The 2012 Plan

Planning works. A year ago, I shared The 2011 Plan and last week I shared the success story of that plan when I wrote “How to make what you write come true.” Finding a planning method that works for you is, unfortunately, not so easy. I’ve settled on a method that combines Chris Brogan’s three words method and the visual thinking approach of Sketchnotes, which results in the drawing included with this post.

The 2012 Plan dissected

Growth – One of last year’s words was “customers” and it turned out to be the key word. We learned two important pieces of information about our customers in 2011: Who they are and where to find them online. Armed with that knowledge and the other two words in this year’s plan, significant growth of the ventures I am involved in is achievable.

Automate – Late last year, I had an “ah-ha” moment related to automation. A task worth doing manually is worth automating. If it’s not, then stop doing the task entirely. Your business is not truly systemized until most – if not all – of the business processes are automated. It takes more time to delegate and train those to whom you are delegating if the process is not automated. Automated tasks have a much higher probability of being done correctly.

Teams – It’s one thing to hire people to help you. It’s quite another to empower them to manage the team without you. This year, progress must happen without my involvement. Handing over business processes that have been automated is one way to ensure this outcome. While I can and sometimes will be a player on the teams I help create, I don’t intend to ever be the coach.

Back to growth

The strategy that came out of this planning exercise is: More and more of my time must be dedicated to tasks focused on long-term enterprise growth. Some might call this sales. I’ll be out searching for the relationships that allow us to partner our technology and knowhow with new audiences in 2012.

Here’s to an awesome 2012. Lets’ do this!

How a peer group will help double your business

Author’s note: Parts of this post were published over at Kitchen Table Companies as a Success Story. The “What I wish we’d had” section below reveals the secret sauce I’ve stumbled upon over the last couple years – this one is a freebie my friends, enjoy it.

Then one day you wake up and realize you’ve been in business almost sixteen years. You also realize the little ups and downs don’t scare you like they used to. The deer in the headlights fear you now see in other people starting businesses – all gone. You’ve made it and are an overnight success. Never mind that is was something like 5,480 overnights.

Overnight success

From where I stand now, the real overnight success of starting a Kitchen Table Company does in fact occur over one night. If you haven’t yet made the leap to full-time self-employment, you may not have yet experienced it. But it’s that morning you wake up and just know you are going to be just fine without a paycheck. You’ve decided you won’t miss the cube farm nearly as much as you once thought you would. That, my friends, is the overnight success that matters.

My business partner Michael Litscher and I started ColorMetrix with an idea and about $1,000 in the bank. For many years, there was no office. Just two guys in two garages – um, at two kitchen tables. I traveled far and wide selling the idea to an industry that wasn’t quite ready for the idea. Oh, how amazing it would have been to have blogs and social media back then! Michael held down the fort writing great code and providing customer support we are damn proud of to this day.

What I wish we’d had

I’ve gotten to know Joe Sorge and Chris Brogan pretty well over the last year. And not just these two – let me explain. I’ve networked my behind off online. I’ve made many good friends and some have turned into a virtual peer group. Sure Joe and I live in the same city and I frequent his burger joint every now and again, but that’s not it. I see him online every day. Now, with Kitchen Table Companies, I’m involved in daily conversations with him and dozens of other smart business folks.

The power of a virtual peer group can’t be understated. The thing about a Kitchen Table Company is that (at least for a while) it’s just you and maybe a cat or dog wandering around the house. Being able to jump online and interact with fellow kitchen tablers – some years ahead of you on the continuum, others right where you are and other just getting started – that’s been extremely valuable to me.

So valuable, in fact, that my business should double in this year because of the people I’ve met and the things I’ve learned online (in places like Kitchen Table Companies) over the last year or so. That’s my Kitchen Table success story and I’m sticking to it!

Linkedin: Finding the Full Value of the Ecosystem

I know plenty of people (myself included) who struggle to find the value of Linkedin. My gut tells me there is plenty of value there and I have found several small pockets of success already. The goal now is develop a more complete understanding of the entire Linkedin ecosystem and how to maximize the benefit for small business.

LinkedinThe value I have found. Let’s get started with the value I have already uncovered. Some of these areas I have made use of myself, while for others I will be reporting success stories that have been shared with me.

Site Traffic. For the past month or so I have shared a link to each new post on this blog with my Linkedin followers. Based upon review of website analytics, I can tell you this is effective for me. Imagine having a company blog and sharing a link to useful information with your followers each day. Seems like a good B2B communication strategy to me.

Value of groups. I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the Linkedin groups and have even set a few up. When I put the time in, I find the groups useful for knowledge sharing. I believe unless you own the group it’s more about keeping your name in front of influential people in the business segment you serve. This is done by sharing so make sure your comments and questions in the groups add to the conversation and don’t scream self-promotion.

Resume replacement. I have friends who report having found jobs in part because of Linkedin profiles. One even offered a resume and was told that they had already reviewed her profile and that wouldn’t be necessary. I review the Linkedin profiles of any and all independent contractors I utilize. Enough of what I do requires an understanding of the social media and community space that if you don’t have one it makes me wonder. Anyone else with me on this?

Raffel Linkedin Profile

Social proof. A complete well filled out profile with recommendations given and received is great social proof. I can review the type of people you connect with on Linkedin and the status updates you post. You can learn a great deal about me and me about you related to our business activities.

That’s where I am today. I plan to take a harder look at Linkedin questions soon. If you have experience with questions or other areas you have found useful please join in the conversation with comments below.

Selling Dreams – Vimeo Video and Slide Deck

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of speaking to the Milwaukee PHP User Group about selling dreams which is what solutions based software companies (like mine ColorMetrix) do. It was fun to have my business partner Michael Litscher there to interject his thoughts about some of the selling dreams stories I told.

I hosted the selling dreams video on Viemo since YouTube imposes some draconian limits on upload sizes and lengths. By the way YouTube thank you for that, so I actually took the time to check Viemo out and sign out. Can’t find anything to not like about Vimeo yet.

For those of you who just want to see the selling dreams slide deck here it is as a Google Doc.

Here’s a couple links to resources I mentioned during the selling dreams presentation.

Professional speaker and author Tony Rubleski here’s the link to his company Mind Capture Group. He’s one heck of a thinker and motivator. An interesting combination and I recommend seeing him speak if you get the chance.

I also mentioned Jeffery Gitomer’s Little Red Book of Selling. It’s one of my go to business books that I read over and over and refer back to often. I started writing this blog after reading the book over five years ago.

Hopefully those who attended found the selling dreams presentation useful. If you didn’t get to attend you can watch the whole thing above (assuming you are into watching me for more than 30 minutes). Either way take a few moments to let me know what you think of the presentation in the comments. Thanks!