Impending Disruption

by Larry Vaughn

Massive disruption is coming to every industry. Are you going to cause it, or fall victim to it? There are now more mobile devices than people on earth. By 2017 there will nearly be 1.4 mobile devices per person meaning 10 billion devices. This means huge challenges for business. Yours can lead the charge, follow the change, or be left behind. But, turbulent times bring huge opportunities as well. Thought leaders are looking at their products and services and asking some very important questions to seek disruptive innovation: What else can our products be used for?, Who else could use our products?, What capabilities do our customers most want or need? What else can we provide with minimal change?

In the past, business disruption was fairly rare, but now it is a reality that companies face on a regular basis. In fact, we usually have several applications in planning or under development that have the potential to be game changers. It’s exciting to be on this end of changing how we live and work.

In Discovery sessions with clients we strive to help them identify their Unique Value Proposition and Minimum Viable Product. This helps them get to market as quickly and cost effectively as possible. But, what about those businesses who are already in the mainstream with a product that has been serving customers successfully? How can they possibly be disruptive and leap out ahead of the change?

There may be several approaches that could make sense, such as eliminating your industry’s persistent customer pain points, perhaps by making your products smart. What if you could replace a marine GPS that costs hundreds of dollars with a $10 iPad app that works better and has more functionality? Wouldn’t that disrupt an industry!

Mark J. Perry wrote about the McKinsey Report’s list of the 12 disruptive technologies that will transform life, business, and the global economy:

1. Mobile Internet
2. Automation of Knowledge Work
3. The Internet of Things
4. Cloud technology
5. Advanced robotics
6. Autonomous and Near-Autonomous Vehicles
7. Next-generation genomics
8. Energy storage
9. 3-D printing
10. Advanced materials
11. Advanced oil and gas exploration and recovery
12. Renewable energy

One of the best defenses to ensure your business is ahead of, or at least ready for disruptive innovation, is to reflect on how your industry conducts business, and what can be improved. ” I wonder what would happen if we . . .”. In the rental car business, the usual experience is a face-to-face interaction with a service agent, completing a lot of paperwork, and renting vehicles by the day.

What would happen to that business if you no longer needed to see the customer, you got rid of the paperwork, and you started renting cars by the hour? Well, you’d end up with something very much like Zipcar or Car2Go, where there’s no waiting in line, no papers to fill out, and no pressure to upgrade or add layers of different kinds of insurance. In fact, there’s no face-to-face interaction at all. Customers apply to become members and they reserve vehicles online.

So, what was the problem that the solution corrected? None for the business. And, that’s exactly the point. Most people in business are trained to focus only on problems. It’s more disruptive to start by identifying something in your business or industry that’s not necessarily a problem, and then go about methodically examining it. In this case it was removing pain points for the customer. Disruptive thinking processes usually start with the question, “How can this be made better?”

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Growing CabForward

I’ve been serving as COO for a start up web application company for the past several months, and have found the experience to be one filled with challenges and opportunities for stepping outside my comfort zone. We’re experiencing exciting times at CabForward as we work on many different fronts to get our business processes streamlined, Ruby on Rails developers and mentors on board, junior developers in the wings, and defining our approach to building new developers through our community outreach programs.

All of these are demanding initiatives, and we’re looking forward to the proposition of shaping these in coming weeks. Business processes, of course, have to be streamlined before we can get much forward momentum, but those seem to be coming together.

The website design has presented many opportunities for discussion because we are still shaping our various service offerings for startups and enterprise entrepreneurs, each of whom has differing needs and goals. While we are currently working with some startups to help them gain some traction, we are falling back on our years of experience in working within the enterprise to shape our offerings for those responsible for creating new channels of business for their current employer, too.

Our lineup of outstanding Ruby on Rails mentors and developers continues to keep pace with our current projects, so we’ve been focusing on crafting some programs to help grow junior developers who have a passion for becoming top notch talent. We have two new projects starting next week, and have been working to assemble teams to staff those, combining mentors and developers in a paired programming scenerio.

We are simultaneously hashing out ideas to help those college level RoR wannabes who are looking for a way to get past the entry level barrier. This program would be a supplement to our professional level training courses designed for experienced developers who want to transition into Ruby on Rails. Conceptually, our outreach program for college students will be able to provide excellent learning experiences to help these budding coders enter the workplace with some RoR experience under their belts.

Our passion is to grow the start up culture in Austin while simultaneously growing the pool of Rails talent available to nurture that growth. We look forward to stepping up to be a major player in the maturation of the Austin Rails community.

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American Industry Woes

The economic woes of the last decade has caused the failure of some major companies and forced the redefinition of entire industries due to new technology, foreign competition and industry saturation resulting in stagnation. A recent report from research firm IBISWorld identifies ten U.S. industries that have experienced severe, and perhaps, irreversible declines over the past decade.

These industries have certainly experienced significant decreases in revenue since the early days of the recession, and are expected to experience further declines for the next five years. And while the decline of some high-profile industries have been well-documented for years, who knew that advances in our life style would be so far reaching?

Here are the industries mentioned in that study, with the biggest loser on top:

1. Apparel Manufacturing – Competition from abroad is sucking the life force out of the apparel manufacturing industry. Revenues are down 77.1 percent since 2000, and a further 60.5 percent decrease is expected over the next five years.

2. Record Stores – Almost 80 percent of record stores across the country have closed over the last decade.

3. Manufactured Home Dealers – In a market where new home sales are low and foreclosures the norm, manufactured home dealers’ revenue has decreased by nearly three quarters since 2000.

4. Photofinishing – Over the last ten years nearly 60 percent of photofinishers have closed, largely due to digital camera technology.

5. Wired Telecommunications Carriers – Due to digital  technology, the wired telecommunications industry revenue has declined each year since 2000.

6. American manufacturing – Competition from abroad, combined with cheaper production costs in foreign countries have led companies to abandon 23.6 percent of the mills across America since 2000.

7. Newspaper Publishing – 28.6 percent of American newspapers have closed since 2000.

8. DVD, Game & Video Rental – Competitors like Netflix, online streaming, digital cable and satellite TV have hit the movie rental business hard, causing hundreds of stores to close.  Revenue is expected to decline an additional 19.3 percent over the next six years.

9. Formal Wear – Things change. People just don’t get dressed up as often as they used to.

10. Video Post Production – Digital technology has made editing, production and animating much easier, and competent software is available to the novice user to do it themselves. 43.2 percent of postproduction companies have closed since 2000.

According to Forbes, there are other industries in trouble, including Bowling Alleys, Music Publishing, Self-Serve Laundries, Beer Production, Wired Telecommunications, Arcades and Entertainment Complexes, Tobacco Farming, and Footwear Manufacturing.

And then, of course, there’s the U.S. Postal System, which has reached the point that it is rapidly collapsing.  Due to the ease of e-mail, instant messaging, on-line payments, and the resulting decline of first class letters, mail volume is falling at a staggering rate, and the postal service’s survival plan isn’t reassuring. Instead of comments from the postal service about stopping Saturday deliveries, we may soon be hearing about thousands of those endearing postal service vehicles for sale at government clearance prices.

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What Are You Worth? Setting Rates for Consulting

One of the questions that always comes up in learning sessions for start up consultants is, “How do I set my rates?”  The answer is, “It depends.” It depends on what fits your type of consulting business, and your clientele.  In several of my own businesses, I have quoted “project rates,” or, the cost for the entire project, but, you have to take a few steps to know how to set that price.

There are several ways for a consultant to establish a fee structure that will let you establish hourly, daily, or project rates. You should do a little research to find out what your competitors are charging. Check their websites for information. Call their office number and ask for their hourly rate. Ask businesses that use consulting services what they typically pay. The information is out there. Some times you just need to do a little detective work.

If you conform to what everyone else in your industry sector is charging, you may send a message to potential customers that you’re just as qualified as your competitors. On the other hand, you may signal that there’s nothing special about what you provide your customers. It is always a good idea to look at your specific situation to determine what type of rate you really need to charge, and then you can compare your proposed rate to what others in your market are charging.

I recommend that you first work out a Base Rate. Use your base rate to calculate what you need to charge for half-day, day, or entire projects, as detailed below.

1. Determining A Base Rate. To set a Daily Rate, you first have to determine your Base Rate, then a Fixed Rate. Use online salary calculators to determine the annual salary paid an employee, at your experience level, performing the same tasks you will provide, in your community. Salaries vary by community or region, and benefit packages also differ by industry.

This research will help you understand what is a reasonable expectation for a full-time salaried worker in your area. Be sure to look at the entire compensation package, not just salary, because you can easily miss the value of the benefits provided a salaried employee.

Combine salary and benefits to arrive at the value of this salaried worker. Multiply 52 weeks by 40 hour work weeks to arrive at 2,080 available work hours per year. Don’t deduct vacation time from this, because salaried employees are still being paid when they are away from their desk. Here’s an example: ($80,000 salary + $20,000 benefits) = $100,000, divided by 2,080 work hours per year = $48.08 per hour. Round up to the next $5. This would yield $50.

In most consulting fields, the $50 working number in the example above is typically doubled or tripled to arrive at a Base Rate because of what is called the Rule of Thirds: 1) one third of your income will be actual “wage”, 2) one third will go to expenses, and 3) one third to administration, down time between projects, and bad debt. In this example, the hourly base rate would be $150 per hour ($50 X 3=$150).

2. Alternative Base Rate Method Many consultants prefer an alternative way to set the base rate. In this method you determine the base rate by calculating the number of full days you feel you can reasonably expect to be engaged in earning income. Many consultants start this calculation by deducting six weeks leisure time from the 2,080 available work hours each year (2,080-240=1,840 work hours).

You then estimate what percentage of your time will be spent on work that actually brings in money, as opposed to time invested in marketing, administration, and other non-billable work. Typically self employed business people project that 20% of their time will be spent on administration, 20% on marketing (including networking and website management), and 10% spent on other non-billable work. This means that 50% of your time will be spent on tasks that are not billable.  (50% of 1,840 = 920 billable work hours).

Determine the amount of gross annual income you need to make your business solvent, while providing you the personal income required to maintain or improve your lifestyle. You then divide this income amount by the number of your billable hours: ($140,000 annual income divided by 920 billable hours = Base Rate). You can also gain considerable confidence that your rates are reasonable by using both the methods in Steps 1 & 2 so you can compare the results.

3. Calculating Bad Debt Unfortunately, despite your best efforts, not all your clients will pay you. Some will take weeks or months to pay, but a small percentage, (usually around 3%), will never pay the bill. You must also factor in this loss of earned revenue, which is called Bad Debt. You can estimate the dollar amount that needs to be included as bad debt by estimating your annual income by using the Base Rate established in step 1 and/or 2, then calculate Bad Debt as follows: (gross income X 3%=Bad Debt).

The decision of how aggressively you are going to pursue collections is an unfortunate reality for business today. You may have collection costs just to collect a portion of what is owed. Some consultants choose to just write it off as a bad debt after a certain point. You also, of course, risk losing the goodwill of the customer in the collection process. The question becomes, “Do you want them as a customer in the future?” In all cases, you need to protect your business interests by requiring a written agreement for every engagement.

4. Determining Overhead  Regardless of which of the above methods you select to compute your base rate, you then must factor in the cost of overhead to arrive at your Fixed Rate. You must calculate ongoing and contingency expenses into your cost of doing business, such as the example expenses below.

 
accounting services
advertising and marketing
auto fuel
auto insurance
auto maintenance
bad debt
business cards
business licenses and permits
business meals and
business subscriptions
cleaning supplies and services
collection fees
computer hardware
computer software
insurance — health, life, business
Internet service
legal services
 
maintenance and upkeep
office furniture
office supplies
office telephone
paper goods (notepads, etc)
printer
printer supplies
professional association fees
professional continuing education
professional meetings, conferences and tradeshows
property taxes
rent or mortgage interest
shipping and postage
stationery
utilities
wireless phone

5. Setting Your Fixed Rate You now have the tools you need to calculate your fixed rate. Divide the total cost of your overhead by your projected billable hours. For example, $5,000 overhead spread over 920 hours equals $5.43 per hour. Add to the $150 base rate this yields $155.43, rounded to the next $5 increment results in a Fixed Rate of $160 hour. You can then estimate your annual income as follows: ($160 hour X 920 billable hours = $147,200 gross income)

6. Establishing a Daily & Weekly Rate (per diem) Using your Fixed Rate it now becomes much easier to develop daily, weekly, and “per project” rates. Most daily rates are simply (8 hours X Fixed Rate). In our example, it would be (8 X $160=$1,280).

The weekly rate is set by multiplying your Daily Rate times 5 days. However, some consultants give the client a discount for a full week’s work, often by reducing the overall cost by 5%-10%. Alternatively, this is often calculated by only charging a half day for the final day of the week. The method that best fits your situation is the one you should choose.

7. Project Fees I frequently submit a detailed Statement of Work with a proposal, and establish an overall price for completion and delivery of a project. You can  accomplish this by estimating the number of hours you expect to spend on a project, then multiply by the hourly rate. Here, again, you may choose to factor in a discount that fits the situation.

When estimating the number of hours you are planning to invest in completing a project, you must make certain that you are realistic about the time it is going to require to deliver the project, and you must have firm control over changes made by the client that expand your body of work. New ideas, or twists, or expansion of the original project are going to cost you hours, so you need to be able to charge the client for those changes through what is termed a Change Control Process.  I recommend being cautious about offering project fees until you acquire some experience in the market, and are comfortable working in the project environment.

Pay For Performance

Some clients offer project consultants a share of future revenue, profits or commissions. This is called Pay For Performance. Others offer the consultant a commission, or fee, based on the results of the consultant’s work.

Consulting fees based on performance pose several risks. For example, 1) the company’s performance in other departments or business sectors may negatively affect the area in which you are measured; 2) It may take months to see the results of the work, meaning that the consultant will not see any revenue for an extended period; 3) The company may not fully cooperate in implementing all of your recommendations, compromising their ability to reach the potential you projected.

Most importantly, in a Pay for Performance relationship you shift the focus from high quality planning to essentially becoming a partner by sharing in the client’s risk. It is very easy to lose objectivity. For your own protection, seek a base rate for your work, and then add on the performance pay or share of ownership 

Summary

Setting your consulting fee may at first seem a daunting task. However, once you’ve worked through the simple process above, you’ll have confidence in knowing that your rates reflect your real cost of doing business and can provide you with the profitability you need to succeed. Revise your rates as needed, taking into account your experience, changes in the economy, client feedback, and your competitors’ current marketing strategies and initiatives.

Larry E Vaughn is an Entrepreneurial Consultant based in Austin TX, with over 20 years experience in operating a variety of consulting and marketing businesses. Larry is also founder of the daily internet based The Self Employment Journal, available free at http://paper.li/levaughn.

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Self-Employment Fundamentals

Self-employment continues to be of great interest as a career alternative for individuals from all walks of life, fueled, perhaps, by the lingering recession. The businesses operated by entrepreneurs are viewed as critically important to our society, since small businesses represent the majority of businesses. Yet, entrepreneurship is often difficult and tricky, filled with opportunities to misstep.

In my 20+ years of small business consulting, I have personally engaged in a variety of businesses, often having multiple businesses at the same time. I pray daily for heavenly guidance, that I might be granted wisdom to make sound decisions. I have lost some battles, won a few, and learned many lessons along the way. One skill I acquired is unrelentingly thorough business research, and market trends. I greatly enjoy sharing these insights and research results with clients during my weekly entrepreneurial webinars, a line of business now in its 10th year.

WHAT’S INVOLVED?
One of the most common stumbling blocks to getting started is understanding what industries are growing and what is involved in getting started. When you start your own business, you have to wear many hats, of course, and perform tasks unfamiliar to you. You may also have some great ideas, but not the administrative skills self-employment requires. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and get help overcoming your shortcomings.

Lack of management experience and failure to plan strategically accounts for a large portion of  small business failures. Entrepreneurs often think that they can do it all and may not ask for help when they need it. Don’t be hesitant to use the advice of experts, networking with other entrepreneurs and hiring or outsourcing to manage the tasks in which you have little skill. 

Networking in your business community is available where business people gather. Chambers of Commerce are excellent resources, as are Retail Merchants groups, and service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, and others. The membership of service clubs are largely business people who are working together to improve the community through charitable programs.

Seek out professional advisors, such as an attorney and accountant, etc., to provide you guidance. Ask other business people who they use for these services, and then strive to meet these professionals. Carefully determine who is going to be a good fit for you and your business, because there are going to be hard choices to make along the way, and you will have to be able to trust and accept their counsel. 
 
KNOW YOUR MARKET
Desire and persistence alone will not make you successful. You need to be sure that there is a market for what you plan to offer and that the competition isn’t already too strong. Market research is essential, and must begin with identifying who your potential customers are, and what features and benefits are important to them.

Using the results of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other resources, you can develop a good marketing and business plan that takes into account customer needs, competition, pricing and promotional strategies. Make sure you are offering a product that is unique and competitive or at a lower cost than that of your competitors. Make sure you have the training, expertise and talent to run your business.

Twenty percent, or more, of all small businesses are started in the home. Home based businesses can be very successful, and statistics indicate that about 70% of these businesses survive the all-important first two years. If you are undecided about whether this is the right time for you to seriously consider self-employment, we recommend that you take the free on line  entrepreneurial self-assessment (Canada: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/125/) or,
(United States: http://web.sba.gov/sbtn/sbat/index.cfm?Tool=4).

The Small Business Administration provides extensive free services to those in the U.S., while the Canada Business Centers assist startups in their service area. The SBA provides free computer-based-training modules in a wide variety of topics that you can take from the comfort of your home office. The courses, located at http://sba.gov/training/index.html, include topics such as Business Planning, Finance, Marketing and Advertising, Franchising, Strategic Planning, and Business Management.

Canada’s resource, Canada Business, http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/, provides an extensive listing of resources for the entrepreneur, including an Entrepreneurial Assessment and “Starting a Business” as a main topic. Articles, recommended links and checklists are provided to help with planning.

HOME BASED BUSINESS
Over half of all the small businesses in North America are home based. The IRS specifies that a home-based business must have its own location (away from the family living space) that is devoted exclusively to the business. The business must be in regular operation, profits must exceed expenses in order to claim deductions, the business must be conducted almost exclusively in the home and the motive must be profit.

The maturation of the baby boomer generation, born 1946-1964, is going to have a huge affect on business. As baby boomers begin to retire the demand for leisure travel is increasing. As of January 2010 boomers were retiring at the rate of one every eight seconds in the U.S. , and that rate is going to escalate and continue growing for the next several years.

WHAT BUSINESS SECTORS ARE GROWING?
An economic collapse means disaster for some businesses while others tend to grow. For every retailer in trouble, there’s a movie-theater experiencing an all-time high in attendance. For every industry that got gob-smacked by the recession there is a college bursting at the seams with adults seeking degrees for new careers. For those on the job hunt or considering self-employment, focus on the industries that are growing. Here is a listing of ten business segments that are poised to experience high demand in the years ahead.

MOVIES
Box-office grosses for January were up 20% since last year, for a whopping $1.028 billion intake. Attendance is up 16.78%. Watching movies at home is also popular.  Movie Gallery’s reported plan to shutter 1,000 underperforming stores, including Hollywood Video locations, could make $200 million in annual rental revenue available to competitors including local mom and pop rental shops. (http://boxoffice.com/)

PHARMACY AND RELATED SERVICES
Not only are pharmaceuticals necessary, but the companies that produce them are growing as the baby boomers age. These companies have matured to the point they can do deals with their own cash and their own stock without having to go to the capital markets and ask for money. (http://www.csustan.edu/manage/harris/industry1.html)

HOME CARE AIDE AND MANAGED CARE
Health care services of all types will continue to grow for the next several years in response to the maturation of the baby boomer generation. Home healthcare services of all types, including fitness programs, transportation, in-home care and home delivery services are likely to be in high demand. (http://www.nahc.org/HCA/home.html)

BOTTLED WATER
Bottled water is huge. It’s the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry and shows no signs of slowing. At this growth rate, it will be the #1 beverage worldwide by 2013.  Bottled water companies offer a wide array of bottled waters at prices that can provide healthy margins. http://www.bottledwater.org/

VIDEO GAMES
Sales of U.S. video games experienced a 22% rise in over the previous year, jumping 11% in 2008, to 409.9 million units, and rose 13% again the following January, presenting more evidence that even in the middle of a brutal economic downturn, U.S. consumers are willing to spend on video games. There will also be increasing demand for video game testers as the industry continues to grow. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-tester.htm)

INTERNET SERVICES AND RETAILING
Internet Service Providers continue to improve services available to their customers, and ultimately to the final consumer, as technology costs drop and competition matures. Retailing via the Internet is now a huge business as more and more people turn to this easy to use resource for everything from soups to nuts. Even in the recession eBay posted revenues of over $2 billion. (http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3816826/Revenues+Fall+but+eBay+Still+Tops+Expectations.htm)

PERSONAL CHEF
Just as the need for childcare grew significantly as baby boomers entered the work place, other personal services have experienced similar growth. Today, personal chef services are also in great demand. According to Entrepreneur.com, the personal chef business is among the fastest-growing in the country and one of the best home-businesses to start this year. Personal chefs typically earn $35-$50 an hour. Annual revenue from personal chef businesses is expected to hit $1.2 billion in 2010. (http://www.entrepreneur.com/businessideas/674.html)

LEISURE TRAVEL
According to some sources, the only industry that actually grew globally during the current recession was travel. Work from home opportunities in the online travel industry are already beginning to replace the mom and pop travel agencies of days gone by. One innovative company taking the lead in leisure travel consulting is World Ventures, a four-year old multi-level marketing company based in Plano Texas that will treat you like a preferred customer and waive airline booking fees.(http://www.leavontime.worldventures.biz).

PERSONAL CONCIERGE
A personal concierge service is based on the most basic of premises. People want things done but don’t have the time to do them, and are willing to pay someone to take care of it for them.  Although personal concierge services are a fairly recent development, the number of companies that serve time-starved clients is mushrooming, right along with customer demand for such businesses. Membership in the National Concierge Association, provides networking and educational opportunities to help you get started. (http://www.nationalconciergeassociation.com/)

BIG-BOX RETAILERS
Where do you shop for all those discounted home staples? If you’re like most Americans the answer is Costco or Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. These large volume retailers are positioned to under price other stores and can pick up all the demand that’s lost at higher-end stores which are suffering the results of high unemployment. They’re going to need staff to respond to increased demand. (http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Costco_Wholesale_%28COST%29)

If you feel that the proper conditions are in place for you to go forward with starting your own business, here is a checklist of the basic areas you need to cover before opening:

Decide on the Legal Form for the Business (partnership, corporation, etc)
Choose & Register a Business Name  
Choose & Purchase your Internet Domain Name 
Research & Write a Business Plan, Operations Plan  and a Marketing Plan 
Set Up a Relationship with professional advisors, i.e., banker, attorney and accountant 
Set Up Other Professional Relationships, consultants, suppliers, etc 
Get Licenses and Permits, and meet other Legal Requirements for Operating a Business 
Set the Price for Your Product or Service  
Determine the Financing You Will Need and How You Will Get It  
Obtain Office Space, Equipment and Suppliers  
Plan for Risk Protection, Intellectual Capital Protection, Business Insurance  
Set up a Financial Management System  

Ready to set sail toward a new life as an entrepreneur? Be sure to do your research to determine whether the business opportunity you’re considering is real . . . there are plenty of scams out there . . . and then make decisions about how to go forward. Check information sites like Inc .com, Entrepreneur.com, allbusiness.com, and similar information silos to get as well informed as you can. Remember, the more widely you read, the better the decisions you’ll be enabled to make.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Starting Business in 2010

Self-employment continues to be of great interest as a career alternative for individuals from all walks of life, fueled, perhaps, by the lingering recession. The businesses operated by entrepreneurs are viewed as critically important to our society, since small businesses represent the majority of businesses. Yet, entrepreneurship is often difficult and tricky, filled with opportunities to misstep.

In my 20+ years of small business consulting, I have personally engaged in a variety of businesses, often having multiple businesses at the same time. I have lost some battles, won a few, and learned many lessons along the way. One skill I acquired is unrelentingly thorough business research, and market trends. I greatly enjoy sharing these insights and research results with clients during my weekly entrepreneurial webinars, a line of business now in its 10th year.

WHAT’S INVOLVED?
One of the most common stumbling blocks to getting started is understanding what industries are growing and what is involved in getting started. When you start your own business, you have to wear many hats, of course, and perform tasks unfamiliar to you. You may also have some great ideas, but not the administrative skills self-employment requires. You need to know your strengths and weaknesses, and get help overcoming your shortcomings.

Lack of management experience and failure to plan strategically accounts for a large portion of  small business failures. Entrepreneurs often think that they can do it all and may not ask for help when they need it. Don’t be hesitant to use the advice of experts, networking with other entrepreneurs and hiring or outsourcing to manage the tasks in which you have little skill. 

Networking in your business community is available where business people gather. Chambers of Commerce are excellent resources, as are Retail Merchants groups, and service clubs, such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, and others. The membership of service clubs are largely business people who are working together to improve the community through charitable programs.

Seek out professional advisors, such as an attorney and accountant, etc., to provide you guidance. Ask other business people who they use for these services, and then strive to meet these professionals. Carefully determine who is going to be a good fit for you and your business, because there are going to be hard choices to make along the way, and you will have to be able to trust and accept their counsel.
 
KNOW YOUR MARKET
Desire and persistence alone will not make you successful. You need to be sure that there is a market for what you plan to offer and that the competition isn’t already too strong. Market research is essential, and must begin with identifying who your potential customers are, and what features and benefits are important to them.

Using the results of interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other resources, you can develop a good marketing and business plan that takes into account customer needs, competition, pricing and promotional strategies. Make sure you are offering a product that is unique and competitive or at a lower cost than that of your competitors. Make sure you have the training, expertise and talent to run your business.

Twenty percent, or more, of all small businesses are started in the home. Home based businesses can be very successful, and statistics indicate that about 70% of these businesses survive the all-important first two years. If you are undecided about whether this is the right time for you to seriously consider self-employment, we recommend that you take the free on line  entrepreneurial self-assessment (Canada: http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/125/) or,
(United States: http://web.sba.gov/sbtn/sbat/index.cfm?Tool=4).

The Small Business Administration provides extensive free services to those in the U.S., while the Canada Business Centers assist startups in their service area. The SBA provides free computer-based-training modules in a wide variety of topics that you can take from the comfort of your home office. The courses, located at http://sba.gov/training/index.html, include topics such as Business Planning, Finance, Marketing and Advertising, Franchising, Strategic Planning, and Business Management.

Canada’s resource, Canada Business, http://www.canadabusiness.ca/eng/, provides an extensive listing of resources for the entrepreneur, including an Entrepreneurial Assessment and “Starting a Business” as a main topic. Articles, recommended links and checklists are provided to help with planning.

HOME BASED BUSINESS
Over half of all the small businesses in North America are home based. The IRS specifies that a home-based business must have its own location (away from the family living space) that is devoted exclusively to the business. The business must be in regular operation, profits must exceed expenses in order to claim deductions, the business must be conducted almost exclusively in the home and the motive must be profit.

The maturation of the baby boomer generation, born 1946-1964, is going to have a huge affect on business. As baby boomers begin to retire the demand for leisure travel is increasing. As of January 2010 boomers were retiring at the rate of one every eight seconds in the U.S. , and that rate is going to escalate and continue growing for the next several years. Here is a listing of ten business segments that are poised to experience high demand in the years ahead.

WHAT BUSINESS SECTORS ARE GROWING?
An economic collapse means disaster for some businesses, naturally, while others tend to grow. For every retailer in trouble, there’s a movie-theater experiencing an all-time high in attendance. For every industry that got gob-smacked by the recession there is a college bursting at the seams with adults seeking degrees for new careers. For those on the job hunt or considering self-employment, focus on the industries that are growing.

MOVIES
Box-office grosses for January were up 20% since last year, for a whopping $1.028 billion intake. Attendance is up 16.78%. Watching movies at home is also popular.  Movie Gallery’s reported plan to shutter 1,000 underperforming stores, including Hollywood Video locations, could make $200 million in annual rental revenue available to competitors including local mom and pop rental shops. (http://boxoffice.com/)

PHARMACY AND RELATED SERVICES
Not only are pharmaceuticals necessary, but the companies that produce them are growing as the baby boomers age. These companies have matured to the point they can do deals with their own cash and their own stock without having to go to the capital markets and ask for money. (http://www.csustan.edu/manage/harris/industry1.html)

HOME CARE AIDE AND MANAGED CARE
Health care services of all types will continue to grow for the next several years in response to the maturation of the baby boomer generation. Home healthcare services of all types, including fitness programs, transportation, in-home care and home delivery services are likely to be in high demand. (http://www.nahc.org/HCA/home.html)

BOTTLED WATER
Bottled water is huge. It’s the fastest growing segment in the beverage industry and shows no signs of slowing. At this growth rate, it will be the #1 beverage worldwide by 2013.  Bottled water companies offer a wide array of bottled waters at prices that can provide healthy margins. http://www.bottledwater.org/

VIDEO GAMES
Sales of U.S. video games experienced a 22% rise in over the previous year, jumping 11% in 2008, to 409.9 million units, and rose 13% again the following January, presenting more evidence that even in the middle of a brutal economic downturn, U.S. consumers are willing to spend on video games. There will also be increasing demand for video game testers as the industry continues to grow. (http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-tester.htm)

INTERNET SERVICES AND RETAILING
Internet Service Providers continue to improve services available to their customers, and ultimately to the final consumer, as technology costs drop and competition matures. Retailing via the Internet is now a huge business as more and more people turn to this easy to use resource for everything from soups to nuts. Even in the recession eBay posted revenues of over $2 billion. (http://www.internetnews.com/bus-news/article.php/3816826/Revenues+Fall+but+eBay+Still+Tops+Expectations.htm)

PERSONAL CHEF
Just as the need for childcare grew significantly as baby boomers entered the work place, other personal services have experienced similar growth. Today, personal chef services are also in great demand. According to Entrepreneur.com, the personal chef business is among the fastest-growing in the country and one of the best home-businesses to start this year. Personal chefs typically earn $35-$50 an hour. Annual revenue from personal chef businesses is expected to hit $1.2 billion in 2010. (http://www.entrepreneur.com/businessideas/674.html)

LEISURE TRAVEL
According to some sources, the only industry that actually grew globally during the current recession was travel. Work from home opportunities in the online travel industry are already beginning to replace the mom and pop travel agencies of days gone by. One innovative company taking the lead in leisure travel consulting is World Ventures, a four-year old multi-level marketing company based in Plano Texas that will treat you like a preferred customer and waive airline booking fees.(http://www.leavontime.worldventures.biz).

PERSONAL CONCIERGE
A personal concierge service is based on the most basic of premises. People want things done but don’t have the time to do them, and are willing to pay someone to take care of it for them.  Although personal concierge services are a fairly recent development, the number of companies that serve time-starved clients is mushrooming, right along with customer demand for such businesses. Membership in the National Concierge Association, provides networking and educational opportunities to help you get started. (http://www.nationalconciergeassociation.com/)

BIG-BOX RETAILERS
Where do you shop for all those discounted home staples? If you’re like most Americans the answer is Costco or Sam’s Club and Wal-Mart. These large volume retailers are positioned to under price other stores and can pick up all the demand that’s lost at higher-end stores which are suffering the results of high unemployment. They’re going to need staff to respond to increased demand. (http://www.wikinvest.com/stock/Costco_Wholesale_%28COST%29)

If you feel that the proper conditions are in place for you to go forward with starting your own business, here is a checklist of the basic areas you need to cover before opening:
Decide on the Legal Form for the Business (partnership, corporation, etc)
Choose & Register a Business Name  
Choose & Purchase your Internet Domain Name 
Research & Write a Business Plan, Operations Plan  and a Marketing Plan 
Set Up a Relationship with professional advisors, i.e., banker, attorney and accountant 
Set Up Other Professional Relationships, consultants, suppliers, etc 
Get Licenses and Permits, and meet other Legal Requirements for Operating a Business 
Set the Price for Your Product or Service  
Determine the Financing You Will Need and How You Will Get It  
Obtain Office Space, Equipment and Suppliers  
Plan for Risk Protection, Intellectual Capital Protection, Business Insurance  
Set up a Financial Management System  

Ready to set sail toward a new life as an entrepreneur? Be sure to do your research to determine whether the business opportunity you’re considering is real . . . there are plenty of scams out there . . . and then make decisions about how to go forward. Check information sites like Inc .com, Entrepreneur.com, allbusiness.com, and similar information silos to get as well informed as you can. Remember, the more widely you read, the better the decisions you’ll be enabled to make.

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Job Hunting in a Down Economy

Job hunting during difficult economic times is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming. Here are a few important steps to incorporate into your search methodology to help you conduct a more orderly and structured search.

Define your personal brand

Your personal brand is what differentiates you and makes you stand
out from your competitors. It’s the unique edge that you’ll need to compete for jobs in today’s marketplace. Ask two or three trusted professionals you know to write a paragraph describing you, so you don’t overlook traits important to a potential employer. You could also use recommendations others have written for you and posted on networking sites. 

Compose a detailed list of the skills and knowledge you possess. Don’t limit your skills to what you have learned in your career. Think about what you have learned in other venues as well. Skills are often acquired through participation in community activities where you may have worked in capacities outside your career path. These skills are also important in defining who you are.

Consider online assessments that may help you get a broader understanding of what makes you who you are. Your personality traits help define you as a person and an employee. Gaining clarity about these can help you do a much better job of marketing yourself in a time when it is important to find that perfect job opportunity.

The granddaddy of all personality assessment tools, the Myers-Briggs Temperament Sorter is now available online at www.keirsey.com. Upon completion of the assessment you will have immediate access to your results, and a trained counselor to help you interpret the results. Over 40 million people have used the assessment to gain insight into what makes them tick and what hampers their career advancement.

CareerFit is another excellent resource to help you uncover what would be a best fit for you and what wouldn’t. An online assessment tool located at www.careerfit-test.com, it helps test-takers identify their career interests and career personalities.

Assessments can be an excellent investment of time and money. They can help you discover your strengths and weaknesses and recognize where and how you add value and what makes you stand out from others. When you have completed this step, begin developing your unique brand with all of your networking contacts.

Define Your Job Ideals

Start by identifying what is important to you in a job. Think about jobs you’ve held, and what you liked and disliked about each of them. List those characteristics or environments that helped you grow and feel productive, and also list those that didn’t. Review your completed lists and analyze why you liked or disliked each item. This step will help you identify the internalized values and beliefs that cause you to react in certain ways to situations you encounter.

Then list your needs. What do you need for compensation? You can research what a typical salary range for your occupation is in you community at www.salary.com (www.salaryexpert.com in Canada). Are you willing to relocate? How much vacation do you require? Are you willing to commute? Do you need day care? What about flextime or telecommuting?

Naturally you want to understand the health benefits that are provided, but you may also have other needs, such as relocation or travel reimbursement, maternity/family leave, personal days and sick days, bonus and profit sharing, signing bonuses, and any other items that are important to you. These are necessary for you to consider, rate in importance, and then use as a way to measure whether an occupation or position you are considering will be a good fit.

Consider Shifting Your Career Path

Let’s face it. This is a tough job market. Perhaps the toughest we’ve seen in decades. Many folks are finding few opportunities in their chosen fields, and the interviewing process may include dozens of qualified candidates. If you are struggling to find openings in your chosen field, perhaps its time to consider other occupations that might be a good fit for your interests and skills.

It is often surprising how many different occupations use the same skill sets while offering the quality of life and job satisfaction that are so important in making a career rewarding and fulfilling. Career counselors routinely test their clients for occupational fit and then help them make informed decisions about which paths to pursue.

A reliable Internet resource to help you do this research on your own is the Self Directed Search assessment located at www.self-directed-search.com. The SDS can help you make informed career decisions, and has been used by more than 29 million people worldwide. SDS results have been supported by more than 500 research studies.

The results provide an extensive list of the occupations and fields of study that most closely match your interests. You can then explore the careers you are most likely to find satisfying based upon your interests and skills. Research occupations that interest you in the Occupational Outlook Handbook at www.bls.gov/OCO/. This site will help you discover what it is like to work in that occupation, including details on work environment, what training is required, how promotion occurs, and many other details to help you visualize whether that kind of job is a good fit for you.

Next, you need to determine whether you are a good fit for the occupations you wish to consider. Go to www.online.onetcenter.org to get an understanding of the skills required for the occupations you are researching, to determine whether you have the required career assets to be successful in that field. If there are gaps, you may want to consider how you can acquire the needed skills. Explore every industry or job function that initially appeals to you. The broader your search, the better your chances of locating the perfect fit.

Research Potential Employers

One of the biggest shortcoming of job candidates is that they don’t know enough about the companies to which they’re applying, and, consequently don’t know how they can contribute to the company’s success. To stand out from your competition, it’s crucial to be extremely knowledgeable about any company for which you would like to work. Learn what is happening in the industry. You want to know what challenges they are facing in today’s market and new initiatives are being undertaken to develop emerging demand for new services or products.

Set up news alerts at http://alerts.google.com for companies
on your target list. Search for blogs by industry leaders and read or watch the national and business news to keep up on challenges and new initiatives in the industry. Consider professional societies or associations in your area that might provide networking opportunities that can lead to learning more about what is happening at that local employer in which you are interested.

Network, Network, Network

Networking taps into the “hidden job market,” where openings exist long before they are advertised. Most of these slots are filled by someone identifying a need and asking their contacts if they know someone who would fit. The Internet is a great research resource, but it still accounts for a very small minority of job filled. We constantly hear that 70 to 80 percent of all jobs are found through networking referrals, not through newspaper listings or Internet job boards.

The best place to start networking is one-on-one with the people who already know you: your family, friends and other close contacts. Social scientists tell us that everyone has well over 100 people in their immediate circle of influence. Think about those folks who know you best, and start networking with them. Make a list of these contacts, and then prioritize it, putting who you want to talk to first at the top.

Then plan your networking strategy. Call or email these contacts and set up informal chats to discuss the occupations you have investigated and to seek their advice on how to improve your search strategy. Never ask if they know of a job opening. That puts your friends in a defensive position and makes them uncomfortable. Instead, ask if they know anyone else you should talk to for more insight and guidance. People want to help, and asking for contacts is something almost everyone can easily do to help you out.

Prepare a list of companies you are researching and share that with your networking contacts as you are explaining the steps you are taking to research opportunities for career advancement. Ask if they know anyone who works at any of those companies who might be able to provide some advice. Try to get three or more names from every contact you make. Then, set up networking meetings with those to whom you have been referred, and continue your research.

Be Prepared for the Interview

Very frequently when you are in a networking meeting with someone to whom you’ve been referred, and that person is looking over your resume, they may recall that as associate mentioned a while back that they need someone to fill a particular need. Sometimes they pick up the phone and call that person to see if they are still looking, and might take you down the hall to meet. Suddenly your networking meeting turned into an interview. You need to be prepared.

Develop a marketing plan for yourself, including your portfolio materials, examples of your work, your statement of objectives, and any other materials that help you demonstrate what you have to offer a potential employer. You must also directly tie yourself to your accomplishments in a public, linkable format for all the world to see if a professional image is important in your field.

The Future Buzz (http://thefuturebuzz.com/2009/02/18/personal-marketing-plan/) states that there is no power in remaining silent. In today’s world a professional is all but invisible unless they are blogging, talking shop with peers, and taking charge of their own personal PR. 

I have discussed in my online webinars that you may need to have more than one resume with you, so you can present the one that is appropriate for the person you have been taken to meet. You may need to create two or three functional style resumes that reflect your various skills as they relate to a variety of fields. The functional resume reflects your skills rather than a chronological listing of your previous employers, and helps the viewer quickly view a list of your transferrable skills. For more information on this style resume visit www.quintcareers.com/functional_resume.html.

Be Visible to the right people

Networking is not just about who you know, but also about who knows
you. So, it is important to get out in the community and meet new people. Expand you network. Attend industry association conferences, seminars, community networking sessions, workshops and any event where professionals are gathering. Use www.LinkedIn.com to join industry group discussions and increase your list of contacts.

Consider a membership in the Chamber of Commerce in your area. The Chamber is made up of business professionals in your community who are working together to promote the economic health of the area. Service clubs such as Rotary, Kiwanis, Lions, Jaycees, etc., are made up mostly of business people who are volunteering their time to provide grants and activities to help those in need. They are a great place to meet business people in a social setting.

There are many nonprofit, community and religious organizations that constantly need volunteers, and this may be a good time to learn new skills. Giving back is rewarding, plus your service has many tangible benefits: you’ll meet new people who may be able to refer you; you’ll build skills and experience that can enhance your resume; and you may come across paid openings at an organization where you’re donating your time.

Often those job goes to the person who is in the right place at the right time, and are never advertised. Stay in touch with everyone you know and everyone you meet. Keep notes about their interests and associations. Send an article he or she might enjoy when you run across it, and comment on a person’s status update on Facebook or Twitter when appropriate. Just be careful to remain polite and professional. You want to nurture a positive impression, not pester and irritate!

Keep Your Chin Up

It’s easy to become frustrated while job hunting any time, but in a tough economy it can be much worse. Stay active. This is not a time to sit around and hope something comes your way. Pay attention to personal hygiene. This is not the time to let yourself go. Don’t spend all your time on the Internet looking at job postings. Get out of the home office and mix it up with friends, family, and new interests.

Look for inexpensive ways to have fun and stay relaxed. Put together a neighborhood pot luck dinner party, or get yourself to the library, museums, join a gym or just start taking regular walks. Spend quality time with the people you love and take care of yourself. This can be a time to learn new disciplines as you follow up contacts on a regular basis, acquire new interests and skills, and may even help you to counsel someone else you know who will someday need help getting through what you are experiencing today.

Larry E Vaughn is a certified eLearning career counselor for Drake Beam Morin (www.dbm.com), has operated a private consulting practice for over twenty years, and appears daily on proprietary counseling webinars.

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Growth Through Business Networking

As I have stated many times in my online Entrepreneurial webinars, successful business networking can lead to new clients and new partnerships by expanding who knows you and knows about your business idea. You have to be visible in the business community for business networking to work.

You have to get out there and actually connect with people. Business networking creates a pool of contacts from which you can draw leads, referrals, ideas, and information for your job search. You have to find the people you want to connect with and develop a plan for getting in front of them.

“It’s not just what you know or who you know, it’s also how well they know your skills and interests that counts when you are networking,” says Herb Watchinski, owner of Sirius International, Inc. and professional Career Center Consultant in Columbia, Missouri. “They have to know you well enough for you to come to mind when a manager describes the position they are trying to fill, and asks, “Do you know anyone good?” That is when the “work” part of the word networking pays off,” Watchinski said.

It is said that up to 80% of jobs are never advertised. They are filled when someone says, “You know who would be good at that?” And, the referral is made. It is a popularly held belief among career consultants that networking has always been the most effective way to find that new position you’re seeking.

Typically, less than 20% of jobs are filled through a combination of newspaper, search firms, and Internet. 80% percent are filled through networking referrals, and around 60% of executive vacancies are filled through networking. Most jobs are filled when a manager asks associates or peers if they know anyone good.

Initially, some of my business clients think business networking is just about mailing out brochures or circulating around a meeting room and handing out business cards, but it is really about building personal relationships over time. Today, who you know is just as important as what you know when that question is asked. You want your contacts to know about your goods and services so when someone asks, “Do you know anyone that would be good?” you come to mind.

Business networking and career networking are becoming so similar they are merging into what is increasingly being called social networking. Good business networking starts with networking socially through groups and organizations ranging from local service organizations like Rotary, Kiwanis and Lions Clubs to professional and trade associations. Chambers of Commerce and Merchants Associations offer venues where business people from throughout your community gather to promote the common good.

Churches often sponsor networking clubs for those in their neighborhood who are in job transition and networking groups are springing up in various specialty fields. But, the World Wide Web is the hottest new place to cultivate business relationships.

“Online networking is a phenomenon that really has just started to reach its stride,” Watchinski said. “Business networking services like Ryze.com, Ecademy.com, and LinkedIn.com let active networkers connect with others in ways not possible before the web. Netshare.com provides executives and professionals at the $100K level with networking opportunities, and a community of peers for the exchange of strategic information. Executives, of course, also have to network into headhunters and executive search firms. Your eNetwork can literally extend around the world, and can include a million or more contacts at your third level.”

Visualizing the Network

To visualize a network, think of the outline of a target, with you located on the bulls eye. In the first ring around the bulls eye are the people you already know through work, church, civic or social organizations, and your family members. These are called your primary contacts. Typically, there are 300 people in your primary contact ring.

You may not, at first, think you know 300 people, but keep in mind; this includes people you only know by first name, who are in your diverse social network. It also includes your doctor, dentist, attorney, accountant, and all other professionals with whom you interface. So, it isn’t as hard to come up with 300 primary contacts as you may have at first thought.

Now, if all 300 of those people each know 300 people the ring around them contains at least 90,000 Secondary Contacts for you to meet! The ring around them would contain an amazing 27,000,000! There are over eight billion in the fourth ring, and since that is much more than the population of the USA, you have worldwide contacts within reach. Fortunately, most referral jobs are located in the ring containing the 90,000, and you usually don’t have to network beyond that level.

There are frequent situations, however, where you will meet with one of the Secondary Contacts, and they say, “You know, one of my associates was mentioning to me the other day they were looking for someone to specialize in an area I think you would really fit into well. Let’s walk down to her desk to see if she is in.” Boom! All of a sudden you are in an interview!

Establishing Credibility

“Because networking is about building and maintaining relationships, credibility is a key element,” Watchinski said. New contacts won’t necessarily start driving business your way or give you a referral until they know you better. Referrals aren’t given easily today. You have to earn respect. If you don’t take the time to establish credibility, you’re not going to get that referral you might desperately need. People have to get to respect you, feel confident that you will consistently deliver quality.

Think of it this way,” he continued, “Referrals are very powerful. They will open doors for you. However, when I refer you, I am putting my own reputation on the line. If you do a good job, my Primary Contact that hired you will be pleased. But, if you do a poor job, that reflects badly on me and my judgment. That’s why you have to earn the right to be referred.”

Helping others is one sure-fire way to establish credibility. It really comes down to being willing and open to helping people. Look for ways to expand your network, and when you connect with people give them something useful, such as information, ideas, and contacts. That’s the best way to build credibility, especially if you give it freely without any strings attached. The more you give away the more you become an important contact in others’ networks.

People will come to you because you have the connections they seek. Networking is more about cultivating relationships, and is all about give and take and willingly helping people. If you would like to get your eNetworking started, visit my LinkedIn profile, and request to join the network at http://www.linkedin.com/in/larryevaughn.

In closing, there is a word of caution about eNetworking I feel compelled to share. With identity theft on the rise, we each have to be very cautious about the personal information we enter into online databases. Ask yourself, “Why does this website need this information?” If you can’t think of any reason, there may not be one. Be particularly cautious about information that can be reverse-looked-up as a step to stealing your identity, such as your mailing address and home telephone number.

There are eNetworking websites that provide adequate protection from hackers, but I would always recommend erring on the side of caution. I personally have avoided joining online eNetworking communities that require my mailing address to open an account, but do all their communication by email. What value does that mailing address have to them other than something they can sell to marketers? And, who needs more junk mail? Also, that database just might become an attractive target for hackers working for identity thieves.

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Bevier & Southern Railroad

One of my earliest personal memories is a visit to my grandparents’ house in Bevier, Missouri. My grandfather, William Thomas Vaughn, was pastor of the Baptist Church there. My family had traveled by a Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad steam powered passenger train, from to Bevier. The tracks were on the same roadbed as the predecessor Hannibal & St. Joseph Railroad, part of the original Pony Express route.

Bevier, at the time was a bustling coal town, with active coal mines all around the area. I loved hearing the big steam engines pulling the heavy coal trains from the mines through town. This visit to Bevier must have taken place in the spring, because I remember my grandmother, Beulah, had just dug up some roots to make fresh sassafras tea for us. Sassafras tea, served steaming hot in a china cup with a touch of real cream was a special event the entire family enjoyed.

I can remember several times we would hear a train approaching, and I would run to the sidewalk along the street, to gaze the few blocks toward the railroad tracks to catch a glimpse of the engines chuffing through the intersection. I always enjoyed the noise and drama of the “working” end of the train, and admired the men in the cab of the locomotive who made the train “go.”

The original operator of the Bevier & Southern Railroad was the Kansas & Texas Coal Railway, which was reorganized in May 5, 1898 as the Missouri & Louisiana Railroad. The Missouri & Louisiana divided on September 26, 1914 with the northern portion adopting the name Bevier & Southern, with the slogan “Have Train Will Haul.” During 1915 the company operated 63 miles of track in bringing coal from the many mines along its route to the CB&Q siding in Bevier for shipment to markets all over the Midwest.

Headquartered in Bevier, the railroad had its general offices located near the roundhouse, which sat just below the CB&Q siding. Records indicate that B&S employed over 40 employees at one point with an annual pay roll amounting to $135,000. The railroad was very important to the coal mines all along the line, and it was a primary transportation link for many of the residents of the communities that sprung up around the mines.

Miners would gather at the Bevier roundhouse each morning to catch the 4AM passenger train and ride to work. School children would then ride the return train to Bevier so they could go to school. After school the children would walk down to the train station and wait for the train home. The return trip brought miners home from their day’s work.

The passenger train usually consisted of seven miners’ coaches and coach number 204 for other passengers and the mail. Many people relied on the B&S not only for transportation, but also for jobs and to ship coal out that was mined in the Bevier area. The passenger service was discontinued in 1926 after post offices at Ardmore and Keota closed, and the postal contract was cancelled.

In 1943 it was necessary to construct additional tracks to serve new pits at Southern mines, and the railroad tried electric locomotives to reduce the cost of operation. The experiment lasted only two years, however, due to the severe grade between Ardmore and the Southern mines. Frequent burnouts of traction motors proved the locomotives were ill suited for the task, and the electric operation was discontinued.

Over time, as mines depleted their veins of coal and the operations were closed, the railroad was forced to abandon unused sections of track until it finally reached its final length in 1961 of 9.18 miles, from the CB&Q (now Burlington Northern) siding, adjacent to their yards in Bevier, to Binkley where the last working mine was located.

The B&S went out of business in 1982 after seventy years of operation. Their general offices were moved into coach #204, parked on a siding behind the roundhouse. One of their locomotives, #109, a Brooks 2-6-0 that was originally Illinois Central Railroad #560 is now on display at the Illinois Railway Museum. Another of their engines, Baldwin 2-6-0 #112, is on display at the post office in downtown Bevier.

According to Wikipedia, the free Internet encyclopedia, the railroad was reopened in the late 1990s under the ownership of the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railroad, now known as BNSF Railway so it could serve a large coal-fired power plant at the Thomas Hill Reservoir. The new line is approximately 25 miles long and is still in use today.

I was fortunate to make a couple of motor car trips on the abandoned railroad in the mid-1980s, once while the roundhouse was still fully equipped with its steam powered tool shop, and then again after the equipment was sold to Steamtown Museum . On the first trip the owner arranged to have some of the former employees meet us at the roundhouse to show us around the property, and they later agreed to ride down the line with us in the motorcars.

We had a splendid fall day on that first trip, and we enjoyed the former B&S employees as we ran the two motor cars down the line, listening to their stories about past operations on the line. I made tape recordings of several of the conversations as we toured the grounds and roundhouse, and we also acquired a large number of 35mm photos of the equipment, buildings, roundhouse and scenery. It was a delightful experience, and a day I will always fondly remember.

The roundhouse was subsequently moved to Steamtown Historic Site Pennsylvania as a fine example of a steam operated repair and maintenance facility from the steam era. It is difficult to imagine the complex web of massive drive belts that operated each of the gigantic drills, saws, and presses, but if you should have the chance to visit Steamtown this is one exhibit you won’t want to miss.

Posted in Hannibal, Historiography, Personal Blogs, railroad | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Gideon’s Island

Gideon’s Island
By Larry E Vaughn

There’s something a little frightening about your twelve year old son achieving manhood. First he’s childishly mischievous, kicking pea gravel at his buddy, and then he’s using proper logic to make a decision that will affect his entire adult life. He’s gaining self confidence, becoming self-sufficient, and learning independence by conquering the elements of nature with his fellow Boy Scouts.

It was with great excitement the twenty-four scouts from Holts Summit, Missouri climbed aboard the 28-foot cabin cruiser, Gidoris, for a forty five minute cruise to the Lake of the Ozarks island where they would camp for the weekend. The skipper, Gideon Houser, gave the scouts a tour of his well-appointed boat, briefed them on water safety, then issued and fitted life jackets.

Scoutmaster Dwight Gates, who had driven the scout troop‘s bus, had overseen the packing of tents and supplies into a small fishing boat towed behind. “The boys have been preparing for this trip for several weeks,” Gates remarked, “and, I am very grateful to Mr. Houser for making this special opportunity available to us.” The scouts’ boat was launched, and tied on behind the big cabin cruiser.

Houser, a skilled and courteous ship’s captain, eased the big boat from the dock into the main channel. After setting his course and stabilizing the gentle throb of the engines, he stepped aside, allowing each of the scouts to take his turn at the wheel. Keeping an ever watchful eye on other lake traffic, the skipper answered a continuous barrage of questions from the admiring boys. “One of life’s greatest pleasures,” Houser chuckled, “is being able to share a new experience with someone. I’ve been looking forward to this weekend, myself.”

Excitement reached new levels as our destination came into view. The scouts began scanning the wilderness along the shoreline for campsites, likely fishing spots and interesting areas to explore. The Gidoris was quickly anchored thirty feet offshore, and scoutmaster Gates untethered the fishing boat loaded with gear, and headed for the beach.

After unloading the boat on a graveled beach with secluded coves on either side, Gates began shuttling the scouts and adult leaders ashore. Tending to business first, the scouts quickly erected the six tents that would house the troop that night, and gathered firewood for campfires.

Then there was free time for fishing, swimming and exploring. Gates, now in swimming trunks, selected an area to be set aside for swimming. After checking the lake bottom for hazards, he established boundaries by anchoring lifejackets on the perimeters to serve as markers. Then appointing lifeguards, testing each boy’s swimming skill, and pairing the boys into a buddy system, he let them swim freely, while maintaining a constant vigil.

While some scouts were exploring the island’s wooded and beach areas, searching for new discoveries, collecting shells, or just admiring nature’s wonders, others had broken out fishing rods.

Uniformed scouts could be seen on almost every point, trying to catch a trophy fish. It didn’t matter to them what kind of fish it was they caught, just so it was big enough to brag about. And, sooner or later that night, where you saw a scout, you saw an adult leader untangling fishing line, working lures loose from obstructions on the bottom, tying new knots in the line, and putting fish on stringers. It was a new experience for many of the youngsters, and a rewarding afternoon for the adults.

The sky had become cloudy during the afternoon, and now as dusk approached, a solid overcast hid the sunset. It was time for supper. The boys chose spots for their cook fires, downwind from the tents. They brushed debris away from their chosen spot, then assembled kindling and firewood. Soon there was chatter from all around the campsite as each group busied themselves with preparing their meals. The variety of foods ranged from simple canned stews to steak and potatoes. Some had even brought a dessert.

As each scout finished his evening meal, he collected any trash he had created and placed it in the troop trash container. Then he scoured, washed and rinsed his mess kit before packing it away for the night. Some scouts, on their first overnight camping trip that required them to plan and prepare their own meals, received helpful advise and instruction from more experienced scouts to help them make cooking and cleanup quicker and easier.

Night had already fallen by the time everyone had finished their supper and cleanup. Now it was time to unpack bedrolls, lay ground cloths, and make the tents ready for the night. The evening’s cloudy skies threatened rain, so trenches were dug around the tents to carry off any rainwater that might fall that night. Tent bracing was double checked in case there should be any wind. Some scouts double braced their tents and placed large rocks around the bottom walls to hold them securely in place. Others were not so cautious.

A large, cheerful, bon fire ringed with driftwood seats crackled at the edge of the campsite, and the scouts were assembled for a campfire discussion before retiring for the night. The stillness of the lake echoed the sounds of laughter and singing as the scouts and leaders recounted the activities of the day, shared jokes, and closed with singing in unison.

It wasn’t even a half hour later that the first sprinkles of rain fell on the campsite. It was a gentle rain at first, with only a few small gusts of wind. Occasional bursts of quiet laughter and the rumbling of voices telling stories still seeped from the tents. They diminished only when the lightening and thunder worsened, rain pummeling the tents became a constant dull thudding. Gusting wind shook the tents like tissue paper.

Scoutmaster Gates was concerned. “My boys are going to get soaked in this rain,” he worried out loud. “Those darned tents aren’t as good as I would like for them to be, but they’re all we could afford. Maybe some day when we get our bills paid . . .” He donned his rain suit and stepped into the storm. He headed for the campsite to check tent staking and tie downs, to secure flaps and place rocks around those tents that needed them.

It was shortly after he left the campsite one tent’s bracing gave in to the wind and collapsed onto the boys inside. It fell twice more that night. After he returned from the first of many trips to check the campsite, as we were discussing whether to move the boys to a sheltered dock somewhere, I felt the hurt all parents feel sooner or later. I realized, all of a sudden, that my son had been able to plan, prepare, and take care of himself all day, without any help from daddy.

Now, he was out there, in a tent during a severe thunderstorm, dependant on his own resourcefulness for comfort and safety. What a strange mixture of hurt, dismay and pride I felt that stormy night!

The violence of the storm abated in the early morning hours, and turned into light, but persistent, drizzle that continued until near noon. As dawn broke, a few of the scouts donned their raingear, rounded up fishing tackle, and headed for the favored fishing spots. Others slept in, weary from the busyness of the previous day and sleeplessness during the storm. But, by seven o’clock everyone was up, in raingear, preparing for another day.

The problem of getting a cook fire started was uppermost in everyone’s mind. Pine needles and Cedar bark were gathered from the woods to serve as kindling. Small twigs and sticks were gathered from under trees where they were somewhat sheltered from the previous night’s downpour. The scouts stretched out a large plastic drop cloth and lifted it shoulder high over the selected cook fire site. Scoutmaster Gates climbed under it, assembled the necessary materials, and soon had a warm bristling fire burning.

The boys fried and scrambled eggs, baked biscuits, stirred up hot chocolate, and one even fried the fish he had caught the evening before . . . . all in the rain, water dripping off their rain suits! Breakfast took a little longer than planned, because the boys had to take turns using the campfire. After most of the scouts had finished eating, and were cleaning their mess kits, I unpacked my food and cooking gear. It was during this time that my son came over and sat beside me. “I’m still kind of hungry, Dad,” he said. What music to my ears! It sounded sort of like he said he still needed me! It was with great joy that we mixed up some pancake batter, fried potatoes, heated hot chocolate, and shared a rain soaked breakfast.

Before breaking camp and boarding the Gidoris for the return trip to our waiting bus, the scouts were assembled again for a Sunday morning services of thanksgiving. The scouts themselves provided the opening and closing prayers, and related the things that they had learned from the campout. They spoke of such things as fellowship, sharing, caring, and helping others. They related the times that they had needed help that weekend, and the times that there were able to help someone else. They spoke of God, of gratefulness, and appreciation.

Later, as they folded their tents and packed their gear, they kicked pea gravel on their buddy, and played practical jokes on each other. Soon, they were on their way home to their parents, who are just a little saddened as they watch their twelve year old sons growing into young men.

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