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Why Being A “Good” Technician, Manager, Salesperson Or Entrepreneur Is NOT Enough – You Need To Apply The “Second Effort”

Vince Lombardi loved to talk about the concept of the second effort. In fact, it’s the basis of a short sales training movie created in 1968 that is still showed to sales teams in training programs today. Lombardi is famous for showing his players football clips of receivers who almost caught the ball, but let it slip through their fingers. Then he’d show clips of players who made the second effort; same situation, but when they realized the ball was slipping through their fingers, they dove and caught the ball just before it hit the ground. Other clips were of running back who were almost crushed but managed to somehow wiggle free and made the touchdown.

His point in showing these clips was to point out that everyone makes the first effort. To even get on his team you had to do that; but so did all the other players on the opposing teams—and those standing by waiting for an opening to get on the team can do that. But if you want to be great, you have to go beyond that. He knew the difference between the good players and the great ones is that the great ones always make the second effort despite their first failure or setback. Just doing everything the coach expects of you is not good enough for the great players—and that CAN already be a lot. They are compelled to go beyond that every time and THAT is why they succeed.

In business, the fact that you’ve decided to cobble together some type of services offering and go into the marketplace and ask for a check shows you’ve made the first effort. But remember this: your competition is able to do that. Hiring, managing, bookkeeping, marketing, selling and customer service are bare minimums of running a business. You HAVE to be at least average at these things in order to survive. And for many, those FIRST efforts are just about all they can handle which is why they struggle to get ahead. Read full article and comment →

3 Critical Elements of Success for Every Computer Consultant

In My Decade Of Working With Thousands Of Small IT Business Owners, Here’s What I’ve Discovered About Success…

Helping owners of computing consulting firms (or MSP’s) achieve significant bottom-line, measurable results in business takes MORE than just giving them a great marketing campaign – it actually requires 3 critical elements all working synergistically.

By the way, these three elements have been carefully researched and documented and are essential for any individual trying to break free from bad habits or trying to achieve success in an area they have been consistently struggling with. If you want validation of this, then I suggest you read “Change or Die,” written by Alan Deutschman; this is one of the most well-documented books on this very topic.

Critical Success Element #1: A Coach. Every successful entrepreneur, actor, and top athlete has a coach. No one ever won an Olympic Gold Medal without a coach. Michael Jordan was “cut” by his high school basketball team before his coach stepped forward and personally mentored him to become the greatest basketball player of all time. The Green Bay Packers wouldn’t have been the winning team they were without their coach Vince Lombardi. And according for Forbes Magazine, more and more of the nation’s top entrepreneurs are using MULTIPLE coaches to help them take their game to the next level.

With my clients, I can see them secure dramatically better results the more personally I get involved. That does not mean giving them more “stuff.” It does mean helping them to think more strategically, coaching them on how to manage their time better and providing other staff and support resources to enable them to execute and implement. Read full article and comment →

Calling All IT Business Owners: You’ve Gotta Ask Yourself A Question: “Do I Feel Lucky?” Well… Do Ya Punk?

When I was a kid I went through a phase when I carried around a rabbit’s foot for luck. I still remember it: tie-dye purple on a keychain, tied to my blue roller skates with rainbow laces. I can’t honestly say I had any good fortune come my way because of it, but it did make me feel luckier.

Of course now that I’m an adult, I know better than to depend on silly charms or superstitions for the success (or failure) in life. Yes, I admit there are times when everything’s going pear-shaped and I wonder if I’ve crossed a black cat somewhere, but the truth is, 99% of the time we create our own circumstances – our own luck – by the choices we make.

Many of the people who knew me as a kid think I’m “lucky” to be where I am today, often citing the fact that I was “always that way,” born with some inherent abilities to run a business. And to a certain point, I agree. I DO feel fortunate to have certain talents that others seem to struggle with. But simply putting my success down to the “luck” of having been gifted certain talents is an insult. It wasn’t “luck” that made me spend thousands of dollars on my own education and work 60+ hour weeks for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t “luck” that I learned how to write persuasive sales copy, sell from the platform or implement highly effective marketing plans. And it’s not “luck” that keeps my business growing 25% – 40% year upon year. Read full article and comment →

Wow, Another Year Over…

..and a fresh, new exciting one about to begin. Although I think it’s a bad idea to only ―check in on how you are doing once a year in January, I can’t help but be a bit more reflective at the end of the year looking back over the events that have happened and asking myself three things:

  • What did we do RIGHT and want to do more of?
  • Where do we need to improve?
  • What mistakes did we make, what did we learn, and how are we going to use this information to improve next year?

This is a helpful exercise to conduct after every major event, client project, sales call, etc. As a team we do this as a practice after every event, and it’s incredibly valuable. And, as the owner of a business, I think we ought to do a deep dive every year to reflect back on these things. So, what do I think we did right? Several things–as reflected by our 30+% growth rate in a tough economy. For me, here are the biggest lessons I’ve learned:

1. Being willing to do what’s right instead of what’s easy. There aren’t many things in life that will put you in a ―damned if you do, damned if you don’t‖ situation more than running a business.  As entrepreneurs we’re pulled in many different directions and often have goals that conflict or compete with one another. Do you work late every day to turn around a sales slump and sacrifice some of the time you would have invested in your family and health or do you put more focus on your family and health, and run the risk of not being able to make payroll, ending up with heaps of stress and anxiety over financial troubles? Tough call, and a good argument could be made for either side.

But you have to choose what’s right and best for the long haul and then follow through on your decision. This is why having a vision for your life and your business is so important; you need vision to be able to make the tough decisions. I firmly believe that trying to ride both camps gets you killed. Like the indecisive squirrel in the middle of the road – you get hit by traffic going both ways. Better to pick a side, stick with your decision and focus on muddling through the temporary problems and setbacks that will arise. Although I’m very much an ―and person rather than an ―or person, the reality is that running a business requires sacrifice. Sometimes short term, sometimes long term; but thinking you can do it ALL, all the time is just not realistic.

Over this year I’ve had to make several tough calls that I knew weren’t going to put me on the ―most popular list. Looking back, perhaps you’ve been in the same boat. But I also knew that letting things continue on their current course of action would end up causing even more strife and problems, and would not be in line with our ultimate vision and core values. Yes, there were risks and costs tied to the actions and decisions made, and some short-term losses. But looking back, my only regret is that I didn’t make those decisions sooner. My procrastination only made things worse and now more than ever I believe that long-term damage from comfortable inaction is far worse than decisive action.

2. The ability to hire, retain and grow true “A” players is crucial. While this has always been a no-brainer, I can honestly say that I understand it more than ever today and I will be putting a huge focus on this area in 2010 as we continue to grow at a fast clip and continue to strive towards our BHAGs (big, hairy, audacious goals). Nothing is more painful, more exhausting and more damaging than having the wrong people on your team. In meetings with clients, the one topic that is a constant area of problems, gripes, disappointments and trouble are those around employees. And while Michael Gerber’s E-Myth is the utopian dream for any entrepreneur (that is, having a business so well documented and systematized that any half-whit can run it), the reality is that one bad employee can quickly undo any system or process no matter how well documented.

But in addition to this, the BIGGEST lesson for me has been this: if you are trying to directly manage more than 3 or 4 people, you’re setting yourself up for failure. Earlier this year, I discovered I was a genius with helpers – and I think all small businesses start that way. But at some point you will need to start developing leaders within your organization; people who understand the company’s mission, vision and goals, and who can get results, make good decisions and solve problems on their own. I have those people in place now and it is making a world of difference. Perhaps you are in the same place right now. If so, my advice to you is this: make finding, hiring, and growing the right people a major focus in your company, and never settle for good enough simply to fill an open seat, no matter how desperate the situation. Also, constantly look for great people–always be hiring. The worse time to look for a new employee is when you desperately need someone.

3. Develop immunity to criticism. It’s been said that the higher you climb in life, the more your butt hangs out (I forget who originally said that, so sorry I can’t give credit where credit is due). And if you read the books of highly successful people, one of the common themes is this: develop thick skin. But how do you determine the difference between fair criticism and unfair attacks?

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My Brainstorm Lunch with a Billionaire

Me & Sir Richard

As many of you know, back in October I flew out to LA to attend a private, 1-hour brainstorm session with Richard Branson, the 261st richest person on the planet (according to Fortune Magazine). This meeting was organized by Joe Polish who runs the Master Mind group I belong to. In attendance was yours truly along with 16 other very successful entrepreneurs including Yanik Silver, Eban Pagen, Brad Fallon, and Joe Sugarman to name a few. The meeting was tied to Branson‟s “Rock the Kasbah” charity event to raise money for Virgin Unite, a non-profit that uses business as a force for good in helping build entrepreneurs in impoverished countries, helping the homeless, improving healthcare and dealing with environmental issues.

What impressed me the most about Branson was how polite, considerate and downright charming he is. You would imagine most of the mega-rich to be arrogant, but he was incredibly gracious in answering our questions and showing an interest in each of our businesses. When one of the people in the room handed him a book they wrote, he pushed it back across the table insisting that they sign it. Small thing, but a perfect example of his character. There were a few things he said that struck me, but nothing that really surprised me. I had taken the time to read his books in advance of the meeting so I already knew a lot about his personal philosophy on business, people and success; and as you might imagine, it’s fairly close to the same success principles you’ll read in many other multi-millionaire’s “how I did it” books. The more I study success and the wealthy, the more I’ve come to the conclusion: there’s no secret to getting rich, successful or achieving any other worthy goal in life. The examples and lessons are all well documented in piles of books on the subject, with nothing held back. I believe it’s simply a matter of your determination to achieve more and ability to carry goals and projects through to their successful completion without excuses. That’s it.

As I coach IT business owners and take calls from members who are struggling, I see a consistent theme in all of them: they’re dabbling. They’ve “tried” to do a little networking, “tried” JVs, “tried” sending out newsletters, etc., etc. Tried being the operative word. They’ve skimmed and skipped over the research with clients, gathering testimonials and case studies, researching their competition and don’t measure or track their performance on a regular basis. They’ve not really committed to the work involved by clearly defining their value proposition. In fact, I can usually stump clients with one or two easy questions regarding how many active clients they have or revenue and profits to date. Worst of all, they KNOW they aren’t giving it the effort it deserves, but still seek an easy way out, some magic pill to fix what’s wrong. This conversation often leads to the second most common request I hear from struggling clients, which is the desire to have someone to hold them accountable or someone to “do it all for them.”

That’s a scapegoats excuse. No one is going to make you successful — only YOU can do that for yourself; and wishing for someone to be your “Mommy” and make you do what you already know you should be doing is not the answer. Personal trainers can’t make you thin if you cancel appointments, constantly complain about them working you too hard, give it only a 70% effort and then hit Burger King on your way home. Sure they can encourage and guide you, but they can’t MAKE you successful at losing weight.

Richard Branson didn’t look for someone to hold him accountable or to do his marketing for him when he was starting up, nor did any other highly successful business owner. And no one did it for them…THEY made the phone calls, connections and marketing early on before they were able to hire people to help them execute. THEY designed their vision and plan to get there, and they executed on it. Not a marketing agency, not a coach. I‟ve never heard of any truly successful entrepreneur who completely delegated the responsibility of revenue generation or marketing strategy of their organization.

I do realize this is not a popular answer with clients and they would rather work for someone who would “do it all for them.” But where those companies, services and people already EXIST— what they are looking to delegate is the STRATEGY and MANAGEMENT part, which is NOT something they should be delegating. Successful entrepreneurs aren’t upset or frustrated by this; they know it’s still up to them to set the direction and vision of their company, then formulate strategic plans to achieve their goals.

My Mastermind Group with Richard Branson

I know, here I go back to the difficult… Read full article and comment →

5 Ways To Raise Prices And Get More Money For The Services You Already Provide

Here are 5 ways you can raise your prices and get paid MORE for the services you are already performing.

#1: Just raise ‘em. Pretty ingenious, huh? That’s why I get paid the big bucks. Just type up a simple letter explaining that on X date, your rates are going up. You don’t need to apologize or get a note from your mother. Just do it. The world will not come to an end and your clients will not gnash their teeth, scream, and cut themselves with rocks. In most cases, you will only get a mild response.

#2: Price increase alert with up-sell. In a letter or e-mail, you alert your clients that your rates are going up, but that they can save some money or lock in the current on-site rates if they sign up on a managed service agreement. Keep in mind there are several ways to announce a price increase while up-selling clients on to another service; this is only one example. You could also announce a price increase for on-site rates, but thanks to this new remote monitoring and support software, you can fix most problems remotely for the same rate they are used to paying. This would enable you to charge the same rate for remote repairs that you are charging for on-site services now, while increasing your on-site rates a few points.

Instead of locking in their current on site rates as the letter suggests, you could also offer to waive the set up fee for the managed services (yes, you have to have a set up fee in order to waive it. Creating a set up fee is a smart sales tactic that you should implement regardless of whether or not you increase your rates. It gives you bargaining power when selling managed services because you can “waive” it if they make a decision within a certain time frame). Read full article and comment →