Communication and management

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You need two skills in business.

Communication skills and management skills.

Communication is what sells your product

You have to be on everyone’s ears, eyes and noses. Keeping in touch with your clients helps you form more than just a clientbase but a relationship too. Communication helps you define that relationship. You want to be their friends but you want them to be your loyal customers. Its crucial to make that boundary.

Communication also calls for innovation. Its an art. One does not simply say 499/= for a set of headphones. One can also give a free cd from some artiste you are in pertnership with. You can pack it up in some really trendy package while you are at it. Be creative with it. Its an image thing not a ‘sell and move on’ thing. You are looking to make your business viral by selling an image and not just a product.

Imagine you have product A. It a drycleaning business. All you need is to break even with all the expenses you took up when starting it. Getting clients from the neighbourhood alone will not help that. You have a dozen other hoods around and they don’t really have access to a good drycleaning store.Sounds like an extra market to me.

What a typical drycleaner would do is to put up a sign that reads Mr CleanPress Drycleaners above his shop. That will get you all the clients from the neighbourhood. It will take you 1 year to break even with such a market. A more than typical drycleaner would put up the sign and put other small signages around the other hoods. This will get you your own neighbourhood’s market and a few clients from the other neighbourhoods. This will help you break even in 8 months. An even better drycleaner would add some buzz and put some jisty graphics onto the signages so that he can pull everyone’s attention. On top of that he can give a 3 month offer where everyone gets a funny t-shirt for free for signing up into monthly premium membership. You break even in 4 months. After that you will be literally rolling in dough.

Communication is also about listening. Put two or three attendants at the door of the shop once a week to take queries and suggestions from each customer. Even a note can suffice. But do not write suggestions or comments at the top of the note. Ask two vital questions that will actually help the business. Did the cashier attend to you well? What products do you want to see introduced?

Communication and management

Then comes the management needs

I always say, you need to ship in order to stay in business. Management is about keeping your head above things – knowing exactly whats going on.

It’s the science in the business. This involves promptly delivering, improving your product, keeping operational policies in check, checking your finances and careful expansion. You do not need to be creative with this. You simply need to observe, note and conclude. You are basically the scientist analyzing a system that is in progress. A notebook is very useful when managing your business. It keeps track of everything that has been assessed so far. You can use ledger and minutes but if they are only going to complicate your life then toss them in the bin.

People often disregard the importance of controlling a business’s quality. Banks have suffered business because of this. The biggest complaint that any bank client normally has is the long queues they experience. Because of this a lot of banks have turned to internet banking. But imagine the frustration of taking an internet banking plan only to find out that it has some technical issues and you cannot finish your transactions in one day. That’s where management comes in. If you cant ship an extra item don’t even launch it. It beats sense to have more complaints about the firm’s products simply because a new product has been unleashed. Make it available and make it functional.

You also need to manage your staff. If you hire someone you will want to make them want to work and not need to work. This way they can even add hours without being told to which always translates to additional costs. People management calls for understanding and appreciation.

When these two tools are used hand in hand. You are bound to make a lot of organic growth in your start up in no time.

 

 

 

 

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Why skill is more important than capital

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You know the famous saying from the Bible that says “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. But teach him how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” It doesn’t get more profound than that. We have all been brainwashed into thinking that our education system is out to teach us how to fish. The truth is it that it has taught how to beg for fish. Every single employee out there is playing into the begging game by subscribing to some standardized form of remuneration. Beggars are constantly afraid of sleeping hungry. We all think that beggars are people who demand something for nothing. But just like every shopkeeper and every hot shot lawyer out there, there is a trade to begging. If a beggar begs you, there is definitely a reason why you might end up helping him out. Its a trade off for our soul’s purity and their daily bread. We get to walk off feeling a lot better about our selves thinking that we aren’t that rottenly selfish after all. They on the other hand get to eat for a day. That’s the trade in begging. Some beggars perfect the art and find out how to beg better but at the end of the day they will still be just that – beggars.

The same case applies to employment. A price tag is put on your specialized skill and not really your time. Time is invaluable. It is the one resource you cannot recycle, the one resource that you cannot use sustainably. You will provide skill in return for a certain wage but you will never have time to stop asking. Sure your employee could use your skill but he is much more comfortable using you time. So every employer out there is feeding off someone else’s time and making a kiling out of it.

Skill vs capital

As an employee you choose to give up your time so that you can be relieved off the need to use your mind in the true potential of all its facets. We pay with our time to avoid thinking. How so? Well, if you were to start your own firm to do exactly what you are employed to do, it’s quite obvious that you would be required to think a lot more creatively and proactively than you do when you are employed. But then you will end up with a lot of free time once the thinking gets you to come up with structures and business mechanisms that don’t need you doing everything. This way you end up with all your time in hand.

The biggest misconception however is that money is the real issue when it comes to starting your own thing. I can assure you that it is not. Money is simply a form of red tape to filter out who can make it big and who will end up a loser. With a certain amount of money you can end up with a failure of a business or a huge success. Our education system teaches us to be ready to join the job market and wait on a steady supply of fish whose long term future is not completely guaranteed. But what if it taught us how to make that fish for ourselves or in other words how to start enterprises that provided others with fish instead. That’s the real skill right there. Without it you remain forever a beggar. CV in one hand and servitude in the other.

3 methods to get your lifestyle oozing with productivity

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Being more productive is important if you have dreams or desires in life.

We are in an age where competition has grown to incomprehensible standards. The more we stagnate in life, the faster we are erased from the sea of relevance. And in this day and age, you have to be relevant one way or the other in order to survive.

But productivity is not strictly about doing more. Its also about being more. As soon as you build something, that something becomes a part of you whether its a relationship, a business, a career… and so on.

At the beginning of this year, I found myself reading a lot of books mainly because I was looking for answers on being more and not just doing more.

What I found was a whole maze of techniques to help me achieve what I wanted. A lot of them had fluff and by fluff I mean too much focus on details that may not apply to everyone’s situation. I was simply looking for a one – off formula to take me from little to big in the fastest possible way.  Just when all this information was starting to overwhelm my neurons…

I read the action method

The action method is a practical approach by one James Altucher. Altucher is an author, investor, I.T professional and trader. He has seen the launch of over 20 successful start up companies one of which was a social networking site for stock traders. After many failed attempts at becoming an established writer he finally broke away from his day job as an IT wiz and started trading in money markets. In time, he got back to writing and this time he made it big pretty quick. He came up with this daily practice that is bound to uplift your state of mind instantaneously. It is does not exactly tell you how to stay focused but it helps you exercise your focus muscle.

James Altucher

The action method has a 4 step approach.

Physical – You need to do something everyday that will improve your health and fitness – exercise, yoga, sports.. name it. Altucher believes that health preceeds happiness in our everyday lives. You are less likely to be happy if you have some pain, condition, infection or tumour of some sort interfering with your state of mind. The idea here is to be as healthy and fit as you can in the long haul. You might not not be completely and perfectly healthy but its important to try getting there. This will keep your body is the best shape to pursue anything else.

Spiritual – Stepping away from the exterior, you need to take care of your inner self. For James, this refers to your soul. You need to believe in something as a human being. You need to believe in something that is beyond scientific proof and something that is greater than you. This could be a higher diety or a higher power that will keep you in the race when you have lost control. Its a habit that keeps you at peace with yourself. It keeps you from laying every burden on yourself in the hope of keeping everything under control and hence becoming responsible for it all.

Mental – We have the ability to create value with our minds. Exercising the mental helps you find solutions to problems everyday. It helps you create value for people and for yourself. Altucher recommends coming up with new ideas each and everyday. The fastest way to go about this is to create lists. For instance a list of 50 blog post ideas for your blog…or for someone else’s blog. Or a list of 15 favours you can do to your clients that wont cost much. Or 20 party ideas. Its healthy for your intelligence and it creates opportunities. If done consistently it can turn you into a perceived genius.

Emotional

Lastly we have some emotional practice. In other books this would be described as ‘developing emotional intelligence’. Its a tough part of the method but its still quite crucial. Generally, Altucher states that one should draw closer to those people who lift you up and stay away from or tell off people who drain your emotional energy or your happiness. Some people do a bit of both but at the end of the day the list of folks at either end of the divide is usually quite clear in our minds.
I read Jenny Shih’s Idea flight kit

Jenny ShihI have to admit at first glance, I felt like I was at the wrong place on Jenny Shih’s home page. It was too pink for my taste and I had the feeling the site had been designed specifically to help women. But given that I had been directed to it by a man, I decided to give it a shot. At her site, Jenna offers two kits to help get any project or dream you have off the ground. These are the idea flight kit and the system flight kit. I took greater interest in the idea flight kit since it is where the whole dream actualization process kicks off.

If you have gone through some of my posts explaining task scheduling as a key to learning how to stay focused, then this method is quite similar. In a nutshell the process is as follows. First you write your idea (dream) down. Secondly, you define what you want to do about it, why you want to do it, who the whole idea will help, where, when and how its going to work and finally how much it will cost. That second stage is pretty much what in project management is termed as scope definition. Thirdly, you now need to break down every single activity that will take you from point A (now) to point B (dream achieved). Some may not be clear but those will be ignored and listed later. The essence of this stage is to have the steps broken down to their simplest forms. For instance, if you are planning on becoming a photographer, you shouldn’t just write “buy a camera”. You should first find out which camera, find the best price for that camera, the best place to buy it and decide how you will buy it (online, physically..). After this has been clearly outlined, it is not yet time to jump. You will need to mark each activity with a timeline. When will you do each of them?

As soon as stage three is done, you will have stage 4 to jump into. This is the implementation stage. During the implementation stage it is important to mark your progress so as to find insights on what better routes can be taken on the road map for achieving your chosen idea.

I read Tim Ferriss’s dreamlining technique

This is the method outlined in his famous bestseller book The Four hour work week.

You first need to define your dreams or goals in three categories. What you want to be, what you want to do and what you want to have. For example you might want to become an expert programmer (be), you may also want to learn a language (do) and you may want a new car (have). You then give this set of dreams six or 12 months (depending on which you can work with) to be realized. The next step is to assimilate them into your daily lifestyle. This means picking three of the simplest activities you can do towards achieving each goal each day (precisely 24 hours).
Eventually you should be able to gain the results you want.

Your choice of method will depend on how specific your goals. If you simply want to find more balance in life, the Altucher’s method will work perfectly but if you are reaching out for something very specific, Jenny’s flight plan will work wonders and train on how to stay focused on one thing at a time. If you want something that offers both of these then you can easily apply Feriss’s dreamlining strategy like I did. Or even better you can use all three in a integrated approach.

9 Vital questions to ask yourself

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Here are some questions I tend to ask myself once in a while. They have helped me chart a path to peace and contentment in myself.

Why am I doing this?

I like this question because at times it helps me stop doing ridiculous things while at other times it helps me stop doing urgent things which are not really important to me? Sometimes you will be surprised by the fact that you could be doing stuff to please others more than to please yourself. This is ok as long as you’re not hurting yourself while you’re at it. Its dangerous when you ignore this question because you can easily put yourself in compromising situations doing things you don’t need to do.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Yes, because its never that serious. Hesitation is human nature. We know we need to do something and it makes sense to dive in but were are normally too scared or too wise. The truth is that only action begets reaction and choosing inaction is in most times the cause of our lack of progress. The problem is that we normally expect the worst without knowing exactly what it is. Asking yourself this question helps you define your fears and dispel them in seconds. With the answer to this question in your mind, you immediately become prepared for whatever bad outcome that could be.

How do I attack this?

This is the alternative question to “Can I hack(manage) this?” Instead of questioning your capability to try something you should question your tactics for trying it. Being able to accomplish something is simply a question of which technique you adopt. If you use the wrong formula to solve a math equation you will definitely get a wrong answer. If you feed on the wrong diet you will definitely fail to lose the write amount of weight. If you say the wrong thing when making a sale, you may easily lose the client. In this regard you need to recognize that it is not who you are but what you do that counts. This question brings that fact into perspective.

How do I refine this?

So you have done it but have you done it to the best of your ability? You need to revise your results and ascertain that they are satisfactory. As a writer this question is a mandatory step in my everyday work and even in my blog. I have to edit myself before I let my editor do his part. Each article I write has to represent something that I will be accountable for later on if questions are raised. Then again in terms of product development, whatever you create needs to please YOU first before YOU let it please others. That is the greatest editing or product development advice you can get out there. That is how you refine you work or product.

Do I need this?

Do you need what you have? Do you need what you are about to do? Sometimes we hold on to things that weigh us down. Wouldn’t it be much easier to just let go? To let them fall down on the ground and break into a million pieces? The feeling of letting go of something that was simply piercing you inside is the best feeling ever. It is freedom from your selfAnd the problem is that we don’t realize that their is more value in handling less than handling more. It can be anything, from disturbing conversations you have to endure with your boss to a house you hate but cant find the courage to sell.

How fast can I do this?

This question is one that we all love to avoid. We are all lazy to do that which we are not passionate about. Rationally we should do what we loathe much more quickly than what we love. If what makes us do what we love is the passion for the process, then doesn’t that mean we should do what we have less passion for a lot more quickly to see the end of it. Logically it makes sense but then we as humans are not really completely just rational beings. We are not robots. But then it is our intelligence that has hastened our progress as a race. We should therefore take advantage of it and decision such as efficiency should not just be left out of the equation. If we really desire quick results we need to ask ourselves, “How quickly can we do this?”

How much is this worth?

The question of value is one that most people often don’t comprehend very well. It is like people don’t seriously ask themselves how valuable they are before they commit themselves to anything. Time is valuable, so is money, love, family, attention, knowledge, trust and even skills. And all of them are thing we own. They are our property. Yet we very easily give them away in the hope of getting much less in return. People often use a rough approximation of their desperation to judge their true worth. But as soon as we stop to say, “I am worth much more than this.” the tables do indeed turn. Then and only then do people give you more for what you offer. Yet for this to happen you also have to provide real value. You need to see how valuable your offer is before you place a diamond tag on it. If it truly isn’t worth that much the task is upon you shift gears and make it more valuable or lower the prices.

Who can I talk to?

At times we may not have all the answers. Other people do though. It is important to try and make connections with such people and find out how they can help. You would be surprised how eager people are to help if you appear as someone of value as well. Its simply a faster way to get around and many a time it is also a way to find out whether you are actually on the right path.

Why?

This is the question that every curious mind must ask. Question don’t always surround us. We as humans have a tendency to simply accept things as they are if they don’t really bother us. The greatest inventions were made this way – by asking the question ‘Why?’ Everything as you might well know, happens for a reason. Questioning the good things we see around us can provide answers to how they became good. We often ask a lot of questions about the negative. “Why is my business not picking up?”, “Why is there poverty in third world countries” or “Why do we have corruption in our state systems?”. The answers could possibly be found in asking the questions “Why are my competitors business’s picking up?” or “Why is there prosperity in first world countries?” or “Why is there no corruption in certain nations”

Oh God Why

But why?

Cycle of wealth

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They say time is money. Meaning if one uses up his time well he will make money and if he uses it badly he will not make any money and worse still he can even lose it. But then what about the other situation? What if you wanted to have more money and more time all at once starting with very little of both? Well the following logic flow statements may give an idea of how skills and businesses can produce this. I have tried to put it as bluntly and concisely as possible.

 

Business exist to satisfy a demand with value

Businesses and people in general need skills to create value

Skills get you paid for creating value

Greater skills create greater value

Greater value gets you greater wealth

Skills can be bought through books

Books are cheap

Hence skills are cheap to gain

This means money is cheap to make

More time used in gaining skills creates more skill,

This creates more money

But uses more time

Businesses need money to start

This money can be sourced from the above skill based process

With businesses, money making is scalable

In other words, one makes more money in less time

With more skill one can run a better business

More time spent on a business creates more skill in running the business

Skills can also be bought through money (time is money)

With more skill and money, businesses produce exponentially more time and more money

In the end you will make a lot of money and in very little time

Le Fin

NB: I have not included less relevant variables such as motivation, product promotion and office policy…

 

 

5 Essentials for starting a muse business

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I have been working on a couple of start-ups (muses) of late.

If you are a business guru then this post may sound like layman language for everything you already know. After reading a certain blog post recently on lifestyle design I was moved to write something in reply. The blog was titled “Why lifestyle design will make you miserable.” The author aptly chose that title in complete blindness to his own career choice. Being a business coach himself it appeared like he was talking down on the new wave of people leaving their jobs and starting coaching careers to show other people how they can do the same – A bit pretentious if you asked me.

The long and short of his perspective was that it’s a bad move to design your lifestyle towards something you desire to gain but don’t have the desire to sweat your hands over. The idea was that it is not possible to start a business that you will not toil and involve yourself in full time. For example if you can’t get your hand dirty in the farm mud then you should stay away from the fantasy of living in a farm. I don’t on the other hand agree with this.

People are generally still reluctant to embrace the idea of muses. Muses are essentially businesses which are modeled to earn you a certain amount of income which will fund your dreams. If for instance you want to travel 3 times each year to different parts of the world with a total budget of 6000 dollars then you need to simply figure out how to make 500 (6000/12) dollars a month. If you are to start a full time business then you should expect 500 dollars a month from it. If you are looking to land 10 reliable clients each month then each client will probably need to buy a 50 dollar product from you each month. That’s when you start working out how your marketing strategy will land you at least 10 guys a month and your dream is born.

True story bro!

Outsourcing and automation

The problem comes when a mentality of do it yourself operations is taken up. You probably need to sit and think over what bits are harder to accomplish and which ones are in your range of expertise. What you can’t do is what you shelve of to a few employees or contractors. This way you don’t have to involve yourself in the business all day long. Many people fail to see the immense ease that automation and outsourcing provides for muses. In fact, automation and outsourcing are the backbone of muses. Without them, the feasibility of any such business fizzles out with the complexity of both performing and managing your business. And in essence every business organization understands this. The difference is that other businesses incorporate hiring and technology into their company policy and culture. With such a model everything get a bit more complex and eventually a lot less objective. You don’t need your marketer to dress in a suit or uniform in order for them to go about their work. You just need results.

All that a muse needs is a master plan. If your mind is objective enough to sieve through unnecessary BS and gimmicks and cut down to the bare minimum of what needs to get down then it shouldn’t be hard at all to run it in your pajamas.

Objectivism

Let’s take for instance a publishing firm. If you have a printing firm with a good deal for you, good writers and good marketing agents then you will probably be ready to roll in no time. Of course no business gets anywhere without capital. And with the risk that is usually involved it is easy to see why most people would not be amused by the idea of a muse. The truth however is that anyone with enough confidence in his ability to make sound decisions with any set of constraints will have minimal reason to worry about losing money. It’s almost like playing poker with people who don’t know the rules whearas you know techniques that could earn you millions.

The bootstrap

If you are still afraid of losing money, there is something in the start-up community called the art of bootstrapping. Start small get big. In truth, no business newbie is ever ready to start big especially in a muse that you have never successfully attempted before. You know you want to be big but that calls for very huge funding and massive expertise. Can you handle a million dollars well enough to produce two million in one quarter? Do you have that skill set? Organic growth creates the best funding system on the planet. Profit grows to realize itself and it all becomes a cycle of self sustaining business expansion. With organic growth you become a force that is indomitable. You know what it means to sell one pair of shoes in one month, a hundred in a day and eventually and entire chain of shoe stores to an investor in one night. You need to take small steady leaps with muses.

 

 

Networking

In business you need people. When you hear about networking the idea that comes to mind is constantly chatting with people about how they can help your business. And mostly with people you don’t know. If you are like me and are afraid of meeting too many new people all at once then you can see how this bit gets a little tougher than the rest. It always seems like you are bugging them when you come out asking for help. On the contrary, it need not be so. The best way to network is to find a way to meet other people’s needs and at the same time find out how they can help you out – a little info here and there, a little hook up with some useful people. It’s simply a value exchange process.

Innovate

As you go about everyday musing you will come across unforeseen problems. But how do you solve a problem that everyone has encountered and cowered away from? Simple, you innovate. Solutions are simply an idea away and if you exercise your creative nerve consistently you will become a business guru in no time. Innovation is avoiding the well worn solutions that tend not to work in several occasions and embracing new techniques that you are confident in trying. It is innovation that spearheads most companies above their competition. If Apple got stuck at making macs alone then we may never have had the opportunity to enjoy the iPod. In fact I was quite fine with my IBM PC before the iPod came out so to me Apple was a very irrelevant resident in the silicon valley. You need to innovate to meet demand more than anything else.