Business 101

Business 101: Be More Systematic w/ Solutions

Today’s lesson is an extension of the previous topic.  You see, sometimes our multitude of options doesn’t involve various brands or businesses.  We could have an established business, brand, product, or service.  Or we may not have anything that is firmly developed but we know exactly what we want and our locked in.  So locked in, that when problems arise, we are willing to try every idea at once to succeed.  Every idea is considered valid and every person that wants to help is welcome.  But that “give it all you got” method of solving a problem in my opinion isn’t the best.  We must look at problems like a science experiment where you have a control group and the non-control group where several variables are adjusted to observe results.  If we change too much at once it makes it harder to know what the root cause is.  Additionally, we maybe miss how some of the changed variables intertwine and impact each other.  So, like an experiment I would recommend making a change, observing the result, debriefing, and deciding what the next course of action should be.  How fast or slow you work thru each solution is dependent on your timeline.  If you leave enough observing time between changes to fairly evaluate the results you can go as fast as you want.  Systematically working thru solving a problem is a tried-and-true method to bring life to potential solutions.

Business 101: Reset, Focus

Sometimes as business minded people we get caught up in trying to do too much.  There was a time I was so caught up in creating brands that I was constantly hiring someone to design the next logo and color scheme.  Furthermore, I used those menial tasks to keep me from focusing on progress that really mattered.  I often found that I sometimes had to fall back and decide what brands or initiatives were going to be the priority for that season.  Time is not infinite so we have to find ways to squeeze what we can out of it.  If you have 5 different business ideas, you can’t make them all excel equally at once.  I recommend identifying what factors are most critical for you at that time.  For example, are you trying to help people, make money, build a grass roots brand, or network now?  If helping people is most critical then pushing your business that’s tied to a product line isn’t your top priority.  If generating income to provide for yourself and others is more pressing than upkeeping and pouring marketing into a religious website that doesn’t provide product or service is placed on back burner.  Building a brand from grass roots probably means you are open to hiring someone to assist in managing social media and website content.  Or if you want to network, then you are likely dedicating several hours a week to attending meetups and trying new things.  In short, when you strip down your layers of priorities and create hierarchy on what you want or need you reset back to the basics.  A more singular focus helps you stay on task and align your energy and actions with your priorities.

Business 101: Don’t Be Afraid to Pull the Plug

Today’s tip kind of piggy backs off the previous one.  If we know when we expected results than it gives us a clearer view on when it’s time to move on from lack of progress.  We shouldn’t continue investing labor, time, and monetary resources into a plan that isn’t working.  Even if the folks we are working with are good people and trying hard results are results!  A manager at work once told me that you can’t confuse progress with success.  Just because you are slowly improving with your initiative doesn’t mean it’s acceptable to continue to underperform.  The sooner that we can cut our losses and scrape a non-value-added course action, we are able to regroup and reload the next strategy.  Hopefully, we can take what we learned and be better for it.

Business 101: Importance of Knowing How Long to Try Something

As entrepreneurs we won’t always hit on every idea or initiative we embark on.  Which means we must have an idea on how long we should try a particular direction or action.  If we don’t know how long it should take to see results, we need to ask.  Though the fact we are asking after the action has gone into effect gives us a lesser chance of getting an honest answer out of someone.  Nobody wants to admit they are failing so someone with skin in game is likely to lean on optimistic side.  If you know that trying a new marketing campaign should take 6 months to increase sales before writing a check you know you can start judging folks if nothing has happened and you’re in month 5.  In short, note the mile stones the action should deliver so you can check expected results against actual results once you plan of action goes live.

Business 101: You Pay for What You Get

Sometimes, the cheapest thing your money can buy will get you cheap results at times.  I’m going thru a situation right now where I used Fiverr to hire a programmer for development of my app.  Now don’t get me wrong, the independent programmer has done a good job for the price I paid and developed my app in ways I wouldn’t have imagined when I first started.  However, when I look at some of the add on feature costs and the timeliness of the delivery there are some opportunities.  I say opportunities because I’m still waiting to close the project out so I can move on.  When you use a one-man band the service likely isn’t their full-time job and if it is they probably our swamped.  Therefore, when you look at costs of service and even product think about the entire costs cycle.  If this just a short term or on time transaction?  Is this person going to be servicing me long term, can they meet my needs long term?  Can they keep up with what I need from speed standpoint?  Cheapest or budget friendly decisions don’t always align with short term, long term, expert skillset, and speed.  You’ve been officially warned and please pray for me to this app development wrapped up so I can start making money!

Business 101: Continuous Growth

Today, I like to share my thoughts on continuous growth from a personal and professional standpoint.  At work you first need to focus on how you are doing at your existing role.  Master the existing way of executing the role.  After you are sure you understand how role is currently done, look for ways to improve it.  Improvement could mean small things that make the job easier or drastic changes.  Its much easier to get buy in from others to change something when you’ve demonstrated you can competently do things the way they have always been done.  Once you’ve learned the role and have improved it look for ways to volunteer for new initiatives.  Do the things others won’t even if it means you have to work harder.  In parallel to looking for initiatives start thinking about what you want to do in the future.  Express to your manager or supervisor what you want to do next so they can’t potentially help you achieve your goals.  Look for ways to gain experience in what you want to do and start doing the job.  If you are already doing the job you want to do next its easier for others to give you the official role when its available.  Lastly, look for ways to build connections with people in the roles you want.  This helps you again, network, get advocates, and start understanding the role even deeper.

Another area of life that continuous growth can and should occur is personally.  Start by finding ways to learn new information and educate yourself.  For example, you can go to a community college or regular university to start taking random classes.  Challenge yourself to read a book every few weeks or per month.  Join organizations in your community, start your own, or network with industries that are related or unrelated to what your do.  In conclusion if you want to experience continuous growth in life you must get uncomfortable.  You aren’t going to have transformative or even different life experiences if you don’t get out the comfort zone.

Business 101: Real Meaning of Provisional Patents

So, I had a reality check of what the patent process really is.  I’ve shared that I had patentability search done months ago and it revealed that I had a potential idea to patent.  Therefore, I was advised to file a patent.  I elected to file the provisional patent because it’s cheaper and I thought that gave me an official invention certificate temporarily.  Now that I’ve had my provisional patent application filed, I am officially patent pending like the folks on Shark Tank!  However, I found out that doesn’t really mean much.  Essentially, I have some legal protection to stand on if someone were to steal my idea, but my invention still isn’t officially patented.  I don’t yet have the certificate with the ribbon that I can post and brag to folks on social media about.  Getting something officially approved by US Patent Office takes several years.  So, the next steps for me are to decide within the next year if I want to file an official patent on my invention.  I guess the intention of a provisional patent is for people that are unsure of an idea to somewhat test it out with some legal backing before committing to the larger investment.  The non-provisional patent is like 3-5x time the application costs of a provisional ones and that matters when even filing a provisional patent is several thousand dollars.  Again, the provisional patent filing gives me a 1-year clock to be protected and follow up with filing a non-provisional (long term) patent.  It also serves as a place in line because people that file provisional patents get somewhat of priority status when it comes to the application being reviewed.  I’m assuming that’s because people that have at least filed a provisional patent have worked with law firm and have some of the work completed while someone going straight to non-provisional patent application may be starting from scratch.

Business 101: Just Ask, Worse You Can Hear is No

I recently completed my provisional patent application and was working with my lawyer on filing it.  The paralegal tried to say I had to pay $400 or $900 dollars for the filing fee when originally, I was told it was $75.  So, I went on the USPTO website and couldn’t figure out how the $400 or $900 fee was calculated and challenged the paralegal.  Found out the paralegal made a mistake and I only had to pay the $75.  So just by asking I went from paying $900 to $75.  Thanks to God for putting on my heart and mind to investigate the filing fees.  This brings me to the business 101 article this week.  Don’t be afraid to see what value you can get out of a situation.  Never assume that the initial price or costs of something is what you must pay.  If you are at a store shopping, ask the employees if there are any discounts, coupons, or sales available.  When handling your business tasks ask if the price can be lowered if you don’t like what you hear.  If the other party ask you what you think costs should be, figure out what your preferred number is.  Throw out a lower number and leave room for negotiation if need be.  Sometimes when you try to get better value for the product or service you are purchasing the other party will simply tell you no.  Other times, you might find out someone made a calculation error or forgot to charge your correctly.  However, even if you encounter 2/10 situations where costs have been lowered that’s money that can be set aside for something else.

Business 101: Follow Up with Urgency

When you are trying to get tasks accomplished for your business you don’t have time to waste.  Things that are critical need to be handled with great urgency.  If you have components you are waiting on, reach out to the vendor to see if they can be made sooner for free or for expedite fee.  Orders that are complete and just sitting around should be shipped to customers.  It doesn’t hurt to over deliver to your customers.  Sometimes it’s better to call people to get answers versus waiting on a response from a text or email.  If someone is late on their follow up to you, waiting on response via email isn’t an acceptable course of action.  Get on the phone and figure out what’s going on.  This is especially true if you are in contract and or paying for the services of the person.  Treat your business like it matters and make it clear to others that they need to make it priority as well.

Business 101: Invest in your NETWORK

One of the best ways to help accelerate the success of yourself and your business is by investing in your network.  I don’t mean just throwing money at people you know and their business initiatives.  I literally, mean allocate time to attending networking events whether they are in person or virtual.  It gives you to chance to meet new people.  You never know who you are going to stumble upon that might become a good resource, friend, mentor, and or mentee for you.  Networking allows you to educate yourself on what others are doing whether they are your direct competition or have nothing to do with your business.  If someone is giving a presentation during a networking event which often happens, or someone wants to brag about their business you can just quietly take notes and absorb the trade secrets being shared.  By networking you can start surrounding yourself with people that are like minded.  If you want to become a better basketball player, you don’t go hang out and play baseball.  You pull up to a basketball court with your ball and grab next in some scrimmages.  We should be doing the same thing with our business dreams.  Spending all your time with your 9-5 co-workers, content family members, and or friends that mock your goals isn’t going to encourage you in positive way.  Seeing other people working thru the same struggles and aspirations as you can result in you pushing yourself to the next level to keep up. So again, invest in your network, the people you socialize and build your goals and habits with.