John Warrillow is the founder of The Value Builder System™, a software platform and methodology business coaches use to help their clients improve the value of their business.
Let’s say someone is in the market for buying a house and they go to view one that has been advertised? How does it look on the outside? The inside? What about the location? What is their general impression?
Like a house, your client’s business projects an image to potential buyers. When a potential buyer comes to see their business for the first time, the “curb appeal” of the business can either attract a buyer or cause them to walk away from it.
Does your client need to improve the curb appeal of their business? Here's a three-step plan to help them improve their odds when a potential buyer comes knocking at their door:
1. Fix Any Leaky Faucets
Perhaps, like many other business owners, your client started their business from scratch with one or two employees and now they have 20 people working for them. But do they have the appropriate HR infrastructure in place for that size of a company? Perhaps they even take pride in their informal management style, but it can prove to be a liability when it comes time for them to sell.
Make sure your client’s human resources policies are at least as stringent as those of the company they hope will buy their business. Some basics they need to have in place:
- A written policy making it clear they forbid any form of harassment or discrimination;
• A written letter of employment for each staff member;
• A written description of their bonus system;
• Written policies for employee expenses, travel and benefits.
- Assemble a Binder When you go to buy a house, you feel more confident if the owner has the instruction manuals for the appliances, information on where they were purchased, and who to call if one of them breaks down.
Similarly, when a potential buyer looks at your client’s company, he wants to see that they have their business information in order. Documenting their office procedures, core processes, and other intellectual capital can help your client attract more bidders and a higher price for their company, while also lowering the chance of the deal falling apart during due diligence.
If your client wants to attract a buyer, whether now or at some point in the future, they need to create a binder for their business that includes instructions for basic functions, such as:
- Opening up in the morning and closing down at night;
- Forms and step-by-step instructions for routine tasks;
- Templates for key documents;
- Emergency numbers for service providers;
- Billing procedures for customers;
- How their company is positioned in the market and their marketing tools.
- Document the Intangibles
Intangibles for house buying might include: Is the house near a good school or daycare? What kind of neighborhood is it? What kind of commute are you looking at to get to work?
Your client’s business also has intangible – and often intellectual – assets that a potential buyer needs to be made aware of, such as:
- Proprietary research they’ve conducted;
- A formula for acquiring new customers;
- Criteria they use to evaluate a potential new location;
- Their unique approach to satisfying a customer.
As with selling a house, a company's curb appeal can go a long way toward closing a deal.
John Warrillow is the creator of The Value Builder System™. He is also the author of The Automatic Customer: Creating a Subscription Business in Any Industry and Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You.
P&L – When Was the Last Time You Really Checked It?
By Scott Robinson
Leaders today constantly look at numbers, metrics, and trends. They check the year-over-year, the year-to-date, and the budget-per-plan. Numbers are worked, sorted, messaged, sweated over – and with good reason. Bonuses are judged largely on these numbers, and great leaders are terminated because of numbers. Numbers are important, so the obsession is valid. We get it.
But when was the last time you looked at the most important P&L in your business: your People and Leaders? Are we so focused on numbers that we lose focus on our People? After all, the biggest expense item in a budget is usually employee salaries and bonuses paid to your leaders. As such, a wise leader should proportionally be focused on their engagement, their performance and their happiness. If not, your budget is leaking; your numbers are diluted; and your P&L is losing interest. What is the surest way to accomplish this? Have a simple conversation.
Conversational leadership is as old as time. Gathering around the fire in a circle of warmth, our ancestors talked with each other. The success of the day needed to be lauded. The failures of the day needed to be discussed. Strategies for more consistent success needed to be hashed out. The future needed to be imagined and longed for so that mutual responsibility of achieving those goals would be accepted.
Steve Jobs understood the power of conversation. Imagine: How Creativity Works by Jonah Lehrer, told how Steve Jobs demanded organizational conversations to flourish: he forced everyone to go to a common space via the architecture of the Pixar building. Jobs insisted the meeting room be in the center of the building as well as the cafeteria, coffee bar and employee mailboxes. (Remember employee mailboxes before Steve Jobs changed our world?) Jobs even required that architects locate the only set of bathrooms in the building’s atrium. (Although later, he was forced to compromise on this detail.)
Jobs understood the value of a natural cross-pollination of conversations. Conversations give birth to the life of an organization, just as breath and heartbeats keep the human body alive. Frequent conversation is the recipe for a soup of serendipity: problem-solving, creativity and engaged employees. And engagement, as multiple studies have shown, can increase productivity and financial success by as much as 200%.
So as a leader, what can you do? Create a physical environment and cultural environment that allows for conversation. From informal water-cooler conversations and informal mentoring by colleagues and managers, conversations are a powerful tool for improvement. More structured exchanges through formal coaching and knowledge-sharing exploit the power of conversation. Leaders should continually be thinking about ways they can foster conversation.
For your own reports, strategic conversations should be part of your schedule to lay a foundation of mutual responsibility. These conversations, at least quarterly, provide clarity of goals, coaching, and a feed forward vision of what is to come. A Bersin & Associates study, “Maximizing the Impact of
Goal-Setting and Revising,” showed that when leaders are more conversationally interactive on an ongoing basis about goals, they have better business outcomes than those that do not. Specifically, those organizations that converse about their goals (or revised goals) at least quarterly are nearly 50 percent more likely to have above-average customer satisfaction and 65 percent more likely to be effective at controlling costs than those organizations that only revise their goals once per year. http://www.bersin.com/Lib/Rs/ShowDocument.aspx?docid=14505
Are these conversations easy? Yes, for the lucky few. For the rest of us, a little professional coaching can go a long way in order to maximize effectiveness and not fall prey to pitfalls.
If you need help with reflexive listening, feed forward discussions or conversational coaching, please contact Scott Robinson at Robinson Resource Group, office#708-738-5040 or email Scott@RRGexec.com.
Four ways to help your client protect their turf
John Warrillow is the founder of The Sellability Score, a tool business coaches use to help their clients understand what drives a company's value.
Warren Buffett famously invests in businesses that have what he calls a protective “moat” around them – one that inoculates them from competition and allows them to control their pricing.
Big companies lock out their competitors by out-slugging them in capital infrastructure investments, but smaller businesses have to be smarter about how they defend their turf. Here are four ways that you can help your client deepen and widen the protective moat around their business:
Is there a certification program your client could take to differentiate their business? A Canadian company that disposes of radioactive waste decided to get licensed by the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission. It was a lot of paperwork and training, but the certification process acts as a barrier against other people jumping into the market and competing.
Discuss with your client the possibility of certification or training that would make it more difficult for other companies to compete.
An army of defenders
Ecstatic customers act as defenders against other competitors entering your market, a factor that has enabled companies like Trader Joe’s to defend their market share in the bourgeois bohemian (bobo) market, despite a crowded market of stores hawking groceries. Work with your client to create strategies that will ensure great WOM from customers; word-of-mouth is still the best form of advertising.
Getting customers to integrate
Is there a way your client can integrate their product or service into their operations?
The basic switching costs of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software are virtually nil. Everyone from 37signals to Salesforce.com will give you a free trial to test their wares.
The real expenses associated with changing CRM software only come when a business starts to customize the software and integrate it into the way they work. Once a sales manager has trained his salespeople in creating a weekly sales funnel in a CRM platform, try to convince him to switch software.
Becoming a verb
Think back to the last time you looked for a recipe. You probably “googled” it. Part of Google’s competitive shield is that the company name has become a verb. Now every time someone refers to searching for something online, it reinforces the competitive position of a single company.
Is there a way your client could control the vocabulary people use to refer to their category or specialty?
Widening a company’s protective moat triggers a virtuous cycle: differentiation leads to having control over pricing, which allows for healthier margins, which in turn lead to greater profitability and the cash to further differentiate one’s offering.
If your client is wondering how differentiated their businesses is, they can take the
13-minute Sellability Score questionnaire and find out. Differentiation is one of the eight key drivers of sellability.
John Warrillow is the founder of The Sellability Score, a tool business coaches use to win clients and deepen their relationship with existing customers. John is the author of Built to Sell: Creating a Business That Can Thrive Without You. Between 1997 and its acquisition by The Corporate Executive Board (NYSE: CEB) in 2008, John Warrillow led Warrillow & Co., an advisory firm providing marketing advice for reaching the Small & Medium Business (SMB) market segment to companies such as American Express, Apple, Bank of America, Dell, eBay, Google, IBM, Microsoft, RBC Royal Bank, Sprint, VISA, and Wells Fargo. John has been recognized by B2B Marketing as one of the top 10 Business-to-Business marketers in the United States.
This is an age old question, well, as long as social media has been around. We have also had this question in email marketing, since we send over a million emails a month for various campaigns and now thousands of posts for various campaigns and clients. We have developed a variety of posting rotation schedules and the following is what we know.
So one of the things you want to establish first is to take a look your audience. When does your audience respond best? Do they respond in the morning, afternoon, evenings, days of the week or weekends? Depending on your audience this will make all the difference in the world. There are four ways to determine this, (1) condition your audience for delivery of posts and tweets (2) ask your audience what they want (3) test and track response (4) look at competitor sites who target the same people and see when they post and their response rate (based on engagement). Now number three is needed for all cases, and number four is just a good ol’ fashioned marketing technique for any campaign. But remember, you’re also building a community around you or your business so my preference is to ask our primary target when they would like to see our posts and tweets. This builds a better sense of community and rapport with your audience.
For some additional input we have added a link from this year’s Social Media Week – enjoy and let us know how you make out with your audience and what you discover. We would love to share your success with our audience.
The Best and Worst Times to Post to Social Media Week
Times are shown for local audience or most relevant audience.
Facebook: End of the week is best time to post
Best time: Between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.
Worst time: 8 p.m. to 8 a.m. – After 3 p.m. on Friday
Twitter: Monday - Thursday is the best time to post.
Best time: 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. or 8 p.m. to 1 a.m.
Worst time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.
LinkedIn: Post before 9am or early during work week
Best time: 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. or 5 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Worst time: 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.
Days: Monday thru Friday and Sunday night! Some have reported Tuesday and Thursday are also optimal days.
Whatever your platform or makeup of your social network, remember that if you have a great relationship with your community they will tune-in and tell you when is the best time to post!