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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The rules of the game...

I have played a lot of games in my life as have most people. And I have won more times than I have lost. I have occasionally cheated, been cheated and even disqualified! Why? Because I either broke the rules or someone else did.


Because I like games so well, I often think of business as a game. But who makes the rules? And who keeps score? Oh, there are some basics things that are always true...those with the most power and influence and money win most of the time. And because everyone likes a winner, others spend a great deal of time wanting to be like them. New products and services are designed and developed in an attempt to get into the game that only a few can play. The rules are made and the score is kept by those in this group. If the product or service I have doesn't work here, then this is not the right place to play.

Albert Einstein wrote "Your have to learn the rules of the game. And then you have to play better than anyone else."

Then what are the rules? Simple...work with those who need what you have. I am having to learn that. I know that an apartment dweller doesn't need replacment windows and a billionaire won't be interested in my 2004 Lexus with 185,000 miles. I am hoping to find a business owner who is trying to figure out how to utilize the overseas market for fulfilling the demand for his/her product but doesn't have the first clue how to get started. Or perhaps there is an established company that needs a new set of eyes for designing a product line or trade show display. Even if I have to give the information away for free, I'd rather do that than keep it to myself.

That's what makes Christmas such a great time for those of us who understand it's real meaning! We just have to share it...for free...because it is too amazing to keep to ourselves!

Bernie

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Worth the time...

I've often thought about the importance we place on our memory. In today's busy world, we have to keep a calendar handy so we won't forget appointments or events or even basic routine stuff that seemed easy to remember when we were younger. I sometimes find it difficult to even recall things that I did yesterday. That "old age" thing must be setting in. But why is remembering so important? Do things we experienced in the past have any place in our today's and tomorrows? My wife and I decided to clean our closets this past weekend. We've never been able to do this without alcohol. But we came through with only a few bruises. We found pictures that took us back to times that were fun but also times that were wrought with sorrow. But the joy we received from those memories is indescribable!

But we can't live in the past! I think it was Einstien that defined insanity as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result". We must approach each new day as an opportunity to create new memories. My plan today is to take a picture of something I saw or did today that is indeed unique and special and put it in the box of memories that I'll open up sometime in the future...perhaps when we decide to clean the closets again...and realize that this was a day that was worth remembering.

Bernie

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Joy in the midst of challenges!

It's Sunday. Like most Sundays, we started the day with church. We believe that no matter how our financial world flip-flops, God is always consistent! Our small church has continued to be blessed even with 15% unemployment in our county. And God has taught us how to take care of others who are experiencing much greater challenges that we have. We have helped families to keep their heat on and are working to help a single mother of 3 to either get her broken car fixed or get her one that runs. And we have given food to many in need, gifts and clothing to families and on and on and on. And while we don't seem to have enough for our own families, God somehow makes it possible for us to help others!

I pretty sure that is what we are supposd to do with our work efforts in the future. Help others!
Now..how can an ex business owner help others and survive? Not really sure! I can help with information that I have learned over the years. I know how to make furniture, how to finish it, how to ship it and how to use it in displays. I know how to design product and have it manufactured overseas. I know the import system and have contacts in both China and India and am happy to share this information with anyone who can use it. I know the gift industry, understand how a wholesaler needs to operate and understand the in's and out's of trade shows. But I need to get something in exchange. I started AG Peoples to get some tools that I could offer to any business with a merchant account or accounts a better product than they have. I'll get a small commission which will help me survive and then I can share what I know.

I am hoping someone will want my service.

Bernie

Saturday, December 11, 2010

What's next?

This is the toughest question that an entrepreneur ever asks. Having been business owners for over 30 years, we have never had to look for work. Working a normal schedule? Getting paid by the hour? Having to answer to someone else? And on, and on, and on!



How does a business owner go about looking for a job?


Not easy. I wish someone could take this process away from me. I feel ashamed to call the people that I know who have businesses to ask them to consider hiring me. While I have a lot of years of knowledge being in business, I don't know much about working for someone else. What will they expect? Will they fee that they have to treat me differently since I am a friend first? Because I don't feel comfortable with this arrangement, I havn't made the effort I should. I have used the on line products such as Monster.com and JobFox.com but the resume that I have done is quite plain. I get emails for commission sales jobs from insurance companies and work at home pyramid jobs but not much else. Don't companies understand that I have fought the battles of small business development and ownership for 30+ years and that I am easily more qualified to make difficult business decisions than 90% of the applicants they will receive? Maybe there is fear from the busniess owners that I won't conform to their ways of won't stay long term. I guess I really don't know the real answer to that question either.
So what happens next...
I have tried to figure this out. I really want to use my years of experience to help other people and other businesses. If I could make a living and give all of the info and advice away for free, I would! After all of these years, I finally realize that it's not about me anymore, it's about others. But I need to make a living! I learned quite a bit about merchant services when we were trying to reduce costs in our business and felt I could help other businesses with this info and make a living at the same time. Actually, there are very few situations where my services in this area won't make a positive difference. I can probably make a living doing this if I could find a way to get business owners to inquire. What I would like to do is trade my knowledge of any or all of the info that I have learned...for the priviledge and opportunity of taking over the merchant account/s of a business. I know that this could be a great fix for my needs and could make a positive difference in most businesses. I have created a company called AG Peoples Inc. (All God's People) that will hopefully make this bartering option a reality. You can see me at www.agpeoplesinc.com.

Bernie

Friday, December 10, 2010

The end and the beginning...

What makes a business work? What happens to make it fail? What happens next? I've asked these questions about 10 million times during the past 18 months. And the answers are often very clear and very confusing at the same time.
The beginning...
My wife, Paula and I were like many young couples 30 years ago. We were struggling with life in general and were not well grounded financially. We worked hard at the family thing but neither of us knew what the future held. Paula had lots of energy and ideas and needed to express herself by making things. And as she made them, I though about ways to make them into money makers. Our first business, The Olde Brush came about by taking her painted items to some retailers and asking them if they liked them. Out of 13 sales attempts, we made 12 sales and decided we had a business. We got some sales reps and the business began. After about 5 years, a couple of small business loans, undercapitalization and 40 employees, our accounting firm and legal team advised us to close up shop and file bankruptcy. We did and lost everything but an old van and a few tools.
The next phase...
We were granted a second chance when we discovered some new designs and lucked into some unusual paint finishes. We decided to try again and took every dime we had to pay for a couple of trade show booths and some inventory. We saved enough $ to rent a trailer and buy gas to get to the first show and wrote a bad check for the hotel. Our hope was to sell $1000 of the $5000 in inventory we took and take $10,000 in orders for later delivery during the 3 day show. What happened was a sign from God. We sold the $5000 inventory during the first morning and took $60,000 in total orders during the show. We were in business again! This time we understood how to make a profit and the next 15 years proved to be an amazing time of opportunity. We won countless awards for creative design and our business grew from a $100,000 revenue to $4 million. We were rolling! We were traveling overseas to design and source products and we were able to redirect a large amount of our profits into beach real estate. Life was great and we spent like there was nothing that could stifle our momemtum.
The END...
Well...the rest of the story is predictable. The housing industry crashed and we experienced "The Perfect Storm". The demand for our products dried up, quickly, and the beach real estate market died. The result was a 3-4 year spiral of losses in the millions. We were not prepared and too proud to admit that we could possibly fail again after all of the successes. We could figure this out! We couldn't and we didn't! And 18 months of questioning and the accepting these events has brought me to this time
The Beginning...
There are lots of things that I know now and many, many that I don't. What I do know for sure is that the reason for the failures has been for the purpose of learning how to give! This seems strange for me but it's fact. I have to pass on what God has given me to those who need what I have. Right now it's a lot of experience and information but it might be something more material in the future. What I can give to others who have experienced similar frustrations is encouragement and hope because I know that the best is yet to come. I hope there are other stories.
Bernie