Thursday, May 28, 2009

Going it Alone or Not

Photo by Kevin Zim

Business Partner or just help along the way?

I have a lot of business friends who believe that business partners are the worst idea ever. It's kinda like those who have "lost in love". The business Lonely Hearts Club, so to speak. There are always going to be points when we need a community, a friend, or certainly a Mentor to help us with our business. Making a legal commitment to having a business partner is very much like being married. What are some of the reasons you might think about having a business partner?
  • You and another person came up with a business idea together.
  • You consistently need another set of skills.
  • You can only work half time and you need someone else to Captain the ship with other half.
  • You've met someone with great connections and they want "in" on your gig.
Just because these are reasons you are considering a business partner they are not necessarily the reasons why you SHOULD have a business partner. Some other options are:
  • Allow the person who came up with this idea with you to have a "silent" stake in the business.
  • Build up that skill set that you're lacking within yourself.
  • Find someone with that skill set and hire them as a consultant until you learn the ropes.
  • Take that person who you are considering as a partner and make them an employee so that you are the one taking the risks and they have a share in reaping the rewards.
  • Find a way to "promote" this person with the great connections in a way that would benefit them or allow them to invest now to earn future income rewards.
I'm not going to talk you in or out of having a business partner. I would suggest getting an opinion though from a Small Biz consultant though because it creates a specific kind of business model that your plan needs to reflect.

Then, there's always the business partners you're married to and I've written quite a bit about that!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Making Things Happen

Everyday I sit down to Twitter or Facebook or any list of blogs out there I wonder, What's everyone REALLY doing?

There is such a huge trend of people telling you how to do your business and how to reach more people and how to make more money that I am at times reticent about identifying myself as a "Mentor". By now, you all know what I really do but I kinda wonder what everyone else is doing!

This trend seems to be about selling a product that will "guarantee" certain success through greater visibility. If that's what success is about, I guess I don't have a job at all. All day I see people with less than fabulous products or services trying to have more hits to their website and become a household name. 99% of those people still need a lot of work on their product. (That's where I come in).

This is not a downer post. This is a reality check, people! We need to be a culture of "doers". We're turning into a culture of "tellers". In theater and movies and literature we say, don't tell them, SHOW them. What this means is that there shouldn't be a narrator telling you what the character is thinking. You should be able to see through their actions and emotion what they are thinking.

In business we need to express who we are by doing. By making cool products that will be better for our environment, or writing things that move us and make us laugh, by making art that moves the soul, we create change. Change is not a better search engine. Doing is not selling an "idea".

Smite me if you will, Consulting Universe, but this is the part of me speaking who spends hours at a spinning wheel, just to make something. This is someone proud to be part of a nation of Makers. I am a consultant but I seek to support in any way I can those who are doers and those who have something to say and contribute to our culture.

This is my rant before a holiday weekend. This is my cry to those trying to sell me an idea, to sell me a "thing".

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Do I Need Branding?

Or perhaps, do I have a brand?
What is a brand?
How do I know if I have one?

Here is a view from another direction, yet again:
- why do you need to define your brand?
To ensure that you have a fresh, compelling and competitive proposition to ensure that your brand works strongly at an emotional as well as at a rational level to ensure that your brand can be delivered consistently and in full by all its stakeholders.

Well put, I think. Something happens in the marketplace when a word like "marketing" and "branding" become so popular, we really cease to know what they mean. Even I get stuck in a "loop" when I hear that word "brand".

One of my favorite, if not my MOST favorite words is compelling.
Sit with that word for a moment. What is compelling to you? Do you seek to be compelling yourself? Do you want what you do to be compelling to others?

So, to me brand is about a specific identity that compels one to do something. Buy it, believe it, dream it, want it, trust it. How we achieve that is another matter altogether. It's this first question that cannot be rushed, at any cost.

Stir the soul, the spirit, the intellect, create desire.
Start there and then think about brand.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Spouse AND Business Partner Part 3

You need to think about how you communicate in front of others

In Part 2, we talked about how you "identify" to those around you regarding your business relationship. Now I'm going to talk about how you speak in front of others. I bet you know where this is going...
How to keep your personal life out of your business life!

It's not possible. What is possible is to keep it out of the way you appear to others and how you manage tasks.
  • Call each other by your first names instead of "honey" or any other endearment
  • Be aware of the "tone of voice" you use, people around you are!
  • Make sure that your personal relationship doesn't "trump" your business relationship
  • Don't argue in front of the "kids". You'll have conflict, but speak as if you are speaking to anyone else in your company with the same level of respect.
  • If things do get heated in a conversation, take it outside.
I have worked with many successful couples who work well together. The main key to success that I would derive from observing them is that their jobs were very separate. Little to no overlap in the jobs they performed. Each saw the others value and had respect for their partner's abilities.

Of course when you live with someone or are very close to them, the "other stuff" that is your life will not just automatically disappear because the work day starts. The part you can manage is how others see you and WHEN you deal with conflict.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

I Stink at Networking

photo by erica marshall
I used to say this. Now I just do it. I network, I chat people up, I try to connect people and wonder how they might connect me to others. Mostly what I do that really works is help others when I can.

When I see that word, Networking, a picture of a restaurant filled with people in suits and ties comes to mind. The fake smiles, the drink in hand, the business cards at the ready. I nearly get hives just writing about it.

Yes, these scenarios still exist, but not in my life. I avoid them. I'm not sure it's the best thing but the kind of desperation in the air these days because of the economy makes me nervous. I saw a thing on TV recently that was "speed dating" for networking. I might handle that a bit more because of the rapid style and no-nonsense of it all. That's really the hardest part: following the implied social rules.

That's why the online social networking scene works a bit better for me. I feel like I can describe myself and what I do in a way that's true to my real personality. I believe this has a lot to do with what will work for you as a small business owner. If you feel overwhelmed and uncomfortable putting yourself out there online, that's ok! You work on that and stick to the face to face opportunities. There's something for everyone out there. If you don't do something well, kick back and get some new skills and try something else.

You might notice that I don't really spend a lot of time passing on info in this blog via links. I read a lot of other small biz advice out there and tend to just 'blend it in' with what I say. I do read of lot of other coach and mentor advice, I just tend to like my own brand the best!

There have been and continue to be a lot of folks who have helped me along the way. Every day I try to "pay it forward". Keep giving and at the same time value what you have to give and it'll all work out. I really believe that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Spouse AND Business Partner Part II

This original post cried out to be a series right off. I came to realize that many more of my business contacts were in business with their significant other than I had originally thought! Hot topic because it IS your whole life. You work and live and often socialize together. Where's the line? And, in this post I ask the question about how to "come across" in the world.

  • You have to decide how to appear to others: The Madison's vs Dan Madison and Ann Madison
Maybe you don't have the same last name at all, but no matter what, this issue will arise. When we say, "we're partners" you can mean business partners or life partners. You can say you "work together", you can say, "Ann owns a business and Dan is her Sales Manager".

How you describe your business relationship should be consistent. It will likely also bring the kind of conversations people have when they're going to get married and are deciding on hyphenation or not, etc. Being sensitive to each others needs for a clear identity is key to making this part of working together work.

How you word this partnership is also a huge cue to your employees, vendors and customers on how to treat you. If every time the phone rings and they ask for Dan and if he's not in they ask for Ann, it's gonna get old. Chances are, you're in very different roles and are not interchangeable.

It's funny the assumptions that come just with people who are in business together who have the same last name but are not spouses or not related at all! So, assumptions are being all the time. It's up to you to set the boundaries for yourself AND others.

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