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Plan a New Business While You're Working

How to Plan Your New Business While You’re Working.
We are living in the age of the entrepreneur! More and more professionals that have become disenfranchised working in Corporate America and are between jobs or considering a career transition have been bitten by the entrepreneurial bug. Many people I know personally and others I coach are working feverishly RIGHT NOW to plan their new business.
If you are one of these budding entrepreneurs, how can YOU go about the arduous and intense process? How do you plan a new business while you’re fully committed to your day job? It’s certainly not easy, but there are steps you can take to increase the likelihood that you will successfully transition from employee to business owner. You CAN plan a new business while you’re working. Here’s how…
Time management is the key: Learn how to develop a plan of action and move forward aggressively with a focus of completing all your tasks and diligently stick to assigned deadlines. Set aside a predetermined amount of time EVERY DAY to dedicate to your business. Try VERY not to let anything interfere with your daily business start-up planning. If you can’t honor the time you committed to your new business planning on a given day, you MUST make up that lost time the following day or two.
Build a working prototype: You need to develop a bare minimum product/service offering that you can create a concept for and pitch to people in your social and professional networks to gauge their receptiveness to your offering. People have to feel it, hold it, touch it, smell it, try it on. If it’s a service they have to test it.
Build an ideal customer profile: Define your ideal customer in as much detail as possible. Don’t skimp on the details. How old is she, where does she live, is she married, what is the highest level of education she achieved, is she married, what’s her job, where does she work, how long has she worked there, does she have children, does she belong to a wine of the month club, belong to a gym, shop online? The extent to which you can define your ideal customer in as much detail as possible will go a long way towards being able to develop products and services tailored to her specific needs and challenges.
After you develop a product/service prototype and ideal customer profile start thinking about the people you know that match the profile and asking them if they would use your product/pay for your service.
Start saving. Since most of the funds required to start your business will come from you plus your closest friends and family, start thinking about the few people that you might ask for assistance.
Let the sleep deprivation begin: There is no way around it! You are going to have to get accustomed to making due with LESS SLEEP! Entrepreneurs work more, sleep less, and find themselves waking up at all hours because they are so deep in the planning aspects of their business.
Build a robust contact database: Begin building a list of relevant, useful contacts in your social and professional network. Be sure to include experts in Web development, social media, business coaching, administrative services, e-mail marketing, contact management systems, sales support platforms, financial management, accounting, intellectual property, customer care, etc.
Build your compelling brand online: Update all of your social media profiles, begin developing an editorial calendar for the blog you will write as a way to build your reputational brand as a subject matter expert.
Research, research, research: Learn as much as you possibly can about the industry you are going to enter. Follow the most popular bloggers, subscribe to their e-newsletters, research all the trade associations that serve the industry. You MUST become knowledgeable about all the latest trends and developments affecting your industry. Who are the new players, struggling competitors, rising star key executives, latest technologies.
Acquire business ownership skills: Begin acquiring a working knowledge in all of the key areas required to run your business including: accounting, financial planning, marketing, sales, human resources, and operations for starters.
Interview your fellow entrepreneurs: Start speaking with as many entrepreneurs and start-ups as you know to learn as much as you can about their lessons learned, get advice from as many people as possible on what to do, what not do to, best tips, advice, resources.
Become a “subject matter expert”: start building your reputation (brand) as an expert in your field. You can accomplish this the following ways:
* Get Published: write articles in any number of areas in your field and submit them to influential publications. Begin having dialogs with those noted media experts in your field, build relationships with them using your social media.
* Identify Your Unique Selling Proposition: what significant experience, skills, and expertise have you already acquired that you can begin to craft compelling messaging around for your own brand as unique, memorable, and invaluable.
* Define Your Features & Benefits: Again, what are your value propositions with respect to past work experience, technical expertise, relevant experience, professional affiliations and memberships, skills, accreditations and certifications.
* Identify Your Success Stories: create a list of the 4-5 major accomplishments you are most proud of and best capture the essence of your value proposition.
* Begin Promoting Yourself: Create a strategic plan of networking opportunities in your industry and start practicing your own brand story-telling when yo meet new people at these events.
* Monitor & Defend Your Brand: I tell all my clients to do a Google, Bing, and Yahoo search on your name once a month, and check your personal brand online through such services as Klout.
Enlist Your Loved Ones: very serious conversation with your spouse/significant other to discuss their emotional support you are going to need from them, the financial impact you’ll both experience, your time frame to launch the business and thus a tentative date that you will LEAVE your day job.
Start exercising: The stress and wear and tear your body takes when you start planning a new business is tremendous, so you need to start getting into shape so you have the energy that will be required to work those extra hours and deal with the toll that the stress will place on you.
Find Your Future Business Partners: Think about the partners you may be able to align yourself with. People whose skill sets compliment yours but also share your values and moral compass/ethics BUT are also the OPPOSITE of you from a personality standpoint. you want people whose experience, beliefs and temperament are a compliment to yours, NOT who match yours.
Set Your Exit Date: As you develop a calendar and time frame to launch and this begin thinking about an exit strategy to leave your day job you have to match that schedule with your personal and family calendar to ensure they are in as much synergy/alignment as possible.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Strategic networking for business success

So, You Met at a Networking Event? Now What?
In my role as an executive coach and business consultant, I’m ALWAYS amazed how little advance planning most business owners and professionals invest in their professional networking. They receive an email from a MeetUp or LinkedIn group, or a professional trade association, Chamber of Commerce, or Merchant Association they belong to. If their schedule permits, they sign up to attend. In a previous post that I wrote about business networking, there were some great comments posted by others saying many people hate networking or simply don’t know how to network. The mistake most people make when they network is, they equate networking with selling. It’s not! Networking is all about making relationships and seeing if there is a way that you can help people to overcome their challenges.
As far as how to approach networking from a strategic standpoint, I advise my clients to treat any networking event the same way as you’d treat a marketing event. Approach each event you attend like it is a three-stage process. Here’s how…
STEP 1: The PRE Event:
The first step is the pre event. Find out who is going to attend, are there any speakers you want to hear or topics being covered that you are looking to learn more about. Next, as part of the PRE event reach out to the attendees, exhibitors, panelists, and speakers that are participating, in order to make an initial introduction. Do research on them to personalize your correspondence. Invite them to join you on your social media outlets. Next, promote the fact that you are attending the upcoming event by emailing folks you know who might like to attend, and let your social media contacts also know you’re going.
STEP 2: The EVENT Itself:
Then the second stage is the actual event. Seek out the people you contacted when you signed up, and make introductions. Spend time talking about THEM…not YOU. Why are they attending, what do they want to get out of the event, what are their key challenges. You should have as a general rule a strategic plan that you’ll talk to each person for about 10 minutes. If you feel that you can
hep them the goal of such a conversation is to schedule a follow meeting.
A long time ago I learned about an approach to networking which is simply BRILLIANT. Think of your approach to networking success as the “5-2-1” rule. In your introductions, what you say in the first five seconds you are talking MUST be so engaging and compelling that they respond: “Wow, tell me more!” During the critical next few (TWO) minutes you should expand on your introduction. After that two minute introduction, you let them talk about themselves and their challenges. The next step should be to set up a (ONE hour) meeting at a later date. That is the “5-2-1” rule, and it’s a great guideline for providing structure to any conversation you might have at a networking event.
STEP 3: The POST Event:
So, you leave the event. You spoke to a few great prospects, obtained their business cards, and maybe even scanned each others’ quick response code on your business cards. Now what?
Go to your social media and give a shout out to the particularly interesting (attractive) leads you met. Send them an email where you remind them what you talked about. Show you’ve done more research on their challenges, and invite them for coffee/tea (your treat!) to chat further. Send invitations where appropriate and always take the position: “HOW CAN I HELP THEM?”
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Is Social Media Making Us More (ANTI) Social?

Our ANTI-Social Society, Social Media, and Forging REAL Relationships.
By many indications, we have become a much more socially connected (oriented) society.
The signs are EVERYWHERE. You can’t read a magazine (or blog) without further proof that we are all more connected “socially” through social media, social corporate responsibility, social recruiting, social intelligence. We’re all kinds of social.
We have come to measure our “connectedness” by our social media relationships and our total collective online reputational brand (Klout, Reputation, SocialMention) and the number of people that follow us, “Like” us, and re-tweet what we say. Even our names can “trend.” Just follow yourself as a ### HASH TAG. It used to be only celebrities, artists, athletes, musicians had a Q score. Now the Andy Warhol prophecy that we are all famous for 15 minutes has become truth.
So how is it that we have evolved into this highly “social” society, when there still exist so many divisions between us? The great melting pot called American exceptionalism is rife with social divides. The “have’s” fight to keep what they’ve gained, while the lower class, upper lower, lower middle and upper middle class all jockey for that big slice of the remaining 98% of the income pie. A huge percent of our nation’s wealth is stockpiled by a microscopic 1-2% of the population. Hardly seems social at all.
People claim that the family institution is failing as evidenced by a divorce rate believed to be as high as 60-70% (the data is inconclusive on actual rates) and more people are searching for life partners online.
There is a battle being waged in the States and at the national level about our basic freedoms such as the rights extended in same sex marriages and treatment of immigrants.
Over in that hotbed of social dysfunction called the American workplace, employee disenfranchisement with their employers is boiling over. Now the popular trend in American business and industry is “re-shoring.” American businesses (especially car manufacturers) are bringing back jobs they have been sending overseas since the 1980s. Should we read that as a sign that the American enterprise has evolved and is much more socially compassionate towards workers? Hardly. Workers are ready to jump ship and leave their current employees in record numbers, according to Workforce Management.
Meanwhile, employers struggle to deal with their employees as an inconvenience to be tolerated, controlled and managed. They track employee Internet searching on the job, monitor what their employees are saying about them on their social media accounts.
It is more critical than ever that we stop and think what would happen if we truly embraced our social relationships, and extended those relationships online through social media. Social media can be leveraged as a powerful tool to stir the emotions, passions and drive towards action. Since the commercial adoption of the Internet in the mid 1990’s, the online world can be leveraged to create more direct interactions with many people at once, while customizing the message you send to each individual. As I’ve said before the traditional FIVE P marketing mix (product, price, placement, promotions, packaging) has inherited two new “I’s” (INTERACTIVITY & INDIVIDUALIZATION) in this age of digital media and interactive marketing that exists online.
Examples of the power of social media abound, from Occupy Wall Street to the Arab Spring movement, creating awareness for autism, the Travon Martin case and petition on, and updating people during/immediately after natural disasters like hurricanes and tsunamis (James Surowiecki TED conference “When social media became news.”)
Employees can and do go online to bash (or rave about) the experiences they have with companies they buy from. People receive offers, coupons, and discounts instantaneously anywhere they happen to be (and “check in.”) We can keep up to date with our immediate and extended families and friends all over the world. In this social era, an unlimited amount of data sits literally at our fingertips thanks to Google, Bing and Yahoo.
The question that begs asking is:”Is this always a good thing?” What do you think?
Here’s to your success in starting a new business or changing jobs/careers in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Start a Business Full-Time

Now’s The Perfect Time For You to Start a Business Full-Time.
There are essentially five (5) paths that you can take, in order to start a business full-time. These vary based on the degree of control you want to have, the amount of money required to launch, and the need to develop products and services, then determine if their is a market demand for your offerings. These five paths are:
1) Start Your Own Business
2) Buy an Existing One
3) Franchise a Business
4) Inherit a Business
5) Get Hired to Manage a Business
1. Launch your business yourself. The first option for you to start a business is to launch your own business from the ground up. There are many benefits to taking this approach to starting your own business:
You start with a clean slate. By creating a new business from the start, you get to create the business in your own image, with your vision and to accomplish your stated mission, with your values and moral compass. You don’t inherit any flawed processes, ineffective employees, bad business practices, or a damaged culture created by others.
Uses the most up-to-date technology. By starting your own business, you can apply the latest technologies, systems, infrastructure, and software in your day to day operations. A few examples include:
– Client Relationship Management Software to track your prospect and customer information like Zoho or
– Social Media: Social media tools change constantly. Today’s Pinterest, Instagram, and Tumblrs may give way to Vizify and About.Me. While the technology keeps changing it’s important to understand how social media can be leveraged to build strong relationships with clients, the media, vendors, and other stakeholders online.
– Web 2.0: The collective suite of technology surrounding the latest Internet platform.
– Email Marketing Systems: These service providers offer much feature and functionality beyond simply email, from surveys, to newsletters to greeting cards.
– Online Meeting Services: A suite of offerings that collectively enable distance-based teamwork to be performed regardless of where your workforce is located (ex. Skype, file-sharing vendors, GoToMeeting)
– Inventory Management Systems: from point-of-sale systems to retail worker headsets to bar codes, these technologies enable organizations to keep track of their inventory down to the single unit in real time.
– Performance Management Applications: enable you to effectively manage each worker’s productivity and engagement in your firm.
– Financial Management Tools: accounting and bookkeeping software (ex. Quickbooks, Quicken)
Offer new products or services. By launching your business yourself you can bring to market new products and services that you have been working on and match ideally your background, experiences, education, training and certifications.
It can be kept small.
Despite the many benefits that you derive from going out on your own to start your business, there is also a down side to starting your own business that you MUST be aware of. Some of the disadvantages of starting your own business are:
• ZERO brand name recognition. When you start with a clean slate no one knows you exist. You don’t have any awareness in your desired target markets so you have to build a name for yourself before you can get people to buy from you.
• Significant time and effort requirements. It’s NOT easy to start your own business. It never fails to amaze me how few entrepreneurs and start-ups that I work with truly understand and appreciate how much work is required to get their new business off the ground.
• Hard to finance. The traditional banks don’t tend to look to favorably on entrepreneurs. It’s a Catch-22 they come to you after you’ve already proven you can get your business to profitability but you need the financing to be able to grow your business. The flip side is there are more and more non-traditional financing options such as micro-lenders and crowd sourcing (Kickstarter, Indiegogo, etc.)
• Difficult to obtain credit. When you start out your business credit is your personal credit. Make sure you do everything you can to prop up your credit worthiness. Check your credit score before you launch your new business from a free service or one of the three major credit rating agencies (Equifax, Experian or TransUnion.)
• Lacks experienced managers and workers. It is extremely hard to find talent for all the functional areas of your business (HR, Marketing, Sales, Finance, Operations) since you will be barely scraping by at first. Affording top talent to come work for you on a shoe string budget can be a daunting task. You can lower some of the cost in hiring expertise through bartering provide services to others who in turn provide you with services. Such bartering is referred to as “boot-strapping.”
• VERY hard to maintain motivation. When you first start out, you will be riding an emotional roller coaster of success and failure. One of the reasons I urge entrepreneurs to pursue partners is, you can pick each other up when you’re feeling down and provide emotional support to each other.
Part of the challenge in launching your own business is in actually deciding what new business you want to pursue. Following is a pretty important short list of the things you need to consider when deciding what your new business will be:
• Spend a lot of time thinking about what makes your business idea truly unique. If you can’t figure this out, then what you’re proposing creating is nothing more than a “Me Too” business and you will only be able to compete on price.
• Develop a Market Entry Game Plan (call it a “Task List” of required action items you need to complete. Task lists include the following elements:
– Tasks: List all of the required tasks.
– Project Owners & Contributors: Who has ownership in completing the tasks and who can contribute to completing each task on the list.
– Start/End Dates: Helps you to rank the sequential order of when your projects need to be completed and know when things have to get finished.
– Status: Where are you in getting each task completed? Is it open, completed, in-progress, or being planned?
– Priority: One is the most critical action that MUST get done, #2 priorities are also urgent. #3 items should get done but are not nearly as mission critical.
• Define the industries you will serve:
– Develop ideal client profile(s)
– Identify ALL relevant stakeholders
Here’s a useful list of Steps you should go through, to maximize the likelihood of starting a successful business:
• Find a business incubator to work with.
• Consider asking your current employer for help?
• Obtain directly relevant experience in the industry you are looking to start your business in.
• Pursue partners (multiple founders.)
• Start with established clients.
• Enlist coaches/mentors.
• Obtain any/all of the relevant certifications.
• Develop a start-up budget.
• Select a product/service and determine if there is a proven demand for your offering.
• Line up your investors.
• Obtain experience managing small firms.
• Just start SOMETHING fort he experience of creating.
• Select a business that produces HIGH margins.
• Build trust in your personal brand/story.
2. Buy an Existing Business.
This is yet another viable to consider in getting a business. The three primary advantages to buying an existing business are:
• Established customers mean immediate sales and profits.
• Processes and operations are already in place.
• Requires less cash than starting a business from scratch.
There are also disadvantages associated with buying an existing business:
• Finding the right business.
• How do you determine what a business is worth?
• Management and employees may fight you.
• The existing business reputation may be hard to change/overcome.
• Business may be declining.
• Facilities and equipment may be obsolete.
3. Buy a franchise.
• A legal agreement that allows one business to be operated using the name & business procedures of another. There are four types of franchise you can pursue.
1. Trade name franchising: only the right to use the franchise trade name and trademark.
2. Product distribution franchising: provides franchisee with specific brand named products that can be resold by the franchisee in a specific market (examples include Coca-Cola, Goodyear Tires, and John Deere.)
3. Conversion franchising: provides an organization through which independent businesses may combine resources (Ex. Century 21 Real Estate.)
4. Business format franchising: the right to use the company’s trade name, products, business/marketing plans, national advertising support (Ex. McDonald’s)
• Carefully review TWO documents that you receive from the potential franchisor:
– Uniform franchise offering circular (UFOC): standard franchise document outlining a business’s operations, procedures, costs, requirements. Check out the FTC website for guidelines on how to complete the UFOC.
– Franchise agreement.
There are many advantages to starting a business by purchasing a franchise:
• A proven successful business model.
• Training & management support.
• Less risky than starting a business from scratch or buying a business.
The disadvantages in franchising as a new business venture.
• Lose control of your marketing and operations.
• The business can be taken away.
• Your success is tied to the success of the entire organization.
Resources For You to Use in Pursuing a Franchise.
Business Nation
International Franchise Assn.
4. Inherit a Business.
• Whether you inherit a business or someone bequeaths it to you, the same issues of passing ownership to successors exist:
– Have a succession plan.
– Hire a professional management team.
– Gain loyalty of the existing family, employees, and managers.
– Have experience leading others.
– Know how to manage/lead.
Inheriting a business:
How to manage a business you inherit:
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Start a Business Part-Time

Start a Business On a Part-Time Basis.
Following is the first in a two-part series on how you can start a business on a part-time basis.
Today’s blog focuses on the paths that you can pursue to start your own business on a part-time basis. Why focus on how to start a business on a “part-time” basis? Well, there are many significant benefits to starting your own business on a part-time basis such as:
• It allows you to dip your entrepreneurial toe in the shallow end of the new business venture pool without having to commit on a full-time basis.
• You can pursue several opportunities at the same time, as a way of “kicking the tires” to entrepreneurship. This is especially important if you have a number of passions you are considering pursuing in a new business venture.
• Obtain entrepreneurial skills in specific functional areas such as Sales, Marketing, Human Resources, etc. very SLOWLY. It’s NOT a “Sink or Swim” proposition where you have to acquire many skills with the real risk of your full-time business suffering as you move up the learning curve.
• You can build a rolodex of contacts, resources, leads, and clients on a slow and steady basis.
• Grow your savings in advance of formally launching the business. Part-time business pursuits enable you to save up while you determine the start-up costs required to launch your business.
There are many paths to part-time new business ownership that you can explore. The primary ones are:
Stand Retail: Start out small by running a booth, stand, or a kiosk in a retail center such as a shopping mall.
Home-based: Conduct sales events in other people’s homes who invite you in to pitch present your products and services to people in their social circles. Some examples include Avon, Pampered Chef, Lia Sophia, certain multilevel marketing/networking pursuits (ex. Acai Juice, anti-oxidant chocolates, etc.) The benefit is you have other people inviting their networks. You have a captive audience predisposed to purchase in an intimate setting. A draw-back is you may experience a VERY finite number of people willing to invite you in to their inner circle and that lead pipeline will dry up fast.
Consignment: Give your product to stores to sell for you. On the one hand this is ideal to get your creations into existing businesses. The draw-back is they white label your products so there is no way of building your brand. Plus you have little control over how your products are displayed in their store.
Mail Order: You place the advertising yourself, and make sales on your time by fulfilling orders on your schedule. The challenge with utilizing mail order is finding an advertising channel that provides a steady stream of qualified leads.
Online: eBay and others. The upside is, there is a VERY large market and ubiquitous 24/7/365 “up” time. The down side is it can be very easy to get lost in the online world. This means that your needle in the haystack may be hard to find if you lack an established brand that people are aware of.
There are quite a few factors that will ultimately determine how successful you are in launching a new business as a part-time endeavor. Some of these include:
• It starts as a passion/hobby COMBINED with your CORE COMPETENCIES. Think of the things that you have always loves to do, and are most passionate about. The point at which those passions overlap with your skills and expertise create a sweet spot of a narrow set of possible new business ideas.
• Balance business and home life. Those entrepreneurs that I find are most successful use part-time business pursuits as a learning tool to manage their 168 hour a week finite resource. They are consummate prioritizers. They know how to delegate and are VERY flexible.
• Time management skills are CRITICAL! Even on a part-time basis running a business combined with a day job and a life of family and friend commitments fills up those 168 hours quickly. It is a constant juggling act.
• Have a To-Do list of To-Do lists. Most of my clients fail in managing time when they let their to-do lists take over by NOT having ANY lists. They are unstructured, hop from crisis to crisis in a reactive fashion so they simply lose sight of any planning we develop together. This happens time and time and time again.
• Delegate and outsourcing. None of us are expects in EVERYTHING. What you can’t do well, or don’t know how to do, find others in your network who CAN and WILL help you. Start by creating a list of people close to you and their skill sets. This is your SECRET weapon in getting everything done.
• Bootstrapping: a term used to define bartering (trading) services you need others to perform for you in lieu of you paying them. You get their help, and instead of paying them you offer services as compensation. It’s an entrepreneur’s win-win.
• Seek advisers like coaches and mentors: This one’s an absolute MUST. There are people in your social and professional networks who can and will help you. Identify a short list of 2-4, then begin having a discussion with them about your plans to go out on your own, on a part-time basis.
You are going to have to aggressively manage all the things you need to get done, to launch this new business start-up on a part-time basis. Here is a short list of essential things you need to begin working on NOW:
• Identify passions and interests. What do you love to do, what are your lifelong hobbies, passions, interests, the things you’ve done as a volunteer or outside of work that fulfill you?
• What are your hobbies? Write these all down.
• Register your business with the state. In order to register your business you will need to know which legal structure you prefer, either solo practitioner, Limited Liability Corporation partnership, S-corporation or C-corporation. Understand the tax, legal, and ownership considerations of each of these. Once you register your business you will receive your federal taxpayer / employer identification number. Then you are OFFICIALLY a new business owner. Congratulations! You can even go out and get yourself a nine digit numeric D&B DUNS number.
• Talk to everyone in your social & professional networks about this new side business. Spreads the word. Build a market for your products and services by going viral! Leverage social media. Start a blog. Build your brand as a subject matter expert. Get published, reach out to bloggers who cover your industry.
• Pick their collective “GREY” matter. Ask the people in your network who are most like your ideal customer as many questions as you can about how they use such products and services, what they like most/least, discuss their shopping experiences. You AREN’T selling your offerings. Rather, you ARE asking them about themselves, so you can fine tune how you will sell and market your goods.
• Set pricing guidelines. Have a complete set of pricing to reflect special discounts, offers, pricing for company clients, non-profits, academic institutions, Government agencies, one time versus repeat purchases, referral and client reward offerings…everything!
• Develop collateral: your sales flyers, brochures, product specifications, your professional bio, business cards, print advertisements. You’ll need a complete set of professional looking sales aides to sell your business.
• Build Your Personal Brand. Branding is all about making a promise to your clients that you will consistently deliver value to them by being unique, memorable, and invaluable. That is the single most important point to understand when you start out as a new business owner. Following are a few strategies to build a compelling brand:
– Develop your success stories
– Become a subject matter expert
– Get published
– Create a Linked In Profile
– Join Linked In Groups, start discussions
– Become active in the industries you will target
– Participate on panels
– Give lectures anywhere & everywhere
Avoid the many traps and pitfalls that come from trying to start a new business on a part-time basis:
• Moonlighting: Working on the side which adversely affects your ability to serve your current employer in the way they need from you.
• Conflicts of Interest: you may not be able to represent competitors or serve a client on your side business that you serve through your employer.
• Cannibalizing: taking business away from your employer and funneling it to your own business. Just flat-out unethical.
• Maintain highest ethical standards
• Aggrandizing: making yourself seem bigger than you are. It’s the deceptive practice of false advertising of your skills, background, experiences or the size of your business.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach

Do You Work in a Learning Organization?

Only learning organizations are equipped to succeed in today’s brutally competitive business environment.
Organizations that create cultures of continuous learning for their employees are referred to as “learning organizations.” These organizations facilitate the learning of their people and are able to continuously transform themselves.
But learning organizations don’t just happen. They evolve as a result of the MANY pressures facing today’s organizations. Challenges such as social media, the 24x7x365 new cycle, constantly advancing technology, global competition, internet-based business models constantly pose threats to an organization’s survival.
For example, the average age of a company that appeared on the Fortune 500 list of the world’s most successful businesses used to be 50 years. Now, the average age of a member of that illustrious list is a mere FIVE years. Further, companies once deemed “too big to fail” are doing so with scary regularity. Examples such as Bear Stearns, Circuit City, Lehman Brothers, Borders, Blockbuster, Meryl Lynch abound.
In order to adapt to these constant challenges, companies that transform themselves into learning organizations (learning society) are able to remain competitive. The concept of the learning organization was first developed through the research and work done by Peter Senge and his associates in 1994. Further contributions came from Donald Schon in his writing about the “learning society.”
Organizations need to become more like “COMMUNITIES” that their employees feel a sense of commitment towards. Many companies have destroyed employee trust and loyalty by tearing up the employer-employee contract beginning in the 1980s, when they began sending jobs overseas to lower cost labor markets. Words like off-shoring, outsourcing, re-engineering, right-sizing, downsizing have become all too familiar vernacular for Management’s destruction of the American worker’s long-term work prospects.
Usually, an organization becomes a learning organization as an outcome of that company becoming far too structured. As companies grow they expand, adding on layer after layer of bureaucracy which always leads to organizational inefficiency and ineffectiveness.
When that happens, some leaders are wise enough to identify an overwhelming need to restructure/downsize in order to become more lean and efficient. What they end up facing is a need to have their remaining workforce become more productive on a per-employee basis due to the smaller number of remaining workers they have.
That then demands you create a new environment, in which people can openly share learning without their sharing becoming devalued or ignored completely. This is an absolute necessity for the remaining workers to all benefit from the sharing of knowledge and experiences, which in turn empowers the employee who shares their knowledge. This is at the heart of the learning organization.
I have unfortunately spent over 20 years working in many industries for many organizations that did not understand this central tenet. Workers who feel that their experience, knowledge, training, and education are valued want to share their expertise for the greater good of the organization. But many managers and business owners still manage their people like they were purely assets (a cost to be maintained/controlled) like we were still in a manufacturing-based economy. WE’RE NOT! We work in the 21st Century technology/service-based economy. Knowledge is the single greatest assert to be leveraged, for true lasting competitive advantage. And many organizations simply refuse to embrace this fact.
Don’t believe me? Here’s a VERY simple test you can conduct, in order to (dis)prove how poorly prepared your own organization is to take advantage of its people’s talents.
Ask your Human Resources folks to take a random sample of any five (5) employees in your organization. Have them write down each person’s job requirements, those functions they are tasked with performing on a daily basis. Then, write down the top 5-8 core competencies that each of those people possess. Now, compare the list of job requirements with their greatest talents for each of those people. I GUARANTEE you that for each person, there is a significant disconnect/disparity between their talents and the work they are tasked with performing. This holds true in ANY organization and people at any level of your organization. This is why most organizations are NOT a learning organization.
How then can you spot a learning organization? Following are a few key characteristics of true learning organizations. See if any can be found in YOUR company:
* They provide CONTINUOUS learning opportunities for all employees;
* They apply learning to achieve all their personal, team, and organizational goals;
* They link each individual’s performance to the organization’s performance;
* They truly ENCOURAGE personal inquiry and open dialog;
* They make it safe for people to both share openly and take risks WITHOUT fear of punishment for failure (In fact, failing GREATLY as a continuous learning tool is actively encouraged); and
* They are continuously aware of, and interact constantly with, their external environment (Kerka 1995). You define an organization’s external environment as the markets they compete in, their employees, clients, partners,vendors, suppliers, and competitors.
So, let’s say you are now a convert to the learning organization and want to know HOW to create a learning organization in your own organization. Great! First, you should know that people don’t learn by formal training. They learn by rolling up their sleeves and learning “ON THE JOB.” Therefore, you MUST create an informal learning environment by creating a mentor/coaching programs. Develop a program of employee job rotations, so people can learn the entire organization by working in various Departments. you will also need to begin having constant discussions with your peers in an open, sharing environment. It is also critical that your organization begin to disseminate/distribute information all across the organization including top-down, bottom-up, between functional areas, and inside/out the organization by sharing information with all your stakeholders.
As noted in a recent Korn/Ferry Institute white paper titled Using Learning Agility to Identify High Potentials Around The Worldd, studies have repeatedly shown that the ability to learn from experience is what differentiates successful executives (and organizations) from unsuccessful ones. Learning agility is used to describe those with openness, willingness to learn, curiosity about the world, a willingness to experience new things, good people skills and a high tolerance for ambiguity. (Jan/Feb 2013 HR Executive, p. 17)
People who are learning agile usually exhibit the following six characteristics, according to a recent white paper titled: “Learning About Learning Agility” from the Center for Creative Leadership and Columbia University’s Teachers College:
1) They’re unafraid to challenge the status quo;
2) They remain calm in the face of difficulty;
3) They take time to reflect on their experiences;
4) They purposefully put themselves in challenging situations;
5) They are open to learning; and
6) They resist the temptation to become defensive in the face of adversity.
Your organization also needs to begin offering “on-demand training” where you customize the training to fit the specific needs of a skill set, particular project, or specific task. Then you need to deliver your people performance support tools (software and systems) that help them achieve their work-related tasks. In order to remain competitive, your organization MUST create a culture that embraces learning. Call me if you’d like to discuss how his can be done.
Some Great Resources to Explore.
* Building the Learning Organization, by Michael Marquardt.
* 5 Keys to building a learning organization.
Here’s to your success in starting a new business in 2013. May it be the start of an entirely new path for you!
Ethan Chazin, The Compassionate Coach