My job is selling technology. Actually I'm more of a translator. I sell technology to other businesses and that's where things get weird. There is a bewildering array of tech out there and unfortunately many companies think technology sells itself and the value that the technology delivers should be obvious. Wrong. That's where I come in. I said I was a translator. My job is to translate techno babble into value that customers understand. This blog share my adventures with high tech sales. Selling high tech is fun so come join me on my sales journey!

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Excerpt from Start-Up Roller Coaster - Plan for success on the ride from brainwave to business

Below is a free sample of chapters 1-3 of my business start-up advice book, Start-up Roller Coaster.

1/ A new start

Creating a new business is exciting. The euphoria of embarking on a journey to success. The thrill of changing or bettering the world and the promise of untold riches. Creating a new business triggers emotions comparable to finding a new love and it can similarly consume your thoughts to the point of obsession. All you can think about is the new love in your life.

Creating a business is a journey. Not a mundane journey to the shops but a once in a life time journey such as a challenge or adventure. The initial stages of this journey are often the happiest – saturated with excitement and enthusiasm. The excitement of going to new places. The thrill of bringing your dreams to life and changing your life. Boldly stepping into the unknown.

You are a brave warrior. The majority of people will not have the courage to make this journey. They will see the risks and consign themselves to failure before they have started.

If you have run a marathon or undertaken a similar challenge, you may have experienced a point on the journey when your beliefs are challenged. You may think “what the hell am I doing here”. The goal of reaching the finishing line remains your rock to spur you on. Your business journey will have its challenges and steep slopes to climb that were hidden from view when you took the first step of a journey of a thousand miles.

This book is about your brain and the role it plays in the success of your exciting new start-up venture. There are hundreds of books out there advising you on the mechanics of what you need to do to create your business. How to raise capital. How to plan your marketing, product positioning etc. But none of them shed light on the journey your brain will take.

Having the right mindset for your journey is as important as, and maybe more important than any of the mechanical tasks you will need to undertake.

Your brain will be with you at every step of this journey. It can literally be thinking about your business 24 hours per day. You may work, eat, sleep and dream your business. Forewarned is forearmed. Spend time getting to know your travelling companion in order to have a successful journey.

Your brain can be your best friend and worst enemy.

This book covers the mindset you need to develop to help you achieve success. It doesn't cover the mechanical or technical aspects of setting-up or running a business. There are lots of books out there that already cover that. This is about what is within you – your brain.

Business success is more about you than knowledge.

Business success is more about you than funding.

You are the driving force behind your business.

2/ Going It Alone

Making the decision to start your own business can be dangerous. You may not think so as confidently start your new enterprise filled with self belief and unshakable resolve. If you are embarking on this journey having left a secure job, then the thing you are leaving behind is security. Security that you know what to do at work. Security of income. Security of routine. Security of support from colleagues.

Making the decision to leave and start a fresh new life of work can be one of the hardest decisions to make. You may wrestle with the internal demons between the love affair and adventure of the new business or the comfy familiarity of your job. Once you have found the guts to make the decision, it can feel liberating and you wondered why it was so hard reaching that freedom mindset. Your brain was resisting change. It sensed danger and told you to step back from the cliff edge. Making the decision is a hearts-and-minds decision.

With the new reality and dawning realisation that you are going it alone, comes excitement. Opportunity and a world of possibilities is out there. The sheer aliveness and believing in yourself can be exhilarating.

The desire to start your own business may have started as an itch. Maybe the seed of the itch was resentment. Over time that itch was watered and fed and slowly grew into an overwhelming desire to flee the security of the nest. Maybe the trigger wasn't a slow build-up but a revolution. You woke up in a flash and knew there and then that you had to leave and turn your idea - your dream into reality. Your heart fell in love with the idea and your rational brain was dragged along in the rush towards adventure.

For some, the decision to go it alone is not theirs. Redundancy or some other forced lifestyle change may be the spark that ignites the passion of being an entrepreneur. Unable to find a job, maybe you felt the only option is to create a job with your redundancy cheque – a desperate last choice option.

If you made the leap voluntarily, you are towards motivated – you were motivated by a desire for change. If you were pushed off the cliff then you are away motivated – you wouldn't have leapt without help.

In my first business book, Romancing The Sale, I introduce Croco Mojo. Your brain is made up of the left brain, right brain and the reptilian brain. The reptilian brain, or Croco Mojo as I refer to him, keeps you alive. He controls your basic emotions – the four F's. Fighting, Fleeing, Feeding and Sex. Croco Mojo assesses risk and controls the release of chemicals such as adrenaline to give you a burst of energy when you fear something and need to escape. Croco Mojo keeps you alive and away from danger. Being “towards motivated” or “away from motivated” are basic emotional responses.

Croco Mojo makes most of your decisions for you. His decision making is emotional and so most decisions you think you are making logically are actually emotional. Croco Mojo is the Heart in the Hearts-and-Minds of decision making. Your higher order left and right brain plays catch-up rationalising Croco Mojo's decision making skills, further convincing yourself that the decision is right.

If you wrestled with making the leap, it's an internal argument between your brains. Croco Mojo is in love and is impetuous whilst your logical left brain is trying to exert some order and discipline, asking little questions like “what about paying the mortgage”.

My intent is to give this book away for free (sorry if you got this from Amazon – they struggle with the idea of free) you'll have to put up with my occasional sales plugs for Romancing The Sale. If your business involves selling things or services, which to be honest is virtually all businesses, then Romancing The Sale will provide valuable insight into the psychology of the sales process. In other words it explains what is going on in your head and the mind of your customer as you romance them into buying your stuff.

Enough advertising for now. If you are at the early stages of your business then it is worth reflecting on and writing down where your head is at. Write down all the things that really irritated you at work and why being your own boss seemed to be the answer. If you were pushed, write down the thought process that lead you to the decision. Don't just write this down on a random scrap of paper that you will lose. Write it down somewhere that you can reference back to. Maybe type it up, print it, get it framed and hang it on the wall. Try to capture your emotions.

If working for someone really pissed you off – document all the things that caused you to want to escape.

If the dream of your new business lured you to go it alone, then capture the passion, energy and excitement which drove you there.

The brain has a nasty habit of changing the truth and as you repeat the “truth” the brain has a habit of changing the story that you tell yourself. To avoid this you need to document the truth or at least your most recent recollection of the truth. Emotions will subside and become difficult to recall over time. Once Croco Mojo's euphoria and lusting for adventure subsides he will stop releasing those addictive reward centric chemicals like dopamine. You'll then be cold turkey.

Why am I asking you to do this? Unless you are one of the very fortunate minority, your early years in business will be tough. Thousands of things can go wrong. People won't pay you. Deals you are banking your hopes on will fall through. If you are successful then people will try to take you to court. You name it – shit will happen. Just like the marathon, you may start to wonder “what on earth am I doing here”. Being able to have something which you can reference back to and remind yourself of all the reasons why you started this journey, is invaluable. If you do this exercise well, it can be your touchpaper. It can reignite the flame and spark the drove you to take on this mission. You will wake up Croco Mojo.

A Four Letter Word

I'm now going to talk about a four letter word. Some of you have dirty minds. The four letter word I was thinking of was WORK. Why do you want to create a business? Are you simply creating work for yourself? Is the four letter word you are thinking of, RICH? Is your primary reason for the business to make money for yourself and become rich?

If you are looking at franchises, you are more often than not buying a JOB. Job is a three letter word. Chances are you are making someone else rich, you are part of someone else's company and you are paying for the privilege of working for them. You are not after a job. If you are then go work for someone if you want a job. Creating a business has a higher purpose than just being a job.

Let's look at making money as your reason. Sure you want to earn money but customer's don't buy your products and services because they want to make you rich. They buy because they perceive the thing you are selling to be as valuable or more valuable than the money they give you. It is important that you put satisfying your customer's needs first.

No customers = no sales.
No sales = no revenue.
No revenue = no business.

If you don't have customers you have not got a business. Creating satisfied customers needs to be your first priority and if you get it right, making money should naturally follow.

Forget the myths of the dot com era where this rule was temporarily suspended. You need customers.

You have broken free of your shackles so you need to be more ambitious then just mere four letter words. Don't sell yourself short with three letter words. Four letter words are OK but they are not pushing the boundaries. Stretch yourself. How about embracing a five letter word? DREAM

Six Letter Words

In order to achieve your DREAM, you will need 6 letter words to get 7 letter words. VISION, BELIEF, ACTION and ENERGY to get the RESULTS and SUCCEED.

Exercises

If you haven't already done it, spend time thinking about how you decided to start a business and document the emotions that you experienced.

Spend time thinking about your higher goal. Where will your business be in 20 years time? What do you want to have achieved and why?


3/ Loss of Power

Here's some of my story. I love creating things. I get great satisfaction from coming up with ideas and turning them into reality. If I see something broken, I want to fix it. When I see empty shops I wonder what business would be successful there. My brain is constantly on the look out for business opportunities. Many people have commented that I have a natural entrepreneurial flair as a result but being creative alone is not enough to guarantee success.

Although I've dabbled in start-ups in the past, this time round I decided for the big push. My previous start-ups were back-room businesses. They were all businesses I ran in my spare time either alone or with friends. None of them were big enough to make a full time living from but they certainly taught me about the realities of start-up businesses. They were a low risk way to cut my teeth and they provided invaluable experience. If you haven't gained much business experience then this route may be a good way for you to learn how to swim before you jump (or get thrown) in the deep end.

With my early business experiments, I quickly became painfully aware that commitment is absolutely critical to make a successful business. You may have heard there story of Cortez landing in Mexico where he gave the instruction to burn the boats. He had the full attention of his men – there was no retreat or going back – there was only forwards.

By holding down a full time job, I always had an escape route if things went wrong. I firmly believe you have to burn the bridges. By creating a situation, it forces you to innovate – necessity is truly the mother of invention. I will come back to this later.

Before I started my own business this time around, I had a very senior level job in a large corporation. I was well paid, comfortable, controlling very large budgets and a very large team. But the gremlin inside me was not happy – I was too comfortable – it wasn’t getting my pulse racing - I wanted the freedom. I wanted the thrill and excitement of chasing business.

I spent a while looking at business options whilst still employed. My first idea was sexy and viable but required £10M to get it off the ground. Raising £10M for vapour-ware is non trivial. My second idea was not sexy but was a scalable business but required £0.5M to get it off the ground. Too little money for venture capitalists and unfortunately not a sexy business. So I finally opted for a service business requiring minimal capital to get it off the ground, so self funded.

Once I had set my business up and left my employer, the thing that struck me was I was now alone. In my old job my phone was constantly ringing. People wanted to meet me to sell things to me, make decisions, brief me – I didn't control my diary – others dictated it.

Had I moved to another big job in a big company I would have been in demand. Instead I now had a massive job in a minnow company. Suddenly I went from constantly being emailed and phoned to the occasional junk email and no-one ringing me. I had discovered it was the job in my old world that made me powerful, not me. I know what I am capable of but the sudden withdrawal of power made me question my own abilities.

This transition was very revealing for me – it has taught me who I can really rely upon from my old network – it is literally a handful of people who will go out of their way to help me. I've since gone on to grow my network in very different directions and had support and help from very unexpected areas. And I'm having fun!

The withdrawal from the hustle and bustle of corporate life was a sharp contrast. It was actually quite lonely at first – there were no constant interruptions and people driving my agenda. The sudden silence almost made me feel shunned. I was no longer part of their world – I was a leper – I had defected. Left unchecked, the brain can start to build irrational stories. “Maybe I am not as good as I think I am – all those successes were the job and not me”. Self-doubt can creep in. If you do not have strong self belief, just the change in situation can make you feel weak and vulnerable.

There is no-one to talk to to discuss your ideas and business. If you are used to bouncing ideas off colleagues, you may be tempted to ring former work associates up to solicit their views. Particularly when you discovered your cat was far from interested and purred in agreement with all our ideas.

Comfort calling is not productive. If you feel the need to interact then contact prospective customers instead!

If you are in a similar position to where I was, you will feel stripped of your identity. A shell of your former self. You are naked for the first time. Get used to it. The human race is weak. Humanity has survived by hunting in groups and as a result the fear of being alone and not being with the pack is a deep seated fear.

Your brain may make you feel small and insignificant - compelling you to run to the warm safety of a job. If you can't cope with the exposed feeling then maybe you do need to run for the safety of a cosy job. The negative thoughts are too powerful for you.

These doubt are not real. The origins of these feelings are hard wired into your brain. Remember humans are weak animals. Cavemen learnt that belonging to a group provided safety from predators. The threats we had as cavemen are no longer there so you will have to wrestle with your mind to overcome these negative destructive thoughts of seeking safety in the cave.

Negative thoughts are at least five times more powerful than positive ones. Evolution has made it that way as negative thoughts such as “Oh shit that sabre tooth tiger wants to eat me” was a good survival tactic. Whereas positive thoughts can be dangerous: “I bet that sabre tooth tiger wants a belly rub”.

To make the leap, the fire really needs to be burning in your belly. The desire of running your own business needs to be at least five times bigger than your fear of failure. You need that burning urge to achieve.

What's stopping you starting that business? Often just yourself.

I like the saying “It is better to live one day as a lion than a lifetime as a mouse”. Man-up and find the balls to bring your dream to life.

Back to burning bridges. If you are starting a business whilst holding down a full time job then be aware it is not a business but a hobby. Your life does not depend upon it. Inadvertently your brain has conditioned yourself for failure. The very fact that you thought “if it all goes wrong then I still have my job”, you have established a belief that failure can and therefore will happen.

Tightrope walking without a safety net is dangerous. Few people are willing to take the risk so it is totally understandable that starting a back-room business is a preferable option. If you don't have a financial safety net then it is the safest route to start a venture. However to make it a viable business you need to treat it like a business. You have created this new baby life-form and if you don't feed it, it will die. If you don't satisfy it's demands, it will scream for attention. So how do you balance the safety vs growth? Simply have the right mindset.

A tightrope walker does not think about not falling off. The reptile brain cannot cope with negative sentence wording. Croco Mojo works on the basis if you think it, then it becomes real and he can't cope with negatives. Saying “don't fall off” will make you think about falling off!

Don't think about penguins. See you had to think about penguins in order to not think about them.

Instead tightrope walkers think about walking to the other side – the goal. Focus on your goal, not on avoiding failure. The reptile brain is really not that clever at thinking.

Allowing rogue thoughts, that your back-room business could fail, to surface is fatal. You are setting yourself up for failure. Think big bold successful ideas for your back-room business. Imagine it succeeding so you have to give up your secure job to nurture this growing business.

If you have a financial buffer then give up your job. Breaking free from the corporate hand-cuffs is like having a lion chasing you. You suddenly discover you can out-run Usain Bolt because your life depends upon it. Creating the same level of energy, enthusiasm and commitment whilst knowing you have a safety net, is a massive challenge.

Exercises

Examine the higher goal that you devised in the previous exercise. Imagine how you will feel when you reach that point in 20 years time. Picture the finish line for this business. Be as bold as possible with your dream. Write down the dream and identify the parts that give you that warm glow and feeling of achievement.

Spend time listening to little voice in your head. If you find your voice using negative language, spreading cancerous self doubt, then challenge the voice. Believe you can achieve success then you will.



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