Friday, February 19, 2010

Business 2010 – A Time for Optimism and Work

Even though it has been a long haul, it’s nice to see some optimism on the horizon for 2010. Just yesterday, a new study “U.S. Small Business Outlook 2010: Lessons Learned – A Case for Greater Optimism,” was published by CIT Group, Inc., in conjunction with Forbes Insights. It shows that small business owners feel more confident and better positioned than ever.

They feel the lessons learned during the past 12-18 months have not only helped them survive, but nearly half agreed that the recession exposed flaws in their business strategies that were previously not apparent, and they could fix. Here are some areas of emphasis highlighted:
  • Better cash flow controls. Obviously, falling income over the past two years put additional pressure on small business cash flow. Some companies turned to cutbacks over boosting financial reserves. Others focused on reducing overhead and expenses, but they needed a balanced strategy, along with new lines of credit and financing.

  • More focus on strategic planning. Small business owners recognize the importance of planning amid the new economic environment and want to spend more time doing it. Only 44% indicated they had a strategy in place during the recession, or to guide growth during the coming recovery period. More work needed.

  • Increased business role in US economic recovery. Small businesses now believe they have played a key role in the U.S. economic recovery, but in spite of, rather than assisted by, support from the federal government. Still, they are fighting for action, particularly in the area of higher Small Business Administration (SBA) loan limits.

  • Increase operating efficiencies. A majority of small business leaders intend to be more aggressive in 2010 by implementing a range of actions to advance their businesses. A full 59% of respondents cited a greater focus on operating efficiencies as the number one step to achieving growth in 2010.

  • Add new revenue streams, and more aggressive marketing. At the same time, 62% plan to invest more in marketing and advertising, while 50% will invest in expansion and 46% will pursue new revenue streams. Another approach is to diversify and broaden the product lines and services.

  • Grab market share from competitors. Seventy-eight percent of respondents acknowledged that the old way of doing business will no longer work and that they need to find new ways to take advantage of market opportunities. Many are planning to be more aggressive in grabbing market share from competitors.
A majority of the small business owners surveyed indicate greater optimism about their 2010 growth prospects, with 60% of respondents expecting their companies to grow this year. Less than a third expect their revenues to be flat and just 12% anticipate a decline.

At the same time, small business owners are still feeling the pressure of the current economic environment, with 71% agreeing that they are working harder and longer than ever before, and nearly a third indicating that the recession has made them doubt their commitment to running a small business.

My take on all this is that entrepreneurs are starting to see some light at the end of the tunnel, and the light is no longer a freight train heading straight at them. We always learn more when times are tough, and we should come away with more strength and determination, as well as real results. Soak up the optimism, shore up your seawalls, and see your ship come in.

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Entrepreneurs are Survivors, Never Victims

Entrepreneurs are Survivors, Never Victims
People with a victim mentality should never be entrepreneurs. We all know the role of starting and running a business is unpredictable, and has a high risk of failure. For people with a victim mentality, this fear of failure alone will almost certainly make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I’m sure you all know someone who is the perennial victim. The problem is that most of these people aren’t likely to accept your assessment, so it’s hard to help them. They don’t see themselves as others see them, and many simply refuse to accept the reality of the world in general.

According to an article by Karl Perera, called “Victim Mentality - You Don't Have to Suffer!” there are many indications of a victim mentality in a person’s thought process. Here are some key ones he mentioned, applied to the entrepreneurial environment:

1. “When things don’t work, I secretly believe I’m the cause.” Victims act as though each business setback is a catastrophe and create stress for themselves. These people feel more importance and ego when relating problems rather than successes.

A survivor believes that bad things are an anomaly to be brushed off, or just another challenge to overcome. In fact, they look forward to the challenges, and get their most satisfaction from declaring success.

2. “When I talk to myself, I never have a positive discussion.” Second-guessing every decision affects mood, behavior, and happiness, and is likely to cause or intensify a victim mentality. If you are negative, you cannot see reality, leading to more bad decisions, confirming you are indeed a victim.

Survivors continually relive their positives, and see themselves as miracle workers. They live in the present or the future, and rarely dwell on mistakes of the past. They have faith in themselves, and life as a whole.

3. “When others put me down, I‘m wounded to the soul.” Negative comments from others are devastating to you. Offensive behavior towards you actually says more about the other person. But if you have a negative mentality you will just take what they say or do at face value, and believe that you deserve to be the victim.

The survivor always stands up and fights negative comments, and usually turns the blame back on the deliverer. He is quick to counter with all his positives. He builds boundaries around negative or toxic people, and avoids them at all costs.

4. “I believe in fate, even though it’s unfair.” If you succumb to fate, then you think you are responsible for all the bad things that happen to your business. The victim feels that he or she has been treated unfairly but is trapped. There seems to be no way out.

Survivors believe that they can make things happen, rather than let things happen to them. They accept random turns in their life as new opportunities, rather than unfair punishment.

5. “God punishes for a reason.” Religious beliefs can have a positive or negative affect on your life. If you believe in a God who is responsible for everything, it’s easy to believe that your pain and misery is punishment for something you did wrong.

Survivors obviously take it the other way. They enjoy a personal relationship with the God of their understanding, and feel a gratitude for everything positive in their life. They may ask their God for help, but rely on themselves for results.

This victim mentality is not a good thing under any circumstances, but it’s particularly lethal when applied to an entrepreneur. If you would like to be an entrepreneur, remember that you don't have to be a victim. Take a hard look in the mirror. Truly the only one who makes you feel like one is the same person who can make you a survivor - you!

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