Each week as Smallbizlady, I conduct interviews with small business experts on my weekly Twitter talk show #SmallBizChat. This is excerpted from my #SmallBizChat interview with @SherriGarrity. Sherri is a business strategist who’s determined that no one should have to quit their business to return to a J.O.B. to earn good money! She helps entrepreneurs design business models that allow them to enjoy life and love what they do. She walked away from a successful marketing career to start her own virtual coaching and training business so she could work from anywhere. She has lots of free articles and how-to information on her site at http://www.sherrigarrity.com.
SmallBizLady: Why is it so important to have a clear business model?
Sherri Garrity: It requires you to decide and focus on what you’re selling, in what form and to whom. It ensures you have offers that address new clients and serve existing ones better. It determines how services or products are delivered, i.e. virtual training, individual coaching or consulting. Many solopreneurs and smaller companies scatter themselves with no clear model or try to offer too much at the wrong stages. Vision and strategy is great but as Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric says “You’ve got to eat while you dream.”
SmallBizLady: What are the ingredients that go into designing a better business model as you grow?
Sherri Garrity: I firmly believe that the only business worth growing is the one you can believe in 100 percent. It has to fit you. There is nothing better than doing the work you do best, that you love, and creating our business around it. Of course it has to have a solid foundation, but that’s where you can get help.
SmallBizLady: How does someone go about designing a strong business model?
Sherri Garrity: It starts by taking the time to consider what’s best for you, who you’re ideally matched to serve, and that you create the business model that really fits you. It’s so freeing; it lets you create the business worth quitting your job for! I had a client comment the other day that it makes it so much easier, because you only have to be yourself. You don’t have to memorize or act or learn, you just be you. Once you are really clear on your needs, and your clients’ needs, you find that sweet spot where it overlaps. This is where you build your offers and services, and the marketing messages and activities that will fit that client.
SmallBizLady: What are the areas you see that most often hold entrepreneurs back?
Sherri Garrity: They avoid making the big decisions first. If you don’t know who you want to be when you grow up, it’s pretty hard to be authentic in your marketing. So they dilute everything until it becomes so vanilla, they get vanilla results. Another is when they say YES but their actions say NO. Yes + Yes = Oh Yes! But Yes + No will never add up.
SmallBizLady: What are the trends you’re seeing with your clients and networks?
Sherri Garrity: That there’s never been a better time to build your own business and work when and where you want to. It used to be that the little company would be frowned upon, now it’s more often seen as a strength. We are agile, customer service focused and when people hire us, they get us. It’s like the buying world and the corporate world has caught up to the technology and the trend toward small business vs. long time careers. Even the traditional consulting model is changing. I am seeing more purchasers wanting to do business locally and with smaller independent work teams. It’s very positive.
SmallBizLady: What tips do you have for people who are looking at their business and wanting to reinvent themselves?
Sherri Garrity: The first one is to make the decision. Think about what you want. How do you want to deliver your services, and who do you want to work with – those ideal clients? I harp about this over and over, but it really is the key. It’s your business; if you are going to hang in there for the duration, you had better love it! The next thing I usually suggest is to take an honest and hard look at why you want to make the change. Is it because something’s not working? You’re bored? It doesn’t fit you? You need more skills? You aren’t making enough? Or you’re just exhausted and you can’t think straight? There are so many reasons, there is no wrong answer. But you can’t fix what you can’t diagnose.
SmallBizLady: What are the things you suggest they focus on next?
Sherri Garrity: Start by taking an inventory of what I call the equity in the business. I don’t mean money; I mean your intellectual assets and what your customers value most about you. What do you know, what are the areas you provide most value, what are people always asking you, what are those problems you solve. I can tell you that most of the time your biggest asset is something you overlook and just think that everyone does that. They don’t!
SmallBizLady: You recommend a three step approach that works for most businesses – explain.
Sherri Garrity: Uplevel your clients. This applies to every business. There is always room. You need to either charge more, or reach more people. People often have a vague notion of what they want to make, but then sabotage themselves by making most of their money on small transactions. Or, it’s the reverse – where they might have one or two big clients, and they don’t market until those projects end. Both are equally risky. Know your numbers, where your work is coming from. How many of those you need to sell, how long it takes you. You might be surprised! People don’t want to admit, but I can tell you, most clients do not really know; they are so busy just doing their day to day. That isn’t a business plan for success.
SmallBizLady: What’s the next step?
Sherri Garrity: Selling more to your existing clients. I do not have a huge mailing list, but I have had repeat coaching and consulting clients who keep coming back. You have to layer your services to consider the lifetime of your client, and how their needs change. It’s a lot more efficient and profitable to sell something to someone who already likes and knows you. One of my favorite ways to do this is to run special advance offers, or beta test new programs, to past clients first. They love it, they get the inside scoop, they get a preferred rate, and you get revenue, and testimonials. It’s win-win. Take a look at your services from their perspective, what’s the next step in their world? What need could you fill for them? Nurture those clients for future sales and referrals.
SmallBizLady: Your tagline says Work Less, Enjoy More. What do you mean?
Sherri Garrity: This leads to step 3 and that is to Get Paid for What You Know, Not What You Do. I love this the most – when you can free yourself from the day-to-day client existence, not only do you make more money, you enjoy it more! This is the power of adding leveraged income to your business like teaching, getting paid to speak, adding group programs, all kinds of services and products that allow you to share your knowledge without actually “doing” the work for the client. It doesn’t mean you don’t work, but it means your work reaches more people without more work to you. There is virtually no business that cannot benefit from this, if you get creative. I had one client who was making six figures but working around the clock. She had such amazing network and had amassed so much knowledge as a consultant but she was working way too hard and giving it away – all those past clients would call to pick her brain, and she couldn’t say no. She created a workshop series, filled them all, and opened up extra sessions. A much nicer way to work, don’t you think?
SmallBizLady: What’s one thing you see entrepreneurs overlooking that cost them money?
Sherri Garrity: They forget that marketing is a means to an end. The end is the sale. If you focus on the perfect website site, logo, advertising, but fail at nurturing and keeping in touch with that prospect or past client until they’re ready, what’s the point? I suggest that you look at your sales. How long did your client take to become a client, typically? For consulting and coaching it’s often more than a year, sometimes years before they first hear of you, then take the step to download your report or ask for information, then actually hire you. If you don’t stay in touch, they’ll forget you and move on to someone else. Marketing without follow-up is a waste.
SmallBizLady: Do you believe every entrepreneur needs a coach?
Sherri Garrity: Well, I can tell you that no one achieves success alone. At different points in your business, you will need different help. I resisted calling myself a business coach for a while, as there are many bad examples out there. I have had several coaches myself, mostly excellent, but one was so bad, there was talk of a class action suit. You need to do your homework, but I do believe that it is impossible to be objective about your own business and your blind spots. You need to be clear about what level of support you need at what point. But whether you get a coach or join a group, you will succeed faster if you are surrounded by people who are ahead of where you are, who can guide you, who can kick your butt and hug you when you need it.
For more tips on how start or grow your small business subscribe to Melinda Emerson’s blog http://www.succeedasyourownboss.com.