Tag Archives: Amex OPEN

3 Things Never to Tell an Entrepreneur About her/his Spouse

I just read 7 Things Never to Tell Your Spouse About Business Finances, posted by Barry Molz on Amex OPEN forum. I like Barry and I like his work.  I’ve been on his podcast before and it was great. But his tone of voice in this post makes me uncomfortable. Dont tell your spouse

If you’re curious, compare Barry’s tone in that post to mine in some of my (somewhat confessional) posts on me and my wife and entrepreneurship: My biggest startup boost, for example; or this true story on relationships vs. new business. And yes, my wife and I have been married 44 years, in a relationship that has survived years of scraping to support a startup, and sending five kids through college; so maybe I maybe I know something about this.

It’s not that Barry doesn’t offer some good advice within his post. He does. For example, if you’re dealing with cash flow problems, Barry advises:

Don’t give your spouse a daily cash report, since it’s always changing. Instead say, “Money will be tight for the rest of the year.” You will be right most of the time.

But there is no excuse for the multiple references to the spouse as “she” in that post. I know Barry and he knows better. This is nasty stereotyping. The whole “don’t worry your pretty head” motif is 1.) offensive and 2.) obsolete. Ironically, all of Barry’s advice here has nothing to do with gender so there is no reason whatsoever to make the spouse female. Making the advice gender specific dilutes it.

And secondly, regardless of gender, keeping a spouse in the dark about serious business issues is a really bad idea. Specifically, Barry’s suggestion about what to tell a spouse when a major investor pulls out …

Don’t say anything, and work privately to learn to project your cash flow better so you can survive the bumps in the road.

… is really bad advice. What a terrible thing to suggest. First of all, that idea makes for an incredibly lonely entrepreneur. Nobody normal can help fretting over that kind of situation. Not to share it with the most important person in your life, who is by definition a person who is going to share the consequences if you go under is horrendously bad advice.

And here’s another piece of really bad (well, maybe just insulting) advice on what to say when you have a buyer for the company:

If you do tell her about any pending deals, make sure she understands that nothing is set in stone until the money is in the bank. Also, don’t give her the dollar details; when the deal closes and the money is in the bank you can say: “Honey, what can we do with an extra $100 million?

The first part of that advice is not bad, but condescending, and unfortunately also gender specific. The second part is insulting.

My apologies to Barry for a bit of a rant, but I’m the father of four daughters and this stuff really gets my goat.

I’ve discussed this topic in other posts and in my opinion it’s best to be open and honest with your partner. In fact, being candid has immense benefits. Here’s an extract from one of my previous posts that illustrates how essential my partner has been in helping me to succeed:

[This was the] biggest boost to starting a business: My wife said “go for it; you can do it.” And she meant it. At several key points along the way, she made it clear that we would take the risk together. There was never the threat of “I told you so, why did you leave a good job, you idiot!” What she said was “if you fail, we’ll fail together, and then we’ll figure it out. We’ll be okay.”

Don’t Drown in That Wave of Bad Startup Advice

“The availability and ubiquity of bad advice has exploded over the past few years,” writes Dave Lerner in How To Avoid Bad Startup Advice. Amen to that. He explains it very well: 

Dave Lerner Amex OPEN bad startup advice

This is due to many factors, the primary one being the tidal wave of entrepreneurship washing across the country, which has brought to shore not only many great things, but also a great deal of flotsam and jetsam.
The tremendous personal broadcasting medium of Twitter, as well as blogs, have allowed for an extreme amount of entrepreneurship discussion and advice—so the bad and the good are now delivered via the same firehose and with the same breathless intensity. Who can you trust?

It’s easy to note that wave, and I’ve posted here on bad advice; but Dave, to his credit, offers a specific list of “red flags” to avoid. My favorite is this one: 

You go in to talk about your consumer Internet startup and the first person you get paired-up with as a “mentor” is an IP attorney who encourages you to file some patents and “protect your idea.” (Translation: No one knows what they’re doing here—consumer Internet is not patentable, and you better start running away fast.)

That’s just one of several. His list is definitely worth a read. 

Hooray the Late ’60s Are Finally Winning

No surprise to me: Alexandra Levit reports on Amex OPEN that big-company CEOs are “abandoning command and control.” IBM studied more than 1,700 chief executive officers from 64 countries and 18 industries.

Of course. Look around. You’ll see complaining sometimes about alleged millennials, but all they’re doing is wanting people to care what they think. That’s true of Gen-T too, and us aging hippy baby boomers as well. Nobody wants to mindlessly obey. Computers and software first, then the Internet, created a meritocracy of sorts. People share jobs and work from anywhere and it’s about results, actual work, not time warming seats.

Just a couple days ago I was sharing with a good friend that I thought I was bad as a manager building my own business because I wasn’t good at structure and command. I didn’t like authority that much. Now it turns out I was just ahead of my times. Hooray.

My favorite part of this report is the conclusion:

The IBM study has revealed a new type of CEO—one that lives on the ground rather than in the ivory tower and one that is able to adapt to a rapidly evolving business world. In many ways, small-business owners and entrepreneurs are accustomed to this form of leadership.

Hmmm … so in the smaller companies, the startups, the grass roots entrepreneurs are leading this change? Are you surprised? Big company leadership is taking longer to figure this out? Still surprised?

What I like is that what we started in the late 1960s is rolling along towards 2012. Power to the people, and all that.

It’s about time.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com)

3 Business Planning Posts in Different Places

I’ve been busy this week, with posts about business planning appearing on my column at entrepreneur.com, my post on Industry Word, and a post on Amex OPEN Forum. Meanwhile, I had one of those travel disasters — boring, you know the drill — getting out of San Francisco. Well, not getting out of San Francisco, stuck instead in an airport hotel. So it seems a good time to share those three other posts:

  1. First, on my column at entrepreneur.com, 5 questions your business plan should answer. Hire people? Change locations? Change pricing? The idea is that if you keep a business plan alive, and maintain good planning process, then your business plan can answer those questions.
  2. Second, as a guest blogger on community.sba.gov, I posted 5 planning fundamentals for every business.
  3. And on Amex OPEN, the real heart of planning as management, steer your business with plan vs. actual.

All three of these are about real business planning, not just a business plan document, but running your business better.

(image: Dimitri Shironosov/shutterstock)

5 Good Posts for Friday July 1

I need your help: Can you suggest a way to give a theme and a title to a series of Friday posts listing good posts and recommended links I’ve seen from the last week? My title here is too dull. I’m not nearly good enough at titles.

I don’t want to do this every Friday, but this is the fifth time since April 1, so I’m thinking maybe I should make it a repeated theme, with a cool title. Except I don’t have the title.

  • My absolute favorite this week is Megan Berry’s post on Mashable called 7 Tips for Better Twitter Chats. It’s a very good short piece on the step-by-step details of doing a twitter chat. Megan’s marketing manager at Klout (and yes, one of my daughters).
  • Shashi Bellamkonda of Network Solutions, alias the swami of social media, posted 6 Ways to Improve Your Online Content on the Amex OPEN Forum. Shashi knows. He practices what he preaches.
  • The SBA (U.S. Small Business Administration) has an excellent short piece explaining why you need a business plan on SBA.gov. It’s not a blog post published this week, but SBA.gov tweeted it this week, which caught my attention.
  • Fred Cavazza, Why a Facebook Page is Not Enough forbes.com. I caught this one thanks to Becky McRay mentioning it on twitter.
  • The TED blog posted The 20 most-watched TED Talks (so far). How can you resist this best-of-the-best list from the amazing collection at TED.Com. Trivia question answer: TED stands for technology, education, and design.
  • (Aside: yes, I know, this is the sixth, but I can’t resist) Steve King had some fascinating demographics in his Comparing Small Business Owners and High-Growth Entrepreneurs on Small Biz Labs. 

5 Good Posts for Friday May 6

I’m in Austin TX today looking forward to two full days judging the University of Texas’ Venture Labs business plan competition, which is something like a grand finale, bringing together 36 teams that have won other competitions.

This is the original Moot Corp, started in 1984, the first MBA-level business plan contest that I ever heard of. I’m happy to be here for the fourth year in a row. I’ve read some really good business plans, and I’m looking forward to seeing the teams pitch and take questions.  And tomorrow we have a special Palo Alto Software challenge, and then the finals.  I expect to be posting about this event next week.

In the meantime, some good posts from earlier this week:

  1. Annie Mueller of Wise Bread posted 10 Signs You Shouldn’t Be a Small Business Owner on Amex OPEN forum.
  2. The Osama Raid Live Tweets: This one is off my normal track, but I found it fascinating, something like watching history as it actually happens, in a Twitter sort of way. Damon Clinkscales published a series of tweets from Sohaib Athar, in Pakistan, tweeting about the raid that killed Osama Bin Laden.
  3. A cool infographic called Startups Exposed. I’m like infographics a lot these days, this is a cool new trend. And there’s interesting data in this one, although – I’d take it all as food for thought, not as gospel truth.
  4. James Altucher’s 100 Rules for Being an Entrepreneur. A list of 100 is a nice touch, and most of them are very good.  I’m thinking about posting more on this one next week.
  5. I also liked Lena West’s How to Clean Out Your Inbox Without Guilt, also on Amex OPEN. Good advice.

5 Good Posts for Friday April 22

It is now fixed so I haven’t lost my last two weeks of blogging, and all of your comments, from yesterday’s Amazon Cloud server failure. In the meantime, life goes on. These are some posts I’ve collected this week, posts I want to recommend:

  1. Little Bets Can Make a Big Difference: Dan Schawbel’s review of Peter Sims’ new book Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge from Small Discoveries. I’ve been meaning to review this book myself, because I like it a lot. Dan beats me to it with an interview style coupled by some specific helpful lists. Here’s a good summary in one quote from Peter:

    I’ve heard thousands of entrepreneurial stories, some extremely successful, many mediocre, or not successful. That combined with the extensive research my team and I did for this book leaves it clear to me that instantaneous ideas are extremely rare, in business, art, science, or you name it. Mozart was an exception. He was a prodigy. But for the rest of us mortals, it takes lots of small steps and constant iteration to identify big opportunities and problems.

  2. Anita Campbell posted Are You Too Old to be Innovative on the Amex OPEN.  One of the highlights is that being holder helps to spotlight trends. I hope so.
  3. And on Anita’s Small Business Trends blog, Lisa Barone posted The 7 Types of People to Avoid in Social Media. Do you recognize yourself there? Scary question.
  4. My thanks to John Jantsch for pointing me to 5 Tips for Better Business Storytelling, by Jeanne Hopkins, on Hubspot. Very practical tips. I think story telling is extremely important, and not just for blogging.
  5. Andrew Sullivan’s Look At Me When I’m Talking To You. Very disturbing. I’m guilty of this. Read it.  By the way, has anybody else noticed how prolific he is? Like 10 blog posts a day?

5 Good Quick Reads for Small Business Owners

These are some posts I noticed during the week. I keep track of them because I intend to do a post of my own on the same thing, but sometimes it’s better to just highlight them and share. These all seem useful to the small business owner and entrepreneur.

  1. Six Companies That Did Not Survive 2010 on NYTimes.com is a great collection of quick but still very useful summaries of failures.Who they were, what they did, and what happened.
  2. How to turn dating agony into sales success, by Pamela Slim, on Copyblogger. Don’t you love that title? I’m a big fan of Pam’s work, this one is longer than most blog posts but also rich in practical suggestions and thoughtful and well worth the extra length. Good for one-person entrepreneurs and small company owners alike.
  3. How to fire an employee the right way, by Shira Levine, on Amex OPEN. Somebody told me the other day that she was good at firing people, and I was amazed. Can anybody be good at that? Hence, this post.
  4. The 5 things you need to do before approaching investors, by Eileen Gunn on entrepreneur.com.
  5. The Top 50 Blogs for Small Business Owners is a pretty good list, and I’d say that even if it didn’t include this one.

(Image: Kotomiti/Shutterstock)

Take a Break. Get Out for a While. Do Something for Yourself.

I really like Anita Campbell’s How to Put the Life Back Into Your Company post yesterday on the American Express OPEN Forum. She starts:

After the past two years of the recession – watching expenses like a hawk and keeping a close eye on receivables – it wouldn’t be surprising if you ended up with a bunker mentality.

That certainly hit home for me.

Anita goes from there to some very good suggestions taken not from the standard small business cliches we’re all tired of, but rather, from real experience, related to real people. Like get out of the office for a while, for example; and do something just for you. This is good advice.

Here’s Anita’s list. My advice is that you read the original post for her full suggestions.

  1. Remind yourself why you started or entered the business.
  2. Reflect on those who rely on your business.
  3. Get out of the office.
  4. Find something to celebrate.
  5. Do something just for you.

For that last point, I can’t resist finishing this one with her explanation:

Getting burned out won’t help a thing. It saps your energy. Do something just for you… a family vacation, some golf, reading a book, visiting an attraction. Find time to recharge your body and soul and you’ll bring more enthusiasm to your business when you get back to work. Encourage your staff to do the same.

And I’m glad to report that this post today catches me practicing what Anita suggested: I’m on vacation in the San Juan Islands. I took the picture below yesterday, from cliffs where we were sitting and watching when a group of Orca whales swam by, diving and blowing and jumping, as close as 50 yards away. This impromptu iPhone picture isn’t great, but the moment was. The picture includes two Orca whales, four of my grandsons, two of my daughters, my son-in-law, and my wife. Life is good.

whale watching

(Image credit: me and my iPhone)