What Chuck Norris Did Wrong in Business

Recently I visited several prospective clients, including a golf school, a new resort, and a couple of semi-private golf clubs. All were struggling for business, but the golf school, in particular, reminded me of my days in the karate business: several talented technicians with the latest equipment and years of teaching experience in an exquisite, brand-new facility. Like the karate instructors, the golf pros can talk shop all day long, exchanging the latest techniques in their quest for perfection. Unfortunately, as in the karate business, their facility, talent, and experience mean NOTHING if they can’t sell!

It’s the entrepreneurial curse on steroids. A mechanic fixes cars but has no clue how to attract and maintain customers—sales just sort of happen. I’d say 99% of all small business owners fall into the trap of focusing on what they do rather than running a business. In every business, from IBM to single person lawn-care services, there are five key departments that must be run with more or less equal efficiency:

• accounting
• marketing
• sales
• research & development
• operations

Almost every business, large or small, spends some time paying bills but little time budgeting or forecasting. They spend some time thinking of ads but no time developing a complete year-long marketing plan. Sales are made only when people ask to buy. Research and development are almost nonexistent and 95% of the time is spent on operations: fixing cars, baking pies, or running the store. Contrary to what most people might think—or wish—the most successful business are not the ones with the best product or service. Those are the exception, not the rule (think Microsoft). The most successful businesses are the ones with a decent marketing plan for generating leads and the best sales strategy for closing them.

In the late Seventies and early Eighties, Chuck Norris was a world karate champion and a fledgling movie star, yet all three of the karate studios he started quickly went bankrupt! I asked him once why he thought that was and he replied, “I was the world karate champion and I thought everyone who came to my school would want to be a world champion as well.” In other words, he built schools and thought customers would come.

The few that did come were taught like boot-camp recruits to make them tough. Instead of getting tough, they quit! Meanwhile, a bunch of mediocre instructors (like me!) raked in millions by realizing that being able to sell karate lessons was far more important than being world champion! This is a difficult concept for most people to accept because most business owners don’t like to sell! They don’t like the thought of being a salesman. They don’t like the rejection. So instead they tinker with their product or service. They talk about their experience, their philosophy, their quality, or the price of coffee in Bolivia. In fact, they talk and do anything they can to fill their day, other than pick up the phone and SELL!

These people never measure success in financial terms. They can’t—it’s too painful to accept that someone with their skills could be struggling through life in a five-year-old Buick Regal. You can talk about the economy, the Middle East, the weather, or the competition down the street, but there is only one reason businesses fail: lack of sales! That’s not much of a shock. The question is why do businesses put so little emphasis on sales. Why don’t they design a sales manual? Take sales training? Buy sales audios? Hire people who can sell rather than talk? Now there’s an idea!

The first step in any business that wants massive growth is to develop a sales culture!

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