Monthly Archive for October, 2014

RESULTS: What are your future plans for offering health care to your employees?

The Question:
What are your future plans for offering health care (HC) benefits to your employees?

36% - We have and will continue to offer HC benefits.
11% - We currently have HC benefits, but plan to discontinue.
31% - We don’t have HC benefits and won’t provide them in the future.
0% - We currently don’t provide HC benefits, but plan to start.
22% -  We don’t have employees.

Jim’s Comments:
Of our respondents who have employees, those who provide healthcare benefits are not far below those who don’t.  I’m taking that as a good indicator. The response that is troubling is that 11% are currently providing coverage but plan to stop, plus no one reported they were planning to start offering healthcare benefits.  Part of the reason might be associated with economic conditions, but based on what we’re learning, it’s my opinion that the imposition of Obamacare is also involved.
I’ve been very outspoken about my opposition to Obamacare. Unfortunately, every day that goes by Obamacare continues to affirm my predictions that it’s a bad alternative to what we had and what could have been done to accomplish real reform. On my radio program this week I asked healthcare policy expert, Grace-Marie Turner, President of the Galen Institute, if 2015 was going to be the worst year yet for Obamacare? She said every year is going to replace the previous one as the worst year of Obamacare. Click here to listen to our discussions.

Keep chasing entrepreneurial liberty

John Ray, a Puritan-leaning 17th century English naturalist and botanist who refused to take the religious oath required by the Act of Uniformity during the Restoration, proposed “Lean liberty is better than fat slavery.”

Many small business owners would say it this way, “The worst day in my own business is better than the best day as an employee.”

I’m not proposing employment is akin to slavery, but there is no question it can put chains on your entrepreneurial spirit. Before you leave your job because you don’t like bosses, or decide to emancipate your creativity from mediocre management, refer to Blasingame’s Small Business Unabridged Dictionary and its definition of lean liberty in the world of small business.

1.  “The buck stops here” plaque is not just sitting on your desk, it’s nailed on.
2.  If an employee doesn’t show up for a shift, it’s your shift.
3.  When an irate, perhaps unreasonable, customer comes in and demands to speak to the owner, that’s you.
4.  It’s payroll Friday for you and your three employees. Four people, but only enough cash for three checks. Guess who goes home without one?

If any of these examples makes you blink, be sure to clock in tomorrow. But if you are ready to handle these and many other examples of small business lean liberty, perhaps your entrepreneurial sap has risen to the point where your passion for your plan will sustain you through lean times.

Go for it. Who knows? You may be on your way to claim the holy grail of small business, Fat Liberty.

Patience is not standard entrepreneurial equipment

One of the markers of American culture is the “sticker” on the window of a new car. This document reveals to shoppers a listing of standard equipment and options, plus, of course, the manufacturer’s suggested retail price, or MSRP.

Photo credit to Business2Community

You would expect this list of entrepreneurial standard equipment to include characteristics like courage, creativity, perseverance and adaptability. But one trait typically not found on this list that’s essential when entrepreneurs become employers, is patience.

Perhaps one redeeming attribute of an entrepreneur is we’re more impatient with ourselves than anything or anyone else. The reason for this self-directed pressure is because seeking excellence requires that we demand much of ourselves. Unfortunately, that same quest can also make us too impatient with those on whom we depend most — our employees. And while impatience with ourselves can be productive, it can create adverse results when directed at others.

When you think about it, high expectations of key personnel is understandable: They show up every day, just like us; work hard, just like us; and they’re dedicated, just like us. Certainly such evidence of commitment creates the impression that they are just like us. And for many key employees it’s not just an impression. They are committed or they’d work somewhere else. The problem occurs when we’re impatient with our people because they didn’t read our minds.

The road to business failure is paved with stories of key people who quit because someone mistook commitment for ESP. Entrepreneurs lacking this understanding will have key employees wishing they had traded up when they first checked out the sticker on their employer.

So how do entrepreneurs avoid misplaced impatience?  Communication. If we demand as much of our staff as we do ourselves, they must have the same information we have, including our plan, strategy, vision, etc.

In 1776 General George Washington said, “We must make the best of mankind as they are, since we cannot have them as we wish.”

Effective communication skills eliminate the need to find employees who are mind readers. Plus, it makes employees more productive since they won’t have to spend so much time trying to make the best of us.

Write this on a rock … Entrepreneurial patience isn’t standard equipment, but effective communication should be.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book, The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.

RESULTS: How do you feel today about your decision to be a small business owner?

The Question:
How do you feel today about your decision to be a small business owner?

66% - I’ve never regretted my decision to be a small business owner.
13% - Things started off rocky, but I’m now happy with my decision.
21% - It seems my best days as a small business owner are behind me.
0% -  I wish I had never done this. What was I thinking?

Jim’s Comments:
As you know, in the intervening years since the financial meltdown of 2008, we’ve gone from where survival was seen as success to weathering a long and laborious recovery to maybe, just maybe, starting to get some expansion traction.  Any small business owner who’s come through all of that and still in business is the marketplace equivalent of a combat veteran.

As I’ve said many times, small business owners are pathological optimists, operating all in, against all odds, often feeling very much alone, and all for the possibility of just making a living. So after all we’ve been through, and with assorted headwinds still in our face, it’s great to see almost eight of ten of you are happy to be running a small business.

Goodonya, my friends.  Keep up the good work because the world depends on you.

Celebrate your customers this week

This week is National Customer Service Week.  It’s always the first full week of October, which this year is October 6 - 10. Started by the International Customer Service Association (ICSA) in 1988, it has become a national event as proclaimed by the U.S. Congress.
Photo courtesy of Lifecare-EdinburghAccording to the ICSA, the purpose of National Customer Service Week is “to create a positive message that lasts all year long and to provide a productive opportunity to generate an even stronger commitment to customer service excellence.”
This week, I challenge all small businesses — including my own — to rededicate our businesses, our thinking, our training, and especially the execution of our business activity, to focusing on delivering customer service excellence.
As we strive for this noble goal, let’s not forget that you and I don’t get to be the judges of how effective we are at customer service excellence. Only our customers can have that role.
And if your customers aren’t telling you that you’re doing an excellent job, either you aren’t, or you aren’t asking. If this is the case, perhaps we’ve just identified a good place to start in your quest for customer service excellence.

Small business can’t fund an economic expansion alone

How’s the economy going?

In my long career, it’s hard to imagine a time when you could get as many different answers to this question.

We know the answer if we’re talking to any of the millions of chronically unemployed or under-employed; they’re not represented in the misleading U3 unemployment index used by politicians and the media. And the same goes for the millions who were forced to transition from unemployment to early retirement, disability or welfare.

Photo courtesy of morgueFile

Photo courtesy of morgueFile

How about small business owners? Recently we asked them this question: How is the economy looking for you over the last third of 2014? Almost two-thirds of our respondents allowed they like what they see. That’s an improvement from polls we’ve conducted over the past couple of years when barely half expressed optimism.

Are small businesses finally feeling more confident about the economy? For generations Wall Street was accepted as a leading indicator of the economy; today it’s merely an indicator of itself.  I consider Main Street to be the more relevant economic indicator so this increased optimism is good news — at least until Wall Street and Washington do something to derail all of our hard work, like the last financial crisis they created together.

In a follow-up poll we asked small business owners how they would fund their next growth opportunity. Almost half reported they would grow organically with retained earnings (profits) and current cash flow. And consistent with previous polls by myself and others, only three percent chose the historical small business funding source: a bank loan.

Ironically, this growth-by-bootstrapping response is a silver lining of the financial crisis cloud. As I predicted in 2009, in order for small businesses to survive the Great Recession they had to operate more efficiently while reducing debt, which produced two very important financial conditions: 1) a better cash position and 2) more profit. Consequently, it’s not surprising when almost 50% of respondents to this poll reported the ability to capitalize future growth with in-house resources.

Unfortunately, small business retained earnings alone won’t take the economy from moribund recovery to robust expansion. That will require Corporate America to stop hoarding cash and start investing in the economy. The question is, when will Wall Street let them?

Write this on a rock … Small business alone can’t fund an economic expansion.

Jim Blasingame is author of the award-winning book The Age of the Customer: Prepare for the Moment of Relevance.




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