I've talked to a lot of business owners over the last couple of years and THE NUMBER ONE factor that is holding them back from their dream of a profitable business is that they've missed some or all of the following foundations.
None of these foundations are anything groundbreaking or shocking - and yet time and time again, they get skipped, scorned and skimmed over. No judgment here, I've done it myself - but I'm now making it my mission to ensure that none of my clients are making the same mistake.
I'll be honest, the foundations you need for a profitable business aren't sexy. Neither are they tick box exercises that you can do once and then check off your list and move on from. These are CORE factors of your business that will need to be focused on and worked on as long as you want to continue running profitable business, as long as you want to continue growing and as long as you want to continue serving your clients as best as you can.
So, in the (misquoted) words of Mr Justin Timberlake, I'm here to bring non-sexy back... I hope you'll come along for the (non-sexy) ride...
Foundation One: Purpose
'Purpose' might sound a bit vague so let me break it down for you so you know exactly what I mean...
Your business purpose will answer the following 3 questions:
- WHO are you going to serve with your business?
- WHAT are you going to help them with?
- WHY? How will this change their life for the better?
Most business owners will have some kind of answers to those questions - but few will have good ones. Sounds harsh I know - but the fact is that the answers to these questions really are one of the KEY FOUNDATIONS of your business.
They will shape EVERYTHING else you do - or at least they should!
Still not sure what I'm going on about? Let's take a look at an example...
Let's say that you're a Fitness Coach. Here are some standard answers that I tend to see
WHO do you serve?
People who want to get fit
WHAT are you going to help them with?
WHY? How will this improve their life?
They'll be fitter
Now, I don't know about you but this isn't really lighting my soul on fire! It's SO generic! It's SO ....BLAH...
So how could they create better responses? Let's have another try...
WHO do you serve?
New mums looking to get their pre-baby bodies back
WHAT are you going to help them with?
Creating a healthy eating an exercise plan that fits in with raising kids
WHY? How will this improve their life?
They'll have more energy to play with their kids
They'll feel more confident and more like themselves again
See the difference?
The second responses are so much more specific, so much more engaging and will make our fitness coach's life so much easier when it comes to planning out her brand, her packages and her marketing content!
If you're struggling to get clear on your PURPOSE then the best way to get clarity is with ACTION. Go with what you have now, keep moving forwards and clarity will come - I promise!
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Foundation Two: Planning
I did warn you this wouldn't be sexy...
The fact is, you can't run a business by leaving things to chance!
You can't run a business by sitting down at your laptop each day and being busy without any strategy behind it.
You can't run a business without planning.
A lot of business owners I speak to are intimidated by the idea of planning. They don't know where to begin and they don't know where to end - that is, what an effective business plan actually looks like.
So, in case that's you - let's break it down. First of all, let's get clear on the fact that there are TWO types of business plan...
Your Business Plan
The most common use of the term 'Business Plan' refers to the document that you should create when you first start your business. It's like a master document which contains all your key business research, goals and strategies. The exact information that you'll include will differ depending on your business, but here are a few sections that you would expect to find:
Your Marketing Plan
Here is where you'll get down to the nitty gritty.
Those high level business goals that you put in your Business Plan? This is where you'll break those down and create strategies AND schedules to achieve them.
Your Marketing Plan is what will give your working day focus and direction.
It will stop you from feeling completely overwhelmed and get you feeling organised and confident again.
Most people plan a year in advance, setting annual goals and projects.
Personally, I prefer to plan quarterly. I started doing this after reading Brian P Moran's amazing book, The 12 Week Year (if you haven't read it - you SHOULD! That's an affiliate link by the way, so I'll get a commission if you order using this link). Now I only ever plan 12 weeks ahead and it keeps me so much more focused and aligned with my business mission.
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Foundation Three: Product
Did you know that if you're not making sales, 9 times out of 10, it's got something to do with your product or service?
If you're not selling something that your ideal clients want or need then they're not going to buy it.
And even if you ARE selling something they want or need, they're still not going to buy it unless you can effectively communicate its value to them.
Last year, I invested in James Wedmore's program, Business By Design and in it, he says something which has really stuck with me. It's something I hadn't considered before.
He talks about the importance of making sure that your product or service is worth TEN TIMES the price you're selling it for and he offers a very convincing reason why...
Imagine that you're walking down the street and someone offers you a £20 note in exchange for... another £20 note. Now, you might think it was a bit odd, but if you had the money on you then you'd probably go along...
BUT if you didn't have a £20 note on you - would you go to the trouble of going to the cash point and getting some out just so that you could swap it for the exact same amount?
However, if that same person offered you £100 in exchange for your £20 then you'd be skipping to that cash point with glee!
The same applies when you're selling your own products. If you're positioning them as being of the same value as the price you're selling them for then frankly, it's not that tempting... BUT if you're communicating the value as FAR MORE than the price, then it's a no brainer for your customers to get out their money.
If you have the right product or service, then selling it is easy. If you don't then it can be almost impossible.
How Can You Tell if You Have the Right Product or Service?
You ask! Seriously - if you haven't done this, then PLEASE DO IT.
You know what assuming did....
Do a survey
Get on the phone with your ideal clients
Post a poll on social media...
Foundation Four: Productivity
If you've ever worked in corporate - or for any business other than your own, then chances are there were several departments. In my case, I worked for a global FTSE 30 company and there were literally HUNDREDS of them!
Because running a business takes a lot of different skills and a lot of different roles.
Sales, Marketing, Finance, Technology, Administration, HR... the list goes on...
When you're in the early days of running your own business, then more than likely, it's JUST YOU. All those roles are still needed - but you have to do them all.
You might still have an ACTUAL 9-5 to fit in too.
And your kids...and your chores...plus staying fit....
You get my drift!
Trying to fit everything in can feel like an impossible task and often gets completely overwhelming really quickly.
What doesn't help is that even when we do get time to do some work on our business, we spend the first 30 minutes scrolling through Facebook...
Then we suddenly remember we haven't put the washing on yet...
Then, as we're writing out this week's blog post, we have a great idea for a potential course we could create and end up spending the rest of the time researching that...
I'm confident you know what I'm talking about - we've all been there!
I want to tell you something that it's taken me nearly 2 years to really get: Building a business doesn't need to be complicated. In fact, I now believe that the simpler you keep things, the faster you'll progress and the more success you'll have.
So, if you can find a way to use your work time productively AND to keep your strategies simple, then that's a game changer my friend. (Oh, and *hint* productivity is a LOT down to planning so if you haven't read through Foundation Two yet then go take another look...
Foundation Five: Positive Mindset
I've left the best for last.
When I started my business, I always rolled my eyes a bit when I heard the word 'mindset' being bandied around in the various business groups and memberships I'm in.
It wasn't a word that formed part of my corporate world and frankly, I thought it was all a bit silly.
Then I realised how different it is to run your own business than to work in someone else's. I discovered that half the battle (actually scratch that - ALL the battle) is mastering your beliefs and your emotions. Sooooo many emotions....
We tell ourselves stories about who we are and what it's like to run a profitable business. We tell ourselves stories about money - and how much of it we deserve or are able to earn.
We experience moments of jubilation and others of complete despair.
We're surrounded by other business owners who appear to have it all together and to be so much better, so much more accomplished than we are.
We're bombarded with information. Voices telling us what we should be doing and how we should be working.
It's amazing we're not all completely crazy!
But, here's the thing.... If you want a successful - a PROFITABLE business, you can't ignore the mindset work. And if you don't like the word 'mindset' (I have to admit, I still don't!) then call it something else - but make sure it's on your radar.
Recognise where you need help - we all have our own different issues, and then get it.
Purpose, planning, product, productivity and positive mindset. These are the foundations on which your profitable business must be built. If any are lacking then you and your business will struggle. If all are strong then your growth and profit will be too.
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