This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur.com - #Growing Your Business
Communication, networking, and sales skills are overrated.
5 min read
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Most people will tell you that you need communication, networking, and sales skills to take your business to the next level. While those qualities are great, they won’t scale your business to $100 million and beyond.
I’ve built and sold multiple businesses and worked for the world’s biggest corporation: the U.S. military. Through my experience, I’ve found seven non-negotiable qualities to level up your leadership and business.
1. Problem-solving skills
Problem-solving is your number one leadership superpower. If you can problem-solve your way out of disagreements or low sales, you can climb to any level. This starts with going back to the basics and compartmentalizing. Whether it’s a quiet room or in the car, find a place where you can focus on the core problem without distractions. Approach it from all angles, ignore the irrelevant noise, and stay clear on your mission.
Problem-solving includes continuously improving, especially when your business is running smoothly. Constantly tighten and expand your team, systems, partnerships, products, and services to bulletproof your business.
Problem-solving also means forecasting based on current affairs. The military has contingencies for every scenario, and so should you.
For example, if your inventory comes from China, you need contingency plans based on how coronavirus may impact your business. If you don’t have time to follow the news, you need to build a stronger team to support you. Perhaps pay someone to report on the information that could impact your business.
3. A PSD team
In the military and in business, a personal security detail or PSD team is responsible for keeping important people safe. General James Mattis is a respected leader because he keeps an open mind and surrounds himself with different subject matter experts. He doesn’t pretend to know everything but always has the answers because he looks to his specialists.
Surround yourself with smart people. I lean on business coaches to help me solve problems. My accountants are experts in business structures and tax incentives, and my attorney is part of a large network, so if he doesn’t know an answer, he knows who does. I pay these advisors to join a group call once a week to discuss my businesses so we can consider all the angles and identify a plan together.
Business owners have had partnership issues and even gone to prison because they didn’t know the law, so protecting yourself is worth the investment.
4. To be uncomfortable
You must make tough decisions based on the insights from your PSD team. As the leader, you’re responsible for the livelihood of your business and its employees. Sometimes the decision that’s right for the greater good is uncomfortable — so get comfortable with that. That might mean firing 200 people to save the other 800 or cutting your losses and closing a dying business so you can start another. In the military, we call this “embracing the suck.”
You don’t have to know every number in your business, but you need to know the important ones, such as the cost to acquire new customers, the lifetime value of a customer, and the hard costs required to deliver your product or service. I’ve seen companies grow exponentially while on the verge of shutting down because they didn’t do simple math. For example, they bought too much inventory, so they advertise a sale. But now they’re losing money to offload the product because they don’t realize they’re spending more on overhead and advertising than they’re earning.
Your business growth and marketing are directly related. If you haven’t told marketing the client acquisition cost or how many units you’re trying to sell, the business can’t grow. Either marketing won’t sell enough, or they will push too much and run out of stock. So communicate your numbers to the right people.
“Inception marketing” makes your brand omnipresent, so it’s everywhere all the time. That’s what Xerox did to copy machines, and Google has done to search engines. When you think of their services, you think of their brand.
That’s why much of the advertising by the insurance company GEICO targets 14- and 15-year-olds. While they don’t drive yet, they’ll need insurance when they get their first car. After they see the GEICO gecko a million times, it becomes synonymous with insurance. This requires planning years in advance of the sale and strategically implanting your message into your future customers — even if they can’t buy your product yet.
7. An open mind
Many business owners make decisions based on their own point of view and don’t consider other vantage points. With this skewed data, calculated risks are plain risky. The market doesn’t care what you think. Launch your idea before it’s ready, and if the market responds positively, do more of that.
If not, swallow your pride and adjust. Put aside your opinions and ask questions. How does your product or service fit your customers’ needs and expectations? How does the mom with three kids feel about it compared to a man in his 60s? Focus your marketing to speak specifically to each customer’s unique pain points and desires, demonstrating how your offer is the answer.
With these skills, strategies, and people in place, it’s much easier to grow your business sustainably and quickly.
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