Small Business Q&A; Columns
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Is Bad Customer Service Killing Your Business?
Itï¿½s time to beat the old bad customer service drum again. I know, Iï¿½m sick of beating the drum, too, but as long as bad customer service runs rampant through so many businesses I feel it is my entrepreneurial duty to bring it to your attention. So grab a pew and prepare to listen to the sermon Iï¿½ve preached before: bad customer service is the bane of business. If the Almighty smote down every business that dispenses bad customer service the world would be a much friendlier, albeit much sparser place. Consider a world without malls and fast food jointsï¿½ would it really be so bad?
It's All Up To YOU
If you're waiting for Ed McMahon to show up on your doorstep
and proclaim, "This is your lucky day!" you are going to have a
long, miserable wait. Ed can't make you a success. I can't make you a success. It is all up to YOU.
Santa: The Consummate Entrepreneur
You've probably never considered the fact that Santa is the CEO of a large organization that not only distributes a vast assortment of products throughout the world, but does so in a single night with just a sleigh and eight tiny reindeer. Sam Walton would have killed to have Santa's logistics manual.
The Entrepreneur's Checklist
I was asked the other day what personality traits I thought were important to entrepreneurial success. I immediately gave my preprogrammed reply about passion and dedication and hard work. After taking some time later to ponder the question a little deeper (I normally operate in shallow waters), I came up with a more detailed checklist for entrepreneurial success.
Which Affiliate Programs Do I Personally Recommend?
I personally receive over a dozen checks and commission payments
every month from various affiliate programs that I promote. Last month, those checks totaled more than $10,000 and some
months they have been as high as $25,000. Given my success as an affiliate marketer, I'm often asked what
affiliate programs I personally recommend. The answer is easy because it's actually a pretty short list.
Please Don't Buy Anything From Me
This week I had one customer threaten to hunt be down and shoot me like a dog. Another said that if she could get her hands around my neck she'd strangle the life out of me. And still another sincerely hoped that I "burn in Hell for all eternity." What did I do to deserve these threats? That, my friend, is the rest of the story...
What's Your Company's Email Policy?
Does your company have an email policy? Did you even know there was such a thing? Well, there is, and if your company doesn't have one you are not only risking the professional image of your firm, but also risking potential liability issues that may arise from the misuse of your company email system.
What Do Your Business Emails Reveal About You?
Why should you worry about how your emails are reviewed by their recipients? Because in business, you are constantly being judged by your customers, your employees, your investors, your partners, and your peers.
The 8 Things You Must Know To Build A Great Website
Last week we talked about how a bad website can do your business more harm than good. That column brought several emails asking what is the key to building an effective business website. I replied with the same answer I always give: building an effective business website is a simple matter of definition.
The Bad Guys Are Phishing For Your Personal Information
The latest attempt by phishers (identity thieves) to steal the
personal information of eBay members hit my inbox earlier this
week and I have to say, this one is pretty convincing. Even this
old dog did a double-take before realizing that the identity
thieves were phishing for my personal information again.
Why A Good Credit Score Is Important To Your Business
Whether you're in business or an individual, you should have an
idea of what your credit score is, even if you're not currently
applying for credit.
Knowing your credit score and occasionally checking your credit
reports also helps you protect yourself from identity theft and
The Time To Consolidate Your Student Loans Is Now
Most financial pundits recommend that the sooner you consolidate and refinance old high interest student loans, the better off you will be. Federal student loan interest rates are at an all time low, but that can't last forever.
By refinancing your student loans now, you lock in the interest
rate for the duration of the consolidation loan. The first thing you need to do is find out if you are eligible for student loan consolidation.
Dropship Your Way To eBay Success
Dropshipping has been around since Sears first started selling goods from its mail order catalogs over a hundred years ago. However, the idea of dropshipping still confuses many people who don't understand exactly how the process works.
How To Make Big Money On eBay Selling Other People's Stuff
Since eBay launched the Trading Assistant program last year, over
50,000 eBay sellers have registered as Trading Assistants to help
other people sell their goods on eBay. As a result, eBay consignment businesses have sprung up all over the United States and are now starting to appear in Germany and the UK.
This means opportunity for you...
What Makes A Good Leader? Ask Uncle Sam
In a recent study conducted by the Army War College, subordinates of the major generals who are leading the war efforts in Iraq were asked to rate the performance of their superiors.
How To Create Your Own eBay About Me Page
Regular readers of this newsletter and my newspaper column know that I am a big fan of eBay's About Me Page feature. This is a special page you can create as part of your eBay account that is linked from your eBay ID (with a little About Me icon).
You can use your eBay About Me Page as a sales tool. Customers can click on your About Me icon to get to your About Me page, which you can set up to include information about you, your interests, and
What Is The Best Selling eBay Book Of All Time?
I really can't say which one is the best selling eBay book of all time, but I can tell you there is one book in particular that I have been recommending for over a year now and the reason is that it is, quite simply, packed full of useful information that will not only increase your eBay sales, but bring more customers to your website, as well.
Do I Really Need A Business License and Tax ID?
I've gotten quite a few emails recently from ebusiness owners who
seem to think that just because their business is conducted online or from the comfort of home that the rules and regulations that govern brick and mortar businesses do not apply to them.
The ebusiness questions I get most often do not involve building
websites or conducting ecommerce...
How To Make Money As A Self-Improvement Guru
As you know, I'm always on the look out for new and exciting products that will make you and me money. That's partly what this newsletter is all about: when I find new opportunities that show tremendous promise, I feel obligated to share them with you.
How To Boost Your Bottom Line With Just Two Little Words
I hate to sound like one of those cheesy get-rich-quick commercials, but this week I am going to let you in on a little secret that is so powerful that it will immediately change the way you do business. In fact, this little secret is so powerful that you will be amazed at its immediate effect on you, your employees, and your bottom line. This little secret is guaranteed to improve your relationship with current customers and if used wisely, can get you lots of new customers without spending a dime on marketing or advertising.
How To Create Multiple Streams of Online Income E-course
I love the E-course concept because it gives you the opportunity to learn from the comfort of home. There are no heavy books to lug around, no rushing off to class, no smelly dorm roommates :o)
How To Profit Using eBay's Saved Search Feature
Did you know that eBay will help you locate products you can buy cheap, then flip for a quick profit? No? Then listen up, because I am about to let you in on a little known feature of eBay that can literally stuff wads of cash in your wallet in less than 24 hours.
You Get To Ask The Questions For Upcoming eBay Teleseminar
Remember way back in November of last year when I invited you to go to my website and submit your most burning question about starting, running, and prospering from your own eBay or online business?
Are You Mentor Material?
Typically, there are three things every good mentor should have: time, patience, and a genuine desire to help another person succeed without expecting anything in return. If you have an abundance of those things, then being a mentor can be a highly rewarding experience. If not, please see the rubber plant reference.
An Entrepreneur and a Life To Be Remembered
Most of you who read this column probably have no idea who Corey Rudl was or what he accomplished during his short life, and thatï¿½s OK. You also have no idea of the imprint he made on me and millions of others who make our living (at least in part) as online marketers. Again, thatï¿½s OK. For all his accomplishments, those who knew him well have said that Corey was more concerned about building his businesses than being a public figure. By those accounts, Corey never really cared about being in the public limelight, even though he was probably the most visible and successful entrepreneur in his field.
The Latest Email Scam Is Nothing New
The eBay scam is just the latest in a long line of sophisticated attempts to steal personal information through online means. Customers of PayPal, Amazon, Dell Computer, eTrade, Bank One, and many other online merchants have been the target of such scams in recent years.
Is Brick and Mortar A Passing Fad?
During the dot-com boom the mantra was ï¿½Brick and mortar is dead!ï¿½ Then when most of the dot-comï¿½s crashed like an elephant sitting on a wicker chair, the mantra suddenly changed back to ï¿½The Internet is dead! Long live brick and mortar!ï¿½
For Entrepreneurs A SIMPLE Plan May Be Best
Let me give you a quick overview of a few of the retirement plans available to small businesses so you at least have an idea of whatï¿½s out there before you start your search for a good financial advisor.
To Go or No Go, That Is The Question
Many entrepreneurs would rather have their front teeth pulled without anesthetic than go to the time and trouble of creating a feasibility plan; often because they are afraid of what it will reveal.
How Good Is Your Big Idea
Every business idea, no matter how good it sounds while bouncing around inside your head, should be put to the test before you invest time and money into its execution. Success lies not in what you think of your idea, but what the buying public will think. Many entrepreneurs find out too late that the publicï¿½s opinion of their idea differs greatly from their own.
Veteran Entrepreneurs Are Growing In Ranks
What my eldest offspring doesnï¿½t understand is I have a great life. In fact, I am living the life I have always dreamed of living. My life just happens to revolve around Planet Business. I am an entrepreneurial addict, a business junkie. Business is my chocolate, my Krispy Kreme donut, my nicotine, my caffeine, my crack. Maybe Iï¿½ll start a 12 step program for entrepreneurs who want to kick the habit and charge a cover to get in. Hi, my name is Tim, and Iï¿½m an entrepreneur... Sounds like a great business idea to me.
Opportunity Does Not Knock
I can tell you that as a breed, entrepreneurs are an impatient lot and many jump on the first business bandwagon that comes along just for the sake of being in business. Thatï¿½s a big mistake that usually comes back to bite them in their entrepreneurial behinds.
Teaching The Big Boys To Think Small
Last week I told you about a recent report from The Conference Board that has a lot of big company CEOs concerned about competition from smaller, more innovative and entrepreneurially-minded companies. To refresh your memory, The Conference Board's CEO Challenge 2004 reported that 87% of the 540 global businesses surveyed cited innovation and enabling entrepreneurship as priorities for their companies, and 31% considered these issues of "greatest concern.ï¿½
Teaching Large Companies To Think Like The Little Guys
The fact that innovation and entrepreneurship run rampant in smaller companies, but is often suppressed in larger companies is nothing new. Management guru Peter Drucker first addressed the issue in his 1985 book, Innovation and Entrepreneurship. Drucker wrote that one of the most often-asked questions in many a 1985 boardroom was, ï¿½How can we overcome the resistance to innovation that plagues most organizations?ï¿½
Don't Be Afraid To Give Problem Customers The Boot
We have all had customers who expected far more than was their due: customers who were unreasonable, overly-demanding, condescending, hard to please and sometimes, even dishonest in their dealings with you. When a customer's reasonable expectations become unreasonable demands you must decide whether or not that customer is doing more harm to your business than good.
Cut Start-Up Costs By Using a Dropshipper
Dropshippers, as they're called
--are an excellent way to start your e-business and, if done properly, don't have to be a costly endeavor. There are literally hundreds of companies out there that will dropship products for you, everything from gifts and housewares to power tools and furniture.
Build A High Profit Business With Online Affiliate Programs
An affiliate program simply means that you sign on as an affiliate marketer for someone else's product. It's your job to market the product, send the company customers, and get a cut each time a sale is made from your efforts. Affiliate program commissions can range from as little as 2% for high ticket items up to 50% for ebooks and informational type products.
As an example, let's say you sign up with Amazon.com's affiliate program. You are assigned an affiliate code which you use to promote Amazon's books on your website. When someone clicks to purchase an Amazon product from your website, your affiliate code is included in the URL and you get a commission for the sale. Some folks have built elaborate websites that sell nothing but Amazon.com's books, and each time they make a sale they get a piece of the pie.
Is Your Website Credit Card Friendly?
If you think hooking up a brick-and-mortar location with a credit card system stymies most bankers, try asking them how to do it on your website.
Business Is No Guarantee of Riches
Many entrepreneurs build solid businesses that provide a very comfortable living and many others do indeed get rich. Others simply find out that they have traded one job for another and still others discover that business really wasn't for them.
Do You Pay Taxes On eBay Income?
Last week's column on whether you were required to report income earned from eBay sales to the IRS sparked a number of additional questions and comments from eBay sellers who were hoping that I could somehow validate that their eBay activities were mere hobbies instead of actual businesses and therefore not susceptible to IRS taxation.
Credit Cards, Merchant Accounts, and Your Bottomline
The decision to accept credit cards is a wise one for any retailer. I agree with financial guru Dave Ramsey's teachings regarding the use and abuse of credit cards. Many people dig deep holes with credit cards that are hard to climb out of. But, from a practical business point of view, any retail business that does not accept credit cards is leaving money on the table.
What's In A Name? When It Comes To Your Business, Plenty!
In fact, deciding on a business name is one of the most important decisions you will ever make. The right business name can help you rise above the crowd while the wrong business name can leave you trampled in the rush.
With a Lease, The Devil Is In The Details
This week we'll discuss the most important aspect of the process: signing a commercial lease (insert dramatic music here). One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make when leasing commercial space is not reading the lease. Forget reading the fine print. When it comes to a lease its ALL fine print.
The Internet Tax Man Cometh
If your small business is like most, the majority of your large purchases are made locally from companies that already collect sales tax. Furniture and computer equipment are typically the largest ticket items a small business buys, so unless you bought your desks and computers off of Ebay (which is highly possible these days) you should be OK.
The Business of Identity Theft
The allure of PayPal is that it does not require the seller to have a bank merchant account through which to process credit cards. Anyone with a verifiable email address and bank account can use PayPal and the service can be implemented almost immediately after registering.
Online Payments Make It Easy For Your Customers To Buy
I have helped many clients set up online credit card processing systems and more than once I've had to sit down with the bank issuing the merchant account and educate them on how online payment systems work. Don't believe me? This is a direct quote (here's the Bible, here's my hand) from the manager who was in charge of processing Internet merchant account applications at a local bank, "When someone pays online how do they swipe the credit card in their computer..."
Maintaining Your Business Website
If you want to be a web designer, be a web designer. However, if the key focus of your business is building widgets, it doesnï¿½t take a rocket scientist to figure out that your time would be better spent building widgets, not Web sites.
If You Build It, Will They Come?
Assuming that a website will automatically attract customers is the single biggest mistake that many business owners make. It is this mistake that eventually leads them to dismiss their website as a failure and abandon their online sales efforts.
Franchising Pros and Cons
Some folks offered helpful insights and suggestions on how to pick a franchise and a few things to watch out for, while other emails came from current franchise owners asking me to help them sell their operations to Anthony R.
Taxing eBay Part Deux
Several folks argued that just because their little eBay hobby generated a little cash, that didnï¿½t make it a full blown business. It seems they consider the income from their little hobby to be financial manna from Heaven and thereby not taxable by earthly tax collectors. Iï¿½ve always been amused by folks who try to impress me with talk about their ï¿½little side businessï¿½ but when the subject turns to taxes they suddenly refer to it as ï¿½my little hobby.ï¿½
Taxing Your eBay Profits
As a small business person-slash-advice columnist I dread the first quarter of the new year. Not because in my mind my own business fortunes start at zero again every January or because I have already dismissed every New Yearï¿½s resolution I made when the clock rang out the New Year.
No, the reason I dread the first quarter of the new year is that my email box floods with questions about business taxes and the IRS, my two least favorite subjects on earth. Itï¿½s not that I am opposed to paying my fair share of business taxes. Itï¿½s that I consider the IRS to be a little like Beetlejuice, the movie demon who appeared only after his name was called three times in a row. My fear is if I write too many IRS columns their dark agents may appear on my doorstep, ready to drag me away to an uncertain fate.
Do You Have What It Takes To Be An Entrepreneur?
There are a variety of skills you'll need to succeed as an entrepreneur and chances are do not possess them all. One of the great things about being an entrepreneur is that if you lack certain skills you can always hire people with those skills to help round out your company skill set.
How To Create Multiple Streams of Online Income
One of my favorite things about being an Internet Entrepreneur is that I can literally wake up in the morning with an idea for a new product and have it become a reality by the afternoon. Or I can find new ways to promote an existing product. Or I can join a new affiliate program or pursue a joint venture. Every time I repeat this process I create a new stream of income to add to my existing revenue base.
The Secrets Of Starting A Successful Ebay Business
If Fred Sanford were alive today, Alex, I'm sure he'd be earning his ripple money by selling quality junk on eBay. While it's also true that one man's junk is another man's treasure (I have a garage full of treasure to prove this point), your chances of building a profitable business selling "junk" on eBay (or anywhere else, for that matter) are slim to none.
How To Handle Customer Billing Snafus
Seriously, whether the client owes you the money or not is a moot point. Yes, you made an accounting mistake, but if the client agreed to pay you a certain amount each month in exchange for certain services rendered, and you have been under-billing that client for delivering those certain services, the client owes you the money, period.
Entrepreneurs Just Get Better With Age
According to recent studies 22 percent of men and 14 percent of women over 65 are self-employed. That's compared to just 7 percent for other age groups. According to a Vanderbilt University study the number of entrepreneurs age 45 to 64 will grow by 15 million by 2006.
When It Comes To An Office Lease, It's ALL Fine Print
One of the biggest mistakes many entrepreneurs make when leasing commercial space is not reading the lease. Forget reading the fine print. When it comes to a lease its ALL fine print. Don't believe me? Let me tell you the true story of my friend, Homer, whose name I have changed to protect the ignorant.
What's The Customer Service Buzz About Your Business?
If you're a regular reader of this column you know that my number one pet peeve is bad customer service. Nothing chaps my backside more than paying hard-earned money for a product or service only to have the provider of said product or service become apathetic, obnoxious or just downright rude after the transactional smoke has cleared.
There Are No Dumb Business Questions, Not!
I've gotten a few head-scratchers in response to this column. You know who you are, but don't worry, your secret is safe with me. I have a confession to make. Writing an advice column, whether it be advice for love or money or business, is often hard to do with a straight face. Occasionally a question comes over the digital transom that just makes me go, "Huh?"
The Thick Line Between Buddy and Boss
I have made just about every business blunder you can imagine. I am like the Evel Knievel of the small business world, if Evel Knievel wrote a weekly column on motorcycle safety. One of the more unpleasant things I've had to do is fire a good friend who was not doing the job I hired him to do. He needed a job, I needed an employee, so I thought I would give him a shot.
The Business Autopsy: A Fact Of Life
Last week we discussed the importance of performing an autopsy on a dead business. No, I haven't been watching too many of those wonderfully graphic, TV forensic investigation shows. The reason I recommend you do a business autopsy is to uncover the exact reasons why the business died.
The "Other" New Year's Resolution
"This year I will start my own business!" I call it "The American Dream Resolution," and like most New Year's resolutions it is a proclamation of intent that is often made, but seldom carried out (at least in an effective manner).
Perceived Value Is In The Eye Of The Beholder
Pricing is an important aspect of every business because price is used to create financial projections, establish a break even point, and calculate profit and loss. It's also important to establish a good price point from the beginning because it is much easier to lower prices than to raise them.
Investing In Son's Business Could Cause A Real Family Feud
It sounds like your wife wants to make a gift of the money, expecting nothing in return but the undying love of her last born son. You, on the other hand, don't know if you should offer the money as a loan (should I loan him the money) or as an investment (worried that my investment will be lost). Until you can make that distinction, your money should remain in the bank.
How To Tell If Your Amazing New Product Idea Is Really Worth Gambling On
I'm a lousy poker player, mainly because I can't help grinning like the village idiot when blessed with a winning hand or frowning like a sad clown when dealt a dud. I also never make odds on the success of "amazing new products" because more often than not the only thing that's amazing is the way the product is totally ignored by the buying public.
When It Comes To eBay, Don't Follow The Herd
While it's true that selling products on eBay can be a quick, low cost way to launch an online business, following the herd by selling the "hot product" of the moment, is not a great idea. To the contrary, chances are you will be stomped in the ground by the herd and left lying in the dust with your unsold inventory in hand.
Don't Fall For The Latest Internet Identity Theft Scam
The shear number of PayPal customers is one reason it has become a popular target of scam artists trying to steal personal information from individuals and businesses alike. Identify theft is on the rise. Thanks to the Internet stealing someone's identity has never been easier. At any given moment, there are any number of Internet thieves using all manner of high tech wizardry to steal personal and business information from unsuspecting souls, and many times they can gain access to this information simply by asking the person to provide it through fraudulent means.
Does Your Website Induce Seizures?
If visitor's are not clicking past your fancy Flash intro page, you don't have to be a genius to figure out that therein lies your problem. Remove the Flash intro page for a few weeks to see if your website's click-through rate improves and the number of page views increase. "Click-through rate" refers to the number of visitors who click links on your homepage to go deeper into your site. "Page views" refers to the overall number of web pages that were viewed by visitors. If click-through and page view rates improve, you'll know that the Flash intro was your problem.
How To Create Your Own Info Product
In the last article we talked about why informational products are the best type of products to sell online. An informational product can be a digital book (known as an e-book), a digital report or a white paper, a piece of software, audio or video files, a web site, an ezine (electronic magazine), or a newsletter.
Is Selling On eBay Just A Hobby Or A Real Business?
With so many people selling on eBay these days this is a question I get all the time. To many eBay sellers the thought of running an actual business is about as appealing as getting negative feedback, so they go out of their way to convince themselves that selling on eBay is really "just a hobby" and therefore, should not be susceptible to income tax laws.
Is The eBay Fee Increase Actually Good For Business?
This will be the fifth rate hike in as many years for the auction giant and should really come as no surprise. Price hikes are a normal course of business. It was the size of the hike that has many sellers upset.
What's The Best Product To Sell Online?
I wish I had a dime for every time I've been asked, "Tim, what's the best product to sell online?" I also wish I had a nickel for every blank stare I received when I answered: "That's simple: information." I'd have enough money to finance another startup or two.
Taking Your Business International
I called on Jose Rodriguez, President of RISMED Oncology Systems, a Huntsville company that provides high medical technology to radiotherapy professionals around the globe, to get his input on the subject. Jose is an old friend and client and if anyone can give pointers on doing business internationally, Jose is the man.
The Great American Customer Service Unawareness Campaign
I'm so sick of you so-called business experts always saying the customer is always right. This is my business, not the customer's, so I'm the one who's always right. Sure, they can have an opinion, but in the end it's up to me to decide who's right and who's not. And if the customer doesn't like it they can take their business elsewhere.
Franchises Offer Shortcuts, But Not Control
Franchising can be a great way to start a business career, but you should make sure you're not just trading one job for another. Unless you plan on being an absentee owner, which I highly discourage, you are gong to be working in the business just as an employee would, so be sure the business you choose doesn't turn your lifelong dream into a never-ending nightmare.
Writing The Book On Great Customer Service
You probably can't compete with the superstore on volume of inventory or on price, but there are other things you can do to help keep the customers coming in your door. One of the best ways to ensure customer loyalty is to offer superior customer service.
Website Design Considerations
If you want to be a web designer, be a web designer. However, if the key focus of your business is building widgets, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that your time would be better spent building widgets, not Web sites.
Use Noncompete Agreements To Help Protect Your Business From
Renegade former employees riding the free enterprise wave is one reason noncompete agreements are gaining in popularity among employers who hope to use them to help protect their business from competitive threats launched by former employees. Many employers are now demanding that key employees sign noncompetes as a stipulation of employment.
Turnkey Dropship Websites Save You Time, Trouble and Money
Lucky for you and me there are now a number of companies on the Web that can help folks like us set up a turnkey dropship website without ever breaking a sweat.
The Joy and Hazards Of Finding Your First Office
Putting your name on a commercial lease is one of the first tangible commitments an entrepreneur makes to his or her business and searching for that first office or retail space can be a truly invigorating experience.
Starting Your Business By The Book
To begin, here's the best legal advice I can give you as a new business person: find yourself a good lawyer and make him or her your very best friend. Granted, your new best friend will charge you an hourly fee for chatting on the phone or talking business over lunch, but you'll find it to be money well spent. A good attorney can save you far more than the cost of his services. I rarely make any decision that has the potential to impact my business without first consulting my attorney.
SBA's 8(a) Program Can Help Some Companies Compete
The 8(a) Program (named after the section of the Small Business Act from which it comes) is an SBA program created to help small disadvantaged businesses better compete in the U.S. marketplace and within the arena of government procurement. The SBA provides business development, technical assistance and other services to the small businesses that are accepted into the 8(a) program.
Navigating The Internet Sales Tax Laws
Internet sales taxation has always been a hot topic for those of us who make our living selling goods and services online. One of the more controversial points is that no one, including our own government, has a clue how to implement a fair and logical Internet taxation process.
Managing Employees Is A Little Like Herding Cats
I hope you have a full head of hair now, because depending on how quickly you get a grip on this situation, you could end up bald in a very short time. And if you're starting out bald all you can do is put on a cap and read on.
If It Was Easy Everybody Would Do It
Even on the best of days running a business can be incredibly stressful, not to mention overwhelming and exhausting. It's only natural that there will be times when you wonder if it's really worth it. Asking yourself the "should I just get a real job" question simply means that your human side is showing. And as a human you have a limited tolerance for things you can not control. And that's really where the stress of being an entrepreneur comes from.
How To Handle The Occasional Oop-See!
First off, it's important that you understand that the magnitude of your mistake will determine the course of action you take to make amends. If your company's error was such that it caused your customer a significant amount of lost time or revenue, embarrassed them publicly, caused damage to their reputation, or otherwise negatively affected their bottom line, you may face legal repercussions that saying "I'm sorry" will not deter.
Achievements Outweigh Education and Experience
Many successful businesses were started by first time entrepreneurs who never went to college. Natural talent, ambition, drive, determination, and good old dumb luck have fueled many success entrepreneurs, myself included. I don't have a degree (I drove past a college once. It looked hard, so I kept going). Would a degree have helped make my business trek easier? Perhaps.
Business Lessons Learned At The Mall
No offense to my mall merchant brothers and sisters, but a trip into the deepest jungle is more appealing to me than a trip to the mall. I get no joy out of trudging from store to store, attempting to communicate with salespeople from other planets, browsing discount racks of last season's dollar merchandise and peering into windows at mannequins that seem to be in some sort of inanimate pain (why can't they make a happy mannequin?).
Choosing A Business That's Right For You
Many successful businesses have been built by taking a traditional business and making it better. Domino's Pizza was certainly not the first to offer home delivery of pizza, but they were the first to guarantee it would be delivered piping hot to your door in 30 minutes or less. Amazon.com was not the first company to sell books, but they were one of the first that would let you buy books from the comfort of your own home while sitting in your underwear.
Protect Your Ideas With Copyrights and Patents
A patent is a form of protection granted to an inventor that protects his invention in the United States for up to 20 years from the date of application. Patent law states that, "whoever invents or discovers any new and useful process, machine, manufacture, composition of matter, or any new and useful improvements thereof may obtain a patent." Owning a patent gives you the legal right to stop someone else from making, using or selling your invention (or one that's very close to it) without your permission. However, proving that someone is infringing on your patent is often difficult and usually requires a trial to settle the dispute.
The Big Website Question: If You Build It, Will They Come?
When it comes to attracting customers, opening an online business (or an online branch of an existing business) is no different from opening a traditional brick and mortar shop. Without a little fanfare and a well-devised marketing plan, chances are your website will become just another spot of roadkill on the Information Superhighway.
Beware Of Spam Withdrawals
Q: I am so sick of all the spam that is sent to my business email address. I spend an hour every morning just trying to sort out the good email from the bad. I know I could just delete it all, but I'm afraid I'll accidentally delete email that might be important to my business. Short of unplugging my computer, what's the best solution for dealing with spam?
A: I feel your pain. I, too, miss the good old days when the only time you'
What Does Your Website Say About Your Business?
In 1998, which was decades ago in Internet years, the future of electronic commerce or "ecommerce" as it's come to be known, was anybody's guess, but even the most negative futurists agreed that all the signs indicated that a large portion of future business revenues would be derived from online transactions, or from offline transactions that were the result of online marketing efforts.
SWOT Analysis Is No Magic 8 Ball
Q: A key investor in my business has suggested that I hire a consultant to do a SWOT Analysis to help plan for the future. I try not to argue with my investors, but I'm not so sure I need to have this done. What do you think?
-- Laurie B.
A: Laurie, before you call in the SWOT team to deal with this investor (sorry, couldn't resist that one), let me tell you exactly what a SWOT Analysis is and how it can not only help you plan for
The Business Failed, But Did You?
Q: After years of dreaming about starting my own business, I finally took the plunge a little over a year ago. To say the least, my dream quickly became a nightmare. The business didn't do nearly as well as I had hoped. I ran out of money within six months and had to take out a second mortgage on my house just to keep things going. I have now closed the business and am left with a pile of bills that will probably put me in personal bankru