Starting a Business is Like Learning a Board Game

boardgameHave you ever purchased or received a board game as a gift? I’m sure just about everyone has. If you aren’t familiar with it, and you don’t have someone to teach you the rules, it can be a tedious process to read and understand all the directions.

Many times, even when the instructions sound quite simple, they turn out to be quite complex when applying them action. It can be frustrating, frequently taking away the anticipated fun and excitement. You often have to play a few “practice” games with your opponents to figure it out before you begin playing “for real.” Sometimes, you just feel like you want to quit before you get started – or you do quit. This often results in losing out on a lot of fun. If you just had the right person to help you get started!

The same is true in business. Some of the questions you have can be quite similar to those when learning the rules of the new game:

  • How many people are required?
  • Is it a game of chance or skill?
  • What do I need to do or know before I begin?
  • How long does it usually take to finish the game (… complete a website, create marketing materials, develop a prospect list, etc.)?
  • What if I get stuck; who can help me?
  • If I run out of tokens, cards, chips, how do I get more?

The problem is, when starting a business you aren’t likely to get to practice first before you start. Your investment is made whether you win or lose. The best way to begin is to have someone who has played the game before, who can teach you what they know, and help you maneuver around the board to be successful. You are more likely to win when you have someone guiding you.

A franchise or similar business model can be that guide.  Our business package and licensing agreement is exactly that. Our years of knowledge are included in the manual, along with continued support and mentoring. When there are questions like those listed above, we provide the answers.

  • How many people are required? We help our licensees decide the best business model for them, their goals, and the industry.
  • Is it a game of chance or skill? Definitely skill and knowledge.
  • What do I need to do or know before I begin? Nothing – we help, every step of the way.
  • How long does it usually take to finish the game (… complete a website, create marketing materials, design a logo, etc.)? Your marketing materials will be ready within 30 days!
  • What if I get stuck; who can help me? We offer unlimited mentoring and support.

Most quality business packages offer this type of assistance. That’s why it’s well worth the investment.

No need for trial-and-error; we already did that. No need for practicing; we already did that. No need to make costly mistakes; we already did that. You start right the first time, without needing do-overs. Your investment comes with instructions!

 

 

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The Best Gift To Give Yourself

GiftTagSo many people have the dream of starting a business. Often they make that statement – wistfully, I might add – and with a sad type of grin, then they add … some day. You can see it in their eyes that they truly want this dream to come true.

I have heard many state that they want to own their own company … some day. They want to have independence … some day. They have a dream of not working for “the man” … some day. They will go out on their own … some day. They will become a [insert your chosen field here] … some day.

It doesn’t matter exactly how the desire of a different life is stated, it all comes down to wanting to have the freedom, joy, and ultimately the pride that comes with owning your own business.

Why not now? This is the season of gift-giving.

Give yourself the gift of your dream.

Only you can make it come true. I speak from experience, because I dreamed of owning my own business since I was in high school. When did I finally do it? When I was in my mid-50’s! I waited too long. I spent way too many years being unhappy, stifled, restricted. I listened to all the excuses I keep feeding myself, believing them to be good reasons. They weren’t. And now I am helping others achieve their dream of business ownership. That means I am consistently receiving a gift from myself.

So go ahead – give yourself the gift of starting your own business! Give yourself the pride you know you’ll feel. There is no better time than now.

 

 

When Your Schedule has “No Vacancy”

NoVacancyI love to travel, and we usually make reservations prior to our departure. We plan our trip, reserve hotel rooms, purchase plane tickets, and reserve a car weeks before we are leaving. However, sometimes our plans change (deciding to stay longer is the usual reason). Then we wonder if we’ll find a hotel with a vacancy. Seeing a flashing “no vacancy” sign can cause a lot of stress while traveling down the highway.

This same stress can be caused when an entrepreneur or business owner has a schedule that has no vacancy. What I mean by that is if you fill your schedule up each day to the full limit of your allotted time, you are risking being over-booked. This falls in line with my previous post about work/life balance.

Never schedule to capacity

We’ve all been there. You are waiting to begin boarding your plane when the announcement tells you that the plane is over-booked. The frustration and often anger are apparent in everyone. Who will have to give up their seat if no one offers? If you offer, will you be inconveniencing those waiting for your arrival? What will that do to their plans?

Relate this to your calendar. If you book meetings back-to-back, and one runs longer than anticipated, you have only two choices: you can either cut the first one short and possibly lose momentum, or 2) you can be late for your next meeting. Either way, you lose! Allowing extra time between meetings will give a buffer so this doesn’t happen (or it will rarely happen). The same with scheduling phone calls. Leave more time than you expect each call to take.

Create vacancies

If you work an eight-hour day, only schedule six or seven hours of calendar time. Why? If a meeting runs long, or a phone call takes more time than you expect, you can handle it without stress. Also, if an emergency arises, you’ll have time to address it, usually without having to reschedule something on your calendar.

Often others won’t follow these “vacancy” guidelines and this will cause an issue with your schedule. You’ll get a call asking if you can reschedule. If you were booked the solid eight hours for the rest of the week, you will have to tell them you cannot reschedule, or you’ll be required to reschedule someone else to fit this person in. That might not go over very well with that other person, and will certainly begin a domino effect that could go on for a long time until you get caught up on all the things you had to shuffle. And that doesn’t take into consideration the time you spent doing all the rescheduling!

The hour or more that you leave open on your calendar each day will allow you to almost always have the “vacancy” light on. When something happens that doesn’t allow a vacancy, you’ll be able to handle quite well because you know it is the exception and not the rule.

Also – and this is extremely important – other professionals will respect you for being on time, not rushing in at the last minute or not having to apologize for being late. You’ll also be admired for your ability to accommodate changes when necessary and not frequently asking to reschedule a meeting.

If the day goes well and nothing happened to fill in that extra hour or two, you just booked yourself a vacancy on your calendar to do as you choose.

Having Balance Is A Balancing Act

We hbalanceear it every day. Someone, somewhere, is talking about work/life balance. Employees are sometimes asked (told) to work overtime. Business owners feel they must work an exorbitant amount of hours to become successful. Where is the answer?

Most of us need to work, and want to. Whether employed by an employer or self-employed, it’s a powerful feeling to know that you are taking control of your life and providing for yourself and your family.

We also want to have a life! We want to spend time with family and friends. We need time to relax, read, exercise, watch a movie, and take a few days or a week a few times a year to just get away. The trick is to find out how to have both. You might have heard the saying, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” I would add tired and frustrated, too.

Too many hours can be stressful

Working too many hours can be stressful – physically and emotionally. When you start a business, it is expected that long hours will come along with it. But that excess should begin to wane after a reasonable time. If it continues on too long, you risk losing the work/life balance to the point it can affect your health, you can alienate your family, and often lose valuable friendships.

It is necessary to take time to relax, chill, rest, have down time. But what about your clients? What happens when you aren’t working? How will all the work get done?

You can’t ignore your clients

When discussing the lack of balance in their lives, many entrepreneurs state that they need to to spend all that time to serve their clients properly. It is important to create the balance without risking losing your clients, and that is the issue. This was a learning process for me after creating our business package for asset inventory professionals. I found myself mentoring and advising other business owners as well as continuing to run my own business. Trust me … I learned the hard way!

Taking care of yourself will help you take better care of your clients. When you’re alert and energized, you are more accurate, more “in the moment” with what’s on your mind, and you have the creativity you need to run your business. At the same time, it is extremely important to remain focused and on track with deadlines and promises to others – especially your clients. If you don’t, you risk losing those clients. And without clients, you certainly won’t have a business!

So, we’ve determined it’s necessary to have a work/life balance. We also now agree (I hope you agree) that you can’t just start taking time off without making preparations to continue to serve your clients properly.

3 questions to help you achieve the balance

Once it’s determined that you’re working too many hours, which has your work/life balance way too heavy on the work side, it’s time to make some changes. Give your work schedule a thorough review, and ask these questions:

  • Is there a better/faster way to do specific tasks?
  • What am I doing that I can stop doing?
  • What can I hand off to someone else (hire sub-contractors)?

These 3 questions helped me recover a few hours a day!

Be honest with yourself. You are probably doing some tasks that you can stop doing. If you’re not sure, quit for a month and see if it has impacted your business in any way. If you are attending meetings that bring little to no benefit to your business, stop going. Your time is valuable. Others can take some tasks off your plate and do them more efficiently, thus giving yourself more time to do what you do best.

The balance is difficult to maintain, but it is worth it to your business, your family, your friends, and most importantly, to yourself.

Start Your Business – Do Not Be Afraid

afraidAs many of you know, it took my wife and I years before we took the dream of owning our own business to heart and moved forward with it. Our excuse was that life got in the way. We got married, had kids, then had the corresponding bills of raising our two sons. It was just never the right time.

But looking back, those were excuses to hide our real excuse. (I’ll share that with you in a minute.)

I wondered what held others back, what it was that kept them from pursuing the goal of business ownership. So, we asked the following question on social media:

What holds you back from starting a business?

The overwhelming answer was “fear.” Fear of failure. Fear of making mistakes. Fear of not knowing what you’re doing.

If you truly want business ownership, I suggest that you not be afraid. There is no need, in these days of the internet, government programs, business coaches, franchises and quality business packages, to start a business without the resources you need. These resources, and the value and knowledge they will provide for you, can take away those fears.

A proven business system helps remove the fear

Franchises and quality business packages offer so much assistance that some of your fears can be eased. Your mistakes will be lessened because you’ll have the guidance of a proven system for success. You won’t enter the industry not knowing what you’re doing because you’ll have mentors and managers who have gained years of experience and knowledge in the industry of your choice. They’ve made the mistakes when they started out, and are now sharing them with you so you don’t have to go through those trying times.

Fear of failure

The fear of failure is up to you because that’s a head game most entrepreneurs and business owners play. I have lived that fear (this is where I share with you as promised). When you fear failure, you focus on failure. Investing in a business package will give you the skills, knowledge, and mentoring that will help alleviate this fear because you have removed so many other unknowns. But I do need to be clear about this. The fear of failure can only be removed when you choose to let it go.

Let it go!

 

6 Signs You Need Help Starting Your Business

diceThe word entrepreneur used to mean that you start your business from scratch, without the help from any start-up kit, business package, or franchise. However, today, those who start an independent business are typically called an entrepreneur when they choose to create an independent business when they enter a small or not-well-known industry.

We, the asset inventory industry, fall into that “not-well-known” category. Though more and more people are becoming aware of the need for an inventory of the contents in their home or business, asset inventory professionals are still considered trail-blazers.

Why do they need your service?

Not being a well-known, familiar industry could make it a little harder to start an inventory business. People might not know why they need an inventory. They might not see the value in a home or business inventory service. They also might think that since they have insurance, they don’t need an inventory (not true, by the way). People know why a person offers a lawn mowing service. They might need to be educated as to why they need to hire an inventory professional.

In addition to these issues, there is the major task of just getting your business started. And that is true for any industry. Are you the entrepreneur type of person, ready to handle all the behind the scenes tasks yourself, or do you need help getting your business – any business – started?

Six signs you need help starting your business

  1. You don’t know how to create a website (yes, every business needs a presence on the internet).
  2. You can’t write marketing materials.
  3. You struggle with creating processes and procedures.
  4. You aren’t sure how to market the business.
  5. You don’t have months and months to go without revenue while you create the letters, contracts, marketing pieces, and procedures.
  6. You need someone to hold you accountable and coach and/or mentor you.

You can get this help by hiring a web developer, writer, office assistant, lawyer, and business coach. The problem here is that you don’t know what your investment is going to be. How much money will you need to get started and maintain your business?

You can also receive this assistance through investing in a quality business package where you’ll know your investment requirements up front. Most of these packages allow you to be an independent business owner, which enables you to retain your entrepreneurial endeavor. And you will have the processes, procedures, marketing assistance, contract templates, and coach/mentor to help you reach the success you desire.

You Can Start A Business With Zero Dollars

ZeroDollarsWe’ve all seen the ads. They go something like this: “Start a business for less than $100!” or “All you need to start a business for only $500!” and the ever-enticing headline “Start your business with zero dollars!!!” (The three exclamation points are theirs, not mine.)

These ads draw attention, and seem to promise the world to those who desperately want to start a business. You think that now you can achieve your dream of business ownership. Stop and think, though. How much can you really expect to get for $100 – or for nothing?

A difference between starting and being successful

By reviewing and requesting information from many of these ads, I found one thing. They are all telling the truth. You certainly can start a business with zero dollars. However, starting a business, and creating a successful one, are two totally different things. Consider that just deciding to start a business, and saying what you’ll call it, is in essence, starting a business. To this point, it has cost you absolutely nothing. And now you can tell your friends and family that you started a business of your own.

Now, the next step is where the need for funding the business comes in. You will need funds to create marketing materials, business cards, a website, and a newsletter to promote your business. You will most likely need to hire a marketing professional to create these items for you. If you don’t have writing skills, you’ll also need a professional writer to help with the content. Do you have funds for equipment, office supplies, utilities, and insurance? If you’re in a profession that offers certification, licensing, and memberships in organizations, you will definitely want to join and learn from others in your field. Investing in yourself is a well-spent expenditure, and hiring a business coach is a must to ensure that you have the guidance and knowledge you need to move forward with your business. Other items you might want to purchase are logo clothing, advertising, networking memberships – and the list goes on.

Know your total investment

It is a challenge to create a budget when you don’t have a history to know what each of these expenses will cost. Investing in a franchise, business package, or license agreement is often a larger up-front investment, but one that you can budget. Knowing that your financials are in order, you will be able to concentrate on growing your business quickly while receiving the assistance you need through that wise investment. You will most likely be presented with various financing options, too, so you can pay a known, budgeted amount per month rather than facing the unknown when you have to hire multiple professionals to help you create your business.

Benefits Of A Shorter Workweek

4DayI always smile when I see posts on social media from people anxiously awaiting the weekend. Sometimes you see “TGIF” comments. Other times, the doom and gloom appears on Sunday night when my friends are preparing for Monday morning. As an entrepreneur, I don’t have these Monday-Friday requirements.

A recent article, titled, Arguments For A Shorter Workweek, discussed how the 4-day workweek benefits everyone. Two points really made sense to me, and reiterated the freedom I have as a business owner.

The first key benefit is that it makes people healthier. The U.K.’s leading health industry group stated that “the five-day workweek is causing people too much stress and that Britain should instead switch to a four-day workweek.” Other countries have already adopted this work schedule and have found it to be extremely beneficial. Heath issues cited to support this are lower blood pressure readings and reduced anxiety and depression.

The second benefit is the ability to focus better. Co-founder of 37signals, Jason Fried, wrote that a reduced schedule workweek, “makes people more focused on getting things done in the limited time they have. When you have a compressed workweek, you tend to focus on what’s important. Constraining time encourages quality time.”

I’m not going to say that I only work 32 hours a week. Some weeks I work less. Others, more. I enjoy the options and freedom of choosing when and how long I will work. Time flexibility is one of the most important benefits of being a business owner. And it has certainly encourage me to focus, plan, and achieve more in less time.

When you own your own company, you can control the number of hours your work. If you are a home-based businesses have even greater options to set your own hours because you don’t have set times within which your company is operating (compared to a store-front).

Owning a home inventory business has enabled me to eliminate the structure of the 5-day, 40-hour workweek. I determine when and how long. My stress level is lower; my freedom for relaxation is under my control. If you own your own business, consider this shorter workweek. If you’re thinking about becoming a business owner, these are great reasons to act on this dream, and act on it now.

8 Questions You Should Ask Before Investing in a Business

8Baby Boomers are finding themselves out of work and not being able to get a new job. College grads are having difficulty landing a job in the field for which they just spent 4 (or more) years studying. Many retirees took part-time jobs and now cannot find one.

What do all of these people have in common – other than being out of work or not finding the right job? Many are choosing to start a business of their own. They have decided that business ownership can give them the opportunity to take control of their future.

Baby Boomers and retirees are most likely looking for a business that can be part-time, meaning they can work just the number of hours they choose per week or month. Others will be seeking a full-time business, and often want flexible hours. There are a plethora of business models available today to help the aspiring entrepreneur (no matter what their age is) find a business that is suitable for them.

Start-up kit, license agreement, business package, or franchise

There is always the option to start from scratch without anyone’s help or support. Other options, which give various levels of assistance either just at start-up, or continuing through years and years of owning the business. Start-up kits are normally in the low hundreds of dollars, offering just enough to get started (thus, “start-up” kit) and then you’re on your own. There are licensing agreements and business packages that provide various degrees of assistance from being very similar to a start-up kit to offering features and benefits that are similar to most franchises. And then there is the franchise industry. The investment is normally quite a bit higher for a franchise than any of the other business models.

8 questions to ask yourself

  1. Am I looking for a business that creates a product or do I want to offer a service?
  2. Do I have the funds to start my business?
  3. Would it cost more to do it all on my own, or is the business investment less expensive in the long run?
  4. Do I know what it will cost in addition to the initial investment?
  5. Is the owner/manager of the business I’m interested in available to answer my questions?
  6. What is my time frame of when I want to be ready to do business?
  7. How much assistance do I need/want?
  8. Will this business give me the flexibility/hours I want to work?

These 8 questions will help you create a clear picture of what type of business model is a good fit for you. The options are endless!

 

The Best Use of Your Time

timeismoneyMany small companies begin as a sole proprietorship or two-person operation (fondly called mom-and-pops). As the company grows, a need for additional help is realized. This business owner who used to wear the operations, bookkeeping, marketing, and sales hats now must decide who will help with these tasks. A choice whether to become an employer or to hire companies that provide some of these services looms overhead.

Often times business owners have a variety of skills, but common sense must be used when making the decision of whether to do it yourself or hire someone else. An option often considered is to outsource specific tasks rather than hire an employee because the sub-contractors 1) don’t call in sick or go on vacation, 2) can be used on an as-needed or contracted basis, and 3) don’t need training because they are the professionals in their field.

Outsourcing

Well-known purchased services are cleaning, administrative, marketing, and accounting. Are your bills and invoices processed in a timely manner? If not, then a bookkeeping or accounting service would be a good opportunity for you to eliminate service charges and also get faster payment on your receivables. Are you still maintaining your own website and trying to write a newsletter, but finding both are suffering from lack of attention? A marketing or web design firm could be the answer.

Other services that are becoming more common are professional organizers, concierge services, commercial and residential inventory services and delivery services. Do you spend way too much time trying to remember where you put things? Then maybe it’s time to hire someone to bring functionality into your office. Are you spending too much time delivering your product instead of creating marketing materials? A courier service could solve that issue. Do you do monthly or annual inventories and find you’d rather be out selling instead of counting – or have you lost track of your company assets, where they are stored, when they will need to be budgeted for replacement, etc.? An asset documentation company could most likely do it faster and provide the updates in a more timely manner.

The value of the outsourced service

A small business owner sent Hartman Inventory this letter, which speaks to the issues all small business owners face, and validates that it isn’t always just the dollars that need to be considered:

I wanted to tell you briefly about how I learned the value of your services. As a new business owner, I am constantly plagued with where to put the few dollars and cents I have into business related expenses. I was told about your company, and thought – wow – what a great idea! As I looked at the costs, I ignorantly thought I could just do it myself and save a few bucks. As time went on and I needed to get an accurate inventory, I really started to feel the pressure come tax time. So, I had my part time sales person work on the hand written inventory over a two week period. It cost me hundreds of dollars in wages, plus time lost that could have been spent generating business (which has exponential value). Had I spent the time to figure out just how valuable of a service this is and how incredibly cost effective it is, I would have made a far better business decision. Rest assured, I will not be making that mistake again.

Often the answer is hiring a third party service provider who can get the job done more professionally, in less time, and you’ll have benefited financially by making that choice. The next time you have this type of decision to make, ask yourself: Is this a wise use of my time?

Uncover your hidden entrepreneur.


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Home Inventory – A Guide for Homeowners and Renters

Home Inventory – A
Guide for Homeowners and Renters


The many reasons for a home inventory, plus a do-it-yourself guide and templates.

 

A Business Guide to Asset Inventory

A Business Guide to Asset Inventory
Protecting your company assets.

Copyright 2014 Nationwide Inventory Professionals, LLC © 2013. All Rights Reserved.
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