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Thursday, November 29, 2007

10 Perfectly Good Reasons to NOT Grow Your Business (Part 2)

Continuing on with part two of reasons not to grow your business; reasons 6-10:

  1. You don't want to risk going through the growth stage again - Once upon a time, when you were a younger person, you had time to make and lose a fortune. However, if you now find yourself approaching retirement or making plans that require financial security, growing your business may not be such a great idea. Though the risk is less than when you started your business, there is still a risk that you may fail, and thereby lose everything you've worked to obtain so far. Just like your investment strategy with stocks and bonds, if you don't need the money for years, then you put your money in high-growth, high-risk investments. But if you need the money sooner than later, you begin to invest in bonds, T-Bills and other less risky ventures so you can be sure your money is still there when you need it. Your business is your investment, don't get risky with it if you need your money soon.

  2. You have personal health issues (you're not as young as you once were) - Added stress impairs the body's immune system. So, it makes perfect sense that if you are having personal health issues such as high blood pressure, cholesterol, ulcers, depression or one of hundreds of other issues, adding additional stress to your life is going to limit your body's ability to fend off additional problems. Use some common sense before adding what might be unnecessary stress to your life. Having a heart attack, sitting behind your desk while facing the pressures of growth is no way to die.

  3. Your family needs you more - Allow me to climb on my soapbox... America today is more concerned with the balance of their bank account than they are with the balance in their life. Workaholics, in part, work so much because they feel that if they provide financially for their family, they will be viewed as a better spouse, father or mother. In reality, your kids and your spouse aren't going to stand by your hospital bed while you breathe your last few breaths and say, "Gee I'm so glad you put in all those 80 hour weeks while you were growing your business because I really value the brand name clothes you bought me more than I would have ever valued spending time with you. Look, I brought those really cool shoes you got me when you were feeling guilty about missing my third grade school play to show you I still have them." - Okay enough said.

  4. You like status quo - If you're happy with how things are going, why mess up what's not broke? Some half-cocked business consultant may try telling you that "water that isn't flowing is stagnant and stagnant water stinks" To that I say, "Whatever!" Our culture is against status quo, and screams that there must always be a better way, a more efficient way, a bigger way of doing things. Sometimes the answer is simply, "I just like it the way it is." and that's okay.

  5. You haven't reached optimal efficiency with your current size - If you're set and determined to grow your business and the previous nine reasons didn't fit you, then please make sure you are currently running your business at its optimal efficiency. As your business begins to grow, you will be forced to let go of the little details and delegate to someone else those responsibilities. However, if there is waste, mistakes and bumps in the road that are causing even the smallest level of problems in your business now, growth isn't going to fix this. It's going to magnify it. Your 4% inaccuracy problem now is going to grow to 6% or 8% while you grow because you are no longer there to monitor everything that happens. Before you start the growth, prepare for it and tighten things up.

Understand a few things here, I am not saying you should never try to grow your business, nor am I saying you will fail if you try. I am giving strong caution to someone who feels the need to grow your business despite qualifying for one of these reasons.

Perhaps Alice Walker sums up my final thoughts best when she said, "No person is your friend who demands your silence, or denies your right to grow."


Monday, November 26, 2007

10 Perfectly Good Reasons to NOT Grow Your Business (Part 1)

I continually hear people talk about how to grow your business. 7 steps to successful growth or 15 reasons why your business isn't growing. I have nothing wrong with most of what these people say, accept the assumption behind what they are saying is that everyone should want to grow their business.

The mentality behind the notion that growing your business is the only acceptable way of life is very American. We super size everything, we grow bigger cattle and corn with more ears on the stalk, and we push ourselves to do everything we do in some kind of bigger than life Americanized way. It is assumed that it is our patriotic duty to make everything bigger.

I've had several conversations with everyone from business owners to pastors of churches about growth. While I might get run out of town by my business coaching friends, I'm serious when I say "Not everyone should grow their business".

So, here is my rebuttal to those other lists. My 10 Perfectly Good Reasons to NOT Grow Your Business

  1. You don't want to spend the time required - 12 years ago last month I ran the Omaha marathon. I trained 6 months solid for it and ran countless miles to prepare. Am I glad I did it? Absolutely! Do I ever want to do it again? Absolutely not! I don't have the time, nor am I willing to make the time to train for another one. Similarly, it took a lot of blood sweat and tears to get your business going. There's nothing wrong with saying I'd rather not go through that again. If you have priorities that are more important than growing your business, then you are wrong to neglect them and grow your business anyway. There are only so many hours in a day. Spending them foolishly, out of priority, is not the way to live.

  2. You don't have the resources available to grow - Yes, we're the richest nation in the world and yes, our government still helps small business owners get started with some wonderful loan programs, but money really doesn't grow on trees... I just checked. If you don't have the money, people, space, etc to effectively grow your business, don't start the growth with some half hearted and half funded attempt. Underfunding is one of the main reasons that start up businesses fail. The same is true for business growth failures. Growing your business without the resources needed will guarantee your failure.

  3. You like the size of your small staff - How many times have you heard the phrase "The next Bill Gates"? It's what every American dreams of isn't it? We are all supposed to want to be Billionaire Bill. But there is nothing wrong with admitting that you like to drive into your office and seeing the same 5 to 10 employees that you know well. You even attend their kid's soccer games on the weekends and vacation together in the summer. Maybe in the beginning, Bill Gates went to a few soccer games, but at this point I doubt he knows more than 10% of his employees by name, much less knows their kid's name. If you like your small staff, you don't have to give it up. Just don't grow your business.

  4. You're happy with your current financial situation - I know it's hard to believe, but there might actually be someone out there that can honestly say, "I really don't need to make any more money. Actually, I'm quite happy with my current income and have the things I want." It doesn't make exciting news, so we hear more about the athlete renegotiating their contract or the CEO's massive pay raise, than we do the ones saying I don't need more money, let the rookie have it. But, somewhere out there I believe it exists.

  5. You don't have an ego - This is what most people fall under. They want to grow their business because they have some kind of self worth wrapped up in the size of their business. "Well Johnathon at the country club has 40 employees... I want 40 employees". Unfortunately, this is by far the worst reason to grow your business, but perhaps the most common reason. If you are able to get over yourself you may find the desire to grow your business goes away. If not, they now make a little blue pill that may help with your self esteem issues.

Part 2 (reasons 6-10) will be tomorrow.


Terry's Take on Business

At my job there are a handful of "go to" people. These are the people that I can count on without fail, and know that no matter who I refer to them for assistance they will always exceed my client's expectations.

Terry Zarsky is one of these people. As the Business Reference Librarian she provides information on everything business. Okay, I admit her title isn't that flashy, but when you are as good as she is, you don't need a flashy title.

She also writes a great synopsis and review of business books. So, if you're like me and you love to stay up with the latest and greatest business book, but you don't have time to read (or like me you don't like to read), check out her blog. Terry's Take on Business.


The Greatest Website Ever

As part of my exploration for the perfect ring tone on my new cell phone, I came across what I think is perhaps the greatest website of all time in the history of mankind.

Think back to when you were a kid. What was your favorite television show you watched? Was it the Smurfs? Transformers? Maybe Fraggle Rock? How about Dallas or Knots Landing? Maybe you're a little older than I am and it was Bonanza, The Big Valley or Gunsmoke.

Regardless of what your favorite show was, Television Tunes has over 3000 TV theme songs for your listening enjoyment.

I got started Friday night around 10:30 and finally quit listening at around 1:30am. For some reason it brought back so many memories of being a kid and watching television on the couch with my parents, or on Saturday morning watching cartoons on the kitchen floor. It even helped me find my new ring tone.


Lessons From Verizon

I took advantage of some holiday / vacation time to get into Verizon and renew my cell phone contract, and want to share some points of interest about this experience.

I learned that there are Verizon owned stores and then there are Verizon authorized dealerships. As we all know, when you sign a contract with Verizon, there are the early termination fees for cancelling your contract. What I didn't know was that when you sign with an authorized dealership, not only are you signing a contract with Verizon, but also with that dealership. So, if you ever have to cancel your contract early, you will be charged the early termination fee from Verizon, but you may also be charged by the dealership as well. Double Whammy!

Another reason to go direct to the Verizon owned store is that the customer service is much better. They greeted me at the door, helped me register my arrival on their kiosk and allowed me to browse for a few minutes before my name was called to meet with someone. When we arrived at the authorized dealership, we waited for 15 minutes in the store and not once were we approached by anyone to even say "Hey we're kind of busy, but I see you and I'll help you as soon as I can."

I learned that cell phones need to have patches or upgrades installed just like computers. So if you find your cell phone not working as smoothly as it once did, check to see about getting an upgrade installed.

I rediscovered that deciding on a ring tone is one of the most stressful events in life. I now rank it above deciding on a user name and password for your email account. After hours of endless searching, browsing, listening and stressing I made my selections.
When you call me - Theme from Magnum PI
When my wife calls me - Angel by Aerosmith

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Monday, November 19, 2007

Bob Newheart: Stop It

If you have ever in your life tried to give someone else advice on how to improve their situation and they didn't follow your advice to the "T", then you know the frustration that goes with being a counselor. Now, if you've actually ever counselled someone professionally, be it a consultant, a pastor or even a therapist, then you absolutely know this frustration.

After spending almost 2 years consulting with small business owners, 4 years before that as a pastor, and my whole life knowing exactly what everyone else should do to fix their problems (okay, that last one might be a bit of a stretch - I wasn't that good until I was 6 years old) I have not found any one thing to better illustrate the feelings and emotions that rage within me from time to time when I deal with complete idiots who couldn't fall off a house and hit the ground to save their lives.


So, what ever it is that you're dealing with that causes you problems... STOP IT!


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Business Prenuptials

One of the most common questions I hear from people starting a business is "Should I be a sole-proprietor, LLC, S-Corp or C-Corp and what's the difference?"

One of the most unasked questions is "Should I have a contract / operating agreement / buy sell agreement with the person I'm going into business with?"

There are many factors involved in the first question, but only one for the second. Should you have such an agreement with your business partner? Yes - Emphatically YES! I can't stress the importance of this. I don't care if you are best friends. I don't care if you are brothers - identical twins, that grew up never fighting and would die for each other. This is a must have.

While everything might seem like a marriage made in Heaven today, the chances are that there will come a time when someone will want out or need out of the business. It is at this time that the agreement gets pulled out and acts like a prenuptial between the two partners who are married through the business. Without it, chances are you will end up in the business equivalent of divorce court.

Here are the general scenarios I usually use to convince people of the importance:
  1. One of you decides you get tired of the business
  2. A better opportunity comes along for one of you and you need out to pursue the other opportunity
  3. One of you decides to retire and wants the other to buy them out.
  4. Your partner dies unexpectedly and his will gives his share of the business to his wife, who wants nothing to do with the business nor does she have the expertise to run the business.
  5. Bottom line, the future is uncertain and you never know what tomorrow holds - both good and bad.

If they say "Gosh, I guess we should look into doing that sometime in the next year or so." I say, "Gosh, you're an idiot and should really do that this week before any of those 5 things have a chance to occur."

I've seen some (and heard more) horror stories of business partners with good intentions but no agreement get started fine, but end in "custody battles" worse than a Hollywood divorce. How much easier it would be to pull out a piece of paper that you both signed and read word for word how to handle the situation.

Yes, it will cost you a few hundred dollars to have an attorney draft up the thing. So? Even if it costs you $1000, it will be the best $1000 you've ever spent to save the friendship you enjoy today.

I know this analogy of marriage, divorce and business is a little crude, but honestly, if 50% of the marriages end in divorce and 50% of the businesses fail in the first 5 years, what do you think the chances of your business partnership lasting "till death do you part"?

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Sentinels of Freedom

Last week I heard Mike Conklin speak about his Sentinels of Freedom project. After one of his three Army Ranger sons was injured in Iraq, Mike decided he should do something to reach out to the wounded soldiers when they return back home.

His four year program helps veterans with "severe service-related injuries" by assisting them to become independent and successful members of society.

The Denver news ran a great story about Ian Newland, one individual whose life was changed as a result of Mike's efforts. [News Story Here]
Mike told stories of businesses opening up positions for these individuals to help provide a career for them and train them so they could not just receive their disability check, but actually feel a sense of pride that they are contributing something again.
What a cool program.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Haze - Movie Trailer

I usually save mention of Omega Alpha Chi, my college fraternity, until it's closer to April when I take a weekend and go back to Lincoln, Nebraska for our alumni weekend. However, I just got an email from a client of mine who said his friend had just put together a video called Haze about the fraternity drinking problem.

There were many reasons why I chose to start a new fraternity instead of joining an already existing one on campus. One of the reasons was the drinking and hazing that was growing in popularity in the early 90's just seemed stupid, but no one else realized it.

Here is the trailer - A bit long, but pretty dramatic and very effective in communicating the message.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Are You Convincing or Compelling Customers?

Last Thursday I attended the Colorado Springs Chamber of Commerce 115th Annual Dinner at the Broadmoor. It was a nice evening of typical fancy ballroom awards. My friend, and killer web designer, the "web diva" Michelle Bracewell snapped this picture and I asked her for a copy. I then pointed out the top of my head, the side of News Anchor John Karroll, who sat at my table, and the speaker, Chamber CEO Dave Csintyan (sin-tain).

Dave was making some great points while I was looking down because I forgot paper and pen and was typing as fast as I could into my memo pad on my cell phone. Here are my notes, thoughts and reactions to what Dave said.

Do you want your customers to be convinced or compelled? Think about this for a second. No one really wants to have to convince people to become their customers, instead we want people to be compelled to call us up and volunteer to become our customers.

Whether or not you are succeeding at compelling them or not can be answered by the question, "Do you have to coerce or manipulate people with gimmicks and pricing or other sales tactics to get clients, or are your existing clients people who are your evangelists that do the convincing for you?"

If you compel, then this implies:
  1. Your quality of product and service is good
  2. Your customer service is outstanding
  3. Your personal relationships with customers are strong
Without these, you are left with convincing.

However, you must have all three parts of this for it to work and the most important part is the relationships with customers.

Let me give you an example. Do you like the toilet paper you currently use? Does it always come packaged conveniently with the same cardboard tube in the middle? Do they always have it on the shelf of the store when you run out? Is it soft and comfortable to use? Do you actually know the guy who delivers it?

See! You probably said "yes" to all but the last question. Without relationships with your customers, you will never develop an evangelist to do the convincing for you. As a result of this, you probably don't open up many conversations by saying, "Hi, my name is... and I love Charmin toilet paper. Let me tell you about it."

When you begin to think about attracting a potential client, give second thought to the last time you attracted an existing client.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Feeling Sick, But Not This Sick

Just a quick post as I think I'm heading home sick this afternoon instead of going to the Southern Colorado Economic Cluster.

Being an entrepreneur today seems to require picking out your own social cause to support if you want to be successful. I've seen green issues (by the way is anyone else sick of green week?) 3rd world country issues and perhaps popularized by Brangenlina I've seen adoption issues.

But, I never thought I'd see this kind of adoption story. That's just sick!

What ever happened to just being an entrepreneur?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

You Tube For Business

When I'm teaching a class, like I'm getting ready to do now, I like to use video as an illustration for my point, or even sometimes just for the humor factor.

So recently, I've been spending some time searching the only spot to get your video illustrations - You Tube.

However, I've made several observations about what's on You Tube.

  1. There isn't much humor on anything financial (class tonight is on accounting). Maybe that's because there isn't much funny about accounting, but I was surprised that I couldn't find anything that related to money that was funny enough to use tonight.
  2. Business consultants make horrible You Tube videos to present their materials. If you're going to put yourself up on the web for all to see, don't use a flip chart. Even if you are Robert Kiyosaki.
  3. There is a huge untapped market on You Tube for businesses. Similar to how businesses have begun to use blogs to promote their product and increase customer retention. I don't know how it's going to look, but somewhere out there is some 18 year old computer science major developing the idea right now.
  4. You Tube is in essence a great place to go see slapstick humor, bizarre things and even some cute things, but I don't think it's reached its potential yet.
  5. Maybe Oprah will help things move along faster. She now has her own You Tube channel. Oprah on YouTube - YIPPEE!!! (typed with much sarcasm)

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Truth Is Out There

I just heard the best news I've heard in a long time and I believe.

My once favorite TV show, The X Files, is coming out with a movie sequel. I can't wait. I know this takes away lots of the credibility I've spent the last few years building, but geek reputation or not, I'm going to see this movie.

It's been a long time since I've thought of things like Smoking Man, the Syndicate, Krycek, Skinner, the Lone Gunmen and even my once TV hottie crush Scully . Okay, I'll admit I was young and impressionable, but come on - what was hotter than a red headed chick swinging a gun and carrying an FBI badge? (Other than my wife)

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