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11 Ways To Stand Out And Radically Increase Profit Margins Even In A Crowded Market

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11 Ways To Stand Out And Radically Increase Profit Margins Even In A Crowded Market
McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s…kind of all the same thing, aren’t they? As far as quality goes I would have to rule with either Burger King or Wendy’s over McDonald’s any day of the week.
But who has more business? McDonald’s does. They were around first. And now, even though they’re not the best (in my opinion at least), they’re still the richest.

Unfortunately for Burger King and Wendy’s, they are not going to get ahead by doing the same old thing, but just being a little bit better at it. In a world with massive competition, businesses need to stand out from the crowd.

They need to un-commoditize. That’s what Burger King and Wendy’s are missing. Next to McDonald’s they’re just commodities, even if they are a little better. So if you can’t be McDonald’s, be Taco Bell or Starbucks instead. Don’t be Wendy’s or Burger King.

The beauty about un-commoditizing your business is that it puts you in a category of your own. When you are in your own category, there’s nothing to compare you with. When there’s nothing to compare you with, then there’s no set expectations for how much you should cost.

When that happens, guess who gets to set the expectations? You do, which means you can set your prices drastically higher and radically increase your profit margins. If you can effectively bring in and keep customers without having to compete on price, then you’re probably going to be rich. Does that sound okay with you?

To help you do that, I’ve included a list of 11 strategies that you can use to un-commoditize your business.

 

1. Go with a different look

Marketing expert, Perry Belcher tells of a company he worked with that imported heat sealers from China. “Everybody in the world brings in these little heat sealers from one company in China. They’re an aqua blue color and… just scream, I’m a Chinese heat sealer!

Belcher was able to command a higher price for the exact same heat sealer simply by making it look different. He had the heat sealers painted red instead of blue (which probably didn’t cost him any extra) and sold them through a company with an American sounding name.

Apple does something similar with their shiny white computers that sell for three times the price of a PC. Going with a different look is probably not the only way that you’ll want to stand out, but it might be a great way to start.

 “Be the one to stand out in the crowd.” – Joel Osteen

2. Be aggressively devoted to premium quality

Speaking of Apple, how many times have you heard that one of their products just bombed? Answer: Not recently. In fact, it was reported that preorders for their watch sold out in a matter of hours. Compare that with their main competitor, Microsoft, who has had significant problems with two out of the last four Windows updates.

No wonder Apple products cost so much more. And it’s not just Apple. Think of names like:

  • Rolls-Royce
  • Gucci
  • The Four Seasons
  • Disney
  • Tiffany’s

These are companies that do not compete on price. They get rich competing on quality.

 

3. Bundle physical products with your information products

Thanks to the Internet, selling information products is easier than ever. As a result, everybody is selling information products. After all, why not? The profit margin can be up to nearly 100%. The downside of this is that it becomes very hard to stand out.

With all this competition we’re seeing much lower prices for certain information products than you would have seen only a few years ago. But, if you’re interested in getting rich, then competing on price is a bad idea. Instead, find a way to stand out and charge even higher prices.

A great way to do this is to bundle information products with physical products. For example: A company that sells a course on how to be a better skier could bundle the course with a set of skis and charge a much higher price.

 

4. Bundle information with your physical goods

This is the reverse of what I was just talking about. The Internet has created massive competition for sellers of information and physical goods alike. By bundling information products with your physical goods you can drastically increase profit margins.

Using the same type of example as before: Instead of just selling a set of skis, you could sell them along with a course on how to be an expert skier. By using this strategy you can raise the price significantly, without increasing costs very much.

Luckily, information products are not too hard to come by. You can partner with someone who sells information products. You can offer to publish an information product that someone has created or wants to create. Or, if you have the expertise, the time and the interest, you can create your own information products.  (Note: Just make sure that the information products you use are always top notch.)

 

5. Create a subcategory

Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly the Atlantic solo. That’s fairly common knowledge. Do you happen to know who the second person was? Nobody knows, even though Bert Hinkler actually did a better job. He made the trip in less time and with less fuel.

But, in business poor Bert would have been nothing more than a me-too product that people ignore. The dominating spot in his market had already been taken, and sometimes people just don’t care if you can do the job better. There’s already a name that they trust.

If you’re new to a market that already has a leader, then you need to create your own subcategory that nobody has claimed yet. You’ve possibly heard of the third person who flew the Atlantic solo. Her name was Amelia Earhart. But no one remembers her as the third person to get the job done. She was the first woman to get the job done. She had her own subcategory.

Want an example? Between Apple and Microsoft the personal computer market is pretty competitive. But what if a company came along and created its own computers with an operating system that is designed specifically and exclusively for gamers?

Between Microsoft having had way too many problems in the last few years and Apple not really focusing on the videogame market, a company who did a great job creating and marketing a computer exclusively for gamers might be very successful.

“Today we’re living in an anti-Waldo world, where you don’t want to blend in and have people struggle to find you. You want your personal brand to stand out like you’re wearing a red and white sweater, and everyone else has on black.”  – Jarod Kintz

6. Create a better guarantee

With so many swindlers out there your customers obviously need to know that they’re not stepping into a trap they can’t get out of. Hopefully that’s not news to you. Unfortunately, in many markets having a 60 day 100% money back guarantee is more of a given than a bonus these days.

Just about everyone has some type of guarantee. If you want to stand out, why not try offering something much better than everyone else. For example you could try offering to refund 110% of your price to any unsatisfied customer. Obviously your risk is slightly higher with such a guarantee.

But your likelihood of losing money instead of gaining much more money with this kind of guarantee is extremely low, assuming you’re offering a quality product or service. What type of superior guarantee could you offer in your business?

 

7. Be a contrarian brand

Whether it be corporate giants, big government, the media or even some charity organizations, people just don’t trust the mainstream establishment anymore. There’s been one too many stories about corporate deception, political bribes and media coverups.

Sometimes to be successful, you can’t just be a little different than everyone else. You have to be the opposite. In The 22 Immutable Laws Of Marketing Al Ries and Jack Trout write:

A good No. 2 [brand] can’t afford to be timid. Burger King’s most successful years came when it was on the attack. It opened with “Have it your way,” which twitted McDonald’s mass-manufacturing approach to hamburgers. Then for some unknown reason Burger King got timid and stopped attacking McDonald’s. It even started a program to attract little kids, the mainstay of McDonald’s strength. Burger King’s sales per unit declined and have never returned to the level they were when it was on the attack.”

How could you attack the status quo and make your business an opposite brand? Remember: What you’re offering doesn’t have to be the exact opposite or even necessarily very different. What has to be opposite is your message and how you position yourself.(Note: After all, Burger King was never really that different from McDonald’s.)

Stand Out

8. Create an outstanding acquisition offer

Thanks to the Internet creating a global marketplace, small businesses can reach more customers than ever before. But the Internet is a mixed blessing. Yes, you can reach a vastly increased pool of potential customers. But, you are also placed next to a vastly increased number of competitors.

Add this to the fact that today’s buyers are more skeptical than ever, and you may have a real problem on your hands. The good news is that all your competitors face that same dilemma, which gives you a chance to get ahead of them… if you use smart strategies.

Today’s buyers are so skeptical, they tend to stick with brands that they know and trust. But, how are they ever going to trust you if they never give you a chance? The trick is getting that first sale which allows you to knock their socks off and prove that your brand is the one that deserves their business.

A great way to do this is with an acquisition offer. An acquisition offer is a high-value, low priced offer that allows you to acquire a new customer and prove to them the quality of your brand. If you can prove to them that your brand offers great quality and service, then they’ll probably keep on buying from you in the future.

Cable/Internet companies have a tendency to do this by offering a deeply discounted rate for a limited time. During that discounted phase they’re hoping to prove how great their service is, so that you’ll stay with them long-term.

An example of a similar strategy is McDonald’s dollar menu. Maybe you go there just to buy that one dollar burger. But what do they do once you’re there? They ask “Would you like fries and coke with that?” I guarantee you, they’re not getting rich off the sale of one dollar burgers. They’re getting rich off the sale of side dishes and soft drinks.

 

9. Focus on a benefit your competitors don’t talk about

Sometimes what you sell doesn’t actually have to be different. Sometimes what is different is what you say and who you say it to. Let’s say there are five different companies that buy the same type of soap from the same manufacturer.

One company emphasizes how good their soap is for dry skin. One company emphasizes the powerful germ killing effect of their soap. Another company tells people that they offer THE soap to use if you want to smell and feel like an attractive lady. One company emphasizes how refreshed and clean their customers will feel after they get out of a shower with this soap. The last company emphasizes how effective their soap is at eliminating body odor.

Now, these companies might have asked for a bit of customization. Maybe they each have their logos on the bars of soap. Maybe one company asked for their soap to be colored blue while another asked for pink, but they are all selling the same exact soap!

None of them are lying. All the soap being sold by these companies is good for dry skin, eliminating B.O., killing germs and so on. Yet these five companies are able to sell the exact same product to different target markets simply by emphasizing different benefits.

The beauty is that all five might end up being very successful even if they charge high prices, because they’re just selling next to each other. They’re not competing with each other.

 

10. Describe your process and why it’s good (even if it’s not unique)

Let’s take that last soap example a little bit further. Let’s say that there is a sixth company that starts buying some of the same soap from the soap manufacturer. They’re just passionate about the germ killing effects of this soap and they don’t want to come up with a different angle to use to sell to a different target market.

Their problem is that there is already another company, with an established brand, selling that same product to that same market. The new company will want to find a way to differentiate itself. This can actually be as simple as telling their customers why their product works so well.

Instead of just saying: “Our soap is THE soap to use to kill germs.” They can say: “Our soap is THE soap to use to kill germs because we include powerful, state-of-the-art antibiotics in our formula. The germs won’t stand a chance.”

By saying this, they are able to differentiate themselves and sell the exact same product to the exact same market for the exact same reason. If they sell their product using this message they may be able to get a serious advantage over the company that was already selling to the germ killing market.

Because they sell it as a product using state-of-the-art science, they could likely charge an even higher price than the already established company. It doesn’t matter that the first company has those antibiotics too, because the customer doesn’t know that.

And the first company can’t suddenly start talking about the powerful antibiotics in their formula, because they will then look like the me-too company. They’ll have to come up with a new reason why they are still the best germ killing soap company.

 

11. Offer out of this world customer service

Am I the only one who hates having to call help or customer support at companies? First you have to wait forever to actually talk to a person. You never know if they’re actually going to know what they’re doing and be helpful or if they will be ignorant, stubborn or rude.

So why not be the company that blows their customers away with how good they are treated? Try these:

  • Try guaranteeing to answer the phone by the third ring.
  • Try offering to have someone come out to your customer’s home or office to help them assemble your product and/or teach them how to use it.
  • Follow up after a purchase with a friendly phone call and make sure everything is alright. Ask if they have any questions or anything else you can help them with.
  • Be relentlessly helpful, friendly and generous every step of the way.

 

Conclusion

Un-commoditizing your business is not only possible. It’s essential if you want to compete and win in a competitive global marketplace.

Once you un-commoditize your business, you’ll have the power to drastically raise prices and increase profit margins without getting compared to cheaper alternatives. If you truly and successfully un-commoditize your business then there are no alternatives.

These 11 strategies can help you stand out in business. So, which un-commoditizing strategy are you going to try first?

Seth Coyne is a copywriter and branding consultant. Click here to download his Innovation Cheatsheet with 9 hacks to creating an endless stream of brilliant ideas for entrepreneurship, business growth and career advancement. You can follow him here on Twitter.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Alice Dartnell

    Jul 28, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Fab article! Some really useful, but most importantly applicable, ideas.

  2. web development minneapolis

    Jun 14, 2015 at 3:48 am

    This website definitely has all of the info
    I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    • Seth

      Jun 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Glad you found this helpful!

  3. Stefanie

    Jun 11, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Hey Seth,
    thank you for this awesome article, offering a lot of high quality content!
    I find it kind of difficult to pick up that one strategy to start with first, since I think it’s important to have them all working together. However, as I am in the information business, strategy no. 3, Bundle physical products with your information products, is the strategy that made me think first. I noticed that at least here in Germany, people often give a higher value to physical than to a digital product. A combination would definitely increase the perceived value.
    Cheers
    Stefanie

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Startups

No One Would Hire Me — Nothing Lasts Forever, Though.

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In 2011, I was down and out. I was defeated and felt like I’d never amount to anything.

This story is going to inspire you if you’ve ever faced a similar situation or felt defeated.

I’d finished working at the startup I founded with my brother and things didn’t look good. I had a dream at that time to utilize my digital marketing skills and work for an advertising agency where I could grow my skills.

Every job I applied for I was turned down.

Even though I’d had digital marketing experience and built a multi-million dollar business using that talent, it wasn’t formal learning or advertising agency experience.

So, I ended up taking a job in finance which I also knew nothing about. I took a junior role and a large pay cut and started my career at a bank. For seven years, on the side, I worked on my passion for social media and online marketing.

Two days ago, I was hired to run the digital marketing team for a well-known tech company with 900 staff. Against all the odds, I won the long game.

Here’s what you can learn:


No one can stop you.

Even with all the no’s and people that laughed at me in 2011, I didn’t stop.

I went into hiding for a while and built my skills. I started with blogging, then SEO, then pay per click and eventually landed in social media.

Just because someone won’t hire you today based on your skills, attitude and experience, doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow.

In fact, without sounding cocky, people now have been bending over backwards to hire me as a consultant to help them with social media and digital marketing.

“The same people that said no to me now want to work with me”

You decide whether you stop based on rejection — nobody else. Keep going no matter the odds.


Be prepared to wait a few years.

Patience was what made the last two days feel incredible. It took seven years to get what I wanted and I had to be damn patient.

The mistake many of you make who are reading this is that you’re not prepared to wait years to get what you want.

When you accept that it takes years to achieve your goals, you work differently. You prepare yourself in a totally different way.

Wanting things too quickly forces you to sacrifice for the short-term and mess up the long-term. Slow down. Relax. You’ve got time.


It’s your attitude that counts.

When no one will hire you, it’s your attitude that counts.

If you walk into an interview or coffee catchup with an attitude problem, then your career dream is going to continue to be a problem.

You see it on those TV talent shows when a guy/girl walks out onto the stage and has been trying for a long time to make it as a musician. They have this sense of entitlement and their bad attitude is written all over their face.

Don’t be one of these people. Fix your attitude.

You’re only entitled to what you earn. Walk into interviews and face opportunities with a sense of humbleness.

Let humbleness be your dominant attitude and eventually you’ll have more opportunities than you could ever hope for.


Nothing lasts forever.

The no’s I got in 2011 lasted a few years.

The point is they didn’t last forever.
Just because you’re getting no’s today and being laughed at, doesn’t mean that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever including you.

“Keep going until the people that said no to you come around and are half-way towards a yes”

No one can deny you forever. People will admire you if you keep going and learn along the way.

Sometimes we can feel like we’ll always be rejected. That’s how I felt in 2011. I thought to myself “I’ve worked five years in digital marketing and built up a pretty successful business and people are still saying no to me. If not now, when?”

Now let me be honest for a second. I didn’t have the intelligence in 2011 to keep going. I was too dumb and too obsessed with myself. It was basically blind faith that kept me going. I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever and believed it.

There were no mentors, advisors or as much self-help advice as there is now to tell me that the way I was thinking was madness.

You have the opportunity to learn from this lesson. Nothing. Lasts. Forever.


Push through.

When every obstacle there is, is standing in your way, sometimes all you need to do is keep pushing.

The way I did this was to keep writing. No one was paying attention to my advice, but that didn’t matter.

The only strategy I had at the time was to keep doing what felt fun to me and I believed I’d figure out the detail later or just never get paid to do what I liked doing.

Pushing through is about continuing to do the work even when the results don’t show.


Eventually, the odds will change if you change.

So what was missing in 2011? Why was I getting rejected even though I had the skills and experience?

I needed to change.

I was an arrogant, selfish, entitled son of a bitch who wouldn’t give a dime out of a dollar to anyone. I had to change myself.

I had to:

  1. Develop empowering beliefs
  2. Change my attitude
  3. Adopt a never say die mindset
  4. Learn abundance
  5. Give more to strangers
  6. Create value for people first via the internet
  7. Be grateful for what I have instead of always wanting more

Your odds of success won’t change until you change.

“You’re the problem and that’s the hardest advice to swallow”


Final thought.

It’s been a big few days. I’ve waited seven years to get what I want. The hardest thing about getting what you want is that it will feel good for a few weeks, and then you’ll want more.

That’s the crack addiction that comes with personal development.

I’m trying to detox from this addiction and be happy with what I’ve achieved to date.

Maybe no one will hire you today.

Maybe your life sucks right now.

Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot this year.

It’s all okay. Your odds of success will change when you change.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

10 Lessons for Bootstrapping Your Startup to $1M Annual Revenue

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In an entrepreneurial landscape dominated by headlines of unicorn startups and billion-dollar acquisitions, getting a company to $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) may sound like small change. Let’s be real, though, hitting $1 million ARR is an aspirational milestone most young companies can relate to. And it’s not that easy, especially if you’ve secured modest investments or no investment at all.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company I work for falls in the latter category. We’ve never raised a single investment dollar, and it took us four years to reach the $1 million ARR threshold. It was a wild four years. Frustrating, fun, scary: you name the emotion, and we’ve felt it.

But more than anything, it was an instructive four years. We learned so much, and we want to share a few helpful tidbits with our peers out there in the trenches, scratching and clawing your way to your next big milestone.

Here are 10 things we think are most important that you can use in your own start-up journey:

1. Don’t quit

Steve Jobs famously said that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is perseverance. At one point I remember hearing “Folks, I don’t know if we’re going to be here next month.”

It’s frightening not to know where you’re going to be next month, but you have to continuously figure out how to get a few more customers and extend your runway. You can’t “make it” or succeed if you don’t exist, so you can’t quit.

2. Give your customers everything

At the company I work for, Text Request, we spent hours with our customers. We built whatever they asked for (if it fit with our goals and other customers could use it too). We also gave away a lot of free software.

If you want to grow and gain customers, you have to create a needed product that solves your target customers’ problems. Determine who your target customers are, ask them what they need, and then tailor your solutions for them.

3. Try everything you can think of

The book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares covers 19 sales and marketing channels for startups to test. We tried all of them. We went to events. We advertised. We started a referral program.

For us, cold calls and cold emails worked surprisingly well. We took an industry, looked for companies in a given city, and reached out to set up product demos. Organic search has increasingly helped our sales funnel, too.

Either of those could be the best plan for you, or it could be advertising in a particular channel. Every startup is different and targets a different niche, but you’ll only find successful strategies and channels for growth by testing all your options.

4. Focus on the basics

When you focus on doing the basics, opportunities open up. When you commit to SEO basics, your targets will find you online, and a big fish will occasionally swim by. When you provide fantastic customer service, a few users will leave reviews and tell their friends. When you keep your head down and do the work, eventually you’ll look up and have hit a big milestone.

5. Get the right people on your bus

This is one of the critical lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Thankfully, our small team had the right people from the beginning. Brian and Jamey Elrod, our husband and wife co-founders, had already started a successful company from scratch (Educational Outfitters). Our third co-founder Rob Reagan has created software for twenty years and published a book last year on building apps for global scale.

Rob brought a couple of top-notch developers with him, and the rest of us showed up determined to figure the business out. If you’re going to take a company from $0 to $1 million, every member of your team has to be dedicated to working together for the long-term benefit of the company over self-interest.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There’s always something that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, but you can put the questions below to rest:

1. How do you build it fast enough?

In the early days, we worried about losing a customer because we didn’t have [X]. It was stressful knowing that So-and-So would move on to the next option if we couldn’t deliver fast enough, and many times they did. But that doesn’t matter.

Losing one customer isn’t worth pushing out a faulty product. Despite the pervasive Lean Startup mindset, it’s more important to your customers that you create needed features (read: solutions) that work great the first time. They have to trust that you’ll give them the tools they need to accomplish their goals, or they’ll leave.

2. How do you keep customers longer?

Our support is perhaps our #1 competitive advantage. One of the things we’ve learned is that a lower price, and sometimes even new features, won’t keep customers around longer.

To keep your customers from churning, you’ve got to do two things: First, provide a smooth onboarding process that immediately teaches customers how to gain value (solve their problems) with your product. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up, and they’ll eventually leave.

Second, always be there with kind words and helpful content whenever a customer needs help. If you aren’t, they’ll get frustrated and find someone else to help them.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt

3. How do you get people to your website?

Advertising might be a good option, but if targets aren’t already thinking about what you can do for them, they probably won’t care about your ad or purchase. Instead, create content to educate viewers and help them solve their problems.

Focus on growing your organic traffic, becoming a trustworthy source, and honing your brand’s voice before spending lots of money on ads.

4. Do you need investment money?

When you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, you’ll do anything for a ship to pick you up. But sometimes you just need to swim. We chose to swim, and you might want to do the same.

When every dollar spent has to fight to prove its worth, you’re inevitably going to build something more valuable and more sustainable. Plus, bootstrapping gives you more control over what decisions you do make to grow your company.

5. How do you pursue 10X growth?

A growth hack is not going to propel you from 100 customers to 10,000 overnight. It doesn’t take one trick, but lots of little and big things working together to create exponential growth. It also takes time.

Instead of looking for a golden goose, create complete and actionable strategies. Those, and a little patience, will help you achieve exponential growth.

Growing your startup to $1 million ARR is not easy, but it’s possible – even without investors lining up to give you money. Put the 10 lessons above into practice, and, with a little time and a lot of work, you’ll get there.

Is there a business you’d like to start or have started? Share your ideas and suggestions for our readers!

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Startups

10 Things The Corporate World *Didn’t* Teach Me

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I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.

You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.

There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.

Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:


1. How to think for myself

In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.

If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.

Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.

I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.

Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.

As my former colleague said to me the other day You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.


2. Time management

The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.

With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.

What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.

“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”

None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.

Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.

Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.

“I’m more important and have a better job title.”

“No, I’m more important!”

This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.

The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.


3. A passion for what you love

Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.

Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”

It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.

The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.


4. What people are really buying

Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.

I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.

People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.

No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.

This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’

Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me


5. The power of an audience

People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.

I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.

Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.

Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.

These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.

With an audience, you can test ideas.

With an audience, you can inspire.

With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.

With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.


6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre

In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.

Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.

That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.

I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.

Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.

Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.


7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)

Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.

This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.

The formula goes like this:

  • Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
  • Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
  • Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
  • Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
  • Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)

“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”

Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.

That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.


8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations

You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.

Quite the opposite is true.

Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.

The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.

It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.

The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.

No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.

I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.

Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.


9. The way to treat people

The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.

Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.

This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?

Wrong.

The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.

By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.

My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.


10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords

Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.

We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.

Lean startup meant Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”

Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.

Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.

Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.


So what can you learn from the corporate world?

It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.

The corporate world can teach you:

1. Leadership fundamentals

2. Corporate decision-making

3. Community values

4. The rate of technology disruption

The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.

What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.


The grass is not greener.

The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.

All business just has a different set of problems to solve.

The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.

The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.

That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.

The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

How to Change Your Bad Habits for the Benefit of Your Business

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If you are like most people, you probably like to complain from time to time about the economy, about the markets, about how things are changing too fast or how you don’t get enough time. Moan moan moan!

However, moaning doesn’t solve problems. Instead, you can follow the “No BCD” theory and avoid blaming, complaining and defensiveness. This way you will have a totally different outlook, handle situations a lot better, and take control over your destiny. A really practical way to do this is to develop better habits.

What are the bad habits you have?

Everyone has different bad habits, but when it comes to business here are the 4 most common ones:

  • Lack of focus: Every single day, there are going to be things you intend to do and then you “run out of time” or succumb to distractions. But if you’re honest, you had the time and there was a way – you just lacked focus.
  • You’re too kind: How many times have you taken on a project which wasn’t profitable, because you “felt sorry for them”. Not only does this actually hurt you, but it also in many ways hurts the relationship you have with that client or customer.
  • Promising and not delivering: Whether it’s something you said to your team, your clients, or your suppliers, if you’re not matching your words with your actions, over time others will believe you less and less.
  • Leaving opportunities on the table: So often people complain in business they don’t have enough (money/sales/support), when actually they do – they just didn’t ask for it. Within your existing network there is probably everything you need, you just have to ask.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Think about it. You can look at each of these bad habits and replace them with new and better ones. Imagine…

  • If you created habits that made you focus better: you’d be more productive, with the same amount of time.
  • If you learned good ways to set boundaries: you’d have a better time delivering your services or products, and you’d feel more rewarded.
  • If you kept better track of your promises: You’d feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • If you picked up on more of those opportunities: You’d make more money, and inject welcome energy into those who are ready and willing to work with you. The side effect would be that you could delegate things you don’t love and aren’t good at to others more capable, and replace those activities with the things you love!

Breaking those bad habits

Over the years, I have managed to create more boundaries and space for me to be efficient and effective in my work. There are ways to do that  – some habits I have learned from others who have experienced and overcome similar issues, and some are the product of my own experiments. See below!

1. Sprints (for productivity)

I have to say this is so effective. I meet at least one other person at a coffee shop or members club – if it’s not in my office with my fellow team members. We plan to do 30 or 45 minutes of work and do between 3-5 sprints in a session. Blocking out 4 hours together I find works well.

We each say what we will work on and then we get going. No talking allowed, focusing only on the task we talked about. When the timer rings we stop, compare notes on progress, have a mini break and do another one. It’s honestly my most productive time, and it makes you realise how much time we waste on distractions and even moaning about having too much work on!

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.” – Abigail Van Buren

2. A tiny assignment (for motivation to break a bad habit)

I have done this now twice with 2 different friends. We talk about the bad habits we each have, whatever they might be. We give each other a new rule or habit to follow over a two week period. It has to be a “SMART” goal assignment – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

3. Low hanging fruit (for grabbing opportunities)

You simply make a list of people you already know who:

  • Fit into your target market but don’t work with you yet
  • Fit into your target market but haven’t worked with you for a while
  • Experience problems you know you can solve
  • Have their own network of contacts or audience which is very similar to the people you want to talk about
  • Have the expertise in things you find challenging, and very likely the answers to your current challenges

Once you have this list, you come up with some drafted initial outreach scripts for either text, email or phone calls and then you work through your list – sending out the requests, hellos, questions, etc. If you draft your communication well, considering the mindset of the people who are receiving these outreach messages, you will find each conversation will be at the very least a learning opportunity and would certainly lead to more “yeses” than if you didn’t do this exercise.

4. The minimum criteria (for setting boundaries)

If you find that your bad habits involve you saying “yes” too often when you should be saying “no” – then this one works great. You just need to write a specific list of criteria to answer the question “Any time I will do this, I need the following things to be true first”.

For example, you only take on a client who pays less than a certain minimum threshold, who has made a written commitment that they will comply with your specific set of guidelines for their responsibilities during the project. There are so many ways you can use the “minimum criteria” technique and you can share your rules with friends and colleagues to hold yourself accountable.

Now, with all this insight I hope you feel more motivated and you can’t even remember your excuses anymore!

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4 Reasons Why You Shouldn’t Quit Your Day Job for Your Creative Ventures

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If you’ve spent anytime online you’ve no doubt come across people like this: “Hi there, I’m Timothy Moneybags and I made a million dollars from my best-selling novel after I quit my job and pursued my dream of becoming a writer!” (more…)

An SEO expert, consultant, and musician, Thomas Adams writes on his website ThomasFAdams.com where he teaches wanna-be entrepreneurs how to start and maintain successful online businesses involving everything from web design to eCommerce. He has worked extensively with businesses both big and small to improve their SEO since 2014. On the side, he loves playing piano and writing songs.

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Alice Dartnell

    Jul 28, 2015 at 7:11 am

    Fab article! Some really useful, but most importantly applicable, ideas.

  2. web development minneapolis

    Jun 14, 2015 at 3:48 am

    This website definitely has all of the info
    I wanted concerning this subject and didn’t know who to ask.

    • Seth

      Jun 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm

      Glad you found this helpful!

  3. Stefanie

    Jun 11, 2015 at 8:11 am

    Hey Seth,
    thank you for this awesome article, offering a lot of high quality content!
    I find it kind of difficult to pick up that one strategy to start with first, since I think it’s important to have them all working together. However, as I am in the information business, strategy no. 3, Bundle physical products with your information products, is the strategy that made me think first. I noticed that at least here in Germany, people often give a higher value to physical than to a digital product. A combination would definitely increase the perceived value.
    Cheers
    Stefanie

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Startups

No One Would Hire Me — Nothing Lasts Forever, Though.

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In 2011, I was down and out. I was defeated and felt like I’d never amount to anything.

This story is going to inspire you if you’ve ever faced a similar situation or felt defeated.

I’d finished working at the startup I founded with my brother and things didn’t look good. I had a dream at that time to utilize my digital marketing skills and work for an advertising agency where I could grow my skills.

Every job I applied for I was turned down.

Even though I’d had digital marketing experience and built a multi-million dollar business using that talent, it wasn’t formal learning or advertising agency experience.

So, I ended up taking a job in finance which I also knew nothing about. I took a junior role and a large pay cut and started my career at a bank. For seven years, on the side, I worked on my passion for social media and online marketing.

Two days ago, I was hired to run the digital marketing team for a well-known tech company with 900 staff. Against all the odds, I won the long game.

Here’s what you can learn:


No one can stop you.

Even with all the no’s and people that laughed at me in 2011, I didn’t stop.

I went into hiding for a while and built my skills. I started with blogging, then SEO, then pay per click and eventually landed in social media.

Just because someone won’t hire you today based on your skills, attitude and experience, doesn’t mean they won’t tomorrow.

In fact, without sounding cocky, people now have been bending over backwards to hire me as a consultant to help them with social media and digital marketing.

“The same people that said no to me now want to work with me”

You decide whether you stop based on rejection — nobody else. Keep going no matter the odds.


Be prepared to wait a few years.

Patience was what made the last two days feel incredible. It took seven years to get what I wanted and I had to be damn patient.

The mistake many of you make who are reading this is that you’re not prepared to wait years to get what you want.

When you accept that it takes years to achieve your goals, you work differently. You prepare yourself in a totally different way.

Wanting things too quickly forces you to sacrifice for the short-term and mess up the long-term. Slow down. Relax. You’ve got time.


It’s your attitude that counts.

When no one will hire you, it’s your attitude that counts.

If you walk into an interview or coffee catchup with an attitude problem, then your career dream is going to continue to be a problem.

You see it on those TV talent shows when a guy/girl walks out onto the stage and has been trying for a long time to make it as a musician. They have this sense of entitlement and their bad attitude is written all over their face.

Don’t be one of these people. Fix your attitude.

You’re only entitled to what you earn. Walk into interviews and face opportunities with a sense of humbleness.

Let humbleness be your dominant attitude and eventually you’ll have more opportunities than you could ever hope for.


Nothing lasts forever.

The no’s I got in 2011 lasted a few years.

The point is they didn’t last forever.
Just because you’re getting no’s today and being laughed at, doesn’t mean that will last forever. Nothing lasts forever including you.

“Keep going until the people that said no to you come around and are half-way towards a yes”

No one can deny you forever. People will admire you if you keep going and learn along the way.

Sometimes we can feel like we’ll always be rejected. That’s how I felt in 2011. I thought to myself “I’ve worked five years in digital marketing and built up a pretty successful business and people are still saying no to me. If not now, when?”

Now let me be honest for a second. I didn’t have the intelligence in 2011 to keep going. I was too dumb and too obsessed with myself. It was basically blind faith that kept me going. I wish I’d known back then that nothing lasts forever and believed it.

There were no mentors, advisors or as much self-help advice as there is now to tell me that the way I was thinking was madness.

You have the opportunity to learn from this lesson. Nothing. Lasts. Forever.


Push through.

When every obstacle there is, is standing in your way, sometimes all you need to do is keep pushing.

The way I did this was to keep writing. No one was paying attention to my advice, but that didn’t matter.

The only strategy I had at the time was to keep doing what felt fun to me and I believed I’d figure out the detail later or just never get paid to do what I liked doing.

Pushing through is about continuing to do the work even when the results don’t show.


Eventually, the odds will change if you change.

So what was missing in 2011? Why was I getting rejected even though I had the skills and experience?

I needed to change.

I was an arrogant, selfish, entitled son of a bitch who wouldn’t give a dime out of a dollar to anyone. I had to change myself.

I had to:

  1. Develop empowering beliefs
  2. Change my attitude
  3. Adopt a never say die mindset
  4. Learn abundance
  5. Give more to strangers
  6. Create value for people first via the internet
  7. Be grateful for what I have instead of always wanting more

Your odds of success won’t change until you change.

“You’re the problem and that’s the hardest advice to swallow”


Final thought.

It’s been a big few days. I’ve waited seven years to get what I want. The hardest thing about getting what you want is that it will feel good for a few weeks, and then you’ll want more.

That’s the crack addiction that comes with personal development.

I’m trying to detox from this addiction and be happy with what I’ve achieved to date.

Maybe no one will hire you today.

Maybe your life sucks right now.

Maybe you’ve dealt with a lot this year.

It’s all okay. Your odds of success will change when you change.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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Startups

10 Lessons for Bootstrapping Your Startup to $1M Annual Revenue

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In an entrepreneurial landscape dominated by headlines of unicorn startups and billion-dollar acquisitions, getting a company to $1 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) may sound like small change. Let’s be real, though, hitting $1 million ARR is an aspirational milestone most young companies can relate to. And it’s not that easy, especially if you’ve secured modest investments or no investment at all.

The software-as-a-service (SaaS) company I work for falls in the latter category. We’ve never raised a single investment dollar, and it took us four years to reach the $1 million ARR threshold. It was a wild four years. Frustrating, fun, scary: you name the emotion, and we’ve felt it.

But more than anything, it was an instructive four years. We learned so much, and we want to share a few helpful tidbits with our peers out there in the trenches, scratching and clawing your way to your next big milestone.

Here are 10 things we think are most important that you can use in your own start-up journey:

1. Don’t quit

Steve Jobs famously said that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is perseverance. At one point I remember hearing “Folks, I don’t know if we’re going to be here next month.”

It’s frightening not to know where you’re going to be next month, but you have to continuously figure out how to get a few more customers and extend your runway. You can’t “make it” or succeed if you don’t exist, so you can’t quit.

2. Give your customers everything

At the company I work for, Text Request, we spent hours with our customers. We built whatever they asked for (if it fit with our goals and other customers could use it too). We also gave away a lot of free software.

If you want to grow and gain customers, you have to create a needed product that solves your target customers’ problems. Determine who your target customers are, ask them what they need, and then tailor your solutions for them.

3. Try everything you can think of

The book Traction by Gabriel Weinberg and Justin Mares covers 19 sales and marketing channels for startups to test. We tried all of them. We went to events. We advertised. We started a referral program.

For us, cold calls and cold emails worked surprisingly well. We took an industry, looked for companies in a given city, and reached out to set up product demos. Organic search has increasingly helped our sales funnel, too.

Either of those could be the best plan for you, or it could be advertising in a particular channel. Every startup is different and targets a different niche, but you’ll only find successful strategies and channels for growth by testing all your options.

4. Focus on the basics

When you focus on doing the basics, opportunities open up. When you commit to SEO basics, your targets will find you online, and a big fish will occasionally swim by. When you provide fantastic customer service, a few users will leave reviews and tell their friends. When you keep your head down and do the work, eventually you’ll look up and have hit a big milestone.

5. Get the right people on your bus

This is one of the critical lessons from Jim Collins’ Good to Great. Thankfully, our small team had the right people from the beginning. Brian and Jamey Elrod, our husband and wife co-founders, had already started a successful company from scratch (Educational Outfitters). Our third co-founder Rob Reagan has created software for twenty years and published a book last year on building apps for global scale.

Rob brought a couple of top-notch developers with him, and the rest of us showed up determined to figure the business out. If you’re going to take a company from $0 to $1 million, every member of your team has to be dedicated to working together for the long-term benefit of the company over self-interest.

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” – Henry Ford

There’s always something that keeps entrepreneurs up at night, but you can put the questions below to rest:

1. How do you build it fast enough?

In the early days, we worried about losing a customer because we didn’t have [X]. It was stressful knowing that So-and-So would move on to the next option if we couldn’t deliver fast enough, and many times they did. But that doesn’t matter.

Losing one customer isn’t worth pushing out a faulty product. Despite the pervasive Lean Startup mindset, it’s more important to your customers that you create needed features (read: solutions) that work great the first time. They have to trust that you’ll give them the tools they need to accomplish their goals, or they’ll leave.

2. How do you keep customers longer?

Our support is perhaps our #1 competitive advantage. One of the things we’ve learned is that a lower price, and sometimes even new features, won’t keep customers around longer.

To keep your customers from churning, you’ve got to do two things: First, provide a smooth onboarding process that immediately teaches customers how to gain value (solve their problems) with your product. Otherwise, they won’t pick it up, and they’ll eventually leave.

Second, always be there with kind words and helpful content whenever a customer needs help. If you aren’t, they’ll get frustrated and find someone else to help them.

“People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.” – Teddy Roosevelt

3. How do you get people to your website?

Advertising might be a good option, but if targets aren’t already thinking about what you can do for them, they probably won’t care about your ad or purchase. Instead, create content to educate viewers and help them solve their problems.

Focus on growing your organic traffic, becoming a trustworthy source, and honing your brand’s voice before spending lots of money on ads.

4. Do you need investment money?

When you’re floating in the middle of the ocean, you’ll do anything for a ship to pick you up. But sometimes you just need to swim. We chose to swim, and you might want to do the same.

When every dollar spent has to fight to prove its worth, you’re inevitably going to build something more valuable and more sustainable. Plus, bootstrapping gives you more control over what decisions you do make to grow your company.

5. How do you pursue 10X growth?

A growth hack is not going to propel you from 100 customers to 10,000 overnight. It doesn’t take one trick, but lots of little and big things working together to create exponential growth. It also takes time.

Instead of looking for a golden goose, create complete and actionable strategies. Those, and a little patience, will help you achieve exponential growth.

Growing your startup to $1 million ARR is not easy, but it’s possible – even without investors lining up to give you money. Put the 10 lessons above into practice, and, with a little time and a lot of work, you’ll get there.

Is there a business you’d like to start or have started? Share your ideas and suggestions for our readers!

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Startups

10 Things The Corporate World *Didn’t* Teach Me

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I’ve just left the corporate world. It’s been seven years and I don’t regret a single second of it.

You’d think I would have learned everything there is to know about business in the corporate world. I didn’t.

There were a lot of gaps which I luckily was able to fill in during my entrepreneur days.

Here’s what the corporate world didn’t teach me:


1. How to think for myself

In the corporate world, you’re often told what to do.

If you don’t have the answer then some smart person, in some department will probably have the answer for you. The answer may not be the latest and greatest strategy, but it will be based on some prior knowledge.

As an entrepreneur, none of this was available to me. I’d roll up to the old Milkbar that was our office, and I’d start stacking boxes into the little van we had. More boxes of soft drink and chips meant more gold coins in our vending machines.

Gold coins could be banked at our local branch at the end of the day and that’s how petrol, electricity, uniforms and the occasional Macca’s dinner was paid for. No one told me how to do that.

I either collected the gold coins, or I didn’t. No gold coins meant game over. As an entrepreneur, that meant failure and during your 20’s that’s often the last thing you want.

Thinking for myself wasn’t taught to me it was a survival tactic. I took this tactic with me to the corporate world and people were surprised.

As my former colleague said to me the other day You don’t overthink Tim youjust get shit done while everybody else is scratching their head.


2. Time management

The corporate world is full of big companies with lots of resources.

With an abundance of anything you always have wastage. The corporate world definitely didn’t tell me how to manage time.

What could have been a five-minute phone conversation often ended up in huge email chains. It was a bit of a game.

“Every email involved another person or persons being cc’d. The ultimate trick was to blind cc people within your company. Like magic, bombs start going off and no one can work out who did what. That’s the power of BCC”

None of this was good for time management though. Lot’s of time was spent trying to communicate with one another. Meetings are a thing in the corporate world.

Every problem that exists must have a meeting. Even if it’s about whether we call the shared folder “Sales” or “Customer Files” a meeting had to be held.

Meetings in the corporate world not only suck up time but are also a fashion parade where all the biggest egos can strut their stuff.

“I’m more important and have a better job title.”

“No, I’m more important!”

This dialogue goes on for days and sometimes months. Understanding the politics is often more critical than understanding the business. Still, none of this is good for time.

The time wasted is used by the tech startup opposition to improve a bug, rethink the customer experience or out-market corporates using social media.


3. A passion for what you love

Passion in the corporate world can often be lacking. Working at a corporate for many is a way to pay the bills rather than do their life’s work.

Passion can often be traded for money, bonuses and even more impressive job titles — all of which leave you feeling more empty”

It’s not all full of zero passion, though. There are a few people that are insanely passionate and those folk shine through.

The corporate world taught me to put my passion on hold rather than use it to WOW customers with the very thing that sets me apart.


4. What people are really buying

Working at a corporate taught me that it’s all about marketing.

I knew, though, from the startup world that this very idea was wrong.

People are buying you. They’re buying the people they deal with and what those people stand for.

No client in my corporate career ever gave a damn about the commoditized products I was selling. All of my clients gave a damn about my obsession to inspire the world through personal development and entrepreneurship. They were intrigued by my five years as an entrepreneur and what I learned.

This led to customers becoming friends as opposed to people that bought widgets from me and had the money they laid tracked in a CRM as ‘revenue.’

Not once in my corporate career did I have something to sell that couldn’t be bought from somewhere else, at a lower price or with better product features. The product feature my clients bought was me


5. The power of an audience

People are often too afraid to be vulnerable in the corporate world.

I never learned the power of an audience during my career working in corporates. All of that was learned between 6 pm and 8 pm every night when I was at home from work posting on LinkedIn.

Social media is not so prominent in the corporate world because it requires you to remove the corporate mask and show your flaws. Fakeness on social channels like LinkedIn just doesn’t work. People don’t engage.

Many people told me that the audience I was building on social media was career suicide. I ignored every one of them and I’m so glad I did.

These same people that warned me to stay off social media are the same ones asking me now to help them with their own social accounts.

With an audience, you can test ideas.

With an audience, you can inspire.

With an audience, you can recruit people to your team.

With an audience, you derive meaning for your life.


6. Doing the important vs. the mediocre

In corporate business, there’s a lot of noise.

Everything looks important. Everything looks like it could become a lawsuit (especially for a corporate). Everything looks like it could become a PR scandal. Everything looks risky to that next job promotion and to the business.

That’s where mediocrity thrives. With so much noise it’s easy to spend your days filing bits of paper or moving widgets from Point A to Point B without having any clue of why you’re doing it or how it contributes to humankind.

I didn’t learn the discipline of doing the important work in corporate life.

Doing the important came out of the entrepreneurial trait of problem-solving through a vision. It came from wanting to see things better than they are.

Doing the important was fuelled by a desire to achieve a goal that everybody said wasn’t possible. It’s a rebellious philosophy that pushes mediocrity the hell out of the way.


7. The way to have a meeting (ideally no meeting)

Running a meeting in corporate life follows a formula.

This formula will put almost all attendees to sleep. It’s why when you walk into a corporate board meeting, most of the execs are looking at their phone rather than paying attention to who’s speaking.

The formula goes like this:

  • Introduce everybody in the meeting (most don’t need to be there)
  • Pretend there’s an agenda (it will get hijacked…guaranteed)
  • Pretend to solve the problem by agreeing to invite more people to a future meeting
  • Pass ownership around of the problem whilst ignoring the potential solutions
  • Assigning action items which everybody ignores (thus triggering another meeting)

“The best way to have a meeting is not to have a meeting”

Meetings are needed in the corporate world because of a lack of trust and having too many cooks in the kitchen.

Have only the people that can solve the problem in the meeting, make it short and trust in the outcome and vision you’re trying to achieve.

That very philosophy makes meetings for the most part irrelevant.


8. How to make better PowerPoint presentations

You’d think with all the PowerPoints you have to do in the corporate world to educate internal stakeholders, you’d be a freaking expert at doing them.

Quite the opposite is true.

Because of the number of PowerPoint decks you have to do in the corporate world, you get worse at them.

The decks get longer, filled with more words, more acronyms and more promises to take more action.

It’s like for every year in the corporate world you add another acronym to the sentence you’re currently writing.

The belief in the corporate world is that all problems must first begin their life in a PowerPoint.

No problem can be solved without a PowerPoint. I once tried to do a presentation with only one slide. Once I explained the one slide I had prepared with a simple diagram that a four-year-old watching Peppa Pig could understand, I then blacked out the screen.

I wanted the attention on what I was saying instead of some Times New Roman, white slide, with Size 12 Font that nobody could read.

Death by PowerPoint is a real cause of death in the corporate world. It kills dreams, ideas, free speech and the will to live.


9. The way to treat people

The corporate world taught me nothing about how to treat people.

Treating people well came from my eBay days where I learned that if you give someone on eBay the thing they want, and do what you say, you’ll get what you want.

This philosophy didn’t translate into corporate life. I was told to treat people well based on what they could do for me. If they couldn’t do anything for me then what’s the point of knowing them? Right?

Wrong.

The people I treated well who seemed to have no benefit to me ended up becoming the Managers, General Managers and Inspiring Leaders five years down the road.

By not asking for stuff all the time, by treating these future leaders with respect and by being as close to a good human being as I could be, I got all the promotions and all the hard to reach opportunities.

My career in the corporate world looked like it was entirely built by luck. It wasn’t. My corporate career was built on respect, honesty and treating people well because it makes sense in the long run.


10. The true meaning of startup buzzwords

Lean startup. Agile. Disruptive. Act like a startup. Minimum viable product.

We hear these words every day in the startup and tech world. Every corporate is trying to adopt them as their own. I didn’t see any of these buzzwords in my corporate career ever be used successfully.

Lean startup meant Throw seven figures at it and see if it swims. If not, kill it fast!”

Agile meant plan the next five years of a new product, try to deal with every possible situation in the beginning and invite some management consultants.

Act like a startup meant adopt the word but still be a corporate because a sizeable business always knows best.

Minimum viable product meant fix every customer pain point in existence and build the mother of all solutions that’s going to take years to build and leave all competitors for dead. Let’s not fix one thing when we can fix everything thus fixing nothing in the process.


So what can you learn from the corporate world?

It’s not all bad. Park my humor for just one second. You can learn plenty in the corporate world and it’s not all bad.

The corporate world can teach you:

1. Leadership fundamentals

2. Corporate decision-making

3. Community values

4. The rate of technology disruption

The corporate world in some ways shows you what the past looks like so you can build the future. It shows you that size does not necessarily mean better results or more improved solutions.

What I’ve outlined above comes from dealing with hundreds of corporates over the last seven years and the commonalities around how they think.


The grass is not greener.

The corporate world sure has its problems. So does the startup world. So does medium sized business as well.

All business just has a different set of problems to solve.

The way to deal with this conundrum is to become an expert problem solver who enjoys the challenge. It’s not always easy to do.

The business world can get you down and suck the life out of you.

That’s why you need to take a break and get some perspective. Try small, medium and big business for yourself and make your own assessment.

The grass may be longer, shorter or in need of a mow but it’s definitely not greener.

<<<>>>

If you want to increase your productivity and learn some more valuable life hacks, then join my private mailing list on timdenning.net

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How to Change Your Bad Habits for the Benefit of Your Business

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If you are like most people, you probably like to complain from time to time about the economy, about the markets, about how things are changing too fast or how you don’t get enough time. Moan moan moan!

However, moaning doesn’t solve problems. Instead, you can follow the “No BCD” theory and avoid blaming, complaining and defensiveness. This way you will have a totally different outlook, handle situations a lot better, and take control over your destiny. A really practical way to do this is to develop better habits.

What are the bad habits you have?

Everyone has different bad habits, but when it comes to business here are the 4 most common ones:

  • Lack of focus: Every single day, there are going to be things you intend to do and then you “run out of time” or succumb to distractions. But if you’re honest, you had the time and there was a way – you just lacked focus.
  • You’re too kind: How many times have you taken on a project which wasn’t profitable, because you “felt sorry for them”. Not only does this actually hurt you, but it also in many ways hurts the relationship you have with that client or customer.
  • Promising and not delivering: Whether it’s something you said to your team, your clients, or your suppliers, if you’re not matching your words with your actions, over time others will believe you less and less.
  • Leaving opportunities on the table: So often people complain in business they don’t have enough (money/sales/support), when actually they do – they just didn’t ask for it. Within your existing network there is probably everything you need, you just have to ask.

“Successful people are simply those with successful habits.” – Brian Tracy

Think about it. You can look at each of these bad habits and replace them with new and better ones. Imagine…

  • If you created habits that made you focus better: you’d be more productive, with the same amount of time.
  • If you learned good ways to set boundaries: you’d have a better time delivering your services or products, and you’d feel more rewarded.
  • If you kept better track of your promises: You’d feel less stressed and overwhelmed.
  • If you picked up on more of those opportunities: You’d make more money, and inject welcome energy into those who are ready and willing to work with you. The side effect would be that you could delegate things you don’t love and aren’t good at to others more capable, and replace those activities with the things you love!

Breaking those bad habits

Over the years, I have managed to create more boundaries and space for me to be efficient and effective in my work. There are ways to do that  – some habits I have learned from others who have experienced and overcome similar issues, and some are the product of my own experiments. See below!

1. Sprints (for productivity)

I have to say this is so effective. I meet at least one other person at a coffee shop or members club – if it’s not in my office with my fellow team members. We plan to do 30 or 45 minutes of work and do between 3-5 sprints in a session. Blocking out 4 hours together I find works well.

We each say what we will work on and then we get going. No talking allowed, focusing only on the task we talked about. When the timer rings we stop, compare notes on progress, have a mini break and do another one. It’s honestly my most productive time, and it makes you realise how much time we waste on distractions and even moaning about having too much work on!

“A bad habit never disappears miraculously. It’s an undo-it-yourself project.” – Abigail Van Buren

2. A tiny assignment (for motivation to break a bad habit)

I have done this now twice with 2 different friends. We talk about the bad habits we each have, whatever they might be. We give each other a new rule or habit to follow over a two week period. It has to be a “SMART” goal assignment – specific, measurable, achievable, realistic and time-bound.

3. Low hanging fruit (for grabbing opportunities)

You simply make a list of people you already know who:

  • Fit into your target market but don’t work with you yet
  • Fit into your target market but haven’t worked with you for a while
  • Experience problems you know you can solve
  • Have their own network of contacts or audience which is very similar to the people you want to talk about
  • Have the expertise in things you find challenging, and very likely the answers to your current challenges

Once you have this list, you come up with some drafted initial outreach scripts for either text, email or phone calls and then you work through your list – sending out the requests, hellos, questions, etc. If you draft your communication well, considering the mindset of the people who are receiving these outreach messages, you will find each conversation will be at the very least a learning opportunity and would certainly lead to more “yeses” than if you didn’t do this exercise.

4. The minimum criteria (for setting boundaries)

If you find that your bad habits involve you saying “yes” too often when you should be saying “no” – then this one works great. You just need to write a specific list of criteria to answer the question “Any time I will do this, I need the following things to be true first”.

For example, you only take on a client who pays less than a certain minimum threshold, who has made a written commitment that they will comply with your specific set of guidelines for their responsibilities during the project. There are so many ways you can use the “minimum criteria” technique and you can share your rules with friends and colleagues to hold yourself accountable.

Now, with all this insight I hope you feel more motivated and you can’t even remember your excuses anymore!

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