Donny Osmond’s New Role: Entrepreneur

Singer Donny Osmond has done a lot in his life since the release of his first smash single — Puppy Love — back in 1972.  He’s acted on stage, raced cars and hosted talk shows. He even won Dancing with the Stars in 2009.

Now the 57-year-old entertainer has just announced his first app to go along with the upcoming release of The Soundtrack of My Life, his 60th album.

As explained in this interview, the Donny Osmond app “is an interactive social media tool that will give users a sneak peek at the songs on Osmond’s album, complete with an anecdote about why each song is important to him.” Users can download the app for free from iTunes and Google.

While he’s enjoyed the diverseness of his career, Osmond says he is — first and foremost — a singer. He’s excited about the new album but knows it could bring pressure to do another.

“Every time you have a success you will say, well, try topping that,” he said. “That’s the nature of success. You know you have to keep moving forward.”

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How a Ski Instructor’s Bum Knee Launched a New Product

In 2002, Kim Gustafson left an international career in office equipment sales and marketing to become a ski instructor in Vail, Colorado. But at age 54, his knees (which had undergone two reconstructive surgeries) weren’t so young anymore. His new gig required him to wear a cumbersome knee brace while on the ski slopes.

As explained in this article from Vail-Beaver Creek Magazine, the brace got him thinking about whether there might be a more comfortable way to support his knee. In 2004, he visited the Steadman Philippon Research Institute, where a couple of researchers happened to be looking at the idea of a fabric-based knee brace.

Gustafson teamed up with the researchers to create the Opedix Knee-Tec tight, which provides breathable, moisture-wicking support for the knee area. At first, the tights’ primary users were ski instructors and other professional ski personnel. All that changed after this piece ran in The New York Times last December.

“Sales went through the roof,” said Gustafson, who’s now 65. Opedix, the company he founded, sells the knee brace online for $225. He now has a second product: orthopedic Core-Tec shorts that realign the pelvis and reduce back pain.

And Kim Gustafson? He seems to be enjoying his multi-faceted life as a product inventor, entrepreneur and ski instructor.

“It’s so much more rewarding and fun than being in office equipment,” he said.


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TV Shows for Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs

Most business owners don’t have much downtime.  When an unexpected break or a free night occurs, it feels good to relax and stretch out on the couch – and maybe watch a little TV.

A while ago, I was channel surfing one evening and happened to stumble upon the first episode of “The Men Who Built America,” The History Channel’s series about John D. Rockefeller, Cornelius Vanderbilt, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford and J.P. Morgan. Each show builds upon the next, explaining how these business titans rose from obscurity and built companies that shaped America.  It’s a terrific series that may air again at some point.

In the meantime, entrepreneurs can find plenty of other TV programs about starting a business, or a new adventure later in life.  Here are a few shows that educate, inspire and/or entertain.

Your Business (MSNBC) – Hosted by JJ Ramberg, this show profiles small business owners and offers advice from business experts and investors.

Growing Bolder TV – Spotlights ordinary people in search of extraordinary lives. As Growing Bolder’s website puts it, “It’s not about age; it’s about attitude.”

BarHunters (Discovery Channel) — First-time bar owners pursue their dream of opening a bar with the help of expert Tom Powers.

How I Made My Millions (CNBC) — Reveals how everyday people have taken ordinary ideas and turned them in extraordinary businesses. Focuses on companies that have surpassed $1 million.

Cake Boss (TLC) –This half‐hour focuses on Buddy Valastro as he manages his booming business, Carlo’s Bakery in Hoboken, NJ, along with his big Italian family – including his mother and sisters – who run the shop with him.

Shark Tank (ABC) — The “Sharks” — tough, self-made, multi-millionaire and billionaire tycoons — give budding entrepreneurs the chance to make their dreams come true and potentially secure business deals that could make them millionaires.

Undercover Boss (CBS) — A reality series that follows high-level corporate executives as they slip anonymously into the rank-and-file of their own companies.

Life Reimagined TODAY with Jane Pauley (NBC) – Pauley is back once a month on the TODAY show as AARP’s contributor. Her segment “shines a spotlight on people in midlife who are reimagining their lives, creating real possibilities and pursuing their dreams.”


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Ten Tips to Help You Focus — And Get More Done

Last week, I contacted several late-blooming entrepreneurs and asked them to share time-management tips that help them run their business.  As the responses began arriving, it wasn’t long before a theme emerged.

Focus is king.

“Establish your goals and objectives and then focus like a laser on accomplishing them,” said Bill Cheeks of ABBA Associates, which conducts personal finance seminars. “I do not get confused or sidetracked.”

That’s easier said than done.  A client pops in. Your computer freezes. A big product order arrives suddenly. The overnight delivery guy needs a signature. Interruptions and the unexpected are inevitable for entrepreneurs.

And then there’s the never-ending list of tasks associated with running a business. “Trying to do too many things at once can scatter your focus and make you feel as if you’re just bouncing around, unsure of the best direction to take,” said Sharon Dillard of Get A Grip, a franchise company that refinishes kitchen countertops and bathtubs.

How can you maintain the focus needed to get things done?  Start by borrowing some ideas from people who know how.  Here are ten of their tips:

1) Limit your to-do list. “I keep lists of no more than 10 items and cross them off as they are finished,” said Licorice International’s Ardith Stuertz. Some people prefer lists that are even shorter.

2) Break down tasks. Sharon Dillard’s advice? Start with one major goal or project — then break it down into small, bite-size steps.

3) Get organized. Avoid the annoyance and distraction that comes from being unable to find things when you need them. “I take meeting notes and place them in separate folders – online and/or file folders for each client or project,” said Bruce Summers, a personal historian.

4) Plan in advance. “I’m a big believer that poor planning leads to poor performance,” said Patemm’s Grace Welch, whose company specializes in baby changing pads. Welch, a mother of four, also uses check lists and a white board to keep track of family activities.

5) Have a separate home office. Some home-based entrepreneurs can concentrate while working at a kitchen table or in another high-traffic area. If you aren’t one of them, take action.

6) Share your calendar. This is another tip that’s important for home-based operations. “Keeping my schedule known to everyone in the house helped tremendously in concentrating on my business tasks at hand and minimized interruptions,” said Mike Kane, owner of Michal Austin Kane Photography.

7) Prioritize. Elizabeth Erlandson, Ardith Stuertz’s business partner at Licorice International, sees this as an essential skill. “I don’t waste time on things that I am not good at or that others can do much better than I can,” she said.

8) Keep it simple. RetiredBrain’s Art Koff limits his use of tech-based time management tools even though he considers himself “very net literate and technically savvy” for an almost 80-year-old entrepreneur. But he does like to meet with his business partners via online meeting hosting sites, which streamline document sharing and save time.

9) Don’t procrastinate. Dreaded action items can be distractions when they’re hanging over your head. “Start with the hardest task on your to-do list,” advised serial tech entrepreneur Jim Kelly. “If you leave the hardest to the last, you’re sure to run out of time.”

10) Delegate fully. “Leaders want to give responsibility, not authority,” said SavvyRest’s Michael Penny. “I try to give both.” Ultimately, this increases focus because people don’t have to interrupt you to ask permission to do something.

Have other time management tips to add to this list?  Please feel free to share them below.


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A Couple’s Calling: Gourmet Marshmallow Treats

Judy Soldinger was a registered nurse. Her husband, Steve, worked in broadcasting for more than 40 years. Now the Portsmouth, Virginia couple is busy producing Crispycakes — soft and gooey marshmallow treats that are making their way into locations ranging from airports to book stores.

Last year, the Soldingers bought The Crispery, the company that makes Crispycakes. The handmade goodies come in more than 20 flavors, including mint chocolate chip, chocolate caramel and banana chip, and usually sell from $4 to $6 each. “One bite and you have entered the Crispery Zone of always soft, never hard and sticky,” says the Crispycakes website.

Judy is the owner. Steve is the president. They were among the late-blooming entrepreneurs featured in this article back in November. In it, Steve Soldinger mentions the accumulation of wisdom as a big plus of waiting to go into business. “I can size people up much easier now and not waste time with ineffective people,” he tells PilotOnline.

On the other hand, a later start means it’s more difficult to recover from a financial setback than at a younger age. “Every decision we make is more critical,” Soldinger says in the article.

The Soldingers have plans to “greatly expand” their business throughout the country. That means working 12-hour days and putting out brush fires constantly. But apparently they’re having a good time. Says Judy Soldinger, “We knew that this is what we had been looking for.”


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Learning from Entrepreneurs Who Have “Been There”

One way to test the waters of entrepreneurship is to talk with people who have started a business. Where better to get advice, technical help or a real-life perspective than from entrepreneurs who have lived through the startup process?

Social media provides plenty of opportunities to find entrepreneurial types who enjoy helping others. This week, I hosted an online interview about my book, Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs: Eight Principles for Starting a Business After Age 40. The interview was for Yabbly, an “Ask Me Anything” site where readers can find interviewees of interest and ask them questions about, well, anything.

While interview hosts come from all walks of life, a large percentage of them are entrepreneurs, career changers or others connected to business. The interviews aren’t in real time but readers who ask questions usually get answers from the hosts within a few hours.

Here are five Yabbly interviews that readers of this blog might find especially interesting:

I started my nursing career at age 46

I had my startup exit & was never more scared for my life

I help people land their dream jobs

From entrepreneurship professor to inventor of consumer product now on Kickstarter

I’ve helped 10 bootstrapped technology businesses sell or raise capital

Other “Yabblers” include the cofounder of the Xbox and a top executive with Bing. They’re are on the site because they’re willing to share what they know. Why not ask them a few questions?

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Why Leaders Get Better With Age

Companies prize young talent. And rightly so. In an era of instant communication, they need young, tech-savvy leaders who can help them to get things done faster.

Still, speed by itself doesn’t equate to business success. Sydney Finkelstein wrote about this in a recent BBC article. In it, he recalls the classic Aesop’s fable about the tortoise and the hare. It’s the plodding tortoise, and not the speedy hare, that crossed the finish line first.

Experience may not bring speed – but it does bring wisdom and other traits/abilities. Among them:

Perspective – Age brings a greater ability to reflect and put into context what is happening around you.

Deeper compassion – This extends to the people in your life, both at work and at home.

A dose of reality – The illusion of perfection has long gone.

Empathy – “Once you’ve live a little, it becomes harder to go about your work without paying closer attention to colleagues and empathizing with those around you,” writes Finkelstein.

An ability to motivate others – That’s because you better understand what makes them tick.

An appreciation for details – Leaders who have been around the block a few times can’t help but see the nuances and subtleties of work that less-experienced managers do not see.

Acceptance of life’s ups and downs – As Finkelstein puts it, “You’ve seen bear markets and not just bull markets.”

Experienced leaders don’t always make the right calls, of course. But they have a lot going for them. Remember that as you plan your entrepreneurial endeavor.  A plodding tortoise isn’t a bad thing.


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