Sunday, January 9, 2011

How to Make 2011 Your Best Year Yet

By Rich Schefren

The very best way to make 2011 the best it can be is to leverage your past experience.

In other words, you simply must take a long, hard look at what happened in 2010.

I figured out years ago that doing an honest analysis of my previous mistakes and accomplishments is the best way to continually improve my company and my own performance.

Let's all face a cold, hard fact of life: no matter how good or bad your results, you can always do better.

Yet the single biggest key to improving both performance and results is ignored by almost everybody. If you want to be at the top of your game, you absolutely must learn from what has already happened. Unfortunately, most people either can't or don't want to use their missteps and achievements as learning experiences. And they end up becoming stagnant... or repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

I am going to share with you how I leverage all my experiences into greater levels of success. Follow my lead, and you can make 2011 your very best year (so far).

All you need to do is answer five questions. If you're serious about your success, you should do this today! Ready, set, go...

Question 1: What were your greatest accomplishments in 2010?

Even if 2010 was the worst year of your life, odds are, if you look hard enough, there's something somewhere to be proud of. If 2010 was a great year for you, that makes answering this question even easier.

After you've listed all your accomplishments, go back to them. This time through, identify several takeaways for each one - what you learned from or were reminded of by it.

Question 2: What were your biggest disappointments in 2010?

Practically every company and individual resists analyzing their mistakes.

That's a shame, because this is where the best learning comes from.

No matter how well everything is going, we all make mistakes. The trick here is to examine what preceded them, what you could have done differently, and how you can prevent making the same mistakes in the future. Even though 2010 was the best year of my life (so far), I still had my share of disappointments, both personally and professionally. (Don't worry, I won't bore you with the details!)

As you did with your accomplishments in 2010, list your biggest disappointments - and then identify several takeaways for each one.

Question 3: How did you limit yourself last year, and how can you remove those limits in 2011?

Were there certain actions you took or didn't take that came back to haunt you? You need to bring these self-defeating actions to the surface, shine light on them, and, most important, determine what you must do differently to make sure you don't limit yourself the same way all over again. Here are just a few of mine...

* Not reviewing my goals daily

* Not sticking to a daily sleep schedule

* Hoping things would work out well in situations where my gut told me not to

Once again, make a list and identify the takeaways. For example, one of the self-defeating actions on my list was not reviewing my goals on a daily basis (even though I know better). When I don't review my goals daily, I get sucked into what's currently happening and distracted from what's most important. That caused me to miss the mark on a few goals I had set for myself in 2010. The takeaway: I'm determined not to make the same mistake in 2011.

Question 4: What did you learn from your answers to the first three questions?

This is where it gets interesting. Remember, the purpose of this exercise is not simply to know yourself and your business better... but actually to use what you learn to make certain that 2011 trumps 2010.

What are your main takeaways from the first three questions? What do you now know about yourself or your business that you didn't realize or weren't thinking about before? Here are two random nuggets from my complete list of 62...

* Creating products, programs, and free material to help entrepreneurs and their businesses grow consistently gives me my greatest feeling of accomplishment. Therefore, I need to spend time daily on creating these materials and not let the fast growth of our business pull me too far away from what I do best.

* For Strategic Profits to positively impact even more small-business owners, we have to religiously stick to our schedule of introducing new front-end products. We cannot allow ourselves to deviate from the schedule, no matter how well things are going, because client acquisition is the lifeblood of any business.

You should shoot for as many takeaways as possible, because it's here that the rubber meets the road. It's these takeaways that'll practically guarantee that 2011 will be the best year of your life.

Of course, it's not enough to just make your list (although that, by itself, will get you part way there). You still need to take this information and USE IT!

And that's where our final question comes in...

Question 5: How can you use this information to make 2011 your best year yet?

The idea is to take everything that surfaced in your answer to Question 4 and build it in to your schedule, your interactions, your management style, and so on. For example, I've already scheduled on my calendar two hours a day of content creation and 10 minutes every morning to review my goals. Plus, I've slotted a weekly 20-minute appointment with myself to surface and then analyze whatever concerns I have.

There are lots more on my list - but you get the point. And besides, what's important here is not what I am going to do to make 2011 great for me... it's what YOU are going to do to make 2011 great for YOU.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Top 10 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

JAY GOLTZ, On Wednesday January 5, 2011, 2:05 pm EST

One of the least understood aspects of entrepreneurship is why small businesses fail, and there's a simple reason for the confusion: Most of the evidence comes from the entrepreneurs themselves.

I have had a close-up view of numerous business failures -- including a few start-ups of my own. And from my observation, the reasons for failure cited by the owners are frequently off-point, which kind of makes sense when you think about it. If the owners really knew what they were doing wrong, they might have been able to fix the problem. Often, it's simply a matter of denial or of not knowing what you don't know.

In many cases, the customers -- or, I should say, ex-customers -- have a better understanding than the owners of what wasn't working. The usual suspects that the owners tend to blame are the bank, the government, or the idiot partner. Rarely does the owner's finger point at the owner. Of course, there are cases where something out of the owner's control has gone terribly wrong, but I have found those instances to be in the minority. What follows -- based on my own experiences and observations -- are my top 10 reasons small businesses fail. The list is not pretty, it is not simple, and it does not contain any of those usual suspects (although they might come in at Nos. 11, 12 and 13).

1. The math just doesn't work. There is not enough demand for the product or service at a price that will produce a profit for the company. This, for example, would include a start-up trying to compete against Best Buy and its economies of scale.

2. Owners who cannot get out of their own way. They may be stubborn, risk adverse, conflict adverse -- meaning they need to be liked by everyone (even employees and vendors who can't do their jobs). They may be perfectionist, greedy, self-righteous, paranoid, indignant, or insecure. You get the idea. Sometimes, you can even tell these owners the problem, and they will recognize that you are right -- but continue to make the same mistakes over and over.

3. Out-of-control growth. This one might be the saddest of all reasons for failure -- a successful business that is ruined by over-expansion. This would include moving into markets that are not as profitable, experiencing growing pains that damage the business, or borrowing too much money in an attempt to keep growth at a particular rate. Sometimes less is more.

4. Poor accounting. You cannot be in control of a business if you don't know what is going on. With bad numbers, or no numbers, a company is flying blind, and it happens all of the time. Why? For one thing, it is a common -- and disastrous -- misconception that an outside accounting firm hired primarily to do the taxes will keep watch over the business. In reality, that is the job of the chief financial officer, one of the many hats an entrepreneur has to wear until a real one is hired.

5. Lack of a cash cushion. If we have learned anything from this recession (I know it's "over" but my customers don't seem to have gotten the memo), it's that business is cyclical and that bad things can and will happen over time -- the loss of an important customer or critical employee, the arrival of a new competitor, the filing of a lawsuit. These things can all stress the finances of a company. If that company is already out of cash (and borrowing potential), it may not be able to recover.

6. Operational mediocrity. I have never met a business owner who described his or her operation as mediocre. But we can't all be above average. Repeat and referral business is critical for most businesses, as is some degree of marketing (depending on the business).

7. Operational inefficiencies. Paying too much for rent, labor, and materials. Now more than ever, the lean companies are at an advantage. Not having the tenacity or stomach to negotiate terms that are reflective of today's economy may leave a company uncompetitive.

8. Dysfunctional management. Lack of focus, vision, planning, standards and everything else that goes into good management. Throw fighting partners or unhappy relatives into the mix, and you have a disaster.

9. The lack of a succession plan. We're talking nepotism, power struggles, significant players being replaced by people who are in over their heads -- all reasons many family businesses do not make it to the next generation.

10. A declining market. Book stores, music stores, printing businesses and many others are dealing with changes in technology, consumer demand, and competition from huge companies with more buying power and advertising dollars.

In life, you may have forgiving friends and relatives, but entrepreneurship is rarely forgiving. Eventually, everything shows up in the soup. If people don't like the soup, employees stop working for you, and customers stop doing business with you. And that is why businesses fail.

Jay Goltz owns five small businesses in Chicago.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Top 5 Streams of Income in 2011

By Ronald Cagape

What money-making opportunities will 2011 bring you? Obviously, not everyone is going to make money in real estate so let’s take a look at other opportunities to create multiple streams of income in 2011.

#1 Real Estate.

Obviously Real Estate will top my list. There are increasing opportunities to make money in real estate. If you bought pre-selling condominiums you have the option to lease it or flip it to an end-buyer for a big bundle of cash.

There are still more condominium projects in the pipeline from top developers so there are also opportunities to make money as a broker or agent.

For the bold, there is opportunity for rehabbing, renovating and reselling properties. Beware, though, you don’t want to be stuck with a property when the property market goes on a downturn.

#2 Paper.

According to my online stockbroker, the Philippine stock market is on a bullish cycle. This means, the market is on a confirmed up-trend so there are opportunities for buying and selling of stocks. The PSEi is projected to rise to 5200 from the current level of 4000 – a projected 30% increase.

#3 Travel & Tourism.

Even with the Pilipinas Kay Ganda fiasco, travel & tourism will boom in 2011. Leading the charge is the Underground River in Puerto Princesa, Palawan, voted as a finalist in the New 7 Wonders of Nature. The boom in this industry will provide more opportunities for Tour Guides, Travel Agents and Travel Writers.

#4 Business Process Outsourcing.

The recent global recession has forced companies to cut costs and keep staffs lean. What better way to reduce costs than to outsource various business process overseas? This trend will provide income opportunities to Virtual Assistants, Web Developers, Engineering Consultants and Graphic Designers among many others.

And don’t forget that the Philippines stands to receive the lion’s share of Call Center outsourcing after being named the top call center destination in the world.

#5 Internet Marketing.

Next to real estate, this is current favorite. As broadband penetration in the Philippines increases, the use of the internet (and mobile internet for that matter) is bound to increase and create many business opportunities. There’s so many ways to make money in internet marketing and I’m sure you can already notice the many seminars and courses to make money online.

Exercise caution though because many of these so-called gurus have not actually made online but they make money teaching other people how to make money.

This list is a mix of opportunities for earned, passive and portfolio income. Depending on where you are in your journey, there are many opportunities to make money in 2011.

Also, this is not a comprehensive list by any means so feel free to add your income picks for 2011 in the comments section below.