Category: Book

Jump over these five hurdles to write your book

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I recently read an article on identifying the five key hurdles that people face when trying to write a book. I wish I had read this article before I wrote How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground, as I might have done it sooner. Any one of these obstacles can stop someone from writing a book, so it can be difficult to overcome all five of them. If you manage to overcome these hurdles, you will be well on your way to getting your thoughts on a page and writing the best book possible.

So, what are the five hurdles that you must jump over to write your first book?

I don’t have the ability to write (“I’m not good enough” myth)

Everyone can write to some degree; we write almost every day. It’s like any skill – practice makes you better. Spend time to improve your writing skills, and work on improving those skills regularly. Work with an editor to make your writing the best it can be.

I don’t know how to write a book (“I need to know more” myth)

People get intimidated by the length of a book. Think of it as a long writing assignment, or a series of essays. Start with a step (a sentence), then write a paragraph, and keep going. Use your writing to share what you know, and you will get there. Again, you can work with an editor or a ghost writer to help you get the words on the page.

Everything is in my head already (“The wisdom will pour out” myth)

Good writing is well constructed – you can’t just spit out what you know onto a page and expect it to become a book. Start with planning and create an outline – bullet points / headings are a great way to start the plan for your book. Don’t try to do it all alone – get a writing partner / join a writing group / work with a coach or mentor to develop the plan.

I am too busy to write a book (“Wait for the perfect moment” myth)

If you wait for the right time to do something, you will alway be waiting. Make a strategic plan to fit writing into your day. There is always time to write – look at what you can cut out of your day (like TV) or write during your free time. Break your writing into small, manageable chunks, like 500 words a day or 20 minutes at a time. Set a timer and do a content dump, and then look at it later.

I am afraid of being criticized or ignored (“You have nothing valuable to say” myth)

Someone will find value in what you write in your book. You have unique skills, experiences and perspectives. There is an audience that can benefit from that knowledge. You must risk exposure to share your experience. Remember – you will never please everyone. Write to a specific audience. Write for yourself.

Conclusion

Overcoming these hurdles will get you on the way to writing your book. You can overcome these hurdles, because you put them there – remove your hurdles. You have a book in you. Leap your hurdles, and you are well on your way to sharing that book with the world.

Do you need help with writing a book, or editing a book that’s almost ready to go? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

How to focus on marketing your small business

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Last year I wrote and published a book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. Over the next week, I will be sharing excerpts from various chapters in the book. Today’s tips comes from the chapter “Extol the virtues of marketing… and invest nothing in it.”

Every company must invest in its marketing and advertising. You cannot rely solely on word of mouth and repeat sales to promote your business and grow your brand. If you’re serious about your business, then make marketing and advertising part of your budget and daily practices.

Follow these basic strategies for marketing and advertising small and medium-sized businesses:

Build marketing and advertising into your budget. Every serious business must develop a budget to allocate and manage its expenses – from payroll to inventory to rent – and marketing and advertising are no exception. Calculate a percentage for marketing and advertising, and dedicate that portion to all related activities. As a general rule, a small to medium-sized business should set aside about five per centof its revenue on marketing activities. Calculate a percentage that makes sense for your business, and work with your accountant to ensure that you can maintain that amount.

Dedicate staff to marketing. Assign one person to manage and track your marketing efforts. It would be ideal to have a department for this endeavour, but not all small companies can invest that much in human resources. Make one person responsible for placing ads, tracking spending, monitoring results, working with sales on campaigns and educating the rest of the staff on what the company is doing with its marketing. This will ensure that the marketing gets done, and is properly tracked, so you know that you are accomplishing your marketing goals and meeting your budget.

Take advantage of free and inexpensive marketing tools. Technology makes it easier to market to a wider audience at various budget levels. Email marketing is virtually free, and is an effective way to market to existing customers. Invest time in building a mailing list (get recipients’ permission first and follow privacy protocols). Make sure to have a website, optimize your SEO and design it to do more than act like a passive brochure. Promote your products and services on your blog, LinkedIn page, Twitter feed, Facebook, Pinterest and whatever social networking sites make sense for your business.

Test, track and repeat. When doing any type of marketing, the key is to test different approaches and determine what works. Try different offers, subjects, headings, wording, etc. Do A/B testing with different groups, track the responses and use the method that pulls the best results. Start with small sample sizes and expand your marketing efforts when you see positive results. Continue testing new methods in small samples, track results, expand your marketing efforts and repeat.

Be consistent in your messaging and approach. Whatever you choose to do for your marketing, be consistent in your messaging. Your message and approach should be consistent across your printed and online marketing strategies. Create a strategy, logo, message, brand and theme, and apply them evenly. Use the same taglines and marketing messages on your business cards, flyers, website, Facebook page, Twitter and LinkedIn sites, and so on. Repeated, consistent messaging is more effective than scattered, inconsistent messages in promoting your company and what it has to offer.

Visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca to view or purchase my book. Thanks!

David Gargaro

 

How to get the most out of meetings

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Last year I wrote and published a book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. Over the next week, I will be sharing excerpts from various chapters in the book. Today’s tips comes from the chapter “Hold regular meetings… that have no purpose.”

Every successful company holds meetings, and some organizations make it a part of the culture. Good meetings can accomplish a lot and help to grow an organization while bringing employees together – philosophically and strategically. When done effectively, they can drive strategy, motivate employees and lay the groundwork for future projects. However, when poorly structured or delivered, meetings can waste time and demotivate employees.

Follow these basic strategies for holding and getting more out of meetings:

Schedule meetings. If you are going to make meetings part of your company’s strategy, then schedule them at regular dates and times. When meetings occur at regularly scheduled times and intervals, employees come to expect and prepare for them, which will help to make the meetings more effective. You can still hold impromptu meetings but these types of meetings should be reserved for special circumstances (e.g., an opportunity arises that must be addressed immediately).

Set an agenda. Every meeting should include an agenda, which outlines what the meeting will discuss. An agenda informs attendees in advance about what will be discussed, which enables them to prepare for questions, understand what to discuss, etc. Of course, leave time to discuss other matters, but stay on agenda to stay on time.

Establish and following meeting protocols. It is important to set a structure for your meeting, whatever you decide to do. Robert’s Rules of Orderis an excellent resource for establishing procedures to run a meeting, assign roles, etc. However, there are many different ways to run a meeting. Find a method that works for your organization, and follow it consistently.

Invite stakeholders. Meetings are effective communication tools when used properly. Only stakeholders / group leaders should attend meetings – in other words, don’t invite every employee in the organization to the meeting if they are not directly involved in what is being discussed. Share meeting results with the rest of the company by newsletter or email.

Make attendees accountable. Meetings should have a purpose, otherwise they become an exercise in futility and a waste of everyone’s time. Ensure that people adhere to decisions made at meetings. Set timelines and goals for what has been decided at the meeting; employees must meet those timelines and goals, or explain why they did not. Use meetings to enforce accountability and outline plans.

Visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca to view or purchase my book. Thanks!

David Gargaro

How to form strategic partnerships

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Last year I wrote and published a book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. Over the next week, I will be sharing excerpts from various chapters in the book. Today’s tips comes from the chapter “Form strategic partnerships… and then alienate your partners.”

Most small businesses understand the benefits of forming strategic partnerships, which include:

  • Providing access to new markets and product knowledge
  • Reducing potential risks
  • Diversifying product lines and markets
  • Accessing new resources
  • Reducing resource costs
  • Strengthening customer and supplier relationships

Strategic partnerships can help all parties involved to grow their businesses, as they provide everyone with access to collective strengths and resources. The whole becomes more than the sum of its parts. Steve was proficient at making strategic partnerships. However, he was woefully ineffective at maintaining these relationships or nurturing them for long-term success. Choosing the wrong partners and treating good partners poorly repeatedly set back Steve’s efforts to grow his business.

Follow these basic strategies to achieve success in forming strategic partnerships:

Choose partners wisely. Look for people and companies that share your values and goals. Ask people you know and trust for suggestions on potential partners. To find viable partners, attend networking events, visit trade associations, read industry publications, and go through other service providers. Don’t fall for easy promises and quick fixes. A properly cultivated business relationship should last for a long time.

Set expectations. Discuss what you both want to achieve from the partnership at the outset of the agreement. This ensures that you both understand what you will truly be getting out of the partnership. Implement a contract and negotiate a formal relationship that clearly spells out everyone’s responsibilities and expectations. Work out how much time and resources you can afford to expend on the partnership, and when you should step away. Put an exit clause in the contract so that you can leave the relationship if it does not work out.

Communicate. Maintain open lines of communication. When a problem or opportunity arises that affects the partnership, talk to your partner as soon as possible. Stay in touch with your partner as often as needed. Clear up any problems or misunderstandings when they arise. Don’t let unclear or contentious issues fester for any length of time, as they can cause great distress and grow larger than necessary.

Set a trial period. Try out the partnership for a limited time to see how the relationship works for everyone involved. See how the partner handles deadlines, evaluate their work style and ethic, and test their commitment levels. It’s a chance to see how you work together. You might be good separately, but not that good together.

Celebrate achievements. Let your partner know when things go well. Make note of your milestones, such as when you hit new sales and profit levels. Thank your partner for work done well. Show them that you are invested in the partnership, as well as your mutual success, and that you appreciate what you’ve achieved together. Demonstrate your thanks by increasing the amount of business you do together.

Visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca to view or purchase my book. Thanks!

David Gargaro

How to make the most of your human resources

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Last year I wrote and published a book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. Over the next week, I will be sharing excerpts from various chapters in the book. Today’s tips comes from the chapter “Hire good people… and waste their talent.”

People are a company’s most valuable resources. Finding great employees is one aspect of building a successful business – you have to train them properly and treat them well so that they can help the company to grow. Making the wrong hiring decisions, or having a high turnover rate, can waste a lot of resources and cause long-term damage to your organization.

Follow these basic strategies to make the most of your human resources:

Understand your employees’ true value. Human resources are a significant investment. It takes time and funds to find, interview, hire and train new employees. High turnover rates are more expensive than you think, as there is a cost to train new hires (as well as the lost cost invested in people who leave). Employees also help to differentiate your company from your competitors because they provide skills and services that are unique to them. They interact with clients and help to determine your success. Treat employees as an investment in your company that pays back more when you invest in their well being.

Invest in onboarding. Hiring new employees is one step in the chain. Make sure that they transition into working for you as smoothly as possible. Develop guidelines and procedures that enable new employees to learn your systems and their duties in an efficient way. Work with current employees to develop processes that work for them. Be prepared before a new employee begins working for you so that they can begin contributing as soon as possible.

Use positive and constructive reviews. Provide employees with regularly scheduled progress reviews. Discuss where they are strong, and where they need to improve. Provide constructive suggestions on how they can improve. Ask for their input on what they need to do to improve, and how they plan to improve. Involve employees in the process and make them accountable for their development. Set expectations for job performance, but do not continue to raise expectations to the point where the employee cannot meet your goals (without some additional compensation and resources to meet those goals). People are not machines, and they cannot continue to increase output without burning out.

Let employees do their jobs. You hire employees to perform certain tasks or achieve specific goals in their jobs, so let them do it. Allow them the freedom to take initiative. Maintain an open door policy so that employees can come to you when needed, but give them the latitude to make decisions based on established protocols. Use benchmarks and goal setting to ensure that employees can track and evaluate their performance.

Reward success. Employees want to know that they are appreciated for helping the company to succeed. Implement a bonus system that provides monetary or other types of compensation for individual and company achievements. Give awards and bonuses to the team, as well as the individual, for group achievements. Provide opportunities for growth in the organization, as well as extra responsibilities.

Visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca to view or purchase my book. Thanks!

David Gargaro

How to protect personal relationships while growing your business

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Last year I wrote and published a book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. Over the next week, I will be sharing excerpts from various chapters in the book. Today’s tips comes from the chapter “Work with friends and family… and treat them like strangers.”

Many entrepreneurs and small businesses hire friends and family to help run the company. They are great sources of cheap (or free) labour, funding and advice, and they can often be trusted to do what’s in the company’s best interests. There is a level of comfort in being around friends and family. You’re familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, and there is a reasonable expectation that they’ll do their best to help you succeed.

Every business relationship that involves working with friends and family can also be fraught with issues, since working in close quarters and trying to operate a business can strain personal relationships. Steve was fortunate to have a large network of family and friends who were willing and able to help him with his business. However, he consistently treated them poorly and put the company’s interests above his personal relationships.

Follow these basic strategies to protect your personal relationships while helping to grow your business:

Establish a foundation. Set the ground rules for the relationship at the beginning of the process. Explain each person’s role and responsibilities as you would with any employee. Avoid giving special treatment on the job, and be clear in what is expected from the individual. You’re the boss, and you are running a business, so everyone needs to perform their duties to the required standards.

Match the person to the job. Make sure that your friend or family member can do the job. In other words, hire based on merit rather than personal relationships. They don’t have to be the most qualified person, but they should be capable and willing to do the job. Consider additional training if new skills or knowledge are required due to changes in technology or processes over time.

Separate business and pleasure.You have two different lives with friends and family – on and off the job. Keep your personal and business conversations separate, and clearly differentiate between the two areas. Try to keep personal talk out of the office, and avoid talking business when in personal settings. Avoid mixing the two worlds whenever possible.

Be fair.Don’t give friends and family special treatment at the workplace. At the same time, don’t place higher expectations on them just because you have a personal relationship. This will show them and other employees that you believe in fair treatment for everyone when it comes to the workplace. (Note: We all know that friends and family members receive different treatment. But there has to be some level of fairness on the job, as you could lose good employees who feel that they are getting the short end of the stick.)

Employ mediators.There are times when it makes sense to put someone between you and your family and friends. It would be ideal to have them dealing with a manager or other employee instead of you for daily interactions. The goal is to insulate the relationship on the job to keep an arm’s length distance, particularly when you must convey difficult information.

Visit Amazon.com or Amazon.ca to view or purchase my book. Thanks!

David Gargaro

How to make the jump from client work to your own projects

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Someone asked me about how to make the jump from client work to your own money-generating projects. This person wanted to work on passion projects, such as writing a book, instead of always taking on their clients’ assignments, which took a lot of time and energy away from their personal projects.

There are several arguments about how to do this. The traditional, safer approach is to keep your clients and make time to work on your own income-generating projects. There is always time in your day (when you are watching TV, surfing online, etc.) to put some work toward your projects. You can stop working on a client’s project for an hour or two to budget for your projects. You might think that you have to spend all your hours on your client’s project until it is done, but this is rarely the case. They have deadlines, and as long as they are not unreasonable deadlines, you can divide your time accordingly.

You can also create more time for your projects by outsourcing time-wasting activities (such as responding to emails, bookkeeping, phone calls, etc.). Think about how much you charge per hour, and how much time is wasted on activities that you can outsource to someone else who charges much less than you do. Read The Four-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss for some great ideas on being more efficient with your time.

The more radical approach, which is often taken by the very successful, involves dumping some or all of your clients to focus strictly on your income-generating projects. If you want to work on your projects only and become successful doing so, then you must ignore everything else that interferes with that goal. Is it scary and dangerous? Of course. But how can you be a truly successful writer, or create a truly successful business, if you do not spend ALL of your time and energy pursuing that goal? It is very difficult (I will not say impossible) to achieve that success if you don’t focus on it exclusively.

We all have obligations, such as family, bills and so on. Of course, you want to earn a living. But to succeed, you must focus on the goal. You can do it more slowly and get there eventually if you find time every day to work at it. Want to get there more quickly? Forget everything else and work on the goal.

You can also stop looking for new clients. Keep the clients you want that make you money, and spend the rest of your time on your business goal. Increase your rates and keep the best-paying clients who provide the most rewarding work. Spend all your other working / waking hours on your freelance writing, income-generating activities, building the business you want, or whatever it is that you truly want to do.

If you are afraid of failure, than you will never truly succeed. You have to take some risk to achieve results. Of course, you can succeed more slowly and get there eventually. Slow and steady gets you there. Take a single step, then another, and you can achieve your goal.

Check out the book that I wrote (my personal project): How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground

Five steps to creative problem solving

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Some time ago, I came across a book called Beyond the Power of Your Subconscious Mind by C. James Jensen. The book describes the relationship between the conscious and subconscious mind, and provides tools that people can use to solve the biggest problem in their lives. It also explains what people can do to use their subconscious mind to their benefit.

James’ book discusses (among other things) using the power of suggestion and self-talk, using the power of visualization, and (what interested me most) using five steps to achieve creative problem solving.

The five steps of creative problem solving are as follows:

  1. Define the problem. Write it down. Make sure you clarify the problem and know as best as you possibly can what it is that needs to be resolved.
  2. Gather data. This could be data stored in your subconscious from your past experiences. You may also hire experts or consultants, research written material, browse the Internet, etc. This shouldn’t take a lot of time, but get the input you need as quickly as you can.
  3. Attempt to solve the problem consciously. Work on the problem. Ask yourself, “Is there a black and white solution here? Are there options I can look at? What are they?” If you don’t have a clear solution, take a break and sleep on it.
  4. Turn it over to your supraconscious mind. Let your inner mind go to work for you. Tell it you need the best solution and when.
  5. Get your conscious mind busy elsewhere. Take a break. Go do something else. Go shopping, play golf, head to the health club, go fishing, read, etc.

How do you go about solving problems? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

Six tips on breaking the worry habit

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Have you read Dale Carnegie’s How to Stop Worrying and Start Living? If you haven’t, then you should, especially if you’re looking for a way to ease stress from worry. It has some great insights on how to reduce and eliminate the amount of worry in one’s life. I must admit that I get preoccupied with minor nuisances and issues from time to time.

Here are six tips on breaking the worry habit (before it breaks you):

  1. Find ways to keep busy to remove worry from your mind – occupy yourself with activities that are productive and will help you to overcome your worries.
  2. Don’t let little things ruin your happiness – they are not worth the effort.
  3. Use the law of averages to eliminate worry – if something is very unlikely to happen, then don’t worry about it.
  4. Cooperate with the inevitable – if something is going to happen anyway and is beyond your control, accept it and the consequences.
  5. State how much anxiety something is worth – and don’t give it any more thought than what it is worth.
  6. Leave the past where it belongs – there is no point in worrying about things long dead.

Think about each one of these tips individually. They can truly help you to reduce and eliminate the amount of time you spend worrying about things. And if you have any tips of your own, let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground: Sample chapters

How to RUN Your company...into the ground.jpgA couple of months ago, I published How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground (Amazon.ca and Amazon.com, if you’re interested). To follow is the introduction and the opening chapter, for those of you who are interested in reading it.

*****

How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground

By David Gargaro

Introduction

Why would anyone write a book about how to fail in business? It seems counterintuitive. You don’t have to be an expert to fail. People go out of business every day. It’s not that hard to do. And why would anyone want to read about how to run your business into the ground?

Well, there are three key reasons why you should keep reading – and why I wrote this book:

  1. We learn more from our failures than we do from our successes.
  2. Understanding what not to do in business can help you to identify what you should do to succeed.
  3. Some stories are so ridiculous (and true) that they just must be told.

How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground is the (mostly) true story of my time with a small publishing company that is somehow still in business today. The hapless owner of this enterprise had many chances to grow and succeed, but he found numerous ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. He made every mistake in the book, and some that he invented.

Please note that most participants’ names have been changed to protect the innocent… especially me. While the facts are true as I remember them, the main character is very litigious. He’s been sued a lot(and he has also sued a lot of people), so I would rather not end up in court with someone who has that much experience with the process.

Background

Steve (not his real name) is the owner and founder of FastNotes (not its real name), a small company that has been in business for more than 20 years. Its main function is to publish “cheat sheets” that summarize and explain college and university subjects, such as mathematics, chemistry, literature, history, law and anatomy, as well as software, health and safety, general interest, business and more.

FastNotes initially hired me to write and edit its titles on a freelance basis. I later created the role of Managing Editor, where I was responsible for developing the style guide, hiring and training freelance writers and editors, creating new cheat sheets, and performing other duties. As it was a small company, I participated in many other company functions. For example, I attended a few trade shows, worked with sales to create marketing materials, developed and managed the company’s website, wrote a newsletter and interacted with customers.

During my seven years with the company, I outlasted three design managers, seven sales managers, and an untold number of salespeople and other office staff. I witnessed several rounds of growth and decline, as well as good and bad moments. There was a time when I was proud to be part of something that I helped to grow; I was responsible for increasing productivity, as well as improving and expanding the product line. I left because I could not stand to work another day in such a hostile environment. That is a chapter (or a book) unto itself.

What you’ll learn

Steve made a lot of mistakes in running FastNotes, and any one of those critical errors could have ruined the company. He managed to survive due to perseverance, a little bit of luck and a lot of financial backing from his in-laws. We learn from our failures and the failures of others. You’ll learn about Steve’s mistakes, why they were harmful and the consequences of those missteps. You’ll also receive tips, suggestions and advice on how to handle the situation properly so that you don’t make the same mistakes (and achieve the right results).

This book covers the following topics, each with its own chapter:

  • Working with friends and family
  • Forming strategic partnerships
  • Hiring the right people
  • Developing new products and markets
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Expanding your operations
  • Budgeting and financing
  • Holding meetings
  • Listening to experts
  • Planning

I hope that you enjoy reading How to Run Your Company…. Into the Ground, and learn something along the way. And, of course, don’t make too many of these critical mistakes in running your small business. I don’t want you to be as foolish or careless as Steve… if that’s even possible.

Disclaimer:This book offers general advice on how to more effectively run a small business. The tips and suggestions are based upon my observations of what someone did wrong in running their specific business, as well as what I’ve learned along the way. This book IS NOT intended to solve your specific problems with your business, as I don’t know you or your particular situation. I am not a professional business consultant. I am simply reporting on what I’ve learned and observed. Please take my advice for what it is – useful and informative, but not directive. In other words, please do not thank or blame me for whatever happens if you follow my advice. Make your own decisions, and consult with a trained professional who understands you and your business. Enjoy the read!

 

Work with friends and family… and treat them like strangers.

Steve was a true entrepreneur, and he was always looking for ways to earn a buck with some new idea or venture. Soon after graduating from university, he created and sold a “cheat sheet” version of the periodic table of the elements. It became a hot seller among university students in chemistry and other science programs. This led Steve to launch a publishing company that he called PaperMaker (not its real name), which he later rebranded as FastNotes (a few years after I arrived on the scene).

Steve’s entrepreneurial business was initially a one-man show. As his business grew, he brought in people to help him handle the tasks that he did not have the time or ability to do himself. As with most entrepreneurs and small businesses, he started working with the people he knew best – his family and friends. His wife became his business partner, his brother worked in sales and his sister-in-law took on various duties around the office. Steve also hired friends, friends of friends and colleagues to fill various roles, such as brokering print services, engaging in various sales functions, doing product development, purchasing supplies, financing and so on.

What went wrong?

Steve did not always play well with others. He tended to see people as resources that could help him to achieve a goal. He treated people well when they were deemed “useful” and less so when they were not. (I’ll talk about about how he treated employees in future chapters.) Some might rationalize the fact that many successful employers are tough on employees and stakeholders, particularly when someone “drops the ball” in business. However, it is very difficult to justify how Steve treated his family and friends.

Steve had many arguments with his wife about business operations – he let his business life affect his personal life. However, he took it (relatively) easy on her because she was a lot tougher than him. Also, her family was responsible for much of FastNotes’ funding (especially when the company was having financial difficulties). Steve would never risk his nest egg, nor did he have the fortitude to stand up to his wife.

Of course, that did not stop Steve from mistreating other family members and friends. He would regularly fire and later re-hire his print broker, who was one of his long-time best friends. He would regularly hire and fire friends who helped with content development. I had to fire someone he hired once I became Managing Editor as part of my new duties because he didn’t want to do it himself. Steve regularly broke business relationships with friends who were suppliers or service providers, and then tried to appease them later, making promises that he could never keep. He repeatedly abused personal relationships over the course of his business relationship.

Nothing stands out more vividly than how Steve destroyed his relationship with his brother, Chuck (not his real name). Chuck was a salesman who later became sales manager – after Steve fired another sales manager. Steve regularly heaped verbal abuse on his brother when sales fell below various targets or deals did not come through. They also had arguments about ethical issues – that is, Chuck did not like some of Steve’s business practices. For example, Steve bought flowers for a family member’s funeral and charged it as a business expense.

Chuck finally quit FastNotes because he and Steve could not agree on how much he was owed in commissions. This is the polite way of saying that Steve tried to shortchange Chuck on what he earned in direct sales commissions. After working for a short time with a national retailer, Chuck went to work with FastNotes’ biggest competitor! He is currently responsible for increasing his company’s sales, which involves taking clients and sales away from FastNotes. I hear that family functions at Steve’s house are very chilly affairs.

How to do it right

Many entrepreneurs and small businesses hire friends and family to help run the company. They are great sources of cheap (or free) labour, funding and advice, and they can often be trusted to do what’s in the company’s best interests. There is a level of comfort in being around friends and family. You’re familiar with their strengths and weaknesses, and there is a reasonable expectation that they’ll do their best to help you succeed.

Every business relationship that involves working with friends and family can also be fraught with issues, since working in close quarters and trying to operate a business can strain personal relationships. Steve was fortunate to have a large network of family and friends who were willing and able to help him with his business. However, he consistently treated them poorly and put the company’s interests above his personal relationships.

Steve should have followed these basic strategies to protect his personal relationships while helping to grow his business:

Establish a foundation. Set the ground rules for the relationship at the beginning of the process. Explain each person’s role and responsibilities as you would with any employee. Avoid giving special treatment on the job, and be clear in what is expected from the individual. You’re the boss, and you are running a business, so everyone must perform their duties to the required standards.

Match the person to the job. Make sure that your friend or family member can do the job. In other words, hire based on merit rather than personal relationships. They don’t have to be the most qualified person, but they should be capable and willing to do the job. Consider additional training if new skills or knowledge are required due to changes in technology or processes over time.

Separate business and pleasure.You have two different lives with friends and family – on and off the job. Keep your personal and business conversations separate, and clearly differentiate between the two areas. Try to keep personal talk out of the office, and avoid talking business when in personal settings. Avoid mixing the two worlds whenever possible.

Be fair.Don’t give friends and family special treatment at the workplace. At the same time, don’t place higher expectations on them just because you have a personal relationship. This will show them and other employees that you believe in fair treatment for everyone when it comes to the workplace. (Note: We all know that friends and family members receive different treatment. But there has to be some level of fairness on the job, as you could lose good employees who feel that they are getting the short end of the stick.)

Employ mediators.There are times when it makes sense to put someone between you and your family and friends. It would be ideal to have them dealing with a manager or other employee instead of you for daily interactions. The goal is to insulate the relationship on the job to keep an arm’s length distance, particularly when you must convey difficult information.

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I hope that enjoyed reading this excerpt from my book, How to Run Your Company… Into the Ground. If you have any questions or comments, please send me an email to contact @ davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro