Entrepreneurial News®

So, You Want to Be An Entrepreneur?

There is quite an interesting article in this month’s INC magazine entitled ‘Out the Other Side’ about the struggles some entrepreneurs have had in their entrepreneurial journey with depression and feelings of failure, resulting in bad decisions. But they came out the other side, which is the point.

Everyone who has ever started or run a business has experienced feelings like this….I have, and several of my clients have. It’s one of the reasons I do Solutions Forum.

As far as I know, none of them has ever taken our Entrepreneurial Questionnaire, which we’re going to put in this blog, before year end to get all you people who are thinking about taking the plunge some insight.

One of the things that I noticed is that the people seemed to suffer in silence, not getting help from anyone.

Another thing I noticed is that not many of them did any market research before starting the business, which seems to have caused some problems, mostly anxiety at having possibly made a wrong decision. A couple pivoted after launch when they discovered that a certain segment was doing better, and then they did do some market research as to why a segment was doing better.

The bottom line, kids, is if you’re struggling, we’re just a group meeting or a Zoom call or even a Facetime away.

Stop Those Annoying Meetings

Since we’re all back at some form of work (in office, remote, or a combination of the two), meetings are back.

Notice that I didn’t say ‘in style’. They’re not.

One of our clients, PADT in Tempe, run by Eric Miller, wrote a good article published by the Phoenix Business Journal, entitled ‘A Word About Those Annoying Questions’. Eric runs a civil engineering firm, staffed with a bunch of engineers, who have all sorts of ideas on how a particular project should be run or a client should be handled, so he’s used to annoying meetings.

What makes the meetings annoying is that some staffers, in Eric’s opinion, and we think he’s right, delight in asking annoying ‘challenge’ questions of whoever’s running the meeting, or even some other meeting participants.

Discussion is good, but only to a point. And the annoying questions may not have anything to do with the subject. Since all Eric’s staff is probably highly paid and he doesn’t want unhappy employees and wants to foster creativity, he probably tolerates annoying questions in meetings.

In fact, about halfway through his article, Eric admits that challenge questions, which might be initially annoying, aren’t really that bad and usually lead to better solutions.

So, bottom line, don’t worry about whether a meeting was annoying. So your ego got a dent and a bruise. Did you get to a better solution?

Are You a Socially Responsible Business?

Scattered through the text of this book are references to a ‘socially responsible business’, so here’s a section dedicated to the term.

It also arises from doing a projected entrepreneurship curriculum for my college, Antioch, which emphasizes doing things in a socially responsible manner.

In my experience, most business owners start businesses for socially responsible reasons, such as providing gainful employment to themselves, and others, but they don’t think of themselves as socially responsible.

I did a survey of my approximately 20 Solutions Forum and Profit Growth Acceleration clients and they didn’t think of themselves as socially responsible, but they do operate in a socially responsible manner. (Otherwise they might not be clients)

Being socially responsible means openess in how you operate your business, and running it in a manner that benefits society. Benefitting society means making positive changes that benefit society while benefitting stakeholders and making a profit.

Being socially responsible is characterized as being open about all facets of running your business. Some examples of business practices that are considered socially responsible are:

  1. Opening your financial statements to your employees (you might wish to have them sign a non disclosure when you do, to prevent financial data being disclosed to competitors and the government without your permission).
  2. Being open and honest in hiring your employees.
  3. Being open an honest in your employment practices, usually through an employment manual, to which employees can contribute.
  4. Honest and forthright employee evaluations at reasonable intervals, such as quarterly, and allowing employees to make a commentary on the evaluation, and have them sign the evaluation.
  5. Allowing your employees to contribute suggestions on how the company is run, its leadership, and any other topic they wish. Such suggestions should be acknowleged, and a course of action designed to either implement or ignore the suggestion. If the suggestion is going to be ignored, management should say why.
  6. Regular feedback and interchanges with employees, such as on Friday afternoons. As a company grows, this feedback process might have to go through departments, and might have to be staggered so that customers are taken care of.

The qualification and quantification of being socially responsible is a relatively new phenomenom, and one that arouses a great deal of comment, so we expect our fair share of readers will let us know what they think of the practice and how their business practices being socially responsible.

57 Million Credit Card Machines Likely Compromised

Anders Coor reports in The Epoch Times that Chinese manufactured credit card machines are sending data back to China.

We don’t know what data, but presumably it’s your credit or debit card information that was entered in one of the Chinese made point of sale (POS) machines.

These are the machines that your credit/debit payment processor gave you for free in return for processing all your payments through them.

The US Treasury Department in charge of these payments reports that China bound payment transactions are larger and more frequent that one might expect from normal payment transactions.

PAX Global is apparently one of the Chinese manufacturers of the payment machines, and it has had its sole US office raided by the US Treasury and machines seized. No word on where the manufacturer placed its systems, or any banks that might be using its systems.

Florida- based FIS Worldpay, a payments processor, was forced to replace its PAX Global machines with machines from US and French manufacturers (Corr doesn’t name them).

The big US based processor of credit card payments, Square, was not mentioned in the article.

No big bank payments processors, such as Chase and Wells Fargo, were mentioned in the article.

Other China-based companies, such as Zoom and TikTok, as well as cellphone users, may also have data hacking vulnerabilities. In addition, Zoom has been found to be sending unauthorized data to Meta (the former Facebook).

As of late September, Zoom software allowed remote code execution, that is possible hacking of Zoom users over the internet. Zoom has reportedly fixed the vulnerability, so if you’re using Zoom, make sure you’re using the latest version.

TikTok is reportedly worse than Zoom on security, but we are not aware than any US companies are using it for payment processing. Their employees, yes. We would recommend that employers share this post with employees.

90 percent of computers and 70% of cellphones are manufactured in China and are therefore subject to this hacking risk. We haven’t recommended that one use cellphones or computers for payments online (this latest problem is just the latest reason why), but we know that most people do use such devices for online payments. We would guess that using US or French made computers with US or French chips in them, would minimize one’s risk.

Corrs says, and rightly so, that we need laws and executive orders that mandate for a secure tech environment, but good luck getting those out of the Biden administration, given its coziness with China.

Just the latest reason not to trust the Chinese.

 

Why Should Anyone be Led By You?

The title of this post comes from a series of lectures that I and another Navy Captain, Fred Reis, did under the aegis of the Chief of Naval Operations, ADM Frank Kelso.

I was called in by Sen. John McCain’s office, who knew me and my civilian company leadership record, and wanted the two of us to try leadership theories on Navy Captains, many of whom had not evolved their leadership styles since the era of wooden ships and iron men (and proudly in some cases so stated to us).

Fred and I ultimately published a book called ‘Leadership Secrets’, and about 4,000 copies went out to all Commanding Officers in the Navy as well as many middle managers who the Navy thought had potential. It took us three two week tours, plus some admin support, to get it done, but ADM Kelso finally blessed the product and issued a CNO order implementing it.

In addition, we did a one week course for those who wanted more leadership training (including a few hardcore yellers and screamers) who got put in our leadership course, or who faced being cashiered from the Navy.

How these secrets apply to you, as a company owner, is that somewhere around 10 employees, folks might question your leadership qualities and ability, and the ability to demonstrate both is critical to your company going further.

In all honesty, you might decide at 10 employees that’s as large as you want to get, and your golf game needs more attention than your sales curve. Fair enough; I encounter people like you all the time. My Dad, who had started the Heinrich Company, was like this; he’d worked hard since he was 12 or so, and his company provided him and my mother a very nice lifestyle.

But, many owners want to do better by their employees, give them a vision and a career if they chose it.

For starters, you don’t have to keep all your employees happy all the time, but you do need to  listen to them.

If you listen rather than just issuing edicts, and your employees have the feeling that they’re being listened to, you’ll have happier employees, ones that stick around. It doesn’t make any difference if it’s the lowliest warehouse guy or gal, or the production line guy or gal, or your business partner, you should listen.

I often think, in retrospect, that I exercised my 51% ownership of the Heinrich Company too often, and probably had more employee turnover and poorer decisions as a result. We still achieved 25% compound growth rates, and nearly outstripped our financial resources, but we might have done better by listening more.

There are several leadership styles that you can use, such as the command and control (the old Navy model) where everything is written down in orders, to a more modern coaching style of leadership where decisions are reached by consensus.

Personally, I discovered that the command and control Navy way didn’t always work when I was a plane captain of a surveillance plane flying around over Viet Cong strongholds; There were a couple of times when the crew asked to talk over a decision and, after realizing that we had time to discuss it, we did.  And a couple of those people turned up in my commands years later when they found out I was leading a Navy Reserve unit.

You’ve got more time to make a decision on something than you realize. So, take some time. Look for opinions. Wander around on the production line or warehouse floor. Even Alan Mulally, the retired CEO of Ford, used to wander around the Ford production lines. And he was very well thought of by Ford’s rank and file. And he popped up at the Phoenix intro of the Ford Fusion, just talking to the inviteds, no big hoohaa.

Jim Farley, Ford’s current CEO, is much different. For openers, he’s a product guy, having come up through Lexus and Lincoln. But he also turned around Ford of Europe, so he’s got operational chops (no pun intended). And he races Fords of all kinds, which is really different. Farley driving the wheels off a Ford Mach E on the Dearborn test track is a sight. Another sight is Farley asking the Twitteratti of their opinion of a Mach E door handle.

But, both Mullaly and Farley share a common trait: they both work from consensus, although Farley showed a willingness to make major personnel cuts at Ford of Europe while revving up the product side.  Mullaly created the ‘One Ford’ vision to unite the warring units within Ford, which was a major leadership accomplishment, and I know heads rolled over that vision.

Farley and Mullaly also demonstrate a couple of other leadership tenets: leadership is doing the right things  while management is executing on the vision of right things.

We recommend the consensus form of leadership, as long as there’s time to build a consensus. In business, there usually is time, despite one of your sales reps yelling that you should have made a decision on ‘x’ yesterday.

As you become more confident as a leader, you’ll take the time you need to build your consensus and get the buy-in that you need to have successful decision, not just one made on the fly that no one is happy about.

When you have to make a decision, make it. As my wife would say, ‘Don’t sit on the pasture post’.

The key think once you make the decision is execution. You and your team need to execute, and be alert for signs of problems with the decision as you go along.

You might find that there’s a better decision, based on more complete information to be made down the road. Or, you might find that you were just flat wrong in the decision you made.

Don’t waste time agonizing about bad decisions, either. If a decision appears to be incorrect to you, talk to your team and find out what could be better. Don’t be hesitant to admit you were wrong.

You might be right, you might be wrong, but don’t be indecisive.

Lead, follow or get out of the way.

 

 

Who’s on the Bus?

With a little digression into vaccines, which relate to this personnel blog, which will be about what people you need going forward, and some (we hope) good tips on how to find and recruit good people.

If you are growing (and you might decide you want a lifestyle job, so you make enough money to support the lifestyle you want), you will need to hire people.

These people might not do the jobs you formerly did as well as you did them, but having them on board frees you to do other things that are seemingly more important. If you’re doing a lifestyle business, then you might continue doing what you’re doing and be perfectly content.

A convenient way to look at what employees you might have to add is what they’re going do do, how much revenue they can generate (not just in sales, but in even allowing you to do things that are more meaningful to the firm, versus how much the employee is going to cost in terms of pay and benefits. The revenue/cost figure is presumably positive, otherwise, why hire the person?

To give you an example, a client we have decided recently to hire a new person. Their financial calculus was that the person would cost about $50,000 per year in pay and benefits, but the two founders could, through more sales and higher end sales, create another $90,000 in revenue. So, the revenue/cost calculus is $40,000. Now, nine months later, they are about to add another laser cutter and hire another production operator. The calculus is a little different, because the total expenses are $82,000, so the short term benefit is only $8,000, but there is the future benefit of another $40,000. At some point, demand might slow down or the people might be more expensive, but as long as their is a positive profit generator, employees should be added.

It should be noted that, at some point, the $40,000 calculus per employee might be reduced somewhat because a supervisory person has to be hired to look after the operation. This should have a positive return too, because he/she further frees the owners to make more revenue.

We are presuming that you have the financing to hire more people and buy/lease more equipment, but if you don’t you’ll have to subtract financing from your overall cash positive.

And you do a Solutions Forum meeting, either face to face or via Zoom every two months or so to iron out any problems that have arisen, such as maybe not making the best hire and whether to cut said underperformer loose. (The answer is that as long as his/her cash contribution is positive, you keep him her around and look for another, better person and refine your hiring parameters.

When you make the decision to hire, don’t expect to put the ad in indeed.com on Thursday and have someone report bright and bushy tailed for interviews on Friday and work on Monday.

When they show up, you first put them through a DISC test (available on the internet) to find out if they have the ability mentally and emotionally. You might also run them through practical tests, such as running the laser cutter, to see how they do, while making allowances that they should get better by ‘x’ after they start.

All told, if you fire any employee, it will cost you about $15,000 to hire a new person, in terms of training, possibility of firing and management time in getting the person up to speed.

In the present high demand labor conditions, your positive revenue contribution of a new employee might be reduced from where you would like it, but it should still be positive. Don’t be hiring just to be hiring unless you have a burning desire to walk around your plant and see a bunch of smiling (you hope) faces.

KPI’s

Somewhere around five employees, with one or two people in every job function, you can develop KPI’s, or ‘Key Process Indicators’ of what a good employee is and does. Things like attitude, dependability, independent working, creativity and the like could be measured. KPI’s might be different for each positions. You can weight each of the KPI’s in terms of traits you’d most like to see.

And yes, in the current climate, you should use diversity as one of your KPIs. How much weight you give it is up to you, but it does need to be explicitly incorporated.

ARE THE PEOPLE IN THE RIGHT SEATS ON THE BUS?

Again, as you grow, you might find that various people want to do different things from what they were hired for. That’s fine, because personnel satisfaction is key to your success, and not only because personnel might be 30-70% of your total costs.

You have to interview the person and find out why they want to do the new job, and what positive contribution they can make financially that they’re not now making. Yes, you have to be fairly ruthless about it, unless you’ve decided that you’re really running a social welfare agency. You have to make the employee realize that the new job they want may or may not work out, and what the financial consequences of each alternative on their future might be. No sugar coating.

You might also find that a person wants to ‘downshift’ in their corporate career, and take on a job that’s more personally meaningful to them at the time in their life where they are or expect to be going. For example, one of my clients sold his highly successful business because he wanted to focus more on his world class photography, after doing his business for some 30 years. So, he sold a majority of his business to his two sons, who are running it quite well, and he’s photographing things all over the world. One of your employees might want to work less hours for you and more hours for his/her favorite non-profit. That’s fine, too….a greater social good has been achieved.

PERSONNEL RECORDS

OK, no one likes to do or keep them, but it’s a fact of life these days that you’ve got to record all  interactions with your people, because there might be controversy brewing somewhere down the road.

There might be trips to the labor commission to resolve fired personnel grievances, or there might be disputes among people or yourself as to who said and did what to whom. ALL interactions involving personnel should be documented, and the person should sign off on the documentation so they can’t later come back and deny they said or did what they did.

Or, you and a person might come to a parting of the ways. We advocate trying to work things out, but sometimes things don’t work out, and a termination is best for all. Acknowlege the mistake, learn from it and move on. But document that the person is being terminated and why, and have the person sign it, so there’s no misunderstanding.

PERFORMANCE REVIEWS

No one much liikes performance reviews, but, in our experience, if they’re handled with sensitivity and objectively (no harsh words), they can actually be enhancing. People find out what they’re doing right, and what they could be doing better, especially in relation to the job they were hired to do.

Everyone deserves to know how they’re doing, and as objectively evaluated as possible. If you’re using KPI’s, as we recommend, the performance review becomes somewhat more routine and more objective, because you’re rating your people against the ideal, whatever that is.

How frequent should personnel be evaluated? It depends on a variety of factors: complexity of job, time on the job, and time to do a review (there are times you just can’t do a review when one is due, but don’t defer it forever) Point out to the employee that you can’t do it right now, and you’ll reschedule it for next Thursday. Reviewer and reviewee should both be comfortable and relaxed when the review is done.

We think quarterly reviews are about right.

Again, employee and employer should both sign the review. If one of your supervisors is doing the review, they sign it. After all, your supervisor is evaluated by his/her superior, and so it goes up the line.

The CEO, by the way, gets evaluated by his Board of Directors, in case some of your more inquiring personnel want to know. Partners should evaluate each other, too, again in a friendly setting, such as and offsite lunch or dinner. Coupling the evaluations with goals for the next reporting period is a good practice that we’ve used and coached.

TURNOVER

That some of your employees will leave is a fact of life. More money, better job, downsizing, the reasons are diverse. Don’t be shocked, but do interview the ones who left to let them know that you valued their contribution (assuming that you did) and wishing them well. Sometimes they will come back after the new opportunity didn’t work out, and all should be forgiven and a personal growth moment should ensue.

There is no ‘right’ turnover number. For stable organizations, it’s probably about 10%.

In high growth situations, it can be higher, because of the demands that will be placed on people; but then again, if you did your initial hiring ratings correctly, there shouldn’t be many surprises. One of my clients just had about 8% of his workforce quit in one week, all of whom are going to a competitor, and all for financial reasons, so he’s got some rethinking of his compensation plans to do.

When I took over my family business, my first year turnover was about 75%, but it was mostly because of moving from a relatively slow growth, almost paternalistic culture to a high perforumance culture. We tried to forster a sense of family, but we didn’t let family get in the way of hitting the numbers. We could do both, because by the end of the first year of my seven as President, we had most of the right people on the bus.

And, having the right people on the bus makes your job a lot easier.

More on Vaccines and the Mandates

Yesterday, a Federal judge reportedly outlawed vaccine mandates as unconstitutional under the first amendment.

We are not surprised.

Not only is it a constitutional violation, it’s certainly a violation of free will, when there’s no clear national emergency posed by COVID 19 or any of the variants.

COVID 19 and the variants are still one percent problems, meaning that 99% of the population is penalized because 1% of the population doesn’t want to get one of the vaccines, with no clear reason for not getting vaxed.

Sometimes, karma strikes in odd ways, such as Aaron Rogers, the quarterback of the Green Bay Packers professional football team, contracting COVID after he was ‘immunized’ with some unknown substance.

As a result, his team loses, might not make the football playoffs and his reputation as a spokesperson is probably damaged. Great thinking, Aaron.

As we’ve said publicly, in our @solutionsforum Twitter account, if you are a public figure, you should get vaxed. Be a good role model and spokesperson.

Since Rogers took some sort of alternative treatment and got COVID, he could perform a public service by saying what he took (assuming it was legal) and don’t do what he did.

Now, since he has COVID 19, he has the opportunity to try alternative treatments, such as Ivermectin, to see if they lessen his symptoms.

Reporting about what happens would be a public service, and might alleviate some the damage his reputation has taken.

Get under center and make the call, Aaron. Take some personal responsibility.

 

 

 

What About Vaccine Mandates?

We’ve been keeping our clients up to date on how the vaccine mandates might affect their workforce.

I’ll confess that we’re in a unique situation in Arizona, since our Governor is publicly said ‘no’ to mask mandates of any kind and we’ve had practically no deaths from COVID in months. And our state Attorney General is suing the Biden adminstration over mask mandates as being illegal, along with, I think, 16 other states.

But, we know we have readers outside Arizona whose governors aren’t as forward thinking as ours, or Texas, or Florida. We’re next door to California, and one of my licensees of Solutions Forum is in California.

He’s masking at entry, asking everyone if they’ve been vaccinated and then doing his groups unmasked in restaurants that are open. And he thinks it’s going to be awhile before the COVID cops get to him, since he operates under an associated name in Northern San Diego County.

This is one way to handle your employees and the need to be vaccinated.

Personally, we think it’s good, socially responsible policy to encourage your employees to take the jab. But they may have reasons they don’t such as antibodies, religiious or moral objections.

If it’s a moral ojection, you as the owner will have to insist, for the good of the rest of the team, that everyone be vaccinated, or have a medical doctor’s note of exemption.

You may want to start with a company-wide meeting on the subject, but make sure that those with moral objections don’t take over the meeting, and you don’t get too preachy.

You might want to deal with the moral objections offline, depending on how disruptive you think said person could be or has been. Update your folks with the latest info, such as the fact that the mask mandates may not even apply, because it’s not clear whether firms with less than 100 employees even have to comply (The average small business is about four people). Enforcement is apparently going to come through Occupational, Safety and Health Administration (OHSA), so counsel your phone answerers to be alert to anyone calling from this agency to speak to your ‘owner’ whose name he or she might have.

If you do get a call from OHSA, or, say,  the  California equivalent, refer it to your owner, even if he or she isn’t there when the call is taken. Your owner will use probing questions for find out if the call is real (scammers could be about).

If the call is real, you might want to refer it to your lawyer, since the manadatory-ness of the vaccines is probably illegal under what the Fed guidelines are, and the US Constitution, and there’s a question of whether states have the right to decide vax policy at all. However, the vaxers might not be dissuaded, so let a lawyer handle it.

That’s about all the guidance we have at the moment.

 

 

You’re Launched: Now What?

At this point, you’ve launched and you’re either profitable, or you have a plan to become profitable.

If you’re working on a plan to become profitable, you have to first make sure that you have enough money to last until you become cash flow positive.

For example, when a partner and I took over a restaurant from one of my clients because he’d run out of money, we had done a plan that would get him from where he was to profitability in about a year. However, the plan required about $150,000 of additional capital which, it turned out, he didn’t have. I and a partner did.

So, we assumed the lease staffed it the way that we thought it should be, and kept going. And, we lost about $150,000 before we became cash flow positive. But, we largely stayed on plan.

We had to redo our promotion plan, because we discovered that, with a tough location and a cuisine no one had heard of (Modern American) we had to really promote by word of mouth. However, our patrons loved us, and a couple of influential magazines loved us, so slowly traffic picked up.

We also discovered that our patrons thought of us as a supper club which was a concept that no restaurant in Maricopa county was doing, but we have a lot of Midwestern and Eastern transplants, it was a matter of getting the word to them. We did all sorts of promotions to get patrons in the door, because we knew once we did, that there was about a 75% chance that they’d return. And we really listened to what the patrons were saying, because we discovered that word of mouth really worked. Eventually we got word of mouth up to about 95%.

So, we sort of pivoted.

Seldom does your original plan go as planned.

So, you have to consider changing what you’re doing to some extent. Your customers will tell you what they think is good and not so good about what you’re doing.

Your employees will also tell you what could be done better, because they’re on the front lines, making product, serving customers, etc.

I have done in several businesses, and have urged my clients to do, listening sessions, which might be on Friday afternoon after the trucks have been loaded, or they might be on Sunday afternoon in your restaurant before you open for Sunday evening.

WHY SHOULD ANYONE BE LED BY YOU?

One of the things you discover in growing a business is how good a leader you are or aren’t.

You have to communicate your vision of where your business is going, and be prepared to take (hopefully) constructive criticism about what could be done better.

I and my business partners have always liked the concept of ‘management by walking around’ which was popularized by a management consultant named Tom Peters in the 1990s.

You can wander around your shop or warehouse floor, or your front counter, or, as I did on many nights, sit out in front of our restaurant and talk to passersby. It was a rather hokey, but very effective, tactic. It was so effective that a couple of our neighboring restaurants complained (there were four of us in a row, all different styles of food).

The tactic you might use is just taking orders from your customers for an afternoon a week. Or go to industry trade shows.

I wasn’t particularly good at running a business (you can find key people for that), but I have been very good at leading others to run segments of the business, figuring out market niches and how to exploit them.

HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT US?

This is a rather corny old practice, but it works, particularly for business-to-business companies.

This phrase is good because all of your people who are interacting with customers should be writing down on customer records how each customer heard about you, so you can determine  which of your promotional methods work.

Somewhere in your startup phase you should have put in a budget for promotion, which includes sales, magazines, coupons, whatever you had in your original plan.

Let’s assume that you planned for 10% of your sales to be spent on promotion of various types. You can measure the return on each promotion method by figuring out how much was spent and how many customers in produced. You should have positive results for all promotion vehicles, but some will be better than others, and gradually you’ll winnow out the less productive methods.

I’m always amazed at how many promotional sales people don’t have that information available.

Regardless of whether you’re business is retail or wholesale, these practices apply. I’ve used them in six different businesses and one civic organization, and they work.

ARE ALL CUSTOMERS GOOD CUSTOMERS?

In your startup phase, possibly.

However, as you grow, you will discover that some customers are literally more trouble than they’re worth.

Given the state of computer systems, and data mining, you can figure out how you’re doing on each customer.

If you have customer profiles on everyone, the challenge becomes how to weed out, say, the least profitable 10%. In our restaurant, after we became pretty strong in our execution, and our word of mouth was strong, our waitstaff would politely put a handwritten note in the check; I would back them in their decisions (this only happened a few times in three years).

If you are in a business to business situation, I’ve trained some of my clients’ counter people to put people on hold and then raise prices a little on them. If they complain, counter people can even suggest the competition as in ‘that’s the best we can do’. If you’re quoting for business, various prices will work.

You are not normally going ‘loose money on every item produced and make it up on volume’ (a famous aphorism that came out of a large automaker), although you might for a while getting to breakeven and positive cash flow.

People in Your Startup

The popular image of the startup entrepreneur is Jobs, Gates or the HP guys slaving away in their garage, or back bedroom,  lone wolfs, trying to get their businesses off the ground. They don’t hire people until the business is off the ground.

The reality today is  different. Startups write business plans, raise money and hire people in various disciplines to do functions like marketing and sales, finance and production.

Odds are you’ve worked with the people you’re launching with. And, presumably you’ve got non disclosures in place for all of them, once they have agreed to their compensation package.

You should strive for diversity, but more important, you want the best people you can find for the price you can pay. COVID status can be one of the screens when you’re interviewing people, but that’s about all it should be. The same with Critical Race Theory but, this topic should be avoided,  because it’s so highly charged politically, and you don’t make politics intruding into the workplace.

You do want your people to be socially responsible, which means in this context that they be proud of the company they work for, and your company not engage in socially irresponsible behavior, such as insider trading or overt or covert theft of competitive secrets.

As one of my clients once said, could you discuss your business idea in a cocktail party?

All the employees should be of good character, too, so they don’t engage in socially iresponsible acts, such as sexual harassments. You don’t need a lawsuit to sink your company as it’s getting started, or cost you dearly in legal fees.

Winnowing out bad behaviors, even in your startup, means that you should test your employees for these behaviors, and for Key Personnel Indicators (KPI) which cover teamwork, creativity and various other attributes.

Also, in the COVID era, where more people are working remotely, and probably will for some time yet, you need to test for independence. One of my clients now has 1/3 working from home, 1/3 working from an office, and 1/3 who go back and forth. This seems like a sensible model you can use.

You as the founder need to look inward, too, to ensure that you’re the leader that the company needs. I’ve worked for more than one startup where the founder wasn’t the best person to work for; the marketing positioning was generally sound, but the founder was just difficult to work for. You want to engender loyalty and trust, so you must have those attributes.

One of the areas that is frequently neglected in a startup among people is sales. Your salespeople, or persons should be able to sell effectively and ethically, and should be graduates of one of the sales academies, such as Sandler or Brian Tracy. They should have a proven record of closing deals, too (this is a trait that is often overlooked in sales)….it should be in excess of 25%..

If you have your product or service positioning right, and your promotion is right, sales ought to be relatively easy. You should have an idea of what your sales cycle (the time from sale to money collection looks like so you have enough money to fund sales.

We should also discuss how much space you will need. You will pay a premium if you lease a small space in, say, and Executive Center, but you don’t have much downside risk.

You should allow yourself growing room, but how much may take an educated guess. Your people should be able to help: when I entered manufacturing with one of my companies, I had no clue now much space I needed, but my production manager (and future business partner) did.

We always made sure that we leased from firms that had lots of different properties, because we regularly underestimated how much we would grow. Try to ensure that your lease has options to renew, and relocate. We moved twice in seven years, despite having allowed for growth (we thought) in each of our spaces.

If you need to raise money, you should base how much you need to raise on your worst case business plan (we have advocated doing a best case, a worst case, the odds of each happening, and that becomes the business plans and goals). But use the worst case to raise money, because you never know what might happen. It’s better to have too much money than too little.

As an example when we started the American School of Entrepreneurship, we did so using standard university classrooms we rented from University of Phoenix. It became apparent, with the advent of online delivery methods, that we could actually record the classes and the PowerPoint presentations, put them on a website and there was an international market awaiting. Home run for about three years, until Harvard, Stanford, Penn and Coursera caught on and ran over us.

We recovered our investment, but the change to online needed more capital. We are still discussing how we’re going to reinvent the School; all I will say is that it comes down to people.

So, in reading the last three posts to Entrepreneurial News, you’ve got everything you need to start a business!