Every week as SmallBizLady, I conduct interviews with experts on my Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. The show takes place every Wednesday on Twitter from 8-9pm ET. This is excerpted from my recent interview with Beth Goldstein @marketingedge. Beth is a small business trainer, nationally recognized speaker and author of two books on business growth, The Ultimate Small Business Marketing Toolkit and her new book, Lucky By Design. She also runs her business growth consulting practice, Marketing Edge Consulting Group. Beth teaches entrepreneurship at the Boston University (BU) School of Management. In addition to being a guest expert on MSNBC’s Your Business, Beth has contributed to Business Week’s Small Business Tips, Reuter’s Small Business Blog, and has had articles published in Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, NewsDay, and Reuters. For more information, visit http://www.luckybydesignblog.com
SmallBizLady: I am not someone who believes in luck, but based on your research you say luck does have a role in business success. Explain this?
Beth Goldstein: Luck has a role in business but it’s not always the way people think of luck (as being totally random and something you don’t control). Luck is about the alignment of opportunity with solid preparation and planning that allows you to seize opportunities that are all around, but we can’t see if we aren’t ready for them. Therefore, the premise of Lucky By Design is to help entrepreneurs understand how to control their company’s future by creating a business growth plan that allows them to recognize and seize ‘lucky’ opportunities. Having worked with thousands of entrepreneurs around the world, I have discovered that if you want to grow your business, it’s simply not enough to work hard, you have to work smart and perform key growth activities that impact your business’s success. What are those growth activities that make a real impact? That’s what I attempted to discover when I conducted research for the book because I was intrigued by folks who claimed they were simply lucky in business. I wasn’t convinced that opportunities simply fell from the sky randomly for these folks. My newest book, Lucky By Design: Navigating Your Path to Success, focuses on how successful business owners discover these lucky opportunities.
SmallBizLady: What does it mean to work smart?
Beth Goldstein: In a study of almost 200 entrepreneurs from around the world, I discovered that business owners who considered themselves to be lucky in business were 2 to 3 times more heavily engaged in specific business growth activities than entrepreneurs who thought luck had no impact on their business. These SMART activities, or levers as I refer to them in the book, include: market research, business planning, product development and sales expansion. I found clear evidence that there are ways you can design your own luck (no four leaf clovers or horseshoes required).Perseverance, a great attitude and confidence are important ingredients. However it’s essential to be prepared for inevitable encounters with growth opportunities because your ability to recognize and seize these lucky breaks is significantly hampered without a solid roadmap (business plan).
SmallBizLady: Do business owners in general have any commonalities in terms of how they spend their time?
Beth Goldstein: Yes — perseverance was the one quality that I heard all business owners claim was part of their tactical plan to grow. Good old sweat equity is the common denominator. A significant portion of the folks who didn’t believe luck had an impact on their business (46%) believed in persevering compared to 56% of the more positively impacted business believers. It’s obvious to see that they simply were not doing the same things as the folks who considered themselves blessed by luck. Clearly, it’s not enough to persevere. Being the last person standing doesn’t mean you win the game. You’ve got to be performing the right activities while you’re in the game to take advantage of lucky opportunities and be successful.
SmallBizLady: What does this mean to a small business owner who is struggling to grow?
Beth Goldstein: Luck comes to those who are engaged in the right activities — to thrive, not just survive. Many people think of luck as random events that they can’t control or influence. The problem with this is that it removes you from the picture. Thinking of luck in this way dismisses many of the activities that you perform to influence your company’s destiny. Given that perspective, you may as well sit back and just wait for things to happen — good and bad — because you don’t influence them. I challenge business owners to turn their thinking upside down because while they cannot control every aspect of their business’ outcome, there is much that they can do to influence their success. If you think of luck representing the multitude of “breaks” waiting to be grabbed, then by performing the “right” activities such as planning, research, sales and product development, you can prepare for these lucky unforeseen opportunities and seize them when you recognize them.
SmallBizLady: How do you create your own Lucky Roadmap?
Beth Goldstein: Here are important steps that you should take to navigate a path to success:
Begin by identifying your customers’ or prospects’ needs and decision-making processes. The more you know about your customers, the better you are able to develop your product or service around their needs. Your knowledge should be based on solid market research (e.g. customer surveys, interviews, focus groups,) not gut instinct or what you’ve learned through sales activities (because the sales negotiation process oftentimes skews real needs). Your research should ensure you clearly understand buying behaviors and decision-making processes including:
- What challenges prospects/customers face
- What influences their purchases
- What sources they rely upon to find information about your company and your competitors?
SmallBizLady: How important is it to honestly assess your company’s strengths and weaknesses?
Beth Goldstein: You need to carefully assess your own company. What is your organization really effective at? Does your team include technical experts or an impressive sales team? What skills and expertise are missing that will make it difficult to deliver the benefits that customers and prospects desire? This honest assessment will help you decide what the best business model is for your company to deliver on your promise and what changes you might need to make in the players on your team.
SmallBizLady: How often do you need to check in on the competition?
Beth Goldstein: You must review the external marketplace to assess how your competitors are positioning their companies’ benefits and value proposition. Are they targeting specific markets that are similar or quite different than your customer mix? Are there changes in the industry (e.g. regulations, economic factors) that impact your growth potential? Combine the knowledge that you’ve learned to determine your unique value proposition — how you differentiate your deliverable so that it resonates with customers as a ‘need’ to have versus ‘nice’ to have product or service. Once you have a clear understanding of your value and competitive advantage, you will be in a solid position to develop the right sales and marketing initiatives to grow your business.
This knowledge will help you determine which products and services to expand and which to cutback or drop entirely since their value doesn’t align with your customers’ needs and your delivery of value. It will also help you determine which target markets to approach, how to approach them and if you need to make changes to your team to be able to deliver these.
These are the essential elements of designing a lucky business roadmap.
SmallBizLady: Do you have any tips or takeaways that you can share to help entrepreneurs interested in attracting lucky business opportunities?
Beth Goldstein: My first tip is to: Just Do It: Create a Roadmap.All the best knowledge and calculations in the world will not lead to success without a plan. Create a roadmap that will grow and develop with your business over time. Don’t allow this plan to simply sit on your shelf collecting dust. Make it a living document that you review on a regular basis to make sure you’re meeting milestones and benchmarking your actual performance against projected results. Remember: a good idea is only as strong as its execution. Dreams of business success are realized only when sweat equity and working on the ‘RIGHT’ business activities are invested into the business to make it happen.
SmallBizLady: What else do entrepreneurs need to do?
Beth Goldstein: They need to Define Very Specific and Realistic Goals for Success. Studies show that the more specific your goals are, the better your chances are of achieving them. Make sure you and your team discuss and agree on your company’s vision and have established clear goals and objectives for the upcoming 90 days, 12 months and 3 years. These goals must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic and Time-Based) in order for you to recognize real opportunities. Consider both the internal and externals challenges you may face in making these goals happen. Make sure all members of your team (including external partners) are in agreement and then get in motion to launch tactics to attract lucky opportunities.
SmallBizLady: How important is it to have a unique value proposition?
Beth Goldstein: Small business owners must Initiate Tactics That Directly Align Your Unique Value With Customer Needs. It’s important that you understand the products and services that you offer customers. It’s even more critical to understand whatyour customers value and why they buy products/services from you rather than your competitors. What common needs and characteristics do your customers share? By understanding how much each customer spends with you, how often they frequent your business and why they value their business relationship with you, you can more easily execute activities that will impact all of these factors and increase your value to them and consequently their value to you.
It’s also important to Support Internal Operations so You Can Deliver on Your Brand Promise. Even the best products and services will not flourish without the right team to support them. Make sure your team members have the right mix of experience and skills and that they’re in the right positions to support the goals of your company. Outline clear expectations, set appropriate guidelines and provide solid incentives to achieve your business goals; not just to survive, but to ensure your business thrives. If you have a ‘business of one’ make sure you’ve got advisors to support you throughout every phase of business growth.
SmallBizLady: What’s the role of competition in business success?
Beth Goldstein: I always suggest that one must Keep Your Friends Close but Your Enemies (i.e., Competitors) Closer. Competition is not limited to companies that offer products or services exactly like yours. Companies compete on solutions and their value to customers. Therefore, competition is about fulfilling a need, not about offering an identical product or service. What needs do your products or services fulfill? How else can your current or potential customers have their needs met? What companies fulfill this need? You must continually assess companies that offer like solutions, ensuring you understand their value proposition and benefits to your customers.
Plus, you need to use Knowledge you have at-Hand to Define Timely Changes in the Market. If you’re like most small business owners, you probably have a world of knowledge at your fingertips but aren’t exploiting it. It is critical to review your internal customer database, not only to gain knowledge about customers’ current needs, but also to understand where opportunities might exist for new products and services. What are the trends you are seeing in customer purchasing habits? What can these trends tell you about changes within your industry? If you start to see certain target markets buying different products or services, it can be an early sign of things to come and give you more time to address market changes
SmallBizLady: What have you created to help small business owners develop their luck roadmap?
Beth Goldstein: I created Bloginar is called Business Boot Camp Bloginar and it’s basically a seminar offered in the form of a blog. It is based on the lessons from Lucky By Design. The goal of the program is to help entrepreneurs create a business roadmap that will accelerate growth. When individuals follow the blog, each week they receive an email with a new lesson and short assignments to help them develop a luck-fueled roadmap. I began the program in April and it’s 90 days in length so we get down to business right away. However entrepreneurs can subscribe or follow the blog at any time and participate in all of the lessons on their schedule and at whatever pace works for them. They can find the blog at: luckybydesignblog.com. Plus, if they subscribe to Marketing Edge’s newsletter Small Business Growth & Innovation Tips, they receive additional bonus material and will be given a link to a PDF with ALL of the Weekly Lessons included in the Bloginar at the end. They can access the newsletter at www.m-edge.com
If you found this interview helpful, join us on Wednesdays 8-9pm ET follow @SmallBizChat on Twitter. Here’s how to participate in #SmallBizChat: http://bit.ly/S797e
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.
Susan Price Smith says
Great interview and I believe that Beth is correct on the “luck” factor … that it doesn’t fall out of sky but rather created from a thought to a plan and then implemented. Great information! Thank You!
Susan Price Smith
Jim Matorin says
Solid interview. It confirmed a lot of what I believe in.