I recently attended Nick James’ Expert Empires seminar in London for the first time, after seeing that Neil Patel and Lewis Howes were the headline speakers – both online marketing experts I have been following online for many years and whose content I absolutely love – so I jumped at the chance to buy a ticket to the 2-day seminar. It was also great to see friends like Sam Rathling speak at the event (who is an absolute rockstar when it comes to LinkedIn training for entrepreneurs if that’s something you’re interested in).
In between each main speaker slot, Nick delivered snippets of his own content which was a nice surprise, rather than the typical thing you see where the organiser just comes on stage to get the energy of the crowd up and introduce the next speaker. One of Nick’s first segments of content was called ‘7 reasons your business is underperforming’. I thought it was a really well-delivered segment, so much so that I’ve typed up my notes below to share with you.
The 7 reasons why your business is underperforming are what Nick shared from the stage but I’ve added in my own comments for each one to give you my thoughts and comments about how I interpret each of them.
1. You haven’t got your shit together
In other words, you haven’t got a clue why you’re doing what you’re doing, or have no clearly defined goal that you’re aiming for. You started a business because you either hated your job/company/boss/colleagues (maybe even all of these!) or because you found yourself in a position to ‘try it out’ and see if it works out. You’re not 100% committed to the business, you might even be doing it part-time. Now, there’s nothing necessarily wrong with running your business as a side-hustle but most people I know who do this are treating it as a hobby but expecting to earn from it like a real business. It doesn’t quite work that way. Sorry to burst your bubble on that one, but that’s the truth nobody else will tell you so bluntly.
Whether you are on this journey part-time or full-time, get your house in order by knowing your goals and mapping out your route to hitting those goals. Know your why. Know what you’re good at so you can do more of whatever that is and know what you’re not good at so you can do less of that. Know who you are and who you’re not.
Basically, Nick said it perfectly – before you do anything else, get your shit together.
2. You’re wasting your time on low-value tasks
As a business owner, your role should focus on high-value tasks that help to position you and your business as the go-to authority in your industry for your service. This can include but is not in any way limited to, public speaking, marketing, designing new products, creating the culture within your business, building relationships with your customers, and building your team of advisors to guide you and technicians who will actually deliver your product or service to your customers.
You may also be involved in putting into place various time-saving processes and systems that will make your business leaner and run like a well-oiled machine.
In reality, I know that most entrepreneurs end up spending most of their time being the technician (or the ‘doer’) in their business, rather than fulfilling the role a business owner or entrepreneur actually should be focusing on. In some extreme cases, I’ve seen the business owner do the marketing, website design, invoicing and bookkeeping, VAT and tax returns, delivering the actual service for the customer and every other big and small task needed to run a business. Usually when I see this the entire business is being run on a series of messy spreadsheets that only the business owner can understand and navigate their way around.
Sound familiar, I wonder?
On this point, Nick said ‘stop doing the £500 tasks and focus on the £5,000 tasks’. I couldn’t agree more. You should not be doing the low-value tasks relating to the operations side of the business which can be automated or outsourced, and where possible you shouldn’t even be doing the actual delivery of the service to your customer. If, however, the delivery of your service is entirely dependant on you doing it then you should let go of the business owner role and bring in a co-founder or MD to run that side of things so you can focus on getting your hands dirty and doing the work.
My point here is that you can’t be both a business-owner and technician.
3. Your attitude and relationship towards money is wrong
Money is the root of all evil. People with money are not very nice or friendly. I always find that money goes to people’s heads and they change once they have more money.
Have you ever found yourself saying or thinking things like this? I know I have in the past. I can’t stress enough how important it is to change your mindset about money if you’re starting a business and part of the reason for doing so is to earn more money than you did when working your 9-5. Without getting too woo-woo here, if you keep putting out into the universe that you hate people with money or that money is evil…blah blah blah…you simply won’t allow yourself, subconsciously, to ever build financial wealth for yourself because you won’t want to become one of those nasty rich people you moan about all the time who drive flashy cars and can afford all the things you can’t. Start to see money as a tool or vehicle that can help you achieve your goals and make the difference in the world that you want to make. Start seeing people with money as inspiring and accomplished, rather than greedy and arrogant.
If you recognise that you have some issues around your money mindset, after reading this post buy the legendary book ‘Rich Dad, Poor Dad’ by Robert Kyiosaki. Here’s a link to buy it on Amazon. Put your business on pause until you’ve read this book (as well as the books from here) so you can get over any mindset blocks you may have about money. Don’t feel bad, we all grew up with different money experiences that messed up our money mindset a little bit!
You can also read almost any personal development book that can help with this. It’s worth checking out Tony Robbins’ ‘Unshakeable’ which is another money-mindset book.
On this point, Nick shared a nice affirmation his mum used to tell him when he was young which helped him have a better relationship with money than most people I know do: “Money is everywhere. Money is great and is for spending because there’s plenty more where that came from.”
I don’t think any of our parents (especially those like mine – East African/Indian immigrants who came to the UK in the 1970’s) who themselves grew up without any meaningful financial education had this attitude, so it’s highly unlikely any of us do.
4. You avoid selling
I get it, you’re not a natural salesperson and you find it a bit cringeworthy asking for the sale.
Now get this – it doesn’t matter whether you’ve never sold anything before or if you’re Jordan Belfort. Figure it out and get over it, because if you’re in business you need to be constantly selling something – intangible things like yourself, your brand, your vision, your culture; and tangible things like your actual product or service.
If you simply can’t sell you have two options: either hire someone who can and is good at it or get yourself on a sales course to learn how yourself. Even better, do both if you can!
I find it so shocking when I speak to business owners who say they hate selling. Change your mindset around selling – it’s not a dirty word or a dirty thing to do. You’re not scamming people, so why are you so afraid of asking for the sale? Stop seeing ‘sales’ as taking someones money and start seeing it as a way to solve someone’s problem. Besides, isn’t that why you’re in business in the first place?
5. You fail to adapt to changing trends in the market.
The most dangerous thing an entrepreneur can believe is that because something worked before that it will continue to work for you into the future. The days of relying on a single winning strategy working for years to come are gone. The Internet and social media marketing have made it impossible to get complacent and rest on your laurels, even if you’ve found a platform that works really well for your business. You need to continually adapt to changing trends in your market if your audience suddenly starts using a new platform, and be open-minded to fully embrace that change rather than be one of *those* business owners who refuses to pivot and shift focus when the goalposts get moved by Google (SEO, anyone?) or social media giants. Not only technical changes, but cultural and human behaviour changes will impact your business that you need to adapt to. Major worldwide incidents that shifted human behaviour may impact you at some point – things like 9/11 in 2001 and Covid-19 (Coronavirus) in 2020 changed the way we do business and interact with people so be nimble and humble enough to pivot when needed.
It’s not a good enough excuse to say you don’t have time to learn another platform or publish on yet another social media network. If that’s where your audience is going, get over it and embrace the changing trends.
Another example of just how quickly things can change online, I recently attended a LinkedIn masterclass for entrepreneurs to learn how to use the platform better because lots of experts were talking about how great the organic reach of content was on LinkedIn compared to Facebook Pages. A week later, before I’d even had a chance to implement anything I’d learned, I saw a post about how organic reach on LinkedIn is declining because so many businesses are suddenly jumping on that bandwagon like they did with Facebook and its flooded with low quality content with the good stuff getting lost in the noise. A week!
If you need to pivot your business or reinvent yourself in order to keep serving and solving problems for your customers, don’t hesitate. Do it and you will stand out in the moment and also stand the test of time. Remember, the only constant in life is change itself.
6. The people you surround yourself with are holding you back
They say you become the average of the people you surround yourself with – in terms of mindset, health, wealth, culture, attitude, and even your tolerance towards things. If the people you choose to surround yourself with (friends, family, co-workers, even romantic partners) are not improving your ‘average’ in all of these areas then chances are they’re dragging you down, to an extent.
It may not feel like a big deal or that they have much of an impact on you on a day-to-day basis, but over an extended length of time, usually many years or decades, the compounding effect of surrounding yourself around people who don’t support, encourage, and lift you up will chip away at you and be a major contributing factor to the level of success you are able to achieve.
If you need to change your environment and cut out negative influences from your life in order to improve your results and harvest a more positive mindset, that may be part of the journey you’re on which is one of the more difficult decisions you need to make. Being an entrepreneur is all about making decisions, and not all of those will be obvious business decisions. Some will be personal decisions that will change your life and have a knock-on effect on your business.
I saw a comment on an Instagram post recently about what to do if you’re surrounded by negative people which summed this up perfectly. It said ‘Simple – change the people you surround yourself with. You have nearly 7 billion options to choose from!’
7. You’re not investing enough in yourself or your business.
Do you attend seminars and workshops to learn from experts? Do you have mentors or a coach? Do you consume high-quality educational content over mindless Netflix shows? If you’re not constantly investing in yourself, in business and in your personal life, don’t expect to get the results you see people who do invest in themselves getting.
The return on investment of nothing, is nothing.
Investing in yourself doesn’t always mean spending money, by the way. It can mean simply taking some time out to rest and recover if you find yourself working those long hours and juggling all of life’s challenges. It can mean finding a non-work hobby like going to the gym to give you something else to focus on, or yoga, or learning a new language.
When it comes to investing in your business the context Nick was talking in here was about spending a bit of money on things that will get you results faster, like spending a few pounds on a Facebook ad campaign to fill up your next event rather than having to make cold calls for weeks in order to save some money. Sometimes, the saying ‘you have to speculate to accumulate’ makes total sense in business and if you can get a result faster by investing some money into a task that you would have otherwise spent weeks or months doing you will always be able to achieve your goals faster.