Posts Tagged ‘Entrepreneurship’

“The future belongs to the common man with uncommon determination.”

Baba Amte

Successful people have at least 3 common traits.  How you embody them will determine your fate in the coming year.

1) Be passionate.

Call it a mission, a goal or your “Big Why.”  It’s the reason you get up in the morning, work late at night or borrow money from your family to finance your start-up costs.  Without passion, you’ll quit at the first sign of trouble or when a better offer comes along. What’s your passion?

2) Solve problems.

If you solve people’s problems, they’ll throw money at you. Easy, right?

Find a job no one else wants and do it. Find the knowledge few know and learn it.

To sell yourself and your product or service, define what value you bring to the table.

Are you faster?



Any 2 of the 3 will do.  If you’re faster than your competition, you don’t have to be cheaper, but your quality has to be at least as good as theirs.  Your customer will pay a premium for speed, but won’t accept inferiority at any price.

3) Produce.

Do you have a business plan? Are you working it every day?  Do you account for your results?

Your plan should focus on what problem you’re solving and the unique value that you add to the transaction.

Who are your customers? How will you reach them?

Every sale results from you talking to your customers or would-be customers.  Do this everyday.

Don’t waste time with mediocre people, thoughts or actions. Just take daily steps toward your goal.


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Controlling your cash is the key to surviving in today’s economy.

Income flows into your account and expenses flow out. The goal is to have cash left over at the end of the month and to increase that amount each month. The difference between net sales and the costs of business is known as the margin. As you increase your margin income, you increase your net worth.

The key to success starts with tracking every dollar.


Where does your income come from? While it’s nice to have one big account, project or client, relying on one source can be risky. Find more income sources and you’ll be less vulnerable in a slowing market.

Is your revenue consistent from month to month, or do you have months with high income followed by months with no income? Regular income makes it easier to plan & budget, but many of us rely on unreliable commission. If you project income and budget, it’s easier to allocate future expenses on every sale you make. Adding sources that produce monthly income (e.g. rental properties, bonds) can temper the extremes.

If you’re carrying accounts receivable, keep meticulous records and follow up diligently. Many small businesses fail because they can’t collect on their invoices. If receivables make up most of your income, get a line of credit secured by the invoices to help you manage your cash flow.

Looking to increase income? You can either get more business from the people in your existing network, or expand your network. Actually you should do both, but I recommend you spend 60% of your time soliciting new business from your existing clients and contacts and 40% contacting potential new clients. Be energetic, be positive, and always follow up.


If you can’t easily estimate your monthly overhead, you’re headed for trouble. Use a program like Quicken track every expense. When it comes time to cut expenses, you’ll appreciate knowing exactly where your dollars are going.

Fixed expenses occur whether you have business or not. Examples are rent, utilities, payroll, auto use, insurance, and professional dues.

Variable expenses occur as your business increases. Advertising, postage, office supplies, mileage, cell phone use all fluctuate based on how much business you’re transacting.

If your cash is running out before the bills are paid, cut expenses. Some areas to look at:

1) Postage- email everything. If you usually advertise by mail, use an e-newsletter or your website instead.
2) Office space-If you can get out of your lease, downsize or work from home. If you’re stuck in a lease, find a complementary business to share space and expenses.
3) Vendor contracts-cell phone, janitorial, landscaping, ISP -call everyone and renegotiate.
4) Advertising & marketing-determine whether you’re getting your money’s worth. Advertising should focus on getting your customer to act now.
5) Office supplies- cut back on paper quality, switch from color to black & white copies, cut out the colored paper.
6) Payroll-Convert a full-time employee to part-time, combine 2 positions into 1 or hire a virtual staff. Whatever you decide, give your employees plenty of notice.
7) Prospecting/Networking-If you rely on expensive leads from websites or advertising, simplify. Start with face-to-face contact with people who can give you business. Update your client database and touch base with everyone you’ve done business with in the last 5 years. Your goal in every contact should be to get more business today.

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Living in a buyer's market
How do you capitalize on the current environment of too much inventory and too few buyers?

By knowing when to be ruthless and when to be realistic. How does this translate in the real world of real estate, work & business?

Real Estate

If you’re buying:

Look for troubled properties in good areas. Most buyers can’t see beyond the ugly carpet & dead lawn; if you can, you’ll reap the benefits at a reduced price. You’re on the right track when the property’s been for sale longer than its neighbors. With your agent’s help, figure out what similar properties are selling for. Add the cost of repairs, then offer 25% less. Buy at 20% under market price. Don’t get emotionally involved in the property or the outcome. If one property falls through, go to the next similar one.

You’re not a buyer at the bank. Loans require great credit (credit score >650), hefty down payments (15-20%) & patience. For this you’ll get a fixed rate of 5% for 30 years.

If you’re selling:

Unless the lender’s going to foreclose, don’t sell. If you can’t afford the payment, and you’ve economized as much as you can, rent a cheaper place and lease out your home until the market stabilizes.

If you absolutely have to sell, you’ll be competing with bank-owned properties. A smart buyer doesn’t care if your home is in better shape than the bank-owned properties; he’s looking for the best deal.

Can’t make the payments? Contact the lender to arrange a deed in lieu of foreclosure or short sale.

Job Market

If you’re hiring:

Now is the time to hire the staff of your dreams. The market is flooded with competent people looking for stability. Post an ad that specifies what you’re looking for and watch the résumés pour in. If you don’t want to pay too much, offer benefits like insurance or vacation days. Or set the base salary low and tie increases into company profitability. Applicants who want guarantees & demand high salaries and benefits are ignoring the new rules.

If you’re applying:
Look at compensation differently. Prioritize what you want, starting with salary but including health insurance, stock options, paid vacations, etc. First get hired, then make yourself indispensable. Look for ways you can transition from employee to consultant.

Goods & Services

If you’re buying:

It’s the perfect time to get that car, sofa or phone; as long as you really need it. Don’t buy just because it’s a great deal and buy nothing on a credit plan. Shop around, ask for discounts and don’t buy it if it’s not on sale. You shouldn’t pay retail for anything.

Many retailers will offer 0% financing (or 3, 4 or 6 months same as cash) on expensive items like big screens & appliances. Do it, but obviously, pay off the balance before they start charging interest. Have the money in a money market account the day you buy.

Car dealers are offering everything from company stock to 0% financing. Still, watch out for extended warranties, undercoat protection, security systems, etc. Buy with as few options as possible – add them later if you want. The easiest way for a dealer to upsell you is by “not having” a basic car on the lot. Tell him that’s okay, you want to order a car. Then watch the discounts fly. The one thing a dealer wants least is another car in his inventory.

If you have to sell a car, calculate the loss into the price of the new vehicle. And of course, don’t trade your old car in. Sell it on eBay Motors, Cars.com or Craig’s List.

If you’re in long-term contracts for services (cell phone, long distance, cable), renegotiate. Tell your provider you might have to cancel if you can’t reduce your expenses by 10-15%. While you’re at it, do you really need 87 channels of HBO?

When aren’t you a buyer? Health insurance premiums rise as coverage shrinks. Shop around and change carriers annually if it means keeping your premiums low.

If you’re a seller:

You don’t have to be the cheapest if you’re the best. We’ve all experienced bad service, so much so that when we’re treated with respect it stands out.

Do you have to pay Nordstrom & Ritz-Carlton prices to get exceptional service? Good service doesn’t have to be expensive, just personal. The most common customer service complaints are:

1) Being placed on terminal hold, being transferred to too many people who can’t solve the problem, never getting to speak to a live person, never getting a call returned.

2) Inconvenient appointments, cancellations with little or no notice, being kept waiting.

Solve these issues and you’ll see repeat and referral business. If you can’t pinpoint your weakness, create a customer feedback system.

When a problem does happen, prove your commitment:
-Address the problem immediately
-Take responsibility to fix it
-Tell the truth even if it makes you look bad
-Fix the problem quickly even if it costs you money or time
-Keep the customer in the loop

Position yourself. It won’t be a buyer’s market forever.

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If you’re worried that you’re going to be just another victim of what’s looking more like a double-dip recession every day, act as if you’re starting all over again.

With credit tightening, previously unassailable banks losing solvency, and even government bonds becoming risky, it’s tempting to remain static. But opportunity always exists – only now the way to embrace it is by riding the wave of creative destruction.

The market continuously re-invents itself – that’s capitalism.  Old, complacent companies & technologies outlive their usefulness and give way to new, dynamic ones; ugly, unattractive K-Mart & Sears with their uninspiring product lines yield to the sleek suburban facades of Target & unmatchable high-volume prices of Wal-Mart. IBM’s stodgy mainframes are rendered obsolete by the personalized convenience of Microsoft and an operating system accessible to almost everyone.  Top-heavy, union-whipped, lugubrious GM loses market share and consumer confidence to the famed efficiency and more workable business model of Toyota.

Examine your business model, and determine which old ways you’re still hanging onto.  Even if you’re not Hindu, take a lesson from Shiva and clean house.

1) Cut expenses. Look at everything.  After you’ve made the first series of cuts, repeat – only this time, eliminate all the items you didn’t have the guts to cut the first time.

2) Rethink your message.  Today, customers care (or should care) a lot more about value than image.  Can you deliver more value with fewer resources? What incentives can you offer to loyal customers? Give your customers a compelling reason why they have to do business with you.  You’ll still have to compete on price, but that’s a lot easier of clients are already sold on you.

3) Recreate your business.  What one thing that no one else is doing should be done? Pretend you’re starting anew. Examine every aspect of your business model. Don’t think that just because no one’s ever done something, that something can’t work.

4) Get support.  Seek out similarly minded people to brainstorm with. Contact your role models and mentors, whom I know you have and speak to regularly.  You might even end up doing business with them.

5) Be fearless.  Turmoil and uncertainty hit everyone eventually.  The only way to grow and learn when they hit you is to face your fear and move beyond it.

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Have you ever looked at someone and thought: “I’m smarter than that guy; why is he more successful than me?”

Being smart is not the only factor for success, nor is it the primary one.

Desire is the path to success.

If that sentence has you stumped, it’s time to read (or re-read) Think & Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill.

Hill’s basic premise (passed on to him by Andrew Carnegie) is this: Focus on your outcome to the exclusion of everything else.  Be willing to do anything to achieve your goal.  Your craving for the result drives everything you do everyday.

A great example of this is demonstrated by the character of Susan Walker in Miracle on 34th Street*. The 1947 movie featured single career woman Doris Walker and her daughter Susan.  Despite Mom’s insistence on indoctrinating Susan into a life of working for the man and accepting her lot, Susan believes things can change-if she wants them to badly enough.  Susan prevails, with the help of Kris Kringle, when she draws a picture of herself, her mom and her future stepdad in their dream home a drawing that comes to life.

If your goal doesn’t make you yearn for it-you have the wrong goal.

Take a look at your overall success goal.  What is the object of your desire?

Write it down-say it out loud and write down your reaction.

Did you get excited or scared?

Did you smile when you said it or frown?

Did you say it out loud but heard a voice in your heard scoff at ever attaining it?

Did you hear someone else’s voice?

Each successful person has the following 3 characteristics (in descending order of importance):

*a crystal clear goal

* An overwhelming desire matched with a willingness to do anything to achieve that goal

* The talent/knowledge/skills to achieve the goal

Look for coincidence & inspiration. Your subconscious creates these events to keep you moving in the right direction. When you’re on the right path, working with your talents instead of against them, you know what to do.  Obstacles appear but you find solutions.

One way to speed up the process is to meditate.  Spending quiet, purposeful, contemplative time will let you hear all that you need to know.

Don’t wait any longer.  Start creating your perfect life today.

*I bet you thought I was going to use Ralphie and his quest for a Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model air rifle from A Christmas Story or maybe Lloyd Dobler in Say Anything.

Movies make great examples because they’re written to follow a straight line from want to attain with some obstacles thrown in between for dramatic tension. It’s called escapism because the story rarely reflects reality. Forget the movies; make your own happy ending.

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It’s time to pick up the phone and call your clients-what do you say?

The first rule: No smarmy salesman-speak.

Be yourself

Be honest

Ask for the order

Yes, it’s that simple.

Remember, these people already like you. Keep it that way.

I’m not going to give you a script, because you should stay natural. Here are the points you need to cover:

Wish them a happy ______________( New Year, birthday, Flag Day, etc.)

Ask how things are going. Commiserate on the state of the economy or business in general, keeping positive (e.g. ”business is down a little, but that means I have more time to spend on each client”)

Ask how you can do a better job for them.

Ask how you can get more of their business.

Ask what their #1 goal and how you can help them achieve it.*

Confirm/update their contact information

Before ending the conversation, recap what you learned about their #1 goal and how you can help them achieve it.

That’s it. Start dialing.

*This is the real reason for your call and the most important piece of information you will ever get. The answer doesn’t have to be related to your business. In fact, it probably won’t be. At first, it might seem like you have no resources or information to help this client, but trust me; do this on every call and watch what happens. You’re creating a web of connections between your clients.

And you’re the hub.

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Are you fighting for survival?

My pampered cats spend their time napping and enjoying the sun, knowing food is always available and plentiful.

During the recent economic expansion, we began to behave just like my cats; satisfied with our profit margins, complacent about market share and just a little lazy when it came to going after new clients.  Maintaining the status quo, while necessary & worthy, isn’t terribly exciting.

In the real world, the alley cat spends most of her days hunting (and avoiding being hunted.) She doesn’t have the luxury of napping or playing.

Entrepreneurs are the feral cats of the business world.  They thrive on the challenge of using a disparate set of skills (e.g. brainstorming & critical thinking; intuition & reason; faith & realism) to create something out of nothing.

The recession has set the housecats free. It’s time to let your dormant instincts kick in.  Like the alley cat, it’s time to work to fill your belly – in your case, by ensuring a steady stream of clients.

Where do you get those customers?

Order them by phone.

Call everyone you’ve done business with in the last 5 years to update their contact information, ask for the order & find out how you can help them succeed.

Start right now.  Contact everyone in your database within the next 6 weeks.  As you make the calls, the energy in your office will rise.  The phone will begin to ring and orders will start to flow.  You’re going to get busy, but don’t stop making your calls. Once you get to the end, start again.

At the end of each day, take a few moments to visualize the next day’s calls. Hear the clients tell you what they need from you.  Hear yourself connecting your clients to one another & helping them achieve their goals. See the new orders coming in-by fax, e-mail, etc. or visualize the checks being deposited.  Remind yourself that you create abundance when you serve your client.

Expand your list of potential clients by attending networking events and getting referrals from your existing clients. Keep the momentum going and keep building your client base so that it takes longer to get through each cycle.

Happy hunting.

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