Running a business was never something I WANTED to learn. (I wanted to play rhythm guitar for Oasis – never mind the fact they ALREADY had a rhythm guitarist.)
But after getting cordially invited to “pursue another vocation” by my previous employers, I was suddenly forced to figure out how to run a business. Fast!
And so after much trial – and far more error than I feel comfortable sharing – here are 5 secrets to running a business that doesn’t suck:
Running A Business Secret #1: Learn to Love Math (Even If You Don’t)
This was by far the most IMPORTANT and most DIFFICULT lesson I had to learn about running a business. And it’s one I struggle with every single day.
Because I hate Math. Not in a…”Oh, isn’t Math boring and frustraing.” But in a “I’d rather watch the ‘Twilight’ trilogy than have to look at another Algebra textbook” way.
And yet, in my never humble opinion, the #1 differentiator between business owners who succeed – and those who end up selling newspapers at the street intersection – are small biz types who know WHICH business efforts are working and which are not from an economic – money in your pocket – standpoint.
And there’s NO WAY to do this without knowing your numbers. Without knowing EXACTLY what every piece of your business and marketing COSTS. (And how much those actions are bringing in.)
And this means:
- Setting up analytics everywhere (Your website, your YouTube channel, Twitter feed, Facebook page…even your direct mail and in-person merch)
- Knowing which numbers are the most important (For me, it’s all about a) cost per lead b) conversion rate for leads and c) average lifetime revenue from leads)
- Checking those numbers every week
- Changing things if they’re not working
Now, you don’t have to BUY a $2000 analytics suite to pull this off. Google Analytics is FREE and very powerful. (Even if more intrusive than the NSA.) But it does require time. And even if you get SOMEBODY ELSE to collect the numbers and run the reports for you – which you should – as the business owner this is something YOU have to commit to and schedule each week.
Because THESE NUMBERS will tell you which of your business efforts are wasting money. (And which are winners that need to have more money and time pumped into them.)
And if you don’t believe me, all you gotta do is play a drinking game. Next time you watch an episode of “Shark Tank” and each time you hear the phrase “You gotta know your numbers” do a shot of Jose Cuervo Tequila Gold. (You’ll be dancing on your coffee table before the first commercial break.)
Running A Business Secret #2: Being First Is Always Better Than Being Best
I got this one from my time in the movie business. (Don’t worry, it’s not as glamorous as it sounds. I was mostly reading horrible vampire scripts.)
Anyway I once asked my boss how I made told me the REASON why movie studios were paranoid that their another studio would release something similar before they had a chance to bring their project to market was:
“It’s better to be a mediocre first…than an awesome second.”
This is because our brains are constantly creating associations between unrelated things – it helps us not have to think so hard and remember stupid crap. And so ONCE a person makes an association between two things like Subway and “health food” or Janet Jackson and wardrobe malfunctions – it doesn’t matter how true or untrue the association is. The mental rubber cement has been applied, and it takes quite a bit for the association to disappear. (Or for anybody else to take its place.)
This is WHY once Domino’s unveiled its “Hot, Fresh Pizza in 30 Minutes or Less” – the whole idea of TIME as a selling point for pizza delivery was off the table for EVERYBODY else. (Never mind the fact that “delicious” or “tasty” ain’t any part of that pizza calculus.
And so, if there’s a product or marketing campaign you’d like to unveil – or even a niche of your market you’d like to own – STOP thinking and developing and planning and strategizing.
Just release the bloody Kraken. (And know that in this fast-changing, digital world – you can always go back and make your mediocre into something kick-ass later on.)
Running A Business Secret #3: There’s a Super-Deluxe Platinum Level in Every Business
This one took me a LONG time to accept. (Mostly because in my family charging premium prices – or asking for a higher salary – was something that was seen as ostentatious. Obnoxious. Greedy.)
But what I didn’t realize is that in EVERY business there are a small, but powerful, minority who want to pay A WHOLE LOT MORE than everybody else…
…in exchange for some form of personalized SERVICE or PRODUCT.
This can be things like:
- A pizza shop offering a monthly membership program that guarantees delivery on Saturday night
- A cooking school offering 1-on-1 classes at a client’s home
- A golf instructor watching The Masters with a student – and breaking down each swing they seen
Doesn’t matter if you’re selling software or DVD courses or Disneyland admissions – everybody wants to skip to the front of the line, be given a personal tour, and get a customized experience that NOBODY else gets. (It’s just that most people aren’t willing to pay for it.)
But some will. And it’s these high-end, platinum-level customers that can make huge differences in your bottom line. I know, for me personally, adding this element turned three of my businesses around from fluctuating cash flow to consistent profits.)
So brainstorm ideas of how you can add platinum-level goodies to your business model. (I can’t guarantee you’ll end up making more than the guitarist for Oasis. But you might just find a thriving section of your business that you never existed.)