‘Small Business, Big Vision’ [A Book Review]

Over the years I have read business books voraciously. And every now and then one comes along that I find particularly useful. That’s certainly the case with Small Business, Big Vision: Lessons on How to Dominate Your Market from Self-Made Entrepreneurs by Adam and Matthew Toren. So what is it that makes this book a powerful?

Advice from the Trenches

Many of you know me as a leadership resource and I’m sure you imagine that I sit in soft chairs all day and tell other people lofty ideas about themselves. Here’s the part you may not know: That leadership role is very recent. I came up the hard way and learned business in the trenches. From there, I expanded into the natural space of coaching which always seemed so familiar to me. So, when I look at a business book I want to know that the entire breadth of business acumen is nested in what I’m reading. I look to see an appreciation of both the ‘nuts and bolts’ of business as well as the personal development that I know is the driver of good outcomes.

More about Camels

I am sure you have all heard the saying “follow your bliss, but don’t forget to tether the camel.” For many years I toiled at the task of tethering camels. I was a merger/acquisition specialist as well as an executive manager of many companies. I learned my leadership style by working like a donkey. I must confess, and I’m sure this comes as no surprise, that I respect the basic hard work of building a company. When I read Small Business, Big Vision, my expectation was that it would be heavy on vision and light on the hard-core execution pieces necessary to get the job done.


Every now and then someone pays attention to the whole symphony of entrepreneurial music. I would be shortchanging my commentary on this book if I didn’t tell you that it delivers something even more. Adam and Matthew have actually figured out a way to not only cover the two major drivers of business, but to place them in today’s environment. Yes, they start with the necessity of a big vision. And they cover the development of a business plan, accumulating investors, hiring good employees, and even the need for social media. Certainly a book worth the read for just those pieces.

Social Responsibility?

But my excitement really rose when I came to the chapter about socially responsible entrepreneurs. For here they had put their finger on the new wave of business today. It has always been my opinion that leadership is being pulled into the space of personal development as a result of the demand of our newest generations. New, young leaders have looked at the old corporate paradigm and come to an astounding conclusion: The corporate wingspan is not wide enough and does not benefit a large enough portion of the community from which they come. These new leaders are courageous enough to stand and say “I will not work where I am not nourished,” and nourishment to this crew means thrusting your ego aside, forgetting who gets credit, and creating the gratitude of seeing a world much bigger than themselves benefited.

Awakening and Tethering

My job is to bring this kind of awareness to larger corporations that now see that they must provide personal leadership development in order to keep the best leaders. But I will never forget my roots and I am gratified to see that someone is taking care of the small business and entrepreneurial market. For the best way to have a great business is to start with great basics. Small Business, Big Vision gives a blueprint to the new generation of entrepreneurs that will allow them to hold a possibility much bigger than the normal book about business plans. My book Awakened Leadership describes the personal journey and its relationship to business building. In every generation the story of how to build a business must be told in both the language and the wingspan of that very group. Adam and Matthew have done a great job of giving us the current version of the entrepreneurial story. In my mind it is a wonderful companion to my leadership story.

If you’re curious to learn more about Adam and Matthew Toren, please visit their site http://www.blogtrepreneur.com/.

Are You Serious About Becoming an Entrepreneur?

Are You Serious About EntrepreneurshipChoosing whether to stay in what you may consider the comfort and safety of your current job or to venture out on your own can often be a very difficult decision to make. Before you hand your boss a letter of resignation, it’s important to determine whether you’re truly feeling an entrepreneurial impulse, or if you’re simply sick of the way things currently are and grasping for a change.

As we highlight in Small Business, BIG Vision, one of the amazing things about entrepreneurship is that you can create your own destiny. Not only that, but it’s quite an adrenaline rush to build something successful from the ground up. Starting up isn’t nearly as easy as is often depicted by the media, however. It isn’t usually a life filled with neato office studios, pinball machines, and late-night collaborations with an endless supply of pizza. Rather, it’s very long work days – and nights – often alone. You can also forget having relaxing work-free nights and weekends. Often times, business owners use these times to catch up on all of the work that they were unable to get to during the week.

Some Things to Consider Before Quitting Your Job

When venturing into entrepreneurship, many people find that if they don’t have a large savings, they need a credit card advance in order to pay for business expenses, and to cover living expenses too. You’ll also most likely be spending far less time with your family, and more time with business associates. And if you’re thinking of hiring people to join you in your venture, you’ve got to realize that the success of your business means not only being responsible for your own livelihood, but also the livelihood of anyone who joins your team. (This is one reason why, in the book, we advocate outsourcing as much as possible.)

Uncertainty is also a harsh reality of entrepreneurship. Then again, remaining with a large company where you aren’t building any equity is living the reality of uncertainty as well. Whether you run your own business or work for someone else, there are risks involved. What needs to be done is an assessment of exactly which set of risks you are willing to take.

The HUGE Up-Side to Entrepreneurship

You may be asking yourself why on earth anyone would venture into entrepreneurship after learning of all of these difficult aspects. Obviously, there are also some outstanding advantages to entrepreneurship too. If there weren’t, the numbers of entrepreneurs around the world would not be increasing at the fantastic rates they are.

The day-to-day life of an entrepreneur can be utterly exhausting at times, but as we discuss in Small Business, BIG Vision, if you’re truly passionate about your vision, it will become a labor of love and you’ll wind up enjoying yourself more than you’d ever imagined. Being an entrepreneur gives you the opportunity to build a company of your own, contribute to the world in a meaningful way, and truly fulfill your dreams. There really is nothing else like it, and once you get bitten by the entrepreneurial bug, there’s no turning back.

Sure, the path to entrepreneurship can be a bumpy one, but if you have the right reasons for starting your new business, and have realistic expectations, the road will be smoother, and you’ll find that it’s actually immensely enjoyable.

Regardless of where your entrepreneurial urge comes from, making the decision to follow that urge can be life-changing. When it comes down to being truly serious about venturing into entrepreneurship, the fundamental question to ask yourself is this: Are you willing to give it your absolute all, knowing that you may fail? And when you experience setbacks, do you have the resilience to get back up, dust yourself off, and try again? If you can answer “yes” to these questions, then it really is time to go for it! There’s no guarantee of success, but one thing is certain – you will never be bored!

10 Keys for Preventing Startup Sabotage

Startup SabotageAs an entrepreneur, you’re bound to run into challenges and obstacles at every stage of your venture. It’s survival of the fittest, even in seasoned businesses, let alone a fledgling startup. You’ve seen the statistics that ominously warn of the failure rate within the first year of business, and while the stats don’t necessarily tell the whole story, there’s no doubt that making it through your first year is no cake walk. But there are some steps you can take to improve your odds. To prevent you from sabotaging your business, here are a few pointers to practice:


Ten Good Habits of Successful Business Owners

1. Provide a product or service that’s viable

When you come up with the initial idea for your business ask yourself, “Is there a need for this? Who is my target customer? Why will they want to buy or need this?” Many businesses sound like they could be wildly successful, but maybe only at first glance. Researching market need and product or service viability is an absolute must if you hope to succeed.

2. Seek advice

See your idea and business with a different set of eyes. Seek advice from successful people in diverse businesses – experts who can comprise your team and be your focus group. Do your homework, and take heed of their advice and startup stories. In Small Business, BIG Vision, we explain how and why to set up an Advisory Board. This is one of the best ways to ensure your business is being guided well from the start.

3. Find a balance for change

Sticking to your business plan is admirable, but when the world is changing around you at light speed, you better power-up for some changes. Seek a balance between making so many changes that you’re no longer stable and just keeping the status quo. We talk a lot about flexibility in the book, and this is the one quality that can serve your business well at any stage – and in any economic climate or market shift.

4. Use your budget wisely

This one is a balancing act too. You need to use your money to make your business grow. Have some money to market yourself, and make people aware of what you have to offer and where they can find you. But be sure you don’t just spend and run out of cash before you even get up and running. Lack of capital is the number one reason for early stage business failure. Don’t let your company become part of that statistical group.

5. Hire the best, and fire the rest

Finding the best people to staff your new business can take time. Responsible, intelligent, creative, and passionate people are out there and want to have meaningful work, especially in this job market. No business owner has to keep non-team players who ruin morale and don’t contribute on a daily basis. Of course also remember that employees aren’t always the answer. As we detail in Small Business, BIG Vision, outsourced workers can be a very valuable tool for early stage startups.

6. Use the right resources and tools

All the home remodelers on TV make it look so easy. That’s because they have the right tools. They’re not using a hand saw to do what a miter saw will do in seconds. The right tools can make any work easier, faster, and more accurate. They don’t have to cost a fortune and can even be second-hand. Subscribing to trade periodicals, newsletters, and buying guides can also make it easier for you and your staff to work smarter.

7. Price Properly

Ask for advice with actual customers or a focus group, to find out what your product or service is really worth to them. If your product is perceived to be priced too high, you have sabotaged your success. If priced too low, you’re loosing profit margin. Perceived value for the price paid is what sells – not necessarily a rock-bottom price. Don’t make the mistake of competing solely on price early on, or you could be stuck under-pricing your offerings forever.

8. Focus on customer experience

When the service you provide your customers fails to meet their expectations, you lose them. It doesn’t matter who was “right.” The old saying about an unhappy customer telling everyone about their experience is true – and very damaging to your reputation. The bottom line is that there’s plenty of competition in every sector, and there’s always a competitor willing to sell what you offer for less. Differentiating through outstanding service is the best way to build loyalty and secure your business for the long term.

9. Mind your own store

Some entrepreneurs seem to be obsessed with their competition, the market, or other factors outside their business. Knowing what your competitors are doing is important, especially to startups; however paranoia about them or other outside factors shouldn’t keep you from managing your own business. Focus on what you’re doing to make your business a success, and customers will gladly tell you about your competition. From there, it’s just a matter of managing your time in a way that prioritizes nurturing your own business over worrying about everything else.

10. Find “me time”

Non-entrepreneurs often think that because you have your own business you can take off whenever you want. NOT! Sometimes you eat, breathe, sleep (or not-sleep) every day at your work. It’s a commitment that can wreak havoc with life-work balance. Having a day off, or even a few hours, will not kill your business, especially if you have the right team of people working for you and you trust them. Working hard on a new business is a given, but burnout is your body saying “Out of Business.”

If you’re not doing all that’s listed above right now, remember – it’s never too late to put a good habit into practice. The most important thing in business is that you keep your focus on your BIG Vision and never give up!

Answers to 5 Common Entrepreneurial Questions

Entrepreneurial QuestionsWhen trying to decide whether or not to take the plunge into entrepreneurship, you will have an endless number of questions. Whether it’s your first shot at being in business for yourself or you’ve done it before, some questions are sure to continue popping up. Below are some of the most common questions with some ideas about how to answer them. This article won’t answer all your questions, but it will get you off to a great start!


How will I know if my business idea is a good one?

Speaking with potential customers before you go forward with building on your start-up is important. By speaking with these people, you will either have your assumptions validated, or you’ll learn that they were all wrong. Either way, you’re gaining some valuable insight. Although it can be difficult to hear criticism at times, learning from criticism can save you a whole lot of time and heartache. Certainly don’t fool yourself by assuming that the source of the criticism is crazy and you’re doing everything correctly. Be realistic and face the truth gracefully.


How do I fund for my start-up?

As we outline in Small Business, BIG Vision, if at all possible, you don’t. Bootstrapping is always our preferred startup method. One good idea is to start out by doing some consulting services for customers, which tends to have almost no overhead. By doing this, you’re not only supporting yourself, but you’re also remaining in contact with the customers and are learning which problems they have. Then you can develop a product or service based on a clear understanding of what your customers’ wants and needs are, rather than on your assumptions.


In the next five years, which industries have the biggest growth potential?

Look around. What big problems do you see? By looking for problems, you’re also looking into the biggest opportunities. Poverty, homelessness, energy crisis, water crisis, etc. All of these are huge problems. You could address some of these problems with your new company. Another place to look for problems is within big companies. In every industry, there are giants, and it’s inevitable that within these giants of industry, there are places where they are weak. You can look for these holes and create an expertise related to them. For example, although Google is obviously the largest search provider, it’s not the only one, because others have seen where they are lacking and created companies around the needs that are not being met by Google.


How can I possibly overcome my fear of failure?

In the book, we focus on the importance of having a clear vision. Your vision helps overcome fear because it allows you to picture your business as successful and focus on that picture. You also need to find some sort of philosophy to draw inspiration from. Whether you get your inspiration from a book like Small Business, BIG Vision or Aristotle, the important point is that you’re gaining inspiration. It’s becoming increasingly popular for entrepreneurs to use other business leaders as their sources of inspiration. Look around – there’s something out there for you.


Where can I find mentors?

Take a close look at the people who you’re surrounded by every day. Who has your respect and truly believes in you? Do they respect your work? Someone like this has a terrific potential for becoming a good mentor for you. This type of relationship is a very personal one, so it’s important that you have good chemistry with one another, and not only common business interests and goals. You can expect to invest a lot of time and emotional energy with your mentor. If you can find someone who will allow you to do a little bit of work for them, it can provide a setting in which they can coach you. In a sense, you are working for each other in this way.

So, what about all the other questions you have? Take the time to seek out people who will not only answer your questions, but also provide you with examples of their own experiences. The more knowledge you can gain ahead of time, the more successful you will be. Some of our BIG Vision Offers include time with both of us, and we’d love to work with you to answer your questions and get you on the road to successful entrepreneurship!