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.

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.

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.

Why You Need a Knowledge Base

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Where does your knowledge reside?

When you are small, you can run and grow your business in your head. In the early days, it’s hard to think that you play many different roles because you do different jobs yourself. You can be the salesperson, accountant, marketer, product development manager, HR administrator and many other roles without calling these out as you move from task to task.

But, when your demand grows, you can’t do it all. You need more people to help grow the business and make your customers happy.

If you are under $1M, most of your effort should be on selling. If you are past $1M, you have to make the business work. Either way, your business is about knowledge. How things get done to create a customer and deliver your product or service consistently becomes harder when you scale up.

A knowledge base is a place that organizes the knowledge that’s in your head. It helps everyone on your team understand how to do their job clearly and interact with other people doing their respective jobs.

Furthermore, a knowledge base has the following benefits to growing a business:

1. Facilitates Onboarding and Training

It is a systematic way to help a new person get started and be productive in their hired job. It also provides professionalism, job satisfaction and clarity for new employees that could otherwise be disoriented, overwhelmed and frustrated in a new role.

2. Makes Information Sharing Efficient: 

A place that is structured and searchable makes it easy for your team members to get what they need, when they need it. If you have to keep answering the same question many times, rather than allowing people to find answers for themselves, you are the bottleneck in your business. It’s not a great use of time. Document it once and let it be consumed many times.

3. Increases the Value of Your Business

If you want to sell your business, what will you sell? Having systems that are clear and a methodology for growing easily and rapidly is extreme value to a buyer who wants to know how to operate the business. If you don’t have a knowledge base, then the information required to execute consistently is in your head. You can’t step out. You are the business.

4. Forces Clarity

How you do things now may change later. Having a system that is continually living and updated helps everyone stay clear for their own job. And information that is documented and does not make sense in context of your business goals or handoffs to other jobs can be debated, clarified and updated. You can push on refining your methodology as new realities emerge during business growth.

5. Helps You Lead

A large complaint of employees is that they see dysfunction from management or ineptitude. You can lead with clarity and conviction when your team sees commitment to systems, process and order. Furthermore, you can open up ideas and ways of doing things through continuous improvement to a knowledge base that should welcome better ideas and ways of executing from the people doing the work. Your leadership can center around knowledge rather than charisma. It takes the pressure off you and focuses it on business systems, where it should be.

Growing Your Business

The more people you get involved the more complexity you have to manage in your business. Clarity becomes a bottleneck to growing your business because you have to take time to explain, manage and oversee how things get done.

Furthermore, the jobs that have to get done are continually changing. You want the best ideas and approaches available and clear for everyone in a system that is repeatable and continually improving.

Here’s a resource to help you get started on building your knowledge base. It can help you start a critical piece to effectively growing your business.

Design for Quick Feedback

“Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson

The great thing about business is that you can test ideas quickly to see if what you think or want to do is valuable. Small tests done quickly to get feedback from customers will go a long way towards pursuing or developing an idea further.

Yes, make a plan. Then try it out quickly to see if it resonates and creates interest and engagement.

Most things we see today are needed and businesses exist to give people what are known established needs. Things such as:

  • Car dealerships
  • Cleaning services
  • Grocery stores
  • Electronics stores
  • IT services
  • Banks

There is historical demand among the millions of people out there consuming such products and services.

If you are innovating on a new type of product or extending a concept, think about how to test your idea quickly by proposing and putting it in front of real customers. You can find out quickly via feedback how to further develop your idea or abandon it altogether.

The Egg of Columbus

Monument to the Egg of Columbus.

Yes, you could have done that after you have seen it done. We get that benefit today watching how people put together solutions by benchmarking what others do first.

The Egg of Columbus story where Columbus challenges his mocking critics to make an egg stand on its end highlights the perception of others’ success.

If you discover something and share it or bring a solution that was not readily apparent, it becomes common, likely underappreciated, knowledge.

I think humility all around helps a great deal. We benefit from seeing something done and using it in our work and life. Watch a Youtube video, research a topic or simply ask a neighbor how they did something. The insights can save you pain and time.

At the same time, you are contributing when you figure out and share your knowledge. Others can take a look at your creativity or determination and integrate it towards their pursuits.

Learning and sharing can save a great deal of cost when we are trying to do hard things. We should simply appreciate those that make the egg stand.

This is More Productive

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“It is more productive to convert an opportunity into results than to solve a problem – Which only restores the equilibrium of yesterday.” ~ Peter Drucker

I am a sucker for solving problems. And I have to take heed to the wisdom in this quote. Which one makes more impact? A new opportunity or an old problem?

If my goal is to contribute, be useful and make an impact, then making space in my life for opportunities to present themselves and be acted upon is the priority. Busywork, noise, outdated commitments – these have to be pruned out decisively. Otherwise, like weeds, they clutter the landscape and opportunity for new growth.

Creating value for others comes down to solving the right problems. And the right problems tend to be coupled with timeliness.

Perhaps you have a lot of balls in the air as well. Simply cutting out what doesn’t make sense creates space for the new.

Maybe you’re measuring success by how busy you are rather than how much free time you have. The latter can be an indicator of your capacity for taking on new opportunities.

I have found that there are plenty of opportunities that cross one’s path. But working on old problems allows no space for those to be recognized, entertained and acted upon.

Be Clear About Who Your Customer Is

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In case it doesn’t sink in, remember, you are one of 330M people in the United States. Go to the airport, a concert or any large gathering to get a small glimpse of how minute you are in a sea of people.

The strategy to try and work with everyone is a sure fire way of failure in the marketplace. There’s simply too much competition and it’s hard to understand your offering if you are generalized. It’s the quote,

‘I can’t give you a sure-fire formula for success, but I can give you a formula for failure: try to please everybody all the time.‘  ~ Herbert Bayard Swope

You have to be ok with not making everyone happy or trying to chase every deal. You have to be ok with people that don’t get you.

In sales speak, there is the wisdom of picking a niche or targeting your customer. Both point to being focused, clear and exclusionary. You have to have clear positioning.

Ironically, such specificity is a form of abundance. You are thinking how to be the best for the people you want to serve by solving their specific problem you or your company are designed for.

You are not diluting yourself and trying to be all things to all people.

I am about strategy. Many people do not value strategy. But, people that need clarity, business growth or getting rid of pain in their business know what I offer. I try to stay in my lane and not overreach to areas I don’t have passion, expertise or bandwidth for. I have a network of friends I try to share generously with instead in those cases.

So, maybe it would be a powerful time if you could think about, “Things I don’t do.” It could give you conviction around the things you do well and want to specialize in.

Then be clear with your marketing, networking and outreach to make sure that is understood by those that can do business with you or know people that want to do business with you.

Who do you only want to work with and what do you only want to offer?

How Do You Make it More Expensive?

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When we think about a problem, we like to solve it. Our brains are suckers for the open loop and we want to close it. If you are asking how to make something cheaper, you get solutions and thoughts on cost-cutting or quality cutting. And those that are super efficient at making things cheap have extreme scale to amortize such costs.

If you ask how to make something more expensive, you have to think about value. How do you make something worth more? How do you become worth more?

There are plenty of people that crave better. They can easily get cheap merchandise. But, they can’t always get that exquisite taste, feeling of quality or identity to name a few reasons why we pay more for the things we love.

What if you took the challenge to look at your prices? What would it take to make the value worth double? What would that look like? Can you add a thoughtful gift? What if you followed up with custom service at the right timing? The extra effort or concierge service could easily increase the value perception if you package your offering with some creativity.

Increase the value before anyone even asks. Sometimes it’s cost. Other times it’s care. Then, if you get traction that is repeatable, you can see if the value warrants an increase in price.

In a crowded marketplace with so many options for cheaper options, it would be hard to compete in categories that have people thinking about the low-cost option.

Become more expensive. It’s a fantastic way to differentiate and push yourself to be desired more. It’s not free. But it’s worth it.