Monthly Archive for February, 2010

Your small business, your banker and economic recovery

A small business is like the human body in at least two ways: To survive, it must have both nutrition - food and water - plus oxygen. For a business, nutrition is profits, and its oxygen is cash flow. And similar to the body, a business can survive for a while without the nourishment of profits but not very long without the breath of cash flow.

Arguably, the greatest reasons small businesses fail is they run out of cash. And as improbable as this may seem, even businesses with plenty of sales revenue - if cash is not collected in time - can fail. Every growing business, large or small, needs access to cash resources that can smooth out the operating cash rough spots. But for a small business, those resources are few in number, with the primary source being a loan from a bank.

If there is one thing that I have harped on for the past dozen years, it’s the importance of a small business establishing and maintaining a close working relationship with a bank. Furthermore, a decade before the financial meltdown of 2008-9, I began encouraging small businesses to make sure at least one of their bank relationships was with an independent community bank.  That advice turned out to be prophetic.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about getting your small business ready for the coming expansion and building better banking relationships with an outstanding member of my Brain Trust, John Dini. We discussed some of the elements of growth that you should begin planning for right now, including a capitalization plan that includes a closer relationship with your banker. John is the leading Tab Boards franchisee in the U.S., President of Management Performance Network and author of 103 Tips for Better Hiring.

Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and, as always, leave your thoughts on banking relationships and how you’re getting your business ready for the coming expansion. Listen Live! Download, Too!

The 3/50 Project meets the small business “invisible hand”

In Wealth of Nations, the 1776 book that essentially launched modern economics, Adam Smith introduced a concept he called the “invisible hand.”  Please, allow me to put Smith’s 18th century Scottish words into 21st century context: When a business owner works on her business, with the single-minded purpose of only benefiting herself and no one else, that very free market activity actually benefits society, as if by an invisible hand, even when no such benefit was intended.

So, if Smith’s idea about business activity is correct, and I think it is, wouldn’t it be a good thing to make more of that “invisible hand” stuff happen?  Of course, but how do we do that?

Well, duh!! Just do more business with a small business. And if you agree with me that many little invisible hands will benefit society more than a few great big invisible hands, compare this invisible hand leverage opportunity: Big companies in the U.S. are identified as the Fortune 1000, but there are approx. 26 MILLION small businesses in America.  Pardon me, but, again - duh!!!

So, next time you have the option of doing business with a small firm, of course, make them earn your business; but add into your consideration the invisible hand effect which proposes that the more local small businesses are successful, the more the local community will be successful.  And, as I’ve always said, what’s good for small business is good for the world.

Recently, Cinda Baxter joined me on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, to update us on a great program that promotes business locally, The 3/50 Project.  A member of my Brain Trust, Cinda founded the 3/50 Project in 2009 to help strengthen independent brick and mortar small businesses, and it’s saving Main Street one small business at a time.  Cinda is a former retail store owner turned retail consultant and coach at Always Upward. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and, as always, leave your thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

What is a blog anyway and why should small business care?

A blog is the contraction for web log; it’s a 21st century way to easily and inexpensively publish your ideas online. With a blog you can connect with others who read what you wrote, have a point of view or question and begin a “thread” of comments about that topic.

By this point on the social media time continuum, many people think that defining a blog is such an elementary task that it’s tantamount to describing a computer. Those same social media elites should know that here in the real world, where Main Street small businesses live, most people actually have many un-Tweeted thoughts.  But none of the foregoing diminishes the fact that small business owners should be connecting more online with their customers, present and future, and one of the best ways to do that is through a blog.

Small business owners typically don’t appreciate how much they are world-class experts on their industry and product applications, including what not to do. They also too often don’t realize how much their customers want and need to hear that kind of information.  And what about that “I can’t write” excuse? Well, it pains me to say that their customers would rather hear from a get-to-the-point person they know than from some smart-alecy wordsmith like me.  Then there is that “I don’t have time” excuse. Once your platform is set up, blogging doesn’t take much time, it costs virtually nothing and the ROI can be enormous.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with a long-time member of my Brain Trust, Karen Cortell Reisman. In the two segments below we talk about blogs, how they work and what the value is for a small business. Karen is President of Speak For Yourself®and a world-class expert on customer communication. Take a few minutes to listen to our discussion and, as always, leave your comments.

What is a blog, anyway?: Listen Live! Download, Too!

What would a small business blog looks like: Listen Live! Download, Too!

Focus: Getting your small business on the right track

One of my favorite things to do is talk with real small business owners and get them to reveal the things they do to grow their businesses, especially in a challenging economic environment.  Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with entrepreneur and inventor, Debbie Meyer, and asked her to offer a few words of wisdom. Debbie is unique in a couple of ways:

1. Unlike many entrepreneurs, who are great at creating but not so much at managing, Debbie has proven to be both a visionary and a great manager.

2.  Stereotypical inventors are good at inventing, but not so much at taking their product to market successfully. Debbie has overcome that baggage with a very successful market penetration.

So when Debbie talks about how to get your business ready for the challenges ahead, people listen. Debbie’s message this day is about focusing: Pay attention to the really important elements of your business, identify the ones that work and modify or get rid of the ones that don’t.

Debbie is co-CEO and co-founder of Housewares America, Inc. as well as a member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen to my conversation with Debbie and, as always, leave your own thoughts. Listen Live! Download, Too!

Economic recovery job one: Rebuild trust

In life and in the marketplace, nothing works without trust. I believe that so much that for the entire time I’ve been talking with small business owners on my radio program, we’ve included the wisdom and counsel of experts on trust as regular programming. Here is an important thought on trust from one of our experts, whose name and book I’ll identify below:

“Trust impacts us 24/7, 365 days a year. It undergirds and affects the quality of every relationship, every communication, every work project, every business venture, every effort in which we are engaged. It changes the quality and outcome of every future moment of our lives, both personally and professionally.”

The Great Recession we’re experiencing has produced a kind of double jeopardy: the classic negative elements of any economic downturn, plus what we now know caused the recession, a collapse of trust. Consequently, true economic recovery can’t happen, regardless of government efforts, until we regain trust. Not only do we have to rebuild our economy, we have an extra, and even more important assignment to fulfill: each of us has to demand trust and demonstrate trustworthiness across all sectors of society and the marketplace.

Recently on my program, The Small Business Advocate Show, the author of the quote above, Stephen M.R. Covey joined me again to discuss why operating with trust and fostering its growth will be more critical to success in the future than ever before. Stephen is a member of my Brain Trust, co-founder and CEO of CoveyLink Worldwide, a keynote speaker and advisor on trust, leadership, ethics, and high performance, and author of The SPEED of Trust.  The quote is on pages 1and 2.  And yes, he is one of Mr. and Mrs. Stephen R. Covey’s four sons.

Take a few minutes to listen my visit with Stephen and leave your thoughts on rebuilding trust. Listen Live! Download, Too!

What is the future of Libertarianism in American politics?

The Scott Brown election in Massachusetts, which was nothing short of a political earthquake, caused a lot of people to call it a shot across the bow of President Obama and the Democrat leadership. While I think that’s correct, it doesn’t go far enough. It was also a shot across the bow of the Republicans, because the people who changed political history that day were mostly those who are not officially aligned with any party - the independents.  Indeed, the results of the 2010 special election in Massachusetts were a cautionary tale for the political class.

For a couple of years I’ve been predicting an electoral revolution, but not the violent kind, or the kind that merely changes party control or the resident of the White House.  And I think the Tea Party is definitely part of this movement, but it doesn’t represent all of the revolutionaries.

It wasn’t hard to predict a revolution, but it is hard to predict the outcome. One thing I do believe is that this revolution, like the first one, will be good for America.  The revolution I’m seeing, and am very excited about, is happening because regular folks, including millions of small business owners, are coming to the conclusion - at long last - that we’re not being well-represented by the current political class.  As we raise our expectations and demand more leadership and less partisanship, that’s turning regular people into revolutionaries. But too many incumbents in both parties haven’t, and probably can’t, measure up to these new standards.  Consequently, in this revolution, the political status quo, represented by both the Democrats and Republicans, is in peril.

Libertarians are part of the revolution. But they actually have a party with candidates.  So what is the future of libertarianism in this political revolution? What’s the difference between a Libertarian, a conservative and a Tea Bagger? Wayne Allyn Root joined me recently on The Small Business Advocate Show to discuss how national politics will shape up over the next three years as a result of the recent elections.

Wayne was the 2008 Libertarian Party Vice-Presidential nominee and he is the 2012 Libertarian Presidential frontrunner. He is also the author of The Conscience of a Libertarian and a member of my Brain Trust. Take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and leave your comments. Listen Live! Download, Too!

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