Monthly Archive for December, 2011

Small Business Advocate Poll: What are your travel plans for the holidays?

The Question:

What are your travel plans for the holidays?

46% - Just staying home

6% - Less than 25 miles

6% - Less than 100 miles

42% - Planes, trains and automobiles

My Commentary:

In our poll before Thanksgiving, we asked about your travel plans for that holiday. Over 60% said they were just staying home, 35% were travelling less than 100 miles and 15% chose “planes, trains and automobiles,” my option for significant travel.

In last week’s poll, we asked the same question about the rest of the holidays. A few less this time said they were either just staying home or travelling less than 100 miles - 46% and 12% respectively. The balance, 42%, was made up by those who chose “planes, trains and automobiles.”

Obviously, three holidays in less than two weeks - Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s Day - provides more time and motivation for longer travel plans to do what holidays are all about: celebrating and building memories with family and friends.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

The small business gift

George was an unlikely success story, and certainly no hero. Reluctantly drawn into the family small business, year after year he went about all the duties of an owner, from manager to visionary. And he experienced all of the realities of ownership, including the occasional brief indulgence in self-satisfaction, as well as the deferred gratification that is usually heavy on the deferred part.

In his own eyes, George never quite measured up. His best friend left their small town and went off to make a fortune and travel the world. His brother went off to war and became a national hero. George stayed home in boring Small Town, America and minded the family store.

At a particularly low point in George’s life, when it seemed all was lost, our small business owner did more than contemplate suicide - he stepped right up on its dark threshold and looked inside that abyss.

What created this sad scenario that threatened to put George over the edge? He was visited by one of the usual culprits that cast their shadows over so many small business owners, like a ghost of decisions past. It was something about finances, and George wished he had never been born.

But before he could carry out his act of desperation, George was given a gift. He was shown how the world would look if he had never lived. It wasn’t pretty.

Yes, it’s that George
By now I’m sure you are getting ahead of me. You no doubt recognize our friend as George Bailey, the owner of The Building and Loan in the Frank Capra classic, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I’ve seen that movie at least a hundred times and never get tired of it. (But even though it’s critical to the plot, I still can’t watch the part where Uncle Billy loses the $8,000.)

The reason I’m retelling this story here is because everything said previously - right up to the part about the gift - could be about you and me. To be sure, small business ownership has many advantages, and can be extremely fulfilling. But it can also be lonely, frightening, and frequented by ghosts of decisions past. And sometimes, like George, we feel that we just don’t measure up.

Here’s your gift
Remember George’s angel, Clarence ASC (Angel Second Class)? Well, let me be your angel, and here’s your gift: You make a difference to your family, your employees and their families, your customers and their families, your community, your marketplace, your nation, and this planet. Without you, small business owner, the world would be like Bedford Falls without George Bailey - not a pretty picture.

Next time you are visited by a ghost of decisions past or some other setback, dwell on it long enough to take corrective action. But never forget to take stock of all the important things that you do for so many.

I may be the only one who tells you this every day, but you’re not just my hero, you’re a hero to a lot of people. And I don’t want to see what the world would look like without all the good that you do.

The spirit of small business - your spirit - is a wonderful gift to the world.

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Have faith in yourself, small business owner

As we continue the holiday season and move into the New Year, I encourage you to contemplate your capacity to have faith and how faith manifests in your life.  Not just religious faith, which is important to many of us, but faith in yourself and faith in others.

August Wilhelm Von Schlegel said, “In actual life, every great enterprise begins with and takes its first forward step in faith.” How many things have you accomplished in your life where, regardless of your research and experience, the first forward step was taken in faith?

Awareness of faith can be very exciting. William Newton Clark wrote, “Faith is the daring of the soul to go farther than it can see.”

Exercising faith can be very powerful. Sherwood Eddy once observed, “Faith is reason grown courageous.”

Faith can transcend mere facts and can actually be a lever for reason. Blaise Pascal believed that, “Faith is a sounder guide than reason.  Reason can go only so far, but faith has no limits.”

Have faith and take that first step. Have faith and dare to go farther.  Have faith and be courageous.  Have faith and leverage reason.

Have faith in yourself, and when you do anything is possible.  Because, after all, you’re a small business owner.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

A Holiday Message from Jim

Several years ago, we added up all of the money we paid for fruit, nuts and candy holiday gift packages we sent to our customers - it was a lot. We decided that the world will be better served if, instead of sending holiday gifts, we made donations to those who have less in life and greater needs in honor of our customers.

After a while, we extended this practice to include at least some of the money we spent on adults during the holidays.

Last week, in our poll question, we asked you how you felt about this, with this question: “Would you go along with taking all the money spent on adult Christmas gifts, and some of what’s spent on the children, and donate it to a worthy charity?” It was very interesting that over 70% of our respondents thought this was a “great idea, while the rest disagreed.

With all of this in mind, we’re pleased to tell you that we have chosen these three outstanding organizations to receive our contributions. This is the first year for the third organization, but we’ve contributed to the first two for several years.

Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation
World-class medical care for women and children from all over the globe, including trauma, heart and cancer treatments and, if necessary, without cost. Mr. Palmer has insisted that no one is ever turned away because they can’t afford treatment.

Homes for Our Troops
Builds and remodels specially adapted homes for our most severely wounded veterans.

Special Operations Warrior Foundation
Provides a full college education to the surviving children of special ops personnel who lost their lives while serving in the U.S. military, and immediate financial assistance and support to ensure severely wounded special ops personnel are able to have their loved ones at their bedside during recovery.

If you’re looking for a worthy organization to contribute to at year-end, consider one or all of these three. You can donate right on their websites with a credit card, or send a check.

Thanks for all you do for so many all year long. From me and my team, we wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.

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Small Business Advocate Poll: What’s your 2012 outlook?

The Question:

Are you seeing indications that 2012 will be a better year for business - sales, profit, etc. - than 2011?

52% - Yes

29% - No

19% - Uncertain

My Comments:

Almost 20% said they were still uncertain about next year. And almost one-third said they were certain things were not going to be better next year. But a little over half, 52%, said they were seeing positive growth indicators for next year.

Now, 52% isn’t exactly a rousing expectation of runaway economic expansion, but based on other questions we’ve asked in the past two years along these lines, it does represent a shift in optimism.

And my own experience tracks with the majority here. It does seem that, in the face of plenty of scary things, 2012 could be better than 2011. I’ll have more to say about this soon.

Check out my recent audio commentary on small business growth plans for 2012. Listen or download.

Take this week’s poll HERE!

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Beware the many faces of fear

Anyone who has contemplated forsaking the perceived, if not real, security of employment to start a small business has come face-to-face with the fear of failure.

Indeed, countless would-be entrepreneurs have discontinued their self-employment pursuits for fear of losing too much-the risk being just too great.

But if you pushed through these concerns and actually became a business owner, you know that this isn’t the last time you’ll experience fear. And time will teach you that fear can actually be a good thing.

But if you pushed through these concerns and actually became a business owner, you know that this isn’t the last time you’ll experience fear. And time will teach you that fear can actually be a good thing.

Remember these two things about fear: It’s a shape-shifter, capable of appearing in many forms. Successful entrepreneurs learn how to recognize and deal with fear it in all of its shapes.

Let’s take a look at some of the manifestations of fear, followed by what each one might sound like.

First on the list is the mother of all fear - unremitting, cold sweat, cottonmouth fear in its default entrepreneurial shape: “What if I can’t cut it as an owner?”

Terror: “What if I’m buying the wrong business?”

Fright: “What if I order all of this stuff and no one buys it?”

Panic: “What if my pricing for this bid is too high-or worse-too low?”

Dread: “I hate it when I have to fire an employee.”

Trepidation: “I need a business loan; what if the bank won’t let me have it?”

Anxiety: “How will I ever be able to compete with the Big Box competitors?”

Shock: “What do you mean our best customer signed a contract with a competitor?”

The best way to minimize-if not eliminate-these fears is through performance. But performance only happens when you use the fear-fighting tools: awareness, knowledge, experience, training, planning, preparedness, decisiveness and execution.

Armed with the fear-fighting tools, fear can become manageable and a productive stimulus that actually can create opportunity. But if you don’t use these tools, the fear you feel is probably well founded and giving you good advice.

The only way to make sure your fear is a motivator and not an immobilizer is through performance. And small business performance only happens when you’re armed with the fear-fighting tools.

The fear-fighting tools help you replace fear with its archenemy, total confidence.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!

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