If you want to become financially independent, Christine will show you how to do it. If you want to build your confidence and self-esteem, she’ll give you a crash course. If you want a meaningful life full of rich connections, she’ll share her secrets. Christine shows you just how exhilarating, creative, and kick-butt business can be by revealing the triumphs and train wrecks of her incredible life.
Question: I've got a one-person business as a computer consultant and I'm afraid to raise my rates because I can't afford to lose work. In fact, I need more income, like my clients, not less. What would you do?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: If your goal is to increase your income, raising your rates is only one possible solution. I’d rather you expand your services and “productize” them. This will give your clients the option to spend more in order to get more. For instance, if you simply bill hourly, stop doing that! Sell “support packs” which last for a specific time duration or # of support instances and a pre-determined response rate. Example: for the Silver level support pack you’ll respond within 24 hours and the pack will last for 6 months or 10 support cases. For the Gold pack you’ll respond within the same business day, for Platinum you’ll respond within 2 hours. The biggest problem with selling hours, as you do now, is that you can only bill for so many.
Create a variety of “products” with specific deliverables attached to each. Then see how much work you can repeat and streamline. Create best practices and standard procedures and repeatable info and client checklists and you’ll be providing a higher end service level that your clients will be happy to pay for. The net-net is your clients want peace of mind from a reliable service provider. They will pay for that!
Question: How old do you feel is too old to start over?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: It’s never too old. I prefer to say “start anew” as “starting over” implies one failed or one’s past experiences aren’t valuable. Not so! We are the composite of those past experiences… they all had a purpose. I have a friend who is 83 and is starting anew. My father started anew on his death bed. I’m 45 and I’m starting anew. It’s scary and exhilarating and energizing and exhausting.
It’s always, always better to start anew when you want to shift your life rather than to compromise compromise compromise your happiness and existence… THAT is what makes people dead inside. Don’t let that happen to you! Read Rule #1 (Everything’s An Illusion, So Pick One That’s Empowering) in Rules for Renegades and download the New Illusion Worksheet in the Resources section. Design a new you now!
Question: When selling any business product that requires the buyer to produce prior sales statements for review to be compared with a new lower rate there by saving them money, they just see a salesperson and not a friend that knows can save them money. They basically ignore you. How can you change their reluctance and change companies?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Selling is about building rapport. That’s your #1 job. I find differentiating on cost is a lose-lose situation. What else can you differentiate on? People want to feel heard, appreciated, served by their vendors. How can you tap into this? How do you do these three things better than your competition?
First, make sure you have a TQL, a Truly Qualified Lead. Maybe they don’t even want what you’re selling. Next, remember when being sold to, people are tuned into one radio station ONLY: WII FM. What’s In It For Me. You need to find out what your prospective customer wants and needs, and help them get it. It may have nothing to do with your product initially, but if you help them get it, they’ll never forget you. Here are 4 steps:
1. Tune your Radio to WIFM
Question: How can you tell a business will be profitable over the long-term?
2. Ask for the Deal
- WIFM What’s In it For Me?
- This is the favorite and only station your client listens to
- Know why they are buying
- Remind them why they are buying
- Only talk to them about how this deal will help them!
2. Ask for the Deal
- You have identified your client’s needs
- You have presented a consultative solution to their needs
- You have earned the right to ask them to buy your recommended solution, So Ask!
3. Stop Selling
- Your clients know what they want
- They asked you to provide it and you did!
- The more you talk the more they think you are not done providing the solution
- Stop talking and let them decide to decide
4. Close the Deal
- Closing is about confidence
- If your client feels you have confidence in your solution, they will have confidence in your solution
- Confidence comes from preparation + a quality product you believe in
- Role-play your final presentation and prepare answers to objections
Christine Comaford-Lynch: You can’t know for sure. You need to assess the business’s potential by looking at comparable businesses and business models, and you need to assess the executive team’s ability to run the business. The former takes due diligence, the latter takes history. I always look at what executives have achieved in the past, and project that forward.
I like to see a decent revenue ramp + a controlled cost structure. Sloppy cost control will botch profitability pronto. Also there are key inflection points that are expected in the growth of a business if it is to be considered compelling. Here’s a revenue ramp example:
Year 1: $500k-$1mil (show us you can go from zero to somewhere significant!)
Year 2: $1-2.5mil (double)
Year 3: $3-7.5mil (triple to quadruple — year 3 is when the staff, systems, products are solidly in place and a customer base with repeat sales is firmly established… this is when we’re ready to blow the doors off!)
Year 4: $15-30mil (triple+)
Year 5: $45-90mil (triple +)
With the assumptions above, assuming this is a product company, with approx 70% revenue from products and 30% revenue from services, I’d expect cash flow break even at the end of year 2, and profitability at the end of year 3. By then your initial development costs should be covered by sales, you should know the estimated lifetime value of a customer, you should have repeat purchases, you should have solid expense data too — as into year 2 you’ll have your internal systems and processes in place and the company will run more efficiently.
Question: In my business as an animal communicator, I have few expenses and another way to satisfy a calling to help others (I also work with state-designated at-risk children). I have low overhead, no need for a shopping cart on my site, and clients who are committed. Professional communicators are out there presenting themselves as the authorities, with credentialing programs and standards encompassing all kinds of alternative treatments; is there a way my intuitive abilities (which go hand-in-hand with ADD!) can meet this challenge, beyond word-of-mouth connections?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: You DO need a shopping cart on your site!
And you need to create digital products like e-books, podcasts, short videos (“7 Steps to Communicating with Your Pet”?). Go to Zipidee and start your online store. They have over 300,000 unique visitors monthly (and growing rapidly). They’re the #1 digital goods marketplace.
To establish yourself as an expert requires several steps. Here are 2:
1. Increase your exposure: go to Technorati and search for the top blogs in your area of expertise. Now start posting value-added comments on them.
2. Write a series of 300-500 word articles that are tactical (7 mistakes to avoid, 4 success techniques, etc) in your area of expertise and post them on the article distribution sites like Submit Your Article, Ezine Articles, and many others (simple Google for article submission sites).
You won’t get paid, but your articles will get picked up by web sites, newsletters, etc. In the short bio at the end of the article have a lead generator. You must drive people to your web site where they will get a free treat after they join your mailing list. Copy our example.
Here’s how I sign off on articles I post: My new book, “Rules for Renegades: How To Make More Money, Rock Your Career, and Revel in Your Individuality” is now a New York Times bestseller (as well as a USA Today, Wall Street Journal and Business Week bestseller). To thank my readers I’m offering four free business-boosting podcasts based on some key Rules for Renegades concepts. Go here to get yours.
The net-net is you need to become an authority, and constantly reinforce this.
Question: How do you think the recent credit crunch affects those people trying to raise capital or get loans for their start-up businesses?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: I think it is a bit harder, AND I think if your business is presented in a way that it concise, compelling and complete, you’ll get the financing you need. If companies are willing to get creative and bring in more frequent and smaller rounds of financing (that are tied to business milestones) they’ll do well. Look into these 2 sites for unsecured loans: Prosper and The Snap Loan, and, of course, for angel investors you’ll want to check out Angel Capital Association and Angel Capital Education.
Question: What do you think makes a good investment?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Something that serves a purpose, will return a profit, creates a place for people to contribute and grow.
Question: How would you define a renegade? How is one different from being a regular businessman/businesswoman/entrepreneur?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: A renegade is a person with a degree of passion and commitment that exceeds the norm. A renegade wants to achieve great things, and won’t sacrifice their personal life on the altar of success. A renegade is not a rebel. A rebel trashes the system, is a loner, is all about not fitting in. A renegade acknowledges that there are systems and bureaucracies, and finds a way to optimally navigate them. Business people, entrepreneurs, intrapreneurs (entrepreneurs within large corporations) can all be renegades.
Question: Could a company operate effectively if everyone was a renegade? Can a renegade operate in a company or do they have to run their own show?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: We’ve helped over 700 of the Fortune 1000 and over 300 small businesses operate more effectively by helping their teams tap their inner renegade — so yes, you’ll find renegades at all levels of large, medium, small businesses.
Most businesses have done all they can to boost the bottom line. Now we need to boost the top line, which means we need to help our people operate at their peak. This is exactly what a renegade wants to do! So you need renegades in management in order to encourage the renegades who work for them. Renegades are exceptional team members, whether in their own companies or others’.
Question: What stops us from being as daring as we need to be? What would you say was your most daring career move?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Fear is what stops us from being daring. Fear of rejection, fear of failure. This is why we must intentionally desensitize ourselves to rejection. When people read all the ways I’ve been rejected and failed, and how I’ve turned these potential disasters around they see that nothing is ever the “end of the world.”
Once you understand course-correction and failing forward your degree of fear is massively reduced. It’s fascinating! I’ve received countless emails, letters, text messages from people who are overcoming HUGE fears as a result of following my advice in Rules for Renegades!
My most daring career move? Wow, I’ve had so many… waiting tables I asked some Microsoft programmers to give me work at night for free so I could learn Windows coding.
Changing my name to Chris on my resume so I wouldn’t be ruled out in the world of 1980’s engineering. Calling up Microsoft and saying Windows was a great idea but a lousy design was bold. When they said, “if you’re so smart, why don’t you come and fix it?” I said, “great, I’ll be there in an hour.”
Standing up in a huge crowd and saying I had a company (I didn’t yet) and would employ all of Microsoft’s contractors was a huge risk. I had to max out my credit cards and since I was out of cash, had to eat only iceberg lettuce, popcorn and whatever else was on sale for 2 weeks until more cash came in. That company made me my first million, which I then parlayed into my next business. So all that iceberg lettuce was worth it.
I’ve made similar daring moves: meeting a man in line in Starbucks and starting a company with him, asking billionaires to mentor me, coming out of a very comfortable retirement to learn how to write, get an agent and publisher, create a NY Times bestseller, and get on the road again — all this was nuts.
Merging my venture capital firm after 9/11 happened and it was clear we wouldn’t be able to raise the amount we needed to. People don’t merge VC funds. There was no model. I gutted it out and it’s gone well. Taking a modeling class at age 16 and deciding to become a model even though I was told that I was too short and ugly. Emailing Bill Gates and saying “if you donate money to AIDS you’ll win a date with a fabulous blonde. The result was Bill’s first donation to AIDS, dinner, and a 16-year on again, off again communication. Calling up Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp asking them to buy my shares in a private company, because I’d hear they would be interested in internet-based promotions.
The list goes on and on…
Question: What is your favorite “money” advice for entrepreneurs?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Money is energy. It needs to be moving around, creating things, growing. Set SMART goals (specific, measurable, achievable, results-oriented, time-bound) when figuring out both your future and how to achieve work-life balance.
Question: What “renegade” advice would you give to young workers just starting out?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Two things. First, make your “brand” equal results. You want everyone to know you as the person who gets stuff done, who has a GSD (Get Stuff Done), who makes commitments and follows through. A GSD is the most important credential a person can have. People with GSDs get the best promotions, the best opportunities, the best mentors, the best fill-in-the-blank. 90% of success is about following through!
Second, network “palm up.” When you meet someone, don’t talk too much about yourself. Find out about them, what they care about, what they want, how you can be of service to them. Then help them get what they want. You’ll end up getting what you want in time too. Life = the people you meet + what you create together.
Question: How would you describe your leadership style?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Bursty, meaning I lead in bursts, and in between I want my team to rise up and lead themselves. I am all about elevating others and growing people. I prefer to grow than to manage, to lead and then step back and give others a chance to take on the mantle in their area of responsibility. So my leadership is high level and strategic, and I dive into tactics to help my team lead their own areas.
Question: Starting out as a young female entrepreneur in a male dominated business world must have been rather challenging at times. What periods of your career have proved the most challenging and the most rewarding?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Getting into Microsoft was super challenging. Some of the men there had zero interest in having female engineers around. I had to constantly prove myself. Getting into the Fortune 1000 was equally difficult, because my competition were men in the 50’s who looked super conservative. Once I made myself over to look more conservative I landed our first client. Then I had to constantly prove myself about 40 more times. After that, heck, we had built massive credibility by doing terrific work and it was a lot easier. The reward comes from persevering through the times of adversity. Then, eventually, one gets to celebrate their success!
Question: What are the personality traits and characteristics of a successful entrepreneur?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Perseverance, humility (you’ll need to ask a lot of questions, ask for help and advice, admit to not knowing things, apologize, etc), passion, commitment. Entrepreneurs live in a reality distortion field. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t be able to take such outrageous, and often terrifying, risks.
Question: Drawing on your experience, what are the most common mistakes that entrepreneurs make when trying to secure finance deals? How can such mistakes be avoided?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: They don’t:
• Study & model successful businesses
• Communicate their business via a powerful plan
• Get sufficient funding: the right type of financing on the right terms
• Hire the right blend of staff
• Know how to handle competition
• Enlist powerful & connected mentors
• Build emotional equity to achieve escape velocity. If they do all the above, they’ll flourish. They should visit Mighty Ventures and sign up for the Mighty Minute, and check out our additional business-boosting resources there.
They're all free, and they'll help you TONS.
Question: What’s the secret of your success?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Finding painful problems and fixing them! One of the best ways to make your mark in business is to become known for delivering results. AND when you find people who are in business pain, they’ll be more likely to take a chance on an underdog: small business, a new business, or someone with a less-than-standard educational pedigree.
Question: What are the characteristics of a good business opportunity?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Great people. Great people can make a mediocre product/service/business a smashing success. But mediocre people can destroy a great product/service/business.
Question: Do you have any advice trying to start their business in a down-turned economy?
Christine Comaford-Lynch: Yes—avoid the mistakes sooooooo many startup companies make. No one has the luxury to suffer these now.
1. Hasty Hiring: Result? Bad hires that are costly and time consuming. Better to hire contractors on a “try and buy” basis. You can find good contractor employees in a zillion places, I like Workaholics for Hire, Elance, Craigslist.
2. Expenses Before Revenue: Result? Financial pressure and personally funding the business. Better to live below your means and grow more slowly. In the venture capital world we liked businesses that “lived on roots and berries.” You get the idea. Be scrappy.
3. Skipping the Six-Month Plan: Result? “Strategy of the Second”—and very little accomplished. Better to map out the next 6 months, and if a new project comes up, swap it out with one of equal complexity that is already on your plan. Poor planning is a luxury no business can afford. 4. Pointless Partnerships: Result? Time-consuming meetings and planning that doesn’t result in revenue. Better to only add partners for a specific purpose that can be monetized within the next 90 days.
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