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Monthly Archive for November, 2010

Are you afflicted with “networking disconnect?”

Recently I heard a story about a speaker whose topic was how to become better at networking. Not better at finding, scheduling or attending networking events. But better at having the right kind of networking values. 

So to make his point, this speaker asked how many in the audience came there hoping to make a sale as a result of attending this networking event.  Many in attendance raised their hands, and those were just the honest ones.  

Next, the speaker asked for a show of hands of how many came to the event wanting to buy something.  Wouldn’t you know it?  No one raised their hand. 

The person who told me this story is my friend and long-time Brain Trust member, Dr. Ivan Misner.  Ivan is the world’s leading expert on networking and the founder of Business Network International (BNI).   He heard this speaker ask these questions and then proceeded to identify this phenomenon – lots of networking salespeople, not so many networking buyers – as “the networking disconnect.”

Are guilty of practicing the networking disconnect?  Or do you have the right networking values that Ivan has tough by audience, which is based on the Law of Reciprocity, simply: Givers gain. 

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, Ivan joined me to talk about how to inoculate yourself against the networking disconnect syndrome. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen to our conversation and, as always, be sure to leave your own thoughts and/or experiences.

Are you guilty of the networking disconnect? with Ivan Misner

Three myths small business owners tell themselves

Want to be your own boss? Good for you. But that’s the definition of someone who is independently wealthy, not a small business owner. When you own a small business, you’ll have many more bosses than when you were an employee.

Are passion and persistence enough to succeed as a small business owner? Clearly, they’re important, but what about those difficult days – when payables exceed receivables, on payroll Friday, when customers are the most difficult, when an employee becomes part of the problem? You’re going to need more than passion – you’re going to need management fundamentals

Do you think a business plan is passé? Well, if you think a business plan is just something to write down, print out and put on a shelf, don’t waste your time. But if you understand that a business plan you create, organize and use as a critical management tool, then it’s becomes passé on the day that success becomes passé.

Recently, on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about these three topics, with one of the founding members of my Brain Trust, Tim Berry. Tim is the world’s guru on business planning and the founder of Palo Alto Software, the makers of Business Plan Pro.

Each of these “myths,” as Tim calls them is in its own short podcast, so you can listen to each topic separately. I hope you’ll take a few minutes to listen and learn. And of course, please lever your own comments.

Myth 1: You can be your own boss

Myth 2: Passion and persistence are enough

Myth 3: A business plan is no longer necessary

You aren’t invited to GM’s IPO party

Okay, let’s review a few events before I tell you about something that will make you want to take a hostage.

A. The federal government (read: politicians) pledged $700 BILLION of taxpayer money (read: yours and mine) to bail out Wall Street in 2008. According to many experts, this had to happen because Wall Street had so abused the securitization marketplace that we were teetering on the precipice of a full-blown economic depression.

Here’s how Wall Street fared after the bail-out: The bonus pool for Wall Street was $100 BILLION in 2007, the year before the bail-out. One year after, in 2009, the Wall Street bonus pool returned to $100 BILLION.

If you’re scoring at home, that’s Wall Street: HUNDREDS-of-BILLIONS / Taxpayers and small business: The Bill.

B. After decades of reckless contract concessions to unions and incredibly stupid management practices, General Motors goes hat-in-hand to the federal government for a bail-out in 2008. Those same politicians mentioned above committed approximately $50 BILLION to bail out GM and UAW.

Part of the rationale was to save “hundreds of thousands of jobs (read: union jobs). Meanwhile, small businesses across America had to lay off millions of their employees just to keep the doors open.

Scoring again: GM and unions: TENS-of-BILLIONS / Taxpayers and small business: Zilch.

So, here we are almost two years hence and GM has emerged from bankruptcy with the help of our tax dollars. In fact, GM is doing so well now, that they are making a profit and, full disclosure, have begun repayment on the bail-out.

GM is also about to go public with an initial public offering in the next few days. Because it has now become a more efficient and financially stable operation – thanks to you and me – the stock is expected to very quickly increase in value from the initial offering price. This means anyone who purchases the stock at the IPO price stands to make a tidy profit very quickly.

Now for the part that will make you want to take a hostage: You and I – regular retail investors who bailed out Wall Street and GM – aren’t invited to this party. As it stands at this writing, only wealthy investors and investment firms (read: Wall Street) will have access to IPO shares. Regular folks won’t be able to purchase the new GM shares through their accounts with Fidelity, E-Trade and the like.

Final score: Wall Street & GM: Bailed out and richer / Regular folks: The back-of-the-hand.

Here’s my proposal: The first day of the GM IPO, no institutions or highly-connected, rich investors can buy GM shares; only regular “retail” investors can buy GM shares. We would have all of the first day to buy as much as we want. The second day is open to everyone.

The U.S. Treasury Department could fix this if they wanted to - but if the average taxpayer is foreclosed from purchasing GM stock on the first day at the IPO price, we will witness another blatant example of collusion between Wall Street and Washington at the expense of regular folks on Main Street.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked about the GM IPO issue as well as the bail out of GM with two of my favorite financial Brain Trust members: Gary Moore, founder of The Financial Seminary, a non-profit ministry, to build bridges between the financial and moral communities; and Bill Dunkelberg, Chief Economist for the National Federation of Independent Business. Please take a few minutes to click on one of the links below and listen … as always, leave your comments.

Why aren’t you and I invited to the GM IPO party? with Jim Blasingame

America’s ability to work out of an economic downturn with Gary Moore

Two experts debate the government bailout of GM with Gary Moore and Bill Dunkelberg

A father’s love is like no other

As the father of an adult daughter and son, plus the grandfather of four knuckle-head boys, I’ve learned some things about love.  

 

In all the hours logged as Dad and Poppy, I’ve often contemplated how different are the roles of mother and father, especially in the overt demonstration of parental love.  And it’s interesting how the manifestation of this love differs between mother and father, biologically, emotionally and experientially. 

 

In truth, a mother’s love, at once sweet and fierce, is observed in almost all animals, not just humans.  There’s a metaphor you may have heard used when something is ” … as sweet as a mother’s love.”  I have been the recipient of this kind of love and have witnessed it, and there truly is no other force in nature like it. But it has troubled me that there is no corresponding metaphor for a father’s love. Perhaps this is why Father’s Day is not quite as big a deal as Mother’s Day. I’m just saying …

 

A human father’s love is more often associated with words that are unfortunate, like “tough” and “discipline.” As a teenager, my own father sometimes apologized to me when he thought his demonstration of “love” might seem “hard-boiled.” Interestingly, unlike a mother’s sweet love, a father’s tough love, as we know it in humans, does not exist outside of homo sapiens.  

 

Mothers occupy the pinnacle of parental love with justification. And not to take anything away from them, but mothers don’t have to work too hard to deliver their sweet love; it’s as primal as the miracle of life.  But there’s a uniqueness about a human father’s love that deserves a better rap. Here’s why:

 

When a father’s parental toughness is required, especially when applied to an indignant recipient (read: teenager), it requires a love that has found the courage to endure a negative response and a willingness to defer gratification, sometimes for years.

 

So, mothers, forgive any paternal bias you may detect, but here is the conclusion I’ve come to about parental love: The only thing in the universe that comes close to a mother’s sweet love is a father’s tough love. But the latter is the harder job, and the return-on-investment almost always takes longer.

 

 

 

Life is short; enjoy every sandwich

In a former life, I sometimes counseled small business owners who were going through a difficult time in their business. The circumstances would be so desperate and the prognosis so dire that the person on whom this business’s buck stopped would be close to being unable to function.

Having been there myself and calling upon what I had learned about what really matters, I would begin a visit with, “How are your children?”

To which they would ask, incredulously, “What?!”

When I asked the same question again, they would invariably respond, “They’re fine. I’m about to lose my business. Why are you asking me about my family?”

To which I would respond, “Does anything else REALLY matter?”

The late 20th century rock star and malcontent, Warren Zevon, succumbed to lung cancer at 52. If poets were punctuation, Zevon was a great, big, bold, in-your-face exclamation point in a world with too many pedestrian periods.

He was also a small business owner.

Having penned songs like my favorite, “Werewolves of London,” and the now ironic, “Life’ll Kill Ya,” Zevon was an independent artist working without a net, passionately creating products in hopes of finding customers who would appreciate and pay for his wares. And we did.

In preparing for death, Zevon had one very important thing to say, especially to small business owners. In an interview with David Letterman, both knowing Zevon’s days were numbered, Letterman asked what he had learned about life: Looking straight through the camera lens into every soul watching, Zevon said, “Enjoy every sandwich!”

Zevon didn’t mean life is short; go get more sales.  The man whose life’s work was the definition of sardonic was saying, “This just in: You’re not going to get out of this alive!!”

We sometimes get so wrapped up in our business that we risk losing our grip on the things that really matter:  health, happiness and those who love us. “Enjoy every sandwich” was Zevonese for “Slow down to the speed of life! Listen to a bird! Smell a rose! Hug your kids!”

Surviving these tough economic times is important, but not at the expense of love. Financial security is a good thing, but it’s not more important than health. And all the credentials in the world can’t begin to move the scales when weighed against having joy in your life.

Warren was lucky; he knew how much time he had left. You don’t.

Life is short! Enjoy every sandwich! Thanks, Warren.

Small business and the political debate

Americans enjoy a privilege which, while not rare on Earth, is unavailable to billions of other Earthlings: We have the right to vote.The word “privilege” is used with a purpose; the U.S. Constitution gives Americans the right to vote, but does not require it. If voting were a legal requirement, in the 2000 election, 100 million Americans could have been arrested, as pundits lamented the “Vanishing Voter” phenomenon.

But with all of its faults, no one could ever say America is hidebound. In the span of a mere decade, the Vanishing Voter has been supplanted by the Engaged Voter. We’re now experiencing one of the most promising phenomena of the current age: increasing fervor and investment of the American electorate in the political process.

Regardless of how you feel about the grassroots political movements that have sprung up recently, they have not only given voice to those who share their values, but, to paraphrase Newton, they have engendered an equal and opposite reaction from those who inhabit the other end of political philosophy. Plus, this vociferous differentiation has motivated independents - the electoral power brokers of the past generation - to declare their leanings earlier in the campaign cycle.

Nothing bad happens when American voters get fired up about the political process, regardless of whether they march to the left or the right, or mark time in the middle. Pressure to take a political position typically manifests in becoming a more informed voter. And if America is to ever solve its many serious challenges, those solutions will be demanded by an informed electorate who “hire” representatives to serve them, rather than anoint a self-serving political class.

If American small businesses formed their own country, Small Business USA, here’s how Wikipedia would describe it. Population: 125 million (25 million owners, 70 million employees, 30 million dependents). Economy: $7 trillion - largest on the planet. Exports: Virtually all industries. Quality of contribution to society: Significant. Political influence: Negligible.

With so much to contribute, American small business owners have many reasons to catch the tide of electoral fervor and become more involved in the political debate. With so much at stake, between national and global challenges and opportunities, we small business owners have to make our positions known to those who represent us, rather than passively accepting policies we’re given by those who could rightly assume that we don’t care.

Join the political debate, and contribute to the process.

Recently, I discussed this issue on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate Show. Please take a few minutes to listen, and, as always, leave your comments. Listen Live! Download, Too!