MBA versus Entreprenuership

With grad school admission responses being received around the country, and having attended an event recently where many people my age were in graduate school pursuing an MBA, I’ve been forced to reflect on my choice to forgo an MBA in pursuit of entrepreneurship. The Backstory Three years ago, at age 24 I quit my job. At the time, nationwide unemployment was over 9% nationwide, and pundits were talking about a prolonged recession. This is roughly still the case, but my life has dramatically changed for the better. And, I’d argue that I’m further along than most people who would have went through a full-time MBA program, because I have my own clients now, a professional reputation that’s been built over time, a stronger resume and the added savings vs. added debt ratio is in my favor. Entrepreneurship instead of a MBA Everything in life has Pros and Cons. The real internal debate should be whether or not you will enjoy the Pros and can form a solid plan to deal with the Cons. Pros Make your Schedule Flexibility – Potential to work when you want, where you want and with whom you want The potential to determine your own income and monetary worth Momentum – You own the accounts and the business. Each year things can get easier. Learn the skills you need to succeed (or fail) Cons Risking your own capital No steady paycheck Worse job benefits (no paid vacation, no dental plan, etc.) No 401K match (You have alternatives here, but they take some setup work) No “job security” Before You Take the GMAT I think...

How to Consistently Win New Business

While there is not a magic bullet that applies to every business, the best way I've found to win new business is to: 1. Convert strangers to friends 2. Convert friends into fans 3. Get your fans to talk about you to their friends (who are strangers to you before that conversation) 4. Rinse and repeat You can replace the word stranger with prospect and friend with customer, if you must, but I wouldn't recommend using that language as it will affect the way you treat...

Consultants Need to Know Your Constraints

There comes a time when you need to work with a consultant, or even just a specialist. Whether she's a doctor, a salesperson, or a web designer, I've found that the best approach is to give them constraints. Often consultants will ask you to tell them about your situation. This is where you'll often want to describe the problems you have that you think they might be able to solve. On the consultant's side, they're listening to what you're saying, but also playing Choose Your Own Adventure at the same time. The Consultant is thinking…. If this, then Solution A is an option. If this, but also that, then maybe Solution B will work.  Essentially, a consultant knows which strategic bucket to drop you into based on how you describe your problem to them. My Advice, and an Example I've found the best way to have a productive first meeting with a consultant is to determine ahead of time what my constraints are, and make sure to provide that information at the first meeting. It may be something like: My budget is endless as long as each lead generated costs less than $25. Or… My budget is $10,000 and my expectations are to generate 400 leads.  Other Constraints to Consider Sharing Amount of Time or People You Can Dedicate to their Plan Timeline for Implementation Capital Allocated for the Project Competitive Information Successes or Failures in the Past Gatekeeper's Likes and Dislikes Consultants don't come cheap, so figuring out this information prior to engaging them is often worth your time. It will also help you refine your thinking and...

3SP Success Factors for Small Businesses

The most common success factors for a small business are: Speed Smart Service Promises Speed – Act quickly. It’s simple, but powerful.  You can’t win the resource game. But, you can win by making decisions faster, adapting to changing markets quicker, and deploying your resources faster. Big companies have momentum — brand, customer base, assets, etc. Use momentum against them as things change.  Smart – Solve business problems with creative solutions. A neat way to do this,  create diverse teams. Another way is to think about problem solving as a skill on its own rather than an added bonus. If you’re customers see you as providing smart solutions, they’ll view you as a trusted advisor. Service – If you’re not getting thank you e-mails or fan mail you’re not doing a good enough job at service to make it a competitive advantage. Non-retail related tip: If your employees don’t know the answer to a question, teach them to say “I’ll look into it and will get back to you in 30 minutes.” Then, teach them to drop everything, and solve the problem. Wait, what if we can’t solve the problem in 30 minutes? No problem. Keep your promise. Get back to the customer with a more informed time frame, and let them know that you’ll keep them updated as you know more information. Promises – Make a promise to each and every customer, and keep it. Keeping promises builds trust.  The idea of promises — weather it be promotions, warranties or satisfaction guarantees, to name a few — is powerful, and simple. Leverage...

Being Available is Half the Battle

37Signals, developers of popular SaaS tools for small businesses and project teams, like Basecamp and Highrise, makes its CEO available for calls with customers for 4 hours each week. Play to your strengths, and do something your larger competitors "can't do". SMBs should take...