Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Should a parent of a toddler start a business?

Nine years ago at the age of 26 I bought my first business.
Since then, I’ve bought and sold 3 businesses, started a 4th, got married, and now have a 17-month old.

So, if I had to start that process from scratch today, would I do it with a young, growing family?

To set the stage, you will not find a bigger supporter of entrepreneurs and capitalism (not to be confused with cronyism).

I love business.
The challenges, the changes, the rewards, the people and the lives that are enriched by it.

Though I made many mistakes, I would be an entrepreneur all over again if I could go back in time.

However, would I start a business from scratch as a 35-year old with a wife and baby???

If I was giving my sister or best friend, who both have 2 children and are in their mid-30’s, advice on whether to start a business, here are a few questions I’d ask.

Do you hate your job?
Like really hate it.
Does your spouse cringe when you sit down at the dinner table because she knows it’s just going to be a barrage of negativity?
Do your friends “get busy” when you call because they know it’s just going to be a complaining session?

First, if that’s just your personality, fix it.
But if that’s truly the opposite of your personality (seek the honest feedback from people you trust), then get out as fast as you can.

No job is worth anxiety, depression, or a heart attack.
More importantly, no job is worth alienating your spouse, friends, and family.

Consider trying to fix the culture at your current job while you start looking for a new job.

But, instead of another job, should you just start a business?

Questions to ask yourself before starting a business as a parent

  1. Do you have at least 6 months of living expenses saved up (preferably 12)? Trying to start a business without the cash to survive for AT LEAST 6 months while you have a family to support is simply selfish and irresponsible. Can you make it work? Maybe. Is it worth risking your livelihood and providing for your family? No. If you are unemployed and can’t find work, then, by all means, start a business. In fact, according to The Millionaire Next Door, this is one of the most common reasons people start a business – they have no other option.
  2. Do you have access to the capital you’ll need (in addition to your living expenses) to fund the business? This doesn’t have to be a lot but you generally will need some money to invest in marketing, software, sales materials, uniforms, gas, insurance, etc.
  3. Do you have potential backup jobs available? Most businesses fail. Don’t delude yourself going in. Accept the risks and face them. Part of that is having a backup plan. Only fools believe blindly in their business idea.
  4. Do you have multiple business ideas that you can launch in a short amount of time if needed? Hedge your bet a bit. If your full-time job is to make a business successful and you currently have no clients or income, be prepared to try a few different ideas while you’re living off of your savings.
  5. Are you living below your means? If not, then don’t even consider starting a business. Making a business successful is about delayed gratification which means continually trading your short term time and money for a long-term result. If you already spend your full paycheck, then you aren’t ready for the financial sacrifices of getting a business off-the-ground.

In summary, there’s a myth that entrepreneurs are stubbornly obsessed and risk everything to follow that one great idea!

That’s not true at all.

Smart entrepreneurs fail fast and ditch the bad ideas or pivot them to good ideas and THEN, once they’ve proven they have a good idea through finding some paying clients, stubbornly pursue it.

This is why your first 1-3 businesses are learning businesses.

Why do you want to start a business?

Most people answer some version of more money and more time.

That’s a reasonable answer.

What most people don’t consider is, to get more time you need money. And if you don’t have a lot of money right now, then you need to invest lots of time.

As an example, if you have $2 million dollars in the bank, you could put that in a few Dividend Aristocrat stocks that generate 5% dividends, live off of the $100k in annual dividends, and never work again.

That’s an extreme example of buying back all of your time.

In a small business, once you invest the time to build your business, then you can use the profits to hire people to do your work – once again, you’re buying more time.

If you don’t have time or money, then you can’t start a business.

Granted, if you do have money, forget about starting a business and just buy one. Rare is the business model you can start from scratch that will grow your wealth faster than acquiring an already successful business (or business model).

Keep in mind up to 8 out of 10 new businesses fail whereas nearly 7 out of 10 acquired businesses succeed. (Depending on which study you read, those numbers do vary a bit but the point is still valid, buying a successful business is a lot less risky.)

How long does it take to be successful?

To become an overnight success takes 10 years.

Michael Masterson wrote a book called Seven Years to Seven Figures that claims you can be a millionaire in 7 years.

Mark Cuban didn’t take a vacation for 7 years.

Jeffrey Immelt, CEO of GE, worked 100 hour weeks for 24 years before becoming CEO.

Brad Sugars breaks it down a bit more in the time it takes to be a millionaire:

  • For most people – at least 10 years.
  • For those with a head start, like lots of experience, capital, or the right connections – 7-9 years
  • All of the above plus you’re super-lucky and amazingly talented – 3-5 years

This is important to keep in mind if you have a 2-year-old running around. How much time with your family are you willing to miss to hit your desired success?

There is no right answer and I can’t answer that question for you.
BUT it is a real, serious question that you need to answer with your spouse.

And if you think I’m exaggerating about the time and sacrifices needed to be successful in business, maybe you’ll believe Elon Musk, Mark Cuban, or the CEO of Pepsi who says her intense dedication to her job may have made her a worse parent.

Ouch.

Is starting your business and making it successful the most important thing in your life?

Listen – of course, you’re going to say no. I would say, no.

You will say your spouse, your children, your family, your faith, your health are all more important.

Fair enough. I’ll second that.

However, in the last week, how much time have you spent truly with your spouse? Sleeping and watching TV together while on your phones doesn’t count.

How about with your children? Again, watching TV doesn’t count.

On your health (working out and preparing healthy meals)?
Praying?

Now, how much time did you spend working?

If time is your most important asset, where are you investing it?

If you took your limited time working out, with children, with your spouse, praying, and with family and friends and you had to cut it in half for the next 3-5 years to make your business successful, would you?

What if you had to cut it in half again? (That takes us down to ¼ the amount of time you currently spend on the most important things in life.)

Of course, if your evenings and weekends are spent watching TV, surfing the internet, or posting on social media, then you have some time available.

But the point still stands.

At this stage in your life, can you invest the time needed to make your startup successful?

Recently, a coaching group for budding entrepreneurs was working on accountability partners.

This line of thinking boggles my mind.

How committed are you to success if you need an accountability partner for your business!?

Mentor? Absolutely.
Coach? Sure.
Cheerleader? Awesome.

But someone to hold you accountable to do what’s needed to succeed?
If you need that, why even start?

Sacrifices I made as a young, single start-up founder

  1. I slept on an air mattress for almost a year in an apartment with no furniture.
  2. I charged up a 0% interest credit card to cover living expenses (over $5,000 worth). However, I never paid a dime in interest charges or late fees.
  3. To chase the opportunities, in a span of 10 years I moved from WI to PA to NM to NC, back to NM, back to NC and finally back to PA including a few short stints staying with friends and family in-between.
  4. I worked a lot. Let’s not blow this out of proportion, I’m no Jeffrey Immelt or Marissa Mayer, however, I also rarely went an entire day without working. Some weeks were probably 80 or 100 hours. Most were probably around 60. A bit higher if you include all the books I read to learn how to build a business.
  5. I worked out a lot more than I do now. With a family, I’m just not willing to give up that much time from my family now. These days I work out 4-5 days/week in about 15-20 minute sessions. No more 5 mile runs or 10-mile bike rides.
  6. I didn’t take any income from the business I started for about 3 years. (I lived off of consulting income.)

Could I do all of these things now, again, with a family to support?
Yes.
One way or another, I could scrimp, scrounge, sacrifice, and save to make it work.

More importantly, would I be willing to?
No.

To most, that answer sounds completely and utterly unbelievable.

And if you had asked me that same question 18 months ago, I would have given you a different answer.

As cliche’ as it sounds, having a family changes everything.

Earlier I asked if your business idea is the most important thing in your life because, unless you’re unbelievably lucky and brilliant, it will take precedent in your life if you want to succeed.

Today, with a 17-month old and a wife, the sacrifices to start a business aren’t worth it to me.

Here’s why…

Most mornings I get my son up, get him some milk, change his diaper and get him ready.

Most evenings I play with him, wrestle with him, teach him and just have fun for a few hours. I then bathe him, get him ready for bed, read to him, and snuggle until he falls asleep at which point I put him to bed.

Most weekends I don’t do any work beyond maybe checking some emails. Just typing that out seems strange to me since it was my habit for so long to get “caught up” with work on the weekends.

These days my wife and I make it a priority to spend time with both of our families and do something fun with our son nearly every weekend. (Just this past weekend. for instance, we took him to the PA Trolley Museum to visit Daniel Tiger.)

As I was starting on my entrepreneurial journey, this family schedule would have been impossible.

For me, no business is worth giving that up.

Again, if I had no other options, was unemployed, and needed to put food on the table, I would start a business and make the sacrifices necessary to support my family.

So what are you going to do?

Ask yourself the above questions, discuss them with your spouse, and determine if starting a business at this stage in your life is what’s best for you and your family.

To your success,
Bryan

P.S. If you started a business with a young family and still were able to work a “normal” schedule to spend time with your family, you’re a bit of a unicorn. I’d love to hear from you so please leave a comment.

photo by: joejungmann

The 3 Non-Leadership books every Leader, Teacher and Parent should read

I realize that might title is a bit redundant.

A great leader IS a great teacher and vice-versa.
In industries, like internet marketing, where the amount of information doubles every 8 months, the ability to teach your team may be the single most important aspect of leadership.

So with that in mind, if you want to be a leader on one of my teams, these are the 3 books you need to read and live.

Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dweck

If there was a single book that taught you how to be a great teacher and thereby a great leader, this is it.

Each day we are all faced with success and failures and we respond in 1 of 2 ways:

  1. Fixed Mindset – Each mistake is validation that you aren’t smart, talented or good enough. Conversely, every success tells you that you are innately “gifted” which is very dangerous because then you stop looking for challenges where you might fail and therefore not validate your “gifted” status.
  2. Growth Mindset – Each failure and success are a means of learning. You either learned what you wanted (i.e. succeeded) or you didn’t (i.e. failed). Either way, you have more to learn, further to go and higher mountains to climb. Your mind is ever-expanding and intellect can always grow.

Our team has summarized this in our Culture Statements as:

Learning from other’s successes is extremely valuable however sometimes learning from our own mistakes is more memorable. We embrace our mistakes, learn not to repeat them, and therefore are constantly pushing the limits to get better.

If you only have time for one leadership or teaching book, Carol Dweck’s book is it!

The Talent Code: Greatness Isn’t Born. It’s Grown. Here’s How. by Daniel Coyle


It wasn’t blind luck that the greatest concentration of artists, sculptors and painters of all time just happened to live in the same area of Italy over a 60 year time frame in the 16th century.

It’s also not chance that the small, dingy school where Anna Kournikova learned to play tennis, at one time produced 4 of the top 50 greatest players in the world.

It’s by design that the Dominican Republic has an unmatched density of great baseball players and, amidst abject poverty, Brazil has produced some of the world’s greatest players and teams consistently for nearly 50 years.

There’s a system and a code to “talent”. It’s not merely innate and it’s not simply about working for 10,000 hours on something. It’s about mindset, commitment, and breaking down the skill or talent to it’s essentials.

Daniel Coyle tells you exactly how and it’s as inspiring a read as you may ever encounter.

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman


Think for a second of the tests that you may have taken to measure your intelligence.

  • IQ Tests
  • SAT’s
  • ACT’s
  • College Exams
  • High School Exams

Of the tests listed above do you know which one most closely predicts success in life?
None of them. None can be correlated to job, income, happiness or any other measure of success.

But there is a test that can.

It’s called the marshmallow test.
Put a 3 year old in a room. Give her a marshmallow and say, “You may eat the marshmallow. Or you can wait a few minutes until I come back and I’ll give you 2.”

If she waits, she understands the value of delayed gratification – working hard and sacrificing now to receive something better in the future – and it will predict her future success more accurately than any other test.

That’s one of hundreds of examples that illustrate that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is more important in our lives than IQ.

Goleman also provides great examples of how to teach 3 to 93 year olds how to improve their Emotional Intelligence and better empathize with those around us.

Those were listed in the order of importance so start at the top and work your way down.

To your success in becoming a great, teaching leader,
Bryan

Are you putting yourself out there for criticism?

When you want to get better at something, there’s a big difference between tracking your own personal performance and exposing your strengths and weaknesses to your peers openly and publicly. That’s why all business owners should make a habit of exposing all the details of their operations to their colleagues. Why? Because no one runs their best race, plays their best game, or builds their best business behind closed doors. The pressure, the crowd, the feedback, and most importantly the competition always makes us better.

Granted, if you’re like me, your toughest competition is yourself and no one demands more of you than you. However, that’s not the point. The point is if you’re good at what you do you should share that publicly with others for 2 reasons:

  1. It will force you to be great.
  2. It will help others who have potentially helped you.

Now what do I mean by exposing yourself to the public? Do whatever you have to to make your ideas, best practices, and systems public. For instance:

  1. Give a speech.
  2. Do training for your colleagues
  3. Write a white paper on something for which you are an expert and pass it out to everyone you know who knows more than you.
  4. Write a blog.

You get the point. If you can’t receive feedback and criticism (maybe even praise if you really are good) than it’s not good enough. You have to be able to fail for this to be effective.

Let me give you an example of what I’m doing (in addition to this blog) and how it’s helped make me better.

Recently I’ve partnered up with my previous employer – a software company that provides niche software for my business – to host a training seminar for other businesses in the industry. The training is about a month away however knowing that I’ll have to expose my business and also provide value for all of those in attendance has put some pressure on me to produce something great. So this is what I did:

  1. Reviewed my biggest headaches. – Quite simply these are personnel and cashflow problems. Sound familiar?
  2. Reviewed my biggest goals. – Increase profits and limit the business’ dependence on me.
  3. Reviewed my plan for dealing with those headaches and goals. – Determine areas of weakness through efficient analysis of business benchmarks and then come up with a list of ways to improve each area of weakness.
  4. Developed a “system” for continually monitoring and improving my headaches and goals so it can be taught to others. – This is the hardest yet most important part. If I can’t break down my game plan into an easily taught system my business will never run without me.

Number 4 is really the only one that needs further explanation. My “system” was actually quite simple once I sat down for a few hours and thought it all through. It basically started with the big picture of my business – which just so happens to be the same big picture for every business – Brad Sugars’ Business Chassis as he teaches about in The Business Coach. He breaks down the 5 parts of every business that determine the profit of that business. You NEED to know these 5 numbers in your business to know where you’re doing well and where you’re lacking. The next step was to figure out how to use the software to determine those 5 numbers. Finally, I organized some ideas and suggestions on how to improve those numbers for each department in my business. My goal isn’t to provide all the answers on how to make each area better, but to help business owners understand how to find the areas of weakness so that they can then use their own knowledge, experience, and skills to make the most effective improvements.

Now the question that’s bugging me is why didn’t I come up with this game plan 18 months ago when I bought the business? I have no idea. It really only took me a few hours to plan out and it will certainly help guide my business (and hopefully others) in the future. Though I will never know the answer to that question, I do know that I finally took the time to lay out this detailed, systematic, and repeatable game plan because I was forced to prove to others that I am indeed an expert at my business.

The point of this blog is not to explain exactly what my training will encompass, but to encourage you to step out and take a risk by exposing your business acumen to the world and trying on the label “expert” for a few days to see if you can live up to it.

To your success as an expert, Bryan

How to make money with a blog(or any website)… the basics of Affiliate Marketing…

Me flying at Kitty Hawk - ignore the goofy helmetHere’s a little irony for you. I’ve been subscribed to mailing lists for Perry Marshall and Jim Edwards for years. I’d listened in on free webinars, I downloaded free e-books, I had Perry send me his “Biggest Myths in Sales” CD and I listened to that. I had even watched a few online videos by the great Yanik Silver. Yet until last week (precisely 3 days ago) I just didn’t get it. I still thought that unless I had a book, CD, DVD, video or something else to sell, I couldn’t do anything. So I just kept listening to these experts to glean information so that when I did have my first e-book I’d be ready.

The reality of it is, any website where you have visitors (or you take the time to learn how to get visitors) can make money by referring your visitors to other sites. Here’s the easiest way to think about it. In this blog and many others that I’ve read online people recommend books. I looooooove to read and so do so often. Since few people enjoy reading non-fiction as much as I do I’m often recommending resources to people and this blog will do a lot of that. So here’s where affiliate marketing comes in – If instead of just telling people to go check out “Billionaire in Training” by Brad Sugars because it rocks, I sign up FOR FREE as an affiliate to Amazon and offer a nice convenient link to Billionaire In Trainingby Brad Sugars, if someone follows that link and buys the book I get a commission (between 4-10% with Amazon).

The customer pays the EXACT same amount and it’s a lot cheaper for Amazon than most forms of marketing so it’s a win-win-win. Customer gets the book at the best price, I get a commission, Amazon generated a sale with “cheap” marketing.

The beauty of affiliates, is you can do this with almost anything on the internet these days. If you’re a guy and need some help picking up chicks, check out Learn The Secrets Of Women And Dating by David DeAngelo. If you’re a woman and need to Save Your Relationship then go there. I’ve seen this information for basketball coaching and ball-handling videos (I signed up for both since I’m a basketball coach and ball-handling nut), job-interview secrets (great e-book), car wheels and parts, and basically anything else you can think of. I sign up for free lists with my Hotmail account all the time (I would never use a “real” email address) because even the free information most of these experts give away is valuable (and since I’m of the impression I can learn something from everyone I encounter why wouldn’t I?).

Here’s the point. If you have a blog or any website online and you have consistent traffic, why wouldn’t you try a little affiliate marketing?

Let’s make it simple. If you have a blog and you EVER recommend books, consider this:
1. Go to Amazon’s Affiliate Website
2. Sign up for a free account.
3. Put in convenient links for your readers to Amazon for any books you mention.

You’re now an affiliate marketer and have actually provided a great free service to all of your readers. Are there really any negatives to that?

To your success, Bryan

The best 6 books to teach you how to generate wealth…

When I started business “consulting” at the ripe old age of 20 with no actual business ownership and management experience, I ran into a few problems. My job was to implement a new software system that would significantly change the work flow of a business. In that process I would have to recommend ways to handle leads, in-bound and out-bound calls, inventory, receivables, and offer suggestions on what management reports to run. I learned that to get buy-in it was necessary to explain WHY they needed to do all of this. No matter how much I knew or how many businesses I helped, a 21 year old wasn’t ever going to get much respect right away. So I learned a quick way to build rapport is to use “experts” to make some suggestions instead of me just making them. In other words I learned to use books to backup my expertise and build instant credibility. I furthered that credibility by publishing articles in trade magazines when I was 22… But that’s a different story. 🙂

So after years of reading books on real estate, investing, business building, sales, marketing, and psychology here are the ones that offer the BEST advice for wealth building in the order of importance.

  1. Billionaire In Trainingby Brad Sugars: If you don’t know this guy then you need to. He retired with $10 million in the bank at age 26 for a few years. Then got bored and launched what is now the largest business coaching business in the world, Action Coach International. Now at age 34 he’s been involved in over 50 businesses and is using the formula in this book to become a very young billionaire. The best book of its kind.
  2. Ready, Fire, Aim: Zero to $100 Million in No Time Flatby Michael Masterson: Masterson’s approach is a bit different than Sugar’s which is why I liked it. Masterson talks in detail about starting and growing a business step-by-step, whereas Brad says don’t waste your time starting one, just buy one. Regardless, Masterson has turned himself into a hundred millionaire and retired for the first time at age 39. He provides some excellent tools particularly his insights into marketing and back-end sales.
  3. The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About Itby Michael Gerber: One of the best business books ever according to Inc. magazine. Gerber breaks down the reason most businesses fail to the owners misunderstandings about business. The greatest misunderstanding – that because I’m a good plumber, electrician, accountant, lawyer, etc. I’m gonna be great at running a business that will allow me to use my sweet skills.
  4. First, Break All the Rules: What the World’s Greatest Managers Do Differentlyby Marcus Buckingham: After interviewing 80,000 managers in 20,000 different organizations over 20 years Buckingham has broken down the best way to measure employee productivity and happiness to 12 simple questions. If 12 is too many he even gives you ways to shorten that list depending on your goals. If you EVER plan on doing a performance review or have employees, read this book.
  5. Built to Last: Successful Habits of Visionary Companiesby Jim Collins and Jerry Porras: The greatest lesson I took away from this book was that Gerber and Sugars are right. Even the greatest businesses over the last 100 years were founded to be great businesses from the start NOT to provide a great product. That’s a VERY important distinction. Sorry to dissapoint all those high-ranked business schools that say you need the product first. 🙂
  6. The Millionaire Mindby Thomas Stanley: This book is a compilation of data from survey’s answered by over 1300 millionaire’s. Some of his findings are quite interesting. The most important 2 were that the number 1 thing millionaire’s attribute to their success is “Being honest with all people.” The second is that most millionaires were at or below average according to our fine education system. They were mostly college dropouts , C students, and averaged less than 1000 on their SAT’s.

Though I’ve read Robert Allen’s Nothing Down for the 90sand Hagstrom’s The Warren Buffett Way and Peter Lynch’s Beating the Street along with dozens of other books and online services related to real estate and investing, I have very purposely left those out. I’m not saying they’re poor books, because they are all VERY good (Robert Allen inspired me to buy my first rental property at 21) – however, as Brad Sugars points out in “Billionaire in Training” you don’t climb the capital ladder (i.e. real estate and stocks/securities) until you’ve climbed the cash flow ladder. In other words, until you have cashflow to backup your real estate investments and securities in case of trouble, you’re wasting your time with those. I know in the instance of both my real estate investments and stocks/mutual funds I NEEDED cashflow (from my job) to cover them.

To your success, Bryan