Can you believe it’s already March? Where did the first two months of the year go? Are you on schedule to reach your goals for 2012? Or are you feeling frustrated because this was supposed to be the year you grew your business but you’re already off track because of time constraints, lack of confidence or overwhelm?
If you’re like many aspiring entrepreneurs, you have a BIG dream and good intentions but just can’t seem to make it happen. And it’s killing you because you want so badly to do your own thing but you don’t have the support or anyone to go to for advice or resources.
You could hire a coach but what you really NEED is a circle of entrepreneurial friends to bounce ideas off of. Do you wish you had someone to confirm that yes, you do have a viable concept? Friends who share the journey with you.
Like most of us, you probably don’t have people in your daily life who understand the way your ideas tug at your heart and beg for attention. Your friends and family want to protect you from what they imagine is the risk of going out on your own. They want you to stay in what they perceive as a secure job that puts food on the table even if it’s sucking your soul dry. Those who love you may even discourage you from following your own path because they want to “protect you” from something they just don’t understand.
It’s easy to lose momentum when you don’t have anyone to be accountable to. Dreams wither in isolation and if you share them with the wrong people, the seeds are squashed before they’ve had a chance to take root.
That’s why I love mastermind groups. Being part of an entrepreneurs mastermind is like having an advisory board for your business and a support group for your dreams. In his book “Think and Grow Rich”, author Napoleon Hill defined the mastermind as a “coordination of knowledge and effort, in a spirit of harmony, between two or more people, for the attainment of a definite purpose.” My experience has been that while having one other person is helpful, having a group of 4 to 6 feels more like putting 8 or 10 heads together.
If you tend to lose confidence, procrastinate or have trouble staying motivated, the accountability of a mastermind will keep you moving in the right direction. Participants brainstorm ideas, share resources, challenge each other to create and implement goals, give honest input and feedback and fresh perspective.
In January of 2012 and again in 2013, Barbara Winter, best-selling author of “Making a Living without a Job”, and I invited a select group of aspiring entrepreneurs to join us for an intensive mastermind weekend. We holed up in a hotel suite in Las Vegas with six dreamers who walked away do-ers They brought their how-to questions to the table and left with answers and action steps. Of course they were got the benefit from our combined 7 decades of self-employment PLUS a new tribe of entrepreneurial pals for continued support after the event.
Since many of you have expressed disappointment that you missed out in January, we’ve decided to offer more Mastermind Magic this Spring in Nashville. HERE’S THE SCOOP.
Think you need an MBA to start a business? Here are 6 less costly, more relevant, more fun alternatives
Recently I read a statistic that shouldn’t have surprised me but did. As many as 90% of MBA students plan to work in corporate jobs after graduation. What? Only 10% intend to start their own businesses? Shocking, right?
Not really. Because you see, business school doesn’t prepare you to start a business. It teaches you theory and vocabulary. If you want to climb the ladder and become a corporate VP or CEO, you’ll probably need the credentials. In fact, a CNN.com article early this week claimed that even in a tight economy, 93% of 2010 MBA grads were EMPLOYED earning a median salary of $94,542, with their additional median bonus compensation of $17,565. Note the word “EMPLOYED”. I found the title “Is an MBA worth it for the entrepreneur?” ironic because the article weighs how quickly MBAs climb the corporate ladder, not how fast they hit six figures in self-employment.
We all know about the tech start-ups that began in dorm rooms or garages by college drop outs. But it’s not just high tech companies that have their roots outside of business school. In fact, several years ago, I was having brunch with a group of competitors in the furniture business when the discussion turned to where we’d gone to college and what we’d majored in. We were all earning at least high six figures at the time and some were well above the million mark. We ranged from a PhD in Pschology, a BA in Theatre, to freshman year drop-outs but not one of us had done even an undergrad in business. I wonder if any of us would have started our businesses if we’d spent the time and money to get MBAs. Probably not because we’d have left school with lots of theory, no practical experience and gobs of debt. I’m not trying to discouraging anyone from going to college. It’s a valuable experience and I hope to continue taking courses the rest of my life. But, if you want to start a business, not become a corporate employee, an MBA is probably not going to be the best route. Let me suggest a few less costly and more fun alternatives.
-If you know the field you want to pursue, go to work for someone who has a complimentary business. If they can’t afford to pay you, offer to apprentice. Yes, for free if need be. Remember this is YOUR MBA and you’re not paying $150,000 for it. Be a detective. Listen to the customers. What’s missing? Look for what you could do to better meet the needs of the clientele.
-Travel. Things you observe in different cultures can definitely spark a BIG idea. But if you can’t afford or don’t have the desire to back-pack around the world, just get in your car, hop a train or, as my son did at 18, buy an unlimited Greyhound pass and get what I call a “street view” of your own country. Visit big cities and rural areas. Talk to people in small towns. Not just shop-keepers, although you’ll learn a lot. Interview people. Find out what’s missing in their lives. Something you hear from a stranger could set your creative cogs turning and inspire your entrepreneurial spirit.
-Ask questions. Lots of questions. Don’t worry that your curiosity will be seen as nosey. (The only person who ever gets annoyed with and embarrassed by my “interrogations” is my sister, who thinks all entrepreneurs are pushy and she’ll always be an employee.) Most owners will be flattered that you’re interested enough to ask questions about their business.
-Read. Read. Read. Not just traditional business books and trade journals. Read biographies of entrepreneurs you admire. Read magazines about anything that interests you. You might be flipping through a home or garden magazine and suddenly get inspired to start a fireplace business, design indoor fountains or custom garden gates.
-Go to trade shows. In most states, you can secure a resale license without incurring much cost. That and a business card should allow you entrance to all but the most elite trade shows. Attend shows in your own area of interest but also complementary industries. Make notes of trends and costs and of course, talk to people. Talk to buyers over lunch and vendors when they aren’t busy. Of course, be cognizant of their purpose and don’t keep them from customers but try to connect with them after hours. If you meet someone whose business is similar to the one you want to start but in a different geographical area, ask them to mentor you. Expect to pay them well for their time and expertise. Remember: this is you MBA.
-Surround yourself with entrepreneurs. We’re a curious, enthusiastic, optimistic and innovative bunch. It’s contagious.
One of the most common questions I’m asked is “what’s the best time to start a business?”.
While there’s no simple answer because everyone’s circumstances are different, there are certain factors that apply to every aspiring entrepreneur’s timing.
It’s a good time to start a business if:
-You are tired of working to make someone else successful. If you’ve been in a situation to solve problems for your employer, imagine what you could do if you put that energy into your own business.
-You’re holding onto your job mainly for security. Forget it. Sorry, but there’s no such thing. You know that boss who finds you so vital to his business? Well, you are only that important until you aren’t, which can happen in a flash and what you did in the past for him won’t matter a bit if he either can’t afford you or doesn’t need you right now. While you still have that job is a great time to start your own business on the side so you’ll be prepared should you be laid off. Best case scenario is you’re up and running, making money and you can quit your job to focus full time on your own business.
-You’ve been laid off. I know people who have spent a year or more looking for work. Some have found jobs but there’s no guarantee they’ll be long term. Others are still looking. Imagine if they’d spent that year starting their own business. They’d have job security and control of their income and benefits. And the best boss ever.
-You’ve had this business idea for awhile and you can’t get it out of your head. Even when you try to convince yourself you should hang onto your job because you are lucky to have one, that business idea keeps boomeranging back. You know the world will be missing something important if you don’t do that thing you are obsessed with.
So what’s holding you back? Perceived job security? Fear? Overwhelm? If it’s timing, consider this: Birthing a business is like getting pregnant. If we waited for the perfect timing, many of us would be childless. I’m sure glad I didn’t wait until every single area of my life was in absolute order before deciding to have a baby or my wonderful son would never have been born. Nor would any of my businesses.
You’re reading this article -yes, YOU, and you read articles like this all the time. You obviously want to start your own business. You can wait until your kids are grown, your house is paid off, the economy picks up, you’re thinner and the stars are in perfect alignment but you know what? None of those factors will guarantee you’ll be any more successful. Fortunes are made in good economic times and during recessions. Entrepreneurs come in all shapes and ages and the only thing that really matters about the timing is that you are finally determined to make it a success.
So, my answer: NOW is the best time. Go for it. NOW. Because you can convince yourself you face all these risks but the biggest risk is the REGRET you’ll feel if you don’t even give it a try.
If you really, really want to do this, which you obviously do, join Barbara Winter and me at the Obstacle Buster Mastermind in May. We’ll pull the plug on excuses and roadblocks and help you make it happen NOW. HERE’S THE SCOOP.
You have some great ideas for a business and maybe you’ve taken some first steps to get it going but suddenly you are spinning in place because you’re overwhelmed by too much information and not knowing where to begin so you do nothing.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. That feeling of overwhelm is one of the main reasons I hear fledgling entrepreneurs give for not moving forward in their dreams of self-employment.
Are you feeling like there’s just so much to do and so much to learn, you can’t keep up with all the new information? Every time you open your email inbox, there’s an invite to a tele-class about something you absolutely must learn in order to make your business succeed. If overwhelm is keeping you from either launching or growing your business, here are a few recommendations to help you get unstuck and get moving forward.
-Limit the time you spend on social media. Stop concerning yourself with what everyone else is doing and focus on what YOU can do with your own business.
-Accept that you are not going to stay on top of each and every new change in online marketing. You can spread yourself so thin trying to learn every new platform that you do none effectively. Just start with what you know and once your business is growing, gradually take a bit of time each day to learn something new.
-A good rule of thumb is to spend more time on output than input. It’s easy to let the time get away from you when you subscribe to too many e-newsletters. Pick two or three that resonate with you and unsubscribe to the rest. I know, it’s hard because you feel like you don’t want to miss anything but if you don’t limit your input, you’ll spend more time reading and less time doing and you’ll never get your business going.
-Think baby-steps. Commit to take one small action a day. You’ll get a lot closer to your goal if you do one tiny step a day than if you wait until you have time to do it all.
-Hire a mentor or a coach to keep you focused and on track but be careful who you listen to! Everyone claims to be a “coach” and while there are some wonderful mentors out there, there are a lot more who are teaching what they’ve never done themselves. Those programs that certify coaches do not require someone to have had their own successful business to be a business coach. If you choose to work with a coach or mentor, ignore their “certification” and find someone who has successfully started and run businesses other than coaching.
-Join a mastermind group. Being part of an entrepreneurs mastermind is like having an advisory board for your business and a support group for your dreams. Many mastermind groups charge tens of thousands of dollars for monthly group calls and one or two in-person meetings but you don’t have to pay that kind of money to benefit from a mastermind group. You could start your own group of like-minded entrepreneurs but it’s been proven that a mastermind group with a facilitator is more effective.
If you’d like the ongoing support of a group, join Barbara Winter, best-selling author or “Making a Living without a Job” and me in Denver for the Second Obstacle-Buster Mastermind. Find out more about it HERE.
2 Important Reasons to get excited about April 15th if you are an entrepreneur or aspiring small business owner
- As an entrepreneur, you get to deduct your travel, cell phone bill, internet, computer, i-pad, business books, trade publications, a portion of the utilities and rent or mortgage on your home office and other expenses that you would incur anyway but if you are an employee, your boss takes the deduction. Each April 15th, I am reminded of how much I would have to earn as an employee to pay all those expenses that my business covers. Do the math-you’ll be surprised.
- The other reason to pay attention to April 15th is that it is the LAST DAY to take advantage of the Early Bird Special for the Obstacle-Buster Mastermind. Best-selling author , Barbara Winter of “Making a Living without a Job” and I are excited to again share this life-changing experience with those of you who are ready to work around the stumbling blocks that have been holding you back from creating your ideal livelihood. We’ll spend two and a half days addressing your BIG ideas and put our heads together to find solutions and guide you over the hurdles so that you can finally make it happen NOW. Read what attendees from the last Obstacle-Buster Mastermind had to say and find out more HERE
Recently I polled some of my readers who say they want to start a business but haven’t begun. Here are the things they cited as their biggest obstacles. The results may surprise you.
- Lack of Support from Friends and Family
- Not sure Where to Begin
- Concern about Isolation
- Legal and Business Structure Questions
- Health Insurance and other Benefits
- Lack of Record Keeping Knowledge
- Technical Overwhelm
- Lack of Start-up Capital
The list itself didn’t surprise me. What did was the percentage of people who responded that lack of support was one of the biggest barriers for them in starting their own business. Because I grew up in an entrepreneurial family and have always surrounded myself with other business owners, I sometimes forget how many people have no one to bounce ideas around with. I forget that most of you have people in your lives who actually fear self-employment and think they are protecting you from risk by squashing your dreams.
It’s no wonder you’re having trouble getting started launching your dream business if you don’t have a tribe of entrepreneurial friends to support you and help you stay motivated.
Because so many of you have expressed a need for start-up guidance and on-going support, Barbara Winter and I are offering our “Obstacle Buster Mastermind” workshop again in May.
This is your opportunity to bring all your concerns, questions and roadblocks to an intimate group of entrepreneurs who will help you bust through the roadblocks that have been holding you back from finally starting your business.
Read what attendees of our last Obstacle Buster Workshop had to say HERE
FYI-I’ve addressed all of the above concerns on this blog in the “Start-Up Now” category.
I’m getting excited about the workshop that Barbara Winter and I will be facilitating next weekend in Las Vegas. The attendees have some phenomenal business ideas and we’ll be working through what’s been holding them back so they can make those dreams happen now.
I’ve heard from a several aspiring entrepreneurs who said they wanted to join us but had scheduling conflicts. They all said the same thing. “I have this great business idea but don’t know where to get started.”
Here are a few tips to help you begin working on your dream business.
- Research people who have already done what you want to do or something similar.
Read their blogs, study their websites, listen to podcasts and read books by people who are doing what you want to do. Not so that you can mimmic them but so that you can learn from their journey and do your own version and share your unique gifts.
- Talk to people who have been successful at what you are trying to do or something like it. Ask what mistakes they made in the beginning and what they learned in the process. Most entrepreneurs love to share. We don’t see start-ups as competition but complimentary. When I meet a new self-employment guide, I take note of what qualities they possess that I do not and will frequently refer a client to someone who I think might be a better fit. By connecting with someone who has already done what you want to do, you may not only gain a mentor but a friend who you can do some co-operative projects with as well.
- Don’t let the things you don’t know how to do keep you from beginning. A smart entrepreneur admits what she doesn’t know and recognizes that learning is a life-long pursuit. You can always outsource or barter the skills you lack or don’t enjoy performing.
Or partner with someone who has complimentary gifts.
- Hire a coach or consultant to guide you. Be careful to find someone who has had their own business, not someone who was trained as a business coach but never started a business. Don’t worry about certification. What matters is that they have learned by doing and can share their experience with you.
- Attend seminars or workshops with other entrepreneurs. You’ll learn from the facilitators and the other attendees will share resources and valuable insight with you. You’ll find your tribe and source of ongoing support. (We still have a couple of spaces left. Find out more HERE.)
- Start with baby steps. Even if your dream is big, start small. I’m not an advocate of the 5-year plan because I believe your business will evolve in ways you can’t even imagine now. It’s great to have a vision of the big goal but it’s easiest to make it happen by taking small steps every day.
What first small step can you take today to move forward toward your dream business?
Do you have so many ideas for starting a new business that you have trouble focusing on any of them?
Do you have so many ideas that you have trouble focusing on any of them? If so, you have a lot of creative company. This past week, I’ve spoken with each of the attendees of the upcoming Inspired Livelihood Obstacle Busting Mastermind.
Every one of them had more than one idea, some had many.
“I have too many ideas” is a common complaint of creative entrepreneurs. Being an idea generator is a gift but it can have you running in place if you aren’t able to effectively launch any of them because you are too scattered. It is absolutely possible to run several businesses successfully but just like juggling oranges, you have to start with what you can handle and add more as your confidence and competence grow.
I helped each of the attendees choose one idea to start with and we focused on fine tuning the vision of what that one business will look like. When they show up at the workshop in Las Vegas, we will focus on making that one idea a viable business. Once that business is running and they are seeing profit, it will be easier to launch the next idea, and the next. It’s kind of like when you have a baby. You give that first your undivided attention. Then, when that first child is a couple of years old and you’ve kind of got the hang of that parenting thing, you’re more able to parent a second. Maybe add a few more? Imagine if you gave birth to all your children at once? You’d be like the old woman in the shoe, right? Well just like kids, you shouldn’t launch all your ideas at the same time.
If you’ve been sitting on a few projects or business ideas for awhile and haven’t been able to make any of them profitable, you are probably suffering from “refusal to choose” syndrome. But you know what? You did choose. By choosing to try to do them all, you’ve chosen to dilute your energy and get nothing done, right?
I know this first hand because the last several months, I’ve been thinking about several new businesses I want to launch. I’ve done research and some initial steps on all of them but mostly been ineffective moving forward with any of them because my attention was too scattered.
Then a few weeks ago, I realized something. If three months ago, I had chosen to focus on just one new project, I’d now have it successfully launched and be starting on the next. Instead, I haven’t launched any of them.
If you’ve been sitting on several ideas for the past year and feel frustrated because you’ve launched none, I’d like to offer you a challenge. Give yourself permission to put all but one on the back burner. Not forever. Just right now while you get that first one crystal clear and moving forward. Try it for three months. Remember, you aren’t neglecting the other ideas. You are just giving each idea the attention it deserves. Once that’s rolling, spend three months on your next idea. Imagine where you’ll be at the end of the year if you do that. You’ll have launched four new ideas successfully.
Do you need some guidance and support birthing that first idea? If so, check out what Barbara Winter, best selling author of “Making a Living without a Job” and I are doing to help a small group of aspiring entrepreneurs break through the barriers and start their dream businesses NOW. Find out more HERE