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RESULTS: Do you read business books, either ebooks or physical?

The Question:

Do you read business books, either ebooks or physical?
52% — I still buy and read business books.
14% — I no longer buy or read business books.
16% — I will buy and read a book if it’s recommended by a friend.
18% — I will read a business book if it’s a gift.

Jim’s Comments:

Whether purchased or not, 86% of our respondents read business books.  As an author of business books, these results make me very happy, even if 16% only buy a business book if it’s recommended and 18% wait until someone gives them a copy.

These days, with so much information available online, it’s not unreasonable to believe you can get what you need for free from a website or blog instead of paying for a book. In fact, on both of my two websites you can read a lot of what is in my new book for free. But articles and blog posts don’t accomplish the complete experience and impact an author delivers between the two covers of a book.

One of my mentors once told me, “The person you’ll be in five years will be greatly influenced by the people you meet and the books you read.”

Create a workplace “safe harbor” for your employees

Since those whom we manage look to us for guidance, we should think of ourselves as teachers. We teach others what we have learned so that knowledge can be leveraged through their performance.

Don’t be afraid to show passion for your ideas. Allowing employees to see passion and conviction in our words, actions, and style is a good thing. It’s also contagious. 

The marketplace is rude, indifferent to our very existence let alone whether we succeed or fail. Perfection has never been attainable by mere mortals. Excellence is possible, but only those with high standards are capable of achieving it and only as a result of positive critical evaluation of our own efforts and those we manage.

People work best when they know there is a safe harbor — where redemption is available to those who fail while trying their best and where they will be encouraged to continue to take initiative in the quest for excellence.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

The irony of successful sales growth

The following scenario plays out every day on Main Street:

“My business is really growing these days,” a small business owner confides to his friend, “but we’re still experiencing too much negative cash.”

And then, with that deer-in-the-headlights look on his face, he completes his concern, “I thought by now, with sales and profits up, cash flow would be the least of my worries. I used to be afraid I couldn’t grow my business; now I’m worried that’ll collapse.”

This entrepreneur’s lament is one of the great ironies of the marketplace; a small business in danger of failure as a result of extreme success.

Beware Blasingame’s 2nd Law of Small Business: It’s redundant to say, “undercapitalized small business.” This maxim is especially true for growing small companies because sales volume growth depletes cash in two dramatic but predictable ways.

1.  When the business is growing, organizational upgrades are to be expected in order to handle the new demands: new vehicles, staff, technology, etc. Of course, you must fund these things, often before the newfound success has made it to the bank.

2.  Selling to customers on an open account—where payment for work or products is collected after delivery—is essentially making loans to customers. And while it’s true that vendors may let you do the same, typically they allow less time to pay than you allow your customers. The difference between when you pay and when you collect creates a negative cash condition.

Here’s how to manage these challenges.

1.  Growth plans must be compatible with the ability to fund that growth.

Too often we think the big growth hurdle is getting customers to say yes. But the impact of sales growth on cash flow must consider before delivering a proposal. If you can’t fund the opportunity, you shouldn’t go after it.

2.  Don’t use operating cash to fund acquisition of capital assets, like equipment, etc.

Capital purchases should probably be funded by bank debt, and the interest is the cost of Blasingame’s 2nd Law. If you don’t like debt or paying interest, that should motivate you to leave profits in the business as retained earnings, which is the best way to overcome being undercapitalized.

3.  Monitor the relationship between AR & AP.

Understanding the relationship between Accounts Receivable Days and Accounts Payable Days is an “a-ha” moment for every business owner. This ratio must be monitored for sustainable growth.

Write this on a rock … It is possible to succeed yourself out of business.

RESULTS: Which July sporting event are you most interested in?

July has several overlapping major sporting events. Which one are you most interested in?
10% — Tour de France bike race
17% — Wimbledon tennis
10% — World Cup soccer/football
13% —  British Open golf
50% –None of the above

Jim’s Comments:

July is always a big month for global sports: Three sports, golf, tennis and bike racing, all conduct their pinnacle contest during July every year. And the year you add soccer’s World Cup four-year cycle to the mix, it can really test the time, attention and DVRs of even the most ardent of sports fans, like me.

I was surprised by two things in our poll this week. First, that viewers of the four sports are relatively evenly divided, and second, that almost half of our respondents are not interested in any of the sports. I voted for the British Open.  Our polling platform only allows five options, but I wanted six. The sixth choice would have been “All of the above,” which, much to my wife’s chagrin, is what I would have chosen.

A mistake’s value depends upon lesson learned

Mistakes are worth contemplating, and yet we often don’t.  The reason, I think, is because it hurts a little to focus on them.  It’s not fun to see ourselves that way.  Mistakes are definitely not ego food.

But there is something very important to remember about mistakes: not focusing on them can ultimately be more painful.  

In Tom Feltenstein’s inspiring book, Uncommon Wisdom, I found this quote from Michel de Montaigne,” Those things are dearest to us that have cost us the most.”  Think he’s talking about mistakes?  I do.  Do you think of your mistakes as dear?

If you don’t contemplate your mistakes and learn from them, you are subjecting yourself to double jeopardy. Because today you will not only make the new mistakes we are all destined to make as we go through life, but you are also doomed to repeat the old ones you should have learned from yesterday.

Whether your mistakes are valuable or expensive depends on whether you contemplate and learn from them, or deny and keep on paying for them.  I think paying for a mistake once is dear enough, don’t you?

What the Tour de France and small business have in common

With 21 stages ridden over 23 days-some almost 150 miles long-navigating cobblestones, assaulting at least two mountain ranges and dealing with thousands of over-enthusiastic crowds, the Tour de France bicycle race is arguably the most grueling of all sporting competitions.

Here are four reasons why competing in the Tour is like running a small business.

1. Team structure
Tour participants are part of 22 sponsored teams of about 25 members, and each have individual roles to play. Some members are supportive non-riders and some are riders whose primary role is to protect and push their leader. But all work together to meet team performance goals, including getting their leader on the podium at the end of the day or the end of the race. Sounds a lot like a small business, doesn’t it?

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour-peaks and valleys-success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. A smart leader knows that sustaining successful teamwork requires sharing the recognition so the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one on the podium.

2. Communication
Competing in the Tour is like running 21 marathons in 23 days while simultaneously playing a chess match. So each team member has to understand his role in the overall strategy.

Even if you have the best business strategy in the world it must be communicated to your small business team so every member understands their role in the organization’s plan to achieve success.

3. Preparation
All you have to do is watch a Tour de France cyclist in a mountain stage to see successful preparation. These guys have turned their bodies into human spring steel as they become one with their bikes.

The small business equivalent is to learn as much as you can about operating your business, your industry, the competition, and especially, your customers. Since your team also needs to know these things, prepare them by investing in training and practice.

4. Technology
Tour de France teams certainly leverage technology, including high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on-course communication tools, etc.

One of the keys to success for small businesses in the 21st century is leveraging technology.  If you want to stand in the winner’s circle you MUST find ways to use technology to make existing systems more efficient as well as help you take advantage of new opportunities.

Write this on a rock … Small businesses can learn a lot from the Tour de France teams.