Yes that’s right goal setting … it sucks – well at least to me that is!
Like how many business workshops have you participated in, where you set those great goals, probably had some good food to eat, maybe held an “offsite” (though I did enjoy the Tongariro Fishing Lodge in New Zealand’s North Island once) and then several months later, there was a catastrophic event, or your boss moved on, or simply there were just other priorities like your day job, and everything else went out the window?
Are yes, you are now starting to remember those transformation road map workshops aren’t you! Floor to ceiling white boards, breakout rooms, artists, bean bags… maybe you even had to play act or paint a picture of your future business vision?
Like what is that?
Years ago, I remember being introduced to “BHAG’s” which stood for Big Hairy Audacious Goals!
What about stretch goals? These are the goals that you should aim for, but its OK if you miss them because you have your other goals in place and will not impact your bonus.
Come on now, do we really make this stuff up?
OK… sounds like I am a little skeptical – I know, but ask yourself this, how often did you hit your goals?
What about on a personal front?
New Year resolutions anybody?
Look, if you are like me, you are probably being bombarded right now by emails and Facebook posts, on setting up 2018 the “right way” (what ever that means) and if you do not download this planner, or attend this goal workshop you might as well not start 2018. Just skip it because nothing will happen for you – you have already failed!
Well at least for me, after years of creating life goals and plans but not actually achieving anything, I realised I had to start thinking differently about all this and importantly find a way where I actually did get real results – a completely and perhaps counter intuitive way, but one that worked for me.
Let me explain…
You see I think the focus has to be around what I call “disciplined execution“, if your business or personal goals are to be achieved. This is about ensuring your actions are always aligned in supporting your goals and they become non negotiable.
But the powerful element in all this, at least for me, was accountability
Keeping your intentions to yourself will not work, because it is too easy to walk away.
I realised when I looked back at everything I had achieved, it was when I made a public statement or commitment about my intentions – because for me, it was much about the feeling of potential guilt, shame, saving face, call it what you want, that lay ahead if I did not act, that motivated me more, than the possible joy of seeing myself reach that particular milestone.
Crazy stuff I know, but the more I listened to people like Tony Robbins, or conversations with others about the importance of “accountability”, the more I could see how true this was!
The Four Steps
In essence, accountability will drive you forward, so make sure you follow these four steps to getting things done in your business (or personal life) …
Know what you are seeking to achieve (outcome)
Understand what you are committing to do in order to achieve it (action)
Share how you are progressing (accountability)
Finally celebrate and learn what happened (result)
Think of accountability also as a coach. As you progress on your journey, you have the accountability “check ins” to ensure you stay on the path.
I also use these “accountability boards” (this image is of my 2018 accountability board – already in place) where specific scheduled action is visible for all to see – in other words, I hold myself accountable to these actions and I invite you to check in on me!
Finally, there is a fifth aspect to all of this, of which has also taken time for me to figure out. This is the distinction between what is “achievement” versus “fulfillment” in which it speaks to more about why you do what you do…
The first part of my career, it was all about achievement, but now it is fulfillment that drives me in why I do what I do!
Perhaps you might like to also set up your own accountability board to drive momentum and have a great 2018, but importantly do great things and make a difference!
So, you have started your own business! Congratulations because not everyone gets this far! However, you have also discovered that it is not as easy as you first thought it would be. You have put in a lot of blood, sweat and tears so far, and have also spent a lot of money to get you to where you are right now.
However, even though in your opinion you have some great product offerings, you are just not getting the momentum that you were expecting for your business.
Why is that?
Well there can of course be many reasons for this and its not always about pricing. Let me say that again… its not always about pricing!
But It Gets Worse
Possibly, you are not getting the “cut through” to stand out in the market place because of all the noise due to the intense competition? Maybe, you have not positioned yourself specifically enough because you are trying to be all things to all people? Perhaps, there is a difference in what you see as “value” and what your target market perceives as “value”?
You see, it is not about luck, or bad luck that drives success. Nor is it about random events or co-incidence. In business, it’s about principles, strategy, tactics, processes and disciplined implementation.
When you get this right, you will generate the sorts of results that you seek for your business. When you get this wrong, by being re-active or un-disciplined, then of course you will reap what you sow!
So, what do you need to do, to get out of this cycle and start building the momentum towards your business goals and ultimately dreams?
Well I believe there are just five things you need to do and when you do them with discipline and a pursuit of healthy excellence combined, will make a significant difference to your current results.
Your 5 Simple Steps
Firstly, you need to differentiate and segment in The New Economy. This is not an option, but an imperative. If you do not do this, you will just look like everybody competing for the same group of clients or customers and apart from being ineffective, is just plain old boring.
Second, you must discover your prospect’s real needs for you to then target. These will differ with each segment and are not always obvious as people utilise various buying strategies to help them with their decisions. So, you need to find out what they are, and address them accordingly.
Third, you must design your unique product and services portfolio around your client’s real needs (or problems). Now this sounds quite simple, but the reality is that the market place is dynamic as new players enter, or new innovations become available. That is why you need to lead the industry and become a disruptor through innovation.
The fourth thing you need to do is define the most effective pricing strategies to drive profit. As I said earlier, it’s not about having a low-cost strategy, instead it’s about having a pricing strategy that gets results.
Finally, when you do all that, you need to develop or “bundle” the best value packages that build sustainable relationships. This is about shifting the paradigm of having “offerings” to one that has “solutions” regardless of whether you are a traditional retail product business or a high-end business-to-business consulting services company. Today, The New Economy is about creating solutions that solve your client’s problems.
How I Hijacked My Market
Recently, I had the opportunity to showcase my business as an exhibitor, during an entrepreneurial event in London. To prepare, I thought about who would be attending and the other businesses that would also have event stands present. The easy way of course, is to do what everyone else does, but I decided to take a risk, in that my sole purpose was to provide incredible value for everyone who was attending the event and not focus at all on selling!
My goal was to create a high energy environment that would have me standing out in a way that got attention. In essence, I was hijacking this captive “market” by being different and disruptive.
Well the results were beyond my wildest expectations, generating a year of sales and ongoing relationships – so it was definetley worth it. But here’s the thing, everything to the smallest detail was planned out months before.
How This Can Make A Difference For You As Well
None of this is difficult to do if you want similar results for your business or professional practice – regardless of the industry that you are in, or whether you are a traditional business or a startup.
So just imagine for a moment…
If you start to differentiate your market more precisely than how you are currently…
If you discover this market’s real needs more intimately and on an emotional level as well…
If you start to design and innovate in a way that leads to you becoming a disruptor…
If you define creative pricing strategies that leave your competitors on the starting line…
If you develop solutions that speak directly to your target market’s “bleeding neck”…
Could it be possible that when you do this, your business will shift from first gear, to second and before you know it, into top gear?
Well this can certainly happen for you.
So What Are You Waiting For – Start Your Engine
In other words, unless you turn the key, your current circumstances that you have today will be similar tomorrow, so make sure you do this by implementing these five simple steps.
It’s been a long journey for me to be comfortable about being intimate in my business relationships.
I would not say that I am emotionally challenged, it’s just that I use to believe that business is just business, where socialising and being personal with colleagues and clients, always took second place to spending time with my family and friends.
Now, while my priorities have remained unchanged, I now see things from an entirely different perspective and consider it an imperative to be intimate in our business relationships as well – particularly in this age of The New Economy For Business.
However, there are specific ways or strategies, as to how you go about this…
What I am referring to is about creating a deeper understanding and connection to your customer’s dreams, hopes, desires and fears, while also sharing what you stand for as well.
You must get to know your customers by identifying their specific needs and established a genuine interest and desire to help them. In other words, a level of emotional awareness, rather than just a transactional or surface level knowledge like if you were just entering data into a CRM tool and all your customers are just one big homogenous list of names that you are trying to sell stuff to.
But It’s Not About Manipulation
Now to suddenly switch over and start asking your customers all sorts of intimate questions is not only weird, you might even get locked up. Besides that, it is just not natural and will be seen for what it is, a sleazy approach to trying to win business. As Simon Sinek says…
“there are only two ways to influence human behaviour – you can manipulate it, or you can inspire it”
For me, I’ll take inspiration anytime and it comes from being really motivated to connect with my customers, help them and that their experience working with me and my company will always be a valuable one.
That is why if you are not doing this already, you need to make these changes strategically, subtly and purposely, so that it just becomes who you are, your identity, either individually, or as a business. In time, this becomes how you do things from now on and that your customers appreciate this about you as well.
Instead, It Starts With Creating Avatars
In other words, this is marketing “101” and segmenting your target customers into sub groups in which you have identified criteria or needs that are unique to only these individual sub groups.
This could be based on where they live, their education, their age, marriage status, income, interest, culture etc etc. Then once you have done this, you can then start to design your solutions that will be more relatable to the unique needs for each of these segments or customer Avatars.
Also in a general sense, you need to be more engaging. For example, suppose you were attending a business event and were meeting people for the first time. Of course, the obvious question that always comes up is “what do you do?”. But what if instead of that, you went about asking people a different set of questions, ones which you are generally interested to hearing the answers like “what brought you here today?”, or “what struck you to think that this event might be useful for you?”. Then you listen to their responses as though they are your best friend, without judgement, bias or thinking about yourself, because this is their moment and not yours!
This is also true for your social media presence and in your publications. Remember this is your identity from now on – this is who you are!
Thinking Differently Will Help Too
But it did take me time to come to terms with this, because in many ways I am a very private person.
Also, I had to challenge old belief systems and biases and basically re-wire my brain, because I had spent years in a corporate environment and as a result of this, had learned to modify my natural self in order to fit in – from the suit, to how I spoke publicly, to who I connected with in social media.
If you think this is quite strange to hear, I would just like to encourage you to reflect on this yourself and how you are currently interacting with others and the possibility that you may also have a public face and a private face.
However, as I started to change and engage more intimately in a business setting and be more authentic, things started to change around me – and for the better!
For instance, my self-confidence, ability to contribute and help others all increased, but at the same time, comfortable with the reality that not everyone will “get” me and what I stand for. In fact, in this crazy world of social media and trolls, criticism is easily obtained, and when it does, just move on, knowing that you are being true to yourself.
But here’s the thing, while some will not relate to you, many will see you as the real deal and know that you are genuine and care. For me, I think this is one of the most important things today.
Intimate Relationships Can Create Sustainability
No matter how small or large your professional practice or business is today, do you think that once you define your ideal customer Avatar and start to segment your customers into meaningful groups, based on some common or shared needs, and then start creating specific solutions to meet these needs, you will also achieve some great outcomes?
What about if you start to engage more intimately with your customers, be more authentic, could that change how they engage with you in a positive sense?
You see, I believe you are only one conversation away from achieving some awesome results that will have a significant impact to your business for the long term. None of this requires any financial investment, only a change in mindset, of which can all start today!
A Take Away
As a last word on this from Simon Sinek, maybe he is referring to your business and your customers…
“The strong bond of friendship is not always a balanced equation; friendship is not always about giving and taking in equal shares. Instead, friendship is grounded in a feeling that you know exactly who will be there for you when you need something, no matter what or when”
There is a modern-day gold rush going on and if you are not part of it, you will miss out.
People are running all over the place. They are putting down markers and staking out their patch of land which they will start to mine. It’s on for young and old and those who are there early will get the most gold!
Well maybe it’s not quite like the historic 1800 gold rushes of California and Australia, but it’s just as valuable.
You see we are entering the golden age of the “expert” where individuals and businesses are becoming more focused and positioning themselves in very specific niches. Being a “generalist” is no longer the way to go because that is what Google, Bing and other forms of Artificial Intelligence does now.
Today you need to be specialised and positioned as an authority within your own unique category.
Could You Be Missing Out On Business?
The challenge of course is how do you go about this.
Plus, if you do, is it possible you could be missing out on some business because potential clients or customers, no longer see you offering the services or products that they require?
Well the reality is that if you are not positioning yourself as the go to person or business in very clearly defined niches or categories, then you will not be standing out with any specific credibility.
Now you might be saying “I am not an expert in anything”.
Well I believe we are all experts in something. We all have unique life experiences that others would find valuable to learn from if we were to help them. Equally in business, we need to be able to find ways to differentiate ourselves from everyone else – otherwise why would people buy from you? What’s the compelling point of differentiation that overwhelmingly draws customers to your business and not somebody else’s? I’m not talking about having a low-cost strategy either!
Define Your Expertise
That is why when you are setting up your own business, you need to spend time thinking about what is your “expertise” (or point of differentiation) and how you can position yourself to stand out from the crowd – in other words, stake your claim.
Let me explain…
Take a few minutes right now and open your internet search browser and type in the following phrases, each time clicking “enter” to see what comes up in the search…
World’s number one…
Now once you have done that, instead of the word “World”, change it for your country, or your state, town or industry and see what comes up.
What have you discovered so far? Well let me tell you…
This is the gold field I’m talking about. You see, there was no one specific world body going out awarding these titles. Each one of these individuals or businesses has established their “positioning” through a combination of strategy, focus, effort and time. I believe you can do this to – in fact we can all do this. But you have to be specific in terms of your category.
Like if I was to say I am the “world’s greatest golfer”, it just would not be believable – particularly so when I could probably count on one had the number of games I have played! This is where credibility comes in – it must be believable to the audience you are targeting.
Recently I was talking to one of my clients, Gordon. He is an expert deep ocean yachtsman with years of experience, yet as humble as he is (as most people are), he had not fully appreciated until then, the power of claiming his patch or “category of one”.
As we spoke, I asked him his thoughts about if he was to claim the title “Melbourne’s Leading Ocean Yachting Authority”, did he feel OK about that, from a credibility or integrity point of view?
By the way, if you are unsure about that yourself, just ask the question, “what would people who you really admire and see as experts, think about your new claim?” – that will give you the answer as to whether you really are as credible as you may wish to be!
Anyway, getting back to Gordon, he said he was OK with that title, so I then went another step and replaced “Melbourne” to his state – “Victoria” and again, he felt he was still credible!
And guess what we finally got to? With a little word-smithing, we got to a title that included “world leading” because he could back that up by fact after fact and testimonial after testimonial! In other words, Gordon is the real deal, when it comes to yachting!
So Are You Sitting On Gold?
Now if there is a morale in this story at all, then remember this – the gold that we are all searching for, we may already be sitting on – you just need to know where to dig!
So, take time out to consider what “category of one” you can claim that resonates with your business or professional practice. Do the research, see what other people do. Check out your competitors. Find a variation, which when exploited, creates a whole new niche or even a market segment.
Define Your Category Of One Today
The main thing is to stop trying to look like everyone else. You need to take a stand and be different and it starts by defining your unique “category of one”.
At The Startup Business, we are a “values first” business. Sure, there are many other companies that provide business & technology education, entrepreneur coaching, startup advisory and global strategic outsourcing. But there is only one in the world that does it the way we do, and is positioned as The Leading Expert Authority On New Economy Business! You can do this to!
Starting your own business can be one of the most exciting and life changing things you will ever do. You see, a business can give you the freedom that others, in jobs will never experience. A business can be a vehicle for you to share your unique talents, skills, and life experiences. A business can also enable you to live a life on your terms and a way to make a significant difference or contribution in the world.
However, there is a phase that most businesses go through, which is like wandering across a desert. You will be challenged financially, emotionally, and possibly even physically.
You will question your abilities and contemplate giving up, and for some founders, they do not make it to the other side, as those statistics of first year or second year business failures regularly remind us.
Because The Rules Of Business Have Changed
Now if you feel you are wandering across this “desert” right now, then there are many factors that could be contributing to this situation. For example, lack of growth, intense competition, government regulation, resources, new capabilities to master etc, with the list growing each day.
Compounding this challenge also for new business owners, is that we are living in a different age. It’s not the Industrial Revolution anymore, nor is it the Technological Revolution and so the old factors that resulted in business success previously, are no longer a sure thing today.
Because we are now living in The Age Of The Entrepreneur where globilisation, rapid advancements through artificial intelligence and robotics, plus new disruptive business models of the sharing economy (i.e. AirBNB, UBER etc), is what is defining the environment that The New Economy Business needs to successfully navigate through.
All these critical success factors of today, come into play and if we are not careful and ignore them, can prevent us from what we are trying to achieve. That is why when I speak to people wanting to start a business, or scale it up to the next level, I ask them about their “big dream”.
What is it that inspires them, gives them hope, a sense of certainty, a sense of purpose? What gives you a sense of purpose?
It Starts With Your Big Dream
Because, while you may have awesome reasons for setting up, scaling or sustaining your business, you still need to take a few steps back and consider this bigger picture first, otherwise it will all be just too hard and you will not be able to traverse this “desert”.
For me, it all starts with defining your own life’s purpose or mission, because this is ultimately where your “big dream” or “why” starts. Once you have clarity on this, then you can start to expand in more detail such as developing specific goals around family, friends, community, health, wellbeing, finance, and life style.
Then, when you do this, what you will discover, is that your “business” becomes the vehicle for achieving these goals – more like a means to an end, rather than the sole objective. And yes, you will find yourself talking about your business as if it is a family member to anyone that listens, and you will put in hour upon hour to get it up and running! But all the time, you will know that it is just a vehicle, and if this vehicle is not getting you to where you want to go, you need to take the necessary action to address this, like changing vehicles. In other words, there is alignment.
However, as simple as this may seem, this is the hard part, as this is where many startups and business owners, do get stuck and ultimately fail. They become so much part of the day to day running of their business, and while there is some satisfaction from this, they are no longer associated with their ultimate life mission or purpose. You see, in many ways we are dealing less about process and systems which are always visible and easily to be distracted by, and more about the needs of human psychology and mindset.
How Malcolm Made A Difference
Back in 1985, I was in my final year at agricultural college, yes that may surprise some, but there I was in regional New South Wales, Australia, living in a town called Wagga Wagga – or just “Wagga” as the locals would typically say!
Next to our campus, was the local agricultural research station where I got to know the well-respected agronomist Dr Malcolm Glennie Holmes. In fact, as a student, I was in awe of him. You see he was responsible for breeding new varieties of cereal crops like wheat and barley and I just thought he was a rock star!
However, it was what he said to me one day that I have never forgotten… “Ross, many people think my job is very exciting, but in reality, I just try to breed new varieties of wheat each year and most of my trials fail – it’s heart breaking and boring work”.
He then went on… “But here’s the thing, once in a while, maybe every couple of years, we find one new wheat variety that survives all our testing and goes on to be used by farmers and that is the satisfying part of my job as I feel I am feeding the world!”
It’s Now Time For You To Light Your Fire
Malcolm of course at that time, clearly understood his “why” – his compelling reason or purpose. He also had a big picture view that sustained him through the desert, and while that was now over thirty years ago, he also inspired a young man just starting out on his career as well!
However, I only re-discovered my “why” several years ago. You see, I was travelling down the Mekong River in Cambodia and as my boat drifted and I looked across to the river bank and the houses built on bamboo stilts, the local Cambodian people and thought about the extreme hardships these people endure, three words came to me… Learn, Lead, Legacy.
Today these are the values that underpin everything I do.
Let’s Now Start Building Momentum
So, if you are in your business right now and feel you are struggling to cross that desert, and are no longer clear on why you do what you do, then you do need to give yourself the gift to re-discover this and by doing so, re-light that fire inside of you as well!
That is why I believe developing a greater sense of self awareness is critical, not just for your own personal development, but also being a founder of a business.
Remember your “why” is your lever and as Archimedes once said…
“Give Me A Lever Long Enough And I Will Change The World”
Sometimes we know more about what we don’t want, than what we do want.
This was certainly the case for me.
In fact, I had been clear on this for years.
Although on the outside you could think that I had a very successful career, interesting roles, progressive promotions and increased financial benefits. Yet deep down, I was far from being happy.
You see while I was achieving things as though they were some sort of checklist (warning to you bucket list advocates), what this was not, was fulfilment.
Possibly because I had known no other way, after all this was my conditioning – get a good education, then get a good job, work hard, be loyal and fit in.
Yet for me, as I got older, I could see patterns…
Like in the education that you invested in your early 20’s, does not cut it today.
Promotions are not necessarily always based on performance, as other factors that you may miss, are always in play.
Diversity is key, but you still must fit in and conform.
Job security is not guaranteed, even in the most profitable companies, no matter how good you may be.
And Machiavelli is alive and well in large companies.
At the same time, I could also see things changing.
Huge global changes in how we work – in what we call today as the New Economy.
Of course, the financial crisis was a significant impact almost ten years ago, but I could also see how technology and a global market place could open up opportunities, even for the smallest of players and how you could “punch above your own weight” and become a disruptor.
Sure, I am no Elon Musk, who I have enormous respect for, but I started to see a crack in my own world that enticed me to rewire my thinking and take a different path.
But the epiphany did not happen straight away, it had to sit idle for a few more years until the day I was travelling in a long boat down the Mekong River in Cambodia…
It was a hot steamy mid-afternoon just north of Krong Stung Treng. The noise from the outboard seemed to settle into the background from what I was seeing, as we passed by local Cambodians doing what they have always done, living on the great Mekong River. Every now and again, I had glances of men, woman, children look across from the river bank to me, but mostly they were engrossed in going about their daily activities.
I thought about what I had been doing up until then, ticking off the list, but not really living.
So at that moment, I asked myself for the very first time…
“what is it that I want?”
I then reached for my diary and wrote down ten words which ultimately changed the course of where I was heading…
“to live and contribute anywhere in the world, at anytime”
Now, these words may not mean anything to you. But for me, they imply that I have the choices and options and my focus is not about work, but that of contribution – and this is vastly different to how I had thought in the past.
But of course, how do I make this big dream a reality?
So, I changed my initial question and asked…
“what must be true, for me to live and contribute anywhere in the world, at anytime?”
It was this subtle change which then led to more specific ideas and subsequent actions. Some of these I must say were complete disasters financially, but experience nevertheless. Others however, have led to the creation of a profitable and growing global business.
Now some of my academic colleagues might call this the start to a Blue Ocean Strategy.
Well it is to some extent, though I like to refer it to as being part of The Three Forces Of New Economy Businesses™ (Rewire, Disrupt and Engage) but I can even simplify it further as this…
“if you do not like what you have, then bloody well do something about it” strategy, because that’s what it was for me at that time!
So, if you are sitting there, right now, focusing on what you do not want, sure that will provide some fuel for the burn.
But if you want to become unstoppable, start focusing on what you really want, something that grabs you emotionally with passion, where your beliefs and values are aligned, your congruent, where you can honestly say it’s your calling – because that will be the difference to where you are now, to where you want to be.