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A Focused Life

 A Focused Life

How often have you really sat back and took a good look at your life and wondered if you have achieved what you set out to do many years ago?  Do you remember what your intentions, goals or dreams were 20 or more years ago?  What did you believe your “life’s purpose” to be back then?  Is that purpose still what gets you going every day?  Has it changed any?

Reflecting back on your past can be a great method to help re-align your future plans.  Looking back and weighing the pluses and minuses of your life, as you remember them, will help you understand more about yourself and allow you to use some of your wisdom to make better decisions about your future.

There are many types of people that approach this reflection differently and if two people had the exact same experiences with their past, my guess would be that each would reflect and remember it in different ways.  Each would draw different conclusions on what was a plus and what was a minus.  Each would be correct, from their perspective, but still have only one point of view, theirs.  A singular point of view is not what you may want when planning your future, is it?  This singular point of view, because of its singularity, may tend to blind you from other options that are in front of you and because of this singular thinking pattern, you may not see or acknowledge potential options.  This is not to say that after all options have been uncovered, researched and weighed, and a plan for the future is determined and put in place, that this action plan cannot become a focus and somewhat a singular point of view.  In fact, this is how big goals are achieved.

The real trick here is to combine the exploration of options, which may tend to go all over the place and consolidate them into a focused plan for your future, a somewhat singular point of view.  But also as you work this plan to achieve your goal, you keep in mind to occasionally do a broad sweep outside of your area of focus and be aware of other potential opportunities.  Tunnel vision in life or business is not a characteristic successful people have.  Successful people are also not all over the place exploring the many options that can exist in life and prove to be large distractions.  A combination of both is really the best solution.

Working with another individual to play the counter role opposite your own role can benefit you and increase the probability of your plans future success.  If you do well at exploring options, find a partner, mentor or coach to help bring the singular point of view into an actionable plan and then execute it.  If you find that you do well at a singular point of view, then find a partner that excels at uncovering options and weed through them together and develop your future plan, and then again, execute it.

When developing any type of plan for your life, make sure your plan includes the exploration of six main areas:  Spiritual, Relationships, Financial, Philanthropy, Career and Leisure.  Too much time spent on any one of these can make you extremely out of balance and have a disastrous impact on your life.  Set out to create a singular focused action plan for each of the six life categories mentioned above, but use a broad sweeping method to explore and gather what you want from life first, then summarize each, develop your plan and put it into action.  Remember to use your partner, mentor or coach to balance your thinking and your efforts.  They should provide insight outside of your normal thinking pattern and may get you through difficult times which we all face in life, whether we plan for it or not.

Good luck and enjoy your life, it’s the one God made for you!

Gary J Kiecker

www.LifeLongU.com

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Who Was Thankful For You This Year?

 Who Was Thankful For You This Year?

Is Thanksgiving a day of the year, a state of mind, a way of life or the start of the retail shopping season?  Did you give thanks yesterday for only those blessings you have been given lately or do you give thanks for them all year around?  When you give thanks, do you thank the Lord for putting someone else in your life that had a significant impact in your life?  Have you made any significant impact in anyone else’s life?  Do you think you were on someone’s list of what they were thankful for this past year?

There are many things we all should be thankful for.  Consider if you were born in another part of the world?  Say Europe, Africa, South America or Asia?  What if you were born at a different point in time?  Say 1655 AM1 (Anno Mundi “year of the world” or 2349 BC “Before Christ”; approximately one year before the flood), 32 AD (when Jesus Christ was 32 years old, 1492 AD (Christopher Columbus finds the new world) or 1929 AD (the start of the USA Great Depression).

You were born to live at this point of time in your current location of the world for a reason.  What that reason is, only you can decide.  What you do or don’t do with your time while here, only you can determine.  If you are living your life and doing things with a focus to only improve your current situation, then you may need to broaden your scope of thinking and step into a lifestyle that includes doing things for others in need and next year you may be on a few more thankfulness lists.

When giving thanks for your blessings or when helping others to improve their situation in life, consider these LifeLongU™ Life Categories:

Career – What can you give thanks for in your career and how can you help another’s career blossom?

Financial – Are you being a good steward with what the Lord has blessed you with?  Have you given thanks for those blessings? Are you giving some back to Him?  Are you being a Good Samaritan and helping others in need?

Spiritual – Have you given thanks for being born into a Christian country and that you have the right and ability to worship and praise God openly and share his word with others?  Are you thankful for being able to freely study His word, the Bible?  How are you doing with your studies?

Relationships – We are all in many types of relationships; have you given thanks for having those relationships?  Are your managing them properly? Are you thankful for those that went before you which helped to pave the road for you to get to where you are today?

Leisure – Freedom to use our time as we see fit with either work or play is a large blessing we should never take for granted.  Have you given thanks for it?  Are you using your time wisely?  Get out and enjoy the world you live in and be thankful for it.

Philanthropy – Have you given thanks for your ability to give to others of your time, money or things?  Have others thanked you for your being there when they needed you?  It is rewarding to help others and nice to hear from others that you were able to help them.  In all things, give thanks, which is also giving.

We all have challenges in our everyday lives and may feel that they are too much for us to bear.  But many of these challenges can be viewed as opportunities by others to help you.  By allowing others to help you, you also help them.  In the upcoming years of my life, I look forward to helping others with some of their challenges and allowing myself to be helped by others.  By this mutual giving and receiving of help we can both be thankful.

We can do so much more with the blessings the Lord has giving us if we only think outside of our box.  Just to remind us what “our box” is…it’s the way we see our surroundings, the way we think about things and the way we act or take action in the world in which we live.  It’s a big big place and if we step out of our comfort zone, our box, we can certainly do more in years to come that others will be thankful for too.  I believe it is our responsibility to see our box for what it is, a grouping of self-imposed walls we put around ourselves that keep us feeling safe in our environment.  To reach our true potential we need to step out of that box and help those that we currently share the world with and they may add you to their list of things to be thankful for next year.

Why not set a goal for Thanksgiving Day, 2015 to be on at least one or more lists that others are giving thanks for.

 

Gary Kiecker

LifeLongU

We appreciate your comments and welcome any thoughts or questions regarding this blog or on future topics.

 

 

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Living “The Life” of 100 Years, (Part 3, Yearning)

Living “The Life” of 100 Years

Part 3 – Yearning Years

They say that hindsight is 20/20 meaning that when we look back in our life, we see much more clearly what we should have done at different points over our life; positive or negative as that may be.  More times than not, I think we tend to focus too much on decisions we made that we believe were incorrect at the time we made them and if we would have chosen a different path our current situation in life would be different.  Much better of course!

As we age and daily face different challenges and opportunities in our lives, the number of decisions we make piles up for each of us.  The negative outcomes of those decisions around doing or not doing something correctly or incorrectly in our past may be seen as regrets; based entirely from our current singular viewpoint at this time.  Regrets or disappointments about our past choices are not something we want to look back on in our life. What regrets do you have so far in your life?  Are you making better decisions today about the many tomorrows you have coming up in your future? Are you using your past to make a better tomorrow for you and for your family?

The simple truth is that today is the day that you create your yesterday.  Tomorrow, you will look back at this very point in time which will be in your past. With this simple passing of time, the quiet rotation of the hour hand on a clock, those things you do today will soon be in your past and you will be looking back at them tomorrow.  Make sure tomorrow, you do not regret what you did or did not do today.   Make sure your today matters!  Deep isn’t it?  It should be, after all, this is “Your” life.

This blog “Yearning Years“ is part 3 of a three part series titled, Living “The Life” of 100 Years.  It follows part 1, “Learning Years” and part 2 “Earning Years” published earlier on www.LifeLongU.com .

The series is intended to show that over the course of our life, hopefully around 100 years or so, most of us live through three different phases.

The first phase is “Learning” and covers about the first 35 years of our life.  Here we learn how to take care of ourselves, our families, strengthen our body, sharpen our mind, ponder our soul and how best to interact with others.  In this phase we learn how to think and learn how to do many different things.

The second phase is “Earning” and covers the middle part of our 100 year life or about age 35 to 65 years or so.  In this phase, our life becomes more focused on earning by applying what we learned in our earlier years.  In this phase the better you apply what you have learned may impact your earning potential greatly.  Obviously, money is not everything, but we should earn to our true God-given potential and use those blessings for His intended purposes. Our learning never really stops in life, whether in school or in our daily lives, applying your knowledge or making educated decisions while taking action are what matters.  Learn from your mistakes.  Positive action is what moves us forward, increasing opportunities for growth of all kinds in our lives.  Amassed and unutilized knowledge can lead to arrogance and waste.

The third phase is “Yearning” and it covers the last portion of our life; those years after we leave the earning phase, typically after 65 years or retirement.  In this phase, if we learned well in our learning phase and applied what we learned during our earning phase, our yearning phase could be filled with many possibilities. The yearning phase is about fulfilling your true life purpose, completing those things you have not done and always wanted to do, about coming to understand that all things come to an end and how will you enjoy your final years.  It’s also about surrounding yourself with family, friends and memories.  Since you tend to have more discretionary time, it’s about giving back to others and sharing your wisdom, wealth and efforts.

This phase can also hold the most fear for us; although we each deal with it differently.  The thoughts of aging, not having adequate funds to do what we always wanted to do, the chance of poor health affecting our inability to do what we always wanted to do and the loneliness because of loss of loved ones, friends and family members all affect this phase. Some of these will most certainly happen to each of us and that is not something we want to dwell on, but is a fact of life.

Make sure that today matters.  Make sure that when your days are piled on top of each other, the combined total of what you did with them supplies you with what you want from life.  Take responsibility for your life.  Make sure that you have a plan for your life, that you use what you have learned and recognize that you may not know it all and may need help in some areas.  Make sure you take action and seek out those that want to help and get their help.  Don’t enter the “Yearning” phase filled with regrets but prepare to enter it with eagerness and truly Living “The Life” of 100 Years.

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU.com

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“The Big Cheese”, Leadership

 The Big Cheese, Leadership

Every organization has a leader, even the organizations you belong to. Every entity, every company, every City, County, State and Country has a leader.  The leader is the person who is responsible for the direction of the organization they lead.  The leader makes sure strategic direction has been defined for the organization, that precise future goals are set and resources are available to accomplish those goals.  The leader is the person out in front, “the big cheese”; they get everyone to march to the same step.  The leader is the one the rest of the organization sees as the one to follow and the one person the followers trust most to make good decisions improving the organization so it benefits its stakeholders, which includes the followers.

Where would you follow your leader?  Are you following your leader?  Do you know what your leader stands for?  Do they work to benefit themselves or the organizations stakeholders?  How many different leaders are you following?

Over the years many different types of individuals have held leadership positions.  Some seek it out while others have it thrust upon them.  Some individuals rise to the occasion and do a fantastic job leading their organizations, while others, do not.

In my opinion a good leader should have the following traits:

  • Is a person with integrity; you either have it or you do not;
  • Believes in the Bible; adding nothing and taking nothing out;
  • Honors the value and concept of developing trust within the organization they lead;
  • Knows that many others are following and watches out where they step;
  • Is disciplined; saying yes or no can be very difficult when weighing different outcomes;
  • Believes in being a user of knowledge not simply one that wants to know it all;
  • Learns from their mistakes, admits them and moves along; we all make them;
  • Is a good neighbor and treats everyone like the leader themselves would want to be treated;
  • Builds strong teams to assist with the leadership responsibility;
  • Is someone that leads to a desired destination or gets out of the way;

Being a leader is not for everyone.  It’s a hard path to follow, especially when you are leading thousands of followers with many eyes on your every move.  But even when leading small groups, if you lack many of the traits listed above you may find it very difficult to be a successful leader and to stay in a prime leadership role.  Sometimes it may be better to support a good leader, rather than lead yourself and in these instances, again remember the traits listed above, they work well for us all, even when supporting a good leader.

Here are several great quotes by an amazing leader, Abraham Lincoln:

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm”;

“Be with a leader when he is right, stay with him when he is still right, but leave him when he is wrong”;

“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power”;

 “I walk slowly, but I never walk backward”.

 

If you are going to be a leader, “The Big Cheese”, be one, but be a good one.

 

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU.com

 

 

 

 

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Living “The Life” of 100 Years, (Part 2, Earning)

Living “The Life” of 100 Years

Part 2, Earning Years

 

Last week I posted part one “Learning Years” of a three part series called Living “The Life” of 100 Years. This week we continue with “Earning Years”, the next 35 years of our 100 year life.

Have you ever considered living a lifetime of 100 years?  What does it really take to do such a life feat?  What type of planning should be involved?  You may think you will never live that long, but what if you do?  What if the Lord blesses you with long life?  Will you be ready for your golden years, mentally, physically, spiritually, financially?  Have you been using your knowledge to improve your earnings in life so far, or have you simply taken a job to collect a paycheck and allow life to happen to you?

We tend to spend a lot of our time predominately focused on generating income and accumulating wealth since it is the time when most of us are at our peak earning years, from 35 to just around 70.  As we enter the “Earning Years” phase many of us have completed a desired level of schooling, have an education in our intended field of interest along with a fair amount of work experience in an industry we have sought out or ended up in.  In any case, as we move through our 30’s and 40’s, we have a value to offer the job market, and the job market has an amount it will reward us with.  Hopefully, the job market reward is equal to or higher than our own calculated value.

In today’s job market, which has become global, we now have a lot of competition from around our own geographic area as well as around the world.  Jobs that have been around for many years may be gone, may have relocated or the skills needed to do them have dramatically changed and may continue to change.  While we are in our “Earning Years”, we need to continue our learning and educating ourselves with new skills that keep us competitive and make us more desirable in the job market, or risk the value we bring to the job market and therefore risk a decrease in our earnings.  This tends to happen as we age.  The younger individuals entering the job market simply have more modern skills needed by business, while the older generation’s skills, although impressive, become less valuable because the job market now needs the more modern skills learned and offered by a younger generation.  Consequently, as we age, we may find our earning power decrease in value because of new skills required (which we may not have learned or bothered to add to our skills inventory) and also because there will be more unemployed individuals applying for those fewer jobs of old.  It becomes pure supply and demand; fewer jobs with more qualified applicants willing to settle for less value drives down the amount the job market offers for a position, and you end up making less.

Since the “Earning Years” is a bell curve rising in the third and fourth decades of our life, and falling in the sixth and seventh, it is very important to plan during this feast of earnings time.  If you fail to focus on putting away some of your gains during this phase, your “Yearning Years” may be filled with a lot of regret.

Working in your career is only one way to earn.  Can you think of any others?  Individuals that are truly successful in this phase of their life learn to multiply their earning potential by adding additional streams of income.  Some have a second or even a third job, some develop a hobby and learn to make extra income from it, some purchase real estate and learn the fix, flip and rental business, others may simply start a small business and still others may find extra money to invest in someone else’s start-up or ongoing successful enterprise.

One key element to be aware of with developing any of these additional streams of income is your time.  If you work a second or third job, obviously, you need to be there in order to get paid.  There are only so many hours in a day and assuming you need to sleep, your earnings will be limited by the amount of time you can effectively work at adding value.  Likewise with a hobby, you need to do the work, unless you can turn it into a small business; and by small business, I mean create a product or service that makes you more than just an hourly wage.  Your small business needs to create income for you (the owner) without you working in it all day, every day.

If you intend to develop additional streams of income and want to work less and make more you will need to focus on products and services that add value to a customer, and allow profit for you (the owner).   Focus on businesses that have the potential to create wealth for you in multiple ways.

Take real estate rental property for instance…you purchase a property, fix it up and rent it out.  Assume in this simple example you have a positive cash flow situation, a long-term low maintenance renter and a strong housing market. Over time, the rents collected pay off the mortgage on the property; increasing your equity (which is value to you) leaving you with a little extra cash each month (which is value to you) and the property appreciates in market value (which again, is value to you).  With an example like this, market timing and deal structure are very important as well as the amount of time you have to consistently work to maintain this income stream.  This is one example of creating an income stream that can generate wealth in several different ways while you still work your career or job.

A different example can be a small business.  If you start and build a small business, you may find that certain small businesses can provide you with a salary which replaces your current job; it may also supply many benefits and perks that replace existing expenses you may now be paying for out of your current jobs paycheck; if successfully run, it can provide additional profits to you (the owner) besides your normal paycheck; and again if successfully run, it may provide you with more time to do other things during your day besides work;  or you may be able to sell the business, it’s equipment, buildings and other assets at some point for a large cash payout to do with as you choose.  Small business is a good way for many individuals to grow their earnings and wealth doing nothing more than getting up and working everyday…isn’t that what you are doing anyway?

The United States of America is still a land of opportunity.  You can live here, work, receive a competitive wage for the value you provide and live a better than average life (when compared to the world at large).  You can own multiple pieces of property that can over time increase your earnings and wealth.  You can start, own, run and sell a small business that will also increase your earnings and wealth.

But to do this, it takes planning.  It takes some additional resources that you may not be comfortable or knowledgeable in using.  It takes others that have those skills to advise, coach and mentor you.  It takes you to want to maximize your “Earning Years” now, knowing that they will decrease over the years to come.

If you think it may be too late to start a business, consider what can happen over a short span of time:

Twitter is 8 years old, Market Cap Value of over $24 Billion

Facebook is 10 years old, Market Cap Value of over $207 Billion

LinkedIn is 12 years old, Market Cap Value of over $29 Billion

Google is 16 years old, Market Cap Value of over $373 Billion

Sitting down and constructing a life plan at this point in your life will be very helpful to you and your future.  A life plan and the right professional coach will help you learn to earn more in your “Earning Years” phase and provide a more disciplined structure for staying focused as well as persisting through difficult times.

Are you in your “Earning Years” phase?  How much are you earning?  How many income streams do you have coming in?  What is your potential to add more?  Why haven’t you done this already?  Where will you be 10 years from now (don’t forget about Facebook and Twitter, both are under 10 years old)?  Let’s not have any regrets as we age…

Next week we conclude this three part series, Living “The Life” of 100 years with part three, “Yearning Years”.

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

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Living “The Life” of 100 Years, (Part 1, Learning)

Living “The Life” of 100 Years

Part 1, Learning Years

 

Have you ever considered living a life time of 100 years?  What does it really take to do such a life feat?  What type of planning should be involved?  You may think you will never live that long, but what if you do?  What if the Lord blesses you with long life?  Will you be ready for your golden years, mentally, physically, spiritually, financially?  Have you been applying the knowledge you learned in life to improve your life so far?

100 years is 36,525 days (365.25 days in a year x 100 yrs). Even in today’s terms, that is a long time.  However in an earlier time, a time discussed in detail in the Bible, individuals lived much longer.  In Genesis 5:27, the Bible says, “Altogether, Methuselah lived a total of 969 years, and then he died”; Methuselah, being one of the oldest long lived men on record, if not the oldest.  Can you just imagine the type of planning that would be needed to live that long in today’s time?

Consider also, that God later in Genesis 6:3 mentions man should live to be approximately 120 years old.  Given that information, along with living a healthy lifestyle, consistently working daily at some God pleasing task and being assisted with the correct balance of pharmaceuticals it is very likely we may live close to being 100 if not longer and we should all plan accordingly.  What is your life long plan for your future?

How foolish is the thought of retiring at the age of 65 when you consider possibly living to the age of 100…much less 969.  It is true that many of us do not make it that long, but what if you do?  An article appearing on the Huffington Post website in November, 2013 at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/21/us-life-expectancy-oecd_n_4317367.html  tells today’s story of long life and to what age men and women are living too on average, around the world.  In the USA, women average around 81 years and men around 76 years and increasing year by year.

As I write this article, I have two children that have both completed over ¼ of their 100 year life; they are still in what the life line above shows as the “Learning Years”.  I myself have completed ½ of my 100 year life and am in what the life line above refers to as “Earning Years”.  Both my parents have almost completed ¾’s of their 100 year life and are just entering their “Yearning Years” phase.  Depending to what age we actually will live too, we will move through all phases mentioned above; starting on the far left with learning, then moving right to earning, then still farther right to yearning.

In the “Learning Years” we spend much of our first 30 or so years learning; first from our parents, then from teachers and educational organizations and then on our own.  Our first 10 years of life, our first decade, is spent heavily under our parents constant care. Here our learning starts with very simple life skills and communication and then progresses as fast as our parents and educators will teach us.  In our second decade, from 10 – 20 years, we start our process of moving beyond our parents care and their education and on to others ideas and concepts.  Here we begin to have a glimpse of whom we think we may become.  Our first 20 years of life, although viewed by ourselves as our entire life at that age, is really small and somewhat insignificant when compared to whom we may really be in the world as we age.  We simply may not be aware of this yet and may not fully see our potential for many more years.  By the time we hit our next decade, the 20-30’s, we are young adults and the childishness falls away from “most” of us and the world takes a firm hold of our life.  Many of us are still learning…learning about the opposite sex, serious dating, marriage, owning a home, having children and raising a family, a full time job or career, sharing and balancing our finances and how to handle our many responsibilities;  but still learning.

This learning phase is very important.  An education comes from many areas and not only from schools.  In today’s time, we can literally learn almost anything we would like and have the aptitude for.  The knowledge we learn is important, but applying what we learn is more important and persistence in applying what we learn more important still.  Many of us have failed to learn why we learn in the first place and then how to apply what we did learn.  Failing to apply what we learn, not applying discipline in our lives and not finishing something once we start it will have major impacts as we age and move through the upcoming decades of our 100 year life.  To live a successful life, we simply must have the discipline to apply what we learn and be persistent on obtaining those life goals that matter to us.

Sitting down and constructing a life plan at this point in your life will be very helpful to you and your future.  Continuously working on a life plan from year to year with professionals throughout your life after the age of 25 or so can help you have an even more successful impact.  A life plan and use of professional coaches will help you apply what you learned and provide a more disciplined structure for staying focused as well as persisting when things get difficult.  A disciplined focus and attention to what matters most will help you with your relationships, assist you in building a retirement nest egg and provide balance in all other areas of your life (spiritually, mentally, physically, emotionally), while creating positive memories and joy in your life.

I look at the 100 life line and see where I was 25 years ago (where my children are now – learning) and where I may be 25 years in the future (where my parents are now – yearning) and ponder how best to advise my children, learn from my parents and continue to apply what I have learned so far in my own life.

Are you applying what you have learned to improve your own life?  Are you learning from your parent’s successes and mistakes?  Are you still advising your children on suggested paths they can take, or not take?

Next week we continue this three part series, Living “The Life” of 100 years with part two, “Earning Years”.

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

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8 Small Business Challenges

 8 Small Business Challenges

Running a small business today takes a lot of determination, stamina and problem solving skills by the owner if they want to even attempt to run a business.  If they intend for it to prosper and grow, they will still be faced with many waves of challenges that may knock them off their feet from time to time.  A small business owner will need to be aware of, understand and will probably have to address each challenge at some point in their business.  Let’s look at eight challenges that may need to be addressed.

  1. The Owner Themselves

An entrepreneur is a special class of person that has something that is driving them to start a business in the first place.  It could be a passion or they may have something to prove, whatever their reasons for starting the business, chances are they will be lacking in certain knowledge and skills.  They may excel in some areas and they may be able to work 22 hours a day to make up for a lack of some knowledge, but at some point time, their fatigue and uncertainty, while trying to do it all alone may get the best of them.  A business that is largely dependent on the owner can only grow to the point of that owner’s ability, willingness and time spent on getting things done.

  1. Lack of Direction, Strategy and Planning

An ability to solve most problems as they come up is another of the entrepreneur’s talents but solving day-to-day problems will only get a business so far.  Time has to be spent by the owner working on the business thinking through possible strategies, coming up with plans and providing direction or vision for the employees.  This planning action, besides being necessary for the business and its growth, helps provide the employees a path to follow and see how they might fit in with the company’s long range future.  It also may help the owner rest a little easier at night.

  1.  Technological Innovation and Information Overload

A small business owner and their team usually are spread pretty thin and wear many hats.  Usually, someone within the company is dealing with someone outside the company to make all the technology work correctly.  Needed improvements or upgrading to a more innovative technology is usually shunned because of the lack of skills or disruption it would cause within the company.  This along with not fully using all the available data being generated within your company to aid in making key decisions puts the small business owner at a huge risk when savvy new competitors enter your market.

  1.  Regulation and Risk Management

Many small business owners may not deal with heavy regulation or have large product liability risks to manage so they may not worry so much about this wave.  But the ocean of business is large and waves are always being created.  The new healthcare mandates may certainly change the need for small business to spend more time focusing in this area to stay in line with regulations as new law is finalized and takes effect.

  1.  Gaining Customers and Their Loyalty

Gaining and keeping loyal customers has always been the name of the game for most small businesses.  In fact, sometimes you have a customer before you have a business.  But once you are in business a marketing plan needs to be created, even if on a very small scale.  The process you go through to develop a marketing plan helps you look at and understand your customers.  What do they purchase?  What are the average sales; total annual sales?  Is one or two of your customers generating a large share of your revenue; your profits?  What type of leverage or risk might they place on you?  What other products can be sold: at what margins?  These are all questions the small business owner needs to be asking to survive and grow.

  1.  Cash and Resource Management

How your cash is generated in your business is a must for each owner to fully understand.  Where is the cash being tied up?  If in inventory, how can it be converted quickly into cash?  If it’s tied up in receivables, how can it be collected?  What type of lending arrangements do you have with your bank?  Most lending to small business has been seen by many bankers as more risky over the past years and is not likely to improve.  What else in your company has value if sold or can generate new revenue?

  1. Hiring and Training The Right People

A small business work environment or culture is made up from the main body of its employees.  A small business owner needs to attract, hire, train and keep motivated its core group of employees.  If one leaves or is not satisfied in the company, it can cause quite a problem.  These are the people that help you attain the lifestyle you are looking for by being a small business owner; a lifestyle that can be had from owning a successful small business.  Find out if you core group is happy, if they are not, make them happy or make a change.

  1. The Right Level of Quality For Growth

Each small business owner should determine what they want their business to be and if they are working through a strategic plan, they should be able to see what the size potential is for their specific business.  They should also understand what level of quality their product needs to be to satisfy their customers.  If the quality is too low, but adequately priced, you may lose customers who want a higher quality product.  If the quality is higher than what your customers are looking for and competitively priced, you may be losing margin.  In either scenario, you should always understand what your quality strategy is, your future growth and profit depend on it.

There are many opportunities for different small businesses in America today.  If an entrepreneur uses their talents, skills, abilities and resources effectively, they can prosper and become one of those that can live a lifestyle only dreamed about by most.  That lifestyle is given to those that run a successful small business.

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™

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Building A Team

Building “A Team”

Having a group of individuals come together to successfully accomplish a task is why most of us want to build a team in the first place.  Whether for a short-term project or long-term engagement, team building can take a lot of effort.

There are all kinds of different teams in the world; sports teams, project teams, corporate organizational or business management teams, political teams, family teams and even married couples are a team.  They are all brought together through various ways and motivated to succeed at all kinds of different tasks or events.

Have you ever wanted to be part of a special team? Humans are social people and want to be on a team; it’s human nature to want to be part of something bigger than our self and be part of a group.  What teams are you on or would like to be a part of?

Building “A Team” From Scratch

If you are in charge of building a team you need to focus on several key areas:

First, you need to understand the special talent, skills and abilities needed to accomplish the task (which should be clearly defined).

Second, you need to find individuals that have those special talents, skills and abilities and recruit them into your group.

Third, if none can be found, you need to find those with the aptitude to learn the necessary skills and then train them.

Fourth, you need to motivate or incentivize them to all want to work together to accomplish your task.

Fifth, a leader (captain, champion) needs to step up and take responsibility for the team’s overall success as well as the individual success of the members of the team.  Leadership respect will be given to those that earn it, whether it’s the leader or a team member.

Managing “A Team” You Did Not Build

What if you did not build the team you are managing currently?  How do you know if your team has all the talents, skills and abilities to be successful?  If you are the leader of such a team, you need to address the five key areas we just mentioned above.

On your own, quickly go through each one of the five and determine if the members of your team should in fact be on your team.  Do they possess the talents, skills or abilities your group needs to succeed?  Can they be trained in the areas they are lacking?  Are they properly motivated to work as a part of the team?

Remember, your job as the leader is to accomplish the task, and to know that your group needs to function as a team.  The leader makes sure each team member does their part; that each member is held to the same standards as the other team members, feels part of the group and supports the group effort.  A good leader will praise team members in public and reprimand them in private when appropriate.  A leader leads by example and gains respect by giving it.

Many teams have succeeded and failed because of bad leadership.  Team building takes a leader that understands how a team comes together, works together and succeeds together.  Diligently following the five key areas we discussed above will put your team well on the path to success.

Go Team!

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

 

 

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What Profit Target Are You Hitting?

 $$$  What Profit Target Are You Hitting  $$$

Are you successful at hitting what you are aiming at?  How do you know what target is the one you should be aiming at?  Small businesses have always had a challenge with identifying the proper profit target for their business.  In fact, many new businesses go out of business before they consistently turn a profit, much less worry about attaining a certain targeted profit amount.

Our LifeLongU™ blog today explores ways a small business owner could focus their aim on different targets of profit. You may be reading this and think, “Isn’t that what all business owners focus on.”  I don’t believe they do.  Many I have met think about sales first.  They become sales driven organizations with processes focused on driving up sales, whatever the cost.  They have a philosophy that if we only had more sales, we would make more profits which is very dangerous and can hurt a company as quickly as having no profits can.  This way of thinking can create lots of sales activity, lots of risk, lots of cash being funneled through the business and lots of extra loose spending if proper controls are not in place to protect profit margins.  It can also create a “feeling” of profitability within your business, which might be false.

Are you clear on what profit you or your business is aiming at?  Are you hitting it?  Are you sure that is a good thing for your business?

One way to think about it is shown below; looking at Sales and Profits only.  It is simple and may quickly tell you what you want to know.  But only aiming at top line sales and bottom line profit numbers can get a business owner in trouble.  It simply does not tell you what you need to know about how your business is doing and how to fix what might be wrong.   This is the simple method (Example 1):

Sales – Cost of sales and “All” other expenses = Profit (what’s left over)

Hit_Example_1

Example 1

A more detailed approached is discussed below:

Again we start with Sales, but this time we break out the sales by product type (You may also think of this as different projects).  In our example below, we show three types of product (A – small product, B – large product, C – service, and in your business you may have more).

Next all material costs associated with each individual product type is deducted.  This will leave a profit number we will call “Adjusted Profit Contribution.”

Notice in Example 2 product type C – service has the largest amount of sales and is currently contributing the most profit as well (circled in green).  Keep watching that as we move through our discussion.

Example 2

Example 2

We want to track the adjusted profit contribution for each product type after each expense category is deducted from it.  This will show us problems we may have with our profit in specific expense category and then we can create potential solutions on how to fix them.

We continue to do this with each expense category, the next one being “labor costs” and continue to view the new “Adjusted Profit Contribution” total.  Notice in Example 3 the high labor costs associated with providing product type C – service (circled in green), it no longer is contributing much to our profits.

Example 3

Example 3

Now we deduct all “overhead allocation costs” associated with a product type.  Some products will have larger amounts of overhead (building space, equipment or other costs) associated with it in order to provide that product or service to your customer.  Using this method helps to allocate other expenses within your business to a product type.  If you chose not to sell that product any longer, you should be able to remove that expense from your business without impacting your other sales.

Notice in Example 4 how the adjusted profit contribution by each product type is slowly decreasing (circled in green), as we deduct expense categories that have only the expenses unique to that product type.  You should begin to see what product sales are contributing more profits to your overall business and those are the products we want to aim at selling more of.

Example 4

Example 4

In the world of accounting and financial statement reporting, after we have deducted the expense categories mentioned above, we are left with our gross profit margin, by product type.  This is what we have been working towards by individually breaking apart our sales and costs.  We want to understand how much profit each product we sell contributes to our overall profit or bottom line Net Income (before taxes of course).

In our current example, up to this point, it appears that all products contribute profit to our overall gross margin.  This in itself is a good sign, but we are not done yet.  Let’s continue…

We still have some selling (advertising, marketing, online, literature, etc…) expenses to deduct, by product type.  This area is also very important to track.  If properly tracked, you should be able to see and understand how your marketing budget and the money being spent on various marketing campaigns and activities is impacting your sales by each product type.  Notice in Example 5 the amount of selling costs associated with product type C – service.  Our business is spending approximately $80,000 per year in marketing and advertising dollars to generate $800,000 in sales. Is this a good thing?  At this point, it’s actually absorbing ($18,000) of our cumulative total adjusted profit contribution.

Example 5

Example 5

We have one more main category of expenses to deduct and that is general administrative costs.  Normally this holds more of the administrative type costs associated with running a business and can be very large or very small, depending how well you have allocated all your cost on products or projects.  This could also hold some other large expenses like interest, office rents, depreciation or amortization, insurance, etc… (Some of these should get allocated out by product type and appear in the Overhead Allocation Costs area above, as applicable).

As we look at Example 6 below, you will see that product type C – service also has some cost associated with it in this category.  It now is absorbing a cumulative total ($58,000) of adjusted profit contribution.  To think of this another way, if the company were to get rid of product type C – service and the $800,000 of sales, it would gain $58,000 of profit each year.  But in the real world, it usually does not work so cleanly.  There may be many reasons an owner or business may want to keep those sales within the company.  For instance, the service sales may be generating most of the small product sales from product type A.  A business owner should be aware of why they have sales and expenses at the levels they do, what needs to be changed and how to change it.

Example 6

Example 6

By now you should be able to see why we want to break down our profit and loss statement to show the details of what is really happening within our business.  It is not just a simple task of aiming for a certain budgeted top line sales number or a bottom line profit number.  Even when we hit what we are aiming at, that may not be in the best interest for us or our business.

When breaking out the sales and costs in detail, we can pick other targets for us to aim at, like:

  • Sales dollars by product type
  • Material costs, labor costs and overhead allocation cost, as a percent of sales, by product type
  • Gross margins $ and %
  • Selling costs associated by product type
  • General administrative cost associated by product type
  • and this is just the start…there is much more…

When looking at the bigger picture of our business, we can quickly decide on a new target, adjust our internal processes, take aim and fire.  Then validate the affect our change has made on our business.

Take good aim at the right target!

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

 

 

Are You Producing Customers?

Are You Producing Customers

Are You Producing Customers?

Successful businesses focus on generating new customers in multiple markets while servicing current customers constantly strengthening the value being offered by their product and service.  This enables a business to add additional product offerings to customers and increase the lifetime value of each customer to their business.

Where do your new customers actually come from?  As an owner entrepreneur or business manager, you should have a good handle on how a prospect becomes a customer within your organization.  What type of sales team do you have?  Do they have the correct incentive plan motivating them to convert prospects to customers and generate sales?  Are they properly trained and managed?  Can you use Rep’s to plug some of the holes in your sales territories?  Do you know where the holes are?  Does your product or service have a good presence at area trade shows?  Is your company getting any business from trade shows?  How many new customers do you generate each month?  Again, where did they come from?  What are the average sales per customer?

As the owner entrepreneur or business manager, you should have the answers to these questions.  Cash is King, but without sales, there is no cash.  Every business should be generating new customers and trying to increase the average sales per customer.

How are you spending your advertising dollars?  What market segments are you targeting?  Are you hitting those targets?  How do you know? Metrics should be in place to determine how successful each advertising campaign is doing.  How much is spent and on what type of campaign?  How are the prospects being handled when they come into contact with your company representatives?  Is each prospect contact being documented, presented with the correct response to their inquiry and then later followed up on with additional information, offers for product or service or personal sales call scheduled to close a sale?

Today’s businesses cannot allow themselves to sit idle and wait for sales to come to them.  If they do, aggressive competitors correctly going after business will find your customers as their prospects and convert them to their own customers.  They will gain one new customer and you will lose one valuable customer; how many times can you afford to have that happen?

With today’s social media and online presence, it is very fast, easy and inexpensive for savvy small business competitors to show up almost daily and begin to chip at your customer base potentially weakening the market position you worked so hard and long to create.

Here is a “Must Research & Do List” to help you prospect, convert, grow and retain your customer base:

Prospect

  • Identify who your customer is
  • Learn where that customer can be found or where they do their business
  • Define what their needs are (from your product or service perspective)
  • Ask prospects what products or services they currently are not able to get adequately

 

Convert

  • Learn the different ways to approach your prospect
  • Develop a sales training program and train your sales team
  • Present your value offering with three ways to become a customer
  • Close one of your three ways during your sales cycle

 

Grow

  • Analyze what your customers are buying, their average sales and quantity of sales
  • Find out what they are not buying and why
  • Research your customers and find out what they may need or have trouble getting
  • Provide new products or services to fill customer’s needs
  • Add new customers
  • Incentivize your sales team
  • Manage your sales team

 

Retain

  • Deliver an acceptable quality product or service quickly for a fair price
  • Provide great communication often and customer service promptly
  • Take care of any problems customers have with your product or service quickly

 

The growth, prosperity and longevity of your business depends on how well you fine tune your prospecting and customer conversion process.  Make sure you are producing customers that want to purchase more and more from you.

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™