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A Dorm Room With A View

As a senior in high school, he paid cash for a BMW with money made by selling newspapers. In 1983, as a college freshman, he sold custom-made PCs and parts out of his dorm room?hiding them behind his roommate's shower curtain whenever Mom and Dad visited. A year later, with just $1,000 in start-up capital, he dropped out of school to focus fully on his expanding business. It took him just eight years to become the youngest CEO ever of a Fortune 500 company.

Today, he is one of the richest people on the planet, with a net worth estimated to be greater than $14 billion. His company employs nearly 60,000 people, and Fortune magazine ranks it as America's most-admired.

Michael Dell's vision as an 18-year-old is now legendary, and he continues to believe in the same basic principles: manage inventory, and listen to and respond to customers. "Being an entrepreneur wasn't on my mind," he once said. "What was on my mind was the opportunity I saw ahead, which was so compelling." Dell understood at a young age that knowing where you want to go is as important as knowing how to get there.

Success Handler Action: What is the vision for your franchise business? In working with our coaching clients, we discover many haven't taken the time to determine the opportunities before them. They're too caught up in the day-to-day trials of just running their business. Others tell us that, while they know their vision, they haven't necessarily shared it with their team. After you finish reading this E-newsletter, use these questions to focus in on your vision, then gather your team and let them know where you're heading together:

~ Where do go for quiet, introspective moments, and have you been there lately?

~ What is your core business, and how does this benefit your customers/clients?

~ When was the last time you took a big chance and implemented a new product/service?

~ Who are the visionary leaders in your industry, and what are they doing better or differently?

~ Why are others still entering your industry, and what new ideas do you think they see?

In giving the commencement address to the 2003 graduating class at the University of Texas, after first telling his parents they still wouldn't get to see him take home a degree, Michael Dell said, "When Dell got started, it didn't come with a manual on how to become number one in the world. We had to figure that out every step of the way. And with each new product and new market, the industry 'experts' said we'd fail?And as always, we did it our way, with customers ? not the experts ? in mind."

Success Handler Action: With your team, identify the "naysayers" who are keeping you from excelling. Is it industry experts, competitors, the economy, suppliers, little voices inside your head, or some other things that are getting in the way of your taking control of growing your franchise business? Here are five ways to help you figure out those inhibitors and get to work overcoming them today:

1. Tell your team about the last time you didn't act on an idea?and what stopped you.

2. Have team members share stories they've heard recently from suppliers and customers.

3. Talk about the things they're seeing on the news and reading in the paper.

4. Ask everyone what they would do if they were "king for a day" in your business.

5. Brainstorm the next "big thing" in your business, and create a plan of action to do it.

Michael Dell created a great company by believing in his vision, and by doing something many forget ? giving customers exactly what they want. In that commencement speech he said, "We didn't invent the concept of selling directly to customers, and we didn't invent the personal computer, and we certainly didn't invent the Internet?but there's always an opportunity to make a difference." Look for the opportunity to make a difference in your franchise business, and you'll find it. Then, things will be so exciting you'll feel like an 18-year-old all over again.

Addendum: In 1995, two college students gave me a lesson about the Internet. At the end of our session, I asked which computer brand they recommended for our home. They quickly said in unison, "Dell." Then one added, "And while you're at it, invest the same amount in their stock." We bought the computer. Today, the stock would be worth around $50,000. Moral?a lot of college students are really smart. Listen to them!

Copyright © 2005 by Success Handler, LLC. All rights reserved.

The Coach, David Handler, is the founder of Success Handler, (http://www.successhandler.com), and specializes in helping small business leaders find clarity and take action. He understands the challenges of running a business, because he's been there ? as a small business owner, franchisee, franchisor, corporate leader and trainer. Much like sports coaches, his coaching will show you how to compete on a level playing field in your industry.

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