21/01/2011

By Mike Southon, FT columnist

1. Time for you to send Mike’s Magic E-Mail!

Now is an excellent time for you to send Mike’s Magic E-Mail to your existing customers as well as your sales prospects. They will have had a couple of weeks to clear the holiday backlog, and are now thinking about spending money in 2011.

Mike’s Magic E-Mail is only four lines long and is specifically designed to help you get appointments.

You can find the FT column I wrote about Mike’s Magic E-mail here:

www.mikesouthon.com/ezine/magic-e-mail

2. Can I help you?

Do let me know if I can help you and your business.

Please get in touch if:

You are planning an event and are looking for a speaker

You can find more details on my keynote ‘Something About The Beatles’ here:

www.mikesouthon.com/about-mike

You would like to run a motivational, practical and sales-oriented away-day for your company

I often design these together for clients, and act as conference moderator/facilitator.

You have 20-30 people and are looking to grow this year

This is the very tricky ‘Sapling’ to ‘Mighty Oak’ transition, which I wrote about here:

www.mikesouthon.com/ezine/the-numbers-game

You are looking for a non-executive director or advisory board member

If you are planing to grow or want to significantly increase your sales, please let me know.

3. Weekly E-zine: Turn a Good Idea into a Great Business

This is my column that will feature in Saturday’s Financial Times, which can be found in the entrepreneurship pages of the Money section. You can also find my columns on the FT web site here:http://www.ft.com/mikesouthon

Last week’s column was about resolving to make 2011 the year that you decide to start a new business or become self-employed.

This might be the first step towards self-reliance for someone unemployed, or as an interesting sideline to current employment. In both cases, the basic process is the same; you need to find something that you are genuinely passionate about, and then see if friends will give you money for your endeavours.

This is the fundamental difference between a good business idea and a bad one. In a good idea, people will give you money for your products and services, in a bad one, they will not.

I must have had thousands of business ideas enthusiastically pitched at me over the years and this is by far the first and most important metric for success. This may seem over-simplistic, but I learned this important lesson the hard way back in the 1990s.

In the 1980s, I co-founded, built and sold a successful computer services company, and naturally assumed that all other start-ups I became involved in would go the same way. It was later very challenging on a personal and professional level to work with fascinating people who had written brilliant software, that, for various reasons, nobody would actually pay for. Ultimately, these companies folded.

I now tell people that there is no such thing as a bad business idea; the only issue is whether the person sitting opposite me has the right stuff to make it happen. The first stage is always the often-daunting task of securing some revenue; assuming you pass this key test, then the next issue is about people.

You can simplify business into three basis tasks: sales (generating revenue), delivery (providing a product and service) and finance (making sure you make money in the process).

Finance help is readily available, first from a friend or family member who is good with numbers and adept at wrangling spreadsheets, then later a local bookkeeper or accountant.

This still leaves sales and delivery, which can be simply categorised respectively as inherently extroverted and introverted tasks. If your ambition is to grow a business rather than merely be a sole trader, the next and most important step is to find a foil, someone with the opposite set of attributes to yourself.

If you are naturally introverted, then it would be someone to generate the revenue for you, while you concentrate on delivery. If you are more extroverted and find it easy to charm revenue from your friends, then it would be someone to deliver on your promises.

The inability to find a foil is the biggest hurdle to developing a business past the initial revenue stage, and this willingness to start building a team is what, in my experience, separates the successful from the unsuccessful entrepreneur.

Once this key person is in place, the key challenges for the entrepreneur are first to let them get on with their work without interference, and then to make sure they have adequate shareholding in the enterprise.

This should be an agenda item on the table from their first day of employment. As soon as they have proved themselves, typically as evidenced by helping secure regular profitability of the company, then a complete package of stock, stock options and profit sharing should be put in place.

This will later be extended to other cornerstones of the business, but is an important first step in establishing an important principle. Successful entrepreneurship is less about a brilliant business idea, and more about your ability to first attract, then later successfully work with other people.

Originally published in The Financial Times:www.ft.com

Copyright ©Mike Southon 2011. All Rights Reserved. Not to be
reproduced without permission in writing.[/i]

Mike Southon - Co-author of The Beermat Entrepreneur & Business Speaker - http://www.mikesouthon.com

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