How to Grow Business – Think Beyond Yourself

The economy has caused millions of people to be spun out of the system. Many have given up trying to find their way back in. Others seek to permanently forgo the security that a job offers and try to depend on themselves by starting a business.

If you’re seeking to provide your own safety net, are you looking to create a job for yourself that only you can fire yourself from- or do you envision creating a thriving enterprise that you direct, nurture and grow?

There is a great TED talk you might enjoy by Simon Sinek that may give you an entirely new focus on life and how you fit in it.

I recommend you spend the few minutes he takes to explore the essence of how the great change agents of our time think and how the same focus may just help you find the next beth path in your life.

 

Enjoy.

 

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The world is more uncertain than ever. How do you cope?

Uncertainty and the worry of what might happen frightens more people into standing still than living the life they want. Hoping and praying they just get through life relatively unscathed they don’t appreciate the possibilities they are giving up to the unknown.
At times the outward threats to our well being carry higher than normal risk.

Last weekend I was reading the latest unordered issue of Barron’s that gets dropped in my driveway every Saturday morning. It’s a fabulous financial tabloid and makes for serious reading.

In it I learned that this “recovery” is about 52 months long- and that it is very close to the longest ever on record.  They were speculating much longer it could go.

Think about that.

Many businesses are recovering but still squeezed and less prepared for a downturn than the last one. Way too many people never got the sense of security that the good times ever returned. They’ve lost that feeling of security, never to fully return.

Can the economy really be running out of steam already? And whether you are a business owner or wage earner, how will you keep it all together when it does?

I’m convinced that security like happiness is a mind game. Have you wrestled with your reality lately? What plays out in our heads takes what we experience in the outside world and runs it through the filters of our feelings, beliefs and fears. It’s a fiction of our own making salted with some facts.

What we actually cope with is the world according to us. The good news is we can do a better job shaping that world.  Try tempering that uncertainty by acknowledging the worst that could happen – and figure out how to survive it. Rarely is it nearly as bad as it looks from a distance.

Start squeezing the uncertainty fear from your thinking.

Your life may not depend on it but your living does.

To a better tomorrow,

Lee

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How to Grow Business – Find customers with pain you can relieve who want it done

Maybe I can’t relate to the group think of large companies, but the rules of business engagement are the same for everybody. They don’t change just because your big company is full of intellectual people.

I would be interested in knowing how you would handle this dilemma. Over many months I have been working with a client to help produce a thought leadership piece. Because the theme continues to change it is still undone.

As a content writer whose goal is to reach to to a reader and grab their attention by striking an emotional chord, I have not been able to get on the same page as the client who wants an important piece to distribute. There is a difference between making a point and just saying words. They have a fear of confronting the major sticking point of making any progress in business because it points to themselves. Engaged and respected leaders make the right things happen. Absent that mediocre and wrong things happen instead.

The solution to just about any problem is fix the leadership and align it to company goals that the whole organization can get behind. The growing challenges in global business (and government) will be solved by leaders who walk the walk not just talk the talk. When every decision is based upon remaining employed today while sacrificing the company’s (or country’s)  future, how can we expect the right decisions to be developed, implemented and carried out?

If your customer is afraid to face their problems no matter who they point to, then you will never provide them the solution they really need.

Save time, effort and anxiety. Find people you can help who are ready to be helped.

Happy Thanksgiving to my U.S. friends,

Lee

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How to Grow Business – Embrace the Unknown

My father became a late-in-life entrepreneur at 51.  It was his choice- not a forced alternative to downsizing like so many of today’s displaced middle aged folks.

Now nearly 88 and years past the time he sold the business, he pines for the days of waking up to tackle the day’s problems and challenges in his business.  He openly talks about missing the feeling of being engaged, tested and in the thick of every day living.

He loves to tell stories about the amazing things he accomplished and I like to still hear them. The most impressive ones begin with him receiving an order from a customer and not knowing at the moment how he would get them filled- but he had the confidence (and the track record) to believe he could figure it out.

It follows the simple adage I’ve heard so often in life- “just get the order, we’ll figure out the details later.”

That’s what customers paid him handsomely to do. While others ran away from the tough projects and instead looked for the easy work, he specialized in the work nobody wanted to touch.  While they were afraid of the unknown – he embraced it because he knew the unknown was where the opportunities to make the money reside.

Though I haven’t found the big paydays like he has, I have discovered the same thing. If I focus on doing only what I know today, I limit my opportunity and the chance to grow my knowledge.

My last project was a similar test for me. Except that what should have been one of the easiest parts of it turned out to be the bearish problem I never expected. It pushed me to my limits and consumed huge amounts of precious time. It required me to simply stick it out,  try different solutions and be patient  even as my patience wore thin as I slowly chipped away at the problem. I always believe I can figure anything out- but this one almost embarrassed me. But my persistence paid. Bit by bit I inched closer to a solution over a period of days, not hours. Finally, my efforts won the day- a solution was discovered- or should I say stumbled upon and customer was very happy.

The unknown is filled with potential disaster interlaced with opportunity. Reach out and embrace it. The satisfaction of kicking its butt is the source of true accomplishment.

To your success,

Lee

 

Black Lion Marketing

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How to Grow Business – Be a problem solver

The note I wrote in my nephew’s graduation card this week applies to businesspeople as well so I thought I would share the story.

As sometimes happens with young people in high school their abilities exceed the pace of the curriculum and instead of pushing for more challenging things to do, they disengage almost entirely- just doing enough to get by.

In hopes of inspiring my nephew who is loaded with curiosity about how things work and has a mind for engineering I simply wrote this on the left inside flap of his card…

“The world is full of people who see problems but is woefully short of people willing to solve them. Use all the skills and talents you’ve been given to become the problem solver I know you can be.”

I recommend you do the same for people in your sphere of doing business. Become the problem solver you can be- and find people who need your solutions.

To your success.

Lee
Lee Schwarz Black Lion Marketing

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How to grow business – find new ways to do old things

dandelionSqueezing natural rubber from weeds. At my house, dandelions are weeds that choke out the preferred grasses in the lawn.

However while I was working on an assignment for a client I learned that their is a Russian variety that was found to contain natural rubber- and that discovery was made jointly by the US and Russia during World War II nearly 70 years ago.

Last year a company received a patent for a process to mechanically harvest that rubber from the lowly dandelion. With predictions that shortages would occur by 2020, this new technology while late is coming when it will be needed most.

One has to wonder, how does someone stumble across a 70 year old idea and then turn it into a new potential moneymaker?

When your mind is open and alert to solutions to problems that have your attention, great discoveries can happen. In our world of moment by moment entertainment or distraction, we fail to let our minds simply wander in the quiet. Somehow we’ve come to believe that our senses need outside stimulation form the time we get up to the time we go to bed. In doing so we miss great opportunities to harness the power of our unique thoughts.

How much time if any do you spend “thinking” without distraction?

Could life be better if you did more?

Dedicated to successful living,

Lee

 

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How to Grow Business – Keep your Communications Current

Most people have heard the expression “don’t be like the cobbler whose kids had no shoes.”

I certainly have- and here it is two months since my last post on my own blog. Followers interested in what you have to say become disengaged when you’re quiet for too long.

I create content all day long for clients. Turning ideas into productive assets is the closest thing to spinning straw into gold you can get. Advertising, case studies, blog posts, web sites, newsletters, charitable appeals- I even do a 10 minute spot once a week on a local radio show that I thoroughly enjoy but I’m beginning to find the four hours of prep and travel each week is cutting into time that should be spent doing other, higher value tasks.

It occurred to me that while I am completely my own voice in content from my business, I am mostly the voice of the content I create for everyone else. There are some cases where clients really want me to make their content more readable, more engaging to their target but then they edit it back to sound like their same old stuff- rigid, overly formal and missing the opportunity to make a strong point.

The experience I’ve been fortunate enough to accumulate in the worlds of manufacturing, creating businesses and real estate brings immediate value to the clients I serve in those arenas. I’ve been in their shoes, faced similar dilemmas and most importantly I understand more than most other writers how their business operates.

It’s so easy to become consumed in serving them- and why pushing their marketing forward at all times, marketing my business comes second.  Which brings me back to the original question- are you too busy to make shoes for your kids?

As I council my clients, marketing is an ongoing process of building momentum with each step building upon the last. Make sure you have a marketing plan for your business and steadfastly follow it.

Have a productive week,

Lee

Lee Schwarz - Black Lion Marketing - How to Grow Business

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Is Perfectionism killing your dreams?

Perfectionism kills…

  • good ideas
  • growing momentum
  • your best intentions
  • a competitive advantage
  • time that could otherwise have been productive
  • your business before it ever gets started
  • dreams of a better life

How many people have you met obsessed with worry that their professional reputation  might be sullied by something they do or say that is not perfect? Too many I suspect.  It keeps them from moving forward- in their job, their business and their life.

I’m talking about failure to launch because the stars aren’t aligned or the marketing is not just right or a thousand other details that are important but not critical.

There is not a business in the world that runs perfectly. Many do however seek optimum performance through continuous improvement but that’s a topic for another day.

Six sigma quality programs and lean manufacturing efforts play an important role in making the world better. But those programs seek to improve products and processes already working, already serving, already pleasing customers.

Don’t get me wrong, I want the parts holding the airplane I’m sitting in at 30,000 feet up to stay together so I can get back on the ground safely. Millions of us make the unconscious bet that they will work well enough to get us to our destination knowing in the back of our minds that there is a minuscule chance that they might not.

And that’s the point I want to make. It’s admirable that you will never be satisfied with how good your product or service is. However it only needs to be good enough to slightly exceed what your customers expect today.

That doesn’t mean I espouse mediocrity. Start with good enough and work on turning it into spectacular.

So let me ask a tough question- is your perfectionism simply a mask for your fear to make a decision and take action?Fear is an ugly thing none of us wants to admit to but it grips us all at some point. It becomes  an excuse for lack of effort, withdrawal from our goals and is the key motive behind procrastination.

In an imperfect world, what is the one decision you can make today to move you forward faster and get you started?

It’s a hard journey but you don’t have to go it alone. Reach out to a supportive friend,  a talented coach or even me if it helps.

To your success,

Lee Schwarz

The Black Lion

Black Lion Marketing - Lee Schwarz

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How to grow business by telling not selling

About 13 years ago I sought out an old friend from high school because I knew he owned a company that made plastic parts and I happened to need some made.

I called him first simply because I knew him to offer the opportunity.

While he couldn’t help me then, we renewed our friendship. Ten years later after I sold my manufacturing business and started my marketing one, he responded to an email I sent out to the people I knew announcing my new project. We shared war stories about owning manufacturing businesses and he gave me a glimpse of the times his was near the brink of closing. But with some luck and determination he managed to come back and thrive.

Today, instead of my company being his customer, his company is one of mine.

Not every business relationship has its roots so deep. And since there were only 69 students in my senior class, there definitely weren’t enough high school contacts to build a sustainable business around. Getting to know more people and for them to know me requires active participation in the world around you and garnering some attention.

Which brings me to this great interview my friend’s local newspaper did with him. Earlier in the year they ran a business story that featured some of his employees making a presentation at a national conference where they were recognized for achievement.

Was that why they wanted to sit down with them in his office and chat? Was it the good work they do in the community? Or was serendipity rewarding him for the cumulative effect of everything they are doing?

The exposure from this interview is the epitome of networking on a grander scale and will likely bring him business he never expected.  All because of the story he was telling, the most powerful form of selling.

Here is the video segment of his interview. The full online interview posting link is below it.

Link to the full interview (including the video)

Maybe you’re feeling you can’t create an opportunity like his for yourself right now. But where can you place yourself to hear the stories of others- and be able to tell your own? The local Chamber of Commerce, a trade association, the line at Starbucks?

Wherever you are today, reach out and  make a personal connection with someone. You will be seeding your business for the future.

To your success,

Lee

Black Lion Marketing

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This entrepreneur knows every action is a marketing opportunity

As I jumped into the car the other day I noticed a big screw sticking out of the driver’s side tire.  No day is a good day for this to happen but this was the Friday afternoon before the holiday weekend when many are partying and preparing for a few days off.

The screw was like a finger in the dike holding back the air in a tire that hadn’t gone flat yet but it wouldn’t be long.

The panic call to my auto repair service was answered on the first ring and when I asked John if they could fix the tire if I arrived in the next 15 minutes he said of course, bring it in.

They took my keys as soon as I came in the door and as I sat waiting I listened to John checking out other customers. He knew about their families and asked how each was by name. It was natural for him and he was sincere.

Within an hour of me first noticing the screw I was back on the road, ready to go. And to my surprise there was no bill. John simply said Happy Holidays. I insisted on at least leaving a tip for the guy who fixed it. He refused and said thank you for my business.

There’s not a lot of glamor in the world of pumping gas and repairing cars. but for the right business person there is a lot of money. Even in his coveralls John runs a tight ship.

Some owners instinctively know how to grow business while others don’t have a clue.

I discovered Smith Wheel a a few years ago. It’s not pretty to look at but it’s well maintained, always looks organized with a lot full of cars to be serviced every day.

I had been referred there by my previous auto repair place who couldn’t fix my custom wheels at the time and referred me to the best in town. That was the last time they saw me. After two other disappointing experiences and overcharges, I wasn’t feeling wanted.

Referring me to Smith Wheel was probably the best thing they ever did for me.

As promised, the new auto repair business did my repair quickly, at a fair price and were very friendly to deal with. Plus I found that John also owned the two best gas stations in town. It was the beginning of a long and satisfying relationship.

When I realized they did any other repairs I might need, I switched all my business to them. They were more convenient, provided same day service, were never too busy to help me and when I asked for work to be done that they thought wasn’t necessary, they would say so instead of just running up my bill.

And when my car last needed inspection, it had an error code that indicated a pollution control problem. They could have just replaced the expensive parts and charged me the $1000 for the job. Instead, they told me there was a GM tech bulletin that suggested it could be a bad reading and for about $100 I could get the software update at the dealer.

If I wanted to do that they would test it again and put on the sticker assuming it passed.

You guessed it. The update removed the error and I avoided a huge bill. How could I not love the service they give me?

If you looked at John you would never guess that under that head of gray hair and behind that friendly mechanic’s smile was a sharp business mind. He just gets it.

Do your customers say the same about you?

Are you under-promising and over-delivering?

If not, the New Year is nigh. It’s resolution time. Make that one big change next year in your business and watch it grow.

To your success in 2013,

Lee Schwarz

PS If you want help building your reputation for what you do best call me at 215-262-2309 or email me here. We can talk about your goals for 2013 and how best to achieve them.

Black Lion Marketing

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