Adapt or Die?

henry-fordThe world is changing rapidly.  I saw a program on PBS last night about Henry Ford and it made me think of today and our own industry.  He built the very successful Model T but as the world, automobile design, and customer needs and wants changed, he still insisted that the Model T was the only car that the country needed.  Only after General Motors and Chrysler took the lead in the automobile world away from him, did he still reluctantly bow to his son’s demands that they introduce a new model car.

I’ve seen similar situations in our own industry.  Owners of gift and gift basket businesses say “I don’t need a website,” “I don’t need to learn anything about internet marketing,” and even the more self-fulfilling prophecy of “what I know now is all I ever need to know.”  And then there are those who think themselves to be experts that can’t be taught anything more about small business, marketing, internet, social media, and everything else that changes as the world changes.  I’ve been given that reason many times for not paying the $27.95 a year that it costs to subscribe to our magazine or not participating in the forum, which doesn’t cost them a dime.

And it’s not just in the area of gift and gift basket company owners. We’ve seen similar lamenting by journalists angry that bloggers are polluting their craft. Or professional authors who feel they’ve been overrun by independent writers on Kindle. Sure, it sucks when change come along, but you’ve got a choice and that choice is…

Adapt or Die.

Which will you take?

How Valuable is a Dollar?

A few short years ago, we saw  our financial world crumble as it became all too easy to trade integrity and honesty for millions of dollars in the banking and housing industries.  We saw businesses, that were once profitable, go out of business.  And all the while, the banks kept saying “It’s not our fault.”  Jamie Dimon, Chief Executive of JP Morgan Chase told an audience in Switzerland that people should stop picking on banks.

What was the financial fiasco all about?  Greed.  Profits.  And the almighty Dollar.

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Dimon and the other greedy, unscrupulous members of the banking industry tell us that  It’s the American Way

It’s the American way.  We’ve become used to it.  And accept it as normal.  Trading integrity and even a reputation for money has been a part of our media culture for years as athletes, actors, and even politicians hawk everything from refrigerators to insurance on the screen that fills most living rooms.  Bicyclist Lance Armstrong is among the latest to lose the integrity and status as a hero.  Newspapers and magazines fill their pages with ads from companies whose policies they don’t agree with.  Likewise, advertisers trade exposure and possible sales for their endorsement of publications and events that  they may not agree with.

It may be the American way, or even the normal way to do business, but it is not MY way.

When I first started my business twenty years ago, I knew that the most important asset I would ever have was my integrity and my reputation.  Since then, I’ve been outspoken.  I’ve been honest.  And I’ve lost some so-called business opportunities as a result of it.  But my reputation and my integrity are still intact.  To me, that is worth more than any amount of money I could have made on those lost opportunities.

The American way is not always the best way.  There are always trade offs when you start and grow your own business.  You trade time doing all the necessary chores required to grow your business for time for pleasure.  You trade money that you could perhaps have spent on that cruise, you always wanted to go on, for seed money to buy inventory and market your dream.  These trade offs are ones that you can be proud of when your business is successful.

I value those trade offs.  But I value even more the refusal to trade integrity for the U.S. Dollar.

It’s the Mistakes You Make!

I heard on public radio a few days ago that defaults on SBA guaranteed loans to franchisees rose more than 50% last year.  One in 10 franchises closed their doors. Many businesses that are not franchises will fail as well.

I mention franchises because they supposedly have an edge over independently owned businesses. When you buy a franchise, you buy an established brand and a business and marketing model that has proven to be successful.You get the resources and suppliers. You get the advertising slicks that all you have to do is fill in your local info and send them to the local media.

The problem with most—both franchises and independent businesses — isn’t just the economy, but it’s really more the mistakes they’ve made from the day they opened their doors.

The economy is merely the straw that broke the camel’s back.  We’ll talk about some of these mistakes in a later post. But also during depressions and economic downturns, new independent businesses that will later become franchises are begun. They don’t start as a huge business with all the resources they need to get established.

They start out just as you are.   McDonalds is one example.  It started as a small local business in a depressed economy.  It was grown into a huge franchise much later.
Independent  businesses have advantages over franchises that are rarely mentioned. A franchisee trades dollars for a business model BUT YOU:

  • You begin with an idea that you are enthusiastic about.
  • You do your research and learn whatever skills you don’t know.
  • You locate your own suppliers and talk to those suppliers about the particular niche you’ve chosen
  • You learn from the ground up.
  • You create your business plan based on what your vision is for your business and what money you have to put into it.
  • In the end, Your business isn’t a replica of one in San Jose, CA or Tampa FL.
  • Your business is unique.

As a result, when you talk about your business you understand it.  You are  enthusiastic.  And, if you’ve done your research right, you’ve selected the proper business model, the best location for your business (whether it’s in rented real estate or is homebased) and you know what to expect from your business.

You are your business.  You make the decisions and those decisions will determine its success or failure.

What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?

Ask yourself this question tonight:  What did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?

If you can come up with an answer, you are on your way to being more successful tomorrow.  If, however, you can’t think of a thing, you need to be careful.  If you fail to be a continual learner, you lose your edge and risk losing profits tomorrow.

A professional athlete or a famous actor can spend their entire lives sharpening and refining their skills.  They know that continually learning is a very crucial part of their success.  If they do not dedicate themselves, someone who is more dedicated will take their place at the top of the heap.

To be the best at anything, a person must be willing to commit themselves to a lifetime of learning and practice.  This also applies to your business or professional knowledge.

There are many ways that you can continue learning.  The variety of resources available range from greatly detailed programs to just taking a few minutes out of each day to check into the forum to see if there is something new posted that you didn’t know.

Of course it is important to learn as much as you possibly can about your industry — new techniques, new products, new ways of reaching customers.  But you also need to have a much broader knowledge as a person.  Learn something new about your town, your favorite hobby, how to build a website, or any of the other millions of topics that have readily accessible information.

I make it a special point to learn something new each and every day.  I do it by subscribing to blogs and newsletters on a variety of subjects, reading books and magazines, clicking on Facebook posts that link to articles that sound interesting, or just talking to people.  If something hits the news that I’m curious about or if someone posts a question on the forum that I can’t answer, I take the time to google the subject and learn.  As a result, I know a little bit about a lot of things.

I know.  I’ve also heard that you have to focus and shouldn’t go running after the latest shiny new object.  And that is one thing I have to be careful of.  But by planning the future of my business, I know how far to go chasing something new that may be interesting but would only get me sidetracked.

But I’ve also found some great ad headlines and layout ideas in the Wall Street Journal that I can use in my own business. I’ve discovered a topic about those $1 Valentine hearts that hold 4 pieces of chocolate by reading Consumer Reports and used that in the last issue of GiftRetailersConnection magazine.  The idea for the article about the One Page Business Plan was triggered by something one of the students in the Small Business Empowerment class happened to say in class.  And I picked up some great recipes to help me with my diet on several blogs that I watch.

So what did you learn today that you didn’t know yesterday?

 

 

What It Takes to Build a Successful Entrepreneur!

It has been said that it takes a village to grow a child. The same can be said for us. No man (and no business owner) is an island. It takes a community to build a successful entrepreneur.

Operating our own business can be very isolating–particularly if it is a homebased one. But even those of us who are introverts and enjoy our own company need others in order to be successful.

All of us–and there are no exceptions–need help from other people. People who are on your side and want you to succeed. People who will challenge you and give you a helping hand when needed. People who will help increase your own knowledge and expand your horizons. Even those who disagree with us help open our eyes to new thoughts and new ideas.  And the wonderful thing is that this thing we call the Internet makes it easier than ever before to find that community.

For some, offline communities such as churches, networking groups, business organizations and classes, can serve the same purpose. Just because someone isn’t in the same “industry” as you doesn’t mean that they can’t provide positive support and valuable feedback.

Community helps us fill in those areas that we can’t fill ourselves.

Community gives us a chance to show our gratitude for the blessings we have been given and give back in return.

There’s nothing better than being on both the receiving and giving end. We need to realize that one is as important as the other. If you don’t ask for help, you fail to provide someone the opportunity to be on the giving end. When I first started my gift basket business, there were many skills that I knew little about. Discovering the communities on AOL and Prodigy made all the difference. That was way back when people were so much more willing to give without fear of someone stealing and using their secrets.  Even though that fear exists today, there are still many who understand the value of giving.

I dare you to find someone who is successful and who did it “all on their own”! Each and everyone of us has had people in our lives who bring out the best in us, both as professionals and as people.

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If you’re looking for a community that you can become a part of — one that encourages both giving and receiving–check out ours at www.giftretailersconnection.ning.com.  Take a step off your island of isolation and join a group dedicated to helping you grow your business.