Monthly Archives: February, 2017

Define Success on Your Own Terms

February 28th, 2017 Posted by Inspiration 0 thoughts on “Define Success on Your Own Terms”
success on your own terms

Photo courtesy

It doesn’t matter how you define success. It’s critical that you do.

On your terms.

This is the advice I close every business presentation with. Each of us have opinions on what success looks, smells and feels like, but a hard thing for us to remember is that no one [should] cares about that opinion except ourselves.

We don’t care what others think our own definition of success is, so why should anyone care what we think success should look like for them?

Always define success on your terms

In business, is success limited to revenue, sales and profit? No. Those are certainly motivators and when you valuate the worth of a business, they are extremely important. But in all likelihood, there are many other ways to define success.

This article at Inc. by Jeff Haden is entitled “Want to be genuinely likable and charismatic? Do any one of these 12 things.”

Number 12 on the list? Always define success your way.

Haden goes on to say, “How successful you feel is based on your answer to one question: ‘How happy am I?’ How successful you are is based solely on the answer to that question.”

If true, then it really does not matter how you define success because that feeling of success comes from a sense of what makes you happy.  And only YOU can say what that is.

Who’s hungry?

A really good cheeseburger makes me happy. If I can earn enough money, otherwise eat healthy enough and exercise such that I can enjoy a really good cheeseburger once in awhile without fear of breaking the bank or giving myself a heart attack, then hey…I’m happy and successful.

But you might be a vegetarian, disgusted at the very notion of my delicious, juicy cheeseburger smothered in blue cheese, bacon and jalapenos. Or you might hate blue cheese. In either case, it doesn’t matter if you think my definition of success is ridiculous and it doesn’t matter if I think you ought to order a burger just like mine because…

Success is personal

Your definition of success is your own. It’s personal. No one can define it for you. Which means…you have to do it for yourself.

If you carry on without identifying what success means to you, the chances are very high that you will never feel successful. You’ll just move from one thing to the next, seeing if that makes you happy, only to discover it doesn’t.

Why not try a different approach? Why not begin with the end in mind? What makes you happy? What does success mean to you? Define that first. THEN devise a plan for getting there.

Do it with Plan Canvas

That’s what Plan Canvas is for. It comes preloaded with over 50 key performance indicators to help you discover, for yourself, your definition of success.

If you’d like to be a part of our beta test user group, please click here. There is no cost to you and you walk away with actual, actionable plans for your journey to success – on your terms.

Is it Time to Develop a Knowledge Management Strategy?

February 23rd, 2017 Posted by Business is ART, Leadership 0 thoughts on “Is it Time to Develop a Knowledge Management Strategy?”
Knowledge Management

MBA – Knowledge Management at Urbana University

On February 7, 2017 I had the honor and privilege of speaking with students in an MBA course at Urbana University. The topic of the course is Knowledge Management and is led by Kelly Evans-Wilson, Director of Assessment and Academic Quality at Urbana University.

Wikipedia includes a definition of Knowledge Management (KM) as follows: The process of creating, sharing, using and managing the knowledge and information of an organization. It refers to a multi-disciplinary approach to achieving organizational objectives by making the best use of knowledge.

I’ve a simpler definition. KM is how you get stuff out of your head and on to some form of media that can be easily accessed, shared and controlled.

Of course this topic fit very nicely with Business is ART (the book and the process) and the Plan Canvas business planning tool based on it because at its core, it is all about getting your vision, goals, objectives, etc. out of your head, where it rattles around, bumping up against other thoughts and stimuli, never to come to fruition.

2 Types of Knowledge

There are 2 primary types of knowledge: tacit and explicit. Of course there are all kinds of sub-categories of each of these such as “Wow, that’s really useful” and “Seriously…who gives a crap?” But that’s a topic for another day.

Tacit knowledge is exactly that stuff in your head. Additional characteristics include:

  • It’s intangible
  • It’s shared thru learning
  • It’s hard to replicate
  • It’s naturally “secure”

By contrast, explicit knowledge is:

  • Articulated & codified
  • Tangible
  • Easily shared
  • Reproducible
  • Security is a consideration

Online and Social Apps Are Changing Knowledge Management

We used to think of KM in terms of big repositories or electronic filing cabinets. Then came enterprise type solutions like Salesforce and SharePoint. The advent of online and social apps like Google Drive, Evernote and Dropbox have dramatically changed how we think of KM. They provide opportunities and new challenges.

Trello is a popular solution I actually use a lot. It offers some level of security and makes it simple to manage “knowledge” and messages. It also works with a large cadre of other tools (like Drive and Evernote).

Even platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram can be important components to your KM strategy/plan.

There are now so many free, inexpensive and expensive options out there, how do you know what to use?

What is Your Over-arching Strategy?

My advice to this MBA class was to develop a KM strategy that aligns with the over-arching strategy of the business or organization. If it doesn’t exist, develop it first – THEN develop the KM Strategy as a strategic initiative within, or component of, your Strategic Plan.

Otherwise, you run the risk of developing a fantastic KM program that doesn’t benefit the business.

When is It Time for a Knowledge Management Program?

There are multiple reasons for defining a formal KM Program. Some of them include:

  • When it saves money
  • When it makes processes more efficient
  • When it saves time
  • When it protects or is necessary from a legal perspective

But a KM Program may represent cultural change in your organization and as we all know, change is often difficult to implement (unless we absolutely HAVE to do it…which is usually too late).

That said, the best time to introduce a KM Program is when the boss says it is. How do you get the boss to support it? Show the boss that the KM Program directly supports the overall strategy of the business or organization.

If it helps them to realize their vision, how can they say “no”?

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Starting a Business – It’s Kind of Like Writing a Book

February 22nd, 2017 Posted by Business is ART, Business Plan 0 thoughts on “Starting a Business – It’s Kind of Like Writing a Book”

Drawing a blank

Depending on what survey you follow, 80-90% of Americans say they’d like to write a book someday. That’s not to say they will. Most won’t even start one. Why?

Because writing a book is hard. Trust me, I’ve done it. It takes considerable time and commitment and there’s no guarantee for success should you finish it.

(see Urbana Citizen Article Growing ‘Business is ART’ Brand)

In many ways, it’s not so different from starting a business (something I’m also familiar with). Much like book writing, many people want to start their own business – over half of the US population, in fact. And just like with book writing, most of those people won’t try.

“Where do I even begin?” they think.

Whether you’re starting a business or writing a book, it starts with the same thing:

An Idea

Many people simply like the idea of creating something. The trouble is, they don’t have a viable idea to work off of. You can’t create a book or a business without some sort of concept or starting point.

If you want to write a story, this idea could be a single scene that you can build off of. Did you know that James Cameron created the Terminator franchise after having a nightmare of a metal skull surrounded by fire?

For a business, it could start with simply fulfilling a need in your own life. Airbnb was started because the founder was struggling to pay his housing bills, so he began renting out part of his home.

Both of these simple ideas went on to make billions of dollars.

Of course, this is just step one. Once you have an idea, you can start planning things out.

The Outline

Even if a would-be writer gets around to writing a book, there’s a good chance they won’t finish. They get a few pages in. Maybe a few chapters. And then they get stuck. They’re lost, with no visible way of continuing their story.

Or they simply lose their passion. And then, everything falls apart.

The same is true for people who start a business. They have their idea, they get a name, they get things rolling, and then it all unravels. There’s a key element missing here.

A Plan

Whether you’re starting a business or writing a book, you need a plan. Book writers will create an outline. They may even map out key characters and write backstories for them. This gives you a plan to follow and helps you realize parts that don’t work in your initial idea.

A business plan does the same thing. It turns your initial spark of inspiration into a workable process. It gives you an end goal to work towards.

Some writers may succeed without an outline. And some businesses might squeeze by without a formal plan. But the majority don’t. Increase your chances of success. Have a plan.

Revisions. Revisions. Revisions.

Once you’ve finished writing your book, you might feel like the battle is over. You’re wrong. Now begins the revision process. It’s time to comb through and delete as much as you can. Any part of the story that’s not working, any word that’s unnecessary, any typo that you’ve made, all of it needs to go.

If it’s not necessary in the grand picture, cut it out.

The same goes for your business. You may have big dreams and grand plans for your business. But to get things going, you’ll want to trim that down to the most basic, workable form. A minimum viable product, as it’s called.

This is your starting point.

The Launch

For both books and businesses, the launch is a big deal. You want as much momentum as possible. You need to make noise. After all, there’s a lot of competition out there. Finding your audience won’t be easy.

Work your connections. Promote yourself. Reach out to whoever will listen. Network. And don’t stop.

Now, this is the part where the book and the business get different. If you’ve put a book out there, it’s set in stone. You can’t revise and tweak and adjust as you learn from the market around you. For your business, however, the revisions continue.

You’re on a path of constant improvement.

Whether you’re just in the idea stage or your business is already out there and operating, I’d love to help you on your path. From simple business tips for success to full strategic planning, this website and my book Business is ART has the tools you need.

Learn more here.

Sound Business Advice from a Successful Non-Profit Foundation

February 17th, 2017 Posted by Inspiration 0 thoughts on “Sound Business Advice from a Successful Non-Profit Foundation”

non-profitOn January 31, my guest on the Business is ART podcast at the TrueChat Network was Erin Santos, Founder and President of the Isabella Santos Foundation. Erin and her husband, Stewart, have managed to turn their pain into something positive for others through the foundation that bears the name of their daughter, Isabella, lost to neuroblastoma in June of 2012.

From its humble beginnings raising a little over $7000 with its first event, the Isabella Santos Foundation (ISF) now raises over $1 million a year to help provide families a place to stay while their child receives treatment and for research into finding a cure for neuroblastoma.

Through this episode of Business is ART, Erin offers sound advice for entrepreneurs, whether they are starting or running a for-profit or a non-profit like ISF. You can listen to it in its entirety by clicking here.

A summary of some of the key advice Erin offers is as follows:

  • Find your voice and be inspiring when you speak to others about your organization
  • Be vulnerable and have a consistent message
  • Identify and target the social media platforms where your customers are – don’t try to be everywhere for everyone
  • Use social media to regularly send messages to and converse with customers
  • Produce good content on a regular basis that customers and prospects will seek and consume
  • Obtain a lawyer when you are starting out to help you leap through all of the start-up hoops
  • Assemble a board of advisors that are more than “warm bodies” and have special skills to help you realize your vision
  • Know your limits and lean on others who are willing to help – sometimes that means paying for the help, sometimes not (be prepared for both)

To this last point, something I often preach, and is in fact written in Business is ART, is that in order to get people onboard, they have to be able to “get” what it is you are doing. They have to “see” it. But they can’t see it if you can’t articulate it.

Get all of these great ideas and thoughts out of your head and written down in to a plan. Then create a “painted picture” of what it is you want to accomplish. The painted picture is a more detailed version of your vision. It can be a document but I prefer some actual form of art, be it a web site, a video, a song, etc. or a combination.

Painting the picture is an easier task if you start by developing a strategy and a business plan.

Never miss a blog post or podcast when you sign up for my monthly newsletter by clicking here. In it, you can explore all of the tools that Business is ART has to offer.

Lies and Untruths About Starting a Business

February 14th, 2017 Posted by Business is ART, Entrepreneur 0 thoughts on “Lies and Untruths About Starting a Business”
Starting business

Lance White (l) of FRW Studios Uses Plan Canvas

When you tell someone you’re starting a business, they’ll likely have an opinion. It doesn’t matter if they’re an entrepreneur or a sanitation worker. They’ll say something like “Oh really? Well did you know that….”

And then they’ll proceed to give you advice on the business you haven’t even started yet. Sometimes, the things you hear about starting a business are true. Things like “90% of business fail” or “80% of small businesses in the US consist of one person”.

On the other hand, there’s a fair amount of crap “fluff”.

Here are some of the lies and half-truths you’ll hear about starting a business.

You Need a Lot of Money

The old saying goes “it takes money to make money”, and it’s true, you’ll have to buy and spend to get a business going. But, perhaps, not as much as you might think.

To start many a business in the digital age, you don’t need huge investments or deep pockets, especially if you’re selling a service or an electronic product. The key is breaking your business idea down to its simplest form. Start there and you can probably get things moving without breaking the bank.

You Only Have to Do Things You Love

Many people start their own business because they want to do something they actually care about. That’s a great reason to start a business. But don’t think that you will only have to do the things you enjoy doing.

As an entrepreneur, you have to do everything initially. That will likely include things you don’t enjoy doing. The hope is that after building up some success, you’ll one day be able to focus on the areas you’re most passionate about.

Until then, you’ll be wearing a lot of hats.

You Have to Jump All In Immediately

Quitting your job, selling all your stuff, and devoting all time and attention to your startup might sound poetic, but it’s not always realistic. Your best option might be to start your business as a side project, allowing you to figure out potential problems while growing organically.

You’re Not Qualified

You will face people who doubt that you can run a business. This is something you’ll likely experience in your own head as well. And for these moments, it’s best to remember that famous Steve Jobs quote:

“Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you.”

You don’t need to be a genius or have master class skills. You simply need an idea, a vision, and the commitment to see it through. Steve Jobs created one of the most influential computer companies ever, and he was neither a programmer nor an engineer.

You Have to Work All Day, Every Day

Burnout is a very serious thing among entrepreneurs. That’s because they have this idea that the second they stop, their business will stop and fall apart. While it’s true you’ll likely work some unconventional hours, and you’ll probably pull more than the typical 40-45 hour workweek, you’re still human.

You need breaks and social interaction and fun.

Step away for a moment. Take a day off if necessary. Your business will still be there when you get back.

You Don’t Need a Formal Business Plan

Because the modern business and technological landscape changes so quickly, some people have gotten this idea that business plans are a relic of the past. This is false.

Research has shown that a formal business plan can as much as double your odds of success, particularly for startups

It doesn’t need to be the size of an encyclopedia. It won’t have every piece of your business explained in detail. And it will likely change in the near future.

But creating a written plan is a huge benefit to any business.

Need help on how to create a business plan? Start with my free 1-page strategic plan outline here. For a more in-depth walkthrough of planning a business strategy and measuring success, sign up for my Odds Makers Class.

Odds Makers is a step by step video course that will guide you through all of the stages of creating a vision and workable plan for your business.

Start Now!

A Real Live Case Study

FRW Studios, a creative design firm, is starting its business with formal planning, using Plan Canvas beta version 1.0, the business planning software based on the Business is ART book. The photo appearing at the beginning of this post was taken by Julie White of FRW. It shows FRW’s Lance White and me actually working on FRW’s plans, using Plan Canvas on February 13, 2017.

“Having used his strategy/business plans in the past, we know how important it is to start our studio off on the right foot.”

~ Julie and Lance White

What You Should Know about Your Entrepreneur Friends

February 8th, 2017 Posted by Entrepreneur 0 thoughts on “What You Should Know about Your Entrepreneur Friends”

Crazy EntrepreneurSo you’re friends with someone who is starting a business. Maybe you’re more than friends. Maybe you’re officially dating or married to an entrepreneur.

Whatever your relationship might be, you should know that entrepreneurs are a little different by design. The way they see things. How they think about stuff. Even how they prioritize time. They might be a little crazy by most standards.

All of it ties to their vision of running their own business. In other words…

An Entrepreneur’s Business and Soul are Attached

Now, there are plenty of non-entrepreneurs who love and live for their job. They sacrifice for it. They commit themselves to it.

But entrepreneurs do that on a whole different level. The lines between their life and their job tend to get blurry. If things at work are exciting and positive, they’re excited and positive. If work is bleak, their attitudes might be bleak.

You should know, the first few years of entrepreneurship can be an emotional rollercoaster. If your friend is in the early stages of business, try to show extra patience and encouragement.

Their Hours are Irregular

Startups don’t have a regular start and end time to their workdays. The business itself may have office or store hours, but the wheels keep turning even after the doors are shut. Entrepreneurs are known to wake up early and stay up late working on projects.

Many have the problem of never fully checking out. Sometimes they may be in the middle of dinner or conversation when they get that far away look in their eyes and seemingly “check out” for a bit. That’s because an unplanned and often unexpected thought just popped into their head. Try not to be offended and perhaps even offer to help them through it so that you can more quickly get back to enjoying time together.

Don’t be surprised if you’re hanging out and they bring their laptop along, or they’re constantly checking emails.

Be patient with them. Understand when they can’t make it to everything that’s going on. That said, don’t be afraid to tell them to checkout for a bit and invest in the time you spend together. You’ll likely be doing them a favor.

Just choose your words carefully. After all…

They’re Probably Hard on Themselves

One of the things that drives entrepreneurs is a lack of satisfaction. They want more from their life and from the industry they operate in. While this normally works as a great motivator, it sometimes turns against them.

Entrepreneurs can be very critical of their own decisions, actions, and shortcomings. Because they’re very analytical of their business, and their business is so closely tied to themselves, it carries over.

If you’ve never been close to someone whose life demands high performance, it might catch you off guard. It’s not that they’re being negative. They’re simply trying to be better.

They are Passionate (which Sometimes Comes Off as Weirdly Obsessive)

crazy entrepreneurEntrepreneurs are driven by passion. They have an idea and a dream, and they’re running towards that. Sometimes, this is inspiring. Other times, it comes off as kind of strange and obsessive. They’ll make a big deal out of things that seem insignificant to many.

They’ll look through the same info/data/copy/design over and over again, analyzing and processing it.

Don’t worry. They aren’t lost causes. They’re just passionate.

They’ll Appreciate Your Friendship More Than You Know

If you’re patient with an entrepreneur, if you encourage them and believe in them while having the courage to occasionally correct them, you’ll form an incredible relationship. Being friends with an entrepreneur isn’t hard.

Just take interest. Ask questions. Listen to their ideas. See their potential and push them to go for their dreams. In return, you’ll form a great friendship. Entrepreneurs tend to be great friends because they encourage people around them to pursue their own dreams.

Life is less dull with entrepreneurs in your life. Every day can bring something new and exciting.

And should you ever decide to start a business of your own, they’ll be there for you, helping show how to create a business plan and cast vision.

Because that’s what friends do.

Plan Canvas is a community and a powerful software for improving your odds of business success and personal fulfillment.

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