Become a Converge ‘Champion’?
A champion is basically a driven and impatient member. These are the members who are not happy to wait to be invited to a Converge Forum, they go and start their own.
We encourage these driven, impatient and successful people to give us a call. We provide full training and weekly support for Champions and your time requirements are not as big as you might think. Champions drive the recruitment of members as well as chair / lead the meeting.
What do you get?
- The opportunity to grow a network of local businesses selected by you.
- Increased profile in your local area, the Champion is the education facilitator for the group and you form great bonds when you are in a position to help someone’s else’s business.
- Increased skills – you are frontline for all of the coaching material and as a result you often learn more than the members, these skills translates into your business.
- Database – on acceptance as a Champion you will be given a database of every business in your area to source your members. The database is yours to keep.
- Income – not enough to stop doing what you do but it helps
- Personal and business growth – just joining a Converge network provides a good level of growth for you and your business, starting and driving a network gives the opportunity for enormous growth that translates into your business.
If this is you, call or email us today and let’s get started.
Mascot Converge is kicking off in June
The forum will be run by Phillip Agripanidis from Just Lending.
For more information or to attend a breakfast please email email@example.com
Freshwater Converge meets each Thursday morning 7:30am at the Bended Fork in Freshwater
The forum is run by Craig Troy from Converge Consulting.
For more information or to attend a breakfast please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Surry Hills Converge will start in June 2014
The forum will run by Cameron McKay from Converge Consulting
For more information or to attend a breakfast please email email@example.com
St Kilda Converge meets on Friday mornings 8:00am at Leroy Expresso, 191 Acland St, St Kilda (starting 20th June 2014)
The forum is run by David Lin from Strata Consultants Australia
For more information or to attend a breakfast please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Why a Business Forum?
Many small business owners feel very alone in their endeavours. We understand that the best way to develop a sustainable, rewarding business relationships is to work with people you like and trust. With more and more people working for themselves, successful marketing is becoming harder. Developing mechanisms to connect your business with the people who need your products and services is imperative and a Converge Business Forum provides such an environment.
Networking also provides the perfect platform for business owners to get together. However for most networking groups all that happens is the handling out of cards. At Converge we think that whilst this is valuable, what is really valuable is the exchange of ideas and experiences.
Being part of a Business Forum is like having a supergroup of fellow entrepreneurs supporting you – promoting your business and acting as a sounding board for any challenges that arise.
The benefits of referred business over non-referred business are well known – the challenge is finding the time and having the skills to build strong referral relationships. We feel that these relationships are not built by a quota system but instead by spending time together talking openly about how we do business and learning how to do it better.
What makes Converge different?
At Converge, we don’t just provide the platform for business relationships. We believe that business networking is great for referrals and strategic business growth – but what makes us different is that we combine high level business resources alongside our business forums.
These resources cover a wide range of business topics and they serve as business education but also a stimulus for the discussions – it is in the discussions that the learning happens.
Converge is the leading organisation in combining business networking with business coaching material. Not only do we offer you the ability to generate quality referrals and receive support from fellow business owners, but you will also benefit from our comprehensive coaching and education program.
Why join a Converge Business Forum?
People join Converge to grow their business and develop themselves personally. We are focused on business owner development. Business coaching is just as important to the growth of your business as the referrals that networking provides. In many cases you are your business, so if we can help you to grow and develop, then your business will benefit even more.
Converge Business School.
Converge members have open access to our extensive business coaching and education resources including articles, books and book summaries, presentations and tutorials. New resources are added weekly and articles are updated regularly. As the saying goes, “you are either green and growing, or ripe and rotting”. It is our belief that ongoing learning (regardless of the topic) will benefit you, and your business. We are so enthusiastic about business education that if you can’t find a resource that fits your needs, just let us know and we will source it for you.
What does it cost?
Membership costs $100 plus GST per month (plus whatever you order for your breakfast).
Return on investment.
As a Converge member your ‘Return on Investment’ may come from:
- quality referrals and leads generated from your network
- tips and market intelligence
- advice on business issues from the ‘Board Sessions’
- skills improvement from the extensive business education and coaching provided through the Converge Business School
- confidence that comes from public speaking, ‘selling’ yourself and your business, leading a ‘Board’ and delivering training and educational material.
For many members, all that is required to cover the cost of membership is one or two successful leads per year
Maroochydore Converge meets every second Wednesday.
The forum is run by Mark Mellor from Love & Partners Accountants.
For more information or to attend a breakfast please email email@example.com
Gordon Converge meets each Friday 7:30am at the Pecorino Cafe behind the train station.
This forum is run by Andrew de Souza from Northshore Business Coaching.
For more information or to attend for breakfast please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Double Bay Converge meets each Thursday morning 7:30a at Cafe 21 on Knox St.
The forum is run by Grant Levitas from Principal Edge.
For more information or to attend a breakfast please email email@example.com
Parramatta Converge meets every Wednesday for lunch in the Parramatta CBD.
The forum is run by Paul Rattray from ATB Partners.
For more information or to attend please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Newport Converge meets every second Friday at the Harvest Cafe at 7:30am.
This forum is run by Converge Co-Principal Wayne Condon.
For more information or to attend please email email@example.com
We hosted our first Champion’s lunch yesterday – a thank you for our brave Champion’s who lead the groups each week. Great opportunity for the guys to get to know each other and talk about their groups, their backgrounds and their experiences. As you can see there was a tiny bit of drinking as well.
Struggling with the number of things you need to do and sick of getting to the end of the week with a list of things that you didn’t get done? Then this simple tip might help.
Stop making ToDo Lists and start using your calendar instead.
I made this change last year and it has made a positive difference to my work management. What I used to do is think of something that I needed to do and then add it to a todo list. My list would vary in length but unfortunately I would rarely get through it all (or even just the important items).
The issue with this approach is that I was able to add things to the list without scheduling the time to do them. At best I would pick a day in the week like “Thursday”. As you can probably guess I regularly had a list so long that there was not physically enough time to get it done. So at the end of each week I would be left with the feeling that I had failed to do several important things. Not a great way to end the week.
The change I made was to start putting everything into my calendar. So an example would be that I would think of someone I needed to call and instead of just adding it to the never ending list – I would schedule it at a certain time and give it a time allocation.
It took a while to get used to looking at a calendar that was completely full and not freaking out. What is important is that I stopped setting unrealistic tasks and I had to be very selective in what I was going to be able to do. Things come up and I look at the calendar and say no – there is literately no time this week that I can do that task unless I get rid of something else.
Don’t agree (even just with yourself) to do something without setting the time for it – both in time to do it and the time that it will take to get it done.
If you struggle with setting unrealistic ToDo lists then give this a try. Like all things it will take a bit of time for it become the norm.
Two other things that I have found useful – colour code your activities e.g. business development, delivery, admin, surfing. The second is I changed the standard setting for new events from one hour to half an hour so I send a lot more half an hour invites than hour ones.
One of my favourite businesses recently had a challenge….
They had been working with a prospective client for quite some time, presenting proposals, making adjustments, scoping and getting excited to start working together. Then at the last stage the client said no to the ongoing support fee – a key part of the ongoing support that makes the whole service complete. “We will go ahead if you drop that fee”.
The business’ initial response was that they should accept based on the fact that they had put so much time and effort into the client this far.
BUT – what they realised was that the client had also put an enormous amount of time and effort in and had already began to see the end product in their minds.
So the business stuck to its guns and said that the ongoing support was part of it and that if they want to use this company that was the deal.
Business sweated for a while. Client said yes.
Lesson is that the client also invests time in the proposal phase and can be equally reluctant to walk away at the end over something small.
Note: There is an old negotiation ploy (sometimes called ‘left at the altar’) where you do exactly this – e.g try on all the suits and shoes and agree, take everything to the counter and as they are putting through the sale ask for a tie to be through in whilst indicating that you will walk without it. The result is that the sales person who thought the sale was complete throws in the tie due to the investment already made.
This is a tactic you should use it but try not to fall for it.
When to hire staff is one of the key decisions any business owner needs to make to go from self employed to a business and unfortunately it is also one of the decisions that can force the demise of a business.
So how do you know when is the right time?
Ideally you will set yourself some metrics that in your view will tell you when might be the right time to hire.
- Time – you might feel that you need a certain period of time before you can know the seasons of your business well enough to employ
- Turnover – there maybe a figure of turnover which you feel is the tipping point
- Profit – or it might be a certain level, percentage or gross amount of profit that provides the safe buffer
- Transactions or clients – you might judge the need for staff on a set number of clients, contracts or transactions in a given period
- Hours worked – you might use the hours you are consistently required to work as a metric
Changing gears at the optimal time is much like picking the times to hire staff. If you go from 1st to 2nd at 1,000 revs the car will labour and slow. It will take time and energy to climb again up to 3,000 or 4,000 revs. Whilst it will get there you will lose your momentum and your speed.
If you wait until you are in the red zone (6,000 – 8,000rpm) the engine will be screaming and under pressure (in this analogy the engine is you) and unless it is a professional change you will also lose some of the momentum or speed. Worse still it is when the car is revving the highest that you are at the greatest risk of missing the change or grinding the gear (in this case being so stressed that you rush and hire the wrong person) completely killing the momentum and making that awful noise.
There is a sweet spot depending on the conditions when you should change (hire) and it is your assessment of the conditions that gives you that sweet spot.
You should have a strategy about when your business changes gears – are you moving slowly and changing at 2,500rpm or are you pushing and making the changes in the 5,00 – 6,000 range.
The analogy goes even further. When you are driving down hill you can change gears earlier at lower revs and still increase speed. Vice versa when you are heading up hill. Sometimes you will hit a hill so steep that you need to change down (lose a staff member), at this stage the engine will leap up in revs and go back under strain but will be accelerating again.
Also you tend to have different change points between say 2nd – 3rd and 5th – 6th. Think about it and plan based on the revs – in your businesses case the metrics that you have chosen to use.
As we know certain cars work better at higher rpm levels than other cars. In the context of business this will be determined on the infrastructure, resources and importantly the owners risk / energy level.
So what is your strategy about when you change gears in your business? This will depend on the amount of time you can work plus how much capital you have (how patient can you be). What are the metrics that make up your rev counter?
If you are about to hire or have recently hired, did you go too early, too late or at the sweet spot?
“A man who chase two rabbits goes hungry”
For this context you could change this to a business owner who chases multiple markets or customer segments goes….. (you fill in the blank). The ability or rather the discipline to focus on a particular area is one of the keys to success in business but is amplified in smaller businesses with shallower pockets.
The frustration due to lack of focus has been a common discussion this year amongst the forums we run and our clients. Many of us are simply suffering from spreading our marketing activities and business development activities too thin across too many customer segments or products.
Why is this so common? We hate the thought of limiting our ability to generate revenue and in many cases feel that we can service multiple customer types equally. However in trying to not limit our revenue this is exactly what we end up doing.
Of course the counter argument here is that there is risk in focusing exclusively on one area / product / customer segment – what if that segment dries up or disappears? This is a risk and one that I have personally experienced back in 2007, but it is in my opinion a much lower risk with proper planning that the risk of fading away chasing multiple markets.
In the mid 2000’s I had a mortgage business with two partners. We focused on a particular type of lending (near prime) and became the largest in a particular space. It was very profitable and easy to grow because we limited our scope of lending. However when the GFC came this area was no longer viable and we had a 15 minute discussion and decided to pack up and do something else. Whilst this was disappointing it was not disastrous. We had made good money and were able to wind the business up quickly and jump into other things.
If you gave me the option to go back and broaden our scope with the benefit of hindsight I wouldn’t. That would have generated a mediocre long-term success and would probably have kept us in the business longer than we should have with the misguided belief that we could shift and continue.
Morale of the story – even though our product was removed resulting in the end of the business I think we were still better off being specialist than generalists.
In my coaching work over the last 5 years I have not met another business that has suffered or closed due to focusing but I have met many who have died a slow death due to chasing too many rabbits.
So how do you mitigate the risks of focusing – you test and purge, test and purge and test and purge until you know. The key here is to build measures so you can make the informed purge decision as well as manage your investment and cashflow to survive through the testing. The work on the Lean Startup gives a good framework for this along with many great examples.
As a small business owner you will start (like the rest of us) chasing multiple customers and doing all you can to drive revenue into the business. The key to long-term success is to systematically work to narrow the offering and the customer segment to your most profitable and sustainable segment. Then put the foot down and drive deep into your area.
Small business owners often get this wrong. There are 4 main competitors any small business has and they are:
- A direct competitor
- A substitute
This one is fairly straight forward and where we often give much of our attention. If they don’t choose you then your client can elect to buy from a direct competitor which is another business very much like yours that sells the same product or service.
This is where your client solves their problem (i.e. the problem that your business solves) with a substitute instead of a direct competitor. This can be a major blind spot for business owners, the inability to recognise a substitute as a threat to their business. Take coffee as an example, a direct competitor to a good barista is the other good barista across the street but a substitute would be Red Bull from the convenience store nearby. You need to understand what the substitute competitors are for your client.
Your client (in many cases) can ‘do it themselves’. Maybe not as well as you can do it for them but they can still get a result, electing to not buy from you but instead solve the problem on their own. This will be a big threat to accountants in the coming years as the ATO makes it easy for people to lodge their own tax returns as an example. People can build their own websites, do their own marketing, train themselves at the gym or buy a book or Google the solution.
The last one is apathy where your client just does nothing at all, put it off temporary or indefinitely. For some of the products and services out there, the client doesn’t need to engage even if there is good reason to do so.
Why is this important?
It is important because you need to know who your real competition is so you can design your marketing and sales spiel to suit.
When we started Elders Home Loans (a national home loan franchise as part of Elders Ltd) we wrongly assumed that our big challenge would be to break the established relationships the agents had the local brokers. Our marketing material and sales spiels were all geared toward why they should use us instead of another broker.
What we found when we started was that only a small percentage of the agents referred to a broker and our true competitor was not the other brokers but apathy – they just didn’t refer at all.
We quickly changed our tack. We adjusted our marketing material and spiels to focus on why they should refer a broker in general instead of doing nothing at all. Once we had them agreeing to that we then had to ‘sell’ them on why us versus someone else.
So who is your competition?
Out of the last 10 or 20 clients that you missed out on, work out what percentage of those clients you lost to each of the four areas of competition. Then review how you market and sell.
Are you addressing the right competitor or do you need to change your approach?
One of the biggest mistakes small business owners make (some big business owners as well) is that they don’t know their target customer segment well enough, or if they do they insist on trying to target a much broader group.
Why? Because we hate to say no to potential business and often think that we can do more than we should.
We get excited about how big the potential market place is and therefore how big our business can be. The reality is that for most small businesses, there will be a small amount of the market that ‘gets’ the value from your business and are willing to purchase you over the competitive offers / choices.
Often when I ask small business owners to describe their market or ‘where they will play’ they say things like;
- People between 25 and 60
- All Sydney businesses
- People who drink coffee
All of these are massive marketplaces and way to big for a medium to large business let alone a small business. In fact they are almost paralysing they are so big – where do you start when you think your market is this big?
The broad you go, the weaker your message will be. The weaker the message the harder it will be to attract customers to convert.
Unfortunately this often comes down to discipline – you as the owner need to pick a market and stick to it which means saying no to other markets you know you can’t service as well.
You can’t say no until you have first said yes.
So what is important here is that you know the small segment that ‘get’ the value from your offering, and that small segment is big enough for you to build your business around. Plus they should also be growing and not declining and have the money to buy you.
If not then you and your business will struggle. However know you market, chase it, build for it, service it and you will have a very successful business.
Struggling to pick your target customer segment? Then answer this question – if I could have 100 clients magically appear today but they must all look the same, what or who would they look like?
This is your target customer.
You don’t have a business if you don’t have a clear value proposition.
Businesses exist to solve client’s problems or a specific client problem – this is your value proposition. How well your business solves that problem for a specific client segment is your competitive advantage (see Business Systems Theory).
If your business does not solve a problem for your client then chances are it is not a viable business. This is also the case if it doesn’t solve that problem in a way that means your clients will chose your solution over other options.
Amongst the key questions that every business owner should ask themselves regularly are:
- What is my value proposition?
- Am I clearly communicating my value proposition?
You need to be really clear with the first question. Business owners are often natural sales people and sometimes the person we sell best to is ourselves i.e. we buy our own spiel. One way we do this is convincing ourselves that our value proposition is better than it really is or that it is broader than it really is. Just because we think that we can do something, doesn’t mean that the market will buy it from us.
Trying to do to much will weaken your value proposition, as will trying to do it for too many people. Your value proposition resonates highest with a particular client segment. Others also get parts of it (often enough to purchase) but one segment ‘really gets it’. Trying to sell it to the wrong groups devalues it for the target group.
When people are not buying your product or service, or trying to negotiate you down or adjust your offering; it means that either you are not communicating your value proposition effectively enough, or, you are talking to wrong people (I will deal with this next week).
Just looking at your communication – do your clients quickly understand what you are really offering them, what problem it solves and how it solves it better than other options? If not then this is where you should start making changes.
Sometimes it is just that we are assuming too much from the prospect, or that we are using jargon or poor information, sometimes we have just delivered the value proposition poorly. Whatever it is, if you have the right client in front of you and can’t articulate your value proposition effectively, then this will be disastrous long term.
Value propositions can we weak or strong. Remember the analogy about the headache tablet versus the vitamin. One is a must have and the other is a nice to have. Ideally your value proposition should be a must have, at least for your target clients.
So spend a little time answering these questions for yourself and then share with someone you can discuss it with for some blunt feedback. If it is weak then here is a great opportunity to improve.
- What is my value proposition?
- Am I clearly communicating my value proposition?
Maybe a better question is, “do you want to have a business or would you rather be self employed?
This conversation comes up for us a lot – especially in the forums and around the masterclass. What is the right answer. Many people who thought that they had a business, actually realised that they were self employed.
Most small businesses in Australia are really people who are self-employed. And this is ok. The only issue we have is when people think they have a business to sell and they don’t – this can be a huge disappointment. I personally have lost more than a couple of coaching clients because they bought me in to ‘just tidy up’ their business for sale and I turned around and told them that they had nothing to sell – unless they were staying with it in the sale.
If you are self employed (not a business owner) then, like an employee, you need to plan for your retirement, save and invest – because when you stop the exertion your income will stop. It is unlikely that you will have anything to sell and if you do it won’t be for the huge sum that you had hoped to fund your glorious retirement.
On the other side you can move from being self-employed to building a business. If you have a business then it exists / functions / grows without the founder and can be staffed by people who are relatively easy to recruit / train. This takes more effort, more time and at times more risk – but it comes with significantly more rewards. It also forces you to ‘let go’ and potentially ‘dumb down’ your product or service.
The decisions you make as a business vs. self-employed are significant different. This direction is the key context for all of your business decisions. What is it that you want? What is your exit strategy? If you plan to sell your business then who will you sell it to: an employee, a competitor, a supplier, a distributor or an independent party. It is important to know who (demographically) you think will buy your business and then orientate it towards them.
You can comfortably do either. Just make sure you know what you are (self employed or a becoming a business) and plan accordingly.
As a SME business owner here are six and a half sure fire ways to fail in 2015 – fail to deliver your forecasted financials, fail to deliver yourself time and quality of life, fail to deliver the best to your clients or fail to survive at all.
Whilst there are more ways to guarantee your business fails in 2015, here are a few of the main ones
1. No Plan
No business plan, no strategic plan, no strategic objectives. As they say if you don’t know where you are going then any road will get you there.
If you don’t decide what your business will be then the clients will and whilst you need the clients to tell you certain information, having a business that is completely client led is frustrating and rarely gets you the result that you set out to get.
1.5 Not following your Plan
Having a plan is the first stage, but now you must follow it. A key aspect of all planning is to determine or pre-determine which way you are going and importantly which way you are not going. The essence of a strategic plan is saying we are going in this direction and not that direction. Without the ‘not bit it is simply not as effective.
Worse than not saying the ‘not’ is when you have a plan and then bury it in the desk draw or completely ignore it when the first issue arises.
2. Poor Management Skills
You might be a professional X, Y or Z but that is just the product your business sells. Your vehicle to wealth is the business itself.
I’ll repeat that as it is important. Your profession or skill is just your business’ product. the business itself is your vehicle to wealth.
Spend the right amount of time learning to be a better business person and how to manage, run and grow the business.
3. Lack of Capital
This is not necessary large chunks of money or investment – it is the money needed to continue building. Many a good business has failed due to running out of cash trying to get to the next sales cycle.
Know you capital requirements for the year and make sure you have enough to keep going.
4. Chasing too many rabbits
The man who chases two rabbits goes hungry.
Having multiple product or servicing offering that are trying to meet the needs of multiple customer groups is a sure fire way to waste money and generate mediocre results.
You can do anything but you can’t do everything. For some small business owners saying that they can’t or don’t offer something is harder than it was for Fonzie to say ssssssorry. Don’t be that owner.
5. Doing too much
No one can do it as well as I can. Whilst there may be some things in your business that this applies too (ideally there won’t be any if you have a scalable business) there can’t be too many. If there are then this is where you should start make changes this year because a business that only you can do is not a business but a bad job.
Outsource anything that someone else can do as well or better than you. Yes it is a cost but if your business model is sound it will help you to generate more revenue.
6. Financial Ignorance
If you don’t know your numbers it is unlikely you will succeed in the long term. Work with your accountant or advisor and know what the financial numbers are for your business, then make sure that you always have these numbers at hand.
What did we miss?
Lots. Things like poor marketing, incorrect positioning, bad resource allocation, poor response to competition, lack of sales skills, sales call reluctance, bad hiring processes, poor client retention, lack of cost control etc
To build a great business is hard, even a good business takes a lot. But….if you can it will generate all the things you hoped for when you first started.
For a large majority of small to medium businesses the key resource, core competence, distinct capability, competitive advantage, USP etc etc is ‘you’ the business owner. You are the biggest lever that your business can pull to generate results.
So why do you neglect your own development?
Not talking about continued professional development in your area of expertise but your business acumen. The ability to disconnect from the product or service and engage with the business. The ability to shift your understanding into a completely new field then run & grow that business.
There are two common answers to this question: (1) don’t have the time and (2) don’t know how / where to do that.
Yes you do – and yes you do.
One of Stephen Conveys 7 Habits of highly effective people is to sharpen the saw. The analogy is a person cutting down a tree with a blunt saw and another person pointing out that if he was to stop and sharpen the saw he would finish quicker. His response is that he doesn’t have the time to stop and sharpen the saw, he is too busy cutting down the tree.
Time is not in as short supply as we often tell ourselves. What is in short supply is productivity. Time we have lots of, we just wasting it doing things inefficiently or doing things we should get someone else to do.
Where do you sharpen your business acumen saw? Well we are one option, but there are hundreds of options all around you where you could seek assistance, seek information, seek training or seek experience to grow your understanding of business / your business.
Grow the business owner – grow the business.
This was a key part of our thinking when we started Converge 5 years ago and is still our focus as we push into 2015. Go sharpen your saw.