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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part One

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=business+graphs&iid=6752210″ src=”9/8/3/5/GM_CEO_Fritz_1d7c.jpg?adImageId=9360485&imageId=6752210″ width=”234″ height=”152″ /]*This is Part One of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART ONE: It IS your Business so do what YOU want to.

Sometimes when people are asked to choose between two kinds of news, good and bad, they will take the bad first, to get it over with so they can end the conversation on a more pleasant note.  That’s what we’ll do here.  To that end, here’s the bad part of the conversation for those with tiny businesses, the very small business owner and the home-based business owner – if you happen to have a truly large business or you influence great chunks of our global commerce, well this is the bad news for you too.  If you do what YOU want to with your business at the expense of your integrity, your ethics, your clients and customers, your friends and family and your industry…then you ought not to be in business at all.

That’s a pretty bold statement.  I’ve actually heard a person or two say, ‘it’s MY business so I’ll do whatever I want to do with it.’  I wonder if that was the sentiments of those bullies on Wall Street who claimed recently before the U.S. congress that they were ever so sorry for “…severity of the 2008 financial crisis and apologized for risky behavior and poor decisions….”  I pulled this from the Associated Press story as it appears online at Tampa Bay Online.  Of the quotes that appear in the article that continue to raise my blood pressure:

  • “…Americans are furious and “have a right to be” about the hefty bonuses banks paid out after getting billions of dollars in federal help,….”
  • “…’Over the course of the crisis, we as an industry caused a lot of damage,’ Moynihan said….”
  • “…Like the other witnesses, Blankfein acknowledged lapses in judgment in some practices leading up to the crisis….”
  • “…Dimon said a crucial blunder was ‘how we just missed that housing prices don’t go up forever…..'”

Let’s talk for a moment about lapses of judgment as Mr. Blankfein of Goldman Sachs said in the quote above.  I would ask: lapses of judgment?  How could these people have such huge lapses of judgment as to cause the near collapse of an entire economic structure?  As a home business owner I have to watch very carefully every business judgment I make because I can see instantly what the ramifications of my decisions will be.  Is it that these institutions are so huge that the people who make the decisions and carry the influence can no longer see anything beyond their pen to paper?

Shoshana Zuboff, the author of The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism,  said in a BusinessWeek article :

  • “…The economic crisis is not the Holocaust but, I would argue, it derives from a business model that routinely produced a similar kind of remoteness and thoughtlessness, compounded by a widespread abrogation of individual moral judgment. As we learn more about the behavior within our financial institutions, we see that just about everyone accepted a reckless system that rewards transactions but rejects responsibility for the consequences of those transactions. Bankers, brokers, and financial specialists were all willing participants in a self-centered business model that celebrates what’s good for organization insiders while dehumanizing and distancing everyone else—the outsiders…..”

Don’t you think this hints at an erosion of personal business integrity and an erosion of personal business ethics?  I’m not so naive as to think that money and power won’t always be addictive aphrodisiacs for some people and that the siren call of more zeroes on the check can blind some people as to what cost those zeroes were arrived at?  [clumsy sentence but asks my question]  But what about the folks around those people?  Wasn’t there someone in those overpriced offices who thought, just for a moment, that perhaps this was a bit too good to be true and whenever this question arises it means that someone somewhere down the line is being hurt?

Ms. Zuboff’s references in her article another she had read about the Nazi war trials and the conclusions of “…Hannah Arendt’s ruminations on Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann as she reported on his trial in Jerusalem for The New Yorker 45 years ago….”  What at first might seem an unfair comparison, I find not so and agree as Ms. Zuboff says:

  • “…This message is not restricted to the unspeakable horrors of mass murder. It is relevant to the relationship between individual judgment and institutional processes in any situation. It’s a message that says: you can’t just blame the system for the bad things you’ve done. Yet to the world’s dismay, thousands of men and women entrusted with our economic well being systematically failed to meet this minimum standard of civilized behavior. They did not capably discern right and wrong. They either did not judge, or they did not act on their judgment….”

I guess what I want to say is that just because it is YOUR business doesn’t mean that you get to do what you WANT to do at the expense of other people. Ms. Zuboff says, “…The economic crisis has demonstrated that the banality of evil concealed within a widely accepted business model can put the entire world and its peoples at risk….” Then she asks, “… Shouldn’t those businesses be held accountable to agreed international standards of rights, obligations, and conduct? Shouldn’t the individuals whose actions unleashed such devastating consequences be held accountable to these moral standards?….”

Then she says, “…I believe the answer is yes….”  And so do I.

And why not?  Small business owners are expected to pay their taxes, not cheat their customers, have truth in advertising,  make their prices competitive [not gouging the customer or stealing market share from competitors], recall products that don’t work, offer replacements and a host of other ethical practices…as well as giving to their communities and being good citizens.  So how are small business owners any different from the “big guys?”

I think it’s a matter of personal integrity.  I think a person has to choose to be ethical and to do so it requires that he or she begin with personal integrity.  In an article at Columbus Business First, John Maxwell, author of  The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership, said: “…In the midst of an ever-changing and uncertain environment, there is one thing over which you have absolute control – your integrity….When it comes to being principled and ethical, you are the master of your destiny. Other people and external forces might test it in various ways, but ultimately you alone control your integrity….”

Mr. Maxwell continues in the article with, “…This is a good way to think of us as leaders when it comes to integrity. People of integrity don’t live divided lives; their morals, ethics and treatment of others are the same wherever they are and whatever they’re doing….”

Yesterday Arianna Huffington wrote about renewing the hope of Dr. Martin Luther King, ‘…What we need is Hope 2.0: the realization that our system is too broken to be fixed by politicians, however well intentioned — that change is going to have to come from outside Washington…This realization is especially resonant as we celebrate Dr. King, whose life and work demonstrate the vital importance of social movements in bringing about change. Indeed, King showed that no real change can be accomplished without a movement demanding it….”

Maybe what’s needed is a movement from all of “us” – the individual citizens of the world [is that too broad a movement?] or to start local, the individual citizens of the U.S. – to ask that the leaders of policies [government] and industry [commerce] rediscover the meaning of personal integrity and business ethics and apply those meanings to themselves and to their business and political practices.

Is this a naive thing to ask?  No, I think it’s necessary.  The small business sector needs a healthy economy within which to prosper.  Home business owners need homes from which to conduct their business.  Everyone needs customers who have spendable income.  Can we expect a utopia?  Goodness, no…never happen because human beings are involved.  We’re fallible, but we’re also educate-able.  We can learn and grow and improve.  So let’s do so.

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Home-based business owners are solo-preneurs

“Hey mom,” offered my daughter over the phone recently, “did you know you were a solo-preneur?”  I, of course, had no way of knowing if she hyphenated ‘solo-preneur,’ and frankly I didn’t know she was aware of the concept.  But I should have as both my daughters are extremely bright and brilliant young women!

A note about being a Baby Boomer and mom to two extremely bright and brilliant young women…it’s a challenge!  Kim, the older of the two, attended and graduated from Chico State University in northern California getting her degree in music.  She then taught high school music [this included classroom, choirs and marching band] for 5 years.  Then along came Matthew.  Now she is the busy mother of a 2-year old, teaches piano in her home and has turned her creative muse to mosaic art – something she and I share.   Jenn, the younger, is an actress, just building her resume.  She has some impressive Indie work already and she and I are looking to do some kind of collaboration regarding my fiction novel…more to come about that.  Jenn has a mind sharper than an ancient samuri sword and continuously amazes and humbles me with her keen insights into politics and world affairs.  Both girls have always given me worthwhile input in my endeavors.  So, to have one of them offer her opinion that I, as the owner of a home-based business, am a solo-preneur – well, I had to run to my laptop and look that up.

I found what I think is the perfect definition of solo-preneur. [I hyphenate the word…but that’s me.]  Abacus Coaching Ltd. [find their homepage here] defines it as:

  • “An entrepreneur who works alone, “solo”, running their business single-handedly. They may use Associates or Contractors yet they have full responsibility for the running of their business.”

I love what Bryan Leslie, owner this business consultancy in the UK says about the responsibilities of being a solo-preneur: “…you are responsible for the following activities within your business, either by doing the work yourself, or by outsourcing a combination of your businesses primary, secondary and support functions….”

He lists these as Primary:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Customer Services

As Secondary:

  • Finance
  • Quality Control
  • Statistics
  • Continuous Improvement

As as Support Functions:

  • Research
  • Human Resources
  • Systems
  • Training and Development

This list seems overwhelming at first blush for the person who is going their business alone and does no outsourcing at all.  There are millions of small home-based businesses where every one of Bryan Leslie’s responsibilities are piled, one atop the other, on the lone soldier looking out over the battlefield of commerce.

However.  It’s do-able.  Being a solo-preneur requires certain gifts and skills:

  1. determination above all…the will “to do”
  2. diligence and discipline...keep at it
  3. a positive mental outlook that feeds the emotional engine…like the little train, tell yourself “I think I can,” then you’ll know you can and you will
  4. belief in your business and yourself…you had a big “why” that caused you to start your business in the first place; keep that dream alive and real and know that you are the best person to make it come to pass through the vehicle of the business that you chose to build

As a home-based business person, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I an entrepreneur? Someone who saw a need or an opportunity and through innovative thinking found a way to meet or fill that need or op?
  • Am I a small business owner? This is certainly so…you own and operate your business…there is no one else’s name on the dotted line.
  • Am I a business leader? Many business owners claim to be business leaders through the semantics of ownership…however, a leader carries the vision and sets the direction.  If you have given your business a vision and mission, then consider yourself a business leader.
  • Am I an innovator? Not everyone can see the possibilities of a home business; and not everyone can shoulder the responsibilities of being the leader, the manager and the worker bee all in one person.  So, yes, you are an innovator of your business.

Entrepreneur + small business owner + business leader + innovator equals solo-preneur in the world of the single-owner home-based business.

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What’s your management style?

If you have a home-based business as I do, you wear both the leadership hat and the management hat.  You are the CEO, CFO, and every other capital letter combination there is, as well as middle management and the hourly help.  But, as in any business, you do have different functions depending upon which hat you are wearing.

The leadership role is the visionary role.  When you are wearing your leadership hat you are setting the vision and direction of your business.  You’re answering the “why am I doing this” type of questions and the “where do I want to go” type of questions.  With this hat on you ask yourself where you want to be five years hence and question how you’ll get there.  You devise the Plan.  Then you present the vision and the plan to your management role.

The manager of your business gets the job done. The manager makes sure you fulfill the vision and gets the business to its end destination by doing the work of the business on a day-to-day basis.  So, what is your management style?

I thought about this because someone told me recently that they have changes at their workplace they are not quite happy with.  It has something to do with putting all the programmers into one big room together…no individual cubicles or working from home anymore.  I wouldn’t like to work in that environment…it made me think about the way I do like to work.

I’ve had jobs where I’ve worked under a micro-manager.  This type of manager hovers over you stifling creativity and initiative.  This type of manager actually hinders workflow due to the constant second-guessing and checking that they do of a person’s work.  I’m of the opinion that if you hire qualified people and give them the tools for the job and the parameters of the tasks that you should then get out of their way and let them work.

Another type of manager for whom I’ve worked is the absentee manager.  This one is even worse than the micro-manager.  In this case I was given practically no training and very few tools.  Right off the bat I had questions about direction and policy and basic how-tos but the manager was no where to be found…until time for the task-at-hand to be completed at which point the manager would show up and be up-in-arms about why the task was not completed in the prescribed manner.  This type of manager is the “can’t win for losing” type.

The very best manager I worked with actually got to know me.  This manager found out that I work best independently and that I need a window.  This manager gave me the necessary training and was available when I had questions.  I had access to the necessary tools and support materials.  The direction for the project was clear and understandable.  I could actually work without someone hovering over my shoulder every minute and I could work knowing that if I had a question all I had to do was knock on the manager’s door.

Now I have a home-based direct selling business. I’m the only employee.  I’m the boss and the manager and the worker bee.  With my leadership hat on I developed my vision and direction…I know where I want to be in five years with my business and I devised a plan to get there.  With my manager hat on I work the plan.  I know my inner worker bee needs independence and a window so as manager I arranged my home office to provide the window I need and the privacy I require.

This may not be a comprehensive scholarly look at management styles, but my point to make is that the person with a home-based business needs to clearly understand the division of labor between leadership and management.  A home-based business needs a vision and direction and clear plan of action; it also needs the daily “doing the work” to complete the plan and realize the vision.  Figure out what kind of worker you are and manage your business to optimize your efforts.  It will help you to achieve your vision.

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Shrinking Violets need not apply

I think what I really mean is that Shrinking Violets do not apply themselves which is why you don’t find them succeeding in a home-based business.

  • It takes moxie to be your own boss.
  • It takes an ability to look outside yourself to see opportunities.
  • It takes an expansive mind to dream BIG enough dreams that provide motivation.
  • It takes dogged determination to keep going when quitting seems to make more sense at the moment.

No, Shrinking Violets and home-based businesses do not mix.  Shrinking Violets don’t have courage or stamina. To make a go of a home-based business, to realize dreams and achieve goals, I think you need these:

  • a dream…a reason so BIG that quitting is not an option
  • a positive attitude – I read books on positive thinking and books on personal growth and from them have developed a list of words and phrases that I wrote on 3″x5″ cards and keep on the table by my bed where I’ll see them every morning.  They help to keep my mind in a forward, positive, outward-looking direction.  My words and phrases are: *Think Positive *Be in a Consistent Good Mood *Wake Up Happy *Smile *Encourage and Compliment Others *Be Kind to Others *Have Great Spirit *Laugh A Lot *Find Humor *Motivate and Inspire Myself *Affirm Myself *Think YES! First [from Jeffrey Gitomer] *Look for the Good in All Situations *Be Happy on the Inside
  • integrity personally – the moral and ethical standard of high values [honesty, loyalty] in all areas; as my grandfather taught me, everything I do reflects on my family name down through all generations…in his generation, this was of great importance.  There have been times in my family’s history when their good name was all they owned.
  • integrity in the operation of your business – to me this means using your own product…being its own best fan; staying within the parameters of your business’ policies and procedures…being a good citizen of your municipality
  • being a servant – make your customer feel appreciated and make your business associates feel honored

There are other attributes, of course, necessary to being the owner of a successful home-based business – doesn’t matter what the business might be.  The point is to be a Rose that blooms regardless of the thorns around it…not a Shrinking Violet afraid of the light of day.

WhiteRose

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Do you love the product you represent?

I recently received an unsolicited email from someone claiming to want to interest me in an internet-based business that (supposedly) generated $3,000 for him in less than a week.  Nowhere in his email letter did he mention a product or benefit of his company…all that was mentioned was quick money.  Well now.

As with many people who start a business from their home, my goal was indeed to generate more income.  Like most of you my budget needs a boost that can only come from another income source.  However, where that unsolicited emailer and I diverge is that money alone is not enough of an end result to make me put out time and resources to start a business. 

I need to believe in the company behind the business.  I need to know that my value system and the company’s value system are in sync.  I refuse to be a hypocrite.  I refuse to put my good name [and that of my ancestry] to shame by linking it to something not of value.  The company needs to reflect sound business and financial management.  It needs to reflect a sincere desire to stand behind its employees and – in the case of a direct selling company – its independent distributors.  I need the company that I’m representing to have a desire to make this world a better place.

Another element I require in a home business, is a product that I can be proud of .  Not only that, but it must be a product that I actually use and benefit from and love to talk about.  It has to be a product that I’m my own customer for.  If I can’t honestly say that I use, like, appreciate and benefit from my product then why would I want to share it with anyone else?

For me, to build a sustainable, healthy and growing business, I have to have:

  • a product worthy of my time and effort
  • a product that I use and enjoy using and benefit from
  • a product that I am comfortable and excited to recommend to my family and friends – these are the people I care about after all
  • a product produced and backed by a company of high values

So, to all who would send me unsolicited emails about a “money making” opportunity, be aware that I’m just not interested.  In my business efforts I lead with my product.  I only lead with the business opportunity if the person I’m talking with has that as a priority…however I follow with my product.  If this person can’t use and appreciate the product, then the business opportunity is a waste of their time.

My dad was very proud of his heritage and his name.  He always taught us kids to protect our family name and to never do anything that would cause us shame or to let ourselves be linked by name to anything undesirable.  My dad and his people [and my mother’s] were not people of wealth and means…they were decent, hardworking people.  I like to think that my dad would approve of my choice of business.  He passed away years before the beginning of this company with whom I’m an independent distributor, and I think he would like the product.  I raise a toast to my parents.

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Direct selling business now? Wise choice

Why would you want to start a direct selling business now ?  In this economy?  People are being laid off right and left which means that competition for jobs is huge – the numbers of people looking for work are huge – just a sad economic picture…according to CNN.Money.com employers cut 240,000 jobs just in October…manufacturing is at a 26-year low, consumer confidence is at an all time low…what can you do?

You could tighten your belt, spend less, conserve, do without.  Probably some form of that is going to be necessary anyway.  But there are alternatives to consider.

You could do something right now that will bring in extra income. 

A direct selling business [also known as network marketing business] can provide an income opportunity with little financial risk in starting and can be worked parttime, around what you are currently doing.

In their book, “Why We Want You to Be Rich,” both Donald Trump and Robert Kiyosaki had positive things to say about a network marketing business:

*”…A network marketing business is designed to bring you up to the top, not keep you down at the bottom. A true network marketing busienss does not succeed unless it brings people up to the top….” – Robert Kiyosaki

*”…Network marketing has proven itself to be a viable and rewarding souce of income, and the challenges could be just right for you.  There have been some remarkable examples of success, and those successes have been earned through diligence, enthusiasm and the right product combined with timing….My nutshell advice about network marketing is to do your research and then put everything you’ve got into your product.  Genuine enthusiasm is hard to beat, and the odds will be with you….” – Donald Trump

Writers Erin Casey and John David Mann in an article titled, “Why You Should Start Your Own Business Today,” in Success Magazine , stated, “…Some self-owned business opportunities require expertise…or can take significant capital investment…such as real estate investing and franchises; some can be started on a shoestring and prove quite lucrative, including direct selling and online opportunities….” [emphasis by me]

You don’t have to take a negative economic downturn laying down.  You can “fight back” by starting your own direct selling business and bringing income in, rather than watching it go out.  There are many good direct selling companies.  And many that are not experiencing a negative downturn in this economic climate.  Do some research and find one  that has a product(s) or service that is a fit with you and your life…that you can become passionate about.  Find a company whose corporate culture is a fit with your core values.  Find a company whose income opportunity has the potential to give you what you are looking for – whether that is supplementary income or fulltime residual income.  Now is the time to start.  2009 does not have to be economically bleak.

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Business Strategy – Just Get Started

Do you know someone who is just getting started in a network marketing or home-based business?  Maybe you are just getting started.  Have you begun advertisingAre you talking to people about your product and your business?  Do you hand out business cards?  Are you writing articles and blog posts that will direct people to your business? 

If you’re not, why not?

The truth is, many people get stuck in planning and over-thinking before they ever get started with the actual doing business of their business.  Inertia sets in and before they realize it, weeks or even months have gone by, they have no retail customers and their business isn’t growing.  All because they never actually started.

In his book, “Art of the Start,” Guy Kawasaki says, “…Remember: No one ever achieved success by planning for gold….”

He continues, “….You should always be selling – not strategizing about selling.  Don’t test, test, test…Don’t worry about being embarrassed.  Don’t wait to develop the perfect product or service.  Good enough is good enough…It’s not how great you start – it’s how great you end up….”

Mr. Kawasaki’s point about not waiting to develop the perfect product or service is relevant to the innovator/new business person, but the person who starts with a network marketing company has an advantage…they are stepping into an already established product/service and marketplace.  All you have to do is announce that you are an outlet for that product/service. 

But I have to study my product first and know everything there is to know about it before I can launch my business – you might say.  I say, no you don’t.  And here’s why:

In this day and age, most established and successful network marketing companies have corporate websites that are full of the relevant product/service information.  Many of these companies also offer to their independent distributors/contractors company-replicated websites that also carry all the relevant information.  To go even further, there are some of these companies whose most successful independent distributors/contractors have corporate-approved websites that offer even more in the way of product or service information, business building hints, tips and aids and even online video product presentations.  This means that you can direct your prospects to any and all of these resources to help you build your business. 

The whole point is to get startedDon’t plan to get started, start.

There are several BILLION people on this planet today; millions upon millions of them are looking for products and services to meet needs and millions upon millions are looking for ways to augment their own incomes and help their families and communities.  There is a place for you, your business and your product/service.

Don’t plan to start…start.