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Take It or Leave it – Advice lovingly given

Although I feel this phrase has been overused, here goes… 2020 has been tough on all of us. It was a year of trials and tribulations in so many ways - both personally and professionally around the globe.

However, there are two types of tough situations in business, one that is brought about by unforeseen circumstances such as a weather event, pandemic or something that cannot be controlled in any way by humans and one that is brought about by human error, mismanagement or lack of knowledge. No business is immune to any of these factors, what sets good businesses apart is the way they handle the tough situations that come their way.

“Thank you for your feedback.” The saying “pulled myself up by the bootstraps” essentially means you dug in, evaluated the situation and worked on course correction. This is something that entrepreneurs face frequently, especially at the beginning of their business journey. Just because your product or invention may fill a void or solve a problem in your life may not mean that it will be popular among others. Oftentimes when receiving constructive criticism, the instinct, especially if your product is near and dear to your heart, is to defend. Taking the view that feedback from others brings about care for you or your product can make the pill easier to swallow. Keeping the perspective that you are hyper-close to your product and may not have a birds-eye-view can help to ease the defensive stance and give you the confidence to handle hearing all feedback coming your way. So that when you get knocked down you can “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” and use that feedback to make changes. If you want an honest opinion of your product... ask total strangers, not your friends or your family.

“Just one glance and I had to have it.” A lovely phrase that you want consumers to say as they see your product on a shelf. An average consumer has about 5 seconds to see your product on a shelf and decide if they want a closer look. If your packaging doesn’t state what it is and what it does or how it is a solution to a problem on the front, then chances are you have lost their interest. Clean, concise and compliant are the 3 c’s to remember for packaging. Compliant? Yes, there are certain areas of packaging that must comply with several guidelines such as UPC/barcode size among others. When creating your packaging do the research on products in your industry.

“Know your worth.” Literally and figuratively. Having a tight grasp, like a toddler may have on a cat’s tail, is what you want for your business finances. What may seem like minute details will be the details you need the best grasp on. Cost of goods broken down in a variety of ways can give you an understanding on what you are paying for and how you can trim the fat. Analyzing your cost of goods is just the tip of the iceberg but it is essential and, if you are a small business entrepreneur then YOU need to have the knowledge, it will be beneficial to making important decisions when situations arise. In this case, what you don’t know could hurt you. Know your numbers... don’t rely on someone else.

“May I help you?”

Lastly, seek out a SCORE mentor or an advisor in your industry if possible. Having the chance to talk about what you are experiencing in your business journey can be invaluable. Businesses are not created in a bubble and they cannot be maintained in one either. Mentors can give you advice that stems from their personal experiences, much like what I do as an angel investor with my investments. There are elements of business that are the same, regardless of industry and having that birds-eye-view come from someone who you trust is worth its weight in gold. Also, you don’t have to take every piece of advice given to you and implement it. As the business owner you drive the train, so it is your journey. Talking to someone that have a 30,000 foot view of the situation can be very revealing.

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