Monthly Archive for December, 2013

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.

With all of this in mind, we’ve chosen to contribute to these outstanding organizations in your honor. Links are included in case you would like to make your own donation.

The Arnold Palmer Medical Center Foundation supports world-class medical care for women and children from all over the globe, including trauma, heart and cancer treatments and, if necessary, without cost - no one is ever turned away.

Homes for Our Troops assists severely injured veterans and their families by coordinating the process of building a home that provides maximum freedom of movement and the ability to live more independently. The homes provided by Homes for Our Troops are given atNO COST to the Veterans we serve.

Alliance for Smiles provides free comprehensive treatment for cleft lip and palate deformities in under-served areas of the world, and helps to establish and maintain permanent centers to provide follow-up treatment and continuing care to children who have received surgery.

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.

Thanks for participating with us in this spirit of giving. And thanks for all you’ve meant to us over the years. It’s with great anticipation that we look forward to our work together in 2014.

Wishing you and yours all the best for a safe and happy holiday season.

Recapping my 2013 Crystal Ball Predictions

Let’s review my 2013 predictions, what happened and my score

Prediction:The political class will claim “fiscal cliff” avoidance, but it’s more postponement than policy. Reality: The government was shut down again in October. Plus 1.

Prediction:The 2013 economy will be held back by two government-created headwinds: tax increases and Obamacare. Reality: Dozens of tax increases took billions out of consumers’ pockets and Obamacare is a recurring budgeting nightmare. Plus 1.

Prediction:Small business uncertainty about investing in growth will continue for the fifth consecutive year. Reality: The monthly NFIB Small Business Optimism Index shows continued business reluctance to hire, invest capital or borrow money for growth. Plus 1.

Prediction: The NFIB Index will continue to be at or below the unprecedented 40-year historical low of 93 points in 2013, as it was in Obama’s first term. Reality: Through November, the average Index score was 92.3. Sadly, plus 1.

Prediction: The unemployment rate will remain above 7%. Reality: While U-3 has recently fallen to almost 7%, the real unemployment condition (U6), remains in the teens. Plus 1.

Prediction: GDP in 2013 will remain moribund, below 3%. Reality: GDP through October averaged 2.3%. Plus 1.

Prediction: For the first time in history, the national debt will exceed GDP. Reality: 2013 GDP is $16.8 trillion, national debt is $17.2 trillion. Plus 1.

Prediction: The U.S. credit rating will be reduced for the second time in history during the Obama presidency. Reality: While there were warnings, the rating did not drop. Minus 1.

Prediction: State insurance exchanges, Obamacare platforms, will not be ready for the 2014 launch. Reality: The epic fail of the Obamacare launch is now the stuff of legend, including no access to exchanges for small businesses. Plus 1.

Prediction: The 2014 Obamacare “guaranteed issue” mandate will artificially cause increases in 2013 health insurance premiums. Reality: All policies increased in the past year in anticipation of mandates, like pediatric dental, even if you don’t have kids. Plus 1.

Prediction: While feckless and fecklesser – the U.S. and the U.N – watch, Iran will take the world across a nuclear Rubicon. Reality: The recent Geneva Accords not only didn’t stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but actually removed successful economic sanctions. Plus 1.

Prediction: Alabama defeats Notre Dame in the BCS Championship game in Miami. Reality: Bama 42, Irish 14. Plus 1.

That’s 11 of 12 this year, bringing my 13 year average to 72%. How’d you do?

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Be sure to listen to my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Radio Show®. I recap all my predictions in more detail. Also subscribe to my newsletter below to get my 2014 predictions.

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Video: Should Mamas let their babies grow up to be entrepreneurs?

In this week's video I explain how entrepreneurs see the world.

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SBA Poll Results: How has Obamacare effected your business?

The Question:
Obamacare was launched October 1. Have you seen a difference in customer attitudes and sales since then?

59% - No, customers aren’t acting differently and sales are the same.

41% - Yes, customer activity and sales are down since Sept.

My Comments:
I asked this question last week because when I have asked small businesses recently about sales, I have gotten comments like, “We were having a decent year, but since the beginning of October, it’s like someone turned off a switch.” So, I wanted to see how pervasive this condition was, and, as you can see from our responses, four-of-ten is pretty significant.

For almost four years, the uncertainty of how bad Obamacare would be has contributed greatly to the slow recovery. Like a perverse gift that keeps on giving, what we now know to be true about Obamacare is having a negative impact on the economy.

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The road less traveled

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood

And sorry I could not travel both.

These are the first two lines of one of the most important poems of the modern age, by one of the greatest of American poets, Robert Frost. “The Road Not Taken” has inspired millions to at least reflect on the paths they have taken in their lives, if not stirred to write down their genius, justification, or lament for the choices they made.

We entrepreneurs seem to live in a “yellow wood” where our roads are always diverging. We have to make lots of “left or right” decisions, and often quickly. Some decisions are big and some are not.

If we try to have everything perfect before we decide, we’re in danger of doing something worse than making the wrong choice — not deciding. Inertia is worse than a mistake because with inertia nothing happens, which also means that nothing is learned.

We have to choose our paths — whether it start a business or not, to buy or sell, in or out — with the information we have at the time, and let hindsight shine its perfect light on our genius, justification or lament. But in that perfect light, which only shines when a decision is made, we will find information, knowledge and wisdom.

Mr. Frost took a risk and chose the road less traveled, which is the point of his poem. For entrepreneurs, the moral may be more about the fact that he made a decision. And to paraphrase the poem’s last line, for entrepreneurs, that could make all the difference.

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I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?

“I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?”

This title lyric of a country song by Dierks Bentley is about a boy letting a pretty girl get him into a whole lot of trouble on their first date. Of course, there’s often no accounting for unintended consequences of affairs of the heart.

But when a small business owner sings this song, it’s due to an ill-advised decision that causes the proverbial winged sack of money to fly away.

“I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” is often the business lament of the passionate but too impulsive start-up entrepreneur. Being passionate about starting a business is very important, but the business failure rate would drop like a stone if more newbies understood that success in business requires more than desire; it takes total commitment and knowledge of industry and operating fundamentals, especially cash flow, for when the passion fades.

Sometimes this lament is made by an established business owner, for whom it’s only less ominous in that being established assumes more market penetration—a mentor once told me, “Sales will cure most business ills.” This is not complicated: fixing business mistakes costs money and, unlike a start-up, if you have customers, you’re more likely—but by no means guaranteed —to be able to overcome the impact of a bad decision.

But why would a seasoned pro commit a rookie mistake? When a veteran owner says, “I know what I was feeling, but what was I thinking?” look for a severe attack of ego. The usual scenario is when someone is successful at one thing and then believes he can do anything.

The road to business failure is paved with the assets of seasoned owners who didn’t understand that in any new venture they should think of themselves as a start-up again, only this time with more to lose and possibly a beefed-up ego. And mixing ego and capital, especially the borrowed kind, is a dangerous cocktail that has taken down many a smart business owner.

Another mentor once told me, “Desperate people do desperate things.” Sometimes owners don’t see market and industry shifts until it’s too late. And in their attempts to save their businesses, seek “I know what I was feeling” solutions that conform to what they desperately want to see.  “What was I thinking?” is the lament of the desperate who disregard that “reality” didn’t get its name by being wrong.

With any new venture, passion and ego must be tempered with research, reason and reality.

In love, impulsiveness can be cute; in business, it’s the straightest line to failure.

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Check out my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Radio Show®. I explain what it takes to sustain small business success. Click below to listen

It takes more than passion to sustain business success

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