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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I say “probable” because even when a business is successful, many things can change making a proven business model out of date very quickly and send a business on a path towards failure if certain steps are not taken to make the necessary corrections or improvements.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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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

 

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Stress, Rest & Relaxation

 Stress, Rest & Relaxation

We have all had those days where your job or maybe those individuals you work with might be causing you stress.  Maybe something you are dealing with in your personal life has caused you an immense amount of stress. In either case it might be an acute short-term thing or it may be more chronic and simply be part of your life, in any case, you need to deal with the situation and the stress it is causing you.

Epictetus, a Greek philosopher (A.D. 55-135) once said, “People are disturbed not by a thing, but by their perception of a thing.”  A person’s perception or view of what they believe they are dealing with can cause them a huge amount of stress in their life.  The American Institute of Stress states that one definition of stress is, “a condition or feeling experienced when a person perceives that demands exceed the personal and social resources the individual is able to mobilize.”

One of the first things to managing stress is to understand what is causing you stress.  How did you feel, physically and emotionally?  How did you act in response to this situation?  What did you do to make yourself feel better?

The American Institute of Stress and the American Psychological Association lists the top 7 causes of stress as http://www.stress.org/daily-life/:

  1. Job Pressure
  2. Money
  3. Health
  4. Relationships
  5. Poor Nutrition
  6. Media Overload
  7. Sleep Deprivation

Daily stress from whatever our lives interact with can build up in many different ways and each of us should learn to handle it in our own unique way.  Everyone should have at least one healthy method, if not more, to bring us to a relaxed state of being and be able to rest.

Rest and Relaxation, also known as R&R, is needed by everyone.  We all have heard this simple phrase used before and what it means to each of us individually, is different.  Your first thought may be to simply get a good eight hours of sleep or maybe sleep in past your normal get-out-of-bed time. You may want put on a pair of headphones and listen to your favorite music.  You may think of viewing sunrises and sunsets or walking on a beach with your special someone as a form of relaxation. You may think of traveling and seeing parts of the world or engaging in an adventure that challenges you to new heights and pushes you to new limits as the ultimate relaxation or rest.  You may think of pampering yourself in an exotic spa undergoing different massages and relaxing treatments.  You may find making love as an excellent form of relaxation.  You may think of unencumbered time to simply indulge in a book or magazine you have wanted to read for quite some time.  Maybe going out to a movie, show or an event that allows you to engross yourself for a short time in something else and taking a break from your day-to-day challenges, is what rest and relaxation means to you.  Maybe prayer or meditating and cleansing your internal spiritual self and thereby entering a relaxed state are a great form of relaxation or rest for you. You may even consider simply spending conversational time over a meal with loved ones, family or friends as an excellent type of R&R.  Each of us relaxes in different ways and may need several types of unique rest from time to time.

One meaning for the word rest is “refreshing ease or inactivity after exertion or labor”, taken from www.dictionary.com  and for me that is exactly what I am looking for with the first “R” in the phrase R&R.  But the phrase “R&R” has two “R’s” not one.  The second “R”, relaxation has a different meaning, “an activity or recreation that provides such relief; diversion; entertainment”.  As you can see, the first “R” is all about doing nothing or inactivity, the second “R” is all about doing something or engaging in an activity.  Rest and relaxation is all about not do and do.  Both are two sides of the same “R&R” coin.

Recently I enjoyed so much of the second “R” (days of being on the beach watching sunrises & sunsets), that I needed the first “R” to rest up.  To me that is the best use of “R&R”, relax by doing, then rest up by not doing.

In any event, learning to get a good night’s sleep, eat healthy, exercise regularly, laugh often, listening to music and simply talking with a good friend are very important to managing stress, relaxing and ultimately allowing you to rest.  That is a good place to start in handling any stress that may enter your life.

LifeLongU™ offers up a “Leisure” map to help an individual focus on different types of activities that help provide pathways to counter or reduce everyday stress.

Leisure Map    

©2014 Life Long Network – LifeLongU™ – Life Long Fulfillment Program: Leisure

Keeping focused in different areas of one’s life helps change from one state of being to another state of being, which helps a person think more clearly when faced with challenges.  We all have challenges in our life, some of us are just better equipped with managing them than others.  Make sure you have the tools to manage your stress and a leisure plan to rest and relax.  Life is short enough as it is and we need to learn to take time to rest and relax to fully enjoy all the remaining days of your life.

Gary J. Kiecker

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU.com

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Online Dating Experience

Online Dating Experience

If you have not yet been blessed with a significant other, are not in a relationship or have not found the one person you believe the Lord has created just for you, you may have had some experience with the online dating scene, or may be thinking of trying it.  It is surreal to say the least!

When you first think of it, you feel very hopeful, after all, there are thousands of men and women online at any given time of the day.  Your hopefulness might fade some when you start answering the specific questions that are required.  Trying to say the right thing in the right way, not too little, not too much; then figuring out which pictures to upload which show the “REAL” you.  When you finally complete your profile, you are left with an accomplished feeling of “ok, I am out there”.  Now what does the opposite sex think of me?  Of course, there is really no way for them to get the “REAL” you from the couple of pictures and paragraphs of text you just put out there, but you do have hope that a connection will happen.  After all, what is your alternative? 

Now that you are out there and more time passes, several things can and will happen.  You will begin to have the opposite sex view your profile.  They will either move along or contact you by sending you a smile or email of some sort.  They may even favorite you in some way.  Now it’s up to you to view their profile and reply back or move along yourself.  A word of caution at this stage of communication; if you are looking for a serious relationship and not just a pen pal, make sure to meet soon before you exchange too much information online, it’s easy to get stuck in email loops back and forth with several individuals and never actually meet to make sure you even want to build a relationship with whom you have been sharing personal information with.

But what happens after a while and no one actually sends you a smile or contacts you or maybe those that do contact you, you really are not attracted to or you feel would not be a match.  Let’s face it; the online dating is a place for each of us single individuals to find someone that we feel we may possibly want to spend the rest of our life with.  We have voluntarily thrown ourselves into a very large pool of other single individuals looking for the same thing (mostly).  Be careful not to disclose too much too soon; there are all types of unscrupulous predators online these days and you must be smart about whom you share information with.  Don’t obsess about another’s pictures or if they fit perfectly at all with what you think you want in a match.  You haven’t even met them yet, and most likely you are forming many incorrect assumptions about who they are by what is in their profile. 

At some point you will start to go searching for that special someone on your own.  Building your search criteria is sort of like going into a grocery store with a shopping list.  When shopping for groceries, you visit many areas within the store, health food, liquids, paper products, frozen goods, meat section, vegetables, sweets, junk food, dairy products, fruits and canned goods.  Within each of these are so many different types and brands, which do you really want?  How can you decide?  Which go together?  Which will you like?  Which will make you sick?

Similarly like going to the grocery store you need to develop a shopping list of what you are looking for before you search: hair & eye color, body type, frequency of exercise, religion, activities they like or do, any children, drinking, smoking, income level, job, lifestyle, ethnicity, common interests or marital status just to name a few.  After you have selected your goods and created your list of what you want in the online store, you perform your search. 

From these results you need to select those you feel attracted to either by the pictures or text they have shown you.  Maybe it’s real; maybe it’s accurate, maybe not?  There can be all kinds of “spoiled” goods in this store.  But there are also a lot of the very good products mixed in.  You simply do not know how good your selections might be until you decide to interact with them.  You can do this one at a time or do a shotgun approach by responding too many potentials and wait to see what happens.  But no matter what, it takes some time to feel comfortable enough to decide to meet.   

This kind of activity can go on and on and is how you get to the meeting stage.  When you finally get here you get to see, touch, poke and observe your selection in person, and they you.  Did you make a good selection?  Did they?  Remember, they are observing what they selected too!  The dating process and information gathering stages are ongoing from this point.  How long does it take for one person to get to know another?  We all have histories that need to be shared, both good and bad.  We all have future dreams and goals that need to be discussed.  Some may not align with your choice of partner.  But at what stages do you share that information?  Only each of us can determine that.  What feels right to you?  What are you prepared to hear from your chosen one about their past history or future goals?  Will that change how you feel about your chosen partner?  At some point, if you want the relationship to move to marriage, you “must” commit and get behind that commitment.  You each need to feel and know that each of you has the others backs and that no matter what happens, they will be there for you.  You together are now one.  This is a true loving partnership, one that can withstand all things.

As time moves along and you build a solid relationship and both decide you are committed and want it to go somewhere, at this point, you should have discussed the parts of your past that may affect your future together and plan how things will work moving forward.  You should have some deeper level discussions around how you will move forward as a couple and finally as husband and wife.  Being one person in the past and now becoming two can take some adjusting.  Those discussions should include how your relationship will work between you and with your individual friends and family moving forward; your separate and joint spirituality; your individual and joint finances and retirement plans; how you enjoy your leisure time by yourself and together; your career desires; and your giving to others.  Not discussing any of these topics at some level of detail may lead to some large problems between you and your partner later on which could be avoided.

My own experiences with online dating and building intimate relationships have been mixed.  I was married for over 22 years, went through the divorce process and have been dating on and off over the last five years.  I have met several terrific women on several of the online dating sites.  One led all the way up to looking at rings…but then disintegrated to nothing because of not fully discussing how our pasts might affect our futures and how committed we both really were to live our future life together.  Combining two singular lives into one after 5 to 10 years of being by yourself can be difficult and should not be rushed.  Take the necessary time to get to really know each other, ask the hard questions, have the difficult discussions and then give it your all.  I do believe we receive from a relationship what we put into it.  Don’t quit if you run into a challenge or two, if you have something good.  No relationship is easy, at times, they will require more work; and all relationships have challenges.

Experience is a great teacher, make sure you learn from it, think on it, but don’t let it rule your future.  Your past does not dictate your future, so don’t let it.

The views above are only my views which have been drawn from my own experiences.

Good luck finding your special someone!

 

Gary J. Kiecker

LifelongU.com

 

 

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Plan for Change, It Happens!

Plan for Change, It Happens! 

In the twilight of our lives, when we have lived the life our choices and decisions have brought us, both good and bad; when our creative ideas and dreams of an earlier time have given way to the comforts of a more sedentary lifestyle; when we have lost a large amount of our drive or have accepted the inevitable…at that exact point, what do you want to remember from your life?  What do you want to have succeeded at or accomplished?  What do you want to be able to do from then on?  This is why you may want to change your current lifestyle and develop a plan for  your future.

Now is the time to ask yourself some very pointed questions.  Think long and hard on your answers. 

What do you want to do with your life? 

What do you want to know? 

What do you want to see and hear?

What do you want to really have and enjoy? 

What do you want to feel and experience? 

Just who do “YOU” want to be?

In the here and now of your today, you may have to play the responsible role the decisions your past life have brought for you.  All responsible people hold themselves accountable for fulfilling their responsibilities and taking appropriate action to clean up the mistakes of their pasts (we all have them).  Responsible people learn from these mistakes and do what is right in the here and now.  Responsible people try to chart a course for an improved future, develop a plan for its accomplishment and put it into action.  But you need to develop the plan, correct?  What is your plan? 

Is your plan to simply take one day at a time and live the same today, you lived yesterday?  Without a plan, most of your days will be the same as they have been in your past.  Without realizing it, you will soon live 8, 9 or 10 years or more of mostly the same type of day.  Is this really your plan?  Most of us have heard one definition of insanity, “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.  Without a plan, without putting your plan into action, are you not doing the same thing every day and expecting a different result?  Is this not insanity?

I am sure for many of us, life simply happens and we do end up living everyday pretty much like yesterday, with the only change being the weather.  You might be telling yourself that you do not like change, that you like who you are.  However, we all must face the truth whether you like it or not, we all have to and will change.  We all age and with that brings many changes, sometimes much faster than we realize or are prepared for.  Our bodies change, internally and externally.  Our surroundings change with the new being built and the old being torn down.  Our world today is a technology world and it is filled with change.  New ways to do things and interact with each other are presented to us pretty much every month or so.  We all MUST change.  So what is your plan for change?

There is so much to experience in this world.  So many things to see, do, feel, hear, smell, taste!  What have you experienced so far?  What do you remember about it?  Would you like to enjoy more of those types of experiences?  How about something new?  The list is pretty much endless; but you have to have a plan.  You have to put it into action or your tomorrow may be about the same as your yesterday and today…except for maybe some different weather.  What is your plan for life?

LifeLongU.com helps you look at your life and break it down so you can develop a life plan that you can put into action.  Take a look and see if it can help you.  Don’t live your yesterday again tomorrow! Strive to create a new day, each and every day…that is a plan, make it part of your life plan!

Thank you and remember to “LIVE” your life, it’s the one God gave you!

Gary J. Kiecker

www.LifeLongU.com