What’s your problem?

Your customer doesn’t care what title is on your business card, what school you went to or what your grade point average was.  He wants one thing:

His problem solved.

It sounds so simple, yet most companies can’t do it.

So often, we tell customers what we think they should want instead of listening to them.

How to succeed in 3 easy steps:

1) Understand exactly what your customer’s problem is:

Mr. & Mrs. Smith want to buy a restored 1965 blue Mustang convertible for  $35,000.

2) Honestly assess if you can solve it:

Tom Dealer has connections with rare auto dealers across the nation and can find the best vintage cars at the lowest prices.

3) Determine if you’re willing to – and if you can do it quickly, cheaply, and/or with the best service:

The Smiths and Tom Dealer seem compatible. But if Tom doesn’t act, the Smiths will find someone who can.

This is a variation of finding the job no one wants and excelling at it.

Anyone can say she’s going to solve the problem.
Be different: actually do it.

Choose your future

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.”

Baba Amte

Successful people have at least 3 common traits.  How you embody them will determine your fate in the coming year.

Be passionate.

Call it a mission, a goal or your “Big Why.”  It’s the reason you get up in the morning, work late at night or borrow money from your family to finance your start-up costs.  Without passion, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble or when a better offer comes along. What’s your passion?

Solve problems.

If you solve people’s problems, they’ll throw money at you. Easy, right?

Find a job no one else wants and do it. Find the knowledge few know and learn it.

To sell yourself and your product or service, define what value you bring to the table.

Are you faster?

Cheaper?

Better?

Any 2 of the 3 will do.  If you’re faster than your competition, you don’t have to be cheaper, but your quality has to be at least as good as theirs.  Your customer will pay a premium for speed, but won’t accept inferiority at any price.

Produce.

Do you have a business plan? Are you working it every day?  Do you account for your results?

Your plan should focus on what problem you’re solving and the unique value that you add to the transaction.

Who are your customers? How will you reach them?

Every sale results from you talking to your customers or would-be customers.  Do this everyday.

Don’t waste time with mediocre people, thoughts or actions. Just take daily steps toward your goal.

No margin for error

Controlling your cash is the key to surviving in today’s economy.

Income flows into your account and expenses flow out. The goal is to have cash left over at the end of the month and to increase that amount each month. The difference between net sales and the costs of business is known as the margin. As you increase your margin income, you increase your net worth.

The key to success starts with tracking every dollar.

Income:

Where does your income come from? While it’s nice to have one big account, project or client, relying on one source can be risky. Find more income sources and you’ll be less vulnerable in a slowing market.

Is your revenue consistent from month to month, or do you have months with high income followed by months with no income? Regular income makes it easier to plan & budget, but many of us rely on unreliable commission. If you project income and budget, it’s easier to allocate future expenses on every sale you make. Adding sources that produce monthly income (e.g. rental properties, bonds) can temper the extremes.

If you’re carrying accounts receivable, keep meticulous records and follow up diligently. Many small businesses fail because they can’t collect on their invoices. If receivables make up most of your income, get a line of credit secured by the invoices to help you manage your cash flow.

Looking to increase income? You can either get more business from the people in your existing network, or expand your network. Actually you should do both, but I recommend you spend 60% of your time soliciting new business from your existing clients and contacts and 40% contacting potential new clients. Be energetic, be positive, and always follow up.

Expenses:

If you can’t easily estimate your monthly overhead, you’re headed for trouble. Use a program like Quicken track every expense. When it comes time to cut expenses, you’ll appreciate knowing exactly where your dollars are going.

Fixed expenses occur whether you have business or not. Examples are rent, utilities, payroll, auto use, insurance, and professional dues.

Variable expenses occur as your business increases. Advertising, postage, office supplies, mileage, cell phone use all fluctuate based on how much business you’re transacting.

If your cash is running out before the bills are paid, cut expenses. Some areas to look at:

1) Postage- email everything. If you usually advertise by mail, use an e-newsletter or your website instead.
2) Office space-If you can get out of your lease, downsize or work from home. If you’re stuck in a lease, find a complementary business to share space and expenses.
3) Vendor contracts-cell phone, janitorial, landscaping, ISP -call everyone and renegotiate.
4) Advertising & marketing-determine whether you’re getting your money’s worth. Advertising should focus on getting your customer to act now.
5) Office supplies- cut back on paper quality, switch from color to black & white copies, cut out the colored paper.
6) Payroll-Convert a full-time employee to part-time, combine 2 positions into 1 or hire a virtual staff. Whatever you decide, give your employees plenty of notice.
7) Prospecting/Networking-If you rely on expensive leads from websites or advertising, simplify. Start with face-to-face contact with people who can give you business. Update your client database and touch base with everyone you’ve done business with in the last 5 years. Your goal in every contact should be to get more business today.