« 27 | Main | Getting Shit Done »

July 06, 2007


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Jeremy Langhans

Twenty years reaps many entrepreneurial lessons
When I decided to start my own business, my two closest neighbors — both of whom worked for a huge corporation — were worried about my future, concerned about my losing the security of a paycheck. That was in January 1986.
Twenty years later, I'm still in business. Within two years of my starting a business, both neighbors had lost their jobs.

How the economy has changed in those two decades. Then, the best and brightest business school students hoped to work for Fortune 500 companies or mega consulting firms. When someone said "small business," they usually meant a "mom-and-pop" store.

Now a small business is just as likely to be a fast-growing innovative company, and Mom and Pop work for their twentysomething kid.

Today, hundreds of universities and colleges offer degrees or certificates in entrepreneurship or small business management. More than a half million new businesses are started each month, according to the Kauffman Foundation. And in a 2005 poll conducted by Junior Achievement, 69% of teens said they wanted to start their own businesses.

Back in 1986, almost no one used the word "entrepreneur." Today, everyone wants to be one.

What are the most important lessons I've learned about running a business during the last 20 years? What did I wish I knew when I was starting out?

• Develop a business plan and update it annually. Without a doubt, the single greatest positive impact on my business has been our annual business planning process. It has directly increased both our sales and our focus.

• Get help. I waited too long before I hired an assistant. Hiring your first employee is a big hurdle, but if you're spending too much of your time dealing with administrative matters rather than income-producing activities, get help.

• Hire for attitude, train for skills. People can learn skills, but it's almost impossible to change someone's personality. If necessary, leave a position vacant until you find someone with a good attitude toward getting the job done.

• Use a consultant. Even though I was a management consultant myself, I've hired consultants throughout the life of my businesses. A good consultant brings fresh eyes and fresh ideas to help you grow your business or solve business issues.

• Embrace technology. I see many small businesses that waste precious time doing routine paperwork by hand or using a 10-year-old bookkeeping system, or who still don't have a website. Properly used, technology reduces costs, increases sales and gives you better information on which to make key business decisions.

• Join an industry association. You don't build a business in a vacuum; what's going on in your industry affects the health of your business. It's critical to stay on top of trends and issues in your field.

• Talk to your "competitors." My first years in business, I stayed away from other consultants, fearing them as competition. But over the years, many became sources of referrals and vital business-growing information. Not everyone is out to get you.

• If you must have a partner, get a written partnership agreement before you start your business. Spell out every aspect of your working relationship, including exactly what happens if one of you wants out or you disagree. The most difficult business issue I've faced was ending a partnership.

• Bring your dog to work. When my business grew too large for a home office, I made certain the office space we rented allowed us to bring dogs. We have three dogs in our office now, including my dog, Cosmo, and I love it.

• Expect to change. If you want your business to survive, you need to regularly assess and reinvent your business. Although I've done some of the same things for many years (for example, I've written this column for over 13 years), my business has significantly evolved. In fact, I've had four businesses, but all have been evolutions of my core competency of assisting small companies to plan and grow their businesses.

During these past two decades, I've had the opportunity to work with entrepreneurs from Sioux Falls to Sydney, Baltimore to Barcelona. And my respect has grown continually for those who build new companies, invent new products and services, and most importantly, create new jobs. They — you — are my heroes.

Rhonda Abrams is author of The Successful Business Plan: Secrets & Strategies and president of The Planning Shop, publishers of books and other tools for business plans. Register for Rhonda's free business planning newsletter at www.PlanningShop.com. For an index of her columns, click here. Copyright Rhonda Abrams 2006.

Dave Opton

Our business will mark its 20th in 2008, and I could not agree more with Jeremy's comments. He is spot on. My only addition to his list is to borrow the following piece of neutron Jack's philosophy: "Don't be afraid to hire people who are smarter than you."

Renata Dumitrascu

Unfortunately, I put a lot of the blame on the recruiters. They are the mold makers for the cookie cutter they use to screen candidates. Candidates with no imagination - they love them. They have a steady job history, they never make waves, they never rebelled against anything and anybody. Newsflash: imagination and individualism always lead to rebellion in some form or another. That is going to leave a trace in a resume, a trace which recruiters don't like and are taught to specifically screen out for.

jen_chan, writer MemberSpeed.com

With the growing number of the world's population, one would think that we a re a community thriving with lots and lots of variety. Unfortunately, as you say, what really happens is that there is much less to choose from. It makes me think of opportunities wasted on people with no imagination at all. It is in cases like this that risks become worth taking.


cheers. This can be used as a ready reckoner anytime.

I also follow a blog on Importance of Human Resources:



Perhaps use Bob Parson's motivational tips as a yardstick for employers/recruiters !

term papers

Blogs are so interactive where we get lots of informative on any topics nice job keep it up !!

Dissertation Examples

Excellent post and wonderful blog, I really like this type of interesting articles keep it up.


Thanks for sharing you guys!

Education Pusher

Interesting article. One to think about.

The comments to this entry are closed.

The recruiting.com 2005 Best Blog Awards Winner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

View Jeff
CHiMBY the Career Advice Search Engine

August 2014

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
          1 2
3 4 5 6 7 8 9
10 11 12 13 14 15 16
17 18 19 20 21 22 23
24 25 26 27 28 29 30