The Art of Connection – The Essential Key For Business and Personal Success

As a Life Coach and Trainer, I keenly observe how what I teach thousands of others, also provides opportunities for growth in my own life as well. 
Yesterday was a memorable for many reasons – one of them being that I met my neighbor for the first time. She pulled up to our farm wearing a big smile and carrying a massive flowering plant as an introduction.  In my usual style, I gave her and her daughter a warm hug, secretly wishing that I had acted on my original impulse the week before to welcome them to the neighborhood. But my reasons for not doing so had all made so much sense.  I had just arrived home from a four-week trip, the tractor had broken down, I had meetings planned with the architect and contractor for the new home we’re building, Michelle needed to purchase a new car after my brother had rolled hers down a mountain, my boys were wanting to go on a new adventure, and I still had two courses to write and what seemed like hundreds of calls to make. The list did not end there, however I think you get my point on how preoccupied I was!
How Many Opportunities to Connect are Being Missed?
Even though the thought of going next door and starting that unknown journey kept wandering through my mind, I simply did not do so. As I sat down to write this article I began to think of how my story with my new neighbor Kim is probably indicative of how so many of us have an endless opportunity to connect with the people that pass through our lives, but don’t. How often do we experience a fleeting thought to connect and share a bit of our time, but quickly dismiss it and relegate it to the bottom of a list of chores, right behind cleaning out the kitty litter? These chores keep us safely behind our desks shuffling papers or making calls that are so familiar in nature that they go on and on, eating through our precious time and keeping us happily distracted from connecting with someone new, which could potentially enrich and forever change both our lives in ways we can’t yet foresee?
Often through a seemingly insignificant action of initiating a conversation, of going first, of reaching out to a stranger, a new adventure is born.  An adventure whose destination is still unknown and whose memories are etched into the fabric of the unfolding story of my life. As I think now of many of my closest friends who have somehow woven themselves into the tapestry of my life, my mind floods with the memories that we have created together, the vibrancy and color that they have added to the chapters of my living story. I think back to the exact moment that we first met, the very second that one of us reached out to the other and decided to go first, giving permission for the other to follow.  I chuckle now at the prospect of how many possible friends or business acquaintances I have missed along the way because of some impending minor crisis or paper shuffling distraction, as I hid behind my desk. 
Learning the Art of Connection
As my new neighbor Kim and I chatted casually in my kitchen, I picked up a deep sense of relief that we had both scored a home run in the “great neighbor” category, as if it were pre-destined that we would indeed become good friends. Many people are looking for a deeper connection to others, to their own life, and are in physical and financial pain, desperately searching for an answer.  Some are simply looking for a new and exciting adventure that will bring a greater sense of contribution and purpose to their lives, and some will become close friends and you’ll both be forever grateful you took the time to put your chores and papers aside to simply connect. From their, the magic naturally unfolds.
Your pathway to success in all areas of your life begins with your ability to connect with others and have them connect with you.  In this age of cell phones and text messaging, our ability to deeply connect with others has been eroded to the extent that many social and business settings can make people feel uncomfortable, clumsy and even isolated. Are you finding that this loss of connection in your life is costing you financially, emotionally and physically?  What about the most important connection of all, your connection to Self, which is crucial to laying the foundation for a rich, vibrant and successful life and business? 
Every day is a journey of person-to-person communication and heartfelt connections, bursting with potential and opportunity for deeper personal and business success that impacts the tapestry of your life.  

Are You Ready to Recreate a Business That Is Spectacularly Unique?

This is the story of four companies, in the same industry, in the same town. It is a perfect study of mission and vision statements. Even though these business owners were in the same industry, were direct competitors, and had the same prospects, their purpose and companies were amazingly different.

Who you are, what your purpose is, and where you want to go can be completely different and should be from anyone else. When you can differentiate yourself on this high level, you create a business that is not only spectacularly unique but also creates greater happiness for everyone involved.

I once found myself coaching the owners of four separate bookkeeping companies at the same time. I am a bookkeeper magnet! During this time, the economy was at its worst. Everyone was in pain, and many people were scratching for solutions. It became common practice to only look to the industry know-it-alls to be advised on how to be profitable-in this case-as a bookkeeping firm. But I was able to move each of these companies toward their goals in very different ways, not by being a know-it-all, not by knowing everything about bookkeeping businesses, but by allowing them to find their solutions in their own mission and vision.

Let me illustrate first by introducing you to these four owners and what they first presented as their problem when I met them.

Meet Rhonda. Rhonda was very successful, but even though she had a competent staff, she was tired. She had to control and oversee everything in her business. She wanted a vacation. Was there a better way?

Meet Ruby: Ruby had been a CPA for almost 40 years. It wasn’t that she wasn’t able to work hard-she just didn’t see how she would be able to retire comfortably.

Meet Molly: Molly was one of the best and fastest bookkeepers around, but she was broke. If something didn’t give, she’d have to get a job to support her family.

Meet Jane: Jane owned a highly competitive bookkeeping firm, but she was losing clients. She was working hard to keep her staff busy, but she was also broke and didn’t know if her present business model was sustainable.

The antidote: Before setting specific steps and goals for action, which each business owner was used to doing, I asked each of them to spend time articulating their mission, their vision, and their value proposition. Why? So that each tactic and action they decided upon would be aligned with their greater purpose… like this:

Mission: Who are you? Why are you here? What is wrong with the world, and how do you intend to fix it?

Vision: Where are you going? What does your version of success look, feel, and taste like? What will the world look like if you successfully fulfill your Mission?

Value Proposition: The result that your customer gets from working with you.

Here is what each business owner discovered about herself:

Rhonda was very successful, with a niche market for contractors and building companies. She had a small staff and high profits. Business was getting more difficult, but her main complaint was that she couldn’t get away. She was the classic example of an owner who was tied to her business with golden handcuffs. What she dreamed of was a turnkey business that could run without her. Her need: put systems into place that would align her staff to oversee quality control so that she would be free.

Ruby had done taxes, was controlling, and now was preparing books for other tax preparers-solo style. But her dream was to teach. She was tired of shuffling papers, and she was an expert at helping business owners understand their financial information. She was witty, clever, and a seasoned speaker. She desperately wanted to make the change. Her need: make the transition from marketing her service to marketing herself.

Molly had moved from being employed as a bookkeeper to being an independent contractor to having a small staff. Her desire was to become the biggest firm in town and aggressively grow her business and have a large, reputable staff. She’d do anything to dominate her field. She was aggressively improving her own skills (night school for her accounting degree) while at the same time hiring people with degrees and skills above her own. Her need: growth, growth, and more growth.

Jane wanted to reinvent her business by developing online training products to create residual income. She was magnetic and technically adept. She was willing and able to learn how to be successful with Internet marketing. Her need: develop a new skill and start making money as quickly as possible.

Four companies. Four dreams. Their next hurdle was to create their Value Proposition.

Rhonda- The empowered team to be your full solution in the construction industry: from Internet hosting to prevailing wages, bids, cost controls, and analysis.

Ruby- Teaching small-business owners to understand the power of their own financial statements.

Molly- The outsourced bookkeeping firm that becomes a part of your small to medium-size business.

Jane- Helping the small-business owner and bookkeeping professional-online, 24/7 showing how to operate QuickBooks in an easy-to-use tutorial.

Then we created strategic goals according to their Mission, Vision, and Value Proposition. Each one is setting goals and working hard on these actions:

Rhonda is using high-performance techniques to bring her team’s skills to a higher level. She has changed her role as the leader by coaching her staff and not overseeing and solving all the problems. They work together on a regular basis to create and adjust systems that allow them to solve problems, make decisions, and handle all the tasks in the business without her.

Ruby is busy producing her material and getting ready to launch live workshops.

Molly has twice the staff and twice the profits while she works with her team on marketing and selling themselves to new clientele.

Jane has already created the product and is now employing state-of-the-art techniques to launch her tutorials online. The skill is difficult and managing her time is a challenge, but her list is growing, and her online sales are improving.

If you started reading this article thinking all bookkeeping firms are the same, see how different they can be? If you are faced with a problem, how do you make decisions that are strategically aligned with your Mission and Vision? For each of these business owners, it may have looked as if they would all need the same solution. After this work, they were able to create goals well suited to their dreams, and they get closer to achieving these dreams every day.

7 Tips For Selecting the Best Small Business Brokers to Sell Your Business

Are you thinking about selling your business? Have you ever gone through the process before? Are you confidant that you can do it yourself? Where would your time be better spent, running your business at peak performance while trying to sell it, or focused on the advertising campaign, networking, negotiating, and coordinating the closure of the sale of your business? Maybe you should consider doing what you do best, running the business, and search out small business brokers and let them do what they do best, sell businesses. If you go that route, here are 7 tips to choosing a business broker that makes sense for you.

1. Don’t get lost in the shuffle

You want your broker to have a proven record and a great reputation but you don’t want the organization to be so big that your deal is passed off to a junior staffer. You want the active involvement of the principals.

2. Do your due diligence

You’re about to engage the services of someone that is going to have a big impact on your financial life. Make sure you are comfortable with the relationship. Check with the International Business Brokers Association and see if your broker is a member in good standing. Follow up on the references provided and determine just how satisfied past clients are. Check with your local better business bureau and see if there are any unresolved complaints.

3. Use a specialist

Real estate agents and other professionals sometimes hold themselves out as business brokers on a part time basis. You want someone who makes their entire living selling businesses full time. Preferably somebody who has experience in your particular industry and someone who can point to successful sales they have made for your competitors.

4. Avoid heavy up front fee structures

Typically a business broker will charge between 10% and 15% of the sale price as a fee. While it is customary for them to ask for some up front fees to initiate the process, avoid those brokers who are looking for greater than a third. Also make sure that the up front fee is deductible from the sales fee when the business sells. Following this advice will save you from having to invest a ton of cash before you actually sell the business.

5. Only contract for the business selling services

Smaller business brokers will offer accounting and legal services that you will need during closing for an additional fee and these services are typically outsourced by the broker. It may be to your advantage to contract for those services directly leaving the broker with only the requirement to focus on the selling process and not generating add on fees.

6. Share your expectations

Before you select a broker you should have at least a general idea of what you want to accomplish by selling your business. You should have a rough valuation number and you should know if you want a cash sale or stock. Share this with the broker and see if he agrees with your plan. While there probably will be differences in valuation, your broker should be in tune with the rest of your objectives. If he’s reluctant or believes that it will be difficult to achieve your goals, find another broker.

7. Keep the whole process confidential

The last thing you want to do is let the word that you are seeking a business broker or that you are in negotiations with a buyer leak out. Once it becomes common knowledge that you are selling, your relationships with your employees, customers, vendors and bankers could be adversely affected. Have an exit plan for after the sale that includes sharing the news with all those listed above.

Using business brokers to help sell a business is usually the smart route to take for any business of substance. You want your organization to have as much “curb appeal” as possible during the process and that means you should be focusing your time on optimizing the business not chasing down buyers.