How to Work Backwards to Solve Any Business Problem

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Short and long-term success in your business will be the result of your ability to solve business problems which may include everything from legal, tax, management, marketing, lead and client issues. Successful entrepreneurs make decisions quickly and are slow to change their mind and unsuccessful people are slow to make a decision and change their mind quickly and often.

The first step is to look at any problem as an opportunity. If you have a client who complains about a portion of your website that does not work, instead of getting frustrated at the client, look at that as a real opportunity to improve your website. When you think about it, you are not even paying these people to point out your flaws and areas you need to improve. You are receiving free advice on areas that need fixing! Reframing what the problem means is step 1. You are changing the meaning to be that of an opportunity to improve!

One of the main reasons business owners do not solve many problems and it feels and looks like their business is not moving forward, they immediately conclude that is not working so let’s do something else.

A common example if your business is looking for more lead generation and you put more time and energy into social media this past month and you notice you have very little results and you immediately stop that next month and focus on article writing. After that does not work you invest your time in video marketing. You are consistently jumping around from one lead generation strategy to the next vs. digging deeper into “what part” of the first strategy did not work to the level you were hoping it would.

Here is my formula to solve any business problem

1. Clearly, define the problem and avoid generalization. Example, my lead generation is not working vs. my Facebook ads are not working to the level I had estimated. I am only receiving 100 clicks per week but only 10 opt into my list.
2. State your goal specifically and a time frame. My goal is to receive 100 opt-ins to my list per week starting in three weeks.
3. Focus on what part you can change (or test three parts at one time) to determine if that will help solve your problem. If you do have a team or a group to mastermind, allow others to give input to solve the challenge. I would recommend you use the Disney approach and when you brainstorm solutions allow for those ideas to flow without evaluation in the moment. If you start to evaluate ideas while people are still offering solutions you will find that many will shut down because their idea may be “dumb” or of no value.
4. Implement the new ideas to solve your problem.
5. Measure if you are getting closer to solving your problem. Specific measurement is a must. If you have leads you are looking to manage you may want to measure the ratios between a call to approach, approach to presentation, and presentation to close. Measuring ratios will help you isolate what part of your presentation is not working for you and where you need to focus your improvements.
6. Repeat steps 4 and 5 until you solve at least a PART of the problem or the entire problem. Other tips for success:

  • Model someone else who has solved the problem already. Find out what they are doing differently than you.
  • Find a coach or mentor who has experience in the area where you have problems. For me I did not have any management experience so I hired mentors in the area of management.
  • Focus on making small improvements in your business!
  • Allow yourself to win the game!
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Ask Better Quality Questions and You Will Get Better Quality Answers

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If things are not working in your business it comes down to asking better quality questions. If you want to pay less in taxes and protect your assets better…better quality questions are the answer. I learned from Tony Robbins years ago, if you ask a lousy question, you will get a lousy answer. Here are some examples of lousy questions that I have heard from business owners over the years: “Why does this always happen to me? Why doesn’t this work for me? How come I always get killed in taxes every year? How come I never have enough time? Will it work out this time? Why are all my prospects broke or cheap? Why doesn’t my marketing ever seem to work?

Here is what I know for sure, you and you only are in charge of the quality of the questions you ask yourself. If you want to improve the quality of your business and your life, you must ask better quality questions. Here are some examples:

1. What specifically can I do today to bring in more quality leads from Facebook?
2. What specifically can I improve today on my landing page to improve opt-ins?
3. What specifically can I change now in my approach to bring in more joint venture partners?

Do you see a pattern already? The first part is to ask specifically, not generally. When you ask specifically your brain has to search for a more specific way to get a result. This is a must. The second part is about accountability, something you have control over. It does not say what specifically does everyone else have to do ….it says, what specifically can “I do” today. That is a huge difference. The third part is a time frame that you want the result. If you don’t say today or now, you may be just putting your goals, improvements or results in the future. Every day, week and month go by and your results are STILL in the future! That is a PART (not the only reason) why you may not be achieving them! These are very specific tips from my NLP (neuro-linguistic training) over the years. You may find that you may be still not getting your goals. Another step to add that will help is to ask another empowering question called an “ecology question”. An “ecology question” is one where you check into the future to determine if you achieving this goal will it harm or hurt anyone? You may be thinking why would making more money hurt anyone? What if you are away from your family 70 hours per week and your spouse has to do twice as much work? What will the effects be on your relationship?

Here are some other empowering questions that you may want to write down and put in front of you each day to help with your results and energy level:

1. What am I most excited about today in my business?
2. What was the best part of my day today?
3. What am I looking forward to today in my business?
4. How specifically can I generate more joint ventures today with more quality target leads?
5. What can I do today to be more productive with my time and work 2 hours less and be just as or more effective than previously?
6. How can I delegate more work to free up my schedule to spend more quality time with my family?

Another key to getting results in this area is to fully associate to the question and feeling, not just ask it, get an answer for a moment and move on. What I mean by fully associate is to discover what would it sound like to be fully excited about the day, what does it look like, what does that really feel like when you are excited about the day and allow yourself a couple of minutes to step into that amazing feeling! If you are not looking forward to some part of your day ask, “What part could I be excited about during this part of my day?” The key language is “what part” which means one part your brain immediately searches for, there is nothing I am excited about I have a lot of work. Your goal is to find a part of that work that you could be excited about. Maybe you are going to have a new breakthrough and it will help with another project to move it along. That may be the part that is beneficial. This is not always easy,
especially when things are not going well in your business, but this alone will help change your state and get you back on the right track to results faster than anything else you can do. Changing your physiology is key also and to do that you will have to ask a better quality question up front.

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Do you have a High Degree of Intellectual Curiosity?

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There are several patterns that are common among entrepreneurs that are financially succeeding in this current environment.

One that most people miss, the one that is not spoken about often, yet is the backbone of success, is a high degree of intellectual curiosity. I would estimate that 85% of entrepreneurs or small business owners do not have it…a leading indicator of financial failure.

My definition of a high degree of intellectual curiosity: it is the enthusiasm to ask intelligent questions consistently, especially with those who are succeeding in this economy (no matter the niche) and calibrating to that distinction and regulate what impact would that make to your business and your bottom line.

Also, this includes asking intelligent questions consistently to those who did not get the results they were expecting, especially those who had a high degree of success in the past and now have failed in this economy.

As a side note, those who were never successful, and continue to not succeed, those patterns are typically consistent. It is not necessary to spend a lot of time there; yet, being curious and asking a few questions is important, always.

That was a long definition.

The point is: SUCCESSFUL PEOPLE ARE CURIOUS ABOUT EVERYTHING!

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Is Your Business Screaming For An IRS Audit?

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As tax time nears you should be aware of the trends that are clear – the IRS is targeting more small businesses for audits and they’re denying deductions left and right.  Sole proprietorships are especially at risk. I have confirmed with my CPA networks that there is a huge risk to continue to operate as a sole proprietorship. Our CPA contacts are also recommending that you should get off schedule C in 2014 ASAP.

Here are just a few of the audit trigger red flags that IRS agents are watching for:

  • claiming 100% business use for your vehicle (this will almost certainly invite an audit)
  • large deductions that seem out of proportion for the business (this is what their computer systems look for)
  • any schedule C deductions for business travel, meals or entertainment (you are able to take these deductions but if excessive and if audited not documented properly you are toast)
  • hobby losses claimed as business expenses (you best be able to prove you were a real business)
  • regular wage income combined with large schedule C losses (you must prove you had a real business, which we teach you those requirements on the training below)
  • any documentation that doesn’t meet their strict substantiation requirements (this is NOT your CPAs responsibility, it is yours)

 The vehicle deduction is a very common slipup. The IRS knows that 100% business use is extremely rare, especially when there’s no other vehicle for personal use. Activities like photography, dog breeding, car racing or other sports or outdoor activities are tough to substantiate as business expenses because they look like hobbies to the IRS.

Could your business be sending an “audit me!” message to the IRS? The surest way to protect yourself is to establish a complete foundation for your business, starting with a properly formed separate legal entity. Do you know the 5 essential elements of a complete business foundation? Take advantage of this brief, free training to find out where you may be vulnerable to the IRS!

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NEW TrainingThe 5 Essential Components for a Complete Business Foundation: 
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Pick your time and date to be part of this special training.

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Year End Tax Responsibilities for an Entity

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This is an important message if you have an entity that has a December 31st year end which includes, LLC taxed as a partnership, S corporations, disregarded entities and S corporations.

Since the tax year end is only a few weeks away it’s very important that you touch base with your CPA/accountant to see if there are any last minute tax planning strategies you should implement in December – not in January when the year is over and your chance to reduce your tax bill is gone!

Perhaps you haven’t done December tax planning in the past. That’s common because most business owners don’t pay for any tax planning and just show up to the CPA’s office the following year when the taxes are due. This is the MOST expensive approach because you can’t make retroactive changes.

By the way, if you’re not already working with a CPA/accounting firm we do have a good recommendation for you – but more on that in a minute.

For now, here are a few key end-of-year tax planning strategies you want to have in place:

  1. If you have an S corporation (or LLC taxed as an S corporation) did you have any payroll in 2013? If you only had distributions with no payroll that would be an issue.
  2. Are your books current with year-to-date profit and loss? That’s important because if your business is profitable there may be some end-of-year expenses you can use to lower your net profit and taxes owed for 2013. You can only do that if your profit and loss records are up to date.
  3. Have you properly documented all your deductions throughout the year as required by law?
  4. Even if you had no profits in 2013, will your books and accounting practices for the year be viewed by the IRS as a business or a hobby? They aggressively search for people trying to disguise personal hobby expenses as business losses on a “guilty until proven innocent” basis.
  5. If you’re outside the U.S. are you and your family adequately prepared for U.S. tax rates and tax treaties that apply to your country?

These are all important factors that can be addressed before the end of the year – with a potential for substantial tax savings. Are you working with a tax firm that’s fully supporting you in these areas? NOW is the time for an expert review of your business – it’s important to get these protections in place BEFORE the tax year is over! Plus, you’ll be in a better position for IRS compliance and tax savings going into 2014.

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Operating as a Sole Proprietorship?

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It’s a safe bet that you started your business to succeed and make money, not to add stress to your life and lose money.

To cut to the chase, operating as a sole proprietorship is NOT the fast track to success – in fact, it’s the shortest path to join the 95% of businesses that fail in the first 5 years.

To be fair, you probably made this choice for one of three logical reasons; (1) you were looking for the easiest and cheapest way to get started, (2) you wanted to test the waters to see if your idea would make money, or (3) your tax advisor told you to keep it simple and go the sole proprietorship route until you earn more than $40K to $50K in profits.

Risk taking

Unfortunately, that decision sends a different message to the rest of the business world:

“I don’t believe in myself, my product or my service or I don’t expect
to make $40K in profits.”

For going on two decades now, I’ve helped over 6,000 entrepreneurs reverse that message, escape the sole proprietorship trap and make a fast start to profits. Here are just a few of the strategic insights that woke my clients up to the money they were leaving on the table:

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