Friday, February 2, 2007

Watch out, Panera!

One thing you can do when you are retired is try new things. Like baking real San Francisco-style sourdough bread. Here's one of my recent efforts. After getting the sourdough starter going, which takes a few days, then you have to go through about 2-4 days of refreshing the starter and what I call "ramping up" the dough. Interesting process. I've done it twice and have been successful both times. I think bread is interesting because basically the starter and the dough are living things. Also, San Fran style sourdough is interesting because what you get is no added fats and all natural. Supposedly, sourdough takes longer to spoil than yeast breads. Also, if you suspect you may have allergy or related problems (RE: "The Yeast Connection") with the baker's yeast in traditional breads, you may want to try sourdough because if done correctly, the starter becomes a mix of naturally-occurring yeasts and lactobacillus from the atmosphere. If I understand correctly, eventually the lactobacillus takes over the starter almost entirely. So, there you have it. Makes great toast, which reminds me I'm hungry for lunch so I'll go toast a piece now.

Elk: In from the cold.

It's cold here. How cold? Apparently we had an elk come in through the dog door last night and leave us a present -- right on the kitchen counter top. Actually, come to think of it, maybe I got out a handful of prunes (remember, I'm an old geezer) and left them sitting instead of eating them.
What a winter. The news said a couple of hours ago that the anemometer on the weather station at the Eisenhower Tunnel on I-70 broke in a huge gust. They also said cars were having their windows blown out by the gusts. Wow -- even when the wind hit 115 a couple of weeks ago at Rocky Flats it didn't destroy the equipment. I wonder how intense that wind gust was?

Wednesday, January 31, 2007


I woke up this morning and thought "What do I have to do today? -- as in to-do list" My answer was "a lot". Then I thought "why?" So, I chose today just to live. I'm meandering, blogging, trying to get rid of a nagging headache (rare for me), and doing whatever I want to do. I created a new and (I think) unique type of resume yesterday. Today, I'll let the resume work for me on Monster. And I'll not work.

Readers of my Blog, Rejoice!

Under intense pressure to be blog-productive, The Gare Bear felt it necessary to publish part one of his next blog idea, "Could You be an Entrepeneur?"

Don't you just hate it when you are half way through creating an extensive new post and someone who is doing utility locates pulls your phone line off one of the local junction boxes. And now you have to start over on the new post? I suppose I should consider it a minor inconvenience given the fact that in my younger days we had no internet, no personal computers, no word processing machines, and if you wanted to edit something you zipped the page out of the typewriter and started over. Wow -- all that deprivation in my younger days. Makes me sound like an old geezer. Hey -- anyone remember slide rules? I had to learn that in high school. But, you know what -- lots of stuff got designed, calculated, and built using slide rules -- and the stuff is still standing.

Back to the Entrepeneur question. An entrepeneur is "one who undertakes an enterprise" according to Webster. But I think Webster is wrong. I think one who undertakes an enterprise is a Klingon. Beware, Captain Kirk!!

Reader's Digest (Feb. 2007) (now I really sound like an old geezer) had an article about entrepeneurship. They listed several characteristics gleaned from the Small Business Administration. I liked the list, and as usual, thought I should analyze it. Those of you who know me know I analzye everything. When my business failed, I needed advice. In a combination of unfortunate events, 1) I didn't know where to get advice, 2) I couldn't afford advice. So I'm thinking now, maybe I can use my experience and expertise to help some struggling entrepeneur somewhere. There's more to come.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Could You be an Entrepeneur?

As promised, my thoughts on entrepeneurship.

Reader’s Digest says: “Could you be an entrepreneur? Here’s a list of essential traits [referenced to]” and a brief opinion on each point. An entrepeneur is:

—Creative: You have to be aware of new approaches to marketing and problem solving. Things often don’t work like they should – which means you have to change your thinking. In some businesses, the competition is so intense the only way you will be recognized initially is to be more creative than your competitors.
—Innovative: What worked before may not work again. It seems people want change and new. This is not necessarily wise or efficient for a small business, but look for legitimate ways to make innovative and workable changes that may also satisfy needs of your clientele.
—Driven to Achieve: My brother and I have had discussions about the good part of arrogance. We’ve both been called arrogant and stubborn. Maybe “driven to achieve” is a better way of putting it. We decided that to be a small business operator, you have to be at least arrogant to the point that you think you can do it better than your competitors. Otherwise, why do it? If you can’t do it better, why should your customers and clients choose you over another who may be cheaper.
—Persistent: It will take you 3 to 5 years to even get started. It takes this long to get into a groove, to fine-tune your initial marketing, to be comfortable with the ebb and flow of business. There will be busy seasons, dead seasons, and maybe even a busy or dead year thrown in for various reasons. Once you start, you can’t quit unless you can afford to lose your initial investment in time and effort. Make up your mind before you start that you will be persistent and see it through at least 5 years. Then you can evaluate, reflect, adjust, or restructure if need be.
—Energetic: If you have enough energy to start a business, you are probably energetic enough. Your energy level will grow as you begin to generate cash flow and the business becomes self-sustaining. Generally, when you are an entrepreneur, the more energetic you are, as long as you have wisdom and good counseling to go with it, the more success potential you have. Sometimes the hard part is knowing when to pack it up for a day and call it a good day or to take at least a mini-vacation.
—Inquisitive: What motivates your customers and clients. What other strategies may work. Why is no one calling? Why are you succeeding. What changes may be coming your way? Ask questions about things you need to know. If you are in a problem solving business, what happens when you solve most of the current problems? It happens. Watch for the market to change.
—Competitive: Compete with quality, and quantity, not price. You have to research your market enough to know what people will pay. If people won’t pay what you calculate you need to cover operation and profit, you either need to rethink your business or not start in the first place. There are ways to estimate operating costs very closely. Do your homework. Part of being competitive is making enough money to stay in business and satisfy your personal needs as owner. Part of being competitive is being able to stay in business to start getting name and reputation recognition. You can’t stay in business if you don’t charge enough to succeed those first few years.
—Unafraid to Fail: My opinion – once you start a business you have two options – succeed or go bankrupt. Generating a saleable business would be success in my experience, but you may not be able to sell – then what happens if you get tired or bored and want out? So, the alternative is do the best you can and don’t be afraid to fail. Failing and bankruptcy is different now (in 2007) than it was a few years ago, but what happens if you have a good idea, a good vision, and you don’t at least try?
—Hard Worker. Don’t confuse lots of hours, running helter skelter without a viable plan for work. Good hard work incorporates insight, patience, diligence, accuracy, efficiency, good logistical thought process, all under an umbrella of good planning with contingency plans in place. I am sometimes thought of as slow. Rest assured, when I put a plan together and implement it, I will have a high degree of success – the first time.
—Independent: I think I disagree with this point. I think you have to be very dependent – on friends, the network you develop, your banker, your clients and customers. I think you have to depend on God for wisdom and strength. I think you have to have a very strong family you can depend on and that have the patience to deal with you as businessperson. I’ve found recently that if you lose your professional and personal networks, you could be in trouble. You can’t be in business alone.
—Self-Confident: Develop your ideas, trust your gut, be willing to adjust. Don’t let others try to talk you out of what you are trying to do. Then, evaluate and don’t let the pride of your original ideas keep you from adjusting to your market or to adjust your personal discipline or the way you think. Pride is not self confidence.
—Risk Taker: Have in idea, research its reasonable success, and go do it. Nothing happens if you don’t try. As an entrepreneur, you are unafraid to fail. A sure way to lose an opportunity is to do nothing. If you are unsure, test the waters in some low-risk manner, and hold onto the idea while getting the rest of the pieces of probable success together.
—Visionary: This is getting harder to do because of so many things already having been developed or tried. But what if one of those past failures could be linked to an identifiable and correctable flaw in the thinking and implementation of those who tried it before? Also, beware of litigation, safety concerns, copyrights and patents, laws, regulations, and insurance. Can you find an insurer willing to take a risk on your visionary concept?
—Problem Solver: This is what your are going into business for – to solve a problem, to satisfy a need, to feed perceptions, to do it better than others have done before, to help humanity.
—Organized: Keep records, notes, receipts, ledgers, QuickBooks, or whatever it takes to be organized. In my opinion, nothing makes a business more vulnerable and inefficient than being unorganized. Guard the inventory, catalog the parts and products, subscribe to a computerized bar coding system. Every bit of organization is worth many dollars to you for several different reasons. You cannot organize your thoughts on the nuts and bolts of what makes you money if your entire operation and the day-to-day operations of your employees are in disarray.
—Lucky: Be out there, circulate, network, talk, question, host meetings, give lectures, be on boards and committees. Put yourself to be in the right place at the right time, to talk to the right person at the right time, to be aware of the latest new development at the right time. Luck is having an idea of what will work, and implementing the idea, procedure, or product introduction at the right time.

Reader’s Digest (or left out the following. I think these points are very important. Here's why. I recently did a one-day temp. project for a biopharmaceutical company. During a break, our team leader, a full-time employee of the company, mentioned two values important to them: honesty and reliability. Based on my experience as a business owner, I feel loyalty, reliability, honesty, well-capitalized, and well-connected/networked are important. I offer my opinion on each topic.

—Honest . Honesty is very necessary when clients expect one to solve a particular problem. Solve the problem, don’t milk their pocketbook. Clients recognize and get uneasy when it appears your goal is their money and not success in solving their problem. Leave them a happy and satisfied that they no longer have a problem. Regardless of the status of your cash flow and profitability, you should never compromise honesty – for example, in creating a problem to solve so you can get a paycheck. If the pasture is bone dry, the weeds either aren’t growing or the leaf cuticle is so thick a nuke wouldn’t penetrate, tell the client you would love to spray but will need to monitor the situation and spray when you can do some good.
—Loyal. Existing customers should take precedence over new customers. Existing customers should get the discounts, schedule prioritization, emergency preference, and some free consultation time. Make the new customers and clients want to become existing customers and clients.
—Reliable. Return calls and show up. Manage your business in order to keep it that way. It is imperative to keep customer/client load manageable and profitable. If you don’t get a high enough per customer/client income and you burn yourself out on concentrating on volume, you will soon be unreliable. Besides which, you will fail to retain most of the other attributes of a successful entrepreneur. Develop a network of trusted competitors with whom you can trade specialties and refer overload (preferably consisting of new customer/clients) to. Let the customer/client know you care enough to care they will be taken care of adequately by your trusted competitors. If need be, better to say no than to say yes and be unreliable.
—Well-Capitalized. Well, it’s a goal we all strive for. Easier said than done. Build slowly, maintain existing equipment to foster longevity and reliability. Price your services accordingly – premium fees for premium, reliable and honest service. Don’t get tempted by every new whim of technology, but do rely on new technology when demonstrably more efficient or profitable. Spend wisely, hire wisely, keep control, and sacrifice for a few years until cash flow stabilizes.
—Well-Connected/Networked. You want your employees to be aware of their surroundings, their competition, their resources, their networking opportunities. You want the best employees in all ways. Hire good people and train them well. Pay them well, treat them well, expect loyalty, but expect them to network. Pay them for leads, tips, ideas, implementation, and sales. Send them to meetings for the people, connections, and exposure. They will attend the sessions whether or not they need the continuing education credits – because they like what they do, they like to be experts in their field, and they need to be aware of their surroundings and potential industry changes. They will get way more credits than they need – but who cares? If they help you stay connected, competitive, and professional in all regards, you win. Your clients and customers win.