By Paul E. Donihue
Advanced Merchant Services Inc.
Editor's Note: Jason Felts, a valued contributing writer for The Green Sheet, as well as the founder, President and Chief Executive Officer of Advanced Merchants Services Inc., recently read 11 Ways to Kill Your Business, by Paul E. Donihue.
Felts was so impressed with the book that he asked Donihue if he'd pen a guest article. The answer was yes. Here follow the author's thoughts on the ramifications of ignoring important aspects of business building. Felts' articles will resume next month.
Going into business is really incredible. You get up the courage, arrange all the details, obtain capital backing and a whole list of other things. Finally, you start your business. You have dreamed about it, envisioning future success and expecting it will surpass all of your past achievements.
But then, too often, things start going wrong. What appeared to be a solid endeavor starts to falter. After doing many things correctly over months and possibly years, you end up on a slippery downward slope. You realize somewhere you've gotten off track.
If this happens to you, and you do not take immediate action to correct the descending spiral, your dreams and visions may be for naught. Your business may die.
I wrote 11 Ways to Kill Your Business to help turn business failures into success stories. I also had the book professionally recorded into a two-volume audio CD (easy listening for busy executives and on-the-go salespeople).
And I developed an accompanying resource workbook so that readers could evaluate their businesses and their careers and get moving in the right direction again.
Whether you are an ISO, merchant level salesperson (MLS) or owner of a traditional retail business, you need to identify areas that can ruin your business so you can avoid making devastating mistakes.
Whether you are a newbie, an entrepreneur or a CEO, I encourage you to evaluate where you are and stimulate yourself to make necessary adjustments.
The merchant services arena is basically no different than other business sectors. You have high hopes and dreams, whether you are an MLS working alone as an independent contractor or an executive of a multimillion dollar ISO. And you are doing some things right.
Yet, just as a virus enters computer systems because of lack of appropriate preventive measures, neglect or even just plain laziness, your great plans can soon turn to bad habits or glaring omissions, and your business world can begin to crumble.
So, I've identified 11 things that will kill your business. I have not spent 10 years and $100 million to research this topic. I'm a business person, not a professional writer.
My insights come from years of seeing people run successful businesses, as well as not-so-successful ventures. My ideas are born out of dealing with people, including those I've met during a thriving sales career.
They are derived from the sweat and tears of starting my own business, which is now incorporated and growing into a national organization.
My insights come from my own experiences and from talking with other business owners. And I've found that any of the 11 actions I've pinpointed can and will kill your business, if you fall into the trap of doing them.
Believe me, they sneak up on you. They can overpower you, and they can lull you into sleepwalking right into a failed business. Do them, and you will snuff out your business.
Let me share the first thing that will starve your business and your dreams if you fail to practice it. The most successful business owners, sales managers and sales-people already incorporate this key into their workdays.
However, many people do not recognize its importance. And because they ignore this critical ingredient, they experience great difficulty.
If you want to kill you business, don't network. Networking (often called "making connections" today) is essential to business growth. Jeffrey Gitomer wrote a book entitled Little Black Book of Connections. That is what you actually need. To keep your business alive and growing, you must connect with people.
There was a time when, frankly, I didn't think networking was important and certainly did not practice it. I would go to occasional Rotary or Lions club meetings, but I really did not grasp their importance.
To me networking was simply attending an event. I rationalized and said I did not have time for it. But I was entirely wrong.
Networking, giving of yourself and really not expecting anything in return, is connecting; it is not just attending an event and passing out business cards. And when you truly connect, an amazing thing happens. You get noticed, and people begin to turn toward you and your business.
Do you remember the radio commercial several years ago about two people sitting next to each other at a children's ball game?
One person had a product he desperately needed to get out of his warehouse and the other had a real need for it. Neither one knew the other's need, because neither one talked about it.
The commercial was for a bank that actually believed in connecting people. You see, networking is the coming together of two or more people who have a common need and can either help each other or know someone who can assist them.
It is certainly nothing to be afraid of or shy away from: You can squelch your company and your career if you fail to network.
It's a lesson I have learned (and learned big) as I've journeyed through the merchant services and financial solutions arena. The growth of the company I founded with Bryan, my son and partner, has been tied directly to the many networking opportunities that have come our way.
Connecting can take place any time, any place and at any social get-together. There is no time limit. There are no location restrictions.
There are no exempt individuals. The only limitation is your desire and willingness to share, learn and interact with the people you meet along life's way.
I started out in the merchant services arena like many MLSs: a home office in a local area in which I worked tirelessly. But through teaching a class at my church, I met a person who introduced me to one of his former employers.
The employer was impressed with my offerings and integrity and paved the way through introductions so that my company eventually became the preferred vendor for an organization representing some 1,200 enterprises.
While doing research for one of those clients, I phoned a software company. That encounter led to meeting the company's president and being asked to become the preferred reseller for his proprietary software.
Then, while in Toronto at a tradeshow, he introduced me to the president of a Texas-based company that offers unique software, and my business became the preferred provider to its 250 customers. Some of them produce $1 million a month in credit card processing.
All of this happened because, after introductions, I placed a phone call and was not afraid of talking to the company president, who answered the phone that day.
During a business trip I took with Bryan, a flight attendant asked him why we were heading to Albuquerque, N.M. He explained we were on our way to a tradeshow to present our credit card processing and business check solutions.
A man seated in front of Bryan overheard the conversation. He introduced himself; he was a top man in an association of 20,000 merchants of a specialty product.
He said he was unhappy with his present processor. He asked Bryan to contact him the following week to see what we could do. You see, I believe in connecting.
Recently, my family and I were enjoying a meal at a small restaurant in our hometown. Next to us was a family moving from Canada to Columbus, Ohio. They were having their car brakes worked on and were passing the time by having lunch.
A conversation ensued in which I discovered that one of the family members is in financial services.
We immediately had a common bond. Out of that short conversation, came an opportunity for some e-commerce processing, a new Web site and some new friends.
I have met sales trainers who promote my book through networking. You see, joint ventures are not just for Internet marketing. Networking can grow your business by introducing you to the potential of joint ventures.
Making connections is a major factor in why, in less than two years, we went from two local guys in two states to an enterprise that literally deals with businesses coast to coast and border to border. Soon we will extend our reach into Canada.
With that said, who do you know? Who sits next to you on flights? Do you talk, or do you bury your head in a book or try to sleep?
Do you strike up conversations at restaurants or talk with fellow passengers waiting for an airplane to take off? Are you keenly on the lookout for new friends, wanting to learn from them and possibly help them?
How many formal networking events do you attend and then lag behind afterward to talk to someone? How many ad hoc networking events do you participate in but leave early and thereby lose an opportunity?
Every person you come in contact with can lead you to a person who can transform your life and your company's future.
Networking has opened unbelievable doors for my company and for me. It has taken us places that I never conceived nor dreamed. It has allowed me to meet wonderful and gifted people who have enriched my life and stretched my business career.
My experiences inspired me to write 11 Ways to Kill Your Business. Networking has brought me unbelievable success, and it can for you also.
I am a collector of old wooden model ships. Many of the real ships are no longer around or have been shipwrecked, recovered and restored.
The same thing can happen in your business. It is rare to rediscover, recover and restore a company's direction. But I believe it can be done before it is too late.
My hope and prayer is to see someone turn a ship around and steer it in the right direction, keeping it from squalls, coral reefs and eventual shipwreck.
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