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Guest Writer

Helping small businesses succeed
Am I crazy?
by Carolyn Campbell

m I crazy? What made me think I could start my own business?"

In seven days I heard this question from seven different people. Each had come to me seeking coaching help for their business.

"Tell me the truth, Carolyn," they all asked, "do I have a good idea?" Behind their words I could hear them begging for an answer to: "Will I succeed?"

Sadly, I don't have a crystal ball. But what I can say is that we must all go through this "am I crazy?" stage. It's a right of passage that separates the dreamers from the creators, the hobbyists from the entrepreneurs and the thriving artists from the frustrated wannabes.

Although statistics claim that 87 percent of all new businesses fail within the first three years, I find that if people properly navigate this stage they soon join the 13 percent that succeed. Recently, I reviewed all my clients over the last seven years and found that when certain things occur the success rate jumps to 72 percent.

My suggestions:

Have a deep personal passion that fuels your actions.
Does your core mission align with your personal values and desires? When one business owner started making knitwear for dogs people looked at her like she was nuts. Bank after bank turned her down for funding. She sold her car, mortgaged her house and did whatever it took to achieve her dream of being a premier international company selling knitwear for pets and their human companions. Today, less than three years later, Cosmic Knits has a successful partnership with an investor and is sold worldwide, including Europe, Asia, Canada and the U.S.

Put your vision first in your life.
This may seem narcissistic but, to truly be successful, your business must take center stage for a while. In general I find that it takes between nine months and three years of full attention. The question I ask my clients, especially women, is: Are you ready to have your business take the front seat of your life? And, if you have a family, the center of your family's life? If not, you might want to get a job.

Ask for help. Lots of help.
What I've found with successful businesses is that the owners have always asked for help. Not only do they believe in getting help, they love getting help. What I hear so often from people is "... but I should be able to do it on my own." You can't. And if you try, you'll probably fail.

Know that your service or product changes lives.
And don't be afraid to say so. One designer created a line of jewelry that illuminates the essence of the person wearing it. She talks about its ability to empower your life and support you to live your dreams. People will pass up equally fabulous designs to have a piece of Scarlet Chamberlin's jewelry.

Serve your client community.
This is a critical phase. The most successful businesses have moved from the initial narcissistic phase of focusing their life around their own dream to using their dream to enrich the lives of others. In fact, studies have shown that when people have the choice of two comparable products they will choose the product that aligns with a social cause. As you consider your customer, how does your business structure, promotional materials and outreach focus on supporting your clients and a community need?

So, if you still wonder if you're crazy, this is my question to you: Are you ready to put your business first, go public with your passion and build a community around your business? Without a doubt, it takes determination, courage and a belief in your importance.

But, as Maya Angelou says, a single fantasy can indeed change a million realities. What's yours?

Carolyn Campbell is a life vision and leadership coach in Portland. Check out her previous work in our archives, check out her profile in Sketch Pad, visit her Web site, e-mail carolyn@thecoresource.com, or give her a call at 503-493-9497.

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