Medium 9781576756652

Dealing With the Tough Stuff

Views: 1653
Ratings: (0)

Your business plan is only going to get you so far. When you’re actually running a values-driven business problems come up that you never could have anticipated. And as a mission-driven organization you face issues your more conventional colleagues never have to grapple with. The whole experience can be incredibly isolating and draining.

Margot Fraser and Lisa Lorimer have been there, and they’re here to help. Together with five of their colleagues—including Stonyfield Yogurt founder Gary Hirshberg and former Ms. Foundation president Marie C. Wilson—they offer the kinds of personal insights and seasoned advice you just can’t get in business school. It’s like having a coaching session with some of the nation’s top socially conscious entrepreneurs.

Each chapter of Dealing with the Tough Stuff tackles a particular challenge. How open and honest can you really be with your employees and still run an efficient business? At what point do you seek outside expertise? What do you do when things go terribly wrong? When is it time to leave? The authors and the members of their “advisory board” share their experiences—not just what worked, but sometimes what spectacularly didn’t. Some of these stories are harrowing: a worker getting killed by factory equipment, a supplier embezzling funds, a false accusation of intellectual property theft. Others are simply day-to-day conundrums: meeting payroll when you’re always in debt, deciding when and how to expand in a responsible way, balancing business needs with your commitment to the triple bottom line. At the end of each chapter, Lorimer and Frasier draw on the stories to offer practical "survival suggestions" that can guide readers through similar situations.

This is a book that readers can look to for affirmation, hope and tools. Others have been through what you’re going through, if not worse. They made it and so can you—because they’re going to show you how they did it. No book can cover every challenge that might arise, but if you learn from the attitudes, techniques and coping mechanisms these seasoned leaders offer, you’ll get through the tough stuff with your sanity and your business intact.

List price: $16.95

Your Price: $12.71

You Save: 25%

Remix
Remove
 

10 Slices

Format Buy Remix

Contents

ePub

 

1 Conquering Cash Practical Wisdom: Own Your Numbers

ePub

Did you look at the chapter titles or flip through the book, skimming the headlines until you found the word “cash”? Welcome! You are the reader we are writing to, and this is the topic we assumed would get your attention first. If you ask entrepreneurs to name the toughest, most stressful aspect of running their companies, cash is almost always at the top of the list. It’s the King of stressors.

In this chapter, we talk frankly about how we stayed focused on cash while balancing our values with the realities of meeting payroll. Lisa and Margot talk about the importance of knowing when to be frugal and creative ways to deal with inventory and payment terms. Gary Hirshberg of Stonyfield Farm explains that all problems are really cash problems and how that can be a unique challenge for values-based businesses. Joe O’Connell of Creative Machines explains the importance of a steady moneymaker in a business that makes custom products. And Marie Wilson, a social entrepreneur at the Ms. Foundation and the White House Project, shows how to look beyond the money to the vision and how you can find a way for the two to meet. We also give you a step-by-step guide to owning your numbers (and sometimes ducking them when you are stressed) and finding ways to get the help you need.

 

2 Coping with Everyday Stressors

ePub

This chapter could also be titled “This Chaos Is Normal” or “The Tough Stuff Never Ends—It Just Changes.” Nothing is ever smooth in business. Things rarely run exactly as they should without challenges that keep you up at night. You run out of cash, you lose a big customer, a key employee threatens to quit, or you have to deal with brutal competition. You might have a product crisis or family complications that impact your productivity at work: a sick kid, problems with your partner, a dying parent. Sometimes you think that if you can just get through this tough stuff, you will get a break. That almost never happens. Each new leap you take feels like the same height as the last huge leap, and leaps you used to think were big don’t seem so big in the rearview mirror. Now you wish you had a “small” problem like the one before, a problem you have already learned how to deal with.

In this chapter you will read some stories about how entrepreneurs got through their everyday stressors, large and small, and lived to tell about them. These entrepreneurs found help, learned to take care of themselves, and realized that reflecting on the stressors helped them grow their businesses. Lisa talks about using a calm, steady approach to implement change at Vermont Bread Company. Margot discusses the importance of taking action rather than assigning blame during a crisis. Joe explains the challenges of finding a balance between hiring and not hiring and between controlling your employees and giving them autonomy. And Carol Berry of Putney Pasta reveals her story about a company tragedy, giving us the confidence that even the worst nightmare can be weathered with some patience and time.

 

3 Learning to Trust Yourself

ePub

Idealism, vision, and gut-trusting can help you plunge forward in pursuit of your dreams. We have all heard about the American icon: the entrepreneur. He has wild stories about what it was like in the “old days” when he started his now-successful company. A lot of times he will begin his tale with “If I knew then what I know now, I never would have begun.” He might talk about how much he believed in his product and how he went against all the odds to make it happen. But it’s hard to hold on to that kind of optimism and self-reliance in the face of industry naysayers. You might also have to face your own feeling that you should be doing one thing when your intuition is actually leading you to do something else.

This chapter is about learning to trust that intuition. It is about knowing when to move ahead with your core values. It is about finding the balance between being an innovative rule-breaker and making it in the mainstream. In Lisa’s case, everyone told her the product she believed in would fail, yet she continued to trust her mission and open doors for the company to grow. Margot felt she was being compromised at a trade show, and she broke industry rules by slipping out the fire escape, only to find that success followed her home. Gary learned that trusting in yourself and acting impulsively were not the same thing. Carol learned that her love of risk that she inherited from her father did not mean she had to give up her belief in loyalty. And Tom Raffio of Northeast Delta Dental figured out how to stay true to his values by focusing on sufficiency rather than greed.

 

4 Remembering to Trust Yourself Practical Wisdom: Create an Advisory Board

ePub

We love to hear stories from entrepreneurs who went against the grain. It’s great to learn about the hero’s journey, replete with overcoming all the odds. Rather than listening to conventional wisdom, these entrepreneurs trusted their instincts and believed their vision of what was possible. They found an innovative niche, explored fresh ways of connecting with their customers, and figured out how to stay ahead of the curve. During those early times of idealism and excitement, most entrepreneurs did everything themselves. They made the sales calls, developed the products, provided the services, wrote the checks, answered the phone, and swept the floor. This is an important part of the life cycle of a business. But if we remain in this mode, our companies will be only as strong as a single leader.

If we want our businesses to become sustainable enough to grow and create livable work for all stakeholders, then at some point the way we operate needs to shift. As this shift happens, we become more knowledgeable about our industries and begin to make use of conventional wisdom. At this point, we need to ask for help, know when to delegate, and know when to hire people who know more than we do. As we grow bigger, it can be difficult to keep track of our intuitive values and that gut feeling that started us off on the entrepreneurial road to begin with. We may start not to trust ourselves as much anymore.

 

5 Wrestling with Goliath

ePub

We use “Goliath” as shorthand for the things we face in business that seem overwhelming and impossible. We may feel like no matter what size our companies become, someone or something is always bigger. Perhaps a key employee who provides a knowledge base you don’t have threatens to quit or a big customer says she’ll drop your services unless you drop your price (even when you have grown your business to accommodate her company and it represents 30 percent of your volume). This is the chapter about those big things that wake you up in the middle of the night. You lie in bed worried about your family and how to provide for them, the eighty or so other families who count on your company for their livable wages and health insurance coverage, the community programs that depend on your sponsorship, and whether your business can keep going for the long term or even until next week.

You are not the only one who has been there. Lisa starts us out with a story about her largest distributor getting into financial trouble that spilled over into her business and put the entire company at risk. Margot remembers how her largest customer dropped her entire line after she had ramped up to meet the projected orders for the next year. Joe tells us how a previous client called him and claimed he’d stolen an idea and had no right to use it. In times like these, adrenaline courses through your body. You feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach, and you fear that everything you have built is a house of cards that can come tumbling down. These times feel like the toughest of the tough stuff. At the end of this chapter, we distill a few reminders that have helped us when we faced our own Goliaths.

 

6 Facing Forces Beyond Your Control

ePub

Some of the most stressful times in business happen when our companies are at the mercy of much larger forces, such as cultural, economic, or cultural shifts we can’t control. These shifts can include soaring interest rates, a diet trend, a fashion trend, a natural disaster, a frozen credit environment, a precipitous drop in consumer spending, or any change that makes it hard to find predictability. Sometimes customers and suppliers make big decisions or big mistakes that impact us, and even though we have done everything right and have remained true to our values, our company still suffers. Finding our way through this situation can be challenging and stressful.

In this chapter, entrepreneurs tell their stories about what happens when the trend is your friend and then it’s not. Lisa tells the story of the low-carb diet trend that was a one-two punch to her company. Margot shares the effect that the dress-for-success fashion trend had on Birkenstock. Carol and Gary describe what happened when another company’s decisions had serious consequences within their own businesses. And Joe tells the tale of a series of disasters that struck him all at the same time. At the end of the chapter, our practical tips give suggestions about how to get through tough times that you have absolutely no control over.

 

7 Managing Your Mistakes

ePub

We have talked about some of the tough stuff that happens in values-driven businesses: trends that turn against us, problem customers, the loss of employees, and a lack of cash, to name a few. But sometimes we just plain screw up or base our decisions on poor judgment. Especially frustrating are the times that we are convinced we are doing the right thing for all the right, socially responsible reasons and we still mess up.

In this chapter, Lisa describes getting a wake-up call when two of her employees got into a fistfight. Margot tells us two stories: one about the early days, when she printed too many catalogs, and a second one about an employee issue that ended in a lawsuit. Gary writes about a manufacturing mess-up, and Joe explains how he made a core mistake in finding a sustainable way to keep his company running.

In this chapter, we tell the truth about those times we made mistakes and had no one to blame but ourselves. What works best during these times is to acknowledge that a mistake was made and work on how we might be able to make better judgment calls in the future.

 

8 Playing President

ePub

Not every entrepreneur agrees on what it means to play the role of president within our companies, but every one of us has had to wrestle with the concept. At business conferences, people talk about how to integrate that role with our personal lives. Do you ever wonder how that can even be possible? Can you really be your authentic self in all parts of your life? And which self, which role, is the authentic one anyway? The leader of a values-driven business ultimately has decision-making power that nobody else in the company has, so this role is fundamentally different from most of the other roles we play in our lives, whether it be spouse, partner, friend, board member, volunteer, parent, or child.

This chapter is about learning how to bring the values of collaboration, respect, and diversity into that leadership role. Lisa reminds us not to compare our insides with everyone else’s outsides. Margot describes the changes that happened over time in her role as president and how, even today, her role as a “legend” still impacts her life. Joe talks about times when the stress of owning a company felt overwhelming and he was tempted to work for someone else so that he wouldn’t have to handle all the responsibility. Marie reminds us that the role of president is intricately woven with the mission of our organizations. Carol describes the internal disconnect that can happen when you are struggling in your business and personal life but you have to project the image of a successful businessperson to the outside world. Finally, Tom talks frankly about how the pressure of his role brought him to the brink of burnout and what he did to bring himself back.

 

9 Moving On

ePub

There comes a unique stage in our relationships with our companies when it is time to leave. We will all move on from our companies at some point for various reasons: we hit retirement age, our business fails, we burn out, or we see that it’s a logical time to harvest some (or all) of the value we have built. We have heard stories of entrepreneurs who have decided, for all different reasons, to make a change and move on. There are a lot of ways to exit. We can merge with another company, go public, sell to our employees, find a financial buyer, or just pay off the bills and close the doors. But how do we know for ourselves when it’s time to leave? What is important to consider when thinking about a new ownership structure? How can we ensure that our values of social responsibility carry on? What if our business is failing and we need to shut down?

In this chapter, Lisa describes her values-driven focus on finding the right equity partner. Margot tells us about the challenges of selling her business to her employees. Carol tells us the truth about what happened when her company was on the brink of closing. And Gary gives us great advice about asking better questions and remembering that nothing is impossible.

 

Details

Print Book
E-Books
Slices

Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Sku
B000000023327
Isbn
9781605095790
File size
2.33 MB
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Format name
ePub
Encrypted
No
Printing
Allowed
Copying
Allowed
Read aloud
Allowed
Sku
In metadata
Isbn
In metadata
File size
In metadata