Choosing a Business Partner — Yea or Nay?

Business handshake. Business man giving a handshake to close theDetermining whether or not to bring a partner into the business is a decision nearly all entrepreneurs and business leaders make at some point in their careers.

On the surface, the idea of a business partnership appears to have a lot going for it. Instead of attempting to do everything yourself, now there’s someone who can share the burden and make the venture a little less scary. Just look at the litany of successful, and sometimes earthshaking, business partnerships in recent times:

  • Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google
  • Evan Williams and Biz Stone, Twitter
  • Bill Gates and Paul Allen, Microsoft
  • Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard, Hewlett-Packard
  • Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, Ben & Jerry’s

And in case you’re thinking, how can I compare a hypothetical partnership in my business with Google or Microsoft?, just remember these and most other wildly successful ventures started out in someone’s garage (or similarly unimpressive venues).

But before making a decision that will affect your business for years to come, here’s a look at key pros and cons of taking on a partner.

Business partnership advantages
As noted, an effective partnership means you’ve doubled your resources. When starting a business—or even scaling up for expansion—this entails considerable market research, revised sales strategies, connecting with and pitching to investors, additional research and development, etc. A lot more can get done with two people, rather than just one.

Other advantages include:

Diverse skill sets. It should go without saying, but you don’t want to have a partner who’s “just like you.” Seek out an individual whose strengths compensate for your weaknesses, and whose background has led to a diverse skill set that fills in the void where you may be lacking.

A different way of looking at things. A person with a different background will likely see business challenges in ways you wouldn’t have considered. Having an additional (and knowledgeable) perspective can help with deciding whether to invest capital in a business plan or find some other, more profitable way of leveraging precious resources.

Greater accountability. A solo entrepreneur typically has no one to answer to—an appealing factor for geniuses and visionaries, but less effective for the rest of us. A business partner with an acute sense of what works and what doesn’t will hold you accountable for decisions made, which will keep you focused and productive.

Bringing on a partner only works if there’s mutual respect and a commitment to work through disagreements. “A business partnership is a lot like a marriage, and as we all know, not all marriages last forever,” notes Steve Strauss at USA Today. With all the time partners spend together, you had “better be sure you can get along for the long haul.”

Business partnership disadvantages
Disagreements on strategy, hiring, marketing, etc.
 If your business partner is as strong-willed as you are, it’s a good bet there will be heated disagreements on company priorities, budgets, hiring and so on. That can result in significant amounts of time better spent elsewhere.

Shared profits. Business partnerships are often, though not exclusively, framed as 50-50 profit-sharing arrangements. Whatever agreement you strike (and in this area, you absolutely must get the agreement in writing), some share of the company’s profits won’t be going to you.

Clashing work ethics. Let’s say you’re a proponent of working round-the-clock on your business. A partner may not have the same passion and drive, choosing instead to exert his or her energy when it best suits them. (Or the pattern might be reversed.) In any case, important things like meeting deadlines or following up with clients can get lost in the shuffle.

Risk and liability. While you would never take actions that compromise your integrity, there’s no guarantee a business partner will see things the same way. With a partnership, any violation of laws or regulations becomes your responsibility as well. A poor or impulsive decision made by your partner could result in both of you ending up in court and/or liable for damages.

Clearly, many factors must be considered before embarking on a partnership. But if you do take the plunge, says business coach Brad Sugars, “the decision of who is responsible for day-to-day company direction needs to be made early on, and everyone in the partnership needs to be 100 percent clear on their roles, duties, and responsibilities.”

This works only if both partners pledge to maintain open and consistent communications.

 

91% of Business Owners Could See Higher Revenue Using a Strategic Plan  

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The Alternative Board (TAB), the world’s largest franchise provider of peer advisory boards and business coaching services, released the results of its quarterly, third-party Small Business Pulse Survey – and the results are surprising. Although 76% of respondents say they believe having a written strategic plan increases overall business performance, 91% don’t have what they consider to be an “excellent” plan. In fact, 22% have no written strategic plan at all. While the majority of business owners are expecting the economy to improve, they admit they’re not in the best position to capitalize on it.

“There are many business owners who do not have a good strategic plan. They’re missing opportunities – and they know it,” says David Scarola, Vice President of The Alternative Board. “The time investment required to write and regularly review strategic plans pays off big in the form of increased sales revenues, higher profits and more opportunities.”

When asked what they feel the most significant benefit of strategic planning is, 66% of business owners say it helps them identify and seize new opportunities (as illustrated by this infographic). Moreover, respondents agree that continually reevaluated business plans are most likely to improve revenue growth, profit and marketing effectiveness. Despite the fact that business owners know the benefits of having written strategic plans, only 40% rate their own plans as “good” or better. The primary reason CEOs aren’t writing or reviewing their business plans? Lack of time.

“The complaint that your company ‘does not have time’ is proof that you need to invest time for this,” says Allen E. Fishman, TAB’s founder and best-selling author of The Alignment Factor. “The reality is that strategic business plans have been proven to save an enormous amount of time in every industry. And time, as we all know, is money.”

To get a clearer picture of who was surveyed: 65% are family-owned business owners. About half of those surveyed are members of TAB – this segment of the study group overwhelmingly review and adjust their strategic plan quarterly. By comparison, the non-TAB members felt an annual adjustment was sufficient. Those looking for a measurable result of the benefits provided by TAB’s strategic planning template might point to the fact that 56% of the entrepreneurs who belong to TAB plan to add to their full-time sales staff this year, compared to just 34% of non-TAB members.

“The most recent survey results validate our long-held belief, based on over two decades of working with thousands of small- and medium-sized business owners, that having a strategic plan to guide their business is critical to achieving success,” says Scarola. “It’s in the business owners’ best interest to have a good plan that is reviewed regularly.” However, only 16% of business owners currently review and update their plan on a monthly basis.

The TAB survey also asked questions regarding how small business owners feel about the economy, which led to some interesting answers. While the economy may be stronger overall than it was a year ago, this sentiment varies widely by country. An impressive 73% of U.S. small business owners indicate that the economy is better than it was last year, while only 48% of British and 45% of Canadian CEOs feel the same way. Optimism is high among all survey respondents, though, with 66% anticipating an improvement in their local economy over the coming year. Even more telling, 77% polled expect higher sales revenue and 75% predict an increase in profits.

 

3 Time Management Tips for Busy Entrepreneurs

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According to The Alternative Board’s recent business pulse survey, 85% of business owners are working 40+ hours per week, but only 70% want to be. In fact, the average business owner is working 7.7 hours a week more than they’d like.

Even though entrepreneurs are already squeezing blood from a stone, they still want more. By freeing up their schedules they could devote more time to marketing, strategic planning, and creating new opportunities for their business – the #1 way most entrepreneurs wish they could be spending time at work.

So how can busy business owners reallocate their time for improved productivity and work-life balance? TAB’s survey results offer 3 time management tips you can put to use immediately:

  1. Delegate More

    time management tipsWhile 76% of business owners rank their time management skills above average, an equal amount would like to explicitly reduce tasks that they don’t feel they need to be personally doing.It’s understandable why most entrepreneurs don’t delegate enough — after all, most business owners like being in control. In many cases, it’s why they got started with entrepreneurship in the first place. While taking ownership is a very profitable trait, it can also be a huge pitfall.“The number one mistake startup owners make is refusing to let go of control,” says TAB UK Operations Director Jo Clarkson. “A great way to overcome this setback is by reflecting on your end game and what you want the journey to be like. For example, if you’re really clear that the business needs to provide enough wealth for your family to achieve financial security in 5 years, and you want the journey to give you the freedom to take a 3 week vacation each summer – you’d better get over that hurdle of letting go, and delegate!”
  2. Plan and Prioritise

    40% of business owners surveyed admitted to having an ineffective annual operating plan or none at all — something that directly leads to lost productivity. When you don’t know what is really urgent and what isn’t, you end up treating everything as an emergency.A good way to avoid “tyranny of the urgent” is to prioritise your day. When TAB Member Jesse Viola, President of APM Shipping Services LLC, realised he was spending too much time putting out fires over the phone every morning, he turned to his TAB Board for advice. His fellow business owners suggested he turn off his business line until 11 am each day. “Organising my day this way helps me accomplish the bigger picture items I want to get done first,” says Viola. “From there, I can work on the fires with more motivation and better attention to the cash flow priority.”

  3. Rethink Your Email Strategy

    time management tipsThe number one item business owners are losing time on is email. According to the survey results, business owners are spending 30.9% of their time on email – more than calls (14.2%), direct interaction with employees (24.6%), direct interaction with customers (21%), and direct interaction with vendors (9.4%). As TAB’s April 2015 socially-driven business survey demonstrated the importance of community engagement, business owners are smart to cut down their time on email and increase their direct interaction with their community (i.e. employees, customers, and vendors).

    Cheri Giglia, Managing Director, Supporting Strategies North Shore Lo, recommends setting up a to-be-processed folder in your inbox. When reviewing your inbox, move messages that require further action to that folder. That way, you don’t waste time reading emails multiple times. You can access them later without having to clutter or search inbox.”Follow the advice of the HP founders who were masters of time management. One of their tips was to touch each piece of paper a single time. The same can be applied to email. When you allocate time to reading email, make a commitment to responding to the email at that time.”

If business owners had more time, they would spend it on marketing (32%), strategic planning (24%), product/service development (15%), and strategic partnerships (11%) – all profitable activities that can push their business forward. Better time management not only translates to better long-term strategy, but more time for family, friends, and personal pursuits.

Whether your personal vision of success is increased profits, expanding your reach, or simply more free time, prioritizing your hours is the first step in reaching your goals. Working with a board of fellow business owners can help you identify areas where you are losing time and how to refocus your energy for increased productivity. If you feel you are using your time at work inefficiently, get in touch with a local board for proven time management strategies.

 

How to Cope with Negative People

10 tips for working with negative people (2)

By and large, CEOs and business owners are positive by nature. They have to be. A belief in their own abilities and in the positive traits of those around them is key to succeeding in their professional endeavours.

Inevitably, however, business leaders will encounter negative individuals on the way, people who feel pessimistic about their own futures and (intentionally or not) tend to introduce a toxic element in the workplace. There’s a reason why the saying, “Misery loves company,” has resonated throughout the ages.

But that doesn’t mean you have to be feel trapped by negative people or obliged to deal with them on a regular basis. Here are strategies and action steps you can take to minimise the influence of negativity in your professional life:

negative people, coping with negative people1. Know how to recognise signs of negativity. Some signs are too clear-cut to miss, such as chronic complaining or refusing to take responsibility for one’s actions. Other damaging qualities are more subtle but no less insidious. Work on broadening your understanding of how negative people tick and the warning signs of their damaging attitudes.

“The causes of bizarre, destructive or irrational behaviour can be many,” observes business owner Liam Massaubi. “Learn to identify toxic people and avoid at all costs even if it is a short-term loss for business.”

2. Alter your responses to negative people. There’s not much you can do about what’s shaped a negative person’s outlook. What you can control is your own response when encountering such people, including:

Set boundaries. Only in rare circumstances should you feel obligated to remain in conversation with a toxic individual. Most of the time, keep your interactions short and then be on your way.

Avoid arguments. Just as the 2016 election cycle demonstrated, some topics are simply too poisonous to discuss with others. “A negative person likely has very staunch views and isn’t going to change that just because of what you said,” notes life coach Celestine Chua. If you choose to engage in such a conversation, “give constructive comments, and if the person rebuts with no signs of backing down, don’t engage further.”

Take responsibility for your attitude. Ultimately, it’s how you react to a negative person that informs the outcome of the encounter. Some people have the uncanny ability to detect the good in everyone they meet. This is a useful trait for business leaders to develop in themselves.

3. Practice empathy. In some cases, you can mitigate the effects of a negative person by attempting to understand why they behave as they do. If a person who’s normally upbeat by nature becomes ill-tempered and difficult to deal with, look for possible underlying causes, i.e., problems in their job or personal life. If you can get a sense of what’s bothering them, you might be able to lighten the mood or even offer some support or assistance. This can dramatically change a bad situation to a positive one.

4. Get rid of chronically negative employees. Your company’s workplace culture is a key element in attracting and retaining top talent. Recognizing that even one chronically negative employee can poison the well, act quickly to change that individual’s behaviour—or be willing to let him go. “In the hunt for talent, businesses can’t afford to lose valued workers because the work environment is dysfunctional, fear-based or insufficiently appreciative of their contributions.”

Most importantly, practice being consistently positive in your own outlook. There’s no law that states CEOs must be brusque, ill-mannered or otherwise act in a negative manner. A friendly, optimistic attitude is infectious (in the best possible sense) and also makes for a longer, healthier and more satisfying life.

Having a network of forward-looking colleagues also helps influence business leaders in a positive way. You’ll find just such an upbeat network when you join a TAB Board.

 

What Baby Boomers Get Wrong About Millennials

millennials

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Millennials will take over 50% of the Irish workforce in the coming five years. As more millennials filter into the workforce, it’s becoming more and more important that Boomers learn to work with Generation Y — and perhaps even learn from them.

Boomers can be quick to write off millennial employees who want to work from home and hop from job to job. But, if you dig a little deeper, you’ll realise that many of their workplace needs don’t stem from what some Boomers perceive to be laziness, but instead a quest to find meaning in the work that they do. Below are some common misconceptions about millennials in the workplace (and what they really mean).

millennialsThey are lazy.

To Boomers, millennials aren’t willing to suffer for a living. As millennials would rather skip out on long commutes, long hours, and even long sleeves, their predecessors assume they don’t take their work seriously. But as we’ve already learned from our own work-life-balance survey, as well as many other business articles, working harder doesn’t necessarily translate into more productivity.

What Boomers are perceiving as laziness is actually the millennial’s strategy for achieving more. It’s important to remember that this is the generation that grew up playing soccer, starring in the school play, and taking music lessons – all while passing AP exams. Millennials are brilliant multitaskers, and they understand how to prioritise to make the most of their time.

For example, if driving to and from work every day sets them back a couple of hours and a tie is too distracting for them to focus at work, they question the value of these norms, and they find a solution. They ask for remote options and a casual workplace – not because they’re lazy, but so they can get more done.

They require hand-holding.

According to the “No Collar Workers” survey by MTV, 80% of millennials want regular feedback from managers, and 75% would prefer to be guided by mentors. Yes, this is more than Boomers asked for from their superiors, but it’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“Effective and timely feedback is a critical component of a successful performance management program,” says the US Office of Personnel website. “If effective feedback is given to employees on their progress towards their goals, employee performance will improve. People need to know in a timely manner how they’re doing, what’s working, and what’s not.”

Contrary to popular belief, millennials don’t just want to bring home a paycheque to cover their rent and a few craft beers. They want to thrive. When they feel as if their performance is going unrecognised, they quickly become disengaged.

Boomers can learn a thing a two from this mentality. There’s nothing wrong about asking for help or guidance. In fact, our very own TAB survey revealed that nearly a quarter of all entrepreneurs wish they sought out mentorship sooner, agreeing it would have made the single biggest difference in their business careers.

“They don’t see the need for coaching as a sign of weakness, but as a path to greatness,” says J.T. O’Donnell, Founder and CEO of millennial CareerHMO.com, “Give them the feedback they want (in the way they want it!), so they can exceed your expectations.”

They spend too much time on Facebook.

Yes, millennials are plugged in, but that’s not a bad thing for your business. They understand the online space in a deeper, more intuitive way and can pave the road for your business’s online presence. In an interview with BusinessNewsDaily, TAB’s Vice President Dave Scarola advises, “Although many Baby Boomer leaders are becoming more comfortable with technology, some are still hesitant about using it. Allow your younger staff to help lead your company in a more tech-friendly direction, with suitable IT controls.”

With the advent of social media, millennials have become naturals in the art of branding. Their posts, their shares, even their photos of Sunday brunch (that somehow get 1000 likes) are great examples of effective content creation and personal branding. Knowing how to create an image for themselves translates into knowing how to create an image for your company. Not to mention, as they fall in love with their job and it becomes more and more a part of their personal brand, they become more likely to share the wonders of your company with their large social network. If you know how to encourage them, millennials can turn into invaluable brand ambassadors.

millennialThey only care about a paycheque.

The same MTV survey revealed that “loving what I do” outranks salaries and big bonuses for Gen Ys in the workplace. In fact, 83% of the Gen Ys surveyed agreed to seeking out “a job where my creativity is valued” above anything else.

The reason your millennial employees may seem less-than-thrilled at work is that they aren’t in the right position or given the right kind of work to inspire them. When hiring millennials, it’s important to ask them about their passions and goals. Don’t hire a creative writer in a sales position. If they give a great interview, see if they can support your content marketing department instead.

Ask your employees what kind of projects they would like to be working on, and you may come up with some amazing new ideas for your company. Perhaps they can lead a social media campaign or help restructure the company’s processes.

They have no loyalty.

millennialsRecruitiFi’s Millennial Outlook Survey found that 86% of millennials would not hesitate to leave their job if it meant pursuing their professional or personal passions. Does this mean they have no loyalty? Or does it mean their current work situation isn’t offering anything to feel passionate about? Perhaps the rigidity of their work schedule is making it difficult for them to work to their full creative capacity. Or maybe, their lack of vacation time is leaving them overworked and uninspired. Maybe they aren’t being given the feedback they need, or they were hired into the wrong role.

Chances are if they’re leaving the company, it’s not something wrong with them — it’s something wrong with the role they are in. As a business owner, when any employee leaves – millennial or otherwise – it’s up to you to identify what went wrong and how it can be fixed rather than blame the employee. Before a millennial puts in two-weeks notice, it’s likely you’ll already see it coming.

“Millennials walk into the CEO’s office to tell them how to fix things,” says Nick Shore, a senior vice president at MTV and leader in the “No Collar Workers” study. If a Millennial leaves, it’s not necessarily because they have no loyalty, but because the workplace was unable to listen and adapt.

“As more millennials enter the workforce, experienced business leaders will be faced with some real challenges,” says Scarola. While meeting in the middle may cause some turbulence at first, Scarola agrees it’s worth the extra effort to bring on millennials. “They [Gen Ys} are strong multitaskers and have high expectations of themselves and their employers.”

Change in business can be hard, but it’s essential to growth. A group of peer advisors can assist you as you make transitions in the workplace, including bringing on new employees and implementing strategies to keep them. It’s time to think like a millennial and not be afraid to ask for help. If you’re interested in effective business growth coaching, get in touch with your local TAB board. A TAB board can help you develop a strategy for achieving your personal vision of success and hold you accountable to that plan.