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What can the judges of Shark Tank teach small business owners? It turns out, a lot. In part two of this two-part video, I share some of their best pointers, explore the wisdom behind their advice and offer tips on how we can apply their advice to our daily lives.

Shark Tank is a reality TV show that originated from the United States. Budding entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their business ideas to investors in the panel—the so-called Sharks in the Tank.

In part 1, I explored business advice shared by the male Sharks: Robert Herjavec, Mark Cuban and Kevin O’Leary. In this episode, I now share wisdom from the female Sharks. Here’s what they have to say.

Lori Greiner: Do the market research yourself

Lori Greiner is an American inventor and entrepreneur. In 1996, she created and patented her first product, which was eventually picked up by a large retailer and started her entrepreneurial career. She is involved in venture capital investing, product design consulting, and television production. Her net worth stands at US$100 million.

What she does: Before Greiner launched her first product, an earring organiser, to the market, she did her own market research. She didn’t just rely on family and frieds to give her feedback. She went to all different neighborhoods and showed a prototype to people on the street. Then, she asked them to fill out a simple, basic questionnaire: Would you buy this? How much would you pay for it? Do you like it? From those responses, she knew that she had a product that she could sell.

Why she thinks this advice is important: Greiner believes that every successful product addresses a need or a pain point. This is why market research is important—because it allows you, the business owner, to understand what your customers want.

What happened: Doing her own market research paid off. Her earring organiser sold out in 4 minutes after showing it in home TV shopping show.

Greiner teaches us that the success of any product or business lies in our understanding of our customers. We cannot offer a product or a solution to their pain point if we don’t understand their problems. Greiner also teaches us that we cannot rely on other people to find out about our customer pain points. To understand what our customers want and need, we need to consistently communicate with them. When we listen to our customers and we find ways to address their concerns through our products and services, then we are likely to retain them, which will help grow our business further.

In my video, “How to find out what customers want,” I share 3 ways on how to find out what your customers want and need—and it all boils down to communicating and listening intently what your customers are saying.

Barbara Corcoran: Take time to have fun

Barbara Corcoran is a real estate mogul, who began her career in 1970s. She co-founded her first real estate company with her then-boyfriend in 1973, and eventually formed The Corcoran Group when they split. In 2001, she sold her business for US$66 million. Her net worth stands at US$80 million.

What she does: Corcoran loves taking vacations and planning for fun. She plans get togethers with friends. And her secret to solving a creativity block? Going out to a great store, going to a museum, or riding her bike in Central Park in New York City where she lives.

Why she thinks this advice is important: Corcoran believes that having fun prevents burnouts. And doing something other than sitting on a desk makes you creative. And even when her busy schedule prevents her from taking a long vacation, getting together with friends gives her a “mental vacation,” that she says has helped her manage stress.

What happened: Her impressive work ethic matched by her ability to keep herself creative has made her one of the most successful women in the USA.

Corcoran describes herself as a very focused business person, which is why she was able to build an empire. But she also recognises the importance of recovering from stressful days by making time for fun—in her words, taking a “mental vacation” that takes her away from work. The key is to acknowledge that business owners are people—we are not robots that can work 24/7 all of the time. And even then, robots and machines need their downtime, too, for maintenance. We need to be in tiptop shape if we want to operate at peak levels, which means we need to make time for rest and recreation, too. 

In my video, “Maximising the best asset in your business,” I explore how business owners can step back from the daily grind but still be able to productive. The key is to rest and to find ways to spark creativity.

Sara Blakely: Start with “Why” and continue to lead with “Why?”

Sara Blakely is known worldwide as the woman behind Spanx, an American intimate apparel company, which she founded in 2000. Her net worth stands at US$1.1 billion.

What she does: When starting out a business, focus on why you set out to do this in the first place. Focus on the personal and professional goals that you wanted to achieve—and what made you desire to be in the business that you are in.

Why she thinks this advice is important: Your desire points to a purpose. And your purpose provides a motivation and a direction to continue on when the going gets tough.

What happened: Sara Blakely is inventor and founder of Spanx—like Greiner, she began her career as an entrepreneur with a single product that she knew would address a customer pain point. In the early stages of Spanx, she acknowledges how difficult it was to find a company that would sell her product. When the going got tough for her, she focuses on her “why” to get her going.

Blakely expresses what we all need to succeed: purpose. Why are we doing what we do? The simple question makes it easy to see whether our decisions, our actions, and even our thoughts contribute towards accomplishing our goals. It also provides us with something to hold on to when things do not go our way.

In my video, “4 traits you need to succeed in business,” I explore why Purpose, one of these 4 traits, is essential for success. Another entrepreneur, Elon Musk, explains how purpose drives his decisions to succeed.

What I like about the advice from the female Sharks is that it gives counsel to business owners in different stages of their entrepreneurial journey, Greiner tells us what we should do before starting a business or before offering a new product or service—begin with the customers in mind by asking them what they need or want. Both Corcoran and Blakely advice on what we can do when things get stressful or difficult—take a breather and hold on to your purpose.  

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

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A growing number of business owners and experts believe that gratitude is fast becoming a powerful business strategy. In this video, I explore why using gratitude as a business strategy might be worthwhile for you.

What is gratitude?

Gratitude defined is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.” Having a gratitude mindset means that we develop the thinking that our business or businesses have the ability not only to change our own lives, but also the lives of others for the better.

When we have a gratitude mindset, business becomes more about our customers, our crew, and our community, and less about money and profits. Being grateful essentially keeps you in a positive frame of mind by training you to focus on what you HAVE and what you CAN do.

Will implementing gratitude as a business strategy pay?

The short answer is yes—because people value those who care about them and their well-being.

  1. Consumers care when brands genuinely care. In a recent Havas Meaningful Brands Survey, it was found that 75% of global consumers expect brands to contribute to their well-being and quality of life.
  2. Companies that invest in employees implement policies that consider their values and well-being have happier and more productive employees.
  3. Consumers believe that companies can be both profitable and socially responsible. In a recent Edelman TrustBarometer survey, 75% of global consumers believe that companies can increase profits while improving economic and social conditions in their community.

How do you use gratitude as a business strategy?

Focus on what you have:

1. Focus on your team. In your quest to look at the gratitude mindset for your business, focus on your team—focusing on their strengths, their contributions, their overall well-being. Acknowledge their contributions for your business’s success. Formulate policies that consider your staff’s well-being.

2. Focus on your customers. How we treat our customers is a reflection on how we view them—if we strive to delight them, it shows that we love and appreciate them. Trying to understand their pain points and finding real solutions shows our appreciation.

If you authentically appreciate your people (by recognizing them for meaningful contributions) and value customers (by thanking them for doing business with you), your people will begin to understand the importance of gratitude in business.

Focus on what you can do:

1. Focus on goals. Set attainable goals for yourself and work towards them in everything you do. When you accomplish your goal, allow yourself to be grateful for the work you’ve put in and for the commitment you were able to keep in order to achieve your goals.

2. Focus on strengths. Committing to identifying the strengths in others and praising those individuals will strengthen your relationships and allow you to appreciate yourself on a stronger, higher level as well. When people notice that you thank them for their efforts, they’ll naturally work even harder to please you in the future. They may even start thanking you for your good work!

Conclusion:

Gratitude tempers our ambition to succeed in business by allowing us to recognize the people who help us along the way. It also provides meaning and purpose to why we continue to be in business. After all, life is not about how much you earn in the end, it is about the journey and how you use the resources your business brings into your life to live.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

For most startups, the name of the game is disruption. Winning means changing the rules, bucking the trend, and coming up with a novel product that the market has not seen or heard of before. Disruptions seem scary for small business owners. Questions like, how will it affect my business? Will it put me out of business?

In this video, I explore the sources of these disruptions and show how small businesses can ride the wave of change.

Where do disruptions come from?

Disruptions come from change. The common reasons given are changes in consumer lifestyles, changes in preferences, technological innovations, etc. However, the real reason why disruptions exist is because businesses are finding increasingly innovative ways to address customer pain points.

Think about it. Why would consumer lifestyles or preferences change? Why would the average consumer in 2008, for example, shift from a Nokia phone to an Apple iPhone or the latest Android smartphone? Why would we suddenly prefer booking a room through Airbnb instead of a hotel chain? Why would we suddenly stop owning VCRs and CD players and choose streaming services like Netflix and Spotify instead?

Disruptions are merely better solutions to existing pain points. They provide convenient alternatives to the status quo. It’s a better product. Period.

How do you survive disruptions?

Keeping in mind why disruptions exist, here are a few things to consider to survive disruptions.

  • Talk to your customers.

Study their buying habits. Find their pain points. How can you improve their lives? How can you make transacting with you more convenient or more enjoyable? Do they have a need that current products or services do not address—but perhaps you can with some tweaks in your offerings?

  • Experiment when you can.  

Ask your staff about how they think a process can be improved. What if you do something differently with your current systems? Is there anything you can do to streamline current processes to make them simpler ad more effective?

  • Invest in yourself and your people.

What do you need to know to drive your business’s growth? What kind of training will you need? What kind of support and guidance would help you drive your business goals?

How can my business be the disrupter in the market?

Perhaps, the more important question to ask is how you can disrupt the market. Put differently, how do you offer a better solution to customer pain points?

Startups have the ability to observe customer pain points and find new and better ways to address these. Do you know why? Because they start out with an outlook to find a solution to a pain point. They have the ability to design products that solve existing problems. To do that, one starts by adopting an innovative mindset. In a previous video, I discuss how small businesses can adopt an innovative mindset.

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

Growth is a good thing—until it is not. In this video, I discuss why growth for the sake of growth may be a bad idea for your company—and what you can focus on instead.

What is good—and what is wrong—about growth?

One of the more common growth strategies include product lines extension and business diversification. The idea is simple—offer something else or something more to your existing consumer base to increase your revenue. Many global brands and companies have used these strategies to their advantage. The idea is simple: offer something else or something more to your existing customer base to increase your revenue.

A product line extension entails using a popular and established brand name for a new item in the same product category. A successful example of this strategy is Diet Coke, which is a product line extension of Coke.

Diversification, on the other hand, entails entering into additional markets or using a different pricing strategy. Amazon, for example of successfully diversified its offerings when it launched Amazon Prime, Kindle and Alexa. Amazon Prime offered a premium delivery service for a fee, while Kindle and Alexa are two products that extended Amazon’s offerings.

Diet Coke, Amazon Prime, Kindle and Alexa all strong arguments for the viability of these growth strategies. Done well, product line extensions and diversification can lead to growth.

However, these strategies aren’t fool-proof—and they can especially lead to a financial disaster if a company uses it merely to grow without concern for how this affects the company’s overall operations or how its customers will respond to these strategies.

One example of a failed product line extension is the New Coke. The New Coke was meant to compete head to head with Pepsi. To do so, the New Coke was formulated to taste exactly like Pepsi. This left Coke fans confused—and Pepsi fans remained loyal to their brand. The product was pulled out of the market after suffering severe losses.

The Amazon Fire Phone is considered as one of—if not THE most expensive mistakes Amazon has ever made—in fact, it made US$170 million in losses. While the idea of the world’s largest online retailer launching a phone made sense in its early stages, it quickly became apparent that the phone did not meet the needs of its users, despite its many features.

If I don’t focus on growth, what should I do instead?

New Coke and Fire Phone are perfect examples to the phrase—just because you can do it doesn’t mean you should. Having a goal to grow is not necessarily bad—but growing for the sake of growth can hurt more than benefit you and your business. And many times, focusing on something else—something more important—may be what you need in your business.

What can you focus on instead?

  • Focus on what you do.

I can appreciate why one would want to diversify—don’t we always say that we should not put all of our eggs in one basket? That said, we also need to choose which baskets we put our eggs into.

Before we diversify, for example, we need to ask ourselves several questions. Do we have the expertise to diversify and offer a different product or service? Does it make financial sense to offer this different product or service? Do we have the equipment and infrastructure to support this?? Do we have the labour resources? Do we understand enough about the new market we will be entering to know what market wants?

If you find yourself responding with a “No” to any of these questions, perhaps it’s a reminder that we do not always need to diversify right now. Maybe what we need to do is to focus on what we do well—and find ways to improve on that.

  • Focus on what works.

You do not need to reinvent the wheel—especially if the current solutions or offerings work well. The New Coke was meant—in the company’s terms—to reinvigorate the market by offering a new formula. Unfortunately, Coke’s fans did not like this new formula—and openly protested that there was never a need to reformulate to begin with.

When we implement something new, are we offering a better product? Are we introducing a simpler solution? Or are we messing up with a formula or product that already works? Are we trying to reinvent something that doesn’t need reinvention? Are we changing things merely to introduce something new?

  • Focus on your customers.

What Amazon and Coke teaches us is that the best strategies and the best products are the ones that keep the customers happy. Diet Coke works because it provided an alternative for Coke fans who wanted or needed to cut back on sugar. Amazon Prime, Kindle and Alexa provided Amazon customers convenience—a better way to enjoy the products they bought from Amazon.

The New Coke and Amazon Fire also remind us that new features and supposedly improved formulas don’t always lead to products that existing customers will love.

The line that separates Diet Coke, Amazon Prime, Kindle and Alexa from New Coke and Amazon Fire can perhaps be defined by this question: who was the product designed for?

Are you offering a new product and service with customers in mind? Are you diversifying to offer better solutions or to make things more convenient for your customers?

If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.

Read more >

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BeF979QvpaU&feature=youtu.be[/youtube] Is running your own business starting to wear you down? Do you feel more exhausted and more fatigued lately? In this video, I discuss one of the biggest challenges that business owners face today—entrepreneurial exhaustion and how you can overcome that.  Why is entrepreneurial exhaustion bad for business?  Investopedia.com lists entrepreneurial fatigue as one of the biggest challenges business owners face today. Medical studies have shown that stress and exhaustion can lead to mental fatigue or brain fog. Symptoms of brain fog include low energy, irritability, trouble concentrating, headaches, forgetfulness, low motivation—even feeling mildly depressed, anxiety, confusion and insomnia. Ask yourself this question: what happens to you when you feel tired and fatigued? Fatigue can impact how we behave throughout the day. More serious fatigue can lead to rash decisions about the business, including the desire to abandon it completely. In short, fatigue is bad for business. What can you do to overcome exhaustion?

  1. Learn how to recover
Many athletes understand the importance of recovery (interesting article here). Recovery means taking pause or resting after participating in a grueling race—or even after the stress of a regular workout. Recovery helps prevent muscle burnout. And just like athletes, business owners need to recover, too, to help manage stress and prevent burnout. Recovery doesn’t just involve sleeping or resting—it involves taking part in other activities that can restore your general disposition or health. Having a hobby is a good way to recover. Traveling can also help one recover. Taking a daily walk or having weekly coffee with a friend can help clear your mind and help you manage your business better. Let’s take a page out of how billionaire Bill Gates de-stresses—he reads an hour before turning in at night and claims that reading has helped him manage his stress. It has also helped him sleep better at night. Warren Buffett, one of the richest men in the world, plays the ukulele when he feels fatigued. Many studies have shown that reading and playing instruments help manage fatigue and stress. Sheryl Sandberg of Facebook offers a practical solution to making sure that one finds time to recover every evening—she turns off her mobile phone.
  1. Look after yourself.
Your are not a machine.  Business operations require a good dose of methodical and creative thought processes in order to resolve its daily challenges. A tired mind will find making decisions challenging and difficult—being tired due to lack of sleep and lack of proper nutrition may even cloud your mind. If you run a creative design firm, for example, you would want your employees to come in every morning in tiptop shape and ready to take on any creative challenge. It’s the same with your own business—your mind and your body needs to be in tiptop shape in order to keep your business in tiptop shape, too. Taking care of yourself involves sleeping well and eating well. It also involves taking care of your general health—exercising helps, too. How do famous entrepreneurs take time out of their business schedules to take care of themselves? Oprah Winfrey spends 20 minutes a day to meditate, while Huffington Post’s Ariana Huffington makes time for early morning yoga. Jack Dorsey of Twitter spends an hour a day walking to work so he can step back from the stress of emails and meetings.
  1. Don’t try to do everything yourself: Pass it on or just ‘Pass it on’  
It you find that you have too many things on your plate, look into the idea of delegation and outsourcing. This may be difficult, even trying initially—but those who do it properly see that it pays in the long run. Delegating tasks or outsourcing some areas of your business may save you a lot of time—time that you need to focus on the important areas of your business, such as planning and strategy, instead of you having to worry about its day-to-day operations. If you are interested to know more about what a business has to go through when facing exponential growth, you can download the first chapter of the book, ”$20K to $20 Million in 2 Years” absolutely free here. The chapter talks about the differences between a good and a great business and puts out questions that make you consider how you can turn your business from good to great.  

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