Recently, I was very fortunate to have Pia Silva as the guest for my live event in NYC (www.meetup.com/GrowthDrivenEntrepreneursWorldwide) to celebrate the release of her book, "Badass Your Brand - The Impatient Entrepreneur’s Guide to Turning Expertise into Profit." The whole room was energized after the interview, and we all had a blast!
Among all the value bombs Pia dropped, I handpicked a few major takeaways to share in this post so that you can apply them to your own business or side hustle projects.
Be Ruthless with this Question: “What does success look like to you?”
If you are serious, I mean, very serious about your venture, I know you consume many books, articles, podcasts and videos covering various topics on how to run and grow a business.
Although continuous learning is essential to all entrepreneurs, the only downside of this is that our brain gets flooded with all sorts of contradicting information. Figuring out what is right for your business by digesting all the info you consume is challenging at times. What Pia accomplished in 12 months was the proof of how she was able to create her own path without getting side-tracked by confusing business advice or the latest marketing trends that are tempting to throw some money at.
So how did she do it without spending time and money on advertising and social media?
The biggest, big picture takeaway Pia shared with us was to gain clarity by starting from asking just one question, "What is your definition of success?" By doing this, you will be forced to reverse-engineer your business model and condense it down to what really matters in your life as well as in your business. Once you are crystal-clear on your ultimate business objective, you can map out what needs to be done now to get your business to where it needs to be. So be prepared to dig deep with the question.
“Does your success mean you have the power to do what you are born to do for a living whenever and wherever?”
“Does your success mean having an equitable business with offices and employees throughout the US?”
“Does your success mean building a global business to better people’s lives all over the world?”
“Does your success mean creating a startup to be sold within 18 to 36 months?”
After facing head-on with this question, Pia and her business partner and husband, Steve, chose the path that was rather unconventional compared to the mainstream entrepreneurship path. For them, having employees and being responsible for them didn't jive well with their vision. So they crossed this out and completely stopped mirroring the traditional brand agency business model.
Michael E. Gerber (“E-Myth”) and Grant Cardone (“Be Obsessed or Be Average”), for example, condemn this path, passionately. These guys are known for promoting the idea of hiring employees and set up physical offices to scale exponentially to be the sign of success. Now, I'm not at all against this if that is your vision and definition of success. This is one way to grow a business. After all, both Gerber and Cardone have built multi-million dollar businesses based on this belief to prove their point. But for Pia and Steve, it wasn't the route they wanted to pursue. They realized their business does not have to look like other businesses.
The hack: Be very clear and brutally honest with your vision of success with your business and be ruthless with your process of accomplishing your objectives even if what you will have to do seem unconventional to other’s eyes.
Invest an ample time in this question will reward you handsomely as the old adage says; “Confused minds never buy.” When you are clear with your objective, your clients or customers will have a much easier time understanding and remembering what your business is about. This is the reason why Pia did not have to spend time and money on advertising and social media promotions to frantically try attracting prospects.
(Continue Reading Below)
Niche Down & Price Up (in this order.)
In order for Pia and Steve to find the best way to showcase their unique expertise, they dove right into listing everything related to the following questions:
- What worked for their business?
- What was the most enjoyable experience they have had serving their clients (a.k.a. “your zone of genius”)?
- What didn’t they like about their business or the industry they are in and how to get around them without sacrificing what they stood for?
As a result of this exercise, their “Brand Up” was born. “Brandup” is the direct reflection of who they are and what they do best to serve their clients who directly benefited from the service and grew their business over a short period of time just like Pia and Steve did. In the book, “Badass Your Brand,” Pia takes the concept of niching down further and illustrates the process with the implementable system along with case studies to highlight how this works and why niching down is vital.
For me, the last question stuck with me the most. I don’t think we ask ourselves enough what we don’t like when we analyze our business performance. Although Pia did say that it wasn't necessarily meant to find or create an uncontested category in their industry, asking what we don’t like about our business and/or our industry can also be extremely useful to find a gap to find a solution to a problem to generate a business idea. (If you are interested in learning more about the topic of new category creation, read “Blue Ocean Strategy” by Renée Mauborgne and W. Chan Kim or visit www.blueoceanstrategy.com)
During my fireside chat with Pia, it became very clear that the act of “Niche Down & Price Up” goes hand in hand. It is better to look at it as a natural progression rather than two separate efforts. If you incorporate this method, the below will become the likely scenario if it is done right:
1. Produce an offering that reflects your expertise (Niche Down) and generates desired outcomes for your clients/customers,
2. The word will get out naturally to attract the right type of prospects,
3. Demand increases and you will reach the capacity ceiling where you can’t serve them all,
4. You raise your price to tame the demand.(Price Up)
I have witnessed many entrepreneurs being fearful of raising their prices. The reason is they are looking at raising prices to be a standalone effort. They worry they will lose their businesses by scaring away prospects with higher pricing points, and this is quite intuitive and understandable. As you can see, with the above scenario, raising price becomes a part of natural progression with your offering. Moreover, saying “no” to things that do not fit into your business model becomes increasingly easy because you are not suffering from a shortage in your pipeline.
What Are You Known For? – The Core of “Badassery”
While many entrepreneurs are too busy “pushing” their offers through their blogs, vlogs, social media platforms, and aggressively asking for guest blog post opportunities to already established figures in their industries, Pia and Steve are focused on their “pull” strategy by continuously building their authority in their space. About the same time the event took place, Pia’s new article on Forbes covering the topic of “push” vs. “pull” was published and you can read about it here. (https://www.forbes.com/sites/piasilva/2017/04/20/why-we-use-branding-to-pull-instead-of-sales-to-push/#1d6ec24422e5)
“Badassery,” as Pia expressed, is all about being utterly unapologetic and firm on what you are about and what you offer to people who are in need of your services. In the process, “attract” and “repel” is inevitable, and you should never feel bad about repelling the ones who would not be benefiting from what you offer.
But how can we achieve this? It seems like a daunting, behemoth task.
In essence, I identified two key points to pursue “Badassery” from the conversation:
1. Work on your craft:
“Badassery” does not work if you don’t work on your craft to be the very best of what you do every day. You also have to relentlessly pursue ways to showcase your craft that is truly unique to you. Finding the best format to deliver your service to serve your audience may take numerous iterations. Expect a lot of front-loading work to get this part right.
2. Focus on “relatability” rather than “likability”:
Sure, it’s nice to be likable, but it is also less memorable in the age of 7-second-attention-span. What is so impressive about Pia’s achievement is the level of her focus on “relatability.” Her understanding of who would relate and benefit from her “badassery” is the work she un-apologetically invested in to grow her business. Instead of being obsessed over how many likes you get on Facebook, focus on how to communicate with your target in the most effective manner.
As you might have guessed, none of these come overnight. For many of us, this requires continuous effort over a long period of time. That is probably the reason why the subtitle of “Badass Your Brand” is “The Impatient Entrepreneur’s Guide to Turning Expertise into Profit.” The book helps to keep entrepreneurs on track with what really matters in order to move the needle so that they can shorten their process to “badass” their businesses into profit generating machines.
It was such an honor to have Pia Silva at the event. What I cherished the most was the Q&A session with Pia. Normally it is like pulling teeth to get attendees to actively engage with Q&A sessions. At this event, however, I could feel the energy in the room where they couldn’t wait to raise their hands. It was magical. I also was touched by the fact that Pia was incredibly generous to stay until the very end of the event to chat and take photos with everyone. For those who were not able to attend, I will list links to stay connected with Pia: