Tag Archives: business

How the Military Prepared You for Entrepreneurship

6 Essential Qualities for Military & Business Success

2-½ minutes to read

Over the last decade, the number of veterans in business has declined. Despite many programs supporting veteran entrepreneurship, not much has changed. While not every military person will start a business, I bet you have the six essential qualities of entrepreneurial success…

How the Military Prepared You for Entrepreneurship

The Qualities You Can’t Hire

Out of the 16 skills a business needs to prosper, you’ll have to have six. You can hire people with the other ten. With how many of these do you excel?

Self-Motivated. I’ve never met a successful business owner whose drive came from someone else. Counting on a desire for wealth or fame for motivation sets you up for failure. You need to want business success for its own sake.

Inner Moral Compass. You’ll have lots of temptations when you have your own business. People will give you rationalizations for doing shady or outright unethical things. If you succumb, you’ve put your company on a shaky foundation. A strong sense of right and wrong will protect you.

Curious. No matter how sound your idea and plan, things will go wrong. And you won't have all the knowledge and ideas necessary to succeed. Learning from others allows you to avoid common mistakes and unseen pitfalls.

Tenacious. Giving up can't be an option for a business owner. Failure has to be the stimulus to try again. Tie tenacity to curiosity. Then you’ll have a new option to try when the previous one didn't work.

Team Player. Most small businesses start with the owner as the only employee. But you’ll still need to create a team. Unpaid advisors will fill in gaps in your knowledge. And you’ll have to have an accountant and lawyer. From that perspective, you're a team captain. Evaluate their advice and adapt your plan.

Competitive Spirit. You have to like to win. Many prospective entrepreneurs look for an area without competitors. They think having the market to themselves means an easier road to success. But lack of rivals may also mean your idea isn't viable. Where successful businesses already operate, opportunity is present. Continual, incremental innovation gives you the competitive advantage.

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You have these qualities. But before embracing entrepreneurship, assess how strong they are in your character.

Entrepreneurship: The Essence of a Military Life

Despite a few high-profile successes, wealth is not the primary reward of business ownership. Having your own business is a lifestyle decision. You’ll need to balance advantages like control over your schedule with your potential income.

The typical business owner works 40-49 per week. Eighty-one percent work nights and 89% work weekends. That may be because they can make more money working after hours. Many owners work a regular job while they start their business. Also, they may take kids to school and attend their sporting events during the weekday.

Sixty percent of business owners pay themselves $50,000 or less per year. Thirty percent make nothing. Ten percent make $75,000 or more. Another way of looking at your salary as an entrepreneur is:

Entry level (0-5 years) - $50,000 - $60,000 per year

Mid-career (5-20 years) – $70,000 per year

Experienced (20+ years) - $100,000 per year

Most people think business success hinges on having a great idea. Nothing could be farther from the truth. Your success will come because you have the necessary traits. And it matches your desired lifestyle. Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship requires serious thought. Now you know what to consider…

Have you thought about starting a business?

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How to Use Serendipity to Improve Your Relationships

2 minutes to read

You might think I eliminated words such as chance, fluke, or providence from my vocabulary. Your point is well taken. My motto, “Are You Living Intentionally?”, gives you solid grounds for thinking so. Would it surprise you to know that despite having 957 DVDs, I prefer watching Turner Classic Movies? I never check its schedule. It’s better to let TCM surprise me with an old favorite or a new gem. Serendipity is the BEST part. You miss unexpected delights when you plan everything out, don’t you?

How to Use Serendipity to Improve Your Relationships

Serendipity Doesn’t Happen by Accident

Over the last five weeks, I’ve laid out a step-by-step process for creating relationships that make your life better. You know how, where, and who. But working too systematically can cause you to overlook great connections. When you work to develop relationships in an area of your life, the process takes on a life of its own.

A while back a friend connected me with Dan Evans, a Marine who uses his deep knowledge of social media to help his fellow veterans. We saw links in our work. As part of building our relationship, he interviewed me on his podcast. We’ve continued to be intentional about developing our connection.

What I couldn’t have planned is that Todd James, one of Dan’s listeners, got in touch with me. Todd runs the Marine Corps’s Marine for Life program. He helps veterans make the connections they need to be successful in civilian life. See the natural affinity between us?

By being intentional about building a connection with Dan I serendipitously met Todd. The sum of what the three of us do together will exceed that of us individually or working in pairs. Call it luck, blessing, or whatever you want. To make unexpected good things happen, you must WORK to make similar good things happen.

3 Ways to Bring Serendipity into Your Life

Aside from being open to blessing or good fortune, you can attract it by:

  1. Looking for ways to bring serendipity into other’s lives. Don’t wait for your friends and business associates to ask you for something. Look for opportunities to wow them by being proactive.
  2. Going somewhere you’ve never been before. Go purely for the sake of enjoyment or self-improvement. If you make a new connection, great! If not, don’t worry. The time has been well spent.
  3. Getting out among strangers. Spend an hour at the mall or a busy park just walking around. Run a 5K or walk a 1K by yourself. You can get lucky anywhere you find a big group of strangers.

Enjoy engaging in whichever option you choose. When you like what you’re doing you’ll attract others.

You’ve done your planning. Now take action.

How can you unexpectedly delight a business associate? Please comment below.

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2016

3-1/2 minutes to read

Every year I read at least 50 books. With so many goods ones, even at one per week it seems to make hardly a dent. My reading focuses on personal development, history & biography, business, and literature (my guilty pleasures are detective and historical fiction).

10 Books that Will Improve Your Life in 2016

While I generally keep abreast of current works, I also look back to see what older books and classics I have missed. Here are the best, why not get yourself one for a Chanukah or Christmas gift?

Personal Development

Talent Is Overrated: What Really Separates World-Class Performers from Everybody Else by Geoff Colvin

If you have ever thought you couldn’t do something because you lacked the talent, Colvin will convince you that ability has nothing to do with inborn skill. Not persuaded? I challenge you to read this book and keep your belief.

How to Be a Power Connector: The 5+50+100 Rule for Turning Your Business Network into Profits by Judy Robinette

Everything you want in life is owned or controlled by someone else so it makes sense to spend time learning how to create relationships for your personal and business life. My blog post reviews this remarkable book more fully.

The Education of Henry Adams by Henry Adams

THE CLASSIC BOOK ON LIFELONG LEARNING AND DEALING WITH CHANGE. For over a century this great grandson and son of U.S. presidents has illuminated the path to personal growth. Though of another age, Adams’s wit and eloquence remain compelling to this day.

Do Fathers Matter?: What Science Is Telling Us About the Parent We've Overlooked by Paul Raeburn

For any or man or woman who wants to excel at raising children, Paul Raeburn explains why fathers are essential to the proper development of sons and daughters. Ignore his sidetrack into politics but carefully follow his explanation of the scientific evidence.

History and Biography

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb

You may have heard of Roger Bannister but his being the first to break the four-minute mile was by no means a sure bet. Fierce competition required new ways to train and frame success. The book is about running. The lessons apply to all realms of your life.

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Relationships are the building blocks of life. Creating teams multiply the impact of relationships. No sport builds teams more effectively than rowing. From the depths of despair to Olympic Gold, Brown’s telling of Coach Ulbrickson’s triumph will stir your creativity and desire to win.

With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E.B. Sledge

Another classic. Sledge’s memoir delves deeply into the impact of war on those who fight it. To understand combat you either have to live or read this book.

Ike and Dick: Portrait of a Strange Political Marriage by Jeffrey Frank

On what could one of the greatest men of the 20th century and one of the most ignoble possibly base a relationship? The answer will surprise you and give you insight into how to build a relationship when you have little in common with the other person.

Business and Entrepreneurship

Hello, My Name Is Awesome: How to Create Brand Names That Stick by Alexandra Watkins

You can spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to brand your business or follow Watkins’s step by step formula. The book costs less than $20. Need I say more?

Who Moved My Cheese?: An Amazing Way to Deal with Change in Your Work and in Your Life by Spenser Johnson, M.D.

I don’t know how I overlooked this gem for almost 20 years. You’ll be amused while being motivated to handle change.

What books did you read this year that you recommend? Comment below.

On a Mission . . .

Do you have a defining purpose to your life? Does it motivate you to enthusiastically get out of bed each morning looking forward to the day’s activities? When your time on earth is just about done will you feel your life was worthwhile because you pursued this mission?

On a Mission . . .

One of the great aspects of the military is that no matter what our rate or rank we begin our service by dedicating ourselves to a mission: To support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic . . . This statement gives purpose to everything we do. When we experience the searing heat on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier in the Arabian Sea during combat ops or have to de-ice that same flight deck to conduct humanitarian assistance operations in the northern reaches of Japan, we have a reason to endure the harsh weather and the punishingly long hours.

Why Will You Do What You Do?

So too in your life and business, you need to have a mission. Non-profit organizations learned this long ago because they have to motivate their workers, especially volunteers, to commit to a purpose and devote time and money to its fulfillment. The United Way provides a good example.

For-profit businesses can reap tremendous benefits from the same clarity of purpose. The mission statement for my company is: to help veterans secure a share of the American dream they fought to preserve.

Notice that this is not a goal per se. While it is written down, there is no objective to reach or time limit by which it is to be reached. Once you have a mission for your life and/or business, it becomes the litmus test by which you decide whether a particular activity or goal is relevant and purposeful.

A mission statement should be an expression of your most important values because if the two are in conflict you will be working at cross-purposes. Yet, if you are unclear about your morals it may be difficult to create a compelling mission statement.

5 Steps to a Personal, Business, or Family Mission Statement

Here are the steps for writing a mission statement:

1. Make a list of your five most deeply held values

Be careful not to mistake political positions for values. Look at why you have a particular political belief to determine the values the underlie it. If you need some help getting started check out this list.

2. Write down your elevator pitch

This is a brief explanation of what you want to do with your life or what your business is and does.  So called because you can deliver it in the length of an elevator ride. Harvard Business School has a website to help you build one.

3. Use your values to describe WHY your business does what it does

Write a paragraph with each sentence addressing how one of your values relates to your life or business. For example, if you are starting a plumbing company and one of your values is being thrifty, one sentence of your paragraph might be about providing the highest level of service at the lowest price.

4. Edit your paragraph to one or two sentences

Work on combining the essential idea of one sentence with that of another. Sometimes a single word can replace an entire sentence. For example, in my mission statement the value of “taking care of G-d’s children, especially my fellow service members” is expressed with one word: help.

5. Let it sit overnight then edit it

Once you have written your mission statement put it away until the next day then review it. Edit ruthlessly. Say it out loud. If it does not flow well keep working on it. Try using a thesaurus to find variations of words that express your thoughts more accurately. If you get stuck, set it aside overnight again. You may have to do this several times before you develop a compelling mission statement.

When you have completed your mission statement read it periodically, every morning before you begin work, or each evening when you plan your next day’s schedule. Even when you have it memorized, refer to it in written form. Its impact is greater.

Where are you stuck figuring out your personal and business mission?

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Fit to be an Entrepreneur

When I started my business in 1986 I was always on the look out for the secret to success. I don't remember who it was but somebody told me the key was to “stay in the game.” The person meant you should have enough money to last through the start up phase, but in the 26 years since I have found that staying in the game requires more than money. It requires being fit. Just like in the military, an entrepreneur must be physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. I call this the Three Pillars of Fitness.

Fit to Be an Entrepreneur - 3 Pillars of Fitness

Think of it this way: if you are mentally and physically fit you are standing on two legs. That works fine during normal times, but if life gets very turbulent you will get knocked down. A two-legged structure is inherently unstable. Now think about a tripod. Once its three legs are properly spread it is extremely difficult to push it over. The platform supported by the legs may on occasion not be quite level, but its three legs are the utmost in stability. The same is true for us. Click on each heading for more about each leg.

Physical Fitness

As service members, we had to periodically pass a physical readiness test so staying physically fit was a part of our job. It may seem that once we are out of the military we need not worry about this anymore. But stamina is a crucial aspect of being successful in business. While we may not be going on long hikes or wearing body armor to do our work, we will be working long hours. Proper nutrition, exercise, and adequate sleep are the keys.

I recommend having a fitness program to keep on track. I use The President’s Challenge, which is the latest program from the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports & Nutrition. If you are interested in joining my Three Pillars of Fitness group let me know. One of the benefits of the group is I will pay for the medals you earn.

Mental Fitness

Business is mentally and emotionally demanding. You will deal with a lot of new issues and challenges. Failure will become part of your everyday existence. But just like physical training gives us greater stamina, so too can we train for the mental rigors of entrepreneurship. When I was ten years old I started reading biographies of famous, successful people and I have continued to do so for over four decades. There are many fantastic motivational trainers such as Zig Ziglar and sales trainers such as Tommy Hopkins. Over twenty years ago at Tommy’s Boot Camp I learned one of his mantras that I developed as follows: I never see failure as failure, but as the information I need to go on to succeed.

Mental fitness requires that we continually seek out the information we need to achieve success. We must challenge our assumptions. Remember, the definition of insanity is to repeatedly try the same thing while expecting a different result. A friend of mine recently introduced me to Michael Hyatt and I have found his ideas to be very stimulating. The good news it that there are numerous resources, including podcasts and recorded books many of which are free, on the Internet to help us get and stay mentally fit.

Spiritual Fitness

When our physical stamina is running low and our mental toughness has taken its twenty-fifth hit that day, nothing will get us through except our spirit. For some of us we will look to religion, having faith that G-d will show us the way through. Others will use meditation or other physical techniques that have a profound impact on the spirit. Still, others will grab their iPods and plug into music that recharges their souls. My point is not to suggest that you must use any particular method, only that like with physical and mental fitness, you train your spirit for the demands of entrepreneurship. Just like we have to work out at least three times a week to stay in shape, we have to have a regular plan to exercise our spirits.

I will return to this topic periodically, expanding on a particular pillar and giving resources for its development. In the meantime let me know if you found this subject valuable and what your thoughts are about it.

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