5 Tips to Success in Business – Part 1

While finishing up the next book review, I thought I’d go ahead and share some lessons learned from running a business simulation last semester. This simulation was a three-credit, semester-long class that offered plenty of variety compared to the typical semester load. It offered the opportunity to launch a computer company (albeit in a world with no established competition), and served as an excellent tool for practicing teamwork. Of the three competing teams, our team (of four partners) started slowest but pulled out ahead at every level at the end. The reason for this success was because of several key lessons we learned early on.

Lesson #1: Pick your Business Partners Wisely

One of our key advantages was that our team worked well together. Our president, a friend of mine, and I sat down before teams had even been picked (even before we knew for sure we would be working together) and evaluated every person in the class to customize the ideal team. Of course, part of this was luck of the draw, as it sort of “just happened” that we picked a team that would learn to communicate well, work hard, and maximize each other’s strengths, but investing time up front to ensure that your team is able to rise to the level of your company vision is vital.

Lesson #2: Balance the “Manager” and the “Marketer”

While planning our final presentation and reflecting back on lessons learned, we realized that one of the vital things we had gotten right (again, without necessarily meaning to) was the ability to balance thinking like managers vs. thinking like marketers. The difference is that managers think short-term, about what needs to be done right now to keep the business afloat, while marketers think long-term, about what will bring the greatest benefit in the future. During our second year in business (the simulation was broken down into 12 quarters), we faced a crises. We couldn’t get our product design right (we spent four quarters fighting this battle), so couldn’t even begin to keep up with sales. We finally threw everything we had into fixing the product. But when we finally got that right, our cash was exhausted. We had hit a pit. Fortunately, our Board of Advisors (aka our professors) invested some funds in our company, but if we weren’t extremely cautious, it wouldn’t be enough to get us off the ground. The following two quarters or so were ones of extreme cash management; it was challenging, but thinking like managers saved our company.

Early on, we had set in place an overall strategy. At first, we slipped away from this strategy, but by the time we got our product development on track, we had figured out what we were doing. We planned long-term, and stuck to that plan. Sticking to the plan, despite the occasional temptation to try something different, allowed us to catch up and surpass our opponents both in product and market size. Thinking like marketers allowed our company to grow.


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Content Marketing – Value Adding at it’s Best

The struggle as of late has been primarily between reading history and practicing Chinese versus posting more often here. Unfortunately, as of late, the history and Chinese (as fascinating as those subjects are) have been winning out. Well, that’s about to change…. Okay, no promises there. However, I am committed to not entirely abandoning you yet.

On that note, the first subscriber-only content will be coming out at the end of the month. Be looking for a three-to-five page report on the key essentials that you as an entrepreneur need to have in place to be successful. If you haven’t subscribed yet, now’s the time.

Today I want to briefly talk about content marketing. Content marketing is essentially the idea that contemporary consumers don’t just want someone to tell them about a product and then they’ll buy it; rather, they want to get to know the product or service themselves, so will seek to become informed on the subject. From buying a car to giving to charities, today’s customers want to know everything they can before investing their hard-earned money. What does that mean for us as business people? We need to be willing and able to put the information they are seeking out on the table where they can easily find it. Do you sell used musical instruments online? Than blog about some unique aspect of music, build a following, and use that as a basis for building your instrument business. But don’t only think of providing content for the sake of driving customers to your website or shop. Find creative ways to provide value, even if it doesn’t immediately benefit you. Treat your content as a product, in every way from a “loss leader” to an “up-sell“. I recently heard a quote from a successful internet entrepreneur (sorry, I’ve forgotten the name) who said that you should give 80% of your content away for free, and that will allow you to sell the last 20% very well. This guy is in high demand as a speaker and consultant and people pay thousands to get his advice. Craig Ballantyne, whom I have mentioned here before, provides so much free, excellent content on his blog that he has people constantly asking him to sell them some form of coaching. They are willing to pay anything to work one-on-one with him, because they trust that he is legit.

Providing content is a way to legitimize yourself, your expertise, and your business. It is a conversation with your customers, with the goal of better finding out what they want so you can successfully give it to them. Your business tip (and challenge!) of the week is to find one new way of creating content to better converse with your customers. If you don’t currently have customers than find a way to converse with someone who represents your dream customer.