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Superhero Business: Know Your Customers

As business owners, we can’t delight all potential customers. Businesses who try to please everyone end up pleasing no one. It’s a direct path to mediocrity. A Superhero Business, on the other hand, is laser-focused on its best customers. A Superhero Business knows it can’t delight everyone, so it strives to delight its core customer base. In addition to knowing the demographic profile of its top customers, it also understands its customers at an emotional level: their hopes, dreams, wants, frustrations, and fears. It’s relentless in its obsession to deliver more value for these customers. Incorporating this knowledge into the design of products and services gives these Superhero Businesses a powerful, sustainable competitive advantage. The approach below applies for large businesses and micro businesses, product-based and service-based, for design teams and for sole proprietors trying to improve.

Here are 5 steps to know your customers:

  1. Start by identifying your best customers. These are the customers whom you’d love to build your business around. Typically, they appreciate the value that your business provides. They are profitable customers (oftentimes your most profitable customers). They’re huge fans of your business, and of you.
  2. Be “the friendly, neighborhood” superhero. Much like “your friendly, neighborhood” superhero, the owner of a Superhero Business gets to know its best customers by meeting them face to face. Identify your top customers (Top 10, 20, 50, or 100) and meet them all within the next 12 months; the sooner the better. The size of your business doesn’t matter. When I was an executive at a global multi-national company with over 70,000 employees, our new CEO met with our top 100 customers in his first year. When I ran a smaller business unit with $5 million in sales, I met all of my customers each year.
  3. Give your best customers a voice in your business. Encourage ALL your employees to know these customers, and give them opportunities to do so. With today’s technology it’s easier than ever to have all of your employees connect with customers. One of the most powerful motivational moments is when the employees hear how they have impacted a customer’s life, directly from the customer. Whether it’s a talk or a produced video, the power of seeing and hearing from a customer has a powerful impact on the every employee.
  4. Focus on adding value to these customers. Focus your business improvement and product design efforts on adding more value for these customers. How can your business more effectively address their hopes/wants/fears/frustrations? One tried and true way to do this is to incorporate “avatars” or “personas” into your design process.
  5. Be careful with customer feedback. Often times, customers have insights into how you can improve your business. We are tempted to simply do what our best customers want us to do. The risk with this approach is that it can trap the business into incremental improvements. As Steve Jobs said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.” By all means listen to your customers, but don’t be afraid to create something new that’s even better than they can imagine.

To your success,

Alay

Superhero Alerts: How to Build Your Business Dashboard

It’s critical for superheroes to be in the right place at the right time. The same holds true for business owners.

As a business owner, there are so many demands on your time. Even if you have a strong team, you probably wish one of your superpowers was the ability to be in two places at once! Superheroes have help with this: the author writes the script so it works out (unless they use “wrong place, wrong time” to propel the plot e.g. the Dark Knight or Superman: The Movie). Sometimes authors even resort to time travel! Unfortunately, business owners do not have the advantage of a script nor do they have access to time traveling technology.

What if you had a “bat signal” for your business? Just like Batman is alerted when he is needed, you could be directed to exactly the right place at exactly the right time. In this post, we’re going to discuss the business equivalent of a “bat signal”: your Business Dashboard, and it’s an integral piece of a Superhero Business.

A business dashboard helps you run your business in the same way that the instrument cluster in your car helps you drive. The dashboard is a set of indicators that tells you how your business is doing, and what areas require attention. These indicators are also called metrics, analytics, key performance indicators (KPI), etc. Terminology aside, it’s a set of measures that tells you how the business is doing. Usually, this information is updated weekly or monthly.

If you’re not using a business dashboard, you’re operating business by instinct. This might be OK when you’re focused…but what if you have a bad day? Or something really unusual happens? Or if you just want to take a vacation and let someone else mind the business for a couple of weeks? You need something consistent, objective, and clear. You need a business dashboard.

Here is the 4-Step process to create your business dashboard:

Step 1. Pick one key metric from each of the following categories:
1. Sales / Revenue
2. Cost
3. Cash Flow

Step 2. Determine how often you want to measure them: weekly or monthly.

Step 3. Choose trigger values for each metric. When the metric hits this value, you need to focus on it.

Step 4. Put the systems and processes in place to report the metrics. This can be as simple as an Excel spreadsheet or as complex as specialized business software. What’s most important is that you implement something quickly, and it continues to work. You will improve it over time.

Once you have this basic dashboard in place and it’s working for you, you can add other metrics (be careful not too add too many). Metrics can also come from other areas of the business, such as:

Employee Engagement
Throughput
Quality
Customer Loyalty

A good business dashboard is easy to update, provides clear direction, and is easy to understand. It’s a powerful asset in your Superhero Business.

Now I want to hear from you: what are the benefits of dashboards in your business? What are the challenges? What metrics do you use (or would like to measure)?

Assemble a Superhero Team: “Hire Heroes”

“You can’t create something special, distinctive, and compelling in the marketplace unless you build something special, distinctive, and compelling in the workplace.” – Bill Taylor

As a Superhero owner, you’ve decided to put customers first. But not even Superman can be everywhere at once. The obvious answer is to hire an amazing team to deliver a Superhero experience when you’re in a meeting, with another customer, or simply taking a well-deserved vacation. Unfortunately, many business owners fail to build a Superhero team. As a result, they can’t effectively grow their business, and their quality of life suffers as well.

If you take nothing else from this article, remember this: your business will be as good as your team.
A Superhero Team can give you a Superhero Business. A mediocre team will give you a mediocre business.

So the question becomes, “How do I build a Superhero Team?”
One way to answer this question is by talking about what NOT to do. Here are the three most common mistakes I’ve seen in my years of work with small business owners:

Mistake #1: They hire cheap

“A” players cost a lot…sometimes as much as two of their peers. This may take the form of money, traditional benefits, or other non-standard benefits such as flexible work hours, working from home, more time off, etc. Here’s the thing: they’re completely worth it. In this case, quality trumps quantity. If you’re a Superhero Business, you need the best you can find. The people who have a great attitude, fit with your company’s core values, and are great at what they do. Yes, they cost more. But your customers will value the difference, and so will you. Remember, you’re a professional enterprise. Model yourself after the great professional sports teams, and hire the very best.

Mistake #2: They hire fast

Oftentimes, owners are so desperate for help that they jump at the first qualified candidate. They end up with mediocre role players instead of Superheroes, which means the owners end up doing the heavy lifting. When you find them, superhero team members will ramp up faster, perform better, and contribute more to the business than you thought possible. But building a heroic team requires two things from you: discipline and patience. It also requires a hiring plan and an interviewing process. At the very least, write down the characteristics of your perfect candidate, particularly in terms of attitude and values…and keep looking until you find them. And when you do, make sure they are a great long-term fit.

Mistake #3: They hire with no references

How many people can come up with 10 references? How many people can name 3 references who were their supervisors? Could you? References help take the risk out of the hiring process. Many owners, however, don’t check references. Many don’t even ask for them. Then they are shocked when they discover their new employee has “issues”. And it’s back to the drawing board. For entry level positions, ask for 3 references. For more seasoned roles, 5 is better. For senior leadership roles, ask for 10 references with at least 3 from supervisors and 3 from direct reports. And then call every single one of them, and talk for 30 minutes about the candidate. It’s amazing what you’ll learn.

To your success,
Alay

P.S. Click Here to receive all the Superhero Business articles as they are released

Be a Superhero: “Customers First”

“Customer satisfaction is worthless. Customer loyalty is priceless” – Jeffrey Gitomer

A business can grow and win by creating loyal customers, even if the business does nothing else. On the other hand, without loyal customers a business cannot survive. Customer loyalty is the only universal requirement for business success. And it is more important yet more difficult to achieve than ever before. Customers have more choices today. And it’s easier for customers to switch their patronage. Customers also have higher expectations, and their loyalty is harder to win and harder to keep.

And here’s the thing: As a business owner, customer loyalty starts with YOU. So I’m going to ask you to make a choice right now. Will you put customers first, or not?

This is a yes/no question. Make your choice now.

If your answer is “no”, stop reading because this isn’t for you.

For those of you who are putting customers first, congratulations! You’ve chosen to become a superhero for your customers. Being a superhero can’t be delegated. It can’t be a lower priority. And it can’t be superficial. It will force you to make difficult choices and sacrifices. It’s not easy being a superhero, but the rewards are worth the journey.

That being said, customer loyalty is the most powerful tool in your Superhero Business toolbox. Loyal customers tell their connections about you, resulting in high quality referrals (better clients, lower cost of acquisition, larger profits) with no competitive pressure. A business built on customer loyalty is resistant to recessions and price shopping. A business built on customer loyalty is resistant to the competition. A business built on customer loyalty has lower expenses. A business built on customer loyalty is a Superhero Business, and it is unstoppable.

The next several posts will give you, the Superhero owner, several tools and techniques that you can put into practice as you build your Superhero business.

To your success,
Alay

P.S. Click Here to receive all the Superhero Business articles as they are released

7 Tips to Giving More Referrals…and Why You Should Care

Yes, you read that right. This post is about giving referrals. The best way to get referrals is to give them, particularly if you belong to a networking group. Here is why:

• When you give a referral, the recipient feels a sense of obligation to return the favor. Most people will try to reciprocate if they can. The more referrals you give to the recipient, the greater the sense of obligation…to the point where they will apologize for not giving you referrals!

• In networking groups, giving referrals is best way to achieve notoriety quickly. The people who give the most referrals invariably become the most popular and influential people in the group. This notoriety enables them to attract referrals.

So, the challenge becomes: “How to give more referrals?”

Giving a referral is easier said than done. Giving a high quality referral is even more difficult. Below are some of the ideas that were shared at two of my networking groups recently. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to our brainstorming:

1. Put it out there. Talk to your clients about your network. It’s a valuable asset to your clients, and they should understand and appreciate it. While you’re on the subject, ask them if they need any trusted professionals.

2. Think / Concern / Help. A financial planner gave me this outstanding script for talking to your clients about a referral. It works for him, and it works for me. It will work for you as well, because it’s sincere. Here it is: “I’ve been thinking about you since we last met. I’m concerned about (issue). I have a trusted colleague who I think could really help. I haven’t talked to them yet, but I know they would be happy to speak with you.”

3. Add it to your discovery/engagement process. List the trusted professional roles, and ask if the clients are satisfied with their work.

a. Alternative #1: Ask if the client “would like a second opinion?”
b. Alternative #2: Ask if the client “would enthusiastically re-hire all of them?”

4. Don’t Expect Reciprocity. The people you refer to your clients may not be in a position to refer clients to you. Reciprocal relationships are ideal, but not always possible. Make the referral anyway, because it benefits your clients. Then have them read this post! In addition, you can ask the recipient for something else in return: a speaking opportunity, a discount on their services, or perhaps an introduction to a V.I.P.

5. Power partners. Carefully vet power partners so you can refer with confidence. Then collaborate with them on events and other marketing activities. This enables you to generate more business collectively than you could on your own.

6. Referral as a Service. Treat the referral as if it was an extension of your services to your client (because it is). This means that you must trust the provider. Arrange and participate in meetings between the client and the provider as needed.

7. Know Thy Client. The more you get to know your client or customer, the more they will recognize you as a trusted resource in their lives, not just your professional relationship. If you know them on a personal level, learn about them as a professional. If you know them as a professional, get to know them as a person. When clients see that you are genuinely interested in them, the trust factor goes through the roof and you are in a stronger position to connect them with the right professionals.

Please note that this only applies when referrals are done in the client’s best interests, and you are connecting them with other professionals whom you trust. Be sincere, be authentic, and always put clients first.

If you’re interested growing your law firm via referrals, take a look at the Attorney Referral Formula™. It’s a 5 step guide to getting more referrals naturally and ethically. You can find it here.

To your success,
Alay

CASE STUDY: LAWYER ADDS $220K TO REVENUE, TAKES FOUR WEEKS OFF

 

In this post, I want to tell you about Rebecca, one of my clients, who grew her revenue by $220k while taking four weeks off.

 

Rebecca is one of my clients. And though her name is not really Rebecca, we really have been working together for about a year. She is an excellent lawyer and she owns her own firm. When we started working together, she was grossing $45k per month and she wanted to grow aggressively to a million dollar law firm. Unfortunately, she spent a lot of time in court and with clients, so she didn’t have the time to manage the firm, much less grow it. She was stressed out: working during the day, “rainmaking” at night. She was trying to be a great owner, lawyer, wife, and mother, but she felt like she wasn’t doing any of them as well as she should.

 

Over the past several months, Rebecca has had some remarkable success. Her firm’s revenue grew by $220k in six months. She took four weeks off, including a two week vacation to Hawaii. She hired a second paralegal and is bringing on a second associate. And her firm is on pace to be a million dollar practice this year.

 

Rebecca is a gifted lawyer and a natural entrepreneur. The truth is, she has implemented just three strategies with me:
1. She re-defined her target market to focus on the clients whom her firm serves best.
2. she developed a network that consistently provides her with a steady stream of high quality referrals.
3. She went through our unique approach to creating an annual business plan for her firm, and she discovered how to structure and grow her firm so that she can work fewer hours while simultaneously growing the firm’s revenue and profit.

 

I’ll go through the “How” with you in a moment. But before we get into that I want to ask you one question: is your law firm stuck? Or do you feel like it’s growing smoothly and easily? If it’s growing like Rebecca’s, I’m so happy to hear that and if you want some ideas on how to take it to yet another level, ping me. If your firm is stuck, or it’s just crawling along, or its growing but growth is really painful, then you should check out my free upcoming webinar Building Your Perfect Practice. It’s a one hour live, interactive webinar where I will give you my framework and some powerful ideas for getting unstuck and accelerating your firm’s results. Click here for the details.
Anyway let’s get back to Rebecca’s story.

 

So I mentioned that she re-defined her target market to focus on the clients whom her firm serves best. This is one of the strategies that we teach called Aligned Marketing, where we identify three things:
1. the firm’s unique value (i.e. what it does best)
2. The firm’s greater purpose beyond making money
3. The client who prizes #1 and really appreciates #2.
Using the Aligned Marketing technique, she was able to focus her networking efforts to attract those clients for whom her firm did their best work. Focusing in this way freed up her time because she stopped doing the marketing activities that weren’t producing. In addition, she was able to raise her rate due to the huge value she was delivering to these clients.

 

The second thing Rebecca did was to utlilize the Client Acquisition System. It’s an easy to follow process that builds you a network of referral partners from three sources: clients, power partners, and key influencers. This really got her referral engine running, and provided the steady stream of referrals needed for growth.

 

The third thing she implemented incredibly well was the One Page Practice Plan. It’s a tool my clients use to create a simple but effective business plan for the year. As she went through this process, she discovered that her primary role should be Rainmaker for the firm: that is, fill her firm’s book of business, not just hers. In addition, she needed to delegate many of her law firm admin tasks to her office manager and her bookkeeper.

 

As a result of these shifts, she had three major insights:
1. She realized that effective delegation is the most impactful way to leverage her time.
2. She focused on filling her associate’s book of clients.
3. She realized that running a law firm can be fun…if you run it like a business!

 

So I want to less about Rebecca right now and more about you. How are you doing? How long have you had your practice, and on a scale of 1 to 10 how happy are you with your progress right now? If you’re doing well, I’m really happy for you. I love working with the best of the best. If you’re doing OK, but you know there’s that next level of income, success, and freedom…and it’s calling out to you, you should sign up for my free live webinar How To Build Your Perfect Practice webinar. We’ll talk about the three areas that we focus on to take lawyers from being:

 

From Stressed out, to happy
From Unhappy with their income, to Delighted with their financial return
From Working lots of hours, to taking lots of time off
From Trapped in their law firm, to having Freedom

 

So here’s the thing, this is your call and I invite you to take the next step.
If you’re ready to take your law firm to the next level I want you to click here and sign up for the “How to build Your Perfect Practice” webinar. I look forward to having you on the webinar. Until then, take good care, thanks for reading this post, and I’ll see you soon.

 

SHOULD YOU RAISE YOUR RATE?

0:26  – Should I raise my rate?

 

1:30 – Two-Step Process

 

Hi there! Alay Yajnik from lawyerbusinessadvantage.com. Today, I want to answer a question for you that I get from virtually all of my clients and a question is this: “Should I raise my rate?” There’s a lot that goes into answering this question, so let’s go and get into it.

 

Should I raise my rate?

 

I was just on a Revenue Accelerator™ call with a new client, and that client  asked me a question that I get from so many of my clients which is, “Should I raise my rate?” There’s three steps that I want to show you right now to help you answer this question for yourself. Step 1: If you’re asking the question, “Should i raise my rate?” the answer is probably “Yes.”

 

But there is a caveat. If you raise your rate by $50 an hour that may seem like a lot to you, right? Going from $250 to $300, or $350 to $400, or $400 to $450 it can feel like a big step. But if you do the math, it doesn’t actually result in a lot of income to you at the end of the year. It’s a little bit of a bump, but it’s not going to make a huge difference. Now, what if you kept your rate the same but you max’ed out the hours? So that every hour that you could be billing was billed out, whether it’s 20 hours a week, 30 hours a week, or 40 hours a week. You’re billing out those hours. In most cases, that’s going to have a far larger effect on your income than raising your rate by 50 bucks.

 

Two-Step Process

 

So it’s a two step process. Step 1, make sure that you’re billing out your hours and that you’re max’ing out your hours. Then you can do Step 2, which is raising your rate.

 

Now, I have a question for you: What impact would it have on your life if you could grow your book of clients, fill up those billable hours, and then increase your rate?

 

The Attorney Referral Formula

 

If it have a significant impact on your life, then you should download my free e-book, The Attorney Referral Formula™. It’s a 5-step guide to significantly increasing your income faster than you could on your own. I’ve used it with my clients. It contains a proven approach. Using the techniques in this book, my clients have grown their income faster than they thought possible. I’m making it available to you for free. So click on this link to download “The Attorney Referral Formula.” My name is Alay Yajnik with lawyerbusinessadvantage.com. Thank you.

 

Summary

 

In this video, Alay Yajnik answers a frequently asked question by his clients. That question is “Should I raise my rate?”. Alay shares his insights about keeping the same rate but max’ing out the available time before raising your rate. He also shares his e-book that will guide lawyers to significantly increase their income.

 

The Attorney Referral Formula™