Conway Daily Sun
Sept. 25, 2013
By Michael Kline
Whether you already own a business, or are thinking about starting one, the short answer is yes, until it changes to no. You are not the same person today that you were ten years ago, and you won’t be the same person ten years from now that you are today. It does not matter if you are looking backward to when you started a business, or forward to why you want to start something, everything about you changes over time - your family, your financial needs, your personal goals, your attitude, your interests, etc. It’s no different than a job that no longer suits you – you need to be responsible for your life’s outcomes and make the best of what you’ve got and know when to move on to better things that serve what you need at this time of your life.
A business plan is not enough. Convincing a bank to lend you money seems like confirmation enough that you have a good idea, but the bank, as careful and as smart as they are, does not ask enough questions or talk about the most important issues. Getting a bank to say yes, is not confirmation that your business will succeed. In fact, 100% of bank loans that have failed, originally proved itself worthy of a loan.
Next month, I will be teaching a business start-up seminar for our local SCORE chapter. In one full day workshop, we will cover absolutely everything you will need to know to decide if you should start a business, how to go about it, how to become an employer, choose a location, forecast revenue and profits, how to create a quality business plan and a marketing plan. One of my goals is to get most of my students to chicken out before they bet the farm on a bad idea.
Because I know something the bank doesn’t talk about, I want to take you a step further. You must know your industry, your competition, your market, your pricing strategy, your costs and your sales forecasts. You also need to know about leading difficult employees, negotiating with impossible suppliers and landlords, getting along with the IRS, and working 100 hours per week with no benefits, no sick days, no pay and no boss to give you the answers. That’s the easy stuff!
Three questions the bank won’t ask you: 1. What is your exit strategy - How will you retire or sell your business – to whom and for how much, and why would someone want it? 2. Are you physically up to the challenge – how well do you take care of yourself to have the energy to do what it takes and keep doing what it takes when it gets more demanding – and it will. 3. Tell me about your relationship with your mother/or father – yes, this may take more than an hour or two on the couch with a good therapist! Why do you want to do this – beyond making money and being the boss – why this particular business? Whom are you trying to impress? What romantic notions do you have about this industry and the glamor it pretends to hold? Are you limiting your potential not having enough faith in your own skills – or are you getting in over your head, beyond your skills? Are you psychologically fit for what awaits? Are you prepared for the tears (there will be many) and the joy (it may be great) and the successes (that may ruin you) and the rollercoaster ride that is the true nature of all businesses?
In the upcoming SCORE workshop, I will give you three things. All the technical/official information you need, plus I will share true war stories from the road I have been on for the last thirty years and how we avoided disaster, survived in crisis and thrived in opportunity. Finally, I will also ask hard personal questions for you to take home and consider.
If you are already in business and want to talk exit strategy, email me or find another counselor, (SCORE has some good ones for mature businesses as well). If you are just starting out on your own, come to my class, prepare for an amazing adventure, and get ready to grow in ways you never imagined.
Michael Kline is a local retailer, success coach and trainer. He may be reached through his website, www.klineseminars.com
, or e-mail, firstname.lastname@example.org
There was a time in your past when you were the best employee for someone else. Eventually you grew weary of answering to someone who wasn’t even as good as you, and you spent your unhappy days making money for them! It was time to be your own boss.So now you proudly declare that you work for yourself. You are your business! If it wasn’t for you, there wouldn’t even be a business! Since most small businesses fail, and you’re still at it after all this time, you must be doing something right! Is that a reasonable assumption? Well, are you succeeding at what you originally wanted? Or just succeeding at not failing? Are you making more money than you would be paid working for someone else? That is, can your business afford to pay you what you’re really worth for the time and talent you put into it? Are you working more hours than you should for the money you take home? Do you give yourself the benefits, retirement, security and paid vacations you could have as an employee? Are you building equity in your business that you can sell one day when you want to retire or move on? The big final summary question is this: You probably started a business with the goal of attaining the personal and financial freedom only business ownership can provide. Do you have personal and financial freedom? Do you have the time to do what you want, with whom you want, when you want and the money to do it?If you answered yes to the above questions, stop reading and contact me! If you said no to any of the above questions, let’s talk about how a business becomes all that for its owner. The primary difference is the business owner reaping the most rewards is not just self-employed. They separate their own identity from that of their business. They spend more time working on their business, not in their business. If you spend all your time doing the tactical work your business does, (working in your business) who is doing the strategic work (working on your business)? Right, no one. One of the best examples of this is any fast food chain. How much time does the owner spend behind the counter or in the kitchen? Do they care any less? Does the quality or predictability of service change when the owner is there or away? Of course not. Do they sit at home counting money? Well of course, but that’s not all they do; they work hard, but they work on their business, not in their business. We spend five months a year away from our stores in N. Conway. Do we have good staff? You bet we do, but so do you! If you have to be at your store, what do I and every chain store know that you don’t? Why do the big name stores at the outlet malls run with managers not owners, and those managers make more money than most independent store owners? By the way, this is true for professional services, too, not just restaurants and retailers. So if you accept that you own a job that you can’t quit, has low pay, long hours, no benefits and you may be working for an idiot, what do you do about it? How do you transition to owning a business that works for you instead of the other way around? Due to the limits of what we can cover in one article, I’ll just throw out one place to start. Make an organizational chart for every position in your company – even if you are only 2 or 3 people, make the chart with a box for every position – janitor, deliveries, receiving, bookkeeping, sales, service, receptionist, manager, sales manager, quality control manager, etc. Even if your name goes in almost all the boxes, the point is to define the responsibilities and work toward replacing yourself in as many boxes as possible as quickly as possible. This will cause you to create systems that work if you are to have others replace you. It becomes about the work, not the person doing the work. This will also requrie a combination of delegating responsibility to others as well as growing your business to justify hiring people to fill some of the boxes. Suddenly, growing your business is more important, isn’t it?! The goal for you and everyone on the chart is to replace yourself – that’s the only way to move out of the boxes you want to leave behind and spend more time in the boxes you like. As long as you’re always planning to grow, you will always have many more boxes than you have staff. Your staff has the job of building helping other people; to build them up take their job instead of protecting their turf and keeping coworkers down. Imagine the power in that attitude shift alone! Your job is to spend more time working on your business and less time working in your business. Most owners need to properly delegate(with detailed goals, procedures, resources and authority), limit interruptions (email and social media can be a big time thief) and set deadlines for yourself and others (meet those deadlines). Most importantly, establish top priorities and without sealing your kid's Ritalin, stay focused.
Recommended reading - many of the lessons discussed here are covered in Michael Gerber’s book The E-Myth Revisited. For help in applying the ideas to your real life business, contact me for a free consultation.Our next article will discuss priorities and getting company-wide alignment to focus on your top priority.