Profit Minded

4 Takeaways from a Crash Course for Entrepreneurs

New business books come across my desk every week, sent by publishers seeking Yahoo coverage for their authors. It’s impossible to review each one, but a title that promises to teach what you need about management in 2 hours is hard to resist.

The paperback by three seasoned Florida entrepreneurs, “Managing Your Business,” is part of a new 5-volume “Crash Course for Entrepreneurs” that includes titles on starting a business, sales and marketing, business law, and finance basics. To be accurate, we’re talking 2 hours to power through each 160-page book in the series—10 hours to learn the basics. And, of course, the authors concede, “there’s much more to learn about each topic than the books can cover.” But the set, they say, is designed to provide any would-be entrepreneur with “a framework” for running a company.

Just what can you learn about managing your business in 2 hours? How to create a vibrant office culture, how to make meetings work, how to spend wisely, and how to hire and motivate the best employees are the main points, according to the book jacket. There’s also advice on evaluating your competition, making difficult decisions, managing your time, outsourcing, cutting travel costs, planning for disaster and succession, and forming an exit strategy.

Here are four of the best ideas I took away from 120-minutes perusing the wisdom of serial entrepreneurs Marc Price, Michael O’Keefe, and Scott Girard, who claim to have a combined 17 successful startups under their belts.

1. A learning culture underpins sustainable success for companies of all sizes. “If you still run [your expanding business] like you did when you were on your own, you’ll pay the price,” observes Price, who has launched four entertainment production companies as well as concerns in business services, business and land acquisitions, and website and business consulting services. “If you remain the sole source of growth, innovation, responsibility, and momentum, you’ll limit your company’s rich opportunities for success. From the start, create a culture of learning, and you will see mushrooming growth.” What’s a learning culture? “One which empowers its managers to be creative, innovative, and even self-sufficient at times,” and functions as a team environment, he says.

2. Heed business etiquette. The authors say a key to success is following a few common-sense rules including maxims about using email and cell phones, and being prompt, prepared, and polished. They strongly recommend brushing up on proper grammar and vocabulary usage to make your spoken and written communications shine. Being a good listener helps too: “Try to develop a habit of doing twice as much listening as you do talking in meetings,” they suggest. “You will learn more and when you do speak, others are more likely to listen. Setting a good example will also encourage your team to be active listeners and you’ll all get more done.”

3. Set “SMART” (simple, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely) company and employee goals. “When people have goals, they are more likely to feel motivated in their work,” according to the authors. “Like stepping stones in a river, goals will guide your employees toward the right destination without upset.” If your goal is to grow sales by 50 percent this year, for instance, set companywide goals that support it, such as producing a sales catalog in January, acquiring a specific number of new customers by midyear, and releasing a new product in the first quarter, they say. Most importantly, share these goals with your employees, encourage discussion, and answer their questions about them before asking each employee to identify personal work goals that will support the broader goals. “Involving your staff in establishing their own goals will give them a sense of ownership and commitment,” the authors say. “Conversely, if you issue goals from on high, you risk getting pushback, resentment, and apathy.”

4. Unfocused activity can sink your business. Entrepreneurs are, by nature, fonts of new business ideas. But Girard, O’Keefe, and Price say “small businesses can only take on so much.” Their experience shows that when “lots of great ideas get thrown around with equal excitement … either nothing actually gets to market, or the new offering is marketed inadequately (due to limited budgets and lack of deep experience). And it flops.” The authors say that business leaders need to corral the team and “ensure everyone is laser-focused on the things that will build and protect success.” Many small businesses, they say, seem to have forgotten what their core business is. Their advice: “Don’t spread yourself too thin, and don’t forget where you came from, what you’re good at, and why your customers buy from you.”

For more of the authors' wisdom and resources to help navigate business ownership, check out their website.

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