Being an entrepreneur, and in the early days of starting a business is much like being a duck on a pond.
Everything looks great above the water as the duck’s body (the business) glides effortlessly along the surface, with its beak standing out proud – whilst below the surface, the duck’s legs (the business owner) are peddling at 180mph to try and make sure that everything looks good above the water.
Over the weekend I was having lunch with a few friends at my house. It was the first time we’ve had guests around since I came out of spine surgery. There were 4 couples in attendance. Some good food, a little wine and some great conversations were on the horizon. I was really looking forward to it.
But, it was almost ruined for me, by one of the guys that was there - until I intervened.
Problems, Problems and More Problems!
My buddy (name witheld to protect the entrepreneurial innocent!) started his real estate business about a year ago, focusing on the higher-end market locally. We’ve met several times in the last 12-months and all he had to say was how well the business was going, that he wasn’t experiencing any major issues with marketing to the local cliental, or competition, etc. Everything sounded great!
However, on this occasion he took it upon himself to spoil as much of the first hour of the get-together as possible – by moaning, arguing (with himself mostly!) and generally admitting that all was not so calm on the pond, after all.
He was having problems with local competing real estate brokers and agencies.
He was having on-going problems with property owners that he rents places for, as well as property owners that want to get the best deal in utilizing his company to help sell their houses and condos.
And lastly, he was having major problems when dealing with potential tenants and buyers – having him run all over town, showing them this condo unit and that house, one after another – all in the blistering heat that currently is Cebu’s awesome summer season. This problem alone was the biggest for him as he felt that he didn’t have enough time to be able to strategize for growth, which was to be his major focus this year.
I simply had one thing to say to him…
Welcome to the World of Entrepreneurship.
With Problems, Come Solutions!
I learned a long time ago that the higher up the corporate ladder you climb, the bigger the problems that you have to deal with. God forbid, you decide to become a business owner yourself! At that point you’re the head honcho, the CEO, the President – whatever you want to call yourself.
Slice of ‘Reality Pie’, however – you’re the main problem solver!!! That’s it.
And as entrepreneurs, thats EXACTLY what we should be looking to embrace – solving problems for people (AKA. our customers). The more problems we solve, the more success our businesses become.
So, I sat down with my buddy for about 30mins, and these are the points that we worked on together as business solutions for small businesses, and ended up putting into place a bit of a ‘Mission List’, as he started calling it:
#1 – Stop Wasting Time
Firstly, he needed to sort through the ‘decent’ prospective tenants and buyers when they came in, only picking out the ones that he felt the most confident about becoming ‘A-List’ clients. He would then pass on the others to his assistant (who is good, and can work well when given instructions, I’ve met her on several occasions).
#2 – Tell People Why They Need You
He’s going to put together a ‘Why You NEED Me’ package (focusing on his USP) to give the owners that he works with, in helping them sell or rent their property. No more wasting time answering the same silly questions, or having to run around getting this document, and that piece of information together.
Everything is to be pre-arranged in a package that not only looks super professional, but also answers all the questions he runs into, in regards to these specific relationships all the time. The rest he can update on the FAQ section of his website (which is good).
#3 – Screw the Competition!
Local competition. Screw them!!! Nobody has the experience he does, that I know of.
The fact of the matter is, however, that its a local market, where the local, Filipino real estate brokers are very much in bed together (some even ‘working’ clients and splitting commissions, etc.). But, there is one MAJOR feather in my friends cap – he’s a foreigner (American). And the very large majority of the prospects that contact him are foreigners, too. So, he will leverage that with a new ‘no holds barred’ approach to relationship building and conversions through social media and other online channels.
These tips for marketing a small business, coupled together with a well run ship and a professional mindset should make all the difference.
#4 – Daily ‘Strategizing’ Time
His goal was/is to focus on growing his business this year. With the other points above, after a while of taking care of teething issues and ironing out the inevitable bumps that come with ‘change’, he should have spare time, every day, to work on his goal for 2012.
As mentioned, he’ll start becoming more active in social media, he’ll start blogging, shooting regular videos on the local scene here in Cebu, along with property ‘walk-thru’ clips to put on his website and Facebook page, etc.
This is What We DO!
If you look carefully above you’ll see that the ‘problems’ as well as the ‘solutions’ I helped define for my friend’s business, can basically be successfully merged into ANY business – online, or offline.
They revolve around the following BASIC business principles:
- Don’t waste time.
- Make sure your USP (Unique Selling Proposition) is clearly defined and communicated.
- Keep an eye on the competition – but, work SMART to beat ‘em.
- Never stop planning for growth and expansion.
This is the entrepreneurial way of life.
Solving problems is right there at the top of the list. The thing is, from time to time we get frustrated dealing with the daily grind of running a business. And that IS what you’re doing for the first couple of years of any new venture – deal with the daily grind.
If you think being your own boss means checking your email whilst enjoying your morning coffee, publishing a blog post and then logging into Paypal in the evening to count your millions – think again!
After you’ve been in business for a while and you’ve achieved a certain level of success (and we all define success differently, remember that!), we can start developing plans to remove ourselves from our businesses a little. This might begin with just working in different locations. But, could develop into full blown trips away for a month at a time, or simply working from home four days a week and spending one full day in the office – its different for everyone.
So, the next time you get pissed off with dealing with a pain-in-the-butt client, or stressed out with competition copying an idea of yours, or with staff screwing up, or with suppliers raising prices on you, or with your better half moaning at you for not spending enough time with the kids – just breathe. Think about how to solve those problems, and then deal with them.
Become good at solving problems, and you WILL make it in the business world.
Have you come up with any solutions to business problems recently? Are you struggling with some right now, that perhaps the VBL Community could help you with? If so, we’d love to hear your insights and comments below.