Co-working Space and the Introvert Entrepreneur: Busting a Myth

Being an entrepreneur is an exciting journey for anyone, at any age. Add “introvert” to the descriptor, however, and a different visual takes over. It’s not only society that has us believe that success is built around high energy and visibility; in an introvert’s mind, we must be visible, larger than life, and flamboyant. Similarly, co-working spaces are a buzzing hive of rambunctious brain power that’s counterproductive to an introvert’s lifestyle. It took the right co-working space and a few anti-introvert tactics to bring balance to my goals and to bust the co-working myth.

An Introvert’s Search for Co-Working Space

It didn’t take long to discover there were too many distractions at the home office. For me, as well as many second acts in the sandwich generation, we’re juggling many balls at once. Between my partner’s health issues, my granddaughter’s attention and schooling needs, and my mother’s caregiving, I struggled to accomplish anything. I became more frustrated, edging toward resentment, as I postponed business growth and client work to care for the people I loved. I stayed up late and got up early in order to get business done. Soon, the lack of self-care crept up on me. As an alternative, I worked at cafes, the library, and at a friend’s house, with limited success. A change was needed and the search for a co-working space began.

The known:

  • Away from home
  • Networking and business growth events included
  • Entrepreneur-minded people with similar needs and aspirations

The obstacles:

  • Commute: since I lived in a rural community, the closest co-working space was a 50-minute drive—on a good day, without traffic.
  • Cost: without income, where would membership fees come from?
  • Time: my time was already tight; would it be worthwhile to drive an hour each way to work at a co-working space?

My search began and unintentionally took almost four years. With nudges from the universe, the right situation, timing, a little patience, and taking the leap, I joined Medici Media Space in January 2018.

It was “media space” that attracted me to their community. During my four year search, I visited every one of the nearly two dozen co-working spaces in the region. Unlike most, Medici’s focus was on the creative entrepreneur: musicians, artists, entertainers, writers, broadcasters, makers, and video producers. This was a rare location that wasn’t infused with high-technology startups. They understood the creative mind of artists and their needs.

A Search for Solitude

Upon my first day at Medici, I sought the most quiet, secluded location the building offered. But here’s the problem:

It would be too easy for me to find that secluded space and remain unnoticed. I could retreat to my hidden corner, say hello to the fewest people, and effectively limit interaction with the 125+ members. While that’s success for an introvert, for a business owner invisibility is…

DESTRUCTIVE!

Especially since many Medici members also fit my ideal audience: Boomers and GenX building a better midlife. I now had an ongoing opportunity to interview and gain feedback from my target market. This meant I had to choose a highly visible, anti-introvert location smack-dab in a high traffic area. Note: the thrill of opportunity outweighed the introvert panic.

The area chosen was next to the cafeteria, with a sound studio and a radio station within site, and was a main stop during tours since it co-working space and the introverthighlighted local art work. Another bonus was that this area included standing tables, highly preferred by the exercise physiologist in me (hey Medici—please keep the tall tables!)

Results:

  • I wasn’t invisible.
  • Everyone who passed through the area said hello.
  • I didn’t explode.
  • Starting a conversation was easy. After the initial hello, I offered a hand, introduced myself and asked, “What brings you to Medici?” Following a quick description of their business, they asked me the same.

Additional results:

  • I didn’t explode.
  • Those I met wanting to refer me.
  • Extended interviews were arranged with those that fit my target audience.
  • When people need me, they know to find me in the art room.

Lessons learned:

  • Co-working office space is very different from the home office.
  • Like me, co-working members have work to do. They understand schedules, appreciate the need for a work space, yet understand the value of interaction.
  • They don’t invade my space, I don’t invade theirs. We’re all respectful of our time. (It takes years to convince family of this).
  • My preference for solitude isn’t destroyed. Most co-working spaces provide cubicles for phone calls, live videos, or quiet space.
  • A co-working space isn’t a hustling, bustling, high energy zone full of brainiacs and loudmouths.
  • We’re all intelligent and bring our unique expertise and energy to build and grow.
  • It takes a while to find the right co-working community; just as in any relationship.
  • The drive time is still an annoyance, but compared to the unproductive distractions at home, I can plan out my work day during traffic.

Reality checks:

Sanity: every decision we make is a challenge for or against something we cherish. I love solitude. I love helping people. Several elements of my business requires interaction. Taking the steps necessary to help others is not destructive to who I am. Amazing things happen when you are VISIBLE!

Emotional: making the move to a co-working space helps build confidence. I have plenty of expertise and value to bring a greater variety of industries. I wouldn’t have discovered this without setting up my portable office in the art room.

Financial: I don’t need an extravagant office to accomplish what I need to do. Between gas money and my membership fee, the benefits outweigh the costs. The time and money cost is countered by the interaction with members, the expertise exchanged, and the potential referrals.

Even though a co-working space isn’t for everyone, making your office space work for you is critical to personal and professional growth. How is your office space helping you?

Want to learn more about my experiences with a home office and a co-working community? Schedule a free call here. If you want feedback from the co-working side, contact Josh or Brian at Medici to get a testimonial about my contribution and involvement at the space.

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

Divorce: The Wake Up Call to Your Inner Self

Divorce is not the end; it is a beginning. freedigitalphotos.net S. MilesI divorced in 2009, after 19 years of marriage. I’m not going to rant about ‘lost years’, point fingers, or blame. Instead, I’m sharing the magnificent, much needed self-discovery that emerged from the emotional turbulence of divorce. Even though I emerged with a new view on life, money, relationships, and growing older, it wasn’t easy and it wasn’t speedy.

The post-divorce process began with a deep self-examination of who I thought I was. Up until 2009, I spent most of my life being the obedient daughter, example-setting older sister, honor roll student, wife, mother, community member, and dedicated employee. With all those ideal citizen duties, there was little time to develop the real me. In the midst of developing those traits, the real Kristen was only known as an introverted writer who loves nature and exercise. By the time I divorced, I was out of touch with who I was. All I knew were labels plus a few more:

Divorced
Displaced
Unemployed

Divorce = Discovery

Although society can be harsh, I was my own worst enemy. During those first 18 months of introspection, I saw myself as a failure. When I realized I was wasting my future, I switched my view forward rather than backward. What I found was a side of me that was bursting with ideas and enthusiasm. All I needed was a kick in the pants to put me in action. The events following 2009 (job loss, caregiving, entrepreneurship, multigenerational household, finances) gave me the nudge I was looking for: these events contributed to the wonderful, mysterious entrepreneurial journey I am now living. In other words, my first 5 decades, INCLUDING DIVORCE, became a contributing factor of who I’m meant to be.

Lessons Learned

Reign in emotions. You WILL encounter a wide range of emotions from divorce, but the faster you can release them, the faster you can return to living. And smiling. There is more power in rebuilding and repurposing your life rather than blame and accusations. It took me four years to release the internal Hell I created for myself, mostly because I grieved the loss of something I couldn’t control.

Divorce isn’t the end of who YOU are. It is only the end of a legally committed relationship. It does not influence who you are as a parent, a citizen, a human being, an entrepreneur or any other descriptor.

Divorce is not a mark of shame. Divorce was once viewed as taboo and failure. To pursue what needed to be done despite societal pressure demonstrates your awareness for you and those around you. It isn’t selfish. It is strength!

Celebrate your strength. Divorce is extremely emotional. Even though we’re raised to commit to our marriage ‘until death do us part’, we must congratulate ourselves for doing our best. To identify, admit, and take action to move beyond something that no longer serves you requires fortitude. It was tough, but you did it.

Your life events build who you are. Just as I learned that everything has led me to where I am, you will find that everything you have experienced has made you who you are today. Instead of wishing you could go back and change things, abandon what is and build up from where you are RIGHT NOW!

Embrace your flaws. Your flaws are unique to you. They contribute to your story. There are hundreds, thousands, maybe more who seek comfort and wisdom from someone like you. You are the one who could make a difference and your flaws are what people will flock to. Everyone needs reminders they are not alone.

Opportunity emerges from the ashes. Divorce. Job loss. Health. It all puts us in a funk, but what we learn and how we build from itA steady yet determined climb upward--from divorce, displacement, disruption leads to unexpected opportunity.

Points to Remember

If you are currently involved in a divorce or still recovering from divorce, take these thoughts with you:

  • Grieve, but not too long.
  • Take time off, but not too long.
  • Get reacquainted with yourself.
  • Abandon the labels, expectations, or limitations.
  • Stride forward with the new you.

How will you rise?

Need help making your climb? I’m here to help!

Kristen Edens
Making Midlife Better

Business Growth Begins with Decision. Your Happiness IS Worth it!

Growth begins with a tough decisionDo you wonder if your parents got to a point in their job that they just couldn’t do it anymore? Like us, they were raised with an ideal of what life should look like. They chased it and simultaneously pressed into us the importance of pursuing the same vision. Did they, however, reach a point where they were no longer motivated to continue with the herd? Were they tempted to make a decision for their growth and happiness, yet chose stability for their family?

My father was restless. He taught me to climb the corporate ladder as high as it would take me while he practiced what he preached. As I stuffed and addressed envelopes with his resume for the latest corporate climb (which eventually resulted in our 6th move), I asked him, “Why not stay put and grow where you are?” His immediate answer, “Because you don’t grow by standing still.”

His decision for growth and happiness definitely resulted in climbing the corporate ladder, yet the sacrifice was moving his family 7 times in 16 years.

My father’s beliefs definitely made an impact on me. When the desire to be different struck me, my situation was a little different. The economy was tanking, as was my marriage. However, I chose to take a little of my own advice and grow where I was (I’m rather tired of moving). While I worked my part-time hospital job and pursued a writing career on the side, I clung hard to Dad’s second lesson: never quit one opportunity until another was firmly in place.

Desperation as Motivation for Growth

Yet I became desperate. I needed out. The side business wasn’t growing as fast as I desired and I was crumbling by what was best for my family and what was best for myself. I reached a point where I was no longer growing and made a decision that will forever be my most difficult:

Quit my job
Divorce
Move

Without anything lined up.

Those heartbreaking decisions resulted in equally difficult, but necessary sacrifices:

Abandon the security of a paycheck and insurance
Leaving all I knew and loved
Exploring the unknown

Fear has the power to Motivate

Are you reading between the lines? Any delay in decision-making is fear based. I had no idea what would happen next, but couldn’t stay where I was. My father grew up poor and didn’t want his family to suffer as he did. We had a choice: live with our fears or overcome our fears. We had to be strong enough to MAKE a decision and immediately courageous enough to make the sacrifices based on our decisions.

While your story is different from mine or my father’s, there are similarities.

Making a decision is mental

How often have you asked yourself:fear of the unknown slows our growth

  • What will I do?
  • Is this worthwhile?
  • Am I too old?
  • Am I too young?
  • Is there enough time?
  • How will it affect my family?
  • Am I smart enough?
  • Will it make money?
  • Will it make me happy?
  • How will I make it happen?
  • Am I crazy?

How many of these fears have delayed your decision? How LONG have they delayed your decision?

Decision leads to Sacrifice

Once a decision is made, the sacrifice takes over, along with a deep dive into our fears. There are no clear answers to our unique situation but one: this is the start. Quit stressing and DO.

Sacrifice leads to Rewards

Our mind thrives in the comfort zone and fears everything else. Once the decision is made and the sacrifices are in place, the first benefit is relief from all the catastrophes our mind creates. The pent-up energy is released and we’re left with action—which is what we desired anyway—right? Now that your brain is silenced by shock, you can form a clearer vision of what must happen next: ask for help, let go of old habits and outdated beliefs. The more energy you put into the process, the more opportunities will come your way.

How do I know this? Because I witnessed it with my father. He had a specific vision and pursued it the only way he knew how. I saw how driven he was to be happy and succeed, which imbedded itself into my soul. When the same drive struck me, it was unstoppable. The only difference between my father and I was fear; although my fears didn’t stop me; they did slow me down. My lesson to you: learn from me and move despite those fears! (Play on words, intended).

Where do you stand with YOUR tough decisions? Not sure? I’ll leave you with this question: how much more of your happiness are you willing to sacrifice?

Making Midlife Better
Kristen Edens

I’ll Take Action over Luck, Hope, and Best Wishes

taking action is stronger than luckFor those who don’t understand entrepreneurship and the action needed to become a success, hearing that someone they love is ‘going it alone’ is often met with a mix of wide-eyed disbelief and concerns over our mental stability.

My parents were ‘old school’ and believed success was solely built on advanced education and 30+ years of dedication to a Fortune 500 company. It was difficult for them to comprehend my challenges as I spent 10 years post-graduate seeking a job. Their support came in the form of, “Perhaps you aren’t looking in the right places.”

Five years into a job hunt that waxed and waned between anticipation and frustration, I decided to build my own business. When I mentioned this plan to my parents, I was met with a blank look followed by, “If you are having a midlife crisis, we can pay for your therapy.”

My husband was noncommittal, but preferred my happiness over the job hunt shroud I had been wearing for several years.

As word of my entrepreneurial endeavor spread, even my peers shared the blank look and followed up with well-meaning support:

Good luck!

I hope it works for you.

Best wishes.

While meant to be positive and optimistic, these phrases lack excitement.

They lack faith.

They are empty and sedentary.

Even though these phrases have their place,

  • Luck is synonymous with buying a lottery ticket,
  • Hope is synonymous with “if you build it they will come”,
  • Wishing is as fleeting as putting your energy into a shooting star,

their place isn’t in entrepreneurship.

Everything worthwhile Requires Action

The job hunt produced one result: I reached my limit for dead ends. The solution: build the job I want. It didn’t take long to outline what that would be and I immediately sought out the opinion of those closest to me–friends and family (F&F). They’re loving and familiar, and at this vulverable stage, I needed that comfort. Unfortunatley, F&F are not the best resource for guidance. Although they wish me well, they don’t want to worry and unintentionally may nudge me toward dead ends. To avoid that rut, I needed to shatter the comfort zone by stepping WAY outside my inner circle and abandoning the job boards to pursue a more reliable platform: ME.

Build YOUR BrandAbandon the job boards. Take action instead!

Seek out like-minded people—other entrepreneurs, business owners, business development communities, entrepreneurial programs, meetup groups, and forums are top resources to utilize. You’ll find people at every level of growth and highly open to learning from one another.

A matter of MINDSET: ATTEND WITH A GROWTH MINDSET rather than a money-making mindset. The audience in the above settings is too varied to be considered your ideal market so save yourself from this money-making dead end. This is where you’ll find meaningful connections and insight to grow your business.

Engage in consistent, high-energy TIME and PATIENCE. If you expect to make money immediately, then go back to the job boards. I learned the hard way: there ain’t no such thing as an overnight success!

Make yourself visible online and in person. In addition to seeking your audience, this includes presenting programs, sharing ideas, joining a panel discussion, providing answers in online forums and other visibility-building, comfort zone-shattering activities. HINT: You won’t be noticed if you lurk!

Ask for help when you encounter unknowns. It’s a long, slow road when you fail to ask for help. Keep yourself moving forward!

YOUR brand = Amazing Results

It’s extremely difficult abandoning what we know. Many of us have 50 years or more of ‘old school’ beliefs warring with the build your brand mentality. It is not something that can be kicked cold-turkey and often requires intense tough love. As I followed the steps outlined here, I occasionally stumbled backward into job hunt purgatory. While there, I tripped over luck, hope, and wishes, and once again realized my best resource was myself.

Lessons Learned

  • Personal branding increased my visibility faster and more efficiently than 10 years of job boards, job fairs, recruiters, and head hunters.
  • With action, the law of attraction kicks in and opportunities are easier to spot. They even seek you out.
  • Productivity increases. Happiness grows and flows.
  • Refocusing my purpose led to greater fulfillment on a personal, professional, and an emotional level.
  • I learned to say no to the opportunities that threatened or didn’t align with my vision, thus saving me time, money, and energy.
  • Persistence is an asset. So is determination.

Action is Energy; Energy is Action

The next time someone mentions hope, luck, or a wish, invite them to take action by sharing your website, a link to a presentation, or something else that will build your brand.

Then share the magic AS IT OCCURS!
Kristen

Hack Threat! Warning Signs and a Close ‘Call’

“If you spend more on coffee than on IT security, you will be hacked. What’s more, you deserve to be hacked” 
― Richard Clarke

No one wants to be hacked, but there are scums out there who enjoy creating internet or identity mayhem for all of us. Perhaps there is a special Hell for those that create these problems.

I am in hack-threat recovery. I was working on a client project and completing some online banking tasks when my computer locked up and a screen opened from ‘Microsoft’. It mentioned my computer had just been exposed to a serious virus and I needed to act fast (call their customer service number) before my identity, files, and related devices were affected.

At that moment, I wasn’t panicked. I was protected and I had an excellent computer consultant on my team (Kevin Scott of Visionary IT even sent an email updating the latest threats the previous week!) I called Kevin and left a message, but time was ticking. Fear was building. I couldn’t do anything with my computer and the wise choice would have been to shut down–which I should have done.

I can hear you gasping. I still shudder at my actions, too, but I was suddenly shoved into an unknown world without immediate support. Here’s what happened:

A friendly voice greeted me on the other side, asking me what the issue was. His name was ‘Simon’ and he had a charming thick accent. I could hear an unidentifiable foreign language in the background…not like the typical call centers many of us have experienced. WARNING 1.

WARNING 2: he repeatedly asked for screen-sharing access. He insisted it was necessary to identify the problem. When I started questioning him, he mentioned it was obvious my computer needed a ‘tune-up’ much like our vehicles. WARNING 3.

Simon then proceeded to tell me these things happen to good people and that I shouldn’t blame myself. He continued to babble, not allowing me to explain the situation further. WARNING 4.

As Simon continued to insist that this particular virus was highly dangerous, I asked him to wait while I called my IT specialist. He calmly assured me that my IT guy would agree, meanwhile trying to coax me into purchasing a new firewall. He then proceeded to tell me that they work with a very reputable company, called Agape (which he pronounced ah-gop-ay), meaning ‘Jesus loves you’ in Hindu. WARNING 5.

I ended the conversation by saying I won’t make a move without my computer consultant’s knowledge and advice. Simon continued to urge me to act now because this virus infects all devices quickly. I hung up. The entire conversation was just over 2 minutes long.

Moments later, Kevin called me and reassured me that all was well. Simon and his team were scammers who wanted access to my computer in order to hack and steal anything they could access. Kevin then listed several truths about these threats:

  • Microsoft does not respond in this manner regarding your computer. If there is an issue, they send MAILED LETTERS, not emails because of the likelihood of email spamming.
  • Your computer will alert you to threats, not Microsoft—that’s why you have antivirus, antispam, firewalls, and malware alerts installed. If you don’t have them, get them NOW!!
  • Scammers rely on fear, urgency, and ignorance to take advantage of us. You don’t have to be an IT expert to avoid these threats, but you do need to know what precautions to take, which includes the programs listed above.

Other warning signs:

  • questionable links
  • unusual requests
  • things you don’t recognize
  • strange requests or comments from your connections
  • an attempt on their behalf to acquire any type of passwords or access to your computer

While much of this may be basic know-how, I’ve learned a tough lesson to share with you. Please share with everyone but most importantly, protect yourself! Redundancy is better than ignorance.

Kristen

What Will YOU Do When Business Disaster Strikes?

I must lose myself in action, lest I wither in despair. – Alfred Lord Tennyson

Entrepreneurs accept a few truths:

  • The potential for failure
  • A willingness to take chances and accept risks
  • Don’t quit easily—pivot, regroup, rebrand
  • Fail fast & learn from mistakes
  • Believe the risk is worth the reward
  • Will take more time than originally planned
  • Will take more money than originally planned

If we aren’t aware of these certainties as we enter an entrepreneurial pursuit, we soon experience and learn to accept them.

Try as we may to prepare for and avoid the risks and failures, they happen. It’s a part of the journey. Often, these failures present themselves as a financial threat. If you find yourself in that situation, here are some action tips to work you through the snag.

Review your business expenses

What areas can be shifted? Can you eliminate or reduce one service or combine to save money?

Are there overlapping services that can be clarified? If outsourcing business tasks, review with your service providers to ensure that they complement each other rather than compete.

If you attend networking or professional events, can you arrange ride share to save on gas and vehicle expenses? If you attend events that require an attendance fee, consider postponing these until the situation is resolved.

Hold a virtual coffee meeting. Hangouts, Messenger, and Skype make this possible and saves time, money, and traffic headaches for both parties.

Lifestyle review

Similar to the business review, what can be reduced or revised to cut costs to get you through the crisis? This doesn’t mean depriving yourself of necessities, but perhaps instead of going to the theater every weekend, you check out a movie from RedBox (if available), rent a movie from the library, or have an at-home movie night with friends.

What is the state of your emergency fund? If it has been accessed for an unexpected event, is there room for a little more? Can it (and you) spare 10% for the situation?

How soon can you replenish your emergency fund? Make it a habit to contribute regularly and as soon as possible once the crisis is over. Consider: how would you be impacted without the emergency fund?

Additional thoughts

  • Keep emergency fund active; maintain ½ balance
  • Maintain communication with support team & family—not everyone needs to know; just key players & investors
  • Review budget often (monthly is idea, quarterly at a minimum)
  • Have a backup plan: anticipate potential disasters and plan accordingly. Adjust as situations come and go, or if other ideas emerge
  • Fail fast
  • Recover faster
  • Recovery includes free-time to clear the brain which allows new ideas & possibilities in.

Entrepreneurs are a determined group of energized people who understand and accept the risks. If you encounter a crisis, the sooner you take action and implement a recovery plan, the sooner you will be charging forward again.

Got additional ideas to share? Let’s hear them in the comments below.

Kristen

Tired of 2nd Place? Step Out for Business Success

“The only thing that is stopping you from where you are to where you want to go is your comfort zone.” – Dhaval Gaudier

When I was 8, I was on a swim team. I loved swimming, I enjoyed training and I even enjoyed the competition. The only thing that held me back was my introverted nature: I feared standing out in a crowd; I feared being the center of attention.

When it came time to race, I became so nervous I barely heard the starting gun—though I never jumped the gun because that meant more attention on me. I didn’t hear the crowd, or the announcers, or my coach.

And I finished 2nd. Often.

It saddened me that I rarely took first place, but looking back, it made sense: #1 got all the attention and the spotlight; #2 was soon forgotten.

That mentality continued for the next 30 years until I became an entrepreneur. Suddenly, my fear of standing out and being the center of attention battled with my desire to be a successful business owner.

It was time to step out: out of my office, out of my comfort zone, out of my fears. Sound like something you need? Here are 5 Step Out practices to implement now.

STEP OUT 1—Attend events: Seek out the events that will build your brand’s awareness and attract your ideal audience (attending targeted events eliminates the awkwardness of feeling lost or out of place). Seek out people that will help put you in contact with ideal people as well.

STEP OUT 2—Introduce yourself: present your elevator speech then ask what issues they face related to your business (attention is on them rather than you).

*HINT: You have a solution to their problem. This is an information-gathering moment and you don’t have to be loud and flashy to do it.*

STEP OUT 3—Listen: listening is one of your strengths as an introvert. Get the conversation started with relevant questions then…listen. Let them talk. Present your solution.

*HINT: people want to be heard and want someone to LISTEN. Be that person and you’ve stepped into the coveted know-like-trust realm*

STEP OUT 4—Follow-up: now you have information to nurture the relationship and build yourself as a subject matter expert. The follow-up gives you the introvert-friendly way to do that. Let your content marketing plan do the heavy work:

  • newsletters
  • blogs
  • emails
  • social media
  • new platforms like Facebook Live and Periscope

All of these can be performed anywhere on the planet—including your quiet zone. Share everywhere. Explore new platforms. Be creative and experiment.

STEP OUT 5—Seek opportunities: regardless of where you are on the introvert-extrovert scale, the greatest growth comes from reaching out. There are people and organizations that are looking for experts to fill their schedule. Be the first to respond.

  • Offer to sit on a panel discussion in your expertise
  • offer to present at an industry-related event
  • reach out to podcast hosts to become a guest
  • volunteer to speak at a school, networking event, or professional organization

Yes, this is a huge undertaking for introvert business owners, but it’s a moment in time that carries a lot of weight toward business success. Start small, but start now! Step out for that moment then build from the results.

Kristen

Business Plans: the New View for Acquiring Loans

When I started my freelance writing business in 2008, my early projects included business plans, resumes, and cover letters. At that time, more was better and a lengthy, detailed business plan was considered the gold standard.

I recently attended a national bank’s presentation on Funding Options for Small Business and one of the panel presenters stated that those gold standard business plans were now detrimental to the process. The reason: lenders want the facts. No need for fluff, graphics, or dissertation-quality business plans.

Then what makes a loan-worthy business plan? Keeping it simple and precise! Here’s what lenders are looking for:

Executive summary

  • Describe the business that’s being started.
  • How will it be managed & operated?
  • What is the business owner’s experience that will make it successful?
  • How will it be marketed?

Operation & systems:

  • How will the financials be handled? QuickBooks, paper, accountant?
  • How will spending be tracked and reported?

Financial plan:

  • 3 years of projected income—during the 1st year, break down income and expenses monthly; 2nd & 3rd year can be yearly projections.
  • Where is the money coming from? Where is the money going?
  • What factors will affect the net profit?

Projecting this information isn’t easy, but the overall purpose is to be realistic and honest in your expectations. Make your projections attainable to avoid unnecessary stress. Following this format, a stress free business plan can be generated in 6 to 10 pages; less than that gets questionable.

The second half of the lending process remains the same. Your lenders will examine personal and professional tax records to get an overview of your financial history. Proof of income is needed to gain a loan, and collateral may be required.

To expand a business requires money so the more prepared you are and the precision with which you prepare, will make the process easier for everyone. Talk to banking specialists, business experts, and utilize the resources available to make the process simpler for you too. Your business plan is your first content piece to get your business rolling.

Kristen Edens

Cashing in Your 401K for Your Second Act? Think Again.

According to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity: In 2012, almost a quarter of new businesses were started by entrepreneurs 55 and older, a spike from 14 percent in 1996.

Why this spike?

Many of us grew up with our parent’s view of the American Dream: attending college and graduating with a secure job at a top corporation. We were to be the envy of the neighborhood and the pride of the family. However, that vision was tough to realize. We could give the appearance of success and contentment on the outside, but inside was a different story:

  • The job was too stressful
  • The job was stagnant
  • Competition was fierce
  • There was no room for growth
  • We were restless

Similarly, the 2008/2009 recession left many older employees laid off and unable to find new employment. After a year or two of failed job searches, most pursued their own business ventures.

However, desperation played heavily into the need for employment. On the heels of that desire, was the need for capital to fund our entrepreneurial pursuit—and the new American Dream.

But another question emerged: should we take on a small business loan? Many 50+ entrepreneurs already had debt—mortgage, automobile, student loans (most likely their children’s student loans)—and were hesitant to take on more debt.

Understandable. Especially when retirement was 5 to 10 years away and we still wanted to live that dream.

Another big issue: impatience! We’re over 50! We still have visions of some sort of retirement dream and we’re spinning our wheels on what that will be. We want it now and because of that, we are tempted to make hasty decisions…

…like cashing in the 401K, IRA, or other savings plan. As the Entrepreneur in Action blog writer for Missouri SourceLink, 7 of the 9 second act entrepreneurs I interviewed in the last 2 years have turned to their savings to fund their business.

The appeal:

  • Readily available
  • Involved a large, tempting sum
  • No debt
  • The potential to earn it back

Sounds ideal, right? BUT—consider these points first:

  • Do you have other streams of income to balance the risk?
  • How will this decision influence your financial goals?
  • What will be your revised financial growth plans for the future?
  • What will you do if the business fails?
  • Penalties can account for 30% of the funds available if this option is taken.
  • Are you willing to accept these risks?
  • Are you prepared to work as hard, if not harder, than when you worked in a corporate setting?

I don’t want to rain on your parade, but it’s critical to break through the emotional fog. On the plus side of your vision:

  • You have identified a product or service need
  • The potential to build something to call your own is real
  • You have the chance to live life your own way: stay at home with family, no more commute, flexible work hours, etc.

Do the PROS outweigh the risks?

When in the throes of new business excitement and the emotion kicks into high gear, step back and consider your options.

Unlike during the recession, banks are now willing to work with new and small business. Talk with lending officers. Lots of them. Get the facts and seek the options.

Before cashing in your savings, speak with a financial advisor. There are alternatives available that could be applied to your business that don’t carry as much risk or penalties.

Consult others who have cashed in their savings. Listen to their stories, ask their advice. Make an informed decision.

It’s tempting to dip into that magical money pot, taunting us to spend now, but step back, take a breath and weigh all the options. There are several available to help pursue your new American Dream.

 

Seeking Work/Life Balance? The Family Phone Tree May be the Place to Start

“Balance is not something you find, it’s something you create” ― Jana Kingsford

You are a busy person: you juggle client calls, appointments, and projects on a daily basis, sometimes simultaneously. Similarly, you field random calls and requests from family members that range from rants, venting, or general (unimportant) information. Yes, there is the occasional emergency, but the likelihood of a true emergency tends to be low.

Most often, family calls are predictable, based on plentiful past experience so when their call arrives in the middle of the work day, we’re faced with a few options:

  • Answer immediately because it’s always a joy to speak to this person.
  • Answer immediately because this particular family member rarely calls and it could be critical.
  • Cringe and decide: do we answer knowing the call is a false alarm?
  • Let the call go to voice mail because we’re working in our business.

When was the last time you pressed your way through a company’s phone tree system? These automated recordings are designed to efficiently direct us to the most knowledgeable or helpful person to handle our need. While they are an annoyance, and I’m not convinced this is efficient for us as the caller, there must be some time savings for the business. Following a recent series of distracting calls from various family members, I wondered how this system would work with the family. Would this feature simplify the work/life balance for a business owner wedged in the Sandwich Generation? Here’s how mine would sound:

Hello my dear Family Members. I’m sorry I cannot answer your urgent call at this moment, but I’m involved with clients at this time. Listen to the following options to best serve your needs. Please listen to the full menu as our options change frequently.

  • Mom/Dad, press 1
  • Spouse/partner, press 2
  • Son/Daughter, press 3
  • Sibling, press 4
  • All other family members, press 5

(You will need to personalize your family phone tree for best results.)

Beyond the first level of categories, there would be some similarities. Here is how I would define level 2:

  • Press 1 if you are calling because someone won’t eat their dinner.
  • Press 2 if the family member won’t complete their chores.
  • Press 3 if another family member is annoying you.

You’ll also need to include additional categories for each group:

For your parents (in my case, my mother), I need to include:

  • Press 4 if this is a news flash about April the Giraffe
  • Press 5 if this is regarding the latest political gossip
  • Press 6 if you are worried about something

For your partner/spouse, include:

  • Press 4 if you want to discuss what to have for dinner
  • Press 5 to compare the latest story from our children
  • Press 6 if you want to tell me details about your latest World of Warship battle

For Son/Daughter, include:

  • Press 4 if you are complaining about work
  • Press 5 if you are venting about life in general
  • Press 6 if this is a request for money
  • Press 7 if you are seeking advice which you plan to ignore

For those that receive the rare call from extended family members (cousin, aunt, estranged family member), this signifies something potentially critical, so it’s wise to answer immediately.

Regardless of which direction the person-in-question blunders through the family phone tree, they must record their message, which will then be queued in order of pre-determined urgency. Then on a break, you can address the issues in order of importance.

There are many joys to being a business owner and working from home, but dealing with family members is one of the darker sides of business ownership. It’s best to treat with love, patience, a bit of humor, and the family phone tree. Would such a system improve your quest for work/life balance?

Perhaps there’s an entrepreneur out there who recognizes this need and is building a prototype now!

Kristen Edens