I spend lots and lots of time networking to grow my company and find prospects I can help. This activity puts me in front of many different types of people with varying challenges. While some do need to finance their customers' purchases to increase sales, I'm hearing more and more fresh ideas and plans for new startup businesses. Usually, these businesses aren't the Facebooks and Twitters of the world; instead, they are the caterers looking to launch a new food truck idea or recently laid off managers looking to venture out on their own. The biggest challenge with this model is access to capital. While these folks have passion for their new endeavors and are certainly ready to work hard day and night to surpass their goals, most are unable to walk into a bank to get the money they need for several reasons. First, they may have no collateral. Second, they might not have squeaky clean credit. Third, and maybe most important, they have no experience doing that for which they're asking for money. Wow! Seems like quite an uphill battle. Well, all is not lost. There are a few unconventional paths for these budding 'treps to gain access to capital. One, they can certainly borrow the money from friends and family (ugh). Second, they can use credit cards to fund their projects (not bad if you've got 'em). Third, they can take advantage of the crowd funding market with websites like GoFundMe. Fourth, they can try the SBA. A final option might be funding requiring little to no collateral or experience in business with a quick turnaround and little paperwork. Those are hard to find, but my company has put a program together based on its consumer financing model. Our goal is to make access to capital easier for business owners and entrepreneurs. Whichever path you choose, keep the faith and stay the course. As the great NC State men's basketball coach Jim Valvano said, "Don't give up. Don't ever give up!" Photo credit to North Carolina State University
Be thankful.Business owners face a myriad of problems daily. From customers paying late, to deals lost, to payroll issues, to the high cost of healthcare, business ownership is not for the faint of heart. And it is so easy to focus on these challenges instead of what good we do have. This negative thinking affects our productivity, our mood, and our ability to grow. We can change this mindset immediately with two words: "Be Thankful". I am thankful for my health and my family. I am thankful I woke up this morning to type this. It's easy. Try it now! Just be thankful.
When You're In the Zone, Time is More Valuable.There are several popular sayings associated with time. Time is money. The most valuable commodity is time. The one thing you can never get back is time. And we all know these to be true. Then, why do we waste so much of it? Is is because we're lazy, unmotivated sloths just waiting for the next big thing to collide with us and create success? Probably not (for most of us anyway!). The biggest challenge is focus. When we are focused on a particular goal or mission, there is usually no stopping us, right? We've all been there. . . Hot new business idea Planning a last minute vacation Impressing a significant other on their special day It is awesome to be "in the zone". AND SO NOT AWESOME TO NOT BE!! The next time you feel "not in the zone", explore where your focus is. Reconnect with your goals, your personal mission statement. Then, watch magically as you start to do the right things, you attract more luck, and you begin, once again, to value time. Additionally, you stop doing the things that do not lead you toward your goals. You delete people from your life that are holding you back. Amazing!
When I was a younger man, in high school in fact, I learned this lesson from my athletic trainer Mr. D. Back in those days, I drove a 1981 Pontiac Firebird. Bad car! Bad meaning good. One day, I was parked outside the gym, and my beloved would not start. I tried and tried and tried, but she would not turn over. I lifted the hood and started looking for the problem. I crawled underneath and found nothing. I was sweating profusely and growing increasingly more frustrated as the minutes ticked on. That's when I got the tap on my shoulder from Mr. D. I suspect he was watching me for about an hour anyway. He pulls out a No.2 Pencil and sticks it in my carburetor and starts her first try....like a champ....or, like an expert. He laughed and said, "That'll be 1000 bucks!" I marveled at Mr. D for a few seconds, and then asked him how he knew how to fix it. "Specialized knowledge, Son....specialized knowledge." I knew then because he said it twice I was to remember it for the rest of my life! So, the moral.....Was it worth $1000 for Mr. D's specialized knowledge about fixing my car? Maybe so, especially if I had had somewhere to go, something else to do, etc. I sure didn't know how to fix it. How often are we unwilling to pay the experts for what they "expertly" know how to do? Could I have fixed it myself? Maybe. Eventually. Maybe not. But how much is it costing to find out?
I am NOT a social media guru, but there are some things I just don't agree with about social media that some REAL social media gurus (whoever they are) state are monumental faux pas. Maybe you agree, maybe you don't. But since I am NOT a guru, please feel free to opine as you see fit. Maybe some gurus will chime in. I'll put the no-nos in all caps below (which is something the gurus say not to do). 1. NEVER ACCEPT AN INVITATION ON LINKEDIN FROM SOMEONE YOU DON'T KNOW. Frankly, this seems completely counterintuitive to me, sort of like walking into a networking event and NOT responding to any introductions from people you don't know. Isn't the whole point of this social media stuff to meet new people, form new relationships, and connect? You never know who that person knows and why they might want to connect with you. Thoughts? 2. NEVER SOLICIT BUSINESS FROM A CONNECTION VIA TWITTER, LINKEDIN, FACEBOOK, ETC. THESE ARE ONLY TOOLS FOR BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS. Hang on a second! I have almost the same gripe about this one as I have with number 1. What is the point of connecting with all these people and bots if you can't at least explore the possibility of adding some kind of value? Now, some of you are probably saying, "I hate being spammed by the 'click here to learn how to make $2.5M tomorrow by giving away teeth whitening kits' guy five times a day!" I say, you are correct. So do I. However, that is not to what I am referring. I shall always endorse an honest, well-thought-out, personalized and concise attempt to inquire about adding value to another firm, the firms clients, similar prospects, etc. The key here is ADDING VALUE! Furthermore, I would bet most are not connecting with their 500+ "connections" much at all anyway. Get out there and create some WIN-WINs. 3. BUSINESS IS BUSINESS AND PERSONAL IS PERSONAL. AND NEVER THE TWAIN SHALL MEET. YOU SHOULD NEVER MIX THE TWO ON SOCIAL MEDIA. So, wouldn't you rather know you are dealing with a human than dealing with a bot like I mentioned above (I wonder how many people caught that one!)? You may not care to see my eight-year-old son's latest doodle, but doesn't knowing I care about it somehow personalize the business logo? I guess I have learned it cannot ever be all business; I've let my sense of humor genuinely bleed into my business life, and it has done wonders for my business and my health. Recently, I read about a wing eating contest held at one of my LinkedIn connection's headquarters. He tweeted this and tweeted a picture of the winner. How great is that!?!? This showed me a lot about him and the kind of company he runs. And that I would have won the contest had I been in it!. Let me know you fly fish, you laugh, you build sand castles, you play in a band. It's easier to do business with real people. I'd love to know your thought on these, or if you want to add a few more. When you're done, go personalize a message to ONE of your connections and attempt to add some real value without trying to sell. See what happens.