Ever heard the common wisdom that business owners scare away prospective customers when they are too open about their stances in politics, religion or any other subject that might spark controversy?
Anyone who still thinks that is true should look at Fox News, with its edgy conservative stances. It consistently crushes CNN’s more neutral news coverage in the ratings.
Pick a side and stick to it
It’s more powerful to be polarising than it is to be neutral.
I am an evangeliser of the idea that the 80/20 ratio – 80 of sales often come from 20% of customers – applies to many things. What if 80% of your sales came from the 20% of buyers who either really love you or hate you?
Sure, not everybody should do it. I don’t particularly do this with my consulting business. I don’t have a fight to pick for my business – but many other business owners do.
I certainly have raised my profile on the side with the hornet’s nest I accidentally kicked when it came to my website CosmicFingerprints.com. It takes the position that the existence of code proves design in living things, and the atheist position is not scientific because every single code we do know the origin of is designed.
This argument landed me in one of the world’s largest atheist discussion boards, the Internet Infidels Discussion Board. (You can see a summary of this debate and the responses at http://www.cosmicfingerprints.com/dna-atheists.)
Soon my talk “If You Can Read This, I Can Prove God Exists” was getting discussed on more than 2 000 websites. The episode made me far more famous among people who advocate the design argument than anything I could have without the participation of the atheists.
Being controversial can work in your favour – sometimes
It doesn’t take politics or religion to stoke such controversy, either.
Health systems, genetically modified anything, gluten, vaccinating children – these are all things that spark fierce arguments. What in your industry could allow you to do the same?
Here are tips for inciting arguments that juice sales:
Find your Goliath. The real power of this is you can get the attention of people who hate you much easier than from people who like you. If you want people to notice you, go into the enemy camp and sink a rock into Goliath’s head. Then chop his head off and hold it up by the hair for all to see. Everybody will notice who you are. You go from shepherd boy to king overnight, as those who agree with you rally to you in the fight you started with the enemy.
Make your enemy your customer. They may end up becoming your best customers. If you sell a controversial book, probably 10% of your customers will be people who hate you. They will become a market for your book, and they will write half the Amazon reviews. Hate can be a powerful motivator. Can your business channel it?
Attack legitimate weaknesses. This is about exposing a truly embarrassing weakness in your opponent, not just annoying them. Most people who are on the line are afraid to walk across the line and poke someone in the chest to say that person was wrong. Doing so will surprise your opponent and win attention among supporters. It sure did when I showed that every single code whose origin is known to man is designed. I demonstrated that the other side had no scientific support for its position.
Be doggedly courageous. If you’re going to do this, you have to be persistent for the long term. You have to be constantly a thorn of your opposition. This is war. So decide whether you have time as an entrepreneur to be fighting a war.
Pick a field of battle. In every market, there is a small percentage of super-rabid enthusiasts that pay attention to everything – whether model airplanes or stereo equipment. They always know the score. Let’s say you come up with a breakthrough, something that truly disruptive: A model airplane that flies 10 times as far, a superior speaker. Your strategy should be to find a way to clearly demonstrate your product in some kind of competition or venue where people say, “Wow! This guy really backs up what he says!”
Employ these strategies, and you may be turning controversy into sales in no time.
Could this strategy work for your business?
What’s The Worst That Can Happen With A Disgruntled Silent Shareholder?
Whether a shareholder brings capital to the business, experience or connections, you need to ensure everyone has the same vision and values.
While we often hear that it can be bad to have a silent shareholder that does not want to play ball, it is not often that we make enquiries about how the governance of a company can be hindered by a disgruntled shareholder.
Most of us assume that as long as they own more than 50% of their own company, they are entirely in control of all aspects of the company and how it is governed. This is not true: Even if you are a majority shareholder, holding less than 75% of all the shares in your company can still result in headaches if a minority shareholder, holding at least 25% of the company, becomes disgruntled and neither participates in the decisions of the company, nor consents to the decisions being made.
What is set out below highlights, among others, why it is so important to give shares in a company to prospective shareholders over a period of time, rather than from the outset. This allows for shareholders to prove their worth without you potentially placing your company in a position where it could be held at ransom for many years.
The illusion of holding more than 50% of the shareholding in a company
- Many people assume that by holding more than 50% of the shares in a company they are free to do with the business as they please. This generally only holds true for basic decisions of the shareholders, such as the removal and appointment of directors. The most important decisions of a company are based on special resolutions. A special resolution requires that shareholders, either individually or collectively, holding at least 75% of all the shares in a company, vote in favour of a specific decision.
- Examples of decisions that require a special resolution include:
- Amending a company’s Memorandum of Incorporation
- Approving the issuing of shares or granting of other similar rights
- Authorising the basis for determining directors’ salaries
- Disposing of company assets
- Mergers and acquisitions.
So, what does this mean for you and your company?
- If you are a start-up looking to raise funds, apart from some exceptions, you will not be able to issue further shares to new shareholders or anyone other than existing shareholders if there is a shareholder that is effectively dead weight.
- Should you manage to vote a new director to the board, you will not be able to determine the basis on which they are compensated (their salary) without a special resolution.
- If you intend to merge with another company, you will not be able to pursue this without a special resolution.
- If you plan to raise money by disposing of or selling most of the assets of your company you will, once again, be prevented from doing so.
Accordingly, it is always best when starting a venture to vest your shares over a period of time. This means that, for example, shareholders are only entitled to have their shares allocated to them after a certain period of time to avoid a situation where you have a dead-weight equity shareholder hindering the governing of your company, and requiring possible litigation to remove them.
There’s More To Team Management Than Leadership
When you’re running a business you need to ensure that your employees are on your side, helping you to make profits. Giving them job security, taking them seriously and treating them with respect, will go a long way in enhancing loyalty and productivity.
The staff that work for you determine:
- How happy your customers are with your business
- The quality of the things that you sell
- The costs that you incur to sell your products and services
- Your risks – the things that can go wrong and how much it costs you
All of these things determine your profitability and how competitive your business becomes. How do you ensure that everyone is on the same side and helping you to make profits?
At work everyone believes that they are getting something (such as money) and are giving something in return (such as time and effort). They are weighing up in their mind “how much am I giving, how much am I getting in return and is this fair?” If they believe that they are:
- Giving too much or
- Getting too little
- Then this is unfair, and they won’t work well (poor productivity – how much they produce).
The manager needs to:
- Know what people are thinking about what they are giving and getting and
- Manage the giving or getting side
- So that people become more productive
In a smaller business you sometimes cannot afford to pay more or provide the sort of benefits (pensions, medical aid, bursaries etc.) that larger firms can and so the staff may be unhappy, not be productive and be on the look-out for something better.
How do you increase happiness without money?
- Job security – knowing that you will still have a job next year – and that you will get paid on time.
- Contributing to the success of the business. If you train staff to have the knowledge and skills to do a better job and you then encourage and support them to do this then they are happier, and you increase profits. If you then share some of these profits with the staff that helped you to make them then everyone wins!
- To be taken seriously and treated with respect. If you do this then staff are happier, and they will also treat your customers with respect.
- To be part of the team. You can often do this by having a regular briefing on what your plans are and discussing ideas. Because staff are doing the actual work they will often have good ideas and then will be motivated to implement them – it was their idea after all!
Staff leaving you all the time is a can destroy significant value. If you implement the strategy above, you will have happier staff that are more productive and a more profitable business.
Jeff Bezos Reveals 3 Strategies for Amazon’s Success
One of the richest men in the world shared his leadership tips for running a company.
“It remains Day 1.” That’s how Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of Amazon, signed off in his 2018 letter to shareholders. He’s been propagating the “day 1” mantra for decades, and it’s meant as a reminder that Amazon should never stop acting like a start-up – even though the company now boasts more than 560,000 employees and more than 100 million members of Amazon Prime, the company’s paid service for free shipping on select items.
Here are some of the most useful nuggets of wisdom Bezos shared in his letter and during a recent onstage interview:
1. Standards are contagious
Bezos says he believes high standards are teachable rather than intrinsic. “Bring a new person onto a high standards team, and they’ll quickly adapt,” he writes. “The opposite is also true.”
If a company or team operates with low standards, a new employee will often – perhaps even unwittingly – adjust their work ethic accordingly.
He also says that high standards in one area don’t automatically translate to high standards in another – it’s important for people to discover their “blind spots.”
Try making a list of your duties, then ask trusted colleagues to tell you which responsibilities are your greatest strengths. If certain things from the list don’t come up during the conversation, it might be useful to think about how you can up your personal standards in those areas.
2. Set clear, realistic expectations
If you’re looking to raise your standards in a particular area, the first course of action is to outline what quality looks like in that area. The second is to set realistic expectations for yourself – or for your team – regarding how much work it will take to achieve that level of quality.
Exhibit A: You won’t find a single PowerPoint presentation at an Amazon company meeting. Instead, teams write six-page narrative memos to prepare everyone else for the meeting.
Bezos says the quality of the memos vary greatly because writers don’t always recognise the scope of the work required to reach high standards.
“They mistakenly believe a high-standards, six-page memo can be written in one or two days or even a few hours, when really it might take a week or more!” Bezos writes.
3. Stay involved with the people you’re serving
Whether you’re selling a product or service, it’s a good idea to make sure you never lose touch when it comes to the people you’re serving – no matter how high up the ladder you climb.
Bezos says he still reads emails from his public inbox (firstname.lastname@example.org) as a way to keep his finger on the pulse of what’s happening with Amazon customers.
He says he believes focusing on what customers are saying is much more important for success than focusing on what competitors are doing, and he often compares customer feedback to company data to see where they misalign.
“When the anecdotes and the data disagree,” Bezos said at a recent leadership forum at the George W. Bush Presidential Center, “the anecdotes are usually right.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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