EnMast http://www.enmast.com Small Business Community | Small Business Tools, Templates, Help and Resources. Tue, 29 Jul 2014 23:10:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.9.1 Business tips for small business owners: How to not go broke http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/business-tips-for-small-business-owners-broke/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-tips-for-small-business-owners-broke http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/business-tips-for-small-business-owners-broke/#respond Tue, 29 Jul 2014 18:51:20 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17423 I know that training courses, conferences and industry groups can get expensive. But have you tried ignorance? That will make you broke!” – Brad Farris (Click to Tweet)

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I know that training courses, conferences and industry groups can get expensive. But have you tried ignorance? That will make you broke!” – Brad Farris (Click to Tweet)

Business owner tips

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Signs of a Failing Business: The Indicators One Business Owner Missed http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/signs-of-a-failing-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=signs-of-a-failing-business http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/signs-of-a-failing-business/#respond Mon, 28 Jul 2014 16:15:25 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17399 Seeing the signs of a failing business aren’t always easy. Especially when it’s your own. We set up shop in 3,000 square feet of sublet space with a toolbox and a computer. It took us almost three months to ship our first order of scaffolding, but the orders kept coming. With a lot of hard

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signs of a failing businessSeeing the signs of a failing business aren’t always easy. Especially when it’s your own.

We set up shop in 3,000 square feet of sublet space with a toolbox and a computer. It took us almost three months to ship our first order of scaffolding, but the orders kept coming. With a lot of hard work, we did $950,000 in sales our first year in business…and still…we failed. But let’s start this story at the beginning. One day while waiting for our wives and kids as they wrapped up a play date, a friend and I started talking about his business.

The partnership begins

He told me how, as a small, backyard inventor/manufacturer, he’d developed a number of labour-saving products for the body shop industry. As business began to grow, he’d hired a sales rep that started selling one of his products to local drywall distributors. He went on to explain he’d also found another partner and began making scaffolds out of a rural shop.

On my end, I shared with him how I’d just finished developing and managing a successful direct mail sales campaign for a national health food distributor. With few changes, I thought it might work for him in the States. Both looking for a new adventure, we shook hands on the idea, and I started putting a campaign together that following week.

Orders piling up

Within the first month of launching the campaign, we’d collected more US orders than the partner could possibly produce. It turned out it was a perfect storm of opportunity. Our marketing campaign hit US dealers just a couple weeks after a major fire hit the leading manufacturer, and they were 8-10 weeks behind on orders. We had to gear up—fast! And we did.

As time went on, the stress built up within the partnership. The relationship with our partners began to disintegrate. Signs of a failing business started to show. The question was, “What should we do now?” A vulnerable market was right at our fingertips!

Going all in

My friend and I agreed to partner 51-49 and go all in. I shopped the business plan around to friends and raised $35,000 to start a manufacturing company. If you’re frowning now, you probably already have an idea where this story is going. We set up shop in 3,000 square feet of sublet space with a toolbox and a 386 computer (yes, it was that long ago.) He ran the back; I ran the front. It took us nearly three months to ship our first order of scaffold, but the orders kept coming.

But as it turns out, setting up a manufacturing company with $35,000 in start-up capital isn’t a great idea. It’s a sign of a failing business. Cash flow was really tight that first year. I didn’t know why until I took our year-end paperwork to the accountant. I returned only to hear the dreaded words, “You’re bankrupt.” But how? We did $950,000! I left the accountant’s office thinking he was some kind of idiot. But several indicators showed I was the one who was wrong. I had missed these signs of a failing business.

Indicator #1: The Cash Problem

Upon my return to our office I told my partner we needed to find another accountant. Since I was running the front end, that’s what we did (but of course, not until the next year-end.) That second year we were still strapped for cash. I tried to get around this cash issue by:

  • Putting off payables
  • Extending credit limits
  • Looking into a new contractor market
  • Developing a new prototype to diversify our market

We did what we needed to do believing our hard work and determination would persevere and everyone would be fine. We continued with the special kind of optimism granted to salesmen and turtles trying to cross the road. And we always went the extra mile—which kept us cash poor. Determined to find a solution, we turned our attention to another contractor market, developing a prototype product we’d plug into our manufacturing process – one that would diversify our market.

We figured we’d be able to offset the cost of our overhead with a second product line – one that would take advantage of the manufacturing capacity we already had. Good idea, right? We’ll never know. We spent so much time perfecting the prototype it never got to market and it remains on the shelf to this day. Nothing seemed to be working, and the cash issue was never solved.

signs of a failing businessIndicator #2: Distraction from Responsibility

Other signs of a failing business began to show. Our persistent drive for quality kept us from launching a very popular and unique solution to an everyday problem. But the prototype was a bust, and we realized the distraction had hurt us even more. We were losing money almost every month. At this time, we looked at the big picture and saw:

  • We were subbing out a number of our key manufacturing processes and giving away a significant portion of our margin
  • We’d dipped into the pockets of our silent partners for the last time
  • It was time to factor our receivables

Our drive for diversification had drawn our attention from dealing with a critical responsibility.

Indicator #3: Sustainability

Self-confidence, creativity, and the determination to never give up carried the company for almost eight years—until it folded. It simply couldn’t sustain itself any longer. Reflecting on it now, a number of mistakes are apparent. Hindsight shows:

  • We failed to have an exit strategy in place
  • Our cash limitations limited growth opportunities
  • Straying from our original product had cost us dearly

There are exit strategies like IPOs and selling the business, but there’s another kind, too. It’s around what to do when things (in spite of all your best efforts) are failing. And we didn’t have one. Our lack of sustainability meant the business finally collapsed, and we had no plan in place to save us. We had ignored the signs of a failing business.

Takeaway: Be passionate about your business, but dispassionate in its evaluation

It wasn’t in my character to stop trying until the last possible option to save the business had been exhausted. While that will is a great strength, in this case it proved very expensive—for many others and for me. Had we established a stop-loss point when we developed our business plan and carefully monitored the health of the business, we’d have made the rational decision to sell the good will we’d built much sooner.  But we didn’t – and the business failed.

But remember: A business failure doesn’t mean you are a failure.

I heard that line several times after we lost the business – but there was no way I could accept it. My business failed. I was a failure. That anchor hung heavy from my neck for two years.

Moving on

Of course I still had to eat – so another friend and I started a business one month after the demise of the first. I faked it. I was told how valuable my insights were and how worthwhile my experience was, but I didn’t believe it. I went about my daily responsibilities with my dirty little secret, hoping no one would notice. Then, after a time, we started having success. I thought less and less about the failure of the past, and started accepting the success we were having. I started drawing on the experiences I’d had, doing things differently, and things were working out. I could help others identify the signs of a failing business I had missed in my own past.

Over ten years have passed since the failure of my first business. In the intervening period, I’ve started and sold a successful business, grown other businesses, and advise several more. Clients are taking my advice and they’re saving time and money with them.

Real world success proved to me that I’m not a failure. Finally, I can accept it. A business failure didn’t mean I was a failure – so long as I learn and successfully put those lessons to work.

The moral: Never give up. Never quit on yourself.

Have you ever been part of a failed business or seen it happen to someone? What signs of a failing business put up the red flags for you?








Photo credit: olga.reznik

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Thinking about quitting? You need to do these 5 things NOW http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/thinking-quitting-5/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=thinking-quitting-5 http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/thinking-quitting-5/#respond Sat, 26 Jul 2014 14:00:09 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17377 Every business goes through big highs and lows throughout their journey. And there are a LOT of times when we feel like quitting. Jill + Brad talk about how to make it through those rough times (they’ve been there, too). They also talk with AWESOME guest Alexandra Eidenberg, the founder of The Insurance People, and Mare Swallow, the founder

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Every business goes through big highs and lows throughout their journey. And there are a LOT of times when we feel like quitting. Jill + Brad talk about how to make it through those rough times (they’ve been there, too).

They also talk with AWESOME guest Alexandra Eidenberg, the founder of The Insurance People, and Mare Swallow, the founder of the Chicago Writers Conference. LISTEN IN!

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Meet an EnMast Member: Marie-Josée Porlier, Co-founder of Kohezion http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/member-spotlight-mariejose-porlier/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=member-spotlight-mariejose-porlier http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/member-spotlight-mariejose-porlier/#respond Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:00:43 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17347 Marie-Josée Porlier is Sales Director at Kohezion –  an online tool you can use to design and build your own database applications without programming, focused for small businesses. After working for years as a Registered Nurse, Marie-Josée was feeling little tied down and looking for the kind of freedom that you can only get as

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Marie-Josée Porlier is Sales Director at Kohezion –  an online tool you can use to design and build your own database applications without programming, focused for small businesses. After working for years as a Registered Nurse, Marie-Josée was feeling little tied down and looking for the kind of freedom that you can only get as a business owner. So she left her career as an RN and joined her husband on Kohezion and hasn’t looked back!

EnMast Member Spotlight

What has been the most challenging part of being a business owner?

I had to learn a lot, and I mean A LOT about technology. I always loved gadgets and was not so bad with technology to start with, but I had to become an online database software expert. I succeeded!

I also had to improve my English since French is my mother tongue.

What was the biggest mistake you’ve made with your business?

We tend to work 24/7 and forget to take vacations. It is very hard for us to let go even for a few hours. But then we get tired and simply have to take care of ourselves. We definitely have to work on the work/life balance!

EnMast MembersWhat is the best part(s) of being a business owner?

I love that I have no boss, I’m working with my spouse and I manage my own time.

Finish this sentence: “If I could wave a magic wand, I would…”

Be on a windy beach prepping to go surf big waves! I love to kite-surf! (To us at EnMast, kite-surfing and being a small business owner have a lot in common!)

One thing you wish someone told you before you started your own business:

There is no “off” switch. Business owners are constantly brainstorming for new ideas.

What’s your favorite tool or gadget that you use for your business? (software, app, device, tech, etc)

I don’t think I could live without my iPad!

What is your favorite thing about EnMast?

The blog is great! It is packed with helpful information. No matter what industry you are working in, you will always find great advice in their blog.

What is your favorite tool on EnMast?

I love the templates and ebooks. Just like the blog, they are packed with a wide variety of helpful information for small business owners.

Find Marie over at Kohezion’s blog or on Twitter and Google+.

We know everyone in our EnMast Community has a story to share, and we’d love to hear yours! Email Devan







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Employee retention: Skipping the counter offer http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/employee-retention-strategy/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=employee-retention-strategy http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/employee-retention-strategy/#respond Wed, 23 Jul 2014 16:39:49 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17161 Most of the time, when a resignation letter lands on your desk, it’s a surprise. You’ve worked hard to focus on employee retention and weren’t expecting one of your better employees  to quit (who you thought was happy and satisfied). Your mind starts to spin, and lots of questions start filling your head. Questions like:

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Most of the time, when a resignation letter lands on your desk, it’s a surprise. You’ve worked hard to focus on employee retention and weren’t expecting one of your better employees  to quit (who you thought was happy and satisfied). Your mind starts to spin, and lots of questions start filling your head.

employee retention strategy

Questions like: “How long had they been planning to leave?” or “ What aren’t they getting from this workplace that made them want to look for something else?” They all start swirling and building on each other, and all you can think is, “How can I fix it?” Counter offer! Counter offer! Abort quit sequence!

Employee retention is always a point of stress for business owners. And we recently talked about how it’s not surprising when Millennial employees don’t stay in one position for very long, but every time any employee quits, it still has an element of shock (and a dash of panic, now that you’ve got to replace and re-train a new person.)

But before you start thinking about what things have to be taken care of and have little sweat beads coming off your head like a Kathy cartoon, it’s important to know the realities of the situation. As of June 2014, the quits rate from the Bureau of Labor Statistics held strong at 1.8 percent in April—with over 4.5 million separations total. And that’s just in the month of April! Remember: you’re not alone in this.

employee retention strategySo, what do you do when one of your valuable team members quits?

And when it comes to employee retention strategies for this situation, what advice is out there?

Let’s look at the reality of the situation. Your initial reaction might be knee-jerk: counter offer with more money, flexibility, whatever it takes—and offer it NOW. Making a counter offer seems like a good idea in the midst of the busy season when you really don’t have the time or resources to invest into training someone new. But when you think about it, making a counter offer actually might not be the best employee retention strategy.

Here’s why:

1. You’ve exposed how much you’re underpaying

When your first reaction is to offer a sizable pay increase, it communicates that you could’ve been paying that employee more the whole time they worked for you—but you didn’t. Even if the employee does accept your counter offer, there might be underlying resentment that only prolongs an already damaged relationship. It’s better just to let the employee move on.

2. There’s probably more than one reason they’re leaving

When people make the decision to quit, there’s usually not just one reason behind the decision. If that were the case, there’d be far more positives to the job that would outweigh the one negative, and the employee would stick it out. Instead, there are often several reasons behind the choice to leave—and the employee has thought long and hard about them.

A recent LinkedIn survey showed that the top three reasons for leaving a job were 1) Advancement opportunities, 2) Better leadership, and 3) More money. But for many who take the time to write a resignation letter, it’s probably a combination of all three. A counter offer is not a consolation prize to someone who’s already mentally checked out–and for you, it’s not a good employee retention strategy. Don’t fight for the ones who are already gone.

3. You might already have someone on staff who’s a good replacement

When one person leaves, it creates an opportunity for you to re-evaluate your current team and see who might be due for advancement or a new challenge. Before looking externally for a replacement, look internally and see if there’s someone who already knows the core of your organization that might be a good fit—loosing one person might actually be the best thing that ever happened to one of your other employees!

4. They need something different—somewhere else

The old breakup scenario of “It’s not you, it’s me” applies here. When an employee musters up the courage to tell their boss “I quit,” it’s not because they want a raise, different responsibilities, or greater flexibility with your company—they want it from somewhere else. If they really wanted to stay but needed something from you, don’t you think they’d ask for it before starting over from scratch? If you love them, set them free!

5. Counter offer compromises can build resentment with existing staff

Word travels quickly when someone says they’re quitting. But if other employees hear that now the quitter is staying (due to your employee retention strategy which includes a nice raise, work-from-home days, etc.) those other employees are going to want the same. So where you think you’ve solved one problem, you’ve actually created many more. Office culture and team morale is a huge part of the day-to-day working environment, and while it sounds petty, counteroffers can have a huge impact on your whole team.

The next time one of your team members calls it quits, don’t jump in with the compromise. Grit your teeth, don’t burn bridges, and wish them a successful career. Forgo the counter offer, and focus on employee retention with your team members who want to be there. Know that there are more fish in the sea—and this might actually be a fantastic opportunity for changes and growth. You’ll get through it.

Your turn: Have you ever had an experience where a counter offer that kept an employee on board was a bad decision? Have you seen the negative effects of when someone stays in a job they truly want to leave?








Photo Credit: Seattle Municipal Archives, Twisted Sifter

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Keep on Keepin’ on: How to persevere and get work done http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/how-to-persevere-and-get-work-done/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=how-to-persevere-and-get-work-done http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/how-to-persevere-and-get-work-done/#respond Mon, 21 Jul 2014 17:09:20 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17343 I’m a swimmer. Swimming laps is one of the few forms of exercise that I can sustain on a regular basis. But I have a slight problem with counting laps. I push a way from the wall and I think in my head one. I get to the next wall and I think two. A

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I’m a swimmer. Swimming laps is one of the few forms of exercise that I can sustain on a regular basis. But I have a slight problem with counting laps. I push a way from the wall and I think in my head one. I get to the next wall and I think two. A little while later I’ll get to a wall and I won’t remember what lap I’m on!

So I’ll try to remember the last number I thought of — then I add one to that. The problem is, I started off counting the lap I was beginning, not the lap I just finished. So when I get to my goal (say 20 laps), I still have one more to go — and that’s assuming I didn’t mess up my counting! But my motivation is shot. I work hard to hit that number– only to realize, when I reach it, I’m not really done.

how to persevere

After I noticed this dilemma in the pool, I started to notice it other places too. Like in my goals for writing, for instance. If I set out to write 3 blog posts, usually about half-way through the first one, it starts to get hard and messy. So I put that one aside and start the second one. I’m excited about it – I feel like it will write itself! An hour later I find myself working on the third post — for the same reason I started the second one! I’ve been working 3 1/2 hours and I have nothing to put up on the blog.

Sound familiar?

Every project, no matter how trivial or important goes through phases. We start out enthusiastic – “This is going to be great!” Fairly quickly we run into some obstacles and realize, “This is harder than I thought…”

When obstacles come our way, we learn how to persevere and feel the rewards of it when we start to getting some traction. “Is that the light at the end of the tunnel?” No, it’s an oncoming train, because those initial obstacles were the easy part. Now that we are really into the project we find the really hard parts, the parts that make us wonder, “Why did I even start working on this?” At this point, quitting seems like the best idea, but we’ve got so much time already invested… This is truly the darkness before the dawn.

Understanding the full curve of these phases means that we can anticipate them; and we can use them to gauge our commitment to and investment in the project.

  • That first burst of enthusiasm is useful to get us over the inertia of beginning any large project. Use that time to fact find, gather data and make some initial failures. It’s the failures that help us to get a better handle on the real work that it’s going to take to make the project a success. Use the early optimism to test the riskiest assumptions. What has to be true in order for you to succeed? Tackle that early.
  • Then there’s the inevitable obstacles. Along the way we find out all the places where our assumptions were wrong, and all the things we forgot to consider. Good! This is the data we need to make a better assessment of what it’s going to take to finish the project. Don’t just barrel through these early obstacles — instead re-assess the project in light of them! With these challenges in mind, does it make sense to persist? How do we know how to persevere and when to let it go?
  • If you choose to continue on you may start to get into a rhythm; you’ll feel like you have traction. This is where most of the work that will lead to your success happens. Ride that wave! This is where you will be most productive.
  • Somehow, no matter how productive we are, there are those issues we’ve put off, or worked around that finally have to be addressed. They may be thorny, or risky, or just unknown. But to finish the project you have to face them. Though you thought about quitting when you encountered those first obstacles, it’s at this point — when you’ve spent much of your will power already — that the thoughts of quitting start to look attractive. This is where many great projects die. You feel like the worst is in front of you, when, in fact, you are 99% of the way there.
  • When you’ve gotten through these last obstacles you will finally start to see progress, and success. Of course, the real world isn’t this linear; there may be further successes, as well as challenges, as you keep going. But the progress you make after defeating the big problems will likely fuel your continued efforts.

In school we got partial credit for showing our work. In business it only counts when it’s DONE. (Click to Tweet)

Knowing that these ups-and-downs are coming, and working with them instead of fighting them, can help us to get more of our work finished. How have you learned how to persevere?








Photo credit: DVIDSHUB

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The greatest lessons I learned from my mentors http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/greatest-lessons-learned-mentors/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=greatest-lessons-learned-mentors http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/greatest-lessons-learned-mentors/#respond Sat, 19 Jul 2014 14:11:15 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17247 Everyone needs a mentor, especially business owners! And often times, we need several. They help shape us into the people that we are. They help us through challenges, give us resources when we need them, and come alongside us when we need it most. Jill and Brad talk about their top mentor lessons from their mentors

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Everyone needs a mentor, especially business owners! And often times, we need several. They help shape us into the people that we are. They help us through challenges, give us resources when we need them, and come alongside us when we need it most.

Jill and Brad talk about their top mentor lessons from their mentors in their lives, and also talk to business owner guests Nicole Knepper of Moms Who Drink & Swear, Ethan Austin of Give Forward. You’re going to love it. And find out how to find your own mentor!

top mentor lessons

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What to do when… You’re not sure you can keep going http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/what-to-do-when-you-feel-like-quitting-your-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=what-to-do-when-you-feel-like-quitting-your-business http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/what-to-do-when-you-feel-like-quitting-your-business/#respond Fri, 18 Jul 2014 14:48:28 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17334 My business started off so strong. But the last year or so it’s been really rough. The clients are there, but they’re so much more demanding. I’ve lost a couple of key team members, and I just don’t know how many more weekends I can work. My family is angry (and they should be) and

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want to quit

My business started off so strong. But the last year or so it’s been really rough. The clients are there, but they’re so much more demanding. I’ve lost a couple of key team members, and I just don’t know how many more weekends I can work. My family is angry (and they should be) and my bank account isn’t showing the fruits of my labor. Maybe this entrepreneurial thing just isn’t for me.

First of all, let me say it: we’ve all been there. Even the “rock star” entrepreneurs — those folks writing books and giving speeches? — they’ve all got a moment, or more likely many moments, when the sky was dark and they couldn’t see their way forward. This kind of struggle is an integral part of starting a business (or starting anything for that matter). So don’t panic.

Even though we’ve ALL been there, it doesn’t mean the choice to stay in the game isn’t your own. It is. Everyone has to decide for themselves whether to throw in the towel or soldier on. It may be time to “come in out of the rain” — or it may be your “darkest just before the dawn” moment. Only you can decide. And while no one has a magical crystal ball, and you may feel like a blind man in a dark room, the truth is, you don’t have to GUESS what your best option might be. You can look at some key indicators that might help point the way.

1. What are you learning?

Business failure can be an excellent teacher. Are you failing differently today than you were last week, or last year? If you are learning, and that learning is causing you to do different things, then there is hope. If you are banging your head against the same wall time and again, it may be time to move on.

2. Are you seeing improvement, however slow?

If you’re learning, and trying new things, but the new things are getting you worse results than the last iteration, then you might be heading in the wrong direction. If you aren’t seeing happy clients who are referring you to more happy clients; or if clients aren’t willing to pay a rate that results in a profit for you; it may be time to find something else. On the other hand, if there are happy clients, who are paying you good money (just not enough of them) then that’s a problem that could be solved. Looking for some help with marketing or sales might be the answer.

3. What’s your “plan B”?

If today is the last day that your business can survive, what are you doing tomorrow? What would you do other than what you are doing now? If you have a ready answer, or better yet 2 – 3 options, it might be time to pursue them. If, on the other hand, you can’t imagine doing anything else (and not for lifestyle reasons, but because no one would hire you) then you need to figure this out.

Most successful entrepreneurs got there because they weren’t well suited to a more “traditional” role in the workplace — a regular job. Many got fired more than once, others have wicked ADHD, and most have some reason that they just don’t fit in other people’s companies. If that’s the case, you need to figure this out!

4. Who will be honest with you?

It’s hard to see things clearly when you are in the middle of them. It’s crucial to get someone who’s not in it with you to give you an objective view. The problem with most people you might trust with this is that they care too much for you — so it’s hard for them to be objective, or to tell the painful truth. Can you get another business owner, or a mastermind group, or a coach, or another professional who will look objectively at what you have, the progress you are making, and where it could end up? That perspective could be really valuable not just today, but as you continue on as well. This might be time to form an Advisory Board to give you some accountability and perspective.

Let’s say you’ve determined that you are learning, and you are making progress, and your outside observers tell you to keep going, but you still aren’t sure. You don’t have the energy, or the money, or… Then what you are facing is not a bad business idea, but a failure of your motivation or commitment. If that’s the case, taking some time to remind yourself why you got started on this adventure and what you hoped to achieve by pursuing it might fan the ember of drive that’s still left in your belly.

So take a deep breath. If you’re at your wits end and you feel you have a decision to make you don’t have to feel like you’re jumping off a cliff. And, don’t forget: you’re not alone. Though it’s true, no one but you can decide what to do in your predicament; finding even one person who’s “been there” may be the biggest remedy to your distress.

And, thinking on all these things, you can make a decision that is actually informed, as opposed to a last ditch effort. Whether your resolve is strengthened, your fears confirmed, or you discover a new task in front of you, asking these questions, gathering good data, and having objective input from a trusted source will all help to decrease the level of panic you are feeling. AND THEN you will be in a much better position to envision and take your next step, regardless of the direction.

So. Feeling like a failure? Good. Join the club of experienced business owners whose failures, in hindsight, turned out to be opportunities in disguise.








Photo credit: Jason Lander

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Stop business owner burnout with better systems http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/business-owner-burnout/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=business-owner-burnout http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/business-owner-burnout/#comments Wed, 16 Jul 2014 13:28:51 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17308 “I used to like my business, now I can’t stand it. It’s just  not the same anymore.” I have a unique business.  I run around in my pajamas and have fun for a living.  I am a martial arts instructor.  However, I know several “successful” school owners who no longer like their business.  I have

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“I used to like my business, now I can’t stand it. It’s just  not the same anymore.”

I have a unique business.  I run around in my pajamas and have fun for a living.  I am a martial arts instructor.  However, I know several “successful” school owners who no longer like their business.  I have had my business for the 18 years (and I still love it).  In addition being a professional instructor and school owner, I am real estate investor, and rare horse breeder.  Most importantly, I have been married for the last 18 years and have a family that I spent lots of time with, even with these businesses.

business owner burnout

Here is the thing.

I have spoken to lots of burnt out business owners over the last nearly 20 years.  I do not think you wake up not wanting to be a business owner. While, certainly, there could be a single event that sours you to the passion of being an business owner, that kind of change of heart only happens over time. It’s what I call the “death by a million paper cuts”.  An owner has so many “plates spinning”– get this task going, now go do that task, hey we are out of toilet paper, John called off again,  we lost our best customer, customer z is complaining again.  All these little things add up so that the cumulative effect is that you wake up hating the thing that you truly loved doing just a few years ago.

But I want to call your attention to the fact that we have a choice in how we react to all the challenges – trivial or substantial – that come with business ownership.  Here are some options that are popular with business owners:

1. Do it all ourselves! 

It’s a valid choice. But I must warn you, get ready for stress, burnout, and poor performance.

2. Delegate to employees

“If I just hire someone this will solve all my problems”. I know lots of people that are actually more unhappy attempting to manage the work of employees than they were when they did it all themselves.

For many business owners who are burning out, these choices feel like a choice between a rock and a hard place. But, when we are riddled with anxiety and exhausted from the burden of decision-making, sometimes we fail to see the nuances of these options – particularly with option number 2.

I remember a few years ago, before I re-engineered my business so I could avoid business owner burnout, I was speaking to a mentor about some employee problems.  He spoke plainly. He said, “your employees do not suck, your systems suck.”  This was like a lightning bolt hitting me. When we hire someone, often times we give them a broad job description, and expect very specific results.  More often than not, those expectations are in our heads. We may not even acknowledge them to ourselves! My mentor was pointing this out to me; I had no system for sharing my knowledge of how to complete all the tasks involved in running my business. We need to create systems clearly spell out how to do all those tasks, and what the result should look like!  Think: “a recipe for getting a job done”.

And this system needs to be “fool-proof”.  Let’s examine that word “fool-proof”.  Your system should be so clear that even a fool should be able to follow along and get good results.

It might sound like a lot of work.  It is.  However, dealing with staff turn-over is more work. When people leave, you or someone else needs to train their replacement.  If you have an “air-tight” system, these transitions will be less painful and less costly.

There are tools now available that can help you to capture exactly how you would like ANY task to be done.  If you have a Google Drive™ account you can easily create a system that uses checklists and videos to train your staff and monitor tasks for FREE.

Even if you are one of the 3% of business owners that have taken advantage of one of these systems,  I would venture to say that less than 1% of the 3% are utilizing these online tools to the fullest. I initially created my systems in a notebook with paper. I even made a VHS tape of what I wanted the system to look like. I had the right idea, but it was cumbersome and old school. I realized that people would lose the notebook, and that I had to be onsite to check it, etc. etc. etc. It had its problems.

With Google Drive™ wherever I am, I can logon, and check my staff’s work.  I can delegate it to them via email, folders, or even on Google Calendar™.

Read this sentence as quickly as you can:

yes yes no yes yes yes sweaty pipes yes yes

Believe it or not, that’s what you do when you supervise your staff’s checklist. You might be asking, “what is that no about, and what are sweaty pipes?”  How easy was that? And you can do it anywhere! On a beach, or at home after everyone is in bed. OR you could go a step further and have a manager check the checklists and then report to you about only the vitally important matters that need your attention?

The problem with creating systems is no one thinks they have the time. So business owners don’t burnout, they must realize that some of the most important time spent in the business is creating and monitoring systems.Quite frankly, whatever your business is, you cannot not afford to NOT do business development work. If you are stressed, fatigued, and lack the drive you used to have for your business, a healthy dose of time and energy creating systems can help with that. It’s hard to describe the freedom you create when you “De-Mythify” your business. When you de-mythify, you take the “myth” of what it means to have a business, and make it real by having well developed systems. 

Now instead of “death by a million paper cuts” you only have “the occasional scratch”. And everyone can handle that.








Photo credit: Pixabay

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Every time you feel down about your business, remind yourself of these 6 things http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/cost-of-success/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=cost-of-success http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/cost-of-success/#respond Mon, 14 Jul 2014 13:00:00 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17293 The cost of success: Is it worth the price of admission? When we work on something truly great (you are working on something great aren’t you?), we will face adversity. There will be times when the whole world seems hell bent on putting brick walls in your path. But there’s only one way to respond

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The cost of success: Is it worth the price of admission?

the cost of success to the business owner

When we work on something truly great (you are working on something great aren’t you?), we will face adversity. There will be times when the whole world seems hell bent on putting brick walls in your path. But there’s only one way to respond when the universe conspires against you: keep going. Don’t believe me? Check out this list:

Facing rejection?

JK Rowling wrote her first “Harry Potter” manuscript while she was getting divorced, on welfare, and living with her daughter in a small apartment. Her agent received nothing but rejections for almost a year. It was rejected by 12 different publishers before finding someone who offered her £2,500 for the UK publishing rights.

Tired of working so hard?

Spencer West’s legs were amputated below his pelvis when he was 5. He gets around all right; and he has never really seen his lack of legs as a barrier to living life. In 2011 he decided to redefine what was possible for him — by climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro, mostly on his hands.

It took him 6 days. He did it under his own power: 80% on his hands, 20% in his chair (when the terrain permitted). On the last day, the friends climbing with him were struck with terrible altitude sickness. Looking back on that moment he said, “I wish I had legs that day. Because I would have picked those guys up and carried them one by one to the summit. But I couldn’t do that, so instead I got on my hands and said ‘Guys, let’s walk this together.’”


the cost of success

Feeling like a failure?

At age 22, his business failed. The next year he ran for legislature and lost. So he started another business, which also failed. At 25 he ran for legislature again, this time he won. His girlfriend passed away the next year, leading to a decline in his mental health. Ultimately he had a nervous breakdown. Upon recovering he ran for 3 more elected offices, and was defeated each time. At 37 he was finally elected to Congress. Two years later he ran for Senate and lost. The next hear he was nominated as a vice-presidential candidate, and lost. At 49 he ran for Senate and lost.

Finally, at age 51, Abraham Lincoln became the 16th president of the United States.

Everyone thinks your idea is no good?

James Dyson made 5,126 failed vacuum prototypes over 15 years before hitting on the design that eventually became a success. Talk about a huge cost of success! Does he think any time was wasted? No. He says, “But I learned from each one. That’s how I came up with a solution. So I don’t mind failure.”

Running out of money?

In the early 70′s, Fred Smith was struggling to keep his young shipping company viable. Demand for services had grown quickly – faster than the company’s infrastructure. With $5,000 in the bank, and a $24,000 fuel bill in front of him, he pounded the pavement requesting a business loan from several lenders. After each and every lender denied the request, he was at the airport trying to figure out what to do. With nothing to lose, Fred got on a plane to Vegas with the remaining $5,000. He won $27,000 at the black jack table; he covered the fuel costs and kept the company alive for another week.

The company? $28 billion shipping giant — FedEx.

Don’t have the right connections?

Bette Nesmith had a good secretarial job in a Dallas bank, but she wasn’t a great typist. She needed a better way to correct the errors she made on her electric typewriter. Bette had some art experience and thought about artists who just “painted over” their errors. Using her kitchen and garage as laboratory and factory, she concocted a fluid to paint over her typing errors. Before long, all the secretaries in her building were using what she then called “MistakeOut”. She attempted to sell the product idea to marketing agencies and various companies (including IBM), but they turned her down. Undaunted, Bette Graham changed the name from Mistake Out to Liquid Paper and kept selling it from her kitchen-garage for the next 17 years. By 1968 she was making a profit. And in 1979, the Gillette Corporation bought Liquid Paper for $47.5 million plus royalties. When Bette Nesmith sold the enterprise, the tiny white bottles were earning $3.5 million annually on sales of $38 million.

the cost of success

There are hundreds of stories like this where the cost of success is so high — so many that one has to wonder if perseverance isn’t an essential element of success stories. Irving Stone has spent a lifetime writing novelized biographies of success stories; Michelangelo, Vincent van Gogh, Sigmund Freud and Charles Darwin have all served as subjects. When asked if he saw something that all these greats had in common Stone replied,

“I write about people who sometime in their life…have a vision or dream of something that should be accomplished…and they go to work. They are beaten over the head, knocked down, vilified and for years they get nowhere. But every time they’re knocked down they stand up. You cannot destroy these people. And at the end of their lives they’ve accomplished some modest part of what they set out to do.”

“Brad these are great stories. But I’m not like any of these people. I’m just a small business owner,” you say. Well I say, what have you set out to do?

Did your business grow out of a time of upheaval and desperation, like J.K. Rhowling was experiencing? Did your business grow out of a conviction, or a dream, like Abraham Lincoln? Or were you determined to overcome an obstacle, like Spencer West? Was your business born from a natural talent you have, or a good idea, or was it simply a problem to solve — like Bette Nesmith, Fred Smith, or James Dyson? The only difference between these stories and your story is how much all of these folks believed in what they were trying to accomplish — in what they set out to do. They believed in it so much, that when no one else did, they kept going.

the cost of success

How much is success worth to you? If it’s not worth much, then you’re not dreaming big enough. (Click to tweet)

I promise you — if you truly believe in your business — and you bring this level of commitment to it, your story will be like these stories. When we add this level of perseverance to whatever vision, capacity, experience or convictions we bring to the table, the impact can only be great. I’ll say it again: what have you set out to do? What do you believe in? If you’re meeting obstacles, if you feel like a failure, if you are getting rejected at every turn and you are tempted to give up, look at these stories again. And ask yourself, what is the cost of success worth? 3 failures? 27 “no”s? If you knew that on the 5,127th attempt you’d succeed, would you pack it up, or would you start counting your attempts? And then, get on with it.

What is the cost of success worth to you? Share your story with us — victories and defeats. Tell us about how you’ve experienced the rewards of perseverance in your business.








Photo credit:  Tomasz Stasiukgareth1953 the original,  Tatiana12

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Quitting is for quitters: How to keep going when everything tells you to stop http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/persistence-how-to-keep-going/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=persistence-how-to-keep-going http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/persistence-how-to-keep-going/#respond Fri, 11 Jul 2014 15:57:12 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17278 In the beginning…. When I first started consulting, I closed my first 2 new business appointments. After that, I failed to close the next 27 in a row. I went 5 months hearing nothing but “No.” I was discouraged and frustrated. So I called my dad for advice. After hearing my story he said, “Brad,

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In the beginning….

When I first started consulting, I closed my first 2 new business appointments. After that, I failed to close the next 27 in a row. I went 5 months hearing nothing but “No.” I was discouraged and frustrated. So I called my dad for advice. After hearing my story he said, “Brad, sometimes you need to know when to come in out of the rain.” Not exactly what I wanted to hear.

persistenceWhile I was banging my head against the Wall-of-No, I was also meeting monthly with about 20 other consultants who were launching their businesses. We gathered together to try to share best practices, collaborate on projects, and encourage one another. Unfortunately, most of them were struggling to find prospects at all, much less close business. Only a few of us found even 29 prospects, despite the fact that there were lots of seasoned business people in our group. I sought out the 2 – 3 in the group who had a measure of success. They each told me (in their own way), “I don’t know what’s working for me. You just have to try everything.” Thanks for the insight!

Though no one could explain why; their success remained. The fact that some of us — even if only half a handful of people — were closing business, was proof to me that it could be done. I decided to ignore my Dad’s advice. Instead of coming in out of the rain, I persisted. There wasn’t much in the way of evidence, I didn’t have much of a strategy, but I had found some success. I was convinced there was a way to make my business work.

quit

But I wasn’t going to keep banging my head against that wall. I reached out to everyone I knew who had sales experience and success. That effort led me to a sales coach who helped me to see what I was doing wrong. It wasn’t long before I was closing deals again.

I often look back and think about that group. We all had similar experience and training. We all got started with a telemarketing firm that gave us 10 appointments. But out of the 20 some people who were in that group with me 12 years ago, I think 2 of them are still in business.

Why keep going?

When you work for yourself, it’s easy to give up. There’s no one by your side telling you to keep going. In fact, many of the significant people in your life are telling you to quit! But it’s always darkest just before the dawn. Every significant breakthrough for me has come past the point where it made sense to keep going.

I’ve been working out, trying to get a little healthier. When I do sit-ups at home, I can do about 30 before I quit. It feels like 30 is my limit. But when I work with a trainer, he’ll make me do 50! We can tolerate a lot more pain, challenge, and difficulty than we think we can. We want to quit when it starts to get hard, but the gold comes when it is really hard. Persistence does pay off.

The screw-it-stage

Do you feel like quitting? Great! That’s actually a sign that you are close to a breakthrough! My wife calls this — and I’ll clean up the language for you — “the screw-it-stage”. This is the place where you don’t give UP; you give up your idea of what the solution looks like. You take risks. You try new things. You open up your imagination. She says you always find what your work needs when you throw yourself into the “screw-it-stage”.

don't give up

You are already failing, right? What you’re doing isn’t working. Get a second opinion; invest in a coach; or throw everything you’ve tried out the window and have a brainstorming session. Because you can’t just apply your strategy, in the same way, over and over, and expect to reach success. In fact, doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results isn’t persistence — it’s insanity. You need a new perspective. Find new tools, new methods, or new talent. Swallow your pride, get rid of your attachment to your first strategy, and try something new.

When I was stuck in a new business rut, that “something new” was investing in a sales coach who looked in from the outside. His perspective helped me see what needed to change. When I was exhausted from too much client work, I found a VA, and then added some team members who made it possible to keep going. Persistence and change go hand in hand.

When you feel like quitting, here are some questions that can help you find the change you need:

1. What is POSSIBLE if I keep going?

When people are thinking about quitting, it seems like an easy way out. It seems like the perfect solution! But if you flip it around and ask, “What opportunities are available to me in this challenging situation that I would’t otherwise have?” you might discover some good things. You might find the “silver lining” in this cloud. By embracing the challenging situation instead of looking for a way out of it, we put our energy toward resolving it instead of escaping it.

2. What was DIFFERENT when it was working?

Has something changed? Remember that I closed my first two appointments, then went 0-for-27. The key to getting back to my winning ways was to look at what I did right to close those first two. The truth was, my early success had gone to my head and I had abandoned a new business process that was working! I thought I knew better than the guy who trained me and I went off on my own way. Getting back to the basics helped me get back to success.

What’s different for you? It might be something that you are doing differently, or it might be something that’s changed in the environment around you. Either way, if you identify it, you can plan a response that will get you a different outcome.

3. WHO can see what I can’t?

It’s really hard to be objective looking at your own situation. It’s so much easier to look at someone else’s situation and see clearly where they are dropping the ball. This is why group therapy works, why peer groups and mastermind groups work, and why coaching is all the rage. Get some help, get an outside perspective. But make sure it’s a perspective from someone who believes in you– someone who wants you to succeed. My dad’s message to “get out of the rain” was more about him not wanting to watch me struggle than it was about me finding a way through.

We’re going to be delving deep into this topic of persistence for the month of July. We’ll look at how improving your focus and vision can clarify what needs to change, how to find appropriate help, and how to know when it is time to throw in the towel.

Stories are so valuable. With stories we can instruct, encourage, and influence others. Take a risk, and use the comments section below to share a story about a time when persistence paid off for you!








Photo credit: Reaction Gifs, Death to Stock Photo

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Being a business owner is not always fun and games. Suck it up! http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/running-a-business/?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=running-a-business http://www.enmast.com/2014/07/running-a-business/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 17:44:47 +0000 http://www.enmast.com/?p=17266 As a business owner — entrepreneur, self-employed emperors-of-my-own-universe — I’m supposed to “follow my passion“. Figure out what floats my boat and focus on that. Make my dreams come true. Why is it that no one ever told me that “following my dreams” would mean when running a business I have to do a bunch

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As a business owner — entrepreneur, self-employed emperors-of-my-own-universe — I’m supposed to “follow my passion“. Figure out what floats my boat and focus on that. Make my dreams come true. Why is it that no one ever told me that “following my dreams” would mean when running a business I have to do a bunch of admin work, or sales, or *gulp*, accounting?

running a business

It is precisely because you have to do accounting (or sales, or whatever you can’t stand doing) that it is so important that you are doing something you are passionate about. In any endeavor, there are going to be those times when what is integral to your next step of success is doing something you aren’t good at, or you don’t think is fun. If you are not passionate about that endeavor, those tasks you don’t enjoy could become serious obstacles to success.

When the task is unpleasant, but persistence is required, how do you know when to cry uncle, or when to bear down and get it done?

Are you doing all the scut work?

Sometimes we find that our employees have “chosen” to do more of the fun work and left a lot of the un-fun work undone. As the business owner, we look at that and say, “Well it has to get done, I guess I’ll take out the trash.” That’s not what I’m talking about. In that case you likely have more important ways to spend your time when running a business — it’s perfectly OK to assign tasks that don’t require your experience or executive decision making to your employees (or outsource them). But if it’s important, requires executive decision making, and is likely to impact the future of the company, it’s on you.

Are you struggling with work you don’t know how to do?

I’m not saying you have to do your own accounting. If there is someone who has the skills you need hire them! But there are some things that only you can do. Only you can interview and make key hiring decisions (but you can get help). You are likely the most effective salesperson your company has (or could hire) — your knowledge and passion will outshine even the most highly skilled hired sales person. Basically, if it’s a job that someone else can do better than you can, hire someone to do it!

Can you see a time when you won’t have to do this?

Sometimes you are doing work you don’t enjoy because you need to understand it, or the person who’s good at it quit, or your business is growing and you can’t hire someone yet. But if the work you hate is part of the service you are delivering to the client — if it’s something that will be part of your job for the long term — it’s time to re-evaluate.

What can you change about the work to make it better?

“I hate sales,” she said. “I can’t stand going out and begging for work; trying to convince folks to buy stuff they don’t need. It’s not for me.” This business owner was at her wit’s end — she was ready to toss in the towel. The thing is — I don’t like any of the things she was saying about sales! Begging? That’s not sales. Convincing folks to buy what they don’t need? That’s not going to work.

Instead we worked together on a new sales process. One where she educated prospects about her services, then worked with them to find the right service providers for their needs. That sales process fit her values much better, and she was much more successful with it. When running a business, it might not be that you hate the work, you might just hate the way you are doing it!

Fun is not a good indicator that you are on the right track!

When an athlete is passionate about the game she still has to practice, she still has to hit the weight room. When a musician is passionate about music they still have to run scales, rehearse, and hone their craft. They have to tune their instrument, or work on the score for their new song. Their passion is demonstrated by their willingness to continue working hard at the parts of their job that aren’t glamorous, that aren’t fun.

My Father was fond of saying, “Sometimes you have to do things you don’t want to do” and this is true, even when you are the boss, running a business, even when you are pursuing your passion.

What are the parts of running a business that you dread? How have you dealt with that?







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