Monthly Archives: September 2010

The Path of an Entrepreneur Series: The Beginning

Ahhh, an entrepreneur…

What kind of images does that word conjure in your head?

Images of you at cocktail parties explaining your latest business venture? Ideas of you working in your home office in your pajamas? How about talking to some movers and shakers in your industry about a potential partnership? Or maybe you just think it’s a lot more hard work then it’s worth…

Any of the above could be true. Many more possibilities can be dreamed up too. And many realities include a person such as yourself owning their own business. The question is… “Could that be you?”

My first confession is that I have been a small time serial entrepreneur for awhile now. By small time I mean I have “experimented” with a number of enterprises while holding down part or full time jobs. I made a little money here and there but never turned a business idea into a full time income.

Currently I am what one might consider an “intrapreneur.” This term used to be more popular in the 80’s and 90’s, but has since lost any kind of recognition it once had. As an intrapreneur I am helping to develop a new territory in the company I currently work for that I will practically own like a franchise once it is all said and done. While not providing all the benefits of being a full entrepreneur, it certainly also leaves out all the downside risk as well.

It is a happy medium for me, and it keeps me going to work happy nearly every day. I know many of you can and do aspire to this sort of arrangement. Many of you aspire to eventually freelance or start your own company someday as well. Or even get into consulting. For anyone that fits into these groups this series is definitely for you.

If you are happy in your career and don’t aspire to entrepreneurship then I would ask you to simply read this series as food for thought or continue to some of my other posts that deal more with career and work advice.

The beginning…

This series will cover a lot and I recommend that you subscribe so you don’t miss out on anything. I will start talking about the inspiration that is the beginning of any entrepreneurial journey. And some of the things you have to think about before you even begin.

Next I will talk about the nuts & bolts of a business. How to put one together. What tools, techniques, and resources you will need.

Finally I want to do some case studies and interviews with some successful entrepreneurs. And show you what it looks like when you reach that five year mark and your business is as solid as ever.

This will of course take weeks and months to cover, and I do hope that you will all add to the conversation by commenting. It certainly helps us all to learn and grow when people choose to join the discussion.

So welcome to The Path of an Entrepreneur Series and please enjoy!

Just Keep On Doing

I have looked at success story after success story…

I have read many biographies and studied the lives of many great men and women…

Over and over again I find that what Benjamin Disraeli said is true… “The secret of success is constancy of purpose.”

Winners are those that have a purpose in mind and never give up…

They are relentless perfecters of their craft, and of their message to the world…

I love the words of Theodore Roosevelt on the subject…

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

This blog that I am writing. This mission to become the most knowledgeable about business that I can be comes from this idea. That if I keep going I will win. I will learn what works best and will make it work for me. I will find a way.

Yet success doesn’t stop with me. My hope is that I can continue to be a success by helping those around me achieve their success. My friends, family, co-workers, and any business colleagues I associate with. By coming together we can all achieve more.

I will leave you with one last quote that is a favorite of mine from a wonderful person…

“You can have everything in life that you want if you just give enough other people what they want.” – Zig Ziglar

On Writing Well

You know a book is good when you have to read it a 2nd time…

Or a 3rd or 4th for that matter! I love when I find books like that. Ones that can stay in my permanent library and won’t be sold on Amazon or sent to the thrift store.

On Writing Well by William Zinsser is just such a book…

It’s a great read and is chock full of great information and examples about writing. I believe I originally found it on the Personal MBA 99 Best Business Books reading list.

As a writer I can’t say I have stumbled upon a better book about writing. I plan on reading this every year until I have the book memorized.

Currently I am on the section that talks about business writing and I thought that it might be very beneficial for my blog readers to hear a little about it.

The very first thing William says is that humanity and clear thinking are the biggest parts of writing well.

If our work requires us to write to someone we often tend to write in a way that is too formal, too stuffy, too full of jargon, and just too plain cold. While we are often required to write in a certain format there is certainly no rule that tells us we need to write like robots. No rule that tells us that we have to write without using our brains. Yet that is what we tend to do.

To use an example from the book, we tend to write about things such as “prioritized evaluative procedures” and “modified departmentalized schedules”, and then actually expect people to understand what we are talking about.

The first bit of advice to help us write more humanly is to not be afraid to use the personal pronoun I. Unless the format strictly forbids it, we should let our memos and other written forms of transmitting information use the word I. They can start with I and end with I and can talk about all the you’s in between. They should tell the story of people within or outside the organization and the relationship they have with the information being presented.

Of course this also requires us to write clearly. William constantly states throughout the book that writing clearly is simply thinking clearly on paper. Your writing is like your thinking, and if your thinking is unorganized and messy, so will your writing be too.

So be conscious of your writing in every form. Really think about it before you hit the save and/or send button. Ask yourself… “Is this human?” “Does it talk about relationships?” “Will people actually understand what I mean?” “Will this effectively get my message across?”

A writer can have no expectation of being understood if they are not willing to make sure their writing is clearly thought out and is written as humanly as possible.

A Gentle Reminder on How To Be Great

Too often we get caught up in downsides of life…

We feel overwhelmed by our obligations…

We are having health issues…

We are having relationship problems…

We find that out work no longer satisfies us…

We come to a crossroads or crisis in life…

The best advice anyone can give us in these situations is to begin with the end in mind…

Where do you want to end up? What is the solution? What do we have to do to make things better?

Instead of saying “Woe is me” we can say “I’m doing well”.

You see, happiness is more about the direction we are heading in then in where we actually are. Happiness is both about being better and doing better. And you will certainly be and do better if you begin with the end in mind.

So how can we be great?

The gentle reminder is to imagine yourself at the end of your life looking back. What do you see? What advice would you give the person reading this right now? What would you hope they would and wouldn’t do?

If we can find a way to be this objective about our lives then we will find the answers we are so desperately looking for. We will no longer need to be so quietly desperate, but we can be loudly striving to become our best selves…

The Power Of Yes

Do you know how powerful simply saying yes can be?

I know in my life saying yes has led me to some great opportunities that have furthered my career and have helped me to find my calling in life.

Have you ever really thought about how much you say no to things? How much opportunity slips by you every day?

J.D. Roth wrote a great article over at Get Rich Slowly called The Power of Yes: A Simple Way to Get More Out of Life.

His post says it all, saying yes works.

Think about all the ways you have said no lately? Could you have turned your no into a yes and experienced something great? There is only one way to find out…

Start saying yes!

The best thing you can do when unemployed is…

Anything Positive.

The first thing that comes to mind is to start a blog if you haven’t started one already and develop an internet presence. If you enjoyed your industry and want to stay in it, write exclusively about that. If you simply enjoy your job function (i.e. accountant, etc.), and want to switch industries, write exclusively about that.

Being unemployed is actually a great time to do some soul searching. To find out if what you have been doing is the best thing for you, or if you are ready for something fresh and new.

Writing about these topics on a blog will do a few things for you.

  1. It will keep you busy. A lot of people don’t know what to do with all their free time. Believe me when I say writing takes up a lot of time. It will be constructive time though which will make you feel good.
  2. It will help motivate you to do research. Actually what I meant to say was that research is what takes up most of your time, not writing. And research will be good for you. Perhaps you really haven’t been keeping up to date on the happenings of your industry. Perhaps there are opportunities for you out there that you haven’t imagined. Perhaps a lot of things. But you won’t know till you do your research.
  3. It will help you get noticed. Once you start blogging it is only natural to become a part of the blogging community. You will find other people interested in what you do, and you will continue to find great ideas and opportunities through them.

As a blogger myself I am a bit biased, but don’t knock it till you try it.

Anything you do along these lines will be positive for you, but I think blogging is one of those things that will have the highest potential of all.

And the best thing of all is that it is free. You just need to go to WordPress, Typepad, Blogger, or one of the many other ones out there to get started!

Great Career Advice: What To Focus On

The person that has focus is the person that wins.

Yet it is hard to focus. We don’t want to focus. It’s almost in our nature to be distracted by what is in front of us at any given moment.

Let’s take resumes for example…

How is a hiring manager supposed to decide who to call in for an interview? All the resumes look basically,… well,… the same!

Each person has a good resume. They formatted it right, spelling is right, they all have similar experience and backgrounds. It’s like everyone has done the same general things at the same general companies. These resumes are all generic… they all lack that thing called focus.

What makes a person stand out? The fact that they focused on something special…

“Earned Top Insurance Sales Person at my company and won a ski trip to Vail.”

“Established a new sales territory that has already brought in over $250,000 in revenue.”

“Over the past 5 years have helped a family owned business change from a half million dollar company into a multi-million dollar firm.”

Who is this guy?

Well, he is just the sales guy I want to hire! Bring him in for an interview!

I can hear the excuses now…

“But I don’t have any type of experience like that”

“Thats for sales, what I do will never sound like that”

“That person isn’t really focusing, they did three different things”

Yes you do have experience that I am sure you can build on…

Yes your expertise will sound like music in the ears of the right person…

Yes everything that person did built upon a smaller achievement in their past and is exactly what focused people do…

So what should you focus on?

Make a list that looks like the one above. It should include as many things as possible including, “I won my 5th grade spelling bee”, if that applies.

You should have at least 10 and hopefully more than 25 big or small achievements you can list.

Now start looking for the pattern… Do you see it?

This exercise isn’t designed to finalize any answer for you, but it is designed to point you in the right direction.

Keep walking that way and things can only get better from there!

On Building Momentum

This blog has sure been a time sink to get started…

Searching for the right theme…

Getting all the appropriate wordpress plugins…

Tweaking this and that…

Remembering how I built my first blog…

It is all fun and exciting, but time consuming…

I have wanted to post more then I have already, and yet I have allowed myself to spend (in my opinion) a little too much time on the more mundane aspects of this blog…

Yet this is all helping me build momentum…

I have lots of great ideas for this site, as well as for Insight Writer, and they all will be coming soon…

That’s what it takes to build momentum…

Be Like Water: How To Survive Life

This seems to be a theme in my life lately. Things are going well, the water is calm, and all is peaceful in the world. Projects are on time, work is getting done, and there is time left over to enjoy it.

Then the storm comes, or the unexpected waterfall, or whatever other water analogies you can think of. Things come crashing down, the ship gets overturned, and life as you knew it disappears.

Having a rough day? Why, yes I am!

First things first, its good to remind yourself that you aren’t really in control of a lot of things. No matter how hard you try, things break, take longer then expected, you get sick, people move on, and of course you move on.

Luckily, things often have a temporary nature to them. “This too shall pass” is still one of the greatest pieces of wisdom passed down through the centuries.

If you are in a hard spot, you don’t want to hear this. If you are in a good spot, you don’t want to hear this. We have a habit of thinking things will last forever. Fortunately, or unfortunately, they don’t.

“Nothing in the world is more flexible and yielding than water. Yet when it attacks the firm and the strong, none can withstand it, because they have no way to change it. So the flexible overcome the adamant, the yielding overcome the forceful. Everyone knows this, but no one can do it.” – Lao Tzu

Why is this so hard to do? Because we are unyielding creatures. We believe in our power more and more each day. Some of this is to be expected and is right. The doctor knows he is better when more people live, and live well because of him. The business person knows they are better when more people buy their product, and get satisfaction out of it.

These are all fine and good examples of trusting in our power and natural abilities. Yet no matter how good you are, people will die, and people will say no to your product.

It is in water that we find the answer. It’s persistence over time wears entire mountains away. It is used to both create life (all plants and animals need water to survive), and take it away (through flooding and drowning.)

If we can be more like water. Strong yet flexible. Charging ahead with our plans, yet being flexible enough to move around the inevitable disappointments and setbacks we will encounter, we will truly do well in this life…

Minimalism is Hard Work

Downsizing is hard work…

It takes time, effort, energy, and some foresight…

Don’t give up…

The results are worth it…