Archive for category Long-term Planning

Your Jupiter in Pisces Opportunity

Beham, (Hans) Sebald (1500-1550): Jupiter, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539

Beham, (Hans) Sebald (1500-1550): Jupiter, from The Seven Planets with the Signs of the Zodiac, 1539

Hello everyone.

I’ve been thinking about Jupiter’s sojourn through Pisces, which it entered on January 18 and will remain most of the year.  Jupiter will spend from June 6 to September 8 in Aries, but due to retrograde motion it backtracks into Pisces after September 8 where it will finish the rest of the year.

Jupiter spends about one year in each sign; every twelve years it returns to its home point, the Jupiter return.  Less famous than the Saturn return, because it feels a lot better, the Jupiter return generally renews faith and optimism and brings opportunities for expansion.

This year Jupiter spends most of its time in Pisces, which it used to rule before Neptune was discovered in the 19th Century.  Some astrologers still consider Jupiter to be the ruler of Pisces as it has such an affinity with the sign.  So let’s visit Jupiter in Pisces and see what possibilities for expansion we can find.

Jupiter

As the largest planet in the solar system, Jupiter is clearly visible and bright in the night sky, a large shining diamond.  Jupiter represents expansion, any activity aimed at extending or improving the mind, body, philosophy, or sphere of influence.  Jupiter represents our aspiration for wisdom and for a philosophy and moral code to live by. 

In the chart of a businessperson, Jupiter indicates the area of life where confidence and optimism brings luck and opportunities.  It shows the person’s judgment and discrimination, or lack thereof, and how practical they are in decision-making.  Jupiter indicates inspiration and the tendency toward expansion into new territories, and can indicate whether international business opportunities are a focus.

In a business chart, Jupiter describes the moral standards of the company and its advisors or board of directors.  It describes legal and international affairs.  It shows the company’s approach to goal-setting and strategic planning, and whether learning and experimentation are encouraged in the culture.  The general expectation for financial success can be seen from the placement of Jupiter.

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres

Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Chartres

Some vocations associated with Jupiter include publishing, law, and philosophy.  Jupiter also is associated with all forms of higher education, both as professor and student.  The ministry falls under the rulership of Jupiter, as well as vocations associated with international travel.

Pisces

Pisces is a water sign, concerned with emotional connection.  The glyph for Pisces is two fish swimming in opposite directions but tied together, signifying the dual worlds we all inhabit:  our interior reality and our external experience. 

Pisces is the stage of development when we have become completely immersed in and identified with others.  Our individual spark of ego has become swallowed by the collective whole.  In the life cycle of a business, this is a key transition phase when the business either declines or finds a way to begin a new cycle of innovation.  The business may retreat from the public eye to retrench, restructure, or terminate. 

Pisces is constantly trying to unify; to merge the inner with the outer world.  Pisces oversees mysticism and art, as well as humanitarian pursuits.  Retreat experiences, such as a cruise or spiritual retreat, are favored by Pisces as well as hospitals, prisons, and other institutions in which individuals withdraw from daily life.

Jupiter in Pisces

Sometimes the wisdom of Pisces can be a little hard to access – its language is not the language of the exterior world but of images, synchronicities, and sensations.  But Jupiter is a great conduit for the wisdom of Pisces, as it translates the abstract whisperings into societal codes and philosophies.  Jupiter provides access to deep wells of wisdom inside each of us and encompassed by all of us.

Where should you look for business opportunity when Jupiter is in Pisces?  A general, and partial,  list includes:

  • Artistic or spiritual endeavors
  • Collectives and cooperatives
  • Forging connections between people and opportunities
  • “Crowd-sourcing”
  • Providing opportunities for artistic expression among employees
  • Collaboration, sharing, coordination, and cooperation
  • Emotional connectivity across borders
  • Publishing opportunities in the fields of art, yoga, mysticism, and collective efforts such as twelve-step programs and other grass-roots movements
  • The health care industry, the military, or other large institutions
  • Development and sales of liquids of all kinds, including perfumes, oils, and cosmetics

 

Jupiter in Pisces for you

In this section I’ll outline where you should look for business opportunities, depending on where Jupiter is transiting in your natal or business chart.  Wherever the sign of Pisces is in your natal chart will be an area of expansion and opportunity for you this year.  You’ll need to have a copy of your chart to see which house Jupiter will be transiting this year.  See the sidebar if you’d like me to send you your chart with the current transits.

1st house – with Jupiter passing through your first house, people will feel and resonate with your  sensitivity and generosity.  You will exude confidence and optimism and people will be drawn to your energy.  Overcome your tendency to retreat and the opportunities will come.

2nd house – with Jupiter passing through your second house, you will intuitively know how to build your material fortune.  If you use discrimination, you will make the wise gamble and it will pay handsomely.   

3rd house – your opportunities come through the field of education, especially in art, design, or fashion.  Find a way to pass on your knowledge or learn something new yourself.  Learning and teaching, as well as writing and/or publishing, brings business expansion now. 

4th house – your intuition is heightened about real estate or house wares, so if that’s a fit for you, go for it.  Just promise me you’ll read the fine print before you sign.

5th house – the arts, creativity or businesses focused on children are important for you to invest in now.  Take a gamble and try something risky.  You’ll have the charisma to carry it off.

6th house – your day-to-day life holds opportunities for you, especially if you find ways to serve others.  If you have the opportunity to mentor or advise others, go for it.

7th house – partnerships!  Get together and collaborate with someone else and your business will boom.  Don’t be naïve though.  Check references and background thoroughly and get all of your agreements in black and white.

8th house – this is a good time to attract other people’s money or resources into your business.  People trust you will handle their finances with sensitivity and discretion.  Invest wisely, and make sure all expectations are clearly stated and agreed to beforehand.

9th house– opportunities to do business overseas promise success.  Spread yourself over multiple projects and also look to contracts with learning institutions.  Extend yourself into publishing if that’s a fit for you.

10th house– The sky’s the limit for you as long as you stay sensitive to the currents around you.  This time should be brimming with opportunities for success – if you grab them.  Get out in public with perceptive confidence and crowds will beat a path to your door.

11th house– your opportunities lie in groups, societies, and associations.  Either find a way to collaborate with large numbers of people on creative projects, or advertise your products or services through a social network.

12th house– You may be inclined to retreat for a while and this is fine.  It’s time for some inner work and redefining of your goals.  But if you do seek opportunity, large institutions like the government or healthcare systems are perfect avenues for sharing your wisdom.

Don’t forget. If you have an astrology-related business question (or a business-related astrology question) send it to me at ellen@astro4business.com. I’ll answer it in these posts, anonymously of course, and we can all learn from each other’s experiences. I look forward to it! Have a question now? Email it and let’s get started! 

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Five Astro-Inspired Resolutions for 2010

Hello everyone.

The time for New Year’s resolutions has arrived.  The five outer planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, and Pluto reflect the major themes unfolding over the next year.  Here are short explanations of the trends and a resolution for each that is attuned to the stars.

Jupiter in Pisces and Aries

After leaving the sign of Aquarius in January, Jupiter spends the rest of the year in the signs of Pisces and Aries.  Jupiter represents our thirst for knowledge and our desire to improve our world.  Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac, the sign of immersion in the collective and the dissolution of our personal desires.  Aries is the spark of ego-driven life; the urge to arise out of the cosmic soup and pursue our individual goals.

I resolve to give generously this year, both to the world at large and to my own aims and ambitions.

Saturn in Libra

Saturn is in Libra most of the year, with just a few months back into Virgo on its retrograde voyage.  Saturn in the planet of limitation and structure in the sense that it contracts the energy of ideas and inspiration into the material plane.  Saturn is at its best operating within defined systems and organized environments.  Libra is the sign of partnerships and other close, committed relationships.

I resolve to develop a relationship with a trusted advisor and allow their wisdom to guide my decisions.

Uranus in Pisces and Aries

Uranus finishes its seven year sojourn through Pisces and enters Aries this year.  Uranus is the force of innovation and inventiveness.  Pisces represents the end of the cycle, when a business has to find new life or dissolve.  Aries represents the new beginning, full of entrepreneurial spirit and individual ambition.

I resolve to update the vision for my business this year, bringing at least one new, unique, out-of-the-box product or service to market.

Neptune in Aquarius

Neptune has been transiting Aquarius since 1998 and will continue in this sign until May 2011.    Neptune represents our urge to belong, to meld, to establish connections with others.  In the Aquarian stage of the cycle the group has become more important than the individual.  Innovation comes from the bottom up or through collective input.

I resolve to spend time with younger people to maintain a fresh perspective and to gain ideas for innovation and employee contribution.

Pluto in Capricorn

Pluto entered Capricorn in 2008 and will remain in this sign until 2025.  This long transit will bring fundamental change to the business and government structures in our lives.  Pluto represents the energy of transformation and Capricorn is the stage of the business cycle when an entity has become driven by rules, bureaucracy, and a “success at any cost” attitude.  Pluto will aid this ambition, but only after uprooting anything decaying at the core.

I resolve to identify an aspect of my business that is no longer working, and ceremoniously let it end.

Do any of these resonate with you? Pick one or all of them, or if you’ve already formulated your business resolutions, please share them in the comments section. See if you can match them to the major transits above.

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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The Next 20 Years – Customer and Employee Attitudes

Hello, everyone.

Last week I wrote about the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss, who researched and analyzed generational behavior in the U.S. since the 16th Century.  (Of course, it wasn’t always the U.S.)  Howe and Strauss postulate that each generation follows one of four distinct patterns of behavior that are shaped by sequential and repeating eras in history.  Based upon these cyclical patterns a business person can predict the future behavior of consumers and employees depending on which generation they are a member of, and what stage of life they occupy.

Over the next twenty years there will be four generations forming our U.S. society:  the Boomers as Elders, Generation Xers in Midlife, the Millennials in Young Adulthood, and Homelanders in Childhood.  Let’s examine what Howe and Strauss say will be the defining characteristics of these generations in the future.

Boomers as Elders

According to Howe and Strauss, Boomers are determined to transform elderhood in some meaningful way.  Just as Boomers defined a new ethic of sex and procreation in their youth, they will define a new ethic of decline and death.  Boomers will continue to attempt to define America’s culture, religion, and values.  “Graying feminists, environmentalists, humanists, and evangelicals will impart a new passion to old enthusiasms as they rail against shopping malls, globalization, bureaucracies, pop culture, and all the other false idols of the modern world.” 

They will continue to be the dominant consumers of all things cultural:  theater, art, rock concerts.  Boomers will continue to “overnight at monasteries, visit wineries, explore biodiverse beaches, and gaze on pristine mountains.”

Number of births in the United States, 1934 to present

Number of births in the United States, 1934 to present

Boomers will favor holistic self-care, natural foods, and alternative healing.  As they age, hospitals may begin to provide natural foods, alternative medicine, and spiritual counseling.  Rather than retiring far from their mid-life homes, Boomers will simply age in place, close to their families.

Boomers will forge an “anti-retirement ethic,” either by choice or necessity.  Boomers have not saved as much as their parents, nor been as well insured by their employers.  Boomers assume that Social Security and Medicare will be reduced, and will expect to work well past typical retirement age.  Demand for high-end goods and services will remain strong but middle and low-end markets will suffer as the gap in the distribution of wealth increases.

Generation X in Midlife

Generation X will enter midlife at a time in America that will take toughness and practicality.  Having had so many choices and taken so many risks in their youth, they will search for greater security in their families and jobs in their midlife.

Generation Xers will evaluate products in terms of their efficiency, convenience, and ability to be individually customized, including houses, cars, and computers.  As business leaders Gen X will push efficiency and innovation.  They will streamline business transactions and remove middlemen such as lawyers, accountants, and brokers.  They will turn their penchant for efficiency toward areas that have been spared until now:  agriculture, health care, education, and public works.

Despite this, Howe and Strauss predict that in personal finances this generation will fare even worse than the Boomers.  Middle-age workers will generally be “modest-wage job hoppers who retain the flexibility to change life directions in a snap.”  They will take pride in their ability to “have a life” and will try to protect their families from economic turmoil.  Extremely protective of their children, they will spend the largest sum in history on the quality of their children’s education.

Millennials in Young Adulthood

According to their study, Howe and Straus expect Millennials to want to correct for the impracticality of Boomers and the risk-taking of Generation X.  “Millennials will develop community norms based on rules, standards, and personal responsibility; every arena will become more mannerly, structured, and civic-minded.”  They will be much closer to their parents than Boomers or Gen X, and “comarketing” to extended families will be an effective marketing strategy. 

Millennials are entering the workplace under tough circumstances:  saddled with large student loans, high housing costs, scarcity of jobs and low entry-level pay. 

Though this generation works superbly if allowed to work in groups, employers report seeing weakness in basic job skills such as punctuality and proper dress.  Millennials are interested in cooperation and organization rather than innovation or initiative.  Clear goals, an ordered work environment, clear lines of authority and team projects will allow them to make maximum contribution to the workplace.  However, if they perceive that they are being treated unfairly in the workplace, this generation of non-stop interaction with peers may revitalize the union movement.

Millennials will continue to expand their use of digital resources with online support groups and virtual communities.

Homelanders in Childhood

Generation Xers as parents are shaping the Homelanders in response to their own unprotected, latchkey childhoods.  They will track their children by mobile digital technology, establish entertainment controls to limit their access, and schools will screen them with psychological software.  They are expected to be “well-behaved and diligent – yet …innocent, risk averse, and emotionally fragile.”

And You

So what does this mean to us as business owners?  Do you see ways you can use these predictions to design your products and services?  Does it shed a clearer light on situations with your employees?

My main interest is the alignment of this theory with astrological principles, which I will develop further in coming posts.  But the work of Howe and Strauss yields a highly interesting framework for thinking about our business futures.

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Shaping Generations

Hello, everyone.

Recently I became aware of the work of Neil Howe and William Strauss.  William Strauss is now deceased and Neil Howe carries on their groundbreaking and controversial work on the “collective personalities of today’s generations—who they are, what motivates them, and how they will shape America’s future.”

1914 US cartoon showing Progressive Woodrow Wilson (Source:Wikipedia)

1914 US cartoon showing Progressive Woodrow Wilson (Source:Wikipedia)

I read an article in the Harvard Business Review entitled The Next 20 Years – How Customers and Workforce Attitudes Will Evolve.  In this article Howe and Strauss outline in broad terms their generational theory and how it enables business people to predict the behaviors of customers, clients, and employees over the next twenty years.  This methodology is similar in many ways to astrological theory so I wanted to share the high points with you and the key take-aways.

Generational Patterns

Studying American society and history since the 1500s, Howe and Strauss uncovered recurring patterns in generations, both in the outer events that shape the times and the type of behaviors that are a result of the era.  These patterns describe four repeating eras and four resultant archetypes, one for each era.

The eras trace the following pattern:  first, an Awakening; next a post-awakening era; next a national crisis; next a post-crisis era; leading to the next Awakening.  For example, the Progressive Awakening era of the late 19th Century, followed by the post-Progressive Era, followed by the Depression-WW II Crisis Era, followed by the post-Crisis era of the late 1940s and 1950s, leading to the next Awakening, the Consciousness Revolution of the 1960s.

Shaping a Generation

According to Howe and Strauss, a generation is primarily shaped by the era in which the members of the generation come of age.   From the article, “It matters very much to the makeup of a generation whether it comes of age during or after a period of national crisis, or during or after a period of cultural renewal or awakening.”  These crises and renewals lead the generation to exhibit a certain archetype with similar attitudes toward family, culture, values, risk, and political engagement.  And further, each archetype goes through characteristic changes and behaviors as they age.

This leads to the predictive aspect of the theory.  How will the Boomers respond as Elders?   Answer:  With wisdom, like the last time their archetype was in the Elder category in America, during the Crisis years of 1929 to 1946.  What will Generation X be like in midlife?  Answer:  Pragmatic, like the last time their archetype was in the Midlife category in America.  Our  Millennial generation will be similar to the GI Generation of 1901-1924, possessing the same archetype and passing through the Crisis stage as they enter young adulthood, the post-Crisis stage in midlife, and a new Awakening as they enter elderhood.

Today’s Generations

According to Howe and Strauss there are six generations coexisting in America today.  They are the GI Generation (born 1901-1924, now age 83-106), the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942, now age 65-82), the Boom Generation (born 1943-1960, now age 47-64), Generation X (born 1961-1981, now age 26-46), the Millennial Generation (born 1982 to roughly 2005, now age 25 or younger) and the Homeland Generation (born roughly 2005-2025).

In the next twenty years business will provide goods and services to Boomers as Elders, Generation Xers in Midlife, Millennials in Young Adulthood, and Homelanders in Childhood.  The key to providing the right goods and services is to understand what stage of life each generation is in, and what are the archetypal needs and habits for each stage.

So what can we expect from each of these categories based on their archetypal behavior and patterns?  We’ll examine this further next week.

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Saturn/Pluto Strategy #1

AUDIO VERSION: Saturn Pluto Strategy 1

Hello, everyone.

Astrology has two great strengths that it brings to our business lives:

  1. Identification of the major current and future trends that affect our businesses; and
  2. Suggestions as to how to best align with the current energies, how to catch the wave at the right moment for success.

We’ve been reviewing the current Saturn/Pluto square, which made its first contact on Sunday, November 15, 2009 and will be a dominant influence until October 2010.  I want to give you some strategies to help you work with this energy and make the most of this powerful time.  Over the next few posts we’ll examine them one by one.

Strategy #1:  Alignment 

Pluto is the farthest planet from the sun with an orbit of 248 years.  With an average of twenty years in each sign, it describes a deep and irrevocable shift within the psyche of man.  Billions of people are born under the influence of the sign and the entire populace is affected by its qualities.

New York Stock Exchange (Source:Wikipedia)

New York Stock Exchange (Source:Wikipedia)


Pluto’s energy is essential for growth and development.  It is not a personal energy, but rather collective, informing and influencing all of us at once.  Personal plans and desires are not the province of Pluto, although if our plans and desires are in alignment with the general evolution of the time, we can take advantage of the energy.  If we try to resist the societal need for growth and change, then Pluto can be experienced as extremely destructive.

How to align with Pluto

So how do we work with this energy, how do we keep ourselves in alignment with it?  Pluto’s transit through the earth sign Capricorn will expose and cleanse whatever is no longer viable in the major public structures of our lives to make room for a renewed and fresh approach.  To work with Pluto we must examine these structures, especially in business, career, and government, and remove whatever is old, decaying, rotten, or redundant. 

In business this can mean simple actions such as cleaning out desks, emails, files, cubicles, and closets.   This can also mean letting go of staff that are no longer contributing or attitudes that are no longer appropriate for your business situation.  If there is negativity in your business environment, or racism, ageism, or any other “ism” sapping energy, your task is to bring it to the surface and remove it.

It is also worthwhile to take a good look at the structures of your business, both the physical integrity of your hard assets such as buildings and vehicles, as well as your systems, budgets, debt, and the value of your assets.  Anything that is unsafe, unsound, or festering in secret will be exposed under a Pluto transit. 

New York City Hall (Source:Wikipedia)

New York City Hall (Source:Wikipedia)


As Pluto rules debt, investment, and wealth, take steps to reveal, especially to yourself, whatever financial condition you’re in and come up with concrete plans about how to transform and regenerate your situation.

Don’t wait

Some people and businesses will need to enlist outside consultants, advisors, or psychologists to help uncover the deepest barriers to change.  But the investment is worth the money because if you don’t address these issues, Pluto will certainly bring them to the surface when they’ve been festering so long they are ready to erupt.  And that may be too late. 

Pluto is in the very early degrees of the sign Capricorn.  If you or your business have planets in these early degrees, especially of Libra, Capricorn, Aries, or Cancer you are already dealing with a major restructuring in your business life.  For the rest of us, let’s work with this transformative energy now so that when Pluto arrives we are ready, willing, and prepared for change, and for the season of renewal which will follow.

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Smart Prey

AUDIO VERSION: Smart Prey

Last week when I was writing about predators and prey, I realized I had a story to tell – a story about being a “smart prey”.

You’ll remember, in our definition, prey is a business that has recognized that the best option is to sell itself while it is still profitable.  This is a business that is not able to meet its debt payments but is operationally still functioning well.

Willing Prey

There was a point in my business life when I willingly became prey, not because I couldn’t manage the debt payments, but because I was moving on to another phase in my life and wanted the capital built into the business to fund my next move.  However, I had made a fundamental mistake in the years leading up to the sale and I want to share that mistake with you so you don’t make the same mistake I did, one that potentially cost me hundreds of thousands of dollars.

When I first started in my bookkeeping business, which over the years morphed into an accounting and financial planning business, I was happy to gain each new client.  In the early years I had extra time and too little money, so each new client filled in my time and increased my total billing.  As my business grew, I had less and less time and more and more money, so I hired a few people to help me.

The day came, though, when my time was absolutely full.  It was a typical supply and demand point, where the demand for my services exceeded the supply of time to provide them.  I had a choice to make:  I could hire more people and continue to grow my business, with the risk of lowered quality as the business got farther and farther from my direct supervision, or I could raise my rates and limit my clients to those who could afford my services at the higher rates.

The Mistake

I chose to develop my business into a more boutique service with fewer clients, more personal interaction, higher rates, and maintain the current staff level.  I set a minimum rate and only accepted clients who had businesses or personal situations that warranted that level.  I actually did this several times in the course of my business:  as I reached the point of saturation I again raised my minimum rate and limited potential new clients.  And it was wildly successful in the short term – I developed an excellent client roster, much higher personal income, a few core staff, and more interesting, higher level issues to grapple with.

But I had made a big mistake.  I had forgotten the end game.

In this type of service business, the sale price of the business as a whole is generally calculated as 1 x earnings, in other words the annual gross revenue becomes the price of the business.  So if the gross revenue before expenses is $250,000, then the sale price is $250,000; if the gross revenue is $500,000, then the sale price is $500,000.

When I restructured my business, the choice I had made to offer a boutique service had led to consistent gross revenues and high profits.  The other choice would have led to much higher gross revenues and, though profitable enough, it would have meant more employees, less personal interaction with clients, and more management time spent in the business.  From the point of view of day to day living, I made the right choice.  From the point of view of eventual sale value of the business, my choice was dead wrong.  I could have easily doubled the sale price of my business had I been planning ahead.

The Take-Aways

I wanted to share this with you and mention these key take-aways that I hope you will consider:

  • We should be aware, even if just starting out, that there will be an end point, either through sale, liquidation, dissolution, or succession.
  • There is potential value in our business, beyond the day to day earnings.
  • We should always know how our business will be valued for sale or succession
  • We should keep our eye on building that value

Look ahead five, ten, twenty years.  Where will you be then?  What will the value of your business be?  What are you doing today to insure that value will be there?  The most valuable asset in your life may be right under your nose if you plan ahead.

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Learning from the Behemoths

Cover Image, The Economist, August 29, 2009.

Cover Image, The Economist, August 29, 2009.

The August 29th issue of The Economist featured a cover story called “Big is Back:  The Return of the Corporate Giant”.  The magazine cover pictured a huge whale with a tiny person bouncing around on the jet issuing from the whale’s spout – I guess that’s you and me, small business owners.  I was in the airport when I saw it and I had to grab the magazine:  the whale is a key symbol of the sign Pisces. 

With Uranus in Pisces and moving into Aries soon, I’ve been thinking a lot about innovation (Uranus) in companies at the end of their life cycle (Pisces).  What did they do to embrace the energies of Uranus in Pisces?  And how will they transition themselves into the kind of entrepreneurial companies that will survive the transition to Aries?  What innovations are they bringing in now that will carry them over the cusp into the new part of the cycle?

The end or the beginning?

During the Pisces stage of the business life cycle, the business has gotten so big it has begun to come apart at the seams.  At this stage of the cycle, there are so many “hands in the pot” so to speak that the company runs the risk of dispersing in all directions.  The company needs to focus on how to transition from the dissolution stage (Pisces) into the next stage of the cycle, the entrepreneurial stage (Aries).

But The Economist is saying these businesses are not nearing their end but staging a comeback! 

With Uranus having been in Pisces the last seven years, there has been innovation in this part of the cycle that has allowed certain companies to thrive while others have collapsed.  So what innovations have these large companies made that earns them an “end of cycle” feature on the cover of The Economist and an exhaustive study in a major new business book, SuperCorp: How Vangaurd Companies Create Innovation, Profits, Growth, and Social Good ?  How have they been able to survive?  What will become of them as we move into Uranus in Aries?  And most important, are there lessons we can learn that will help us make the transition as well?

Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Professor at Harvard Business School, sums it up this way in SuperCorp:

The best of this breed aspire to be big but human, efficient but innovative, global but concerned about local communities.

Sounds a lot like Pisces to me.

What can the behemoths teach us?

Uranus will be in Pisces only a few more months.  During 2010 it progresses into Aries for five months and in 2011 it leaves Pisces permanently (well, about 80 years) and enters Aries where it will stay for the next seven years.  If we can anticipate the movement into Aries and how it will differ from the last seven years in Pisces, we’ll have a leg-up on the changes and innovations we’ll need to bring to our business in order to stay in touch with the current times.

And since, as The Economist states, “the most successful economic ecosystems contain a variety of big and small companies”, let’s see if there is some synergy we can develop between our small businesses and the behemoths.

Happy whale.  (Source:Wikipedia)

Happy whale. (Source:Wikipedia)

In coming posts we’ll look at some of these behemoths and how they have managed to stay viable through innovation.   A thorough look at this phenomena will yield insight into the coming times, beginning next year.  And let’s keep in mind the innovations we have brought to our businesses in the last seven years and how we may need a paradigm shift as Uranus enters Aries.

We’ve all been through this phase, either in our businesses or in other areas of our lives.  The Pisces to Aries transition is marked by dissolution of something that has gotten large and unwieldy and eventually finding that spark of your own individual self that allows you to start over with only your own resources to guide you – your inner pioneer.

So what have we seen in the last seven years with Uranus in Pisces and what is coming when Uranus moves into Aries?

To be continued…

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Business Planning Step 1 – the big picture

We’ve been talking about Saturn in Virgo, and how this is the perfect energy for business planning.  You may want to review those posts before beginning this Step.  You will find them under the “Saturn in Virgo” category in the column to the right.

OK, here we go.  Are you ready?  Let’s take the first step by looking ahead to 2010.  What will the general trends be?

Starting from the most outer planets, let’s begin with Pluto in Capricorn.  You may want to review the posts on Pluto in Capricorn under that category to the right before you begin. 

Pluto will remain in Capricorn for the next fourteen years, so little by little we will learn to take advantage of this trend.  The following are some of my predictions about how this energy will play out

  • Real estate will become a good investment again, in the way it used to be:  a solid, slow-growing asset that is the largest piece of most people’s financial wealth.  A dependable, if illiquid investment.
  • Conservation of the earth’s resources will be a major focus.
  • More and more people will go into business for themselves.
  • Body-based therapies will replace psychological and spiritual therapies.
  • People will be looking for new traditions and ceremonies to build into their lives.
  • A very strong materialism will be apparent, with a focus on the old-fashioned and traditional, such as antiques and conventional homes.
  • Services for the elderly will be more required as the baby-boomers start to get into retirement age.
  • Elderly people will be working productively well into their later years, by choice or not!
  • Consumers will be risk-adverse and will respond well to money-back guarantees, warranties, and service commitments.

 

Process

Step 1.  Make a list of anything you are doing now in your business that takes advantage of these trends.

Step 2.  Review the list you made in Step 1.  How well are these initiatives working?  Write 3 specific actions you can take to improve, maintain, or stop the ones that are not successful.

Step 3.  Dream.  Think about the Pluto in Capricorn energy.  Hold it in your awareness and ask yourself, what can I do that would really capture this energy in my business?  Write down whatever comes to mind.  You may want to stop here and let this energy sink in.  Other ideas may come in the form of inspirations or dreams.

Step 4.  Pick one or more items from Step 3 and write 3 specific actions you can take to implement these strategies.

Step 5.  From Steps 1 through 4, pick 1 or 2 items to carry into the next phase of the process.  You may have to choose among several good alternatives.  That’s OK.  At each step in the process, you will have to narrow your options in order to create a reasonable, practical, achievable plan.

 

Good job!  When you’re finished, move on to the next step. 

 

By the way, I tried the process myself.  I particularly resonated with “more and more people going into business for themselves”, “real estate as a good investment”, and “services for the elderly”.  I’m as curious as you are about where the process will take me!

Let us all know in the comments below how you did with this first step.

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Saturn in Virgo – To Plan or Not?

Cheshire Cat
Alice asked, “Cheshire-Puss…would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat.

 

Last week we started looking at Saturn’s transit through the sign of Virgo, where it’s been since September 2007 and will leave in October 2009, returning for a few months during 2010.  To best take advantage of this energy, we’re going to begin looking at business planning, aided, of course, by astrology’s ability to forecast coming trends. 

We spoke last week about Saturn in Virgo’s love of classifying data into information to make it useful for decision-making.  Every business owner knows the importance of accounting and controlling, even if for no other purpose than preparing your taxes!

Upsides to Planning

I advise my clients to prepare detailed business plans each year.  I have found the most beneficial aspect of this is the planning process itself.  The combination of letting your imagination soar and then putting your ideas to the test on a spreadsheet is an invaluable learning tool. 

Most management consultants say that a drawback of business plans is that people tend to leave the plan on the shelf until next year when it’s time to make a new plan.  I disagree.  I know many people who go through the process – the process itself clarifies their priorities – then put the plan on a shelf, never look at it, and then when the next planning cycle comes and they take down last year’s plan, they find they have accomplished every  goal.  The process clarifies their intentions, and their intentions bring about the results.

I advise business planning because in the process you quantify your assumptions and test their validity.  There is nothing like cash flow projection worksheets to show you whether you’re in the realm of the reasonable or not.  Business planning is a time to test, analyze, and assimilate new ideas – activities Saturn in Virgo loves.  In the words of Dwight D. Eisenhower, who had Saturn in Virgo,  “In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

Downsides to Planning

But I want to warn you before we begin about some of the downsides of Saturn in Virgo and how to avoid them.  For some people, the Virgo energy is tedious and time-consuming, and when added to Saturn, downright irritating.  Saturn can manifest emotionally as fear, worry, and a tendency to perceive a half-empty glass.  In Virgo, this can become worry over inconsequentials and becoming lost in data and details. 

The test with Saturn in Virgo is whether you have the discrimination to assess what is important and what is not.  And this discrimination comes with the business planning process itself. 

I know some business owners who don’t plan at all because they can’t keep their hope alive if they start to miss their metrics.  Or they feel they cannot control the outcomes, so why plan at all?  Or they sense the humorlessness that can be part of the process, the over-seriousness that can become so rigid there is no room for spontaneity and taking advantage of opportunities.  Other people make a business plan, but it is too vague, too unrealistic, or too future oriented.

What to do?

How do you walk the line between specific enough but not overwhelmed by details?  How can you let your optimism soar to the skies yet keep your feet on the earth as you plan the implementation?  By following a short step-by-step process that allows for creativity and practicality.

Over the next two weeks I’ll lay out a process for you, guided by astrology.  You can follow it day by day, as I will, and share how it’s going in the comments section below.  Or you can pick a couple of days between now and the end of October, clear as much of daily operations off of your desk as you can, sit down, have some dream time, and write your business plan for 2010.  Your business will thank you, your wallet will thank you, and you will thank yourself.

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Neptune in Aquarius – How to Compete with Free?

According to Chris Anderson in his book, Free:  The Future of a Radical Price, free is not going away but there are things people will still pay for.  He says people will still pay to

  • Save time
  • Lower risk
  • Purchase things they love
  • Achieve status
  • Keep using something you’ve got them hooked on

It’s time to innovate and the real innovation in this economy, Anderson says, is finding new and unique ways to charge for your goods and services.  He refers to two groups of consumers: 

  • price sensitive consumers who will like the free version (think Linux);
  • risk sensitive consumers who will like the paid version (think service level agreements from Microsoft). 

In other words, when you reach new customers, it doesn’t mean you can’t charge some of them.  But you’ve got to either match the price of free or ensure that the differences in quality overcome the differences in price.

And to my reader from yesterday’s post who hasn’t figured out how to compete with free, you’re in good company.  Neither has YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, and many other companies with outstanding reach.  They still lack a business model that actually makes a profit. In fact, Google, the godfather of free, is beginning to be dragged down by the increasing investment in computers and data storage equipment needed to keep up with the 20 hours of video per minute being uploaded to YouTube, for free.

A couple of more gems from Anderson’s book:  he says that you can shift your company culture, or personal mindset, from “Don’t screw up” to “Fail fast”.  This is a freedom of Neptune in Aquarius.  Since effective efforts are not so much personal but collective these days, we are freed from the mental block of thinking it is up to us to find the correct answer to a problem.  The community is there like never before.  I love music sites like Jamglue where you can upload your songs and let the community work out the backgrounds and mixes.   Or Sound Cloud,where you can put up a demo and let people give feedback on your work. 

When the marginal cost of trying new things is zero, we are free to throw ideas against a wall and see what sticks.  Not that the marginal cost of our time is zero.  The time you spend experimenting may be time wasted if the idea goes nowhere.  And in the meantime, there’s that constant requirement of eating and shelter to take care of.  But I like this “fail fast” idea – I think it’s very Neptune in Aquarius.  Seems like a good idea?  Try it.  Another good idea?  Try it.  A totally different good idea?  Try that one too.  An off the wall idea?  Yes, that one too.  Neptune’s inspiration doesn’t always come in familiar forms.  But one way to be successful is to be a conduit for what she is trying to bring into the world today. 

The other gem from Anderson’s book I want to pass along is, “Every abundance creates a new scarcity.”  What has become scarce in this environment of zero cost for marginal bits?    

An excerpt from my blogging mentor, Yaro Starak gives the clue:

… Being open, honest and demonstrating your personality in everything you publish on your blog is the key to developing rapport… I want you to be very open, honest and real with your readers.

This reminded me that what can be scarce with Neptune in Aquarius is the very opposite of the Aquarian energy – the individual personality.  Even in this time of the ascendancy of the group you can find a platform on which to stand out, to demarcate yourself with your individuality.  The quotes above from Anderson and Starak apply to any product or service.  What is in abundance?  Digital bits.  What is scarce?  Face to face personal contact.  And personal responsibility.

My tax clients know they can take their taxes to H & R Block, or do them on TurboTax.  Even my astrology clients can buy computerized, very accurate reports about their strengths and weaknesses, or coming days.  Why don’t they?  Because personal interaction is vital to many kinds of problem solving.   And they know I will consider their unique situations compassionately and with commitment to their personal success.

What are you doing that the internet cannot do?  Let’s create a forum for how to compete with free.

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