Its Time to Start Winning: What Every Business Needs to Address


Time to Start Winning: What Every Business Needs to Address

by Josh Tolley


Over the last few weeks my staff has been running into a problem that I believe is epidemic and it is businesses not having a clue what they are doing! The economy is not what it once was and if a business is going to succeed some real changes are going to have to be made.

Below you will find some of the most common areas where small to medium-sized businesses are making fatal errors.  The point of this article is not to give specific solutions, as I did not want this piece to seem like a “pitch” for my services.  Rather, I wanted to spark the thought process in the minds of those who need to address these issues and address them immediately.

Wrong Type of Business:

It amazes me how many small business owners start the wrong type of business. For example, you may like flowers so you decide to open a flower shop in a town that only has 5,000 people.  There is no way that you could sell enough flowers in that market to gain financial success, it just will not happen.  Another example would be to open a candle or wine store in a major metro area.  Your rent may be up to $15/sq ft.  Do you know how many bottles of wine or candles you would have to sell to just pay rent? Not to mention the other overhead.  You would need to sell over ten bottles an hour, every hour, just to start to recoup costs.  But every day I run into businesses that got started because the owner has a passion for the industry, or they thought it would fit their market since that business didn’t exist in their market.  Here is a hint, if it is not in your market yet, there may be a reason!  I know this will fly in the face of the “experts” who tell you to do what you want in starting a business and it will be successful.  Well, these are also the “experts” who don’t know how to get out of this financial mess!

Do I think you can’t make money if you like flowers and you live in a small town? No, just start a different type of business with flowers! Do I think a candle store would be a bad choice in a metro area? No, just start a different type of business in the candle industry. Instead of a traditional internet store (yes that is now “traditional”) or brick and mortar shop, perhaps becoming a flower distributor focusing on business to business or become a candle supplier to hotels and restaurants in your metro area? These are just two examples.  Too often, we only know one or two types of business models when we enter the business world and too often those models are terrible. 

No Real Sales Training:           

This one astounds me. A business, regardless of if it is a doctor’s office or a car dealership, depends on sales.  Most start-ups, small-medium businesses have NO sales training at all!  Your business makes money via sales and you don’t spend any money and time learning how to sell?  This is why you are failing. 

The other part of the sales training equation is very outdated sales training. Today’s sales “techniques” were developed 70-80 years ago and the “experts” have just been retooling the message.  What’s the problem with that you may ask? The problem is people are different today. 

70 years ago when these “techniques” were developed most people stayed in their profession most of their life, they did not face the 15,000 daily branded message exposures that you do, they have never been professional sales people, and all this means the mindset of the customer was different.  Today, the average career lasts less than 5 years and most people have been professional sales people.  We are sold to on a constant basis and our minds are actually programmed to resist “techniques.”  Don’t believe me? What do you think of when a sales person tells you, “Let me go talk this over with my manager’ or “If we can make this price work for you, what would stop you from taking it home today?”  How about this; “Sir, I understand how you feel, I felt the same way, this is what I found.”  I know, I threw up a little bit in my mouth just typing it. My point is, most business owners spend no effort developing this most important skill, and then when you do you use, and teach your staff, “techniques” that you yourself know actually keep you from buying!  Why oh why dear business owner do you continue to kill potential sales?  This article is not meant to be a piece where I tell you what to do or “sell” you on my training, but let me briefly just say, there are a few people out there who can teach you and your staff how the mind of the customer works, and when you have a grasp on certain skills, you will no longer need “techniques” to generate income.

Poor marketing:          

What is the #1 priority for any business?  Here is a clue, it is not your product or service, it is not your facility, it is not your back of house management, it is not hiring the right staff, it is not location, and it is not even sales training.  It is marketing! Now, what is the #1 overlooked aspect in most small/mid businesses?  Most will spend a ton of money on facility, hundreds of hours on learning to perfect the product or service, and spend valuable resources on a number of other things that will do no good unless people come to your business! You could be selling the cure for cancer and unless people know you have it for sale, you will sell none.

The fear of most small businesses is that marketing is not tangible and therefore it is kind of scary.  Not only that, but it can become really expensive really fast and to be honest, most marketing efforts are a waste of money.  While I understand where small business owners are coming from, that fear has to be overcome before your first day in business or don’t even bother opening up.

Your largest expense when you are in the “small to medium” category needs to be marketing or “small” is exactly where you will stay. 

There is a sad misconception that if you offer a great product or service, that is marketing enough.  Don’t be foolish.  Everyone and their brother makes a better burger than that big fast food chain but the fast food chain makes billions while the great restaurant has to close its doors and it is because of one thing; marketing.  Don’t let yourself be fooled into thinking that great word of mouth is free either. It takes a lot of money to create great word of mouth.  The reason being, and we have all heard about it, negative spreads quickly, positive spreads slowly.  To speed that up, you need to give people a reason to start talking.

To make matters even worse, when a small business does pry the wallet open to purchase some marketing efforts, the money is spent on areas that may not be the best choice when working with limited funds. Yes, I have a position on which areas are best for marketing, but for the sake of staying on point, I will not be listing them here. Instead, let me just ask some questions to get you thinking.

Have you heard of DVR? Do you know what that allows you to skip when watching television? Do you “surf” during ads? Can you name 10 ads you seen in yesterday’s newspaper? Better question; do you even read the newspaper? Do your customers? How many years has it been since you opened a yellow page phone book? Can you remember even 5 billboards you seen on the way into work today? Do you like pop ups and banner ads? What was the last banner ad you seen on-line? Yeah, I can’t remember either.

My point is this, your customer base avoids advertising! We make technology to get rid of advertising (pop up blockers, DVR, Satellite radio).  Yes, I said your largest expense in the beginning should be marketing, that is why it is so important to spend it on things that will work!

Slow Movement:

We live under the impression that since the world is moving fast, then business moves fast too.  Wow, how generally wrong that impression is.  If you are going to reach your goals before you reach the grave, kick it up a notch (or 5).  Don’t take three days to return calls, don’t take a week to make a business decision. 

I have personally had experience with my company where we have offered to purchase product and people took three weeks to get back to us, which was 2 weeks and 5 days too long.  We have had situations where we wanted to use our media exposure to raise money for charity and the charity would take weeks to get back to us.  We have even had situations where we would find a company that we would really like to see grow so we offer them advertising packages 90% off (seriously) and out of their mouth comes, “I have to think about this for a few weeks.”  What that shows me is that company doesn’t know their business well enough; they don’t know their strategy well enough, to be able to tell if a business move makes sense to them.  Either that or they are part of the sheeple population which now no longer knows how to make decisions.

This is so prevalent in today’s business world it is almost repulsive.  “Time is Money” and that is exactly why so many businesses today don’t have any!

Little or No Strategic Planning:      

It cannot be said enough but how many businesses do we see that just open up and expect success to fall in their lap? Your business needs to be run like a military campaign, a game of chess.  Why are you placing your business here? Why this service or product line? How do you take market share from your competition? Who really is your competition? When do you develop profit partners?

I have seen many great people have to close down their business because they thought that if they offered a great product or service, and they had enough traffic to their business they would be able to succeed.  Why on earth would we think that is enough?  Taxes, political environments, construction in your area, band width required, suppliers going out of business, inflation, and millions of other “non business” circumstances affect your business on a daily basis. Not to mention at some point competition will play a role and by the time they know about you, if you don’t have a plan for it, you are toast.

Here is a great question though: If you don’t know how to think and plan strategically, how can you think and plan strategically? This is probably one area where I show the most mercy to an existing business owner, because as the saying goes, “You don’t know what you don’t know.”

While I may have compassion, compassion doesn’t take away the reality. All businesses need to learn to implement strategy and do so immediately.

Poor Human Asset Development:

Your most valuable asset to your business is your people. I don’t care if you have a diamond mine in Canada, if you don’t have a strong development plan for the people who run the machinery your business will be lacking.

Most small to medium businesses do little to nothing in terms of developing their people.  We have been lead to believe that if we offer a good wage and some benefits then our job is done.  No.

Let me ask you something, do your employees really want to work for you? Ask yourself; are they in a better mood Friday or Monday?  Truth of the matter is most of what we are taught in “Human Resources” is utterly worthless because it comes from the approach that the people working for you want to be there.  Think about this for a second.  How many of your employees would like more time off and more money?  All of them, so all of them are wanting what they are not getting from you.

So how do you deal with that? Well, without getting off point let me just whisper in your ear, encourage them to quit. I know, that makes no sense, but if I had the time here to explain it to you, your business would see a 20% increase to your bottom line in one quarter!

Lack of Leadership Knowhow:

I know this may seem to overlap the previous area (Poor Human Asset Development) and in some ways, it does.  However, this goes beyond developing an employee that does a better job.  

If you go to the “leadership” section of your local bookstore you will see hundreds of books by hundreds of leadership “experts”.  While I would never tell someone not to read any of those books, and while some of those authors are personal friends of mine, I must tell you that most of what is offered as “leadership” is little more than “how to play nice in kindergarten.”

Look, I will let you in on a little secret, most of those books are just marketing efforts to sell product.  Think about it, what is leadership?  Do you really need a book to tell you things like “Make your key players feel special” or “Develop the leader in yourself to find the leader in your business.” While the “leadership” industry has given us great little expressions to post on our Facebook walls, most of it you really already know.  Again, I’m not saying don’t read those books, everyone needs a reminder from time to time that “giving tasks to others gives them a chance to see the leadership abilities in themselves.” But it is time we pull up our pants, put on some gloves and take a look at real leadership.

How do you lead employees who don’t want to be there, for example? How do you lead someone who has just lost a child and doesn’t really want to focus on work? How do you lead a staff when, just like them, you too are worried about not being able to keep the business going? How do you lead a company when the news constantly is telling you the reasons you will fail? How do you lead your staff through their fear? The biggest hindrance to sales and business advancement is fear, you better know how to get yourself, and those you lead, through it.

Those are just but a few examples of what real leaders face and I am sorry to say, I have read well over 50 leadership books and have seen no real instruction that would merit the term “leadership training.” Here is the problem; they (the “experts”) don’t seem to understand that leadership is NOT done “Peak to Peak” but rather “Valley to Valley!”

Social Networking:

I know this is going to tick off many “experts” but I cannot help it. If you are counting on social networking to market your business, you are a fool.  Every day I am told how great social networking is.  Every day I remind business owners not to be sucked into it. Yet, every day I see businesses that go under because they put too much stock into the “Social Savior.”

The major problem with social networking is that is it not social at all. Is Bob’s Muffler really a “friend”?  Do you really want to open his e-mails? Not to mention everyone in the social world is selling, not buying.  On a daily basis I personally get 200-300 posts, tweets, etc selling me something.  It is so heavily applied now that I (and millions of others) are actually starting do hate the companies that try to pitch while I’m trying to see latest photos from my friend’s wedding.  Even people who “friend” a great business will seldom, if ever, respond to their social marketing efforts!

Not only that, but it is getting old and crowded.  Yeah, three years ago, when people wanted to do everything and anything with social networking, you could get some “clicks” but even then, those clicks were not translating to dollars.  Today, with the number of posts on people’s social sites, odds are that even if I want your solicitation, I’m not even going to see it.  If the average person has 300 contacts in the social world and you post your “pitch” at 2 pm, they would have to scroll down page after page, after page to see your pitch if they went on the social site at 3 pm.

Don’t believe me? Dell computers, in their own words, wasted over $100 million on social marketing! Just this week it was exposed that all the top celebrities took a vow not to post until they raised $1 million, they couldn’t even hit that and needed a “bail out”, and if you think your little small business has more of a social networking pull than Kim Kardashian or Ashton Kutcher, you are dreaming!

I know, you will say, “But Josh, isn’t the best part of social networking the fact that it’s free?” No, when you are in business, everything you do related to business is never free, you are either making money or you are not, and not making money is the equivalent to wasting or losing money. 

Yes, you need a social networking presence, No, that social networking presence will not be the tool that most likely will allow you to achieve your dreams.  I’m not saying don’t do it at all, just don’t be stupid and think that it is all you need.

UPDATE: Recent study shows 91% of Facebook users are “un-friending” and “un-liking” businesses from their Facebook page! 91%!! Tell me again how social marketing is so great when 91% of the customer base is so disgusted with “social marketing” that they are making an effort to avoid you?!

Search Engine Optimization:

One of the biggest problems with most businesses that I train is they have fallen into the “SEO” pit!  Some time ago, in the not too distant past, a great invention came along called the internet.  Along with that came great tools called search engines.  Then some “expert” killed countless businesses by selling “SEO” as a valid marketing tool.

For those who don’t know, let me explain briefly  what “SEO” means, it means when someone goes on the web and types in “widgets”, you spent a ton of money to make sure your company is in the top search results.  What’s the problem with that you ask?  Well, let’s see if you can spot it.

Someone is looking to by a widget, THEY DON’T KNOW OF A COMPANY TO BUY FROM so they search.  This means that they don’t know about you first of all, and secondly your success on getting their business is determined by a system where you AND your competition is made available to the potential customer and you are given no opportunity to sell at all.  No chance to explain why your widget is better, no opportunity to connect with the customer.  This is the equivalent to gambling with your business! 

When a customer goes to a search engine to find a product or service your business offers, it is actually the OPPOSITE of effective marketing. Marketing should have prevented them from needing to search in the first place. Marketing would have been when they asked their buddy where they found their great widget, the buddy tells them to go to your business. Marketing would have been when they think to themselves “widget” the next word in their mind is your business name.

Lack of Branding:

Your business needs to be a “brand”, if it is not, there is no reason for people to grow attached to it.  How important is branding? What fast food chain loves to see you smile? What airline lets you know you are free to move about the country? What shoe brand does Michael Jordan wear? That’s how important branding is.

Branding allows your business to become your business. Until you are a brand yourself, you are only a sales organization for another brand, and if a customer can get that product/service elsewhere, they will.  Let me give you an example, the leading widow cleaner is Windex, it is the same product as a window cleaner I can buy at the dollar store for $2 less.  Which product sells more?  WINDEX! Same product and the one that sells the most is the one that is marked up 300%!  That’s the power of branding.  Logic would say that because the economy is bad and everyone is worried about their budget there would be nobody stupid enough to buy Windex, the truth is the opposite. Because they spent the effort to develop their “brand” they are not being hit as hard as they would normally be by the economy.

Most small-medium businesses have no idea how important becoming a brand is, let alone how to develop one.

Too Many Coaches Not Enough Trophies:

This is a major reason I became a strategist.  I had seen the thousands of “experts” on television, in the bookstore, and at the seminars.  The thing that caught my attention was, how can millions of people read the book and nobody really get the success?  How can so many people hire his “expertise” and still not achieve their goals?

That’s when I realized there are too many coaches and not enough trophies.  If all these “experts” where indeed experts, the results would be evident.  That is why I do not refer to myself as a “coach” but rather a strategist. A strategist doesn’t only help you lay out and execute your game plan, but he/she also knows there are obstacles, real obstacles to your success and has skills to overcome those.

The reason this is listed as one of the areas that lead small-medium businesses to failure is simply because we are listening to the wrong people.  I know that every small business owner needs to constantly invest in their self growth, their skill training.  Not to make such investments is committing yourself to failure.  While I applaud any effort made on the part of a business leader to gain these skills, I would not be doing the readers any good if I did not point out that many of the “experts” you are turning to will not provide the skill set you need for success.

In defense of the “experts” who sell are out there, it usually is not their fault. Most “leadership” and “success” experts come from a position of success they have reached in their own lives and they have been lead to believe (usually from producers and publishers) that because they reached a level of success and recognition, they can lead others to do the same. The truth is, most of the people who gain success really don’t even understand what they did to make it there! You see it all the time; the billionaire tycoon who dropped out of school now teaching it was his education, the football coach who mistakes his keen understanding of football strategy and thinks it was really his ability to win friends and influence people that won him the Super Bowl.  I am NOT saying these people don’t make valid points, and I am NOT saying you shouldn’t read their books!  What I am saying is, their great example of success is not instruction; it is a great example of success!

Let’s look at it this way, most “success” teaching is like a map.  The person doing the teaching knows s/he made it to success and wants to give you a map.  Well a map does you know good if you don’t know where on that map you are and where on that map the destination is! This, unfortunately makes up 80% of the “success” industry.  Then there are those who know where point “A” and “B” are.  They can give you specifics.  Things in this category talk about “Develop your environments”, or “Run the numbers, make 20 cold calls a day.”  This is a major step in the right direction and these “experts” have actually produced some great results for people! This makes up another 18% of the “success” industry.

However, let me ask you a question; what good does a map and a destination do if you don’t know how to drive?!  This is the key to what has been missing in the “success” industry.  Yes, doing 20 cold calls may be what it takes, buy how do you communicate in such a way to get results from the call? Yes, building relationships and networking are keys to success, but how do you step outside your personality time and develop those relationships? Yes, negotiating your costs can save money, but how do you actually talk someone out of money and make them feel good about giving it up?

I am aware that this will offend some great “experts” and that is by no means my intention.  I want those experts to continue to produce maps, continue to produce the starting and ending points, but come on people….learn how to drive your vehicle on your road to success!  Teaching people how to drive is the rarest skill in the “success” industry, and only a handful of people in the world are offering it. 

In closing, I know there are many other aspects to success like time management, balancing family and work, healthy living (yes, seriously).  As great and important as those other areas are, if you are not constantly addressing the above you will soon be out of business and have all the time in the world to manage with your family while planting that organic garden.

Josh Tolley is a business and behavioral strategist.  His latest book, “Quit Your Job or Die: Discover the Importance of Self-Employment” has been a top ten best seller for over 12 weeks.  His teachings have been implemented by hundreds of people and dozens of businesses around the globe. He is ranked as one of the top 100 business and personal growth trainers in the world and is the developer of many human interaction technologies. Josh does take on a VERY limited number of personal clients, to discuss this or to book Josh for a seminar in your area contact Mike with The Annex Group at 626-893-4917 or  Find out more about what Josh is up to at


3 thoughts on “Its Time to Start Winning: What Every Business Needs to Address

  1. This is probably the best advice I have read regarding business in a long time! I must admit, I have fallen into the traps you mention regarding marketing and not investing training.

    Keep up the great work, I love all your posts!

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