The best piece of business advice I can give you is to make sure you are and remain, intensely sales focussed.
It is your #1 objective and you must never lose sight of it.
No matter how much money you have invested or raised for your business and how much investment you have plowed into your latest technology, hiring people, and building the right infrastructure you must ensure you have enough revenue coming in to at the very least, break-even and sadly, so many startups go bust in their first year simply because they don’t have enough runway to operate the business…in terms of hard cash.
When you develop or invest in technology, make sure it has a direct benefit to your customer and also that you don’t have unnecessary bells and whistles — before investing in the ultimate CRM system, make sure you cannot do with a more basic model and when hiring people, focus on those who are sales-focused and customer experience-driven.
There’s a huge barrel of business advice out there in the world today and that barrel is overflowing with the latest marketing buzzwords and other terminology that seems to be hell-bent on convincing start-ups and growing companies that they need to “move with the times” and prepare for a new economy if they want to be successful in the 21st Century.
The “experts” seem to be chopping up the business world into bite-sized chunks of information, tantalizing their audience with the promise of increased profits, improved efficiency, and of course, an easier lifestyle.
It’s easy for an entrepreneur to lose focus, but you must not lose sight of your objective.
“Nothing happens without a sale,” as the former president of IBM, Thomas Watson Sr. explained and it’s probably one of the best business quotations and the foundation for solid business advice.
I recently read an article that talked about marketing, sales, advertising, social media, and branding, not being the same thing, which if you live in the business component world, then they are not…but they all ultimately have the same objective and that is to sell a product and/or a business service.
They are just in different parts of the sales funnel.
Having a sales funnel is critical, but in today’s business world filled with experts and gurus, it is easy to become overly obsessed with the building of an elaborate sales funnel that may well impress investors and advisors, but will do little for the bottom line because they are too long-winded, complex and simply don’t deliver the cash.
Keep things simple and efficient — you need a fast route to sales and that may not involve a complex system of social media marketing or paid advertising program, or spending months developing your business and personal brand when you could simply pick up the phone and reach your customers in an instant.
By the way, I love all things digital marketing, and I have been involved in the field since its inception, but I see too many companies who are obsessed with automated systems, procedures, and technology, losing the valuable component of “human touch.”
Take a look at this article:
Business advice: A martial arts perspective
I’ve been a martial artist just a little bit longer than I have been in business.
Now what have martial arts got to do with all of this, I can hear you say — well, quite a lot actually if you want to go deep into the world of real martial arts and talk about building your spirit, controlling your emotions, and a whole host of other physical and mental benefits which they offer, but I am going to keep it simple:
The purpose of martial arts is first and foremost to offer you the ability to defend yourself and your loved ones from a variety of attacks and in doing so, it may require the practitioner to initiate an attack.
Just like the objective of a business is to gain revenues from selling its products and/or services — both martial arts and business have definitive outcomes…in martial arts, the outcome is to survive and live and in business, it is to generate a profit for individuals and shareholders.
The martial arts to me became lost in its own mystique and glory — jiu-jitsu, karate, judo, kendo, and aikido are all examples of individual martial arts with styling differences, and in the West, we have boxing and wrestling, if you want to keep things simple…but the problem with many of these arts is that they do not address the entire picture.
An attack or altercation can occur at any time and any distance, which is why a decent practitioner has to able to operate at close range, where wrestling and grappling skills are needed, and at longer ranges where striking is more appropriate.
And everything in between.
It also goes without saying that being competent with all kinds of weapons is also a necessity.
In my opinion, many martial arts have become detached from their original form and purpose, rendering them less useful for their original objectives — this is why the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) has risen in popularity as it is about the closest you can get to the “real thing.”
When it comes to business, my advice is to think like an MMA fighter and the overall objective, rather than focus too much on the individual components that have the potential to distract you from your objective.
Some of the best lessons I learned in martial arts and business was through failure and in martial arts, the feedback system is instant…you get hit and hurt — in the business world, you may have more time, but not always!
Failure is a great way to learn and take a look at this article to give you my perspective:
Getting the right business advice
It’s absolutely critical to get the right people around you when it comes to gaining any form of business advice and I can tell you from both a martial arts and business perspective, that it is not easy.
I constantly drive myself to be the best at whatever I choose to do and I look for the best coaches, mentors advisors, educators…call them what you want, to help me.
My friend and great martial arts practitioner, Chris Ray Chappell has spent most of his life dedicated to the learning of Chinese internal martial arts and he has relentlessly invested his time, money, and energy into doing so.
The same is true of one of the greatest martial artists (although limiting him to martial arts does him a huge injustice) I have ever met and had the privilege to train with, Steve Morris.
I have yet to meet anyone in martial arts, business, or life that could match the ability, intensity, and dedication of Steve Morris and as I said, to simply label him as a martial artist would do him an incredible injustice as his abilities stretch into far wider worlds.
I would not want to learn martial arts from anyone who has not been in a real fight, nor would I want to learn anything about business from an advisor who has never run a real business and been through some form of adversity and come through the other side.
Nor would I want to work with anyone who is not firmly rooted in the objective of what they want to achieve and who is not committed to being the best at what they do.
And neither should you!
Many business coaches, advisors, mentors and consultants have never “been in a real fight,” so to speak.
Take a look at this article where I go a lot deeper into the world of coaching:
Everything is interconnected
I’m going back to the martial arts analogy for a moment and let’s say that the practitioner wants to get stronger and starts a weight-training program to do so.
Many martial artists who take this approach simply don’t connect the strength training program to the objective of the art, which although ultimately is self-protection and survival, will involve physical confrontation…a fight!
So you see many practicing martial artists in gyms, diligently going through routines to condition and strengthen the muscles of the body, where the specific exercises bear no resemblance to the actions involved in the fight.
I have never seen a fight where the movements of an isolated dumbell curl are utilized!
The way you train should be central to what you are likely to experience in a fight, from the martial arts perspective and you need to condition and strengthen the body to work together and with exercises that are central to the objective.
It’s the same in business and if you take the independent functions — finance, marketing, technology, support, service, etc., then they must be central to the overall objective, which is to generate profitable sales.
Too many companies, including my own by the way in the early days, operate these functions in silos and they are anything but interconnected.
Keep it functional
Just as bench-pressing a weight in a gym may improve overall physical chest and shoulder strength, it is relatively useless when trying to push someone off you when you are on your back and on the floor, going back again to martial arts.
Wouldn’t it be better to lay on the floor and push an unevenly loaded bar off your chest, or better still, to find one of those human dummies that weigh a couple of hundred pounds and try to explosively push it off your body?
It’s the same with many business functions — they can be well run, efficient and successful in their own right, but not optimally connected to the sales function.
Take your business functions and make them sales-focused.
Get your finance team to spend a day with your sales team to see what they do on a daily basis and vice-versa — you will be surprised as to how many ideas will emerge during the process.
Even better, give everyone in the company sales training.
Make sure that what you do is for function and not simply aesthetics — I was guilty of buying the latest technology gadgets that served little purpose when it came down to improving the chances of making sales, I have hired the wrong people in preference to strengthening the core of the sales engine and I did not spend anywhere near enough time in training everyone in my organization to sell.
As I said right at the beginning, it is easy to lose sight of your objective in today’s business world and without being too cynical, it is because there are so many forces out there set to distract you.
Keep focused — keep sales focussed!
I am writing this on New Years Day 2021 and I wish everyone a Happy and prosperous 2021!
Last modified: January 1, 2021