You possess a treasure chest of skills, assets, resources and talents from which something fresh & vibrant can be created, for you and your business.
They are waiting to be used by you. All are within your current personal or working environment and can be leveraged to reduce costs and produce additional product, revenue stream or marketing benefits.
If you have the time to run through this entire exercise, you'll identify a list of at least 60 assets that you could enhance for greater productivity and reward.
As you'll see, the results and suggestions will be completely customized to your situation. Whether you provide a service or product, this system will work for you.
Well, here's your first underused asset, and the fundamental key leading to every other - it's your ability to change your perspective.
That's no small thing; many of us go through life (and our business ventures} unaware that there is a built in limitation we've placed on our potential success - it's our point of view. Often the business owner and entrepreneur is so focused on keeping their vision in sight that they miss many opportunities or resources available to them. Not every business owner can step outside their focus and business vision to take a look around at the elements comprising their business and perhaps reconfigure some for greater success. Your willingness to take a look at your business, to shift your perspective to uncover the hidden treasures of your enterprise gives you a tremendous advantage.
So the first step of this program is to acknowledge the most valuable asset your possess - your enormous commitment and thought devoted to making your business the success you've dreamed!
Secondly, you may not realize it but one of the greatest assets possessed by a small business is flexibility. The ability to respond to changed circumstance or unexpected opportunity with speed and precision is rarely available to a large and layered organization. If you follow through on the exercises here, you're going to call upon that asset frequently.
I'd like you to take a look at your current business with an objective eye. Close your eyes and visualize where you generally are when you're working. In an office? Your den? Your car? Ok, you're there? Pretend you're a stranger to your work place; a visitor. Take a look around. Observe without the background awareness (or judgment) of how things are supposed to be running. Just look at the place, your desk if that's what you have, people, your tools (like your computer, file cabinets, writing space and such)activities and processes themselves. What do you see as you look around?
On 5 sheets of paper, write these categories, one each to a page:
People Skills (you, your staff, your affiliates, colleagues)
Relationships (with clients, vendors, personal, professional)
Product and Services (one-on-one, workshops, ezines, books, classes, published work, groups)
Location (your address, available space)
On each sheet, I'd like you to list at least 5 assets your business possesses in each.
For example, let's look at relationships; you've got them (in various degrees) with your customers, vendors, service suppliers, employees, & colleagues. For this exercise you'd list those relationships that provide you with something more than just a financial transaction for product sold. Under products & services, you'd include the details of what you sell that's a distinct advantage when you promote it.
You should have 5 pages. If you've got something additional that you feel gives you an advantage, feel free to create a 6th or 7th page. And, I'd love to hear just what the added category is.
Let's work with your People Skills page. Now, is your organization you? Do you know what your skills are? Do you have a strong sense of your strengths? The funny thing about strength is that it tends to hide in plain sight! We're so accustomed to doing well what we do well that we assume it's no big deal; anybody can do that! But the truth is we are each a unique package of skills, talents and strengths. Some of us know what they are and may have chosen coaching as a career as a direct result of that self knowledge. Some of us may also feel compelled to be responsible for every element of our businesses and, as a result, tend to use some attributes that are not our strong points. Here's an example: a colleauge & I have recently begun giving some presentations together. I've discovered that while I find public speaking easy to do, she does not and, despite her apparent ease, works very hard to create that composure and familiarity with her topic. On the other hand, I dislike calling organizations that may be potential venues for us. But she is a persistent caller and has no fear about doing this until she gets a clear resolution to her proposal.
So I'm suggesting that if you haven't articulated this, put down on that sheet of paper at least 5 strengths you possess, whether of character, skill or natural talent.
Here are some examples: Let's say you're just great at asking good questions; you might say you have strong analytical skills. Or you know how to do quality control like no one else can - you've got a strong eye for details. Or you can always see 3 steps ahead of the day's events or decisions -you're good at conceptual or envisioning tasks. Or you're always the one who sees a spin on a situation that no one else gets -you're the creative in your staff. You get the picture?
Is your organization too big for you to have this insight for each employee? If you feel that way, how about just concentrating onyour managers or executive team members?
I know it isn't easy to remove your perspective and complete awareness of the built-in meaning, reason or intended outcome for all these people/assets. But give it a try and see what you come away with.
How did you do? Are you surprised with the array of skills your business possesses in you or your employees? If this is not the case, you may want to consider either getting to know your staff better, replacing them with more suitable employees or re-positioning your staff in roles that are more natural for them & greater benefit to you.
Using what you came up with, write two sentences on how these existing resources, you or your employees, are currently used in your business. In other words, what are they supposed to accomplish for your business?
OK, now you've got a clear idea of each person's strong points, right? And you have a good idea of what role they play for you. Look at the responsibilities of each. How do these activities fit with what you identified as the person's strong points? Is it possible any of these people - you or your staff- are in the wrong jobs?
Has this exercise given you some ideas about how to make things run a bit more productively? Try something out here: just looking at the specific tasks you do to further your business each day, are you the best person to accomplish these tasks? Is someone else better suited to do any of these tasks? Can you select, from among the relationships you possess or professionals with whom you're familiar, people who are in a position to do these tasks for you? People with whom you could share resources, their people skills?
Or, try this: If you have employees, do you see possibilities among them for new working relationships that might enhance the productivity (or success) each person enjoys each day?
How can you capitalize on this insight you've gained? Can you see new opportunities, for you or your staff, to capitalize upon skills not currently being maximized?
Come up with 10 things you can change, just using the information here, that will improve your business.
Now, let's try this same exercise with another of the categories; how about Relationships? I'll bet you've got a colleague, friend, provider, vendor or customer with whom you've extended your professional relationship to a more sociable one. Is there an opportunity for an alliance of some sort?
Just looking at your relationships, consider how these people could benefit from what you have in your business and how you could benefit from them as well.
Here's an example. Let's say you own a gift manufacturing business and your squash buddy sells packaging. Do you see an opportunity there to either share some marketing activity or develop a product that combines your 2 businesses? It's very likely you share a common market yet are not competitors.
Or consider this: you're a small business consultant and your accountant does motivational speaking on the side. Is there a joint workshop in your future? A referral rewards program? A Tips book on Accounting for Small Business? Or say you focus on marketing and you know a great graphic designer or web specialist.
You might call this 'natural affiniites' or 'power partners'. The common features here are that the partnerships you put together:
- enjoy consistent markets
- and your products are not competitive
- and they add value to each other's proposition.
Looking for these specific features, list 10 similar opportunities among the relationships you have.
Now, let's focus on your existing relationships specifically with your clients and see what treasures they hold. The people with whom your business currently has relationships are an ideal source for 3 things:
- 1. more business from them;
- 2. new business from referrals they provide;
- 3. information on what their needs are so you could expand the value you offer;
If you can cover #3, #s 1 & 2 will follow.
Consider this exercise: Pick a few of your best clients (I'll leave it to you to define 'best' - perhaps highest volume purchase, longest retained, best payment record, tries all your services, friendliest, etc.). Let them know you want to enhance either your business practices or service offerings. You very much value their input. What changes could you make that would most benefit them? Do they know of other businesses or individuals who could also benefit from these enhancements that they are suggesting? Let them know that as a thank you for their participation, you'll provide the results of this research in a private report available only to them.
Whatever their suggestions, pick the 2 you can implement with virtually no cost and announce these enhancements, to all your customers, immediately. Using the prospects your clients identified for you, approach them, putting your new benefits & service features at the head of your promotion effort.
This project will certainly take some time but don't set it aside just because you want instant gratification! The rewards are geared toward long-term gratification!
Well, by now you know what we're after: we're looking at every element your business draws on to operate and thrive. Now let's review your product or service offerings, one by one.
Here's my challenge to you: Looking at what you have: how can you serve a market you haven't reached before?
You know what shampoo manufacturers do, right? They take their basic shampoo and create shampoo for colored hair, dry hair, thin hair, unscented shampoo, allergan-free shampoo, conditioning shampoo, etc. They slightly alter one product and market it to many, focused audiences.
The object here is to take what you already do and repackage or reposition without incurring additional cost. Instead, you want to stretch the benefit of all the work you already incurred to develop and market the goods. I'd like you to come up with 2 that are relevant for your business.
Here's an example: Let's say you're a publisher of directories covering specific markets. Can you slice each to produce a more finely focused work? Can you distribute this to a new audience, benefitting both the businesses included in the directory and the new target audience? Can you offer to enhance the listed companies' description in some way for a fee? Can you print it as a stand-alone item for them to distribute as they wish?
Try this one: you're a web designer; Can you devise a series of low cost options for prospects just under the radar of your current product price points and sell pre-made templates of web design? Can you offer seminars on design for prospective clients? Offer critiques and comparisons?
How about this one: you're a financial planner selling to middle income families. Can you promote your skills on long range planning to their high school -aged kids who have no clue on thinking through possible career options?
Here's another example: I focus my business on small business owners. Recently, I've started promoting my services to new coaches, who may now be small business owners for the first time.
My next suggestion is a simple twist: How can you use your expertise about the market you do serve and create a new product by using only what you already have? See any relationships between current offerings that could create new value?
Here's my way to respond to this opportunity. This article has been offered as a tele- class, a workshop and part of another seminar. It's about to become an e- class. So your assignment is: come up with 5 new product ideas, incorporating already existing product or services. They have to respond to the following parameters:
-All the research has been done
-You know what the customer wants
-The new product/service can benefit from existing marketing activities and plans
-Can go live in under 2 months.
Next we'll look at your place of business: not everyone works in a large office or factory; some of us work out of our home offices, a retail establishment or even our car. But all these places of business have one thing in common: they are designed to advance the money- making activities of our business. So how can we maximize the benefit of our working environment? Conversely, how can we minimize any activity or expense that detracts from our ability to be productive?
What I'd like you to do now is list the 5 most valuable elements of your physical working space. For example, it has room for growth, its set up is flexible, its fixed cost is low or prepaid (either rent or ownership), it could be easily sold, it s in excellent working condition - you know your place of business better than I so come up with your list of 5.
Using the 5 valuable elements of your physical environment, find some new uses for each of those attributes. For example, if you noted that your work space has room for growth, consider these possible growth suggestions:
can it be rented?
can it become a product/service incubator space?
Can it become a center of brainstorming/training/workshop/presentation sessions? (look at where we are tonight)
Can it be a rotating reward for the division/person/team creating the best product/service innovation of the year?
How about (you fill in the blank, and do it 5 times for each of these 5 plant benefits)
Let's turn to another, critical asset. You don't need me to tell you one of the most valuable, and fragile assets you possess is your reputation. If you produce a balance sheet, it has its own line item: good will.
I'm wondering if you know what is your reputation among your clients, vendors and industry colleagues?
As we often do with our own personal skills, we may take our reputation for granted. So, before you can maximize its contribution to your business, you want to find out just what it is. So, I'd like you to contact 2 each of your favorite customers, suppliers and colleagues in your industry. Tell them you're doing some research on how your business is perceived in the market place (which is exactly what you're doing). Ask them what comes to mind when they think of your business. What are some specific benefits they have experienced working with you and your staff and product? And please be sure to let them know how much you value their opinion.
It may take you a while to complete this exercise, but when you do, I'd love to know what you discovered. Do your own perceptions of the benefits of your business match what you were told? Were you surprised by what you were told?
If you're lucky, your colleagues, clients and vendors see far more in their relationship and dealings with you than you previously realized. If so, how could you capitalize on this new information? Come up with 5 ways you can take advantage of your new-found reputation.
For example, perhaps you could attach the new benefits your respondents told you about to an existing product/service marketing message. Or you could use it for testimonials in your branding or corporate messages.
Now that you know what your clients or vendors think of you, ask if they know someone else who could benefit from these attributes that you provide.
If you completeall the exercises here, you've discovered at least 60 business opportunities among your employees, relationships, plant/location, products and reputation.
As I said at the beginning, one of the greatest assets you have is the flexibility to effect change quickly and thoroughly. If you're able to implement any one of the results of these exercises you'll see the power that asset has for your business.
I'd very much like to know how you benefited from those changes so your last exercise is:
- Assess how your business is running more effectively as a result;
- Come up with your own exercise to add to this program.
If you'll follow through and contact me with the results, I'll:
- add your suggestion to this program and credit you with the concept;
- provide 1 month of my services to you or the employee of your choice without cost or obligation.