Innovate Like a Lean Startup

iStock_000009200146XSmallEnterprise organizations are taking a rigorous look at the principles used in the Lean Startup movement. They are carefully considering how they can incorporate the approach for building and launching new products faster to increase revenues and reduce costs.

Why? Speed of innovation and time-to-market can translate to millions in revenue gained or millions in lost opportunity costs for organizations of every size. One known fact for product-based businesses is that the typical time for market development can no longer take years for planning to launch. Competitive forces require organizations to be in cycles of continuous improvement and a constant state of innovation.

Some businesses acquire other businesses to gain momentum, others set up lean approaches within their product development and design centers. If enterprises want to compete with the “young and restless” entrepreneur community, they need to consider moving faster in definition, development and bringing new products to market.

The father of the lean movement is Eric Ries, author of The Lean Startup: How Today’s Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses. The Lean Startup methodology promotes shorter product development cycles driven by experimentation and validated learning. Instead of waiting until the final product is “complete” before launch, the lean practice recommends to use iterative releases to confirm adoption and use cases for a minimum viable product.

The constant develop-release cycle provides for ongoing feedback to modify and pivot to meet buyer and user needs faster. The goal for this technique is to speed products to market, maximizing early product adoption cycles and capturing the most market opportunity. This all translates to revenue.

The risks associated to this approach are primarily related to creating products that seem to never be finished. Consumers must have a strong loyalty to stay committed to products that are always upgrading. Businesses have to evaluate the risk-rewards of being first to market with products that are viable and utilize the information gained in the customer feedback process during each release to keep customers happy.

The growing consideration of going lean for many business owners today is whether they do so through an M&A strategy or reorganization of the product development operation.

“The only way to win is to learn faster than anyone else.” – Eric Ries

By Jamie Glass, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers@jglass8

This article appeared in the CKS Advisors CKS Updates May 2013 Newsletter. Visit www.cksadvisors.com for additional information.

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Good Business Leaders Use Intuition to Make Decisions

ImageDecision making is constant in business. Advancing products, engaging employees, responding to customers all while keeping a careful eye on the bottom line. It is the basic function of a leader to be continuously selecting priorities and taking action. Multitasking and constant awareness come with the territory of being in charge. The only stop to the ongoing process is shut-eye. Not resting, deep sleep.

Every person, whether in a leadership role or not, confronts hundreds, thousands even tens of thousands instinctual decisions throughout a given day. Some are instantaneous, or as we classify “automatic”, while others require in-depth analysis. We all have an internal analytic engine, taking everything we know, we collect and can reference based on experience to churn out a decision. We are the greatest sources of our own big data!

As technologists find ways to host, gather and exploit bytes by the billions and trillions of data from others, our own brain functions as the largest processor of data. Enabling us to act quickly or deliberately, at the speed of which best suits the need for a decision. Not everyone utilizes their “big data” engine in the best way, whether from a lack experience or knowledge, impairment or perhaps ignorance to what the data shows. The result, bad decisions.

In business, some can be plagued by the constant role as Decider-in-Chief. This often results in procrastination or delayed decisions. The common impact is action taken “too late”. The organization depends on a leader to make impromptu decisions, while also taking deliberate actions to lead to the “best” decision given a certain set of facts. Organizations need deciders to execute plans, activate programs and assign activities that drive results.

Good leaders often have a good sense of intuition. They use gut check analysis and set plans into action, without the noticeable analysis that others might use in trying to determine the path forward.  Where did they acquire such skill?  Repetitive decision making. Leaders know they have to make decisions, they are accustomed to their role and have the experience of accepting fault and risk with taking action. This training builds confidence and a strong basis for intuition. Making decisions over and over again in practice builds an intuitive leader.

Some researchers claim that intuition results in a physical experience, a shiver, an image or the often unexplained deja vu.  Others may use the intuitive nature of a dream to set a plan into action. The remembrance seems to create a comfort in the decision, having the sense of knowing the outcome. Beyond the intangible means from which confidence results, the facts are that when decisions are needed, strong leaders will act. Knowing inaction often results in increased pressure, stress and potential problems, making a decision, right or wrong, seems to give a sense of relief.  Decisions invoke power and progress.

There is no magic in intuition, it’s brain power. It is knowledge. Intuition is using information, filtering and making a judgment based on experience. The continuous practice of using intuition creates a platform to control quality of decisions and use of perception or quick insight, without compromising confidence.

Intuition is not “inherent”, it is learned.  The origin of the word dates back to the 1400’s as a reference to contemplation. There are many times that intuition will lead to proven conclusions; however, a leader will not always use it quickly and without process. There is often a misnomer that intuition means instant, without regard for facts or experience. It does not. It means using your better judgement and trusting your thoughts, your ideas and your role as a decision maker. It is using your intuition to move forward.

Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition.” – Steve Jobs

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

What is the Real Value in Free

freeFree is zero, nada, zilch, nothing. In the mind of the consumer, free means whatever you give away for free has no cost to you. The same applies to your time. If you are giving away your time for free, how do others adjust to understanding your “real” value? Do they realize your true worth?

Most people are very leery of free offers. Based on experience, we are trained to look for the fine print, the exceptions and qualifications.  Our better judgement tells us that there is usually a “catch” to getting something for free.  A free day at the spa comes with the catch of attending a vacation rental sales pitch. A free juicer included with a top priced refrigerator comes with the catch of spending more on a product just to get a small appliance you may never use. A free soft drink when you buy the big meal comes with the catch you have to super-size your entire meal. If we are always suspect to the catch, how does that reflect on the perception of you giving away your time for free? Maybe there is a catch.

We are all very susceptible to the attraction of a free offer. Free works. We often all like to take advantage of free! Significant purchases are emotional. Free sparks our interest, it draws attraction to possibilities. Free also plays on the strong emotion of fear. The fear of losing out on the free.  Will someone else get our free?

What is not often measured is the “buyer” remorse of a free offer.  Why?  Well, you didn’t pay for your free, how can you be remorseful. You got what you paid for – zero, nada, nothing. You can’t return “nothing”. Your stuck with your free.  The cycle continues, giving and getting for free and then we are left wondering was it worth our time as the giver or receiver. It might be easier to leave the emotions behind and get to the real offer of people paying for your services. Paying for your valuable time without an emotional gimmick.

Free feels like it should have value. We perceive that whatever we get will be of greater value than what we have to give to get it.  It is very difficult in business as a service provider and solopreneur to not give away your time. We often justify this as a “marketing and sales” expense.  Unfortunately, the expense is not something you can list on your expense records as a tax deduction. You can not expense your hourly rate as a cost of sales. It’s lost time or to put in a more feel good term, an investment.

When you give away your time, what you do and who you are is represented as free.  It may appear to be a good idea. If you give your time away regularly others will soon see that your time has no value and what you perceive to be a great gift often goes unused or disregarded. Are you creating the perception that you are “free” for the taking?

The best advice for giving away time for free is to set a specific free time budget.  How many hours can you afford to give away each week?  Also, keep your “power of negotiation” at your central point of where you do business.  Meeting at coffee shops and for lunch may seem like a convenient way to give away your free services; however, you are no longer in a business setting, which demonstrates that your business is the priority. 

We all desire to help others, pay it forward and do good. The best good you can do is to make sure that you get value for what you do. Free is a teaser, a sample. Maybe it is required to build a relationship and establish an opportunity for a transaction.  Then again, maybe if what you give away for free is so valuable people will actually pay you for it. Limiting your exposure and risk, means you have limited availability to always give away your time and services for free. Use your time wisely.

If you were to offer a thirsty man all wisdom, you would not please him more than if you gave him a drink.” — Sophocles

Jamie Glass, President and CMO at Artful Thinkers @jglass8

Over the Hill or Through the Woods

iStock_000021617437_ExtraSmallThe beginning of every year is an opportunity to set your direction and communicate your path forward. It gives you the chance to review and define your goals, personally and professionally. For everyone else, it gives them the ability to know how to best support and follow the leader. Does everyone that can impacts your business know your 2013 plan?

The lack of a defined plan for the year, leaves everyone taking their “own” best path forward. In the end, this may not produce or represent the organization’s goals or objectives. People will be moving, activities will be happening, yet you may be headed to exactly where you did not “plan” to go. It is up to you to stop the wandering effect of your business and your followers. Set the direction. Communicate your exact plan.  If you don’t have a plan, create one now — before it is too late.

If you have a plan and you have not shared it, this is the week to get it done! People and businesses need goals and plans. You can work endless amounts of time, expend great energy and spend a lot of money to end up in the wrong place. How did that happen? Usually it is because everyone is not working collectively on the same outcome. Everyone is heading in a direction, but it may not be the “right” direction.

As a leader, it is critical to everyone working with you that they understand your strategy and goals for the business. A plan provides the road map empowering you to define the activities and tasks. It opens the door to assigning responsibilities and setting accountability. More importantly, it gives you the capability of making a pivot or shifting your plans by creating a benchmark for how you will measure success along the path forward.

Working on a shared and communicated plan, gives business leaders a reason to stay in touch with employees, measure their progress and assess performance. People thrive on accomplishments and desire feedback. Knowing how they are contributing to the success of the business can only be measured by stated goals and objectives.

Get everyone working together. Options may be limited or options may be bountiful based on the path you choose to take the business. Communicate your choice. Will you be headed over the hill or through the woods. What will be in the basket full of goodies you will offer to your customers, vendors, employees and partners. How do they prepare to avoid risks? What will be awaiting when they arrive at the determined destination?

Your team is waiting for you to tell them the story. How it begins this year and how it will end. Provide regular updates and know that people will be looking for you to lead them in the direction you have shared.

“If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”
— Henry Ford

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

Don’t Confuse Confidence with Enthusiasm

Enthusiastic blonde woman wearing big glasses.Business leaders, entrepreneurs, sales people and marketers utilize enthusiasm to draw people to their ideas. They passionately motivate us to follow and take action.  Enthusiasm creates an emotional attachment.

Beyond the emotion, we soon find ourselves wanting more.  We want to trust that we should follow, not follow blindly. We need proof that the words are supported by facts. We need evidence. We are convinced by confidence.

Enthusiasm opens the door, confidence is the closer. We are attracted by enthusiasm. We believe in confidence.  Enthusiasm is selling, marketing and promoting.  Confidence is demonstrating, providing proof and creating trust to solve problems and fulfill needs.  Knowing the difference is very important.  Knowing how to balance the two requires expertise.

A person that lacks confidence will often exude excessive enthusiasm to mask insecurities or lack of evidence.  Have you ever found yourself so engaged by a sales person that you forget you are being sold? Enthusiasm wins. The result may be buyer remorse or worse, deception. Perhaps a new hire enthusiastically convinces you that they can “do the job” and soon the facts do not support reality. A very expensive mistake for a small business – costing the company time and money.

On the flip side, a confident person can be so overtly confident they fail to listen to others or fail to create a following.  Confidence is not arrogance. Confidence can easily delude rational thinking.  The love of power convinces the most confident they can not fail, thus losing all sense of humility and gratitude. When you look around you and no one is cheering you along, your confidence has removed your ability to attract others. There is no emotional appeal. You are now the leader of no one.

Confidence is defined as full trust; belief in powers, trustworthiness, or reliability of a person or thing, belief in oneself and one’s powers or abilities; self-confidence; self-reliance; assurance.

Enthusiasm is defined as absorbing or controlling possession of the mind by any interest or pursuit; lively interest.

How do you create balance and avoid the extremes? The perfect blend of confidence and enthusiasm is pitchman Ron “Ronco” Popeil.  He used demonstration to prove his inventions were viable and trustworthy. He used hype and selling to capture our mind share and imagination.  Who can forget his famous, “But wait, there’s more!”  Son of an inventor, Popeil is one of the most famous marketing pitchmen.  He showed you how you could dice onions, so you won’t shed a tear.  How you could depend on his electronic dehydrator to feed your children healthy fruit snacks instead of candy.  The lessons in all the infomercials where about solving a problem. Confidently.

What is the financial impact when you expertly blend confidence and enthusiasm?  Many of the Popeil inventions, most designed by Ron’s father, sold over 2 million. Ron Popeil is not rich solely from his fishing poles and spray on hair inventions. He is rich because he used enthusiasm to get our attention followed by confidently demonstrating how he solved our problems. He sold it. We bought it. We bought his confidence.

Whether you are pitching for investor dollars or motivating your sales team, you must build trust.  Demonstrate reliability and accountability.  Show the why.  Why you, why your company, why your ideas, why now.  Then use your persuasive personality to make sure the message is received, understood and people are left wanting more.

Enthusiasm without evidence is hype.  Hype doesn’t convince anyone, only gives us reason to be suspect.  Don’t oversell, don’t undersell. Confidence alone is mundane. Lead with enthusiastic confidence. A moderation of the two, equal but not separate, wins.

“Without a humble but reasonable confidence in your own powers you cannot be successful or happy.” Norman Vincent Peale

Jamie Glass, Founder, President and CMO of Artful Thinkers

How May I Help You?

ImageIf you provide service as part of your value, the first opportunity you have to learn about your customer’s needs is to ask one very simple question, “How May I Help You?”.  These five words will enable you to define the pain and opportunity. Carefully listening to the response opens the door for how you can provide the greatest value, how you might actually help!

Asking someone how you can help them may be viewed as a conversation opener. It does provide a moment to engage.  Engagement is critical in moving a target to a potential buyer or consumer of your goods and services.  What better way to get the dialogue started by asking how you might fulfill a request or need.

Asking someone how you can help them is different than using professional etiquette to ask, “How are you today?”.  Though this is a nice sentiment, it doesn’t require you to stop and listen. In fact, most people use this as a long form hello or welcome.  Many will respond with a trite and unemotional “good”, when in fact it may not be how they are at all. It limits your engagement.

The better way to open up a dialogue with a potential customer is to ask how to help them.  It requires you to pay attention.  It means you have to participate in a conversation that will have to use your perception skills, your listening skills and your problem solving skills.  A much higher demand upon your brain than a rehearsed canned response of “good”.

A person skilled in the art of providing outstanding service will anticipate the potential requests that will ensue from the question of how you can help.  The proposition of providing outstanding service also demands that the response demonstrates how you plan to deliver the help or better qualify the type of help that will best serve the customer’s needs.

Expectations of your engagement will be defined when you ask how you can help someone.  It is up to you then to determine how you can deliver that help or point them in the right direction.  The first impression is set by your willingness to open the door, invite someone in and learn of their requirements.

Here are some easy ways to remember how to create the greatest value of HELP:

H = HOW the person defines their need when you ask how you can help them. It is your opportunity to determine how you can be the best in serving them when you ask the question.

E = EXPECTATIONS are set when a person is asked how you can help them.  Knowing exactly what is expected gives you the opportunity to WOW them with your determination to provide outstanding service.

L = LISTEN carefully when you ask someone how you can help them, as they will assume you will hear and understand their needs.  Your first response will be their first impression of how good you will be in helping them resolve their problem or attain their goal.

P = PREPARE to deliver when you ask how to help.  Every request may be unique; however, you have standard services that will fit the needs with or without some customization.  Know your responses and the value that you will provide in helping them.

Most important, when asking someone how you can help them, is to respond with honesty.  If you cannot help, tell the person you are not able to help.  It is a measure of your integrity.  If you can extend yourself by giving them a referral to others that can help or pointing them to another resource, you will be a better service provider.  Your value to help does not require you to actually provide the help, only yield to a pathway that gets the person to where they can get the help they need.  Then you are truly a great service provider.

Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on earth.  ~Mohammed Ali

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Prepare to Hire a Sales Person

It is the time of year that businesses start to look at their anticipated revenues and question if they can increase the top line with additional sales resources.  A sales person is an investment in your business. Preparing for the role within your organization is as equally important as hiring the right person.

Before you hire anyone, have you created a sales plan?  The sales plan is where you define your revenue goals for the year, the budget for required headcount and support resources, and the tactics you will employ to achieve your goals.  At a minimum, you must define what you are willing to invest into the selling of your products and services for every expected new dollar of revenue.  Once you make this calculation, set your budget based on your investment requirements and expected returns with new sales.

Now that you have your sales plan outlined, here are some steps to help you get ready for hiring a new sales person:

  1. Sales Role: Will your new hire be a direct, field sales person or an inside sales person?  A direct sales person will have a larger budget for travel and expenses, in addition to higher compensation.  The expense of a direct sales person can be offset by a putting in place a higher quota.  A direct sales person is expected to negotiate larger contracts and develop profitable long-term relationships over the phone and in person.  An inside sales person will conduct all of their selling over the phone. They will be qualifying opportunities, making online presentations, negotiating and asking for the business over the phone.  Inside sales people will have a smaller quota and also typically sell smaller priced products and services that do not require face-to-face presentation and negotiation.
  2. Job Description:  Create a job description that clearly defines the requirements for the role, responsibilities and expectations of what the sales person must deliver.  Be specific. State the sales goals, types of customers they need to sell and how they will engage with prospects.  Will they be a “hunter” or a closer or both?  Will they need to have existing relationships?  How much experience in your industry?  Note how your sales person will be measured and how you view success.
  3. Quota and Territory:  Generally inside sales quotas will start at $100,000 to $250,000 in new business revenue per year.  The defined quota will always depend on the sales price.  A direct sales person can be expected to have a quota of $500,000 to $1,000,000 a year in sales.  Again price of product will help set the quota, along with experience of the sales hire.  If you hire someone with no experience in achieving a million dollars in sales, they probably won’t hit a million dollar quota no matter how much they sell you on the prospects.
  4. Comp Plan and Incentives:  Detail how the sales person will be compensated.  Typically there are three factors in sales compensation:  sales commissions on new business, incentives to exceed quotas and bonuses for quality or quantity.  Define your compensation and commission rules.  When will the sales person be paid?  You can set different commissions for different products, based on profitability.  The average sales commission is 4-8% of top line sales revenue.  One word of advice, the easier the plan is to follow, the more focused your sales person will be on achieving plan instead of trying to figure out when and how they get paid.
  5. Sales Process:  The sales process defines the steps a sales person will engage to find, qualify, present, negotiate and close a deal.  If you know the process, you can better hold a sales person accountable to how they manage their sales funnel.  It will also provide you data on how many leads you need to support the number of deals you expect to close each year.  Data is your friend in sales.
  6. Marketing and Sales Support:  Sales people will typically work independently; however, you can shorten the sales cycle by providing sales tools and marketing support to help educate the customer, drive the process forward and substantiate the value propositions of your products.  Prepare a training plan to educate the new hire on what they will sell.  A minimum requirement for any sales person is a CRM tool.  Your prospects and clients are a company asset.  Track and manage the data and make sure it is stored in a company repository.
  7. Measurable Success:  Before you make the hire, know exactly how you will measure their success.  A sales person, no matter the level of experience, will have a ramp up before they start closing deals.  Your sales cycle can range from weeks to years.  The more complex the sale, the higher price of your products and the more consultative the sales process, the more likely it will take six months or more before you see traction with even the most experienced sales person.  Your only exception will be to hire a person that already has relationships with your targeted customers.  The ramp-up will decrease with selling experience; however, you will pay a lot more for this type of sales person in base and expected overall compensation.  Do the math.  Can you invest more early on to increase odds of higher returns with a shorter sales cycle?

An investment in sales is one of the most important decision an owner makes in the life cycle of a business.  Making a bad sales hire can crush your business.  Prepare and plan for success.  Set reasonable expectations and measure performance.  Sales is a numbers game.  Know the numbers, inside and out.  Know what you spend.  Know what you want in return. Know how the sales person will achieve the sales goals.  Prepare your plan so you know what success looks like and then execute your plan.

By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” ― Benjamin Franklin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Virtues of a Trusted Advisor

The role of a trusted advisor is honorable.  A business leader believes you can help them achieve their goals, overcome their challenges and drive new opportunities.  Your advice is so valuable to the business, they choose to invest valuable resources, including time and money, for your guidance, products and services. They trust you can make a difference.

In the position of power, an advisor must demonstrate characteristics of greatness.  An advisor must garner the trust needed to challenge, collaborate and guide leaders in personal and professional ways.  The considerable distinction of being a trusted advisor must be representative of virtues that such power bestows.

Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founders of the United States, listed his 13 virtues in a notebook. He referenced the virtues to measure how he lived each day. The virtues included temperance, silence, order, justice and humility.  He developed the list of virtues when he was 20 years old and used it in some form, according to his autobiography, for the rest of his long life.

Though there are hundreds of virtuous characteristics, there are a few common virtues practiced by many high quality trusted advisors.  What would you include on your list of virtues to guide you in the expected role of a trusted advisor?  Here are ten virtues that top my list:

Ten Trusted Advisor Virtues

  1. Diligent – Be a good steward. Spend other’s resources with care and great due diligence to maximize a positive impact. Value other’s money as if it is your own.
  2. Integrity – Be honest and ethical in your role as a confidant.
  3. Silence – Listen to learn.  Advising others requires you to listen and learn before you conclude and guide.
  4. Courage – Challenge ideas, policies, programs and standards with candor, evidence and experience.  You need not be right, you need to state your beliefs with conviction.  It is your role.
  5. Credible – Prove you are worthy of trust.  Believe in your ideas and recommendations. Convey your belief with proof.
  6. Share – Take part in the business.  Be a partner. Contribute by sharing ideas and making valuable connections.
  7. Reliable – Be present in real time.  Demonstrate your loyalty by being available to help when help is needed.  Be on time. Deliver on time.
  8. Logical – Solve problems with logic.  Business decisions can be emotional.  Provide the logical pros and cons to help others make sound decisions.
  9. Wisdom – Use your knowledge and judgement to be resourceful.  Experience has value.  Speak and advise on what you know and when you don’t know, find other resources that do know.
  10. Respect – Respect those you advise and respect your position of power.  The quality of your work will be demonstrated by your ability to deliver, real and actionable advice. Earn respect by doing.

Virtues are often referred to as ethics.  Virtues are your moral compass, how you conduct yourself. As a trusted advisor, you have the responsibility to demonstrate the value of your advice. Trust is earned. It is not to be taken for granted. Your word, your actions, your work, your products, your services, all must represent the values you profess.

If you are so bold to declare your personal and professional virtues, take the time to measure the impact of your chosen words.  Do your virtues help you to better help those paying for your guidance?  Deliver what you say you will deliver. Be virtuous and then you will be trusted. A Trusted Advisor.

“So our virtues lie in the interpretation of the time.” – Shakespeare

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Entrepreneurial Lessons from Your First Job

We have all had one. A first job. Someone looked you in the eye and said, “You are hired!” The decision confirms they trusted you to represent their business. They were willing to invest in you, train you, teach you how to earn a paycheck.

Your confidence swells with the first yes. Your stride is more brisk, your smile broadens. You did it! You are accepted, wanted and needed. Someone recognizes you for being a contributor. Then, the apprehension begins. What if they don’t like me? What happens if I make a mistake? Can I do this job? The overwhelming reality of being responsible of earning a wage is measured by the sudden onset of nervous excitement.

Many of the emotions and fears of starting your first job are similar to starting your first business. Entrepreneurs have to balance the adrenaline associated with being in complete control with the reality that businesses fail. Lingering in the bravado are facts from the Small Business Administration (SBA) that nearly a third of businesses fail within the first two years. Reverting to your confidence that says “just do it” because you are different and better, you focus on the statistical favor that you do have a 66% chance you will make it.

The first time you do anything is valuable experience. Recalling what you learned at your first job is an excellent way to apply past experience to a new first – starting your own business. Here are some tips to take from your first job that are nuggets of wisdom to apply to your startup venture:

1.  Embrace the Fear of Failing – You have an option to be paralyzed in fear or embrace the opportunity that if you try, you may succeed.  We all know examples of the person who tried over and over again, failing countless times before they finally made it!  They never quit. Using the knowledge of each failure, big or small, prepare yourself for the possibility of next time.

2.  Take Pride in Your Work – Others are counting on you to help them.  Any business is defined by satisfying a need.  If they need you, take satisfaction in your ability to help.  In the early stage of a new business, people will flock to those that are confident in what they deliver.  Uncertainty creates worrisome customers, or even worse, potential customers who never buy.

3.  Always Be Learning – You are glowing green at your first job.  You are a blank slate.  Your training is the groundwork for how you will perform. Soaking up expertise from those that proceeded you is smart business.  What you don’t know today, can propel your business to the next level. Find expertise.  Be a knowledge consumer.

4.  Businesses Reward Hard Work – As you master the skills necessary to do your first job and do it well, you soon learn that businesses reward performance.  Promotions and raises are given to those that work hard and do more than their peers.  Your customers will reward you for your hard work.  Their loyalty is associated to your ability to outperform your competition.

5.  Listening Skills are Important – Listening to your customers in your first job and in your first business is elementary.  Your customer is paramount to delivering products and services that meet the customer’s needs.  Failing to listen increases your odds of an unhappy customer.  Unhappy customers tell others of their experience.  Listening improves potential for high customer satisfaction.

6.  Time Management is Critical – There are no rewards for showing up late or missing work.  One of the most important skills acquired in the first job is how to manage your time.  You soon learn there are no acceptable excuses.  Juggling priorities becomes primary to your success.  Owning a business depends on the genius of multitasking.  You will work harder and that means you have to work smarter to get the job done.

7.  Handling Money Builds Trust – When you take money for any product or service, you are now accepting the currency of trust.  You are expected to provide equal or greater value in the exchange of cash for goods.  Exceeding expectations builds credibility.  Manage others money with the same respect you demand from those that manage yours.

The knowledge acquired from a first job is fundamental to a startup. How you apply that knowledge and skill will often result in similar or better experience as an entrepreneur. The mistakes are lessons of how to do something different. The successes are foundations to build upon.

Challenge yourself to reflect on your first job. What was the best lesson learned on your first job? Can you instill this in your values, culture and standards as a business owner today?

Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely. ~Auguste Rodin

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.

Ready to Engage Your New Customer?

The buzz in marketing circles today is engagement. How do you effectively hook potential customers into a committed relationship? The investment a business makes in the engagement process should be directly tied to revenues. If you expertly and skillfully engage, sales will increase.

Competent engagement helps a business target, influence, nurture and convert prospects to customers.  The more expeditious a business is in engaging with prospects, the bigger impact to the bottom-line.  How are you engaging your potential new customers?

The easiest way to initiate engagement is to view customer and wedding engagements as the same.  The difference between the two are in the details of tactics.  How you move from targeting into proposal are nearly identical in overall strategy.

Engagement begins by determining how to get someone to respond to your offer.  First, identify the target based on the qualifications of a “good match”.  Who is a suitable candidate for engagement?  What are the qualities you are seeking, both in demographics and social behaviors? Then you need to determine what makes you attractive to others.  Packaging and presentation of your “stand out” qualities are critical in the initial step of the engagement process.  Know where to direct your message and selling to the most qualified targets.

Second, you start the courting process, where all long-term valuable relationships begin. This step is more difficult to measure and needs careful preparation. You can spend a tremendous amount of resources influencing others and never get to the proposal. Laws of attraction and suitability apply.  Who you target, what you say and why they are a good candidate must already be known to successfully influence the “right” prospect.

Using engagement tactics like research, focus groups, asking for referrals can speed progress directly influencing better qualified prospects when cultivating relationships. Put out a few “asks”.  Look for agreement.  Identify the buying signals.  Know what makes this prospect want to engage further in the relationship.  Define what is in it for them. It might take some sampling and analysis to reach a successful outcome.

Third, define acceptable terms of the relationship.  Nurture your relationship to fully understand the “how and why” you need to partner.  Build upon the strengths of your bond through mutual consent. Constant communication, validation and envisioning the success of your relationship solidifies the “why”.  This is the beginning of a potentially long-term committed relationship, one that must be mutually beneficial.   Are you both in agreement? Create timelines and set expectations to help control spending, time and resources while nurturing your relationship.

Fourth, make the BIG proposal.  It is time to go all in and ask for the close.  Whether it be a hand in marriage or to partner in business, the only way to get to a “yes” is to make the proposal.  If you have taken time to go through an engagement process, building consensus along the way, you will have eliminated most of the risk in making the proposal.  Converting a prospect to a buyer requires you to “pop” the question.  It is time to seal the deal.

The opportunity to engage is there, are you ready to start the process?  Only if you are able to commit to an engagement, will you be ready to “tie the knot” with a new customer.

[W]hen you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.  ~Nora Ephron, When Harry Met Sally

By Jamie Glass, CMO & President of Artful Thinkers and Managing Director of Sales & Marketing Practice at CKS Advisors.