The reality of being a small business owner is that you are going to have difficult clients. How you deal with them comes down to how much you are willing to endure.

These are the clients that hire you because of your expertise, but then try to tell you how to run the project. They can also be the type that doesn’t respect your time or are late in getting you the information you need but still expect you to meet the original deadline. Of course, let’s not forget those that expect you do more than originally agreed upon, and don’t think they should be charged more. I could go on, but you get the point.

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Inflation is much like rust. Left unchecked it can quietly eat away at your buying power and can turn a profitable business into one that struggles and a struggling business into non-existence.

For many of us, you pretty much had to be a Boomer living in an industrialized world to fully appreciate the impact that inflation had during the 80’s. During that period mortgage rates skyrocketed to over 21% and unemployment exceeded 12% in North America.

As bad as that was, there were countries that faced 100% annual inflation back then. To put things in perspective, that meant that the price of goods doubled in a year.

Inflation is like rust

The point of all this is not to provide an economics lesson, because I’d be the wrong person for that. No, this is intended is reinforce the need to be vigilant in managing your costs and pricing.

Regardless of your industry, you are probably facing cost increases in materials and wages. The latter because of the tight labour market, thanks in part to government social programs.

With all the things we must oversee as business owners, being a little more vigilant with all our purchases can become burdensome. However, with inflation starting to ramp up to serious levels, it’s more important than ever review your costs and adjust your pricing to protect your margins.

Too often I find small business owners struggle with increasing their prices because they are afraid of losing customers. Their internal dialogue usually centers around “I can’t charge them that much, that’s expensive, they’ll never pay that much!”

How is it that they won’t pay that much? Everybody is paying higher prices for just about everything they buy now. So, why should you be a martyr? Unfortunately, inflation is a perpetual motion machine that never stops.

The destructive power of inflation

What so many entrepreneurs fail to realize in a high inflation era, is that you need to keep your prices in step with the increases in your costs, otherwise it ends up costing you money and potentially your business.

Inflation can destroy your income statement in short order. When you look at the bottom line of many small businesses, there is not a lot left over after a year of hard work. The typical small business has a Net Income is way below 10% with many running in the 2-4% range. So, on a $1 million business that means your left with $20-40,000 or $10-20,000 on $500,000 and only $6-12,000 on a $300,000 business. Not much of reward for all the hard work.

Now layer on inflation at 4-7% that has recently been reported by various governments over the past few months and you will start to see the potential for margin destruction. But only if you don’t adjust your costs accordingly.

Business is not a charity

Using the previous examples, a 4% increase in inflation can wipe out the profit of most small businesses. Whereas a 7% increase you automatically go negative into a loss.

Look, nobody likes price increases, but it is a reality of our time. For the past 10+ years most of us have enjoyed a low predictable inflation rate below 2%. Even then I have encouraged small business owners to take annual price increases. Because 2% compounded annually equates to over 6.1% over a 3 year period.

Business is not a charity. You are here to make money. The more you make, the more security you can bring to your firm and your employees. The more money you make, the more you can pay your staff and yourself.

Some options

Being worried if your customers can afford the new price is noble but not realistic. There’s no point of losing money just to avoid increasing your prices. Yes, you can always offer a one time discount to your better customers as a way to ease them into the new pricing. But I stress one-time.

I also know that there always seems to be someone willing to do the job cheaper and to that I say let them. Every industry has someone who offers low pricing but it’s my experience that most don’t last long.

Alternatively, you can do what many consumer goods companies are doing, reduce the size of the product to maintain a price. Offering your customers a “lite” version of your existing product or services may be all you need to do.

Minor tweaks such as a decrease in reporting, a reduced delivery frequency or even quicker payment terms are just some of the examples. These small adjustments can be used to maintain a given price point.

Another thing to always keep in mind is if those customers are only shopping on price, you must ask yourself whether you want them as customers in the first place. Often, they are not loyal and will change suppliers for a nickel.

It has been my experience that profit margins are never high enough. So, increasing your prices to ensure inflation doesn’t destroy your company, is just smart business.

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

An often published piece of advice to aspiring and to lesser extent existing entrepreneurs is to follow your passion. By doing so, riches or success will surely be yours. But, as with most of these sound bites, this is rarely the case.

Let’s be honest. There’s lots of things that people have a passion for that could never support their dream lifestyle. Unless of course their dream is to just grind out a meager living.

There are plenty of examples of bankrupt restauranteurs who have a passion for cooking but couldn’t run a restaurant. What about the numerous clothing stores that couldn’t make it even though the owner’s passion was fashion?

Be passionate

Plenty of people have a passion for gardening, knitting, pottery, or music, but few would ever be able to or even consider creating anything more than a side hustle that adds a few dollars in their pockets. Of course, there are always the exceptions to this, but they are by far in the minority.

Be Passionate

So, just because you have a passion for something doesn’t mean you can make a business out of it. But then what would happen to all those “Follow your passion” sound bites and their perpetrators?

So instead of “Follow your passion”, what we should be promoting is “Be passionate about what you do!” To some this may be just semantics, but it’s far more than that. It’s about believing that what you do provides a better solution for your customers and not just wishful thinking.

Another way to look at it is that being passionate more closely resembles enthusiasm whereas having a passion is more emotional.

Merriam-Webster defines enthusiasm as having a strong feeling of active interest in something that you like or enjoy. The operative words being “active interest”. Emotions on the other hand, is defined as a strong feeling such as love, anger, joy, hate or fear.

Being passionate is also about continually trying to improve what you do. It’s about immersing yourself in the industry and grasping its nuances. It’s about becoming a student of your industry and the needs of its customers. In other words, to strive to be an expert.

What are you good at?

Another reason being passionate wins out over passion, is because being passionate usually means your good at something. You’ve found a niche that allows you to excel and therefore you just naturally gravitate towards the area where learning and subject matter information is easily consumed.

At the end of the day, most of us would never achieve any level of success if we just followed our passion. And having talked with hundreds of successful entrepreneurs it was interesting that most didn’t follow their passion.

As a matter of fact, I don’t recall anyone of them telling me they followed their passion. No, most just saw an opportunity that aligned with their skill set and went for it. But they were passionate about what they were doing. Being “passionate” about what you do, is far better advice than “follow your passion” in my opinion.

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

One of the biggest challenges of a service business is managing your inventory. Now you might wonder what inventory, besides a few stationary supplies you may have, that need to be managed?

Well, unlike a manufacturing, retail or a distribution business, where you have physical inventory that needs to be stored, sold and then replenished, service businesses on the other hand have a single and very unique inventory -TIME!

 

3 people standing inside big clock

Time- It’s how you get paid!

Because as a service business, your product is the knowledge that you and your staff carry around in your head. Putting this knowledge or expertise to work is how you generate your revenue and that’s usually in the form of hours worked.

It can be argued that service technicians like appliance or auto repair have inventory, but for the most part you hire them for their knowledge and they in turn they charge you for the time it takes to fix the problem. Therefore, the parts although important, are secondary to diagnostic skills the technician possess, because without those skills, there wouldn’t be a part to sell.

Similarly, sales and marketing services companies also generate revenue by the hour, however, it is rarely shown as such as most fees are displayed as a total for a given project. But all the fees are calculated as an estimate of how much time or hours are involved in executing the project by the various staff members.

Establish some balance

One of the biggest issues with owners of service businesses is understanding that their inventory is finite and that they should be running their companies with that in mind. Unfortunately, this is contrary to how many of these businesses operate. They assume that they can just put in more time and work longer hours. Although feasible in the short term, it is rarely a long term strategy. Yet so many continue to do so.

There are some advantages to managing your business based on your available inventory of time. First off, it should bring a sense of balance to a business. Balance, as in work life balance.
Secondly, it would allow you to establish realistic delivery timelines to the customer. Let’s be honest, we all think we can complete an assignment quicker than reality dictates but that just stresses out your staff or annoys the client when we are late. So being realistic can reduce the occurrence of both.

Additional benefits of managing your inventory can be significant on the financial front. Foremost, you’ll quickly understand whether you are charging enough and whether your existing inventory of hours available can support your financial demands.

Calculate how much time you really have

Furthermore, you should also discover how efficient or inefficient your organization is and where improvements can be made. Increases in efficiencies can greatly enhance your profitability. A simple metric such as revenue per hour is great place to start in benchmarking any improvements. This calculation is done by simply dividing your total revenue by total payroll hours for any given period, including your own.

So, how do you calculate this inventory? Well, it is easier than you think, and it really doesn’t matter whether your staff is making $20/hr or $200/hr as it is the exact same calculation. Earning a higher hourly rate does not give you more hours in a day, as we all get the same 24hrs.

The following example is how you calculate your total available inventory of time in a service business.

1. Assume a 40 hour work week = 2,080 hrs
2. Assume 3 weeks vacation = (120)
3. Assume 11 statutory holidays = (88).
4. Assume 5 sick days = (40)
5. Assume 2×15 mins breaks/day = (12.5)
Total available hours 1855.5 hrs

So before doing this exercise, most owners assume they have 40 hours a week or 2080 hours per year per employee that are available to them. However, after taking into account vacations, stat holidays, sick days and coffee breaks, that number is reduced by 11% to 1855 hours per year or a loss of almost 6 weeks out of a 52 week year.

This number actually gets worse if employees are required to travel to clients as in the case of a repair technician or a salesperson. You can easily lose and additional 2 hours per day which is a potential loss of an additional 13 weeks per annum. So now we are down to 33 weeks of billable time in a year or 1335 hours from a high of 2080 hours. That’s a 36% reduction in available inventory or billable time.

Once you understand how much available time you have, you can now start to make realistic assumptions and projections. Of course, the challenge to all service businesses is the ability to maximize your available time inventory and make sure it’s productive.

Hiring more people not the best option

Unfortunately, the only way to increase your inventory in a service business, is to hire more people. But realistically, that’s not necessarily the best option, especially if you have demand peaks and valleys in your business throughout the year. So, finding tools or processes to increase productivity might be a better avenue to maximize your existing inventory.

Realistically, we are all faced with slack periods where there’s insufficient demand and people are not busy. Sadly, you can’t store any unused time for future use. Because once that minute hand on the clock moves forward, you have lost that inventory forever.

So, sit down with staff and explain the impact they can have on the business by being more efficient. Then ask them where the bottlenecks are and their suggestions to get rid of them, because once that inventory is gone, it’s gone!

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

There are lots of reasons start-ups fail, but one that I see far too often is the lack of industry experience. Industry experience can be summed up as having substantive knowledge working in the area of the planned start-up.

As an advisor, I have met with hundreds of budding start-ups and one of my primary questions to them once they have explained their idea is, “what industry experience do you have?” Unfortunately, I never thought to quantify the responses, but suffice to say that a large percentage had zero industry experience.

Interesting enough, this was not isolated to any particular industry, but ran the gamut from app development to the hospitality industry and everything in between. This lack of industry experience can be partially explained by the rampant promotion of entrepreneurship and the social media heroes that give false hope to their many followers, by suggesting that they only need desire or ambition to be successful. For those of us that know better, nothing could be farther from the truth.

Chilkoot Pass

To be sure there are examples of individuals who have been successful in areas where they had little experience. For the most part these individuals had a lot of luck or a lot of money to support them while they learned, but they are the exceptions. The average entrepreneur has neither, but what the successful ones do have is industry experience.

Knowledge deficit

The authors of Age and High-Growth Entrepreneurship stated the following in a Harvard Business Review post;

“We found that work experience plays a critical role. Relative to founders with no relevant experience, those with at least three years of prior work experience in the same narrow industry as their start-up were 85% more likely to launch a highly successful start-up.”

History itself can be a great teacher and as Winston Churchill once said in a speech to the House of Commons “Those who fail to learn from history are condemned to repeat it.” There are many examples from history that entrepreneurs can draw upon to support or justify why those individuals with industry experience have a greater chance at success.

What most people overlook is that having industry experience is a massive competitive advantage. It gives you the knowledge to spot an opportunity from the inside that is invisible to an outsider. This is by no means a guarantee but having industry experience can minimizes potential missteps that are not clearly visible to the outsider.

Klondike (Yukon) Gold Rush

One of the most interesting comparisons that I can make to todays rush to entrepreneurship is that of the Klondike Gold Rush. Once the news leaked out that gold was discovered in Dawson City in the Yukon in 1896, the stampede was on.

Much like social media does today, newspapers from around the world wrote extensively about the bonanza. So much so, that in one San Francisco newspaper it was front page news for over a year.

It is estimated that between 100,000 and 300,000 people from around the world, regardless of their experience, quit their jobs, left their families, and headed out on the year long trek to claim their share of the riches. Sadly, many did not get far. Of the potential 300,000 who set out, only 100,000 thousand actually made it to the Yukon and only 30,000 of them got to Dawson City.

It is interesting to note that of the 30,000 who made it to Dawson City, only 2,000 actually found gold and only a handful of those returned home with any.

Access to Yukon in those days required the gold seekers to travel north via ships from ports along the Pacific west coast to Skagway Alaska. This was the jumping off point to the Yukon, but even if you made it this far, many Stampeders, as they became known, were in for a rude awakening and ended many a dream.

Beginning in 1896 the Canadian government would not allow entrance into the Yukon unless the individual had a year’s worth of supplies to sustain themselves. This is one of the reasons that tens of thousands of people could not continue, because they didn’t have the money to buy what was required.

These supplies were split equally between food and equipment and weighed approximately 2000 pounds. Failure to comply, would result in you being turned away at the Canadian border because the government did not want those who were woefully unprepared to even attempt this most grueling journey. Maybe today’s start-ups should be mandated in a similar way, but I digress.

.

The Chilkoot Pass

One of the most famous pictures of that time is of the Chilkoot pass, where a long stream of prospectors are struggling up a 900 foot climb.

This 33 mile (53 kms) pass was the fastest, but more arduous way to Dawson City and once you made it over the pass, you still had 400+ miles (700 kms) to go. But you did not just have to climb the pass once, no you had to do it upwards of 20 times in order to move your 2000 pounds of supplies along your route.

In the early days, this was raw country and there just was not many transportation alternatives. For the most part, you either did it yourself or it did not move.

Just show up

The point of this comparison is that of tens of thousands that set out to stake their claim to riches, most had never prospected for anything. But because of all the newspaper hype, many just assumed that the gold was just lying there waiting to be picked up and if they could just get there, they would be rich. Experience did not matter, just show up.

Not to be overlooked, because it is not well documented, is how many people died in the attempt to reach the Klondike, but it numbered in the thousands. They died from either malnutrition or exposure, as the temperatures dropped to -40 degrees and colder in the winter. Sadly, they naively set out on journey, not knowing any better nor bring prepared. In other words, they had no experience.
Too many people today assume that it is easy to start a business and all they must do is to show up. Sadly, those that are not prepared, never make it to their destination. It takes more than desire, it takes knowledge and skills, and those skills and knowledge come from experience.

We need to change the way we promote entrepreneurship because, contrary to what we hear, it is not for everybody. However, for those that want to be their own boss, they need to understand that one of the best things they can do to increase their odds of success, is to get some industry experience.

It is not enough to watch a few how-to videos on YouTube or participate webinars. Only working in the industry will give you the necessary insights to map your way to the gold.

Fortunately, unlike the Yukon Gold Rush, few today are dying because of a failed business idea.

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

“Five percent of the people think; ten percent of the people think they think; and the other eighty-five percent would rather die than think”. This often repeated quote is regularly but wrongly attributed to Thomas Edison, Henry Ford and philosopher Bertrand Russell, all big thinkers in their own right. The reason for this is that they all had similar thoughts on the on the capacity or desire of humans to think, because thinking is hard work and most shy away from it. By the way, the actual author is Woods Hutchinson, an American physician who published “Balanced Work” in an edition of The Saturday Evening Post.

As entrepreneurs we are faced with a myriad of decisions we must make on any given day and quite frankly it can be exhausting. Couple that with all our other responsibilities, it leaves little time or more precisely, the energy to think. By think I mean intentionally focusing on a problem, opportunity, or challenge without distraction for an extended period of time as we search for the best solution. This is often referred to critical thinking.

Think not worry!

This is one of the reasons I repeatedly tell my audiences that as entrepreneurs, they need to make time to think. They need to find a way or a place to mentally retreat from all the day to day noise of our businesses and concentrate on the issue. For years I have used my daily walk or bike ride to ponder an issue. This 30 to 60 minute escape effectively disconnects me from all the other noise or distractions and provides focus time needed. I do not always resolve the issue, but this diversion usually provides a fertile field for ideas from which to germinate.

think

Too often people confuse worry with thinking and that is a mistake because there is a big difference between the two. Worry usually has too much emotional baggage attached to it and often has negative connotations that cloud our judgement. Whereas critical thinking on the other hand, is starting with a clean sheet and an opportunity mindset. This sets the stage to evaluate the issue or issues from a 360 degree perspective. The other upside to pondering our own solutions, is that it enhances our decision making process. To seriously think requires you to draw on all your knowledge and to determine any gaps you may have. Researching these gaps then adds to your knowledge and the more knowledge we gain, the more information we have to apply against future decisions.

Another way to look at it, is thinking is like exercise for the brain. As with all exercise it builds strength, resilience, and endurance to specific parts of our bodies. The same principle applies to thinking. The more we do it, the better we become, which in turn allows you to perform at a higher level.

The impact of Social Media

Although based purely on my observations, I see a disturbing trend evolving with many entrepreneurs and, for that matter, many individuals. They turn to various forums on social media platforms to solve their every problem. To my way of thinking this is doing the individual a disservice. Relying on others to help you make a decision does nothing to enhance your skill in this all important area.

To be sure two heads can be better than one, but hundreds of opinions, not so much. The problem is the audience lacks the context of your specific situation and are better used when dealing technical issues rather than directional ones. Relying on others does absolutely nothing to enhance this much needed entrepreneurial skill set. Just remember old saying that “practice makes perfect”.

IBM – Think

Thinking was so important that for years IBM had the word THINK strategically placed above every doorway as a reminder. They expected their employees to solve problems both internally and externally for their customers. Apparently, the origin stems from an uninspiring sales meeting. Thomas Watson, the founder interrupted the meeting, saying “The trouble with every one of us is that we don’t think enough. We don’t get paid for working with our feet — we get paid for working with our heads”. Watson then wrote THINK on the easel. (Wikipedia). The word THINK has since long been an IBM trademark and they even named their laptops ThinkPads, that are now owned by Lenovo.

The ability to think critically opens our minds to our own possibilities and if done well it allows you to solve problems or envision what your future could be. By thinking through the pros and cons and all the what ifs, allows you to distill a course of action that is home grown and is tailored to your specific needs. But it cannot happen unless you make the time to think.

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

For newly minted entrepreneurs, the biggest priority is to generate revenue, any revenue in an effort to transition from struggling to profitable enterprise. To those of us who have made the crossing, we have more often than not sacrificed our own financial needs in order to create a proper fiscal foundation for our business. Because so few of us ever get investor capital, we are left to our own devices to fund our enterprises. That’s okay. As that old saying goes “What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger!”

Unfortunately, we have trouble letting go of this attitude once the business moves off life support and begins breathing on its’ own. Of course this is understandable. Having lived through the tough times, it’s not something we’re eager to revisit. So under the guise of “reinvesting in the company”, we continue to pour our profits back into the organization and rarely do we consider taking it out of the company. Not to spend on toys, but to take some risk off the table.

Money Jar

80% of owners wealth is in their company

Considering most business owners hold upwards of 80% of their wealth in their business, this “all your eggs in one basket” scenario is a high risk situation. Ask these same owners if they would invest 80% of their net worth in shares of just one company on the stock exchange and they would certainly question your sanity. Yet these same individuals don’t think twice about their current wealth strategy.

In my case, I had set a target of getting 66% of my wealth outside of my operating company and to provide some form of creditor protection. I did this not because I was anticipating any sort of business crisis, but because I realized I didn’t want all that I had worked for to be totally dependent on the future performance of me and my company.

5 simple steps to get you started

Okay, so where and when do you begin? The following steps may help you frame your own initiative. Your corporate structure will dictate what vehicles are available to you and by all means consult your accountant, lawyer, financial planner and any other professional you need to maximize the effectiveness of this strategy

  1. Make sure you’re taking a regular dependable salary. Not your dream salary, but one that allows you to work without the stress of your personal financial situation overwhelming your decision making. In other words comfortably covering your basic needs.
  2. Begin formally moving a set amount from your current account to your chosen vehicle i.e. holding company, corporate savings account, etc. The formula you choose can range from 5% of all your billings that automatically gets transferred monthly to upwards of 50% of annual profit being transitioned out.
  3. This money should not be put at risk in another venture.
  4. Although minimizing taxation is always important, it can’t be the deciding factor.
  5. Eventually you will have transferred at least a portion of your wealth and created another pillar in your financial portfolio.

Freedom and security

If you were expecting some magic formula, I’m sorry to disappoint. This is basic wealth management, a rainy day fund, often ignored by business owners. Too many owners are hoping to cash-in when they sell their companies and are devastated when they can’t sell or get significantly less than they anticipated and have no additional source of wealth.

Being an eternal optimist is a necessary ingredient to having any chance of success as an entrepreneur, but it needs to be tempered with a bit of realism. It’s truly amazing the sense of freedom and security you feel when you’ve consciously created an additional source of wealth outside your operating company.

How you do it is up to you, but starting today in small increments is a must, because like a journey of a thousand miles, financial freedom begins with a single small step.

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

A year ago, had you asked small business owners what 5 things could put them out of business?, I would have bet a pandemic would not have been on their top 10 let alone their top 50 things. But a lot has changed in just over a year. According to the CFIB (Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses), it is estimated that 1 in 6 small businesses won’t survive because of Covid-19. The UK is also predicting hundreds of thousands of failures with the US expecting that number to exceed 1 million according to McKinsey.

Assuming the 1 in 6 estimate to be true, that means that approximately 83% of small businesses will survive. Most certainly won’t flourish and it’ll take a long time to recover, but they will survive. Unfortunately, with the ongoing lockdowns, just surviving is incredibly stressful, to say nothing about how exhausting it can be.

What 3 things could put you out of business?

5 areas that require every owners attention

Managing the work-from-home environment is not easy for most small business owners. For many, current technology has made it possible to continue, but only after a number of implementation headaches and costs. The learning curve has been steep. Because for many, technology is just something they’ve never understood.

What we need to understand, is that most small businesses are run in an impromptu or spontaneous manner. The owners have been so busy trying grow their businesses prior to the pandemic, that the majority lacked formal processes. Most just spent their days acting, or more accurately, reacting to whatever the day had instore for them. They are more like fire fighters directing their staff on a moment to moment basis depending what fire was burning the most brightly.

To be sure this pandemic has forced a few owners to get better organized in how they structure their working days, but for many it has become quite the challenge in keeping everyone focused, productive and motivated. In episode #93 Pivot, I discussed the whole concept of pivoting, which is far more difficult than people are led to believe, but so is changing the way a company operates.

So this brings me to my question – What 3 things would put you out of business? Well if you are surviving, you can scratch off pandemic. Sadly, because so many entrepreneurs are so focused in the moment, they don’t realize there are a whole host of issues that can kill their
businesses in a heart beat. The following is a primer list of 5 pretty common areas that require every owners attention, in order to safeguard their business’s future.

 

 

 

 

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

Edward Stanley, former Prime Minister of the UK

#1 Your health

Unfortunately, most of us don’t even consider what would happen to their life’s work if they were suddenly struck with an injury or worse a life threatening illness. What would happen to the business if you were laid up? Would it survive? If not, what would you do for income? How would you handle the debt? How would it affect your family? This is serious stuff and requires your attention. Contrary to what we think, we are not invincible.

The following are few of solutions that you can minimize the impact of a health problem.

First off, you should investigate disability insurance. Yes, it can be expensive and yes, it usually pays out less than you’re currently earning. But something is better than nothing.

Secondly, many health related issues are self inflicted by our lifestyle. Making time for some form of exercise should be mandatory for every owner. It can range from taking a daily walk to a full on cross-fit workout at the gym. Something is better than nothing. There’s a wonderful saying that kind of drives the point home and it is from Edward Stanley, former Prime Minister of the UK that says:

“Those who think they have not time for bodily exercise, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.”

An additional item that should be mandatory in every small business and that is delegate. By delegating absolutely everything you can to your existing staff, this will certainly relieve some of the pressure. That way, there’s a good chance that the business will survive, while you are laid up. Unfortunately, this is one of the hardest things to get entrepreneurs to do. (See Small Business Minute #18 Delegating is easier than you think)

#2 Key staff quits.

Having your key staff member quit can really ruin a perfectly good day and for some people it can take their business down.

People leave companies for a lot of reasons and sometimes there is nothing you can have do to prevent it. From career changes, to better opportunities to relocations, sometimes it’s just out of your hands. But in many cases it’s not. One of the top reasons employees leave is the lack of recognition and this is something you can control. An occasional pat on the back or some other form appreciation goes a long way. It can be as simple as a thank you for their efforts.

However, if a key employee leaves, what’s your plan? If you’re like most you don’t have one and chances are you don’t have a deep bench of trained people ready to assume that position.

Therefore one of the best things you can do is to cross train individuals. The secondary person doesn’t have to be as well versed as the key person, but they should have been given enough exposure that they could perform the job being vacated even though they may be less efficient.

Additionally, creating in depth documented processes for all positions, allows other personnel to perform those functions until such time as you can find a replacement. This will go a long way to ensure that your company will survive. (see SBM #34 Processes- Shampoo, Rinse and Repeat)

#3 Business interruption

Covid-19 aside, there are lots of things that can cause business interruptions. A flood, a fire, even vandalism can shut your business down for weeks, if not months. A closed business can’t generate cashflow, yet bills still need to be paid.

It is estimated that over 80% of small businesses have no form of business interruption insurance that would pay out a set dollar amount in the event of a catastrophe. This is different than typical commercial/business insurance, whereby the physical damage to your business is repaired. Business Interruption on the other hand can cover Gross Earnings, Profits, Extra Expenses. Certainly worth considering.

#4 Competition

What would happen if a new competitor came into your market, how would you deal with it? Being so focused on the here and now, is a great way to get caught off guard. As I’ve stated before, too many entrepreneurs are so busy just handling the daily priorities, they never have time to lift their heads up to see what going.

Inevitably, they are not even aware of that a competitor has set up shop until they start stealing your customers. By the time they do realize what’s happening that trickle of desertions turns into a flood and is hard to reverse.

One of the best ways to avoid getting sideswiped is to stay in touch with all your customers on a regular basis. Too often the only time business owners talk with their customers is when they call in an order. The thought is, “they know where we are if they need us and I don’t want to bother them.”

What 3 things could put you out of business?

 

Staying in regular contact with customers signals that they are important to your business and can also provide you with competitive intelligence. Most customer don’t change on a whim unless you’ve treated them poorly. So, by staying in touch the fact that a competitor is circling is often shared, thereby giving you time to react. (See SBM #76 Pick up the phone)

#5 Bad debt

This one item alone has contributed to the demise of many small businesses. Aside from not being diligent in collecting receivables, having one customer represent more than 15% of your business can be potential fatal if they close their doors or refuse to pay.

When you consider that many small businesses have net incomes of less than 10%, taking a hit from a major customer can be devastating. For example if a client reneges on a $20,000 invoice and you only net 10%, you’ll need to generate $200,000 in additional revenue just to recover that loss.

When you think about it, most small business are not flush with spare cash, missing out a major payment means you can’t cover payroll, rent or suppliers.

If you do find yourself with a client that represents more than 15%, you have two choices. First grow your business to get them below that threshold or alternatively collect early and often. Don’t forget you can set the rules, so don’t be shy about protecting your company. (See SBM #20 Cash Flow, the Breath of Life).

These are just 5 areas that should get you thinking, but every business has it’s Achilles heel. Spending some time thinking about “What 3 things would put you out of business?” certainly deserves your attention. Then pick the #1 item on your list and make a plan.

Let me know your thought sand ideas in the comment section.

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

I’ve been wanting to golf at a rural course for a number of years now. The reason is that this golf course now sits upon farmland that was once owned by two of my uncles. I had spent a lot of time of these farms as a kid growing up and I had only played the course once many years before and my memory suggested it wasn’t a bad little course.

So when a neighbour suggested that we get out for a round of golf, I recommended we go to this course and told him about my family heritage. He agreed and a tee time was booked.

Google Reviews

For the sake of brevity, let’s just say the course condition was less than stellar. The fairways and greens looked like they hadn’t seen water the whole season and were harder than concrete. Needless to say I was a little embarrassed that I had recommended the course.

“…playing on what was the equivalent of a parking lot didn’t help.”

Aside from the terrible course condition, the signage was askew, and you were left to your own devices to find your way between holes. All in all, not a great experience and my score reflected my frustration. Heck, golf is hard enough at times and playing on what was the equivalent of a parking lot didn’t help.

My Google review

So, having wasted good money playing a bad course, I felt compelled to leave a Google review. Needless to say they only received a one-star and my write-up stated that the course was unkept and appeared to be unloved as well. I further stated that they clearly couldn’t maintain 36 holes, so maybe they should try to focus on 18 and do it better.

About a week or so later, I noticed a message alert in my Facebook feed. To my surprise, it was from the course operation manager asking if we could chat, to which I agreed.

This individual went on to tell me that my review pained him because they are family owned and they work hard. He further explained that their water pump had been down for three weeks and that they’d been hauling water day and night during the hottest time of the year. He then proceeded to ask me to remove my review now that he had explained his position.

My initial response to his request was that he should have let us know at the time that the course was unplayable and let us make the decision to play, or they should have offered some form of discount when we showed up. This is a common theme with many small businesses, when they are unable to provide an acceptable level of service for whatever reason. They just keep quiet and continue to charge their regular fees, instead of coming clean and being honest.

Responding to Google reviews helps

It’s been my experience, that the main driver for this type of behaviour is that they are so in need of the revenue, that they place customer service or experience a distant second. But what they don’t realize is that this attitude costs them far more in the long run and just compounds an already bad situation.

I further suggested to the individual that they should reply to my comment on Google because people want to see how businesses react to bad reviews. I also told him that responding to bad reviews with a legitimate reason actually has a positive impact. He responded that they would just prefer that I remove the original comment because they don’t think they should have to air their disputes in public.

Shortly after this, the conversation started going off the rails. I explained to him that I wasn’t prepared to remove my comments, because I experienced a subpar course regardless of the reasons. In addition, I also wanted him respond to my review as I knew it was in his best interest, but he wanted none of that.

The point of this story is that far too many businesses fail to pay attention to the impact of good or bad reviews can have on your business. But even more importantly, is the impact you can have in responding to any and all reviews. Just think of how you go about searching for goods or services on Google. Once you’ve narrowed down the search results, do you read the Google reviews? How do you react when you see reviews that have no response from the business owner? How do you feel when there is honest commentary from the business owner to each comment?

When asked, most people agree that they value Google reviews when researching businesses and the research overwhelmingly support this position. Unfortunately, too many businesses do not pay any attention to this free resource and it’s costing them a lot of business.

Google provides every business the ability to be listed in their search results. It’s always of interest to me when I do a search within an industry to see businesses that haven’t claimed their listing. To find out if your business is listed, simply go to Google my Business. If your business is not listed, they make it quite easy to get a listing included in their search results by logging in and completing your business profile. That way you’ll be able to get the benefits of having Google reviews

In a recent survey by BrightLocal, an online agency that helps marketers working with a local business do their job better, found the following key statistics:

Key Statistics

  • 90% of consumers used the internet to find a local business in the last year, with 33% looking every day
  • 82% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses, with 52% of 18-54-year-olds saying they ‘always’ read reviews
  • The average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling able to trust a business
  • Only 53% of people would consider using a business with less than 4 stars
  • The average consumer spends 13 minutes and 45 seconds reading reviews before making a decision
  • Among consumers that read reviews, 97% read businesses’ responses to reviews

A link to the complete survey results can be found here:

https://www.brightlocal.com/research/local-consumer-review-survey/#influence-of-reviews

Additionally, research has also found that consumer give more credibility to businesses that respond to reviews, good or bad. That’s because it shows that the business actually cares about their customer service. For proof, just think about how you react to reviews with and without responses from the business. I know how I feel, but to qualify this, I asked approximately 10 people what their thoughts were regarding businesses that respond to reviews. 100% agreed that they look favourably upon those businesses that take the time to respond.

Make them personal

If you’re going to respond to review, avoid the standard cut and paste responses, such as “Thank you” and make them a little personal. Whatever you do, do not offer any discounts or bribes to people in order to get them to write a Google review. It’s highly frowned upon by Google should they find out and will seriously impact your search ranking. However, asking people for reviews is quite acceptable and worthwhile.

As for my little story, in order to end my conversation with the individual, I stated that I will consider updating my comments to reflect that the owner did reach out to me. However, after further ruminating on the subject, I decided not to update my comments. My rationale was that it’s not my responsibility to do his job.

I’d like to know your thoughts if you were faced with a similar situation. So, leave your comments below.

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If you found this of value, please pass this along to any business owner that you fell could benefit by understanding the upside to Google reviews.

Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.

Work from home is not a new concept. People have been looking for any excuse to do so since the turn of the century. Initially, Friday’s was the defacto work from home day. It’s popularity was driven mostly to get a jump on the weekend, more so than trying to get distraction free time in order to get caught up. For evidence, just check the highway traffic on Friday’s afternoons during the summer, as people are fleeing the city.

Over time as work from home became more and more accepted, Wednesday also became popular. Wednesday is a natural work from home day as it not only breaks up your week, but for many was a legitimate opportunity to work uninterrupted. The mid week isolation gave individuals the chance to focus on major assignments or priorities. Of course, people raved about how productive they are working from home and most were.

So what changed?

For centuries people have been making their way into the office. Initially most could walk to their place of employment. But over time, as cities grew, public transit became the norm for those who had to travel greater distance than walking. Finally, as the downtown core in many cities became the commercial hub and with people moving to the suburbs for affordable housing, the car began to dominate as the preferred method to commute in many cities.

As this cycle of commercial intensification in the downtown cores and suburb getting farther away, going to work went from a simple task to a stressed induced war pitting driver against driver to see who can gain the best lane advantage. Depending on where you lived, this daily ritual could easily last from 30 minutes to over an hour, twice daily. So needless to say, people started looking for any opportunity to get the occasional reprieve from this daily grind.

But that’s not all!

Another major catalyst for what has become the Work from Home (WFH) movement, is the growth of the open office concept. Long before Covid-19 changed our world, companies of all sizes were jumping on the open office concept. Gone were the cubicles, the open office concept, embraced by the major tech companies, was the model to follow.

Contrary to what is expounded by management of the team building benefits of an open office, the real motivation is cost saving. Open office concepts save a lot of money because they pretty much eliminate the need for all but minimal leasehold improvements. Plus they offer a ton of savings on office furnishings.

What I find genuinely interesting with the open office concept, is that most senior managers all end up with offices. If it’s good for the goose, shouldn’t it be good for the gander? Of course, they justify it based on their need for privacy. Shouldn’t these managers be subjected to the same restrictions and annoyances they place on their employees?

To be sure the open office concept is not new. Just check on those black and white photos of the clerical pools of 1950’s, where there were rows upon rows of desks in large rooms. But those were days before computers and automation. Most of those jobs were repetitive task driven activities and although these individuals were knowledgeable, they weren’t considered knowledge workers. Most of those tasks of yesteryear have been replaced by automated solutions with little human interaction.

open office 1950's

So many of today’s workers are considered knowledge workers and are required to think and make decisions. They need to be creative and require time to focus. The reality is that as individuals, we are creative at different times of the day. Some individuals are at their best creatively in the morning, some at midday and other late afternoon and not necessarily everyday. Let’s be honest, creativity can very spontaneous and generally can’t be scheduled. So reserving one of the “quiet rooms” located on the perimeter of the open office concept, at a moments notice, is not always possible.

At the end of the day, the reason why people want to work from home is that there are too many distraction in the open office concept. Whether those distractions are in the form of visual, auditory, or human interruptions they abound everywhere and everyday.  There’s just no privacy. Interruptions by fellow employees appears to be the most frustrating issue reported, because there’s no place to hide or call your own. An attitude that, you’re at your desk, therefore it’s okay to talk to you, is the norm. You’re living in a fishbowl.

As a result, individuals are going to great lengths now to develop the virtual version of “do not disturb” signals and it is stressing them out. Wearing headphones and not looking up when someone goes by, is essentially an indicator that “I’m busy”, but even then many teammates are oblivious to these indicators.

As a curious individual, I’m hard wired to be constantly scanning my environment. Maybe it’s a hold over from the prehistoric days when you really had to be aware of your surroundings, otherwise you became somebody’s lunch. So keeping my head down all day, is as big of a distraction as being interrupted.

Is work from home any better?

For people around the world, this wasn’t a conscious decision. Covid-19 just forced everybody’s hand to work from home because there wasn’t much of an alternative. After three months, many are liking it, but many aren’t and as time moves on, there appear to be cracks forming in their new love affair with the work from home concept.

For those fortunate to have a spare room, the transition was acceptable. However, if a couple are both relegated to work from home, then someone is going to get stuck at the kitchen or dining room table. This is okay for a day or two, but for three plus months, I don’t think so.

So, if this work from home movement is to become permanent, how are individuals going to manage this? You can’t expect most couples to share that spare bedroom and work side by side, that’s just a recipe for disaster. Most individuals can’t afford a bigger house, so what’s the option. What about condo and apartment dwellers? No, work from home is not sustainable under many individuals current lifestyle.

Taken a step further and assuming an individual has the physical space to work from home, who’s going to pay for all the necessary upgrades to make it workable and at what cost? What about security and liability? What if someone gets injured? What if someone trip or falls going to their home office, where does the liability begin or end? Is that a workers compensation issue or a safety issue? Believe me, I don’t have the answers and I’m not sure anybody does at this point.

Let’s talk about team unity

In order to maintain communication and team unity, everybody jumped on the available collaboration tools available such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams and albeit a little late to the party, Google’s Meet, just to name a few. For all the praise for the ease of use and quick implementation of these tools, it’s just not the same as an in person meeting.

Having participated in a few of these digital meetings, I’ve come up with some observations that I have no idea how they are to be solved. Granted people are getting far more comfortable on the platforms, but they are draining. Gone are all the physical queues we become accustomed to. When to speak, avoiding talking over someone paying attention are just a couple of the myriad of challenges individuals face on video platforms.

Because we’ve done it so long, most people are comfortable in live meetings, albeit bored on occasion. Being on a video conference requires 100% attention to the screen because you have 6, 10 or 20 people staring back at you for the duration, so you need to be on your best behaviour. Reports from individuals that are on video calls or meetings a good portion of their day, are reporting that they are exhausted, where they weren’t in in-person meetings.

Leaders checking in

Now I will profess that I subscribe to the Management by Walking Around style of management. I wasn’t aware that my style actually had a name until such time as I read In Search of Excellence by Tom Peters and Robert Wateman many years ago.

Essentially, it’s what the name infers. As opposed to a formal meeting, a manager wanders around checking in with their staff in an impromptu manner. It’s not about catching people slacking off, it’s about creating informal teaching moments. But at a deeper level, it’s about connecting with your staff by having more face time. The concept apparently originated at Hewlett Packer or HP as it is known today.

There was a study done by Leadership IQ on the Importance of Leadership. The report states that 50% of employees spend less than 3 hours a week with their leader. However, those that spend 6 or more hours per week with their leaders are

  • 29% more inspired
  • 30% more engaged
  • 15% more motivated
  • 10% more innovative

This level of engagement, although possible, will be difficult to achieve using video conferencing. Managers of all types will need to reinvent themselves if work from home is the new normal. I’m just not sure it’ll be as effective as face-to-face.

If this is ever going to work, managers will need to up their game and reinvent themselves. Team members will worry that because they are out of site, they’re out of mind and fear they won’t get the recognition they want or more importantly need.

Personal boundaries

The curse of the smartphone has stretched many peoples day, as emails or text messages come in at all hours of the day. As a result, many have defaulted into responding to them no matter when they come in. The justification is that it’s only one email and, what the heck, if I answer it now, it’ll be one less thing to do tomorrow. In addition, email and messaging has created a false sense of urgency and therefore an answer is expected immediately. This was bad enough before Covid-19 and I can only imagine what the new normal will look like.

Where all this really falls apart is if people are permanently anchored at home, they naturally loose their work boundaries. They’ll take advantage of doing errands that were traditionally relegated to nights and weekends. And they’ll justify it by they can catch up on their work later that night or weekends. Boundaries are going to get blurred by managers and employees alike.

Humans are social

Let’s remember, that for the most part humans are social and need interaction. That can’t be replicated on video or conference calls. There’s a potential risk that people will start to feel disconnected from the rest of your team as all those informal interaction become a thing of the past.

What companies need to be on the lookout for will be the potential reduction in innovation and creativity, much of which just happens when colleagues pump into each other at the water cooler or in the hallway. This can’t be replicated digitally.

Work from home has been tried in the past by some very large corporations and their experiments failed miserably. Granted the advance in technology will certainly improve the odds, but I don’t believe by much. IBM for all it’s technological know how, recalled about 11,000 of their employees back into the office 18 months ago after realizing they were missing out on the innovation that just happened through interacting in person.

What’s the solution?

When Covid-19 is in our rear view mirrors, I think most people will be back in their workplaces and rumours of the death of the office are premature. What might be interesting is a hybrid solution, whereby people will able to split their week or rotate days that they’re in the office. But for those companies, that are going fully remote, you’ll need to create some very unique skills in order to keep your teams organized, motivated and loyal. It won’t be easy

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Get More LIFE Out of Your Business

You shouldn’t be the hardest working person in your company.

Many small business owners find that even after the struggling start-up years, they’re working too many hours and still managing every aspect of their businesses.

Greg Weatherdon has been there, done that. As an entrepreneur, he learned not only how to get a business to the point of running smoothly, but also how to reduce the number of hours he worked, delegate more responsibility to his employees, and take longer vacations while his business chugged along like a well-oiled machine. And now he is providing the secret to success.

Do you suffer from any of the following?

1. Business ownership isn’t living up to the dream.
2. Endless workdays.
3. You can’t find good people.
4. Profits are less than expected.
5. You can never take a vacation.

You’re not alone. But there is a solution. As Greg demonstrates, with some time and effort, you really can Get More Life Out Of Your Business.