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Startup life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows

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Life is always happening FOR us, not TO us! It’s our job to find out where the benefit is. If we do, life is magnificent. – Tony Robbins

 2016 is a year for the record books – records of disasastors. It started with our personal life, we had repair bill after repair bill after repair bill, and that soon bleed over into the business too. On top of that we began to lose traction in some of our biggest accounts to due to decisions made internally at the retailer level.

I won’t bore you with all the details, mainly because I don’t want to dwell on the negative. But laundry list of complains cut short, 2016 was pretty rough on my family and my business.

At first I kept asking myself, why is all this bad stuff happening to us, and why does it just keep on coming? My mindset was, all this stuff is happening TO me. But then I stumbled across the above Tony Robbins quote. It made me pause and think and feel better about the situation for about a week.

However, I recently came across this quote again in the Tim Ferris Book, Tools of Titans. I paused a bit longer on it this time. And I’ve been dwelling on it for the past few days.

I’ve been thinking a lot about what has happened, and am realizing a lot of the things that have happened have forced hard lessons on myself, my family, and the business. For example, I knew for a while I needed to let one of our key employees go. It wasn’t so much performance issues as it was I knew the business couldn’t sustain having them on the payroll with all that had been going on and other upcoming changes we had to make. It took things getting pretty bad before I mustered up the courage to let them go.

Another quote that I feel that helps put this into perspective is, “Greatness comes from adversity.” – Gary Vaynerchuk

Growth doesn’t come from things being easy. If there isn’t something in your life causing friction, you aren’t growing, you aren’t learning – you are simply stagnant.

Looking back at 2016, it has been grit and perseverance that has gotten us through. Many times, especially later in the year I felt like giving up, throwing in the towel and admitting defeat, but I’m thankful to have some better perspective now.

Everything that happened last year has been for my good. It has been to help me grow as an entrepreneur, as a father, as a husband. If 2015 was sunshine and rainbows (It WAS a really good year), 2016 was the pit of hell and I’ve emerged victorious!

The start of 2017 is still a bit choppy. But I know see that everything happening, is FOR me. And I can now stand strong and move forward with faith that my business will survive. With a bit of prayer, grit and hard work, we will pull through, and be stronger as a result.

Growing a business is an ultramarathon, not a 5k

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The time it takes to grow a business is more like an ultramarathon than a 5k. The startup up world is full of 5k racers that want a fast ramp up,  and quick exit. The reality of it is, these startups rarely grow a profitable business. Rather than focus on running 5k you should run an ultramarathon. Ultras as trail runners call them, are races with 26-48 hour cut offs and range from 25-100+ miles. The time it takes you to finish one of these races is more in line with what it takes to build and run a successful business that generates a profit year over year.
It’s easy to get impatient though when the rest of the startup world is scrambling around looking for investors. It’s easy to fall prey to that. I’ve done it myself. I’m not opposed to investors, and in fact we are looking for investors now, but investors will not cure or solve your problems.

Your primary focus should always be profit! Run your startup in a manner that if investor money went away you could still stay in business.

Just like running an ultramarathon where slow steady patience is key. The same is true for running and growing a business. Bearded Brothers has now been in business for five years, and quite honestly we haven’t achieved the growth that I thought we would by now, but we are in it for the long haul. This isn’t a flip and sell business. We are an Evergreen company, and will be here for years to come.

Food Launcher Coming in March 2015

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It’s a new year, which means new goals, new projects, and new adventures. I feel 2015 is going to shape up to be an awesome year for me. I have decided to take on a big personal project, a side business if you will. The project is going to be called Food Launcher. Food Launcher is going to be a website/blog dedicated to helping startup food businesses get their project off the ground.

I haven’t decided for certain what all the site will have, but rest assured the site will be full of useful content for aspiring food entrepreneurs, such as blog posts, interviews, podcasts, and even a valuable ebook. This project is starting out of my own desire to help other aspiring food businesses launch and get their product to market. I remember vividly still all the frustrations and struggles I faced when starting Bearded Brothers. My goal is that Food Launcher will make it MUCH easier for new food businesses to launch.

So with that said, please sign up for my email list and you will be the first to know when Food Launcher goes live!

Five project management tips

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Taking on a big project can be intimidating. Most big projects are not simple to manage. There are many pieces to the puzzle, and the workflow is never completely linear. Projects usually involve multiple people and have several deadlines that have to be met in order for the next part of the project to move forward.

Here are five tips to help you successfully manage your next big project and keep the ball rolling.

Visual Project Mangement software, DropTask.

Visual Project Mangement software, DropTask.

1. Break the project up into categories or key components. More than likely there are parts of the project that can be worked on at the same time as others, and there will be other critical components that have to wait until others are completed. Let’s say you are launching a new product. One key component of that will be packaging design, and the other key component will be product design. Each one can be worked on simultaneously, but there are also certain aspects of the packaging design that can’t be completed until the product design is finalized. So, don’t let the completion dictate the start of one project when it can be started simultaneously.

2. Map out key due dates. Record every critical due date into your calendar. Going back to the product launch example. Many different things have to fall into place to get the product to market: product finalization, packaging finalization, turning in art work to the printer, producing the product, packaging the product, and delivering the product to distribution. All of these key time sensitive stages of the product launch have to happen at just the right time. So, recording down all the critical dates is crucial to a successful project.

3. Know who is responsible for what. Each key component of a project will have a person responsible for getting that done. It’s your job as the project manager to follow up with them and make sure things are moving forward. If getting packaging printed for your new product launch is a critical step you need to ensure proper communication is made with the printer to ensure they will be able to complete their end of the project on time. Frequent follow-ups are key to make sure a project happens on time.

4. Visual Project Management. I’ve mentioned KanBan in the past for visual task management, and I recently discovered DropTask for visual project management. I have been putting both of them to good use for the project I am currently managing. DropTask allows you to visually see each component of your project, assign deadlines, importance, and people to particular tasks. The white board method works well too in a small office, but the nice thing about DropTask is you can update it straight from your computer, make notes, and communicate with other internal team members involved with the project.

5. Communication is key. The most important component of successful project management is communication! As the project manager it’s your job to communicate with the team and make sure each aspect of the project is moving forward, and remind people of critical deadlines, and offer support if needed.

Project management can seem daunting, but as long as a bit of structure is put into place, managing the project will be easy. That doesn’t mean it still won’t be stressful at times, but with timelines in place, roles defined, and a visual course mapped out, your project is sure to be a success.

How to enjoy Thanksgiving as an entrepreneur  

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Family time on Black Friday

Family time at the park, last Thanksgiving: on Black Friday.

As an entrepreneur you are rarely not working. Even when you are not in front of a computer your mind is always thinking about work, your gears are always churning (thinking of new ideas), and you are likely obsessively checking your phone to monitor social media, your Black Friday sale, and to check email. All of those things can really put a damper on family time around the holidays.

You are likely hard on yourself about taking time off, but Thanksgiving (and the holidays that follow) should be the one time of year that you allow yourself a pass and take some time off to rejuvenate and spend time with loved ones. Being intentional about taking time off will help you recharge so you come back to work refreshed, and your family will appreciate it as well.

Here are some tips to help you enjoy Thanksgiving:

Acknowledge you need to take a break. Chances are you have been working long and hard all year long. You deserve a break, and what better time to take a break than when the rest of the business world slows down a bit? It’s the time of year that most offices close down for at least a day, some take off another day or two to spend with family. You have been working tirelessly, so realize that taking a break is a good thing. A little bit of time off just might be what you needed to go back to work refreshed and with renewed energy. We could all use a little bit of renewed energy, right?

Schedule your Tweets, Facebook posts, and set an email auto responder. The scheduling feature available in Twitter and Facebook will make your life much easier during the Thanksgiving holiday. Having a Black Friday sale? Schedule your Tweets and Facebook posts ahead of time, as well as your email blast. This way your not spending time in front of your computer when you could be sleeping in and spending time with your family. It will also help you avoid distractions such as responding to emails and working on projects. Set auto responders on your email accounts too so your vendors and customers know to expect a delayed response. Chances are they are at home relaxing anyway, so there isn’t much to worry about.

Quarantine your devices. If you don’t have the discipline to leave your phone in your pocket you might want to have a family member put your smart phone in quarantine for the day, or at least for a majority of it. Leave your laptop at home as well if you are traveling. Having your computer readily available will only increase the temptation to work. If you are traveling for an extended period of time and absolutely have to bring the laptop, be sure to set restrictions on how much time you will spend on it each day.

Plan activities. Don’t simply sit around all day. Sure, that sounds relaxing, but you will be numb with boredom and more likely to break our your phone to surf social media or respond to emails. Plan walks with your family, go for a hike if you are near some trails, play a game together. I’m a huge advocate of getting outside, no matter what the activity. Fresh air is good for the soul. Especially for the entrepreneur that spends countless hours behind a computer indoors.

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Thanksgiving is one of the best times of the year to take a step back and relax, as an entrepreneur. A little planning ahead will set your mind at ease and make it easier for you to sit back and relax. I’ve actually come to a point where I look forward to turning off the computer and being out of the office for extended periods of times. It helps me to truly relax, and as a result I return refreshed and ready to move forward full steam.