Yesterday, I ran into an old friend at my local coffee shop. He’s a business owner and a passionate entrepreneur, but he’s up against some major problems. We had a quick chat about his situation, exchanged “war stories,” and came up with some possible solutions for what he’s going through.Afterwards I spent a little time reflecting on the massive challenges we entrepreneurs face and just how impressive the whole process of building a business and making it work really is.
lot of business owners face these
challenges at some point in their
Then I realized that, in my
experience, it almost always comes
down to a very shortlist of reasons
businesses fail. That’s refreshing
news because it means
understanding those key problems
AND anticipating them is an
excellent strategy for avoiding
meltdown. Most people who fail,after
all, seem to do so by virtue of their
own actions (or lack of action).:
1.You Don’t Respect Selling
Believe it or not, a lot of
entrepreneurs have some very
negative ideas about SELLING. What’s
really odd is a lot of these same
people usually have very positive
ideas about “making money” or
“increasing profits.” But the second
you start suggesting new ways to
SELL to their customers, these folks
start to cringe and backdown.
Sales is the single most important
factor in the success of any business.
If you have a bad relationship with
sales, you’ll always struggle as a
business owner. Sales is the lifeblood
of every business, and if you don’t
have sales you simply don’t have a
What I hear most often is, “I don’t
want to be pushy” or “I don’t want to
scare away my customers.” Excuses,
excuses, excuses. The reality is, if
you have quality products and
services to sell, your customers
WANT you to pursue them.
Obviously, there are good and bad
ways of selling, but the idea is to do a
GOOD job. Customers love it when
you do that.
You need to get crazy
selling. You need to
head down to your
local bookstore (or
open up your favorite
e-reader) and buy 5
great books on
selling. You need to
eliminate all of your limiting beliefs
about selling and get excited about it!
2. You Don’t Understand Your
The first step in every business is
finding that ONE product and getting
that FIRST sale. From there, the
project turns into making that
process work again-and-again to
create a profitable business. And
once you do that, you get to build a
complete range of products and
services for your customer base.
But if you never take the time to
understand your customers’
problems, wants, and desires, you’re
never going to clear these hurdles.
This is the weird “chicken and egg”
part of building a business. You sort
of start with some ideas about your
customers mixed in with your own
ideas about what you think will work
and what you see working in similar
Once you get your first customers,
you have to learn how to turn down
the volume on your own ideas and
start turning up the volume on your
customers: their feedback, their
ideas, their problems, etc. This is the
relationship building process. You’ve
got to dive in and really understand
them so you can help THEM (by
providing more stuff they want) and
they can help YOU (by giving you
more profits to keep your business alive).
Stop looking at your business
problems in a vacuum. Start talking
to your customers. Take an entire
day (or an entire week) and just talk
to as many of them as possible. And
actually, try to do as little talking
yourself as possible. Let them do
90% of the talking and take lots of
notes. They’ll tell you what they
want. And if you do this right, they’ll
be so happy to talk to you.
3. You’re Not Actually Marketing
Most failing business owners I talk to
aren’t really marketing their
businesses. Instead, they’re either
BRANDING or they’re FLAILING.
Branding is something huge
corporations like to do. And they do it
for good reason. Pepsi is a brand.
Taco Bell is a brand. Nike is a brand.
Those companies are completely
different from your company,
though. They’re buying very
expensive advertising spots on
national television and working very
hard to capture your attention for 30
precious seconds. And all they want
is for you to remember them the next
time you’re out shopping or feeling
hungry or whatever.
That’s branding. But that’s not how
entrepreneurial businesses like
yours should be marketing.
The other classic mistake I like to call
FLAILING. This is where you think
you’re marketing but what you’re
actually doing is “marketing out of
desperation” with massive discounts
and special promotions. Now, don’t
get me wrong here — there’s
nothing wrong with discounts and
promotions. They can and often do
work extremely well. But they only
work if they’re part of your larger,
long-term marketing plan. They
really don’t work when they’re only
designed to help you pay the bills
this month. That’s flailing, and it’s
incredibly dangerous. Believe me, I
know from experience.
You need to be more strategic with
your marketing. You need to learn
everything you can about Direct
Response Marketing strategies. You
need to learn how to turn website
tire-kickers into lasting customers.
And you need to start making every
marketing message part of a much
larger strategic plan.
4. You Don’t Have A Sales Funnel
are a great
place to begin
for building a
plan. And a
can help you
sales opportunities in your business
— a great way to keep revenues and
Personally, I’m a huge fan of creating
Content Marketing Sales Funnel for
If you have customers coming in the
door and then heading out the door
without any clear plan for what you
want them to buy or how you want
them to experience your business,
then you don’t have a sales funnel. I
know the term “Sales Funnel”
doesn’t sound super friendly, but if it
bothers you I’d recommend spending
more time on #1 above.
Most businesses that don’t have
sales funnels can only HOPE that
customers show up and then HOPE
that customers buy lots of stuff and
then HOPE that customers come back
again and again.
The idea behind a sales funnel is to
turn that HOPE into a strategic PLAN.
Start mapping out your customers
experiences. How do you want them
to find you? How do you want them
to go from tire-kicker to lead? How do
you want to stay in touch with them?
What do you want them to buy first,
second, third, and so on? How do you
want to build a long-term
relationship with them? How much
money would you like them to spend
in your business every year?
5. Your Systems Are Broken
Marketing. Finances. Sales. Customer
Service. Staffing. Hiring. Training.
Social Media. Blogging. Email
Marketing… and the list goes on and
Frankly, entrepreneurs juggle a lot of
crap when they start their
businesses. And if you’re successful
in building something that gets off
the ground, you’d better build
powerful and reliable systems to
keep everything up and running.
Without systems, you can only spin
so many plates at one time. Without
systems, you’re always putting out
the same fires. Without systems,
everything is always just barely
You’ve got to build reliable systems
in your business — regardless of the
type of business your in or its size.
Think McDonalds if you want to see
long-term success in your business.
Think, “How can I make sure XYZ task
gets done every single day?” In most
cases, this means that YOU are NOT
the one doing it.
6. You’re Always In The Way
The final reason so many
entrepreneurs seem to struggle is
because they fail to make time for
themselves. Your business eats you
alive and you become completely
engrossed in it. Now, there’s certainly
nothing wrong with being passionate
about your business — you damn
well better be! But there is a problem
if you’re always working 12-hour
days and never taking time to enjoy
what you worked so hard to build.
Plus, a business really isn’t a
business if it cannot run without you.
That’s the ultimate test. And often,
the problem is more with your own
controlling nature. (You
perfectionist, you!) That’s why it’s so
important to make it PART OF YOUR
PLAN to get out of your business
Plan a vacation — an escape to
become the ghost in the machine.
Sounds fun, right? Well, it should be
fun. But you also need to look at this
as a duty. A chance to prove that
your business CAN work without you
smothering it all the time.
Here’s what I like to do: First, make a
list of the most important projects in
your business. I’d suggest reviewing
the list above and then making an
action plan based on what stands out
to you. Then, set a deadline to finish
these key 3 to 5 projects or so. Say, 1
or 2 months. Finally, reward yourself
with a plane ticket to some faraway
place. (This is especially powerful if
you can get 5 or more timezones
The idea here is to motivate yourself
with a cool trip and then to spend
that trip EXERCISING your “ghost in
the machine” muscles. This is
important. Your business depends on
Plus, I have a feeling you’ll suddenly
be really excited to get back to work
on your business. That, after all, is
what being an entrepreneur is all
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