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As one of the people whom I regularly consult about business, I’m so excited to bring you on here to give some new information in addition to the work that we’ve featured you before. I’m always excited to come to you as a resource. Before we get into productivity and profit, let me ask you about your dream interview. Who would be your dream interview if you could share the stage with someone who’s no longer with us? If so, what would you ask them?
There are an awful lot of people that I admire throughout history, but I think perhaps more than ever, I would look to the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. The work that he did in non-violent protest, in the non-violent calling of our attention as a country to the systemic racism that still exists. I am an old white guy, and I benefit from this. I’m working hard to become an ally of those who are oppressed by the current system. I’ve benefited tremendously throughout my life. I would ask him a couple of things. One, what is it that I could do better to help those who were not born into the privilege that I have? The other is how did he find the strength, the personal conviction to continue to beat his head against that proverbial wall consistently without becoming frustrated? I’m sure he could be getting frustrated, but without becoming violent or becoming overwhelmed with the size of the problem. At least his public persona was like that. How did he find that within himself? That to me is the measure of a man or a woman.
I have often thought about the things he said that inspired people. Often it was enough. He was done and it was time not to take it anymore. I was hearing one time somebody talking about a turning point in life isn’t necessarily the turning point. That is a huge cataclysm. Sometimes a turning point is the moment where you’ve said, “Enough,” as Rosa Parks said, “My feet hurt. I’m not going to get up and move to the back of the bus. I’m going to stay here.” The courage it took there but also being tired.
Sometimes it is that proverbial straw. It’s one more thing that pushes you over the edge and you say, “I can’t do this. I can’t be this. I can’t react this way anymore. I have to do something different.”
This actually brings me to another thing that I’ve been thinking about a lot is awareness. Becoming aware of where things are not right. We’ve been through a year of a pandemic. Society and life are changing completely and a year of social upheaval and a year of pushback where people said, “Enough. I can’t do anything more.” It also comes from being aware when you are being put down or as an ally where you are putting someone else down without realizing it, being aware of the unconscious assumptions. I look at Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Doctor, and think about the courage it must’ve taken to speak out in the first place, the courage to keep talking, and the courage to keep moving forward. America has an African-American senator from Georgia who was a pastor in Martin Luther King’s Church. There is progress.
It’s slow but it’s been 400 years in the making. There isn’t any reason to expect that overnight we’re going to be able to change the system. I was reading the book How to Be an Antiracist. The system adapts and the system morphs because the system is all about power and who has it. The system doesn’t want to give up its power. Those of us who have privilege recognize that in order to raise all boats, we have to not be concerned about whether or not we might lose a little bit of what we might otherwise gain.
That’s where fear comes in. Fear and greed are old friends, our old enemies. Fear and greed are motivating factors. I also am reminded of a meme that was going around during the beginning of the lockdown in April 2020 or maybe over the summer, I think too. People were saying that the pandemic aren’t real if they’re not happening to you. That’s not the exact quote. I have to look up that quote. You have to be reminded to pay attention if it’s not happening directly to you.
The fact that I don’t have to think about the color of my skin and yet a person of color, every time they look in the mirror, is reminded that they are a person of color, that disparity in opportunity.
It is not the same as racism, but I do remember as a woman, I am careful walking down dark alleys because as the old saying goes, “Boys are trained to take charge, try stuff, go ahead. If you fall, it’s no big deal. Girls are conditioned by society to be careful.” I remember back in my early 30s, sitting around with a group of friends who I was working on a show. One of the singers who was a big, burly guy with a big loud bass voice asked the women at the table why they would be nervous walking home alone in the city if they went out to get pizza because it would never occur to him to be nervous.
The disparity in treatment. That’s why I’m so proud of my girls that have set off on their own. One is an Adjunct Professor of Writing at Columbia. The other is finishing her Master’s in Mathematics at Boston University and looking to land a job shortly working in artificial intelligence and natural language processing, which is a big thing these days.
It would not have been available to a woman years ago.
It was much more challenging. My wife has a Master’s in Mathematics but when she went through her master’s program years ago, she was one of a handful of women in the program. When my daughter was at St. Olaf as a physics and math major, I think close to half the class was female.
It is possible to change.
We’re making progress.
We have to keep trying.
Particularly in this day and age, I sit on a lot of Zoom meetings, as everybody does. It’s much easier to hide in a Zoom meeting. I’m trying to be aware of people who perhaps their voice hasn’t been heard and they’re sitting silently in a meeting. I know that’s one of the things that you help your clients with is how to speak out.
How to speak out and do it in a way that the people who need to hear you can actually take in the information instead of shouting in their faces, which makes people automatically say no or put up resistance. How do you do that? Which actually takes me back to Martin Luther King and how the non-violent protest was a way of making the point without instantly provoking armed resistance.
It’s funny. It occurred to me that some of what you do parallels some of what I do in the marketing because what we try to do with our marketing programs, with our strategic marketing to help our clients, is to enter into the conversation that’s going on in the head of your prospect. You want to interrupt what they’re thinking about. They have a problem that they don’t want and a result that they do want. If you can use your product or service to connect those things and interrupt that conversation that’s going on in their head, then you can get their attention. I would guess that there’s some similarity between that approach and what you talk to your clients about with respect to how you do approach someone in a way that is constructive but not antagonistic.
That’s one of the reasons why I love working with you, Steve. I have to be transparent. Steve is my business coach. Thanks to Steve in the six months I worked with him in 2020, my revenue doubled. I have to say it. The stuff he promises can happen because it happened to me. One of the things that you were talking about in terms of marketing is I come from a presentation and marketing background. You may think that the performing arts are not marketing, but of course, they are, because what you’re doing is selling an experience. You’re trying to move people to think the way you want to think or to experience something. Of course, in training performers, you’re trying to market yourself as the product. The difference is that you yourself are the product, rather than perhaps in your widget or your service. You and I both work a great deal with service-based organizations and people who are their product. It’s the same thing.
Steve, this is really fun because I haven’t even gotten to all the questions I had for you. I have a lot of questions for you. Although I work a great deal with women in the corporate field, it’s still a matter of selling an idea, if you will, or enrolling people into the idea that you are the person to be listened to, the person to be followed, the person to be hired or promoted. It’s still sales and marketing. It’s the same thing that you do, Steve. I wanted to ask you though a couple of specific things. You were a productivity coach for many years, right?
What got you to move from productivity to profitability to focusing on how to make a profit?
That’s interesting because in fact, I still work with people on their productivity but it’s with the aim of getting them more profits. The problem that I had was that I would sit down with a small business owner and I would explain to him or her how I would improve their productivity and they get very excited about it. The fundamental fact of it is that most small business owners haven’t a clue what their time is worth. If I tell you, “I’m going to get you an hour of your time every day for the rest of your life in terms of productivity,” “That’s great.” “What would you do?” “I can do this.”
The chasing of shiny objects is always a problem for the small business owner but to sit down and say, “What is that worth to you?” Often, I get a blank stare. “I don’t know.” If they couldn’t understand what the value that I was bringing them was, what was the value of that hour I was giving them, how would they know whether or not it was worth engaging as a coach? When I came across this system and it’s a systematic approach of improving leads, how many prospects do you have coming into your pipeline? How efficient are you at converting those, what methods do you use to convert those prospects into clients, how do you maximize the value of each client, how do you properly set your pricing so that each line of business is profitable? How do you most efficiently drop those revenues into your pocket, into the bottom line, how do you take the top line, growth, and make that into a bottom-line profit, which is of course what the small business owner really wants?
By going through this systematic approach and coming up with a number, I say to these small business owners, “If you give me 45 minutes, I can find $30,000 to $50,000 or even more in untapped revenue without you having to spend any additional money in marketing.” It’s fun to do this. There’s a quantification of the value that I’m bringing. If I’m going to bring you a $100,000 or $150,000, to spend a fraction of that on me as a coach to get you there, it’s a no-brainer. That was what caused me. This system is so powerful. It was clear to me that it fit naturally with what I already do. I use that productivity expertise to help implement these strategies.
That’s actually one of the things that I like about working with you is implementation has always been a challenge for me. Getting it done and how do you use these strategies has helped immensely. As I’m on a similar line, I’ve heard you say a wonderful thing about businesses don’t fail because they run out of clients. They fail because they run out of cash. Can you talk a little bit about what you mean by that?
What’s really interesting is when you sit down with a business owner and you ask them how they do manage their business, often the reality is that they manage their business by looking at their bank account. If they have money in the bank, then they feel good. If they don’t have money in the bank, they feel bad. They don’t look at what the cash flow is. I like to partner with CPAs or bookkeepers and make sure that there’s a strong relationship between the small business owner and either the CPA or the bookkeeper so that they understand their cashflow. You get to the middle of the month and you’ve got thousands of dollars coming in cash but you can’t pay a creditor today because you have nothing in the bank. That’s a problem and that’s where you wind up. If you run too fast, get too far out over your skis, as they say, in terms of managing your cash flow, that’s when the business goes out when you go out of business. If you can’t sustain it because I made this great investment that’s going to pay off a year from now but you run out of cash before you get any of that return, it doesn’t matter.
There are so many companies where income or sales fluctuate, you may have a great month and then you may have a month where nobody picks up the phone calls or they say, “Yes, but not now.” Planning for the cash flow is a big challenge.
You should always have some amount of cash in reserve so that you can get through those lean months. A big corporation can write a bond. They can borrow some money from a bank to have a line of credit. Some small businesses have a line of credit as well. The best way to do that, if you are a small business, is to put a little piece of it into a separate account that you don’t touch. I’m a big fan of Profit First methodology by Michael Michalowicz. It’s one of the things that he recommends. You take a piece of your profits. By the way, you should always have a profit in your business. You should take the profits first before you pay yourself and pay your bills.
Maybe it’s a small amount. Maybe it’s 1%, 2%, 3%, or 5%. You always have a profit. You’d take a piece of that and you put it off into an account, which is he calls it The Vault. You set that aside until you’ve built up enough to have 3, 6 months of expenses set aside so that if you hit a lean patch, like a pandemic, that’s what costs a lot of businesses to go under. They didn’t have enough backstop. Fortunately, the government stepped in here, at least in the U.S., but then that money ran out and businesses started failing.
I spent a lot of time in Austria in a resort area and when the tourists aren’t allowed to come, life is hard. In Austria, they pay 51% to 55% tax. Their taxes are high and therefore, when things get thin, they have a cushion because they’re getting money from the government. That’s why they pay those high taxes. They have a safety net, which America is not so great at, has not done that so well.
Although we had some emergency legislation in 2020 and it looks like we’ll have some more emergency legislation coming through here that will hopefully prop up some of those in the greatest need.
Let me ask you again because this also works for families. If you have a salary but if you’re spending your whole paycheck or more, it’s the same principle. You were talking a little bit about finding more untapped revenue. Some of it is, “I have to get more clients,” but it’s not that. It’s not that simple. What are other ways we could find untapped revenue?
I think there are a number of things. If we start at the back end with the P&L, the profit and loss statement, the easiest way to wind up with more money in your pocket is to cut expenses. I ask the readers, “How long has it been since you’ve looked at your credit card statement to look at every line? How many of those line items are absolutely required to generate business? Are there things in there with cheaper alternatives? Finally, what are those things that are completely unnecessary?
What’s that system that you signed up for six months ago that you actually haven’t touched but you’re still paying $30, $50 or $100 a month for?” I worked with one small business owner who was paying $400 a month for a 401(k) system for her two employees. Nobody was using it. Unfortunately, there was a huge disentanglement charge but that was only 3 or 4 months of the cost. It was still worth it to pull out of that. Looking at those things and every penny that you save off of your expenses dropped straight to the bottom line.
Reminds me of a friend of mine who opened up an office. She was so excited and she had ordered this big fancy sign for office but her business was online only. Customers never came to her office. Almost everything she did was online. She didn’t need it. She said, “This is so cool.” She knew someone else who did have customers walking in the door. She thought what they had done was cool and so she invested all this money in an office that she didn’t need. This was even pre-COVID. This was pre-pandemic and then realized, “I could have saved that money.” Of course, you don’t realize it until after you spent it. Is this part of what you mean by being business growth strategies?
There’s the strategy to grow and it’s growing your pipeline. It is growing your leads. We have a number of methodologies to improve the incoming number of folks into your pipeline. We look at the conversion rate. Are you attracting the right kinds of prospects? Are they people that you have a chance? If you get 100 leads and only convert 1% or 2% of them, you’d be much better off with a system that gets you 10 leads but you convert 5 of them. Are you getting the right kinds of leads?
Are you advertising the places that your clients are instead of where you think where they’re not basically?
Are you attracting the right kind of people with your marketing message? Are you entering into the conversation that’s going on in the head of your prospects? Are you interrupting that conversation? Are you sending them useful materials when they’re actually ready to buy? Statistics show us that 1% of people that go to a website, they go to a landing page. They are ready to buy right now. The other 99%, you want to capture their information and then provide them with education that as they move from future buyer to now buyer. When they’re ready to make that vendor selection, when they’re saying, “I’m ready to buy now. I’m ready to buy this solution,” that naturally, you’re top of mind. They do a drip campaign, a client nurture campaign. There’s a variety of ways of making sure that you stay top of mind with your prospects, the people that are along the buyer’s journey.
Of all the various things that you talk about, that you help people with, where could somebody start? Is there a most important thing?
Yes. The most important thing is to make sure that you understand what makes your business unique and how is it that you service your clients. What makes an ideal client for you and how do you service them in a way that’s different from your competition? We’re working with a carpet cleaner. That’s a difficult business to differentiate but there are a couple of things that he does that differentiate him from his competition. He likes to stress the fact that he’s a second-generation carpet cleaner. His dad was in the business. He knows a lot about how to clean carpets and what’s the right way to attack the different kinds of material. That’s very important but a lot of people can say it.
What he does is he takes such care of the home that he goes into. He takes care of it as if it was his own. He put some little corner strips to make sure that his equipment never bangs the corner and chips it. He’s very careful. He has a methodology too. He uses less water. Particularly if you have kids, you don’t want to have to say, “Kids, you can’t go on the carpet for 24 hours.” It dries in a couple of hours. There are things that are a little bit different and helping. He’s got a UV light that he uses to find urine spots from pets. That’s a big problem. Often he says, “I find it in places that the homeowners didn’t think that there was any problem.” “The pet never goes in. How did that happen?” The key thing here is you don’t want to come up with one or two things. I always work with my clients to find three things that make them unique because you may share one or maybe even two with somebody, but you’re never going to share all three.
Steve Kirch, it’s wonderful. I will say, as someone who works with Steve, that going through the process of finding out where you’re doing okay and where, “I haven’t even thought of that,” is very interesting and exciting. With me, he came up with a potential $133,000 in extra revenue. That means me implementing everything, which is where I then lean on Steve as a productivity coach. It’s a fascinating thing. As a coach, I truly think of myself as a small business, which I don’t know if I did before. That’s also exciting. If you are a founder running a small business or curious of how even your home as a business and your personal expenses could get better, then I highly recommend reaching out to Dr. Steven Kirch. Steve, what’s the first thing that people should do to find you?
I think the easiest thing to do is to go to the website, ProfitMinds.net and download the free book. There’s an eBook that outlined some of the strategies that we use. I would start there. You can also reach out to me from there and make an appointment.
Thank you so much, Steven Kirch. Before we go, don’t forget that if you’re interested in how your presentation skills are helping you, then you could go to my free four-minute quiz, SpeakForResultsQuiz.com. It only takes about four minutes. That’s where you can see where your presentation skills are doing well and where a little support might be able to get you the recognition and the results that you want. Thank you so much for joining me. Thank you, Steven Kirch, for being my guest. I will see you on the next one.
- Steve Kirch
- How to Be an Antiracist