Monday, December 17, 2012

Business Plans and Planning

"You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." - Yogi Berra

“Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–82), U.S. essayist, poet, philosopher.

A successful business plan is one that focuses your thinking, helps you establish a realistic business strategy, improves your operations, and wins for your company the financing and other support it needs.

Written business plans, broadly speaking, are usually put together for either of two purposes: to prepare for a significant event, such as obtaining financing, or to guide the company’s operations for a particular period, usually a year.

Keep in mind, in writing the plan, you’ll invariably take two steps forward and one step back. It’s an uneven path, fraught with unforeseen frustrations and difficulties. Thrashing out those difficulties is a key part of the planning process.

Being in business is a journey, not a destination -- with NO made roads or freeways, despite what some franchisers would have you believe. Every business travels into the uncharted territory of the future. But, no matter how good a driver you may be, how well you know the route, or how quickly you can load and unload the vehicle, if you fail to put fuel in the tank, air in the tires, oil in the engine, water in the radiator, or otherwise adequately maintain and service the vehicle, it will soon grind to a halt.

You'll go nowhere. Sadly, this is the case with most small business owners. They're good drivers -- plumbers, hairdressers, retailers, lawyers, accountants, printers or whatever their trade or profession may be -- but they haven't a clue what's required to maintain and manage their vehicles. So they rarely make it to their chosen destinations.
To complete the journey to your chosen destination you need a suitable business vehicle.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Expert Business Advisors Will Help You Grow Your Business

Expert Business Advisors Will Help You Grow Your Business

Many otherwise talented business owners, especially those who are inexperienced at running a business (they don’t know what they don’t know), call on outside experts only when they have already lost control of their sales, cash flow, profitability… and their dreams..

It is unfortunate that there are still business owners who make the mistake of thinking that the use of a professional business advisor is a troubleshooting exercise that a company undertakes only to manage crisis. This can be a fatal mistake for the business because by the time a company is in crisis it may well be too late for even the best and most qualified of advisors to help.

The fact is professional business advisors should be used when a business is successful because they are third party experts who can insure a business makes the right decisions that lead to continued and heightened profitability.

Professional business advisors should be used to look at issues related to business in a broad perspective. Helped by their expertise and business acumen, as well as by being from outside the company, professional advisors can see things from a point of view which the owner may fail to see them because of the owners deep and passionate involvement in the business. Professional business advisors can often identify fresh ideas and approaches to issues and opportunities and help ownership weigh the pros and cons of each strategy and the situation, again with a fresh perspective.

Professional business advisors should be used to supply resources (and time) which the clients may not be in a position to provide for themselves because they do not have the staff or personal expertise to do so. Usually, the key resource needed is expertise… experience, knowledge, creativity and special skills. Time and people are other resources, which the client might not be able to spare, which can be provided by professional business advisors.

A key aspect of what the professional advisors also bring to their clients is their team of experts, technical advisors with expertise in specific areas. The professional business advisors main personal strength is that they have broad skills in multitude of areas such as marketing; sales; finance; corporate strategy; and human resources but when needed have specialized expert sources they can call on for items like e-commerce; manufacturing processes; IT; and other non-management activities, including compliance with various safety and health regulations, technology application to name a few.

Our point?

Small and medium sized businesses benefit from professional business advisors and there are many advisors who specialize in small to medium sized entrepreneurial businesses who know the challenges business owners face and recognize the cost-value relationships that needs to be created and leveraged. These small business orient advisors become trusted and valued resources because they have only the owner and the business in mind and focus on items that directly improve the bottom line of the company.

So, instead of shying away from hiring professional business advisors, what is required is to identify the right advisor so that the owner and the company can focus on their core activities that will ensure smooth operations and which will ultimately reflect on the profits as well as the overall growth of the company.

Prepared by the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development Editorial Staff

OED is a 501(c)(3) public charity that, through its Local Business Assistance Program, assists business owners identify qualified and Certified experts to assist them with their business needs. Visit OED at

Monday, December 10, 2012

Networking Master

Why Network? Study after study has been released showing that owners of small businesses consider networking as THE number one way for new business development.


The word conjures up all sorts of interesting pictures. Men in recliners smoking cigars and making deals in back rooms. MLM distributors cheering at training sessions and trying to recruit everyone who comes within 3 feet of them when they're done. Even computer wizards doing arcane things behind the scenes to make your Internet connection work.

Networking is about connections. For your purposes in business, it's making connections that bring you customers.

WHAT IS NETWORKING? Networking is cultivating mutually beneficial, give-and-take, win-win relationships.

Networking is the process of developing and nurturing professional contacts to obtain:

1. Referrals

2. Advice

3. Information

4. Support Networking is the ability to relate to and talk to anyone ... anytime ... anywhere, with honesty.

Those who know how to use a network realize:

We are not dependent on each other; nor are we independent of each other ... we are interdependent with each other! The strength ... excitement of networking/networks is that all the people who are part of your network are parts of other networks and their own! Remember ... the "Law of 250" ... Each of us has a sphere of influence of 250 people. (The people who would attend our wedding or funeral). The more people you meet (network) the larger your sphere ... they all have 250 also! A couple of basic working definitions are in order.

Contact A person with whom you have developed, or are developing, an ongoing relationship of trust and mutual respect, SPECIFICALLY REGARDING BUSINESS MATTERS.

To read this complete article & download the complete resource document, visit the OED Community!

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to Beat Business Burnout

Earlier this week we talked about reducing stress in your business. Easier said than done, you may say. Well, the reality is stress, strain, and the all consuming energy placed in to your business can lead  to burn out. When your life's work is tied up in your business though, it pays to work through it.. So how do you avoid it?
Burnout -- and the boredom that results -- constitutes the No. 1 reason small business owners pack it in and either sell out or shut down.
According to market research published in Family Business, burnout is the primary motivator in 50 percent of all business divestitures.

It makes sense. Successful business owners don't just commit themselves to their companies...they become consumed by the quest. Many put in long hours. They neglect their health, families and outside activities; then end up physically ill, emotionally depressed, even divorced.

Ironically, a major cause of burnout is success, achieving a single goal long sought. That's why many owners get restless, discontented, bored.

Fortunately, it doesn't have to be that way. To beat burnout:

1. Separate work and play...and be sure to take time to play. Make it a household rule not to discuss business after 7:00 P.M. Or make the kitchen or family room and, most definitely, the bedroom a "No Business" zone.

2. Get adequate less than six hours a night. Long-term sleep deprivation can distort thinking and reduce productivity. But adequate sleep can enhance stamina and clear-headedness.

3. Devote time to mental regeneration every day. Some business owners meditate, others read the Bible or review inspirational books.

4. Exercise daily, even if its only half an hour of walking while working out a business problem.

5. Have a mission...a sense of purpose. This goes beyond mere objectives. A mission describes (1) what you want to achieve and (2) why you want to achieve it.

6. Believe in what you're doing. There's nothing more exciting or challenging than being a business owner. What you do benefits your customers, your employees and, most of all, your family. Don't lose sight of that.

7. Be organized. Maintain clear objectives and activity plans for the year, quarter, month, week and day.

8. Work smarter...not just harder. An hour of planning can save ten times that in increased productivity. Follow the carpenters rule: Measure twice, cut once.

9. Don't settle into success. Repetition of a successful process or activity can lead to mind-numbing boredom. Take at least one calculated risk each year.

10. Maintain your priorities. Business is important...but not at the expense of health and happiness. Also, remember that it is relationships that give true meaning to what you do.

More great New Year tips to reenergize your business (and yourself), check out the OED Community!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Business Failures – Why do they happen?

Poor management is the largest single cause of business failure.

Year after year, the lack of managerial experience and aptitude has accounted for more than 90 percent of all failures.

Many factors may adversely affect individual firms over which owners have little control. In such cases, the astute manager can often soften the blow or, sometimes, change adversity into an asset. Examples of factors over which the owner has little control are overall poor business conditions, relocation of highways, sudden style changes, the replacement of existing products by new ones, and local labor situations. While these factors may cause some businesses to close, they may represent opportunities for others. A local market place may decline in importance at the same time new shopping centers are developing. Sudden changes in style or the replacement of existing products may bring trouble to certain businesses but open doors for new ones. Adverse employment situations in some areas may be offset by favorable situations in others. Ingenuity in taking advantage of changing consumer desires and technological improvements will always be rewarded.

In the final analysis, it is up to you. Will your management be competent? Will you be able to judge, and then satisfy, your customers' wants? Can you do this accurately and quickly enough to more than compensate for risks due to factors beyond your control? Such accomplishment requires expert management - if you can’t supply, it consult with and hire people who can!

Every year, thousands of businesses fail of every size and variety. But while business failures know no size boundaries, the majority are classified as small businesses.

According to data from the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts, more than 98 percent of businesses that have filed for bankruptcy since 1980 have been small.

Surveys show that the primary reasons for business failure lie in the following areas:
Inability of management to reach decisions and act on them.
Failure to keep pace with management system.
Reluctance/Inability to seek professional assistance.
Loss of impetus in sales.
Bad personnel relations.
Loss of key personnel.
Lack of staff training.
Inability to cope adequately with competition.
Insufficient working capital or incorrect gearing of capital borrowings.
Growth without adequate capitalization.
Bad budgeting.
Ignoring data on the business's financial position.
Inadequate financial records.
Inefficient control over costs and quality of product.
Under-pricing of goods sold.
Bad customer relations.
Failure to promote and maintain a favorable public image.
Bad relations with suppliers.
Illness of key personnel.
Failure to minimize taxation through tax planning.
Inadequate insurance.
Competition disregarded due to complacency.
Failure to anticipate market trends.
Loose control of liquid assets.
Extending too much credit and bad credit control.
Over-borrowing or using too much credit.
Bad control over receivables.
Loss of control through creditors' demands.

Friday, October 19, 2012

The High Cost of Telephone Interruptions

One of the most difficult aspects of a small business is that customers call [OR STOP IN] constantly and expect you to be instantly accessible. Once they reach you, they expect you to drop everything to deal with their matters. Most business people, feeling they are obliged to respond to their customers, divert themselves from the tasks at hand and acquiesce to the customers' wishes. By the end of the day, you may have had 10 customer calls and have been diverted 10 times from the important matter on which you intended to work. You now have 10 files open on your desk, on each of which you have spent about 15 minutes. It is difficult to create any continuity of thought working this way.

It is estimated that for each interruption you have you lose 2 to 3 minutes of productivity on the matter from which you were diverted. Each time you return from an interruption you must take some time to reintegrate your mind with the original task. You have to answer the question, "Now, where was I?" If you have 10 interruptions a day, you spend 20-30 minutes a day answering that question. This translates to 80 to 120 hours a year in lost time and revenues just trying to find your place.

There is also the issue of your work product. Every business requires analysis, assimilation, problem solving and creativity. The more continuity you have in your thought processes, the better your work product will be. The more pushed you are for time, the more shortcuts you will be forced to take. Therefore, constant interruptions not only cost you time, but quality.

The key to producing more productive work is to understand the difference between accessibility and responsiveness.

Accessibility means the businessperson can be reached whenever the customer wants him/her. Though this is a great comfort and convenience to the customer, it is disruptive for the businessperson. Ultimately it is detrimental to the customer because it will cause the customer's work to take longer and the sum total of the interruptions will erode the integrity of the work product.

Responsiveness means the customer can depend on having a conversation with you in a reasonable period from the time from their call. It means you return calls promptly. Ironically, businesspeople that are highly accessible are often not very responsive. The result of being accessible is that they get so far behind, they don't have time to return calls. This exacerbates the problem because customers learn that the only way to get through to you is to call relentlessly, leading to more interruptions, more delays, etc.

To increase your productivity, you should limit your accessibility and be fastidious in your responsiveness. Contrary to popular belief, though customers want you to be instantly accessible, most do not expect that you will be. They do expect you will respond within a reasonable period of time. That period is within 24 hours (or the same day if possible).

If you have a pager or cell phone, NEVER give the numbers to customers. Your staff are the only people who should have the numbers. If you give the numbers to a customer, that customer will take it as a license to contact you any time he/she pleases (including 4:00 am on a Saturday morning) and will be indignant if you don't answer or return the call within 3 minutes. From the customer's perspective, if you don't answer or call immediately, you are obviously ignoring them, which is a brazen insult. Though it seems like the ultimate in attentive service, giving customers your pager or cell phone number is almost guaranteed to inflame customer relations and cost you your sanity. You may as well just reserve your room at the asylum now.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Common Problems Affecting Personal Productivity

In a large sense, the freedom that attracted the businessperson to the small business environment becomes a major contributor to the productivity challenge. The point of having sought that freedom was to escape the oppressive structure of larger environments. Unfortunately, when the pendulum swings too far in the other direction, the result can be chaos.
Being in a small business exposes a businessperson to a lot more details to be handled in various areas not previously experienced nor anticipated. If your previous life consisted of coming to work, working on specific matters given to you, keeping track of your hours and going home, running your own business is often a real shock.
The first thing that often happens to businesspeople is they get overwhelmed by minutiae. Life becomes one annoying little problem after another with no one to handle them but them.
In addition, there are more little distractions, especially non-”selling” phone calls from friends, family and others, with whom you would not think of having protracted conversations if someone were monitoring your time. Distractions you might have allowed five minutes while you were in a large company suddenly become 30 to 40 minute adventures.
Then there is your computer. Computers have a special magic feature that makes them periodically malfunction, or worse still, function perfectly and give you something completely different from what you wanted. The real sorcery occurs when you attempt to fix the problem. Large blocks of time mysteriously vanish. You start working on the problem at 8:30 AM and when you look up from your monitor fifteen minutes later, it is somehow 10:27 PM.
Learn to prioritize and organize and you WILL overcome this!
 "That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise." - Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Ask People Why They Do Business With You

Testimonials are great, but successful companies do something more direct.

How often have you actually asked a person why they do business with you, and not your competition?

Have you ever?

Most people don't bring up the subject. They're afraid that the customer might start thinking about whether or not they should switch. Believe it that's not at all likely, unless they were on the verge of switching already. In that case, you'll find out now, when you have a chance to fix it, instead of later, after they're gone.

When the customer hears a sincere question from you that you genuinely want an answer for, you'll be surprised at how often you'll GET a direct answer. And you'll be surprised at some of the things you hear.

What you consider important might not be at all what the customer thinks matters. Ask them with a genuine interest (You DO want to know why people spend money with you, don't you?) and then listen. Ask for specifics. And when they've answered you, thank them.

When you see a pattern forming, use that in your advertising. Look for the things that are common to your most valued customers. Build on those strengths.

You'll also notice that, when your customers tell you out loud why they buy from you, they're also telling themselves. They reinforce the reasons that you are the one that they do business with. And that's the best advertising you can get.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Be a Leader People Want to Follow

There is a real need for leaders to lose the pretense and posturing that is so common today in people with power. From government to industry, congressmen with ethics issues and heads of major corporations mishandling their roles, leaders seem to hold themselves to different standards then they hold those who they lead and represent. They foolishly live by… “do as I say, not as I do.”

Some of the greatest and most loved leaders of all times have been ‘just plain folks’ who were approachable, genuine, real, and down to earth. People want leaders that they can believe, relate to and who they know relate and care about them. It’s all about the people.

Sadly, the higher up in the leadership of anything the easier it becomes to become isolated and lose touch with the people who you are responsible for…. The people who depend on you and who you, in the end, depend on also.

By remaining humble and authentic anyone can face the challenges of leading effectively.

Prepared by the OED Content Committee

Monday, October 1, 2012

Major Business Money Myths

There is no mystery to financial success ... it is only a matter of mind over money!

Myth: "If only we had more money coming in, everything would work out."
Reality: More income (sales) does not necessarily change the bottom line. More money coming in is usually matched by more money going out. This is because most businesses are "programmed" for a certain relationship between income and outflow. The chain must be broken ... discipline must be put in place so that profit is made at the level of revenues at the present time!

Myth: "Financial success ... well being is defined by how much money the company earns."
Reality: Financial success is really about how much a business keeps of what it "earns" not how much it earns. To build "wealth", a company must consistently earn more than it spends. Profit! Profit! Profit!..... Profit!

Myth: "In an inflationary economy, using credit ... borrowing .. is wise because it allows the company to buy what it needs (wants) and pay it off later ... when money will be worth less."
Realty: Debt is bondage and in most cases should be avoided whenever possible.

Myth: "Once in debt, it is almost impossible to get out."
Reality: Debt can be learned from and reversed. The first step is to alter the behavior that created the debt. The second is to work out a plan with the debtors to work it down.

Myth: "If the economy were better, we'd make more money."
Realty: Putting the blame outside the company does nothing to solve the company's money problems. Some company is "getting the work" ... how do you insure that it is your company?

Myth: "Money is the root of all evil."
Reality: In business ... money .. profit .. is the only reason to exist. The profit the company makes allows the owners, the employees, the vendors, and the customers to contribute more to the economy and their individual life styles ... quality of life. Without PROFIT there is no employment or growth!

(Created by the Organization for Entreprenurial Content Staff)

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Avoid the One-Shot Marketing Gamble

“A good follow-through is just as important in management as it is in bowling, tennis, or golf. Follow-through is the bridge between good planning and good results.” - Anonymous
The key to effective marketing is to find something you can afford--then use it over and over again.

Sometimes this means repeating your marketing faithfully for weeks or months. Only after your ad message has had plenty of time to sink in will the public begin to notice you and buy from your business.

"Which marketing tool should I use?" people often ask. Use the one that reaches your prospects AND that you can AFFORD to use consistently month after month!

Keep in mind that before anyone will buy from you, they have to notice your marketing messages. Then they must become interested in your message. Finally they have to decide to take action.

Don't get impatient. This three-step process takes time.

One of the most important elements of business success is not contacting prospects and customers to purchase what you're selling – but re-contacting them (Follow-up!). This, however, is precisely what most business people don't do.

They send some sales information to a prospect ... then wait.

They make a single phone call to a prospect ... but never follow-up.

They send a fax to a customer... and hope something happens, but don't send a second one.

Get the picture? It's as if millions of people had decided to stake their fate on a single throw of the dice... on sending one catalog, or one brochure, or one letter, or one fax, or making one phone call.

But this isn't the way to make MONEY!

The overwhelming majority of people do not respond to a single marketing communication... or a single phone call... or a single fax... or a single anything else.

No wonder. We're all bombarded every single day with marketing communications. You can't turn on the television or radio... or open a newspaper... or get a newsletter... or leaf through a trade publication... without getting inundated with one "get this now, this is good for you" marketing message after another. We're an "in-your-face" marketing culture all right.

Yet, in all too many cases, what's missing is the Follow-up – the systematic attempt to break through the marketing "noise" that assails all of us and get your message -- all your message -- in front of just the people you want to have it... and do what's necessary for them to grasp it and take appropriate action.

I can give you a six-word formula for success: "Think things through - then follow through." - Eddie Rickenbacker

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Are you Planning For Growth?

Are you Planning For Growth?

Over the past few years have you done very much long-range planning for growth?
If you are forward looking and flexible in your thinking, more than likely you will be continually planning and executing changes - for change is a dominant aspect of modern competitive life. Although a wise businessperson respects the past, they should never be bound by it. Your long-range planning should take into consideration all of the following: selling methods and sales training, sales promotion media and devices, customer services, addition of income bringing services, building modernization (fixtures and equipment), branch development or location change, financing (especially the reinvestment of earnings).

Do day-by-day activities involve you so much that you find no opportunity for advance planning?
The small business owner must be both a planner and a doer. Day-to-day activities can be delegated so that you can do more important planning.

When you find that change is called for, do you act decisively and creatively?
Risk is always present in business. Some of it can be reduced by insurance. But there is no way to hedge on long-range planning. Once you have decided to make a change - based on all available facts - you should enter into the project wholeheartedly.

Do you find that recurring crisis force you to make most of your changes before you have been able to give them thoughtful analysis?
The failure to plan for changes that must be made if you are to hold your customers and attract new ones leads to great waste and poor management practices. Sudden changes add unnecessarily to your expenses, they disturb your established customers, and they upset your employees' morale.

When you determine that you must make a change in some policy or practice, plan ahead carefully and give all those involved a clear account of what is going to be done. By planning ahead, you lessen the possibility of crises and the need for snap judgments.

Do you have someone ready to take your place in case of emergency?
The uncertainties of life are many. You should have someone ready to keep the business running smoothly, if something should happen to you, until such time as a long-range decision can be made.

Are you grooming someone to succeed you in the not too distant future?
No matter how young the management of a business is, unforeseen disabilities can occur at any time. Someone should always be in training as a successor; otherwise, the business is no more secure than the health of its owner-manager.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Steps to Success

Steps to Success

Goal setting is a must in every area of life.

What do you want to accomplish? You can have whatever you want, but you must want it enough to do the things that have to be done in order to get it. Set your goals, write them down and set a target date for reaching them.

Set short-term reachable goals and long term higher goals, yet don't set them too high. This will cause you to become discouraged if you don't achieve them. Work consistently towards accomplishing your goals each day, each week and each month until you reach your short-term goals. When you have attained your short-term goals set them a little higher each time. Ultimately you will achieve your long-term goals.

Have a list of all the things you want to accomplish during the day. This will give you an organized approach to each day. It's amazing how much you can get done using a "To Do" list.

Set up a schedule and stick to it. Be Enthusiastic. Enthusiasm generates its own energy. Energy and good health are synonymous with motivated, happy people. Achievers.

Positive thinking will literally be your key to success. You have to convince yourself that you can succeed at whatever you desire, because you can.

A schedule is your roadmap to success. If you have no direction, you'll travel in circles and ultimately never reach your goals. Plan your work then work your plan.

Success is 90 percent attitude and 10 percent aptitude. Learn the art of positive thinking. You can do whatever you put your mind to. It's mind over matter.

Set up a written budget. Set aside a percentage of your business income to put back into your business. This is a must. Failure to reinvest your money will result in the failure of your business.

Get plenty of sleep, eat right and take some time to smell the roses...

Be Persistant...Persistance Pays Off...Don't Give Up...Most Businesses fail Just At The Moment They Are About To Succeed...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Professional Liability Insurance: Who Needs It? Maybe YOU

You work hard for your clients, striving to provide services that will bring solid impact to their businesses. The cost impact to a small practice can be immense when a dissatisfied client brings in legal back up and sues. Even more troubling is a dishonest client, who may purely be seeking to force settlement.

Many types of businesses obtain liability insurance. We all are familiar with product liability exposure and malpractice exposure among doctors or lawyers. As consulting continues to grow, so too can the risks and the misconceptions among clients. The good news for professional advisors is that liability insurance is relatively inexpensive when viewed against other insurance costs small businesses may be buckling under like health care or auto.

Each small business is different, with its own risks to be assessed. Quotes can be obtained online, but we highly recommend you get in touch with your insurance broker to talk you through the various risk factors among practice types (ie. marketing consultants vs. IT, etc). Like many things involved in running a business, some times we don’t know what we don’t know when it comes to liability. Just that one quick call may give you peace of mind as you build your business.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Business Insider Offers Treasure Trove of Tips

If you're not aware of Business Insider by now, we recommend you check it out. It is often filled with great, ready-to-implement tips for small businesses. Gone are the long-winded theoretical posts and here are quick ideas you can capture AND USE.

In true BI fashion, here is a great post that culls some of the best-of-the-best in seemingly offbeat-yet-common-sense advice from the net for Small Business. We've captured the concepts below, with link to full article at the jump.

On Leadership:
Enforce vacations!
Stop selling to yourself!

On Strategy:
Stand out in the online world
Study your taxi driver

On Marketing:
Learn the basics of bootstrapping
Don't just create a brand!

On Communication:
Create a powerful message
Deal with picky customers

On Branding:
Make yourself more trusted

Now we're sure if nothing else piqued your interest, you're a little puzzled by studying your taxi driver. Check out the complete post for elaboration!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Building (Business) Relationships Takes TIME

A major skill often requiring some fine-tuning with most entrepreneurs is the process of building relationships with prospective clients and future business associates BEFORE asking for the sale or discussing business participation specifics.

Most entrepreneurs are taught to talk to anyone and everyone they know and meet as soon as they can, about their new business BEFORE someone else gets to them first. This goes against all good business logic.

People do business with those they know, like and trust. New prospects need more than a first meeting to know, like and trust you. In all businesses, it takes time to build relationships that are mutually beneficial.

Be professional, focus on your goals and create a reason for people to do business with you – PERSONALLY!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Why You Need A Business Plan

Great ideas need landing gear as well as wings.” – CD Jackson – American publisher

Building a business is no different then building anything, there are many pieces to put together and many details to cover. If you were building a building (whether a tool shed or a skyscraper) you would need a plan!

The process of creating a business plan forces you to take a realistic, more or less detached look at your business in its entirety.

A finished business plan becomes a tool that will help you manage your business and work toward its success.

The business plan allows you to take nebulous thoughts and put them in concrete form. It is the difference between those who merely have an idea and those who make money on one.

The importance of planning cannot be overemphasized. It is the key to unlocking the door to success. And once you open that door, what do you find? About a thousand more doors with all kinds of variables, problems, and situations. The only way you can effectively handle those variables in a business venture is to have a logical, well-organized business plan.

By taking an objective look at your business, you can identify areas of strength and weakness. You can pinpoint your needs or details you might normally overlook. A business plan will give you enough information to help you spot problems before they arise. Planning will help you determine how you can best achieve your business goals.

A business plan does several things for you:

• Helps you identify your objectives.
• Helps you develop strategies to meet those objectives.
• Helps you earmark problems and suggests ways to solve them.
• Helps you avoid problems altogether.
• Helps create a structure to your business by defining activities and responsibilities.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Planning and Implementation Go Hand-in-Hand

A plan succeeds only through action!

How many times have you heard a business owner proudly state, “I have a business plan”? Then you learn one or more of the following:

• The business plan was prepared when the business was first launched long ago.
• The plan has not been updated for years.
• The plan was prepared using a bank’s required format to help justify a loan.
• The management team does not refer to the plan.
• The plan is unwritten and exists only in the owner’s mind.
• The plan includes only general concepts and nothing specific.

A plan only has value if it helps guide implementation. That means it needs to be written and kept current. It needs to be used and referred to by the management team. It needs to include specific action items with target dates for completion.

Both plans and implementation are required to succeed. They go hand-in-hand.
If you act without a plan, you will be wasting time and money. If you plan without implementation, nothing gets accomplished.

Whatever business processes you follow, make sure they include both planning and implementation steps to ensure your actions are well thought out and your best laid plans are put into motion. The combination of advance planning and timely implementation goes a long way in building a successful business enterprise.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Why Small to Medium Sized Businesses Can Benefit From an Outside Perspective

Most business owners are really GREAT at their ‘business’ but find the ‘business of business’ tedious.

Using an outside business expert can:

1. Free the owner to do what they love, do what they do best, and work ON the company!

2. Bring a fresh view and perspective to a business. Fresh eyes can often see better than those focused on the trees rather than the forest.
3. Supply expert advice and assistance for far less than then cost of an employee OR the owners time. Better known as the ‘economy of knowledge’ because the client gets the benefit of using an advisor for a fraction of the cost of any employee.

4. Accomplish the correction of issues and the capture of opportunities quicker than using inside resources. Outside experts are: experienced, objective, accountable and results oriented.

5. Finally have someone other than themselves who has the owners and the businesses best interests at heart.

Friday, May 18, 2012

And now for something completely different...

Every entrepreneur can use a break now and again. Blame it on snow-madness, blame it on March madness., or blame it simply on a little Friday-itis. Here are some good laughs to send you off into the weekend:

Accountant and the Business OwnerThere once was a business owner who was interviewing people for a division manager position. He decided to select the individual that could answer the question "how much is 2+2?"

The engineer pulled out his slide rule and shuffled it back and forth, and finally announced "It lies between 3.98 and 4.02".

The mathematician said "In two hours I can demonstrate it equals 4 with the following short proof."

The attorney stated "In the case of Svenson vs. the State, 2+2 was declared to be 4."

The trader asked "Are you buying or selling?"

The accountant looked at the business owner, then got out of his chair, went to see if anyone was listening at the door and pulled the drapes. Then he returned to the business owner, leaned across the desk and said in a low voice "What would you like it to be?"

A new business was opening and one of the owner's friends wanted to send flowers for the occasion. They arrived at the new business site and the owner read the card; it said “Rest in Peace”. The owner was angry and called the florist to complain. After he had told the florist of the obvious mistake and how angry he was, the florist said. “Sir, I”m really sorry for the mistake, but rather than getting angry you should imagine this: somewhere there is a funeral taking place today, and they have flowers with a note saying, “Congratulations on your new location!”

Fresh out of business school, the young man answered a want ad for an accountant. Now he was being interviewed by a very nervous man who ran a small business that he had started himself.”I need someone with an accounting degree,” the man said. “But mainly, I”m looking for someone to do my worrying for me.”"Excuse me?” the accountant said.”I worry about a lot of things,” the man said. “But I don’t want to have to worry about money. Your job will be to take all the money worries off my back.” “I see,” the accountant said. “And how much does the job pay?” “I’ll start you at eighty thousand.”"Eighty thousand dollars!” the accountant exclaimed. “How can such a small business afford a sum like that? “That,” the owner said, “is your first worry.”

A customer sent an order to a distributor for a large amount of goods totaling a great deal of money.The distributor noticed that the previous bill hadn’t been paid. The collections manager left a voice-mail for them saying, “We can’t ship your new order until you pay for the last one. “The next day the collections manager received a collect phone call, “Please cancel the order. We can ‘t wait that long. ” 

hhhmmm, I think I had a client try that one once?!

Enjoy your weekend!


1. The first time people look at any given ad, they don't see it.
2. The second time, they don't notice.
3. The third time, they are aware that it is there.
4. The fourth time, they have a fleeting sense that they have seen it somewhere before.
5. The fifth time, they ACTUALLY read the ad.
6. The sixth time, they thumb their nose at it.
7. The seventh time, they start to get a little irritated with it.
8. The eighth time, they start to think, "Here's that confounded ad again."
9. The ninth time, they start to wonder if they might be MISSING OUT on something.
10. The tenth time, they ask their friends and neighbors if they've tried it.
11. The eleventh time, they wonder how the company is PAYING for these ads.
12. The twelfth time, they start to think that this MUST be a good product.
13. The thirteenth time, they start to feel the product has value.
14. The fourteenth time, they start to remember wanting a product exactly like this for a long time.
15. The fifteenth time, they start to yearn for it because they can't afford to buy it.
16. The sixteenth time, they accept the fact that they will buy it sometime in the future.
17. The seventeenth time, they make a note to BUY the product.
18. The eighteenth time, they curse their poverty for not allowing them to buy this terrific product.
19, The nineteenth time, they count their money carefully.
20. The twentieth time the prospect sees the ad, they buy what it is offering.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

The customer is always right?

You've heard it said, "The customer is always right."

Well, that is not necessarily true.

Customers are the lifeline of your business. Without them, your business will simply dry up and die. Without them you don’t have a business. It's important for you to take good care of them.

But know that…. if you own a business, just as sure as the sun will rise, there will be problems. Not necessarily many, but some. And… they will not always be your fault or be in your control!

The first time most business owners receive a complaint, they are devastated and take it personally. It is important not to do that.

If you work with people, there are going to be problems. Be professional in dealing with them, do everything you can (even if the problem was out of your control) to correct the problem.

Once you have done everything you can to take care of any problem, then consider it closed and let it go!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Four Components of Every Marketing Effort

There are four components to every marketing effort. All four of these key components must be given careful consideration—for each can cause the failure or success of your marketing.

The Product
The Message
The Prospect
The Media

Consistently successful marketing requires knowledge and mastery of these four factors that, together, can produce the desired results.

Rating the Four Marketing Components

PRODUCT – You have to do your research.
Is the product or service you're offering going to meet an existing need or demand?
Who needs or demands it?

You must know the exact demand or need you are trying to fill.

Can the product be priced profitably and competitively?
Does the product offer value?
How about quality?

Do the best you can to objectively evaluate your product—from the prospect's point of view.

MESSAGE – This includes the offer you're making (FREE booklet, bill me, FREE gift w/order, etc.), how you say it (the words), and how you present it (design elements).

Have you made an enticing offer?
Does your headline grab the attention of your hottest prospects?
Have you made your promotion look uncluttered, easy to read, professional?
Once again, you must put yourself in your prospect's shoes. How will your message be perceived by them?

PROSPECT – Who are the best candidates for your product or service?

Will apartment dwellers be interested in your lawn tractors? Not a chance.
Will the small business owner who spends only $2,000 per year on
marketing be interested in my consulting services? Probably not.
Sending the right message about the right product to the wrong prospect can be a total waste.

MEDIA – How will you get your message in front of your hottest prospects?
Direct mail?
TV? Radio?
Print ads?

This element of your marketing is just as important as the other four. Spending the money for a professionally written and designed ad will do you no good if you place it in the wrong publication.
How sure are you of the media you've selected?
Have you had success with them in the past, or are they untested for you?
Are detailed demographics available?
Do the best you can to rate your overall confidence in the media you plan to use.

In general, people want to spend money, be affluent and feel good.

People do not want to budget or be austere. They do not want to be involved with things that require work, cause risk to what they already have, or that are time consuming.

Use this knowledge to rate the four components of all your marketing efforts, then make needed adjustments as are indicated by the formula. You'll be amazed what happens to your response rate!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

What is Marketing Research?

"The secret to success is - find out where the people are going and get there first." - Mark Twain

Basically, marketing research is just what the merchant did with the peanuts. Find out what catches customers' attention by observing their actions and drawing conclusions from what you see. To put it more formally, in the words of the American Marketing Association, marketing research is "the systematic gathering, recording, and analyzing of data about problems relating to the marketing of goods and services."

Marketing research is an organized way of finding objective answers to questions every business must answer to succeed. Every business owner-manager must ask:
 Who are my customers and potential customers?
 What kind of people are they?
 Can and will they buy?
 Am I offering the kinds of goods or services they want - at the best place, at the best time, and in the right amounts?
 Are my prices consistent with what buyers view as the products' values?
 Are my promotional programs working?
 What do customers think of my business?
 How does my business compare with my competitors?

Marketing research is not a perfect science; it deals with people and their constantly changing likes and dislikes which can be affected by hundreds of influences, many of which simply can't be identified. Marketing research does, however, try to learn about markets scientifically. That simply, is to gather facts in an orderly, objective way; to find out how things are, not how you think they are or would like them to be; what people want to buy, not just what you want to sell them.

Why Do It?

It's tough - impossible - to sell people what they don't want. (Remember the Nehru jacket?) That's pretty obvious. Just as obvious is the fact that nothing could be simpler than selling people what they do want. Big business has to do market research to find that out. The same reason holds for small business.

Business owners often have a "feel" for their customers - their markets - that comes from years of experience. Experience can be a two-edged sword, though, since it comprises a tremendous mass of facts acquired at random over a number of years.

Information about markets gained from long experience may no longer be timely enough to base selling decisions on. In addition, some "facts" may be vague, misleading impressions or folk tales of the "everybody knows that..." variety.

Marketing research focuses and organized marketing information. It ensures that such information is timely. It provides what you need to:
 Reduce business risks,
 Spot problems and potential problems in your current market,
 Identify and profit from sales opportunities,

Get basic facts about your market to help you make better decisions and set up plans of action.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Return of the Friday Fun

Serious topics will resume Monday. For today, we celebrate a one business day reprieve of Tax Day with some fun to head in to your weekend.

I think I may have had this pair as employees once:
The new employee stood before the paper shredder looking confused. "Need some help?" a secretary asked. "Yes," he replied. "How does this thing work?" "Simple," she said, taking the fat report from his hand and feeding it into the shredder. "Thanks, but where do the copies come out?"

Funny, yet believable:
When the office photo-copies began to look faint, the business owner called in a local repair service. The friendly technician after inspecting the equipment, informed him that the machine was in need of a good cleaning. The tech suggested that someone might try reading the operator’s manual and perform the job themselves, since it would cost $100.00, if he did the work. Pleasantly surprised by his candor, the owner asked, “Does your boss know you are discouraging business?” “Actually, my boss demands we explain this to all our customers. After people try first to fix things themselves, we end-up making much more money on repairs”

The businessman dragged himself home and barely made it to his chair before he dropped exhausted.

His sympathetic wife was right there with a tall cool drink and a comforting word. "My, you look tired," she said. "You must have had a hardday today. What happened to make you so exhausted?"

"It was terrible," her husband said. "The computer crashed and all of us had to do our own thinking."

And perfect for this time of year:
A business owner on his deathbed called his friend and said, “Bill, I want you to promise me that when I die, you will have my remains cremated.”

“And what,” his friend asked, “do you want me to do with your ashes?”

The owner said, “Just put them in an envelope and mail them to the Internal Revenue Service. Write on the envelope, ‘Now, you have everything.’”

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Why Do a Marketing Plan?

A marketing plan outlines everything you will do to market your business, in what order, and when. The time and effort spent developing your marketing plan is a good investment.

An effective marketing plan does the following:
 Identifies and explores the strengths and weaknesses of your company, its products, or services
 Examines, based on these strengths and weaknesses, the opportunities and threats that exist in the marketplace
 Forces you to focus on the needs of your customers and potential customers
 Allows you to anticipate and plan for changing market trends, consumer demands, and changes of your competitors
 Helps you reach company goals within your budget
 Forms an essential part of your business plan

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Still Time for those Home Office Deductions

Maybe you had all your paperwork in weeks ago... or maybe you're still crunching tax numbers. If you have a home office, there's some good news to be found courtesy of Turbo Tax - Easily File and Maximize Your Business Tax Deductions.

Here are few highlights. Read the full article on Please note, as with ALL tax matters, this is informational and for you to discuss with your accounting professional.
Home office space. If an office or other portion of your home is designated for work, the IRS allows you to deduct a portion of your mortgage payments or rent. The use of the space for work has to be “regular and exclusive”—in other words, a laptop on the kitchen table doesn’t qualify. The deduction is proportional to the size of your workspace. Calculate the percentage of your home’s square footage that is used exclusively for work. And don’t forget that you can deduct utilities, homeowners’ insurance and real estate taxes as well.
Computer equipment, software and supplies. Deduct the full value of any computers, software and Internet service that are used only for business purposes. Other write-offs include software programs, including accounting software, and postage expenses.
Health insurance costs. Sole proprietors can write off the cost of their health insurance premiums, but remember, your family’s insurance costs are not deductible unless they work for you.

Research materials. If you subscribe to websites or print publications that focus on your industry, write them off. If you’re a writer and purchase copies of the publications you want to write for, deduct those too. Same goes for reference books.
Business phone calls. Write them off. The simplest way to keep track of your business call expenses is to have a dedicated phone line or a separate cell phone altogether.

Auto mileage and travel expenses. Whether you're traveling to meet with clients, conduct research, or for some other legitimate business purpose, all of the expenses can be deducted. Keep track of mileage, and keep receipts for cabs and air travel. They can all be written off if properly documented.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Don’t Be a Small Business Failure Statistic

When you're running a small business, the last thing you want to focus on is failure. But unless you are doing the right things within your business failure (or forever underperforming) is a real possibility.

There are many views about what a business owner should and shouldn't do to keep there business profitable and thriving (not just surviving) but as with most things there are a few that are key… at the core of success.

Here are some the three most commonly cited reasons for small businesses to under-perform and fail…

#1 Poor Management

Most small business experts cite poor management as the number one reason for entrepreneurial failure.

Business owners frequently lack relevant business and management expertise in areas such as finance, marketing, selling, and hiring and managing employees.

Unless they recognize and act upon what they don't do well by seeking help a business owner can and will face disaster.

Note: For a side by side comparison of Professional vs Entrepreneurial Management please email me at

#2 Insufficient Funds/Cash Flow

A frequent and more oft then not fatal mistake for small business owners is having insufficient operating funds.

Business owners habitually underestimate how much money is needed to found and run their enterprises and are often forced to close before they even have had a fair chance to succeed.

It is imperative to know how much money a business will require… not only the costs to begin (ALWAYS underestimated) , but the costs of running the business (ALWAYS more then it should cost).

Tools like budgets and accurate forecasts must be used and solid sources of funding must be found, cultivated and used.

#3 Lack of Planning
Anyone who has ever run a successful business knows consistent, careful, methodical, strategic and flexible planning is as important as hard work in being successful.

While business owners hate to hear this every business MUST have a
business plan and the plan must be followed. It must be realistic and based on accurate, current information and educated projections for the future.

OK, that was the ‘bad news’… which is actually good news because these three things are so very easy to avoid or correct with the right help and advice.

This is where the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development and its Local business Assistance Program can come into play for start and existing enterprises.

As a non-profit corporation, the Organization for Entrepreneurial Development provides business support and outreach to the broad entrepreneurial community.

If you or a business owner you know are struggling with your business under-performing or even feel like you/they are teetering at the brink of failure, please use or forward this email and take advantage of OED’s Local Business Assistance Program. As business owners, entrepreneurs can take advantage, at no cost, of OED’s most popular outreach program, Local Business Assistance Program, just by visiting

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Asking Questions – Key to Business Success

“We never stop investigating. We are never satisfied that we know enough to get by. Every question we answer leads on to another question. This has become the greatest survival trick of our species.” - Desmond Morris (b. 1928), British anthropologist.

Ask and you shall receive says the Bible. Ask, and every human being has been conditioned to do what they are asked to do, say the psychologists. Ask, and according to the law of averages, you'll get enough "yes’s" to guarantee your success, say the sales managers.

Ask people any sensible, relevant question, for their opinion, advice, for a favor or anything that will enable you to meet them; then make sure they know who you are, and maintain your contact so they remember you. Ask "How can we do this better?" Ask "How can we do more?" Ask "How can we serve our clients better?" If you don't have answers to these questions, find someone who does and ask them.

Asking is the quickest, easiest and surest ways to get people to do what you want them to do.
Why does this work? Why do people tend to do what you ask them to do? Why is it that people who have no interest in you use their time and energy to furnish you with information just because you asked them for it? Because people are conditioned from childhood to respond to polite questions. If you ask intelligent questions with impact, almost everyone will answer you.

The other significant reason to ask good questions is to help the person you are asking. Asking well-crafted, intelligent questions causes people to think profoundly. When someone thinks more deeply than before, new ideas, new answers and new possibilities emerge.

Asking appropriate questions of people is like holding up a mirror to theiractions and decisions so they can see for themselves whether it is the right thing to do.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Managing Stress Begins with Knowing Its Source

Did you vow to tackle stress this year? Stress has long been known as a common curse of the entrepreneur. While there is no easy prescription for this problem, a helpful remedy is for entrepreneurs to get together and share their problems and frustrations.

When entrepreneurs get together, here are some of the factors they identify that increase stress.

When the initial vision of success gives way to disappointing sales. As one example, a business venture began based upon a single product that the owner really believed in -- a product that often drew praise when demonstrated ... but wouldn't sell. The owner heard over and over from prospective customers that the product was "a clever idea but I can't use it in my business." Stress was the by-product as this entrepreneur had to tear himself away from this single product, look at the facts, and begin again -- this time producing for the market, not for himself. A new product was the solution.

Partnership conflicts and coordination. When you start a business, friendships as well as investments are on the line. The backgrounds and talents of partners can make a difference. For instance, one partnership's co-entrepreneurs had very similar backgrounds, making the division of labor problematic.

Abandonment of reliable careers. The pressure to succeed is multiplied when new entrepreneurs find themselves taking a severe cut in their personal incomes in order to pursue their own business.

Overcoming bureaucratic barriers to small business marketing efforts. The difficulty a small company often has in dealing with layers of big-business bureaucracies can cause a great deal of strain. Reaching the CEO of a larger corporation may require a level of aggressiveness unnatural and, therefore, stressful to a small business owner. This frustration had been so great for one owner that he decided to direct his marketing efforts exclusively at other small companies.

Being too dependent on one company. Another business mentioned that his company had to swallow a very large loss on a major project when the single large firm his company had depended upon for its market suddenly ended the relationship.

Check out more great tips for success AND fulfillment in your business in the OED Community!

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why do people start a small business?

“A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.” – Chinese proverb

Most times, for one of the following four reasons:

They are tired of working for someone else.

Small business ownership requires a great deal of responsibility. Some people thrive on that.

Small business ownership offers community recognition. First as a successful
business operator, and later as a contributor to the economic and social welfare
of the entire community.

No Restrictions
There are no restrictions and few prerequisites for small business ownership.

Race is not a factor in small business. Neither is gender. As a matter of fact, women are starting small businesses at 6 times the rate of men.

Monday, January 9, 2012


Leadership is the ability of a person to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward the effectiveness and success of the organizations of which they are members and/or to achieve certain goals.

Leadership is the ability of an individual to set an
example for others and lead from the front. It is an attitude that influences the environment around us.

Leadership does not involve changing the mindset of a group, but the cultivation of an environment that brings out the best (inspires) the individuals in that group.

The Major Traits of Leadership
- Unwavering Courage
- Self Control
- Optimism - very few pessimists become leaders
- A Keen Sense of Justice
- Definiteness of Decision
- Definiteness of Plans and Purpose
- The Habit of Doing More Than Expected
- A Pleasing Personality
- Sympathy and Understanding
- Mastery of Detail
- Willingness to Assume Full Responsibility
- Cooperation

Saturday, January 7, 2012


In close to 7 million U.S. households, someone is trying to launch a new business. That means approximately 7.2% of Americans are hoping to get into business for themselves.

According to the Entrepreneurial Research Consortium that trend dovetails with another: more MBA's as well as college graduates are starting business ventures after graduating from school.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

You Will Never Reach Financial Independence Working For Someone Else

“It is more admirable to be in business for yourself then to work for someone else.” – HL Mencken – American editor

It is a fact of life that it is becoming increasingly difficult for families to make ends meet. Most Americans are working harder, even taking on two jobs, and have less to show for it then previous generations. Americans are living in debt and almost every household has two adults working outside the home.

Surveys have shown that the average person will work 900,000 hours in their lives (1,800,000 hours in a two-job household) and when they retire will live on an income only 1/3 of what they were earning prior to retirement. In reality, many people may work all their lives and never be able to retire.

Adding insult to injury, during their working careers most people must endure having their boss control their income, their daily schedule and even when they can take vacation. They will also risk layoffs, downsizing and termination… regardless of performance.

How can (and do) people break this scenario? By owning their own businesses… and thousands of people are entering the world of entrepreneurship every day.

People who never thought they had an option are learning that they can own their own businesses (and their futures) and working part-time or full-time can earn substantial secondary or primary income to their families as well as realizing the meaningful tax benefits that accompany business ownership.