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Corporate Housekeeping

As we turn our attention to back to school sales, last summer vacays, finishing up our trashy beach novels and start shifting towards the fall, it’s a good time to take a minute and do some general housekeeping. Face it – it will be the holidays before you know it!

GovCons, you are in the lull between the storm – proposals are submitted, awards are forthcoming but not here yet. Tt’s a great time to catch up on some of the mundane, but necessary parts of doing business.  It’s boring, and always gets pushed to the back burner as more revenue-generating opportunities come in.  But ignore these at your peril – they always come back to haunt you at tax time, during a transaction or with any litigation.

We’re kind of like sour patch kids, here at BOOST. Now that we’ve given you a bit of a gut punch, here’s a quick checklist to keep you sane:

1. Org Chart
When was the last time you actually updated it?  Do it now before you onboard all the new contract wins.  This way it’s readily available.  Now might also be time to consider if folks are really in the right positions/titles.

2. Articles of Incorporation
Time to dust it off and make sure it’s still legit and up to date

3. Board meeting minutes
For privately held companies, this can feel like an administrative task you don’t want to do.  Remember that these board meeting minutes come in handy when you are looking toward a sale, are in litigation/disputes and are just plain good practice.

4. Tax Filings
Given all the changes, are you structured the way you should be?  If your uncle is still providing all of your advice, it might be time to get a second opinion.  Are you maximizing your tax status for your long-term strategy?

5. State filings
We always forget that when we add new employees in new states, we suddenly must start filing taxes.  Be proactive about registering and don’t let it be a nasty surprise year in arrears.

6. Insurance
When was the last time you sat down and went through what you are covered for and where you might have gaps?  I absolutely HATE this practice but make myself (and another person to get a different perspective) sit in the excruciating meeting and review everything.  Line by freaking line.  It’s horrible, my broker hates us, but we’ve discovered multiple things that weren’t covered or that we didn’t need to pay for.  It’s worth the investment of time (and sanity) once a year to know your risks.

 

If you need help with anything, we’re happy to give you our advice or introduce you to others that have that specialty.  Don’t slack off as we head towards the fall.  It will only come back to haunt you when you least expect it (or have time to deal with it!).

Dancing with Disaster

I recently heard of the closing of a friend’s gastro brewpub, and it stirred more in me than I’d like to admit.  As an entrepreneur, business owner, and someone with insight into various client’s businesses- this cuts deep.  The idea that even with a great idea, great product, and great clientele that you can still go out of business strikes at the core.  We often look at businesses that fail as having a fundamental issue – whether in delivery, pricing, staffing, or technical capabilities.  We look for a reason as that makes it easier to process.  We tell ourselves that we won’t fail because we don’t have that specific problem (or we’ll fix it if we do).  We rationalize how others may fail but that we, as business owners, won’t.

Yet, good companies close.  Good companies with great people who worked their asses off will still fail.  This harsh reality is hard for us to process, as we must admit that it could happen to us.  We could do all the right things and still fail.  That’s the nature of business.  It’s risky as hell, and sometimes timing and luck are the most important determining factors of success or failure.  That feels out of our control.  That feels arbitrary.  Those are feelings that can keep us up at night.

Give an entrepreneur a problem, and they will solve it.  Give them the luck of the draw odds, and it can feel daunting.  But yet…they persist.  Starry-eyed new business owners launch new endeavors every day, no matter the economy, no matter the conditions.  Never underestimate the power of the good idea and the drive of an entrepreneur.  One thing you can do is give them your faith, give them your support, and give them the benefit of the doubt.  They are fighting against the current, and while some will absolutely rocket to their success, some will inevitably sink.  Yet they at least dared to take the leap of faith and try.

In the spirit of support and faith, tag your favorite, hard-working, business buds below. We could all use a little extra oomph on our journeys to the top.

Accountability

“Accountability breeds response-ability.” -Stephen Covey

Recently we were rear-ended by a hit and run driver on the DC beltway.  Thankfully, we weren’t hurt and no one else was involved.  Yet I am really ticked that I now have $500 worth of damage on my new(ish) car that I must pay to repair.  I was flabbergasted that this person would literally hit us and continue along their way…with absolutely no consequences or accountability. Doesn’t anyone have a conscience anymore?

Unfortunately, this experience had me thinking about the bigger picture. This lack of accountability seems to be more prevalent than one would like to think within the federal contracting community, particularly within small businesses.
Some examples in GovCon include:

  • Daily, accurate timekeeping (yes, we know it’s a drag, but “you gotta do it!”)
  • Payments to subcontractors (paid when paid, net 5…means exactly that – not when you have the cash)
  • Honoring workshare agreements, not stealing every position that becomes available
  • Paying out commission and bonuses as you promised, when you promised
  • Delivering when you say you will, from the mundane (status reports) to the latest software release

The basics ring true – CEOs are responsible for their team’s actions.  People make mistakes.  Things fall through the cracks.  Ultimately, how you handle these mishaps is on the team, the leadership and the CEO.  Do you admit you are wrong?  Do you take steps to fix the problem and resolve it for the future?  Are you known as being accountable in front of clients and industry partners?  Actions speak so much more than words these days.  We’re all filled with hype and talk about the latest management trends (who has servant leadership on their LinkedIn profiles these days?), but do you live by your mantras?  Do you stand by your word? Build a sense of responsibility and accountability into your company culture from the top down to ensure that your company doesn’t fall victim to these mistakes.

In the meantime, if anyone knows an inexpensive body shop in the DC area that does good work, please let me know!

No

“When you say yes to something you don’t want to do, here is the result: you hate what you are doing, you resent the person who asked you, and you hurt yourself.”
– James Altucher, The Power of No: Because One Little Word Can Bring Health, Abundance, and Happiness

There’s a lot of power behind the word no.
There is a stigma associated with it as well.

In the startup phase, most entrepreneurs/small business owners don’t say no. They take on work that may be outside their wheelhouse or outside their core area of expertise. They take on clients with whom they do not fit. Or work that they won’t make any profit on (all in the name of past performance). They fear being ‘too exclusive’ that they stretch themselves too thin, trading one extreme for another.

Instead of referring the work to another resource, entrepreneurs/small business owners will rationalize taking it on. Let’s face it, we all need to earn a living. Especially when you first start off bootstrapping the organization. But it’s the rationalization and the taking of work outside of your core area that will potentially tank you financially, tap your energy and more importantly tarnish your reputation. Reputation is important no matter what stage you are in, but it can be the difference between the hockey curve growth and the shuttering of the doors during the first few years.

Every business owner has their own horror story of the project or client with whom they just couldn’t win. Something they spent all their time on, with little (or no) success. It’s natural. But those that have too many of these stories are doomed.

At some point (the earlier, the better), it is necessary to get to the point where you can say no. You can identify opportunities that just aren’t for you. That your company is not a fit. There is power in saying no. It means that you value your time, your reputation and your colleagues. Saying no doesn’t mean that you won’t take risks. It means that you are thoughtful in those risks that you do take on.

Be known for the work you win, not the opportunities you might have missed.

Peeps

​“High achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectations.”
– Charles Kettering

Who do you consider your tribe, or what I affectionately call, your peeps?
With whom do you surround yourself, work, do business, and get advice?
Who is your inner circle and what is the value of the relationship?

Personally, I’ve come to a place in my career where I need to work with folks that I respect.  I don’t have to be best friends with all of our clients, but I need to respect what they are doing.  I want to feel invested in their growth.  Additionally, I want them to feel invested in us. No business owner has time or money to waste, including myself.  Expending energy on relationships without a foundation of trust or respect is exactly that.  Second guessing or questioning motives expends mental energy that frankly, I don’t have to spare.  Easy to state yet sometimes hard to follow.  From experience, I’ve found that going with the gut works very well here.  Naturally, you have to build trust, whether that be from a short engagement up front or vouched for by trusted folks within the industry.  Ultimately, it is up to both sides to maintain that trust.

This trust carries over to our partners in the industry.  I spend a lot of time building relationships so that my tribe is not only strong, but helps BOOST us forward (sorry, can’t help myself!).  The more time I spend with high energy, intelligent, go-getters that appreciate and value relationships and client delivery, the better.  I want to surround myself and refer to folks who have my clients best interest in mind, instead of simply turning over a quick buck.  People who believe that not every email or introduction is a transaction, and not all yield monetary rewards.  Instead, folks that will take the call to assist and find the right solution.

As BOOST continues to grow, I find I also need colleagues that I value and trust.  As we move together on this crazy journey, the transactional becomes less important and the relationship becomes critical.  I want to be motivated to watch them transform as leaders and gain experience.  I seek to learn from them.  I continue to want to be surrounded by people smarter than myself as well as to be that type of leader for others.

As you strive to push and grow your business, you need your tribe of supporters with whom you can grow.  Like-minded, high energy, similarly valued peeps.  I endeavor to cultivate different skills sets, especially from those opinionated folks who are smarter and faster than I am.  This keeps me on my toes and helps push me to grow with intention.

Who are your peeps and what are their expectations for you?

Failure

One reason BOOST was started back in 2012 was to prove that I wasn’t a complete failure. I had been fired from a job that I loved. It rocked my world and shook me to my core.  I didn’t realize how much of my identity had been wrapped up in my work.  I felt disgraced, rejected and was certain (for a time) that no one would hire me.

Instead of trying to build a better mousetrap, I wanted to prove that I could be successful.  Having something to prove can lead to sheer determination not to fail. But little did I know that failure is sometimes the best thing for you. It leads you to question what has always worked. You are outside your comfort zone.  You see things from a different perspective. You are humbled.  This is where BOOST began…and is one of the best things to have happened in my life.

Critical to running a successful business is the ability to get outside your head and adapt.  The more you fail, the easier it is to adapt.  Successful people fail all the time, but their ability to get up, learn, and go hard charging into the next challenge, while maintaining the passion and drive that they started with, is their differentiator.  As an executive, do you learn from what didn’t work?  Do you take responsibility for your actions?  Do you empower your team to fail?  No one approaches an opportunity or challenge thinking they won’t succeed.  But the reality is that we fail more often than we succeed.  What you take from the failure and how you apply it to the next challenge is what helps determine your success.

With each failure comes an opportunity to learn and adapt.  Constantly adapting to the environment is what distinguishes leaders and organizations from their competition.  Can you change your mindset or do you place blame?  Do you wallow in your failure and stop taking risks?  Or do you press forward into the next challenge with a new perspective?

Do you continue to fail?