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My social media community consists of new entrepreneurs in all age groups: tweens, teens, young adults, middle agers and seniors. My most seasoned follower is 90+ years young. She inboxes me a thumb up every now and then. It makes me smile. Whenever I am hosting an event or helping someone to find a reliable resource, as much as possible I pull from my online community because within my network are some of the sharpest, brightest entrepreneurs, creators, and doers. I get to watch how they do business over time so I get to see the reviews, the attitudes, the professionalism or the lack thereof. And, yes, there definitely are levels in my community. This gives me a range of personalities from which to draw resources.
Many of my followers are product gurus, meaning they are subject matter experts (SMEs) on the products or services they provide in the marketplace. However, with the exception of the ones I met in various learning situations, for the most part my social media network members have little to no knowledge of business or do not know what it takes to keep a business afloat. Now wait a minute…before you start to feel some kind of way thinking I’m be overly critical…the statistics bear me out. Depending on which industry their precious product or service follows, the failure rate ranges between fifty and ninety percent. Whoa! Now, this percentage isn’t because everyone has a bad idea nor is it because they have bad products. Most new entrepreneurs go into business without being properly educated in the subject of….”business.”
For this reason, when new entrepreneurs do business with me or contact me to see how to begin doing business, most times, I will offer them basic tips to help them look more polished. Some thank me and use the information to fine tune their approach, but then there are those who become offended. The ones who become offended are probably the ones who will close in 3-5 years because they are too head strong to listen to what me or their customers are telling them.
The “build it and they will come” approach only worked in that movie for Kevin. No one is required to pay you for your business idea. Customers are a privilege and should be treated as such. Therefore, it behooves smart business owners to listen to the advice from people who have been in business longer. Being cocky and impatient with your customers and business peers serves no one and most of all it could derail your wonderful business idea. If trusting the information you receive is an issue, I suggest getting a mentor as soon as possible so you can bounce ideas around.
New entrepreneurs should know as much, if not more, about the financials, marketing, sales, break even points, sales margins, profit margins, target customers, etc., as they do their product. Failure to spend time learning these things is a true recipe for the potential of failure. Find a community business class or take classes offered at a college. The investment will be worth it in the long run and will help the business to become sustainable. The Small Business Administration (www.sba.gov) has free information in person and online. It is the most under used resource in the business community. SCORE (www.score.org) is another invaluable resource that most new business owners fail to utilize.
Regardless of the new entrepreneur’s age, the ears and the ability to use them to perform active listening is paramount in the entrepreneur arena. There is so much to learn that new business owners have no idea how much they really don’t know. The first five years are crucial to their longevity and so it is imperative that they follow the “two ears, one mouth rule” by talking less and listening more. Applying this rule and soaking up all the information they can find to build their business acumen in their industry will help them to become experts and strong competitors. Couple that strength with patience and perseverance and they will be around for the long run. Dear new entrepreneur…your most valuable tools are your ears. Learn to use them well. All the best.
Linda Murray Bullard
Chief Business Strategist
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I love planting seeds and watching them grow into beautiful plants and flowers that provide natural fragrances whenever I get the opportunity to sit on either of my front decks. The fragrances are wonderful, but there is another reason I love planting plants and flowers. The maintenance of them nourishes my spirit and educates my soul.
While purging the weeds and helping my flowers to reach for the sun, I always listen for the tales of Nature. Nature always provides a training session that I can apply to my life, if I just slow my pace and listen. Just like a bee knows where to find the nectar of the flower, if I listen, I find the nectar in Nature’s life lessons.
Recently, while pulling weeds I noticed something about my hydrangeas and my knockout roses. I planted them right after I built the house. They hydrangeas were puny and didn’t look like they were going to make it. I became worried if they would survive those first years with all the snow we had.
Actual 2008 picture of Hydrangea Plant
I think the hydrangea was actually mowed over once. Poor thing, it didn’t look to well. One year, I think it decided not to even try to grow. The knock out roses received praises from everyone from the neighbors to the mailmen to the random passerby. They were glorious and went well with the previous color scheme. They stood tall and proud. I would receive cuts and scrapes every time I tried to pull weeds from killing them. Ouch!
The Hydrangea, was self-contained, but solid. it kept the weeds away and grew tightly knitted so weeds were easily removed without any problems at all. I noticed that the rose bushes had all types of weeds, although it was full of thorns for protection, it would constantly allow whatever predator invade its space without any fight at all. It looked good, but it never protected itself. The only person it protected itself from was ME! Ouch! Every time I tried to kill the weeds, I was attacked by the rosebush! It loved hanging with weeds! It enjoyed being diseased. It seem to enjoy being crippled and attacked. The rosebush enjoyed the abuse so much until it was hard for me to tell where the weeds started and the rosebush ended. In what seemed like overnight, soon there was no sign of the rosebush at all, only a big tree in the place of what used to be a rosebush. The tree looked nothing like the rosebush at all. Although it fought me every single time; it gave over to the tree without any incident at all.
In the meantime, the hydrangea continued to grow in its many colors and became huge. It only had an occasional weed and soon overpowered anything that came for it. It was determined to survive. Nothing could overtake it. It would adjust its color to the ph balance in the ground and go from purple to blue to white. It was a huge beautiful plant that although it did not have all the beauty of the roses starting out, it endured until the end and actually lasted longer than the roses. I purchased ten rosebushes and two hydrangeas. I now have two each. The hydrangeas are just as big as the rosebushes. They are continuing to grow.
Moral: It doesn’t matter what you started out with. If you are determined to grow and survive, you are built to last. Apply yourself toward learning. Learn how to become stronger…more knowledgeable of those things you don’t know…be like the hydrangeas. Nothing can stop you. It’s not how your start out, but how you end. You were built to ENDURE.
Linda Murray Bullard, MBA
Lead Business Strategist
What is it that makes you keep going? I get asked that one question most often. Other than the obligation I feel in making a path for my Suns, the only thing I can tell you is it is in my DNA. Something inside of me does not allow me to settle for the status quo in my life. I have been in a room filled with people and felt very alone. I have been in a large room with only one person and feel overcrowded.
Am I different from most people…sometimes. Yet that response really depends on the group of people being referenced. I know what it is like to be extraordinary. However, I’ve been in certain groups and in certain places where I have felt right at home. In the following paragraphs, I will use what I have learned about being a creative to summarize what I believe are the differences in the self-motivation of the different types of people I have met in my life.
For the people who are similar to me, I will call us the Audacious Type . We have a third eye. We don’t need people to tell us what need to be done, because when we see something needs to be done, we get it done. Something in our bloodstream heats up and we jump to it. No questions asked. It’s an autopilot thing.
So far in my walk, I’ve been able to identify with people who “take the bull by the horns.” We see a problem and find a solution. We feed off each other and speak the same language. For those who are just beginning their journey, it’s like, “YESSSS…YOU FEEL ME!!” For those who have been on this path for a minute, we literally finish each others’ sentences.
For those who have been on this journey for years, I seek out these people. I call them the Futures. They hold the hidden secrets that I have sought all of my life. In their presence, time has no boundaries and speeds up without ever considering age or space. They are the true gurus who pass the knowledge back to me for they have experiences I’ve yet to conquer. The nuggets they share help us to guide the newcomers forward. They feed us and we feed the ones who come behind us.
When in the presence of these precious, rare jewels, I am not DIFFERENT. My position is student. I am to just be and so are they. I’ve been in a room with hundreds of various ages who were just like us. When we are together, the energy is so high it can be felt as it swirls throughout the space. Information is shared and exchanged. Connections are made and lives are changed. One by one and all at the same time. The energy is so high, it must be equal to the addiction the addicts seek to repeat over and over again. With us, it only occurs when we are in spaces where all of us are the same and allowed to be different!
There are people who would be like us if we would just tell them what to do next. They are the Nexters. These people are always welcomed because around us, their lights shine just as bright. Once lit, their inspiration thrives and survives. Their wicks become the lights for so many others. As we light them, they transform their worlds.
Then, there are the people who need constant coaxing. These are the Absorbers. They aren’t high maintenance, but they need a roommate who is also a life coach needing a case study. They need a little more time and consistency in cuddling. These people can be highly frustrating because you will find yourself not getting anything done, but working on them.
The final group, I will call the Drainers. These people are those that need an extensive amount of support. These people have that hidden desire, but no effort or follow through. They never get started. You can give them the information, the map, and the paper and pencil for notes. At the end of the month, they will still be where you left them. If you spend the morning coaching and consulting with them, hours later they are in the same position making excuse after excuse why they never got started. Their intentions may even be good, but their efforts and desires are to remain just where they are and they will fight you tooth and nail to stay there. They might complain about their current situation, and may even give reasonable solutions to how their situation could be improved. However, they lack the drive and fortitude to make any corrections. If you press too hard they will shut completely down…and often disconnect. If they say they will get to it or make repeated excuses, your best bet is to allow them to stay where they are comfortable. Sometimes, they just want you to just hang out with them doing nothing. Believe me, if you are an Audacious Type, being around a Drainer will drive you up a wall. So keep it brief and move on.
What does it take to keep going? Begin…no matter where you are…start there. That’s the only way to get to where you are going, regardless to which personality you have been bless to become. Whatever you do…
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What I’ve learned in the past two days is it doesn’t matter what day you are born or what day you die. What matters most is how you spent your dash. People from various socio-economic backgrounds flowed in and out of Taylor Funeral Home for one reason…to pay their respects to Mr. Obbie Dial.
My Daughter-in-Love’s Father spent his life making impact on people at all ranks. He was beloved. He was admired. He was well known. He was respected. There were stories upon stories of how he loved on people, made them laughed, took their pictures, made them think…made them feel important and beautiful.
His picture taking skills are matched by few, his humorous antics were welcomed and enjoyed by all. He loved people and the people loved him back. His dash was spent well. Influencing lives, impacting people, leaving an imprint on hearts that tugged at heartstrings in his absence. Mr. Dial was a gentleman, a father, a friend, a classmate, a grandfather, a great grandfather. He was a good man who people drove from miles to honor in his death. His untimely surmise will leave a void in so many lives, but his life filled a space in so many hearts.
May God keep Mr. Obbie Dial, Jr.’s daughter, Celestine Hampton, her brother, and the entire Dial family and friends during this very difficult time. LSMB dedicates a moment of silence for this champion of the human spirit for the impact he made and the effects of his dash.
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Every now and then, I get a chance to be human. I received an orange notification in my mailbox the other day addressed to my business. Turns out, it had been in the mailbox for four days….no, really, this get even better!
I called the post office to see if they still have it and learned they hold them for 15 days. I signed the notice and gave it to someone to pick up for me. My schedule does not fit into the opening hours of the local post office. Somewhere between the post office and returning it to me, the letter disappeared. Ok, now this is getting weird. What is this strange piece of paper related too? My instincts go into high alert, this is bad news for sure! I have a seventh sense for these things.
People just don’t send enough certified letters from the County office with refunds of overpayments or long=lost relatives leaving monies and interest anymore, now do they? Rhetorical question, I know. Anyway, I decide to call to see if I could find out just who sent me the letter and to see what I could do for them.
Turns out, it was not the business license department, so I nervously asked the lady (she wouldn’t give me her name) on the other end to transfer me to business tax office. The red flags are flying like I’m coming in for a landing!
Once transfered, the lady was very polite. She gave her name and after a few minutes of research said, “Yes, it was from this office…” That pounding in my ear almost made her inaudible. All I wanted to know is how much do I owe.
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I made a horrible mistake! I am usually a very thorough top performer, but I relied on technology much too much and it failed me…horribly! Truth is…I never realized it failed me until it was too late to recover from the failure. That was so embarrassing. It was totally my fault. There was not one other person I could blame. I totally dropped the ball!
And, boy…did it drop with a thud that could be heard around the world!! How many times have we admitted total, unadulterated, complete, and utter failure? Not once, but layers upon layers, upon layers of failure. What a horrible feeling! How do we recover? The incident plays like our favorite song on rewind in our mind.
I did not do the work. I did not meet the deadline. I did not please the customers Woe is me. My performance for this one day was not what it has been for the other 364 days of my work year. I did not pass “GO”, I must go straight to Failures Jail. The $200 goes back into the bankers’ drawer. Every now and then, I’m reminded of my “humanness.” If that isn’t a word, it should be.
That is when I cannot do anything right. Usually, it is starts with a build, one thing goes wrong, then another, then another then another, then another and so on…until I discover I’ve not been doing things right for several weeks or sometimes months! It is humbling, Earth shattering, and makes you see just how stupid you can be on some of the most simplest things.
Like everyone else, I pull out the balloons, streamers of tears and send the invitation for a pity party to the guest of one. That lasts right up until I get a reality check. God gives me a sign that someone is doing so much worse than I am and they are totally grateful and appreciative. The balloons are popped. The tears are dried. I pull up the big girl undies. Dust off my “S” and get back in the game. If they can fight cancer head on, if they can start a benefit after losing a child; if they can go through soul shaking tragedy and spin it into something positive, I don’t get to cry over a mistake I made at the office and neither do you.
The pity party is over and we are to keep it real. We may go there, but by no means can we stay there. Chin up, soldier…we are gathered here in this game called Life!