Tuesday, October 30, 2012

It’s never too late

For years I've lived in a very friendly, very comfortable apartment complex in West Austin. One of my nearby neighbors is self-employed with a schedule similar to mine which has us bumping into each other regularly.      

All of this community connection is warm and wonderful.  There’s just one problem – I can't remember his name.  So, often times I greet him with a huge smile and a, “hi neighbor!”  He responds, “hi Penny.”  And off we go.

I call it the Closed Window Syndrome.  We've been neighbors far too long for me to ask his name -and of course he or one of my other neighbors has told me his name a million times – I just can't seem to remember it.  It’s just too shameful – too much time has passed – I would feel rude and uncaring to ask.  In other words my window of opportunity has flown away and so he remains, “hi neighbor.”    

I'm sure you've been there.  You've been in situations when it feels too embarrassing to admit that the information that should be right at your fingertips can't be found in your memory bank.  Or maybe information has been given to you in the past but you're still in confusion. 

Sometimes it’s not such a big deal – I mean in this case nobody is going to cart me off to bad-neighbor jail.  But this problem can have serious consequences. 

Through my experience coaching tons of entrepreneurs I know many, many have the “I-don't-know-what-the-hell-I'm-doing” secret - sadly living life in the confines of the Closed Window room. 

If you've been in business for a couple of years or longer and have trouble reading your financial statements or creating marketing objectives or having conversation regarding pricing platforms or profitability models and  feel too embarrassed to ask because you've been in business “too long” you may be living in the oxygen-depleted Closed Window room.  Sadly the room is probably crowded. 

To continue the metaphor and get you breathing again, I say boldly open that window, shake off the shame and declare that small business by its very nature is about long term learning.  Pretending you know what you don't know is exhausting and is a road to nowhere.         

Decide today there is no such thing as “being in business too long” to ask small business questions.  And no environment to intimidating to act as if you understand something that you don’t.  

The same courage that took you out on a ledge to open your business is the same energy that can bring you into the room of understanding and possibly change unawareness into enlightenment.

And my experience says that enlightenment oftentimes leads happily to increased profitability.      


Monday, October 22, 2012

Welcome to Margin

On a rainy Monday morning over cups of hot cocoa I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Karen Ranus, Director of Volunteer Services and Community Outreach at Saint Louise House in Austin. 

Saint LouiseHouse helps single mothers and their children overcome homelessness by providing a stable environment and supportive services. 

One comment Karen made truly struck me. She said that when we picture homelessness we picture single men.  It’s because we see them time and again on the street; Men holding “I will work for food” signs. 

But in truth this is not the largest population of homelessness in Austin (the US?)  As it turns out the largest population of homelessness is single women with children.  These are the ones without a warm place to sleep every night. 

What my conversation at Saint Louise House had me ponder was perception.   

Just like men seem to be the face of homelessness, extremely successful entrepreneurs seem to be the face of small business.

Online, in magazines and books, on television, while networking or listening to a keynote address we’re introduced to these crazy successful entrepreneurs.  And often times they’ve created this success in a very short period of time. 

I’ve been in small business for over 20 years first owning bakeries (which I sold in 2005) and then this consultancy.  In between I counseled entrepreneurs through a local non-profit for close to 7 years.  

My experience seems to match the current statistical information – and that picture is that small business still fails at a very high rate or underperforms projected revenue.       

I started this consultancy because I wanted to make a difference in this picture – especially for sole proprietors and small LLC’s.   I want the perception to become the reality.   I want to make it less stressful and more fun by making the business more dependable and more profitable. I want to expand its capacity for greater contribution.

 I’ve seen the problems.  I’ve lived the problems of small business.  And I know the solutions.   

My mission to make it easier is called MARGIN.