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Strike a Balance. Don’t Make Your Business Your Life

Fail here and the other stuff doesn’t really matter.

I?m big on my business, but I?m so much bigger on spending time with my family (been married 34+ years), working at my church, enjoying hobbies like golf and working out. My wife and I enjoy eating and drinking well, too. These are the things that give me true joy and happiness.

Now if my business is struggling, the job and happiness takes a hit. The stress this creates gets in the way. Of course it does. But let me be clear. My life comes ahead of my business.

It’s easy to lose this perspective. I’m in year 6 of my business and my first few years were stressful. It felt like I was flying a plane a few inches above the treeline with a chance I’d be hitting something any time. All I did was work. I was making very slow progress and move ahead and I decided to “suck it up” and make this business happen.

It did take a toll on my life. I felt like I was always tired even after a good night’s sleep. My marriage and relationship with my wife suffered. I wasn’t happy. I felt all beat up. Those are the tolls a business will take out on you. I don’t know if I could have done it any other way.

At one point I did have to ask myself, “What is it you really want and is this it?” Around 3 years back, I decided to make some changes. Even though I didn’t have the time, I started back my involvement at church. I joined the prison ministry. I started working out more consistently. I made it a priority to build a team around me that I could offload work and responsibilities to.

Am I there yet? Not really. Am I happier now? Absolutely. Do I have plans to make myself less and less critical in the day-to-day of my business. A big “yes” to that.

Make sure you find your balance. I have the luxury of having grown kids so I don’t have to spend much time with them. Don’t short them. That can have some really big repercussions and you can’t fix that damage easily. If you don’t find that balance, the only thing you may have in your life is your business and that will be surrounded by a minefield of trouble everywhere else.

That’s probably not what you want so make the necessary changes.

Get Real. Your Business Won?t Run on Leprechauns and Unicorns

If you want to start a business and survive financially and emotionally, you?d better have a plan. You can assume your business won?t make much money at the start. You should be extremely conservative in estimating revenue. If you think you?ll start making money in six months, assume it will be a year. If you think expenses will be X, assume they will be 2x. That?s just the way a new business works.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • If you are married or have a significant other, does that other person support this decision?
  • Does your partner make enough to pay your bills and keep you afloat? Is that enough to keep you going indefinitely? If not, how long?
  • What do your savings look like? Can you rely on them if things don?t go so well? Are you and your partner willing to go through what it takes?
  • Can you cut back on expenses? Can you move in with parents, relatives or friends? Is working from home an option to reduce expenses?

You can?t run your life and your business on leprechauns and unicorns. You need a realistic plan. The statistics are against you. They say that half of all businesses fail in the first few years. Look up the latest stats. They will sober you up fast.

If you are in a relationship, I highly recommend you take inventory of you and your mate?s emotional perspective on this plan of yours. I?ve worked with job hunters and people starting businesses. What I have seen in any good partnership is that you have an optimist and a pessimist. You have a realist and an idealist. You have someone who needs more emotional and financial security than the other one. These differences are good so your plan is reviewed from both perspectives. My advice is to be real. Just because you?re cool with this new adventure of yours, doesn?t mean your mate will see things the same way.

I started my business in February 2011. It was a side job I started while I was employed. Initially, all I wanted was extra income. Three years later, I was making as much money ?on the side? as I was with my ?day job.? Then in December 2013, my employer let me go.

Now let me run you through my scenario. I was the primary breadwinner. I had come through several job losses in the previous 10 years and we had a good amount of debt. We had two kids in college and the expenses that go with that.

With my main and side job, I was doing well. But with only one of the two, I wasn?t.

Losing my job put me at a crossroad. Did I go and look for another job to give me more time to grow my side business? Did I suck it up and go for it?

Mistakes To Avoid When Pricing Your Stuff

Pricing doesn’t have to be as hard as you think.

Years ago when I started my business, I had a mentor who watched how I was selling and pricing my stuff and he told me, “Jorge, you aren’t selling to you.” That was a real eye opener. It was something that changed the way I approached potential customers needing what I had to offer.

I’m a type of buyer that over analyzes everything. It’s driven by my engineering and technical background. I tend to over justify everything I buy.

What I would do then was go overboard in my sales copy. I felt I had to describe everything my potential customer could ever want to know and justify why they should buy.

What I was showing them was a feature list. I would list out all that was included and failed to tell them all the benefits this thing they wanted could do for them. I was looking at what I did as the builder of the thing instead of as the buyer of the thing.

Big mistake.

What I learned years later, which was also a big help, was the big difference between what any two people would pay for the same item. The difference could be thousands of dollars. This was a blind spot I had and I’ve included the exercise I went through that gave me the discovery.  Watch the video for the exercise.

Three Harmful Fears That Will Guarantee Business Failure

I can’t afford to do that.? Can you NOT afford to do that?

You’ve got enough to deal with in your business.  There are cash flow issues, employees that don’t perform and products you thought would sell that don’t.  The last thing you need are problems you can avoid.  You don’t need the consequences you get because of fears that keep you from doing things you should be doing.

So let’s jump right and go over these fears you might have and discover which ones are lurking in your mental closet.

Fear #1 – Fear of confrontation

I know a lot of people that struggle with this.  I know a lot of people who deal with the consequences that come when you or someone around you avoids confronting people that need confronting.  It could be you have an employee that treats another unfairly or is just plain rude.  Then you have a boss, who fears confrontation, keeps them from having the touchy conversation to address the issue.  It could be you have a vendor that generally does well, but falls short at some specific areas that affect you.  Then you have the vendor manager with the excuse of not wanting to strain the relationship of that.  The real problem is they don’t like confrontations.

What happens is the anxiety over the conversation is more menacing to the person than the problem you need addressed.  You hit a deadlock that goes no where.  It’s unfortunate that the delay in getting the issue resolved is usually followed by resentment by someone involved because some problem just lingers.

This was a fear I had to deal with in my younger years.  As I hit my late 40s and then my 50s, I taught myself how to overcomes this.  My inaction because of the fear has caused me some damage and sometimes it still does.  My natural slant is to avoid ruffling someone’s feathers if I don’t need to.  Unfortunately, it means I’m not ruffling feathers that need ruffling and postponing solving problems that I could easily solve more quickly.

I say I taught myself to get over this, but it just sort of happened.  I noticed when I had some bigger confrontations I needed to address that the anxiety I felt leading up to the conversation far exceeded the anxiety I felt having the conversation.  It was all in my head. When I did have these uncomfortable conversations, more times than not, it went more smoothly than my worst case scenario thing.  I got the problem addressed and felt so relieved afterwards.  After doing it enough times, and I mean a lot of times, I thought, “Boy, all this worry and anxiety is so stupid,” and I embraced it.  I don’t thrive on confrontations, but now I handle them so much better and it’s a part of the new less fearful me.

If you are running your business, you have enough to do.  Don’t pile on more work and difficulties because you don’t want to face this fear.   Don’t wait like I did and start getting over this fear.  You’ll be a lot better in business and life because of it.

Fear #2 – Money fears

Everyone getting into business has to deal with their own money issues.  And there are fears that start in childhood probably before you were five.  Some people grow up poor or in families where frugality was cherished.  Others didn’t have to deal with money issues because there was plenty to go around.

When dealing with customers, employees, partner companies and personal friends, you’d be surprised how differently we look at pricing, spending, debt and everything that goes with money.

With that in mind, you have to remember that cash is king.  It’s like the gas you put in the car.  You can have a super car, but if you have no gas it goes nowhere.  Most business owners, and I include myself here, charge too little for what they do.  We compare ourselves to competitors that are farther along and we do see ourselves as worthy of charging more.  We may also feel the crunch in our personal expenses needing the money badly and that causes us to lower prices to make sure we get the deal on price.

This will hurt you badly.

I don’t have forever here in this article, but all this works together with our own built in fear of failure and we have to face this head on.  I have gone from being overly careful when talking about money, that was caused by my fears, to being very “matter of fact” about it.  I mean if I’m talking about building a website for someone, I’m pretty matter of fact about asking for requirements and working out the details with the customer.  Why should I be any different when getting to the money part…except that it plays into our feeling and issues with money.

In conversation I have with potential customers, I’ve built in the line, “Can I get your credit card number we can get started with this?”  Some people hear me do that and think that’s a little gutsy.  It’s not.  I have something these people need.  I’m not doing it for free.  WE have to agree on price.  A lot of times, it our money related fears or our fear of getting the, “No” that keeps us from going there.

I’ve been through a lot of training and work to figure this out for myself.  My advice is figure out a way to pretty much “get over it.”  The biggest struggle I have had in my business and the biggest problem anyone has in running their business is they aren’t making enough money.  Make it a point of identifying what is it that holds you back.  Get this fixed before it causes you a lot of problem and these will directly affect your bottom line.

Fear #3 – Fear of losing control

Control freak bosses are the worst.  They are into every detail and make the lives of the people that work for them impossible.  The absolute most important problem I deal with in my business is that there is only one of me and I’m usually the biggest bottleneck.  There are things on my to do list that are keeping others on my team from finishing something and that something is usually something that holds up a customer project.

In one of my earlier lessons, I asked readers to decide, “Do you want a job or do you want a business?”  If you want a job, being a control freak can work.  You aren’t planning to scale your operations and you are doing everything yourself, then this isn’t so bad.  Now if instead you want a business, meaning something that runs without you, you MUST get over this fear.

You have to train yourself, if you’re not good at delegating, to become a really good one.  You MUST learn to hire and train people.  You have to strive to find people that are better than you at doing what you need done so they become your teacher.  It’s a real changing in thinking if you are a controller, but it’s one that will pay off in a big way if you learn to master it.

When you start a business, you’re going be cash strapped.  It’s almost a given.  There are things you know you MUST do, but then there’s not enough money to do them.

This dilemma affects you in two ways.

First, it stalls progress.  There is something you need to get done and then you have to hold it up or do it poorly because you can’t figure out how to pay for it.  Second, it pulls you, business owner and your business’ most critical resource, into things you probably shouldn’t be doing.  The first one is an issue. The second one can kill your business.

As we start growing our business, because we’ve been doing things ourselves, we grab onto things and often keep hanging on just because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  It becomes a habit that stifles us and then the challenge is breaking the habit.

When I started my business, I was talking to a colleague about an Infusionsoft user conference I just had to attend.  I had just discovered this cool new tool and saw huge potential for using that in my business and for my customers.  The problem was I didn’t have the money to pay for the travel expenses.  I remember telling my colleague, “If I land this deal, I’m going to that conference.”

She had seen how important going to that conference was based on what I wanted to accomplish and she challenged me right there.  She said, “Jorge, if you need to go to that conference, figure out a way to get yourself there.”  She made me realize the messed up thinking I was using.

I did figure out a way and attending that conference changed my business and it changed me.  I now run an Infusionsoft consulting business with a specialization building membership sites in that space.  Attending that conference not only taught me a lot,  but it enabled me to join a mastermind group (something else I couldn’t afford), without which I wouldn’t be in the business I’m in today.  The relationships and knowledge I gained from that group taught me what I needed to transform my business into what it is today.

Now I’m not advocating out of control spending nor am I saying get into huge debt.  I am telling you that a cash strapped business owner must keep themselves away from cash strapped thinking.  There are critical things we must do in our role.  There are those that are best hired out.  In order to succeed in your business you MUST figure out ways to get things done and even hire people before you can afford them because waiting and delaying what must be done can destroy your business and keep you from opportunities that are clearly yours to have.

Are You Dealing With a Cash Strapped Mindset?

I can’t afford to do that.  Can you NOT afford to do that?

When you start a business, you’re going be cash strapped.  It’s almost a given.  There are things you know you MUST do, but then there’s not enough money to do them.

This dilemma affects you in two ways.

First, it stalls progress.  There is something you need to get done and then you have to hold it up or do it poorly because you can’t figure out how to pay for it.  Second, it pulls you, business owner and your business’ most critical resource, into things you probably shouldn’t be doing.  The first one is an issue. The second one can kill your business.

As we start growing our business, because we’ve been doing things ourselves, we grab onto things and often keep hanging on just because that’s the way we’ve always done it.  It becomes a habit that stifles us and then the challenge is breaking the habit.

When I started my business, I was talking to a colleague about an Infusionsoft user conference I just had to attend.  I had just discovered this cool new tool and saw huge potential for using that in my business and for my customers.  The problem was I didn’t have the money to pay for the travel expenses.  I remember telling my colleague, “If I land this deal, I’m going to that conference.”

She had seen how important going to that conference was based on what I wanted to accomplish and she challenged me right there.  She said, “Jorge, if you need to go to that conference, figure out a way to get yourself there.”  She made me realize the messed up thinking I was using.

I did figure out a way and attending that conference changed my business and it changed me.  I now run an Infusionsoft consulting business with a specialization building membership sites in that space.  Attending that conference not only taught me a lot,  but it enabled me to join a mastermind group (something else I couldn’t afford), without which I wouldn’t be in the business I’m in today.  The relationships and knowledge I gained from that group taught me what I needed to transform my business into what it is today.

Now I’m not advocating out of control spending nor am I saying get into huge debt.  I am telling you that a cash strapped business owner must keep themselves away from cash strapped thinking.  There are critical things we must do in our role.  There are those that are best hired out.  In order to succeed in your business you MUST figure out ways to get things done and even hire people before you can afford them because waiting and delaying what must be done can destroy your business and keep you from opportunities that are clearly yours to have.

Sipping Margaritas on the Beach? Get Real

A lot of business owners see all the hype around online marketing and feel they’re missing out.  You see so much from the so called gurus, many of which are working to sell you their programs.  The story is that with the right formula or online program or blueprint or whatever else they can provide, you can:

  • sit back and watch the money show up while you sleep,
  • vacation in exotic locations, and
  • buy expensive cars and houses.

A lot of the hype centers around achieving what they call passive income.  It’s the kind of money that shows up without you having to do anything.  You get money when you aren’t at work, are sleeping or on vacation.

I’ve been in this space for over a decade.  I’ve worked with a lot of people that have used online marketing to make a lot of money.  I’ve seen how they work.  I’ve seen how they do what they do.  I have yet to see one of them that spends their lives sitting on the beach sipping margaritas.  Sure they do vacation in some really nice places, but for the most part, they are hard workers that set up a business that supports them well.  For the most successful ones, it supports them really well.

We’d all like to make money for nothing, but I’d like to give you more realistic goals. This one isn’t make believe and it’s achievable.  We should all be working towards a business that eventually doesn’t need us.  This would be a restaurant owner that has a management team that runs the place for you.  It’s a consulting company that relies heavily on online systems to deliver a good amount of the training instead of 1-on-1 coach to student teaching.

A goal like this sets you up for success.  Listen in on a short presentation by Gary Vaynerchuk where he discusses the fallacy of passive income.

Video Source: Gary Vaynerchuk’s Facebook Page

How Hard Is Starting My Own Business? I Mean Really.

Why not learn from others that have gone before you?

Starting my own business was the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life.  I’m not exaggerating.  If you are thinking of starting your own business and you think it’s going to be hard, I want you to multiply what you think is hard by 10.  I really mean it.

If you think sales will start at $1000 a month, assume it will be $100 a month.  If you think you’ll start matching what you make today in a year, assume it will be 4 years.  And all your planning, assume everything will be much harder than what you expect it to be.

Why am I saying this?  Because I’ve done it.  I’m in year 6 of my business.  I’d love to tell you this is already a walk in the park, but it isn’t.  I know how hard it is…and still.  If I had to do it all over again, I would.  The thought of going back to working for someone else sounds like a death sentence to me.  I’m doing this no matter what.  I’m not giving up.

That said, let’s be real.  Let’s not make this any harder on ourselves than it has to be.

Story time.  My 98 year old grandfather passed away last year.  He was one of those guys that always had some good advice to give.  And he was the type of granddad whose advice you welcome.  I am very blessed.

Back in the 40’s, my grandfather was living in Cuba and wanted to start a bicycle import business.  He saw an opportunity and wanted at it.  What he told me concerning that is you never learn on your own time.  “Business it too hard,” he told me.  Work for someone else doing what it is you want to do.  Learn from them and make your mistake working for them.  There’s nothing like learning by doing what it is you want to do working for someone else.  You get first hand access to an expert.

In order to prepare, my grandfather moved his young family from warm Havana to Long Island, NY in the winter time.  He was set to work for a guy that was in that bicycle business.  He told me it was so cheap renting a place in Long Island because no one wanted to be there in the winter.  “It was freezing,” he told me which is anything under 60 for a Cuban.  So my warm blooded granddad, grandma, my mom and uncle stuck it out in NY so he could learn.

My point here is to do your homework.  Forget about gut feel, hunches and blind dreaming.  Find out what it is you want to do and figure out a way to learn from people who already do it.  You will be up against so many, many, many (did I say many) things.  The last thing you need is to be blind sided by things you should have known before you started.

Question:  What steps can you take to become an expert in your business field so you can avoid mistakes that could be what forces you to shut your business down?

Do You Want a Job or a Business?

Make sure and decide before you start so you have a guide.

When anyone starts a business, they typically start doing what they know best.  If you’re a lawyer, you start a firm and offer legal services.  If you’re a plumber, you load up your truck to work on people’s leaks and stopped up pipes.  A chef opens up a restaurant and provides you with a good meal.

This is typically how businesses start.  What I want to point out here is that a business can stay that way or it can decide to change.  That’s why I refer to these as “a job” or “a business.”

Most of us start working a job for someone else.  Then we think to ourselves, “I want to start a business.”  That’s what we call it, but what we really have is a job where we work for ourselves.

Why does this matter?

I recently moved into a new place and needed a handyman.  We hired Hector who’s been doing work for us and people we know a long time.  He set up some closets, installed a door frame, hung some TVs and a few other things.  He’s been doing this a long time and he’s probably going to continue doing it for long time to come.  I hope he continues because we need him.

A few days later, our plumbing backed up…and on a Sunday.  We called my sister’s “guy” who came over right away.  He was up on the roof in the pouring rain with lightning (OUCH!) snaking our my pipes.  An hour later, the pipes were work and he got his pay.

Both of these guys are great at what they do.  They are both in their 50s making a decent living.  What they are doing is exchanging their time for money.  Depending on what you can do, you can do very well this way, but there are only two ways to increase your income.  You raise your prices or work longer hours.

So the new things a lot of people call “a business” is really “a job.”

It’s completely dependent on you.  If you don’t show up, you don’t get paid.  If you want to take time off, it’s non-paid.  You are the thing that must be present for your business to continue.

I’d like you to consider another option.  I call “a business” something that’s independent of you.  It makes you money without you having to be there.  You have people and systems in place that run the business for you.  You job then is to work on how to make that business run better and better.

So my challenge to you is to decide now.  If you are planning to start a business do this upfront.  If you are already in business, decide what is it you want to do.  Do you want a job or do you want a business?  With that decision made, you can make short and long term decisions in light of that in order to reach the goal you have set for yourself.

Now this isn’t something you go out a do tomorrow.? You don’t just say, “I want one of these Jorge businesses because that looks like the way to go.”? It’s a target you set for yourself.? It’s a goal, so if you decide you want “a business,” that guides you as you transition yourself from a job to this business I’m talking about.

Multiple choice question: Do I want a job or do I want a business?