Last week I had an enlightening conversation with a guy who knows a few things about growing a business.
His name is Mark LeBlanc and he runs a consulting practice called Small Business Success out of LaJolla, CA. Mark is also a nationally known professional speaker and he is slated to be the 2007-2008 President of the National Speakers Association.
Best of all, he has a lot of sensible ideas when it comes to helping people grow their business or professional practice.
The first thing I asked Mark was, what are the three most important pieces of advice he would offer someone who wants to grow their business.
Mark’s first reply was: “Get a hold of the money side of your business.”
“Money is the keystone in business or in sales” Mark said. “It’s the mechanism by which we make better decisions.”
His advice in this regard is to know how much revenue your business needs so you can reach your goals. Measure this in gross sales and look at it in monthly terms (not quarterly or annually). Mark calls this your optimistic number.
Your optimistic number provides your monthly yardstick to help you know if you’re on track or not. And it provides a simple goal you can work toward every month.
The second most important piece of advice Mark gave was that people should position themselves by concept using what he calls a “defining statement.” He explained that a defining statement is just a simple answer to the simple question: “What do you do?”
But, he said, your defining statement is not a slogan, mission or vision statement. It’s not a tagline or an elevator speech.
It’s significantly more useful. A hallmark of a defining statement is that you can say it naturally. It doesn’t sound phony or forced (like so many tagline or slogans). A defining statement should be so conversational that others will repeat it for you.
When’s the last time you heard anyone repeat their OWN mission statement, much less someone else’s?
Mark gave me another way to think about what a defining statement is.
He said, to create your defining statement, you should “articulate the primary outcomes of your product or service in an easy to understand, conversational way.”
The third most important piece of advice Mark gave was to market yourself on a monthly basis.
This doesn’t just mean you have some marketing tools (like a brochure, website, etc.) It means you need to use them.
Here’s how Mark puts it:
“You should select and implement a marketing strategy on a 30 day basis.”
For example you might attend two networking meetings every 30 days. Or maybe you send 200 direct mail pieces every 30 days. Or you could create and send a newsletter to your database of prospects and leads once every 30 days.
The key is to do specific activities that get your message in front of people who are likely prospects for your product or service. And by planning and doing this every 30 days, you get the frequency and repetition you need to help your message stick in the minds of your prospects.
I also asked Mark if he had any advice for what NOT to do to help grow your business.
His response was to not use an annual timeframe for planning what you do. A year is too long. Too much happens in that timeframe.
Use a monthly (or every 30 days) timeframe. Every 30 days is manageable. We’re more tuned to think and act in terms of 30 days (think of most billing cycles – mortgages, rent, car payments, etc.) Monthly is manageable. Yearly is not.
My final question for Mark was this: “What is the best advice you have gotten about how to grow your business (and did you follow it)?”
His response was that he didn’t follow the advice and that’s what made it the best advice.
Here’s what he means.
As Mark was building his consulting business, many people advised him to NOT focus on small businesses. He always ignored that advice and he’s built a successful and well-known business as a result.
The lesson here is this: “Consider the source.”
People love to give advice. But it’s not always based on fact or experience or reality.
To make the best decisions in our businesses and our lives, we can all use good advice. But not all advice is worthy of our attention or implementation. Never take advice at face value unless you trust the source implicitly. It’s better to filter it through your own knowledge base. Compare it to what you already know to be true and sensible.
Above all, make sure the advice you act on is a good fit for you. If not, store it away for future use or throw it away.
Mark LeBlanc offers us a wealth of useful advice. And it comes from real world experience as a guy who’s been there. He’s seen what works and what doesn’t.
I think it’s advice worth using.