The Sinking Boat

 
SinkingBoatWhen is a dream about a boat sinking a good thing? Well, it’s better that it was a dream rather than real but I still think the symbolism of this dream was positive.

I don’t often remember dreams but when I do there always seems to be a reason. Let me setup the situation with some background as to what was going on in my life.

The spa business my wife and I own has been doing well. The one problem we have is that we need to hire more people to keep up with the demand so that’s a good thing. One hire we needed was a manager and we had found a winner. Our new manager was excellent in every way and really put us at ease. Now we could concentrate on other issues and keep growing. Three weeks into her employment, however, she stopped showing up to work. We could not reach her in any way. She didn’t return phone calls, emails, or texts. We were at a loss.

That’s when I had this dream. In the dream every time I checked on my boat it had sunk but, being a dream, it would rise up again. I’d leave and when I would return it had sunk again. But it would rise again. The pattern continued, sink, rise, sink, rise. And that’s when I woke up.

So why do I think this is a positive thing? Because being an entrepreneur, owning a business, is like being a sinking boat that can rise again. Things go wrong, some things are beyond your control, but when things go wrong you have to rise up and deal with them, fix them, and keep moving. Our manager chose Valentine’s Weekend not to show up and my wife and I stepped in and worked. We did what we had to do and the business kept moving. We sank but were able to rise again. I’m sure something else will happen to make us feel as if we’re sinking but we do what it takes to stay afloat. Whatever the challenge, we keep focused on success.

Saturday could have been a disaster but we rose to the challenge and had a very good day.


Posted in Business, General, Leadership, Outdoors, Success, Taking Action and tagged , , , , by with no comments yet.

Dream Income

 
No I’m not going to show you how to have a dream income, instead I’m going to rail against those who make money doing nothing but selling you a dream.

SunsetDreamI don’t respect people who sell nothing but hope and dreams. These are the people who come up with inspirational quotes, who make you believe you can do anything, that all you need is the confidence and belief in yourself. They tout mystical and mythical things like The Secret and “laws” of attraction.

I’m thinking of people like Jim Rohn and Anthony (or is it Tony) Robbins, people whose product is inspiration and motivation. I know they have fans Anthony Robbinsand supporters but they don’t impress me. Jim Rohn was an “entrepreneur” who ran a direct sales organization (Nutri-Bio, whatever that is) that went out of business. (Don’t get me wrong – I couldn’t be successful at that but then again I’m glad that I can’t sell people useless things they don’t need.)

Instead I’m impressed by people like Gary Vaynerchuk who is not short on inspiration and motivation but who doesn’t make those things his only source of income. On the contrary they are a small portion of his success. His speaking and books are his side hustle not his industry.

Similarly I wrote a book and have my own quotes like the one above and this one: “inspiration without action is just a good intention.” But I don’t want to sell you the dream of success, I want you to be motivated by the realization of my dreams as I am by the realization of Gary Vaynerchuk’s.

Gary_1Gary has great quotes but it’s his business success that I derive energy from. Whether it’s building Wine Library from a bricks and mortar liquor store to a large online retailer, or being an important part of social media with Vayner Media, Gary has built tangible success.

Too many people eat up the inspiration of these salesmen and feel great about themselves while they continue sitting on the sofa safe with their dream of success.


Posted in Business, General, Success and tagged , , , , , , , by with no comments yet.

Gamblers Who Don’t Gamble

 
Entrepreneurs are gamblers who don’t gamble and risk takers who aren’t risky.

Sparked by curiosity, entrepreneurs explore farther and wider than most people but they aren’t reckless (at least not the successful ones).

RouletteNothing happens without ideas, and curiosity is what leads to the best ideas. You have to go through a lot of ideas before you find that magical one that both excites you and works. That search can sometimes take a lifetime and the search is what many people don’t understand about entrepreneurs. In my interview with Gary Vaynerchuk he said he has ideas “24/7.” But he doesn’t blindly follow all of them or most of them or even some of them. He said that if the idea sticks around for a while, just won’t leave his mind, then he’ll follow it.

Which takes me to the idea of risk. Acting on any new idea has risk associated with it but there is a difference between being risky and taking a risk. Being risky is doing something without much thought or planning. Taking a risk is researching, learning as much as you can, turning the unknown into the known so that surprises are minimal, and then going for it. One approach is dangerous the other is smart.

A lot of people confuse this penchant for risk as gambling but gambling is a loser’s game, gambling is a game of chance and successful entrepreneurs work hard to reduce chance. You can’t eliminate chance but there comes a tipping point when risk has been reduced to the point that action makes sense. This is why I put the following quote in my book: “I have always found that if I move with seventy five per cent or more of the facts that I usually never regret it. It’s the guys who wait to have everything perfect that drive you crazy.” That was Lee Iococca, the former CEO of Chrysler and that is the difference between someone who sees entrepreneurship as risky, as gambling, and someone who understands risk and works to make it less risky.

The person who has to wait until all risk is eliminated will never be an entrepreneur, and the person who rushes in without thought or preparation won’t be successful, but the balance between these two extremes puts the odds in your favor. It’s why I ask What Next and why I work hard to answer that with facts.


Posted in Business, Curiosity, General, Success, Taking Action and tagged , , , , , , , , by with no comments yet.

Crap Filter

 
I know it’s a gross title for a post but it is appropriate.

I watched an interview done at the Khan Academy with Elon Musk and it was his words that led to this title.

Entrepreneurship might be glamorous and could prove quite lucrative but it’s also the hardest work you’ll ever do. I’ll let Elon Musk take it from here.

Everyone thinks they want to be the boss but when you’re at the bottom of the “filter for the crapest problems in the company” it’s not a lot of fun. I can speak from experience and while my high points are not as high as Elon Musk’s neither are my low points. When SpaceX had three failed launches in a row and only had one last chance for a very big contract with NASA, that’s really low. When Tesla was a week away from running out of money with no investors willing to step in, that was very low.

In spite of all that, he still felt “quite compelled to do it” and that made all the difference.

In the face of skepticism and failure, to push forward anyway is the sign of a person who will be successful. I have wanted to give up many times, I have wanted to sell my business many times, but I have stuck it out and now it is beginning (these things take time) to pay off. I still have bad days but having come through past obstacles and problems makes the future problems easier to handle.

Feel free to share how you have been stuck at the bottom of the crap filter and come through it stronger than before.


Posted in Business, General, Leadership, Success and tagged , , , , , , by with no comments yet.

Million Dollar Lunch

 
Warren BuffettIf you had the chance to have lunch with Warren Buffet, would you? If you had the chance to ask, one on one, Richard Branson for advice, would you?

I think the answer to both of those questions is a resounding yes! I would too, but would you pay a million dollars, or in the case of Warren Buffet’s latest charity auction, 2.3 million for lunch?

Even if I could afford it my answer would be no. From my perspective the fabulously wealthy offer little value. Sure, their success sets the bar high but I’m more interested in people who have done a lot with relatively little, the people whose advice can actually lead somewhere.

I’d rather have lunch with the man or woman who opened a local restaurant and now owns several throughout the state. I’d rather meet and talk to the person who created something that a lot of people use. Maybe they didn’t make billions but they did fill a need and did well doing so.

These are people I have access to, or more access than I do to Richard Branson or Warren Buffet.

By looking for lessons and advice from these entrepreneurial rock stars you might be overlooking the valuable advice that’s sitting next to you at the barber shop or on the subway.

Many people don’t listen enough, aren’t curious enough to ask questions, to discover the wisdom that’s right under their nose.

 


Posted in Business, Curiosity, General, Success and tagged , , , , by with no comments yet.

Are You Profitable?

 
Stack of cashAs a business owner you hear this question or one like it all the time. It starts as small talk – how’s business? – is usually the first question. Fairly quickly, because they want you to succeed, they’ll ask if you’re breaking even or making a profit.

If they’re asking that question then they probably haven’t been in business themselves because the answer is rather complicated.

Start-up costs are huge and can’t be recovered in a short time. While that money isn’t all out of pocket, loans need to be paid back and the term for business loans are not very long, 5-7 years, so payments are fairly high. I’ve had people ask me if my business was profitable after I was only open a few months. That’s the field of dreams concept of business, if you build it they will come, as if customers flood you with money the moment your doors open.

In addition to start-up costs there are the operational costs and, with a slow (but hopefully steady) increase in business, the money to keep things going needs to come from somewhere. Since it’s not coming from customers it has to come from the owner or investors. It’s called the burn rate and needs to be watched closely. There were plenty of weeks and months that I had to add cash to cover payroll, loan payments, or marketing expenses.

I have indeed seen businesses reach profitability in a short period of time but that’s the exception.

Patience and attention to all aspects of the business, revenue, expenses, marketing, and staff are the key things the entrepreneur needs to focus on. If there is progress then profits will come. Owning a business is a long-term prospect and success doesn’t come over night.

So my response to people who ask me these questions is: “If only it were that quick and easy everyone would own a business.”

What’s your response? Add your comment below.


Posted in Business, General, Money and tagged , , , , , , , by with no comments yet.

Are You Ready?

 
Breaking-News-1I work in the frenetic world of television news (luckily it’s not the every-single-bit-of-information-is-breaking-news world of cable). While I’m no longer in the trenches of a daily broadcast, I remember the deadlines, the last minute changes, the real breaking news events that required us to shift into a very high gear and sometimes stay there for hours or days.

When the news was slow and predictable you could rest, but one of my managers would always ask, “are you ready?” The question would catch me off guard but the answer was always yes. Yes I was ready for breaking news, ready to spring into action, ready for the pressure, the intensity of the job.

So my question for you is, “are you ready?” Are you ready for the intensity of life, the sudden and unexpected turns life can take?

What are you doing to get ready? Are you being passive, waiting to react or are you being curious, trying new things, practicing? Following a single path to success isn’t enough any more. You have to branch out and explore the tributaries of life.

I was asked my advice on how to take a chance and follow a different path – my answer was to treat every new idea, every new adventure as a hobby. Don’t quit your day job, don’t rush into anything. Start small and try it out. If you enjoy it, if you find success you will be able to accelerate but if you fail, if you find it more difficult than you expected, stopping won’t be devestating.

Here’s an image I saw but I’d like to modify it a bit to fit the idea of being ready.

Definition of entrepreneurship

My change? Be ready: Avoid instant gratification now to exploit real opportunities as they come.

BeReady

What are you doing to be ready? Share your thoughts below and get the conversation going.

 


Posted in General, Success and tagged , , , , , , by with no comments yet.

The Reality of Entrepreneurship

 
Hello, my name is AJ and I’m an entrepreneur. Sounds like the beginning of a twelve step program meeting. I introduce myself this way because a lot of people make entrepreneurship sound wonderful, even magical. You can be your own boss, set your own hours, you create jobs and contribute to society. All good things for sure.

aloneBut there is a dark side. First among the dirty little secrets of entrepreneurship is that it’s hard.

More difficult than you can imagine

Starting something from nothing is hard. Even when you can get help, as so many do through franchises, it’s still hard. Even though people talk about the depressing statistics of business failure, which vary widely, the picture they paint is still rosey. Entrepreneurs are considered brave and they are revered for their actions. That’s fine but let’s not encourage people to be foolish. There’s no reason to throw caution to the wind and go for it without a plan.

Starting a business takes up more time than most people can physically give, it’s tiring. I’ve heard it said that the only person who cares about your business is you and it’s true. No matter how good the team you build is, the business is not their priority. They will call out when you need them most, they will say the wrong thing at the worst possible time to the most important customer, and you will have to fix it all. They will leave for a few cents or a few bucks more per hour. Owning a business can be frustrating and yet you have to be there with enough enthusiasm to spread around.

All that difficulty can lead some to become disallusioned but the successful ones will have just a bit more positive energy than negative.

More expensive than you planned

It also takes more money than most people realize. I was told once that no matter what I planned, double the amount of time and money I thought I needed, even if my estimates were high. I can tell you from experience that advice was 100% correct.

Under capitalization is the single worst mistake someone going into a business can make. We’ve all heard about the outliers who started with a hundred dollars and made millions, but if that were the norm we’d all be millionaires. You have to know that, if you need to, you could carry the business expenses for months or maybe even years.

Other people’s expectations

When you see friends or family and they ask how’s business, they don’t understand that you might have had a bad day. They don’t understand that bills are coming due and revenue might not be keeping up. If you’re honest and tell them it’s hard, they’ll usually respond with “but it’s all yours right?” as if that makes it better.

You can’t go to friends and family for solace because they don’t understand, and you don’t want to go to other business owners for fear of looking weak.

It takes longer too

I’m over a year into my business and things have stabilized. Everyone wants to make a profit right away but it takes longer than you think. What matters more is cash flow, positive cash flow. Positive cash flow and profitability are two different things. Startup costs aren’t paid for quickly, they’re large and revenue grows slowly.

I saw a friend shortly after her second child was born and asked how it was going. Her response? “Oh my God no one told me it was going to be this hard.” That’s how I feel about entrepreneurship so I’m here to tell you it’s that hard.

My advice? Think long and hard about going into business. Imagine every bad scenerio you can and then imagine what you’ll do to get out of it. Plan for the worst and work hard, harder than you ever have for the best.

Just as I was finishing this post someone on LinkedIn posted this article. It’s worth reading and backs up everything I say here – and then some.


Posted in General, Money, Success and tagged , , , , , by with no comments yet.

Gary Vaynerchuk and the Escalator Question

 
EscalatorPicWhen I found out I was interviewing Gary Vaynerchuk I had an opportunity to test a theory of mine. I believe that successful people, entrepreneurs in particular, like motion, would rather keep moving than stand still. They also don’t like other people getting in their way, blocking them from their goals.

I think successful people walk on escalators rather than stand. Gary confirmed that, sort of, but he also surprised me. Take a listen here:

Vaynerchuk EscalatorQuestion

It seems his default strategy is to walk on escalators but the surprising part was when he said that he stands when he’s late. That seemed odd to him (I think a lot of people would think it’s odd that he even gave it much thought, have you?). His belief is that he likes to be contrarian and I suggested that maybe, when he’s late, he needs that extra moment to collect himself, take a deep breath and know that those extra few seconds walking aren’t as important as those extra few seconds of calm.

The last point about the question is a bit less obvious but interesting and informative just the same; who thinks about how they interact with escalators? I don’t think normal people give that much thought. Gary and I do, however, and that says a lot about two traits we spoke of in the interview, curiosity and self-awareness.

Being curious means you look at things a little differently than other people, that what most people take for granted, you dissect to discover why. Being self aware means you are always assessing your actions, beliefs, and values, being just as curious about yourself as you are about others.

Do you walk on escalators? Do you prefer motion over stagnation? Are you self aware enough to answer those questions? Are you curious enough to discover your true habits? Please share in the comments below.


Posted in Curiosity, General, Success and tagged , , , , , , by with no comments yet.

That Risk Ain’t So Risky

 
What is considered risky by one person may be conservative for another. Whether personal, financial, or business each person has a point they will not pass, a chance they will not take.

What I don’t like is when other people project their fear, their cautiousness onto me. The hard part is when your spouse is the one you can’t seem to agree with. In my case that’s a good thing. Julie keeps me in check, tamps my enthusiasm and brings a dose of reality to an otherwise overly optimistic me.

It turns out, however, that common risks like starting a business aren’t nearly as risky as people may think.

In a blog post on the Harvard Business Review website Bruce Gibney and Ken Howery state, “Entrepreneurship is a deviation, an occupation for heroes, heroic for the reasons it can’t be recommended: it’s just too unsafe. But the conventional position is nonsense; building new companies is far more sensible than the practical will admit.”

Imagine this conversation. “What’s your major?”

“Entrepreneurship.”

“You mean business, right? Entrepreneurship isn’t a job, where do you plan on working?”

“Wherever I want, doing whatever I want.”

The idea of working wherever you want without being limited by a career path may look to others like a lack of focus but it is a life many people aspire to and have had great success with. As I point out in my book, What Next A Proactive Approach to Success, Scott Loughmiller, an entrepreneur, saw two paths out of college, work for someone else or be the boss and start his own company. Scott chose the latter and it worked out very well.

How many people with “safe” jobs lost them in the most recent economic volatility? In contrast, Gibney and Howery point out that “of 5,000 businesses started in 2004, almost 56% were still in business in 2010, despite suffering through a brutal economic downturn.” Of the 44% that aren’t still in business, how many have moved on to another business that is still active?

Entrepreneurship should be encouraged. Starting a business is not risky. Pouring all your savings, even going deep into debt, for an idea that hasn’t been researched, hasn’t been tested, is not risky, it’s foolish. I’m sure it was a risk for Richard Branson to start Virgin Airways but I’m sure he didn’t throw caution to the wind and make hasty decisions without research. If Virgin Airways was not profitable, if it were starting to drag the rest of his businesses down, I’m sure he would eliminate it before any real damage could be done.

I spent money to publish my book and I’m spending money to publicize it. I don’t know if any good will come from it but I’m not going broke in the process. There is a point beyond which I will not proceed but until then I keep moving forward with one goal in mind.  My book was a risk but it was not risky.

What is a risk you’ve wanted to take but didn’t out of fear or pressure from others? Share your answers below in the comments area.


Posted in General, Success and tagged , , , , by with 2 comments.