Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Startup Advice From 7 Successful Entrepreneurs

Starting a business can be exhausting, exciting and exhilarating--all at the same time. This is precisely why it's refreshing to hear words of encouragement from those who have done it before--and succeeded. We spoke with entrepreneurs we admire to cull the single best bit of startup advice they could muster--and the experiences that led to it. They're simple mottoes, to be sure, but their impact can be tremendous.

"Don't think, do."
So said a stranger to Jeff Curran, founder and CEO of Curran Catalog, a high-end home furnishings company in Seattle, more than 20 years ago.

The two men were sitting next to each other on a cross-country flight, and Curran, then 25, had just broken into the catalog business. They got to talking, and Curran spilled his idea for a startup while his neighbor interjected with devil's-advocate questions. When the plane landed and the two rose to claim their bags from the overhead bins, the stranger finally opened up his can of insight. Those three words inspired Curran to pour $15,000 of his own cash into launching his company, which has grown into a profitable B2B and B2C brand.

"After that plane flight, I'm sitting in the bathroom at my parents' house and I pick up [a financial] magazine, and this guy was on the cover," remembers Curran, now 47. Turns out the man was mutual-fund maven Mario Gabelli.

Curran still lives by Gabelli's advice. Earlier this year, after learning about profit margins in the high-end car-accessories business, Curran Catalog launched a new product line: designer flooring for collector and European automobiles. "There is such a thing as overthinking a big decision," Curran says. "Sometimes you just have to get it done."

Monday, January 27, 2014

Buying a Business: Important Issues to Consider

Buying a business can be a very good opportunity to get into an industry without going through the startup process, which can be time consuming, costly,  and  comes with no guarantees.

That being said, a business that is for sale is like a used car. There are lots of companies out there but only a select few are worth purchasing. Due to this, it is very important for people to do their due diligence and investigate whether or not the business they are interested in has potential.

Evaluate Yourself

Owning a company is certainly not for everyone. It is up to individuals to make sure that they have considered all available options before making the ultimate decision to be their own boss. Therefore, it is important for a person to identify their weaknesses and strengths. It is always a great idea to jot these down on paper.

Aside from listing your professional achievements, strengths and skills, you should also note your personal characteristics. These play an important role in achieving success in the business world. This also allows you to compare your traits with the attitudes that make a good business owner. Some of these attitudes include the following:

  •     Dedication
  •     Perseverance
  •     Leadership
  •     Entrepreneurship
  •     Confidence
  •     Self-belief

A person who does not have these attitudes should try their best to develop them. If not, you may need to reconsider owning your own business.

Business Structure

As a potential buyer, you should consider the business structure prior to purchasing a company. This is because there are taxation considerations and protection issues that need to be shored up. Some of the possible business structures that can be adopted include the following:

  •     Company
  •     Trust
  •     Partnership
  •     Sole Trader
  •     A combination of a trust and company structure

A potential buyer should always remember that each kind of structure described attracts ongoing compliance costs, setup costs, personal risk and tax rates. 

A Financial Advisor Explains How To Increase Your Credit Rating

If you're considering buying a house or taking out a loan next year, you'll want to get your credit rating in the best possible shape. But what's the best way to approach it?

In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread posted earlier this year, an advisor from a major credit card company took dozens of burning personal finance questions from the public, and quite a few concerned how to improve your credit.

The advisor asked to remain anonymous, but Reddit vets all experts before they host an AMA thread. We've also reviewed the responses and found them to be accurate. Here's how the advisor suggests you tackle your credit rating:

Q: What's the best way to increase my credit rating so banks are knocking at my door with awesome offers?

A: Unfortunately, the best answer for this one is always going to be TIME. But there are a lot of factors that you can do that will speed up some of the process. Do not do any balance transfers between your credit cards and stay away from cash advances. Mortgages will always make sure your "debt-to-income" ratio is low. This means that if the amount of debt you have is close to what your annual income is, they will likely reject you.

Q: Does how much credit you have matter as much to potential credit lenders as how well you make payments?

A: Having a card or two with a higher limit is good. But you don't want too much unused credit either. The biggest thing you'll find with loans is that they are looking for HOW MUCH history you have with your current creditors. The longer the better.

7 Tips for Small Business Owners Looking to Jump Into Social Media

Because of my background working on social media marketing campaigns for numerous large businesses, small and independent business owners often ask me how they should dive into the social media world. Many of them have little or no experience with social media and some of them may use it but without purpose. Here are 7 general tips I give to them before they take the plunge into social media marketing.

1. Develop a social media marketing plan. Start with your objectives and map out a plan-of-action to meet these objectives. What are you planning to get out of social media marketing? Who and how will you reach your target audience? These are just some of the things you'll want to address in your plan. By organizing your thoughts and ideas, you'll have a roadmap and something to refer back to should you lose focus.

2. Start from the inside out. I always stress to clients that before you pull the trigger on social media you need to be sure that you are ready for it internally. Are you and your staff ready to handle any questions that come through the door? Do you have a crisis communication plan in place should something arise via social media? Do you have the bandwidth to actively keep up with this audience? Who will take ownership of retrieving and posting content?

3. All or nothing. Like a marriage or any relationship that you want to work, social media marketing is most effective when you're committed to it. You either give it your all or don't bother turning the switch on. You'll do more harm than good if you go into it half-heartedly.

Top 3 Productivity Tips For Small Business Owners

Productivity guru Tim Ferriss, author of the best-selling book “The 4-Hour Workweek,” popularized the idea that many seemingly difficult pursuits — running a business, getting in shape, learning a language — can be achieved in much less time than most of us imagine.
Ferriss started out as a small business owner working 90-hour weeks to grow his online supplement company, Brain Quicken. Dissatisfied with his workaholic lifestyle, he transformed the way he used his time and spent his days. Focusing in on the effective use of his time quickly increased sales and helped him drastically cut his hours.

He’s exploring this time-use theory again in a new television show, “The Tim Ferriss Experiment,” which premieres on Sunday on HLN. On each episode, he uses rapid-learning techniques to master a new skill, such as learning to play a musical instrument and competing at the professional level of a sport, in just five days.

We caught up with Ferriss to get his advice for small business owners who want to be more productive and effective with their time. Here are his three best tips:

Create a new category rather than try to dominate an existing one.
“From a positioning standpoint, if you’re undifferentiated in a crowded market, it’s going to be a race to the bottom, in terms of lowering prices and increasing hours per week,” says Ferriss, who adds that attempting to dominate an existing category will only result in small incremental improvements. “From the outset, positioning yourself intelligently can save you a ton of work and make it a game that’s easier to win.”

Schedule an 80/20 analysis of your efforts once a month.
Doing a regular 80/20 analysis helps you identify the most important things you should be focusing on. Essentially, you determine the 20% of activities that are producing 80% of results that you want, as well as the 20% of activities that are consuming 80% of your time.