Is Business Fun or War?

I asked Google for some guidance on the issue.

The phrase “business is fun” is listed 38,400 times. The phrase “business is war” is listed 733,000 times. That’s 771,400 in total.

The fun echelon makes up 5% of that total, with the aggressive group coming in at 95%.

So what? Well, these are two basic philosophies behind our approach to business life.

Michael Gerber (The E-Myth Revisited) says that 96% of us startups close down by the end of our first decade. That is uncannily similar to the aggressive group number.

Are these numbers linked?

I don’t know, but it seems to me that I would much rather head out each day with the concepts of love and sandpits and friends filling my brain. The thought that when I practise my selling skills I walk away either with some income or with some education, and both are good. And I walk away with a friend. That’s fun, ennobling, and fulfilling.

If each sales meeting is a confrontation that I must win at all costs then I feel like a school bully. And I imagine that the person I am selling to feels like I felt as I stood at a primary school urinal while a giant from Standard 5 peed down the back of my legs. Now that I think about it I hope he did not go into sales.

Frankly, I froze up in public conveniences for years.

Maybe that’s why the person you are trying to sell to, selling an answer that really can improve his life, is as hesitant as he is. It isn’t because he’s an idiot. Maybe his legs are still damp from meeting your competitor yesterday?

I started down this self-employment odyssey in October 1984. During the thirty years since then I have spent just three months as an employee. I think that that the fun approach is, well, a life worth living.

Why Start Now?

Please click here to read why Kevin Kelly said in July this year, “Can you imagine how awesome it would have been to be an entrepreneur in 2014?”.

(He is one of the most insightful people on the Web, and has written articles and books that have cast light onto my online path these past 20 years.)

His article talks about how we are still at the beginning of the beginning of the Internet. A Business Warrior friend sent it to me, “because it resonates”, he said.

Mr Kelly also says, “So, the truth: Right now, today, in 2014 is the best time to start something on the internet.

I am embarrassed that he describes what I am trying to do at Earnster.Ninja much better than I can. Just in case that is misleading, let me say that I have never met Kevin Kelly and he does not know I exist.

The are no excuses on the Web. No glass ceilings. No age limits. Just opportunity. And nothing stopping you from pulling decent Internet income streams during the next year.

Please check Earnster.Ninja out. There are 41 seats left before we start next Monday.

Business Risks

Most startups close early.

Both offline (normal) startups and online startups. But there is a massive difference in the cost of closure.

A basic offline venture costs a whole pile of money before making that first sale. The government wants you to register before you start. Then you might need a shop (or office or factory) with its long lease, deposit and surety. Of course you need a website as well. Then you need a business bank account and some money, both of which come with sureties.

In other words the world wants deep commitment before you even know if the idea can work. It is like paying for the wedding before the first date.

If it doesn’t work out then the costs and the pain continue for a long, long time. Maybe that’s why most folk prefer a real day job?

The offline process is kinda:

  • Have new idea;
  • Nurture it, breathe it into life;
  • Discuss with close friends and family, most of whom agree it is a winner;
  • Borrow money from friends, family and bank to start up;
  • Register business to legally sell stuff;
  • Set up shop (or office);
  • Set up website;
  • Open doors and wait for the buying hordes;
  • Wait some more;
  • Run out of money while friends and family tell you it was a bad idea;
  • Find real day job to pay the bank for the next few years.

It sounds brutal and with 70% of startups in SA not making their first year-end, it is. Closing a regular business is slow, complex and expensive.

Contrast that with a simple online business. (There are many variants on this theme that work just as well.)

The online process is kinda:

  • Have new idea;
  • Then Research Google to see if enough people interested;
  • If NO, expand idea and go back to research step;
  • If YES, then build a basic website just to see if those interested people like your idea; (total costs so far are a couple of hours and R150 to register and build the site, and R500 to advertise on Google, both of which you pay by card)
  • If NO, refine website; (a few more hours)
  • If YES, refine website to turn visitors into buyers;
  • If still NO buyers, restart process with new idea;
  • If buyers come then grow it until it is big enough to leave your real day job;
  • Or let it earn money while you do the same with your next idea…
  • At some point choose to register formally or work as a sole proprietor for a while more;

The online process is fast and safe. The upfront cost of an idea not working is close to zero. You get to test before you invest big time or money. No need to borrow money up front. No need to sign sureties. No leases to sign. No fallout afterwards.

By testing your market at each step you ensure that you stay focused on the income flow.

I make one assumption in the online process above because this is what I teach folk to do: I assume that you know how to do each step yourself.

Which reminds me, there are 74 seats left of the original 200 at Earnster.Ninja, the online mentoring programme that will teach you how to do the above, along with everything else you need to Earn Income Anywhere. The programme starts September 1st.

Go here to get started. (If you have to wait until payday, then register now to reserve your seat.)

There are enough people…

There are more than enough people amongst the 2,700,000,000 people online to offer each of us a lifetime of income wherever we choose to work.

These online people do not care…

  • whether we are 14 or 84;
  • nor whether we have a “real” job or are retired or retrenched;
  • nor whether we work a from coffee shoppe or from a bedroom;
  • nor whether we are size 3 or size 30;
  • nor whether we look like a Shrek or a Schiffer;
  • nor what colour our skin is;
  • nor which God we worship, if any;
  • nor whether we are girls or boys or uncertain;
  • nor whether we suffer from some physical or mental challenge;
  • nor where we live.

More than enough of these “Internet” people live across the world waiting for each of us to reach out.

They differ from the people and the governments where we live, with whom we have grown up.

These locals worry so much about these same personal issues that they get in the way of us earning our livelihood. They fear the success anybody else has because they feel it hurts them. And they change the rules whenever they feel them to be unfair. You can choose not to subscribe to such petty tyranny.

I am starting a new 12 month mentorship program, training just 200 people who want to work from that coffee shoppe, that bedroom, or the local beach. I will help you meet enough of those 2,700,000,000 Internet folk so that you too can get that lifetime of income.

Please join me at Earnster.Ninja.

The programme starts September 1st. There are 137 seats remaining after launching it to 398 Business Warriors on Friday. This email goes to 7138 PetesWeekly readers.

I will share everything I know, everything that has allowed me to live in five countries these past 15 years, and everything that will let you do the same.

If you have been following my 15-year long journey via South Africa, Australia, South Africa again, England, Norway, Gran Canaria, and Norway again then you know I talk straight. I would value you sharing this email with someone you know that wants similar rivers of income. They might enjoy the chance to learn how to do something similar.

Sales Guarantee Survival

There is only one way to grow sales: Get more prospects.

You can do this yourself or you can get somebody to do it for you. DIY marketing seldom works as well as my clients hope.

DIY needs time and inspiration to get the background work done consistently. DIY needs time to check out the miasma of options in a morass of BS claims. DIY needs the time to learn what to do, and how to do it. DIY needs the time to actually, you know, do it. Then DIY needs the time to work out what worked and what didn’t. And finally, DIY needs the time to repeat this process every month. (It is never urgent. And there is never a shortage of urgencies to keep postponing sending those emails.)

I know this because I asked a few hundred Warriors this same question recently. “Too busy!” They said.

So, here is my solution to your problem of getting more sales soon. It can be yours if you want it. And you can be harvesting new sales within the month.

  1. Reply to this email right now with a few details:
    • your website
    • your name and phone number
    • your current average monthly sales
    • a light overview of your business (turnover, age of business, staffing, and what you sell – if this is not on your website).
  2. I will get back to you with a time to meet me online or onphone for 30 minutes to work out where you are sales-wise and where you want to go. Effective marketing needs a target and a deadline.
  3. I will suggest answers to gather as many enquiries as you need.
  4. Then let my team get on with finding those enquiries for you while you focus on what your business needs you to do. You cannot lose because I will not offer the service unless I can deliver more than you can imagine.
  5. Then I will help you turn those enquiries into sales.

I have been living off the Internet since 2003. Whatever I propose to you will be solutions that I have used myself, after sifting through that same BS that you have already bumped into.

Like most of us your first concern is probably about the cost. I will not take you on board unless I know that the extra sales I deliver will pay for for my help many times over. Any other approach would be bad business.

I know you are busy. I won’t waste your time. But in a slowing market I think I can make a real difference to your prospects. Both sales prospects and future prospects.

If you haven’t already, please reply now. There is a limit to how fast I can take new clients on board, and with Spring looming this is a great time to rev that engine you have been sitting on during Winter.

Sales Prospecting and Panning

Marketing can be divided into two broad areas: Prospecting and Panning.

Prospecting is the hard work. It is the equivalent of an old time gold digger looking for a river of gold. It is the SEO, the PPC, the TV adverts, the whole website thing, the fancy brochures, and so on.

Prospecting is the overwhelming choice of stuff that you can do, and not enough time or money to explore each of the options. It is expensive and uncertain. It is beating away competitors with a stick. It is, in a word, tough. And it leads to almost certain closure in the long run.

Bottom line: Converting strangers into prospects and then into clients is hard work. And expensive.

Panning is what you do when you find that river. You scrape the gravel from the river bed and you shake it in your pan, and as it filters through the sieve at the bottom, a few nuggets remain. Once you find that river you never stop panning.

This is the equivalent of having enough customers to sustain your business no matter how bad the times. All you have to do is stay in touch, whether by:

  • phone, which is easy since there is no cold calling because you already have a relationship;
  • email, which is easy because there is no hint of spam because you already have a relationship;
  • both of which are certain and inexpensive.

Bottom line: Converting existing clients into new clients is a lot easier work. And costs much less.

Most of us find far more new clients than we need to sustain us for life. But we abandon them after that first sale as we chase more strangers. How silly is that?

The Best Writing Tool…

Is not nearly as effective as a pencil wielded by a Rudyard Kipling or any typewriter wielded by an Agatha Christie.

We waste so much time chasing “best” that there isn’t much time left to do much with that fine new tool when we finally get our hands on it. I know this because I see it every day.

A person who can wield basic manual tools with any skill can perform wonders with almost any tools. The rest of us, well, not. I say this gently because I know a bunch of fine people who manage to mangle WordPress (one of the world’s best website infrastructures) and aspirant writers who have Scrivener (world’s best writing tool) but have yet to produce any words at all, let alone a modern version of Hamlet. (Which was written with a hollow, rigid shaft of a goose feather dipped into ink, most of which ended up on Shakespeare’s hands and shirt.)

One can understand “best” in the context of a car, for instance, where it is unlikely you will ever get it to its full speed of 400km/h. That isn’t really the point. Rather, “best” in this case is simply to inspire the envy of others.

Many years ago I inspired some interest amongst members of the other gender when I mentioned that I drove a 323, back when a BMW was still pretty special. Mazda also had a 323, which was the one I drove, and I remember a few startled faces when I arrived for that first, usually brief, date.

But when it comes to tools, we are measured by what we produce. The cost of tools does not often correlate with how well they do the work we want done. Microsoft Word, for instance, is an amazing tool, and has a price tag to match.

Yet every version of Windows has a built in wordprocessor that is plenty good enough for 99% of people needing to write or print documents. (All of which can be done without all the training needed just to find the keyhole to start MS Word up in the first place.)

My preferred route these days is to find an open source tool and take it for a test drive. Open source is usually free, which is always a nifty price. A few hours messing around with the tool will teach me more about the genre than anything else could, and will give me enough knowledge find out whether this is something worth pursuing. And if it is, I will at least understand what it is that I really do need in the tool.

In that regard open source software is like free training.

Calling Small Companies

In Knysna there is a wonderful beauty salon called Hello Gorgeous.

When you call them, they answer the phone quickly and a beautiful voice gently says, “Hello Gorgeous.” I would call them whenever I felt low.

Contrast that with the way most firms answer their phones. This came home to me earlier this week when I called the offices of ten small firms.

It isn’t just that we feel the need to go with the complete name, as in “This is Slang, Viper, Cobra, and Mamba Incorporated, how may I direct your call?” Rather it is said so fast that we have no idea who Telkom has wired us to.

That long, fast intro is usually so mumbled that we waste a moment or two thinking about what to say next, and in these three nanoseconds the obviously harried mumbler disconnects us.

Why waste money on marketing to attract prospects when the phone-answering effort undoes it all? She may well be trying to cram 60 callers into an hour, but our hero, that person with a dollop of cash to buy what we sell, well, he was going to make just this one call. Now he has to call someone else.

It’s not the person manning the phone who is at fault. Rather it is usually you and me because we forgot to explain exactly what we wanted to happen. And most folk manning switchboards are not mind-readers. A little training will usually bring a huge improvement.

Answer your phone with a smile in your voice. Maybe “Hello Gorgeous” might be a little overwhelming for your line of work, but a normally paced, well expressed, as if you are the only person in the world that matters right now: “Good afternoon, you’re talking to Dave Johnson at Mongoose Inc. How can I help you?”

Unexpected Outcomes

Here’s the thing: We often use the wrong words to talk about business.

For instance, we use the word “failure” to denote the closure of a firm. That word conjures up a huge host of emotions that get in the way of our understanding what really is happening. (To say nothing of messing with our psyches.)

A much better phrase would be “unexpected outcome”, in the sense that none of us expect it to happen.

This occurred to me as I read The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Since 100% of us will die at some point, the author Sogyal Rinpoche is surprised at how few of us prepare our souls for this passage.

A penny dropped. The stats on closure confirm that about 96% of businesses will close within a decade of starting. That seems awfully close to death and taxes in my mind.

Just as death is not an unexpected outcome, nor should business closure be.

What if we built our businesses from day one as if they were not immortal? What if we did not borrow against our homes, eating capital that we have been saving our entire lifetimes? What if we started as if were going to close soon, despite what the American gurus say about thinking positively?

How might we do things differently if closure were not unexpected, but the norm? (Which, in fact, it is.)

As I see it, 96% of us would be better off. That seems like a much better result than we, en masse, are currently getting.

On the face of it this sounds awfully depressing, doesn’t it?

I see it as empowering. Any single closure is one more step on the path to getting it right. And just as our school term tests prepare us for the year-end exams, maybe we should be a tad more sanguine about these intermediate results?

Small Business Minister?

The tourism industry is the quintessential small business industry.

It is a hive of small operators doing wonderful things like taking tourists to out of the way places, accommodating them in quirky places, flying balloons, chasing sharks, offering foreigners the savoury delights of this gorgeous country.

It seems to me that this would be the kind of pot that the new Department of Small Business will be stirring. (It’s not yet a department, but I believe that government feels the need to appoint a Minister to look after us.)

My friend Dave is a tour planner. He helps foreigners connect with all the superb services available in South Africa.

Last year the South African government invited more than 1000 Indian travel agents to South Africa to check out the local smorgasbord. Many of the local firms offered their services for free in the hope of garnering Indian tourists, especially for our quiet period. (Which is a lovely phrase for Winter, don’t you think?)

It worked. Almost.

Somewhere in this wonderful mix one government department did not come to the party. With more than 130,000 Indians in the queue, it seems that they employed just one official to issue the visum that each visitor needs to come to paradise.

This came to light a few weeks ago, right at the beginning of the quiet period. Which has become rather harried.

Basically, this single official must process a visum every 41.74 seconds. (I offer the two decimal points to indicate the rigour of my research, and because I’m told that it’s more authoritative).

I don’t know about you, but I’ve had some experience with public servants, and this is about the time it takes to open the document, find the page, ink the stamp, and bang it down. I’m sure that there must be more to it than that, and I’m sure that it does take a lot more than 41.74 seconds.

The chaps at the top of each department have been “conducting high-level discussions”. The fellows at the bottom of the industry, including my friend Dave and many of his suppliers, have been taking action.

The high-level discussions still have not managed to get much done. Dave, on the other hand, has had to retrench staff, and is taking appropriate steps to close his business.

Last year he saw some writing on the wall, and devoted a lot of effort into the Indian market. The writing said “Go north.” The unexpected outcome of doing just that is that Dave is going a little too far south.

I found it interesting that in all the reporting of this issue no one seems to be taking the side of lone business owners. I haven’t yet seen a report on the anguish that small businesses are feeling as they refund deposits, and see their investment in reaching this market falling apart.

I’m not sure if opening a new small business ministry is a good thing or not. My experiences with Ministers is such that it would be good to have one present to say last rites to each business as it closes.

Although, maybe the existing ministries could stop their bickering and employ a few more folk to offer Indians that same welcome at the embassy that they’re going to get on landing here.