Everyday we face adversity. I like to embrace a challenge as it always provides and opportunity to learn something. One of the biggest issues we face when a problem arises is we tend to make them bigger than they actually are. We look for reasons as to why it’s happening and sometimes blame ourselves. How often do you say to yourself, I have a problem? Probably every day, and frankly if you are not having problems, you are not pushing yourself enough. I wanted to share some thoughts that can hopefully help you overcome problems, as they can in fact be an opportunity.
The best approach when facing adversity is to create a positive perspective. There are no such thing as “problems”; I like to call them “challenges”. While I can hear you laughing, take a moment to think about that distinction. My belief is that subtle re-phrasing is important and powerful. I never use the word “problem”; it doesn’t exist in my vocabulary. The word “problem” has a negative connotation. When you say, “you have a problem”, your approach is coming from a negative perspective. By changing your wording from “problem” to “challenge”, you’re transforming your circumstances from a negative to a positive. It’s now an opportunity.
I enjoy facing a challenge head on and feel great overcoming it. Think about some of your best accomplishments. How did you feel when you were successful? Chances are you felt like you could conquer the world. Herein lies the opportunity with a good challenge. It’s a chance to learn, work through it and feel that sense of accomplishment. Think about this perspective; approach a problem as a challenge. Make it an opportunity. Soon you might actually look forward to a good challenge, as it’s an opportunity to bring out the best in you.
When marketing your business it’s important to quickly identify what makes you SPECIAL. If your message says you do EVERYTHING… it won’t resonate and it will be forgotten…
Creating an effective and unique message can eliminate the problem and also create opportunity. I’ve attended many networking events, and witnessed thousands of “elevator pitches”. If you want your message to standout consider the following tips:
1. Clearly state what you do – (Let’s say you’re a CPA) – “My name is (insert name) and I’m a CPA at (name of company)”.
Pretty simple right? Remember everyone has a short attention span.
2. State your location – Our offices are located in 123 Street, Anytown, USA
It can be helpful to reference a landmark nearby as it creates a picture to help the audience identify with you.
3. Provide ONE unique aspect of your business – We focus on serving as an outsourced Chief Financial Officer, Bookkeeper and Tax Advisor for restaurant owners and food service companies.
Note the distinction. We typically assume a CPA simply does taxes. By crafting a unique aspect, you start the differentiation between what you offer. It’s different… unique… and now your marketing message will resonate.
4. State who your ideal client or customer is – Our ideal client is a restaurant owner who has between 1 to 10 locations. They’re typically great at running their business but need an advisor to assist in managing the financial aspects of their business.
By clearly identifying your target customer and how you help them helps people understand who you are looking for and how your business brings value.
Let’s put it all together…
My name is John Smith and I am a CPA for ABC Co. Our offices are located on 123 St in Anytown, USA, right next to the Main St Park. Our company serves as an outsourced CFO, Bookkeeper and Tax Advisor for restaurant owners and food service companies. Our ideal client is a restaurant owner with 1 to 10 locations that is looking for a firm to help them manage the financial aspect of their business.
As you can see, this paints a much clearer picture for your audience. They know who you are, what you do, your business location, your ideal client and a unique service your company provides. When defining your marketing message, I would suggest following these steps. They should help you spread a clearly defined message and increase future sales.
If you’re thinking about a franchise there are a few basic questions to address before researching specific concepts. I like to call this “creating a blueprint”. Like building a house, you need a plan before you grab a hammer and nail. Start by the answering following questions:
What income do I need to support myself?
What resources are available to fund the business?
How will I fund my new business?
What reserves are needed while the business is establishing itself?
This pragmatic approach can quickly determine if franchise ownership is suitable and help target specific concepts to achieve your goal.
The First Question – What income do I need to support myself?
It’s important to have realistic expectations when starting a new business. What income do you need to support yourself? While there will likely be short term sacrifices in the near term, you want to make sure once the business is stabilized it can generate the income you need to support you family and lifestyle. Once you have determined an appropriate level of income, determine your available resources to fund the business.
The Second Question – What resources are available to fund the business?
This step is relatively simple. Put together a list of both your assets and liabilities. Examples of assets include cash in your checking/savings accounts, stocks & bonds, real estate holdings, and retirement accounts like IRAs and 401Ks. Examples of liabilities include debts like credit card debt, student and car loans and your home mortgages. Take the total amount of your assets and subtract your total liabilities. This determines your net worth. This will give a clear snapshot of what you have to fund the business.
The Third Question – How will I fund my new business?
There are several resources available in the market to help finance your new business. It’s very important to speak with your financial advisor and/or accountant to help determine the best option. When purchasing a franchise, the franchisor will require a certain level of cash investment. The remaining balance can be funded with a loan. Options to finance include: using home equity line of credit, your 401k, an SBA loan or refinancing your home. In addition some franchisors have resources that can help fund the business.
The Fourth Question – What reserves are needed while the business is establishing itself?
Certain businesses take longer than others to breakeven and generate a profit. Generally speaking, I advise owners to have a minimum of 12 months living expenses set aside when they start a new business. Keep in mind that every situation is unique. You may have a working spouse and thus not need as big a reserve. If you are more conservative you may want to have a larger reserve. Regardless of the amount, you want to limit your stress and avoid being undercapitalized. This is one of the most common causes of business failure.
The most common approach for those considering franchise ownership is to start by researching specific concepts. This is not a productive approach. While you may find a concept you like, if that investment is not suitable or if can’t generate the income needed you wind up wasting a lot of time. It’s better to start by addressing the questions we discussed. Keep in mind there are still issues to discuss, however, by “creating an initial blueprint “ will help target concepts to meet your needs and thus increase your probability for success.
There is a giant world of opportunity with “social media”. Everyone talks about it, yet to most people it’s a void. We want to participate; yet a lack of understanding holds us back. Our brains are programmed to understand. How can it help us? How can it help our business? Therein lies the downside. Our desire for understanding backfires and limits the opportunity.
Change Your Way of Thinking
I recently read a book about physics called The Dancing Wu Li Masters. The author, Gary Zukav, wrote about some of the complex theories of physics and explains them for the layman. He discusses quantum physics, particle theory and the theory of relativity among other things. Despite his efforts, some of the ideas were tough to grasp these ideas, as they’re a little “out there”. One concept, however, resonated with me. At the turn of the 19th century, physicists felt there wasn’t much left to discover. They felt they had explained everything based on their way of thinking at the time. A few bold thinkers like Albert Einstein, among others begged to differ. They felt there was more to discover and continued researching more ideas.
Eliminate Preconceived Notions
It was there willingness to go against the grain that leads to extraordinary breakthroughs. The basis of their discoveries was an acceptance to eliminate the need to understand. You see, in order to break through, they had to eliminate any preconceived notions of how things should happen and simply accept what happened. This is the essence of why we become hesitant in using social media. We get trapped in the notion of how it can work, without accepting the fact that it does work.
Embrace The Results
A few months ago I started leveraging social media as a means to build both personal and business relationships. When I started I admittedly knew nothing about it but simply accepted it would work. I spoke with experts in the field and formulated a strategy. In time I started to get results. It was slow, methodical, but I kept at it and soon recognized its power. Social media is where the market is going. When I started, I understood nothing about it yet was willing to accept what it gave me. Like some of the great scientists of the past, I eliminated the need to understand and simply just did. I am certainly glad I did.
A business or marketing statement that summarizes why a consumer should buy a product or use a service. This statement should convince a potential consumer that one particular product or service adds more value or better solve a problem than other similar offerings.
The basic principle to successful social networking is providing “value” to others. Focused efforts on sharing interesting content can significantly expand your influence and help develop rewarding personal and business relationships. When I started social networking, I noticed the principles are very similar to an important business concept, “the value proposition”.
What is a value proposition? According to the definition above, it’s a statement that explains why a product or service is better than a similar offering. I find most companies tend to focus on price, customer service and product/service quality as their value proposition. I think those distinctions, while important, don’t address something more tangible. This is a concept I refer to as helping clients “see your value”.
Think about how businesses try to differentiate themselves from competitors. If their perceived advantage is price or product quality, what happens if another company develops a product that’s cheaper or better? If that’s the value proposition, they’re susceptible to losing customers, as their service could be perceived as a commodity. This is an identity that should be avoided as it can minimize the depth of a business relationship.
Think about it from a customer’s perspective. How do you select a personal physician? A mechanic? A financial advisor? While price and product are important, they’re likely secondary to things like confidence, reliability and trust. Is your solution provider there when it really matters? In my opinion, this is the essence of an effective value proposition. If your clients and customers “see your value” from a perspective of reliability and trust, a very strong bond is created. This is a better foundation for long-term success, and the essence of a strong value proposition.
Most people considering franchise ownership start by seeking information on different concepts. While the financial aspect is important, it can be addressed later in the process. A better approach is to start by creating your ideal lifestyle. This can help target your search toward a franchise that fits within your schedule thus creating a work/life balance. By achieving this balance there is better chance you’ll be happier with your business and increase the probability of success. One of our previous clients came to us two years after he invested in a franchise. When he initially researched the concept his focus was entirely on money – not lifestyle. Despite earning a six-figure income, he was miserable because the business deprived him from the work/life balance he was accustomed to. If your focus is entirely on money, you will likely select a franchise that is wrong for you.
How do you avoid this pitfall? Start by asking yourself a few basic questions. What is the perfect job for you? Where would you like to work? In a retail store? In an Office? Industrial park? Or would you prefer to work at home? When would you like to work? Monday through Friday? Weekends? Nights? Are you comfortable with and do you like managing people? Do you like sales? Addressing a few simple questions will save you time, frustration and more importantly, prevent a costly mistake.
If you prefer to work Monday thru Friday it’s best to avoid a business that is open seven days a week. You might want to work from home, however, if you enjoy being in an office or retail environment a home based business is not right for you. Keep an open mind; most of us think we know what is right for us. If you take some time to dig a little deeper, you will likely discover possibilities you never would have considered.
Do not anticipate trouble or worry about what may never happen. Keep in the sunlight. ~Benjamin Franklin
I used to worry a lot. I would spend hours obsessing over issues and run though the different scenarios to cope with the stress. In time I realized worrying didn’t help and my energy was better focused on more productive tasks. Worrying doesn’t solve problems; it makes them worse. It costs time, money and energy and has a negative impact on our health, our relationships and performance. When you worry about something you get one benefit…nothing.
If you find yourself overwhelmed with worry, don’t waste time internalizing it. Seek outside counsel, a mentor. One of my closest colleagues provided me with a really helpful technique to address worry and make it go away. It takes a little practice, but in time, when mastered…you can practically eliminate your worries.
The technique is simple – just start with a few questions.
What are you worried about? – Is it REALLY that bad?
Put the concern in perspective. How significant is it? Is it really something that demands attention? Where does it rate in the whole scheme of life? We often worry about trivial things, and sweat the small stuff. If you take a step back, you will likely see it’s not worth the attention you’re giving. In fact, by giving it so much attention you’re giving it energy and making the problem worse. When taking this approach you may notice the problem is not a big deal and the need to fuss over it goes away. Most times, you won’t need to move to the next question as we tend to worry over trivial things. Let’s say, however, the issue is potentially serious. Let’s move to the next step. It’s time to start thinking about probability.
Ok, there’s an issue here, but what’s the probability of something bad actually happening?
Let’s say you’re facing some serious adversity. If that’s the case, we often assume that the worst possible outcome is going to happen. While it certainly could, it’s important to determine the probability of the worst-case happening? In almost every instance, we always assume the worst, even if the chances are slim. If you’re facing a significant problem, think about the probability of a worst case result. When you view it from this standpoint, you’ll likely see your dedicating a lot of time and energy towards something that is not likely to occur. This should alleviate the need to worry, but let’s say the worst case actually happens.
Let’s break down where we are in our assessment of the problem.
Do you really have an issue that’s potentially serious? OK, Yes.
What are the chances of the worst possible outcome? The odds were remote, but the worst case occurred.
So what’s the next? Move to the next question.
Ask yourself, can you handle it?
I am going to answer this one…you can. One of our best attributes is our ability to handle a challenge. While we may need support, we all have the ability to work through adversity, no matter how difficult. There are a couple of reasons for this, however, the main reason is we don’t have a choice and simply have to deal with it. While it will be uncomfortable, we eventually accept the challenge, recognize things can’t get worse and focus on the task. Think about that. Focus on the task. More often than not, if we simply take that approach, we avoid wasting our energy on anything other than what NEEDS to be done.
The next time you’re worrying about something, think about this approach. It’s normal to have worries. Acknowledge them, follow these steps and your fears will likely begin to recede. I use this approach everyday and find it helpful. I hope you do as well.
“If you don’t know where you’re going – How can you get there?”
Everyday we set off to accomplish something. It could be as simple as going to work, taking the kids to school, or a night out with friends. Whatever we plan on doing (with emphasis on the word “plan”), we usually accomplish. Most of our chores are simple and part of everyday life. But we still have to plan for them. As one of my mentors always says, “If you don’t have a plan, you don’t have a prayer.” If there is something you want but are unsure how to get it, making a plan is the first step.
Think of it this way. Let’s say you want to go on vacation, what do you typically do? Chances are you decide on a destination, set a date and book the trip. Preparation includes flight and hotel arrangements, packing your clothes and booking transportation to airport. Plan… Plan… Plan…
So let’s take it one step further. Is there something you want?
A different career?
Make new friends?
A new hobby?
Why hesitate? Be proactive. Learn what you need to do, make a list of action steps and follow through. A simple plan is the first step to getting what you desire.
Every week I write a list of tasks I want to accomplish. Each day I cross off what has been completed and focus on the remaining items. This approach helps me manage my time and keeps me moving forward. If there’s something you’re seeking, start with a plan. As I mentioned previously, if you don’t know where you’re going, how can you get there?
Franchising indeed has benefits; reduced risk, brand recognition, an established business model, purchasing power, on-going support and training. There are of course higher costs associated with a franchise, as you’re required to pay franchise fees and royalties in addition to funding the business. Instead of a franchise, some people prefer to start their own business. This can be an attractive option to those more comfortable operating more independently. The nice thing about starting your own business is you don’t have royalties or franchise fees, thus a lower initial investment. Having your own business also gives you more freedom to operate without territorial restrictions that typically come with a franchise business.
Both Options Can Work
There are certain factors to consider if you’re contemplating business ownership yet uncertain as to whether to go franchise or new startup. It’s important to know you CAN be successful with either option. Both can provide the independence and pride of ownership most are seeking when they are going out on their own. Both can generate income and build wealth. They key question is to assess your personal comfort with risk.
A Proven System
One of the benefits of a franchise is the system. Having a proven and tested business model is one of the main reasons franchising has a better chance of success versus a new start up. When performing due diligence, it’s very important to assess validity of the franchise system. How does the franchise validate? Does the product or service provide value? Does their marketing help gain customers and earn a profit? Your best source of information during the validation process is speaking to current franchisees. Are they happy with their franchise? Does the business model work? If they had to do it over again would they? These are some of the questions that can help make your decision.
Understand the Differences
Franchising is not for everyone. In my experience, it’s best to explain the differences to prospective investors so they understand the benefits and potential costs associated with either option. Unfortunately it’s pretty common to see people who were sold into believing a franchise was right for them. There are certain people who have the experience, capital and ability to create a new business model. They also have a desire to want to start on their own, as they are comfortable and willing to operate independently. Some prefer the structure a franchise model can provide and are willing to invest more money and pay the royalties for the structure.
Determine What’s Right for You
As stated previously, you can be successful with a franchise or a new start up. There are cost and benefits to each. If you are thinking about becoming a business owner, take the time to research both options. Ask questions. Learn the differences and make the decision that is best for you.
One of my greatest passions is fitness. I love to weight train, run, swim, and even cardio dance…yes dance….you can stop laughing… : ) A good workout gives me a chance to clear my head of the stresses of everyday life. The funny thing is I always seem to solve most of my problems when I’m at the gym. That’s one of the benefits of a hobby; it helps improve aspects of your life in unexpected ways.
One thing I learned with fitness is the importance of changing your workouts on a regular basis. Our bodies are programmed to adapt to the stresses of your workload. If you do the same routine over and over again, it acclimates. When this occurs, your muscles will stop growing. This is a concept called muscle memory.
The interesting part about muscle memory is it can be applied to just about anything. Think about it. If you do the same thing over and over you get stale, complacent… bored. If our body and mind lack stimulation, you stop growing. Getting used to a routine creates comfort. If we stay in our comfort zone, the opportunity for personal and professional development is diminished. The unfortunate consequence inhibits an opportunity to learn, develop and grow.
If this sounds familiar don’t fret. Everyone has a particular routine. Most probably want to alter it, but find it difficult to do so. The good news is with a little practice and a few small changes you will escape your comfort zone and soon reap the benefits. For instance, if you are a fitness buff like me, change your routine, try a new class or a different workout. If you like to drink coffee, switch to tea once in a while. If you like to cook, prepare something you’ve never made before. I do things like this all the time. It keeps me fresh and inspires creative ideas. You may soon get more comfortable with the concept of adjusting your routine. This can lead to opportunities you may have never considered.
Healthy change is a good thing. I encourage you to make an effort. The process is gradual, nothing drastic. I find it helps me in just about every aspect of my life. Give it a shot. You’ll likely be pleased with the results.