Small Business Tips

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Featuring articles related to starting your own business including identification of startups, the startup process, startup guidelines, business plans, exit strategies, bootstrapping, ROI analysis, startup opportunities, tips and business startup advice.
Starting a New Business

Starting a new business isn’t just about marketing and advertising your new product or service. Creating a solid foundation for the business to function on should be priority #1.

Here are some tips from Mary Ellen Martelli, a professional business consultant:

1. Have a Written Business Plan.
2. Begin Your Business Branding Immediately.
3. Get a Business Website.
4. Advertise with Consistency.
5. Get Your Business Publicized
6. Network – Network – Network
7. Assess and Redirect Along the Way


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By Chris Brunner
Friday, December 23rd, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Startup |

Seeking a Dream

We’ve all been there at some point in our life… flipping burgers, bagging groceries, bank teller, babysitting. Not that there is anything wrong with these jobs. Let’s face it, if people didn’t do them, then life would be much more of an inconvenience. And, though there are some that enjoy working the drive-thru at the fast food joint, many of us accept these jobs as a means of getting by, whether it be working through school or even because we have no other options and must simply earn a paycheck.

But, deep down inside, we all have a dream to do and be something else. Many of us want to work for ourselves. The ambition to be an entrepreneur is usually in the back of everyone’s mind. And though the numbers of entrepreneurs out there continue to grow, it is far too often that people have dreams and do nothing to pursue them.

You have a couple of options. The first is that you can be one of those people who has a dream his entire life, but never makes anything of it outside of an occasional hobby. Such people typically claim that life has thrown so many obstacles at them that it would be impossible to pursue their dream. And they are full of excuses, such as not having the means to get started.

Continue Reading: “Seeking a Dream”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, December 16th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Motivation, Startup |

Common Mistakes – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 7 of 8

COMMON BUSINESS PLAN MISTAKES
Even with all of the information provided in the first six parts of this post series, there are still mistakes to be made on a Business Plan. No one is perfect and your Business Plan won’t turn out perfect on the first draft either (and probably not the second or third). However, there are some common mistakes to keep in mind when writing and reviewing your Business Plan that will at least aid in attaining perfection.

Failure to be Clear and Concise
The most common mistake when preparing any document is a failure to convey what you want to the reader. There are two main elements that can contribute to this error.

Continue Reading: “Common Mistakes – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 7 of 8″


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Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8
Define Organizational Structure & Management – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 3 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, November 27th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8

THE EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
The executive summary is the most important part of your Business Plan and, in fact, should be the first section. However, you can’t do the executive summary until you are finished with all the other sections, which is why I saved it for last.

The executive summary is exactly as it name implies — it is a summary of your entire business plan. You also need to include a brief history of your company. The entire executive summary should not be longer than four pages. Consider using a bullet system to highlight information and make a smoother read. You want to provide information, but you don’t want to bore potential investors/lenders from the start. This is what will either grab their attention or give them the urge to find a wastepaper basket.

Continue Reading: “Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, November 26th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8

Welcome to the second half of my eight part post series on creating an effective Business Plan. I’m sure you enjoyed the break over the weekend, but are anxious to obtain the rest of the information you need. So let’s get started.

THE FUNDING REQUEST
The whole point of your Business Plan is to request money from investors and/or obtain a business loan through a bank. So, what would the Business Plan be without specifics on what funds your business needs? It’s one thing to request a dollar amount out loud, it’s another to specify exactly why you need that money and how it will be used. We’re certainly not talking about a few dollars here, so those that provide the funds to you want all the details they can get before making such a commitment.

Continue Reading: “Funding Request & Financial Information – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 5 of 8″


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Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Friday, November 25th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Define Strategies, Service & Product Line – How to Write a Business Plan: Part 4 of 8

MARKETING & SALES MANAGEMENT
Without marketing your business and your product/service, customers have no way of knowing that you’re out there. While the information regarding the organization of your business is important to investors, knowing your marketing plans is equally as important, since the marketing you do will generate revenue.

Marketing Strategy
You need to define your marketing strategy. Granted, your marketing strategy will often change, as you evaluate its effectiveness and changes in your business require changes in your advertising. But you do need to have a basic strategy in mind, which includes the following elements:

1. Market Penetration
In order to obtain customers, you have to make yourself known in the market. While you need advertising to do this, you also need to have a means. In other words, you need to continually develop new products and innovations to keep the customers interested. Market penetration requires using new products in existing markets and new markets using existing products. Explain in your business plan how you intend to penetrate the market.

Continue Reading: “Define Strategies, Service & Product Line – How to Write a Business Plan: Part 4 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, November 24th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Define Organizational Structure & Management – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 3 of 8

THE COMPANY DESCRIPTION
The next section of your Business Plan should contain a description of your company. Be sure to cover the following topics:

• Why you started the business.
• The nature of your business — what needs your business provides solutions for and how.
• What will make your business successful.
• The advantages your business has over the competition.

ORGANIZATION & MANAGEMENT
Following the Company Description is the Organization and Management section. You must show potential investors and banks that you are organized and ready to do business. If they don’t see that, they won’t invest.

Continue Reading: “Define Organizational Structure & Management – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 3 of 8″


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Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8
Common Mistakes – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 7 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, November 23rd, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8

MARKET ANALYSIS

The Market Analysis portion of your business plan is a means for showing your knowledge of the industry your business is involved in. This is where your market research will come into play. And you’re going to have to do a lot of work for this portion.

Start by studying, very thoroughly, your industry market and gathering as much information as possible. Additionally, you will need to conduct market tests of your product/service and compile that information. While the data and information you collect is crucial, this portion of your business plan will only cover the highlights and conclusions of all of your diligent work. The bulk of the information, as we will later see, will be contained within the Appendix section of your business plan.

Continue Reading: “Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8″


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Overview – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 1 of 8

OVERVIEW

If you’ve started a business or are thinking about doing so, then you’ve probably heard that you need a business plan. If you in any way hope to have investors support your company growth or to obtain a business loan, you have to have a business plan. You won’t even be considered without one. It is more or less the sales pitch for your business.

A strong business plan consists of ten essential sections:

1. Market Analysis
2. Company Description
3. Organization & Management
4. Marketing & Sales Management
5. Service or Product Line
6. Funding Requests
7. Financial Information
8. Executive Summary
9. Appendix
10. Table of Contents

Over the next two weeks of posts I’m going to cover how to create an appropriate business plan, elaborating on each of these sections. Yes, it will take two weeks. There is a lot of information to cover and summarizing it into a few posts will not be helpful enough for you to put together effective business plan that will win investors and banks over.

Continue Reading: “Overview – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 1 of 8″


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Common Mistakes – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 7 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Monday, November 21st, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Ways to Promote Yourself

When it comes to starting a new business, there is one thing that takes up the majority of your concern, stress and time. One thing that will really make or break you. The success of your business depends on getting the word out that your business actually exists. If no one knows that you’re out there, then you won’t have any clients, won’t make any money and the business will flop. It’s constantly in the back of your mind with regard everything you do and every business decision you make.

Therefore, promoting your business, especially in the beginning, should be your number one priority. And I’m not necessarily talking about in a marketing sense, because, let’s face it, you typically don’t have a lot of room in the budget when you’re just getting started to get a television ad going right from the start. You need to bring in a few clients first, and you’ve got to find inexpensive ways to do it.

Continue Reading: “Ways to Promote Yourself”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, November 15th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Marketing, Networking, Startup |

The Psychology of Pricing

When starting your business, and throughout it’s progression, you will always be evaluating and reevaluating how much to actually charge for the product/service you provide. You must take into consideration how much it cost your business to make the product or provide the service (i.e., supplies, payroll, etc.), how much of a profit you will need to make in order to keep your business running, and the like.

But there is more to it than simply picking a price that covers your overhead and makes a little profit. You have to take into consideration the thought process of your average customer and the psychology of pricing.

You want to provide your clients with a perception that they’re getting a great deal, and there are a few possibilities for conveying that:

Continue Reading: “The Psychology of Pricing”


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, November 14th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Money, Startup |

Getting Others On Board With Your Vision

As I have discussed a number of times through the past couple of months, we all have visions, and the businesses we start often stem from those dreams for the future. Many visions require the support of others, especially financial investors, in order to press forward toward the goal. Because your vision is yours alone, you have to convince others of the value it has.

Here’s how you can start on the right track to getting investors and other support to come along for the ride:

Have a Passion
The vision you have must be something you’re passionate about. If you don’t have a full-fledged passion for it, it will be difficult to convince others that the investment of their time and finances will be worth while in the end. However, when you are passionate about your vision, and intend to pursue it even if you have to go it alone, people will recognize that and it will be easier for them to begin to see the value of your goal.

Find Allies
When looking for support (whether financial or otherwise), it is best to first seek out those that don’t need much convincing anyway. You will know the people in your immediate of friends and family who would be most likely to share your vision. But you will also need to take that a step further and reach out to other companies and organizations that would likely take little convincing. For example, if you want to start a specialty school for children with disabilities, do your research and find organizations that have already contributed to similar causes.

Continue Reading: “Getting Others On Board With Your Vision”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, October 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Motivation, Startup |

Getting Your Invention on the Market

You’ve brainstormed for uncountable hours. You’ve killed a dozen trees working through designs and specs. And you’re in the process of registering patent. Now you need to sell this new invention of yours, but how?

The Patent
First of all, don’t go for a full-fledged patent of your invention just yet, because, though you think it’s the greatest invention known to this generation, there may not be a market for it. Have you ever watched ABC’s American Inventor? Did you notice how many people thought the world of their inventions and spent gobs of money “perfecting” them, but were completely wrong about the consumer’s actual need for that product.

Instead of getting a patent right off, and spending quite a bit of money to do it, take the safe route and get a provisional application patent (which is approximately $100). This protects your invention from being swiped by someone else with a “patent pending” status (ever heard that phrase on a commercial?) for a period of one year. Before that 12 month period is expended, however, you must file for a full patent of your product.

Continue Reading: “Getting Your Invention on the Market”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, October 15th, 2016 @ 12:10 AM CDT

Startup, Technology, Ventures |

What’s in a Domain Name?

One of the foremost aspects of starting a business is deciding on the name. You want something memorable, but also something that embodies the services you provide as well as the ethics you stand for.

However, what makes the process even more difficult these days is the difficulty in finding a domain name for your company’s website. And choices are becoming limited, especially when it comes to the .com domains. There are more than 71 million .com domains out there, which is nearly three times the combined total of the other domains, .net, .info, .biz and .us.

Nearly every single word in the english language is already spoken for as a domain name, and many of the obvious phrases associated with those word. This causes a bit of a problem for new businesses, as most want a domain name directly associated with their company name or the service they provide.

Because having a website is so important to the success of a new business, some are even revamping their business name in order to find a domain name that fits. The new hit these days is four-letter business names, which mean the same four-letter domain names. Take, for example, Bebo (a social-networking site), Etsy (an online crafts store), Lala, Lulu, Ning or Zing. Still yet, many businesses are choosing four-letter domain names which aren’t words at all, but simply acronyms for the business.

What’s the appeal of a four-letter domain name? Many say the like the idea that their site is easy for customers to remember. It means less of a chance the customer will spell the website wrong when attempting to access it, as well as faster access to the site (four letters is a lot quicker to type than 15).

I think it all comes down to the fact that, what’s in your domain name should be secondary to your actual business name. That’s more important. And people who are actually interested in you are more interested in the quality of the services your provide, not whether your website domain name is easier to remember. If they want your services or product, they will access your website regardless of the name.


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, October 14th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Startup, Technology |

A Need for Pet Memorial Businesses

Many businesses cater to the needs of our beloved family friends. Instead of kennels, many pet owners opt now for doggie day cares, which provide ample socialization and play time, as well as scheduled naps and meals. There are spas for pets, designer clothing and collars, and some hotels even offer room service menus. And, since the latest contaminated food scare, many businesses are providing all natural health food services as well.

But where the pet care industry comes up short is in memorializing our four-legged family members when they pass away. Some veterinarians provide cremation services, but, for the most part, there are few options for helping to remember our beloved fluff balls.

Continue Reading: “A Need for Pet Memorial Businesses”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 30th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Startup, Ventures |

Marketing Your Website

Now that your website is up and running, you need to get potential clients to visit it. After all, as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, these days a website is a crucial part of a successful business. But you can’t just expect people to find your site through online searches or happenstance. You have to advertise your website just as diligently as you advertise your actual business.

The following are some tips to get you started:

Communication
All forms of communication need to include your website address. Make sure it is on all letterhead, fax cover sheets, business cards, envelopes, fliers, brochures, newsletters, etc. Additionally, make sure that you/your staff mention your website to any potential clients that may call your office. Always guide them that direction because a majority of the information about your business should be contained on your site. Another great idea is to have your website mentioned on your hold message (like many customer service lines now do). This will help to decrease call volume for a busy business if clients can get the answers to their questions on your site.

Continue Reading: “Marketing Your Website”


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By Michelle Cramer
Thursday, September 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Marketing, Startup |

Funding Options for Small Business

When I started my photography business this year, I vowed that I would not go into debt to make it happen. Things are still slow as I build my portfolio and get the word out, which means there are times when I have no money coming in at all. And that’s fine, it just means that I’m not making any purchases to further things along either.

I do invest my own money in the business. In fact, that’s exactly how I got the business started in the first place, by saving up for it. And that’s how I take it to the next level with advertising, etc. I save up for a particular piece of equipment or ad.

Investing your own money in your business is the most cost effective way to get things moving, especially in the beginning. Additionally, as your business grows and has more revenue coming in, you can invest your personal income as a loan to the business, with an interest rate and all, where the business pays you back for your investment.

Continue Reading: “Funding Options for Small Business”


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, September 16th, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Money, Startup |

Startup Myths Keep Entrepreneurs Motivated

We’ve all heard the stories. Hewlett Packard and Apple were started in someone’s garage. YouTube and Goggle were the children of brilliant, spontaneous ideas, etc., etc., etc. We love to hear that these entrepreneurs simply had an idea, ran with it, and became multi-millionaires. Because that’s what we want to happen to the businesses we’re putting our blood, sweat and tears into.

But the truth of the matter is, they’re simply stories. Fairytales of success, if you will. The reality is, most entrepreneurs get their initial idea for a bright innovation from a previous job they may have had. In fact, a study of VC-backed companies showed that 91% of them were related to the founders’ previous employment.

Continue Reading: “Startup Myths Keep Entrepreneurs Motivated”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, September 6th, 2016 @ 12:07 AM CDT

Motivation, Startup |

Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies

Greece is a country known for being entrepreneurial. And while it may not be exactly the same as the U.S., a study done there has found some interesting results that may very well apply to our own nation.

This study, titled Entrepreneurship Among Graduates: Reality and Prospects in Tertiary Education, examined how education affected graduates who went into business on their own. 249 graduates, from two different years, who had started their own businesses since graduation were questioned.

Two important percentages stand out from the results of the study:

• 44% report a low correlation or none at all between their college degree and the business they started.

• 51% report that they use little to none of what they learned in college in their business practices.

Continue Reading: “Universities Should Provide More Entrepreneurial Studies”


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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, August 31st, 2016 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Startup |

The Importance of Being Assertive

Point blank: if you’re an entrepreneur, or plan on becoming one, you have to be assertive. Now, please know that I don’t mean aggressive, which is completely different. I mean knowing what you want and what your limitations are and being able to express that in a confident and respective manner.

When you start a business, many people will ask you for favors. Your friends and family may sometimes expect freebies of the product/service you provide. Business partners may request you to take on one of his/her tasks because their “to do list” is just too full. Some customers may expect you to practically hand-deliver the product they order to their door yourself.

Continue Reading: “The Importance of Being Assertive”


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, August 30th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Ownership, Startup |

Tips for Gaining and Impressing Potential Investors

It’s not often that a new business can really get itself off the ground without investors to help push it along. But, of course, getting investors to write you a check isn’t all that easy. You obviously believe in the business you want to start because it’s your brain child – a part of you. But convincing others to believe as whole-heartedly as you do can be a rough task.

Here are some tips for getting potential investors to believe in you and the future of your epiphany:

Continue Reading: “Tips for Gaining and Impressing Potential Investors”


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, August 27th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Money, Networking, Startup |

When You Should Consider Hiring a CEO

When you start a business, it’s your baby, your life’s ambition come true. You spend thousands of hours building it, nourishing it, helping it grow. But just like a child, there may come a time when you have to loosen the reigns a bit. It may be time to hire a CEO.

Here are some clues that it may be time to put your business in another person’s hands:

• If you’re more comfortable planning the next big product for your company, but not with delegating who does what to make that product happen, you may need a CEO.

• When you don’t feel like you provide the professional presentation that clients are looking for, it may be time for a CEO to handle them.

• If your company has had ample turnovers, internal problems and a lack of direction, a CEO may be able to help clean up the mess.

• If all of your time is spent on operating the business and other important growth elements such as customer service, business development, and marketing are falling by the waste-side, time to bring in some CEO management.

The purpose of a CEO is not only to manage and operate the company on your behalf, but to give you constructive criticism and advice. And you have to be able to take it, because it’s the CEO’s job to make sure the company runs smoothly, and that may mean some necessary changes you’re not ecstatic about.

Also keep in mind when looking for someone to fill the CEO position that he needs to understand and share your values and vision for the future of your business. After all, it is still your business, so the track it is on should stay relatively the same. The CEO may bring other possibilities to your attention, but you will make the ultimate decision and she will have to be someone who can accept and respect that.

Putting the management of your business in someone else=s hands is a scary thought and requires immense consideration. But with someone who is capable and on the same page as you are regarding values and goals, he/she can actually make the experience of being an entrepreneur much more enjoyable.

Source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Bringing in a CEO


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, July 31st, 2016 @ 12:03 AM CDT

Operations, Startup |

Competing for Business with a Former Employer

Imagine the scenario: you’ve been sitting behind a desk in a lonely cubical somewhere, punching numbers all day for a large accounting firm. And you’ve noticed a few things along the way… things you would do differently if you ran the place, things you would improve or expand on. Just about the time you’ve had enough of the claustrophobia, it hits you — why don’t you start your own accounting firm?

It’s a wonderful idea, but there are some things you should consider before attempting it on your own. If you don’t, you may be facing legal battles with your former employer.

Non-Compete Agreement

The first thing you must do is see if there was a non-compete agreement anywhere on the paperwork you signed when you were hired. Basically, a non-compete agreement protects a company for a given amount of time from competition after an employee leaves.

In other words, if you signed one, you may have to wait a year or more after you leave the large accounting firm to start your small one. You are also usually prohibited from adopting trade or operation secrets or snatching up clients from your former employer.

If you signed a Non-Compete Agreement, consult an attorney before you make any moves. They are often unenforceable, depending on the terms and the state you live in. Better to be safe than sorry though.

Be Honest
If you get along with your current employer, and especially if you consider yourselves friends, then just be upfront with him. Tell him you are planning to leave and go off on your own into the business world. Ask for pointers on how to get started.

You might even consider asking your boss to provide you with some networking connections he may have that aren’t clients to help get you started. The more credit you give your employer for helping point you in the entrepreneurial direction, the less likely he’ll be to pursue legal action against you.

It’s also important to not tell clients you are leaving before you have, as that would be deliberately undermining your loyalty to the company. Even if you’re not loyal in your heart, refrain from causing any form of sabotage, since it could easily bite you in the rear later.

Generally, it’s just best to protect yourself and be open about your plans. Most employers will respect your boldness to step out on your own without trying to pull them down. After all they were probably once in your shoes, so they understand the appeal.

Source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business – and Not a Legal Battle


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, July 19th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Elements of a Franchise Agreement

If you’re planning on investing in a franchise, it’s important to know what you’re getting into. Though I can’t speak from experience on this issue, it’s clear from my research that most Franchise Agreements (which I will hereafter refer to as “FA”) are complicated and highly weighted toward the favor of the franchiser.

Entrepreneur.com defines a FA better than I could as representing a license to use a specific business operating system employing registered brands and trademarks for a specific period of time in exchange for a specified payment structure. And there is no doubt that a FA is specific about every little detail.

A Franchise Agreement does not mean that you are becoming part owner in the company. On the contrary, all rights to the brand, trademarks and operating systems remain solely the property of the franchiser. As a franchisee, you are more or less an investor, often temporarily.

Be sure that the terms of the FA reflect how the business is portrayed in the UFOC mentioned in yesterday’s post, Finding the Right Franchise. Though every FA varies tremendously based upon the company and product or service provided, most contain the following basic elements:

Operation of the Business
The rules, restrictions and obligations of the franchiser and franchisee regarding the successful operation of the business from the franchiser’s perspective. This includes the repair and maintenance that you are expected to contribute as well as the regulations regarding trademarks, patents, advertising policies, etc.

Territory
Where your specific business will operate and any exclusivity rights that may apply. Be aware that part of your investment in a franchise may be the purchase of real property for the business location. Many FAs require that, upon the termination of the agreement, the property be sold to the franchise company, often under market value.

Support
The training and operational support provided by the franchiser throughout the lifetime of the FA. However, this is typically at some cost to the franchisee.

Duration and Renewal
The initial duration of the agreement and your renewal options. The initial term can range from 5-20 years, more frequently toward the shorter end with multiple renewal periods. Most franchisers prefer this policy because any changes made to the FA during the initial term are automatically put into effect upon renewal, and you typically have no idea what those new regulations will be beforehand. Therefore, the longer the initial duration of the FA, the better it is for you, the franchisee. Also remember that, the better your performance, the more favorable the changes will be.

Royalties
Typically ongoing and usually 4-8% of monthly sales.

Selling
What your rights are regarding the sale or transfer of your franchised unit. Usually this contains an option for the franchiser to buy back the unit or have “right of first refusal.”

Dispute Resolution & Termination
The franchise regulations regarding the policy for resolving disputes between franchiser and franchisee, as well as the process for termination of the FA, if necessary.

As a legal assistant, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you have an attorney assist you with your review of the Franchise Agreement. An attorney can interpret the legal jargon usually found in a FA, and consult you accordingly to avoid an unfavorable situation later on.

Sources:
• Free Advice.com: What’s in a Franchise Agreement?
• Entrepreneur.com: Buying a Franchise – Ready to Commit?
• AllBusiness.com: Ten Key Provisions of Franchise Agreements


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, June 18th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Startup |

Finding the Right Franchise for You

McDonald’s, Two Men and a Truck Movers, AlphaGraphics printing — well known national franchises whose appeal can be quite positive to the potential businessperson. With more than 5,000 franchise opportunities spanning the globe, knowing where to begin can be a bit cumbersome.

Should you invest in a franchise?
You must first determine if a franchise is even the right business endeavor for you. It’s important to understand that franchises are all about consistency. Each franchise unit is run by the same standards as the rest of them. If you are interested, you need to be able to answer “yes” to the following questions:

1. Am I willing to follow and embrace someone else’s business system?
2. Am I capable of being a follower?
3. Am I willing to be part of the franchise network, including accepting decisions that benefit the whole network, but not necessarily me as an individual?

It’s also important to evaluate your professional strengths. A franchise owner must have strong management and customer service skills to fully succeed in this type of business.

What franchises are you interested in?
With so many choices available, you will have to narrow your search to those options you are most interested in. The International Franchise Association and The American Association of Franchisees & Dealers provide franchise directories, reviews and guides to help you sift through the options. The Franchise Business Review provides reports on franchises based upon surveys taken by the franchisees themselves.

There are franchise consultants out there, but before you rely on one, be aware of the fact that franchisers pay them for the new prospects they bring in, so a consultant’s motivation may be a bit biased in favor of the companies they are working for.

What do the details tell you?
Once you’ve narrowed it down to the few franchises you are interested in, it’s time to dive into the details for each of them and figure out which is best for you. Be sure to obtain a Uniform Franchise Offering Circular (UFOC) from each franchise. The UFOC contains information regarding how the business is ran, any litigation or bankruptcy filings, investment costs and fee requirements, the franchise rules and restrictions, and contact information for each of their franchise units.

Take advantage of the fact that you have the contact information for those who have been where you are. Contact other owners in the franchise and get feedback from them. Find out how long it took him to earn a profit. Ask her if the franchiser is as helpful and supportive as he should be. And most importantly, has it been worth the time and money — would he do it all again?

How do you make it official?
Once you’ve determined which franchise you would like to get involved with, you should hire an attorney who specializes in franchising. It’s important that you don’t make a final decision until you’ve consulted an attorney and he/she has examined the Franchise Agreement thoroughly on your behalf.

Franchise Agreements can be tricky and, depending on the details, can turn you off to the idea completely. If you go it on your own, you may not know the fine print requirements. An attorney will help you to comb through the details so that you can be certain that the potential franchise is the right fit for you.

Check back tomorrow for more information on what a Franchise Agreement should contain and what snags to look for.

Sources:
• Business Week Online: Finding the Perfect Franchise Fit
• AllBusiness.com: How Can I Tell if Franchising is Right for Me?


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, June 17th, 2016 @ 12:05 AM CDT

Startup |

Picking the Right Business Partner

Nearly 70% of all partnerships fail, typically because the people involved were so excited about their idea that they didn’t take the time to make sure that they were compatible for a business relationship. The majority of partnerships are formed between friends who assume that since they already get along, there shouldn’t be a problem. There are distinct differences between getting along with a friend (or family member) socially and the relationship remaining strong under the daily stress of running a business.

Business partnerships are often compared to marriages. In fact, if you are in a partnership, you will likely spend more time with your business partner than you do with your marital spouse. Much like in a marriage, it’s important that you take time to first find out if you and your perspective partner are even compatible for the long term.

When considering starting a partnership with someone, you must first examine your own strengths and weaknesses to determine if you are partner material. If you have a tendency to work better alone, or prefer to do so, then a partnership is probably not for you. If you can consider the suggestions of others and be open-minded when making decisions, then you’d probably make a good partner. Talk to your spouse, family and friends to get their input as well.

Once you have determined that you are able to meet the challenges of being a business partner, you should to examine the relationship you currently have with the other person.

Ask yourself the following questions:

• Do we have the same motivation?
• Do we have the same values and work ethics?
• Do our skills and strengths complement each other?
• Are we able to communicate with each other, even on touchy subjects, in a cool, calm and respectful manner?
• Deep down, do I 100% trust this person?
• Have we been able to adequately resolve conflicts/disagreements in the past?

Hopefully the answer to all these questions is “yes.” If not, then the next item on your list should be to sit down with your prospective partner and discuss the reservations you may have about the partnership. Laying those items on the table, and monitoring the other person’s reaction to them, will be a strong indicator of whether or not the partnership will work.

Also, talk to the other person’s previous partners and employees to get their feedback on how well he/she works with others. Be aware that, should your prospective partner refuse to provide you with contact information for her former counterparts, then that is a red-flag that you probably shouldn’t do business with.

If all signs point to proceeding with the partnership, then it’s time to test the waters. Take on a challenge together, like meeting a deadline, as see how that goes. Determine your expectations for the other person and see if they are met throughout the project. It’s also important to clearly define the responsibilities of each person, as this will be something a partnership requires every day.

Take your time and be sure this partnership is the right one for you. Don’t let the excitement of your idea allow you to rush into such a commitment. The failure of a business partnership can be devastating, both to your business and personal relationship with the other person. Taking time to find the right business partner can result in a mutual motivation and support, as well as a highly successful business.

Sources:
• BusinessKnowHow.com: Is a Partnership the Right Choice for You?
• Inc.com: The Art of Picking the Right Partner


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, June 10th, 2016 @ 12:06 AM CDT

Startup |

Which Business Entity is Right for You? (Part 4)

PART 4 — PARTNERSHIPS

The first thing you should be aware of when it comes to General Partnerships, whose owners are known as GPs (general partners), is that it is managed by all partners and all partners are liable for the negligence and/or debts of the business.

Each and every partner has a say in how the business is run and, even if only one partner makes a mistake, each and every partner takes the heat for it. Of course, this liability is only a problem if you or your partners cannot be trusted to run the business.

Partnerships are often used when franchising a business or when all partners contribute equally to the success of the business, such as a law firm. Taxes are paid through each partners personal income tax. There are no costs or formalities for designating your business as a partnership entity, and the only document required is a Partnership Agreement, which is crucial and should include:

• Amount each partner will invest in the business and when said investments will be made (upfront, annually, etc.);
• Rights and duties of each partner;
• Method for distributing profits and sharing in losses;
• Policies regarding withdrawals of the business assets;
• Designated division of the business profits among members;
• Policies and methods for dispute resolution;
• Policies and methods for including a new partner;
• Method for dissolving the partnership, when and if necessary.

Typically profits are divided equally among members, but you can designate otherwise in your partnership agreement. Keep in mind that giving one partner a larger percentage of the business assets does indicate that they have a stronger say in the decisions regarding the operation of the business. It is usually in the best interest of all involved to stick to equal distribution.

A partnership lasts only as long as a good relationship between partners. It can be dissolved if the partners no longer wish to work together using the methods indicated in the partnership agreement, which can include the sale of the business as well as dismissing one member and bringing another in.

Partnerships also have the option of including one or more limited or silent partners (LPs). LPs are individuals who invest in the partnership but, based upon the Partnership Agreement, are limited in their involvement in the operation of the business. Also, LPs’ legal liability is generally limited to how much they invest, so they can basically reap the benefits of the partnership (i.e. profits) without being responsible for the debts.

It is important that you examine all of the available options for business entity designation and determine which is best for you and your business before you get the ball rolling. Please consult with a lawyer before before making any legal decisions.

Part 1: Sole Proprietorships
Part 2: Corporations
Part 3: Limited Liability Companies

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Business Structure Basics
• Start-a-Business.com: General Partnership
• AllBusiness.com: Corporation, Partnership, or an LLC?
• About.com: Partnerships
• Wikipedia.org: General Partnership and Limited Partnership


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By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, June 7th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Startup |

Which Business Entity is Right for You? (Part 3)

PART 3 — LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANIES

Limited Liability Companies, or LLCs, combine several features of Corporations and Partnerships, but are neither. Often people call them “limited liability corporations,” but that is incorrect. The owners of an LLC are termed “members” rather than partners or shareholders. The number of members is unlimited and can be a combination of individuals, corporations or other LLCs.

LLC members are not held liable for the negligence and/or debt of the LLC they have ownership interest in, unless they sign a personal guarantee. Like a corporation, an LLC is an entirely separate existence from the individuals involved.

Another benefit is that there are fewer requirements for an LLC. It is not necessary to keep meeting minutes or record resolutions, as in a corporation, and you are not required to have a board of directors or make officer designations for the members.

Some states do have minimal requirements for an LLC, but what those are varies from state to state. Typically, you are also required to file Articles of Organization and Operating Agreement when registering your business as an LLC.

The designated distribution of income to the members is entirely flexible, leaving the division to be anywhere from 50-50 to 10-90, and, of course, open for division among any number of members.

As a member, you also have much more access to the assets of the company. You can take assets out for personal and/or business use without incurring tax liability. Owners also have more leeway when it comes to writing off business losses when associated with an LLC.

The lifetime of an LLC is limited. If any member dies or files bankruptcy, the LLC is dissolved. Additionally, an LLC is not nearly as appealing to possible investors, so if you are considering going public with you company, or issuing shares to your employees someday, an LLC is not the route you should go.

However, if legal liability protection and one level of taxation are primary concerns for your business owners — who consist of multiple and diverse individuals and/or businesses — than an LLC is probably just right for you.

Part 4: Partnerships
Part 1: Sole Proprietorships
Part 2: Corporations

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Business Structure Basics
• About.com: Limited Liability Company 101
• Start-a-Business.com: Limited Liability Company
• AllBusiness.com: Corporation, Partnership, or an LLC?


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By Michelle Cramer
Monday, June 6th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Startup |

Which Business Entity is Right for You? (Part 2)

PART 2 – CORPORATIONS

Corporations are considered a legal entity which exists separately and independently from the individuals who create and manage it. Only the corporation itself is legally liable for any negligent actions or debts it may produce. The individual shareholders are not liable.

There are a number of requirements for a corporation:

• Must have an elected board of directors or officers
• Must have an operating agreement
• Must keep records such as annual meetings, meeting minutes, record of resolutions and file annual reports.

Advantages
The benefits of a corporate entity are substantial. A corporation has an unlimited lifespan as it is not dependent on the life of an individual, as proprietorships and partnerships are. As long as annual reports are filed consistently, the corporation will remain in good standing.

The flexible transferability of shares is another large benefit. Ownership of shares in a corporation can be sold, transferred, given or inherited by simply endorsing and signing over an individual’s stock certificates. It is not necessary to file deeds or retitle anything.

You would also benefit from the increased ability to raise investment capital. It’s much easier to attract new investors to back your business if it is registered as a corporation because of the limited liability of shareholders and the easy transfer of shares.

Disadvantages
The major disadvantage of registering your business as a corporation is that it can create an additional tax burden. If your business is designated as a C Corporation, then the profits of your corporation are first taxed at the corporate level and then, any distributions to shareholders are also taxed on each individual’s personal income tax. S Corporations, however, are not taxed on the federal level — only the shareholders’ income is taxed.

If your business is large, or headed that direction, you might want to consider establishing your business as a Corporation. This is an especially preferred choice if you want to market your business to a number of investors, because the “Inc.” following the name of your business can be very appealing.

Part 3: Limited Liability Companies
Part 4: Partnerships
Part 1: Sole Proprietorships

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Business Structure Basics
• AllBusiness.com: Corporation, Partnership, or an LLC?


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, June 5th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Business Law, Startup |

Which Business Entity is Right for You? (Part 1)

When starting a new business, you will be required to determine the type of business entity it is for tax purposes. There are a number of them out there and each one has different benefits and draw backs. It is best to understand them all before determining which is best for your company.

PART 1 – SOLE PROPREITORSHIPS
The sole proprietorship is the best option for someone who is starting a business in which she will be the only person involved. Many individuals who work out of their home, such as freelance writers, photographers, eBay business owners, etc., opt for a sole proprietorship for their business.

It is considered the quickest and easiest business setup process. There are no prerequisites for your business, an attorney is not necessary, and there are minimal costs for establishment of the sole proprietor entity. In most states, you simply register your business as a fictitious business name. In other words, [your name] doing business as [name of your business].

A fictitious registration does not, however, protect the name you choose for your business – anyone else can use that name. On the other hand, doing so does allow you to use the name of the business rather than your own for business banking accounts and other documentation.

There are some minimal formalities you may need to address when establishing a sole proprietorship:

• Obtain a Federal Tax Identification Number or EIN (otherwise, you will have to use your social security number).
• Obtain an occupancy permit for your place of business, if it is outside your home, depending on the requirements in your state.
• Obtain a business license, if your state requires.

Profits made on a sole proprietorship are considered the personal income of the owner and are taxed as such. It is best to set aside at least 25% (sometimes more) of any profits to pay in quarterly installments to the government. I recommend that you consult with an accountant to determine your best options regarding the taxes on your business.

There are two distinctive drawbacks to this type of business entity. As sole proprietor, the business you start has no separate existence from you. You are personally liable for the debts of the business, which means any debt you may be in default on will end up on your personal credit record. It is best to start this type of business with little to no debt associated with it.

Also, the existence of a sole proprietorship only lasts as long as you do. If a family member wishes to continue the business after you retire or pass away, he will have to register the business under his own name. Of course, as I pointed out, this process requires very little effort.

If you’re just getting starting as an entrepreneur, then I highly recommend that you designate your business as a sole proprietorship. Should the business begin to boom and grow, and you require some help to keep things moving, then you may want to consider other entity options.

Part 2: Corporations
Part 3: Limited Liability Companies
Part 4: Partnerships

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Business Structure Basics
• Start-a-Business.com: Sole Proprietorship
• AllBusiness.com: Corporation, Partnership, or LLC?
• Wikipedia.org: Sole Proprietorship


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By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, June 4th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

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Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 4)

CONTINUED SUCCESS
BUILDING AN eBAY EMPIRE

Congratulations! Your eBay business is now up and running and bringing in the dough! You may even be ready to expand your part-time operation into a full-time adventure. Let’s examine some ways to upgrade your business and continue on this successful path.

Flexibility
It is important to be flexible. Be willing to change the market you’re in to match the current trends. New opportunities will come knocking, and you have to be willing to take advantage of them. Flexibility also means variety, which, as they say, is the spice of life.

Quality Customer Service
Upgrade your customer service to the next level. For example, you may want to provide a handy 800 number for potential buyers to reach you immediately for answers to their questions. Send customers an e-mail with each new phase in the conclusion of your transaction, such as thanking them when you receive their payment, notifying them when their item has been shipped, and following up with them when they receive the item to ensure satisfaction.

Providing a tracking number with every shipment earns brownie points and gives the buyer peace of mind. You may also want to consider providing discount shipping to your buyers with the purchase of more than one product from you. This strategy is a must if you are selling products such as books or movies, since the shipping cost for multiple items increases minimally. This option is very popular and one of the first incentives that buyers look for. A seller who doesn’t provide a multiple item shipping discount can really turn a buyer off.

Tips, Tools & Advice
Joining an eBay community can help you to determine what buyers are interested in as well as get advice from fellow sellers, or just meet new people through discussion boards, blogs and chat rooms. The PowerUp Newsletter provides helpful tips, ideas and eBay news.

There are also some great tools available to help you improve your eBay business. Sellathon.com provides a 30-day free trial of ViewTracker, which provides information on potential buyers, including what search terms brought them to your listing. Seller’s Assistant Pro is eBay’s desktop sales management tool. And eBay’s free program Turbo Lister allows you to recreate your listings in bulk, without having to retype each, and without loosing that professional quality.

Who You Are
Don’t forget to fill out the About Me Page. This gives you an opportunity to share with your potential customers what led you to start your eBay business and what ideals your business holds to. Providing this information to your buyers helps them to feel as though they can trust you and will keep them coming back.

eBay Store
The best way to boost your sales and expand your eBay business is to open an eBay store. On average, sellers see a 25% increase in sales within three months of opening an eBay store. Your store will cost a monthly fee, but you do receive discounts on other eBay fees and access to many other features and services that are not available with regular listings. You can create both auction-style listings and items with fixed prices, adding flexibility to your setup. Your eBay store will allow buyers to find your products in one location, on a customizable webpage designed just for your business.

eBay Store Fees
Subscription fees for an eBay Store vary depending on the size of your operation, starting at $15.95 for the basic store package to $499.95 for the anchor store package. For more information, visit the eBay Store Subscription Fees page to view side-by-side comparisons of the 3 available storefront packages. Also available is the eBay Store Fees page which contains information about Insertion, Final Value, Listing Upgrade and Picture Services fees.

Implementing these additions to your already thriving eBay business will have you well on your way to an eBay empire. Many eBay business owners see sales in the millions each year. Though some days you may have to stretch and stand on your toes to get there, success in the eBay world is well within reach.

View Part 1 – Learning the Basics
View Part 2 – Selling an Item
View Part 3 – Casual Seller to Powerseller

Sources:
• AllBusiness.com: Nine Reasons to Open an eBay Store
• Entrepreneur.com: eBay Made Easy
• Entrepreneur.com: Getting Started on eBay

Helpful Links:
• Entrepreneur.com: eBay Center
Owen & Emma’s eBay Store Library


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Monday, May 30th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 3)

CASUAL SELLER TO POWER SELLER

Now that you have a little experience under your belt, and have built up your feedback rating, it is time to transition from a casual selling hobby to an actual eBay business.

First, determine what exactly it is you want to do. Will your business be a full-time or part-time commitment? Remember, you can always start out part-time and see how it goes; you may want to expand later. Will you work from home or a commercial location? Will it be a one-person or couple operation, or will you hire employees?

The Product
Part of the transition to an eBay business is moving from selling miscellaneous items to a select category of products. The most successful eBay businesses specialize in a specific product category also known as a niche. Deal with products that most interest you, whether it is antique pottery or discount golf equipment. Your product line needs to be something that you can easily become an expert in, if you’re not already. This will give you a significant advantage over other sellers.

Once you have determined your products, research how many other eBayers are selling the same things. Competition can be fierce in the beginning, so you want to provide a product that will help your business to stand out as much as possible.

Next, determine how you want to set up your listings. You can either sell products by the auction method, by a fixed price only, or do both. If you have multiple numbers of the same item, you may want to list some as auction and some at a fixed price. This will give you an opportunity to see which way that particular item sells better.

Your Time
Selling on eBay can be time consuming, so establish a routine. Determine a block of time in your day or week that you will devote to your eBay business, if it is only part-time. If the business is a full-time operation, then map out your day by determining when you will respond to e-mail questions, when you will list new items, when you will package shipments, etc.

Also, when will you make trips to the post office for mailing? Most postal carriers, including the U.S. post office, will pick-up your shipments, if postage has already been paid and you arrange for them to do so. You can pre-pay postage through eBay or by establishing an account on the carrier’s website. If that is not currently an option, determine what day or days of the week you will drop your packages off. It is also important to indicate this in your listing details, so that the buyer is aware of how long it will be before the item is shipped.

The Details
Speaking of listing details, be sure that your listings reflect the professionalism of your business. Proofread and use the spell check option, which eBay provides, on all of your listings. Limit the type of fonts you use to two and don’t use background colors that make the words hard to read. Highlight important words like “Free Shipping” in a different color than the rest of the text, such as red, to draw the buyer’s attention to them.

Supplies
This transition period is also a good time to invest in whatever equipment you don’t already have readily available. A digital camera and postal scale are a must. It is helpful to have a digital camera with a macro setting so that you can take close-up shots of smaller items or details.

If you are working from home, you may want to consider setting aside a work area just for your eBay business. Not only will this make things simpler because everything is right at your fingertips, but also be able to use the space and organizational products you buy as home office tax deductions.

Start slow, listing only a few products each day, so that you don’t have them all ending at once and become overwhelmed. As time progresses and your routine becomes more established, it will be easier to step it up a bit. You’re your own boss, so determine a pace that works best for you and stick with it.

View Part 4 – Building an eBay Empire
View Part 2 – Selling an Item
View Part 1 – Learning the Basics

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: eBay Made Easy
• Entrepreneur.com: Getting Started on eBay
• AllBusiness.com: Setting Up a Home-Based eBay Business

Helpful Links:
• eBay.com: Getting Started as a Seller
• Entrepreneur.com: eBay Center
• AllBusiness.com: The eBay Business Plan


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By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, May 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 2)

SELLING AN ITEM

The first step to selling on eBay is to establish a seller account. This will require more personal information than your original registration with eBay, including verification of your identity, but it is, again, secure and never shared with other eBay users.

Choosing Your Product
Next, you need to figure out what to sell. When just starting out it is better to get a feel for the way it works and to iron out all the kinks before starting your business, so you may want to consider using the “Laundry Basket” approach. Take a basket around your house and fill it with items you don’t need or use anymore. This is always good for those spring cleaning or sort through the attic days. You can sell almost anything on eBay, but there are a few exceptions, which you can view on eBay’s Prohibited and Restricted Items List.

To list an item, make sure you are signed on and then click the “Sell” link at the top of any eBay page. The form for selling an item on eBay is fairly simple, and it will walk you through each step, with help links available along the way.

Be aware of the fact that eBay does charge fees for selling. You will first encounter insertion fees, which are based upon how many features you use in your auction listing. You will also be charged a final value fee when the auction ends, which is a percentage of the final sale price. A list of these fees can be found on the Basic Fees page.

Taking Photos and Developing Item Descriptions
Once you have determined the item(s) you’re selling, you will need to take quality pictures to put on your listing. Items without pictures are much less likely to sell. The first picture for every eBay listing is free of charge. Each additional picture is $0.15.

This is where a digital camera and scanner come in quite handy. If the item is flat, like a book, a scanner works great because it captures the cover well. Other items need to be placed against a solid colored contrasting background, so that the features stand out and the item can be viewed easily. Make sure your picture is crisp, not blurry. It is also recommended that you stay away from stock photos on the manufacturer’s website. Buyers want to see what the actual item you’re selling looks like.

Also, make a list of details about each item to put in the items description. The more honest information you provide to the buyer, the more likely they will be to bid on the item. Indicate the dimensions of the item, the size, the condition it is in, number of pages, etc. It is important to remember that, when describing the condition, you do more than say “good.” Tell the buyer exactly what you see.

You will need a heading for your listing. This will be the first thing potential buyers see on their search results, so it needs to be something that will grab the buyer’s attention, as well as indicate crucial keywords so that you listing will come up on as many search results as possible. Avoid using unnecessary words like “cute” or “wow” in your heading, as these are not words that a buyer will use in a search. Also, you are limited on the characters you can use in a heading, so you need all the space you can get.

Pricing
Next, determine what the starting price for your item will be. Items that start at $0.99 and under will often get the buyer’s attention more easily, but there is risk involved with starting the item that low, since it is uncertain how many bids you will get.

Do some research on ended auctions for items like the one you are selling and see how popular they are. You can do so by using the advance search and checking the “completed listings only” box. This will give you an indication on how high the bidding might go on your item and if the risk is worth it. For example, if the DVD you are selling typically sells for $10, then starting it at $0.99 shouldn’t be a problem. But if it usually sells for $3.00, chances are, your item may not go much past the starting price.

All auctions have the option of adding a “Buy it Now” or “Reserve Price.” Buy it Now gives the buyer the option of buying the item for a set amount, so long as no one has bid on it yet. This is great for items like DVDs, when you are willing to sell them below market value.

A Reserve Price allows you to indicate the minimum amount you are willing to take for the item. This amount is not revealed to any bidders. All they will see on the auction is whether or not the current price of the item has met the reserve price. If it does not meet the reserve by the end of the auction, you are not obligated to sell the item to any bidder. However, you will still have to pay the insertion fees for the auction.

Shipping Options
You will also need to determine shipping costs. This can sometimes be difficult, so I recommend that you first buy a postage scale and then prepackage your item before you list it, so that you can determine the actual weight for shipping. The form for listing your item provides a postage calculator that will determine the shipping costs, based on weight and package dimensions, for most carriers (USPS, UPS, FedEx).

You have the option of setting a flat shipping rate that you pre-determine, or a calculated shipping rate which is based on the buyer’s address and any handling charges you may add (which are not revealed to the buyer). I recommend adding the cost of shipping supplies, eBay listing fees (typically under $1) and Paypal transaction fees to your shipping charges, so that those are covered even if you item only sells for $0.01. PayPal does charge a percentage of the transaction amount when money is sent to you, though it is quite minimal (less than 5%).

The eBay listing form is very easy and there are helpful links indicated to get you through it. Once you’ve listed one item, you’ll have the form down, but it will take observation to see what works to grab the seller’s attention. Get some practice with small household items before transitioning to a full-blown business, so that you know what you’re in for.

View Part 3 – Casualseller to Powerseller
View Part 4 – Building an eBay Empire
View Part 1 – Learning the Basics

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: eBay Made Easy

Helpful Links:
• eBay.com: Getting Started as a Seller
• Entrepreneur.com: eBay Center


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 3)
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 1)
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 4)
Easy Return Policy Means Return Customers
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4

By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, May 28th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 1)

LEARN THE BASICS

Since its start in 1995, eBay is one of the fastest growing business venues around. Over two billion items and nearly $50 billion dollars in final sale prices were produced last year, and every year eBay gets bigger and better. If you’re ready to start your own business, or expand your current one, using eBay will almost guarantee your success. This week’s four part series will take you through the steps of starting a successful eBay business, starting with eBay basics.

Most people are well aware of eBay and its primary function, but some just haven’t had the chance to use it yet. eBay is an online auction website, where you can find most anything you’re looking for, and quite often reasonably priced below market value. Like normal auctions (though, it is much easier to understand the auctioneer), buyers bid on an item and the highest bidder at the close of the auction gets the item for that price, plus shipping charges.

It is free to join eBay to browse and buy, so I recommend that you first register. To do so, go to eBay’s registration page, where you will supply your contact information, as well as pick out a user ID. Be aware that, should you plan to use eBay as a business, this ID will be viewed by all. So pick something that reflects who you are and what your business will be.

Take some time to explore eBay and learn about the features. There are eBay communities for discussions with other users, a help page, information for buyers, information for sellers; the list goes on and on. And do some shopping as well. The best way to learn how to sell on eBay is to buy on eBay. This will give you an opportunity to find out what works and doesn’t work for your future listings.

Bidding and Seller Ratings
It’s important that you understand that bidding on an item is a legally binding contract, and it takes quite a bit of effort to back out of a bid, including a mark on your eBay record and a possible reprimanding by eBay. So be sure to fully read each auction and all the specifics before deciding to bid. If you have any questions about the item or the seller’s policies, e-mail the seller about it before bidding, since you may not like the answer they give you.

The most crucial item to examine when you are interested in an item is the seller’s feedback rating. This will also be the first thing your future buyers will look at. A seller’s feedback rating is their reputation as both a buyer and a seller on eBay. It is a comment that the buyer/seller leaves about that user at the end of the transaction, reflecting how that person presented him or herself as an eBay member.

You will find this rating on the top right hand side of the item listing page, under “Meet the seller.” It will first list the seller’s ID, followed by a number in parentheses, which indicates the number of positive feedback ratings the seller has received from individual eBay members.

The next line will indicate what percentage of all of the feedback the seller has received has been positive during their entire membership on eBay. By clicking on the number following the seller ID, you will be able to view all the feedback the seller has ever received, positive, negative or neutral, and a summary of what that feedback has been for the past 12 months.

I highly recommend that you do not buy from someone with a feedback score of less than 10 or a positive percentage of less than 90%, as these sellers either do not have the experience to guarantee a trustworthy sale, or have proved themselves to be inconsistent and untrustworthy to other eBay users.

This is also important to know when considering starting an eBay business. You will need to purchase some items on eBay, and be a good customer, in order to build up your feedback rating, so that future buyers will be more likely to purchase an item from you. What qualifies as a good customer is someone who pays quickly and communicates well with the seller. Easy enough, right?

Sign Up for a Paypal Account
It is also important to register with PayPal, which is owned by eBay. PayPal enables you to pay for your items using a checking account, debit card or credit card in a secure and safe manner. In fact, PayPal has received such notoriety for its safe process that many online stores outside eBay are beginning to accept PayPal for payments of online orders.

Most eBay sellers will only accept PayPal payments, because it guarantees the payment will be received. Your payment information is never sent to the seller, as the payment is sent directly to PayPal and then PayPal sends it on. PayPal will be necessary when you are selling on eBay, since most buyers prefer to pay this way as well, so it is better to go ahead and get your account established now.

There are many more aspects of eBay that you should familiarize yourself with before starting and eBay business. EBay is easy to use, and you can most certainly learn as you go if you must, but it is better to understand the way the site works in order to make it easier when you transition from buyer to seller. I have provided some helpful links below to get you started.

View Part 2 – Selling an Item
View Part 3 – Casualseller to Powerseller
View Part 4 – Building an eBay Empire

Sources/Helpful eBay Links:
• BizHelp24.com: Starting an EBay Business
• Entrepreneur.com: Getting Started on EBay
• eBay.com: New to eBay Help Page


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 4)
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 3)
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 2)
Outsource Your Chores and Errands
Customer Reviews Make Business Better

By Michelle Cramer
Friday, May 27th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Startup |

Becoming a Government Contractor

A certain percentage of government contracts must go to small businesses as a means of providing aid for those businesses to build a stronger foundation. Any small business owner with the capabilities would willingly jump at this opportunity. After all, obtaining a government contract means an outrageous opportunity for your business to grow in exponential ways. But before you dive into the deep end of the ocean, it’s important to know what you’re in for.

Feel the Power
First and foremost, don’t underestimate the power that you are dealing with when working for the government. If you do something they don’t like, they are capable of exhausting all resources to get you to pay for it, most of which you will not be able to fend off. Your intentions should be of strict honesty and reliability — as a goverment contractor, you will likely be audited on a regular basis.

Know the Rules
The rules of government contracting are lined out in the 1,000 plus pages of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR), which were created through decades of the government’s experience with contractors to counter every viable scandal or corruption that any business can throw at them. Intimidating? Well, that’s the idea.

You won’t be expected to memorize the FAR, but you should familiarize yourself with it. Specifically, you need to know Part 12, which relieves contractors and subcontractors who provide “commercial items,” or products rather than services, from many of the federal contract requirements (and paperwork). You need to know whether or not this section applies to you, and, if it does, you will probably need to occasionally remind the people you deal with once you’ve obtained a contract.

Register
In order to do anything with the government, you will first need to register with the Central Contractor Registration (CCR). There are also more opportunities available to your business if you are of the minority, such as woman owned. If that is the case, you should also consider becoming certified as part of organizations such as the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council (WBENC) or the National Minority Supplier Development Council (NMSDC).

Also be aware of the fact that, in order to apply for a contract with the government, you will need to supply your D-U-N-S number, which, if you do not have one, can be obtained at Duns & Bradstreet. Also, on your application for a contract you will have to classify the products/service you provide with a classification number. You can determine what that number is by accessing the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS).

Past Performance
The government relies on references, or past performance in the government industry, as a basis for narrowing down their contractor options. This makes it rather difficult to obtain a first time contract. You may want to consider starting as a subcontractor, working for another company that has already obtained the prime government contract. There are established Mentor Protégé programs that are worth looking into, in which a large business helps a small business get started in government contracting. Another option is partnering with another company to combine the services you provide, thus strengthening your resume.

Research
You will then need to find out what the government is looking for. There are many sources for this information, some of which have been listed below for your convenience. Also, consider state and local governments as an alternative to the federal government directly, especially if you are just getting started. Cities, counties, districts, etc. often contract more goods and services than the federal government, opening up more opportunities for your business.

Once you have determined what contracts you will bid on, research the industry. Look into your competitors so that you have a better idea of what you can offer the government that they can’t. Also, research the government agency that you are applying with. The more knowledgeable you are about the agency, the better your company will look to them.

Please be aware of the fact that this is only a simplification of the process ahead of you in pursuing a government contract. There is a lot of information out there, some of which I have supplied below, which you should look into before pressing on. It’s a highly complicated and long process, so the more you know beforehand, the better.

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Think Big
• Entrepreneur.com: Become a Government Contractor
• CapturePlanning.com: How to Become a Government Contractor
• Washington Business Journal: So You Want to Be a Government Contractor

Government Contractor Resources:
• Small Business Administration: Government Contracting
• U.S. General Services Administration: How to Sell to the Government
Federal Business Opportunities


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Independent Contractors
SBA Hurting Small Business?
4 Ways to Keep Up on Industry Trends
10 Opportunities for 2006
Building New Business Contacts: Networking 101

By Michelle Cramer
Saturday, May 21st, 2016 @ 12:01 AM CDT

Startup |

It’s all in the Family: How to Setup a Family Business

An estimated 95% of all businesses in the US are family-owned, whether it be through stocks or directly running the company. However, the difficulties that come along with a family business account for the fact that few make it past the first generation, 33% survive through the second, approximately 10% make it to the third and only 3% see the fourth generation or farther.

There are three main factors that contribute to this failure: sibling rivalry, financial problems and the fact that there is no one qualified enough to take over when Dad retires. Unless you take these crucial steps in developing a strong family business, the odds will be stacked against you.

Can You Handle It?
If you want the business you create to remain in the family, you must first determine if you family can handle the pressure. It is important that you have a strong, close-knit relationship with your family members before-hand. If there is already tension within the family, a family owned business might not be the best idea for bringing you closer. However, if you have already come through some challenges and remained arm-in-arm, chances are you could handle it.

Set Criteria
It is important that you don’t just let anyone in the family become part of the business just because you want them involved. Not everyone is qualified to run a business. Let each of them know that you have criteria in place that they must meet before being considered for a spot in the ranks.

Consider stipulating in your company bylaws what the requirements are to have ownership in the business, such as experience in the trade or a degree in business management. Another option is to let your young children or grandchildren know that, should they ever want to get involved in the business down the road, they need to prepare themselves with a competent education and by taking time to learn the business early.

Clearly Define Goals and Roles
Determine the goals of the company, and get the input of each family member. If it is a company you’ve already started and you are considering bringing your family along for the ride, give them an opportunity to voice their opinion about where the business is headed. Keeping an open mind and taking everyone’s thoughts into consideration will allow for better communication down the road.

Define the roles of each family member, including your expectations for that person in the role they carry. This is one of the most important aspects of avoiding serious conflict within the business. Consider having a written job description for each family member on file as a reference point.

Also, define the chain of command. This includes determining wages, the evaluation process and who each member will report to. Wages should be based upon salaries in a comparable position outside your business or qualifications for their position. Defining the roles of your family members will help unrelated employees to feel as though they are valued too, as well as provide a more stable environment.

Work Time vs. Family Time
It is crucial to the structure and well-being of your family that you draw clear lines between work time and family time. Do not allow work time to take away from family, whether it be spending too much time at work with your children and not enough time outside the office, or in keeping your children away from their own spouses and children by requiring too much of them. Clearly define when the work day begins and ends. Obviously there will be times when someone needs to work a little overtime, but this should not be a regular practice, as it only adds to stress and tension among family members.

Also, learn how to determine whether an issue is personal or professional. Deal with the issues accordingly by setting aside a specific time and place to do so. Be sure to create an environment that allows for open and honest communication between you and your family members/employees. In other words, do not belittle each other’s feelings or opinions, but always fully hear each other out and determine a legitimate resolution. If everyone feels as though they can be honest with one another, it will allow for less conflict.

Plan for the Future
Only about 28% of all family-owned businesses have a succession plan in place. 68% of business owners wait until they are ready to step down before beginning a plan for who is to take over. The smarter route: start planning who gets the big man’s chair approximately ten years before handing it over.

Focus on the needs of the business, not emotions. Choose someone to take over that knows the business nearly as well as you do and has shown and interest in running the company. Understand that the best person for the job may not always be a family member. You may also consider dividing the role of successor up among, say, two of your children, who show equal potential and gumption.

You also need to have an estate plan in place. If you don’t the business can be taxed 37-55% of its total assets on the death of a founder or single business owner. For example, if, as the owner of the company, you pass away, and your company has revenue of $20 million a year and an additional $5 million in assets, the IRS can take upwards of $14 million in estate tax if you do not have an estate plan in place. Provide protection for your family and your company by having a will, a life insurance policy and/or a buy-sell agreement for the distribution of company stocks.

These steps are crucial to helping your family-business and your family survive. However, the most important thing to remember is that family comes first and you must do what is necessary to ensure that your relationship with your family stays strong and close.

Sources:
• Entrepreneur.com: Running a Family Franchise
• FindArticles.com: Keeping it in the Family

Family Business Resources:
• Business Link: Family Run Businesses
• Family Business Magazine: Current Issue
• Loyola University Chicago: Family Business Center
• Small Business Association: Challenges in Managing a Family Business
• Family Business Magazine: America’s 150 Largest Family Businesses


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By Michelle Cramer
Friday, May 20th, 2016 @ 12:09 AM CDT

Family Business, Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4

FINALIZING YOUR PRODUCT AND YOUR BUSINESS ACTION PLAN

FINALIZE YOUR PRODUCT
There are a number of items that need to be considered in the development and finalization of your product or service. The first thing to remember is that “finalizing” does not mean eternal. Your product should always grow and develop as the need presents itself.

Use Focus Groups
A focus group is simply a group of potential consumers that test your product and give you honest feedback. Your personal passion for your product can cloud your judgment and leave you “selling only to yourself.” A focus group will help provide fresh ideas on how to better your product and meet the needs and desires of the consumer.

It is important to keep an open-mind and not become defensive; remembering that the feedback you receive will generally be the same from any consumer. Write down every comment and rely on those that are most useful to perfect your product. It is also recommended that you use a focus group any time you make significant changes to your product.

Determine the Price of Your Product
The price of your product must entice the buyer, as well as cover overhead costs, production and distribution of the product, labor, marketing – everything it takes to run your business. The price needs to do more than make your business come out even. A successfully priced product should result in profit!

To determine a viable price for your product or service:

1) Define your financial goals.
Examine the income which is required to provide for you and your family, outside of supplying the business (living expenses, etc.). It is often best to observe your monthly spending trends, because the profits of your company will likely fluctuate on a monthly basis.

This will help you to determine the minimum profit you need to sustain your business and an acceptable income. Also, examine your long-term financial goals, such as savings. You want to determine how you can you realistically adjust the price of your product to provide for your financial needs and desires.

2) Research current market trends.
Supply and demand will always effect how well your product sells. If it is priced too high when the demand is low, it will not sell. If it is priced too low when the demand is high, you take the risk of not breaking even. It is important to determine a “safety range” for the price of your product based upon recent market trends.

3) Compare to the Competition.
Shop around via the internet and local stores or service providers and compare the prices of your competitors. Get in the head of the consumer and determine what price you would be willing to pay based upon the competition.

Your price will need to be competitive with other businesses producing the same product or service in order for it to sell. Your product should only be substantially more expensive if it has significant features that the competition does not offer.

4) Assess Business Expenses.
You need to determine how much it will cost to run your business and how much it will cost to product each product. Obtain price quotes from manufacturers. Determine how much your supplies will cost. If you have employees, how much will you pay them? What are the costs of marketing and distributing your product?

All of these are a part of what it takes to run a successful business and the price of your product should reflect that. Start with estimated costs in the beginning and use real costs as your business grows.

Determining the right price for your product or service is a system of trial and error. If your product is not selling, the price should be the first aspect of your product that you re-exam, simply because it is the easiest aspect to adjust.

Develop a Marketing Strategy
Your product will do nothing for you without a marketing strategy. It is imperative that you reveal your product to the public in a honest and attention-grabbing manner.

In order to target the correct audience for your products, you must:

• Define your customers.

• Research and discover the best medium (i.e. television, radio, billboard, magazine, etc.) with which you can reach your customers.

• Brainstorm ideas for your advertisements, enlisting help from others including focus groups, and asking them what would catch their attention.

• Implement your favorite idea, because, if you like it best, you will follow through with it.

• Finally, test the marketing strategy. If it doesn’t work, try a different one and try, try again.

FINALIZE YOUR BUSINESS ACTION PLAN
you will find that your business action plan has developed as you go through the startup process that we have covered the past few days. Your business plan is not only for today, but helps to coordinate the future of your business. I refer to it as a business “action” plan because, once you reach this point and have established the following items, you are ready to take action and become a successful entrepreneur:

Revamp and Redefine.
Make the final revisions to your sales script and clearly define your business.

Develop Process Sheets
Process sheets will eventually serve as your “operations manual.” Basically, process sheets detail the what, how, who and when for each aspect of your functioning business.

What: Determine each process of your business, such as order placement, packaging, etc.

How: List the steps to complete each process in a satisfactory manner.

Who: Determine who will be responsible for each process.

When: Decide on the appropriate amount of time for each process to be completed.

Operation and Administration
You will also need to determine all of the “departments” that will keep your business running smoothly, such as accounts payable, accounts receivable, legal department, sales, marketing, etc. For each department, provide an explanation of its function, list the information you have collected during your business research regarding that department, determine what results you want from that department, and what is necessary to obtain those results.

I highly recommend that you visit the link to the Small Business Association’s website below. It has an outlined example of a business plan that should be very helpful. Always remember that your business plan, any many other aspects of your business that we have addressed this week, will continually change and develop as your business does.

Reevaluate and revise your business plan as often as necessary to provide a stable and sufficient structure for your business.

DISCUSSION
I have taken you through the basic principles for starting a successful business, so now I want to hear from you. Have I covered aspects of starting a business that you have tried? What were your results? How have sales scripts and focus groups (or anything else I covered) helped your business develop? If you are just starting, what about the topics I covered most interests you? Did I leave something out that you found crucial to starting your business?

Please feel free to share your thoughts.

Part 1: Focus and Brand Impact

Part 2: Research and Protecting Your Idea

Part 3: Developing Sales Scripts and Addressing Obsticles

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business

Today’s Related Sites/Readings:
• MarketingPrinciples.com: Small Business Market Strategy
• Bizhelp24.com: Unique Selling Points of Your Product
• SiteSell.com: Pricing Your Product
• Business Toolkit: Marketing Your Product
• Small Business Administration: Writing a Business Plan


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Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
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By Michelle Cramer
Wednesday, May 11th, 2016 @ 12:02 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4

DEVELOPING A SALES SCRIPT AND ADDRESSING OBSTACLES

Developing a Sales Script
The purpose of a sales script is to generate belief in you and your product. It should inspire others to support you in your path to success rather than question your abilities. Your sales script will quickly become the cornerstone for marketing your business.

A sales script should be no more than one page in length and should address the following:

1. The name of your business and your instant impact message (refer to part two for information on developing an instant impact message).

2. Your top three products or services and a brief description of each.

3. Show that your product/service works by providing at least two testimonials from clients.

4. A brief biography, including your previous experience, why you created the business and your anticipated goal.

5. Contact information, which should include address, facsimile, e-mail, website, etc.

Have your sales script handy at all times, and use it to start conversations about your business at networking events or marketing functions.

A sales script is very important when dealing with others on a corporate level. But what about possible customers that you come across throughout your daily routine? In this situation, a sales script can be somewhat overpowering. I highly recommend that you use business cards to draw a potential customer’s attention on an individual level.

Your business card should contain all available contact information and your instant impact message. The design of your business card is also crucial to the impact it makes in determining whether or not a potential customer is willing to contact you for service. Read more about how to design a high-impact business card.

Addressing Obstacles
While trudging through the startup process, you will inevitably come across obstacles that may threaten your business and rattle your confidence. Don’t dismiss these treats, no matter how small and insignificant they seem, because doing so can have disastrous results. Rather, create a plan to overcome them.

• Make a list of everything you have accomplished thus far to regenerate your confidence.

• Write down the obstacles that lie in front of you and indicate whether they are avoidable or unavoidable.

• Indicate what evasive action you intend to make toward the avoidable obstacles.

• Write out a plan for how to turn the unavoidable obstacles into an opportunity for your business, and you individually, to grow and develop. You may consider consulting with a trusted successful entrepreneur to get their input on how they might manage those situations.

• Determine your “Rules to Live By.” Make a list of opportunities you will not pass up and action you vow to always take when obstacles come your way in the future.

Always remember that a threat is only as damaging as you allow it to be. If you vow to meet all challenges head on, with a positive and determined attitude, you will find a way to pull through with a stronger business in tow.

Part 1: Focus and Brand Impact

Part 2: Research and Protecting Your Idea

Part 4: Finalizing Your Product and Your Business Action Plan

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business

Today’s Related Sites/Readings:
• SuccessConsciousness.com: The Power of Positive Thinking
• BusinessWeek.com The Real Stats of Business Failure
• University of Tennessee: Planning Against a Business Failure


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Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
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Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8

By Michelle Cramer
Tuesday, May 10th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4

PART 2 – RESEARCH THE INDUSTRY AND PROTECT YOUR IDEA

Research the Industry
Now that you have established the product and/or service that you business will provide, you need to learn as much as possible about the industry that is already out there.

As stated in Part One, it is likely that you are not the first person to come up with a business like yours. However, researching what is already out there will help you to develop a business that addresses needs and desires that the competition lacks.

Research the product/service:

• Find out how many options are already out there and what their similarities and differences, pros and cons are.

• Find reviews from consumers that have used the product or service, both positive and negative. A great source for this is Consumer Report, which uses a number of similar products and rates their preformance. I also recommend Epinions.com, where actual consumers review products they have used.

• Use your research to determine how you can make your product or service better. What can set you apart from the competition?

Talk to others who have succeeded:

• It is best, of course, to talk to others in the same industry, but not necessary. Any success story will do.

• Ask them about the strengths and weaknesses of their business.

• Find out what obstacles they have faced and what they have done to overcome them.

• If it is an option, go to someone you can trust to be honest with you. Someone that sees you as a potential consumer may tend to focus on the positive and stray from the negative. In order to be a success yourself, you need to be aware of both.

Research recent articles written about your industry:

• These will usually be unbiased and will weigh all the facts, pointing out both the positive and the negative.

• Discover information crucial to the development of your new business, such as recent trends, best strategies, new resources, marketing ideas, etc.

Keep a notebook:

• Throughout your research, always have a notebook on hand. Right down EVERY idea, regardless of whether you think you will use it. Often an “iffy” idea, when revisited, will spark a brilliant one.

• It is recommended that you revisit your idea list weekly.

Protect Your Idea
Legally, you don’t necessarily have to register your business name, logo or slogan in order for them to be protected by copyright and trademark laws. Typically, protective laws are based upon whoever used it first, but you will likely have to go to court to gain that protection.

Therefore, the best protection is to always keep a dated paper trail of everything you do, such as a daily planner. Take notes at all meetings, including those in attendance and each item discussed and decision made. If you ever need to go to court over an issue, your paper trail can serve as primary evidence in your defense.

If you do decide to register your business, it is recommended that you consult with an attorney. Most attorneys will not charge for an initial consultation, and will provide some basic information regarding your rights and how to protect yourself. You can also get some information from your local SBA office or chamber of commerce.

It is not necessary to have an attorney register your business. Usually you can do so yourself. However, if you intend on having Articles of Organization, By-laws, etc. associated with your business, it is highly recommended that you hire an attorney to prepare these documents as this is the best way to insure every detail is thoroughly and accurately addressed.

Be sure to bookmark this page and check back tomorrow for part 3 of our 4 part series: Developing a Sales Script and Addressing Obtacles

Part 1: Focus and Brand Impact.

Part 3: Developing Sales Scripts and Addressing Obsticles.

Part 4: Finalizing Your Product and Your Business Action Plan

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com: Starting a Business

Today’s Related Sites/Readings:
• Consumer Reports: Product Research
• Epinions.com: Consumer Reviews of Products
• Small Business Association: Small Business Law Library
• Small Business Association: Protecting Your Ideas
• Bizhelp24.com: Patents for Manufacturing Business


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4
Establishing Your Brand
Market Analysis – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 2 of 8
4 Ways to Keep Up on Industry Trends
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4

By Michelle Cramer
Monday, May 9th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |

Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4

It’s time. You have decided that you are finally going to live the dream of starting your own business. Everything is falling into place and doors are open all around you. The question is, where do you begin?

Starting your own business is an impacting decision. Every step must be thoroughly thought out and calculated. Diving in without a plan for success and a process to get there will inevitably break you.

Therefore, this week we are starting from scratch. The next four days will cover the basic steps for becoming an entrepreneur and starting on the right track.

PART 1 – FOCUS AND IMPACT

Find Your Focus
The most important initiative to starting a business is to find your focus. Write it down, and keep it accessible. You might even consider keeping this information in plain sight so that you see it daily, for example, posted next to your computer.

Knowing your focus in your mind is one thing, but having it in front of you in black and white provides a clarity and permanence that can be very encouraging in times of doubt. Be as descriptive and thorough as possible, leaving no stone unturned.

When writing down your focus, be sure to address the following:

What is your goal on a personal level?
• What do you want out of this business?

What is your goal on a familial level?
• What sort of income are you looking to generate for your family?

What is your goal for others?
• What need do you plan to address with your product/service?
• Who will be your primary market?

It’s important to remember that, most likely, someone else has started a business quite similar to yours. You may also face self-doubt based on the questionable reactions of others when you mention your venture to become your own boss. Always remember that no one else has your goals or your intent.

When in doubt, revisit the focus that you mapped out to remind yourself of your determination and desire. Also, share it with those that may question the viable success of your business. You will likely impress upon them a stronger confidence in your ability to succeed.

Instant Impact Message
The first question that comes to the consumers mind when he sees a new product or service is “How will I benefit from this?” Step two in developing a successful new business is to develop an “instant impact message” that will help the consumer to immediately answer this question. This is a single statement that is highly powerful and reveals the core value of your business. Put simply, it is your slogan.

To develop your instant impact message, revisit the third item on your focus list – your goal for others. Pull out the main descriptive words that you feel truly portray the core of your business. As cheesy as it may sound, your instant impact message should reflect your heart. It is what your business stands for and should become such a crucial part of your business that, should you withdraw it, your business would not be the same.

Part 2: Research and Protecting Your Idea.

Part 3: Developing Sales Scripts and Addressing Obsticles.

Part 4: Finalizing Your Product and Your Business Action Plan

This week’s source:
• Entrepreneur.com – Starting a Business

Today’s Related Readings:
• Entrepreneur.com : Planning Your Business Plan
• SBA.gov: Business Plan Basics
• ICBS.com: Creating a Catchy Slogan


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Starting Your Own Business, Part 3 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 4 of 4
Starting Your Own Business, Part 2 of 4
Executive Summary, Table of Contents and Appendix – How to Write a Business Plan : Part 6 of 8
Inexpensive Ways to Conduct Marketing Research

By Michelle Cramer
Sunday, May 8th, 2016 @ 12:04 AM CDT

Startup |

Business Startup Blunders

When starting a new business venture it’s easy to skip over the little things that may come back to haunt you in a big way. The real defininition of entrepreneur should be “a business-minded person who’s willing to constantly solve unforeseen problems.”

Tamara Monosoff of Entrepreneur Magazine offers the following booby traps you may encounter when starting a new business venture:

Trap #1: Universal Product Codes
Trap #2: Product Liability Insurance
Trap #3: Electronic Data Interchange
Trap #4: Chargebacks
Trap #5: Slotting Fees
Trap #6: Timing

Source:
Business Booby Traps


Related Small Business Buzz Posts:
Avoiding the Courtroom: Tips for Deterring Litigation
Insurance for Small Businesses
Starting a Successful eBay Business (Part 2)
Expanding Your Business Overseas: Labor Laws
Starting Your Own Business, Part 1 of 4

By Chris Brunner
Friday, April 29th, 2016 @ 12:00 AM CDT

Startup |