Thursday, May 23, 2013

Business Plan vs. Bootstrapping* . . .does it really matter??

Pick the profile that best describes YOU:

Profile A
o   You live by your “to do” list
o   Part of the fun of a vacation is planning it down to the last detail
o   If I asked for your birth certificate and social security card you’d march without hesitation to your filing system, delivering the originals plus two copies
o   In your world, most projects require an electronic document and a three-ring binder at the minimum
o   You plan with eagerness.  You execute with reluctance. 
o   With regards to research some is good, more is better, and even more is best

Profile B
o   You take a different path home as often as you can just to keep life interesting
o   You wake with a bright idea, talk about it with a friend at lunch, and by dinner you're looking to launch.
o   No one can set their watch by your schedule.  One day you're up and productive before daybreak.  The next day you lounge in bed all day munching on Skittles and laughing at Arrested Development on Netflix 
o   When someone uses the word discipline you hear punishment
o   You trust luck.  You're confident of success and know with certainty you'll overcome any obstacles.

It’s probably pretty obvious that if you identify with Profile A you'd never consider taking on something as important as a business without first planning and then penning a business plan. 

On the other hand Profile B likes the notion of the free-spirited entrepreneur that fearlessly faces the marketplace finding opportunity and adjusting strategy on the fly.      

Is there a right or wrong way??

In my humble opinion the answer is no; there is no right or wrong.**

How you decide to start your business is based primarily on personality.  For some personality types, business is matched to planning.  For others it’s matched to action. 

Neither bootstrapping nor business plan guarantees success in startup.  Go with what makes you comfortable and keeps you excited.  What’s  important is not HOW you start but that you indeed START.     

Beyond startup?  Now that’s another story entirely. 

It’s so much fun to read online and in business print about all those renegade, swashbuckling companies that within just a few years of startup are fat with capital and marketshare that never took the time to plan.  As a matter of fact they sometimes boast there was no planning.    

But I know those stories don't give us the whole picture. 

At some point in the life cycle of the business, to seize the competitive challenge and scale the business takes a focused, strategic, executable business plan based on historical data, business fundamentals and creative understanding of the market.

I guess the good news here for Profile B is somewhere down the road when the business is crying out for a plan you'll probably agree that a plan is in order.  And if you don't want to write it you can always hire help.    

*It’s worth mentioning the term bootstrapping historically was used to describe how the business was to be funded.  Bootstrapping now seems to ripple out and frames a much larger entrepreneurial picture that includes a philosophy and actions based on that philosophy

**I'd be remiss if I didn't mention one caveat.  If your business idea has high liability (anything involving children for instance, anything that requires a license, etc.) or tons of your money is invested (whatever that means to you) then you might want to take a stab at scribbling something down for your own protection.  Just a thought. . .        

Thursday, May 16, 2013

HELP is not a 4-letter word

Caution: this post is probably too personal. . .but hopefully helpful

This is hard for me to admit but I find it very difficult asking people for anything.  I'm gracious accepting help and support; it’s hard for me to ask for it.

If it’s guidance I need, that seems to be a bit easier; I’m highly coachable. However, if it’s a hand I need or help I require in meeting a personal goal then I become a bit agitated and have been known to drop into “monkey mind[1].”       

Now, my longtime boyfriend (which is a strange title to give to anyone when you reach my age but I've not come up with a suitable replacement for it so far; partner sounds. . .odd)  Anyway he'd say I ask for things with ease.  “Honey would you take out the trash?”  “Sweetie did you notice my car needs washing and while you're at it would you check the oil.”  “Lamb chop the business is not doing what it needs to, would you mind picking up and paying all of my household responsibilities??” 

So maybe I should amend that first statement; I have difficulty asking most people for support.  I have to admit it can be pretty bad.  My index finger hovers just above the left-hand side of my mouse as I decide to invite someone to be my FB friend.  I go into monkey mind; she’s a friend right??  Does she consider herself a friend?  When was the last time I've really seen her?  Maybe it’s too much.  No it’s not too much. . .   

I’m going to blame it on my Midwestern upbringing where the victory is in doing every last bit of it yourself, even if it takes you twice as long. 

But what I know from living life and especially living life as an entrepreneur is that without the help and support of people it simply won't happen.  And honestly people are helping along the way whether we're aware of it or not (that’s why it’s best to stay in gratitude.) 

I've been percolating on a business idea for close to two years that will fundamentally change the way we look at business basics and business planning and will result in an increased percentage of small business success. 

I’m going to need to ask for help (and lots of it) to make it happen. 

So after some focused thought I'm changing my mind; rewriting my story with regards to asking for help. 

The new story I’m trying on for size sounds like this: I'm asking for help because I want to make a bigger contribution than I could make on my own.  I'm asking for help because I realize I cannot do it on my own and intrinsically people want to help each other (this is something I know for sure; I see it daily in myself and in others.)  Asking for help is not aligned with weakness.  Rather it symbolizes strength, optimism and reinforces a healthy dose of interdependence. 

I'm the first to admit this is a process.  Change of mind is not always easy but I know it’s possible and in this instance, vital.            


[1] Monkey Mind is one of my FAVORITE PHRASES; I think I've used it before in some other posts. Monkey Mind is a Buddhist term that describes an undisciplined mind; jumping from thought to thought like a monkey jumps from tree to tree.  The monkey mind is not content with existing in the present moment, but rather is constantly distracted by the thoughts that pass through it.  Knowing when you're involved in monkey mind is a good thing - if you're aware it’s easier to stop the crazy.       

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Angry at AT&T

I knew the day would come when I'd have to use this forum for a little venting.

I don't know if it’s my frame of mind but AT&T has me crazy-angry.   I could blame it on this great book  I'm reading on the importance of creating measurable customer service systems in your business.  Or maybe it's because small business can be hard and I'm having a particularly hard month.  Who knows the reason. 

The short story is I live in an apartment community in Austin.  About a year ago (oh, AT&T is aware of the EXACT date) we were encouraged to switch our internet and cable service from Time Warner Cable to AT&T U-Verse. 

Those that live in our community never knew why the switch; why Time Warner Cable was out and AT&T was in.  One day signs simply went up in the mailroom inviting us to a pizza party to meet with the AT&T representative; they would explain the program and answer questions.  So over cheap pizza and soda AT&T goes through the drill.  The long and short of this story, like sheep to the slaughter, all the residents crossover to the services of AT&T because suddenly (supposedly) there’s no other provider to our complex. This happened April, 2012. 

Fast forward one year.  I open my AT&T U-Verse statement and what do I see?  A payment demand for $221.00 for one month of service.  That same period of time last month cost me $179.00.  That same period of time the month before cost me $146.00.  I am crazy out of my mind. 

I do love this logo however. . .it's so hard for me to stay angry!
I call AT&T (which is an experience that could be so much more pleasant.  I want to make a distinction here; the representatives are pleasant, the experience is not good.) 

Anyway the rep tells me after looking at my account that the $221.00 is not overstated; it is indeed correct. 

The reason the bill is $75.00 a month higher than the original amount is because when I signed up for U-Verse I was given incentives and a promotional deal.  Because I’m one year into the service the promotions, the incentives have expired.  He went on to say he'd look at my service to see if I could take advantage of any new promotions. 

I was so pissed I didn't hear another word he said.  All I heard was the sound of my own blood rushing in my ears.  I’m aware this whole promotional thing that vanishes happens all the time.  But it’s such a bad policy I felt the need to share.  

I’m going to end this post with a series of pointed questions and comments that I simply need to get on paper.  It’s going to have to be done in random order because I don't feel logical.

Why would a company give a promotion when a person first signs up for a service only to yank it away after that same person has shown loyalty to the company by staying with them for over a year?

Why is it called a promotion??  It's not a promotion; it's a bribe.

Never mind the sign-up "promotion" where is the loyalty promotion?  Where's the reward for loyalty?  Why is loyalty being punished to the tune of $900.00 a year?  I actually feel penalized for staying with AT&T for a year.  And there's also the feeling of being taken or duped which is never a good feeling for a customer.

And it feels like they think they are doing me a favor by throwing me a promotion now that I've complained.  If I'd stayed silent and paid the increased billing all would have been fine at AT&T. It's just a horrible policy.

Okay I'm done.