Find Your Customers

Hello again, readers! Thanks for coming back to my blog. Today I wanted to share a success story with you. I have a friend named Geoff who went to school for graphic design. The graphic design field is incredibly competitive, and he was having a really hard time finding a good job. Instead of giving up and taking something that would work “in the meantime,” Geoff borrowed some money from his parents and bought a paint sprayer, an air compressor, and posted to some websites that he was available to do custom paint jobs on cars, murals, and similar projects. He got a few jobs this way, but nothing close to making a living even though his work was high quality and his customers were happy. This is where a lot of startup companies fail: they have a good product and do high-quality work, but in a market where it might be hard to distinguish yourself, it is hard to really get your name out there.

But Geoff knew all this already. He developed a new plan, deciding that what he really needed to do was expand his customer base. There had to be people out there who were looking for someone with his skills, he just couldn’t find them. Geoff didn’t know it yet, but he was thinking EXACTLY like a CEO—he identified a problem with his business model and was determined to come up with a solution. He talked with fellow classmates, several of which were also having no luck finding employment. Nobody had any actionable ideas other than things Geoff had already tried. According to Geoff, that was when he realized that he needed to set himself apart from the competition and try harder to meet his future customers. He decided to narrow his focus to the thing he liked best, custom paint jobs on cars. So he went to some car dealers and they took his business cards but it didn’t seem promising. Then he went to a local auto parts store. They weren’t interested, but they mentioned car shows that a lot of their customers attend—aha! A real lead! He also went to a few service stations that offered routine maintenance but didn’t have their own body shop. Some of them definitely wanted his name so that they could direct clients to him if they needed paint work done. Geoff went to a few car and bike shows and got to talking with many of the people there. It was frustrating to do so much legwork and not be getting paid, but it was groundwork to get his name out there. He decided not to stop there, either. He went to boat shows, too! If you could drive or ride it and there was a show for it, Geoff was there with his business cards in hand.

Weeks went by. Geoff continued to attend vehicle shows and would show off designs on his own car to potential clients. The slow trickle of customers he was getting turned into a few more, and then a few more, and as word of mouth—and Geoff’s integration in with the motorheads of his area started to stick—he eventually got enough clients to support himself. Yes, it was discouraging at first when he couldn’t find a job, and it was difficult to gain momentum for himself, but he did it. He got there because he did what the other guy wouldn’t: he went searching for his customers rather than waiting for them to find him.

Now he has his own shop with several employees. He is his own boss and does what he loves. He was able to upgrade all of his equipment and now has the best paint spray gun money can buy to put out high-quality work to keep his business going strong.

So if you are just starting out, remember my friend Geoff. All he had was a paint sprayer and an idea, and now he’s a CEO. Find something you are passionate about and don’t get discouraged if it isn’t a slam-dunk right from the get-go!

Outfit Your Team for Success

desk-stapler-featuresOffice managers, listen up. People have to have the right tools for their jobs, whatever they may be. They expect them to be at hand in the workspace, and to be in good working condition. You can’t skimp when it comes to resources if you want to maintain your reputation as officials of a sound company that cares. You have a lot of say in the matter and your input is important. What this means is that you don’t give a two dollar stapler to an employee to collate and bind a fifty-page document! Cheaping out on office supplies costs more in the long run in unhappy campers and a lot of moping and grumping around.

It is all about productivity in an office. This is the major buzz word. Sometimes it takes a little extra funding to achieve and even maximize it. You want people to accomplish their tasks efficiently and effectively. We all give lip service to this truism, but do we really know what it means, and do we apply it in reality to satisfaction. People take supplies for granted and they don’t even notice them until they are practically in use. Then it is too late if the items are old, broken, or useless. Quality matters and whether there is enough stuff to go around. Every employee needs his or her own stapler, for example. This is a minimum requirement like a desk and a chair. It is just as important as having paper clips and pens. A stapler, for example, is a tool to grab quickly as needed without searching around. Plus, we all hate that individual who uses up the very last staple and places the item back on the shelf—empty!

It is all about outfitting your team for success at the office. Those who order supplies are in charge of prevailing positive, can do attitudes. They have the ultimate power when it comes to devices. If you think your office manager has been rather lax, let him or her know—politely. If they don’t use certain supplies, they won’t have a clue. Let them in on the workings of the environment and what a difference a heavy duty stapler can make. Tip them about brands, models, and sizes.

It may seem trivial to some, but trust me it is not. When supplies are allowed to run low because of budget cuts, it hurts everyone. It is really symbolic of an entire corporate culture to shirk responsibilities in the area of supplies. Do these companies expect people to bring their own! If they are chintzy with tools, what else is unimportant? Will there be coffee in the morning or tea in the afternoon? Is toilet paper about to disappear or paper towels in the kitchen? This lack can go on and on to infinity. It can never be good.

So office managers, take heed. Use this blog as mindful advice to watch the pennies, yes, but not at the expense of productive work. We are all still old-fashioned enough to need supplies on a daily basis. Be generous where it counts. The company will reap the reward in the long run.

The Modern MBA Job Market

The job market is slowly recovering all over the world. However, not all jobs are created equal, and not all types of degrees are going to be the same in terms of their likeliness to land someone a job. A job market that could be bad for one type of employee could be great for another. In fact, in practice, recent college graduates are all going to be entering very different job markets. The current job market is actually excellent for students who are going to be graduating with their MBA degrees.

A lot of firms are excited about hiring fresh young talent. While many people still haven’t benefited from the recent economic recovery, the wealthiest members of society have. These are the people who are running the firms that are going to be hiring these new MBAs. The fact that these firms are so enthusiastic about expansion might help signal the fact that the economy is starting to enter a new phase altogether, or it might be another situation in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. One way or another, new MBAs are definitely going to benefit from this situation. Recent college graduates are typically regarded as people aged 27 or under, although people under 30 are still going to be in that general area.

People who decide to go back to school for their MBAs based on this information should remember that getting an MBA is no easy task. They will have to go into debt for the sake of their MBAs, and the fact that the job market is currently so good does not represent a guarantee that conditions won’t change by the time they’re ready to graduate. The people who already have those degrees, debt and all, are going to be in the best situation.

However, the people who wanted to get their MBAs anyway should at least take the current state of the market into account when making their decision about when to go to school or go back to school. An MBA is always going to be an asset to anyone. People can’t have their academic credentials taken away, and MBAs can still be gateways to all sorts of jobs, even if people don’t get their dream jobs after graduation. It is possible that the job market for MBAs will only improve. At any rate, college costs are rising in every field, and the sooner people enroll in school, the less debt they’re going to have when they’re finally finished.

The Positives and Negatives of Being an Employee

Being an employee carries few risks, but it also carries few rewards. Many employees more or less end up doing the exact same work throughout the duration of their lives, which can be something of a grim prospect for many people. Some individuals will look ahead a few decades and they will imagine themselves doing the exact same work, at which point they will become somewhat discouraged and disheartened. This emotional state is often what leads people to envy entrepreneurs in the first place.

They try to imagine how different their lives would be if they were working towards something that was uniquely their own, such as a business. People feel as if they are merely part of a greater organism when they are part of a large company. Being an entrepreneur can make people feel more like free individuals again, which is going to have a great deal of emotional appeal for many people.

The lifestyles of entrepreneurs and employees are going to be very different. Employees will interact with a narrow selection of the people who work at their companies. Working at a large company isn’t so different from attending school, in some cases. People have to do the work that is assigned to them. They will interact with a group of people that they did not seek out on their own, and they will try their best to get along with them. Cliques will sometimes form among coworkers just as surely as they sometimes form among students.

These similarities are not coincidences. The modern scholastic system was devised during the later days of the industrial revolution. It was party designed to prepare people for their future jobs in corporate America, for better or for worse. While people do manage to do some learning while they are in school, they learn the rhythms of life in the corporate world as well. College graduates who go from the classroom to the boardroom will scarcely even notice the difference in many cases. They might even be interacting with the same people, if they manage to get jobs with some of their former classmates as a result of their connections.

Employees are also rarely going to be working in a field that they truly enjoy. Some employees are going to have that luxury, but the majority of them are going to have to choose the jobs that offer them the most in terms of benefits and in terms of high salaries, regardless of whether or not they truly enjoy the work.

Entrepreneurs are in a slightly more complicated situation. Entrepreneurs that want to start businesses in their desired fields are going to have to realize that they should try to choose fields that are in demand and fields that are likely to help them generate profit. However, determined entrepreneurs can often make businesses in a wide range of fields work. There’s also the fact that the market changes rapidly. Entrepreneurs can start their businesses in fields that are temporarily fallow, and their businesses will thrive when the field experiences something of a resurgence.

Employees will be at the mercy of the job market as well, but it will always seem as if it is affecting them indirectly instead of directly. They are going to have severance packages and notice when their job has been lost. Entrepreneurs aren’t going to have that safety net, which can leave them vulnerable. People who value security over freedom are often going to prefer to be employees. They accept the costs of security, and they learn to live with them.


Qualities of a Successful CEO

When people are trying to decide whether or not they have what it takes to become CEOs themselves, they should try to pay attention to the people that the media will more or less always present in a positive light. Successful CEOs, for instance, actually do have to be honest with their employees. They are going to be directing entire companies, and their decisions can influence the lives of countless people. Their subordinates need to know that they are trustworthy. When CEOs are demonstrated to be dishonest, they can manage to tarnish the way in which other people see them forever. Many people have the image of the dishonest CEO, which is indeed a dramatic image, but CEOs who really act like that just don’t last very long.

The stereotype of CEOs is that they are extremely cold and unappreciative people who demand a lot from their employees while giving very little in return. These CEOs don’t last very long, and they manage to be ousted from their positions fairly regularly. Employees aren’t going to be motivated to work very hard when they have CEOs like these. They are going to do what they need to do in order to get by, and that’s it. This is not the sort of behavior that tends to promote the growth of a given business or company, and the entire company will suffer as a result. The problem is inevitably going to be traced to the CEO, who will then lose his or her position to the person who is next in line.

When one employee makes a complaint about the boss, it might be dismissed as one person making excuses. When almost all of the employees say the exact same thing, it is going to truly reflect poorly on the CEO in question. In many cases, if several employees are criticizing the CEO, this opinion is going to spread to the other employees fairly rapidly. It has been said that CEOs have to work overtime in order to protect their reputations among their employees, and this is partly a function of the fact that office politics often create a very competitive environment. CEOs who are being criticized by a few people are taking the risk that they’re going to eventually be criticized by everyone.

The CEOs who ultimately succeed are the ones who are firm but fair with their employees. They make their employees feel like valued parts of the team, and they encourage their employees to do well. People will do well when they want to do well, and when they have compassionate bosses, they will want to keep themselves motivated.

Naturally, competence is an important quality in CEOs. Honesty and compassion are important, but CEOs need to understand the job market, their products, and all of the fundamentals of business. People can’t just trust the ethics of their CEOs. They also have to trust in their ability to make decisions, or the business is not going to succeed, and the CEOs themselves are ultimately not going to succeed.

However, many CEOs never even get to the position in the first place without a lot of technical and business skills. Reports of CEOs that fail to exercise proper ethics and proper management skills are more common than reports of CEOs who simply lack competence. The CEOs that are brilliant but lack social skills and restraint are ultimately going to be just as unsuccessful as the CEOs with hearts of gold who lack business sense. The best CEOs are honest, compassionate, and skilled.

Keeping Business Clean

6a00d8341c29c553ef017c3712493a970bPersonal cleanliness goes without saying. We all value it. In business you have to look sharp to think sharp. People judge you on your habits and appearance 90% of the time. You don’t want to let them down. Cleanliness also goes for the entire office environment as it plays a part in client acquisition and retention. Every savvy entrepreneur knows the ropes. Keep surfaces neat and tidy so your staff looks adept and organized. Don’t eliminate everything as it denotes lack of work.

There are many principles involved in maintaining an office space. The floors should be spotless, the carpets stain free. No dust should appear lest it find its way onto a client’s hands. It takes attention and on-going consideration. Even if you don’t do the work yourself, you are in charge of this job.

Metaphoric cleaning is a companion to the physical type. You can have everything in good order but if your files are neglected, it shows. If you are not adhering to good accounting principles, it will affect the bottom line. Consider the following types of offices. Which would you want to be?

Nerd Haven: finicky to the max, this office culture values an absolute pristine workspace. In one of these offices, you’re likely to find an expensive handheld vacuum cleaner right next to every one of the fire extinguishers in their offices. Sometimes, however, you can’t find things that are neatly tucked away. Clients are impressed but does efficiency suffer because you are spending way too much time in the hunt.

Tidy Tender: a clean office takes pride in the lack of clutter and mess. Each employee becomes a tidy tender playing his or her part. They don’t overdo it, mind you, but focus on essentials to create an efficient workspace. Visitors note the neatness and value the effort taken to ensure it stays in place.

Obsessive Compulsive: the minute a piece of paper drops on a desk or floor, it is whisked away, maybe to file thirteen (the trash). While somewhat admirable, this compulsive behavior has its risks. Important documents can be lost forever. You want to put the brakes on these people before they unsettle the rest of the office.

Laissez-faire: the “I don’t care” attitude reigns supreme in many places, especially when the cleaning crew is expected to tidy up. But they don’t get in those dusty nooks and crannies. You ignore it until it starts to stare you in the face and then you sign, and move on.

Pig Sty Specialist: every office has one or two pig pen characters. You can mock it all you want, but clients do care. They associate a sloppy space with a lax mind. They are a bit leery about doing business with a place that tolerates mess.

You may or may not recognize yourself or your colleagues in these examples, but believe me, they are all there. It is human nature and it is diversified. If you are the boss, you set the tone for the masses. Be mindful of the image you want to project and it will serve you well. Offices are public spaces and should be respected as such.

Stereotypes of CEOs

Many people regard CEOs with a certain degree of envy. CEOs are among the most highly paid individuals in the world, so many people are understandably going to want to join their ranks. People will see all of the glamour associated with the profession, and they will want to enjoy some of it for themselves. Many people should know that CEOs have one of the hardest jobs imaginable. Even many of the most talented and intelligent people in the world couldn’t be CEOs if they tried, simply because it requires a very specific range of personal qualities.

People often regard CEOs as the sort of people with absolute power within their organizations. They may almost imagine that CEOs are modern monarchs, and that if the employees and other people don’t like their CEOs, there’s little that anyone can do about it. In fact, CEOs have to work very hard to maintain their power and influence within a company.

Plenty of people all around them are trying to get their jobs, and they have to fight to maintain their positions just like all other employees. No one’s job is entirely secure, not even the job of the current CEO. People should note that companies seem to have new CEOs frequently, and scandals about CEOs are often covered during financial news reports.

The fact that the media focuses so much on scandals involving CEOs can give people a false idea of how much CEOs can get away with, since it creates the false impression that CEOs are all behaving in an unprofessional manner. However, the fact that these reports were created at all means that the CEOs weren’t really getting away with it, and many of these people will lose their positions shortly after the scandals are over.

The Positives and Negatives of Being An Entrepreneur

A lot of people are interested in starting their own companies and living the life of an entrepreneur, which shouldn’t surprise anyone. People find the idea of being their own boss appealing, believing that this is going to give them much more control over their lives. Individuals who have had difficult bosses may actually be motivated to become entrepreneurs on that basis alone. They might be under the impression that the entrepreneurial way of life is going to be one that gives them the sort of flexibility that they have always wanted.

It should be noted that in many ways, entrepreneurs have less flexibility than employees. Employees have to put in a certain number of hours each and every day in order to maintain their jobs, and then they automatically get time off at the end of the day and during their weekends. It has been said that people in business never really get any time off, which is certainly partly true. They have to be constantly promoting and marketing their businesses, or they’re not going to get the clients or the customers that they need in order to really move forward with their lives in the business world.

It should be noted that as difficult as being an employee can be, employees do get to maintain a certain degree of stability. They know that they are going to get regular paychecks at this time. They can plan ahead financially more easily than entrepreneurs, who won’t always know whether or not their businesses are really going to get off the ground and when.

Employees also have the satisfaction of knowing that their work is usually going to be rewarded. It is true that one of the most frustrating aspects of being an employee is the simple fact that it is possible to do a lot of work as an employee and get paid the same amount as someone who is always slacking off on the job. Employees will often feel as if they have very little real motivation to push themselves, since they know they can get away with putting in less effort. However, at least employees know that if they put in eight hours on the job, they are going to be rewarded with eight hours worth of wages.

Entrepreneurs don’t always know that all of the substantial effort that they put into marketing their business is going to pay off at any point. Far too many entrepreneurs put in years worth of effort only to find that their businesses managed to fail anyway. The majority of businesses do not even make it into their first years, and many other businesses don’t make it past the five-year mark. On that basis alone, entrepreneurship can be tremendously difficult emotionally.

Entrepreneurship is a way of life that carries high risks and high rewards. The people who succeed at it can become tremendously wealthy or at least successful and stable. The people who fail at it will have invested a lot of time and money in something that just didn’t work, which is going to carry emotional costs in addition to all of the other costs. However, these entrepreneurs are always going to have the satisfaction of knowing that they actually tried something that many people would have been too nervous to try, which is going to have its own emotional appeal.