The Importance of Timing in Starting a Business

picasso die undoneThere are right now literally millions of people telling themselves they are going to start their own business just as soon as the time is right.

Many of them are fooling themselves, and they are never going to start a business.

The excuses they tell themselves, however, sound like valid reasons to wait. Some of the most common are the following:

  • I don’t have enough saved yet
  • I don’t have an idea for what to start
  • I am waiting until I move
  • I am waiting to finish school
  • The economy isn’t right
  • I will if this promotion doesn’t come through
  • I will after my next vacation
  • I am waiting until I find the perfect location
  • I am waiting to finish building my invention/new product
  • I don’t want to start because someone might steal the idea

So, why aren’t these good reasons to wait? Shouldn’t you have enough money, or finish school, or wait for the economy to pick up?

The answer is no. And the reason is that there are so many things that will affect the success of your business that waiting for a few pieces of the picture to be perfect will not make it any more likely to succeed in the long run. But what will definitely make it not succeed is never getting started.

If you don’t have enough saved yet, then start something small enough that you can start right now, and use the money and experience you gain from that to then do what you really want to do.

The experience you pick up from running your own business, even a tiny one, will be worth ten times the value of the actual cash. And very often, by the time people have the money to start what they thought they wanted, they have changed their minds. So waiting for the money to save up really becomes a pointless exercise.

Not having an idea for what to start is also a poor excuse in the final analysis. You don’t have to love what you start- if there isn’t a business that you would love to do, then simply pick something you wouldn’t mind doing. Once you have it started and successfully going, you can delegate the work to others and put the cash into something you may enjoy more.

There are no shortage of ideas for businesses to start, and it is easy enough to take one, improve on it or make it work for your area or specific situation, and get started.

Most of the other excuses listed are simply that- ways to put off doing something that may seem kind of scary, risky, complicated or all three. The way to overcome this is the same way you beat analysis paralysis- by reducing the risk portion down to nothing, so you are no longer concerned about failing, and you can just get started and see what happens.

If you have doubts about how to overcome any particular situation that may be causing you to wait, post it in the forum for ideas on how to get around it. But in virtually every case, the time to start a business is right now, and waiting any longer than that is just wasting time.

Don’t let your dreams fade into the sunset. Start now. The rest you can worry about later!

10 Tips for Successful Marketing with Promotional Items

Promo products for businessI sometimes get the question- can I write off all these old “blanks” that we bought to give away but never did?

Usually the question comes while the business owner is pointing to a stack of old boxes filled with T-shirts that say “Have a Great Summer-2008” or chipped and broken coffee cups with the old phone number on them or the stack of Frisbees that have “Smith & Son” on them but the son has since moved out of town…

Well, you can’t “write them off” in your bookkeeping because they were already an expense when you bought them in the first place.

But you can avoid wasting your time and money on promotional items that don’t really help you market your business.

Promotional items can be a nice way to get your name out or keep in front of clients who may want to use your services again, but that only applies if the item makes sense for your business and fits with your goal.

Many people get the same old items: pens, coffee mugs, t-shirts, mouse pads as everyone else but don’t really think through what they are trying to achieve or who they are giving these things to in the first place.

I came up with some general ideas that I use to guide myself when investing in this type of marketing.

If you have any more ideas, by all means post them in the comments section!

Here are my ten suggestions for making sure your promo item budget is well spent and provides a decent ROI for the effort:

  1. To make it memorable, try and get something that ties in with your business, or that will last for more than one use.
  2. Don’t order more than you will use in a reasonable time frame and try to avoid using a message that expires or is time sensitive so it can’t be reused or given away after a specific event.
  3. If you promote something with a partner company, you can share the cost but still get the same value.
  4. Decide on the purpose upfront- to get your name out, as a thank you, to increase sales, and then pick the item type accordingly.
  5. Don’t forget to factor shipping and design costs into your budget when figuring costs.
  6. Apparel doesn’t have to just be for give away purposes- you can outfit your employees in custom t-shirts or polo shirts to give them a more professional feel for a relatively small cash outlay, and it may help drive additional business if any of your employees work out in public.
  7. Don’t forget to include a phone number and your website along with your name on whatever you buy.
  8. Spending a little more to get something unique may be worth it if it creates a buzz and gets people talking about your item.
  9. Calendars can work well if your business inspires unique photo images, but don’t get more than you can give away since obviously calendars are worthless after the end of February or so.
  10. If you have a popular logo or slogan, you can make some extra money and generate free advertising by putting the image on t-shirts and stickers and selling or giving them away to customers likely to show them off. You’ll know this is the case if people start asking you where they can get your shirts!

SBA Loan Myths and Realities Uncovered

Myths have surrounded the SBA loan program for as long as it has been around. Now that they are back and many banks are actively funding them again, it’s time to revisit and hopefully put these to bed once and for all and to really understand what the SBA can and can’t do to help you.

Dispelling the myths is the goal of this article.

There are many ideas about what the SBA is and what it does, many of which are wrong. You need to make yourself aware of these so that you don’t go in under false pretenses or inadvertently raise unrealistic expectations.

Myth #1: The SBA is for Startups.

The most predominant myth is that the SBA is for start-ups and struggling businesses–in other words, for businesses on shaky ground. This is not the case. In practically all cases, you must demonstrate the stability and profitability of your business proposal. (The SBA specifically states it is “not actively seeking loans to businesses in existence less than one year.”)

The reason is that the SBA primarily issues loan guarantees to banks and other lenders. The SBA acts as a cosigner for the borrower–you. The SBA has its own requirements that must be met, and the lenders also require minimum qualifications before approving a loan, even with an SBA guarantee.

Because of this cosigner relationship, banks are growing ever fonder of the SBA guarantee. The stigma that used to be attached to SBA loans by the banks has disappeared.

Now, if you are a new business, this doesn’t mean you can’t get a loan. It just means that you have to be even better prepared and even more convincing that someone with an existing business has to be to get approved. But this is why many business start ups get turned down for loans, and why by using this guide you can greatly improve your chances of overcoming this hurdle.

Myth #2: It takes forever to get an SBA loan

Another myth regards the time required to go through the loan process. Many small business owners, for fear of red tape and perceived lengthy delays in obtaining approval, avoid the SBA. But if your proposal is properly submitted, actual processing will normally require three to six weeks, and a bank can usually release funds within a week after SBA approval.

It will take longer if you don’t have all your ducks in a row, if you haven’t filed recent tax returns, if you delay in getting back up information requested, etc. It can also sometimes take longer at certain times of year, but much of it is in your control, so don’t let the cause of delay be on your side.

Myth #3: The SBA itself will make loans if the bank won’t.

The SBA does make direct loans but only for very specific situations. The vast majority of SBA lending assistance takes the form of loan guarantees. The SBA will guarantee 80 to 90 percent of the lender’s loan amount in case you default. The two most common guarantees are the 7(a) Loan Program and the 504 Loan Program. Your local SBA office can direct you to lenders who participate in each.

SBA direct loans are targeted to particular categories of individuals or circumstances. They are normally difficult to qualify for, but if you meet the criteria and don’t fall into one of these denial traps, you should apply. Here are the principal reasons why the SBA will reject a loan application:

  • Funds are available elsewhere on reasonable terms.
  • Funds are to be used for speculation.
  • A portion of the business income is derived from gambling activities.
  • The loan will be used by an enterprise primarily engaged in lending or investing.
  • The loan is used to purchase real property to be held for resale or investment.
  • The loan is used to relocate your business for other than sound business purposes.
  • Some of the direct loans made by the SBA are issued to help businesses comply with environmental and safety laws and assist in cases of forced relocation. It also offers loans to minorities, and disadvantaged individuals. The terms of these direct loans always beat standard commercial loans, having lower interest rates and longer maturities.

Don’t count of getting a loan direct from the SBA though- these funds are in short supply. You should prepare to get your funding via an SBA guaranteed bank loan.

Myth #4: The SBA program is primarily/or women and minorities.

This is not true. The SBA guaranty programs are available for participation by all persons, regardless of race, color, creed, age, or ethnicity. In fact, 65% of all SBA loan guarantees were made for white males.

The agency does employ a relatively new initiative to encourage women and minority borrowers to utilize the program. These borrower categories are permitted to be pre-approved for loan guarantees before a lender has formally approved their loan requests. However, the agency does not provide any special funding allocations for these categories. Nor do women or minority participants receive any special consideration or credit-scoring that would provide agency assistance in a situation in which other borrowers would be denied.

Myth #5: Anybody can get an SBA loan.

There are limits in how big your business can be, your net worth, business profits, number of employees and industry segment, among other qualifiers. Participation with the SBA guaranty program is restricted to borrowers who qualify under certain conditions relating to the size of the small business concern and the nature of the business activity.

Borrowers seeking to benefit under the 7 (a) guaranty program are restricted by either gross revenues of $5.0 million (with some exceptions based on the industry of the borrower) or limited by 500 employees in some specific industries that are labor intensive, such as manufacturing. Questions of eligibility can be directed to the agency for clarification about specific situations.

Borrowers seeking to get assistance under the 504 Development Program are restricted by their average net income over the past three years (no more than $2.0 million annually, including affiliates) and net worth (no more than $6.0 million, including affiliates).

Businesses involved in real estate development, lending activities, gambling, and illegal activities are prohibited from receiving assistance from the loan guaranty program.

Myth #6: The government will monitor the business.

Fears of “Big Brother” cause many small businesses to hesitate about the SBA guaranty program. Participation with the SBA includes no monitoring of the borrower’s business activities, no government audits, and no inter-agency communications about the business operations.

The SBA does not have the interest, personnel, or mandate to provide any extraordinary supervision of the business unless the borrower is in default of the loan. When the borrower is in default, the SBA’s interest will be strictly focused on working with the lender to recover the loan.

Obtaining SBA assistance does not increase the borrower’s chances of being audited by the IRS or being examined by OSHA, the EPA, the Corps of Engineers, or any other government agency that regulates the operations of business and industry.

Basically, once you are approved, as long as you make your payments on time, no one will come around to bother you ever again from the SBA’s point of view.

Myth #7: The lender does not care how good or bad the business is.

This is totally false. Lenders participating with the SBA guaranty programs are responsible for making good loans. The SBA guaranty is intended to enhance a loan, not subsidize the lender to build a bad loan portfolio. An unguaranteed portion of every loan will expose the lender to the full risk of the credit, and that portion is likely to increase in the next few years as funding for this program is restricted. Collecting bad loans can be very expensive in terms of time and money.

Bottom Line

An SBA loan can be a great resource for many small businesses, but it does require some effort on your part. It is neither as easy nor as hard as some myths would have you believe. The point is, if you think you are a good candidate, investigate your options. And if it looks promising from there, apply for the loan and see what happens. It may be just the thing your business needs to reach the next level.

Why (Some) Restaurants Fail and How Any Business Can Learn From It

business mistakesOne of the most annoying things you will hear over and over when you tell people you are thinking about starting a restaurant is how often they fail. Everyone seems to be an expert on restaurant failures and everyone seems to “know” they are risky businesses to start.

But is that true? No. There is a risk in starting any business and restaurants are no different. But 9 out of 10 don’t fail in the first year. And the failures that do happen in many cases could have been prevented by better planning. You don’t see 9 out of 10 Starbucks, McDonalds or Chipotles closing a year or less after opening so obviously it doesn’t have to happen.

You may think that is different because they have more money behind them or more marketing but think about it for a minute. The marketing they have is the brand they’ve built but they also took the time to find a good location where their customers live and where there is demand for their products.

They didn’t just pick the first cheap location they could find. And they certainly continue to market all the time even though they do have good brand names. A new independent restaurant can do the same- find a good location based on planning and understanding the market they are going to serve and then aggressively market their concept.

Likewise, although the chains do have solid financial backing, why would you want to start a restaurant without adequate funding? Of course you are going to run the risk of failing if you don’t have the money to do it right. If you plan properly you can very easily establish how much the “right” amount is and not start until you have it secured.

There is no reason for restaurants to be a risky investment if you take the time to create a proper restaurant business plan and actually understand what you are getting into so you can do it right like the successful chains do for each new location they open. If you don’t take the time to plan then you will take on the level of risk you deserve for not doing the simple front end work you could have done to protect yourself from that risk in the first place.

The Myth Persists

“Nine out of 10 restaurants fail in the first year.”

As an associate professor in Ohio State University’s Hospitality Management program, H.G. Parsa had heard it many times before. But based on his 13 years of restaurant-industry experience, he still didn’t buy it.

Parsa says he spent three months trying to track down someone at American Express who could give him a source for the 90% figure quoted in the ad. As it turns out, they didn’t have one. “American Express has not been able to track down a specific data source for the statistic,” reads a written statement a spokesperson sent Parsa in response to his request.

Urban Mythbuster

Parsa wasn’t surprised. He had run several spreadsheet simulations to verify the statistic himself and found that not only is the 90% figure off base, it’s practically impossible, given industry growth rates. He decided to do his own research on failure rates, using Health Dept. records to track turnover among 2,500 restaurants in Columbus, Ohio, over a three-year period.

His research—consistent with similar studies—found that about one in four restaurants close or change ownership within their first year of business. Over three years, that number rises to three in five.

While a 60% failure rate may still sound high, that’s on par with the cross-industry average for new businesses, according to statistics from the Small Business Administration and the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Parsa’s study garnered serious attention within the hospitality field: Within a year of the paper’s publication in the Cornell Hotel Restaurant Administration Quarterly in August, 2005, Parsa’s research had been downloaded nearly 2,000 times, a record for the trade journal. But in the culture at large, the nine-out-of-10 myth has stubbornly defied debunking.

What Any Business Can Learn from This

Obviously it isn’t just new restaurants that are subject to failure- any business can become a victim. But any business can also do the same things a restaurant owner can do to significantly decrease the risks:

  1. Carefully research the market to understand exactly who the customers are and what they want
  2. Analyze the competition and figure out what your key differentiation will be
  3. Pre-plan the marketing you will do and verify the estimated total costs and cost per customer acquired to make sure the plan is viable
  4. Do realistic and accurate cost forecasting so you have adequate funds to reach the break even point and plenty of cushion in case it takes longer than expected
  5. If you are going into a business in which you compete with franchises, request their info and get to know how they do things- they are successful for a reason and you will benefit from knowing how they work, even if you don’t follow their exact pattern
  6. If you don’t have previous industry experience, bring in someone who does at least to consult with if not to work with you until you have a base of experience yourself

That last one would have saved the bacon of many a restaurant owner I’ve known who succumbed to the failure stat. There are some businesses where you can learn on the job, but not many. If you don’t know what you are doing, then find someone who does and listen to their advice until you have the experience and the data to prove trying something else may also work.

Businesses don’t have to fail- some of it is out of your hands but most of it isn’t! Be smart with how you do things and you are bound to be successful. If not the first time, then the second or third. If you keep failing after that, it’s not the business, it’s the owner!

The Cost to Start a Business

business startup costsThis is one of the most frequently asked questions in starting a new business, and one that people often get wrong by underestimating the answer.

That may not be a problem, if there is plenty of cash in reserve and sales pick up quickly, or it may be a devastating problem if there was very little reserve, the estimate was way off, or sales are much slower than expected in taking off.

Because many business owners have no experience in financial matters, however, it may seem like a difficult task to accurately figure out the cost to start a business. It doesn’t have to be, however.

It is actually quite easy to make a very accurate estimate of the costs to start and run virtually any business to the breakeven point. Most business owners don’t bother, because they either feel like they already know or they just aren’t focused on the details. And if you are starting something on the side with just a laptop, and it’s a service business, then you are probably fine not to worry.

On the other hand, if you are starting something with monthly fixed costs that you have to commit to for a reasonably long period, you better do the math or  you may find yourself in a very bad position.

I’ve had clients who started with well under $500 and others who sunk over seven figures into their businesses. The amount has a lot less to do with the success than the business itself and the related business experience of the owners themselves. My general advice- don’t start a high fixed cost business you have no experience in (hello, restaurant dreamers!).

On the flip side, try all the sub $500 investment ideas you want- eventually you will find the right mix of need and opportunity and USP and you will be on your way. If not, then maybe you weren’t cut out to be an entrepreneur, but at least you didn’t blow your life savings and go into debt to find out.

Here are the main cost considerations of starting a new business, some, none or all of which may apply, depending on the business:

Lease
This includes not only the monthly payments, from the time of taking the keys, but also a deposit that may be required, which could run anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several months worth of payments.

Leasehold Improvement
Once you have the space, you may need to make changes to the interior, including adding or removing walls, rewiring, replumbing, adding finishes, lighting, shelving, fixtures, etc. to make the space into your actual business.

Equipment and Vehicles
Depending on the business, you will need to buy or lease the necessary equipment to operate it. Don’t forget the small things, like fax machines, phone systems, computers, desk chairs, filing cabinets, etc. which nearly every type of business needs, and although no one item costs a lot, the collection will add up.

Inventory
This is includes all the products you will stock for sale on your opening day. Depending on the terms you can get with your suppliers, you may be able to finance some or all of this expense. Being a new business, however, getting good terms right from the start will be more difficult and depend on your good credit and business experience and to some extent your industry knowledge and contacts.

Staffing
You may start your business alone or with only partners, but if you need more help then you will have the cost of employees. Unless you pay them illegally, you will also have the added expense of payroll taxes, social security, etc. which adds an additional $.20 or more cents to every dollar of payroll cost.

Marketing/Advertising
You will have to spend money on whatever form of advertising you choose to do for your new business. You might be doing a mailing, put up a website, buy a sign for the front of your location, or even do radio spots, trade journal ads, Facebook ads or any of a variety of other options. Most of these expenses will be incurred before the advertising actually takes place, which means they can’t be paid out of the revenue they generate.

Insurance
There are several types you will need, depending on the size and type of your business. Generally you can pay in installments, which helps lower the startup cost.

Printing
Virtually every business requires some printing. This may be as little as business cards, or it may be much more.

Utilities and Deposits
You will need to turn on the electricity, phone, internet and any other services you need to operate. Some of these will require a deposit or hook up fee, or both, that will make the first payments double or more what a typical payment will be.

Permits/Licenses/Taxes
While not usually an excessive amount, you will need to budget some money to cover your business license, and any other permits or taxes you will be required to pay. Some states require a deposit for your sales taxes. If you incorporate or form an LLC, there may be fees and taxes associated with the formation.

Professional Services
If you use a lawyer, accountant or other professional services in getting started, there will be costs associated with their services. Most businesses can avoid these expenses, at least initially unless there is a complicated investor relationship or partnership agreement needed, although having a bookkeeper for all but the very smallest businesses is usually a very worthwhile investment.

Other Costs
All businesses have a few extra costs that are unique to their operations. By investigating your business thoroughly you should be able to uncover these and be able to accurately estimate how much they will cost your business when you get started.

Inspiring Entrepreneur Success Stories

I love to read stories of entrepreneurs starting from scratch and building great small businesses out of their guts and ideas and just a little bit of cash.

Stories like the birth of Microsoft, Amazon and Apple are good, too, but a tad harder to relate to- at least for me.

The stories I really like usually feature businesses I haven’t heard of but which make their founders plenty of money and even better are doing something positive for the niche they serve. Here are some of my favorites:

The story of Caitlin Pyle who decided to quit her job proof reading and with her husband move to Ecuador where she started a business offering to teach proofreading online instead. The first month she pulled in over $9,000 in profits and hasn’t looked back since.

The story of Natasha Lekic who left a good paying job as a book editor then spent a couple of years trying to figure out a direction, before ultimately getting back into the same industry on her own terms as a business owner rather than an employee. With less than $100 in startup costs she built a business grossing as much as $55,000 a month.

The story of Graham Cochrane, a musician who never expected to make any money but after being laid off was forced to focus on his side gig, which he turned into a more than full time income. He took his just for fun blog for music recording and ramped it up to include lessons for sale and is now pulling in between $35-$75K a month.

How about this stat, “I have now been on the road for four and a half years and have visited 71 countries.” That is from Justin Carmack who writes a popular travel blog that earns him enough money to travel the world and pursue his passions for SCUBA diving and for not having a regular 9-5 job.

You may have heard of John Lee Dumas, a fellow San Diegan, who created a huge business for himself by profiling other successful entrepreneurs on his daily podcast. He started out with just a small investment and an idea and has since grown it into a seven figure business.

Check out the story of who turned $200 into a huge public relations firm with over 70 clients and huge revenue. My favorit quote from his story hits close to home for me: “My firm was so bootstrapped in the beginning that I didn’t even want to pay for accounting software — something I lived to regret.” Yes- don’t skimp on bookkeeping! 🙂

Down to the last $500 in her bank account, this one woman business launched a clever T-shirt campaign that turned things around to bring in over $250K while she was still working from home.

 

I will keep adding to this list as I gather more of these stories. For now, have a great rest of the day!

 

 

The Secret to Beating Procrastination Starting Right Now

stop-procrastinationSometimes people get the idea that real entrepreneurs are hard chargers who never hesitate and do everything immediately. That’s not true.

There are lots of successful entrepreneurs who are just like everyone else when it comes to getting going- sometimes it is harder than others. Sometimes it is really hard.

The difference is that they have figured out strategies to get themselves going when they need to, and they aren’t held back from achieving success by a lack of drive when the time for action comes. If procrastination is holding you back, you can use the same techniques to overcome it in your own life, and achieve the same success they have reached.

There are several strategies for beating procrastination, which you can use separately or together to get yourself going. They are time segmenting, reframing, just starting, reversing priorities and good enough.

Time Segmenting

Time segmenting means taking a small chunk of time and dedicating yourself to working on whatever you need to do during this time, and then giving yourself a reward for doing that immediately after. Often procrastination is a result of the reward seeming so far away it is too hard to use as motivation. This is particularly true in starting a business, since it may be months before the business actually launches, and months more before you get and kind of real financial reward.

An example of this strategy would be to set aside thirty minutes to work, and then reward yourself with a break to watch TV for half an hour, or play a video game, or read or whatever else seems rewarding to you.

The reason this strategy works is that doing a big chunk of work seems overwhelming, so you never start, but knowing you are only doing a half hour seems much more manageable. Once you get into the work, however, you often end up going much longer than half an hour, and get more done that you expected. This strategy simply allows you to mentally overcome your block on getting started.

Reframing

To reframe means to change your mental perception of the task you have to do. In essence, your procrastination is because you don’t want to do something. But you are thinking about the thing you don’t want to do, not the results that doing that thing will get you. You have to change your mental state, and then the task will not seem a burden but a desired action.

For example, suppose you are procrastinating over writing a business plan. If you can stop think of it as writing a plan, and think of it as taking a step closer to being in your own business, it will change from being a task you don’t want to do to a task you do want to accomplish.

This may sound difficult, or unrealistic. In reality, however, all it usually takes is a conversation with yourself to realize that the negative task you are dreading is actually a positive step towards something you want. This makes it much easier to motivate yourself to do.

Just Starting

If this is about procrastination, isn’t the whole issue “just starting”? Yes, but this is different. Sometimes you don’t start something because the whole project seems like one big task, and you don’t know where to start and anything you do will hardly make a dent in the overall project.

With this strategy, the idea is to take the whole thing you have to do and break it down in a list format into very small segments. These should be things that you finish in as little as ten to thirty minutes. You may end up with a long list, but since no one item is going to take very long, you can just assign yourself a few items to work on at a time.

In this way, you only have to overcome a tendency to procrastinate for a small task, not a large one. And eventually, you will complete all the small task that once seemed like an unmanageable whole.

Reversing Priorities

Sometimes people procrastinate because they feel like all of the time they have should be going to work, and they have no free time. They want to “take” more time for other things and put off work.

By reversing priorities, you start by blocking off time for everything else you want to do- all the fun activities or other time obligations you want to commit yourself to doing. Then, whatever is left over is work time.

The reverse psychology of this approach- making sure you have time for fun before you worry about work can sometimes force you to get more done in the time you have left yourself to actually work. It is also true that in a typical eight hour work day, there are very often several hours of not very productive time.

If you think of it as forcing yourself to work under short blocks of time before you have to quit to go do things you enjoy, you may actually be more productive and get more done. You may also find yourself wishing you had more time to work, and wanting to start sooner or work longer. You might not think that you can reverse psychology yourself, but you can!

Good Enough

One of the less common reasons for procrastination is a sense of perfectionism. The way this works is, you feel as though you have to be perfect, but this is a stressful and demanding situation to be in, so you hold off on doing the project at all until the last minute. That way, at least you have the excuse of not having had enough time to do the job perfectly.

The way to overcome this is to simply realize that the perfectionism is what is holding you back. You don’t have to be perfect, and in fact, the chances are that whatever you thought was perfect will have to be changed anyway when the reality of the business world hits home. So what you should aim for is simply good enough to start with, with the intention of going back later and improving on what you have done. Once freed from the need to be perfect, you can get started without further concern.

The Best Strategy

The best strategy to beat procrastination is to simply employ as many of these tactics as you need until you feel comfortable getting started on what you need to do. First, take a minute to reframe the situation in your mind and realize not what you don’t want to do but what you will get by doing it that you want.

Then start by making your list of small tasks, small enough to fit into a time segment you can live with. Then block out all your play time, and see what is left for work. Tell yourself you just need to get it started, it doesn’t have to be perfect. And then begin. At this point, there shouldn’t be anything standing between you and getting going.

Evaluating the Intangibles in Your Potential Business Partner

business partner problemsHaving a partner can be the best thing in the world, or the worst.

To avoid lots of potential partner problems, you definitely want to have a partnership agreement, in writing, before you start your business.

That is not the end of making your partnership work, however.

Whether you know your partner well or have only just met, you want to get together enough times to make sure you understand each person’s strengths and weaknesses, and you see how the other one handles stress, complications and set backs, which will be a large part of what running your business will be all about.

Here are some basic, but very important discussion topics and tests you can do to see how your partner handles them, and how you handle them handling the tests:

1.      Invite your partner out to eat. Set an exact time. See if they are early, on time, or late. If they are late, do they call to let you know?

2.      Step out and while you are out, ask the waitress to bring the wrong drink, or wrong salad. You may have to tip a little bigger for this. See how your partner reacts- is it no big deal, a minor irritation, or do they blow up? Are they still talking about it an hour later?

3.      During the meal, plan to discuss the business. Ask them about their ideas on marketing, pricing or something else. Challenge their responses. Are they staying calm and presenting their position logically, or are they getting upset and defensive?

4.      Discuss your plans for how much money you each will take out of the business, and how much time you will devote to it. Discuss what should happen if any partner fails to hold up their end of the bargain.

5.      Discuss where you see the business ending up? Is this a path to something else, is it just a way to pay the bills, or is it going to grow into something much larger?

6.      Discuss personal future plans. Is anyone likely to move, get married, have kids or facing a divorce or elder care responsibilities in the near future? How will any of these situations be handled?

7.      Don’t offer to pay, or say you forgot your wallet. How do they handle it? Are they annoyed by your lack of responsibility, or were they planning to stick you with the bill? How do they react when you find your wallet again?

8.      If you haven’t before, visit your partner’s homes. How they live and how organized they are at home will tell you a lot about how neat their desk will be, and how organized you can expect them to be in their work.

9.      Suggest that each partner take the free Myer’s Briggs personality test, and then compare answers. A frank discussion about basic types and communication styles can go a long way toward better work relationships.

10.  Discuss how you plan to handle disagreements about business issues between partners. Having a conflict resolution plan in place, that everyone agrees to use, will help settle arguments quickly before they become overwhelming.

Some of this may seem unnecessary, or like overkill, but if you don’t or can’t get to know your partner(s) before you put real cash and real risks on the line in working together, the chances of things not working out go up dramatically.

Don’t become one of the statistics as a partnership that failed. Take the time to make it work before you start the business, and become successful without the hassles and headaches of a broken partnership.

Small Business Partnership Pros and Cons

partnershipPartners can be both a blessing and a curse.

Many small business owners swear that without their partners they never would have gotten where they are today. Others are certain that going solo was the right decision, and a partner would just have slowed them down.

Here we try and highlight both sides of the argument for you to come to your own conclusion about what is going to work best for you:

Pros of having a Partner:

  • You can keep each other motivated on the hard days
  • There is someone else you can trust to watch things when you are away
  • Often skills you don’t have they will have, and vice versa
  • Someone else to contribute capital, credit, collateral to the business
  • A good partnership can get started faster than a single person
  • There is someone else to bounce new ideas off
  • It isn’t lonely at work, or at the top

Cons of having a Partner:

  • It takes longer to be able to pay yourself what you deserve, since you are splitting the profits
  • You can’t do everything the way you want
  • There is the constant concern that the partnership will become unequal or unfair
  • You may eventually want to go in different directions or at different speeds
  • You will be personally liable for decisions your partner makes unless you form a corporation or LLC
  • Most decisions take longer since you have to talk them over first
  • Employees can be let go but a partner you are stuck with unless you actually buy them out

To be sure, there are pluses and minuses to having a partner that you have to carefully consider. If you need a partner because they the capital or credit you lack, then you may have to live with it until you are in a better position yourself to go solo.

Or you may really need a partner to help keep you on track and motivated to continue even when it gets tough.

If you do take on a partner, and I can’t stress this enough, then you need to have a rock solid partnership agreement in place BEFORE you do anything else.

If I had a dollar for every business partnership that didn’t work out and ended badly, I’d have infinity dollars and counting.

And your partnership agreement must spell out in very clear black and white no possibility for misunderstanding how the partnership can be broken up or how one partner can leave- that includes how you value the company, what they can take with them, how they will be paid out for their share- everything.

If your partnership agreement was nothing BUT how the partnership ends you would be ahead of 90% of other partnerships. Don’t make the mistake of thinking you are the exception because you are family or you’ve known each other for years or you are married or anything else- do this or really regret it later.

Either way, as long as you know what you are getting, and giving up, by having a partner, then the decision should be easy.

26 Business Blogs You Should Be Reading Now

There is no shortage of blogs out there, but time IS short and you don’t want to waste your time reading stuff that isn’t going to benefit you. Here is a list of business blogs in no particular order that I think are worth the time and that may not be on your radar yet:


ScreenShot008Are you working on selling a product that would like to see in stores, magazines and blogs and find out how to make a much bigger splash with it than you are currently getting? Then check out Launch Grow Joy and learn from the wisdom of someone who has done it already and teaches others to do it every day. Aside from the blog there is also a podcast and even if you aren’t on the exact course this blog is aimed at there is a ton of good general information and inspiring stories here to give you plenty of reasons to keep on stopping by.


ScreenShot009If you are working as part of the freelance economy, or that is just one source of revenue for you, check out the Freelance Guerrilla blog. The best part about this blog is that it doesn’t just report exaggerated tales of success from unnamed sources but it provides real world stories about how to survive and thrive working for yourself providing skills and services to others as a freelancer. A service business is the fastest, lowest cost way to break into entrepreneurship and it can turn into serious money seriously fast if you do it right and do it smart. This is the blog to read if you are going down this path or even just considering it.


Although Blogtrepreneur sounds like it might be just for bloggers really the site is packed with all kinds of business advice that goes far and wide beyond just topics of interest to those running blogs. The founders Matthew and Adam Toren are brothers, serial entrepreneurs, investors, and mentors. For nearly 20 years, Matthew and Adam have provided instruction in management concepts, marketing, and finance to emerging and distressed small businesses. There are a ton of posts and the site has a huge backlog of information that is definitely worth checking out and checking in with on a regular basis.


ScreenShot007Are you working on launching something right now? The check out the Epic Launch Blog– this one is filled with inspiration as well as practical advice for all aspects of launching a new business that has all the right ingredients for success. There are tons of posts and many of them really dig deep to cover all sides of a question. Poke around and read the articles that apply (they’ve got posts going back to 2009!) and see what else you can learn. Chances are if you have a question about business you’ll find an answer here.


I love travel and I love being aScreenShot006n entrepreneur but I really haven’t done them together- and certainly not the way The Suitcase Entrepreneur is doing it! Natalie has been traveling the world working from wherever she finds herself without the usual constraints of an office, staff or regular work hours! If you are looking for a how to guide on being location independent, or just want to learn more about structuring something that could offer you that option down the road, then learn it from someone who has already done it!


ScreenShot005If you want an informative all around blog with an interesting voice check out Small-Bizsense. Run by Kim “The Chick Geek”, Small Business Sense shares small business ideas, tips and resources for independent Entrepreneurs and Small Business owners. I like their monthly roundup posts that often point to great posts I wouldn’t have otherwise seen and there are lots of list posts in between covering everything from productivity tips to top five business podcasts.


ScreenShot004How about this for an inspiring title: Eventual Millionaire! Maybe you are already there, but either way, you are going to learn a ton from the successful entrepreneur interviews website owner Jaime Tardy posts for your education. The interviewees are successful entrepreneurs who are sharing their ups and downs and secrets to success in their time with Jaime. She also has her own inspiring story about getting out of debt and quitting a job she hated to move on to do something she loves. It is a great site to visit for a regular dose of knowledge and inspiration!


ScreenShot003If you are working in a small town or a rural area then there is a blog just for you! It’s called Small Biz Survival and it focuses on the unique challenges facing business owners who live where the populations are small and the access to many resources other might t ake for granted are not available or hard to come by. The good news is that small towns have their own unique advantages and you can be successful if you can apply the right way of thinking to the situation you are facing. Of course, many of these lessons will apply to any small business and so I would make the stop here to check out the articles no matter your geographic location as what you find will very likely be a gem you can use!


ScreenShot016If you are thinking about joining the ranks of the work from home crowd then check out the posts at SparkPlugging. This site is all about the work at home entrepreneur and the specific business issues, ideas and inspirations they deal with. Theses days with so much of the work world accessible online almost every business owner is at least a partial work from home entrepreneur anyway so there is going to be something here for just about everyone.


If you are going more of the VC route with your startup then check out Startup Professionals Musings. This blog focuses on finding business ideas, mentors, raising capital and networking. The posts are long and deep and go into tons of detail. They are written by Martin Zwilling, CEO & Founder of Startup Professionals, Inc.; Advisory Board Member for multiple startups; ATIF Angels Selection Committee; Entrepreneur in Residence at ASU and Thunderbird School of Global Management. I am amazed that he posts as often as he does for as much as he writes but that is just another reason to make this a frequent stop on your reading list.


The Secrets of EnScreenShot003trepeneurship offers a general overview of the world of small business and offers lots of practical hands on tips to make the new owner or aspiring entrepreneur more business savvy. They post regularly and cover a wide range of topics.


The Right Stripes is a website for women launching startups. A quick review of their posts though pretty quickly demonstrate these are topics any entrepreneur is going to benefit from reading. They post regularly and cover a wide variety of topics and although some do address issues specific to women I wouldn’t let that stop anyone from making it a regular stop on your blog reading tour.


The 500bScreenShot004 is a another general business website featuring entreprenuer success stories and general business how to lessons. In their words “The 500B is a resource for entrepreneurs with tips, business insights, how to’s and more.” Although the posting isn’t super frequent the quality of the posts is top notch.


TreplifeDad is a business blScreenShot005og for “parent entrepreneurs” featuring general business and entrepeneur articles to helps with all aspects of business building and with a special emphasis on the challenges faced by parents who are also business owners. As the father of two kids myself, I get it. Gone are the days of it being all about me and what I want to accomplish- I’ve got a balancing act to do now- and I love it!


For a blog on marketing help you should check out Ginger Bread. Although there are some more general articles most of the content centers around online marketing help for business owners- things like SEO, email marketing, content marketing and using social media effectively. These are all topics no business owner in any industry can ignore these days and the posts are both regular and actionable so definitely worth a browse through.


If you have anScreenShot006 online store or are thinking about starting one or adding one then look no further than the memorably named My Wife Quit Her Job. This blog offers practical behind the curtain information on what works and what doesn’t in e-commerce based on real life examples taken from their own store. The website also offers tons of free lessons as well as paid options for training for those who want to dig deeper. If you are hoping to quit your job and open an online store, you need to reading this!


Head over to SmallBizDaily for a great collection of all kinds of business articles. The posts run the gamut from management help to business trends and everything in between. The site is updated constantly and the posts make great quick reads from a variety of area experts. The site is run by Rieva Lesonsky who, prior to co-founding GrowBiz Media in 2008, was SVP/Editorial Director of Entrepreneur Magazine. I use to see her name and read her column there all the time back when I was just an entrepreneurial sprout myself.


The Grasshopper Blog is put out by the people who provide the phone service and is owned by the company Citrix which makes all kinScreenShot007ds of cool software most of us use but may not realize. The articles on their blog are often interesting and they post a few times a week about general business topics. Although they are doing it as a service to draw traffic to their core business they are nevertheless putting out quality content I would suggest dropping in your news feed or bookmarking for regular check ins to see what they have been posting lately.


If you are lookingScreenShot008 for ideas on creating your mission, your company vision or your general business goals, check out The Thriving Small Business Blog by Patricia Lotich, the founder of TSB.  Patricia is an MBA and a Certified Manager of Quality and Organizational Excellence through the American Society for Quality which facilitates the prestigious Malcolm Baldrige National Quality Award. She writes the articles on the blog and they are gold if you are looking for help in focusing and building your business’ organization and direction. She also offers consulting if you want to get one on one help or really have someone to help you with your road map and hold you accountable for your success.


ScreenShot010Are you thinking about a franchise or do you already own one? Check out the Franchise King’s blog for tons of great tips. Even if you don’t own a franchise if you are thinking about getting into a business where franchises will be your competitors then you should check out what they are doing and gather as much information as you can. If you are going into business using this model then you definitely want to go in with your eyes open as the are as many downsides as there are upsides to franchise ownership and you don’t want to land on on the wrong side. There is also plenty of good advice that applies to business owners in general and people planning to buy a non franchise business. Business is business and everyone can learn something from the king!


Unless you plan to be solo forever (which is an option, but a limiting one in many ways) you are going to need to hire someone. That is no easy task and the cost of bad hires is significant. Before you go down that road check out the Growth Everywhere blog. The website focuses on smart hiring from the entrepreneur and growing a business perspective (as opposed the the HR perspective) and helps you figure out how to do it right from the start. They aren’t just about hiring though- Growth Everywhere is a blog on business and personal growth. On Mondays we interview world-class entrepreneurs and pull out actionable insights to help you grow. Check it out and listen to the podcast as well.


There is no business today of any size that doesn’t use some technology. The smarter you use it the more efficient you can be and the more easily you can compete and wiScreenShot011n in your field. Therefore, it makes sense that you should be reading the SmallBizTechnology blog. These guys are focused on regular business owners and how they can make the best use of technology to leverage their time and talents to the greatest advantage. Like they say on their website: “Smallbiztechnology.com writes about technology solutions that increase efficiency, saves money or increases the revenue of a small business. This is what makes us excited. Period.” I am a big believer is using technology to make life easier and I love being able to show clients how we can do things way easier than they are used to or than the last person was doing it. It’s an easy win for us and it makes the client’s life easier so everyone is happy.


ScreenShot012You can’t put entrepreneurs in a box but you can certainly read the Entrepreneurs in a Box blog! This blog is about, in their words “This blog is for people interested in starting a new business, or interested in increasing performances of current business, or interested in increasing business potential energy of their business…” And what is “business potential energy”? A term the blog owner has coined based on his own research and experience- pretty cool! This site is updated often and is definitely worth a visit for all kinds of interesting posts on a range of business topics.


ScreenShot013Looking for a collection of business articles by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs? Stop by Success Harbor and take a look a their collection of posts that will give you all kinds of insights and actionable tips you can use to help grow and improve your enterprise. The website is run by George Meszarozs, who I’ve actually met before at one of his Trustegrity networking events. He is the CEO of Webene, a web design and marketing firm. He has interviewed over 150 entrepreneurs and writes about a lot of different topics for entrepreneurs from how to start a business to strategy, branding, marketing, startups, and web design and development. Nice job on the website, George!


If blogging is your thing, or if like me having a blog is just part of your overall business marketing strategy then check out Shade of Info by Andrew Warner. He writes about building your audience, increasing conversions, targeting the right reader and everything else you need to know to have a highly successful blog. Of course, virtually all of these same principles apply to marketing in general- know your audience, build your client base, target your ideal customer, etc. So I would say this is going to make good reading for a whole lot of people who could put the ideas to work in their own businesses.


ScreenShot014What is the Frugal Entrepreneur? In the words of the owner, “I decided that I wanted to create a place where other frugal entrepreneurs and small business owners could find the small business tips, tools, and resources they need to help them run their businesses.” You will also finds lots of good general business articles and resources in addition to all the free document templates that were the original inspiration for the site. The reality is most new business owners are watching every dollar and can’t afford to spend frivolously, a fact which this website appreciates and works to remedy.