Saturday, September 1, 2001
PORTAL PARTNER PRESS September 2001
=======September 11, 2001==========
From: Robert Massa Sent: Tuesday, September 11, 2001 11:26 AM Subject: Portal Partner Press 9-11-01
Just before I sent this issue of the PPP, I learned of the three attacks on the World Trade Center and the US Pentagon. It is a dark day indeed for America, the World and all Mankind.
Our prayers are with the innocent victims. ***********************************
Portal Partner Press
September 8th, 2001
The Trouble with Planning
A Word From Our Webmaster
THE TROUBLE WITH PLANNING
The purpose of this issue of the Portal Partner Press is to get as many people as possible setting goals for their businesses and start learning how to use effective strategic planning and organziational management to accomplish those goals. I believe the single biggest factor in success is in planning and without it, our chances of success are greatly diminished.
I will be using personal experience to illustrate many of the points I would like to make. I do this in the hopes of establishing an understanding of how important planning is to me and to show that many of the challenges
I face are the same ones that you will need to face as well. Even for those of you whose situation is completely different, I am trying to find things that we can both agree on and see as being real problems that need to be overcome. *****************************************
For most of my adult life, I have been self-employed. I have owned and operated several businesses over the last 30 years including candle manufacturing and distribution, toy manufacturing and distribution, TV rent-to-own, furniture stores, pizza restaurants, an advertising distribution service, a collection agency, a printing company, a search engine placement service, a search engine and a web hosting company. Out of the last 32 years, I have worked for someone else less than a total of 4 years all together. Most of them in less than 90 day intervals. It seems that if I couldn't show my employers the benefit of "letting me go" within that time frame, I would simply quit. It would appear I that have a small problem with authority.
All of these businesses made money or at least made me a living. A couple of them made me a LOT of money, yet, most of them are gone. Out of business. Did they fail?
I guess the only official answer would be yes, but in my mind, they all succeeded for the simple fact that I achieved the goal I set out to accomplish. The question is, if most of those businesses are no longer in business, yet I consider them a success, what goal was I trying to achieve?
I left home at the age of 15. I was raised by a step-father who was constantly telling me I wouldn't succeed. Telling me I was too dumb to understand things. I was too lazy to finish anything. It seemed that every endeavor I attempted throughout my adolescent life, he was always there telling me I couldn't do it. In spite of the fact that I was an honor roll student, I was writing for the school newspaper, I was successful as a wrestler and a football player as well as many other extra-curricular activities such as Boy Scouts.
With each interest, it seemed the more success I attained, the more intent he was on convincing me I couldn't do it. This would ultimately result in me losing interest in the subject until I created a kind of self-fulfilling prophecy. Quitting became easy and yet I seemed to constantly become more determined than ever to "prove him wrong." Quitting one thing and quickly starting another became a pattern. A pattern that involved me setting short-term goals and then once accomplished, I was ready to start something else. All the time I was saying that my goal was to win a trophy for wrestling, as an example, because I knew that would really "get his goat." As soon as I would win that trophy, in my mind, I had accomplished that goal and was looking for the next thing that would really irritate Him.
My stepfather passed away some 15 years ago, yet in those moments when I can be totally honest with myself, I realize that, to this day, I am still trying to prove Him wrong. I am still playing out that pattern.
For example, the rent-to-own business - my goal was to borrow a million dollars. I thought that would definitely show Him I was worth something to somebody. I also thought it would take me long enough that by the time I reached that goal, the business would be well established and provide me the opportunity to live on the profits for the rest of my life, (keep in mind that I was 24 at the time and knew I was the smartest man on earth as do most 24 year olds).
I opened the business, worked an average of 12 to 14 hours a day at least 6 days a week and oversaw virtually every aspect of the day-to-day operations. I was focused and worked hard. I understood my market and was a good salesman. Within 18 months I had secured a one million dollar line of credit from Philco of Oklahoma, (a major distributor for TV's and appliances). Success! That ought to show Him!
Over the next few months I stopped going into the office everyday. I turned over the day-to-day stuff to office managers and within less than a year, it was all gone. I have repeated this pattern over and over. I now realize that I wasn't setting goals, I was setting objectives and that's not the same thing.
About 10 years ago, I realized what I was doing and got it into my head I needed somebody. A person who could take over once I got it up and running and kept it running. Well, I've been through several friends, partners and employees looking for that person and it has never worked. With each new venture, I set a specific objective, work very hard to hit my numbers and then once I do, I lose interest, turn the responsibility over to someone else and in short time, it falls apart.
I see now that those people were all competent. Each and every one of them could have successfully ran my businesses and freed up my time to do something else except for one thing. I did not do my job and my job was to set the goals for that company and oversee the strategic planning and THEN let that other person run it. Without those goals being set and some kind of planning on how to accomplish those goals, there was nothing that anyone else could have done. You see, I had already hit my objective, but I had never established a goal and a plan of how to attain that.
I finally realize that once the goals and strategic planning are set, the company itself becomes a living thing and it manages itself to some degree. Once that happens, anybody who is motivated can run it by simply following the strategies to make sure that the goal is reached. Without telling people where you want to go, it's impossible to expect them to take it there. As soon as you put a driver behind the wheel without telling him where to take you, you are going to very likely end up somewhere other than where you thought you were going. Now try to imagine 5 people or 10 people all sitting behind the wheel and nobody knowing where it's supposed to go. YIKES!
See if this sounds familiar to any one:
With each new business, it was basically me. Me unloading the inventory off the trucks. Me doing the books, me waiting on the customers, me writing the ads. Me doing everything. Plan, who has the time?
Eventually, sales and income increase to the point that I am unable to do "everything" so in comes the wife. Now I'm telling her what I want done. Soon, we hire the first employee and I tell him what I want done, then the next employee and the next. Very soon, the entire company looks like a one-eyed dog in a sausage factory. Nobody knows which way to look next.
What gets these companies this far is little more than my sheer determination to make it happen. I am willing to do everything that I can't get someone else to do, except of course the one thing that would free up my time and actually allow me to manage and that is planning. I could set up procedures, you know the old, put the money in this drawer kind of stuff, but I couldn't seem to find the time to tell anyone WHY we put the money in that drawer. This always sets up a situation of everybody doing exactly what you tell them to do but if you're not there or too busy to tell them what to do, nothing gets done. It's not that you have bad employees, it's that you have bad management. Each of those people are fully capable of making decisions themselves on how to accomplish their objectives but only AFTER you tell them what those objectives are.
Even when you have no employees whatsoever and you actually are the only labor resource available, (like most of you right now), you waste a lot of time making decisions that you feel are wrong. You see, there really are no wrong decisions; there are only decisions that conflict with your overall goals and the plans to achieve those goals. When you don't take the time to do the planning, you don't know those decisions are conflicting until after you realize that it's not working. Assuming it's not too late, you then have to go back and do it over again so that it gets put back more in line with your goals. Assuming of course, you have set your goals. You see, a goal without a plan of how to make that goal become a reality is a dream. Are you dreaming or are you reaching your goals?
With each of these businesses, I have basically run it out of my back pocket, probably very much like most of you are doing right now. I was so busy reaching my objective that I could never find the time to plan. To decide on what I really wanted and how I was best going to be able to get that. It's not that I haven't accepted all along the importance of planning, it's just that I wouldn't do it.
I started reading and studying basic business and marketing when I was still a teenager. I used to spend a lot of time reading everything I could get my hands on about successful business people. I read about Carnegie, Rockefeller, Morgan, Vanderbilt and on and on. It became apparent that there was a common theme in all these books. They seemed to always be talking about the plan. So, it didn't take long before I started reading all those one minute manager and the Peter Principle books. Soon I'm reading textbooks on strategic planning and management. I'm sure this all helped me a lot even if I wasn't applying the things from those books. I could at least talk about them.
My point is that it's not that I didn't realize the value of good planning, it's just that I didn't do it in spite of knowing it. My guess is that it's much the same with you. You know the value and importance of effective planning and you know that without it, effective management is not possible. Yet, we push on day after day pursuing our dreams and many of those days we feel like we worked hard but got little accomplished. Why?
I don't really have the answer. All I can do is give you some of my personal experiences and observations and hope one of them strikes a nerve - something that you can see as being real to you, and then offer some possible solutions.
Where do you get the time? In my case, I used this as an excuse for many, many years until finally I was able to accept that they were excuses. Let me give you a little history on how most of my typical days go.
At some point during the day, I usually tell myself things I need to get done the following day. I don't write them down or anything, I just tell myself. Then the next morning, I walk into my office, turn on the machine and start checking my e-mail. After actually reading very few and deleting sometimes as many as a hundred spams, then I move on to reading my favorite forums. After reading a lot of posts and posting in very few, now I'm ready to get to work doing the thing I told myself yesterday I had to get done. Oh wait, it's lunchtime.
After lunch, now it's time to take care of the little day-to-day stuff. Answering customer calls, talking to various people that have some influence over my business. You know the accountant, the electric company, the phone company, the bank, etc. I pay bills or review data and complain about how this or that didn't get done. Time to go home after a 14-hour day.
I have finally been able to again be honest with myself and I now realize that most of the time I spend in a day, working myself half to death, I spend ACTING busy. The truth is I don't really have to be that busy. I spend most days trying to catch up instead of trying to go forward. This is the direct result of not having an effective goal established and an effective plan for getting that goal accomplished. If I would develop a plan, I could schedule and if I could plan, I could delegate, which would free up more of my time to create more effective plans to enable me to capture more of my market better and increase my income.
A possible suggestion: DO YOUR WORK FIRST and then check your email and read forums. Almost everyone I know that has a web business has an alarm on their email so that every mail that comes up beeps them. They instantly drop whatever they are doing and go check the mail. All this in spite of the fact that we all KNOW that the vast majority of email is spam. We are not controlling the mail to help us reach our goals - the mail is controlling us. Disable that email alarm and get into a habit of checking your mail AFTER you finish your work. Another way to look at is, don't try to find the time to do your work after you check your mail, (several times a day), instead, make time to check your mail for business matters after you've done your work.
Make the time to plan and the plan will free up your time. This is a fact that I have proven to myself.
IT'S TOO HARD TO UNDERSTAND. I DON'T KNOW WHERE TO START.
Almost every book or article I've read about planning and management leaves me with more questions than answers. There must be a thousand books out there about planning and the vast majority written by college professors who naturally need to go into great detail. This is fine and I'm certainly not telling anyone NOT to learn and keep learning about planning, but, I've put off planning for years for the simple reason that even though I had read the books, I didn't understand them. I had no reality with them.
Let me give you an example. I just bought yet another planning book over this last weekend. In the index, chapter 16 was titled, "LET'S GET STARTED." Just to get to the point of getting started I had 15 chapters, some 250 pages, to read and exercises with each chapter. Now it was all very important information that needs to be learned. Things like identifying your market, your competitors, your industry etc. Identifying your strengths and weaknesses, reviewing your financial records and allocating capital. Like I said, these things all have a direct impact on your business and your ability to reach your goals, BUT, I need a plan now. I don't have the time or the money to start doing surveys and hiring consultants. So there is no point doing anything if I can't do it all, right? WRONG!
It's not hard to understand the NEED for setting a goal and developing a plan, it's only hard to understand how to use the books to know how to get started. The solution I chose, and the one I recommend is to stop worrying so much about it and just do it! In my opinion even a bad plan is better than no plan and even if it is a bad plan, just having it makes it easier to spot the areas where it is going wrong and then change them. Without any plan at all, there is no way to know if it's working or not.
What I purpose to do is to try to help all I can by showing you what I have done and why, then be honest enough with you to let you know what works and what doesn't. I will keep you abreast of what steps SK is taking to turn the company into a more effectively managed company that is prepared to grow. I will share the information I learn and implement with the hopes that over a period a time we all are able to create plans that increase productivity and income.
FEAR OF FAILURE - FEAR OF SUCCESS
We all have fears that motivate our actions whether we know it or not. Now, in my case, I was finally able to realize that one of the main reasons I kept checking my email trying to LOOK busy instead of just doing my job was due to fear; fear of failure and proving my dead stepfather right, and fear of success and hitting my objectives only to have to be faced with once again starting on something new.
Once we write down what we want, we are in a sense committing ourselves and that opens the door to failure or success. Once we decide on a goal, there are only two things that can happen. Either we attain that goal (success) or we don't (failure). Either way can present some pretty scary prospects. As long as we don't ever decide where we want to go we can't really fail, we were just getting ready to get started. Once we set our goals and make it, what if that wasn't really what I wanted after all? I don't even know what's involved with being rich, so if my goal is to be rich, how do I know if that is what's going to make me happy?
In my case, I was finally able to realize that what my stepfather did has nothing to do with what I'm doing now. I also realized that by not doing what I knew needed to be done, not only would the chance of my failing be much greater, but in addition, I wouldn't be able to do some of the things that I honestly think I would like to be able to do. Such as spending more time with my wife. Building our dream home. Being able to help our kids get their kids through college. So I just forced myself to take the things I had learned about planning and put them to work the best I could.
You want to know something funny? I'm so scared of it that it actually makes me physically sick. I noticed a short while back that every time I would sit down and start writing, within about 10 minutes I would start feeling a little light headed, a little tired, a slight headache and a little sick to my stomach. For years this has kept me from actually sitting down and writing a plan. I found myself un-consciously avoiding it, always telling myself I would come back and do it later when I felt better, which of course I never did because as soon as I started again, I started feeling bad again.
For those of you that are able to be honest enough with yourself and admit that fear has something to do with why you don't do what you know you need to be doing, all I can tell you is get over it. Just do it anyway. Do the best you can and as much as you can and each little bit helps more than you can imagine. It's still not easy for me to sit down and do the planning, but it is getting easier and just this last week the difference it has made in the company is pretty amazing.
It took me about a month to write what should have taken no more than a few hours at most. Just last week we had a company meeting and I revealed the new goals and strategic plans with job descriptions and this week it's like a huge weight has been lifted from everyone's shoulders. We all seem to have a new lease on life. We all know what we're supposed to be doing. We know how and when we're supposed to do it and most importantly, WHY we're doing it. I truly hope that some of you will get to experience this feeling.
I have no way of knowing if you have some fear that is keeping you from setting goals and creating strategic plans, all I know is that if you are, you have to beat it or the very thing you fear the most is much more likely to actually come true. Don't let your fears stop you. Use your plans to overcome those fears and allow you to have the things you really want for you and your family.
As I said, I want to help all I can and I will! In order for me or anyone else to help, you have to speak up. Go to the forums and get involved in the threads about planning. There are several going on now.
In fact, I said last week that I would show you all the next step of planning after the things I wrote about last week. This week I was going to show you the job descriptions and basic procedures for day-to-day operations as well as the lines of communication we have set up. There are a lot of ways to get your plan into action and I'm just showing you the way I chose. Since this week's issue is getting a little long, I will instead post those things in the forums. If you care about your business, you'll go there and read them and get involved. http://forums.searchking.com
Over the next few issues I will start telling you some things I am learning about customer surveys, identifying and satisfying your market, how to predict trends in your industry and so forth, but this is plenty to absorb for this week.
I hope to see you all in the forums discussing your plans. *****************************************
A WORD FROM OUR WEBMASTER
Are you being Gatorized?
As many of you are aware, Gator, a program for automatically filling out forms and remembering passwords has been listed recently as one of the major scumware programs on the Net by ScumWare.com.
There have been millions of users that have downloaded Gator on to their computers, that runs on their computers to aid the user in automatically filling out online forms and helping the user to manage their passwords used online. What Gator has done recently, is added to their program pop-up ads that are the same size and in the same location as they are found on websites, thus positioning their ads over the top of the website's own paid advertising.
An example of this might be if you went a website that had a paid ad from Chevrolet, then Gator might deliver an ad from Ford right over the top of the paid Chevrolet ad, thus cheating the website owner and the advertiser who paid for their ad to run on that website. For more information on Gator's predatory advertising campaign, go to: http://www.scumware.com
or the scumware forums at: http://gethighforums.com/bin/forumdisplay.cgi?action=topics&forum=ScumWare+- +The+Net+Fights+Back!&number=28
For Gator removal instructions go to: http://www.scumware.com/user5.html
There is a better alternative to Gator - RoboForm
Let me introduce RoboForm - it is a better alternative to Gator. This program is free and has NO ads running. RoboForm will import all of your information seamlessly from Gator, so the transition is easy and painless. RoboForm is fully customizable and you can set this program to your preferences easily. Read the reviews:
From Rebecca Marker: http://www.freegraphics.com/zz-scumware/roboformreview.html
From ZDNET: http://www.zdnet.com/downloads/stories/info/0,,55388,.html
You can also download RoboForm directly from their site at:
I downloaded and have been testing RoboForm for almost a week now and I can tell you that this is a darn nifty little program that is free and best of all, NO ads! If you are running Gator and are looking a better, scum free, alternative OR if you're looking for a program to manage your online forms and passwords, I highly recommend RoboForm!
Webmaster, SearchKing, Inc. ************************************
See ya next week
Publisher -- Bob Massa firstname.lastname@example.org