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Blog authored by Business Coach Gary Soloway

Gary Soloway is a business coach and President of Sunbelt Business Brokers of Nashville. “Sunbelt is where people go to sell or buy a business”. Gary specializes in the long term preparation of selling businesses. He coaches small business owners on how to increase the value of their business through incremental profit improvements. Gary has...

Gary Soloway is a business coach and President of Sunbelt Business Brokers of Nashville. “Sunbelt is where people go to sell or buy a business”. Gary specializes in the long term preparation of selling businesses. He coaches small business owners on how to increase the value of their business through incremental profit improvements. Gary has extensive small business experience, having bought and sold several businesses that he grew into multi-million dollar corporations. Gary is a Certified Mainstreet Business Broker and was the Chamber's "Volunteer of the Year" in 2009.

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What the Caney Fork River Is Teaching Me About My Business

Mending a line 

In my mind, there are few things as peaceful as fly fishing. It is a chance to get away from the daily grind, enjoy nature and think. I don’t often take off of work for self indulgences, but the close proximity of the Caney Fork River from my office near the Nashville Airport during a particularly troublesome week seemed appealing as I wrestled with some business problems at 2:00 o’clock in the morning. Before heading to work, I threw my 5 weight fly rod and my Robertson fly box into the back of my car along with a pair of waders, inflatable PFD and a warm jacket.  

I have known for some time that I have been working too hard in my business and I needed to start working “on” my business. I had read a book by Michael Geber called the E-Myth that made a lot of sense to me. It was clearly time for me to change the way I run my business if it was to flourish. It seems the faster my business went the more I got behind. 

On this warm winter morning, I started for the office planning on heading for the river later in the day. As I approached the entrance ramp for I-40, I decided to go eastbound toward the Caney Fork River instead of my normal westbound trek to the office.   Forty-five minutes later, I was pulling into the parking area at Betty’s Island, a popular fishing spot. I was the only car there this Thursday morning. As I sandwiched myself between the front passenger door and the rear passenger door to change from my business attire into by fishing garb, I started to worry about all of the things I needed to do this morning. I had a sense of guilt wash over me, but I was here so I went fishing. 

As I walked down the concrete ramp toward the river, there was a fog rising above the water. The still morning air was about 55° already, but the water was icy cold causing the morning fog. The river was lazy. There was some current, but it was moving slowly from my left to the right. I knew that would change with the scheduled release of water from the Center Hill Dam nine miles upstream.  

After wading to my first fishing spot, I tied on a tiny blue wing olive fly and made my first cast. I watched as the fly floated downstream toward an area where I had caught fish before. For those of you that are not fly fisherpersons, it is important that the fly float freely and naturally in the current. If there is any drag on the fly line from the current, it pulls on the fly and you will not be able to fool a trout. On this morning, floating the fly naturally was easy, the current was very slow and even. But that was about to change. Like business, the Caney Fork changes and changes quickly. Sometimes the river is lazy, sometimes it is fierce and impossible to deal with.  

I know that it takes about two and half hours for the wave of water to travel from Center Hill Dam to Betty’s Island once they open the generating gates at the dam. As I fished, I noticed the current was increasing in velocity as the water level was rising. The current near the bank was much slower than the current in the middle of the river. I had to pay closer attention to make the fly float naturally through the strike zone. I had to “mend the line” more often as the velocity of the current increased.   Mending a line is almost a fly fishing art form. The faster the current, the more effect it has on the fly line, that in turn tugs on the fly making it look unnatural. By picking the floating fly line up and flipping it upstream as required by the velocity of the current, you increase your chances of success.  

As I fished that morning, the level of the river continued to rise and the velocity of the current increased. I realized that the same thing was happening in my business. As the velocity of business activity increases, I am starting to get dragged down stream. I need to pay closer attention to my business and mend the line. Meaning, I have to work “on” my business to get things to float naturally and increase my chances for success. I also noticed that as the water began to rise there were eddys forming behind the rocks. Trout instinctively know that they can find refuge and take a break from the fast currents behind the rocks. That is what I was indeed doing myself when I went Eastbound on I-40 to go fishing; I was getting out of the current.  

That morning was a morning well spent. I like traveling Eastbound on I-40 to go to work “on” my business. I am going to go to work in that direction more often!

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Need a Bank Loan?

Growing a business in challenging economics times can be very confusing and downright frustrating. Can you imagine having a great opportunity to grow your business and not be able to take advantage of it because you lack the money to do so? There is the adage; it takes money to make money! But, what if you don’t have enough money to make a difference?

In the good old days, we could walk into the bank and walk out with a line of credit or business loan. Those days are gone, and I don’t think they will be back anytime soon. We all know the banking industry has undergone some hefty structural changes. It looks like there are more to come. Here are some tips for your next visit to see your banker.

I have a list of 4 things a bank looks at these days to determine if you are worthy of a loan. The first one is Capacity. Do you have the ingenuity, the drive and the perseverance to manage and coordinate everything required to repay the loan? Are you operating within the confines of your abilities and experience? Do you have the cash flow to cover your existing debt plus your new debt? If your cash flow isn’t at least 1.25 times your existing debt load plus the proposed loan, you probably won’t be approved for the new loan in our “new economy”.

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2561 Hits

Doing Business in Mt. Juliet

For the last few years my wife and I have tried to do as much business in Mt. Juliet as we can. It has actually become a habit. We are regular shoppers at Ace Hardware, frequent Courtney’s for Sunday breakfast, and I get my hair cut (yes, all of them) at Larry’s. I buy a growler or two at the Mount Juliet Beer Company, meat at Houston’s, and grass seed and lawn fertilizers at Garr’s. I am disappointed that Pop’s (DQ) closed, but if there is a bright side - I’m not saying there is - it is probably best for my waistline. We get our glasses and eye exams at Franklin-Altman Eye Care, I am fascinated by the stuff in Superior Music and we absolutely love the produce stand on the edge of town on Lebanon Road. Did I mention my father-in-law lives in Rutland Place? These are just a few of the local places we patronize. There are more…my insurance agent and CPA are Mt. Juliet business people too.

The awareness for me to shop Mount Juliet was created by Mark Hinesley. Mark is a great cheerleader for Mt. Juliet business owners whether they are in the Chamber or not. I have found the Chamber to be a good resource for buying locally. A great tool that we use is the on Chamber website. The business search function really comes in handy. Here is an example of what happened a month or so ago.

We were planning a party at our house for about 35 guests. We went to the Chamber website and searched for a caterer. One in particular, which we never heard of, came up. Rhyno’s Grille? They are on Lebanon Road, so off we went for dinner one night. We were very impressed! Ryan Bussey is the owner of Rhyno’s and is an excellent chef. After several conversations, we put Ryan in the hot seat. We are rarely disappointed in doing business in Mount Juliet, but this was a big event for us. I have to tell you that Rhyno’s did an outstanding job! Ryan listened to what we wanted, prepared what we asked for, and delivered beyond our expectations. It was fun to hear the guests talking about the food. It wasn’t one particular food item, it was all of them. I want to thank Ryan for making our event an overwhelming success. Just as important though, I want to thank Mark for encouraging us to shop Mt. Juliet and the Chamber staff for giving us the tools to support our community. Thank you for making it easier to do business in Mt. Juliet.

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The Top 10 Business Tips I Learned From Our Garden

1. Make hay while the sun shines

Timing is critical. If you pick your fruit too soon, you get a stomachache. If you pick it too late, you have garbage. Know what part of a cycle you are in and act accordingly.

2. You never know where the seed will fall

Exhibit your leadership qualities at all times. Those who can be groomed will notice and emulate. Those who can't will reveal their true nature to you sooner this way.

3. Snails in May, gophers in June, drought in July ... if it's not one thing, it's another

There will always be problems. It is what you do about them that matters.

4. Some plants make it, some don't

If someone fails to prosper under your leadership, don't take it personally. Be like the sun and shine equally on all. Some make it. Some don't.

5. "Amended soil" still smells like cow manure

Don't get bogged down in euphemisms or politically correct thinking. Give directions clearly. Stick to the point. Know when to shut up.

6. It's not called a nursery for nothing

Everything is delicate at the beginning. With new staff, new projects, and new acquisitions, take care!

7. Every garden has a snake or two in it

Every business has a snake or two in it.

8. A vine is really a glorified weed

Some of the most surprising things take off! Be open to everything and everybody.

9. Tall plants in the back; short plants in the front

Use your resources wisely. Know your people. Don't ask from someone something they can't give.

10. Plants need sunshine and rain

Don't sweat the small cycles. Keep your eye on the goal!

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2137 Hits

Getting Outside Your Comfort Zone

Yesterday I once again, literally, took a leap outside of my comfort zone. For those of you who know me, you wouldn’t be surprised. I am known for doing crazy things like flying airplanes upside down, white water rafting the raging Gauley River after a storm or canoeing for a week in the Isle Royal National Park in frigid Lake Superior waters. For my whole life, as far back as I can remember, I have been pushing my comfort zone envelope. Whether in business or personal life, it is that curiosity DNA gene I have that makes life excitingly fun!

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The Olympic Games

Once again I have been hooked by the Olympics. The Olympics remind me that victory is often by a hundredth of a second, or a single point, or a few centimeters. The slogan “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat” still rings true after all of these years.

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2186 Hits

“Change Your Vision, Change Your Life”

Have you ever heard the axiom, "no matter where you go, there you are?" The same is true for the life we have created. We are where we are, based on the decisions we have made, the people we have chosen to associate with, and the sum total of our five closest friends. Interesting formula isn't it? Is it time to make some new friends? In the wise words of Ricky Ricardo, "you got some splainin' to do Lucy!" It's time to stop the blamin' and complainin' and accept the fact that the buck stops here, right now, with you. It's not what happens to you that matters, it's what you do about it. Stuff will happen. Work on building your character and your resolve and stop looking for reasons to justify your particular situation.

It was Henry Ford who said, "Whether you think you can or can't, either way you're right." Success in business is about accountability, responsibility, and ownership. If you don't have a mentor or coach, find one, preferably someone you admire and respect, who has owned a business, and who has faced and conquered the same challenges. When I am faced with a challenge or a difficult situation I like to ask, "What would my mentor do or how would they handle this?” It's time to start thinking like a "glass half full" person rather than a "glass half empty" one. Misery has enough company and it doesn't need to live in yours.

So what's this got to do with your vision? I'm glad you asked. I have had clients say they struggle with their vision and the future of their business. They say business is complicated, attracting clients is difficult, marketing is confusing, keeping customers is happy is a mystery, and making a good profit is doubtful. In general, they are not having any fun. If any of this resonates for you, it's a good time to stop, grab a pen, and answer a few questions.

At the top of your list, answer this:

Why did I get into business in the first place? In other words, what void in the marketplace did I hope to fill with my product or service? How was I going to do it better, faster, or more reliably than anyone else? What pain was I going to alleviate from my customers life that would have them choose me? What pleasure was I going to provide better than anyone else? What don't people like about buying in my industry in general and how could I demonstrate that I am different from the rest?

You see, your business status right now is the vision you hold. The skills you possess, the level of knowledge you have, the competencies you have developed, all are part of the picture called our vision. Unless you learn new skills, acquire more knowledge and practice, and learn to become more competent, your business will look very much the same in the future. Business does not remain static, why should you?

Take some time right now and describe your business five years from now. Write as if it is in the present and you have accomplished your goals and dreams. Think outside the box, bigger than you think is possible right now. Be idealistic, positive and inspiring, even challenging. Now take stock of what you know and what you don't know or understand. What skills, knowledge and competencies do you have to master to fulfill this vision you have now written about? Sometimes when a client does this exercise it seems overwhelming or appears to be the size of an elephant. And we say, "How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time"! Write down now an action step you will take within the next 24 hours to move you closer to your vision.

When I look at a new client, I don't see a struggling business owner. I see a brilliant, capable, intelligent human being that cares and wants to make a difference in this world and leave an enduring legacy. How do you see yourself? Here's one of my favorite quotes, "Aspire to Inspire before you Expire."

Have a great week!

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Seven Principles for Leadership

If you are reading this in the Chamber Blog, congratulations! You have made it through the most turbulent economy since the Great Depression. Unfortunately, now is not the time to relax. As business leaders, we need to become more resilient at handling the extremely high demands of our jobs and the ever-changing business landscape. The following seven principles will help you sharpen your leadership skills so that you’ll be better equipped to handle any challenge that comes your way.

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Groupthink?

Have you ever fallen victim to Groupthink?

Groupthink occurs when the desire for harmony in a decision-making group overrides a realistic appraisal of the alternatives. Group members try to minimize conflict to reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints. The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.

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So Where’s the Competition Right Now?

There is much said these days about paying very close attention to your competition and about not paying such close attention. It seems like every other day some marketing guru gets up and makes some bold proclamation either way and the average business person who just wants to stay competitive in the first place is left in a quandary as to “what to do.” I myself ascribe to the common sense theory. Here’s the first point of view:

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The Top 10 Tips for Herding Cats: Techniques for Managing People

Herding cats - picture that scenario in your mind and think about what a difficult task that would be if that were your job. Cats are independent, try to be in control of the situation at all times, and definitely don't like to be told what to do! Managing people can be equally as challenging. Substitute the word "people" for "cats" as you practice the following Ten Tips, and you'll be well on your way to successful people management while maintaining your sanity, a sense of humor, and perhaps a shred of your dignity.

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Character Traits of Successful People

I had a conversation with a client recently that made me stop and think about my own performance and attitude. Our conversation centered on why some people seem so much more successful than others, and it seems as if a few simple character traits contribute to our overall success:

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The Truth About Multitasking

Mark Twain said “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.” I heard another version of that the other day which stated that 97.3%...no wait, 87.4%...of all statistics are made up on the spot! So, according to Dave Crenshaw in his book titled, “The Myth of Multitasking,” the 21st century version of Mark Twain’s quote is, “There are lies, damned lies, and multitasking.”

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2380 Hits