Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole

Gentlemen, This Is a Football

June 07, 2021 Robert Poole Season 1 Episode 77
Gentlemen, This Is a Football
Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole
More Info
Growing Your B2B Small Business with Robert Poole
Gentlemen, This Is a Football
Jun 07, 2021 Season 1 Episode 77
Robert Poole

Do you sometimes feel like you are running 24/7 without coming up for air in your business? This is a dangerous place to be which will eventually put you out of business. How do you prevent this from destroying your business and continually grow?

Show Notes Transcript

Do you sometimes feel like you are running 24/7 without coming up for air in your business? This is a dangerous place to be which will eventually put you out of business. How do you prevent this from destroying your business and continually grow?

Hey everyone. It's Robert Poole with the Growing Your B2B Small Business Podcast. Do you sometimes feel like you're running 24/7 without coming up for air in your business? This is a dangerous place to be, which will eventually put you out of business. Let's talk about how to prevent that and continually grow our businesses. Do you have a small business that sells to other businesses? If so, you probably know that there are plenty of resources for companies that market to consumers or companies that sell to large and fortune 500 type of companies. But what about the small businesses in the middle who sell to other companies? Where do we go to get answers? How do we grow our company consistently while still keeping our sanity? That's the question, and this podcast is the answer. If you're listening to this podcast, you're part of an elite group of achievers who aren't willing to settle for just a 9:00 to 5:00 job. You're one of the heroes in our society, and you should be proud of it. Welcome to the tribe and welcome home.

Okay, everyone, I hope you're having an awesome day. In the last episode, we talked about preparing our business for the next crisis that is not an if, but it's a win. Today I want to talk about a strategy and a concept, which has helped myself and our company stay in business and be profitable for over 20 years. That strategy is called, "Getting back to the basics." Usually when a business has a systematic, ongoing problem with growth, it's because they've gotten away from the basics and haven't adapted to what's going on around them. One of my favorite illustrations that you probably have heard of before, but it's the story about the famous football coach, Vince Lombardi, and at the beginning of every season, he would walk into the team locker room and start his talk with, "Gentlemen, this is a football." And of course what he meant was, "Hey team you guys are all professional, excellent players, but we're going to focus on the fundamentals and the basics."

He was known to coach his players to consistently draw on basic things like tackling and like business, football's fairly simple. It may look complicated at times, but if you think about it, the skill sets are actually pretty few. Let's say for instance, you're a lineman, like a tackle, you have to be good at and practice blocking the opposing team from getting to your quarterback and the ball carriers. I mean, yes, there's little other nuances and situations, but in the end, their basic task is for a lineman is to master that basic and fundamental skill. And they're usually going to be successful if they're good at that fundamental skill. That same lineman can easily start focusing on things like practicing how to run fast to assist in blocking down field, or he may practice from moving from one side of the field to the other in a position, or whatever particular play, when he has other tasks that are they're important, but they aren't fundamental to the skill set that is blocking and protection of his ball carriers.

If he spends a ton of time working on those ancillary skills that aren't really basic and maybe even more interesting at the time, he'll get rusty on the fundamental skill of blocking. So I think you get the point, but what does this have to do with business and specifically B2B? Well, the point is that just like football business fundamentals, the mastery of them, and consistently applying them is what will make you grow your business or go out of business? The problem is sometimes the fundamentals and basics are ignored as we get more experienced in our company, as we grow, and as we get. And busy entrepreneurs and owners tend to be high achieving people, and sometimes focusing on basic things seems boring. We fall for the quote "shiny object syndrome", and start doing things that don't make a whole lot of sense and only wake up when you get hit upside the head, so to speak with a significant downturn in our business.

And I've talked about this before, and I won't go into great detail, but I had a fantastic business partner for many years. We had good synergy. He kind of ran his half of the company. I handled my side and together we worked out strategy and direction of the company. But unfortunately back in 2017, I came to work one day and he wasn't there and turns out he had died of a heart issue. And this of course was a major shock to everyone as he was the type of person who had never had any health problems and never went to the doctor, so it was totally unexpected. And he was a brother like to me. And so it was a huge loss in my life, and our business. Regardless from a business perspective we've just lost 50% of the management and department heads, so to speak.

And after that initial shock, I started to put on all the hats and running and growing the company. And as you can imagine, going from having a partner to being solely in charge of things was quite a transition especially after 15 to 17 years. For several months, I kind of ran around with the proverbial chicken with the head cut off type of things, trying to do in my job, his job and everything in between. And it got to the point where I decided "Hey, I need to make a decision whether I'm going to try to sell this company, just close it, or where we're going in the future, what are we doing?" And so I took a trip to Lake Tahoe in California and booked myself into a hotel. So I could just be a forced to be alone with no distractions. Over a couple of days, I did nothing but write on legal pads with a pen, trying to figure things out.

Somehow I decided to dedicate time evaluating our business from the ground up, which it seemed appropriate. I started asking myself basic questions about what kind of business were we're in, why we're in business and so on. And unknowingly, this changed my life in our company forever. I realized that we had gotten away from the fundamentals and basics in business. We had developed systems over the years that became very complex beyond what was needed. We had no clear picture of where we were going other than what was happening that day or that week. And this probably about the most. Overall, it's just a convoluted mess. And this may not be where you are now, but complacency habit, ego, and let's face it, laziness, can cause most of us to spend our time going full speed ahead without thinking about the activities we're doing if they're a basic function of the business and even if they're necessary.

So unless they're just starting out in business, I would think most owners would agree that they've gotten off track at times and get caught up in the day to day for getting the fundamentals and basics that grow companies in the first place. So whenever I look at a problem or an issue, I always look at it and say "Why do I have this problem or issue?" In my mind if I don't know why I have problem or issue, it's very unlikely that I'm going to be able to fix it. So in this case, why do we get off track? I think it's for different reasons at different times, but I'll give you some of the reasons I know I've gotten off track in our business. First of all, it's very easy to do. Most entrepreneurs and business owners are fast movers and decision-makers, we generally don't stand still waiting for someone else to tell us what to do.

Just the speed at which we sometimes move, causes us to lose, lose track of the fundamentals. Another one, and I've been guilty of this, certainly, ego. The attitude of, "Hey, I know how to run my business. I know how to sell. I know how to market. I don't know how to manage my team." The problem is just because we know we don't always do it. Execution on knowledge, will beat knowledge only on days of the week that end in Y. When we get complacent or lazy and we feel like we got it all handled, that's the time to get scared because you're going in a downward spiral. Sometimes we stopped doing those activities that got us where we were, because we get bored with them, or we think we no longer have to do those types of things.

Take prospecting, for instance, if you want consistency in your business, you can decide to prospect for a little while, get some business and then stop thinking that you've got to figure it out. Even if you have been in business for awhile, you need to constantly continually prospect or market as a company. If you slack off, and some of those referrals start coming in you're starting over with huge expenses and reduced revenue. Prospecting and bringing in new customers as an evergreen activity that can't be done occasionally, it just doesn't work that way. On a total side note, but on consistency when it comes to prospecting, this is slightly off topic, but it really amazes me that what we see with some of our clients that sales double we do B2B cold calling letter lead generation and follow up for our clients.

And basically the stuff that nobody wants to do and rarely has time or the skill for, but for some reason, clients like to stop calling during holiday periods during the summer tax season or any other excuse that can come up with. From a marketing standpoint, this is so backwards. Take summer, for instance, as of this recording, it's June and kids are out of school or getting out of school and we often see a drop off with some of our clients and they put marketing on hold until September, October, and then they go for a couple months and they take off December and on January, because they, but whatever, but I mean, it's fine if you want to take a vacation or time off, but geez if you aren't the one directly prospecting, [inaudible 00:08:16] that person or company stop during that period of time. Because of this is so common with a subset of our clients and I'm sure other clients, and just people in general, that means that there are a lot of businesses who suspend marketing for the summer.

I mean, think about that. If you've got less businesses making outbound calls or prospecting and marketing during a period of time because everyone else is slacking off and waiting until the next perceived good time to call or market, are your chances of getting to potential prospects better or worse? I think that that's a pretty obvious question. You got a better chance because you got less competition. We've seen this play out over and over a company for years on. Clients who never quit prospecting are the ones that are most successful period. And that's a hard fact. Okay, so side rant over back to why we lose sight of the basics. Let's face it, another reason we get distracted, we get distracted by we close a big deal or we launched a new product or deal with some kind of internal operations or HR issue or even distractions in our personal lives.

And sometimes those distractions are unavoidable, but they can't be mitigated. And there are things you can do to get back on track very quickly. Next I'd say sort of the law of motion, if you call it, if we have done something the same way for some time I mean, let's be real here, it's much easier to continue to do that then course-correct. Even if it's not the smartest thing, because we haven't taken a step back and looked to see if that was a strategy that worked in the past, but it may not be working now. And then of course the classic shiny object syndrome. I mean, I think this affects a lot of entrepreneurs. I know this is a big one for me. My business partner was probably worse than I am and that's pretty bad, but he was what I call an idea of the day guy.

I'm thankful for his creativity as it led to some wonderful growth for our company. But he and I would both find ourselves going down rabbit holes, chasing the latest new idea for a service or product instead of focusing on the fundamentals for our current offering and how to improve it. The last reason why I think a lot of us get off track is not paying attention to the levers of the numbers in our business. It's very easy to implement a tactic or a strategy, and literally keep doing it for years without taking a cold, and sober, and realistic look at its return on investment and evaluating whether we should be even doing it or not. I mean, I know personally we found ourselves doing something that, on the surface and anecdotally, seemed to be working. In some instances this literally went on for years only to wake up and finally realized we were flushing money down the drain.

Why? Because we weren't paying attention to the levers and the numbers frequently enough to catch these things. So now that we know some of the reasons why we get off track, let's talk about how we even know we're off track and how to catch ourselves in the acts of this. The first thing is more of a mentality and an emphasis, but it's the realization that you are going to go off on tangents from time to time. And you just need to realize that and actively and regularly review those basics. We'll talk about some specific strategies in a minute. Second, we need to develop systems and culture that notifies you when things are going sideways or into problems zones, away from your core reason for being in business, if it isn't relevant and part of your core business and serving the people we want to serve, it's basically a hobby, it's not a business tactic.

These systems can be in the form of creating a culture among your team. As they notice something straying from the core mission. They're encouraged to bring it up with you or your management. I mean, really it's arrogant for us as leaders to think that we know what's going on in the trenches and the day-to-day of our team, you have to create a culture that encourages them and even relies on them to notify you when things are getting off track. And of course you can have systems that are more quantifiable, like financial reports specific to a tactic or a strategy or whatever. I mean, the numbers don't lie, not paying attention and regular reviewing the finances will get you in deep business, killing territory. Another way to catch ourselves going down the wrong path, and if we don't want to see another problem or hear bad, but let's face it truthful things we'll never stop and correct course. It sounds illogical, but a lot of us do it at one time or another, and I know I certainly have.

Okay. So now that we've got some of the reasons why we get off track and how we can identify when we do, but how do we actually prevent it or get back on track when we get off? Like most things in life when you break it down, it's actually pretty simple. Spend time focusing on the fundamentals and the basics of your business. Well, duh, of course Robert, but that seems simplistic, but in the end, that's what will prevent us from going in the wrong direction. The question is, how do you specifically do that? In my mind, the number one thing you can do is to commit to regular time spent evaluating both your business and yourself. If you don't make the mental commitment to actually schedule time, to take a step back and rethink and work on your business and not in it you'll never have long-term growth. You might have spurts of growth. You might triple over a year, but you won't sustain that in the long run. If you don't do this, that's more akin to winning the lottery than a long-term growth strategy and commitment.

Okay, so how do you do this schedule time to work on and not in your business? Before we talk about my personal habit and what works for me, let's talk about what you should be doing during this scheduled time and what kind of commitment you need to make. In my mind, this is where the basics and the fundamentals really come to light during this period, I think you want to focus on a series of questions. Those questions might change over time, but a lot of them should be things that are repeated over and over again, because the answers are going to change over time. I like to start like this. I mean, I literally get a pen and a legal pad, or however you like to take notes and start brainstorming the answers to questions that seem super basic or simplistic and things you may already know, you think. And the way I try to look at it is, if I have to start fresh in my business today, no revenue, no employees unlimited cash, how would I answer these questions?

So, I mean, it's example, questions really basic stuff, but things like who do you want to have as customers and clients? Not who you have now, but who would do you want to have, if you were starting over? What are their main problems, I.E., the result that they're after? How can you help them solve those problems, and what's the result you can offer them? Is your current customer base, how do they compare to these people, your dream customer, so to speak? Do you like your customers? Are they the right customers based on what we just talked about? Are their problems the same now, as they were last time you reviewed this? Is your solution still relevant to them, and does it still be effective in solving their problems? And even things like where are your customers congregating? What kind of online usage do they have? Do they use social media heavily? Do they use Facebook or LinkedIn, or not much at all? Do they listen to podcasts? Who holds influence and sway with them?

Is this where you're putting your marketing efforts, is that still the best way to find and target them because it's going to change over time. And then an obvious one is to constantly gather feedback from your current customers. I mean, what's changed in their lives, in their phase in business, is your solution still working for them? Is it relevant? Would they buy it again? And if not, you need to make some changes. And if you have the wrong customers, maybe it's time you started moving your marketing to attract the ones you actually want instead of those you don't. Not going to happen overnight. And I even did a whole episode on this, but it's critical for the long-term. Another question you can ask yourself, what about your team of employees or contractors, if you have them? This sounds bad, but who do you need to fire? Who's dead weight, or a problem in your culture or just not the right person for the right job?

I mean, what capabilities are missing for your team? Do you need to expand in some area, you need an expert to come in and bring those results and why do you need to fill that position? You can look at things like the last year or some historical timeframe, maybe even back to when you started the business and ask your questions, and give yourself like what did you do differently a year ago, or when you started? Did you anticipate the direction you've gone? Has that paid off or should you have gone in another direction, different customers or solutions? Looking back over the last six months to a year, what mistakes we made that have cost you money or hampered your growth, and how do you prevent that from happening again? I mean, ask yourself questions like, "What would happen if...?" Don't let the how are we going to do that mentality slip in. Ask yourself questions, the what would happen if type of questions. What would it take to double or triple your revenue in the next 12 months?

And, again, don't think about the how, or we can't do it, because just think about what would it take actually unlimited funds? Would it take a new team? What would it take? If you feel like you can't do it, why couldn't you? What are the factors in that answer? Who can you hire? Who can you contract with or partner with to overcome those obstacles? Last, I think this is one we should all be focused on, even if you drop the others and that's working on an evaluating yourself as a business person. As I say, often in this podcast, your businesses will only grow in the proportion that you, as a business person grow. If you want to make a million dollars, you need to become the person who has the mentality and the skill set to make a million dollars. You won't do it with the mentality and skillset of someone who's making 100K. It's just simple as that. So evaluate yourself cold and brutal sometimes. Evaluate yourself as a business person.

Have you grown in the time since your last check-in? Hopefully. Have you grown since you started your company? I would imagine. Where are your strengths and where are your weaknesses? Are you doing things that you're not so good at or weakness, you need to outsource those weaknesses. Get over your ego, which is a big problem for us. I know it is for me. We want to hold on to things and do things that we're not necessarily good at, or is it not good use of our time, and focus on building your strengths. Along those lines, you know what I mean? What skill set or sets do you need to have to become that business owner that's able to grow your company to the next level? Do you need to get better at marketing or sales or closing or do you need to get better at hiring and managing your team, or better at understanding financial stuff? So let's say you've got a good list of questions like the suggestions that I just talked about.

And I don't know about you, but the number of things I've written down as goals and activities that need to be done is massive. The ones that have actually gotten done are a fraction of that. Why? Well, in my case, and a lot of us I think is because we procrastinate get busy and lose track. And the way I've overcome that a lot in the last few years particularly is by scheduling specific times for critical activities. And I forgotten how he says it, but Tony Robins says something like if you have an idea, it's a dream, if you write it down, it's a goal. If you schedule it, it becomes real. Now, I'm not sure that's the exact quote, but you get the point. So schedule this evaluation of your business, or it just won't happen and nothing will ever change. Here's my basic system and what I do. And of course you can do whatever works for you, but this is how I do things. And this all started with the trip to Tahoe that I mentioned, and quite frankly, it was by accident.

A minimum of two to three times a year I get away from the office, my family, and pretty much any distraction for a few days to focus on the business. For me, this means checking into a hotel just far enough away that it's not easy to pop in, to see my family or check on the office, usually a car drive two or three hours away. And I literally sit in a hotel room by myself for two, three, sometimes even four days and do nothing but focus on questions, review what's been going on since the last time I did it. And I actually did a whole episode on this. So you can check it out if you want to know more. But during this time I sort of do a deep dive and try to create my business from scratch as if it was starting over and then kind of compare it to where we actually are. It becomes pretty apparent where we're off track and what we need to do to get back on track.

So, besides those sort of semi-annual times with myself, I didn't schedule check-ins about every quarter where I evaluate what's been going on, tactically, and what we're doing and seeing if they're still relevant and effective. I generally don't go away from this, but I do schedule time in my calendar, just like I have an important meeting and I eliminate as many distractions as I can. And so that's a sort of a quarterly type of schedule. And then on a weekly basis, I actually schedule time as well. I typically shoot for three to four days a week. Of course it always depends on what's going on, but at a minimum, three days a week. And at that time I focus on smaller follow-up questions and solutions to the bigger issues that maybe I discovered at the semi-annual or quarterly evaluations. During this hourly session, I spend part of the time learning the new skill sets and things that are specific and actual that are actually going to help me expand my skillset to become that business person I want to be.

So takeaways from this episode, number one, don't let your ego, or complacency cause you to miss fundamental problems that'll cost you tons of money. Missing what's going on internally with their company what's going on with your customers and your industry as a whole is a major mistake that will cost you dearly. Like most goals and objectives, if we don't schedule time and commit to them, they're likely just not going to get done. In business, that means a lack of growth and potentially being out of business. Standing still is the same thing as dying in today's business world. So if we're not constantly checking in and keeping up with that change, we'll be out of business. I know this is a lot of commitment and I realize that, but the question you have to keep in mind is how much is it worth to you to catch yourself or your company in the midst of an activity, which isn't your core mission, and isn't a good return on investment of resources. Depending on the activity, I mean, this could be thousands of dollars or in some cases, even millions.

I know it's certainly been the case for me. And every time I find myself off track, I take myself knowing that I've lost all this money by not catching it sooner. I hope that helps. That's all I have for today. Have a fantastic day. And I'll talk to you soon. Thanks for listening today. I hope you learned something you can implement right away. I know your time is valuable and it's really an honor to serve you. Please subscribe and rate the show on your favorite podcast platform, and give me your honest feedback. Also, I put together a short ebook on some of the top lessons I've learned in 20 years, owning a B2B business. You can download a free copy at