Itís Ten Oíclock, Do You Know Where Your Business Is?
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Itís Ten Oíclock, Do You Know Where Your Business Is?

It sometimes seems that your business is like your child. Learn some tips on raising it.

By Frank Beard

Running and maintaining a business is no easy task. It is a constant upkeep of a living, sometimes difficult, creature. It is akin to raising a child. In the beginning it needs food (capital) to help it grow and mature. It needs bathing and changing; a constant cleaning out of the old habits and purging to keep up with new innovations. Finally, it matures to an adolescent and begins to take shape and become somewhat self-caring. You raise the child in the way it should go and your pride swells within.

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  • Then suddenly, the bratty little teen gets stubborn and refuses to listen. She snubs her nose at you and decides to go her own way regardless of your parental efforts. This is no exceptional case. It is no unusual circumstance. This could be your business.

    What makes a business get off course and not do what you asked it to do? Several factors come to mind, but three major ones can be summarized as follows:

    1.) Was the formula wrong in the beginning?

    Staying with the child scenario, sometimes the food in the beginning was just too harsh for the child. Maybe it did not agree with him in the beginning and he was scarred by the trauma. Just like your business plan. Was it constructed based on a combination of your dream and reality? Or was it a vision you just canít let go of? Somewhere along the way the plan did not agree with reality or reality changed your plans.

    A better approach would have been to formulate your business plan using a model based on research. Your research into the market such as: Who needs my products and services? Who in this area is doing the same thing or something similar? Can I compete with them? How many of these things can I sell per month? How much business can I do in a week to survive? To make a profit? To retire in Florida? Ask the hard questions. Then, use industry resources such as Hooverís Online, Thomas Registry, Wall Street Journal, you local library, your local S.C.O.R.E., and your Chamber of Commerce.

    2.) Did I leave the little Cuddly Wuddley with someone who was not qualified?

    Sometimes it is very difficult to leave your child with a sitter you donít really know. The same should be true with your business. This includes everyone associated with your business, not just managers. If you hire incompetence, their performance will render your business incompetent. There is no guarantee that the people you hire are who they say they are. Even after thorough background checks and reference calling, you still cannot be certain.

    I recommend constructing your own test. Develop a test that measures what you are looking for in your people. Make certain your babysitters are qualified to look after the little beloved and that they can handle certain emergencies if they arise. Be careful to make your test relevant to the job description to avoid litigation. (Note: Be aware that the government does send spies to randomly apply for positions to test how employers treat potential employees from the interview to the offer of employment.)

    It is also good to remember the ongoing training that your people will need. As the child changes, so should the skill set of the sitter. The childís requirements will need to be catered to in a different way than they were last month. Your business will need to have people who are prepared to deal with the changes. Bertrand Russell once commented "Work is of two kinds: first, altering the position of matter at or near the earth's surface relative to other matter; second, telling other people to do so."

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    Better still, you should surround yourself with people who embrace change. Your employees probably mean well, but they donít have the skill set to actually do the job required. Remember what Charlie Brown said after losing a baseball game: "How could we lose? We were so sincere."

    3.) Is my baby in with the wrong crowd?

    Most parents fear that their child will end up with the wrong crowd after all the right efforts to raise them. Even worse though, is placing your child in an environment that he or she is not suited for. Forcing a child to play football when they are better suited for swimming is difficult on the parent and child. If the child is musically inclined and loves music, that child should be given all the necessary tools to succeed in music. If dance is their thing, buy them shoes, not a baseball.

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    The same is true for your business. If your marketing research resulted in the fact that you should sell drink coasters in the southeast region of your town and you decide to venture into pushing swizzle sticks in the north region, you may lose your shirt. Just because it worked for a close friend or relative does not mean you are qualified for the same.

    If you feel the need to explore new avenues, but donít really possess the skill set, take some time to learn something new. It is never too late to push the limits of your mind. Read everything you can on the subject. In fact, I suggest reading everything you can, period. If your area of expertise is drink coasters, read about cooking steaks or sailing. Expand your mind into other areas. It is never too late and will benefit you and your business. Life is short. Keep on learning. Someone once wrote to "Dear Abby" asking if, at the age of 44, he should attend medical school. "I'll be 52 when I'm finished." She wrote back, "How old will you be in eight years if you don't go to medical school?"

    Stick to what you are good doing. Stick to the plan you worked so hard to develop and read and learn at every opportunity. Your child deserves it.

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