Today’s interview is with John Vuong of Local SEO Search.
Welcome to season three of the LeaderQuest Podcast! This season we are focusing on small business leaders who have had to pivot or transition during the 2020 Covid Economy.
Each interview was structured around three main questions:
How did your business pivot during 2020?
What does the future (2021) look like for your business?
What is a current problem or question that your facing?
During each interview, you’ll hear real stories from real business owners. They will share their highs and lows, along with important lessons learned along the way. You’ll be able to take their knowledge and turn it into wisdom.
Today is John Vuong of Local SEO Search based in Toronto, Canada.
John’s assistant reached out to me about being on the podcast, and I instantly said yes. Our dramatic rise in work from home and the quick transition to digital interaction made this interview a no brainer.
John works extensively with businesses and brands to help them navigate the ever-changing rules around online engagement. With extensive experience in marketing, sales, and customer experience, John brings a wealth of knowledge to the podcast.
As Toronto based business (my first international interview), John still spends time with each client helping them understand their local environment. He and his team will create a custom package for you to help your business succeed.
One of the hardest parts of entrepreneurship is creating a viable product. It should be simple right? You have a great idea, convinced that it will change the world, so what could go wrong?
The reality is that a lot could. Great products, one that people don’t just purchase, but actually use and eventually rave about, all have one thing in common: they solve problems.
One of the most common things I tell my clients, and any would-be entrepreneur, is that if people aren’t buying your product, you aren’t solving a problem. This is true whether you have a tangible product like a phone case or a conceptual one like coaching. Whether I physically give you the product or I am the product, a viable product will always solve a problem.
Creating A Viable Product
I’ve found that the easiest way for me to understand product is to get back to its original meaning. A product is a predictable unit of value.*
Great products, as I’ve already said, solve problems.
Marcus Whitney says that they provide a predictable unit of value.
We see this in everyday scenarios. I need the internet to publish this post. Currently, ATT has solved that problem with reliable internet in my home office. I know exactly what I will pay for this service every month.
If, however, that internet starts to fail and I only get internet for fifteen days of the month, or ten days out of the month, I don’t get that predictable unit of value. Now all of a sudden, I’m looking at other competitors to see if they can solve my problem – internet – at a predictable (and reliable) price.
This works with service-based products as well. I could tell you how the average coaching client saves time and money while improving performance. People engaged in coaching relationships also show higher levels of emotional intelligence, grit, and overall life satisfaction. They also tend to make more money – for their companies and for themselves.
So if I could, through data and research, show you how paying $10,000 for coaching could, on average, make you $100,000 … would you sign up for coaching?
I’m no manufacturing genius, but I do understand human performance. There are some certain elements we have to have in order to nail our own growth, our own optimization, our own viable personal product.
Here are three ways to improve your own performance in your quest for growth.
1.) Tie Your Problem (And The Solution) to the Desired Effect or Feeling.
Recently, I was having a conversation with one of our children about exercise. We talked about why it’s important to do, even when we don’t feel like it. We get emotional, physical, and mental advantages. It gives us energy, improves overall performance, and is a key aid in living longer.
I shared how one of the struggles I’ve had recently is the desire to workout. Honestly, I don’t remember the last time I wanted to workout. In spite of that, I’m outside six days a week doing it anyway.
The shift was tying it to the desired outcome. I wanted to have the energy to play with my kids, build science projects, complete a full day of work, and a whole variety of other things. It’s those goals that keep me going.
Similarly, there will be an aspect of your own growth where you need to do it, even if you don’t want to. Maybe you hate networking events. Find a way to tie the task you don’t want to do (networking) with something you do (a date night, new video game, or your favorite caffeinated drink).
2.) Give Yourself Some Accountability.
I recently printed and published my 2021 goals for my vision board. As I’m slowly assembling them into the final product, it’s become a visible event to everyone in the house. They know exactly what I’m committing myself to.
They have permission to ask me how I’m doing at any time.
Additionally, I have a few people who know my goals and regularly check in.
It’s a key component to continued growth: the pressure of other people watching.
Whether you’re trying to start a product-based business or a service-based business, have some accountability. Share your goal with others and have them check-in to make sure you’re putting in the work.
3.) Don’t Be Afraid To Fail.
Most products don’t get it right the first time. Even those that we would consider a success (like the iPod) continually strive to get better.
Many of those will fail along the way. Failure is often a key component of learning.
In your own growth, personally or professionally, don’t be afraid to fail. That’s how you get better, gain clarity, remain focused, and achieve excellence.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
We’re continuing our look at Marcus Whitney’s Book Create and Orchestrate and how you as the owner need to spend time growing your business.
If you missed any of the previous posts, don’t worry, links are at the bottom.
Growth is about understanding that change is always happening. You can and should drive and leverage change to realize the vision and live out the values of the company.*
Reinvestment, Anticipation, Innovation
While highlights the need for growth under the three ideas of reinvestment, anticipation, and innovation. His focus on core aspects of your business are helpful, below I’ll use those ideas to talk about how we approach the same topics throughout coaching.
In life and business, reinvestment is primarily about the daily habits and routines we build into your schedule for success.
Reinvestment asks questions like:
Did you give your best effort towards getting better today?
What goals did you accomplish?
What new goals did you set?
How were you successfully able to eliminate distraction and do something of significance?
Throughout coaching, I highlight the need for these basic elements of our own growth. Many of my clients already know I’m going to ask these sorts of questions, even before I do. It becomes ingrained in the way we think during our times together.
Growing your business is about making small daily deposits of success, consistency, and routine. Otherwise, you will never achieve larger breakthroughs.
Anticipation is about your future self as much as it’s about the future market.
When I started coaching, my focus was exclusively on leadership health and burnout. Part of that was my own circumstance at the time. I was in an organization that consistently produced burned out leaders and I wanted to avoid that trend.
But it was also partly cultural. I started coaching as the U.S. economy was still feeling the lingering effects of the 2008 market crash. While in many ways we were ‘out of it’ by the time I started coaching, many individuals were still terrified and afraid. They were still recovering financially and were scared that something else might happen.
This made them extraordinarily open to talks of leadership health and sustainability, especially my focus on all areas of life.
As the economy recovered, I began to focus more on small business and HR needs. Again, both a personal decision and a cultural one.
It wasn’t that the need for leadership health was gone, but for many a strong economy hid the need to talk about it.
The current pandemic and economic collapse (and the resulting questions) have seen a large uptick in conversations around leadership health. People again are afraid and unable to mask their worry and anxiety.
I’ve had a number of individuals reach out to me about leadership health, including one organization who basically said, “We’re all hurting and can’t keep going on for much longer.” The long drawn-out year of 2020 has revealed the deep need for total leadership health.
Anticipation for me was preparing for this months ago and being ready to step in and offer coaching and consulting to these individuals and businesses. Your own anticpation needs might be different, but you can start by asking questions like:
What events, meetings, or opportunities are ahead of me in the next six to twelve months?
Who will I need to be to make those things happen?
How are my current behaviors limiting or enhancing my growth opportunities?
Growing your business starts by growing yourself and addressing your own needs first. Reaching your full potential allows you to serve others more.
In coaching, innovation is finding new ways to meet current needs.
As a business coach, I often tell young entrepreneurs that if people aren’t buying their product, they aren’t meeting people’s needs. Unfortunately, it’s just that simple.
We’ve seen a huge growth in the online education market, and rightfully so. Gone are the days of needing to be present for live or in-class training. Now, the convenience and adaptability of online learning make this decision a no brainer.
But smart entrepreneurs are already asking, “What’s next?” Online learning is the new, current, and necessary trend. But something will be next? Keeping an eye on upcoming methods of delivery, education, product placement, and advertising will keep facilitating steady growth in growing your business.
Today, we’re beginning a new series where we examine eight core concepts to help you grow your business. These eight core concepts come from Marcus Whitney’s book Create and Orchestrate. You can currently pick up a copy on Amazon Kindle for only $.99.
In his book, Whitney outlines eight core concepts that every business owner must track, measure, and invest in in order to grow their business.
In this series, I’m not going to rehash his points (you can read his book to know what he thinks). Instead, I want to use it as an outline as a frame for what I do with business owners and leaders in the context of coaching. I agree with much of what Marcus said and want to springboard off of that to give you some additional insights, pointers, tips, and business tricks on your entrepreneurial journey.
A software engineer by trade, Marcus outlines his eight core concepts in terms of ‘priority’ and ‘inheritance.’
What’s counterintuitive about this framework is that if you get hung up on the “priority,” you’ll miss the importance of inheritance. In computer science, inheritance means that an object has all the capabilities of the object it inherits from, plus its own new capabilities. If you apply this to the Eight Core Concepts framework, it means that while marketing is the least core of the eight concepts, it is the most comprehensive. Marketing has aspects of leadership, finance, operations, growth, product, service, and sales within it. It is the only concept comprehensive of all other business concepts, and that’s why marketers are so elevated in today’s business world.*
Concepts Number One: Leadership
John Maxwell has made famous the line, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Whitney, in his book, agrees. Leadership is a necessity for any business to be successful. Without good leadership, a business is doomed.
I’ve written a lot about leadership, especially in the workplace. The higher up you are in an organization, the more good leadership is expected (and demanded) of you. In order to provide this effectively, you must be rooted in the internal and external aspects of leadership health.
The internal dynamics of coaching include your spiritual, emotional, physical, and mental health. Internally healthy individuals ask questions like, “Am I spending time improving and leading myself well?” Strong morals are a part of internally strong leaders, but so are times of rest, physical activity, mental stimulation through reading, coaching, therapy, and times of quiet mediation.
Externally healthy leaders are focused on the relational and financial dimensions of growth. Their finances are in order so they can live generously and their relationships are strong. These strong relationships are found both inside and outside of work. Well-rounded leaders have close friends, a vibrant relationship with family, and uplifting and positive interactions in the workplace.
Strong leaders also have their finances in order. To lead a business well, they must lead themselves well. To grow a strong financial portfolio at work, they must know how to manage their personal money first.
Growing leaders know that they can only lead others as well as they have first led themselves and they take their own growth seriously.
Grow Your Leadership Capacity
Here are three ways to grow as a leader.
Professionally, seek out good coaching. This should come as no surprise. I’m a huge advocate for coaching. Coaches provide a judgement-free zone to explore serious topics. The higher you rise in an organization, the fewer peers you have to talk to, the more you need a coach. Find a coach who either specializes in your particular niche or area of growth and commit to twelve weeks of intentional investment in yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you can grow in twelve weeks. Reassess and recommit as necessary.
Develop deep relationships. One consistent problem I see with success-minded individuals is that initially, success can be viewed fairly small. Most of the time, success is thought of in relation to our work. We can be tempted to think, “I’m successful because I’ve made XXX amount of money.” This fallacy leaves us in danger not only of burnout but of disconnect in our relationships. If you ever hear a phrase like, “Dad made a lot of money but was absent most of my childhood and a jerk when he was around” you’ve failed as a leader. Success happens one drop at a time, make sure that you spend time putting effort and success into many aspects of your life, including deep and significant personal relationships.
Just yesterday, I spent time talking with my wife about some current frustrations in my business. There are parts of my business that I know are struggling and some that need to be reevaluated. As a solopreneur, finding time to balance everything can be difficult, and I was sharing some of that frustration with her. My failure to hit some of my more significant KPI’s left me frustrated. When I asked her what I should do, she said, “Ride your motorcycle.”
It was genius advice.
For me, more stress equals more I work. That helps no one. Instead, I needed to do the opposite of what my gut told me. Private leadership development is about finding life-giving and enriching hobbies that keep us sane. When stressed, I experience less productivity, decreased creativity, poor results, and increased anger. That’s not at all the type of person I want to be. In fact, that’s the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do. Privately, find and develop hobbies. Escape your workplace. Find ways to evade work. Unplug. Recharge. Breath. The only way to keep your sanity in the midst of a difficult time is to know when to turn off your work brain and turn on your fun brain.
Make a plan: As we work through the eight core concepts, make a plan for growth. Today, pick one of the “p’s” mentioned above and write out your growth plan. How do you want to grow professionally, personally, or privately in the next twelve weeks. Find someone to hold you accountable. If you need, you can email me your plan and I’ll follow up with you personally.
Eight Core Concepts
This list is updated as the blog series continues. Click on any live link to go to that post in the series.
I got my start as a small business owner somewhere around age 10. I wish I would’ve known then how much I loved it. My mom’s boss needed help around his yard and I became his yard person. Every Saturday I’d rake leaves, mow the lawn, chop wood, and clean up debris.
My next small business came working at a tractor salvage yard working alongside my dad. From age 15 to 21 I worked every summer and most weekends helping farmers get their equipment running.
I’ve also spent time in franchise-owned small businesses, nursing home facilities, and owning my own LLC. My entire career has been in and around small businesses and their owners. Their commitment to not just meet a need for their family, but their community has always inspired me.
Recently, was having a conversation with a small business owner around some of their plans for future growth and expansion. The ingenuity, creativity, and innovation from the heart of this individual energized me. The world needs more of this, especially now.
Which is why 2020 has hurt so many people.
Planning for Quarter Four
There are, at the time of publication, 100 days left in 2020. Many of us, if not all of us, have had the craziest year we’ve ever imagined.
Celebrate! You have survived more than you ever thought possible.
Rejoice! You have found a new level of creativity, clarity, and calling.
Commend yourself! You have discovered grit, tenacity, and mental toughness much greater than you originally gave yourself credit for.
And I want to encourage you to keep going.
The world needs you, your voice, your passion, your experience, your expertise, your product, and your smile.
With the next 100 days, you have a choice.
Quit now, with all you’ve already gone through.
Push through and find extraordinary success.
Two weeks ago, one of my clients recently made a goal for 2020: to grow their business by 25%. They are clear and focused. We identified necessary tasks, potential obstacles, and the daily habits that would be necessary to make this happen.
Last week, when we checked in on that goal, they had already made significant progress.
Plant + Preparation = Success
A plan, plus the proper preparation, equals success.
Will you reach all of your goals in 100 days? Probably not. In fact, I hope not. Otherwise, your goals are too small.
But what could you accomplish in 100 days?
To lose one pound of fat a week (seven days), you must be in a calory deficit of 500 calories per day. This means that in 100 days you could lose more than 14 pounds. How much more energy would you have without 14 unnecessary pounds weighing you down?
If you sent three email requests for an introduction, in 100 days you could have up to 300 new contacts on your phone.
If you woke up thirty minutes early to read a challenging book, in 100 days you would spend an extra 50 hours in personal growth.
Each of these on their own would speed up your path to success. Combine some, or complete them all, and 100 days from now you will hardly recognize your current self.
If you’re already on that plan, stay the course. Voices will start to creep in telling you to slow down, veer off course, or distract yourself with the next shiny object. Ignore those voices. Use them as fuel and motivation that you’re on the right path.