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Expert Answers to Biz Questions

Listen in! Pick up some expert advice to a reader's question that we selected from CyberSchmooz.

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The Biz Question

I've been in business for four years now. As we've grown (to 10 employees, from just me in my bedroom), I've learned a lot, had fun, and had some serious problems, but I'm really glad for the experiences.

My question is one that nobody every seems to ask about being in business. What's the point? I'd like to know what other people think. Most of us could make more money elsewhere. Anyone who thinks a business owner has more control of their destiny is deluding themselves. The reasons I hear over and over for going into business are so silly. After doing this for four years, I realize that any reasons I initially had were very naive. You're not your own boss -- thousands of customers are.

Personally, I feel that my old reasons have fallen by the wayside. Freedom was replaced by responsibility. I don't need bucketfuls of money and that certainly isn't a motivator for me. Don't get me wrong, I don't hate where I'm at -- I'm just at a point in my life where I'm asking why an aweful lot. : )

Anyhow, I'd be interested in seeing what some of your reasons for going into business have been, but more importantly, for folks in business for a while, what are your reasons for staying there?


Answer: from our Guest Expert Terri Andrews of The Turquoise Butterfly Press

Dear David --

It sounds to me like you have a two-part problem. One -- you ask why do people stay in business when the path to success is filled with obstacles, and two -- how do you keep the enthusiasm for the endeavor fired up? Well... I think I have some answers for you.

My very first entrepreneurial experience was acting as an "Independent Wholesaler of Live Inventory" for a local bait store. I was young and determined -- and the income was more than I had ever hoped for. Okay, okay... so in reality I was collecting worms in a canning jar and selling them to my grandpa for $5.00 a quart. What can I say? I was only 7 years old and it sure felt like the big-time! And when grandpa laid that first five dollar bill into the palm of my little hand I knew, then and there, that the business bug had snagged a chunk of skin and was refusing to ever let me go.

That was 22 years and over a dozen vocational efforts ago -- but I still keep plugging away at my dream of owning a successful company. Why? Well... I share the usual goals held by most of those in the solely business "clique" -- those of owning a company that allows me the freedom to buy anything I want, sit on a beach anywhere I want and doing it all by working only 2 hours a day straight from my laptop computer.

Sigh........ but alas.. I have other reasons for my steadfast obsession for such torturous time and physical afflictions that only the self-employed have to endure. Reasons of being self-reliant, taking pride in a job that is all my own, allowing my own opinions and ideas to lead projects and staff members, and reaping the rewards from a job that is well done. These are the things that are missing to those who are employed by others.

Like you, I've pondered the "Is it all really worth it?" question -- especially when times are tough or the work has fallen into a redundant cycle. It's easy to slip into a cynical self-employment slump when your time is limited, your responsibilities are endless, cash is unpredictable and the fun has been sucked out of the whole "I'm the Boss" cliche.

When your time is taken over by obligations and the closest you get to the mai tais by the beach is slipping into the kiddy pool with a glass of fruit punch -- it's easy to become disenchanted with this whole fantasy of being your own boss. But do you really want to give up everything that you have worked so hard to build? Nah... All you need is another bite of the positively poisonous business bug to catch that fire we all had at the very beginning of our entrepreneurial endeavor.

Here are 10 tips to fire up your enthusiasm for business once again.

1. Are you overwhelming yourself with too many to-do's? This is one of the easiest ways to suck the energy right out of your day. If your to-do list looks like a never-ending novel, then you will feel overwhelmed before you even begin! Instead, list 8 goals - one for every hour. That gives you enough time to complete each assignment and if you finish early, you can revel in the satisfaction of a job well done -- and then get a head start on the next gig.

2. Visualize yourself achieving your goals. Whether it's winning an award, finishing that dreaded project or an actual work-free vacation by the ocean-side, you can mentally recharge by envisioning yourself achieving what you want more than anything.

3. Take a break and focus on yourself. By not taking care of yourself you are committing vocational suicide. YOU are the boss. Without you, your business will fail. And you WILL fail if you refuse to take care of yourself. Studies have shown that you can increase your mental and physical stamina by getting healthy! Exercising, deep breathing, eating lots of fruits, vegetables and grains, giving up some of that coffee for water and sleeping (yes, I said sleeping) can only boost your business, your endurance and your mental energy. Try it for 8 weeks and see what happens!

4. Surround yourself with positive people. Optimism can be contagious. Gather up a team of happy-go-lucky, energetic people who will feed into your self-esteem and create some infections positive energy. And if you can't afford new, or any, employees right now? Try for volunteers, interns and friends who are willing to help. Start a focus group, chat on the Internet, or join an organization of like business-oriented people. Search out these peppy people and soon you will be feeling the power of their creative vibrations.

5. Ask your employees how you can boost moral. Get some input. Is the entire office feeling this "blahness?" If so, brainstorm ways to boost their spirits. Offer parties, incentives, a suggestion box, monthly meetings, groovy music, brightly colored posters, casual (or hat) day, or "bring your kid to work day." Anything and everything to make the job fun! One business in my area keeps their employees motivated by giving away free exercise club passes, and then encouraging the staff to compete in small marathons, boating races and walking in parades.

6. Progress reports. Praise yourself and your employees with monthly progress reports. Do NOT focus on what you have NOT done -- it's all about what you HAVE done. Create a goal chart on the wall and as you reach each goal you can shade that area in with red. Once the goal chart is finished -- and on time (say - every quarter) -- do something fun and positive. A pizza lunch for the crew is a way to say "thank you." Have an employee of the quarter and send their name and picture to the newspaper. If you're working solo, take a day off to reflect and soak up the deliciousness of your achievements.

7. Inspirational reading. Do you have a successful mentor? Read all you can about their road to success. If it's possible, meet with them. Their insights and experiences will only inspire and feed your goals.

8. Chronicle your journey in a portfolio. Take a day to look back on what has brought you to your current position. Gather up photos of you in various stages of your career, any newspaper clippings, letters of achievement, awards, recognitions, profit sheets, and employees. Put this all together in a photo album and sit it on a shelf in your office. Also add new clippings into your portfolio, don't forget to look back at what you HAVE done and how far you have had to come to be where you are today.

9. Get busy on a new project or tackle a big obstacle. There's no better way to breath energy into a stale state than to start something new and exciting. If you're feeling stagnant right now it's probably because you are no longer creating and building -- you've reached a plateau and now it's time to climb another notch and see what's lying up above the next ridge. What do you want to do? Where do you want to go next? Create a business plan for your next adventure and go for it! Fuel your creative fire!

10. Lower your expectations. Are you a perfectionist? David Burns, M.D. once said "Perfection is man's ultimate illusion. It simply doesn't exist in the universe.... If you are a perfectionist, you are guaranteed to be a loser in whatever you do." Perfectionism is self-defeating, it lowers your self-esteem and is hauntingly pessimistic. Instead, lower your expectations to focus on progress only. So what if it isn't perfect? Nothing is. Gain experience with your imperfections. And if you don't believe me, listen to Bob Dylan who said "I have given up at making any attempt at perfection," yet he went on to win a Grammy Award for Lifetime Achievement. So if it works for him, it will work for you!

There are a million reasons I have for wanting to work for myself. The most important, though, is that I NEED to. I have a constant craving to see my own ideas develop -- building, searching, cultivating and progressing in MY own way. I NEED to lead, to create and to see just how far I can push myself. And when I question my own motives, or when I'm stalled within a project (wondering if I'm clinically insane for ever thinking that I can actually succeed within my chosen profession) I search out that business bug and snag a big ol' bite of it myself! Soon the enthusiastic poison is traveling through my veins, relieving all feelings of self-doubt and I become another goal closer to my sunset-filled dream of mixed drinks, exotic places and ocean breezes.


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