How To Customize Your Internet Business To Succeed

Winning The Battle For Your Prosperity

This is our next installment as we continue the series of instructive posts regarding how to avoid becoming a business statistic. Let me start by saying that I believe everyone who has ever started a business began their pursuit with some emotionally fueled passionate reason as the motivating factor to take the leap. Unfortunately the fact is that over 95% of new online home business owners, mostly due to habit, exchange their passionate pursuit that brought about the entrepreneurial freedom into something more reflective of a jobwhich if left unchecked, is systematically followed by total burn-out and the death of that dream.

When I work with those struggling to make money online it is fairly simple to identify who is stuck in this cycle. When they hit obstacles or have something fail they immediately think “why me?” or “here we go again!” and debate two paths; either to seek another shot of motivational “kool-aid” to get them going again or think about throwing in the towel and giving up. They now look for the easy way to success and feel that the world seems to be stacked against them. In reality, it is not. Their brain software contains programming that is faulty, causing a skewed perspective of both themselves and what they truly want out of life which results in a defeatist attitude. A far cry from the glass half full optimism they once adopted when they first began.

Ask yourself why on the other hand, are there those that have little or no success for years yet never give up their passionate pursuit? Why when seemingly slapped in the face by life, are there people who seem totally undaunted and undeterred? What makes them different and (as a client once asked) since facts back up that it appears to be a pre-requisite to success, where can I get some of that in a bottle?

Let me logically walk you through a typical scenario where you will be able to easily see the cause and effect to help it make sense in your everyday real world. I’ve found that making the case in this way is vitally important to enable you to implement the strategies and get your business equipped to be a mechanism that creates financial and personal fulfillment in your life. The answer lies in how seriously you’ve taken the steps to accurately identify how the motives for the foundation of your business reflect your skills, your abilities and what truly fulfills you. Before you roll your eyes let me show you why this is incredibly important. The accuracy and purity of those motives create the perspective by which you see yourself and are thus reflected in the overall purpose of your business. This is why I’ve said that business growth reflects your personal growth (or lack their of).

Real World Scenario

Let’s look at a very typical scenario. A person who has felt trapped in corporate environment and taken for granted desires to live life on their terms. They are excited about all the possibilities. When they settle on the online business niche, business opportunity or network marketing opportunity as their vehicle they immediately think of how successful they will be since they can finally shine, unencumbered by managers and corporate structure that held them back. After planning which consisted of taking a little more than an afternoon to create some unrealistic scenarios that get them excited about making a large amount of money, they immediately set out to run hard like a pioneer after the Louisiana Purchase, racing west to stake their claim and seek their fortune.

After falling down a few times and learning things the hard way, they begin to think that there’s something wrong with this picture. Surely they’re talented enough. So they reassess & re-adjust their goals become far more honest with themselves with what it might take to be successful. Unfortunately the new goals revolve around desiring purely to make far more money. Now, with that being their only priority, they begin to fall into the “ends justify the means” philosophy and become willing to do anything to get rich because that in their minds equates to success. They then read from others who are caught in the same cycle, that it’s all about how bad you want it and begin the “bull in the china shop” approach as they ram their marketing message down everyone’s throat. Every rejection, every failure and every setback is becoming harder and harder to run from which is how they feel they must deal with negativity in order to stay positive. The once excited business owner begins their spiral into full fledged burn out. If anyone they identify as a potential prospect, customer or partner is anything other than enthusiastically interested in their offering, they begin to feel contempt toward them which begins to show more and more often.

The Slow Business Death & Autopsy

At some point they feel they must have run too fast out of the gate before establishing a foundation however, they feel that they are already on borrowed time. Their impatience causes them to begin searching as many magic potion, magic pill, marketing magic and magic secret products that promise a faster track to riches. After being let down repeatedly, they find that their source of motivation, that drug they use to get them “pumped up” and excited, is no longer sufficient to get them high enough to jump back on their entrepreneurial horse to ride again.

They begin to accept that they’ve been fooling themselves all along. They have spent little or no time with their families and when they do, they are so stressed that they can’t hide it anymore. They end up feeling stupid for ever thinking that they could hope for a different outcome. As they mourn the death of their aspirations, they retool their resume and like a good soldier, re-enter the corporate army promising never to go AWOL again.

It is said that the road to failure is often set out in a direction that’s just 10-degrees off the road to success but after miles have been traveled, you can’t see the successful path from the road to “slow failure” and wonder how you ever got to where you’re standing. I intend to prove to you how, if certain steps were taken in the front end, the direction this scenario took this entrepreneur would not have left them so wayward from reaching their goals.

The Solution Part 1: Customize Your Business To Showcase Your Strengths

I will be imparting this game-changing business construction blueprint in 2 distinct perspectives. We will first begin examining details on the ground level before rising up to 30,000 feet to examine the big picture of your business. It might appear a bit backwards but it will make sense when we’re through.

Start by examining what functions will be required to successfully launch your business (or re-vamp an existing business) along with effectively performing the day to day operations. I want to walk you through a step by step, how to customize your business to play to your strengths while having it fit what you’re naturally motivated to do. You have to begin by taking stock of your strengths and what fulfills you. I’ve found that doing such an inventory is best begun by asking yourself several questions.

What functions would you like to perform that play to your strengths and fulfill you?
Where do your weaknesses lie and what essential business functions do they involve?
What training is available to educate yourself in those areas to improve them?
What areas/functions do not fulfill you or fit with your personality make up that need to be done for your business to be successful?
What resources are available to partner with that can do the heavy lifting when it comes to those functions?

These are the type of questions you want to ask yourself in each dimension of your business. Once you have taken the time to answer these questions, you should then have a list of strengths & weaknesses followed by functions that are affected by each. Those functions will be divided into those that fulfill you, those that are less fulfilling but could be done once self-educated and finally those functions that you choose to out-source.

Your first of two actions steps will then be to educate yourself how to learn to effectively perform the first 2 categories of functions as proficiently as possible. The next action step will be to do your due-diligence to find an optimal plan of partnering with either a free/cheap resource, a reputable professional outsourcing service or a networked contact to perform those functions in a win-win or bartering arrangement.

The greatest overlooked advantage of taking the time to be patient, downshift and strategically plan your business foundation is the control & freedom it provides. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about an Internet/affiliate marketing business, online network marketing business or any home business started to earn money online. When you take the time to custom create your business to play to your strengths, educates your functional weaknesses and delegates the mundane and torturous duties, you have learned the secret of building a successful business that uniquely fits you. When you think about it, why, when given such freedom would you ever do the things you absolutely hate and aren’t wired to excel at.

This methodology will then be woven into your business plan. Understand that when you begin you don’t know what you don’t know yet and there will be functions that you first desired to learn to perform which you later determine to be better outsourced. Believe it or not, this is also true with those functions that you originally determine to outsource. I know plenty of those who originally wanted to outsource their blog posts who, after seeing it as a great way to personally connect with their target market, actually found the function to be one that they grew to love performing.

Part 2: The Big Picture & Your Mission

The second focus that needs to be dealt with is concerning your business’s big picture. A 2-4 sentence mission statement is absolutely imperative to your success whether you are marketing yourself or providing a service. That is; to define what your business is intended to accomplish for your target market, (other than making you money) that enables you to connect with your business purpose emotionally. It empowers you to psychologically get behind your business and champion it as your passionate purpose, reflecting the unique identity or who you are. Many preach that the main reason for doing this is to brand yourself uniquely in the market place. I say that’s crap. This is your plum line. This essentially plots the course of your business that will keep you from veering that 10degrees which threatens pull you and your business off course.

As you begin making strategic decisions about your business you will be looking at those decisions to determine if they in fact line up with your original purpose you’ve laid out. It also becomes your anchor when you hit obstacles. When you face several failures in succession, it becomes your battle cry that is woven into the fabric of who you are. Desiring to merely “get rich” or “make more money” cannot provide this type of motivational conviction. No, this is my friends is your noble cause.

Conclusion

I have learned that if you lay out your passionate purpose in this way, with this focus, for these reasons, the byproduct will be that you will brand yourself far more accurately and effectively than just some slogan and be far more financially successful as a direct result. It doesn’t matter if you are launching your new online business or re-vamping a current business opportunity.

As you proceed you find yourself further and further away from your originally intended path. A new course correction will breathe new life into your business if you follow the 2 stage blueprint laid out above and reconnect you with the passion you first had when you first struck out on this journey. If you cannot do so within your current business model then you need to find one where you can to avoid the same slow death as those that have gone before. Remember, you’re an entrepreneur; you’re in full control and have the freedom to stop on a dime, discard any dead weight that deemed to serve no function in advancing toward your mission and charge forward with your customized passionate purpose.

Down Markets and Business Growth Walls

It’s tough to build a business in a down market, and to grow past certain business size ‘walls,’

How can business owners best operate in a down market?

Business owners looking to sell their business need to pay attention to the markets. That seems to be a pretty obvious thing and maybe even a trite statement.

We’re working with one business which is down 20 percent, who had an offer on the table in December, and would have closed then based on trailing 12 months and forgetting the 20 percent down.

She thinks the business internally is just worth more than that and she’s decided to hold out.

The fact is her trailing 12 months is going to continue to trail down. She’s in an industry where it’s affected by the economy; a good part of it is discretionary. She probably turned down the highest price she’s going to see on that business at least in the next several years.

Regarding operating a business, it’s easy to say plan ahead, that’s obviously the advice in a nutshell, but what does that mean? It means conservative financing of the business.

The bankruptcy numbers are disproportionately high now due to those businesses that use leverage to buy a business or manage to borrow more money in the course of operating the business.

When the margins squeeze, when the business revenue cuts down 30 or 40 percent, all of a sudden you can’t service the debt.

So it’s conservative business standards, and for most business owners we don’t have to tell them that. Small and middle market business owners don’t like that trip to the bank. They only go there when they have to. They’re guarding against the excessive capitalization of the business, excessive debt in the business.

The debt in most businesses exceeds the equity. There’s nothing wrong with that, that’s normal, but it depends on how much it exceeds the equity.

Let me translate that to the equity in the private business. In small and middle market private business, family and friends was the traditional thing.

In the last up cycle, private equity groups became a dominant player. I’m pretty confident that private equity groups this year own about 48 percent of the capitalization of the mid market. And by mid market, I’m not talking about the public mid market, that’s a sliver of companies.

I’ve studied businesses with revenue greater than $5 million but less than $500 million. If you were to capitalize that whole market, private equity groups rather than individuals will now own about 48 percent of that market. It’s a very different market than it was six or eight years ago.

Speaking of market walls or business growth walls. Does this to mean that there are barriers to companies reaching certain sizes.

In the mid market, businesses with revenue $5 million to $500 million, there are only about 350,000 of those in this country, 350,000 out of 27 million businesses.

Let me rephrase that in another way. There are 27 million businesses in the United States currently. Only 350,000 of those have revenue more than $5 million. That’s a huge wall, getting over the $5 million dollar mark.

So 97 percent of the businesses in the United States have less than $5 million in revenue. I think that’s prima facie evidence that walls to growth exist.

I also break the middle market into lower middle, mid middle and upper middle. If I broke it, for example, at $10 million rather than $5 million, 125,000 of those businesses would be all that remains.

So we look at revenue greater than $10 million, 125,000 businesses in this country. That wall between lower middle and mid middle is very steep. And, again, the wall from mid middle up to the upper, and the upper middle market, there’s only about 12,000 companies.

Some of us overcome these walls but the odds are very much against us.

For twenty-five years, Marian Cook [http://www.businesstransitionexperts.com/education-at-your-desktop-premium] has been a trusted advisor to the hundreds of owners and executives worldwide whom she has helped to improve business performance and value. She has worked globally with firms ranging in size from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. She has helped them develop and execute their strategies, realize their goals, and maximize their businesses’ valuations and their transitions to new ownership.

Are You Prepared For Your Business

While you can never have 100% of the details and permutations worked out ahead of time you can have a framework available for dealing with crisis events, a plan for the essential business functions, and contractual arrangements in place for critical requirements for your business, at the very least.

When most people think of Business Continuity Planning1, they consider that if their Information Technology Department has a plan for disaster recovery then they have addressed business continuity. While for many businesses these days IT plays an essential role in supporting the business, your business’ actual requirements for continuity are usually much more than just IT.

The recent events in April and May 2010 in Bangkok meant that many businesses, their staff, their customers and the general public experienced disruptions which many had not experienced before.

In reality, only certain physical locations of Bangkok were directly affected, while the vast majority of people in the rest of Bangkok and the country tried to continue with their lives and businesses. However, many found that as Silom and Sathorn were directly affected some businesses in those areas virtually shut down for a 2-3 week period, with some for longer than this. As the business district, the affects of the disruption on these businesses were felt much wider.

For example, one of the smaller retail bank’s head office is in the one of the areas most affected by the events of April/May and for security reasons the physical access to the building was very restricted. This meant that their staff could not get access to their office and documents. While the bank’s branch IT systems were operating, some business functions such as loans were adversely affected. I am aware of a couple who had to put their house sale on hold for 2 weeks as the loan officer of this retail bank could not get access to the loan documentation he needed in the head office. The purchaser and the purchaser’s bank were not affected and were ready to go ahead with the sale and purchase. The delay ended up costing the couple 2 weeks extra in interest because the bank could not complete the transaction on time. The couple is bitter about this bank’s lack of business continuity planning regarding access to the head office and the bank’s total disregard of the couple’s position by charging them interest on the loan for that period, while clearly it was the bank at fault.

So in this example, the bank’s IT systems were not affected but the inability to gain physical access to the office and a hard copy of documents meant that certain business functions could not continue. When you undertake a business continuity planning project, the business needs to identify the essential business functions and the period of time before a disruption has a detrimental affect on the business. Usually this high level discussion takes place with the stakeholders and senior executives, who are more aware of the impact of certain consequences, such bad publicity, public embarrassment, lack of communication or no clear communication, legal or regulatory compliance default, etc. Generally these consequences are sometimes hard to quantify into monetary terms but can have a greater effect on the business and its reputation.

In my experience, businesses do not clearly identify their essential business functions, then walkthrough these functions to determine what the requirements to support them are. This is mainly because this takes time and requires very busy senior executives to be involved in the discussions and decision making process. Many businesses are looking for a quick fix to their business continuity issues. The more diverse your business or complex your functions interactions with other parties (i.e. internal and external to the organisation), the more time the business should spent contemplating the business impact analysis2 (BIA) before putting a plan in place.

A number of people have suggested a business continuity plan is like insurance. If you have it, it gives you peace of mind. But you do not really need to use it until you have a crisis and by then it is too late. And if you need to use the plan, it better be up to date and achieve what you want, otherwise it will give you false hope.

I have seen businesses copy another business continuity plan and basically only change the cover, or buy a software application tool which takes a couple hours to produce a business continuity plan. In both of these cases, the plan did not bear close scrutiny from an experienced business continuity professional but were superficial in appearance to get a “tick” from the auditors. However, generally the auditors these days will also ask, “when was the last time you properly tested your business continuity plan?” But the key point is the plan would not have achieved what the business required in a crisis and the impact to the business would not have been minimised.

So a few of my suggestions are:

- to make sure you have a business continuity plan which has been based on a recent business impact analysis

- to check when the last time your business continuity plan was updated. Most plans need some revision each year and should take into account any significant changes in the business, organisational structure, systems, customer services, etc

- to ensure that you have a copy of the business continuity plan in an offsite location should you be unable to enter your primary office location

- to ask when was the last time the business continuity plan or parts of it, such as the disaster recovery plan (DRP3), tested. There should be testing performed at least each year as this helps

familiarise your staff with what is needed to be done and what to expect, and generally also identifies changes that need to be made to the plan which tend to go otherwise unnoticed

- to check whether your plan is comprehensive enough. Most business continuity plans are made up of several plans or sections. For example, you will usually have a plan for crisis management, and health and safety, i.e. dealing with an event, how to assess the crisis, who should be involved, and how to make sure everyone is accounted for and safe. Out of a crisis assessment, it may be decided to invoke the business continuity plan, such as moving to an alterative business location. – An example of this, was that one of my clients had a call centre in a building. An office two floors above had a fire and everyone was evacuated from the building. An immediate crisis assessment determined that it was going to take most of the day for the fire department to extinguish the fire and declare the building safe to reoccupy. Also given the location of the fire, the fire department mentioned potential water damage to the offices of floors directly below. So they determined very quickly to invoke their business continuity plan which included rerouting incoming customer calls to the alternative switch board and sending essential staff to the alternative office location. All other staff were asked to go home and work from home, if required. All key performance indicators (KPIs) for the business were still met. Fortunately the water damage was not that extensive and they were back in the primary location by the end of the following day.

- if you really want peace of mind, then you should ask an experienced business continuity professional to review your business and business continuity plan. It generally takes a third party who is experienced enough to ask the key questions and identify the shortfalls in your plan.

Are you feeling confident that you are prepared? Or should you take some action to prepare before a crisis event?

Legend

1. Business continuity plan or BCP is usually a set of plans which as a minimum address the business requirements for essential business functions in a crisis or disaster situation and the recovery of the functions back to business as usual. The objective being that if the business continues to operate its essential business functions for a definite period under a BCP the impact on the business is minimised and any effects will be tolerable.

2. Business impact analysis (BIA) or sometimes referred to as a business impact assessment, is the exercise of determining how much “pain” or adverse impact can the business sustain and for what period of time; what are the essential business functions; what are the requirements of the essential business functions to keep operating; and when does the business need to be back to operating as business as usual.

3. Disaster recovery plan or DRP is usually a term used for the plan for dealing with a disaster and recovery of IT systems and services. The plan is usually very comprehensive, such as addressing the method of backup and the offsite storage of backup electronic files; storage of key hard copy documents; the recovery of operating systems and supporting software, application software, and data; and covering contractual arrangements, hardware, network and communications, people, support services and secondary operating site (if applicable).