How To Grow Your Business: The Frank Underwood Method

Last week I was contemplating the impending New Year and some words of business inspiration and wisdom drawn from Netflix original series House of Cards. This week I’m continuing that theme and looking at some more sage words from main character which, when taken together, form the Frank Underwood method of how to grow your business…

How To Grow Your Business: The Frank Underwood Method The bullet has grazed by cheek but I haven't fallen - House of Cards“The bullet has grazed my cheek but I haven’t fallen.”

The world of business is tough, especially as an entrepreneur, and even more so when you’re a solopreneur and it all rests on you. People are going to take shots at you. Clients, the competition, your tribe, your friends, your frienemies, your suppliers, the people you employ…it’s the nature of business. It doesn’t mean you’re doing something wrong. When the bullets graze you, when you’re exhausted and fed up and really just want to jack the whole thing in because…well “What’s the point? Nothing is working and people are shooting at me!” Consider the fact it’s just a graze. You didn’t fall, you’re not dead, you’re roughed up a bit but that isn’t going to stop you. 

Why should it?

They wouldn’t be shooting at you if you weren’t doing something right.

How To Grow Your Business:

Take the hit, but not the fall. You will have set backs. It’s inevitable. Don’t allow them to become more than they are – they’ve grazed you, and it hurts, but it’s nothing serious. It will heal.

What can you learn from it? How can you avoid it in future? How can you turn it to your advantage?

Business Inspiration and Wisdom For The New Year 'The nature of promises is that they remain immune to changing circumstances' - House of Cards“The nature of promises…is that they remain immune to changing circumstances”

Authenticity is a word that gets bandied around a lot in business circles. It’s my belief that authenticity, together with honesty and trust, form the golden trinity of business. You must be genuine. You must be true. You must be reliable. If you make a promise, you must keep it. That holds regardless of how your circumstances may change, or what might happen. If you make a commitment to a client to do something, you do it. If it becomes physically impossible for you to do it, you find an alternative for them and ensure that your inability to keep that promise doesn’t prevent you ensuring someone else keeps it for you. 

It’s a painfully simple thing, but something many people overlook. What have you promised your clients this year? Have you delivered? Is there anyone you’ve let down, any area in which you’re not hitting your targets or living up to your assurances? Is there anyone you’ve out and out failed in the last year?

Now’s the time to assess and settle things. If you have clients you’re under-performing for, address the issue – are you capable of living up to your promises, or did you bite off more than you can chew? What’s best for them? To stick with you and give you a chance to prove yourself, or to cut their losses and find someone better than you are?

Now put the shoe on the other foot.

Which of your clients aren’t living up to their promises? You know the ones. They promise to pay on time next month if you’ll let them have another week or two this month, yet next month rolls around and there they are again, asking for more time. An extra month. Or simply ignoring you completely. They talk you into giving them a discount this time, because they will be in a better position next time and will be able to pay full price then, and bring you repeat business. Yet next time rolls around, and here they are again with the same spiel, asking for a discount this time on the promise of more money later. 

Later, later, it’s always later.

How To Grow Your Business:

There’s no shame in stepping up and saying, ‘I thought I could do this, but I can’t, not as well as you deserve.’

You will often find they turn round and say, ‘That’s okay, I’m happy with what you’re doing, I want to stick with you.’  Even if they don’t, they will appreciate your honesty and the experience will not put them off working with you on other projects in the future. 

Similarly, we all have those clients. They promise the earth and consistently let us down. Working with them is stressful, time consuming, and nothing like the joy we find in other people we work with.

It’s okay to let these clients fall away.

Promises go both ways. 

You must keep yours. So must they. If they don’t, even if you love them, even if you adore them personally, for the sake of your business (and in some cases your sanity) you must let them go.

How To Grow Your Business: The Frank Underwood Method - I won't shackle myself to people I don't know - House of Cards“I won’t shackle myself to people I don’t know”

By now we’ve all come across the ‘know, like, and trust’ concept. It’s really very simple: people need to know who you are, like you, and trust you, before they will put their faith in you and hand over their money. This is true for all businesses, but if you run a service-based business, or are a coach, this concept is HUGE.

People don’t shackle themselves to someone they don’t know.

Nobody wants to be chained up with a guy they don’t like.

And if you find yourself in an unfortunate predicament, locked in with some other dude who is your only chance at survival, you’d damn well better hope you trust them.

How To Grow Your Business:

There are people in the world we have no choice but deal with, whether we know them or not, whether we like them or not, whether we trust them or not. This lack of choice leads us to be very selective about the people who attach ourselves to by choice. People aren’t going to jump on board with you and your business until they know, like, and trust you.

So get blogging, get vlogging, get on social media, get your newsletter out there, get some PR.

Get known!

How To Grow Your Business: The Frank Underwood Method I never make such big decisions so long after sunset and so far from dawn.“I never make such big decisions so long after sunset and so far from dawn.”

I love this one!

We’ve all powered through the all nighters, forced ourselves to work eighteen hour days, and generally abandoned all effort at self-care in order to get shit done. It can be a good thing, but it’s usually not. Nine times out of ten if you find yourself working in the wee small hours it’s time to stop, take a break, get some sleep. 

It’s insanely hypocrytical of me to give this advice because I’m a chronic insomniac and frequently find myself working at 3am. But a lesson I learnt early on was that you can work at this time, but you should never make decisions at this time. If your work is like me, and needs checking and proofreading (or the equivalent) before you send it off, don’t do it at 3am. Set it aside and come back to it fresh in the morning. If you’re unsure about taking a course, making an investment, outsourcing something, hiring someone, don’t do it.

How To Grow Your Business:

You’re just asking for trouble!

How To Grow Your Business: The Frank Underwood Method Insecurity bores me - House of Cards“Insecurity bores me.”

How many time have we been told the key to life, the universe, and everything is confidence?

Well, confidence, and the number 42.

When you are confident in yourself and your skills, when you know your worth, your value, and appreciate yourself in all your fabulous glory, you are in a very strong position. It’s difficult to walk all over someone who is confident in themselves. Confidence allows you to acknowledge your faults, without being crippled by them, and turn them to your advantage. It allows you to set aside self-doubt and remain, if not completely objective, as least reasonably well balanced when life throws you curve balls. Confidence will allow you to pull a client up when they’re giving you shit and politely tell them, “No, I’m sorry, I won’t let you speak to me like that.”

Insecurity does the opposite. It turns minor faults and flaws into major obstacles you feel incapable of overcoming. It lets in the mind monsters, who whisper horrific things to you, and when clients give you shit, you take it. You think you deserve it. You find yourself apologising to them for things you haven’t done, for mistakes they have made, and for everything wrong with the world in general.

The trouble with confidence and insecurity is, they’re both easy to spot. They both exude a distinct scent. And when people – clients, friends, family, anyone really – sense either they have a visceral, gut reaction.

Confident people (providing they’re not over-confident/arrogant) breed confidence. When you are confident in yourself others will automatically have confidence in you.

Insecure people attract those who would take advantage of their insecurities, and repel a lot of others. In our personal lives, insecurity is one thing, but in business it’s quite a different animal. Nobody wants to hire someone who is inherently insecure.

They take too much molly coddling and hand holding.

They’re too unpredictable – the slightest thing can undermine what little confidence they have, leaving them unable to work properly.

And there’s the overwhelming sense that if YOU are not confident that your skills and abilities are good and worth paying for, why on earth should I pay for them?

It’s like walking around with a neon sign flashing above your head that screams, “My business SUCKS, even I know it! GO SOMEWHERE ELSE!”

And the majority of people will. The ones who stick around in the face of that brilliant neon light are the ones very close to you who KNOW you are good you just don’t believe in yourself, and the ones who feel they can exploit this lack of confidence and catch a bargain.

You don’t want to work with the latter, and wouldn’t it be great if you could show your loyal friends and family that their faith in you is justified? That you really can do it, and not only that, you can do it without having to be reassured every five minutes.

How To Grow Your Business:

I have to say, confidence is something I struggle with. Insecurity runs very deep in me and it’s a daily challenge to keep it at bay. That’s why I love this quote so much, because it’ succinct and so well reminds me of a painful truth:

Business Inspiration and Wisdom For The New Year If you want to earn my loyalty then you will have to offer yours in return - House of Cards“If you want to earn my loyalty then you will have to offer yours in return”

Loyalty is a peculiar beast. It’s a two way street, like trust and promises, but this is a fact a lot of people ignore, or simple don’t realise. It’s easy to get pissed off with clients when they go elsewhere, or otherwise do something that makes you feel they have been disloyal. But the funny thing about loyalty is that, like respect, it has to be earned. It is not freely given. If you want your clients to be loyal, you need to demonstrate loyalty yourself. You need to show you’re reliable and true to them and their needs. You need to work with them, not against them, when they have a problem.

BUT, and it’s a BIG FAT BUT, you must expect the same of them

They need to work with you, not against you, they need to be reliable, they need to meet you halfway. They need to demonstrate their loyalty to you, in the same way they must keep their promises.

You need to be flexible when they need you to be, and willing to compromise when necessary, even if it means giving a little more than you are comfortable with, a little more than you can afford. That doesn’t mean you work for nothing, or that you let them walk all over you. It doesn’t mean you let them undervalue you, or pay you less than you’re worth. But if you show them they can depend on you come hell or high water they won’t jump ship the second something shiny and new comes along. They won’t abandon you for someone else who is cheaper, or prettier, or more interesting, or more fashionable. They will stick with you, come what may, because you have proven yourself loyal, and loyalty is a very valuable thing.

This is why we give discounts for repeat business, and bonuses for referrals. 

But there’s a fine line between being loyal to your clients, and being a doormat. They need to take your needs and concerns into account, just as you do.

For example, I offer a sliding scale on my rates for my premium service, The Divine Blogging Design: clients signing up on a month-to-month basis pay a flat rate. Signing up for six months at a time gets them a discount on that rate, so they pay less per month. A twelve month contract earns them a bigger discount. An eighteen month contract a greater discount still.

How To Grow Your Business:

Where can you use rewards and sliding scales in your business?

Clients showing they are committed to you for longer time periods earn your loyalty and, as a reward, get discounts.

Clients unwilling or unable to commit to you (even when they have really, really good reasons) pay the full whack. 

If you’ve ever paid for software on a monthly subscription and been given the chance to save a bundle of cash by paying annually instead, you’ll understand this concept.

How To Grow Your Business: The Frank Underwood Method I like to back people who want to succeed - House of Cards“I like to back people who want to succeed.”

Much as confidence breeds confidence successful people attract successful people. The optimistic, hard working entrepreneur is infinitely more appealing to potential clients that the pessimist. I spend a lot of time in networking and mastermind groups and I so frequently see people projecting an image of imminent failure. They do nothing but bemoan their lack of business, their inability to land clients, and the fact that they’re constantly on the brink of financial destitution. MORE THAN THAT though, they exude failure.

It’s one thing to talk your problems through with like-minded people, with a view to finding a solution to your troubles, it’s quite another to fully embrace failure in all its glory and make it quite plain you won’t try anything.

You won’t even try.

All you will do is moan.

This is a syndrome I dubbed the ‘Hippo Issue’ a while ago after a post I wrote about different attitudes to managing bipolar disorder. In the article I discuss two attitudes to mental health: wallowing and proactive action. The hippo exemplifies the former approach – wallowing in self-pity and your own inevitable illness. The latter approach is exemplified by the hare, who sees problems and finds solutions, who works to improve things, and who free in his actions, running where he will.

Hippo is so used to failure he doesn’t want to succeed. He doesn’t know how. He has no experience at success, but plenty at failure. Failure is comfortable. It’s safe. You know you’re not going to succeed, so you’re never disappointed. If you try you might fail, and that would hurt, and even if you did succeed, even if you were…dare we say it…happy and content, how the hell would you deal with that?

Sometimes it’s easy to accept a difficult life that is familiar than it is to strive for success and happiness that are unknown, unfamiliar, frightening.

We do this is business a lot. We’re used to it being a struggle, a really hard slog, and when things are going badly the community rallies with suggestions and help.

When we’re flying high and doing well we don’t get that same support and attention. There is the perception that we don’t need it. So people say well done and leave it at that.

We are social creatures, we thrive on attention, whether we like to admit it or not. Sometimes it’s better to stay in that safe zone of not really getting anywhere, because although you’re not earning enough money and you’re not really happy, you have lots of support, and you know how to deal with the situation.

You’re used to it.

The problem for people like this (and I have been a person like this, so I speak from experience) is that they then try to convince those same people they rely on for support in their struggles to invest in their success.

How To Grow Your Business:

It’s very difficult to invest in someone’s success when they are constantly telling you that they can’t succeed, and projecting an image that screams “I DON’T REALLY WANT THIS TO WORK, I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I’D DO IF IT ACTUALLY DID!”

Whether it’s conscious or not, this kind of behaviour tells others that, deep down, you don’t really want to succeed, you’re actually happier where you are. If you wanted to succeed you’d take the advice given and action it. Instead you stay in the same place, day after day, month after month, year after year, and wonder why nobody gets on board when you try to sell them stuff.

They don’t believe you can succeed.

Not because you can’t, but because you’ve told them you can’t!

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Hazel is an author, copywriter, content marketer and blogger. She specialises in helping creative entrepreneurs, coaches and small business owners harness the power of the pen (or keyboard!) to market their products and services through soulful selling. She's had several academic papers published internationally, and featured on sites such as The Huffington Post. In addition to her professional work as a writer, Hazel is also a fiction author. She has published several books and short stories, including The Uber Author Planner, Chasing Azrael, a Urban Fantasy novel, and Bleizgeist, a Dark Fantasy novella. Hazel has a regular weekly column on Sci-Fi Fantasy Network, and is currently working on her next novel, Death Becomes Me.

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