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Pathway to Your Success: Building Legacy


This is the first in the “pathway to your success” series -- helping you to discover the small-business growth opportunity with the biggest companies in the world.

We'll cover various issues like corporate contracts versus government contracts; how to use corporate contracts for legacy business growth; and what does that mean? What do large companies buy, and why the time is now for small business owners to get into the big corporate contracting game. We’ll also discuss how to go about financing your small business so that you can play and win in this game and, of course, the mindset for success.

This blog is about legacy and giving back -- the small business owner’s dream. What I want to discuss is why did you start your small business - or why are you thinking about starting your small business? You get past the obvious things rather quickly: “I can make some money”; “I'm fed up with my nine to five”; or “I want to be my own boss”.  Many of you have wanted to have the independence. You felt like it was your time. You thought that there was some unique something that you could do or that you thought was missing in the marketplace. There was a need you could serve, but fundamentally deeper than that, even if you ended up doing it out of necessity, you probably were thinking, I want to start my own business because I want to build something.

All of those things are additional support and great reasons, but when you think deep down about it, what does a small business really mean to you? For most of us - and I'm pretty sure you're probably included in this - it means “I want to build something. I want to leave something for the family. I want to make a mark. I want to do something more substantial than just being a number in a big company of people that come and go. If I do it right, I can make more money, I can leave something for my kids; I can make a difference in the community; I can fund passion projects that are near and dear to my heart. I feel like this is my real shot at living my purpose and living in my purpose”.

In the simplest terms, you get to come closer to living life on your own terms - at least professionally. And if you triangulate it, or if you manage it, or if you fund it properly, you will be able to do it both in your professional and your personal life.

That is really the core of “the dream”. The idea that in this world you can be whatever you want to be. All you have to do is dream it, right? If you dream you can believe; if you believe you can achieve, and so small business represents a huge opportunity personally. I know you might be saying it's hard out there. It can be daunting. It can be overwhelming. It can be outright scary because you don't have a safety net unless you build it. Being a small business owner does not come with a safety net. You have to build it, but you've seen so many other people do it, so you know it can be done.

You hear things like 90% - or better than 60 or 70% - of non-government employees work in small businesses.  Small businesses in the United States are economic engines and economic drivers and the economy thrives on them. So if you grow a business - something bigger than a lifestyle business where it’s just you, or you and one or two people -- you're going to make an impact. When you have somewhere between five and 50, or five and 200 employees, then you know that when they report those monthly statistics about job hirings, they're talking about you. Those numbers are not driven by the top 10 or 20 companies in the world.

Now don't get me wrong, those companies do significantly drive the economy, but the majority of the impact on the economy comes from what you do. If you have confidence that you know what you're doing and you've tapped into a market and you have good things going, then your small business never looks back. Sure, you're going to go through highs and lows just like every business does. I don't know a business that hasn't been through them, but if you're confident in what you're doing; you're managing the market; you're staying on top of your business; then you ride those waves. And if you're a good small business owner, you've done things to prepare for those downturns.

A banker friend once told me, “The best time to approach a bank about money is when you don't need it”. I know you've probably heard that as well, but what he was sharing was,  as an example, if you're thinking about a warehouse line of credit for your business, then get it when times are good -- so that when times are bad, that's not something that you have to deal with or risk not being approved and you can weather that storm because you acted before the storm came. This is just a small example of things you can do to remove some of the fear of growing even bigger, making a bigger impact, doing a whole host of other things. Why is this significant? Because we're in an unprecedented time in the economy - big corporations have more economic stability than they've seen in the last 10 years. They are spending capital dollars. They're putting projects out there for three to five years into the future.

When corporations start talking about construction projects, it takes about a year or two to plan those. Depending on the project, it can take about two, three or even four or five years before the construction is complete. Then they start putting into the books what they believe the additional revenue is going to be from bringing that asset online. So that's how far out they're looking, and many of them are beginning to look at more projects because they have confidence in the tax environment; what's going on in the global economy; and a whole host of things. The trade issue with China is creating an opportunity for many of the companies that went there to come back to the US, or go to Central America or South America, or go back to Europe and go back to other places.

All of that creates more and more opportunity for small business owners because you fill a gap that big companies just can't fill. So, if you are thinking that you're not sure what the economic outlook is going to be for the next five-to-10 years, and whether or not your small business is going to be able to survive and thrive in this market, what I would tell you is hang in there. Now, you may have to sharpen the ax a little bit. If you don't recall what sharpening the ax means, it means you may have to become more precise in some of your skillsets and your ability to execute against the projects and learn a little bit more with laser precision. You have to precisely target what particular customers you're going to go after, and what's going to be the value proposition for them.

You need to be sharp on how you figure out who the customers you want to target are, and how to put a compelling business case in front of them. How do you go about proving that you're the smartest choice they can make for that opportunity; get the opportunity to cross the finish line; and get the referrals and other additional business that comes after that so that you never look back. So, you may have to sharpen your ax right now to be better prepared for more opportunities ahead. You can't afford to chase all of them. You just can't, but right now it's a great time to be a small business owner. I mean really and truly, it doesn't matter whether you're going after big companies or whether you're going after the public sector. Also, most of the governments around the world are spending money, and government spend represents a major opportunity for small business owners as well.

I started this off with legacy and giving back. That leads me to answering another part of the big why of the small business owner’s dream. I was in a workshop and Christina Wise - who wrote a book called “Falling from Money” - a bestseller - and also owns a company called “Wealthy, Wellthy Life” talked about being clear on being a small business owner or an entrepreneur and what that really means to your personal wealth. Obviously, you're not trying to do this to be broke. You're not trying to do this to be poor. So, what does it mean for your personal wealth? She said, “being a business owner in and of itself does not create wealth”, primarily because most of our businesses really never sell for the value we think they should. A lot of you say, “Hey, if I can get 10 times profit or 10 times revenue or something like that when I sell my business, that's great”, but it rarely turns out that way. So, she says starting your own business is not your way to getting rich and she goes on to further say that you really and truly have to think about personal wealth in two terms. As a small business owner, she recommends that you say, “I have my work business, my small business, or my corporate business -- and I have my home business. That creates the space for you to think about what your actual corporate or small business does.

And she says once you're profitable, once you've stopped struggling and paying everybody else and sacrificing your own personal wellbeing because you want employees paid, once you get over that hurdle (which we'll discuss a little bit more over the next few blogposts), she says what you're really looking at is your small business. Your company is nothing but a cash flow generator. That's it. That's all it does. So, if you build it well enough with corporate contracts or government contracts or whatever and it generates enough cash for you personally, and it takes care of your employees, and it takes care of your giving and charitable work, you should actually simultaneously be focusing on your home business.

She said, you have your work business, and you have your home business, and she said the mistake that a lot of you make -- especially as small business owners and entrepreneurs -- is that you don't manage your home business like you manage your work business. In your work business, you know the numbers, you know the profitability, you know a whole host of things, but invariably in the money that we pay ourselves in our home business, our lifestyle rises to our income. And she makes the point that if you're really and truly trying to create personal wealth, you have to stop -- you have to run your home business like your small business, and you have to figure out how to do three things: have an investment account; a savings account; and then a household account where you pay everything else out of what's left once you take care of taxes, investment and savings.

I share that because a large part of the dream is that you are financially secure. It makes dealing with all the exciting things that come to you as a small business owner more exciting because now you can devote all the mental energy and everything else to the work business since you're not stressing out over the home front. That too is part of the dream. Once again, I love that concept because you are building a cash flow engine. That's what your business is. That's what funds the legacy. That's what funds the giving back. That’s what enables you to enjoy the journey.

In the next blog, I will discuss the corporate opportunity - meaning corporate versus government. I think you're going to be excited about it being another step on your pathway to success.

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