Last week I was meeting with a really cool alternative energy company. Their sales have grown over $5MM and they are anticipating breaking the $10MM barrier shortly.
I was barely finished telling them how great it is they scaled up in such a short time when the founder said things could be much better. Things would be so much greater if the Federal government would issue subsidies on alternative energy companies much the same way it is doing it for petroleum companies, he said.
I groaned audibly, probably more for dramatic effect rather than being just plain old tired of hearing that complaint.
I said, “That is no way to run a company. If you are waiting for handouts to be successful, you’re running the wrong business. You’ve got to find a way to stand on your own two feet, no matter what the climate is out there. Today it is unfair subsidies, tomorrow it will be China undercutting your prices and the day after it will be something else.
“Get used to it. And get creative.”
I’ve heard this complaint many, many, many times over the past year or so. As the disappointments increase over the lack of stimulus money being allocated towards small business and as Congress cannot seem to get its act together in aiding our economy and commerce, it is increasingly evident we must just go with what we have.
Another common complaint is how it is unlikely or even impossible for some industries to thrive without Federal intervention.
To which I say “bull-pucky!”
A limited way of thinking causes comments like that to come out of one’s mouth. As Byron Kennard, my mentor and colleague, writes recently in the Huffington Post, “Technology is often more powerful than law”. He makes a strong argument that innovation usually trumps governmental intervention.
Rather than focusing on government, entrepreneurs of any type need to focus on their innovation and “can do” mind set.
Here are the four steps to bucking the wait for the Feds:
- Ask the right questions—usually when we get stuck in a situation it is most likely because we are the ones that got ourselves there. To get yourself unstuck, change the questions you ask. For example, if you ask, “How do I get some Federal stimulus money?” change that to something like, “How do I sell my product quickly with the what I have to manage?” (i.e. costs and competition.) This shifts your mind to answer a more powerful question. You’re much more likely get the right answers.
- Think like there is no box— from the wildest, furthest out-there ideas come the best solutions. When you hold yourself back in your thinking and brainstorming on solutions, you get limited results. For example an answer to your question (in #1) might be, “Don’t try to compete on price!” to which you say to yourself/others, “Yeah, but everyone competes on price and they will not buy from me if I’m more expensive.” You just boxed yourself in. Go beyond that by letting go of that assumption to create powerful solutions.
- Build the perceived value—Apple’s iPhone, which I own, is neither the best nor cheapest technology out there in the incredibly competitive space of wireless phones. But for many people around the world, if it isn’t an iPhone they are not interested. That is gold for any company to have. So, compete on other things beyond price. Whether you’re B-2-C (business-to-consumer) or B-2-B (business-to-business), build up the story of your product or service. Focus on the benefits of it, not the features. Remember: features tell, benefits sell. This is the #1 reason people buy. They buy you, your product or service and how it makes them feel. In our example, one key benefit might be how much time your product saves and how easy it is for the customer to install. Stack up additional benefits around it.
- Accelerate through mistakes—You will make many mistakes along the way. The key is to not not make them, rather accelerate through them. You do this by having a specific and measurable result set in time. Then check in along the way with milestones and at the end to see if it met your expectations. With this you can quickly shift gears when necessary.
In the end, as an entrepreneur, you have two choices: 1) wait to government to pull you out of this tough economy or 2) take matters into your own hands.
So which one is it going to be?
Action Steps for the Week
Want to stop waiting for handouts? Good!
Start with asking the right question. Focus on what you really want as a possible answer. Don’t focus on what you don’t want. Your mind tends to answer the question you put before it. For example, “Why am I not getting sales?” vs. “What is the fastest way to ramp up sales to consistently $10,000/month?”
Next, focus on UnReasonable ideas. Those ideas you have not pursued. Decide which one(s) to test and give them a clear and specific goal and timeline.
To practice listing the benefits of your product/service, watch either QVC or Home Shopping Network. They are masters at selling on benefits.
Lastly, expect that not everything you try will work. Feel comfortable with canceling a strategy and shift gears quickly.
And in the end, you may end up quite surprised how little the government has to do with your business success.