Seth Godin (acclaimed author and teacher) says to start your first business this way:
- Begin with the smallest possible project in which someone will pay you money to solve a problem they know they have.
- Charge less than it’s worth and more than it costs you.
The beauty about doing so with an Online Business is that not only is it simple to do; it can be done far more cheaply than to go a more traditional route.
Don’t worry so much about the ‘online’ part. It is only a tool, a mechanism to reach people who need to know about you’re your business is doing. Instead, figure out how to create value. The online part will take care of itself.
Don’t quit your day job (whatever that means to you) or use all your savings. Start evenings and weekends. If you don’t want to have to start from scratch, buy a small online business to practice on. The best way to move from Learner to Practitioner is to DO stuff. Figure it out with small failures.
Doing so also helps you build a public reputation (which can remain online only). Build a good one, and be sure that you deserve it, and that it will hold up to scrutiny.
Obsessively specialize. No niche is too small if it’s yours.
Connect the disconnected.
Make money offline. If you can figure out how to create value face to face, it’s a lot easier to figure out how to do the same digitally. The web isn’t magic, it’s merely efficient.
Become the best in the world at something that people value. Easier said than done, worth more than you might think.
Hang out with people who aren’t looking for shortcuts. Learn from them. Find and pay for advice that has not only credentials but also a robust track record.
Fail. Fail often and fail cheaply. This is the very best gift the web has given to people who want to bootstrap their way into a new business.
Make money in the small and then relentlessly scale.
Don’t chase yesterday’s online fad.
Think big, act with intention and don’t get bogged down in personalities. If it’s not on your agenda, why are you wasting time on it?
Learn. Ceaselessly. Learn to code, to write persuasively, to understand new technologies, to bring out the best in a team (especially if offshore), to find underused resources and to spot patterns.
This is not a zero sum game. The more you add to your community, the bigger your piece gets.
Here’s a novel first seven steps to get you going:
- Pick your Topic
Create a strategic map of all that is going on within that topic and start checking for gaps and patterns
Concentrating on both the industry players and their likely customers, create a list of keywords that is used to find them and are relevant to your topic
Using these keywords, start searching and note what you find. Again what are the questions being asked that does not appear to have answers?
- Top 50 pages
Record what the top 50 pages are that come up for the questions. Explore them for the answers being sought. What’s missing?
- Extract contact details
Feed into your database/spreadsheet
- Create an “offer”, with the view to discussing what’s missing with the top 50, highlighting how you are the one to assist in plugging this gap (and to project manager it for payment)
- Rinse and repeat
Following steps like these will enable you to potentially play in a space you may be more familiar in i.e. the more traditional business, and together, craft and execute an online business model that you has you part of the action.
And it certainly opens the door to a useful conversation about whether your personal goal is useful, your strategy is appropriate and your tactic is coherent and likely to cause the change sought.
In your offer, address:
What’s it for?
When it works, will we be able to tell?
What’s it supposed to do?
Who is it for?
What specific group is this designed to resonate with?
What does this remind you of?
Who has tried this before?
Is it as well done?
What’s the call to action?
Is there a moment when you are clearly asking people to do something?
Show this to ten strangers. Don’t say anything. What do they ask you?
Now, ask them what the material is asking them to do.
What is the urgency?
Your job is not to answer every question; your job is not to close the sale. The purpose of this work is to amplify interest, generate interaction and spread your idea to the people who need to hear it, at the same time that you build trust.
You will rarely achieve this with one fell swoop, so be prepared to drip your way through countless swoops until you’ve earned the privilege of engaging with the audience you seek and them seeing the value in what you’re proposing.
As simple as Seth’s advice is, it is also extremely powerful. Follow it, together with the steps outlined and you will be well on your way.
To talk to me about this and any other business question you have on your mind, please contact me via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Recently, Lorraine Pirihi from “Relaunch your Life” and I had a good chat about “How to Avoid Losing Money When Buying a Business” (audio is below).
The key aspects of which are summarised here:
• Not certain of what to buy?
• You can spend a lot of time looking at a broad range of businesses.
• Whilst keen at the start it can be energy sapping in the long run if you’re uncertain of what to buy.
• Financial limitations
• Do you have an understanding of what you REALLY can “afford”?
• Can you pass the “sleep at night test”– losing sleep might indicate that you are over stretched!
• Often after finding the right business that matches your criteria, you may continue to procrastinate with the decision to buy
• Lack of preparation
• Due to lack of preparation, you may not able to identify an opportunity even if you find one. Often buyers regret missing the opportunity after the business was bought by others.
• Seeking the perfect deal
• You may appear stuck in the buying process, and over analyze businesses with the focus on identifying actual or potential issues, thereby talking yourself out of the transaction.
A full transcript of the interview can be found here.
Follow along with this audio…
Podcast: How to Avoid Losing Money Buying a Business – a conversation with Lorraine Pirihi by Denise Hall on Mixcloud
Recently, this really good article, “5 Questions to ask when Choosing a Business Broker“, got me thinking… can I answer the questions to your satisfaction? So I’ve given it a go. If my responses raise further questions for you, then please ask…
Finding the Right Business Broker
After you have decided to sell your company, it’s helpful to meet with multiple brokers to identify the one that is the best match for your unique needs and sale objectives. You have spent years building your business. You owe it to yourself to interview a number of candidates. As you go through this process, keep the following questions in mind when comparing brokers:
1. What are the broker’s background and credentials?
I have a track record in selling businesses, especially of the Online and Professional Services kind.
Not only have I done so for myself, but also for a growing number of clients over the last years.
I am also qualified and credentialed, e.g.:
CAR(REIV) = Certified Agents Representative with the Real Estate Institute of Victoria
AMAIBB = Associate Member of the Australian Institute of Business Brokers
MREIV = Member of the Real Estate Institute of Victoria (Business Brokers chapter)
MIMC = Member of the Institute of Management Consultants
BTD = Bachelor of Training and Development
2. Is the broker genuinely interested in learning about your business?
Allow me to introduce The Business Discovery Process…
As you’re no doubt aware, the sale of a business can be a complex and sensitive a process. So to get the best outcome for my clients, I prefer all parties to invest some time upfront before making any formal decision. At that point, I introduce the “Business Discovery” process, which allows both sides to gather sufficient information about each other before proceeding to any formal commitment.
3. How will the broker promote your sale?
As experts in selling businesses, the professional team that I am apart of and our experience have enabled us to deliver results for our clients over many years.
Our proactive approach is to have the appropriate marketing strategies in place to reach potential buyers of your business. As a result, we tailor our marketing strategy to deliver the optimum outcome.
The upside for you is that you do not have to spend a fortune to find a purchaser.
The beauty of being part of a well-respected and long-established trusted adviser in the community, is that they are also very well-connected with good relationships with accountants, lawyers, bankers and other small business professionals. Together with having an enviously large contact list, I am able to tap into markets and opportunities that many are not.
4. What process will the broker use to screen prospects?
I handle all initial inquiries, where tyre-kickers are immediately outed.
Once they get past first base, the next step is for them to sign and return a NDA/CA (confidentiality Agreement).
Once received, they in turn receive a preliminary Business Profile.
Then if still interested, it’s time to meet you, the owner.
5. How many listings is the broker currently managing?
At any given time, I am handling between 6-10 businesses and their owners.
This allows me to concentrate on the negotiations at hand, to ideally bring them to the outcome that all parties desire.
I trust that has addressed any questions you may have had, but if not, please email through whatever you want to know, to email@example.com
Sounds pretty obvious I know, but in my experience it’s not!
Websites have the capacity to be profit centres in their own right.
I repeat that.
Websites have the capacity to be profit centres in their own right.
So when I’m approached about selling an “online business”, I will always ask about:
- the traffic
- the database
- the profit
Usually the answers come thick and fast about the first two and only muffled silence on the 3rd.
If your website is not making money in its own right, is it really an online business?
What invariably happens is that the online part is the front end, the marketing channel but it still has a manual backend.
Which means the Business Owner may have mastered the art of generating traffic and building a database but the fulfilment component and the collection of dollars are done in the more traditional ways.
So it’s not really an online business at all.
What Business are you building?
I mean really. What does building a database mean to your business?
If it’s only about adding names to a spreadsheet and saying there’s a large number, that’s not enough.
It has to be about the level of engagement with the client/customer that you’re adding to the list.
Add as many names and contact details as you like.
But the value is actually in the relationship you build with these people.
Do you engage with them?
Do you touch base with them on a regular basis?
Do they come back to you and buy? comment? ask questions?
If they don’t, then having a list of people only is not enough… you’ve got work to do.
Building a database of quality is in the engagement, the care factor that is demonstrated from yourself and your client.
Working out what to do is about knowing your customers intimately.
If you don’t, then it’s time to get up close and personal.
But don’t rush them. You don’t want to frighten them off if what you’re about to do consistently hasn’t happened before.
Slowly but surely is the key…
So, the last 3 days I have spent with Liz and Matt Raad, coming up to speed with the latest in Buying and Selling Websites.
Three days well spent I might like to add!
Now reflecting on the time got me thinking about the average Business Owner I meet and how well they understand the Internet and Online space. Fundamentally, the majority of them don’t. Nor do the advisors they seek the advice from. And they don’t know what they don’t know. It’s rather scary…
Just today, I read where a body I’m associated with is going to spend approx. $50,000 on Adwords. Google will be rubbing their hands in glee, even if they’re none the wiser. Given Google has recently “cleaned up” the function of search and has narrowed down those that will feature on the front page, whilst Adwords can be part of the consideration for generating traffic, it cannot be the be all and end all. It just won’t wash anymore.
The main point about “generating traffic” is Lead Generation.
If it’s not then why are you doing it or agreeing to have stuff done? Most searchers nowadays will bypass the advertised option and go for the organic top 10. The way to get onto the organic front page is based on content that is quality, relevant and consistent. This all goes back to understanding Google and the search engines, giving them want they are asking for in order to best serve you, its user.
To not understand Google is to do so at your own peril, and cost…