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Archive for the 'Entrepreneurship' Category

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.

How to spot entrepreneurs in their natural habitat

If you venture into the marketplace jungle, you may be able to observe that rare wild creature, the entrepreneur, in his or her natural environment (darting is not necessary, entrepreneurs are very gentle - just rub their stomachs). As you study them, you will find levels of vision, curiosity, courage, tenacity, and faith. Here’s what to look for in order to identify this elusive critter:

Vision: Entrepreneurs see things and consider the possibilities before they exist, even as the world is telling them, “It won’t work.” When entrepreneurs are deep into their vision they go into what their families call a “zone,” which is when it’s easiest to slip up on them.

Curiosity: Entrepreneurs ask questions other humans don’t. They can’t help it. If someone asks you a question and you have no idea what they are talking about, you are probably having a close encounter with an entrepreneur. Don’t be irreverent; you might be at ground-zero of the 21st century equivalent of Velcro or the micro chip.

Courage: Entrepreneurs attempt things that other human species won’t. As you peer through the triple canopy at your subject, look for death-defying acts in the face of conventional wisdom. Entrepreneurs eat conventional wisdom for breakfast.

Tenacity: Entrepreneurs keep trying when other humans give up. They have a high pain threshold, which when combined with a visceral desire that can only be compared to the maternal instinct, delivers a primal display of tenacity which often is frightening to other humans. If the entrepreneur you are observing is crouching, lie down quickly. You probably aren’t in danger, but fainting is a possibility.

Faith: Entrepreneurs believe in themselves and their vision. The great writer and even greater curmudgeon, H.L. Mencken, once said, “Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the illogical.” That’s our entrepreneur! If you see someone demonstrating an inordinate commitment to an “illogical belief,” congratulations. You’ve found your entrepreneur.

Catch and release, please.

Entrepreneurs are modern day Merlins

Merlin was a wizard.  No small credential that.

But the most fascinating thing about King Arthur’s mentor was that, according to legend, he lived his life backwards; he came from the future. You might say his life was going the wrong way down a one-way world.  Poor Merlin; he already knew how things were going to turn out.
If Merlin showed up on your doorstep today would you want to know what he could tell you? Not me. Where would the fun be in knowing how your plans were going to turn out before you implemented them? Whether you’re a hell-bent-for-leather entrepreneur with everything hanging in the balance on the validity of your vision, or a part-time practitioner taking a tiny chance in just one aspect of your business, wouldn’t knowing the future be, well, un-entrepreneurial?
Entrepreneurs are the modern-day wizards, but in a sort of reverse-Merlin way:  We come from the past to influence the future. Like Merlin, we use what we have learned to know what’s coming next. But unlike Merlin, we get to imagine and create what has never existed. Merlin had some pretty cool powers, but I would rather be an entrepreneur.
In our one-way world, entrepreneurs drive forward while always keeping the rear-view mirror perspective in focus. Soren Kierkegaard, the famous 19th century Danish philosopher, spoke of this when he said, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.”  Sounds like he knew us, doesn’t it?
Now go pull that sword out of the stone.  You can do it!

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.