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How to Determine Your Rates as a Freelancer, Consultant, Coach, or Professional Service Provider

How to determine your rate as a freelancer coach consultant

 

Setting rates is a personal decision, but I’ll provide insights into my process

 If you google “what’s the average rate of an ABC123 freelancer," you'll find all sorts of recommendations and information. Determining your rate can be extremely difficult. It's a gigantic “depends burger” with a side of fries (the market) and a shake (your competitors). You'll have to sort through the plethora of information, test, and decide what the market will accept. You’ll have to look at your knowledge, skills, experience, and unique selling proposition. You’ll need to find comparable competitors to analyze.When I started out, I spent hours researching rates specific to consulting. Then, rates specific to sub-categories of consulting. Next, I spent more time adding in factors such as my education, experience level, and all that jazz. Finally, I built an Excel with segmented rate and financial models. None of it held up. The depends burger strikes again.

For me, my rates as an Entrepreneurship Coach and Strategy Consultant are different. However, I've gone through a lot of trail, error, and analysis to come up with my rates. The exercise below will help you deteremine the rates that are appropriate for you. 

At first, you might think the next few pages are more personal finance advice versus rate advice. You are correct! Personal finance plays a central role in setting your rates. Stay with me. It will make sense in the end. Let’s cut to the chase and try to simplify this process a bit. 

I’m going to provide an illustrative example. The math is NOT intended to be perfect. Instead, it’s designed to help you think through your rate-setting process from a holistic perspective.

 High-level steps to determine rates

1) Determine how much you NEED to make in a year to survive2) Add a small, but "wants" amount (vacations, entertainment, dining out, new furniture, personal electronics, etc.) 

3) How much for your contingency "oh crap" fund? 

4) How much do you want to add to your savings and retirement accounts?

5) Add a tax estimate on top of that. I use a conservative number of 30%

Let’s use an illustrative example with round numbers to see where we stand: 

1) NEEDS: Rent/Mortgage, Clothes, Utilities, Food, Car Payment, Credit Card Payments, Student Loans, Healthcare, and any other needs = $120,000 / year

2) Wants ($7500): $120K + $7.5K = $127,5003) Contingency ($7500): $127.5K + $7.5K = $135,000

4) Savings & Retirement ($10,000): $135 + $10K = $145,000

5) Tax Estimate (30%): 30% of $145K = $43.5K; $145K + $43.5K = $188,500

Again, let’s keep it simple and round up to $200,000. You’ll understand why I added another $11,500 in a second. 

 How does this illustrative calculation help you? 

Now, you have a goal that you can use to determine your rates. “Whoa, wait! I’ll have to generate $200K in revenue to cover what you need, savings, contingency, wants, and taxes … Yes. This example isn’t to scare you. Instead, it’s to make sure you think through and plan for the reality! Now let’s talk about that extra $11,500. 

 We are missing something in this calculation

The amount could be large or small about depending on your business. Within the 5-step process, we didn’t calculate your startup or operating expense. Enter the extra $11,500. I have no way of determining your startup, monthly, or yearly operating expenses. Keep them as low as possible. $11,500 could be extremely high. You’ll have to estimate and factor those expenses into your rates at some point. For now, let’s use extra $11.5K as your startup and operating expenses and keep the overall revenue goal of $200K to continue the example.

How do we translate our above calculations into rates?

If we need and want to generate $200K in revenue, we can determine our “desired” rate. If you do a little research, you’ll find there are approximately 260 working days in a year. Now let’s do some calculations:

•    $200,000 / 260 = $769 dollars per day

•    $769 dollars per day / 8 hours = $96 dollars per hour 

Great! So, if your goal is to generate $200K in revenue, you just calculated your rate. Your rate is approximately $100 per hour.  

Sorry to do this again, but wait, this is an illustrative example. More than likely, you won’t have 40 hours of work every single week of the year. So, you’ll need to mitigate the potential for a variable workload. To do this, consider increasing your rate to $150 — $200 per hour. 

What if you plan on charging a per project or flat fee rate? How do you calculate that rate? We’ll discuss that next. 

Wait, I don’t charge per hour. I provide a flat rate per project

Hmmm…this might be true. But, if you aren’t calculating hours within your flat rates, you could be charging too much or too little. When I charge on a per project basis, I estimate how many hours the project will take. Then, I multiply the number of hours by my hourly rate. This calculation provides me with an estimate for my flat rate. 

Example: 30 hours to complete Project A. Hourly Rate of $200. Flat fee rate of $6,000. 

At this point, I may add or subtract from that number. Here comes the depends burger again. If it’s a new client with the potential for on-going projects, I might reduce my project rate. If it’s a rush project, I might increase my rate. There are other factors to think through as well. Will the “market” accept your rate? Or, is closest comparable competition charging less or more?  

Where do people make the biggest mistake? 

Let me be frank and excuse my language a bit. You WILL get kicked in the butt if you don’t KNOW your NEEDS and set aside money for taxes. You’ll be rolling along, having a great year, thinking, “Damn, I made $120K this year! Freaking amazing. I’ve covered all my needs.” 

Then, boom! It’s tax season. You needed $120K. You made $120K. But wait, you forgot about taxes. “I owe what in taxes? Oh crap! I’m short. My cash flow is crushed. My bank account is sunk. Mom, dad, friend, brother, sister … can I borrow some money?” 

Your mistake, you generated a “pre-tax” gross revenue of $120K. THIS IS NOT NET INCOME! If you don’t plan, set up your accounts, and automatically set aside part of your revenue for taxes, this can literally put you out of business. Done and dusted. 

This happens all the time when someone switches from a position within a corporate environment over to solopreneurship. When you’re working for a company, your taxes, retirement, healthcare, and everything else is automatically deducted from your paycheck. It just happens. You don’t do a thing. You know your take-home pay and budget based on Net Income. 

Now you’re in charge, and it’s a whole new ballgame. Don’t make this mistake. Talk with your financial advisor and accountant. Set up a bank account that, if possible, automatically transfer a certain percentage, for taxes, into a separate account. 

The moment revenue drops into your business account, transfer funds into separate accounts for taxes, savings, retirement, etc.

This article is an excerpt from my Free Guide: “Going Solo – An Introductory Guide to Service Based ‘Solopreneurship.” If you found value in this article, feel free to download the guide here. It provides a ton of information on the fundamentals of starting and marketing your business.  

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Overconfidence: The Silent Killer of An Entrepreneur’s Dreams

Overconfidence Entrepreneurship

What is Overconfidence Bias in Entrepreneurship?

Entrepreneurship is a challenging journey. As an entrepreneur, you need to be confident in your knowledge, skills, and abilities. Confidence allows entrepreneurs to step outside of traditional corporate America, start a company, and take risks that result in massive action.  In fact, as an entrepreneur, you have to make decisions with limited time, resources, or people to ask questions. But, you must be aware of overconfidence. 

Overconfident entrepreneurs increase their risk of failure. “Overconfidence is overestimation of one’s accuracy, or, alternatively, an overestimation of ability relative to others, and links with increased failure risk of firms (Hayward et al., 2006).” 

Simply put, you believe you are more likely to be correct than you actually are. You don’t try to improve your understanding of a challenge, risk, or assumption. You don’t crosscheck perceived “facts” or seek alternative perspectives.  

How Does Overconfidence Impact an Entrepreneur? 

When you are overconfident, you use hindsight to reinforce your decisions. You look back at previous successful results and automatically assume a positive outcome without considering the full spectrum of possibilities. You overestimate your talent and underestimate the risks. Your mind forms an answer that seems right and you take action without all of the facts.

The problem with this mindset, you eliminate any notion of activities that were out of your control, but positively impacted the previous outcome. 

What if your previous decision was successful due to luck? Maybe, the stars aligned and you correctly guessed the timing of the market. In hindsight, your mind turns that “guess” into a fact. The worst part, you won’t even know it’s happening. Hindsight coupled with overconfidence is a dangerous activity. 

Research shows that overconfident entrepreneurs tend to ignore the strengths of their direct competitors (Moore & Cain, 2007). Next thing you know, your competitor disrupts the market and steals your customers. These entrepreneurs introduce a high-risk product. Then, they are surprised when that product fails. They rely heavily on their knowledge instead of asking for advice, help, or resources from others (Hayward et al., 2006). Or, they seek out the high-familiar option while neglecting any other option (Winston Sieck, Ed Merkle, & Trish Van Zandt). Any of these mistakes can be fatal to your business. 

How to Reduce the Risks of Overconfidence  

Self-awareness is the first step to reducing the risk of overconfidence. Reading this article and thinking through your decision-making process is a positive action. You need to set up counterbalancing or self-regulatory mechanisms (Hmieleski & Baron, 2008). Guess what, you don’t have all the answers. Welcome to the club, neither do I! Check yourself. 

1) Take some time to seek out alternative perspectives

Assign one or two people from your team to be the skeptic or devil's advocate. During a short discussion, have them sell or present other options. If you don’t have a team, how long does it take to phone a mentor? Consider finding an experienced mentor that understands your business. Develop a network of diverse advisors, people outside your area of expertise, market, or niche. Example: I’m a Success Coach for Entrepreneurs. Some of my best advisors don’t know anything about Entrepreneurship, Coaching, or Business. They ask questions that completely challenge my assumptions out of pure curiosity. They have the best BS meter and aren’t afraid to call me out. Hire a coach to bounce ideas off. 

How much longer will seeking alternative perspectives take? Maybe, you’ll need one-hour tops. I’m willing to bet you can wait an hour, especially when it’s a high-risk decision. 

2) Consider conducting a more research 

Seriously, I shouldn’t have to tell you this. You can find anything on the Internet. You’ll discover a ton of information on blogs, in downloadable white papers, and on your competitor’s websites. It is crazy how much information I find conducting competitive intelligence. As long as it’s public information, you are good to go. 

3) Reach out to experts

You might have to reach out to a few people, but I’m sure you’ll find experts happy to share their knowledge with you. For my business, I interview experts all the time. Some experts will ask for you to pay for their time, while others will speak with you for free. Either way, let’s say the right answer will generate or save you $10,000. If you pay eight experts $200 for an hour of their time was the $1600 worth it? You have opinions and advice from eight experts! 

4) Hire based on diversity of thought

Teach your employees the skills they need. Don’t build a culture of “Yes” people. Encourage alternative perspectives and challenge the status quo. But, find a balance. You’re the leader, when you make a decision your employees will work together, act fast, and execute at the highest level. 

Final thoughts

Keep your high level of confidence. Go out there and build the company of your dreams. Increase your self-awareness around overconfidence. Use the techniques above to create a simple process to keep yourself and/or your team in check. I’ll leave you with this quote: 

"If I should really WANT to answer the foolish question you have just asked, or any of the other questions you have been asking me, let me remind you that I have a row of electric push-buttons on my desk, and by pushing the right button, I can summon to my aid men who can answer ANY question I desire to ask concerning the business to which I am devoting most of my efforts. Now, will you kindly tell me, WHY I should clutter up my mind with general knowledge, for the purpose of being able to answer questions, when I have men around me who can supply any knowledge I require?" – Henry Ford

I hope you found this information useful. If you have any questions or comments, please let me know. 

- Stewart 

Learn more: Entrepreneurship Coaching 

 

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Organizational Skills Can Significantly Impact Your Success! (Video)

Learn more: https://www.stewartswayze.com/coaching/

I remember the first year I filed my self-employment taxes. I was sweating, frustrated, and a bit scared. Not because I didn’t know how to file taxes. Not because how much I had to pay. Nope. None of that bothered me.

There was another more significant problem. It was my total lack of organization. I couldn’t find anything. I had receipts in my desk drawers,in my “receipts” case, laptop bag, filing cabinets, and even found a few in my luggage. Yep, buried deep down in my luggage.

Think about it this way, my unorganized mess caused unneeded stress, inefficiency, anxiety, and time. We all know time is money! Lesson learned.

The second time, damn I was organized. I had everything in the correct place. I had bookkeeping and accounting software ... with the click of a button, financial reports printed off in perfect format. Opened up one drawer, receipts in hand. Zip, zoom, bang, and done and off to the accountant.

If you want to be successful you must work on your organizational skills. This type of organization includes offline and online, paperwork in filing cabinets, or cloud-based folders.

Organization increases efficiency. You reduce the time spent on mundane tasks and free up time to work on growing your business.

Thanks for watching and see you next time. As always, if you have any success tips, feel free to connect, comment, and share!

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Article RoundUp: The Psychology of Entrepreneurship

The Psychology of Entrepreneurship

Often overlooked or overshadowed by the thought of making millions of dollars, Entrepreneurs and Solopreneurs need to understand the psychological impact of starting a business. Here are five articles you might find interesting to read and digest.   

1) What Is a Digital Nomad? The Psychological Impact of Entrepreneurship – By Mark Goddard (Health Guidance)

  • Nomads lack roots, but people need to belong
  • Nomads might be surrounded by people, but often these relationships lack intimacy and are superficial
  • Loneliness can be a major problem, find ways to develop deeper connections with people

2) How Temperament Impacts Entrepreneurship – By Petra Starkova (Psychology Today)

There are four noted personality types in entrepreneurship

The Sanguine

  • Advantages – Composure, Good at Marketing, PR, and Communication
  • Disadvantages – May lack the ability to understand others deeply or empathize

The Choleric

  • Advantages – Act quickly on Impulses, excel when daily change = seizing on opportunities to create $Cash
  • Disadvantages – Easily thrown off balance and into fits of anger when things don’t go their way

The Melancholic

  • Advantages - Reliability and Stability as both business and relationship partner
  • Disadvantages - Disposition to pessimism and solitude

The Phlegmatic

  • Advantages – Cool, calm, and collected
  • Disadvantages – Slow to react to change

3) What Makes Entrepreneurs Burn Out – By Eva de MolJeff PollackViolet T. Ho (Harvard Business Review)

  • Survey of 326 members of Business Networking International
  • Entrepreneurs who reported high scores of obsessive passion were more likely to say they experienced burnout than those who reported high scores of harmonious passion
  • Obsessive Passion: “The job is important to someone because of the status, money, or other rewards that it brings”
  • Harmonious Passion: “Someone is motivated by the job because it brings them satisfaction and is an important part of who they are”

4) Entrepreneurs Should Watch Out for Cognitive Biases and the Curse of Knowledge – By Yair Harel (Entrepreneur Magazine)

  • Entrepreneurs face many obstacles, but the most treacherous obstacles are in their own minds
  • Cognitive biases - mental gremlins that sabotage the ability to collect the right information, assess it properly and make good decisions
  • As an Entrepreneur, you are highly susceptible to cognitive biases
  • Two of the most hazardous biases to the entrepreneurial process are:
    • Confirmation bias – “The tendency to search for and interpret information in a way that confirms one's own existing preconceptions, beliefs and opinions”
    • Curse of knowledge - Causes a better-informed person to find it difficult to look at a situation from the point of view of a lesser-informed person”

5) The Psychological Reasons Women Fall In Love With Entrepreneurship - By Julia Novakovich (Equities.com)

  • Women are entering Entrepreneurship at an unprecedented rate
  • Forty percent of American businesses are now owned by women (NAWBO)
  • There are still institutional barriers to successful business operation for women, but by understanding why women fall in love with entrepreneurship, organizations can better support women entrepreneurs
  • There are six reasons women go into Entrepreneurship:
  1. Independence – “they are able to craft their own messages, build their own businesses, and create the vision that they see for themselves.”
  2. Family – “women may choose to run their own business rather than leaving the workforce entirely. Entrepreneurship may give them the ability to pursue a fulfilling career as they are a caregiver for their family.”
  3. Drive – “Starting their own businesses may give them the opportunities to pursue as high a career path as they can manage.”
  4. Pride – “Building something from the ground up can be an incredible source of pride.”
  5. Passion – “When women are passionate about something and can seek success in its creation and completion, the satisfaction can be astounding.”
  6. Freedom – “Women who go into business for themselves often find that they are more free than they have ever been within the corporate structure.” 

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A Solopreneur's Guide to Content Curation

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What Is Content Curation?

Content curation is the process of finding and providing 3rd party content that is relevant to your buyer persona or audience. You, the curator, find the best and most trusted content from sources on the Internet and then share it with your followers on social media platforms or via email marketing. 

Why Is Content Curation Important to a Solopreneur? 

 First, as a Solopreneur (Coach, Consultant, or Freelancer), you don’t have a marketing department full of content creators. You ARE the marketing department. To have a well-rounded Content Strategy, you need to use Content Curation. Curating content reduces your workload. You can provide value to your audience without spending hours generating 100s of blogs. 

Second, content curation helps build your Personal Brand. As a content curator, you become the filter and expert resource on specific topics or themes that add value to your prospects and customers. You find content, read the content, and write a few short insights on why it’s relevant to your followers. Then share it with them. By providing small and relevant insights on the curated content, you can build brand authority over time. 

Third, you learn! By curating and reading the content, you stay abreast of all the trends, topics, tools, and news within your area(s) of expertise. It’s a win/win scenario. You learn, and your audience learns. 

Fourth, it breaks up your sell, sell, sell strategy. People are tired of getting slammed by sales pitches all day. If you over-promote, your audience will unfollow you, ignore your emails, and stop visiting your site. 

Where Can You Share Curated Content?  

Content Round-Up Blog Posts – Pick a theme relevant to your audience. Let’s use “Email Marketing.” Now, find five good, but different articles on Email Marketing. Read each article. Write a short paragraph summarizing the article with your twist on the key insights. Hyperlink the articles and provide the correct attributions. Boom, now you have a value-add blog post that you can share with your audience on social media as well.  

Weekly Email Newsletter – Just like the Round-Up Blog Post, first find relevant content. Then, organize the content within your newsletter. Next, provide context or your insights. Last, send it off to your email list. You can include curated content alongside your content. Or, you can send this as a separate Content Round-Up email. The option you choose is up to you.

(Note: Your “theme” doesn’t have to be as narrow as “Email Marketing.” Just make sure to organize the curated content around a topic and not a random slathering of unrelated articles.) 

Social Media – Of course, you’re going to share curated content on your social media platforms. Social Media is the obvious one! As you curate the content, share it with your social media followers. Don’t forget to add your insights as well. One more thing, highly consider tagging the author or company in your post.

What Tools Can Help Me Curate Content? 

  • Pocket:Install Pocket’s browser extension and app for easy curation. As you read an article, save and tag (categorize) it for future sharing.. 
  • Twitter Lists: Twitter can be horrendous. Create Twitter Lists to organize the accounts that you follow. By using Twitter lists, you can save or retweet great content provided by those you follow.
  • Scoop.it:Select a topic and Scoop.it not only generates the most relevant articles to view and share, but also includes complementary topics and other Scoop.it users to follow
  • Feedly: Use Feedly's free option to aggregate news and articles to share with your audience on social media or email.
  • ContentGems: ContentGems scans hundreds of thousands of articles from the best online sources and presents a stream of relevant content

Now that you have the basics of content curation down, get out there and start sharing awesome content! 

If you're new to Solopreneurship, I recently wrote an Introductory Guide to Service Based Solopreneurship. It’s free and 100+ pages packed with content on starting and marketing your business. DOWNLOAD IT HERE

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Solopreneurs: When Starting Your Business Define Your Skills, Not Experience

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When starting your business, one of the first things you need to do is take an inventory of your skills. Your skills are not your work “experience” as written on your resume. A skill is “the ability to do something well; expertise.” You need to identify two sets of skills -

  1. Skills you have to run your business
  2. Skills you have that you could sell to a client 

Take some time. List ALL of your skills out. Don’t forget to consider skills outside of your traditional work experience. Maybe, you’re really good at organization and project management. But, neither one of those skills were a part of a job title or highlighted on your resume. Both are very sellable KSAs. Both will come in handy when running your business. 

Once you develop a good list, identify any immediate gaps. As a personal example, I considered Accounting a skill gap. Not because I don’t know how to do it. I really hate it! So, I immediately filled that gap via software. 

Let me give you another example from my own experience. When I started, I had years of experience in marketing. However, my “experience” is in Marketing Strategy. At that point, I had a skill gap in the Design and Execution of a Facebook Ad Campaigns. Over the past two years, I’ve learned how to design and execute Facebook Ad campaigns.

Follow this exercise to get started: 

  1. What skills do you have that will be useful to running your business?
  2. What skill gaps do I have for running my business? How can I overcome these gaps? (Training, Technology, Hiring a Contractor)
  3. What skills can I sell as a service? 
  4. What skill gaps do I need to fill to increase my service offering? 

This is a short excerpt from an Introductory Guide to Service Based Solopreneurship. It’s free and 100+ pages packed with content on starting and marketing your business. DOWNLOAD IT HERE

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How do we create positive energy from feelings? Feelings are not facts. (Video)

Facts vs. Feelings. Thanks to David D. Burns for this one. Negative thoughts are feelings that build into a snowball effect. Every negative thought compounds upon another. But, feelings are not facts. They are emotions. Humans sometimes believe that our emotions are a self-evident truth that your feelings are beyond question. You know the quote, “trust your feelings?”

What happens if the thoughts feeding those feelings are irrational? What if you based your feelings on a misconception or prejudice? Then always trusting your feelings wouldn’t help you in the long run. Always question yourself. Do your feelings or emotions accurately reflect reality?

Emotions are almost the last thing we should trust. Your feelings and emotions are not facts. How we react to feelings and emotions can determine our success. You have a choice to respond positively or negatively.

You have the opportunity to take a mental step back, find the facts, and determine how to react. If you chose to allow negative feelings to overcome your thoughts, you lose. If you reframe, learn, and grow from the source of negativity, you succeed.

Everyone experiences negative feelings and emotions. It’s up to you to use them to create or destroy energy and enthusiasm for what comes next.

Thanks for watching and see you next week. As always, if you have any success tips, feel free to connect, comment, and share!

Are you ready to live an empowered and purposeful life as a Solopreneur? Yes! Is it wrong to want more, to find abundance, and to be fulfilled? No!

Click here: Download This Introductory Guide To Service Based Solopreneurship

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What is Entrepreneurship Coaching?

What is Entrepreneurship Coaching?

What is Entrepreneurship Coaching? 

Do you have dreams and goals, but feel something is missing between where you are now, and where you want to be? You have that feeling you’re destined for success, freedom, and want to create a more significant impact for your family or on the world? There's a way you can do this. Start your own business. Take control of your life. It's time to hire a Entrepreneurship Coach.

So, what exactly is Entrepreneurship Coaching? Entrepreneurship Coaching is an ongoing, confidential, one-on-one partnership between the coach and client.  Through the coaching process, inquiry, goal setting, and motivational techniques, the Entrepreneurship Coaching supports the client in assuming full accountability for creating a fulfilled personal and professional life through starting a business. Clients are enlightened and empowered with the freedom of choice.

A few other ways Entrepreneurship Coaches help clients:

  • Transitioning from a Corporate Career to Self-Employment
  • Developing a definition of success aligned with the client's values
  • Identifying and removing roadblocks to establish new rules to maximize the client's life's potential
  • Aiding the client in developing a personal development plan 
  • Helping the client set and achieve goals
  • Holding the client accountable for their actions and results 
  • Raising the client's energy level to do more in a shorter period of time
  • Improving the client's focus on the most valuable steps in achieving their definition of success 
  • Supporting the client in attaining the life that they desire, but have yet to experience

Are you ready to live empowered and purposeful? Are you ready to create new rules? Are you ready to start your journey to entrepreneurship?  

Click here to contact me. You're in charge, and there's no pressure or obligation. Let's set up 30-minute discovery call to discuss your situation and goals. I'm looking forward to hearing from you. 

- Stewart Swayze 

Is it wrong to want more, to find abundance, and to be fulfilled? No!

Click here: Download This Introductory Guide To Service Based Solopreneurship

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What if I said your "Positive Thinking" strategy was totally wrong? (Video)

We all know positive thinking helps you reach your goals. But, what if I told you that part of this could be wrong?

Let’s take a moment. Close your eyes and think about an obstacle you are trying to overcome. Now, use positive thinking to visualize overcoming that obstacle. Open your eyes and answer this question. Has anything changed? Nope, we just created a “positive fantasy.” That’s the risk. Nothing changed

Too many people use the power of positive thinking, which might be a good start, but the never plan or take action.

Gabriele Oettingen in “Rethinking Positive Thinking” suggests using a method of mental contrasting, the process of associating obstacles with the behaviors needed to overcome them.

So how do we actually do this? Her suggestion is the WOOP method.

  • Wish –Visualize a wish or concern and hold it in place
  • Outcome – Envision the positive result you want to occur
  • Obstacle – Identify any obstacles that could potentially stop you from reaching the outcome
  • Plan – Determine actions you can take if, when, and where those obstacles occur

Last but not least, write your plan down. Translate your positive thinking fantasy into actionable steps.

Are you ready to live an empowered and purposeful life as a Solopreneur? Yes! Is it wrong to want more, to find abundance, and to be fulfilled? No!

Click here: Download This Introductory Guide To Service Based Solopreneurship

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You'll find discomfort on your path to success. That's good. Here's Why! (Video)

You’ll find discomfort on your path to success. That’s good! Here’s Why.

If you’re on the path to success, you’ll encounter new opportunities to grow. These new opportunities require change and learning something new.

Most people experience discomfort during change. That’s a good sign! Lean into that discomfort. It’s telling you that you are growing, learning, and moving down the path to success.

Don’t fight the discomfort, embrace it. Learn from the change, give yourself permission to succeed or fail. Then look back at that change, look back at the success or failure. Gather insights and learn.

Apply those insights to grow faster, stronger, and start taking massive action.

Soon, instead of dreading the discomfort, you’ll welcome it. Your mind, body, and soul will long for the discomfort of growth.

Are you ready to live an empowered and purposeful life as a Solopreneur? Yes! Is it wrong to want more, to find abundance, and to be fulfilled? No!

Click here: Download This Introductory Guide To Service Based Solopreneurship

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How Do You Reach The Highest Level Of Success? (Video)

Now, this video poses a question more than it provides answers or advice. But, this could be the most important question YOU’LL answer in your life!

It doesn’t matter what field you’re in or what job you do … if you want reach the highest level of success, it’s rather simple… You have to be the best at what you do.

I’m sure you’re thinking, whan whan. Thanks for the tip Captain obvious! … keep watching.

We can actually quantify what the “best” means. Think about it this way … the most popular musicians, the most influential experts, the greatest scientists, the most successful entrepreneurs … all of them … they are in, at least, the top 10% of their respective fields.

So, if you want to reach the highest level of success, you must be determined …committed … and competent enough to reach the top 10%.

So here’s the question: What one skill will YOU commit to developing that would have the greatest impact on YOUR Success? Think about that for a while. Then, make a plan. Commit time each and every day to develop that skill. Go get that top 10%. It may take time, but constantly commit yourself to achieving excellence. 

Are you ready to live an empowered and purposeful life as a Solopreneur? Yes! Is it wrong to want more, to find abundance, and to be fulfilled? No!

Click here: Download This Introductory Guide To Service Based Solopreneurship

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A Lesson on Tolerance & Working Together from Napoleon Hill

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A Lesson on Tolerance & Working Together from Napoleon Hill

I enjoy reading non-fiction and especially classics. Should we be surprised that an impactful lesson from around 1925 - 1928 is still relevant and highly applicable in today's society? No. The book, "The Law of Success" written by Napoleon Hill is full of tried-and-true lessons, and I'm only on page 79! 

While reading last night I came across a particular story that stood out to me. The lesson from this story should be adapted and taught at every level of school or university ... written on the walls of every corporation and echoed through the halls of our government establishments. It should be weaved throughout the speeches of all leaders within our communities. I'm not making a political statement. I'm not pointing the finger at the right or left, at the corporations, Hollywood, or anything/anyone else. In fact, it is an observation and lesson that can be seen and learned across all of these institutions and their respective constituents. We need to look in the mirror. We need to reflect on how we can change as an individual first. Then, how to help support others to improve and spread tolerance across our communities. Right now in the US, the world, our communities, and within corporations, we are suffering from two major problems:

1) Intolerance - an unwillingness to accept views, beliefs, or behavior that differ from one's own 

2) A Lack of Willingness to Work Together - Not setting aside our differences due to intolerance, the lust for undisputed power, success, or any other illogical reason to come together for the good of all

Note: According to Mr. Hill, we can define Power as "organized energy and effort." Success is the "development of the power with which to get whatever one wants in life without interfering with the rights of others." 

So by now, you might be wondering about the story that inspired this message. It's a simple story of a father that had seven children that were always quarreling. The father wanted to demonstrate the impact of their lack of co-operative effort and intolerance. So, this father prepared a bundle of seven sticks and carefully tied them together. One by one he asked each child to attempt to take the bundle and break it. Each child was unsuccessful. The strength and power of the bundle was no match for the individual. Then, the father cut the strings and handed one of the sticks to each of his children. Again, he asked each child to try and break their stick. All sticks were broken. 

At this point, the father said, "When you boys work together in a spirit of harmony you resemble the bundle of sticks, and no one can defeat you, but when you quarrel among yourselves anyone can defeat you one at a time." 

To gain power and to reach a successful end (as defined in the note above) we must work together in harmony and be tolerant of others. 

It doesn't matter who you are, where you work, your political affiliation, or anything like that. Intolerance and the lack of a willingness to work together is hurting our communities and corporations. We are all different. We may have different beliefs. But, we are all seeking the same goal: To leave this world as a better place for generations to come. 

Some of you have already made snap judgements about this article. You might be thinking, "Hey, it's not my fault, it's their fault!" All I'm asking is for you to stop for a moment. Take a deep breath. This time, instead of immediately pointing fingers, take some time to start reflecting. Accept some of the responsibility. Conduct an internal inventory. Change yourself first. Learn to listen. Learn to be tolerant. Learn to work together with people you don't agree with. Lead the change. You set the example and spread the word. Show up each and every moment ready and willing to listen, to show tolerance, to be humble, and to work together. It may be a complicated and tough road ahead ... I know this. But, believe me, if we all work together, just like the bundle of sticks, there is a win / win solution. Success is inevitable when working together in harmony without interfering with the rights of others. 

 

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6 Quirky Entrepreneurial "Lessons Learned" from Trail Running

Entrepreneurial Lessons Learned

6 Quirky Entrepreneurial "Lessons Learned" from Trail Running

Recently, I started trail running on the weekends. Let’s say, it’s currently more of a run, walk, run walk. And, that’s OK. It will take a little time to master the trails. This Sunday, I started thinking about the lessons I’ve learned from my first few weekends on the trails. Ironically, those lessons applied to entrepreneurship as well.

Let me share my lessons with you. If you agree or disagree, I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts.

1. Pick up your feet and keep moving forward

Trail running is challenging. Sometimes we find ourselves tripping over bumps in the road. We jump from one rock to another, trying not to slip … stubbing our toe on a rock, root, or anything else in our path. All the while, a little thought lingers in the back of your mind … when will it happen? When will I finally fall flat on my face?

You know what? The more you do it, the better you get. Your skills increase. Recognize that most stumbles are caused by dragging your feet. Pick up your feet! You’ll get faster, stronger, and more confident. Keep going and push those little thoughts aside. If you fall, get back up and keep moving forward. Sure, you’ll have some bumps, bruises, and scrapes ... but that won’t stop you.

In entrepreneurship, pick up your feet and keep moving forward. Learn from your stumble, bruise, scrape. Gain skills and agility. Get out there and do it! You got this!

2. Have the right equipment

When I first decided to run trails, I put on my street running shoes and headed to the park. I mean, there’s not that much of a difference between running on streets vs. trails … right? Let me tell you, for the trails I run, there’s a huge difference! However, starting out with street running shoes helped me. You could say they were the Minimum Viable Equipment to my trail running venture. Through trial and ERROR, I learned what needed in a trail running shoe.

Traill and error brought me to my current trail running shoes. I love them. But, I’m glad I jumped onto the trails, pushed forward, and learned from my experience. Now, my trail running shoes have the right amount of comfort, traction, support, and protection.

In entrepreneurship, the most critical step is to get out there and go fast. Learn from trial and error. Then, find the right equipment to support your business.

3. The path less taken provides the greatest learning

If you want to play it safe, stick to the well-beaten path. The safe path could be the most appropriate route for you at that time. The path you choose depends on a few things:

  • How you’re feeling?
  • Your level of preparation?
  • How hard do you want to push yourself?

Once you’ve answered those questions, decide on which path to take. When starting out, there is nothing wrong with taking the main trail. It provides you the opportunity to test your new (ad)venture. You can take the time to learn a few things but remain more on the safe side. As you run, take note of the trails peeling off into the wilderness. Where do they go? What is the landscape? Who's traveling along those paths? Do they meet back up with the main trail?

Once you’ve gained some insight and learned from the main trail, find a time to jump off that path. Go rogue! Take a path less taken. Explore! Say WTF and go for it! I guarantee the speed and depth of learning from this (ad)venture will pay off 10-fold! You’ll experience new things at a very rapid pace. Your senses will heighten. You’ll adjust, adapt, and dig deeper than ever before. When you reach the end, you're worn out, but exhilarated! You’ll crave taking on more (ad)ventures … more rogue paths.

In entrepreneurship, don’t be afraid to choose the rogue path. Take a little time to prepare, but say WTF and go for it!

4. There’s beauty in disconnecting

Disconnect the moment you step into the woods and hit those trails. Your mind clears and focuses on nature. You smile when you see animals interacting in the wilderness. Or, laugh when you stumble. You might even say hello to a new face, fellow hiker, runner, and their cute puppy.

Trail running allows you to disconnect from technology. Sure, we bring some tunes, fitness trackers, or other technology like that, but it’s not the everyday grind. We unplug from our computers, emails, TVs, crazy politics, and all other junk. On the trails, we are enjoying the moment. We disconnect and decompress.

Last Sunday I came across a squirrel. The silly little guy was right on the path with his/her head buried in a pile of leaves foraging for food. When I ran within a foot from this guy, he looked up at me. Dude didn't even care I was there. He went right back to the leaf pile. I couldn’t help but laugh. A simple interaction with a silly squirrel, yet I enjoyed every moment of sharing the path with this little guy.

In entrepreneurship, always find time to disconnect. It’s a whirlwind of adventure filled with stress, ups, downs, and all around. Disconnecting allows you to clear your mind and decompress.

5. Be aware of what’s around you

I run trails 15 minutes from my house. Turkey Mountain is a beautiful urban wilderness area. On the weekends, it’s packed! The remarkable part of this park ... it’s open to all kinds of people, animals, and ways to enjoy the park. 

When you’re trail running, you must be aware of what’s around you. Sometimes a mountain biker will sneak up from behind. If you aren’t mindful and they aren’t kind enough to inform you ... this could be trouble. Most of the time people give you a heads up ... Most of the time. Luckily, I haven’t had any incidents other than a few close calls. Sure, we are all out there to enjoy the trails. But, you could call them "trail competition.” The paths have limited space and resources. We are all competing for the same area and resources. You must be aware, adapt, and adjust at a moment’s notice. Don’t get run over!

In entrepreneurship, be aware of what’s around you. Don’t chase the next shiny object, but don’t get run over either. Be ready to adapt and adjust your path to continue your path forward.

6. "When you come to a fork in the road, take it."

Yogi Berra had it right, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” When I’m out testing the “rouge” trails, sometimes I have no clue which way to go. Which way takes me home? Which way leads me off to never-never land? I’ve experienced both outcomes. Two Saturday’s ago, I planned a quick 30-minute run. When I came to a fork in the road, I went for it. My “quick run” ended up taking 1.5 hrs. But, you know what? It was awesome! I found an area of the park I didn’t even know existed. The landscape changed. I captured a few funny moments on Snapchat and Instagram. I learned my current strength and limits. Plus, I went back to that trail the next weekend. (YouTube)

On the trail, you can find many different paths. Sometimes you don’t know which one to take. My advice, take "that" one and go for it!

In entrepreneurship, sometimes you won’t know which path to pursue. Don’t get to analysis paralysis. Follow Yogi’s advice, “When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” Learn, have fun, and keep going.

[PSA / Safety Moment: My Urban Wilderness Area isn't crazy large. A short walk in any direction brings me to civilization. Please know your situation. Don’t go rogue when it’s not safe.]

Thank you for reading this post. I hope you enjoyed it and can apply these lessons to your journey. If it helped you, please share with your friends, colleagues, and families.

- Stewart Swayze

Follow me on Instagram / Snapchat: stewart.swayze  

trail running washing machine

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How is marketing strategy related to business strategy?

How business strategy relates to marketing strategy

How is marketing strategy related to business strategy? 

I originally answered this question on Quora, but wanted to share it with my audience as well. It's a quick explanation. 

To keep the answer as simple as possible, your marketing strategy is a piece of your overall business strategy. The actual steps would depend a lot on your company size & structure. However, the steps below provide an example you can use and adapt to your situation.

  1. Company X develops Goals & Objectives for the next 3–5 years (G&Os)
    1. What do we want to achieve for the next 3-5 years? Where can we improve or grow?
  2. Company X plans how to achieve those goals (Business Strategy)
    1. This is your overall plan and strategy from a corporate perspective
  3. Company X divides the overall business strategy into specific functions, cross-functional teams, or business units.
    1. This is your plan from a functional / cross-functional perspective
    2. Sales, Marketing, Branding, IT, Human Resources, Product Management, R&D, etc.
  4. Company X executes the strategy, tacks progress, and adapts to “feedback” & data.

I hope this helps and let me know if you have any questions.

Stewart 

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What is the difference between sales & marketing? What roles do they play in the early stage of a business?

What is the difference between sales & marketing?

Let’s focus on the second part of the question first:

Q: What roles do sales and marketing play at the early stage of a business?

A: All of the above. When you’re in the early stage of a business, your Sales & Marketing teams should work hand in hand. Everyone works in Sales. Everyone works in Marketing.

Everyone wears multiple hats. Your goal is to stay alive as a business, scale, gain feedback, and close as many deals as possible.

Your sales and marketing teams should work together to quickly gather customer feedback, analyze this feedback, then produce the correct strategy and tactics to close the deal. In the early stage, this requires tight coordination. When I move to question two below, my answer doesn't apply to only larger companies. You can adapt this to an early stage company as well. You might not have the specializations I list below, but you can differentiate between Sales and Marketing the same way (indirect vs. direct customer touch).

Now let’s move to the first part of the question.

Q: What is the difference between sales and marketing?

A: As you grow, your sales & marketing teams should continue to work with one another. Yet, they will begin to specialize (Inside Sales, Field Sales, Technical Sales, Sales Operations or Digital Marketing, Social Media Marketing, SEM, Market Research, Communications, etc.). The easiest, but not perfect, way to bifurcate between Sales and Marketing is to look at “Customer Touch.”

Customer touch – How a department interacts with a customer during the sales funnel.

1. Do they speak or interact directly with the customer? (Sales)

Examples: Phone calls, in-person meetings, events, etc. If so, this is likely your sales team. I’ll explain the “likely” below. Your sales team should manage the direct interactions with your customers - Selling and Closing deals.

2. Do they indirectly interact with customers? (Marketing)

Traditional Marketing, Digital Marketing, Promotions, Communications, Public Relations, etc. Your marketing team should manage the indirect marketing communications with your customers. Now, let’s get back to the “likely” from above. There are field marketers. They go into the field and interact directly with customer. Or, marketers will collect voice of customer, conduct studies, focus groups, etc. During some of these instances the marketing team would directly interact with customers.

You actually want some of your marketing team talking directly with customers. Customers will interact differently depending on the department they are communicating with. Sales and marketing will ask different questions and receive distinctive feedback from your customers. Your sales team might not like that the marketing team is speaking with customers. If you want the best possible customer feedback, work this out between your Sales and Marketing teams. Train your employees that directly interact with customers very well. This will help reduce any mistakes and increase the comfort levels of your sales team.

Sales and Marketing Strategy

The sales and marketing teams need to coordinate. The goal of the marketing team is to provide the sales team with the appropriate materials and resources to find customers & close deals. Examples include lead generation (find customers) through, customer insights (customer background), product / service brochures (sales resources), awesomely designed and customer centric proposals (close deals).

There should be an efficient feedback loop all with the goal of moving a customer through the Sales Funnel. Sales should provide marketing with information and marketing provides sales information.

Customer Retention & Sales Coverage

No matter how large your sales force grows, they will never be able to cover the entire population of prospects and customers. In order to supplement your sales coverage, marketing should develop ways to generate leads and retain current customers. Then, the sales uses marketing programs to retain customers and close new deals. Again, this is a coordinated effort.

Customer Retention Example: Providing valuable insights and programs to current customers to create stickiness. Rewards programs are a good example. The marketing department comes up with a program that says: Current customer, if you purchase $X from us, you receive Y points. You can use those Y points to do Z.

Finding More Customers Example: The marketing team conducts a market research study. Segments those customers. Learn all about them - their needs, desires, and nice to haves. Then supports the development of tactics and marketing materials to for the sales team to target those prospects & customers. The sales team goes into the field (or phone if inside sales) to sell, while the marketing team conducts a targeted digital marketing strategy. The coordinated effort supports driving the prospects through the sales funnel. Close more deals! Retain your customers.

Cradle to Grave Analysis

Don’t forget one of the most important and valuable places for the Sales and Marketing teams to come together. Cradle to Grave analysis. Doesn’t matter if you win or lose a deal. Get the teams together for a quick analysis. What went well, what can you improve upon, what feedback or data will help the next deal?

In summary, when you are first starting out, everyone is in sales and marketing. Try to differentiate to help with roles and responsibilities, but if you want to stay alive … nobody is too big to make coffee for the team and the good of the company. As you scale, ensure there’s an integrated feedback loops. Your sales and marketing teams will begin to have specialized personnel. Perfect! Use the specialized skills to your benefit. Align those skills to your sales funnel and coverage gaps. Don’t forget your cradle to grave analysis. It doesn’t matter if you do it virtually or in person. Doesn’t matter if it’s a big or small deal. Do it! You’ll learn, grow, and improve. Especially when you are first starting out.

Please share this on social media if it has helped. Let me know if you have any questions. I'd be happy to answer. 

Stewart Swayze 

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Sales and Marketing Strategy - How to Increase Market Share

How to Increase Your Market Share

I originally answered this question on Quora, but adapted it for this post. 

Like a lot of questions on Quora, it’s is hard to answer without having information on the product, service, industry, competitors, etc. I’ll try to give some thoughts that might help.

Unless the market expands, you are working with finite numbers. Therefore, to “increase” market share you either:

1.    Take market share from a competitor

2.   Convince non-participating prospects in the Total Available Market (TAM) or Serviceable Available Market (SAM) to purchase your product

a.    Simple example: The TAM for Rooftop Solar Panels (Homeowners) is $10M. 3 suppliers are in this Market. Your company has a 10% market share. Competitor 1 has a 10% market share. Competitor 2 has a 20% market share. But, 60% of Homeowners are not participating. Theoretically, this 60% is part of the TAM, so “Not Participating” has a 60% market share. “Not Participating” is one of your hardest competitors. Let me say that again, choosing not to purchase IS A COMPETITOR.

There’s a lot of analysis, strategy, and tactics that a business can deploy to take market share from a competitor. I’ll list a few traditional tactics and then some non-traditional:

 

Traditional: High level, everyone should know these

1.    Marketing - You conduct competitive intelligence. You develop better Marketing Strategy and Tactics to drive more non-participants to your products or switch market participants from their current suppliers (competitors) to your products.

a.    Your marketing machine is so good, when people think of X product category, they only think of brand/product.

2.   Sales - Simple, your sales team is better. They go out there and attract non-participants and switch market participants.

a.    Your sales team is so good, everyone loves them, they have the best relationship, and people only want to buy from you.

Non - Traditional: More tactical

1.    Contracting - Better terms and conditions (T&Cs) than your competitors

a.    Example 1 - Your competitors ask for payment within 30 days, you offer your customer 60 days. Your customers can hold onto their cash longer with you.

b.    Example 2 - You assume more risk within your T&Cs. Your competitors try to push all the operating or product risk onto the customer. You assume more risk and offer extended warranties.

2.   Pricing - Your competitor wants all the money upfront and at Net 30 terms, but you:

a.    Offer traditional financing options - They can pay over time

b.    Offer better discounts

c.    Offer performance contracting or similar - Example 1 - Your product will reduce the customer’s cost. The customer pays you based on the actual cost reductions each month. This is continued until the product or service is paid off. Example 2 - Your product will increase revenue. The customer splits the actual increase revenue with you until the product / service is paid off.

d.    Switching from a CAPEX to OPEX transaction. There are different ways to do this. Example 1 - You hold the product on your books. Your customer pays a fee to use the product. Could be leasing or lease to own. Example 2 - You sell the product to a financial institution or partner. That financial institution holds the product on their books. The customer pays the financial institution for use of the product. Another similar example in software is SAAS.

e.    Price at 0 or negative margin - This is risky and only works on very specific cases. You sell the “product” at 0 or negative margin b/c you will make up the margin on aftermarket sales & services. Spare parts, labor, data, etc. In all of those areas you should have really high margins. Once the product is purchased, the customer has to come to you for them.

3.   Joint Technology / Collaboration Agreements - You partner with your prospects or customers in joint R&D. Lock them into your products b/c you are sharing costs, profits, intellectual property, etc.

a.    They are committed to you and your product / service b/c they benefit from using it and you selling it

4.   Master Agreements - You offer to sign master agreements, simplifying the contracting process and locking prospects / market participants into long-term agreements

a.    You reduce your customer's supply chain / contracting costs. Simplifying the process, agreeing on T&Cs, pricing, etc. upfront means less time negotiating, working through AP … and so on.

b.    You offer discounting or rewards programs within your master agreement. When they hit a certain $value of purchases, they receive a discount or reward.

There are many more ways to increase market share. Almost too many to list. But, I hope this helps give you a few ideas. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.

Stewart Swayze

Are you ready to live an empowered and purposeful life as a Solopreneur? Yes! Is it wrong to want more, to find abundance, and to be fulfilled? No!

Click here: Download This Introductory Guide To Service Based Solopreneurship

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5 Ways Working Next to a Creative Has Helped Me

 Photo by  Grant Sweetwood  (IG: @sweetwoodgrant)

Photo by Grant Sweetwood (IG: @sweetwoodgrant)

I’m writing this article because at work we tend to associate ourselves with people in the same function or group. Even when we’re in cross-functional teams, we gravitate towards like-minded people. This can limit our perspective and growth. The group we work with is usually the same group we seek advice or receive feedback. Challenge yourself to expand your network to include “creatives;” not just sales and marketing or operations and finance. Mix in a few artists, graphic designers, photographers, poets, authors, or others like that.

When you finish reading this article, you’ll see how I learned from branching out. If you add a creative to your network, I guarantee your perspective will change, and your business mindset will improve. 

My friend, Grant Sweetwood is a commercial and advertising photographer. He see’s the world from a different perspective. He has a passion for all things lighting. I give him a little hell for that, but the dude is legit!

Sometimes I work from home. Sometimes I work from the loft of Grant’s photography studio. I prefer the studio! Here’s why I prefer the studio.

1.  Perspective

As a creative, Grant views the world and business from an alternative perspective. He approaches activities from entirely different angles. His thought process challenges me to look at my customers and business through multiple lenses.

Not a day goes by that I don’t say, “Grant, what do you think about X?” Without failure, he rises to the occasion and challenges my thought process. Next thing you know I’m saying out loud, “Well damn, I haven’t thought about it that way before.”

His creative perspective pushes my thought process forward. It helps me to gain a 360 perspective on my clients and work. This perspective has helped me grow as a business owner and consultant.

2.  Creativity

No doubt about it, my creative abilities have increased. Similar to how my perspective changed, I’m continually flexing my creative muscles when I work from the studio. I’m not a scientist or doctor, but the surroundings help generate this creative atmosphere. 

This boost of creativity helps when I need to think outside the box. When a challenge comes up, I want to tackle it from the studio. When I’m designing cool social media imagery, I want to be at the studio. I can do both from my home office, but I’d much rather be at the studio surrounded by cool creative tools and people. 

3.  Drive / Hustle

We are both extremely driven individuals. We are entrepreneurs, small business owners, solopreneurs, or any other category you want to throw out there. Working next to another driven individual makes you even hungrier. We feed off of each other’s hustle.

When I work out of my home office, it’s just me. I’m the only person keeping myself accountable. I’m pretty damn good at it, but when I’m in the studio, it’s a different level.

4.  Full Spectrum

As a marketer or salesperson, you typically see or approve the end product of promotional materials. Sure, you might get involved in coming up with the general concept. But, you probably don’t get to see the full spectrum … from ideation all the way to the result.

I’ve been lucky enough to support a couple of Grant’s shoots. I had no idea the amount of time, effort, brain power, and creativity it takes to capture 5-10 perfect shots. Grant does this flawlessly. Watching him combine his creativity and analytical mindset has helped me fully grasp the wing to wing marketing / promotional process. 

Understanding the wing to wing process changed my level of appreciation for the terms “marketing” and “advertising.” Now, when I provide marketing consulting services to my clients, I can see the bigger picture through the fine details. Before, my knowledge of the photography or videography part of the process was conceptual. I had an “understanding,” which worked reasonably well in most cases. As we all know, the experience is king! I’m able to serve my clients better because I’ve experienced the wing to wing process. It’s the same concept as putting a rising leader into different functional experiences as they climb the corporate ladder.  

5.  Dog

Last, but certainly not least, he brings his dog, Hodges, to work. She can make the day so much better. HA. Kind of a funny one, but I enjoy having a dog around while I’m working. Good laughs, a bit of cuddles, and a welcome break when you need one.

Life as an entrepreneur can be tough. Startup life can be stressful and demanding. Animals have a way of helping us relax, take a deep breath, and smile…even if it’s just for a moment.

Now that I’ve laid out a few reasons I like to work around a creative, have you thought about a creative that you can add to your close network? Make sure you provide them value too. We have a good working relationship. We ping thoughts and ideas off one another, plus respect each other’s business.

I hope this post helps you consider broadening your network to include a creative person. Do you have any experiences like this one you’d like to share? You can see some of Grant’s work on Instagram - @sweetwoodgrant

 

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Answer to: What is Market Intelligence?

What is Market Intelligence?

What is Market Intelligence? Let’s keep this quick and easy, outline style! If you can fill in the information from this outline, you’ll have a tremendous amount of Market Intelligence. I’ve also provided links to relevant articles that I’ve written.

Customers

  • Voice of Customer (Read More)
  • Purchasing Habits
  • Preferences
  • Needs
  • Challenges
  • Demographics & Psychographics (Customer Personas)
  • Answer to: Why are they buying your products / services, etc.

Prospects

  • Voice of Prospects (Read More)
  • Purchasing Habits
  • Preferences
  • Needs, Challenges
  • Demographics & Psychographics (Customer Personas)
  • Answer to: Why aren’t they buying your products / services etc.

Competitive Intelligence (Read More - Using Open Source Intelligence to Analyze the Competition)

  • Who are your top competitors?
  • Communications Intelligence - gathering and analyzing publicly available marketing, communications, and sales resources
  • Technical Intelligence - gathering and analyzing of publicly available technical and product information
  • Financial Intelligence - information gathered from analysis of publicly available financial history
  • Human Intelligence - gathered from a person on the ground (sales, field marketing, etc)

Risk – A Simple PEST analysis should help

  • Political – Risk that political decisions, events, or conditions will impact the profitability of a business or value of an economic action
  • Economic – Risk that macroeconomic conditions such as exchange rates, government regulation, or political stability will impact an investment or business entity
  • Social - demographic and cultural aspects of the company's market
  • Technological - technology issues that impact delivery of product or service to the market

Product

 Market

I'm also running a "You ask, I'll Answer" campaign. So if you have any questions on Marketing, Sales, or Strategy, let me know. You can shoot me an email at stewart@stewartswayze.com

I hope this helps. Let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to tag me in a comment or connect with me via social media.

Stewart Swayze

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You Ask, I'll Answer: How do you determine & test product market fit?

This question came in pretty quickly via email. I’m up late writing this post (1:15am when I'm writing this), so you can see I’m very excited about it. Thanks David!

First, I’m going to propose a few questions and provide some thoughts on determining if you’ve reached product market fit. Second, I’ll provide some ideas on how to test.

Please remember, there’s a reason why we have new iPhones 1-2 times per year and constant software updates. Apple is testing product market fit. The software and hardware iterations are tests. These tests provide feedback. The feedback provides data. The data allows Apple to innovate and adapt to the market … Kind of scary, but reaching product market fit isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. You have to constantly adapt to the market and competition. Test, iterate, preserve, pivot, test, iterate, etc.

Lack of sales, lack of or mixed feedback is … feedback. You just have to listen to it. Dig deep. Talk to your customers and prospects. Get them to reveal what you need to know.

On a side note … one of the best ways to do this is via awkward silence. Ask a question, have them answer, then sit in awkward silence. Most humans hate awkward silence. Most humans will break the awkward silence and a lot of times reveal what they are really thinking.

Yes, it takes time to reach that sales hockey stick, but there are early indicators that you haven’t reached product market fit.

Question: What would your customers say if you asked them to describe your product? Could they tell you the features and benefits? Could they provide you with accurate outcomes on how it will quantitatively help them? Ask them what they are willing to give up (cost, data, time, etc) to use this product?

Thought: Find a small business owner that handles credit card transactions. Hand that business owner a product from Square – The Credit Card Processing system. Ask this business owner to answer the questions above.  Could they do it?

Question: If you are wondering if you have reached product market fit, aren’t you answering your question? (Adapted from Erie Reis).

Thought: There is a reason why you are questioning if you’ve reached product market fit. Maybe it’s not selling well. Maybe you’ve received mixed customer & prospect feedback.  They think it’s cool. It might work, sounds interesting, and is very innovative. Yet, only limited numbers are purchasing.

Question: If you’ve launched and promoted your product, are your customers & prospects calling to discuss more? Or is it just the press or tech enthusiasts?

Thought: Think about the lines when a new iPhone comes out. That’s a little extreme, but it serves as an example.  If you’ve had a well-planned launch and marketed it properly, is anyone calling? Even just to find out more information? If your customers, prospects, press, and techies are calling … you’ve probably reached market fit. If it’s just the press and techies, but no customers or prospects, then you might want to re-visit your product. Or, are you still “pushing” information down your prospects throats only to find they don’t have the best gag reflex?

Question (if applicable): Is it an easy sell to your own company? Is your own company using it? Are they readily adopting the product and it’s producing great results? Or, are they forced to use it? 

Thought: There are cases when companies build products that could be used within their own organization. Yet, they don’t use them. This can happen for various reasons. But, it could be a leading indicator that you don’t have product market fit.

Question: Are the customers that purchased your product willing to become product evangelists? Sure, some customers want data privacy and confidentiality. Yet, they can still provide you generic recommendations. Maybe even voice of customer, anonymized case studies, or other social proof. 

Thought: Again, there could be a lot of reasons for customers not publicly going on record for your product. Try to dig into the root cause. Determine if it’s confidentiality or if the product isn’t up to expectations. If it’s not at expectations, this could be preventing them from recommending it.

How do you test product market fit?

1. Surveys: Well duh, right? But, are you asking the right questions? Think of these surveys like an NPS. Keeping it simple, I’ll provide 3 questions below.

a. How likely are you to recommend this product to a colleague? (adapt the term colleague to the right audience, Ex. Another business owner)

 i. Sliding Scale 1 – 10

ii. Provide area for commentary – Ask why?

b. How would you feel if you could no longer use this product?

i. Very Disappointed, Slightly Disappointed, Not Disappointed (it’s not useful), & I no longer use this product

ii. Provide area for commentary – Ask why?

c. What type of impact is this product having on your organization?

i. Very Positive, Somewhat Positive, No Change, Somewhat Negative, Very Negative

ii. Provide area for commentary – Ask why?

2.    Ask for customer testimonials

a. Social proof is a sign of product marketing fit

b. Will your customers go on record and recommend it? That’s a test

3. Give it away for free! (Kind of…): If your product provides a financial benefit, give it to a TBD number for free, then share the financial benefit (Basically, set up performance contract pricing with a test group of customers)

a. If you are stating your product will reduce costs, then benchmark your customer or prospects current costs

b. Then find an agreeable value for them to pay you in based on the % reduction in costs

c. If your product will increase revenues, repeat the above but with a split in increase revenues

I’m open to feedback and more questions on this subject. This is one of the hardest questions to answer for startups and new product launches. There are many thoughts, theories, and experts chiming in on the Product Market Fit discussion.  I hope I’ve at least provoked thought, if I didn’t fully answer the question.

Thanks again for the question. I'd enjoy answering more. 

Stewart

 

 

 

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