The Australian Small Business Blog

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Your New Years Business Resolution



What a roller coaster ride for 2008. Never boring, and a bit scary towards the end! How did your business fare? Did you achieve your goals? Did you finish ahead of where you started in January?

Make sure 2009 turns out the way you want it to. Use my free New Years Business Resolution Tool located at www.FivePillarsBusinessSuccess.com to make sure that you start 2009 the right way.

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It

Dr Greg Chapman

The Australian Small Business Blog

Tips to Help SMEs Target their Advertising

Economic conditions are tough at the moment for small businesses, there is no doubt about that… In our latest Sensis® Business Index we found business confidence at its lowest point since we started the survey over 15 years ago.

Australia has been enjoying many years of strong economic growth, so if your business is relatively new, this will be the first period of significant economic slowdown that your business will have experienced. So you are not alone if you are looking for new business ideas to get you through this period.

The first thing to remember is not to panic – you will be hearing bad financial news every day in the news at the moment – remember that the majority of this is coming from financial markets – you probably don’t make your business decisions on what the Dow Jones did last night. The decisions that you make now for your business need to be able to see you through the next year and beyond.

The good news is that the Australian economy is in a much better position than most other advanced economies. We saw positive growth in Australia’s GDP in the September quarter and recent data on housing finance commitments and retail sales indicate that Australian consumers might be starting to regain confidence before the Federal Government’s economic stimulus package began distribution.

We are also measuring some turn around in consumer sentiment in the latest Sensis® Consumer Report – when we look at how consumers are feeling about the year ahead, they are now telling us they think things might be starting to improve moving forward.

Economic downturn mainly means one thing to many businesses – fewer customers. When we asked the businesses that had been impacted by economic downturn what they were doing about it, most told us that they were either cutting costs or advertising more – strategies aimed at addressing the two critical factors for any business – getting customers through the door and money in the bank.

Cutting costs aims to at least keep some money in the bank, and advertising more aims to bring businesses the ingredient they need most – customers.

So here are some key tips to help you target your advertising to keep bringing customers through the door during the current economic conditions:

  • Your print directory listing is the core listing on which the majority of people search – you can use innovative solutions like mobile codes that people can scan to take them to your latest offers on their mobile phone

  • ­ Make sure all your advertising, both print and online, have as much information as possible to make it easy for potential customers to choose your business – giving customers a good feel for the products and services they can expect from you, as well as locations, opening hours, payment methods and accreditation can all help customers call you first

  • ­ Measure the return you get from your advertising to make sure it works for you – develop strong relationships with your advertising account executives so that you can tap into the knowledge that they have built up working for many customers over the years.

Christena Singh is the author of the Sensis® Business Index, Sensis® Consumer Report and Sensis® e-Business report. For further commentary from Christena or for some smart business ideas, visit http://www.smallbusiness.sensis.com.au/.


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The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Problem with Business Targets



We often hear about targets and deadlines being set by organisations and governments that are never met. Most recently, there have been targets set for CO2 emissions reduction. The initial target equates to 34% per person reduction, and yet others are demanding targets double that. Even the initial target is heroic. (For example, 90% of Victoria’s power generation is from brown coal.)

Before that, most of the developed world signed on to Kyoto targets, and most missed by miles.

What is the relevance of this to small business? When you have targets with no mechanism to reach them, it is meaningless. In the case of governments, they often set ambitious targets to appease their political constituency and the smart politician makes these targets big, but sets them a long time in the future, long after they expect to be out of office. It might help them win the next term which is where their focus generally is, but at some point, like the widely missed Kyoto targets, reality comes home to roost, and a price must be paid.

When we set targets without a plan, it is almost guaranteed that we will miss them. If the plan is to do research to discover the answer (the government’s plan) rather than rely on proven strategies, we need to expect that it will take much longer, and there is a chance that it won’t work at all. (Which is why the government just loves 2020!)

When we set targets in small business, they should be ambitious, but we must have a mechanism to achieve them. If our target is to increase sales by 30%, we must have a plan to achieve it. Do we have a plan to increase enquiries- maybe a new advertising channel, or an alliance? Is our intention to increase our conversion to sales by improving our sales pipeline, or providing sales training?

If we don’t know how to achieve the target, the strategy would be to go get advice from someone who knows what strategies work. (For the government, this is not an option as on-one knows!)

So for each of your key targets, write down where you are today, and where you want to be in 12 months. For each gap, create a strategy and for each strategy write a plan to implement the strategy.

If you find this difficult, please use my free Mission Statement Tool on the Resources page of www.FivePillarsBusinessSuccess.com Now is the time to set your targets for the next year, but make sure you have a plan to back it up!

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Control your computer (don't let it control you)


See your computer as part of the solution - not the solution itself.

Computers and applications can make life a lot easier as they allow you to do so much more than ever before. The problem is that just because there are tools that allow you do something, people sometimes don't question whether they should be doing it themselves - ie just because accounting software is available I should use it because it is "cheaper". What is not often considered are the hidden costs and the distraction from your core business, which can be costly.

You can effectively become a slave to the software - ie you are working for it.

With the internet there is now a whole different way of looking at, and engaging with computer systems; with the potential benefit of it working for you, rather than you working for it. With its in-built communication system the internet allows you to use applications built specifically so you can share information internally and with external providers that can do the non-core tasks for you, but still keep you in the picture - reducing the risk of business blindness (loss of direction) through abdication

The situation most businesses face today:

With the people being both internal and external.

With an integrated business system based on the internet, you get to solve two problems at once, at a business system level moving towards this:

and because the system is a fully hosted internet solution you don’t have the issues traditionally associated with PC based solution, like:

 Installing the software
 Installing updates / maintenance fixes
 Doing backups
 Purchasing servers etc
 Managing hardware servers etc

With added benefits of a internet based hosted solution, like:

 Potentially don’t need as much office space for people to work from, as people can work where best suits them, including at home if appropriate - saving time, money and the environment (less cars on the road!).
 Don’t need office space for servers and hardware
 People can be more productive, as have the information they need when the need it and don’t have to spend time communicating it.

Just because you can - doesn't mean you always should... to find out more benefits go to dontdiyit.com

Mark Byers is the CEO of myworkspace which is an Australian service that allows you to take control of your computer systems, allowing you to share the work out where needed and allowing you to focus back on the reason you got into business.



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The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Value of Your Big New Business Idea



I am often approached by people with a big business idea who want someone to pay them for it. How much is your big business idea worth?

Back in the early eighties, I worked for a year in the US for another company. Whilst there, I noticed that they had home delivered pizza. This was especially great in the winter when there was snow on the ground and I did not want to go out. It was when I first heard the Domino’s pizza slogan – delivered in 30 minutes, or its free!

This service was so taken for granted, that they talked of those dreaded areas in town which were pizza delivery no-man’s lands- outside the delivery area for any pizza shop. You wouldn’t want to buy a house there!

So what has this to do with great business ideas?

This was before the time there were any pizza home delivery stores in Australia. They didn’t exist. So I came up with the idea that pizza home delivery would work in Australia… if only I knew how to implement such a scheme. I was sure this idea was worth a lot of money.

Then I came back to Australia, but what do you think I did next? If you said nothing, you would be absolutely right. At that time, I had no idea how to implement such an idea, and there was no way I was going to quit a well paid job to risk everything on this great idea. Clearly there was one big impediment for me:

I was not convinced that I had the ability to make this idea work. It was safer for me to keep on doing what I had always done.

It was about 3 years later, Dino’s pizza home delivery started in Australia, which grew to be a national franchise which was within a few years sold for millions.

I had the idea 3 years before Dino’s started up. I had a first mover advantage, except for one thing…. I didn’t move! You can’t patent an idea. Someone else can have the same idea.

So how much is your great new business idea worth?

Nothing unless you do something with it. Prove the concept works. Set up a pronto franchise or a pilot. Once you prove the concept works, then the people with money will come along. People with money to invest in business are inundated with opportunities, and they would not invest in one without a track record, except with their own efforts and resources because that way they can capture most the value.

If you aren’t prepared to invest in your own idea, why should anyone else?

It’s not the idea that’s worth the money, it is the person implementing it, and if they aren’t implementing it, it will just remain an idea.

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Customer Management is not Customer Service



When you have many customers, you need to manage them, certainly, but this is not the same as customer service. Unfortunately, big businesses think this is the same thing. It is easy to recognise them.

When you call them, you end up listening to a recording telling you which button to push, and then in a phone queue listening to annoying ads for their business, interrupted every few minutes by a recording that says “Your call is important to us…” Obviously not so important that they will pay for more staff to answer the phones.

Then when you get to speak to a human being, they want to manage you in a particular way.
A recent experience with a phone company that will remain nameless (but think of a number between 2 and 4), illustrates this point well. I received a bill which said if I wanted to receive paper bills in the future I had to pay a charge. This was to “save the environment” they said, and then they said if I wanted a paper bill, I could print one from their website. Not much carbon saved there.

Well, I need a paper bill for tax purposes and I find it easier to check things on paper than on a screen bill that goes for several pages. Do you think this was about saving the environment or saving them money?

So I called the company, and said they had no right to increase the charge for my invoice. They then quoted a clause in the phone contract which they claimed gave them the right. I pointed out that this was a new contract, and this clause did not exist in my older contract. They did not have a copy of the old contract and tried to bluff me and intimidate me. After a terse exchange of words with the operator and supervisor, who tried to convince me I did not really want a paper bill, they relented and waived the fee. They said they did not have to and it was just a “good will gesture on their part”.

How gracious.

I guess they felt I would create a mass revolt and their cost cutting exercise was to be put in jeopardy if I was successful.

What it demonstrated to me, is they did not care about their customers, they wanted to manage them. They were prepared to be manipulative and deceitful in doing this. They cared more about saving $2 than bad word of mouth affecting their reputation.

(Why did I go through all this for $2? I have a professional interest in seeing how people manage their customers- in this case not very well, and I believe customer feedback on poor service helps a business improve and benefits the business as well as their customers. Whether they accept the feedback, of course, is another matter.)

When your customer service department thinks it is reasonable to argue with your customers and impute their motives, you have lost the plot. How many other similar conversations do you think occur on other matters with this company if this is their attitude?

What could have they done? They could have said, because we are interested in saving the environment, if you request an electronic account, we will donate the money we save on printing to an environmental cause. (There would be other costs beyond the printing which will still save them money). Does that sound more convincing and better marketing?

While it is important to manage the cost of delivering your service, it is also important to consider the cost of bad word-of-mouth. Don’t be petty. If the customer has a point, and particularly if the cost is small, be gracious. Learn from the experience. You might be surprised by the good word-of-mouth you get which is worth many times the alternative.

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Buying a Small Business

Q – I want to buy a small business, what do I need to prepare and look out for?

A – The first step is to create three budgets:

  • the capital costs budget (to buy the business),
  • the operating budget (for running the business) and
  • your personal budget to calculate how much you need to live.

Then you need to arrange finance, find the business to buy, check the businesses assets and liabilities and then ask some smart questions.

The capital budget is what you need to buy the business. The valuation of the business will be based on the net assets plus any goodwill (the business reputation and customer base). A net asset is the value of all the assets such as cars, stock, debtors less the liabilities such as car leases, and property leases. The budget needs to allow for stamp duty.

Operating budget is basically the income and expenses of the business, typically this will be income from customers (turnover / sales / revenue) and expenses such as rent, insurance, phones, electricity, wages, stock purchases etc. Be careful to under estimate sales and over estimate expenses, this way you will have a “buffer” for unexpected costs.

Your personal budget is how much you need to live, once you know this you can now calculate how much you need to be paid in wages. For example if you need to take home $2500 per month you will be need to pay yourself $3,333 (and pay tax of $833). Also at the end of the quarter you will need to pay an additional $900 towards your superannuation fund. This means your budget for your pay will be $3633 per month.

Now you have set your budgets you can start researching how to buy and finance the business. Are you going to use a business broker or buy direct? Are you going to borrow money, find an investor or use your savings? Depending on your personal circumstances you will probably need to arrange finance. It is best to get an agreement in principle from your lender before you go looking at businesses. The lender will let you know how much you can borrow which will in turn help you to select the right business for you.

What do you need to look for in the accounts? Always insist on seeing the Financials submitted by the current owners tax accountant to the ATO and do not listen to any stories about “the real accounts” where the owner shows you another set of figures (they will always show a much higher profit).

Analyse the accounts and look at the net assets figure, check the tangible assets in the balance sheet (assets you can touch), and then ensure the assets reflect their true current market value. Next look at the liabilities and ensure they also reflect the current situation, be especially careful of leases to check when they are due to be renewed. You don’t want to buy a business and then find the shop lease runs out in 3 months and the building is going to be redeveloped!

The smart questions to ask are basically finding out the truth about the business without relying solely on the current owners accounts. For example if you are buying a coffee shop take a look at the number of coffee cups in the shop. Suppose he has 40 coffee cups that means he can have 40 customers at once right? No it means he can have about 25 customers at one time, and the remaining cups are being washed or are ready to be used right now. So if the owner tells you that he has 30 customers most days at peak time you can work out the real figures for yourself.

Before you commit any money to the venture appoint a solicitor and an accountant to ensure the purchase is managed professionally.

Stuart Bidwell is the CEO of Oxygen Bookkeeping, a breath of fresh air...

The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, October 24, 2008

Does Advertising Work?



There has been a lot of controversy about the latest ads from the Australian Tourism Commission by Baz Luhrmann which many commentators say won’t work. These are ads that tie in with Luhrmann’s new film Australia. The general comment is that these fairly depressing ads won’t work, compared with the exciting ads by the NZ Tourism Commission which do appear to work. They are just too arty and self indulgent to actually attract any US tourists to Australia.

I would also suggest that Luhrmann has put one over the Tourism Commission. Think about it. Luhrmann is releasing a film in the US and he has effectively got the Australian taxpayer to pay for cross promotion of his film in a very expensive market place.

Nice. Where do I apply?

The Australian Tourism Commission has form in producing ads that please the Australian film critics, who would be the last people I would call for advertising advice since most the Australian films they praise bomb at the box office. The key in creating advertisements is not whether you like it, or your friends like it, it is whether it causes people in your target market to buy your products and services. That is the only test that matters.

Some critics of this campaign hark back to the wonderful days of the Paul Hogan promotions in the US. (I think Hoges must have been the first to cotton on to the scam of getting the taxpayer to promote his films which I am sure many more saw than will see Luhrmann’s.) However, John Richardson, the former assistant general manager of the Australian Tourism Commission, says Hogan was useless as Luhrmann.

Australia had a salutary lesson with the Hogan campaign in the United States in the early 1980s. That campaign aroused enormous interest in America, awareness of Australia went sky-high and was still high a decade later. And in that decade the growth in tourism from the United States to Australia was the poorest of any of our major markets – by far. Almost all of the growth you referred to came from other markets, where the Hogan campaign was not shown.

Too often, ads are made to feed the vanity of the people who commission them, and also to promote the agency that produces them. Agencies like to win awards with their ads, so they can charge more. Getting pats on the back from your friends is not what you want, unless they are also your buyers, and certainly you aren’t in the business of producing promotion pieces for your advertising agencies.

Awareness of your products or services is only of value if it results in sales. If you can’t measure the sales impact, there probably isn’t any.

The most successful ads seldom win prizes, and for you, the advertiser, it’s not about you or your agency, it is about your buyer. If the ad does not appeal to them, you are wasting your money.

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Increase Your Prices by Packaging Value



In any buying decision, this is question that must be answered by the buyer: “Is the product or service worth it?” Or more generally, is the offer made by the seller is equal to the dollars that they are asking for it.

Let’s take a simple example, water. If you wanted a drink of water, and you went to a pub, and they served you water from a tap, what would you expect to pay? It would probably be free. If you went to a kiosk, you could buy bottled ‘mineral water’ in a basic plastic bottle, and it might be $2-3.

If you were at a boutique restaurant, you might be able to get water from the Greenland icecap, presented in a special designer bottle with a stunning label, a bottle that you would like to take home as a souvenir. It might cost you $87.


It is still just water. Only a chemist, with certainty, could tell the difference between the three by measuring the levels of trace minerals in them, (although the tap water may be obvious if it has a lot of chlorine in it).

Is the water from Greenland worth it? Sure there is cost to get it from Greenland to the restaurant in Australia, but the cost of the water, the packaging and delivery might be $10 with bulk production, compared with $0.50 for the bottled Australian mineral water production and delivery. You also have to pay for the restaurant’s overheads, but they usually provide water free anyway. Even if you could you really tell the difference between this water and the water from an Australian mineral spring, how can it be worth $85 more?

So why would people pay for $87 for a bottle of the Greenland icecap water? This water could not even be considered rare, since the Greenland icecaps are 3km thick and contain enough water to raise global sea levels by 100m, but it is novel and ties into the quest by some people for the natural and unusual. It would be for the ‘experience’. To be able to say that they have tasted it to their friends. They have the beautiful bottle on display at home as proof and an opportunity to recount the experience to whomever will listen. Perhaps to impress their guests. There may have been other reasons, but I bet it wasn’t because they were thirsty.

Do you think they would have paid $87 for the water if it came out of the restaurant’s kitchen in a plastic cup? Of course the waiter would have treated opening this bottle in the same way as an expensive bottle of wine, and it would be served in beautiful crystal water glasses. The waiter would have poured it reverently, stepped back while you tasted it, and nodded your satisfaction. In this process, the waiter is acknowledging your good taste and sophistication. This would have all been part of the experience— and the packaging!

While packaging is one of the most common ways to increase prices of a product, it also applies to services. You can either sell your time by the hour or package it and sell the value of your service, at a higher rate. To do this however, you must change your service so it can be offered as a package.

[This is an excerpt from Issue 106 of the Small Business Achiever – Business Owner Brief where strategies for packing your products and services are explained in detail. The Small Business Achiever is your Unfair Business Advantage, where all the steps are revealed.]

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Small Business Marketing in a Downturn

With all the bad news on TV, everyone is looking at tightening their belts. There is nothing wrong with that, as during the good times, we can all get a little bit flabby.


So is marketing a place where you should start the cutting?

It depends.

If your marketing is working, it will be generating 10 or 20 times its cost in bringing in new business and getting repeat customers. If that is the case for your business, why would you cut it? So the first thing to look at is whether it is working. If it is not, of course you should stop it, but you should do this anyway.

If it is working, should you keep it going unchanged?

It depends.

A recession may mean that your target market is buying less, or even buying differently. While it may still pay for itself, it may be less effective. It is possible that these changes create opportunities for you. By monitoring your marketing results and talking to your customers, you can identify these opportunities.

What often happens in a recession is a buyer who usually will take a premium offer will be more interested in a mid-level offer, and those usually focused on that level, will consider more budget offerings. This does not mean you should discount. A better strategy is to create offers that appeal more to this price sensitivity whilst maintaining your margins.

Look at the downturn as an opportunity to do the housecleaning in your business that you have been putting off because you have been too busy. It is also a good time to work ON your business, to not only bulletproof it against harder times, but also because it is something you should be doing ALL the time.

If all around you are slashing and burning, measured pruning, and focused marketing will allow you to continue to grow by taking your competitor’s share in a weakening market without following them downmarket with discounting. This, of course, does not mean that you should not take advantage of the discounts offered by your suppliers who have no other strategy!

Don’t follow lemmings. If you want different results to those of your competitors, you must do different things, and be different. Do a stocktake on your business today, and plan for where you want to be in the future.

“If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs …….Yours is the earth” Rudyard Kipling

If you are unsure how to do this, please use this complimentary Mission Statement Tool.

Your action plan:

• Take some time out,
• Trim the fat,
• Eliminate marketing that isn’t working for you, and
• Use the opportunities create with the new environment.

"In the midst of difficulty lies opportunity" Albert Einstein


May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

The Getting of Business Wisdom

Everyone wants to know the secret of business success. In fact there are many 'experts' out there pedaling their version of the secret to business success, but I am going to give the game away. There are no secrets, just stuff you don't know yet. The real issue for you is whether you have reached the point where you know what you don’t know. If you have, you are ready.

It reminds me when I first went skiing. I was about 20 years old and travelled to the snow with my mates. Most knew how to ski, and one even advised I should get lessons. One other of my mates had been up just once before and said you don't need lessons and he would come down the beginners slope with me for the first time. Talk about the blind leading the blind!

When we got to the top of the slope, I looked around and there were little kids whizzing around on skis, and being a young guy, I knew then, I didn’t need lessons. After all, all I needed to do, was point the skis downhill, wiggle my backside a bit, and I would look like those Olympic skiers whizzing through the flags. In fact I was embarrassed even to be on the beginners’ slopes where there were speed restrictions which were sure to cramp my style. I figured, I will just get to the bottom in five minutes, and then be up with the rest of my mates in a half hour or so.

Then I pointed my skis downhill. I hardly moved at first as it was so flat, but the speed started to pick up. Then I learnt the first thing I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to stop! I started to panic as I headed towards another skier, getting faster all the time. Then I figured out the second thing I didn’t know. I didn’t know how to turn.

So I tried twisting my skis with my body, and had my first fall. Then I worked out the next thing I didn’t know, which was how to get up with one ski off, and my other ski pointing up my nose. All this in about 60 seconds. At this stage the only thing damaged was my dignity.

I was determined to make it down the slope, so with a bit of advice and help from passersby, I was able to get to my feet and after about five minutes get my other ski back on to continue the descent. The next hour or so was spent repeating the experience again and again, 20 meters at a time, re-enforcing in my mind, all the things I didn’t know, but by now the falls were starting to hurt.

Each time I got up, I saw my 'more experienced' mate a little further down the slope picking himself up. I realized, although within shouting distance, I really didn’t want his advice!

By the time I got down the slope, I knew what I didn't know and had the bruises to show for it.

I decided to pay for a lesson. Even that was somewhat humiliating. At 20, I was the oldest in the class. The next oldest was about 10! And don’t get me started about the attitude of the sneering French ski instructor about the same age as me. However, I was committed to this. I decided, this was something I wanted to be good at and I was going to do it properly, rather than stumble around like my mate, who was trying to save money (we were students), and like all young men, too proud to ask for assistance.

The difference it made was remarkable. I learnt that there was an easier way, which was not obvious to a beginner. You could watch the experts all day. They made it look so simple, but until someone actually broke what they did into little steps, they might as well have been flying.

After the first lesson, I was better than my mate. Then I did more lessons, and very soon I was really enjoying the experience and become pretty confident. My mate, on the other hand, who still hadn't taken any lessons, having seen how well I was doing, started asking me for advice.

My advice was to take lessons!

The same applies in business. We all spend too far too long absorbing the bruises, and assume that the next time we do what we did before, the result will somehow be different.

We do try new things, and sometimes they work, but we don’t know why they work, or how to improve them some more.

You know there are answers as you see others doing well. Did you know, anyone doing well has received advice and assistance at some point? They may have had a mentor. They may have done a course, or even hired a coach.

Have you ever heard of a swimmer making it to the Olympics without a coach? Natural ability is not enough.

Yes I know education has a cost, but it is a whole lot cheaper than the school of trial and error. How many bruises are you prepared to take?

If you have been in business a while, you know what you don’t know. Here’s what you should do.

1. Write down the 3 biggest issues you face.

2. Work out how much this is costing you. Have a look at a similar, but more successful business. If you could wave a magic wand, and these problems were fixed, would you be able to make more money? Would you be able to take off more time? How much is that worth to you?

3. Work out how much would you be prepared to invest in time (and yes money- there is no such thing as a free lunch) to fix these problems. Note, if you are not prepared to invest any effort in fixing these problems, it must mean you are happy the way things are, or else why would you tolerate these problems?

4. Work out when you are going to do something about it.

When I go down that same beginners’ slope today, it now just takes me a few minutes, but I could be quicker, if I didn’t have to spend time trying to avoid the erratic movements of beginner skiers too proud or cheap to take lessons.

The definition of insanity is:

Doing the same thing over and over, and expecting something different to happen.

May Your Business Be – As You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Friday, September 12, 2008

The ABC Sneers at Small Business

As the self appointed mouth piece of state enterprise (is that an oxymoron?), it is well known that the ABC deeply dislikes big business. Now it is showing what it thinks about small business in their new program “Very Small Business”.

This is a missed opportunity. The program could have shown how the little guy puts one over the bigger guy with clever use of limited resources and fast decision making that just by shear nerve gets them across the finishing line to beat a larger competitor.

I remember a bank ad about a small business (probably husband and wife) and the husband is in a small pokey, drab office in very casual attire talking to some exec in a city office tower trying to convince them to use his services. The exec says he will round up his board for a teleconference in 5 minutes. Clearly the small business guy is panicked. He calls out to his wife that they are to have a video conference. She rushes in with a business shirt and tie. We see he is just wearing a pair of shorts as he is changing. He clears the desk contents onto the floor, and he pulls down the blind behind it and there is a painted image of Sydney Harbour on it. The call comes in and he looks very professional and cool after the frantic activity in the seconds before. Then you see his wife sidle round the back, avoiding the view of the web camera, to retrieve an old pizza box.

That’s the sort of fun that happens in small business.

In Very Small Business, the owner is a sleaze and basically dishonest. The writers have come up with an unlikely hero, a depressed writer who works for this small business. Give us all a break!

Small business owners have lots of great stories on how they succeeded against the odds with some highly inventive strategies. If you are not honest, you don’t last long as customers won’t deal with you and you get a bad reputation, which is the fastest way to go out of business. Small Business Owners have to think fast, work hard, and have a great sense of humour to out manoeuvre their larger competitors

With small business employing 50% of the private sector employees and responsible for 70% of the employment growth in recent years, you would have thought this is something that the ABC would want to celebrate rather than just sneer at.

But I forgot, it is their ABC.

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, August 31, 2008

A Vision for Success

Many small business owners go into business by accident. They saw an opportunity and grabbed it. The original excitement of the opportunity and even some early success may have sustained them for a while, but sooner or later, the need for hard slog becomes necessary. What happens next can make a huge difference to your business.

When the hard slog starts, most business owners just keep slogging a way in the direction they started, using brute force to build their business. Long hours, lots of money spent on advertising, and sheer persistence. Then after a number of years, they find out what they have is not what they want. Only then do they step back and do what their smart colleagues do right from the start.

The smart business owner creates a vision for their business. This will be in alignment with their own personal objectives. It could be to retire in 10 years with a million dollars. It could that it will generate enough income so they need only work 3 days a week and can take 3 months off overseas each year. To achieve these personal goals, the business must meet certain goals – to produce the income required and to operate in a way that allows the lifestyle desired.

This vision for the business then must become more specific and describe what the business does, who it does it for and how it does it. The business must be built upon the strengths of the owners and the opportunities they see. At this stage, the vision may still be cloudy, but you must start somewhere. Only once this vision for the business has been created, can goals and plans be developed.

Creating such a vision can be difficult for many people, but there is a simple free tool that owners can use to develop their vision. The Mission Statements Made Easy Tool steps you through a process to create your own vision, and then enables you to produce a certificate that you print, frame, and place where you can see it everyday, so you will have a constant reminder of why you started your business, and where you are going with it.

With a vision clearly defined, when the slogging gets tough, the owner can step back, re-affirm their vision: that they are on the right track, or whether there is a better path to take to achieve their objective. With a vision, you have a compass for the business, so that the owner does not spend years building something that they don’t want.

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.

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The Australian Small Business Blog

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Small Business Achiever Issue 108



Each month in the Small Business Achiever - Business Owner Brief, we reveal strategies and tactics that will enable you to multiply your profits and make your business run without you. Unlike articles you will see in business magazines that are just teasers to get you to call the author and pay them thousands of dollars for their wisdom, in the Business Owner Brief, we spell out step-by-step, what you need to do to achieve your goals. Nothing is left out.

In next month's Achiever, learn how to:

-Make a Splash in the Media

-Decide whether an Investment in Your Business is Worth It

-Use Google Adwords to Get Business without Losing Your Shirt

Each month not only do you receive top quality briefs on how you can achieve your business goals and hundreds of dollars of bonuses, you can also participate in Group Coaching with Dr Greg Chapman, the author of
"The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success" where your personal business questions will be answered.

What value do you place on achieving your business goals if you could get a shortcut to success?

The Small Business Achiever - Business Owner Brief is your Unfair Business Advantage!

May Your Business be as You Plan It!

Dr Greg Chapman


The Australian Small Business Blog

The Importance of Presentation Skills in Small Business

Did you know that other than technical skills, that is, being great at computers, selling, art, music, or what ever you do, the most important skill you can have in life is the ability to communicate confidently. Promotion depends on it; relationships depend on it; most important of all, personal self esteem and confidence depend on the ability to communicate confidence.

The good news is that it can be learned. Research shows that 80% of speaking ability is knowing what to do, how to do it and when to do it.

Most of speaking is in the body language. Where you stand, how you look at the audience, what you do with your hands and feet, all count more, than what you say.

Then voice variety: tone, volume, pitch, pace, and timbre of your voice, all covey more than the words. Most people don’t know this. They don’t know how to vary their voice or even where to project from.

Finally, the content or material you say, is the least remembered and least important. So, simple, clear easy to relate words are the ones to say and the ones that are most memorable.

Now, it usually takes a while to learn these skills and most people think it is hard to learn. However, when you have a presenter who makes it fun, interesting and hands on, it can be learned quite quickly and can be life changing.

Judith Field is the director of Direct Speech. Check out her website at and learn how you can change your business and life through public speaking.

The Australian Small Business Blog

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Buying and Selling on Price



All businesses should endeavour to create points of differences for their product or service, but what about if you are selling an undifferentiated product, something that is truly a commodity, such as petrol or even bottles of Coca Cola (which of itself is not a commodity, but you will get exactly the same product whether it’s from a milk bar or supermarket, here or across the country). Businesses that sell commodity products tend to sell with price as a point of difference.

There are two things that influence this:

  • geographical location (convenience and cost of supply), and
  • buyer knowledge of the market place.

Taking the first point, geography, this is about how far you are prepared to chase a bargain. You might drive across town to save $100 on a refrigerator, but would you do the same for a $1 saving on a six pack of Coke? Probably not. Economists call this the cost of shoe leather- this distance and effort you would give in time and money to achieve that saving.

What does this mean for your business? When setting commodity pricing, you only need to survey your competitors in your ‘economic’ neighbourhood.

The second factor influencing this is the buyer knowledge of your price difference. If they don’t know about it, they will not find you and may pay more than they should. This is why petrol stations have massive signs proclaiming their prices. Which brings me to the latest government efforts to increase consumer knowledge of prices. Will this really help small business and give lower prices to consumers?

First of all there is FuelWatch currently only operating in WA. Most motorists when they are low on fuel, like to fill up while they are already in their car on some other errand, rather than make a special trip. Generally this means they may pass half a dozen petrol stations (depending on the length of the trip) and will be able to see variations in price on station signage, and would be able to determine a good price for that part of their city at the time they are wishing to fill.

Service stations are highly competitive changing their prices several times a day. Can you think of any other product where that happens? The station owner will opportunistically drop their prices if their sales are low, and increase them when it is high. This is exactly how a good market should operate. By enforcing the price changes once per day, the motorist will be the loser. I would also expect that the independents will lose, as they are the most nimble. This will ultimately see a loss of competition- the opposite of what the government is trying to achieve.

The other scheme introduced by the government is GroceryChoice. In this scheme, the results that are reported are a month old, while grocery prices change at least weekly. (At least FuelWatch reported daily.) Also the baskets used are not transparent, so you have no idea whether this represents what you would buy. So consumers will ignore this, and still look to newspapers to see where the best prices are every week.

At one level, you might argue that this is a largely harmless waste of taxpayer funds, but there is a more ominous side. While people will not use this site much, when they do it will re-enforce the supermarket duopoly between Coles and Woolworths (Safeway). These two chains monitor their competition’s prices very closely. The website results prove this with only cents different between the two.

Where there is a significant difference is between the big chains and the independents whose prices are higher. Now there will be independents that are cheaper for some things than the big two, but because there are so many of them, the government has lumped them all together. However, from the consumer perspective, it ‘proves’ that they are cheaper than the independents. No wonder Coles and Woolworths love this! Once again, by interfering in the market, the government will drive the independents out and lessen competition, resulting in higher prices.

If businesses are selling commodities, and selling on price, advertising that fact is important, but when governments involve themselves in the marketplace to fix something that is not broken, casualties are inevitable and ultimately consumers and small business owners are the losers.

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.



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The Australian Small Business Blog

Monday, August 04, 2008

Turning Bad Publicity into Good



Imagine you have a business which is constantly criticised by the politically correct who seem to be able to get airtime effortlessly. How do you compete? You can advertise, but this is just dismissed as self promotion, and of course the largest outlet for the politically correct, the ABC doesn’t allow advertising (unless you are flogging a book or a play on a politically correct subject).

Well there is a way. You can get someone that the critics admire, and have even used in their own campaigns to endorse you. Let me present a case study.

Recently McDonalds put out a press release that they had developed a range of meals that have the Heart Foundation Tick of Approval. The critics went ballistic. They criticised McDonalds, they criticised the Heart Foundation. They were on every airwave denouncing the big bad US fast food company. They had always hated McDonalds. It's an American company. It is a multinational. It promotes fast food regarded as unhealthy – there is apparently no safe level of consumption for this food. This last argument being the one they push hardest as the others are obviously political.

Then that most trusted judge of what is good and bad to eat, the Heart Foundation, endorsed a range of McDonalds meals. How could they? How dare they? They could not argue that the Heart Foundation assessment of the meals was wrong. Their argument was that maybe someone might order a big Mac with their Heart Foundation approved salad!

How would all this help McDonalds? Firstly, the reporting that they had earned the Heart Foundation tick was received well in many quarters, if not the ABC. Secondly, the ABC and other disapproving media when reporting on this news, did, to their credit, interview people from the Heart Foundation and McDonalds who were able to put their case. In much of the coverage, their critics just sounded shrill. For McDonalds, it created the opportunity to access media channels that would normally be closed to them unless it was a bad news story.

The final picture that was left with media consumers, is that you can get healthy meals at McDonalds. In the reporting, McDonalds had the news, and the critics were just replaying the same old arguments that had been heard time and again. The critics had been wedged, and thus their arguments were diluted. McDonalds had taken them on directly, and all they had left was their politics.

Was McDonalds devious enough to plan this reaction from their critics to massively leverage their media exposure from a single day to weeks? I don’t know, but the reaction of the politically correct critics on border patrol was entirely predictable. They just couldn’t help themselves.

You can use controversy to promote your business, but make sure you have someone in authority’s tick of approval to back you up!

Dr Greg Chapman

Over to You. What do You Think? Post Your Comments Below.

Dr Greg Chapman is the Director of Empower Business Solutions and The Australian Business Coaching Club and is Australia's Leading Advisor on Emerging Businesses and provides Coaching and Consulting advice to Australian Small Business Owners in Marketing & Business Strategies Planning & Systems. He is also the author of The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success.



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Dr. Greg Chapman is also the author of
The 5 Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success

The Five Pillars of Guaranteed Business Success

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