How not to fail.

This is near the anniversary of my biggest business failure. I learned some very expensive and some very painful lessons. Here’s the short story.

As a formerly successful entrepreneur I figured I could start a new enterprise that would be even more successful than my first company. I had ten years of success and so going after another goal…well it’s seemed doable.

There were two big mistakes that I made that, for coaching purposes, I will  share with you. 1. I was so sure of my success in the venture that I didn’t want to take on any partners. 2. I was so sure that my idea would work I ignored what was going on around me and in the technology world in general.

My simple idea was to have a way for anyone anywhere who wanted to hear/sample a cd before they bought it simply call an 800 number and through the magic of Telephony technology (Press one for two for etc.) they could find and play samples of the selected cd. Note that this idea was prior to the internet…but just only 6 months before the internet. The IR technology that existed at the time just had to be tweaked so to speak and then sold to companies that were selling music and any audio cd. Finding the technical people to accomplish this was not too hard. I choose to finance the company with my own funds.

This choice sounds natural enough but here is a lesson. If you have an idea that is valuable and other people think so then other people will want to invest. If you don’t give other people the opportunity to invest that is your choice but if don’t find other people to invest then maybe your idea is not worth investing in (gambling on). Lots of people surveyed at the time thought they would use the service. Some record chains were just beginning to let people hear music before they purchased in the store so why not over the phone?

Here’s the thing about technology that my blinders would let me see at the time. Technology moves much faster than one can imagine. By not keeping one eye on the developments of the tech of the time I got behind in developing a web version of the same service. So the unique selling proposition I had was obsolete before it was sell-able to the market. Do I regret losing tons of money? Of course I regret it. No reason for you to do that same mistake.

If your business needs to keep up with or ahead of technology then you must be prepared to either have very deep pockets or very wealthy friends/backers. This is so obvious in today’s world that it hardly needs saying. But the point is knowing how your particular business niche is moving forward via your competition or the industry at large is very important. Having the latest technology may not be necessary but knowing how technology will impact your specific business in both the short term and long term is now part of your job (yet another hat to wear).

Learn from your mistakes (miss-steps) and be prepared to change course quickly when necessary.

Keep on keeping on…

The Challenge of Ownership

The Challenge of Ownership

Besides the challenges of having enough cash to start and run a business the next big deal is to get the business running well enough that the owner can afford good assistants or partners, and or workers so that the owner can begin to ‘have a life’ beyond the business. Building solid working relationships with employees is key to growth and keeping one’s sanity.

So how do you find and keep good help?

Some small businesses are a family business and whoever is available and ready to work may be your next employee even if they are not the ideal candidate. Most owners will be challenged to find a good assistant or sales person. Here are some tips. You want to find someone slightly over qualified who is truly interested in what the business is and wants to do whatever it is you want them to do. Easy said, I know. But the idea here is whoever you hire they likely will leave when they find a better job somewhere else unless…and this is really important, they have an opportunity to learn and earn more with your firm.

There needs to be a way for a person to both learn to excel at a job and have the chance to grow into having more responsibility and of course, earning more as well. If not you might have an assembly line of first time workers coming through and you will be spending way too much time training each one and managing them and no time to grow the business.

Where to find good people? Depends on what kind of help you need and how much you are will to pay or can afford to pay. But pay is not always the prime issue. If the business has potential for growth and is challenging in a good way, then you will have a better chance at finding ‘good’ help.

Good help can come in all shapes and ages and from every possible background. But it’s the individuals that have a more outgoing personality that often make the best employees if they also want to work.

Can you pick out who wants to work…not out of necessity but out of that’s just how they were made? There are tests to find these kinds of people but often small businesses don’t have the resources to go down that road. Meeting someone and shaking their hand, looking them in the eye and talking with them for 10 minutes should be all the interview you need. Let you gut be your guide. If it feels right to hire them then do so and get on with your business.

Some people are quick learners some not, but if they want to learn it will show in their actions and questions. If they push for more to do that’s a good sign. If they do tasks well and on time then tell them so and invite them to do more.

More on this later…keep on keeping on

Motivation vs Motivation

Why do

you do

what you do?

Motivation is understood to be the ultimate motive(s) behind your actions.  When I think about what motivates me I start with a list that might look like this:  enjoyment, fulfillment, make others happy, make money, be healthy, be a good neighbor, be a good citizen etc. All very OK, but maybe not quite as deep as one can go. You will need to go deeper if you intend to find your true motivations.

Why should you do this search?  To find your deepest motivations will help you achieve clarity and to sustain your desire for success when the odds seem to be against you. That said, when you do feel that the odds are against you it would be advisable to get a second opinion. One of the companies I started failed spectacularly because I was not in touch with my real motivation and I did not seek outside help and would not accept other people’s ideas. I wanted to do it my way, I knew I was right, I knew the time was right, I knew the service was right because I did have focus groups telling me so, and I knew if I pushed just a bit harder I would ‘win’.

I lost. My ego was so invested in my way of doing the business that I couldn’t see the forest for the trees. The business opportunity window slammed down hard and because of my nearsightedness I almost lost my family and I did lose my life savings. I know now that I’m not alone in having that kind of experience but when one is in that situation and you feel like you are alone that is a big clue that you need to stop and get help. I didn’t and I paid a huge price on many levels. Yes, I learned a lot and I am here to help others not make that kind of mistake.

I have won on other ventures and I would say that the main difference is in having the right staff and or partners to both share the vision and share the burdens and the wins.

“But, Michael, I’m just a one person show, how can get to that next level?”

If there were a simple blueprint for success in business there would be a zillion books already written with all those helpful suggestions or rules or laws printed inside. To be fair there are a lot of great books that have good advice and/or info in them. Regarding the motivation inquiry I can endorse one of my all-time favorites: “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” By Stephen R. Covey. This is a classic business/life book that will never go out of worth.

Reading thoughtful books should be part of your daily regime. Even if it’s just a few minutes before you nod off each evening. Do not short change yourself, be proactive and find out what is/are your true and deepest motivations.

And keep on keeping on…

The Art of Being Real

Last week I was pointing out that being real with yourself, your employees, your customers and your vendors would move you toward success. Some have asked “what is ‘being real’”?

That could be a trick question. Since I’m not the arbiter of what is Reality for you it would be tough to say how to accomplish being real for each and every one of us.
However, I believe that each of you does know what is real by feeling it when it’s present in our own relationships. Who do you know right now that you would say is and has been ‘real’ with you? Real in the moment can be a jumble of feelings but here I’m speaking of those times when the presence of another person attention on you has got your full attention and you want to pay attention to what that person is saying or doing.

To be real is to be genuine, to be authentic, to be open and available to be fully present with another. Some of us may have a hard time with this concept but let me say that if you follow the previous blog instructions you will be on your way to achieving ‘realness’ in terms of being real with another.

Put in business parlance, that means you welcome the opportunity to do business with another person. If you can imagine ‘cherishing’ someone for the business then do so.
We all like feeling cherished, being noticed (in a good way) and being recognized. Think actively about this then act accordingly based on your specific job at the time of an encounter.

Sometimes I go into a business establishment just to experience what kind of greeting or contact is going to happen. Sometimes I’m pleasantly surprised. Sure, not everyone wants to be greeted at the door or even helped but everyone does want respect.

Think of ways to ‘respect’ your clients, your co-workers, your employees, your vendors.
Your business will be rewarded, and so will you.


What drives you?

What ‘drives’ you?
What are your motives?
Do you know who you can trust?
Do you think you know the answers to these questions?

Something (or someone) is always ‘driving’ us, pushing and pulling us. Getting in touch with what that is, and where ‘it’ comes from can and will make the difference in creating a happy healthy successful life in business.

If you find yourself searching, seeking for some kind of assistance, some boost or pat on the back and recognition, I invite you to sign up here.

Success can be had on many levels. A well balanced life will be one with few if any regrets. Meeting life’s challenges, most of which we create ourselves are for one primary purpose: to learn, and from that learning, prospering and experiencing joy and comfort.

I recommend that a ‘sober’ evaluation of one’s choices and motivations for those choices be done. Whether you are just starting out in business or moving past that important 5th year milestone an annual ‘taking stock’ of oneself is always a good idea.

Taking stock is an older phrase originally used in business…as in accounting for one’s inventory. The word ‘stock’ also could mean shares of a business, or reaching back in time could also mean a device for holding one in place: “stock and chains”.

What are your talents, what are your shortcomings, what is missing from the business plan, where is the plan out of balance? Are you taking home at least a living wage? Does the business turn a reasonable profit? Maybe your business is a hobby? These may be easy questions to answer yes or no to. However, often it’s what is beneath the “yes” or “no” answer that will lead one to the truth in a given situation.

If you have chosen to be a business person, and more so, if you chose to be an owner of a business then you have chosen (consciously or not) to have those kinds of challenges that will help you become the skillful person you truly want to be. To go down the path of facing challenges and learning how you create them is not an easy task or one you should do alone. Get outside help! Friends can be a great help but they may not have the skill set to really help coach you through certain business challenges.

My intension is that through this blog and our interactions much will be gained by all who participate. Reading and responding to the blog will be helpful for all who are reading along. We can learn from each other and save time and money in doing so.

That said some issues are too complicated to be fully served via this one blog. The website connected to this blog is also available as well as reaching me directly via the contact form.

I offer this blog to be a sober place to take stock of your business self, your actions, and thoughts. You will not find judgements or useless negative criticisms but rather an open forum of ideas and possible solutions.