Archive | February, 2011

Teen Entrepreneurship…

21 Feb

As a mother of two teens, I wonder why more teenagers aren’t pursuing their passions and talents to start-up a small business, make a little money, and enjoy the freedoms of self-employment.  Is it me, or are we as parents and children automatically programmed to find a job working for someone else?  We encourage our teens to find that job at the local ice cream parlor, the park pool, local shopping mall or wherever to disappointingly discover they are at the  employer’s mercy regarding wages, hours, schedules, and flexibility.  I’m not saying that it’s not good for our teens to get a job.  There is much to say about a teen’s experience with that first job…..How to fill out an application, how to interview.  They may have dress codes to follow; learn when to show up for work.   Then when their first paycheck arrives, they discover just how much Uncle Sam collects for every hour they work. But even with all those valuable early work life experiences, the question still begs, why would we not encourage our kids to utilize a skill, talent, or passion when the risk is usually low and the return (experience and earnings) could be wickedly high?

Recently I returned from a trip to Colorado where I met two amazing teen entrepreneurs; A brother and sister who converted their passions into small businesses.  The brother loved working with wood and learned how to manufacture aspen pines into tea light candle holders, lamps and beautiful works of art.  The younger sister had a love for coffee.  She started roasting specialty coffees, packaging and selling them all over the United States.  Their businesses were not only generating income, but providing incredible experiences at ages 15 and 14 that many adults never experience in a lifetime.  I couldn’t help but think what cool parents they had to encourage and coach them through the preparation, planning and execution of the start-up.  These two have five younger siblings that will learn and be inspired by their older siblings success just as I am.

So, if you’re a parent or a teenager looking to earn a little money, I hope that you’ll take a minute to consider what talents, skills and passions that could be utilized for an experience of a lifetime.  Yes, small businesses are a lot of work; if it were easy, everybody would be doing it! But the rewards can and will overshadow the daunting tasks of the planning phase and launching.  There are lots of small business resources that can help with the successful start of your business. Check out any support that your local schools, SBDC’s and libraries may offer. Talk to friends, neighbors or small business owners in town that can provide helpful advice and mentoring to get you started on the right foot.  There could be a world of opportunities waiting for you.

Lessons from the Past, Present, and Future

5 Feb

John F. Kennedy once said, “Change is the law of life.  And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” This is profoundly true on so many levels.  We can all exercise this in our personal lives as well as our business.  There is much to learn from our past and we can use that knowledge to adjust the present in order to create the desired future.  If we burned our favorite dinner by cooking it too long, we take note and adjust the baking time for the next time that meal is prepared.  The same rule applies within our businesses.  But we first must be aware that there are lessons to be learned or improvements to be made  from past practices.

So the question remains; How do we know when past business practices are not best practices?  What if there are no signs of problems with past practices – like the burnt dinner? Most businesses review historical financial data such as income statements and balance sheets in order to create budgets and adjust operations for the future.   This practice is quite common, but begs the question, Are we performing ahead of the competition?  Without industry intelligence, a company may only know where they fall in the race when they reach the finish line.  So where and how is one to find such information?  The answer is there are several places and ways to acquire this data.  Most banks subscribe to RMA (Risk Management Association).   This tool provides comparative financial data within specific industries and is used as a measure of performance.  CPA Firms frequently will have access to this data too.  This information is very valuable however the information is publicized annually and can often be outdated depending on the industry.  Some banks and CPA firms use another subscription resource that collects and publicizes the data daily and can also provide Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) within an industry.  It can be a more reliable resource when identifying trends and comparing performance; and this is the benchmarking tool that I personally prefer.

A friend and respected entrepreneur who owns and operates a very successful business enthusiastically agreed to have a Health Check-up done on the business.  There were no signs or symptoms of any problems and I might add that this business owner demonstrated great progressive and visionary business practices meeting with business mentors and  the accountant monthly to review the financials.  The Health Check-up that compared the operation to industry standard identified two rather critical issues that went undetected for years.  First, they consistently were holding three times the inventory than industry standard and their peers.  Second, although the gross profit margin was spot on, the net profit margin was off noticeably from industry.  This discovery has caused this business owner to “clean-up” in their exact terms, their business in the coming year. Benchmarking now has a whole new meaning for this business owner.

Stepping outside your comfort zone.

3 Feb

None of us can truly say we enjoy change, something foreign, perhaps new, or stepping outside our comfort zone.  Although when we do take that step, we often find the experience to be positive, motivating, and in many cases, satisfying.  So, why is it that we resist change?  Well, I’m not about to tackle that one…but it is worth pondering for a while.   Let me share my story.

I recently had a life changing experience that forced me to embrace change…a major change; it was the forced conversion from “employee” status to “self-employed”.   For any of you who have lost your job for any reason, you know what a blow to the gut this can be.  My job was eliminated due to State Government funding cuts.  Fortunately, with the writing on the wall, I had been fairly prepared for this change that was about to take place.

Even with nearly a year’s worth of planning, I still found myself agonizing over the smallest details of my newly launched business…wanting it all to be perfect before I started knocking on doors.  What I quickly found was that “it” may never be perfect and I needed to just get out and start meeting with people.   But it was that fear of failure, that gut-wrenching moment of “what if I’m not successful” that plays over in your mind that can sometimes be paralyzing.  These are very real emotions that make any “change” difficult to manage even in the most confident people.

A very calculated risk taker, I did what any wise entrepreneur would do, my homework.  The plan was developed and ready for execution, the talent and knowledge in place, the network and the strategic alliances formed; I just needed to make it happen.   Knowing I needed a little coaching, I invested in this amazing program Free Agent Academy (FAA).   These are coaching professionals that have a genuine interest in helping people like myself succeed.  I attended an event hosted in Woodland Park, Colorado that focused on a business’ on-line presence.  Hence, the reason I’ve started to blog.  So from all that I’ve learned, each day I have an agenda formed that is designed to help me reach my weekly and monthly goals.  When we break it down this way, somehow “stepping outside the comfort zone” doesn’t seem so daunting.  It’s like going to the grocery store with a list of 200 items.  You probably had more time and energy in making the list than filling it.  A well prepared plan has been my secret to success whenever treading in new water. 

So, while I’m out creating my own success, I sincerely encourage you to do the same.  Take a chance!  It’s never easy leaving the safe zone, but work it out on paper first.  A friend once told me that “if you can work it out on paper, you can make it work“.  And I truly believe that.  I’m looking forward to the journey that awaits me and the success that will define me.  I offer you these words written by the famous Mark Twain:

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things  you didn’t do than by the ones you did.  So throw off the bowlines, Sail away from the safe harbor.  Catch the trade winds in your sails.  Explore. Dream.”

Share with me your story of how you stepped outside your comfort zone and the positive impact it had in your life or business at amy@wellerbusinessadvisors.com   or comment on this post.  I’d love to hear about it!