What am I doing?

Have you ever found yourself asking “What am I doing?” It’s a great question.  A lot of times as a small business owner, we keep doing a list of things, and we keep trying to stay busy for busy sake.  Does it ever feel like you’re banging your head against the wall and getting nowhere fast?  I know, I have days like that and we all will; but how do you avoid it on a regular basis?

I met with a guy last week that looks like this on a daily.  He is staying busy and working seven days a week.  He’s working to please customers with no clear understanding or process, and making hardly any money.  Many of us have all been here.  The problem is, if you don’t open your eyes, and see the futility of it, you will continue to do the same things, and continue to get the same results.

How do you break out of it?  If you are in this place right now, I want to give you a few things that will hopefully get you out of the rut, and back on track.

First, you need to know where you are going at all times.  You need to set a ONE year plan, and commit to it for the entire year. Small business owners need to have a bigger vision for what they are doing and where they are going, but spending too much time on a fancy business plan can be a HUGE waste of time.  I don’t know about you, but my strategic plan has a tendency to shift from year to year, especially in the first 5 years.  You must have a clear idea about where you want to go over the next 12 months, how you get there will certainly change along the way.

Second, your plan must be based and grounded in reality.  Do you really think you can grow at a 300% rate, month over month for six months?  If you have only been adding one new customer a week for the last 2 months, what makes you think that all of a sudden you will be able to add 5 per week?  Be realistic.  Don’t set yourself up for failure which leads to frustration and burn out.  Look at past history; figure out how you achieved those numbers.  Do less of what did not work.  Do more of what produced good results.  Follow the 80/20 rule.  

Third, meet with a group of like minded business owners that can give you feedback and accountability.  The best thing about being a business owner is that we don’t have a boss.  The worst thing about being a small business owner is that no one is telling us what we need to do.  It’s a double edge sword.  If you meet with a peer group you will be able to stay on track and get good feedback on the steps you are planning on taking.  If you are interested in creating your own group, see the chapter called Building a Board of Advisors.

Fourth (and this is very important), you must be receptive to the advice of others.  Most successful people realize their limitations and that they may not have all the answers.  We all have room for improvement.  I have a friend that is more organized than just about anyone.  He has a place for everything, and nothing is EVER out of place.  The great thing is that he always tells me, “I have to get more organized I can do better.”  If we all had this understanding, and acted on it, we would all continually improve and make our business better.

My friend and I were talking the other day, he’s going on a cruise in 3 weeks, at the time we spoke, I was leaving for a vacation the next day.  He had already packed for his vacation, and I had not packed.  He is far more intentional about the things he does, and it doesn’t matter if we are talking about business or personal.  I need to be more like him and be more organized.

If you become involved with a peer group: be open.  Listen to the advice of others and don’t think you know it all.  You may just need the perspective of an impartial person to help you see the pitfall you are about to drop into, or the gold rush that awaits you right around the corner.

So what ARE you doing?  Are you being strategic?  Are you setting goals?  Are you moving your business forward?  Take steps right now to make this a priority.

If you want to find out about how to be successful, there is no one better than a successful business owner telling you how he or she did it. Join us for our weekly podcast where we share REAL stories from REAL business owners that are having REAL success.  Join us for Small Business NAKED.

Meet John Erbert of Erbert lawns.

John Erbert or Johnny as he is better know by those who know him owns one of the most successful lawn care businesses in Colorado, if not the entire US.  A few months back, Johnny was interview on the Access Direct blog for some business insights and tips.  Here is a portion of the interview:

“The best advice I have to offer is to draw or map out an organizational chart for your small business. This sounds crazy for a new small business, but please hear me out.

List all the possible positions in your business. For example:

  • CEO
  • Human Resources
  • Accounting
  • Marketing
  • Operations Manager
  • Branch Manager
  • Receptionist

You get the point right? Someone has to perform all of those functions, so put your name in each position box that will be your job function. If you are a new business, you will realize that your name is in most of the boxes.

At this point, you may have the common reaction, “Holy crap!” This should give the phrase “we wear many hats” new meaning for you.

It’s your job to get other people – employees, sub-contractors, or virtual assistants – to help you with those functions so you can spend your time working on growing your business instead of dealing with all the day-to-day minutia of your business.

When you run a business, the product/service is not what you’re really selling. The true product you’re selling is your business, so spend time creating and perfecting the perfect business model that supports your customers and employees. Focus on all the little details, because that’s what’s important.

I hear many companies say they are all about customer service and then you use their bathroom and it’s a mess. This begs the question: if they really care about customer service, why is the bathroom a mess? It’s because they really don’t care. It’s just lip service.

For the rest of the story, please visit the blog written by John Kinsley.

Johnny is the co-host of Small Business Naked and a hugely successful business owner.  We can all learn a lot from Johnny.

SBN: Joy Gendusa founder of PostcardMania


Joy Gendusa

Direct response marketing is not the sexy cool marketing activity that most people want to talk about, but Joy has built a great business helping small business owners market their businesses in a more traditional way.  Direct response postcards are a cost effective way to get your message out to your perfect customer profile.  she started her business after being a graphic designer, and having issues herself trying to kick off a postcard campaign to get customers.  With the experience and knowledge she had from brokering print jobs and designing for customers, she decided that she could really grow a business that specialized in postcards after her bad experience in using another postcard company.

Starting her business in 1999, Joy launched PostcardMania.  Due to their belief in their own marketing system and delegating tasks to key individuals, PostcardMania has experienced tremendous growth…so much so, that they actually use their own services by sending out 150,000 postcards each week to attract new customers.  Joy does share her other keys to marketing their business.  This has been a large strength:  giving away the information.  Joy shares with everyone, even her competitors.

While many business owners complain about the economy and how hard things are, Joy has decided not to participate in the recession, and she wants everyone to prosper.  Beat the recession:  market your butt off.

We talked about a lot of different things in marketing her business as well as yours, you can learn more about Joy and PostcardMania at their website:  www.postcardmania.com

Million Dollar Road Trip continued…

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Walter and Patrick Hessert

We continue our conversation with brothers Walter and Patrick who are on a road trip to talk to entrepreneurs across the country.  On the journey, they are giving out small grants to small businesses to keep taking risks.

For more information, check out their website at milliondollarroadtrip.com

SBN: Jerome Grady founder of Colorado Ski & Golf

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Jerome Grady

Listen to this week’s interview with Jerome who started a very successful retail store.  From one store, Jerome built a store that sold worldwide.  He was the biggest retailer of snowboards.  He also created his own snowboard brand called CSB – Colorado Snowboard.

Jerome was able to create a successful business because he did things a little different.  He overbought merchandise at a good price.  He paid his vendors first.  He created an innovative rental program for families.  He competed with Gart Brothers…and won.  So much, that Gart Brothers had to come and buy him out.  When Jerome sold, he was selling over $12 million in sales.

Jerome is a colorful personality that loved dealing with people, having fun, and making good deals.  He hired people based on their walk, and who they were.  Jerome is a fabulous person, and one of our newest friends.  You will love this interview.

Ralph Gregory founder of Intelligent Office

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Ralph Gregory

In the early 1990′s Ralph became a father, a little later in life than most, and naturally, he wanted to spend less time at the office and more time at home. At the time, Ralph was a venture capitalist and most of his work fell into the category of communications – talking on the phone, writing letters, sending e-mails and faxes – none of which required beginning an office. As Ralph used his office less and less, he began to formulate this new business concept that would allow him to work from home while still tapping into services – such as receptionists and meeting space – that would present a professional image. The virtual office concept was born.

This week, we get to talk with a veteran entrepreneur that has built several companies, been successful in most, and has a unique perspective, that us young kids (Johnny and I), can learn from.  He walked us down the journey from his first failed business attempt, to his current business triumph.  If you love business, you will want to hear this story.

Intelligent Office continued…

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Ralph Gregory

Talking with Ralph has not been like talking to our other guests.  There is a feeling that nothing will phase him, and I think that it is because he has seen it all.  He was very candid about life, starting out early in life in Chicago working his neighborhood to cut grass and do odd jobs…all the way up to sharing his new favorite pastime:  driving big boats.  Hear the rest of our conversation with Ralf.

John Dicker – owner of Geeks Who Drink

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John Dicker

John Dicker from Geeks Who Drink joins us and shares with us his crazy business story.  We talked about why he started, why he bought out his partner, and how he makes money!

Look for John’s big event coming up on January 29th at the Filmore called Geek Bowl, the largest live trivia contest in the country.  Teams come from all over to compete for a CASH prize.

He did confess to us that since he has an 11 month old daughter, he is a drinker, but is not a technical “Geek.”  Then he turned the tables on Nick and Johnny to find out how little we know about trivia.  We went 0 for 2, and John acused us  of living under a rock.

While scoring is rather archaic, it does provide for good social time at Geek Bowl, as well as normal Geeks Who Drink events.  While John would not share with us what the entertainment for Geek Bowl will be, he did guarantee us that it will be worth getting to the event on time!

We were shocked that it only comes to about $175 to bring GWD into a bar for a weekly event.  John also shared that his model does not alow to only host a bi-weekly or a one off event.  You can check out one of their events at over 35 bars around Denver.

Making Alcohol Show

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Nick and Johnny talk with Scott and Jessica from The Northern Maine Distilling Companyfrom Houlton, Maine, makers of Twenty 2 Vodka.  They distribute in about three states, but are hoping to distribute nationally.  They are a husband and wife team that got the original idea from a business class project.

We also talk with Kevin Selvy who started Crazy Mountain Brewery in Vail, CO, who brew about 10 different beers.  Kevin started his brewery after working in the financial industry and wanted to brew beer and have fun.

Both companies raised money to start with investors and deal with very different restrictions being in different states and in different types of alcohol.