Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Failure happens, but don't allow it to derail you

Have you done your research?  Have you made your business plan?  Have you written down your goals?  Are you putting your business in a position to succeed? 

Have YOU failed enough to be successful?  Yes.....have you failed enough to be successful?  You should spend as much time evaluating your failures as you have spent researching, goals, and etc..  This is huge.  We can learn from our past.  I have used iconic people as examples in previous blogs to demonstrate the learning opportunities of those experiences, but our past should be used as well.

How many small businesses are there in the United States. Plenty! According to the latest Federal data, there are 24,653,098 small businesses in the United States.  According to a study by the U.S. Small Business Association, only 2/3 of all small business startups survive the first two years and less than half make it to four years. With numbers like that, it's no wonder so many entrepreneurs think twice before taking the plunge.

OK hold the press......our country was founded on small businesses.  I would like to see the stat on how many businesses are owned by someone that failed at a previous start up business.

If you start your business with the attitude that it's probably going to fail, guess what - it will. The businesses that succeed are the ones that were founded on an attitude of success.

BUT it takes more than attitude!  Because if it was solely up to attitude there would be a lot of wealthy business owners.  If something is worth having it is worth fighting for.  It requires nothing less than hard work to make whatever sacrifices are necessary to succeed. Sacrifice yes, but NOT sacrificing values and family.  If it means being unethical or pushing your family to the end of the bench then it is not worth fighting for.

I want share his name because I have not discussed it with him but my first business was in 7th grade with a great friend.  We started selling blow pops between classes.  We had a plan, a product, and demand was booming.  All was great until our target audience figured out they could buy them cheaper before school at the store.
We failed to have a plan B that would withstand changes in our market.  Mark it up my first failed attempt as a business owner.

I knew then, that one day I would be a successful business owner.  Through out I have had many failed attempts, but the great thing I decided to do was to add some education and hard work to my attitude.

Things I have learned over those failed attempts have been to plan well, plan for the risk, enjoy every minute, work hard, and don't let one failure kill your ability to move forward.  Negative times are the hardest to navigate but when you pass the storm the faster you can move in clear water.

I can't sum up how hard this is to swallow, how hard it is to think about failure, or the impact it can have on your life.  I recommend reading the Rich Dad book series and John Maxwell's Failing Forward. They are great!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Martin Luther King Jr.- A Real Leader

Monday is Martin Luther King Day in the United States.  For many this is a day off from work, but on this day WE celebrate the life and work of one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known. Please take a few minutes and reflect on a leader that helped shape a world of freedom.

MLK was a leader that expressed qualities that we are all looking for.    MLK addressed conflict straight on, engaged more than the mind....he engaged the heart, he would not settle, moved with a sence of urgent passion, motivated others to act vs. reacting, and painted a vision that was obtainable. Take some time to reflect on the past and how we as leaders can embrace learning opportunities.  

Here are some quotes from MLK speech:

"In a sense we have come to our nation’s capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness".

March 20, 1775 Patrick Henry closed with this quote, "Give me Liberty, or Give me Death". A little less than 200 years later MLK continued to fight for all men to have life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness.

"But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. And so we have come to cash this check, a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice.”

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!"

"I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, with its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right down in Alabama little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers. I have a dream today!"

"I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, and every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed and all flesh shall see it together.”

Leaders, I have said so many times the past carries a wealth of knowledge that we MUST rely on as a critical resource for moving forward.  Our leaders of this great country fought for and taught  valuable lessons so that we could move beyond these obstacles.  

MLK believed in his work, his work had a greater purpose, he went for the goal, and planted a Vision! MLK defined Leadership.

MLK, "We are not makers of history. We are made by history."

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Don't Build Walls

“Don’t Build Walls, but Lift a Lamp to light the way”

Who thought in this period of bottom line, heavy bulk buying, and Wal-mart mentality that our economy would be at this point? I didn’t for sure. If you look at the surface, most would think the American economy has been on a great ride. The stock market has made people millions of dollars and the American dream has been soaring high.

Do you know the lady checking you out at Wal-mart? Do you have the same lady checking you out each time you make a purchase at Wal-mart? How about the grocery store? Do you have the same people checking you out at the local gas station? In most cases, the answer will be NO. Between multi-shifts of people, self check out, or pay at the pump the thought of a relationship with your local vendor is crazy talk.

Why would you want to know the people you are paying? I remember not too long ago I had one guy I bought lumber from when we were selling houses. If there was a problem, a delay, or we were in a bind I could call him. In today’s world relationships are gone, the job goes to the lowest bidder, and hopefully he sends an invoice so I know who to write the check to. That is where we are today.

I have said before we have to reevaluate not reinvent. This mentality we have grown a custom to has created walls between businesses and customers. I would think this would be a reason so many would buy online. If you are not going to be customer oriented and work to build a relationship, why involve a breathing human.

Since I am in the Financial Industry full time I have to say Community Banks in this arena are ahead of the game. They understand the need of a warm body, someone the customer can speak with, and the ability to actually meet face to face. They also understand the fact that a relationship is more than saying hello. Business owners should take notes here. If you are going to offer multiply services or products do they have synergy? Do they go hand and hand? If you can tie services and products together you have a better chance of pleasing your customer. If you have multiply services or products going to one client it is much harder for that client to be persuaded by competitor.

S. Truett Cathy, Founder of Chick-fil-A once said, “People are more important than profits”. I would agree. A Relationship will last a long time, while a pay at the pump is an instant win. The instant win is a quick fix and dwindling niche. I am not saying that in the next 12 months the pay at the pump option will be obsolete, but I am saying the relationship will last longer than the machine. If we look at history the idea of relationships will ultimately play a larger impact in life, business, and our success than the instant win. If you are looking to improve your business take a look and determine what walls have been built in your company. Look inside at your employees’ relationships first and work your way out.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"The Longer you look back, the farther you can look forward”

The Longer you look back, the farther you can look forward

Did you know that Lee Iacocca was “dismissed” at Ford Motor Company after serving as President? Did you know that Lee Iacocca was asked to be the President of Chrysler after that? Did you know after helping to rebuild Chrysler Lee Iacocca’s replacement cashed in and sold the company?

Lee Iacocca who many think to be one of the great leaders of all time in the American Auto Industry could serve as a platform for future leaders. I think we could apply his platform of leadership across many industries. 

The best way to learn about leadership and business is to look at what has already happened. They say history repeats itself over and over, so why not learn from it. Why don’t we concentrate more on what happened to us in the past? Well…..because there is always the one person who will tell you not to live in the past. I ask why not.

On December 20, 1803, the biggest land deal in history took place when the United States led by Thomas Jefferson purchased 831,321 square miles of land from France.  The Louisiana Purchase cost the United States fifteen million dollars and more than doubled the size of the United States.

As a business owner what can we take from the real estate transaction completed by one of our founding fathers?  His business was to expand the United States territory.  Decisions had to be made, risk had to be taken, and the impact would involve many.  The outcome was unknown but the plan was in place.

Two years after Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, the 13th Amendment was created.  This Amendment  to the Constitution abolished slavery throughout the entire United States and not just areas under Union control.

Abraham Lincoln had a plan, a goal, and a strategy to abolish slavery.  His business was to free all people, and he believed in his business.  His decision involved risk, lives, and an impact that is felt today.  Robert F Kennedy, once said, "Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against an injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope...Those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance."

Do we as business owners believe in our business?  Do we take pride in our work?  Are we willing to put a plan in place, stride for a goal, and work HARD to get there?  Will our hard work add value to others?  We are in the "New" economy, reevaluate, not reinvent.

History is History, and we should strive to learn from what great leaders have done before us.  When we opt to look forward before looking back we forego the opportunity to capitalize on the most valuable resource, HISTORY.

Friday, January 7, 2011

“We Must Demonstrate to People that our COMMONALITIES are greater than their Differences”

Small Business owners….the tag line of this blog will tell the story. We as small business owners have for years been stuck on the thought what “Separates” our company from the others. What makes us different from our competitors, what will make us “Stand” out? Being business minded I have thought this way for years structuring my company, my employees, my time, and my knowledge in a way that will make us “Different”.

This is hard for me to swallow! In this world; if each one of us is trying to reinvent the business model, than progress will continually be at a standstill. AT NO point am I stating a business owner should not be innovative, think outside the box, or not be creative. So….your first thought will be, if we are not different, than we are all the same, how will we be competitive. Good question? If we are the same, and we can’t compete on price with the large box stores how will we stay in business.

Yes….the answer is simple and you may blow off the rest of this blog, but take time to absorb it and think about your business. Unless you are in the business of R&D for a cure for cancer, business should not be over complicated. Very straight forward….Provide a product or service that is in demand at the highest quality possible. See, very simple.

Take time to think about it. We’re so caught up in the Wal-Mart mentality that we have forgot about what made our country amazing. We once created top notch products, provided customer service above and beyond, and focused on the fundamentals of our business. Then the period of bottom line or nothing sweeps the world and large box stores buy in bulk, factories move overseas, customer service is thrown out the window, and then our country is labeled fat and lazy. We have become so focused on the bottom line that we have thrown away our opportunity to be “Different” in our commonalities.

If you want to be different, I recommend start by focusing on the fundamentals of your business. Ask the following questions: What does my company offer? Who else provides these items? Who do I DON’T want to be like? Do I as a business owner value my employees? Yes, you must focus on what YOU do in the company. The TONE of your business will start with YOU. If you tell your employees thank you then your employees will be more likely to thank your customers.

We are in the “New” economy where we will be required to revaluate everything…not reinvent everything. Focus on being great at what you do across the board and that will make your company “Different” from the pack.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Fight

“Nothing worth having comes without some kind of fight”
Yes I have a MBA, an Accounting Degree, and I look like your typical business executive. I am balding and aging daily in this current economic time. I work in the Financial Industry and daily I see small businesses collapsing, folding up, and even worse families losing everything they have.
My degrees show the stamp of approval that I have an idea of what I am doing, but the years of experience that I carry on my back is the staple that I hang my hat on. My experience started way before my post grad experience, and to be honest, those are the days that developed me into the person I am today. This is a FREEBEE….for you mid level managers that look at resumes and say the new college graduate has a blank resume since he graduated should start asking more in-depth questions. Yes, they are fresh out of college, but do they have what it takes to WORK HARD and LEARN. I have been on the front lines and understand what it means that our country has to get back to Customer Service, Quality, and controlling the bottom line.
Will it be easy? NO, we are so inflated by our own thoughts that we are worth more than we really are it has blinded us to what will need to be done. What I wish I could do. I said before I see small businesses collapsing daily, and you ask if you are so smart why you don’t lend them a hand. Well in my position if I help out and the business does collapse, in return I would be sued for liability, and in this country I would lose for helping out. Well that sounds pretty selfish, and at first I thought I was protecting my family, but if all these companies continue to flounder will there be a need for my services.

Ok….so after a year of pondering over the “Question” I have decided to stop being so selfish and put myself out there to help. I will NO longer give the advice you need to contact a Consulting firm that could offer you advice. Why, because if you could afford $5,000 to hire a consulting firm for your small business you wouldn’t be seeking HELP, you would use that Capital to jump start the NEW YEAR!

My wife and I own a HOA Management and Lawn Care business in addition to my full time role in the financial industry. We’re in the world of reviewing, critiquing, consulting, and living life in this NEW Economy that we must work with. I am not saying I can solve all your questions, or lead you to a multimillion dollar salary but ask me some questions and I will do my best to help you. Actually if you are looking for a quick, get rich idea, please don’t contact me. I am offering my services, my knowledge, and my time to help those Small Business Owners on how to get through this “Slump”…or how to live with our New Economy.