When I first decided to change my business model and move in a different direction, I really had no clue about what I was doing. I went to a networking lunch and had the pleasure of meeting someone who inexplicably asked me to give her a call so we could talk. I don’t know if it was because I looked lost and confused or if she saw something in me, whatever the reason I took her up on her offer. We talked for about 15 minutes and in those fifteen minutes I honestly had a completely different outlook on life.
She subsequently gave me tickets to a different networking event that she could not attend, but said it was good for her. We also attended a three day conference together and I practically stalked her the entire time I was there. I didn’t really know her, but for whatever reason, she opened up to me and it gave me a completely different perspective of what was possible. That 15 minutes of “let me help you out” discussion was profound and I honestly cannot imagine where I would be a year later if I had not had that talk.
Don’t be afraid of sharing your wisdom with others.
Conversely, I attended a workshop where I heard the speaker say “I don’t let people pick my brain anymore.” I thought it was a strange thing to say. Her point was that she felt people were taking advantage of her knowledge and know how. This speaker was not the first person that I heard say this, but I was taken aback by her statement because she was someone who was teaching people how to live better. Does one lunch or phone call really take that much of your wisdom that you cannot give it away?
At what point to you become so engrossed with yourself that you forget you were once the lost puppy trying to find your way? You never know how you can change someone’s life by offering a piece of yourself. Yes, some people will take advantage of you (we will get to that in a moment) but most will not. If anything you will build a loyal tribe of followers. They will even do business with you eventually.
The secret to success is not a secret.
Yes, I know you have a secret sauce to your business, its special and unique if people found out it would ruin you. Well, here is the thing, Coca-Cola and KFC are not successful simply because of their secret ingredients. It is the brands that you know and love and despite the fact there are many competitors trying to do what those businesses do, they are still successful. Why, because of brand loyalty. In this day of counterfeit and generic advantages, we seem to forget that people really do follow the name!
So what does your name say about you? That you are so afraid of what others’ may do that you cannot open yourself up to share? Is the length and breadth of your wisdom so small that if you let any nugget out you will have nothing left for people to purchase? I have been told many stories of people having their business models and identity stolen. In fact, one friend said that her entire website was stolen, because someone loved her ideas so much. But for the one person who stole from her, there are countless people who give to her. That is because of her brand. People know what they are getting when they deal with this woman, and they know that no one does it better.
Leave a legacy.
These days mentor is a synonym for coach. But I think these things are different. A coach is paid to help bring the best out of you and gets you to perform better than you thought you could. A mentor is someone who you aspire to be or operates at a level which you dream to achieve, that opens up doors and opportunities for you. They are not paid to do this, but do it because they genuinely want to help you.
While people will remember their coach (after all you paid enough money), your mentor will remain with you forever. That is because they did something they did not have to do for you. That legacy of mentoring is something that is irreplaceable. It is life changing and catapults you to a different place. If my 15 minute mentor asks me for anything, if I could do it, I would. That is because she gave her time without hesitation at a time that I needed it most.
Because my business is working with small businesses, people come to me with their ideas and hopes and dreams of starting their own business. I enjoy listening to the various ideas and thoughts for I am truly amazed at the level of genius some owners’ exhibit. It is fun and exciting for me to learn from others and to help them pursue their dreams.
I was recently introduced to Brazzlebox, a community network for small businesses, who suggested that I give advice to would-be business owners about starting a business. The assumption being that many people would start a business if they knew where to start. My personal viewpoint is that the problem isn’t knowing where to go when you are ready to start a business, it is knowing if you are ready to start a business. Here are three questions to ask yourself:
What is stopping you?
People have various reasons (notice I did not say excuses), why they have not moved forward with owning a business. Going from having an idea to turning it into a business is about as big a leap as going from sitting on the couch eating potato chips to running a 5K marathon. There is a lot of intention behind it. Everyone has great intentions, it is the actions that turn those intentions into something.
Money and time seem to be the biggest reasons why people don't move forward with their business intentions. However, those are the two things that you will never have enough of when you start your business. Behind all of those success stories come hardship, stress and struggle. It doesn’t matter how big your company gets. You, as an owner, will always have to deal with the ups and downs of ownership. So if you are waiting for the perfect set of circumstances, you will always be waiting.
The majority of successful business owners I know, have a passion for what they are doing. There is some underlying belief that is driving them to a certain level of success. It is passion that keeps them going even when circumstances seem bleak. It is also why business owners get started in the first place. If the reasons outweigh the passion, then you shouldn’t get started until the opposite is true.
Do your research.
I started my law practice out of necessity. I was more of a reluctant business owner. I had no clue what it took to run a law practice or what I really needed. If I had the knowledge that I have now, there are so many things I would have done differently. But the big difference maker would have been researching my industry. By the time that I actually started doing this, I was ten years into the business.
If you are opening a restaurant, you should join a restaurant association and learn what it really takes to run a restaurant. Just because you (or your mother) are a great cook, does not mean that you can successfully run a restaurant. Other than great food what do you need to make a restaurant successful? Why do some survive when others fail? You need to know these things before you get started.
A great place to start is the Small Business Administration’s SCORE. Most cities have one and you can utilize their library to research your industry and find specific information. You can also research industry specific information online to answer many questions you may have. More importantly, you need to talk to people in the industry. There are so many groups out there for business owners, you just have to look and you will be surprised at what you find.
Build your business with your team in mind.
As a business owner, you need a team of professionals; attorney, accountant, financial planner, and coach. You also need people that will help you build and grow the business. You may not have enough money to fill those positions right now, but you should be thinking about it. You may even have some people in mind, talk to them about what you are doing and see if they are willing to help.
Your team should be people who are knowledgeable about different aspects of the business. Figure out your own strengths and weaknesses. Start with the weaknesses and get to know people who can help with those things. In areas that you are strong, get to know others in that area as well. They can become advisers and help you work through issues that you could not do on your own. No one knows everything, it is always good to be able to work through situations with other people.
If you want to successfully start and run a business, be open and willing to change your mindset. Starting a business isn’t difficult. Running a business is. Begin the journey with the end in mind, and map out the road you plan to take to get there.
Brazzlebox is a new social network designed specifically for the needs of mom and pop stores and other businesses that often have to plan carefully just to buy a new office chair. Brazzlebox was created to make this process easier and allow people to connect with even more entrepreneurs than just in their close proximity.
Did you spend the end of 2015 planning for 2016? Maybe you waited until January 2016. If you have not planned (in writing) for 2016 please know that I am giving you the frown face image right now! For those of you that have a written plan, how is going? If you stuck it in a drawer or left or have not opened it up since you closed the file, it’s time to review!
We are nearing the end of the first quarter and it is time to review. I suggest that you review your strategic plan every three months. If you have not done so, set a meeting with yourself and a couple of business friends/partners and conduct an assessment.
You have to know where you stand.
Every strategic plan should have a set of actionable items. If you do not have any timelines and deadlines to get things done your plan is not very strategic. This is not a to-do list in its traditional sense, but a list of actionable items that get you closer to your goal. Therefore, you should be able to look at your plan and determine what you have and have not accomplished.
Once you have determined where you are, you can now figure out why you are there. What have you accomplished and when did you accomplish it? What things have not been accomplished and why? Are there internal or external reasons for achieving or not achieving your goals? Internal reasons would be those that are within your control (yes, that means your employees' accomplishments or non-accomplishments). External reasons would be, things that are not within your control.
Adjust and readjust
Notice I said to adjust, not quit! Do not abandon things that are not working at this point. Some things need time to take hold, so if some of your plan is not going the way you want it to, adjust. If the reason for not accomplishing a goal is internal, then you know where the blame lies and you should know what is necessary to fix it. If the problem is external, there can be many solutions (or none) and you just have to wait until the environment is more favorable to your plan.
For example, if you are a real estate agent and the housing market is beginning to fall flat, you cannot do anything about that. Does that mean that you no longer can sell houses? No, of course not, it just means that you will have to adjust your sales focus (commercial vs. residential?) to deal with the external factors.
If you are accomplishing certain goals, great! Keep going. Ask yourself, what is making this particular area shine while other areas are not. Can you apply some of those same things to the trouble areas? If not, can you do more to increase the positive areas of your business to compensate? Ask yourself some tough questions, or have other’s ask you. Self-assessment is key to making your strategic plan work!
Make new goals and timelines!
If you did not make certain goals, it does not mean you should cross it off your list. Maybe you did not make your goals during the first quarter, but you can do it in the second and double it! If you did better than expected, do it again! Adjust your goals to show the increase.
Try your best not to push certain things back unless you have to. If something is realistically not going to happen within your previously timeline, push it back. However, if something could occur, but you are pushing it back because you do not want to focus on it, then keep the goal. The ultimate result would mean pushing yourself past your comfort zone into better results for 2016.
Once you have made the necessary adjustments, do not hide your strategic plan. Out of sight, out of mind! I personally like to add goals and miles stones to my calendar. You can also make a calendar and place it in your work space. You do not have to keep the entire plan out where everyone can see, but you certainly want to have the results portion posted somewhere where it stays fresh in your mind.
There is no point in spending the time making a strategic plan if you are not going to use it. Look forward setting your quarterly assessment and working toward your year-end goals.
It has been nearly a year since I started The CEO Effect, LLC. When I first had the idea of what I wanted to do, I spoke to a lot of people, made a lot of notes, and read a lot of blogs. I was thinking about the realities of what I wanted to do and who I wanted to do it for. After what seemed a lifetime of figuring these things out, I realized that the circle in which I currently inhabited was no longer big enough.
This was not a decision that I came to lightly. The truth is that I spent 17 years working in a certain space and time and it was successful for me. But this “new” thing would not work in that old space. Despite the number of years in business and the amount of experience I have gained, I had to move to a space where no one knew who I was. I do mean no one! Having to explain to people where you have been for the last 17 years is hard, having to explain why you no longer want to be there is even more difficult.
As I continued to have conversations regarding small business operations and development, I realized that few people understood the significance of what I did. I was starting to think that I was crazy. But then I came a group of people that understood what I was doing. Small business intellects, as I would define them. Those who “got it” and felt that it was worth something. As I looked around I realized that these were a different type of people. People that wanted what I had.
This was a group of people that I did not normally encounter in my previous business endeavors. Conventional wisdom tells you to go back to who you know to sell services. Those who bought from you before, will buy again. I think conventional wisdom is right, but in some cases it just leads you back to the same point. That is because it is the same circle.
To really make some moves, to really make an impact in your business. Sometimes, you have to change circles. Changing your circle means changing your mindset. This is something that I talk about often but in this case it means a change of attitude as well. If you move into the right circle, you are no longer the big fish. You are a small fish in a big pond and you have to learn how to navigate around the pond.
New circles create new friends, new found passion and vision. Some people are scared to move to a new circle because they have become comfortable in their old one. Changing your circle is a risk. It is a necessary risk if you want to move your business forward. Get out of your comfort zone and move into possibilities. If you are looking for profits everywhere except your business, then you are not where you need to be.
Take the time to look at your circle, your environment, and ask yourself “is this where I want to be?” If the answer is no, then you know what you need to do!
The idea of Readiness has been with me for a while. It started while working with a nonprofit organization to determine if a client was “ready” to work with the organization. Many wanted to, but they were not in a position to accomplish the goals that were required when receiving assistance.
Readiness is the state of being ready. Ready means to be in a suitable state for an activity, action, or situation; fully prepared. Are you ready? I have asked myself this question over and over again. Just when I think the answer is yes, I realize that it’s no. Since the start of this year, I have gone back to books, tapes, and videos that I have purchased over the years to help improve my business. Some of which I forgot about. I decided that if I took the time to purchase them, then, they should still be useful. As I reviewed some of the materials, I wondered why I had not implemented the suggestions. Simple answer, I was not ready.
Are you in a suitable state?
In 2007, I declared that I was going to give all to my law firm. I decided that I was going to get focused and really do what it takes to grow my business. That year I got married, and the next year I had a baby. During that time, I had joined a leadership group (two in fact) and I had begun taking several litigation cases which I swore I would never do. I was ready. Except that I wasn’t.
The day after I had my son, I wanted to quit my business. I honestly just didn’t have what I needed to move my business forward. Understandable, given the circumstances, but I was not in a suitable state. After that, the person that would later become my business coach invited me to a coaching group that he was hosting. I went, I learned a lot and I implemented nothing. I wasn’t there. Mentally, I mean. I just wasn’t.
The point is, that to move forward you have to be in a suitable state. That can be physical, mental, spiritual, or financial. You can have everything it takes to own a business and make it successful, but if you are not ready, none of it will matter.
Are you fully prepared?
The correct answer is no. None of us really are when it comes to owning a business. I have yet to meet a business owner who felt completely prepared for everything that comes their way. But being fully prepared in this sense mean that you are ready to handle whatever comes your way.
I think about my son who is in Cub Scouts. Always be prepared! That means that you have the tools or skills that you need to handle any situation. I will admit that many times in my business I was not prepared. I was not prepared for the financial crises that hit in 2011. Despite the fact that I had been provided with every opportunity to be prepared, I was not. I had several marketing courses and books that I had read, and did not fully implement the lessons. So when everything fell apart, I did not know what to do. I did not know how to increase my customer base so I did a lot of things that made no sense. In hindsight, that lack of preparedness set me back several years.
Are you ready to be ready?
If you got everything you wanted and had the amount of business that she desired, would you be able to handle it. If your answer is no, but I’ll figure it out. You are not ready. I know there is a belief that you build something after you know you have the customers for it. In some sense I believe that is true, you do not want to have done a bunch of work for no one to want it. However, it is not true for creating processes for your business. If you get the desired client and have no real way of servicing them, trying to figure it out on their dime may make you lose the client.
If you are waiting for everything to be perfect before you get ready, then you are going to miss opportunities. Be ready to receive whatever it is that is yours to receive. But you cannot do that if you are not in a suitable state and fully prepared. Are you?
Because I work with small business owners, I often connect with other small business providers. Those whose business is small business. We often laugh and joke about small business owners and the mistakes that are made and bemoan the fact that many small business owners “just don’t get it.” I was prepared to write about that phenomenon this when I realized that I have contributed to the problem many times myself.
In all honestly, I am the typical small business owner. When I started my law firm sixteen years ago, I just decided to do it. I bought some business cards and BOOM; I was in business! Easy peasy right? My first year in business I earned $13,000.00. I wanted to quit and get a job. Except that was the very reason I went into business in the first place. No job. So I just sucked it up and kept it moving.
I bought marketing kits, I spoke around the city of Houston and I contracted with various entities to increase my business. My business did increase but it never became what I really thought it could be. No matter how much money I was making I was always struggling. Struggling to get bigger businesses, struggling to maintain financial stability, struggling to learn how to perfect my craft. In some ways I did everything right, but the business was not where I thought it should be.
A lot of the problem was me of course. I made certain family choices that inevitably was going to prevent me from being on the level that I said I wanted to be. Some of it was ignorance, I just did not know any better. However, some of it was simply a refusal to invest in the things that were going to make a difference. Two years ago, my office mate and I were having a discussion about our practices. We were both experiencing the same type of problems. We discussed what we needed to do to make a change and were both frustrated by our own choices. But now things were different and now we had to step up and out in a way that we had never done. She hired a business consultant, I hired a business coach and we both began the process of turning our businesses around. Neither the consultant nor the coach has said anything that we did not know already, but this time the truth from an outsider looking in made all of the difference.
If you are going to make a change in your business, you are going to have to do things that make you uncomfortable. You are going to have to be willing to go to a land that you have not gone to before and you have to be willing to open yourself up to new challenges. It will not be easy, it will not be cheap, but it will be necessary.
My point is that my journey is no different from your journey. My struggles and insecurities are no different from yours. I understand what it means to step out on faith and pay money to a consultant or coach not knowing if you are going to get a return. I understand what it means to spend time doing things that ordinarily you would think was pointless and a waste time. But that is the point, investing the time and money into developing your business from the inside leads to results on the outside. What are you willing to invest to make the changes you desire in your business?
Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results – Albert Einstein. I have heard this quote over and over again (I am sure you have too), and for a long time I did not think it applied to me. I am an attorney for goodness sake! I know how to change things, adapt, and make things work on my behalf. Or so I thought. Then I realized, twelve years after starting my law firm, I was not much further along than when I started.
On paper things looked different, but they really were not. I was making more money, but the same problems that persisted when I started continued to haunt me. Why? The truth was, I really had not changed. I really was doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
Are you the biggest problem in your business?
Self-awareness leads to real change. As business owners, we know what we do very well. We think we have all of the answers about what customers want and how they want it but we don’t. We think that we have all the answers and know what really matters in our business. We also tend to be know-it-alls and ignore sound advice. It is not until you realize that you, not the business or the customers are the problem can you really begin to make changes in your business.
I have a client that is always in financial trouble. Not the kind of trouble that is created from lack of customers, but the self-created kind. He creates multiple businesses and heavily finances each of them. He finds other people to manage each but ultimately some state fine ore tax problem comes up. They always tend to cost his business hundreds of thousands of dollars. Why, because he doesn’t pay attention to his business. It did not matter what the business was or who was managing it. The truth is that his failure to properly manage and ensure that these matters were properly handled lead to the repeated problem. He was doing the same thing with different businesses and it has continually led to the same results.
Who is holding you accountable?
Years ago, I would set goals at the beginning of the year. It was a one year plan of goals I intended to achieve. To be honest, it really was not much of a plan. I had no idea of how I was going to achieve those goals. I just set them. The next time I would look at the plan would be the next year that I wanted to set goals. Most of the goals for the previous year were not met so after a while I stopped making plans and setting goals.
Years later, I realized that I was on the right track. I just did not have any way to hold myself accountable to my own goals. I also had no knowledge of what I needed to do to get there. I bought books and listened to tapes (I know I am dating myself), I attended seminars, but I still did not achieve what I set out to achieve. That is because I had no one to answer to but myself. If I did not hit my goals, who was going to whip me into shape? I was wasting time and money doing the “right” things, but getting the wrong results.
Are you really insane?
As business owners, we do the best we can. Sometimes life and business issues take over and really only react to the things that are happening and fail to plan for the things that need to happen. When you stop to assess the situation, you will find that you know where you need to go, you just need a little help to get you there. Once you realize that you continue to experience the same problems over and over again, get help; listen to the advice given and create a community of people who will hold you accountable.
Stop doing things by yourself thinking that you have to know everything. Yes, you have to educate yourself on various business issues. But you also have to implement those things that you learn about to make any real change. Your business is stuck because you are stuck. Find a community of business owners that you can discuss issues and problems with. Get a business coach or hire a professional whose business is about making your business better. Seek real change, don’t go insane!
A good friend of mine asked me for a specific request. Her exact words were “talk about getting ‘taken’ by companies that promise to steer so much business your way . . . for a hefty price.” The funny thing is I have a lot to say, but she probably would not like it. In fact, many people probably would not like what I have to say. Mostly because I strongly believe that as a business owner, you are responsible for your business. So I am going to give my politically correct response and my politically incorrect response and you can choose which to love or hate!
Unfulfilled promises equals breach of contract.
That is what we all like to think. My best advice for handling what you perceive to be a breach of contract is to read the contract. Regardless of the state you are in, written contracts trump anything said verbally. If you have a written contract then you need to know and understand everything that is there. If you purchased a service off the web many times you had to click “agree” before you purchase. That agreement is a contract and there should be a complete written statement of whatever it is you are agreeing to. You should print that agreement and read it.
If it is incomprehensible gobbledygook then get an attorney to help you go through it. The question you have to answer is “has the provider failed to do what was promised in the contract?” It doesn’t matter what you were told over the phone and in person, if it is not in the contract it does not exist. Many time services that promise to send clients are more of a referral service. They may directly send clients or passively send clients. But there is no guarantee of increasing your conversion rate. In other words increase in people does not necessarily result in the increase of profits. Which leads me to my politically incorrect response.
There is no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
I say this from first-hand experience and knowledge, many small business owners are always looking for a quick fix. Low equity and high expenses mean that we are always searching for the next sale and the next dollar to keep the business afloat. With that fact in the back of our minds at all times, we always seem to seek the quick fix. I remember struggling to name one of my seminars and I researched some popular seminars. They were all something to the effect of “how to build a six figure business,” or “how to triple your income in a year.” Those titles tell me something (it should tell you something too), everyone wants to find the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.
The truth is there are no quick fixes. There are time saving strategies. There are tried and true methods. There are lessons learned from mistakes made. But the time and work that needs to be invested to increase your customer base remains the same. If I named my course “How to become a six figure business in five years” no one would come! No one wants the truth. So we search and search for promises of how to increase our business without the work and then become disappointed because the promises went unfulfilled.
No one should be willing to work harder for your business than you.
I hit a point in my entrepreneurship journey where I really did not want to do it anymore. I fell out of love with my business. I was ready to get a job and work a 9-5. I was tired of the hassle, the stress and endless merry-go-round of client chasing. I stayed in the business because I really had no choice. I stopped most of my marketing efforts, yellow book advertising and updating my website. I only had one way of earning new business referrals.
One day as I was lamenting to a friend about my frustrations and she was lamenting about hers. I was discussing all of the mistakes I made and how I should have done things differently. She asked me if I was going to make any changes now. I really did not have an answer for her. Later I had to ask myself, do you really want to make this work? Are you willing to do what is necessary to increase your business?
Someday I will tell you what my answer to myself was. For now, I will say that people tell you want you want to hear. Not what you need to hear. If I told you what you needed to hear, would you still want to do business with me?
One of my pet peeves (and I have many) is the trend to take the word entrepreneur and turn it into another “cool” word like Mompreneur or Jobpreneur. It bothers me because it really takes away from the meaning behind what an entrepreneur is. It has now become synonymous with an independent contractor or a work–for-hire type person. Someone who’s “job” is not connected to any particular business but is self-employed. Yes, self-employed, the IRS term for “you have to pay your own taxes.”
Is that what an entrepreneur really is? A taxpayer of a different kind? A self-employed person who minimally contributes to the greater economic society? I think that is what the term has become. I personally like the term business owner. A business grows, it does not stay stagnant. It changes with the economy and technology. It increases the GDP of the country and it helps with job growth and benefits the community as a whole. A business owner understands this and seeks not only to grow the business, but the community surrounding it as well.
What type of impact do you want to have?
I was recently interviewed on a radio show and one of the hosts asked me if he should open up a hair salon. He is a hairdresser and people told him he should have his own shop. I know many hairdressers that rent booths or work out of their homes and they are happy doing just that. They make their own hours and take the type of clients that they want. They are self-employed. Not business owners.
I asked the question, “is that really what you want to do?” If the answer is yes, then you should not open a shop. If the answer is no, then before you open that shop you need to know and understand that the responsibility is not just about you and what money you make, it is about the surrounding community and the responsibility of owning a business.
What you do affects others!
As a business owner you are now contributing to the local economy in a way that you had not done before. By signing a commercial lease, you are now contributing to the local property taxes and supporting schools and roads in the area. You are now a part of the community where your business is located. The local politicians answer to you as well as the residents in the area. You should be a voice in the community.
As a business owner, you are now responsible for others' livelihoods. It does not matter if you have employees in the traditional sense. You may have independent contractors that work with you. Your business helps to support them. You may also choose to have interns, your training helps get them employment elsewhere. You may purchase goods from other businesses which in turn helps them to survive.
As a business owner, you are innovative. You are thinking about new ways of doing things and you are making changes. You are staying ahead of the curve and you are thoughtful about how you deal with your customers. You do not have to be the creator of the latest App to be an innovator. Maybe, as a restaurant you donate food to the homeless shelter in your area. How many other businesses do that? Maybe, you help support a local school by providing books for their library? How many other businesses do that?
One of the favorite topics that comes up when I speak to business owners is about “the time when I did a favor for this guy.” It is an old tale, and one that typically leads to business owners being hard-nosed and never doing anything for anyone again. You know the story, you wanted to help someone. They came to you and gave you a sad story, you fell for it, and you significantly discounted or gave away your services and product only to be screwed in the end.
We have all been there. More times than we want to remember. But then comes this one person that makes your life hell and you promise to NEVER do this again. EVER! I have been there and I have done that. Still I believe that there is benefit to discounting and giving away product/services to benefit the community. Big business constantly does community service. It usually is done through giving away large sum of money, high profile ads, or providing opportunities for their employees to volunteer and contribute to causes they support. As small business owners it is difficult for us to compete on that level. However, that does not mean that we have to restrict our giving to time when we think there is going to be an immediate result of sales that comes afterwards.
Use organizations that service the group that you want to help.
Most business types have trades and organizations that are geared toward them. Many of those business organizations provide opportunities for service and give-a-ways. For example, there is an organization in the legal field that services people that cannot afford an attorney. Not Legal Aid or its equivalent but one that allows attorney’s to volunteer their time and services through this organization. It allows me to serve if I choose and it allows protection if things are not going well for me to go back to the organization and get support.
Create a grant.
A grant does not have to be monetary. It can easily be goods or services. If there are people who cannot afford your services or goods but you want to help, create a way to help. Establish parameters that clearly outline who you are going to accept and what you are going to agree to do. For example, if you sell product for youth sports teams, you can set up a grant that will allow a sports team to get $100 worth of product if they meet certain conditions. Within that you can set up how many teams will be able to obtain the grant; how often the grant will be awarded; or what type of product will be allowed.
Connect with a non-profit.
There are thousands of non-profit organizations that service the areas that your business caters to. Even if there is not one in your immediate area you can probably find one that you can work with. If you are a clothes designer, you can work with a non-profit that services people who need to find jobs. They need nice clothes. If you are in the limo business, there are organizations that provide transportation for indigent people. It does not matter the organization type, it only matter that you are comfortable with providing whatever service or product in the parameters for which you have set.
We have all had that client (or three) that we made great exception for that ruined our desire to help others. Those bad apples does not mean that you should not help, it only means that you should create rules around those you help. It also means that you cannot break your own rules. Because when you break the rules you will have to accept the punishment!
Shahara Wright is an experienced and highly sought after business law attorney and business strategist. She is the author of From Entrepreneur to CEO and host of the CEO Collaboration Circle. Shahara founded The CEO Effect, LLC to work with small business owners who want to implement strategy to build capacity.
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