Selling Your Dream

If you’ve been reading our latest posts about the Plan-for-Planning process, you should now have a good business plan to kick off the next phase of your life.  Having done this a few times, I want all newcomers to entrepreneurship to be aware of the impact your new dream will have on your environment, especially those around you.  Read on to learn from my own experiences.

First, enjoy the excitement you have in your business vision.  You should be very passionate about it and eager to get started.  You’ll need every bit of that energy as starting a business isn’t for the weak minded.  It will be one of the largest investments you’ll make in your entrepreneurial journey and you need to take it seriously.  The reason I want you to feel the excitement is that every person you talk to about your business should feel your energy and passion.  I remember a discussion with my plumber when he stopped by to make a few repairs.  He asked what I was doing and I seemed to bubble over in my joy in just talking about the business. He said he could “feel the passion.”  I really hadn’t begun the business yet but the plan was in place and I was obviously ready to start.  That passion is critical at startup.  When it comes to selling your dream, people must believe that you believe in that dream 100%.  If they don’t feel it, they won’t buy it.

After you’re convinced you’ve got the best thing since sliced bread (or a really good business plan), you’re next step is to begin motivating your support team. These are the people around you that will support you physically, spiritually, mentally and any other way you need it.  You will want them to have the same amount of passion as you do, but this is unlikely.  Remember, this is your dream.  When I say YOU, I mean YOU.  No one will have the passion you do for this little idea.  Not even your wife or kids.  I started a business recently and it’s just beginning to take off.  It took a little longer than I expected but it is gaining some serious momentum (more on that later).  Do you think my wife and kids had complete faith in the idea? Not at all.  You see, the world isn’t full of dreamers, like us.  Some people just don’t like to take risks.  They are happy with a paycheck every two weeks.  Well, that’s my family.  I’m the starry eyed dreamer and risk doesn’t bother me at all but my wife saw it as a big risk, at least until contracts started coming in and the business grew.  Success was the proof that it was a good business idea.  Until success came, I had to bear the stress that I was on this journey alone (or so it felt).  Sure, everyone thought it was a good idea but they weren’t ready to jump on the bandwagon with me until it was a certainty.  This behavior by your loved ones isn’t unusual. In fact, it’s normal. My risk-taking is out of the ordinary.  Don’t get me wrong, my friends and family were supportive but they didn’t want to invest any energy into it until there was sufficient evidence of its success.

The hardest audience in selling my dream was my customers.  After all, if your family isn’t “ALL IN” then it’s going to be difficult to convince complete strangers to buy the service.  But, you already know that it will be difficult.  That’s why most people don’t start their own company.  Before I began reaching out to customers with my dream, I tried to create a brand around the service I was offering, which identified three key features that essentially made the question of buying the service all too easy to make.  I was figuratively laying a brick of gold on their desk and saying “this is yours at no cost.”  Strangely, no one touched it.  I was confused.  It’s free money and no one wanted it.  I soon figured out that two things were missing: understanding and trust.  These two factors were intertwined and stopped them from even considering grabbing the brick of gold.  They didn’t know me so they didn’t trust me, even when I cited the specific laws that clearly articulated the legality of their right to the money.  Trust was muddled by their lack of understanding of our service.  I had assumed that many customers understood what we were offering, but they didn’t.  Certainly, not in the detail I know it.  So, I began to work on these.  I got to know my customers better and created documents to explain the whole situation in detail (i.e. the problem and the solution).  Here’s where I ran into another barrier.  My customers didn’t realize it was a problem.  They didn’t even know this option existed.  Again, I put my nose to the grindstone and created more information to help my customers understand, specifically I captured information on how other customers were doing with this service so that they had a reference for the improvements it would make.

Eventually, they understood but the layers of mistrust were still as rigid as ever.  At this point, I thought I had them sold and they would grab that brick of gold off the desk.  But they didn’t.  Something else was holding them back. But what could it be?  The decision is a “no brainer.”  It wasn’t trust or knowledge of the service.  It had to be personal. But, I began to see this from many potential customers.  What personal reason could be stuck in the minds of so many people?  This was very strange to me. How could something so easy be personal?  These questions bounced around in my mind for months.

Then, I began to think about it from their perspective.  If I’m the customer, why wouldn’t I want my service?  There are two circumstances where I might be worried. First, what if I buy the service and it turns out to be a disaster? Second, what if I buy the service and it turns out to be a huge success?  The first question is easy to answer.  The customer wants some assurance that it will work. This is where my references and existing customers come in.  They can connect with potential customers to share their success stories.  The second question is a little harder.  My customer may worry that they will come under scrutiny for NOT hiring our service earlier if it turns out to be really successful.  My customer would never share these thoughts with me as it may make them feel vulnerable.  So, I began to help them see how to create their success story.  When I say “see their story”, I mean I put it in a visual process flow map that shows how we’ll sell the idea up the management chain while providing information that will answer all of their concerns, including why this wasn’t done earlier.  This process of brainstorming all of the possible barriers my customer can face, even the personal ones, has become a big part of my selling process. I include it in documents and presentations that I carefully share with my customers.  I make sure to paint a clear picture of how this decision will impact their reputation or how others see them.

That’s it for now.  Selling the dream once you’ve developed it will be challenging.  You have this great vision in your head that no one else can see and you have to find ways to help them visualize it.  And, of course, you’ll run into numerous barriers to materializing the dream.  Many of these barriers I would have never dreamt of but luckily a continual push has brought them to light.  Once you see the barriers, you have to resolve them.  Your customer’s issues are your issues.  The quicker you solve them, the faster you can get to the sell. Remember, business is always personal.

If you’ve got a story to share, send it to me at info@blitzteamconsulting.com.

THE MBA: USE IT WITH CAUTION

Many professionals engage in this often expensive endeavor to gain business knowledge and skills that will hopefully improve their career mobility, either immediately or in the future.  Once the MBA is obtained, these freshly minted MBAs rush into the world to demonstrate their new found expertise.  The hope is that a clear demonstration of great knowledge will bring forth praise, reward and opportunity.  Here are a few considerations to keep in mind when utilizing your new skills and knowledge in your work place.

I now know what they know.  One common misconception new MBAs adopt is that the knowledge they gain in the MBA program is known by most managers and leaders in organizations.  With the MBA, they can now engage in the discussions with leadership or at least understand what they are talking about.  In most small and medium enterprises, you’ll find that many leaders are not highly educated.  They don’t develop strategies and plans for their organizations using methods taught in MBA programs.  These leaders use their experience and connections within their industries to figure out the direction of the company.  You should never assume what you know is what they know.  The importance of this fact will be shown later on in the article.

My new research abilities will be helpful.  It seems logical that being able to perform research to understand how the market trends, creating a thorough competitor analysis, or developing a roadmap for technology creation would be useful or desired by management.  It is important, especially if it is your job and leadership has requested this information.  If not, many managers and leaders may not understand the methods or the results.  The whole process of the research and developing these helpful results may likely be misinterpreted.

The MBA doesn’t make you a leader.  The MBA has become a science, not a journey into managing people.  No one believes it automatically makes you a leader.  Your individual personality has far more to do with you getting a leadership role than possessing an MBA.  In the book, The Ten Golden Rules Of Leadership, Soupios and Mourdoukoutas posit that leadership requires an unusual composite of skill, experience, and seasoned personal perspective, which include your personal values, priorities, and an ability to build and sustain a respectable quality of life.  I know you’ll want to lean very heavily on the scientific methods you’ve learned to improve business but the soft side will get you where you want to go much faster.

Your new knowledge doesn’t incorporate an understanding of management psychology.  The MBA teaches you about leadership, usually from an ideal perspective.  However, most companies operate far from ideal.  The way many managers and leaders function are known well to psychologists but not to the rest of us, as we believe they operate on a higher standard.  I wish it were always true but it isn’t.  They are just like the rest of us.  Learning these lessons in the workplace can be detrimental to your job, reputation and upward mobility.  Here are some key takeaways from some MBAs with such experiences in the workplace.

  • No acknowledgement. “My manager never even recognized the fact that I graduated with my MBA.  He viewed my MBA as personal development.  He didn’t think it was needed for my job, yet they still paid for my tuition.”
  • They just don’t understand. “After our company was acquired, I created a 20 factor cultural analysis to show our leadership how different the two companies were and how we needed to change to make it work.  I wanted the merger to be successful and I wanted to ensure I had a job for the future.  My boss said that I hated the company and shared my analysis with the General Manager, who I found out later used part of the analysis in his report to the leadership of our new parent company.  Two years later, we had lost so much money, we were sold off again.”
  • I’ll take that. “We needed to create some new technology to grow our business.   My boss asked me to figure out how much we should be charging for the IP we would create.  I did the research and came up with several methods.  He told his boss that he developed a method that was actually 10x the cost of what I had proposed.  We never sold anything.”
  • I’m the boss. “After I graduated with my MBA, a management position opened up. My COO tapped me on the shoulder and asked me to interview for the position.  I thought this was a good sign that I would get the job.  I didn’t even know a position was open.  I found out that there was one other applicant and he didn’t have an MBA.  Unfortunately, the other guy got the job.  The COO didn’t have an advanced degree either.  He was sending a clear message.”

There are too many stories like this to share in a single post.  The important thing to remember is that managers are people.  In most small to medium enterprises, these managers are not highly educated.  They have been put in power due to circumstances that probably weren’t dependent upon their use of a high degree of intellect but they do feel a strong urge to lead, even if they don’t know how.  They also don’t want to look bad in front of their boss, as they worry it might cost them their job.  Today, managers worry about that more than anything else.    While you’ll want to show off what you know, it does come with consequences.  If you’re in an organization that appreciates what you have to offer, the consequences will be good.  If they don’t need it or want it, you may find that the consequences hamper your upward mobility and you’ll encounter experiences like these that will clearly articulate what management thinks of your MBA.

The Plan-for-Planning Process – Step 7

Step 7 – Contingency Plan

The seventh, and last, chapter/section in the business plan is the contingency plan section (or the “what if?”). Since very few plans happen exactly as planned, and to demonstrate good planning acumen assuming a question like: “What will you do if you do not make the plan?” – from anyone who reviews the business plan, you need to contemplate the two obvious scenario’s:

  • What will we do if business is “better than” planned?

And

  • What will we do if business is “worse than” planned?

This then anticipates that the management team has developed Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) that can be tracked every month. KPI’s being those 6 or 7 key indicators of business health for any business.

These KPI’s should have “trigger points” where it is obvious that the business is doing either “better than” or “worse than” the volumes in the best case scenario contained in the business plan. Reaching these trigger points should indicate that it is time to implement one of the predetermined contingency plans outlined in this section of the business plan.

Tracking these KPI’s in combination with the review of progress against the quarterly strategic milestones in the strategy section, the management team has a proactive methodology for maintaining control over the business.

Once developed in the way in which advocated in the plan-for-planning process, any management team can easily create a winning business plan.

The Plan-for-Planning Process – Step 6

In this step of the Plan-for-Planning process, you focus on the development of the organizational chart.

The sixth chapter in the business plan is the organization section (i.e. who is going to do it). It should contain the Organization chart for the company, as well as manpower tables by function.  A sample overview is:

Board of Directors

President – CEO

Chief Operating Officer – COO

Human  Resources

Finance & Accounting

Marketing & Sales

Research & Development

Manpower tables for each function should be included after the organization chart.

Explanations for any manpower growth over the business plan period should also accompany each table. If there is a specific manpower strategy, that should be referred to in this section.

Total salary expenses for the company for each year of the business plan, should be highlighted in this section, as well. Likewise, if there is a profit sharing/bonus consideration that should be discussed in this section, too.

Anyone reviewing the Organization section will have a clear picture of the total compensation expense of the company for each year of the business plan, along with explanations.

There you have it.  It doesn’t get any easier than this.