I get this question very often, many startups ask me how to put a business plan together, what goes into a basic plan, and how long does it have to be? Well unfortunately the answer is, “It depends”. But that is also fortunate!
You see, every business is different. Some are single member, some may have contracted services. Some may have goals to scale big in 3 years. The needs will all vary and they will all need different kinds of plans. But a plan is needed.
Here is a short video explaining my why on this:
There are several approaches to getting a business plan going. BPlans has a simple one, or if you want to use their Live Plan service it’s very intuitive and you could turn one out in a month if you were focused. There is still the one page canvas if you’re just looking to map things out as well.
Whatever the need is, look at what you are asking of the business. If it’s sales volume, generating exposure, or gathering following you’ll have to have those things in your business plan. Use S.M.A.R.T. goals if you can, and have a coach or trusted peers help you out if you can. I hope this is helpful, leave any questions in the comments below, happy to help!
As a startup consultant I get asked a lot of questions, but sometimes I get things that are a little off target. Asking the right question is critical for staying on target, especially when a new company is navigating unfamiliar waters. Don’t get me wrong, I love curiosity and when clients are inquisitive but I also think directing feedback is very important.
Occasionally I get asked if a new business idea is ‘a good idea.’ Is that the right question? 99% of the time it really doesn’t matter because I’m not the target market for a business idea. Yes I see a lot of ideas come my way but I have a hard time convincing entrepreneurs that my perception is irrelevant. But I turn it around and emphasize that if I were the market that would buy the product/service/offering then yes it would matter what I thought.
It really comes down to focusing on who would be a potential buyer/user is and seeking structured feedback about the market need and their opinions about what the best solution is. If I’m the target market then great, I’ll talk with you all morning about my experiences and perceptions. If I’m not, then it isn’t valuable to put too much stock into my opinion as I won’t buy. When the market votes with its dollars then yes, take that seriously. But don’t build a business concept around opinions that aren’t potential buyers.
Build the idea around the wants, needs, and desires of the potential buyers. That way you can adjust your offering to be the best solution your market needs and stay ahead of the competition. There are ways to solicit feedback from a market segment, that I can help with. Find out what the competition offers and based on feedback, build a better offering that will excite your users and clients. Standing out is important because there are many businesses that create sub par solutions and compete on price. If you offer something great then your customers can have something to talk about.
So direct your questions to the right segments, ask things that will give insight to the existing need and build something your customers will get excited about. Many industries have competition that is building average and sub par offerings, if you can build a product or service that is unique and addresses nuances that don’t exist then people can go to you for a solution that is better than most. That’s how to effectively compete and stand out. And for small biz asking the right questions will get you there faster. Let me know how I can help with this.
I got word that one of my favorite teachers from high school had recently passed away from his battle with cancer. In my younger years there were a handful of individuals who affected me in a very positive way at a critical time in my life. One of the most memorable teachers had given me two great lessons that I still appreciate more than 20 years later. My tribute is a glimpse into how I learned them.
As a teenager I had struggled with depression and direction. There were nights where I had no idea why life existed, or why people continued living the meaningless lifestyles our society perpetuated. At that time I needed support, direction, meaning, and challenges. When I signed up for my Junior year classes in high school I decided to take as many social sciences as I could fit in, one of them being Sociology with a man named Steve Younk. I figured learning about culture would be a great compliment to the psychology class I was going to do so I settled in. I was hoping to understand society and culture more, and I did. But I got far more than that.
Throughout that semester I learned about the 5 institutions of society (Government, Religion, Economy, Family, and Education) culture (values, norms, and beliefs) and how they build and influence. But I also gained two other invaluable experiences. I felt like I could dig deeper and understand more about assumptions made in these cultural influences. As the semester went on I felt challenged. Challenged to understand more, to connect the meaning to every day life, and think critically.
One crucial thing I needed at that time was to be challenged. When I had something to try and achieve, the meaninglessness that I was muddling through began to dissolve. I could achieve something in my educational experience and have it be practical. I felt like I wanted to get the best “A” in the class I could and felt excited to learn and apply it in my daily life. This was the strongest experience with critical thinking I had in high school and it served me very well when I went to college. Studying as much chemistry, math, and religion as I did, it took a critical eye to be able to do that and for that preparation I am grateful.
The second thing I took away from this Sociology class was how to examine myself. I remember Mr. Younk had challenged the class one day with a question,
“What have you learned?”
Seems pretty simple on the surface right? But no, there is more to it. We were told that to properly answer the question we’d have to be able to first be able to communicate what we knew prior to the class in terms of society and culture. We’d have to know our influences, our sources of understanding, and talk about coming in contact with new information. We’d have to explain how we encountered new theories and ideas and whether or not we agreed with them and why. To be able to explain ‘what we learned’ required us to know ourselves well enough to not only have an awareness of these lessons but articulate it well enough to communicate the change we experienced. That required a significant level of self awareness, especially for a teenager.
Mr. Younk had suggested having that as our final exam for the semester, just one question. I prepared for it, but it never unfolded that way. We had a final exam that was much easier, more related to text book concepts and past exams. But I’ll never forget the importance of that question because it has resonated with me through every experience I’ve gone through. I examine how I’m different after graduating high school, college, and being a parent. I examine how I exceed my goals in the gym after changing my routine. I examine how I’m different after going through a hardship, a job, or achieving something new.
If I had to distill this into a smaller bit of wisdom, I’d put it this way:
How are you different now, after going through what you just did? What did you gain or let go of? Where were you and how is now different from then? What was the lesson, the achievement, and in what way are you changed?
That is how to apply the lesson, examine yourself today vs. yesterday. This year vs. last year. This job vs. last job. How are you better? What are you doing to learn more and get better? We never know how far our influences will travel, I’d doubt Steve Younk had an idea this blog post would be written. I think the best way I can pay tribute is to share these two lessons and hope that it inspires others. I hope people can challenge themselves to be better than yesterday.
Here is a link to the guestbook for Steve Younk’s page on Caring Bridge. Consider signing it or leaving a donation on Caring Bridge. Or at least look at it to see how valuable a teacher he was and how much impact he’s had in this corner of the world:
Over the last few years I’ve struggled with the balance between analyzing and feeling. These are two traits I have, the former is a gift I came into the world with and the latter is something I’ve been developing. I’m all for training and developing the weakest link, as that is usually what holds you back in physical performance, development, and professional endeavors. So I decided to try a feeling approach to one area of my growth to see what result would come of it. Completely unlike me.
About 18 months ago I got back to the gym on a regular basis. My youngest son was just over a year old and we were able to utilize the child watch services at the YMCA. This opened up an opportunity for me to train at least once per week and get some physical balance back. The first 6 months were spotty, I generally showed up and mostly was just doing treadmill and a little weight training to get my muscles back in shape. Results were OK, I was able to regain my past performance like running a few miles easily and enough strength to bench press my own weight again.
After 6 months there this point where you plateau and don’t really gain too much. This is a critical point where you can either grow or lose motivation, both physically and psychologically. I initially thought about constructing a new workout routine, something suggested on bodybuilding.com or along those lines. But one day something felt really good when I was on a machine and finishing a set. I felt like that particular exercise was exactly what my body needed that day and getting me needed growth. This next idea came to me out of nowhere:
“What if I only trained what I felt like my body wanted to train?”
I decided that I wanted to try training in a way that felt good, not seemed good. In the past I was an avid reader of Muscle and Fitness magazine and really learned a lot about form, techniques, different nutrition and many other ‘Weider Principles‘. I had put together many routines and corrected many mistakes from this, but I also plateaued several times over the years.
I gave this approach a shot at first, going to the gym with no structure felt very aimless and I worried if it enough. But giving my body the chance to tell me what it needed and respond to it wound up feeling very good. Sure there were days where I only wanted to do legs or routines where I didn’t do parts that would balance things out. But I did experience a balance in my training. I discovered my body would feel good when I trained antagonistic muscles (triceps vs. biceps, hamstrings vs. quads, etc) and I didn’t have to plan it. The desire was just there.
Best of all, my results were there. I saw my need to increase weight and do that often. I naturally found myself doing exercises that I normally didn’t like doing (I dread Romanian Deadlifts) and best of all I was intrinsically motivated. I didn’t have to push through something I didn’t want to do because of a planned structure, I was going with my flow.
Here are the lessons I learned from training to the feeling rather than training to the routine:
By training to the feeling I was able to meet the greatest need
By using feeling I was able to focus my training and get more out of each exercise, not distracted by ‘everything else I needed to fit in’
I got to my peak performance quicker than I had in the past
I’m far more motivated by doing what I want to do than what I have to do
After a while I came to a balance with this approach, I would go to the gym with a routine in mind but I’d allow myself the opportunity to feel how my body is doing in a given day. Then I’d allow for a change in plans if I felt I needed it, and forgiving myself very quickly if I didn’t hit those other parts for the day. I knew I’d get back to them.
This change in routine produced great results:
From start to 18 months I increased my bench press (weight for sets, not one rep max) by 13%
My leg press weight increased by 28%
Most of my antagonistic muscles (triceps and biceps in particular) were trained at a weight increase of 26-36%
I’m not training to compete in any sort of event. My motivation is to continue to grow stronger and be healthy. The interesting thing is I did eventually hit my next plateau and had to learn a new skill to break through that. I’ll share that secret in the updated post. But for now I can share that training to the feeling is worth a try, especially if a jolt is needed in your training routine.
Most of what I do doesn’t really fit in a box. I’ve tried for years to find the connections and an application for all the interests, talent, and experiences I’ve had. I’ve done assessments, informational interviews, volunteer work, certifications, and meditations to try to find the connection or application. After reading a Facebook post by Chris Brogan about not being able to find a box to fit in to, it really made me slow down and look at myself. Yes, I have many talents and yes I fit into some areas. But there really isn’t a box I fit into.
Here are the interests I was trying to find a place for:
I earned a degree in Religion with an emphasis in comparative religion
My minor is in chemistry and I understand quantum physics
I had done local theater for 16 years
I’m a whiz with business financials (P&L’s get me excited!)
I can perform a few Tibetan chants in multiphonic vocals
I know how many beads are on a mala
When I slowed down, considered Brogan’s post, and spelled out what I do, it was then that I found the place where all of these things needed to go. Right here, me. And I need to then share it with my readers. Yes, this is what I bring to the table. I can create a professional development plan, incorporate your MBTI type with the 5 Elements, and help you launch a business all in the same conversation. It’s bit crazy but it works. Not everyone needs all of that, but there are some that do. That’s why I’m here and why I do it.
I’m happy to serve relate in a way that some quirky and unique individuals may need. I’m not for everyone, only those who need this approach. So I think I’ll write about these topics, offer perspective on how some of them relate to each other and connect the dots in ways people may not expect. This is where business and spirituality meet. Drop me a line or connect to me on social if you want to learn more.
Inner conflict does some unfortunate things to the self. Most annoying is the distraction that pulls attention and energy away from the work towards the goals and aspirations we have. Inner conflict takes several forms including self doubt, self sabotage and confusion. Sometimes the mind gets overly critical and puts us in analysis paralysis. It’s like trying to race the quarter mile with the hand brake on.
This inner friction not only reduces the effectiveness of the efforts exerted but saps motivation when the mind perceives an increased challenge. And the worst part of all of this is that it is self imposed. How can one be aware of these unfortunate actions? There are a few questions to ask to consider if this is happening:
1. How often is there a consideration of the ‘downstream effects’? While it’s good to anticipate the cause and effect relationship of actions, if it consumes too much energy or starts to paralyze you from moving forward it may be too much.
2. Is there a trend towards not being able to find a positive outcome? If most roads lead to an undesirable consequence then are there too many limiting beliefs or constraints in the analysis? Might want to take a wider look at options available.
3. Are there a high number of ‘conflict fantasies’ where negative situations are played out in the mind? Planning how to deal with potential roadblocks or conflicts is good to ensure a positive outcome but over indulgence in this winds up feeding negative inner emotions.
Where does it come from?
Several factors can lead to these exaggerations in the mind including unresolved conflicts from the past, unexpressed emotions in relationships, stress not being managed, or balance in physical/psychological/emotional/spiritual needs. Often times there are situations, interactions, people or themes that can trigger the out of balance reactions of the mind. Understanding and having awareness of these triggers are key to resolving the over active games that our minds generate. Really the only way to put these things to rest is to give the triggers attention, go to the core of why they are there and to then resolve the discord. It’s a choice, and may be a runaway train if you’re not careful.
The Ego is one of the most analyzed concepts I’ve worked with over the last 5 years. Ego often times over analyzes, over protects, and exaggerates perceptions of daily life and over compensates in the name of self preservation. Between the Ego and the Higher Self, there is much disagreement and conflict. One is trying to serve the self and the other is serving a greater purpose. Different perceptions set the stage for the different feelings of action, often times leading to uncertainty and confusion. The ego has a somewhat predictable approach to things, here are several characteristics of ego based thinking:
1. Ego is often times concerned with the safest possible outcome, not always in the best interest.
2. Ego language often uses terms like should, must, can’t, and won’t.
3. The Ego perception can be judgemental on the self and others around.
4. Ego considers what makes sense, not what feels like the right thing.
5. Ego can be very filtered by conditions which would make things predictable. Predictability means safety in the ego understanding.
The Ego is that part of us that tries to keep us safe. It categorizes, filters, and looks for something that could be a threat. By putting things in boxes it tries to relate us to known, previous experiences in order to better anticipate uncertainty and danger.
For those of us with a strong critical thinking ability, ego can be relentless. Previous encounters help set up standards and correlations, telling us how things should play out. By assuming what ‘should’ be, an unhealthy standard can be created and measuring others in a manner that is without compassion or understanding. Given few facts, situations or people can easily be held to a standard. Let me provide some examples:
1. If you are doing career or financial planning, it would be easy for the ego to find a standard that you ‘should’ be achieving and questioning ‘why aren’t you there yet?’
2. Are you on a training routine at the gym? By assessing others around you, the ego might question why you haven’t risen to a ‘higher’ level of performance like ‘those other people’.
3. In working through a relationship challenge or personal conflict, does the language in your head question ‘why you don’t handle things better?’ or ‘why do people always get the better of you’?
The theme in these is the judgement and type of language used. Generally speaking, ego language is very black and white, all or nothing, consists of put downs, and promotes division rather than cooperation. The standards that ego sets are sometimes punishing. Here are some better ways to look at situations:
1. Can you consider where you are at in the right now instead of where you should have been?
2. Can other successful outcomes be reflected on and applied instead of believing the ‘all or nothing’ standard?
3. Has a goal been set and attempted to achieve? If so then the effectiveness can be evaluated and adjusted for improved outcome. If not, then it’s probably not worth thinking ‘where you should have been’ and would be better to start planning for goals.
There are many perspectives to take on situations and Ego language can be very unhealthy when left unchecked. By letting go of these harsh standards and working towards improving method and approach, a better trend towards achievement can start. Ego is not your Amigo and should not be given the amount of energy it demands. There are healthier ways to work with this.
Critical analysis of a plan or path to a goal can be good to make sure you’re on track. Using the ego as a tool for progress instead of serving it can make the self more powerful in getting to where you need to be. Being conscious of who serves who puts things in check and removes one of the biggest roadblocks to moving forward. Getting in the way of your own self.
Yesterday on LinkedIn I read a post about the Entry Level Epidemic that college grads face. Tracey Edouard wrote a strong piece about the feelings that what I feel both grads and job seekers sometimes encounter when they are venturing into the next leg of their professional journey. The article can be found here:
Having coached adult job seekers as well as college students I discovered one concept in Tracey’s article that really got to me:
“Companies won’t hire you because you don’t have enough professional experience, but how else are you supposed to gain professional experience if you’re not given a chance to work in the professional field?”
I call this the Catch 22 mindset which I’ve seen many times. This belief is a self perpetuating loop that will keep you in the cycle of never getting experience. Searching on a job board and going through the application process and getting screened is not the only way to get a job. During my stint as a career advisor for students in the medical field, I wouldn’t allow my mentees to fall into this trap.
As a former job seeker I felt well qualified for positions only to get rejected after a week or two. After repeated attempts and failures, my ego painted a picture that narrowed my hopes and possibilities. That personal experience allowed me to understand how that state of mind began and built a limited view of the world around me. In my journey I did learn new ways of adapting and moving beyond that point.
Get volunteer experience in the areas you want to work in. Is there a university, non-profit, or municipality that could use some assistance on something despite lack of budget?
If you can’t find a volunteer experience, start a project and make one. I know of a person in my network that wanted to get more into marketing so he decided to be a campaign manager for a local candidate in an upcoming election.
Create a community group that does projects for the surrounding area. There are some great local groups that do very good things for charity. In my area, WGirls chapter does quite a bit of good.
The fundamental problem I have with the Catch 22 experience model is that there is so much external locus of control with the perspective. Yes, there are certain aspects of the deck that are stacked against recent grads, but instead start looking at what you can control. When in college, it is important to start building your experience early on (like sophomore year) so you can have a couple years of transferable experience.
I believe college students could benefit from more mentorship. A capable mentor can help you structure what you want to do and help navigate the changes that occur in college studies. I changed my major in my senior year from a BS to a BA. I did not have mentors or seek other professional guidance that would have helped me establish clarity. I roamed and searched in my 20’s and stumbled in my early 30’s. Looking back I wish I had more mentors along the way to authentically help me. Here is what I’d advise to others:
1. Start planning your sophomore year. Create plans for 1 year, 2 years, and 3 years out to clarify your goals post graduation. This doesn’t have to be etched in stone but it will help start the process.
2. If direction is a challenge, look for some assessments and a coach/professional to help you with it. I’ve seen good things come from MBTI, Enneagram, Talent Dynamics and more.
3. Join professional groups to meet people that can help. I do some work with the Hispanic Professionals of Greater Milwaukee and they have a fantastic student program. Find something that can put you in contact with those who can be of service.
4. Every 6 months, do a head check. How is my perspective, what are my limiting thoughts, what is motivating me right now? If it’s healthy then keep feeding that process. If there are unhealthy things then hit those head on.
In my opinion Awareness is the key to it all. An honest examination of your beliefs and willingness to create your own opportunities are your ticket to success. Career opportunity is not a closed loop, but a rather complex journey in which we all probably need guidance at some stages. Take control, ask for help and don’t lose heart.
For many years I’ve been fascinated by dream interpretation and symbolism. I’ve always felt as if there were important lessons to be gained from our subconscious mind processing our day’s happenings. One perspective I came across a few years back was looking closer at animal symbolism and interpretation. I’m a huge fan of Carl Jung and his work on archetypes and dreams and I find his style of symbolism to be intriguing and useful.
This could be a huge post, hundreds of pages long if I weren’t careful so I’m keeping it focused on animal symbolism. One very useful book I like to reference is called Animal Speak by Ted Andrews. He draws upon a very spiritual look on how animal symbolism had played out in North American history and how it can still be relevant today.
One technique I like to use is to read about the animal symbols and how they were interpreted by medicine men and shamans. His book will talk about animal behaviors as well as traditional history and interpretations of animal symbolism. Then it wraps up with possible interpretations of animal symbolism and what it might mean in the reader’s life. Here are a few examples:
Associated with Visionary Power and Guardianship as well as higher levels of consciousness. How would you feel that vision and soaring to new heights is relevant to your world right now?
Associated with Wisdom and Folly, sometimes coyotes are incredibly wise and understanding creatures but if those around you don’t understand, you may need to simplify things in order to communicate that perspective. They also hunt in packs by coordinating and cooperating. Is cooperation an aspect of one’s life that needs work?
Associated with transformation. Since frogs start off as tadpoles in water, and then eventually grow legs to navigate on land, there is a tremendous amount of adaptation and trasformation in this symbol. Are there aspects of life which need transformation in order to move forward? Since frogs start off in water and then land, how do the elements of Earth and Water become relevant?
Sometimes these animal symbols won’t make sense when you first think about dreams and what plays out. But in the context of a deeper wisdom it may illuminate a much needed perspective on what is going on in one’s life. But if a bizarre dream of your parents sitting in water holding a frog doesn’t make sense, try thinking of the wisdom of the symbols and consider if a moving beyond old family patterns and transforming the self to something beyond that would be a benefit.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no such thing as a reference book that will give meaning/interpretation to cover all situations but consider what animal symbolism could teach you. One must make their own assessments and interpretations based on situational and personal relevance. Are there animals you seem to be naturally drawn to? Have there been odd symbols that didn’t make sense but could have a deeper meaning? Feel free to share some things that stand out or seem like they would be worth exploring, I’m curious.