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5 Ways Professionals Can Succeed As New Entrepreneurs

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5 Ways Professionals Can Succeed As New Entrepreneurs

It’s been a common occurrence in recent years: Company downsizing or restructuring has left skilled professionals looking for a job. Or, feeling constrained, they jump to a better growth opportunity.

But, with the era of lifetime jobs at a single firm or company long gone, many doctors, dentists, lawyers and other professionals also are opting to work for themselves, becoming entrepreneurs and launching their own start-ups.

Some who already started small practices have expanded into several locations. As dentists and business partners Dr. Seth Newman and Dr. Efstathios Giannoutsos can attest, the learning curve of running and growing a business in multiple offices — while still practicing their profession — can be challenging but also rewarding.

“It was never my plan to run a practice, or even co-run one,” says Giannoutsos,  (www.asktheorthos.com), an orthodontist and co-author, with Newman of Giving It To You Straight: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Orthodontics But Were Afraid To Ask. “But then the financial crisis of 2008 happened, and a lot of the opportunities that had been available before were now gone.

“But we were able to flip those circumstances on their heads and use them to our advantage.”

“The biggest challenge initially was finding clients,” Newman says. “But we learned to use different resources and educate ourselves in the business side as we did in our chosen career.”  

Newman and Giannoutsos offer five tips for professionals transitioning to running their own business:

Be passionate. Entrepreneurs tend to be extremely passionate about their work. They need to incorporate the same passion for running a business. “Think about how running your own business could transform your career, send it soaring,” Newman says. “That kind of spirit energizes you and all those around you.”

Be bothered by inefficiency. Entrepreneurs don’t have a high tolerance for inefficiency, and the bonus is they don’t have corporate red tape to cut through. “You can fix problems that come up quickly because of your expertise and the freedom of not running into typical corporate obstacles,” Giannoutsos says. “If you or your business partner are mired in work processes that are too slow, analyze the inefficiencies and consider the places you could implement solutions.”

Don’t be afraid to take on more risk. One thing that sets many entrepreneurs apart from the average professional is their appetite for risk. “A business owner knows the risk-reward possibilities, and by taking well-calculated shots, bigger rewards can come,” Newman says. “Set aside time to strategize, and listen to the best-qualified people working for you to develop a precise plan.”

Brainstorm more. Constant innovation is crucial to a business’ long-term success, so entrepreneurs have to take time to let their minds be loose and creative. “Set aside time each week for brainstorming sessions with your staff — and remember to have fun doing it,” Giannoutsos says.

Don’t limit your dreams. “The most important aspect of the entrepreneurial spirit is being limitless – the sky’s the limit,” Newman says. “Many people are conditioned in the workforce to be realistic and practical, but dreaming big sets the mission for your company, and it’s why you became a business owner.”

“It can be daunting at first, performing the myriad tasks of a business owner,” Giannoutsos says, “but if you believe in what you do and those you’ve hired around you, it’s so worth the effort.”

Dr. Seth Newman (www.asktheorthos.com) is an orthodontist and co-author, with Dr. Steve Giannoutsos, of Giving It To You Straight: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Orthodontics But Were Afraid To Ask. He owns orthodontic practices in the New York City area. Dr. Newman completed his dental training at Stony Brook School of Dental Medicine, where he was a member of the National Dental Honor Society. He was a clinical instructor of the Invisalign system at the NYU School of Dentistry.

Dr. Efstathios Giannoutsos, or “Dr. G.” as he is commonly called, was born in Astoria, Queens, just outside of New York City. He graduated from St. John’s University in Jamaica, Queens, with high honors and a BS in Biology.  He is also the co-author with  Dr. Seth Newman of Giving It To You Straight: Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Orthodontics But Were Afraid to Ask (AskTheOrthos.com). He completed his dental training at NYU, where he graduated with a Doctor of Dental Surgery (DDS) degree. He was also accepted into NYU’s highly competitive orthodontic residency program. During that time, he also discovered a passion for treating children and adults with facial deformities. Coinciding his passion, his research thesis to attain specialty certification involved children with cleft deformities.

5 KEYS TO EFFECTIVE PLANNING FOR CAT EVENTS

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently issued its forecast for the 2019 Atlantic and Pacific Hurricane Seasons. Specifically, NOAA forecast 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 2-4 major (Category 3+) hurricanes between June and November for the Atlantic Basin. It also forecast 15-22 named storms, 8-13 hurricanes, including 4-8 major hurricanes, through November for the Eastern Pacific Basin.

Although NOAA indicated its forecasts are “near normal” for the Atlantic Basin and “above average” for the Pacific, even one storm making landfall in a populated area can have dire consequences for local residents and businesses, as well as their trading partners and customers. 

Business leaders and managers whose enterprises and key trading partners are located in areas vulnerable to catastrophes need to plan effectively and well in advance for any potential disaster. Here are five keys for effective disaster planning and management.

1. Develop and test an emergency response plan.

Create a team of key personnel and external resources needed to prepare for and respond to a disaster affecting your operations. Besides members from your risk management, executive, legal, accounting/finance, IT, HR, operations, and communications, the team should include your insurance broker, risk consultant, claims adjuster, and restoration contractors for emergency repairs of damaged facilities.

Have multiple contact information (including office, home and cellular phones; business and personal email) for each individual and create call trees to contact everyone on a timely basis.

Designate an internal leader, such as the risk manager or CFO, and alternates to coordinate  response and claims teams, and oversee the plan’s implementation.

Next, carefully assess the potential vulnerabilities of each facility, such as wind damage, flooding, and fire. Conduct a comprehensive evaluation of your organization’s facilities and locations situated in regions prone to hurricanes so you have a full understanding of business interruption and asset values at risk from these events.

A key lesson from past storms: Planning must address not only wind-related loss, but also storm surge, flooding, extended power outages, and interruption of land line, cell phone and internet access, as well as the potential for sustained site inaccessibility.

List all measures needed to prepare for such events in advance, as well as to respond at each stage as they unfold, including pending, immediately prior, during, following, preparation of the insurance claim, process management or repair and restoration through full recovery.

Develop a project flowchart or playbook so everyone involved understands the plan and their responsibilities. New planning “apps” on mobile devices can ensure all team members have ready access to all required details as storms approach and their actions are needed.

Rehearse the plan and test it using tabletop exercises. Be sure to update it regularly to account for any changes in personnel, operations, and activity.  

2. Know emergency procedures and resources.

Well in advance of any event, contact the local Emergency Management Office to gain an understanding of community evacuation plans. Have a citizen band radio system at each facility to track storms and obtain critical government notifications.

3. Engage employees.

Inform all employees of your hurricane and natural disaster plan and have supervisors explain elements that apply to them, including their individual responsibilities when storms occur in areas where they live and work. They should know facility shutdown procedures, including how, when and by whom they are to be implemented and communicated.

Prepare for events that occur when employees are at any facility; make sure they have access to adequate emergency supplies (such as 72 hours of nonperishable food, potable water, first aid kits, lighting and communications devices) and safe locations onsite if they need refuge from floodwaters or structural collapse.

4. Safeguard facilities and critical equipment.

Plan to protect or secure outside equipment and inventory. Safeguard windows against breakage with permanent storm shutters or cover them with marine plywood as storms approach. Divert water from holes in foundations, doorways and sills, and other openings. Inspect roofs, HVAC systems, elevators, and loading docks for potential exposures.

Be prepared to anchor or move yard structures and equipment (trailers, cranes, loose yard storage, high profile materials, storage racks, etc.) that may be vulnerable to high winds. If sites contain drums of hazardous chemicals, move them to sheltered areas.

If your inventory includes perishable goods, have back-up generators for refrigerators/freezers or arrange transport to another facility. If possible, move susceptible equipment to higher levels.

5. Create a detailed business continuity plan.

Building on the measures taken in the emergency response plan, work with your team to create a comprehensive business continuity plan. Set priorities by identifying critical operations where any downtime or outages will have the greatest impact on the company’s revenues and business, including potential loss of market share, customers and key employees.

Be prepared to move records, computer equipment, and other sensitive equipment/valuable items to other locations in the event of a pending disaster. Additional advance steps include:

-Create electronic back-ups of critical paper documentation.

-Prepare for disruptions in telecommunications, including email and internet access.

-Plan for electric power outages and utility service disruption. Fill diesel engine-driven emergency generators and fire pump fuel tanks. Maintain extra supplies of fuel.  

-Develop a system to advise customers and suppliers of a potential disruption in operations, as well as for keeping them informed of progress in restoring operations after an outage.

-Check key suppliers’ plans to address any disruptions in service or the supply chain.

All measures should be documented, communicated to individuals involved, and the entire plan should be reviewed and updated regularly.

Besides helping protect employees and properties, emergency response and business continuity plans are a key part of a company’s property and business interruption insurance application process. Often, evidence of comprehensive and robust preparation may have an impact on the availability and cost of related insurance protection.

With appropriate planning, businesses can help minimize the potential impacts of hurricanes and other disasters on their operations. As the 2019 hurricane season progresses, these measures can reduce the chances of storm-related employee injuries and property damage, as well as accelerate recovery and reduce potential losses.

__________________________________________________________________

Peter Jagger, a managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting, works with the firm’s clients on their pre-loss and post-loss planning and risk mitigation. During an insurance industry career that has spanned more than 25 years, he has been involved in claims program design and development, and the preparation of property claims for a variety of industries. Previously, at Aon, he served as director of Property/Casualty Claims/Specialty Services responsible for the oversight and management of the property and casualty claim staff. Over the years, he advised clients around the world that have sustained losses due from such large-scale disaster events as Hurricane Georges, Super Typhoon Pongsona, Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Wilma, Hurricane Ike, Thailand flood, and Super Storm Sandy. 

3 Risks of Buying a Business and Profiting off the Opportunities they Create

Why start from scratch when you can get a great deal on what someone else started? In today’s sexy startup culture, buying an existing business has lost its vogue. But every year thousands of entrepreneurs become millionaires by buying and growing businesses without the startup headaches of venture capitalists, zero revenue, and no business processes.

If you like the idea of being the sole business owner, improving an okay business and taking things from good to great, buying a business is probably the best opportunity for you. Since every reward comes with risk, I have put together the top 3 risks I see first-time small business buyers face, the profitable opportunities they present, and the diligence to find these opportunities.

Risk 1: The business owner IS the business

The risk:

The owner of the business is a lynchpin. They make all the sales. They manage all the customer relationships. The employees depend on their expertise and training. If you remove the owner, the business struggles and collapses.

The opportunity:

Use this as a negotiating point when bargaining for the deal. If the business IS the business owner, then that person needs to be part of the deal. Structure the buy-out to include an employment contract or consulting agreement, as well as an earn-out. That way the ex-owner is incentivized to hand-off their knowledge and help you succeed.

The diligence:

Interview customers, vendors, and employees. Listen to if they mention the business owner’s name more than the business name itself. Ask employees questions about their job and see if they know the answer, or if they look to their boss for the answer. Review the org chart for an ops manager and sales person who have been in the business a long time.

Risk 2: The employees will flee after change of ownership

The risk:

You buy the business and all the good employees get scared and quit.

The opportunity:

Use the change in leadership to inspire hope and motivate. Or, determine who is holding the organization back and needs to go. Firing bad employees will make the good ones optimistic of a turnaround. For the good ones, challenge them to help grow the company and incentivize them to stay through promotions, profit sharing, or equity.

The diligence:

Work with the current owner to identify key employees. Be your own judge of this, in case the owner is downplaying any key people. Sales, engineering, and operations are typically critical areas. Meet with key employees in advance, if the owner permits, to discuss their ongoing role in the organization and align expectations. You’d be surprised how simply listening to and reflecting the feelings of employees will make them feel more comfortable and taken care of! Ask about the company culture and decide what parts to keep. They may also give you keen insights about the strengths and weaknesses of the company.

Risk 3: Running out of cash

The risk:

You base your purchase price, valuation, loans, and cash forecast off historical financials, only to find out a few months into owning the business that the numbers were all wrong and you are losing cash.

The opportunity:

Negotiate a better price on your deal with findings in a due diligence report. Use the cash forecast in the report to secure better terms on your business loan or lock the owner into seller financing. You can even persuade the seller to pay for the cost of accounting clean-up or bad inventory.

The diligence:

Hire financial professionals to help with your due diligence. This team will research key areas like unpaid payroll taxes, incorrect accruals, bad inventory accounting, and other ways owners can exaggerate their financials, either intentionally or by accident.

Turn these risks into opportunities by performing smart diligence, and you too may become one of the small business millionaires without starting from scratch.

LJ Suzuki is a fractional CFO with CFOshare, an outsourced finance and accounting department for small businesses.

leader

So You’re Not The Boss? Here’s How You Can Still Be A Leader.

Are leaders born or are they developed? It’s a subject that’s long been debated.

And in the workplace, can an employee who holds no supervisory job title be an effective leader — before being entrusted with managing people? 

Grant Parr, a mental sports performance coach, says yes — and adds that it’s almost mandatory if someone hopes to be ready as a leader when promoted to a bigger role in an organization.

“Leadership is a choice,” says Parr (www.gameperformance.com), author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. “It’s not a title, position, or rank. You don’t have to be a department head, manager or CEO to be a leader.”

“Leadership is a group of characteristics, and you can acquire them even if you’re not the boss. You’ll never be a leader when you assume that prime time role unless you have developed the qualities of leadership as part of your preparation for the next big step.”

Parr offers five ways to become a leader at a company without holding a leadership-type position:

Listen to others’ ideas. “Leadership is about others, not about the self, and it starts with listening,” Parr says. “Being a leader isn’t putting yourself above others, interrupting them, or acting like your ideas are more important than anyone else’s. True leadership brings out the best in others and your culture, and you do that by making them feel valued and giving them a voice.”

Be accountable for mistakes. “Own your errors,” Parr says. “It sets an example of accountability that is good for the culture. Too many people, when told of a mistake, assign blame and make excuses. A leader corrects constructively and surveys for solutions. As a subordinate, staying positive and offering ways to fix your mistake, and showing the humility of asking for help, is a path toward being a leader people can trust.”

Learn flexibility. “This applies in so many ways,” Parr says. “If you’re stuck on doing something one certain way, you’re headed toward being a micromanager who few would like and fewer would want to work under. Leadership is about tapping into your broad base of workplace talent, expanding knowledge, improving systems and raising the ceiling.”

Interact and network. Networking isn’t only about finding jobs, it’s about connecting with people in a way that enhances important relationships and the work environment. “As you learn to interact with different types in the workplace,” Parr says, “you’ll learn which relationships are most effective, how to help those people with their career, and show your ability to direct and lead.” 

Develop a thick skin. To become a leader, Parr says it’s vital to rise above annoyances and petty slights from others and let them roll off your back. “HR isn’t the principal’s office,” he says, “and if you vent every time about someone doing something irritating, you’ll get the reputation of being a whiner. Don’t complain behind closed doors, gossip, or criticize people behind their backs. No one who does those things can be viewed as a leader.”

“People want to be led,” Parr says. “But they don’t want to be bossed around. Great leaders can learn this as underlings on their way to a management position. Then when they get there, they’re ahead of the game — and everyone’s in step with them.”

Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com) is a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. Parr owns and runs GAMEFACE PERFORMANCE, a consulting firm that enhances mental skills for athletes and coaches. A recruiter and sales leader in the corporate world for 17 years, he now works with a wide variety of athletes including Olympians, professionals, collegians and high school athletes. His podcast, 90% Mental, provides a window into a broad range of athletes’ and coaches’ mental games and shares their insights around mental performance.

What Is Your Definition Of Success? 5 Tips To Find It.

While building and maintaining a thriving business may not be easy, experts in entrepreneurial endeavors say that building a personal brand first is key. In fact, some studies show that today’s consumers trust big brands less and prefer buying from a person they view as authentic and relatable. But before building a personal brand, it’s important for an entrepreneur to define what constitutes their own brand of success, says Ngan Nguyen (www.nganhnguyen.com), an intuitive strategist and author of Self-Defined Success: You Have Everything It Takes.

“Fulfillment and extraordinary results only come when you strive to achieve your authentic success,” Nguyen says. “The key is figuring out what that is and navigating that path. The good news is that we each already have everything it takes to navigate that path. It is essential, because we each have unique gifts, passions, and talents that can create amazing impact in the world and differentiate ourselves and our businesses.”

Nguyen offers five ways to define your own brand of success that can lead to running a successful business:

Get unstuck by unleashing your inner self. “We feel stuck when there is a lack of clarity and the path in front of us is not aligned with our authenticity,” Nguyen says. “Stagnancy and negative happenings force us to look inside ourselves at who we really are and what we really want. Detail those things, and now you’ll have the blueprint to create change and growth. Getting clear on this enables us to lead ourselves and our business to forge ahead on a new path.”

Act on your new authenticity. “Our full potential comes out when we are fully committed to creating a result that fully expresses who we are and what we love,” Nguyen says. “Without that clarity and without acting upon our newly discovered authentic selves, there will always be a bit of reservation. And with that reservation comes lackluster results that are not a reflection of our true potential.”

Keep the vision in mind. Nguyen says much of our untapped potential lies in unused intelligence. “Leaders who leverage their vision can effectively navigate a path to success in a competitive marketplace,” Nguyen says. “Any vision that we can imagine, this infinite intelligence knows how to bring about. The question is how we go about influencing our subconscious in the right way so that it serves us. We do this by holding and keeping an image of a life we desire, and feeding it through repetition long enough that our mind goes to work to aid us in creating it.”

Make your passion your fuel. “The power to create extraordinary results requires this critical ingredient,” Nguyen says. “Passion is contagious, ignites the heart, and motivates the team. It energizes and sparks the pull forward through all barriers, uncertainty, and challenges.”

Have the will to make decisions that move toward your dream. Nguyen says the difference between those who make their dreams happen and those who don’t isn’t always a matter of intelligence but often is a matter of consistent will in decision-making.

“You must have the intention to keep moving forward,” Nguyen says. “There is an energy shift that is experienced in the decision-making process, where a desire goes from wanting to being because you’ve concluded that the dream must come true no matter what.”

Ngan Nguyen (www.nganhnguyen.com) is the author of Self-Defined Success: You Have Everything It Takes, and the founder/CEO of Cintamani Group, an executive coaching and consulting firm. Nguyen coaches on leadership and empowers entrepreneurs as an intuitive strategist. With over a decade of business strategy experience as an advisor to Fortune 100 companies, Nguyen is also a certified master-level intelligent leadership executive coach with John Mattone and was an analyst for McKinsey & Company. Nguyen graduated with a double honors degree in biochemistry-biophysics and bioengineering from Oregon State University and completed a research fellowship at MIT in nanotechnology.

3 Types of Stories Every Leader Should Master

The fact that people are wired to react so strongly to stories should motivate business leaders to develop their storytelling skills. But what business situations call for a story?

You might have guessed the answer—it depends. It depends on both the situation and what you’d like to accomplish in the situation. The situation might be a staff meeting where you’re introduced to the people on your new team, for example. As their new boss, your objective might be to get them to like and respect you and to start dismantling the barriers of mistrust and uncertainty. Another situation might be that members of your team have lost enthusiasm for their work, and your objective is to restore their engagement and give them purpose, so they understand the “why” of what they’re spending most of their waking hours doing. Or maybe valuable members of your team feel unappreciated or don’t get the credit they deserve. In that situation, your objective may be to reinforce or highlight certain norms and behaviors with your stories and to draw positive attention to them.

Below are three types of stories that every leader should master. My hope is that they inspire readers to dig deeper into this topic and to identify and cultivate potential stories that can help you accomplish important objectives.

1. Stories We Tell Ourselves

We constantly assemble bits and pieces of information of what we observe around us and automatically turn them into stories that tend to reinforce our long-developed beliefs. If those stories are positive ones—you admire a colleague and tend particularly to notice the admirable things she does, you pride yourself on your own punctuality and pat yourself on the back whenever you find yourself (again!) to be the first person to show up at a meeting—these perspectives are often uplifting and empowering.

The problem comes when we tell ourselves negative stories. For instance, if I feel that the people around me are lazy and incompetent, the stories I create will be based on morsels of data that “conform” that belief. Or if I feel that I don’t measure up to others’ expectations, the stories I create will reinforce this self-assessment, prominently featuring my mistakes, my failures, and others’ expressions of disappointment in me. And so a vicious loop is created where negative perceptions—including of the self—determine the stories we tell ourselves, which in turn play out in full color to reinforce these perceptions.

Clearly these aren’t productive narratives, nor do they serve the people and organizations we lead. And while I’m aware that years of cognitive behavioral therapy may sometimes be the most effective solution to modify such beliefs-and-values–powered narratives, I’d like to suggest that we have the option to intervene any time we recognize (self-awareness!) the unproductive nature of the stories we tell ourselves.

It’s clear that the stories we tell ourselves have an impact not just on our own behavior, but also on our engagement with others and in turn on their perceptions of us as leaders, colleagues, and partners. By carefully examining our dominant narratives and making sure they contribute positive value to our and others’ lives, we’re one step closer to wielding real influence with the power of storytelling.

2. Stories We Tell Others About Ourselves

Whether you are a leader joining a new team, or a job candidate in the first round of interviews, or someone meeting a potential new client for the first time, the stories you tell about yourself often set the tone for how the relationship will unfold, if it does, that is. Which are the right stories in such scenarios? It’s hard to go wrong with stories that illustrate your humility, good judgment, integrity, and expertise and experience. As for what to emphasize, putting yourself firmly into the shoes of your audience should provide clues. The needs and expectations of the people in your audience will, of course, vary, depending on the context of the meeting and their future goals as they involve you.

For instance, if you are the new boss meeting the members of your team for the first time, you know they’ll wonder about your leadership style and how you’ll treat them. Acknowledge this and share a personal story or two that show you empathize—maybe from when you met your boss for the first time. Mention the lessons you’ve learned in managing others and make sure to highlight any mistakes from which you’ve grown. Share examples of how you’ve navigated new cultures in the past—organizational or regional—and what you’re hoping to learn in this next stage with their help. This shows humility, humanizes you, and reduces the power distance that can hamper the open and honest dialogue that builds trust.

If your audience—whether a group or an individual—is looking to engage you for your expertise, share stories that illustrate how you’ve delivered results or solved similar problems for others. Mention the challenges you encountered along the way and how you met them successfully—even if it took a few attempts to get it right. This is also an elegant way to share your strengths without bragging about your accomplishments.

When others want to get to know us, they aren’t just looking for the content on our LinkedIn profile. They want to know the real us to determine whether we’re trustworthy and whether associating with us will be of positive or negative value to them. That’s why recruiters and hiring managers no longer have qualms about digging into our social media pro les and online musings to evaluate our reputation and our judgment.

And judgment is key whenever we share personal information. Faulty judgment can result in some awkward moments if not lasting reputational harm.

Faulty judgment in personal stories isn’t always this glaring. But if you are unsure of how your stories might land, run them first by people you trust. In the end, with personal stories less is more and humility is better.

3. Stories We Tell Our Teams or Organizations

The type of storytelling that is intrinsic to successful leadership is the ability to tell compelling stories of the future, to articulate a vision, to both internal and external audiences. Leaders need to master another kind of story too—this kind is about organizational values.

Whatever the management goal, there are storytelling strategies that can help further it. A former Facebook director of engineering, Bobby Johnson, once saw the need for a cultural shift in the company’s infrastructure team. Although many of his engineers were drawn to exciting new projects and innovations, Johnson knew that other Facebook engineers, the ones who worked behind the scenes to ensure that the existing systems ran faster and better than before, also did critical work. He wanted to highlight these “unsung heroes,” both to honor them and to get more engineers interested in their less glamorous but nonetheless essential work. To accomplish this, he would take every opportunity—in one-on-ones, in meetings, and in group e-mails—to share stories of important fixes that these day-to-day engineers made and to publicly praise them.

Similarly, if you want people to speak up more in meetings and challenge each other, share a story of how a lone dissenting voice was able to change your mind about a decision you’d made, and how this wouldn’t have happened if the person hadn’t felt comfortable in challenging you. Or if you want to increase collaboration among teams, share a story about two teams who decided to join forces and whose combined creativity and brainpower led to important breakthroughs for the organization. And if it’s courage and risk taking you want to promote, highlight stories of risk-taking colleagues—and include their failures, to make the point that learning from mistakes is just another way forward.

As you can see in the three types of stories above, the formula for telling a story is simple. Decide which values you want to promote and which behaviors you want to encourage, and then make those traits the themes of your stories, and include characters who demonstrate the desired traits. Do these stories have to be true? It helps if they are, and it’s even better if your audience knows the protagonists. However, hypothetical scenarios can pack just as big a punch, as we’ve learned from neuroscience research and our own experiences from the myriad of stories that surround us.

Harrison Monarth is the CEO and Founder of Gurumaker and author of Executive Presence: The Art of Commanding Respect Like a CEO. An Executive Coach, he teaches C-suite leaders, senior executives, high potential managers and other top professionals effective leadership and positive behavior change for professional and organizational success. For more information, please visit, www.gurumaker.com and connect with Monarth on Twitter, @HarrisonMonarth and LinkedIn.

3 Tips For Creating A Clear Vision To Ensure Business Success

Running a business is similar to taking a family vacation. To be successful, both require meticulous planning, clearly defined roles for everyone involved, and a predetermined destination.

“Not having a clear vision and specific goals is a proven way to ensure you’ll never achieve them,” says John Collopy, author of the book The Reward of Knowing (www.johncollopy.com). “That’s why articulating your vision is a critical first step toward success—to give yourself something to aspire to besides some general idea of ‘making it.”

Collopy knows a thing or two about having a vision and then setting goals to make the vision a reality.  He is the owner and broker of RE/MAX Results and its subsequent 38 offices across Minnesota and Wisconsin. Setting goals in his personal life helped him overcome his addiction to alcohol. Now he is dedicated to helping others find the right steps to achieve their dreams, but he says there can be many roadblocks.

“Having an unclear vision can also make it difficult to stay motivated and passionate about your work,” says Collopy. “Identifying a clear vision and set of goals can keep us going through tough times, and give us energy when we want to give up. That’s because, even when you’re in a rough patch, you know you’re working toward something.”

In contrast, a vague, half-formed vision may leave you feeling lost and powerless, he says.

“Eventually, you may even give up entirely,” Collopy says. “You may decide that, based on your record of failure, success just isn’t in the cards for you. And that’s the saddest result of failing to articulate your vision.”

Collopy has the following tips for those who are ready to set goals to achieve their vision:

-Be specific and realistic. Be specific about your goals, and the steps you need to take to reach them. “If you don’t, be ready to deal with challenges now and in the future,” Collopy says. Also make your goals attainable but not too easy. You want to have pride when it is accomplished. If you set the bar too high, you may get discouraged.  And if you set it too low, you will not feel a great sense of accomplishment. 

-Make goals measurable. Any good goal that is worthy of your time should be measurable so even if you don’t make it, you can measure your progress. It will be easier to measure your goals if they are clear goals that are attainable, relevant and time-based.

-Write it down and tell someone. Write down your vision, make copies and leave those copies where you will routinely see them – on your refrigerator, in your car, on your dresser, in the bathroom. “This will remind you about your vision throughout the day and keep you on task,” Collopy says. In addition, the more people you tell about your vision and your goals, the better. They will encourage you because the next time they see you, he says, they will probably ask you about your progress.  

“Once you have attained your goal, take some time to celebrate your victory with your team,” Collopy says. “Even if the goal wasn’t a team goal, invite others that work with you or for you to share in your accomplishment.”

John Collopy, author of the book The Reward of Knowing, is the owner and broker of RE/MAX Results and its subsequent 38 offices across Minnesota and Wisconsin.  With annual sales of more than $5.3 billion, RE/MAX Results is now one of the largest RE/MAX franchises in the world.  Collopy lives in Minnesota with his wife and children.








How to Use Invoice Factoring to Improve Your Business Cash Flow

Cash flow can be difficult for a business to manage effectively. When you wait 30, 60 or 90 days for payment of work already completed, expenses don’t wait with you. They need to be paid now.

But you aren’t at liberty to change payment terms you agreed to with customers. If you try it, they’ll just leave you to find another company that will work with their terms.

Let’s look at a cash flow example. Say you own a small trucking business with a fleet of 5 trucks. The trucks are assigned as collateral to the company that financed them.

Business is good. You have experienced drivers and your trucks haul for great customers who pay well. But paying well does not mean paying quickly.

Yet you have truck payments, fuel, maintenance, insurance, taxes, payroll, and other overhead. You find yourself burning through cash before you get more.

You don’t want to lose your drivers or your trucks. And you’d hate to lose your customers to competitors. But debt is not an option; the trucks are already financed. If only you could get paid quicker.

Then you hear about invoice factoring and how it can smooth out cash flow. You decide to give it a try.

How Does Invoice Factoring Work?

Invoice factoring is not a new concept. It’s been around for centuries. It is selling accounts receivable to get cash for your business.

In the example of the trucking company above, when a load is delivered and the customer is billed it creates an account receivable. But the customer doesn’t pay until the agreed upon terms. That long wait time puts stress on the business.

With invoice factoring, instead of billing the customer, you sell the invoice to a factoring company. The factor then pays you an advance of up to 98% of the invoice value.

The advance you receive depends on the agreement reached between you and the factoring company. That advance is paid to you within 24 hours or less.

The factor bills the customer and waits for payment. Once your customer pays the factor, the remainder is paid to you minus a small fee for factoring.

Instead of waiting long times for payment, your business receives cash immediately after transmitting each invoice. Now the trucking company has the consistent cash flow to carry on hauling freight. As long as you deliver loads, you’ll have the cash right away.

And the factoring company takes on the billing and collections. No more trying to manage accounts receivable and no more spending time trying to collect on them. The factor does it all for you.

How Invoice Factoring Can Help Grow Your Business

Now that the trucking company has improved business cash flow it’s time to focus on growth. Meeting all your expenses on time, having extra money on hand, and saving time and money on accounting services frees you up to take on more work. Here’s 20 easy ways trucking companies can increase their profit margins.

Your customers are happier than ever that you’re so dependable, always delivering on time now. They offer you additional loads. Instead of turning them down for lack of cash to operate, you jump at the opportunity.

You begin to add more trucks, more drivers and more trips. And your business is thriving, all because you improved your cash flow by invoice factoring.

And the more your business cash flow grows, the more your factoring grows with it.

Is it Hard to Qualify for Invoice Factoring?

No, not at all. You don’t need a high credit score. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you have bad credit. With factoring you’re not borrowing so your credit is not important.

It’s the credit worthiness of your customers that matters. As long as your customers have good credit and a strong history of paying you will most likely qualify.

That’s why invoice factoring is a great idea for those new to the business and/or having a low credit score. Factoring is getting paid on work you’ve already done. It’s your money; you earned it. You just get it without having to wait. The factor does the waiting for you.

Invoice factoring is also good for businesses that are thriving but experiencing interruptions in cash flow. Getting paid immediately on invoices can really improve business cash flow and reduce the stress caused by long payment wait times.

If you’d like to improve business cash flow, reduce accounting costs and grow your business, you owe it to yourself to look at invoice factoring. It’s used by all sorts of businesses, not just trucking.

Rachel Donaghy is the Senior Director of Account Management at eCapital.com. eCapital is building a brighter future for the transportation industry. It’s a future where freight companies get paid at the click of a button. Where document exchange becomes data exchange. Where complexity disappears into the background and drivers have the freedom to focus on delivering the next load. You can find Rachel on LinkedIn and Twitter.

5 Tips For Going From Bench Player To Star In The Business World

Sports history is filled with the heroics of substitute players coming off the bench and playing a big role in a victory.

Likewise, in the working world, being a dedicated and consistent role player can prepare someone for a promotion that entails bigger responsibilities. The key, as in sports, is being ready when called upon.

“Understanding and fulfilling your role as you await your opportunity is a critical aspect of truly growing so you are prepared to make good on that opportunity when it happens,” says Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com), a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown.

“Athletics is filled with role players ready to meet the demands and the game speed of competition. The mental preparation is equally important in the workplace for those aspiring to climb the ladder and be continually successful.”

Parr offers five ways to spend time wisely while waiting in the wings and how to be well-prepared for the next, bigger opportunity:

Maximize your role. The path to promotion, Parr says, starts with the right mindset in lower positions. “Training the mind for success is essential,”  Parr says. “It begins with fully understanding and embracing your role. Doing that consistently gets you ready for the next one. Your role will be what you make of it — a launchpad for future success and a support to others while you learn, or a holding pattern leading toward stagnation and frozen development.”

Set achievable goals and commit. “How you approach your goals matters,” Parr says. “You need to write them down, including all the tasks required to accomplish them, and you need to visualize the feeling of reaching them.”

Remove negatives. “These invariably come up,” Parr says. “Be aware of the obstacles, people, and thought processes that can derail you, demotivate and distract you from making the most of your opportunity. That way, when those things appear, you are prepared to manage them and stay on track.”

Lead and set an example. “In sports, always being one of the first to practice and among the last to leave, and being the one who always encourages others — all those qualities stick in your teammates’ minds as a disciplined, winning example they can count on,” Parr says. “In the business world, your chances of reaching the next level are greatly enhanced when you exemplify a team-first, cheerful attitude on a daily basis, always being helpful to the levels above you as well as your own team, and going the extra mile.”

Study good examples/role models. It certainly helps in sports, and the corporate office is no different, Parr says, when it comes to the benefits of learning from mentors or reading up on achievers who had humble beginnings. “Watch, listen to, read, and learn from the advice and experiences of those who have excelled,” Parr says.

“Moving up in the world entails lots of things that can knock you down,” Parr says. “Embracing your role, whatever it is, means embracing the struggle to get where you want to go. You are working toward something higher, preparing for the unknown, and it requires diligence and commitment.”

Grant Parr (www.gameperformance.com) is a mental sports performance coach and the author of The Next One Up Mindset: How To Prepare For The Unknown. Parr owns and runs GAMEFACE PERFORMANCE, a consulting firm that enhances mental skills for athletes and coaches. A recruiter and sales leader in the corporate world for 17 years, he now works with a wide variety of athletes including Olympians, professionals, collegians and high school athletes. His podcast, 90% Mental, provides a window into a broad range of athletes’ and coaches’ mental games and shares their insights around mental performance. 

Eleven Big Brand Mistakes Companies Regularly Make

Whether or not you realize it, brand is tremendously important to every aspect of your business. A well-crafted and well-executed brand strategy can cut through the noise of a million messages, articulate your promise to the customer, set you apart from the competition, scale your business, and establish yourself as a leader in the space.

Problem is, most leaders underestimate and neglect their brand. Even those who think they know brand inside and out often have big misconceptions or serious flaws in their strategy—and in this case, what they don’t know can hurt them.  

Misunderstanding brand leads to costly mistakes. Only by recognizing common missteps and avoiding them can you fully realize the power of a strong brand and put your business ahead of the competition.

Brand should be a company’s North Star. It should guide every decision you make. Forging an ironclad brand lets you occupy the single best position in the hearts and minds of your customers. When you pinpoint this optimal position, you’ll be able to create value, maximize scale, and lead with purpose.

On the other hand, a poorly crafted and executed brand position can seriously cost you. Read on for a list of mistakes that too many companies regularly make:

MISTAKE #1: You don’t claim your brand position at all. Instead you let the market do it for you. Position happens whether or not you are driving it. If you allow yourself to be positioned by the market, it most likely will not be your optimal brand position for growth. So, the number-one mistake is to underestimate the importance of brand positioning by not intentionally claiming your brand position at all.

Don’t be an accidental brand. It’s too important. A business’s brand can either unleash your competitive advantage or thwart it.

MISTAKE #2: You delay on brand strategy. Ironclad brand strategy is not just for established businesses with traction. It is also for start-ups. The sooner you have a brand strategy, the sooner you’ll have both your North Star and your rudder. Know your purpose now—you can always revisit it later as your product gains market fit and momentum. As with any business, you will refine your direction as you learn more about your customer, the competitive space, and your own strengths as a business.

MISTAKE #3: You focus on the category benefit of your product. Assuming you do participate in careful brand positioning, the most common business pitfall is choosing a positioning idea that is not ownable and differentiated. Many businesses pin their brands on a category benefit or “table stakes”: a benefit that is not only not unique to the market, but is a must-have for anyone in the space.

If you sell a pancake mix (and your brand isn’t dominant), it’s vital to avoid relying on table stakes like “comfort food on Sunday mornings.” Instead, you have to focus on something that only you bring to the pancake experience. Identify the things you are particularly good at (maybe your mix is healthier than the others, or you deliver a traditional Swedish-style pancake). Then isolate which of these are unique in the market. Finally, determine which of these resonates with your target audience.

MISTAKE #4: You don’t recognize the vastness of brand. Lots of people misunderstand brand because a lot of different components and tactics make up brand. It includes things like logos, advertising, TV and social media, the product itself, customer experience, tagline, SEO, font, your business’s personality, and even the color of your employees’ uniforms. But none of these are, by themselves, brand. Brand is the interconnected web of what your business means and how you deliver that meaning, all made possible by your special position in your customer’s universe. 

To conflate brand with one of its many manifestations is to miss its power.

MISTAKE #5: You don’t choose a focus. Brand strategy includes choosing what you are NOT going to focus on (even though it is scary). By choosing what falls inside your brand purpose, you are also choosing what falls out of it. Focus is how you win. You must muster the courage and effort to undertake this heavy-lifting strategic work.

Choose to stand for something—one thing. In choosing your “yes,” you necessarily choose many “noes.” Shining the light on one thing darkens what lies outside that beam.

MISTAKE #6: You fail to get the customer’s attention. A customer can engage with your business only when she knows it exists. That means you must make it easy for them to notice you. The solution isn’t to shout loudly (and most lack the marketing budget to shout loudly enough). The solution instead is to speak with bracing clarity, which most businesses fail to do. Be crystal clear about what your business is and why that matters to customers.

A storefront near my office failed to get my attention. Its windows featured women clad in fleece tunics, and the signage was vague and New Age-y with an obscure tagline. I assumed that this business sold crystals and incense, so I was surprised to learn it was a Pilates studio. I practice Pilates and am in the middle of this business’s target customer profile. But this Pilates studio failed to make their business easy for me to see, so I did not see it. I did not become a customer because they did not make it easy for me to do so.

MISTAKE #7: You forget to consider the customer’s frame of reference. A frame of reference is that thing your customer would be using if your product or service didn’t exist. It’s what they would buy instead of your offering. Businesses tend to think about their frame of reference from the business’s perspective, instead of from the customer’s perspective. This is a huge missed opportunity.

It’s easy to know your most persistent direct competitors. But remember that your target is evaluating your offering in the context of other competitive options—both direct competitors and more elusive ‘substitutes.’ Therefore, it’s important to consider your brand positioning with respect to all other options your customer might choose, including direct competitors, indirect competitors, and options completely outside of your space. 

When it came out in 1975, Atari sold zero units at a toy industry trade show because it was priced at $79, an astronomical price point for the frame of reference of “toys.” It wasn’t until they contacted Sears, which sold a very successful home pinball machine for $200, that they sold 175,000 units by the end of the year. By distributing their console as a home sporting good, they were in a useful context for the customer—and they had a compelling price point.

MISTAKE #8: Your brand doesn’t have “teeth.” Your brand strategy must be demonstrably true. It must have the power to make people believe it, trust it, and follow it because it offers compelling proof that it will live up to its promise—in other words, it has teeth. Those teeth can be an attribute, a feature, a fact, a guarantee, an ingredient—any special thing the brand offers and follows through with that provides its promise. The less debatable, the better.

Look at Zappos, a brand that represents best-in-class customer service. That is no squishy promise, because specifics back it up. For example, Zappos displays its phone number on every page of its website. And when you call it, a live person answers and seems genuinely glad you called. The Zappos promise of customer service has teeth.

MISTAKE #9: You fail to narrow down your target customer. Your target customers are the people you want to attract more of. They are the people you are most able to delight because of your distinctive strengths. Most businesses characterize them in a superficial way and end up describing little of their inner world. Instead, characterize your target customer as a subtle and empathetic picture of how they view themselves. Remember that identifying your target customer does not eliminate your larger addressable market!

Picture your customers as sprinkled across a dartboard. The full dartboard is your addressable market. You sell to the whole dartboard. The bull’s-eye is your target, the customers you must aim to please the most. The target customers in the middle will ideally influence the customers on the outer circles of the dartboard.

MISTAKE #10: You wind up too low or too high on the benefit ladder. A benefit ladder spells out the layers of your benefits from product features and specifications at the bottom, to functional benefits in the middle, to emotional benefits at the top. Savvy leaders choose to shine the spotlight on the rung of the ladder that is as high as their customer currently permits them to go, but no higher. The higher the better, until it is too high. The common errors here are choosing emphasis on the ladder that is either too low (features and product attributes) or too high (the intangible, ethereal benefits).

If you are too low on the ladder, features will not create high enough value for your customer that she will be moved to buy and pay meaningfully for your offering. When your focus is too high on the ladder, you are not providing accessible scaffolding for the customer to believe your promise. The linchpin of a ladder is its middle. The middle is low enough to be accessible to the customer—sharp-edged, believable, rationally easy-to-grasp. Focusing on the ladder’s middle enables you to deliver substantial value, gain a sizeable and defensible position, and appeal to emotions.

MISTAKE #11: You try to reach all customers with one-size-fits-all messaging. There are five stages of a customer’s journey with your brand: Unaware, Aware, Consider, Purchase, and Loyal. Your goal should be to craft a messaging hierarchy for customers at every stage of the journey. Unfortunately, many people are tempted to develop a sentence or paragraph so great that it will serve all your purposes—all stages of the journey. Resist the temptation. There is no one magic message that will advance all customers at all journey stages.

Further, it’s a mistake to conflate stages of the journey, either coming on too strong too soon (conflating the Aware or Consider stage with the Purchase stage) or bragging about your product features to someone not yet liking the promise (conflating the Consider or Purchase stage with the Loyal stage). Take your fences one at a time.

It’s never too late to brush up on brand and start making better choices for your business. Don’t let past mistakes derail your future success. Even if you recognize yourself or your product or service in every common mistake, you can still turn things around by making changes that will help you thrive starting today.

About the Author:

Lindsay Pedersen is the author of Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide. She is a brand strategist, board advisor, coach, speaker, and teacher known for her scientific, growth-oriented approach to brand building. She developed the Ironclad Method for value-creating brands while working with billion-dollar businesses like Starbucks, Clorox, Zulily, T-Mobile, and IMDb, as well as many burgeoning start-ups. Lindsay lives in Seattle with her husband and two children.

For more information, please visit www.ironcladbrandstrategy.com.

About the Book:

Forging an Ironclad Brand: A Leader’s Guide (Lioncrest Publishing, April 2019, ISBN: 978-1-544-51386-7, $27.99) is available at bookstores nationwide and from major online booksellers.