Sales and Marketing

What Are You Chasing In Your Small Business? Part 2 #4064 - GROW GREAT Podcast

What Are You Chasing In Your Small Business? Part 2 #4064

What Are You Chasing In Your Small Business? Part 2 #4064 - GROW GREAT Podcast

Business owners can pursue whatever they’d like. Sometimes our businesses are the outgrowth of a pursuit. Maybe it’s fortune. Or fame. Or freedom. Or flexibility. Lots of F things to pursue. But it could be most anything.

It’s the same with our careers. When we begin our career we may want certain things. Over time, it’s likely to change. And it’ll probably keep changing over time because our lives morph and grow.

Many small business owners are chasing or pursuing things that are problems for them. Problems they’re desperately trying to solve. A common one is CASH. Another common one is CUSTOMERS. These are worthwhile and necessary. But in the context of this series of podcasts we’re concentrating on solving problems in the hopes of improving and growing our businesses.

The goal is to create a business that will provide sustainable and somewhat predictable success. That means we want to create a business that can avoid chasing cash or customers. Doing it once in awhile isn’t the same as making it our way of life.

Are you chasing bad habits? Ruts? Ditches?

Are you chasing a false notion of how things should be?

Are you chasing profits margins that just aren’t possible?

Sales goals that are equally unreasonable?

Dream employees that don’t exist?

Today I want to talk about chasing delusions.

This happens every time a business owner laments how things are today versus how they once were. That delusion is being too romantic and fanciful by practicing “good-old-days” syndrome. It presupposes that memory is accurate and that’s not always the case. Sometimes we remember how things were with greater fondness than is deserved.

This happens when a business owner won’t or can’t face issues that are wrecking their company. Sometimes it’s a broken culture created by a lack of accountability. Or maybe it’s a sales process that no longer works. Or a compensation program that no longer rewards the correct performance standards. It could be anything that isn’t working, but the owner is stuck to fix it.

Delusions are fueled by faulty thinking and a lack of self awareness. It’s often the reaction of a business owner who simply doesn’t know what to do so they may decide to ignore the problem in hopes it will get better. It never does.

How can you stop chasing delusions?

First, open yourself up to the possibility that you could be wrong. If you’re not able to even consider that you might be wrong, then you can’t be helped. But, if you’ll consider – seriously consider – that you may not be seeing things as they really are, then you’ve got the opportunity to grow.

Second, surround yourself with people who can provide you different perspectives. You own the joint so you’re going to make the decisions, not them. But if you can find a way to put others around you who care about helping you grow, then you’ll be wiser for it.

These should be people capable of the task. You don’t go to a dentist when you break your arm. Surround yourself with appropriate people. This is difficult because it takes effort and time. You can’t wait until you’re in trouble to start looking for good company. Most of us don’t have or take the time to join ourselves with people who can serve us until we find ourselves suddenly in need (and that too often means we’re in dire straits).

Business owners need the wise counsel of other business owners. Buddies won’t do the job. Family sure won’t do the job. You need people with whom you feel safe, and people who can actually provide value as you consider what to do. That means you need peers – people more of less like you. It doesn’t matter if they have your personality traits, or if they live in the same city, or if they cheer for the same football teams. What matters is that they can relate to you and where you are — because you share experiences as business owners.

Third, you need the conversation to stay on point if you’re going to derive the benefit. It’s easy for us to engage in “kick-the-ball-around” kinds of conversations where a lot of things get discussed, but where we never quite drill down to the crux of the matter. We all need somebody who will help us keep moving the conversation forward in a positive meaningful way so we can gain some clarity. Often times, the conversation just muddies up the water more.

The people who surround us matter, but so does the focus of the dialogue.

Lastly, we need accountability. The people who are helping us should be able and ready to hold us accountable for what we decide. Talk is always cheaper than action. And it’s always easier to talk than it is to act.

Your best intentions as a business owner don’t matter. What does matter is what you actually do. It’s about performance. Most notably your performance as a business owner. You’re accustomed to holding others accountable. Subjecting yourself to it may be a harder chore, but worthwhile. In the ROI world you occupy, you know it. Be courageous enough to accept it.

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If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

What Are You Chasing In Your Small Business? Part 1 #4063 - GROW GREAT Podcast

What Are You Chasing In Your Small Business? Part 1 #4063

What Are You Chasing In Your Small Business? Part 1 #4063 - GROW GREAT Podcast

Let me give you some context. As small business owners we’re constantly chasing some things. What we chase may differ depending on where we are in our business at the time. What we chased last year may not be exactly what we chased last year.

Some small business owners chase cash, but they chase it harder when payroll is rolling around. Some small business owners are merchants and they sometimes chase products, merchandise. We can get into a sales slump and find ourselves chasing customers.

By chase, I mean “pursue.” We’re hopefully pursuing things that are worthwhile. Today’s show is part 1 and we’ll talk about a number of things in future episodes, including some things we chase that maybe we should avoid chasing!

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

Small Business, Big Impact #4062

According to the U.S. Small Business Administration small business is BIG. Here’s what their website says:

  • The 28 million small businesses in America account for 54% of all U.S. sales.
  • Small businesses provide 55% of all jobs and 66% of all net new jobs since the 1970s.
  • The 600,000 plus franchised small businesses in the U.S. account for 40% of all retail sales and provide jobs for some 8 million people.
  • The small business sector in America occupies 30-50% of all commercial space, an estimated 20-34 billion square feet.
  • The number of small businesses in the United States has increased 49% since 1982.
  • Since 1990, as big business eliminated 4 million jobs, small businesses added 8 million new jobs.

By just about any measurement you care to examine, small business has a big impact in the U.S. I didn’t research the global impact of small business, but I’d imagine it has an equally large, or larger impact in other countries.

Perception Is Not Reality

Yesterday I read that Apple is sitting on over 250 billion in cash! Berkshire Hathaway held their stock holders’ meeting on Saturday (I watch it every year streamed exclusively at Yahoo). It’s very entertaining. Warren Buffett reported they’re sitting on over 90 billion in cash.

Headline grabbing numbers like that focus the attention on major league players, big business. Meanwhile, every morning small business owners are opening their doors, flipping on light switches and starting another day to make their presence felt in the world. Some have no employees. Others have hundreds. Their revenues range from “not nearly enough” to “a whole bunch.” Collectively, there’s no doubt about their impact in the local economy where they reside, or the broader economies they serve.

Because individually they’re not fancy, the perception is that they’re not that important. Or that their work isn’t that significant.

Just yesterday Apple bought a sleep tracking company based in Finland, Beddit. Terms are undisclosed for now, but Beddit is a small business. It’s not Apple’s in house innovation. They bought it by acquiring a small business. Innovation often happens at the hands (and imagination) of a small business owner!

But you don’t care about perception if you’re a small business owner. You already know the reality.

Small Business Owners Make Things Happen. That’s Real.

Whether it’s a local dry cleaning company that does a few hundred thousand dollars annually or a local custom home builder doing a few hundred million dollars annually…small business owners make things happen every day. Partly because they have to and mostly because they want to.

In a world before chain stores and restaurants peppered every community, local businesses ruled Main Street and Maple, along with every other street in town. Gas stations were called “filling stations” and even if they bore a national brand name, the owner was a local guy. That historical DNA hasn’t changed. These were people brave enough, driven enough and crafty enough to make a business come to life. They learned how to operate, make a profit and the most successful ones learned how to grow.

The competition changed. Big business spread nationally, then globally. Small business suffered and thrived, all at the same time. The weak operators fell away. The strong operators just got stronger, finding ways to adapt with speed unmatched by big business.

Nimble. Fast. Adaptable. Those are the strengths of small business. And the competitive edge enjoyed by many small business owners.

Size Matters, But Not Like You Think.

Small business owners may want a larger individual impact. That is, the one-store operator may want to open up a second location. The local small business owner may want to become a regional operator. The regional operator may want to expand nationally.

Every successful small business operator wants to grow and improve. They may be perfectly happy with the overall scope and scale of their enterprise. It’s the individual business owners choice often ignoring the mass cry to “go big or go home.”

Some small business operators confidently lead companies that generate in excess of $200 million. Others may struggle to break the million dollar mark. The size doesn’t necessarily determine smallness, but I rather view the proximity of the owner to the work. Most big businesses are run by executives, professional managers. Most small businesses are run by operators, people who know how to actually get it done.

It doesn’t mean small business owners don’t know how to delegate, but that’s a more common problem in their ranks. Professional managers at the helm of big business know how to operate at scale. That means they understand how to get things done through others. Small business owners can struggle as they learn those lessons. It’s not better or worse. It’s just different.

Every business regardless of size is focused on activities that fit into one or more of the three categories I call “the trifecta of business building” –

  1. Getting new customers
  2. Serving existing customers better
  3. Not going crazy in the process

For nearly a decade I’ve worked mostly one-on-one with business operators to improve all three of these areas. Now it’s time to narrow the focus, but broaden the impact. That’s why I’m launching the Bula Network Owners’ Alliance – a peer advisory group of 7 small business owners from around the U.S. Because I know firsthand the big impact small business has. And I know the impact small business owners can have on each other when they focus their attention on improving and growing their businesses. Nothing works better! Nothing substitutes the impact small business owners have on each other as together they get more focused on growing their businesses. Nothing.

Questions. Answers. Questioning Answers.

Here’s the rub. Sounds simple, but it’s hard.

I typically encounter two types of entrepreneurs. I’ve found it pretty easy to classify business owners into just these two groups: those eager to learn and those resistant to learn. The high achievers are eager to learn. They’re open to close examination of what they do and how they do it. They’re also eager to share it and perhaps defend it. But, they’re also always looking for ways to squeeze more productivity, revenue and profit from the machine. They have high expectations. The thrill of the climb fuels them and their entire team. No matter how high the climb was today, tomorrow’s summit will be higher. These are the business owners I’m always attracted to serve.

The process isn’t complicated, but it’s demands high courage. Questioning your answers requires an intense focused drive to get better. These small business owners do not want to lose. They’re among the most competitive people on the planet. They hate to lose.

Contrast that with those resistant to learn and they’re okay with whatever results come their way. They sound optimistic, but mostly they shrug with modest approval on what results come their way.

Not the high achievers. They’re hacked when the numbers aren’t what they could be. Even maniacal when people falter in performance.

I can begin the conversation asking small business owners to tell me about their sales process and the high achievers will readily share and ask for feedback. The others are immediately in defensive mode, making sure they explain why they do what they do — and how there’s no way it can happen any differently.

Nobody Can Care More Than You Do.

A big part of why I’m launching the Alliance and turning Bula Network into what it was probably always destined to be — a peer advisory company for small business owners — is the realization I made a few years ago.

Because my empathy is so ridiculously high I often have to tap the brakes on my level of caring. It’s a business thing. And I know it. I’ve always known it. Can a person care too much? Absolutely.

Empathy enables me to understand people. So I talk to a business owner or CEO and they find no value in questions, answers or questioning answers. I’m empathetic to them. But earlier in my career I wanted to help people see value where they didn’t or couldn’t see it. Until I realized I was wrong. And learning the truth changed everything.

It’s impossible for me to care more than my customers. 

It wasn’t a customer problem. It was MY problem.

In my younger days I did care more than customers. It’s a hard lesson to learn because it requires empowering people to do what they want. And it required me to walk away respecting their point of view and decision.

Here’s what happened. I started saying no to people. I started having longer conversations with people who cared and wanted to improve. I started having shorter or no conversations with those who didn’t. Suddenly, everybody was winning.

Those owners and CEOs who didn’t want to learn were no longer bothered (not much). Those eager to learn happily engaged, anxious to find out what I might be able to do to help them.

That’s the lesson for you as a small business owner!

I have a friend who helps people with their finances. We were engaged in a bit of a coaching call the other day as I was working to help him with some processes and work flow issues. His work is very focused on helping clients realize they’re losing money in a variety of areas of their life. Some of his prospects are losing lots of money. It’s as though they have holes in their pockets.

But not all of his prospects act as though they care that much. Some do. Many don’t.

Over the course of an hour long phone call I probed and probed. We reviewed the language used to communicate to prospects, the calls to action made and most everything in the front end of the sales funnel. I challenged him to make a few small, but impactful tweaks. Every single adjustment pointed to this one truth: you can’t care more than your prospects or customers.

People who don’t care about how much money they lose aren’t ideal prospects for anybody in the financial services game. Just look at their behavior. They don’t mind losing their own money…why would they want to take time out of their life to get your help? And why would they pay for what you can do for them? Answer: they wouldn’t. So I told him to blow them off more quickly and focus on the prospects who cared more deeply about the money they’re losing.

It always works. Always.

When small business owners start operating with the understanding that their biggest impact is going to be serving people who care more, then higher success follows. In a recent video on selling I talked about getting visibility with people, then helping people understand what we do and why it’s valuable, then ultimately working to achieve an appreciation from the prospect so they’re willing to buy us. You can win the first two stages and still lose because people just don’t appreciate what you have. That speaks directly to this issue of caring more than they do. People won’t buy your stuff if they don’t appreciate as much as you do. And no amount of appreciation on your part will help them appreciate it. No amount of talking with help either. Move on!

Nearly every small business owner I’ve ever served has been searching for better customers. It’s hard to accomplish because it demands seemingly unreasonable courage. The courage to walk away from the less than ideal customer. The courage to stop trying to convince people who won’t appreciate your product or service no matter how much effort you give. Stop caring as much as the people who don’t care enough to appreciate you.

I want your small business to have the biggest impact possible. I don’t want to determine that. That’s your job as the small business owner. My role is to serve those of you who deeply care to climb just as high as you can. Right now, my role is to find those of you who care as much as I do about taking your small business to new heights of success. Right now I’m just looking for 14 of you to fill one peer advisory group that will meet in the morning and one that will meet in the late afternoon. You can find details here. 

And starting now I’m going to dive more deeply into content here and in the podcast aimed at serving you small business owners who care enough to achieve more. TEAM does mean together everybody achieves more. It’s always been true and in the coming years it’s going to prove even more true among leaders and business owners. Our success is always enhanced when we surround ourselves with people who care enough to help us and when we match or exceed  it with our own commitment to ourselves.

Be bold. Be courageous. Let’s find a way to achieve more together!

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

National Small Business Week: Why Small Business Matters #4060

National Small Business Week: Why Small Business Matters #4060

National Small Business Week: Why Small Business Matters #4060

We’re smack dab in the middle of it. National Small Business Week. Sure, it’s a PR move to draw attention to an important community that fuels a big chuck of the economy. This event started in 1963 when the business landscape looked very different. But today there are over 28 million businesses around our country. Each one driven by a passionate owner trying to make a difference in their community and among the people they serve.

What is a small business?

It depends on who you ask. According to Wikipedia it’s a manufacturing business with fewer than 500 employees or a non-manufacturing with revenues below $7.5 million. But that’s not right. Not in the spirit of what it means to own and operate a small business.

I know owners running businesses that do in excess of $100 million. Ask them and they’ll happily, proudly tell you they own a small business.

I know owners who operate businesses with fewer than 10 employees, doing just over $1 million a year and they’ll tell you the same thing. “I’m a small business owner.”

It’s less about size and more about heart, involvement of the owner and the flatness of the organization. It’s about a man or woman who so firmly believes in their work that they’ve shoved all their chips into the middle of the table betting on themselves and their idea. And that’s just one reason why it matters. Small business is the heartbeat of a passionate owner willing to fight the battle to launch their idea and make it come true. It’s their individual determination to turn a dream into reality.

Small business matters because it’s not just about the money. It’s more about the freedom to do it the way you think it ought to be done. Among those 28 million small businesses in America, many were started by one-time employees who figured they could do it better. Many of them have. More will follow.

It’s about the freedom to wake up each day putting in the work for yourself instead of for somebody else. But it’s not just a selfish or self-centered activity. It’s wanting to do what you so firmly believe in that you take control of your own destiny. In my office is a boat oar that my sister gave me after putting one of my favorite Jack Welch quotes on it, “Control your own destiny or someone else will.” Small business owners embrace that philosophy with their actions.

They know the risk, reward and value of betting on themselves. It’s not blind faith. It’s a determination that they’re not going to let the opinions of others matter more than their opinions of themselves. They’re not super heroes. Fact is, they’re not heroes at all. They’re mostly ordinary people doing ordinary, but hard things. Things others aren’t willing to do. Willing to take risks not just everybody is willing to take. Willing to gamble mostly on themselves instead of somebody else. Willing to invest in their own ideas and dreams in stead of the ideas and dreams of others.

Small business ownership isn’t for everybody. It’s hip today to be an entrepreneur, but most small business owners will tell you it’s not about being hip. Or cool. Or popular. It’s about making a difference.

Most are less concerned with conquering the world as they are obsessed with making a difference where they live and operate. Scope and scale are less important to most small business owners because impact is what they want. They want to impact their own lives and families with meaningful work in hopes of finding some financial freedom and schedule flexibility that ownership afford – when success is achieved. Many won’t find it. Instead, far too many will find those dreams crushed under the burden of a job they can’t quit. And still they climb. Because they know what Yogi Berra said is right, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

Small business matters because it’s has a powerful impact on the lives of the owners, employees, suppliers, customers and community where it exists. It’s not the same impact as Facebook or Instagram. It doesn’t touch hundreds of millions of people around the globe. It’s more personal. More subtle. Deeper.

It’s the owner and his family of four. It’s the five employees and each of their family of four. It’s the few hundred happy customers who provide their monthly patronage and whose own families are benefits because the owner had the courage to launch and open the doors. It’s the local economy and the tax deposit made monthly by the owner, pumping dollars back into the state and local economy.

It’s not scope and scale, but it is scope and scale. It’s a thousand little touch points of significance that make the wheels turn more smoothly in the lives of the few. By touching the few, more lives are influenced. And impacted. It’s like the story of the little boy walking the beach seeing thousands of star fish washed ashore, dying. He begins to toss them one by one back into the ocean when an old man tells him, “It won’t make much difference.” The little boy’s response is the same response every small owner gives, “It did to that one.”

So here’s my little tribute to all the small business owners out there. Keep opening your doors. Fight the fight to keep your dreams alive and your employees and customers happy.

Bula Network Owners’ Alliance – an online peer advisory serving small business owners by leveraging connection and collaboration for improved performance

Subscribe to the podcast

bula network podcast on itunesTo subscribe, please use the links below:

If you have a chance, please leave me an honest rating and review on iTunes by clicking Review on iTunes. It’ll help the show rank better in iTunes.

Thank you!

Bula! Life Is Good (Why Optimism Is Your Best Choice) - GROW GREAT

Bula! Life Is Good (Why Optimism Is Your Best Choice) #4059

Bula! Life Is Good (Why Optimism Is Your Best Choice) - GROW GREAT

Over 30 years ago I ran across the term – Bula. I don’t remember where. I do remember instant fondness for the term because it carried the connotation that “life is good.” How can you not like that?

I was so smitten with the term that I began to use it as the greeting on internal memos in the company I was operating. Bula!

A single explanation took care of it. After that, everybody instantly remembered the meaning of the word.

Fast forward and here we are about to enter May 2017. I’ve devoted my professional career to selling, marketing, building organizations, creating processes/workflows and leading people in the quest for us all to grow, individually and collectively. There’s been a crazy amount of change through the years as I’ve chased those pursuits. But one thing has remained a constant – people do make all the difference! Well, something else has remained –

the outlook with which we view ourselves and the world serve to largely determine our destiny

High performers are not only driven, but they’re optimistic. Hopeful. Always chasing a better outcome, an improved version of themselves and a place of higher accomplish. In short, the best performers know that growth and improvement are possible, even probable.

They all have another common trait: willingness. They’re willing to do the work. Willing to do what’s necessary to make it happen. Willing to be responsible and practical. Willing to be patient, realizing that growth takes time. Willing to acknowledge the power of compounding, in everything.

But there’s a contradiction because they’re also unwilling. Unwilling to pursue something they don’t believe in. Unwilling to follow every rule. Unwilling to sacrifice their strengths in order to pursue some weakness. Unwilling to let their lives be ruled by dread. Unwilling to let a single day go by without finding reasons to be optimistic.

For over 2 years I’ve been holding out optimism as I noodled with an idea of serving just a few small business owners. Optimistic that I could make a meaningful impact on the lives of perhaps a few dozen small business owners. Not by holding forth, or being the answer-man to all their problems, but knowing — and believing — in the collective power of small groups of peers (other small business owners) who together could wrestle down problems, more closely exam opportunities and enjoy a depth of relationship designed at learning, growth and improvement.

Magical things happen when you put yourself around optimistic people. The reason is simple: optimism is rare. Negativity is the order of the day. Slamming politicians, blaming the government, finger pointing, shouting — those are the habits most often displayed. They wear on us. In time, we join in. Sometimes not even realizing it’s happening. We moan and complain. We find excuses for our failures instead of celebrating them as efforts in an attempt to find out way, and figure it out. It’s wearisome, robbing us of life, much less a good life.

The losers around us don’t help. They quickly provide ample reasons why our optimism is unfounded. Even foolish.

They reason with us about the latest legislation that will certainly be bad for our business. Or the looming disruptive technologies sure to hurt our company. They yearn for how things once were and cheer us on to join their chorus. Sometimes we do. Sometimes we romanticize the past glory we may have once enjoyed. And get lost in our daydreaming of wondering what happened.

Rubbish. It’s all rubbish.

Life is good. Worth celebrating, and even more worth being thankful for.

Add to this list. Go ahead. I know you’ll be able to do it. And quickly, I’ll bet.

Here are just a few things I’m thankful for:

  • Living in the U.S. where we’re free to pursue our dreams with enormous opportunities
  • Living in this era where we have the Internet and all that it affords
  • Health (whatever measure of it you’ve got, but thankful)
  • Family (I’ve got a wife of almost 40 years, 2 grown kids, 2 kids-in-law, 5 grandkids – don’t tell me life ain’t good)
  • Friends (I more than ever value the really close friends who deeply influence my life)
  • Experiences – the work ones and the personal ones (life has afforded me many lessons, some that were painful but priceless)

You get the drift. We’d be here all day and all night if I merely listed them all. The same goes for you. I don’t care how bad you think things are, or how good. We’re all ridiculously blessed. 

Life isn’t fair or equal. It just IS. Build your bridge and get over it.

That doesn’t mean we accept our current state as being our “fate.” Hogwash. No such thing. Fate is what we make it. Henry Ford was right in that notion about whether we think we can, or we think we can’t – either way, we’re right. We don’t like to think that’s so when we’re down and out. We want to think it’s somebody else’s fault. Surely it’s not on us! Yes, it is.

Own It

If one little phrase has permeated my life over the last decade, it’s this one: own it! Not that I’ve always done it, but that I know I need to always do more of it. Optimism helps.

Fact is, optimism helps EVERYTHING. That’s that why I want to focus your attention on it today. And I’m doing it with a purpose…primarily to show you that it may be time to get out of your own head and into a room where you can share experiences, stories, concerns, worries, opportunities and celebrations with others. People who committed to their own quest for optimism. People determined to not stop growing, learning or caring. People who understand they need people.

When I was a boy Barbra Streisand hit the world by storm. In 1964 she performed a monster hit song, People.

It was true in 1964. It’s true in 2017. And if the world stands, it’ll be true 100 years or 1000 years from now. Our lives are made better by people.

We all know this is true yet we somehow remain isolated with our own thoughts and demons. We go it alone when we could so much more easily go it with others. When we do, our optimism soars and it changes everything. Because we surround ourselves with others who believe we feed our own optimism, which in turn feeds the optimism of those we’re hanging with…and together we all find new heights for ourselves.

Have you ever been fascinated by the stories of actors, singers or comedians who talk about their early years? Those years of toil, struggle and hardship. Do you think it’s coincidental that some of the biggest names you’ve heard of in those arenas are people who “came up together” with other big names? No. There’s a method to that madness. For starters, they all had some degree of talent for the game, whichever game it may have been – acting, musicianship, comedy. Secondly, they all were committed to make it. They worked hard, put in long hours, did whatever they could to survive while they were making it. Thirdly, they all endured the grind because they loved what they were doing. Success takes however long it takes. Some took longer than others. That’s life. Fourthly, they maintained the belief – and determination – that they’d make it. Optimistic that eventually, it would be reality.

Barbra Streisand left home before her 18th birthday. She lived like a gypsy and her mother would lament how she was choosing to live. Her mom’s disbelief fueled Barbra’s belief. As the universe grew pessimistic, she grew more optimistic displaying an “I’ll show you” attitude. Her enormous talent wasn’t going to be enough – it never is. It would require people in her life propping her up, encouraging her, helping her. That combination made her a star. And even then it took time. But had she gone it all alone, it may have never happened.

This isn’t restricted to creative endeavors like acting, music or comedy. It’s universal. You’ve seen it in your life and in the lives of people you know.

One person makes an impact. One person willing to be candid with us because they’re helping us – not because they’re judging us. One person willing to encourage us because they believe in us, not in what we’re doing! And if we’re very lucky, more than one person comes along in our life willing to do for us what we can’t do for ourselves.

It’s that belief that has driven me for two years to reach this point – a point where I’m pushing all the chips into the middle of the table to bet my professional future on a belief that I can help put people in a virtual room together so they can find new levels of achievement they’ve not yet experienced. In business. In life. Financial. Emotional. Across all spectrums of our lives because we’re not singularly-focused people. We’re complex and our lives often times seem even more so.

It’s about YOU. Your life. At work. At home. When you goof around, or when you’re at your soberest.

It’s about YOUR BUSINESS. The daily challenges. The special challenges. The constraints and the opportunities.

It’s about belief. Confidence.


It’s fueled by one foundational idea – that no matter how things are right now, they can be improved. That with the help of others we can reach summits we may have doubted even existed.

Fun. Let’s not overlook a major benefit of optimism. It’s just more fun than being negative. It’s more fun to consider how great things will turn out, than to fret about how awful it may be if they don’t.

I’m currently looking for 14 small business owners who share my beliefs. Fourteen people who know they can grow, learn and achieve more than they’ve ever achieved if only they could be surrounded by 7 other people who were like-minded and willing to put in the work that optimistic people know is required. Fourteen people who aren’t satisfied with being surrounded by people more interested in finding excuses than opportunities to learn and improve. Fourteen courageous people willing to step forward with a commitment to grow their business and to grow their own leadership so they can be a more positive influence in the lives of others.

It’s why I’m basically shutting the doors on all other professional activities – all the coaching and consulting – to go all in on this one big idea I call the Bula Network Owners’ Alliance. At long last the term “network” has found it’s true meaning. What started out as a “network” of professional services, and morphed a bit into a podcast has come around to what it was always intended to be – a network of people helping each other. It’s why you may have noticed the tagline appear some months ago…

leveraging connection & collaboration for improved performance


Be optimistic.

What have you got to lose? Nothing but your negativity and those things holding you back from soaring as high as you can.

Business Owners Sometimes Find Themselves In The Dark

The darkness overtakes all of us. Some of us remain in the dark for a long time. Others are able to climb out of it more quickly.

Get up in the middle of the night when your house is pitch black. One small light (of any color) can make all the difference in the world in helping you navigate the room. It provides a reference point and just enough illumination to help you find your way.

Without that small little light – a light no larger than a pen light – you blindly feel your way without quick success. It takes longer and requires you to go slower.

About 8 years ago my career came to an abrupt fork in the road that I didn’t see coming. It happens. Welcome to the wilderness. The darkness.

In a flash my identity was gone. Or so I thought. I read a book by Marci Alboher where she talked about the slashes behind your name – all the different roles you have in life. For decades my identity had been something that I now wasn’t. I started thinking of the most important roles of my life, the ones closest to my name.

Randy Cantrell, Christian/Husband/Father/Grandfather

For 3 years I was completely lost in the darkness, struggling to regain my confidence. And my identity.

These more important roles – the ones having nothing to do with work or business – were far more important than the one identity I lost. But it was more than identity that I lost. It was self-confidence. It was belief in myself.

People closest to me didn’t help. They didn’t know how. And over time I could see them lack confidence in me. I took it hard until I realized what it really was. They weren’t lacking confidence in me. They knew I could find the light switch in the dark. But they wondered if I ever would. It wasn’t them. It was ME.

Like most people who love us and are closest to us, they just don’t often know how to help us. We just need a very small light to give us a reference point, and just enough illumination to find the light switch. We need people able to do that for us. Usually it’s somebody who isn’t too close to us emotionally because those people aren’t often able to provide the feedback and accountability we need.

Don’t stay in the dark. You can find your way out. The switch is there. You just have to know where you are relative to the switch. Find people who can provide the pen-light you need. Incorporate them into your life. They’ll need you at some point to do the same for them. It’ll make all the difference in the world by helping you navigate out of the darkness much, much faster!

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