“Business Start-up – Team Cohesion; Avoiding the Downward Spiral”

If you have been watching then you know that our nation is hanging by the weakest of threads as it seems the entire global economy has lost its way. Instability and pessimism loom ever-present in every aspect of our lives. But does this mean that we should become paralyzed and cease to plan and aspire in the direction of our dreams? I say no to paralyzing fear and the stupefying catatonic entrancement that we inherit from the constant negative bombardment received from a daily dose of television. I contend that we must not focus on what conventional wisdom may say about starting or maintaining a business when all “Hell” seems to be breaking loose. For times of economic downturn and struggle are the perfect medium for an entrepreneur’s dream to germinate and take root! The story that you are about to read will show why your well founded business concept can be successful in this or any type of environment where you have met the needs, wants, and desires of the people. You will be instructed as to the steps necessary to avoid the “Crabs in a Barrel Syndrome” and contemporary negative financial circumstances that will test the resolve of every new start-up team. Also, I will give hope that as did many of America’s greatest industrialists during the Great Depression era lean forward, undaunted by the historic blight from which they eventually rose, so too can you.

Many people have lifelong dreams of starting a new business doing something that they enjoy and that is a very good way of ensuring motivation in accomplishing your endeavor. However, a word to the wise is, just because you like or enjoy something, doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be well received by the buying public. So, there must be a conjoining of your passion with a realistic approach to finding a suitable product or service that you can be passionate about, while meeting the needs of a particular target market. Some true entrepreneurs overcome the passion element by tying their passion not to the particular product or service, but by being driven and motivated instead in the building of a successful enterprise that meets the needs of a targeted population segment. In plain English; many find fulfillment in the rigors of the journey toward success rather than the vehicle by which one reaches a rewarding endpoint. Either way, you must spend ample time strategizing and testing your product or service in the marketplace. Because, just as a mother loves her child unconditionally, it is hard for a person considering a business start-up to admit that they have chosen a bad idea; that their “baby is a dog!” So be sure to test your ideas and/or products first before expending valuable time and resources on something no one needs, neither wants nor desires.

Once you have done your due diligence with respect to finding a worthwhile product or service to bring to market, still you have to understand that that was the easy part! Now, is where the most important and real work begins, but this can be the most stimulating and life changing part of the attainment of your dream. You have to develop something I borrowed from respected author and personal success motivational speaker, Napoleon Hill – “A Mastermind Team.” Please consider this for a moment: no one can reach the lofty levels of great success without help; those helpmates are your “Mastermind Team.” To find your mastermind team, you must first understand what the Mastermind Principle is. According to Napoleon Hill, “the Mastermind Principle consists of two or more people who work in perfect harmony for the attainment of a definite purpose.” Please read that again, aloud. Further Mr. Hill adds, “It is the principle through which you may borrow and use the education, experience, influence, and perhaps the capital of other people in carrying out your own plans in life.” Can you find such a team? I bet you can; start discovering your teammates today.

I didn’t want to leave out what I personally know to be the biggest reason why most people who start a business or in the pursuit of their dreams fail; ‘The Anti-Mastermind Group’. The Anti-Mastermind Group is what I call all those who target your light and positive energy with the cloudy mindset of instability and negativism. You won’t have to look far to find these people, because they are many of the people you know best. They do not necessarily strike out blows to smash your hopes and dreams, but they only know that which they can understand and they cling to what they know and find comfortable. Their clinging to their comfort zones alone, would not present considerable obstacles for you, but for the fact that all the while they hold fast to defeatist ideals and a legacy of dashed dreams, their remaining arm reaches out to grasp hold and keep you from escaping the same fate! Yes, just like crabs in a barrel, the ones that can almost taste sweet freedom, find themselves seized upon and pulled back into melee by the claws of those closest to them. Being mindful of the aforementioned warnings, sometimes it is better to ‘raise your gaze’ when seeking people to surround yourself with when trying to follow far reaching dreams.

Now that you can see many of the things you will need to be successful and some important things to avoid, let’s start building a basic foundation for starting your climb. Find one or more people to work with you in choosing the right product or service to test in the marketplace, where you will be contacting your prospective customers. Keeping in mind, ‘everything is not sell-able in every place.’ Also, you must develop ways to test your product and service against pricing considerations caused by deeply entrenched and leveraged competitors, which will affect your market visibility and ability to attain ‘your first five customers.’ See, unlike many people who coach business start-ups, I believe that one must know at the very least, where their ‘first five customers’ will come from. Most train that you should know where you will find your first customer and don’t get me wrong, that is very important, but if you and your team focus on discovering and selling that first five customers at the outset, you will be doing yourself a great favor. Generally, if you are going to hit a mark and you aim at only one, that will be probably the only one you hit.

This is where your team is very important. The beginning team you start up with must all be very passionate about your business venture and should act as ambassadors to attract positive energy and interest to your cause. The excitement you and your team display can be contagious and this will aid in sales and investment. Your teammates must have diversity of talents and skills so that you are able to get many of the things you need accomplished either by self-help or at least by having enough knowledge not to be taken advantage of by consultants, lawyers and/or charlatans.

This item is of the utmost importance and many do not know nor follow this practice: keep your expenses as low as possible! I once knew a nice lady that had gotten the idea to go into business doing women’s hair styling. She was in fact very good at it, as friends and family came from miles around to get her to do a style known as “curly-twists.” So, I started to assist her in getting her dream off the ground. Almost immediately, she decided she needed business cards, flyers and a special and expensive beautician’s chair that swivels, tilts and had a washbowl attached to it. I, understanding at that time all that I am explaining to you today, asked her the following: ‘How long have you been fixing ladies hair?’ She answered, “Many years.” Then I asked, ‘Have you been getting paid for doing this service?’ And she answered, “…yes, most of the time…” Finally, I asked, ‘Have you ever used a chair like this for all the years before now to make money styling hair?’ With some frustration and confusion she replied, “No, I never did.” The point of my true story is to help you to understand; save your money and only spend your money when you absolutely need to. Try to reinvest your profit back into your enterprise and then only to enhance quality of product, customer service or sales.

One final point, it is helpful to glance back at recent periods of peril and visualize how others before us were able to survive and thrive during the worst of times. So, let’s look at a few successful ventures that were able to withstand the downward spiral of the Great Depression. To name a few, Proctor and Gamble, Martin Guitar and A.E. Schmidt (billiard manufacturer) pulled through by maintaining cohesion and trust, knowing that they would succeed if they worked together toward their common purpose. As their orders declined and inventory piled up, they had to develop new strategies and use untested ingenious approaches to refit their strategy to overcome the difficult period they faced. These companies prove how the power of a cohesive entrepreneurial team, enables enterprises to overcome depressed and unstable economic times and stand as testimony to the concept that if you have a fair plan and a great team, you can and will overcome today’s financial ills as did the great teams during the worst of times.

by Michael D. Walker, Sr.