2020 Webinar Series on Patreon

Small business owners have risked it all–you are the true hero of this story!  You risked everything for a dream.  You saw in owning your own business the opportunity for an income and a quality of life far beyond that of people working for wages.  As time went by, you may have raised your sights even higher or you may be frustrated in not accomplishing the goals that you had set.  You are at a fork in the road.  One way leads to the accomplishment of those dreams; the other to failure and you have certainly tried and done all you can do.  To paraphrase Steven Covey, “no matter how hard you work you won’t find your destination without the right map.”  Through our webinars and the work of our Success Partners you will see more clearly the “rocks in the road” and achieve the peace of mind that a properly developed map can provide.
The Fremont Group has a six webinar series that follows the SIX RESPONSIBILITIES OF THE SMALL BUSINESS OWNER as taught in the book, “Minding My Own Business” authored by our Executive Director, Dirk Dieters.  They are available to patrons at www.patreon.com/TheFremontGroup but you can view the first one here for NO CHARGE!  Challenge yourself and take 18 minutes to view the youtube video and then give us a call!  303 338 9300!
https://www.patreon.com/posts/2020-mmob-33922889

Minding My Own Business Workshop now available on video!

The Minding My Own Business Workshop attended by hundreds is now available to small to mid-sized business owners in a Power Point presentation!  Based upon the book, Minding My Own Business by the TFG Executive Director, Dirk Dieters, the narrated presentation lasts approximately one hour and allows you to learn and compare your business to the six responsibilities of the small business owner!

It is available FREE for the remainder of 2018!  Call the office 303 338 9300 or email your request to admin@tfginfo.org!

Managing Working Capital

The Fremont Group would like to share a NYT article about non-bank sources of working capital – the cash needed to run your business while wating for invoices to be paid. New online lenders are proliferating, often extending credit based on invoiced revenue. One online lender we support is The Finance Store. Bank loans cause you to lose time and waste effort filling out miles of paperwork and then they leave you hanging on for a decision. Online lenders are much more flexible, leaving you to use your time most effectively – running your business.

The Cost of Not Seeking Help

On TFG’s Linkedin page, we recently commented on a kickstarter campaign which crashed and burned violently. Worst of all, the project could easily have been a success if only a few key actions had been taken.
Summary: The project was an affordable espresso machine for the home market. Founders just wanted to crowd fund a small production run of 50 units to be made by hand. In pricing the product, the founders discounted their labor to zero. When posting their project, they did not restrict the number of units which could be ordered. In the end, they found themselves on the hook for producing 2000 units. The project collapsed because the cost of creating and perfecting a factory production process was too high. No units were ever shipped.
Their key failing was not seeking advice on their plan from trusted advisors. At the outset, it would be easy to see the project could easily spiral out of control if demand exceeded the 50 units which could be produced. Thus exposing the project’s weaknesses before anything negative happened.
No matter how long you’ve been in business, there’s no excuse for this type of oversight. If you want an honest assessment of your business or strategy, schedule a free webinar with TFG. We’d love the opportunity to earn your trust.

How do you use your Budget?

This question is asked of all of our clients.  The usual answer is a blank stare.  Sometimes the response will be something like, “we tried it and it didn’t work.”  Obviously companies need a budget.  The issue often lies in defining it.  A Budget is a financial plan designed to produce a predetermined, desirable result.  Most importantly, the budget isn’t supposed to work!  Man Plans; God Laughs!  Having a financial model of your desired outcomes creates benchmarks from which you can evaluate your progress.  Budgeting is not an annual task rather it is an on-going journey.  It is also critical in small businesses to budget percentages and not dollars.  Give us a call–we can provide a webinar on the topic.

4 Ways to Make Smarter Decisions

Erik Sherman Jun 17, 2013 Reposted from Inc. Magazine

Assumptions and biases get in the way of making better business decisions. Learn to root them out with these tips.Decision making is critical in a business, and entrepreneurs often pride themselves on decisiveness. But as Chip Heath, a professor at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, and McKinsey consultant Olivier Sibony discussed recently in McKinsey Quarterly, decision making in businesses is often poor because of both personal and systemic problems.

For a smarter and more effective business, consider these four points from the discussion.

1. Bias is everywhere, including in you.

Trying to account for bias is vitally important when you make decisions. Otherwise, you could choose a solution to a problem or pick a strategic decision that won’t provide what you need. But getting bias out of the process is not just next to impossible–it’s completely impossible. Being aware of your own biases doesn’t mean you will be free of them. You need a system that will help prevent your proclivities from taking control.

No one likes to think of being biased because it has such negative connotations. Instead, look at “predictable mistakes” that people make when planning, as Sibony said. “Instead, we observe that people typically make predictable mistakes in their planning process–for instance, getting anchored on last year’s numbers.” That is bias, but the language provides another way of addressing it. Not only does it have a lower negative connotation, but it is more pointed and practical.

2. You’re not as smart as you think.

Perhaps the biggest problem with decision making is the perception businesspeople have that they are and should be the sole decision makers. But, as Heath notes, it wasn’t an individual that got people to the moon. It was all of NASA. That insight works at an ordinary operational level of a company, using such tools as continuous improvement and statistical quality control.

Unfortunately, such techniques are rarely extended to the top of an organization because, the higher you go, the tougher a time people have admitting fallibility. People increasingly get rewarded for being confident and decisive, “even if sometimes it’s really overconfidence,” Sibony says. There should be recognition of how many people really should be involved and the need for mechanisms to deliver smarter decisions.

3. There is safety in numbers.

Making decisions assumes that you have choices from which you pick what you think will be best. But according to Ohio State University professor Paul Nutt, 70 percent of the time that leadership teams consider important strategic decisions, they consider only one option. That is equivalent to the team assuming that it is always right.

According to Heath, one study at a mid-sized high tech company showed that a group of leaders thought decisions were six times more effective when they considered two alternatives instead of one. Instead of asking a group for its decision, request the two top choices.

4. Small changes can be big.

You can improve the decision process with relatively small changes. For example, few decisions are truly unique. Chances are that a decision today will be like one in the past. Look at ones you’ve made before and identify lessons that could apply today.

Consider alternatives and prepare to be wrong–really wrong, not just slightly. And create an atmosphere in which people can disagree and bring up important points that might otherwise be glossed over. If everyone in a group agrees with a recommendation, they may be simply going along and not bringing up legitimate issues they may see.

You can’t guarantee good decisions every time. But address bias, understand your own fallibility, consider multiple options, learn from the past, and prepare to be wrong, and chances are that on the whole your company’s decision making will improve.

Business Boot Camp—Are You Ready?

Are you ready for 2012? Has the last year gone as you planned? Measure twice; cut once is an expression that applies just as aptly to your business as it does to construction. You may not have achieved all you thought you would in 2011 but don’t let a lack of preparation be the cause of a repeat in 2011. You can decide to do everything possible to change in 2012 or choose to just see what happens. Start off right

The Fremont Group offers their “Business Boot Camp” to all members. You will be assigned a Success Partner who, in one week, will tear your business apart and lay out a plan for SUCCESS IN 2012. They are not “yes men” so be prepared. The Fremont Business Boot Camp is not a seminar—it is an intensive implementation package designed to implement change; not talk about it. If you are not committed to change you should not enlist.

Who is eligible:

Your company must have more than 5 employees and have been in business more than two years. (Call for separate camps for start-up and small firms.)

You must be a “working owner” who is open to change.

You may not have more than 100 employees.

What you will get:

  • Your entire company will become focused and “on the same page.”
  • Obstacles to achieving your results will be aired, addressed and the entire organization will be utilized to eliminate those obstacles.
  • Employee productivity will increase through “buy in” and proper use of accountability and incentives.
  • You will have a clear game plan that is designed to “win the game.” You will no longer be the football coach with a game plan that says, “if everything goes right we will only lose by a touchdown.”
  • What the bank wants to know and how to present it.
  • You will have a foundation for long-term success.
  • Your organization will have a new appreciation of your role as owner of the company.

How you will get it (Sample Agenda):[1]

Monday

Morning: Introduction to staff and tour facility. Meet with owners and key employees and distribute Minding My Own Business questionnaires. Gather financial information.

Afternoon: Identify your goals for 2012 and become familiar with your operations. Gather questionnaires and any additional information needed to complete a SWOT analysis of the company.

Evening: Success Partner completes financial analysis and analysis of the company and analysis of company morale and organizational issues.

Tuesday

Breakfast: Success Partner and Head of Accounting

Morning: Meet with owners to review their analysis of current financial position. Present Accounting 101 to owners and financial staff (if required). Establish company budget and KPI’s. Assign Head of Sales to prepare a summary of the company’s “Sales System” for presentation on Wednesday.

Afternoon: Review the findings from the Employee questionnaires and interviews with owners. Contrast those findings with the owner’s perceptions. Identify current methods of employee accountability and incentives and develop the framework for desired methods of employee accountability and incentives.

Evening: Owners take Success Partner and key personnel to dinner—informal discussion.

Wednesday

Breakfast: Success Partner and Head of Sales

Morning: Review with owners the presentation of the current “Sales System”

Review company goals and re-write them as required. Present SWOT analysis for discussion (Strengths; Weaknesses; Opportunities and Threats). Determine how these should be presented to the staff.

Afternoon: Company meeting. Present SWOT analysis. Review findings of the first two days. Solicit input from the organization. Conclude with the establishment of a management committee (companies with more than 10 employees) and their first meeting.

Evening: Success Partner completes first draft of Action Plan.

Thursday

Breakfast; Success Partner and Head of Operations.

Morning: Meet with Management Committee (or owner in companies with fewer than 10 employees) to identify the five greatest issues facing the company and potential solutions. Review with owner and head of sales critique of the “Sales System.”

Afternoon: Meet with owners to develop a plan to address those issues. Develop a complete Action Plan for 2010. Establish benchmarks for progress.

Evening: Success Partner prepares formal Action Plan for presentation.

Friday

Breakfast and Morning: Meeting with owners to review presentation of Action Plan to the company. Presentation of the Action Plan in full company meeting. Wrap up.

How to enlist:

Call The Fremont Group at (303) 338 9300 and tell them you are ready for Boot Camp. Registration Fee is $9995 plus $500 for non-local travel; $100 for local travel. The travel and $4,000 non-refundable deposit is required to hold a date; balance due at the first meeting. Preferred method of payment is PayPal on this site. Companies who are members receive their discount.


[1] The agenda assumes that you business has a person who is the head of accounting; head of sales; and head of operations. In smaller companies the owner may double as this person. Other “tweeks” in the agenda normally have to be made to accommodate the unique situations in each company.

Taking your construction business to the next level

This article is from Business Owner Magazine published by the management consulting firm, Global Resources.

From Entrepreneur To CEO

By Joe Polizzotti on Oct 25, 2011

It takes a certain type of mindset to lead a construction company to success.

Most construction company owners started out working for someone else, became experts at a technical skill and then decided to go into business for themselves. Their desire for independence is rarely motivated by money. Rather they are entrepreneurs who want to steer their own ship and control their own destiny. But while an entrepreneurial mindset is necessary to get a company off the ground, it’s not enough to run a successful construction business.

The entrepreneurial mindset is one of “Yes, I can.” Entrepreneurs don’t believe they can fail and see every problem as an opportunity to be conquered. They have a vision and a powerful drive to achieve it. That’s why entrepreneurs are good at conceiving and starting businesses.

But once the business gets off the ground and starts to grow, the owner has to evolve from entrepreneur to CEO. Vision and drive are still important, but operating a successful business requires a whole new skill set. In fact, entrepreneurs don’t usually make good business managers because they would rather look for new opportunities and develop new ideas. They are bored by dayto- day management chores and don’t have the patience to develop and study operational reports.

Entrepreneurs who fail to evolve into CEOs as their companies grow tend to become “worker bees,” so stressed by putting out the day-to-day fires of the business that they forget why they went into business for themselves. They wanted to be their own boss, work less and spend more time with their family. Instead, they end up as captive slaves, working in the bowels of the ship, six or seven days per week.

Another contributing factor to this trap is that entrepreneurially minded, highly skilled business owners tend to be perfectionists. Believing they are the only ones who can do anything right, they see no need to hire a good leadership team that can share the management burden. Furthermore, with a “superman” or a “superwoman” taskmaster at the helm, employees never learn to make their own decisions because they expect to be overruled if they try. They defer to the owner for every little matter, which robs him or her of the time that should be spent focusing on the big picture.

As a result, employees don’t grow professionally and cannot contribute to make the business profitable.

To avoid this vicious cycle, here are four key steps entrepreneurs need to take to become CEOs:

  1. Change the mindset from worker-bee to CEO. Owners are, by nature, “doers” who feel worthy when they are “doing something.” The problem is they may be simply spinning their wheels.
  2. Create a business plan and stick to it. Focus on executing strategies with the big picture in mind.
  3. Hire or develop an effective leadership team. This includes defining the leadership team’s roles (including the owner’s own roles) and holding everyone accountable for results.
  4. Develop minimum standards for employees. Require key people to hold employees accountable for results, not for just putting in time. Without minimum standards, employees will set their own, which are probably not going to be in line with the owner’s standards.

With these components in place, the business will become profitable; the owner can focus on leading, rather then working and will have time to spend with family. Employees also will be more productive and engaged because they know they are part of the solution, not the problem.

Tools for Profit
Let’s look at some of these factors in more detail at an actual business: Onslow Stoneworks Inc. in Swansboro, N.C., which imports, fabricates and installs marbles and granites. For owners and President Mike Schott, working with stone and granite is a family tradition, going back to ancestors who came from Italy and owned granite quarries in northern New Jersey. Last year, revenues were just $1.5 million, down from $3 million a few years ago. “We were suffering terribly last year from lack of business,” Schott explains. “In addition to the sharp downturn in the construction industry, a number of other stone companies had branched out and opened up, and competition was fierce.”

Schott’s greatest worry was that a large percentage of the business came from a national chain and produced very low margins. He felt very uneasy about this unprofitable work and doubted whether his business skills were sufficient to sustain the company under these conditions. With the help of an outside consultant, he took the steps necessary to turn the business around.

One measure was to adopt a format to control inventory. “We set up a square footage matrix, which, for the first time, gave us a clear understanding of what waste meant to our bottom line,” Schott says. “In the past, we used to purchase raw material and use it as needed, and although we were careful to avoid waste, we never really saw the full picture.”

Another success strategy was to reformat Quickbooks to accommodate waste, cost and job tracking. “We’ve always been good at what we do professionally, but we were not as proficient when it came to finances and tracking our true costs,” Schott says. “Now we finally have the financial reporting tools a successful business needs to have.”

Using these new tools, Schott established how much square footage the company needed to produce per day, per week and per month.

“In the past, we did not price based on square footage,” he says. “Now, our financial tools help us understand where our line in the sand is as far as profitability is concerned. We know how aggressive we need to be to obtain jobs in a very competitive market and how much we need to produce to meet our projections. Knowing what our costs and margins are makes it much easier to price, track and stay on course.”

These new insights, in turn, allowed Schott to make the low-margin work for the national chain more profitable. “Knowing how much square footage we have to install per day to make a profit led us to change how we schedule jobs,” he says. “We consolidated trips—delaying some jobs and moving others up—to achieve significant reductions in travel time. We now make money even with low margins.”

Now, Schott has peace of mind knowing that the business is profitable. “A business owner gets up in the morning for the thrill and the excitement of making money,” he says. “As a side benefit, we love what we do. The idea is to combine both to make a living.”

“In order to do that, you must be 100 percent certain what the hard costs are, and you have to have the tools to evaluate how efficient you are so you’re not relying on gut reaction, but on black and white reports,” Schott continues. “If you don’t know what your true costs are to produce your product, how could you expect to stay alive when margins are so tight these days?”

Although entrepreneurs don’t usually start a business with the sole objective of making money, the only reason for being in business is to make money. Doing so requires more than an entrepreneurial mindset. It requires an organizational structure headed by a leadership team whose roles, responsibilities and accountabilities are clearly defined, and a system that allows the company to run without the hands-on, worker-bee involvement of an owner who has to make all the decisions and is the only one who can do anything right. The owner’s job description is to ensure enough business is being generated and then manage people to perform quality, on-time work so the company can make a profit.

The four principles of running a business are: Get the job done on time or sooner, within budget or less, without rework or overtime AND with control over material costs. Those four factors guarantee success. When one or more are absent, there cannot be a consistent profit, and the firm will wither away and eventually go out of business.