Be Aware, Very Aware

That phrase ran through my mind the other day while I was consulting with Kathy, a small business start-up client. Her “train” had run out of original track, and I was concerned that she might not be totally in touch with the situation. The predicament is relatively common for fledging entrepreneurs, and yet, thankfully, it’s relatively easy to deal with. You simply have to remain aware.

By Paul Jermain, Entrepreneurial Training Program, www.entrepreneurialtrainingprogram.com

That phrase ran through my mind the other day while I was consulting with Kathy, a small business start-up client. Her “train” had run out of original track, and I was concerned that she might not be totally in touch with the situation. The predicament is relatively common for fledging entrepreneurs, and yet, thankfully, it’s relatively easy to deal with. You simply have to remain aware.

As with so many start-up entrepreneurs, Kathy’s background provided a great fit to her new enterprise. After years of extensive travel while solidly engaged in the financial services business, she decided to exercise her creative flair and produce travel-related clothing and accessories which would make traveling easier and more fun. She had put together a good business plan and was in the process of actually implementing it, by making samples to show prospective boutique resellers, when the situation arose.

Despite her well-developed sewing skills and deep knowledge of clothing, week after week it seemed that the samples were taking 3-4 times as long as originally anticipated. Significantly, it appeared that even after the initial templates were created, and “production” bugs ironed out, her hourly compensation would be equivalent to working at the front counter of a fast food restaurant. Not exactly what she had in mind, but she doggedly pressed on. And this is where the concept of awareness is key.

Sometimes when an entrepreneur, like Kathy, gets an idea in their head, they have a drive to execute it, no matter what. Now, this often leads to positive outcomes as that sort of single-minded focus can make the difference between success and failure. However, it can also lead to an unnecessary waste of precious time which can be invested more wisely elsewhere. Oftentimes, with an awareness of the situation, subtle adjustments can be made which open doors to opportunities that are very closely related to the original idea.

Working together, Kathy and I outlined the three-pronged “fork in the road” in front of her. She could farm out the production to a “sweat shop” operation, riding herd on the piece-meal producers day and night. She could get out of the production side of the industry, and offer design services on a freelance basis to others. Or, she could open a retail shop and offer clothing and travel accessories from other designers and manufacturers.

Based on her interest in exercising not only her entrepreneurial spirit, but also her creative gifts, the production option didn’t seem to be a good fit, but the other two certainly had merit. She put together an action plan to help her learn more of the viable options, and committed herself to remaining aware of the evolving situation.

Starting a small business can be an exhilarating, frustrating, energizing experience. For many people, small business is a “creative” outlet and a source of financial rewards. Oftentimes, even the most carefully laid plans go awry, stimulating the need for adjustments. The key is to remain aware, e.g., stay connected to your original goals and reasons for going into business so that you can respond to changing situations and enjoy long term satisfaction and success.