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.

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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.

7 Steps to Taming the Idea Monster

Also known as the shiny object syndrome or our ADD culture. The idea monster grows more bloated every day until we tame it. If you are like  every business other owner you have more ideas than you can possibly execute. And you get more ideas every day.

And when you search for information and resources on how to execute on those ideas, you are overwhelmed by the sheer volume. So you do nothing.

Does that sound familiar?

It should, because it almost certainly plays itself out in your life and aspects of your business. The good news is that there are parts of your life and business where you are good at evaluating ideas, learning about how to do them and executing on them.

Successful business owners prioritize ideas and execute on them one at a time.

  1. They have a way to evaluate ideas.

  2. They invest in learning how to execute on them.

  3. They stay with it until it succeeds, no matter how long it takes or how many iterations it goes through.

 

When is the last time you did that? Really? Because we all have in some aspects of our lives, at some times in our lives or with some teams in our lives. Recall it, think about it and think about how you will do that again. Now. With one really promising idea.

 

Here’s a 7 step process for Taming the Idea Monster

1. List all of them

Information and ideas belong somewhere other than your brain. Use your brain for working, not storage.

The act of listing your ideas will clarify your thinking. As you articulate them, you will realize that some of your ideas are not suitable, realistic, possible or desirable for you and your business.

 

2. Know your values

We all know that family, kindness, integrity etc are important values. That being said, we all have different values that are important to us. For instance, my values are fun, learning, ecology and community. I love my 4 kids. I love to travel. When I did a values exercise, I didn’t get family or travel, I got fun, learning, ecology and community. I engage in my family and travel with fun, learning, ecology and community.

Knowing that helps me to do another cull of my ideas. If they aren’t about fun, learning, using resources wisely or building community, then they aren’t for me.

If you haven’t done an exercise to figure out your values, here is a link to an exercise http://businessownerssuccessclub.wordpress.com/2013/01/15/discovering-your-values/

Doing this is an eye-opening experience. Once you discover your values, you will find that some of your past choices make more sense to you.

 

3. Clear Vision

Where are you headed? Are you building a business to sell? Or a business to give you a specific lifestyle? Are you focussed on providing an income?

We are constantly told how to grow our businesses bigger. But if that’s not what you want, it doesn’t make sense to follow up on any of those ideas. On the other hand, if bigger is where we want to go, then leadership, team building, culture and developing brand ideas are the ones to follow.

My vision is centred pretty squarely around community. If new ideas don’t lead me in that direction, they are dropped.

 

4. Your Business Model

Who are your customers? What problem are you solving for them? Where do you get your revenue? Who cares about what you do?

Lean Canvas and Business Model Canvas are both great tools for clearly articulating your business model. It helps to be very clear on your revenue model and on what’s important for your customers.

If an idea doesn’t support your business model, or actively works against it – drop it.

 

5. Your Story Your Identity Your Brand

Who are you? How do people see you? How do you see yourself? Ask. It’s the only way you will know for sure.

Which ideas fit with that? If people see you as logical and you get all emotional on them, or if they see you as human and approachable and you get all facts and figures on them, everyone will end up confused.

Be who you are and really own it.

 

6.Think Strategically About How

By now, you should have a shortlist of ideas. Ideas that fit your values, vision and business model.

Spend some time thinking through each of these ideas strategically. This is what strategic planning is all about.

Think through what results you can expect – best case and worst case.

What resources do you need to implement the idea? What will it take to get those resources?

7. Now Choose

Armed with this, which do you want to do first? Which will you make your highest priority? Which excited you? Which are you willing to commit yourself to seeing succeed?

 

Now Execute!

That’s it. That’s your process for evaluating ideas. You will find that focusing on one idea, will make it easier to ignore other ideas.

Now that you know your values, your vision and your business model, continue running any new ideas through those considerations before adding them to your ongoing idea list. Each time you complete the implementation of an idea, go back to your list to choose your next idea.

Tell Us How You Did

Do you recognize this? – maybe not explicitly stated in these words. Where have you used this in your life before? How did you do with this process? Please share below.

Drowning in Ideas

Do you ever feel this way?

Like you have so many ideas that you are drowning in them?

You don’t know which ones to do first. They are all great ideas and they would work – probably. Other people have made them work for their business. You can make them work for you, too.

They all come with pieces you don’t know how to do, especially around technology. Podcasts are a great idea and you can even see yourself doing them. But. What mic to use? What software? Where and how to post them? Video is good. Writing articles. Making signs. Doing PR. Automating. All of it, would be great, but how?

The information is all out there. You can fill your day just reading, listening to podcasts and watching videos showing you how what to do to succeed in your business. Some of it is great and some of it is fluff. How do you find the good stuff? Really, I want to know your methods for finding the good stuff.

Most of it is for online business. Dig even a little and it turns out it’s all about online business. Great ideas, but how do they help you with your store, restaurant or service business? Hint: your customers are online, too. Feeling as overwhelmed as you.

Lean Canvas is a powerful tool for helping you see very clearly, where you should concentrate in your business and what is most important to your customers. Here’s a great online ebook to show you how the lean canvas is used for startups. I’m hosting a workshop on how to use Lean Canvas as a tool for offline businesses that are past the startup phase. https://youreffortlessbusiness.wordpress.com/business-strategy-workshop-series/

Lean Canvas isn’t just for Startups

The lean canvas  is a tool used by Startups to model a business idea. There are several versions, but they all have you think through essentially the same things: your customers, how you interact with them, and their problem that you are solving. Further they ask you to outline revenue and costs.

When used properly, it is designed for you to make several lean canvases with different assumptions on each one.

For instance, you may want to make an app for shared rides to and from other-than-school classes (band practice, teams, dance or music lessons). You identify several distinct user groups: after school kids, other than school kids, adults. Each group has different needs, wants and desires. In several cases the user is not the payer – parents pay, but kids get the lift.

A lean canvas is made for each user group and the riskiest bit in each scenario is identified. Those risks are tested to see which of those scenarios is the most likely to succeed. As you do that testing, you will be looking for all feedback that will help you refine your offering. For instance (yes, I played with this one) I thought the riskiest bit would be that parents were afraid to let their kids travel with ‘strangers’ (really just other parents that they could all get to know), but the feedback from parents was that even though they found the driving around irritating, they felt it was a way to show their parental love. That’s a tough one to overcome. If one were to pursue this app, we would have to show how this app would help parents in showing parental love, by maybe pointing out that not driving meant a home cooked meal.

You can see how this is a valuable tool for a startup that is trying to figure their way forward.

Can you use it in your traditional, mature business?

You bet you can!

In fact, you have a huge advantage, because you have access to your customers, right?

Start by making a canvas for each of your product/service offerings and each of your customer groups. for instance, if you had a women’s clothing store, you might have a canvas for business attire, for dressy and for casual. Your customer groups may be business women and retired women. Once you start playing with mixing and matching those, you get a better understanding of which group buys each of your offerings and what they are most interested in with them?

Then ask them. Start by asking them why they come to you. When I asked my bookkeeping customers why they came to me, they didn’t talk about competence, timeliness or adherence to regulations, no, they talked about comfort, relief and assurance. That changed the way I set up my service, how I offered it and the story I told to attract the right customers for me.

Think about your favourite customers. What do they buy? When? How?

How can you do that, only more?

What service is important to them? Back to the women’s clothing store: can you spin that service off as a value-add or as a paid option? Personal buyer, private viewings, trunk shows?

As you can see this is a great tool for strategic thinking for every business. What do you think?

If you would like to learn more, join me for our Lean Canvas is not just for Startups Workshop.

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?

 

Roadblock! The Five Strategies

When the way is blocked, you have several choices: go through, over, under, around or back.

Going through is a power move, it is buying a solution, mandating one or ignoring a person or situation. This is a heavy-handed solution that works best when you know you are right and you are convinced that time will tell. It doesn’t solve the reason for the block, but it will get you past the block this one time and you can fix the reasons later. Or you know the reasons will melt away.

Going over is when you set your sights beyond the current problem and step over it as though it is that molehill, not a mountain. I find that to be the case many times.This usually happens when I feel I must finish one task to take on another and the first task is frustrating. I find when I go on to the next task, the first one turns out to not be so difficult after all.

I find this happens when I am organizing events. Getting speakers to commit and send in all their info is hard to do in enough time to put together schedules and programs in order to start marketing. That’s why you find “TBD” and “more information to follow” on conference websites in the months leading up to the event.

Going under is when you look to the problem underneath the problem – the reason it is there in the first place. A lot of times fixing the underlying problem clears up a bunch of symptom problems.

That often happens with staff. When they say to hire slowly and fire fast – that’s why.

Going around is when you try a whole new way of doing it. You need a fresh view and that usually means bringing in someone else’s perspective. This is where having a mentor or mastermind group is invaluable.

I opened a HUB in my Town and found that people didn’t seem to need the space. The business model is space rental, but in a Town everyone has plenty of room at home. One of my mentors said, “Who else benefits by you bringing business owners into Town?” I looked around and found several other models for how these spaces can be funded.

Going back is when you realize you have hit a dead end. This is pivot time or cut your losses time or chalk it up to experience time. Trying new things is important and we realize they aren’t all going to work out. How do you know if this is a time to persevere and push through or give up? Seth Godin says, in the Dip, if you are making progress, no matter how small, keep going. When you stop making progress, no matter how hard or in how many ways you try, then it is time to give up.

All of these strategies involves stopping and taking stock of where you are and how you are doing. It’s why giving yourself the gift of time away is so important. It’s not a luxury, it is a necessity. It could be your daily meditation session, exercise or other daily ritual. It could be when you walk away from the office to focus on family and friends. It could be immersing in a hobby. It should be regularly scheduled time away. Time apart or away is necessary for recharge etc, but it’s also important to gain those perspectives that come from distance.

What do you do when you hit a roadblock?

Week 4 – Getting Paid Well

This week we will examine our business model; we’ll talk about pricing and tie that in with our marketing.

Our business model is what our business is about – who we help, what results we give them, how we do it and what it costs. We clarify these things so we can test to make sure we have a market and that they want what we are offering at the price we are offering it. We look at how we deliver, what it costs and what people will pay. We test to make sure we can produce enough to make as much as we want. We look for the resources we need to make sure we can do what we say we can.

Pricing isn’t just about covering costs (although that is essential) it is an important part of our marketing. Our price tells people what kind of service we offer and it tells them whether this offering is for them.

Last week Seth Godin posted this:

Seth Godin's Circles of Marketing

 

 

What we offer is at the core of what we do. How we deliver (usability and support) is next important. Price, our story and the community of people who care are the reason we are doing what we do. The outer ring represents the tactics we use to get our story out.

Everything about how we do our business and how we market starts at the centre. We need to be passionate about what we offer; we need to care about our customers and we need to be good at what we do.

 

This week we look at what we do, for whom and how that makes us enough money. This week we look at getting paid well for what we do.