Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Tips to Help You Avoid Economic Disasters

One of my subscribers has been corresponding
with me over the past week on the topic of last
week’s newsletter. In case it did not make it
through your filters, past newsletters are always
listed at http://TheJordanResult.blogspot.com
(see The Rats Are Circling).

My subscriber and I had a great conversation
about the financial state of the nation and what
we as small business owners can do to protect
ourselves from any economic backlash brought
on by expensive wars and natural disasters. I
thought the information might be useful to others
so here is some background on the financial
state of our nation and some tips to help you
avoid the negative impacts of that financial state.

I have two big concerns about the economic
status of the United States. The national deficit
and the national debt. In case you did not major
in accounting or economics, here is a quick
explanation. A deficit occurs when you spend
more than you take in. Debt occurs when you
borrow to pay your current obligations (on a
personal level that is like taking a cash advance
on one credit card to pay a second credit card) or
you borrow to invest (think college loans or a mortgage).

At this point in time, the government is operating at
a deficit—more being spent than is being taken in
through taxes and other income. When you hear
politicians talking about balancing the budget, this
is what they are talking about, spending the same
amount that is being taken in.

The national debt is the amount of money the
government owes due to borrowing. We, the
American people, as of today are in debt to the
tune of $7,939,506,438,929.39. This number has
increased by over 9 billion dollars since last week.
If that isn’t enough to scare the socks off you I don’t
know what is!

Think what would happen to you personally if you
ran your personal and business finances that way!
Yikes! Then multiply it by $7.9 trillion and you begin
to see the problem. Add in the costs of a very
expensive war and two very expensive hurricanes and
you may never sleep soundly again.

So, what can a small business owner and citizen of
our great nation do to protect themselves from the
financial chickens that will eventually come home to
roost?

1. Pay attention to current events and think about
how it will affect you and your business. Look beyond
the hype and the spin and analyze the facts.

2. Run your business fully aware of the economic
backdrop that exists around it. It is easy to forget that
we are a cog in the wheel of an immense national and
worldwide economic system. When you become aware
of that you can avoid pitfalls and find new opportunities.

3. Plug the leaks in your business. Drive costs down. Find
new sources of income. Run as efficiently as possible.

4. Analyze your business to determine what risks you
need to insure against. A college professor in my small
business program once told us, “The only thing you can’t
insure against is stupidity.” Do you need product liability
insurance? Errors and omissions? Extra insurance for your
home business? Talk to your insurance agent about what
you can do to protect your assets.

5. Manage credit in a business-like way. Get a credit line
before you need one. Keep your debt level as low as
possible. Use debt for investment not to cover current
expenses. Establish good credit relationships with your
suppliers.

6. Take a hard dose of reality. Step back from the
emotional attachments we all have to our businesses and
personal spending habits. Are your decisions rational or
emotional? Do you have a financial plan for your business
and personal finances?

7. Establish and maintain an emergency fund for your
business and your personal life. Always have at least a Plan
A and a Plan B. Are you planning to use a credit card for
emergencies? After Hurricane Katrina, some credit card
companies were refusing to honor the credit cards of people
from Katrina’s impact area. A large, very well known discount
department store refused to take credit cards from people
evacuating from Katrina. (These items were reported to me
by someone working in a shelter in Houston. Big companies
have risk management departments and I’m sure they were
working overtime after the storm to limit losses. Remember,
Katrina took personal property, businesses, and jobs, breaking
the economic backbone of an entire region. No jobs, no money
to pay credit card bills.)

8. Join a small business advocacy group like the National
Association for the Self Employed (www.nase.com) or the
National Federation of Independent Businesses (www.nfib.com).
If you feel you can’t afford to join, visit their websites for
newsletters and other no-cost information. Organizations like
these have their pulse on the small business economic climate.

9. Vote for candidates who are good for small business. Of
course, to do that you need to know what their backgrounds
are and what their voting records have been. You can find
information like that through the organizations listed above.

10. No one said it was easy. This isn’t our grandparents’
economy. It takes toughness, ever increasing skills, and
savvy street smarts to make it in a complex economic
structure like we operate in. It is definitely not a career
choice for wimps!

Until next time,
Caroline Jordan

Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result
www.TheJordanResult.com

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Rats are Circling

I worked for a company once upon a time that was having tremendous cash flow problems. The problem was obvious to anyone paying the least bit of attention to what was going on…Bill collectors calling, orders on hold, management unable to answer a direct question with a straight answer, and an overall ambience of fear and uncertainty. The smell of nervous sweat hit you as soon as you walked in the door.

As the accountant of note, I found several employees keeping a close eye on me. One of them told me, “If I see you going out the door, I’m right behind you.” They knew that as an accountant I had a different view of the company than they were privy to. The rats were waiting for the number cruncher to jump first. Then, it was every rat for himself.

Speaking of rats…I wanted to touch on some thoughts I have about the federal government (nice segue, huh?) Now, let me start by saying that in my own strictly personal opinion, I do not think the current occupant of the Oval Office is the best and brightest this country has to offer. As they say, that is my issue and I own it. No sense writing to tell me I am wrong, I won’t believe it. That aside, I will say that as a person with a financial background, I have some very deep concerns about the fiscal health of our great country.

We are fighting an extremely expensive war in Iraq (and I believe we are still fighting a war in Afghanistan, although we seldom hear of it), the country has just been hit with a disaster of Biblical proportions, and we are faced with the possibility of another. Just one of those items is enough to throw the finances of this country into a tail spin. Add to that the myriad programs, entitlements, infrastructure needs, and pork barrel promises and the question comes to mind…Where is the money going to come from to pay for all this?

The answer is, of course, the money will come from you and me in the form of higher taxes or program cuts. The alternate answer is that the money will come from our grandchildren or great grandchildren as we leave them saddled with so much debt that they will have to invent new cuss words to talk about us.

Now, as you know I am all about small business. We may well bear a large chunk of this burden through increased insurance premiums, tightening federal funds, rising costs, and higher taxes. We have already seen this at the gas pumps. This does not bode well for the economy.

I am not currently ready to start flapping my arms and shouting, “the sky is falling” but I am concerned. Deeply concerned. And the rats are circling…watching me. Waiting for my cue to abandon ship. But seriously, as small business owners we really need to keep an eye on what is happening in Washington and to start asking some hard questions.

Until next time,

Caroline Jordan
Get Knowledge. Get Focus. Get Results.
The Jordan Result

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Are You Working "On" and "In" Your Business? 5 Tips To Help You Do It All

5 Tips for Working “In” and “On” Your Business…At the Same Time

By Caroline Jordan MBA

Congratulations! You just landed a big new contract. Now for the bad news. Who will run your company while you’re buried under the onslaught of work? Often a new project will derail a business owner’s efforts to build a successful business—marketing activities screech to a halt, bookkeeping tasks pile up, planning is thrown out the window, and your friends wonder whatever became of you. When the project ends and you rise slowly to the surface, you often experience a cash flow crunch because no one was taking care of business while you were working.

So, how do you avoid the lingering negative effects that can hold your business back while you get the job done?

1. Planning is everything. With a solid plan in place you stand a much better chance of things running smoothly. A plan allows you to anticipate what needs to happen and also to develop contingency plans for the inevitable times when “stuff happens.”

2. Your marketing plan. If you don’t already have a marketing plan in place before you get busy, chances are you will experience plenty of cash flow ups and downs. A good marketing plan will map out exactly what you need to do each week to generate future work. Once a system is in place, it’s a matter of doing the proscribed activities and tasks. You don’t need to think about it, you just need to do it (or get some help doing it).

3. Building a business vs. working for a living. Often professionals trade the security of a paycheck for the insecurity of small business ownership only to find themselves struggling to earn a living wage. They end up taking any work they can get and working tons of hours just to pay the bills. In the meantime, they have no time to build their businesses. Building a business and working for a living are two very different goals. Building a business requires regular time spent on planning how to grow, reputation or brand building, seeking out additional sources of income, and developing a business that operates when you’re not there or tied up with a project.

4. Sweating the small stuff. Often your day hinges on the little things—a computer glitch, a cancelled appointment, a car that won’t start, or a childcare emergency. Anticipating and preparing for life’s little emergencies makes a world of difference in your ability to keep your business on a smooth track. Sometimes it’s as simple as having your clothes ironed ahead of time or making sure you have food for lunches in the house.

5. Managing the boss. The key to success for every business is having a leader who has the right mix of optimism, realism, leadership, and expectations. You wouldn’t expect your employees to work non-stop for weeks at a time, so don’t do it to yourself. You wouldn’t want to work for someone who had unrealistic expectations about what you can get done in a day, so cut yourself a little slack. Be sure to schedule time off and stick to it. And dust off your sense of humor when it goes unused for too long.

Being a business owner means always looking beyond the tree in front of you to the forest beyond. Building a truly successful business means operating at a big picture level while still performing the day to day details. No one ever said the balancing act would be easy but with forethought and discipline it becomes much more doable.

Caroline Jordan helps small business owners build successful businesses without losing their minds. For more tips & strategies to help you build your business visit www.TheJordanResult.com.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Is Your Business Ready for Brat Camp?

Last week I promised something a little more light hearted this week in view of the severe emotional blows we have all been hit with since Katrina blew through. So, here's an excerpt from my most recent article.

Is it time to send your out-of-control small business to Brat Camp? Here are some tips to help you grab the reigns and take control again.


Remember when your business was an infant? It was cute and cuddly and lots of fun. But somewhere along the way the infant became an out-of-control adolescent and started ruining your life. Now, it doesn't want you to have any friends and won't let you do anything you want to do. Is there any hope or should you just ship your spoiled brat off to Brat Camp?

Tips for Taking Control of Your Bratty Business

1. Take a time out. You can’t think clearly if you’re in the midst of chaos and despair. Go for a walk, have an ice cream cone, take a day off. The business will still be there when you get back.

2. Breathe and Count to Ten. When fear and desperation start to well up, you tense up and start feeling like your life is unraveling before your very eyes. No one ever makes good business decisions from a point of fear. Go do something that makes you feel confident.

3. Take your business out to the wood shed. You remember the woodshed? That place where you got an attitude adjustment…That’s where your business needs to go. Remind it and yourself in no uncertain terms that YOU are the one calling the shots.

4. Set boundaries. Decide how many hours you can physically and emotionally work each week. Take the number of hours you can work and the tasks that must get done each week, decide which tasks have to be performed by you personally. Delegate the rest to an employee, a subcontractor, or a family member.

5. Remember what your real work is. When you’re raising kids your real work is to teach them how to take care of themselves without you. It’s the same thing with your business. Start to develop a plan to get your business to a point where it can operate even if you’re not there.

6. Dealing with a whiny business. When your business starts whining and wheedling and trying to get you to let loose the reins again, sit it down and firmly explain that you are in charge and you are following a plan that you will not deviate from.

7. Call in the cavalry. If your business still won’t behave, get expert help fast. Most business owners wait until too late to get help. Most business failures are preventable with early intervention.

For more tips on taking control of your business and becoming part of the “No Business Left Behind” club, visit www.TheJordanResult.com.