Tim is a popular syndicated newspaper columnist and contributing business expert for Entrepreneur, Technology Today, and a number of other online and traditional publications.
The following columns represent a sampling of Tim's print work.
Opportunity Doesn't Knock
Real entrepreneurs know that opportunity is not delivered like pizza. Real entrepreneurs do not wait for opportunity to come along. Real entrepreneurs seek out opportunity. They get up off the couch or get out of their cubicles, go out the door, and run up and down every street in town knocking on every door they come to. Sometimes opportunity answers the door, sometimes not, but real entrepreneurs keep knocking. When people ask where I went to school I give the old reply: The School of Hard Knocks! But I don't mean that life has beaten me up on my way to where I am today. I mean that I went up to a lot of doors and knocked as hard as I could and every now and then, opportunity answered.
Business Lessons Learned At The Mall
I recently took my teenage daughter shopping at the mall. What was I thinking? Only the good Lord knows. I vaguely recall complaining that my fifteen-year-old daughter, who we'll call "Chelsea" (because that's her name), didn't spend enough time with her dear old dad anymore. It's a complaint that every dad of a teenage girl formerly known as "my baby" has made at one time or another. I also recall my insightful wife telling me that if I wanted to spend time with Chelsea now that she was a teenager I would have to do it in her element, which happens to be any large structure with the word "Mall" on the side. A fitting analogy would be that if you want to spend time with a moody tiger you have to go into the jungle to do it.
If It Was Easy, Everybody Would Do It
Even on the best of days running a business can be incredibly stressful, not to mention overwhelming and exhausting. It's only natural that there will be times when you wonder if it's really worth it. Asking yourself the "should I just get a real job" question simply means that your human side is showing. And as a human you have a limited tolerance for things you can not control. And that's really where the stress of being an entrepreneur comes from. We worry about things we can't control. Things like finding new customers, paying the bills, making payroll, and a thousand other things. Sure, we can put forth our best efforts to make these things turn out in our favor, but we really can't control the outcome. Read more
Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?
There are a variety of skills you'll need to succeed as an entrepreneur and chances are do not possess them all. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that if you lack certain skills you can always hire people with those skills to help round out your company skill set. Read more
Achievements Outweigh Education and Experience
Many successful businesses were started by first time entrepreneurs who never went to college. Natural talent, ambition, drive, determination, and good old dumb luck have fueled many success entrepreneurs, myself included. I don't have a degree (I drove past a college once. It looked hard, so I kept going). Would a degree have helped make my business trek easier? Perhaps. Then again, I know people with advanced degrees who are flipping burgers at McDonalds. You want fries with that MBA?Read more
Choosing A Business That's Right For You
I always compare starting a business to jumping into a pool of freezing water. There are typically two types of entrepreneurs who take the plunge. The first are the "Toe Testers." These are those cautious folks who just stick their big toe in the pool to gauge the temperature of the water. The lesson to be learned from Toe Testers is to start slowly and don't feel like you have to wade in too fast. The next type of entrepreneur is the "High Diver." These are those fearless souls who climb the ladder and dive into the business pool head first without worrying about the depth of the water or the dangers that lurk beneath the surface. Quite often these entrepreneurial daredevils find themselves drowning in unknown waters or end up with their heads buried in the bottom of the pool.
What Makes A Good Leader? Ask Uncle Sam
What do the major generals who are leading the war efforts in Iraq have in common with executives and entrepreneurs who are conducting business back home? When it comes to leadership, the answer is probably a lot more than you think. In a recent study conducted by the Army War College, subordinates of the major generals who are leading the war efforts in Iraq were asked to rate the performance of their superiors. According to retired Gen. Walter Ulmer, coauthor of the study, "The study showed that even when tactical and technical competences are excellent, interpersonal skills are critical." What's that? People skills are critical in fighting a war? General Patton must be spinning in his four-star grave.
How To Boost Your Bottom Line With Just Two Little Words
When you use a customer's name the business experience becomes personal. And when the business experience becomes personal your customer becomes vested in the relationship and thereby becomes as concerned about your success as you are. At the sound of his or her name your customer becomes your champion. They will toot your horn and defend your honor. They will recommend you to their friends and be loyal to you to the end, even when they can get the same product or service elsewhere for less money. Unfortunately, 99% of business owners and especially their employees fail to realize the importance of personalizing the business relationship. While they are happy to take my hard-earned dollars, most businesses could care less what my name is. That's why so many businesses fail: they see their customers as numbers, not names. The 1% of businesses that understand the impact of personalizing the business experience are the ones that will flourish for many years to come.
Are You Mentor Material?
The mentor/mentee relationship is very much like that of a parent and child. The younger, less experienced child mentee will look to you, the older, more experienced parent mentor, for guidance, wisdom and advice. They will come to you with questions and expect you to have all the answers. They will bring to you their problems and expect you to solve them. And if you don't give them the attention they think they deserve they may pout and complain about you to all their friends. In short, if kids get on your nerves, don't even think about being a mentor. Buy a goldfish or even better, a rubber plant. They require far less attention and everyone will be much happier in the long run.
What's The Customer Service Buzz About Your Business?
Nothing generates negative buzz about a business like bad customer service, and nothing will drive nails in a business' coffin faster. News of bad customer service travels like lightning and spreads like wildfire. Think back to the last time you were on the receiving end of bad customer service. I'd be willing to bet that you immediately went out into the world and told everyone you met about the experience. You probably also warned them to "never do business with those &^%$ or you'll get treated the same!" As a business person, it should be your mission to make every customer a repeat customer, and one of the best ways to do that is by delivering superior customer service every time that customer comes through your door. Superior customer service leads to increased customer satisfaction, which leads to repeat business, which leads to customer loyalty. It is also much cheaper to keep a customer than to obtain a new one. Read more
The Thick Line Between Buddy and Boss
One reason I am so qualified to dispense sage business advice every week, Allen, is that I have made just about every business blunder you can imagine. I am like the Evel Knievel of the small business world, if Evel Knievel wrote a weekly column on motorcycle safety. One of the more unpleasant things I've had to do is fire a good friend who was not doing the job I hired him to do. He needed a job, I needed an employee, so I thought I would give him a shot. It turned out to be a match made in business hell. He took advantage of our friendship by showing up late for work, spending time goofing off instead of working, and making a joke out of my complaints about his behavior. Because of our friendship I defended his actions to my other employees, but after a few weeks I knew I had to show him the door. We're still friends, but certainly not like we were before. If I ever have a flat tire in the middle of the night, I doubt he'd rush to my aid.
The Great American Customer Service Unawareness Campaign
I am not an over-demanding customer, but I do expect to be treated with the respect due someone who is willing to pay hard earned money for a product or service. In the past year I have been physically assaulted by a car salesman who refused to back up the promises he had made to get my signature on the dotted line. I've given up going to a certain Mexican fast food restaurant because the spiky-haired kids behind the counter act like taking my order is a major imposition on their day and when I do convince them to sell me food, the order is always wrong. And a certain cable company is still billing me for cable service at a house I moved out of six months ago. So don't preach to me about who's right and who's wrong because I have enough customer service horror stories to fill your soon to be empty appointment book, and in every case the customer WAS right.
Managing Employees Is A Little Like Herding Cats
Some business experts will tell you that managing people is an art. Others will tell you that managing people is a skill. I'm going to tell you that managing people is more like herding cats. Just when you think you have them all going in the same direction one will run off and you have to go catch it. And by the time you get back with the stray cat the rest of the herd has all gone off in different directions. It's no wonder most entrepreneur's hate cats. They remind us how little control we sometimes have on our employees. The hardest part of employee management is maintaining control over your business while the herd is running wild. To further push the analogy envelope consider this: if your employees are running the business instead of you, it's a little like the inmates taking over the insane asylum. Crazy things might start to happen, like losing customers and being run out of business.
How To Handle The Occasional Oop-See!
Now on to dealing with more minor offenses. As anyone who has read this column for any length of time knows, I'm cursed with daughters. I used to say I was blessed with daughters, then they learned to walk and talk. Blessed quickly became cursed. Now my oldest daughter is an inch taller than me and getting all lumpy in places I'd rather not think about. She's a sad case, really. The poor kid needs an operation. She has a cellphone growing out of her ear. But I digress… When she was a toddler she coined the phrase, "Oop-see!" Whenever she did something innocently destructive, like knock over a glass of orange juice on my new computer keyboard or shove a Pop Tart in the VCR tape slot, she would look at me with her huge brown eyes and say, "Oop-see!" My wife says there is a reason God made kids cute. Oop-see moments are evidence that she is right.