they need to do, but none of it actually moves their business goals forward.
What we all really need to do periodically is to take a step back and pause for a minute to assess what our real goals are. Sometimes, we get so busy “doing things” that we lose sight of where it is we want to move toward.
In other words, having clarity in regards to why we are doing what we are doing really matters.
In fact, two of Stephanie’s favorite words are Clarity and Alignment.
By alignment, she means this: sometimes there are things that certain people do that help move their business forward with amazing ease. However, when someone else does the same thing, it just doesn’t work as well. For example, many people suggest blogging for your business in order to grow an online following. This is great for many entrepreneurs, but for others, merely sitting in front of a keyboard with a blank page only causes anxiety and stress. They may know exactly who to write to and what to say, but they just can’t get the wheels turning when it comes to this specific mode of communication. Stephanie counseled one individual who had this very problem. Now, while writing a blog was not her cup of tea at all, she was a very proficient verbal communicator, so instead of posting a blog on a weekly basis, she started a podcast… with great success! She followed up each podcast with getting her words transcribed and turned into what else… a blog!
That’s one example of having clarity and then getting her actions and goals aligned.
But, clarity doesn’t always arrive overnight.
And speaking of overnight… sometimes entrepreneurs don’t even have clarity regarding which part of the day they are most productive… early morning? Afternoon? Evening?
Stephanie, for example, is not a morning person at all. She would regularly have arguments with her alarm clock when it went woke her up. To combat this, she would force herself to schedule 8:00am meetings. Yet, by doing this, she was rarely at her best when she needed to be.
Nowadays, she takes her son to school in the morning, then uses her morning to charge her battery through prayer, quiet time and exercise – at her pace – before taking on the day. Then, when she starts her morning meetings at 10:00, she is all ready to be her most productive.
Besides schedule, entrepreneurs also need to have an extreme amount of clarity regarding who you serve. When you have the approach of “I’ll work with anyone who will pay me”, then too often your marketing message and other communication pieces are not clear enough for potential clients to identify a connection between them and your business.
Who you work with, what problems you solve, and what types of solutions you provide are three of the most important areas each businessperson needs to have clarity in. Now, for some people, deriving this clarity might begin with deciding “what” you do or offer. For Stephanie, and many others, “what she does” actually falls behind “who she serves”, especially since her “what” skill set is so expansive.
In my book, Stephanie is quoted as saying:
“Being productive means you are taking action on things that are leading you to something.”
This goes back to having purposeful action in whatever you do.
But Stephanie’s favorite “Stephanie-ism” is this:
You see, Stephanie has spent years as a Productivity Coach. One of the things that made her stand out from the rest is that she did not focus on To Do Lists. This is because too often, entrepreneurs focus on “getting stuff done”, and not enough focus is put on doing the right things.
This is why and how she came up with the “To Be List”. Before you even get out of bed in the morning, Stephanie encourages you to decide, “Who are you going to be today?” Will you be loving? Compassionate? Smart? Funny? Energetic? Enthusiastic?
You can then use these adjectives to govern how you approach the myriad of circumstances that approach you throughout the day.
For example, say you’re commuting out on the highway, and suddenly someone cuts you off. Your gut instinct may be to get angry at them for driving so carelessly. And, if you give into this, you will remain frustrated as you go into your next meeting and you’ll be much less productive. However, if you build a habit of choosing who you are going to be throughout the day, and if you choose to be forgiving… then you will be able to approach being cut off on the freeway differently and your day’s meetings will go differently. That’s when you will begin to see great differences in your results and productivity as well!
This tends to run opposite of the culture that we are living in. Today’s culture is very emotionally driven, what people do is often based on what feels right at that particular moment. Therefore, as a society, we have conditioned ourselves to believe that whatever we feel is true.
Therefore, we need to define who we are and then PRACTICE BEING that person. Just like learning, as a child, to brush your teeth daily, ride a bike, get dressed on your own… all these things needed to be practiced before they became habits.
The same holds true for people who are new to deciding WHO they are going to be – they need to practice before it becomes a habit.
Then, at the end of each day, you need to quickly review how you did throughout the day’s events. Over time, you’ll begin to see the habits beginning to form and decisions being made more instinctively.
This all comes together in what Stephanie calls, “Being the bigger you.”
You see all of us, as we go through our days, have our highs and our lows. When you behave in such a way that represents the “bigger you”, you stand within your own power – not allowing anyone to walk all over you or take advantage of you – while also maintaining self-control with a proper mindset. By staying in this “zone”, you avoid regret, wishing you could have handled life’s “lows” better than you did. This also allows you to remain empowered while empowering other people along the way.
So, how does all this apply to our business lives as entrepreneurs?
Well, for one example, we can go back to sales.
Let’s take a hypothetical example of someone owning their own business, working in sales, where the meat of their business takes place via phone conversations. But, a lot of people – when they dive into sales – live their lives and careers as if “it’s all about them”.
“I hope they buy from me.”
“What can I say to convince them to buy from me?”
“What if they don’t like me?”
“What if they don’t buy from me?”
These are all very common mindsets that sales people deal with. However, it’s the fearful, “smaller you” that all this is derived from.
Instead, if at the beginning of the day, this salesperson decides that they are going to be an excellent communicator and great listener, then their sales conversations will be vastly different. You see, if you’re going to be an empathetic listener and great communicator, then the conversation can’t be all about you. The conversation has to revolve around the person that we are talking to on the other end of the phone. By doing this, you’d be able to clearly listen and understand the issues they are facing, and then – if it makes sense – you’d be able to offer them the best solution.
This avenue of perspective, communication, and mindset almost always equates to higher sales and greater productivity.
As I’ve heard it said before,
Your clients will tell you exactly what they need if you’re smart enough to ask enough questions.
You see, as odd as it may sound, according to Stephanie, it all boils down to love. Instead of coming across as someone trying to push your will (via sales) onto them, you come across as someone who loves them and wants to lovingly help them in their need, then the client is immensely more eager to buy from you… because they feel loved.
Stephanie works with purpose driven entrepreneurs, helping them leverage their business, while getting their message out with power, ease and joy so that they can make a powerfully positive difference in the world. This all translates into exponentially increased profits, as they boldly build their business around who they are rather than who they believe someone else wants them to be. You can find out more at www.StephanieCalahan.com
This week, I “hang out” with Kenneth Manesse, Sr. – one of the contributors of my book Entrepreneur Mind Hacks.
At the young age of 18, and without any real skills to boast of, Kenneth jumped into the “entrepreneur pool” of business. Through a lot of trial and error, he discovered that many of the things he was doing was taking him far too long to do. His thought process was, “If I could only learn more and do more, then I could earn more and have more.”
But, instead, the harder he worked and the more time he spent on his tasks, the only things he accomplished was getting burned out and discouraged.
That’s when he discovered the importance of putting together a team.
Since then, Kenneth has started six different businesses in four different industries, and each of them began with a core team of key individuals. As Kenneth puts it,
“If you can understand your weaknesses as well as your strengths, and then find other people who are strong where you are weak to be a part of your team, your business will scale much faster.”
But, team building isn’t the only thing to keep in mind. You also need to focus of “Purple Cows”. In other words:
“If you think of your business as a ‘Purple Cow’, as Seth Godin puts it, you will no longer be just a commodity. Now, consider a trip to the grocery store… when you look at the shelves of cereal, you are bombarded with a huge variety of commodities just in that one aisle. So, by default, most of us default in our search process to Price. But, when you simply hunt for the cheapest price on everything, you race toward the bottom. The good news of this is that you will most often win the race! The bad news is that you are perpetually at the bottom. However, if you establish yourself as a “Purple Cow”, you find a way to stand out, become noticeable and remarkable, and find yourself at the top!”
So, price isn’t the only differentiator when it comes to what you have to offer. In fact, when it comes to your main draw, it should be one of the last things you consider.
Now, Kenneth’s portion of the book was titled “Who Wants to Jump In?”, where he writes:
“We often hear the following question that is asked of successful entrepreneurs, ‘How did you come up with your business idea?’ The real question is not how great the business idea is or was, but how great was the business opportunity?”
This all makes me wonder, what is the difference between an idea and an opportunity?
Firstly, how many times have you heard someone exclaim, “I have this KILLER idea!” Well, as Kenneth puts it, that killer idea is probably going to kill their savings, energy and other resources. Unless you fervently test a killer idea, it is not an opportunity.
One thing that Kenneth is noticing amongst those who are jumping into the entrepreneurial pool is the need to look at the various ideas out there and discern which ones are opportunities that can be scaled.
In business, we have three phases: The start up phase, the speed up phase, and the scale phase. In order for a business to scale, it has to have a big enough market share so that the business can continue scaling and growing. This is partly what contributes to making a business move from good to great!
It is in this scaling process where 90% of business owners stall.
Of the businesses that pass their five-year mark, 95% of them will never grow beyond five employees. This means that of those entrepreneurs, most are working 60-80 hours each week, have created a job for themselves that they don’t particularly like, and most get burned out and want to quit.
Only about 5% actually go on to join those who make over $1 million.
That tiny slice of entrepreneurship is what most people dream about, but the reality is that 95% of them never achieve it, largely because they don’t secure some critical steps before they venture out into their business.
So, the starting point for entrepreneurs should not be coming up with the next “great idea”, but instead “discover the next great opportunity”.
Opportunities have “data driven decisions”. This shows that the entrepreneur has done their homework and data drives their decisions, not their emotions.
You see, when an entrepreneur looks at the data in regards to the marketplace, the competition, and their own differentials, they can derive a quantitative market share.
In other words, if you want to become a millionaire, solve a problem that a million people have and are willing to pay a dollar for your solution.
The problem is that too many entrepreneurs prefer to gloss over or even ignore the data. It often takes too much time to drill down into the information.
Yet entrepreneurship, at its core, is solving people’s problems and in exchange for that, these people will give you something of value… their hard earned dollars. So, the question instantly rises: is your solution to their problem valuable enough to them to give you money for it?
All this ties to Kenneth’s metaphor of “Who Wants to Jump In?”, as a word picture of checking to see if there is water in the pool before you jump in. Too often, we see a “pool” and jump in without checking to see if there is water (or a profitable market share) waiting for us.
But, as Kenneth writes, “if you find the need, you will find the niche that you will be able to sell to”. But, how can we find those needs?
The lucky thing for today’s entrepreneurs is that we now have this thing called “Google”.
If you simply start a Google search with the phrase “how can I…” or “how do I…” and then finish it with whatever business idea you may have, you will see on the search page how many people are also searching for this same information. This is just one of several quick and easy tools that offer entrepreneurs even more data to learn how many people are searching to have this particular problem solved. In fact, some of these tools will drill down even deeper, letting you know how many people on a daily basis are trying to solve that very problem. These types of “data digging” will let you know how well your business may or may not serve your market and how fast you can scale. If only a handful of people are looking for that particular solution, you will have a hard time growing that opportunity, and it will take a lot of time and money to scale.
Most people don’t realize this, but marketing is NOT selling; and selling is NOT closing.
These are actually three very unique things.
When we go to the marketplace and start marketing, we begin by asking “Who can say that this is of value?” (whatever your this may be). Asking this question will establish who your buyers are. Only after you can determine who your buyers are can you begin your selling process. The selling process positions you as the person who has the skills, abilities and talents to solve their problems faster and more efficiently, giving them a benefit that they want and need. Once the people within your marketplace understand that… only then can you close.
Other tools that can be helpful as a first step is a “Keyword Tool Dominator”. This gives you the ability to learn all of the search terms and download them into a .cvs file that you can take into Google Adwords and before you know it, you will have the greatest number of people within the marketplace you’re looking for… all within a few short minutes.
Now, consider the show Shark Tank. Kenneth loves the show and loves to watch the eager entrepreneurs pitch their ideas. But, inevitably, at some point in their pitch, one of the “sharks” will ask them, “What are your sales?” The reason they ask this question is not to find out how much money the person is making so far. It’s actually to determine whether or not this person possesses an idea or an opportunity.
Have they gone to the marketplace and learned if the people there think their idea holds value?
You see, no one wants to go into business and spend five-to-ten years in the start-up or speed up phase. No one has enough resources or energy to spend that kind of time without scaling.
Switching gears a bit, Kenneth also has some golden nuggets behind choosing the business road you want to travel on:
“When you follow your passion, what ends up happening is this: you want to work in that which you are passionate. That’s great. But that’s not a business model. A business model creates the systems, and then have other people work in your business. To do this, you can’t work in your business, you must work on your business. No business will scale unless someone is working on the business. So, if you are going to spend all your time working in your business because it is what you are passionate about, then entrepreneurship is not for you.
On the other hand, if an entrepreneur lists everything that their business opportunity needs to do in order to scale, and puts together a team to take care of these items, then every item on that list that doesn’t have a team member’s name next to it becomes YOUR job. Then, your business becomes your boss and it will change you. You will find yourself making sacrifices that you hadn’t even considered before, including your time, resources, and family.”
Your spouse and kids can tolerate a certain level of separation as you start out in the start-up phase, but before too long, they begin to feel worth less than the jobs that you are doing and not long after that, they begin to feel worthless altogether in your eyes.
The bottom line to scaling, according to Kenneth, is not to think of a specific personnel number or even income level; but to get your business to a point where it is running without you having to run it. Put the right systems in place so that the systems run properly and the right people in place to manage the systems.
When done right, this all results in the freedom you long for.
But, only 5% of entrepreneurs find this freedom. The only 95% continue to grind away and fall short of scaling properly.
But, what is a good system?
A system is simply a “way something is done”. But, if the system is not in writing, it doesn’t exist, nor is it transferrable. Instead you have to sit with them and hold their hand throughout the system’s process. You simply cannot assume that people will understand your system, unless it is clear and relatable. This doesn’t matter if it’s a business process or making a peanutbutter-and-jelly sandwich.
You can learn much more from Kenneth at mespecialist.biz, or find him on LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter… he’s everywhere!
On today’s show, I am joined by Lany Sullivan, one of the many contributors to my two book set, Entrepreneur Mind Hacks. She has a passion for building, training, and shaping sales team to achieve their companies goals and is an online consultant and coach, co-author of Stop Wasting Time and Burning Money, and host of the Google Hangout Reach, Connect, Uplift Women.
Carey Green: What’s the mission of Reach, Connect, Uplift Women?
Lany Sullivan: It’s really about connecting women globally, being able to reach a hand out and connect with your local, nationwide, and international market, and reaching women where they are in their lives today, whether they are a stay at home mom or a corporate executive. Everybody has a need, and we want to find those needs, help fill them, and provide a shoulder to cry on and congratulations for their successes.
Carey: So you’re contribution to the second book in my Mind Hack was titled “Let Your Project Determine Your Deadlines,” and that’s a bit of a foreign concept in the entrepreneurial world. Could you explain that to us?
Lany: So, I set deadlines that are hard and fast and have to be met, but people often overwhelm themselves by setting deadlines that they just aren’t going to make. I’ve done this and buried myself under deadlines before I realized that it simply wasn’t working. I was only stressing myself out to meet a deadline and end up not putting out a quality product. I still set deadlines that I have to hit, but now I set those knowing that I’m not going to add anything else to that level.
I have set deadlines before where I have just been completely off base. You have to pay attention to the deadline that you’re setting. Can you put out the quality of work that you want with the deadline that you set for yourself. Sometimes we can and sometimes we can’t.
Carey: Can you give me some real life scenarios where you would have to think about pushing back a deadline?
Lany: So, I have a podcast that has close to 30 episodes recorded. I want at least 60 episodes, but I ended up “back burnering” the whole thing. I was working on a business, rebranding a community, and creating a product launch at the same time. So, I had all these projects that I was working on, and I decided to launch a podcast. I planned on launching it on a specific day, and when that day came I had my episodes recorded and finished my branding. However, the quality of my product just wasn’t cutting it. I didn’t have time to edit the episodes. So, I realized that I had to table it.
I’m a multitasker and great at being efficient and organize, but I can also max myself out. I think we all do this. Sometimes you just need to pull back the reigns, sit back, and evaluate the entire layout of your projects. You need to consider how much time it is going to take, the amount of effort you’re going to contribute, and how valuable it is to whatever you are pursuing.
Carey: One of the questions you told people to ask themselves in your chapter was, “Will I lose money?” Can you talk to us about that?
Lany: If a project is going to end up costing your business, you’re probably going to have to put it to the side and focus more on things that will help you make a profit. Also, if a project is going to affect your clients, you’re going to end up losing business.
Carey: Another question you listed in your chapter was, “If I push the deadline back, can I increase the quality?”
Lany: If you can increase the quality and outsource some the work to improve your product, the result is going to end up way better. I’d rather take a year to put out a quality product than six months to put out a halfway decent product.
Carey: How do you think people should adjust their mindsets when it comes to deadlines and failure?
Lany: We are trained to meet deadlines and show a level of success to the public. I say that we should try challenging that standard within our minds. You can be successful with a hundred failures. I have failed a ton within business, but I have learned so much that I don’t feel like a failure. Besides, I know that I’m not a failure; I have clients, make money, and have people that support me. There’s no way that I’m a failure. God didn’t make us junk.
Carey: One thing that I’ve noticed is that a lot of deadlines that people can’t reach are simply arbitrary. They’re just a date that the person picked.
Lany: Absolutely. I often just think, “I want to do it by this date.” When I do that, I have to evaluate whether or not I’m actually going to hit it. This is why it’s good to have an advisory board, a mastermind group, a coach, or anybody that you can bounce ideas off of. It means you have to be open and vulnerable and allow that person or group really pick it apart for you and give you some new perspective.
Carey: We always need to be able to put people first. Could you talk about how trying to meet a deadline can affect personal relationships?
Lany: I work my business around what is more important to me and my family is more important. My business and my projects are still important, but if I didn’t have my family or my friends, what would I have? So, I really want people just to step back and evaluate everything that you’re doing and make a priority list. I think figuring out your priorities is a key element in life. Once you have your priorities straight, everything else will fall into place.
Carey: How do you structure a good deadline?
Lany: Part of the book that I wrote is looking at the big picture and breaking it down. I think we get overwhelmed by the big picture and end up missing steps. We realize that we should have done X, Y, and Z way earlier than we have. When looking at the big picture, you need to think about things like what is need, who needs to be involved, and what kind of money is need. You need to build out your tasks for each element of your project, because sometimes the big project is actually twenty big projects. It’s easier to just break it all down and think about the functions that you need to accomplish, your timeframe, and how each step impacts the larger project. Some things will not be as impactful as others. This can also help you realize if you really want to do it or not.
Carey: You have also talked about taking your time and not rushing. Can you tell us more about that?
Lany: If you rush through something, you need to consider the quality you’ll put out and whether or not you’ll regret any actions or decisions you’ve made along the way. Like we were talking about, I’m not in a rush to put out my podcast. I’m could launch right now, but I know that it’s not time yet and there’s still work to be done. Why would I be in a rush? Not putting it out there yet is not going to affect me negatively.
Carey: How did you get to the place where you could be patient?
Lany: I haven’t totally mastered it. I’m probably like 80% there. I think a lot of it just comes from practice and experience. I started working in finance when I was 19 years old, and I thought I knew everything. After some experience, you end up realizing that you don’t know it all and learn how to be open minded, non-judgmental, and more accepting of what’s going on in the world and my life. I always go back to these questions: “What’s important?” “What am I trying to do?” “What is my purpose?” “What is my passion?” “How does everything that I’m doing fit into that?” If it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t mean that it’s never going to fit. It just means that it’s not going to fit right now. It may be a really good idea and a really good project, but you need to consider if it fits into the direction and the path that you’re on, in your life or in your business.
Carey: Another suggestion you’ve given is surveying your audience. How does that fit into this whole process?
Lany: Well, you can’t just be self serving, because that’s going to get you absolutely nowhere. I think you really have to lack at the value of what you are bringing to the table and if it is benefiting you only or something that your audience can gain from. One way to stand out is to tell your story. We all have different paths and different experiences that have gotten us to where we are today, and somebody out there can benefit from your story and your experience. If you’re just telling the same thing that everybody else is telling, you’re not going to stand out or serve your audience. You need to be look at what you’re providing for your audience.
Carey: Can you tell us about what you’re working on right now?
Lany: I’m dropping a product later this year to help businesses and small business owner make a difference in the marketplace and social media. I also have my podcast Lany Said So, which will eventually come out.
To find more about Lany, go onto www.lanysullivan.com. For more information about Reach, Connect, Uplift Women, visit www.rcuwomen.com.