How far are you willing to go?
When it comes to building the business you’ve dreamed of, how far are you willing to go on the journey to make it your reality?
While working to figure out how to become a successful entrepreneur, you’ve probably noticed the road to realizing your vision often doesn’t happen in a straight line.
You work hard. You invest time. You make sacrifices. And even then, sometimes it still feels like you’re walking in quicksand. At some point, you’ll have to ask yourself, if you’re willing to keep going, or if it’s time to turn back and do something else.
You know if you keep moving forward, eventually you will figure out how to build a business that thrives. But it’s the unknown with regard to how long it will take to get there that’s a big concern.
How far down the rabbit hole are you willing to go?
A friend used to ask me that every couple of months when he realized I was traveling farther down the road less traveled in life.
My answer was always the same:
As far as necessary. I just know that going back isn’t an option.
If you know in your soul that giving up on your business isn’t an option for you, then let’s dig into what you need to focus your energy on to minimize your detours, and speed up the process of transforming your business into the difference-maker you know it can be.
But first, let’s make sure you’re ready for what’s in store for you along the way.
The truth about making a big impact
Good is the enemy of great. – Jim Collins
I’ve written often about my time spent in South America, and particularly in Buenos Aires. Over the past couple of years, I’ve invested in learning Spanish and I’d say I’m at about 70% proficiency.
And while I can communicate with people here at a basic level and get what I need, 70% is not enough. Not if I want to have regular two-way conversations with people here. Not if I want to feed my curiosity or talk about what I see happening around me. Not if I want to communicate without being limited by the topics or depths in which I’m able to share.
If I want to maximize the experience of living in a Spanish-speaking country, I cannot stop at 70% (in school, that would be a D grade. No bueno!).
I’ve got to go deeper.
I’ve got to do the hard work of learning. Of stretching my mind. Of looking stupid as I step even farther outside my comfort zone to grow.
In time, I’ll get to 75%. Then 80%. And with enough hard work, and effort, I’ll eventually earn an A and get to 90% and beyond.
There will always be something to learn. And I need to commit myself to mastery, rather than pulling up short when the quest gets hard. Good enough will keep you stuck.
That’s why good is the enemy of great.
As you build your business, there are certain tasks that you may want to just “get by” on with your current level of knowledge and proficiency.
And while that may be ok for certain things, if you want to thrive rather than just survive, you’ve got to go deep. You’ve got to strive toward mastery. You’ve got to work with intention to be great.
Then instead of being an entrepreneur that struggles to see a return on your resources invested, you’ll be able to make a bigger impact. You’ll be able to make life better at a grander scale.
But if you dabble, if you learn just enough to get by with the minimum, your potential, your impact, and your reward will be limited.
That’s how you establish expertise. That’s how you find what works for you. That’s how you get results.
3 Skills where ‘good enough’ isn’t
As an entrepreneur, you’ve got to wear many hats. You’ve got to be a master craftsman with regard to the specific work you do to help your customers. And you’ve got be the CEO, that tends to the business part of running your business.
Mastering your craft is essential, but it isn’t the focus of this post (that’s probably the fun part for you because it’s the work you love most).
But to make sure your craft pays the bills consistently, here are 3 business skills you need to make top priority to master too.
1. Customer intimacy
Your customers are the boss of your business. They decide whether or not you reach your goals.
So the way to make sure you are able to serve them like none other is to know them well. You’ve got to know their dreams, desires, fears, and frustrations.
You’ve got to know the words they use, the activities they will and won’t do. You’ve got to know the stresses in their lives. And you’ve got to know what they want to buy from you.
The greater the depth of your knowledge and understanding of your customers, the better you can serve them.
That’s one of the reasons why Amazon.com invests so heavily in technology to track what their website visitors and previous customers have done.
They analyze their behaviors with their algorithm and use it to present products they think they’d enjoy.
You don’t have to be as fancy and sophisticated as Amazon.com is with their customers.
You’ve just got to activate the skills you already use to develop intimacy with the people who are close to you. And then apply what you know in your business.
To do that, skip defining your customers based upon demographics. They are people, not data points. People whose lives you are working to improve.
Keep them at the forefront of your mind as you work, and step into their shoes whenever possible so you can best understand how you can help them.
Think about your family and loved ones and how well you know them. You developed a closeness with them by spending time with them, listening to them, and observing how they behave in certain situations.
That level of intimacy enables you to anticipate not only what your loved ones will do, but also why they will do it.
Your ideal customer is your business’s soul mate. Strive to know them as well as you know your family, your significant other, or your best friends.
Build a relationship with them. Know enough about them that you feel like you could chat with them comfortably for hours.
The time invested doing this will be richly rewarded.
Here’s a great resource to help you get started going deep with customer intimacy.
2. Customer acquisition
Once you know your ideal customer on a deep level, the next thing you need to focus on is how you actually get them to be your customer.
That means you need a lead generation, or a customer acquisition system. You need a system to keep your pipeline of customers full.
Here’s how Dr. Marc Smith, described the epiphany he had about having to master this particular skill for his business:
Your customers need what you have to offer. They are waiting on you to help make life better for them.
So that means you’ve got to invest the time in making sure they know about you, your product, and how it can benefit them.
That may mean testing about a couple of different lead generation strategies until you find one that works for you.
Once you find a system that is a strategic fit for you, your customers, and your business, start digging. Go deep with it, so you really understand all the nuances of how it works.
Get your hands dirty experimenting, learning, and iterating so you can figure out how to use it to connect with your audience.
This skill has multiple layers to it. First, you’ve got to find your ideal customers, then you’ve got to say the right things to get them to consider you as an option, and then you’ve got to have the right mechanisms in place to move them to action to become an actual customer.
Your system can be as simple as getting referrals through a formal network such as BNI, using paid advertising, or using attraction techniques such as content marketing that gets your ideal customers to flock to you.
No matter the method, you must master it.
3. Customer experience
Once a customer decides to buy, your work is not done.
You’ve got to deliver on your promise and in a way that makes it easy for your customers. Otherwise, you’ll have done all the work to get someone into your business, only to have them never return again.
Loyal customers are the grand prize smart entrepreneurs strive for. That’s because studies show loyal customers buy more, cost less to maintain, and tell others about you. It’s like they become an extension of your promotional team.
You’ve got to earn your customers’ loyalty.
Loyal customers are created because of their connection to the people, products, or processes of your businesses. If you can connect with them on one or more of these things, then you’re setting yourself up to earn a customer for life.
Back when I lived in the ‘burbs of Philadelphia, I used to go to my local Salad Works ALL THE TIME.
The salads were delicioso, but part of why I went was because I loved going to see my girls, Mirian, Cathy, and Erin.
Every time I would walk in, they’d say “hey Sonia” and they’d start to make my BLT salad, the same salad I got every time I came. I got to know them, and about their families, and why they worked so hard.
Even though there were tons of other places to eat where I lived, Salad Works was my main spot because of the connection I had with the ladies there. They always made my experience one I wanted more of.
You’ve got to decide what experience you want your customers to have every time they interact with your business. Do you want them to feel empowered, cared for, wowed, or inspired?
Whatever it is, you need to decide in advance, and then build the systems, teams, and tools that enable you to deliver that experience every time.
That feeling should transcend to every part of your business, whether someone is working with you in person, visiting your website, or following your Instagram feed.
So roll up your sleeves, and get to work designing and delivering an experience that keeps your customers coming back to you again and again.
How to become great at the essentials
You can absolutely master all three of these skills. It doesn’t matter your background, experience level, or age.
You can do this. You just need time, effort, and willing heart.
Following a proven approach to your training will help accelerate your path to mastery. Here’s a smart way to tackle it.
Sit at the feet of masters
I am so not a fan of recreating the wheel for the purpose of earning your own battle scars. Especially when there are SO MANY PEOPLE who have come before you that you can learn from.
The goal isn’t to copy their every move and become a clone.
What you are after are the key principles you need to know. They can show you the landmines you need to watch out for as well as the key tools and techniques that will accelerate your progress.
So whether you get a mentor or a coach, it is important that you take on a bit of an apprenticeship so you don’t have to figure everything out on your own.
That could be in hiring someone to work with you 1:1, in a group, or even purchasing courses or books. If your budget is tight there’s an abundance of free information online for you to devour.
For just about anything you want to learn, there’s probably someone somewhere who’s already learned it that can teach you what you need to know. Seek them out. And extract as much knowledge from them as you can.
Learning is only part of the equation. You’ve also got to jump in and do the work. The best way to do that is through immersion.
As I work on my Spanish, I take every chance I can to immerse myself in a culture where I am forced to speak the language.
It’s not always pretty, but going deep into this process puts me in the thick of things and keeps me from taking the easy way out.
So how do you immerse yourself in the world of mastering these essential business building skills?
Learn. Do. Adjust. Repeat.
When I first set out to learn how to use content marketing for lead generation, I read blogs, books, went to conferences, got courses, and listened to podcasts. I dove in deep.
But none of the stuff I learned had any real meaning or application until I started doing it. My immersion process was strengthened by creating. Through writing posts, publishing podcast episodes, creating courses, and eBooks I learned.
Doing the work sharpened my skills. As I acted and applied what I learned from the previous phase, I could better appreciate everything I learned from my mentors. Then I got new questions. I started to figure things out on my own, and what styles I liked. I learned how to connect the dots.
You immerse yourself by doing the work.
Practice with intention
You can spend a lot of time learning and practicing a skill. But there is a “right” way to practice that will help you get the most out of the time spent. Programmer and author Kathy Sierra defined it this way:
Deliberate practice is when you work on a skill that requires 1 to 3 practice sessions to master. If it takes longer than that, then you are working on something that is too complex.
Once you master this tiny behavior, you can move on to practicing the next small task that will take 1 to 3 sessions to master. Repeat the process. That is deliberate practice.
I adopted this approach as part of my content marketing training. First I focused on learning how to write for the web. Once I got comfortable with that, headline writing was the specific skill I worked on next.
This is an iterative process. There is always a way to improve your skills. The key is to not try to do it all at one time. Take it piece by piece. Chunk by chunk.
How not to get discouraged along the way
Don’t get overwhelmed. Attaining proficiency and mastery is not something that will happen in a week or necessarily even a month.
But the good news is that you don’t have to wait until you have mastered the skill to get results. The more you do them, the better you will get. The better you get, the better you’ll serve your customers. The better you serve, the faster your business will grow.
All your efforts will compound and you’ll start to gain momentum.
Now it can be frustrating working on new skills that don’t come naturally to you. Especially if you’re used to being good at something.
So here are a few ways to stay motivated as you work through the process of going from zero skills to average, to good, to great.
Set tiny goals for yourself
Big goals can derail your progress. You don’t want to try to go from just starting out to being an expert immediately.
That’s a recipe for frustration.
Instead, focus your energy on setting tiny goals. It’s even better, especially as a beginner to make those goals be activity goals that turn into habits.
When I first started trying to write more, I told myself I was going to write 2000 words a day. That never happened. Then I lowered it to 1000 words a day. Still struggled with that.
And now I have an embarrassingly small goal of writing 50 words a day. I can knock out 50 words in less than 2 minutes. But focusing on doing just that small little bit sets me in motion, and almost always I write a lot more once I get going.
Now I have a writing habit which enables me to write more than ever.
What activity goals can you set for yourself as you work to master your skills?
Review your goals and progress as needed
Every time you get discouraged or frustrated about what may feel like slow progress, pause and take a moment to reflect on where you started and how far you’ve come.
It is often very difficult for me to look back at some of my early blog posts back in 2010. They were just plain awful.
But when I see I’ve made significant progress, it shuts me up so I can get back to work to move the needle some more.
You’ve got to do the same. Keep a record, journal, or something that will remind you of your humble beginnings. It’ll help you realize that you are indeed making progress. And that is something to be thankful for.
Another thing that helps is to remember why you are doing all the work. When you remember the bigger picture of what you are working toward, it makes it easier for you to keep plugging away.
Establish a reward system when you hit certain milestones
Don’t get so caught up working, that you forget to take a break and celebrate your wins.
As you celebrate, make sure you don’t overlook the small stuff. Those are what help fuel you to keep going in between those mountaintop moments that tend to be spread out farther.
So if you hit a week straight of doing your activity goals, maybe go out and buy yourself a drink.
When you start to see some results, then maybe you get to eat a for real, for real dessert, instead of opting for the “healthier” option.
You make the rules. You make the rewards. Make it based on something that will fuel you to keep going.
You can be a successful entrepreneur
You’ve just got to do the work that will transform you into one.
But once you do, you’ll be delighted you did. Your business will make the big impact you always knew it could. And you’ll get to reap the many benefits that come along with being an entrepreneur.
Work toward mastering at least one of these skills each day. Set aside at least 30 minutes to tackle one aspect of one system. As you master that skill, move on to the next. Then the next.
In time you’ll look up and marvel at how far you’ve come. And you’ll be thankful that you dug deeper, instead of going back.
Your customers will be glad too.
To help you get started, I’ve got a free business mastery bundle for you.
Here’s what included:
- Customer intimacy worksheets to help you get to know your customers better than they know themselves
- Customer Magnets eBook that provides case studies of a super smart customer acquisition strategy
- 95 Ways to Get Your Customers to Love You eBook for a ton of ideas on how to create experiences that earn loyalty