Monday, June 25, 2012

Main Street, with a bullet

The phrase "with a bullet" derives from the music industry.  It comes from Billboard magazine, the recording industry's bible in the age before digital downloads, iPods, piracy and business model implosion.  The term means a rapid ascension on a the case of music, "climbing the charts."

"Small business" is number two with a bullet -- up 42 points --  according to Gallup's new study on Americans' confidence in major institutions.  Small business trails only the military in the level of trust the US citizenry places in it, followed by the police and religion.  (Interesting cocktail chatter the members of those groups would share.)

Big business, HMOs and Congress top the he bottom of the list.  I'm sure you're shocked, shocked.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Cinderella men (and women)

A recent survey of small business owners by Citibank generated a flurry of news stories last week, similar to this one, whose headline blared that more than half of business owners have gone without pay; a quarter of them for a year or more.

This is probably news to only those who don't own a small business.  Owning a business -- especially in its formative years -- is not the path to Easy Street that those who don't own or run a business may assume.  Asked to name a movie that epitomizes the small business lifestyle, it surely would not be Putting on the Ritz.

Many owners I work with take far more pride in, and get much more satisfaction from, creating jobs than improving their bank balances.  When we discuss their personal needs and visions, getting rich seldom enters the conversation.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Letting go

"It is not the strongest species that survive, nor the most intelligent, but the ones most responsive to change."  — Charles Darwin

A number of discussions over the past few weeks involved business owners in the midst of managing change.

Some notes from the field:
  • A professional services CEO has just promoted a staffer into the #2 position, over some longer-tenured employees.  The staffer, great at his former job, is struggling, to the consternation of his boss.  Why? There's no job description for the new position, nor any plan for coaching the employee to succeed in his new role.
  • A retailer whose recent multi-quarter run of increasing sales has suddenly stopped.  Her sales and marketing people can't tell  why...they don't have the data on what's changed. Why? They don't have access to the data, which includes the company financials.
  • A business owner is in the process of selling his business to an employee/relation. He's agreed to a generous discount from the valuation and to hold a note for part of the price, because "it's family."  But the buyer hasn't spent even one day managing the business ever...never managed a project, never met a customer, never sold a piece of business. Why? "My father just gave [the business] to me, so I figured I do the same."

Smoking "hopium" is not a sound business strategy.  Why? Several reasons come to mind:

Friday, June 1, 2012

So sell me.

Last in a series...

The world of commerce has changed dramatically in the past few years. Technological, demographic, social and economic changes are raining over small businesses like a never ending series of squalls.

The processes and techniques employed by many small businesses were developed in the mid-to late-20th century and built for a “broadcast” world that for the most part no longer exists: large audiences that you can reach and motivate through traditional, one-way “tell and sell” laden with cliches and jargon.