Simply better – hits the nail on the head

The post ‘what is unique about being unique?’ was born from our observations of ambitious business owners who create and grow businesses that stand out from the crowd, punch above their weight with larger organisations and grow faster than their peers. On 13 March 2012, our sixth compass meeting for ambitious business owners built upon this theme and explored what you need to do to create such an outstanding business. The conclusion was remarkably simple – be better by:

  1. doing the hard yards by working out what customers really value and are willing to pay for
  2. being passionate about why you want to, and how you can, deliver that value
  3. being focused [obsessed] on delivering that value time and time again
  4. ensuring your marketing and communications clearly and concisely demonstrate all of the above so that you can deliver more of this value to more these types of customers

If you want to create your own outstanding business then the Simon Sinek TED video ‘how great leaders inspire’ seems to be a good place to start and the questions below appear to be important ones to develop answers for.

Enough said, we are off to help more ambitious business owners (as one of our clients said) ‘to chart and to navigate their way to long-term business success’. If you want to find out more about how we can help you to achieve this please contact

inside OUT

  1. What problem is your business here to solve?
  2. Why do you want to solve it?
  3. What do you passionately believe in?
  4. What difference do you want to make?

OUT side in

  1. Who are you targeting as your ideal customer?
  2. What problem are you really trying to solve in their eyes?
  3. What do they really value?
  4. What does ‘world class’ delivery of this value look like?
  5. How will they judge success?
  6. How well do you deliver this value?
  7. How could you deliver this more?
  8. How can you do this more consistently?

stand OUT

  1. Who are your real competitors?
  2. How do you stack up against them?
  3. How will you win beat them?
  4. How can you demonstrate that you are better?
  5. What work would you never take on? Why?

OUT standing

In a sentence, describe why your customers will want you and your competitors will fear you

And finally, what can you do for your existing and potential ideal customers to allow them to experience your outstanding business?

For more information please see the attached file for a summary of the conversation.Compass meetings #6 – summary of outputs.

Getting beyond the point of no return

This theme is aimed at those people who are thinking of setting up their own businesses. It begins to explore the things that need to be considered for sustainable success even before the business exists.

I have lost count of the number people I have spoken to who, early on in the conversation, say ‘I’ve been thinking of going into business myself’ or ‘I’ve just started a business with a friend’ or ‘I’d like to start my own business’. For the majority that I meet, I get an overwhelming sense that it is never going to happen. It might be in their tone of voice, the look in their eye or the way they ramble on about the business idea, but, I just can’t help but think it is never going to happen. And, for those people that I have kept in touch with, I can’t think of any of them who have gone on to really do it. They might start a business, they might even do some business, but, eventually the thought, idea or dream slips away “well at least I gave it a go!”

On rare occasions, I meet someone who I really believe. Somehow, you just know it is going to happen. And sure enough – it does! I have often wondered what lies within this difference and in my occasional moments of reflection, three phrases spring to mind: moments of commitment; opening up options; and, getting beyond the point of no return.

When setting up a business, you will face many moments of commitment – consider them hurdles. These hurdles vary in height and difficulty. They might include a lack of full (or perceived) support from your partner/spouse, through to, obtaining funds to take your idea to market. Those business owners who go on to great things, seem to find ways to use these hurdles to fuel their business idea and ambition “each time I heard the word ‘no’ it made me more determined to make it happen”. Whilst, those whose ideas and business that fell by the way side saw these hurdles as an ever increasing size ‘I’ve worked out that I now need to raise £5m to get this off the ground’.

In addition to this, there seems to be something important in the way that successful business owners go about this exploratory phase. Let me give you a very simple example. It comes from how two close friends (both now running successful businesses in their own right) went about choosing a name for each of their businesses. Both of them were able to describe what they wanted the business to stand for. Both of them knew the gap they wanted to fill in the market place. Both of them used people outside of the business to come up with a name. Both of them tested these names with lots of people. Both of them ended up with a very clear favourite that they felt described what they wanted the business to truly stand for.

Successful business owners seem to open up options. They have a core idea that they want to test and evolve. They know what it is but they can’t really describe it. They take this idea and throw it open to other people. They are willing to gather other people’s ideas/thoughts and explore all possible options – before closing things down and focusing back on their core goals. It is a process that they adopt for many aspects of the business before it even starts. From the business structure, through financing and even taking on employees, they invite people into their challenge.

Compare this to the others who don’t make it (including myself on a couple of occasions!). They have an idea, think of a name, start a business to register the name, and start saying ‘I’ve got my own XXX business’ or ‘I am opening up a XXX’. They close down options and almost become protective of their original idea. They lack the confidence to take on board alternative points of view. Consequently, they don’t find alternative routes over, through or around the hurdles.

Perhaps these initial two aspects of this theme are about people dipping a toe in the inviting, but freezing, crystal blue waters of a swimming pool on a baking hot day. However, if you want to go swimming, at some point you have to commit fully, you have to immerse yourself in those icy wateres and have your breath taken away.

It is your final moment of commitment – it is the point at which you have to get beyond the point of no return. ‘I’ve told so many people what I am doing, I’ve got so many people interested in the results, that I really have no choice but to make it work – I will feel a failure if I don’t do it’.

Below are some phrases or thoughts that I might expect to hear from someone who is truly ready to start their own business. They are indicative rather than exhaustive or exclusive. I am sure many business owners have started businesses without doing this, but I am convinced that those that went onto greater things got to this point (or an equivalent) first.

I feel that I have no other choice but to do this myself

  • I have tested my business idea with lots of people, taken on board their critical feedback and it has heightened my belief that I have to do this now
  • I have a written this down in a plan for the business and have set out some financial targets
  • I have thought deeply about the business name, I have tested lots of different names and chosen a name that truly highlights the nature and ethos of the business
  • I have thought deeply about the business structure and governance and I am sure that this will allow me to explore future avenues for growth
  • I have enough money in place to fund the first 12 months of the business
  • I know that it might take longer than I want and that it will be harder than I think but I feel ready to take on the challenge
  • I have a clear action plan for the first 6 months of the business
  • I have sufficient access to the right advice and support

To summarise, I’d like to use the analogy of a magnetic attraction. The more that a successful business owner gets into the detail, the greater is the level of attraction. Eventually, the attraction becomes so strong that the two entities (business owner and business) can’t help but stick together. Whilst with the others, the experience is much more like magnetic repulsion. The more you pushed them towards their idea the greater the desire they had to move away from it!

So if you are thinking of setting up your own business, what are you doing to increase your sense of attraction to your business idea? Some additional questions worth considering:

  • What are my possible routes for exit?
  • How does the ownership structure of my business enable or inhibit these routes?
  • If you are considering working in partnership with someone, what difficult conversations have you not yet had?
  • What stepping stones can I create to eliminate some of the risks or accelerate my progress?
  • What skills, capabilities or people do I need in order to give my business the greatest possible chances of success?
  • What will attract them to the business?
  • What are you willing to give up in return for their contribution?
  • How will you create a business that stands out in your market place? (click here for more information)