Your Minimalist Business

A minimalist business is uncluttered, deeply niched, automated, with a simple, profitable business model based on your strengths. See previous posts for what that looks like.

Other than being part of a fad, why would you do this?

You will be more profitable. You will have more capacity within your business to work on interesting projects. Your business will be more valuable, if you choose to sell it. You will love your business again because it will be fun and easy.

You will have more time

When your space is uncluttered, it is easier to find things. Automation will free your time. Delivering only what is most valuable takes less time.

You will have more energy

Automation frees you from worrying about the details. Working from your strengths means better results from less effort. Loose ends, clutter, bloat and non-clarity all suck your energy.

You will have more money

Focusing on a single deep niche means you can charge more. A business model that gets at the heart of what your customers want and your strengths is very profitable. Automation usually saves money, when done appropriately and well, take the time to do it right.

I’m sold, now what?

Start where you feel the most pain – time, money or energy. Look for the low hanging fruit. I find working on these projects in that first hour of the day is essential to accomplishing anything. You’ll still feel like you have run out of time at the end of the day, but you will be making progress to a better business.

Your business can be this simple. Stay tuned for a deeper discussions.


Join a community of other small business owners just like you at the Business Owners Success Club.

What is a Minimalist Business Part V – Profitable Business Model

Make sure your business model is profitable. You would think this would go without saying, but it doesn’t.  A profitable business model is laser focused on providing predictable clear value to a defined group of eager people.

The reality we are working in is that times are tough. People are struggling and they don’t part with their money easily. As business owners, our response is to pile on the value. We believe in what we do and we believe that if only people try it, they will get the benefit. In doing this we forget that not everyone wants the same value, so we give everyone the works and we lose sight of the cost to us. That’s how a business model gets bloated.

Stay focused on providing the benefits that your select group of business owners value.

Your business can be this simple. Stay tuned for a deeper discussion in Part VI.

What is a Minimalist Business Part IV – Strengths based

Working from your strengths is using leverage. You will get better results with less effort. You will give better results making your customers even happier.

You will enjoy your work, encouraging you to focus more, get better and enjoy your work even more. We revel in gaining mastery and in doing our best. We experience flow (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flow_%28psychology%29) when we are working from our strengths. Flow is that wonderful place where we are so wrapped up in what we are doing, it feels like time stands still.

Your business sweet spot is that convergence of your strengths, your passions and what people need. It’s amazing how often your passion and your strengths converge. In fact it’s hard to know which comes first, your passion or your strength. When you are passionate you work harder, and the better you become, the more passionate you become.

A Minimalist Business built upon your strengths (and passions) will be easier to keep focused, will be more profitable and easier for you to manage.

Your business can be this simple. Stay tuned for a deeper discussion in Part V.

What is a Minimalist Business Part III – Deeply Niched

A minimalist Business is deeply niched and that means it provides one service. A deeply niched business knows their customers well and the exact problem the business can solve for their customers. They know their customer’s needs, fears, aspirations and dreams. They know how to find their customers, what to say to them and what offer will make them buy. The deeply niched business focuses all their attention on becoming experts at understanding and empathizing with their customers and the problem they solve

The deeply niched business focuses all their attention on becoming experts at the solution they provide. They learn and practice until they are experts.They gather stories, case studies and best practices. It becomes easier to do the work and make their customer happy. The deeply niched business can charge more per hour because of efficiencies or because of competencies.

With a deeply niched business, one of two things happens: the business becomes very efficient and does volume business or they become the type of specialists that offer a service that goes deep for a small number of customers.

Your business can be this simple. Stay tuned for a deeper discussion in Part IV.

More Sales is NEVER About Marketing

There are only 3 ways to make more sales:

  • Sell more often to your existing customers
  • Sell more each time to your existing customers
  • Sell to more people

Only one of them is about selling to new customers and the most expensive one.

Selling to your existing customers is easy. They already know, like and trust you. You already know them, their situations and their needs. If you need more information how or what to sell them you only need to ask them! For heaven’s sake, just ask.

Make it Easy

The easiest way to sell more often is to make sure your sales process is easy. The less friction there, the more often people will do click the button, contact you or drop by.

Have a way to gently remind your customers. We all get busy. Would you be appreciative or irritated if your mechanic sent you a text or email (your preference) when you are due for an oil change?

 

Be Valuable

Making bigger sales is about providing all the value you can. Don’t stop when you are getting close. The biggest mistake I made with my bookkeeping service was in not having an easy, predictable way to sit down with our business owners on a regular basis to talk about their business. I knew I needed to do it, but the biggest hurdle was in believing that I could really help. I thought that I had to do it all in a couple of hours so I didn’t charge them too much. That’s impossible. I did a major disservice.

There is a balance that has to be made between providing more service and staying with your focus and your strengths. We were often asked to take on admin roles like sending out letters or being an answering service. We chose not to do those kinds of things because they were not part of our core competency of bookkeeping.

Tell Your Story

Start with your Why. Why you are in business, your values, your beliefs are every bit as important as the mechanics of what you sell. It is what makes you unique (ie your USP or unique selling proposition). “People don’t buy what you sell, they buy why you sell it.”

Tell your story Tell your Story

 

Own Your Story

I heard about a tea shop that wants to be a quiet place to get away, so they block internet and phone signals. Another tea shop wants to be the place you explore the world so they bring you the most unique teas. You won’t find Earl Grey or Orange Pekoe here.

Tell your story in everything you do. Your place of business, how you communicate, your rituals, your processes, your results are all parts in the way you tell your story.

One of the ways I used to tell our story was to run the Crystal Clear Lunch & Learn series. I believe in the power of community in small business so I created a way to bring us together on a regular basis to hear from and meet local experts.

 

Preach to the Converted

Convincing people to change is not easy. So why bother even trying. There are too many people who believe what you believe and it is easy to find them now. The more unique you are, the less effective will be mass marketing.

It is so much easier to take people a couple more steps along a path they are already on, than to ask them to switch paths. Hang out where they are, share what you know, and listen to what they have to say. Join that conversation. Never mind all the other people who could use what you offer. They’ll get it or they won’t and they are more likely to ‘get it’ from a friend who is already your customer than from you.

 

Word of Mouth

is the most powerful way to share your story. which is why you need to turn every one of your customers into…

Raving Fans

These are people who are so blown away with the results you give them, that they couldn’t not tell their friends if you asked them to.

 

The best way to get more sales is to focus all your attention and resources on your existing customers and make them ecstatic. Work closely and deeply with them to find out what they really need from you and give them that.

All I need are more customers

So, is that a marketing issue or a business issue?

Let me start by saying that marketing is a big business practice and is best left to the pros. We know that a small business isn’t a little big business, it is a whole other animal. Marketing, and for that matter, finance, HR and operations are functional areas for big business. Businesses big enough to have groups of people with those specific responsibilities.

Your job, as a small business owner is to make your customer ecstatically happy. That’s it.

How you do that is:

Work from your Sweet Spot

When you can give the best of yourself (and your team), you can’t help but put out the best service. When you work from your strengths and your passion, you live and breath what you do. You gain mastery.

Be who you are. If you are trendy and cutting edge – own it! Don’t let anyone tell you that you need to ‘tone it down’ or your customers can’t keep up. You will attract the customers that appreciate you being out there on the edge and sharing it all with them. If you are comforting and helpful – own it! Make tea a part of your service, make your space cozy, explain what to expect so your customers are comfortable. If you are utilitarian and to the point – own it! Make transactions seamless. Stay out of the way and let your customers do it.

Help your customers get what they really want

Your customer doesn’t want to just buy a sweater. She wants to know it is the latest trend, show her pictures of that sweater on the catwalk or worn by trendsetters. It is important for her to feel on top of what is new, help her do that. Or she wants help buying it, choose several that will look great on her and help her see why they are great for her. It is important for her to feel less stress about the choosing and buying process. Or she knows exactly what she wants and you need to make the transaction as seamless and quick as possible. It is important for her to be done with this task.

This applies to restaurants, accounting and car repair, too.

Tell that story in everything you do

AKA Marketing. From the moment someone comes across your business, you want them clear on what they can expect from you. Your advertising tells that story, your place exudes that story and the experience is exactly what your customer would expect.

Your environment, from your premises, to the phone experience to your packaging all tell that same story.

Your team is clear on that story, they buy into it and they share it, too.

The experience is set on autopilot. Of course each person is treated as an individual, but the routine is set up to be, well, routine and automated.

The value exchanged on both sides is sufficient that your customer is happy and you are able to build capacity to continue to add to that experience.

Your customers become your raving fans

Who needs marketing when you have a team of raving fans telling everyone how awesome you are?

 

Is Your Business Full?

There are 2 kinds of businesses:

  • those looking for more customers
  • those that have plenty.

Why…

One company focuses on getting their message out and meeting new clients.

The other focuses on making their existing clients so thrilled they can’t help raving about the service they get.

Which are you?

When I focus on making my clients really, really happy, my business flourishes. As soon as I take my eye off that ball, things slow down.

Making your customers ecstatically happy can be very easy to do.

How to…

Ask

Then listen. Your customers will tell you exactly what is important to them. I have a friend who tells me that every project where he runs out of time to write up a detailed report, his clients seem to be much happier. They would rather have a short doc that they will read, than a long one that sits on the shelf. He still writes long reports when he has the time.

What….

Your highest and best value lies with your talents/strengths . Many times this is portrayed as a Venn diagram with the added circles of what your clients need/want and what people are willing to pay for. When you are working from your best place you attract the people who need what you offer and the money will follow.

By that, I mean Zig Ziglar’s famous quote “You will get all you want in life if you help enough other people get what they want”

Everything else flows from that.

What’s your Super Power? What can you give that is special? What is that unique combination of talent, experience, passion and even compulsion that drives you? What do people come to you for? What can’t you help doing? By you I mean you personally or you, your organization.

Don’t make the mistake of trying to please everyone or being pulled off your path. Only do what only you can do.

Who…

Who can benefit most by what you offer? Who needs it most? Whose life can you make better? Who comes to you, now? Who makes you happy when you see their number on your phone?

What do you do for them? Keep doing that and making the people you like very happy. Next thing you know, you will be so busy doing the kinds of things you love to do with the people you most enjoy.

Not only that, you will be paid well for it!

The $250 hour

When a $250/ hour does not equal $250/hour

I get paid between $125 and $250/hour for workshops when I do them for other people. It takes me 2 x as much time to prepare for them as for presenting them. For every 2 hour workshop I spend 4 hours preparing. That doesn’t count the time to get there set up, and stay to answer questions and follow up.

When I do workshops myself, I make anywhere from 0 to much more. Along with prep time, there is logistics, and marketing.

I charge $500 for  business strategy sessions that last around 2 hours. I spend time before we get together researching the business and their industry. I send a follow up report and other materials. I know it’s a good investment because I can find ways to save and to make more than $500. These sessions are not about the face time, they are all about the value I provide.

I will do a one hour $250 session, but quite frankly, it’s a loss leader for me. Realistically for me, I can only do a few of these a week, otherwise, I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the pre and post work. Dollar for dollar, there is more superficial value here, but it’s too short a time to dig to find the priorities, not just the low hanging fruit.

In the same way that a good such as clothes or car parts is marked up to cover the costs to get it into your hands, information reflects so much more than just the time to hand it over. A $250 hour is not just an hour.

 

Your lesson

When you come up with pricing, you need to think about all the time it takes. It helps to think about it in terms of how many can you do in a week. That includes your Sunday afternoons doing the bookkeeping and your evenings returning calls and your early morning preparation for the day.

Don’t forget about sales time, professional development and follow up. They are all very important in providing really good value.

Not every hour is worth $250

Different work is priced differently. I do other work that is much lower value and I charge much less for it. I don’t mind doing that sometimes because it’s work that I don’t have to prep for it, it’s mostly ongoing, and the time is pretty much just the time spent and billed. It also tends to be the easy work for me.

Your lesson

It’s okay to have different rates for different work. It means you can charge more for work that provides more value because of your distinct skills, talents and strengths. It costs you money to get a new client, so once you have a client, your best pricing should be for them.

Do you charge the same rate for changing oil as you do for diagnostic work? Do you charge the same rate for a 1 hour repair as you do for a 9 hour job?

Knowing where to hit

Once a large ship’s engine failed. The ship’s owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure how to fix the engine. Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was a youngster. He carried a large bag of tools with him, and when he arrived, he immediately went to work. He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.

Two of the ship’s owners were there, watching this man, hoping he would know what to do. After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a small hammer. He gently tapped something. Instantly, the engine lurched into life. He carefully put his hammer away. The engine was fixed! A week later, the owners received a bill from the old man for one thousand rupees.

“What?!” the owners exclaimed. “He hardly did anything!”

So they wrote the old man a note saying, “Please send us an itemized bill.”

The man sent a bill that read:

Tapping with a hammer …………………… $ 10.00

Knowing where to tap …………………….. $ 990.00

 

This story is told many times. Sometimes it’s a car, sometimes it’s machinery in a factory. The ultimate price goes up based on the cost of the cost of the machine sitting idle.

Your Lesson

You know more than your client and that knowledge took you a long time to get. That invested time has value.

People aren’t interested in information, they need answers to their problems. They aren’t looking for a how-to manual, they want their problem solved.

The bigger the problem, the more value you bring. Focus on solving bigger problems if you want to increase your value and your rates.

Who pays $250/hour?

Not everyone will pay for all you bring. Sometimes it seems like the people who need us most have the least ability to pay.

I had a client who needed some help with making his business more profitable. He wasn’t able to pay the full fee, but could I help him anyway. I did. We did a short session. He was a current client so I was already pretty familiar with his situation.

I followed up a few weeks later. No, he hadn’t had the time to implement most of my suggestions, he was too busy buying and setting up his new big screen tv (back when they were much more expensive than today.

Six months later he asked to get together again, because he was in trouble again and he wanted to go over some of the solutions we had talked about. No, he couldn’t pay my full fee, but this was only a follow up, right?

I learned that people will value your help at what they pay for it; that ability to pay is very relative; and once you give your time, people believe that’s how you value it, too.

Your Lesson

Who will pay $250 ?

  • People who believe in their business and want to invest in making it better
  • People who are open and willing to make changes
  • People who have experienced how a small change can equal big returns over a period of time
  • People who value their own time

How about you?

Are you worth $250/hour

Could investing $250/hour save or make your business more than that?

What would it take for you to make $250/hour – and how many of those hours can you do in a week?

What do you think?

What are they talking about?

Mesh – This is based on the book, The Mesh by Lisa Gansky. One way of looking at it is that we want the hole, not the drill. It’s about shared resources, renting not owning and access trumps ownership.

When we share, it means we can use better, for instance, a group of neigbours could collectively own a snowblower. By sharing the expense and maintenance, they can buy an even better model, with more bells and whistles than they might alone.

Abundance – There is plenty for everyone, so share freely, no need to hide. Abundance thinking leads you to treat ‘competitors’ as collaborators, peers and resources. This opens the possibility of mesh thinking – like starting an industry group and bringing in speakers or other resources.

Yes, there’s a book for that, Abundance by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler. Reading this book I could believe in a time/society without money transactions. Now, before you scoff, think about this. We have the ability to supply everything we need for everyone, but we don’t have the ability to give everyone a job to pay for it. Riddle me another way to solve that one.

Long Tail – Chris Anderson (not TED Chris Anderson, but editor of Wired magazine Chris Anderson – yes there are 2 of them) wrote this book and we’ll be looking at another of his books later in this list.

The idea here is you don’t need millions of customers. A small group of dedicated, happy customers can give you a great living. It makes more sense to niche very tightly especially when you realize shelf space is not a limiting factor.

Selling to the masses is a difficult job best left to big business.. Your opportunity is in selling to special interest groups. For instance, we’re not business consultants, we’re not business consultants in the new ways of doing business, we are business consultants working with boomers who have owned businesses for a long time and are interested in learning the new ways of doing business.

Free – Yet another book by Wired Chris Anderson. I first listened to a free copy of this book. Chris argues that as the marginal cost of things approaches free, it will be difficult to charge for it. How many times have you come across something and were irked to pay for it, knowing the cost was next to nothing. That thing for me is Kindle books – when they cost more than the paper versions.

Of course for books, as in other forms of media, the cost is in the creation of the content, not the form. Increasingly, the revenue model is in the live performance associated.  The book becomes a calling card. The Grateful Dead knew that decades ago. Give it all away – people will pay for connection.

Gift economy – This is closely related to Free and it means giving gifts without expectation of direct reciprocity; paying it forward; giving gifts instead of money.

With Free, I give you my Manifesto and you give me your email address; I give you my book and you hire me to speak at your event. With Gift Economy, I set my Manifesto and book free to the world and when I travel to your community, you want to help me. Ask Amanda Palmer.

Connection – People want to feel connected to others, we are a tribal people. If you really want to be a hero, help people connect to each other. Help your customers talk to each other. Intuit has done it by creating a forum for users to ask questions and get answers from each other.  That sense of connection ties people into a community and makes them feel closer to your product.

It is also the business model of many to many. Ebay connects many sellers to many buyers and makes a little piece each time.  So does Amazon and ITunes and Etsy. Any time you can connect people, you add value.

Curation – Make it your job to make sense of the world, to distill all the information out there into the most important and bring it together in a way that makes it easy for your people to access.

This presupposes you have a group that you consider your people. When you think in terms of a group who are your people and how you can bring them what they need, you will have created a very valuable business.

Art – Doing your art doesn’t have to be about painting, sculpting or music. It means putting your heart and soul into what you do. It’s about being passionate and human in all you do.  Seth Godin talks a lot about this. He also uses the term ‘emotional labour’ that was first used as a way to describe the toll that Stewardesses pay to keep smiling through a long flight.

Resistance – aka the Lizard Brain, aka the Amygdala, aka that Critical Little Voice in your Head. You know the one, it says, “If that were such a great idea, someone would have done it already” or “Who are you to…” or “If you do that, people will say that you are…”.

Steven Pressfield has some great work on this, as does Anne Lamott and Elizabeth Gilbert. Yes, they are all writers, because writers deal with writer’s block.

Triple bottom linepeople planet profit, means that it’s not only about the profit at all costs. The backlash against profit-at-all-costs has forced business to take responsibility for its human and environmental costs, too. Practices like cutting down the rainforest (the planet’s lungs) and exploiting people in developing nations are coming under attack by consumers and by attack we mean they stop buying. It’s another manifestation of the the desire for connection. If we are all connected, then what we do (buy from corporations) affects all of us.

Radical Transparency – comes from abundance thinking, that being transparent means that people will trust you more and understand why you make the decisions you do.

Do you have the guts to step out from behind secrecy? It opens you to people misunderstanding you, misinterpreting your motives because of their own view of the world. You need patience to explain, yet again and you need a thick skin.

It’s worth it, because it binds your people to you even more closely.

Social enterprise – This is an enterprise that has a positive social impact, it’s sole reason for being is not around profit. This must be baked into the culture, mission and operations, not just a veneer for the PR it offers.

It’s tied to the 3BL and it does not mean you can’t have great pay for creating high value. It means that the value you create is not just for the shareholders.

Week 4 – Well Paid

How did you do this week?

Are you clear on what you are offering?

Are you doing a great job with it?

Are your customers clear on what you do for them?

Does your pricing reflect your value?

Does your marketing reflect what you do, how you do it and for whom?