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You can create an attractive garden by getting your hands dirty, doing the occasional spot of weeding and throwing in the odd shrub.

This won’t get you to Chelsea.

Many people build half decent businesses by taking a product or service, reacting to what is going on around them, doing the odd bit of marketing and targeting some ad hoc prospects.

This might make you a few quid but won’t create the business that will see you sailing away into the sunset after selling up.

Talk to anyone who has won a gold medal at Chelsea and they will tell you that to even get there requires vast amounts of experience and a plan. Professional gardeners spend years training before starting work and getting that all important hands on experience.

There are hundreds of general degrees available and MBAs that promise to equip you with business skills. However, talking from personal experience what you learn is interesting, often relevant and totally hypothetical. When you step into the real world actually applying your knowledge is not straightforward and requires experience.

But we don’t have business experience…

Most people start a business for 1 of 2 reasons:

 – They have a great product or service

 – They are good at selling stuff

No-one (well maybe a handful of people) starts a business because they are good at running a company through the experience they have gained of running other businesses. The reason that only 40% of new businesses make it past 3 years trading is because business is hard.

One cannot simply register a company and expect customers to flock through the door. Some people get lucky and find themselves with the right product in the right space at the right time. The majority of us know that we have something incredible to offer but struggle to win those elusive first customers and the game begins. We run ourselves ragged with huge amounts of activity yet never get the results we desire.

Why do we struggle to get the results we want?

Simple, we don’t plan.

We have a vision and we charge off to make it a reality and in the process miss the most crucial step. 

Vision + activity = failure

Vision + planned activity = success

Ok, maybe it is not that simple but it is a start – ever run a marathon or thought about it?

What would your approach be?

Would you create a training plan or simply go for a jog when you felt like it? If you created and implemented a plan I can say with absolute certainty you would get better results than if you just turned up when you felt like it. 

Business is the same, if we turn up and go through the motions we can feel like we’ve accomplished something but in reality will not have moved forwards. 

You will have experienced this at school, in jobs and possibly in your own enterprises.

What can we do to overcome a lack of experience?

I want to introduce a very simple concept at this stage: self-awareness through questioning.

Every time you do something ask yourself any of the following questions:

“why am I doing this?”

“what is this doing to move me closer to my goals”?

“how will this move my business forwards?”

“what will this do to get me more customers?”

Lets put this into the context of gardening, here’s the scenario:

It’s a sunny day and you feel inspired to get outside and do something in the garden. You decide to set about weeding the flower bed, problem is you don’t know the difference between flowers and weeds.

What do you do? You download an app that takes a photo and tells you what every plant is. You can now make an informed decision about what to keep and what to dig up.

With this new found knowledge you realise that you could actually choose what colour flowers you have and how big different plants grow.

Then you take it to another level and read that some plants have different requirements; light, nutrients, PH etc. Before long you start planning out the garden so that plants are in areas best suited to their requirements.

Before you realise what’s happened you’ve got books on the subject and begin offering your friends and neighbours advice.

Now flip the garden into the context of a business

You have a product that you believe in but feel that it is a struggle to build your customer base. Feeling open minded on this morning you decide to try something different and look at the situation from a different angle.

For the first time in months you analyse your product; who does it appeal to? You get hung up on this question; do you know the difference between a potential customer and another waste of time?

What is a real customer looking for in your product that a ‘tyre kicker’ simply doesn’t value? In other words what causes a prospect to convert into a customer rather than simply walking away?

This concept is intriguing, through this chain of thought you are beginning to identify what problems you solve and therefore the value you deliver. You then begin to create an ‘avatar’ of your ideal customer from your short experience talking about and selling your product.

Once you understand who you customer is you can then target everything you do at them: 

 – How you position your product

 – Which channels you market

 – Your sales process

 – Etc etc

You can create a customer plan.

Why will this improve the performance of your business? 

Through questioning and subsequently planning just one thing you are taking a more systematic and targeted approach; this ensures that any activity is worthwhile and not just making you feel busy.

We are bringing context to our thought process, this begins to give meaning to everything we do.

When we genuinely stop and think about something, we engage our brain. We then discover we know more than we realise and start taking an interest in things we don’t.

Not selling enough? What would you do?

 – Drop your price?

 – Try and sell harder to anyone?

 – Give up?

Or, sit back and consider why your sales are down.

 – Do some market analysis,

 – Draw up a customer avatar,

 – Rethink your distribution channels,

 ….

Without doing anything extraordinary and with no additional experience you can challenge and improve your own business.

A gardener’s work is an expression of their personality, as they gain experience they express themselves in more bold and honest ways. Combined with a knowledge of their subject they could be creating the next Chelsea show garden.

As a business owner life it not as cut and dry as life in the garden. We make our own experiences and learn from our wins and losses. However, we can stack the odds in our favour by researching our subject.

Our situation is unique and there is no silver bullet to help us succeed, but…… take the time to question, reflect and create a plan. You will be several steps ahead of most of your competition.

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