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Archive for the ‘Business Growth’ Category

Virtual Office Space

Sep 2, 2008 1 comment

During the beginning startup phase of a business, it is essential to manage startup costs. Many entrepreneurs want to go with the corporate image, complete with the business cards, and fansy business furniture. This is based on two important things: (1) the corporate image is important to may industries; (2) the owners pride.

The first point is very valid, there is a need to present a professional image to receive the confidence from prospective customers. The second point is important to note simply from a self-realization standpoint. You need to understand that some decisions are less about rationality, and more about personal feelings.

One area which has seen a significant boon is the virtual office space. This enables your small business to have a physical presence, even though you really don’t need to be in a real office space. This fits for business where you work out of your home, or perhaps out of your car. Take the mobile bookkeeper, or event mobile carpet cleaning service. How about an application developer or consultant who works from their home office. Yet, some of the benefits of a real office space come in handy, such as the professional receptionist to answer and forward your calls, available office or conference room space, package delivery and even hourly administrative assistants to help you.

These services are becoming more popular and their rates have remained very affordable. From around $99 to $300 you can have these services to provide your company an excellent, professional image – and also removes your home address from many business forms and paperwork.

I highly recommend you look into a virtual office space for your next startup.

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Are you the sales manager too?

A great post over at Young Entrepreneur discusses that fact that in most small businesses the owner is the key sales person at the company. And while most of us are more interested in the product that we’ve developed, or the service we provide – we are the de-facto sales person. And as the business grows it is very easy to become overwhelmed with the business end of the company and neglect sales. However a continued focus on sales in the key to sustainable growth — or even to stave off attrition.

Evan Carmichael, quoting Sales guru Jeffrey Gitomer, outlined 7 reasons why the principle is the best sales person. It is worth looking at. And yet we still try to expand out business by hiring a sales person to hand this duty off to. We have and have failed twice at it! The key to this is what Jeffrey calls his 7.5th point — even with a sales person, the principle still needs to champion and lead-by-example the sales portion of the business. In a entrepreneurship video I watched a few years ago, it showed an interview with the founder of Netscape, back when they were a viable company — and people actually purchased Internet browsing software. In there, the principle spoke about how he monitored and personally trained his first sales person. And that he took an interactive and proactive approach to training and leading his first sales person – a process he repeated until he had a very size-able sales team.

So, how have you handled selling your company lately?

Building a moat

Aug 16, 2008 1 comment

I just completed reading I like big moats and I cannot lie over at Fool.comand was really impressed with the idea. This is a concept I have understood and practices without every putting a term to it. I have been a part of networking groups which discuss this concept, and barely scratch the surface. In this article Rich Greifner quotes Warren Buffet regarding a term Buffet himself coined: the economic moat.

In other words, what distinguishes you from your competition. What sets you apart? If you cannot describe why you’re business, product, idea, etc., is different from the next hot-shot product, idea, business, service – then you’re just another face. What makes businesses successful is that they can provide something significantly different. Not just another marketing hype of better, faster, cheaper – or perhaps smaller, intimate, personal attention. Those are nothing new. I have a great deal of friends who have their own bookkeeping business. They do a great job at distinguishing themselves apart from larger firms, yet they really have nothing compelling between other small 1 or 2 person firms. They play the, small, agile, personal, flexible card — typically of small start-ups. Yet they really bring nothing new to the table. If they have good references, resume and experience, then I would choose on price alone — and that is a very bad place to be. Small businesses cannot afford to be in the commodity business.

Back to Buffet, he says that when he is evaluating a business to invest in, the key is a large sustainable moat. They key is sustainable. Is what sets you appart something that will fade? Can it be trumpped by a competitor? What are you doing about it? I may be selling a high rise appartment complex and if my speil is that it is the highet, with 360 degree views around Silicon Valley. That is a nice selling point, however it is not sustainable. It will eventually be trumped by a larger building or something that obstructs the view.

As you evaluate your small business – there needs to be something unique about your business that sets you appart from both your competitors, and your peers — as well as a sustainable plan to ensure that remains the case. A drug company can release the next miracle drug and then be off-the-market when the generic form is released, or you can be the next Merck which is constantly investing more in R&D and has one of the largest portfolios of patents. That would show sustainability in innovations.

What is your sustainable moat?

Corporate Paperwork

Probably the largest signficance,for a very small business owner, between a Corporation and a sole-properitorship, is the liability protection afforded by the corporation. However, in order to keep this liability protection solid, the most important piece to maintain is proper paperwork. Without maintaining the proper corporate stucture, backed-up my minutes, annual meetingss, etc., Failure to do this may permit a entity to “pierce the corporate viel” and go after you personally. Attemtpting to play catch up with your required paperwork is not only illegal, but very diificult after the fact. It is first, and foremost important to setup a structure to ensure your compliance going forward – mark it on your calendar, use an Outlook reminder, whatever it takes to ensure that you are providing a minimum of Director and Shareholder meetings at least annually. Also be sure to keep your finances in line and major descisions should be placed in the minutes. Paperwork is the number one killer of the “corporate veil”… You can try to run the best business, by the book, however you will either invariabily not know something and screw up, or you’ll have someone else attempt to sue you over something frivelous, yet still that protection will be required. You cannot control other people, so you need to ensure you are taking the correct actions to protect yourself and the corporation from libaility at all times.

If it sounds too good to be true…

A new business associate of ours was recently presented the opportunity to partner with one of the largest green-tech companies in Silicon Valley, or so he thought. The closing of this deal would mean an immediate doubling of his company staff in less than one month. However, on the day before the deal closes, the other party started to get pushy and their demands sounded odd. Wisely, he contacted his business lawyer who reviewed the paperwork and found some strange elements. Then he decided, at the eleventh hour to do a due diligence check of this new business partner. Upon closer review he discovered that this person was  scam artist, with a trail of collateral damage in his wake, and this guy was about to become his next victim.

It was a great fortune that he decided to go with his gut and look into it a bit more before the contract was signed. The same principle slow to hire, quick to fire applies to new business relationships – take your time, if the other party isn’t patent, then that may be a big red flag – perform your due diligence, always, and when things go unexpectedly, be sure to act quickly to “fire” the other person.

Don’t forget the person

This will be a bit different than you first might expect. This is about lessons learned about not forgetting the people in your life…away from the office. As I read more and more about successful people they have managed to hold together their personal lives in various forms, and despite what the media appears to focus on, more successful people are happily married with children, then the multi-marriage-disaster we’ve come to expect.

While growing and forming your business is very, very critical — and is one of those: do what you have to do, so you can do what you want to do – sort of things. On the same part, sometimes we “want” to do work, and what we need to do is pour value and significance onto our families and friends. We will all pour so much into the office and our employees, who may betray us at some point — our families are forever, and we need to remember and treat them as such.

For each person, that attention and value can and will be expressed differently. For some it is coming home always at 4pm, for others if was when they got home (whatever hour) they were automatically, fully 100% devoted to their family, virtually ignoring the world; yet others it would take the form of occasional (but frequent) holidays and vacations – or perhaps “weekends with dad”. Whatever form suits you and your family, find it, and then live it — commit to it. Whatever it takes for you, if that is placing it on the calendar, or having your spouse “hound you” or having your secretary keep you on-top. Whatever it takes, it is vital. Your homelife will have a greater impact on your work, far beyond what you could ever imagine.

Bob Parson’s 16 Rules

While I am not a big fan of Bob Parson, I ran across this list of 16 Rules which make a whole lot of sense. Here they are by title, but for a description, checkout the link: Bob Parsons 16 Rules Poster

1. Get and stay out of your comfort zone.
2. Never give up. 
3. When you’re ready to quit, you’re closer than you think. 
4. With regard to whatever worries you, not only accept the worst thing that could happen, but make it a point to quantify what the worst thing could be. 
5. Focus on what you want to have happen. 
6. Take things a day at a time.
7. Always be moving forward. 
8. Be quick to decide. 
9. Measure everything of significance. 
10. Anything that is not managed will deteriorate.
11. Pay attention to your competitors, but pay more attention to what you’re doing. 
12. Never let anybody push you around. 
13. Never expect life to be fair. 
14. Solve your own problems. 
15. Don’t take yourself too seriously. 
16. There’s always a reason to smile. 
Copyright © 2005-2007 Bob Parsons. All rights reserved.