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Do you prefer achievement or success?

What’s the difference between success and achieve? Webster is unable to define either word without the other.

If there’s no difference, why don’t we use achieve more to describe wealth, fame, status, credentials, etc.? Perhaps it’s because success is a noun and achieve is a verb, and nouns are handier than verbs.

But grammar isn’t the only reason success is more popular. Even achievement, the noun cousin of achieve, isn’t as preferred when describing accomplishment.

Perhaps early on, success just had better PR than achievement. Today success is synonymous with celebrating at the finish line, holding the trophy or the check, while achievement has more of a work and effort connotation. But don’t you have more memories of the journey of work and effort toward your goals than of the high fives at the end?

Legendary actress, Helen Hayes (1900-1993), said, “Always strive for achievement; forget about success.” But are there benefits to focusing more on the virtues of achievement? My friend, Dr. Gene Griessman says there are.

In his audiotape, “The Path to High Achievement,” Griessman identifies common characteristics of high achievement and how they’re in evidence long before anyone flourishes a checkered flag. Here are five of those characteristics, each followed by my thoughts.

1. The power of self-knowledge.
Knowing your strengths and weaknesses may be the most important characteristic to seeking excellence. High achievers regularly critique themselves and make adjustments.

2. Time consciousness.
Like soybeans or gold, time is a commodity. And although not traded in any market, any billionaire will tell you that time is more precious than gold. High achievers don’t waste time.

3. Persistence.
Stick-to-itiveness is a real word and a handy noun coined in 1884, meaning dogged perseverance. High achievers personify stick-to-itiveness.

4. The power of decision.
Indecision is the Kryptonite of achievement. History has shown that an army with a poor battle plan boldly executed can defeat a greater force tentatively deployed.

5. Learn from mistakes.
No one likes failure, but high achievers recognize the value of setbacks and actually leverage them in the quest for excellence. Failure is the abiding harness mate of achievement, and high-achievers expect to always be hitched to both.

No one lives their life in the winner’s circle. Strive for success, but focus on achievement.

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Check out my latest segment on The Small Business Advocate® Show about why achievement isn’t used to describe accomplishment more than success? I talk about the similarity and differences between success and achievement, and to recommend thinking more about the latter. Click the link below to listen!

Offering evidence in praise of achievement

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The truth about small business retirement plans

One of the most intuitive ways to think about the experience of small business owners as they start, run and grow their businesses is to compare it to raising a teenager.

A small business is like a teenager in two ways: 1) You always love it, but you don’t always like it;and 2) it always has its hand out for more money. And never is the second example truer than when you should be funding a retirement plan separate from future expectations from company assets.

As in the past, we recently polled small business owners again about retirement planning with this question: “Will you contribute to a qualified retirement plan this year?” We learned that 42% of our respondents are funding a plan, but the other 58% either aren’t able to fund their plan or don’t have one. By the way, these percentages have not improved since the last survey.

There are three reasons why small business owners don’t fund a retirement plan:

  1. The business never achieves the financial critical mass necessary for the owner to carve out the income to fund a plan. This is true for too many small businesses.
  2. They convince themselves that the business will provide for them in retirement, which is handy when you’re trying to justify paying the business first. Sometimes this works out, but sadly, most of the time it doesn’t.
  3. They never get started budgeting for a retirement contribution.

There are many ways the federal government hinders small businesses, but providing pre-tax retirement programs is not one of them. Indeed, there are several qualified plans that allow a small business owner to provide for their own retirement with tax-deferred contributions. Plus several include setting employees up on the same plan for their benefit while helping you attract better employees and keep them.

Here’s a partial list of prominent plans that cover most small businesses: The traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) is about to turn 40. The Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) and the Savings Incentive Match Plan for Employees (SIMPLE) both include employee participation, as does the traditional 401k.

Be sure to check with a qualified retirement advisor to see which one is best for you. Also, IRS.gov has extensive resources that will educate you.

You might sell your business for a lot of money one day, but just in case, take advantage of one of the tax-deferred retirement plans.

Make the commitment; budget for and start funding a retirement plan this year.

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This week on The Small Business Advocate Show® I reveal even more challenges that small business owners face when planning for retirement. Click the link below to listen to the segment.


Three reasons small business owners don’t plan for retirement

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Use the power of storytelling to grow your business

Cogito ergo sum. French philosopher Rene Descartes proposed this idea in 1637, which translates to “I think, therefore I am.” Certainly the power of abstract thought is what separates humans from other animals.

Anthropologists now believe Homo sapiens succeeded, unlike other members of the genus Homo, Neanderthals and Cro-Magnon for example, because our brains had a greater capacity for speech and language. Today Descartes might have modified his philosophy to “I think and speak, therefore I am.”

In “Wealth of Nations,” Adam Smith proposed the written word as one of the three great human inventions. But long before humans were writing we were telling stories. And these stories – told, memorized and retold over millennia – became the headwaters of human development. We humans love to tell stories almost as much as we love to listen to them.

Another thing that’s older than writing is the marketplace. Long before Madison Avenue ad copy, merchants were verbalizing the value and benefits of their wares. Surely early business storytelling was the origin of modern selling skills.

In 1965, Intel’s co-founder Gordon Moore made an observation that became Moore’s Law: “Computer processing power doubles every two years.” But in his 1982 watershed book “Megatrends,” futurist John Naisbitt posed this paradoxical prophecy: “The more high tech we create, the more high touch we will want.”

So what does all of this mean? It means that in a time of rapidly compounding technology generations, the most successful businesses will consistently deliver high touch to customers with one of our oldest traits – the telling of a story. Here is Blasingame’s Three Cs of Business Storytelling:

Connect – Use stories to connect with prospects and convert them into customers.

Convey – Use stories to convey your expertise, relevance, humanity and values.

Create – Use stories to create customer memories that compel them to come back.

Storytelling is humanity in words. And since small businesses are the face and voice of humanity in the marketplace, we have a great advantage in the Age of the Customer. No market sector can execute the Three Cs of Business Storytelling to evoke powerful human feelings more than small businesses.

And regardless of how they’re delivered, stories don’t have to be long. I just told you five different ones in the first half of this article.

The Holy Grail of storytelling is when someone else tells your business’s story to others.

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On The Small Business Advocate® Show I recently talked about growing your small business with the power of storytelling. My segment dives deeper into the topic of maximizing the growth of your business. Click the link below to listen.

Grow your business with the power of storytelling - with Jim Blasingame

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Managing the three clocks of small business

“Time Is On My Side,” is the title of one of the classic rock ’n’ roll songs performed by Mick Jaggerand the legendary English band, The Rolling Stones.

This bold statement works in a song, but for small businesses … not so much. The reason is because of the complicated dynamic between time and our most precious asset, cash.

In the marketplace, there are actually three different clocks at work that every business uses: one for operating expenses, one for sales and one for cash. Let’s take a look at how these three clocks impact your small business.

Operating Expense Clock
Every month like clockwork, regardless of sales volume, cash collections or profitability, payroll must be met, rent must be paid, taxes must be remitted, plus phone, utilities, insurance bills, etc., must also be paid. The Operating Expense Clock is hardwired to Greenwich, England for accuracy within a nanosecond per millennium, and nothing stops it short of a global, thermonuclear holocaust coinciding with a direct hit from Haley’s comet.

The only way to influence this clock is through operating efficiencies – you won’t be billed for what you don’t buy.

Sales Clock
This clock is powered by the customer relationships you’ve created so sales result each month. You project when each sale will occur by qualifying prospects and attributing a clock to each potential transaction so that you can budget future sales volume and meet your cash requirements.

How the Sales Clock operates is completely logical and intuitive, but it only works in your favor when the purchase requirements of customers have been met.

Cash Clock
What is not logical or intuitive is the Cash Clock and its relationship with the other two. Think of it like this: Cash is to sales as snow is to cold: You can have cold without snow, but you can’t have snow without cold. You can have sales without cash receipts, but you can’t have cash receipts without sales. And expenses are like weather – you get some every day.

But what hits small business owners hard is that for every glitch in the mainspring of the Sales Clock, there are 1,000 potential sprocket failures that slow or stop the Cash Clock. Consequently, the Cash Clock requires constant maintenance.

Murphy’s Law lives inside the Cash and Sales Clocks, but the Operating Expense Clock is immune to this insidious law and rocks on just like The Rolling Stones.

Small business success requires understanding the three clocks of the marketplace.

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Check out my latest segment from The Small Business Advocate Show below. I go into more detail about managing the clocks in your small business

Managing the three clocks of small business

Check out more of Jim’s great content HERE!

Take this week’s poll HERE!

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America should have a National Small Business Day

Some say Matthew Maguire is the father of Labor Day – others say it was Peter McGuire. Both cared greatly for an important segment of the marketplace, its workers.

Regardless of paternity, such a day was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, when members of the CLU took an unpaid day off to demonstrate solidarity and, of course, have picnics.

In 1884, President Cleveland designated the first Monday in September as Labor Day and an official federal holiday.

In 1898, Samuel Gompers, then head of the American Federation of Labor, called Labor Day, “The day when toilers’ rights and wrongs would be discussed … that workers may lay down their tools for a holiday … touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.”

Alas, entrepreneurs aren’t organized like our unions, probably because we’re too busy making payroll. There is no official Small Business Owners Day set aside by the government as a holiday to salute the few who do so much for so many; a day to honor the real marketplace heroes, small business owners.

There actually is a small business week when the U.S. Small Business Administration recognizes the “creme de la creme” of entrepreneurs in America. But it’s not a federal holiday, and not always the same week each year.

Labor Day was created primarily to recognize union members. Today, this group represents barely 11% of total workers and has declined to less than 7% of the private sector.

Small businesses represent over 98% of all U.S. businesses, produce over half of the U.S. GDP, and sign the FRONT of the paychecks of over half (70 million) of all U.S. workers. Let’s see: big deal on Labor Day; but no Small Business Day. What’s wrong with this picture?

So, what’s the answer?

Let’s celebrate Small Business Day as no other national holiday has been: on a Sunday, to save payroll expense. August is the month-of-choice because that’s when politicians are home on recess. This way they can practice casting their pearls before small business owners in preparation for eating barbeque with the unions on Labor Day.

To paraphrase Samuel Gompers, small business owners deserve a day for which these signers-of-the-front-of-paychecks have their rights and wrongs discussed; that the small employers of our day may not only lay down their challenges for a holiday, but also touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.

It’s time for a National Small Business Owners Day.

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I talked more about creating a National Small Business Owners Day today on my radio program, The Small Business Advocate. Click here to download or listen.

Check out more great SBA content HERE!




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