The Five Most Useful Business Books Of The Last 25 Years.

I’ve read literally hundreds of business books and got something out of all of them.

But when it comes to performing better in business, there are five books that  shine brighter than the rest. If you’re committed to creating a truly world class business, these books can really help you.

1.  The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing, by Jack Trout and Al Ries

If you’re struggling with your company’s strategy, this is the only book you have to read. This slim volume has more smart ideas about meaningful differentiation than any book I’ve read. There’s no complex jargon or  methodologies designed to make the author look like a genius, just simple, street smart tactics to get your company noticed and in demand. You could make 7 figures as a marketing consultant just by parroting it’s principles.

2. Winning, by Jack and Suzy Welch

This was the widely anticipated follow up to Jack’s autobiography, Guts. Once again it’s devoid of highfalutin theories, just hard facts about what it takes to build an ever growing corporation, even in low growth sectors. Jack can be brutally frank and at times even strident, but at GE he practiced what he preached with stunning results.

3.  Focal Point, by Brian Tracy

This is my pick for business leaders and entrepreneurs who are overwhelmed with stuff to do – and are therefore finding it hard to break through into new growth. The entire book is about simplifying your work life systematically and using the increased time to focus on what really matters in your company. What is your Focal Point in each key area of your business? This book will be a revelation for anyone unclear about their crucial tasks.

4. The Ultimate Marketing Plan, by Dan Kennedy

Dan has been teaching business owners how to make more money for over 40 years, and this book in my view is his magnum opus. It focuses heavily on how to pick your ideal target market, then how to make consistently effective offers to them. (Beware though, the book is full of plugs for Dan’s own consulting and his friend’s courses, but in my opinion that doesn’t in any way diminish the validity of what he says).

As an added bonus, most of the business building strategies he recommends are very low cost.

5. A Passion For Success, by Kazuo Inamori

Twice voted Entrepreneur of The Year in Japan, Kazuo is virtually unknown in the west. His 3 books on business however are amongst the best ever written. This book is unusual in that it blends brilliant management techniques with profound philosophies on human potential and corporate duty.  It’s not just an exemplary business book, it’s a manual for living an all round superb life.

So check out each of these fine works and seriously consider making them part of your business library. Apply their wisdom and the sky’s the limit for your business

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Entrepreneurs.

Many believe that entrepreneurial superstars are born, not made.

I beg to differ. I coach hundreds of entrepreneurs every year, from a colossal range of industries, and I believe they all share 7 common character traits.

Importantly, each of these traits did not exist at birth, they were developed with time, intention and persistence.

Let’s go through these key traits now.

1.  Reality Based Optimism.

As renowned psychologist Dr Barbara Fredrickson of the University Of North Carolina has shown, positivity is  a choice – and an exceedingly important one. Those business leaders with strong inclinations toward positivity are more persistent and effective than entrepreneurs that are pessimistic. See also Martin Seligman’s research on optimism in the insurance industry for more evidence of the importance of thinking positively. Not a Pollyanna like blind optimism, but an overall positive outlook while accepting current realities.

2. Speed Bordering On The Reckless.

As  Mark Zuckerberg famously put it, in these chaotic times executives need to “Move fast and break things”.  Slow, methodical improvement can reap dividends of course, but for optimum business growth, those consistent and never ending small improvements need to be matched with an attitude of pushing the envelope of time. Zuckerberg’s theory has always been that ≈. 

3.  People Before Strategy.  

When Alan Mulally took over at Ford, the company was in dire straits. While he was ruthless on costs and process, he surprised many at Ford with his equally strong emphasis on looking after staff. At his first major meeting with Ford’s most senior executives he put up a slide with ten key principles.At the top of the list was ‘People First’. Real progress would only occur, Mulally believed, when top management treated their staff superbly.

4.  Data, Data, Data.

Twenty years ago there were certainly great entrepreneurs winging it – moving fast but not really evaluating the data. There are very few leaders in business performing that way now however. In every industry the top entrepreneurs have realized that far better decisions are made by gathering maximum data on sales, marketing, pricing, positioning and customer preference. That’s not to say that intuition is no longer important, far from it. But it needs to be balanced with logic formed from empirical intel.

5. Grand Persistence.

The biggest myth about successful business people is that they are more intelligent and talented. Having met many super rich entrepreneurs and read over a thousand books on business success I can tell you categorically that that is not the case. More often the great fortunes have been made by people of average intelligence who had tremendous drive, matched with almost ridiculous levels of persistence. As high performance expert Denis Waitley expressed it, “Success is almost totally dependent on drive and persistence. The extra energy required to try another effort or another approach is the secret to winning.”

6. Confident Contrarianism.

It’s hard to make a lot of money in business just doing things a little bit better than your competition. Usually the big fortunes have been accrued by taking a vastly different path from other companies in the sector. It takes real confidence to go against the pack. What looks obvious in a decade, often seems absurdly dangerous at the time.

7. Long Term Time Perspective.

The get rich quick crowd rarely make it big in business. Read the biographies of Edison, Ford, Walton, Ellison, Kamprad et al and you’ll discover tales of long struggle over decades. Some may have given the impression it was easy but that is rarely the case. Substantial and enduring business success usually takes a long time – experimenting, failing, then beginning anew with more refined solutions. 

(Character trait number two has a curious relationship with trait number seven. The great entrepreneurs act urgently, like they have no time left, yet work like this for decades, making their business successful).

Which of these seven traits do you have? Which do you need to consciously develop more? A few minutes spent evaluating your situation regarding these traits now could reap great dividends in the future.

What The Queen Of Chess Can Teach You About Being Successful.

This month the greatest female chess player in history decided to retire.

Judit Polgar has beaten the finest male Grandmasters of the modern era, including Kasparov, Karpov, Anand and today’s world number one, Magnus Carlsen.

She is so good, she rarely even bothered entering the women’s chess championships, preferring to duke it out with the men because it was more fun.

She has been the sole female in the men’s top 100 for an astonishing two decades. She even broke the record set by Bobby Fisher to become the youngest Grandmaster in history.

She is, quite simply, a chess genius.

But it’s how she became so great that is the tale most worth telling. Because every one of us could learn a lot from it, no matter what field we aspire to be successful in.

You see, Judit didn’t reach the very top of her world by natural talent. She was part of extraordinary experiment carried out by her father, Laszlo.

Although it is commonly believed that Chess Grandmaster’s are born not made, Laszlo believed that he could train anyone to become a Grandmaster. So he advertised for a woman to partner with him with the aim of having children that he could train to play chess. Incredibly, he found someone and 3 sisters were born. Laszlo then went about the task of teaching them everything he knew about the game, and designing training methods that would constantly enhance their skill levels.

Here are the results. Incredibly, all three became Grandmasters. And Judit became the best female player the world has ever known.

What’s the lesson from this astounding story?

I think it’s the following. Don’t rely on your natural talents – they matter far less than society believes. You can learn virtually anything. Especially in the business arena. If you’re scared of doing sales calls, you can learn how to do it well and even learn to enjoy it. If you’re bad at business financials, you can learn to handle them excellently too. If you’re chronically disorganized that’s not a genetic trait. You can study time management and end up a world class productivity expert.

There are virtually no skills you cannot acquire, particularly business skills.

But the Judit Polgar story also shows that great skill only comes after three elements are added: a) great effort, b) many years of practice and c) aiming high. Without these three components our skill levels would still improve, but not to the point of mastery.

As authors Daniel Coyle, David Shank and Geoff Colvin have each shown with their meticulously researched books on high performance, there is a path to greatness and it sure ain’t about innate talent.

It’s about constant learning, huge aspiration and putting in the hours under an excellent teacher.

The Top 5 Ways To Get More Effective Online Ads.

If you’re advertising online via Google Adwords, there’s some simple things you can do to radically improve your response.

Review this list and see what’s missing from your Adwords campaign – it could make a huge difference to the money you make from them.

1. Write At Least Twenty Ads

Most people who use Adwords don’t write enough ads at the beginning. As a result, they end up going ahead with headlines that are not nearly as effective as they could be. Do some hard work up front and push yourself to come up with lots of ads, then choose the best from that group.

2. Keep Trying To Beat Your Best Performing Ad

Don’t stop when you’ve created an ad that works. Each week write a new one and see if you can get an even better result. You’d be amazed how much better your sales can get when you focus on constant improvement rather than settling for one ad that works quite well.

3. Start Every Word Of  The Headline With A Capital Letter

This seems like a ridiculously small change, but many who try it report that it can sometimes increase results by over 40%. It doesn’t work all the time but it’s certainly worth a try.

4. Experiment With Different URL Addresses At The Bottom Of Each Ad

Surprisingly, the address at the end of your ad can have an effect on your click through rate. Try some different addresses and see which pull hardest. (A good place to start is to create some addresses that have the product benefit in them. For example, www.reallyfastloans.com).

5. Advertise At The Top Of The Page, Not On The Right

Yes the ads at the top are significantly more expensive, but typically the increased response you will get makes the extra money spent well worth it. The simple reason is that in most product categories, the ads at the top get clicked on much more than the traditional ads on the side.

If you do each of these suggestions and each improved your Google Adwords response rate by just 10%, your total response rate would be fabulous. You’d be crazy not to give these techniques a try.

4 Tiny Changes That Can Really Increase Your Profits.

Sometimes building a highly profitable business is easier than it looks.

We so often think the answer to growing our company is working longer hours and doing much more work, but in my experience coaching hundreds of business leaders and entrepreneurs on growth, is it’s often the really simple, easy steps that make the biggest difference.

With that in mind, here are four small things you can do that together will make a huge improvement to how fast your company grows.

1. Find A Richer Customer

What product could you offer especially for wealthier clients?

Strangely, people who are wealthier are often easier to sell to than those who are struggling financially. Opening the wallet doesn’t hurt as much. But if you don’t have something good to offer this richer style of customer you are leaving huge amounts of money on the table.

Remember also that a more expensive product usually means much higher margins for you, so while you’re revenue may increase say 20% with this new upscale  product your profit at the end of the year may be much higher.

2. Develop A Continuity Business Model

One of the most effective ways to quickly build your profits is to design a service or product that is continuously delivered. If you sell a service, this is usually achieved by selling a monthly retainer for ongoing work. If you sell a product it’s by getting customers to sign on for monthly or quarterly re-orders.

In the case of the latter, it is remarkable how you can turn almost anything you sell into a continuity model. Look on the internet and you’ll find highly successful monthly continuity models for clothes, gifts, advice, socks, meat, wine, DVDs, events and hundreds of other categories.

What could you offer that is delivered monthly or quarterly? This kind of recurring revenue is a mega opportunity to not only lift your revenues but keep them high year after year.

3. Reactivate Old Clients Or Leads

In the last week alone I have seen two of our business coaching clients (a builder and a tennis academy) get lucrative orders within hours of sending an email to their old list of leads/customers.

Think about it. Many of these people are still interested in what you offer, they just need to be reminded that you offer it. Re-activating your old enquiries and clients is one of the fastest ways of all to make your profit levels zoom. Be sure to do it every six months.

4. Do Something To Grow Your Customer Base Before 10am

You know how it goes. You have wonderful intentions to work on your sales and marketing but the urgent problems of the day soon take over and all of a sudden it’s 6pm and another day has gone without doing it.

There’s an easy way to fix this incredibly costly problem: work for an hour on sales and marketing as soon as you come into work each morning. Just one hour will make a massive difference to your company’s growth over three months – but it must be done each and every work day.

The best way to make it occur is firstly to diarize it and secondly to inform your staff (and if need be your clients and suppliers) that you’re not available until 10am each day. If you don’t do these two things my experience with coaching hundreds of entrepreneurs is that it won’t work.

Take another look at the four concepts above.

Yes these four small changes are simple, but since when does something have to be complex to be effective? Trust me, if you instill these four concepts into your business you will make a lot more money- surprisingly quickly and with relative ease.

How To Work Much Faster.

Working quickly is one of the most important characteristics of the high performing business person.

You can be highly intelligent, motivated and experienced, but if your output is slow then you’ll never reach your potential.

Speedy working is a craft well worth learning, but few executives spend any time developing their skills in this area.

To help you work much faster, I’ve outlined three simple, yet exceedingly effective techniques to improve the pace at which you work.

1. The 80% Rule 
Invented by well known Canadian business coach Dan Sullivan, The 80% Rule suggests you should do tasks to about 80% of excellent standard, then move on to another task.  It’s extremely effective because it’s often the last 20% of the task that takes much of the time. Yet in general doing that last 20% is not appreciated by other people, nor is it necessarily particularly useful to you that you got it done.
Be clear that I’m not suggesting that you don’t finish the job, but rather you finish the job to an 80% excellent standard. Perfectionism tends to destroy productivity.

2. Rush The Unimportant.
You can usually achieve twice as much if you rush jobs that aren’t crucial to your business.

Most tasks don’t really matter, but many people give trivial tasks the same care they give important jobs.  The net result of that attitude is they no longer have enough time available to do the vital jobs superbly.

Take it from me, you do not have enough time in the day to do everything well. Pick your battles and rush the rest.

3. Practice The Closed Door Policy.
No doubt you’ve heard of the Open Door Policy – that your door should be open to any staff that want to see the boss. In my view that philosophy has been responsible for more lost productivity than almost any other way of working.
Try keeping your door closed most of the day.

Interruptions are the great killer of high achievement. It’s not just the time lost from the interruption itself, it’s the time it takes to re-focus and get fully engaged in the previous task as well.

If you let people know that you’re available from X time to Y time most days, they’ll organize themselves to see you at those times. This will then leave you with most of your day available to get more valuable work done.

These three techniques are incredibly simple to institute, but will have a profoundly positive influence on the speed at which you do your work. Begin doing them this week and within ten days your output will be higher and your stress levels will be lower.

The Strong Link Between Your Self Image and Business Success.

The vast majority of business people focus on tactics to be successful – strategy, marketing, sales and systems.

Yet after doing this religiously for ten years still often complain that they have not achieved what they had hoped.

Is there something more they needed to work on to succeed at a high level in business?

I think there is:  Their self image.

In my view, doing all the external tactical stuff can only get you so far, if you are being held back by inner feelings of not being deserving of business success, or not feeling that you’re good enough personally to succeed.

Self image affects our performance at work, in subtle yet impactful ways.

We present a little too timidly to win the account. We don’t dare to move the company forward in a new and better direction. We accept a medium level of  revenue growth when we should be aiming for a record uplift. There’s a hundred ways our progress gets impeded by how we feel about ourselves deep down inside.

But enough about the problem, let’s look at some solutions.

From  Dr Nathaniel Branden’s work in the Sixties to Professor Barbara Frederickson’s very recent research (she was born in the Sixties) a myriad of studies have been done on the way how we think about ourselves affects our performance, in work and life.

Here are two ways to increase to increase your self esteem and thereby improve your chances of succeeding in the business world.

Be Your Own Best Fan.

Too often we are the opposite – we are our harshest critic, slamming ourselves in private for perceived errors in public.

Those with high self esteem and high self efficacy are no less demanding of their performance, but also support themselves with their own thinking and self evaluation. They talk themselves up. They choose to interpret events in a positive way. They tell themselves that they can and will achieve.

Doing this takes considerable self discipline, but with consistent effort we can become our most ardent supporters, rather than beating ourselves up inside. If we can pull it off then inevitably our business performance will improve.

Invest In Your Own Competence.

Generally the more competent you are at business skills the more confident you will be when doing them. Logical of course. Yet so many entrepreneurs and executives are happy to coast on their previous studies and accumulated experience rather than dedicating themselves to ever higher levels of learning and competence in their fields.

When you think about it, it’s clear that becoming highly competent has a dual reward. You get the benefits of that specific area of competence but you also feel better about yourself generally. In sports parlance, you feel more like a winner, which in turn leads to more confident actions/results.

Combine positive self talk with ever increasing task competence and you have a powerful synergy of internal and external self esteem boosters. It won’t be long before what you think of yourself changes – and then so will your entire future.

 

The World’s Simplest Way To Grow Your Business.

Each day when I coach entrepreneurs, I use many tactics.

But there’s one growth technique that I recommend that is so simple, so basic, so incredibly easy, that I often pause before I even suggest it.

I’m reticent to even talk about it lest my clients think it’s too obvious.

And yet in my experience this one simple technique can grow a business faster and more efficiently than almost any other way.

What is this method? It is simply this: Do more of what’s working.

As simplistic as it sounds, time and time again I see entrepreneurs that have worked out a way to get clients or sell products that works pretty well – only to start experimenting with some other growth technique.

No. Resist that urge to constantly move on to another methodology.  Instead refocus on what’s working and see how you can make it work twice as well.

For example if you have an ad that pulls in customers, why not run it three times as much?

If cold calls get you good business, consider hiring a second person to do that all day long.

If Google Adwords is bringing in good enquiries every week, then keep testing new ads until you fully optimize that revenue medium.

Seems obvious right?

Yet in my experience teaching hundreds of entrepreneurs almost no entrepreneurs are maxmizing growth techniques that are working for them. Instead they are enamoured with trying new stuff, often in a shallow and half hearted way.

So don’t just try lots of new ways to grow your business. Look at what’s working and spend your time there first.

You’ll find it’s the absolute easiest and quickest way to grow your business.

3 Great Tips For Staying Calm At Work.

Calmness

It’s becoming harder than ever to stay calm and relaxed in the workplace.

Workloads are getting bigger, deadlines are getting shorter.

It’s no wonder workplace stress is at an all time high.

But part of the reason that so many people are feeling so angst ridden about their work is because they have never learned any methods to alleviate their stress.

As a mentor to executives and CEOs worldwide, I see this scenario all the time and in response have developed several powerful techniques for helping anyone to greatly reduce feelings of overwhelm, sadness and tension at work.

Let’s look at several of the best techniques now.

Switch To The Game Mindset

In my experience, there are two primary mindsets people have about their work. The first is the War Mindset. Somebody with this mindset sees work as a battle and themselves as a soldier. It’s hardly surprising then that they often finish their day completely exhausted and defeated by their perceived skirmishes.

The second mindset is the Game Mindset.  Executives living this paradigm are just as committed to excellence as the first group, but they see themselves as competing in an exciting and entertaining game. They still try really hard, but they are eminently aware that their doing this for fun as much as money.

Time and time again I have seen people who think this way both outperform the warriors and simultaneously be more relaxed and happier.

If you’re feeling a little worn out by work, consider putting a Post It note on your desk with the word ‘Game’ on it, so you can be reminded to keep this mindset all day long.

You’ll be surprised at what a difference it makes.

Use The ‘Next Right Choice’ Technique

This is a highly effective method of stress reduction taught by the brilliant high performance coach, Dr Dennis Deaton.

When you are stressed at work you take two minutes to mentally visualize yourself making the right choice in that situation. So for example if you are clashing with a colleague, just before you are scheduled to have a meeting with that person you mentally see yourself as being calm, rational, and effective in your conversation with them. It’s  a very simple technique that can lead to virtually immediate improvements in performance and reductions in stress.

Try The Breath Release

This is one of my personal favorites. Whenever you are in a high stress situation, take a deep breath and then rapidly exhale, as you simultaneously imagine that particular stress leaving your body.

My personal belief is that mental stresses have corresponding physical components in our bodies. When we physically attempt to expel them there is almost always a dramatic improvement in how we feel.

These are three highly effective techniques for reducing your workplace stress.

Used in combination they can turn even the most stressed worker into someone who is happier, calmer and significantly more effective.

The Single Most Important Element for Business Success

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If somebody asked you what is the most crucial aspect of business to focus on to ensure success, what would you say?

Some would choose Sales. Some would say Marketing. Many would claim it’s Leadership. Others believe it’s Systems. More than a few would be adamant that the most important element is financial acumen.

I don’t disagree that these areas are all vital to the creation of any outstanding commercial enterprise. But in my experience there’s one element rarely talked about that trumps all the others in importance.

That element? Urgency.

Think about it. What’s the number one gripe of executives and entrepreneurs today?

They can’t get enough done.

Sure they’ve got great ideas, plenty of them, but actually making those ideas happen is the hard part.

It’s not just a matter of spending more time working. The reason so many are not achieving enough is not actually a shortage of time (who isn’t working at least 50 to 60 hours a week?).

It’s that other people get in the way.

In so many different ways.

They take ages to decide. Or make it difficult to get your job done. Or sit in endless meetings pontificating on the pros and cons. Or put off allocating the right resources. Or just don’t make a decision. Or forget they agreed to do something. Or don’t follow up.

The plain truth is that getting anything done in the business world is damn hard, because the inertia, complexity and resistance to action is so strong.

The only way to cut through it all is to act with a real sense of urgency. To behave with an almost desperate urge to get the job done, no matter what and as soon as humanly possible.

Only when you have a spirit of urgency can you push your way through the admin and red tape. Only by acting with urgency can you get others to deliver on time. Only being truly urgent in your dealings can you achieve anything significant in a year.

The more you think about it, the more it rings true. Urgency is the one thing that drives projects forward quickly.

If you’re not urgent, people sense it and relax and move slowly. Things take ages to bear fruit. Mediocrity abounds.

The big question you may be asking is of course is, are you performing with enough urgency?

Are you demanding enough? On others, or indeed yourself?

Urgency is not an easy character trait to develop. The world doesn’t particularly like urgent people. They can seem rude. Pushy. Unreasonable. Yet being that way is often the only way to get stuff of consequence done.

As George Bernard Shaw so aptly put it, ” The reasonable man adapts himself to the world. The unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore all progress depends on the unreasonable man.”

There are several different types of urgency we should focus on if we want to achieve great things.

1. Urgency with strategic planning.

I know so many business owners who have taken over a year to make a decision. As a result of their strategic cowardice and complacency they often get left behind in their industry. (What have you been thinking about for too long? How about making a decision in the next 60 minutes on it?)

2. Urgency with other people.

Who owes you a report, product or idea? Why haven’t they sent it to you already? Do they really need that much time, or are they taking advantage of your leniency? When you ask for a result with genuine urgency you usually move straight to the front of the other person’s line of important tasks. That’s where you deserve to be, must be, to get things done quickly.

3. Urgency in your own mind.

To achieve greatly, we must cultivate great urgency in the way that we think. We need to see ourselves as highly time sensitive, fast achieving people. Only when we view ourselves this way are likely to muster the energy and drive to make things happen at warp speed. As the great American psychologist, William James, so often reminded us, we become what we consistently think about. If daily we have a self image as somebody who has a real spirit of urgency, then soon we are likely to become that type of person.

So in conclusion, if you are not happy with the speed at which you are achieving in business, don’t just look at tactics, like sales, marketing, systems and the like. Spend at least as much time focusing on the one mindset that makes all the other stuff happen.

A real, deep, all encompassing, powerful sense of urgency.