7 Tips – Maximise Your Linkedin Profile

Whether you want new customers, a new job, a promotion or just to be found; here are 7 tips to help you build a better profile for yourself using your linkedin profile.

In this digital age, if you cannot be found on the web I personally begin to wonder what you are hiding or do you not want to grow your business?  If you are still holding allegiance to the tribe of anonymity and you have a front line position in a company (sales, marketing or owner) then I would suggest seeking a new profession or shutting your business down. If  you have more customers, opportunities and wealth than you can handle – then by all means operate in stealth and ignore the tips below.

 7 Linkedin Profile Tips   linkedin logo

  1. Add your photo
    Many people are poor at remembering names. Your face is the best form of recognition we still have. Make it visible to everyone. Don’t use logo’s or diagrams. Better still if you can clear cut it (edit the background out).
  2. Load your contact details – Phone, email and website
    If you want to be contacted then put your phone, skype an email address in and make them visible. Linkedin is better than the white or yellow page directories for getting up to date contact details. People who want to connect with other busy people (read successful or great potential clients) publish cell phone no’s.To access someones contact information, click the contact info envelope  at the top of their profile (highlighted below) and it will expand out to show their full contact information.
    MJR linkedin contact info
    The other day my wife and I found a wallet full of credit cards, office access keys and other personal stuff on the street. We then set off in a major social media stalking exercise to find and contact the owner – her hours of anxiety could have been reduced to minutes if she had put her cell phone no or email address in her linkedin profile.
  3. When sending a connection invite – add a relevant comment
    Don’t just send connection requests without at least a simple “this is why I want to connect with you” or “this is how I know you” line. This way you turn your cold call to a warm call.I meet lots of people in my business life, many from speaking gigs – when someone from the audience attempts to connect with me with a little note I generally connect. People with big networks will more than likely accept your request.
  4. Get some recommendations
    Linked in is a great way to build personal credibility – get personal recommendations from people you respect to build your credibility.  Because its in the public its more likely to be authentic.
  5. Put some history
    Make sure you list more than your current role on Linked in. As a general rule cover the last 10 years of your business history.
  6. Use your linked in network for marketing
    You can very easily export your linked in database to a csv file that you can use outside linked in eg starting an email newsletter list. Go to connections page – click settings – its in the panel listed as advance settings.
  7. Delete Duplicate profiles
    If you have duplicate profiles – delete all but one. If you have lost both password and the email account it is linked to contact linked in support. Linked in now have a service that will merge multiple accounts into one.
Advertisements

Simple Business Case Disciplines Can Save You From Yourself.

The “she’ll be right” era is gone; it is no longer good enough to make business decisions based on gut and napkin calculations.

Does your business use formal business cases to make major decisions?

“Just Do It” – Doesn’t cut it any more

In an economic environment of tight margins, rapid change and competition, there has never been a better time to put in place some improved business discipline and robust decision making. Many businesses are actively growing in this climate.

One of the easiest ways to de-risk your business and make better decisions is to business case out all major decisions. This does not have to mean bureaucracy overload. Give yourself the benefit of an independent review panel to critique and provide feedback before progressing on major investments. The process of writing a business case will in itself create a better investment choice.

Future stock market player

A project business case should stand up to robust debate, albeit from your board, bank manager or life partner before expending your time, passion and money.  Some major decisions that warrant a business case are: starting or purchasing a new business venture or product line and rationalising your product offering to improve focus or buying a major asset. Create a business case when failure of the project is going to hurt!

Too many business owners continue to fund projects without calculating true payback and considering long-term implications of their business.  Many of these become “the living dead”, “throwing good money after bad”.

 Ignore the value of money over time at your peril.

 Let’s take an example: your IT manager just approached you with a $100,000 project offering $20,000 savings each year over the next 7 years. Basic maths says YES, spend $100K to save $140K, so “let’s just go for it”. BUT what about the cost of that money over time?  If your opportunity cost of capital is over 13% you are actually going to make a loss on this project.

If you invested $100K for 7 years with compound interest you would expect more than $100K back including interest, so you should with your IT project, or business itself. Check the Internal Rate of Return (IRR) or net Present VALUE (NPV) functions in Excel Help. With a little bit of help, you can use these calculations to automatically calculate for you the “true cost”.

As a business owner, or custodian for the business (Managers), it is your responsibility to create shareholder wealth and protect the long-term sustainability of your business, identifying and eliminating risk to your best ability.

Pre-mortem Reviews

 Many businesses perform post-mortem reviews on projects, analysing what did and didn’t work in projects.  How about having one of these meetings before the project begins? By publishing your project budgets, plans, risks and assumptions in many cases you can actually improve the project by simply asking “what could go wrong?” Given the chance, people will help you avoid disaster before it happens.

Our very enthusiasm for an idea will drive us to success, but equally so unchallenged we can quickly be over consumed with that euphoria to our peril.  Do a basic investment test now.

4 Point investment test?

  1. What evidence (trends & market validation) do you have of the long-term need for your product /service? (Strategic Market Opportunity)
  2. Have you calculated what the “true” return for your investment will be, including the cost of capital (Financial Business Case) i.e. will you make money from it?
  3. Have you clearly communicated to your team what you do and do not do? (business /project plan) i.e.  will your team be able to stay focused on the task ahead?
  4. Do you have a clear and succinct message to engage customers and stakeholders (Your pitch) i.e. can you sell it?

Common mistakes made in businesses cases

 Check that you are not falling into common traps for business owners prior to making business decisions:

  • Not creating a business case or having a 3rd party review it
  • Overly optimistic projections: delivery times, customer acquisition times etc
  • Inadequate budget for sales and marketing – budget at  least 10% revenue
  • Not accounting for the value of money over time – use NPV and IRR calculations
  • No market research / validation to de-risk savings, or projected revenue.
  • Underestimating the impact of competitive response
  • Lack of stakeholder commitment or talent
  • Not dreaming big enough – what could you do with twice the investment?

Don’t think of business cases as just approval mechanism, but more so as a mechanism to reduce investment risk. Business Cases provide an opportunity to clarify thinking, get input and focus for the project delivery team around clear outcome.

New training workshops for 2013:  I am now also delivering workshops under the Auckland Chamber’s Vital Training programme.

If you would like to know more about tool’s and techniques to simplify business decision-making and gain greater clarity in your business, then you should attend my  Auckland Chamber Vital workshops: Business Planning, Business Cases and Pitching More information is on the Vital Training Website   The next Business case workshop is 4th April at the Auckland Chamber – register here

GMC Business Model Canvas V2

Clarity and definition of your business model is one way to give your business an instant steroid shot.  From a planning perspective it is also worthwhile exploring a range of “what if” scenario’s around applying different business models to your business. Prepare your Business as usual (BAU) canvas, then challenge yourself to look at new canvas mixes: different business models and make/buy combinations.

The business model canvas is a great way to brief new stakeholders who work with you including new staff, bankers, advisors and potential investors. Once developed it can be used with the GMC Guide to Saying No.

The original book “Business Model Generation” by Alexander Osterwalder & Yvess Pigneur provides great examples of how to document business models, along with methods to brainstorm innovative changes in business models for existing businesses.

I have been using my own variant of the business model canvas for some time. I  have recently remodeled my GMC  variant and thought it was time a shared this.

Its great to see the Business Model Canvas is gaining wider use, many of the universities are picking up on it, using it as tool in their entrepreneurial programmes. 

(Click image to download pdf template)

The GMC Canvas Components:

Value Proposition (VP):
The value proposition (VP) must be at the absolute core of any business. When defining your VP it is worth while to also clarify your “Customers Problem” that they will pay to solve and make sure that your VP definition include your Unique Selling Proposition (USP).

  • Is your value proposition unique to you, or would it work for any one else in your space?
  • Do you need to separate out the value proposition for the customer (the person paying the bill) from the end user of your product/ service?

 Market Segment (MS):
Define your market segment as tightly as you can. Often it pays to focus on your beachhead market  – i.e the market where you can make the most money the quickest.

If you have a planned phase approach to your go to market strategy list the markets separately.  Do not forget to include a psychographic (decision making priorities – traits) and behavioural definition if relevant.

  • Challenge yourself to narrow your definition so you can easily qualify out C grade customers (the ones you do not make much or any profit off)
  • Do these customers have budget to spend on solving your the problem you have identified?

Core Competencies:
What key skills and knowledge do you have? These will come from the strengths you have listed in your SWOT.

Have you listed the ones that enable you:

  • Create value for your customers
  • Acquire customers
  • Differentiate you
  • Generate profit
  • Sustain your competitive advantage

Assets:
Remember to include intellectual property, customer relationships, key contracts and brand if they are assets for you.

  • Don’t include items that can easily be replaced or that are low value

Key Partners:
List only KEY partners that help you build your product or service or reduce risk in your business.

  • If a partner competency is too crucial to your business highlight it perhaps and an arrow to internal competency list  (You may need to plan to bring in house or get a good contractual arrangement)
  • The make or buy decision will be represented by whether you list something in the key partners or competency box

Channel to Market:
 In this section include key pathways to acquiring customers and leads.

Cost Structure:
Split overheads and variables.  Explicitly list any major costs or contractual arrangements. List items from your P&L that equate for more than 20% of your overhead cost.  Show a reference metric eg % of cost.  Show raw cost (or margin) of and manufactured items that account for majority of your revenue.  Don’t forget to list any major debt.

Revenue:
Split revenue into major revenue streams – product lines/channels.

BHAG  (Big hairy audacious goal)
What is the BHAG that motivates people to join the cause. Refer BHAG post

  • Your BHAG needs to be more than a revenue target.

 Brand Essence / Values
What are the top 5 – descriptors of your brand essence and culture values.

  • Most HR issues stem from failure to adhere to core values. Makes sure they are explicit and all staff, understand how they apply to them.

_____________________________________________

What’s Missing: 

If something is missing in your current canvas that should be there – eg your brand should be an asset but it isn’t add it to the canvas and highlight it in some way.

Create Multiple Canvases

Take the time to explore multiple canvases and then do a cost/benefit scenario analysis using a simple comparative matrix

Foolproof: De-Risking New Ventures

Whether it’s a start-up or a product line extension, next to having the right team on board, validating your market prior to developing your product is the best way to increase the probability of your success.

Often I hear the cry “oh, this doesn’t apply to us”…. “We do disruptive technology like Steve Jobs… “our customers don’t know what they need till we show them”.

Truly successful disruptive technologists use research to back up and tune their visionary thoughts. They study their target audience’s behaviour to the point where they can create powerful product insights based on a combination of research and creativity to de-risk their investments. Without this behavioural research you are simply guessing.

It’s no wonder we have such a high failure rate with companies in this country when you hear facts like – “only 20% of companies approaching MOVAC for investment have completed market validation, which is a perquisite for us to invest” – Dion Mortensen

85% of those completing market validation will fundamentally change the functionality of their product, ultimately creating a product that will be more profitable and actually sell!

Jenny Douché has just released her latest book Fool Proof – How to find and test great business opportunities”.

“This easy to read book is full of great tips and guides, it should be compulsory reading for all new ventures and product managers”.

Jenny has included some insights from New Zealand entrepreneurs (Rode Drury’s Xero, Campbell Gower, Phil & Teds buggies, etc) and a few local investors who have experienced the fruitful outcome of performing market validation.

Foolproof is an easy light read, designed for entrepreneurs – 2 aeroplane trips should have it read with no bullshit or big theories. It will be one of those books that you will refer back to.

Unlike other books on this topic, Jenny actually gives you plenty of actionable content, rather than just theory, including lists of questions for all participants of market validation including: target end users, distributors, market influences and enablers. She covers both desk research and engaging with stakeholder groups, including how to talk when interviewing and surveying.

Too many entrepreneurs  fail to look at the wider macroeconomic factors that will influence their business both now and in the future. It’s amazing what insights you can gain from mapping and studying your market place’s value and supply chains along with current trends. (Note: value chain mapping is one of the key activities we do in Business Dominoes – strategy programme). By performing this type of research, you can save yourself the embarrassment of being blind sided down the track, or worst still investing in the world’s best mouse trap that no one will ever buy.

Just because what we have created is faster or better than the existing market alternative, it is not a right of passage to easy sales. As creators of new products, we easily forget the life of a consumer; where we are faced with better and newer products and services, yet we choose to ignore them and use what we consider easy, safe and predictable.

Clearly getting there is a balance between “no market validation” and “doing so much research you never do anything”. Either extreme is going to be a recipe for failure.

Some takeaways on Market Validation:

  1. Market validation before undertaking any major investment is an essential risk mitigation tactic
  2. If you are seeking investment, doing market research will put you ahead of the pack
  3. Do both desk and personal research – yes, talk to potential customers
  4. Map out your market place (value chain and trends), make sure you are not missing any opportunity or trend merging – a lot of this can be done by desk research and validated by contacting key industry commentators
  5. Engaging key stakeholders in the industry in market validation often builds loyal evangelists for you and your new business
  6. A quick prototype or sketch can help discussions
  7. Market validation is not a one-off exercise, it is a crucial part of improving your business and product over its life
  8. If you are developing disruptive technology then you need to be doubly sure of your target audience’s “pain” and more importantly motivation to change behaviour to adopt your new product. Do some behavioural research.
  9. Be warned if you have been in the industry or are a target user – you do not know enough.
  10. Doing market validation will often open your eyes to a better product than the one you have conceived by yourself.
  11. Buy Jenny’s book

I have already purchased 10 copies of the book and are handing them out to clients as compulsory reading.

Test your BHAG

What is the uniting force in your business? Running and working in high growth companies is hard work and we are often losing sight of what we are all about.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive he outlined three core drivers for people: Autonomy, Mastery, and Purpose.  (Note:  For those who have not read this great book watch the 10 minute animated summary)

Nothing binds a business like a clear and succinct BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) and a clear purpose.  I am not talking about the traditional boring mission statements that lime the walls of corporate offices, full of: Corporate blah blah… typically lots of words taken from a corporate speak bingo competition.

What I am talking about is a mantra or Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) that is worth waking up for in the morning and going the extra mile.

Ingredients of BHAGs that work are:

  • Compelling and gripping: people understand straight away
  • Action orientated
  • Bold: bordering on arrogant and unattainable
  • Clear: who, what, where, by when
  • Types: target, common foe, role model, internal transformation
  • SUCCINCT: The power of message is inversely proportional to its length

Have a look at some of the founding BHAGs for some of industries great companies noting this is what they started with…

  • Microsoft: “A computer on every desk and in every home”
  • Amazon: “Every book, ever printed, in any language, all available in less than 60 seconds. Also: Earth’s most customer centric company”
  • Ford: “Democratize the automobile”  (1900’s)
  • Twitter:  “To become “the pulse” of the planet”
  • Giro Sport Design: “Become the Nike of the cycling industry”
  • Nike: “Crush Adidas” (1960’s)

Brian Gaynor spoke at Springboard this month citing “New Zealand  business owners, in comparison to Australian counterparts, lacked ambition”.  Check your BHAG against the above list. Do not fall into the trap of being another conservative Kiwi company without big ambition.

Here are a few ideas from local examples (note: not their actual BHAG)

  • Biomatters:  “Tools on every biologist’s desktop”
  • E-spatial : “THE location intelligence behind all major New Zealand enterprise solutions”
  • Sale finder: “New Zealand’s ultimate consumer research tool”

When it comes to purpose statements – these are just clear concise versions of your value proposition in the language of your clients. More on this later – a topic for another blog post.  In the meantime, you can read value propositions revisited, creating succinct messages, No value proposition = No business from old posts.

Example Purpose: Spike mail: “Building qualified and engaged buyers versus creating lists”  – note no reference to their core craft of email marketing.

9 Traits to Excite an Investor and Prosper…

Will your company get investor interest and, more importantly, will it prosper?

Too many companies I see pitching for investment pitch a product or a technology, not a company.  Fixing the product pitch is a relatively easy task in comparison to fixing the business pitch, mainly because most businesses don’t have a strategy or even a plan. Sorry, “build it and they will come” doesn’t count. 

Test your company against this list to see if you are investment ready:

  1. A product that we understand –  the problem and the solutionno matter how complex the science is behind your company, it must have a simple explanationof the problem you solve for customers and the value you give your customers and end users.
  2. Validated market demand for the productif it’s a new venture what third party proof do you have (eg. market research, etc) that people will buy your product at a price, you can make money from it. If it’s in the market already, excite us about your sales growth story.
  3. A trend driving increased demand – creating the “perfect storm” – what is going on in your target market that says this demand will continue and ideally increase?
  4. A sustainable competitive advantage how are you going to defend yourself against the competition when it wakes up?
  5. Clear, quantified metrics as to how the business makes moneyhow well defined is you business – finance model? Can you model your sales process (eg. x dollars spent on Google ad words = y dollars sales)? At least understand the financial model and your capacity constraints.
  6. A clear and easily communicated business plan/strategy – including go-to market –  a clear and concisestrategy and plan is a long way towards achieving greatness. Give us confidence you have a tangible way to reach customers and meet demand.
  7. An experienced teamNothing happens without a committed and well-equipped team. What relevant experience does your team have? Remember always employ people smarter than you.
  8. Clear return for investoris your valuation set at a point where the investor can actually make a return? Remember no exit plan = no investment.
  9. Fun people working on cool stufffun and cool mean different things to different people – but like pornography it is obvious when it is, or isn’t. 

I consistently see in the New Zealand market place, time and time again, businesses get caught up with the product, technology or science and are wasting their efforts because they failed to stop and look at the bigger picture of a full go-to market plan and strategy.

Debbie Humphrey and I have launched a new investment ready programme called Business Dominoes to help business owners both recognise this strategy gap and fill it. All of our clients from the first intake are raving about the transformation their business stimulated from this programme. Debbie and I believe you are expert at driving your company, you just need a hand as to where to drive to and who you should take with you.

Milestone Map-Plan

Need to communicate your business plan to attention deficit stakeholders? … or perhaps just get smart feedback on your plan.

Creating a one-page milestone map-plan on a chart is a great way to keep you, your team and advisors focused. With a small list of tactics and key measures you have a far greater chance of achieving your desired end result.

Many business growth strategies fall apart at the transition point between creating key strategic themes and establishing a set of measurable tactical tasks and goals.  Too many businesses end up with huge lists of tactics, most of which will only get token attention, with the end result being  the plan never being executed.

This technique will force you up front, to prioritise and rationalise your tactical list of things to do. The milestone map-plan is a great way to succinctly communicate your business plan both past, present and future to all stakeholders of your business. Particularly when you are seeking intelligent feedback and buy-in from potential investors and staff whose attention spans are limited.

A fictitious example of a web company is shown below to illustrate the technique. (click the chart image for larger view)

Tips on using the milestone map-plan:

  • Limit yourself to max of 10 milestones per year – prioritise the top 10 that will influence or measure success
  • Split your milestones across different functional areas.  Add rows to suit your business but make sure you include at least finance, market, process and people.
  • List the last 1-2 years to help provide flow
  • Include additional boxes on key risks and your competitor’s response, both historic and forecast.
  • Do not fill the chart with activities that will naturally happen unless they help with the understanding of the plan
  • This is not a product roadmap –list only major product releases/events
  • Put it up on the wall by your desk for daily review

The milestone map-plan is great for helping all staff members focus on tasks that will help you achieve your goals, as well as showing the dependencies of tasks.

If you find yourself or your staff overtime not executing tasks on the plan then its time to challenge the map-plan and test out whether “the plan is still relevant”. If not change the map-plan otherwise re prioritise your work.

Put your plan up for continual challenge with advisors and staff. Do not be afraid to throw it out when the environment changes. Do not fall into the trap of “the law of committees”

If a committee is allowed to discuss something long enough, it will inevitably vote to implement their idea, simply because so much work has already been done on it.”

If the plan is no good say so and do something about it.

Succinct visual tools like this and the business model canvas, create powerful discussions very quickly and maximise interaction time.
More importantly they increase the probability of success.