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  • Aspire » Small Business

    24 Jul

    Pine Beetle Destruction - Rocky Mountain National Park

    Chris is spending a couple of weeks with family in Montana – which inspired this week’s blog post.

    In a bug’s world, the Pine Bark Beetle may be considered a larger insect. But when you compare them to the great pine tree forests out west, at best, they are minuscule in size. Considering the size difference, it is almost unbelievable to see the paths of destruction they are tracking across entire mountain sides as they bore their buckshot holes of death.

    This past week we cleaned up the remains of an 85 year old pine tree that had stood nearly 100’ feet tall before losing its battle with the little beetle adversaries. This was just one tree; there are millions more just like it. For the property and home owners in these infected areas you simply try to protect what is realistically manageable.  There are some treatment methods, but they are difficult and can be expensive. Any trees that fall victim to the beetles eventually have to be removed, especially if they are near buildings, homes, or populated areas. The risk of falling dead branches or entire trees coupled with the increased risk of fire from dry dead wood is something that can’t be left to chance.

    It truly is a sad situation.  It’s a natural cycle that occurs over generations…but there is some evidence that this outbreak maybe much more severe than those in the past.

    All in all it makes for an interesting analogy to the current business environment.  As a business owner what can we take from this story of the Pine Bark Beetle? Clearly the loss of forests is a tragedy in the short term (by geological standards).  However on the positive side, this kind of purging of old forests clears the way for new growth and new opportunities.

    One way to look at it would to be think of the Pine Bark Beetles as millions of small business owners (micro-brewery, local deli, local fitness center) spread across the country and the Pine Trees as their large business Corporate counterparts (Anheuser-Busch, McDonalds, Gold’s Gym).  Despite their large size and extensive history, the existing trees are struggling and failing under the pressure from these beetle.  The clear message is that even as a small player you can compete. There is room in the forest for you to have success.

    Let’s take this analogy a step further – it isn’t the hole the Pine Bark Beetle (small business owner) bores that kills the tree. It is what the larvae the beetles leave behind (Customer Service, The Experience, The Feeling, The Quality) that disrupts the flow of nutrients and water up to the needles and down to the roots. In fact, the actual holes that are visible are relatively small, but its effect on the tree is catastrophic.

    Jumping free of the analogy – large corporate businesses who aren’t adapting to a new way of doing business are at risking of losing out to smaller, more creative, more personable competitors…despite massive size and resource advantages.

    In the last couple weeks a large outdoor sports chain announced it was opening its first store in the Kansas City area and another home and garden chain announced it was expanding into southern Johnson County. The challenge for you as a local business owner is to react with a strategic plan, bore in like the Pine Bark Beetle and make sure you are creating a difference that will attract your customers. Consider taking some ideas from a local business that’s achieved some pretty high marks for success – including Small Business of the Year

    What are some things you can do to compete against those huge players?

    Please feel free to share your thoughts in the space below. And certainly if you have any thoughts specifically on the Pine Bark Beetles and how to deal with them feel free to share as it is a very serious issue across North America.

    Chris Steinlage     Kansas City Business Coach

    14 Nov


    From the Kauffman Foundation’s Sketchbook – Three Things!

    This week we are celebrating the 3rd annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, started by our hometown Kauffman Foundation.  With all the focus on generating great ideas and starting up businesses, I wanted to pass along some great advice from business owners and entrepreneurs who made their jump in the last few years.

    Making that jump to start your own business takes a lot of guts and the more you can learn from those who have done it, the better off you’ll be. To that end, I did an informal interview with a few of my Peer Group Advisory Boards and asked them simply:

    “What’s the best advice you would give someone who’s planning to start a business now?”

    Here’s the summary of their responses in no particular order.

    Enjoy the upside to owning your own business – you’re in charge and you get the freedom and control to do what you want to do. Additionally you have the opportunity to build something that’s all yours.


    Building a business is complex and you aren’t going to be an expert in everything – don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.


    Find a mentor. Someone you can bounce ideas off of, who can help you get perspective and hold you accountable.


    You’ve got to be flexible…the market will change and your understanding of the market and your business will change as well. Be prepared to adjust your course.


    Do what you can to find multiple revenue streams, more ways to generate money. If you only have one product or service, it’s likely you’ll get stuck and it’s good to have something to fall back on.


    Even though you’re in a hurry to get started, take the time up front to really plan things out. Your upfront costs and decisions can make or break you.  Take the time to make sure it’s money well spent.


    Understand your financials and get accounting and payroll help as soon as you can afford it.


    Have patience, things will take longer and cost more than you think


    Make sure you have enough financial runway so you’re not panicked or have to shut down if things take longer than you expect to get off the ground.


    Whatever business you’re in, you’re in the business of marketing first – if you can’t position and market your product / service effectively not much else matters.


    Make it your focus to add value with every contact you have (clients, networking contacts, pretty much everyone).


    Be clear on what you’re getting into when you start a business:  Long hours, challenges outside of your comfort zone and a lonely path. It’s a tough challenge (but worth it when you succeed).


    Get comfortable with risk and uncertainty.  It will be a while before you can count on a regular paycheck (like possibly 12 to 18 months).


    Make sure you’ve got family support and they’re excited about what you’re doing.


    Build connections (real relationships) – networking and building the right win-win relationships is crucial to long term success.


    Give yourself a clear go / no-go date to help you manage the bumps in the road. If you have a bad month early on, you still have time to recover because you haven’t hit your date yet.


    Be clear on why you want to create your business…if you’re not excited about what you’re doing, no one else will be either.


    Make sure you create and work off of a written business plan (can be as simple as a couple of pages, but a plan that covers where the money comes from and where it’s going).


    Starting something isn’t easy and it isn’t quick – it takes hard work to succeed.


    Have faith in yourself, when things get tough you have to push through.


    Your business has a gestational age…despite your full commitment few will take you seriously until you’ve been around at least 9 months…sometimes much longer.


    Read the E-Myth and be aware of your mix between Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician (and understand what that means).


    Setup an advisory board for your business – people you trust who will tell you hard truths and encourage you.


    Figure out if you have the disposition to be an entrepreneur. Look for clues in your past – if you’ve never taken ownership and pushed to make money independently it will be tough to succeed in your own business.


    Passion trumps perfection, you can’t wait for it to be just right  you have to get out there and start making things happen.


    There’s nothing as challenging or as rewarding as creating your own business. And a big part of that challenge is getting your new business off the ground. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the above advice can help you succeed in the critical first year.


    What advice above resonates with you?  What’s the best advice you’ve heard for entrepreneurs?  (Or business owners in general?)  Share your thoughts in the comments below.

    Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

    16 Feb


    photo by Tub Gurnard 

    I came across three different blog entries today that loosely (alright…very loosely) fell under a convenient category of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt (FUD – which according to Wikipedia here was first coined by Gene Amdahl after leaving IBM to describe the Big Blue sales approach.)

    Anyway, as someone that’s observed a lot of Fear, Uncertainty or Doubt in the last 6 months (both from myself and from clients and other small business owners) it’s a topic that’s never far from my mind.

    Read More…

    19 Jan

    photo by Amnemona

    There are a lot of great ways to market your business, but a lot of really effective, inexpensive marketing ideas are related to networking.

    In the book Endless Referrals by Bob Burg, Networking is defined as follows:

    The cultivating of mutually beneficial, give and take, win-win relationships.

    The first couple of steps is to establish a network of relationships that meet the definition above.  Although it’s not easy and it is an ongoing effort that takes time, there are a several good books on how to do that, including Endless Referrals and The Little Black Book of Connections by Jeffrey Gitomer.

    But once you have a network in place, how can you fast track those relationships, in a win-win fashion to build your business?

    Read More…

    21 Dec

    Photo by Hamed Saber

    I’ve been thinking a lot recently about a workshop that I’m pulling together that will help small business owners build on their success.  As you know, running a small business is really complicated.

    There are a lot of hats involved.  Marketing, Sales, Finance, Leadership – and that’s just the stuff you focus on in the morning!

    So as I was working on the workshop idea, I found myself drifting all over the place in terms of the most important content and decided to pull together a summary of the key points.

    Read More…