Friday, April 3, 2009

Take care of yourself

Starting a company can drive a person into the ground in many different ways. You may gain weight—or lose too much of it. You may begin to eat too much of the wrong foods, or you may barely eat at all. Pay attention to your health.

If ever there was a time to take better care of yourself, now is it. I know what you’re saying. “I can’t afford to get sick, so I won’t.” I hope you’re right, because combined stress and long work hours are going to put your health at greater risk than ever. Stress can make you more susceptible to common ailments such as colds. That’s no problem because you can work through things like that. But more serious stress-related illnesses such as high blood pressure can occur, and you won’t be able to ignore them. Also, you don’t have the luxury of turning the reins of the company over to a crackerjack staff while you recuperate. If you’re out of commission even for a week, it could seriously jeopardize the future of the company.

If you already exercise regularly, maintain your schedule as much as possible. If you don’t exercise, now is the time to start. Take walks, go for light jogs, ride a bicycle, rake the leaves, or mow the lawn now that you can’t afford to outsource the job to the neighborhood 14-year-old. Do anything that remotely resembles exercise but in no way resembles your normal work. Sure, you can’t help but think about the business while you’re exercising, but that’s OK. Do whatever you can to keep yourself in at least nominal physical shape. If you’ve never been in good condition, get there now. You won't last long, nor will your company, if you don’t. Exercise is often a nice way to free your mind enough think of creative business solutions. Just consider it multi-tasking.

You are the most important asset your company has. Protect your asset.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How Long?

Good things will eventually come from our current economic mess. Millions of Americans are getting kicked to the street. But among them is a host of talent waiting for the right moment to start new businesses. The loss of steady income isn’t the “right moment” they had in mind, but it’s the way many successful businesses have started since—forever.

Many of these new ventures will offer wholly new products and services. Others will provide new approaches to old problems that other companies have been unwilling or unable to fix. Many startups, if not most, are destined to fail. But a lot will succeed. And when each new business calls on its first prospect, they will worry about getting THE QUESTION: “How long have you been in business?” In turn, the new business will answer: “In minutes or hours?”

The fact is, that question doesn’t get asked as often one might think. When it does, don’t sweat it. A business’s age is important, but not critical, to its ability to deliver the goods. It certainly doesn’t guarantee the company will be around long. Disagree? Consider these companies:

AIG: Established 90 years ago

Lehman Brothers: Begun in 1850

General Motors: Started 101 years ago

How much confidence does the typical American consumer have in those companies today?

Friday, March 13, 2009

Be Logical

If you want to get a couple of salespeople flapping their gums at each other, ask them when the right time to talk price. An old sales "rule" says you shouldn't give the price until you've revealed all the dazzling features and benefits. It's like considering the price of a car. If someone wants to sell you a car for $20,000, you don’t know if it’s a great deal until you drive it, learn about all its options, and experience its quality. Twenty grand would be a great price for a new German import, but a terrible deal for an old Yugo with 200,000 miles on it, assuming any Yugo ever made it that far.
The thing is, withholding the price may be an acceptable approach for some types of sales, but not necessarily yours. Don't adhere to certain sales "rules" just because that's the way others have done it. As you try to snag your first customer, some things you hear and read will strike you as illogical. You’ll be advised to do things a certain way because they’ve always been done that way. But that doesn’t make them right for you. You may hear about various closing techniques that can help you land your first customer.
Look for the logic in things. If something doesn’t seem logical to you, examine it closely no matter how many so-called experts tell you otherwise. It may not be the right approach, at least in that particular situation. You find yourself in the position you are today—starting a company—because you have desire and smarts. Believe in yourself before you believe in anyone else. If something that I’ve written here doesn’t make sense in your situation, then question it closely. It may not ever make sense for you. Suspect any advice that presents itself as being the right choice in any case. With the exception of being truthful, there’s no such thing.