Running away?

Today’s guest post is a quote from Henry Miller that I stumbled across.

Life has no other discipline to impose, if we would but realize it, than to accept life unquestioningly. Everything we shut our eyes to, everything we run away from, everything we deny, denigrate or despise, serves to defeat us in the end. What seems nasty, painful, evil, can become a source of beauty, joy and strength, if faced with an open mind. Every moment is a golden one for him who has the vision to recognize it as such. – Henry Miller

Look at your business through that lens. What do you see?

What’s on your plate?

Imagen de Hola Gourmets 2009
Creative Commons License photo credit: jlastras

As I spent the last month mulling over my strategic plan for this year, I started by looking at what I was doing operationally as if I was my own client.

In the software business, it’s called “eating our own dogfood“. In other words, a vendor using their own software for the task it was designed to perform.

But it isn’t limited to software.

From a day-to-day operations perspective, that process quickly tossed a few things in my face.

I thought I’d mention some of the higher level things in case they happen to spark a ToDo item for you.

Technology

I need to automate WordPress updates across several dozen sites (some mine, some not). It was semi-automated, after today, I have it down to one button, right down to opening the site WordPress admin page to make sure I know whether I need to hit the “Database upgrade” button in the WP admin interface. No, I don’t use the built-in update process because I’d have to manually go all over the place to make that happen. Old school.

The upside of systematically handling this critical task is that I can finally hand this task off to an intern because there’s a system in place to make the work happen. Can you say “E-Myth”? Yes, I thought you could.

Last year, I moved all my web and other development work (including marketing/strategic client documents and even blog posts) to source-controlled environments after a few fits and starts in the past. This year, the software projects will get further screw-tightening by adding automated build and test processes.

Accountability

I’ve had some trouble with getting consistent action out of some folks this past year. Dan says I shouldn’t care because I can’t control the actions of others, but it isn’t about control. It’s about encouragement. Worse yet, client results reflect on me and I don’t like seeing folks failing to take advantage of my best efforts. I think I’ve found a way to solve the problem. We’ll see.

As for me, I need to lean on the calendar even more than I have in the past, especially on projects important to me.

The result of pondering this is that…

  • I’ve already chosen my charitable time commitments for the year.
  • I’m actively seeking a new mentor. Yes, pretty much everyone who is getting anything done has a mentor. Even Dan Kennedy has a mentor. Think about that for a minute.
  • I have to be more demanding of my marketing clients in 2011. You may have figured out that I have a certain level of expectation of my clients after creating a strategy, tools and other materials for them. When they don’t get used (regardless of the reason), that hurts them and me (eventually). That level of accountability will rise markedly later this month as I complete a few tasks that will help me “enforce” it. Those who are willing to take their business seriously will be glad I’ve done this. The rest will probably end up working with someone else, if they do anything at all.
  • Because I had to more or less ignore the needs of several prospective clients in 2010, I will be narrowing the clients I personally serve in 2011 while expanding the number of clients that can get my personal help. Yes, I know that sounds like opposite directions. Stay tuned, it’ll make sense as I roll it out. Planet Dan folks – think “ladder”.

Focus

John Haydon mentioned the other day on Twitter that his boss was a jerk. Of course, John works for himself. The hardest person to manage is yourself.

Focus comes up because a few personal projects slid last year. This was mostly due to an abundance of customer work. While I’m grateful for the work, I’ll be more demanding of myself in the selection of projects this year because these other things MUST GET DONE.

That’s already being corrected, partly via the accountability change noted above, partly via the mentor thing, partly via kowtowing even more to the calendar and via a few other steps I’ve taken. Like Jim Rohn said, when you say yes to one thing, you’re saying no to something else.

My existing clients will get even more attention this year. If you aren’t a client now and you’ve been thinking about it, now would be a good time to make a decision.

Writing

My writing (in the blog) has suffered immensely the last two years. I think it’s gotten better, but the frequency has really fallen off due to my workload.

The upside of this is that it’s given me time to think more about what I write and how you guys consume it and take action on it. That has resulted in the BIP book taking a few turns strategically. Now that I’ve finally, really (no kidding) figured out what I want to do with it, well, it’s moving along much better now.

I’ve also waded most of the way through an editorial calendar for the blog for the year, something I’ve never taken the time to do before. I suspect that’s pretty obvious to long time (it’s been 6 years this week) readers.

Bottom Line

One of the things that stood out in my mildly-freaky conversation with myself was that I need to put even more effort into doing for me what I do best for others. Imagine that.

Oh yeah, by now you should be asking me why you should care. “Boy, doesn’t that seem all about you and not at all about your readers?”

Yes, except that most of what I talked about is…for my readers/clients. And I hope it has made you reflect on what your plans are.

Do your clients know where you’re going? Does your staff?

Lost it all? Here’s how he came back


Today’s guest post is an interview with James Altucher, who had it all after selling his internet-based business.

Shortly thereafter, he lost it all during the dot com bust in 2001-2002.

The video above tells the story on what he did to turn his business fortunes around.

He used software as a means, but the key is the thought process. Worth a listen (6 minutes).

Cracks in your life. What would bust them wide open?

Sossusvlei Landscape
Creative Commons License photo credit: geoftheref

Today’s guest post is from @BradRourke, who posts on a litany of topics revolving around self, community organizations, business and things in-between.

The Mark Sanford meltdown was just one of his topics recently, but not so much about the paparazzi angle.

Instead, he writes about what it might take to get a fine upstanding citizen like yourself to go over the edge like Sanford did.

Hopefully you aren’t there and no one you know is there, but just in case, give it a read and see if his story (which isn’t about Sanford) sounds familiar.

You just might save someone – and it might even be yourself.

A visual look at that “Do what you love and the money will come” thing

Today’s guest post is from Bud Caddell, where he’s taking something that is so pervasive that it has become a cliche – and turned it into a visual that is far more meaningful.

While I might not insist upon doing what you love, I would say you’d better have an interest in it for sure, otherwise someone is likely to come along and spank you at your own game.

Regardless, I thought you might enjoy it.

See it here: http://whatconsumesme.com/2009/what-im-writing/how-to-be-happy-in-business-venn-diagram/

Someone keyed my Karma

Month before last during a coaching session, I had a pretty frank conversation with a client about freedom.

Not the Constitutional kind of freedom, but freedom from the ball and chain that a business can become. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that it can become a restriction to your freedom.

Not only that, but it’s common for small family-owned businesses to almost not be a business if the family isn’t there. If you aren’t there. Needless to say, this isn’t an ideal situation when unexpected events occur.

During that conversation, we talked about configuring the business so that it could stand an unexpected, required trip out of town for a month (or 3).

A month went by.

In last month’s session, we were talking about their retail business and once again, we talked (among other things) about how I felt they needed to spend some serious effort on figuring out how to grow and insulate the business from unexpected turns in life.

I gave them a few examples of things to work on, knowing that we’d need to revisit it and fine tune the strategy as we move forward.

And here comes Al.

Then I mentioned that I was getting to take my own advice, as I had just discovered that an immediate family member has been diagnosed with the early stages of Alzheimer’s.

Result: Recent efforts to move a portion of my client base a little closer to home were going to have to be reversed.

My business is going to be changing because – as I advised my client – I don’t know when I will need to disappear for a few months. Not completely disappear or be disconnected from the net, but just not be home for an unknown period of time.

A few weeks went by, and I was hoping that the owner’s thought and effort was going into that project. I’m sure it is, but it’s not an immediate change to do this to your business – particularly if you are in retail, restaurant or hospitality (ie: hotel, motel, b&b).

Another month goes by.

Last week, we talked again to schedule our next call and it turned out that the very thing I had advised preparing for was happening.

Family responsibilities requiring out of town travel on little notice for an unknown period of time. Really sad.

Meanwhile, I look in the mirror and remind myself that my business is changing for the same reasons and that I need to accelerate the pace.

Are you prepared for that sort of thing? Depending on your age and your parents age, it might be more apparent to you – but it can happen to you even if you are a 26 year old entrepreneur.

If you don’t ask for help, you aren’t likely to get it.

In 70% of small business failures, a key factor was the owner not recognizing or ignoring weaknesses, and then not seeking help.” – SCORE / US Bank survey of failed small businesses

Do you have someone in your corner who will ask you the tough questions?

Are you a natural?

breathe
Creative Commons License photo credit: hilectric

Today’s guest post is from ChrisG.com and is about a question from @starbucker

What is so natural to you that it is like breathing?

What aspect of yourself, which behavior, skill, activity, talent, is so part of you that you could not imagine yourself without it?

Thatâ??s the key, itâ??s not just what you are good at, or what people expect of you – what do you do automatically, easily, and would do regardless?

Spend some time thinking about that and how it relates to your business. You may find a new product line, service or perhaps a whole ‘nother business inside yourself.

You might learn a few other things as well. Challenge yourself, don’t just go through the motions.

Hugh’s advice for entrepreneurs

If you strongly prefer a G or PG post, this isn’t going to be your favorite guest post.

Or maybe it will.

Today’s guest post comes from Hugh MacLeod, and in fact, it’s part of his upcoming book (June 2009).

You may know him from his cartoons, which he pens under the name Gaping Void.

What I will tell you is that even if a few four letter words bother you, you’ll be better off reading and discarding them because quite frankly, this is a pretty important read to any entrepreneur or wanna-be entrepreneur.

Online businesses: Service or schmervice?

From time to time, I stumble across online businesses that forget that first and foremost, they are a business – not a website.

TWO this week.

I generally find these things when I need service from a business for the first time. Perhaps the dream of the typical internet business owner is to put up a website, get buried in sales, hire a gorgeous assistant to deal with everything (you know, sales, shipping, etc) and sit back and just watch the money roll in.

Thennnnnnn reality hits. You’ve got a real business, Lucy.

People email, call and fax real businesses. No matter how well you’ve explained something, there will be someone who needs help. Or missed that page, or didn’t see the FAQ, or didn’t scan Google for something that seems totally flippin’ obvious to you. No matter how much you’ve automated – which I’m all in favor of – there will be some things you just need to deal with.

The obvious missing “secret” here is…

Continue reading Online businesses: Service or schmervice?

Getting beyond the irony of ethics

Ever notice that the media makes special mention of the job or volunteer efforts of a sex offender when that person is a priest or a Scout leader? Or makes a point about a â??formerâ? Eagle Scout being arrested for a crime?

The obvious reason is to get your attention, to get you to buy the newspaper or keep your finger off the remote controlâ??s channel button. They know that the irony of those situations grab you. Irony is powerful stuff.

Why? Because your expectations for the priest, the Scout leader and the Eagle Scout are already formed in your mind, and their story shatters those expectations.

Hopefully, your expectations are that the priest is a celibate and trusted man of God who loves children, rather than lusting for them.

Likewise, I hope you expect the Scout leader and the Eagle Scout are Trustworthy, Loyal, Helpful, Friendly, Courteous, Kind, Obedient, Cheerful, Thrifty, Brave, Clean and Reverent (the 12 points of the Scout Law), instead of felonious, creepy, and perverse.

Given recent history, itâ??s not surprising that the expectations for corporate execs and elected officials are so much lower. We have so many examples to choose from: Savings and loan failures, Enron, Tyco, Global Crossing. You know the names.

And then of course, there is Washington.

With annoying regularity over the last 20 years, Congressional reps, Senators, and White House staffers have paraded into hearings for one thing or another. One rep probably found it amazing that he wasnâ??t trusted outside his home state because law enforcement found 90 grand in his freezer. I suppose that behavior might be normal for elected officials, but for the rest of usâ?¦.well, it’s a bit suspect. He was re-elected, by the way. He was a better alternative than his opponent in the minds of his constituents.

But it’s not limited to DC. Montana residents are likely aware of a lovely display of â??statesmanshipâ? in the Montana House this week (details at http://www.billingsgazette.net/articles/2007/04/26/news/state/20-lange_v.txt). I guess Lange never learned about the “Dont say anything that you dont want your grandmother to read in the paper” rule.

Meanwhile, there are honest, decent Senators, Representatives, bureaucrats etc. Theoretically, at least.

Why am I talking about this, and how does this affect the entrepreneur’s thinking, much less their marketing?

Because you should be better. You HAVE to be better.

With the air of cynicism we have, the general level of mistrust in politicians, bureaucrats and corporate business execs in the news for the wrong reasons, and the reputations of the used car and timeshare salespeople â?? itâ??s easy to get lumped into the shyster mold. In some cases, the reputation has been earned by, as usual, a few bad apples.

I know of at least one timeshare place that doesn’t do business even remotely close to the way we’ve ALL seen it done. You know the places I’m talking about. They’re the ones with people whose hard sell makes anyone else’s hard sell seem like Shrinking Violet.

In Missouri (and probably elsewhere), legislation had to be passed to limit â??Going out of businessâ? sales only to those businesses who were really truly going out of business. I There was one business I remember in particular that â??went out of businessâ? 3 or 4 times a year until this law was passed.

Look, I know that most business owners and entrepreneurs are straight up folks. That message needs to get made to your prospects and your clients. Got hard proof? Testimonials? Use em.

Remember, the smart marketer analyzes the likely sales objections up front and turns them into selling points. Strengths, not weaknesses. Being the town liar and cheat isn’t one of those you can turn around.

When I do business with you, I want to be able to let you hold my wallet while I jump in the pool. If I can’t, if your prospects and clients cant, or don’t feel they could…you’ve got trouble.

For a little empirical â??evidenceâ? of societyâ??s mindset, consider this Jacob Brackman comment:

â??A generation is coming of age in America that doesnâ??t take the news straight, that doesnâ??t take the utterances of public figures straight, that doesnâ??t take social games straightâ?¦it sees giant con games everywhere.â?

Brackman said that â?¦.. in 1971. 35 YEARS AGO.

Think it’s any better today? 35 years ago was before Watergate, Iran-Contra, Whitewater, and so on.

But that was them. We’re talking about you and your credibility with the prospect. Just like marketing, it’s work, even if you’re an angel. Testimonials don’t just crawl up in your lap and say Howdy.

On the other hand, it should be easy standing out from the crowd. So make a point of doing so, for the right reasons.

Can I trust you to hold my wallet?