Distractions Speak Louder Than Words

DistractionsJim Court: You’re not a permanent part of her life. You’re a distraction.

Lloyd Dobler: I’m the distraction that’s going with her to England, sir.

~ John Mahoney and John Cusack in Say Anything


Personal distractions are a permanent part of your life. They will always be with you.

I’m not talking about interruptions. Those aren’t going away either. Here, I’m talking about those leisure activities that some consider distractions.

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Calculated Risk Becomes Calculated Reality

Calculated Risk… is one of the principles I live by. With anything worth having comes risk. So how do you manage it?

On my “…Fear of Flying…” post, Ellen said “… I am intrigued by your notion that ‘Calculated risk becomes calculated reality.’ Would love to hear more.

I began answering in the comments, but because it’s an important concept, I thought it deserved its own post.

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Is Fear Actually An Asset?

Is Fear Actually An Asset?Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear – not absence of fear” ~ Mark Twain

My 2-year old likes to jump off of things. In fact, all my kids did about that age. Doesn’t matter how high it is, or what’s below, the jumping and the exhilaration far outweighs the threat of a bloody nose.

As we get older and more mature we outgrow that stuff. Sort of.

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Your Business Plan as a Story

biz-storyWhen I’m talking to someone about launching their home-based business, and the subject of business plans comes up I usually get one of 3 initial responses – a glazed over look, a quick change of the subject, or a nervous laugh. Many think they’re unnecessary or a waste of time. If you’re talking about a 200 page detailed prospectus of your planned scrapbooking venture or home-based event planning company, then yes – that would be a total waste of time. But from the perspective of really understanding what it is that you intend your company to be – a business plan is invaluable. If it’s done right.

Put Ideas into the World

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today.” – Robert McKee

I can only think of a handful of people I know who love reading business plans. Compare that with those that like stories. As McKee’s quote recognizes, it’s storytelling that really gets ideas across. Now, if you are the CEO of a startup looking for VC finding, or are approaching a big financial institution for a loan, a nice story is probably not the way to go. But for most of my audience here – home-based and wannabe home-based ventures – a simple narrative that captures the core elements of your business can be a powerful tool. It’s also much more fun to write. The idea here is to write it for you and a few interested parties. It’s a great exercise for ensuring you have a firm handle on what you plan to do, and for identifying possible gaps. It also helps spell out some clear actions, and an overall flow for moving forward.

The Elements of a Story – Business Plan Style

Here are a few ideas to get you started. These elements are similar to what you’d find in a more traditional business plan, without all the pomp and circumstance. Well, maybe a little pomp.

Book Jacket Blurb – try to capture the essence of your business in a few paragraphs. This is like your executive summary, only not as stuffy. Write it like a book cover synopsis, designed to grab the reader.

The Preface – identify your mission and vision for your company. What is the main goal of your company – and what value are you providing?

The Setting and Cast – who are your customers and what is your niche?

The Actions – the important steps and actions you need to take to move your company forward. This is the meat of your story.

The Goals – the motivators in your story. What objectives are to working towards?

You’re the Star of Your Story

My guess is that if you’re really going for it, you’ve thought things through pretty well. No formal piece of paper’s going to help an asinine idea – and tons of formal business plans are sitting on shelves of struggling businesses collecting dust. For the nest based professional – you are your business. The unique passion and talent you bring to the marketplace is what you are building upon. Writing your own story will help you better understand what that is.

And if all else fails, here’s another thought – try substituting it for Goodnight Moon and see how quickly your kids fall asleep.

Key Ingredients That Will (Almost) Guarantee Your Success

key-ingredientsWhat if I could almost guarantee your success as a home-based business owner? No gimmicks or crap to buy, just some key things you can do to ensure success.

I’m always asked what it takes to succeed as a home-based business owner. Though there aren’t any real guarantees in life, there are proven steps you can take, to make sure you get as close to a hit as possible. When fishing, if you use the right bait, are in a relatively good spot, and you keep casting, you will catch a fish. In golf, if a coach shows you how to improve your swing, and you continually do the work, you will improve your game. This is what I mean by guaranteed success.

The Four Key Ingredients

I’ve work with, talked to, and helped a lot of home-based business owners over the years. Every one that was successful had these core ingredients. Some would include others, but these four where common to all of them. On the other hand, almost all of the folks who came to me after having a bad go of it with a business were missing one or more of them. If you’ve heard it before, that’s great – and not surprising. A common theme among coaches, personal development gurus, motivational speakers, success writers, and entrepreneurs is not reinventing the wheel. Take the same steps others have to reach success, throw in your own special views and skills, and you end up with your own success – on your own terms.

The First Ingredient – Your Passion

If you don’t care about something, then there’s no point in doing it. It’s just a chore, like scrubbing the toilet or cleaning the gutters. Starting and running a business of any kind is hard work. It’s the passion about your chosen field or niche that will help you get through the tough stuff. The excitement and enthusiasm that comes from following your passion, helps drive success.

As a bonus, it also makes sales and marketing, much easier. John Jantsch’s from Duct Tape Marketing says “Marketing is the voice of your passion:”

The most successful small business owners I have encountered have two things in common – they are passionate about what they do and they effectively use marketing to spread this passion.

You may have more than one passion. That’s fine. Just make sure whatever business you focus on is based on at least one of them.

The Second Ingredient – Your Gifts

According to the U.S. Census Bureau there are currently (as of this writing) about 6.5 billion people in the world. And what’s astounding to me, is each has their own unique gifts – talents, skills, genius, and view of the world. The key is to use those gifts unique to you to build your business. If you don’t know what you’re good at, ask someone close to you. Chances are they know it very well. Also look at what other people are constantly asking you for help with. If you weren’t good at it, then they wouldn’t ask. Another way is sit down with some quiet time and a sheet of paper and list all the things you do better than anyone you know. Now’s not the time to be modest or self-editing. Write everything, even if it seems insignificant.

One misconception I see a lot is that if you’re good at something, then you should only do that. That’s why it’s so important to make sure the passion element is paired with your gifts. It’s the sum total of your talent, skills, and way of looking at and interacting with the world that make up your gifts. Passion is the “why” and your gifts are the “how.”

The Third Ingredient – Your Value

Successful people are always looking for opportunities to help others. Unsuccessful people are always asking, “What’s in it for me?”Brian Tracy

If what you’re offering doesn’t benefit someone in some way, you won’t have a business for very long. Passion and gifts aren’t enough to build a business on. You have to provide value to others.

There’s something liberating about taking the focus off of you, and putting on to the “world out there.” By looking at your venture as a way to be of service to others and provide people with something beneficial, your perspective changes. You are here to contribute, and by doing so, you ensure that your business will thrive.

I think most people know in their gut if what they’re providing is of any real value. But if you aren’t sure, ask around. Call up some friends and acquaintances, take them to lunch or for coffee, and talk to them about what you intend to do. Maybe even offer them a free sample to get some feedback (and possibly a testimonial). You’ll know pretty quickly if you have a winner.

The Fourth Ingredient – Your Plan

The final ingredient, and the one that ties them all together, is planning. You won’t know where you’re going, or if you’ve gotten there, without a map. I’m not talking about a formal business plan, unless that’s something you feel you need. Just some basic written goals and plans – who you are, what you’ll be doing, who your customers are, how much you plan to make, how much you need to make.

Take all the things you’ve accumulated while researching your business, and wrap them into a cohesive plan. Start with some simple basic strategies, and then if necessary, flesh out any larger plans. Be sure to get input and feedback from the rest of your household. As a home-based business, your family are your investors and stakeholders, and need to be treated as such.

Building a successful home-based business takes time and work. In order to ensure you’re not just wasting your time, evaluate what it is you are doing. Look at what inspires you, what you do well, what you can offer, and how you can do it, and build your venture around that. Follow the map of those who are already succeeding, and you can (almost) guarantee your own success.