Be an Ethical Entrepreneur, Marketer, and Business Builder

Knowing when to “move-on”, drop everything, and do something else

It is much harder to leave security than it is to take a risk.

In Thomas Stanley’s book, The Millionaire Next Door, he points out that the profile of your average millionaire generally includes getting FIRED from his previous job and starting his own business. That’s right, the ultra-risk-taking macho entrepreneur millionaire you know generally became successful because, quite literally, he had no other option. Of course their are the guys, like me, who seemed to have everything going well but that just wasn’t enough and we had to venture out on our own and forge our own paths in business and in life. But don’t kid yourself, that give-up-something-great-to-get-something-better mentality is the VAST exception.

Keep that in mind the next time you’re reading a book or blog by a successful person who just happens to be in the minority who was just naturally programmed to never accept “good enough”. If that’s not you, you need to learn how to get over your current “security” in order to venture out on a “risk”. (I put both of those in quotes because they’re often not reality, but just figments of our imagination.)

So for the majority of people who have a job, house, family, car payments and a steady income, how do you decide to make the jump and take the risk of leaving your steady paycheck behind and trying something else?

  1. Risk-taking is just a lack of knowledge. – If buying a business, writing a book, starting a band, quitting your job to take a new one or just being the first one at your work to try a ground-breaking new idea seems like a risk to you, then you simply need to study more. You need to make sure you understand how to take that business to a level of profitability before you buy it. You need to know how to effectively market your book or band and develop a following. You need to know that you have options for your livelihood before you tell your boss off and walk away (something I never recommend). And if you’re simply trying to get everyone at work to get out of their rut and change, you better be able to back-up your reason for the change with some hard evidence as you’ll undoubtedly be met with nay-sayers. Whatever it is, you can always trace an increase in risk to a lack of knowledge on the subject matter and vice-versa. Let me make this even more clear. If you consider a “standard” medical operation like removing an appendix as safe, would you consider the same operation under the same conditions safe if it was performed by your plumber? What’s the difference? The risk is mitigated when the procedure is undertaken by a knowledgeable doctor.
  2. Hedge your bet. – One of the cardinal rules of marketing is ONLY the consumer knows if the marketing is effective or not. They vote on their choice for great marketing by spending money. The same is true in almost any venture where you’re going out on your own. You really don’t KNOW that your customers, readers, listeners or coworkers are going to love the idea until it’s out there, right? Well then, in addition to becoming knowledgeable, make sure you have a backup plan… Or 2 or 3. Of course we all know of the stories of people overcoming impossible odds to make their ideas work. Heck, the entire 3m success can be built on the concept of passionate people overcoming all odds to bring their ideas to fruition. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team as a sophomore. Albert Einstein’s first 2 graduate thesis’ were rejected. A successful business owner friend of mine told me he was turned down by 27 banks before finding one who would loan him money for his first business. My point is not to throw the towel in because of adversity. My point is that consumers are impossible to predict, so if you’re going to bet the farm on an untried idea, you better have a few tried and true ideas in your back pocket to fall back on. Most entrepreneurs you speak with will tell you about their myriad failures that were necessary before becoming successful. They always had another plan and another way to succeed. Even at 3m where a culture of risk-taking and never accepting no is programmed into the culture, everyone knows there’s little risk of losing your job for pursuing that passionate idea. In other words, 3m developed that culture with a built-in hedged bet to encourage innovation.
  3. What is your time worth? – Though this is third item, this one is the most important. Most people grossly over-estimate what they’re capable of in a year but also grossly under-estimate what they’re capable of in 10 years. So what does that mean? We are likely to set goals for the next year that are unreachable but then either not set goals for longer-term or set drastically underestimated goals. If you always spend less than you make, you will never run out of money. But no matter what you do, you will run out of time. So how do you determine if you’re going to stay at your current job, position, or business? If you’re learning on a regular basis from those around you AND your given an opportunity to express your own talents and ideas then stay. The former is more important than the latter, but you should be able to do both. Keep in mind that you should be learning things that you couldn’t otherwise learn on your own. Notice, I did not say that you have fun at work or you have a reasonable wage with lots of perks. Those temporary benefits are important for someone who will live forever and so has plenty of time to find something better later on. However, if you’re not immortal, and you’re not learning at work on a regular basis, it’s time to move on. The reason for this is because with the knowledge you can be learning at an underpaying job, you can leverage that at your next job, business, or passion. That’s why people underestimate what they’re capable of in 10 years. It’s sometimes challenging for us to step outside of our situation today, whether good or bad, and view it as a step forward or backward in our 10 year goals because we’re just trying to make it day-to-day.

If after evaluating your situation, you’ve now determined that it’s most likely time to move-on, check out a few of my other blogs that might help you get started:

The most important life lesson, and the key to success…

Why not?

The first 3 steps to becoming wealthy

To your success, Bryan

P.S. If the concept of setting 10-year, or even 1-year, goals is a bit foreign to you, check out my blog on The 3 steps to become successful at anything

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

Why Not?

No matter how a self-made person has become successful, every single one of them has one thing in common – at some point they asked “Why not?”, couldn’t come up with a good reason to not do it, and took a chance trying something new.

This is the hardest part in becoming successful for most people. Taking that risk, that chance, and not knowing if it will work out.  Ironically, for some people, like myself, taking that leap into the unknown is the best part!

So let’s look at 2 different aspects of risk-taking:

  1. Why everyone, at some point in their life, needs to go out on a limb and do something for which they can’t guarantee the outcome.
  2. How to take that leap while hedging your bet to ensure success (while accepting failure).

Why we all need to take a flying leap.

Because that’s what makes us human. Nothing great was ever accomplished with out risk and effort. Nothing. I can’t even begin to count the number of times I’ve told myself (and others) that we’re all given one life, it’s up to us to choose if we’re going to live it. What does that mean? That means that you need to take that spontaneous trip this weekend not next. That means you need to write that children’s book you’ve always wanted to. That means you need to learn to paint or how to speak another language or how to fly an airplane. What? I thought this blog was about business? That’s exactly what I’m talking about. Why go through all the headache, heartache and hassles of buying, building, and selling a business if it doesn’t give you the freedom to live your entire life as you wish? Here’s an even better reason. When you learn to live your life in such a way that you regularly take small risks, the fear of  taking that step toward not knowing where your next paycheck is coming from will be so much easier.

If that all sounds like the prescription that can only work for an adrenaline junky, consider this – there are no guarantees your next paycheck will be there anyway. With 9.4% unemployment in the US, massive layoffs, and over 120 banks closing in the US in the past year, even our most “secure” businesses can fail. At least with your own business you have the ability to control your own destiny. Beyond that, guess who’s going to be the last person to get laid off at your business? Obviously you. If your business currently supports 10 or 20 or 50 people, that can be quite a buffer for when times get tough. After all, it’s your choice who stays and goes.

But we don’t need to do it without a parachute.

When you’re ready to take that next step in your life you shouldn’t do so so recklessly that you guarantee and invite failure just for the adrenaline rush, battle scars, and the ability to say “well at least I tried.” So here’s what I’d recommend (and what I’ve done with my “risks”).

  1. Have a detailed, written, milestone and goal-oriented plan in place before you start. In other words, if you’re buying a business, know exactly what you’re going to do and how you’re going to do it to improve that business. Before it’s ever acquired you MUST have an exit strategy (and probably 2 or 3 in place). Granted, the plans never work out exactly as anticipated but that’s not the point. The point is when the world is falling in around you and you’re so overwhelmed by working IN your business, you can always pull out that list to help you get back on track. From personal experience I can say this step is invaluable. After all, this is the reason 300 businesses failed in NYC. You can learn a bit more about what questions entrepreneurs ask to formulate that business plan.
  2. Have liquid assets for a rainy day. Whether it’s to make that mortgage payment on your rental property when you don’t have tenants or because you can’t cash your paycheck until the next payment comes in, when you’re living on the edge you always need a cash buffer. Even if you are so good (or lucky) that you never have to use it, you’ll never regret having enough cash on hand to survive for at least 3-6 months with no income. This is one of the keys to generating wealth.
  3. Have a backup plan. As a matter of fact, have no less than 5 backup plans. 10 backup plans is probably better. Why? Because I can’t predict the future and neither can you. Just as in effective marketing, only the customer can tell you what’s the best ad, the same is true for any idea. If you’re quitting your job to go out on your own, you probably want to be working on a few ideas at all times. Of course we have all heard stories about the guy working from his mom’s basement for 3 years with little to no income to build a business (my grandfather did just that), but realistically, if you have a good business plan, and you’re working hard at marketing, and you have a good product or service and you’re not making money pretty quickly, you probably should do something else. Big public companies like Amazon.com and Ebay who lost millions before making a dime are exceptions to the rule and the complexity of structuring a public offering to generate enough capital to cover those losses is way beyond the scope of my simple blog. 🙂
  4. Accept and Expect Failure – That doesn’t sound real positive now does it? Why would we want to ever consider that? Aren’t we then programming ourselves for that exact failure? No, and here’s why. Expect and visualize being successful in your business or whatever risk you take at all times. However you must understand that no one successful did it on the first try. We all make mistakes and have a lot to learn. We all get rejected and one or 2 or 20 of our “bright ideas” fall flat on their faces. Whether that’s the marketing project that’s going to skyrocket your sales or the team incentive that’s going to double productivity, we’re going to miss the mark (and be all the wiser for it) at some point. Actually we’re going to miss the mark at a lot of points. As I always say, if you make a mistake and learn from it, it’s never a failure. Supposedly Edison failed over 6000 times at making the light bulb viable and remarked on the failures by saying “They taught something that I didn’t know. They taught me what direction to move in.” Entrepreneurs know there will be “failures” along the way and yet we know those lessons are just as valuable as the successes.

My last thought on the subject is again, Why Not? What’s the worst that can happen? You burn your time, energy, and cash reserves and then have to go get a job again? If you hedge your bet with the 4 suggestions above, even that would be unlikely but so what? Worse things have happened to far better people. Take that risk. Take that chance. Take that flying leap. Carpe Diem!

To your risk-taking success, Bryan