Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Not getting paid? It's probably your own fault!

Extending credit, that is allowing your customers to buy your products and services with the promise of payment later, can dramatically increase your sales in certain industries.  Customers tend to buy more product per order and order more frequently from your business if they can pay for those goods and services at a more convenient time.  Package deals, case quantities and even a full truck-load of merchandise are more palatable when payment doesn’t have to happen on the spot.  And while extending credit can help you sell more product, it can also help your customers better manage their inventory, reduce costs by buying in quantity and better utilize cash during the normal cash flow cycles of their businesses.  Extending credit to customers can really be a win-win situation, and in some industries, is necessity if you want to compete in the marketplace.
And for every positive reason for extending credit, I’ll be we can come up with a corresponding negative reason why not to do so.  The fact is, if you mismanage your accounts receivable, you’re going to get burned—and in most cases, it’ll be your own fault.
Let’s face it, sometimes people don’t pay.  It may be that they intended to pay, but mismanaged their own business to the point that they ran out of cash or are about to fold.  Every once in a while, and in my experience this is VERY seldom, people request credit with the intention of not paying.  There’s really very little you can do to prevent the occasional bad debt loss.  It’s a cost of doing business and should be included in your yearly budget.
However, systemic bad debt loss can be prevented if you properly manage your credit policies.  And the first place to start is by actually having a credit policy.  Determine under what circumstances you will offer credit and the kind of information needed to establish a credit account.  This really isn’t that difficult.  Look around at other businesses in your industry or related industries and see what kind of credit policies they have in place.  At a minimum, require a credit application with detailed information about the business and owner.  If you don’t typically use purchase orders in your business, you should also include a promise to pay.  This section should include any and all purchases and require the signature of an officer of the customer company.  If you utilize purchase orders, you can skip this step.  Some companies try to sneak a personal guaranty statement into their promise to pay.  I find that this generally prevents getting a signature on the application needlessly and doesn’t really grant you much protection in the form you are seeking anyway.  If you need a personal guaranty to sell the account, create a separate legal document for that purpose.  And remember, in most states, getting the signature of only one spouse is practically worthless.
After you collect the information from the customer, look at it.  It sounds simple enough, but many companies and credit personnel think that the process is about getting the application signed and a file created.  And while that’s a great start, it’s just a start.  Check the references from their other trade vendors and analyze the information.  If the prospective customer pays their other trade vendors in a timely fashion, they’ll probably pay you on time.  Don’t think that they will treat you differently though.
Based on the information contained in the application and from credit references, establish a credit limit that reasonably meets the needs of your customer.  My approach has always been to try to meet the needs of your customer.  If they are requesting a $10,000 credit line, analyze the information in terms of justifying that amount.  If you are comfortable with that request based on their information, then grant the request.  Send the customer, in written or electronic form, a summary of their credit line and your requirements for payment.
Before ever selling the first item on credit, make sure the customers understands your payment terms.  You’re selling valuable products and services at a fair price.  They should expect to pay you on time.  Don’t be afraid to tell them that you expect timely payment.  Start doing business with the expectation that they will pay on time and that they should not expect to get additional products and services if their account is over limit or late.
After the first sale, call the customer and confirm that the order was received and copies of all paperwork are in order.  You should reiterate that you appreciate their business and that you’ll call again right before payment is expected to make sure everything is on track for timely payment on their account.  Then, right before payment is expected, call the customer again and actually confirm that everything is on track for payment.  Create the expectation that you will be paid on time.  Follow-up with the first few orders to insure that a new customer is happy with your service, receiving their paperwork and that payment will be timely.
Training your customers to pay you on time is half the battle in accounts receivable collections.  Helping them keep their account in order and payment on time is actually a valuable service to them and helps you generate more sales.  If you have to put their account on hold for late payment, they can’t buy additional products and services and tends to create hostility.  You can prevent this by properly managing the account and keeping it in order from the start.  At the first signs of problems, talk with the customer and help them through their issues.  Letting their account get into bad shape only creates a bigger problem in the future.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Blue Rain Innovations opens at 16 Main

My friends Andy and Kristy Stewart opened a studio at the art community 16 Main Gallery at 16 Main Street in Madison.  Blue Rain Innovations studios opened on Saturday, November 20th.  Their work is primarily based on antique and old silver dinnerware crafted into a variety of artful objects, jewelery and uniquely unusual usefulness.
Andy, who by day owns Mission Ready Supply (www.missionreadysupply.com a service disabled veteran owned  HUBZoned certified small business) does the heavy lifting of preparing the pieces with a collection of hardware and tools that would make Norm Abram proud.  These tools seem more mechanic shop than art gallery, but in the right hands they craft beauty out of what was once discarded. 
Once the rough cutting, heating and reshaping is completed, Kristy takes over.  Real creativity is on display as she takes a common eating utensil and turns it into a clever slide necklace, earrings, napkin rings or a soon to be perfected photo/recipe holder.  I just don't have that kind of artistic vision to be able to see the final piece.  Creative souls like Kristy can see the finished product in her heard and make it come to life.  Where I see spoons and beads and wire, she sees unique and lovely adornment.  This is why my wife and I are in business but spend so much time admiring the work of folks like Andy and Kristy Stewart. 

If you have a chance, spend a little time on next Saturday at the 16 Main Gallery and see what Andy and Kristy are up to as well as the other artists, photographers and potters.  There is an interesting mix of artists and mediums on display and something is sure to pique your interest.

Monday, November 8, 2010

More Top 10s for Huntsville

Huntsville ranked 7th among the top 15 regions in the latest Site Selection magazine survey of site selection consultants.  Huntsville is one of the smallest cities on the list, but is still recognized as an attractive location to locate a new business or expand an existing business.  The survey queried the site selection consultants on their pick for the top metro areas for investment.  The top 10 cities on the list were:

1. Dallas, TX
2. Atlanta, GA
3. Charlotte, NC
4. Houston, TX
5. Indianapolis, IN
6. St. Louis, MO
7. Huntsville, AL
8. Charleston, SC
9. Greenville-Spartanburg, SC

In addition, Alabama was ranked 10 in the top 10 states with best business climates as ranked by Site Selection magazine.  While Alabama was bested by other southern state like North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia and Louisiana, landing in the top 10 is still a prized location.  Alabama ranks especially well in the aerospace, automotive, wood products and green energy industries. 
As an entrepreneur and one who works with and watches the entrepreneurial community, these rankings confirm the positive environment that residents of Huntsville recognize as business as usual in Alabama and especially in Huntsville.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Let the Tsunami Begin!

No, not the destructive wave of dark water that destroys everything in its path, but the wave of start-ups that will spring up all over the country bringing jobs and creating wealth.
With the change in political direction brought on by the mid-term elections, expect to see a change in attitude and expectations from business owners and potential entrepreneurs alike.  As I coach with business owners and speak with entrepreneurs, the thing I’ve been hearing over and over is their fear of the unknown and how they are waiting on the sideline for a more certain future before investing their cash.  In fact, I’ve heard more than a few times an even more dire fear from business owners about the direction of the economy and our tax structure based on the actions of our current congress.
The new Congress will not be seated until January, but the change in direction coming will give some certainty to business owners who have had none lately.  Business profits have been generally good but we haven’t seen the investment in new plant and equipment or expansion that typically follows because of that uncertainty.
While I’m a strong conservative, this site is not about politics.  It’s about helping entrepreneurs turn their dreams into profitable businesses.  The political climate has cleared a little and the future may seem a little brighter for business interests this morning.  The key for hopeful entrepreneurs is to continue to do your research and test your idea for viability.  Don’t think that just because the political environment has changed that you’ll automatically be successful.  It doesn’t work that way.  And a bad idea is still a bad idea even in a great economy.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Elevator Pitch

What's your elevator pitch?  Do you have an engaging appeal?

Most entrepreneurs have really lousy elevator pitches.  They drone on and on listing the services they offer without ever truly engaging the recipient.  What they fail to realize is IT'S NOT ABOUT YOU.  It's about your client and what's important to them.  If you are listing services and features, you'll put your potential customer or contact to sleep faster than reading the Windows program manual.

Every once in a while I'll hear a really good elevator pitch.  Think yours is good?  If you live in North Alabama, why not enter it in the BizTech Elevator Pitch Contest on November 19th.  You'll need to get your entry in by Today, so get to it.  You can download an entry form and get all the contest rules by going to www.biztech.org .

Don't feel like entering the contest or don't live in North Alabama?  Then let's hear them here.  Send me the link to you giving your elevator pitch on YouTube and I'll give you some feedback.  If it's a real winner, I'll post it here on my blog.

Let the pitches begin...

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Are Business Plans Still Relevant?

There's a lot of discussion on business blogs, LinedIn, Internet sites, financing groups and other places about the relevance of business plans in today's times.  Many of the VC organizations suggest that a formal business plan is no longer necessary as their participants and other angel groups don't bother to read them.

Maybe it's just the circles I run in versus the circles of the big NYC, Chicago, LA guys, but almost every financing group I know (including angel groups) require a business plan to even get in the door.

But aside from financing requirements, I believe that the planning activity is the most important factor, followed by an actual written business or strategic plan.  In fact, I commented on one of the LinkedIn groups the following:

What's important is researching the market to determine the industry trends, competition and customers, considering how you'll handle marketing and completing a viability analysis. Business owners need to have some sort of reasonable expectation that the business model is viable before launching. Anything short of that is just gambling. Saying you have to get to market quick is not an excuse to skip the market research, unless you're already an expert in that business. If you've been working in the industry, you may already have much of this research at hand. But my experience is that most people who say they have this information are in fact just lazy and don't want to take the time to properly analyze the market. 

What do you have to say on this topic?  Do you believe that the business plan is a thing of the past or an integral part of a start-up?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Rocket City Sitters - Madison, AL Startup of the Year!


My friends at Rocket City Sitters were honored by the Madison, Alabama Chamber of Commerce recently as the 2010 Start Up of the Year.  From L-R are Nick Weseman, Adrienne Stephens and Erica Weseman.  Congratulations on the award, you guys are doing a great job!

RCS provides short-terms childcare in the Huntsville-Madison county area.  they hire only trustworthy sitters who are certified to provide quality care for your kids.  They also work with organizations such as churches and businesses and events like a wedding or reunion.  No more need to stay home on a Friday night because you can't find a sitter.  Contact Rocket City Sitters today to schedule a sitter by phone at 256-272-1727.
Check out Rocket City Sitters on-line at www.RocketCitySitters.com .

Monday, September 27, 2010

Store Management Complete

Store Management Complete, By Frank Farrington. Published originally in 1911, this version 1922 by Byxbee Publishing Co.

I found this little book  (it's 4.5" x 7.5") in an antique shop in Decatur, Alabama a few weeks ago.  I love books and couldn't turn down a nearly 90 year old instruction manual for running a retail operation.  It's a funny little book, but also very interesting in it's common sense approach to business.  For entrepreneurs, it lays it all on the line in the first sentence of the book.

"It is the man himself that makes or mars the business."

Couldn't have said it better myself.  Mr. Farrington goes on to say that a business can have every advantage, properly stocked shelves, great location, good price, excellent marketing and promotion, but if the business owner doesn't know what he's doing, he'll run it into the ground in no time.

It was really the last sentence on the first page that I found most interesting:  "A merchant needs to be an all around man, a man who knows much about many things, who can himself do any part of the store work in need be, in order to show an employee how it should be done, and a man who can make himself agreeable to people and exhibit a high degree of proficiency in salesmanship."

I think he just described a small business owner.  In modern language, someone who can wear many hats.  Doesn't that describe most any small business owner's job?  Before you can, in Mr. Farrington's world, become a financier, you have to start small and do most of the actual work yourself.  As you grow and develop your business into a real business enterprise, you can start to hire employees to do the actual work and you can manage the direction and finances of the business. 

As a financier, you are managing the investment that is your business.  As a merchant, you're managing the store and the people and doing much of the actual work.  Just like Horace Vandergelder, the grumpy half-a-millioniare merchant in Yonkers, New York in Hello Dolly, we envision a merchant with a tweed suit and an apron.  He's the classic business owner and manager.

This book is in remarkable condition to be 88 years old and is delightful in its language.  I'm sure I'll have much more to say as read Mr. Farrington's Store Management Complete.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

An Artists View

My friend and artist, Rick White, drew this caricature of me during a presentation I did at the St. Joseph the Worker Job Club in Madison, Alabama.  The job club is a networking and support organization to help displaced workers find jobs and is supported by the St. John the Baptist Catholic Church.  It's an excellent group and quite well respected in the community.  Anyway, my fried Rick drew this little caricature of me.  I especially like that he made me skinny and with hair!  You can view Rick's work at www.drawtolive.com .

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sins of Entrepreneurism

The dream of business ownership is like an addiction running through the veigns of entrepreneurs.  We crave the start-up and break out into cold sweats at the very thought of a new business opportunity.  When done properly, a start-up is a wonderful thing, flourishing with profits and cash flow.  When mangled and mismanaged, the beauty tarnishes and becomes a dirty needle driving us to a metaphorical over dose.

So what happens that causes us to lose our way and take what we thought was such a wonderful idea and turn in into such a mess?  For many unenlightened entrepreneurs, they take their eye off the contest and start coveting the prize.  Instead of focusing their serious intention on building an enterprise, they lose focus and just create a job.  

For some, being self-employed is just fine.  Just understand that being self-employed is not a business.  Being self-employed is still trading hours for money.   The dream of entrepreneurship for many is realizing fame, fortune, liesure, travel and a healthy cashe of possessions.  That’s the prize for creating a well-run enterprise.   Let me say up front that I too hope to realize those prizes.  There’s nothing inherintly wrong with any of those things.  But they only come at the end, after you’ve created the enterprise.  The problem is, many hopeful entrepreneurs take their eye off the start-up and start focusing on the prize, before the enterprise is even established. For these people, the prize becomes a poison and bitter reality instead of the comfort.

For these lost entrepreneurial souls, fame turns out to be the dog remembering you, for your family has long forgotten your face since they never see you.  Your fortune becomes a huge pay cut, the result of a poorly run business.  Your liesure has been traded for living at your office.  You trade your 40 hour per week corporate job for an 80+ hour per week self-employment nightmare.  Your travel has become nothing more than a mind-numbing commute from your home to your office.  Your possessions are not exotic cars and vacation homes, but accounts payable, credit lines and inventory.   

How did you get yourself into this nightmare?  For most, the answer is in conducting the proper research, developing a solid marketing plan and testing for viability.  This simple process would have told many business owners that their business model was flawed and needed adjustment.  Unfortunately, they never really did any business planning.   By focusing on the prize and not the process, these starters never really got started…at least not properly.  The process is not complicated, but you do need to follow it.  If you don’t understand the process, get some coaching, find a mentor, or read a good book.  That reminds me, entrepreneurs can buy my new book Business Start-up 101 by visiting www.BusinessStartup101.com or Amazon.com.  If you want to chat, drop me a line.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Business Planning - What Not To Do: Part 4

Verify Viability.

The only thing worse than not doing any research is not verifying viability.  The tools available for entrepreneurs are many and can sometimes feel complex.  I meet many people developing their business plan and doing their market research without a clue of how to prepare a viability analysis.  I’ve got a very simple system called the Three Tools of Financial ViabilityTM.  The tools are available to every business owner or prospective entrepreneur and are fairly simple to use.  The tools consist of an income statement projection, a cash flow report and a break-even analysis.  That’s it.  That’s really all you need to test for financial viability.

The income statement determines how much money you business will make and over what time period.  The cash flow report determines how much cash you’ll need to start and run the business according to your business model.  And the break-even analysis tells you how much business you’ll need to support the level of infrastructure you’re projecting.  Based on the level of business you can ask yourself it that actually makes sense?  In fact, you can use all three tools to determine if your model makes sense.

In the best case scenario, you’ll run the numbers through the Three Tools of Financial ViabilityTM and determine if you like the results.  If not, tweak the business model so that you get a different outcome and run the numbers again.  Keep repeating the process until you like the results or determine that the model, at least in its present form, will not work.  If you like the outcome, you can start writing your business plan.

That’s really all there is to it.  Students who go through my business plan class almost always dread the discussion about income statements.  They think the process is way too complicated for non-accountants.  When I tell them that constructing an incomes statement is the easiest part of the whole class, they laugh, nervously.  Once we finish though, they all agree that they can do this too.

For more information about the business planning and start-up process, get my new book,Business Start-up 101, From Great Idea to Profit…Quick!  It’s coming out in September, but you can pre-order your copy now.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

St. Joseph Job Networking Club

On August 17th I'll be speaking to the St. Joseph the Worker Job Networking Club.  They meet on Tuesdays from 12:30 - 2:00 at the John the Baptist Catholic Church, 1055 Hughes Road, Madison, AL.

I'll be talking about Understanding Entrepreneurship; what's involved in getting ready to be a business owner.  I'm not talking about business plans and bank loans.  I'm discussing getting yourself and your family ready for your self-employment.  We'll discuss family, personal finances, success thinking and action plans.

In addition, I'll let everyone know about the resources available for hopeful entrepreneurs at the Women's Business Center of North Alabama.  I'm a big supporter of the Women's Business Center since I'm on their board of directors and serve as a business coach.  In addition to the work I've been doing in Huntsville, I'm serving as the program manager for a USDA Rural Development grant to serve rural Morgan County.  We teamed up with the Rural Morgan County Industrial Development Board to bring coaching and training to rural Morgan County.

If you have any interest in learning about entrepreneurship, come join us.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Business Planning - What Not To Do: Part 3

Shortcut the research.

Does this really need explanation?  Okay, so it does.  I’ve found that ‘things that go without saying’ should always be said.

You probably know someone who tried to start a business without doing any or adequate research.  You remember them telling you about this fabulous business idea that they came up with and after researching the market, they’ve decided that nobody else has ever had the idea.  The only problem is that you know of at least two other companies who do this same idea and are doing it very well.  What was this person thinking?  They clearly didn’t do any research because the vaguest of internet searches would have turned up their competition.

On the other side of the coin, we’re not trying to solve the remaining six Millennium Prize math problems.  We’re talking about answering a couple of basic market research questions.  

1. Who is the competition and what are they do well and not so well.
2. Who is the customer and be able to describe them in demographic terms
3. What do your customers like and dislike about the product or industry and what do they really want?
4. S.W.O.T. Analysis for your company and the market.

That much research might take you a couple of days or a couple of months, depending on how much time you have to devote to the project and how complicated your market.

For more information about the business planning and start-up process, get my new book, Business Start-up 101, From Great Idea to Profit…Quick!  It’s coming out in September, but you can pre-order your copy now.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Business Planning - What Not To Do: Part 2

Just dive in.

Before diving in head first into water that may only be a few feet deep, take a step back and make a plan.  I’ve developed a process for this business planning activity that I think works very well.  It will save you time and help you define the probability of profit quickly.  You can then tweak your model until you like the outcome or dump the whole idea if it turns out not to be viable.  The process is this:

Market Analysis
  - Competition
  - Customer
  - SWOT
Marketing Plan
Viability Testing

Once you finish with your viability testing iterations, you can move on to identifying and determining some of the more mechanical processes of starting a business such as entity type, location, identification of partners (banks, insurance agents, accountant, attorney and of course consultant).  Only then should you start writing the plan.  If you do all the research and planning, writing the plan will be a snap.  The only question will be how much detail you include.

For more information about the business planning and start-up process, get my new book,Business Start-up 101, From Great Idea to Profit…Quick!  It’s coming out in September, but you can pre-order your copy here .

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Business Planning - What Not To Do: Part 1

Just start writing.

Many new entrepreneurs get started by writing a business plan.  At least they try to start their business by writing a business plan.  And while this is the advice you’ll get from many coaches and consultants, it’s probably not the right way to begin.  Many get stuck after the company description part and don’t know what to write next.  And there’s a good reason why they get stuck, they don’t know what to write.  If it sounds like I'm talking in circles, it's because I am.

Business planning doesn't start with writing a business plan, it ends with writing a business plan.  That's because a business plan is a summary of all the work, planning and research that an entrepreneur has conducted.  It’s not a novel.  You can’t make up the plot as you go.  You have to know the details, before you can sumarize.  After you finish all the research and analysis, confirmed viability and are happy with your business model, THEN you start writing down your plan.

Over the next several entries, I’m going to discuss some things not to do.  I have a specific process that I recommend for entreprenturs getting started on the road to business ownership.  I’ve outlined this plan in my new book, Business Start-up 101, From Great Idea to Profit…Quick! coming out in September.  Click here to pre-order your copy. 

Friday, August 6, 2010

Business Start-up 101

My new book, Business Start-up 101, From Great Idea to Profit...Quick! is due out September 13th.  You can pre-order your copy by September 3rd and receive an autographed copy.  It's a 'how to' guide for entrepreneurs.  You don't need an Ivy League MBA to start a business, you just need to know the rules.  Business Start-up 101 will teach you the rules and help you develop your idea and prepare for success.  It's available fromwwww.BusinessStartup101.com www.BluePointStrategies.com.  After September 3rd it will also be available on Amazon both in print and Kindle format.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Boy Scout Slogan

As I mentioned in my previous post, I love the Boy Scouts.  I spent many years as both a boy participant and an adult leader. Scouting teaches boys important skills and manners that will serve them well as adults and as business leaders.  

The Boy Scout Slogan offers another great opportunity learning opportunity for entrepreneurs and business leaders.  Do a Good Turn Daily.  It seems simple enough.  According to the Scouting literature, that can mean something as simple as a small, thoughtful act like helping a child across a busy street, going to the store for an elderly neighbor or welcoming a new student to your school; or a really big turn like saving a life, helping out after a disaster or working on a conservation project.  It goes on to say that a good turn is more than simple good manners; it is a special act of kindness.

The slogan calls for boys to do a good turn every day.  Now if a boy were to have not only good manners, but also behave with special acts of kindness ever day, that would make for a pretty special boy.  Little old ladies and young children standing on street corners would be clammering for such boys and their demand would be high.  Everyone would want such a boy in their neighborhood.  One and all would lavish praise on such a boy.  He would be a hero among boys.

What if we replace ‘boy’ with ‘company’?  What would happen in the neighborhood, let’s call it a market, if the boy, let’s call him a company, were to act with not only good manners, but also with special acts of kindness, let’s call it superior customer focus, every day?  How would such a company be regarded in the market and by its customers?  It would be an anomoly in the industry.  In fact, such companies do exist, but they are so rare as to have special case studies written about them in business schools because of their unusual behavior.  Books would be written about such companies defining how they do what they do.  Articles would tout the awesomeness of their employees, systems and management.  

So why don’t we, as entrepreneurs, embrace this idea of ‘Do a Good Turn Daily?’  Do we get so hung up in the day-to-day activities of running our little businesses that we forget who our customers are and that this whole process is really about them, not us?  Do we just get tired or worse yet, just don’t care anymore?  Obviously, the answer is different for each of our organizations.  Maybe we should go back to our Mission Statements and Value Statements and see what it is that we’re supposed to be all about.

I think the Boy Scout Slogan reminds us that it’s not about fancy systems and better technology and improved products necessarily.  It’s about serving our customers in a way that makes them happy to do business with us.  It’s about providing value.  It’s about making your customer’s life better.  It’s about special acts of kindness, every day.  That’s not really so hard, is it?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Boy Scout Motto

I have been involved with the Boy Scouts for many years.  While I’m not currently doing any scouting, I was a Cub Scout, Webelo and Boy Scout as a kid.  As an adult, I was an adult volunteer, Assistant Scoutmaster of a Troop in Ohio and started a Cub Scout pack in Georgia.  One of my biggest regrets in life was not working harder as a Boy Scout to get my Eagle Scout rank.  It didn’t mean anything to me as an early teen and baseball and band took over my life as more important activities and I eventually quit attending Scout meetings.  I wish I’d done more.

The Boy Scouts is a fine organization.  They teach boys how to be better students, better stewards of the land, better citizens and better men.  It’s hard to find many critics of the program’s outreach and positive influence on boys.  But I think there’s another great benefit to be gained from Scouting.  It makes better entrepreneurs.

In this series of blog posts, I’ll discuss what entrepreneurs could learn from the Boy Scouts by studying the Boy Scout Motto, the Boy Scout Slogan, the Boy Scout Oath, and the Boy Scout Law.  Those of you who grew up in Scouting are smiling already and can probably jump ahead to the punch line, so let’s begin with the Boy Scout Motto.

The Boy Scout Motto:  Be Prepared!

Need I go on?  Someone asked Robert Baden-Powell, founder of the Boy Scouts in about 1908, “Be prepared for what?”  To which Baden-Powell responded “Why, for any old thing.”  

Baden-Powell wasn’t just thinking about emergencies either.  He thought Scouts should prepare themselves to become good and productive citizens and to be ready in mind and body for any of life’s struggles that might lie ahead.  He wanted Scouts to be prepared for life!  He wanted the boys to live happily and without regret, knowing that they had done their best.  That’s really what Scouting is about, at its core. 

Entrepreneurs could adopt the same approach for their ventures.  Be prepared for business! Anyone who’s worked in business knows that every day brings a new challenge, even for the best run organizations.  For small businesses, the challenge is even greater due to the small staff and many duties fow which each member of the team is responsible.  So how do you ‘Be Prepared’ in your business?

Take time to plan.  Iit’s difficult to run a business when you’re never ahead of the curve.  Only by setting aside a little time for you and your staff to plan for upcoming events and activities, to work on your business instead of in it, will ever be prepared.  What is the vision and goals of the company?  Do you employees know against what to evaluate potential problems or opportunities so that the company can grow and properly support its customers? 

Create an operation's manual.  Working by yourself or with your staff if appropriate, study one piece of your business at a time and define the best practices for that area.  Document the policies governing the activity and procedures by which you’ll get the work done.  Take time to train your existing and new employees in the company policies and procedures.  Think of your business as a franchise.  If you were going to sell franchises in your buisness, how would you set it up?  If you wanted your business to run perfectly without you being there, how would you arrange things? 

Measure your performance.  If you don’t know where you are now, how can you know when you get there?  And where is there?  Create a full-blown system of metrics for your business, or just a corporate dashboard.  Start somewhere.  Measure your performance on a regular basis and share the information with your employees.  Get them involved in the measurement and goal setting process.  It does almost no good for you to set goals and measure your progress in secret.  If you employees know what the goals are and especially if you get them involved in the measurement process and goal setting, they’ll get excited about growing the company into the organization of which you dream.  Employees want to work on something grand.  Create a system that allows them to be part of the process and take pride in their work and they’ll surprise you with their efforts.

NEXT:  What Entrepreneurs Can Learn From The Boy Scout Slogan

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

8 Big Mistakes Small Businesses Make

Do you realize that there are mistakes you can make at various stages of your business’ growth that can be slowly killing it for months or even years if you don’t watch for them?  These mistakes do exist and they are not just reserved for the rookie companies. Many working businesses, including those you might think are “successful” because they’ve been around for 10+ years, are often still making them… and are possibly losing a lot of money and/or wasting a lot of time in the process. 

Although some of these mistakes seem aimed more at service type companies, they really do fit the bill for almost any type of industry.  I’ve done my best with the listings below to give examples to prove it.

  1. Underestimating Project/Service Time - This is a big one and it pertains to service companies as well as companies that sell a product. This is a service company’s bread and butter.  If you don’t estimate your time to perform each and every service in your repertoire, you will get burned and there is little you can do about it but bite the bullet and learn from it.  The best way to estimate time is to do it once yourself or watch your best employee do the task and then throw in a little fudge factor on top of it.  For product companies, time becomes an issue with logistics so be aware!
  2. Not Knowing YOUR Company Numbers - Notice I emphasized the word “your”. It’s a common mistake to use a competitor’s numbers as your pricing gauge without actually knowing why they use those numbers.  Think about the nightmare you will get yourself into if you take a competitor’s price, cut it by 10% and then start selling. What if the competition has a bad pricing structure and is barely making money or even losing money?  What if your costs are more than theirs?  You can use competitor prices as a starting point but you can’t base your whole strategy on it.

    Different industries have their own cost variables and you need to be aware of them for your project or product pricing.  What you pay for a product you are going to sell is not the only cost to have in your head when you are pricing products.  How much your labor and materials cost for a service is only a piece of an hourly rate.  Employees cost more than just salary and not every employee is part of your labor cost.  Every company has insurance in addition to overhead expenditures that need to be part of your price.  Oh, by the way, the big one that many people forget about in their price is the quality factor. What you include as “standard services” or “standard product features” as well as job site etiquette or in store service or warranties all need to go into your pricing.
  3. Not Charging for All of Your Time & Costs - This seems like a ridiculuous statement to some but I bet most business owners will admit that they have given away a little too much of the farm at times.  Hey, there is nothing wrong with giving a little extra here and there to show you care. But either way, that’s not what I’m talking about here. What concerns me are those that put a lot of quality into their work or products or stores and do not cover the cost for it.  As an example, say you run a service company and your competitors don’t do a certain standard service that you do.  You can’t just undercut their price to steal a job; you need to have that cost covered in your rate and advertise the fact that it comes with the price upfront.  Stores undermine themselves, for example, when they put more people on the floor for customer service but don’t charge for it. These things cost you money and when your competitors don’t do them it costs them less money.  Put out better service and then under price them, and your competition just has to wait a little bit for you to fall on your face so they can swoop back in.

    As a business owner, you need to believe that you are providing your clients worthwhile wares that deserve to be paid for.  If you get the chance to explain why your prices are higher, then take that opportunity and do it.  If they don’t like the fact that you include things that others charge extra for later or that you treat them better, then they are most likely completely price shoppers.  You don’t want them as regular customers anyway.
  4. Not Getting Paid Fast Enough - That’s right, the old cash flow issue.  As long as you are actually making enough money to pay the bills, this problem can be solved, prevented or at least made to be not as bad as it could be.  Here’s the deal:  First off all, bill customers very promptly.  It is very common for a small business to not have the procedures or systems in place to get invoices generated and out the door in a timely fashion.  Again, this would seem unlikely since that’s the reason why we are doing the work- to get paid. But it is very easy for the people responsible for getting this info to the billing people to be too busy to get it there or not have enough organization to give it to them the right way.

    The second part to slowing down or stopping a regular cash flow crunch is to make the quickest payment deals possible with customers and the slowest possible with vendors and employees.  If there is any way not to pay employees any more than twice a month, you better do it.  Contractors always have an issue with this. If you must pay weekly, then tell them before they are hired that they will be getting the first week held back, essentially buying you a week.

    Part three involves credit.  If your company can get a credit card, then get it. This allows for certain important things to be bought (that you can afford) that might come up during a cash flow crunch.  Better yet, especially if you have no choice but to deal with 45+ day customer payments, do your best to get a company line of credit.  This is a must if you plan on selling to the government or doing commercial service work.  These clients often have 60 to 90 day wait periods. 
  5. Failure to Have Solid Systems and Procedures in Place - Too many procedures (known as “red tape”) is the reason why many people start their own business in the first place.  Unfortunately, having no procedures and systems in place at all is not an alternative.  Depending on the type of industry, business owners must come to a happy medium or chaos and the unknown will ensue. Some basic examples where procedures or systems are needed include billing, collections, payroll, human resources (interviewing, hiring, vacations, benefits, job responsibilities, etc.), manufacturing, operating equipment, maintaining equipment, inventory, sales calls/visits and logistics to name a few.

    Even a one person show needs to have some admin procedures in place.  This will make it easier to hire temps and subcontractors and control what they are doing for you.  Without at least a watered down version of a system or procedure to do everyday work, you will be to blame for causing many major headaches as your company grows.  I can’t emphasize how important this is for when you bring on new employees.  I’m sure you heard this before, but I am also a big proponent of having an employee handbook even for one employee.  It’s amazing the trouble people can cause business owners just because they allow you to pay them.
  6. Spending Advertising Money Just to Say You Advertise - I would almost rather see my clients not advertise then to spend without regard to tracking the results.  There is no point in a marketing campaign if you do not put things in place that allow you to measure how well the plan is working.  The other wasteful part of marketing is not tracking their previously successful campaigns.  Why some people think that just because a $400 dollar a month ad worked once very well for one busy season, that it will automatically work every year after that is beyond me.
  7. Spreading Yourself Too Thin - This is a classic mistake made by every entrepreneur. The key is to figure out when you are at that “wearing too many hats” point and start getting some help.  The solution here is to know your strengths and to be able see when you are not performing the duties that demand these skills.  If you are the best sales person on the company, you can’t get caught up in day-to-day operations.  If you do, sales will slip and eventually you won’t have any operations to worry about.  Think about this to help you figure out if you are spread too thin: Did you really go into business for yourself to work 80+ hours a week?
  8. Not Getting Help Soon Enough - Set goals to know when to hire people to take over where you are light on knowledge. Not getting help or waiting too long can kill a company.  Most people who start a business do it because they are good at the technical end or the sales end.  If you know the best way to make a widget, then your strength is in production and that is where your time should be spent.  Hire an outside company or consultant to take care of the sales and marketing and then hire inside when you can afford someone full time.  Don’t be something to your company that you are not. It will only hold you back.

    The three big issues people like to tackle themselves but usually are least knowledgeable about are legal issues, accounting/bookkeeping issues and daily operations issues.  The odds are that these three things are your weakest link so if you don’t have a partner that has the background for these subjects, then be prepared to get help as soon as possible.  It’s preferable that you do this before you start a business.

Although looking for these problems at any time is a good idea, the end of a year or season is an excellent business interval to make sure you are not making these errors.  Take the time, or make the time, to fix these problems. If you don’t know how to reverse the problems, then get some help.  If you really don’t have enough time to either figure out if you have these issues or know they are there and can’t break away long enough to do it right, then get some help.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Systems Thinking

I’ve been a follower of the ultimate systems guy and small business guru, Michael E. Gerber, for many years.  In fact, I regularly teach the principles and encourage would-be entrepreneurs to read his most famous work, The E-Myth Revisited, Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work And What To Do About It.  If you ever hope to ever enjoy the lifestyle and financial success that likely drove you into your venture in the first place, you’ll need to embrace this idea of systems thinking.  The idea goes something like this:  Just because you are good a doing some activity, doesn’t mean you can run a business that provides that activity.  For example, just because you are really good a making homemade pies and cakes, doesn’t mean you can run a bakery.  That’s the idea and story of The E-Myth Revisited.    If you don’t know Michael Gerber or have never read this book, I encourage you to do so.  In fact, it’s number one on my list of required reading for entrepreneurs.
Your goal as a starting or new business owner is to graduate from being a technician (someone who is good at doing a specific job or task, like an engineer or salesman or accountant) to being a manager (the one who manages the whole operation) to being an entrepreneur (one whose job it is to promote and position the business for growth and prosperity, but not the person who does the individual jobs or manages the people who do the jobs).   A technician can do a specific job or possesses a certain set of skills.  Your job as a business owner is to identify the best way to perform your job and then document that system of performance so that any employee with the basic skill set for the job could step in and also perform the job at an acceptable level.  If you ever want to graduate from being the worker, you’ll have to use your skills to create a system for doing your job that can be taught to others.  In fact, you should approach your whole business from the point of view that you will franchise the business eventually.  You likely will not actually franchise the business, but you should approach the management of your company with that perspective.  That way, you can create a company that will run just as well when you are standing there as when you are not.  This is really critical if you ever hope to be an owner and not an employee.  
Think about your business in relation to one of the most famous franchises in the world; McDonald’s.  Everything at McDonald’s is systemized.  From how to prepare the store for opening in the morning to how to close it down at night, everything is documented and systemized.  I was fortunate enough to work at McDonald’s while I was in high school and college.  I say fortunate, because not only did I have a job that provided needed funds to pay for my college education, but I also learned about business management from the experts in franchasing.  While you can’t factor out every behavioral issue of employees, you can create a business that makes excellent profits that’s based on a system that allows for incredibly high turnover of unskilled workers.
Hopefully, your business will not have 200 -300% turnover rates.  But if it does, your systems will allow you to deal with that in a way that still insures your business will operate in the same ways that it would if you were performing the jobs yourself. 
Much of this systems thinking approach doesn’t really take place until your business is up and running.  However, as you design and organize your business for the first time, think about how you want to organize your operations and what is the best and most efficient way to perform the individual tasks.  This is an excellent opportunity to get some of this work done.  As you progress, you can continue to collect data and ideas for organizing and systemizing your processes when the time is right.  

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Starting & Developing Your Business

Blue Point Strategies Chris Gattis will lead a workshop on June 26, 2010 for the Leadership Empowerment Resource Group.  The workshop, located at the Kingdom Builders Conference Center at 2049 Max Luther Drive, Huntsville, Alabama will run from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM.  The registration fee is only $20, but seating is limited.  Call (256) 326-0824 or (256) 270-8594 to register before all seats are filled.  The workshop, Starting & Developing Your Business will cover entrepreneurship, the mechanics of starting a business entity, writing a business plan and securing financing for your new business.  The workshop is suggested for any would-be business owner thinking of starting a business.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Michael E. Gerber Visits Huntsville

Michael Gerber, business author (The E-Myth Revisited) and small business guru visited Huntsville the week of May 11th.  We enjoyed several promotional events in preparation for his event on September 15th at the Von Braun Center.  Michael and his wife Luz Delia are super people and I really enjoyed getting to spend some time with them.  At age 74, Michael still has amazing energy.  If you are interested in attending the event on September 15th, visit the Women's Business Center of North Alabama web site at www.WBCNA.org. 

Friday, May 21, 2010

Competitive Intelligence For Startups

One of the key questions in the business planning process is determining what’s happening in your market.   Trying to determine who your real competition is and what their strengths and weaknesses are can be a real challenge.  Where you stack-up against your competition will be a key to your success in the market.  Competitive intelligence is the process of defining, gathering and distributing information about the products, services, customers, strategies and capabilities of your customers and the market environment in which you operate.  Once collected, this information must be compiled and presented to management to make strategic dedicions for your organization.  Just collecting the information isn’t enough.  If you file the data away in a folder on the server or in a file drawer never to see the light of day, you’ve wasted your time and efforts.  The information is only valuable when used as a tool to better manage your own organizations strategic efforts.

Competitive intelligence is about comparing your company to that of your competitors.  You are trying to collect actionable data that identifies risks and opportunities before they become common knowledge.  Positioning your company to act first or react quicker to changing market conditions may be the edge you need to succeed.  Keep in mind that some of the information you gather may not be true.   Just because you find something in print on the internet, does not mean it’s factual.  Evaluate the source of the data and don’t let your group chase a single piece of bad data down a path or no return.

Competititve intelligence has been used by the largest companys for many years.  It’s thought to be an expensive proposition not available for small business and startups.  In fact, I teach C.I. to every would-be entrepreneur and startup class, we just call it by another name; market research.  So exactly what should a startup or small business look for in the way of market research or C.I.?

Define Yourself – Before you can realistically hope to gleen information about your competitors and their strategic operations, you need to understand your own goals and objectives in the market.  Have a well defined business model with goals and financial projections.  If you don’t have a baseline on yourself, how will you know what kind of information to collect and what will you measure against?
Define the Who – Which competitors are really directly involved in your market?  Which indirect ones pose a real threat to your plan?  Pick a small group of competitors to watch.  You can only watch a limited number of competitors, so pick carefully.  And don’t spend all your efforts on the largest competitors and miss the new startups that may take your industry by storm.
Define the What – Determine on what to focus your intelligence gathering efforts; goals, management team members, growth objectives and direction, available resources, technological advances.  You can’t watch everything.  Most companies focus on strategic and capability oriented activities.  Most information is just noise.  Focus your attention on the few things that really matter in your industry.  The data you collect must be useful to your management team in making strategic decisions for your company.  If the information is not actionable, it’s not going to be very useful.
Define the How – The growing on-line world makes much of the data gathering effort easier than ever before.  Using news services to search for articles and news releases that contain certain keywords can automate the process.  Fee providers like Dunn and Bradstreet, or First Call collect data on physical location, management, history and financial performance.  Other data sources can typically be accessed from your larger public libraries or university libraries which carry subscriptions to fee based databases and services.  Discussion groups and message boards will entertain discussions about every topic you can think of relative to a company’s products, service and customer service habits.  While you have to take some of this data with a grain of salt, the boards will serve as an indication of how they operate and respond to customer compalints.

And then there’s the old-fashioned method of actually talking to people.  Networking and industry trade associations and trade shows can be an excellent source of the most current information.  Companies tend to send their best people to trade association meetings and shows to speak.  In addition, the job boards will reveal the kinds of talent a company needs or holes in their organization that must be filled in order to head out in a new direction.  Good talent is hard to find so companies must be aggressive in touting their vacancies and needs.  Some reading between the lines will be very useful for analyzing a growing company. 
Define the Process – Who will collect the data?  Where will you store the information?  Which employees and departments can access and add to the database?  Most importantly, how will you use the information to better manage your own business?  The data should be used to further your understanding of the competitive landscape and to drive strategic action.  Collecting data just to fill a database is a waste of time.  Have a plan for management to regularly review the information.  Change what you collect and how you collect it over time to fine tune the kind of information that your management needs to make strategic decisions. 

Business moves a breakneck speed and a nimble company can change direction on a dime.  How will you respond and more importantly, how long will it take you to figure out what they’ve done?  While this type of information is especially important in the business planning stage as you try to determine the feasibility of a business model, don’t forget to keep at it once you’re in business.  The business world doesn’t stop once your business gets it initial funding.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Michael Gerber Visits Huntsville

Best-Selling Author Michael Gerber
Best-selling business author Michael Gerber visited Huntsville last week to help promote his WBCNA-Library Foundation event scheduled for September 15, 2010 at the Von Braun Center.  In the picture above, Michael paid a surprise visit to the Women's Business Center of North Alabama FastTrack New Venture Entrepreneurship class.  He spoke to the class about his E-Myth principles and how to apply them.
Tickets to the September 15, 2010 event are available on-line at www.WBCNA.org.

In the picture below, Michael Gerber visits the WBCNA's Entrepreneurs Book Club, who are currently reading his book, The E-Myth Revisited.  Michael is pictured with APEX Business Center's Kellie Andrews.

APEX Business Centers Kellie Andrews poses with Best-Selling Author Michael Gerber

Monday, May 10, 2010

12 Strategies for Dealing with Job Loss

In the previous post, we looked at the stages of grief in the job loss or any other process.  Knowing what to expect or just being able to label your feelings in a known and understood system makes it somewhat easier to deal with the stages.  But knowing the names of the stages doesn’t help you get back on your feet and into the business world.  My own experience, plenty of research and work with actual coaching clients has led me to develop the following strategies for dealing with job loss.

  1. Keep a personal journal.  Your emotional rollercoaster has begun.  Be aware of your feelings and emotions and record your thoughts in a journal.  The key is being honest with yourself in recording your thoughts.  Sometimes just the act of writing down your anger or fears allows you to release them.  When you see your fears reduced to words, they don’t seem so bad, or better, you see them for what they are.  Remember that grief takes time.  Processing your emotions by writing them down will help keep a check on your stress, which will be a tough challenge.
  2. Develop a networking list.  Create a master list of everyone you know from your personal life and your business life.  Whether you decide to get a job or start a business, you’ll need to network to be successful.  Don’t start calling these people yet, but do start making a list.  Once you’ve determined which direction your career will take, you’ll have a ready-made list of contacts. 
  3. Create an elevator pitch for unemployment.  Why aren’t you at work?  You need a story to tell.  Start crafting your explaination for why you lost your job.  I’m not saying to make up a fairy tale, but don’t let when someone asks you for the first time be the first time you’ve thought of what you’ll say.  It will be awkward and not having a reasonable story to tell will make you even more uncomfortable.  Be honest, but tell the story from your perspective.  After crafting your message, try it out on your friends.  Saying it out loud to someone else will help you get the message right.
  4. Identify your fears.  Fear and panic are the second stage of grief.  Unless you are independently wealthy and don’t really have to work, you are going to have some concerns about your finances and the well-being of your family.  Many of these fears are baseless nightmares created in your mind.  By listing them on paper, you can fairly evalute them.  Many of your fears will probably turn out to be creations of your mind with little or no likelihood of coming true.  Discuss your list with your spouse and when appropriate, your family.  Don’t hide unemployment from your kids.  They know something is wrong and an honest discussion will quiet their fears of the unknown and help explain why schedules have changed and things are different.
  5. Create a new schedule.  Your new job is working on you and your career.  It’s time to get back in the saddle and take control of your schedule.  You’ll need to create a schedule that works in your life.  Unless you have a home office where you can close the door and get away form the kids and dog and other distractions, you’ll have to find a schedule that allows you to work with the family that’s also occupying the house.  In fact, they’re used to being there and doing their thing unimpeeded by you.  Create a space and gather all the necessary supplies and furniture necessary to work.  If your best time is early in the mornings or late at night, go with whatever works.  But it’s important to create a regular schedule to work and not allow yourself to become addicted to daytime TV or other non-productive activities that don’t help you move your career and financial future forward.  Whatever your schedule, treat this time like a job.
  6. Brainstorm your joys.  Now that you’ve worked through the bad stuff, set-up your office area and created a schedule, it’s time to get to work.  Think back on your career and about all the times when your work or related activities brought you joy.  Include civic and religious activities as you create a list of those activities that you really enjoyed.  You may remember thinking that you’d continue doing these things for free if only you could keep them going.  If you are relatively young in your career, include those activities from college or high school that really made you happy or brought you joy.
  7. List your accomplishments.  Looking back on your work career (including civic and religious activities), make a list of your greatest hits.  What are the accomplishments and activities of which you are most proud?  If you’re having trouble with the list, talk to your spouse or a couple of close business associates.  Identify those times when you were really in the zone and making things happen in your organization.  Remembering the good times will help you reaffirm your worth and self-esteem.
  8. Create career vignettes.  Using your lists of joys and accomplishments, create vignettes of those activities that will form the basis of the talking points for future job interviews or business creation work.  When you can identify  the activity, accomplishment and emotions involved in those stories, you’ll start to see patterns.  These patterns of activity or behavior should serve to guide you in your decisions about your future direction.  Whether that pursuit is in forming a new venture or working withing an existing organization, your brainstorming and analysis of joys and accomplishments will help guide you into directions that best suit your personality and values.
  9. Brainstorm your strengths and weaknesses.  An honest evaluation of your strengths and weaknesses will help guide you evaluate opportunities and necessary skill and technology training.  After creating a list of strengths and weaknesses, have a spouse or trusted colleuge assist you in completing the lists.  Examine your weaknesses and determine which items on the list need work.  If some of the items are holding you back, determine the best way to resolve those weaknesses through education, training or other appropriate means.  Look at the strengths and determine which items you can exploit to your advantage.  Are some of your strengths not strong enough?  What can you do to improve your overall situation?  Make a habit of learning something new every week or every day.  Take advantage of your time to expand your horizons and improve your mind. 
  10. Determine your new career objective.  Items six through nine should help you determine your new direction.  Will you become a business owner or remain an employee.  Starting a business isn’t for everyone.  You’ll need capital, patience, a never-ending supply of energy and an ability to deal with rejection and triumph, without taking any of it personally.   Maybe you can get a job while you start planning for your eventual transition into a business of your own.  Or perhaps you’ve identified your skills as a salesperson and you just need to find the right firm and product line.  Whatever your new objective, try to clearly identify the objective and narrow the focus.  Many people opt for the shotgun approach thinking it gives them more options, when in fact, it does just the opposite.  Use the rifle approach of pinpointing a single objective and crafting all your plans and strategies around that objective.
  11. Set goals.  With your singularly identified objective clearly written, it’s time to set some goals.  Start with the end in mind.  Identify where you want to be and in what time frame.  (HINT: For short-term goals, use a big calendar on the wall in front of your desk to constantly remind you of the coming deadline.)  What are the specifics of your plan in terms of time, money, resources, and position?  What are emotional benefits of accomplishing your goals?  Close your eyes and visualize your success.  What does the organization look like, feel like and how does it operate?  Create an organization chart of your organization to help identify the specifics of and serve as a goal for your success.  What are the accoutrements of your successfully accomplishing your goals?  Create and document a vision of your future.  Write it down!
  12. Make a plan.  What do you need to get there?  Starting at the end, work backwards and create a plan to help you achieve each milestone along the way to your ultimate success.  What resources do you need?  What training and skills?  What other people or organizations will be required to help?  Focus your activities on accomplishing goals and moving your plan forward.  Activities that don’t relate to accomplishing your goals and forwarding your plan should be pushed to the back and contemplated only when you are ahead of schedule or have free time.  Don’t let other people’s agenda sidetrack your plan.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Coping with Job Loss

You’re going along you merry way in life, work, family and so forth when one day you get called into the bosses’ office to learn that you’ve been “let go.”  It is a total shock, you never saw it coming.  Now what, look for another job?  In this economy, there are almost no jobs available.  What about starting a business?

Perhaps you should step back and deal with the job loss before you try to make huge life-changing decisions like whether to start a business.  In my own coaching I see this at least a couple of times a month.  Someone lost a job for a reason they believe had nothing to do with their own job performance and seek to start a business before they’ve gotten over the grief of dealing with the job loss.

Job loss creates a grief situation not much different than a death of a loved one.  Professional phychologists long ago identified the stages of grief.  As someone who has lost a job on more than one occasion, I have felt and dealt with these stages personally.  I think it’s helpful to review the stages to help you identify and calm your frustrations and fears.

Shock and Denial – How could this happen to me?  During this phase, you need a little time to grieve the loss.  This is not the time start out on a new adventure, start a business or any other major life-changing activity.  Many people say that losing a job is like losing part of yourself. Take a few days to deal with the numbness. 

Fear and Panic – How will I survive?  After the shock wears off, the panic sets in.  Worries of financial pressures and other real and imagined worries will tend to take control of your thoughts.

Anger – How can they do this to me?  The fear will create anger that can tear you apart if you aren’t careful.  Learn to channel your anger into productive activities or physical exertion.  Learn to process the anger and then let it go.

Bargaining – Maybe it was just a mistake.  The bad news is there’s probably no one who will swoop in to make it all better.  You are responsible for getting your career and financial stability back on track.  Don’t give the responsibility to someone else.

Depression – I’m worthless, just leave me alone!  Just as you weren’t worthless the day before you were fired, you’re not worthless today either.  If you can’t let go of your anger and develop strategies to reengage in the business world, depression could become a serious problem requiring professional help.  Manifestations of job loss can be real and deliberating. 

Temporary Acceptance – The past is the past, it’s time to move on.  Acceptance is a difficult stage hold, because every rejection or rebuff will cause you to revisit the cycle in some way.  That’s why it’s called ‘temporary’ acceptance.  Your emotions will be on a roller coaster and your feelings exaggerated.  You must learn not to take the actions of others personally.

NEXT:  Strategies for Rebuilding Your Future