Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

How to Increase Your Income While Lowering Stress

80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes – Joseph M. Juran

If you are like me one of your biggest challenges is not having enough time to accomplish everything you want to get done.  I do numerous things to work more efficiently.  But during my time in business I found something worse than needlessly time consuming projects: handling needlessly time consuming matters for people who were ungrateful and emotionally draining.

How to Increase Your Income While Lowering Stress

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The Pareto Principle, as Juran called it, applies to business just like everything else. According to Richard Koch in Living Life the 80/20 Way:

  • 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of its customers
  • 80% of a company's complaints come from 20% of its customers
  • 80% of a company's profits come from 20% of the time its staff spend
  • 80% of a company's sales come from 20% of its products
  • 80% of a company's sales are made by 20% of its sales staff

I would add to this list that 80% of your daily emotional grind comes from 20% of your clients.  Is it coincidence that they seem to be the same ones who negotiated the hardest and won the largest price concessions?

Free up a tremendous amount of time and mental energy by firing such clients

You need to be intentional about the process of weeding out your worst clients, otherwise the tendency might be to fire the ones with whom you most recently had a problem even though over the long run they were profitable and reasonable. Here is my process:

  1. Make a list of your clients and the fees they paid during the previous period (for example every six months) as well as the average annual fees they paid since becoming a client.  Rank them with the highest being 1 and then on down from there.
  2. Next, determine the time you spend servicing their accounts.  Rank this aspect with 1 being the least time consuming and again on down from there.
  3. Assess the amount of emotional energy it takes to work with the each one.  Think back over the previous period and quantify the number of times each client treated you or your staff inappropriately, made outrageous time demands, and did other things that unduly tasked your patience.  Once you have done this assessment rank them like you did with time, where the least emotionally taxing is 1 and then on down.
  4. Add up the score for the three issues.  Those clients with the highest scores are the candidates for firing.

If you set up your assessment on a spreadsheet like Excel you can more quickly re-assess when the need arises.

Note I called them candidates.  You highest scorer may also be your largest source of income.  In that case you may have to replace some or all of this income before you fire the client.  Nonetheless, one by one you need to get rid of the worst clients so you can replace them with higher quality ones.

If you conclude that you do not need to fire any of your clients, this may be an indication that you are not being aggressive enough in going after business.  You are not stretching your capability in dealing with challenging people.  Aim for striking a balance.

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Another benefit of this exercise is you will create a profile of your ideal client.  When you prospect for new business you can interview prospects to determine how well they fit this profile.

If you have a retail business, rather than assessing individual clients, develop customer profiles, each of which you assess as if it were a client.  Identifying the qualities of your best customers will reduce the time you waste on chasing prospects that in the end take up too much of your time and emotional energy relative to purchases they make.

While this process will not repeal the 80/20 rule, it will improve your overall work experience and reduce your mental burden.

What other ways do you assess the quality of your clients?

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5 Common Career Problems: Which Ones Do You Want to Overcome?

Every problem is a gift - without problems we would not grow – Tony Robbins

Life is filled with problems. In the early days of starting my first business, I learned to call them challenges since those sounded easier to overcome.  Among the worst are career problems.  Nearly all people are fortunate to have within their grasp the ability to choose the set of challenges with which they want to grapple.  Unfortunately, most don't exercise this choice.

5 Common Career Problems: Which Ones Do You Want Overcome?

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When I talk with people about career problems they tend to air the same complaints. Not necessarily in order of frequency, they are:

  1. I don't make enough money.
  2. I have to work too many hours.
  3. I miss too many family events.
  4. I dislike the people with whom I work.
  5. My boss doesn't know what he's doing.

Do any or all of these sound familiar?  Most were on my list back in 1985.  During that year I committed to finding a solution. On February 28, 1986, I started my first business. Being an entrepreneur eventually solved all of these challenges. Here is a rough timeline:

  1. Money:  It took less than two years to generate an income similar to the one I gave up and about five years to get my income to a comfortable level.
  2. Hours:  The first eight years I worked long hours, though rarely as many as at the company I left.  But after ten years this issue was under control.
  3. Family events:  From day one I controlled my schedule.  The flexibility of being self-employed is one of the top reasons for taking this step.
  4. Co-Workers:  Since I had the final say on hiring and firing, I never worked for very long with someone I didn't enjoy working with or who was incompetent.  This is another excellent reason for starting a company.
  5. Boss:  The truth of the matter is my boss, me, often didn't know what he was doing.  In the beginning, I was pigheaded about my ignorance.  But after a disappointing first year, I admitted to myself that I had a lot to learn and started filling in the gaps.  And while I constantly found my knowledge lacking it was within my power to get trained.
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Entrepreneurship won't solve your career challenges overnight.  But the ability to find and implement solutions will be in your hands.  While the business press tends to focus on the financial benefits of startups, I think the lifestyle benefits are much greater.  They will lead you to a more enjoyable life whether or not you have a multi-million or billion dollar IPO.

What is your biggest career challenge?

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Pursue Entrepreneurship Like a Marine

When stationed with the Marine Corps, I learned a concept called maneuver warfare. Attrition warfare was the primary philosophy until World War I. Today speed and agility, also called shock and awe, dominates warfighting.  Typically thought of spatially, Marines broaden it to include psychological, technological, temporal, as well as spatial issues.  As the wars wind down I've been thinking about how to apply this doctrine to entrepreneurship.

Lesson from the Marine Corps

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While I don't equate business to war, the usefulness of maneuver warfare translated into entrepreneurship can ignite your life. Here’s how:

  1. Spatial Maneuver: Merely because another company is larger and better capitalized doesn't mean you can't enter the market.  Its size can be its biggest weakness if it prevents innovation and agility in the marketplace.  Maneuvering spatially means more quickly taking advantage of opportunities than larger, better funded competitors.
  2. Psychological Maneuver: The psychological enemy you face as an entrepreneur ranges from negative self-talk and opposition from family and friends to the lack of knowledge you need to pursue your idea.  Tackling this enemy requires forethought as to how you'll respond.  For example, when someone, including yourself, puts down your concept or your potential to succeed will you simply ignore it?  Can you continue to do so over time?  You'll do better if you analyze the defeatist arguments and have ready answer showing them to be wrong.
  3. Technological Maneuver: Technology is amazing.  But note that this can mean it is amazingly good AND amazingly bad.  Its value lies in how well it helps you get your business underway and makes it run better.  Technology purely for its own sake will hold back your progress.  Maneuvering through the technological morass should lead you to solutions that help you serve your customers and make you a nimbler competitor.
  4. Temporal Maneuver: In war, by creating a faster operating tempo than the enemy, Marines seek to disrupt their enemy’s ability to react.  With entrepreneurship, the temporal enemies are the desire for perfecting your product or service, fear of failure, or other issues that cause you to delay launching.  By setting hard and fast goals for completing each task of your start-up plan and sticking to them, establishing a battle rhythm, you gain the inertia you need to break through the temporal barrier.

Marines constantly train by planning and practicing how to use maneuver to make them the most effective warfighters in the world.  Success means shattering the enemy’s cohesion so badly it can't function.

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The enemies of your success wage a war of attrition.  Everyday they seek to dissuade you from changing your mindset and engaging in tasks that will improve your life.  Undoubtedly your definition of success differs from the Marine Corps'.  But making maneuver a key aspect of your plan will help you more quickly defeat the negative attitudes and lethargy holding you back.

Which type of maneuver will help you most toward your goals?

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Dividends Entrepreneurship Will Pay You

Rarely will entrepreneurship only pay you money. You'll learn numerous lesson for improving your life.

Dividends Entrepreneurship Will Pay You

If you start a service business you'll find the Pareto Principle applies: 80% of your headaches will come from 20% of your clients. I'll never forget one property management client who drove me crazy trying to please her. She owned an apartment building in tony Bel Air, California. Her outlandish expectations and constant harping only marginally outdid the extraordinarily demanding tenants. After handling her building for two years I asked a friend who was managing her commercial properties how things were going with her. Turns out he had dropped her account after three months.

I was astonished! Despite more than ten years in business, it never occurred to me that I could fire a client. A week later, with a huge anvil lifted off my shoulders, I started to enjoy life again. I actually had free time!

Life lesson from entrepreneurship:

If over the long-term a client uses 80% of your time, he had better pay you 80% of your income.

You may have a friend constantly needing your support. But will that person be there for you in your hour of crisis? If so, you have a friend. Otherwise, you are an unpaid psychotherapist. Re-examine your feelings of self-worth if you need to have this person in your life for validation.

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Another equally memorable client had a gorgeous 1930s era building in Los Angeles. One evening, happily ensconced in my apartment not too far away, I got an emergency call from one of my resident managers. A pipe had burst. She needed my help. So I threw on a jacket and jeans over my pajamas, grabbed my keys and pager, and ran out the door. I had walked about three blocks when I sensed a car following me. Not good.

Sure enough, in the next block I heard tires squeal. Within seconds a young man had leaped out of the car, put a gun in my side, and demanded money. I yanked my hands out of my jacket pockets and protested all I had was my keys and pager. He poked the gun into my ribs and insisted on money. Shouting now, I explained I was responding to an emergency at a building I managed. Trying to convince him I had not brought any money with me, I insisted he frisk me!

Evidently, my bellowing disturbed the occupant of the apartment we were next to. He shouted, “if you don’t shut up I’m going to call the police!”

With a confused look on his face, the gunman sprang back into the car and off it drove. Visibly shaking when I met my resident manager, I quietly told her what happened. But we got the problem fixed. And I didn't mention the hold up when reporting to the owner the next day.

But the resident manager had told him. So at the end of our conversation, he said he had heard what had happened. He expressed his gratitude for my perseverance. Some time later he told me to raise my fee!

Life lesson from entrepreneurship:

Are you frustrated with people who do just enough to get by? You should love them. Because of their laziness your top-quality performance, sooner or later, will stand out. It has to.

In today’s competitive economic environment even employees have to be entrepreneurial. The good news is such a milieu plays to your strength of striving for personal growth.

What lessons about personal development have you learned from your work?

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How Raising Your Rates Benefits Your Clients

Back during my real estate days, a friend I'll call Becky (seems the right thing to do since that is her name) and I met for coffee. We had similar businesses. She performed business valuations and consulting and I appraised property and consulted on real estate. We were frustrated. Both of our incomes had stagnated. And since all our working hours were filled, we saw no way to make more money.

How Raising Your Rates Benefits Your Clients

Analyzing the issue we concluded there were only two ways to increase our incomes: work more hours or charge a higher hourly fee. Since we couldn't do the former we discussed the latter.

Pricing for our services varied widely. So it was impossible to pinpoint what we should charge. We agreed to an experiment: Raise our hourly rates by 50% and see what happens.

Within a couple of months several we found:

  1. Clients paid the higher rate
  2. The number of hours I worked did not drop
  3. I got more challenging projects
  4. I traveled more

In short, I made more money doing better work. The same thing happened for Becky.

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About a year later we tried the experiment again with similar results. By then I had learned to have greater confidence in my professional ability. Also, I learned about the concept of:

Perceived Value

If something is more expensive people think it must be higher quality.

Raising Your Rates = Better Service

Equally important, my clients benefitted by:

  1. The quality of my work improving.
  2. Having someone who reliably tackled tough projects without sacrificing quality.
  3. Having greater focus on their specific needs because I didn't have to work on multiple projects or constantly pursue other work.

Of all the decisions I made in my business career, this one scared me the most. This includes dealing with a gangster though in fairness I didn't know he was a crook when I refused to be intimidated. I had worked so hard to build my company I didn't want to see it fail because I was too greedy.

But the risked paid off for my clients and me because I met the challenge of producing superior, more complex work to justify higher fees.

As you plan and start your business it's easy to be myopic.  Don't be afraid about raising your rates. Reach outside yourself to make sure your growth continues and is being rewarded properly.

Is it greedy to leave behind clients who can no longer afford your services?

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