What is Vulnerability Costing You & Your Business?

what-is-vulnerability-costing-you-and-your-businessThere’s an old abandoned house on a street that I drive frequently.  It was probably built in the ’50′s or ’60′s and it was probably a gem in it’s day.  Sadly, it’s been ignored over the last decade and I though I saw people there before, I haven’t seen any sign of habitation in the last year and a half.

And yet, I’m always drawn to it.  There’s an open window on the top floor.  It was open all winter long.  It’s STILL open.  I wonder what’s in there.  Birds? Bugs? Squatters?

SOMEONE has to “own” that property – even if it’s a bank.  Does anyone care that the house is completely vulnerable to the elements, to “visitors”, to anything?

Last week as I drove by I saw the public notice that the home is going up for auction.  Though the property is probably worth something, I imagine that the home might have little value left.

What does this have to do with entrepreneurship?  (Leave it to this girl who can apply ANYTHING to a life or business principle.)

Where are you vulnerable in your business?  Where are you vulnerable in your life?  What open windows do you have that are wreaking havoc on your prosperity?

A lot of us have known vulnerabilities.  Perhaps it’s a staff member or contractor with poor performance.  Maybe we’re operating without a business plan or marketing plan.  Maybe sales are low this quarter.  Maybe you’re wondering what the the legislative changes are going to do to your health insurance coverage.  Maybe you haven’t posted your labor law posters. (Gasp!)

Others of us have vulnerabilities lurking below the surface.  We may even be sabotaging our success, and we don’t even know it.  It’s often the things we DON’T see that are causing the biggest problems.  In my opportunities to consult and chat with entrepreneurs across the country, I have found four major vulnerabilities to small business success:

  1. Poor Time Management – Just because you dream of sitting by the pool, sipping your favorite beverage while you bask in the sun, doesn’t mean you won’t have to put in a lot of sweat BEFORE that dream becomes a reality.  If you have a hobby business, have hobby hours.  If you’re trying to grow a thriving company, put in a full days work.  Wasting hours away on Facebook and calling it “work” won’t put money on the table. My mortgage doesn’t get paid in “likes” or “shares”.  It’s paid in dollars earned by hard work and in PLANNED time I spend on revenue generating activities.  If you KNOW this is a current vulnerability of yours I created a free video series called “Working SMARTER, not HARDER” you can access.  Time is either your greatest asset or it is your greatest liability.  Use it well.
  2. Bleeding (sometimes blindly) Financially – I share this in open disclosure because there have been times in my business where I didn’t “understand” the numbers so I ignored them.  That business is no longer in operation.  Luckily, I’ve had other successes because I DID understand the numbers and I made that a priority.  Though I’ll readily admit that financials are not my strong suit, I DO know that getting help from an awesome tax advisor and a financial planner were worth their weight in gold.  So was hiring someone to help me with invoicing (which I hate doing…I’d rather be working on the marketing and relationship stuff).
  3. Lack of Confidence (masked or accompanied by crippling procrastination) – I share this last, but perhaps this is where I’M the most vulnerable. I get a great idea then sit on it.  I’m jazzed about a new coaching program or event and I do nothing.  At times, I’m so scared of failure that it’s easier to do nothing.  Perhaps this is an over share, but as a recovering procrastinator, I want to be real with you.  Sometimes things don’t get done because I’m scared I’ll do it wrong.  That’s why coaches, mentors and accountability partners are something I can’t do without.  Even though I’m a coach, I still invest in what I call “Trailblazer” training.  I want coaches that help me GET THERE (wherever THERE is in business) FASTER, so that I can help my clients do the same.  Though lack of confidence sounds harsh, sometimes our efforts to grow our business and our paychecks comes from lack of accountability.
  4. Drip Marketing Activities instead of GUSH Marketing SYSTEMS – Do you want a pipeline that drips or that gushes?  Make marketing a scheduled priority! I’ve already talked about this, this week, but if you missed my thoughts on this subject, check out “Marketing: A Search for Systems & Schedules that Work” & “How To Create A Simple & Effective Social Media Strategy”

I know there are more business and life vulnerabilities than just the four listed above.  These are the ones I see most frequently.  Can you resonate with one or more?  If not, ask yourself the question:

In what areas of my life or business am I susceptible?

Then for ALL OF US, we need to be asking ourselves the question:

What is that vulnerability costing my business?  In most cases, there will be financial costs.  However, don’t forget intangible costs as well: maybe a lack of connection to our business or mission.  Maybe a decrease in connection with a spouse, child, family member or friend.  Maybe it’s a sacrifice in quality of life.  (A LOT of these trace back to poor time management.  If you don’t know where to start, start there!)

Just take a minute to think through your business and see what areas you should be focusing on in the next month, 3 months and 6 months.  It’s never a bad time to set a goal and close windows and doors that are opening you up to financial loss and more.

While were on the subject…Do you need help here? Personally, I have a 3 slots that opened up for my 6 or 12 week “Revive My Startup” coaching program starting the week of June 24th.  Or if you just need one-time support to “Jump Start My Startup” in a one time strategy session, I do only 6 of those a month.  You can learn about both here.  I’ll do a complimentary 30 minute consult for you to see if there’s any chemistry between us and if my knowledge base can assist you.  We also have Fairy Godmothers in every expertise waiting in the wings to fulfill your needs and help you overcome your own vulnerabilities in life and business.  We’re here for you!

Entrepreneurship can be lonely.  If you’re having trouble in ANY area going it alone, get help.  We’re here to help you Make a Wish and Make it Happen!

Originally Published on StartupPrincess.com on May 30, 2013

Plan: The 4 Letter Word in Business

plan-the-4-letter-word-in-business

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Plan.  For some of us it’s a four letter word.  Though some parts of my business, I’ll admit,  are a little fly by the seat of my pants, I’m pretty serious about my yearly planning.

Here’s how I do it (This is how I plan for my businesses, in another post I’ll talk about how I handle my personal annual planning through an exercise I like to call New Years Roles & Goals):

I start with a look at financials and see if I’ve met my money goals.  I dig deeper and then look at how many new customers I acquired the previous 12 months and look especially at the percent of repeat customers.  I look at customers that have been previous customers but didn’t order at all last year.  This provides me a whole lot to look at and spend most of my review time here.

Next, I look at where I spent my marketing dollars and track my return on investment for each of my ads, events, networking groups, etc, individually.  (If you don’t currently track your return on investment for your marketing dollars I suggest you make this a priority this year.  It’s very enlightening.)  When I was studying marketing back in college, I learned that your marketing efforts over time should yield a four times return on your initial marketing investment.  In today’s marketing, you should be excited if you can get a two times return on your investment.  That’s why it’s so critical to see if your marketing dollars are, in fact, turning into qualified leads and customers.

Then, I review my processes and see what can be streamlined, outsourced or delegated.  This is my favorite part.  I get serious about what I want to focus on and what I can have someone else do.  This is where I get empowered in my personal goals and what I want to spend time on in the coming year.

Finally, I set some goals.  I make a vision board, and I post both where I can see them everyday.

This quarter, I’m rewriting my business plan from start to finish.  When I started Doodads 15 years ago the internet wasn’t nearly as beneficial as it is now.  The internet has completely changed how I interact with suppliers, place orders and involve employees (who work from home!).  So, I’m starting with a clean slate to see what I come up with.  I’m excited and scared at the same time.   Send chocolate. ;)

If you haven’t done so already, you’re probably saying, “This is too much work!”  Planning isn’t meant to be daunting, but it’s meant to be thorough.   And it’s meant to provide you a clear view of the past so you can move forward with confidence.   In time, your planning will become something you crave instead of something you curse.

I believe in the adage (that some credit to Benjamin Franklin, though the internet wasn’t clear on final credits) “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”  So my charge to you: it’s not too late.  If you haven’t already done your annual review, make plans to do it now.

I know that this isn’t the only way to plan.  How do you do it?

Until then, happy planning!

Michelle's SheBiz Utah Video

It was an honor to get invited to be part of this fun video series with SheBiz Utah!  I love talking about how I make business and life work (and sometimes it doesn’t work)!
What would your answers be to this question?
Check out the other videos on the SheBiz Utah YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCQ6FY181WauUjvFlUZxVb_w

Insightful Questions Thanks to HP's Interview of Me on 367addisonavenue.com

I was honored to be interviewed by HP’s 367addisonavenue.com almost exactly a year ago.  We talked about Startup Princess and Doodads Promotional Products.

You can find the interview here.

A year later, here are some interesting observations:

1. I was criticized for saying the phrase, “pile of crap”.  I totally agree that it’s less than lady-like, and at the time didn’t realize I had said it.  I said it in reference to Life Balance.  She asked me what I thought about it and I was honest in my own words.  Insightful question #1: What are the limits on the things you SHOULD and SHOULDN’T say publicly, even if you say them privately?

2. I was then, and always will be, a serial entrepreneur.  Since the article I’ve added a full speaking and consulting business to my Startup Princess and Doodads Promotional Products Businesses.  Insightful question #2: How much is too much?  Do you think it’s possible for someone to be able to successfully run 3 businesses?

3. Lately, I’ve been marveling at this thing called the internet.  It’s amazing that I can do what I love while my children play in the background (well, I can’t speak while my children play in the background, but you catch my drift).  Insightful question #3: How does the internet effect what you do today?  If the internet did not exist, would your job exist?

4. Just as HP’s humble beginnings where in the garage of 367 Addison Avenue we all have our own launching pad.  I credit my friend Karen for making me take a marketing class with her in High School (at the time I wanted to be a kindergarten teacher).  If it weren’t for her, and that class that flipped a switch for me at the age of 17, I wouldn’t be here.  Insightful question #4: What are your humble beginnings, or humble RE-beginnings?

How’s that for a motivational Monday?  Sometimes a quick look back can help us root in a foundation that can move us forward.  I love looking back to see how far I’ve come.

To a great week!

entrepreneur, michelle mccullough, Happy Monday,

Michelle

Charitable Holiday Traditions

I don’t remember specifics of many Christmas mornings, but there’s one as a teenager that I remember vividly.  My brothers and I ran upstairs in anticipation of all the loot awaiting us in the living room and there were no new presents under the tree.  My mom said, “Get dressed.  We’re going out.”  We drove to the local “Soup Kitchen” and were immediately put to work serving breakfast to the homeless and less fortunate in our community.  After spending the morning seeing family after family who had so little, it was very easy to list all of my blessings.  When we arrived home and had our actual Christmas (Santa hid the presents in my mom’s room until we returned) I remember the feeling being very different.  Each present seemed like a luxury – WAY more than I needed.  Though I don’t remember a single Christmas gift I got that year, this memory was the best gift my mother could have given me.

That wasn’t the first time my mother taught us about the spirit of giving during the holidays.  As a kid, at the beginning of December, my mother got us together as a family and we talked about what we were going to GIVE this Christmas and not what we were going to GET.  We’d pick a family to do a service for or we’d do a “Sub for Santa” for a less fortunate family in our neighborhood.

This is a tradition that I treasure and have tried to instill in my young family.  Though our contributions may be meager, it’s a nice tradition to brighten someone else’s holiday.

Last year I heard about Project Teddy Bear from one of Startup Princess’ partners: Bank of American Fork.  I thought that would be fun thing to do with my then not-quite-2 year old.  We had three stuffed animals that he had received as gifts that were sitting in a box (with the tags still on) and had never been played with. And that was a start of our annual tradition with Project Teddy Bear.  I told him about little boys and girls who didn’t have very much and that they would love a new toy.  He helped me carry them in and set them down in the impressive pile and then looked at the pile and picked up a new one to take home.  I tried to explain that this wasn’t a trade and, luckily, it went over pretty well.  We said, “Bye, bye bears.” And went home.  It took all of about 20 minutes including driving time.

Project Teddy Bear is a community service project sponsored by Bank of American Fork. Customers, employees and community members donate teddy bears and other stuffed animals that are given to the Utah Valley Family Support & Treatment Center in Orem, the Salt Lake County Family Support Center (locations in Midvale, Taylorsville, West Valley City and Sugarhouse) and the House of Hope in Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden. Last year, Bank of American Fork collected an all-time high of 7,463 stuffed animals and their goal for 2010 is 8,000.

Check out this cool time lapse video of last year’s donations Bank of American Fork Project Teddy Bear

I know I’m not alone in having chartible holiday traditions.  There are many families who at the beginning of every December help their children inventory toys and select 2 or 3 items to donate to Salvation Army, Goodwill or Deseret Industries.  This is also a great tradition of making way for new presents and also giving to those whose budgets may be tight.

I also know of other businesses that host fun projects during the holidays for employees, customers or community members like Sub for Santa.  Utah based, woman owned company, Stampin Up! decided to do away with sending holiday cards to their demonstrators and took the money and donated it to the Ronald McDonald House.

However you do it in your business or in your family, I’d love to hear about your ideas for charitable holiday traditions or hear about other company’s projects, like Project Teddy Bear that are spreading holiday cheer this season.

Michelle McCullough – American Entreprenuer

Have you ever Googled yourself?  It’s okay, you’re among friends.  Go ahead and spill the beans.

A couple of weeks ago, a friend had said that she had Googled me.  I was curious what was out there so I Googled myself and I found this:

In 2009 I was photographed for a series called “American Entrepreneur Profiles”.  I got an email from Mike Michalowicz, author of the Toilet Paper Entrepreneur, saying that Allana from Ars Magna studio would be driving cross country and photographing American Entrepreneurs along the way.  Well, Americanism + Entrepreneurship are two of my favorite things, so I responded that I would be interested.  I was selected!  I called a friend in Salt Lake and asked them if I could use their conference room for the shoot since my office is my home or my car (in hindsight, I should have done it at home or in my car, I think at the time I was embarrassed to be picked for this great thing, and was nervous to say, “I work out of my house.”  Now that’s something I embrace and feel like it’s the best way to keep my costs down and most customers prefer I come to them anyway…).

Allana and her husband were very chic, and super down-to-earth and nice.  They asked me questions in between snapping pictures and I tried to act as calm as I could.  I felt way cooler that I really am.

Allana did a nice post on her site.  But it wasn’t until I was Googling myself a couple of weeks ago in 2011 that I found this post with more pictures.

It’s interesting looking back on that post and seeing what I said.  Interesting that I said that I’d double my income that year, and I did.  It was a great year.

Its interesting to look back on what I was doing then and what I’m doing now.  I’ve added 2 new businesses to my plate, and Doodads is still running like the well oiled machine that it is.

And it’s interesting to see that my little boy is big.  Life changes so fast.  Now my 2nd child is even older than Gavin was when those pictures were taken.  Time flies.

I’m delighted to be listed as an American Entrepreneur.  I really do feel like I’m living the American dream each and every day.

Book Review: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Title: The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur

Author: Mike Michalowicz

End Rating: Worth Reading

Total Number of Pages: 175

Okay, so I’m going to come clean.  I read this book on the toilet.  No lie.  Something about the title and toilet paper on the cover (or perhaps that’s the only place a mom can get dedicated time to read a book) inspired me to read it on the porceline throne.

Let me start off by saying I’m a huge fan of Mike Michalowicz, the author, and after first being introduced to him in 2008, I’ve become involved in his community for entrepreneurs.  I’m on his email list (which isn’t annoying and always offers pertinent information), I watch his little movie segments online, and because of him and his emails, I was featured in the project “An American Entrepreneur” in 2009.  He’s started a number of successful businesses and can put his money where his mouth is.

I’ll start with what I liked: First of all, his book is overall a great read.  Michalowicz’s passion for business oozes out of every page, and you can tell this guy LOVES business ownership.  It’s a contagious passion that makes me inspired to run my business with more heart and he really digs deep with you PERSONALLY to find out what drives you to run or start your business.  We all have that voice inside us that he calls “The Wall of Limiting Beliefs” that tells us we’ll never make it, we’ll never make a single dollar, and so on, and he helps each person find what drives them to break down that wall.  It was a great reminder for me.  As I prepare for baby #2 (due in December) I’m faced with a whole new “Wall” and his book helped me get through some times when I wanted to just throw in the towel.

Second, like it’s title, it inspired me to use what I’ve got and run with it.  Especially in tough economic times, it’s easy to get discouraged and think “I don’t have the resources to …(fill in the blank).”  But we all have unique gifts and talents and we can use the resources we have instead of spending our time wishing we had others.  Michalowicz encourages creativity, ingenuity and hard work to get you through any business situation.  We could all use a reminder to be a little more positive and just get to work.

Here’s what surprised me (and I’ve shared my thoughts with him personally through Twitter): If you have a problem with occasional foul language, you’ll be surprised by the use of expletives throughout the book.  Michalowicz is a no-nonsense guy and he says it like it is.  If that’s a big deal to you, at least I warned you in advance.  Rest assured, you won’t find a swear word on every page, but they are there.  Perhaps in support of the “potty” theme throughout the book.  Michalowicz even warns in the introduction, “The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart…”

One final note:  This is a GREAT book for those getting started in business or if you have a dream in development.  I’ve been in business for 10 years and I was still able to get GREAT information but he does gear his message towards those who are starting up.

Michalowicz says in the book, “My goal for The Toilet Paper Entrepreneur is to be different and far better than the traditional business books and burned-out grad school rhetoric, from the first word to the last.”  Well Michael, to me, you succeeded.  Thanks for a great read and I recommend it to all of you!

For more information about Michael Michalowicz and the TPE community go to http://toiletpaperentrepreneur.com.

Mastering (and LOVING) Delegation

When I say “delegation” do you shudder?  Do you think of all the times that you gave someone a task and ended up doing it yourself or re-doing it?  Have you mastered delegation and the word brings peace of mind?  Do you think of an amazing assistant or employee that you trust implicitly?

I’ve delegated a lot of responsibilities and have have felt all of the above.  Peace and trust to panic and stress.  I sat in a church meeting a couple of weeks ago and the topic was “Delegation”.  It was so fantastic I wanted to share with you some of the tips that were shared and how I use them running my businesses.

These tips were shared by my friend Greg Danklef who quoted them from Lee Perry, a professor of Organizational Leadership & Strategy at BYU.  He shares 7 tips for mastering delegation (with my two cents [and then some] sprinkled in):

1. Decide what you want to delegate – Simple, right?  For some of us we don’t even know where to start.  I always use the philosophy that every task in your business needs to be done by the lowest possible position something I learned from the book the One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey.  I used to do everything because I was a one-woman show (I still am but have one assistant + use contractors on a regular basis).  Now, I delegate and outsource sorting my catalogs (get about 15 a week on average), mailing out catalogs, and other admin tasks.  What can you delegate, even on a short-term basis that would open the doors to more creative time that you CAN’T outsource?

2. Decide whom to delegate to – We had an interesting discussion around this.  We talked about balancing people’s talents and also their needs to grow.  If you run a company with a handful of employees growth is an important part of your business.  Though it takes more time to teach something new, employees who are given the opportunity to grow and succeed feel greater satisfaction with their work and try to work harder for advancement, etc.  But sometimes you also have to give jobs where the talent lies.  It’s a delicate balance.  When I’m delegating cataloging tasks, I can often give those jobs to neighborhood kids earning money for who knows what.  Other tasks like helping me find press contacts and following up on quotes take more time, training and talent and go to my assistant.

3. Make assignments clearly and specifically – This is where you answer WHO is doing WHAT by WHEN.  Take as much time as you need to ensure that the task is understood and answer any questions.  To this I would add, get buy-off from the delegated party that they can commit to the task, understand what needs to be done and that they also commit to the deadline.  This will give them structure and give you peace.  I also tell my assistants and contractors that I’m open if they have any questions during the process.  I don’t expect people to answer their own questions if they get stuck in the middle.

4. Assign an objective and not a procedure – This is where I start to shudder and certainly the place where I need to do a little work.  I often assign a procedure taking the “It’s my company” philosophy and hope that my assistants and contractors will understand.  Most do, and I do it with a great deal of charisma, but still. (Insert smiley face)  I have found that when I do share the task, but also share the vision of the project as a whole they buy-off a little better and their work is above average.  If I assign a task, I get just that.  No passion or opportunity for having it better than I asked for, either.   But that leads us to:

5. Allow autonomy – Give them space, don’t sit over their shoulder while they do it.  Trust them to feel the vision of the task and give them the opportunity to work their way and knock your socks off.  Besides, if you have to sit with them, why are you delegating it in the first place?  The idea is to free up your time!  And, they may get from A-Z a little differently, but as long as they get there, it’s okay! (Now, I know there are some tasks that require a specific process, but if the project allows, give them

6. Monitor performance and require reporting – I have also found as I have implemented these things over the past few weeks, I’ve started to give more autonomy, but I’m also giving more direction and saying things like, “After you’ve done X, lets look at it together and see what needs to happen next.”  This makes it clear to them that they need to check back in the middle of projects and also that I’m going to review and provide feedback on ways to improve mid-stream instead of being angry at the end when a lot of time has been spent.  They’re more open to my comments when I warn them before they start that I’m going to have them report in the middle of the project or at certain checkpoints.  And I think it gives them an opportunity to ask questions at a set time in the middle, instead of feeling too scared to ask, if that’s an issue for them.  This tip has been really helpful!

7. Give credit not blame – Praise the successes and the victories but don’t throw them under the bus if it doesn’t go as you would have liked.  Be the coach, be the person who trains them and works with them through the process that wants them to succeed!  And give them another chance on another task that may fit their talents and provide a benefit for you, if that one didn’t work out.

In just a few short weeks, I’ve seen how following this process has really helped in getting back quality work from those I delegate to and I’m loving the extra time it gives me and that it makes me feel like I can delegate more!  Do you have any other tips for delegation that you’d like to share?  We’d love to hear them!

This is a post I wrote for StartupPrincess.com

My Rules for Success: Flashback

When I was a trainer in debate in High School and college, I created a training on “How to win every debate round.”  I pulled it out  a while back and noticed that most of them are rules I still use today in my life and business.  With a few tweaks, I wanted to share these tips for success with you.  (I wrote this in June of 2008.  I’m posting it here with no edits.  Maybe I’ll update it soon!  Until then, these are a GREAT place to start!)

  1. You are always winning. If you don’t believe that you are the best, most trusted person in your field, why should they. NOT cocky, confident.
  2. You don’t have to be right. Sometimes we get so caught up in the principle that we lose site of what’s important. Sometimes other people can be right.
  3. Look at the big picture. Sometimes you have to take a step back, put your pen down, turn away from the computer screen, turn off instant messenger. What will mean the MOST right now? Don’t get caught up in some little detail. You can get stuck on the wrong point. You can also get stuck by not balancing all the roles that you play in life. Every day, every week, take a step back and say, “What matters MOST this week.”
  4. Kill them with Kindness I don’t care what they do, I don’t care what they say, Be nice. Don’t talk about them in the bathroom stall, don’t tell your friends or peers, don’t ever pass along anything negative. Nothing can kill your reputation in the business world faster than gossip.
  5. Always, Always, Always Be Honest It will always come back to bite you if you aren’t honest. You need to be honest to your customers, honest to your company, and honest to yourself. You also need to be honest enough with your customers and friends when to say, “This may not be the best deal for you.”
  6. Don’t be afraid to say “I don’t know”. You’ll look like an idiot if you try to stumble through some lame response. If you don’t know, say so, but smooth it over with, “I’ll find out and get right back to you.” and make sure you get back to them when you say you will.
  7. Keep your promises. If you say you are going to do something, DO IT. And do it when you said you were going to do it. Live by the motto, “Under promise, over deliver.” You can have the best product or service and kill it with dishonesty
  8. Know your position/be a team where appropriate Use your resources. Is there someone on your team/industry that knows more than you? Ask them for advice. Be willing to involve them in a deal. This also means don’t do things that aren’t your responsibility. Make the people around you do their jobs so that you can do yours. Delegate.
  9. Have fun. You have got to have balance in your life. You have got to make the time for the things that are fun, relaxing and that mean the most to you. Fill your well.
  10. Have a passion. What is your passion? What do you feel strongly about every day of your life? What moves you? What motivates you? Hopefully as a person who’s started your own business, you love what you do. Be emotional. Put your heart in it. This is the passion that should drive your life every day.

What are your rules for success?

This was previously posted on StartupPrincess.com with some edits today.