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Supporting Veteran Owned Small Businesses

This video shares examples of a few veteran owned small businesses. Feel free to comment and share your own examples with website link belo...

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How To Incorporate A Small Business

The quickest and easiest way to incorporate a small business is using MyCorporation.com. There are many services like this, but I've friends who've used this one numerous times with no hitches whatsoever. They take care of all the paperwork and send it to you in a binder.

What you need to decide is what kind of corporation you want to set up. For a simple business, a Limited Liability Company is probably the best for a single owner. If you have partners, you may want to investigate a Limited Liability Partnership or an S-Corp. You probably want to shy away from a C-Corp strictly for taxation purposes unless you're planning something big like an IPO.

Here's a link to a comparison chart of the various incorporation entities ...

Incorporation Comparison

You should also read the book "Are You Ready To Incorporate?... Saving Time & Money Through Sound Business Tactics" to help you decide what to do about incorporating.

Book Description ....

The myth: Everyone knows that only big companies and rich people with lawyers incorporate!

The facts: The reality is that there are a variety of ways to incorporate which match whatever business or venture you are engaged in and incorporation is available to everyone who wants financial security and tax savings.

In this remarkable and comprehensive book, the Editors of Socrates provide everything you need to know about incorporation in a single volume dedicated to clarity, easy access to information, helpful hints, practical interview with experts and design principles to make information gathering simple and enjoyable. No other contemporary book contains so much – including the invaluable free CD provided with each book in which glossaries of terms, forms, checklists, special reports, interviews, discussion and more are provided.

Monday, August 27, 2012

How To Write A Business Proposal

Business Proposals are built to basically address 3 key purposes.

1. To attract Investment and potential investors.

2. To add talent to build / translate your business plan to action. For this you need to share your vision with energetic team members who can join you in attaining the objectives.

3. For self. You need to translate your thoughts to paper so that you are able to do a milestone check on the journey at various stages.

To get started you'll need to work through the following steps ...

1. Talk with somebody who has written several successful business proposals. Ask what worked and what didn't.

2. Outline a two-part proposal. The first part will describe the business opportunity and your plans to take advantage of it. The second will present financial data - tax returns, a balance sheet and a summary of your operating plan.

3. Write the proposal. Limit the first part to 10 pages. Make it concise and clear. When describing the market opportunity, cite sources.

4. Explain what makes you and your company different from competitors. Perhaps you have special skills and experiences. You might have a new technology. Talk about your achievements in the industry.

5. Describe the segment of the market you will pursue. Discuss what you will do to take market share away from competitors.

6. Identify prospective customers. Explain why you are targeting them.

7. Summarize your marketing plan. Offer details, but be brief.

8. Discuss any regulatory issues your company might have to deal with.

9. Identify the management team. Who are the top three people in the company? Give brief biographical sketches.

10. Describe your expectations regarding revenue and cash flow for the first year. Discuss how much money you think you will need to get started, how it will be used, and where you plan to obtain it.

I suggest you put together a power point slide presentation to use during any briefs and meetings where you'll be "selling" your proposal. Construct that presentation as follows ....

Slide 1: Mission Statement

This is the one liner of the company that describes what it's doing. It's best here if you relate to a past success.

What the Investor is Thinking: "Why should I be interested in this?"

Slide 2: Market

How big is it and how fast is it growing? That's what you want to convey.

What the Investor is thinking: "Can I build a billion dollar company?"

Slide 3: Problem

How big is the customer's problem that you are solving?

What the Investor is thinking: "How good will my gross margins be?"

Slide 4: Solution to the Problem

What is your company's unique solution?

What the Investor is thinking: "Why hasn't anybody done this before?"

Slide 5: Team

Who is the team, what is their past experience?

What the Investor is thinking: "Would I bet my childrens' future on this team?"

Slide 6: Technology

What's your technology and why is it defensible?

What the Investor is thinking: "How long will it take to deliver this technology? 1 year, or 5 years?

Slide 7: Customers

Who is buying the product and why?

What the Investor is thinking: "Does the value proposition hold water?"

Slide 8: PER CUSTOMER ECONOMICS

Slide 9: Go To Market Strategy

Slide 10: Milestones

Slide 11: Financials

Slide 12: Competition

Slide 13: Financing History

Slide 14: Why This Investor

Now you have a plan and raod map to put together a business plan that will work for you. The next step .... just do it!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

The Worst And Best Startup Ideas

Worst and best start-up ideas depends on the location and environment where you'll be starting the business. In any business initiative program, it is best that you first consider the location and the market personality before jumping into conclusion whether a business or start-up idea is worst or not. For example, if the location is populated by health buffs and health conscious individuals, then no matter how many magazines or reviews point out that exercise and workout studios is a no- no, it might just work in that area.

The key here is to conduct a market research and evaluation to determine the best possible business idea that would work or succeed in that particular type of environment. Now, let's say that you have a business idea in mind (e.x. high-end restaurants), you need to find or locate the market niche where this business would really flourish and develop patrons and loyal customers.

Like what I've said earlier, there is no specific "best or worst" business idea. Others might say that "this is a good business" this year, but after some years it would just go bankrupt and all. It is best that you stick with a business that you like and love doing. After that, everything else would follow.

That said ... Kenneth Larson, a volunteer counselor with SCORE and Micro Mentor the last 6 years, considers these the worst and best startup ideas in his experience....

WORST

** Franchises
** Exercise Studios
** High End Restaurants
** Travel Agencies
** Construction and Real Estate Related Enterprises

BEST

**On line administrative assistant
** Services to the elderly- transportation, errands etc
** Pet Care and Training Services
** Federal government contracting to tap stimulus funding coming through 123 federal agencies in almost every field of endeavor
** "GREEN " Environmental initiatives in almost every venue
** Maintenance, Repair and upkeep of foreclosed properties
** Non-profit organizations for community development chasing grants
** Self-Help Guides for Business
** Training on all aspects of small business Management
** On-line Books

Successful small businesses are developing enterprises in these fields through market research and business plans to deliver unique products and services - then pricing them and comparing them to the existing market, the competition and client demographics to determine feasibility before applying for financing and launching an enterprise.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Recommended Books On Entrepreneurship

Every business person should be a life long learner. keep recharging the tank and be open to learning new things. With that in mind here's a recommended list of books for entrepreneurs. It's by no means an all inclusive list so feel free to recommend your own by leaving a comment.

1)Technology Ventures: From Idea to Enterprise

2) The Startup Owner's Manual: The Step-By-Step Guide for Building a Great Company By Steve Blank, Bob Dorf

3) Entrepreneurship: An Innovator's Guide to Startups and Corporate Ventures by By Marc H. Meyer, Frederick G. Crane

4) What I Wish I Knew When I Was 20: A Crash Course on Making Your Place in the World By Tina Seeling

5) Trump University Entrepreneurship 101: How to Turn Your Idea into a Money Machine by Michael Gordon

6) The E-Myth Revisited by Michael E. Gerber

7) The Millionaire Maker's Guide to Creating a Cash Machine for Life by Loral Langemeier

8) Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

9) "Effectual Entrepreneurship" by Stuart Read, Saras Sarasvathy, Nick Dew, Robert Wiltbank, Anne-Valérie Ohlsson

10) Great by Choice by Jim Collins and Morten T. Hansen

11) Art of the Start by Guy Kawasaki

12) The E-Myth - Michael Gerber

13) 9 Lies That Are Holding Your Business Back...: And the Truth That Will Set It Free - Steve Chandler & Sam Beckford

14) EntreLeadership: 20 Years of Practical Business Wisdom from the Trenches - Dave Ramsay

Thursday, August 16, 2012

What A New Entrepreneur Needs To Know

What follows EVERY new entrepreneur should take to heart and embrace before going so far down the road with their business that's there's no turning backl. Heck ... even old timres who may be struggling should soak up these insights. In fact anyone who considers themselves an "Entrepreneur" will benefit.

The biggest mistakes ...

1) You assume you know what folks want
2) You try to sell & you are not good at it or you hate it.
3) You fail to define/understand that being an expert doesn't assure connecting with & acquiring paying customers.

These missteps are preventable. You can, with a few easy steps & ways of thinking get your messaging right so it does connect with & gain customers.

Try these steps for doing that....

1.People do things for their reason's not yours

If you have not done the in depth homework to see how a target audience thinks, what it cares about, & how to link what you want to what they want so they say "Hey, thats me - lets talk" ... you probably will be disappointed in your results.

2. Its hard to hear folks with a background in messaging and connecting for getting results trying to tell you that. That's because your belief in your direction is so strong in you that you think everyone will agree & want to join in. You get blinded by that belief & it prevents you from being objective about how best to get followers & customers.

Even hearing the communication "experts" saying things like "folks just do not care about that" referring to your pet project, being so caught up in the value of your idea, you resist their expert advice. Its just too hard on you & your deep seeded beliefs, values to accept what they say.

3. You just can not wish things into reality. If the audience has or sees no real buy in reason that, to them, resonates and says "that's me - that's exactly what I need to do and I am doing it" ... your message & recruiting efforts will fail.

There's just too many "you need to do this" messages bombarding us so its critical that you do what is suggested in this step in the way you reach out to folks.

4. Looking at ourselves, our core traits and what we are really good at, we should see what we are good at & not good at and accept it. If we are not marketing types & we want our idea to connect, get the marketing type to figure out how to do that.

5. Its not ego, its pragmatism that should govern how you & your strengths and weaknesses are played out in trying to make something happen. "Why go it alone when you don't have to?" Why risk failure trying to do what you know you are not good at, especially something as important as gaining willing customers?.

This is especially true when you want to influence people, their thoughts, manage your messaging so you do gain traction for your idea or project amongst the many different types of audiences out there.

Knowing precisely how to do this with differing approaches that resonate with differing target audiences is how you get to "yes, that's exactly what I need and I want to do it" from the members of the target audiences you have identified as folks who could benefit from what you offer. If you are not good at that, be brutally honest & let someone who is great at that help you by doing that part for you.

Failure is a learning experience but you can, especially if you want to create active acceptance/participation in something, avoid failure if you can adopt the thinking of what's been suggested here in this post.

And remember this very simple but useful way of thinking as you try to go gain joiners, genuine prospects, customers...

1. "People do things for their reason's not yours"

2. "Imagine the prospect or target audience has a sign on their forehead that says so what!"

Living those two axioms when charting connecting, influencing, getting supporters, getting customers goes a long way to realizing success for gaining acceptance of your idea. It goes a long way for you in getting folks to participate and willingly join in with your "vision" &, for their reasons, not yours, make it theirs as well.

Courtesy of Neil Licht,Chief Advisor, HereWeAre, Growing your business group callhereweare@verizon.net

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Poor Richard's Almanac For Email Marketers

Ben Franklin wasn’t exactly a marketer; but he was many other things.

He was one of America’s founding fathers, and the dude sure was pithy with his business advice. So here we have some bits of his wisdom, passed down from his Poor Richard’s Almanacs and showing you how they can help you grow your business.

Here are our favorite Poor Richard-isms. Don’t market without them.

Poor Richard's Almanac for Email Marketers

How To Market Your Business With Webinars

If you’ve ever been to a webinars, you’ve seen how useful they can be when it comes to delivering content to an audience. The word “webinar” is an amalgamation of the words “web” and “seminar” — basically a presentation you give to an audience over the web.

With clear instructions and educational webinars, people are more likely to sign up for your information, buy your product and/or stay with your business.

Read more about how you can use webinars to advance your business interests here ....

How To Market Your Business With Webinars

Monday, August 13, 2012

Advice For The Newbie In Direct Sales

If someone has never directly sold, then I would definitely suggest they get sales training or coaching.

- You need to know who exactly your target market is.

- How are you going to get access to them? (List, phone book,....etc)

- How are you going to organize your day? How many calls will you make, how will you track your calls, what will you do for follow-up.

- How comfortable are you on the phone? Do you have a script?

-How comfortable are you in presenting your products and services, do you know how to go for the close?

-How do you track and manage your prospects? What kind of reporting do you do (pipeline, forecast,...etc)

-Do you know the sales cycle for products / services you are selling?

These are just the basics and usually someone who has NEVER sold does not know where to start, so I would advise even if they feel comfortable to enroll in a sales training course to get the basics or get coaching. Coaching will help as it will give the person someone to work with along the way and gain feedback.

It is a big mistake "to try to figure it out" as you go. People who do usually get behind the 8 ball. They can't organize themselves, have a quota to hit and are not focused properly. Everyone needs some help at new things.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Tips To Boost Your Small Business Creativity

Adjust your mindset to accept creativity where you find it. A lot of people assume certain activities are creative and some aren't, challenge yourself to find a creative aspect to every position.

For example, typically you might think artist, writer, and musician are the main creative fields. But the guys on American Choppers are just as creative with motorcycle mechanics. Even lumber-jacks have those log chain saw carvings...

In their own way lots of careers have a creative/ artistic niche - seek them out. Don't feel pigeon holed into arts and crafts as the only options. Spend more time doing creative activities you enjoy, that leave you feeling energized and satisfied.

I really enjoy cooking, its fun for me. Gardening not so much, but other people LOVE the garden center as much as I love my Williams Sonoma store. For me it helped to realize I don't have to love the same creative pursuits that my friends and family love - especially if their hobby feels like chore to me.

Creative problem solving is useful on every job. Brainstorm on your own without editing yourself, then once you have all your ideas out on paper you have lots to pick from.

Fun exercise, set a timer for 1 minute and write down all the uses for a bucket.

Also, we often ignore the direct impact our physical health and mind/body balance have on our creativity.

The human physiology has not evolved to match the pace at which we live today and the technology available to us. Gadgets (or "Gadget" programs) for fitness are a fad, cost money and supply relatively little value. They espouse the quick and easy because that is what sells. Diet programs are the same.

The following 4 basics are suggested for starters. They can be efficiently achieved but not quickly and for many not easily. But they are monumentally worth the investment. Like many other challenges they require management and synchrony with the other elements of our life.

1. Realign a long walk with problem solving and family time to have a clear horizon and put mind and body in synchrony. Our bodies still require moderate exercise to function because we have not yet evolved out of your "Hunter/Gatherer/Fight/Flight" physiology.

2. Develop habits that permit the subliminal mind to work while the body rests as least 7 hours a day with sleep.

3. The human body needs a mix of lean meat and vegetables. The artificial junk clogs us up and wears us down.

4. Manage expectations - those others have for us and those we have for ourselves. We are sensitive and vulnerable creatures, designed in a complex and vastly varying ways. The pace of life these days requires cultivation of expectation management and everyone must evolve their own unique form of that art.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tips For Small Business Networking Events

As a small business owner attending networking events should be part of your normal routine. Developing relationships with other business people can lead to partnering, mentoring, clients, and friendships. All of which can benefit your business as well as you pwersonally.

Keep these simple tips in mind when you participate in a networking event ....

Do not talk about only yourself
Do not push your services or products
Make sure to practice your elevator pitch
Be polite
Smile
Be professionally dressed

My biggest pet peeve is that so many people don't understand that networking is not selling!

Networking is about meeting people, exploring possibilities, perhaps getting to know people and their needs better. Yet so many are there only to sell, sell, sell. They could care less who you are or what your needs/interests are. They just want to push their products/services at you.

So some more tips are ... be friendly & welcoming, ask more questions, talk about the other person more than yourself, if a sales pitch starts up, excuse yourself politely and move on.

Another pet peeve isn't necessarily what happens at networking events, but rather an outgrowth of it.

I usually end up with a fair amount of business cards, but despite my efforts to connect with these people after the event... many are non-responsive. I am left wondering why people went to an event if they had no intention of trying to establish new relationships.

It may be that some people are really only interested in what they can sell you or what you can do for THEM. So if they determine you aren't useful, they don't bother trying to get to know you.

Me, I enjoy meeting people. If I'm able to help them then I'm happy to do it; but I expect them to be engaged at the least. I go to networking events to network... not to have my time wasted by people who don't really care.

Modern networking is a marathon, not a sprint. It is about creating and building relationships with the people you meet.

I believe there isn't anything that can replace the benefits of in-person networking, and that is saying a lot because I am introverted and would rather stay behind my computer!

Where you network is as important as how you network; BNI is a more structured and results-oriented networking group ... whereas Chambers of Commerce are informal and more about what your business brings to the community (money, jobs).

Whatever you do RELAX and be yourself. Don't fake it. Meet a new friend and grow an old friend.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

How To Build A Marketing Plan For A Small Business

A marketing plan is part of your overall business plan ... and very important part. With that in mind you should spend special attention to building your marketing plan as it may make the difference between success and failure.

Here's what you need to consoider to build a marketing plan that will set your small business off in the right direction.

TASTE, TRENDS AND TECHNOLOGY

What does your research indicate is the trend in your field? Will it stay the way you are currently offering supplies and services or will it change? This item covers the developments you expect for the next few years. Evan a 'perfect' business can become obsolete overnight due to future developments. Specify a 5 year forecast of your field in your area.

SALES REVENUE FORECAST

Have you developed these targets? This section shows your estimates of future sales revenue for your business. Your strategic plan, needs to spell out the specific actions you will take to achieve your forecast sales revenues.

DIFFERENTIATE YOUR BUSINESS FROM THE COMPETITION

How does your business differ from the competition's strong and weak points. Again, remember to carefully look at your business from the customer's perspective. If you're not sure how your pricing policies compare to the competition, here are some guidelines. Most people associate high prices with high quality and extra service, while they associate low prices with low or average quality and minimum service. Make sure you provide extra quality and service if your prices are higher than your competition or make sure that your prices are lower if your quality is average and your service is minimum.

DECIDE HOW TO REACH CUSTOMERS

Once you describe your target customer, it's easier to create a list of possible ways to reach that person. One of your jobs as a businessperson is to decide which of all the possible methods of communication will give you the most exposure for the least cost in money or time.

EVALUATE THE RISKS FACING YOUR BUSINESS

COMPETITION: Most businesses have competition. How will your business differ in significant and positive ways from your competition? If your competition is strong, don't minimize that fact, but figure out ways you will adjust to or use that strength. For example, if you plan to open a restaurant next to an extremely popular one, part of your strategy might be to cater to the overflow. Another might be to open on days or evenings when the other restaurant is closed.

PIONEERING: If you anticipate no direct competition, your business probably involves selling a new product or service, or one that is new to your area. How will you avoid going broke trying to develop a market?

CYCLES AND TRENDS: Many businesses have cycles of growth and decline often based on outside factors such as taste, trends or technology. What is your forecast of the cycles and trends in your business? For example, if your forecast tells you that the new electronic product you plan to manufacture may decline in three years when the market is saturated, can you earn enough money in the meantime to make the venture worthwhile?

SLOW TIMES: Every business experiences ups and downs. Is your business small and simple enough, or capitalized adequately enough, to ride out slow times? Or do you have some other strategy, such as staying open long hours in the busy season and closing during times of the year when business is ?

OWNERS EXPERTISE: Nobody knows everything. How do you plan to compensate for the knowledge you're short on?

Write your risk analysis by first thinking of the main dangers your business faces. This shouldn't be hard, as you have probably been concerned about them for some time. Some of these may be on the list set out above; others will be unique to your business. Once you have identified the principal risks facing your business, write out a plan to counter each. But don't bog yourself down worrying about all sorts of unlikely disasters.