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Sunday, September 27, 2015

4 Actions help entrepreneurs avoid getting trapped

It is your choice to walk through or avoid this web!

Spiders create elaborate webs to trap their food.  They spend long hours creating intricate patterns in places potential prey might visit.  The patterns can be beautiful to observe, but people often do not see the web and walk through them getting an immediate icky sensation!  So, why not look and identify webs in advance and make an effort to avoid them.  You are not likely to avoid all of them, but the act of careful observance and planning may prevent you from using your face as a cleaning device.

No matter how skilled you are or well-planned your business is, problems almost always arise.  Being prepared for the unexpected is important to exiting unpleasant situations with the best possible outcome.  Planning for all unexpected events is not possible, but a few may be anticipated and alternatives identified in advance.  You are certain to be totally blindsided by some events, so your ability to react efficiently and quickly may make the difference between success and failure.

The following list provides a few suggestions to help you:

1.      Learn as much as possible – Any route to a goal or destination may have multiple paths to reach a successful conclusion.  Sometimes, interim steps are adjustable or have alternate paths.  Only by careful study and an understanding the objectives and routes can one identify suitable alternate paths. 

2.      Watch the road – It is hard to avoid a collision while texting on your phone.  In short, keep your eyes on the road.  In the case of business, the objectives and end products are the final destination.  The road is your route of getting there.  You need both a long range and short range vision of the path and the goals.  Do not take your eyes off the prize!

3.      Plan ahead – It is easy to see all the spider webs under ones house if the lights are on.  You can decide in advance to avoid them or find a means of clearing them as you move through the space to do a repair.  Webs that can trap exist in business as well.  Thinking ahead and seeking ways to avoid the problems may help you eliminate or reduce the danger of many traps.  You will still get hit with the unexpected, but maybe you can reduce the number of unexpected events and save energy and time.

4.      Learn to react quickly – Trouble strikes when you least expect it.  What will you do?  Learning to react quickly and making solid business decisions is critical.  In short, remain Agile in your Thinking!

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Agile Teams improve chances of success

Follow me and I will help you grow!

Entrepreneurs go through extremes rarely experienced by the normal work force.  These entrepreneurs are forced to learn a broader range of information in order to run a business.  The entrepreneurial duties may encompass cleaning the floors one day and inventing a new product on another day.  They may be required to tackle a personnel issue while raising capital just to keep the business alive.  All of these tasks create fantastic learning experiences for the entrepreneur but that new found knowledge is not always shared with the team.

Because the entrepreneurs is the most knowledgeable about the business, the team members constantly seeks advice from their leader.  Passing out bits of wisdom daily helps employees but it may not teach or encourage them to think for themselves.  One important fact that every entrepreneur would do well to learn is that the sum of knowledge of the team is likely greater than that of any individual in the team.  Teaching what you know is great and extremely important, but pressing the team to go beyond what is taught forces them to think and use their own skills to improve the business.

Encouragement of the team members to participate in building the business may help take the business to new levels.  Imagine the collective minds and interests all working toward the same goal of becoming the best business possible.  Encourage their abilities and have them seek improved solutions or better products thus making the business a real winner.  Imagine an environment where the entire staff feels empowered to build a fantastic business and has the pride and desire to do so.

In a recent conference, L. David Marquet author of “Turn the Ship around” described his navy experience of passing along an order that was impossible to follow.  The crew was highly trained and oriented to follow orders without question.  They were also reluctant to provide any feedback or question authority.  Mr. Marquet’s realization of the need to change and force the crew to be stronger contributors resulted in a ship with one of the worst performance records becoming one with a stellar operational record.  It is this ability to unify and draw from the team that takes them from working like robots to being an all-star team providing outstanding contributions.

The ability to direct all the team to be participants and active contributors helps to ensure that things are not missed.  It is not possible to know everything or to see all issues.  Having the minds and hearts of the team focused on the improvement of the business will help in the creation of an all-star business.  After all, creating a highly successful business is the dream of every entrepreneur.  Why not share that vision with the team and empower them to help achieve that goal!

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed and the Startup Blog. Connect with him on LinkedIn, Twitter @twilli2861, ColonialTDC , Facebook, and Startup Group. 

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

4 Ways entrepreneurs pay it forward

Wouldn't life be better if everyone did a little to "pay it forward?"

Entrepreneurs work very hard 24/7!  They create startups and strive to build their businesses that create countless jobs.  They encounter many struggles and often receive little thanks for their efforts.  Eventually, they succeed or start something new.  This is a cycle that seems daunting for many, but many entrepreneurs are committed to this life style.

Win or lose in the business world, each entrepreneur has an opportunity to succeed in life by using precious resources to help others.  There are many ways this can be done and each person needs to find an outlet important to them.  Many people want to help others in some manner but seem to find little time to become involved.  It is with this idea that the list below may serve as a means of helping you find that niche that strikes a passion in your life.

1.      Less fortunate:  It is not possible to walk the streets in a major city and fail to see people in need.  Maybe you feel they are scamming and not really in need so you walk by.  There are reputable charities that will help those with true misfortune in their lives.  Perhaps you can devote a little time to physically help a charity or feel able to donate money from your personal reserves.  Occasionally, someone you know personally has fallen on hard times and could use a hand.  Just lending an ear and helping them sort out troubles may be enough.

2.      Youth & employees:  Many people can benefit from your knowledge and skills.  Teaching & counseling on business issues are not always on the core agenda in schools.  No one knows your business like you, so who better to teach tomorrow’s leaders?   The old phrase “you can’t take it with you”, applies to knowledge as well as to money.  What better to leave behind than highly skilled and educated leaders!

3.      Money:  You hit the jack pot in your company and now you are rich.  Maybe you are just financially stable and have good health.  Finding ways to use some of your wealth to help charities or educational institutions is an option.  If your passion is education, perhaps contributing to a scholarship fund is of interest.  Some entrepreneurs create charitable trusts for their gifts and for soliciting funds for an area of interest.  In short, find something you feel comfortable with and consider giving.

4.      Memories:  Supporting someone emotionally, teaching new skills, giving financial assistance, or just listening and offering advice create positive memories in those being helped.  Maybe you recall a teacher or manager that was there for you.  Perhaps you feel you are successful because someone helped you.  You have memories of fondness or appreciation because of another person’s contributions in helping you.  You can leave such feeling behind in those you help!

The point seems a bit like the movie “Pay it forward.”  If you give to others, someone will be most grateful for the gift received from you.  Maybe they will be inspired to be the same kind and generous person that you appear to be to them.  By changing how you interact with those in your immediate sphere of influence, you have a great ability to alter a much larger sphere and help bring about a better place in the future. 

  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Sunday, September 13, 2015

4 Ways entrepreneurs optimize time

Agile thinking is similar to playing chess!

Thinking agile is a bit like playing chess.  Many moves are possible, but planning several moves ahead and considering possible counter moves is essential to beating advanced players.  The same is true in fighting a battle.  The opponent is working to achieve a victory.  It takes advanced planning and consideration of potential responses to win in addition to agile reactions since the enemy never reacts as expected.

Even simple events may benefit from agile thinking.  Taking a trip to visit a relative is likely done by taking the same route used numerous times in the past.  What happens if there is an accident and the normal route is blocked?  Learning of the accident in advance allows for selection of alternate routes.  Filling the car with gas before the trip may save you from running out if the unexpected happens and you become trapped in traffic and unable to move for a few hours.  Perhaps you threw a few bottles of water and snacks in the car just in case.  You are more likely to weather the bad event with less pain and suffering by a little advanced planning.

Events can sometimes be predicted and sometimes they are unexpected.  Agile thinking is the ability to find the best route(s) to success, or “pivot” when meeting an unexpected event.  Agile thinking encourages seeking a goal by exploring more than one path and not by being stuck repeating the things over and over simply because it worked the first 9 times.  Consider that it may not work the 10th. 

As stated in Think Agile, “Man plans and God laughs.”  Entrepreneurs plan extensively but not all entrepreneurs achieve their ultimate goals.  Agile thinking can increase the chances of success by identifying roadblocks and alternatives in advance.  The art of Agile Thinking is a skill that can be learned.  The ability to consider, evaluate, and make plans rapidly is part of the process.  It also includes some of the following characteristics:

  • Trusting the people working with you
  • Relying on other peoples’ skills and knowledge in the areas where you may be lacking
  • Short working cycles to deliver a minimally viable product
  • Inspect and adapt your plans constantly
  • Fail Fast and Fail Often so you can learn what doesn't work and then move towards what will.

Agility is a factor that can be a great asset to entrepreneurs. Developing agility requires some willingness to explore and take risks. Not high risks, but risks in trying something different and unfamiliar. It is with an agile approach that new paths and greater successes may evolve more readily. The following are steps that may help you start to develop your agility in running a startup.

1.     Study & Learn – Any route to a goal or destination likely has multiple paths. Sometimes, interim steps are adjustable or have alternate paths. Only by understanding the objectives and routes can one identify the best alternate paths. 

2.     Plan – It is always essential to plan, otherwise, you never know where you will end up. Planning helps cement concepts and identify at least one possible route to the end. Making alternate plans is where you began to develop some skills that may make you more agile. Alternatives and preparation help build the needed confidence to make a shift in direction when needed.

3.     Experiment – Skill and knowledge is helpful, but occasionally experimenting with alternatives can provide new insight and direction. Experimentation can be as simple as discussing ideas with the team or partners.  Their input may lead to better approaches and less risk. Experimentation will enhance your awareness of novel alternatives that may arise. Your goal must be to recognize new alternatives that increase your success and act quickly! The process of learning, planning, and experimentation will embolden you to make more agile adjustments in your activities.

4.     Adjust – It is usually not possible to pick the perfect direction or activity on first try. Monitoring and adjusting can often help improve a mediocre plan resulting in an improved performance and greater return on investments. Staying on a rigid path is ok in many cases, but learning to be agile in your thinking will allow you to move faster and smarter toward a greater success level.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

24 Articles and interviews you may have missed

Over the last year, I have had articles published, mentions in articles by others, as well as interviews. They are listed below along with the links should you wish to learn more.

Media articles by Taffy Williams

1.              Young Upstarts: 5 Ways Small Business Owners Can Improve Their Agility In The New Year

2.              Independent Book Publishers Assn:  How to Be Agile with Deadlines

3.              Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy:  6 Steps That Help Generate Leaders from Followers

5.              CEO Blog Nation:  5 Steps Agile CEOs Use to Turn Fear and Indecision into Success

6.              All Business experts:   6 Ways for Entrepreneurs to Increase Agile Thinking

7.              The CEO Refresher: Agile leaders build team work for better performance

Articles by others

8.              Market Leadership Journal:  Can Entrepreneurs Thrive in an Agile Age?  by Tripp Braden

9.              Good Reads:  Think Agile: How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed  by Loafingcactus

10.          Forbes:  How Entrepreneurs Must Prepare For The Unthinkable by Martin Zwilling

11.          Linkedin:   For 2015, Think Agile! by Ben Dominitz

12.          Small Business Forum web.com:  3 Books Small Business Owners Should Read  by Carmine Gallo

13.          Las Vegas Business Press:  Books offer tips on blind spots, handling pressure by Jim Pawlak

Mentions in articles

14.          Investor’s Business Daily, Leaders & Success column:  Maximize Minutes By Guarding Against Time Bandits expert commentary in article by Michael Mink

15.          Investor’s Business Daily, Leaders & Success column:  Martha Harper Invented Franchised Beauty Salons – expert commentary in article by Scott Smith 

16.          Business Unplugged :  New Year's Business Resolutions for 2015 Item #61 by Carol Roth 

17.          Charlotte Observer:    Do you have the ability to “Think Agile?” by Jenny Wong

18.          Sources of Light:  Interview – Taffy Williams on How Entrepreneurs Can Think Agile  by J.D. Meier


19.          Blog Talk Radio:  #301 John Hope Bryant, Tom Caporaso, Joe Pergola, Taffy Williams hosted by Barry J Moltz

20.          School for Startups Radio:  March 4, 2015 – Alden Kat of MyKatio & Medical Entrepreneur Dr. Taffy Williams  hosted by Alden Kat

21.          Experience Pros:  Thirteeners, Bad News Better, Think Agile and Business Tips  hosted by Angel & Eric

22.          Women’s Business Talk Radio Network:   Think Agile for Business Success hosted by Diane Helbig

23.          Boss Academy:  Taffy Williams – Learn to think Agile in your Business hosted by Paul KIirch

24.          Positivity Strategist: Interview - Think Agile to Create an Agile Culture, With Taffy Williams hosted by Robyn Stratton-Berkessel

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Dream big but act wisely

I am studying medicine to be a doctor, but maybe I should consider alternatives.

Entrepreneurs tend to be dreamers.  They see the future of an idea and try to turn it into a reality.  There is no age limitation to being an entrepreneur or a dreamer.  However, dreams like entrepreneur may be improved with time and work.  Allowing an idea to mature properly and studying underlying business principals may be the difference between the success and failure of achieving dream goals.

All dreams are not going to come true regardless of how hard you try.  It does take hard work, but proper study and some luck is needed.  Failure to attempt to achieve a dream ensures failure because you never try to achieve the goal.   The same is true of trying to achieve a dream when insufficient time has been devoted to the planning and maturing the underlying concepts.  There are also occasions where a person’s skill-set requires improvement to ensure the best chances of success.  The same is true of the improving one’s economic standing.  Starting a business without sufficient funds to maintain a lifestyle prevents the entrepreneur from devoting sufficient attention to a new business or may cause them to close the business too early.  After all, it is important be able to eat and provide shelter for yourself and your family.  Insufficient funds to take care of daily needs become a major reason to vacate a new business and find a job that pays.

The desire to accomplish a goal may be with you for a prolong time before you are ready to tackle the tasks. Perhaps you want to write a book at age 20 but finally get around to it at age 60. Expending your energy too early may result in burn-out or failure because of starting at the wrong time.  Timing is critical in many ways.  For example, creating the light-bulb 50 years too early would have caused loss of patent-life before an electrical network was available to allow the product to be useful.  Trying to create a medical device before you understand the market and the medical disorders is likely to put the product at a disadvantage in the market place.  The same is true if sufficient education is lacking because of insufficient studies of the business area and market.

There is often a critical timing for executing on a dream, especially when it comes to entering the market place.  Trying to enter the market place too early limits market adoption.  Entering it too late, allows competition to take the market.  Developing a product that is not properly designed to meet the market needs can be equally destructive to the business.  It is not sufficient to have a great idea, the timings and maturation along with study and hard work are essential to convert a great idea to a reality.

The goal is to be successful and limit the failures.  This requires acting wisely and understanding that perhaps dreams take time to mature just as much as the people working to achieve them.  The best way to some up these concepts is: DREAM BIG, but ACT WISELY!  Take the right steps and look for the optimal time to start the tasks of achieving your big dreams.

Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon 

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Entrepreneurs must learn to face this very difficult decision

I did all I could do!

Entrepreneurs are a highly dedicated group focused on newly created businesses.  Running a business is a strong part of an entrepreneur’s life and they develop a never give up attitude.  The problem is that there are times when it is necessary to pull-the-plug and close the business down.  Trying to run a business that is on life support is a highly emotional time and decisions become increasingly difficult.  Deciding when to terminate all activities and close down is a difficult decision to make.
There is often a fine line between success and failure. Many factors beyond the entrepreneur’s control contribute to the ups and downs of a business.  For example, a contract manufacturer producing materials may reside in a country undergoing significant change.  The result may impact price of materials or lead to a degrading product line.  Not realizing or rapidly adjusting for a product production that is off in quality or quantity results in clients receiving product that fails to meet specifications or generating delivery backlogs.  Failure to deliver quality goods on time makes for unhappy clients and they may seek a replacement for your products.  A sales reduction is one of the symptoms, but if the problems are not corrected quickly, the company customers leave may never return.
It is hard to come to a realization that the large sales of yesterday no longer reflect the sales potential of today.  The owner sees the business as having a great value based on past sales, but it may be the current status has placed the company in a position of greatly reduced valuation.  In fact, the valuation may be so low that partnering or selling the business makes little or no sense.
There is an important question to ask: “Was everything humanly possible done to make the business a success?  If the answer is a yes, then it may be time to consider closing the doors.  Consulting with a few confidants may help you sort things out.  The biggest issue is the emotional tie to the business and belief that the business has great potential.  It may have great potential that is limited by factors beyond your control.
Almost all businesses have great potential in the beginning, but not all of them will develop to that great potential.  The reasons for failure are many.  The most important thing an entrepreneur can do is to ensure that one of those reasons is not the leadership and decision making, i.e., you!  If you are in charge, have you done everything humanly possible to make the business a success?  (Like, hire a great team, select a product opportunity with a great market, and develop backups to ensure continued operations.) 
Failure happens and leaning to deal with failure is part of the entrepreneurial training.  You will need to create a process to determine when it is time to end the business and then develop the courage to do so.  Learn from the events and be smarter in the next endeavor.  It may be little consolation, but recognize that many entrepreneurs failed one or more times before becoming a success.  There is a time value of money and resources.  You lose valuable time by waiting too long to close and move on to a better opportunity.  It is important to have a never give up attitude, but it is equally important to realize when your real value resides elsewhere.
  Taffy Williams is the author of:  Think Agile:  How Smart Entrepreneurs Adapt in Order to Succeed to via Amazon