In this week's video I explain how entrepreneurs see the world.
59% - No, customers aren’t acting differently and sales are the same.
41% - Yes, customer activity and sales are down since Sept.
I asked this question last week because when I have asked small businesses recently about sales, I have gotten comments like, “We were having a decent year, but since the beginning of October, it’s like someone turned off a switch.” So, I wanted to see how pervasive this condition was, and, as you can see from our responses, four-of-ten is pretty significant.
For almost four years, the uncertainty of how bad Obamacare would be has contributed greatly to the slow recovery. Like a perverse gift that keeps on giving, what we now know to be true about Obamacare is having a negative impact on the economy.
Two roads diverged in a yellow woodAnd sorry I could not travel both.
These are the first two lines of one of the most important poems of the modern age, by one of the greatest of American poets, Robert Frost. “The Road Not Taken” has inspired millions to at least reflect on the paths they have taken in their lives, if not stirred to write down their genius, justification, or lament for the choices they made.
If we try to have everything perfect before we decide, we’re in danger of doing something worse than making the wrong choice — not deciding. Inertia is worse than a mistake because with inertia nothing happens, which also means that nothing is learned.
We have to choose our paths — whether it start a business or not, to buy or sell, in or out — with the information we have at the time, and let hindsight shine its perfect light on our genius, justification or lament. But in that perfect light, which only shines when a decision is made, we will find information, knowledge and wisdom.
Mr. Frost took a risk and chose the road less traveled, which is the point of his poem. For entrepreneurs, the moral may be more about the fact that he made a decision. And to paraphrase the poem’s last line, for entrepreneurs, that could make all the difference.
“I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?”
This title lyric of a country song by Dierks Bentley is about a boy letting a pretty girl get him into a whole lot of trouble on their first date. Of course, there’s often no accounting for unintended consequences of affairs of the heart.
But when a small business owner sings this song, it’s due to an ill-advised decision that causes the proverbial winged sack of money to fly away.
“I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” is often the business lament of the passionate but too impulsive start-up entrepreneur. Being passionate about starting a business is very important, but the business failure rate would drop like a stone if more newbies understood that success in business requires more than desire; it takes total commitment and knowledge of industry and operating fundamentals, especially cash flow, for when the passion fades.
Sometimes this lament is made by an established business owner, for whom it’s only less ominous in that being established assumes more market penetration—a mentor once told me, “Sales will cure most business ills.” This is not complicated: fixing business mistakes costs money and, unlike a start-up, if you have customers, you’re more likely—but by no means guaranteed —to be able to overcome the impact of a bad decision.
But why would a seasoned pro commit a rookie mistake? When a veteran owner says, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” look for a severe attack of ego. The usual scenario is when someone is successful at one thing and then believes he can do anything.
The road to business failure is paved with the assets of seasoned owners who didn’t understand that in any new venture they should think of themselves as a start-up again, only this time with more to lose and possibly a beefed-up ego. And mixing ego and capital, especially the borrowed kind, is a dangerous cocktail that has taken down many a smart business owner.
Another mentor once told me, “Desperate people do desperate things.” Sometimes owners don’t see market and industry shifts until it’s too late. And in their attempts to save their businesses, seek “I know what I was feeling” solutions that conform to what they desperately want to see. “What was I thinking?” is the lament of the desperate who disregard that “reality” didn’t get its name by being wrong.
With any new venture, passion and ego must be tempered with research, reason and reality.
In love, impulsiveness can be cute; in business, it’s the straightest line to failure.
Check out my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Radio Show®. I explain what it takes to sustain small business success. Click below to listen
In this week's video I bring attention to your retirement plan or lack thereof.
Even in America, the land of plenty, there are so many people who need food, shelter, a helping hand, and a kind word. It’s true, the safety net created by public and private organizations is multi-layered and highly efficient, but it is, after all, a net not a pillow. Nets have holes.
Looking at the many unmet needs it’s easy to be intimidated by the scale and we feel justified in our indifference because, “Hey, I pay my taxes and contribute to charities, don’t I? What more can I do, right? I’m just one person.”
Here is a condensed version of a one of my favorite stories, which was created my friend and favorite futurist, Joel Barker, who was inspired by Loren Eiselely’s book Starthrower.
A man was walking on a familiar stretch of beach one morning after a storm. Up ahead he could see a stranger coming toward him. The stranger was continually stooping over, picking up something and tossing it in the ocean. Finally, the man could see that the stranger was throwing some of the thousands of tiny starfish the storm had washed up on the beach overnight.
As the two men drew near and exchanged greetings, the man commended the stranger for his efforts, but also commented on the futility of such a task. “There must be hundreds of thousands of starfish on this beach. How could one person possibly make a difference?” Picking up another tiny starfish and tossing it back into the ocean, the stranger answered, “Made a difference to that one, didn’t I?”
Here’s a pledge I will make to you and ask you to consider making: As I race through my hectic, self-important life, at least once a day I will try to make a difference in another person’s life.
Could be as simple as holding a door, patting a back, giving a compliment, noticing a frown. Or perhaps something a little more involved like checking on someone with a call or visit, creating an opportunity, providing a meal, (your idea here).
With a world full of unmet needs, at the end of the day at least we can say, “Made a difference to that one, didn’t I?”