Posts Tagged ‘business’

“Not-only-for-profit”

July 18, 2010

Not all businesspeople are greedy.  We’ve heard the Bernie Madoff investment stories, heard about banks that lend to unqualified candidates, and have seen the get-rich-quick promises on late night TV.  It’s easy to quickly classify all businesspeople or for-profit companies as greedy.  And I agree, greed is typically a short-sighted model for taking advantage of others.

But on the other side of greed is the fear of money. Too many people shun the idea of making money as evil and believe good can only be done by non-profits.  These individuals then spend 80% of their precious time begging for money in lieu of working on the cause about which they are passionate.  Don’t get caught in the delusion that being destitute is a necessary situation for helping the world.  In fact, it will cripple your ability to do so.  Money is like fire – it can burn you and leave you disfigured, or it can keep you warm and safe.

Since Adam Smith, economists have understood that “self-love” leads to quality products and social benefits.  If a baker makes wonderful bread, he/she brings nutrition and pleasure to the community as well as financial rewards for himself and his family.  It is not his “benevolence” but self-interest that provides the most benefits for everyone involved.  And there can be true authentic “benevolence” as well.

Good intentions and a pure and giving heart are not enough.  Economic accountability is a good thing.  If an organization’s efforts are secured by God, the government or the heartstrings of generous individuals, it can be run inefficiently with little measurement of accomplishment.  The businessman has no such cushion.  Either something of value and fair exchange is produced and delivered or the business will not survive.  In that sense, the business model requires more honesty and transparency than the non-profit.

I love running a business.  I love not being handcuffed by a publicly traded board of directors or by the required board for a non-profit organization.  We can make decisions quickly about giving and blessing – and about sound financial opportunities.  I am deeply grateful and feel privileged to be able to have a “not-only-for-profit” company.

How would you categorize your work or business?

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Confused and Stunned – awesome!

July 2, 2010

Is now a time to try something new – perhaps something you’ve never done before?  Or should you sit out the “recession” and wait until “things get better.”

“The times when everyone is confused and stunned can present an enormous opportunity because no one’s really doing anything,” says Dell Computer founder Michael Dell.  “I think this is the time when the seeds of really successful new businesses will be created.”

Designer Kenneth Cole says, “When things are going well, people want to do what’s working and more of it.  It’s only in difficult times that people are open to creative alternatives.”

Mark Cuban, entrepreneur and owner of the Dallas Mavericks, points out that some of the greatest businesses were built in recessionary times.  “Money is easy to find in boom times, which leads to far too many businesses getting out of the gate that don’t deserve to be started.  When money is scarce, better ideas face less competition and better execution can lead to greater success.”

Whether it’s changing career paths or starting your own business, there’s never been a more opportune time than today.  July 1st marks the beginning of the second half of 2010.  And what better time to claim your “independence” than on July 4th.  Recognize you are in the driver’s seat, break ties with the mother country if necessary and begin your personal revolution. And remember, “things” get better when you get better.

Secure but miserable…

March 22, 2010

Here’s a question that’s very similar to others I receive about ten times a week:

Dan, I have been working at a job for about 2 years, and I’m completely miserable.  The pay is decent and also the benefits/yearly bonus. But I just can’t stand the job.  I have an idea for a great business that I would love but I’m terrified of leaving the “security” of my regular “job.”

Being secure in something where you are miserable is an oxymoron and an illusion.  If you are miserable you are not providing your best work.  And if you are not providing your best work you are not as valued as you may think.  Your misery is very likely obvious – and thus, management is probably already looking for ways to cover your responsibilities.

Your real risk is not in leaving to try something new but in thinking you can just stay where you are and keep things the same.

Here are five tips for having the courage to start your own business:

  1. Recognize “risk” is the sense that you are not in control.  Preparation reduces risk dramatically.
  2. Start with your passion – build the business idea around that.
  3. Share your idea with everyone.  No one succeeds alone.  Find people whose skills compliment your own.
  4. Recognize that enthusiasm is contagious.  Your enthusiasm will act as a talent and money magnet.
  5. Create a clear plan in advance.  You can’t hit a target you can’t see.

Sometimes the biggest risk is in not taking one.

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“Excellence is the result of caring more than others think is wise; risking more than others think is safe; dreaming more than others think is practical and expecting more than others think is possible.”

Half the size – twice the price

December 14, 2009

On Thanksgiving weekend Joanne and I traveled up to the Amish country in Ohio to visit my dad in his retirement home.  As always, I am amazed at the micro enterprises that cover the back roads of this farming area where I was raised.  At one shop, where I bought some fresh unpastuerized apple cider, we saw a pile of miniature straw bales, about half the size of regular bales.  My brother told me a local Amishman had rebuilt a hay baler to produce the tiny, decorative bales.  While regular sized bales sell for about $2.00, these half sized ones sell for $4.00.  That’s the power of a unique idea. 

 

We also visited the local winery featuring Amish Country Wine.  And we stopped in at Homestead Furniture where we’ve had a couple of beautiful custom pieces designed and made for our home.  There is certainly some amusing irony in the Amish being winemakers and having the latest laser technology.   But the point is they are great about finding unique ideas and building a successful business around them.

If you have an idea, you’ve got to have a well thought out business plan.  The importance of a comprehensive, thoughtful business plan cannot be overemphasized.  Much hinges on it: credit from suppliers, management of your operation and finances, promotion and marketing of your business, and achievement of your goals and objectives.

Here’s a free Business Planning Guide – you will see examples and questions to help you develop your idea.  You’ll also see information relative to taxes, insurance and legal issues.  I love to see simple ideas produce unusual success –

If you have an idea you want to turn into income this next year you may want to check out the growing group of 48Days.net Members who are sharing ideas and growing their businesses. There’s no cost to be involved and you can tap into the best braintrust I know of anywhere. 

Now, tell us about your unique business idea – that may defy logic.

Lemonade Stands Rock

July 13, 2009

Want your children to understand business?  The lemonade stand is the American classic for that first business experience.  If your child is between 5 and 12 years old you can help them enter this annual INC magazine contest.  Entries must be in by August 24th.  Just start here — Lemonade Stand.  And be sure to watch the twin boys who won last years contest.  These little guys have a punch card program for regular customers and allow prospects to shoot baskets for discounts and prizes.

When I was 10 years old I would get up very early in the morning, pick the remaining sweet corn beyond what my Mom wanted for family use, and load a little trailer that I could pull behind our farm’s Ford tractor.  After driving two miles into town I would proudly set up and sell that corn for $.30 a dozen.   When my oldest son Kevin was 14 we sent him to a window tinting training in Atlanta.  He then launched a very profitable business that funded his bicycle racing travel and expenses.  When younger son Jared was 14 and looking for a summer income generator we made up fliers announcing his bicycle repair services.  He provided free pick-up and delivery to our 438 house neighborhood as his unique selling proposition (USP) for a very profitable summer that did not require Mom or Dad driving him to his “job.”  Both sons now head up their own businesses. 

Are you teaching your children business principles?  How to provide a product or service that people want?  The experience of accepting responsibility, controlling costs and making a profit may be more valuable than sitting passively in one more class.  It may also give them insulation from being fired, laid off, or downsized.

Sell or Starve

February 16, 2009

To get a job, you have to sell yourself.  To start a business or run it successfully, you have to sell a product or service – every day.  Gone are the days of “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door.”  If you are going to be successful in any way you have to learn to sell, and do it well.

Here are statements I’m hearing from people who have not learned how to sell:

  • “I’ve applied for lots of jobs but no one’s hiring.”
  • “Everywhere I go they tell me I’m over-qualified.”
  • “I’ve got to just stay on unemployment since the economy is so bad.”
  • “No one can afford to engage a career coach right now.”
  • “I’m not expecting any new customers for my landscape business as long as we’re in this recession.”
  • “I’d love to start a business but I don’t have any money.”
  • “I’ve been rejected by 10 publishers – I guess I’m not an author after all.” 
  • “I started a church but it turns out we were in a poor location.”

The cover story in the current issue of Success magazine profiles George Foreman. (Big Business with Big George) Of course we all know George because of his boxing success – or do we?  No, there are lots of boxers, but we know George because he learned how to sell.  He says his athletic ability was less a factor in his success than his selling skills. “If you learn to sell, it’s worth more than a degree,” he says.” It’s worth more than the heavyweight championship of the world. It’s even more important than having a million dollars in the bank. Learn to sell and you’ll never starve.”

Free Ideas — and Free Money?

February 12, 2009

Okay – many of you that I talk to say you are still looking for your great idea.  Some of you have your idea but feel you need a chunk of money to get it off the ground.  Well, here’s a solution for both.  Billionaire Mark Cuban is offering to fund any business that can show a break-even cash flow in 60 days and be profitable in 90.  So – no problem getting any amount of money you need (no minimum – no maximum) – if in fact you have a solid business plan.  The Mark Cuban Stimulus Plan.  And if you still need an idea – no problem.  Seth Godin’s current group of 9 six-month MBA candidates just came up with a list of 999 Business Ideas – free for the taking.  I believe every single one except #789 has merit.  I’m going to study the entire list and find 3-4 to develop myself. 

No more excuses – plenty of ideas and plenty of money.  All you need to do is take action.  If you don’t have a money making business 90 days from now – look in the mirror to identify the roadblocks.

Can’t Stop me Now

January 26, 2009

Is your industry getting killed with all the changes that are happening right now?  We know people in real estate, banking and construction are running out the door in search of new opportunities.  Here’s another one you may not hear as much about – publishing.  Simon & Schuster, Macmillan and Harper Collins are laying staff off left and right.  Salaries are being frozen or eliminated.  Publisher’s Weekly predicts that 2009 will be “the worst year for publishing in decades.” 

But what does that mean if you’re a wanna-be-author?  Are all your hopes dashed – or do you perhaps have better opportunities than you’ve ever had before?  In this week’s issue of TIME, Lev Grossman writes in Books Gone Wild that people are reading more and it’s never been easier to get a book out to an eager audience.  Wooing agents, begging for a publisher, fat advances, printing on paper and shipping on consignment are probably things of the past, but there are no barriers for delivering a complete manuscript via a blog, podcast or cell phone.  Let the readers decide – and if they like it, the product can then be created in another profitable form.  (More about turning your writing into income in Write to the Bank.

Most every industry is the same.  If you are in the restaurant business it may not make sense to be open every day, just waiting for customers.  In New York City there is a restaurant that is only open twenty times a year.  You have to have an appointment and pay in advance.  No empty seats, no wondering if you’ll cover the overhead.  I’m talking to mortgage lenders who can’t keep up with the flood of new customers for refinancing, builders who do nothing but specialty work and can’t turn out the work fast enough, and bankers who have plenty of money to lend and invest. 

People ask about my business.  Here’s the deal.  If the economy is great, people know they have options so my business is great.  If the economy is bad, people have to be looking for new solutions, so my business is great. 

What about your business?  I suspect the same can be true for you.

No Business — Just Love Me

December 13, 2008

Recently I spoke at a breakfast Chamber of Commerce meeting.  Sitting at my table was a lady who told me she was in the insurance business.  The next day she contacted me and was persistent about giving me a presentation.  I agreed to give her 20 minutes just as a professional courtesy.  She brought her boss with her and we had a pleasant 20 minute interaction, after which I told her I had chosen to keep my current coverage in place.  She continued to contact me and I have responded briefly.  Yesterday she called me again to ask my advice for growing her business.  I gave her some brief tips as I was attempting to get off the phone and back to my important writing deadlines.

This morning I received a lengthy email from this lady – telling me among other things that she was sold by her birthmother at nine months old for $2000.  Then at age seven, her adopted mother gave her away to someone else.  She was nine years old when she heard in a Sunday School class that Jesus loved her.  That was the first time she had ever been told that she was loved by anyone. 

And now she’s thanking me profusely for listening, understanding and helping her.  As I replay in my mind my interaction with her I’m amazed that she even felt cared for by me.  I was encouraging and businesslike but certainly don’t feel that I went out of my way to show personal concern.

Three points for me to remember (and perhaps for you as well):

  1. I need to be sure that my natural interaction with people validates them as individuals.
  2. I want to be sensitive to the many hurting people who are hungry for someone to just love them.  (Especially at this time of year.)
  3. What I see as important business may pale in comparison to a critical need right in front of me.

Vending — an easy $15-20K a year?

November 23, 2008

Here’s an honest question from a 48 Days reader:

I have come across an opportunity to buy 100 bubble gum machines (4 tall spiral and many double headed) for $17k. They bring in around 15k-20k a year.  I have never bought anything like this, can you please give any advicbubble-gum-machinee you may have and if this is a good investment and what other questions I should ask the seller.  Thank you so much..I didn’t know who else to turn to.

Michelle,

I commend you on thinking about a business of your own.  However, getting these machines at a good price is the easy part.  The ONLY thing that matters is whether you can get them set up in good locations.  Believe me, the machines don’t “bring in around 15k-20k a year.”  They bring in zero unless you have them in killer locations.

Don’t even think about buying any machines until you’ve talked with 20 places where you could potentially put them.  You’re going to find that you cannot put them in most retail or franchise locations.  Any hospital or university will already have a contract in place for all their vending machines.  That means then that you’re looking at Mom and Pop small businesses – where it’s questionable if they have enough traffic to make it work.  Don’t do anything until you secure 10 agreements to place the machines.  Once you’ve done your work on that end you’ll have a lot better sense of what the vending business is all about.    

I love the vending business – many of my most profitable products are essentially “electronic vending” — but  you have to do your homework to make it work.