Business is a highly competitive landscape, so prepare for war. Whether you are just starting out or you’ve been in business for so many years; the competition is always there!
Competitive warfare is good for business; they help kick out the lazy entrepreneurs from the scene which ultimately improves the industry. The presence of competitions in any industry is an indication that the market is profitable.
So if you are one of those lazy entrepreneurs who are constantly trying to create or discover a business idea with zero competition, congratulations, you’ve just found one sure way to kill your business from the beginning.
Instead, the right mindset you should have about competitions is to equip yourself and business for competitive warfare. On the battle field, its kill or be killed, there’s no room for second chances. The same is true of business – its warfare!
So stop looking for that Holy Grail business idea that you can monopolize and focus instead on creating a superior value offering that can give you a competitive advantage. The goal of entrepreneurship is not to avoid competition; the goal is to beat the competition. And to do that, you need to prepare for competitive warfare.
3 Battle-tested Strategies for Competitive Warfare
This unusual article is going to help you identify practical battle-tested strategies that you can adopt for competitive warfare. You will learn how to thrive in the midst of competitions.
If you are ready, let’s dig in!
1. Be OFFENSIVE Rather than DEFENSIVE
Your first battle-tested competitive warfare strategy is a never ending strategic offense. This is the best form of defense against the competitions. Staying on the fence and watching the whole game being played around your industry is going to get you killed faster than when you are the one dictating the game.
If you didn’t get into the game of business to influence how it’s being played in your chosen industry, then why bother being in the game at all?
Unusual entrepreneurs don’t sit back and watch while others play the game, hell no! They re-invent the game, re-define the playbook and raise the bar of the game to a whole new level. This is what it means to be an entrepreneur – to change the game!
You can’t afford to be on the reactive side of the game, waiting to defend all the bullets that are being fired at you, no way. Your role as an unusual entrepreneur who got in the game is to be the one firing the bullets that is going to change the whole industry.
You are to take the fight to them while they are still wallowing in their old ways of doing business as usual. Remember, you are not the status quo entrepreneur who always wants to keep things the way they have always been. You are a game changer, a fire starter!
You are in that line of business to make a difference. You are in that industry to revolutionize it. You are the voice of the customer, a solution provider to the problems they face. You are the underdog strategically positioned to topple the existing traditional industry gatekeepers.
So constantly be on the offensive; always be attacking. The following competitive warfare strategies are guaranteed ways of consistently being on the offensive rather than defensive.
Never stop innovating. When last did you come up with something new in your business? Your company’s capacity to consistently create industry breaking trends insulates it from the competition.
With every innovative product or service you consistently come up with, you are keeping the competitions further and further away from you. So don’t ever settle; the way to win is to stay ahead of the competition always and not behind!
All products are in demand. If they are not buying from you, then they are buying from the competitions and that’s because you lack marketing. Marketing is an opportunity to fight for the customer’s money. If you don’t show up, you don’t have a chance to get the customers money, period.
Showing up increases your odds of being the preferred option among the different alternatives competing for the customer’s money. The more you show up the more you increase your odds of being chosen. It’s all about odds. Only those who show up have a fighting chance to win the customer’s money.
But don’t just show up for showing up sake; you have to make sure when you are showing up you are making a good impression that can differentiate you from the competitions, spark up interest and lead to sales.
Continuous Learning and Development
Ideas are the weapons of competitive warfare and the business with the best executed ideas wins. Continuous learning and development is how you equip yourself with more practical ideas to consistently launch an offensive rather than being defensive.
When you lack ideas, you will always be on the defensive when the competitions come fighting. So step up your learning curve because any knowledge gained is an additional weapon in your competitive arsenal.
2. STAND for SOMETHING
Your second battle-tested competitive warfare strategy is to stand for something. The world makes a way for the man and woman who clearly know where they are going. Clarity about who you are, why you exist and where you are taking your business are the keys to winning the competitions.
You don’t want to be caught up in the fog of ambiguity. You shouldn’t ever try to be like everyone else in your industry. That’s one sure way to get lost in the marketplace. Customers don’t give a damn about another new “me too” or “wannabe” business that just opened up.
If you want the market to clearly pick you out amidst the marketing noise out there in your industry and from all the existing competitions, then you’ve got to clearly stand for something. Don’t fall victim of joining in their ongoing fight, create and define your own battle.
Don’t run after the same target customers they pursue, create and define your own niche market. Your objective as an unusual entrepreneur in a crowded industry is not to become another crowd member, but to become the king of your niche.
This is exactly what Microsoft did when they got into the computer business by creating the software that invented the personal computer product category. Apple followed suit by differentiating themselves as the PC for the crazy ones, the unusual ones on a mission to change the world.
Define your market and lead them through the revolutionary products and services you create. No matter how big or alluring the existing market is, your task as an unusual entrepreneur is to create and define your own path to the market not following the existing ones.
When they know what you stand for and that its significantly different [unique] and making a difference [useful] from what all others are offering; then you can stop worrying about the competitions.
3. Build a TRIBAL TEAM
Your third battle-tested competitive warfare strategy is to build a tribal team. Business is a highly competitive terrain and to win the war against your competitions, you need an army. Your odd of not being defeated in the battlefield is highly dependent on the quality of your army and their commitment to the mission.
In business your army is your people, your team. They make or break your company. As a matter of fact, your team is one of your greatest competitive advantages in business. So prioritizing the caliber of people that you let in on board is one of your fundamental assignments as an unusual entrepreneur.
Since you are not the average company who do business as usual [doing average things]; you will need more than an average team to work with, you need a tribal team.
A tribal team is a group of like-minded exceptional individuals bound by shared values working together to achieve a shared vision much greater than their individual interests for the collective good of the company, their customers and the world at large.
My favorite definition of a tribal team comes from marketing guru and author Seth Godin:
“A tribe is a group of people connected to one another, connected to a leader, and connected to an idea.”
They are the business equivalents of US Navy SEALS – specially selected, rigorously trained, tenaciously disciplined and passionately committed to the tribe and the mission. These qualities set them apart from your everyday army.
To create such a tribal team, you need to pay attention to the following;
You don’t recruit just anybody; you recruit ONLY exceptional individuals – people who clearly stand out in their respective fields.
“In times of war or uncertainty there is a special breed of warrior ready to answer our Nation’s call. A common man with uncommon desire to succeed. Forged by adversity, he stands alongside America’s finest special operations forces to serve his country, the American people, and protect their way of life. I am that man!” – US Navy Seals
Values define the character of the team, the more aligned the better. You don’t want a team with conflicting values – that’s the perfect recipe for disaster!
“Uncompromising integrity is my standard. My character and honor are steadfast. My word is my bond.” – US Navy Seals
That they are exceptional individuals doesn’t mean they have all it takes; you still need to thoroughly drill them to keep bringing out the best in them.
“The lives of my teammates and the success of our mission depend on me – my technical skill, tactical proficiency, and attention to detail. My training is never complete. We train for war and fight to win.” – US Navy Seals
Without a disciplined team who constantly has their eyes on the mission; your business can quickly turn into a gamble – trial and error. You need people who have the staying power to follow one course until they succeed.
“We demand discipline. The ability to control my emotions and my actions, regardless of circumstance, sets me apart from other men.” – US Navy Seals
The worse people to have on your team are those who are in it only for the ride – they fizzle out when the going gets tough. You need not only starters, but also finishers.
“If knocked down, I will get back up, every time. I will draw on every remaining ounce of strength to protect my teammates and to accomplish our mission. I am never out of the fight!”
– US Navy Seals
In the heat of the battle, you may not always be around – you need people who can also take on the heat and do what is expected with or without your presence.
“We expect to lead and be led. In the absence of orders I will take charge, lead my teammates and accomplish the mission. I lead by example in all situations.” – US Navy Seals
The 3 battle-tested strategies listed above are your weapons for competitive warfare. So stop being afraid of competitions, instead, equip yourself for war!
This is a guest post from Colette Cassidy, the Director of an Irish tax consultancy company named All Finance Tax, specialists in financial and taxation advice.
For many people, the thoughts of working in a functional 9-to-5 job simply to pay the bills and fund a living can be demeaning and dull, so they might well decide to follow their passion and form their own company.
Entrepreneurship is very common, with as many as 1 in 5 adults choosing to go down this route, and can be extremely rewarding, but it is also fraught with pitfalls and requires vast amounts of dedication and self-confidence.
Irish finance and taxation specialists All Finance Tax (www.allfinancetax.com) created this infographic which sums up really succinctly the main things that anybody needs to know before they consider setting up a business.
For every successful business venture, there are many more which fail all too quickly, and the main reasons for business failure are pinpointed below. It also identifies the main characteristics of a successful entrepreneur, a thorough checklist for setting up a business, and the contents of the all-important business plan.
Anybody seeking to start their own business should be expecting to thrive rather than merely survive, but if you go into the enterprise game unprepared, even survival will be very difficult.
The points contained in the below infographic are simply the starting point for an entrepreneur to know what to avoid, what is the least they need to do, and indeed whether or not they have the personality traits necessary to succeed in business.
Welcome to 2016!
To grow your business this year, for many it’s not going to be any different from 2015.
But for a few, it is going to be the greatest year of their lives yet.
None of these two outcomes are automatic; they both require your permission to come to pass.
To have the same kind of year as you did last year depends on you. To have a different year than you did last year, also depends on you.
Fortunately, this unusual article is for the entrepreneurs seeking the second outcome; to make this year 2016 the greatest year of their life yet!
5 Killer Activities to Grow your Business this Year
To grow your business this year, you will need to focus on some very fundamental activities that produce killer results. I have always believed in fundamentals, they are the unchanging elements of getting anything worthwhile done.
Rather than occupy myself with the latest fad or gimmick or tactic in town, I focus on sharpening the fundamentals. Gimmicks, fads, and tactics will always come and go, but fundamentals remain the same. They are timeless!
So rather than telling you about the popular business gimmick, fad or tactic in town, I’m going to draw your attention back to the fundamentals that you’ve been ignoring. These fundamentals are not going to be ideologies that you are going to passively learn and forget soon, these are going to be activities.
They are actions you must continually take throughout the course of this year in your business. They are practical actions you have heard of in the past but not actively doing.
I call them killer activities because of their dual impact on any business.
1). They are killer activities because failure to continually do them and do them well is what will KILL your business. That’s a guarantee!
2). They are killer activities because continually doing them and doing them well is what will GROW your business. Again, that’s a guarantee!
In other words, their impact on any business is powerful. It can kill and it can transform. They are unavoidable. Period.
Here they are;
This is one of the greatest fundamentals of growing your business this year or any other year ever. It’s a do or die fundamental activity of any business.
Let me repeat myself; to grow your business this year, this is a DO or DIE fundamental activity!
There’s no substitute to marketing. I have witnessed this fundamental activity over and over again in my business that I can boldly say this; without it, your business is a living corpse. It’s just a matter of time, it will eventually die!
There’s never enough marketing. So if you aren’t doing it at all, then you are simply digging your own grave. Those who do it are working towards doing more of it because they have experienced the killer results it brings.
So what is Marketing fundamentally?
Every activity that involves reaching out to both your existing and potential customers in order to add value.
Here are the keywords to bear in mind;
- Activity: it’s an action. Meaning, if you don’t do it, it doesn’t get done.
- Reaching out: it’s always about others. Meaning, you do it in order to connect, engage and communicate with others. It’s not done in isolation.
- Existing and Potential Customers: it’s for both kind of customers. Your old ones and the new ones you are pursuing. It’s not one sided. Both deserve to be reached out to continually.
- Add Value: it’s about helping the customers. Any marketing that isn’t focused on helping the customer is a failed strategy. It won’t last. You reach out in order to help them solve a problem or achieve a result they can’t do on their own.
Now that we have covered the fundamentals, to get started, you need to have the 3M’s of marketing;
- The Message
- The Messenger
- The Medium
To grow your business this year or any other year ever, will require the collective efforts of several skilled and passionate people other than yourself.
The growth potentials of your business is directly dependent on the collective potentials of the people working on it. By taking on two additional vision partners last year, my business exponentially grew. We broke through the limitations placed on our revenues!
The saying that; “together efforts achieves more” is no cliche. It’s a fact!
Don’t think you will earn less by bringing on other smart people to join you. The ironic truth is that you will actually make more money than you ever did alone. But this doesn’t happen automatically, you do need to get the right people on board to make it so.
I have witnessed on several occasions people whose business crumbled when they got in others. It’s all a question of getting the right people on board. To know the right people, read this unusual article on team building.
So what is Team Building fundamentally?
Bringing in on board other smart people to complement you with other skills critical to the business’s growth.
Here are the keywords to bear in mind;
- Other smart people: don’t bring on board a fool. Don’t bring on board someone you are smarter than in all areas. They must be competently skilled with one or more skills the business needs but you don’t have. Don’t bring on board your jobless brother or sister or cousin or nephew just to help them.
- Complement: this is the objective; someone to complete you in the areas where you are weak. I tell my vision partners, that I don’t expect anything less than 110% from them because I know I brought them in to enable me focus on my strength 110%. In return, I expect them to focus only on their strengths too. That way everybody performs at their best and not averagely.
- Other skills critical to the business’s growth: for growing businesses, don’t bring in two of the same skills at first. Duplication of functions early will allow other areas to suffer. So highlight the key skills the business needs to grow and first fill all with at least one very smart person that will serve as the leader of that function.
Once every team member complements one another with the critical skills for the business, the next phase is to duplicate yourselves with new subordinates. This time around, you are not just getting them for their skills, you also want to show them how the business works in relation to their skills.
The function of the first team members is to help create a system of how that function will be performed going forward in the business. That’s why you really need a very smart person for this first role. Not just anyone with the lacking skill set.
The best mouse trap will soon become the obsolete mouse trap if there’s no improvement. I’m often amazed when I see entrepreneurs with mediocre products/services complain of slow business.
For crying out loud, who wants to pay for trash!
If you must go into business, unless you are the first in that line of business, the least product/service you can start with must be at par with the existing competitions. And that is already a wrong position to start with.
So when I see entrepreneurs with even less quality products in the market I just wonder how they ever think they will succeed by being less.
To grow your business this year, you have to continually step up your products/services by adding more layers of improvement that adds more value to your customers.
Don’t think you can keep selling trash and hope to grow. Your customers will only keep tolerating you until a superior offering shows up. This is one of the crucial reasons why team building was discussed above.
Without good heads in your business, how then will you create products/services better than the competitions?
Only the best brains can create the next market wave. If you doubt me, go and ask Apple, Google, Facebook and all these technology pioneers. You can’t create tomorrow by hiring people from the past!
You need forward thinking people who will help you create innovative solutions that addresses the problems your target customers have and are dying to solve.
Don’t settle for average. Always be in the forefront of the market with new and improved versions of your existing products/services. The company with the latest improvements becomes the center of attraction in the market.
That’s how you maintain market relevance; by continually reinventing your products/services and introducing new ones.
To grow your business this year, your team members and including yourself must never cease to learn. Growing a business is not a static function or activity. Business is a fluid terrain; it is constantly ever changing, so you need to be at the top of your game.
Capacity development is all about sharpening your skills and that of your team members. Knowledge is the ingredient used to think up new products/services. If you are still using only what you learnt 5 years ago to run your business, then I am not surprised why it is struggling.
Investing on trainings and other information products like books, seminars, CDs, etc. is how you stay at the top of your game. When something new pops up in your area of competence, no one other than yourself should be the first to know about it.
Your mind and that of your people is the greatest asset of your business. You need to keep sharpening it. Don’t depend on old skills to compete in an ever changing business terrain. Keep on learning!
So what is Capacity Development fundamentally?
It is the conscious effort to continually increase a business’s ability to do more through reading, training and knowledge sharing.
Here are the keywords to bear in mind;
- Conscious Effort: just like every other killer activities discussed above, capacity development is not automatic. It won’t be done until you do it.
- Continually Increase: it’s a never ending process. It doesn’t end. So don’t be tired of reading, attending seminars, trainings or sharing what you know with your team.
- Business’s Ability to Do More: capacity is your ability to do something. So if you know one thing for instance, you have the ability to do one thing. The moment you know two things more, you just increased your ability to do more than one thing, now you can do 3 things. So if your capacity development is not translating to increasing your business’s ability to do more, it’s not effective. The result of knowledge is improved action, decisions and thinking.
- Reading, Training and Knowledge Sharing: these are the 3 fundamental ways of capacity development. Knowledge sharing can be in the form of mentoring and coaching.
Successful businesses are built on systems and systems are run by people.
There’s no growth without stability. To grow, your business must be able to function without chaos. This is why you need systems to create some level of stability and structure in your business.
I have come in contact with several entrepreneurs who rely on chance to run their business. And yet they wonder why they experience stagnation. Growth doesn’t thrive on chance, it thrives on stability and structure.
So if you want to grow your business this year, you have to focus on creating some form of stability and structure. This can only be done through systems development.
So what is Systems Development fundamentally?
This is the deliberate organization of several repeated activities in your business into structured processes that can be easily documented and duplicated.
Here are the keywords to bear in mind;
- Deliberate Organization: chaos is the opposite of organization. To create systems you need to be organized and this takes deliberate efforts. It won’t happen automatically. If you can’t do it, get someone who can.
- Several Repeated Activities: running a business is all about carrying out several activities daily either by you or other members of your team. Soon, you will realize these activities are often repeated. By grouping several repeated activities is how you create a system.For instance, the several repeated activities that you undertake to create a product/service can be grouped into the production system. The way you handle customer complains can be grouped into the customer care system.
- Structured Processes: a process is a guide to do things or a way of doing things. The grouped repeated activities are outlined into step-by-step processes in their order of implementation. Without these structured processes of carrying out these several activities, there is no system yet.
- Easily Documented and Duplicated: this is the ultimate objective of systems development in your business, to have it written down and passed on so anyone with the required skill set can perform that function easily. Having it documented enables you to save time when another person is coming on board to do the work. It also enables you find loopholes in the entire process and think up better ways to achieve the same results with less activities involved.
This year can be a whole lot better for your business if you simply focus on doing these 5 killer activities. You won’t gain mastery doing them this year alone, as you progress in your business you will need to be upgrading your knowledge and skills in these 5 fundamentals of business growth.
My goal with this unusual article was to help you focus on the few things that matters so that you can take actions without much confusion. Don’t do too many things this year, just do these 5 killer activities very diligently and you will sing a different song come December 2016!
The importance of marketing is not alien to an entrepreneur. You already know without being told that marketing is how you get your products/services sold.
So this unusual article is not about marketing, it’s about why your marketing isn’t working. It’s about your conversion strategy, the critical missing link in your marketing arsenal. It’s about fixing your marketing strategy so that it can begin to work as it’s supposed to – bring in sales!
The Critical Missing Link in Your Marketing Arsenal
If you’ve been in business for about 3-5 years, I’m sure you would be familiar with what I am about to say next.
That you have some form of marketing system in place isn’t a guarantee that you will always make the sale.
That you are running an ad, either online or offline doesn’t mean anyone who comes in contact with the ad will eventually buy.
That you have a team of salespeople making presentations daily to your target customers doesn’t guarantee instant sales.
The greatest deception that can ever happen to an entrepreneur is thinking or believing that sales can be made in an instant. Now, don’t get me wrong, as you know, there’s always an exception to every rule; both in life and in business.
So for this rule, let me quickly mention the exception. The only time sales is made in an instant is when you are selling a commodity. A commodity is a product/service that is as generic as sand and as common as air. In other words, there’s nothing really special or unique about the product/service. Such a product/service is not a brand and will ultimately be left to the mercy of price.
But if there’s any drop of uniqueness, difference or novelty about your product/service, then it has the potential of becoming a brand and you shouldn’t expect an instant sales from your marketing efforts.
Because of the buying decision making process.
Between the first time a potential customer comes in contact with your product/service and the time they eventually buy, there’s a big gap. That gap is the buying decision making process and it needs to be deliberately guided.
This is why you need a conversion strategy.
What’s Your Conversion Strategy?
The job of marketing is to create an attention or awareness for your products/services. This is what I refer to as the first encounter with your brand. Before anyone will buy a product/service, they must first know that such a product/service exists. It is the job of marketing to make sure that they do.
And there are different ways of making this happen;
- Advertisement: TV, Radio, Billboard, Online, Print, etc.
- Word-of-Mouth: recommendation from family and friends, colleagues, etc.
- Direct Marketing: one-on-one sales, telemarketing, SMS, email marketing, etc.
- Retail Marketing: sales outlets, exhibitions, trade shows, shelf space branding, product packaging, etc.
All of these and many more are the several ways of creating that first initial exposure for your product/service with the intended target market. Expecting to make the sale on this first encounter with your brand is why so many marketing efforts fail.
This doesn’t also mean that you cannot get lucky and make the sale on first contact, you can. But don’t always bet on it. Erroneously accepting this notion of making the sale on first contact as the norm is like expecting to take your date to bed on your first date.
While this may happen for some, it’s not the rule, but an exception and one that is completely subject to chance. And you shouldn’t leave your marketing to chance; this is the essence of a conversion strategy.
Your conversion strategy is how to deliberately initiate, sustain and nurture the fragile relationship your marketing efforts has just helped you create with the potential buyers of your product/service. The most important keyword here is “deliberately”. Your conversion strategy is not automatic, it must be deliberately created.
In popular marketing terms, your conversion strategy is your sales funnel. It’s how you turn a PROSPECT [potential customer] to SALES [customer]. Without it, all your marketing efforts have failed.
In fact, the whole essence of your marketing is to get the attention and interest of your target market in order to initiate, sustain and nurture a relationship with them. Your conversion strategy is how you take the attention and interest your marketing created and turn them into sales.
It’s not sufficient to just capture their attention and interest, a relationship with the potential customer must be initiated, sustained and nurtured. The end goal of this relationship is the eventual sale of your products/services. But if you attempt to force the sale on them on your first encounter, you will most certainly be resented and will ultimately lose the sale.
How to Create a Winning Conversion Strategy
To create a winning conversion strategy, the following essential elements must be put in place;
Establish a Direct Communication Link With Potential Customers
The very first step in creating a winning conversion strategy is to establish a direct communication link with the potential customer. This simply means capturing their contact details. This can vary depending on the product/service involved.
But in most cases, there are generally 3 kinds of contact details you need to establish a direct communication link with the potential customer;
- Phone Number
- Email Address
- Contact Address
Anyone of these 3 or a combination of any two will do. But I must warn you, such details don’t come by easily. Your potential customers will not part with them until they are given a compelling reason to do so.
To get access to their contact details, you have to be willing to give them something valuable in return for free. This is generally known as bait and it can take various forms depending on the product/service and the peculiarities of the target market.
For example, when we ran a cybercafé, we gave out 10 minutes worth of browsing ticket for free to every first time customer in exchange for them to become registered members. Of course, the membership registration was also free and also came with more value added perks, but it required them to drop their contact details.
On this blog, naijapreneur, the bait is the free “The Entrepreneur’s Journey” ebook which I give away in exchange for email addresses of my readers. This is one of the popular baits used online to capture the contact details of potential customers who visit a website.
The list of what you can give away for free in exchange for the contact details of potential customers is endless, you just need a little bit of creativity and ample knowledge of your target customer’s needs and wants.
The bottom-line is to give away something they will value and that is closely related to the products/services you are selling. Examples include;
- Information Products: eBooks, video tutorials, podcasts, online course, newsletter, etc.
- Limited Access: free trial subscriptions, free trial downloads, free trial membership, etc.
- Sample Products: free air time, make up, training, product testing, etc.
- Promo Items: branded souvenirs, etc.
- Free Consultations: coaching session, diagnostics, therapy, etc.
Demonstrate Value Through Periodic Engagement
Now that you have established a direct communication link with your potential customers, your next step in developing a winning conversion strategy is to demonstrate value by engaging with your potential customers periodically.
That you have direct communication link with them is not a license for you to overwhelm them with endless sales letters or promos, no. Remember this is a relationship you are nurturing, so always think win-win and not win-lose. In other words, put the needs of your potential customers first.
Your goal here is to engage with them by demonstrating value. I call this strategy educate and influence. Here is where you demonstrate the superior value of your product/service. Rather than making claims, you simply demonstrate what makes your brand special. You demonstrate your thought leadership [expertise] as a brand.
You can do this through the following;
- Case Studies: share stories on how your product/service is helping other customers
- Articles: offer practical ideas and tips that addresses their major problems
- Testimonials: share what your satisfied customers are saying about your product/service
- Industry News: keep them abreast with relevant industry trends, issues and events
- Market Surveys: engage them with thoughtful questions to help you understand their needs
- Product/Service Updates: educate them on how your products/services can solve their problems
All these will keep your brand top on their mind without abusing the privilege of engaging with them. Over time, their perception of your brand will increase as you continuously engage with them by demonstrating value.
Make an Irresistible Offer
As you nurture a win-win relationship with them through value adding periodic engagements, they would have been ripe for the sale. Most times, even before you make an offer, they would have started contacting you to buy.
It’s at this point that you can take the relationship further and create an exclusive irresistible offer about your product/service that will benefit them. This is when you out rightly ask for the sale. The benefit of making an irresistible offer is that it helps many who aren’t ready to buy yet, take advantage of the promo offer.
Don’t try to lump all your offers at once, create several offers and introduce it to them periodically.
Every marketing effort starts with the target market and ends with a sale. Your conversion strategy is the journey you take the target customer through from their first contact with your brand till they eventually buy.
The process looks like this;
Target Market -> Prospect -> Customer -> Repeat Customer.
Without a winning conversion strategy, you can lose the potential customer half way before they become customers. This is the reason why most marketing fails, because of the absence of a deliberate conversion strategy to help the target customer through their buying decision making process.
In today’s edition of the Unusual Entrepreneurs Interview, I have on the hot seat a medical Doctor whose passion for palliative care – specialized medical care for people with serious illnesses moved him to embark on the entrepreneur’s journey.
I present to you Dr. Michael D. Fratkin, the founder of ResolutionCare – a community based palliative care startup dedicated to empowering patients, till the very end!
In this unusual entrepreneur interview, Michael shares how he;
- Successfully funded ResolutionCare with an Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign
- Successfully transitioned from a medical doctor to an entrepreneur through the help of strategic consultants who provided the much needed business advisory/support
- Strategically leveraged on trending technologies to create a unique business model
- And many more….
Without further ado, here’s the unusual story of the unusual medical doctor who turned entrepreneur!
Part 1: Michael Fratkin Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
ENTREPRENEURSHIP: Awakening the Spirit of business
Can you please tell us a little about yourself and your business? What do you do?, how do you do it?, why do you do it and who do you do it for?
I am a father, husband, brother and son…and I am also a rural palliative care physician. After years of isolated overwork in the absence of needed support/team and dependence on distressed healthcare system, I launched a startup on the strength of an outpouring of public support in the form of a crowd-funding campaign that raised $150,000.
ResolutionCare is a community based palliative care team caring for people with serious illness in their home with either house calls, or virtual house calls via telemedicine, or both.
Our “why” has something to do with the care of people no longer able to maintain the illusion of their immortality, provided by those of who still can. We now serve our local community in Humboldt County, we are immediately extending access to 14 rural Northern California counties, and we are actively architecting a national scaling effort.
How would you describe your entrepreneurial journey into the world of business? Where there any key incidents or life changing events that inspired your decision to become an entrepreneur?
As a frustrated and nearly burned out physician, long on passion and short on business chops, it has been quite a wild ride! The learning curve has been nearly vertical and dizzying. Our success was due to two things:
- My intuitive understanding of what I do not know and
- A recognition of inspired individuals that do!
Last July, I was waking up my nine year old daughter Bella. As she opened her eyes, she said, “Goodbye Daddy.” Not good morning, not hello. That day I pulled the trigger on this project with the commitment that I am NOT going to be a “Goodbye Daddy” Daddy!
When you started out in business, what specific idea, purpose or vision was your key driving force?
- The mismatch between what people and their families want from healthcare as they approach the completion of their lives and what their experience turns out to be. Solutions from within the distressed institutions invested in the past just ain’t happening. It was necessary to get outside the box and develop a new way to deliver and to pay for compassionate care entirely centered on what the person themselves defines as value.
We are investing in a future of health care that is anchored in quality of life, satisfaction, and the sustainable well-being of dedicated professionals. While we understand that this will save huge amounts of wasted healthcare expenditures for payors, our investment is in raising the bar on the care received by the most vulnerable among us.
- The maturity of cloud-based videoconferencing, the penetration of video-enabled devices, and the tipping point of people getting comfortable with this form of remote communication all combine with an electrified social conversation about the failures of our system to meet the needs of people with serious illness lit the fuse of ResolutionCare.
What is your take on the general notion that entrepreneurs should build a business around what they naturally love to do?
I am not sure I can imagine doing it otherwise. What’s the point?
What is your personal life mission as an entrepreneur? That is; what contributions do you want to make with your life or what would you like to be remembered for as an entrepreneur through the businesses you create when you die?
My personal life mission as an entrepreneur follows my personal life mission as a person…at the end of my life, I hope to feel complete, loved, and cared for. The memory of me is less important than setting into motion a tangible benefit to others….beginning with my family and extending to all of us.
What would you describe as the purpose of entrepreneurship? That is; what role do entrepreneurs play in the world?
I am just a beginner here, but it has something to do with the management of risk to advance innovation in service to some vision of a better world.
Part 2: Michael Fratkin Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
STRATEGY: The unusual execution of business best practices
How do you identify business opportunities and what metrics do you use to measure their viability?
We center our business development in a deep understanding of what’s missing for people with serious illness, then reverse engineer solutions that also solve problems for the many competing stakeholders…payors, provider, referring physicians, health systems, etc… Their interests are all secondary to what’s needed by the people we all serve.
Do you have mentors, business coach or external consultants that you work closely with to grow yourself and your business? If yes, to what extent would you describe their impact on your business? If no, are there any particular reasons?
I am incredibly grateful to consultants supporting crowdfunding, strategic communication, and business strategy. Without their expertise and engagement, I’m just another burned out doctor with a good idea.
How do you strategically use your time as an entrepreneur? What key activities would you recommend entrepreneurs use their time for?
I architect my schedule for sustainability and balance. Little to no work in evenings and weekends…that time belongs to my family and friends. I take Wednesday morning off to hang out with my wife alone while the kids are at school.
I get up at four am to take advantage of a peaceful environment (i.e. sleeping family!) and then I work like crazy all the rest of the time. In order to not let the project gobble up your whole life, you have to grab time away and structures like the above to ensure that the things outside of work that make life worthwhile don’t evaporate.
How do you generate profitable customers for your business? What unusual approaches do you adopt for marketing your products/services?
We both enjoy and suffer from a marketplace where there is at least four times the demand than there is supply. Our marketing is to advance our vision and our field…not to scare up “customers”.
Many entrepreneurs complain about not succeeding in business due to lack of adequate funding, what is your take on this matter and how do you cope with funding issues in your business?
I suspect its not the funding that’s usually lacking, but rather the vision, timing, team, and something absolutely worth doing…the value proposition.
When starting out a new business, who are the likely possible partners or professional service providers you would recommend every entrepreneur work with?
The people you serve or to whom you provide a product. Some people call them “customers”, but I call them partners. Get the help you need from people who “get it”. They have to feel what you feel and at least relate to your passion, if not be infected by it themselves.
The pricing of products/services is always an issue for entrepreneurs, what unusual approach do you take when it comes to pricing?
In the current healthcare financing universe, the revenue for services provided are somewhat standardized. Going forward, we are investing in a future where payment is at least contingent on the value experienced by people who our services are designed for. It is a dynamic conversation in the field of palliative care and policymakers in which ResolutionCare actively participates as an emerging thought leader.
Part 3: Michael Fratkin Unusual Entrepreneur Interview
MISCELLANEOUS: Resourceful Recommendations, tools, books, and ideas for entrepreneurs
Since you became an entrepreneur – someone who solves problems for people profitably; what has been your most outstanding accomplishments in the context of business?
The growing opportunity to be heard as I articulate the heart and soul of medicine with the credibility of building a viable and sustainable model for the compassionate and capable care of everyone everywhere as they face the completion of life.
What would you describe as your major setbacks and what lessons did you pick from them?
The setbacks have all yielded the kind of learning I need. Though painful failures in communication and coordination have had negative consequences, there really is no other way to learn the critical elements of leadership than making mistakes and taking responsibility. This modeling of vulnerability has helped create a safe and collaborative culture that encourages people to share their fumbles as easily as their triumphs.
Where there any particular questions you expected me to ask that is beneficial to entrepreneurs and I didn’t? Kindly share with us such questions and their relevant answers here.
I look forward to a conversation and hope you are intrigued enough to arrange a podcast!
I’m so convinced you had more than you asked for in this interview. But just in case, he missed out something, what more would you like to know about the unusual medical doctor who turned entrepreneur?
You can ask him further questions below in the comment section and I will be sure that you will get an answer directly from him.
Also, what did you learn from this unusual entrepreneur? What lessons, what philosophy of his strike you the most? What strategies did you pick up from him?
Michael has shared his unusual story with you, now is time to hear from you. Can’t wait to hear what you have to say!
Team building is a crucial part of your success story as an entrepreneur. It is so crucial that I have personally coined up two words to better convey the importance of building a team – vision partners.
Team building is about creating vision partners for your business. You see, business is a team’s sport, and only the teams with the best players win!
Very early in my entrepreneurial journey, I learnt this valuable business lesson about team building, thanks to Robert Kiyosaki.
Learning this principle about team building was such a great eye opener for me, it made me arrive at two critical decisions that have served me well as an entrepreneur.
- To never go on this entrepreneurial journey alone.
- To always be on the lookout for the best players to bring onboard.
Many entrepreneurs don’t take this issue of team building very seriously. If they even do, it’s often later in their entrepreneurial journey, rather than early, that they begin to consider this issue seriously.
Here’s the plain truth; all other things you need in your business to make it work can’t work without people. So pushing this issue of team building aside until later in your entrepreneurial journey isn’t quite a smart choice.
Now is the time to begin to prioritize the need to surround yourself and your business with the best available minds, talents and skills you can find. Having them around early will make the difference between success and failure on the long run!
Debunking the #1 Myth of Team Building
Before going ahead to the 5 winning qualities of the right team players, I want to quickly debunk a prevailing myth many entrepreneurs have about team building. What’s this myth?
You Need Money to Hire the Best Teams
This is often the most prevailing reason many entrepreneurs give for not building a team early enough in their entrepreneurial journey. They allow the lack of money to limit their potentials to attract the best team members.
This is one of those entrepreneurial fallacies and myths about team building that needs to be debunked. And I will give you some real life examples to validate this.
Was built by assembling the best online marketing minds Brian Clark met along his entrepreneurial journey. These were people like himself who were also passionate about building a digital media company.
All he had to do to get them onboard was to share the vision of a preferable future if they all decide to work together as a team. At the time of bringing them onboard, he didn’t have any money set aside to pay as salaries for each of them. He only presented the opportunity for collaboration and left the products they would co-create to determine how much financial reward they would all get.
Through this, he was able to get such A-list online entrepreneurs such as Sonia Simone, Chris Garret, Tony Clark, Brian Gardner, Robert Bruce, and others on his team. Every one of these guys had their own businesses and was doing well by themselves. But the opportunity of working together was going to make them become greater than they could have achieved alone.
- Apple Inc.
When Apple was founded by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak, and Ronald Wayne, they didn’t have any salary structures in place to pay for the founding team members they brought onboard. The potentials of the opportunity they were introduced to presented enough motivation that inspired them to get onboard while deferring their financial compensation till later.
If Steve Jobs had let the thought of not having enough money hold him back from reaching out to get the best players onboard, Apple wouldn’t have become the success story it is today. Rather, he allowed the enormity of the opportunity they were all pursuing to determine how much they all stood to gain if they all worked together to make it a success.
Mark Zuckerberg built facebook through his founding team members he assembled on campus. They comprised of his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hughes.
Just imagine how much money he had to pay them to get them onboard early on his entrepreneurial journey?
Again, he only shared the potentials of the opportunity they were going to all pursue together and allowed the product they would co-create determine how much they were each going to get paid when it became a success.
Money is a Factor, But NOT a Limitation of Team Building
It’s a fact you do need to consider the financial reward of each vision partner you want to bring onboard, but it’s not up to you. It’s up to the opportunity!
When starting out, nothing can be more obvious than your inability to pay for the right vision partners. If you had the money to pay them, they wouldn’t qualify as vision partners would they?
So stop trying to magnify your inability to pay, the right vision partners are already aware of this. They aren’t counting on you to pay them what they know you can’t afford when starting out, they are only counting on your leadership.
They realize it’s up to the vision to provide the financial reward that will compensate for their contributions. What they require from you far more than you can ever afford financially is your leadership.
Much more than they believe the vision and want to pursue the opportunity together, they have to believe in your capacity as their leader to help them successfully deliver the vision. Stop focusing on your lack of money to hire the best teams, rather focus on your capacity as an entrepreneurial leader assembling a team of vision partners.
TEAM BUILDING CHECKLIST: 5 Winning Qualities of the Right VISION PARTNERS
Now that we’ve debunked the #1 myth of team building, it’s time to talk about the 5 winning qualities of the right vision partners. These are the checklist I have used to choose my vision partners over my 10 years in business. They have served me well; I hope they do the same for you too!
- They get IT
- They get YOU
- They get ON with it
- They get THERE with you
- They get READY for what’s next
They get IT
The first winning quality of the right vision partners is that ‘they get IT’. What do I mean by ‘they get IT’?
In team building, there are essentially 3 core attributes the right vision partners need to get that qualifies them to come onboard. And this is what I mean by ‘they get IT’; the ‘IT’ here represents these core attributes;
Not everyone can or should qualify to join your team of vision partners, only the right people should make the team. Its more headache trying to change the wrong person into the right person for your team than it is to diligently seek out and enlist the right person.
Remember what you are looking for is a vision partner, so having a shared vision is one of the distinguishing qualities you need to lookout. The right vision partner is someone who also shares the same vision as you the founder of the company.
- He/she must also want to build a business that MATTERS.
- He/she must also seek to change the world and profit from purpose as you.
- He/she must also buy into the purpose, vision and mission of the company.
- He/she must also be passionate about the products/services you are co-creating together.
- He/she must also be passionate about the problems you are in business to solve for your target customers.
The second core attribute they need to get is shared values. It’s difficult to build a team of vision partners with conflicting values. Your values are what dictate your intentions [thoughts], actions [activities] as well as dispositions [behaviours]. They constitute the internal codes that power your external realities.
Team building without shared values is the recipe for disaster. Why? Because you will never be able to align the thoughts, activities and behaviours of your vision partners towards achieving the shared vision of the company.
Shared values are what will determine the culture and personality of the organization. That’s why your team of vision partners must;
- Exemplify similar virtues.
- Possess similar work ethics.
- Passionate about similar ideas.
- Uphold similar principles of life.
- Share similar business philosophy.
The third core attribute your team of vision partners needs to get is complementary skills. The whole essence of team building is to maximize your results by amplifying your efforts. In other words, together efforts achieve more.
So you shouldn’t be on the lookout for a duplicate of yourself but rather you should seek out a complement of yourself. Don’t select someone that has the same skill set just like you, rather select someone that possesses the skill set that you lack.
The goal is to see your business as a big puzzle and your team of vision partners as the different pieces of the puzzle that needs to be fit together to complete the puzzle. So it doesn’t quite pay to have the same skill set onboard as vision partners. You need people with complementary skills.
This is very crucial because as the business grows, each of them will then duplicate themselves by hiring more of their kinds to facilitate that specific operational function.
They get YOU
When it comes to team building, as I have mentioned earlier above, your fundamental role and function on the team is leadership. Your vision partners are counting on your capacity to function as an entrepreneurial leader.
They need your guidance and direction to be able to work together in co-creating the shared vision of the business. So it’s absolutely important they also buy into you as the leader of the business and not just into the vision alone.
This is what I mean by ‘they get YOU’.
- Getting YOU is about your vision partner’s unwavering believe in your capacity and the trust earned from your character as a person.
- Getting YOU is about your vision partner’s mutual understanding of what you are trying to accomplish through the business.
- Getting YOU is about your vision partner’s unwavering commitment to submit to your leadership.
- Getting YOU is about your vision partner’s knowledge of you, admiration for what you are trying to accomplish, and the confidence that you can deliver.
They get ON with it
In team building, the right vision partners are master executors. They are not time wasters or eye-service workers. They are neither slothful nor deceitful. They work without supervision and don’t need to be micro-managed.
This is because they first get IT and then they get YOU, so it’s time to get ON with it. For them, these two winning qualities serve as the basis of their internal motivation to execute persistently. They work because they do what they love and love what they do. For them, work is play!
This is what I mean by ‘they get ON with it’.
So the right vision partner is anyone you’ve carefully observed and repeatedly seen exhibiting the following principles of self mastery;
- Being proactive – taking initiatives without being told
- Beginning with the End in Mind – aligning actions with purpose
- Putting First Things First – working according to priority
They get THERE with you
When it comes to team building, the right vision partners are those who are in it for the long haul. The entrepreneurial journey as I have often said is not a sprint, but a marathon. Building a business that MATTERS takes time.
So you wouldn’t be doing yourself and your business any favour if you surround yourself with short term vision partners. These are the people who are only in it for the immediate gain your business brings. They are always looking for a quick exit strategy; they want to make it big and fast, and then cash out.
The right vision partners don’t just get IT or get YOU or get ON with it; they also want to get THERE with you. For them, the journey is as important as the destination.
This is what I mean by ‘they get THERE with you’.
- Getting THERE with you is about your vision partner’s commitment to the cause/vision/purpose/mission.
- Getting THERE with you is about your vision partner’s willingness to integrate their dreams into yours to make it bigger, better and greater.
- Getting THERE with you is about your vision partner’s capacity to hang on regardless of other tempting opportunities out there within their reach.
They get READY for what’s next
In team building, the right vision partners don’t rest on their laurels. They realize there’s always more out there that needs to be done. So they are never complacent as a result of today’s achievements, no. They are always ever reaching out for what’s next.
“Great enterprises can become insulated by success; accumulated momentum can carry an enterprise forward for a while, even if its leaders make poor decisions or lose discipline. The hubris born of success kicks in when people become arrogant, regarding success virtually as an entitlement and they lose sight of the true underlying factors that created success in the first place. When the rhetoric of success (“We’re successful because we do these specific things”) replaces penetrating understanding and insight (“We’re successful because we understand why we do these specific things and under what conditions they would no longer work”), decline will very likely follow.”
The right vision partners never lose sight of the underlying factors, principles and processes that makes them successful, no. They never relent on their quest to achieve their purpose despite how successful they must have come. They keep on raising the bar!
This is what I mean by ‘they get READY for what’s next’.
- Getting READY for what’s next is about your vision partner’s dedication to their craft.
- Getting READY for what’s next is about your vision partner’s discipline to keep sharpening the saw – improving themselves.
- Getting READY for what’s next is about your vision partner’s capacity to be more and do more than has been done before.
Don’t wait till you are big before you start choosing the right vision partners. Team building is possible for you even as a startup with no money. The potentials of your business idea and the opportunity it presents is enough compensation to get the right team onboard.
And don’t forget to keep in mind these 5 winning qualities of the right vision partners;
- They get IT
- They get YOU
- They get ON with it
- They get THERE with you
- They get READY for what’s next
I am sure there are more to these 5 team building checklists for entrepreneurs; feel free to add your own in the comments. Thanks!