Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Book Report - New Year's Resolution

Not sure if we’re into the New Year’s resolution territory yet but here goes; if you make one New Year’s Resolution this coming year, be resolved to read more.

I’m not talking about newspapers (Do people still read those?), blog posts or twitter feeds here. I’m talking about books. Pick up a book that interests you and read it! And then do it again and again...

I’ve set a personal goal of 2 books per month for the year. We’ll see how I do. My plan is to review the books here and give some insights into their content and application.

Here’s my first review.

The E Myth -- Revisited, by Michael E. Gerber
Why Most Small Businesses Fail and What to Do About It (The dog-eared book to the right is my own personal copy from 1995).

The subhead says it all! As you know if you’ve read my other posts, I’m all about overcoming the small business epidemic (a term that I coined several years ago), which gets right to the point that “most” small businesses don’t work, or fail.

Needless to say this book speaks to me. Actually, it's been speaking to me for years and was instrumental in the development, structure and continuing success of my own business, Cazbah.

The term E Myth relates directly to the Myth that; I am an Entrepreneur, therefore I know how to start, run, manage and succeed at a small business. The data regarding small business failures in this country say otherwise. In fact, most small businesses are started by what Gerber refers to as “technicians,” people that make things or do things and start a business because they think they have a better way of making or doing things. I’ve always related the difference between leaders and managers to this point, namely – managers do things right, leaders do the right things. So simple, so relevant…

One of the characteristic pinch points for entrepreneurs is that they can never seem to get ahead. Gerber refers to this as working in the business, rather than working on the business. They are so busy making stuff that they never raise their eyes to the horizon to see what’s coming or where they are going. Like walking across a field looking at your feet. You may never get to the other side...

There are many, many small businesses (most actually) that I’ve interacted with over the years that are in a perpetual vicious cycle. They go out to their markets sell something, bring it back to the shop and build it, go out sell something, bring it back build it..(repeat). Their financial results porpoise as a result. Picture the fish (o.k., mammal), above the water - below the water - above the water - below the water, etc… It never ends and they never really grow or get ahead. They just exist like this, in some cases from one generation to the next.

Gerber offers some simple and actionable advice on how to correct the E Myth through the development of the Franchise Prototype. This is a business model that adopts the attributes of a franchise business. He goes to great lengths to give credit where it’s due (Ray Crock – McDonalds). Here’s a little tidbit to give this point some credence. “Regular” small businesses fail at a rate of 70% – 80%. Franchises succeed at a rate of 75%. Get the point? As an aside, for the entrepreneur considering a business venture, being a franchisee may represent your best choice!

Most small businesses lack structure and any repeatable process documentation, the attribute that truly defines the franchise business model. Gerber contends that the strategic systemization of your small business will reap huge returns and resolve the E Myth… and he’s right!

If you are 1) an Entrepreneur, 2) business owner or manager, 3) considering becoming an Entrepreneur, 4) may someday be in a position of business management, 5) are currently employed or, 6) are considering employment… (you get the point): You owe it to yourself to read this book!

Michael Gerber’s E Myth is what I consider to be one of the foundational texts that every small business should have on its book shelves and have in practice! Buy it and read it.

eStrategy... 3 Simple Steps

Practically speaking, a large percentage of a small group is a ‘bigger’ and more meaningful number, than a small percentage of a large group. Gaining this large percentage of a highly targeted group of customers, or market segment -- commonly referred to as market share – should be the primary objective of any business. The success of your eStrategy is defined by your ability to:

1. Find this highly targeted group of customers

2. Communicate with them

3. Get them to make a purchase

The Great Equalizer
In the past, this level of marketing focus was restricted to those companies that had the research, advertising, and direct response budgets to support it. Not anymore! No longer do you have to be a Fortune 500 company with a multimillion-dollar budget to market effectively to a highly targeted group of customers and prospects. In this case, the Internet is the great equalizer. The major direct response marketing agencies realize this fact. They are currently busying themselves with the conversion of their traditional services to online services.

The More You Know…
The more you know about your customers and the better you understand them, the more likely you are to find them online. The important task is getting them to find you. There are several methods that you can use to do this. One in particular involves both traditional search optimization and pay-per-click, or search engine marketing (online advertising).

Communicating with your customers and prospects is a fairly straightforward proposition. There are numerous highly targeted online methods including eZines, e-Pubs, Communities (Social Media -- the list seems to be infinite these days) and eMail marketing campaigns, to name a few, which you can use to reach out to your market segment.

It’s all about focus!
If you do the appropriate amount of work on the ‘front-end’ – finding your customers and communicating with them -- the ‘back-end’ – getting them to buy your products or services -- will take care of itself. Ultimately, if you focus your eStrategy towards the specific identification of your target customers and prospects, communicating your UVP (unique value proposition) to them in response to their needs, they will buy your products or services!