Creating Instant Credibility

"Give me enough ribbon and I will conquer the world." - Napoleon

Having quit school at 15 and never graduated college, I have never put much stock in certificates, diplomas, accreditation, or resumes of any kind. But just because I don’t doesn’t mean the rest of the world doesn’t. In fact, it astonishes me how much people crave such paperwork.

One of the easiest ways in the world to gain instant credibility is simply to form your own association. This practice was rampant in the martial arts world in which I once lived. As soon as an instructor felt he had gained enough knowledge from his master, he simply broke away and formed his own style and own association. King of his own nation and master of his own subjects in one fell swoop. This association would then offer membership and rank accreditation, generating membership and testing fees at every turn. The fact that the new master might only be 23 years old seemed to bother no one (other than his previous master). As long as his students had something more to learn from him, they gladly paid.

The Power of Problems

"Your most unhappy customers are your greatest source of learning." - Bill Gates

Listen to other people’s problems because problems are often opportunities in disguise – especially the problems of the customers and clients you serve. In every problem there is an expression of a need. Needs can very often be translated into additional products and services for your business.

For example, many of my golf course clients in Florida were asking where on the Internet they could advertise their websites to golfers in the Northeast so they could persuade them to visit their courses in the winter. At the time there were no good options, so I created some by building an Atlantic City Golf portal, a New Jersey Golf portal, and others. This allowed me the opportunity not only to help my clients, but also to sell them ad space on my Northern sites to help them drive traffic back to their sites.

Ten Major Elements of a Good System

“If you put good people in bad systems you get bad results.” - Stephen Covey

Make sure each system you develop contains the following ten elements:

1. The name and purpose of the specific system. Write a clear, concise statement of the result the system is intended to accomplish and give the system a brief, descriptive name. For example, the sales system should produce X number of prospects and sales per month.

2. A diagram of the system. The system should be presented in a diagram showing the sequence of steps and how they relate to each other.

Major Mistakes

"I cannot conceive of any vital disaster happening to this vessel. Modern ship building has gone beyond that." Captain Edward J. Smith, HMS Titanic

Like most successful entrepreneurs, I’ve made plenty of mistakes, some of them major, some of them minor. What many new entrepreneurs don’t understand is that you learn much more from mistakes than successes. And you will make lots of mistakes.

The trick is to expect mistakes and make them cheaply enough that they don’t sink you. As long as you live to fight another day, you are succeeding and zoning in on where you’ll make your profits.

Let’s talk about the major pitfalls so that you’ll be able to learn from my mistakes and avoid them. At the peak of my martial arts business, one of my clients broke away and started his own organization, one that mimicked mine but charged 60% less than what I was charging. I thought I could stand up to that since, despite his rhetoric, I knew he had no money to promote his product.

Wonderful Service Attracts Business Like a Magnet

"Give the public everything you can give them, keep the place as clean as you can keep it, keep it friendly." - Walt Disney

We all have stories about people from whom we thought we would get superior service, but in the end were disappointed. Then, at the other end of the service and reputation spectrum, there is Rolls Royce.

The Legendary Rolls

Back in the early 1950s there was a legendary tale of service told by a new Rolls Royce owner who decided to travel on the Continent. While motoring through Switzerland in just his second week of ownership, his car broke down. He called the dealership, who called the factory. He was immediately put up at the very best hotel, given complimentary champagne, and fed the most wonderful food imaginable.

Why Your Service Probably Sucks

"A satisfied customer - we should have him stuffed!" - Basil Fawlty, in the classic BBC series Fawlty Towers

No business wants to give bad service, but most do an alarmingly average job at best. Why? Take your pick.

  • Most businesses don’t have enough staff to give great service.
  • You haven’t defined what great service is.
  • Staff are not trained on how to give great service.
  • Staff are not rewarded for giving great service.
  • Staff are not empowered to give great service by making their own decisions to quickly resolve issues in the customers’ favor.
  • You don’t charge enough and therefore don’t pay enough to attract great talent to your business, or people who care.
  • Customers’ expectations are unreasonable to begin with.

Did I miss anything?