In this episode, Stacy sits down with Alison Vidotto, the CEO of both Vidotto Group and Push! Business Training and Mentoring Group. The two discuss how systemized process can help small business owners strategically run their business, and just how these tactics, as well as many more, can help them find long-term success.
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Transcript For This Episode:
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, the founder of Influencer Marketing & Branded Content Agency, Hollywood Branded. This podcast provides brand marketers a learning platform for topics for us to share their insights and knowledge on topics which make a direct impact on your business today. While it is impossible to be well versed on every topic and strategy that can improve bottom line results, my goal is to help you avoid making costly mistakes of time, energy, or money, whether you are doing a DIY approach or hiring an expert to help. Let’s begin today’s discussion.
Alison Vidotto (00:31):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. Here’s your host, Stacy Jones.
Stacy Jones (00:36):
Welcome to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them. I’m Stacy Jones, and I’m so happy to be here with you all today. I’m going to give a very warm welcome to Alison Vidotto. Alison is the CEO of both the Vidotto Group and Push Training. She helps small business owners obtain sustainable longterm success through training and mentoring. She’s also a published author, a professional speaker, and the founder of the Australian Charity for the Children of Vietnam. By the way, she is in Australia. Over the past 25 years, Alison has successfully run businesses and navigated the path through recessions, floods, and a global downturn in the mining and resources industry.
Today, we’re going to talk about developing systemized processes to strategically run your businesses, challenges facing many small business owners, and how to address those issues. We’ll learn what works from Alison’s perspective, what should be avoided, and how many small businesses just miss the mark. Alison, welcome, so happy to have you here today.
Alison Vidotto (01:34):
Great. Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here.
Stacy Jones (01:38):
Good. Well, I’d love to start off with letting our listeners know how you got to where you are today. What brought you to creating these fantastic businesses that are foundational and essential for small businesses?
Alison Vidotto (01:52):
Well, I have the business, as you mentioned in the mining and resources, which we’ve had now for about, oh, I think about 28 years, something like that, so a long time. We’ve navigated it through a number of real challenges. And then, we had the Brisbane city floods, which happened like a week after our office was all established and everything. So that hit us. And then, we had a huge downturn turn, and I managed to pivot and navigate through them.
I was actually doing an MBA. During the course of that MBA, I learned that a staggering number of small businesses actually fail. It really bothered me. It was just one of those things that just played in my mind. I just kept thinking, their families, they’re people who poured their blood, sweat, and tears. Of course, you relate it to yourself. Well, we had our house attached to our business. And so, I dug a bit deeper and. I learned that a lot of times it was because they just didn’t have the skills to actually equip them to navigate the tough time and to put in strong systems. That’s why I developed this arm to my business. I really want to challenge those statistics.
Stacy Jones (03:12):
That’s awesome. Well, so many small business owners and agency owners, since I can talk from an agency perspective, we come up with an idea, we do something, we know something, we have the idea that we can do it better than other people, but it’s not necessarily that we have the tools, and the knowledge, and the training. It’s jumping in feet first and being like, “I’m going to be an entrepreneur and I’m going to figure it out.”
Alison Vidotto (03:37):
Yes. And that’s what it is. And so, you’ve got that passion for your product, or your service, or this baby that you’ve created. But of course, to do that, you need more than to be awesome at creating what it is that you make. You need to actually be strategic. You need to have systems. You need to have an understanding of things like your cash flow conversion cycle.
That was one, if I can tell you a very quick story, when we had explosive growth in about 2010, 2011, like really explosive. We were working on big projects. The big end of town, some of our clients had 90 days after submission of invoice terms. Our contractors, who we were hiring to work on the project, had two weeks as their terms of service. So, we had to pay out hundreds of thousands of dollars to our contractors to get the work done, but we weren’t going to be paid for three, four months, which would have been enough to sink us. That happens a lot with small business owners. Many businesses that actually go under, they’ve got money in the pipeline. They just can’t stay solvent enough long enough to actually get it through.
So we went to our clients at the big end of town, and we were just really open with them, and said, we can’t actually survive like this. We’re not able to do it. A lot of them actually reduced their terms, so they paid us much quicker. We then spoke to our contractors and said, look, this is the story we can’t get paid. And so, they agreed to extend theirs just a little bit, because they’re smaller businesses. It ended up that it more than met, so our cashflow was running all the time. Just little things like being able to know that cycle and to renegotiate the terms can mean the difference between your business surviving and not surviving.
Stacy Jones (05:45):
There’s so many companies that don’t have access to lines of credit, which is essential as a small business owner. You don’t realize like, why do I need a line of credit? I’ll be okay. But you do need that.
Alison Vidotto (05:56):
They do. They definitely do. It’s interesting too, like I said, we operate with very large companies, many of them actually have a special agreement where they will change their terms and services for small business owners. Oftentimes, the small business owner isn’t aware, so they’re struggling when they don’t really need to be.
Stacy Jones (06:22):
Or they’re afraid to ask.
Alison Vidotto (06:24):
That’s exactly right. That don’t want to look-
Stacy Jones (06:24):
Alison Vidotto (06:27):
Yes. Yeah. Whereas, we didn’t mind looking small. We would go and say, “We just can’t do that. We’ve got to pay people, we’ve got to pay our rent. We’ve got to eat.” We were just super honest with them. It made sense to them, because behind the big business, of course, are people. They’ve also got families and homes. That’s just one of the things that I learned that often gets businesses into trouble.
Stacy Jones (07:02):
Yeah, and another thing on that I think, and I experienced this myself as a small business owner, I didn’t know, the line of credit thing. Okay, I knew I needed to get that, but I also thought of myself as a bank where I could loan my company money. No problem. Which changed a lot when I got married, by the way, because my husband was not so open about the idea of me just passing cashflow back and forth. It cost me to actually have to get buttoned up and figure out how to put strategies in place where I wouldn’t have that need.
Alison Vidotto (07:34):
Yeah, absolutely. Of course, it protects the business owner too. Should you run into trouble, you don’t want to have completely cleaned yourself out. So yeah, there’s lots of things like that, that small business owners don’t realize and it can make such a difference. As you mentioned, they’re passionate at what they do. There’s actually a book, The E Myth by Michael Gerber. He talks about that particularly. We have the entrepreneur, the visionary, but we also need the manager and the tactician that’s going to actually put those systems in place. They talk about a lot of amazing duos in the world. Like Henry Ford, you had the leader and the manager. Steve jobs, the leader in the manager. Behind many great successes, there is somebody doing all this framework.
Stacy Jones (08:40):
Yeah. Do you use, or are you familiar with, the book Traction and the EOS system? Because that’s what you’re talking about right now.
Alison Vidotto (08:47):
Yes. Yeah. And look, it’s actually a similar system in many books. Rocket Fuel is another one, and it’s the same thing. You’ve got to have, and if it’s not you, you need to find somebody who is systems focused and they don’t mind digging into the detail. As the entrepreneur, as the business owner, you need to be able to work on your business, that strategic growth and the vision of it. Of course, neurologically, it’s not possible to be sitting doing, data driven tasks, and strategizing, and dreaming big.
Stacy Jones (09:32):
What’s another concept, and what is another way that you help position small businesses to be able to be better prepared?
Alison Vidotto (09:41):
A lot of times businesses I work with, they’re actually just not aware of what’s out there and being able to simplify it. It’s easy, as a small business owner, to become very overwhelmed. When my business almost went under, and we lost 80% of our contracts within a couple of weeks, and we had all these bills were still coming in, but just no income. we went off a cliff for a while there. One of the things I did, I strategically came up with a model that I was just so determined that my business would survive. We weren’t closing the doors, a family business.
What I actually realized was where we had this strategy, the big end of town, they’ve got all this support, this infrastructure. They have a sales department, and a finances department, and a PR department, a HR. They’ve got all these key people with the finger on the pulse. As small business owners, we’re busy either putting out fires or chasing leads. And so, we have key areas of our business that don’t get the attention that they need. Showing that to small business owners, because I do a lot of business mentoring, and just getting them to look at the key areas of the business, you can usually identify where the gaps are. And so, what I’ve done is I’ve taken all that good stuff they’ve got at the big end of town and I’ve scaled it down for us guys at the lower end of town, so we get a bit more of the pie than they’ve got.
Stacy Jones (11:22):
Alison Vidotto (11:23):
Yep. So that’s the goal. I share things like that, and it’s not complex.
Stacy Jones (11:30):
Right. Someone was starting their business tomorrow. They’re like, “I love what I do. I can do this better. I am going to start XYZ company.” What would you suggest they do at the very beginning?
Alison Vidotto (11:49):
The first thing I would suggest that they do is get a plan, get a plan and a business model. A lot of people, it’s not exciting when you say get a business plan, no matter how excitingly you say it. Get a business plan. But it’s not nearly as boring or as overwhelming as people think. A lot of times it’s just been distorted and it’s gone a bit silly. My daughter and her partner, they’re personal trainers. They were studying and they actually came to me and said, can we get some help? They were expected to produce a business plan that was 52 pages long.
Stacy Jones (12:39):
Who wants to read? No one wants to read that.
Alison Vidotto (12:39):
Stacy Jones (12:39):
Alison Vidotto (12:42):
There was no way they could do it, you know? It’s madness. Even with an MBA and 25-plus years in business, it still took me… It’s crazy. What I do is I work on a three, five page business plan. Get your business model. How are you going to make your money? How are you going to get your product or service to your clients? And how much is it going to cost you? You need to know that, and you need to know that there is a market for your product.
One of the things that I discovered when I was researching the stats of small business failures, you’d often read in really reputable publications that it was 80% or 90% fail within the first year or the first three years. What I found, I ended up going to the Australian Bureau of Statistics and the American Department of Labor and really digging into it. Oftentimes, the figures come out at like 50% within three years leading up to 70% in 10 years, which is horrendous, when you think of those families and those people.
The 80%, 90%, they actually include those that barely get started. Because, they have a great idea. They’re so gung ho about it. They raced to get it on Facebook, and Instagram, and all the rest of it, and they buy a store, and nobody wants it. The very first thing you must do, you must test that there is a market for it, that people actually want. And then, you work out, okay, people want what I’ve got. How am I going to produce it? How am I going to get it to them? And how is this going to look? That’s the first thing I would say.
Stacy Jones (14:36):
And then, what’s the second? I mean, I have to ask you that.
Alison Vidotto (14:39):
Well, the second would be to get online and especially today. I mean, online business was growing exponentially anyway. Of course, this pandemic hit and everybody is online. And building your list. I have a business mentor and he’s built your list, build that list, build that list. It’s very true, build your community, and especially in an email list, because Facebook can close your account tomorrow, so can LinkedIn, or YouTube, or any of them. If you have a strong email list, then that’s not going to be taken away from you. You can communicate with your audience, and get to know them, and nurture them, and you build your funnel from there. It would be to get online and to build your list.
Stacy Jones (15:33):
Okay. When you’re looking at a small business, and obviously they’ve decided they’ve gone through the desire of starting a business, they put together their business plan, they’ve determined the type of business they are, whether they’re incorporated, or they’re an LLC, or sole proprietor, all of these different things. They go online and they develop a website, and now they’re creating a social media platform, as you’ve just said, for them to be building and talking. Do you have suggestions on how they should be positioning themselves for advertising? Besides building a list, is there a strategy you suggest for small businesses to try to approach how to market themselves?
Alison Vidotto (16:18):
Okay. So yeah, I do. And that’s something that I do teach. And so, the first thing you do is you get to know who your audience is, who your ideal client, people call it the avatar, but the ideal person that you will sell your products to, the dream client. They love what you do. They’re the first to sign up. There’s no problem with payment from them. So your dream client. And then, you get to know where they are. If they’re on Facebook, then that’s where you’re running your ads. If they’re on LinkedIn, if it’s a bit more professional, then that’s where you are, or Instagram. So knowing your audience and knowing where they hang out is the most important thing of all.
Stacy Jones (17:08):
Where are other areas that you find small business owners can fail, they can stumble and trip up a little bit?
Alison Vidotto (17:18):
There is a number of areas. When I put together this model, and I called it the small business success formula, this is when my own business was sinking, so I’ve worked for months, and this thing was like 18 pages long or something-
Stacy Jones (17:34):
Alison Vidotto (17:36):
No, not 50. Not 50, but it was a big [inaudible 00:17:41] block. Everything I’d learned in an MBA, from all the different courses I’ve done, the masterminds, and I just pulled them apart, and pulled my business apart, and thought, there’s got to be a way I can breathe life into this. I came down to six areas. Usually, a business that gets into strife, it’s in one of those six areas. The first one is leadership, particularly your self leadership, the vision for your company, the mission for your company, the purpose behind it, your mindset. I mean, mindset is so vital to the success of anything, so that was vital.
And then there’s the strategic planning. There are marketing, of course. The operations and the systematization, it still amazes me how many businesses do not have any systems. They’re reinventing the wheel every day. And of course, once they are systemized and automated, it’s amazing how much time they then have for growth and expansion.
The other areas are, finances of course. And people, how you communicate with people. I also do things like this, where you understand people’s communication styles and building strong relationships with your clients, with your staff, with your suppliers. But those six areas usually you can attribute a business failure to one of them, at least one, often two or three of them.
Stacy Jones (19:25):
And you actually have a course for people to be able to take that is all about this. You want to share a little bit more about that? That seems like the perfect time.
Alison Vidotto (19:34):
Yes. So I do a lot of business mentoring. I mentor for the government too. I work with the government to mentor small business owners. I do have a course that covers those six areas. That’s a bigger course. I’ve actually just developed a community, a very low cost, low entry, community. That will cover the whole getting your business online, producing a lead magnet, producing a landing page, all of that social media strategy, where you should be posting, how to get to know your ideal client avatar, all of those fundamentals, but in a step by step way. It’s easy when someone says you need a good lead magnet. You think, “Well, how do I make that?” I actually go through the absolute basics, how I produce one in Canva, how I conduct Zoom meetings, and so interviewing, and all those basics to just answer the questions that we have every day, and especially when we don’t know where to start.
Stacy Jones (20:45):
Well, you’re giving everyone the building blocks and the tools that they need, versus just here’s broad strokes. You need to do this. You’re actually telling them how to do it.
Alison Vidotto (20:54):
Yes. Because the number of times that somebody had said to me, “Oh, you need to develop a lead magnet. Look up producing a checklist.” I’ve been madly Googling it, thinking, “Well, what checklist do they [crosstalk 00:21:09]?
Stacy Jones (20:54):
Right? What software?
Alison Vidotto (21:08):
Stacy Jones (21:09):
How do I do this?
Alison Vidotto (21:11):
And then, someone says to me, “Oh, you can use, [inaudible 00:00:21:14].” This is like learning a new language. It’s all of those things, and in a community where people can actually post and say, what actually is Kajabi? What is Zoom? Can somebody share a good landing page with me? What should be in a landing page? Like I said, I’ve made it very low entry. I’m doing a founding launch for founding members, which is 37 Australian dollars.
Stacy Jones (21:49):
Even cheaper than the United States.
Alison Vidotto (21:53):
Yes. Look, most of the software I use and the masterminds I’m in are all in American dollars. I’m feeling it right now. It’s a ridiculous deal for anybody on your side of the pond. I’ve named it Thrive.
Like I said, my absolute purpose and passion behind this business is to really challenge those statistics of small business failures. Because, I honestly believe that the amount of effort and passion that we put into our businesses, we should be succeeding. Entrepreneurs, I think are like the backbone of society. It’s how we grow. I just love it. I spend a lot of time with small business owners and entrepreneurs. And that imagination, they change the world. I love it. Like I said, it does my head in that seven out of 10 will fail within 10 years.
Stacy Jones (22:57):
Well, right now I think that, that number is going to be even higher, because no one thought they needed to protect themselves from a pandemic. You thought, oh okay, I need to have enough money to be able to survive, if things happen two months, three months, four months, not like potentially a year.
Alison Vidotto (23:15):
Yes. Also [inaudible 00:23:18] like I said, we’ve been through the global financial crisis. We had an Australian recession. We had the city. Even the floods, the floods where our city was underwater, but it was like four days, five days.
Stacy Jones (23:33):
Or fires. You’ve even had fires recently-
Alison Vidotto (23:35):
We’ve had that, huge, huge-
Stacy Jones (23:35):
… that impacted that.
Alison Vidotto (23:37):
Yeah. This lock your doors and stay inside, it’s just… And I do, I feel for those, because I work right in the heart of the city is my office. There’s all those beautiful cafes and coffee shops, and they know everybody’s name. I think, how are they doing? And just hang in there. One of the things I learned with each of these crises that we’ve been through is that they pass. This’ll pass as well. We just have to survive it. We hang in there. There was a saying I heard years ago that when we were going through really tough times, I think I drove everybody a bit mad with it, but it was, the name of the game is to stay in the game until you win the game.
And so during these crises, we just have to stay in the game, do what we can to survive, cut back, hanging there, pivot where you can. How else do you reach your clients-
Stacy Jones (24:46):
Alison Vidotto (24:47):
… online. Reinvent. And that’s what we did. Like I said, we lost 80% of our big projects and the others weren’t that far behind. And so, I just madly worked at how I could reinvent this funnel and challenging the mining industry. They’re not reading e-books, or newsletters, or social media, or anything like that. That’s how we turned it around. We just came at it a completely different way. And of course, there is this terrible pandemic that sent us indoors, but we’re also very fortunate because we have all this technology. You can still reach your clients. I think those who are a bit innovative and those who pivot, they’ll be the ones that survive.
Stacy Jones (25:37):
As long as your internet’s working.
Alison Vidotto (25:39):
As long as your internet’s… Yes. Look, I agree with you. There’s been a few times I’ve had to use a phone to hotspot. And then, you do start to feel isolated. You think, hold on, this is my window to the world. Don’t close it.
Stacy Jones (25:57):
It is hard. Well, I think the next couple of years are going to be eye opening, because the people who do have it in them, who can figure this out, are going to have businesses that are so set up to make it, and to last the full time. [inaudible 00:26:17], they don’t want to be business owners because that’s the tools you’re learning right now.
Alison Vidotto (26:20):
Yes. I agree entirely. I think too, it will, it will really change things. I mean, online, particularly information products and things were growing through the roof. Well now, It’s now been an explosion for those who are well set up online. And, that’s what I would really encourage any small business owner. You work out how you can get online to reach your clients.
Stacy Jones (26:50):
And how you can work with them on whether it’s developing courses, or creating online classes, or engagements, or having a product and having it at Etsy now, and looking for those online platforms to be able to connect and reach out.
Alison Vidotto (27:06):
Yeah, absolutely. And I’ve seen really successful groups online that are doing crocheting circles and knitting circle, where they’re providing them with a pattern each week. They get together and show them step by step. And so, if you think a bit outside the box, you’ll do okay.
Stacy Jones (27:30):
Alison, thank you so much for joining me today. Can you share with us how people can actually find you online and find your class to sign up?
Alison Vidotto (27:39):
Yes. Well, you can find me very easily. I have a website Push Business Training. I’m also on Facebook, and LinkedIn, and Twitter. You can find me on there, and you’ll have no trouble, particularly on Facebook. There’s lots of signups and things like that. And look, I’m happy to give you a link to a number of freebies I have that could be helpful to your listeners.
Stacy Jones (28:05):
Fantastic. Well, we’ll put that in the show notes so that everyone will be able to find that link, and that will be on our homepage of the podcast. We will share that out as well. To all of our listeners, for tuning in to Marketing Mistakes And How To Avoid Them today, I wish you the best right now with COVID-19, and stay safe, stay sane, and stay healthy.
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