post

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I say “probable” because even when a business is successful, many things can change making a proven business model out of date very quickly and send a business on a path towards failure if certain steps are not taken to make the necessary corrections or improvements.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

post

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

LifeLongU.Logo

 

post

A Focused Life

 A Focused Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary J Kiecker

www.LifeLongU.com

post

Help For Your Small Business & You

 Help for Your Small Business & You

When you own and operate a small business or are thinking of maybe starting one the act of hiring others to assist you in defining, fully understanding and growing your vision can play a crucial part in its future success.  Let’s face it, many small business owners are driven to succeed and spend much of their time in one or two areas of their business where they feel comfortable or excel at, like sales or operations.  Not paying needed attention to all areas like strategic planning, marketing, process improvement, pricing, finance, accounting, matching the right people to the right job function or motivating your employees can cause your business many additional challenges that simply can be avoided.

You may have built your business to where it is today by focusing only on certain key areas, but time needs to be spent on the other areas of your business as it grows, but it does not have to be your time.  Bringing in an outside set of eyes can get some of these activities done right away and bring a new perspective to you while helping your business succeed and grow to another level.

A qualified consultant, mentor or coach can listen and privately discuss how they see your business running and growing as a whole or in one of the areas you, as the owner, may not have time or the skills to spend developing.  They can act as a sounding board for your thoughts and should understand how you see your business working while playing devil’s advocate and brainstorming new ideas to help you create innovative ways to grow your business.  By using this type of professional person periodically you should be able to execute more strategic plans, accomplish more of your goals and increase your probability of further success while staying competitive in your market.  Have you thought of using someone like this as an avenue to further your business growth or fix some of the challenges your business faces?

There are many qualified people that can provide many different levels of professional help to you and your small business.  As a small business owner, you owe it to yourself to use these outside sources to assist you in perfecting your business processes and give you additional perspectives to consider.  Some of these professionals also will assist you with balancing your personal life as well as your business.

Below are some well known sources and organizations offering consulting, coaching and mentoring to individuals and small business owners:

Anthony Robbins is well known as a world authority on leadership psychology, successful entrepreneur and business strategist, philanthropist, award winning speaker and authority on peak performance and life coaching.  You might consider looking into his programs under Business Results Coaching. You can learn more at http://www.tonyrobbins.com/biography/

Michael Gerber is the well known author of the E-Myth as well as 13 other business coaching books.  He is considered to be one of the “best small business guru’s” assisting small businesses grow and prosper.  You might consider looking into one of his offerings called “The Dreaming Room”.  You can learn more at http://michaelegerbercompanies.com/web/about-michael/

Dave Ramsey  is well known as a trusted voice on money and business.  His four New York Times best-selling booksFinancial Peace, More Than Enough, The Total Money Makeover, and EntreLeadership have sold over 7 million copies combined.  You might consider looking into his seminars on building and growing a business.  You can learn more at https://www.daveramsey.com/company/about-dave/

SCORE  (Service Corp of Retired Executives) is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small business get off the ground, grow and achieve the business goals through education and mentorship of the owner.  With nearly 11,000 volunteers who offer you the business owner, real life experience and mentorship FREE, just for the asking, they are a great place to seek out qualified advice to start and grow your business.  They have been around for 50 years.

LifeLongU™  is about helping individuals and small businesses develop, grow and share with others while learning to chart your course and live your dreams.  LifeLongU™ helps you work on understanding and improving yourself, using your time wisely and developing additional income streams through small business development.  Their unique coaching approach may work well for a business owner to bring growth and balance to their personal and professional life.  You might consider looking into their programs at http://lifelongu.com/coaching/.

Local professionals in your area may also be a great source of help to you in areas you may not have time for or feel you are not qualified to run.  Many of them can bring unique knowledge from your local market and provide you with new insight if you simply give them a call.  These local professionals cover all types of areas including life and business; don’t be shy about calling several of them and discussing a challenge you may be facing.

This blog is intended to offer a business owner and entrepreneur some sources of outside help they may not have previously considered from like minded professionals interested in personal and business growth and development.  I look forward to your comments below…

 

Gary J. Kiecker

LifeLongU™

post

The Best Man You May Ever Meet

The Best Man You May Ever Meet

When you meet any man for the first time, have you ever considered you might have just met one of the best men you may ever meet in your life? What about when they walk away after meeting you, do you think they might be wondering that very thought about you?  Is it possible, did either of you just meet one of the best men you may ever meet? Have you been trying to be such a man; a real genuine role model for others?  Where would you meet such a man?  Would you meet him in the places you frequent?  Take a minute and think about that?

I wrote this blog for my male readers, but my  female readers may find it interesting as well. A genuine man needs to ask these types of questions about himself.  In this day and age a man needs to have a high level of integrity mixed with strong moral values and actually live by them.  This makes him who he is and is no easy task to live by.   In the story of King Arthur’s court, you hear about the Knights of the Round Table and how honorable they were or tried to be?  Would you be able to live up to their code of values?  Can you be one of the best men someone may ever meet, a knight of the round table?  Wouldn’t you like to be part of this group of men?

The world seems to be filling up with men that think it is okay to lie, cheat, steal and behave dishonorably for the sake of getting ahead in business or in life.  After all, as long as you really don’t hurt anyone, this behavior seems to be somewhat okay to some men, or at least it appears that they feel the gains outway the risks of getting caught or found out about.  Others may see you and although they may not say anything, they will certainly think less of you and that should mean something, shouldn’t it?  Even if no one sees your behavior, you and the Lord will know what you did.  What does that do to your self- esteem, honor or soul long-term?

It is not easy to be the best man that someone else may ever meet.  The best man you will ever meet is thoughtful and kind to his family, friends, neighbors as well as strangers.  He turns the other cheek when affronted; yet he still knows when to stand up for himself or others who are in need.  The best man you will ever meet knows that chivalry is not dead, that women should be treated with respect and dignity.  He knows women are to be placed first, held high and honored by a man.  He knows that women and men are not equal, that each has unique characteristics that far exceed the other sex in many circumstances, and this is okay.  He knows that this would be like comparing apples and oranges and by saying they are equal or one is better than the other.  The best man you will ever meet knows his priorities and keeps them straight.  He places God first, takes care of his family next while making sure he is healthy and well-balanced in mind, body and soul so he can strive to be one of the best men you will ever meet. The best man you will ever meet is humble, he knows where his blessings come from, is thankful for them, but is also confident and uses his God-given abilities to their fullest in everything he does.  He tries to follow and uphold God’s laws, nature’s laws and the laws of man, which can be very difficult at times.

For years I have been telling my son and daughter that when facing a tough challenge in life, look at all possible solutions and 9 times out of 10, the tougher path will be the path they should choose.  That path when taken should solve their challenge and make them a stronger person for having traveled it.   When you commit to something, commit to it; when you give your word, stand by it; respect yourself and others will respect you and when faced with tough challenges, explore possibilities and strongly consider taking the tougher path and be better for it.

The world is full of men that are in leadership roles today, roles that many others look up to and admire.  Men from the entertainment industry in Hollywood, men in sports, men in politics, men in business and men in religion; all these men have many followers because of their position in life and need to set a good example.  Regardless of your position in life, you still need to set an example, you never really know who is watching you, what they might be thinking or what effect you being their role model might have on their life.

You never know who you might meet today that may walk away thinking you were one of the best men they have ever met.  Make sure to be that man.

 

Gary Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

I strive to practice and live up to what I write about and hope it helps others online to do the same…

I welcome your comments and thoughts about this topic and invite you to visit

www.LifeLongU.com to read and learn more about a company dedicated to helping U.

 

 

post

Who Was Thankful For You This Year?

 Who Was Thankful For You This Year?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gary Kiecker

LifeLongU

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

 

 

post

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

Living “The Life” of 100 Years

Part 3 – Yearning Years

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU.com

post

“The Big Cheese”, Leadership

 The Big Cheese, Leadership

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU.com

 

 

 

 

post

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

Living “The Life” of 100 Years

Part 2, Earning Years

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™

 

post

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

Living “The Life” of 100 Years

Part 1, Learning Years

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Gary J Kiecker

LifeLongU™