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RESULTS: What is the greatest challenge to your business success?

The Question:

Which of these is the greatest challenge to your business’ success over the next 3-5 years?

23% - National and/or local economy
43% - National/state/local politics/policies, like taxes, regs, dysfunction
21% - Organizational deficiencies, like capital, talent, size, technology
5% - Big competitors and globalization
8%-  Internet competition

Jim’s Comments:

As you can see, when it comes to future challenges, only one-fifth of small business owners think their own internal issues might be holding them back. All the rest believe their greatest challenges lie outside their four walls

Two concerns representing two-thirds of our respondents, the economy and the government, are outside of the control of a small business, with the exception of their political involvement and their marketplace efforts. But the other three, including internal issues, are within the realm of a small business owner’s influence.

  • You can improve their own capital, systems and people;
  • You can realize the Big Boxes are more of a problem between your ears than on Main Street; and
  • You can accept the fact that the Internet isn’t going away and add that component to your traditional strategies.

I’m going to have more to say about this in an upcoming Feature Article. So stay tuned.


Mentoring employees can lead to small business success

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.

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

The market is a rude place, 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.

Humans work best when they know that 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.

Why small businesses should attack with their strengths

During the American Revolutionary War, John Paul Jones was one of the most colorful and effective Americans to ever stick his finger in the eye of King George.

Penetrating enemy waters off the northeast coast of England aboard the ramshackle Le Bonhomme Richard, Jones and his crew made the acquaintance of the British warship Serapis, which was escorting a convoy of merchant ships.

In the ensuing battle, out-shipped and out-gunned, the Richard was so badly damaged that J.P.J.’s chivalrous opponent, Captain Richard Pearson, offered to accept surrender from the sinking and apparently defeated revolutionary.

Think of it. Here’s an invader, 3,000 miles from a safe harbor, attacked and virtually blasted out of the water by a member of the navy that created the empire upon which it was said, “the sun never sets.” Surrender would seem prudent, right? Discretion being the better part of valor — that sort of thing.

Now let’s fast forward into a new millennium. Another revolutionary, John Paul Entrepreneur, is under attack and being virtually blasted out of the marketplace by a member of a Big Box empire upon which it seems the sun doesn’t set.

A lone operator, out-gunned by a force that can sell products cheaper than he can buy them, J.P.E.’s not-so-chivalrous opponent not only isn’t offering to accept surrender, but is actually indifferent to J.P.E.’s existence. Surrender would seem prudent, right? Discretion being the better part of valor and all.

In case history wasn’t your strong suit in school, let me tell you what happened to our first revolutionary. John Paul Jones did lose his ship. Indeed, the Richard sank that day, just as it seemed it would. But not only didn’t Jones and his brave crew surrender, they did what any revolutionary worthy of his cause would do — they attacked. The American underdogs actually boarded and captured the Brit ship, and then sailed it away as heroes to fight another day.

Meanwhile, our latter-day revolutionary, J.P.E., is still pondering his options. Should he abandon company and surrender to the Big Box competitor? Or should he fight for his dream — against all odds? What would you do?  What are you doing?

Well, assuming you have a viable business model, your battle plan is actually quite simple: Let the Big Boxes do what they do well — sell commodities to the masses. And you do what you do well — fight for your niche by delivering customization, adding value based on customer expectations, offering technical expertise and saving customers time.

Then you can assume the attitude and claim the battle cry of one of the great revolutionaries in history. Faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and an offer to surrender, John Paul Jones looked the enemy in the eye and said,

“Surrender? Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!”

Write this on a rock… You have strengths the Big Boxes don’t. Attack with your strengths and win the day.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning boock, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”

RESULTS: How does the federal government influence your small business?

The Question:

In general, how do you regard the influence of the federal government on your business?

0% - The government helps more than it hurts.
84% - The government hurts more than it helps.
13% - There’s a balance between positive and negative.
3% - I’m not aware of good or bad government influence.

Jim’s Comments:

It’s long been an article of faith among Main Street business owners that the less government in their lives the better. So last week I wanted to see if that maxim is still in force. Not one respondent thought the balance was in favor of the government, but more than eight of ten allowed the government was more negative than positive. A small group said the relationship was balanced, and the tiny number at the bottom must represent start-ups.

The large group could be guilty of not giving the government credit for those things we take for granted: There is peace in our land, we have good highways and other conveyances, plus there are many services the government provides that it’s uniquely positioned to do. But it’s likely that our numbers skew against the government for at least three reasons: 1) unlike the marketplace, government typically is annoyingly illogical, 2) we don’t like it when the government tells us how to run our business, and 3) we don’t like the income redistribution ideology and policies coming from government for the past half century.

American would be so much better if the government would adopt more small business approaches to operating an organization and solving problems.

The two sides of desire for entrepreneurs: Which one do you possess?

Desire is the common denominator of entrepreneurs, and it is a powerful force. What is not common among entrepreneurs is what is desired:  Do you desire to accomplish something entrepreneurial, or to live an entrepreneurial life?

If the former, you may focus on the finish line so much that you miss the joy of the race. Does a champion cherish the ceremony more than the moments of excellence that deliver the prize? Is the prize the trophy at the finish line or the rich experiences during the race?

In The Upanishads, sacred texts of Hinduism (900-600 BCE), the writer proposes this thought about how to possess desire:

“A man whose mind wanders among desires, and is longing for objects of desire, goes again to life and death according to his desires.  But he who possesses the End of all longing, and who’s self has found fulfillment, even in this life his desires will fade away.”

If you single-mindedly desire something entrepreneurial, what happens after you achieve it? But if you desire to live an entrepreneurial life, each new day - including the day after the victory ceremony–will be filled with possibilities.

Clearly, prizes are important in an entrepreneurial life. Just make sure that you don’t wander among desires, but rather fix your focus on possessing the End of all longing.

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

Mobile computing will dominate your future — are you ready for it?

Remember all the years I’ve said every small business MUST have a website? It’s still true, except now that’s not enough. Today you also have to be ready for the mobile customer.

Once only wizards and fairies had magic wands. But in The Age of the Customer, hundreds of millions of Earthlings now have one in the palm of their hands. Here are the U.S. numbers:

According to Statista, this year over 180 million Americans will own a smartphone, and that number will grow by 10% to almost 200 million in 2016. That’s just about every American between the ages of 16 and 80. Here’s another way to say that: Essentially all of your prospects and customers.

In a recent online poll we took of our audience, slightly more than half either had a mobile site or were acquiring one. Good for them. But that means almost half didn’t and had no plans.

technology-512210_1280Tough love alert: If your business isn’t ready for mobile primetime, it’s a dinosaur waiting to become extinct. Any questions? But there’s good news: You can avoid death-by-mobile in less than a month. Stay with me.

Where we once converted our analog lives to the online digital world with a personal computer, the shift is now to the small screen of the smartphone. And we’re integrating these new light sabers into our lives and businesses even more than the PC including, but by all means not limited to:

  • Download and use productive and fun apps
  • Read newspapers - even books
  • Navigate on foot and wheels
  • Record and share our lives with photos and video
  • Connect to others on social media
  • Shop for, buy and pay for stuff

You can get ready for mobile customers with these two steps:

1.  Hire someone to help you get your online information optimized for local search. This is important for a comprehensive online strategy, but mandatory for mobile primetime. Mobile users are often literally trying to find your business.

2.  Hire someone to build a mobile site (might not be the same person as #1). When your URL is requested from a smartphone, the mobile site presents automatically with your regular website offerings netted out and with fewer graphics for the smaller screen - form follows function. Mobile sites cost less than mobile apps to create, update and maintain, and a mobile site icon looks just like a mobile app. Most small businesses don’t need a mobile app.

Here’s that good news I promised: You can complete these two tasks in a month. How much will it cost? Not as much as you think, but that’s not the question. How much will it cost if you don’t get ready for mobile primetime?

Write this on a rock … Mobile computing wasn’t any part of your past, but it will dominate your future.

Jim Blasingame is the author of the award-winning book, “The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.”