Posts Tagged: small business


Find the Perfect Career Coach and Maximize Your Investment

September 22nd, 2017

There are many reasons why your job search might not be exactly progressing. Maybe you’re one of those people who originally had success when job hunting. Then time passed and life happened. Maybe you’re a young professional who decided to take a few years off and take care of the kids while your spouse continued working. Now that you’re ready to jump back into the game (at least part-time) you’re finding that today’s job market has changed and that you’re not getting replies to any of the hundreds of resumes you’ve been sending out. Maybe the job you used to do doesn’t even exist anymore! Before you get tangled any deeper in a web of both your own device and the result of a downward sloping economy, it might be time to call in an expert – a career coach who is in tune with the latest ways to be successful in finding a new career.

Where to Begin

A keyword search on Google can get you started. If you live in Newark, Wilmington, Hockessin, or the New Castle, Delaware area, put your location name online along with keywords like career coaching services, career resources, and finding a job. A career counselor will help you by using a variety of career assessment tools (MBTI – Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator – Career Leader, SkillScan, etc.) to explore your aptitudes and work with you on applying the results to your job searches. A career coach will work with you on successful resume preparation and help you to understand career research resources, and also prep you on how to prepare for an interview. Today’s career counselors will review your presence on various social media sites (Facebook, LinkedIn, Pinterest, blogs, etc.) so that you will present a positive picture for any prospective employers when they go to check out your online presence. In addition, they will provide job search support, and help you with strategies to overcome any obstacles in today’s very hard job market.

What Will A Career Coach Do For You?

A good career coach will do their best to suggest careers that are very closely matched with your life purpose. They will discover what your life purpose is by administering tests, having general discussions with you, and also ask you some specific questions about your goals. The best career coaches are very honest, and they will show you what your strengths are as well as your weaknesses. They will help you both with your job search and your resume, and they will coach you on how to perform in the job interview. Remember this, though – you can hire an excellent career coach, but if you don’t do the follow-ups and listen to the advice that is given, you will simply be throwing your money away. A career coach will instruct you on which job posting site is best for your particular career, and which staffing agencies, employment agencies, temp jobs, and temporary staffing opportunities can offer the most chances for a successful new career opportunity.

The Realities of the Current Labor Market. (plus a prediction)

November 4th, 2015

Contrast perceived advantages to working with small/medium firm versus a bohemoth. What is market information telling us?

The US unemployment rate is at 5.1 %; this is considered full employment for economic discussions. However, we have only been here for a couple months. In fact, at the beginning of this year we were at 5.7%, and this time last year we were at 5.8%. This is not a lot of time for workers to see a change in their job search outlook. Nor is it much time for employers to see and react to trends in turnover and hiring.

(Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics)

The realities of Oct/Nov 2015 if you’re a worker, is that it has not been “good” for very long at all. Not even long enough to notice any change really. And this unemployment rate a national statistic. Some regions are red hot and doing better like the mid-west or parts of the west. The east is much cooler in jobs-related reporting than other regions right now.

And if you’re in charge of hiring, every company story is different. Fewer companies are really-aggressively hiring right now. Business strategy drives talent plans. And many current talent plans were set during more conservative and modest business times, likely around the second half of last year. Big companies are not adding or are, in fact staying status quo with hiring plans this year. Small to mid-size companies on the other hand, are driving the growth. As is the rise of the contingent worker who is freelancing, temping, or contracting to greater and greater numbers, which (frankly) barely shows in government labor data.

Now for my predictions.

  • Managing labor costs in business will continue to be a critical focus. This means employers still want flexibility in their labor costs as a strategy. Enter in temps, contractors, independents and or outsourcing.
  • Companies will lower labor costs over time. IT is a great example — After years or decades of using contractors many organizations are seeking to lower costs by bringing more IT folks in-house. This will happen in any skill set over time.
  • We are entering an era of labor shortages. The War for Talent predicted the boomers exit from the workforce and it is happening everyday. Yet now, the exiting labor pool is causing a negative point of view on today’s labor numbers. The labor is leaving the workforce as predicted, albeit a little slower than anticipated. But it is happening and it will cause labor shortages. We simply want our labor shortage to be caused by marketplace growth versus a sharp reduction in supply!

The Entrepreneurial Life: That Impossible Priority

October 1st, 2014

ID-100100023Working with small business leaders for a living has both its perks and its perils. What are the toughest business learns for every small business owner or bootstrapped leader? We want to do everything. Fund it all. React to every new idea. Solve every single problem. Serve each and every client. Hire every good talent that comes in the door. Finish every project. Go to every networking meeting. You get the idea. We want to do it all. This is contagious. It builds and snowballs into a doing frenzy.

I was taught to focus on revenue generating activities from 8-5 and to run the company before 8 or after 5. I did that during the early years. Careful to mix the two. This did not prevent me from working until midnight or on Sunday mornings. In fact, in the I would have “meetings” with the foreman of the commercial cleaning crew that went through each night after 9 pm! That foreman would do odds jobs; hang white boards, move desks, and join me at my conference table when I wanted and needed to talk. Fascinating times with incredible experiences. I think you can really only bootstrap once—it takes much energy and stamina.

Over the years, books and consultants have changed my perspective on the do it all and fund everything mentality that came to me naturally.

I now preach limited priorities. Focus, execution, and getting things done is my new philosophy. The hardest things of all is deciding what 3-5 items should be yours to tackle! Every leader I have ever coached says the same thing: I have many more things to do than that! We all do. The point is to choose what part of your business to tackle and understanding how if you fix or adjust that part will impact other parts of the business. It’s like business centrifugal force. Fix one thing, it makes something else move along too. But too much and it will make other parts of the business need future fixing!

How do you chose the part of your business to tackle? Stay tuned for a future blog!

Chris Burkhard to Present at Small Business Owner’s Boot Camp

September 26th, 2014

workforceChris Burkhard will be participating in a panel discussion while presenting his well-receieved talk, Trends of the Contingent Workforceat The Small Business Owner’s Boot Camp on Sunday, October 12th at The New Castle County Chamber of Commerce. The event is a FREE, comprehensive two-day education program for small business owners. Join Chris as he takes a look at realities of today’s workforce and the exciting evolution happening in the working world today!

The program will feature a series of panel discussions led by experienced business experts who will provide a broad overview of the challenges facing small business owners today. Audience members will have several opportunities to interact with the expert panelists throughout the day. Complimentary lunch will be served on both days.

The Boot Camp will be held Saturday, October 11, 2014 and Sunday, October 12, 2014 from 9 AM to 4 PM both days at the New Castle County Chamber of Commerce at 12 Penns Way, New Castle, DE 19720. Space is limited. For more information and to reserve your spot, click on this link to RSVP.

Not a small-business owner but would like to gain more industry knowledge and are interested in some networking? We have 5 guest speakers booked for our upcoming Outside-In® Talent Seminars, starting with Alan Levin, the former President and CEO of Happy Harry’s, to share a Delaware business success story. View the lineup and reserve your spot here!

The Small Business Owner’s Boot Camp is sponsored by Xan Hong’s State Farm Office and PNC Bank in Partnership with the Delaware Office of Supplier Diversity. Hosted by the Emerging Enterprise Center, A New Castle County Chamber of Commerce Initiative.

Outside-In® Turns 13!

August 6th, 2014

Thirteen years ago today I started the Outside-In® story in my friend Jim Paoli’s coat closet. I had a laptop, a cell phone (not a smart one), and a folding desk and chair for ambience.  I had my business plan done, my labor of love of 80+ pages. I was so proud—we were going to change the world. This document represented all that was wrong with the HR services world and illustrated how I was going to do it differently. Call it my Jerry Maquire moment. Who’s with me? Well, there were just a few who believed in me and today I would like to thank them all.

Getting a business started is a fascinating experience. I have been fond of saying that it feels generally like full-blown asthma. You simply can’t breathe for months because of the crush of to do’s and the weight of needing to pay the bills and find those all important first customers. Eventually you find a way to get through it.

20140806_115354_resizedWe survived even through the adversity—and we have had plenty. It is going to sound like a joke of some sort with no punch line. Did you hear the one about the small business that survived a fire, a roof collapse, IT theft, and 9/11? Oh yeah that one. This was the day I opened to the world and my first full-time employee, Judi Dorazio joined the fold. We sat and worked as the world changed around us. I simply did not know what else to do. So we sat around for months waiting for the world to heal and for us to be able to start all of those delayed projects.

It was not easy. I am a smooth talking persuader according to Myers-Briggs profile anyway. So getting out and talking to the marketplace was easy for me. Hard work, mind you. But I could do it—and I did. Imagine working every single day for a year including Christmas. OK, I did not work all day, but I worked every day that first year. Think about the book Never Eat Alone– I took that to heart and had a lunch date every single day for almost two years. As you can imagine, this is got expensive. People want to feel your energy, get caught up in your dream, and see how big you’re thinking. Then they pat you on the head and wait to see if you make it before they work with you. Who can blame them?  When your nephew comes to you to sell you insurance when it’s his first week on the job you don’t buy. NO ones does. We all must pay our dues, gain experiences, and become good at what we do.

So here are the thank you’s to the class of 2001!

First and foremost my wife, Kim. If you looked at her Myers-Briggs profile, you would see that generally speaking she is conservative and avoids risks. Yet, she willingly and knowingly has supported my dream, our dream, for the past thirteen years—the good, the bad, and all of the ugly! Kim has been a Bookkeeper, Office Manager, Interior Designer, Foreman, and the one that vacuums and empties trash cans! Kim thank you for your sacrifices and vested interest in what we are building.

Laura Kasper. She worked for me once before the Outside-In® Companies. She worked for Placers 1.0 with my Dad and she worked for free until my business got going. Laura did everything that was not customer facing in the early days of the business. Laura did the business plan, wrote the proposals, bought office supplies, and she even designed most of the early processes & systems for every part of the business. I am proud to say that today she is a friend, a customer, a very successful HR leader, and mom extraordinaire!

Judi Dorazio. Judi and I also worked together at Placers 1.0. She did all of the recruiting and delivery. And customer and account management. And sales. You name it, she did it on the staffing side of the business for many, many years. Without that foundation we would not be where we all today!

Colleen Stratton. The first outsider. No Placers 1.0 here! Smart—whip smart. Colleen anchored our consulting practice. However, she really brought us forward with ideas and relationships.  Colleen is always at her best with complex people problems. Colleen is a friend, a customer, an advisor, and of course, an alumnus!

In all fairness, there are many others Jamie, Linda, Dave, Lisa, Joe, John, Garrick, Kelly, Glenn, Kathy. I feel like Frank Sinatra attempting to accept the award on stage but the ending music starts playing. My time for thank you’s is up!

Most companies don’t make it through year one. Then it is the five year hurdle. We had a cake and ice cream. For year 10, we threw a 25% party because only 1 in 4 makes it ten years. How will be celebrate being 13? With hard work, a simple birthday song, and a whole lot of sincere thank you’s!

An Entrepreneurial View of Failure

July 23rd, 2014

When Edison searched for something to use to illuminate a light bulb he spent months and months with hundreds of different filaments until he found one that worked. Do you think he viewed each unlit bulb as a waste of time or something irrecoverable? He knew with each failed experiment, he was one step closer to something that would work!

ID-100209779As a small business owner, I have failed many times. I have hired the wrong people, put the wrong programs in place, even launched the wrong business ideas. However, I don’t view this as failure. Rather, this is a process to make something right and unique. This is how business works. Try something, fail quickly. Tweak it. Make adjustments. Learn from it. These are the basics. This is not failure. This is how we grow and gain knowledge.

Some say that being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart. How do you handle the rejection? The no’s? The pats on the head when your business is just starting? Some will say, “When are you going to go get a job?” This is all part of the failing—dealing with the fact that most people really can’t handle the risk of trying.

I always feel as if I have more control of my own destiny when I am my own boss than when I work for others. That is just my my view. I would rather have tried to be a small business owner,  to have launched new services, and to have hired the wrong person because most of the times we end up getting it right. And we only need to get it right more often than not in order to be successful!

So the next time someone is taking a risk, think twice about your commentary. Risks create learning, knowledge, and opportunity. Everything changes. Why not be the one that initiates and drives change? Then failure will not be an option!

The “No Flip” Entrepreneur

February 26th, 2014

Most entrepreneurs aren’t trying to create a technology revolution with an innovation that advances society in some unique way. That is just what the media reports because it makes for better articles. Imagine the impact of the twenty-something changing the world and selling it quickly for lots of money. Impressive for sure. And I imagine important in some way to our economy. Don’t get me wrong, I embrace technology as a tool in my business. Over 13 years, 52 quarters, and 156 months, I have operated and ran my company. I went into the details there for a reason. Most of us do not build our companies to flip them. Very few have goals to get Venture Capital or Institutional monies invested into their business. Even fewer have high hopes of an IPO.

smallgiantsMy goal was to run my company for nine years. This was in my first business plan. (Which, by the way, was 88 pages long!) Call it my Jerry Maguire version of the talent industry. The nine years were set to give me time to build it, boot strap it, grow it, sell it, and cash out. Then something happened. Call it life I guess. Time went by, we began to receive awards, and employees came and employees went. Markets changed for our services so we adapted and responded with new ones. The Economy roared and then spurted almost to a stop—Ironically in year eight! So, plans are set for a reason. Plans drive a stake in the ground. And when you get there you start all over again.

One of my mentors who runs a national consulting company once challenged me on my nine year plan, “Chris, do you like your company? Does it provide for you and your family as well as your employees? Do you serve customers that count on you?” Then he added, “Why not have it both ways? Enjoy and celebrate what you have accomplished and always work on making it better.”

I would rather focus on how my company or my customers can be profitable, create a measurable Outside-In® experience, and maintain a values based environment and culture that is unique, even quirky in its efforts to be authentic.

I want to have a “boring” company. Predictable revenues. Managed growth. I want to maintain a caring environment that not only focuses on the health and vitality of the culture, but also develops the discipline and practices to have a well-executed business strategy.

There are many entrepreneurial leaders out there that are in it for the long haul. We have worked long and hard to get our business’s out of the proverbial garage and into something relevant in our industries. We are Small Giants, forces to be reckoned with that don’t feel the need to sell out to be the biggest, but instead, choose to be the greatest.

Why are You Building Your Business?

January 16th, 2014

In my entrepreneurial circles I often hear discussion and debate around why a business exists. Although a business exists to solve a customer problem or to create value for its shareholders, that is not the point I am trying to get at. Why did you start your business to begin with?

So many owners find themselves accidental entrepreneurs. Perhaps their business was a family business that they took over from a friend or other family member. Sometimes, believe it or not, people literally stumble into their companies. The entrepreneur is good at something and people are willing to pay them for that product or service. Before they know it they have a business that is failing, growing, or something in between.

site-196210_640I am often asked for advice on starting companies. The questions are practical and tangible. Where should I put the business? What do I call it? How do we test this product or service? Is there a market for it? Can we build a business to scale and profit around the concept? These are all wonderful, classic MBA book type questions. They have their place. You simply can’t start with them.

I ask all entrepreneurs to start with the question, What is the purpose of this business? In other words, why does it exist for you as its founder (and most likely first investor). At the very least, it is your credit card and sweat equity that gets it started, right?

Most people start their business because they have decided to make a change from their past.  They have chosen to be a small business owner to fulfill a dream, perhaps to avoid working in big business again, or often with dreams of becoming rich beyond their wildest dreams.

I take people through the following questions to get at a different starting point. Why do you need this business to exist?

  • Are you building this business to draw from it and then it might simply end? In other words, is this a cottage business that pays the bills but has nothing to transfer to someone else in the form of a sale?
  • Are you building something you want to be a legacy? Do you have family or others in your life that you want to pass on this potential wealth-creating vehicle too? I know you just got this idea to start a business and I am talking about its ending. Without this thinking, I see long term frustration and confusion. Too many small business owners get trapped in a company that does not serve their long-term needs.
  • billboard-63978_640Are you trying to flip this business? Is your goal to build it like an internet company and sell it and walk away? Do you want to grow this and get early-stage seed money? Do you intend to work with VC’s to grow to the point where you want to take private equity monies? Since 4% of companies get above 1 mm in sales this might seem like a tall order. You must stop and think about this sort of thing. In this path, founders lose control of their business and they give up ownership. This “takes chips off the table” as they say, however, you still lose control of the strategy of the business and its direction.
  • Are you building this to sell? Do you have a date circled on the calendar? Don’t laugh, I did. I had a 9 year plan. Well, guess what? I am in year 13, soon to be 14! Sometimes wanting to build something of value and selling it is not what you think you want.

This gets me to my main point: If you’re thinking of building your business to sell—stop and think. A favorite entrepreneurial friend challenged me a few years ago, “Chris, if you like your company and its culture, and it’s providing a valuable service for customers and meaningful work for employees, why do you think you need to sell it? It seems like you spent all of this time to get it to where you are and where you want to take it?”

I sense Rob was right. We all read the same articles and learn the same best practices in business. Sometimes staying put and enjoying the ride is the only and best option.

Use these questions to test why your idea or existing business might exist. I would love to hear from you with your thoughts!

12 Things You Get with the Entrepreneurial Employee

October 30th, 2013

Big global companies are looking for employees to be more entrepreneurial. What exactly does that mean? When we go to work for most jobs we must be productive during the time we work. Do the job, do what you’re told, and your contract with your employer is kept in tact. What is so different and unique about getting an employee with entrepreneurial drive?

  1. An entrepreneurial employee gets the rare opportunity to consistently redefine their role and, therefore, their contribution. You may have been hired for one thing, but you’re good at something else. Or more frankly, an opportunity emerges for those are willing to take a risk and go for it!
  2. By making something extraordinary happen, an entrepreneurial employee is rewarded. Doing your job is doing something innovative or special with that project.
  3. An employee can get exposure to bigger and different work much, much faster than they would in a large company.
  4. man-96868_640It is OK to take risks. In fact, risk taking is more likely to be rewarded. A big company wants to limit their exposure to risks. Small businesses know that well calculated and timely decision making can mean the difference between growth, a new market, or even if you win a deal.
  5. Change is something that is encouraged when staff is not defending/preserving what they have because there is much less power base or turf to lose. You must think differently. This is where an employee can see what is wrong and know that it is ok to speak up about it. These littlechanges make all the difference.
  6. Titles mean nothing to an entrepreneurial employee. Those that demand them rarely make it for long. The job must be about the work and the work must be about the learning experience and depth of the opportunities.
  7. Your status comes from your accomplishments. Your position comes from the quality of your relationships and influence on the business. This is simply small business culture.
  8. Entrepreneurial employees have an ownership mindset. Their work is a direct reflection of themselves. It is easier to gets things done. Less politics, less hands involved.
  9. Know that being a good teammate matters. There are fewer employees, and perhaps limited resources. However, entrepreneurial employees know that they must work on their teaming skills as work gets done with people—not because of fear, title, or demands!
  10. Entrepreneurial employees are accountable. They want to feel and see that they are truly making a difference.
  11. An entrepreneurial employee can answer the “why” question. They know why the company exists and its broader purpose. They are a part of something special; something bigger than themselves—and that shows.
  12. An entrepreneurial employee knows that they are deferring some of their potential income. They can always go get a job! But they get to be a part of so much more of how their company works. They are a part of crafting the company future and can see how their work contribution connects to it! And for that risk, they gain knowledge and work experiences that make them more marketable and give them the potential to be future business owners themselves!

shield-108065_640There are inherent differences between entrepreneurial organizations and big companies. An entrepreneurial employee likes a dynamic, evolving, and constantly changing environment. They thrive in companies with less structure and less certainty because there are more ways for them to innovate and to contribute. In small business culture they have the opportunity to be rewarded more in an environment where they are constantly learning and growing!

Finders. Minders. And Binders.

September 25th, 2013

ID-100170525Risk in the early years does not seem like risk at all! When I started my business and a customer sent over a contract to review I did not have the army of lawyers and professional service folks that are around to protect me today. The contract came in, I printed it off, read all 83 pages, learned as much as I could and then I signed it. Why? Most of that stuff isn’t going to happen anyway, right? Well, even though it was true, I signed it because making something happen in the business was a much better outcome than the alternative—watching lawyers markup and edit a document over and over again. The risk of signing a bad contract was lesser than the gain of working with a new customer, testing out our service line, gaining the revenues, cash flow, references, and the experiences that the contract provided.

This concept plays out across your entire business. My first employee was hired with a verbal acceptance. They worked for me for years and they had no offer letter—imagine that! We got along fine without a handbook. Everything was understood. We just stood and talked across the office. The purpose for the company was simple and clear.

Accounting was just as simple. We paid bills, invoiced customers, and made sure that there was enough money in the bank to do payroll. Then someone comes in to lead accounting and they want to build a budget like their last job in Corporate America. The budget process starts in the Fall, finishes by the New Year, and becomes outdated by February. Small business moves too fast and changes too much for a traditional budgeting process.

A business can expect to see this in all facets of the organization. The “little company that could” designs a marketing campaign and tries it without upsetting corporate. As the business grows, it eventually has a team whose job it is to keep that spirit and make marketing better. Staff members who often want to just go and fix things now have to remember who does what.  And in the process they often ask the question, “Why are we organized this way? It just slows us down…”

Years ago I heard a famous entrepreneur, the founder of Hercules, answer that question with a compelling speech about business and entrepreneurship. He shared that there are three types of people in business: finders, minders, 110819-Gulliksen-Slide3and binders. “Finders” start the business and figure out their market and their customer. They turn themselves and the business “outward” (Outside-In® in my world) and they focus on growth and winning. But as the business grows and gets more and more complex it requires different skills and expertise to keep advancing. Enter the “minders.” Minders are the functional talents that come in across the business to do a better job of keeping track of the company. Important and necessary. They are minding the store so to speak and helping create the scorecard of success.

And finally there are the “binders.” If you’re an entrepreneur this is where you exit perhaps. Binders are like the son who tells his Dad (a successful sandwich shop owner) to stop giving away free chips and pickles and to reduce his portion sizes because these are recessionary times. Of course the Dad listens and soon enough business is way down. The son was wrong! The binder ended up screwing up the secret sauce/brand promise of the sandwich shop. And a good business is withered away by the strain and scrutiny.

All three dynamics are contributing factors to the development of business. A finder’s role is to build the early business. Know when to bring in enough minders to keep the business orderly. Avoid the binder influence and phase of the business. Or know how to exit when the business achieves that level of “success.”

Outside-In® Book List

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