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Now is a Time for Mavericks and Old-Fashioned Values

Posted by Stephanie Valentine on September 29, 2009 in Small Business Management, Small Business Opinion-Making |

It pays to be a maverick these days because nothing seems to work like it used to. Sure, a lot of people are doing their best ostrich act, sticking their heads in the sand and hoping that when the alarm beeps in the morning the world will have returned to its normal order.

Not gonna happen, folks. “Business as usual” isn’t going to cut the mustard in this new economy, this time of prolonged uncertainty. By the way, did you know that prolonged uncertainty is one of the greatest causes of stress a human being can suffer? They’ve done studies that prove it. So here we are, in a time of prolonged uncertainty, and we are, well, uncertain.

We live in a strange emotional mix that resembles those multi-layered cocktails: hope floats on top, “business as usual” hovers somewhere in the middle layers, and at the bottom is the dismal swamp of despair. We try to drink in only hope, but if you’ve ever tried drinking one of these layered cocktails, you know that as soon as you tip the glass you get a little of each layer. So we swallow the hope with the despair and end up doing “business as usual.”

Maverick Tricks and Old-Fashioned Values for Small Business Owners
As small business owners, we may not know what we need during these times, but it’s not the usual stuff. If you’re doing business by rote, stop! Times have changed, and your small business needs to as well.

I’ve recently been on some teleconferences and webinars offered by small business leaders who are expert in everything from online marketing and social media to accounting and cash-flow generation. While the topics of these seminars are all different, a peculiar theme is emerging in all of them:

… small business owners need to both become mavericks and return to old-fashioned values …

This may seem a contradiction, yet it is what those who are successful are saying.

Maverick Tricks for Small Business Owners
Let’s take the maverick part first. The webinars and teleconferences are all about maverick-ism — how small business owners need to do things differently. For instance, one webinar covered 13 new ways small business owners can ask for and get paid by their clients more quickly. This is important because cash flow means the difference between staying alive and closing the doors on your small business. Are these methods always polite, conventional, or socially acceptable? No, a lot of them are not. But these are new times and small business owners and clients alike are adapting to maverick ways of doing business.

Another webinar introduced the maverick idea of creating your own hedge funds in your small business. Southwest Airlines has been hedging fuel prices forever: they pre-buy large quantities of fuel when it’s less expensive, and then take delivery of that fuel when prices go up. Small business owners can create hedge funds in a slightly different manner. Instead of pre-buying something in bulk, you stash money away in a hedge fund when prices are low, say for inventory items. Then when the prices go up, you use the money in your hedge fund to keep your cash flow going. So there are a lot of ways to use new maverick techniques to keep your small business afloat.

The Value of Old-Fashioned Values
At the same time that these experts are teaching maverick methods for small business owners, they are also talking about a return to old-fashioned values. In a word, they are saying that we have become lazy. Recent studies show that more people believe that they can “get rich quick” with a small business than ever before.

Despite the wise words of business leaders like Robert Kiyosaki, the majority of people who start small businesses today expect to “make it big” within a year or two. Kiyosaki warns small business owners to set aside at least 5 years before expecting a pay back. Back in the day, it was expected that a small business was a lifetime endeavor, not a get rich quick scheme. “Get rich quick” is a bad idea … it’s how we ended up in this financial mess to begin with.

So if you are starting a small business or you already have one, prepare to dig in. Don’t spend all of your resources at once, preserve cash and cash flow, and give your business at least five years to start paying you back for your efforts. Those are the old-fashioned values that made the U.S. of A. one of the strongest economic forces in the world. To those values we will need to return if we want to maintain that status.

The Maverick in Me and My Small Businesses
As for me, despite all the flak I’ll probably catch for saying this, I’m profoundly happy about this economic correction. It has forced me to make changes I have wished to make for years, but have never had the motivation or necessity to make. I am grateful for the outer economic forces that provide the motivation for the changes I am making to my small business and my personal financial situation. So be it!

What about you? See any sunshine yet?

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