23 Things Every Entrepreneur Must Know by Paul B. Brown

A buddy of mine is a big-deal business professor at an even bigger deal university. And for reasons I still don’t understand, he asked me to come in and explain to his graduate students what I have learned from spending 30 years talking to, researching and writing about entrepreneurs.
Here’s what I said.
1. The best way to predict the future is to create it.
2. The most important decision you can make is…where do you want to spend your time. You only have so much time, energy and ability to focus. That means, as much as you would like to, you can’t do everything. That’s a given. So is this: The places which receive your full attention will do better than the places that won’t. What follows from that is this: You need to make hard choices about what you will do–and what you won’t. And it is really is the important decision you can make, because everything else you do will flow from it…including the next point.

Read the rest here: http://www.forbes.com/sites/actiontrumpseverything/2013/09/22/23-things-every-entrepreneur-must-know-2/

Cleaning, Passion, Growth…Adam Ross interview by Jim Johnson

On September 11, 2013, I sat down with Adam Ross, owner of Ross Cleaning & Restoration (www.rossrestoration.com).  Our families attend the same church and our children attend the same school.  Prior to this interview, I had not known what Adam did.  On the first day of school, I noticed he was wearing a branded shirt with his company’s logo on it.  I sent him a couple of emails and we set up our lunch interview appointment.  I think you are going to find his story interesting.

HISTORY

Adam told me his father is an entrepreneur/small business owner.  Adam grew up watching his dad start and grow several businesses.  It appears it got into his blood.  Adam told me he started off attending college, but it became quickly apparent that school was not for him.

In 1999, Adam worked for Stanley Steamer.  Then the following year, while working for Carpet One, he saw ad for Steamatic in newspaper and looked into buying the Las Vegas franchise.  He decided against but then opened Steam-it in 2002 which he later sold in 2005.  Adam and his wife moved to Vegas in July ’05 but then returned in January ’06 with a baby on the way. In 2007, he opened Ross Cleaning and Restoration.

STAFF

Ross Cleaning has 2 crews right now.  I asked how he builds his business.  Angie’s List has played a big part in promoting the business, Adam explains.  “There are over 90 carpet cleaning companies in our area.  On Angie’s List, Ross Cleaning has over 70 reviews – the vast majority are very positive.  My nearest competitor has only 6 reviews.” This customer-driven website has brought in a lot of new business.

I asked Adam about his staff.  “I’ve always had good luck with staff.  I felt the need to always have a “right hand man” and I have a great one now,” Adam told me.  Adam is proud of his professional, clean-cut team.  It sets his business apart from most of the others.

BRANDING

I asked why people would choose Ross Cleaning over other companies.  What makes his company different/better?

Adam explained that they are very good at cleaning carpets and they charge fair prices. He is very proud of the fact that he and his crews build great relationships with customers – many of whom have been customers for years.  Adam intentionally seeks out business opportunities.  As a result, his company has solid business relationships with area apartment complexes and property managers.

Customer retention has been key to Adam’s success.  “The first time doing business with someone, I don’t make a lot of money.  My goal is to get hired the 2nd time by them.”  Adam relies heavily on “promoters”  who tell friends and families about the positive experience they’ve had.  “It can’t be just a one-time cleaning…ever.  With over 90 carpet cleaners in town, consumers have a lot of options.”

Adam has learned that he can’t simply rely on the basics of cleaning.  He needs to diversify.  “Everything we do compliments something else.  From carpet cleaning to air duct cleaning to mold remediation, we have to be better than others.”

One point Adam made was his skill and ability to build relationships with new and existing customers.  He can walk into a home or business and see items that reveal what is valued by this person.  Adam has learned to use his observation skills to start-up a conversation with folks that will eventually lead to a more solid, long-lasting relationship.  “We clean some million dollar homes and they leave us alone in their house to our work – they trust us.”  .

Adam hires intentionally:  his team has to also believe in the business as much as he does.  “We invest a lot in our business, education staff, and equipment.  We are professionals.  It breaks my heart when we get a review that’s not so good.  I take it personally…everytime.”

GROWTH

I asked about Adam how, when he started, he went about building his business.  In the early days, he had to go out every day to look for work. “I’d do the work for free just to get my name out. I had to keep moving.  This really helped me spread the word.  I had to practice and preach about my new business.”  In other words, Adam took action even if he didn’t feel like doing it. “I was always good with numbers – bills were coming in and I knew I had to work to pay them.”

Finally, I asked how Adam approaches growth now.  “I had to learn to start working on the business instead of in the business.  I had to hire more people to do the tasks.  I had to let go of control and focus on things I was really good at.”

As a result, Ross Cleaning & Restoration is now debt free.  But that doesn’t keep Adam from losing focus.  “Employees are like family. We know each other’s secrets.  I worry about the next week’s sales, that we hit our numbers.”

Take-a-ways for Leaders/Managers in a Traditional Work Setting:

  • Be passionate.  It’s your business.  Throw yourself into it!
  • Be wise in your hiring. Hiring the right people is critically important in building your business.  The right people will build your brand.  They will bring you success.  They are the living, breathing brand promise with every interaction with your customers.
  • Customer retention is key.  When you make a sale, look to deepen the relationship.  Get “hired” the 2nd time.  You cannot survive on “one-sies”.
  • Learn more about your business.  Keep up on new developments.  Apply what you’ve learned.
  • Build relationships, not just a portfolio.  Your customers are people with needs, dreams, and drives.  Learn what those are. Be the solution for them.
  • When in doubt, act.  If sales are slow, go out and work the streets.  Don’t let a slow down slow you down.  Just keep moving, acting, thinking, doing, creating.  If you don’t, your business will not grow.
  • Work on your business and not just in it.  Focus.  Help your team to focus.  Everyone on your team cannot all be doing the same thing at the same time.  Do what you do best.
  • Act like you own the joint.  It’s far too easy to hold a mindset of “oh, the company will take care of ____”.  When you spend money, think and act like it’s your money.  When you have to dedicate time to a project, it’s your time you are investing.  Act like an owner in all you do.

To learn more about Adam’s company, visit their website at:  http://www.rossrestoration.com/.

If You Want to be a Poor Leader…by Jim Murray

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Thou shalt:

1. Never take risks — for you will only increase the chance of making a lot of mistakes. And that will make your followers believe you are fallible.

2. Never let your emotions show — especially your passion or enthusiasm for your work. People will think you’re a wuss.

3. Avoid professional development opportunities — and discourage the desire to do so in others. You’ll save the company a lot of money. And that will make your shareholders very happy.

4. Always have a good excuse handy — and the more complicated the better. Never take the blame for anything. It’s important that you exude a strong presence as commander-in-chief.

5. Always point out the faults in others — and do it in as scathing and biting a way as is humanly possible such that they will never forget your richly deserved dressing down. After all, your fundamental purpose as leader is to improve performance and that means people must know what behaviours need correcting.

6. Never share your knowledge or wisdom with subordinates — they will inevitably use it to undermine your authority and then seek to replace you at the top. Your tenure will be short so why make it even shorter?

7. Never ask a question you cannot answer yourself — people will think you are incompetent if you don’t know what to do. After all, isn’t telling people what needs to be done the essence of leadership today?

8. Always micromanage the really important projects — that way you’ll get done exactly what you want done. And your staff will greatly appreciate your help.

9. Always assume your organization’s competitive advantage is permanent — there’s no use worrying about the things you cannot control.

10. Always endeavour to appear unapproachable — this will save you a lot of time as people will be forced to deal with their own problems. Isn’t that how people learn to become better problem solvers? (And time is, after all, your most precious asset.)

Great article. Read the rest here: http://www.lawyersweekly.ca/index.php?section=article&articleid=1984&rssid=4

The Mind & Spirit of an Entrepeneur by Jim Johnson

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What is it with entrepreneurs!?  Have you ever asked yourself that before?  You see folks who have built a business up and are their own bosses.  Many of us admire them while others of us think those folks are crazy!

I’ve decided to interview local entrepreneurs here in my town, Fort Wayne, Indiana.  I want to learn how they became an entrepreneur and why they made this decision.  I want to learn what drives them, what scares them, what inspires them.  I want to learn how they achieve.  I want to learn how they deal with obstacles and failure.

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Most of us work for and in traditional companies.  We come in daily and punch the figurative or literal time clock.  There are no entrepreneurs down a cubicle aisle, right?  Or are there?…

  •  What if managers/leaders in a traditional company began to think and act more like an entrepreneur?
  • What would that look like?
  • How would that impact their performance and bottom line?
  • How would they treat their staff differently?

I think I’m going to learn – and you’re going to learn – a lot about ourselves and much more from entrepreneurs through this process.  I’m excited about this adventure.  Please share these posts with others.  Please drop me a comment as you follow along.  I appreciate your feedback and insights.

My next post will be the interview I just had with Adam Ross on September 11, 2013.  Stay tuned!

Developing Personal Accountability

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I enjoy this site and newsletter. Here’s a good article on personal accountability:

http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/developing-personal-accountability.htm#np

From Mindtools:

This site teaches you the skills you need for a happy and successful career; and this is just one of many tools and resources that you’ll find here at Mind Tools. Click here for more, subscribe to our free newsletter, or become a member for just $1. – See more at: http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/developing-personal-accountability.htm#np