Entrepreneurship – the Loneliest Adventure

A recent blog article by one of my fellow Michigan entrepreneurs,  Nancy Sherman of southwest Michigan-based Business Success Unlimited, caught my attention recently as she pointed out some of the pros and cons of going into business for yourself. As any of those who’ve done it know, the costs (not including financial) can be very high – but so can the rewards.

In her article she pointed out one of the issues I hear about most often from entrepreneurs, the isolation.  They don’t have anyone else they can talk things over with to help make the decisions they need to make.  In previous corporate lives, they had co-workers, bosses, or employees – now they have themselves, especially when they’re just starting out or if they’re running a virtual business. And that can be difficult. Not that they’re depending on others to give them the answers, but we all know, sometimes it can help just to talk it thru with an impartial party.  Nancy’s article pointed out an interesting solution that I would recommend all small business owners explore for themselves. Learn about it below, and if you’d like a referral to a co-working center, I bet Nancy would be happy to help you out, just reach out to her at Nancy@thessbi.com .

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In my 30 years of being an entrepreneur, I have spent time in my home office, in my brick and mortar office and in the coffee shops and restaurants around my town. Each has their own good points and bad, but I think the thing that I like least about any of it, is that I have no one to share with, no one to talk to except the cats.

I was married for 22 years to a really great guy (we’ve probably got the best divorce ever — we’re still great friends), but he just didn’t get it. He would tell me, why don’t you get a real job. You’re home all day, why don’t you do the housework, or cook or clean or whatever. I couldn’t talk to him about the isolation, about the needs for others to be around. When the office phone would ring at 11 at night, he’d complain because I didn’t answer it, and when people showed up at my front door at 7 am on Sunday morning, there would be more complaining. Then when I got a “Real” office and had monthly rent to pay (to the tune of $5000), he’d shake his head and say things like “here we go again. You’re just playing dress up”.

It was not easy. And he was not alone in saying — and thinking — such things. My best friend was right there with him. She works for the government and has tried since the ’90s, to get me to apply for a job there as well. “But what about the benefits? The health insurance? The regular schedule? The paycheck? These are all valid questions, but when you’re an entrepreneur, someone who wants to do it for him or herself, these are really irritating comments.

If you’re like me, you get the frustration of being alone and want to find someone else who also “gets it” to talk to, to share with, to be close to. But how do you do this? You can go hang out at the coffee shops, spend money on drinks and pastries, and maybe talk with someone else for a few minutes, but you don’t really find friendship or business collaboration there. The same is true for a library or restaurant. And how comfortable is it to hold meetings in your home office?

Well, now there’s a great new way to work on your own business while being in the company of like-minded individuals who are also working on their own businesses. It’s a place to rejuvenate your thoughts and ideas, a place to work on the Internet, to get help and support from administrative professionals, a place to sit and chat in the lounge, meeting rooms, private conference rooms, kitchens — all the amenities of an office space without the cost and politics of businesses. It’s a co-work center and they’re springing up all over the world; not just this country but literally around the world. If you’re a homebased business, a freelancer, or travel for your company, find one and check it out. I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

SBA Small Business Outreach Tour Travels Michigan to Meet Small Business Owners

Don’t miss the first ever statewide SBA Small Business Outreach Tour! 

Are you a small business owner looking for tools to take your business to the next level?  Do you need information, contacts, and resources to start your business?  

Get connected to experts in lending, government contracting, business growth, financial management, exporting and much more! 

Get inspired by stories of successful small business owners in your region.

Get informed about what’s happening in your community from local economic development resources. 

Get to the SBA Small Business Outreach Tour! It’s FREE, and coming to a city near you!

Learn more about the SBA’s Michigan Small Business Tour

5 Keys to Achieving Fiscal Fitness For Small Business CEOs Planned For Fall

MICHIGAN- The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) will present financial tools workshops in metro Detroit in during the fall.  “5 Keys to Achieving Fiscal Fitness,” a workshop to help the non-financial manager business owner achieve Fiscal Fitness is a state-wide training program designed to strengthen financial literacy and improve the ability to access capital businesses need to grow. The program is sponsored by Fifth Third Bank and events will be held in Waterford, Livonia and Detroit.

Topics to be discussed include:

  • Identifying problems using your balance sheet and income statement
  • Providing ways to increase your company’s cash flow
  •  Using breakeven analysis to improve decision-making
  • Planning the working capital to support your growth
  • How to keep your banker on your side

“5 Keys to Achieving Fiscal Fitness” will cost $25 per participant (Fifth Third clients can attend at no cost.) Classes will be held: 

  • September 28         Oakland County Business Center in Waterford
  • October 4                Schoolcraft College in Livonia
  • November 3            TechTown in Detroit

Networking and continental breakfast start at 8 a.m. and the seminar is from 8:30 a.m. until 12 p.m.  Register online or call (734) 487-0355 for more information.

 “In these trying financial times, Fifth Third bank recognized how important it is to reach out to business owners and help them become savvier in managing their business finances. Fifth Third Bank is proud to support the MI-SBTDC is these efforts.”  Dolores Sturdivant – Fifth Third Bank.

The Michigan Small Business & Technology Development Center (MI-SBTDC) is a statewide business assistance program that provides one-on-one counseling, training and research support for Michigan small businesses. The Southeast Michigan Region serves Wayne, Oakland and Monroe counties is headquartered at the Eastern Michigan University College of Business in the Center for Entrepreneurship with full service locations at TechTown in Detroit, Schoolcraft College in Livonia, the Monroe Industrial Development Corporation and Oakland County Business Center.

Fifth Third Bancorp is a diversified financial services company headquartered in Cincinnati, Ohio. Fifth Third operates five main businesses: Commercial Banking, Branch Banking, Consumer Lending, Investment Advisors and Fifth Third Processing Solutions.  http://www.misbtdc.net/events.aspx

What do Apple Computer, Hershey’s, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the Ford Motor Company have in common?

WASHINGTON – What do Apple Computer, Hershey’s, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and the Ford Motor Company have in common? These well-known corporations all started out as home-based businesses. In fact, more than half of all U.S. businesses are based out of an owner’s home.  Starting a home-based business has many rewards as well as challenges. Join chat host Boyd Wright to learn what it takes to grow a successful home-based business.

WHO:  Home-based business champion and small business owner Boyd Wright will host the July Web chat on “Growing a Home-Based Business: What You Need to Know.”  Chat participants can get valuable insight from Wright and learn more about working out of your house, starting a home-based business and managing the business within the law. Wright will answer questions on how to grow a home-based business, the benefits and the challenges.

WHAT:  SBA’s web chat series provides small business owners with an opportunity to discuss relevant business issues online with experts, industry leaders and successful entrepreneurs.  Chat participants have direct, real-time access to the web chats via questions they submit online in advance, and during the live session.  Chat participants can receive helpful tips and advice on how to grow their businesses.

WHEN:  July 28, 2011, 1 p.m. ET

Wright will answer questions for one hour.      

HOW:  Web chat participants can post questions online in advance and on July 28, join the live web chat by going online to www.sba.gov, and click on the web chat event under What’s New. 

To review archives of past web chats, visit online at http://www.sba.gov/tools/monthlywebchat/index.html

SBA Introduces New Mobile Application for Small Business Owners and Entrepreneurs

New SBA mobile application brings enhanced access to information and resources

Smart phone users interested in starting or growing a small business can now find helpful resources at their fingertips via a new SBA mobile application from the U.S. Small Business Administration.

“Increasingly, smart phones are the vehicle through which Americans access information.  This is certainly true of many entrepreneurs and small business owners and this new application ensures they will have access to SBA’s resources and programs – literally at their fingertips,” said SBA Administrator Karen G. Mills.  “Greater mobility fits with the new user-focused SBA.gov launched recently, and is another example of the steps we are taking to do a better job of connecting entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools to help them start or grow their businesses and create jobs.”

Developed and donated as a gift by Palo Alto Software, Inc., the SBA mobile app will make the search for extensive resources more efficient, whether users are starting a new business or taking an existing business to a new level.  The app will first be available for the Apple iPhone®, with future versions for other smart phone platforms.

“Palo Alto Software’s mission is to help small businesses succeed.  We’ve developed this mobile application for the SBA because we understand the importance of having the right tools and resources when starting or growing a business,” said Sabrina Parsons, CEO of Palo Alto Software.  “Ideas can strike entrepreneurs at any moment, and having useful resources available through mobile devices could be the impetus that begins the next big company.”

The mobile app will help users connect with SBA district office staff and SBA-affiliated counselors and mentors who can provide free, personalized small business assistance.  The user-friendly format of the app will help answer questions such as: 

  • How do I start a business? 
  • Where can I go in my area to get free help with writing a business plan? 
  • And where do I begin finding funding for my business?

The SBA mobile app also features a built-in startup cost calculator to help estimate the costs associated with getting a business off the ground, plus an SBA partner locator to help users find SBA offices, Small Business and Technology Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and SCORE.

Users will also have mobile access to SBA video content and social media alerts to provide them with tips on the go.  This will include live updates from the SBA’s YouTube channel and from SBA’s Twitter feeds.  The free mobile app can be downloaded from the SBA’s website at www.sba.gov/content/sba-mobile-app .

Do You Have What it Takes to be a Business Owner?

A frequent question we at Strategic Growth Concepts receive from small business owners, or potential small business owners is “How do I know if I can do this?  Do I have what it takes to own my own business?”.  And we have a lot of answers that we give in response that take into account their particular situation, and many tools that we use to help someone evaluate their potential success as small business owners.  However, I recently came across a list developed by Anne Mueller for American Express Open Forum entitled, ’10 Signs You Shouldn’t be a Small Business Owner’ that really caught my attention. 

When I clicked on the link I expected to see the usual, “make sure you have money to survive, make sure you’ve written a business plan, and make sure you have a survival ‘plan b'”, but that’s not what I found.  Instead I found an insightful list of items designed to help you take an in-depth look at yourself and your situation to determine if you have any chance of being successful as a business owner. It required the reader to be completely honest with himself/herself.

As any business owner (successful or otherwise) and any business consultant can tell you, owning a business of any size (even if its only you) is hard, really hard.  It requires sacrifice, and self-discipline, hard work, focus, and the ability to be many things to many people – most of which you have no idea how to be – and many times you have to be them all at once. So being a business owner is definitely not for everyone, and it is certainly a good idea to evaluate yourself and your personal situation honestly before taking the step of becoming one.  In our opinion, this article “10 Signs You Shouldn’t Be a Small Business Owner” is a must-read to help you make that decision, and it’s going into our ‘toolbox’ for use with our own clients.  We recommend you read it as well.

SBA, Inc. Magazine and AT&T Join Forces to Promote Exporting by U.S. Small Businesses

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Small businesses seeking to grow their businesses and create jobs through exporting can turn to new, free educational videos created through a partnership between the U.S. Small Business Administration, Inc. Magazine and AT&T.

Through the public-private partnership, a series of video modules has been developed to inspire and encourage American small businesses to actively pursue exporting and to educate them on how to do so.

“Winning the future means supporting small businesses that want to grow and create jobs through exporting,” said SBA Administrator Karen Mills.  “SBA is very pleased to have partnered with Inc. Magazine and AT&T in the production and distribution of this video series, which will help small firms that are new to exporting or looking for new markets to sell their goods and services.”

The video series, Take Your Business Global, features five main topics that guide small businesses through the process of exporting: Getting Started in Exporting; Planning for Export success; Connecting with Foreign Buyers; Financing; and five Case Studies of successful small business exporters.

The videos begin with answers to the frequently asked question, Why Export? They feature SBA Deputy Administrator Marie Johns; U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gary Locke; U.S. Trade Representative, Ambassador Ron Kirk, and a variety of small business exporters.  Other modules feature exporting experts discussing “how-to” take your business global. The videos are posted at www.inc.com/exporting.

“Inc. is proud to work alongside the Small Business Administration and AT&T to provide entrepreneurs with a valuable resource in their efforts to expand their businesses overseas,” said Bob LaPointe, Inc. President.  “This video series will educate business owners about what to expect when they launch an international business. “We have put together experienced small business exporters as well as officials from local and national resources to provide a complete picture.  Inc. is always happy to help small businesses grow.”

“AT&T is excited to be part of this initiative and to collaborate with the SBA and Inc. magazine,” said Cathy Martine, AT&T Executive Vice President, Small Business Solutions. “We believe U.S. small businesses are engines of innovation, and strongly encourage them to grow by thinking globally and taking advantage of technology. With the emergence of online commerce and digital communications, the potential to export products and services around the world has never been greater.”

Funding for this project was jointly provided by Inc. Magazine and AT&T.  Also, Inc. Magazine created the site to host the videos; both firms will distribute DVD copies of the videos and related materials approved by SBA and promote the series in online and print advertising. 

The joint program will be launched April 8, at the Cosmopolitan Hotel in Las Vegas, at the Inc. conference GROWCO, an event targeting growing small businesses.

The co-sponsorship agreements will remain in effect through August 31, 2012.

Cosponsorship Authorization # 10-7080-165. SBA’s participation in this cosponsored activity is not an endorsement of the views, opinions, products or services of any cosponsor or other person or entity. All SBA programs and services are extended to the public on a nondiscriminatory basis.