Discover the extraordinary rise of unicorn companies with us today! Join us as we delve into the mesmerizing world of Zoom’s seamless video conferencing and Uber’s game-changing transportation model. Uncover the power of simple yet powerful ideas that can pave the way for unparalleled success.
Elon Musk’s success factors
Streamlining and narrowing business focus
Simplicity in business
Susan Sly’s Bio
Susan Sly is a tech investor, co-founder, best-selling author, keynote speaker, entrepreneur and podcast host of Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. She has appeared on CNN, CNBC, Fox, Lifetime Television, The CBN, The Morning Show in Australia and been quoted in MarketWatch, Yahoo Finance, Forbes, and more. Susan is also a member of the Forbes Business Counsel. Susan holds an Advanced Certificate for Executives in Management, Innovation, and Technology from MIT and is the author of 7 books. As a highly acclaimed keynote speaker, Susan has spoken for MIT, NVIDIA, Intel, Lenovo, and shared the stage with Tony Robbins, Jack Canfield, Robert Kiosaki, and more. She has been a featured guest speaker for the National Restaurant Association, Executives Next Practices Institute, Forbes Roundtable, Corenet Global and the Edge AI Summit.
In 2022 Susan was honored to receive the Rosalind Franklin Society Award in Science and nomination for the Rising Star in AI from Venture Beat.
Susan is the Co-CEO, and Co-founder, of RadiusAI – an award-winning artificial intelligence company with offices on three continents.
Susan has completed the Boston Marathon 6X and placed Top 10 in the Pro Division of the Ironman Triathlon in Malaysia. Susan is passionate about philanthropy and has dedicated a significant amount of time and money working to liberate girls from trafficking and invest in education to support women and girls who have survived trauma and abuse both domestically and overseas.
Susan is the mother of four children and resides with her husband in Scottsdale, Arizona. Find out more about Susan at www.susansly.com.
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Susan Sly 00:00
Well, hey everyone, I am so excited you're here. In today's episode, I am going to be talking to you about the number one key thing it takes to grow a successful business. And it doesn't matter what kind of business you're in, this is tried and true, whether you are a small startup, a larger company, or whatever it is you do, I can promise you, if you focus on this, you are going to see some significant momentum. And if you do the opposite, it could be costly, even costing your business. So we're gonna get into that in just a moment. And I want to let you know that today's episode is brought to you by AIM7. AIM7 is a revolutionary system that integrates into your smartwatch. So it could be a Garmin, which is what I wear, or your Apple Watch. And it essentially tells you what to do in order to improve your motivation, have better sleep and just a better quality of life. So go to aim7.com and start your free trial. Use the code rawandrealaim7 and you will get a free seven day trial, which I have to say will, you will love it. You'll absolutely love it. I use this myself. It has been incredible. I know at times, sometimes I'm super stressed out, I tend to really push myself a lot especially in my workouts and AIM7 tells me some days. Susan, just go for a walk or you know, Susan, Hey, today is the day just to do more meditation, more mindfulness. And when I pay attention to it, I have to tell you, I do sleep better and I do feel better. So definitely check it out. With that, let's go ahead and get into today's episode.
Susan Sly 01:50
This is Raw and Real Entrepreneurship, the show that brings the no nonsense truth of what is required to start, grow and scale your business. I am your host Susan Sly.
Susan Sly 02:05
Well Hey, what is up Raw and Real entrepreneurs wherever you are in the world. I hope you are having an incredible day. Today's episode was inspired by Walter Isaacson's new book on Elon Musk, which I am taking with me. I have an upcoming trip to Israel and I'm like oh, I want something to read on plane and I like physical books. You know, my episode with Jen Pelka, who is the founder of une femme wines, we have this big discussion about books. I love books, and I have a book acquisition habit. And someone asked me recently how many books I read. Generally speaking, it's anywhere from two to four a month. I always have a fiction book on the go. And then I read several nonfiction books. So when I'm running, sometimes I'll listen to an audio book. When I'm on an airplane, I like a physical book, I like to just tune out and not look at screens. You know, I don't really want to do texts and emails while I'm on the plane. That is my time for me. And so with the book coming out, and you may be familiar with Walter Isaacson's book on Steve Jobs, which I read. I read the physical book and I audio read it as well. It's fascinating that this whole concept of what made Elon Musk successful. And could I boil it down for you, the listeners and the fans all over the world into something very straightforward and simple. Because you could say, well, whether you're an Elon fan or not, you could say well, he was lucky. I don't believe in luck. What I believe is that luck, if there is such a thing, would be a combination of where faith and hard work converge. So I don't actually believe in luck. But that, you know, you could say he was lucky. You could say he just worked really hard. You can say all sorts of things. And he's a Silicon Valley legend, but he doesn't have a PhD from Stanford. He is someone who has co founded several, not just one, unicorn valuation company. So PayPal is part of the PayPal Mafia, obviously, Tesla, you've got the boring company, SpaceX, all of these amazing companies. And what is it about the man that whatever it is that he does, that he is going to be very successful at. And what I boiled it down to was a key thing. And it's something that you can do, it's something that we can all do. And that key thing is to be able to narrow your focus and I know some of you are like, Susan, come one,
Susan Sly 04:46
tell me something different. Like guys, there is nothing magical out there for you. You've got to roll up your sleeves, get to work and have focus. My late mentor, one of them, her name was Kathy Smith. And she always used to say, Susan, where your focus goes, your energy flows. And if you're trying to over diversify, then your focus is being pulled in all these different directions, and it's going to cost you money, it's going to cost you time, and it's going to cost your resources. So I'm gonna get into today, you may say, well, Susan, this sounds very simple. And I hope you do say that. I would love for you to say that. Because when I get into some examples for you in this short episode, what I want you to leave with is a desire to have an action plan to streamline your business, whether you're thinking of starting a business, or you are currently in a business, how can you streamline that and just tackle one key problem with one key solution. And I used to sit on a board here in Phoenix called the Coplex board, and we would help startups in an incubator style. And one of the things we saw often was when a startup is trying to solve too many problems at once. And so when you look at someone like Elon, each one of his companies is focused on one key problem. So you know, Tesla, electric vehicles, the PayPal was how do we have C2C, consumer to consumer payments and to be able to streamline that process as an example. So thinking about that, and thinking about not just where companies have been successful and gone on to have these incredible unicorn and decacorn valuations, but also how you and your business, whatever size that business is, could streamline and narrow your focus in order to be more successful. And so some of this comes from a tremendous amount of experience. So as some of you know, I have built sales teams that have generated over $2 billion in sales. And one of the companies that I worked with, was in the health and wellness space. And when they got started, and had massive momentum, they were only focused on one thing, they had a solution. It was very streamlined. It was done over nine days. And it was a detox. And people, generally speaking, during that nine days, they released several pounds and inches. And that was very targeted marketing. And the company went from 19 million in its first year to over 56 million, its second year, and it grew and it grew and it was in mass momentum, then the company began to diversify its offering. And the great thing was that for people who were sales reps for their company, they could focus on different things, they could focus on skincare, they could focus on weight loss, they could focus on healthy aging, they could do all sorts of things. But the challenge was that because there were so many places they could focus, a lot of people lost their focus because they became too confused. And so that company began to flatline a bit. And then now I'm so happy to say it is rising up again. Because people are focusing, they're focusing in one area for what they are doing in terms of building. And so the reason I share that is that it happens to many companies, even some of the largest companies. I want to give some examples of companies that are household names that over diversified and it did not go well for them, and one is Yahoo. So Yahoo was once this giant in the digital space. And then it over diversified into various products and services without a clear cohesive strategy. And you know, Yahoo music, Yahoo screen, and then it acquired a other companies like Tumblr, and it lost its core identity and fell behind the competitors who had a clear focus such as Google, there's one example of Yahoo and some of you may have or still have, may have had or still have a Yahoo email account, I don't know. But they did, they over diversified. And it's one thing to have a clear or product offering, again, that solves one problem. And you have a culture that rallies around that. When I think about, say the dating app Bumble, I don't know, I've been married for decades, so I don't use it. But when you look at that, you know it's targeted dating, focusing on women as core users, and the day that company went public, the founder of Bumble, Whitney Wolfe Herd, her personal net worth went to something like $7.1 billion in a day. Talk about a laser focus. Another company that over diversified was Kodak. So it's, you know, when people think of Kodak, I had a case study we did on Kodak at MIT, that a lot of times people think the failure is attributed to its inability to adapt to the digital photography landscape. But it was also its attempt to over diversify into other areas like pharmaceuticals and chemicals. And these ventures distracted the company from its core competency, leading to missed opportunities in primary business. And one of the things I summarized in my MIT work, to my classmates was Kodak saw digital as a noun, and not a verb. And what I meant by that was that some of you may have had Kodak, have these big huge
Susan Sly 10:55
players, and you could have all of your images digitized, and you could essentially, look at them on your television. When Instagram came along, they saw this whole digital revolution as something that was stagnant like I get images, and I print them or I want to view them, versus how Instagram saw them with this fresh energy. And this focus before it was acquired by Meta as this is a place for creatives, this is a verb meaning it's an action word that people are going to want to see a lot of images from a lot of different people all at one time. And they had two different approaches to digital. And again, it was just one of many things that Kodak was doing versus Instagram, which went on to be obviously a unicorn and was acquired. I can't remember the number, I think it was around 300 million, or maybe less than that by Meta and now of course has a huge multi billion dollar valuation because they looked at the same problem, but saw it in such different ways. And we see big companies all the time, that attempt to do things that ultimately fail. And so McDonald's, as an example, decided they wanted to bake their own AI solutions in house as opposed to using companies to do that. And that, to my knowledge still has not been overly successful. We also see companies like Target that tried to emulate what startups and ISVs, independent software vendors, were doing in house and that hasn't been successful. So for these large companies, when they try and be all things to all people, it doesn't usually go well. Focus on your core competency, whether that's burgers and fries, or it's getting cheap and cheerful items out the door to your consumers, and then hire people to do those other things or bring on other companies do those other things, because again, over diversification, it doesn't work. Another company that came up with an over diversification challenge was Coca Cola, right? They tried to do new coke. And they tried, they've tried to do so many different things. And ultimately, they have this loyal, you know, for over a century user, global user base of people who want Coca Cola, they're willing to have Coke Zero, they're willing to have other brands within the other products within the brand like Sprite and so forth. But they don't want their coke to be different than coke. That's what they want. And so building a company that has a core focus, and building a company that you have both raving fans for your customers and raving fans in your employees, that rally around a singular problem and a cause that will ultimately help you to grow bigger, faster. And let me give you some examples of these. So DoorDash. So there, the founders here had a very simple concept, food delivery from local restaurants to your doorstep. And they made it convenient for people to enjoy meals from their favorite restaurants, without leaving their homes. And so DoorDash now has some competitors. There's Uber Eats and even Instacart and things like that. But it was such a simple concept, just saying, hey, the four founders are like, hey, you know what we see this and we're gonna have a very simple solution. Another one is Stripe, Stripe allowed for, it's an online platform that allows businesses to easily accept payments and handle other financial transactions. It simplified the complex process of online payments so that you know, you just put the little widget in your phone and whether you're a massage therapist or you're selling something at the local, you know, farmers market, it's so easy to be able to take online payments. And banks often made it so complicated. I know from various companies that I've had, and merchant accounts, and there's a huge process, and Stripe gets you up and running really quickly. Again, one key thing, just focus. Now, once these companies begin to build a significant user base with one area of focus, then they can begin to diversify. But they don't necessarily have to. Let's take a look at Netflix, I don't know what Netflix stock is trading. I don't hold any currently. But
Susan Sly 15:36
you know, when you look at Reed Hastings, and what he has done with Netflix, very simple. I am a Netflix user, I want to watch content. And it's either going to be content that has come from other services, or it's unique content to Netflix. And that's what I am, therefore, I'm watching it on my mobile devices, or I'm watching it on a television screen. But when companies that can build such a huge following with one key core offering that it has, that it ultimately becomes a noun and a verb. That's when you know, you've got a significant, significant company. And what I mean by that is we think about Netflix and chill. So that's a verb. Netflix is noun of course, right? If your first language isn't English, what I mean is, Netflix is a company, but we have, especially in the English language, especially in North America, we Netflix and chill, it means we're essentially staying in at night, and maybe we're going to have popcorn or some other yummy snack, and we're just going to hang out, and we're going to watch Netflix, we're going to find something on Netflix. And another example of that is Uber. So the founder said, Hey, we want to be able to offer people the opportunity to you know, make some money. Offer rides like a taxi service would but use their own vehicles, have a standard, and that's what they did. So um, even you know, I'm Ubering somewhere, right? Or do you, you know, Uber is a noun, it's a company, but it has also become a verb. And that is where that breakthrough success comes from. And I want to pause right now. And I want you to think about your own business or your potential business that you are thinking of starting? And what would it look like if that business could become both a noun and a verb, right. And as I'm looking at other examples for you, here's another one, zoom. Hello. I mean, Eric once said, hey, I want to create a reliable platform to conduct video conferences, whether it's for professional meetings, or personal catch ups. And there were other players in the space like WebEx and the UI for WebEx, if you work for Cisco, I apologize. But it's not my favorite UI. It's not as streamlined as zoom, you don't have the same opportunities to have the same filters or as many backgrounds. And it's not as seamless as Zoo. Zoom has a great UI also on the phone. But that Eric said, Hey, I'm going to play in the space, I'm going to have a simple offering. And that's what I'm going to do. And so another example is Airbnb. So these founders said, hey, what if we could turn a room or a whole home or an apartment into something where it's like a hotel space, and then people can rent it out and make money. So it was very simple concept. It was solving a pain point. And often, if you've ever, and I know I travel all the time, and if you aren't following me on Instagram, please do, @Susansly, that's where you'll often see my travels. And that the you know, when I'm traveling, I'm often staying in hotels. It's very convenient. But if there's a conference that, I was just in Austin for a conference, and it wasn't even a big conference, but all of the hotels near that conference center were going for almost $1,000 A night but if you went like 10 miles away the same brand of hotel was like 200 a night and that's where you have a lot of people who become very frustrated or cost conscious even that something like an Airbnb is an opportunity for them. And my family, we use Airbnb all the time. So in the summer, we rent a cottage somewhere. I don't want to own a cottage right now. Because if I'm only going to be at that cottage, maybe like one or two weeks a year, and I don't want to deal with renting it out, I don't want to deal with property taxes, maintenance and everything else. I use Airbnb, right. And again, a company that is a noun and a verb. We're just Airbnb-ing it. I heard that last weekend, we're just Airbnb-ing my life right now. And so that ability to solve that singular problem to say, hey, you know what this is the one thing I do, this is how I do it and to say now within that, I'm going to make sure that I offer exceptional service and exceptional customer experience. That's when things get exciting. So I want to ask you a few questions. Number one is, are you over diversifying? So you may be in one of the few camps. So I have friends who listen to this podcast, and if we are good friends, and you have heard this podcast, please text me and tell me, because I love when we are catching up and having a cocktail, you're like, Oh, I love that episode. So I'm speaking to some of my friends right now who work in tech, and you work for a company and you sell something for that company. And I want to ask you, for you, whatever it is you sell, is there a way that you can even streamline how you talk about what you sell, and be very, very focused on singular pain points, as opposed to trying to solve a multitude of pain points for a wide variety of people. Number two, you may be a person who is repping for a company, so you have a business within a business. So it could be a franchise, it could be direct sales. There are lots of great opportunities out there for that kind of entrepreneurship, which is awesome. And my question for you is do you need to narrow your focus within that entire offering? It's like the story I told you, you know, this company, they had, you know, weight loss, they had anti aging, they had skincare, they have all sorts of things. And the you know, people trying to sell everything, they generally didn't do well. But the people who were growing the fastest and making the most money were the ones who had a very, very specific focus. So if you are someone like that, and you have a business within a business, is there a way to streamline that? Is it a way to you know, really get laser focused on one particular area, one particular offer. The third place you might be in is you have a business and you are you know, you are really good at a lot of things. And it's very tempting to try and productize a multitude of items across the spectrum. And you know, the thing I will say to you, is that really the best use of your time. What is your key moneymaker. I was watching Glenn's burns on Discovery plus, and his comeback city series that he did. He was, Glenn's a friend of mine, and he's been on the show. And he was the first undercover billionaire. So he goes and works with these struggling businesses. And he turns around in 27 days. One of the businesses that he was working with, he looked at it and it was a restaurant. And it was like, Okay, what is the number one thing you saw, and they didn't know, because they weren't recording the types of dishes with a POS, point of sale system. And so they didn't know. And he got them to narrow down their menu. And at first the guy was really resistant to it, or that's what it seemed on the on the show. But they narrowed down the menu and they focused on one key thing that they sold and they got rid of a bunch of things that were you know, it was a lot of extra money to hold the inventory. And this particular thing was a meatball omelet. And they still had other offerings. But you know, this was like the star dish, star of the show. And they over doubled their valuation of that restaurant because it was like, let's just focus, focus, focus. So you may have in your business, lots of things that you can sell, but it doesn't mean you should. What is your top moneymaker? What is that thing that maybe you can put a little more effort into. What they did with this omelet is they you know, they dressed it up. They had, I believe Cat Cora came in, show them how to really make it look a lot more elegant, just in terms of the plating. And you have something like that. You have something that is a core offering that you could dress up. You could make some marketing videos around it. You could make some other marketing collateral, you could do some social media ads, depending on if you're b2c, b2b. There are things you can do to really highlight that and what if for the next 18 months, you doubled or tripled the sales of that because you were focused there, as opposed to trying to diversify your focus all over the place. And while you're doing that, maybe in parallel, you've got some r&d happening. So you can either add to that offering or have that next offering so your raving fans who are loving that offering, then they go and they want that next thing and the next thing and when you think about Russell Brunson, Click Funnels and all the folks that he has helped there that one of the things Russell always says is, you know, what is that core problem you're trying to solve? What is that core offering, and then you upsell people up the ladder in terms of what it is they want, and they need. And so when you look at some of these companies that have been around for now, since the recession, when you think about, you know, from 2007, 2009, so they've been around 12, 13, 14, 15 years now, Uber, Airbnb, Instagram, they're kind of still doing the same things. They've added on a couple of things, but their core offering has remained the absolute same. And that is what they're focused on, that is what they're focused on enhancing and growing, and so forth. And I can list company after company, my friend, that did that. And they're still here today. And they're growing, and they're glowing, and they're doing all of those things. And I could list company after company that tried to be all things to all people. And it was a colossal failure. And I even think about companies out there in the retail sector as an example. So it could look at like, say, a Walgreens where, you know, they have makeup, and they have food and they have alcohol, and they have, you know, Tylenol, and they've got gift paper, and they've got like, maybe they should get rid of some of those things and just take it to an online situation because they have organized retail crime going on. They can't get enough employees like what if those stores were more streamlined, they focus on their moneymakers, they dress things up a bit and made it more fun to go to more as a you know, an experience as just opposed to a destination that someone has to go to. What would it do for that, right? And even when I think about my own projects, and I think about the next book, I'll write, I think about the companies that I invest in, I look for those companies that are solving one problem with a single elegant solution. And that founder is laser focused on that delivery. And that's what gets them up in the morning. And that's what keeps them up at night. Those are the companies that tend to do the best. Those are the companies that are so successful. So with that, I want to hear from you. I want to hear from you. So follow me on Instagram @Susansly on X, I am Susanslylive. Someone else has the Susan sly I am Susanslylive. If you, I have to say tweet, if you tweet at me and see me tweeting back at you. I would love a five star review. Please share the show my vision is to double our listenership over the next 90 days. And if this show helps you, or a previous episode, doesn't have to be this episode, if it helps you, if you're inspired, if you're doing something, I want to hear from you. And you can always go to Susansly.com, send a comment if there's a show topic that you want. If you say Susan, like I want to know, how do I generate more sales leads or Susan, I want to know how I find and retain talent or I want to know how AI could possibly change my business, send me a message and I will take a look at that. And if it is something within my repertoire of knowledge, I will do a show on that topic. I don't mind. My team is always like Susan, do a you know, do these solo shows. And so I would love to do a show for you. Go to Susansly.com please send me a message and I would, absolutely be an honor to do that. So with that, go out there and rock your day. Go back and listen to some of the episodes where, this is, I don't know what episode this is gonna be maybe 321. Go back. Listen to some of these amazing founders, how they've overcome challenge, how they streamlined, how they got rid of over diversification, how they got their company to revenue, how they even sold it for 10s of millions, hundreds of millions and we've even had billionaires on the show. Go and listen to the previous shows. Anyway, with that, God bless. Go rock your day, and I will see you in the next episode.
Susan Sly 29:21
Hey, this is the Susan and thanks so much for listening to this episode on Raw and Real Entrepreneurship. If this episode or any episode has been helpful to you, you've gotten at least one solid tip from myself or my guests. I would love it if you would leave a five star review where ever you listen to podcast. After you leave your review, do ahead and email reviews@Susansly.com. Let us know where you left a review. And if I read your review on the air, you could get a $50 amazon giftcard and we would so appreciate it because reviews do help boost the show and get this message all over the world. If you're interested in any of the resources we discussed on the show, go to Susansly.com that's where all the show notes live. And with that, go out there rock your day, God bless. And I will see you in the next episode.
Susan Sly 30:14
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