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July 2011
Are You an Entrepreneur or a Manure-preneur?
By John Paul Galles

     In order to succeed in business, you must have an optimistic attitude about your business—regardless of economic conditions and the attitudes of those around you.

     Some days it may be hard to get out of bed, but let your optimism kick in and you can make things happen that will be good for you and good for your business.

     Optimism by itself cannot guarantee success, but it sure helps. In fact, economists and corporate entities actually track small business optimism to learn the direction of small business optimism and determine the strength or weakness of the business climate at any given time.

     Just last month, two major organizations found their data at odds. The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that their Small Business Optimism Index was falling. At the same time, the American Express OPEN Small Business Monitor (AMEX) findings indicated an increase in optimism among small business owners.

     NFIB’s news release stated “For the third consecutive month, NFIB’s Small Business Optimism Index fell. While the drop was slight…-.3 points, with the index settling at 90.9 in May—the index makes clear that optimism is moving in the wrong direction; a recession-level reading for an economy fighting its way through a recovery. A leading cause of the low reading is the stubborn problem of weak consumer spending, which is especially problematic for services, a sector dominated by small businesses.”

     The American Express Monitor reports that “small business owners are shifting their focus from surviving to capitalizing on growth opportunities and they’re expecting to hire and make necessary capital investments in their firms, signaling to signs of an economic recovery.”

     They go on to show that more than one-third of small business owners have plans to hire, up nine percentage points from last fall and the highest level since the fall 2008 survey. Also, they indicate that four-in-ten plan to make capital investments, 44 percent up from 38 percent last fall, and that many expect to grow (37 percent) and are willing to take a financial risk to do so (56 percent).

     This is simple proof that numbers are interpreted through the eyes of those reading them. Economists differ. At the same time, those same mixed signals are similar to the reaction of business owners I have encountered lately around the Charlotte region. Some businesses are up; some are down; many are holding near the same.

     An abundance of optimism from many business owners creates a rising tide of business activity that lifts all our boats. More than likely, individual business owners need to be taking actions to diversify, add new products or services, seek new lines of revenue and find ways to grow.

     Nearly everyone has cut expenses as much as they can and they are less likely to spend until their confidence grows and they can be confident they will see a return on their investments. They have de-leveraged substantially.

     Pessimism is the other side of the spectrum. Some say pessimism is simply being realistic and if your reality includes slow collections, slow sales, customer bankruptcies, rising prices, and many other obstacles, then you have reasons to be pessimistic.

     I had to laugh recently when someone described the difference between business people who are optimistic as entrepreneurs and those who are pessimistic as “manure-preneurs”! Which description applies to you? Our recovery does not work unless or until momentum builds from all the entrepreneurs who find ways to grow, build wealth and create jobs.

     So, the optimism index is important to our economic future. It is an indicator of our collective economic direction. The good news is that the indices are mixed. They are not collectively falling. At the same time, they are not collectively rising. Nearly everyone predicted a long, slow recovery. It has been exactly that. It is a slog…a slow and long recovery.

     Keep your personal optimism index high so that you can be even more successful, and, in turn, we will all be more successful.

John Paul Galles is the publisher of Greater Charlotte Biz.
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