Archive for the ‘What We've Been Reading’ Category

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Entrepreneurship and Making ‘Adult’ Financial Decisions

July 7, 2011
Adult Financial Decisions

When I launched on Forbes.com I promised myself that I was going to start Telling the Truth. It’s easy to be a financial guru, talk at people, and tell them, “This Is How You Should Handle Your Money.” It takes more courage to be transparent and share stories not just from our clients, but from ourselves, and even more courage to share not just from our past, but from our present. So here I am, being courageous.

Every summer I head to Dallasfor the annual eWomen Network Conference. I look forward to it all year long. It’s the largest business women’s conference in North America, and an amazing place to learn, connect and be inspired. Sandra Yancey, CEO of eWomen Network, provides the incredible opportunity to learn from a long list of business rock stars: Michael Gerber, Tony Hsieh (zappos), Robert Stephens (Geek Squad), Lisa Nichols, Zig Ziglar and the list goes on. This summer, I’m not going.

What’s an ‘Adult Financial Decision’?

Adult financial decisions are logical decisions—ones we intuitively know are good decisions even though every other part of our being disagrees. When we make adult financial decisions, our inner child screams, “But I wanted that!” or our lips pout or our hearts feel heavy. Last month I made the adult financial decision that my team was not going to the conference this year. As a result, I’ve been walking around pouting and having a heavy heart. And then I heard a voice shout: “Stacey, how many hundreds of times have you advised people who were conflicted about when and how much to spend on professional development??? Stop being a weenie and write a blog.”

Entrepreneurs make the assumption that they are the only ones making emotional spending decisions. “If I just ran my business more like a business owner, I don’t think I’d have these cash flow issues.” The truth is that entrepreneurs are human beings, and most of us humans make emotionally-based financial decisions. That’s not a bad thing. It’s when we don’t balance emotionally-based decisions with logical ones that imbalance can capsize our ship. Over the past year, my business has made a number of bold spending decisions, some logical, some emotionally-based. We’ve also pruned our client tree (let a few clients go who were no longer a good fit). The end result is that our reserves are at low tide.

Could we go to the conference? Yes. Do we have the cash? Yes. Would there be consequences? Yes. Is it worth the consequences? Logically, no.

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3 Words to Small Business Success: Easy, Fun and Popular

June 8, 2011

What’s the attitude you show up to in your business each day?

Are you having fun?

Does it lift your spirit to connect with those you need to connect with to be successful in your business?

In my blog Community Service, Leadership and Small Businesses, I told the story of how my best friend Tina Reynolds, long-time small business owner of Uptown Studios, uses her love of community service to drive the marketing for her business. I met Tina 15 years ago, when she was doing volunteer work for a local HIV/AIDS service organization, and through the years I cannot begin to recall how many organizations, actions and activities she has led or been part of. Her dedication and stamina for community service are unparalleled, and as a result she frequently receives awards, honors and nominations.

At this week’s California Small Business Day, she was honored by California’s Senate President pro Tem Darrell Steinberg as the Capital Region’s Small Business of the Year. Senator Steinberg made an excellent choice. From the vantage point of a best friend I’ve watched Tina’s business grow, and then sputter, and then grow again. I’ve watched her maneuver through the economic challenges of the past few years, always with a positive attitude.

So how exactly do you get to be a Small Business of the Year? What makes Tina and her business stand out as a role model for entrepreneurs? To use Uptown Studios’ tagline, be Easy, Fun and Popular.

Easy

In my Forbes Profile I write about blocks I’ve Been Around: putting $10 of gas in my car because that’s all I had. This was years ago, so I’m going to out Tina: she was the one I passed that $10 back and forth with. Sometimes I needed it; sometimes she did. Entrepreneurship isn’t always glamorous. But Tina, no matter how challenging a client project or how tough a business issue she faces, always has a can-do attitude and exudes to her staff and her clients that it’s easy. “Let’s just jump in and get it done.” And to persevere as an entrepreneur while enjoying a personal life, having an “It’s Easy” attitude is vital.

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The Power of Stating your Intentions Out loud

May 11, 2011
Amgen Tour 2009© waynepowellphoto.com

Amgen Tour 2009© waynepowellphoto.com

Tomorrow I leave on a 330-mile, 4-day cycling adventure: the NorCal AIDS Cycle. I’m a little impressed with myself. “Athletic” is not a word frequently used to describe me. As a kid, I wasn’t picked last for team sports, but I was never picked first. And until three months ago, I had never cycled more than 10 miles at a stretch. My last training ride was an easy, fun, quick 30 miles. I have good reason to be self-impressed.

Do you have a big financial goal? Something that feels unattainable, that you can’t see yourself ever reaching? Would you like to be self-impressed?

Say it out loud.

When I first uttered that I was considering the ride, it wasn’t a fully formed thought. But I’d said it out loud, first to a friend that serves on the Ride’s Board of Directors, and then to my daughter, and then to a best friend. It snowballed from there. My daughter wanted to do the ride with me, and then her godmother, and then a best friend, and then a client.

Ask for support.

One of my life’s intentions is to be physically fit. That’s not my sole reason for doing this ride; a long-time passion of mine is raising desperately needed funds for HIV/AIDS. But the ride was a goal that I could speak out loud, ask for support from my family, friends and colleagues, and be lovingly held accountable to completing my goal. The first $100 donation I received sealed the deal; there was no going back. Someone gave money in support of me. I was accountable.

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Changing the World

June 19, 2010

Cape: yes | Tiara: looking

“I’m fairly certain that, given a Cape and a nice tiara, I could save the world.” ~www.curlygirldesign.com

I have a cape, and I’m trying to find a tiara. Some of you know that I have this crazy wonderful inspiration, and with this inspiration, and a tiara, I could change the world. Not save it, but change it.

I heard some great advice last night, as I do on the 3rd Friday of every month. “Read about people who have changed the world.” So I’m wondering, who would you read about? Who is one of your heroes or heroines?

And if you want to experience some of my crazy wonderful inspiration, save the date: July 10th, 6-9pm.

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Cost of Manufacturing in China

April 18, 2010

I love Planet Money, NPR’s economics podcasting team. They can make you actually understand what a credit default swap is. And, they make it entertaining. Fun!

This podcast explained exactly how China manipulates their currency, and what that means to everyday Americans, and everyday Chinese. It was fascinating. If you like that kind of stuff, here it is:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/money/2010/03/podcast_why_chinas_central_ban.html

But if you just want the cliff note, the part I found so stunning, it is this. They were talking to a small business owner that manufactures his his product in China. No surprise. We all know much of what we buy is manufactured in China. You don’t have to be an economist to know it must be way cheaper to manufacture in China. What I didn’t know was how much cheaper.

90%. That is stunning. If you were a mattress manufacturer, and could sell a mattress for $1,000, would you pay an American company $500 to produce it, or a Chinese company $50. Duh. I had no idea that it was that much cheaper.

How do we reduce the carbon footprint of global manufacturing when individual business owners are faced with such temptation?

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On the Honesty Muscle and Financial Boot Camp

April 5, 2010

Lisa Nichols, in No Matter What, refers to the honesty muscle as a critical component of moving forward in our lives. To get to where we really want to be, we have to know where we are; we have to be honest with ourselves. When it comes to our finances, this can be extremely challenging on many levels. To know where we truly are means that we have to discuss money, a very private, personal, and sometimes painful subject. Where exactly do we do that?

A success of Financial Boot Camp is that it gives people a forum where they get to – and have to – talk about their own money. In the first few sessions, it’s a challenge to convince the group that its not only ok to talk about their own money, but also to ask each other direct questions. We’re raised in a society that frowns on open discussions about money, yet we’re expected to know how to manage it. In the Boot Camp group we’re working with now, honesty has appeared in a number of ways:

  • Some have been honest with themselves and the group that they really don’t like how they are earning money;
  • Some have been honest with themselves and the group that how they have invested money makes them unhappy and discontent; and
  • Some have been honest about their lack of clarity with their monthly spending.

Some of the group, if they had listened to their own little voices, knew these things before Boot Camp. With some, you could see the light bulb of honesty and realization come on right before our very eyes. To get to where we really want to be, we have to know where we are; we have to be honest with ourselves, and sometimes others. Each one of the Boot Camp group has used that honesty to make movement in their lives, movement toward where they really want to be.

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A successful small business

March 31, 2010

What is success in a small business? I’ve been reading Small Giants, a book focusing on great companies who aren’t focused on growth for growth’s sake, or giant revenues, for giant revenues sakes. Most of the business owners I work with have their eye on a million, or a few million. One of the points he poses is what’s better, to have a highly profitable 10 million dollar company, or a mega 100 million dollar company. I think a lot of people assume that a 100 million dollar company must be profitable, but I think that is not always true; in fact I think that is often not true. To reach 100 million in sales, you most certainly will have had to leverage a lot, both in money, time and soul. Is it worth it?

Some of the questions we like to ask clients are:

  • What’s your ultimate goal?
  • Why are you doing this business?
  • What makes you truly happy?

Knowing what your core beliefs in business are can help guide your growth. Rarely do I come across a business owner who is just in it for the money. Most got into it for a way of life, or a love of the game of business growth, or because they had a passion to share their gifts and talents with others.

Is that profitable? It definitely can be; but profitability takes work, analysis, focus and a willingness to keep your knees bent. One of the CEOs in Small Giants talks about the Groundhog Day syndrome; doing the same thing over and over, expecting different results. As small business owners, we have to keep our knees bent and be willing to shift, adjust and sometimes even do some stuff we don’t want to do.

The end result? Well, the goal is a happy life, a happy business and of course, profitability.