In fact, the younger a business is, or the earlier one is along the business cycle, the greater the difficulties.
These difficulties are responsible for a specific set of problems most business owners encounter. They include lumping all customers into one category, trying to maintain too many products or services, and “promiscuous” marketing. As a result, entrepreneurs have trouble making their business an “ELF” business – easy, lucrative, and fun.
When it comes to customers, business owners often fail to distinguish between the various categories of clients and customers. In their scramble to get their business off the ground, entrepreneurs are tempted to see every dollar of profit they make as equally valuable.
This is not the case.
Not every dollar is worth the effort it took to make it. Neither is every customer worth retaining.
This may be shocking to hear, especially if you come from a background where the customer is always right. In order to better understand this concept, you must consider the time and effort it took to earn the dollar in question.
1. The Hyper-Productive Client or Buyer. These people buy often, anticipate your products eagerly, admire you, and actively promote your business and products to their friends and family.
3. Neutral Customers. Often they buy only once from your business and have a tendency to return and request refunds more frequently.
4. The Damaging Buyer. Bob describes these customers as jerks: they are rude to your staff, have a sense of entitlement for condescending to buy your product, and demand special treatment. They also have a tendency to misuse your products or services and then blame you.
Bob’s advice is to get rid of these customers, which not only poison you and your staff, but take considerable time and effort to make them happy. Bob’s advice is to identify and focus on your clients that spend the most and require the least effort. This will ensure that you are delivering more value to the people who are actually in a place to appreciate your efforts.
In short, freeing yourself up from petty and negatively minded customers will give you the time you need to invest into your true fans and supporters.
Promiscuous Marketing is when an ad or ad campaign reaches a very wide audience, irrespective of said audience’s ability or desire to pay for the advertised product or service. Because the cost of communicating online is so low, many marketers are tempted to reach out to vast numbers of people in an effort to draw people to their brand.
Unfortunately, this brings in many people who do not truly need or want your product or service, which might cause you problems as you struggle to meet their needs, or simply poison relations. To this end, your marketing needs to be targeted towards a specific niche or market that you have identified in the course of your research.
In addition to targeting too many customers, business owners also offer too many products. In a recent study conducted by Smuckers Jelly, two tables with assorted jellies were set out at a supermarket. One table was laden with some 30 flavours while the other sported six. The table with fewer choices outsold the one with many by a factor of four.
Another example: the famous project management website Basecamp used to offer no less than 20 various products. Taking a closer look, co-founder Jason Fried discovered that 75% of his products were making little to no income. He then conducted a radical restructuring of his business which involved cutting down the number of services to six.
You might want to consider implementing something similar in your business. This will reduce the confusion customers feel when faced with too many choices and enable you to dedicate yourself to your top performing products.
Stress and frustration in business is difficult to avoid, particularly if you are just starting out. Every entrepreneur’s dream business is where she can do what she loves on her own terms at her own pace. Fortunately, there are ways to make the process more enjoyable. Keep in mind the following when you venture out:
2. Seek Out the Right People. Make sure to do your research and go after the people who can afford and appreciate what you have to offer. This will save a lot of heartache on both sides.
3. Don’t Confuse your Customers. Identify the core set of products and/or services your clients require and focus on providing the best possible experience with the set.
5. Challenge Stereotypes. Is the customer always right? While that’s up to you to decide, and each particular person and situation is different, it is a good idea to keep an open mind.
One of the most important institutions in our lives is our bank. It’s the place we trust with our hard earned cash, borrow from, and sacrifice for in the form of monthly fees. They can be unbearably frustrating.
At first glance, the idea of having something as personal as a relationship with a huge and faceless corporation may seem odd. However, upon closer inspection we can find many similarities between the relationships we have with our spouse or friend, and our banks.
As with any relationship, there are ups and downs when dealing with banks. There will be spurts of elation and pits of depression. Although many people would be inclined to define their relationship with their bank as painful and unpleasant, it doesn’t have to be that way. There are a number of ideas you can put in practice to alleviate stress when managing relations with your bank.
Form a personal connection To do this, we need to shift our thinking.
Try to see your bank as composed of human beings. Once you realize that you are dealing with people, things will be considerably smoother. Make friends with the tellers, financial advisers, and managers at your bank – get to know their names and keep in touch. This may be more difficult at a larger bank, but quite manageable at a smaller branch.
Making friends at the bank will help the folks remember your name and story. This is always beneficial when negotiating for a better deal as people tend to be more helpful and sympathetic towards their friends.
Ask for it If you are struggling with high fees or you think you should be getting a better deal, the best thing to do is just ask. You lose nothing by asking your bank for better rates. Your bank needs your business and will likely be open to compromise to retain you as a customer. It all comes down to this: nothing will change unless you make the first move and break the ice.
Keep demands reasonable That being said, it is also important to keep your demands reasonable. You definitely want the best deal possible, but relationships are a two way street and you can’t leave the other party with no room to maneuver.
Negotiate with the aim to satisfy both parties. Never try to get too much done in one session or argument. Break down your demands into smaller, easily achievable requests. Keeping your demands reasonable ensures they are more likely to get met.
Weigh alternatives If you find yourself unable to settle with your bank, do yourself a favour and shop around for a better deal. Banks are always eager for new customers and you might very well receive a juicy deal for transferring.
Make sure to conduct research into a bank’s past practices and the way they are known to have treated their customers before. Feel free to cite other banks’ deals to your own for concessions. If this doesn’t work, you might want to consider parting ways with your bank.
Cultivating a strong and healthy relationship with your bank is not only doable, but indeed highly beneficial. Just as with the people in our lives, it can be easy to yell, snap and get frustrated. Unfortunately, this damages our bonds with other people and gets us nowhere. Frustration with your bank is natural, but thankfully it is something that can be managed and resolved.
Redefining Success: What Your Body Has to Say An Interview with WWRI Editor-In-Chief Fiona Fine By David Cohen
A new generation of women is maturing who are telling their mothers they will not do things their way.
It makes sense then that David Cohen of The Boomer Business Coach would want to talk to Women Who Run It’s Editor-In-Chief Fiona Fine. At The Boomer Business Coach the main goal is to help baby boomers do a business they love, and do it successfully. Fiona Fine is the pinnacle of this, and so David Cohen invited her to be interviewed on his Lives Lived Well Teleseries.
Author and speaker Fiona Fine has been through a lot in her life. She has a degree in engineering, has been married twice, and has gone through three car accidents plus two major concussions from other accidents over the span of 30 years.
The Accidents At seventeen, a few weeks into studying engineering at university, Fiona experienced her first car accident. It caused her considerable pain, as well as started the damage to her immune system.
“Yet I didn’t change – I just kept pushing and driving myself through it all,” recalls Fiona.
She pushed through her five year engineering program to graduate as a Mechanical Engineer – one of 35 women in a class of almost 1000. Yet this severely impacted her health and collapsed her immune system which just couldn’t keep up to the stress.
Over the next 15 years Fiona worked in her career of engineering, CAD/CAM and then ultimately in IT corporate headhunting – all male dominated industries. In 1995, she had her second car accident. This one left her disabled for a period of time before she figured out how to become the first person in her industry to tele-commute so she could continue to work. “Making money was what I was good at above all else.” she said.
“Yet I still didn’t get the real message,” says Fiona.
Finally, following a third accident, Fiona finally got the message that she needed to reframe how she looked at life, and how she managed her health and personal life. She began to realize that her definition of success was warped and required change in order for her to go on. She began this process by tapping into her body and psyche and figuring out how to harmonize her mind body and spirit. “Up until that time, my ego mind was the largest muscle of my body.” she admits.
Marriage Being a young alpha woman, Fiona had pre-planned her life out in detail. At 17, she already had the vision of herself in her engineering career with two kids and a husband – all before the age of 34 “because that was how society still encouraged us as women to think” but could see no further she admits. Life mostly started out by fitting the plan.
At 28, her first husband fell hard and fast in love with her. She was different than the other women he had dated. “Brains times beauty is a constant and you changed the constant” is what he told her and it was shortly after a trip to Italy and only 6 months of meeting her that he asked her to marry him. All she could say was “Oh, sh#t” – evidently thirteenth times. She couldn’t say yes…
“He asked me, ‘if you love me why wouldn’t you want to marry me?’ And so I got married because I didn’t have a good answer,” she said. “I didn’t understand that you can love and not be ‘in love’. He was a good man yet he was not the man for me.”
The marriage lasted less than two years.
“He wanted out,” she shared succinctly with David Cohen on his show. She dove back into her career and in that timeframe also had a second major car accident. Life was a continuous challenge yet about that time she met another man and went back into a 10 year relationship.
Yet history was repeating itself, and in 2007, Fiona left the relationship. She considered herself “successfully divorced for the last time,” cleaned up her health (again) and felt confident and ready to date. Nevertheless, she found the concept of reentering the dating game difficult to wrap her mind around. This was where she got one of the best pieces of personal advice from one of her male best friends:
“Even if you love pizza, why on earth would you want to eat pizza every day of your life?” he said.
In a nutshell, his advice was to go out and have fun! Explore what made her happy and what she really desired to create in her life and how she wanted to live and love – on her terms!
Thinking back to her first relationship, she remembers the societal expectations that influenced her decision.
“It was society saying: ‘this is a good man’.”
“Yet every year I was putting myself away in a smaller box.”
What the body has to say She found that in the pursuit of success and competition in a male world, she had denied so many aspects of her femininity. All of her time had been spent trying to fit into a mold created by society and it was hurting her – literally. The harder she went after her goals, the bigger an accident or “growing experience” was required to slow her down.
It’s not that there were no warning signs. Fiona is frank about the fact the her intuition and body were sounding the alarm very loudly that she was moving too quickly and pushing too hard/too often.
“I honestly believe that our bodies speak to us – if we listen. Whispers at first, then grumbles, then often full a out assault which is the cause of much ‘dis-ease’”.
But it’s not just about learning to listen to your own body. Fiona emphasizes the need for women to interact with each other and speak using their own voice. According to her, there are three major periods in a woman’s life when women do not seem to communicate well and share what works/what doesn’t in their lives: puberty, child rearing years, and again during menopause.
This idea drove Fiona to create two online publications for women to advocate, support and connect with other women: one on women’s leadership (the one you’re reading right now!) and the other on dating and relationships.
Ultimately, while Fiona figured out the hard yet conscious changes she needed to make in her life, it took her many years filled with pain and difficulty to get there. Her mess has become her message and has also created the spectacular life she leads now. She doesn’t want other women to have to learn things the hard way but to listen to the whispers in their own lives. She wants every woman to be a B.I.T.C.H (a Babe In Total Control of Herself). She wants this so much that she wrote a whole book on the subject (found here). Babe In Total Control of Herself is Fiona’s guidebook for women just like her who want to find the same success she had.
Fiona’s advice is to change the focus in our lives from “doing” to “being”.
“A life that is not one of self-awareness is not worth living,” according to her paraphrase of the Socrates quote. “We need to know ourselves to create our best lives.”
Life is made of choices and changes that mesh with each other in often unpredictable ways, and it is okay (and often mandatory) to step back and say “I don’t know why” or “I don’t know how to…”. Indeed, slowing down to give your body and inner spirit a chance to talk to you will probably do more for your career and personal development than constantly sucking it up and toughing it out. “We push ourselves so hard and it is often in our later years that we realize we never had to- slow is smooth/smooth is fast.”
Our minds and bodies are not machines, and we cannot and should not conform to norms and expectations if they harm us. We rob our lives of authenticity when we forget that our lives are meant to be an expression of our true selves as individuals.
Drawing on Fiona’s inspirational story, there are many nuggets of wisdom to be extracted that can help us reclaim our lives.
1. Are your jobs or goals hurting you? Does your body physically ache from your job? Perhaps the stress is unreasonably high. These are signs that you might need to make some changes.
2. Are you trying to fit in? It’s not a good idea for your self-esteem and self-expression if you’re adjusting your life according to what you see other people doing or find yourself trying to conform to stereotypes.
3. Redefine success It just might be the things you are neglecting most of all- your health and well-being.
4. Do not disregard challenges in your life If overcoming them is coming at too great a price, the difficulties might not be worth your time.
5. Set boundaries. Define your limits. Know what you can or can’t do. Know what you desire to create in your life – how is it you want to live not just what is it you are looking to cross off the list.
Six years ago, Alison Stuckey had lost her ability to dream: her husband was a victim of the 2008 financial crisis and she was moving towards depression. She had finally transitioned from working nine-to-five after 5 years and adjusted to being a mother. But there was always something missing in her life.
Alison began to realize that she was caught up in societal expectations and this was not working for her.
“We look at what our parents and their parents did. This just isn’t working anymore. It’s a different time,” Alison confessed.
The most difficult part for Alison was stepping out of her comfort zone. Leaving the world of nine-to-five was a major challenge. Alison’s reason for leaving the corporate world so many people inhabit was that she had to be there for her children, not to mention that she could never find a spot for herself in this environment.
Alison defines herself as “first and foremost, a mom and a wife,” her family is the most important thing. Following the birth of her first child, she felt that she was being forced to make a choice – to sacrifice either her child or her job. She chose her child, then children. Unfortunately a single income is not enough to support a family in a large city and Alison had to consider returning to a job and workforce after 5 years.
Around this time, she was approached by a university friend and jumped at the opportunity to start her own business with Arbonne, a health and wellness networking marketing company. The new opportunity offered the flexibility she needed to focus on the most important aspect of her life – her children.
“I needed to be there for my daughter. She needs her mom around. I can’t even imagine what she would be like as a person if I wasn’t there,” Alison shared.
It wasn’t easy starting over – Alison experienced considerable self-doubt. Confidence came gradually from certain realizations and primarily from personal development.
“I was terrified. Would it work? Could I do it? All my fears surfaced. But I always knew I was capable of so much more than I was doing. There was always this thought in the back of my head that there is more for me out there. More I have to do in life.”
Helping her through this was the way she viewed failures. Alison does not look at failures as standing alone, but at the way someone deals with them.
“I look at them as a positive as opposed to a negative because it’s really the way you deal with them that determines what your future is going to be,” she said.
The best part of leaving a nine-to-five existence, Alison says, was the flexibility that came with it. She could set her own schedule and expectations.
“If somebody’s sick, I don’t have to call my boss and ask for time off. I usually give myself the time off,” she laughs.
She also enjoys being in control of her future.
“No one else is dictating my future. I am in charge of it and it will be whatever I make of it. I am not under somebody else’s control, working to someone else’s expectations,” Alison said.
Regarding expectations, Alison rails against stereotypical societal expectations and norms.
“There are so many things being thrown at us: our kids, our careers, even our physical being; be this way, look this way, weigh this much.”
Her proposed solution is to reclaim our lives.
“We really need to be our own person, especially as women.”
With the flexibility and freedom her business allows, Alison has found time for both her family and an incredible career.
“I set an example for my kids, especially my daughter, that I can be successful, building an amazing business that is going to be a legacy for them, and also have presence in their life, to be there for them when they need me.”
Alison’s advice to women is to connect with successful and positive women to discover the path they took through much the same circumstances. Embodying the entrepreneurial mindset, Alison says that if you can dream it, you can do it.
“The only thing holding us back is ourselves,” she shared.
While she’s not certain of what she will do in the future, Alison has her eyes on the big picture.
“We are all put on this planet for something great. I still haven’t determined exactly what that is, but I know there is something bigger I want to do.”
Speaking about her business, Alison views it as a gateway enabling her to do other things.
Indeed, Alison seems to be continually discovering herself.
“I realized recently that I want to start a charity and it is going to have a women focus.”
In short, it is clear that there is no clear path to success and in fact, no single path to success. A well-paying nine-to-five job may very well be one person’s idea of success, while Alison finds it a compromise disrupting her life.
While the details will vary for everyone, there are a few bigger ideas that we all can apply to our professional lives. Here are some ideas to keep in mind as you pursue success:
1. Don’t let society tell what you should be and how to get there Do what you want and be what you want. Live your dream.
2. Set your own expectations Only you know what you want to be in life. Through self discovery you will figure that out.
3. Move out of your comfort zone Challenge yourself to do better. Always.
4. Keep trying The most successful people in the world have failed many times and kept trying new methods and approaches.
5. Learn from your mistakes Don’t brood over them for weeks on end, instead absorb the lesson and move on. Improving.
6. Decide what’s important And focus on it. Prioritize and devote more time to the activities you truly value.
7. Get help Connect with people who share your concerns and be inspired by their stories.
Society leads us to believe that happiness arises from sticking with something for a long time, plugging away at that project with passion and determination and above all, never quitting.
Quitting is seen a sign of weakness and we would rather go to extreme lengths sooner than admit that we have quit something.
Another thing that stops us from quitting is the thought of how much time and effort we have put into our work. It seems like so much has gone into the project that it would be an awful waste to throw it all away. This is something known as the sunk costs fallacy. Sunk costs is a term used by economists to describe the time, effort, and money a person has invested into doing something. It can be very difficult to let go of this and announce to the world that you’ve quit.
But is quitting always bad for us?
Having established that quitting is accompanied by stigma and made even more difficult by curious quirks of our brains, let’s look at some people who, by almost any standards were doing well but ended up quitting and their reasons for doing so.
People who quit and loved it The year is 1999: Ali is a software programmer living in Texas. She earns $60,000 a year – especially impressive considering she is 25 years old. She can afford a decent car and place to live and sustain her love for shoes. It seemed like she had the perfect life.
So why on Earth did she quit her stable, well-paying job to become a high-end escort?
Ali says her job involved staring at a computer screen all day, which proved terrible for her sociable personality. In her own words, her choice was right for her at the time and her new job made her happy.
We have already talked about sunk costs, for example, Ali was spending her days at the computer screen. But there is a slightly different concept at work here – the idea of opportunity cost – the value of something that is given up to pursue any given activity. For Ali, her job was depriving her of social interaction, Robert wasn’t seeing his sons as often as he wanted to. Both Ali and Robert came to realize that the sacrifices they were making for their jobs were not worth it and made the choice to quit.
How do I know when to quit? But how do you know “when to quit and when to struggle” as Carsten Wrosch, psychology professor at Concordia University puts it. The appropriate course of action can be really elusive.
Following that comes the actual process of quitting, and this can be long and painful. According to Sudhir Venkatesh, sociology professor at Columbia University, it’s best to “rip the Band-Aid off quickly”. People who are able to act quickly once they decide to quit usually fare better than those who take longer. In fact, it is actually healthier when quitting to quit quickly and move on. Research conducted by Carsten Wrosch, psychology professor at Concordia University indicates that people who are better able to let go experience fewer depressive symptoms and fewer health problems over time.
The process By now, we should be able to pick out and isolate the reasons why somebody would want to quit and the process they ought to follow. Quitters are not unsuccessful or weak people, in fact all the quitters cited in this article are highly successful individuals. Quitting has more in common with realistic goals than giving up. The following is an outline of the process to quitting well and finding greater satisfaction in life.
1. Ask yourself: Am I happy? 2. If not, what is it I’d rather be doing? 3. Identify what you’re missing out on (opportunity cost). 4. Stop doing your current activity. 5. Set realistic goals for your new activity. 6. Accept that it didn’t work out the previous time. 7. Move on – dive right into what you’ve always wanted to be doing.
Looking back, Ali says quitting was easy for her. Since then, she has found a companion and has left the escort industry – she’s quit once again when the couple decided they didn’t want prostitution in their joint life. In this, Ali embodies more than just a willingness and honesty to reassess herself and her goals, she also possesses the ability to rethink her plans on the go.
It seems like the bills can’t wait to escape your wallet.
It’s tricky to identify and keep track of all the small things in our busy lives that slowly but surely thin out your billfold. Sometimes the purchases we make seem important, useful and even indispensable at the moment. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Indeed our spending habits do all sorts of harm, from mild inconveniences, to real threats, to affecting our health and well-being. Luckily, it’s easy to put yourself on the path to health and wealth by identifying where you’re wasting money and how you can fix it.
1. Your house Let’s start with the big things that have a major impact on your life, such as your house. Your house, apartment, or condo is a major expense item in your budget and as such should be your number one priority when looking to save money.
So what is it you can do to save money on your home? Well, take a look at all the expenses that go into your home – your hydro and electricity bills. You can cut down on utilities by installing energy and water efficient appliances. There are major savings to be found here, in fact, the folks at Energy Star who certify appliances say that you can save up to 33% on your energy bill if you follow their recommendations.
2. Credit cards Chances are, your house is partially mortgaged and some of your purchases are done on loan. Credit cards can be very useful tools to buy the items you need but can very quickly accumulate interest.
The average American household owes some $15,270 in credit card debt. 39% of Americans carry debt forward from month to month. This can result in difficulties with paying for medical emergencies, unemployment cushion, and post-secondary fees for your kids, just to name a few. If you find you are often unable to make the entire monthly payment on your credit card, it might be a sign that you need to look at your expenses and make some changes to your habits.
3. Coffee Simply opting to buy one cup less can do wonders.
Don’t get me wrong, coffee tastes great and you need it to get yourself going in the morning, but that extra one you downed on break was most likely unnecessary. Cutting down on coffee will save you hundreds of dollars a year as well as reduce your risk of anxiety, restlessness, and depression, which are all side effects of caffeine.
4. Lunch As you move throughout the day, inevitably you will get hungry. You probably have a favourite restaurant you love to eat at. Although you can get a quick and easy lunch for as little at $10, this is good for neither your health nor your wallet.
Ten dollars a day works out to $2600 a year on lunch alone, not to mention that fast food is high in fats, calories and preservatives. You’re much better off preparing a homemade lunch to take with you. One nifty trick you can use is to refrigerate your leftovers from dinner and pack them for lunch the next day.
5. Bottled water Furthermore, you can buy a reusable water bottle and fill it up from the tap. A plastic bottle of water can cost $2 – that’s $520 a year. Without a reusable bottle and tap water, you’re definitely doing your wallet a disservice, not to mention the environment. Don’t worry – tap water is every bit as good as bottled water.
6. Warranties So you’ve probably been shopping for your new energy efficient appliances and eco-friendly water bottle. Hold right there! Are you pulling out your credit card to pay? If so, I hope you didn’t pay for the extended warranty on that new Whirlpool. Warranties are a great idea, especially when you are buying an expensive product that you expect to last a long time. However, according to a report by Consumer Reports, most products do not break within the time covered by the normal warranty. Therefore, it makes no sense to pay extra for coverage you’re not likely to ever need.
Some food for thought: the same report says retailers keep at least 50% of the extra fee they charge you for that warranty, so make sure to bargain around with the salespeople for a better deal.
7. Cable boxes By now you’re at home and reaching for the remote to catch up on the day’s news and your favourite TV shows. Let me guess, you have 700 channels available with the Verizon or Rogers premium cable box that sits on your set. Let me guess again, you’re also probably paying for it. Enjoy your channels, but know that as with warranties, cable boxes are something you can get for less if you haggle a little with your provider.
8. Taxes It’s that time of year again: time to do your taxes. And luckily, you have a bit more income to report this year thanks to all your nifty money saving tricks you’re using. But the problem with reporting more income is having to pay more taxes.
It’s very easy – look into the various refunds and deductions available from the IRS/CRA and see which ones you qualify for. It’s hardly possible for you to know the tax code inside out so there will most likely be a few that you missed and obviously were not informed about by the government.
9. Alcohol After a long and hard day doing your taxes, you decide to go out with a few friends – grab a few drinks, maybe smoke a cigarette or two if that’s your thing. After all, you can afford it now with all your savings piling up.
Not so fast! Wouldn’t it be pointless to have saved so much money only to blow it on drinks? As little at $50 a week on alcohol adds up to $2600 a year. It can be fun (and definitely tempting!) to drink and you should definitely be able to enjoy yourself without pinching every penny, but do keep in mind that reducing your alcohol consumption even a small amount will save you loads of money and provide innumerable health benefits such as reduced risk of heart, liver and kidney disease.
At the end of the day, if you need to buy something, go ahead and buy it. You cannot live your life filled with worry and guilt for every penny. In fact, this is likely to make you unhappy and frustrated. Instead, focus on small and achievable goals and before you know it, you’ll find yourself a master saver.