The One Real Secret to Business Startup Success

A point largely missed by many people new to the idea of starting a business for themselves is that you don’t need a blow-the-lid-off great idea to get started.

In fact, most of the time, you are much better off not trying to launch a fantastic new idea. Or waiting around to have one.

The best businesses to start are mostly like businesses that already exist, just that they are slightly better. There are countless examples in the business world. Domino’s pizza is just a pizza, but it comes to your door. Dell made computers along with tons of other, but they didn’t build it until you ordered. Southwest is just another airline, but they traded some luxuries for cheaper tickets, and people responded.

Lots of people do bookkeeping and payroll, but CapForge does it at a professional level with mom and pop pricing and service. Everyone else either charges two or three times or more what we charge, or else you end up with a one man or one woman “firm” who misses deadlines, charges by the hour, disappears for weeks at a time or altogether and where you have to depend entirely on one person. So we stand out- not with a radically different idea but a simple idea well executed.

All you really need to do is take a basic, successful business idea, and figure out how you can make it a little better or a little different or a little more appealing or a little more specialized or a little more luxurious and away you go.

Here is a perfect case in point. There is a company in Dallas that makes customized baby blankets. That in itself is nothing new. There are lots of companies that make baby blankets and will put your baby’s name on it, and that doesn’t count the one you get from your Aunt Donna and your Grandma Helen.

The two slight twists this company put on the idea is that they will let you do 200 characters instead of the usual 20, and they will turn it around in a few days instead of a few weeks.

The extra characters mean people can do more info: a poem, the birth date, the middle name, or whatever else they want. The faster turnaround is just nice because once people pay for something they hate waiting.

So all this company did was take something people already like and want to buy, and they made it more likable (by adding more room to personalize) and faster. That’s it. Nothing tricky. Nothing amazing or really new or hard to explain. Just a little bit better.

You can take the same formula, apply it to any business, and be assured you will quickly move to the front of the pack. Now- go find something to slightly improve!

Business Startup Question- Do What You Love or Do What You Know? I’ve Got the Answer!

This is a frequent topic of conversation among people considering entrepreneurial ventures- is it better to do what you know or do what you love?

My response is that it is usually best to do what you know in a way that you can love.

For me, I love working with entrepreneurs and hearing about new businesses and helping them get off the ground and operating profitably. I can do that with the bookkeeping business I own and for the parts of bookkeeping I love less, I have employees!

Does this strategy work? Well, here is a story that profiles 18 successful women entrepreneurs, and of those, 13 are doing something directly related to their previous work experience. So, I think for most cases, looking for something you know that you can do in a way that you will love is the best way to identify a business you can start yourself and be successful.

Why do I say that? For two reasons. The main reason to do what you know is that it dramatically lowers the risk of starting a business because you are already very familiar with the industry, the customers, how sales and marketing works, the kinds of product pricing and features that are important to customers, and all kinds of other factors that an outsider to the industry would have to learn from scratch.

Chances are you also already know some key people you can hire, and have a Rolodex full of people you can call on to be customers, vendors and advisers to your new company. You will walk in with built in credibility before you even have your first sales call. This is not an advantage to be given away lightly.

The second reason it that often the reason you don’t like working in the industry you are in is not so much the industry itself but the current job or position you have. For example, you might not like working for a general contracting company because of the ethics of the people you work with, or the constantly behind schedule nature of the job.

But that doesn’t mean that if you were running your own company you would have to operate the same way- you could change the things you don’t like about it for the business that you run. Very often people who leave to go do their own thing do so because they believe they can do the job better, and this includes creating a work environment much more in line with their personal desires and needs, rather than having to try to adapt to whatever culture is already built into the place they currently work.

This is an excellent motivation for starting a business, unlike a lot of other reasons people come up with, because the strong belief in your own ability to create a better situation will get you over a lot of rough spots that other potential motivations won’t.

So what does this mean if you really hate the job you are but you probably could do it better on your own- is that the only choice for getting started? No- you might have a hobby you really love that could turn into a business. In this case, it comes out nearly the same, because chances are you know the hobby so well you will have the same advantage of being able to quickly get yourself set up and will know exactly who the customers are and what they are looking for.

It may take some time to learn how the industry itself works, as opposed to just being an end user hobbyist, but since you know the products and the customers and likely the vendors as well, it shouldn’t take you too long to learn the business side.

The hardest business to get into is one you know nothing about. There are ways of dealing with this as well, and it certainly doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ever start a business doing something you don’t know. It does mean you should spend time learning everything you can about it, however, and talk to as many people active in the industry as you can.

In the end, you should start a business that you can do well and will also love doing- at least mostly. Usually, this is doing something you already know well, and that is always the first place I suggest you look for a business you can start.

Finding Reliable Business Product and Service Reviews

ScreenShot001Most of my clients need the same types of products and services to manage and run their businesses, but they end up choosing from a huge variety of different providers. Why is that?

Most, I’m sure, go with whatever is convenient (hey- the guys around the corner) or a referral (Joe said he was good) or just the first thing they turn up with a search. That’s fine, unless it isn’t.

If the guy around the corner turns out to be three times more expensive than the guy two blocks down, that’s bad.

If the guy Joe uses turns out to be super slow to deliver (and then you find out Joe was looking to switch!) that isn’t going to work.

And the first search may turn up the best offer- or it may just turn up the best marketer!

Good news here- there are review sites that can help. Just like your parents always told you to get three quotes before you hire someone to do work on your house (I’m sure it wasn’t just me) I always recommend doing some research and reading honest reviews before choosing a solution for your business.

There’s plenty of bad advice out there- if you can mitigate that with a thorough honest review that includes feedback from actual users your chances of finding the right, best solution for your needs go way up.

So that’s why I was excited to find a site that offers all kinds of reviews that are going to help small business owners with the things they all typically need: Their tag line is Find the Right Software or Service for your Business and I’d say that about says it all. Check them out and let me know what you think!


QuickBooks Bookkeeping- The Book!

quick1Hey- I wrote a book! I always wanted to write one and now I have.

Of course, I used to think if I wrote a book it would be a cool fiction book that would be read by millions. That hasn’t happened yet.

But that’s OK- the book I did write is still great- if you need help with your bookkeeping. And you use QuickBooks.

You can find it here on Amazon, and for the next couple days at least, it’s free (until 3/20/2015). After that, I’m not sure- it may be just $.99 (some call that the new free). Or maybe a buck or two more.

I’m hoping it will provide me with some leads for the business as well as great information for whoever reads it so the price is driven by more than just wanting to earn income from royalties. In fact, I would say royalties are the least of my ambitions with this book.

If you do get it and enjoy it, I would definitely appreciate a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, I’d prefer you email me direct!! 🙂

Why “No” Is a Great Business Strategy

saying no to the right thingsThere are lots of things in business driving you toward saying “yes” but that is often not the best idea.

For example, everyone’s heard “the customer is always right” but that isn’t always the case and you can be led down the wrong path by mindlessly following that saying. Sometimes the customer is right, but not right for you.

And sometimes the customer is just plain wrong . You don’t want to make enemies but if you can extricate yourself from the situation you can move on to better things and not go through the brain damage of trying to make a bad situation livable.

Learning how to say no is a matter of figuring out Continue reading

Does Postcard Marketing Work?

boxofreceiptspostcardThe question of how to grow a business is one that nearly all of our clients ask themselves on a regular basis.

Very few businesses can survive for long if they aren’t growing because costs never stop rising and there is virtually always attrition in sales no matter what you are selling.

So some amount of growth is necessary just to stand still. And most small business owners are looking to do more than stand still.

It’s also a question I ask myself frequently, since I too am interested in growing CapForge well beyond its current size. The basic response to the question is usually in the form of your choices for growth:

  • Sell more of the same to existing customers
  • Sell new things to existing customers
  • Add more customers

For us, I think we are doing the first two pretty well, although of course there is room for improvement. But I want to focus on the third option for right now, and so then the question becomes: what is the best way to add more customers?

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Planning Your Shark Tank Debut

I’ve been watching a lot of Shark Tank recently, partly because I like the show and partly because there isn’t much elshark-tankse on I want to see. You can only watch so many Modern Family reruns…

Although the primary goal of going on the show for the business owners is to get an investment in their business, there are a lot of things a business owner can learn by watching even if they aren’t seeking an investment.

Things a lot of business owners would be wise to consider!

For example, how would you do on Shark Tank if for some reason you were invited to go on there?

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Don’t Sell Your Business (Until You Read This!)

biz for saleIf you have owned a business for any length of time (and I am including periods as short as a few weeks!) you’ve thought of selling it.

Everyone has days where one thing after another goes wrong and you think maybe I should just sell this thing and go do something else.

Sometimes you get into a funk where all you can think about is how great things would be if you sold the business and didn’t have to come in. Not. One. More. $%^&*@! time.

I’ve certainly been there. I’ve thought to myself that if someone offered me a fair price today I’d take the money in heartbeat. They can have the business and they’re welcome to it!

But there is a big problem with that. You can’t sell it for enough. Not nearly.

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