Lessons Learned from an Accidental Author

Jim Horan

By Lynne Beverly Strang, Late Blooming Entrepreneurs 

Jim Horan never expected to own a business or write a book. Much to his surprise, he ended up doing both in the second half of his life. 

As explained in this 2013 blog post, Horan started The One-Page Business Plan Company in 1990 when he was nearly 40. His goal was help entrepreneurs construct their business plans with a single page. Seven years later, the Berkeley, California-based innovator published The One-Page Business Plan® at age 45. It became an Amazon bestseller, spawned five more books and triggered a host of new products, including an Entrepreneur’s Tool Kit, workbooks and cloud-based software. It also led to consulting and speaking opportunities with a long list of corporations, associations and nonprofits.  

In this interview, Horan – the keynote speaker for this week’s Nonfiction Authors Association Fall 2017 Writers Conference – provides insights on his “accidental” publishing experience. He also offers suggestions for other entrepreneurs who aspire to write a business book.

What led you to write your book?

Actually, the idea came from other people, which is often the case with good ideas. Back in 1990, I thought my career was over when I was booted out of the corporate world at age 38. I was depressed and had lost most of my confidence. I realize now I wasn’t a loser. I was just temporarily lost.

I began picking up consulting jobs with organizations that didn’t have a strategic or business plan. All entrepreneurs need a network because no one builds a business alone. We need a place to go and learn from other aspiring entrepreneurs. I belonged to multiple entrepreneurial support groups, which is what kept me going.

In 1994, I took my idea for the one-page business plan to my mastermind group for feedback. Great idea, they said. You have something. Now go out and speak about it. When I said I was afraid of public speaking, they told me to get over it. So I started speaking to chambers of commerce and professional organizations, among other groups.

After about five speeches, audiences started asking if I had a book. That question terrified me! I’m the guy who got Cs and Ds in English. I asked my support group what I should do. They recommended that I go to the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association (BAIPA). I liked the idea of self-publishing because I am not into asking permission and I wouldn’t need a literary agent to represent me.

BAIPA had me test three editors. The third one, Rebecca Salome, liked my writing style and gave me the confidence to move forward. Rebecca became my book coach and the editor of all six of my books. After three years, I published my first book in 1997.

How has writing a book benefited your business? 

It was like an “on” button. Publication of the first book really ignited the business. Things began to happen at a much faster pace. People seemed to like the fact that I had come up with a simple solution to a common problem. It can take weeks or months to write a business plan. As a result, many people give up. Entrepreneurs, business owners and executives not only bought my books, they wanted my consulting services. They asked me to keynote conferences and lead workshops. Eventually, they wanted my cloud-based software.

You advise authors to view their business books as a starting point. What does this mean?

A book is a great way to become visible and introduce yourself as an expert. Nonfiction authors may not think of themselves as experts and teachers but that’s what they are. Writing a book makes you special. Once business executives and owners read your book, they are much more likely to enlist your professional services and buy your other products.

The key to turning your book into a business is to hang out in the same places as business people. Be curious and ask questions. What makes their business successful? What’s their next or hottest idea?  They will begin to ask you questions, which is magical. It gives you the opportunity to talk about what problems you will solve, and how you solve them.

What’s enabled your book to succeed when so many haven’t?

It certainly helped to have a simple concept and a foreword written by business guru and author Tom Peters. But more importantly, I always did something with my book for 23 years. Constant marketing remains critical. I still do something with my books every day and encourage all authors to do the same.

A big factor was leveraging the power and magic of associations. Just about every industry has one. A turning point occurred when the CEO of GAMA International called and said, “My industry needs One-Page Business Plans. Would you create a special edition for our industry?” That CEO and his association put us on the map.

Could you have written a book when you were younger?

No. I didn’t know who I was back then. When I was in my 20s and 30s, my world was small. I lived within the four walls of corporate America and had very little involvement with my local and professional communities. There were topics I could have written about but I didn’t have the audience.

What advice would you give to others who want to write a business book?

Get started now. Don’t wait or play it safe. Do it your way and break the rules. You’ll find it energizes you, which will energize others.

Join a support group for authors. They need your support and you need theirs.

Find an editor who captures your voice – and who encourages you to keep going and finish the book.

Go to new places and meet new people. Listen to what they want and need. They just might tell you who needs your products or services. Keep in mind that the best ideas come from the marketplace.

And finally, remember that business is first and foremost about people. Pick up the phone and call people in your tribe. They’ll introduce you to people in their tribes. That’s how you go from an aspiring entrepreneur or author to a successful one with a sustainable business.

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This Parent of 10 has Big Plans for her Investigations Business

It takes grit. commitment and strong support to start a business later in life while managing the demands of a family. One entrepreneur who understands this very well is Jeannette Hughes.

Hughes and her husband, Dale Hughes Sr., are the parents of 10 children, including six who are adopted. Three are handicapped and need lifetime care.

Jeannette and Dale Hughes wanted their children to be financially secure. The best way, they decided, was to start a long-lasting business that would provide for their family.

In 2005, the couple launched Hughes Barney Investigations, a Largo, Maryland-based firm that provides fingerprinting scans, polygraph examinations and background checks, among other security services. Jeannette Hughes serves as the company’s president and chief executive officer.

Like most startups, Hughes Barney Investigations struggled at the beginning. Jeannette Hughes realized she needed help to navigate the process of contracting with state and federal governments. At a friend’s recommendation, she contacted SCORE, a nonprofit association that helps small businesses get off the ground. SCORE, in turn, provided a volunteer mentor who showed Hughes the steps needed to secure federal contracts.

Hughes’ hard work paid off. Over the years, her company grew from fingerprinting three people a month to servicing 400-600 people per month for the state and FBI. This year, Hughes Barney Investigations won SCORE’s Outstanding Encore Entrepreneur Award.

“I believe my age gave me an edge,” says Hughes in a video about the company. “I was born level-headed, I was more apt to stick to it and I was more determined.” In five years, she sees her firm becoming “a powerhouse when it comes to security.”

Here’s the video that tells more about Hughes Barney Investigations story.

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10 Twitter Accounts for Late-Blooming Entrepreneurs to Follow

If you’re looking for inspiration, tips or ideas for your next act as a 40-or-older business owner, here are some Twitter accounts to follow:

1) Angela Raspass (@AngelaRaspass) – Helping women 40+ create, launch and expand into Your Next Chapter Business with clarity and confidence.

2) BoomerCafe (@BoomerCafe) – An online magazine for baby boomers with active lifestyles and youthful spirits.

3) Boomers in Business 2.0 (@SmBizBoomers) – Goes by this motto:  “You’ve got The Time. The Wisdom. The Experience.  What ARE you waiting for?”

4) Debra Eve (@DebraEve) – A late bloomer celebrating fellow late bloomers and their art, books and adventures.

5) Encore.org (@EncoreOrg) – Building a movement to advance second acts for the greater good.

6) Growing Bolder (@growingbolder) – Hope, inspiration and possibility for the 45+ generation.

7) Kerry Hannon (@KerryHannon) – Retirement, career and personal finance columnist.  Author of Getting the Job You Want After 50 and other books.

8) Kristen R. Edens (@ScribblerKris) – Copywriter, blogger and content developer for Boomers and GenX. Founder of Grandparents in Business blog.

9) Next Avenue (@NextAvenue) – Provides stories, information and advice for America’s 50+ generation.

10) Rick Barlow (@YouRenewed) – A retired entrepreneur who is exploring stories of personal reinvention in midlife and retirement.

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Why Exercise Can Help You Succeed

View from a bike ride along Virginia’s Skyline Drive

January has the honor of being the most popular month to start or renew an exercise program. But the best time of the year to do this is right now.

Why? We’re on the verge of the holiday season. For business owners, this means lots of open houses and tins of cookies from clients. You’ll be better positioned to ride out this caloric tidal wave if you’re in the exercise groove before the kids bring home their Halloween candy.

For those who need additional motivation to hit the gym, here are five more ways that exercise can help you succeed in both your entrepreneurial and personal life.

1) It increases stamina.  Physical activity builds cardiovascular and muscular strength, which in turn creates more endurance and energy to handle the demands of business ownership.

2) It builds discipline. You need a certain amount of resolve to keep going when your muscles ache. Once you get into a regular exercise routine, you’ll find that you miss it if it’s disrupted for some reason.

3) It provides a mental break. A walk or a bike ride is a great way to relieve stress and clear your head.

4) It encourages goal setting. Many entrepreneurs enjoy the challenge and satisfaction that comes from setting and meeting fitness goals. Graphic designer Donna Herrle, for example, is a cyclist who strives to complete at least one century (100-mile ride) each year.

5) It teaches team building. With softball, basketball and other team sports, you and your teammates depend on each other to achieve a common goal. You learn how to develop a support system, build trust and motivate people with different abilities. All of these skills carry over to other areas of your life.

If you’re pressed for time, keep in mind that even short periods of physical activity can go along way. “For busy entrepreneurs, thirty minutes of exercise three times a week will do it,” says fitness coach Patti M. Hudson.

So go ahead and lace up those running shoes. It could yield big returns – and help avoid weight gains this holiday season.

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How to Become a Gig Entrepreneur

By Lynne Beverly Strang

Jim Glay, Owner of Crash Boom Bam

After Jim Glay abruptly lost his sales manager position at age 59, he spent a year looking for another job. When no prospects materialized, he decided to go another route: turning his life-long passion – playing the drums – into a business.

Today, Glay is the CEO of Crash Boom Bam, where he sells pieces from his expansive collection of vintage 1960s drum sets through an online store. He also brokers sales for other drum collectors and performs as a drummer a few times a week with rock and jazz groups.

Glay was among the “gig entrepreneurs” – i.e., people who earn an income by turning skills and talents into gigs or freelance work — featured at Boomer Boot Camp, a July 2017 workshop sponsored by BoomerWorks and AARP Virginia.

I had never heard of the term “gig entrepreneur” before the workshop. But as a freelance writer and an author, I fit the description. So I joined the mostly 50-and-older professionals who filled a Northern Virginia church meeting room to hear the ins and outs of finding gig work.

Changing demographics, risk-averse employers and a trend toward outsourcing are factors behind the tighter job market for boomers, said Purposeful Hire’s Shira Harrington. As a result, interest in gig entrepreneurship has never been higher, as evident by the strong turnout for the boot camp.

Lanes and Tribe

For those interested in gig work, the first step, said Harrington, is to define your “lanes” (professional skills that can be repurposed into short-term gigs or a long-term business) and “tribe” (the industry, mission or sector where you can solve challenges and have an established network).

Harrington outlined three ways to enter the gig market: FCO or fast-cash options (focus groups, Uber, AirBnB, etc.) for those who need money in a hurry; on-demand gig work (project-based assignments such as freelance writing or event planning); and small business ownership.

Participants in the July ’17 boomer boot camp

How much money can you make from gig work?  It depends upon you and what you’re offering.

Gig entrepreneurs have unlimited earning potential but “you have to get into the frame of mind that says it is possible,” said Harrington.

In addition, an unfulfilled need has to exist no matter which route you choose. “People are only going to hire if you can solve an urgent problem,” she said.

No More Gold Watch

Micro-businesses with five or fewer employees are now among the top providers of employment, noted Angela Heath, founder of TKC Incorporated. “We, as baby boomers, have to think very differently,” she added. “There is no more gold watch.”

“You cannot live to be 45-plus and not have something to offer the economy.” — Angela Heath, founder of TKC Incorporated

Like Harrington, Heath believes the future is bright for gig entrepreneurs. “You cannot live to be 45-plus and not have something to offer the economy,” she said.

From Heath’s experience, people often overlook everyday skills – such as organizing, painting or home decorating – that have value and can be converted into a business. “With technology, the doors are swung wide open,” she said.

Still, first-time gig entrepreneurs may find it challenging to get a foot in the door. “When it comes to gig work, you have to be tightly focused at the beginning,” said Bizstarters’ Jeff Williams, whose clients include Glay of Crash Boom Bam.

Once people know you’re capable, they’re likely to come back to you for other jobs since it’s time consuming to find good help, he added.

Williams pointed to himself as an example. “I have probably picked up one-third of the income I enjoy today from work I never expected to do,” he said.

Getting Started

If gig entrepreneurship appeals to you, note these five things that Heath says you’ll need to get started:

1) Answers for your questions – Reach out to organizations or people who can provide technical information about your industry. Two places to look: Trade associations and LinkedIn.

2) A way to manage fear and doubt – These emotions are inevitable when you start a business. To cope, join a supportive community, do research and product testing, get feedback on your idea and analyze/prepare for worst-case scenarios.

3) Accountability – Line up someone who will keep you focused on your top priorities. A family member, a business partner or a marketing consultant may be candidates for this role.

4) Support – Find others to do the aspects of your gig work that you can’t, or don’t, want to do. Bartering can be a great way to exchange needed services.

5) A willingness to ask, seek and knock – Be prepared to market yourself and make “an ask.” And you can’t ask just one time. As Heath put it, “If you don’t bring it, somebody else will.”

Here are a few resources that might be helpful:

Articles20 Gig Websites; Top 10 Gig Websites.

Books – The Gig Economy by Diane Mulcaly; The Gig Solution: How Boomers Can Earn Executive Fees Doing Project Work by Spunk Burke; What’s Next? Follow Your Passion and Find Your Dream Job by Kerry Hannon.

Coaching – Williams and Heath offer coaching programs especially for older entrepreneurs. BizStarters’ Start Your Business NOW! e-course, normally $199, is $99 for a limited time. Limit-less: Uncover the True You and Profit, TKC Incorporated’s five-session live course, runs July 26-August 23, 2017.

Organizations – BoomerWorks, Encore.org, RetiredBrains.com, SCORE and the U.S. Small Business Administration offer various types of information – such as research, downloads, webinars and templates – for aspiring and new entrepreneurs.

The bottom line? Gig entrepreneurship can be ideal if you want independence, flexibility and an income without certain responsibilities (such a payroll) associated with other forms of entrepreneurship. Like any business owner, you’ll need focus, tenacity, a plan and a willingness to do without.

But you’ll be working for yourself.  And that’s a great feeling.

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How to Enjoy Summer – And Grow as an Entrepreneur

Summer means barbecues, pool parties, family reunions, beach trips and other vacations. Are any of these activities realistic if you’re an entrepreneur strapped for time?

The answer is yes – with some self-discipline and a focus on big goals. Here are a few ways, big and small, to enjoy the season and position yourself for success at the same time.

Take advantage of summer’s extra daylight. Get going early so you’ll have time later for a drink by the pool.

Read to learn. Put business books and biographies about successful leaders on your summer reading list. Another option: load audio books or podcasts onto your cell phone. Listen to them in your favorite lounge chair during 30-minute breaks.

Visit local businesses in your industry while traveling. If you aren’t in their market, chances are they’ll be open to talking with you about trends as well as what’s worked – and what hasn’t.

Move your office outside. Set up your laptop and phone on your deck or patio to write that marketing proposal.

Help your kids or grandkids start a summer business. A lemonade stand or a dog walking venture can be a bonding experience – plus it might teach you a few things that will help your own entrepreneurial endeavor.

Go to a conference. Choose one that teaches, inspires and provides enough downtime to explore the local city. Bring your family and tack on a couple of days of rest and relaxation.

Volunteer for a summer festival or an outdoor charity event. It’s an ideal way to meet new people and expand your professional network.

Enroll in a summer art class. Learning to draw, paint or take pictures can boost creativity and attention to detail. Artists understand how small design components add to, or detract from, a bigger picture – an important ability in business.

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, one of the reasons you own (or want to own) a business is to have flexibility and control over your schedule. Go ahead and enjoy the summer. Just keep learning and moving forward.

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A Motivational Speaker’s Talk About Roses, Purpose and Self-Fulfillment

After Dana LaMon became blind at age four, he could have wallowed in self-pity and accepted the limitations assumed by others. Instead, he refused to let the loss of sight stand in his way and chose to lead a full, purposeful life.

Dana enrolled at Yale University and earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in math. Then he graduated with a law degree from the University of Southern California, became a member of the California State Bar and had a career as an administrative law judge.

In 1992, he won Toastmasters International’s world championship of public speaking. He’s now the author of four books and a sought-after motivational speaker who travels all over the world.

During a recent district Toastmasters conference held near Washington, D.C., Dana credited the public speaking organization for presenting opportunities that changed the direction of his life. He also had this message: When life hands you a rose, turn it into a bouquet. In other words, leverage each positive experience so it produces even more business success, personal growth and/or enjoyment in life.

How do you turn a rose into a bouquet? Here’s Dana’s roadmap:

R – Relationships. These are the most important assets you can acquire in life. Take the time to cultivate meaningful, long-lasting relationships.

O – Opportunities. The first can lead to another – then another. You can’t wait for opportunities to knock, however. Go and seek them out.

S – Support. Sometimes networking can be shallow and disappointing. Aim to create a support system of people who believe in you.

E – Enrichment. Strive to lead an enriched life – and to help others do the same.

When you combine this approach with perseverance, small victories can turn into bigger ones.  Strive to maximize the value of each win as you build your business and grow as an entrepreneur.  And don’t forget to stop and smell the roses now and then.

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