Saturday, 26 November 2011

Know Who Is In Your Circle

If I talk about a new business plan to close friends and family, there are a few responses I can count on hearing:
My mother will say, "Oh no! Can't you just be satisfied with where you are at? What if it fails?"
My friend Don will say. "Wow! That's awesome! You go man!"
My friend Stacy will say, "That sounds like a great idea! Your only only big challenge might be ... "

When you are building a business it is very important to know who is around you and what effect they have on you. This is especially important during those early stages of bringing the dream to reality. When you explain your dream to people, they are going to react to it and you are going to see that reaction. If that person is someone close to you, you will be affected by that reaction.

Generally, you can put these people into 3 categories:
1. Caring Detractors
2. Biggest Fans
3. Motivating Realists

Knowing who fits into what category and planning on how to deal with them can save you a lot of strife. I have several people in each category so I will give you some examples:

Caring Detractor 

My mother fits this category. Anytime I speak of a new idea, investment or business; she feels that it is her job to talk me out of it. No matter how solid the plan, she has to say , "Don't do it!" The trick for me is remembering why she does this. It is because she hates risk and fears change when it comes to the lives of her children.

I am sure you have similar people around you. When you talk about new ideas, they automatically try to "protect" you from the worst. They may have had bad experiences themselves that have led them to believe that entrepreneurship is something dangerous. They may just lack the creativity to see how an idea can become a successful venture. Either way, they try to dissuade you out of concern for you.

(There is another type of detractor. The kind that wants to dissuade you out of jealousy or bitterness. Not wanting success for you. These people should not be in your circle, so lets just forget about them)

Biggest Fans

I have few friends that fit in this category, they cheer me on and say, "What a great idea!" no matter what I am talking about. Don is one of these friends. He wants me to feel good and will say whatever he has to in order to accomplish that. He is a great friend and I wouldn't trade him for the world, but I have to be careful how much weight I put in his enthusiasm and encouragement.

You probably have some of these as well. They are great for the ego. They are great for making you feel like the worthy person you are when you may be feeling less than worthy. Listen to what these people say and enjoy it. They are sincere. They love you and want the best for you. Just make sure that you don't place all of your stock in their comments. They will make you feel great about your idea but may make you blind to issues that need to be addressed.

That's where this next group comes in ...

Motivating Realists

These are hard to find but I do have a few in my life. Stacy is one of these. She wants me to succeed and will encourage and cheer me on, but at the same time, she will bring to light any snags in my plan. She has the courage to tell me the things I might not want to hear. She will point out bumps in the road that I may have to deal with. She offers me a perfect mix of encouragement and realism. When she sees potential problems she points them out and then helps me think through to a solution.

If you have some of these people around you, grab on to them and hold them close through the building of your business. They can be a huge contribution to your success. These people have usually taken some risks themselves and have been rewarded for it. They understand that a bit of hard going and uncertainty in the beginning can pay off a million times over in the future. They care about your success and are honest about the pros and cons of your plan.

Knowing who is around you and which type of person they are is a great way to avoid stress.

Know ahead of time that the detractors will try to stop you and handle your communication with them accordingly. (I don't tell my mother anything until I have already done it).

Know that your fans will cheer you on. Tell them what you are doing and bask in the encouragement they will offer. Just don't get blinded by that wonderful spotlight they put on you.

Know that the realists will be straight with you. Tell them what you are doing and then listen closely to what they say. It may not always be what you want to hear but it will always be helpful.

Balance these three and then go ahead knowing that, when it comes down to it, YOU are the key to making your dream a reality.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

What Would You Do If You Were't Afraid?

Entrepreneurs, especially those in the early stages of business, know that fear is a factor that must be dealt with on an almost daily basis.

What if people don't buy into my service?
What if the bank doesn't come through?
What if this big sale doesn't come together?
What if...
What if...
What if...
I am sure you have some personal fears you can complete those sentences with.

Fear is a natural reaction to uncertain circumstances and an unknown future. It is a survival tool after all. Fear is in us to warn us of things that could harm us. We fear falling off of things because the landing could kill us. We fear disease because it can ruin our lives. We fear our business failing because it means we could go broke.The trick is taking that fear and working through it. It can be a great tool if used properly.

I find this one question very helpful. When faced with something scary I ask myself, "What would I do if I wasn't afraid?" This question takes the emotion of fear out of the equation and lets me focus on what the logical approach to a situation should be.

A common example is public speaking. You have a presentation to make in 3 days and you are nervous because it is a very advanced audience you will be speaking to. They know their stuff and expect the same of you. You can sit and worry about making a fool of yourself, or you can ask, "What would I do if I wasn't afraid."

Your answer would likely be, "I would..."
...research the topic thoroughly.
...focus on writing accurate and interesting content.
...rehearse the speech several times.
...walk out onto the stage confidently on that day.
...present my thoughts in a fluid and engaging way.

You already know what you need to do in order to be successful. If you can side step the fear for a moment and concentrate on what needs to be done, you can alleviate that fear. As you go through the actions you prescribed for yourself, your confidence in success will return as you are consciously taking steps toward it.

Afraid that the bank won't say yes to your business loan? What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Afraid that your first customers won't like your product? What would you do if you were't afraid?

Afraid that your new employee won't perform well? What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Afraid to quit your day job and build your business full time? What would you do if you weren't afraid?

Fear will be present in your life as an entrepreneur. Acknowledge that there is a reason you are afraid, then ask what you would do if you were't. The answer to the problem causing the fear is usually right around the corner.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Human Resources or Powerful Partners?

I have trouble with the phrase "human resources". Maybe I have an odd way of viewing it but I don't think I am alone. To me, it brings to mind a company seeing it's people as usable objects, like something they could take inventory on. "Lets see, we have 37 computers, 4 cars and 21 humans."

Its just semantics, I know; but it begs the questions, "How should a company view it's employees?"

The first thing to understand is that people (the humans that are the employees of your company) are motivated by their own goals and needs. They are only going to be interested in your company as far as it is able to meet their needs. This isn't a selfish thing, it is simply human nature. We all need to have food and shelter, we all need to feel good about our lives, we all need to provide for the ones we love, we all need to feel like we are important, we all need to have time to enjoy life, we all need to feel like we are bettering our lives (and the lives of those we love) every day. Every person has these same basic needs no matter their position within an organization.

Employees can be treated either as faceless resources or like valuable people. And guess what ... The way that they act and feel toward your company is directly effected by that!

A person who is treated like a replaceable part of your organization will act like a replaceable part of your organization. Pay them the bottom end of what their position commands, give them a drab office, never ask for their input, never praise them for a job well done, hold fast to schedules without regard for their personal life and only speak to them when you need something. How hard do you think they will work to build your company? How much effort will they put in? Will they go above and beyond to help you reach the goals you have for the company? Of course not. Instead, they will be tossing resumes around hoping to find something to get them the heck away from you and your company. In this kind of situation, none of their personal needs are being met. Why on earth would they stay and show interest in bettering the position of you and your company if you show no interest in bettering their position in life?

If you employ a person, commit to treating them in a way fitting of someone who is helping you towards your goals, because that is exactly what they are doing! They are taking care of things for your business so that it can meet and exceed the goals you have set for it. Of course, paying people properly is a great way to make them feel valuable, but there are hundreds of other ways as well. For example:

  • Give them a comfortable place to work. Somewhere they feel proud to work from.
  • Schedule their hours in a way that shows you understand that they have a life outside of work.
  • Make time to "chat" once in a while. (An off topic chat may seem like a waste, but it is an investment.) 
  • Publicly recognize their successes. 
  • Genuinely ask for their input when decisions are being made. 
  • Share the glory for your company's successes with them. 

In short, people need to feel valuable. If they feel valuable they will act valuable. They will want to push your company towards its goals because they feel like an important part of it. They will look for the things that can be improved and point them out to you. They will creatively think of ways to make customers happy. They will put in the extra time or effort needed to ensure the business runs smoothly. Why? because they know that taking care of your company's needs will in turn take care of their own needs. They will know that they are an integral part of your company's success and they will be proud of that fact. They will act in a way that benefits your business because it gives them a sense of pride and security to be a part of a successful venture. You see, it is a symbiotic relationship. Your business needs your employees and your employees need your business. If you take care of them, they will take care of you.

You, as the employer, set the tone of your organization. Present it as a company that values its people and your people will be very valuable to you. You will not see them as a resource, but as partners working toward the same goal.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Keep Your Creative Mind Strong

There was a time I didn't need the gym. I was young and constantly doing physical things. I could eat anything I wanted and I wouldn't gain an ounce of fat. Now the story is different. I'm past the age where I can rely on my metabolism to keep me thin. Now I have to watch what I eat and make a point of staying active to keep in good shape. Fortunately, I enjoy my time at the gym. I find it to be a very creative place. While my body does the exercises, my mind can go in all sorts of directions often finding some interesting thoughts to ponder. 

Today I realized that it isn't downtime that my mind is getting in the gym. It is a workout of its own. It is when the creative side of my entrepreneurial spirit gets to come out. (It happens in other places as well, my shower at home and my car being the best of all.) Without this time though, my creative side would constantly be overshadowed by the analytical side. When I am in the office speaking with clients, it is most often my analytical side that is doing the work. It stays strong on its own because of this constant activity. My creative side, though, only gets to come out when I am in certain situations (IE. gyms, cars or showers).

It is incredibly important for all entrepreneurs to keep that creative side active. If you are in business for yourself, you likely remember the moment when the dream of entrepreneurship popped into your head. It was wonderful wasn't it? The rush of suddenly seeing the world differently. A world opened up by the vision you had for your product or service. The feeling of unlimited potential, of all the possibilities ahead. That was the creative side of you shining through. 

Many entrepreneurs lose touch with that creative side. Once they make their dream a reality, they fall into the trap of indulging only their analytical side in order to run the business on a day to day basis. Businesses need to deal in cold hard facts and numbers if they are to succeed, so there is a place for the analytical mind without a doubt. However, it should not overshadow the creative mind.

Creative thinking is where you are going to find ways to expand your business, please customers and create a great environment for your employees. It is how you will see not only where your business is going, but where it could go. It will allow you to step out of the numbers and see your business as an organism in a huge world where it plays a part. It will help you to see other parts your business could play, or perhaps an idea for a whole new business. It will keep that anxious urge to create alive in you, and that is the road to a wonderful life full of accomplishment! Shut all that down and you become a simple manager. Is that why you started your own business? To be a manager? I highly doubt it.

Take the time to keep your creative side active. Find that place or activity that opens you up in that way. Make a point of being in those situations that allow your mind to roam free. Keep seeing those opportunities in that wide open world that you first saw when you dreamed your business into being. Look at the road ahead through your creative eyes and marvel at the possibilities.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Chickens, Crocodiles and Great Business Ideas

Rancid, decomposing chicken carcasses would turn almost anyone's stomach. It was no different for a chicken farmer I heard about today. But his disgust lead to business success!

He had a farm that produced hundreds of thousands of chickens. Although his farm was far above average when it came to the conditions for his birds, he still had hundreds of dead chickens each week. He tried burying them but ran out of room, he tried incinerating them but it was too costly, he tried composting them but it was much too disgusting. Each week he was left with a disgusting mess.

On a family trip, he stopped in at a crocodile farm so that he and his kids could watch the mighty reptiles. By chance, he noticed that they were being fed chicken carcasses! An idea was born! He went through the proper channels and legally acquired 2 breeding crocodiles. He made a proper enclosure for them at his farm, fed them the dead chickens and watched them make babies. It didn't take long for him to have his own crocodile farm which people were paying to see!

Out of his frustration, his creative juices flowed. Not only did he solve a major problem for his main business, he also ended up creating a second successful business as a result!

When you are frustrated with a task or a tool, don't just storm away angry. Take some time to look for a creative solution. You may find a solution that makes your life much easier, save your business some money and maybe even stumble upon a great business idea that you can run with.

Entrepreneurs: Examine Your Hat Collection

Starting up a new business means that you will have to wear many hats. The problem is, not every hat is going to fit you perfectly. Knowing what hats to wear and which hats to put on someone else's head can be the difference between a business success or a business nightmare.

In your business' infancy, you MUST wear all the hats. I say must, because even if you have the ability to hire a staff right off the bat, it is necessary to understand your business from every angle. Immerse yourself in it, sign every check, examine every invoice, talk to every customer. Really get to understand everything about it so that you appreciate every nuance that goes on in the belly of what you have created.

Soon though, you need to ensure that the right people are wearing the right hats.

Most entrepreneurs are of the creative type. They see the world a bit differently than most people do. They see opportunities to improve things and shake the system up to make it better. If this is you, then put that hat on. Look at your business from all of those angles and use your creativity to change the things that can be improved. That may mean that you need to have a manager in place to take care of the day to day maintenance type decisions. You may need sales people to handle the finding of customers or clients. You may need an accountant to crunch the numbers. Find the right people for those jobs so that you can concentrate on wearing that hat of creativity to steer your business in the ways it must go.

You may be of a different set though. Some entrepreneurs have incredible technical knowledge of the product they are producing but may not have the business savvy to take it to the public successfully. If that is you, wear the right hat. Surround yourself with a dynamic manager and sales staff who can take care of getting your product out to the public while you put your skills to use where no one else can, perfecting what it is you have created.

Every entrepreneur is different. To be successful, you must be honest about what your true skills are and where you are lacking.  You must then be willing to find others who have skills where you are lacking to create a well tuned business.

In the beginning, wear all the hats for a bit so that you know how they all fit. But then, examine your skills, put on the hat that really fits you, find people who wear the other hats perfectly, then watch your business soar as everyone does their part according to their skill.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Make Your Business Support Your Life

Why do you want to be an entrepreneur?

So many answers arise to this question:
I want the freedom it offers.
I know it can lead to lots of money.
I have a great product or idea that I want to share with the world.
I want to be my own boss.
I want to control my destiny.
I have a need to create.
Insert your answer (or several of them ) here.

There is no right answer to this question, but before stepping into your first business creation, make sure you understand why you are doing it.

If you truly want to find personal success in entrepreneurship, you need your business to cater to your motivation.

For example, if freedom and being your own boss are your motivation, then starting a consulting business and hiring yourslef out to one or two big companies probably won’t make you happy about your business. There will be specific demands on your time and productivity. This will make it feel like someone else is in control of your time. A person with this motivation may be better suited to a retail or manufacturing business where staff could be hired to handle things in the business owners absence.

If your motivation is controlling your own destiny or a need to create, you may want to avoid that retail or manufacturing business. Your ties to a physical location and staff may limit your ability to change your business as you create new ideas and goals. You may be better suited to a broader service that can walk into several fields or industries. An example of this might be an efficiency consultant or something similar. This would give you the opportunity to work on short term projects with several different companies. In turn that would make your business seem fresh and open to change all the time.

Here are some questions that you should ask yourself to make sure your new enterprise will support your motivation and goals:

1. If I could only have one of these, which would I chose? A stable income or control over my time?

2. Do I enjoy managing people, delegating responsibilities and encouraging others or do I prefer to work solo?

3. How far do I want to take this business? Built it into something I can sell, create a business that can exist in my family for generations or something in between?

4. Do I picture myself being hands on, every day with my business or do I see myself turning day to day decisions over to a manager?

5. If I lack a skill involved in running my business would I rather pay to have it taken care of or learn to do it myself?

6. What does a perfect work/life balance look like to me?

7. Which is more important to me if I was forced to chose between the two? Showing growth in profit every year or creating a certain life style for myself?

8. If I had to sum up all my goals for my business, as it relates to my lifestyle, into a 10 word sentence; what would it be?

9. How do I feel about dealing with unexpected problems and issues? Do I feel excited by the challenge or do I feel frustrated by them?

10. Can I motivate myself to give 100% every day or do I prefer having deadlines to motivate me?

By answering each of these questions honestly and in detail, you will be able to see a pattern appear as to what a business needs to be like in order for you to be happy with it. Does your current business idea support these answers? If not, can it be structured differently so that it will? Is there a new idea out there for you that will provide the things you discovered in your answers?

Happy, successful entrepreneurs have one thing in common; their business works with their lifestyle and values. Structure your business to do that for you right from the start and you will realize success and fulfillment very quickly.