Compass needed Employees Entrepreneurs planning

Sick & tired of worrying? Solve problems.

If you’re sick and tired of worrying about how long you keep your job, this is for you. If you’re unemployed or underemployed right now, this is for you.

The last three months have been pretty tough on employees. Some have had hours cut. Some have been furloughed, laid off, let go, or whatever someone called it. Some might know when you’re coming back. Many people don’t. COVID didn’t start the worrying for some. It just made it worse.

It’s not only the employees. Some of you have lost your business.

Then there are the “lucky” ones. You’ve kept your job or your business, even if you’re not as busy, the tips aren’t as good and/or the hours are no longer full-time. On top of all that, some of you have been screamed at, spat on, or worse.

Many of you are trying to figure out what happens next. You have questions like these:

  • What happens when unemployment changes in a few weeks?
  • What happens when other COVID response benefits go away?
  • What happens when the tourists go home?

It’s time to think

When I say it’s time to think, I mean that it’s time to think about what your next step is.

  • What are you gonna do next month?
  • What are you going to do next week?
  • What are you going to do tomorrow?

Most importantly, I mean “What are you going to do for the rest of today?

First, go for a walk or a hike or paddle, or something. Get outside. Turn your phone off. Go for a walk. Take a hike, a bike or a paddle and think really hard about a few things…

What could I be doing would provide the biggest bang for the buck.. that will deliver the most important solution, the best value for other people?

What’s the biggest problem that I know how to solve?

And last but certainly not least… these three:

What work, what product, creation, service, labor, effort, etc am I willing to do on my worst days, and on the days when I’m not sure where the next bag of groceries is coming from?

What work will I stick to on the days when everybody around me who usually believes in me is starting to wonder?

What would you do under those conditions that’s worth something to someone else?

What does “biggest” mean?

What does biggest even mean? Biggest seems kind of vague. What’s biggest in context with your current skills? What allows you to produce the most value by solving an important problem in TODAY’S world?

Think about the people you’ve worked with/for. If they came to you for something you’re really skilled at – what would it be? What else would they have you do?

It doesn’t matter if the problems you solve are ugly, dirty, or difficult. The dirty and/or difficult ones might be easier to find a market for – as many people will gladly pay to solve them. Choose what you’re good at. You can ponder whether you want to do this for the rest of your life at some other time. Right now, it’s time to choose something, find people who need it & get paid.

These problems might be financial, involve physical danger (or reduce it), or take the friction / hassle / waste out of a process.

What makes you say “Gimme that” when someone else is doing it? Doesn’t matter if “that” is a nail gun, trowel, chainsaw, laptop, a spreadsheet or the wheel of a truck. All that matters is that you’re the expert when that tool is in your hands. One warning: Don’t start with something that requires a licensing process unless you already have one. Choose something you can do now.

Start with that.

Next year, you might have to adjust. It’ll be more than clear how your newfound business should change as the COVID-influenced world changes to whatever’s next.

Who has that problem?

Now that you’ve settled on a problem, drill down.

Who has those problems? What are the different ways that you can help them?

Next question: “Is this problem important enough that they’ll pay someone to fix it AND can they pay the bill?”

If no one (or very few) can afford for you to fix the problem or the problem isn’t terribly important, find another problem.

It’s time to get started.

Photo by Anna Claire Schellenberg on Unsplash

Entrepreneurs Small Business startups

The most expensive minute of your life

Starting over in business
Sometimes you just have to know when it’s time to move on.

To that end, a quote from James Altucher:

My first business I sold for $15 million. We built websites for entertainment companies. Bad Boy Records, Miramax, Time Warner, HBO, Sony, Disney, Loud Records, Interscope, on and on. Oh, and Con Edison. Mobb Deep would hang out in my office. Trent Reznor from Nine Inch Nails would stop by. RZA from the Wu-Tang Clan would want to play chess.

Then I saw that kids in junior high school were learning HTML. So I sold the business.

Are you ready (much less willing) to get out of the game you’re in?

More importantly, are you ready to start over?

Starting over is hard. It tends to take longer than you expect. It will probably cost more than you expect. But…if you see the handwriting on the wall, every minute you wait is even more expensive and painful than the last.

Business model Business Resources Buy Local Entrepreneurs Etsy Homemade products Small Business strategic planning

What does a new business owner do first?

Recently I received an email from a reader who said my blog made them feel like they had come in during the middle of a movie.

Why? Because they’re at the startup stage in their business, while many of my posts focus on existing businesses.

Fair enough. Let’s talk about startups.

The overwhelming load at startup can freeze you in your tracks. You’re just starting to learn how to market (usually). You may need to know where to find less-expensive supplies, how to introduce your product to customers and how to price what you make/do.

Best of all, you’re trying to figure out how to do all of this on a limited budget without feeling like your investment is as fickle as a bet at the horse races.

It’s a tall climb. It feels like there’s so much you’re supposed to do before you start and the list gets longer on opening day.

What Nike would say

The key is to start.

People freeze in pre-launch because they’re worried about everything being perfect…which frequently breaks your focus on starting. You may have heard this described as “perfect is the enemy of good” (or “of done”).

Don’t you need business cards first? Or a fancy color brochure? Or a sign? No, no and maybe. Where a home-based manufacturing or service business is concerned, the answers are likely no, no and no.

Permits: You need to take care of whatever permits, licensing and tax registration requirements exist in your state/community/neighborhood. Not optional.

Business cards, stationery, brochures, etc: I still don’t have a business card. I just haven’t gotten around to it. In my business, people who meet me almost always know or have heard of me – and that’s intentional. I make it super easy to find and contact me, yet I haven’t met many of my clients face to face. If you sell what you make on the internet, you might not meet your customers except at a trade show (trade show prep is another post). You may absolutely need a business card – but it shouldn’t stop you from opening the doors.

Is it an attractive model?

You might be just starting to figure out how to price your products and services. Typically, people in a new business start as low as possible, thinking that’s their “in”. Price should never be your only competitive edge. One edge, sure. Only edge? Never.

Setting a price depends on your business model. If your business model doesn’t makes sense financially on day one, it might never make sense.

Start by determining your fixed and variable costs. Fixed means “expenses incurred even if you don’t sell a thing”. Variable means “expenses that change as sales volume changes”. Of course, you’ll want to have some money left for your salary, taxes, utilities, marketing, support/service, and profit margin.

This requires knowing your numbers. Knowing what every supply costs, knowing how much time processes take so that you know your labor costs, whether you or someone else is performing that labor. Use a yellow pad, spreadsheet, whatever. Don’t get tied up by the mechanism. Start.

Note: Profit is not salary. More on that another day.

Don’t forget the locals

Everyone looks on the net for quality supplies at low prices, but don’t forget the locals. You might be surprised to find that you don’t need to pay always-rising shipping costs (because “free shipping” isn’t free) to buy beeswax from three states over because there’s a beekeeper in your community who can deliver it *today*.

You might have to buy online at first, but never stop talking to customers and friends about your supply needs. Find online communities of people who make similar products or serve similar customers. For handmade goods, the communities at are good and there are others out there in every niche. People in these communities are surprisingly helpful and will tell you things a website/catalog wouldn’t ever mention.

Feed your mind

No matter how insane my schedule, my daily ToDo list includes a page from Peter Drucker’s and John Maxwell’s daily readers. They’re a great centering read to start my day. Don’t underestimate the value of this.

Next in this series, identifying who’s just right for your porridge.