Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

The One Thing You Have to Do to Start a Business

Many people tell me they want to have their own business but they do not know what they want to do.

The One Thing You Have to Do to Start a Business

Often, embedded in this statement is the fear that they lack the knowledge, skills, or ideas necessary to be successful. Having met thousands of prosperous entrepreneurs I have found:

  • Some have advanced degrees, many did not go to college.
  • A few started out with most of the skills they needed to succeed, most learned as their businesses progressed.
  • A handful had unique or clever concepts, nearly all did not.

The only trait they have in common is a commitment to be and stay in business.

“Are you saying talent is not a factor?” Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. Look at this equation:

Talent = Latent

They look almost identical. That is because any expertise you need is resting inside you. You may think I am just playing a word game. In truth, if you always remember this equation you will succeed.

For example, most entrepreneurs learned how to sell. There are some natural born salespeople. But often they take their gift for granted and are eclipsed by those who studied and practiced.

All the talent you need to be successful in business is latent within you. Will you commit to developing it and prospering?

Question – Which skills or knowledge, that cannot be learned, do you think are essential to succeed?

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The Truth About Military Versus Civilian Life

Have you ever sought to communicate with someone who did not speak your language? If you sensed that there was little common ground did it make relating even harder? Something similar is impeding the effectiveness of people helping veterans transition to private life.

The Truth About Military vs. Civilian Life

A couple of weeks ago I spent the day with a friend who runs a program providing financial assistance to veterans. She admitted having trouble relating to her clients’ transition challenges. Never having served, her knowledge of the military came from movies and television, inaccurate at best. Likewise, when I speak with veterans I find some of their impressions of civilian life mistaken.

To create mutual understanding here are some key points to ponder:

  1. During World War II, approximately 9% of Americans served in the military and perhaps a similar percentage of civilians worked in support roles. Currently, active duty and reserve personnel make up about 1% of our population. Though about 8% of Americans are veterans, almost half are at least 65 years old. These statistics mean that seventy years ago around 75% of Americans had direct military experience or were closely related to someone who did. Today, The New York Times estimates only a third do.
  2. While being in the military requires discipline, life is very structured. Someone with moderate self-discipline will be successful. In general, civilians are less disciplined yet succeeding as a civilian requires greater self-discipline since it lacks the structure of military life.
  3. The military ritualizes paying respect. Typically, as long as customs are observed, a service member is acting courteously. In civilian life few if any such traditions exist any longer. With co-workers coming from such diverse backgrounds, it can be easy to inadvertently offend someone.
  4. The military does an excellent job of training civilians to be warriors. But it has neither the time nor the resources to train warriors to be civilians again. Though some skills learned in the military have value in civilian life, e.g. using computers and teamwork, much of warfare requires specialized expertise that does not easily translate. Whereas having been a flyer in World War II and Korea virtually guaranteed the option of being a commercial pilot, such is not the case today.

With the basis for mutual understanding decreasing as fewer Americans are or personally know veterans, their desire to help is hampered. Though stories of bold operations, such as the one in which Osama Bin Laden was killed, capture the public’s imagination, they shed no light on the experiences of rank and file service members.

If you are seeking to assist veterans, you need to speak to as many service members and veterans as possible to gain insight into our lives. We who have served need to help you by objectively relating our experiences of military life. Is this a Mars and Venice divide? Perhaps not, but maybe it is an Earth and Moon one.

Question – What areas of misunderstanding between service members and civilians have you found?

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Learn How to Love the Tasks You Hate

Life works the way you ate as a kid. The chicken was probably good but Brussel sprouts, are you kidding me? Yet you put up with them to get to dessert. Whatever you are doing: working, exercising, running a business, being married or in a relationship, earning a degree, you still want to rush through the meal to get to the ice cream. But your parents were right. The sugar high of the dessert cannot sustain you without the foundational elements of the meal: the soup, salad, and main course.

Learn How to Love the Tasks You Hate

I was struck by this idea while trying to expand the list of non-dessert foods my five-year-old daughter will eat. Currently, they can be listed on two hands and one foot. And she will only eat cucumbers if they are slathered in salad dressing. As I sat there frustrated she asked me what foods I hated when I was a boy. She had me nailed dead to rights.

There are three types of tasks you need to do to be successful: those you already know you like, those you already know you hate, and those you have not done because you are afraid to try. It is no problem getting motivated to do the tasks you like to do. But the other two categories are a challenge.

For tasks you dislike, you have five choices:

  1. Do not do them and be content with the level of success you have already attained.
  2. Force yourself to do them, which means you probably will not muster up much enthusiasm to do them well.
  3. Farm them out. But you'll still need to know how to do them well enough that your can train and monitor the person handling them.
  4. Make them a part of some other task you like to do. For example, when I first started cold calling one of the things I did was listen carefully to try and detect an accent and then see if I could accurately identify where the person came from and learn about other places.
  5. Do them so often you learn to love them.

For tasks you are afraid to try, identify the source of your fear. Perhaps the activity stirs up memories of a particularly difficult event in the past. Remember, your taste buds matured as you got older and you now like a broader range of foods.  So too your ability to handle unfamiliar tasks is much greater than you think. Maybe the one you are afraid to try will become a favorite. And if not, you can always use option three or four above and slather it with something you love.

There is one difference between life and eating as a kid is unlike a meal.  Without learning to do all the tasks necessary for success, thoughts of wealth, fame, or whatever else you seek may make you salivate, but you will not achieve them. Without the foundational elements that nourish and sustain you, dessert will elude you.

Question – How do you motivate yourself to do the tasks you dislike or are afraid to try? Please respond below.

If You Don’t Research Being an Entrepreneur Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Homework. As much as you may have hated it when you were in school, it is essential for entrepreneurship.

If You Don’t Research Being an Entrepreneur Now, You’ll Hate Yourself Later

Currently, I am considering getting into a new enterprise. While excited by the possibilities, I am tempering my enthusiasm while investigating the industry and assessing the financial risks. An inc.com article published today pointed out that British entrepreneurs are about four times less likely than the general population to describe themselves as adventurous and over half said they have at least one risk-averse characteristic.

When I evaluate risk, I gather facts, draw my conclusions, bounce them off of people whose judgment I respect, then reassess. I also network to find people with experience in the industry from whom to learn.

So before deciding if entrepreneurship is right for you, some research is in order. With the Internet, it is easier than ever. Here are five of my favorite resources on entrepreneurship and business and why I like them.

Inc. Magazine Online Edition – a treasure trove of articles on starting and running a business, many written by star bloggers whose work is worth following.

One More Customer - remember Fran Tarkenton? This is his venture for promoting small business. Take his Entrepreneurial Aptitude Test.

Kauffman Foundation - a wealth of encouragement, information, and statistics to get you thinking and acting as an entrepreneur.

Michael Hyatt’s Intentional Leadership blog - if you want to build a social media platform from which to market yourself and/or your business Michael Hyatt wrote the book, literally. Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World takes you step by step through the process. And there is tons of great material on his website.

Patrick McFadden’s Indispensable Marketing blog - if your mind is hungry, Patrick McFadden will feed it with thoughtful and useful advice on marketing for small businesses.

You have your assignment. Don’t worry, I am not checking spelling and grammar.

Question - What resources do you use to learn about entrepreneurship and business? Please respond below.

What Decisive People Know About Success that You Don’t

Which is better - drilling down to perfect your idea before execution or getting a solid plan outlined then acting on it? Just about everyone knows that a plan is essential for success, but as General George S. Patton, Jr. said, “a good plan, violently executed now, is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” Since business, like battles, rarely goes according to plan, in a planning versus performance face-off, default to performance.What Decisive People Know About Success that You Don’t

Remember in grade school when the teacher asked a question and you were brimming with enthusiasm to answer, squirming in your chair until called on to speak? Now think about how bad you felt when that answer was wrong. Is it any wonder that after a few times getting crushed by giving an incorrect answer you became much more skittish about speaking up unless you were absolutely sure you were right? Unfortunately, that lesson works against your success in business.

Patrick Lencioni argues that clarity about your plan is more important than perfecting it. Especially when working with a team, success comes from each member being clear about his part. Tom Hopkins says you should “put a little GOYA into your daily routine.” What is GOYA? Get Off Your Backside (polite word for Anatomy.)

Even if it turns out you made the wrong decision or had a bad plan, the experience and information you will gain by executing it will help you make adjustments as you move forward. You can only get to your goal by taking action. In most cases, as long as the next two or three steps are reasonably clear, you do not need to see a well-defined path all the way to your objective to get there.

Get moving, encounter obstacles, push beyond them. After a while, look back. You will be amazed how far you have come.

Question – How do you know when a plan you have formed is ready for execution?

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