Category Archives: Owning a Business

Beyond the First Small Business

Once an entrepreneur makes a success of one business, there’s a dangerous tendency to think he can duplicate his efforts in another business, and then another, and another. Spreading yourself and your resources over a number of ventures can impair your ability to deal with financial and other challenges. Aside from stretching finances, getting pulled in too many directions can deplete a business owner’s time and energy, making it difficult to maintain the core business that brought about the initial success.

The key to avoiding this killer is to know your abilities and be sure to keep enough energy, cash and focus to maintain your core business. When you’re tempted to spread your wings and become a raving capitalist, the first question to ask yourself is how much time, energy and money you can afford to invest.

  1. Assess Your Current Situation. The time to consider branching out to own different ventures is after you’ve made your core business successful and honed your time management to the point that you have time to invest in other things. A starting point to investing is to take a close look at where you’re at with regard to the core business. Is it running smoothly? Where is it at in the growth cycle? How much of your time is needed currently to run the business? Will it require more of your time and energy in the future?

Continue reading Beyond the First Small Business

Small Business Lessons from a Writer’s Conference

In June, my wife and I attended the Summer in Words Conference in Cannon Beach, Oregon. The conference was hosted by Jessica Page Morrell, author, writing coach, and freelance editor. After reading a couple of Jessica’s books, Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us and Bullies, Bastards and Bitches, we hungered to draw more from Jessica’s well of editorial wisdom.

To me, writing is both a passion and my business. Jessica’s conference attracted successful and aspiring writers from Canada and the US, and was a feast of insights for artists and entrepreneurs.

Whether you’re writing a book or running a business, there’s never a shortage of naysayers. Jessica’s selection of speakers served up a smattering of realism balanced by a healthy dosage of encouragement. As I enjoyed the teachings for writers, my mind repurposed them to my business. Here are a few of the takeaways that I found to be helpful to my writing and my business.

  1. Experienced authors told us that they do a lot of research, but ignore most of it and use only the most relevant findings. Researching a business idea entails a lot of searching, massive reading, and then sifting to separate the best from the rest.
  2. Promotion of a book begins at least six months prior to its release or launch date. Promotion of a small business begins well before opening day.
  3. You save money by defining your niche clearly. A lot of money is wasted by attempting to market to a poorly-described audience. In business, it’s more efficient to target your advertising and marketing on a smaller, clearly identified customer.
  4. Write the book you want to read. Create the business you want to buy from.
  5. A book is an investment, not a hobby. A business is an investment, not a hobby.
  6. You are the boss; be in control. Whether writing or managing your small business, you must learn to work at your craft or career, even when you don’t want to.
  7. Much of a writer’s work is a lone journey, just as a lot of the fundamental work of building a small business is done solo.
  8. Let others critique your work, and then decide whether to use the input. Use feedback from unsophisticated sources judiciously. Give more importance to feedback from professionals.
  9. Once you’ve begun, there’s a tendency to get mired in the technical and mechanical aspects of writing. This is also true in business. Most writings and business ideas begin with a gust of intuition. Perhaps the most important advice I heard was “don’t lose the gut feeling that spawned the writing.”
  10. If you have a dream, don’t give up on it. If you give up on a book, it never gets written and your dream dies. Only if you write the book does your dream have a chance of coming to fruition. Similarly, giving up on a business idea is a sure way to killing it. Keep writing and keep working toward achieving your dreams.

Jessica Page Morrell’s books are rich resources for authors and the Summer in Words Conference was time well invested. We’re already plotting to attend next year. You can learn more about Jessica at her blogs, and

If you’re an author who would like to grow your writing business, join us for the Business Planning Online Workshop Sept 24.

Avoid Burnout!

Most entrepreneurs face the ongoing possibility that they’ll simply work themselves into the ground by trying to do everything themselves. Many small enterprises are directly tied to their owners – which means that the minute the owner stops producing, the cash flow and the business skid to a halt. This is a recipe for burnout.

Raw enthusiasm is a wonderful energy, and a necessary part of bringing a business to life, but you need never allow it to devour you. The trick to surviving the burnout challenge is to maintain peak enthusiasm without draining your energy supply to the point of vulnerability. When you feel the hot breath of burnout on your back it’s time to consider sharing the workload.

An owner’s willingness and ability to delegate will determine the future of a business. “Delegating” is a vital skill for involving more people in your organization, and to building a solid, healthy business model.

Here are seven guidelines to consider when preparing to delegate.

1. Do as much yourself as you realistically can, for as long as you can. Most small enterprises become successful because of the owner’s tireless efforts, particularly in the earlier stages. As long as it doesn’t go on to the point of burnout, this is an ideal opportunity for the owner to get to know all aspects of the business.

2. Build a base of profitable sales. Just as you need oxygen, your business needs cash flow. It’s not enough to simply have cash passing in and out of the business, there must be some profit left in the coffers at the end of each month. Profit will open the door to growth, and to the luxury of paying hired help to handle some of the work.

3. Identify the tasks that you wish to delegate. In some cases, you’ll want to hand off chores that someone else can do more efficiently than you. You may wish to keep some functions because they are core to the business operation, or because you’re skilled at doing them.

4. Write a description of the tasks you will delegate. Where needed, clarify the process for the person you will delegate to. Define how results will be measured, how you and those taking on the tasks will know the job is done, and done well.

5. Select the right people to delegate to. Test drive relationships by first doing shorter engagements – ease into longer agreements only with people you trust and who have proven their abilities to you.

6. Follow-up. Measure and monitor the results of the delegated jobs. From the beginning, establish a culture of performance-based task management. Those you delegate to must understand that you will be monitoring their performance. Where possible, payment and rewards should be tied to performance.

7. Critique privately, recognize great performance publicly. When a worker makes mistakes or doesn’t meet the performance objectives, assess what the problem is and meet with them in private to discuss solutions. Make a habit of showing your appreciation for a job well done; doing so in appropriate and public ways makes the recognition even stronger.

Burnout is never completely off a purebred registered entrepreneur’s radar. If you find yourself working too many 18-hour days in a row, it may be time to re-assess where you’re at, to identify the necessary budget, and to hire help.

What do you do to avoid burnout?

Champions Will Get You Out of the Crab Bucket

crab-beachOnce you decide to start a business, you set yourself up as a target for doubt and negativity. Although it helps to have a thick skin, entrepreneurs need to pay attention to all sources of input in order to learn their way into business, and it’s not always clear who or who not to listen to.

As I work with entrepreneurs from different communities, the crab bucket story comes up again and again. The analogy goes like this: If you observe a bucket of crabs, you will notice that, for the most part, they just clamor and struggle and go nowhere. As soon as any crab appears to be climbing toward its freedom, the other crabs all pull it back into the bucket, ensuring that none escape.

If the crabs would just work as a team, it’s conceivable that they might help each other to escape, perhaps gain their freedom, and in some way become masters of their own fates. But the crabs just keep each other down.

Crab bucket antics are most prolific in the business start-up realm, most visible as jealousy, resentment, discouragement, and random disrespect for one’s boundaries.

> Well-meaning friends will discourage you, citing notorious business failures

> Old party partners will go to great lengths to get you back into the party game

> Knowing you just scored a business loan or earned a profit, some will try to guilt you into lending them money

> Your acquisition of new equipment will generate gossip and negative comments

I’ve come to realize that the crab bucket action never really goes away. What changes is one’s ability to deal effectively with it. Successful entrepreneurs find ways to deal with negativity and get on with the business of self-improvement. Here are some ways to get and stay on the road to success.

Have a Plan. Planning helps you build resolve. Knowing what you want for you and your business will prepare you to make the right decisions when negativity tugs at your sleeve. A leader sets her goals, charts her path, and then does what it takes to get where she wants to be.

Set Your Boundaries. Take special care to establish your limits and require that business and personal associates respect them. Drop the crazymakers from your life. The party animals that refuse to accept that you have business responsibilities and time commitments will have to go. Don’t hang with people who trample all over your needs.

Surround Yourself with Champions. Network with positive people who will be supportive and help you succeed. As you grow into your business, build a strong network of people who are intent on success. This can include the more supportive of your personal friends and an increasing number of professionals as you progress.

Take Care of You. Setup your own personal and professional development plan. Read great books and subscribe to publications that support your vision and mission. Invest your time in healthy activities that move you toward your goals.

Improving your life is a serious matter, requiring focus and perseverance. Doing so by starting a business is even more rigorous. Prying yourself loose from the jaws of an unwanted or undesirable lifestyle will require distancing yourself from those who would bring you down or keep you there.