A few years back I took my 75 year old dad out for dinner. On the drive there he said that he had a question about my work and not to be offended. Well you know when someone prefaces a question in this way you better brace yourself.
He asked me “How do you get your credibility? He went on to state “You are a woman, a small woman, and not what I would think of as a business coach”
In his world, a business coach is a MAN, wearing a blue suit and red tie.
It didn’t matter that I had a graduate certificate in Executive Coaching and Organizational Development, or that I had worked with over 300 small business owners, or that I had won the ICF Vancouver Business Coach of the year. Strictly because of my gender I was being judged as not being credible.
ARE YOU KIDDING ME!
What stereotypes are you still holding when it comes to women in business? Are you paying the women in your organization the same as you pay the men?
I don’t know how many times I’ve observed and challenged wage inequality where men have been paid up to 50% more in a small business than the women. Then the men would laugh and say truthfully “the women do all the work”. Often in family run organization, the sons are paid way more than the daughters.
Last year, on International Women’s Day I went through my outsourced contractors. I announced to the team that from now on all the women would be paid the same as the men, even if they didn’t ask for it. There was zero pushback, even as I rolled back some of the guys rates.
Today, being International Women’s Day, is a day to challenge your assumptions about women in business and to take a stand on truly making women equal partners on your entrepreneurial journey.
Globally women are building and running an ever increasing number of new businesses. This is great news! The not so great news is that they are also failing at an alarming rate. If they are making it in business, they can find themselves exhausted, frustrated, underpaid, and lonely but they carry on. I found a better way 25 years ago this month to build, run and sell a business. I did this through a best selling book that you have never explored on the Oprah show or magazine called “The E-Myth Revisited, Why Most Small Businesses Don”t Work and What To Do About It.” by Michael E. Gerber. This book has been rated one of the best business books ever written by Fortune 500 Magazine and women in business need to read it.
Can I share my story?
In 1993, absolutely exasperated working for someone else I took the plunge. I quit my 40K year commission job, re-mortgaged my little house, took on a $2000 month rent, and hired my first employee.
What is it that drives us to take such risks? For me it was the only way to gain the freedom I needed to be my 5-year old son’s mom. Recently divorced from his father, receiving no financial support, I wanted to create a better life for us both. I wanted to be the one to take him to school and pick him up again. For me, it was the only option.
What did I know about running a business? I knew I was a great travel agent but I didn’t have the first clue about running a business.
The one thing I knew for sure was that my company was going to be different. I was going to do it my way. I was going to get rich!
Entrepreneurial passion drives every economy, creates jobs and builds community.
So you know how it goes, lease holds, shareholder loans, workman’s compensation, taxes, debit memo’s, Tom’s got the flu, business insurance, vandalism, rent’s due, clients ticket not arriving on time,20 hour days, pro-D day …again, business growing need more staff. HELP!! …things were getting out of control!!
I have to say at this point I am grateful that my dad gave me a copy of a book about running a business called “The E-Myth Revisited, Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What To Do About It”, by Michael E. Gerber. I had heard about E Myth at a course offered by the Federal Business Development Bank and had until then never fully explored it’s pages. It was one of many of business books that I would read….but this one was different. My story…the story of Sarah the pie baker, a typical entrepreneur, your story, is played out in the first few chapters of this book. This book will both break your heart and give you hope.
This was the pivotal point to my success in business. If you have not yet read this book and if you take anything away with you today it is…read this book. For the next 6 years I went to work “on” my business and extracted myself from working “in” my business.
I put in writing for every new employee to see why I started this company. This included who I was, where I came from, why I do things the way I want them, need them, …must have them done.
To keep me grounded I hung a picture of my great grandmother in our office reminding me of my core values when things got hard and guiding me towards my goal of a stronger more stable life for my family. Values underpin your systems which in turn helped me create a wonderful place for my growing team to work in.
I started documenting our procedures and then testing them. How long would a client wait for a call back before we lost the sale? When was the best time to give clients their travel tickets? What should the office look like, smell like, feel like. What suppliers should we sell? Which customers were our best fit? Should be discount? How to tactfully get rid of customers that we didn’t’ want? What did the clients want? With all this data I went to work building “systems” for my business.
One Saturday my young son and I rode the Airport Parking bus back and forth from the parking lot to the terminal just to watch the passengers. I learned that the average traveler looked at their ticket jacket 9 times before checking in. With that information I changed the way the tickets were presented. We put together a “ticket jacket system”. The font size was increased and important issues like the time and flight number were bolded. The phone number for the airline was included on every itinerary as were clients frequent flyer numbers and most importantly seats were booked every time. We learned what the travelling public demanded, needed, wanted, and we delivered…on time, every time, exactly as promised.
One day I looked around and just shook my head. One agent in her designer canary yellow suit looked elegant but out of place, another lived in house dresses and that day had forgot her shoes and was wearing slippers, and my young up start was wearing a fashionable super short mini with bare legs. My next major purchase for the business was $8000 worth of designer uniforms.
I put together money systems, selling systems, answering the phone systems, how to greet the clients systems, client acquisition systems, opening and closing systems, how to make the coffee systems…pretty soon the business ran on auto pilot.
Each employee had authority and responsibility for their work or “their systems”. They were well trained in “the Somerville Way” so they knew what to do, understood the value of why they were doing it our way, and were empowered to do it because of the Leadership that was driven by a vision of excellence. Together we created a 3 million dollar a year money machine. We never discounted, didn’t have to advertise because our clients loved what we did for them and they told their friends, and I had time to live my life and own a business. During the 7 years that I owned Somerville Travel I got married had two more babies and had freedom to pursue involvement in our community. E Myth taught me to start with the end in mind, so I did, by selling my company….and I did it at a time when most travel agency owners could not give theirs away.
The best part of my story…and proof that dreams really do come true is that three years after selling my business I decided to contact and then met the author of the book that brought me so much success, Michael Gerber. I wanted to see if there was any way that I could teach what I had experienced using the E Myth way of doing business. What I loved about owning Somerville Travel was not the travel so much as was creating the environment for the work to take place. I wrote Michael a detailed letter and be damned if he didn’t write me back! Five months later I earned a position on his team and worked full time for three years sharing E Myth with struggling small business owners worldwide.
It doesn’t get any better than that! ….or does it?
What I learned at E Myth from speaking heart to heart with over 3000 business owners is that they are broke, frustrated, scared and desperately want their freedom back. The freedom they dreamed of when they started their business. Unfortunately most of them could not afford an expensive coaching program and for the majority they would either suffer through or close their doors.
Having experienced what it takes to be a successful women in business even with the worst possible conditions, like the airlines taking away 70% of our revenue in one day , I have felt called to continue to create ways to help. For the past 10 years I have worked daily on both coaching entrepreneurs and creating affordable business development training material that focuses on prosperity and freedom for struggling small business owners.
Working ON your business results in great things like a positive number on your balance sheet and the smiles on kids faces when entrepreneurial families finally have things set up so that summer holidays are possible again. While this applied to both women AND men, there is still a big gap to fill in supporting women in business. My hope is that by reading this book, The E-Myth Revisited, the story of Sarah the pie maker, and applying the idea of systematizing your business, that I can help close that gap!
What are your challenges in business? Take our Confidential Business Assessment to join 300 small business owners working with Systems Business Coach® to learn and grow together as we build the worlds best companies.
Can I have your attention for just for a minute? I know you are tired and BUSY and completely overworked. We need to talk about that thing that has been keeping you awake at night. It could be your maxed out line of credit or that employee that has been bullying you for way to long. It could be a customer you can’t seem to make happy no matter what. What ever it is, if it’s not working why keep doing it? Why spend the rest of your entrepreneurial days in pain?
Here’s the thing…. If something in your business in not working I would like to give you permission as the leader of your company to change it.
I have heard over and over again what you are thinking; you are either tired or super busy, or both to be able to make these changes. Yes you are working super hard . COULD IT BE THAT YOU ARE DOING THE WRONG WORK?
As you run around trying to make the customers happy, the staff happy, the bank happy, your partner happy you are neglecting the engine … YOU.
What do YOU personally need to do to break free of the entrepreneurial trap of being your hardest working and most often lowest paid employees?
What is the solution then when you are so busy?
It starts with taking care of YOU. Simple things like eating a healthy breakfast. Reading a good book, a full nights sleep and making time for family even when it is not convenient for the business.
When you are at work, instead of just doing the work, stop long enough to create systems and training documentation for those tasks.
This will allow you to leverage your people so that you can own a business instead of owning a job.
Not sure how to do something? Or worse, you are the ONLY one in the company with that skill? Prioritize your time to work on creating systems for those things that are costing you money or hurting your reputation.
The only way to get out of debt and start making money is to take the time to fully know and understand your numbers so that you can make the necessary changes to the business model.
The only way to stop feeling like your key employee is holding you ransom is to fully focus on and review that position. Document their processes and if needed find someone else to do that job.
The only way to get your cranky customers happy is to to spend the time to figure out what they want and give it to them or drop them as a customer.
Ignore the pain and you will struggle for months, years, even decades with these major issues. There is no reward for this kind of suffering.
At some point you have to ask yourself:
” Who’s company is this anyway”!!
You have heard it before, you need to work ON your business. You need to stop being the busiest, most productive employee and stand back to see what needs your attention. This takes time and focus and must be scheduled or nothing will change.
I promise if you schedule 1 hour per day, that is 5 hours per week, to fix one systemic problem in no time you will begin to get your life back and have a company you are super proud to call yours.
Business owners today primarily think about marketing as making a brochure, advertising on Social media or building a new website. While these activities are part the marketing process there is much more that needs to be considered before spending your valuable time and money on any lead generation activity.
The top 10 primary marketing systems make up a solid plan to fast track getting and keeping customers and ultimately earning more money.
#1 – Design and commit to your brand
When you buy a product or a service, you have a mental picture of what your purchase will do and how it will improve your business or life. It only takes a split second for consumers to make a judgement about you and your company. All things are considered, including first impressions, previous experiences, the way your business looks, the tone you use to answer your phone or e-mails and the energy in the environment. More than a clever logo your brand is the experience consumers have of doing business with you.
Think of your email signature, how clean your vehicles are used for business, your uniform if you have one. All things that help people recognize and have a good feeling about you and your company.
#2 – Define your product
You may be surprised to learn that the majority of your prospects don’t know exactly what it is that you are offering. It could be because you have too many products and are trying to be all things to all people, or maybe you have not packaged your offering in a cohesive easy to buy unit.
When consumers are confused, they are less likely to buy. Products are available everywhere and consumers have a choice who they do business with.
Getting clear about what your product is and why someone would be interested in buying this from you is essential to increasing sales.
#3 – Target your Marketing
Not everyone is your customer. Target marketing allows you to customize your message to a specific chosen group of consumers in a focused manner.
Learning the warning signs of a bad fit is as important as understanding your ideal match. In detail understand everything about your ideal customer. Where do they live, which generation do they belong, what are they thinking, what specifically do they want from you and what attracted them to your door? Pay attention to everything about your clients and use buying signals and patterns of behaviour to drive greater revenue.
#4 – Promote
Promotion is lead generations, getting the attention of prospective buyers.
Dig deep and look strategically at which marketing activities are producing results. Be careful not to get distracted by media sales people with “special offers”. Once you understand your customers buying patterns and preferences it becomes clear where to focus your promotional dollars. Structure your lead generating activities so that there is accountability to track and monitor results. Build continuous communication between the sales and the rest of the team so that you know as it happens what your customers are asking for. Structuring your systems in a way that makes potential customers easily to find you.
#5 – Strategically Price your Product
The price is your assessment of value of your product. What the purchaser receives as value from consuming your product.
Having as much data about your specific market and customers behaviours, expectations and habits supports the ability to effectively price your product. Your price depends on your objectives, are you positioning yourself as a premium brand like Mercedes or are you the bargain basement option seen in the lower end Fords.
#6 – Have a sales process in place
Sales is lead conversion. Moving from prospect to paid customer.
Doing “marketing” is only half of your business development process. The other half is figuring out now that you have people interested in your product how to get them to buy. Converting leads to buyers requires a system for followup and relationship building. It takes work and time. You need to understand your customers buying patterns and learn patience and skill to stay in the relationship long enough to close the deal in how ever that feels best for them.
#7 – Nurture existing customers
One of the most powerful and essential systems for expanding your customer base it taking care of your existing customers that are referring new business your way. It’s so easy to take those deep relationships you have with your best customers for granted. Referrals is your least expensive way to grow your business. Putting in place recognitions systems that celebrate and support these relationships along with being open to constructive feedback will ensure that this lead generation tool stays strong.
#8 – Use your Influence
People buy from people and brands that they trust. Humans need to feel connected Trust comes Hands down personal networking is the fastest and most effective way to generate new business for your company. Getting involved in an organization or project that also serves your community compounds the effect. Contributing in some way to your industries organizations is another powerful way to gain experience and insights into business development practices and potential opportunities. In business and in life it is sometimes not what you know but who you know.
#9 – Keep track of your customers
Customer data is an asset. It builds equity. Customer information allows you to be a better provider, it saves you time and helps organize your sales system. How you collect, store, manage and use your data are all systems that have high value in your marketing and sales results. Taking the time to research, customize and become fully trained in a client data management system is essential.
#10 – Make it easy to buy from you.
How easy is it for customers to buy your product? Place represents the location where a product can be purchased and the distribution channel and logistics it took to get it there. It is about getting products to your consumer and having the inventory available to fill their demand. This may include any physical store (supermarket, department stores, retail store) as well as virtual stores (e-markets and e-malls, your own website) on the Internet.
As you can see it is WAY more than just promotion. The risk of “winging” your marketing and sales strategy is the cost. How much is one new customer worth to you? Imagine now easily attracting that prospect consistently. What is the cost of online ads targeted at the wrong market? What if you could get this exactly right. Small adjustments make a huge difference. I hope the above helps.
If you need to create structure and systems in your small business to consistently attract and win new customers inquire about joining our next business development program starting in the fall. Write back and we will get you on the list for the next Cohort.
Thank you for sharing your Entrepreneurial Journey,