Archive for the 'Rethinking Your Business' Category

Stop Copying Everyone Else’s Business Model!

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When I looked at my business transformations over the past five years, I quickly came to one daring insight: when I tried to copy other people’s business model, I got mediocre results. When I stepped outside of my own comfort zone (as well as what my industry says businesses “should” look like) and created my own business model, business soared!

Tom Volkar says, “Herd mentality works best for the lead bull. If you base your decisions on what others are doing then at best you’ll create a poor imitation of what has worked well for them.”

Transform Your Business by Zigging

You’ve got to be willing to zig when everyone else in your industry zags. What does this mean in practical terms?

  • If everyone in your industry sells their service by the hour, sell your service in a monthly package.
  • If everyone in your industry has a membership site, create a pay-per-use system instead.
  • If everyone in your industry has an email newsletter, offer a weekly audio postcard.
  • If everyone in your industry offers webinars, create live events instead.
  • If everyone in your industry sells to homeowners, sell to commercial building owners, apartment renters or vacation home owners.
  • If everyone in your industry competes on price, change your model to compete on quality or speed of service.

…and the list goes on and on! There are a million big Zigs and small Zigs you can do.

You cannot stand out from the crowd by following the crowd. W. Chan Kim writes in Blue Ocean Strategy, “Companies try to outperform their rivals to grab a greater share of the existing demand. As the market space gets crowded, prospects for profits and growth are reduced.”

So instead of trying to compete in a crowded marketplace, find an untapped marketplace by going after an entirely new set of customers or offering a unique blend of products and services that rise you head and shoulders above your competition.

Not Creative? Ha! Impossible!

Ah, but what if the reason you don’t Zig is because you can’t come up with creative ideas? Well, stop trying to do it on your own! Join a mastermind group, brainstorm with friends, hire a mentor. We are all creative beings, solving dozens of problems a day in creative ways.

If you need a kick-start to come up with creative Zigs, find others who will spark your ingenuity. Find a mastermind group or accountability partner that will help you brainstorm ideas.

Don’t Know How?

There’s nothing you can’t learn how to do.

If your excuse for not zigging is because you don’t know how to implement your creative idea, you’ll sabotage your success for sure. Find a book (like Blue Ocean Strategy or Positioning or Seizing The White Space), take a class, talk to colleagues, interview an expert, hire someone who knows how to do it — find a way to learn what you need to learn in order to implement your Zig Idea.

Whatever you do, set your own rules for the game. Don’t let others define what your business looks like.

Want to learn more about how to rethink and transform your business? Read my other blog posts on rethinking your business.

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business, Start and Run a Mastermind Group
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Are You Having a Business Identity Crisis?

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When rethinking your business model, different roadblocks spring up along the journey. One that nearly always happens is the business identity crisis: What is my business, and where is it going?

It feels as if you’re starting out all over again with incredibly basic questions. Darn! Again? Didn’t you do this at the very beginning of your business?

Sometimes it feels like you’re sliding backwards toward square one. Don’t worry, you’re not.

It can be frustrating when you are trying to transform your business to have to question your entire business model all over again. Truly — it’s necessary, and a wise move for any seasoned business owner. I see it as a great opportunity during your business reinvention process to pause and re-examine The Nine Big Questions.

Here’s an exercise in big-picture thinking for you and your business:

  1. What do you want from your business: emotionally, financially, intellectually?
  2. What personal values does your business reflect?
  3. Have your personal values changed since the last time you created your business model? If yes, what has to change in your new business model to reflect those new values?
  4. What brand does your business currently have? Do you need to re-brand it?
  5. If you re-brand it, what image/message do you now want to project for your new business model?
  6. Which marketing techniques are working and which ones need to be ditched?
  7. Who do you serve and do you still want to serve this audience?
  8. Who are your best customers? Who are your repeat customers? How can you serve them better?
  9. And the biggest question of all: WHY are you in this business? (Maybe, just maybe, it’s time to get out.)

Don’t Panic

I know that rethinking your business can feel overwhelming. Take a look at these nine questions and pick just one to ponder. Pick a question that calls to you. Trust your intelligence and gut instinct to select a starting place for rethinking and redesigning your business model.

Business re-design is not just about making decisions and implementing plans. It’s about asking questions, getting clarity and finding focus. You’ll be happy you took the time to ask yourself The Nine Big Questions.

So, how about you? Which Big Question is the one that’s on your mind right now?

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Feeling Like Your Business Needs to Change?

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Something’s in the air!

Everywhere I turn recently, I keep running into seasoned business owners who tell me stories about how they are changing their business model, reinventing the way they do business, modifying the products/services they offer, and shifting who their target audience is.

Some say they’re feeling restless: that they know something is going to change in their business but they’re not clear yet exactly what the new model will look like. They’re exploring all the options to find the new formula that works for them.

Others know exactly the direction they’re moving in and just need to work out an action plan. One colleague said to me, “I’m itching and ready to take action, if only I knew what the right action should be!”

You know your business is morphing. You won’t reinvent it from the ground up, but instead you will take all your knowledge and experience, and redefine your target audience, your offerings, and even your behind-the-scenes business processes.

I see some recurring themes about why people are reinventing their business: they’re ready to go for something bigger, or something that mirrors their lifestyle better. Maybe the economy has hit them, or their industry is changing. I explore the reasons why in this blog post.

Just trust your gut instinct. If you know something isn’t “quite right” with your current business or marketing model, trust your thoughts and feelings on the matter. You may not know exactly where you’re going, but the reinvention journey is a path worth exploring.

I’m interested to hear your comments. Are you reinventing your business, too? Where are you in your thinking about your new biz model?

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Category: Business Strategy & Planning, Rethinking Your Business
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When a New Business Model Sneaks Up On You

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Claudia didn’t have a “big plan” for redesigning her business. She knew she had outgrown her old business model of working with new mothers as her target audience, and had made the decision to stop actively marketing her business. Then things happened that she couldn’t have foretold.

Recognizing It’s Time to Change

Claudia confides, “I hit a place with my target audience and I never got beyond it. I found that I always had a certain number of clients, which was fine, but it never moved beyond that number of clients. I felt that I needed to go in a different direction.”

“I was kind of banging my head against a wall,” she says. “I started to realize that I wasn’t enjoying writing my ezine anymore, I wasn’t enjoying marketing to new moms. It was hard for me to recognize: I didn’t want it to be true because I had spent so many years doing it and stopping felt like I was failing. The truth was, I wanted to want to do it. I think that if I had been honest with myself, I would have made a switch earlier.”

Claudia recommends that when small business owners feel that something is off, they take a few days and figure out what’s not right. Admitting to yourself that your old business model isn’t working for you anymore is an important first step.

Reinvention from an Unexpected Source

Claudia had tutored teenagers for over a decade, had always had a small number of tutoring clients, and had been teaching a summer class on SAT preparation for several years. Even though she had been tutoring children for quite a while, she didn’t consider this to be a major thrust of her business previously because she wanted to be home with her own child after school hours.

But now that her child is older, and Claudia knew she was unhappy in her old business, she began to close it down and revisit the idea that tutoring could be a viable business model.

“As soon as I closed down my old business,” she says, “In one week, five new tutoring students came to me! It was so bizarre. I suddenly had more students than I knew what to do with. My business just took off.”

Mourning Your Old Business

When you’ve been in business a number of years, you invest a lot of yourself in it. So when you close down your old business completely, you need to be aware of the feelings that can come up.

“I actually felt sad,” says Claudia. “I wish I could say that I was really joyous and happy, but I wasn’t. It felt like a really big loss. I think because it was a business that I put so much into and cared so much about.”

But Claudia has a great philosophy about this business cycle: “People change and I changed. Once I got my mind around that, I realized that it was a really positive thing and once I realized that it was a positive thing, letting my business go was kind of a relief.”

Pausing to Plan

When I asked Claudia, “On a scale of 1 to 10 — one being you’re just starting your tutoring business and ten being that you have a complete new business model — where would you say you are in the arch of building this new business?” she replied, “Four.”

Because Claudia had run a successful business previously, she knows that she needs to design a business model for this new business – for next month and for 10 years from now. She says, “Not only the marketing skills, but the planning and the organizational skills that I learned in my last business, I know I have those assets to take with me in my new business model. Knowing everything I know is going to help me tremendously. I’m actually much better off now than I was when I was starting my life coaching business for new moms!”

So what do you do when your new business comes out of the blue? You step back and take some time to plan the foundation, even as you are conducting the new business work.

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Category: Rethinking Your Business
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Improvement versus Innovation When Transforming Your Business

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How can you tell if you should just go after improvements, or if you should go after true innovation when transforming your business?

Susan M. Grotevant of the University of Minnesota says, “Old organizations, like old people can become set in their ways.” We tiptoe around innovation because it means getting rid of sacred cows, those projects, tasks, products and services we’ve been doing a long time but are no longer profitable, effective or efficient. Instead we settle for improvements, small tweaks that seem like we’re moving forward but really are a smokescreen to real transformation and business reinvention.

Improvement can be defined as small levels of change that have low risk, and typically start with an existing problem or process. There’s nothing wrong with gradual, consistent improvements, and the Kaizen philosophy of  change is being embraced all over the world.

But gradual improvements don’t allow for the type of creative thinking that starts with a clean slate, breakthrough thinking which helps innovate new ways of serving your customer and leapfrogging over your competitors.

Yes, innovation is riskier, but the rewards often outweigh those risks: greater revenue and profitability, thought leadership, and a bottom-up overhaul of how you serve your customers so you can serve them even better than ever.

Which strategy is better for your business reinvention? Both have their place in your strategic thinking, and your long-term goals will help you determine whether innovation or improvement is right for you. Don’t push away innovation because it feels to overwhelming or risky, though. You could be pushing away the future of your business.

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Drop That Sacred Cow

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Do you have services or products that you love, but your customers are unwilling to pay for? Are some of your offerings no longer profitable but you find yourself resistant to removing them from your website?

In business we call these “sacred cows,” the untouchables that are exempt from questioning. Often you are emotionally attached to them because you developed them yourself, spending huge amounts of time and money to bring them to the light.

Sacred cows don’t only include unprofitable or unwanted products and services. Sometimes you have a vendor or contractor who needs to be released because their quality has slipped.  Sometimes you need to look at tasks and processes that are ineffective time-wasters.

Don’t hold on to sacred cows: they’ll suck your business dry. During your business reinvention, look at all aspects of your business and cut things that no longer serve your customers or the goals of your business.

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