Monday, July 18, 2011

Calculating Risk.

How much time and effort do you spend worrying about your financial future?  In the beginning days of my first business, I was too busy to worry about it and honestly, I had no other options. I was on the trapeze without a net. If I missed a connection, it was all over. Not a smart way to go for the long run and it was very risky. The second time around, I did worry but I always had a back up plan plus some. When I started the second business I did not quit my first job and go all in on one hand. I kept working during the day and did coaching in the evenings and weekends. I have read that other owners such as David Green from Hobby Lobby and others have done the same thing. In fact, David Green did not make the transition to full time at Hobby Lobby until his third year in business. I also read about Sr. Richard Branson and some of his risky moves that were not all that risky.  You see, when Mr Branson started Virgin Airline, he cut a deal with an airline manufacture that if the company did not make if off the ground after the first year that he could return the plane and walk away. 
This is a great example for any small business owner. Never have “everything in one hand” that if it went bad, you are out of business.  Learn to make calculated risks. I always try to calculate my odds of surviving a deal based upon both the “best case” and “worse case” scenarios. Once we had to say no to a deal that would have over doubled our business. In my head we could not successfully recruit and train a sales and support team to pull the deal off in the amount of time needed without risking our relationships and service with our existing clients.  I have never regretted that decision and we have had the opportunity to grow at a pace where we can sustain our service levels, train good people and keep our culture in tact. As you look upon the horizon of your businesses future, what decisions do you have to make and can your business withstand a “worse case” scenario?  Are you calculating risk into your financial calculations as your grow your small business successfully?

Friday, July 8, 2011

Is it time to feed the ducks ?

Is it time to feed the ducks ?
What kind of question is this? I thought this was a Small Business Blogg? I own and run two small businesses. I regularly put in 60 to 70 hour weeks working many evenings and Saturdays with Coaching clients while doing sales, marketing and calling on end users during the day. Like most of you I am driven by my desire to do things with excellence, written goals, lists and so one. Sometimes I catch myself being tired and overwhelmed just running to the next appointment or answering E mails and voice mail. It is like I am working so hard and it seems like I am not being as effective as I am at other times. I catch myself being short with my team or my wife and I am not taking time to work out or eat healthy. I think Stephen Covey calls this “Sharpening the Saw” in his 7 Habits of Highly effective people. I had a great boss who called it “stopping to feed the ducks.” This boss used to call me up to work with me back in the days when I worked in the corporate world. I was one of his best sales guys but I tended to get a little high strung and short with the inside sales and engineering people who obvious did not have the same high standards for customer service or quality that I did (I used to be a real jerk, now I am just a flake). This boss would not pull me aside and chastise me, he would simply take me golfing. We would take our sticks out and play a round of golf and he would help me to relax and “sharpen my saw.”  Many times after these rounds of golf we had and a good steak dinner, I was back to my old self. Little things became little again. I was not accepting every invitation to a fight that I was offered by a customer or customer service person. I was patient and caring again. It like a lumberjack swinging away at a tree with a dull axe. It may take him an hour and 300 hits to take down the tree. If he stops for an hour and sharpens the saw it only takes 30 minutes and 150 swings to take down each tree for the rest of the day. 

There is no doubt there is a lot of work to do being a small business owner, but how much more effective would you be if you took some time off during each day or during each weak to sharpen your saw or to take a walk and feed the duck? I know when things get too stressed out during the long hours of coaching and serving, I think about “feeding the ducks” and I smile and schedule my next visit away from the business. It helps me become effective again.