Three Entrepreneurial Secrets
If you've been an entrepreneur for a while now and feel like you have not progressed or scaled as far as you like, you
have two choices.
1. Reflect and do the same thing
2. Reflect and change it up
The results achieved from taking number 2 over number 1 can be material. I have listened to hundreds – yes, I mean hundreds of podcasts this year from the likes of Entrepreneur of fire, Eventual Millionaire, Growth Everywhere, The Growth Show, The school of greatness with Lewis Howes, Superfast Business, The Tim Ferriss Show, The twenty minute VC and Smart Agency Master class just to name a few.
They have interviewed the best of the best and I have boiled it into three things to nail:
Proposition, platforms and people.
Sounds mind blowing? Probably not. However, the power of these three put together will get you want what you want in your entrepreneurial journey. Let me explain a little further on each.
I often ask myself why some people scale successfully whilst others seem to tread water.
People seem to have equal opportunity, time and resources, but some make it and others don’t.
The key difference I see is getting their proposition right.
Persona, pain points, unique values and revenue model make up the four components of Proposition.
Be very clear on who you are targeting and create a profile based off past successful clients. My experience in chasing the wrong client was not only time consuming, it also reflected that no matter what I did after that, it was not successful.
Too often, I see people pick a marketing tactic and then use it for their target market. It is the cart before the horse.Understanding how your target market likes to be approached will make a significant difference to selling time.
1.2 pain points
Once you know who, the next key question is what are their biggest pain points.
Jason Swenk mentioned the 3 I’s in one of his podcasts. Issue, Impact and Immediacy. Frequently, I fall into the trap of seeing nails because I had a hammer. Ask great questions – like these 5 why’s, to uncover the real pain point or issues they have.
If you can’t solve it, refer them to someone who can. It is a long game and building this relationship will be remembered for the right reasons, as opposed to selling someone something they are not ready to buy.
1.3 unique value
Often I see people competing on price. When I was at Coca-Cola we had a 30% rule. If you could not command a 30% premium to your nearest competitor, then you did’t have something unique. We consistently launched products that were “Me too’s” and wondered why they were not successful. No amount of marketing and selling, will recover a product or service that will not uniquely solve a pain point for someone.
One simple way of assessing a company’s unique selling proposition is the tagline on their website. Is it clear and providing something no one else is doing? A great example of this is John Lee Dumas from Entrepreneur on Fire podcast. John was the first to have a 7 day podcast and it catapulted his growth.
1.4 revenue model
Lastly, continual innovation required to maintain profits.
Coca-Cola got to $189b market capitalisation by continuing to invest profits into making the company better. If you get the above right, you should be confident in pricing correctly to make sustainable profits.
This leads me to one of the best revenue models, which is subscription based pricing. What value can you package to:
1. Make it easy for people to see the value in what you do.
2. Make it easy to buy.
3. Reduce the friction of invoicing and bookkeeping.
If entrepreneurs stopped doing emails and invested this time on their revenue model, it would make a material difference in building their empire. We worked with Jon Manning from Pricing Prophets and it had a high impact on profit without getting more clients. Most people undervalue or charge too little for what they are doing – it’s human nature.
75% of global GDP is run using one platform – SAP.
Traditionally, large enterprises have increased their profits by using technology to improve
productivity and give the right information at the right time. Salesforce is another great example where enterprises leverage technology. The great news is, since the emergence of the ‘cloud’, these mid-tier, SMB and start-up companies can now access technology in a very affordable way. In 2011 when I left Coca-Cola, I was amazed at the platforms available to run my business. I could have marketing automation, sales CRM, project management, accounting software and other analytical tools for a fraction of the price large corporates paid. I personally loved the move from PC world to Apple, where I could pay a small fee to have a 24/7
IT help desk. To be honest, I invested more time in his part of my business than I needed to. I fell in love with the platforms and became addicted to them. This came at the expense of focusing on my proposition – a lesson I learnt the hard way. I see many entrepreneurs in two camps;
• Avoid the cloud because they are paralysed by the amount of choice.
• Continually swap platforms because they are chasing the holy grail.
My recommendation is work with someone who is an expert in platforms and get them to illustrate clear successful client examples. Hold them to account for the result, not the platform and keep out of the weeds. Platforms are there to expedite your proposition – the thing only you can work on.
To build on this point, we recommend getting someone who’s business model first and platform second. Too often we see someone implementing an expensive marketing
automation platform and not using it. These marketing automation companies are great at getting people onto the platforms, however, running up a ladder faster when it is
against the wrong wall, is not going to get you the success you need.
Consider platforms to cover the broad topics of:
Also, when picking platforms, look at how well they integrate with each other.
I see a trend in getting a combination of best in breed hybrid apps (native on mobile with desktop versions) to work together.
Using integration platforms like Zapier and Workato you can have a two-way sync of
information, reducing the risk and labour of moving data between platforms. Some of the platforms we see doing this well are Podio.com, Infusionsoft, Xero, WordPress, Proposify and Google Apps for Work. We have a more exhaustive list that we are happy to share – just let us know.
Another benefit of platforms is data analytics.
At Coca-Cola, they used data to make better decisions. The data never replaces human intuition, however, provided facts to support the intuition.
Summit Insights is a great example of this where the strategy was supported by transactional data. I will not go into more details on big data, however, please consider the data you need to better make decisions and put that into the brief when talking with your platform provider.
Lastly, most entrepreneurs love to see things in a visual format.
We recommend having a visual dashboard that is customised for you to see all the key elements of your business in one place. So often I see entrepreneurs progressing towards a goal with blindfolds on.
Make it easy and use something like Klipfolio to extract data from your platforms so you can interpret and course-correct if needed.
In most of the podcast interviews, the interviewee mentioned the hardest part of building their empire was people. No matter what platform you are using, it ultimately comes back to the person using it to make the right decision.
The world of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning is rapidly growing and I believe machine to machine decisions will increase. This will create new roles for humans that we can’t predict today – in some ways similar to the industrial age and internet age we have experienced previously.
So if people are critical and here to stay, what are you doing to make sure you are investing in your people? Again, I see many entrepreneurs spending more time on emails and basic admin than leading their people. As a simple test, take 6 hours x 60 min = 360 mins. Of those available minutes for a typical day, how many were spent on your people? When I do this exercise with entrepreneurs they are shocked at how little. We typically provide them an Action Partner to give them back their time. So what do they do with it?
We believe there are 4 core elements they should focus their time on, explained next.
The younger generations of today want to follow entrepreneurs that inspire them. This is both at work and in their personal lives.
Back around 2004, I heard Professor Rob Goffee speak about people picking you as opposed to you picking them. Reflecting back, this made a significant impact on how I lead. I always start with the person first, what is their why and how can I contribute to it. Once I understand that, I then articulate my passion and why I do what I do. I was born with Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD) and my future generations have a 50/50 chance of getting it too. My why is to invest a large proportion of my wealth into solving this disease so there are more choices.
This is why I help people build empires – to fund research and to hopefully see other successful people give to causes that are close to them. I was inspired by Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to give the majority of his wealth to make the world a better place, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates did previously. Clearly having a burning why and help people to reach theirs, will inspire people to follow you.
Related to the above point, money is important, however as we live in a knowledge economy, people want to be developed as well as getting remunerate.
For some people, knowledge and skills are more important than money. So they try to hone their skills and have more knowledge, then money will come later when they go out on their own.
At Coca-Cola there were 800,000+ employees and they were very structured in the way they developed you. They called it an Individual Development Plan (IDP) and the trick was spending 30min once a month reviewing how a person had worked on one key competency. An entrepreneur’s role is to hold them accountable and support them.
Some of you may have worked in large enterprises where they used companies like Aon Hewitt to measure employee engagement.
In this Forbes article, Kevin defines engagement as, “Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organisation and its goals.”
We had a survey every two years at Coca-Cola and there was a short burst of reflection, sometimes shock and then frenzied activity. Then 18 months would go by with little attention.
This is not engagement, it is rubber stamping. You get the picture.
What we recommend to our clients is to do a monthly survey that asks 10-12 questions which really counts.
We are testing a company called peakon.com. They provide an automated anonymous survey monthly, fantastic dash boarding and recommendations on the top 3 things you can focus on. We had a non-financial reward gap that came up in the survey. Peakon provided some recommendations on what to do and when we implemented them, our engagement scores improved.
Thinking back, when listening to VC guys talking about why they picked companies, they often say the founder and their people. As mentioned previously, we analyse data from clients, websites etc but how often do we analyse what our people are telling us.
I mentioned before that Coca-Cola employs many people, however if you were to add all the partners and suppliers they use, it would be multiply the times that number.
Coca-Cola taught me the vital lesson of doing what you do best and then get other people to help with the rest.
I see too many entrepreneurs trying to be superhuman. I have read Chris Ducker’s book Virtual Freedom, where he articulated this phenomena. At Coca-Cola, I had an Executive Assistant that removed all the admin in my day. She was working 10-11 hours a day so I guess there was a lot for her to do. If I didn’t have her, I would be doing it myself. So that’s why I created Action Partners to provide entrepreneurs an affordable solution.
I’ve seen entrepreneurs and their teams trying to do tasks that either don’t have the skills to do it or don’t have the time. Either way, instead of focusing on points 1-3 above,
they blow time on recreating the wheel. If time is the number one asset of the super wealthy, why not learn from this and value your time.
There’s also the saying – If you want something done, you have to do it yourself. I agree, but not entirely because there is a false economy as most of the tasks are repetitive. You should invest 30x 5min (150min) to remove the 5min task from you. Because if you don’t, the true cost of that one 5min task is more like 1,000 minutes per annum. Add all the 5 minutes up and it could be the answer to – I simply don’t know where all my time goes.
I quickly realised that building a team in a market like Australia was an onerous experience. So I set up a team in the Philippines instead. Yes, affordability was one consideration, however, the main one was the speed and quality of candidates. Trying to employ people locally was challenging. I hear people say – you are taking Australian jobs. However, I see it differently. In my case and other Australian entrepreneurs I have helped, outsourcing has resulted in employing more higher qualified jobs locally as business scaled. This leads to more company tax to Australia. Outsourcing also provides Filipinos an opportunity to work with global entrepreneurs whilst living with their families. It doesn’t just have to be the Philippines, this applies to many countries globally.
These are two approaches we recommend:
1. Project based
2. Dedicated teams
If you can work with a partner that provides both the project and dedicated teams, it can save you valuable time in building your team. If you want to get somewhere fast, go alone. If you want to go far, build a team.
I believe one of the hardest roles on the planet is to be an entrepreneur. It has a different intensity and pressure compared to enterprise. If you want to nail your journey as an entrepreneur, concentrate on these three areas and take a more direct path to building your empire.
About Paul Higgins, Empire Builder at Bollo Empire and
Founder of Think to Act.
Paul helps entrepreneurs to build global empires through working on their value proposition and scaling it through platforms and people. Paul draws from his rich knowledge and practical experience gained from 18 years at Coca-Cola and 4 years running two successful start-ups – Bollo Empire and Think To Act.
Paul is passionate about working with disruptive entrepreneurs who have a clear vision and drive to reach their full potential. His other passion is to cure Polycystic Kidney Disease (PKD).