Do you buy business advice but struggle to turn that expenditure into a benefit for your business?
You may be a business advice junkie so take a look at my article Are You A Business Advice Junkie? where I look at the different responses that business owners and managers have to business advice.
While I make my living providing business advice I need to believe that my clients and readers of this blog are getting value for money from what they spend.
It is so easy
It is so easy to become a business advice junkie.
To keep looking for the next bit of advice that could make all the difference to your business without properly implementing the last bit of advice.
The sales copy is always so convincing.
The promised gains look so easy.
Big rewards are just over the horizon.
You just need to buy this next book, this next program or subscribe to another session of coaching calls and then the money starts rolling in.
I am speaking from experience here.
I understand about being a business advice junkie because it's a tendency that I have.
I can try to legitimise the way that I devour books and business courses as part of my research into developing the best business coaching program for my clients.
I can try to say that I am doing it as part of my plan for the Business Coaching Blog but I know that I read things, like them but don't do anything with my new knowledge.
I am looking to change.
But it isn't so easy.
I believe in learning.
I believe in taking time to think and plan.
But I know that success comes from taking purposeful action.
And unfortunately some people have a problem moving from learning to planning and then from planning to taking action.
What causes someone to become a business advice junkie? And how do you go Cold Turkey?
[Do you remember the horrific John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band song called Cold Turkey with the screams as someone struggle to break their heroin addiction. Fortunately curing a business advice junkie isn't nearly as bad.]
Unclear Vision Of Your Future Business
Do you have a crystal clear vision of where your business is heading in the next year or three years?
Are you clear on who your target customers are, what they want, what you are going to provide that meets there needs and how you are going to stand out from all the other people who are trying to tempt your prospective customers into spending money?
There is an old saying:
"If you don't know where you are going, any road Will do?"
If you are not clear on what it is that you want to achieve, then you haven't decided what you are not trying to achieve.
That means that you can see all kinds of different opportunities, each with their own challenges.
But which should you follow?
What do you need to know to succeed?
Do you already have expertise in those areas or do you need to learn?
Is it something that you really care about and commit to?
Which opportunity gives you the best chance of success?
The dangers of being an opportunity seeker rather than having a clear direction and strategy are very well covered by Rich Schefren in the Internet Business Manifesto (just click on the affiliate link for a free copy).
It seems that this is a particular problem for Internet entrepreneurs who can't find their niche and instead, are lulled into too many "get rich quick" schemes that are expertly marketed.
If you are unclear about where you want to take your business then this is your first task, to find your passion.
Take a look at my Ways To Improve Your Business in 2008 Part 1 as it will help you find your direction.
Leveraging Strengths Or Improving Weaknesses
This is an interesting area, especially for small business owners who don't want to spend money to pay someone else to do tasks that they think they should be able to do.
If you need a direct mail letter should you
a) just write a letter and send it out,
b) learn about copywriting by reading at least one book or doing a course
c) hiring a professional copywriter?
Each is tempting but each has its disadvantages:
a) the letter may perform badly so you waste your money and the time it takes to send out enough letters to be sure that it is the letter and not the sample of prospective customers you sent it to. A response rate of 1 or 2% is often considered good so it may take 500 or 1,000 letters before you can gain sufficient evidence that the letter isn't going to do the business.
b) it will take time to find the best copywriting book, to get it delivered and then to read it. For the business advice junkie, the danger is that you then become intrigued by the art of copywriting and want to learn more, so you buy another book.
c) how do you know that you are hiring a good copywriter and how can you assess whether their work is up to standard. This is a topic addressed in Killer Copy & Ruthless Hitmen.
In practice there is a balancing act between doing high value work yourself, doing low value work yourself and subcontracting work to other people.
But I am jumping ahead of myself.
After you have found your long term vision you need to identify what is required to achieve that vision.
Identifying Your Critical Success Factors
This is a technique that I really like but it's the first time that I have covered it in a blog posting.
Critical success factors are the few key areas (usually around about seven) that individually it is necessary to do each well to succeed but together they are sufficient to deliver success for your business.
By identifying your critical success factors you will have found your unique formula for success.
My eight pillars of business prosperity give you a guide but it is my generic coaching system that has been designed to move any business towards success but you can do better by making the issues much more specific to your type of business.
Some of my eight pillars are not going to apply to your business, or at least not in the same importance while there may be compliance issues that require to be included because failure can have your business shutdown immediately.
Just try identifying your critical success factors with a pen and a piece of paper.
Ask yourself "what things must I/we do well that are individually necessary but together sufficient for the business to be successful?"
I find it useful to start each sentence with "We must..." or "I must..."
If you have done it then congratulations. You have now found your formula for success.
These are your most important areas that you need to focus your attention on. Everything else by definition is less important because you have identified the critical things.
Measures & Targets
Now that you know your critical success factors, you have to decide how you are going to measure performance.
You have said that good performance is essential for your business success but how are you performing?
Take each critical success factor (CSF) and define at least one measure.
For example you may own a health club and two of your key success factors could be:
- We must attract new members to join the club.
- We must have a high number of renewals from existing members.
To be profitable you need a certain number of members and, the more members who keep renewing their subscription, then the more your recruitment campaigns for new members increase your profits.
So you may decide that for renewals, you will set a measure of "% of members renewing their membership" and you could monitor it each month against a target of 80%.
Identifying Your Critical Activities
If you look at your critical success factors, you will probably see that you have written them in a way that means that you can't work on them directly.
For example you may have written:
"We must be on the first page of Google for ..."
This isn't something that you can work on directly unless you are prepared to pay for placement so the next step is to identify your critical activities.
In this case it will be based around the search engine optimisation techniques so you are now able to identify activities that underpin your critical success factors and make an assessment of your skill level on those activities.
Using the Google example, are you already skilled at search engine optimisation, do you want to learn and are you prepared to commit to developing a good skill level or should you find someone else.
You have already identified your Google placement as a critical success factor - i.e something that must be done for your business to succeed so it is a simple choice - you develop your skills or you pay someone else to use their existing skills.
You can then go through each critical success facto pr and do the same. Identify the critical activities first and then look at the skills required.
Work out which you will do and which someone else should do.
Now take a look at your list.
How does it split between existing strong skill areas and areas for development?
Because these areas are CRITICAL, you don't have time to waste. They have to be done right and they have to be done quickly.
Revise your list and identify your top 3 development areas and look to find alternative arrangements for the others. Yes you may still want to develop your skills in these other areas but you are making the decision to concentrate on just three areas.
When you have mastered one and put what you have learnt into practice (remember these are critical to your success and you are monitoring your performance) you can now move on to the next.
Your Non Critical Activities
Look at what you have committed to doing.
- You are using existing strong areas to improve critical activities.
- You have limited your development areas to just three issues that are again critical to your success.
- You have outsourced or delegated your other critical activities.
So how does your time commitment measure up?
If you are already over-committed you will need to look at losing some work.
We are trying to stop you being a business advice junkie so we need to move you from learning to action. That means taking away the excuses.
If you don't have time to act on what you have learnt, you don't have time to learn it in the first place and you are better advised to lose one of the development areas.
You also have to recognise that you will have to delegate all the non-critical activities.
The critical success factor analysis has identified the really important things in your business but there will be many other things that need to be done for the business to run smoothly but don't really contribute to your overall success.
These are your non-critical activities and you need to take a very hard approach about which you do and which you delegate to someone else. I am a big believer in virtual assistants for anyone who struggles with the administration of their business.
Focusing On Your Strengths
We each have strengths and weaknesses.
The danger is that the business advice junkie focuses on improving weaknesses (when any tasks can be outsourced) rather than leveraging strengths.
In training sessions I have used the analogy of a group of Olympic athletes.
I'd like you to think of four different types of male athletes and their body types:
- A 100 metres sprinter - usually very muscular but the emphasis is on speed and explosive power.
- A high jumper - very tall, slim and flexible.
- A shot putter - big, heavy and very strong.
- A long distance runner - very slim with great stamina.
If each concentrates on the requirements for their own sports and plays to their strengths, they can expect to improve but a high jump specialist won't be able to putt the shot far while a shot putter has totally the wrong body type to try the high jump.
There is a middle ground. In the Olympics, it's an event called the Decathlon and competitors have to do all the above events and six more. But even the gold medal winner will not be up to the standard of the specialists in each event.
Are you playing to your strengths or are you weakening the strengths by trying to compensate for your weaknesses?
Do you even know where your strengths lie? Rich Schefren in association with the people at Kolbe have developed the Strengths Mastery Advantage (affiliate link).
It costs a bit to do the exercise but isn't it worth taking an independent assessment rather than keeping trying to do the wrongs things?
The secret of going cold turkey to cure a business advice addiction is one of clarity and focus.
Know where you want to go and focus on the important priorities that will take you there.
Then look closely at your skills against what is needed.
Your critical success factors require that you bring high levels of skill to bear and that means outsourcing when necessary and limiting your learning.
The good news is that you will start seeing the benefit of this approach and that will help to reinforce it.
What If You Can't Break The Addiction?
If you still have an insatiable desire to learn although you are trying to keep it in check then it is important that you get help controlling the excesses of your addiction.
You need to find high quality information that you can learn from without consuming too much of your time and distracting you from purposeful action.
The best training I've seen is available within the ProfitableGrowthStrategies.com membership website. You can take a look at it and make your own mind up in the 30 day trial which is a bargain at $1 - see the Profitable Growth Strategies Guided Tour for more details.