Thursday, September 30, 2010

Business and Parenting and all those Dynamics

Do you believe that to run a business smoothly you need to be a "Good Parent" ?

From my reading, observation and personal experiences working with or in a small business requires not only the usual business savvy, drive and desire to succeed but the desire to be a 'Good Parent', setting the appropriate expectations, limits and boundaries that translate to employees who know what's expected of them and work within the guidelines that are established.

Easier said than done though because like every family, there are the many dysfunctions that make it work or not work.  Some would say that even with the dysfunctions the 'family' still functions and that is true and fine for the family but when you are running a business you cannot expect to have a thriving professional environment if you allow a family attitude develop that only transfers your family dysfunctions over into your business. 

I have worked the majority of my career in businesses with 25 or less employees and for the most part they were run pretty successfully but the ones that seemed to have the most problems were run by people who brought the family dysfunctions that they may have grown up with or created in their own homes to the office place.  As you know, the behavioral patterns that we develop [good or not so good] are a result of our experiences, reactions and desires to please or survive the situations we encounter.  It would seem to make sense that if we lived in a family that used boundaries, limits and expectations as a way of managing the home and kids that these people would bring this method of seeing and organizing their world to their business?

If a man was a passive husband, passive father and didn't really step up and be an active part of the 'team' raising the family, wouldn't it follow that he might run a business in a more passive way?  If a woman had to be a single mother 100% responsible for her family and home, in order to survive and stay in front of the curve she would have to develop a set up skills that would allow her to keep everything moving forward.  She would have to be organized, solution-oriented, clear in setting expectations ... the list goes on.  Doesn't it seem to follow that she would run a business in a similar manner.  Then there's the couple who work as a team, sharing the responsibilities of the home and raising a family - creating a united front when faced with challenges and the decision making that goes on day to day.  I believe these people would run their business in the same manner, supporting teamwork and respect and combined decision making.  It doesn't make sense that their default would be otherwise.  But there are all kinds of ways people run their business which is something I find very interesting to study.

What do you think?  Anyone reading this who would be willing to sit down and be interviewed for an article I want to write please contact me.  I think now more than ever self-employment which is another word for "small business" is on the rise and I want to support every one's effort through information and education which is why I want to write more about the experience.

So ask yourself, how am I being a good parent to my business and those who work for me?  Tell me what you come up with.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

What's new?

Another week is almost done and what's been accomplished?  For me, besides celebrating a birthday I've learned so much about what gets me going each day and how my business ideas are developing.  That is the value of talking with others about your ideas.  When you have to sit with several people in a week and describe what you do and what your ideal client is, you really hear your own personal excitement (or not) ebb and flow throughout the conversation.

In order to get out and market yourself, you need to really understand what you can enthusiastically sell.  If it's a product, you better be really excited about it and what it can do because if you aren't who will buy it?  The same with the services you want to provide.  If you cannot articulate what value-add you bring to the table by someone hiring you then the same thing will be true ...who will want your service?

Sometimes in the development of our business, we aren't really sure.  You start out in one direction and then as you test the waters you find that the need you were planning on filling really isn't out there...or now that you're in there providing the service you're finding that it's not that exciting and self-employment isn't very glamorous.  This is part of the process ... it's almost like a new relationship.  In the beginning things are great!  It's new exciting and one never knows what's around the corner.  New business the same.  It's a new routine, a sense of freedom that you hadn't experienced's exciting and the unknown gives you a thrill...but as the days go on and things become more familiar and more routine you begin thinking; "Do I really want this involvement?"  "Did I do the right thing here by starting my own business?"

When these thoughts set in it's time to get out there and meet people.  Remember, networking is key to building relationships than can help you build your business.  Networking doesn't usually occur in the comfort of your home office.  People just don't walk up to your door and say, "Hi, I hear you have a quality service to offer?  I'd like to come in and hear about it."   Sure would be nice if they did, especially for those of you who disdain cold-calling.  But getting out in the field, changing the scenery and meeting people helps you get refreshed and re-energized.  Being open to hearing what their stories are out there and what people are looking for is critical to knowing the market & your customer.   Remember, when you are networking you are always working to establish relationships - practice being good at it.  Practice being able to listen and reflect back what you've heard them tell you are their concerns and their needs.  That's the key - hearing and reading between the lines.  If you don't work to develop this will your potential customer know you  understand their needs?

Believe me, if you take a chance and do some extemporaneous walk in and introduce yourself calls...I guarantee you that you'll find yourself getting excited all over again, just like you were in that new relationship and when you decided to build your own business.  It happens to me every time and I am always glad I did it.

So that's my week - what's yours been like?  Learning more about who we are, what excites us and what we're all about is the hard work, but in doing this you are that much closer to defining your business and understanding how you will be growing and shaping it in the weeks to come. 

Monday, September 20, 2010

Simple Ideas can funnel big dreams!

Are you an idea person?  Do you get visions of better ways to do things?  Check out the program " How I Made my Millions "episode that just aired.  What an interesting program and inspiring.

Today I read an article that said of the 14.9 million people unemployed, more than 2.2 million are 55 and older and face the possibility of never re-entering the work force.  What a great way to start the week.   It was also noted that at the current rate of 82,000 new jobs a month, it would take at least eight years for all of those people to re-enter the work force.  You do the math; if you're 55 or older now you're 63 or older in eight years - who's going to hire you then?  So what's your options?

Well, I refuse to believe that we are all over the hill and should just give up...which is why I continue to encourage anyone who is unemployed to look deep inside and find the thing they can do to create an income and personal satisfaction.  Certainly all your years of employment taught you something? What skills can translate into a self-employment venture or a new idea for a business?  When I see programs like this I smile big because they serve as a reminder to me that ideas are all around us every day and there is no better time like now to give ideas a try. 

The business ideas were based on common things; flowers, junk, recycling, shredding, shaving your head, selling things for 99 cents and bees. But the people who built these businesses all had a point at which they were able to see these things in a new & different way and were able to translate their vision into a product or service that the consumer needed and would buy.  Their stories provide say the least, because their stories can happen to you! 

So tomorrow instead of searching the Internet for a job, take time to search your world and let your mind wander and explore all kinds of possibilities.  Ask yourself questions about the things you see, the things you do and the simple stuff you use each day.  Explore your reactions to things and dig into your ideas on how you think your world could be improved. 

Remember, simple ideas can make dreams come true - just start to regularly explore thinking outside the box?  How can it be worse than sitting on the computer searching for a job that's not due to arrive for another eight years?  Be inspired now; let your mind wander.

Friday, September 17, 2010

How's your week been?

One thing I always do at the end of the week is make sure I review how it's been, identify what I did towards my goal of building my business and also make sure I continue to encourage myself to continue moving forward.  Being my own cheerleader is a challenge but what can us self-employed people do?  If we can't cheer ourselves on who will?

I look for little victories...not those big successes; why?  Because in my business, that is mostly what I am accomplishing.  Acquiring small accounts that will add up to a bigger number which will amount to being able to take care of my expenses, put some in savings and provide me with the ability to enjoy my life in different ways.  A trip to NYC to attend The New Yorker Festival would be a great reward for my hard work.  But all of you need to be reminded to look back and see what you did that worked and identify what you did that needs tweaking.  It's critical to building momentum and not using the same tactics that really aren't getting you where you want to go.

If any of you out there have seen the movie "What the Bleep do we know?" you will remember how they talked about the pathways we create in our brain through repeated behaviors.  This ties into how we get so addicted to behaviors...they give us something that we think we need.  But to change those neural pathways we really have to work hard.  Wow!  I don't know about you but I'm already tired from working hard doing what I I have to work on something else?  YES!

Continuing to repeat patterns that don't work is just plain insanity...why?  Because you already know the outcome and that outcome didn't pay off.  However, if you find you are repeating these patterns then you need to ask yourself why?  It's another part of the review, evaluate and reward process.  To reach your goals you must be willing to be critical of your behaviors and patterns so you can learn, regroup and continue evolving as an individual and a business person.  More work???  Of course but that's what it takes to build a successful business and if you are balking at the idea that you need to evaluate if you are meant for this kind of work?

This morning I read an interesting article  The Effort is the Prize and this research suggests that there are two mindsets; "a fixed mindset, which occurs when someone believes that personal qualities like intelligence are immutable, and a growth mindset, which occurs when someone believes that skills and characteristics can be cultivated through effort."    I know I'm the latter because academics were a challenge for me when I was young and so I never believed that I had the ability to excel in that way...however, I knew and believed that if I worked hard and researched information in my own way...I could become accomplished in that which was important to me.  Maybe in my case the key is "important".

Mindset, attitude and the importance of the thing(s) we want are all key factors in how we move forward [and sometimes backwards] and I believe and will always say, that they can be used to our advantage or not.  We can change them and be flexible in them in order to make it to our respective destinies...yet, they can also become walls that keep us stuck in old patterns. This is why the ability to look at ourselves and evaluate own mindsets and attitudes is critical.

Review, evaluate and reward...try it and see how you do...and while your at it, check out the movie.  It's very interesting and should at least get you to thinking about things in a different way. 

Have a great weekend!!!!!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Who's running your show?

I am always looking for inspiration, pearls of wisdom and ideas that connect the things & people around me.  It seems to drive me and I get great rewards from finding connections that actually help others move forward in their business process.

This morning I thought it was time to change my inspirational line on my email signature and this one popped out at me:
"To the degree we're not living our dreams; 
our comfort zone has more control of us than we have over ourselves."  
Peter McWilliams

How appropriate that this should pop into my line of sight as I believe it is default for so many of us.  We excel in what we know and what has worked for us in our life.  It is our default when the struggle gets more difficult and we can't see the answer at hand.  Of course we fall back to what is comfortable, easily understood and well within our reach...yet what a disservice we do to ourselves.  By being willing to 'fall back' we are preparing ourselves for the status quo...more like accepting the status quo when what we really could benefit from is moving away from that.  

I believe we can use that 'fall back' mode as a signal to us.  Be painfully aware of when you retreat to that safe place where you know all the answers and don't have to worry.  Use that behavior and/or response as a 'signal' that it's time to push through the fears of moving away from what you know into the vast unknown.  I think it's a great tool to use.  What better way to know yourself and to put up your own red flag for behaviors that do not serve you if success is still looming "out there".  Yes, stretching, pushing and being that person who against all odds move through the fears is the person who gains the greatest benefit...not just in furthering their business goals but in furthering their own personal growth and development of self-esteem.  

As many of you know I like recommending resources and one of my favorites is Norm Brodsky from INC. magazine.  I have read his columns for many years and the reason I like him is his advice is based on his many years of real-life experience that anyone can relate to.  He writes like he's having a conversation with you directly and he is never one to put anyone down.  He methodically helps you find your way through intelligent questions that [believe it or not] you already know the answers to and then helps you move towards identifying the answers you need to find.  The other great thing about him is you can email him directly and ask a questions.  Check out his many articles:   Norm Brodsky Articles  He is one of the better resources I've come across over the years and INC. Magazine is well worth reading.

So today when your going through your day...make a concerted effort to gently push yourself away from your comfort zone and into your future path of success!  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Don't give up!

This morning I had to dip into my savings to cover my taxes and bills.  I was on the phone with a lovely Charles Schwab representative who sounded young enough to be my daughter.  But as the conversation ended she and I extended it to the economy and how things were going and I shared my story with her.  Why I am sharing it with you is because I found myself telling her how "hopeful" I was that these turn of events will wind me up on a really good path. And so I wanted to share that sentiment with you.

Don't give up...don't give in and don't stop believing that you can make it!  Yes, the times are challenging us in ways we really never wanted to believe were possible but that also means there are new opportunities out there that were never ever possible.  What I found myself sharing with this young woman was the importance of believing in yourself as well as the importance of being able to shift your paradigm...and create a new vision for how you will work in this new economic time.  It can be an exciting adventure and one that moves you to reach a much more comfortable place in your life.  I know people who still have plenty of financial resources but have no idea what they will do for the rest of their life.  They are young, in their 40's and are lost in the freedom they currently are experiencing.  Sometimes I think the person who is struggling is more adaptable than the person who is financially secure because they are in a survival mode which keeps you on edge...moving, vigilant and on the hunt for the next money making opportunity.

I believe that people can make their own success but that goes hand in hand with creating a lifestyle that matches the opportunities that are out there.  If you have big dreams and a big lifestyle then you are going to need to work big and work harder to maintain that.  If you have small dreams and a smaller lifestyle then your needs can be met through a smaller economic goal.  But, if you have big dreams and a smaller lifestyle then all your financial success can create a greater opportunity to not only take care of yourself and/or family but to have something left over that you can use to help others with their dreams.

So...if this Monday morning is another reminder to you that you're still struggling to make things work...don't give up....just stay committed to your your goals and make a new list of ways in which you can bring income in and stay afloat while you hone your skills as a small business owner.

I'm here in the struggle with you...wishing for the best to come to all of you!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Hiring People to help you with your Business -

I was just contacted by someone who has a small business that they run out of their home office.  This is the type of client that I really enjoy working with...why, because there are so many things I can help them with besides getting their books set up or cleaned up. 

As I've written before, this economy has created new opportunities for people who would otherwise be gainfully employed.  People are going down new paths by starting their own businesses or exploring self-employment or contract work.  Often these folks are just moving forward quickly without much planning.  In fact, I think it is probably the rare individual who actually takes the time to do a formal least that's been my experience.  Of course many self-employed people are providing services and those types of businesses are pretty easy to get started.  Low overhead, low cash outlay.  But even these people need help recording their transactions and keeping organized so tax season isn't a fiasco... which brings me back to what I wanted to mention here.

It is very important when you are meeting with your new bookkeeper, insurance broker, graphic designer or even attorney that you have enough conversation to determine if they are listening.  I have met with people who fired their last bookkeeper or insurance agent or???? because they didn't believe that the individual was listening to them or understood where they were coming from.  No matter how experienced, talented or informed they may be, if they are not good listeners, over time, things will probably get off track and you will become frustrated and not even realize why.
Listening is an important skill for anybody.  Without this skill you will be missing one of the most critical factors in developing a relationship with your client.  When you can listen and actually encapsulate what was expressed to you and repeat it back ... you will be surprised at the reaction of the party on the other side.  Why?  Because when someone feels they have been heard they are more likely to move forward with this person whether it is a business relationship or a personal relationship. When you know you are heard...that this person "gets you" you are far more likely to want to work with the person.  The same is true for people you interview to work for you.  If they cannot reiterate what you've told them then something is missing.  There is nothing more frustrating than having people around you who don't listen.  There is enough on your plate without adding this variable to your otherwise busy life.

So once you've determined that someone has the skills to do the job you want them to do, take the additional time to test their listening skills - then decide if you want this person on your team!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

How do you arrive at the right price for your product or service?

I was just asked by a business associate, how did I went about arriving at pricing for my services and I explained to him that I started out many years with a figure based on my experience and a few calls...but as the years went by I raised my price to it's current level.  The per hour rate I charge is not based on my overhead but more on the type of service I provide plus a bit of a premium that helps offset other miscellaneous costs.  It's not very scientific but again, it's an evolving factor in my service business.  I am selling a personal business specialist that can help you manage your personal finances or your small business issues.

Now that sounds good, in theory, but as all of us business owners doesn't matter how good it sounds to us if no one is willing to pay for our product or service.  That's where the cold hard facts of reality set in.  No matter how talented you are or how educated you are, the customer you are seeking is still only going to pay what they think your product or service is worth.  Now more than ever, customers are shopping.  They may be willing to pay a little more in some instances but usually they need to be convinced of the 'value add' you are bringing to the table that will justify the premium they will be paying.  So we all need to do our homework when it comes to setting the price point that gets the job or sells the product.  It's part of the job that we all struggle with and trusting your gut might work but there needs to be a little more involved if you're going to get it right and build your business.

Norm Brodsky who is an entrepreneur and writer for INC. Magazine shared some good advice in his column when someone asked him the question, how do you set the price for your product or service.  Solving-the-pricing-riddle?   Hope it gets you thinking and working on finding the right formula that will work for you.