Defining Your Company Ideology: Values

Your company’s core ideology is your business’ identity. Strip away the business goals, strategies, methodologies, and more, and this is what’s left. Your ideology is made up of your core values and purpose. Today, we’re going over values and how you can develop them for your company. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

So far, season 2 has focused a lot on understanding internal business mechanisms and values. We’re going to continue on that vein. 

Within season 2 we’re starting a series on company ideology and branding. So buckle up because we’re going to dive deep for the next several episodes on how you can better understand your own business, and in turn, better inform your marketing and sales efforts. 

Today’s episode is called defining your company’s ideology values. 

What Is a Core Ideology

Your core ideology is your business’s identity. No matter the technological advances or developments in business strategy, your identity is your identity. Your business may go from local to regional, to national, to global. Your identity stays the same, even if your tactics, strategies, and goals change. 

So ideology is made up of two parts; core values and the core purpose. Today we’re going to focus on the values. 

The Core Values of Your Organization

Your core values are your organization’s principles. It’s the few beliefs that you hold to be true. 

Johnson & Johnson CEO Ralph Larson said it best, that “We have core values because they define what we stand for. We would hold them up even if they became a competitive disadvantage in certain situations.” 

What this means is that there isn’t a right set of values. It’s true, and it’s different for each company. You can emphasize great customer service without it being one of your core principles. 

There are some companies that do not hold quality as one of their core principles. When you think about it, if the quality was not a measurement for success in our industry, would we still want it to be important in this company? If the answer is no, then it’s not a core principle or value. 

Maybe being on the leading edge of technological development is as a core principle. So maybe quality is not, but innovation is. That’s how you need to move. 

Walt Disney’s Core Values in Their Business

Walt Disney has core values. You should probably have about 3-5 core values. The best and longest-standing companies don’t have any more than five. 

Disney has gone way beyond animations. We’ve got theme parks all around the world, as well as Disney-themed hotels, stores, toys, clothing, costumes, etc. It’s embedded deeply within our culture, and it goes way past animation. 

The Acquisition of Marvel: Creativity, Dreams, And Imagination

The best example I can think of is Marvel. Disney owns Marvel and they’re crushing it. How does Marvel tie into their core values? Well, one of their core values is the pursuit of creativity, dreams, and imagination.

Superheroes have captured the world’s imagination, whether it’s children or adults. The sort of following that these movies have is almost baffling. I mean, I love both the movies and the comics, but the firestorm they created has been amazing.

Just the other day, we were watching Avengers: End Game, and I’m cheering and yelling at the TV because… er, wait. I don’t want to ruin it for you. You won’t cheer if you know it’s coming.

A Disney Streaming Service: Control over the Disney Magic

When we look at another one of Disney’s core values, which is control over the Disney magic, you can better understand one of their latest business moves. 

Disney is pulling away from Netflix and developing their own platform, which we’ll have to subscribe to because we love Disney. And if they’re not going to be on Netflix anymore, what am I going to do? I’ve got four kids. We need Disney. I see another subscription in my future. 

Disney isn’t a technology company, but they’re willing to offer a technology platform for consuming their content in order to hold true to one of their core values, which is control over the Disney magic. 

At first, it just seemed like Disney was being petty. Why are they trying to pull this from Netflix? Why is Disney making their own platform? It costs money to do that. And that’s true, but it holds to their values. 

That’s the thing about values. Even if they’re a disadvantage, Disney has assessed that in the long run, building this platform and hosting their own content holds true to their values, and is therefore true to their identity as a company. So I’m sure that we’re going to see some awesome things coming from Disney. 

Establish Your Core Values Now

As I said, 3-5 values are probably about what you want to have. It’s something that you’re going to have to think about. You can even have core values for a department, as the head of a department. 

However, if you’re a CEO of a growing or even an established company, and you’ve never gone through the exercise of establishing company values, you really should. This goes for things beyond “We value trustworthy relationships with our clients.” Oh Geez. I was looking for an untrustworthy company, so I guess I should just move along.

Don’t say things that don’t really mean anything. Some things are just a given. So if you are going to say something about trustworthiness, you’re going to have to make it really good.

Ask yourself, when you’re considering your values, whether you’d still want these values if there was no benefit, but an actual disadvantage to your company to hold these values? Would they still be values that you’d want to hold at the company’s core? 

Building Your Company Credibility

Credibility is often underestimated. But it can help you start conversations on a positive note. Having high company credibility helps dispel some of our natural distrust when we deal with new business partners. Your company’s credibility can open doors for you. But if your credibility isn’t quite there yet, there are ways to borrow on the credibility of others. Make sure you deliver though!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Today we’re going to talk about building your company’s credibility. 

Why am I bringing this up? Businesses of every size need to focus on credibility. It’s just like trusting an individual; once that person lies to you one time and you find out, it’s hard to gain back that trust. 

Common Sense Trust

I believe that people afford strangers a certain amount of “common sense trust” for the most part unless they start giving them reasons to believe otherwise. The same is not true for businesses. 

As a business owner, I am scrutinizing other businesses more closely than somebody who is just passing me in the grocery store. My level of common sense of trust is higher, although I might still get something taken from my purse. But when you work with a business that turns out to be unethical or just bad at what they do, you lose a lot of money. 

Why You Need Credibility

Inherent Distrust Towards Businesses

We just have a more inherent distrust of other businesses. Building your company’s credibility helps combat that. 

Let’s say neutral trust is 0. Maybe most of the business owners you deal with start from a -5. Credibility could bring you up to 0 or even put you into the positives. Then, you’ll be working from a better position. 

An Extremely Saturated Market

Credibility also comes into play when you feel like your market is extremely saturated. Even if you know what makes you different, it can be really hard to stand out. 

Sometimes credibility can help you stand head and shoulders above everyone else, to make it feel more like you don’t even have competition. That’s why credibility is so important. 

Credibility and Credit

Credibility comes from credit. So let’s think about credit. 

You want to apply for a loan for a car/house. If your credit is bad, they don’t trust you to make those payments back. You can’t borrow against your credit reputation. Without any credit, you don’t have anything to put forth, with the exception of actual money. 

The problem when you’re doing business is that if you “don’t have any credit”, they’re just not going to do business with you. It’s not like you can trade it for something. 

In my experience, the highest quality clients, aren’t interested in working with somebody purely on the basis that they charge a really low amount. They don’t want to waste any time or money on someone they can’t trust to get the job done. In fact, for these types of clients, a super low fee would be a red flag!

Building Industry, Personal, and Business Credibility

Do Content on Your Own Channels

One of the ways that you have the most control over credibility is through content. It could be podcasting, videos, blogging, presentations, and workshops, etc. So one of the easiest ways is doing it on your own channels. 

We have earned media, paid media, shared media, and owned media. Using your own channels, you can publish articles to your website or start up your own podcast (I use Anchor and it’s free). That’s another way to get out there and start building your own content. 

Podcasting

On the flip side, even if you don’t want the responsibility of handling your own podcast, guest podcasting can still be an awesome way to get some original content out there.

White Papers and Research Reports

You can publish intellectual property like white papers or research reports. If you want to borrow on somebody else’s credibility, you might publish a joint white paper or research report. 

Case Studies

Case studies are a fantastic way to build credibility, especially if you’re able to take some data numbers and marry that with the client story. Humans love stories, and when you can add the numbers in there, it gives a one-two punch for the effectiveness of the case study. 

Speaking at Events

People struggle with speaking at events, and that’s what makes it such a powerful medium. I want you to think back to the last time you were at an event, sat in the audience, and someone came up onto the stage. Think about how you felt about that person. 

Whenever I see someone up on stage, I’m already giving them credibility before they even open their mouth. 

I’d like you to think about the amount of credibility that you give to someone before they even start speaking. Basically, that credibility is theirs to lose. If they give a really bad presentation, they lose that credibility. But if they give a great presentation, they’re already just building on top of the credibility that you gave them just for being on the stage. 

Borrowing Credibility by Guesting 

I mentioned borrowing someone else’s credibility. When I got my first car, my grandfather co-signed on the vehicle with me because I didn’t have any credit. This is where guesting comes in. You can guest post, you can do guest interviews on a podcast or video show. There are all sorts of ways for you to borrow another organization’s credibility. 

Guest Speaking

Speaking is probably the penultimate version of guesting. Let’s say I’m going to the Mindgrub Outdoor Speaker Series, and I’ve never heard of some of those people/companies before. If it’s companies I haven’t heard of, they automatically get some credibility because I trust Mindgrub. And again, that credibility is theirs to lose, even if they’re getting extra credibility from me because I associate them with Mindgrub.

*I actually did attend some of the Mindgrub Outdoor Speaker events, which is why that’s my example!*

Back to co-producing content. Let’s say, for some reason Defy The Status Quo and Mindgrub had a reason to coauthor a white paper on a topic that’s relevant to both of our audiences. My audience is not as big as Mindgrubs’s, so I’d be borrowing on their credibility and gaining some of my own. 

Credibility Corresponds to Reputation

Credibility is just another word for reputation. You’re building your reputation. You can keep at it and you can build it, but it’s easy to destroy. Having higher credibility is enough to start a conversation because they trust you before you even open your mouth. So your reputation arrives at the conversation before you. 

Please leave me a comment below if you felt any particular way about something I said here about credibility, reputation, and some of the ways of growing your credibility.

Knowing Your Offering’s Business Value

It’s critical to understand how your service offerings can impact your potential clients. You need to speak to your client and understand what’s in it for them. That’s what people care about. They may know they need your services, but maybe they don’t understand how much. Maybe it’s not a hardcore need, but once they understand the business value, it becomes a need. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Today we’re going to talk about why it’s important that you understand your company’s value. I’m not talking about your monetary value, although that’s important too. I’m talking about the business value of your offerings. 

Whether you offer products or services, it’s important for you to understand what value they have to your prospects. That tells you exactly how you should approach a problem because you believe that you have the solution. But in order to understand that, you have to understand what that problem is costing your prospective clients or customers. 

Your Offering’s Value in Different Types of Businesses

Let’s say you offer a service because it’s really hard for service companies to do this as well as product-based companies. For example, web design. 

Whether it’s business consulting, business management consulting, or content, other businesses need a content marketing strategy. They need help with their development. They need help with their processes, but what problems do they have and what do those problems cost?

It May Be Worse Not to Have Your Offering

Money and other types of resources, like time, effort, stress, etc. play a role, and they all have a particular amount of value. So even if the monetary return isn’t guaranteed, which is definitely the case with something like content, the stress of not having it done may be worse. 

It’s the same with web design. I can’t definitively tell you that having your website professionally designed by this person in my network is going to generate a certain amount of dollars in revenue. However, you already know that not having a properly designed website costs you in terms of SEO.

It costs you in terms of brand sentiment and business impressions. Everybody has a website these days, and if you don’t, then you’re in a very small minority of people. So when you get looked up, you should have a website set up. It makes your business look legitimate. 

Tie Emotional Connections to Something Logical

So knowing the value of your offerings to other businesses helps you clarify your message. It can take what started out as an emotional connection and tie it to something logical. 

Maybe they met you at a business event and they really like you, but maybe they’re also the CEO and they have to justify this spending decision to the other members of the board. Them liking you isn’t necessarily going to be enough, which is why you need to give them that piece of logic they can use, so you can take the emotional connection they have with you. Give them something logical that they can use to justify the expense and actually move forward with the business. 

If they like you, they’re already looking to say yes. So by being clear on the value of your offerings to other businesses, you’re giving them a reason to say yes. 

Competitive Advantage

Many service firms fail to articulate how what they do impacts the business. Doing this requires a bit more business knowledge than most small entrepreneurs have. 

If you’re a mature, small business or mid-sized company, then you probably already have the knowledge you need to articulate these things properly. 

It may not have been clear that it should be tied directly into marketing, but these are all competitive advantages. When you can be very clear about what you do and how it impacts another business’s bottom line, that’s a competitive advantage. 

Chart Your Impact

So you want to chart the potential impact of what you can do. There are a couple of ways you can do this. 

Case Studies Are Important

You can do it through case studies. So let’s say you’ve worked with companies already, and they’re willing to share the concrete numbers of any sort of impact that it had. In terms of content, a white paper can take 20-30 hours to complete over time, and that project can take 6-8 weeks to do. 

An immediate impact that outsourcing a white paper would have is that 20-30 hours is not something that an employee has to clock time for. As a former employee, I couldn’t say that I didn’t spend all 40 of my hours doing work for my company. You do things like go to the bathroom, answer emails, and things like that. 

When you outsource content to accompany like Defy The Status Quo, we’re going to have to email back and forth, but you’re not billed for our bathroom trips. That’s kind of where the differences are. Also, 6-8 weeks is a long time. If an employee takes up that project halfheartedly, it may never get done. It may take more time or you may have to consistently remind them. 

There’s another metric there because you as the person who’s commissioning the project doesn’t have to do a lot of handholding, which is something that my clients value a lot. 

Brand Perception as a Metric

So if you can, it’s always relevant to look at business metrics that are impacted by the project. But if not a direct business metric, maybe something like brand perception. 

So again, back to our web design. What is the impact on the perception of the brand? If you’re saying you’re a forward-thinking, innovative, digital marketing company, but your website looks like it’s from 1995… That’s not going to help your brand perception. 

Do Your Research

Looking at actual numbers, the business could definitely look up research in terms of marketing and psychology, and see how things like website design or a lack of a website can actually impact sales. 

There’s research out there almost guaranteed to help you, and help you add some numbers to turn your business story into a more compelling argument for your services. 

You Are Selling Value

As a service-based business, we are often told to sell value. You’re not just selling your service or time. You’re not necessarily selling skill either.

The question I’ll leave you with is: How can you sell value if you don’t know what your value is? 

If you’re clear on one business metric that your company’s services help impact, go ahead and leave it for us in the comments. I’d love to have this discussion and explore the logic behind the business metric that you chose.

How To Stop Wasting So Much Time to Get “No”

If you’re a service or consulting firm, you’re going to get more no’s than yes’s. So that’s not really the problem. The problem is how long it takes you to get to that no. Instead of taking the expressway, you’re meandering through the hills, unnecessarily extending your sales process. Learn what you need to do instead. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Today we’re going to go over why you get so many no’s. Why do you get so many no’s? 

You know that there is a demand for your services. You know that people use them. Maybe you’re a web design company. Perhaps you’re a business consulting firm, or you offer supply chain management services or supply chain consulting. 

It could be almost anything, but you know that there’s a need out there for it. There are other companies that are successful at it. Why are you getting so many no’s? 

You Will Get More No’s Than Yes’s

For service and consulting firms, solo practitioners, or freelancers, you’ll always get more noes than yeses, which is fine. For the most part, you’re just trying to get a few more clients than you had before, or trying to trade out lower-paying clients for higher-paying ones.

The problem is how long it takes for you to get to that no. 

Why You Get so Many No’s

I’m going to give you a couple of scenarios. Tell me if they sound familiar in the comments. You come across a great job listing or a Linkedin post. You respond, and they don’t answer or they reject your proposal. 

There’s a couple of reasons this might have happened

You Didn’t Address Everything in Your Proposal

This typically happens because you haven’t addressed everything in the proposal. If you only address one part of what they’re asking for, they’re probably going to reject you. 

What you need to do is make sure that you’re addressing every aspect of the proposal. Maybe you can partner with somebody, and you can say, “You’re probably not going to find somebody who can efficiently handle all of these things. You should consider building a team.” At least you present an alternative solution. 

You’re Wasting Too Much Time on Lost Causes

However, the next scenario is probably one of the most likely reasons you’re getting so many no’s, and why it’s so painful. 

Let’s say someone refers a new business prospect to you. You get on a call or you meet in person, which takes up even more time. Everyone’s really excited. You draft a proposal and you agonize over it. It takes you a few hours to do, and then you send it. 

You wait. 

Waiting… 

Still waiting… 

…and it just doesn’t come. They don’t answer you. They ghost you. 

Or, they tell you that they aren’t “ready to move forward at this time.”

Let’s go back over it. Either way, you’re drafting a proposal, but that can take a few hours if you don’t have a template, or a have a set of packages for your services. 

So a lot of consulting or service firms develop unique solutions for each client. That requires unique proposals. 

You’ve done some research on the client, which took up some time. The phone call or the meeting took up time. 

You’re using up all of this time. You’ve invested people, hours, and resources just to arrive at a no. 

Just Have That Budget Conversation

Oftentimes it’ll be the budget conversation that people are afraid to have, which is understandable. It can be intimidating, but it saves everyone time. 

Let’s say you go and have a phone call, a video call, or you meet in person. That’s time that the prospective client took as well. You’re saving them time by getting some of the logistics out of the way.

You can say, “Hey, I know we haven’t discussed your project yet. Have you had a chance to review my services page that lists my services, and where my pricing starts? If all of that sounds good to you, let’s go ahead and schedule that phone call.” 

You’re saving everyone time by qualifying early, especially with one of the most common main points: price. 

Get Those Time-Consuming No’s out of the Way

It’s not that you’re not going to get no’s. You just have so many long conversations that end in no. 

So if it’s going to be a no, you need to arrive at that no as early as possible. Preferably before you have a discovery call. 

A Services Page Could Help

I’ve got a services page where I have our starting rates for common projects that are often asked of us. That helps set customer expectations. 

What it also does is it gets rid of those tire kickers, who usually say something along the lines of, “I wanted to pay $25 for a blog post that was 1500 words.” When they see my starting prices, they realize that they’ve got the wrong one. That saves you a lot of time. 

You’re also dealing with customers who may be uneducated about what it takes, and therefore what it costs, to actually get these things done. 

You always want to speak from a point of value, but you can’t forget that you’re going to run into a lot of people who just don’t know. They’re unsure about what they want, they may be unsure about the value of what you do as well. 

So you’re going to get no’s. The goal is to get those no’s as quickly as possible. That way you can spend more quality time on the real, potential yes’s. 

Appealing to Event Sponsors

Interested in how to actually appeal to event sponsors? It begins with understanding what value you can provide to the sponsor, from marketing the event to the actual execution. What can you offer the sponsor in exchange for their financial or resource support? Turns out, you can offer plenty they would be interested in. 

This is the final episode for Season 1 of The Defiant Business Podcast, how crazy is that? We’re taking a one week break, but you’ll be so excited when we come back! We’re featuring Jennifer McGinley, CEO of JLM Strategic Communications. She has amazing experience, which led her to share amazing insights and advice!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

I am so happy that you’ve decided to join me for the last episode of season 1. That’s right. This is episode 30. Each season has 30 episodes. 

Can you believe that we’re already here? We’ve covered so many business topics and I’m really glad that so many of you have come along for the ride. 

Today we’re going to close this season with a talk about how to appeal to event sponsors. 

Why Would Another Business Sponsor My Event?

How did this topic come up? Well, I was exploring my options to hold a workshop with a friend, and she mentioned that I could seek sponsors for my event to help with the costs. Having an event can turn into something that’s quite expensive. 

I started thinking, “Why would another business pay for my event costs? That’s nice of them, but that’s not business.” It didn’t really make sense. 

So I thought about it and I know that M&T Bank sponsors a lot of business events here in Baltimore, which is close to where I am. I reached out to Rosa Scharf, a small business banker with M&T, because she’s given me such great information in the past. I figured she’d be able to answer this question for me. 

Talking to her gave me a lot of great insight. I asked her what she looks for when she’s looking at potentially sponsoring a small business/business event and what sponsors, in general, would look for. So, I just had to share it with you guys. 

As a side note, M&T Bank in Baltimore is a great example of being part of a community, instead of just in the community. That’s a concept we explored in our conscious consumerism article not to long ago. They sponsor a lot of business events, from educational conferences to pitch competitions.

I know the passion for small business success goes from Rosa to at least as high up as Eleni Monios, the business banking market manager for Baltimore and Delaware regions. And no, they didn’t pay me to say that. I just had a fan girl moment. It seems like organizations who really know their “why” are rarer and rarer these day.

Mutually Beneficial to Your Event and Your Event Sponsor

When you’re approaching sponsors, it’s about presenting your event in a light that shows the sponsor what’s in it for them, and why it’s beneficial for them to sponsor your event.

Access to a Shared Audience

 If you’re looking for event sponsors, besides your number of attendees, you should also consider if your audience is their audience. 

For example, for M&T small-business banking, they would potentially be interested if you have a business or entrepreneur audience. 

Of course, there are other factors as well. Let’s use another example. If your business was more Health & Wellness, then other Health & Wellness businesses could be interested in sponsoring your event. Why? Because your audience is at least a segment of their audience. 

Introduce Them to the Attendees 

Some of the things that you could offer to a sponsor include an opportunity to address the attendees at the beginning of the event. 

You can introduce them to the attendees, and they get some facetime there for their business. They can use any signage and printed materials, and maybe even hand out booklets. 

Thank Your Sponsors and Make Them Feel Included 

You want to make sure that you include your sponsor, and thank them in your opening address to your attendees. You want to thank the sponsors publicly. 

When you set up the event page on Eventbrite, Facebook, or wherever it is that you set it up, you want to include your sponsor there. 

These are all things you can mention to the sponsor. 

An Email List

Another thing that you could consider doing is giving them access to the list of attendees and their emails. However, if you’re a sponsor and you regularly sponsor events, don’t just get the email list and spam people. 

What you want to do is have something of value to include in your emails, something that people will be looking forward to receiving.

With the health & wellness example, perhaps one of the sponsors is a health & wellness food company. 

You’ve put together a fairly exclusive recipe book that you only send to the attendees of events that you sponsor. You will be providing this recipe book to them. What this does is vastly increases the likelihood that someone will open that email, read, and interact with your content.

And inside that content, there should definitely be a page about your business and about your company. 

Now they’ve opened the email and they’ve opened the ebook. They get an opportunity to learn a bit more about your business. They may never have heard of you before the event. 

Pointlessly Lost Marketing Opportunities

I’ve seen sponsors listed on events, but sometimes they aren’t thanked by the event organizer. You never even see them at the event, or maybe they’re not given an opportunity to speak to the attendees. 

All of those seem like lost opportunities to me. Besides, it makes the event way less beneficial for the sponsor. So if you want that sponsor to get any ROI from sponsoring your event, then you need to make sure that you give them the tools to do so. 

Choose Event Sponsors That Interest Your Audience

This is also why it’s important to pick sponsors that are pretty related to the topic of what you’re offering. If it’s not immediately evident why their business is related to what you’re offering at your event, then that’s a great opportunity to have them come up and speak. 

Let’s say I’m doing a business workshop, and a health & wellness company sponsored me. In the beginning, I say “I just wanted to say thank you to our sponsor X company. I want to invite them up to speak”

They’re going to speak for about 10-15 minutes, but one of their specialties is helping entrepreneurs handle stress or helping high-performance business people handle stress. Boom. Lights go off. 

Why they would be interested in sponsoring my event, not to mention anybody who comes to any of my workshops? 

If you relate to my content, you’re probably a high-performing individual who deals with a lot of stress, so now you’re obviously a lot more interested as well. I think that your sponsors can relate to your audience, so it’s not worthless to have them come up and talk. 

Concluding Season One 

So, this is the last episode of season 1. I’m just so excited for season 2! Like I said in a previous episode, Jennifer McGinley of JLM Strategic Communications, a wonderfully seasoned public realtions professional, will be joining us for season 2. She will be featured in multiple episodes because we had a long conversation. 

We’ll get an opportunity to dig deep and go through what she was able to explain to me about PR, and how she’s always approached the industry a bit differently than her colleagues. 

We even talk about steps that you can take as a small business to better position yourself for when you bring in enough money to hire a professional. 

If you don’t follow her yet, you should go find her on Linkedin and Twitter. You’re gonna want to follow her ahead of time because she’s always dropping great content. 

This is the sort of advice that anybody can use, and that’s why I invited her on the show. She’s our featured guest for season 2, and the first guest ever on The Defiant Business Podcast. I promise you, this is information that you’re not going to want to miss. 

We’re Taking a Week Off!

After today’s episode, we will be taking a week off. Over the course of the following week, you’ll be seeing social media posts from me sharing some of our most popular episodes and helping you catch up if you missed any. 

The week after that, we’ll be getting into season 2, and our first episode is going to feature Jennifer McGinley. 

This has been the final episode of the 1st season of The Defiant Business Podcast. Thank you so much for joining me, and I cannot wait to show you what we’ve got for season 2. 

Yes, You Can Grow Too Fast

I know, it sounds like a nice problem to have. But growing too fast can put a strain on your personnel and infrastructure. This is true whether you have a product-based or service-based business. Here’s what you need to do in order to guard against this business-crippling possibility. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening/watching an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your Monday to Friday, 10-minute shot of business knowledge. So, let’s get into it. 

Today we’re going to talk about growing too fast. Yes, it is actually possible for your business to grow too fast. I’m sure you’re thinking “Ruthie, why are we talking about growing too fast? I’m growing too slow! I want to grow faster.” And it’s because growing too fast can happen quickly. It can happen fast, and it can catch you unaware. 

All of the effort that you’re making right now could result in rapid growth for your business:

  • Marketing
  • Following up on leads
  • Knowing exactly where you need to be in terms of marketing

It could happen in an instant and you have to be prepared. 

Product-Based Businesses

Setting Proper Limits

There are certain things that you should put in place and certain decisions that you should be prepared to make in order to keep your business from failing due to rapid growth. The reason is your current infrastructure. Your current business infrastructure and processes could crumble under the pressure of too many requests or too many new clients. 

So let’s set it up for a B2C or B2B product and service. Let’s say you run a small eCommerce business. My advice to you is to set an “orders cap”, or to make sure that when customers submit orders, it’s a smart program that takes into account the orders that have already been submitted. It should allow you to enter in how long an order takes for processing. That way, you can avoid too many orders all at once. 

[Not in the podcast] Additionally, you can make sure that your interface shows the customer when their order will likely ship based on your current order level. If it tells the customer that the wait is 30 days, and they still choose to make a purchase, at least they’re prepared.

You might be thinking “Oh, in what scenario would that actually happen?” A lot of eCommerce businesses, especially the ones who target women, will use Pinterest as a means to funnel traffic to their store.

This is great because Pinteret’s primary user demographic is women, at around 75% [correction: 81%!]. So, a great place. If you’ve got products for women, you should probably be on Pinterest, but that’s another conversation for another time.

Let’s say you have a take-off for one of your already popular items, and orders flood your store. Boom. Your infrastructure crumbles. What you end up with is a bunch of unhappy customers, because you do not have the people and resources to process their orders in a timely manner. 

The Amazon Effect

The Amazon effect has caused us to expect our products in two days or less. It’s unfortunate for these smaller businesses because now you’re expected to keep up with the Amazon standard. What do you do? 

Bad Reviews Do Not Disappear

Along with that flood of orders and those unhappy customers, the reviews start to pour in and they’re not good. You can kind of see where this is going. They’re like “Oh, I put in my order and they said it’d be there in a week, but it’s already been two weeks and I’m so upset.”

It’s not the customer’s concern and it’s not their fault if you don’t have the infrastructure ready and in place to keep up with the demand for your products. These types of reviews will be incredibly hard to come back from, based on where they’re placed. If they’re placed on Amazon or on Google reviews, those are really hard to come back from.

You can respond to them, but you can’t take them away, so it’s better to kind of set your business up in such a way that you can prevent that. 

Case Study: Death Wish Coffee’s Close Call

How do I know that this can happen? Death Wish Coffee. It’s incredibly hard to find any information on it online. But lucky you, I found a podcast episode that mentions it in the show notes.

Here’s a basic rundown of what happened. Good Morning America did a show on Death Wish Coffee, and their business almost crumbled due to the flood of orders and unhappy customers that they ended up with. The owner didn’t have the staff, packaging, order processes, or capacity to handle the stacks of orders.

The owner, Mike Brown, recruited his friends to help him fulfill orders. He had to fight to get ahead, so it makes a great comeback story. But it’s certainly not an ideal scenario. Could you imagine trying to give refunds for thousands of orders, because you weren’t able to deliver them in a timely manner? 

With Returns, Everyone Gets a Cut. Well, Except You

Now you’ve got all the stuff that you take into account when you’re trying to ship those orders and when the orders are processed. All the payment processing apps and platforms take their cut. Well, when you have to give the refund, you don’t get a cut.

Rather, you don’t get a refund on your cut. Let’s say your product is $15 and the platform deducted a couple of dollars from you before giving you the rest of the money. You still have to refund the full $15. Imagine the thousands of orders. So you got $13, but you have to pay back $15. That’s a lot of money. So you have to keep those things in mind. That’s why an order cap, and making sure you have a smart system in place, is a really good idea if you run a product-based business.

Service-Based Businesses

All right, service business. You’re wondering “Ruthie, really? How are you going to direct this towards a service business?” It’s not as big. I think it doesn’t have the potential to be quite as big with a service business, because service businesses, like myself, work with clients and the business. The buying cycle is typically longer. 

A Surge of Interest Is Not A Surge of Profit 

Let’s say you have a web design agency and you landed a huge client. You did amazing work, so now you’ve got them in your portfolio. You did a case study. You’ve been promoting the case study, and business is pouring in (or at least business interest is pouring in). Everyone wants to work with you. Now everyone in that industry wants you to make their website look amazing too. They want you to bring that energy and turn their business website into something exciting. Because why wouldn’t they? Nobody wants a boring website. 

Decisions Snowball in Number, Complexity, and Importance

But you can’t build proper infrastructure while you’re rushed. So you have to consider if you need more admin people or designers. Do you want to do content in-house or do you want to outsource it? Do you want to offer full web design and content, etc. So then you’d have to consider content in-house or outsourcing content to a partner. 

If you try to do this while rushed, you’ll settle for poor talent or at least talent that wouldn’t be up to your ideal standards if you weren’t rushed. When you’re a small business, and you’re trying to create these sorts of partnerships and bring in new employees, you really need everybody to pull their weight.

The quality of work that you will put out because of these sorts of partners will be lower. Then, that kind of brings your brand image down. You may not be in a position to lose as much money as a service-based business [when compared to a product-based business]. But you could lose a lot in reputation just from one or two bad employees/outsourced partners. 

Learn to Say No or Take Responsibility

So my recommendation to you is to either turn the work away, or be accustomed to talking to these prospective clients, even if you’re full up, and letting them know when you’ll have the capacity to take on their projects.

Don’t tell everyone that you can do their projects right now. That’s our inclination. We want to make our clients happy, but they’re not going to be happy if we’re unable to do a good job. So if you see that business is starting to pick up, what you need to do is project out that calendar. 

Include Employee Assessments

Also, add assessments if you want to hire employees or develop outsourced partners, in terms of your business management and business growth. However, work on those relationships at a pace that allows you to really assess their work, and assess whether or not they’ll fit into your business structure and your business team. 

So I think now you can kind of get it. Yes, you can grow too fast, and it’s not a good problem to have. If you grow too fast, you could destroy your reputation and that will make it almost impossible for you to do business. So keep those things in mind. 

We are coming up on the end of the first season of The Defiant Business Podcast, and we’ll be taking a one-week break. But once that’s over, we’ve got a special guest for you. We’re going to be featuring this special guest throughout all of the next season, periodically about once a week.

I think you guys are gonna love what they had to say. I’ll be revealing more details in the final episodes of season 1. Thanks for being here with me. 

Hourly Fees: Bad for You, Bad for Your Clients

I figured out early on in my business growth that hourly fees are not my friend. Hourly rates tie your services to your hours, something that can be itemized. But your value goes well beyond just those hours. 

This is why you have to get away from charging hourly. Recently, I came to understand that hourly fees aren’t just bad for you. They place you and your client at odds. 

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily 10-minute shot of business knowledge. You don’t have a lot of time and I’m not going to waste it. 

We’re just going to dive right in, because today’s topic is one that’s a huge point of contention in freelancing and business forums all around the world at anytime of the day: hourly fees, why they’re bad for you and why they’re bad for your client. 

Hourly Fees Are Not Your Friend

Why Hourly Fees Are Bad for Service Providers

In my freelance writing and content-writing career so far, I learned pretty early on that hourly fees were not my friend. So the first part of this episode is going to focus on why hourly fees are bad for you. 

They’re really bad for freelancers, small business owners, consultants, and any type of service provider. And the reason why is because you’re turning your time into a product. As a service provider, your time is your inventory. You don’t want to put a price tag on your time.

The reason why is because not all of your hours have the same value and project rate. I’ve seen this on a lot of forums. Your project rate shouldn’t be how many hours you think you’re going to do. Your internal hourly rate is what the project rate is. So if you have absolutely nowhere else to start, this is a great place to do so. 

Especially if you’re working on a new project, you’re like, “Hey, so I think a project will take x many hours and I’d like to make this much per hour. This is going to be my project rate”.

But you really need to dig in deeper to the value that you’re offering. And you’re like “Ruthie, I don’t know how to calculate the value of what it is I’m offering” Okay. That’s because you need to get clear on the return on investment that your customer or client can expect to see.

That includes looking at things like KPIs, key performance indicators, that measure your success. So again, keep in mind, I’m in content marketing, which means that I can’t prove the ROI sometimes until 6, or 12, or even many more months into the future. So you have to focus on the near future KPIs that you can use to help show your clients the value of their investment. 

Show those near time KPI results gives you time to educate your client on the long-term KPIs as well.

For example, let’s say I was the person who wrote a white paper for your business, which takes 20 to 30 hours to do over six to eight weeks. By outsourcing it, you actually completed the project. Internal company politics didn’t derail it. An employee didn’t lose interest. This project didn’t go to the back-burner because your client work increased when you delegated a white paper to someone.

I was able to help your employees become more productive. How many hours did we save there? Right. I was able to keep this project on track. So even just in the near term, I was able to generate direct cost savings for my client by being the person that took on that project. 

And then you talk about things like the customer experience. So when I work with my clients, we communicate a lot, not excessively so. Part of them outsourcing to me is that I am a trusted partner in their organization. They can count on regular updates.

We will schedule regular phone calls to discuss project progress, but they know that there’s not a lot of hand-holding here. Not only am I taking the project off of their hands, I’m taking the stress too. And that’s not a transfer of stress, because I don’t accept unnecessary stress. However, by taking on the project, we’ve helped eliminate some of their stress, and that’s pretty hard to put a value on. But marketing professionals, sales professionals, business professionals can feel it, and they understand. 

So understand the value that you bring to the table. I know that it’s hard, but just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t do it. You’re leaving money on the table by not understanding your own value to your clients. And this isn’t something that you can do and have the sort of successful business that I imagine you’re hoping to bring into your life. 

Punished For Improving

As you get faster, you make less money; you’re punished for improving. Think about it. Yeah, you’re punished for improving.

Let’s say you’re a consultant of some kind. If you offer any type of reoccurring work for them, then you’re going to become more familiar. And if you charge hourly, you’re going to get faster, which means you won’t be charging for as many hours.

Somebody who’s less experienced than you will take longer to do something. They could potentially end up getting paid more than you. Your speed should not be something that ends up punishing you. That’s another reason to stay away from hourly rates. 

That’s why I’m saying, even if you just take your internal hourly rate times the number of hours you think it’ll take you, that is better than actually charging an hourly rate to your clients. 

Hourly rates also encourage clients to pick apart what it is that you’re doing. They want you to account for all of these hours. “This is way more than I thought it was going to take. Why did this happen?”

Those are also things to consider when you’re setting up your project. That’s why you have to account for things like client interaction and project management because you’re not just going tohit the time button. 

People don’t always account for emails. How much time do you spend in Gmail or your webmail client? Probably a little too much.

Are there going to be any regular meetings?

Are there going to be any events that you need to attend?

How much research do you have to do?

Do you normally charge for research? The answer is: you should be if you don’t. 

Why Hourly Rates Are Bad for Your Clients, Too

Why are hourly rates bad for your clients, though? Hourly rates are bad for your clients because it immediately puts you and your clients in a moral/ethical dilemma. 

So, I recently read Million Dollar Consulting by Alan Weiss. One thing that he explained that really resonated with me: You are suddenly at opposition with your client because what’s in your best interest is not in your client’s best interests. And that is not how you want to start out a business relationship.

What this means is that the longer you take on a project, you get paid more, but the less time you spend on a project, the client spends less. So it’s to their advantage, if you take less time. It’s to your advantage, if you take more time. You are immediately butting heads at the outset of a project, whether you know it or not. 

Also with hourly time, the client knows that they’re going to spend more the longer you spend on something. I largely do not prefer hourly work unless there’s a cap. If something has to be hourly, put a cap on it, because you don’t want to be charged for an excessive number of hours.

I prefer project rates when I outsource certain work, or when I create teams for my clients. If we’re subcontracting or creating teams, I still do project rates with them. I’d rather just be able to account for that money, let it go and get what it is I need from this teammate, subcontractor, or contractor that I’m outsourcing too. 

Hourly Fees Do Not Account for Value

So, hourly fees are bad for you and they’re bad for your client for a variety of reasons. Hourly fees are not going to be the way that you successfully scale your business, because hourly fees do not account for the value that you’re delivering to your customers. 

Not to mention hourly fees also limit how high you can go. When you look at something like a blog post, let’s say I charge $1,000 for a thousand word blog post and it takes me three hours to write it. If I say my hourly rate is $100 an hour and it takes me three hours to write it, then I would have to charge $300 by my hourly rate.

But I charge $1,000 based on the difficulty of the topic, the sophisticated nature of the writing, and the audience for which it’s being written. There’s a lot of factors here. So I wouldn’t charge $1,000 if it was a blog post on gardening.

It depends on the topic and industry, audience, sophistication level, and the amount of research and things that’ll have to be done. Not because I don’t know, as I typically stick to industries that I’m familiar with, but because we have to be sophisticated and have sources. 

So, that’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. I look forward to seeing you again soon. 

The Two Types of Outsourcing

When we use the term “outsourcing”, people typically only think of one kind. There are in fact two types of outsourcing(at least)!

In today’s podcast episode, we’re going to go over the two types of outsourcing, and why one is so much more expensive than the other. AND… why you need both to help run your business.

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily source for 10-minute shots of business knowledge. You don’t have a lot of time and I’m not going to waste it, so let’s get into it. 

Today we’re going to talk about the two types of outsourcing. This is information every business owner needs. No matter what type of business you have, or even if you’re not technically the business owner. Let’s say you’re the chief marketing officer, or you’re in charge of the sales department. It doesn’t matter what department you’re in.

Outsourcing is something that most businesses have to consider, because when you’re competing with enterprise-level organizations as a smaller or midsize business, one of your advantages is being lean and agile. And part of what that means is not taking on employees for tasks that you can affordably outsource. Why? Because your business has no obligation, beyond the contract, when you outsource certain tasks. 

Types of Outsourcing

So generally speaking, there are two types of outsourcing, and those are the two that we’re going to talk about today. 

The First Type: Simple but Time-Consuming

The first type is what people typically think of when you talk about outsourcing. It’s the incredibly simple and time-consuming tasks that you shouldn’t necessarily be the one doing. If you’re a marketing officer or the content marketing director in a bigger organization, should you necessarily be the one entering in lead-gen information, or pulling the search engine optimization reports?

Should you be the one inputting the 50 business cards you got from the week-long conference that you just got back from? No, probably not.

And when I say that you shouldn’t be the one doing it, what I mean is: is it the best use of your time? So let’s say it takes an hour. What else could you accomplish in that hour that would generate revenue for your business?

For me, I could outline three or four blog posts, and I could record five or six podcast episodes. Those are outward-facing activities that could generate more business for me. So do I have to necessarily be the person who enters a business card information into my CRM? No, I don’t have to be that person. 

The Second Type: Significantly Complex Tasks

The other type of outsourcing is the one that people don’t necessarily like to use the word “outsourcing” with, so it’s important to consider the connotation of the word. When we say “outsource”, people are typically thinking “Oh, you’re going to take my work and farm it out.”  Maybe you’re expecting to not get great quality work back. And that is not always the case. 

The second type of outsourcing includes complex tasks that you shouldn’t necessarily be the one learning and executing. My best example is the infographic design on one of my blog posts, done by my executive assistant. She is pretty awesome. We worked together to create an infographic to help people create great Linkedin profiles.

I was considering doing the infographic design myself on Canva. After playing around with a template for maybe a minute and a half before I was like “Nope, this is not something I should be spending my time on.”

I can come up with all the points and the content that we need to put in there, and I can help with the tweaking. I can give feedback so it looks exactly the way that I want it to, but this graphic design thing, is not the best use of my time.

In Comes My Expert!

Enter Sylvia, who is my executive assistant. She has awesome graphic design skills and she was able to put to use on this infographic.

We worked back-and-forth to tweak it, and that was a much better use of my time. It would have taken me forever to get everything just the way I wanted it to be in Canva. But because she’s good at what she does, I didn’t have to take the time to learn it, struggle with it, and then finally maybe get something done that I was proud of. It’s very possible that what I came up with at the end wouldn’t have been something that I would have been proud to put on my website. 

That’s the other thing to consider. Not only are these tasks typically more complex and time-consuming, it’s because of someone else’s years of experience that they’re able to execute them better than you.

It’s not to say you couldn’t learn it. It’s not to say I couldn’t learn graphic design, because I could, but I don’t feel that’s the best use of my time. I wouldn’t be working in my area of brilliance. I try to spend as much time as possible working in my areas of brilliance because it makes me the happiest, and generally generates the most revenue for my business. 

Key Differences Between the Two Types of Outsourcing: Costs and Qualifications 

Simple Outsourcing Costs and Qualifications

The first type of outsourcing consists of simple tasks that are typically time-consuming, but easy to learn. They’re typically inexpensive. These are things like:

  • inputting data from one spreadsheet or one type of information format into another
  • pulling stats for something
  • responding to very basic customer service inquiries
  • sending out welcome emails and things like that

It’s all very basic stuff that’s easy to learn. They are typically inexpensive contractors on even the higher-end offering. These sorts of service provider typically have trouble justifying their fees, or they offer other services.

Maybe you put out a job post on Upwork, or you put out to your Linkedin network that you’re looking for some help with data entry work. A virtual assistant responds and she charges you $30 an hour. This is on the expensive side for a virtual assistant. But if she’s usually a virtual assistant for a writer like myself, she might also proofread. Maybe she helps, like how Sylvia goes over my stuff, helps me with drafting my blog posts, does the design for the graphics, and other activities.

She could charge more than somebody who just does data entry. If you’re looking to save money here, what you’re looking for is someone who just does data entry and likely doesn’t live in the United States. Then they would charge lower rates. Again, it’s those tasks that are usually easy to learn but they’re time-consuming, and so you don’t necessarily want to be the person doing them. 

Complex Outsourcing Costs and Qualifications

The difference for the second type is that they’re more expensive. The tasks are more complex and excellent contractors in these fields are often hard to find. Or you know, ones that work well with you are hard to find. So maybe you talk to a lot of web designers, and there were some that looked really good, but they just didn’t mesh with you. You didn’t feel a connection, you didn’t feel like they’d handle your stuff the way that you wanted.

They’re professionals and you would potentially recommend them to other people after your interactions. However, you didn’t feel like they were the best fit for you.

Should You Save the Project?

The other thing to consider is these people might be too expensive. You have to decide whether you should learn how to do this so you can get this project done, or if it’s a project that you can save for when you have the funds to pay for an expert in this field?

Again, looking at something like web design or graphic design, “could I save this project for when I can afford to outsource it?” Maybe it’s something where you’re like “Yeah, I could learn how to do this, but what I would do wouldn’t be as good.” Then perhaps you put that as a goal for your business six months down the road.

“Six months down the road, I’m going to be able to pay a graphic designer to design x types of graphics or x number of graphics. Then we’ll be able to repurpose those on my website.”

Another thing to consider is that when you have the second type of outsourcing, you’re going to want to build relationships. If you do have to search for someone, you don’t want to do it in a rush. You will compromise your standards for what you want to get done, and then the project still won’t turn out the way that you want to.

When you’re ready to look for the more complex type of outsourcing for those harder projects, you want to make sure that you are taking your time and vetting your people. Finding someone for data entry is going to be a lot easier than finding just the right web designers, so that way your website looks exactly the way that you want it to. 

This has been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast. I’m Ruthie, your host, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and I look forward to seeing you again next time. 

How to Handle Slow Periods

Unless you’re an enterprise level company, you’re probably expecting to experience slow periods. Besides the dip in revenue, you’re also just dreading it in general. Slow periods attack a business owner’s confidence. Learning how to handle slow periods can keep your momentum high after a burst of client activity.

Instead of dreading slow periods, I’ve come up with a recommendation for you. You might actually begin to look forward to slower periods. Or at least you won’t dread them anymore!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

And here’s the transcript:

Hi, I’m Ruthie, owner of Defy The Status Quo, and you’re listening to an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast, your daily 10-minute dose of business knowledge. So, let’s get into it. Today we’re going to talk about how to handle slow periods. 

Slow periods impact every business. The amount of money coming in can be a bit stressful. When it goes up, that’s super great and you’re like “Oh my goodness, I’m so great at this. I’m such an awesome entrepreneur.” Then, the money could dip. It’s not as high as it usually is, not even your average. Maybe it gets really low. No, you aren’t a failure. This is not the worst thing that could happen. It’s usually indicative of certain things and your business process, but it doesn’t mean that your business is bad, you don’t know what you’re doing, or that all of your clients hate you. 

If the money part is really stressful, as in it could break your business, I advise that you check out episode six, which is why you should read the book Profit First. Once I implemented that system, I was a lot more secure in my cashflow, no matter what amount of money was coming in that month. So I really recommend the book. Go listen to that podcast episode and I’m sure that you’re going to want to read it. 

Moving Your Business Forward During Slow Periods

Slow periods come for all businesses, whether you sell products or services, and they’re not always on a typical or predictable cycle. As a writer, I’ve often heard that summer is a slow period, but I haven’t experienced that yet in my business. I’ve had other slow months, but nothing repetitive at this point. 

So it’s what you’re doing during these periods that matters the most. Just because you don’t have a pending deadline, a client’s work to turn in, client meetings to attend, or products moving out of your warehouse, doesn’t mean that there aren’t other business activities that can help move your business forward. The client’s work and everything is one aspect of what you do. 

When you run your own business, there are business activities that you have to do in order to keep the money coming in. If you don’t have any leads in your pipeline, then your business is going to start to fail. Leads typically equal money as long as you can convert them, and money is what keeps your business going. 

The Slow Time List

My advice for every business owner or marketing manager is, if you’re in charge of a department at your company, have a list of things to do during the slow times. Maybe while you’re slammed with work, an idea comes to mind for a great marketing project, a new product or service that you could offer, but you don’t necessarily have the time to develop it right now. Put It on the slow time list. That’s what we’ll call it, the slow time list

That means that you will put it on the list and take some notes if you need to, so you don’t lose your inspiration. Now you have one more task to do. 

What can go on your slow time list? Let’s explore the options. 

Other Marketing Tasks: Blog Posts and Lead Magnets

Some other things that you might consider doing are marketing tasks. And this is one of my top recommendations. So for smaller businesses, when slow periods happen, it’s typically because you got overloaded with client work or customers’ orders, and you stopped marketing as much as you normally do. 

A dip in marketing activity typically leads to a dip in leads and a decrease in client work or customer orders. What you want to do is try to ramp up your marketing to breathe some new life back into your pipeline. This could be anything. 

It could be that you write more blog posts. However, what I recommend is not blasting all of those blog posts out in an inconsistent manner. You should instead trickle them out. So if you normally posted one blog post per month, but you haven’t posted any blog posts for the last three months, put out one blog post per month. 

Schedule them out so you’re kind of secure. If you manage to write six blog posts during a slow month, and you publish one per month, then you’ve got content going out on your site for the next six months. And that kind of alleviates that pressure for you. 

You might also consider creating a new lead magnet for your website, whether you sell a product or a service. In a previous episode we talked about content variety and how different things like Ebooks, case studies, and white papers impact the sales funnel for your leads. 

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

If you’ve met me, or you’ve paid any attention to my content in the past, you know that Linkedin is very important to me. Even if you don’t use your Linkedin profile, people will still use it to look you up. So, you want your Linkedin profile to look great. 

  • Does it accurately reflect where you are in your business? 
  • Does it have your tagline? 
  • Is this what you want people to read as they’re researching you? 
  • Does it represent your 8-second elevator pitch, your profile summary? 
  • Does that reflect your 60-second elevator pitch? 

If the answer to any of those questions is no, you should go fix it. Because even if you don’t engage on the business platform, people will use it to look you up, and you want it to present you in the light that you want to be seen in. 

Business Development and Sales Tasks

Other tasks that you can take care of are potentially in your business development, or sales tasks. Follow up on some leads that have gone cold. And what about reaching out to previous clients? Of course, it depends on why they’re not working with you anymore. Reach out to clients you’d like to work with again, or previous clients. 

Look at your network. Maybe now’s a great time to ask people for a couple of referrals like “Hey, I don’t know if you’ve seen my work lately, but things have been going really awesome and I’ve been looking for more opportunities.  Could you give me two names for people you know that you wouldn’t mind sending an introduction email to. Maybe I can send the introduction email and cc you with that person”. If those people like you, I’m sure they’ll come up with at least one name and that gives you a new lead to engage with and speak with. 

Examine Why Slow Periods Hit When They Do 

The big thing here though is that slow periods happen to everyone. It doesn’t mean you need to throw in the towel, but each time a slow period hits, it’s prudent to examine why. Has income dipped because you went on vacation? Okay, well that’s kind of the cost of going on vacation. Now, you can prepare marketing activities and schedule things out ahead of your vacation, so those things all operate on track. 

When You Work With the Government

If you’re a federal contractor listening to this right now, you are getting  ready to enter the really busy time at the end of the government fiscal year. This is when government agencies and organizations spend a lot of money. You may not be marketing as effectively because you’re busy engaging with your customers. You’re getting in those last minute contracts and single source awards. That means your marketing is not necessarily going to be on point. 

You may see a lot of work from old or previous clients, but you may see a dip in new customer work that comes in. Totally fine. Just make sure that you’re assessing that and understanding the reasons behind your slow periods. 

When You Take Time Off

For smaller businesses like freelancers, e.g. writers, were you sick at all last month? Maybe that would account for your lower marketing activities, which could potentially account for lower leads coming in. 

Once you can understand the reasons behind your slow periods, you tend to feel a little bit better about them. The primary business point to highligh is that consistent marketing and sales activity are the keys to business success. As long as you’ve locked down your services, you’re great at what you do, you make your clients or customers happy, and if you sell products, that your product either meets or exceeds your industry standards, then it’ll be the business side of things that trips you up. 

Learn How to Handle Slow Periods and Increase Productivity

Consistent business activities, your business development (developing strategic partnerships), your marketing activities to bring in new business, and your sales activities so you can close the leads that you get from your marketing activities, are the things that will trip up your business the most. 

You can do this. We all go through slow periods. Post about your slow period on Linkedin and I bet you’ll get a ton of responses.

So, thank you for listening today. It’s been an episode of The Defiant Business Podcast on how to handle slow periods. We’d love to get your feedback on this episode. Please feel free to leave a comment wherever you’ve come into this, whether it’s the podcast on my blog, or a video on YouTube. I’ll see you again next time.

Pitching Tips from Startup Grind Baltimore’s Aaron Hsu

I attended an event organized by Startup Grind Baltimore. The topic was pitching competitions, and I learned so much. Aaron talked to us about the differences between the pitching competitions you’ll likely come across during research. 

He also talked to us about ways we can make winning more likely, which I thought was very insightful. He knows because he’s done it after all. Aaron Hsu is the founder of Clearmask, an innovative company that wants to bring a better surgical mask into the world. One that happens to be transparent. 

We strayed a bit into things like product development and market research as well. Overall, great presentation, and I’m looking forward to putting his recommendations into practice myself!

Here’s the podcast episode:

Or if you’d rather watch the video:

Important Tips for Pitch Competitions

In June, I attended a Startup Grind Baltimore event for companies that are growing and looking at investing, pitching, and things like that. Aaron Hsu was the speaker that night, and he gave us all lots of things to think about in terms of pitch competitions. 

Keep in mind that my understanding is pretty basic because I’m just starting to look at pitch competitions. Basically, you go and talk about your business for a predetermined amount of time.

You may be able to have slides and props, or you may not. You may have 5 minutes, or you may have one minute. That’s the competition. Usually, some pre-stated amount of money is also on the line. Depending on the organization, they may or may not require you to report heavily your activities. You really have to look at the individual organizations. 

Good Public Speaking

However, he gave us some tips that cross over into what you’d consider good public speaking. One of the first things he said is that you want to project confidence and be relatable during your pitch. He said that if you’re doing an impromptu pitch, 2-3 minutes is normally ideal. That’s because of the human attention span. You go on much longer than that, and people just stop paying attention. 

Pay Attention to Recurring Questions

He also mentioned something really good. You can pick up on what people didn’t understand or what you didn’t say by listening to the questions they direct you. If you consistently get the same questions, you can add that into your pitch. I thought that was a super awesome tip. 

Ask about Your Allotted Time

When you’re going to a competition, Aaron said that you always want to ask what the allotted time for your presentation and Q&A is. You don’t want to have your presentation and come up too short, in which case you might not be making the best use of the time given to you. 

Do Your Research

He mentioned researching the investors and then structuring your pitch accordingly. Some organizations are a bit more about social/world impact and what good things you’re doing. Then, some investors are all about the money. 

If you know you’re going to one that’s more about impact, spewing numbers and statistics at them about how you know how your product is going to do, would not be as beneficial as exploring statistics on the actual impact your product could have. So it’s not that the information you have is invaluable. It just may be that you may not have the right audience for it if you don’t do that research ahead of time. 

The Problem and the Solution

Aaron also says that you should pitch the problem and why anyone would care about the solution. People may not initially understand your product, but they’ll be able to understand the problem. 

Be Selective

Then, he mentioned knowing which competition to go to. Aaron, he used Google a lot, but then as he talked about his idea with people, he was able to leverage his network to be his eyes and ears. So whenever they heard of something, they would come and tell him. 

How great is that? It’s basically like the referral network you’re looking to build as a small-business owner anyway. Hearing about pitch competitions where your product/service would be of interest to investors is something you might miss, especially if it’s relatively small. 

He also mentioned foundations like Twitter. So if you’re looking to get into pitch competitions, you might want to check out Twitter and look for some relevant hashtags. 

He definitely said that a targeted approach is better than the spaghetti-at-the-wall approach. You throw a handful of spaghetti, see what sticks. A targeted approach helps because it keeps you from doing wasted work filling out applications. That’s why researching the foundations will help you not waste time. 

Relationship-Building

Aaron also recommended that you build relationships with the organizations that you’re looking to apply to. This means looking out some time ahead of the competition, but he’s said he’s even done some relationship-building at the competition. 

You might want to go chit chat with the judges/organizer and not ask about your pitches. You just talk about other things. Everybody’s got their own life, and showing interest can gain you some favor. 

Formulate a Master Deck

When you’re putting together your pitch deck, he recommends that you have a master deck and tailor it to the competition you’ve applied. Eventually, you’ll end up saving time and you’ll have a more targeted pitch deck. 

I do something similar with my content marketing proposals when we’re working on a big, long-term, or ongoing project. I try out proposals that I’ve used to structure new proposals. That is something I would definitely recommend. 

Remember to Reach out

Another thing Aaron said is to keep in mind that you’re competing as soon as you apply. So if you are interested in applying, it doesn’t hurt to reach out ahead of time to see whether or not you’d be a good fit. 

It also gives you an opportunity to start relationship-building by not wanting to waste their time. How many people just apply, and then never reach out? Reaching out shows that you take initiative, which is typically a good sign of someone who works hard.

Why It All Matters

One thing people often forget in their pitches is why it matters. Aaron said you can always work on completing your pitch in the most perfect way. but what about the why? This matters more than most people think, so it’s good to have an answer ready. Aaron also said that it’s best to be explicit. 

Do your homework, establish rapport, keep your master deck, and a structure including the problem and the solution.