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Archive for the 'Entrepreneurship' Category

RESULTS: How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

The Question:
How is the economy looking for your business as we enter the last trimester of 2014?

36% - This year has been great and we plan to finish strong.
29% - This hasn’t been a great year, but it looks like we’ll finish strong
14% -  We started out well, but the rest of the year doesn’t look so good.
21% - We’re not going to have a good year, first half or last half.

Jim’s Comments:
Comparing our poll this week to similar results over the past couple of years, it actually looks like small business owners are finally feeling more confident about the economy. In previous polls we’ve barely gotten half of our audience to say they were optimistic about the next few months. But this week almost two-thirds like what they see for the last third of the year.

As you know, I now consider Main Street, not Wall Street, to be the leading indicator of the economy. If I’m right, this poll response is good news we can count on–at least unless Wall Street and/or Washington does something stupid to derail all of our hard work.

Small business impact on November mid-term elections

Regardless of political party, history informs that the mid-term election in a second term has rarely been fun for any president. Consequently, President Obama’s party isn’t supposed to do well this November.

But with a Republicans House majority and Democrat control of the Senate now in jeopardy, this election cycle is producing a pitch battle with daggers drawn on every front. And not just because control of Congress is at stake for the next two years, but also six years of Democrat policies must be protected or reversed, depending upon to whom you talk.

In a recent online poll we asked our small business audience how they’re leaning in the November election. GOP responses came in at 63%, with Democrat allegiance at only 3%. The independent “I vote for the individual” got 29% and 5% said they “probably won’t vote.” Even if you give half the independents to the Dems, they still don’t rise to one-in-five among our group.

Republicans leading our sample tracks with other polls of the public. But besides the historic second term curse, there are other reasons small business sentiment skews heavily for the out-of-power party this year:

1.  Small business owners do something that’s at once special and difficult: they make between one and four payrolls every month. As a result, this group typically leans toward the GOP as a more business-friendly party. But it should be noted that the spread usually isn’t this great.

2.  Small business owners consider many Democrat policies anti-business. For example:

a.  Obama’s “America needs a raise” campaign to increase minimum wage is unpopular with small business owners.

b.  Recent tax increases have resulted in federal tax revenues at a 40-year record tax pace this year and next. Higher taxes depletes precious small business working capital.

c.  Essentially a stealth tax, regulatory compliance has increased significantly since 2009, according to the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

d.  And the mother of all policy offenses: Obamacare. As a class, small business owners DO NOT like Obamacare.

There isn’t room to list all of the things troubling small business owners this year. But these leaders believe Washington policies have contributed to and prolonged the worst post-recession recovery since the Great Depression. And justified or not, President Obama is the face of the Democrat party, which right now is not good news for many incumbent Democrats needing support from their small business constituents.

Write this on a rock … Counting employees, Small Business USA is the largest voting bloc.

Balancing reality and vision

When working with entrepreneurs, one of the most difficult things consultants, advisors, and mentors must do is tell their hopeful visionaries when an idea does not have a reasonable chance of success, or simply is not viable. Such advice isn’t meant to demotivate or squash the dream, but rather to ground what is likely a rose-colored-glasses perspective in the realities of the marketplace.

The horns on this dilemma, as you might imagine, are reality and vision.  And the challenge for advisors is in knowing how to blend in the right amount of reality so that the vision keeps just enough of a healthy rose tint without blurring the existence of the real challenges ahead.

Reality and convention, delivered effectively by an advisor, combine to create a compelling gravitational pull. The challenge for entrepreneurs is to know when to use this gravity as leverage and when to defy it, thus placing extra pressure on your vision.

Both perspectives — the reality grounded in history and facts, and the vision yet to be made manifest — must be balanced as you strive to create something which may be untried, perhaps even fanciful and often from nothing.

Commenting on his vast and very real entertainment empire, Walt Disney once said, “Always remember, this whole thing started with a mouse.”


The three points of a well-piloted entrepreneurial plan

Flight is one of the great benefits humans have acquired from the employment of mechanical advantage. When you see an airplane in flight there are three forces at work to create this benefit: thrust, lift, and control surfaces.  In order for an airplane to fly successfully, meaning where the pilot wants it to go, all three forces must be working in concert.

These forces are also in evidence when you see a successful entrepreneur.

* In an airplane, thrust comes from the engines. For entrepreneurs, thrust is their vision and determination to accomplish their goals.

* Lift in an airplane comes from the airfoils - the wings. Entrepreneurial lift comes from practicing sound and stable operating fundamentals.

* In an airplane, the control surfaces are ailerons, elevators, and rudder. In an entrepreneur, the control surfaces are all of the aspects of a healthy human life: physical, mental, cultural, familial and spiritual.

A well-piloted entrepreneurial plan recognizes that a business with only thrust and lift becomes an out-of-control rocket destined to crash.  But when appropriate and intentional influence from the control surfaces is added, entrepreneurial lift and thrust become productive and meaningful forces.

Gain and maintain balance in your professional and personal life by making sure your entrepreneurial airplane operates with the three forces of entrepreneurial flight: thrust, lift, and control surfaces.

RESULTS: Which of the following is the most pressing challenge your business has right now?

The Question:
Which of the following is the most pressing challenge your business has right now?

16% — Negative cash flow
0% – Getting a business loan
54% — Need more customers
5% — Impact of Obamacare
25% — Taxes and/or regulations

Jim’s Comments:

Small business owners report top concerns

As you may remember, in our online poll last week we asked about the most pressing issues in your business today, and gave you five options:  Negative cash flow, getting a business loan,  need more customers, impact of Obamacare, or taxes and/or regulations. Here’s what we learned.

Any business that has survived since 2008 has figured out how to be successful in an extended and languishing recovery. One of the markers of that success has been deleveraging, and one of the markers of deleverage is improved cash flow. Consequently, the first two responses play off of each other: Cash flow registered only a 16% response due to deleveraging, and low–in this case zero–loan demand.

Tracking cash flow and loan demand have provided a very interesting study in business fundamentals as we’ve polled our small business audience since 2009. As loan demand continues to be almost non-existent, cash positions seem to continue to improve.

The reason Obamacare barely moving the worry meter at 5%  is because the issue is kind of dormant right now.But it will resurface in 2014 as small business owners begin to learn what the employer mandate is going to do to them beginning in 2015.

The two big responses, more customers at 54% and taxes/regulations at 25%, can be taken two ways: No business owner ever admits to having enough business and no one likes taxes and regs. But based on the economic indicators of the first half of 2014, recent tax increases, and out-of-control growth in new regulations, my instinct is that these are not gratuitous responses and are the two top concerns of most small business owners.

Thanks again for participating in our polls. Please respond to our new poll below, and keep up the good work. I’m proud of you.