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Wallflowers at the 7th grade dance

Trail Flowers
Creative Commons License photo credit: sburke2478

You’ve all been there.

The 7th grade dance. Girls on one side, boys on the other.

And if nothing happens, it isn’t long before the girls are dancing with each other.

Meanwhile the boys lean against the wall, looking down at their feet, glancing up at their favorite girl and then kicking themselves for not asking her to dance – all while continuing to stand there and not ask.

Sometimes, one brave boy steps out there and asks the prettiest girl in school to dance. Sometimes she does simply because someone finally asked her.

Wallflowers don’t get to dance

You say your name and your business name. And then, you look down almost as if you’re ashamed.

I guess I should paint a more complete picture before I get to the meat of the subject.

Sidebar: What do vegetarians say instead of “Get to the meat of the subject”?

The other day I was speaking on a panel about Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The 4 of us had a nice big crowd of small business owners to interact with. Each of us are involved fully or partly in providing our clients with websites, technology or some such, so as a group we had the various bases covered pretty well and things were flowing nicely.

Late in the discussion, someone in the crowd asked a question or two and after a while, asked one last question after introducing themselves as a web designer.

Maybe it was the panel structure itself, but I really don’t think so. We’re all pretty regular, approachable folks. No suits or anything like that.

Something made this person seem a bit embarrassed to bring up the fact that they did web design and that they were looking for customers. Maybe they felt the context was wrong.

Thing is, solo entrepreneurs can’t afford to be embarrassed or shy.

Worst case, a “Hey, is it ok if I introduce myself?” would have worked.

Belt it out

Maybe it was because they felt like we owned the room, but that really isn’t the case. If half of the people in the room had walked up to the panel with a check in hand and a pile of work to do in short order, we’d all be scrambling:)

It really isn’t about us.

None of the folks on the panel cared about the introduction. In fact, I’ll bet every one of the panelists would be happy to see another good web designer in town that we can refer work to when the fit, budget or timeframe isn’t right for us.

Ideally, we would have heard their name clearly, with a phone number, web site address or a “Please see me afterwards”. But that didn’t happen.

I feel a little bad about it now, because I didn’t stop what we were doing and ask them to stand up, reintroduce themselves and give some solid contact info. I mean, the room was full of small business owners. It was the perfect opportunity (yeah, I’ll see if I can get them to introduce themselves next month).

But this is about you, not that person (I can fix that next month). It’s just a story to illustrate how easy it is to overlook something and cost yourself some business.

If you’ve got a shot, take it.

It’s no time to be a wallflower.

Get out on the floor and dance like no one’s watching – cuz unless you do, they won’t be watching and they wont have any idea that you can dance.

What a shame it would be if the best dancer on the floor never left the wall.

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25 characteristics of successful entrepreneurs

Creative Commons License photo credit: WTL photos

Today’s guest post comes from, specifically from author and Entrepreneur writer James Stephenson.

You’ve heard many of these things from me, but it never hurts to hear them from someone else.

Start here and dig in!

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Spinning plates while listening to smart older people

Creative Commons License photo credit: Don Fulano

Now is the time to start a new business.

Didn’t I just say that a few days ago? Yeah, I did. And no one managed to step up and tell me I was a lunatic:)

“Why is now a good time?”, you say. I say “Why isn’t now a good time?”

Businesses are stressed. They’re thinking survival. Meanwhile, you’re thinking about new ideas, growth, taking over a market, game-changing stuff.

Guess which one is a better thought process…

If you’ve decided to start something, here are a few thoughts to keep you moving in the right direction:

Stay organized

  • Piles are great for dirty laundry, but not for paperwork.
  • Piles are a great place to lose a check that you really needed to deposit last month, or an invoice that you needed to pay 3 months ago.
  • Piles are just a bad idea.

Get good advice

  • No one is born, grabs the phone and closes a big sale from the delivery room.
  • Salesmanship and a LOT of other things are learned, not transferred via breast milk.
  • When you’re the boss, the safety net is you and your circle of advisors (ie: build one).
  • Take responsibility for learning something every day. Read. Take a class. Read more. Surround yourself with smart people, especially if you can find people who are smarter than you.
  • Note: If there isn’t anyone smarter than you, you’re either alone or misguided. Forget all that other advice and go get a job.

Listen and learn

  • Who is the sharpest knife in your industry’s drawer? Get to know them. Do something to help them. Absorb everything they say, do, think.
  • Who is the thought leader in your business? Who picks up on things before anyone else? Spend as much time as you can *listening* to them and observing them and their business.
  • Ask smart, successful people (and dumb successful people too) about the lessons that were the most important. If they’ll let you, buy them lunch, Ruth’s Chris or whatever gets them interested and let them talk. Listen. Listen. Listen.
  • Surround yourself with smart, successful people, like Jim Rohn says. Return the favor when you’re asked to be one of those smart people.

Expect failure

  • Failure is an event. Not a person.
  • Learn about failure the inexpensive way. Study other people’s failures.
  • Learn from older people who are smart as crap. They were young and stupid once too. That’s when they made the mistakes that made them older and smart as crap.
  • You’ll make mistakes. Something will fail. Don’t give up or I’ll call you a wuss.

Expect chaos

  • Be prepared for growth. Position yourself to deal with, hypothetically, 2 or 3 times the business you have now. Tomorrow.
  • What would you change if your business tripled next week.
  • All that preparation might make it easier to outgrow all those cool things you organized. Get over it.
  • Expect to feel like one of those Chinese plate spinners who has 20 plates on 20 sticks and is spinning them all at the same time without dropping a single one.
  • Expect to encounter times when spinning 20 plates would feel relaxing.

A few years from now when you have grumbling on the staff, tell them about the plates you used to spin.

It’ll go over about like that “walked to school uphill both ways through the snow” story that you tell your kids (or that your parents told you), but it’ll be true:)

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Passion or productivity – Which can you handle?

Today’s guest post comes from David Armano, who provokes the manager in you by asking if you can handle the truth. 

No, wait. That was a movie..

David’s question is more challenging. Can you handle a passionate employee? Do they even belong at your business – even though you probably think and say that you want them? 

Anyone who has worked for someone else and felt like they were the only one who really, truly gave a rip will find themselves nodding their heads.

BUT…now that you’re in charge, could someone like you excel at your business? Or would just rather have someone who is “just” productive?

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It takes a lot money to start a business. Or does it?

Today’s guest post comes from The Big Idea, where you’ll hear about a guy who started a multi-million dollar business with $350.

Watch this short video to learn his story. How can you use what he did?

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5 entrepreneur lessons from Guy Kawasaki

Today’s guest post is from Guy Kawasaki. You probably know of Guy from his books, from his time at Apple or Garage, or maybe from Alltop. Who knows, you might even have played hockey with him. 

Regardless, his last post as a blogger for Sun is definitely worth reading.

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Tuned In questions to ask about your Me Too product

In today’s guest post, Tuned In discussed a Me Too (sorta) product and the gauntlet that they put new product ideas through just a day after we discussed Me Too products here.

Their 6 simple questions should give you something to think about whenever creating a new product or service, much less modifying an existing one.

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Are you listening to the right people?

You don’t have to look far to find people who will find 100 reasons why you shouldn’t do what you’re doing in your business (or what you plan to do).

They’ll throw every possible thing at you that can go wrong. Thank them under your breath if they mention something that you hadn’t considered in your plan, but don’t let them get you down.

Remember that some of them probably haven’t built anything of their own. What extends beyond their comfort zone will color their remarks, and will often be irrelevant to you. Those who have built something of their own look at life and business differently.

Allowing folks with that outlook to project their attitude onto you isn’t going to help you succeed. If it’s a consistently negative stream of BS, just leave. If you can’t leave (eg, they might be family), change the subject and don’t talk about business with them.

Jim Rohn once said you’re the product of the 5 people you spend the most time with. OK, Jim really says that every time he speaks, but whatever:)

Are those 5 people being supportive? Asking good questions? Sharing things that have been successful for them, in hopes that you might be able to get some use out of it?

Or are they constantly picking away at you, your ideas and your business as if they were some sort of karmic woodpecker?

Find people who will help you by asking good, tough questions, not those who will chip away at you and your ideas just because it’s what they do. When the chippers chip away, the best thing you’ll get out of it is motivation.

When I announced our move to Montana, someone told me we’d be back in 6 months. I remember it like it was yesterday.

They said it in 1999.

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10 books list – actually includes a link now:)

Good thing I got off the 50+ mile canoe trip today. Turns out this morning’s guest post was missing the link to Yanik’s book list.

The original post has been updated, or you can go here now.

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10 books for successful entrepreneurs, as recommended by Yanik Silver

Today’s guest post comes from self-proclaimed fun guy and entrepreneur Yanik Silver.

Yanik lists his top 10 recommended books (OK, it’s really 12) for reading by entrepreneurs and business owners, and all of them except for 11 and 12 are definitely good stuff for all parts of the business owner’s mind (much less mindset).

I haven’t read the #11 and #12 books on the list, but the rest are right here and you can’t have them. Buy your own copy:)