The Mature Business Accelerator takes you by the hand to guide and support you as you work on your business to make your business easier and more profitable.
I ran Crystal Clear Bookkeeping Ltd for 15 years working closely with 100s of business owners. They all worked very hard. Some struggled for years and some made incredible progress. I had to know what the difference was, so I dug deep and I got to see what worked and what didn’t. I didn’t have a service business, I had a laboratory.
After I shut the business down, I gathered everything I learned and I took a deep dive into what makes small business work. You see, I had clear evidence that business isn’t as difficult as we make it out to be. I scoured my experiences and accumulated research to find the emergent ideas. Then I tested those ideas by talking directly to business owners.
Every business owner I talked to started by saying they needed more customers/sales. I didn’t let it go at that. Peeling back the layers, what really emerged was that business owners were finding that what worked in the past wasn’t giving the same results as it had. The world is changing and customers’ options and expectations are changing. What’s a hard-working, knowledgeable business owners to do? They researched what is working for other people in their industry and they applied those same tactics to their business. On top of their existing businesses and they worked harder. And harder.
Until they were overwhelmed, and still not making progress. You see, you can’t just apply new tactics to an old strategy.
I noticed it wasn’t that way for everyone. So I put the successes under the microscope and here’s what I found out:
Most business research and support is based on large business. I reject the MBA model of business that was designed at the early part of the last century as a way to break down the functional areas of management for large businesses. Forget marketing, operations, finance and HR. This causes all kinds of problems around silos, lack of cooperation, communications, redundancy and bloated management. Trying to apply that to your small business is like trying to use road engineering to make a path in your garden. My view is based on what actually works for mature businesses like yours.
Successful business owners don’t do that. They run lean and agile and they don’t wear many hats. They concentrate on how to make business work for them, their customers and their staff.
What I found is that the successful businesses focused on creating an experience in their business, making their environment conducive empowering their team to help them and having a value exchange that gave everyone what they needed.
The best businesses have a carefully crafted experience. It’s the difference between a restaurant that serves food and one that makes an occasion. You know what I mean. You walk into a place and you feel it. It doesn’t matter if it’s a restaurant, a lawyer’s office or a store. There’s something about the place that invokes a reaction within you. You want to be there, you trust that it will be good and the whole experience is special.
I went to TEDGlobal in 2009. You’ve seen TED talks, if you look you can see me in the audience of a couple of them. Everything about that week was carefully crafted to make it special. In fact, if a TEDx organizer wants to host an event larger than 100 people, they have to have experienced a TED event so they can recreate some of that experience.
Have you ever misplaced your keys? I used to. I don’t any more because I have a little basket beside the door where I keep my keys. Your environment goes into creating your experience, and it is much more than that. Your environment makes your business easier or harder. Every time one of your team has to take extra steps (physical or metaphorical), there is an opportunity to tweak your environment.
Your environment includes your mind. Fill your mind and those around you with good thoughts. This is an important part of the training process. I’ve been in businesses where I hear the staff complain about or mock customers. The customer is king. They may not always be right or right for you, but if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t have a business and they deserve respect and consideration. When I hear people, including myself, talk about how their customers just don’t get it, I know there is gap in expectations and an opportunity to fix it.
Small business is lonely and yet, even one person operations have a large team around them. If you think of your customers as part of your team, it changes the relationship you have with them and opens up opportunity to make a difference. Your peers are a very important part of your team because they know exactly what you are going through and they have knowledge and experience to share.
Your community has a vested interest in you succeeding. Everyone from your local coffee shop, suppliers, Town council and even your bank, accountant and small business support groups benefit when you succeed.
Everyone’s instinct is to lower price until someone buys. Then you know you have the right price point. What really successful people do is they choose the price they want to charge, then pile on the value until someone buys. Of course that is very simplistic. The point is that a lower price is not the answer, providing plenty of value is.
Problems occur when business owners want to offer a great solution, then offer a low price that makes it difficult to fulfill that promise. The people who come to you for low price are not the ones that will convert to higher prices. The only time the lower price strategy works is if you are trying to get rid of stuff and you don’t care to build long-term customers; or you want to experiment to find solutions before you build a customer base around those solutions.
What does this mean for your business?
We’ve been sold a bill of goods when it comes to how to grow and manage small business. It’s why it feels so hard. I promise you, it doesn’t have to be. If it’s okay with you, I will send you a couple more emails that will help you. In the mean time, think about how you can apply at least one of these concepts to your business.
There are 3 ways to get more time, all involve getting a clear understanding of how you spend your time now. That sounds easy, but there is plenty going on there and I have a crash course about this coming up, if you register for the Mature Business Accelerator program early.
Once you know how you spend your time, first of all, figure out which tasks you can dump. Trust me we all have too many things we do, thinking we need to do them. We don’t. The world won’t end if we don’t do them.
Next, delegate it. That’s what your team is for. I used to do the books for a lawyer. I had to fight with him to make him stop doing them himself. He billed many times the rate he was paying me so he was losing money every time he did the bookkeeping. I have a really good delegation process, we will work through that in the Mature Business Accelerator.
Finally, make the tasks that are left easier. For anything that we do regularly, we can create a process or a hack that will make it easier and more efficient. Ask me, I will tell you how.
I know that it can feel like you have way too much to do to ever get to working on your business, but I promise you can. Let me tell you a story.
I came across the highly recommended book The 4 Hour Workweek by Tim Ferris. I decided to read it over a weekend and I decided to sew a couple of quilts that weekend, too. I would read a chapter, and sew for a while to think about it. It worked, I finished the book and the quilts. Over the next week, I dumped so much stuff I was doing, for no reason other than habit, that I found myself drumming my fingers and trying to figure out what to do next. I never got down to 4 hours, that wasn’t the point, but I realized I, and you, spend way too much time on things that don’t matter.
Procrastination is something else, It’s a symptom. You can throw all the hacks and tricks at it, but if you don’t address the underlying factors, it won’t work. It always comes down to the fact that you are not excited about what you are doing. Now I get it, not all aspects of your business are exciting and some are downright boring and/or difficult for you. If you are excited about what you are trying to accomplish, you know how to do it and you have accountability built in, you will not procrastinate. You will be too busy accomplishing your major goal.
Accountability is often overlooked. We will always do what is urgent, but without accountability those important things without a deadline keep getting pushed out of the way. This is the work that doesn’t give you immediate results but that pays off later. Having accountability to others helps you get to that important work.
Small ‘m’ marketing is having a story to tell and telling that story. Big ‘M’ Marketing is an art or a science, depending who you talk to, using the good old AIDA principles. You know, grab their attention, spark their interest, create desire and prompt them to action. If you don’t have a relationship with anyone, that’s what you have to do.
We can’t competing with the big guys around ‘top of mind’, using branding strategies, hoping to go viral with social media and using big data. We’d rather be top of heart, because we can be. As long as we are true to our core reason our branding will take care of itself. Social media is a tool to tell our story, not a strategy and just because something goes viral doesn’t mean it works from a sales standpoint. As for big data, we don’t need big data to tell us our customer is pregnant.
Do we need to carve out time to ‘do’ marketing? As long as we create a wonderful experience, make our environment work for us, support, engage and encourage our team (including our customers) and pile on the value, our marketing will take care of itself. That creates a real story to tell and people who have been touched will tell your story. This is where we use our size, agility and how close we are to our customers allows us to out-compete the big guys.
Our best marketing is happy customers. There is still plenty to do around sales. As small businesses we need to focus on sales not marketing.
We usually think of our team as our staff, so if it’s only us or a couple of part timers working from their home, we can feel like we are in this all by our selves.
Your customers are an important part of your team. They are talking about you, so make sure it’s good and help them by giving them something good to talk about and giving them the words to use, by telling your story.
Your peers are crucial to helping you stay up to date on the latest in your industry. You can share best practices, tips, connection, etc. Setting aside time to meet whether you call it a mastermind, coffee time or something else, it is crucial you meet regularly with a small group. It will keep you sane. It will keep you moving forward and accountable. You will find they support you in ways you didn’t even know you needed.
Everyone whose lives you touch is part of your team. Make sure you share your story. I remember playing volleyball weekly with a group of people for years until one evening at the after game beers we got to talking about our real life and the things we all did. A couple of them ended up doing some work together because we finally had that conversation.
Do you have questions about how you can spend less time in your business while making more profit? I know that sounds crazy, but it’s amazing how often those 2 things go together, especially with the new, interesting ways of doing business these days.
You have beaten the odds. You are one of the 4% who take their business to the 10 year mark.You are doing well in your business; now you would like to do better. This program is for you. It is a combination of group work, led by me, accountability checkins and personal support from me.
Should Small Business really be this hard?
The main reason I shut down Crystal Clear Bookkeeping Ltd after 15 years, was that I felt I wasn’t helping small business owners, like you, as well as I could. I had insights about small business, but not all the answers. I also knew I wasn’t going to get those answers coming at it through bookkeeping. That’s when I met with small business owners, like you < thank you> and talked to you about your business, your challenges and what you need to succeed.
I’m going to tell you what I found out, but first I have to tell you I am not spilling your secrets here. I know you are going to hear your words in what I write here, but that’s because everyone said the same things.
Here’s what you told me
I feel stressed all the time. I feel like I work all the time and I’m not getting the results I should for the effort I’m putting in. I feel like I should be working even harder and getting even more done because I need to do better. I wonder if I need an MBA or more training? I feel like there are big changes happening in the world and I’m not keeping up. I’m worried my industry is going to change so much, I will become irrelevant. I don’t know where I will be in 10 years and that’s new for me.
Woah. That’s a whole lot of anxiety. You do realize it’s not you. It’s why I felt so helpless in trying to help you. The problem is the current system. At this point it is rigged against us. When someone in the top of their field like you, can’t make a great living and have a life, there is something very wrong. Think back 30 years and think of someone you knew who was top in their field. They may have been your boss, your mentor or a family member. Do you remember how they took weekends off, they had time to help others and their community and they made a good living. Right?
I finally recognized that, which prompted my next question: who is thriving in this new economy? Who are the success models we can learn from? Who are the business owners with lives and a great business? And how can we copy them?
It turns out there are people doing very, very well. Many more than just the Unicorns we hear about in the news. What are they doing? Is there one right answer?
Here’s the thing, there is no one right answer for everyone. There are any number of right answers and models. The only way you will find what will work for you is to try things. Think about what I taught you in the last email: create an experience in your business, make your environment conducive, empower your team to help you and have a value exchange that gives everyone what they needed.
That’s the model that works and you can do that on your own. As I said, all the information is out there and I gave you the framework. Or you can take a systematic approach with the support of a group of people ready, willing and able to help you.
Are you heading to irrelevance?
There is so much change in the world and we are at a point where even the banks are only asking for 2 year projections. That’s saying something. (Do you remember 10 year projections? I do)
I hear your deeper question: Will my industry even be around in 10 more years? It’s a valid question, and not just for retail, arts, and newspapers. There are big changes in accounting, legal, banking and even health care. Tricorders are real. How do you roll with the times?
Every time an industry is disrupted, the holdouts, the ones that fight the change, lose. You can’t stop change and you can’t put the genie back in the bottle. At the same time, every time an industry is disrupted, opportunities are opened up. Look at Blockbuster and Netflix. Netflix copied Blockbuster in their model of renting out DVDs; but they pivoted to streaming as soon as they saw what people wanted. Their customers wanted to watch a movie on their time, without commercials and they were willing to pay for that.
So will your industry be the same in even 5 years. Probably not. What are you going to do about it?
Here are some things you can do:
Will I alienate my customers?
Maybe, but not the good ones. Give your customers credit and realize they are as aware as you are about the changing times. There will always be laggards, but you don’t have to be one, too.
I can’t start over
You aren’t. We are talking about walking a path to get you to a new place; a business where you work smarter not harder and still make more profit. With a guide, me and with a band of merry adventurers on the same quest.
What models can I use in my mature business?
The focus of business research these days has shifted from management of big business to Startups. Startups are looking for opportunities and relentlessly testing ideas to find the ones that work. Then scaling the winning ideas to build a business and profits.
There are some very cool tools that you can use to make your business more lean, agile and responsive. What does that mean? It means tools that allow you to strip away the fluff in your business and over time we all develop fluff like dust bunnies under the furniture. These tools let you get to the core of your business challenges and develop several strategies to solve them. Then they give you a framework to micro-test those strategies to find the one that works best for you, before you roll it out in a big way. Then these tools help you tweak that strategy until it is a perfect fit for you. In the end you have a process that not only works uniquely for you, but you have included your staff, your customers and everyone else affected so they have the buy in to help you implement it.
I know you have read the E-Myth. You know you need systems. But deep in your heart, you also know your business is unique and constantly shifting. Besides you’ve tried that before and all that happened is everyone did it for a week or so, then your staff (and you, let’s be real here) shifted back to the old ways.
Implementing change is a process. There are known, tested ways of introducing changes that makes them stick. That can be with your staff, your customers, and even you. That’s why I developed a program that lasts 8 months. Figuring out a great strategy to test is the easy part. We’ll have that done our first day together (you will have homework to do first). Over the next 8 months we will help each other test, apply and tweak those strategies.
The group is carefully curated to be similar enough and yet divergent enough to bring value to everyone in the group. You will benefit from this and you are expected to add to this. Our common ground is that everyone in the group is in the mature phase of their business.
Each person in the group has one specific, measurable outcome they would like to achieve. Some want to make more profit, some want to spend less time on their business and some are looking to transition. You will choose what you want out of this program and the measurable result that will prove you have succeeded.
If you could do this on your own, you would have already. You’re good! But, as time goes on we develop holes in our knowledge and experience. They aren’t big enough to want to take a course or workshop. That would be a waste of time. In fact sometimes, we don’t know what we don’t know. The format of this program is designed to help you identify those gaps in knowledge and experience that are holding you back and to fill them in, in the most efficient way for you to achieve your successful outcome.
I have tested and researched each of these elements. There is no fluff here. Every part of this process is designed to get you to action and results. I snuck in a few elements that are based on brain science. If all it took were knowledge and hard work, you would be there already. I can say that from personal experience.
We all have parts of our business we are good at, and parts that we seem to put off doing. This program is designed to keep you moving forward through all parts.
We will meet in person once a month, on-line when needed and I am available whenever you need extra support.
Jump Start Session
We will start with a one day session together as a group. I will lead you through a process I have used many times to help business owners clarify what they want and how to get it. I will send you some tools ahead of time to get us all primed and ready to make the most of our time together.
We will accomplish several things:
You will get to know each other. This is essential in giving and getting the most from the group experience.
You will clarifying and share your overall objective
You will lay out a plan of action and measurable steps for you to execute over the 8 months
We will meet in person for ½ a day at the beginning of each month. Based on the group’s needs, we will focus on and explore one aspect of business. I will take everyone’s plans from the Jump Start session and identify key areas for deeper group understanding. For instance, we may want a deeper understanding of social media. We will spend time at one of our monthly sessions exploring how we can use social media to accomplish your goals. If one or more of our group wants to take that deeper, I will help them do that outside of our monthly meeting.
At the monthly meeting, each member will commit to their current goal for the month and as a group we will offer feedback, resources, connections and any other support that will help.
At each meeting two people will sit in the hot seat for a deep dive into their business and what they need. Each person will get 2 hot seat opportunities over the course of our program. This facilitated process allows the group to support one person at a time in gaining greater clarity and commitment to something that is important to them.
The purpose of a hot seat is to provide one person with the focused goodwill, attention and support of the group so that you can have a breakthrough on a significant goal. Something that matters and that you have either not been able to launch, or are at a point where what you know is insufficient to achieve the objective.
I will build and maintain a mutually agreed upon space online for continued connection. You are invited to share resources, ask questions and solicit and give feedback. I will make myself available there at a regularly scheduled weekly time for most weeks. Everyone is expected to drop in during the 3rd week for an update on how you are doing towards your goal. This is a significant resource and will keep you moving forward.
The real value here comes from each other. You are all amazing people with a wealth of experience. The more you give the more you will get out of this experience. For instance, a large part of the power with the hot seat happens for the people not in the hot seat. Everyone walks away from a hot seat with insight.
GREAT BIG BONUS
I’m on Standby for you
You may call on me at any time to help you over a hurdle. I anticipate (from experience) that you will have 1 or 2 incidents over the 8 months where having me at your side will be invaluable. I’m not your emergency contact, I don’t have my phone with me at night and I don’t answer if I am with someone. You will have my cell number and you can leave a message and texts for those times when I am not available. (Making expectations clear.)
No one else does this. They offer you a weekly or monthly 30 minute call or something like that. Business doesn’t work that way. This isn’t about accountability (that’s covered already). This is about those times we get stuck, or surprised or blind-sided. I can help. When you need it.
|Jump Start session||monthly session||online||standby||each other|
|Clarify your desired outcome||x|
|Choose your measurable result||x|
|the benchmarks on the way to your outcome||x|
|Create your plan||x|
|Execute on your plan||x||x||x||x|
|Fill in knowledge gaps||x||x||x|
|Contribute feedback to others||x||x||x|
|Access tools and resources||x||x||x||x|
Show up and engage
Be generous and courteous to each other
Work towards your outcome
Open your mind and trust the process
Create a safe space (physical, online and group dynamic) for everyone to participate
Provide the connections, tools and resources you need as you need them
Build the responsive framework and process to keep everyone moving forward towards their stated outcome
(Recognizing that I cannot be more responsible for your success than you are, but I will match you all the way.)
I started the BOSC in 2004 as an experiment with a small group of business owners. I wanted to work closely with them to see what they really needed. In a lot of ways, it was a workshop series where I presented one topic of business each month. (I now have 36 small business lessons) It forced me to learn more about all aspects of business. I knew from working with my bookkeeping clients that you can’t separate any part of a small business from the rest of it.
The real magic of the group came from the discussions, from listening to each other’s stories and sharing our experiences. It came from the sustained attention to working on our businesses, not just in them. We benefited greatly from having accountability. I have been running groups like this since.
I trained through the Asia Pacific Economic Council (APEC) in partnership with ACSBE in business counselling. I earned a certificate in business training and used those skills to train business owners in business, especially bookkeeping and financial management. That was never just about presenting information, it always went deeper and usually hit emotional triggers because who ever says, “It’s not personal it’s just business” has never owned a business.
After I shut down Crystal Clear Bookkeeping Ltd, I gathered everything I learned from working closely with 100’s of business owners and I took a deep dive into what makes small business seem so difficult. You see, I don’t believe it is as difficult as we make it out to be. I scoured the accumulated information to find the emergent ideas, then I performed a qualitative needs assessment. Every business owner I talked to started by saying they needed more customers/sales. Peeling back the layers, what really emerged was that everyone felt overwhelmed by how fast the world is changing. They all felt like they wanted to have a way to explore ideas so they could find the right answer for them, their business, their staff and their customers.
Having access to all the information in the world, and we do, doesn’t help us feel like we know the best way to move our business forward. What we really need is a way to clarify an objective, a plan to achieve that objective and support as we work that plan. That means a proven framework to keep us moving, access to a group of like-minded business people and an experienced curator/trainor/leader to make it work and provide the resources we need as we need them as we work our plan.
A few other things about me:
I am a serial entrepreneur
I am a founder of HUB Kentville and I’m plugged into the coworking community around the world.
I am license holder for TEDxNovaScotia and have held 12 events. I went to the TEDxSummit in Doha, Qatar with the TED team and 700 other TEDx organizers from around the world. TED is one of the coolest organizations on the planet and I have a front row seat.
I owned Crystal Clear Bookkeeping Ltd for 15 years.
I wrote Your Effortless Business and published it through a small publishing house in the States – an interesting experience in itself.
I started an international, online book club where we had Seth Godin, Daniel Pink, Mitch Joel and Jonathan Fields join us live.
I belonged to Triiibes, an online group started by Seth Godin. It’s way more amazing than that sounds. I’ll tell you about it some time.
Are you in? Your fee for all this, including the bonus, is $2500
This is a tax-deductible business expense.
You have this document because I think you will benefit from this group and you will add to the group. Join in now and let’s get this show on the road. Your deposit holds your place and is non-refundable.
Our 8 months officially runs April to November.
Secure your place now with a deposit and get these extra, early signing bonuses.
Extra Bonuses: crash course every week leading up to the program
March 14 Wildcard Helpme! Whatever you need most.
March 21 Give me more time! I will share my bag of tricks for squeezing more into your time
March 28 Mining for Hidden Profits My secret tricks for finding easy profits hidden in your business.