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8 Problems Which Can Cause Small Business Failure & Possible Solutions To Help Your Succeed

8 Problems Which Can Cause

Small Business Failure

&

 Possible Solutions to Help Yours Succeed

By Gary J Kiecker
12/16/2017

2017-12-17_1324

There are many reasons entrepreneurs start or buy a business, and just as many reasons why that business could fail and still many more reasons why many do.  We are not going to focus on the statistics stacked against your probable success but focus on how you can succeed.  Any Entrepreneur needs to understand what causes failures in small businesses, how they can be prevented and what can be done to properly manage their own business. Please keep in mind, that for our discussion here, a small business is defined as one that ranges from a sole individual to an organization of less than 50 or so employees.  This size business usually has many of the challenges we address below and less available resources to draw from than those of larger companies.  Which means that the owner really needs to manage those resources effectively if they are to beat the reported failure statistics and improve their odds for success.  However, many of the things we discuss below can be used to run larger companies as well.

I enjoy helping businesses be successful and have been responsible for many key areas of a business including owning and operating several of my own companies and running other owners companies as President. I have also held positions from VP of Finance & Operations to Controller at other companies both as an employee and as a contractor over my career.  My finance degree and many years working with people, strategic planning, financial statements, analyzing and interpreting data, developing business processes and accounting reporting systems have shown me many ways to start, manage and grow a business.  I believe I am very qualified to put together a list of areas a business owner or manager should watch as well as suggest some things that can be done to help manage to a higher level of probable success. 

I say “probable” because even when a business is successful, many things can change making a proven business model out of date very quickly and send a business on a path towards failure if certain steps are not taken to make the necessary corrections or improvements.  Many businesses may even have to re-invent themselves to keep alive.  They may have to break away from the comfortable norm the owners believe is correct because they think, “this is the way we have always done things’ and it worked” or better still, “it’s what got us here, so why change things.”

To stay on a path of continued or improved success, a business must set up ways using dashboards and reports to show you your numbers (KPI-Key performance indicators or metrics) on all pertinent areas of your business and then learn to interpret and understand what they are telling you.  To often, throughout my career, I have seen business owners get fixated on one part of their business and forget to manage other parts to their own detriment. The business owner does not have to be the one to set up the dashboard or reporting system, however, they should be involved and do need to view the results and discuss what the numbers are saying with the leadership team at the company, or use an outside consultant for advice and a sounding board.  But the numbers need to be gathered, reviewed and interpreted to understand why something is working or not working; then develop a plan of future action to correct what is not working and do more of what is.  This can be referred to as a business model and be incorporated as part of a long-term strategic plan.

One further note, as I put this list of why business fail and what can be done to help them succeed together, I researched many other very reputable online magazines and other sources like, Inc, Forbes, Entrepreneur, Success and Small Business Trends to see what they say about why businesses fail as well and what can be done to help them be more successful.  Links to their sites can be found at the end of this article.

Below are key business areas where failure can occur and as the owner, leader or manager of a business, you should watch, track, manage and improve these areas when necessary, to help ensure your businesses future success.

1) Cash Flow Problems

a) Problem:  Insufficient working capital to begin a business

Solution to consider:  Forecasting how much cash you really need to begin and maintain a new business is essential to its success and this can be done by developing a cash flow forecast.  Expenses always come before sales and profits and it takes cash to pay for them.  A new business needs to see a monthly cash flow forecast of what months you will have a cash deficit and which months you will have a surplus. From this forecast, you should be able to get a good idea of how much cash your business will consume and how much it needs to begin or grow.  Once you begin, track your actuals against your forecast and make any necessary changes adjusting your forecast to be closer in line to what really is taking place; then manage your expenses and control your cash outlay.  An accountant or consultant should be able to help you set up a pretty accurate forecast.  If you are ok with going it on your own, you can download one from SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) at https://www.score.org/resource/12-month-cash-flow-statement

Solution to consider:  When starting out, your business needs to have cash to grow, but how much is the right amount?  The solution to that, is it depends on your small business.  There are many different types of small businesses.  If your company is a product driven business, you many need to purchase inventory or have product manufactured or developed in order to make a sale which brings in more cash from profits.  Some of the cash from these sales, if efficiently managed, can be used to fuel more growth, but you will need an upfront amount of working capital to buy your first inventory and cover costs until sales are made. If your company is a service business, you may not need as much startup working capital to begin because you have no product to invest in first.  Much of your growth can be financed from the sales of your services.  Labor will be one of your largest line item expense, and labor will only be an expense when you provide your service or make a sale, if your operations are managed efficiently.   

Where you get your working capital to fund your startup or acquisition, is up to your creativity and negotiation skills.  But be assured, there is enough money in the world to start your business, you just need to find your source.  Many businesses have begun with less than a $1,000 and have become very successful and many businesses have been purchased by buyers putting very little of their own money in on a deal.  A lender will want sufficient collateral for a loan (debt financing) with a plan on how it will be repaid and may come with some very rigid requirements or conditions (covenants) on your business that may be difficult to operate with.  A private individual loan may be a better source.  Bringing in a partner may also be a way to go to generate needed working capital.  They will want equity in your company (equity financing) and some level of control over it depending on if they are a working partner in the business, a silent partner and how much ownership they receive for their investment.  The bottom line is, be creative in your financing (know how much money you need, negotiate the rate of interest you pay and terms for repayment, be careful on where you get your working capital from and what you give up to get it, etc.).

b) Problem:  Not generating positive cash flow from your operating activities

Solution to consider:  Continuing to have enough cash today in your business to pay upcoming and ongoing expenses of tomorrow is necessary to operate your business, right?  However, many business owners do not watch or fully understand what this means. To calculate this, you begin with EBIT (Earnings Before Interest & Taxes) + (add back in) depreciation & amortization – (deduct) taxes +/- (add or deduct) change in working capital (Current Assets – Current Liabilities) = cash flow from operating activities. This needs to be positive.  If it is not, look at your inventory and accounts receivable, they may be too high and using too much of your cash.

c) Problem:  Inadequate levels of inventory

Solution to consider:  If your balance sheet’s assets carry a large value of inventory, your cash may be tied up in inventory from time-to-time.  An owner should have a line of credit established with a lender sufficient to help through these seasonal times.  Be careful not to carry to much old inventory (last season’s product or slow-moving product that is not selling).  Having too much of the wrong inventory can tie up cash needed for other expenses and many times is overvalued on your balance sheet.  Usually only some sort of sale will convert that inventory back into cash, so you can replenish with faster turning items that generate more cash.  Make sure to track your inventory turns against your industry averages and work to do better than that average.  Learn more on this at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inventory_turnover.

Solution to consider:  Work with your vendors to see if they will keep some inventory in stock on your behalf.  Some will want to charge you, so it may cost you more per unit in landed costs, but it might be worth it from a cash flow perspective overall.  Keep in mind also, that your vendor may be selling your product to your competitors if you have not made some agreement for them not to do so.  Consider how long it takes your inventory to arrive at you warehouse; what can be done to get it there faster; maybe developing a closer vendor might be an answer.

d) Problem:  Managing your accounts receivable

Solution to consider:  Be careful on what terms you give to your customers.  Make sure they are not out of line with the terms you are receiving from your vendors or you might be developing some large cash flow problems.  If you give your customers NET 60-day terms, but your vendors want their payment in NET 30 days, you will have a cash flow problem.  A line of credit or infusion of cash can help bridge this type of issue. 

Solution to consider:  When things get tough, your customers may want to use you as a line of credit.  You may see certain customers paying you much more slowly during certain times of the year; make sure to plan for this, if you want to keep their business. When you are in a service business and labor is part of what you are selling, large contracts with slow payments could cause you cash flow problems as well.  You may have to add staff to complete a contract and they will need to be paid often, usually before your customer or client pays you. Make sure to work out your payment terms with your customer in advance to more closely match when your employees need to be paid, this will help with your cash flows.

 Solution to consider:  Stay on top of collecting old receivables; if they get past 60-90 days old, it will be very hard if not impossible to collect them.  If your customer is still in business, try to keep them as a customer, but place them on COD or credit card terms, and get them to pay a fixed amount towards their outstanding balance plus their current purchase.  You may be able to increase sales, save a customer from going to a competitor, strengthen a business relationship and get your old past due balance collected.

2) Bad Business Model and/or Business Plan

a) Problem:  Your business model is not working

Solution to consider:  A business model is there to help you understand how your business is supposed to make money and helps explain how this happens to others; like lenders or investors.  Your model shows how you believe your business will operate.  In the earlier years of your business, for the most part, your model is somewhat theoretical and unproven.  Once your business is running, you can compare your actual operations and financial numbers to your model refining it to be used to forecast your future operations more accurately and complete a business plan. 

b) Problem:  Stagnant sales growth and/or lack of new customers and/or limited customers

Solution to consider:  When you first start out chances are good, that you will have very few, if any customers, but after you have been in business for a while, you should have developed a good customer base.  In either case, make sure you are looking at who your customers are, what they are buying from you, how often and how many customers you add and lose.  Communicate with them often to see if your business is providing what they need; maybe there is more your company can offer them.  A danger many businesses have is that they believe they have a great product and see their sales as proof of this, but in truth, it could be much better if they only listened to what their customers where saying and developed or improved their product to add more value to their customer and to their customers customer.  The fact is, provide what your customers want to buy, and sales will improve.

c) Problem:  Growing too fast

Solution to consider:  When a business is experiencing fast or rapid growth, recruiting employees with the necessary skills can be a challenge.  Not only that, the training of your new employees takes time as well. Understanding your growth and forecasting the areas of that growth, plus looking at your staff requirement needs is something fast growing companies need to do.  If they do not have the internal recruiting talent, the time or a process that works efficiently to add staff, they will need to find an outside agency or subcontract out the recruitment of employees; make sure to add those recruitment costs to your budget, they can get costly.  Also, consider subcontracting some percentage of needed talent as temp-help, just in case the increase of sales is short lived.  Its less costly, and somewhat easier to not have temporary help come in tomorrow verses laying off employees you just hired.

When many new employees are being added, the business must also plan for space and equipment necessary for the employee to do their job.  To many times I have seen companies simply hire new employees where the new hires show up for work, they complete very little paperwork, have no real training program on their position or overall orientation on how the company functions and sometimes, do not even have a place to sit or computer to work with.  They are thrown into production, because their skills are needed to get work done today.  This obviously is not a good process to continually follow long-term.  Make sure to think through your on-boarding of new employees, set up a process and then follow the process when the new hires start.

Solution to consider:  Fast growing companies can also experience cash flow problems.  The need to add additional staff, more space, larger inventories or more equipment will increase your expenses very quickly and will also increase the need for additional cash in the business.  Cash is very much King and most available cash resources come from the cash being generating from operations (employees should be added as available cash from operations can support the additional expense) or from additional contributions of cash via a line of credit with a bank (this usually takes some time and planning to set up) or by having more cash put into the business by the owners.  One quick note here; be careful not to over spend or borrow.  When you are growing fast, throwing available money at problems may be a fast solution, but long-term, over extending and adding debt can choke your company, if not managed accurately.

Solution to consider:  The growth that comes from a fast growing company can also put a strain on customer service and day-to-day operational efficiency.  Because of the increase load of new business, things can begin to get missed or as I’m sure you have heard before, “balls start to get dropped.”  Having good metrics in place and taking the time for you and your managers to discuss and improve them is important to maintain good levels of customer service and continue to operate efficiently through growth spurts.

d) Problem:  Have not adapted to new market trends and changes in your industry

Solution to consider:  Almost all businesses face the competition that comes from our new ever-changing global economy.  If a business does not adapt to the changes that happen within their industry, they can literally see their businesses die within a very short amount of time.  Just look at Blockbuster Video and how it got replaced by Netflix; look at BestBuy, CompUSA and Radio Shack, and what the online business competitors like Amazon has done to them.  Sometimes a company must totally reinvent themselves, which may mean providing a totally different type of product to even a different customer base.  In today’s global and everchanging economy, a small business should not assume it will be able to sell its product or service next year at the same level it did in prior years without adapting that product or service to provide its customers with a better value.  It’s far to easy for a customer to spend their discretionary budget with your many competitors or to buy a new product or service in the market that replaces yours. Your business must be looking each year at what you are offering your customer and asking if that product or service still is a good value to your customer.  Frankly, you should be developing and implementing plans each year on how to offer something far better and of more value, if you plan to grow your revenue and be competitive.

3) Lack of Proper Customer Communication and Dialogue

a) Problem:  Not knowing who your customers really are

Solution to consider:  Do you know who your customer really is?  Many business owners have an answer for this right away.  They name off several of their largest customers, so they believe they can market to other customers just like the ones they named.  But to really know your customer, you really should be asking a set of questions and this is important, (Red flag here…) find out and analyze the answers to those questions. 

  • Here are some key questions that will help determine who your customer is:
  • What problem is your product or service solving?
  • Who has this problem?
  • Why is this a problem for them?
  • How are these prospects or potential customers measuring success with your product or service; What metric are they using?
  • Is this a problem worth solving for your prospects or potential customers?
  • How many have this problem; how big is this audience?
  • How do you know they will buy from you and how can you prove this audience truly does exists?
  • How much is this prospect or potential customer willing to pay to solve their problem
  • One last thing to look at is what or who else is offering up a solution on solving this problem?  Differentiating your product or service may help your solution be more unique and attractive to your customer.  Explain how your solution is better.

b) Problem:  Infrequent communication with your customers

Solution to consider:  Building up trust with your customer base is one of the largest reasons for frequent communication with your customer.  If they rarely or never hear from you, why would you expect them to believe in what you are telling them about your product or service.  Frequently communicating with them offering up information, products or services that will help them and add value to their business or lives is part of that trust building equation.  Make sure to develop a plan to frequently communicate with your customer base.

c) Problem:  Not listening to what the customers are telling you

Solution to consider:  If you are communicating with your customers, please make sure to listen to what they are telling you.  Communication is a two-way street, one talks, the other listens and vice versa; exchanging thoughts, opinions and ideas, that is communication.  When you first start out chances are good, that you will have few customers, if any, but after you have been in business for a while, you should have developed a good customer base.  Make sure to look at who your customers are, what they are buying from you, how often and how many customers you add and lose.  Communicate with them often to see if your business is providing what they need; maybe there is more your company can provide them.  A danger many businesses have is that they believe they have a great product or service and see their sales as proof of this, but in truth, it could be much better if they only asked their customers how to improve and then listened to what their customers where saying in reply.  Your customer base can be a source of new ideas for your business.  Now look at what your customers are telling you and how you can develop or improve your offering to add more value for them.  Provide what your customers want to buy, give them real value and sales will improve. 

4) Not Clearly Defining How Your Product or Service Adds Value or is Unique to Your Customer

a) Problem:  No real market for the product or service you are offering

Solution to consider:  First make sure you really know there is a market for what you are selling.  Look at your industry and learn how big it is and how it really works; do some research on it. Maybe do some testing or perform a survey to get some good feedback on sculpting what you are offering to exactly meet a customers need.  If you are selling your product and service, ask your customers why they did or did not buy what your selling.  Next look at your competitors, learn about their product and service, learn what your customers think of your competing products and why they like them.  All this research can help you determine if you have a real market for a product or service. 

b) Problem:  No product differentiation from other similar products or services on the market

Solution to consider:  Why would a customer buy your product over a competing product or service?  That is what product differentiation is all about.  Businesses that successfully tell a prospect why they are different from competitors will grow their customer base, if their product is something the prospect wants.  Your marketing should be telling your story of how your product or service benefits your customer and that story should include how it is different and unique from other competing products and services, in a creative way as possible.  If your customer sees no difference, they are more likely to believe it makes no real difference which product they purchase.  They may just shop on price or availability.  Tell them why to buy yours.

A prospect must see and understand the value and/or benefits your product or service offers them to become a customer.  That value offer can come from a fairly-priced good quality product or stylish or unique design.  It can be your customer service department, your sales team, your available inventory or your time or maybe it’s simply how easy it is to order from you.  These all can be reasons why a prospect becomes your customer; however, they must see in your marketing, the value your product or service has for them.

5) Out Competed by Your Competition

a) Problem:  Not knowing your competition and what they are doing

Solution to consider:  It is very easy to do a basic search on Google these days and learn a lot about your industry, the main players in it and about your competition. You can also learn a lot by going to an industry trade show or conference.  If you are not doing at least some type of research looking into and learning what they are doing, you are putting yourself at a huge disadvantage.  Many probable prospects and even your current customers are looking online and researching products and services that will help and grow their businesses.  If your competitors are online and you are not, who do you think your customers will see?   Gaining valuable research on what your competitors are offering and learning how they are marketing their offerings is important for you to know.  But just as important, is for you to have your product and service offering out there to be found by your customer.  Yes, your competition will see your marketing as well, but prospects and your customers need to be able to see it and you need to stay on top of who / what / how your competition is interacting with your customer.   If you can’t do this research yourself, put someone else in charge or pay a third party to gather the data every-so-often.  It will help your business in the long run.

b) Problem:  Not having a clear picture of competing products or services being offered in your markets, their pricing, timing of offers and discretionary spending and budgets

Solution to consider:  It is very easy for a small business to fall into a lull when things are going pretty well.  However, in the global economy we compete in today, you need to be thinking of much more than just offering a good product or service.  Understand how your customer wants to purchase and how they really do use your product and when.  You should realize that most of your customers do have a budget, a limited amount they can or will spend with your company.  They will either use your service or product internally or inventory it and market it for sale to their own customers.  The dollar amount they can spend does have some logic as to how much it is and when they will be making a purchase.  The time of when they do this is also important.  Some industries are tied to seasonal or holiday trends, so there is an established time of making a good presentation of your product by marketing it and there is also a bad time to do this.  Knowing how your more successful competitors are working this process can be good for your own business.  If your customer spends most of their budget with your competitor, where does that leave you?  Understanding how your customer buys and how your competitor offers their products and services for sale is important to keep your business prospering.

6) Poor Leadership and/or Not Having the Overall Right Team in Place

a) Problem:  You have poor leadership skills in general

Solution to consider:  Not everyone is a natural born leader and just because you are an entrepreneur who started a small business or purchased one and now find yourself in charge of leading that small business, makes you a leader.  You more than likely should brush up on your leadership skills, starting right away. For your company to truly function at its best, you need to provide the leadership it needs, whether that comes from you or from someone else you hire.  Good leadership is about painting a vision of a strategy of what you want your company to become, it’s about people skills and managing your employees so they can see that vision and want to be a part of it.  It’s also about understanding where your employees are coming from, listening to them and helping them actually be part of your vision and showing them the way.  Leadership is not about your position on an org chart, your seniority or any entitlement you may feel because of your ownership.  It’s about making good decisions fairly quickly, owning up to your mistakes, and communicating to your team about what you plan to do.  It’s about gathering information and discussing the pros and cons of that plan with your team, then making a decision.  If your team is not part of the decision-making process, how can they really support your decision?  A good leader encourages a spirit of collaboration in their culture, one where team members are not afraid of speaking up.  Leadership is about vision, strategy, planning, organization and then executing as a team.  A leader will have the team help break all this up into steps and then support those in charge of accomplishing each step and help them all succeed as a group. 

There is much that can be said about being a good leader and there are many books written on the topic, so it’s fairly easy for you to learn more about leadership.  Here are some areas of concentration a leader may want to focus on first to improve their skills and become a much better leader:

  • Improve communication effectiveness
  • Make sure expectations are clear
  • No micromanagement
  • No threatening behavior
  • Have discipline
  • Have motivation
  • Encourage others
  • Have a clear vision
  • Execute on their plans

b) Problem:  You as the business owner, are not effectively leading your team with your vision to accomplish your stated goals and hold them accountable

Solution to consider:  I have already stated the importance in having a vision, but it is also very important to have team members aligned with the goals, strategies and priorities supporting operations that will accomplish that vision.  To lead your team effectively, your team should have faith, trust and respect in you as a leader.  The culture created by you, your actions and your values towards your team, as the leader of it, should be real and those that support your company goals.  If your words and communication in general are the opposite of your actions, your team will lose faith and respect in what you say.  You are held to a high standard as a leader and need to make sure to hold yourself accountable to that standard.  If you don’t prepare for upcoming meetings, or try to use sales skills to manipulate your team; if you communicate only half truths about certain matters or weakly support your teams efforts and don’t ask for their input before decisions are made, you probably need to work on your leadership skills a lot.  How can you expect to hold your team accountable to you and accomplishing goals, if you do not hold yourself accountable to leading the team correctly? 

Besides reading or talking some courses on leadership, one other solution you might try to improve your leadership skills is to hire a leadership coach.  A good coach can help you immensely right away, and let your team know that you are trying to be a better leader.  That in itself, will go a long way to showing leadership to your team.

c) Problem:  You do not have key individuals in place with the right skills, talents, motivation and authority to handle their area of responsibility

Solution to consider:  Whether you hire a new employee or are working with your current staff, their job duties and your expectations must be made clear to what they are responsible to complete.  If they are not, as the leader, how can you hold them accountable?   Furthermore, if they do not know and understand what part they play in your vision, how can they perform at their best?  These key employees need to have your attention, direction and support.  If you hired correctly, and that employee has the skills or the talent to learn what is needed, they are the rose bud that can bloom into that beautiful rose in your business vase.  Most of us have seen a full vase of rose buds which did not open to reveal their full splendor.  It is still beautiful, but how disappointing that they did not reach their full potential.  There is a process to get a bud to open, and there is a process, as the leader, you should follow to develop your team.  They need your attention, direction and support as often as needed for them to see the vision, play their part of a successful solution and feel appreciated for their work which will motivate them.

d) Problem:  Not delegating and supporting those employees with key roles and responsibilities within your organization or you are micromanaging

Solution to consider:  Many times in a new business, an entrepreneur or manager may have to manage all the details of that business or at some point they did many of the roles themselves as they worked over the years in the business.  They may be very hands-on and have become very used to making sure everything happens a certain way and on time.  As the business grows, they hire employees to help complete the daily tasks, and tend to micromanage that work being done to an unhealthy level for their business.  Micromanaging is frustrating, demoralizing and certainly demotivating to those who are being controlled this way by their manager.  As a manager and leader, you need to train your employees to do their jobs correctly, add the proper level of checks, balances and controls in place to make sure that happens, then step back and support and manage the system.  There is only so much time during a day to get things done, and as the leader, you cannot possible be involved in all things happening, so you must learn to delegate duties and responsibilities out to others; and then train and support those employees you have entrusted this new work flow to.  

7) Poor Management of the Business

a) Problem:  Not tracking and knowing your numbers and what they are telling you about your business

Solution to consider:  To properly manage your business, you simply must know certain numbers or metrics of how your business is operating.  There are some numbers all businesses should track and there are probably some numbers specific to your business or industry that you should be tracking as well.  If you do not know what these should be or how to set them up to be tracked, contact an accountant and have them help you.  You really want this to be setup correctly.  A good business library could help you find some industry metrics or KPI’s (key performance indicators) that you can benchmark your business against as well. 

Your main focus right away should be to set up a snapshot of your company, which is a brief one-page overview of your key metrics in a format that makes sense to you and explains the key areas of how your business is performing.  This can be done daily or weekly, depending on your comfort level of the numbers and what is involved to pull them together.  This is not in place of, or the same thing as your financial statements (which should be completed monthly and analyzed).  But the snapshot should include your cash balances, your cash forecasts of what needs to be paid out soon (outflows), what payments are expected in soon (inflows), your loan balances, including what your available lines of credit are.  I think it’s also a good idea for a small business, to track the remaining credit available on credit cards as well.  This snapshot can also be developed in such a way for you to monitor orders, shipments, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll and loan payments expected as well.  Developing this kind of forecasting snapshot overview will help you get your procedures, systems and employees working efficiently and accurately providing you with the most important data on how your business is doing and will be doing in the near future. 

You want to create a snapshot or reporting system that answers questions like:

  • Is there enough cash to pay the upcoming bills?
  • Are your customers paying on time, or more importantly, which are not and how will that non-payment affect your cash in the upcoming weeks?
  • Do you have enough inventory of what is selling; also, what is not selling and how can you sell it or turn it back into cash?
  • Is the replenishment inventory you have on order going to over extend you in any way?  Should you cancel purchase orders or put some items on sale, before they arrive?
  • Is the business on track for hitting your sales forecast and projections?  If not, what can be done to get it back on track.
  • Do you have the right number of qualified employees? 
  • Are you adequately utilizing your space?  Do you have to much or how can you do with less?  What about growth, do you need to relocate soon?

Next make sure to break down your service or product and get a clear picture on what costs go into providing it to your customers.  Gross margin is a great place to begin, but you need to understand what the margins are by product / service and subcategory and even by individual item or service type you provide. You need to make sure on how those margins are being calculated as well.  Some will be providing a nice profit or contribution to overhead, while others may be costing you money each time you make a sale.  The products and services you sell should be analyzed often to help determine how they can be improved on, how they can be provided to the customer for less and how your business can maintain an adequate margin when a sale is made.  This also will help you determine new areas for growth in your business.

I mentioned the financial statements earlier, that you need them monthly and they need to be analyzed by someone qualified to do so.  You need to understand what they are telling you.  Horizontal analysis (looking at each month individually compared to other months of whatever date range you want to view and compared to a budget or forecast) will tell you many things, if you know what to look for.  Some key areas to analyze are on the Profit & Loss statement and they are Gross Margin, EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation & amortization) and Net Income.  If there are big changes from month-to-month, look into the line item detail and understand what made the changes.  If they are good, try to do more of what gave you those results in your business.  Also, compare these key areas to the industry norms.  It’s one more way to see if you are doing ok; a good source of validation.

b) Problem:  Not building a strong culture for employees (do they enjoy being there?)

Solution to consider:  There are many reasons to have a “positive” culture at your company.  A better mood simply translates into better performance overall.  When the work environment is hostile and there is frequent employee turnover, employees become warry of their surroundings, and begin to think about leaving.  Your employees, most assuredly, have discussed many of the things that created the negative culture they are experiencing.  You as the leader or manager, need to talk to them and find out how they feel about working for your company.  What is causing the negative culture and also the positive culture. People are social and need to interact to form relationships.  Good relationships, also translate into good performance.  If you spend some time working to improve your organizations culture, it will help you recruit new employees and you may even enjoy being at work more yourself.

8) Bad Location

a) Problem:  Your physical location is poor

Solution to consider:  Where you locate your business can play a very key part in its overall success.  In real estate, realtors have an old saying that the three main considerations for buying a property are location, location, location.  This applies to a business location as well.  Whether your business is retail, service, distribution or manufacturing, where you locate it can eventually make or break you.  Retail and service businesses need to be convenient to their customers and have a certain amount of foot traffic (either on foot or driving by) to help make their business successful.  While a distributor or manufacturer is more concerned about managing their overall costs of a location, having adequate skilled labor available within the area and being accessible for customer deliveries or pickups. Many times, where a vendor is located also can play a large role.  If all your vendors are located in China for instance, what happens in China can affect the delivery of your product, and largely be out of your control.  Having a vendor located that far away also can make it difficult to develop new products, control quality, timely deliveries and even language becomes a barrier. 

When deciding on a location or understanding if your current location is hurting your business, create a list of things that might affect your specific business by being located where you are or believe you want to be. There may be specific demographics available from the city or county to help, but certainly on the US Census Bureau and the Bureau of Labor Statistics websites.  Also, try contacting a local commercial real estate agent, they may be a good source of information.  Rent costs, zoning, accessibility, signage and utilities should all figure into your analysis, but don’t forget to include cost of delivery or pickup of merchandise, the availability and current cost of local skilled labor, the amount of the right type of traffic for your business and where your vendors are located.  Many of these factors can add or remove profit from your bottom line.

b) Problem:  Your internet locations are poor or non-existent

Solution to consider:  If you have a physical (brick & mortar) location in a community, its reasonable to think, that your customers will find you, right?  Assuming of course, you have chosen your location wisely and do some marketing.  But what about the online community?  Your location online can be just as important to the success of your business.  New prospects and customers should be able to find you there as well and in fact, that may be where most of them look first, before they ever arrive at your physical location.  In the past, if you wanted to find a business, you would use the yellow pages.  Now most everyone turns to their almost-always-connected link to the internet and will ask Google, Bing or Yahoo their questions, and be supplied with a listing of answers created by unseen algorithms mixed with a billboard of paid advertisements specifically generated to respond to whatever question you asked.  This is the new form of yellow pages and your business needs to be a part of it.  At the very least, your business should be appearing within the first page or two of an organic relevant search as part of the answer to a question.  Much better if your paid ad appears at the top of page one and your business appears lower down in the organic search area.  These combined spots make a great online location for your business.

But that prime location is ever changing and can be very expensive to secure, depending on your business.  The algorithms and advertisements are shifting daily, as are your competitor’s offerings and your customers needs.  Take a minute and think about what you want to happen online.  When someone enters your online world as a prospect and asks the unseen algorithm to provide an answer to a question they have.  This can be very difficult to figure out. 

Compare this with standing in the back of a moving pickup truck with nothing holding you in place, moving 60 miles per hour, in the middle of a grass field filled with prairie dog mounds and holes.  You are out of balance, barely able to stand upright and continually being jostled around, and then using a paint ball gun, try to hit a small moving prairie dog with a paint ball.  It can appear at times to simply be luck to hit anything at all.  But countless businesses are having great success with their online communities and growing their businesses because they were able to figure out how to be in the right online location at the right time.  Websites, landing pages, email campaigns, search engine optimization (SEO), many social media sites, blogging, images, videos all come into play.  There are many businesses who may be able to help you secure an online location and be in front of a prospect, when the right question is asked and turning them into a customer of yours.  But it’s up to you to decide who that might be, what it takes to make that happen and how much to spend on it. 

Two key points to keep in mind when working to occupy your online location: one) set a budget; two) track the results of anything you are spending your budget on.  There must be results, or why do it?

Great Resources to Help You Start & Grow Your Business:

Gary J. Kiecker is an entrepreneur with over 25 years of business experience owning, managing and consulting on small businesses.  He believes everyone should own a small business at some time during their lives and wants to help those that want to move down that path be successful.  He works to provide fulfillment systems for life and business through his company, LifeLongU™ at  http://www.LifeLongU.com.

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Choosing A Life Path

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Choosing A Life Path

How prepared were U for life when U left your parents’ home and went out on your own?  Maybe U went to college first, then out into the world, or maybe U went right into the workforce and started earning a living.  How did U want your life story to go back then?  I would guess that U have learned a lot about life and about yourself since then.  Do U wish U had taken a little more time to think about your future and plan a few things before starting out?  What do U tell you children about planning and about thinking and having a strategy for their lives’?

The company I founded, LifeLongU™, creates and distributes guides, workbooks and some videos which are designed to help U develop yourself into the person U want to become by helping U define who U will be as the main character in your own life story.  We realize that everyone is on a path in life, but maybe not a path that includes continual self-development and improvement to becoming a better person and learning to do things they may not yet be able to do.  This takes planning, usually some education or training and also some specific action.

Going through any of the LifeLongU™ programs is taking action.  It is U educating yourself on how to plan your tomorrow and your future life.  It is your first steps to becoming the person that will do the things your main character in your life story does and working on a plan to become the person who does them.  It is taking action, deciding on the better paths U want to take and moving in those directions.

What we want to help U achieve by going through our workbooks is to really think about what U want your life story to be in your future, look at some pathways that interest U and then learn more about them.  The truth today is that U can have multiple paths to follow and most of us do.  U can study to learn a specific trade, skill or talent, but U don’t have to stick with it your entire life.  U can change and go down a different pathway by adding different skills, knowledge or talents.  Maybe even change your entire direction.

Will U become the main character in your life story after going through one workbook, probably not.  But it may be your first big step.  To become that person, U need to take more steps and U need a direction to go.  Right now, U may be at the “crawl-walk” stage of your life planning.  Everyone starts moving forward by learning to crawl and walk, right?  Then they learn how to run, then to drive and maybe even to fly.  There is a first step U need to take.  Crawl, then walk, then run, then drive, then fly.  When U learn and put into practice all U can, U will go farther and faster than ever before.  Who knows what your true potential really is in your life or in what stage U reach it? 

Our workbooks and guides were created to help U become aware and to think about some of the things U may want in or for your own life and to provide some additional ways to learn even more about yourself from other individuals.  Learning more about the different topics will help U become better prepared for your future.

Many individuals have been introduced to different opportunities throughout their lives. The more skills they have or the more prepared they are to act on those opportunities, the better off they may be in their future.  We want to help U be prepared, to have a plan and to work your plan.  Things will come up, and some rain will fall, but by having a plan and communicating that plan to your loved ones for their support as U work through it, U should be able to weather any storm and bring more sunshine into your days.  It might sound a little hokey, but it really is that simple.  Understanding where U want to go and how to get there, learning as much along the way as possible and allowing others to help U is part of life planning, and it all begins with taking a first step in the right direction.

Part of the life planning process is to simply walk through the many areas U will undoubtedly go through in your own life.  U will work and have a career, and U will have to deal with money, finances, health, and relationships.  Hopefully, U will have a life outside of work — maybe some traveling, seeing new things, exploring the world and nature, or maybe developing new or strengthening current beliefs.  If U haven’t already, U will begin to fully understand the fulfillment U can get by helping others.  U will also grow older, and, at some point, your life will come to an end and U will move on.

Having a life plan now will help U be prepared to face many more events in your life. It does not have to be like it was when U first left your parents’ home.  A plan effectively worked throughout your life will enable U to achieve much more than without a plan.  U are going to live your life either way, so why not have some plans that help U become who U want to be in your future.  Be that main character in your own life long plan and story and reach your full potential.  Decide on who your main character will be, pick your directions to go and take your first steps and work to become that person.

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU.com

Here are our workbooks and guides:2017-07-24_0540 2017-07-24_0545 2017-07-24_0557 2017-09-02_1528 2017-07-24_0543

 

 

 

 

 

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Confidence

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Confidence

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right”, Henry Ford

People who are self-confident tend to be admired many times by others and can inspire others with confidence.  They can appear to be more of a risk taker because their confidence allows them to face many of their fears head-on, unlike those with less confidence.  They typically are full of positive energy regardless of what they are going through in life.  They simply see that the world is filled with options and opportunities and believe their glass is at least half full.  What a great way to go through life!  Having more confidence should be on everyone’s list of goals in their life plan. 

Think about this: if U don’t believe in yourself, why would U expect others to?  Self-confidence is a state of mind that comes from a belief in your own abilities, skills and experience.  It can be improved through training, talking with other people and personal development. 

Here are some things that will help U boost or increase your confidence levels.  Some of them might sound very superficial, but they work:

  • ¨ Groom yourself properly; showering, shaving or putting on makeup is somewhat of a basic thought, but when U do these things, to the extent of your own style, U feel good about U, and that helps your confidence.
  • ¨ Now that your body is clean, the clothing U put on is also important and can build your confidence.  Dressing for the occasion and to your own style makes U feel good about yourself, U feel more successful and others may see U that way, and again, will increase your confidence.
  • ¨ Think and act positively, it builds; don’t think or act negatively, it destroys.
  • ¨ Much confidence comes from knowing who U are, your values, your principles and the direction U want your life to go. When U study the material for an exam thoroughly, U are confident U will do well, right?  When U prepare a life plan, which helps U understand in which direction U want to head, that builds self-confidence as well.
  • ¨ Life is filled with many challenges that need to be overcome, don’t look at them as problems; instead focus on the solutions that bring the challenge under control by your terms.  That change in view can make all the difference.
  • ¨ Be generous to others.  Giving makes us feel good inside, and our gifts can help others in need.  Confident people give and help others.
  • ¨ Become an active person.  Exercise regularly, get out and go places, meet others, and engage in your life.  All of these activities build up your confidence and self-esteem.  This is your life; enjoy it, don’t hide from it.
  • ¨ Explain something U understand and know well to others.  Maybe U are knowledgeable on a specific sport, have a hobby where U have an above average level of experience with or U experienced something unique that U can share as somewhat of an expert. 
  • ¨ Work on developing yourself into the character U see as your future self in your own life story and make U a better U as part of your life long plan.  Add more knowledge, develop more skills and create new experiences in your life.  When U work harder on U, U will feel more prepared to take on and deal with anything that comes up with confidence.

Summary of Things That Build Confidence:

  • ¨ Positive thinking, looking for the good in things
  • ¨ Work on becoming a better U
  • ¨ Add exercise and activity to your life, be active
  • ¨ Meet new people
  • ¨ Give yourself credit for being U
  • ¨ Avoid negative people, places and thoughts
  • ¨ Learn from mistakes, (“all of us” make them)
  • ¨ Develop plans, take action and do things
  • ¨ Be prepared; creating a life plan will help with this while also building confidence
  • ¨ Learn a new skill or ability

U Can Learn More About Confidence by Reading These Books:

By Gary Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

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Passion

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Passion is an exciting word, isn’t it?  “PASSION”!  It elicits several different meanings, but for purpose of this discussion we are referring to the non-sexual meaning of your true passions, which are those powerful emotions of extravagant fondness, enthusiasm or desire U may feel for doing or experiencing a specific thing.

Living life every day without interacting in an area that is not part of your true passion can be very monotonous.  Isn’t enjoying those things U truly love, partially, what living is all about? 

I have always loved being by or on the water, after all I grew up in Minnesota, the “land of 10,000 lakes”, but for various reasons I never did.  So, after my divorce, I had a work opportunity on Hilton Head Island, in South Carolina.  My passion for being by the water, walking on the beaches, watching the sunrise and set and feeling the wind on my face, rose to an all-time high.  Within seven months, I took more than 2000 photos of what I saw there, and I still could not get enough beach time.  That kind of passion might live in each of us.  For me, I did not realize it was a passion, or something I simply liked, until I experienced it fully and over a long period of time.  Taking so many pictures, hurrying to get through work and get back to the beach to once again experience the peace and beauty I felt there was evidence enough for me that it was one of my passions.  

Your passions, of which there may be several, may not fully manifest in your life until U have an experience that heightens them to a level where U feel them for the true passions that they are.  Until then, U may just see them as preferences or things that U may like to do, given the chance. U can learn to distinguish a passion from a passing interest by asking yourself whether it is something U can take or leave depending on the situation or whether it would really matter to U if it were not in your life. 

When U spend time in your passions, your thinking is much clearer, and your mood and overall attitude is so positive that the other things U do in your day are also much more enjoyable, even if they are not passions of yours.  Just spending some quality time in your passions may be all it takes to turn all of the parts of your life in new positive directions.  Figuring out what your passions in life are should be one of your goals in your life plan.  Spending time in your passions will affect your life in powerful ways and will certainly make your days more enjoyable.

When U think about where your true passions lie, think about what U want your life story to be.  By thinking this way, U will likely be able to identify your passions.  Are U a world traveler, a writer, a photographer, a business person, a social worker, a minister, a teacher, a mother, father, wife or husband?  Do U love to help others, help animals, or help the environment?  Are U an explorer?  Do U like to fish, hunt or pick up seashells on the beach?  Do U love fashion, being in top physical shape, or working on cars?   Your life story is yours to tell all the world.  It is up to U to live up to your full potential and do what U were made to do — and if U are passionate about what U do, U never know how far U really can go in life.  Follow your passions!

Find your passions by:

  • Finding out who U want to be in your life story
  • Owning your uniqueness, include that in your life plan and be the person in your life story
  • Understanding that waiting for a better time or for more money to enjoy your passions are just excuses; U will be happier if U enjoy your passions, U simply need to figure out how best to make that happen
  • Thinking about what U really love to do and then go do it

Some Books You Might Want to Read on Passion:

  1. The Minimalist Mindset:  The Practical Path to Making Your Passions A Priority and to Retaking Your Freedom by Danny Dover
  2. GUTS:  Find Your Greatness, Beat the Odds, Live From Passion by Sam Bracken
  3. The Passion Test: The Effortless Path to Discovering Your Life Purpose by Janet and Chris Attwood
  4. Grit: The Power of Passion & Perseverance by Angela Duckworth

 

By Gary Kiecker

LifeLongU™

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Make Your Time Count

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Time

U know, of course, that there are only 24 hours in any day, and how U use them is totally up to U.  However, it certainly may not feel like that is the case.  It is very common to wish U had more time, and in most cases that wish can be granted by simply becoming more organized and following a few simple rules regarding the management of your time.  Below, we have listed several things U can do to give yourself more time or to get more done in the time that U have. 

Your time is yours, and U are given only so much of it.  That fact is very important to remember when U are working fervently on an activity that is not part of your life plan.  Think about what U are doing.  Does it add to your life long plan and story?  Many of us get caught up in “ruts”, and it may take a serious life event (such as the illness or death of someone close to us) for us to recognize that things need to change.  At that time, because of the event, we may be open to big changes in our lives. 

Have U ever sat down and thought about how U spend a weeks’ worth of your time (equal to 168 hours); from Monday to Friday and also Saturday and Sunday?  The short and easy task of quantifying what U do can tell U a lot about what needs to change.  LifeLongU™ has developed a time template in Excel™ format that can help U identify where your time goes.  It allows U to walk through your week and allocate time spent in different categories, and it helps U by adding it all up and showing U how U are using it.  This quick activity will show U how your time is being spent, and then it’s up to U to change the patterns.  U can find it at http://lifelongu.com/life-balance/time-spent/.

For instance, say U come home from work and sit down, and watch a couple of hours of TV, because the day was long and U needed a break.  If U do that every day during the work week, that is five days multiplied by two hours per day, for a total of 10 hours of used time.  What could U have done with better use of that time.  This little example becomes even more striking when U multiply it by 52 weeks per year, now U have 520 hours vested in watching TV.   How else could this time be used? 

It goes without saying that we all need a break to relax from time to time.  But too much time spent on activities that do not help U grow into that person U see yourself becoming in your future can be viewed as wasted time. Now if U decided to walk on a treadmill or ride a stationary bike during this TV time, that would be different.  What if U replaced some of that TV time and read several books on things that interest U like a hobby, biography or something on your career.  What could U learn with better use of that time?  Time spent together watching a great movie or TV series can be quality time with your loved ones as long as U feel it is time well spent.  This is just one good example of an area where it is easy for us to get into a rut without realizing it and waste a lot of our time.

Your life, itself, is a special gift and the remaining time U have left, is also a special gift.  If U learn to use it wisely, your life will benefit greatly by doing so.  Make your time count!

 

Here is a short list of things that can lead to U having more TIME:

  • ¨ Set several main goals for each day
  • ¨ Prioritize those goals, and work on only the most important one until it is complete before starting the second-most important, and so on
  • ¨ Pick one goal, work only on it until complete
  • ¨ Check your email less often
  • ¨ Learn to say no
  • ¨ Delegate to others and let them help U
  • ¨ Understanding how U currently spend time
  • ¨ Automate as many things as U can
  • ¨ Understand that there really is no more time and that having “more time” is really a matter of how to use the time U have in better ways
  • ¨ Eliminate those things that waste your time

 

U can learn more ways to free up your TIME by reading these books:

¨ The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen R Covey
¨ Time Management by Brian Tracy
¨ Time Management from the Inside Out, 2nd Edition: The Foolproof System for Taking Control for Your Schedule & Your Life by Julie Morgenstern
¨ 15 Secrets Successful People Know About Time Management: The Productivity Habits of 7 Billionaires, 13 Olympic Athletes, 29 Straight-A Students & 239 Entrepreneurs by Kevin Kruse
¨ Manage Your Day-to-Day: Build Your Routine, Find Your Focus, & Sharpen Your Creative Mind by 99U

 

To learn more about this and other pathways of self-improvement, download our Personal Development Pathways Volume I guide at www.LifeLongU.com

Gary Kiecker

LifeLongU™

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A Secret for a Great Life

A Secret for A Great Life

The other day I was on one of my long walks enjoying the lake area I am so blessed to live by and saw a father cutting grass on a riding lawn mower, which by itself may not be so note worthy, I admit.  However, helping him and maybe getting in his way a bit were two of his children; both kids where about 6 to 9 years old and each were also driving a small vehicle; one a small look-a-like riding lawnmower – kids version and the other a kids small ATV.  The dad riding his mower had just come to the end of his cut with both kids following close behind and as he turned around they emerged right in his path and there the three of them sat looking , laughing and enjoying an intimate family situation. 

I like seeing these types of things as they remind me of when my own son who used to walk next to me at about that age and push his own child version of a lawn mower as I walked and mowed our own lawn. Those types of intimate moments were great to share with someone special and great teaching moments although they never felt like I was a teacher.

At this age young people are so impressionable and they want to be and do things that their parents do.  It is important that parents set the right example, do the right things and that they explain how to do the right things to those young impressionable minds, even as those minds grow much older.  Understanding how things work in the world in which we live is important when building a life for oneself, wouldn’t you agree?  I believe we are always both the teacher and the student and should try to take advantage of any opportunity to learn from others as well as share with others something you may know.

As you read this article, I assume you are much older so I would like to ask you several questions.  Can you name three things that you want different in your own life right now…three things that you may want to change about how your life is going?  Maybe there are several skills or abilities you would like to learn or do better.  What about your physical condition, your health and diet or what about traveling to some of those exotic places you always wanted to visit?  Is your career where you want it to be; how are your finances; is retirement even an option?  Are you happy with your relationships; are you really in them?  How do you treat those people who really love you?  What about your spirituality, what do you really know about the Bible, God the Father, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and life after death?  What about your generosity, your giving to others and simply helping others more; maybe educating and helping direct some young impressionable minds?  You know you may want many of these things in your life or want to simply make some changes to your life, so why haven’t you done it? Why are you where you are right now?

To make large changes in one’s life or to attain better than average results in the world you need to have some sort of a plan.  We have all heard things like, “you don’t build a house without first having  a blueprint” or “you don’t drive to a new destination without having a map on how to get there” so why would you want to live the only life you have without some kind of a plan to follow and guide you?

 Think for a second about a young person just starting out in the world, maybe it’s your daughter, son, niece or nephew or better still it’s you when you where much younger and that person comes to you for advice about how to live the best life story possible.  What do you tell them?  The advice you give them can literally change their future.  You wouldn’t say”just take things one day at a time and see how it plays out”, would you?  Remember, you love this person and they respect you enough to ask you for your life’s advice.   

Wouldn’t you sit them down, explain that life is filled with choices and that there will be decisions they will need to make everyday which can really affect their future, that it’s important to make good choices.  Wouldn’t you tell them that there will be many challenges to overcome and what works best is to be prepared for those challenges…to have their mind, body and soul in tip-top working order so they will be better prepared to make the best choices?  Wouldn’t you try to show them that to get to this state of life readiness, they really need to lay out a plan?  They need to have a sense of direction of what they want from their life and to have some level of self-awareness and that starting with a basic fundamental plan for their life is a good place to start. 

Wouldn’t you explain to them that it’s ok to make mistakes, that everyone makes them, and that we must learn from them and try not to make them again…that our mistakes are usually events that provide us with our best education in life and we should view them that way.  Wouldn’t you tell them how important it is to forgive others who made mistakes as well, remembering that none of us our perfect. 

Wouldn’t you point out to them that in life, discipline is very important…doing certain things correctly and over a long period of time can eventually provide a very positive return on that investment of their time, money or effort?  That saving and investing a portion of their income, eating healthy foods, exercising regularly and staying active and living a life true to their values, beliefs and having integrity is very important. To never give up on faith, hope and love that they all have their place and are needed.  

Wouldn’t you say to them that the world is moving very fast and as you get older you will realize how fast time truly moves by and you should not waste it but use it wisely.  Wouldn’t you tell them that learning new things, studying topics they are interested in and developing themselves throughout their life is very important in their future years and will constantly add to their lives in ways they may not understand right now. That it is never too late to learn or experience something new.  Wouldn’t you try to explain that as they got older, the knowledge and experiences they will absorb in the years to come will make their view on life different and they will be able to see so many opportunities around them they would never otherwise have seen. You might also try to explain to them that as they grow older they may also start to see and feel some regrets about not doing some of the things they should have done many years ago. 

You may also at this point try to convince them of the importance of writing things down and to draw up an actual plan of how they want their life to go; how they want their life story to unfold; what they may want from their life.  This plan for their life may help remind them and re-focus their attention to the things they may want to do now and later in life, they will really appreciate that they actually did the things that were on that plan. Also to communicate this plan to their spouse and ask them for their plans so you can both truly enjoy the lives you both want to live and merge both your plans into one.  As they grow older they will have that life plan to look back on and see where they were, what they did and didn’t do and how they got to where they are today.  They will see many of the challenges and options that were presented to them and what decisions they made and how things turned out and be able to learn from their pasts.

As you go over this with them would you not start to think and ponder to yourself why you are not doing this very thing as well right now?  You know it is never too late to start planning for tomorrow and beyond.  You know there are things in your life that you want to do, things you want to experience and there is still a person you are yet to become.  You know all this, so make your plans and live your own life story. Write down some new exiting chapters and then go live them. This is, I believe, a secret to a great life.  Always remember, it is never too late to make plans, accomplish goals and become a better you.

Make sure to leave comments about this article below.  You never know whom you might help when sharing your own life’s wisdom and by all means, have a talk with a young person and explain to them the importance of plans and executing on them. 

Here is a nice quote and wish to end with by Jonathan Swift, “May you live everyday of your life”.

 

Gary J. Kiecker

LifeLongU™

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A Family Helps

A Family Helps

In life, most of us will go through some very difficult times, as the world seems to present us with many different challenges to overcome.  We might believe we have no control over them, and they may seem to keep happening and occurring just to us.  In this life, one of the toughest challenges many of us face is the death of a parent or child. 

A death of this type is a very tough event to get through, whether expected or unexpected.  This event happened to me and my family in April of 2017, several weeks before I wrote this article, my father passed away, so I know from experience that it can be very trying emotionally, even for someone that has usually been emotionally strong.  It’s been said that U really never miss something until it is gone, and I believe that is true in the case of people as well.  When someone U love dies slowly over a period of time and U see them gradually change into something that really is almost unrecognizable from who they used to be, it gives U a new appreciation for the person they have been.  When U can see the constant pain they are in daily, the discomfort and the uncertainty in their face about what is happening to them every time U visit or see them, the inevitable end might be viewed as more of a blessing; after all, part of life is death, whether it comes slowly, quickly, expected, or is a surprise.

I come from a family of eight; my parents, one sister, four brothers and myself.  Because my siblings and I were all born within a period of about eight years, we grew up very close and shared almost everything.  By today’s standards, we were not a family of means or even a middle-class family, but our parents were good providers and we always had more than enough.  We understood the value of work, and we were very happy and content with what we had.  We grew up on a farm in Southwestern Minnesota and at one time or another we had almost every animal U might imagine on a Minnesota farm.  We raised almost every type of fruit, vegetable or flower this part of the country allowed us to raise…and we loved it (except for picking cucumbers – seven acres of cucumbers that is).  Most of us kids played sports growing up,  and our parents supported those efforts.  There was a healthy atmosphere of competition among us.  Even though we were allowed to play seasonal sports, that did not excuse us from the many daily chores we all were required to do; animals needed to be fed, gardens needed to be tended and work needed to get done. We always kept pretty busy.   Because of our work and playtime together and as well as our close ages, we grew up as a very close family, and a family can help get U through the tough life events that happen from time-to-time.  When one of us is feeling really down, the others can help out by simply being there to help dispel the negative energy.  I like it when a family can come together, help and supporting each other.  I believe that is the way God intended it to work.  

The relationships among the members of a family are very unique.  Except in the case of adoption, U really cannot pick your family.  When your parents combined their genes to create U (and your siblings if U have any), U had nothing to do with it.  All of your natural siblings come from your bloodline, and from your parents.  That makes your relationship unique right from the start.  Many siblings grow up together, spending a lot of time with one another at an early age; whether they want to or not.  This, again, makes the relationships in a family unique to that family.  Your immediate family may also go through some very specific challenges while U are spending all that time together growing up, which is a very impressionable time for children and young adults.  What happens to a family and how they handle it also creates a specific relationship within the members of the immediate family.  Remember, U did not pick this family, U were born into it and developed from your experiences growing up together.  I believe God wanted U to be there for a reason.  U may never come to fully understand that reason; nonetheless, U are part of the family U were born into.  For all of these reasons, a family relationship is very strong and unique.  It is so unique, in fact, that U might find U can move away for many years, then come back to your family and see your yourself and your parents and siblings falling into the same roles each of U held within the family when U were growing up years ago.  That is a strong relationship. 

There are many other ways that a unique family relationship helps through tough challenges.  In events of crisis or when someone in the family is faced with challenges, the family can be there to support each other.  They share the family history of being together for many years and can almost instantly understand other family members’ reactions or needs to challenges and experiences.  

A family member can help at these times, like no other person can.  Of course others, outside of the immediate family, can also help.  But it remains true that immediate family have a unique understanding of each of the other family members and might better understand how best to help in a specific situation.

Besides the immediate family that U were born into, there are also several other layers making up a strong family.  If your family members are older, U or your siblings might already be married and maybe even have children.  Your spouse, your own children and maybe even their children are also very unique.  U can feel this when U hold your spouse or your child.  Just try holding your first grandchild in your arms and tell me U don’t feel the unique relationship that exists. It’s there, I know.  Every time I hold my nine-month-old granddaughter, just holding her makes many things in life okay.  

If U are lucky enough to still be surrounded by those family members U grew up with after starting a family of your own, U may find that U now belong to two or maybe even more immediate families.  Each of the members of those families knows U in a different way and may be able to help in challenging times differently.  They may not even have to do anything other than just be there.  Try to allow your different families to help U.  It may be good both for U and for them.

Still further removed, but still members of a family, may be your grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.  In my case, between my mom and dad and their siblings, we had 13 aunts and uncles which multiplied into many many cousins who also had many children and our overall family became very large.  If U have a similarly large family, U naturally cannot see all of them as often as U may like, so the relationship again is unique.  U are brought together because of family births and bloodline and are somewhat pushed into developing a relationship that turns into family friendships.  This type of family relationship, when all its members are brought together can be very supportive and fun.  As in the case I just recently experienced with my father’s passing, a large family can really help.

Unfortunately, not everyone has the type of family I have discussed in this article.  If that is U, then maybe U were meant to be the start of a new family?  Remember, Adam started out as one, God added Eve to his life and then they were two.  Give that some serious thought.

As a Christian, I also believe that God plays the bigger part in how we might deal with things like this.  Our faith in Him and His Son Jesus Christ, along with the Holy Spirit, makes us members of another family, one that makes our overall family very strong, especially when we all share that faith.  When your earthly family combines with your Heavenly family, U will be able to get through anything that the world has to throw at U. 

A family helps a lot.  Make sure to allow them to help U and make sure U help others in your family.  As they say, giving feels better than receiving, and I believe this works in families too.

I wrote this brief article to help me better understand the relationships I had with my family and to help with my own grief with the death of my dad.    Family is important to me and it should be to U as well.  U only have one, and it’s usually much larger than U think.  May God bless yours!

Gary J. Kiecker

LifeLongU, Inc.

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Strive for Excellence

 Strive for Excellence

What does it mean to be a man in today’s world?  What do you think a woman thinks a man should be?  If you are a man, what plan do you have for your life?  Does it include your family?  Are you looking for your perfect mate?  Do you have a plan to make your life better?  Are you striving for excellence?

Dr. Wayne Dyer writes that to attract the relationship you want you need to be that yourself. If what you are looking for in a relationship with another person is an exquisite sense of love, be that yourself.  He goes on to say that”You do not attract into your life what you want.  You attract what you are.” So what type of man are you exactly?  What are you attracting?  Is this what you want or need?

 

Some women say they need

I myself have been on several dating sites off and on over the past several years after my divorce looking for that special someone and I have read many profiles (to many) of what a woman really is looking for from a man.  I have to tell you, some of these are spot on and need to be brought to men’s attention.

Here are what some women say they need:

  • I need a man who is striving for excellence in every aspect of life.
  • I need someone who is striving for excellence mentally because I need conversation & mental stimulation. I don’t need a simple-minded man.
  • I need someone who is striving for excellence spiritually because I don’t need to be unequally yoked…believers mixed with unbelievers is a recipe for disaster.
  • I need a man who is striving for excellence financially because I don’t need a financial burden.
  • I need someone who is sensitive enough to understand what I go through as a woman, but strong enough to keep me grounded.
  • I need someone who has integrity in dealing with relationships.  Lies and game-playing are not my idea of a strong man.
  • I need a man who is family-oriented. One who can be the leader, priest and provider to the lives entrusted to him by God.
  • I need someone whom I can respect.  In order to be submissive, I must respect him. I cannot be submissive to a man who isn’t taking care of his business. I have no problem being submissive…he just has to be worthy.

 

Are You Striving for Excellence

I think this is a fantastic list for men to be striving for and discussing it with a woman they want a relationship with — many things have changed in the woman/man relationship over the years.  God created man / woman and placed them in the Garden of Eden to work together.  As time went on I think many of them stopped working together and woman got placed in the home and men out of the home.  In the not too distant past, the world wars helped to bring women back out of the home, but now most men and woman do not understand how to work together…the rules seem to be different and most do not understand how to respect the other much less plan for growth of them both, together.  That is a big problem I fear.  But one that can easily be overcome, if we as men, as leaders, as examples to others, take control of our own life; which means being responsible for those in our family and create a plan of always striving for excellence; then we can show the women in our lives that plan and work together with them and have the lives we both want.

As the list above shows you, many women want a man who shows he is a man by working at becoming a better man, does the difficult things, has strong convictions, morals and values, has integrity and treats her with respect.  Many women want you, the man, to show her you have a plan for excellence, a plan for your future and that you are working on it and showing progress.  If you are such a man or striving to be such a man you more than likely are on the right path to attract the woman of your dreams into your life, if she is not there already.  You will earn or have earned her respect and probably her love.  If you continue to further develop and work that plan throughout your life, you will most likely will keep her love or make it stronger.

If you are not doing many of the things listed above, why not?  What makes you think you should be made responsible for another person’s life if yours is a mess?  Why should a woman make herself submissive to you, when she and probably others, see the way you truly are. 

If you roll out of bed each morning, at 7:30AM and I mean roll because you are so out of shape, you certainly are not striving for excellence.  If you think your female mate is supposed to keep herself in tiptop shape for you, why are you not doing the same for her?  Remember, your body is a temple for God (1st Corinthians 3:16) and it’s your responsibility to keep that temple in good shape, for Him, for her and for yourself.

If you spend 2-4 hours or more watching TV shows or sports each day, you are not improving your mind in a way that will help you and your family prepare for a changing world, and it’s up to you to make sure your family is prepared.  You are the leader of your family, man up. 

If you have not owned up to your debt or taken responsibility working out a plan to repay it, again, you are not striving for excellence.  You may have to figure out how to create more revenue streams for yourself by adding a second job or by developing a business that provides more income to pay off the debts, but this is your responsibility, own it.  Yes, it may take some time, but share your plan with your mate and assure her you have a plan, and then work the plan.  Not having adequate income to repay your debt is just not an acceptable answer, it’s an excuse.  Don’t go there, figure it out, it’s what a man does. 

If you and your family are not going to church or your wife or partner is going by herself, you are abdicating your spiritual leadership role of a man and may be losing the respect of this woman.   Do you make sure to pray at meals giving thanks for the food on your table or pray with her together at night thanking the Lord for your blessings while praying for others in need?  This is what a Christian man does for and with his family.  He leads.  He strives for excellence in everything he does.

 

Take a Break, But No Pity Party

Am I perfect, absolutely not; have I ever been dealt what I thought was a raw deal and felt a little to sorry for myself, unfortunately at times, yes.  However I am a person who believes in striving for excellence and am on the path to being the best I can be in each area of my life, and this is a terrific feeling.  Creating a plan to strive for excellence in everything you do and then doing it, is what gives you self respect and makes you a better man while growing you to your new potential.  It’s your responsibility to do this, it’s what many women want you to do and it is the right thing to do.  Try it; I’m sure you will agree.

Everyone does get a break from time-to-time or may need a “pass” on something they did or something that happened to them; we all can understand that.  But don’t let it eat you up and certainly don’t expect a “pity party” to be held in honor of you going through something.  Be a man, man up and take control of things; you will keep yourself respect and feel better.  You will show others you are striving for excellence and a man of your word.  You will show the woman you love that you are worthy of her love, she will admire you more, look up to you with respect and things will be much better for it. 

Striving for excellence in all things is the manly thing to do.  Take responsibility for yourself, be worthy to others, create your plan to strive for excellence and then get it done!

 

If you would like to discuss creating a plan to strive for excellence in your life, please feel free to contact me at Coach@LifeLongU.com

Gary J. Kiecker

LifeLongU™

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See Yourself as a Business & Life Professional ?

See Yourself as a Business & Life Professional?

Have you ever thought of yourself as a professional in anything? A business & life professional?  What do you do really well?  What do you want to do really well?  Do you have a passion for something specifically, an area of your life that when you are in it, you simply smile and feel good?  Do you consider yourself to be a professional in it?  Is your goal to become a professional in it?  Business & life both need professionals.  Firstly, to simply show what can be done in a certain area of life or business and how well it can be done and secondly, to work with others and help them achieve a level of professionalism in their own right.

In the book, “Outliers” by Malcolm Gladwell, Gladwell repeatedly claims that to become an expert at something, one needs to spend approximately 10,000 hours practicing it in the correct way.  What have you done or are doing that will at some point add up to around 10,000 hours of your life (Sleeping & eating do not count)?  Is it in business or in life?  Are you at 2,000 hours?  5,000? Closing in on your 10,000?

To understand how much time this is let’s quickly look at the time involved in practicing your craft.  Let’s take 8 hours a day x 5 days per week x 52 weeks per year = 2080 hours.  Now take 2,080 x 5 years = 10,400 hours.  So if you practice your craft everyday for 8 hours per day for 5 straight years you can expect to become an expert in it.  Does an expert equal a professional?  I would think so. 

However, this articles intention is to have its readers think about becoming a professional, not an expert; becoming a professional in some sort of business or work activity and also in their own life.  Understanding that any area on which you focus on most is what materializes in your life is an important first step to developing a path toward becoming a professional or accomplishing a goal within business and life. You need to have focus on it, spend time working on it and use discipline to keep you on a path leading you toward your intended destination.  Some might consider this manifesting your reality, but this focus, time and discipline on any area of your interest will certainly improve your level of expertise in that area and if enough time is spent, you may become an expert in it as well.  Make sure you look at your choices thoroughly and chose the best path for you.

So what is it that you would, could or should be a professional at in business and life?  Considering the business side of this question first may be easier for some.  You may have worked in an industry or trade for some time and consequently have become very knowledgeable on how it works, who the movers and shakers are, what fundamentally drives it and how the puzzle pieces all go together within it.  Maybe you simply understand a specific characteristic or function within the industry or trade that marks you as a professional within it to others. Possibly you have a desire to become a professional within an industry or trade that you have little knowledge of yet, but have plans to learn, grow, focus, spend time on and use your discipline to develop skills, acquire knowledge and become a professional.  All these are good, just make sure you have an understanding of what you are doing, where you are going, are you adding value to others and are you learning new information on it for yourself as you grow as a business professional within this industry or trade.

What about the life professional?  What does this mean?  Let’s face it; you have “ONE” life to live.  You have one shot at making your one life the best you can make.  It’s up to you to become a professional at your own life.  Each of us as our own life professional has a responsibility to ourselves and to others around us to understand what makes you, the “You” professional.  Do you know what you want in your life?  Do you know your life’s purpose?  Not just any purpose mind you, “YOUR” life purpose.  What are your beliefs, your faith, your values and your morels?  This is what can make up your core.  What lifestyle do you live?  Is that the “YOU” professional you want others to see you as? Your friends… your family… your loved ones… your God?  Do you need to fine-tune your life professionalism?  Are you happy with whom you are inside?  Do you enjoy how your body feels, looks or the amount of energy it has daily?  Are you eating to live or living to eat?  Are you spending way too much time watching the world go by living vicariously as a spectator?  Watching TV, movies, sports, game shows, etc…?  Remember what we said above about what you focus on materializes in your life.  Don’t waste time sitting down and watching life go by spending 1,000’s of hours becoming an expert doing something like watching TV.  Make your life about getting involved with others, helping, sharing and truly living it.

Being the best life professional “YOU” you can be is your responsibility.  Don’t take it lightly.  Here too, you need to have a plan and focus it on personal self development, always growing who you are.  Understand what “YOU” need to do to be healthier and wiser for your own benefit and for the benefit of others.  Others depend on you being at your best; make sure your best gets better every day and then share it.  The “YOU” you are today, is your reality.  If you are overweight, out of shape, feeling down or don’t yet realize your life’s purpose, this is “YOU”.  Develop your vision of how you want to be in your future, create plans on how to make this happen, and begin your new journey.  Delays cost you time and that time cannot be replaced once gone.  The new “YOU” life professional that you can become is always in front you.  It’s the new “YOU” you can become tomorrow if you add something to the “YOU” today.

Working towards being the best business & life professional I can be is a lifestyle trait I certainly want for myself.  Sharing this trait with others and seeing them grow as well is worthy of a line item on anyone’s bucket list.  I hope you add it to yours! 

If you would like to know more about LifeLongU, please visit www.LifeLongU.com

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU

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The Attitude – The Passion – The Motivation

The Attitude – The Passion – The Motivation

In the business world and also in life, there are three words that can ultimately define who you are, what you will actually do and how successful you may be at accomplishing it.  Those words are Attitude, Passion and Motivation.  Each has its own unique meaning for each of us, however the simple dictionary meaning is:

Attitude a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something

Passion:  any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling

Motivation:  having a strong reason to act or accomplish something

 

These three simple words can have powerful effects on our feelings and ultimately in how we see the world and achieve different things in our lives.  They lay deep within each of our inner most self and can be positively or negatively triggered for our own benefit, but also for our detriment.  How well each of us understands and manages these three words can easily progress us far beyond where we may currently be in life.  Have you ever thought about what they mean to you?  How do you see the world around you? What is your attitude toward it? What do you desire?  What really is your passion?  What makes you get up early or stay up late each day or night?  What motivates you?  These are questions you may have thought about at some point in your life.  What have you done about providing a solution or simply answering the questions for yourself?

Napoleon Hill (1883-1970), a very influential writer on personal success once wrote, “Whatever a man can conceive and believe he can achieve.”  I myself do believe this with all my heart.  If the Lord provides you with the ability to conceive an idea that helps or benefits your fellow man, He will also provide the way for you to achieve its end.  It might take a while for you to accomplish it and in the end how it gets accomplished may look nothing like what you originally thought.  But if you have the right attitude, are passionate about what you are trying to do and are properly motivation to accomplish what you have set out to do, I believe it can be achieved. 

 

The Attitude:  a settled way of thinking or feeling about someone or something…

Have you ever heard the saying, “Your attitude determines your altitude?”  How you see things has an effect on you and where you go.  When you see someone in an RV or camper, do you wonder where they are going, what new exploration and fun awaits them; or do you wonder if they are coming home to the grind of their everyday ordinary life?  When you are in an airport, do you see everyone coming home or leaving for an exciting adventure?  These are the eye glasses of “attitude” that shape how you are viewing the world and they have an impact on your life. What pair of glasses do you have on?  Are you a glass half full or half empty type of person?  Are you always looking for more to put in or always thinking its way to full? 

A positive attitude of wanting more will tend to make you focus and see many more opportunities in the world around you.  Everyday each of us interacts with others and events happening around us which may present opportunities to do good, to help someone or maybe even create a better mousetrap that has great business potential for you and your family. 

A negative attitude, on the other hand, will make your world much smaller.  You may tend to turn your head away when opportunities present themselves.  You may move away from challenges that will make you grow and become the person you have always dreamt about being.  A negative attitude may make you trust people much less and not see the good that does exist in most people.  How would you describe attitude to your children?  What are they learning from you as they see your attitude toward others?  What advice would you give your best friend about their attitude? The way you think and see the world will impact your life and others around you, make sure it’s positive. 

 

The Passion:  any powerful or compelling emotion or feeling…

What is your passion?  A compelling positive feeling to do something is what we are discussing here.  What are you compelled to do in the world with your life?  Do you know what that is?  Are you working toward that end?  Are you feeding that passionate emotion you have to do your great thing?  Maybe writing, painting, singing, coaching or helping others are what you are passionate about?  Maybe starting a business is your passion?  Maybe you have a strong compelling emotion to help those in need in another country or make sure your family is all happy and well cared for?  Maybe you have a desire to share a belief with the world and that has become a passion?  Maybe you are passionate to simply see the world and experience all its wonders?  There are many things we can feel passionate about as you can see. 

What if you don’t know what your passion is?  What if you don’t have one?  What if you don’t know how to tell what your passions are?  A simple test at http://thepassiontest.geniusu.com/ will help you decide this.  This is a fun quick test that sorts you through 30 different passions and helps you select your top five.  I did it and it works pretty well (for me at least).  Have fun learning something new about yourself!

 

The Motivation:  having a strong reason to act or accomplish something…

I am an avid believer of listening to motivational speakers in person or on audio books.  I have quite the digital collection and use them often.  I will almost always be carrying an earpiece to listen to them on my iPhone or iPad when I am out.  Listening at the right time can get me to do things I normally may have stopped doing long ago, if I were to continue to go it alone.  It’s kind of like have a spotter when weight training…”just five more reps” the spotter may say.  They will make all the difference and they will. 

What motivates you to go the extra mile?  We are not talking about doing the things you would normally do everyday…like eating, sleeping etc., although, hunger and fatigue can certainly be motivators.  What we are talking about is going the EXTRA mile; the mile that is above and beyond the norm, the average or beyond what others do.  That is the extra that makes its special, the extra that has an impact for you.  What motivates you to do this extra? 

I have often heard a story of motivation that goes something like this:  a man is out walking and decides to take a short cut across a pasture.  Unknown to him, in this pasture is a big bad mean bull (soon to be Mr. Motivation).  He quickly sees the error of his decision, but he is too far in the pasture to make a retreat.  His only course of action is to run to a large tree and somehow jump to the lowest hanging branch (about 11 feet up) out of the reach of the bull.  The bull has now made eye contact with the man and begins to charge.  The man runs with all his strength and speed to the base of the tree and with the bull now only feet behind him makes a mighty leap up toward the branch….and misses….luckily, he catches it on the way down. 

This is motivation, wanting to go the extra mile, putting in the extra effort and is what may get you what you are looking for.  Sometimes it is negative, like with the story of the bull.  What truly motivates you?  Money?  Fame?  Love?  Family?  Success?  Fear?  No Debt?  Freedom?  Health?  A Bull?  Use it to go your extra mile, it pays off in the end.

Do you see how important these three words are?  How having the right attitude in life is?  Can you see now how when combining your positive attitude with your passions how focused your life may become?  Can you imagine the opportunities that you may be able to see and act on when doing this?  Now add in your motivations.  When you are properly motivated, doing something you are passionate about and have the right mental attitude toward it, the possibilities can be endless.  When you have all this going for you, and you drop in an idea, event or purpose, just think how gratifying it can be for you…That is the real power of these three words: attitude, passion and motivation. 

I hope you are able to align your attitude, passions and motivations toward a common goal of your choosing.  If one of the three is missing, misaligned or negative it will lessen your chance of succeeding at what you are trying to do. 

To be able to work and do something you love for the right reasons can add so much to your happiness and enjoyment in life.  I feel it’s important for each of us to learn to do this as well as teach how it can be done to others if we can.  So please continue to learn, grow and share with others.

Good luck!

Gary J. Kiecker

LifeLongU.com