These blogs will help you with your small business needs! Learn organization, technical and practical tools and tips to run a successful business.
6 things all Entrepreneurs can learn from Shark Tank – by Mindy Lipsky, CTACC
As an entrepreneur myself, and the fact that I coach dozens of entrepreneurs regularly… I LOVE the show Shark Tank! It is a Friday night staple in our house. The whole family watches and critiques from the couch each person’s pitch to the Sharks. We can all learn a lot about business just from watching the show. The sow had undoubtedly inspired countless people to take a chance on their dream. In honor of tonight’s episode when the Sharks reach $100 Million in investments… I thought I would share with you my observations of what any seasoned or budding entrepreneur can learn from the show and of course the Sharks themselves.
- You’ve got to know your numbers!
So many times, for entrepreneurs on Shark Tank this is the nail in the coffin before they even get off the ground. Someone comes into the tank and… well… tanks! All because they didn’t come prepared. I work with many business owners and one thing I noticed… the successful ones know their numbers and the struggling ones don’t. It is critical to not only know your income, but know your expenses too. It is required by the IRS to keep business books and it is also a great idea to evaluate them often! You have to know your breakeven point before you can ever take a profit. The simplified formula is Income minus Expenses = Profit. But if you have run a business you know it isn’t as cut and dry as that! Knowing your numbers will make a huge difference in your growing business.
- Numbers don’t lie!
Another thing that trips people up… they know their numbers but didn’t take care of them! What I mean by that is… they got themselves in debt or their margins are awful! Maybe they already have backers that own a part of their company so they are limited in how much equity they can offer the sharks. ALL of this leads to an increased chance of not getting a deal. As an entrepreneur, you must measure risk. Investing in education, product or marketing isn’t always a bad idea… but you need to weigh the ROI (return on investment). If you are spending $10K and getting a return of $2K, something has to change or you will be in a tough situation financially and FAST! The moral of this observation… Know your numbers and take care of them!
- Passion doesn’t pay the bills!
It is necessary to be passionate about what you sell or do… but that is not enough. You need strategy, planning, marketing, number crunching, etc. etc. You need business skills. Not everyone who starts a business has business training. You must do your research and continue to educate yourself on the current state of the market, changes in technology, changes in trends… and I may be biased here… but hiring a coach can help a lot! One of the perks of Shark Tank is when you get a deal, you get a Shark! They know the “how to’s” the average entrepreneur doesn’t.
- Just because you love it… doesn’t make it a business! I say this one with a “But” to it. It really depends on what your goal is… if your goal is to be a millionaire… you need to be sure what you are offering fills a need on a large scale. You may have heard the Sharks say, “You came in too early” or “This isn’t a business it’s a hobby” or “it’s not scalable”. What your ultimate goal is matters. If you are looking to help people and make a comfortable living for yourself and family that makes a difference. Your business doesn’t need to be “scalable” it just needs to be treated like a business (not a hobby). If you think your business is worth Millions… you need to be sure your product or service in needed by millions! It comes down to supply and demand… you’ve got to supply what people are demanding. Fill a need or solve a problem. The key here is to make money you must be intentional. A business needs to be set up and managed to generate income.
- Know your Pitch!
When watching the pitches on Shark tank, you can tell who prepared! They practiced that initial pitch hundreds of times! Even if you aren’t going on Shark Tank, you need to be able to clearly and concisely explain what you do to a potential buyer/investor. Although many of us are not looking for capitol… you need to be able to tell people what you do… more importantly what’s in it for THEM! Practice your 30 second intro. Be a natural as you can and showcase what’s in it for Them.
- Success doesn’t happen overnight!
We live in an “instant gratification” world! Impatience is a part of being a business owner. We work hard and want to see instant results. But success takes time… it is a dance of stepping forward, stepping back and sometimes falling. You just have to get up, dust yourself off, and try again. You only truly fail if you quit!
So, I hope you enjoy the show as much as I do… Share with me what YOU have learned from the show (or even from being an entrepreneur!) Congratulations to Shark Tank!
Today I sort of messed up my schedule. I thought I needed to be at my first event at 10 am… well it turns out I didn’t need to be there until 3 PM. I decided instead of driving back home the 45 minute drive and then returning again, I would instead set up shop and work on other things until my 3 PM event. In usual “Mindy Style” I didn’t plan well for my meals… something I struggle with but am working on. I knew it would be good to get a solid meal in before the event, so at 12:30 I decided to go to the local Bertucci’s for a solo lunch! I didn’t hesitate because I do eat alone from time to time. The funny thing is, when I tell someone I ate at a restaurant alone they get a shocked look on their face. “What was that like??” “Did you feel weird?” Now, I’m not talking drinking a cup of coffee at Starbucks slumped over a laptop… I’m talking a full lunch in a busy restaurant alone…gasp!
Upon arriving I said “Just me” and smiled, the host only hesitated for a moment before putting back all but one menu and lead me to my table. I sat down and figured out what I wanted and decided I wasn’t going to linger on my tablet or cell phone… I was going to observe and relax for the time I was there.
So, here is what I observed-noticed:
- The older people in the restaurant were engaged in conversation, while the younger ones seemed to be on their phones. (An unfortunate sign of the times I guess). The groups seemed to be in deep conversation, leaning in.
- I was served much more quickly than the other tables with 2 or more patrons. I didn’t have the chance to ask if that is by design or if they assume you don’t want to sit alone for “too long”. The tables with groups they seemed to time the meal at a steadier pace. I don’t think they were rushing me, but wanted to make sure I was taken care of. Food came out one after the next… I think I was seated and finished in about 20 minutes!
- I was checked on constantly… almost as if they wanted to make sure I wasn’t lonely LOL!
- I noticed no one would look at me. I could see people looking around the restaurant but they seemed to skip over me… especially eye contact. Except for one little boy, who on his way out with his mother and sister stopped at my table and said, “Good Morning!” with a huge smile on his face. His mother quickly rushed him away saying don’t bother that woman. But I quite enjoyed his interaction and was glad I could say “Good Morning” back before he was out of earshot! I wondered if HE thought I might be lonely and needed a friendly hello?? I did smile at a woman across the room… but she quickly looked away.
- There was 1 other person in the restaurant eating alone… She had her tablet and phone going and never looked up even when the wait staff checked on her. I wondered… could she be that busy or is she feeling embarrassed a little to be eating alone?
So, have you ever eaten alone? How did it make you feel? I loved the fact that I got to eat all 3 rolls in the Bertucci bread basket (my absolute favorite with their seasoned oil! YUM!). I loved looking around and really seeing the décor and the people there. I was content not looking at my electronic devices and just “being”, enjoying my meal. Don’t get me wrong… I love to eat with family, friends and colleagues as well! But once in a while I think it is great to do things outside of the norm. Eating alone can be very empowering and relaxing at the same time. Give it a try and let us know how it makes you feel!
My best friend and her 2 year old son are in town from Michigan this week. For the first part of the visit my BFF has to work so, we are caring for her son for 56 hours (yes I am counting hours) while she is at a business conference. I’m not counting hours because I don’t love being with this sweet, adorable, energetic boy… I count hours because our life for these 56 hours needs to be different due to his presence!
We have a 12 year old and a 10 year old… so it has been quite a few years since a toddler has been running amuck around the house. We all are on high alert making sure he is safe and happy. He can’t be unattended like a 12 or 10 year old… so both my husband and I have adjusted our work hours and schedule to make sure we are more than vigilant but actively present during this time, so we can enjoy it! It’s definitely different… It’s more time on the floor, so the house looks different from that perspective. I found popcorn tucked under a chair where the routine vacuuming doesn’t reach… I found a plethora of things little 2 year old fingers can grasp that I didn’t know was actually in reach. I found he is FAST… I haven’t chased anyone in a long time and am now reconsidering returning to the gym to get back into better shape!
So what does this have to do with business? A LOT! When was the last time you took a look at your business from another view? When was the last time you looked at your offerings from your client’s view? When was the last time you looked at your business from your accountant’s view? Or your lawyers view? Or from your spouse’s view? Or your children’s view? I could co on… The point is… things look different from other perspectives.
Why not take a look at your business through different eyes this week? Pick a few favorite clients and ask them to describe in their own words what you do… see what their perspective is. (It may even help you update your bio or 30 second intro!) You can go even further and ask what improvements you can make in your offerings or services in their opinion. Use the feedback to make your business BETTER!
Don’t be afraid to take this challenge on! Look at it as an exciting opportunity to see things from a different perspective and a unique opportunity to make positive changes and make your business better! Let me know how it goes!
Did you ever notice that life is more exciting if you have something you are looking forward to? I certainly believe that to be true! When I have a vacation or a visit with a friend coming up, I tend to look at the calendar a lot, counting the days and making my plan to fit everything in that needs to be done surrounding the event. There is a positive buzz and even if other things aren’t going great, I have “Something to look forward to!”
I have a dear friend who moved away a few years ago. I miss her terribly. However, if I know specifically when I will get to visit with her again, face to face, it seems to make it better. I have a more positive outlook and I know the end date (or goal), so I don’t seem to harp on how much I miss her, but instead on when I next get to be in her space.
Sometimes it’s not a BIG event. It might be something smaller like lunch or coffee with a friend. Today I had a FULL schedule of work to do. Some was exciting, some not so much! However, I planned ahead and sprinkled in lunch with a friend to break up the day. So this morning when things weren’t going my way, I simply remembered I’d have a break soon and be able to catch up, chat and laugh with my friend over a yummy meal at one of our favorite meeting places. I came back to my office feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the rest of my to-do list!
The same is true in your business. When you have nothing to look forward to it gets pretty dull and mundane! BUT … When you are diligently working toward a fantastic goal or event, “work” is exciting and invigorating! When work is exciting and invigorating you draw people to you and your business!
The best thing about it… YOU get to control what you get to look forward to in your business. It could be a presentation you have coming up, it could be a HUGE opportunity you are looking for, it could be writing your first book, it could be acquiring that next amazing client. It’s all up to you!
I have a vision board on the “back splash” of my desk. This vision board has specific goals in pictures of things I want to achieve or have. When I find myself getting in a rut I take a good hard look at the vision board. I choose something to work for… to look forward to! I set a SMART goal around it (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Time Sensitive). Once I set the goal, I make a plan on how I plan to reach it. Because after all, a goal without a plan is just a wish! And voila! I now have something to look forward to! I can then make smaller goal posters or notes to remind me what I am working toward. AND, when I meet with people to network my excitement will ooze out of me and get them excited too!
What are you looking forward to? If you don’t know… go find something!
I was sitting at my desk… the chair was broken and squeaking every time I moved, my pen was annoying me and I was just plain grumpy! I had so much work to do but all I wanted to do was go take a nap. Needless to say my productivity was suffering in that moment. Sometimes our workspace affects our productivity… heck sometimes it is a productivity killer! Now that we are getting into a new autumn routine it might be a great time to evaluate your work environment. In working with my clients over the years I have come up with 3 things that effect productivity the most – Environment, Equipment and Emotions.
Environment: Take a look around… what is distracting? Is it a squeaky chair? Is it clutter? Is it too hot or cold? It is too light or dark? Are your kids interrupting you? The list could go on and on. The environment you work in can make a huge difference in your productivity. Take a minute now to look around… what is distracting you? Find it, Fix it and see if that helps your motivation level. I recently decided to change the décor on the top of my desk as well as purchase a room dividing screen. The screen give me an additional level of privacy and blocks my view to the rest of the house. The top of my desk went from a view of the router and paperwork and dust… to motivational painting, sculptures that mean something to me and pretty things to look at that bring me joy! I am now super excited to head to my desk to work! I feel like it’s a grown up and efficient space now! Oh and I also bought a new desk chair… no more squeaking and memory foam seat! Oh yeah!
This year I renovated the top of my desk… I removed all paperwork and electronics and replaced them all with things that brought me joy and peace. What do you think?
Equipment: This is one that is overlooked. The little things grate on us without us even knowing it. I have a favorite pen. If I have a lot of writing to do it is important that I have a comfortable pen, that I like the way it writes and glides across the paper, and that the point thickness is good for the way I write. For me I love fine tip pens… medium pens make me crazy! What kind of notebook do you like? Spiral bound, composition style, tablet? It does make a difference. How about your computer… Is it slow? Is the keypad comfortable? Can you read the letters on the keys? Is your chair comfortable? One of my client’s was working hard to finish a book she was writing and was not motivated to write at all. In one of our sessions I said, “Tell me about the pen you are using.” She promptly told me she hated it and the notebook she was using. I encouraged her to change it. Well what do you know… al of a sudden she began writing again! It is not always that simple, but it is a good place to start if you are not getting the results you want!
Here is an example of the pen I chose for my promotional materials… I love the color, the grip and the way it writes!
Emotions: How we feel definitely affects our level of productivity. This is both what is going on in our lives as well as our behavior patterns. Extroverts don’t do well working in isolation. If you get your energy by being around other people try working an afternoon at the local coffee shop or find a shared workspace. Sitting alone in your office hours on end will be draining. If you can’t go someplace where people are… put something on in the background or invite you child to read in the room with you while you work.
Another part we overlook as entrepreneurs is to take breaks. Set a timer and take a 10 minute break every so often. Walk outside, get a cup of your favorite drink (mine is a Chia Latte from the Proximity Café here in Pottstown!), journal, listen to a favorite inspirational song, do some yoga or meditate. Remember to recharge when you can so you have the energy and focus you need!
It was November of 2013. I had opened the doors to Innovative Coaching services just 4 short months earlier. Things were moving along and I was learning a lot each day about being a Solopreneur! It was a Tuesday… November 12th to be exact. I had gotten the mail and found a letter addressed to “The Legal Department of Innovative Coaching Service”. I said out loud… “Oh isn’t that cute someone thinks we are big enough to have a legal department!” I chuckled and opened the letter. My laughing quickly turned to panic and I admit… tears! I was being SUED for copyright infringement of a photo I used on the blog portion of my website. (The Blog had been written and posted way back in JUNE!)
Of course I called my attorney, which began the months long process finally ending in a settlement of a reduced fine, yep… a fine plus now attorney fees to boot! So what happened?? It is a case of “I didn’t know what I didn’t know” I THOUGHT I was searching for “FREE” images when I used Google Image search. Turns out the image may be free… but you may need a license to use it. There are also people out there who plant seemingly “Free” images then hire an agency to follow it’s “rights and recovery”… in plan words… these images are planted on the internet waiting for someone to use it… they hire college students to troll the internet to “find” them… then sue people for using them without permission or the proper consent. It’s a legal loop hole that makes them thousands, sometimes even millions!
It was a horrible experience so when it was all said and done I asked my attorney and numerous web designers how I can protect myself from that happening again. The only REAL way is to ALWAYS take and create your own images. ALL of them! You can either get pretty good at taking creative photographs or you can hire a photographer to help you create stock photos for yourself. You can purchase pictures online, BUT I warn you to be sure you have the proper licensing for distribution if you plan to post it on your website or blog. My suggestion is to hire someone you trust to take relevant picture for you! If you need referrals just ask! I know a ton of Fantastic Photographers… even some who specialize in stock photos!
There are some sites that are 100% free. As long as you read the fine print and can ENSURE you are using them up to the terms intended… maybe give it a try. I must admit I am a little gun shy even with those sites!
My new plan when I am not feeling creative is to browse Google images and find one I like… then recreate it! I am not a perfect photographer, but it sure beats getting sued! So I encourage you… take a moment to check your website… take down any images you don’t OWN or own the rights to distribute. I don’t wish that letter on ANYONE!
When I was growing up my mother would tell my sister and me many stories. As an adult and mother to my own kids now, I find myself remembering and sometimes retelling the stories I once loved to have told to me. One of my favorites was the house with the Golden Windows. It is a story about perspective and appreciating what you have when you have it. It can also be about not comparing yourself with others… I found this version of the story online… tell me what you think you can learn from it…
(This is actually a picture of my neighbors window I took to remind me of MY golden windows)
The House with the Golden Windows
Once upon a time, there was a little girl who lived in a simple, small, and shabby-looking house. When she would be outside playing in the yard, she often glanced over the fence and across the valley and noticed a large house high on the hill. This house had “golden windows” that glistened every time the sun shone on it and the girl would dream about how lovely it would be to live there instead of in the ordinary house like hers.
A few years later, when the girl was a little older, her mother gave her permission to ride her bike a little further up the street. She rode up the street, across the valley, and up the hill until she reached the house, with the golden windows, that she always admired from the distance.
As she dismounted from her bike, gazing at the house, she was a bit disappointed in what she saw up close. The house was abandoned and dilapidated. The front yard was surrounded by weeds taller than her and the “golden windows” were actually plain and dirty, reflecting only the neglect of the house.
Feeling so sad, she didn’t go any further. Heartbroken over the false illusion of her dream house, she mounted her bike and headed back to her house. As she glanced up, ahead of her in the distance, there was a sight that really amazed her. Across the valley on her side of the valley was a little house and the windows glistened just as golden as the house she was just leaving. It was the sun shining on her little house.
It was then that she realized, she had been living in her “golden house” that she always dreamed of from afar. But her house was filled with love and care. It wasn’t abandoned like the house she often dreamed of someday having. Instead, everything she dreamed of was right there in front of her. In reality… she WAS living her dream!
MORAL: Things aren’t always greener on the other side. The way we view things aren’t always how they really are. We need to appreciate the things we are given and make the most of it.
We often compare ourselves and/or our businesses to others. We are often comparing apples to oranges or our own challenges/weaknesses to other’s strengths. When they look at us… they see the golden window too! In the summer months when things tend to slow down and become more relaxed it gives us time to criticize and compare. I challenge you to instead revisit and reevaluate what you are doing. What is working? What isn’t working? Take the time to live in the moment, dream, create, and change things up. Ask someone you trust to tell you what they think of your business or what you are doing right in your life. Then remind yourself that you ALREADY have golden windows! How will you let your golden windows shine??
Snow Day! Yeah! Oh wait… I have to work and now the kids are here ALL DAY… Sound familiar? Well here on the east coast and in 24 states across America, we are having what I hope is Mother Nature’s last blast of winter “fun”. So, that means many of us are working from home today. I thought I would share some tips on how to keep the day productive.
Snow Day Tip #1: Create a NEW to-do list just for today. You can think of things that need to get done that do not involve clients like social media, blog posting, business finance, updating your marketing plan… etc. The list should be kept short if possible… use today to have a slower paced day yet include something that will really make you feel accomplished.
Snow Day Tip #2: Sit down with the kids and let them know you are working… if they are old enough, you can even show them the list of tasks you need to finish so they can cheer you on and support you through it. It is good for them to see you working!
Snow Day Tip #3: If you do need to do client outreach, be sure to do that FIRST before the natives get restless! Let them know mommy/daddy needs about 20 minutes (or however long you need) where you cannot be interrupted… Dust off an old favorite movie, a board game or pull out the cookbook and have them choose something they would like to learn to cook. Heck send older kids out to shovel! Show them a signal you can do without words to show them you cannot be interrupted. I put 2 fingers up to my lips as in “shhhhh” then blow a silent kiss. When you make the calls… It is also a good idea with some clients to just address the elephant in the room… many will have kids home so in the beginning of the call, just mention it… “Oh by the way, if you hear some background noise, I apologize… after all it is a snow day and the kids are home. I appreciate you taking the time to speak with me today.”
Snow Day Tip #4: Have some way to separate the area you work and the rest of the house… this can be a door or a screen. Here is a picture of my screen.
When my family sees this up they know I am working and have to assume they need to be quiet. This also keeps me from being distracted by what is going on around me as well.
I have a 3 part blog that addresses tips to work more productively from home. You can find them here:
Enjoy this winter wonderland today! Let me know what questions you have!
Many of my clients first reach out to me thinking they have a time management problem. Once we have our first session we almost ALWAYS find that it is something else.
Having said that I 100% believe that scheduling is important and can be done wrong if not careful. Are you focusing on Income producing activities (IPAs)? If not you are leaving money on the table. Getting those Income producing activities first will set the tone for the day. One of the tools I use is the 6 Most Important Things List.
Prioritizing your work and putting the income producing activities first will help ensure you are not pushing papers all day. What activities create the most income for you? Is it making calls, holding appointments, selling something or working on a marketing project? Each business is different and there are seasons. My recommendation is for you to sit and make a list of how you make actual money in your business… If you sell a product, set a goal to sell 1 or 2 first thing in the morning. If you offer a service, set up a selling appointment first. Try it for a week and see if your bottom line increases.
Share with me what your income producing activities are… if you don’t know… let’s talk! It could be that you are leaving money on the table!
You may have heard my story before about running. If not here’s the short version… In 2009 I was told by 3 doctors that I would never run again. I had the beginnings of stenosis of the spine, “crunchy” knees due to 5 surgeries from an ACL injury in High School and I was overweight. I am the type of person that if you tell me I can’t do something I am going to prove you wrong! So I began to lose weight and then in January of 2010 I started the couch to 5K program. Long story short I ran my 1st 5K on April 10th 2010 and continued to run races until my ultimate race in October of 2011… The Hershey Half Marathon!
There will always be people who tell you that you “can’t” or you’re “crazy”, “stop “dreaming”… I’m here to tell you that you CAN, you’re NOT crazy and NEVER stop dreaming! I first heard this poem at a Mary Kay event probably around 1998… I still love this poem and I hope you enjoy it! Let me know your thoughts in the comments!
The Race by Dr. D.H. “Dee” Groberg
“QUIT! GIVE UP! YOU’RE BEATEN!” They shout and plead,
There’s just too much against you now, this time you can’t succeed.
And as I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face,
My downward fall is broken by the memory of a race.
And hope refills my weakened will as I recall that scene.
For just the thought of that short race rejuvenates my being.
A children’s race, young boys, young men; now I remember well.
Excitement, sure, but also fear; it wasn’t hard to tell.
They all lined up so full of hope. Each thought to win that race.
Or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place.
And fathers watched from off the side, each cheering for his son.
And each boy hoped to show his dad that he would be the one.
The whistle blew and off they went, young hearts and hopes of fire.
To win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire.
And one boy in particular, his dad was in the crowd,
Was running near the lead and thought, “My dad will be so proud.”
But as he speeded down the field across a shallow dip,
The little boy who thought to win, lost his step and slipped.
Trying hard to catch himself, his hands flew out to brace,
And mid the laughter of the crowd, he fell flat on his face.
So down he fell and with him hope. He couldn’t win it now.
Embarrassed, sad, he only wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell, his dad stood up and showed his anxious face,
Which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!”
He quickly rose, no damage done – behind a bit, that’s all,
And ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall.
So anxious to restore himself to catch up and to win,
His mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again.
He wished that he had quite before with only one disgrace.
I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.
But, in the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face
That steady look that said again, “Get up and win the race.”
So, he jumped up to try again. Ten yards behind the last.
If I’m to gain those yards, he thought, I’ve got to run real fast.
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight or ten,
But trying so hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again.
Defeat! He lay there silently, a tear dropped from his eye.
There’s no sense running anymore – three strikes and I’m out – why try?
The will to rise had disappeared, all hope had flew away.
So far behind, so error prone, closer all the way.
I’ve lost, so what’s the use, he thought, I’ll live with my disgrace.
But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low. “Get up and take your place.
You were not meant for failure here, get up and win the race.”
With borrowed will, “Get up,” it said, “You haven’t lost at all,
For winning is not more than this, to rise each time you fall.”
So up he rose to win once more. And with a new commit,
He resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit.
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been.
Still he gave it all he had and ran as though to win.
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he’d rose again.
Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.
They cheered the winning runner as he crossed first place.
Head high and proud and happy; no falling, no disgrace.
But when the fallen youngster crossed the line, last place,
The crowd gave him the greater cheer for finishing the race.
And even though he came in last, with head bowed low, unproud;
You would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd.
And to his Dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.”
“To me you won,” his father said, “You rose each time you fell.”
And when things seemed dark and hard and difficult to face,
The memory of that little boy – helps me in my race.
For all of life is like that race, with ups and down and all,
And all you have to do to win – is rise each time you fall.
“Quit!” “GIVE UP, YOU’RE BEATEN.” They still shout in my face.
But another voice within me says, “GET UP AND WIN THE RACE!”