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Persevere through all your challenges

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Guadalupe Peak

On top of Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas. Perseverance got Zack to the top (with a Bearded Brothers bar in hand)!

Setbacks are inevitable, hard times will come, running your business will never be easy, and will be down-right challenging at times.

Here are a few things to remember when things get a bit crazy:

This is only temporary

The challenging times won’t last forever. Generally challenges come when a huge project consumes most of your time, or your business encounters a problem that it has to address. That project or problem won’t be there forever, so hunker down and power through.

Make a road map

Take a step back and write down everything that has to happen to get you through the turmoil. Then outline everything on a calendar or project management system with key deadlines highlighted with their due date. Failure to plan will just amplify that crazy feeling.

Take some time off (exercise)

This may sound counter intuitive when things are busy and you are working extra hours, but trust me, the relief you will get from getting outside will make you feel a thousand times better. As you probably know (but refuse to remember when times are tough), releasing endorphins helps curb stress. Even if you don’t get out for a run, bike ride, or intense weight training circuit, you can at least get outside and go on a walk. The fresh air will be reviving and you just might come up with some new ides to help you through the challenge.

Challenges make us stronger

Just remember that even though your challenge may seem negative, it’s actually good! I don’t believe there is such thing as a bad challenge. Challenges serve to strengthen us, help us learn and grow, and ultimately make us stronger. Every challenge has a takeaway that we will always remember.

Follow the 10% rule for creating products and services

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If you are looking to start a business there is no reason to reinvent the wheel. You just have to make it better. 10% better to be exact. Why not develop something completely new that nobody has ever seen before? Because, the market is not proven, and there is a huge consumer education factor you would have to over come.

New products hit the market every day, and most of them are just an improvement on an existing product. Take the Pebble Watch for example; they took your everyday watch and mixed it with smart phone capabilities. Even iPhone wasn’t that revolutionary, but it was exactly a product I wished existed. When iPhone first came out I carried to work every day: a PDA, a cell phone, and an iPod. Apple simply combined the three devices into one. Thank you, Apple!

When I launched Bearded Brothers, A Wholesome Snackfood Company that makes organic energy bars; I wasn’t looking to re-invent the energy bar. I simply sought to improve on what I saw was missing from bars on the market: great taste, raw, unprocessed, gluten & soy free, and organic. We even eventually switched our wrapper to a compostable one.

The 10% rule even applies to those offering a service or software product. Take career coaches for example. They are a dime a dozen. What is going to set you apart from the next guy is the value you offer. Many times it will come down to personal preference, but as long as you are offering something that somebody will see as more valuable you are setting yourself up for a win.

Creating and launching new products doesn’t have to be that difficult. You don’t have to spend years doing research and development, especially in markets that are already proven. Just follow the 10% rule, make a product that is at least 10% better than the competition and you stand a good chance at competing with the big guys in competitive markets.

Trust your gut

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We have all made mistakes. Sometimes those mistakes were made even when a sinking gut feeling was telling you it was a bad idea. The reality of it is, and any good seasoned business owner will tell you: your gut is always right.

There have been several times throughout owning a business that I have had a bad gut feeling about something. At times I have listened to the sinking feeling telling me to run the other way, and other times I have ignored that feeling and pressed forward anyway.

If you ignore that voice things just might go horribly wrong. Thankfully I personally haven’t experienced any devastating blows due to not listening to that little voice inside my head (and sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach), everything has been correctable, but not without a bit of pain.

One thing to know about trusting your gut is that you just might leave thinking you might have missed out on something. The reason for that is you didn’t get burned in any way: fear or missing out looms in your head. But, if on the other hand you didn’t trust your gut, you would have definitely felt the negative consequences and regretted not trusting your intuition.

Trusting your gut can be as simple as passing up going with a certain paper supplier or as complex as walking away from a seemingly great business deal. One of the greatest examples of trusting your gut I can think of is Clif Bar. Owner, Gary Erickson, walked away from a $120M deal on the day a contract was to be signed, all because he had a bad gut feeling! Today, Cliff Bar does more in sales annually than that initial offer he received.

Time is your most valuable asset

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Time is an asset

Time is an asset!

Time is your most valuable asset. As an entrepreneur or business owner time is in many ways more valuable than money, and you should be spending your time on high value priorities that will drive your company forward.

Chances are you spend a lot of your time on lower priority tasks that could be delegated. Something that takes several hours a week out of your time just might be something that another team member could do just as well as you, if not better.

Time is something that cannot be gained back once it’s lost, so it makes perfect sense that you would delegate lower priority tasks in order to serve the greater overall vision of your organization. Lets say your goal is to get your widget into over 1,000 retail locations across the United States. One of your primary goals as a small business owner would be getting sales. This means a large chunk of your time should be spent on trying to gain new accounts, but you are currently spending a lot of time answering customer emails that come in through your website. You are better off delegating the emails to somebody on your team and getting on the phone to make sales calls.

The 80% rule that applies to delegating a task, also applies to time. 80% of your time should be spent on things that are key to the vision of your company. They other 20% should be spent on simple operational type tasks, and delegating the things that get in the way of the big picture vision of your growing business.

If you are unsure what tasks fall into the 80% category it might be time to do some strategic thinking and figure out what your companies’ top priorities are. It would also be a good idea to track your time throughout the course of a week and figure out just how much time you are spending on given tasks. Then at the end of the week calculate just how much time you spent on high priority tasks that move your vision forward.

And remember, time is your most valuable asset. Guard it with care and learn to delegate so that you are free to work ON your business rather than in it.

Keep first things first

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When pursuing any great endeavor, whether it’s starting a business, or volunteering at a local non-profit, you must remember to keep first thing first.

The first things I’m referring to are not responsibilities related to your work. First things are your family, your friends, your health, and overall sense of well being.

An absent father, mother, husband, wife, is neglecting their primary and most important duties joys in life. I can tell you from experience working 50-60 hours a week on a regular basis is NOT necessary to start a business. Sure, there is a time and a place, but as the norm; well, that should never be the norm for anybody.

Your personal health, family, and even hobbies are ultimately more important than any business you might start or job you might take with a company. If you keep first things first, everything else will just fall into place (see Parkinson’s Law).