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Archive for Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Network with business owners before starting own

April 25, 2006

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Q: I was recently terminated from my job, the first time this has happened to me. What advice would you give to someone who would like to start his or her own business but has limited income to finance it? - Sheldon

A: Dale: Being fired is liked being jilted by a girlfriend; your emotional gyroscope might have been knocked off-kilter. Kent Craven, who works with potential franchisees - many of whom have been laid-off - tells me that he has a test: He asks the candidates if they have a resume and "if they light up, then reach into the briefcase and pull out a resume like they are brandishing Excalibur," he deduces that they're still emotionally attached to their employment history, and that they really want a job, not a business. Here's another test: Network through friends and spend some time with business owners. The reality of self-employment is better and worse than most people imagine. You'll not only see what their world is like, but you might solve your capital problem. I know one man who became an apprentice to a business owner, becoming an assistant manager, but with an agreement that eventually they'd open a new location together, as partners.

Kate: Many states have microloan programs for people who are low income. Just go to Google and key in "micro loan" and see what pops up. This might take a tiny bit of research - you call one place and they refer you somewhere else - but it's worth it. Some organizations even provide grants, so long as you attend their courses and follow their program. In addition, there are plenty of free workshops around. Check with your local Small Business Administration to see what it offers.

Dale: Meanwhile, you can work on your resume and your referrals, recontacting managers prior to the most recent one. That will help you sort out if what you really need is a great boss, or no boss at all.

Q: A subordinate of mine is sleeping with the president of the company and is making my life miserable. She challenges me at meetings, does not follow my instructions and generally wreaks havoc in my department. I'm afraid of what she might tell the president. What can I do? - Karen

A: Kate: This reminds me of an old "Twilight Zone" episode where a 6-year-old has the ability to transform those who displease him. For instance, he turns one man into a jack-in-the-box. So everyone was extremely cautious around this kid, flattering him and walking on eggshells. And you, Karen, have no real choice but to do likewise. Your president has set up a dysfunctional environment, and you have an employee who's too dangerous to have around. You will lose your job. Because you can't fire her, you must help her move on. Ask about her ambitions, and help her get promoted to another part of the company. Whatever you do, don't have a sit-down with the president. He's clearly insensible. There will be no reasoning with him. I'm sure someone suggested to President Clinton that he stop playing around, but those suggestions don't work.

Dale: It happens that I actually experienced this early in my career. One of my employees was sleeping with the company's owner. However, it wouldn't have made much of a "Twilight Zone" script. I made her an ally, prompting her to lobby for more resources for our department. It worked. Eventually we devised a new job for her, one that had her reporting directly to the owner, and we remained allies. It worked because, unlike the owner, I resisted temptation - in my case, the temptation to moralize. In most organizations, if you stop being outraged that you have to "play politics" and just learn to play, demons can become angels. Kate and I agree on this much: You need to help the employee get a new position in the company, and not confront her or your boss.

- Kate Wendleton is the founder of The Five O'Clock Club, a national career counseling network. Dale Dauten is the founder of The Innovators' Lab.

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