Category Archives: Best Practices

3 Reasons Why Your Business Plan Stinks

There’s a problem with your business plan. I haven’t read it. I don’t know what your product or service is, or what problem it solves. But I know this: there are holes in what you think is an amazing business plan, and you need to fix them if you want anyone to read it, let alone invest.

Most people never even finish reading poor business plans because they have learned to recognize instantly when an idea hasn’t been fully fleshed out, the entrepreneur doesn’t understand the problem they’re trying to solve, or when there’s just no evidence to support the claims being made in the business proposal. I go over how to write an effective business plan in my book on business success, in which I lay out the principles you need to know to write a convincing proposal that really does your idea—and the work behind it—justice.

Your Idea Gets Lost in the Details

Any good idea you have is lost in an overwritten business plan. Sure, people want figures and facts that will back up your business plan (market research, competitive analysis, budget estimates, financial projections for the first few years, etc.), but these elements should be referenced in your business proposal, not spelled out in full like a master’s thesis.

Unless you avoid common mistakes, people will spot you as a entrepreneurial wannabe.

Unless you avoid common mistakes, people will spot you as a entrepreneurial wannabe.

Hide the details elegantly; you don’t need to front-load everything into the proposal. If an investor is intrigued, they can drill-down into that cost analysis to see your staffing plan, your materials estimates and your projected revenue. Put those things in separate documents and keep the main proposal itself as a birds-eye view of the business plan essentials, as laid out in my book, MakeMillions.Com:

  • The problem that needs a solution.
  • Your solution to that problem.
  • Convincing evidence that your solution will work.
  • A non-sugar-coated assessment of the risks associated with your venture.

If you lay these things out in a simple, easy-to-digest form that doesn’t try to win readers over with jargon, your idea will be able to stand on its own. You’ll really have a good chance that people will read the whole proposal, and your research will show through in the organization of the data you’ve collected.

Your Market Research is Light or Nonexistent

If it’s evident that you haven’t done an exhaustive amount of research on the niche you want to occupy, people will simply pass your proposal over. In fact, I’d say that a proposal without research isn’t really a proposal at all; it’s just wishful thinking on paper.

No one will believe you can compete without understanding the current players in the market space you want to break into. No matter how impressive your product is, investors will want to be reassured that established players don’t already have something better in the pipeline. If you’re entering an already competitive niche, you’ll really need to spell out why you’ll be able to compete with the big players in the space, and that your idea is unique enough not to get lost in the crowd.

The worst thing you could do is leave out analysis of some of your obvious competitors in the space or ignore similar products to yours from even smaller players who may be poised to eat your lunch. If someone can find out more about your competition with a simple Google search than they can reading your proposal, they’re not going to take you seriously, and they shouldn’t.

You Don’t Talk about What You Don’t Know

Experienced investors and business people will be able to see blind spots in your plan. Do you? If so, you’d better spell them out in detail, describing exactly what information you don’t have that could impact the likelihood of success, and why you think you’ll be able to succeed anyway.

Every business plan involves some basic assumptions (about the economic climate, about customer demand, about competition, etc.), which you should spell out logically in order to show your investors and potential partners that your plan is firmly based in reality. Avoiding these subjects makes it seem like you’re either unprepared or being deceptive about the actual risks associated with the proposal.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals

Why Persistence and Luck are the Keys to Success

Success in business requires that you follow a few sound and well-tested principles and nurture some important traits. Throughout the years, we’ve seen the same things over and over again – truly successful entrepreneurs can be characterized by their determination, knowledge, persistence and… luck?

We hear it a lot. Someone will claim that a certain business leader was just lucky – that he or she was simply in the right place at the right time. What is luck in business, though? Is it really a defining factor in success, or does it go beyond that? Without a doubt, luck can play a big part in how we see opportunities, but perhaps there’s more to it than mystical chance. It might just be that with some persistence and the right attitude, you can make your own luck and take control of your own success.

What is Luck?

Luck, in a way, is really just a personal awareness. It’s not a special chant or tasty elixir. When we say someone is lucky, it might just be that they have a level of attentiveness that other do not, and they pay attention to specific impressions they get in every circumstance or event, letting them recognize opportunities that others miss. So how does that help you with your business?

Everyone sees and describes luck differently. Just because one CEO climbed to the top faster or more efficiently than another company president doesn’t mean he had more luck; there are a lot of other factors, and luck is one. You can’t control luck, but you make it more likely that you can take advantage of it by controlling the level of creative thinking, hard work, and tenacity you bring into a business project.

Hard work and luck can unlock real success, if you know how to use them.

Hard work and luck can unlock real success, if you know how to use them.

Be Original and Inspired

Let’s be clear, first of all. Most success in business comes by following sound business principles and being consistently serious about their endeavor. You begin with an idea, service, or product and create a solid plan around it. Surround yourself with other creative and resourceful people and come up with a detailed concept and business model. That’s the bulk of the foundation that successful businesses are built upon.

You could say that if you’re “lucky,” all of these things will fall into place, and your business will be up and running in no time. Or, you could be smart, be objective, and be ready to take on any task or project that you believe in. If you go out on a limb, try new things, and offer a unique perspective, you will inspire others to help you succeed. It’s the act of putting yourself out there that allows you to take advantage of the natural ebb and flow of opportunities that naturally occur. The luck occurs when your efforts coincide with favorable conditions and things catch fire.

Be Positive and Work Hard

Luck seems to hover around those people with a positive attitude, and this is not a coincidence. Be bold and approach jobs with confidence, then you can motivate others and share a passion for getting the work done. A positive attitude can be contagious, which encourages others to work harder and more effectively. Do not sit back and watch things happen around you. Don’t wait for luck. Be the kind of businessperson who has the mental strength to survive the tough times.

Keep Moving Forward

Everyone makes mistakes. Is that bad luck? No, it just means there may have a situation that was beyond your control. Bad luck is merely when those mistakes cascade into other consequences and magnify the mistake. There may be many roadblocks or setbacks, but businesses that overcome these things and, in fact, use the experiences to find even greater success down the road. Someone else may call that “good luck,” but by then you’ll know the difference.

Take the time to learn from other innovative and hard-working businesspeople. They most likely struggled along the way but maintained a vision and reached a goal. The person who believes in himself or herself the most, irrespective of their nominal brainpower, is usually the most successful.

Luck is for the Lottery – Persistence for the Entrepreneur

Luck comes to those who make room for it, and by being serious about success and always following sound business principles there will be plenty of room for great things to happen. Watch for these opportunities as your business grows. Be ready to take a chance because routine is the anti-luck. There’s no room in routine for anything but the ordinary. In a way, luck does have a formula, and once you discover it in your own business, it will be easy to replicate time and again.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.

3 Things You Should Never Say in a Meeting

If you are very familiar with my work and the principles I teach, you know that I believe the primary motivation for making lots of money in high paying jobs and entrepreneurial endeavors should be based on the desire to make the world a better place to live in. Those who make money without any social responsibility attached to their actions often worry and wonder if karma is going to swing around and slap them upside the face, and well they should.

When it comes to karma in business, one of the most important things you can do to position yourself as a leader with a persuasive persona of success, is to choose your words wisely in meetings, times when you can make or break your image with the people that matter.

Building a Persona of Success

Each of us is building our own business persona by the words we choose to speak and who we speak them to. Just as major corporations like Nike, Coke, Apple and Starbucks have powerful brands that evoke specific thoughts and emotions; each of us also has our own brand or persona that we are building with our words and actions.

We seldom realize how powerful our own words are and how much of a positive or negative effect they have on others, not to mention our own careers. What kind of a brand are you building? What do people think of when they think of you? These are questions worth pondering. If you want to avoid poisoning your images in the minds of your colleagues, there are some things you should never say in a meeting or even out loud in the office—ever. When these things are said, they destroy morale, stifle creativity and damage your personal brand.

1- “It can’t be Done”

Truly successful personalities never focus on why something can’t be done; they thrive on the challenge of figuring out how it can be done. This is why lateral thinkers and those that live outside of the box often rise to the top of innovative organizations. The truth is that virtually anything can be done if the necessary energy and creativity is backing up the effort.

A businessman who should have held his tongue.

Don't commit career suicide by saying the wrong thing.

Even if a challenge has exhausted you and your creative juices just aren’t responding to a given task, it is better to simply focus on finding a better way to approach the problem than to publicly admit defeat to the current method being used. “I think there may be a better approach to this problem” is an alternative that puts a positive spin on your opinion and doesn’t associate you with negativity in the minds of others.

2- “It’s Not Fair”

Truly successful people refuse to view or characterize themselves as victims. Even if you are being unjustly targeted, it is simply bad form and uninspiring to others that are looking to you for guidance and inspiration. Never, ever—ever— say “it’s not fair”. Pointing out the obvious brings little to the table and it makes you look defeated.

Life is not fair. Get over it, get around it, work through it. Part of the intoxicating adrenaline rush that truly successful people get while slaying their daily dragons is the thrill of being the underdog that overcomes opposition. You need to have a “Bring it on!” attitude, walking the line between arrogance and competence. Be the leader that loves a challenge and never whines about unfavorable exterior circumstances. That is how you inspire those that follow your lead.

3- “I Don’t Get Paid Enough to Do This”

That phrase is a real downer and a dead giveaway that someone is just in it for the paycheck with no vision for the future. Such people are not passionate about what they do for a living. If that is how you are approaching your work, you need to have an industrial strength paradigm shift. Truly successful people always consider themselves involved in a passionate cause that leads to a higher purpose in life. If indeed you have an underlying desire to make the world a better place with the resources your success brings you, then in fact, you are involved in an important cause, no matter what you do for a living. Do the best you can, with positive expectancy, and the money will follow.

Mike Mann, social activist and serial entrepreneur, is the author of MakeMillions.Com, a business book focused on making money in small business in order to better serve society. Read or download the book today for insight on his philosophy on wedding entrepreneurship and charitable goals.

Five Things About Best Practices That Every Entrepreneur Should Know

Your business idea and even your business model are only part of what it takes to get a company off the ground. Many a great idea has failed to take off, or the business built around that idea failed, because an entrepreneur didn’t develop the best practices that build efficiency and help a company to thrive.

The operating procedures and practices that you lay out can determine the success or failure of your business. Just by examining, refining and standardizing the way you do things, you’re gaining understanding of your industry and giving yourself a competitive advantage. Here are the guiding principles you should follow to develop best practices for your growing company.

Top-Down Hierarchies Can Stifle Change

Notice that I wrote that top-down management structures “can,” not “do,” stifle change. There has to be organization, but avoid the top-down approach whenever possible, especially when it comes to the best practices that make up the bulk of labor that’s actually being performed in your organization.

The inability for information to flow upward in a company is the bane of large corporations. They can’t assimilate feedback from the people on the ground, so they can’t adapt to the changing conditions in their actual marketplace; management and executives become disconnected from the realities of their business. They miss huge inefficiencies that their top-down changes to best practices create and demoralize their workforce by not allowing them the freedom to adapt those practices to the realities of their jobs. More flexible competitors, from smaller companies with better communication, step in to eat the lunch of these inflexible giants.

The antidote to this is to become less prescriptive with best practices as your organization grows. First and second-level managers should drive the bulk of change in best practices, coordinating between departments through the next level up to smooth over conflicts and prevent changes in one part of the company from sabotaging the success of another part.

Smart Best Practices Are Like Weapons

Efficiency and skill are what allow smaller competitors to undercut the big guys. Mike Mann sees the inflexibility that I just mentioned as an opportunity for you to use your superior best practices as weapons to battle it out with larger companies in the marketplace. Less adaptable companies simply won’t be able to compete with a team that has done their homework to develop a faster, smarter way of doing business.

Best Practices Aren’t Set in Stone

The marketplace naturally filters out inefficient business models and operating procedures that don’t improve a company’s profitability, similar to the way in which natural selection eliminates species that cannot adapt to changing environmental conditions.

Insightful entrepreneurs will develop new ways of doing business, and less efficient firms will simply be left behind. That’s just the way that the marketplace evolves, naturally selecting companies and ideas the work the best. The music industry is a good example, here.

Developing and implementing new best practices must be an iterative process, in which you review and revise your best practices continually, implementing new ideas on a regular basis. Trying to constantly change your process on the fly quickly becomes cumbersome as your organization scales. And immediately implementing every idea you have will quickly eat into the actual day-to-day work that you need to get done.

Best Practices Require Self-Examination

Developing a standardized set of best practices is a process that forces you to look at your own operations and streamline them in a way that maximizes the benefit/profit that you get from a certain activity. That process of detailed reflection and analysis also helps you discover the strengths and weaknesses of your particular business model. You can see what you’re doing right, and how certain activities could go wrong.

You can’t afford to be too optimistic or self-deceptive during this process, though. It’s tempting to ignore certain inefficiencies, or to put seemingly small problems on the back burner. But even small problems start to add up. Sooner or later, you’ll come crashing hard into reality, and your best practices need to be lean and mean enough stand up to real-world competition.

Measuring Performance against Standards

A company’s best practices help you set a benchmark against which to measure people on your team. There’s no use in having a standardized way of doing things if the people on the ground aren’t going to follow along. Mastery of best practices and standard operating procedures should be a prerequisite to advancement in your organization. And the feedback that you get from insightful team members about reforming your procedures can help you to identify talent that you otherwise might have overlooked in your organization.

What are Best Practices?

My business book describes many “Best Practices.” A Best Practice is an ideal procedure for your business. It might be a certain hiring strategy, a certain production plan, or a certain marketing technique. You must employ a Best Practice in each of these areas to be successful. Get the right people on your team, find the most efficient way to produce your goods or services, and get your target audience to buy what you sell. Together, multiple Best Practices make up a business strategy that puts you ahead of your competition.

How to Identify Best Practices

To identify your Best Practices, test everything you do in your business. Document every procedure in your company and check it for efficiency. Make certain everything your business does is effective. To identify the Best Practices of other companies, study them and figure out what makes them successful. When you find their strength, you should figure out a way to imitate that strength or to capitalize on your existing strengths to surpass theirs.

The business book MakeMillions.Com highlights several excellent Best Practices for you to start with. Some of them are:

  • Pay attention to details, especially when communicating!
  • Be polite and patient with customers and clients
  • Work quickly and constantly strive to improve your practices
  • Spend 85% of your time on profitable activities and the remaining 15% on improvement
  • Make sure you and your team are constantly reading to stay up on new practices

The Origin of Best Practices: Kaizen

The concept of Best Practices actually comes from the Japanese term “kaizen,” meaning good and continuous improvement. Kaizen includes five principles: tidy, orderly, clean, standardized, and sustained.  An attractive and organized workplace that is free of clutter is key to maintaining productivity. Employees in such an environment will naturally be more efficient and effective. Then you can work to find what is most efficient and effective and make that your standard operating procedure. Once that standard is in place, you must work hard to sustain your success.

Best Practices depend greatly on context and will change as your industry changes. To sustain your success, you must review and revise your Best Practices often to make sure they are still best for your circumstances. To stay ahead of your competition, you will probably need to make changes in your products and services, your marketing, your business plan, or all of the above. Each time you make a change, your business will be stronger for it. You will be able to leverage your business to meet your goals.

Leverage your Best Practices for Success

Once you have identified the Best Practices for your business, you must use them to leverage your success. To implement a Best Practice, document it by describing the practice and offering a brief explanation of why it is best. You will remember the Best Practice better, and your team will be able to adopt it more easily. Once you and your team have adopted good procedures, you can focus on growth.

Your business strategy must constantly evolve as the market changes. Your target audience may grow, shrink, alter their preferences, or change in other ways. You must adapt with them in order to keep your edge in the market.

Everything you do in your business must be bankable. While there are some necessary activities that do not make money, the vast majority of what you do should generate strong profits. When you get to this level of operation, you will never need to worry about breaking even. Instead, you will be able to focus on staying ahead of your competition and keeping the market share you need to succeed.