EMyth, Reimagined Part 3 of 5

2012 | Aug 15 in Entrepreneurship , Business Development , Home Page News , Leadership

By Ben Ostergaard, COO

In August of 2011, EMyth brought in a new management team. The company was stable, but the real potential for what EMyth could be was still locked away under corporate dysfunction and over-reliance on past successes. Seven million business owners read the book, a small fraction of which became clients.

We, the new managers, realized that the company needed a new dream. And inside that dream, every aspect of the company needed to be reinvented - the brand identity, the message, the company culture, and the technology infrastructure. EMyth needed to break free of its reliance on book sales and the old message to start a new conversation with potential customers.

We left no stone unturned, and we’re really proud of the new EMyth we’re launching this fall. If we say we can help you with your transformation, we must be willing to share ours. On behalf of the 50 incredible people who helped build it, we hope you enjoy this five part series. We’re calling it “EMyth, Reimagined.”

Our Business Model Shift

Part 3 of 5

What does a reimagined business model look like for a company that coaches its clients to steadfastly and unapologetically stand for who they are and what they value? This is the task we have been working on for the past year.

As we reframed our perspective from a business is a reflection of its owner to you are not inside your business, your business is inside of you and mercilessly turned that perspective on ourselves, some important elements around ownership arose.

First: We renewed our own way of seeing how our business is our product. Our customers are not just buying our coaching or training, they are buying every element of our company that contributed to the creation of our services. Every well-designed piece, impassioned employee, and delightful customer service experience is part of our product and service. So is every disowned function, uninspired employee, or piece of customer feedback that we swept under the rug. Full ownership means that we, as the day-to-day owners of EMyth, have the business fully inside of us -- no aspect of the business is bigger than us. This meant that our reimagined business began with us, individually and as a management team, looking at ourselves in relation to our business and templating that model for our employees, as they in turn looked at their relationship to their position. This was the beginning of the process, and one that we revisit regularly.

Second: Transparency and consistency require brutal honesty. We had gotten lazy, resting on a steady stream of book sales for lead generation. This strategy worked “fine” for a while. But the difficult thing about a passive approach to marketing is that you largely let the market define you. That doesn’t look like a problem as long as the leads continue to come in. But for us that was the equivalent of marketing by abdication -- and it resulted in us being a very reactive organization. We had to develop a new plan that would allow us to be more proactive. That plan started with an internal audit, asking who we are and what we stand for -- not just what was espoused in the books or in our coaching program, but, “What does EMyth stand for underneath all of that?” And though at times painful, the process is what has enabled all the changes you are reading about. That process lead us to our underlying culture of ownership. The process we went through created a foundation upon which we could gauge the value of a particular product or partnership, relative to who we are as a company. Our draw to opportunities that promise revenue growth and profits remains strong, but our commitment to transparency and consistency enables us to say “no” for the right reasons.

Third: Creating a company that is easy to do business with starts with creating a company that does business easily. Put another way, we saw very clearly that our way of operating internally had a direct impact on how we expressed ourselves externally. And, we had become our own worst enemy. Our own operating systems became pillars on which the company rested, rather than being downstream creations of management and employees constantly asking the question, “how can we do this better?” We are changing this by embodying a culture of ownership where every employee is driven to ask “why?” and continue asking that until a satisfactory answer is reached... and then to ask it some more. Internally, we continuously examine and redevelop the way we do business. From the simplest work request task, to the technology platforms on which we have chosen to build our new company, we are striving to make our own lives easier. In so doing, creating a seamless, robust and beautiful experience for our clients is as simple as extending how we already operate internally. When you start to get the business inside of you, you have less and less tolerance for inefficiency and unnecessary complexity.

These three elements are representative of the larger frame we hold for what ownership means -- it is not an end goal as much as it is a process of exploration. The process we have taken ourselves through over the past year is the same process we take our clients through. Below are some of the business model changes that have come out of our own process of exploration...

The EMyth Digital Platform

EMyth has been elitist. We largely held our processes and methodologies as proprietary material that should only be accessed by individuals that have made the commitment to business coaching. In other words, only those that “got it” from our perspective could have access to our materials. This has largely kept us from the world, and the world from us. It also helps explain our discrepancy between the number of books sold relative to the number of clients served.

What we’ve done and continue to do extremely well is hold the space within which business transformation happens. The content of our processes is a distant second to the context we hold for our clients. Put another way: content is content is content -- the content of our coaching program, with all its deep and insightful elements, has always been secondary to what really transforms businesses. Our content doesn’t transform businesses, the space we hold with our clients, within which the content is delivered, transforms businesses.

Any individual or business that resonates with EMyth should have a means of engaging with us. Whether it is free resources, self-guided web-based courses, or a coaching relationship, we wanted to make our materials more accessible. We wanted to create a way for business owners of all levels and interests to engage with EMyth, communicate with one another, ask questions, receive feedback and answers from colleagues, peers and EMyth Coaches.

This fall we will release the first version of our new digital platform that is the foundation of our new approach. The platform will allow anyone who is interested to engage with EMyth and learn more about our perspective, how ownership is bigger than equity, how meaning should be a natural precursor to financial success and how all this applies to the day-to-day reality of their business. It will have three initial components: Learn, Get Coached and Discussion Board. All EMyth services will be delivered through the new platform - from the self guided and web-coached Learn layer to the full Individual and Enterprise Coaching layer -- and all materials and interactions will be accessible through whatever device a client wishes to use.

In Learn, clients will have access to EMyth processes and be guided through the Why, What and How of creating or transforming their business, one step at a time. At $195 per month, this self-paced program will provide many of the same individual courses you would receive in coaching. However, the path you follow is guided by the platform, based on your personal and business profile.

Those who want Coaching will work through the digital platform as well. At $995 per month, clients will meet with their coach twice per month, and will be given assignments and tasks on the platform. The main difference between Learn and Coaching is that in Coaching clients will work with a coach on how to best implement the changes in their business. What doesn’t change from our previous business model is that the coach/client relationship is the linchpin for applying and implementing what is learned in the processes into the client’s business. This is where our coaches truly excel.

Many clients will only want to engage with our Learn layer. Others will want the full coaching experience. Some may only want to receive our weekly newsletters and updates. This new foundation for delivering EMyth services will allow anyone who is interested in the EMyth perspective to engage at a level that is right for them. No more long term commitments, no more technology restrictions. Get the services you want, delivered and accessed on the device of your choice, so you can focus on what really matters: creating the business of your dreams, grounded in you.

More details on our path to this EMyth Business Ecosystem will come in Part 4 of this series.

The Independent Coach Model

Historically, we delivered coaching services to our clients through business coaches that were EMyth employees. This model was straightforward and it worked, allowing EMyth to be moderately successful for 35 years.

But there were some built-in limitations. Our clients are business owners and managers. Day-in and day-out, they are engaged in running their business; from the big picture to the minute details, they are deep into the daily struggles, successes, disappointments, joys and occasional panics of running a small business. Our coaches could go 90% of the way with our clients in this model, but not 100%. So long as our coaches were employees of EMyth and not small business owners themselves, there was a limitation. For some clients, this was not noticeable, for others it may have created a block to them fully inhabiting the coaching relationship.

The truth is that our coaches are very good at what they do and most have been small business owners themselves. Many of them chose to work for EMyth because they wanted to help other business owners with all their hard-earned experience. And we wanted our business model to allow our clients to fully inhabit the coaching relationship.

Additionally, by requiring our business coaches to be employees of EMyth, we were keeping a lot of great independent coaches and other qualified people from joining us. In so doing, we kept EMyth under wraps. We limited our potential pool of qualified and passionate EMyth coaches. There are thousands of people that resonate with EMyth and many of them already run their own coaching, consulting or professional services practices.

We are shifting our business model to be more consistent with the values we hold around ownership and secondarily to open up to the potential that exists for creating a bigger audience for our company.

On October 22nd in Portland, Oregon we will be initiating the first New Coach Intensive. We are creating the opportunity to become an EMyth Coach for anyone that is qualified -- utilizing the same high standards we have used for evaluating employee coaches in the past. New Coaches will receive the same training as our existing Coaches, they will receive the same mentorship as our existing Coaches, and they will be supported by the same sales, administrative, billing and technology systems. The difference is that they will be able to be an EMyth Coach inside their existing business, or create their own EMyth coaching business. In the not so distant future the majority of our coaching will be delivered through independent EMyth Coaches.

The two shifts in our business model that I describe above are significant. There are things we will learn along the way as we refine our approach, but our guiding principles of transparency and accessibility will not change. EMyth has always been about redefining ownership. And we want to ensure that the Why, the What and the How of EMyth’s new picture of ownership is accessible to everyone interested.

Thanks for reading,

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EMyth, Reimagined: Part 2 of 5

2012 | Aug 8 in Entrepreneurship , Business Development , Home Page News , Leadership

By Jonathan Raymond, Chief Executive Officer

In August of 2011, EMyth brought in a new management team. The company was stable, but the real potential for what EMyth could be was still locked away under corporate dysfunction and over-reliance on past successes. Seven million business owners read the book, a small fraction of which became clients.

We, the new managers, realized that the company needed a new dream. And inside that dream, every aspect of the company needed to be reinvented - the brand identity, the message, the company culture, and the technology infrastructure. EMyth needed to break free of its reliance on book sales and the old message to start a new conversation with potential customers.

We left no stone unturned, and we’re really proud of the new EMyth we’re launching this fall. If we say we can help you with your transformation, we must be willing to share ours. On behalf of the 50 incredible people who helped build it, we hope you enjoy this five part series. We’re calling it “EMyth, Reimagined.”

A Culture of Ownership

Part 2 of 5

How do we find a deeper voice at EMyth? Can we do it differently this time, with many individuals instead of relying on just one? What would a company look like that empowers individual voices but has clear lines of authority? These are the questions we’ve been asking for the past year. We had a broad brush vision for what we wanted in terms of what we felt EMyth could be. We saw the opportunity to bring new values and a new conversation about business and leadership through this special thing called “EMyth.” We could see the outlines of a fresh version of our message that would be attractive to a wide audience of business leaders. And we knew it would take a profound change in the internal corporate culture we inherited to get there.

In that way, we couldn’t stand for the new thing until we “owned” the old thing. No matter how good our new ideas are, we couldn’t, in integrity, offer anything new for any other business until we closed the book on our past. We didn’t “spin” what we saw when we got here, so we won’t spin it with you.

Michael Gerber had a great idea. And an idea can be taken in 1000 different directions. Until now, EMyth focused on the “systemization” part of the idea. EMyth, the company, took that idea and turned it into a coaching process and a method for delivering it that takes clients from front to back through every aspect of their business to help them achieve great results. If you’re a client, you know how powerful this process is. If not, we hope you’ll come find out.

But, while systemization was all the rage, something subtler was happening internally at EMyth during that time. Something was being lost. As an organization, we became so focused on revenue growth and stability that we lost sight of meaning. Like a lot of maturing companies, we stopped innovating - stopped putting ourselves out there in the edgy, challenging ways that got us recognized in the first place. We thought systems would save us, and we sent that message out to the market. Our coaches and our clients know that good systems are only part of the story, but we sent a mixed message to the market and paid the price. It’s time to clear that up.

Systems do not create real transformation, they are an effect. They are what good leaders put in place after they get clear about their own values and relationship to their business. They are what you do after you create a culture of ownership because you want to do more of what you do without diluting the quality of your product and with less stress than you have today.  

So, even though EMyth has had the best tools in the market to help you systematize your business, we lacked the real leadership and passion that was needed to hold those tools and relate to them in the best way until now. We tried to outsource our identity to a founder who wasn’t around anymore. We could get away with that and be a good company, but never a great one.

In other words, we overvalued systems and undervalued people. It was completely reasonable to want to capitalize on the success of the books. But we let it become about one man, instead of about the larger message. It’s not easy to cultivate new leaders; it requires a level of humility and self-reflectivity that is rare in our world, especially among visionaries. But, whatever the cause, the truth is that we stopped looking in the mirror. We let ourselves off the hook instead of mercilessly asking how we, ourselves, were contributing to the stagnation that was happening.

It is our truth that people, whether they are conscious of it or not, care about the things that move them emotionally. It’s who we are as human beings. And, if the product that you sell is transformation, as EMyth’s is, the people that want to be around you are people who are emotionally moved by transformation. They live to ask the “why?” questions - in themselves, in the people they serve, and in the world. And EMyth had a disconnect - we were coaching others to ask “why?” but we didn’t have a “why?” in our own internal culture. Our journey from good to great has nothing to do with finding the 7 million people who read EMyth Revisited. It has everything to do with creating a culture of “why?” that’s big enough for the dreams of the people who work here, so that it can be big enough for yours.

We lost our way because we stopped feeling the impact of our decisions on the people who work here. We are all afraid of losing control, and we let ourselves be run by fear to one degree or another. It’s not a criticism, but it does have a cost. We stopped asking how we could make the systems better not just to make more money, but to make them more usable to manage, more meaningful for our customers, and more aligned with our values. We didn’t seek out and seriously consider input from the people on the front lines about how we could do it better. We settled for efficient, good, and stagnant.

There’s nothing wrong with ‘good.’ But ‘good’ just doesn’t get us up in the morning. Our new management saw something great in EMyth - a way to show people how to relate with their work differently that doesn’t just make the business better, but makes their life better by freeing them up to be more of who they are in what they do. We saw how to help business leaders be better mentors - how to relate to their own values with more transparency and use their leadership as a positive force in the lives of others. We read the news; we know what’s possible. And if we believe that EMyth has something the business world needs, then only being ‘good’ is not an option.

So we started asking questions. In sales, marketing, coaching, technology - we started asking and, more importantly, we started listening. And when we got the first answer, we asked again. How can we make it simpler? Why do we sell that? Do we really need that policy? Forget about how we do it today, how should we do it? We wanted the answer to make the business better, but the effect was deeper than that. When people start to remember the value of curiosity, they start feeling permission to not know. In that sense, each and every one of us have worked very hard to embody - personally - the very change we wanted to see in the overall organization. This was the way everything got tied together.

At EMyth, we found that creating a culture of ownership was largely a process of subtraction. We had to remove the old conditioning that people had about preserving their role to get them to reimagine - for themselves - a new way of being at work. We had to let employees go who weren’t willing to step out of their comfort zone and take the risk. We had to remove systems that people had become overly dependent on, to open up the space for real innovation.  

This wasn’t a strategy - it is who we are and how we approach our own lives. It’s the same inside-out orientation we take in our relationships, our marriages, and with our children. We don’t split ourselves between work and life, and we don’t want you to either. This is our counter-intuitive solution to the problems in the business world. This is what we mean by a culture of ownership.

It comes down to some simple truths. We started with caring about ourselves - like when you’re on an airplane, you’re supposed to put your own oxygen mask on first, right? And once we figured it out here internally, everything started falling into place. We evolved a better business model for bringing our service out, and designed the new website and product platform that we’re releasing this fall. We moved to a subscription billing approach because it was more in alignment with the self-responsibility that we teach our clients.

A business is a reflection of the owner, that’s true. But relating to the issue so simplistically is unnecessarily insulting and off-putting, and dishonors both the essence of what is actually happening in the vital dynamics of real-time business management and the evolution of business leadership that’s happened in the last 20 years. It’s more accurate to say that you are not inside your business, your business is inside of you. You, your partners or managers, your employees - you all have more power than you know to change things for the better. We would love to help you do it. And for the first time in our history, we’re not just teaching you from what we know, we’re showing you based on what we’ve done ourselves.

Making peace with our past isn’t the end, it’s the beginning. We’re not business gurus who need you to believe we have a perfect business. We don’t and we never will. But we know what we do better than anyone - it’s a beautiful combination of passion for seeing business done right and a love for people that gives them room to become a leader in their own world. Around here we call it “challenging, caring and competent.” And every day we’re here, we’re going to make it more true than it was yesterday.  

Thanks for reading.


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EMyth, Reimagined: Part 1 of 5

2012 | Aug 1 in Entrepreneurship , Business Development , Home Page News , Leadership

By Jonathan Raymond, Chief Executive Officer

In August of 2011, EMyth brought in a new management team. The company was stable, but the real potential for what EMyth could be was still locked away under corporate dysfunction and over-reliance on past successes. Seven million business owners read the book, a small fraction of which became clients.

We, the new managers, realized that the company needed a new dream. And inside that dream, every aspect of the company needed to be reinvented - the brand identity, the message, the company culture, and the technology infrastructure. EMyth needed to break free of its reliance on book sales to start a new conversation with potential customers that wasn’t reliant on the old message.

We left no stone unturned, and we’re really proud of the new EMyth that we’re launching this fall. And if we say we can help you with your transformation, we must be willing to share ours. On behalf of the 50 incredible people who helped build it, we hope you enjoy this five part series. We’re calling it “EMyth, Reimagined.”

Systematized Mediocrity: Pretty Good Since 1977

Part 1 of 5

The word “EMyth” is an icon in the business world. With millions of books sold and powerful original ideas that have become industry cliches, like “Work on it, not in it,” the EMyth perspective went viral and the message was planted globally. You’d be hard-pressed to find a management trainer or business coach who hasn’t read at least one of our books, and there are many more for whom our perspective is at the heart of the way they work with clients. EMyth - and Michael Gerber - started a new conversation about business transformation.

And the painful, ironic truth is this: as much as our philosophy and our coaching helped others discover and reach their vision, it never happened at EMyth itself.

Our founders, and the managers who came before us, took the idea as far as they could. There was no shortage of good intentions; everyone could see that EMyth had the “secret sauce” to be able to own the business coaching and training space. What was lacking in the way EMyth ran itself was clarity and a sense of purpose, but more than that was the lack of willingness to take it personally. Nobody stepped up to the challenge of seeing how EMyth - and the way we do things - was a reflection of some of the limits of its owners and leaders. It’s what we’ve challenged our clients to see for 35 years, and while we’ve proven how powerful our methods and tools can be, we never really applied them all the way internally; we never took our own medicine.

Like many maturing companies, it was simply time for new leadership. To be relevant for the next 35 years, EMyth needed a new dream for who we are, and a new generation of leaders willing to break from the past. As we talk about that new culture, and passionately share our picture for what business transformation looks like in 2012 and beyond, we honor those who came before us by being honest about what was missing. The way we get to everyone’s deepest dream for EMyth is by owning our missteps in the past, not by painting a rosier picture. EMyth was always good, but was never great.

Greatness comes from owning your failures, not trying to show others “we’ve got it all figured out,” as EMyth has done far too often. Especially in providing business coaching, if we can’t model transformation by sharing our own, we haven’t earned the right to tell you how to transform your company. This is not to pat ourselves on the back, but to open up the insides of EMyth that have always been kept hidden. The new EMyth is about people first and systems second. And of course, our self-interest is that by showing you how we changed our own way of doing business, you might be willing to let us help you change yours.

The easiest way to describe the problem is that we were passive. EMyth was content to ride on Michael Gerber’s coattails, never asking the real questions or taking the risk to truthfully answer them and let the chips fall from there. Who are we as a company? Why, as a company and as individuals, do we do what we do? Literally, why do we get up in the morning? What do we have to offer the world that nobody else does? Are we really a business coaching company? What are we if not that? How are the messages that we put out there trying to manipulate people into believing something about us that is only partly true? How can we express our core values - passionate self-interest, transparency, self-responsibility, and accountability - in a market noisy with quick fix solutions? How honest are we willing to be? What are the 1000 ways we are hiding from our own potential, from standing behind the real value that we have to offer?

It’s been a very painful and challenging year. We started at the top with a management restructuring, set a new criteria for what it takes to work here at every level, and had to face into some difficult choices about who the right people are for the road ahead. We did a brutal autopsy of all of the systems we had in place, seeing how “book dependent” the business really was but how great coaching was happening in spite of all of the dysfunction that surrounded it. And we found that while our coaches were by and large doing good work, they were constrained by a set of systems that discouraged taking innovation and ownership to the next level.

At the heart of it was this fundamental question: Is our mission - what we have to offer the world - is it bigger than Michael Gerber? The new leaders, and everyone here in their own way, had to grow into a new kind of self-confidence - a willingness to embody a bigger view of leadership and ownership than was here before. But, if we weren’t willing to distance ourselves from Michael’s shadow, how could we expect anyone else to?

It’s taken us a year and too many ups and downs to count - but we’ve done it, and it’s been far more joy than pain in the end. We have designed - from the inside out - an entirely new company. As the old EMyth did, the new EMyth stands for transformation and evolving your relationship to your business. But how we stand for it, and our picture of what the destination is, has changed dramatically. Our values, our technology, our look, our products have been laid on a new foundation, and a new definition of Ownership. And that is just the beginning.

EMyth has something important to share with the world - it always has. We’ve cracked the code on real business leadership: transformation that starts with meaning. We have a set of tools, a deep process, and great coaches who know how to guide you to finding your own way - from whatever the issues are today to an entirely new reality of how you relate to your passion, your people, and your world.

Next week, I want to tell you more about the real pivot that happened here: the journey we started towards what we’re calling a culture of ownership. In the weeks that follow, we’ll spend some time talking about a shift in our business model and how we’re expressing that shift through a new web platform, and we’ll sketch out a roadmap of what’s to come in the next year.

Thanks for reading.


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The New EMyth Coach Network

2012 | Jul 27 in Client News , Business Development , Home Page News , Partners , Leadership

By Tricia Huebner, VP, Business Development

As one of our fans, you know that EMyth has set the standard for transformational business coaching for 35 years. Over the past year we have been reimagining our business. This fall we will be re-launching our company with a brand new business model, website and digital coaching platform.

The profound EMyth process will no longer be held behind a wall - we will be releasing all of our business development courses through a self-paced and lower cost web platform that we’re calling a “Business Education for Everyone.” And for those clients who are ready for the deep transformation that requires a dedicated coach, we’ve done away with complicated contracts and programs. We’re moving to a monthly subscription model, offering real solutions for real problems and delivering value on every call, knowing that’s the only foundation for a long term relationship.

As we designed this new ecosystem, we realized the best way to add new coaches - the way that is most deeply aligned with the evolving EMyth point of view - is through an independent coach network. We want to help coaches deepen the passion they already have and give them new tools to serve the industry or region they are already connected to because we see these individuals as the heart of the EMyth movement.

We are actively recruiting for this next generation of EMyth coaches - passionate individuals who know their calling is to help others discover real leadership, a business that reflects their values, and a life of meaning where money naturally follows.

The EMyth Coach Training takes place early this fall - If you want to take part, we’d love to hear from you. Also, please feel free to forward this to someone you think might be a good fit.

Click here for more information.

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The Business Conversation You Need to Have

2012 | Jul 20 in Podcast , Marketing , Leadership

By Justin Dye, Marketing Coordinator

This week's podcast is brought to you by the 2012 State of the Business Owner Report.

Today, we talk about starting the customer conversation.

In this episode we discuss:

  1. How marketing is the first relational touch-point with clients
  2. The benefit of knowing who your customer isn't
  3. The false split between business and life
  4. Bringing a fresh perspective to every conversation you have with customers


The Business Conversation You Need to Have

(Download MP3)

Subscribe here.

Next Week's E-Myth Business Challenge:

"Tony is an authorized reseller of Verizon cell phones and runs a small storefront with 6 employees. Most of the employees are college aged kids who need employment while going to school. Because his store front is located in a shopping center closer to the outskirts of town, he finds that many people have not heard of his store and so he asks his employees to spread the word. He doesn't have a marketing strategy and instead challenges his sales reps to do things like make cold calls, dress up as the store's mascot and hand out business cards downtown, and sell to their friends and family. Even though he’s made it clear that they should care about spreading the word because it’s their job and directly affects their income, his employees are not motivated to take these steps. He doesn’t know how to get them to care like he does. What should he do?" 

You can give us your answer below, or email us at podcast@e-myth.com. Be sure to listen next Friday to hear the answer.

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Why the Customer Conversation Starts with Why

2012 | Jul 19 in Marketing

By Rick Snyder, Business Coach

Countless market research studies show that why we buy this car, with that color, or choose that attorney or that contractor, is based on an unconscious, emotional choice. We choose our products and services emotionally and almost instantly. Secondarily, the mind comes in to either confirm our choice and find validating reasons for it, or convinces us otherwise. Marketing professionals know that it is important to engage and speak to the heart and mind of the customer.

Thus, the more you can clearly feel why you are in business and can feel the passion behind your products and services, the more your customers feel this too. This can’t be faked. If you are not passionate about your products and services, this is good information. Start by asking why.

After getting clear about where you are genuinely coming from and identifying your ideal customer, the next step is to listen for your customers’ needs. Most customers rarely have the experience of being truly seen, heard and felt. What is their frustration? Their challenge? What keeps them up at 2:00 A.M. tossing and turning? What are they really looking for? Is it peace of mind? Is it that your products or service will ease their stress or make their lives more comfortable, simple, or meaningful? The more you can understand what they actually want, what’s not working for them, and knowing if and how you can meet their needs, you will position yourself for the conversation they’ve been waiting to have.

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Three Ways to Start the Customer Conversation

2012 | Jul 17 in Home Page News , Marketing

By Jamison Hollister, E-Myth Business Coach

You love a Good Conversation - where both participants care what the other has to say, demonstrate interest, listen, and respond appropriately.

A Good Conversation allows both parties to reveal themselves, uncover what is important from their perspective and shared values.

A Good Conversation offers an opportunity to learn something new about another person, about yourself, or the world.   

You’ve also experienced BAD Conversations – where the other person asks a question and interrupts half-way through your answer, turning the topic back to themselves; they’re not listening, but simply biding their time until it’s their turn to talk again. It only takes one encounter with such a boor for you to start actively avoiding contact with these desperate attention hogs – whether it’s a neighbor, someone in your social network, or a co-worker. They waste your time, frustrate you, and do nothing to positively further a relationship.

Being in business should be like having a Good Conversation. Too often, however, that conversation is very one-sided, and it seems like most businesses are talking at their customers rather than with them.

When a business talks at their customers, that business sabotages critical opportunities to hear, learn from, and respond appropriately to people with whom the business hopes to engage.

The unintentional message is delivered all too clearly:  “This business does not really care about who I am and what I have to say.”

A One-Sided Conversation

Recently, one of my coaching clients had a remarkable realization about this. He has owned and operated a small construction and remodeling business for about five years. He came to EMyth to get help organizing his business, and from our earliest meetings, it was apparent that one of his biggest problems was the absence of a Marketing Strategy.

I introduced him to the EMyth perspective that “Marketing” is not about getting more customers, but starts by defining who you are as a business, why your business exists, and how it intends to serve a particular group of people in the marketplace.

He began to realize that from the beginning he had been trying to be all things to all people, taking any kind of job that came his way for which he was remotely qualified – regardless of the scope, monetary value, profitability, or alignment with his core competencies.

Since he had never really defined what his business was about, out of desperation he was operating from the position that he would do anything and everything for anyone in order to make a buck!

Because he didn’t know who he was as a business owner or to whom he should be talking, there was no foundation for any kind of productive conversation with his customers. Everyone seemed to be shouting at and past each other, with no opportunity to agree on mutual needs. It was all noise and no music.

He had essentially surrendered himself to a perpetual and on-going series of BAD Conversations.

That was not the business he wanted to create, and not surprisingly, it wasn’t working very well for him either.

He lacked a clear message to attract the right kind of customers or employees, and had no way to differentiate his business from competitors. He frequently found himself renegotiating contracts and compromising his principles in dealing with people, barely breaking even or taking a loss on many jobs.

Turning Things Around

A big breakthrough came when we were able to have a conversation about the power of market research and target marketing and started to apply these concepts and practices. Market research is simply exploring what opportunities exist in the marketplace, what niches your business can fill.

Target marketing is determining what specific groups of people your business can best serve, and then designing your business to consistently and predictably fulfill their needs.

Without leveraging strategic market research and target marketing it is impossible to define who you are, or communicate effectively, to those specific groups of people your business will be able to best serve.

How to Start

Hiring a market research firm that specializes in your industry or field is definitely a good option if you have sufficient capital, because whenever you have the opportunity to work with marketing experts you should.

However, many business owners don’t feel they have the extra cash to pay for professionals. The good news is that, as long as you understand the value and make it a priority, conducting your own market research is actually pretty simple to do.

My client began by reaching out and engaging with previous and existing customers in new ways, he asked them what they liked and didn’t like about their experience. Paying attention in these Good Conversations provided foundational feedback for what worked and what did not. He was able to re-examine his business’s strengths and sweet spots from his customers’ point of view.

He also did some soul-searching to get real about who he was as a person, what kind of an impact he wanted his business to make, and what kind of work best suited his skills and interests.

As he clarified his own identity, and by reflection, the kind of customers he wanted, he made the shift towards true communication with them.

Things Started to Come Together.

In my client’s case, he realized that he needed to focus on more high-end remodeling jobs specifically kitchens and bathrooms. Once he refined that focus, and identified more clearly the demographics of his ideal customer base, he was better able to speak to those prospects from a position of authority, and be more attentive to the qualities of a Good Conversation with them.

Things You Can Do

  1. Clarify Who You Are as a Company, and Why Your Business Exists.
    Define what your business is all about and what kind of impact you want it to make on customers. This seems basic yet few small businesses cultivate a strong identity or company brand. If you and your employees aren’t sure, or are not on the same page about this, you’re bound to be sending mixed messages to customers.

  2. Create a Dialogue with Your Customers.
    Find out what your customers think works about your business, and what could be improved. Consider using surveys, questionnaires, focus groups, or just simply having a Good Conversation about their experiences whenever you get the chance. Involve every level of your employees as well.

  3. Clarify Who Your Target Customers Are, and What is Most Important to Them.
    Be specific about who your business is designed to serve best. Ultimately, every aspect of the customer experience you create should be designed and orchestrated to meet the unique needs of the people in your target market.   

With this clearer understanding of Who You Are and Who Your Business is Best Positioned to Serve, you will have laid the foundation for the hallmarks of a Good Conversation.

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How to Get Bigger than Your Business

2012 | Jul 13 in Podcast , Leadership

By Justin Dye, Marketing Coordinator

This week's podcast is brought to you by the 2012 State of the Business Owner Report.

Today, we talk about how to view your business as the product.

In this episode we discuss:

  1. Why you need to decide if you want a business, or just a job
  2. The hurdle that every technical service based business must overcome in order to grow
  3. How getting outside perspective can dramatically increase the health of your business


How to Get Bigger Than Your Business

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Next Week's E-Myth Business Challenge:

"Zach owns a construction business in Colorado which specializes in kitchen renovations. He still feels a lot of pride in the final product, but realizes that his customers have been asking for more while wanting to spend less. He has 2 crews running and ends up visiting the job sites himself to put on the finishing touches. Zach has recently been having a more difficult time generating leads, and even engaging his customers.  He’s recently been accepting jobs and stretching his crews to work on home renovations beyond kitchens, but this has led to even less sales. How should Zach approach the customer conversation and what is he missing here?"

You can give us your answer below, or email us at podcast@e-myth.com. Be sure to listen next Friday to hear the answer.

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Excellent Customer Service Isn't Enough

2012 | Jul 12 in Client Fulfillment

By Jennifer Martin, Business Coach

Business has changed. Excellent customer service is no longer enough on its own to separate you from your competition.  Whether you want to grow or just maintain your business, start with the assumption that all your competitors are already providing the same high-level of service as you are (in addition to offering fair prices and quality products or services). In order to thrive you have to do and be something more.    

The "more" is what makes you and your business both unique and compelling. It starts when you find ways to share your story in every interaction you have in the marketplace. It's the way you stand confidently behind the unique value you offer that separates your business from the crowd. It takes breaking the habit of a single-minded focus on selling your products or services, and shifting your attention to the entirety of your Business as the Product. This is the only way to increase sales sustainably.

When you approach your business from this viewpoint, you'll start seeing how every aspect of your business is both telling your story and selling your products.  If you haven’t considered how important it is for everyone on your staff to understand your point of view, now is the time to get your team on board.  A big part of telling your story is making sure it's one that has the support of the whole team.  If you are the leader in your market, then everyone on staff needs to know it and act from that place of confidence.  The same holds true for your marketing materials, your signage, your office space, your website, your business cards, and anything else that your customers touch.

Be willing to reconsider every element of your business and all the channels through which you tell your story today. Then look at it from your customer’s perspective. Approach your business as the product with passion, drive and clarity of vision.  Give everyone who comes in contact with you a compelling reason to say yes, over and over again.

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How to View Your Business as the Product

2012 | Jul 10 in Home Page News , Client Fulfillment

By Judith Lerner, Business Coach

My client, Terry, always had a hard time finding the right time for our meetings.

No matter when we scheduled our calls, Terry was anxious that five people would be sitting around doing nothing if he wasn't available to take sales calls and assign them. There were only so many hours in the day. Those hours translated directly to work, which translated to money.

"This is a perfect example of the Technician's mindset," I told him. I then shared a set of equations depicting the different ways Technicians, Managers and Entrepreneurs think about Time, Work and Money.

As he’d just exemplified: the Technician thinks in terms of Time = Work = Money.

The Manager thinks: Time = Systems = Leverage = Profit.

For the Entrepreneur: Time = Equity = Freedom.

Taking in the coaching, Terry committed to our meeting schedule. He used that same hour on days when we didn’t have a call to practice adjusting his mindset from Technician to Manager. Shifting his perspective dictated changes in the things he did and the way he did them.

Over time, Terry completely worked his way out of taking the sales calls. He’d restructured the business model, moving away from selling to just one prospect at a time. Now his focus was on developing partnerships with suppliers who already provided products to his target market. What his business provided would be an additional service to an already existing client base.  

Speaking to distributors en masse would play a big part in reaching the goals set out in the redesign of his business model.

Today, driving to a conference where he’d be speaking to a group of prospects, Terry parked to take our call. He was excited because the road trip reflected new ways he was approaching his business. At the same time he was tired and missed his family.

Expanding the Shift in Perspective

I didn’t want to burst his bubble, but when Terry started talking excitedly about his ability to speak to groups without him actually “selling,” and that this was his “best capacity” I had to stop and redirect him.

I asked if he could see any similarity between what he was doing now and what he was dealing with when we’d begun our conversations months ago. While he was no longer tied to his desk waiting to take sales calls, he was now on the road, away from his family, for three out of four weeks per month.

The Business as the Product

“When I say your business is the product,” I asked, “What comes up for you?”

“That the thing you do isn’t the experience the customer has. The way in which you do it, the experience they have of the thing you do, is the product,” he answered.

“In part,” I said. “But that’s the ground floor.”

“OK, give me a clue?”

“Charles Schwab and Baskin-Robbins.”

“What!?” Terry laughed. “I need more of a clue than that.”

How many offices with his name on the marquee do you think Charles Schwab has been in? Do you think he’s picking your stocks?   

Burt Baskin and Irv Robbins were brothers-in-law. Each had an ice-cream shop back in the 1940’s which they merged in 1953 to form the first franchise covering the sale of ice-cream. They have locations all over the world. They’d both stopped scooping ice cream by the mid-fifties.

Their businesses were created as products that fulfill a promise, without them actually doing the work.

To the degree that you, as the owner, replace yourself, like Mr.’s Baskin and Robbins or Charles Schwab, your name can represent the brand and be its voice. Everyone accepts that you are not actually picking stock, managing accounts, or scooping ice cream.

Shifting Your Point of View

This shift in perspective allows the Entrepreneur to embrace Time in terms of Equity = Freedom.  

This is not to discount the critical importance of any of the “perspectives”. 
The Manager is fundamental in planning, tracking and controlling results. And the Technician is essential for performing the work that delivers the business experience. I am not suggesting that it may not be a necessity at this point in your business’s development that you assume the perspective of each of those characters at different times. The skill is in cultivating a full awareness of which perspective is engaged, and being able to differentiate them.

But, to the degree that you continue to do those activities for any reason other than you just like to, you’re setting up the business as a job.

As the owner of a business, you are not, and cannot be, just someone who works in it.

The Helicopter View

“Now that’s a 5,000 foot view. The business is the product.” Terry said. “If I have to be there doing the pitch, it’s not a business. If it requires me, it’s a cult of personality that I’m calling a business.”

He’d gotten the point, and continued.

“When I think in terms of building the business to sell, I can immediately list seven or eight activities that I can’t sustain unless the sale was contingent on me sticking around to run it.”

Our call completed, Terry was left in what he called a “drive home and leave the radio off,” state.

Not the Product or Service

What if you begin with the assumption that, as the owner, your job is to design a business that someone else would buy? It’s not that you have to sell it, but from that perspective the business is the product you are selling.

Right now, knowing what you know about the owner’s role in your business, would you buy it? 

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