Weekly Business Idea

August 24, 2018 – What is Hard for You to Do?

Posted on | August 24, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

What is important to you?  What does your business need?  Is there something that only you can do?  Are you consistently doing the things you used to do that made you successful?  Does the urgent get in the way of the important?  Do you have anything that you struggle with doing even though you know it is critical to your success?

Expansion of the Idea:

All of us have strengths and weaknesses.  These can get defined in a million different ways.  For the purpose of running a business or organization, how would you rate yourself in these areas:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Employee Management
  • Operations
  • Finances
  • Leadership

If you are like most people, you probably have one or two areas that you give yourself high marks.  Then you have one or two where you really struggle and the rest are areas that you are more than adequate.   The problem for me is that I tend to put off the areas that I struggle in.  For me, my weakest area is Marketing.  That is why I struggle every Friday when I start to write my weekly idea.  I know it is critical that I do consistent marketing.  I also know that I get referrals based on staying in touch with clients and referral sources.  Yet I still fail to write the weekly ideas every week.  Writing is not one of my strengths and it is too easy to get distracted by some other urgent task.

I see this same scenario play out with a lot of small business owners in different areas of their business.  Business owners frequently fail to give feedback to their employees as well as coaching them on how to improve performance.  Or, some business owners don’t understand the financial side and they put that off because it requires too much mental energy and it is too depressing.  Very few small business owners spend time doing strategic planning because they don’t know where to start.

Each of these areas requires consistent investment of time by the small business owner and manager.  Of course, you can and should outsource some of this but there needs to be a system to review and manage the performance in all of these areas.   This needs to be built into your daily, weekly, monthly and annual schedules.  We recommend using checklists to keep you on track.  When we focus on all of the important tasks, not just the ones we can do easily, we will grow our businesses.

Questions to Ponder

  1. What critical tasks do you find difficult?
  2. Is there a way to delegate or outsource it?
  3. Do you need additional training or education?
  4. Have you brainstormed with your team on how to fix this?
  5. Do you have the right advisors to help you?

August 17, 2018 – Do You Know What You Are Assuming?

Posted on | August 17, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Do you know why you get the results you are getting?  Have you verified that your prices are at market price?  Are your employees happy?  Is your customer service outstanding?  What do your clients think? Do you have any areas of vulnerability?

Expansion of the Idea:

Every day we go to work thinking that the day will unfold one way and frequently it goes the complete opposite.  We end up with surprises in all areas of our businesses.  It could be a key employee, large customer or major supplier that surprises us.  Or it could be a new competitor or your computer system that crashes.   A lot of different things need to work the way you have designed them in order for the business to properly serve your customers, employees and yourself.

Small business owners generally like to think that they are in control of their lives.  They are in business for themselves because they did not like working for someone else.  They frequently didn’t like how their former employers handled situations and people.  As a result, they go into business to get control.  The ironic part is that they are not aware of how dependent they are on all sorts of things that are outside of their control.

When you are dependent on someone else, you are making some assumptions.  Some of the assumptions are pretty explicit such as:

  • Customers will continue to buy from you
  • You will be able to supply your customer’s needs
  • Your supplier will provide high quality goods
  • Your employees will show up for work
  • Your product or service is the best in your industry

The explicit assumptions are what small business owners worry about.  However, they don’t always think about the hidden or implicit assumptions such as:

  • Our computer systems are safe and secure.
  • Our products will not be made obsolete by new technologies, industries or competitors.
  • Our employees are able to give their best to the business.
  • Our systems work well.
  • Our systems work just as they were designed.
  • Our customers are delighted with our services.
  • I am managing the business well.
  • My employees are telling me what I need to know.

It is really important to identify hidden assumptions and to test them to see what the true answer is.  During World War II, Winston Churchill set up a separate department called the Statistical Branch or S Branch.  It was completely outside the normal chains of command and reported only to him.  It was the only way he could make sure that he got the unfiltered information that he needed to make decisions.  He wanted to minimize the effects of his assumptions.

The same is true for our businesses.  We can take actions to reduce the assumptions or at a minimum to identify them.  That will help us in our decision making and allow us to be more proactive.  You may not be able to predict when a storm will knock out electricity to your business, but you can be proactive in making sure that your computers are working properly.  Anything we can do to improve our odds of success is worth pursuing.  You will strengthen your businesses as well as reduce some stress.

Questions to Ponder

  1. When was the last time you and your team did a SWOT analysis?
  2. Do you have a process for identifying hidden and explicit assumptions in your business?
  3. What can you do to test the assumptions?
  4. Who should be involved in brainstorming hidden assumptions?

August 10, 2018 – What Are the Blips On the Radar?

Posted on | August 9, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

What can make or break your business?  Do you have some existing problems that need to be addressed?  Do your policies fit your culture of accountability?  Are you overlooking how your key employee is behaving?  Does everyone operate with the same principles?

Expansion of the Idea:

Most people, who know me well, know that I have two days a year that are committed every year.  These two days are nonnegotiable.  These are the two days of the Global Leadership Summit.  The Summit has been transformational with my life.  This includes every aspect of my life from my personal self-leadership to how well I function as a husband, father, grandfather, business person and community volunteer.  I have been going to the Summit since 2002 and I have been actively involved in promoting it in the St Louis area since 2013.

Promoting something like the Summit is great until it isn’t.  In March this year, there were some newspaper articles that indicated that the founder of the Summit did some inappropriate things.  Since then more has come out and it sure looks like the founder abused his power and committed sexual sin.  It is not my place to judge anyone.  I will tell you that my world was rocked because this is someone I respected.  However, the facts that were reported indicate that, whether he crossed any lines or not, there were circumstances that should have been red flags to some around him, including his board of directors.

I obviously don’t know what happened or didn’t happen.  However, I do know that most of us are reluctant to have a difficult discussion with a key employee, especially when we are facing a violation of core values and one that could impact the long-term viability of the organization.  We tend to believe those people that we know the best.  This is human nature.  We also don’t want to have these difficult conversations, especially when we are betting our businesses on these conversations.

The problem is that when we don’t have these conversations, we are still betting our organizations but we have ceded control of the outcome to others.  The reason is that we no longer control the flow.  By having the conversations, we can control how they go and the outcomes.

I attended the first day of the Global Leadership Summit today.  The leaders at the Summit addressed the issues today.  They did a great job with that.  And they had to bet that what they did was appropriate.  If they didn’t do enough then they would have been tried in the court of public opinion and they would be finished.  They needed to hit the topic head on and then move on.  They did a great job.  It was a bet the farm discussion.  Yet, going into this morning, I wasn’t sure if it would be enough.

The same is true for our businesses.  We have these problems all the time.  (Hopefully not the exact problem.)  However, we are reluctant to completely address issues and we end up paying for it.  The key point is that we need to hit issues early and often.  When we do that, they don’t grow to be bigger issues.  Every time we hit an issue when it first shows up as a blip on the radar, we eliminate a much bigger issue that was going to show up as a tank in our backyard.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Is everyone in your organization operating according to your values?
  2. Are there any discussions that you need to have?
  3. Are there any action items that you are afraid to have?
  4. Discuss the above with your team.

August 3, 2018 – What Decision am I Avoiding?

Posted on | August 3, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Is there a conversation that you need to have but have been putting off?  Is something in your business not working right but you are afraid to fix it because the rest of the business is going well?  Is there a decision that you need to make but you are concerned that you will make the wrong one?  Is procrastination one of your core values?

Expansion of the Idea:

Most of us have our routines and preferred methods of doing business.  We have systems for running our businesses.  We have vendors we deal with.  Our product lines are identified.  We are constantly focused on trying to get new sales but the rest of our business is frequently constant.  We get the same reports and we make the same decisions.  We get into ruts.  The good part of ruts is that they help you move in a certain direction.  The bad part is that direction may not be where you need to go.

I was reminded about these ruts by a number of situations in the past couple of weeks.  My men’s group has been meeting in a certain place that isn’t meeting our needs.  The service has been going downhill and the place is just not clean.  The problem is that it hasn’t been a good place to meet for several months.  However, we were ignoring some warning signs and kept meeting there.  Finally, we decided that we needed to rethink our decisions.  We will end up changing but there is a cost to changing.  Too often we put off these decisions because we think we won’t like what the future holds.  As a result, we get stuck in the past.

I see this frequently with small businesses.  They have policies that worked 10 years ago.  Now, Amazon has changed their industry and they have to do something different.  (As a side note, Amazon doesn’t have to be in your industry to change your customer’s perceptions of service.)  Business owners have advisors who are stuck in the past.  There might be a key employee who has always produced but isn’t producing at the same level.  A key product is slowly losing its market share.

In every business there are a number of decisions that are never identified or if identified, are never addressed.  Business owners risked everything when they went into business but now when they are making decent money they don’t want to risk anything else.  This is the equivalent of the prevent defense in football.  How often does the prevent defense actually prevent the team with the lead from winning the football game?  Business owners need to continually improve their businesses and to do that, they need to embrace risk.  The key is to control the risk and make decisions when they need to.

The funny part of these decisions is that frequently we have a little voice in our heads that is telling us we need to do something.  Yet we don’t do anything because we are afraid of the consequences.  However, there are consequences if we don’t do anything.  Henry Cloud writes about playing our life forward as if it were a movie.  What would the future look like when you take the current situation and view yourself 2 months or 2 years in the future?  If that isn’t going to work for you, then you need to do something.

The starting point for all of this is to identify the decisions that you are making implicitly, ignoring or avoiding.  Some should legitimately be deferred because there is no harm in doing so.  Some should be delegated because someone on your team is in a better place to make the decision.  Others need to be addressed sooner rather than later.  When problems are allowed to fester, they generally won’t improve by themselves.  When we get ahead of some of these issues, we can really drive our businesses.  It may take 5 hours to fix something now.  If allowed to continue, we can add a zero or two to that fix.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Are there decisions you know you need to address?
  2. Are there conversations that need to be had?
  3. Why are you putting off the decisions or conversations?
  4. What is the cost of not addressing the issue?
  5. Gather information to minimize the risks.
  6. Brainstorm with your team or advisors.

July 27, 2018 – What is My Marketing Message?

Posted on | July 27, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Do your customers know all that you do for them?  Can they refer you easily to someone else?  When you meet someone at a cocktail party, can you explain how your business helps your customers in a sentence or two?  At a cocktail party, can your team explain how your business helps your customers?

Expansion of the Idea:

I have struggled with my marketing message for quite a while.  I have continually improved it, but I know it isn’t exactly where it should be.  The reason is that we do a lot for our clients and some of it is behind the scenes and is complicated.  When we try to explain complicated pieces, we end up using industry specific terms. That creates confusion because current and prospective clients frequently don’t understand those terms.  Even my best clients would struggle to explain to others what we do.  Or if they can explain what we do, it would be complicated.  How can I possibly expect them to refer me to others when they can’t explain how I help them in a simple and concise manner?

The first problem with marketing is that most of us don’t understand it.  The second problem is that it is hard to determine if time and money spent on marketing is working.  The third problem with marketing is that it is absolutely critical to our businesses.  Peter Drucker wrote the following years ago:

“Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two–and only two–basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing and innovation produce results; all the rest are costs. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”

If marketing is absolutely critical to our businesses and at the same time we are not doing it right, what is the path forward?

Most small business marketing gets focused on the product or service and not about the customer’s needs.  Messages get technical and lengthy.  That creates complexity.  And that is the quickest way to turn off your customers.  Too often we try to send our messages out to appeal to the widest possible audience.  What would happen if the message was simple and clear and only focused on the core audience?  Could the message resonate with that person?

I think that this area is one that the small business owner must own.  He must be intimately involved with the value proposition for the customer.  This doesn’t mean that she needs to do it by herself.  Getting a good marketing professional to guide you through this will help.  Read marketing books.  Brainstorm with your team.  I have been using Donald Miller’s book StoryBrand and the website support to clarify my message.  The point is that we need to keep refining our message until it is clear and simple.  I have finally come to the conclusion that I help clients get control of their finances and their businesses.  I had a hard time settling on the wording.    Yet I think it resonates with my clients because it is focused on their real needs and wants.  Even though they care about taxes, they care more about getting control.  They don’t want surprises.  That is where our marketing messages need to focus.  What is our product or service going to do to help our customers?

This is a journey.  There is no easy fix.  You will end up with some good ideas but they may not be exactly where you need to be.  I encourage you to push through and keep testing and brainstorming.  Keep refining.  Getting a clear and simple message will help connect you to your customers.  And you might be surprised what it does for your team.

Questions to Ponder

  1. What is my current marketing message?
  2. Do my customers think it is clear and simple?
  3. Is my business growing?
  4. Brainstorm with your team and external professionals.
  5. Test it with your customers.

July 20, 2018 – What is Critical to My Success?

Posted on | July 20, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

What is driving your business?  What are the things that you need to get right?  What are the pieces that you need to grow?  How do you know if your business is working properly?  What metrics are you looking at?  Are they the right ones?

Expansion of the Idea:

If you are asked to name the top two or three things that are critical to your business success, what would they be?  If you are like most business owners, you would probably say sales, cash flow and people.  You might include marketing, quality control or product mix.  There are a number of other items that might be at the top of your list.  The point is that most leaders will point to a few key things.

Frequently this is where the analysis stops.  If I were to ask you to name the critical steps of generating sales, you might be able to tell me.  However, rarely will a small business owner actually measure the key functions that are necessary to generate the right levels of sales.  Very few small business owners could give a numerical evaluation of the health of their relationships with their team.  Almost no one can tell if their marketing is doing anything positive except depleting their bank account.  We know a lot about our businesses but we tend to leave a lot up to chance.

The obvious question is “What should we measure?”

This question is not easy to answer because each business is a little different.  Even businesses in the same industry are in different seasons.  A start up needs to look at different metrics than a 50 year old company.  And to complicate it further, it might change throughout the year because of the seasonality of the business and the natural business cycle.

To figure out what to measure, it is first necessary to identify CRITICAL SUCCESS FACTORS.  This requires a little soul searching and brainstorming with your team.  At the company wide level this might be number of sales calls or order fulfillment percentages.  In my case, it is directly related to how much time I focus on marketing efforts.  Normally there are specific things that the company needs to get right.  Then you have to cascade it down into departments and employees and determine what they must do for that piece of the company to work right.

Once you figure out what is critical for the company, department and employee to succeed, then you should look for ways to measure it.  This is called KEY PERFORMANCE INDICATORS.  KPI’s can either be lead indicators, which measure activity, or lag indicators which measure results.  Ideally you would have a little of both.

The new manager of the St Louis Cardinals has identified his KPI’s.  One of his most important indicators is number of errors.  The Cardinals have been playing sloppy baseball and he is focused on playing those Cardinals who will be able to improve that KPI.  (Of course, last night, they committed three errors and at least two other mental errors.)  Whether his KPI is right or wrong, he has identified it as what he is focused on.  There is clarity in his communication and in who will be playing baseball every day.  Everyone knows what to expect.  I think they will improve because of it.

This whole process is not easy and can be a little time consuming.  Yet, the benefits are huge.  When you focus on what is critical for the business or at the employee level, everyone knows what is necessary.  It improves communication and focus.  When businesses hit rough spots, everyone knows where they need to focus.  It builds teamwork and will help you achieve your goals.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do I know what is critical to our success?
  2. Does my team know what is critical?
  3. What are we measuring?
  4. Are the KPI’s properly identified and measured?

July 12, 2018 – Are You Practicing Your Skills?

Posted on | July 12, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Do you have a world class business?  Do you want a world class business?  Are you on the top of your game?  Is your business working well or do you have a lot of surprises?  Do you put out fires or do you try to prevent fires from starting?

Expansion of the Idea:

The last few days I have watched replays of most of the World Cup semifinals.  Even though I knew who won, I watched the replays because I really like the game.  I can’t tell you how many times I was dumbstruck by a move that one of the players made.  The skill, athleticism, vision and creativity exhibited by the players is simply outstanding.  It is great to see athletes compete at the highest level.  Soccer players are some of the best athletes in the world.  Obviously, they were blessed with talent.  However, I am pretty sure that most of these players are some of the hardest working athletes you will find.  It is inconceivable to me that they could perform as they did without continually practicing their skills.

As I was watching the games, the following question popped into my mind:

Do I practice my skills as much as the soccer players do?

In my case, I have two types of skills to consider.  I have to think about the technical services that I offer to my clients.  I need to do my best to make them world class.  I take continuing education classes and meet with peers to discuss problems and solutions.   I practice these skills by performing accounting, consulting and tax services for clients.  I have spent a lot of time working on these skills.  I know that I need to continually improve in this area or I will be left behind.


The second type of skills that sometimes get overlooked are those needed to run a small business.   Even if you took a few management courses in college, none of us are really prepared to run a small business.  We get a lot of on the job training.  Some of this is good and some is bad.  Rarely, do we get intentional about how to improve our leadership and our management.  We are too busy trying to get the next sale or meet payroll that we don’t focus on our skills which would allow the business to really move forward.

What would be involved in practicing our leadership or management skills?  It might include:

  • Having a management checklist and system
  • Getting feedback from everyone around you every week
  • Taking courses or reading books
  • Watching leadership expert videos
  • Setting goals and evaluate progress towards them
  • Start measuring the right stuff
  • Brainstorm with your team on how to improve
  • Surround yourself with the right advisors and mentors
  • Having difficult conversations with team members or customers

Leadership and management of a small business requires intentionally doing what you think are the right next steps and then continually evaluating the outcomes.  When you are deliberately working on our business, you are at the same time practicing your management skills.  When you keep practicing with an open mind on the outcome, you will become a better manager and a leader.  And that will transform your business.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do I have a management control plan?
  2. Do I know where the business is going?
  3. Do I intentionally work on my leadership and management skills?
  4. Am I learning new things every day?
  5. Am I really open to feedback?  (I mean really open.)

A great place to start on all of this is to go to the Global Leadership Summit on August 9 & 10.  That has been invaluable to me over the last 16 years.

July 5, 2018 – Do You Have a Winning Attitude?

Posted on | July 5, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Have you defined what winning means to you and your business?  Are you doing well but feel out of control?  Are you one step away from disaster? Does your team work well together?  Are you burnt out?  Do you delegate? Are you a learner?  Are there more days than not where you are ready to sell the business and buy an island where no one will bother you?  Do you watch Fox News or CNN?  If you are a betting person, do you ever bet against Bill Belicheck, coach of the New England Patriots or Nick Saban at Alabama?

Expansion of the Idea:

As most of you who live in St Louis know, the Cardinals are having a very trying year.  The club and the city have expectations that they will get to the playoffs every year.  They have missed the playoffs for the last two years and things are not looking very good this year.  They have had their fair share of injuries.  But that doesn’t fully explain their problems.  I honestly don’t know what all of the problems are.  However, there are a couple of key players that started extremely slow and are just now coming out of that season opening slump.  During this period, they have played sloppy baseball and most people would say that they lost their edge. They have started playing better and so maybe they have found that edge.  In baseball as in business, success is frequently determined between our ears.

The leader’s attitude will determine the business’ altitude.  This is frequently overlooked.  We focus on systems and marketing and people.  We rarely focus on ourselves.  What happens when you have a flat tire on your way to the office and you walk in with a bad attitude?  Do you think that one of your employees will tell you something that you need to know even if it is not good?  They may look at your attitude and make a note to tell you later.  The whole mood of a business can be determined by the leader’s attitude.  When you walk into another business, how often do you get a feel for whether or not you would want to work there?  I know I have walked into some places and instinctively I know that business is an awful place.  I am embarrassed that has happened occasionally at my office.  (I will say that I don’t think it has happened in a long while.)

Perception is critical here.  If your team thinks you have a bad attitude when in fact you are just confused by a problem or have a personal matter that is impacting you, it can be just as bad.  This problem can be eliminated or at least minimized by communication.  Tax season can be a problem in my office.  We are all under pressure and there can be a lot of misconceptions.  This past year we had a new person who didn’t know me and the rest of the team very well.  We recognized that and we tried very hard to make sure that we communicated issues, problems, and even attitude.  If we had a problem we might talk about how it hit us but then we focused on what to do next and we didn’t get dragged into a pit.

What is critical to make sure that we have a winning attitude?

There are a lot of things that will help you attain a winning attitude.  Here are a few things that work for me.

  1. I try to surround myself with positive people.  We need to have diversity.  In my inner circle of friends and advisors, I must have positive people.
  2. I try to watch my external inputs.  Several years ago, I determined that after watching the news I just felt angry or frustrated with our political leaders.  (It doesn’t matter which side of the aisle you are on.  They all frustrate me.) I stopped watching Fox News or CNN because it was just too depressing.  Instead I read the Wall Street Journal.  It has its own slant but I think I understand it and I can handle it.  I need to know what is going on but I can’t wallow in the problems.
  3. I try to define my goals.  When I am focused on my future goals, I start doing things to attain those goals.  When I attain those goals, I feel better.
  4. I spend time planning.  We will talk about this in a future weekly idea, but time spent in Stephen Covey’s Quadrant II working on important but not urgent items is critical.
  5. I celebrate the wins.  Everyone likes to win.  Even celebrating small things, we are fostering better attitudes.  If you are in a real challenging situation right now, manufacture some small wins.  Do whatever it takes to create a win.
  6. I try to celebrate the failures.  I know that this sounds crazy.  However, when we celebrate someone who tried something and gave it their best, you are setting that person up for success.  When our identity is determined by whether we just won a new contract or not, we will have problems in the future.
  7. For me it is critical to spend time every morning doing something positive.  I try to spend time studying the Bible every morning.  (I fail at this a lot.)  However, I approach the day in a much better place when I am able to do this.  I have friends who listen to positive self-help messages.  I know others that read a business book for 15 minutes every day.  The point is that you don’t have to do a lot every morning but this will help get you set.

There are a lot of other ways to work on your attitude.  You need to find out what works for you.  Your business and your team deserve it.

Questions to Ponder

  1. Do I have a good attitude?
  2. What does my spouse or kids say about my attitude?
  3. What does my team think about my attitude?
  4. Am I disciplined in working on my attitude?
  5. Is there anything in the above list that might help you?
  6. Go do it.

June 29, 2018 – What Season of Life Are You In?

Posted on | June 29, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you thinking about retirement?  Are you having to deal with parent’s memory issues?  Are you newly single and dealing with all that brings?  Do you have two kids in college and wonder where the time flew?  What is more precious; time or money?

Expansion of the Idea:

Last week, my wife and I had the pleasure of watching our grandchildren for the week.  They stayed with us so that they could attend vacation Bible school at our church every morning.  In the afternoon, we did stuff.  We had fun and more importantly they had fun.  It was a good chance to be around them for an extended period.  However, having a four and a six year old stay with us reminded me of one thing, kids have a lot of energy and are a lot of work.  While I did do some work last week, productivity was not at an all time high.  I knew that was going to be the case and planned accordingly.

What has this to do with running a small business?

I personally think that this has everything to do with being a leader.  A leader has to build trust with his team.  She must know where they are and how fast they can go forward.  Even the highest capacity person is only going to go so fast when he is battling cancer, or divorce.

As the kids reminded me at 5:45 in the morning, this is a season of life.  I went through this particular season 30 years ago.  But I don’t think about it as much as I should.  I am glad that I am partially reminded of what my son and daughter in law go through every day for their kids.  I know it can be a grind getting up in the middle of the night for a sick child and then going to work the next day.  Yet our team members do just that.

Everyone that works for us is in a different season of life.   When we understand what season of life someone is in, it can help build a relationship.  Life is too short to just focus on the business.  It is infinitely more fun, and profitable, when we focus on the relationships.  By focusing on the relationships, we bring mutual purpose into our businesses and strengthen our businesses.

I want to point out that we are not lowering our standards or expectations.  I believe that I have the highest expectations of my team.  However, when they have to deal with a personal issue, I do not question them because they more than make up for any time away.  I fully trust them.  They know that I trust them and I think that has helped them build trust with me.  As that trust has developed over the years, the improvement in my business is very noticeable.  While there are situations that are not always ideal for me, they are making the best choices available.  When we pay attention to our team and understand where they are, we are making an investment in our business that will pay significant dividends in the short term and long term.

Questions to Consider

  1. What season of life are you in?
  2. Does it impact your energy or focus?
  3. Do you need to do something different than what you did 20 years ago?
  4. Think about your team.  Are they in a particularly challenging season?
  5. Is there something you can do to help?
  6. Think about your key customers in light of their season of life.

June 22, 2018 – Will You Survive?

Posted on | June 22, 2018 | No Comments

Main Idea:

Are you a planner or a reactor?  Do you do business in multiple states?  Do you know who your competitors are?  Do you know who the disruptors are in your business?  Do you have too much to do and not enough time to do it?  Are you sure of the answers to any of the above questions?

Expansion of the Idea:

Yesterday, the Supreme Court overruled 50 years of established business practice and opened the door for states to collect sales tax on internet sales.  Whether you agree with it or not, everyone saw this coming.  The business environment has significantly changed since this was last ruled on in the Quill case primarily due to the internet.  This ruling opens the door for nexus to be revisited and this could impact everyone, even the home businesses that occasionally sell something that is delivered to one customer in another state.  This will be a cash grab by poorly run states (almost all of them) and small business owners will face increased compliance costs.

Six months ago, Congress passed a major tax act that dramatically changed the tax structure for small and large businesses.  This was passed to make the United States more competitive internationally.  As a result of the tax law, every business needs to evaluate how they are structured to make the most of the new tax law.

The changes in nexus and income tax should get every leader’s attention.  If you throw in the internet, state regulations, proposed tariffs, full employment, lower barriers to entry in most businesses, and a whole host of additional factors, you end up with a very precarious business operating environment.  A lot of people might look at all of this and ask if they should continue.

Now that you are depressed, you also need to look at the bright side.  The economy is doing well.  With technology it is easier to get closer to your customers.  You have more information than you have ever had about your business, your industry and the economy.  Markets are easier to enter.  If you think about it, you could add another half dozen items to this list.  The point is that there will be winners and losers.  The key question is:

What will help insure that you are a winner?

Here is my top ten list for how to make sure you are winning.  This is not in any particular order except for number 1.  That is critical for all the other items.

  1. Make sure that the leader’s attitude is a winning attitude.
  2. Proactively manage the situation versus reacting to external events.
  3. Get close to your customers.
  4. Get close to your team.
  5. Provide tremendous value to your customers
  6. Know the critical success factors for your operations and how to measure them
  7. Clarify your marketing message and plan.
  8. Be innovative and creative.
  9. Know your purpose.
  10. Know what you won’t do.

The above list is not all inclusive. However, if you are doing these things, you will be on the right path.  We will discuss these in detail over the next few weeks.  Right now, I would encourage you to think about each of these and pick one that resonates.  If the sales tax issue scares you give us a call or send us an email to discuss it.  If you are concerned that you aren’t innovative or creative, discuss it with your team.  The point is to pick something and start working on it.  Now is a great time to build a business.

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  • About

    These weekly ideas are brought to you by FitzGerald & FitzGerald P.C. For more information about how to use these ideas with your small business contact Tim FitzGerald at trfitz@fitz-net.com.