9 Mistakes Rookie Small Business Owners Make and How to Avoid Them

John Lamerton – Author Of Big Ideas For Small Businesses

In this great podcast we discussed the 9 Mistakes Rookie Small Business Owners Make and How to Avoid Them.

Everyone makes these mistakes and we agreed hindsight is an amazing thing.

John has owned 60 businesses over the last 20 years so is well versed at making mistakes…

He has worked within all sorts of sectors over the years, some more successful than others. Sharing the same ethos as other successful entrepreneurs I have interviewed. A great one here also with tech entrepreneur Mike Tobin OBE – Sales and Success Secrets to Scale Up Your Startup

1) Some people are confused around their job titles?

John – Most define themselves around what they do, ie I am a painter decorator, I am a gardener, or Managing director or Chief Operations Officer or they are self -employed.

Transforming people from being self employed to owning an asset is key, John thinks of himself as head of marketing for whatever business it is that I do.

Even if I am the only person in the company, being head of marketing is the best way to see myself and everyone disregards their marketing in the early days. And I call it Kevin Costner syndrome; from the film “The Field of Dreams” the most famous line in the film is :- “If you build it they will come”

Both John and I agreed is rubbish.

2) All I have to do is open my shop or setup my business and this is not true?

He talks about it in his book link here :- www.natschooler.com/bigideasforsmallbusiness

Back in 2012 John got lots of traffic from Google and this changed over night when his company was penalised by Google when there were some SEO changes. He remembers sitting down with his mentor as he was running 30 businesses at the same time.

His mentor said “What is the most important thing in your businesses?”

Getting new customers in the door is the most important thing!

Mentor “So what have you done today to do this?

I wrote a blog and did the VAT return…”

Over night John shut down his businesses so he was left with 2.

Mentor “So why have you not done this?”

John made his excuses and then closed almost all his businesses down.

Beginning to sit and market every day towards growing business so activities quadrupled and shift in mindset and focus was key, this was the key shift.

We agreed that working on the business instead of the inside is the way to go.

3) People are just trying to be Richard Branson?

I still have to fight this urge to be Richard Branson. Is it right to copy Richard Branson when you start out in business?

Branson can run all these different businesses because he is not actively running these businesses and he has the management structure in place to make it work.

Focusing on the one thing that makes the difference is key!

Every week he asks his coaching clients “What is the one thing that you can do to get more customers”

John has a could do list!

Once every three months he brain dumps all this information and 150 items onto a could do list; he then looks at these ideas and cuts them down to 3 things with 1 that is the most important thing.

Inbox zero doesn’t generate revenue it doesn’t pay the bills, going onto Facebook doesn’t pay the bills, it gives our brain endorphins.

Being obsessed with the new product or service that we are providing and being excited with the shine new toy syndrome we have serious problems with our businesses and we can’t sell it.

I remembered my conversation with the late Richard White, The Accidental Salesman when I mentioned a product I was looking at selling and told him about it and the time that I told him about some caffeinated chocolates I was thinking of selling, and he stood up and shouted at me about these chocolates. This was a funny story, well worth listening to!

This was the reminder that I needed to stop the monkey brain, the child’s brain that we have that is addicted to endorphins.

We have this conversation every day with clients and I keep our clients focused and mentor them so they become successful and the shiny object syndrome is seriously a problem.

When mentoring clients I ask them what worked before and then we get them to focus on this rather than doing things that may work.

All of these things like presentations, campaigns and certain great activities work and focusing on activities and focusing on what we are doing, ignoring distractions is key to becoming successful.

The more that we feed these endorphins from Facebook and feeding those is not how to make a successful business unless they are tied to the bottom line!

I dropped into Periscope and explained that it is about focus and not getting distracted, they are massive, attention spans are dropping and the more we crave these endorphins the more we need to focus on controlling them vs them controlling us.

4) Live to live not live to work!

We build lifestyle businesses, I have been there and worked 100 -hour weeks and now I work on the 80/20 rule, which has helped me to focus on my business and create the lifestyle that I want.

Once I needed to do childcare, I then only had 3 hours a day and then spent the time to work out what was on his list and he began to accept the fact that it can take a long time to reply to emails.

The impact on business was phenomenal from doing this, 180 minutes to achieve everything that was on his list, accepting the chaos that appears from not replying.

He worked out what brought in lots of results and started to just ignore perfection!

We agreed that working less than 55 hours per week is the best way to go, he believes in 25 hour a week working weeks.

You can never be perfect, but you never get it done, you need to get it out the door. I am investing time to get the work done.

John:- We now have a campaign going out in October and it builds us about 100K of revenue and John has detailed the steps it takes to build the campaign. Documenting the steps is the key to removing yourself from the business.

We agreed that perfection is rarely achieved and something to strive for but in reality get things done, get them shipped and out the door.

The aim is to remove yourself from the business, we agreed this goes without saying.

Tunnel vision doing one thing: getting the customers and working out what works and doing more of it.

5) Competing on price?

John: If you want a lifestyle business you need to make margin. You cannot run a lifestyle business competing on price. 2-3% you must scale! You must be Amazon, Lidl or such like.

If you are running a lifestyle business on a 70% margin you can get by on 2-3 sales per day.

Me: This takes you to your unique product. Communicating your messaging to your target clients is important. If you want to find the best way to do anything ask a lazy person.

John: People don’t understand marketing and think marketing is giving away money, but it is an investment!

If I asked 100 small businesses, 40% of the 100 say:- “Yes a 10% discount.”

For the purchaser it is just a bland boring offer. From a business owners point of view you are just taking a cut off your profit off your bottom line.

Having a recent rant because of this very thing. On the back of the season ticket John bought, he noticed an advert on the back of the ticket for a lettings business.

The features and benefits John wanted was not a 20% discount, it was an easy process with minimal headache!

But none of this was mentioned. It was in fact a 20% discount for the letting business was their USP on the back of the ticket.

Why not have an open day and introduce people to your service this way and explain why you are different.

Provide a great service and you are onto a winner!

Me: When I work with clients I help them to explain why they are different. Starting with what they do, what gives them authority and credibility and the third thing is why are people or businesses are different and or better than anyone else.

It’s really exciting as what John does is so connected to what I am doing in fact and the work John does fits in just before people do personal branding, but until people decide on what the business does and what they do it is not worth doing the personal branding wording.

6) Why are you doing what you are doing is an important question to answer?

Ask not what you can do for your business but what your business can do for you! (Quote JFK!)

Taking the time to look at JF Kennedy’s speech to learn about copy-writing was a great educational tool for me as an individual, the combinations of words and that they use combinations of three’s in the wording.

7) Looking for free marketing opportunities?

John: What can we do to market our business that is free?

People ask this question all the time in his mentoring group. Main criteria it must not cost me any money.

John and I agreed that it is a good idea to get other people to do some of the work, work out the ROI, so many people are focused on not spending any money and this is the wrong way to look at it.

Asset value and creation is key, so having a piece of marketing that you can use again, leveraging your time to get someone else to create this asset, saving time and get return on investment.

I will get return on the investment so he will send it out and it will bring in more that the cost and as the asset is owned he brings in the rewards.

or sell the asset to someone into a parallel market or potentially make sales of the asset by using a JV arrangement as mentioned by Jay Abraham in some of his videos.

Me: We agreed that this is down to mindset and influences around them and in fact they need to get out of this way of thinking. They are under the impression that social media is free and changing this mindset is key.

John:  Would rather spend money and we agreed it goes back to your why and what you love doing.

Some of his clients want someone to manage all of the business activities right.

Me: We agreed that you are either a business person or an entrepreneur, are you either a business person or an entrepreneur or are you self employed.

John: If you combine the two and have a business that competes on price you are in trouble.

John: Poverty mindset is creating the problem and this is causing them a problem.

When moving into a two person business then this is where the problems happen, the person.

Nothing wrong with being a freelancer, but at some stage you need to decide if you are an entrepreneur or a business owner and if you combine the two together and you compete on price you are in big trouble.

There are loads of things you can do with your marketing, but actually not investing in it is not wise.

Doing everything yourself is a great idea!

8) What about the short term thinking?

In terms of the sales letter then people will only think if I write a sales letter then I am only using this sales letter once. Then they need to think over the longer term.

Warren Buffet’s attitude to long term investing is brilliant and he still drives the same car, lives in the same house and still goes to McDonalds.

His long term thinking is immense and the process he looked at when he bought the house, the first Mrs Buffet forced him to buy it, he had a $1 Million in the bank and he is thinking that the $56K he spent on his house was a real waste of money as 20 years at 15% would be a much better investment.

Compounding the interest on top of interest and people don’t think about this and the difference is when I got to £2K a month from £1500, John thought about how he can move this forwards to be able to remove him from earning the money.

My first business was an internet marketing business, as someone with their first computer and it was about making money on the internet. We agreed it is hard work and we both recommend that it is easier to start something that you are good at as opposed to something you know nothing about!

It took 9 months to get my first cheque from my first business it was £13.46! Then I reinvested the money.

It took me 2 years to make £20-30K per month profit and he put lots of the profit into the business and he like many people made lots of painful decisions.

The mistakes helped to write the book, every screw up is a story and a lesson and each one is a great thing to tell people and they remember these things.

Crashing my car last month on a race track, an initial “Oh dear what have I done” and then reframing it, blog posts came from it, buy the book! To cover the cost of the car crash, but he has framed it as a good thing and although his bank balance was a painful experience!

We discussed my journey across the boarder in Latin America BLOG here- https://www.natschooler.com/travelling-in-latin-america/

What happened next from your experience after you made money?

2008 bought this business, from Ebay as it was earning £50 per month and it took John 9 years to build it into a better business, build a better website and SEO and social media team etc.

So from 18 months work that is bringing in lots of good profit and we have the lifestyle we want, now it would be easy to chase the bigger bucks.

Chasing turnover VS profit is potentially a lifestyle choice that they don’t need. They are doing a 20 year snowball, to really use the avalanche of time.

Can we turn this into £19 Million is the focus over 20 years it could be as little as 9 Million…

9) People make things more complicated than they have to be?

I am a lazy entrepreneur, you don’t need to do lots of different things you just need to focus on simple, practical things you need to do for your business.

Learn what has worked for your business in the past and repeat.

You are accused of breaking walnuts with sledgehammers?

Finessing the campaigns is not necessary most of the time, just get it done, get it out, it’s finished and out the door and entrepreneurs are onto the next thing.

Swing that sledgehammer and get on it every day, do it, big action, every single day, what action do you take every day, but are you taking real action that is going to move you forward propel you forwards.

Every day swing the hammer, getting and keeping customers is the most important thing to be doing every day.

Building strategic partnerships and designing the business around the lifestyle.

In the first 7 years of the business it was 100 hour weeks doing 5 hours every day on top of the day job to make $ 0.07 with no sight of land.

I have read John’s Book and it is great!

Big Ideas For Small Business

Read it if you want to learn more about business and taking that step from self employed to becoming a business owner to scaling your business!

Buy John’s book on Amazon link is here it is a best seller!

Don’t forget to contact me if you would like some assistance with your marketing, in particular content! nat@natschooler.com

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