7 Obstacles That Prevent People From Starting Businesses (And How To Overcome Them)

Millions of people dream of becoming entrepreneurs, but they never take that all-important first step. Too many things get in the way of their pursuit of business ownership, or they keep convincing themselves that their dream isn’t realistic. 

If you ever want to move past this phase and found your own business, you need to acknowledge the specific obstacles that are holding you back and work to resolve them. Here are seven of the most common challenges that may be standing between you and your entrepreneurial dreams—and ways you can kick them to the curb. 

1. Financial limitations

Launching a business takes money, and most people don’t have ample cash to throw at a startup. There are several options here. First off, you could begin saving now for the funds to establish your business. If you shop for a better mortgage and reduce your house payments by refinancing, you can sock the savings away in your startup fund. You can trim costs in other areas to put away a few hundred dollars each month or save even more by picking up a side gig.

Barring that, you can secure funding in a variety of ways, such as borrowing from friends and family, crowdfunding, seeking loans and grants or even working with angel investors and venture capitalists. There’s always a way forward. 

2. Inexperience

Becoming a successful entrepreneur typically demands experience; you need to understand your industry and business management in general if you want to earn a living from your venture. When you have limited experience, you may be reluctant to move forward, and understandably so.

You can make up for this, however, by actively seeking the experience you lack. Take an online course to gain a grasp of business management basics. Strive for a leadership position with your current employer so you’ll acquire strategic planning and people management skills. Work with a mentor or shadow an entrepreneur you admire. 

3. No standout idea

You can’t build a business if you don’t have a promising idea for a product or service you can sell. Without a solid business plan, you won’t be able to convince investors or partners to join you—and you won’t even know where to begin. Unfortunately, this is one of the least “fudgeable” obstacles on this list. Without a good idea, you can’t start a business, period.

Luckily, there are ways to stimulate better idea generation, such as talking to a broad range of people, reading entrepreneurial content and taking a more robust approach to brainstorming. Techniques like mind mapping and word banking can get your creative juices flowing. 

4. Current responsibilities

Some people avoid starting a business because of existing responsibilities or constraints on their time. Their current full-time job, their status as a parent or other personal responsibilities hold them back from their entrepreneurial ambitions.

Here the best approach is to determine how much of an impact these responsibilities have and consider ways to delegate or remove them. Could you realistically quit your day job, for example, or hire someone to help with household duties or childcare?  

5. Fear of failure

Lack of confidence is an entrepreneurship killer. It’s true that the failure rate for new businesses is relatively high, with half of new companies failing within five years. To buck those odds, you’ll need a healthy dose of confidence in yourself and your idea. 

The only solution to a fear of failure is to change your mindset. You have to see failure as an opportunity for learning and growth and stop seeing it as the end of the road, an indictment of your abilities or a stain on your character. Reading accounts by successful entrepreneurs will inspire you to see the possibilities rather than focusing only on the risks.  

6. Aversion to stress or hard work

Starting and running a business demands a lot of effort. You’ll likely be putting in long hours and dealing with stressful issues. On top of that, your first few years are apt to be highly inconsistent, with your business only making a profit some of the time. This can wreak havoc on your finances and peace of mind. If you’re not feeling up to this kind of pressure, or if you’re loath to work more than 40 hours a week, entrepreneurship may not be for you.

Again, the only way around this obstacle is to change your attitude. Remember that all this hard work will be in service to yourself, not an employer. While the risks are on you, so are the rewards.

7. Poor timing

One of the most common excuses you’ll hear (or hear yourself saying) is that it’s “just not the right time” to start a business. The truth is, there’s never a truly “right” time—you can always find some reason that today, or this month or this year isn’t ideal for launching your venture. 

But like beginning a diet on a Wednesday or joining a gym in February, the trick is to make your own right time. Microsoft was born during the oil crisis of the 1970s, while Airbnb and Uber were founded in the depths of the Great Recession. Remind yourself that the success of your business will depend not on “the times” but on you.

The Realities of Entrepreneurship

It’s true that anyone can become an entrepreneur with enough grit and persistence. Most entrepreneurs with solid ideas have a good chance of becoming successful if they remain adaptable. But it’s also important to realize that not everyone is cut out for entrepreneurship

If you’re intimidated by the stress, inconsistency and long hours associated with startup life, or if you truly love your day job and you’re afraid to leave, maybe business ownership isn’t right for you. That said, if you feel the pull of entrepreneurship but keep making excuses to avoid getting started, you owe it to yourself to challenge those excuses and try to move past them.

This article was written by Serenity Gibbons and published on Forbes.com.

Navigating Life’s Transitions


Navigating Life’s Transitions By Rewriting Your Story

Your plans for the future are really a story that you tell yourself. Some of the chapters are easy to imagine and plan, like buying your first home, sending your kids to college, or picking out dream retirement destinations with your spouse. But life has a way of throwing unexpected plot twists at you, such as, say, a global pandemic that upends how you live and work. If you feel like your story has lost some of its most important plot threads, use this three-step method to find a new happy ending and navigate life’s transitions.

  1. Accept

An unexpected job loss. The death of a loved one. Losing your home in a fire. A major illness.

Life is never the same after you experience these kinds of unexpected transitions. Your lifestyle might change. Perhaps your relationships might change. Your daily routine might change. And your long-term personal, professional, and financial goals might have to change as well.

Letting in feelings like sadness, embarrassment, and fear can be very challenging. If you’re having trouble expressing yourself to your spouse or another confidant, try journaling. Getting your thoughts and emotions down on paper can help open you up for the conversations you’re going to need to have as you navigate through this new transition.

  1. Edit

Now that you’ve accepted this change in your life, you need to figure out how you’re going to adapt to it. Big transitions often feel so overwhelming that they can be paralyzing. Where do you start?

Start with today.

Break the new transition down into smaller parts. What is one thing on your list that you can accomplish today and that you can build on tomorrow? If your doctor says you have to start eating better, make a new shopping list. Need to exercise more? Buy a pair of running shoes. Brush up your resume so you can start a job hunt. Register for an online class that will help you make a career change. If it’s time to tighten the family belt, cancel that streaming subscription you never use.

Racking up smaller daily wins will make this new transition feel a little more manageable every single day. You might also create some new habits that will make you healthier, happier, and more productive.

  1. Rewrite

In the moment, unexpected transitions can feel like an end. But as you gain personal momentum from your new routine, you’ll start to see that there are opportunities ahead of you as well. And when you finally close this chapter, you can start writing a new one.

Some of the details in this revised chapter might be a little different than you imagined before. But not all change is bad. Maybe, instead of retiring to that beachfront condo, you remodel the family home and have your grandkids over more often. If you have to hang up your tennis racket, taking long walks with your spouse could be a new way to exercise, unwind, and spend time together. Now that one phase of your career is over, it might be time to promote yourself to CEO of your own company.

If you’re really struggling to see a way through an unexpected transition, here’s an easy daily win to get you started: get in touch with us. We can review your $Lifeline in-person or over a video chat to figure out if any of your anticipated transitions need to be edited. We can also coordinate with other professionals like your attorney or accountant to iron out any other major adjustments you might need to make.

No matter how your life story continues to change, we’re here to help you make the next chapter the best one yet.

You can also find some great resources for transition on the AARP website.

6 Easy Ways to Ruin Your Retirement

6 Easy Steps to Ruin Your Retirement

Many people I know have concluded that retirement was worth waiting for and worth planning for. Those who planned well (and who are lucky enough to have good health) are generally finding this to be a very satisfying time in their lives. But those who didn’t plan well or who couldn’t save enough are finding that retirement can be difficult.

My commitment is to help people, but this week I’m switching roles so I can give you some dynamite tips for having an unhappy retirement. (Of course, what I’m really advocating is that you do not do these things.)

Don’t save enough money.

Spend (and borrow) whatever it takes to keep yourself and your family happy. You can always catch up later when you get into your peak earning years, when the kids are gone, or when you’re finally finished paying for whatever else is more important right now.

The likely result: You could find yourself in “panic mode” in your 50s and 60s. You could have to work longer than you want. Another popular choice, you could have to reduce your living standards after your work life is through. You could fall prey to persuasive salespeople (see my final tip below) who do not have your best interests at heart. Or maybe even all of the above.

Be careless about how you plan and budget for retirement expenses.

When I was an advisor, I was amazed how many investors neglected to include taxes as a cost of living in retirement. If you’re living off of distributions from a non-Roth IRA or 401(k), the full amount of those distributions is likely to be taxable. For extra credit: Don’t spend any money on a financial advisor to help you plan.

The likely result: You may go into “panic mode” when your accountant hands you an unexpected tax bill.

Lock in your expectations about your life in retirement and make rigid financial decisions.

There are plenty of ways to do this. You could sell your house and move somewhere cheaper even though you don’t know anybody there. Another option, you could buy a fixed annuity to have an income that’s certain. You could fail to establish an emergency fund. (After all, what could go wrong?) You could get sick or need surgery that isn’t covered by Medicare or other insurance.

The likely result: Things will happen that you don’t expect, probably sending you once again into “panic mode” and making you vulnerable to the pitches from all manner of enthusiastic salespeople.

Ignore inflation, since it doesn’t seem like a current problem.

Assume that $1,000 will buy roughly the same “basket of goods and services” in 2026 and 2036 that it will today. Be confident that you know what the future holds. After all, the years of high inflation that are often cited happened a long time ago. Things are different now.

The likely result: You probably won’t be thrust into “panic mode” since inflation is usually gradual. But one day you will realize with a start that things are costing a lot more than they “should,” and your income can’t keep up.

Keep all your money where it’s “safe,” in fixed income.

You’ll have lots of company among current retirees whose “golden” years are being tarnished because they have to rely on today’s historically low interest rates. Don’t just blindly invest in equities, because, as we all know, you can lose money in the stock market.

The likely result: You may start retirement with sufficient income to meet your needs, but those needs will probably increase, especially for health care, in your later retirement years. Your fixed income may be safe, but it won’t expand to meet increased needs.

Attend investment seminars and trust the presenters, then make important decisions without getting a second professional opinion.

You could follow the unfortunate example of a couple I know who, in their 50s, attended a retirement seminar and got some bad advice. They met privately with the presenter/saleswoman, then rolled their entire retirement accounts into a variable annuity. They thought they were giving themselves good returns, future flexibility and saving a lot of money in taxes.

In reality, they gave themselves huge headaches and nearly lost half their life savings. I helped them fight the unpleasant (and ultimately successful) battle to get out of their contract and recover their money.

This couple could teach us all some lessons, but the terms of their settlement makes that unlikely. If they disclose that they got their money back, or if they disclose how they were deceived and cheated, they will have to give the money back to the insurance company.

The likely results: You will be disappointed in the decisions you make. You will have many reasons to never trust an investment sales pitch again. You will have less money in retirement than if you had never heard of that particular seminar.

So now you have it: Six easy steps to ruin your retirement. I hope, of course, that you do just the opposite of each one of these. Unfortunately, I think there’s a high likelihood that somebody you know has fallen into one or more of these traps.

My advice: Learn from their mistakes.

INVEST IN YOU: READY. SET. GROW. Looking for a job? Coronavirus-related layoffs expanding roles for freelancers in these hot sectors

Maskot | Getty Images

Thursday’s report from the Labor Department that 1.5 million people filed new state unemployment claims last week serves as a stark reminder that the impact from the Covid-19 economic fallout is very much persisting.

For those seeking work amid the coronavirus pandemic, there is a bright spot: According to the annual “Future of the Workforce Report” from Upwork, opportunities abound right now for the independent professional. With the unemployment rate at 13.5% and a rapidly changing labor market, hiring managers are accelerating the use of freelancers, says the global freelance job platform.

The survey finds that 45% of hiring managers expect freezes on new staff, while 39% expect layoffs to continue in the coming months. At the same time, close to three-quarters (73%) of hiring managers are looking to maintain or expand their hiring of independent professionals, with a typical employment length of about four months. Nearly half of all hiring managers surveyed said that they are now more likely to use these freelancers as a result of Covid-19.

Upwork’s annual report surveyed 1,500 hiring managers, once in November of 2019 and again in April of 2020, after the coronavirus outbreak. 

“This remote work experiment will also have long-term implications for the traditional ways of hiring,” Upwork’s chief economist Adam Ozimek told CNBC in an email. “As companies embrace more remote work, they will also see that this opens up opportunities for how they think about hiring, recruiting and their workforce as a whole. They will no longer be confined to just their local labor markets but can find the most skilled talent, regardless of their location, that best meets their business needs.” 

Flexible work: Not just a short-term solution

The most popular fields for short-term project work are writing, creative, web and software development positions, according to the Upwork survey. Hiring managers cited projects focused on motion graphic design, front-end data development, internet marketing and web analytics.

“For many the reliance on independent talent and a more flexible workforce is not just a short-term solution but a long-term strategy that will enable businesses to stay competitive and agile as they accelerate into the future,” Ozimek said. 

Employers are also on the lookout for candidates with transferable soft skills and more foundational skills, such as customer service and problem solving

The growth rate of full-time remote work is expected to more than double from 30% to 65% within the next five years.

With the coronavirus pandemic making in-person hiring impossible in many cases, recruiters and hiring professionals are adopting virtual platforms to conduct interviews and speak with candidates.  

WATCH NOWVIDEO08:25Searching for a job? The answer might not be online

The transition to a remote working environment for most white-collar and corporate employees has several benefits, including no commute, less time spent on nonessential meetings, and limited distractions that are typically commonplace while working in the office. Working remotely has provided employees with increased flexibility, and 59% of hiring managers expect that companies who do not adapt to these more flexible conditions are at risk of becoming less competitive. 

“Covid-19 has thrown many companies and workers into the deep end when it comes to trying remote work. But what most are finding is that remote work really does work. … Lack of commute, reduction of nonessential meetings, greater autonomy and, most importantly, increased productivity. … These benefits will be hard to give up,” Ozimek said.

This article was written by Nicole Dienst for CNBC.com

Gain Personal Momentum Coming Out of the Pandemic

Part 1: Better Habits for a Healthier Mind

Since the Covid-19 outbreak we’ve all had to make adjustments so that we could cover our basic needs, care for our loved ones, and remain productive during quarantine. No matter how well you’ve adapted to these extraordinary circumstances, there’s probably a part of you that feels like you’ve been just trying to get through the next day. But it’s important that we create some personal momentum as life returns to normal, so we can hit the ground running.

And, to your credit, you have!

But as the country begins to reopen, it’s time to stop “getting by” and start approaching our lives and work with the same vigor we had before the pandemic. Regaining our old momentum isn’t going to be as easy as flipping a switch. So we asked some leading experts on behavior and peak performance what mental strategies they would recommend to help us start building personal momentum as we approach, hopefully, the end of quarantine life.

  1. Live in your “Present Box.”

Licensed clinical psychologist Dr. Beth Kurland says that evolution instilled a “wandering mind” in humans as a survival mechanism. We’re never totally in the present because our survival instinct is constantly reminding us of things we overcame in the past and alerting us to potential future dangers. Dr. Kurland says, “In this pandemic of uncertainty, these kinds of mental ruminations can really increase a lot of the anxiety that people are experiencing.”

The more that we focus on the here and now, the less anxious we are going to be, and the more motivated we will feel to tackle immediate problems. To help achieve this mental shift, Dr. Kurland recommends drawing two large boxes on a sheet of paper. Label one “The Present,” and label the other “What If?” Then, write the things that are occupying your mind in the appropriate box. According to Dr. Kurland, separating what’s happening right now from what could happen helps us “to really think about what is in our sphere of influence, what we have personal agency and control over.”

Yes, eventually, you might have to move some of those “What Ifs?” into your “Present” box. But for the moment, try to imagine putting a lid on your “What Ifs?” and structure your time around what you need to do – and can do – today.

  1. More Teflon, less Velcro.

Psychologist Rick Hanson says, “The mind is like Velcro for negative experiences and Teflon for positive ones.” The anxiety and worry we’re all experiencing during quarantine only enhances our tendency to dwell on the negative and overlook the many good things we have in our lives.

Dr. Kurland believes that an added benefit of her Two Boxes exercise is that the more present we are, the more likely we are to notice and appreciate the positive. For example, many of us are feeling closer to our extended friends and families thanks to Zoom calls and care packages. Other folks have used the working from home experience to chart new career paths.

However, a Teflon mindset doesn’t mean boxing away some of the real emotional hardships you’ve experienced during the pandemic. Instead, Dr. Kurland encourages us to find a healthy balance between letting our feelings in and not letting them keep us down.

“I think it’s really important to acknowledge and have an opportunity to process those emotions,” Dr. Kurland says. “But try to both hold a space for the grief, the sadness that may be there, and also really find ways to notice the moments where we can really appreciate the positive things that we can take in. The warm glance from a family member or a kind word from a coworker. These kinds of things that really, as we take them in, can help us to get through a difficult day, a difficult moment.”

  1. Separate good stress from bad stress.

“Stress is good to a certain extent,” says Commander David Sears, who served for 20 years in active duty within the United States Special Operations Command as a U.S. Navy SEAL officer. In Commander Sears’ experience, stress can be a catalyst for growth and improvement. Right now stress is instilling good new habits in you, such as wearing a mask when you go shopping or retooling your monthly budget to adjust for changes in your work and living conditions.

But Commander Sears cautions, “You can get overwhelmed by stress and then it starts to become chronic, debilitating and it turns into a sort of pain.” To manage his own stress response, Commander Sears leans on lessons from his military service, including the importance of having a support system around you and finding order in a personal routine.

“It’s Physical Distancing”

“This whole idea of social distancing that we have is wrong,” says Commander Sears. “It’s physical distancing. We still need that social interaction, you need to have those communications. And you have to put in some structure in order to put some sanity into your life. Maybe develop your own schedule in the morning: I’m going to get up, I’m going to work out, I’m still going to put on my pants and get out of my pajamas. I’m going to then go to my first project of the day, then I’m going to go to the second. You might even need to implement a little more structure and discipline in your life in these times so you don’t feel like you’re wandering.”

We understand that transitioning back to living and working outside of your home is going to present its own set of challenges. We hope the expert strategies discussed here will help you approach those challenges from a more positive place. We’re also available for video calls or in-person meetings to discuss how your Life-Centered financial plan can help you build more momentum towards living your best possible life after quarantine.

If you would like to create personal momentum in your personal finances, reach out to us.

Additional Government Resources

Get Away In Your Own Backyard


Summer travel plans are up in the air right now as federal and local governments sort through the best strategies for keeping COVID-19 under control. Although it’s disappointing to put off a vacation or big family party you’ve been planning forever, there are still recreational options right in your backyard that will get your family outside safely. If you’re starting to reschedule your summer, keep these ideas in mind to make the most out of the months ahead.

Stay safe

No matter where you go or what you decide to do, social distancing is still Rule 1.

The CDC recommends that you and members of your household stay at least six feet away from other people, even in open air. If you visit a public park, avoid group activities or team sports like basketball, soccer, or football that put you in close contact with other people and shared equipment. Avoid public facilities like bathrooms and playgrounds. Hiking trails and taking bike rides are good alternatives.

Also, make sure you bring along a cloth face covering and some hand sanitizer, avoid touching your face, and wash up when you get home.

Find a nearby National Park

According to the National Park Foundation, there are 62 sites in the U.S. that include “National Park” in their name, including such famous destinations as the Grand Canyon and Yellowstone.

But before you load up the camper, keep in mind that the CDC recommends staying close to home. Long-distance travel will require stops to refuel, eat, and use public restrooms, which could expose you and your family to germs – as well as spread your own.

Also, even though parks are technically “open,” many of their public facilities aren’t. That means no restrooms or cafeterias. Maintaining a safe social distance could also be challenging at more popular parks, especially as the weather turns warmer.

If the big parks are outside your radius, our wider National Park System spans 419 sites, including historical battlefields, monuments, nature trails, rivers, and preserves. Take a look at the National Park Foundation’s database. There’s probably an interesting, beautiful spot near you that you’ve never noticed before.

Explore local options

Many state and country parks are open as well, with many of the same restrictions in place. You can take a long walk or bike ride with members of your family, as long as you can maintain safe distance from other folks. But depending on your local health guidelines, playgrounds and public restrooms might still be off limits. Check state and county websites for more information about what facilities are available and plan ahead, especially if you’re bringing children along.

Kids are one reason that your local neighborhood park is still a great option for a day out; emergency bathroom breaks and snack time are a lot easier to manage when your house is just down the block. Neighborhood parks can also be less of a crowding hazard, making it easier for your family to maintain safe social distance.

Of course, that empty playground is more tempting in a small park too. Before you head outside, have an age-appropriate chat with your kids about why they need to stay off public equipment.

REALLY local options

If your home has private yard space, wake up your inner child, especially if you have children of your own. Kids who see their parents really throwing themselves into family time are going to feel a little less anxious and sad about things they can’t do right now.

When you’re not working or teaching, leave your phone inside and make this family time special. Plan a treasure hunt. Lead a backyard yoga session. Organize a family soccer game. Plant flowers together. As the weather improves, move inside activities outside, like meals, story time, and board games.

Finally, use the space available to you to embrace some of the simplicity that this situation has created. Hang up a hammock or set up some extra reading chairs around the fire pit. One of the reasons we struggle to fill time during quarantine is that rushing through our normal lives makes us feel like we should always be doing something. Older children and adults should take advantage of extra downtime to think, reflect, and be creative.

We know summer travel is just one of many ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted your life. As our country and our local communities start to reopen, please be safe, and please be in touch if we can help in any way.

How To Avoid Knee Jerk Reactions to Financial Events

As part of our Life-Centered Planning process, we’ve talked about how market volatility is a normal part of investing. We’ve also discussed how we’ve structured your investments to “weather the storm” and maintain a comfortable level of income for you and your family during turbulent times so you can avoid knee jerk reactions.

But we also understand that even folks who are armed with this knowledge can get nervous during a market dip. What’s important is that you know how to prevent that initial wave of negativity from leading you to rash decisions that could damage your nest egg much worse than a market correction.

Dr. Martin Seay is a specialist in positive psychology, which focuses on strategies that people can use to improve their sense of well-being. Dr. Seay’s ABCDE method can help you work through your reactions to distressing financial news and arrive at a positive outcome.

Let’s walk through an example of how to use this method to avoid making a bad, emotion-based financial decision.

A. Activating Event


Sometimes stress and anxiety can feel all-encompassing. Dr. Seay believes it’s important that we pinpoint the event that triggered our negative feelings.

So, while you might feel general anxiety about your finances, drill down a little deeper. Is your job secure? OK. Are you saving and investing according to your financial plan? Good.

Did you just read on social media that today’s market correction was “THE BIGGEST ONE-DAY DROP IN HISTORY!”

Ahh, there it is. Let’s move on to the next step.

B. Belief

Market volatility can rouse some of our worst instincts about investing. We might fall back on long-buried Beliefs like, “This game is rigged!” We might feel like we’ve entrusted our financial future to powers beyond our control.

As you work through this step, it’s important to ask yourself where your Beliefs come from. Have you been unsettled by widespread media coverage of major financial problems, like the 2008-2009 housing crisis? Have you had negative interactions with the finance industry in the past? Perhaps one of your parents distrusted the markets or made a poor investment that had a negative impact on your family.

Figuring out why you believe what you believe about the markets can help alert you before you fall back into bad financial habits.

C. Consequences

Panicked investors who can’t shake negative Beliefs about the markets often make poor decisions during downturns. They think they need to “get out fast” to avoid more negative Consequences, like further losses.

Ironically, cashing out your investments during a market correction usually leads to far more serious Consequences in the long run.

So how can you stay focused on the big picture?

D. Disputation

Start by using what you know to push back a little against what you Believe.

For example, we’ve discussed in our meetings that the historical, long-term trajectory of the financial markets has been to rise over time. And now, market averages such as the Dow Jones Industrial Average are near all-time highs. Therefore, when the market does have a temporary drop, we might say, “The Dow was down x hundreds of points today.” It sounds like a big number, but as a percentage, it may just be normal volatility.

We’ve also discussed that “market timing” strategies usually just don’t work. That’s why your portfolio is diversified, balanced, and strategically rebalanced as necessary. Decades of market history have shown that sticking to this type of investment strategy may be more effective – and stable – than trying to jump in and out of the market based on what’s happening in the news right now.

Today’s losses are really just a kind of “tax” that you’re paying on the wealth we’re helping you build for tomorrow.

E. Energized

It’s amazing how just reminding ourselves of what we know to be true can make us feel better about a negative situation. Hopefully at the end of this process, you feel a renewed sense of positivity about this present moment and your financial future.

But we understand that market volatility can be complicated. And as you’re nearing retirement, a downturn can be downright nerve-wracking.

So if you need help walking through your ABCDEs the next time the market corrects, make an appointment to meet with us. We’ll run through the important facts you need to know and decide what moves, if any, we need to make to keep you on track with your financial plan and avoid those costly knee jerk reactions.

How To Plan For A Future Nobody Can Plan For

Step back and plan for your future so you can execute today.
 
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As a leader during the Coronavirus crisis, you are certainly dealing non-stop with your current emergencies. Your time has probably been spent situating your employees in the new remote working arrangements, talking to customers, and shoring up your cash situation. 

As an executive coach working with startup CEOs, I’m encouraging all of my clients to step out of reaction mode for a focused period of time to conduct planning. The problem with planning right now is that there is so much uncertainty. Here are some tools to use to navigate your business through an evolving and unpredictable future:

1. Accept reality. This may be the hardest step for you and your team. The world has changed rapidly and it’s hard for people to adjust their mindsets so quickly. I talked with one of my clients last week and he told me “we haven’t seen any changes except that some customers asked to put off their payments for 30 days.” It is tempting to use this data point as a way to convince yourself the world hasn’t changed all that much. The problem is that if you don’t get your mind wrapped around a new reality, your team will also be complacent. You will therefore not be geared up to adapt to what is certainly going to be an unpredictable future. Today In: Leadership Strategy

One way to make sure you are being clear-eyed about this crisis is to scan the environment. Get as much information as you can from external sources. The Conference Board, for example, has put out 3 scenarios which assume a base case, a bad case and a worse case. Even though these are hard to swallow, it’s important to be ruthlessly honest and fact-based when you are trying to plan for an evolving future.  

2.  Ask “what if” questions. Once you begin to come to terms with the macro environment, start asking “what if questions” for your business. Questions you should ask include: 

  • What if most of our customers pay in 90 days or more rather than 30 days? 
  • What if I or one of my key executives get sick and is out of work for two weeks or longer?
  • What if we can’t get the parts we need because of delays in the supply chain? 
  • What if revenue goes to 0 for the rest of the year?  

Brainstorm with your leaders and other members of your team to get a long list of questions you should ask yourselves. Encourage your team to ask questions that seem absurd. In the current crisis many unpredictable things have already happened and there are more on the way. Asking your team to be expansive in their thinking will help you capture a majority of the possible outcomes. 

3. Run a sensitivity analysis. Once you list out a set of scenarios for your business, including a worst case, create a budget that takes into account these different cases. Review the model with your CFO or VP of Finance and look at your biggest cost drivers. Change them in the spreadsheet so you can see what changing one element does to your entire budget. It’s important for you as the leader to get informed at a detailed level what might happen to your business in each of these environments. 

Your team also needs to understand the implications of these potential outcomes. I’ve observed that even now some employees in the startups I work with are still thinking about business from their perspective of a month ago. They are, for example, talking about continuing the process with a potential new hire who is now not critical, or advocating for the purchase of an expensive software program which is a “nice to have,” but not a “need to have.” 

As a leader, the more clear you are on the details of what the most important things are and what tradeoffs your business needs to survive, the more clearly you can communicate that to your team to help them make good decisions. Also, having this information helps you adapt more quickly as circumstances unfold. 

4. Think about the upside. Maybe one of the only bright spots in this situation is that in crisis, there is opportunity. You may have developed a product that can’t be used for its original purpose but now has a different use case. Or you may have developed some technology for your internal infrastructure that is suddenly very valuable. Explore all of this. One of my clients decided to convene a war room to specifically ask “What will we do with what we’ve built if we can’t continue this business?” They came up with several possibilities that they are now exploring.

It’s not pleasant to think about what might go wrong, but it’s important to anticipate various outcomes so you can start planning for an uncertain future while executing intelligently today.

This article was written by Alisa Cohn and published on Forbes.com

How Orangetheory Has Built a Devoted Following in a Crowded Boutique Fitness Market

From left: Jerome Kern, Ellen Latham, and David Long, co-founders of Orangetheory Fitness.
SCOTT MCINTYRE

When Ellen Latham lost her job managing a Miami spa in 2000, she was a single mother to a 9-year-old and terrified she wouldn’t find work. She used her background in physical education to make ends meet, eventually turning her at-home Pilates class into Orangetheory Fitness, a fast-growing exercise brand that in 2018 booked $180 million in revenue. 

Latham founded her Boca Raton, Florida-based company in 2010 with franchise-industry veterans David Long and Jerome Kern. They started with the premise that customers might experience better results if they were more attuned with how their individual bodies respond to exercise. The company achieves this with the help of wearables that track exercisers’ heart rates, inclines, speeds, and calories burned. The “orange” in Orangetheory refers to the “orange zone”–that is, a period of time in which a person’s heart beats at optimal efficiency. Ideally, customers should aim to spend at least 12 minutes in this zone during each 60-minute coach-led fitness class.

After hitting this point, a person’s body will work harder later to recover oxygen lost during exercise, which can accelerate the metabolism and help burn calories, says Latham. People don’t keep coming back to the gym for its orange motif, she says. “They are coming back because they get results from their workouts.”

And that’s led to significant growth for the boutique fitness brand. Indeed, in the last year, Orangetheory added 219 franchise locations and one corporate-owned studio across the U.S and India, bringing the company’s global tally to more than 1,300 franchise locations. It has also built a cult-like following among members–with some devotees getting tattoos of the company’s logo, notes Latham. Meanwhile, its two-year revenue totals shot up 341 percent since 2016, helping Orangetheory hit No. 35 on the 2020 Inc. 5000 Series: Florida list, a ranking of the fastest-growing private companies in the state.

While the company can credit much of its past success to helping customers understand their orange zones–and cultivating a community of superfans–its future success has everything to do with being able to deliver a fuller picture of customers’ health.

Part of that strategy rests in Orangetheory’s use of wearables. While the company started out simply strapping heart-rate monitors to people’s chests, in recent years it has begun selling the technology. Though customers can still borrow devices during class time, they can pick between four different versions of proprietary wearable devices. The gadgets cost as much as $129 and may be worn around the chest, wrist, or arm.

While Long says the devices account for just 10 percent of Orangetheory’s sales, the hope is the technology will become more popular with users, as the company builds out its offerings. In December, Orangetheory partnered with Apple to create a wearable that attaches to the Apple Watch, so customers can track a wide range of fitness and wellness data.

“We believed in it so much and it was a big focus of the brand early on,” says Long, Orangetheory’s CEO. “We wanted to build a wearable that was easy to use and helped us pick up massive member engagement.”

The company is also looking into joining the at-home fitness craze by releasing content on wellness topics, such as sleep, nutrition, and recovery guides. That’s a step in the right direction, says Andrea Wroble, a health and wellness analyst with the market research company Mintel–though she thinks Orangetheory could go further by streaming its classes. Home workouts have proved to be a promising way to scale for some companies–and that could deliver dividends for Orangetheory, she says.

Orangetheory’s plan to expand further into fitness tracking is a good one, because it could help the company build a stronger connection with its community, adds Wroble. “It creates a partnership with followers where the company can crowdsource ideas and the community feels seen and heard,” she says.

Still, standing out in the boutique fitness industry, which has exploded in size in recent years, may be tough for Orangetheory. In 2019, the U.S. health and fitness club industry reached an estimated $34.5 billion in revenue, amid different concepts like gyms and class studios, according to Mintel. 

What’s more, at-home fitness incumbents like Peloton and Mirror are already doing a sizable business and gaining widespread traction among users. So elbowing in on that market might be tough.

Latham isn’t deterred. “We’re not trying to create another fad in fitness. We are still appealing to huge masses and getting new clients,” she says.

To that end, Orangetheory continues to grow its physical presence, which should bolster its bottom line. Individual franchises cost between $576,000 and $1.5 million to start, which includes a $59,950 initial fee. The company hopes to reach 2,200 locations worldwide by 2025.

This article was written by Emily Canal and published by Inc.com.

We Plan For A Reason

Life’s all about planning…

We’re still in the early stages of understanding how the coronavirus outbreak will affect global health care and economics for the rest of the year, but it’s more important now than ever to stick to a plan. When we look at your most recent life plan, we can see events that we’ve been anticipating for quite some time: children heading off to college, home upgrades, family vacations, elder care for your parents, and, of course, your own retirement.

Here’s why guiding you and your family through these life transitions is still the central focus of our planning, even during a significant bout of market volatility.

  1. The big picture is always brighter.

Nobody could have predicted that a virus outbreak would disrupt global business right in the middle of a contentious presidential election cycle. But market history did tell us that the record-breaking bull market of 2009-2019 wasn’t going to last forever. What goes up eventually comes down.

The further you pull back when you’re looking at market returns, the smaller today’s volatility looks, especially in comparison to big life transitions plotted on a 30 or 40-year $Lifeline. Continuing to work towards those events we can see coming is a much more effective strategy than trying to predict the next natural disaster, the next market downturn, or the next president.

  1. You have options.

While major market volatility is never about just one thing, the coronavirus is making it hard for companies around the world to buy raw materials from China and sell to Chinese customers. Stocks in the energy, travel, technology, and consumer goods sectors have been hit especially hard.

Luckily, your portfolio is not overly invested in any one company or any one sector. Spreading out your assets across a wide variety of investments – including more stable bonds and cash savings – provides some options during volatility. Diversification gives us the means to scout for rebalancing opportunities when prices are low. It also provides reserves that we can tap if you need a little extra help weathering market fluctuations.

What’s going to guide the decisions we make during this market correction, and the next one? How are we going to decide which levers, if any, to pull, and which to leave alone?

  1. STICK TO THE PLAN.

We can’t plan for the next significant market shakeup. What we can do is use the tools at our disposal to keep you and your family on track to navigate your $Lifeline transitions and achieve your financial goals, no matter what’s going on outside of your home.

That’s why there’s no “one-size-fits-all” answer when folks wonder what they should do during a moment like this. The millennial who just started working and investing is at a very different point on his financial journey than the CEO eyeing retirement in the next five years. The couple planning to start their own business has different financial needs than the couple with three smart children all angling for Ivy League schools. And the retiree planning to golf her way across the country probably doesn’t have the same concerns as the retiree whose husband is experiencing ongoing health problems.

These scenarios all require their own unique, personalized plans. Some folks will make the most progress towards their goals by sticking to their current saving and investing strategies, even as the markets are unsettled. Others might need to increase allocations to their cash reserves. And still others might look for “buy low” opportunities that will pay off in the long run. In each case, the client’s $Lifeline is our guide, not today’s headlines.

We understand that volatility can be worrying, especially if you’re nearing retirement or newly retired. If you’d like to review your most recent plan and hear a little more about our current market perspective, make an appointment to visit our offices. Whether news is good, bad, or somewhere in between, you can rely on our Life-Centered Planning process to keep your best interests first and your life goals in perspective.