Focus—Keeping on Track

It is so easy to lose focus and get off track. I’ve done it hundreds of times in my life. In fact, I just had this happen with my business. I’m still very new and just starting out. I ended up talking with a friend of mine who gave me a great idea. I was so excited about it. It was what I wanted to do. So for the past month, I have been focusing on this particular manner of advertising my business. She and I drew up a whole campaign around this particular advertising strategy. Then one night I woke up at 4:30 am and sat bolt upright. I realized that for the past month, I have been headed in the wrong direction. That’s right. I had inadvertently changed the entire focus for my business.

It was so easy to do. She talked to me, I’m still starting out and it made sense. For other types of businesses. Not mine. I was so devastated. I couldn’t believe that for an entire 5 week period, I was well off track and heading further away from my original business concept. And the kicker? It was so easily done that I didn’t even clue in until 5 weeks had passed.

I’m grateful that I didn’t spend a lot of money on this advertising strategy. I would have been quite costly actually. It’s how her and I met. I contacted her to ask some questions and next thing I knew, she was selling me on it. And it made sense, if my business was a traditional bricks and mortar store. But it’s online and buying traditional advertising just doesn’t make sense. Continue reading

Small is Big

One of the most amazing things about Warren Buffett’s business, Berkshire Hathaway, is that it is very small in terms of staff comparative to other multi-billion dollar companies. Buffett has always kept his hand in the business and kept a very small handful of people around him to support him. This is so contrary to most large businesses out there.

I find it fascinating that such a large corporation is still being run by a handful of people. Buffett claims that by keeping his staff requirements low that BH is able to maneuver quickly in response to any situation. Anyone who has worked for a large corporation knows how long it takes to get anything done or approved. There is little autonomy to make decisions and everything must go through the proper channels.

One of the best places I worked was in the office of emergency plumber in Danville. I was answering phones, booking appointments and answering the few questions I could. I loved the job. I was in my early 20s and it was a great place to work. My boss was fantastic at supporting me so that I could grow in my confidence and abilities. He even showed me some basic repairs so that I could answer questions when people called. I wasn’t just guessing at the process, I knew the process. So, if someone mentioned their tap was dripping, I could talk about it likely being that the seal was gone and the ring needed replacing.

My next job after that was working at a university. I was again doing secretarial and administrative kinds of tasks but now everything had a process. There was no more “winging it” and just going with the flow. I found it frustrating and tedious. I couldn’t just walk down the hall to get a signature. I had to go through the “right” channels before I was permitted to get that signature. After 2 years, I ended up quitting. I just couldn’t take the bureaucracy anymore. I hated not being able to make decisions and just act on them. Continue reading

Warren Buffet: Reputation Is Key

The more I read about Warren Buffett, the more I respect the man. He keeps things simple and is very direct in his approach. In today’s era of social media marketing, get-in-your face advertising and blowing your personal business horn at any opportunity, Buffett’s approach is pretty simple: maintain your reputation.

Reputation takes time to build and is based on trust and experience/results. Trust and time are the biggest factors in building reputation. Buffett is known for his saying that reputation takes 20 years to build and 5 minutes to ruin. What is implicit in that statement is that to re-build a reputation takes almost as long as it did the first time. And maybe even longer depending on how the reputation was ruined. Trust takes a long to time rebuild and, in some cases, may never be fully restored.

I know of several high profile businesses that had their reputations ruined by poor decisions by managers and company directors. In some cases, the company recovered but not after months and years of very careful reputation management at the hands of a firm that does this as their primary business.

The fact that businesses exist that focus on the reputation of famous individuals and businesses shows how critical it is to image and to selling. Businesses want a good reputation to sell products and services. Famous individuals want a good reputation to sell themselves and, by extension, either their own products and services or that of other companies. Continue reading

Humility at Its Best

I think the first time I ever come across the word humility, I associated with humiliation. By the time I was 8 or 9, I was quite familiar with humiliation. I had been teased a fair bit in school and often opened my big mouth, thereby, causing all sorts of troubles for myself.

It wasn’t until I was in my early 20s, that I heard the word humility and the difference brought to my attention about the word humiliation. I tried to figure out what humility meant but really struggled. Then someone explained to me that their definition of humility was being “right sized”. I got that. I could understand that humility meant that I didn’t need to puff up my ego to look better than I was nor did I have to beat myself down and play the victim or martyr roll.

It meant that if I did a good job, to acknowledge that. And, conversely, if I did a poor job to acknowledge that too. I didn’t need to dramatize either of those scenarios by adding to them. We all have strengths and weaknesses and we will all fail and succeed. It is simply acknowledging what is in front of me without adding anything to it.

One of Buffett’s biggest features is his humility. Here is an exceptionally wealthy man who lives in the same house he bought over 40 years ago, his name is not plastered all over buildings everywhere, and he doesn’t show the wealth he has. He lives simply, humbly.

Our media loves to show wealthy people living it up and highlighting their gross excesses. We have an odd fascination with individuals who are willing to show their arrogance, their ego and their wealth. They are the opposite of Buffett. While these individuals make good tabloid headlines, are not great role models for businesses or for kids. Continue reading

Warren Buffet’s Investing: The Epitome of Nouveau Riche

So much has been written about Warren Buffett. He is a self-made man and a paragon of American success in terms of being born without a silver spoon in his mouth.

Many wealthy people often have a head start on the rest of us by having been born into “old money”. This means that their families are very wealthy and often have been for several generations. They have networks of similarly wealthy friends and family and tend to help each other continue to make more money.

We now have an entire generation of nouveau riche individuals and families who turn the old establishment upside down. Warren Buffett is one of these men.

From what I’ve read about his background, he seems quite naturally prepared for being an investor. It seems he had a natural affinity for math and could add sums in his head rather easily. I know this isn’t my situation. I still count on my fingers sometimes! Continue reading

Following in Warren Buffett’s Footsteps…

I am new to the entrepreneurial game. I have always had a bit of an entrepreneurial spirit but it was never really encouraged. My dad was a factory worker who grew up in a military school and did not like to take risks. My mom quit school after failing Grade 10 and went out to find a job as a secretary. Given that it was the early 1960s, jobs were to be had everywhere without needing much qualification. Many jobs that are automated today, weren’t back then and there were more jobs available then there were people to fill them.

My mom always told me that a high school education in her days wasn’t necessary. Young women were encouraged to become secretaries and then, if they wanted, to move up the ladder to become a secretarial manager. My mom took her first job at age 15 as a secretary and eventually wound up as a Department Head in the school board by the time she was 29 years old.

On a side note check this cool story one of my mentors posted on Facebook about how hard his mom worked to get by after his dad left…

Grab a tissue first though! Continue reading