Tuesday, November 17, 2015

The Importance of a Business Plan
By Felicia Beard, President of Paper Trails

A business plan:
·         Defines the purpose of business
·         Provides insight for product pricing
·         Outlines a strategy for execution
·         Holds the owners accountable (especially if a sole proprietorship)
·         Gives feasibility perspective
·         Encourages lending and investment opportunities in your business
·         Provides stamina to run

Underestimating the necessity of a well-written, clear business plan is a mistake and can be detrimental for business owners.  Saying, “my business plan is in my head,” is foolish conversation.  What this equates to is taking a road trip somewhere, having the destination in your mind but not having a road map to get you there.  By some luck you may eventually find your way but you waste unnecessary gas, time, heartache and money on this journey.  The Bible even tells us to “map it out” – “write the vision and make it plain on tables that he may run who readeth it.” (Habakkuh 2:2 King James)  With a business plan you will find that you will run and not get lost – run with vigor, excitement and energy!  You will know where you are going and what it takes to get there.

Work smart to develop your business right from the start. Do the required research and investigation and seek the appropriate expert advice for its establishment.  Finally, if you lack the time and/or skills needed to develop a business plan hire a contractor.  Call Paper Trails at 716-603-2192 for further information regarding how its account executives can map out a business plan that gets you to your destination.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What Are You Looking At?

By Felicia Beard, Business Owner – Paper Trails

Losing my corporate job has been the best thing that could have ever happened to me.  Of course in the beginning I didn’t feel this way. As a matter of fact the news that my job was being eliminated because the company was “getting out of the Medicaid business” was a surprise to me, especially since my position had expanded to include commercial products as well as Medicaid. So, why would I be losing my job? To top it off the same week I found out about my employment situation I literally had just moved into my second house.

I was comfortable in this corporation.  During the 4 years I was there they treated me wonderfully.  The first year I started they put me through their Executive Leadership Development program which made me feel “secure”. They introduced me to important people on the ladder to success at the company, and I found myself having one on one strategic conversations with the then CEO of the company more often than I wanted (as I was slightly intimidated). I was requested by the CEO of the company--who skipped management levels to request me--to participate on an executive level committee as his representative.  There also was talk of my management responsibilities expanding into the Albany market.  Wow, in my mind I was going somewhere at this company. Unfortunately, I had no idea the company that had given me so much security and brought me into the intimate parts of the team wasn’t going with me, lol.  I had a false sense of security but I loved my job. 

I felt valuable, like I was part of an “elite”, noble team (this was all in my mind as a lure for my focus). I was loyal to my team as I lost all perspective of my personal goals and aspirations. The truth be told, I never would have applied to this company for any job, nor did I apply. This company did not line up with my career goals. It is important that when a person gets a job or enters their career, that they not only look at the company to see what the company needs in terms of filling a position but they must also see how the company fits within their career plans. A person should research a company to make sure their purpose will be fulfilled. In addition, whenever I go on an interview I ask the interviewer questions about their company that allow me to evaluate how this particular organization meets my interests.  I do not want to be unhappy…producing for the sake of getting paid. Yes, we all have to eat but if we are diligent in our search and have patience and faith we can have that career that brings us payment AND joy!

The job “fell out of the sky” for me on a crisp, clear day just like “manna from heaven”. I was asked by a colleague if I wanted to work at this company which she provided the acronym for. I said “yes”, not even knowing what the company was because my focus was right and I was on guard for this opportunity, waiting for it to land in my lap due to good focus. When I was preparing for the interview I was told there was no job available, no job description to see prior to meeting, they just wanted me to come in for an exploratory interview.  Which was an awesome experience because I could be me and it paid off.  I was scheduled to meet with the executive vice presidents, senior vice presidents and executive recruiter for the company.  Everyone loved “me” – my spirit, my personality, skills, experience, and connection to people.  As a matter of fact the first person I met was the Senior Vice President of Government Programs and she claimed me immediately. We had a great time talking in her office and she took me on the tour of the facility and introduced me to her staff. Remember there was no position but because I was “me” and not nervous about man judging me and determining if I was good enough for them, a way out of no way was made for me.  Not only did she claim me as hers on the same day, she also asked ME how much did I want to be paid for a job that didn’t exist – huh?? Wow that never happened to me before.  I told her the range of salaries I have been applying for and she said “we can do that!” (I learned to always be prepared with a figure, even if you are in casual conversation with someone at a reception because you never know when, where or how manna will fall, especially when your heart and focus are right.)  Finally, and best of all – since I thought I had no desire to work at this company…the position she was creating for me actually was in line with my career aspirations and passion. I would be the manager of Medicaid enrollment for eight Western New York counties.  I would be able to creatively design ways to get health insurance for those who were not insured or knew they could be insured.  I was making an impact on society and literally helping to save people’s lives.  Amazing!

I did this job for a couple of years as the company began to change. The CEO and my Strategic Business Unit Senior Vice President retired. I was nervous but somewhat secure because my focus was on all the investment the company had put in me, my loyalty to them, and shoot! I was part of the “elite”, noble team (ha!). Plus my portfolio of products had increased.  All these superficial signs had me feeling like I was going to remain.

My focus was off – way off!  Let me tell you... In addition to the company’s executive level personnel changes, the whole system of insuring the uninsured in NYS was moving to an online process. To make sure there was no steering or bias when selecting an insurance carrier NYS was funding community organizations to be enrollers, and the state set up a telephone enrollment center that had more freedom and flexibility with the application process. The insurance companies were being relieved of a lot of the duties they previously had (duties I managed) and these new centers became the one stop market for people looking for affordable insurance.  However, I held on because my focus was off.  The position that was originally created for me CHANGED dramatically not just physically, but conceptually. I had become a real “Salesperson” for commercial products that were in some cases priced out of the realm of affordability. This position, which paid very well, was no longer a fit for me but with money like I was getting I wasn’t going to walk away – are you kidding! --- Focus off!!

Therefore, I lost my focus on so many levels – I kept my relationship with God for certain things but I wasn’t trying to hear Him about my job. Naturally, even though I wanted to keep my job something within me was telling me this position was not going to last much longer. However, because I wasn’t listening to the voice inside of me, the voice of God that had not steered me wrong in all this time, I shook it off and continued to listen to man and rely on my false sense of security.

Focus is so important. God tells us that if we stay focused on Him and do not look to the left or the right and do all that He instructs, everywhere our feet step we will have great success. I am a great example of this. When I was focused on Him and listening to Him instead of my false network system and personal relationships, God rained manna from heaven for me.   If I had listened to the inner voice instead of getting caught right back up in “what man can do” and “how the system is going to watch out for me”, at bare minimum when my job was eliminated I would have been prepared and not left feeling betrayed.  I mean, truth is we will have afflictions in life. I am not mad but I was bitter at first, these people were my friends and had my back – right!?! Regardless, I choose to live life according to the terms God sets. I would be bored and feel purposeless if life had no challenges or if all was wonderful 100% of the time.

 I started this writing by saying I am glad I am no longer at the corporation that employed me. I am glad because I got my focus back. God speaks to me daily and I have a personal relationship with Him which I lost depending on something temporal. I operate my own business, Paper Trails, which brings in income to care for not only my needs but my wants (i.e. God promised to provide me with shelter but He didn’t say it had to be a 4 bedroom house but that is what He gave me; he promised to get me places but He didn’t have to give me a new vehicle but He did; he promised to feed me but it doesn’t have to be steak and boy how I enjoy the steaks He provides). He loves me and I love Him.

When we submit our lives to God and sincerely open our hearts to receive Him, letting go of all our skepticism, and believe that He is and invite Him into our hearts and life, God does exceedingly and abundantly above all we can ask and think of.  So, thank you corporation - you helped me get my focus back and in spite of not having the commitment of a “consistent” paycheck from your system – I promise you, God has not let me miss a beat! I have my freedom, spend time with my family, I enjoy beautiful weather, travel and love being with God. I cannot thank you enough.  And if I ever was sent back by God, because truth be told, God is in control of all things – the corporation didn’t hire me in the beginning and it didn’t eliminate my position, this was all God’s doing – I will do my very best to never lose my focus again. God is my guiding light and He makes me to lie down in green pastures!

I hope that you get focus in your work life. Listen to the voice that speaks softly in your spirit. Trust not in princes or the systems of the world. You could have worked 30+ years of your life, show up to work one day and receive a pink slip. Your company could shut down without notice. You could be part of senior leadership and have your contract bought out or not renewed. Nothing is secure but God. Set your focus on Him and listen for His leading. He will never let you down, even when transition comes He will give you peace which passes all understanding, strength to endure and manna from heaven during the wilderness experience.

Listen for His voice.  If he is telling you to step out on your own and start a business trust Him and seek Him for His plan.  If He is warning you that something is changing in your current employment situation and you need to start looking elsewhere don’t be caught off guard, don’t idolize the salary or network. God cares for you and He will never let you down. Get your focus right and look at Him.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Act of Courage – Just Do it!
By Felicia R. Beard

Register for Paper Trails’ "Starting Your Business 101" Seminar, Saturday, May 23, 2015, 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM.  Go to www.mypapertrailsonline.com for more information and to register.

“Just Do It”.  Interesting little phrase branded by Nike, that is quite impactful.  Of course, this phrase has been used by many for generations but Nike grabbed hold and ran with it (both figuratively and literally).  And why not!  It makes sense, especially when you are an apparel company created to provide clothing for athletes and individuals who “just do it” every day.  Nike’s “Just Do It” campaign ingeniously inspires courageous acts to make something happen.  It inspires competition, whether that be against an opponent or team; or competition within yourself to improve your current state or achieve a goal. Regardless, it pushes people to win by motivating them to “do”. You can’t even conceive of winning if you don’t “do”.

I have met a number of people who are interested in starting a business. Some have many reasons for why they cannot attain this goal –i.e., not enough money, no staff, lacking expertise in certain area, etc. These are good reasons but ultimately these are excuses!  Truth is where there is a will there certainly is a way, especially in the capitalist nation of the United States of America. Our country thrives on the creation of small businesses and has created a number of resources to support, strengthen and grow business. Unfortunately, if you are not courageous and allow your excuses to hold you hostage you will never know the beauty and reward of owning a business. You will be like the person who dreams of cycling for the U.S.A. Olympic team but never buys a bike.

The 2nd Quarter Fiscal Report for the Nike Company states their revenues at a 15% increase to $7.4 billion (see www.news.nike.com/earnings). Your company may not be a Nike today but even Nike began somewhere…I am betting they started by “Just Doing It!”

Start your business today.  Be courageous, take your first step and do it!