Let’s face it. Not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur.
That’s why so many fail – they are not prepared for the challenges, financial as well as emotional. Just because you may have invented a better mousetrap, doesn’t mean you are the right person to sell it. Before committing to the long and arduous path ahead, be certain you have time and resources needed for the long haul.
In every business, there are three basics to be successful; the Mad Inventor, the Super Salesperson and the Businessperson. Think of this as a three-legged stool. Without all three legs, the stool is going to fall.
The Mad Inventor is the one who comes up with the new ideas. The core idea that is worth starting a business. The Mad Inventory also needs to keep coming up with ideas to grow the product line or scope of service. Very few business survive long term on a single idea.
Strengths: Creative, visionary, inventive
Weaknesses: May not understand costs, challenges to get product to market, how to run a business
The Super Salesperson can sell anything. This person understands selling and marketing and knows how to ask for the deal. Just give the Super Salesperson a great product and get out of his or her way.
Strengths: People-person, great communicator, persistent
Weaknesses: Laser-focus on closing the deal despite possible constraints on delivery challenges, fights budget constraints
The Businessperson is the one who holds it all together. Understands the importance of proper pricing, accounting, logistics of setting up a business. Also, vendor supply chain management as well as inventory.
Strengths: Will keep an eye out for possible growth balanced by working capital as well as cash flow. Knows how to run a company.
Weaknesses: Will have the least amount of entrepreneurial spirit of the three so may dampen enthusiasm on new ideas.
Of course, the above list of strengths and weaknesses is not complete, but this should give you a good sense of some of the characteristics needed in a successful company.
ENTREPRENEUR VS. ESTABLISHED COMPANY
The difference between an entrepreneur and an established company is that while a company will, more than likely, have three different people (and more) fulfill those requirements, an entrepreneur may need to be all three.
Let’s step back for a moment and examine the difference between an entrepreneur and an established business. There is no difference.
An established business was begun by an entrepreneur, at some point. It then simply grew. Hired more help, divided up responsibilities, established more resources, etc.. When does an entrepreneurial business move beyond that label? Does it matter? Probably when the owner stops referring to him or herself as an “entrepreneur” and changes that to “CEO” or “President”.
YOU NEED ALL THREE LEGS
The challenge is that the entrepreneur must encompass all three; the Mad Inventor, the Super Salesperson and the Businessperson. If not, then they must have partners that have different strengths and weaknesses to take on one or two of those roles.
If you are just the Mad Inventor, you will end up with 5,000 widgets in your garage (been there, done that). If you are just the Super Salesperson, but nothing awesome to sell, you will lose interest quickly because you won’t be closing deals. If you are the Businessperson with no company, you go start sending out your resume.
Being all 3 of the legs of that stool can be exhausting, frustrating and relentless. It’s not a 9 to 5 job when you work for yourself. And it’s not weeks or a month of working 80 hour weeks. It’s months and months, if not years.
Be realistic. Be sure you are ready to dedicate 100% of yourself to your vision. If not, you will probably not succeed, or, at least, not to the degree you are probably dreaming.
HERE IS ONE TRICK
Celebrate the successes, no matter how small they are. Entrepreneur’s tend to beat themselves up a lot. A lot. The costs are higher than expected, a design correct is going to eat more capital, marketing costs much more than predicted, etc. A lot of head banging on the wall.
So, celebrate the successes. Give yourself a pat on the back once in a while. Step back and relish the moment. Take what motivation you can to keep your engine running.
I am an entrepreneur and have had my share of mis-steps along the way. I’ve redesigned The Storytelling box 3 times already and paid for samples from all over the world that turned out to be useless.
Yet when I received an e-mail like this, it reminds me that it’s all worth the effort.
Earlier this week, I read the article in the OC Register about you and your boxes. I taught Kdg and First grade in Fountain Valley for 38 years, so early literacy is near and dear to my heart. I’ve told so many mermaid stories and stories with character building themes [to my granddaughters] that I’m running out of creative juices. So I was thrilled to read that article!
I’ve checked [The Storytelling Box] out and organized the story starters according to her interests. I can’t wait to start next week! Joy, my granddaughter, is quite artistic so I may have a drawing or two to submit to you.
I love the ongoing value of this product! When a child is ready for writing, these story starters provide a great writing prompt. Words Inspiration seems like it can be used effectively for drawing, story telling or writing.
I hope you are very successful with these boxes. Parents really need alternatives to “screens”.
PURSUE YOUR DREAM
I now it’s a cliche, but I can’t resist reminding you that our country was built by entrepreneurs. Don’t let anything or anyone, even me, scare you away from going after your dream.
Just be realistic and prepared. Plan, plan, plan. If you are not a planner, then find someone who is and ask for help.
Even though you may not encompass all the needed characteristics today, you can still be successful by learning as you go. It is, however, much easier if you start out with all three legs of the stool. Consider bringing in somebody to help.
No stool or company can successfully stand without all three legs, eventually.
This is an interesting article on what NOT to do when you have a child prodigy if you want your child to also be creative. A child prodigy is not creative? Not according to the research – geniuses tend to perfect knowledge of available information, but rarely invent new systems. For example, geniuses on the keyboard may play perfect Mozart, but won’t create their own compositions.
This is related to rules imposed on children by parents and children wanting to please authority figures like teachers.
If you would like to raise a creative child, take a look at this article and how it may change a parent’s behavior as much as the child’s.
When is the right time to print a college application? Most would say when you are ready to apply – probably, junior year. I propose that is way too late.
You should consider printing the application in your Freshman Year. The sooner, the better.
The reason is simple – a college application is a very clear list of goals you should aspire to accomplish in your first three years of High School. This is exactly what the colleges and universities are expecting from you – why not print it out and post it to your bulletin board, vision board or where you will see it on a regular basis?
Aside from an essay, college applications are going to want to see school groups you joined, teams you were on, community service you performed and where you volunteered. If you print the application early, you still have time to achieve these goals instead of scrambling when it will be almost too late. A worse possibility is thinking you are doing all the right things, only to discover at the 11th hour that you overlooked that one thing which might have been the key differentiation to get you accepted to the college of your choice.
You can print from any college website – the website will require you to setup an account – it only takes a few minutes. If you have an idea of your top choices, then print from those. Compare the applications and look for any differences. Hedge your bets by fulfilling ALL the requirements you see – leave your options open.
Use a highlighter and mark those items upon which you need to focus your energies in the next few years. As you accomplish each goal, fill it in on the application – this way you keep track of what you have done and what you still need to do. Also, when the time comes to actually print out the current applications for submittal, it will only take minutes to complete instead of days.
TAKE IT UP A NOTCH
If you really want to be organized, create a calendar schedule of when you plan to reach each goal. If you think that these kinds of goals should simply “happen” when they “happen”, that’s not real life. Achieving your goals in life takes planning, foresight and organization. Those are some of the skills of successful people, whether they work in a company or for themselves. You might as well begin developing those skills as early as possible – they never go away and will help carry you through your life.
WHY ARE THE APPLICATIONS SO SIMILAR?
There is a reason why colleges look for the same achievements. That list is a clear description of well-rounded development as a person. Participating in clubs teaches confidence and responsibility. Volunteering teaches how to appreciate other’s needs, not just your own. Each item from the application will help you become a better you. Even if you are not planning on going to college, you will benefit from the experience.
Aside from gaining experience and confidence by putting yourself out there and pushing beyond your comfort zone, you will have the story you will need to write a much better essay on the application. It’s difficult to answer an essay question about how you have grown as a person, if you haven’t.
We are happy to announce that the OC Register wrote an article about AEO Boxes. It was an exciting experience being interviewed by a reporter and having my photograph taken by a professional. It took 2-1/2 hours and was a whole lot of fun. You can read all about it by click the link below.
Our children won’t ever know a world without video games, apps and texting. However, we can encourage other forms of play than staring at a screen 24/7. There are many other skills we should be focused on beside how to beat the latest game or to only communicate via a phone text.
There is hardly a parent who hasn’t heard the plaintiff cry, at some point in their child’s school career, “Why do I have to learn algebra?” If it isn’t algebra, then something else like history. “I’m never going to use this stuff!”
This is usually the moment when most parents tend to flounder on how to respond. The answers can range from the somewhat reasonable, “Maybe you’ll end up an engineer or architect!” to the frustrated last resort, “Because being a student is your job and this is part of the job!”
(It’s entertaining to muse the reaction of those students who really did become an engineer or architect. “Oh, that’s a great idea. Let me get back to my math homework! Thanks, Mom!” Has that ever happened?)
WHAT IS THE ALGEBRA ANSWER?
So, what is the right answer? How do we explain something that we probably asked our parents years ago and probably received a version closer to “I don’t want to hear it. Go do your homework before I smack you!”
I don’t think there is a single answer that will work for everyone, but I will offer some options.
Calmly discuss the roots of our education system. Our curriculum was developed in the late 1800’s by Victorians. Their motive was two-fold; to standardize an unruly, inconsistent system and mold young people to fit into society’s needs, such as factory workers.
The basic design of the system hasn’t changed in the last 130 plus years. The class curriculum is part of the grand design and shouldn’t be questioned.
Expect a lot of eye-rolling with this approach.
There really are students who do go on to become architects and engineers or historians or whatever the career path that matches the class complaint.
Taking the class exposes the student to the possibilities that may actually interest them.
When, inevitably, the child claims to have zero interest in blah, blah, blah, the response should be that they can’t really make that decision until they have completed the class.
At this point, a small foot is usually stamped and the child sulkily returns to work, which is all you really wanted in the first place.
LEARN HOW TO LEARN APPROACH
My personal approach to this question is the “learn how to learn”.
In other words, don’t think, Johnny, that this is all about algebra. It isn’t. This is teaching you how to learn. How to absorb, understand and apply knowledge that may seem confusing and frustrating. This process teaches you how to approach challenges in life.
I promise you, Johnny, that future challenges will make Algebra seem like a piece of cake. Beating Algebra will help prepare you for the rest. Now, get back in there and learn something, Mister!
And isn’t that actually true? Doesn’t every challenge we face get just a little easier because we are slowly building our tools and coping mechanisms on how to handle them? If it isn’t algebra, then it’s the new boss or a new project dumped on our desk.
We may not appreciate everything we have to learn in school or think we will ever use, but we will. One way or the other.
HOW MUCH SCREEN TIME IS ACCEPTABLE FOR CHILDREN?
This same question has been asked of every new innovation going as far back as the introduction of the radio and probably before that. It seems as if parents have always been struggling to find the right balance between healthy outdoor activity and passive ones. Today, the struggle is even more confusing due to the proliferation of devices, games, social media, computer-based content creation and communication.
Not to betray my age or anything, but I remember, clearly, when Pong came to our television at home. In that moment, to me, the world shifted just slightly. I can actually control something on the TV? It was mind-boggling.
Children are spending more and more screen time than ever before. Although it is tempting to simply set a time limit like television watching, it doesn’t seem that it is as easily accomplished. Technology in all its sorted forms have pervaded so many aspects of our lives, beginning at younger and younger ages, that it’s almost a full-time job to monitor its usage by our children.
SCREEN TIME VARIES
Designating the use of today’s technology simply as “screen time” can overlook some important variations. The Common Sense Census: Media Use by Tweens and Teens identifies four main categories of screen time:
- Passive consumption: watching TV, reading, and listening to music
- Interactive consumption: playing games and browsing the Internet
- Communication: video-chatting and using social media
- Content creation: using devices to make digital art or music
While communication may be a frequent usage type (texting, phone, video-chatting) throughout the day, content creation could be school related. Passive and Interactive consumption may be in lieu of more active pursuits. How do you monitor and what do you restrict?
What if you set parameters based on total usage time regardless of the purpose? 4 hours a day of screen time. That might mean on Day One, 3 hours are spent on computer homework and 1 hour games and Day two, 4 hours of games since no homework was required. Would that be acceptable?
Ultimately, your goal should be a balanced experience for your child between the healthy use of technology regardless of its usage and non-screen time activities.
The number of hours split between these will differ between families and, possibly, even seasons.
Screen time should not replace family time. Every opportunity for family interaction, communication and simply playing should be grabbed for the precious time it truly is. We’ve all heard the old adage,”They grow up so quickly.” Well, it’s true! Take it from one with a 28-year-old who was 2 years old a heartbeat ago.
Watch behavior. If, after screen time, your child is positive, up beat, still developing off-line social skills, then that’s the attitude you want to maintain.
Monitor time usage just as you are monitoring, hopefully, your child’s intake of junk food, for example. Be flexible (i.e. rainy day may need a serious source of entertainment) but be consistent. Be firm. Remember, children are natural negotiators.
Monitor type of usage. Confirm that the material being viewed and interacted with is age-appropriate. Set down some rules.
Participate. This doesn’t mean you need to be a helicopter parent, but technology is a big part of our children’s lives so be willing to learn and be part of the experience.
For example, my nephew loves building things in Minecraft. So, I drew my “dream home” for him to re-create inside the game. He wants me to “grade” him; not something that ever occurred to me, but okay. Once he has completed my dream home, I plan to do more and more complicated drawings for him to recreate, challenging him. Even though he lives in AZ and I am in CA, we are interacting.
Finally, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) — one of the only established organizations to make recommendations on screen time — offers guidelines that put limits on media exposure. Studies have shown a link between heavy media use and issues such as obesity, lack of sleep, academic challenges, aggression, and other behavior difficulties.
AAP will be issuing new recommendations in 2016 emphasizing that not all screen time is equal and that take into account the many different kinds of activities that occur on screens (for example, watching TV is not the same as video-chatting with Grandma).
Remember, screen time is not a right; it’s a privilege.
Imagine a workplace where the Boss makes a statement like this: “If you don’t finish that report by end of today, you will be fired!’ And then, when the employee doesn’t finish the report, nothing happens. No one is fired. The boss meekly thanks him for the report when he handed it in the following week. No firing, not even a warning.
What will happen the next time the boss makes a similar demand? Hasn’t the employee already learned that the threats are just…well, threats? The employee’s behavior will not change – why would it?
What does the future look like for that company?
The boss gets increasingly frustrated, the employee performance suffers since there are no repercussions and the reports are handed in late on a consistent basis. That department soon falls into chaos impacting the entire company.
NO DIFFERENCE AT HOME
Why should we expect anything different from our children when we make idle threats that we don’t keep?
We have all seen it a thousand times. Parents use the exact same formula: demand, threat, inaction.
“If you don’t stop what you are doing right now, we are leaving this party and going home!” Child continues the behavior and the parent does nothing about it.
“If you don’t stop teasing your little brother, you are going to your room!” Parent throws hands in the air in frustration.
“If you don’t stay in your chair, we will never take you out to eat again!” Of course, there will be future trips to restaurants.
The problem is not just promising a punishment that is never delivered. It begins before that. The problem is making a threat that you either don’t intend to or unable to enforce. The root problem is promising something before thinking it through and determining if you will take the action you stated.
By promising a punishment you really never intend to act upon, you are placing yourself in a no-win corner. The child learns that the threats aren’t real and, therefore, doesn’t change behavior. You have made a promise you can’t or won’t deliver so you have given up your power and your authority. You have also begun a cycle that will only escalate, probably beyond the merits of the original mis-behavior.
So, the first step is to never promise anything, punishment or reward, that you aren’t willing and able to act upon exactly as promised.
Don’t simply throw out the first thing that comes to mind. Pause a moment to reflect. Sometimes, in order to change behavior, the punishment doesn’t have to be immediate, as long as it is carried out.
For example, if leaving a party immediately is just not possible or preferable, promise a result that will occur at a later time, such as no video games for a week. Follow this same process each time:
- Get your child’s full attention. Never make this type of promise to a running child or one still engaged in play. If you want the message to truly be received, you must have the full attention of the child.
- Explain the unacceptable behavior.
- Explain what will happen if nothing changes.
- Allow the child make up his or her own mind as to what action they will take.
Unless the behavior is life-threatening, you might allow the child to continue the behavior unabated.
Yet, imagine the reaction when, hours later, you calmly implement the punishment and, for example, removed the game device. The next time, if there is a next time, the child will take the promise much more seriously.
This is the most critical step; Never promise a result of continued unacceptable behavior without keeping your promise. You must show the child consistency and that your promises are not idle threats.
Never make a promise to a child, or anyone for that matter, that you aren’t going to keep.
Please understand that by “punishment” I don’t endorse or encourage corporeal punishment for a child. Punishment is simply meant to describe a result of unacceptable behavior. It is up to you, the parent or care-giver, what is fair and just for your child.
Even though I used the word, “child” throughout this blog, I suggest the same rules apply when dealing with teenagers and people at work you manage. As a parent and manager myself for over
35 years, I have lived by this concept and it has always worked well for me.
I was watching my nephew play Minecraft last weekend. In case you have been living in a cave, Minecraft is a blocky video game that is all the craze with young children.
He was interrupted by his mother to open a small gift. It was maze cube where the object is to tilt the cube back and forth to guide a metal ball through the maze to release a latch. Inside the cube is money.
He picked up the cube, tried the maze for all of 5 seconds, tossed it aside and went back to banging on the keyboard.
This demonstration of impatient behavior made me wonder. Is technology, in all it’s immediate gratification glory, training us and our children to no longer have patience with anything more than to blow up, get captured or win a level?
There are plenty of much more qualified experts than me to ponder and study this question. However, intuitively, I feel there is a shift happening.
We’ve all heard about Millennials needing immediate feedback, preferably pats on the back (equivalent to “likes”) from their bosses. (Is there a correlation here that in many games, the ultimate opponent on each level is called “The Boss”?) While they impatiently await promotions and other perks on the job, which is greatly in vogue following Google’s model, they lack the patience to even memorize a phone number.
When was the last time you actually memorized a phone number? I know it’s been many years for me. I don’t even know my own daughter’s.
I know you are thinking we don’t need to, anymore, but I shudder to consider losing my phone during an earthquake and having no way to contact her. Of course, that is until the stores re-open and I can download my contacts into my new phone from the mysterious cloud.
Are we hurtling towards a future video game-suckled generation that will treat their lives like a series of quick hurdles? Will they lack the ability to settle in for the long haul to tackle the big issues? You might want to read another blog of mine called “Why do I have to learn Algebra???” as you consider this issue.
Whether these questions concern you or not, it does serve as a reminder to introduce other activities other than technology-based into our children’s lives. Activities that may challenge them in the real-world without quick and easy solutions.
These may be different for different families ranging from reading to outdoor exercise. The key is balance.
Technology is not going away and, undeniably, has improved our lives. Yet the maxim applies here: be aware of too much of a good thing.
Who knew a simple marketing query e-mail to Susan Goulding, a Staff Reporter for the OC Register, would receive such a quick and excited response.
Sometimes, I think, we make things harder than they need to be. Susan immediately responded, expressing interest, and said she would be in touch. She was true to her word.
The next day I received a phone call, “Mark, will next Wednesday work for you? I will have a professional photographer with me.” Talk about exciting! My first article!
For 2-1/2 hours I answered all of Susan’s questions and posed for photos while Susan interviewed my neighbor and his 5-year old daughter, who had purchased The Storytelling Box.
Being 59, I asked the Photographer if he wanted to back up a little, maybe to Fullerton, but he insisted on a close-up. Where was my makeup person, my hair stylist and gauze to shoot through (shades of Doris Day)?
Creating a product, in retrospect, was simple, despite what I thought at the time, when compared to marketing it. This process is 10 times harder especially when wading into unknown waters such as social media.
MARKETING IS A WHOLE NEW WORLD
A comparatively few years ago there was no such word as BLOG, much less entire websites devoted to them. Tweet was a sound made by a bird and a facebook would have described a photographers collection of portraits.
Today, they are the difference between success and failure in getting the word out on a product. It’s reached a point where companies will do almost anything to get eyeballs (a slang term today that would have referred to a gruesome hobby for a serial killer years ago).
I suppose if I make a YouTube video holding a gun to my head threatening to shoot if every parent in the country didn’t immediately purchase one of my boxes would increase sales dramatically. Not my style.
I’d rather run naked through a public park, screaming, “The Storytelling Box, The Storytelling Box”, but that’s just a personal preference. (Don’t worry to those who have seen me naked – I’m not going to do that either.)
Actually, I will be taking advantage of YouTube (with my clothes on) very soon. I will be creating a weekly Storytelling with Mark video where I create a original story on camera using The Storytelling Box. Gotta walk the talk, right?
I have to thank my social media guru, Oscar Gonzalez from NotaGrouch.com. He is my lifeline as I venture out into the deeper social media waters, teaching, encouraging and supporting me so I don’t drown.
Everyone needs a mentor as they attempt to learn a new path. Oscar is mine. I actually wrote about the value of mentors in another blog (See how easily “blog” just trips off my tongue?) I find myself taking my own advice.
You can read the wonderful article here: OC Register article. I hope this is just the beginning.