Start and Grow a Low Risk Business

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I heard from a friend that their big corporation just laid off hundreds of people. It could be from mismanagement, market downturns or simply another industrial age company ending their cash cow ride.

It’s easy to lose sight of the bigger picture. If people don’t want what you offer, then your business is going to simply go away. Businesses exist to meet demand. No demand, no business.

But, new businesses can also emerge simply from new demand. That’s great news for entrepreneurs that can notice what people want. And, for those that already have a security blanket – a job or a business – it’s easier than ever to start a new business with low risk.

There’s no such thing as no risk. You can only lower it in the face of competition, uncertainty, complexity and market dynamics. And it’s critical to manage risk when it comes to new ideas and ventures.

I’ve written a lot about managing downside and pursuing opportunity. You can check out my resource on productizing for creating options for yourself.

If you feel secure, then it can be a time to put energy into new opportunities for hedging your cash flow in case your gravy train runs out.

If you have had success and sold a business or had a payday, then you can open up a new game for yourself to see what opportunities might emerge.

If you don’t know what to do, there is nothing like action to help you get more clarity.

Being a sitting duck and waiting for something to happen can be a painful jolt when the shoe does finally fall.

While there are businesses that are shuttering up, the great news is there is a ridiculous amount of opportunity out there as well for those that are proactive, smart and eager.

How could your cash flow disappear? What’s holding you back from creating new business options?

Find Businesses That Already Have Demand

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What do people already want to buy?

It’s far easier to meet demand than create demand.

I have been in businesses that are innovative and the proof of concept, go-to-market strategy and target customer all have to be identified. This approach takes a lot of commitment to discovery and gathering feedback. You have to see what sticks and makes sense to a person you are in conversation with.

If you simply identify and meet existing demand, you spend little time in R&D trying to figure out what people want. People already buy services like accounting, HVAC, furniture moving and marketing. You are helping people with what they are already wanting. Helping people is the focal point and doing it pleasantly, consistently and with excellence is enough to drive revenues.

If you have a new service, then see if you can tell the story in terms of what is known. If you have to spend a lot of time educating people, it can be expensive and frustrating. We buy things we know.

Perhaps your invention does a better job cleaning a room than vacuums and disinfectants. You can spend a lot of time educating people on why your invention is innovative or you can open up a cleaning service and sell monthly service plans.

The idea is to look for existing markets that your use case markedly performs better with. Maybe make your are offering a tool to use within the business rather than a product everyone has to understand.

Convincing people they need something they have a hard time understanding can drain your bank account fast. Leave that to the infrequent world changer that comes along.

We have a ridiculously crowded market place. People are buying things all the time. Simply give them what they want.

Take Risk and Give

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I like businesses where the need is obvious. People line up because they need a solution. Dentists, divorce attorneys, grocery stores and gas stations will always have demand. We have a problem and they are a known solution. The challenge for them is to meet the known demand with delightful service and care. That’s a known way to stand out.

But if your offering is less than obvious for having built-in demand, a strategy to apply is to take give generously. Share insights and content that is valuable. Give real answers to real problems. This may feel like you are giving a lot away or taking uncomfortable risk.

But, the world is filled with a lot of generic, safe information online. If you have real answers that stand out and work, you get through the noise. Teasers, generalizations and saying a bunch of platitudes will not create engagement.

Truly helping people with strategies and insights that work will do far more than creating some kind of funnel manipulation.

Can you solve my problem? Can you articulate my problem?

Take the risk of being overt and generous to see what opportunities might open up that would otherwise never arise. It’s your chance to be helpful, contribute and a person of great value.

You Need Strategy

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Many times when we are working in the grind we get so busy that we can’t see the forest from the trees. You may be working hard, but your hard work may be on things that don’t contribute to the bigger priorities.

It’s why having a regular and focused time for strategy keeps you from wasting energy on the wrong things.

If you are growing a business, you can’t afford to be unclear. It becomes costly quickly.

And if you have had much experience in business, you realize that there are not any shortcuts. The reality is that two things matter: strategy and hard work.

Knowing what to do and doing it consistently moves the needle. There’s no gimmick, magic or back door that hands you success on a platter.

You have to work just as hard at clarity as you do the actual work. And clarity is not free. It comes with thinking through the competing priorities, opportunities and constraints that are part of your mix.

Has the work you have been putting forth the last month mattered?

How can you make space for strategy regularly?

How to Create Content that People Care About

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I have a lot of resources on my site from many years of helping people in concrete, real-life ways. Check out the most recent resource on creating content that is valuable to people.

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At the end of the day, you either truly contribute and help people in specific ways, or are simply in the way, ignored and irrelevant. There’s so much content and information out there already. And with all that effort to create something new, it can be futile. I think it’s why a lot of people start activities like content marketing and eventually quit.

In my opinion, it’s better to be generous, specific, and real. It’s about caring and truly helping people solve the problems they are seeking solutions to. See if you can be valuable and share what solves real problems with real people. It’s a strategic way of standing out and making your content count. The resource should help you with a process to make your content matter.

How To Manage Projects

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You have the whole world at your fingertips, and if you want, you can get people to help you get work done, build systems and grow your business. The challenge is to be clear and manage projects with the desired outcomes articulated and identified.

It can sound obvious, but there are plenty of stories of unmet expectations and missed delivery. It’s why you can’t just hand off. You have to lead the whole way when you want a project meeting expectations.

Here are strategies to help you get projects done without the heartache:

  1. Define the requirements. Too many times, projects get started without true clarity. Spend the most energy being clear with the outcomes. Outline clearly what your software is supposed to do, how your machine is supposed to perform or your people are supposed to collaborate.
  2. Get the How. For those that are to deliver what you want, ask what their approach and strategy will be. Break down the work into a checklist of tasks that help you see the solution path. Set milestones for when you want updates. This way you have a feel for the progress.
  3. Review often. Daily updates are helpful to ensure you don’t get off track with expectations. You don’t have to micromanage. You just want to understand if there are any obstacles that would miss expectations, deadlines or the anticipated solution.
  4. Test the solution. When you have your project delivered, there are likely some nuances or gaps to how your solution will work in real life. Test quickly, give feedback and iterate.

If you work with employees or freelancers, they are executing based on the clarity and leadership you provide. I always assume that what’s in my head is not what’s in someone else’s head. So, the vigilance to keep communication flowing is critical. It keeps you from creating wasteful work.

The bigger the project, the more clarity has to be created and clarity is not free. It’s part of the hard work of getting things created in the real world.

Most People are Almost Fits at Best

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Business problems are largely people problems. And, in the same vein, business is people.

Yes, you can automate. That’s easier than dealing with people. Machines, software and automation follows rules, logic and functionality.

But people don’t fit what the job usually requires. They are almost fits at best. They don’t come in the specific shape, size, function and consistency your jobs require.

This is why it is critical to gauge a person’s preferences and strengths. At least you will start with an understanding of the likely behaviors and bents that you can come to expect to see.

If your business has critical roles to fill and a lot of risk for non-performance, then evaluating a person’s inclinations is a small investment. It’s costly to discover the nature in a person further down the road and realize the almost fit you were hoping for is not even a fit at all.

I am not sure people change much. Most people are characteristic. When you talk about your friends, you don’t see them becoming a 180 of themselves. They behave consistently. So it is with the talent you recruit and manage. There’s a latitude to their growth and change, but not something dramatic altogether.

When it comes to getting work done – sales made, projects out the door, ideas that stick, etc. – you can lose a lot of money and time if your team members don’t fit what’s required.

It’s painful. And it’s real. I’ve heard the story repeatedly from business owners.

Expect most people are almost fits at best. But test to see how misaligned they are for the requirements you objectively have for your business. Hope is a poor strategy. A little foresight, process and quantitative evaluation can go a long way towards seeing if you have a close enough fit vs. someone far off the mark.

Can you be a better hirer of talent?

Be a Person of Great Value

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How many caller id calls have you ignored? How many emails simply go unanswered?

We are all suffering from attention deficit and most people have to keep the noise out and focus just to survive and get what they think is important done.

If you are not a person of value in someone’s busy workday or life, then you are wasting their time and attention. And we have many ways to simply ignore what does not compel us to pay attention.

Deals get done with a lot of the important ingredients we know, but have to remain disciplined and focused on creating:

  • Attention. You have to matter.
  • Pain. What is it that your customer wants to improve or get rid of? What is it specifically?
  • Solutions. How do you make the pain go away or get resolved?
  • Conversations. Buying is largely done with human beings connecting and creating understanding and agreement. How many of these interactions are you having a day?
  • Value. You have to pay attention carefully and help people get what they want. Everyone’s different. Some people have kids. Others have health problems. Still others need a great networking connection.

Being a person of value means you are valuable. And you become valuable by continually growing personally. You know things that others can use. You apply your knowledge. You also know people that can help. You connect the dots and you proactively make connections.

When you start your days, say, “I will be a person of great value.”

Commit to being someone who gives continually.

And if you want to stay consistent, be sure to review the resource I share on using Gmail as a simple CRM. It can make your commitment happen day in and day out consistently with the people you want to be valuable towards.

Finding a Job That Fits You

Here’s a hard conversation to have. The reality of intelligence, stress tolerance and competence and how you fit in certain roles has an immense and real bearing on your success.

Great to listen to and what your belief system might be compared to reality, as Peterson talks about the political narratives which are both wrong, can keep you from success.

I like his advice to find the game where you are in the upper quartile. You don’t want to be lower and you don’t want to be at the top. Both have their consequences.

Furthermore, intelligence helps you win at the game of speed in this world of increased complexity. If you can see the answer before everyone, you have a major advantage.

If you haven’t quantified or understood your strengths and weaknesses, consider getting a strengths test done. It provides immense clarity on what fits you.

Play a game you can win and fit within. It’s a strategic choice.

Manage By Outcomes

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How do you know most of your work matters? There are probably a few things that matter to produce the outcomes important to an organization. Most work is simply effort and cost and does not produce meaningful results. You can see this with the ridiculing of office politics and people doing busy work in cartoons and TV shows.

If you are a manager, getting results starts with a system that focuses on outcomes. You have to be clear about what the key metrics that matter are. Then build your system to output those results.

It’s not easy because getting people doing what you need takes pig-headed determination. Furthermore, creating clarity is hard without clear strategy and vision. This often takes dialogue to get clear on what really matters to your business. Your attention and day-to-day is pulled by a ton of distractions and things that don’t matter.

If you’re not moving the needle lately, then think about how all the work that you and your team do contributes to the outcomes you want.

Maybe you’re working on outdated priorities. Or you have not refreshed your near term and long-term goals based on what you know today.

Anyone can work and be busy. But, getting the right things done requires taking pause and managing to the right priorities.

What outcomes are important to you now? Is your work set up to support those outcomes?