Business Bootcamp

Getting Ready for Session 9

I'm kind of afraid to check my email.  Not really. . . well, sort of.  It's the day before our final session for the Business Bootcamp.  We asked our participants to send in the their presentations so we could take a look.  It’s something that is a measure of success on a lot of levels.

Making an ask like this - homework - is the hardest thing we do in a program like this.  We have a class of adults.  There is a dynamic at play about accountability that can be difficult to navigate.  And it’s important to show visible respect in a way that people can feel it.  We ask for submissions knowing that we might not get them, but at the end of the day it’s a necessary element of development. 

Sitting down to assess your progress in a class is the hardest thing any student has to do.  This is especially true of high achievers and perfectionists.  These types of people gravitate to the deficiency in their work. . . and they are also disproportionately attracted to being the boss.  The presentation highlights all the things you haven’t done yet – even if you have been working like crazy.  It’s a moment to decide if the time spent was worth it for you and for some it’s hard to say that it wasn’t. 

I empathize with the students in so many ways, but right now I’m feeling the other side of it.  I want to take a minute and talk about why this is hard for the instructors.

  1. When you don't get a submission, you can be sure that the person is struggling.  They might not have confidence or be short on time or think that talking about their business is no big deal.  All of these things are evidence of the struggle to show up and be engaged.  The more we know, the more we can assist.
  2. The results are the feedback that we need as instructors.  Our aim is to give people real knowledge they can take away and turn into better planning and progress in their business.  If we can't see what you are doing with the information, we don't know if it works. 
  3. We've asked people to come see the presentations and we want to make sure the people we've asked are of benefit to the participants.  So the more we can see about where people are in their development and where they have questions, the better we can do with invitations for people who can help.

So I need to open my email and see who submitted their work.  Let’s hope for the best.

Getting Ready for Session 7

When we finally work out how to make money or get the cash flow that we need, the first thing we do is start hiring people to do the things that we should not do.  For me, this is cleaning and bookkeeping.  I shouldn’t clean because I do too much and spend too much time doing it.  It’s a way for me to avoid work.  Which brings me to the bookkeeping. . . I should not do this because I will do anything to avoid it.  Perhaps we will talk about this more on the NEX blog, ;).

So we start hiring people.  For me personally, this is where it gets very dicey.  The basic issue for me is that I do not trust my own instincts.  When I acknowledge this, I ask the people I trust the most to help me.  Here are just a few things I have learned – most of them the hard way.

Hire small first.  There are so many great ways to do this today.  Hire a part-time bookkeeper or outsource your social media.  I’m not one to recommend interns – see below – but I really love professional services people who have small business packages.  For instance, you can hire Tamay Shannon as your social media strategist for one price.  She can do the daily execution and engagement for a higher fee.  But if you really want the best deal - $47 per month – you can join a facebook group where you get templates, training, advice, feedback and have email access for questions.  Perfect!

Hire slowly; Fire quickly.  Take your time to interview.  Maybe establish a trail period to see if they are a good fit.  Have an established point of review at 90-180 days where you can end the employment without repercussions.  Make sure to keep a journal of what you see.  Address problems directly.  Document the conversations and interactions.  Then, if and when you see an issue, give it your full attention and make a decision about what to do.  If you choose to establish a remediation period to correct behavior, stick to the agreement and deadline.  Be ready to have a termination conversation – talk to your lawyer first.  And be decisive.

You cannot hire a partner.  Someone is either an employee or a partner. These are two totally different things.  An employee is someone you are responsible for providing direction and guidance and making sure their paycheck is cut without question.  A partner is someone who works to figure out how they (and you and everyone else) can actually get paid.

Maintain your standards.  I recently picked up a phrase from Yvonne – “It’s ok.  It’s just not good enough for me.”  I find it to be one of the most comforting things I have learned in the last 6-7 years while founding the business.  It’s got enough room to tell someone that what they did is good and would be acceptable to many people.  (This translates as, “I am not criticizing you.”)  But in this case, where it is for me. . . well, I have really high standards and it’s my business and that is that.

The most important thing you can do in terms of growing your business is to hire the right people.  In a small business, you want people who care as much about what is happening as you do.  It might not be realistic at first, but your employees should be committed and understand the important of them doing their job well.  This will be the hardest thing you do in business, but if you work at it and find your way it will pay off substantially.

Getting Ready for Session 6

When I think about where to find money for your business, there are a few things that come to mind immediately.  A lot of people are afraid of money; maybe I should say that a lot of people are in awe of money.  They are controlled by their feelings about it.  At the same time, there are so many lies about money.  That it will make you happy.  That people with money don’t have problems.  Lies, all lies.  The one truth that I know for sure about money came from my mom.  She said, “Money is a like a hammer.  It is a tool.  You can use it to build something, or you can bang a hole in the wall.” 

Never talk about money.  This isn’t what it seems on the face of it.  I do believe in the saying that if you want money, you should ask for advice.  I don’t think this because it’s a good way to get someone into the conversation, but because it’s a good way to learn more about how they really think.  And you NEED TO KNOW HOW PEOPLE THINK if you are going to take their money.

So, ask for their advice.  Listen carefully.  Take notes.  Go back and unpack what they say to you.  See if you are on the same page – values, integrity, community, or whatever might be important to you.  If you are, go back and ask for money.  When you ask for the money, really do it.  Be direct.  Be clear.  Make sure you use numbers and understand the value exchanged.  Know what it means to you to ask this person.  Make sure to do what you did before – listen carefully.

Ask, always ask.  This is a truism about money of any kind.  As a kid when I sold Girl Scout cookies, this was the key.  Pick up the phone.  Go to their office.  Send an email, if you must; but follow up with more direct contact.  Ask people.  Don’t be afraid.  Someone out there is waiting for just the opportunity that you are presenting.

Always stay in the conversation.  Often people are so nervous about talking to someone with money or about the fact that they are asking for money that they kind of black out when they ask.  They are listening for a yes or a no, but often what we really get are questions.  The person wants to know more.  The other time this benefits us is when it This is especially comes to debt you owe or owed to you.  People want to pay back what they owe, but when they can’t they will avoid the conversation – mostly out of fear and anxiety.  Instead, stay in the conversation.  Do what you can.  Be honest. 

The only thing that is a no, is NO.  After you have asked and they have asked their questions, after you have listened closely, there is more listening.  A lot of people are looking for rejection and so they are listening for a YES because that is clearly not what they are expecting.  But there are a lot of answers that are not a yes and are also not a no.  “Let me think about it.  I need to talk to my spouse.  This is something to consider.  I’m not quite ready.”  These are all things I have heard and in my inexperience, I interpreted them as a polite way of saying No.  They were not.  The only thing that is really a no, is when someone says, “No.”

On that note, I want to give you a little new age-y concept to take with you into the world as we prepare to talk about how to find the money you need to grow your business.  Most systems in the world are based on a Theory of Scarcity.  This means that there is only so much to go around.  This is a law of the physical world.  For some things that might hold true. . . when someone takes the last brownie, well, you know.  But in the creation of value, we’ve seen some amazing things in the history of the world.  The pie is always growing.  We can create value in a place and a way that did not exist yesterday.  It’s quite amazing.  This is a Theory of Abundance.  The world is awash in value AND money.  Each of us only has to connect with what is right and beneficial to each of us.


Getting Ready for Session 5

I’m not even sure where we met, but I have been a HUGE fan of Charles Green since the beginning of our relationship.  I think it was sometime in 2009 or 2010.  He’s a really funny guy, likes to have drinks in midtown (where we both live), knows a lot of good people and is just amiable in that southern way that some men are.  So, it’s such a fantastic thing that on top of all of that, he’s always looking for ways to spread information around in order to open doors.  If you know me at all, you know this is my #1 mission in life.  Knowledge is power.  And knowing how to open the door is 90% of getting to the other side.

If you want to learn more about Charles’ resume, check out his Linked In profile.  If you want to really get to know the guy and his genius, sit in his Small Business Finance Bootcamp (SBFB) classes.  He’s not doing them on the regular right now, but I’m working really hard to change that.  So stay tuned to the NEX Calendar and our newsletter for upcoming sessions.

The SBFB is the primary program of Charles’ project, the Small Business Finance Institute.  It sounds pretty fancy, but at it’s core it’s about demystifying the process of finding lending capital for your business.  He walks people through the rules of thumb used by lenders everywhere and shows you what they are looking at on all of those documents they ask you to submit.

In 2011, we hosted the first of these classes at HUB Atlanta.  Charles came with us when we moved to Grant Park and became NEX.  The classes came also.  I did what we always do and negotiated a deal where I, or someone on my team, could sit in on the class each time it was presented.  It was 2 days of non-stop and utterly amazing information.  I went home after the classes on both days and went on and on to my husband about how astoundingly simple the whole thing is.

The is the genius of SBFB and Charles – he takes something we all fear and worry about and makes it into something that makes SO MUCH SENSE.

I just love his guy.  He’s opening minds and doors everywhere he goes.

Getting Ready for Session 4

Yvonne is BACK!  I would never begrudge someone the opportunity to travel.  Especially if you are going out into the world to do something that you really believe is important, but oh my!  Last month was nerve-wracking for me.

First, a little bit about Yvonne's trip to Ghana.  She was traveling with Chop Art.  They are an arts organization that uses art instruction to help kids process their feelings about being homeless.  They work in shelters in Atlanta, New Orleans, India. . . and now Ghana!  The trip was to establish relationships with organizations on the ground who can help in implementing programs.  So, so important.  Cheers for Yvonne - and Chop Art - on a job well done and hopefully you will see something on her blog about the trip.

So this month feels like the band is back together and it's really great.  When we work closely with other people, it's easy to fall into a rhythm where you bounce the project back and forth until it's finished.  One person may do more outlining and the other more presentation design.  With the two of us, our conversation goes back and forth over the whole month between sessions.  In addition to that, we have been working in close proximity to each other on entrepreneurship development for a few years. . . all the while knowing we are on the same page.  So, in some moments we are like two sides of the same coin working to create something.  We respect each others expertise and have similar styles.  The knit-picky things - like text on slides - we are on the same page.  

So, when she was out of the country it was like trying to work with only one hand.  The little decisions take longer.  And that person who knows you know what your are doing isn't there to give support before you can even ask.

Just in case you wondered, this blog is really just a thank you note to Yvonne for being such a great partner-in-crime on so many projects.  It's great working together and I look forward to a lot more fun projects in the years to come.

Creating the Binder

So last Friday Yvonne & I got together at NEX and reviewed the homework for the SW Atlanta Intown Business Bootcamp.  There are a few things we are asking the participants to put together so they can show the group where they are in terms of organizations and stress levels.  We have people in the group that are just establishing their business all the way to a 10-year veteran of the entrepreneur hustle.  So, it's exciting, but it will take a little bit of time at the beginning for us to establish expectations and coordinate working with a wide range of development.

The primary task we assigned was for people to create a binder with their vital documents in it.  These can be a whole host of things, but there are a few key elements like your Yearly Plan, current cash flow, collateral (like business cards or postcards), and legal registrations (business license, Secretary of State filing, etc.).

This kind of thing can be overwhelming, so we made this quick video showing you what we each put together to give everybody an idea of what we were looking for.

Good luck, y'all!