With One Tuchus, You Can’t Dance At Two Weddings

Dear Professor Bruce: I am a sole proprietor who builds computer networks for small businesses. My revenues are growing, but I need to do a better job selling to new clients and managing client relationships. I’d like expert advice, but don’t have anyone to bounce ideas off of. What do you suggest?

One of the problems of a solo entrepreneur, is having a limited skill set. You want to do everything and soon find you cannot. There is an old Eastern European expression that a good friend reminded me of, “With one tuchus, you can’t dance at two weddings”.

Phil Hood of Transcend Strategy Group  has some excellent recommendations:

As a sole proprietor, you are in business for yourself, but you don’t have to be in business by yourself. Working on your own, you have one brain and two eyes and yes, one tuchus. That’s why, whether you’re a solopreneur or you have a few employees, you need trusted support and guidance in key areas such as finance, production, distribution, and marketing. In larger companies, this is the kind of counsel that a board of directors provides.

But at this stage of growth, a board of directors would be too much horsepower. You need a mentor: an experienced, trusted advisor who can help you strategize about business development. Good mentors are like good teachers, both insightful and capable of inspiring you to excel.

Finding A Mentor

How do you find a mentor with the expertise you need? It could be someone in your field with more experience who’s built a successful enterprise — or a pro in an unrelated business. Scan your contact list. Think of people you have worked with or learned from. Do any of them fill the bill? Since marketing and customer communications are challenging for you, your best advisor could be someone skilled in these areas.

Some entrepreneurs use creative approaches to find expert help. One restaurateur found several advisors by asking returning patrons for advice. Through this technique, he met several people who not only liked his restaurant, but also invested in it and served as his unofficial board of advisors.

There are also organizations that connect entrepreneurs with mentors. Score (www.score.org) matches retired executives with new business owners. The U.S. Small Business Administration also has mentoring programs.

Getting the Most from a Mentor

No one is as interested in your success as you are: When you find a mentor, you do the work; your mentor merely advises. But it’s an important job. He or she tries to help you see the bigger picture, learn news skills, and nudge you out of your comfort zone in ways that will help you grow and succeed.

When you find a mentor, make time to reap the benefits from your relationship. You’re investing in your own education and the mentor may be giving his or her time for free. Don’t let day-to-day demands prevent you from gaining the tools and skills you need to build your business. And when you have a success or meet a milestone, be sure to share the good news.

Once you’ve found one trusted advisor, you can find others through targeted networking. Attend professional conferences and join trade associations to expand your contacts. Experienced accountants and lawyers are invaluable resources because they’ve worked with businesses like yours in the past. As you create a trusted circle of advisors, the challenges you face will become more manageable and may even turn into opportunities.

For more information, please visit www.transcendstrategy.com

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Finding Investors for Your Business

Dear Professor Bruce: I just opened a new, small business selling a software program I developed for sporting events.  Can you give me some suggestions for finding investors to take my company to the next level of success? 

When it comes to finding investors to grow your new software business, it’s important to plan in advance so you make a good first impression. According to Bentley Charlemagne, a business coach and CEO of myQme, suggests the following tips:

Business success is more than just an idea.

Many times, new entrepreneurs have a great concept for a new business, but that’s all they have. Is this great business idea part of your core skill set? Even if you have created a business in the past, or think you have the skills to start a new business, knowing your past mistakes in business can help you in your future ventures

Select the right team members and strategic partners.

Investors will look closely at the team members who will implement your business idea. As an entrepreneur, it’s up to you to conduct a full evaluation of the people you are going to need to create a successful business. Select a team based on your core needs and expertise, not by friendship. To find the right people, start by communicating your business idea in written form so everyone has a similar perspective. Then, weigh their interest and passion, and measure their true interest. Clearly define the benefits to potential partners and exactly what you expect of them.

Be honest.

Study your target market and know how your business solves specific problems in a unique way. Then, research various investors and decide which ones to pursue. Good businesses do not just wing it. They plan, anticipate, calculate, and take action.

When you are ready to meet with investors, present the facts with a clear business plan. Communicate your background, core beliefs, business philosophy, and what you have accomplished in the past. Investors will want to get to know you and develop a comfort zone. In simple terms, tell them what you are going to do for them and how you will solve issues in their space.

All investors want a return on their investment. Successful investors invest in people first. To help your new software business grow with investor financing, know your strengths and weaknesses, research your business and audience, develop a business plan with a unique solution to a problem, and provide a straight forward presentation. Your knowledge, personality type, and professionalism will help you stand out from the competition and increase your chances of finding the right investors for your business goals.

For further information, please visit www.myqme.com

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Why Buy When You Can Rent

Dear Professor Bruce: I just started a small plumbing fixtures company. Does anyone offer a “pay-as-you-go” model where people can rent compute power, so I don’t need to spend thousands up front? I can’t afford huge capital investments right now, and I don’t want be locked in.

These days, small businesses can indeed “rent” a full-blown computing environment lock, stock and barrel — processing, storage, networking, and other resources, as needed, including applications.

Small businesses can access these resources over the Internet through a pay-per-use model. Typically, compute resources are rented out for specific periods of time, according to a pre-determined hardware setup; the small business pays for the time and configuration, regardless of actual use. A newer, somewhat more flexible, rental model is emerging now as well. Within this scenario, small businesses can adjust the compute environment to meet their changing needs – and they’re billed only for the services they actually use.

This new model avoids the “IT roller coaster” of yore, where new businesses were finding themselves having to buy new (rapidly depreciating) hardware every three years or so. And they were paying a ton of money to technical people to maintain and service their equipment. Needless to say, these costs can mount up very quickly. According to Adam Stern of Infinitely Virtual, “companies are beginning to offer other professional services, such as disaster recovery and related types of support, that make it easy for small businesses to move to this rental environment. These services help business owners avoid the financial burden (and guaranteed obsolescence) that comes with acquiring hardware every few years”. 

And because various industries have distinct requirements within this rental model, some service providers are even specializing in specific markets. These targeted offerings not only make it easier to find the right provider, they give small businesses greater choice and that’s a true win-win.

For further information, please visit: http://www.infinitelyvirtual.com

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Small businesses can conserve energy

Dear Professor Bruce: I’m a new business owner. How can I conserve energy at my small, chocolate factory and make a better working environment for my employees?

According to Pervaiz Lodhie, founder of LEDtronics, Inc.,small business owners can conserve energy and create a much better working environment simply by changing old fluorescent bulbs to LED lighting, or light emitting diodes.

With older technology lighting like incandescents, halogens, CFLs, and fluorescents, it was generally “one shoe fits all”. With LEDs properly selected to suit the application, you end up using less wattage and getting more light where you need it.

In addition, Lodhie recommends LEDs to small business owners for several other reasons:

LEDs can be directional, medium beam or wide illumination as required.Today’s LED technology is made for all applications and industries. You can obtain lighting that concentrates light on the appropriate areas both inside and outside of your chocolatefactory without causing light pollution or wasting money lighting areas that do not need to be lit.

LEDs are silent, turn on instantly, have color choices suitable to enhance application Old, fluorescent lights tend to flicker and make noise. In addition to being annoying, this flicker effect can be unhealthy to employees and even cause headaches and illness in some cases.Unlike old fluorescent lamps that take time to obtain full brightness and can be very hot to the touch, LED lamps turn on immediately and remain much cooler. Properly selected color temperature, beam angle and placement of the LED lights will not only bring out the true, chocolate product colors being produced, but also provide better illumination of the manufacturing process which will help improve quality.

LEDs offer easy maintenance.

 

Instead of interrupting employees and reducing manufacturing time to regularly repair, replace and maintain old, fluorescent light tubes, LED bulbs can go years before they need to be changed. You don’t need to worry about glass near food-manufacturing areas.Since air conditioning is needed to keep storage of the finished, chocolate products and final production areas of the process cool, the LED lighting source reduces the energy load on the A/C system giving you more efficiency that would contribute to lower maintenance as well.

Provide a better working environment to employees while conserving energy. While LEDs may cost more upfront than old, incandescent,
halogen or fluorescent bulb lighting, in the long-term, small business owners
can use them to conserve energy, reduce wasted light pollution and save on
maintenance costs. And at the same time, LEDs can provide light that works
perfectly for employees to be productive and enjoy their work environment a
little more.

For further information,  please visit www.ledtronics.com.

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Lean launch: small business start up strategy

Dear Professor Bruce: I’ve been thinking about starting my own small business for a while, but my resources, including money, are very limited. What advice can you give me?

Whatever your resources, professional and financial, you can increase your chances of success by adopting an approach called the “lean start-up.” This strategy
focuses on streamlining the launch process and many aspiring entrepreneurs are
using it. In fact, the Harvard Business Review recently spotlighted it in an article called, “Why the Lean Start-up Changes Everything.” To help you get going, Karin Abarbanel, an expert on start-up strategies and author of How to Succeed on Your Own, outlines some basic principles here:

Lean launching is a mind-set, an attitude. It’s about stripping away everything that isn’t essential so you can get up and running as quickly and cost-effectively as possible. It’s about doing more with less by squeezing the most out of every resource you have, from your time and money to your suppliers and contact list.

So put your start-up on a diet: Figure out what’s absolutely essential and then focus on how to find what you really need most efficiently and cost-effectively. Can your get your equipment from an online discount site or buy it reconditioned? Can you barter for accounting support? Road-test your idea? Tap SCORE for marketing advice?

Build your business at your own pace and on your own terms: Lean launching uses
market testing instead of elaborate business plans and employs customer
feedback and low-cost experimentation to fine-tune offerings. This do-it-yourself approach allows you to work through your concept and build a business base with minimal investment.

Think big, but start small: Focus on one product or service. Keep your eye on delivering exceptional service and quality with that one offering, then build
on it. Bobbi Brown started her global cosmetics firm by creating a single product: a lipstick with a natural look — and used it as a launch platform. Liz Lange started her maternity wear empire by developing a simple dress that appealed to young xpectant mothers. 

Come up with a bare-bones budget — and stick to it: Two nurses with no business
training launched their firm with a few hundred dollars. A hi-tech executive
started with a “loan” to herself of $1,000 to buy equipment. And makeup mogul Bobbi Brown began her global enterprise with a $5,000 nest egg. So, small budgets can lead to big businesses — if they’re managed to get the most bang for every buck.

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Protecting Small Business in Emergencies

Scripps Howard News
Service
– Wednesday, June 19, 2013
BRUCE FREEMAN ,
Dear Professor Bruce: I’ve got a small dress-store chain in Atlantic City, N.J., and we had to close all our locations during Hurricane Sandy last fall. The landlines were down at a time when we really needed to know that everyone was safe. What technologies can we use in an emergency situation to stay in touch with employees?
We’re so accustomed to always-on cellphone and landline service that it often takes a disaster to rouse us from our complacence.
Thankfully, there are fail-safe communications technologies within reach of every business. Both voice broadcasting and opt-in text messaging can be highly effective in notifying affected populations rapidly and affordably. The rub, of course, is putting systems in place before a calamity strikes.
While planning ahead is essential, doing so is neither complicated nor time-consuming. Any number of telephony service providers offer simple but powerful voice broadcast solutions. Relying only on an Internet connection and a phone line, a small business can record a voice message, upload a list of important phone numbers (customers, employees, partners, other stakeholders, etc.) and, when the time comes, instantly distribute that message to everyone on the list. Once the prep work is done, the system can be updated easily and used as needed.
Similarly, text messaging systems have the power to connect people and communities quickly and cost-effectively. Increasingly, Short Message Service, or SMS, has become a medium as important as the telephone — and, in certain situations, even more . Text messages contain vital early warning information and instructions that can save lives before a disaster occurs and help communities recover in the aftermath of an emergency.
But there’s a catch. Before lives can be saved, every cell phone user must first “opt in,” or provide his or her permission, in order for emergency warnings and other communications to be sent to their device.
That’s not a courtesy or a best practice — it’s the law. Both Federal Communications Commission regulations and the landmark federal Clery Act, which guides the communication of emergency information by academic institutions, require that businesses and organizations that offer SMS and voice broadcast mass notifications obtain an individual’s permission, as well as offer the opportunity to opt out of such communications.
“The right strategy for small businesses is to think ahead and act accordingly,” said Dinesh Ravishanker, CEO, CallFire, which sells telephone applications for businesses. The most encouraging thing about implementing any kind of emergency notification system is that doing so is simply smart business. These systems can be surprisingly easy and affordable, and what they save — in terms of business loss and human anguish — can be immeasurable.”
For further information, please visit www.callfire.com
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A Winning PR Tool – Publish an Article

Dear Professor Bruce: I have been trying to get publicity for my small business. Except for a minor mention in the local town newspaper, I have not been very successful. Do you have any suggestions?

Answer:

Publishing an article is one of the greatest public relations tools. It positions you to look like an expert and gets you free publicity . Here are some helpful tips to get the process going:

1-     Call 3 editors who write about the subject matter you are interested in writing an
article about. Journalists are knowledgeable and will usually share some ideas. Ask them what their readership is looking for. (Writing about your company or product is often too narrow, however, if what you are doing fits into a trend or has a broader audience appeal you may be on your way to a published article.)

2-     Look through the business sections of some major publications. What are 3 of themajor issues? What is your opinion? Write it down and embellish. Having a contrary opinion is often what publications look for.

3-    Develop a list of business publications (or any other type of publications) from the
smallest unheard  publication to major players in that space. Call or email each editor and explain the key points. You may not get published in a national business publication the first time you write an article, however getting published in a small business news publication makes you a published a writer Your second article will be easier to pitch since you are starting to have a track record.

4-     When you get published in even the smallest newsletter send it to your entire
database. Send them the link so they have to go to the publication website. The last paragraph of any article you write will have a short bio about you with your contact information. Now you are a published author, an authority and you just got a free commercial.

For more information, visit www.prolinepr.com.

 

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Health Insurance for Small Business

Dear Professor Bruce:I have a bookkeeping service serving a small city of about 120,000
people.  I’ve heard that the healthcare reform law when it’s fully
implemented in 2014 will drastically impact self-employed people and small
businesses. I am concerned about this and need to know more. Can you tell me
how the reform law will affect my business and what should I be doing now?

According to  Anthony Lopez, small business insurance specialist, eHealthInsurance.com ““The law may affect you personally in several ways, but it’s less likely to affect your business than you might fear”.

First, let’s clarify a few things:

Beginning in January 2014, businesses with fifty or more full-time workers (or the
equivalent in part-time workers) will be required to provide health insurance for their employees. This is the so-called “employer mandate.”

Employers who meet this criterion and do not provide coverage for workers will face tax
penalties. However, the vast majority of self-employed persons and small businesses owners have substantially fewer than fifty full-time workers and will be exempt from the
employer mandate. Just like today, they will be free to provide health insurance to workers or not. And they will not face any tax penalties for not providing coverage.

Small businesses that do opt to provide health insurance may be eligible for special tax deductions. If you’re a business owner with no more than 25 employees and the average annual wages you pay them are less than $50,000, you may be able to deduct up to 50% of what you contribute towards their monthly premiums, starting in 2014.

In that respect, at least, health reform may actually help small businesses who decide they want to provide group health coverage.

Now, how will the law affect you personally in 2014?

Well, like most everyone else, you’ll probably be required to purchase health insurance, assuming you don’t already have coverage througha spouse’s employer. This is the “individual mandate.” If you earn more than 133% of the Federal Poverty Level, you’ll need to purchase an individual or family health plan, or else face a penalty on your federal taxes.

Subsidies may be available to help you afford that coverage. If your income falls between 133-400% of the Federal Poverty Level in 2014, the government will see to it that you’ll pay no more than 3-9.5% of your income on health insurance premiums.

In order to receive the subsidy, make sure you buy your 2014 health plan through your state’s official health exchange website, or a qualified health insurance broker designated by your state exchange.

For further information, please visit, www.eHealthInsurance.com.

 

 

 

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Elise Oesterreich’s Resume Advice to Students Distributed Nationwide

Elise Oesterreich, a Stillman student and a social media intern for ProLine Communications, advises peers in Scripps Howard column distributed to 350 newspapers nationwide. The weekly column, Ask The Small Business Professor, is written by Bruce Freeman, founder of ProLine Communications and Stillman School adjunct professor of management and entrepreneurship.

Recently Freeman received a question from a college student asking for advice on how to enhance the resume and build entrepreneurial skills. Freeman immediately thought of his social media intern and the value of peer-to-peer feedback.

In her response, Oesterreich encourages students to highlight their technological and social media skills, skills many employers look for in a young employee.

“If you know how to use the Microsoft Office Suite or Adobe Photoshop, you should include that on your resume. You should also include different social networking sites that you know how to use, not only for yourself, but also for an employer.”

She also encourages students to start a blog where they can post professional content about an interest and then include the blog link when submitting applications or resumes.

Lastly Oesterreich encourages students to gain a better understanding of their Klout score, which is a measure of social media influence.

“Most companies hiring new employees look for people with a Klout score of 45 or higher, which means as an entrepreneur, you would aim for a Klout score of 50 or higher, but closer to the 60 range if you want to have true success in your entrepreneurial endeavor.”

Oesterreich, Class of 2014, is a marketing major with a minor in international business. She is from Orange County, California, and plans to pursue a career in market research or social media marketing. She continues to add to her skill set off campus via her social media internship, and on campus as head of marketing for the SHU Gaming Sector and as the new social media executive for the University’s Marketing Club.

For more information please contact:
Bruce Freeman
(973) 716-9457
bruce@smallbusinessprofessor.com

See the original post at: http://www.shu.edu/news/article/441293

 

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Growing Your Business Abroad

Dear Professor Bruce: My small business has seen some rapid growth recently. I think it’s time to begin selling in other countries, but I’m not sure how to begin. What’s the best first step?
Answer:
Congratulations on your company’s recent growth, despite a challenging economy. It’s exciting that you’ve decided to begin looking in other markets to continue growing. After all, 95 percent of the world’s population is outside of the United States, so there are many economies waiting for you.
According to Debi Durham, director of the Iowa Economic Development Authority (IEDA), “Entering the international economy can make a tremendous difference for a small business.”
Here is some excellent advice:
Seek out training and consultation programs organized by your state. State international trade offices  cover critical issues that small business-owners should know about before entering global marketplaces. Topics can include information on export compliance, international banking, logistics and transportation. Companies also take advantage of one-on-one counseling from marketing managers with over 100 years of international experience and access to qualified contacts, distribution channels and more.
Participate in international trade shows and trade missions. These events are often among some of the most effective ways to enter international markets. By participating, you have the opportunity to meet potential buyers, test market interest and even evaluate the competition. Your state’s international trade office should work with you to identify the best international trade fairs and help with planning for shows, as well as follow-up.
Take advantage of state offices abroad. When you’re traveling in global markets in order to grow your business, know where your state’s trade offices are located and make an appointment. For example, some state offices have a presence in strategic locations around the world with foreign offices in Frankfurt, Germany and Beijing, China and representatives in Taipei, Taiwan; and Mexico City, Mexico. Representatives in these outposts can provide valuable insights into local markets and help you begin to make connections.
Resources may vary from state to state, so make sure you’re aware of what is available to you.
For further information, please visit: www.iowaeconomicdevelopment.com
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