Friday, June 9, 2017

Successful Negotiation Secrets: Find the 18th Camel

Negotiation ISN’T a business skill; it’s a LIFE skill we use in business.  Life requires you to negotiate EVERY day -- in your relationships, career, and daily interactions with people you meet -- so you may as well be exceptional at it.  

In this short video, Michael discusses a successful negotiation strategy that highly-trained professionals use for a distinct competitive advantage: they find the 18th camel in every situation.


Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

Monday, June 5, 2017

5 Questions to Ask when Researching your Business Concept

Your entrepreneurial DNA has kicked into overdrive – you’re motivated, optimistic and ready for independence – and in the back of your mind you’re making plans to launch a venture. In between your innovative thought and a successful business launch, a few steps must be taken to ensure your idea is viable. 

The first (and most important) step in evaluating your idea is conducting market research.

It’s understandable that aspiring entrepreneurs get excited about their ideas; after all, that’s what entrepreneurs do best. They experience an epiphany that serves as the foundation of an idea, envision all of the problems in the world this idea has the potential to solve, and begin to mentally calculate how their idea will impact a potential multi-billion dollar market. 

Unfortunately, in the midst of this burst of enthusiasm, many potential business owners consider market research to be of secondary importance.  That’s troubling for those who make that mistake, but fear not: you’re not going to make that mistake.

The thought of spending hours sifting through reams of data is not very appealing to most people, but this holds especially true for “creative types” who tend to focus on the big picture as viewed from the top of Mount Success. As a result, it is assigned secondary importance or overlooked altogether. 

That makes as much sense as buying a vehicle sight unseen and writing the check without knowing if there’s an engine under the hood.

As you conduct your initial research, keep in the back of your mind that fact that an idea that doesn’t stand up to research also doesn’t immediately make is a “loser.” Ideas are everywhere and can be mixed, blended and adjusted to fit the market conditions you discover. Your initial concept may be great with a little “tweaking” here and there.

1. Is it unique? A concept can be unique by being so innovative that no one else is doing it at all, or because you have little or no competition in your particular area. If you think your concept is unique but a Google search reveals there are 700 companies in your local area already engaging in your concept, you need to rethink your idea.

2. Is it viable? When entrepreneurs tell me they have the next best idea for XYZ product or service, and all they need to make it happen is hundreds of hours of university-level research and $30 million dollars for development – neither of which they have the budget to fund – chances are the idea isn’t viable. If you have the perfect retail storefront location, but the rent is so high your business will never be profitable, the idea isn’t viable.

3. Is there a need? In a free-market economy driven by the laws of supply and demand, potential demand will dictate if your idea is needed. You could develop your idea for a latent market and create the demand yourself – larger companies do that all the time – but that tends not to be a cost effective option for start-ups. It’s much more realistic for a new business to address a need, build a cash cushion and work on latent markets at a later date.

4. Is your idea reproducible? If your business concept cannot be reproduced in your absence, your company will never grow beyond your limits. That may be fine in your mind – you never wanted to franchise or expand anyway – but what happens if something happens to you? In addition to getting vacations and enjoying quality personal time, a business that can operate in your absence can also expand and grow with unlimited potential.

5. Did you conduct a SWOT analysis? This is a structured planning method that measures your idea against its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities (problems) and Threats. This can reveal design flaws, incorrect price structures and falsely held assumptions. It will also reveal information about your customers, competitors and collaborators very quickly. SWOT matrix software is available online for free; just download, fill in the data fields and see the result. If you don’t like the results, tweak your idea and try again.

If this quick first-stage test reveals your business concept is sound, you can then move on to stage two. This is a more detailed and tedious version of the first stage – time is measured in weeks and months, not in hours – but at least you’ll be enthusiastically driven by the fact that you’re probably in possession of a winning business idea.

Take the time to do your research; to be forewarned is to be forearmed.  Successful entrepreneurs know that to be prepared for victory is preferable to being unprepared for failure. 

They also know that chance favors the prepared mind.

Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.

6 Truths Entrepreneurs Know About Self-Assessment

The underlying purpose of honest self-assessment in your pursuit of a successful transition into entrepreneurship and small business start-up is rather simple: you need to develop an accurate idea of who you are and what you want

Most rational adults with a strong moral compass would agree that honesty is a virtue of the highest order. They would also be the first to affirm that honesty – in spite of the fact that it occasionally creates conflict and discord – is the best policy.

If as a society we value honesty to such a high degree, why do we have such a difficult time being honest with the one person who has the most gain from our honesty: ourselves?

We have been exposed to competing philosophies regarding honesty that cause our mind to become conflicted. On one hand, we understand that honesty is a virtue. On the other hand we have come to understand honesty – as it relates to ourselves – as a negative event. I hear those I interact with use phrases such as “the brutal truth,” “painful truth” and “the truth hurts” when approaching the topic of self- assessment. 

Not only is this terribly misguided, it is also completely unnecessary. Even worse, it’s completely impractical.

These competing messages regarding honest self-assessment result from a lack of understanding of the concept itself, and are further compounded when the process is incorrectly applied. Let me share with you now some of the insights I have developed over time with respect to the “self-assessment exercise,” both in principle and in application.

This process is especially relevant when applied to the assessment of skill sets that former wage-earners will rely upon to successfully transition into small business ownership.

1. Honesty, in and of itself, isn't painful. What is painful is the judgment we impose upon ourselves after the truth has been revealed. Objective truth free from the limitations of self-imposed judgment is the first key to success in this exercise. If your self-assessment process is to be truly productive, it needs to be as painless as possible. 

It also needs to be free from your self-imposed judgment regarding the event in question. Otherwise, while “the truth is trying to set you free,” your uncontrolled judgment is placing you back into chains as quickly as you manage to escape from them.

2. Self-assessment shouldn't be used to showcase faults. If you have ever been the recipient of the phrase, “C’mon … just be honest with yourself,” you are probably aware that whatever follows from the persons’ mouth will be negative. However, when you’re saying that phrase to yourself for the purpose of self-assessment, it should have a positive focus. 

That doesn't mean you ignore your weaknesses and previous failures; that would violate the honest spirit of an accurate self- assessment and deprive you of the opportunity to learn from your mistakes. What it does mean is you change the way you prioritize your assessment – positive strengths first and negative weaknesses last – and in so doing you change your orientation and focus.

3. Self-assessment doesn't create reality; it reveals it. Barring the most traumatic experiences that create amnesiac episodes in certain patients, it’s safe to say that most of us are aware of our own strengths, weaknesses and emotional issues. We can choose to ignore or deny them, but the truth is our response does not in any way change the fact that issues exist. 

When you engage in honest self-assessment you will not, for the most part, discover issues you did not know previously existed. What you will do is discover why they exist and how they can be reconciled to your satisfaction.

4. Self-assessment is an incremental process of discovery. When executed correctly, honest self-assessment is a gradual process that eventually becomes both comfortable and habitual. The process is continuous; once started and executed correctly your ability to self- assess in an honest manner will become second nature. Getting to that level of comfort is the challenge.

5. Self-assessment is a private process no one sees but you. Honest introspection is about freedom: freedom from judgment, freedom from external pressures and freedom from outside interference. That said, while no one can see the process of self-assessment, I can assure you that everyone will see the benefit and no one will miss the absence of falsely-held beliefs.

6. Self-assessment reduces the possibility for self-sabotage and low self-esteem. By knowing what truly drives you – embracing your strengths and acknowledging your areas of opportunity – you tend to make better decisions based on objective fact. Logical decisions based on fact tend to yield a higher probability of success (by minimizing the opportunity for failure), which in turn leads to higher self-esteem. There’s nothing quite like the victory of a success to boost ones’ confidence.

When you rationalize away the obvious, logically justify the irrational and ignore the reality you know is lurking beneath the surface you become a prime candidate for self-sabotage and low self-esteem. No one will fault you for what you aren't, and even if they do it makes no real difference at the end of the day. No one will fault you for what you are incapable of doing, and those who do make no difference anyway.

Now that the true nature of honest self-assessment has been revealed, embrace the concept of finding some areas to focus on during your introspective time. It’s easier to hit a target you can recognize and spot from a distance.

It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it … and chance does favor the prepared mind.

Michael I. Kaplan is a professional speaker, bestselling author and instructor.  You're invited to connect with Michael on LinkedInTwitter, and Facebook.  Or, contact Michael by email.