Who is really running your business?
Your business (and potential success) is being influenced right now by a whole host of external factors that you likely have never noticed or thought about. You’re likely making decisions everyday that feel like your decisions, but it’s someone else who is the real driver. Want to know who those mysterious guides are and why you need to stop letting them passively direct your business? Who is really running your business
Today we are talking about the impact of experts, customers, competitors and random people on the internet that are imprinting on your goals, behaviours, offerings, marketing and so much more in your business without you noticing.
I have talked before about business frenemies, they’re a little more obvious and easy to spot. It’s the person who continually calls your business a hobby, or refers all their friends to you for a “mates” rate deal, people who enjoy killing dreams for you. They’re not so hard to identify.
What we are talking about today is a lot more subtle, and also often the people we are suppose to listen to.
Let’s kick off with my all time favourite: online experts.
Oh, the irony… Yes. I am one of them.
Online experts can be incredibly useful, they can help you fill big gaps in knowledge, share experience, cover you in a cloud of their sweet smelling expertise. However, blindly following an online expert without questioning if their goals, their values, their promised outcomes fit your needs could lead you down a path you don’t want to be on.
I have worked with a lot of clients who come from one specific well-known coach. This person delivers great advice with a massive “if”. The advice works “if” you’re an extrovert who enjoys delivering super high end priced offers, loves booking in 10 sales calls a week, never feels discouraged if someone says no and doesn’t fear using word for word sales spiels.
There isn’t anything fundamentally wrong with what this coach does, she is selling a system that shows others how to sell $30k offers and it works.
Where the advice becomes a problem is when you desire the outcome an expert is offering without understanding what you need to do or who you need to be to get there. If your worst nightmare is sitting on sales calls and attaching high prices to your offers that expert is leading you down a path that requires you to change who you are and where your natural skill set lies.
That is why people end up with me, they had a good business and were convinced by following this expert that they would have a great business. They made the changes, they tried to follow the system but ultimately failed because it went against who they are and what they value. The struggle for me is how quickly can we undo what has been done before the business completely falls apart.
This is not a “I am awesome, that person is crap” conversation, it’s a horses for courses conversation. If you’re wanting to be coached to be a super powerful sales closer I am sending you to someone else. That is not my core skill set.
When looking for experts look deeper into their messaging, values and processes not just the outcome they sell.
The outcome I offer is profitable, liveable and loveable. If you want to build a $100M global empire, I am not your person. If you want to organically grow your business by only using manifesting techniques, or you’re never going to look at your profitability, nor will you ever want to know how to calculate your profit margins we are simply not a good fit.
My least favourite part of the expert influence is the dominance in all our business practices that have trickled on down from mediocre white dudes. Everything from our judicial systems, political parties, industry standards, scientific research… all of it comes from predominately white men of privilege.
Here are some examples;
The customer is always right.
This has been accepted as a basic rule in business, but it was a marketing slogan used by Selfridges and a bunch of other old white men. It was used to boost sales and build customer buying confidence, but those days are gone. We have other ways of achieving those outcomes today.
In my opinion, I might be wrong… women are likely to be more conflict adverse to me so the “customer is always right” hits women, and those in small business much harder than anyone else. Like I said, I might be wrong. I feel like I am not wrong.
The 40 Hour Work Week.
The 40 hour work week was an outcome of the industrial revolution in the 19th century. The workforce was predominantly men, either single with no family or with a wife at home who looked after everything else. It doesn’t make sense to apply that same model to today’s workforce, or business owners.
Crash Test Dummies.
Did you know that historically crash test dummies used to determine the safety of a vehicle were based on the average height, weight and stature of a male. This meant seatbelts were designed to be safe for men, though for women, especially pregnant women they were hugely mis-designed. Female drivers are 47% more likely to be seriously injured in a car crash.
In 2011 the first female crash test dummies were rolled out, which is great progress but we’re still being impacted by decades of male-centric design.
If you’re a consumer of the written word like me; you love a good book, paper or audio, you no doubt have heard about How to Win Friends and Influence People, Good to Great, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, The E Myth, The 4 Hour Work Week, Start with Why, Profit First….
What do they all have in common?
They’re written by white men. That doesn’t mean you can't learn from them, it doesn’t mean they don’t contain business changing information. It does mean you get a white male centric view of how to run a business effectively and if you’re not a white male you shouldn’t feel like a failure if you can’t make that advice work for your situation and business.
I have a very white male skewed view, I looked at my bookshelf one day and was shocked at how little diversity exists in the content I consume so now I am actively changing that. I am applying my own lens to the content I consume.
Next up we have an over-consumption of information from a range of experts who often conflict in their approach so you have a business that suffers some serious whiplash. You’re changing directions faster than your business can tolerate, and your customers have no clue what’s going on.
Over-consumption of expert information also means you’re often never seeing any one strategy or plan out to fruition. Someone with polished photos and a great social media presences says “email marketing is dead, I have the only way forward” so you ditch your email marketing efforts that you never used effectively, never tracked results and never made any attempt to improve for the latest and greatest next idea.
Be honest. You have done something similar. I know I have.
Confirmation bias is rife when it comes to choosing what we should be doing in business. If you have a fear around email marketing or investing in Facebook ads you will actively filter out information that goes against your belief and seek views and advice that support your belief.
You might read 100 blogs on email marketing with 99 of those blogs say it is the best sales tool for your business, but you will only follow the advice of the one blog that confirms in your mind that email marketing sucks and you shouldn’t do it.
While we are on this topic pay close attention to what the experts ditch then revert back to. I have seen experts make proclamations like “Facebook ads are dead, here is what you need to do instead” only to go back to using Facebook ads sometime later. I have seen online experts dump their entire offers when business got hard and start pitching things like essential oils, and nutritions supplements.
As part of their community if they’re saying “I am the expert, and I say that “x” doesn’t work anymore and now I am getting rich of “y” and living the life of my dreams” then I can’t blame you for trusting in that.
But, I want you to stop.
I want you to question the experts (even me). Just because someone appears as an expert doesn’t mean they automatically have the answers, it might mean they just know how to promote themselves well and how to build a loyal audience. That’s the advice you probably want to buy from them, me too… because I am shite at building my following.
Many of the experts we all love are just doing what you’re doing, they’re testing out different offers, price points, marketing methods and they’re seeing what sticks. Because you view them as having all the answers it’s easy forget that they’re screwing up as much, and probably more than you are. You often just don’t see their testing or screw ups.
There are a lot of one hit wonders that have made it big in the online expert space, people who sell solutions that they themselves were able to achieve great results, but they only ever did it once. Again, there is a lot of great advice, course, coaches and content created by one hit wonders, just apply your filter of reasoning.
Let’s move on from me harping on about experts, and talk about how your customers or clients are impacting your business without you knowing it. If your customers or clients are setting their own terms of dealing with your business, they want to return items outside of your returns policy and you’re allowing them to do that. Or, they don’t want to pay a deposit upfront so you let them skip that.
Maybe you’re creating bespoke pricing for every customer that comes to you based on what you think they can afford to pay. You’re letting your customer run your business for you, you’re not leading the charge. You’re not setting the boundaries.
I don’t give clients my personal phone number unless they’re in the process of a business sale, merger of some sort or legal issue. If a client said I only want to coach in person or by phone I would say “sorry, that’s not the way I do it”. If I bend the rules all the time I allow my customers to direct my day, and ultimately the success of my business.
I have a funny story for you, I hope Prue doesn’t mind me sharing.
Prue, if you do mind, I am sorry… I have already done it. Prue from Creative Family Historian has shifted her business from dishing up mountains of free advice to being a paid resource hub for family historians. They still get their free content, but they’re also offered paid products now. Very normal.
Prue had a response a few months ago from an email where a subscriber replied with “I liked it better when you weren’t trying to sell me stuff”. When Prue told me this she was laughing and she said “here’s the thing Melanie, I was trying to sell her stuff, I just wasn’t very good at it!”. Prue has the right to sell her subscribers paid solutions, just as you do.
If someone responds to an email marketing campaign and says “stop spamming me”, or “I hate seeing your Instagram ads”, or “don’t call me after I requested a free sample”, whatever the case may be, and you decide to stop because you don’t want to bug people… your potential or current customers are running your business.
I don’t want my success or failure to lie in the hands of anyone but me, if my business gets royally fudged up I want to be the one who did it, not some stranger.
Your customers or clients don’t have the right to dictate how you run your business (unless they have purchased and have a contract, of course), they don’t have the right to set their own pricing, they don’t have a right to know what you charge what you do or to bully you into not marketing your business. They do have the right to piss off and find someone else to annoy.
Mostly, when I see customer or clients running someones business for them it’s honestly not because they’re jackasses its because the business owner isn’t taking the lead. People like boundaries, people like to be told what to do next so take that burden off your customers or clients shoulders.
I am sure we have all been guilty of letting our competitors run our businesses, I know I have. I am not proud of it. But, I did it. It’s hard to keep your eyes on your own work, not to take a side glance at what the person next to you is doing to confirm you’re doing the right thing. The fun part of business is many of the people you perceive as being successful have businesses that suck. They haven’t paid their taxes, they have no clue what their profit margins are.
They are essentially winging it, but they’re doing it with a flair of confidence that leads you to believe they know more than you.
So, you change your marketing, you mix up your offers and hope you see the same success they claim or appear to have. It’s a bad idea, unless you have access to their profit and loss reports, balance sheet, tax returns and personal goals.
Let’s wrap up the question of who is running your business by crossing strangers on the internet off the list. I have spoken about this before, good business advice rarely comes from free business groups where the members are sitting around on social media all day answering peoples questions. If they’re successful they likely don’t have the time or need to be offering up free (sometimes totally unsolicited advice) in Facebook groups.
Those groups are amazing for getting recommendations, but asking for specific business advice is a bad, bad idea.
What should you do instead? Join Members Club, obviously. As if I wasn’t going to pitch my own offer. It’s technically not open right now but I will let you know well in advance when it is.
Here’s your actionables from today’s episode.
Apply your own filter to any content you consume
Be mindful of your own confirmation bias so you’re not looking just for ways to run your business that support what you already believe to be true.
Set your own guidelines for your business, don’t let your customers or clients do that for you.
Glance at your competitors but don’t stare too long, and remember it might look like they have it going on but underneath that fancy dress and flawless complexion might be a whopping pair of spanx and a tonne of skin smoothing filters.
Stay out of free advice groups when it comes to elements of your business that vital to it’s success
Have your own clear goals, your own clear metrics and track those metrics. As I always say and will continue to preach “the numbers in your business will tell you what you need to know”.
Can I wrap up today by sharing a post I saw in a free business advice Facebook group? Just to clarify, I wasn’t hanging about in there, the post showed in my news feed and caught my eye. Let me read it to you, I will paraphrase here…
For all business owners who send me emails, I get over 300 per day. If you send me long emails I will delete your email immediately. I don’t have time to read essays, so get to the point. My business is a product based business so I send mostly pics and a quick scroll is all that is needed.
The thing is people take that advice, but this is a product based business owner who also is terribly oversubscribed if they’re getting 300 emails a day, that is a them problem to be solved. Guys, my emails can be up to 1800 words, they’re full on essays. I also know my open rate, click through rate and the average income per subscriber for my business.
My point, map your own path and track your own results. What’s good for one business owner isn’t necessarily good for other. That business advice was based on someone’s personal desires, and has nothing to do with the overall success or failure of email marketing.
That’s it from me this week. I am off to Bingo, yes.. Bingo. With family, not my family but another family that I have attached myself to. They have family dinners, and do fun stuff together and I love their dog. They’re greek so there is always food and wine on offer, and despite the fact I am almost twice the age of the kids, Piggy dog and I fit right in.