Sunday, November 2, 2008

Do you have what it takes to start a business?

Doing an Honest Self Appraisal
This needs to be your Chapter 1 - your starting point. Without understanding what it takes mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually to start and grow a business from scratch, your chances of success diminish greatly. I can honestly tell you that growing a small business, while financially and emotionally rewarding, is the hardest thing I have ever done. And it will probably be the hardest thing you will ever do.

I have seen a lot of “Are you an entrepreneur?” evaluations in magazines and on the Internet. I don’t put much stock in them, and here’s why: they can’t know the really deep and important parts of your character from a survey. You can find some very good assessment tools to show what categories your personality fits into, how well you play with your coworkers and what kind of boss you might be. But, only you know if you are willing to put in what it takes to make your business successful and make good money. DO NOT take your attitude toward success lightly. At a minimum, you need:

- Determination not to give up.
- Tenacity to fight for a deal when the polite and easy thing
would be to walk away.
- Assertiveness to be able to ask the tough questions that make you uncomfortable and put a lump in your throat.
- Boldness to make the tough decisions that will change other people’s lives.
- Attention to minute detail. I know, everyone tells you to
delegate. And you should, once you can afford to and
understand your own businesses systems. Nobody will look
after your bottom line like you. Remember this is a book
about starting without money (scratch).

The character traits above are the minimum that you either need to have, or are willing to develop. Business is no place for the faint-of-heart. You need thick skin.

By the way, I was discussing this eBook with two of my sons aged 22 and 25 before I released it. They had never heard of the term, scratch, used for money. For me, it was one of those, “I’m as old as my parents” moments. They understood the Starting from Scratch part but thought that “without having any” meant without anything, not just without money. It didn’t become apparent until we were discussing a name for the monthly updates. I suggested, “Still itching for more Scratch?” and they looked at me like I was speaking Vulcan. They asked why someone would itch for more nothing. They pointed out that a scratch in pool is also bad. This is an excellent example and one that you, and I can learn from.

Tip - Don’t assume the world understands your product just because you know it so well. Whenever you come out with something new or write a new sales letter or brochure, make sure a few people read it first. Don’t give them any hints and then ask them to tell you what they learned. You may be surprised, like I was. BTW – I am still looking for a good name for the updates.

Tip - Start your day reading inspirational materials and success stories about others in business. We’ll discuss attitude in more detail because it really can mean the difference between success and failure – or between good and great.
One web site I like to start my day with is The Daily Motivator.

A Support System
Starting a business from scratch by yourself is tough enough. That’s why you need to surround yourself with positive people that will stick with you through all the ups and downs. It can be family and/or friends. I have been fortunate enough to have a tremendous wife and four great children who put their faith in me. And it was their faith many times that kept me going. When someone believes in you, you can accomplish a great deal.

Find your support system early on. Aside from friends and family look to join Master Mind groups (read Napoleon Hill’s classic, Think and Grow Rich for advice on Master Mind groups), other groups of entrepreneurs, and user groups that have businesses similar to yours.

A key problem entrepreneurs have is CEO isolation. It really can be lonely at the top. A lot of decisions are made in a vacuum without input from others. Joining a CEO group will cost you and is probably not your best choice early on. But there are plenty of free support forums on the internet and I will be glad to answer as many questions as I can for you.

I was fortunate to have a wonderful mentor named Don Weber, who brought a ton of experience and reality-grounded advice to my company. Try to find a mentor. It helps if he or she has been through what you are tackling. I also like Napoleon Hill’s idea in Think and Grow Rich: He would talk to and knock around ideas with imaginary business leaders. You have to play both sides, and you feel a bit weird, but it works. At least this is a weird thing that can make you money.
Attitude Really Is Everything

I’ve spent the last few years reading everything I can about attitude. 10 million motivational speakers can’t all be wrong, can they? Even if others tell me those speakers are phonies or just acting, I don’t listen. I’ve often asked sales people, “When’s the best time to make a sale?” Do you know the answer? The answer is, right after you close the one before it. When you close a sale, or succeed at anything, you’re on top of your game. You feel great. You’re proud, confident and not afraid to meet with or call anyone. Why is that? Who cares! I chalk it up to just having the right attitude. All that matters is that we know it happens. The key is to notice when it happens, grab that feeling, and wear it all the time.

You need a good attitude to run a business. To me, having a good attitude means:
• Smiling and saying things are great when maybe they aren’t, and believing it.
• Never losing sight of the goal.
• Never losing sight of who you are working for. You need to know who that is.
It isn’t always you.
• Looking for the positive and accepting the realities.
• Not taking any of your setbacks out on someone else.
• Catching someone doing something well and letting them know about it right then.
• Fakin’ it ‘til you make it.

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