Archive for February, 2009

When everyone else is ducking for cover, you should strike!
February 27, 2009

Your competition is currled up in a ball.  They are scared spitless that they will go out of business soon.  They are laying off good employees because they don’t think they have options.  

NOW is the time for you to steal their customers.  NOW is the time for you to expand your marketing budget.  NOW is the time to increase head count.  NOW is the time for you to risk life and limb growing your business.

 

The market will come around.  Position yourself NOW to take advantage when it does.

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What’s done is done…
February 27, 2009

You’re going to fail.  A lot.  It’s going to suck, but it will happen.  The most important thing you need to remember is that a failure in the past has no bearing on what you are doing now.

The last business venture that I was a part went up in smoke in the worst possible way.  Daily I am reminded of that failure.  But I have to remind myself and those around me that the business I’m in now – which is doing well – has NOTHING to do with the prior business that went out in a blaze of glory.

 

The biggest thing is that instead of saying to myself, “I’ve spent 4 years trying to make this happen!” I need to say, “the first 3 years of THAT business failed…and the last year of THIS business have succeeded.

 

Just something to think about.

THE SKY IS FALLING! (But not really)
February 23, 2009

I watch lots of CNBC…probably 2 or 3 hours a day both before and after the bell.  Admittedly, that’s a heck of a lot of time to spend watching “the market” and the economy as a whole.  But the truth is, I’m entranced.  You see, from 7am to 9am and again after dinner, I see graphs and charts and forecasts all pointing to the widespread economic calamity in which we now swim.  Yet between 9am and 6pm, when I’m working, I see the exact opposite as do most of my friends.

This weekend, I had three seperate conversations with three seperate South Texas business owners.  Three operate in the oil-field space (supposedly one of the hardest hit) and one works in agriculture.  All 4 of them had record sales months in December that they shattered in January and probably will surpass yet again in February.  What gives?

My theory, which crosses all types of industries including 0il, agriculture, technology (my industry), and many others is this:  large companies who have bloated their payroles with non-essential personel are getting slaughtered.  They have too many processes and procedures and too many people with poorly definied jobs.  They are so caught up in the mess within their own walls that they can’t serve the customers they have been counting on for years.  And small companies, like mine and the ones I mentioned earlier, have the agility to jump in quickly and steal the business that the large companies are losing.  

Frankly, it’s a perverse form of “trickle down economics” at its finest.  And while CNBC certainly has the right forum to pound out the message that large companies are getting kicked around – and they are – don’t forget that the heart of America’s economy is prospering right now.  For the first time, big companies and accounts with lots of money are giving small folks a chance because the various pains in the ass that come from dealing with large entities can be removed in dealing with someone small.   So next time you see a looming job cut at a big company out there, try and keep in mind that while this is undoubtedly bad news for the folks losing their job, someone out there is going to get the business that used to go to that big company and it is going to make their business stronger then ever.

Well, what should you do?
February 20, 2009

A friend of mine emailed me after my last post – and since he’s likelythe only reader of this here blog – I thought it wise to answer his question via a blog post.

“Nice post.  I wish I knew what it was that I could be doing…”

Good question, and one that isn’t nearly as difficult to answer as it appears at first glance.  The primary problem people have in identifying what to “do” on their own is that they think of a particular business.  That’s a bad idea.  Instead, you should think of a particular skill set that (1) you are really good at and (2) you won’t get burnt out on for at least a few years.

This individual is an excellent acquisition salesperson.  My experience with him is that he is skilled at drilling down in to companies and rooting out opportunities.  He has worked for a company that focused on lead-generation as well as a couple of companies that rely on their salespeople to do more then simply take orders.  As a result, it seems to me that instead of thinking about what he should sell (avacodos, online hosting, DVD players) he should focus on HOW he could differentiate the service he can offer and then seek out a market that could use those services.  In his case, there are numerous organizations with salespeople who do not dig deep in to B2B accounts looking for new opportunities.  Why not start a consulting gig wherein he goes in to organizations to help train their salespeople on how to find new opportunities with current and future customers?  The market is HUGE – as most every salesperson hates cold-calling yet is required to do it.  It would be an easy sell to those people and their employers to help them become more efficient and more effective at selling.  The employees will end up liking his input because they’ll sell more (and presumably make more money) and the employers will see a bigger revenue number.   Instead of saying, “I am good at sales and like it…I should think of a way to sell something on my own” I would encourage him to think outside the box and say, “I’m good at sales and like it and most salespeople stink at it.  I could help them get better results without having to worry about managing an inventory of my own.”

The point is that thinking of what specific thing to do is going to be a non-starter.  There are way too many reasons to not start a new project or business and most of them come down making your goal so specific that it looks impossible.  Instead, think about what you do well and what you don’t mind doing and then figure out what market or sector is dying for the things you can offer.

What. Are. You. Doing?
February 19, 2009

What are you doing?  Seriously, isn’t there something better for you to be doing in this economy then “THIS?”  

Short post, but the meaning is deep:  NOW is the perfect time to do what you want to do, what you are meant to do.  The economy has B2B folks succeeding who realize there is a lot of talent and a lot of need for new, better offerings. 

Go forth.  Do it.

Rule #25 – Hire an Accountant (or at least someone good with money)
February 6, 2009

We touched on this a LONG time ago with regard to deciding when to hire an accountant or a lawyer, and we’ve touched on it along the way when discussing capital, fundraising, and expenses.  But as I go along in my own entrepreneurial timeline, something has become clearer to me by the day:  you need a disinterested 3rd party looking in on your money.  And you need to empower them to tell you what you’re doing wrong, where you are being wasteful, and how to plug the leaks.

The first resistance (or justification) to finding someone to do this is that they’ll likely need to be paid and your cash is at a premium.   I’ve felt this way many times in the past myself.  And for the earliest stages of your startup, you may be right to monitor finances yourself.  But as soon as you are to the point where you are regularly entering sales or regularly recieving bills to pay, you need to have someone looking over your shoulder even if it costs you a little money.

The inefficiencies they will find, and the mistakes they will prevent, will more then justify the cost.  And when it comes tax time, you’re Quickbooks or Peachtree software should be in order well enough so that you don’t go broke hiring a CPA for your federal filings.

Short of having tons of money to lavish on an accounting firm, you should be able to find someone well-qualified and lookng for some extra cash on Criagslist for around $30 an hour.  In the current economy, you may be able to find someone at half that rate who is glad to spend an hour or two each week making sure every penny is accounted for and entered correctly.  

Money.  Well.  Spent.