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How Business Works.. Or Not?

"Since you're not doing anything, serve me so I can get something done." -Michael Patrick Murphy

Who are the masters of business? Who are the slaves? On any given day, in any given situation our roles might change. When we become fixated in one role, we can become bored or even angry. In this world with so many opportunities, too many of us can become fixated by the same jobs, or even the same personal activities. At least we feel more capable of changing our personal environments. But our professional world? That's where most of us get stuck.

Changing business fixations is what allows a business to grow and prosper. It is a never ending process that allows for vacations, but a process that must be picked up again when we return. Think about how many times a business owner or manager must address work related issues while on vacation. A manager might say, "I sure wished I'd trained them better, or that was the last thing I expected. Even when we try to make everything consistent, from product to process, the best laid plans of mice and men are often thwarted by none other than life itself. Read Further

Competition!

by Michael Patrick Murphy, April 10, 2008 Revised 4/11/08

The Small Businessman (SBM) is energetically open to all kinds of ideas from many sources for small and micro business assistance. The SBM's primary competitors are those protected, funded or otherwise assisted by government. However, The Small Businessman likes to make sure you know about them, too. They are relevant to our success!

A friend of mine likes to refer to Plato's allegory that we're not that far out of the cave. In our small business case, there is so much room for improvement that we could go in a myriad of directions to out perform our competitors. One example surfaced recently when I set up a website for a client. I asked, "Why not make vendors feel appreciated?" In the restaurant's case we devoted a page to vendors that told them how much we'd like to hear from them about their products and services. Imagine how many vendors are subjected to scorn from small businesses every day. Knocking on doors is a tough job. Too many businesses treat vendors like a crude interruption to their day to day activities. Vendors never fail to arrive at the worst times. We even discourage them with "no solicitation" warnings. We tend to forget that when we make someone happy, we're lucky if they tell two people. When we upset them, they might tell eight people to go to our competition. After all, who knows your business and your competitors better than your vendors? Why not have vendors work for us rather than for our competition? Why not make them happy promoters of our business? Both vendors and customers could contact the chef via email addressed to "chef@restaurant.com." How special is that? There are so many ways we can compete in the market place, yet too many of us are stuck in common ruts thinking inside a box. I say, "Leave that box to the corporate world where many vendors don't even attempt to knock on doors."

Obsession with Government
by Michael Patrick Murphy, March 26, 2008

I don't want to fall into the whining habit many of we small business folks fall into when it comes to the topic of government. Unless you plan to take action, whining can become such an obsession that it eats up too much time and energy. I spend a lot of time fighting city hall on our behalf, but that is in part a passionate hobby that I enjoy and then again, as a writer, I do take action. I even went so far as to run for the California State Assembly in 2006. It cost me a lot of money to go up against the virtual wall placed in front of me by the political competition. Hopefully the lessons learned will be remembered. Never the less, the reality is that we do face competition from taxpayer funded government programs.

For example, in Rocklin, California, the Chamber of Commerce is my primary competition. It charges members a minimum of $225 and then has the nerve to charge non-profits that compete with us only $135. In the City of Rocklin, despite the high cost of membership for small and micro businesses, they get their lease in a new building built with City tax money, for only $1 per month. So the way I see it, I give them free rent but I don't get a free membership. Of course the City doesn't offer The Small Businessman this same deal, nor should it offer either entity the "quid pro quo" situation that inspires opportunities for collusion between government and enterprise. The Chamber walks in lock-step with the City Council. An example of the collusion would be when the Chamber endorsed a Congressional Congressional Candidate Forum on local Cable TV that didn't invite all the candidates. When I pointed it out, the chamber CEO offered me a written apology that never materialized. This morning I tried calling during business hours (9 - 11 a.m.) to verify their pricing and nobody answered the phones. I say, why post regular 9-5 hours when you're not going to be there for your members? From a business standpoint, I see a Chamber that consistently over commits and under delivers. For all intent, it is a government entity and acts accordingly. However, the chamber, propped up by the city, is certainly not going out of business.

Furthermore, Chambers tend to be "owned" by the biggest corporate members rather than by the small businesses,even when they are a majority. Often, as in Rocklin's case, there is a "quid pro quo" situation when the City gives the Chamber a huge lease break. In essence, the Chamber is another arm of the City government, which in Rocklin is another arm of development and social services, all paid for by tax payers and local businesses, through tricky and often unjustified fees that go into the City's general fund. The City of Rocklin is more focused on helping what it judges to be quality businesses that employ large numbers of people, such as Wal-Mart, a business recently approved over the objections of local residents supposedly represented by their City Council.

Another example would be the various non-profit associations that are there to help specific communities such as the Latino community's Opening Doors . I called them this morning during normal business hours, and also had nobody available to answer the phones after 9 a.m. You may not be allowed to get funding from them if you are an immigrant. Later, I did get ahold of someone who said the director would call me back regarding their funding. (As of publication, I haven't heard from them.) Many organizations are funded by the government to macro manage minorities. Should you open up an all white association, you would be closed down immediately. In a sense, this is reverse discrimination with Federal, State or Local funding coming, in large part, from the white community.

Of course, realistically, nobody told us life was going to be fair. Nor, when we look at the history of all governments, do we see them making the world more fair. As small businesses, we can't help but recognize all the inequities. We should us that recognition so that we can be informed about our government competition so that we can adjust our business practices accordingly. If we gripe constantly without taking any action, I can guarantee a business loss from the waste of time and energy. Dwelling on it can lead to blaming the government for our inevitable bitterness.

Eureka!
by Michael Patrick Murphy, March 15, 2008

All these "government" funded groups compete with for-profit companies like "The Small Businessman." However, I can still be competitive. To my advantage, I leave my doors open to all races, ethnic groups and cultural persuasions and attempt to offer perceived value to my customers, something the government seldom excels at. That's a pretty fair and simple advantage I have over my bureaucratic competitors spending their time requesting grants and filling out reams of paperwork. I don't get any public assistance, nor do I have to ask for it. This leaves me free to focus on my mission to help small and micro businesses (An SBM membership is only $9 ). Where there is a will, there is a way. Like my restaurateur client, I just have to focus on my business objectives and act accordingly. I save my political passions for my spare time or for times that I can make a profit from my efforts. Competition is too fierce and there are simply too many undiscovered improvements to spend my valuable time jousting at Don Quixote's windmills.

 

My Common Law Wife!
Do Everything You said You would Do.
by Michael Patrick Murphy, March 6, 2008

Many of the world's great disagreements have been because somebody didn't do what they said they would do. Those disagreements often led to horrible death and destruction, all of which was not good for most small and micro businesses.

One of the biggest reasons any business fails is that they don't do what they say they are going to do. Read the Story

 

Email - Love It or Leave It?

Handling Email is far more Elegant in 2008 and using it is a Modern Necessity, especially for Small and Micro Businesses, where Email can give them some parity with Big Corporations
by Michael Patrick Murphy, February 26, 2008

Email drives average small business folks nuts! For many, it seems too many messages are a total waste of time. Most small and micro business owners have never really understood email as the powerful light saber wielding ally that it is. Spoiled by email, you may have forgotten how awful it was for the phone to ring while you're in the restroom or helping a customer spend their money. Sure, we want to be there for our off premise customers at the drop of a hat, but trust me, they don't even want to talk to you while you're taking a shower. Today, your cell phone may be driving you (or someone with you) over the cuckoo's nest. Worse it may actually be driving you off the road while your ear takes on a new cell phone accommodating shape. Email, doesn't do that to you. The question you should ask is whether email is making you money? If it isn't, it should be.You just haven't found your common ground with it. Email may not be the best tool to call 911 with, but it has a very valuable place in our modern world and as a small business owner, you'd better be using it. Read the Story

Becoming a Small Business owner is like becoming President of the United States!
by Michael Patrick Murphy, February 11, 2008

The beautiful thing about America is that anyone can become president. The ugly part is that anyone can become president. The same thing is true of those becoming small business owners.

The reason some choose this route is because they don't like folks telling them how to live their lives. They tend to be fiercely independent.

There are two kinds of freedom.

One kind is free from responsibility and the other requires it. Too many small businesses owners expect that small business freedom frees them from responsibility, when in fact they often become more encumbered by responsibility than they were when they worked for someone else. These folks are in for a rude awakening that may almost immediately cost them their business. During the housing boom, many in affluent areas would sell multi million dollar homes, move to a more rural area and then buy an equivalent home for half as much and spend the remainder on opening a new pizza joint.

Reality would hit hard! They found that small business wasn't only about making a great pizza. They would often find themselves absorbed by 12-16 hour days, or worse, delegating the whole thing to someone else as an absentee owner. Read the Story

 


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This page was last updated on 4/11/08

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