Do You Have What It Takes?

entrepreneurshipAre you thinking of taking the big plunge and going into business for yourself? Do you think you have what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur? I was recently contacted by a first year business student who had to go out and interview three entrepreneurs as part of a class assignment. He had to ask them three questions. If you are looking to go into business for yourself I thought you might be interested in my answers. I have had the good fortune of being self-employed since 1998. Starting and running your own small business is not for the faint of heart. Matter of fact – in a recent Industry Canada study conducted by Eileen Fisher, Schulich School of Business, York University and Rebecca Reuber, Rothman School of Management, University of Toronto, concluded that thirty percent of all new small businesses won’t survive longer than two years, and only half make it to year five. Some of the reasons for those failures are out of your control, but most are because of the bad decisions you will make. Lack of management or financial skills are in the top five.

Here are my answers to his three questions. I hope it will give you some valuable insight into what it will take to be a successful entrepreneur.

1 – What made you decide to own your own small business? I had managed other people’s businesses for a number of years, with the idea that I wanted to own and operate my own small business some day. Being my own boss appealed to me. It proved to be a great training ground for me. I got to learn what to do, and more importantly, what not to do. The best part was I got to make those mistakes on someone else’s dime. I recommend that to anyone looking to start their own small business. Work for someone else until you’ve learned enough to start your own.

2 – What are five key characteristics that you feel are important to have to be a successful entrepreneur? I believe there are a number of key characteristics you need to be successful. Some you will do well, others you will need to learn. Here are my top five. I’ve listed them here in no particular order.

  • Time Management: Be able to manage your time well. Learn to prioritize what needs to be done so that you do the most important things first. Sometimes that will mean doing things you don’t like to do. We tend to spend our time on things that we enjoy doing or that we are good at. Be disciplined enough to complete your “A” item before you work on your “B” or “C”.
  • Open Mindedness: You only know what you know – you don’t know what you don’t know – and it’s what you don’t know that could hurt you. Don’t be afraid to ask for advice – and be smart enough to take it. That’s how we learn.
  • Empathetic: Be able to see things from another person’s point of view. People make mistakes. The important thing is how you react to them.
  • Communicate: You must be able to communicate in a way that others will understand. If you can’t communicate both by the written word and verbally, then you stand little chance of being understood.
  • Goal Setting: Being successful is a planned event. Put a plan together to accomplish your goals. Great plans start with the end in mind. Have a clear vision of what you want to achieve and then put a plan together to get there. However, you need to be flexible enough to change or adjust your plan, if it isn’t going to help you achieve your goal.

3 –  If you could start your business over again, what one thing would you do differently? That’s a tough question because struggles are part of the learning process. If you aren’t making mistakes you aren’t learning anything new. There are some valuable lessons to be learned from the mistakes you make. The one thing I would do over again is to be more disciplined in managing the money side of the business. That old saying “it takes money to make money” is true. But you have to make the money before you spend the money. I would put together a realistic budget and then stick to it. Projections are just that – projections. They are a best guess. However, projections don’t pay the bills or more importantly, they don’t pay you.

Copyright 2016 (c) Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak. Not to be reproduced without permission. Brian is a former Professor at Algonquin College’s School of Business, Top 100 Leadership Expert, Author and Speaker. To find out more about Brian and what you can do for you and your organization visit https://briansmithpld.com

We Are All Just Passing Through

7-ways-your-wasting-timeAs I approach my sixty-sixth birthday, I’m reminded that I have more years behind me, than what lies ahead of me. Time, unfortunately, is not a renewable resource. We all have just 168 hours in the course of a week, approximately 672 in a month and 8,064 in a year. No more, or no less. Are you spending your time wisely? If someone told you that you had just one more year to live – what is the one thing on your to-do list that you’d want to accomplish? What is that one thing that you’ve always wanted to do, but kept putting it off, thinking that you had all kinds of time? Shoulda, coulda, woulda, should not be part of your vocabulary.

Take a moment and write down that one pressing thing you’d like to accomplish. Would you like to go on a world cruise, learn to play guitar, write a book or skydive? Make it a BIG one. No sense thinking small here.Remember, you only have a year. What’s it going to take to accomplish that goal? I want you to write those things down as well. Once you’ve written all of them down I want you to put a plan together to accomplish each one. Anyone can eat an elephant one bite at a time. Keep your eye on the prize and work your plan.

As you start to work your plan I want you to think of these 2 things.

(1) Only do those things that move you forward. If it won’t move you closer to accomplishing your goal then you need to be disciplined enough to say no. If it won’t move you closer to accomplishing your goal then you are wasting valuable time. Time that you can’t afford to give up. You need to manage your time well.

(2) You need to eliminate all the distractions in your life. You need to walk away from those who are robbing you of your time. That includes family, friends and acquaintances. You know who the time wasters are. You need to be selfish here. Now don’t get me wrong. All work and no play does make for a dull life. Life is a journey that should be enjoyed. So when it’s time to work – work. And when it’s time to play – play a little – and then get back to work. Focus, focus, focus.

This post is dedicated to Lucille Smith, a wife, good mother to her 2 children, and a great grandmother to her 2 grand children. Lucille passed away suddenly. Taken from her family, friends and loved ones way too soon.She is gone, but will never be forgotten. She lives on in the hearts and minds of those she left behind.

Copyright (c) 2016. Brian Smith, Reformed Control Freak. Not to be reproduced without permission. Subscribe to Brian’s Blog and receive a “Free” copy of Brian’s book – “Confessions of a Reformed Control Freak – The Top Ten Sins Most Managers Make & How to Avoid Them”. Visit https://briansmithpld.com to find out more.

Delegation 101: Assume Nothing

DelegationRule number one when working with others is to assume nothing because it may make an ass out of u and me. But mostly me because I took you at your word, that you understood what needed to be done and how I wanted you to go about doing it. People aren’t born knowing what they need to know. Always keep in mind that if you haven’t taught someone the way you want it done – don’t assume they will know how.

Worth Remembering … In the digital age you need to make knowledge workers out of every employee possible. – Bill Gates 

You may not be able to delegate all the tasks that you do, but you should be able to delegate most of them. I know you can come up with a 1001 excuses why you shouldn’t delegate, but think of it this way. If you don’t delegate some of your tasks you are robbing someone of their opportunity to grow. Do you hire stupid people or do they just get stupid after working for you? Your role as a manager or business leader is to teach others what you know. Your role is not to create followers but to create other leaders. And you can’t do that if you aren’t delegating some of your tasks.

Worth Remembering ... You establish some objectives for them, provide some incentive, and try not to direct the detailed way in which they do their work. – David Packard

Here are 8 easy steps to delegating more effectively:

1 – Decide what you want to delegate: You need to be very clear on what task they are going to do and make sure you give them all the tools they’ll need to be able to perform that task.

2 – Decide who you are going to delegate to: Who is capable, and more importantly, who is willing to take on more responsibility?

3 – Create a “Teachable Moment”: Demonstrate the task – then have them perform the task while you observe – and once you think they can do the task satisfactorily – have them do it one more time for good measure.

4 – Ask questions to ensure that learning has taken place: You need to ask some good open-ended and closed questions to make sure they know what needs to be done. Be sure to give them the opportunity to ask questions too.

5 – Monitor their performance: Follow-up, follow-up, follow-up. Make it a point to check-in on the person shortly after leaving them on their own, just to make sure they are performing the task satisfactorily.

6 – Keep the lines of communication open: Let them know you are there to help – if and when – they want it. Resist the urge to micro-manage.

7 – Hold the person accountable for the results: Standards, like quality, are not open for debate. You must hold people accountable for the results and not accept anything that doesn’t meet your standard. If they think they can get away with less than satisfactory work – then they will.

8 – Praise performance: Recognize what has been accomplished and be quick to offer praise for a job done well.

It’s important that you show trust and confidence in your people. The best way to do that is to get out of their way and let them do it. Results are what’s important, not how they go about doing it. Allow them to put their own personal stamp on it.

Copyright 2016 (c) Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak. Not to be reproduced without permission. To find out more about Brian and what he can do for you and your organization visit https://briansmithpld.com

Nobody’s Perfect – So Get Over Yourself 1

Sorry if I’m the one to burst your bubble but, nobody is perfect. Not even you. You don’t need to handicap yourself by carrying around that kind of burden. Aim for the bull’s-eye? Absolutely. Strive for perfection? Yes – always – but understand that some times you can’t attain the unattainable. Sometimes you are going to fall short and miss the target. Don’t beat yourself up over it. Learn to accept that. You can take pride in the fact that you did your very best – that you gave it your all. And if you truly gave it your all, than you have no more to give. Learn to accept what is – is – short comings and all. Chances are you’ll live longer and enjoy the simpler things that life has to offer.

Worth Remembering … An environment that calls for perfection is not likely to be easy. But aiming for it is always good progress – Thomas J. Watson Jr.

According to Psychologists people move in the direction that is opposite to the direction they want to avoid. In other words, perfectionists strive for perfection because they don’t feel perfect. Because they somehow feel inferior to other people in certain situations so they try to overcome their perceived short comings. In the long run constantly striving for perfection  can destroy your self-confidence.

Worth Remembering … Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence – Vince Lombardi

You are good enough. You don’t have to prove it to others. Perfection is highly overrated.  Good enough is good enough. If you did everything you could have to reach your goal, then that has to be good enough. Perfectionists are setting themselves up for failure. It is a self-fulling prophecy. They will always end up feeling disappointed in themselves when they fail to become perfect. Remember – Nobody’s perfect, so get over yourself.

Copyright (c) 2016. Brian Smith – Reformed Control Freak. Not be reproduced without permission. Are you looking for a keynote speaker, organizing a seminar or training session? Give Brian a call. http://briansmithpld.com