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Archive for the 'Entrepreneurship' Category

What the Tour de France and small business have in common

With 21 stages ridden over 23 days-some almost 150 miles long-navigating cobblestones, assaulting at least two mountain ranges and dealing with thousands of over-enthusiastic crowds, the Tour de France bicycle race is arguably the most grueling of all sporting competitions.

Here are four reasons why competing in the Tour is like running a small business.

1. Team structure
Tour participants are part of 22 sponsored teams of about 25 members, and each have individual roles to play. Some members are supportive non-riders and some are riders whose primary role is to protect and push their leader. But all work together to meet team performance goals, including getting their leader on the podium at the end of the day or the end of the race. Sounds a lot like a small business, doesn’t it?

Since every day in a small business can be like a mountain stage on the Tour-peaks and valleys-success requires the ability to motivate your team to work together effectively. A smart leader knows that sustaining successful teamwork requires sharing the recognition so the team doesn’t mind if you’re the one on the podium.

2. Communication
Competing in the Tour is like running 21 marathons in 23 days while simultaneously playing a chess match. So each team member has to understand his role in the overall strategy.

Even if you have the best business strategy in the world it must be communicated to your small business team so every member understands their role in the organization’s plan to achieve success.

3. Preparation
All you have to do is watch a Tour de France cyclist in a mountain stage to see successful preparation. These guys have turned their bodies into human spring steel as they become one with their bikes.

The small business equivalent is to learn as much as you can about operating your business, your industry, the competition, and especially, your customers. Since your team also needs to know these things, prepare them by investing in training and practice.

4. Technology
Tour de France teams certainly leverage technology, including high-tech bikes, customized chase vehicles, on-course communication tools, etc.

One of the keys to success for small businesses in the 21st century is leveraging technology.  If you want to stand in the winner’s circle you MUST find ways to use technology to make existing systems more efficient as well as help you take advantage of new opportunities.

Write this on a rock … Small businesses can learn a lot from the Tour de France teams.

Small business owners have Founders’ spirit and drive

The date was September 19, 1796. In his farewell address to the nation, in which he declined to serve a third term as president, George Washington gave us a name, a distinction and a bond.

“The name American, which belongs to you in your national capacity, must always exalt the just pride of patriotism. You have in a common cause fought and triumphed together; the independence and liberty you possess are the work of joint councils and joint efforts, of common dangers, sufferings, and successes.”

Photo courtesy of SmallBizTrends

Photo courtesy of Small Biz Trends

Sounds like small business owners, doesn’t it?  We’re like America’s Founders: We fight for our independence every day. Our common cause is self-determination, and our joint councils are the relationships and communities we build.

The dangers we face are not usually as life threatening as those of the American revolutionaries, but other than our lives, we put everything else on the line.

Washington said the name American should exalt the pride of patriotism. For American entrepreneurs, that name exalts the spirit of pride, independence and excellence.

President Washington would be proud of you and you should be proud of yourself.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.

Celebrating American independence and entrepreneurship

Seven score and 11 years ago, Abraham Lincoln’s inspired speech at the Gettysburg Cemetery dedication included these words: “…our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

Four score and seven years earlier, one of those fathers, Thomas Jefferson, penned what is arguably the most important secular document in history, the Declaration of Independence, which included this passionate passage:

Photo courtesy of Antidote Design

Photo courtesy of Antidote Design

Having the spirit, courage, and vision to declare independence at a time when monarchy was the globally accepted model of government was unprecedented. To fight for those principles then, and defending them from within and without in the two centuries since, is impressive.

To be sure, America has had lapses in the delivery of some of these tenets. Indeed, while Lincoln was trying to save his beloved country, he made this judgment: “We made the experiment; and the fruit is before us.”

Even today, America is a work-in-progress. We’re on a journey of understanding that has many stations where new things are learned and past wrongs can be righted.  But in terms of contribution to the world, Ronald Reagan’s “shining city upon a hill” has an incomparable record. Warts and all, the United States of America is still a benefactor nation with millions, if not billions of beneficiaries.

Freedom to dream is found in other lands, as is freedom to pursue dreams. But no entrepreneurial soil is more fertile than in America, and it’s because of those who had the conviction to create our founding documents, the will to deliver them, and the courage to defend them.

Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness have been essential to millions of American small businesses. If you ask anyone anywhere on the planet where to go to start a business and have the greatest chance to succeed and accrue the fruits of that labor, the answer would be America. Like the Founders, generation after generation of American small business owners have demonstrated courage as they claimed and perpetuated the American dream.

As we celebrate the blessings of another Fourth of July in America, let’s hold fast to Lincoln’s closing prayer so beautifully conveyed in his 1st Inaugural Address. That the relationships we have with each other will be “touched by the better angels of our nature.”

Write this on a rock … Happy Independence Day.


Entrepreneurs: Keep climbing toward success

In a former life, whenever I felt deficient in my ability to meet a particular challenge, one of my mentors would say to me, “This is no hill for a climber,” followed immediately by, “and you’re a climber.”
Today, whenever I’m feeling deficient in my ability to meet the challenges of my small business, I say these words to myself, “This is no hill for a climber and I’m a climber.”
In an even earlier life, growing up on a farm, we had an old two-ton Studebaker truck. This was a brute of a truck, with a very special feature: one really low gear. My dad called that gear “grandma.”
Whenever we had a heavy load to haul and a steep grade to climb, Dad would say, “Put it in grandma.” In “grandma” that old truck wouldn’t go more than a couple of miles an hour, but it would pull or haul anything, anywhere. Even when the pulling got really tough that truck might jerk and buck, but it never stopped pulling.


Small business owners have a special gear similar to the one on that truck. Our “grandma” gear is made up of the cogs of grit and determination, and the sprockets of courage and passion.

Four reasons you should take a vacation from your business

Could you use a vacation?

Of course you could and most of us know time away gives any leader a better perspective. But polls show less than half of small business owners are likely to take off a whole week for vacation.

Perhaps this is a better question: Could your business use a vacation from you?

Of course it could. Your absence will reveal organizational weaknesses that need attention as well as strengths you may have overlooked.

Regardless of your motivations, here are four ideas to consider to help you take more time off.

1.  Define success.
Webster defines success two ways: 1) a favorable outcome; 2) gaining wealth and fame.
Embracing both definitions as having equal value will help you recognize that living long enough to enjoy the fruits of the second definition—with your loved ones—must be part of your success definition.

2.  Hire quality.
Taking time off requires being able to leave your business with a team that’s trustworthy.
If you’re not comfortable with the idea of leaving your baby in the care of others, your instincts are probably good, but your hiring practices may not be. Part of your interview process should determine whether a prospect is the quality of individual you would trust with your company in your absence.  By the way, this is one of the best times in history to acquire high-quality talent.  It’s a buyer’s (hirer’s) market.

3. Delegate.
If you’ve already assembled that trustworthy team, their usefulness is limited by your ability to delegate.  Delegating isn’t easy for entrepreneurs; you’ve done all of the jobs, and you know how you want them done. But there’s an old saying that successful delegators embrace, “Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.”  If you cringe at the thought of how things won’t be perfect in your absence—get over it.

4. Leverage technology.
No one has to be completely unplugged anymore. There’s plenty of affordable technology that can serve as your security blankie by helping you “mind the store” without actually being there. And if you practice, no one will notice that you checked email on your smart phone while rolling over to tan the other side.

Finally, if you’re not intentional about living a balanced life—that includes vacations—you may accomplish the “wealth and fame” part of success, but the big celebration may involve others toasting you posthumously.

Write this on a rock …

Give yourself—and your business—a vacation.

Balancing the ideal and the real in business

As entrepreneurs, you and I are the visionaries of our organizations — the creators of the dream and the energy and spirit behind its fulfillment. As operators of the businesses we’ve created, we are the steady hand, the voice of reason, the challenge master and the bull’s eye where the proverbial buck stops.

"Create. Operate. Have fun."

"Create. Operate. Have fun."

The great French writer, Victor Hugo could have been talking about us when he wrote, “The human soul has still greater need of the ideal than the real. It is by the real that we exist, it is by the ideal that we live.”

In our role as an entrepreneur, we have “greater need of the ideal”, which is our vision, our passion. As the operator of a business, “it is by the real that we exist,” which are the operating fundamentals we must practice.

We must be able to move successfully between these two dimensions as we create, operate and grow our businesses successfully. Too much ideal and we have no critical mass. Too much real and we have nothing new, too little excitement and probably not much fun.

The ideal and the real: Create - operate - have fun.

Thanks for being part of my community. I’ll see you on the radio and the Internet.