Tuesday, October 25, 2011

S.T.A.T.U.S. Check.

It is sad that the economy is currently is such poor shape. People are hurting. Families are hurting. Businesses are hurting. Entrepreneurs are hurting. And yet some people still think that they are guaranteed happiness - as if it were some sort of Constitutional Law.

These of course are the same people who put their careers above their families. They put their pleasure above their responsibilities. They put their luxury above their livelihood.

You've seen them. You've lived near them. You've possibly been related to them. You might be them.

"They" are the ones who are working so hard to keep up with "The Joneses."

They buy stuff that they don't need... with money that they don't actually have (i.e. credit)... to fill up a house that they can't afford... to impress the neighbors that they don't even like.

Now, it is true that money will not make you happy. But let's be realistic, neither will poverty.

And as an entrepreneur myself, I'm all for creating as much wealth as you possibly can. But wait, didn't I just say that money won't make you happy? Yep.

Money is a tool. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Money can feed the hungry. Money can clothe the naked. Money can educate the uneducated. Money can pay for the medicine to cure the sick.

Where we get into trouble is where we focus only on the accumulation of money for our own selfish desires. Where we get into trouble is when we allow money to create a sense of "arrival" in our minds. Where we get into trouble is when we give money the permission to provide us with S.T.A.T.U.S.

If you have money and you have S.T.A.T.U.S. then you feel you "deserve" the BMW. If you have money and you have S.T.A.T.U.S. then you feel you "deserve" the promotion and the corner office. If you have money and you have S.T.A.T.U.S. then you feel you "deserve" the 5 bedroom, 3-1/2 bath, 6000 square foot home on 2 acres in a gated community.

The problem is if you go to the grocery store, you can't buy anything with your "status." The cashier doesn't care that you are Vice President of the bank and rolled up in a Cadillac Escalade. She wants the $23.57 you owe the store for the diapers, bread, milk, peanut butter, and jelly you just bought. Oh you can jump up and down and scream "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM?" all you want. She doesn't care who you are (or who you "think" you are). She just wants the $23.57 and wants to know if you want "paper or plastic."

Some people live their whole lives under the influence of S.T.A.T.U.S.

If they only knew that it meant they were (S)till (T)oo (A)rrogant (T)o (U)nderstand real (S)uccess, they might redefine their definition of success.

So let me ask you... What is your S.T.A.T.U.S. symbol? How are you using money?
Image: Jeroen van Oostrom / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Friday, October 21, 2011

If It's Good For Your Ego It's Probably Bad For Your Business

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They say that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and in today's business world that one chance usually last about 3 seconds.

After that you might as well pack up and go home.

As a business owner you need to be able to instill confidence in your clients, employees, vendors, and colleagues.

You will not win clients if you are unsure of yourself or appear unfamiliar with the features and benefits of your company or its products.

You will not retain quality employees if you come across as a leader who cannot "steer the ship."

Your vendors will be hesitant to extend credit or expedite your rush requests if you are unable to show yourself and your company to be worthy of their time and efforts.

But lets not go to the other end of the spectrum either. Most clients or potential clients are turned off by the overly aggressive salesman.

Most employees will eventually flee from the harsh taskmaster. And vendors (or at least their reps) are less likely to provide "perks" to those who are rude and overbearing.

It may make you feel good if you are the type of person who can berate someone on the phone and get them to cave in and give you what you want, but if it's good for your ego... it's probably bad for your business.

Nobody is perfect. We all make mistakes sometimes. Have you ever let your ego get in your way? How did you fix it? How did you overcome that and prevent it from happening again?

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Monday, October 17, 2011

The Ultimate Question

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Yes business is about making money, but it can also be about making a difference.

Is your client better off now that they've met you?

That is the ultimate question.

Too many times those of us who own a business get caught up looking at the so-called "bottom line."

The problem is we hear and use the term "bottom line" to refer to the balance in our bank accounts. How much money are we making? How much are we losing? We have a bad habit of thinking only about ourselves and our business.

What we forget is that our business IS our clients. And not just the revenue we receive from our clients but the individuals, families, and other businesses that rely on our goods and services.

In the beginning, when we are just starting out, nearly all business owners nurture those client relationships - because we know that we have to fight to keep every client we land when we are trying to get our business off the ground.

But as the years progress and as the business establishes itself and starts to have some success, for some reason, the client relationship tends to get pushed to the background and the focus shifts to the Profit & Loss Statement or the Quarterly Earnings Report.

Some people may say that some companies are just too big to create a "relationship" with thier clients. Maybe, maybe not.

Here's a what if situation for you... Let's use Macy's for example, they are a pretty big company, right?

What if, Macy's implemented a new policy to reach out to their customers? What if their associates were to mail out a hand written thank you note to every customer they served in the course of a week? How much repeat business would they get as a result of simply being appreciative of their customers? How fast would they become one of the most popular retail clothing stores in America simply because they slowed down long enough to change the way they look at their clients?

Right now, they may send out special coupons or passes for secret sales to their best customers (i.e. those who spend the most on their Macy's credit card), but what if they thanked EVERY. SINGLE. CUSTOMER.

Unfortunately Macy's will probably never do anything like this, citing reasons (i.e. excuses) like "there's no money in the budget for something like that" or "we could never get our employees to actually do something like that" or "do you know how much that would cost in postage alone?"

But any small to medium sized business can do this sort of thing and SO much more to attract and retain customers.

It's not a difficult concept. Basically its doing the types of things your grandparents did. Be good for your word. Don't promise something you can't deliver. Admit when your wrong. Treat people with respect and dignity. Be grateful and show your appreciation.

So what are YOU doing in your business to make a difference in the lives of your clients? And no, I don't mean how does your product or service make their lives easier, better, etc. It's not about you or your product.

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Sunday, October 9, 2011

Not For The Meek or Weak

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Owning a business is NOT for the meek or the weak. But if more people in this country owned a business or at least understood what it took to own one, this country would be in MUCH better shape.

I am self-employed... an entrepreneur... a business owner. What ever you want to call it.

As such, If my business fails and I become "unemployed" I do not qualify to receive Unemployment Benefits like other out of work individuals.

If my business does good, I pay way more in taxes than the average "employee."

If I want my business to do REALLY good, I will have to hire employees, which will provide me with the opportunity to pay even more taxes, do even more paperwork, keep up with even more compliance regulations, and fork out money for Workman's Comp.

I pay into the failed Social Security system, even though I know I will never see a dime of that money return to me once I reach "retirement age."

I do not qualify for a traditional healthcare plan. If I want one, I have to convince my wife to take a job for a company that offers a group plan or I have to pay through the nose for a policy that offers only minimal coverage.

To protect myself and my business from unethical customers and bogus damage claims, I have to purchase Commercial Liability Insurance.

I spend 60-80 hours per week working "in" my business and 10-20 hours per week working "on" my business. I spend time going over "the numbers" and tracking expenses. I spend time comparing this month's revenue to last month revenue and this year's profit to last year's profit.

I might get 3 - 4 hours of sleep per night.

Some might ask with all these things that are such obvious drawbacks and barriers to security why I keep doing it...

Frankly, I do it because I am good at it and I get paid pretty well for doing it. Yes it's about the money. Money is not evil, nor is it the often misquoted "root of all evil" (that would be the "Love of Money").

Profit is not a bad word.

I do not apologize for being in business. I do not apologize for wanting to make more money instead of less money. I do not apologize for sticking my head above the crowd and refusing to participate in a culture of complacency. And as far as "security" - there's no such thing as "security" when you are relying on someone else for your livelihood.

The following is my (partial) adaptation of a reading I heard years ago in a church service.

I am part of the fellowship of the entrepreneur. The die has been cast. I've stepped out of my comfort zone. The decision has been made.

I won't look back, let up, slow down or back away.

My past cannot hurt me. My present cannot define me. My future cannot contain me.

I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, faithless dreams, mundane talking, cheap excuses, and dwarfed goals.

My face is set, my pace is fast. My road is narrow, my way is tough. My friends are few, my mentors are many. My purpose is pure and my mission is clear.

I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded, delayed or denied.

I'll not flinch in the face of sacrifice, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up until I've stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and stood up for the right to determine my own destiny.

I will fight when others faint, go when others won't, give 'til I drop, and work 'til the task is finished.

So why are you in business or why have you chosen to stay on the sidelines and not go into business? 

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

To Thine Own Self Be True

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Do you ever feel like you are in a competition to see how many plates you can keep spinning?

Why do we do that? Why have we never learned how to say NO? Why do we commit to so many different things in life?

I feel like I have reached a point that I have to consciously decide where and how I am going to spend my time. To myself (and my dreams and goals) I must be true.

For the last 18 - 24 months I have been dividing my time between being a father, being a husband, dabbling with social media, and starting / building a business.

For the last 18 - 24 months the majority of my time had gone into social media and my business. I was by and large neglecting the relationships with the people in life that meant the most to me (my wife and daughters). Obviously I have to keep my business up and running because that is what "puts bread on the table."

However, social media is not my industry, I will never be confused with one of the so-called social media gurus. It is unlikely I will have the number of blog subscribers that someone like Seth Godin has.  I use social media outlets to occasionally promote my business or to connect with friends and family. But with all the changes and new platforms that are coming at us with breakneck speed it seems like to stay of top of it and maintain it and create quality content is becoming a full-time JOB.

Besides, I started my own business because I was tired of having a job. And I have come to the realization that working 50-60-70 hours per week building my business and then putting in 10 or more hours per week playing with Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or whatever hot, new, platform is out there is not sustainable and quite honestly is no longer desirable.

I've only got so many hours each day that I can invest, spend, or waste. I can only apply those hours to a finite number of categories. Once time has been allocated, it can never be reclaimed or reallocated.

So I guess, I said all of that to say this:

In the days and weeks to come, I will be carefully analyzing a number of things and deciding which ones are important, which ones are necessary, and which ones need to be extracted from my life.

I will likely be un-subscribing from several blogs, un-following certain users on Twitter, un-Like-ing some pages and groups on Facebook and maybe even un-friending some people who are not actually friends as well as deleting an assortment of profiles and pages on other sites (my digital footprint is about the size of Texas right now I think).

This decision was not made in haste. I am not trying to be mean or rude. I just simply can't continue down the path I am on and accomplish what I have set out to accomplish.

If I have cut you out of my "sphere of influence" you have my permission to reciprocate and remove me from your list of contacts, followers, etc. You can even unsubscribe from this blog if you want to. I only want you to "follow" me or receive my content if you really WANT TO.

If I have chosen to keep you in my loop, know two things, first off, I am appreciative of our connection and I value our relationship. Secondly, I will make a concerted effort to strengthen our connection and go beyond just the superficial.

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