7 Key Shifts in Thinking from the Entrepreneurial Trenches (Pt 2)

7 Secrets of the Successful Entrepreneur

In part one of this series, I talked about how important failure is to success, and ended by saying If you haven’t failed, you haven’t been taking big-enough risks! In this , I want to take things a step further and share with you 7 key lessons I’ve learned along my own entrepreneurial journey. From educating yourself constantly to making the commitment to success and accepting how long it might take to see financial rewards, here are  7 key shifts in thinking that are necessary to succeed as an entrepreneur (these tips are especially for the speaker, author, coach, consultant, expert who’s selling their knowledge and expertise):

  1. The most crucial investment you make is in educating yourself. I really notice this when interviewing new team members – those who’ve been freelancers for a while expect to invest time and money to keep their skills sharp so they are able to create opportunity for their clients and land great gigs. Those who have been “employed” their whole career want you to pay for them to learn something new.Most of my colleagues all spend a great deal of money on conferences, certifications, mastermind groups, and courses they believe will give them any kind of an edge as they’re growing their business.  They don’t “throw money around” at every opportunity–they are intentional and deliberate, and they aren’t afraid to risk some dough if it will give them an edge. And it pays off.As an entrepreneur, it is a must for you to constantly be investing time and money in your own learning (taking a course, hiring a coach, attending a conference, buying a book, enrolling in a training program, etc).  If you’re of the mindset that spending money on your education and / or support is frivolous, or you “don’t have the money,” you’re pushing your success further into the future and potentially creating a more challenging path.
  2. The only person to blame when things don’t work out is “you”–own it, and go easy on yourself. When things don’t go well, it’s easy to slip into the blame game: it’s because of that vendor, or that bad hire, or that jerk of a client, or the market crashing.  As an entrepreneur, it’s your job to manage all the conditions that affect your success. You can’t blame your boss, or your co-worker, or the processes and procedures; huffing “because-they-won’t-listen-to-me” or “so-and-so-didn’t-do-x-so-this-is-what-happens” doesn’t make you.  The accountability is radical when you’re a business owner.
  3. Blaming someone else only keeps you stuck. If something isn’t working, at the end of the day, it comes down to something you did or didn’t do.  I find myself constantly solving “puzzles” around creating more success: I need a better system, more education, better resources, a new team member, a different client, a new relationship … I need to find out what condition is missing, or what nuance we need to address.  Communicate better.  Change something.  It’s never, ever, ever anyone else’s fault.  It’s always mine.  I own everything.  That doesn’t mean I don’t hold people accountable–I do.  And you should.  But your success ultimately depends on your ability to bring together the right team and create the right conditions for alchemy.
  4. Business owners need a tremendous amount of courage, and feeling “afraid” is just part of your job. Corporate environments have many nooks, crannies, and “layers” of bureaucracy that give your ego lots of places to hide when the going gets tough – it’s easy to find someone to blame, or to ignore what you’re not ready to face, or to remain oblivious to a shortcoming, or to overlook your need for someone else’s cooperation.  As an entrepreneur, there is nowhere to hide.  Every day, every hour, every minute some days, you must face things that are challenging to reconcile–your vulnerability to failure floats just beneath the surface of your experience.  If it gets too hot in the kitchen, sure you can quit or find another path, but if you are committed to success, you get really good at finding the courage to set your jaw and plow through.
  5. You must value your time differently and learn the art of LEVERAGE. As an employee, you trade your time for dollars in a pretty linear way to make money.  As an entrepreneur or independent professional, you soon learn that there are a LOT of hours that you could potentially work for which no one is writing you a check.  Getting leverage is really the key to success in building a sustainable business — you need others to come alongside you as partners to keep things running smoothly.  A major area for “getting leverage” in your business is in farming out the administrative and accounting responsibilities… it’s easy to want to hang on to these responsibilities so you don’t have to pay someone else, but you’ll soon learn that this isn’t sustainable.  Your time as a business owner is likely worth at least $100 / hour; every hour you spend doing $15 / hour work costs you money and slows your growth.  By hanging onto “menial” responsibilities, you clog up your mental bandwidth with sludge that keeps you from igniting your creativity to serve your clients, find new ones, and to channel the divine into something new and special.Another huge shift comes as business owners realize that they aren’t selling 40 hours/week. Most independent professionals have 15-25 hours per week to feasibly sell–the rest of their time is spent on marketing, networking, and creative work to sustain growth in their businesses.  Misunderstand this, and you’re setting yourself up to ride the roller coaster of feast-or-famine: after you finish what you’ve been pouring yourself into for weeks or months, you’re staring an empty pipeline square in the eye.  Rats.
  6. Becoming an entrepreneur is a 5-7 year commitment. As much as I’d love to paint things rosy, the truth is that for virtually all of us, we don’t really start hitting our strides as entrepreneurs until 5-7 years in.  That doesn’t mean we don’t make money starting out–I’ve been fortunate to have “made it” financially since I started my business over seven years ago. However, I didn’t start hitting my stride until around the six-year mark, and frankly, I’m growing and learning every day.  There is so much to absorb and understand, so many nuances with which to become familiar.  The marketplace needs time to really embrace you and trust you and you need time to really trust yourself. This isn’t what people typically want to hear, but time flies and the journey is life-transforming!
  7. A strong entrepreneurial ROI requires a 15-year commitment. Every (translate: very wealthy) business person I know has stuck with their craft and honed their skills over years, and their tenacity has paid off exponentially when the commitment turns to double-digits.  Most people I know choose an entrepreneurial path in part because they want their opportunity at a 7-figure income (or more!).  And most of them realize that dream when the tenure of their business crosses into the double digits.

Question:  What important lessons have YOU learned on your entrepreneurial path?

Can’t Keep Up? 5 Ways To Budget For Your Website


Can't Keep Up? 5 Ways To Budget For Your Website

“How much does it cost to create a good website?”

It’s a misleading question, in many ways – in truth, the actual cost for designing your website is minimal compared to the costs for making it “good.” Or even “great.” Check out another one of my posts about the important components of a good website here.

For independent professionals (speakers, authors, executive coaches, consultants, trainers, etc), the actual design of your website could be as inexpensive as “free” if you’re a do-it-yourself-er who knows WordPress and wants to use a free template. Or, you could have a custom HTML template created with custom programming for integrating things like eCommerce and subscribe forms, styling sidebar widgets via CSS and other such techi-ness. You’ll likely pay $500-$1000 for a template website, and anywhere for $1500 to $3500 (or more, if you’re REALLY going bananas) for great design and programming (slicing a design into HTML code can be very time consuming, as can styling widgets and customizing the look-and-feel of forms).

Having your site hosted is another expense. Factors like if you’re using a shared server or a dedicated one, and how much traffic you’re getting, and how many backups of your site you’re having created (and where those backups are being kept) can all influence your hosting costs. The average Joe can expect to spend $10 to $60 monthly on hosting.

The REAL upfront cost of building a great website is in creating great content. Content includes things like:

  • Overview of your offerings
  • Strong “About” page (bio, etc)
  • Blogs and articles
  • Podcasts, videos, and other multimedia
  • Media room with useful media resources
  • Downloadables like one sheets, white papers, and other tools used to support different aspects of building your sales funnels.

Creating powerful, compelling copy is THE most important component of your website. Like, if you don’t have that, you’ve wasted whatever time and money you’ve spent getting your site up. A mediocre design and powerful copy are WAY more important than a beautiful design with weak copy.

But it doesn’t stop there.

Many other aspects of maintaining your online presence could potentially impact your budget, including:

    1. Updating software & plugins, and integrating new technology into your website. On a pretty regular basis, your server and likely your software (like WordPress) is going to be issuing updates to hardware and software, respectively, that you will need to install. It’s not uncommon for these updates to break or conflict with other programs and plugins set up on your site and / or running on your server. This is not a good place for DIY-ers to be experimenting. You need a pro to help. You can often hire VAs for this kind of support if it’s simple. More complicated issues will need the support of a programmer. You really can’t get by without these ongoing expenses if you are actively marketing online and engaged in social media, so plan for it. I’d recommend putting at least an hour monthly into your budget.
    2. Updating graphics. It seems that once or twice a year, both my and my client’s website graphics will need to be updated to accommodate some kind of change we want to implement on the site. These changes can cost as little as a couple hundred bucks, or as much as $1,000 to execute (or more). It doesn’t happen frequently, but you should expect to be reviewing things every six months and learning ways you can improve things.
    3. Adding additional functionality to integrate with social media. It goes without saying that social media is evolving and changing at the speed of light. Sometimes we can anticipate the changes, but more often, we are a bit blindsided by the “new thing” that people want to do in the interest of sharing content. WordPress is awesome because it allows you to integrate new functionality via a plugin pretty easily. Most plugins are free, and with a little training, you might be able to add these plugins yourself. Be wary, though: it’s not uncommon for new plugins to need some tweaking so they “look good” on your website, or for new plugins to conflict with existing plugins on your website, requiring the assistance of a seasoned programmer to fix. It seems that several times a year, we need to bring in a programmer to help us manage upgrading our sites’ functionality (typically a couple hundred bucks each time), so plan on it.
    4. Optimizing new content, managing Google adwords and Facebook ads campaigns. Obviously, step one is creating the content. But once the content is created, it needs to be proofed, optimized for search, uploaded to your site, and if you’re committed to getting more traffic for your site, submitted to other sites around the web (like Digg, article submission sites, guest posts, etc). And of course, you want to create tweets for the content, schedule them for Facebook, Twitter, and more.
    5. Adding landing pages, creating new content and reconfiguring conversion paths. After you launched your website, you started getting feedback that your visitors were looking for something you didn’t position well (so they were unable to find it, sometimes leaving the site without doing anything). You were hoping people would come to the site to buy something, but what you realized after monitoring things for a few months was that people were looking around and leaving without so much as signing up for your newsletter.

      Or consider that you started getting feedback from people that inspired you to create a new offering that you want to display front-and-center on your website. New copy needs to be generated, your menu might need to be changed up, you might want to tweak your home page or add a new page to your website, and update other copy to drive traffic to this new page. Sometimes, these tweaks only require an hour or two of support; other times, you’ve got a full-fledged project on your hands that might take 20 hours and several weeks to execute.

It is really important for you to consider the implications of these variables when you begin thinking about creating a new website. It is very common in my work for me to talk to professionals who’ve spent a huge wad of cash on making their website pretty, with little-to-no funds remaining to actually get results by levaraging social media and engaging in activities that drive traffic.

If you have a limited budget, go the site template route and budget for important money-making activities that directly affect the ROI you are going to experience by creating an ecosystem that attracts customers, builds your credibitility, stokes the fires of raving fans and inspires others to share your work with their friends.  Spending all your budget on a pretty design with nothing left over for taking action predestins you to be one of those frustrated professionals who struggles to make their website work for them.

5 Strategies for Building a Website That Is a Lead Generating Machine

Building WebsiteEveryone needs a website.

For those of us building a platform, a website is our storefront.  There are a lot of ways you can leverage your website to drive revenue in your business if you know what you’re doing.

I’ve been helping my clients build websites for the last 15 years, and a LOT has changed since we started building them in straight HTML! And it keeps changing. 15 years is like, 4 lifetimes in the technology world (or more!). If it weren’t for the fact that keeping up with this space is a significant part of how I support our clients, there is no way I’d know how to navigate it well, particularly because things shift so quickly!

There are a few key “rules” I abide by when we help our clients build out new sites. A website can be a money pit, and frankly, there are only a handful of things that are worth spending money on as it relates to your site. And how you prioritize and spend money on them depends on the strategies you’re executing and the channels you are leveraging.

The Secret Strategy to Building Your Platform and Selling More

The Secret Strategy to Building Your Platform and Selling More

When I was a kid, my sisters and I LOVED Super Mario Brothers. I had the prestigious honor of being the first one in the family to conquer the last world (8-4) to win the entire game. In this dungeon, you had to jump over bad guys, squat down pipes and eat coins, all in a very specific order in order to keep progressing to the ultimate challenge: the biggest fire-breathing dragon yet.  Your charge: slay him and save the princess.

Episode #13: Chris Crawford – Tenacity, Grit & Soul: How an Underdog Built a Million-Dollar Company #Winning

Chris Crawford, founder of Kickass Media in Toronto, has always been a risk-taker, and his persistence, the hallmark of all great entrepreneurs, has paid off in spades.  As the son of a teen mom, Chris learned early in his life that nothing would be handed to him.  His ingenuity had him delivering papers, starting a band, excelling as a young man in his career and making the big leap at 30 to start a business of his own.

Chris’ belief in himself and his courage to take a risk for his dream and a better life had him leave his successful career and turn his love for live music into a business helping bands to promote their live shows.  He soon learned why they call them starving artists, and almost starved himself, losing his apartment and sleeping in bus stations, airports and campgrounds while he hustled to reinvent himself and get his business off the ground.

Nearly 8 years later, Kickass Media has become a million dollar creative printing company that specializes in helping their clients create great brand experiences at their trade shows, parties, galas and retreats.  His clients include well-known brands like Disney, Sony and Yahoo.  Chris lives in Toronto.



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