Are you a businessman or an entrepreneur? Have you ever wondered what’s the difference between the two? Business people and entrepreneurs have many similarities. They both provide jobs for the unemployed, give solutions to the consumers, and help in developing the economy of a certain nation. However, they are not the same kind of people. The following are 10 differences between a businessman and an entrepreneur: (more…)
As Henry Ford once said: “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning stays young.”
In this post, I go into detail about my continuous learning (lots of room for improvement!). Over the past 4.5 years I have listened to hundreds of audible books (have 300+ books in my audible). When a student at Nebraska State asked Bill Gates and Warren Buffet the superpower question, Gates answered, “Being able to read super fast.” And Buffett echoed him, adding, “I’ve probably wasted 10 years reading slowly.” To help with this, I often listen to my audiobooks on 2x speed so that way I can use the time I have to read these books more efficiently. It takes some time to get used to that speed but once you do it really helps get through books quickly.
Each month I like to pick out 5 books to read for that month . Sometimes I don’t get to all 5 but it helps when I finish a book to have another one lined up as sometimes it can take a while to choose one to read.
I also believe books are a great way to provide training for team members. I often recommend for them to read a book and then discuss at our weekly 1:1 on the key takeaways from it.
Since I tend to listen to quite a few audible books, I have a VA create and update a spreadsheet each month of my favour books with a link to cheat sheets to go with them so I can remember what I have learned from each book.
The practice of going back and looking at the cheat sheet for a critical book has been an efficient method of increasing retention on key books.
Here are a few of the books I like along with their synopsis.
Here is the spreadsheet I use to keep track of my favourite books and a the summary of each for me to brush up on… here.
Start with Why by Simon Sinek
START WITH WHY shows that the leaders who’ve had the greatest influence in the world all think, act, and communicate the same way — and it’s the opposite of what everyone else does. Sinek calls this powerful idea The Golden Circle, and it provides a framework upon which organizations can be built, movements can be led, and people can be inspired. And it all starts with WHY.
Never Split the Difference by Chris Voss
Never Split the Difference takes you inside the world of high-stakes negotiations and into Voss’s head, revealing the skills that helped him and his colleagues succeed where it mattered most: saving lives. In this practical guide, he shares the nine effective principles—counterintuitive tactics and strategies—you too can use to become more persuasive in both your professional and personal life. I think of this as the hand-hand self defense for negotiation… best to set things up so these skills are not needed
Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill
Napoleon Hill, America’s most beloved motivational author, devoted 25 years to finding out how the wealthy became that way. After interviewing over 500 of the most affluent men and women of his time, he uncovered the secret to great wealth. By understanding and applying the thirteen simple steps that constitute Hill’s formula, you can achieve your goals, change your life and join the ranks of the rich and successful.
My recent new favourite is Traction! It feels like a combination of EMyth Revisited plus Scaling Up. Great for smaller companies looking to achieve high performance!
Continuous learning through books is about expanding your ability to learn by regularly upgrading your skills and increasing your knowledge. I never really have time to sit down and read so I solved this problem by listening to my books when I am in the car (without the family) or on long bike rides. There have been many great lessons that I have learned from these books that I have applied to my companies from the way the organization is made up to simple strategies we use when executing projects.
If you are a big reader/consumer of knowledge do you have any hacks for increasing retention?
We don’t do much of the “fill out this form”, “how did we do today?”, or “rate our services online” stuff for my businesses. We usually go for more of a personal touch. When we ask for feedback, it’s more direct through emails or phone calls with clients. So, how do you gather that feedback as data to assess client needs and the future of your business?
Today I want to talk about those changing needs and determining direction.
1. The Numbers Don’t Lie
Track your expenses and income. Hire an accountant if you’re not great with numbers and/or don’t have the time yourself. And don’t forget about that bottom line. If you’re spending too much on a service or offering, and people aren’t paying enough for it (or not enough people are interested in it), then you know something’s wrong. Maybe you can cut some of your expenses and rebuild that offering in a way that makes sense financially. Or, hey, maybe that offering is done and it’s time to move on to something else. I know I’m painting this as very black and white, but it really does help to take a step back, look at the numbers, and determine whether an offering is worth it based on the revenue (or lack of revenue) that it’s bringing in.
One of the tricky parts here is timing. I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts on this in the comments as well. Personally, we track and review numbers across all teams weekly. If something is outside of the safe zone, we talk about it in our weekly business meeting. If that continues for a few weeks, we talk more seriously about it. If a few months go by and we’re clearly wasting our time and resources, it’s time to make a drastic change.
Obviously I can’t share our spreadsheets here, but you’ll need to create a document with your own financial goals in mind that can be updated on a weekly basis. Include sales and analytics as needed for your business.
So that’s one objective way to see whether your service/offering or product is working for your clients. But how do we see it coming before wasting that time and those resources?
2. Create Products/Services Based on Repeated ‘Custom’ Client Requests
I can use Content Refined as an example here. Content Refined is primarily a content marketing company that works on a monthly subscription-based content creation cycle. Madeleine, our Co-Founder and Business Manager, was finding that she was getting a lot of “custom” requests for upgrades to existing content on clients’ websites. These clients had content already on their site that they needed someone to go through, clean up, and ‘refresh’ to help it rank higher. So, that request came in enough times that Maddie thought, “Hey, we need to make this a real offering, not just a special custom thing we do when people ask for it.”
We figured out our pricing needs and built the system around ‘content upgrades’. Now it’s front and centre on the home page of Content Refined’s site.
Word of warning: you do have to take all requests with a grain of salt. There’s a fine line between being flexible and bending over backwards. Custom requests only work if the numbers work. So you have to be careful at how far you bend your standards to meet client needs.
Which brings me to my next point.
3. Dominate Your Field Before Expanding Out
It’s extremely difficult to expand out to new service offerings when you’re still working on mastering the original one. Until you’ve got a great system worked out for your business and you’re handling everything on your plate really well, don’t try to start something new. Pretty reasonable, right?
To be a master in your field, you’ve gotta stay on top of the trends and news in your industry, and really do your research. Especially in the digital world, things are moving so quickly that it’s hard to stay relevant. Check out what’s going on in conferences, and get in the networks with the top players in your field. This way you can figure out what you should be offering before your clients are even looking for it.
To continue with our example of Content Refined, we constantly look at trends in the content marketing world. With anything SEO related, you really have to look at the data and figure out which tools and methods are the most effective. Last year around this time we did all kinds of data analysis on all the content that we had created for clients. Then we had a statistician go through everything to confirm our findings. Right now we’re in the process of going through everything again to renew those findings and update any strategies as necessary based on the results. By continuing to evaluate our business with the actual data, we’re able to stay focused in our field while maintaining great results for our clients.
Assessing client needs is super important to keeping your business relevant and growing. It can take your business in new directions that you may have never foreseen. Have you had experience with something like that? Leave me your stories in the comments!
Working on multiple business and trying to stay focused on tasks can sometimes be hard, and sometimes my time on certain projects lacks more than it should. Over the course of the last few years, I have been working on finding more solutions and ways to keep on task, prioritize important tasks, and stay motivated with the doom and gloomy tasks.
1. Create A To-Do List
The night before work or the morning before I start work I create a To-Do list for the day. This helps me sort which are the more important tasks to get finished and which ones are lower, but still important tasks. This plans out my day and doesn’t make me spend any more effort on what I should/shouldn’t be doing, it’s all laid out for me at the start of the day. By creating this list, I am able to stay more focused on the tasks as I know what needs to get done and am able to wrap my head around the game plan for the day. I highly suggest for anyone to create a to-do list each day, it doesn’t need to be perfect and you don’t need to stick to it 100% but its a good starting point on staying on task and being productive. On top of it all, it’s always satisfying when you get to scratch off a task on the sheet and eventually get down to a few tasks left.
2. Working in 30 Minute Intervals
For anyone, it can often be distracting working in an office or at home on a computer. There are many things to do on a computer and staying on task can sometimes be hard. I like to do work in 30 minute increments, or if you have a task that’s 40 mins, sit and ensure that gets done before anything else. Once the task is done or 30 mins has passed, stand up stretch your legs, take a walk, or do something else for 2-3 mins that isn’t work. Scientific research shows that you are most focused in 30 min intervals with a small break then trying to stay focused for longer periods of time, this is called the Pomodoro technique.
I have a couple hourglasses on my desk to help with this technique. I can’t say I use it all the time but when I am really trying to push I definitely do find it very helpful!
3. Determine Productivity
There is always a certain time of day that we feel we are most productive, some people find they are more productive in the morning and some find they are more productive after lunch. Whatever time of day is your most productive, try and schedule the more important tasks during that time. For me, the morning is always the more productive time, so my to-do list reflects this by always putting the more important tasks first.
4. Don’t Multi-Task – WORK ON ONE THING AT A TIME
Some people try to multi-task with tasks and some might even be really goo at this, but I find dedicating time to one project yields more positive results then splitting your time with multiple projects. If you can give a task your 100% attention, you are more likely to finish it quicker and to a better standard then if you have multiple projects on the go at one time.
My Work Vacation in Mexico
During the month of November, I went on a work vacation to Mexico with both my family and a few employees. I knew that there would be many distractions around that I needed to figure out a solution on how to deal with. Before leaving, we came up with a schedule on what times of days would be work, and what times of day would be for family time and other activities. It was sometimes hard to stay focused and on task when I saw my wife and children playing in the pool or going on cool excursions, but I was determined to stay on my schedule. I had a seperate office away from all the noise, which helped me to tone everything out and settle down and work just as I would if I was working here in Ontario using the tips above that I discussed. Cold Coronas were always a welcome reward for sticking to the plan!
Books that have Been Influential in Helping Me Stay Focused and Motivated
I always love to find new books that can help me improve my overall business sense. Whether riding a bike or in my car, I often listen to ebooks. There have been many books out there that I have listened to, but two of my favourite ones on being focused and motivated are Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek and The Productivity Project: Accomplishing More by Managing Your Time, Attention, and Energy by Chris Bailey. I highly suggest anyone who likes to read to tackle Simon Sinek’s and Chris Bailey’s books as they provide a great inside look on how some of the most influential businessman stay focused and on task and continue to be motivated by the work that they do.
There are many different tips and tricks that can be used when staying on task. The above are some of the few I use each and everyday to help me with my businesses. These tasks may not work for everyone, and some might even have a better more defined strategy that may be worth looking into. If you have other tips and tricks you would like to share with me or the readers please do!
Well it has been a weird few weeks here!
I am going to share some personal painful stories here…
Two businesses (not adbank) have both had issues of employee theft which is a first for my business! We are not talking hundreds of dollars but over 6 figures!
I won’t get into the exact details but one is solved and one is in the process of being solved.
The key anytime we have a major f-up in our business is to dig in and understand why it was allowed to occur, if the risk of it occurring again is worth putting in stronger systems.
This article will cover the 2 scenarios the systems that were in place and why they failed plus the 5 keys everyone should do if they have any team members with access to hurting your business financially.
Swiss Cheese Model for Losses:
One of the ways I like to think about the risk mitigation systems inside my business is the Hazards – Losses path through multiple layers of swiss cheese. No system can be completely bulletproof but the idea is if all layers are in place and working the probability of all holes lining up is very low.
Failure 1: Speed vs Control Accepted Risk
An employee wired himself funds, oversight was not in place fast enough.
There were 3 layers of mitigation
- Mitigation #1 – Trusted employee & controlled access
- Never a sufficient mitigation on its own!
- Mitigation #2 – Accountant monitoring monthly numbers
- The accountant was unfortunately months behind not revealing the problem.
- Mitigation #3 – Bookkeeper/Controller onboarded
- The controller for the business was not up to speed fast enough leaving a window of time where things would go undetected.
In the end we were not pushing the pace fast enough on the 2 financial oversight systems resulting in a window for theft to occur.
Although this was the far larger of the 2 thefts it is one where no major systems upgrades are needed as there was some acceptance of risk due to prioritization and low probability of someone repeating with the systems that were too slow to get in place now in place.
- Note – All funds from this theft have been recovered + consideration for time/fees.
Failure 2: Execution
Although the dollar amount is smaller than failure/theft #1 this one has me much more upset.
This was a known risk we had put many barriers against but the systems all failed in the same way to allow this to occur.
- Mitigation #1 – Trusted long term team member & controlled access
- Clearly this is not enough to rely on blindly! This employee has been with me for YEARS and involved on multiple projects.
- Mitigation #2 – Daily Revenue and Expense Monitoring – Temporarily Not Active
- During this time we had taken a break from the daily expense tracking due to workload in other areas
- Mitigation #3 – Weekly unit economics review – Didn’t Validate
- This one is frustrating as this practise was created with the intent of being able to quickly detect any issue however the theft was paired with forged numbers that were not validated. Human error on compliance to the process for validation of the numbers was the reason this mitigation failed.
- Mitigation #4 – Monthly PnL statements and review – Not setup on new system
- We have been in the process of upgrading our proper monthly PnL and as a result were not in a position to review them. Getting these completed slipped down the priority list and as a result allowed this issue to continue.
Note – All funds have not been recovered, the length we will go to will be unreasonable 🙂
5 Steps to Take:
- Financial Risk & Access Control Matrix
- There are a lot of potential attack vectors. Having an organized control list of all the places that someone could impact you financially and then understanding who currently has access is key. There are the obvious locations like bank account, paypal but then you also need to think about the revenue sources Amazon Account, AdSense account etc. Plus, don’t forget places where funds could be improperly sent from Fiverr, UpWork etc. Don’t forget your websites that make the money, swapping out an affiliate link on a few pages can be another source of theft that is harder to detect.
- Agreements Updated
- Ensuring compensation agreements are in writing is key to ensure there can be no debate about the amount of funds received.
- Have Contact Information Handy
- For anyone with access to money you should have accurate information on them including name, ID, phone number, address etc.
- Proper Login & Password Management
- Managing logins for a team is a daunting task! 1Password and LastPass are the tools we use for a couple different projects. The key is to be able to quickly turn on/off access while controlling the ability to provide access through either the tool as a user (with the login still in the password management system) or shared access via a password management system. Strong random never reused passwords and 2FA activated whenever possible goes beyond just internal theft but is one of the most basic steps to avoiding theft from hackers.
I hope you haven’t experienced any issues like these. My hope is sharing these unfortunate events and what I have learned will be helpful in preventing future problems for you or if problems do occur arming you with what you need to resolve quickly.
Please share any other suggestions on how to help protect your business!