your Mission Statement

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What is a “mission statement”? I recall the first time I understood what it was, without hearing the actual term used, was in the Navy. “America’s Navy: a Global Force for Good”. A decade later, I was committee member in our local church determining a “mission statement” to capture what our specific purpose. Christian churches, as a matter of Whom we serve, are about the purpose of introducing people to the spiritual essence of the life of Christ, and creating followers of Christ. I think we started with, “To glorify God, Love and teach people, and build His church”. But the “mission statement” we were crafting that month was a little more “how” to implement that in post-millennium America.

While you may operate a long time without a common focus or purpose simply by hiring skilled people, it is the most successful enterprises that have a common vision. Everyone from CEO to the custodian knows, and embraces, their company mission statement. When my wife and I began a new venture this year, together, to administer state certification exams for Nursing Assistants in California, we brought individual skill, personal values, and organizational ideas. We were fairly fortunate in that we meshed fairly quickly. But how to capture our particular enterprise in a short “elevator” speech to potential employees, vendors and clients? It was actually almost a month in business, as we were wrapping up a test day with a new client, that the idea gelled. The client and I were chatting as I waited for the last candidates’ results to be transmitted back to me, that I mentioned what we do.

“We bring Integrity, 
are focused on Quality, 
and deliver Results”

“That sounds like a ‘mission statement’ to me”, the school director remarked. “It does, doesn’t it, ” I smiled.

Wild Bill, ain’t no fighting City Hall

If I’ve got any authority in Hays, Mrs. Lake isn’t going to pay this town a cent of license for showing, and if any man attempts to stop this show, then just put it down that he’s got me to fight.

Wild Bill Hickok, http://www.brainyquote.com

Some may wonder which came first, shaping stones and bone into spearpoints and arrowheads, or the village council that decided Mog and Og needed approval, licenses and regular inspections of their enterprise.

Eight thousand years later, an enterprising small business person who ventures into performing a service or providing a product, is supporting a community. She has not just her own family’s living to support, but an entire “industry” of bureaucrats, at the local, state and federal levels of Government. And in California particularly, as a businessperson, earning a living that minimizes the costly regulations that have environment, employment practices, taxes, fees and so forth, driving small businesses under.

Deciding to start one’s own enterprise, in California, and certainly elsewhere, requires a great deal of capital up front, a niche market, and establishing quickly an efficient organization. Mentors, business seminars and other resources can provide training and encouragement, but skilled and dedicated owners and employees find, serve and retain clients. Many, like myself, who have decades of employee experience, soon realize the challenge of one’s own business to balance investment, expenses, and fees against recurring income to make a decent return in the first and succeeding years. It takes planning, and frequent tweaking of the business model. The bureaucracy is another thing entirely.

After filing the regulatory paperwork with the State, including forming a Limited Liability Company, we loaned the business personal funds for the contractual and mandated types of insurances, paying filing fees, and notarizing documents, setting up business banking, bookkeeping, and a Google GSuite of Cloud-based calendar, business email and document storage. Since we were still working for our respective employers, tax considerations of incorporation or forming and LLC were and remain an important issue. Prior to earning a cent, our Liabilities were looking to be a very big motivator to getting our business moving forward.

As a residence-based service business, our enterprise does not operate in an office building, nor manufacture products, nor maintain an inventory. Operating out of a residence located in an unincorporated area, I learned that reporting the actual physical location – separate from the mailing address – in business organization documents would mitigate municipal taxes, inspections and other recurring fees. (The mailing address bears the nearby municipality name.)

But there are other concerns as well. Operating a business, even one that travels to a customer site as our business does, is required to file for a business license. The “gray area” that no municipal clerk whose job it is issuing business licenses and collecting fees, would likely err on the side of the entrepreneur – is whether a license to do business in every municipality that one performs a service – is required. Of course, every municipality’s City Hall will state categorically that a license is required by a business according to a list of industry types. Some types require fees and inspections from safety professionals, zoning and building code enforcement officials. Business coaches I have spoken with, concur that paying fees willy-nilly can quickly eat away an enterprise’s bottom line. While membership in associations that help small entrepreneurs may be a necessary expense, I am considering that expertise gained in those associations may help steer a small business toward profitability.

At least, one of my prospective clients is a State agency, so there is an opportunity, however slight, that money coming out of my pocket, might eventually trickle somewhat back to me. And while I might appreciate a Wild Bill Hickok helping me fight City Hall, I think even he might be outgunned, particularly if he has not paid the required 2019 firearm licensing and entertainment business fees.

pure faxing magic

I got a chain letter by fax. It’s very simple. You just fax a dollar bill to everybody on the list.

Steven Wright, comedian http://www.brainyquote.com/

My at-odds relationship with technology, like copiers and fax machines is very likely material for a Steven Wright comedy bit.

Pure Faxing Magic

I have spent nearly forty years employed in the technology sector. Beginning with vacuum tube systems and basic electronics, by the later years of my career, I would assemble, program and debug very complicated encryption devices.

Nevertheless, copiers, the collating, multiple paper-size, scanners-with-email, touch-selection types have me looking like a kindergarten kid with paper,crayons and glue. I make a call to my ‘work wife’, our senior department Admin for assistance – or I avoid everything but printing.

In the Navy, I was first introduced to facsimile machines in the late 1980s. Who knew that these would be part of my job description with my new business. Between the drum life “nearing the end” messages (what is a drum?), a Mode button (one must select to actually RECEIVE the fax transmission!), and what to do when either the power or the telephone line drops out, I have learned how to respond appropriately. I do not get exasperated.

fax machines
not a musical instrument nor a museum piece

I learned steps from my IT point of contact at our customer sites (somehow nursing instructors always seem to fill in for technical experts on staff):

  1. Wait.
  2. Hit the “Mode” button.
  3. Cycle the “power” button.
  4. Call the “Help Desk” or the site administrator’s assistant.

the value of you

Too many people spend money they earned..to buy things they don’t want..to impress people that they don’t like. —Will Rogers

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertberger/2014/04/30/top-100-money-quotes-of-all-time/#7be817564998

Talking with another entrepreneurial co-worker my age, most working people are in one of two situations. Either there is not sufficient income to meet needs like housing, transportation, medical coverage, and school-age children’s support, or the opposite extreme, too little income to pay for the ego-boosting debts of expensive homes, cars, boats, entertainment and $1000 IPhones.

But there is a third option. Establishing a plan (earlier in adult life, the better) that develops skills and experience with a disciplined savings and investment strategy. Some reputable standout entrepreneurs I know began that way; building a great reputation among friends, employers, customers and peers, they had entrepreneurial ambitions, and were willing to risk failure.

Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value. Albert Einstein

https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/albert_einstein_131187

In our industrial society, age instead of financial stability, is a commonly-held benchmark for “retirement”. Instead, I support the notion that a disciplined approach to provide that stability at a self-determined age is the foundation. And an entrepreneurial venture providing a valued service, personal challenge and some material reward, is a valued “retirement”.

Wealth consists not in having great possessions, but in having few wants. —Epictetus

https://www.forbes.com/sites/robertberger/2014/04/30/top-100-money-quotes-of-all-time/#7be817564998

enterprising observations

A woman who has been running a business for some time offered me some insight tonight. In the military, particularly as an enlisted person, there is a tendency to wait to be “told” what to do next; to follow a “plan of the day” and be somewhat inflexible. While carrying out the “mission” that someone else lays out may be one aspect of a past military career, other experiences may be valuable to an entrepreneur. Overcoming the odds. Quick analysis and problem-solving in highly stressful situations. Seeing past all the bureaucracy to zero in on the objective. Developing camaraderie with team mates while also being very disciplined and accountable.

For someone who has equal ambition to that enlisted person. the lack of such boundaries, may be somewhat a blessing. In your own business, there are many things to learn and to adapt to, including not only the processes that are required just to set up a business legally. There is a need to learn marketing; developing a keen eye and skilled listening – not simply ‘pitching’ – to solving others problem, is probably that most important aspect.

And getting advice and mentoring from a neutral business expert or experts on an ongoing basis really helps. To which I also understand, interpreting a particularly resonating bible lesson tonight, an enterprise may not be without pitfalls, but as long as one trusts in God and perseveres, it will either succeed or be a lesson for future success.

Finding a niche

Doing research yesterday for a business venture, I stumbled upon an idea that may have some merit as an opportunity.

Taking out all the politics of immigration, in California as elsewhere, there are many people who seek employment with rudimentary skills in English if any at all. And some find opportunities to get skilled training for in-demand jobs. Assuming that people are legal residents when seeking job training or employment, what avenues are there for people, entry-level, working people to become functional in the so-called ‘native tongue’?

I witnessed people struggling with written English. While I know that many high school graduates in the United States, even college-bound Seniors, struggle with grammar and vocabulary, it is even more dire for the adult-learner who is foreign-born.

And thus, there is a demand for Teachers of English as a Second Language. And particularly teaching for jobs with a technical jargon that is difficult to grasp. The next step is to determine the investment necessary to find others with the necessary skill, certification, or degree. And then to do a costs-benefits analysis for your enterprise.

Conveying a simple message

In the manufacturing business as in the military, communication, particularly between two speakers of the same language, is not simple nor should anyone assume what you say will be understood by the recipient of your message.

This is painfully obvious when dealing through email.

An email sent to a group of people, including two managers, a technical peer, a manufacturing engineer, a logistician, and a quality assurance engineer, was received very differently. At least two managers told me my report was, in a word, unintelligible. My basic mistake? Adding too much detail, and confusing the recipients. I tried to answer / direct my answer to 3 separate audiences in one email.

To correct this, a man I respect offered this simple formula. In the email, subject line:” <project> <problem> will require < new part/ software/ repair/ test”. In the email body: “Approval request to issue a replacement <widget part number> for <internal customer/ test/ troubleshooting>”. (Period)

In a new paragraph, “DETAILS:”

And keep it specific to that ONE issue. And brevity is key.

After I cooled off, the situation reminds me of the time, long ago, when my Division Lieutenant asked me for a status on some equipment on his problem report. When he stopped me ( I was really a greenhorn then), he asked me to state my response in ten seconds or less:

” System requires a new <part>. $10,000 with exchange. Will arrive next Tuesday.”

first lessons:

a business mindset

I tried and failed at business ventures three times before. With a couple years of technical training, I tried earning a second income as a small appliance and home electronics repairman. It was cheaper to buy new than repair “old”. The next venture was selling solar-heated hot water systems. People could just as easily put garden hoses on their roof (it was southern Arizona) and save the expense of a metal system up there. And then, last year, I saw how my father-in-law’s young relative was making six figures in a health-focused business. She has Amazon- and Facebook- founders-level intensity which produces her ongoing results (building over the past 8 years). I was not interested, youth-focused, or charismatic enough to do what it takes. My prior ventures were great personally, just not rewarding financially for me.

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the importance of a “niche”

This year, my wife and I found a “niche” business. A “niche” is a product or service need, that is not widely available, nor really has much awareness outside of the profession. But is necessary nonetheless. With a lot of support, name recognition, and professional experience, my wife one evening reported to me that a business opportunity was offered to her – that she wanted to do. This was due to pending retirement of the principal operators in the niche market. The business requires unimpeachable ethics, scrupulous attention to detail, military-like precision with clients and retaining or bringing on skilled employees (or contractors).

do not quit your “day job”

A mistake of many new entrepreneurs, is to launch a business enterprise with little financial resources. They then have few options when mistakes are made or customers are slow to provide payment. Then there is even more emotional and physical stress learning the “do’s” and the “don’t”s of operating a business. In just the few weeks after initially deciding to engage in this business, the guts required to seriously and diligently apply ourselves to learning,- particularly with family and job requirements always keeping you busy, is challenging.

In the United States, working for yourself, with the intent to make a profit – to separate your enterprise from what the taxman (the IRS) would label a “hobby” – requires record-keeping, talent, and effort. Depending on the venture, every business has local, state and federal tax statutes regarding individual, partnership, and incorporation to stay within the law. Similarly, there are permits, licenses, and fees with all the aforementioned, to conduct business.

With certain businesses, providing products or services, there are many regulations, certifications, and insurance to purchase and renew yearly. While trying to classify whether there were workers considered by statute as employees to consider, we need general business and professional liability insurance. And probably, workmen’s compensation insurance: California is very strict on business operations. If you are still determined, you have done homework on your competition in the niche market, and calculated the profit versus expense projections before the first customer dollar is received – there is one consideration you may miss. You may find that your business needs to be funded almost entirely from your own “primary” income for a time. One of the first “rules” I have learned is to avoid going into debt while learning the “ropes”. Do not quit your day job before it sustains you.

seeking advice from experienced mentors

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I have only just started to explore the business banking relationships we will need for our venture. We will explore and weigh options on credit, payment processing, and loans. Similarly, I have only attended one seminar run by the small business education group, SCORE, (there are chapters in most communities) taught by people with decades of experience in all aspects of business. But for the entrepreneur, anywhere you find someone to help with the pitfalls to avoid, is great. One can then make all new mistakes to learn and develop as a business person.

your “why” has to be bigger than your fear

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After a career in the military, another in private industry, and still looking for challenge (and change), our own business will prove to be well worth it. After many years of doing without asking why and making someone else’s careers and dreams possible, you also can make your dreams, as well as those of your clients, become reality. But it takes ethics, drive, humility, implementing what others can teach and eagerness to keep pressing on to the goal.

digital manipulation

I think everyone who has a cell phone, computer, or an Apple Watch is aware that he or she is being tracked, analyzed, and being “sold” routinely. An Internet search of shoes on a particular website leads to ads following you every time you go online regardless of the website. Anyone notice that a search for a place to eat lunch leads to advertising or suggestions online? Or your phone asks you to review a place where you recently dined, drove nearby, or even talked about – and your watch recorded it?

“marketing” – http://www.kisspng.com

What if all that data collected on millions of consumers was being routinely analyzed, sorted into patterns, and used with other data to “sell” you – specifically directing you to a target. A blogger I follow shared a TED talk posted on YouTube, where the marketer described how the same technology and techniques are used by businesses, political candidates, lobbyists, foreign governments and even terrorists to target people.

What if the “balkanization” of America, into groups of polarized opponents are being manipulated to remain antagonistic? They are likely using the same process described in the YouTube video.

It is beyond irritating. Your thoughts are not necessarily your own. Fox News, CNN, the Chinese, the Russians, and Google may all use our digital life to their profit. It’s nothing we can do now to escape our digital data, but I am doing my best to confuse the algorithms.

These days I click on hardcore Rap, FoxNews, and shop at JC Penneys. Also, I contribute to Change.org, frequent businesses that serve steak and others for vegetarian lifestyles. I click on diesel trucks and subscribe to solar initiatives. If that is not enough to confuse the data aggregate, I “like” animal charities, firearm education, and Republicans.

why a conqueror burns his boats

Many people dream about being an entrepreneur, starting their own business, working for themselves, and living the good life. Very few, however, will actually take the plunge and put everything they’ve got into being their own boss. Fabrizio Moreira

In 1519, the Spanish conquistador, Hernan Cortes,  landed on the shores that would one day be Mexico with all his men and beached his ships.   He then gave the order to burn them.  With no turning back,  men with a strong vision, ambition and no other option will be conquerors.  And we know from history, a small group of determined men conquered the powerful Aztec empire.

I do not consider my years of military service wasted following someone else’s vision.   During those years I did learn skills,  organization and leadership that have seen me through many challenging and also rewarding experiences.  However,  ever since I was a very young man,  I have been working various businesses from a gardening service, to recycling, a television and small electrical appliance repair service,  a computer maintenance and repair service, tutoring, and at one point a handyman business.  I had brief periods of challenging times, success, failure, and then moved on.  But the true mettle of an entrepreneurial heart, is that same Cortes-like determination.   Put everything  – heart and soul- into the venture.

Honesty and integrity are by far the most important assets of an entrepreneur. Zig Ziglar

Over the years, I have looked at the network marketing business model.   If you consider that many entrepreneurs have made a success owning a franchise,  you may consider owning a McDonalds, or a Starbucks,   or perhaps even a rental-equipment company.   But the network marketing business is a franchise without the high investment costs.   Each investor, becomes responsible for his or her own success, and then mentors and encourages his or her ‘franchisee’ – or “downline”.

Like most businesses that have a successful long-established training model, product or service, there’s one strength and one weakness – the independent business owner.  While many who look for quick returns will be disappointed,  there are many successful entrepreneurs in network marketing, like entrepreneurs in other businesses and industries who share that same vision:  Never quit.  Put your heart and soul into your venture.  Provide a good product.

Finding a business that is in line with your interests and values – since the best advertising  is the entrepreneur who believes, uses, and relies on the product or service they invest in.  Customers are the fundamental part of any business who, as in any enterprise, will return time and again when value, service, and trust in that business is exceptional.    Success is measured in your willingness to learn, adapt, and grow professionally and personally.    And to know that, in general,  only a few of the hundreds or thousands that encounter your service or ‘franchise’ opportunity, will have the ‘Conquistador’ never-quit that entrepreneurs and self-made people possess to want to burn their ships and follow your example.

If you can’t admit a failure, you’re not an entrepreneur. You are not a good business person. There’s nothing brilliant about what you are doing. Mark Cuban

When in little Moscow

American sailors on liberty in Pusan, South Korea before 1999 used to talk about going to Texas Street. Dive bars and cheap eats.

When I visited Pusan in 1999 while aboard USS CORONADO, I remember a Russian carrier in port. Russian bar girls. To avoid uncomfortable conversations, my shipmate and I had a line popularized by Steven Segal: “I’m just a cook!” Didn’t see any Russian sailors. But I picked up a few words in Russian.

красивая девушка

I don’t know what it’s like today, but I left there thinking the bar district had become “Russia Street”.

Learned a little bit about being stationed in South Korea. I learned how to order a Starbucks in Korean. “Grande Mocha”.

IMG_5618And I know not to enter any Asian establishment with a “barber pole” out front. Was told they were “massage” parlors. Wonder if they also do haircuts?

Foreign travel sure is educational.

Entrepreneurship part 2

Continued from Thursday, 9 August

Common sense is a very important attribute to entrepreneurs.  Articles written for Entrepreneur.comReuters, the New York Times, and studies by universities all investigate the characteristics of those who start a business, develop a market, create an industry, or adapt a technology.  While many are not satisfied working for someone else’s vision, it is more difficult for innovators and skilled workers to start out on their own.  The latter may be no less motivated to succeed but the risks in starting a business, losing investment, failing, time spent making improvements or tinkering on the next venture often hold the majority back.

Years ago, when I went to work for a small business, I asked the small group who formed that technology business how and why they started.   It was a product that they were all experts supporting, and improving,  and when the corporation decided there was not enough profit to continue supporting it, these engineers stepped up.  The military customers were still actively deploying these systems so, as entrepreneurs, the men formed a company, bought the contract,  and networked with the stakeholders.  It lead to additional work.

Seeing a market where there was none, and understanding human nature,  an entrepreneur is a visionary.   As I enter my sixtieth year,  I have seen several ideas grabbed by entrepreneurs become world- changing products like the personal computer ( I had interviewed with IBM in 1986 but decided the Navy was more promising than a “personal” computer).  Netflix is a huge company today, with an internet distribution network,  it’s own productions, and ever-growing valuation.    I decided to forego investment in Netflix when it was a buck or two in the early 2000s – because I thought the DVD market would dry up.

Another entrepreneur is Kevin Plank, CEO of UnderArmour.   Creating a line of athletic clothing that wicks away moisture,  his products have been worn by soldiers, sailors, NFL players, college athletes, and even retired Senior Chiefs.   Wearing a UnderArmour shirt with the “I served”, it not only is functional when I am working out but is a statement.   After working for an entrepreneur for more than twelve years, I see a lot of value in his vision of the company as an internet services company (satellite) that services seamless connectivity on commercial, business and military aircraft, as well as secure networking systems.

I need to get more serious about my other ventures, particularly marketing.  Common sense. Vision.  Understanding people.  Maybe I should revisit that Tony Robbins interview.