Monthly Archive for November, 2011

Spring clean your business in December

One of the best ways to give your future the maximum opportunity to be successful is to make sure each new year begins with as little baggage from the past as possible. So, what grandmother used to do after a long winter, businesses need to do in December. Instead of spring cleaning, let’s do some December baggage elimination. Here are a few places to start.

Eliminate stuff: Even if you’re not a pack rat like me, you’ve accumulated stuff you don’t use anymore. If you’re not using it, sell it, give it away, or throw it away.

Digital graveyard: Don’t say you don’t have one. Whether it’s an old PC, monitor or printer – even if it isn’t broken – if it hasn’t been used recently it’s occupying valuable space. Sell it or call a computer recycling company.

Retool the team: The only thing worse than firing someone is letting an unproductive employee hold your team back for another year. The timing may seem insensitive, but it’s just an unfortunate coincidence that the holiday season coincides with December cleaning. You owe your productive people the most effective organization possible, which often means you have to let the unproductive ones do that elsewhere.

ABCDs of customers: Segregate customers into four groups, from the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Worship the As, cater to the Bs, encourage the Cs and teach the Ds about self-service. Customers who demand more commitment from you than they’re willing to reciprocate should be allowed to join your unproductive employees elsewhere.

ABCDs of inventory: As with customers, categorize inventory from the most profitable As to the least profitable Ds. Stock lots of As, some of the Bs, maybe a couple of the Cs, but never let a D spend one night under your roof unless it’s paid for. Remember, profitable inventory management means just-in-time, not just-in-case.

Scrub accounts receivable: Take the hit, and write off uncollectable A/R this year so you can start January with a clean list. A/R write-offs that are later collected become gravy for the new year, otherwise they’re tax deductions this year.

Each new year deserves to have the maximum opportunity to be successful, which means it shouldn’t be saddled with the baggage of last year’s obsolescence and bad decisions. By taking these steps you’ll be proving to yourself – and your banker – that you have the discipline to make critical decisions for which successful managers are known.

Don’t wait for spring. Start December cleaning today.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show, I talked with Patricia Sigmon, founder of LPS Consulting and author of Six Steps to Creating Profit, about how to wrap up this year and give the new year the maximum opportunity to be successful. Click here to download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content Here!

Balancing our work and life

Work is essential as the activity that delivers the things necessary for our survival as humans. Beyond survival, work is the lever of our intellectual curiosity and the blessing that has produced civilization.

Congratulations, civilization, because many small business owners love what they do so much that they actually don’t think about it as work – or that they would ever stop.

Alas, facing that indictment, this business owner would be guilty as charged.

B.C. Forbes (1880-1954), founder of Forbes magazine and grandfather of Steve Forbes, said, “I have known not a few men who, after reaching the summit of business success, found themselves miserable upon attaining retirement.”

Is Mr. Forbes warning us about retirement or the dangers of a life without balance? If the latter, consider this Blasingame Small Business Principle: “The work we love can morph from blessing to curse if it exists without balance.”

If you love your work, congratulations; but simultaneous with that love, make sure you also love whatever can counter-weight your work to balance the scales of your life: golf, tennis, knitting, or — and this is a big one — your child’s ball game.

Research shows that balancing our beloved work with other interests enhances physical and mental well-being, and actually increases productivity. And it makes us much more interesting and desirable to be around.

Balancing work and life is easier for employees than it is for an owner because they’re typically concerned only with their assignments. But when the proverbial “buck” stops on the owner’s desk, it’s loaded up with all of the challenges and opportunities facing every aspect of the business. And even if you’ve acquired the ability to take all of this in stride, “all of this” quite simply just takes a lot of time.

Consequently, achieving balance requires conscious intention, plus a little bit more. Finding the right combination of work and balance in the life of a small business owner requires the execution of at least three of the things that we use to achieve success in our businesses: planning, scheduling, and discipline.

The virtue of having a business or financial plan is self-evident. But we should be just as disciplined about a plan that balances work with other interests. Otherwise, paraphrasing Mr. Forbes, we may become miserable upon retirement.

Surely, the recipe for happiness includes work, relationships, and experiences that create memories.

Make sure your memories aren’t just about work.

I talked with Jim HarterChief Scientist for Gallup’s international workplace management and wellbeing practices and author of Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements, about achieving balance in life both personally and professionally. Click here to listen or download our conversation.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

One person can make a difference

As the 17th century dawned, cause-and-effect was merging parallel universes.

In the Old World, a decision by a group of Leiden Separatists put them on a circuitous journey. Meanwhile, in the New World, a manchild named Tisquantum was born to the Wampanoag Indians.

Both the Separatists and Tisquantum became very important to our future, but not before their lives would change and intertwine in ways not to be imagined by either.

Seeking religious freedom, the Separatists crossed Europe and then the Atlantic. On their odyssey they would steel their convictions, which proved handy in the New World.

Incredibly, first as a hostage and later as an interpreter, Tisquantum crossed the Atlantic six times. On his odyssey, Tisquantum learned Old World languages that, combined with his New World survival skills, would contribute to his rendezvous with destiny.

During their journeys, both experienced a name change: The Separatists became Pilgrims and Tisquantum became Squanto. And as the Pilgrims prepared for their first Atlantic crossing, Squanto made his last.

Arriving at his birthplace in 1619, Squanto found that his entire village and family had been wiped out by an epidemic.

On the day after Christmas, 1620, with the Mayflower Compact in hand, the Pilgrims came ashore at what is now Massachusetts, on a place they named Plymouth, after the city where their voyage began.

The Pilgrims’ first winter in the New World was brutal; less than half of the 102 colonists survived to spring. Then on March 16th, 1621, an Indian named Samoset walked up to the Pilgrims and said, “Hello, English.” Very soon he recognized that these sad-looking folks needed help from someone who spoke better English.

The two universes finally converged and cause-and-effect met humanity as Samoset brought Squanto to the Pilgrims. In one of the great moments of serendipity, it turns out “Plymouth” was the very spot of Squanto’s ill-fated village.

Squanto spent the rest of 1621 befriending the Pilgrims and teaching them how to survive in the New World. It’s clear that his contribution was critical to the survival of these important American forebears.

When the courage and convictions of one group of individuals converged with the humanity of two others, something special happened: Part of the foundation of the most benevolent nation in history was born.

This week we give thanks for these individuals and the blessings that have accrued to us 390 years later.

One person can make a difference. Happy Thanksgiving.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Celebrating 14 years

If you will allow me, I would like to talk about a couple of milestones, of which we’re kind of proud: the 14th anniversary of The Small Business Advocate Show and the 12th anniversary of this publication.

On Monday, November 17, 1997, I began broadcasting the Small Business Advocate Show for two hours, Monday through Friday. Since the first day, the program has been nationally syndicated on terrestrial radio. In January 1998 we began simulcasting on the Internet, and in 1999 began offering multiple Internet on-demand streaming options. If you were streaming content before Microsoft had a media player that makes you a pioneer.

This Thursday will be my 3,641st live broadcast since we began - including all the holidays - even when I was on the road. I’ve conducted almost 14,500 live interviews with small business experts and entrepreneurs, and next week I’ll broadcast my 15th consecutive live Thanksgiving Day show. When you hear me talking about making sure that you’re passionate about the business you start, now you know that I practice what I preach.

From the beginning, my primary programming goal was to focus on the fundamentals that are important to successfully starting, operating and growing a small business, and to make all of the things we do available to you for free. On that last note - the free one - I must say thanks to our outstanding corporate partners, without whom the free part would not be possible.

Along the way, we’ve received a number of awards and recognition forour work on behalf of small business. All were accepted in honor of our heroes, small business owners.

Also, this week we celebrate the 12th anniversary of The Small Business Advocate NEWSLETTER. This week’s edition, Volume XII, Issue 1, represents the 625th consecutive weekly issue, all delivered compliments of my small business, Small Business Network, Inc. and our sponsors. Thanks for being a loyal subscriber.

Finally, thank you for your support, comments, critiques, many words of encouragement and especially the honor and privilege of being your advocate. I’m already looking forward to our next year together.

Nothing I do as The Small Business Advocate is about me - it’s all about you, my heroes: small business owners, regardless of where you live on planet Earth.

I talked more this week about my 14 years on The Small Business Advocate Show - Jeff Zbar even turned the tables on me today and interviewed me! Click on one of these links to listen or download:

Celebrating 14 years of The Small Business Advocate Show with Jim Blasingame

What does it take to survive as a small business owner? with Jim Blasingame

The 14th anniversary of The Small Business Advocate with Jeff Zbar

For more great SBA content, click HERE!

Let’s rethink the definition of a veteran

America’s first military, the “Minutemen” militia, were shopkeepers, craftsmen, farmers, etc. We would call them small business owners now, and they were our first veterans.

Today, there are many technical definitions of a “veteran”; most are associated with eligibility for VA benefits. The non-technical one is someone who has served on active duty for more than six months. But those whose orders read “Active duty for training” – like most National Guard members and Reservists – have not typically been included in this definition.

In the past two decades, two developments created new expectations for America’s Guard and Reserves: 1) Three conflicts, including Desert Storm (1990-91), the Afghanistan War (2001-Present) and the Iraqi War (2003-Present); and 2) The increasing practice of deploying Guard and Reserve units to augment inadequate regular force numbers.

According to the Rand Corporation, “Use of the Guard and Reserve has steadily increased since the first Gulf War and this trend is likely to continue.” Indeed, in Iraq and Afghanistan, Guard members and Reservists have accounted for one-third of U.S. forces, and a comparable percentage of casualties. As of August 2011, there were 91,367 Guard and Reserve members on extended deployment. And many of these patriots have been deployed two, three, and in some cases, four times in the past 20 years.

Consequently, since 1990, National Guard members and Reservists have been comprised of two groups – those who have experienced an extended active duty deployment and those who know they may have to deploy.

Since the Minutemen, America has been able to count on small business owners to volunteer for the militia. But developments of the past 20 years have required an extra degree of commitment because of the increased likelihood they may have to leave their businesses for an extended deployment, possibly more than once.

This Veterans Day, we honor all who served on active duty as a member of the U.S. military, including members of the Guard and Reserves who have deployed along-side members of the regular military. But isn’t it time we also recognize those who volunteered, trained, and stood by to be deployed as their country needed them?

In the modern age of U.S. military practices, if you wore a uniform of any of the armed forces, you deserve to receive the gratitude and recognition of a grateful nation.

It’s time to expand our definition of a veteran.

I talked more about veterans and Veterans Day, as well as career coaching for and hiring veterans on The Small Business Advocate Show. Click on one of these links to listen or download:

Helping veterans return to the workforce with Adrian Guglielmo

It’s time to expand the definition of “veteran” with Jim Blasingame

Career coaching for veterans with Caren Shaffer, Profiles International

Hiring a veterans could be a business best practice with Caren Shaffer, Profiles International

For more great SBA content, click HERE!

Small Business Advocate Poll: Who will have the most impact on 2012 elections?

The Question: Which group will have the greatest impact on the 2012 presidential and congressional elections?

11% - The “Occupy Wall Street” protesters
89% - The national “Tea Party” movement

My Commentary:

The last time America had two seemingly grassroots groups protesting simultaneously on a national level was probably when women’s suffrage and prohibitionists shared the national stage. A century later, their 21st century protesting successors are the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street.

It’s interesting that these two groups are being compared to each other. The Tea Party can already boast some political accomplishments. The emerging OWS is still defining itself.

We wanted to know what you think about the life and legs of these two movements, so last week we asked this question: “Which group will have the greatest impact on the 2012 presidential and congressional elections?” Here’s what you said:

Those who think the Occupy Wall Street folks will make the greatest impact came in at 11%, while the rest, 89%, said they believe the Tea Party will stir up the most trouble between now and next November.

There are similarities between these groups, but there are also significant differences. Look for my take on this next week, including the connections to Main Street small business.

Recently on The Small Business Advocate Show I talked more about what small business can learn from the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street. Click here to listen or download.

For more great SBA cotent, click HERE!

To take this week’s poll, click HERE!

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