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Be a professional business owner, not an amateur

Professionals are people who can do their job even when they don’t feel like it.  Amateurs are people who can’t do their job even when they do feel like it.

I like this anonymous quote because it helps me ask this question: What kind of owner are you: a professional or an amateur?

If your driving motivation to be a small business owner is status and control, you’re probably never going to be a professional.

But if you love what you do so much that you don’t want to be anywhere else but in your business, you’ll probably become a professional. You’ll become the kind of owner who shows up even when you don’t feel like it. When the chips are down. When the challenges are so great that they would crush the spirit of a lesser person.

Professional business owners know they own more than just what’s on the balance sheet - they also own their business’s challenges. And when they turn one of those challenges into an opportunity, they know that also belongs to them, which is exciting.

Amateur don’t want the work, they just want the result. Professionals love the entire process, alpha to omega, warts and all.

If you’re going to be in business, you must be in your business.

Professionals know this. Amateurs don’t.

RESULTS: How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

The Question:
How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

36% - This year has been great and we plan to finish strong.
29% - This hasn’t been a great year, but it looks like we’ll finish strong
14% -  We started out well, but the rest of the year doesn’t look so good.
21% - We’re not going to have a good year, first half or last half.

Jim’s Comments:
Comparing our poll this week to similar results over the past couple of years, it actually looks like small business owners are finally feeling more confident about the economy. In previous polls we’ve barely gotten half of our audience to say they were optimistic about the next few months. But this week almost two-thirds like what they see for the last third of the year.

As you know, I now consider Main Street, not Wall Street, to be the leading indicator of the economy. If I’m right, this poll response is good news we can count on–at least unless Wall Street and/or Washington does something stupid to derail all of our hard work.

Small business impact on November mid-term elections

Regardless of political party, history informs that the mid-term election in a second term has rarely been fun for any president. Consequently, President Obama’s party isn’t supposed to do well this November.

But with a Republicans House majority and Democrat control of the Senate now in jeopardy, this election cycle is producing a pitch battle with daggers drawn on every front. And not just because control of Congress is at stake for the next two years, but also six years of Democrat policies must be protected or reversed, depending upon to whom you talk.

In a recent online poll we asked our small business audience how they’re leaning in the November election. GOP responses came in at 63%, with Democrat allegiance at only 3%. The independent “I vote for the individual” got 29% and 5% said they “probably won’t vote.” Even if you give half the independents to the Dems, they still don’t rise to one-in-five among our group.

Republicans leading our sample tracks with other polls of the public. But besides the historic second term curse, there are other reasons small business sentiment skews heavily for the out-of-power party this year:

1.  Small business owners do something that’s at once special and difficult: they make between one and four payrolls every month. As a result, this group typically leans toward the GOP as a more business-friendly party. But it should be noted that the spread usually isn’t this great.

2.  Small business owners consider many Democrat policies anti-business. For example:

a.  Obama’s “America needs a raise” campaign to increase minimum wage is unpopular with small business owners.

b.  Recent tax increases have resulted in federal tax revenues at a 40-year record tax pace this year and next. Higher taxes depletes precious small business working capital.

c.  Essentially a stealth tax, regulatory compliance has increased significantly since 2009, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

d.  And the mother of all policy offenses: Obamacare. As a class, small business owners DO NOT like Obamacare.

There isn’t room to list all of the things troubling small business owners this year. But these leaders believe Washington policies have contributed to and prolonged the worst post-recession recovery since the Great Depression. And justified or not, President Obama is the face of the Democrat party, which right now is not good news for many incumbent Democrats needing support from their small business constituents.

Write this on a rock … Counting employees, Small Business USA is the largest voting bloc.

Balancing reality and vision

When working with entrepreneurs, one of the most difficult things consultants, advisors, and mentors must do is tell their hopeful visionaries when an idea does not have a reasonable chance of success, or simply is not viable. Such advice isn’t meant to demotivate or squash the dream, but rather to ground what is likely a rose-colored-glasses perspective in the realities of the marketplace.

The horns on this dilemma, as you might imagine, are reality and vision.  And the challenge for advisors is in knowing how to blend in the right amount of reality so that the vision keeps just enough of a healthy rose tint without blurring the existence of the real challenges ahead.

Reality and convention, delivered effectively by an advisor, combine to create a compelling gravitational pull. The challenge for entrepreneurs is to know when to use this gravity as leverage and when to defy it, thus placing extra pressure on your vision.

Both perspectives — the reality grounded in history and facts, and the vision yet to be made manifest — must be balanced as you strive to create something which may be untried, perhaps even fanciful and often from nothing.

Commenting on his vast and very real entertainment empire, Walt Disney once said, “Always remember, this whole thing started with a mouse.”

Indeed.

RESULTS: What’s your plan for federal candidates?

The Question:
With midterm elections barely two months away, what’s your plan for federal candidates?

3% - I’ll be more inclined to vote Democrat.
63% - I’ll be more inclined to vote  Republican.
29% - I vote for the individual, not any party.
5% - I probably won’t vote.

Jim’s Comments:
The mid-term elections in a second term has rarely been much fun for any U.S. president. Consequently, President Obama’s party isn’t supposed to do well this November. But as you can see, if our recent online poll of small business owners has any general election implications, this is going to be an extraordinarily bad mid-term cycle for the Democrats.  I’m going to have more to say about this response to the upcoming mid-term election in the Feature Article next week.

RESULTS: Would you consider raising capital from a crowd funding source?

The Question:
Would you consider raising capital from a crowd funding source?

30% — I might consider crowdfunding.
67% — I would not consider crowdfunding.
3% — I considered crowdfunding, but decided against it.
0% — I have already used crowdfunding.

Jim’s Comments:
It’s interesting that none of our respondents has yet used this capital source.  I have to admit, my thoughts on how relevant crowdfunding will be for most small businesses in the previous three Feature Articles may have influenced some of you. Because as you can see, two thirds of you would not consider crowdfunding. It will definitely be an option for some; just not as universally applied across the sector as traditional sources, like bank loans.

Remember, the best source of small business capital is profits you earn from doing business with customers and have the discipline to leave in the business as retained earnings. The beautiful irony of that capitalization plan is that management behavior is the most attractive to bankers.