#EntrepreneurLife

Don’t Make These 6 Critical Mistakes When Carving Out a Profitable Niche for Your Service Business

Don’t Make These 6 Critical Mistakes When Carving Out a Profitable Niche for Your Service Business

Hello, multi-faceted creative entrepreneurs with mad skills! 

 

If this is you AND your desire, vision & mission is to build a high-functioning, profit-generating business, then you’ve just landed on a gold mine. I am about to share 6 deadly mistakes that many creative service business owners make while they are on the hunt to discover a profitable niche that they can then double-down on.

 

There are many articles out there that cover steps (usually anywhere between 5 to 7 steps) to find a profitable niche. They are helpful, but no one really talks about the pitfalls that come with the process.

 

You may have already entertained the idea of niching down your wide range of offers before. Perhaps you may have tried by yourself, but it didn’t work out. That’s totally OK.  In this post I will show you why some attempts fail. These mistakes can be avoided so long as you are aware that they exist.

 

Just in case… if you are wondering why finding your profitable niche is so vital to your business, I’ve got you covered as well.  Before reading this post, start with “How to Niche Down Your Services When You Have So Much to Offer pt.1” (link).  This post explains 6 major reasons why it helps you grow your business exponentially.

 

OK, one more thing before diving in, allow me to clarify a bit about who this post is for. Better yet, let me explain this post is not designed to help those who:

1.     have not yet started a business and are looking for one to start

2.     are wanting to find a niche product to sell online, i.e. Amazon FBA

3.     are searching for a profitable affiliate marketing niche

These require a completely different set of playbooks. Instead, this post is particularly designed for multi-faceted service business owners who have existing offers that are generating revenue but want to narrow down (niche down) and redefine their profitable niches.  

Without further ado, let’s dive in.  

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Business Consultant for Your Service Business: Questions You Didn't Even Know You Had... Sorted!

Everything You Need to Know About Hiring a Business Consultant for Your Service Business: Questions You Didn't Even Know You Had... Sorted!

I’m almost afraid to ask, but I’m going to ask you anyway:

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the term “business consultants”? 

You might think of Ryan Bingham from the movie “Up in the Air” who travels around the country to help businesses restructure & downsize by firing people. 

Not a particularly good impression.

Or you might think of MBA’ers, whose #1 goal is to get hired by top management consulting firms like Bain, Boston Consulting, McKinsey, Accenture, etc. 

OK, another not-so-great impression, especially if you are a creative business owner.

In a way, these are stereotypical descriptions of business/management consultants.  But, in reality, they can help you find solutions to various business challenges faster. 

From my own experience communicating with small business owners, they often don’t consider hiring a business consultant because of these objections:

1.     It’s too expensive

2.     Their business is not big enough in size to hire a consultant

3.     They feel they need help in other areas in their business

It’s a shame because they may be missing out on spectacular growth opportunities by not teaming up with a business consultant.  Later in this post, you will see why these are just misconceptions about what business consultants can bring to the table. 

So, think again if you thought hiring a business consulting firm or a business consultant was a privilege only available to major brands and corporations. 20 years ago, maybe.  But in this day & age, it isn’t.

This post is a comprehensive overview covering the basics of how to find out whether you need to hire a business/management consultant for your business. 

Let’s Address the Elephant in the Room

Because I do roll my eyes when I see a blog post about why we need to hire an accountant on an accounting firm’s website and/or a guest-post about why it’s important to hire a social media strategist written by a social media strategist on an online business publication, I get why you might be rolling your eyes reading this post right now.

It’s a bit cheesy.  I agree.

How to Craft Brand Messaging that Resonates & Converts (Without Bashing Your Head Against the Wall)

How to Craft Brand Messaging that Resonates & Converts (Without Bashing Your Head Against the Wall)

Getting your messaging right is the first step to convert leads and prospects into buyers.

Why? 

It’s because your brand messaging can act as a conversation starter.  You probably have heard many marketers use this dating analogy when they explain the concept of know, like & trust, which helps turn spectators into buyers.

“You don’t just ask him/her to marry you on the first date.”

If you have your brand messaging down, this serves as the first date that goes really well so that it will lead to the 2nd, 3rd and 4th date to develop know, like & trust between you and your leads.

Sadly though, many business owners don’t allocate enough time and energy to crafting their brand messaging.  This became apparent through local Meetup events I host in NYC.

There are 3 types of not-so-ideal messaging I’ve picked up on while listening to the event participants introduce themselves to the rest of the crowd. 

1.     Too generic as for what they offer & who they are, i.e. social media strategist, accountant, SEO specialist.

2.     Too clever with flashy words but unclear as to who they help or what problem they solve.

3.     Only list what they sell.

There is absolutely no need to beat yourself up if you are guilty of these.  Trust me, I can speak from my own experience that crafting good brand messaging for your business is no small feat.

This is why I invited Zach Messler, a.k.a. “Messaging Guy”, as the guest speaker for my May Meetup event in Brooklyn to get to the bottom of this messaging challenge we all face.  He is the master of helping business owners identify what to say and how to say it so that they make a bigger impact on the world and their wallet.

When I met Zach earlier this year, I immediately liked the way he breaks down the process of crafting messaging that resonates and converts with simple steps.  After checking out his website, it was a no brainer for me to have him for one of my events.  

In this post, I am excited to share his framework and how you can improve your brand messaging to generate measurable results without bashing your head against the wall.

So, let’s dive in!

Want to be an Opportunity Magnet? 9 Secrets I Found by Observing Successful Entrepreneurs

Want to be an Opportunity Magnet? 9 Secrets I Found by Observing Successful Entrepreneurs

“I always wonder how in the world (insert a name) gets so many offers and opportunities, like speaking at XYZ conference or getting an invitation for ABC.  No one understands what he is selling.  Frankly, when it comes to credentials, I am a lot more qualified… I network a lot, too!  I just don’t understand what he does differently.”

Have you ever wondered about the same thing? 

Then, you are in luck.  This is NOT one of those articles you find online about networking & creating reciprocity.  Here, I am going to share the secrets I found from successful entrepreneurs by closely observing what they practice (most of the time subconsciously).

The reason this post is different from other “how to identify & attract business opportunities” articles is I am going to touch on some facts that not many discuss publicly.  You won’t find this on social media timelines. It’s because what I have here is the result of many “behind closed doors” conversations. 

To be honest, as a revenue & growth strategist (link), I was a bit hesitant to even talk about this, as none of these are “strategies.”  But at the end of this post, I will tie it all together.

And…there is more.  As a little bonus, I am going to share one thing the entrepreneurs I observed would NOT do at the end of the post.  This is going to help you assess whether you’ve been growing your business the right way or not.

Curious?

But wait.

Before diving in, let me define what “successful” means in this post since it’s a pretty broad & subjective term.  Let’s start with what it’s not.  Here, I don’t define successful entrepreneurs as simply those who generate a specific amount of revenue, i.e. 7 figures, 8 figures, etc.  Rather, they satisfy these 3 things that are essential to be a confident and fulfilled entrepreneur:

 

1.     Always generating leads (by being an opportunity magnet)

2.     Taking care of themselves & their people (their team, family, vendors, friends & peers) to be happy

3.     Having future-proof strategies

 

These are the only 3 jobs CEOs are responsible for. The ones I know who are doing great also have one more thing in common: they receive various business opportunities at all times.  If you like the way I clarified the definition of “successful entrepreneurs,” you are in for a treat!

Now that that’s sorted, let’s unlock the secrets!

How to Handle Collections & Refund Requests: The Secret for Keeping the Money & Keeping Your Customers Happy

How to Handle Collections & Refund Requests: The Secret for Keeping the Money & Keeping Your Customers Happy

“Maiko, there was a client who just called up the office really angry, demanding a refund.  He was really angry & rude yelling at me the whole time...  What do we do?!!!  I didn’t know what to say, so I just told him someone will get back to him… He wasn’t happy to hear that…”

 

Clearly, the person who took the call was caught off guard and was shaken up by what she had to go through.

Before going any further, let me paint a picture here.

In this particular case, the person who called angry isn’t my client.  That is my client’s client.  Nonetheless it is a huge deal.

Why?

Because here, we aren’t talking about a mere $195 refund.  If it were, I would be saying, “Please don’t waste my time with it.”  How about 100x that?

Yep, try $19,500.

What if this happens to YOU?

What would be your first reaction?

Let me guess, right about now there are hundreds of scenarios running through your mind a mile per second. Am I right?

 

“How do I NOT refund this guy?  What are my options?”

“How much would I be able to keep?”

“What if we don’t have any choice but to give the money back?!!! We don’t have any room for this!”

 

If this happened 10 years ago, this kind of news would put me in a panic attack for 5 min. My heart would be racing with an immense amount of stress. Since then, I’ve handled countless non-payment and refund cases over $30K+ per pop. 

So nowadays, my usual response is:

“Alright. Get me all the intel about him.”

See, ideally no business owners should get to this point without doing due diligence to consistently weed out clients from hell. At the same time, though, even with the best intention & strategy, we aren’t completely immune to this kind of incident from time to time.

Here we are.  What's done is done.  There’s no going back. 

So, what do we do now?  What would YOU do?!

13 Tried & Tested Unconventional Creativity Boosters for Non-Creative Business Owners Who Need New Ideas Right Now

13 Tried & Tested Unconventional Creativity Boosters for Non-Creative Business Owners Who Need New Ideas Right Now

“I am not a creative person like you.”

I get this a lot from small service business owners.  The funny thing about it is that I don’t consider myself a creative person in the way they describe.  But as a business growth strategist, providing various perspectives to my clients is my job.  Because of this, I am definitely intentional about keeping my mind open for new ideas.

There is bad news & good news associated with this story of “I’m not creative.”  So, if this is you, read on!

By the way, I call this statement a *story* because they are the ones who made a decision to label themselves as such based on…really no scientific or logical reasons.  It’s just a thought backed by nothing. More on that later.

Let’s start with bad news.

News flash: Trying to grow a business without being creative & resourceful, especially when you need to solve problems, will end up costing you in the long run.

Why? 

There are many problems that can be easily solved by using what you already have.  But because you feel you are inadequate to do creative problem-solving or to come up with new ideas to take your business in the direction you want to take it to, you end up relying heavily on outsourcing.

If it works out, great.  Most of the time though, the process of having others do the job requires some trial & error unless you are driving those projects.  This eats up your time, and you have to pay money for their work if the arrangement is not results-based, meaning you only pay for the results they are bringing in. 

The bottom line is, if you want to grow your business, it is your job to expand your way of thinking.

Now the good news.

I have 3 pieces of good news for you.

1.     Being creative doesn’t mean becoming the next Picasso.

2.     Small actions you can take will make a huge difference.

3.     None of the tips I will share in this post cost much.

How to Conduct A Business Detox the Right Way – Missing This 1 Crucial Step Will Undo All of Your Efforts

How to Conduct A Business Detox the Right Way – Missing This 1 Crucial Step Will Undo All of Your Efforts

You know that yucky feeling you get when you see something that has so much “build-up” that you just want to wash it all away?  Whether it’s the way you feel about your hair being coated in product or your brain jammed full with daily to-do’s or not knowing what’s in your bag, I am sure you’ve had this feeling before. 

There is so much going on that you don’t even know what to keep and what to get rid of unless you just dump it all on the table.

The same thing happens to our business after running it for some time.  Conducting a business detox by removing all the build-up can bring in so many new business opportunities without actually starting anything new. 

Imagine being free from the anxious thoughts of having to offer something new or to try new marketing to gain more traction.  You just need to detox your business first by eliminating stagnant areas, which will allow things to run smoothly & effortlessly.

This is, by far, the most underrated, low-hanging fruit when it comes to business transformation strategies.

Visualize a gem covered with thick mud and clay that gets purified with fresh, clear water, revealing its true form.  That can be your business!

If your business is in the season of growth and expansion, what you don’t want to do is to amplify your mess.  Many entrepreneurs tend to focus more on adding things to their businesses over subtracting time-wasting activities, and that’s not a way to go.  For more on how to find out whether your business is “scale-ready,” check out my previous post here. (Insert the link)  

“Oh gosh! Right, I’m ready to detox my business!  Where should I start?”

Glad you are game. But hold your horses for just a minute.  Here, I am going to unearth this one crucial step business owners tend to overlook.  It’s possibly because it’s not often discussed in the business community.  Can you guess what that is?

How to Treat Your Business Like a Business: 5 Valuable Lessons from My Time in the Show Biz You Might Want to Steal

How to Treat Your Business Like a Business: 5 Valuable Lessons from My Time in the Show Biz You Might Want to Steal

Do you find yourself having a hard time setting boundaries for your business?  Do you feel like there is no clear distinction between your personal life and your business?  You may be thinking you are too close to your business, and it’s nearly impossible to let go of some of the duties. Or maybe you feel hesitant to publicly declare what you do as a legitimate business.

Many of us start a business by pursuing a passion and/or what we mastered as a working professional, and then we grow it organically from there.  The downside to this is the line gets blurred between our personal life and our business. This also makes us feel like our business is an extension of ourselves, a part of our identity.  At times, it gets too personal because of this.

If you want to scale your business, you have to start treating your business like a business. 

A large part of this is because you are not going to do everything by yourself. You are going to need a team. If you deploy a team, then you need to systematize your processes.  In order to systematize your processes, you need to pull all of them out of your brain and start documenting.

So, what can you do immediately to start treating your business like a stand-alone, profit-generating machine?

Just like many of you, I was once living a corporate life.  Someday though, I knew I was going to leave this life, so I leveraged everything I could learn on the job.  I was consciously “intrepreneurship’ing” within all organizations I worked for. 

It was much later in my life I realized how fortunate that experience was and how much it impacted my business, which enabled me to skip most of the rookie mistakes. In a way, the experience allowed me to get right into making many more of the ‘other’ mistakes, but that is a story for another time.  At least, I did not have to start from complete scratch, so I’d say I was fortunate.

Behind the Scenes 3: Create Your Signature Workshop from Scratch

Behind the Scenes 3:  Create Your Signature Workshop from Scratch

Finally, the dust is settling after this year-long effort of creating a versatile signature workshop, which is to be repurposed into various content.

My mission for this series is to share the process exactly as it unfolds.  As you might have noticed, I have plenty of other posts that clearly outline how to do things for your business. This series does the opposite of that.

I’m baring it all this time in order to give you taste of the mess that goes into it.  As a result, my hope is for you to feel less intimidated by any business projects that you commit to in the long term.  Creating a signature workshop can provide many opportunities to grow your business relatively fast.  I hate to see you putting this off because you feel it is too big of a task to tackle. 

It's never pretty & it's perfectly OK.

Also, I want you to see how some things happen in a way that you could not have guessed. Both good & bad. 

This leads to another mission of mine- to prove that action creates clarity.

I often hear, "I need to know exactly what I'm doing before I get started."  Sure.  Have a plan so that, at least, you see a rough path in front of you. But my problem is the word, "exactly."

Sorry to disappoint, but you are not going to be able to know that unless you start.  What you can do instead is to course-correct along the way based on what you discover as you go. 

This is a kind of ambiguity that many get hung up on. The only thing I can tell you is... trust Nike's slogan- just do it.

In this post, I'm going to show you what that looks like. Trust me, by the time you finish reading this post, you will feel like you are a lot more “put together” than I did.

To do this, let’s break it down in 5 sections.

 

1. What I've Done for This 3rd Round of Workshops

2. What I Did Differently to Prep

3. Challenges I Faced

4. My Takeaways: Things to Improve & A New Plan to Move Forward

5. What Does All This Mean to You?

 

How to Set Priorities for Your Business, Even When Everything Seems Important: The “Thriller, Filler & Spiller” Method pt. 1

How to Set Priorities for Your Business, Even When Everything Seems Important: The “Thriller, Filler & Spiller” Method pt. 1

Have you ever just wanted to hit the refresh button & start over? 

No, I’m not talking about shutting down your business. I’m talking about starting over with a clean slate, so that you can see what matters most both in the long-term and short-term.

It happens to me when I know I have strayed too far from the vision for my business by getting bogged down on daily matters. This nagging feeling of “Ugh, I need to regroup!” starts to run in the background. The struggle is real. 

At that point, my brain is fried from daily tasks, and my vision is blurred.  I know to block out some time to step away from those tasks and cut off all communication, so that I can reassess my entire business.

If you have ever felt the same way, you are at the right place because what I am about to share here isn’t one of those stuffy “annual strategy planning processes” you find online, which are all based on the idea of starting from a target revenue number first.

Frankly, I don’t believe in this method. Starting from a revenue goal can completely derail your business, as you will put too much emphasis on hitting the target number and less emphasis on achieving your ultimate business vision.

It is not even sustainable, as it does not prepare you for potential incidents, wherein some of the strategies you rely on to hit that number suddenly stop working. By the time you realize you need another strategy to compensate for the loss, it is usually too late. From that point on, it will take minimally 3 times longer to get back to where it was.

Another widely known (and used) prioritization method is 4 Quadrant Method, which was devised by the legendary, Steven Covey. By only looking at the quadrants, it does not tell much in terms of what criteria one must go by deciding exactly WHAT IS:

Urgent & Important

Not Urgent, but Important

Urgent & Not Important

Not Urgent & Not Important

On the contrary, the “Thriller, Filler & Spiller” method is fluid, yet clear.  OK, I know the name is weird. But, everything I come up with is weird. By now, you are already aware of that, and I trust you are here to get the insights you can’t get anywhere else. In this case, I know I won’t let you down.

7 Surprisingly Easy Steps to Handle Difficult Conversations with Ease

7 Surprisingly Easy Steps to Handle Difficult Conversations with Ease

As a business owner, you will face conversations that you perceive as "difficult" or "confronting" from time to time.  Some of you may have more experience than others by holding a managerial position at a corporation.  But even then, having rather unpleasant conversations as a business owner is a whole other category, as you are the face of the company.

There are no other bosses to blame.  There is no brand name to hide behind and say, “They made me do it!  I’m just a messenger!”

As your business grows, your responsibility of looking after your business as a whole and assessing the overall well-being of it also grows significantly. 

It could be about firing one of your employees, especially when you break my golden rule- "No family or friends for hire."

It could be about unhappy customers demanding to speak to you.

In some cases, it's about your customers wanting a refund.

It may be that you need to tell vendors you want to stop working with them.

Or, you want to fire your client. 

 

They all sound unsavory, don’t they?

How would you say you feel when realizing you may have to handle these business matters?

Dreadful?
Heavy?
Depressed?
Exposed?
Confronted?
Conflicted?

Is your immediate reaction:

Wanting to avoid it at all cost?
Defensive?
Apprehensive?

 

What if I told you, by the end of this post, you may look forward to having these conversations because you have just acquired a new perspective? 

How to Bounce Back from Business Setbacks Fast: 5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Immediately After a Setback

How to Bounce Back from Business Setbacks Fast: 5 Questions You Must Ask Yourself Immediately After a Setback

A sudden loss of a major customer, a delayed shipment, an unexpected departure of your superstar employee, an injury/accident, a failed launch, a deal falling apart in the last minute, family emergencies… Operating a business comes with many unexpected challenges. Worse yet, multiple setbacks can come at us all at once.

When setbacks like these happen to you, they can take you right out of your element. This is particularly true when you are laser-focused on achieving your goal, leaving no room for doubts.

 

So, how do we bounce back from setbacks fast?

 

On a personal note, while writing this post, I experienced a setback. 

Only a few days from my meetup live event in NYC, I had no choice but to put it on hold due to an unexpected complication with the venue, where the event was supposed to be held.

This has never happened during my 2 years of running live events.  

If you are experienced in running events big or small, you know the production process starts way before the actual event.  You may also know that securing a venue is the biggest hurdle for anyone who wants to host a live business event. 

Needless to say, it was a blow at first.  To make the matter worse, in just one-weeks’ time surrounding this setback, I have gone through a massive water leak in my apartment, resulting in a section of the ceiling falling down and a family member getting injured.  Luckily, none of these were life threatening. 

Nonetheless, they did not help me get through a setback any easier.

This experience prompted me to write this post on how you can handle business setbacks better and faster.

At this point in my career, I can safely say that I'm a pro at dealing with setbacks because I've had so many in my life - both business and personal.  As I faced numerous setbacks, I have perfected a way to handle them better without forcing myself to believe everything is OK.

Recovering Workaholic’s Staycation Gone Wrong:  My Story & What You Can Learn from It.

Recovering Workaholic’s Staycation Gone Wrong:  My Story & What You Can Learn from It.

There were many things my father taught me back in a day.  One lesson that stuck with me was, “When (notice: not ‘if’) you fall, grab something, anything, on your way up.”

Recently, I attempted to take some time off in a lazy way by making it a ‘staycation.’

The description of “staycation gone wrong” may be a little exaggerated.  In hindsight, it was not as terrible as it seemed at the time, but the experience was not great.  This was one of those moments where my father’s advice seemed quite fitting.

In this post, you will see 3 simple sections: Before, during, and after.

If you consider yourself a “recovering workaholic entrepreneur,” this post can help you plan your time-off effectively, mainly by not doing the things I have done.  So, read on!

The Back Story

Despite my skillful mindset practice involving meditation, continuous education, and other energy preserving strategies, I was burned out.

The reason was obvious.  I had not taken a vacation since late 2015.

Unfortunately, this is pretty normal for entrepreneurs like myself.

Because we can't rely on paid vacations or time-off like regular employees, we end up burning out.  The most challenging part of this predicament is giving ourselves permission to take time off. Sounds simple, but it’s a hurdle that is extremely hard for some (myself included) to jump over.

This process could be made easier if we could just ask someone else to give us an OK.  In some cases, family intervention plays a role in this type of situation (if you are lucky).