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Top 5 survival tips for small businesses – guest blog by Paul Schoening (3 of 3)

The following is the final blog of 3 posts from our guest blogger Paul Schoening, President of Plan C.  He is bringing a unique perspective on what it takes for a small business to survive.  In his first two posts (here and here) he talked about the difficulty of starting a business based on passion and how that passion is both good and bad.  He discussed how entrepreneurs need to look at building a sustainability plan and not a business plan.  In this blog are his final two tips.  Let us know what you think.  Enjoy!

4. Continually learn: I’ve mentioned education already but I need to stress how it’s important to stay ahead of the competition.   To do that, you need to carve out time to learn.  It doesn’t matter how you learn, but you must be constantly learning.  I’m not saying that you need to take classes – but you do need to keep up on things.

Read, attend conferences, sit through webinars, go to the library (I know – old fashioned but it works), find a mentor, network and learn more about your business than you think you will ever use.  Using the internet to learn is easier than ever – enter a topic in google and you have thousands of links to explore.  Subscribe to websites that help you learn and stay up on leading thought in your industry.  University sites offer a lot of free classes via the web (see here).  Apple even has iTunesU that you can get on your iPhone or iPad and learn while you are on the go.

When you are starting a business, finding time to learn can feel like you are taking away from other important aspects of the business – but it is key to long term survival. You’ll need to prioritize your time and make critical choices which will allow you to learn and grown your business at the same time…including how to more efficiently sweep the floors! Engaging your new employees through continuous learning is also a key factor in retaining the talent you need to succeed. Rick Osborn, president of the Association for Continuing Higher Education says, that’s a mistake.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Osborn. I understand that when businesses are looking to make cuts, these are the kinds of programs that are the first to go. In the short term, those kinds of cuts might work for a business. But, in the long run, you’re going to have to restore the cuts.”

Businesses that offer professional development often have a strong track record for employee retention. In fact, employees cite continuing education programs as the No. 2 reason they stay in their jobs, said Susan Porter Robinson of the Washington, D.C.-based American Council on Education.

Source; www.bizjournals.com December 7, 2009

5. Connect, connect, and connect some more: Get connected with people in your industry, other small business people, and anybody else that could potentially be of benefit to your business.  Do this so you can understand the challenges, opportunities and resources available to be successful.   Research by the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center indicated that the effects of networking and connecting with other people have a long term positive impact.  The research found that 9-months after a networking “mixer” event, participants rated the top five benefits as

  • Being networked professionally
  • Feeling energized by the interaction
  • Gained a business insight
  • Established a collaboration opportunity and
  • Had found professional inspiration

Source: Enhanced Professional Networking and its Impact on Personal Development and Business Success, 2006

While every social engagement is not a sales call, it can be a potential opportunity to talk about your business and what you do.  Join Linked-In groups, start a channel on You-Tube, expand your twitter accounts.   Utilize your network of friends, family and acquaintances.     Make the effort.  You never know where the next sale is going to come from.  Don’t leave anything on the table, this is your livelihood!

Let us know what you think – leave a comment below.  Join in the discussion!

Leadership lessons from a dying Raccoon

RaccoonWe had three very cute  baby Raccoons in our yard last Thursday night.  They were fearless, lost, adorable and wondering around lost without a mother.  Kind of like employees without a good leader…but more on that later.

We went out and watched them as the toddled around the yard and gardens.  They were obviously hungry.  The smallest one could not keep up with its siblings and kept cooing out to them (that’s the only way I could describe it, like a mix between a cat’s “meow” and and owl’s “who”).  The siblings would circle back and rub noses with the smallest one.  They would try to get it to climb the rock wall to the garden or move under the table.  The smallest Raccoon would waddle slowly after them and try to keep up.

But the siblings were hungry and cold themselves and soon enough – they left the smallest one by itself.

The next morning, the smallest one was almost dead by the side of the garage.

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Economic Growth Centers – Small Business Learning Initiative

Here is the link to the webinar I did with Economic Growth Centers (ECG), a 501C non-profit that I’m on the board of.  ECG’s mission is to strengthen the economic vitality of the Twin Cities Metro area.

One program that we are working on is to create an electronic small business education curriculum that can be freely accessed from our website by small business owners, managers and employees.  Our goal is to have an entire curriculum of educational webinars available free of charge, hosted by various experts in their fields.  This type of training or consulting would be cost prohibitive for many of the small businesses we aim to help.

If you would like to donate your time or expertise – please let me know kurt@lanterngroup.com or leave a comment.  We are looking for people to work with to create a one hour webinar that would teach small business leaders and employees a key business skill. If you are interested, let us know -we would love to hear from you!

Motivation Webinar Link

3 Tips to Increase the Drive to Challenge & Comprehend

Challenge The 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation’s 3rd drive is the Drive to Challenge and Comprehend.   The drive focuses on our innate desire to learn more about the world around us and to not be bored.

I like to call this the “4-year old drive.”

If you’ve ever tried to get a 4-year old dressed quickly, you know what I mean – they want to do it themselves.  It is the challenge of being able to button their shirt or put on their own shoes that they are striving for.  Or think about a 4-year old sitting at dinner with a group of adults who are talking (i.e., boring) and think of the trouble that they get themselves into trying to add some excitement (or learn something new).  For instance, my 4-year old was bored and decided to see what meatballs in a glass of milk would taste like…you see what I mean.

So here are three tips to help increase the C drive:

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