It was once said: “When life gives you lemons, plant its seeds, grow yourself an orchard, sell it to Sunkist. Carry on.” Negative reviews can be a blessing in disguise for any business owner or entrepreneur who is serious about building a profitable and valuable company. There are two types of negative reviews – negative reviews for your company and negative reviews for your competitors. What many people overlook is that negative reviews can often hold the secret to making your business better. Once you move past the spam reviews and reviews from customers that will never be pleased, you are left with some ideas on how to improve your results. The negative reviews for your company and your competitors reveal what people are expecting and what they are happy to pay for. Whatever problems customers are experiencing and writing about are opportunities to provide solutions and make your business stand out. Lean into negative reviews and add money to your bottom line by exceeding your customers’ expectations.
Finding new revenue streams can be as easy as solving unsolved problems for your existing customers. What does this mean? It means looking at the product or service your company offers the market and examining the process your customers go through to get it. As they make their way through your customer experience, there are probably opportunities to help them solve other challenges. Finding new revenue streams depends upon your ability to remove yourself from your business, place yourself in your customers’ place and examine what they go through in the course of using your products or services. What problems do your customers have that are currently unsolved? Answering this question takes effort, but your bottom line will reward you if you can.
Need new clients? Need to grow revenue? The easiest way to do this is to determine which clients your business enjoys serving and which clients enjoy interacting with your company and then build a plan around finding more of them. A business that focuses on swapping out imperfect clients for perfect clients is a business that is maximizing its resources and is efficiently maximizing its profit. It is challenging for a company to serve different types of customers. Each type of customer a business helps interrupts its ability to run efficiently, effectively and profitably. Adjusting to the needs of different types of customers means a company has to change how it delivers its products and services. The adjustments reduce profitability and limit revenue. The goal is to reduce the variety of customers your business serves and focus on a few that are highly profitable, easy to work with and who enjoy interacting with your company. Growing revenue doesn’t mean expanding your customer base as much as swapping out imperfect clients for perfect ones.
When does it make sense to have employees become shareholders in your business? Many business owners will offer shares to their team as a way to recognize their contribution and as a way to retain them. Many employees want to become shareholders to earn more money and participate in the value they are creating. Giving employees shares in your business will only be meaningful if you have determined what you believe the business’s value will be and how their efforts will help ensure it materializes. In the absence of concrete goals, offering shares to employees is, at best, a token exercise that will not produce the intended effect. If you want to provide employees with shares in your business, spend time and effort to put a plan together that shows them where the company is going and what it will be worth once it gets there. Doing this will make the exercise meaningful and worthwhile.
If you are in business with a partner, the day may come when you need to discuss how to exit the business. Conversations like this can go in many different directions. Generally speaking, the work completed (or lack thereof) when the company was created will directly impact the amount of work that must be completed when the company dissolves or its structure changes. Many small businesses are formed informally without shareholder agreements, exit strategies or written expectations of each participant’s responsibilities. The lack of structure and planning at the onset of a company will result in business partners having to work through details when they decide to buy each other out. Because expectations are often unclear, valuation methods used to determine payout amounts can be biased, and communication can become cordial and frustrating. One of the easiest ways to buy out a business partner is to look back at the history of the business, how the partners were each participating and then have a frank conversation about what is reasonable and fair for everyone involved. This approach doesn’t mean everyone gets what they want, but common sense might enable a speedier outcome than what might have been realized otherwise. Getting caught up in details that were not part of how a company was formed or managed can be challenging to impose when the company needs to change. History can be a good reference point for setting a future course of action.
Doing ten things at 10% does not equal 100% – it equals 10%. Doing one thing at 100% that doesn’t need to be done does not equal 100% – it equals 0%. Many business owners fall somewhere along the spectrum of being partially involved in many things or wholly involved in unimportant things. The quality of a business owner’s goals will determine their effectiveness in meeting them. A business owner will get under-involved in many things or over-involved in a few things because they do not have well-defined goals or do not have a good understanding of where their business needs to focus. The very nature of business is change, and a business owner needs to focus on the tasks and opportunities that will significantly impact their company. Business owners get pulled in many different directions daily, and there is no shortage of activities to spend time on. The key to getting 100% out of your business is to focus on activities that will make the most considerable difference in your company.
The most rewarding part of growing a business that can run without you is being able to invest your time and money into projects, causes, companies and opportunities that you find interesting. Time is the only asset anyone has; making the most of it can be an exciting and rewarding adventure. Some business owners will invest in other companies, while others may invest in something completely unrelated to their company. The real questions to ask are: what is the best use of my time, and what is the best use of my resources? When you start a business, your time is spoken for before each day arrives. As you experience the success that comes from a growing company you are not running, you will find that your available time can be multiplied to produce an even more significant result than that of your business. With the hard work behind you and your bottom line beneath you, how will you choose to invest your time and money?
It’s hard to do, but it is necessary if you want to grow a business that can run without you you need to do it. You need to hire the right people to do the right jobs and empower them to make the right decisions. Many business owners believe they are the best people who know their business the best to make the best decisions. If you want a company that can grow without you, you must get over yourself and let people grow into their roles. The most important question you can ask the people on your team daily is: “What can I do to make your life easier today?”. Being a servant leader instead of a dictator means you will not only help your team advance to their goals faster, but you will also be investing time that will reap dividends you may never fully realize. Empowering a team is not easy, but if you want to grow your bottom line without being involved in the daily tasks, you must learn how to let your team do their job. Don’t hire people and leave them; hire people and invest in them.
What is the next hardest thing a business owner learns to do after figuring out how to be profitable? Learning how to replace themselves. Business owners generally fill many different roles in their company, and often, no single role merits hiring a full-time (or even part-time) person. If you want to grow a business that can run without you, you will need to learn how to replace yourself. You are probably doing ten things at ten percent and getting ten percent results – not one hundred percent. The key to replacing yourself is to right-size your business so every daily job task you do can is handled by a team of people who can focus one hundred percent of their time on getting one hundred percent results. Business owners generally work longer hours than their team and subsidize the cost of running it with their sweat equity. By forcing yourself to pay people to do your daily tasks, you will have to get your business top line to a place where your margins can remain in place with the additional costs. Don’t get stuck in your comfort zone. Expand your business results so you can afford to hand off daily responsibilities without sacrificing your bottom line.
When times get tough – some people lean out, and some people lean in. Running a business during a recession is not easy, but if you can do it, you might find yourself reaping significant rewards when times get better. Getting through a recession is easier when you pay attention to what is happening in the broader market. Out of desperation and necessity, many business owners will focus on their business and not pay attention to their customers, suppliers, or competitors. Business owners miss out on opportunities to capitalize and improve their business by not paying attention. One way to improve a business during a recession is to take advantage of the talent that might be available. During a recession, good people find themselves in the job market, and your company may be an excellent place for them. Good people are usually hard to find in good times, but in bad times as companies shut their doors or downsize, good people are available who need work. Another way to improve your business during a recession is to improve your customers’ experience. Competition will dictate that fewer customers will be available, which leaves your business with an opportunity to serve them better than anyone else. If you can build a profitable business during a recession, you will reap the rewards when the market turns.