Friday, November 18, 2011

Paralysis of Analysis

Image: Stuart Miles /
In business, you have to make numerous decisions day in and day out.

Some are big (like which accounting firms should you hire), some are small (like which office supply store should you set up a credit account with), some are inconsequential (like which font should you use on your letterhead),  and some could change the lives of every man, woman, and child in your city.

But, so many people (myself included from time to time) end up becoming locked in place because of the "paralysis of analysis."

We want to make a decision, but we want to make the right decision, because the fate of the universe rests upon our decision making ability (or so we think).

And so we create spreadsheets, and project boards and cover the wall with post-it notes that try to sniff out every possible outcome of our decisions.

If we were on a shooting range, we would be those people who get into position... ready... aim... aim... aim... aim... aim... aim... aim... aim... ready... aim... aim...

Unfortunately many times the opportunities that we are presented with evaporate while we are contemplating.

Oftentimes, opportunities go to the people who are at the shooting range of life that have gotten into position... ready... FIRE!... aim...

Don't get me wrong, I'm not advocating that you go off "half-cocked." But I have learned over the years that in most situations, if you simply go with your gut instincts you will do well. If your gut tells you it's not the right opportunity for you, turn it down. It may still be a great opportunity, but it may require time, money, travel, or a skill set that you do not possess at this time.

So let me ask you...

Have you ever been in the position where you had to make a REALLY important decision? Have you ever doubted yourself and questioned whether or not you were "qualified" to make that sort of decision? What did you do? How did you move on?

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Thursday, November 10, 2011


So there you are... living your life... minding your own business... keeping your proverbial nose clean... and doing everything you are "supposed" to do when...

Image: samurai /

Life throws you a curve ball. Sometimes it seems like all you get are curve balls and fast balls high and inside, right on your knuckles.

The question, however, is this:

Are you going to use those struggles to define who you are or are you going to let those challenges derail you and prevent you from becoming who you could be?
Believe it or not, it is totally within your power to choose how you handle the situation. You can be the victim or the victor. You can be conquered or the conqueror. You can be overwhelmed or you can be an overcomer. But you have to choose. I can't choose for you. Your parents can't choose for you. Your spouse can't choose for you.

You. Have to. Choose.

 I know what your thinking right now... I've heard them all before... I've even had some of the same thoughts before... Heck, I've even said them before... They usually go something like this:
  • "But you don't understand MY situation."
  •  "Nobody has ever had to go through something like THIS before."
  • "I wish there was something I could do about all this, but there is not ANYTHING that can be done."
  • "It's hopeless to try to fix this. EVERYTHING I do blows up in my face."
  • "But...but...but...I....I...I..."
  • "It's my party and I'll cry if I want to." (had to throw that one in there just for fun).

Did I miss any?

Look. Life is hard. My life has been hard. I've had to fight and claw for everything I've ever achieved. And I'm still not finished fighting. I'll be honest, I don't have everything figured out. But it's an absolute miracle that I'm still standing.

If you want to keep reading, I'll tell you a little bit of my story, if you've had enough for one day, you can always bookmark this page and come back to it later or you can jump to the comments section and let me know your thoughts.

My parents got divorced when I was fairly young and my mom never dated or remarried until I was out of the house with a wife and a child of my own, so I never really had that "perfect male role model."

My dad was chain smoker and an alcoholic. He never smoke or drank at home, he always tried to hide it and he was never abusive toward us, but it was enough that at an early age I vowed to never touch the either one and I can proudly say that I never have.

I dropped out of college because I couldn't afford the tuition and had no desire to take out a student loan. As a result the early stages of my "professional career" were littered with dead end jobs in retail, restaurants and customer service gigs. Not that there is anything wrong with any of those, they just weren't for me.

Eighteen months after the birth of our first child the pediatrician discovered that our precious little angel had a tumor in her kidney. It was like our world got turned upside down. How are you supposed to cope with a baby that has to have MAJOR surgery to remove a kidney followed by six to twelve months of chemotherapy?

In December of 2007, I was in what should have been (based on the condition of the van) a deadly wreck. Long story short, I was cruising up the highway in a work van (a Dodge Sprinter) when I got cut off by a guy on the freeway. I swerved to avoid a collision and this whale on wheels started "fish-tailing." The back tire caught the rumblestrip on the side of the road and the van did a barrel roll about 4 times. No, I was not wearing a seat belt. I probably would have been decapitated if I had been. A shelf came loose from the cargo area and punched through the partition and was sitting on top of my headrest. I had ended up wedged between the two captains chairs and basically walked away with just a minor gash on the side of my head. The van however was shredded.

The following month our now 4 year old daughter was found to have a new tumor in her remaining kidney. Just when we thought we were out of the woods. So now it's surgery to cut out the tumor, followed by radiation therapy, and another 6 to 12 months of chemo.

Shortly after the birth of our second daughter, I'm put on 2 week layoff due to the epic slow down in the economy after the "housing bubble pops" and then eventually in June 2009, it becomes a permanent layoff from a company I had invested nearly 10 years with.

So I spent 2 or 3 weeks kind of dazed and confused. I wasn't sure what I was going to do. I had spent the last 8 or 9 years developing a skill set that was almost exclusive to the niche industry that I had devoted so much time and energy to. My options were few.

I could go back to school and in 2 to 4 years have a degree in something that may or may not be usable. Meanwhile I had a house to pay for and a family to feed.

I could take a job in a call center somewhere or try my hand at insurance sales or something along those lines. Nothing against those, but not in my genetic pattern.

I had to decide. I had to decide fast. Was I going to let all of the crap I had gone through derail me from providing the type of life I want for my family or was I going to choose to do something about it?

I chose to start my own business.

Not only that, but my business is in the same niche industry and the same geographic market as the company that let me go. And I chose to start blogging about what I've learned as a result of being in business. Being an entrepreneur is Not For The Meek Or The Weak. It is one of the hardest things I've ever done. But I keep doing it because I believe it was what I was meant to do with my life.

Have I "arrived" at my Utopian dream life? Not hardly. But I get up every day and continue to fight for what I want. And I'll compare my work ethic to anybody out there any day of the week (except the day after Thanksgiving - I'm hiding from all the crazy people trying to get to WalMart).

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

What Do You Do When There's Nothing To Do?

Many business owners, especially in the current economic environment, are faced with some tough questions.

They struggle with the hard decisions and trying to weigh the tasks that are thrust upon them on a daily basis.
  • Will business pick up next week, or will it be another month or so before things turn around?
  • Do I layoff half of my staff or do I eliminate some of the employee benefits to cover my payroll for another month or two?
  • My phone has not rang all week, I don't have any work for my employees, what do I do now?
  • What can I do to find more business?
  • How do I cut production costs without sacrificing quality?
  • What off-the-wall government regulation am I now going to have to comply with in order to stay in business another six months?

First off, take a deep breath, hold it, now exhale slowly. Give yourself permission to relax just a little bit.

Take some time to analyze exactly where your business is at now. Then think back to when you were just getting started in business...
  • What did you do to make it grow?
  • What was the foundation that you put in place to make it work?
  • Who did you surround yourself with for support?
  • Who was an integral part of your team? Are they still part of your team? If not, can you bring them back on board? Should you bring them back on board?
  • What philosophies, thought processes, values, and techniques did you have in the beginning that you've let go by the wayside? Do you need to revisit or revive any of those or do you now have better ones in place?

Now, write down exactly what it will take to get your business where you want it to be.

  • How many new clients? How many closed sales? How many referrals?
  • How much revenue do you need? How much profit?
  • How soon do you need it to be there? Don't just say "as soon as possible..." Write down a deadline.

Honestly assess whether or not you can do what is necessary to get your business to the place you want/need it to be by the deadline you've set.

If you can - then do it. Start right now and attack the gameplan you've just laid out.

If you can't - then you've got to do some further analysis.
  • Can you realistically move out your deadline to accomplish your goals and still operate your business at full or, at least current, capacity? 
  • Can you expand into other markets or related industries to create new opportunities for revenue? 
  • Can you expand into other cities and connect with potential clients there?

It may be a bit of a cliche, but there is a lot of truth in the statement "Where there's a will, there's a way." Just because things look bad right now, does not mean that there is not a solution. If you really think about what needs to be done, without letting the stress and anxiety of the situation take control, you can find the answer you are looking for. You may even find more than one solution to your problem.

Good Luck. We're all in this together. I'll be pulling for you.

How have you made it through times that were a little too lean for your liking?

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