Bootstrap Business Development

Taking steps to build your business

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Pancakes, Prospects, & Planning: Hmm Good

We’ve talked about the fact that a whole lot of networking and prospecting can be done in the process of putting your strategic plan together in the past.

We need to talk a little bit more about the difference between prospecting and networking – as well as the fact that when you engage in either of these activities you are NOT selling.

But I also want to tell you exactly HOW you can network and, at the same time, work on your strategic plan.

Not to mention we need to talk about what a strategic plan actually IS — as well as how to go about creating one.

Sounds like I want to do too much.

Maybe if I’m smart enough I can tell you a little story that contains the whole enchilada.  Well, I love a challenge, so here’s my story and I’m sticking to it:  (I just love to say that!)

Once upon on a time there were two women,  Sally and Patty.

Sally Seamstress owns a small business tailoring clothes that she runs out of her dining room slash tailor shop.  Sally started her business when a friend lost a few pounds and complained that none of her work clothes fit her anymore.   You guessed it — Sally fixed her right up and her friend told her “You should start doing this for money.”

Although she’s home-based, any time you see Sally during the work week you’d swear she was the CEO of your local savings and loan — even at the grocery store.  Needless to say her clothes are tailored to the nines and fit her like a glove.  It doesn’t take too many brain cells to figure out that she’s aiming to sell her services to business women and men.

Patty Present owns a small business creating gift baskets that she also runs out of her dining room slash gift basket factory and warehouse.  She started off making her baskets simply because she loved making them.  Patty’s really good at what she does –  she loves to shop, she’s extremely creative, and has an innate sense of design.  Patty went into business for herself after being repeatedly told “You should start a business selling these to people too busy to buy presents”.  Patty decided she’d sell her baskets to busy “I work an 80 hour week” professionals.

Neither Patty or Sally has absolutely any experience running a business.  Neither one of them has a strategic plan — never mind a business plan.  Neither one of them had any money to invest in their business.  They’re like us — bootstrapping it.  But they have so little experience they don’t even know this is what they’re doing.

They both want to sell to business professionals.  Problem was, they didn’t KNOW any business professionals.

Luckily there were both smart enough to realize that the easiest place to meet business people was to join their local Chamber of Commerce.

SMART move on both their part.  Membership fees were really low — lower than a dollar a day in their case — and they could both afford to take that out of the family budget.  (Even if your business is Internet based, if you don’t belong to your local chamber, get on said Internet and JOIN NOW!)

At first it seemed like the Chamber was the magic trick.  They got to stand up and give a brief “Elevator Speech” about what they did.  People were really nice and introduced them around and a few jobs started to trickle in without any further effort.  Much to their surprise, after attracting these few jobs things dried up.

The Honeymoon was over.

As you can imagine by now both Sally and Patty are worried that their businesses are going to fail.  The dream of working for themselves doing something they love will never be anything more than a dream.

Cut to the next Chamber monthly breakfast meeting.

Uh oh – this post is getting to be way too long.  I know you’re all busy people, so I’ll just have to turn this into a series of posts in order to respect your time (and keep your interest!)

Stay tuned for more on the adventures of Sally and Patty as they build their business out of very little or nothing.

“I see Blog people”  

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Like Nike Says: “Just DO It”

I just get so jazzed when something I say or do makes even a small contribution to the success of another.  On one my group forums (Small Business Online Community at a woman posted a discussion topic related to overcoming price objection.

Here was my comment:

The first thing I do is find out if it’s really price they are objecting to. Quite often when you hear ‘price objection’ from a prospective customer or client it can simply be masking the fact that the prospect is not truly ready to buy. This is a time to start asking questions to find out exactly where your prospect is along the buying decision continuum. It can be as simple as your prospect wouldn’t be ready to commit even it were free for any number of reasons and they’re ‘hiding’ that fact behind a cost objection. If you end the conversation now, you may have lost a customer ready to buy in the future.

If, after asking probing questions, you determine that the cost is simply to high from the prospect to bear, or even if they simply are not willing to meet your price, have a couple referrals to a quality lower cost competitor to give to them. These are wonderful relationships to create with your competitors. For instance, I look for my competitors who have higher rates to refer to me. I am ready, and more than willing, to send clients to higher cost competitors when I’m not able to meet their needs.

Why would you want to do that? Great word of mouth marketing. You will be talked about as an honest business person with the goal of meeting the PROSPECT’s needs. That prospect you referred out because they didn’t want or couldn’t meet your price may end up referring clients back to you.

I recommend you read: Customer Centered Selling by Robert L. Jolles. I don’t know your background – but if you’ve never sold for a living and you are now responsible to sell your services, this is an excellent introduction.

May you prosper beyond imagination.
–Annie Kile

I was absolutely delighted to receive an email follow-up comment indicating that the woman who’d posted the discussion had just established a relationship with a competitor who will refer her those customers who can’t/won’t meet their price point.

I’m posting this because it is SO important to share stories of Bootstrapping success!  This business now has a referral source that did not cost her a dime to create – that’s just so cool!

As a startup one of my main networking activities is introducing myself to higher-end competitors for just this reason, trying to meet a goal of introducing myself to three such competitors a day.  This can be done via social networking as well as via an old-fashioned cold call.

OK – now you know it works, so just like Nike says:  “Just Do It”

Bootstrap Business Development:

Building Your Business One Step at a Time

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Preaching to the Choir

I’ve made a boo boo, and I’m here to correct it.

I’ve been going on and on about the how much we tiny small businesses need to do two things at once:  create a written strategic plan and network/prospect for business.  About how either/or thinking gets us into the trap of not getting our plan done because we need to be out there snagging paying customers in order to make a living.  We went over how you’ve got to start thinking fuzzy rather than thinking either/or — that these are two separate things that you can’t do at the same time.

I sort of got ahead of myself.  You see I made a very common error:  I was preaching to the choir (myself.)

I mean, certainly I know you need a strategic plan.  I assumed everyone (I’m a natural optimist, I anticipate a vast readership) also not only knew this — but also knew what I was talking about as well as agreed with me.

Somewhere along the zig zaggy roads of my career I read the following statement (or something like it):   “People like to do business with people they know, like and trust.”  Very true.

I’m thinking that perhaps I might take at least a post to get you to trust me when I say you need to create (and manage) a strategic plan.

A little history here:

A long time ago (well, I left a couple years ago) in a far away galaxy (California) I worked for a local chamber of commerce.  My boss, otherwise known as my CEO, was a very smart guy.  So he naturally held annual strategic planning sessions.

I’d never been to a strategic planning retreat in my life.  I’d heard of strategic planning, but never participated.  What it meant seemed a bit self-evident.  A strategy was something you did to get something you want.  Planning simply meant we were going to make a plan.

Eleven years of Catholic school kicked in and I did my research and ramped up on strategic planning for business.  I went blind surfing the web.  I went to very famous bookstore franchises, bought countless cups of coffee and read books on strategic planning for free.

(Letting me do this worked out for them as I usually also walked out having actually bought a book – now that sort of marketing strategy deserves a future post.)

By the time I left for the retreat I felt fairly confident I wouldn’t look like an idiot to our Very Important Corporate Top Officer board members.

And then I got really lucky.  I was assigned the task of acting as Retreat Recorder.  Even more fortunate was the fact that the consultant they’d hired to facilitate the retreat was exceptionally good at what she did.

After our weekend retreat I bounced back into the office the following Monday really hyped up and excited about this wonderful strategic plan that was being written for us.

Then I found out I was the one who was going to write it.  Yup.  Back to hours googling my brains out – clerks at the aforementioned bookstores started calling me by name.

Short story long – throughout the remainder of my tenure I became more and more intimately involved in the process of developing, facilitating, and managing our written strategic plan.   I found out two main things regarding strategic planning:

One, I’m extremely good at it.

Two, it works.

OK – hopefully after reading that when I say I’m “preaching to the choir” you’re at least considering becoming a member of the choir.

Stay tuned…

Bootstrap Business Development

Building Your Business One Step at a Time

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Fuzzy Thinking

OK people, time to harness “The Power of Good Enough”.  (If you have absolutely no idea what I’m talking about take a couple minutes and read my previous post aptly entitled “The Power of Good Enough.”)

Last time I talked a bit about “either/or” thinking.  “Either I do this or I do that.”

Believe it or not, what’s holding you back is you’re thinking too clearly.  You’re thinking in black and white while living in color.  Think of it this way: when you learned to add, it went something like this:  1+1=2.  And that’s certainly true, one plus one DOES equal 2.

But that’s only because you’re only dealing with “two things” – “This Thing” and “That Thing”.

But running a business means you’re dealing with all sorts of “This Things” and “That Things.” What you’re really doing is dealing with “sets” of things and these sets of things are related to each other.  Confused?  Good, because in order to move forward, you have to stop thinking clearly and start thinking fuzzy.

Give me a break!  Is this woman crazy?  What does “thinking fuzzy” have to do with growing my business?

Only everything.

Turns out there are two ways of figuring things out.  Linear logic and multivalue logic. 

It’s mulitvalue logic – or “fuzzy” logic – that let’s your computer get zillions of things done at once.  Your computer thinks in terms of just two things, 0 and 1.  Turns out, there’s a giant space between 0 and 1 (“this” and “that”) which computer science type people weren’t using.  Using the set of “things” between 0 and 1 in all sorts of computer science ways is why we can now get angry when it takes more than a nano second for our computers to do whatever we want.

Fuzzy thinking helped speed up our computers – but what can it do for small business owners?

Here’s an example.  Let’s say you’re a start up business without a written strategic plan, or you’ve been around awhile and your plan has lost its relevance or things are getting out of control and you know you’ve got to bite the bullet and put a plan in place.

But you can’t seem to get your plan in order because you need to be out there running your business.

Seems pretty “either/or” at first glance.  But when you apply a dash of fuzzy thinking and a good dose of The Power of Good Enough guess what happens?  We see the relationship between all the sets of things you’ve got to do.

In other words, there’s a whole lot of networking and prospecting and all those other best practices we’re going to be talking more about in this blog that can get done in the process of putting your strategic plan together — AND — the information you get from prospecting and networking is necessary in order for you to write your strategic plan.

For example, putting your plan together means understanding what your customer (or clients) want.  Hmmm…getting out in front of customers and potential customers to find out what they want sounds like an opportunity to both attract new customers as well as retain current customers.  Getting your customers what they want requires networking with vendors and associated businesses who share a similar client base.  Guess what?  Networking with vendors and associated businesses brings to light both challenges and opportunities that help you identify strategies, set goals, and meet objectives – which are all components of effective planning.

Beautiful, isn’t it?

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