Tuesday, November 25, 2014

How a start-up small business went international, in less than a year

growing your small businessIt's every entrepreneur's dream to grow their small business and gain an international base of customers as well as a prominent media profile, wouldn't you say? ....... But what about achieving that dream within your first year of starting-up? 

Well, here's the story of a woman who worked in the corporate arena for many years and found a way to successfully commercialise her passion through establishing a career counselling business, Career Oracle.

Based in Queensland, Australia , Kate Middleton (no, not Prince William's wife) is the founder of a business that helps people to identify their skills, interests and strengths - and then go on to locate and land the role that is in alignment with these.

Kate has achieved a remarkable rate of business growth in a short period of time and therefore I was confident would be able to share some useful tips with us .....

  • Kate, what was the motivation behind starting your own business earlier this year?

For me, starting my own business was about following my heart and commercialising a passion project. By way of background, prior to launching Career Oracle, I enjoyed 12 years’ experience, mostly in senior management level Project, Quality, Change and Business Development roles. I loved it and I was good at it. However, drawing from my own personal experience, I identified that talent that can excel in one company may not thrive at all in a new environment.

I wanted to help people find happiness and engagement in a job that they love by creating a tool that helps them not only assess their own personal value proposition; but also assess the companies that they are applying for jobs with. I wanted to help people determine how likely they are to thrive in their new environment and make an informed decision.

On top of my assessment tool, I started helping friends, family and colleagues to identify their proven achievements and then write amazing resumes, cover letters and complete detailed interview coaching catered specifically for the jobs they were applying for. My friends and I ended up achieving an uncanny record of success using my various models, so I decided to launch the website and social media channels earlier this year (2014) as a side business.
Within 6 months I had achieved so much scale that I had to leave my corporate job and start building a team. I now have market reach all across Australia and have serviced clients in Dubai, India, Pakistan, Singapore, Japan and the US.

  • How would you describe your experience during your first year of business – and how does it compare to what you’d anticipated when doing your business plan?

I am currently at the 8 month mark and there have been so many wonderful surprises. In terms of all of the traditional elements of my business plan related to launching my website and social media channels and building an audience, this has all gone to plan. My expansion strategy based on marketing, PR and building strategic partnerships have also thankfully been executed to plan.

The two biggest things I did not anticipate were firstly the rate of growth and having to employ a team so quickly. And secondly the emergence of new customer segments that I had not originally accounted for.
small business starting up
I now know that it is really important to set ambitious targets so that you continue to achieve momentum and push yourself. Don’t be afraid to think big

The other element is, if the market opens up new opportunities for you and customers from a new demographic present themselves – seriously consider adapting some of your model to cater for them. This is what I have done for my international clients and it is definitely paying dividends.

  • In a relatively short period of time you’ve succeeded in gaining quite a profile in the media – what have you found to be some of the keys to doing PR effectively?

Thank you; it has been a really fun ride. As with most effective business relationships there needs to be an element of mutual benefit. This is the approach I have taken with PR. Instead of just focusing on the hard and direct business plug, I have also contributed articles to publications that are representative of some of my core customer segments. This has been done to position myself as a subject matter expert in my field and provide some free of charge, value added information to the people who might typically use my service.

It really pays to sit down and have a think about which online, print and radio publications best represent your target audience. From there, review the articles they publish to understand some of the angles they prefer. PR does not just need to be about a direct grab on your business.

You could contribute tips around your area of expertise, pen an inspirational story about your entrepreneurial journey or participate as a business in magazine offers and giveaways. Do remember to request a direct mention of your business name and provide a live link to your website for inclusion in any online articles. Another great approach is to subscribe to media “Call Out” sites such as Source bottle. This will alert you to opportunities to contribute to, or be featured in various media stories and articles related to your product or service.
  •  What’s been your biggest challenge?

My biggest challenge has been replicating and scaling up a business model that was essentially built around my own core business acumen and personal insights into corporate Australia.

Even with the best systems, great templates, wonderful qualified staff and processes focused around service – there are some things that simply cannot be taught. That will continue to be my challenge and biggest opportunity to solve over the next year. I am now entering into a new phase where I will be pitching for funding to create really innovative mechanisms and online tools that allow others to complete a client assessment as closely to what I would do as possible. This will also be crucial in achieving the international scale I am gunning for.

  • So far, what have you found to be the most cost-effective marketing strategies for your consulting business?

I am a bit of a risk taker and am happy to go hard and invest hard to get the right outcome so am still assessing which mediums are most cost -effective. I have found the ROI on SEO quite good and that is definitely something I will continue to invest in as part of my expansion strategy.

The best, most cost-effective marketing strategies really will vary from business to business and across industries. I think the better question to ask yourself as an entrepreneur is; which marketing channels yield the highest conversion rate for me and what is the cost ratio of that converted lead?

For example, many business owners take a diversified approach and leverage social media and email marketing systems to send out offers and build brand awareness, however converting a Facebook, Twitter or email marketing lead into a paying customer is typically very low (1-2% uptake). For that reason, I would recommend thinking about who your customers are, what mediums they are most likely to be engaged with (online, email, print, radio, television) and then build your strategy and budget around that.

  • What advice would you offer to budding entrepreneurs, the ones who are still undecided about whether the potential rewards are worth the risks of starting their own business?

What does your life look like in 10 years’ time? Do you dream of working for yourself or someone else? Do you picture having a family and therefore would you like more flexibility? Are you comfortable with a certain level of risk?
Be clear on what your life feels like and then you will have your answer.
Finally, it is a bit cliché, but you will never look back on your life and regret the things you did do, it will be the opportunities that you missed out on that will weigh on your mind. You only get one shot at life, if you believe in your idea, there is a market for it and it sets a fire in your belly, just go for it!

  • Any final tips for our readers?
Be nimble, test new approaches, learn quickly, fail fast then try again. No one is going to get their business model perfect on day 1, but as long as you apply a continuous improvement mindset and always focus on great customer outcomes, you really can’t go wrong.

To that end, it also really pays to take a day out every few months to focus on strategy. Get away from working in your business and devote time to work ON your business. Look at your company / service through a critical lens. If you were an external business consultant looking into you and your team what would you change, optimise, systemise, get rid of or improve upon?

Many thanks to you Kate, for sharing with us your thoughts and experience on growing a small business. Although based here in Australia, your success in achieving an international profile and gaining clients across the Middle-East , Asia and the U.S within the first year of starting your consulting business, can be an inspiration to other entrepreneurs.
About the interviewer
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is an experienced management coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

How to write quality content for your small business blog

Writing blog content
Experts tell us that it’s not enough now-days that your small business has a website. You also need a blog!

Blogging will strengthen the SEO (search engine optimisation) of your website that can help to improve your ranking, because search engines love fresh content. Blogging will also enable you to engage and build relationships with your customers. And it will help to consolidate your profile as an expert.

While it’s all well and good to be sold on the benefits of blogging, but how do you find the time? Where do you find the ideas and content for your blog? And how do you write and present information that actually appeals to your readers?

In a nutshell, you’ve got two options. You can either get a copywriter to do it for you. Or you can grit your teeth, schedule some time and do it yourself.
If you opt for DIY – either to keep costs down or because you think you might actually enjoy it – then read on. You’re about to get some useful tips on how to write great copy for your blog.

I recently had a an interesting conversation with Vikki Maver, who is the founder and owner of RefreshMarketing - a Melbourne-based business that specialises in writing content for small and large organisations. Vikki is a writing expert with close to 20 years’ experience in creating quality content for both print and digital media.    
I asked Vikki to share some of her experience in starting and running a successful small business – and also for some advice for those of us who struggle with writing compelling content.

1.      Vikki, what initially motivated you to start your own business?

I’d love to tell you that it all began with a big vision and a business plan. But it was less glamorous than that.

In 2003 I left a stressful corporate job and wanted to take my time finding a new role with more work-life balance. So I let my professional network know that I was available for freelance work in the interim. (These were the days before LinkedIn!) And suddenly, I had all this work. I couldn’t believe it. I never knew there were so many businesses out there looking to engage a trusted marketing and copywriting professional.

Then once I had a taste of self-employment, I knew the corporate world have to wait. I enjoyed making my own decisions - and I loved working with people and on projects of my choosing.

Now as a mum of two school-aged children, the flexible hours associated with running your own business are invaluable. And the creative outlet is a god-send.

2.      What is the most common mistake that you see business owners make in their attempts at writing copy and content for their websites and blogs?

The biggest mistake is not recognising that - like most things in business - writing is a skill. People wouldn’t try to set up their IT systems without engaging an expert. Yet they try to write their own content without any training or advice. And that can be dangerous.

Businesses with poorly written websites and blogs risk their reputation and turn people away every day. Who knows what that could be costing them in lost sales and missed opportunities?

Your website and blog reflect your brand. They’re your window to the world. If your content is unclear, verbose and full of jargon, people will disengage. And if it’s littered with spelling and grammatical mistakes? Well, your credibility is lost in a nanosecond. Why would anyone choose a company that is slap-dash and unprofessional?  

Many business owners think they can’t afford to hire a professional writer or fund a writing skills training program for their staff. But I would ask: can you afford not to? 

At the very least, I would encourage small business owners to ensure any content they write for their blog or website be edited by a professional.

3.      What are some of the ways business owners can come up with ideas for generating “interesting” content for their blog? 
When I began my blog, I was worried about not having enough to write about. But now I have the opposite problem. I never seem to have enough time to put all my ideas in writing.

If you are an expert of any kind, you already have a wealth of blog articles in you. You just don’t necessarily realise it.

This is how it usually works for me.

When I meet with a client or prospect, I often find myself giving ‘spontaneous advice’. It could be about their brand positioning, their e-mail strategy - or how to plan an effective direct mail campaign. Although what I’m saying seems like common sense to me, it’s often insightful and eye-opening information for them. And that’s when I know I have my next blog post!   

Just remember that your blog is about sharing your expertise. Expertise that you already have. 

small business blogging

You will likely find inspiration for a blog post by reflecting upon your experience in your business. Think about an interesting problem that you've helped a particular client to resolve for example - there could potentially be a blog post sharing that story as a case study.

Many people love to read about real-life human stories. They like useful tips and tools, and "How To ..." easy-to-read articles that are simple and concise ..... So start writing!

4.      If I can shift our conversation away from writing copy to a broader topic – marketing and how to “stand out in a crowd”…... What marketing strategies have you personally found most effective in growing your business over the years?

Most of my work comes from existing clients and referrals. So I focus my marketing efforts on building a professional online image that I am proud of. I believe that keeping my website and LinkedIn profile current, credible and engaging is critical to my sustained success.

These days people rarely contact a company or business professional without doing their research first - even if they’ve been referred to you from a trusted source. That’s why your brand’s image is so important.

Even if you don’t have a large marketing budget, never skimp on a professional website, blog and social media profile. First impressions are everything!

5.      Are there any final tips that you can share with business owners about writing good content that will connect with their customers?

The fight for attention in today’s world is fiercer than ever. It’s never easy. And if even when you do manage to grab people’s attention, you’re still only half way there. You also need to ensure your messages are read, understood and believed.

And that’s easier said than done.

But hopefully these three quick writing tips will get you on your way....

1.      Keep it simple: Ensure your writing is clear, concise and easy to scan. Keep words simple, sentences short, paragraphs brief and headlines crisp. Many people believe that big, fancy words make them sound intelligent. But in reality, they detract from the clarity and impact of your writing.  

2.      Ditch the jargon: Every sector has its jargon. But acronyms and technical terms specific to your industry intimidate and alienate outsiders. So take a step back and reread your content through the eyes of your audience. What jargon can you remove to make your message clearer?

3.      Focus on your reader: This may come as a shock to you, but it’s not about you, it’s about them! Don’t bombard your customers (readers) with statements all about you. Instead, keep them front-of-mind for your writing. Show that you understand their problems and pains; their fears and insecurities. Show that you value their ambitions, passions and dreams too. You’ll strike a stronger connection with your audience if you can focus on providing practical, useful information that helps them either solve their problems or achieve their goals.

Thank you to Vikki, for sharing some of her experience with us. Four more quick blogging tips that I would add to Vikki's advice would be....

I)  Choose a "catchy title", one that grabs attention, but also encompasses the keywords you want your post to be found for. From an SEO point of view, the title is one of the most important on-page factors that search engines assess. (See SEO Tips for more information on ranking well with Google)
ii) Most people prefer a friendly, conversational style of writing, rather than one that is "lecturing" or dogmatic.
ii) Develop original content - there's no point simply saying what everyone else has said. Add your own unique perspective or twist to it. Write a knock-out quality post and chances are that it will be shared - and others will link back to it and your readers will become regular followers.
iv) Have a nice clean format, with an uncluttered lay-out and good visual appeal. Sub-topics, sub-headings and a relevant image will definitely help break up a mass of content into much more digestible chunks.

Here's a short video clip that reinforces key ideas around writing good quality content for your blog posts ...

About the interviewer
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is an experienced management coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Small Business Tips - Get control of your finances

small business financial management tips

Managing your cash flow and controlling expenses

No matter how good your product or service might be - if you can't manage the financial side of your business, then you won't prosper ..... And chances are, you won't even survive.

This is the brutal reality of running your own business .... At the end of the day, if you don't have enough money in the bank to pay your bills, then it won't be long before you're forced out of the game. By all means, you have to be part visionary to start up a business - but you've still got to be aware of the numbers and do your sums as well.

So for this article, I went in search of someone who could offer us some good practical tips on how to control your finances and cash flow when you're running a small business. And I'm pleased to say that I found someone suitably qualified ....

Cherry Birch has over 25 years experience working and consulting in the financial services industry across Australia, the U.K and Malaysia. She is a Chartered Accountant who delivers tailored financial training to medium size and larger corporate sized organisations – but has a special interest in supporting small business owners gain greater control over their finances. Cherry is the founder of Financial Training Australia.

She is passionate about providing business owners and their key staff with improved financial literacy – so they can make better decisions that lead to more profitable business outcomes. I recently posed Cherry some questions about her own experience in starting up her business - and asked for some tips on financial management that would help small business owners......

  1. What originally motivated you to start your own business – and what keeps you motivated now?
Well like many others I was made redundant from a large consultancy when their business was going through a down cycle and they wanted to transfer me from a fixed cost to a variable one! It was not exactly well thought through because my role was made redundant 3 weeks after it had been created. I have so much admiration for those who start their own business when they are currently employed. I think it is so much easier when you effectively have nothing to lose. I did contemplate applying for other senior consulting roles but I had been thinking of my own business for some years and so this was the impetus to go for it!
One thing that I love about running my own business is being able to be true to your own values. This has meant that I have turned down work when I felt it would have meant compromising my values. Also I have been able to develop some great relationships with my clients  - I truly enjoy working with them – and I enjoy the freedom of being able to run my business my way.
I recall once being criticised by one senior manager for apparently not being good at “closing sales” – he thought I should have been adopting a “hard sell” approach to get business. However I’m convinced that my commitment to a more relationship-based sales approach has been one of the keys to my being in business for more than 11 years!

  1. Over the past 10+ years, you’ve consulted with many hundreds of business owners advising them on how to improve their financial management and control systems … What have you found to be the most common mistakes small business owners make with their finances?
Most of my clients are medium to large sized businesses so I may not be so qualified to answer this question, but then it begs the question as to whether small business put enough value in training their staff. We used to use the phrase - “If you think training is expensive, try calculating the cost of ignorance!”
I know there is the question of viability of training with the smaller numbers of staff in a small business, but there are still ways to make it cost effective.
I think generally small business often makes the mistake of being reluctant to invest in their people. Also I think it is so important to have adequately qualified accounting and bookkeeping staff, so you can rely on the reports that are produced. Additionally, small business owners must ensure they understand and check these financial reports – whether it be the monthly profit and loss statement or next quarters cash flow projections.
Business owners need to realise that their finance person might be great at producing various reports but they still have to be able to interpret the report and identify if there are any finance issues needing to be addressed . So unless the owners understand these financial reports, they are missing out on a vital control.

  1. Cash flow can be a bane for small business – any quick tips on how to manage this?
Businesses simply run out of cash and yet many managers and business owners are often too busy to give this important aspect of their business enough attention.  The two primary areas in which most businesses tie up cash are receivables (the money owed to you by your customers) and inventories (stock)
Whilst you need both to run a successful business, money tied up in these areas can be “dead” money, since it is not working for you, and so can seriously affect your growth, profitability and even survival prospects.
Recognising the importance of cash to run your business, and having healthy practices in place so you can positively manage it, will assist your business to thrive. Managing cash flow becomes even more critical during difficult economic times. 

In my consulting with the Birch Consulting Group, we have developed ten essential questions about cash management practices, that can assist business owners to identify whether they are maximising the cash in their bank account.
Get paid promptly
i)            Do you have an objective for the management of receivables?
Calculate your receivable days (how quickly your clients actually pay you) and compare this to your  payment terms and conditions? ….. If your receivable days (time it takes to receive money owed to you) comes to 90 days and yet your terms are say 30 days – you will  most likely encounter cash flow problems!

ii)           Do you invoice promptly?
Invoice for monies owed in a timely manner. The quicker you invoice the earlier you are  likely to be paid.  This is even more vital if you run a service business; issue the invoice   promptly while the work is clear in their mind, otherwise the longer the delay in issuing the invoice, the more queries you may receive.

iii)          Do you ensure that disputed items on invoices are cleared promptly?
How many times have your customers used a query on a small part of the invoice as an excuse to delay payment on the whole amount?  Ask them if they are in agreement with the rest of the invoice and get them to pay the non disputed amount while you investigate their query.  Then clearly establish the disputed issue and work towards resolution so that you can receive the balance of the monies due.

iv)         When did you last review your credit terms?
Credit terms are not necessarily set in stone and can be changed – so providing you consider any potential effect on sales, shorten them but ensure you inform your  customers.  Often small business is at the mercy of big business, or competitors, in terms of their payment terms. However many of your key customers will have a specific date by which they need to receive your invoice in order to get it processed for  payment in that month. Miss that date and you could wait another 30 days to get your money.

v)           What follow up of outstanding invoices do you undertake?
If you do not chase, some clients will take advantage.  Good customer relationships can play a big part in influencing client payment practices, but for the slow payers you just need to be persistent.  If your client has cash flow problems they will often pay the noisiest first.

Manage stock levels
        vi)         Have you recently reviewed your management of Inventory?

How many days stock do you need to hold?  What are your current inventory levels of raw materials, work in progress and finished goods and do you closely monitor their levels in relation to your sales? Ensure you consider how quickly you can get stock to fulfil an order if the stock isn’t on hand.

vii)        Do you have a clear strategy?
Are you holding one of everything or do you have a limited number of fast moving lines? …… If you are a FMCG company (Fast Moving Consumer Goods), remind yourself of what the “F” is supposed to stand for! 

viii)       Is there wasted space in your warehouse or office?
Could you realistically move to a warehouse or an office, half  the size of your present one?  It would save you an enormous amount of money and whilst it would be hard at first, and may incur initial moving costs, the long term benefits may save your business.  You and your staff can learn to adapt and manage, if forced to do so.

ix)         Are you guilty of keeping JIC inventories – rather than JIT?
Most of you will have heard of “Just in Time” – where you do not hold inventory but get your suppliers to deliver it JIT straight onto the production line.  This requires an efficient production process and reliable suppliers (remember they want your business as much as you want your clients to remain loyal). However what about all those stocks that you are holding JIC – “Just In Case”? Challenge yourself as to the real probability of them being required, harden yourself and get rid of them – they are taking up costly space.

x)           Are you holding any obsolete inventories?
Again, if they are obsolete, grit your teeth and cut your losses, clear them out and free up the space. Conduct a regular review of your stock holdings and be realistic as to what you do need to satisfy your profit generating clients.

           4.   Cherry, you’ve seen many new small businesses fail within the first two years of start-up – and yet others succeed....... In addition to the financial management mistakes that you mentioned earlier, what other factors have you found contribute to the success or failure of a business in getting through the challenging start-up phase?

Get good advice. Ask other small successful business owners to recommend professionals and providers to help you. Very few people are unwilling to help and make recommendations. Realise although it may feel like you are alone, but you do not need to be.
Seek networking opportunities and plan to catch up with others on a regular basis to have an outlet to discuss your business problems. It can be lonely and you have some good weeks and some bad ones – good to have others to talk to who understand since they have been there before.

I remember when I first started attending consultant networking meetings, speaking to another consultant who had been running her own business for 16 years. She told me it took her 5 years to stop being paranoid about where the next job was coming from!! ….. That made me feel so much better to realise I was not the only one that suffered from that type of uncertainty! I think I was like that for the first 2 years of my business. However, having survived that tenuous “start-up” stage, for the past 9 years I have been more anxious about how my business was going to cope with the demand that we generate!!

5.   What should a small business owner consider when selecting an accountant for their business?

Brian I am cautious about giving advice on this, since I no longer practice as an accountant, but here goes:

  • Be clear on what you want  - do you want someone to just do your books for tax purposes – for compliance - or do you want an accountant who is going to give you tips and advice?
  • Again ask for recommendations from others
  • Meet with a few to see if they speak a language you can understand!
I engaged my own tax accountant once I started my own business since whilst I am a qualified chartered accountant I am not a tax expert and besides I am not an expert on Australian tax.

6.   Last question Cherry ..... What about small business owners who are looking to grow their business – any advice? There have been many instances of SME’s expanding and growing too quickly and subsequently over-committing themselves to bankruptcy – so how do you avoid this problem?

I think this goes back to the question re cash flow.

small business tipsPut together a business plan to ensure you have thought through the extra cash resources you need for expansion. Also challenge yourself to ensure you are not being over optimistic ...

Go through the worst case scenario, assess the likelihood of this and check that you could indeed handle it, if it has more than a 10% chance of occurring.

Cash flow is the hardest thing to predict, so do some cash flow budgeting for a few months and then compare it with the actuals to see how good you are at predicting cash flows. Hopefully this will give you confidence in going forward.

Do your growth plans really have to be done all at once – or can they be implemented more gradually so as to reduce risk.
I designed a training course on How to Write a Compelling Business Case this year – it has been very popular. Whether you are a manager in a large corporate or you are running your own small business, you need to think carefully before committing any significant expenditure to an expansion initiative. A cost-benefit analysis can ensure that your passions and ambitions are harnessed in a measured way. Success in business comes from equal contributions from the heart and the head.

There is no escape from the need for good management and disciplined planning …. This is the key - that you develop sound systems and procedures as part of working on the business – so that over time, you will not have to work so much in your business.
Thank you very much Cherry - you've shared some great tips. Particularly in relation to preventing cash flow problems - which goes to the heart of the viability of a business. I've seen too many small business owners over the years become highly stressed and pressured, because of problems created in this area. And those pressures can so easily then start infiltrating into other parts of life - impacting on family relationships and becoming a source of tension and conflict. So I'm hoping our readers consider your advice and perhaps evaluate some of the financial practices and processes within their business. Bye for now.

About the interviewer
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is an experienced management coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Mental toughness and running a small business

perseverance and mental toughness in businessWhat is mental toughness, you may well ask?

It's one of those qualities many of us are able to readily recognise in our sporting heroes - whether it's tennis, football, soccer, basketball or athletics. They embody the ability to hang in there and persevere, even though they're being out-scored or out-pointed by their competition.

We admire them for their tenacity to keep on fighting, despite "the odds" being against them. They have that mental toughness to avoid letting any thoughts of defeat or despair take hold. They steadfastly refuse to allow any fear of failure to paralyse them and prevent them from whole-heartedly continuing to compete.

They continue to push themselves to the limits of their capabilities - consistently striving to find ways of improving their performance.

Business and sport share much in common
Running a small business and playing competitive sport both require you to be aware of your competitors. Your success will be measured not just by the quality of your own decisions and actions - but also by how these compare to those of your competitors.

You enter the game with a goal and a particular strategy in mind .... But circumstances can change, the playing conditions can turn out to be quite different to what you'd anticipated - and so you you've got to be able to adapt.

In sport, we've seen numerous instances where the player with more heart beats the player with more "natural ability". In business, we've seen the same dynamic where the entrepreneur with greater "grit" achieves more success than the one with more so-called "intelligence"

Sometimes, you'll make mistakes ....... You make the wrong decision - or your execution on part of the plan was flawed. ....... Yep, even the best players will sometimes get it wrong - and so too have business people like Steve Jobs and Walt Disney and Richard Branson

But the one's with mental toughness bounce back. They learn from their mistakes - and then start moving forward again.. 

And when you're running a small business, like when you're competing in sport, you've got to be able to "read the game" and be willing to change your game-plan when it proves necessary ....... You've got to be able to admit when something's not working - which takes some humility - before you can begin to turn things around  ........Not everyone can do this. By the way, you might be interested in some tips on related topics like Self-Motivation and also Focus

So, what are some keys that can help you to develop your mental toughness? Here are seven ....

  1. Decide what you need to focus your attention upon - clarify your goal or your priority. Avoid letting distractions get in the way and diverting your attention from what is important
  2. Expect there will likely be some set-backs along the way - but view these as temporary. Remain optimistic that you can turn things around by learning, growing and improving. When problems arise, focus on finding a solution rather than becoming immersed in the effects of the problem 
  3. Identify in difficult situations what is within your control - and what is beyond your control. Don't waste time and effort worrying about those things outside of your control
  4. To be successful in business, like sport, you need to be well trained. And then learn to trust your training, trust your process, when the pressure is on. So ensure that you've invested time and effort in regular and consistent training that develops your business skills over time - and which in turn will help to foster your self-belief
  5. Motivation can sometimes wane - but developing good business routines, systems and self-disciplines leads to consistency of performance. Mental toughness is developed by consistently doing the things that you know you should do
  6. Avoid allowing your mind to dwell on mistakes - by all means you've got to learn from them - but then it's about drawing a line in the sand and moving forward
  7. Remind yourself of some of your achievements, so as renew your faith in the strengths and capabilities that you posses, that will enable you to get through any difficult times
Here's a short video clip that offers tips for athletes on how to develop mental toughness - offering some good insight into how your mind can be either a friend or a foe and affect your performance.... . I think ALL of the tips are equally relevant if you are running a small business  See what you think ....


About the author
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is an experienced management coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A young entrepreneur having a Monsta impact in the surf-wear business

Building a good business can be the pathway to fulfillment and freedom

One of the things that I really enjoy about this blog, is that I get the chance to connect with all different types of people who share my interest in learning how to more effectively run and grow a successful small business. People that come from different backgrounds - with businesses from a range of different industries, based not just here in Australia, but all around the world.

And so many of these business owners have stories about achieving success that can inspire us in our own journey - as well as lessons and tips they freely share which serve to inform and educate. Well, keep on reading folks, 'cause you're going to hear about a young man who offers you plenty of both!

Although business should not dominate our entire life - boy it plays such an integral role in determining our overall sense of well-being, don't you think? .…. We need to find a way to get the business part right and also gain satisfaction from what we are doing. Building a good business provides us with financial security - which in turn offers us freedom to choose the lifestyle that we want. When it all comes together,  then life becomes a whole lot more enjoyable.

And much more stress-free when we’re not worrying about whether we can pay the bills!

Yes, you're in business to make money - but what else?
There's nothing wrong with being in business to make money. To stay in business of course you need to be making more money that what you're spending…... But running your own business doesn’t have to be just about profits and making money - it can meet other needs as well. 

How you run and approach your business is a reflection of who you are – it reflects your values and your priorities, and mirrors what you stand for in your life.

And on this theme of values, this post features an interview with a remarkable young entrepreneur making his mark in the billion dollar surf-wear industry.
His name is Cameron Greenwood, and his motivation in business is to have a positive influence on the world and to inspire young people to follow their passion and dreams. And quite frankly, my gut tells me that within the next few years you’ll be hearing a lot more about this 22 year-old young man and his small business based in Melbourne, Australia, called Monsta Surf.

Cam Greenwood - founder of Monsta Surf
He is building an enormous following in social media (approaching 30,000 Facebook followers), and in the space of just a couple of years is experiencing a solid, consistent rate of growth in sales around the globe for his range of surf-wear, surf-boards and accessories. Here’s what he had to say about his experience so far ….

  • Cam, what was your motivation in starting your business – and what keeps you motivated now?
I had always been really interested in surfboard design and in 2012 I started making surfboards in a small storeroom in my backyard. In March 2012, I wanted to label my surfboards and thought of the name Monsta. My partner drew up the first Monsta logo and that’s how Monsta was born. On 7 June 2012 I created the Monsta Surfboards Facebook page. In the first year I was selling surfboards to my friends and through Facebook as well as starting to sell hats, hoodies and singlets.

I think I always had a dream to run a surf company but I didn’t really plan to grow Monsta to what it has become. It grew very quickly and I just went with it. In the first year Monsta had grown to 1000 likes on Facebook and it was then that I realized I had an opportunity to build Monsta into a business selling surfboards and clothing. A year later we had more than 15,000 followers

I saw that I had already created a solid following on Facebook and from this, was receiving a lot of interest in the brand and clothing. I believed I had the opportunity to grow Monsta into a successful business and I believed that it was feasible based on the interest around Melbourne and through leveraging the rapidly growing Facebook following. We  now have 25,000 active Facebook followers, with 30,000 projected by early next year.

I was driven by my passion to pursue my dream to create a surf brand that inspires people and was also influenced by the support from my close friends. After being part of a mission trip to the Huruma Children’s Home in Kenya in 2012, I set a goal to provide financial help with the education of these Kenyan children and wanted to achieve this through having my own business. A component of the annual profit of the business is now allocated to the Huruma Children’s Home through the Monsta Foundation.

Today, I am motivated by my passion to use Monsta as a platform to positively influence the world. I would love to bring cultural reform to the surf scene.

  • You were studying business and commerce at university ....... How does that compare to what youve actually learned running your own small business?
Everything I have learnt through my commerce degree has been very helpful for the business but the lessons and skills I have learned from actually stepping out and running my own business have been priceless. All of the projects I have undertaken for Monsta have taught me new skills, given me new experiences, developed new capabilities, grown my resources and networks, and has constantly challenged myself and the brand to grow.

I have currently deferred my course to focus on Monsta this semester - but I do plan to go back and study part time next year to finish my degree.

  • How have you approached marketing your business? ........ You have amassed quite a significant following on Facebook in a relatively short time, what is your approach to leveraging social media in your marketing?
The way that I approach social media is quite different to most brands. I build personal relationships with Monsta’s ‘tribe’ of followers who take ownership of the brand and spread the word. Most brands use social media with selling being their inherent interest. Basically I use our social media outlets as a platform to share a unique view of the world.

Over time, I have learned to focus on what makes a great, provocative and engaging image while aligning images with the interests of our target customer. I’m very proud of the strong presence Monsta has on social media and we really do have a ‘tribe’ like following with advocates from all around the world.

  • What advice would you offer to young entrepreneurs?
I’m passionate about doing what you love and having a red hot crack. I think it’s great for young people to follow their dreams and to not settle for a lifestyle that does not fulfil them. There will always be many challenges and there is lots of things that I wish someone had told me before I launched Monsta. So here are ten tips for the young entrepreneur who is about to enter the battle field:

-     Do what you love: Don’t start a business simply because it seems like a great business idea, do it because you arent passionate about it and its what you love. Business built around your passions and strengths will have a greater chance of succeeding. Yes, creating a profitable business is very important, but its just as important that your work is fulfilling. Think about it, you spend most of your life working, so you may as well love what you do!

-     Lead with character: Do what is right because it’s the right thing to do, regardless of the cost to you or your business.

-     Focus on your niche: One of the most important factors in building a successful business is the ability to stand out from the many competitors in your field. One of the best ways to do this is by focusing and catering to a specific niche. Being more specific will help you stand out as well as attracting and marketing to the right audience which will save a heap of time and money. Juggling multiple projects or ideas will limit your productivity and effectiveness. When starting out, do one thing perfectly, not lots of different things poorly.

-     Take calculated risks: The best part of being a young entrepreneur is that you are young and aren’t responsible for much. This is the time to take risks, but make sure you have done your homework before you spend last years wage on your new venture. If you don’t calculate, your business will eventually fail. Projections, strategy options and plans must be in place to avoid making a wild decision.

-     Know your limits: No one can do everything, so don’t try to be a one man show. Surround yourself with mentors and advisors who will help you become a better leader and business person.

-     Stay lean: Scale down pricey plans and large expenditures when starting out. It is very tough to borrow money and it is quite stressful having a big liability so if you need large sums of money to launch your venture, go back to the drawing board. Simplify your business ideas to start small and then refine your concepts as you go.

-     Take advantage of social media: Social media is one of the most useful tools for advertising your venture. Not only can you build up online relationships with your customers but it is also very cost effective and a measurable way of advertising.

-     Keep innovating: even if you think your business or product is perfect, there will always be room to improve. Once your product is out there, you must continue to improve, expand and develop what you’ve created. This is how you remain competitive.

small business-     Treat people with respect: Success is defined by who you are and how you treat the people around you ...... In particular I think, how you treat the people that you don't need anything from and the compassion that you show, when no-one's watching. For me, that speaks louder than the car you drive or the clothes you wear or the balance of your bank account.

-     Stay healthy: As lame as it sounds, you will be much more productive if you take good care of yourself. Entrepreneurship and start ups are not a 9-5 job, they are a lifestyle and once you become passionate about your venture it will be with you until all hours of the night. I remember having nights where I would be working on a new idea until the sun came up but trust me, you will burn out and make yourself less productive in the long run. Eat right, exercise and prioritise your time for your loved ones and yourself.

Finally, what are your future aspirations for the business?

I believe that God has blessed me with Monsta in order to use it as a platform to positively influence the world. I have lots of dreams and ideas tucked away and I am hoping that one day our foundation can raise enough money to take the kids of the Huruma Childrens Home surfing down the coast of Kenya!

Ultimately, I want the brand’s legacy to be reflected in the lives it influences and I am super excited to see what the future holds.

Thank you to Cam Greenwood …… I’m confident that this young purposeful man will achieve his goals – and that his story will be an inspiration to other young people who want to make a difference. And by the way, you might be interested in this article "Are You Playing To Your Strengths"  and if you're looking for some tips on starting your own business "How to become an entrepreneur"

About the interviewer
Brian Carroll is the founder of Performance Development, a training business in Melbourne, Australia.  He is an experienced management coach with a passion for helping people achieve their goals in life and business. You can find out more about Brian at his Google + profile