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Photo by Luke Stackpoole on Unsplash

We cannot use a legislative bandage to treat the symptoms of a society that has lost hope.

There is clearly something going on in our country that stimulates deep-rooted hate in many. I don’t believe its “evil” at work in the world, as some might suggest. I think it’s something more fundamental.

So many Americans are living without adequate shelter, food, and work. With such daily pressures, I would imagine it’s hard most days to get out of bed. And yet, most of us do. We keep at it, hoping to build some stability and security for ourselves and our families.

Yet, I can understand how taking one step forward and falling two-step backward might build resentment in some of the hearts and minds of some. I can see how it might lead some to blame others, to want to build walls, and yes, react violently against those who we might believe are destroying “our America.” …


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Change is much easier if others are with us on the journey.

The work I do causes me to think a lot about how and why culture changes. I spend time examining how businesses change to respond to cultural change and how we, as individuals, adjust engagement and consumption behavior in reaction to an external disruption–that change in our normal state–when it is forced upon us.

I have helped many companies facilitate change, and the most important thing I’ve learned from it all is most of us hate change because it is usually something we must react to, rather than participate in. This is especially true in our workplaces, with the businesses we deal with, and even with our favorite products. …


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The hidden truths of entrepreneurial life that no one tells you

One of the hardest things for first-time entrepreneurs, especially those going in full-time, is getting used to the lifestyle.

While working for yourself is one of the most rewarding things you will ever do, it’s quite different from working for someone else. Fundamentally, new entrepreneurs know this, but they tend to focus on the positive aspects of being self-employed.

I’ve often heard how life-giving it is to have the privilege to set your own working hours and decide what you want to do each day. If you are working from a home office, you don’t have to worry too much about a dress code, or the neatness of your office. …


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The most common financial tools that investors use to evaluate your business

In Financial Ratio Analysis and the Startup, I shared some insights on Financial Ratio Analysis and how investors and lenders may use financial ratios to determine whether to invest or lend to an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs should also understand how to use financial ratios in the regular course of business operations.

Each financial ratio has a purpose. When compared to industry benchmarks, a ratio can provide insights as to a venture’s performance as well as help set stretch goals for business improvements and growth.

The most common financial ratios used by investors and lenders include:

Leverage Ratios

These ratios indicate the long-term solvency and highlight the extent long-term debt is used to support the venture. …


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Why retreating into the past for answers often fails to provide a way forward.

I’ve been reading meditations from Mark Nepo’s (2000) The Book of Awakening every morning for several years. A few weeks ago, the reading from September 27 in the book struck a chord with me relative to the challenges of fear and panic in entrepreneurship. Here is that meditation and my takeaways:

Leaning In

“Few situations can be bettered by going berserk.” — Melody Beattie

It was the philosopher Michael Zimmerman who told the story of being a boy in school when someone passed him a pair of Chinese handcuffs, a seemingly innocent thimble-like casing with an opening at each end. …


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Identify the media most apt to build the highest level of trust with target customers

Trust is one of the great cornerstones of life. The most successful relationships, whether personal or business, are built on trust. Trust is a critical factor in the consumption of news and information, too. Over the years, many readers, listeners, and ultimately viewers placed trust in their preferred media channel for the most current and accurate news and information. Subsequently, each channel began to exploit the trust gained from consumers by accepting advertisements that allowed businesses to leverage the media’s credibility and intimacy through association. The challenge was then, as it is now, to determine how to align the marketing and advertising of the business with the media most apt to build the most significant trust among the target customers. …


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Innovation, not invention, is what creates opportunity.

Entrepreneurship in the United States is lagging. The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 1994 and 2015, the number of new jobs created by start-ups has decreased by more than one million (Bureau of Labor Statistics Staff, 2016). Insufficient financial resources, risk aversion, and perhaps the “lack of a good idea” are all possible reasons for the lack of entrepreneurial activity. Some research suggests those without experience in a start-up environment appear to be less motivated by the spirit of enterprise and, within a generation, the inclination to start a business may further decline (Guilles, 2016). Entrepreneurs may well need to gain experience and relevant knowledge by working within a start-up environment. And such an environment is likely to provide a hands-on way to learn financial responsibility and risk management. …


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An entrepreneur’s deliberate desire to develop, test, and revise their plans are what makes the business successful over time.

A good many entrepreneurial ventures are born on a napkin, built on sand, and grown through a series of flips and flops that would make even the most seasoned stunt pilot nauseous. It should not surprise then that longitudinal studies show that a little over 20% of new startups fail within the first year; the startup survival rate falls to roughly one-half around their fifth anniversary (Bureau of Labor Statistics Staff, 2016). Thinking more broadly and implementing effective organization design principles (i.e., people, planning, processes, procedures) may be the key to the building, scaling, and sustaining a startup long-term.

Some researchers suggest that the most common cause of small business failure is the lack of senior management focus on matters of strategy within the organization (Jennings & Beaver, 1995). At the most basic level, this falls to an emphasis on tactical challenges of the business, rather than broader strategic issues. For example, it is firing a salesperson who did not achieve the stated sales goals or meeting quotas for the year, while ignoring marketplace and demographic changes that render a product or service increasingly meaningless, or at the very least, price-noncompetitive, to customers. A more strategic approach could allow the company to look long-term at the marketplace, and using systems and processes that engage the market, the customer, and the sales team, create a plan for more stable and predictable long-term growth. This approach may seem difficult for entrepreneurs who are forced to live with the reality of today’s environment. Some of this difficulty may be deeply rooted in the factors surrounding the startup itself. …


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5 tips for creating value for what you do within your organization.

The notion that “Marketing isn’t Sales” is an old, but a somewhat untrue statement in the real world. We marketers have learned the hard way that marketing’s number one priority is to drive revenue for the organization. I think we now realize that long-gone are the days when marketing produced pretty pictures, glossy brochures, gimmicky promotions, and brand advertising that don’t drive short-term sales. Those days are but a memory for marketers — up in smoke like many of the firms that promoted such frivolity and spending with reckless abandon.

Today’s environment requires marketing that’s effective. And to be effective, marketing must improve the top-line with new sales, and the bottom-line by improving efficiencies in marketing operation. If marketing can’t do both — deliver a large number of qualified customers and do so cost-effectively — then it doesn’t provide tangible value to the organization. …


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The first projects from collaborations can get your business off the ground.

A strategic alliance is a cooperative arrangement between two or more businesses for the mutual benefit of all involved companies. The idea is that each involved entrepreneur or business entity brings something to the alliance, which enables a more significant opportunity for near-term successes for all parties than the parties might achieve individually. One company might invest in another to gain access to products and services more quickly than it might develop the same for itself; however, the more likely scenario is one in which two companies with complementary services align to improve long-term revenue generation opportunities.

For example, one entrepreneur with design experience might align with another entrepreneur with software coding experience to form a structured partnership to pitch new software projects to a prospective client or develop a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application to offer to a broader customer base. …

About

David L. Harkins

I am a strategist, educator, and doctoral student. I write about culture, entrepreneurial thinking, and innovation leadership. http://www.davidharkins.com

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