Category Archives: entrepreneurship

Business without politics

It’s not possible, never has been

politics & busThere was an old idea that you should never mix business and politics. The concern was that it can be hard to stay friends and keep customers, suppliers and employees loyal, if you strongly disagree on political issues.

But it has always been a hopeless and futile mission to avoid politics in trying to appeal to everybody, in spite of their political views. It is also not a good strategy. In my opinion, long-term loyal and valuable relationships cannot be sustained by good prices, products and services alone, there has to be a mutual respect and sharing of ethical principles, values and beliefs, including basic political ideas.

Modern consumers and employees prefer to do business with companies that share common values of respect for people and the planet and are not entirely dedicated to the single objective of increasing short-term profit. Enlightened entrepreneurs also understand that long-term business value is enhanced by meeting their social responsibilities.

For business people to be politically active is entirely appropriate and in line with meeting their business objectives to build sustainable value and growth. It may even require objecting to bad government policy and decisions that do not align with your view of those social responsibilities.

Of course, when you’re opposed to the policies of a vindictive, impulsive, narcissist dictator in government, it may be necessary to be more cautious and diplomatic in your objections.

But take a risk, speak up.

It is not a secret what you think anyway, so don’t be shy to defend your beliefs, values and political views. You will lose more goodwill and loyalty from your supporters, if you give in to public pressure or criticism from opponents. Defending your values and beliefs will build more loyalty with the customers and employees that you really want to do business with.

Don’t give in, don’t suck up.

Stick to your principles.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Every business is a social enterprise

It’s an evolution of the community

?????????The term “social enterprise” is starting to get annoying. Over-worked jargon used to make entrepreneurship in general or a particular business seeking support appear more appealing and acceptable to a cynical public that sees every business as evil and driven by the sole objective of making money for the executives and the owner/shareholders.

Often the promoters of social entrepreneurship come across as “holier than thou,” suggesting “I’m a good person and you are not, you filthy capitalist.” Maybe I’m being too cynical, but let’s dig a little deeper before giving one entrepreneur more credit than another for being socially responsible. Attaching a label does not answer all questions.

Let’s define a social enterprise as one whose primary objective is to address social issues. It can still be a good, sustainable and profitable business. And there is every reason to be optimistic that entrepreneurs can apply their skills in leadership, management and innovation to deliver effective solutions to social problems.

Is every charitable organisation or non-profit effective as a social enterprise? No. Some are corrupt, some are incompetent. Some pay their executives more than any profit-oriented enterprise could justify. So their positive impact on society and social issues is actually less than the enlightened business that recognizes its responsibilities to employees, customers, suppliers, strategic partners, its community and the planet, and responds effectively.

Is every profit-oriented business an evil enterprise creating social problems? No. But some are greedy, selfish, or incompetent and they do exploit employees, customers, suppliers, strategic partners, their communities and the planet. Fortunately they will not last.

The future will be better with both social enterprises and enlightened entrepreneurship.

Let’s speed up the process of natural selection, by supporting those that meet the criteria of having a positive impact on society. Let the others go extinct.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Qualifying Questions

Is it Strategic or Operational?

Before leaping into action, it is important to ask yourself some qualifying questions and make better decisions about both the immediate and the long-term action required.

Entrepreneurs are inclined to act instinctively and “just do it” when they are presented with a new challenge, opportunity or problem. No time wasted. Let’s not make it complicated. Generally, that’s an important trait for making progress quickly. But often, a quick assessment of the strategic and operational issues will lead you to better long-term results.

Think about it. Your wagon was rolling smoothly down the track, but on the last curve it suddenly flew off the rails. It happens, right? Well, before you yank it out of the ditch, set it back on the rails and push it down the track, ask yourself some qualifying questions. First operational, then strategic.

Is there a flaw in the track or something broken on the wagon? Does it need to be fixed now? How can we prevent it happening again?

Then, are we on the right track? With the right wagon?

What needs to change?

And most importantly, what have we learned that we can apply to future challenges. Keep learning, to be better and do better.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

Demonstrated by the street vendors in Rome

umbrellaWhat entrepreneurs do best is identify an opportunity and respond to it. They observe the market, test customer response, and then deliver what works at the right time and place.

In Rome this week, I noticed that the street vendors had almost all decided that the thousands of meandering tourists were most in need of either bottled water or a selfie-stick. Those were apparently the best-selling impulse items and they were offered everywhere. I did appreciate the water bottles during long tours of the ancient ruins in the hot sun, but was already hating the forest of selfie-sticks that were invading all my carefully composed souvenir photos and did not want to join in the contest of who could get their cell phone out in front of everyone else.

The street vendors’ sales strategy was simple and effective. A quick assessment of the passing prospects, a polite query then a quick decision to sell or move on to the next prospect. No time wasted on harassment or an obnoxious sales pitch. Pricing was competitive, one Euro for a bottle of water where the vendor was one of many and had a large stockpile and two Euros if he was alone in a remote corner with limited stock.  The vendors also knew they were competing with free refills from available public drinking fountains, so they all sold branded, sealed bottled water that was ice cold.

But most impressive was their response to an unexpected thunderstorm and downpour chasing all the tourists under cover.  Like magic, suddenly all the street vendors were offering small collapsible umbrellas and cheap plastic rain ponchos!  Quality and price were not an issue, we needed them here and now, so sales were brisk for those that had them.

All good tactics for successful entrepreneurs. Whether you are a street vendor, a technology guru or a small business owner.

Be ready to respond to your market, rain or shine.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at:Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

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This article is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way.”  Read the book.

Too EntrepreneurialToo Entrepreneurial, it’s not a good thing

Brian was chairing again at the e2eForum meeting, but he had a look of concern; unusual for him, as he was normally confident and upbeat.

Gesturing to the flipchart, he said, “These are the issues that are starting to wear me down. Mostly because my two senior managers in sales and project management are starting to tell me I’m not entrepreneurial enough.”

We looked at his list of discussion points.

Too Entrepreneurial

  • Opportunistic
  • Optimistic
  • Impatient
  • Confident
  • Decisive
  • Creative

He added, “Uncle Ralph, when we were working together on my original business plan, you warned me about the risks of being too entrepreneurial. These are the points I remember and I thought we could discuss them today in the e2eForum.”

“But they all look good to me,” said Stan, “my father was always pushing me to do those things.”

“It all comes down to balance,” I said, “Balancing the entrepreneurial instincts and drive with the well thought-out strategic planning and analysis that help you make good decisions.”

“Let’s go through the list,” said Vivian, keeping us on the agenda.

I opened by explaining my perception that although certain characteristics of entrepreneurs are necessary for them to be successful; too entrepreneurial can be a problem for the business.

I went over the points that I had previously discussed with Brian while we worked on his business plan and he was bubbling with entrepreneurial enthusiasm. My intent was not to dampen his energy and enthusiasm, but to provide some perspective on the risks. 

Too opportunistic

It can be hard to resist every potential sale or customer opportunity that is presented to you, but the successful entrepreneur builds the business by remaining focused on the strategic objectives and the agreed action plan to get there. Time and resources are easily wasted on chasing rainbows, if you are not sufficiently selective and insist on sticking to the plan.

Both current customers and new prospects will continuously presented unexpected opportunities. If they are asking for it, you should do it, right? Well, maybe not. Can you do it well? Profitably? Better than the available alternatives?

Your Go/No-Go decision should be based on two strategic requirements: leveraging your competitive strengths and building long term business value. Those are the two selection criteria that will keep you focused.

Too optimistic

It is important to be optimistic and think positively, but a little paranoia may be wise too. Remember the chairman of Intel, Andy Grove, titled his memoir Only the Paranoid Survive. Mark Zuckerberg has been credited with the same mentality in driving the astonishing growth of Facebook. Keep a wary eye on the market and monitor your business performance constantly. No news is not good news; you’re flying blindfolded. Don’t miss or ignore the warning signs of bumpy weather approaching. 

Too impatient

Don’t expect too much too soon. It seems like everything takes longer than it should and most entrepreneurs have high expectations of themselves and their team. But don’t keep changing the plan or trying something new just because you’re not there yet. If you are making progress and the end goal is still valid, don’t give up too soon. 

Too confident

Entrepreneurs usually have great confidence in their instincts and their intelligence. The mistake is to neglect or ignore market feedback and analysis of the facts. Also being action-oriented, the tendency is to react and ‘fire’ before the ‘ready, aim’ stages are complete. Painful surprises can result. Temper your self-confidence with a little humility – ask for help and get the input from others before you rush ahead. 

Too decisive

Entrepreneurs are expected to be decisive and demonstrate leadership. But both can be overdone – deciding too quickly and providing too much direction so that employee input, initiative and creativity are stifled.

Often the decision does not need to be made quickly and the implementation will go more smoothly if time is taken to assess the feedback and answer the questions before commitments are made and the wheels are put in motion.

Back in the `80`s, Japanese management style was the model of success and one of their recognized tactics was to talk and talk and talk about the solution before implementing it. The result was much smoother and faster implementation than for the stereotypical macho decisive American manager who decides quickly and starts implementation without sufficient prior consultation with those affected.

Too creative

Many entrepreneurs are driven to ‘Do it my way’; that’s why they love running their own business. But sometimes alternatives have not even been considered and a better way exists. The creative solution may require improvising and learning on the fly, but maybe the best solution is sticking with what works, until it stops working.

Another mistake is staying too long with a solution and neglecting to evolve and grow by optimizing systems and processes and installing the best practices and latest technologies available in the industry. Not everything needs a creative new solution unique to your business. Maybe you’re not that special.

I summarized for the group. “Those were the points I had discussed with Brian and my assessment of the risks of being too entrepreneurial; all these mistakes can lead to serious difficulties for the business.”

Dave added, “It does help to keep in mind that some careful analysis and planning are important to offset the tendency to make decisions based on instinct and past experience. I’ve had to make some quick decisions recently that I’m now going back to and will take another look at.

“See you all in a month and we can talk about what changes we have made to avoid being too entrepreneurial.”

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

Simple is not always wrong

Maybe it’s not that complicated

Albert-Einstein-geniusYou have probably seen the frequent Tweets from both Abraham Lincoln and Albert Einstein claiming, “I never said half that crap you read on the Internet.

Well, even if Einstein never said it, I like his often quoted comment, “For every complicated problem there is an obvious, simple solution. That is wrong.”

But maybe he was wrong.

Sometimes the problem is that we make it more complicated than it needs to be. Maybe if we keep it simple, the solution is equally simple.

Just a thought.

Much as I am reluctant to argue with Einstein.

Please don’t Tweet him and get us started.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

 

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Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

This article is from Chapter 5 of Uncle Ralph’s, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way”.  Read the book.

That was easy, let’s do it again!

board-mtgWe all tried hard to arrive early for the e2eForum meetings because it gave us time to chat informally with the other members and exchange comments on our businesses and other issues that were not on the day’s agenda.

Unfortunately, an accident on the expressway this morning had kept me from arriving early enough to review the agenda with Stan, who was chairing the meeting this week.

The discussion had already started and this was on the flipchart.

Discussion points: Serial Entrepreneurship

  • Another Start-up?
  • Or the next Screw- up?

What I heard was Paul was talking about the gourmet hamburger franchise he was considering investing in, “It looks like a safe investment and my son has some experience in the restaurant business. I’ve got the initial $60,000 and bank financing is easy because they love franchises.”

“Sorry, Paul,” said Dave, “but experience flipping burgers doesn’t mean your son knows how to run a burger joint. Even if the franchisor delivers all the management tools and support, do you really want to manage minimum wage staff and deal with unhappy customers complaining that your burgers suck? Your experience is all about managing highly qualified machinists and selling precision parts to multinational manufacturing businesses.”

“Yes, but I built a successful business in that industry, and this should be much easier. I have the time and the money and I need a new challenge to keep me interested. I don’t want to spend every day in retirement watching my money ride the stock market roller coaster.”

“It sounds like your entrepreneurial juices are percolating, Paul,” I said, “Maybe you should go back to the start-up criteria we talked about a few months ago. Look for an opportunity that really leverages your unique skills, knowledge, experience and contacts. Isn’t that what worked for you the first time?”

“True enough. All I bring to this business is a long history of eating hamburgers!” Paul was laughing at himself and it looked like he would leave his money in the bank, for now.

I was remembering what I have said to other successful businessmen: Making money doesn’t make you smart.What I said out loud was, “Before you throw your energy and money into a new venture, ask yourself a few important questions.”

“I hear another checklist coming!” chirped Larry.

“Thanks Larry, now I’ll have to give it a name. Let’s call it the Encore Performance Checklist. If you are determined to boast that you are a serial entrepreneur, not just a successful entrepreneur; then ask yourself these questions before you get started on your next venture:

  • What was it that made you succeed in your first business?
  • Did you build your business on your unique management ability, a new product idea, a preferred customer or supplier relationship? Which of these will apply to the new business?
  • What mistakes have you avoided in the past? Are you about to make them now? What new risks are you encountering for the first time?
  • Is now a good time to start something new? Are there no challenges left in your current business?
  • How much will a new initiative impact your current business and the demands on your time and resources?
  • Is your past success really transferable to the new business?”

“Many successful entrepreneurs have made the mistake of jumping into a new venture – merger, acquisition, restaurant franchise or real estate investment – and blown away the equity value they built in their original business. It’s another costly mistake to avoid.”

Brian shared his conclusion with us, “I’m now convinced that the next venture is something to set aside until I’m at the exit stage like Paul. When my current business is running itself and I have the time and money to very carefully select the next opportunity. I just don’t want to wait until I’m that old, sorry Paul. I’m thinking I’ll be ready for the next one at age 35.”

Stan added, “Too late for me, I’m already 39, but I’d like to accelerate the plan to get to that stage soon too. Then I can start the next one before I get bored and screw up the one I’ve got.”

I said, “I have seen that happen. Entrepreneurs who started to dabble in something more exciting, thinking their business was on cruise control and it headed into a crash landing instead.”

“So let’s avoid the unhappy ending of exit by default. Put it on the agenda for a future meeting – Preparing for Exit.”

We all agreed that was a good topic for a future meeting and concluded the e2eForum with our regular Roundtable update from each of the members before heading out for the day.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

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Start with a SNAP Review Business Diagnostic

SNAP: Strategic Needs Assessment and Performance Review

business challengesA comprehensive business diagnostic will assess your strategic position, your plans and objectives and analyze your current performance to identify opportunities for improvement.

It includes a review of the issues with management, employees and customers and an analysis of financial results, sales and marketing performance, customer service and operating effectiveness. It will lead to a new plan that is more in line with your strategic objectives and delivers higher profitability and performance.

Our recommended approach

Start with a survey of the competitive landscape and your position in it. How do you fit in to meet customer needs? Do customers see you as a Porsche or a pick-up truck? Are your marketing campaigns and sales pitches all aligned with your strategic plan, on message, and directed at the right prospects with targeted opportunities?

Internally, the business diagnostic should include a survey of management and staff perceptions. Are you fun and friendly or severe and stressful? Do they see you supporting personal development and encouraging initiative in pursuit of business objectives?

Financial performance should be measured not only against your plans and forecasts, but also against industry average ratios and the performance of the best in your business.  Look at your operating margins, leverage ratios, inventory and receivables turnover, sales performance in dollars per square foot or per sales rep or per dollar invested in plant and equipment. How do you compare?

When the business diagnostic is complete, share the results with your management team and develop a realistic plan to improve on the key performance measures and accelerate progress toward your strategic objectives.

It starts with a comprehensive and objective diagnostic and ends with a new plan.

Consider a Quick SNAP Review from DirectTech Solutions

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Limited offer to qualified clients. Standard consulting agreement applicable.

Please contact us to discuss your needs and how we may be able to assist you in doing better for your business.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

And check out two new books by Uncle Ralph, Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and The9Don't Do It the Hard Way Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.” available online or at your favourite bookstore.  To learn more or buy a copy: Click here

This Real Life Story is an extract from Uncle Ralph’s, “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans”.  Read the book.

Real Life Story: “Don’t quit your day job, yet”

skydivingMany young daydreamers, and older ones that should know better, see entrepreneurship as their escape from a day job that is not meeting their needs.

“Running my own business would be better than this!”

Well, maybe not. The same reasons that you are not succeeding on the job may also be big obstacles to your success in business. And entrepreneurship will test skills and capacities that you have not tested before.

Consider the old IBM sales executive that retired early and …, bought a hot dog franchise. He probably used none of his skills and experience from IBM and then discovered he did not have the patience or aptitude to manage low-budget customers and low-skill employees. Neither a good investment nor a good career decision.

Or consider the frustrated young computer technician who wanted to sell his skills directly to all those home office users that needed his expertise, instead of working so hard for a demanding network services manager and having to run around big corporate offices where nobody appreciated him. We chatted about it and he wanted me to help him write a business plan. He wanted it to get a bank loan so that he could pay himself, until he found some customers and signed some contracts.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Not a chance. No bank would ever finance that plan.

I had to persuade him to stop daydreaming; keep his money and keep his day job. A better plan was to upgrade his technical skills and get some experience in management and sales with his current employer. The he could launch his own business with confidence in the same attractive corporate services market that he already knew. Too many unhappy computer technicians are already under-employed and under-paid in the difficult home office market. He kept his day job and started on a new plan.

- – - – -

Learn more at: Look before you leap.

(Note: In all these Real life Stories, the names and business details have been changed to protect the actual subjects of each story.)

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

Read more at: Learning Entrepreneurship Blogs. 

 

Join our mailing list for more ideas, information and inspiration for entrepreneurs.

Click Here to check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans” Both are available online or at your favourite bookstore in hard cover, paperback or e-book.

 

 

The weird WWW continues

Back when we were first introduced, about twenty years ago, it was called the World Wide Web.  Now it would be better described as the Weird Wonderful World that we live in.

It is a continuously and rapidly changing world that affects us all every day.  From the time we wake up to check e-mail and the weather on our smart phones, staying connected all day for work and play, until watching old movies or TV series on Netflix before bed. The internet has become as much a part of the infrastructure we take for granted as traffic lights and coffee shops.

But taking it entirely for granted is not a good idea, since it is a continuously changing infrastructure. Suddenly, the most popular app is not available on your Blackberry and the old accounting software is not compatible with Windows 10.  You’re in danger of going obsolete yourself if you don’t continually replace or upgrade devices and software. Suppliers are constantly developing products and services to win new customers and build attraction to their brand. Marketing gurus find ways to make them irresistible and impossible to ignore.

But the suppliers also live in this challenging world without control over events. In the news again today, we learn that Yahoo continues to search for a strategy that will allow them to survive. Remember them? The original Web portal that asked “Do you Yahoo?”  Now we are all Googling and Facebooking instead of Yahooing. What was once creative and exciting, now seems old-fashioned and obsolete.

Twitter_bird_logoEven more recent successes, the so-called unicorns that grew rapidly from zero to billion dollar valuations, are not guaranteed longevity.  Consider Twitter. Another weird concept launched in 2006 that caught on and has grown to 320 million active users. The company went public just over two years ago before it was even generating any significant revenue. Enthusiastic fans drove the first day share price to $44.00 for a valuation of $31 billion and it rose as high as $69.00 in early 2014.  That little bluebird is now fluttering under $18.00 and management is saying “We have a ton of work to do in crafting the message to the world what Twitter really is and how you can use it” (FP, 18-02-2016).

This weird and wonderful world continues and we still cannot understand or explain it.

Your Uncle Ralph, Del Chatterson

 

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Or check out Uncle Ralph’s books, “Don’t Do It the Hard Way” and “The Complete Do-It-Yourself Guide to Business Plans.” available online or at your favourite bookstore.  To learn more or buy a copy: Click here