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Being Entrepreneur

November 14, 2017 Leave a comment

58842029-Dan+Weedin+Unleashed-43 copyIt takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur.

It requires a rare blend of risk taker, visionary, creative thinker, resilience, perseverance, confidence, and tenacity to even start a business, much less run one successfully. It’s not for the faint of heart. Since the week of November 13-17 is Global Entrepreneurship Week, this month’s column will offer entrepreneurs and wannabe entrepreneurs ideas on growing and protecting a successful business.

The dictionary defines entrepreneur as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.” With all due respect, I would revise that to “always” with considerable initiative and risk to health, wealth, and sanity. While entrepreneurs built this country, it’s never been the easy way to go in creating a way of life. As both a former employee and an entrepreneur, I can confidently say that employees rarely lack the full understanding or empathy for what it takes to start and build any business. It’s the ultimate risk and reward situation. To that end, let’s examine a few thoughts I have for both starting and growing a business:

Starting Out:

  1. You have an idea on how to create a business out of your skill set? Great. You’d better also have a passion for it because you will be tested. Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you will die on a hill for it, and sometimes that’s what it might ask you to do. It’s a two-sided sword you must wield: competence and passion.
  2. You need boldness and confidence. This is no place for the meek. While humility is a personal virtue, nobody wants to hire a humble consultant, attorney, IT expert, contractor, CPA, or brain surgeon. I’m not suggesting arrogance, which is aloofness with no care for the well being of others. Confidence is believing that you are highly skilled and able to improve the conditions of others with genuine concern for their improvement. You must be able to boldly project and communicate that confidence.
  3. You need to line up enough financial reserves for six months. While it may not take that long to get going making money, you don’t need the stress of a financial burden to cause desperation.
  4. Create a marketing “process.” Business plans look good on a shelf, but often don’t ever get looked at. What you need to focus on in as acquiring clients. That means picking up the phone, setting meetings, and solving problems for them.
  5. Plan for obstacles. Bad things happen. Whether in your control or not, you need to create a strategy and plan for being resilient. It’s a combination of adequate insurance, strategic planning, communications, and practice.

Current Entrepreneurs:

  1. Have a board of advisors. Too many entrepreneurs go the “lone wolf” route. The smartest business owners are the ones that surround themselves with experts and sages. Executive coaches, technical experts (finance, IT, Human Resources), and peer groups are crucial for assuring you don’t get caught breathing you own exhaust.
  2. Constantly reinvent. Don’t become stale; rather constantly seek ways to build the better mousetrap; to differentiate yourself from the competition; and to find new ways to help your clients. Business (and life) is about changing realities. Be on the cutting edge of change.
  3. Hire strong people. Building a strong team is paramount to growing and transitioning out of your business. Don’t settle for warm bodies; rather demand excellence from your team. That starts with you. Modeling and mentoring is required to build a top-flight team of employees.
  4. Plan for obstacles. Look familiar? Let’s just say “ditto” for the suggestions from above. Entrepreneurs may be resilient by nature, but often get bloodied and bruised in the process. Make it easier for yourself with proper pre-planning of crisis and critical systems.
  5. Remember to have fun. I’ve met too many entrepreneurs that work themselves to a frazzle. They become a worse boss than the one they left to start a business. Entrepreneurship is supposed to be fun. If it’s not, then you should go get a job working for someone else. It’s not worth the sacrifice if you’re not enjoying the journey.

Bonus: Vibe Coworks in Poulsbo will be offering an exciting lineup of events, activities, and workshops to celebrate Global Entrepreneurship Week. Check out their schedule at www.VibeCoworks.com. What an opportunity to learn more and engage with fellow entrepreneurs.

Small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) are the engines that run our communities and country. You are responsible for hiring and developing more people that the Fortune 500 companies. You’ve taken a huge financial and emotional risk, with hopes and dreams of making a better life for yourself and your employees. For all of you, I leave you with three final words of encouragement as you end one year and prepare for the next:

  1. Don’t listen to the haters. You know who they are. They are energy suckers and will only harm you and your business. Stay positive and focused on the next step in the journey.
  2. Don’t be one of the haters. Positivity starts with self-talk. Worry is a bully; it gives you nothing and only takes. Keep your confidence and boldness up.
  3. Utilize help. There’s no glory in being stubborn and trying to do it on your own. There are colleagues, experts, and friends that can help in a multitude of ways, be it emotional or financial. Find those friends that believe in you and always keep fighting the good fight.

It takes a special kind of crazy to be an entrepreneur. Go be crazy!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

 My November column for the Kitsap Sun/Kitsap Business Journal.

Global Entrepreneurship Week Nov.13-17

November 10, 2017 Leave a comment

JackNext week is Global Entrepreneurship Week and that means I will be focusing my attention on helping entrepreneurs to grow and protect their businesses. Every day next week will feature something new regarding entrepreneurship on the blog and on my social media sites.

To follow me on social media:

Linked In

Twitter

You Tube

Facebook

I will also be featuring time-sensitive opportunities to take advantage of services to improve your business with special offers. Captain jack and I want to encourage you to make sure you check out these fantastic opportunities starting on Monday! You’ll be glad you did!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Customers or Clients?

October 19, 2017 2 comments

20 Under 40 20_3My October column for The Kitsap Business Journal/Kitsap Sun

Do you have customers or clients in your business?

This might seem to be a question without distinction. Some readers might think there is no difference between the two. I’d posit that there is a clear difference and that at the end of this column, you’d decide which of the two you want for your business.

We should start off by defining – according to me – the difference between the two. To be clear, one is not better than the other, so this isn’t a judgment. It’s simple defining two types of “buyers.”

A customer is someone that purchases from you without regard to whether there is a long-term relationship required. Professional skills, talents, and differentiation are rarely required for customers. You find customers at grocery stores, donut shops, fast food restaurants, clothing stores, and outlet malls. There might be some loyalty due to ease of access or habit. But overall, if a new product or service came around cheaper or easier, the customer will go elsewhere.

A client demands a relationship based on trust, respect as a peer, expertise, and knowledge. Client relationships are built around the ability to dramatically improve the condition or experience of someone, which results in the client’s loyalty and evangelization of the provider. You often find client relationships with doctors, attorneys, insurance brokers, real estate agents, and IT consultants. However, you can tell from my own personal life that I am a client for the following providers: my barber, my shoe shine guy, my dry cleaners, my regular coffee shop, and my grocery store. There are more but you get my point. The difference between a customer and a client is the level of importance that buyer places on the relationship. Anyone can be a customer, but not everyone can be a client.

Why do I make such a big deal of this? Simple. The more you work off a client based model – including the use of the word client – the more likely it will be that your client does three things: One, will continue to buy your regular products and services; Two, will utilize and become early initiators of new products and services; and Three, proactively send you referrals and become an evangelist for your work. While customers have no emotional attachment outside of price and ease, clients have a strong emotional bond to doing business with you.

Let’s consider two examples, one professional and one retail. Professional: Insurance is marketed in an obnoxious way. For the majority of commercials and national ad campaigns, humor and celebrities are used to entice people to shop with them. The reality is that insurance is vitally important to the ability of individuals and companies to financially survive a calamity. It’s no laughing matter. Customers of insurance companies care nothing about anything other than price. Clients of sophisticated and savvy insurance brokers worry more about losing their agent’s expertise and knowledge to help them overcome adversity than what the bottom line cost is. While price is always a consideration, the truest value is a person.

Second example: Retail: While I use a couple different grocery stores, I’m a customer for all except Central Market in Poulsbo. Why? Because when I go to Central Market, my experience is far better than anywhere else. I acknowledge that I may pay a little more, however I actually enjoy the experience of the store. The variety and diversity of foods, the ability to interact with experts in each of the departments, the smiling faces, and cleanliness of the store exceed what I experience elsewhere. They turned a normal customer experience into a client experience and in return they created an evangelist.

While customers certainly pay the bills, clients add value, wealth and profitable growth to your enterprise. It may sound easy to make this verbal switch, but it requires a mindset not only from you, but your employees. Let’s start with a simple 3-step process:

Step 1: Require that your entire organization refer to the people that fund your business as clients. Define what a client is, why they are so valuable, and how they should be treated. When clients are considered more than a customer, the attention to detail on how they are served changes. Try it and watch!

Step 2: Focus on outcomes, not methodology. Methodology is what you do (e.g. sell insurance and groceries). Outcome is the value clients receive (e.g. peace of mind and a positive experience). When you focus on outcomes, clients keep coming back in!

Step 3: Encourage referrals frequently. In professional services, this is more common. However, any business can utilize social media and other promotions to encourage word of mouth evangelism of you and your company.

BONUS: Thank clients early and often, not just at the time of the sale. There are many ways to express gratitude. Become creative based on your industry and services. The more creative and personal, the more your clients love you and will tell others about why you’re so great.

Bottom line: Every business can easily gain customers, but that is a fleeting and fickle romance. You want to create a long-lasting symbiotic relationship built on tremendous value and respect. So reduce the number of customers you have and increase clients. Your bottom line and your clients will thank you!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved

It’s Not About You Stupid!

July 14, 2017 Leave a comment

031A6785My July column for the Kitsap Business Journal (Kitsap Sun)

While cleaning out the spare room to make space for my wife’s new home office, I found a box full of old books and work from college. Why it’s still with me 34 years later is beyond me, but I’m glad it is.

I pulled out a notebook I was asked to journal in for a writing class in fall quarter of my freshman year at Skagit Valley College. I took a break and started reading through it. Of course my girlfriend I wrote of often was now my wife, who attended Skagit Valley with me. This made the discovery more personal. That evening, my daughter and son-in-law came over to celebrate Father’s Day weekend, so I showed her the journal. The rest of the evening was spent with laughter over my writing style, the contents, and a peek into my worldview as an 18-year-old!

Upon reflection, I realized that my writing indicated something that I’m sure is common with most American 18-year-old boys…a pretty healthy self-absorption. The focus of my writing was on me. While this might not sound overly insightful, I realized that my commentary on my professors, my school work, my friends, and even my soon to be wife was all about me. If I could go back on time and be given the chance to give myself advice, I’d probably begin with a slap on the back of the head with the exhortation, “It’s not about you, stupid!”

I think my maturation started with becoming a father and grew from there. The three-plus decades since September 1983 have provided experiences, challenges, and moments that shape perspective and wisdom. This tough love I’d give myself was likely attempted by my own father, but undoubtedly not listened to well! It’s amazing what life lessons teach us and how we eventually learn that we didn’t know it all.

CEOs, business owners, and business leaders, take notice… “It’s not about you, stupid!” You also don’t know it all.

Before you storm the castle with pitchforks and torches, hear me out. My experience is that business owners have a great passion for their work and great pride in their business. Over the course of years, it’s easy to become both provincial and myopic in the management and operations of the business. To be blunt, it’s easy to become self-absorbed.

Business owners that become overly concerned about their legacy, their community standing, and their personal profit start down the slippery slope often trod by teenage boys. It becomes easier to blame others for problems (e.g. the government, the employees, the customers). It becomes easier to think about profits before people. It becomes easier to isolate oneself, rather than “walking the shop floor” and engaging with people.

Fortune 500 companies CEOs are notorious for being unavailable and unaware of the company culture. Uber’s CEO just recently took a leave of absence (or rather was forced to by the board of directors) for his dreadful behavior. While Uber will likely rebound with some better decisions, small and medium sized businesses (SMBs) cannot afford that luxury of time. If you are in charge of your organization – or have direct reports and influence – then you need to slap yourself upside your head on occasion to remind yourself that the business is not about you, even if it is your name on the shingle. The business is always about the people.

Let’s define “people.” For this column, I define people as your employees and your customers and clients.

Your employees: Without them, your business wouldn’t operate. Never consider that just because you’re providing a paycheck that any additional effort to support and encourage them isn’t needed. The biggest mistake SMB owners make is putting an emphasis on profit over people. The reality is that if you put the effort on people, your profit will exponentially improve as a result. It’s not the other way around. The genuine care about the well being of your human “assets” goes a long way to building a strong culture where they care as much as you do about the business’s success.

Your customers and clients: Your business serves some higher good. You’re offering value and the improvement of the condition of someone else. If you weren’t, you’d not still be in business! I sometimes hear or read about business owners complain about customer demands and administrative burden. It’s often easy to get seduced by the sexiness of bringing in new clients and forget hat you have “at home.” Those customers and clients are potential evangelists that will shout your name to the rooftop and refer you business. They will only do this if they feel like you still care. Do you?

There’s a difference between self-absorption and self-confidence. Self-absorption left unchecked becomes isolation with consequences like poor employee morale and loss of clients. Self-confidence breeds positivity in brand and service leading to collaboration and engagement. If you occasionally find yourself slipping into an 18 year brain, slap yourself upside the head and remind yourself, “It’s not about you, stupid!” You and your company will be better of for it!

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All rights reserved

Creating a Culture of Mission & Vision

June 28, 2017 Leave a comment

I was thrilled to recently share the stage with my client, Kendra Fournier to discuss the incredibly important topic of building culture in the workplace. This program was held for the South Puget Sound Small Business Summit in Tacoma. Thanks to Paul Long from Timberland Bank for inviting us to speak.

It’s 37 minutes long, but well worth your time investment. If you’d like to learn more about how I help company’s boost their performance and employee morale, call me!

© 2017 Toro Consulting. All Rights Reserved

A Little Privacy Please…

May 17, 2017 Leave a comment

He is ready to fight for success

A Little Privacy, Please…
How to guard and protect yourself and your company from cyber crimes

As a first world society, I’m afraid we are becoming numb to calamity around us. Once upon a time, a global cyber security breach would have been the main news story for several weeks. The major attack that happened last week that impacted countless businesses around the world is now largely forgotten as we did into the FBI, the White House, and Russia.

We live in a growing less secretive world. The ability for a criminal with some technology skills to “break into” a small or medium-sized company and steal information is alarmingly easy. We all lock our doors at night to keep the bad guys out. The problem is that the bad guys don’t need to pick your lock; they just need to figure out your password and then they can steal information, money, and profits.

I will be brief today, but that doesn’t lessen the severity of this threat to your company and employees (including you and your family). Here are three steps you should take right now to help prevent and mitigate this risk:

  1. Create (or review and revise) a written cyber security plan for your company. I don’t care if you are a company of five or 500, you use the Internet and you need to protect yourself. Just like unprotected sex leads to bad consequences, unprotected systems could result in more serous viruses (see link to article below).
  2. Form a team. Being a lone wolf doesn’t work because you can’t possibly know everything. You need an IT expert, a risk specialist, and key employees in your company to build a strong fortification. It also supports accountability and implementation.
  3. Read this article in the Harvard Business Review written by Luke Bencie. A colleague of mine shared it on Facebook yesterday and it’s excellent. You and your employees are probably violating a lot of his suggestions. I know I am and that will start changing. Are you ready to change to match the new risk to your business?

Bottom line: This isn’t 1977 any longer. Your most valuable assets and information are no longer stored in a safe in your locked business. They live in a cloud that can be accessed by people with skills and bad intent. It’s time to re-awaken to what your most concerning risks are and do what you can to ferociously guard them.

I’m an expert in resilience, risk management, and crisis planning. I have a proprietary scorecard to assess where you are today when it comes to protecting your most important assets and your bottom line.

If these are important to you, then call and let’s talk. Call me at 360-271-1592 to schedule a meeting.

_________________________________________________________________________

WHAT’S NEW…my Private Brokerage Client program.

I’ve expanded my consulting practice to include the ability to place insurance coverage for clients. Through my affiliation and partnership with First Underwriters, I now can not only help you control your risk exposures, but finance them in a way that ferociously protects your profits.

My business model is different for two reasons. First, clients gain access to certain intellectual property and resources that before were only available to consulting clients. These resources will help clients save time, money, and frustration on their entire risk portfolio. Second, the program has a capacity limit. In order to offer this full-service, concierge style approach, I will limit the number of Private Brokerage Clients I will take on. Just since starting about 45 days ago, I’ve added five new clients.

If you’d like to learn more about how I can help you ferociously protect your profits and lifestyle, call me to see how this program might look for you.

WEBSITE

In Plain Sight Behind Closed Doors

January 17, 2017 Leave a comment

Dan Weedin Unleashed-40On Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers defeated the Kansas City Chief in an exciting National Football League playoff game, sending them to the AFC Championship match up against the New England Patriots. After the game, Head Coach Mike Tomlin gave a rousing speech to his team; full of praise for their efforts and encouraging them to now move on and pull off the upset of the favored Patriots team the next week.

Coach Tomlin’s inspired words included a few expletives and exhortations that are normal in post-game locker rooms at any level of play. They are normally expressed behind closed doors and private. That’s what Coach Tomlin thought they were. Turns out that star player Antonio Brown was off to the side of the locker room recording everything on the moment on Facebook LIVE for the world to see.

Aside from the fact that it’s a violation of both team and NFL rules, there are huge issues here that pertain to your business.

  1. There was a well-communicated rule about the privacy of the locker room. What’s said within the walls (before the press is allowed in) was for those players and coaches. Brown blatantly and selfishly violated that rule using a live stream social media platform. What rules do you have about privacy in your company? What rules apply to the sharing of: employee compensation, bonuses, disciplinary actions, intellectual property, proprietary information, client and prospect lists, technology, and other “classified” materials? How do you know your “locker room” is safe?
  2. If you’ve seen the stream (now playing at your local Internet), you see Brown is around the corner from the coach and other players. He’s not listening or being part of the team. He’s more concerned about preening in front of the camera for 18 minutes (45 seconds of Tomlin’s speech included). While your employee meetings may not use the same format, how many of your employees are listening when you speak? Ever see any vacant eyes, distracted stares, peeking at text messages and email under the desk? 
  3. Antonio Brown is one of the star players. From all I’ve heard, he’s a hard worker and good teammate. He got caught up in the moment, thought of himself first, and then willingly broke rules. How many of your best and brightest employees are capable of bad behavior that could damage your company in some way? Don’t say “none.” I’ve had a situation where a client’s bookkeepers stole tens of thousands of dollars from under his nose over the course of several years before getting caught. Smart and successful business owner (just as Tomlin is a smart and successful coach) who placed trust in someone.

Here’s today’s takeaways:

  1. Don’t get caught being looking behind every rock for an employee behaving badly. The majority are doing the right things for you. However, being consistent in your message about what is expected and required is critical; even if you think you’ve got it under control.
  2. Your private company conversations, resources, information, etc. are all more at risk than ever. Cyber issues – whether it be crime or just social media – can put your company and your reputation at risk. You need to have a plan.
  3. Develop strong leaders to police yourselves. Give them autonomy to be your eyes and ears.

For most small and mid-size companies, these actions rarely get taken due to time and energy constraints. This is an investment of your time, energy, and money. In order to avoid both your “dirty and clean laundry” from being exposed to the world (and your clients), then you need to create a resiliency plan. Doing this will keep you from yelling expletives in the privacy of your office!

Need help creating a resiliency plan to prevent and mitigate crisis, and protect your reputation and profits? Contact me at (360) 271-1592 or dan@danweedin.com and let’s talk.

 

© 2017 Toro Consulting, Inc. All Rights Reserved