Celebrity Apprentice star shares his business tips
YELLOW Brick Road's Mark Bouris shares his top 10 business principles for starting a business.
All success requires selling - so be a seller! Salespeople can be relationship builders, hard workers, lone wolves, reactive problem solvers or challengers (who take control of the sale and are assertive). To move forward, you must always understand how selling operates in your business and take care to match your selling approach to the market you serve.
The best form of advertising is your customer recommendations, so you have to get the customer experience right. Think about "touch points" with your customers, from the first visit to your website, the first enquiry, the phone call they received, how they were greeted in your business, the length of time they were kept waiting, how they were introduced to the products, and how you communicated with them after the sale. Get all the touch points right. When in doubt, ask yourself: How do I like to be treated?
Do you have a unique selling point? Do you have a compelling reason why a potential customer would use your products or services? Decide what you offer and be proud of it. Dare to stand out!
Challenging the status quo
Most entrepreneurs are challengers. That is, they either find a better way to deliver an existing product/service, or they enter an established market and unlock a new class of customer. At my company, we are challengers because we bring many new people into financial planning by offering solutions in a new way. So, when you start a business, ask yourself: Who am I challenging? How does this help the customer?
Many business owners resent the costs of advertising but they shouldn't: Advertising can rejuvenate your business, introduce you to new customers and boost your revenue. Advertising strengthens your identity and reminds people what you do and how you can help them. If there's one piece of advice about advertising, it's this: Before you spend all that money on an ad, know what problem you solve.
Whatever you're selling, put yourself in the customer's shoes: Is the staff informed? Can they help me with information? Do they understand who I am? Are they easily accessible when I need more info or if something goes wrong? Service shouldn't be an added extra - it should be the reason you're in business.
Negotiation is about getting the best solution for yourself and your business. If you're not a natural, you must learn because a business is essentially set-up to negotiate, whether with customers, suppliers, employees, governments or partners. My three tips for better negotiating: 1 - know the motivation of the other party and develop a variety of solutions; 2 - research the market, using facts to persuade; 3 - build trust over time.
Know your customer
Every business has to develop a strong sense of their customers: Where do they live? Are they married or single? What is their income? What is their education? What do they want? How could their lives be better by dealing with you? You have a sales strategy only once you know your customers.
Business owners do a lot of unseen leg-work just to get a venture off the ground. It's about calling debtors, negotiating with creditors, dealing with banks and wrangling over commercial leases. It can be lonely and stressful and everyone who has succeeded knows about it.
Yet, this kind of pressure - relentless in many businesses - is also the force that creates a strong culture and a solid foundation for the future. Remember that perseverance is the one thing that all success stories have in common.
My tips for coping under pressure? 1 - never forget your purpose. You're being asked to do something important and you want to succeed; 2 - don't let the negative voice in your head spiral out of control. Speak in a calm way and you won't project fear on to others; 3 - find someone whose judgment you trust who can listen and provide counsel.
Being curious, energetic, flexible and a smart risk-taker are all good qualities to have when starting a business. But what happens when you start hiring? How do you retain entrepreneurship in a growing business?
I've resolved this at my own business by building a branch network with people who must buy and manage their own branches, thereby keeping the entrepreneurial ethic.
I've had to develop a system for ensuring that the right people manage the Yellow Brick Road branches. I look for hunger, determination, energy, business acumen, networking abilities and a personality reflective of their local community.
If entrepreneurial attributes are important to your business and brand, you must find a way to build this into your business. And that starts with hiring.