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A Serial Entrepreneur Becomes A Millionaire From An Accidental Startup

Monis Rahman, serial entrepreneur, accidentally launched Rozee.pk when he needed to find more programmers for his startup.

Getting A Mentor

I had a strategy session with a business start-up owner a few months ago. She was six months into her start-up and needed some ideas during her development stage.

Simple Steps To Creating Your First Website

When you make that decision to start a business, you immediately become a multi-tasking maniac. Let's face it, you will have a lot of work on your hands.

Why 'Core Competency' Is Important To A Startup

Well, I like the answer that Norm Brodsky gives in his book, The Knack: "It was the one thing we had that our competitors couldn't offer, and by the time they caught up, we had a foothold in the market and were known for providing that service."

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Turning Long, Dreary Hours into a Profitable Business

I was reading an uplifting story the other day about Steak Escape Grille. In 1982 founders, Ken Smith and Mark Turner decided to follow their passion for cheesesteaks and open a cheesesteak shop; amidst the disapproval of friends and family. They left their nice jobs and opened their first store in the French market in North Columbus and it was only 209 square ft!

They would start around 6am each morning because their mission statement included providing fresh meat, cheese, veggies and fries to customers. They would then spend all their days cooking for customers--right in front of them. At 10pm, they would shut down, go home smelling like fries and stuff their newfound income in brown paper bags and hide them. They proclaim that although the long days were hard, they were having the time of their lives because they were doing something they loved to do! Today, Steak Escape restaurants are in malls all over the country.

I think that such stories need to be published more frequently. After working a long day at my business and wondering when it would all pay off, I was relieved to read about the Steak Escape story--it reminded me that just about every struggling entrepreneur who became successful can, in retrospect, attest to the grueling hours. The problem that most small business owners face is learning how to juggle the long hours--the time management problem. The difference between working long hours for someone else versus yourself is that when you work for a company, you can leave the work there and go home, or you can simply come back and finish the next day. When you work for yourself, the pressure is on because you can't simply "pass the buck." You sometimes lay in bed thinking about the next day or you sometimes have your work scattered over your kitchen table.

Laura Stack, Owner of the Productivity Pro gives some good advice when she says, "plan the night before you start; be proactive." I have followed that advice and am now using my nights for planning, strategizing and creating my gameplan for the next day. I also now use my weekends to strategize for the following week. As business owners, it's easy to become reactive vs. proactive--because we wear so many hats. We have those customer concerns to address, those receivables to process, the inventory to check, the shipment we have to make....and the list goes on.

So how do you get over this hurdle? Laura suggests that there are a "trivial many vs. critical few" tasks for small business owners and that you must conquer the critical few tasks first. She suggests that instead of leaving room so that only 20% of your customers are providing 80% of revenues, (as is the case with most small businesses) that you should instead spend 20% of your time on customer matters that yield 80% of your results.

I suggest that to properly implement these success tips Laura Stack gives,that a small business owner would have to find a method that works for his/her business. My method is keeping accurate records and computer diary filing--a system that informs me just how much time I've spent on a client and the receivables from this client. This method works for my particular business.

What works for you? Post questions or comments here...


Cheryl Isaac is the author of this blog and the Chief Executive Officer of Isaac Business Services.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

OPENING A COFFEE SHOP?

You might want to know that some studies have shown that your main clientele usually consists of: 3 quarter women, customers who are in the 25-45yrs age bracket, and consumers who are in the middle to upper income bracket. This is an industry that typically has high margins, low overhead costs (this depends of course) and has been viewed as a viable business venture by financial institutions.

Before taking on such a venture, you might want to 1) conduct a market survey to determine a realistic sales forecast--i.e. demographics will be a key component, 2) research favorable locations--you can also call your local chamber of commerce to ask about favorable commercial areas. After this step, you would then want to call possible locations for their pricing to ensure that your rent is not beyond your capacity to pay when you compare the numbers to your projected sales volumes. Your location should be visible from the street, preferably in an area where the speed limit is 25-40 miles per hour, and should have ample parking (rule of thumb: 3 parking space per one seat).

Another tip to keep in mind: the layout of your store will have a direct impact on your profit potential. Research coffee shops like Starbucks and make notes of their layout. For instance, if you don't want a hangout spot where people lounge and pay a few dollars, then opt for a stand-up bar or tiny tables that send hints to customers.

Lastly, remember to check your license/permits requirements and hire a consultant to assist you!

Questions, Comments? Post here...

Sources:Small Business Profiles, volume 1: Susan Bourgoin. All About Coffee: William H. Ukers, Gale Research Inc.

Friday, June 13, 2008

STARTING A SMALL BUSINESS-- YOU'RE IN "GOOD COMPANY"!

According to SBTV.com's Susan Solovic,
  • U.S small businesses produce half of the nation's GDP
  • Small businesses represent 99% of employers
  • Small businesses created more jobs than medium or large-size businesses
  • And if the small business sector was an economy, it would be the 3rd largest economy

So what are you waiting for to start your small business? With the declining economy and the statistics shown above, seems to me that small business owners are and will remain the "backbone" of the nation. It does not matter whether one starts an online business, or a product or service oriented business--just do something if you have the passion and guts to succeed.

I think that the mistake we make is when we think too much--we end up thinking ourselves right out of the idea. I think the driving force to any business owner is the confidence that we have of ourselves and our abilities. Oftentimes, entrepreneurs may not fit the mold of what others may expect, but we have to be sure that we can do the job and then we have to relay that self-confidence to potential clients.

Here's what I think is the driving force for why others sometimes doubt the abilities of small business owners--it is because they think that if they were in your shoes, they wouldn't be able to do the job so how would you then be able to? Most times their fear of you emulates from fear of themselves and their abilities. They think you're going to fail anyway because if it were them, they would so why go along with the charade?

So how do you overcome this fear of starting your business and winning over customers? One of my favorite authors, Dale Carnegie--"How To Win Friends and Influence People" says this, " try honestly to see things from the other person's point of view" and know that person's answer before dealing with them--this knowledge may come about by way of the countless rejections you may first experience. In short, address what that potential client may view as your weakness. Give them your business building history if that may help. Tell them your life story if you must. Let them know that you are in this because you are passionate about it and that you will be there for the long haul.

Questions, Comments? Post here....

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

ENTREPRENEURSHIP IN THE CLASSROOM?

Entrepreneurship has become an increasing possibility in our modern era; particularly since employees have lost the trust they once had for corporations. With the declining economy and layoffs rampant, the decline in pension plan offerings, the rising costs of health care, and the decrease in salary hikes or promotions, most employees are toughing it out on their own. Can you blame them?

But how has the academic world adjusted to all of this? In 2000, the Small Business Administration reported that students who participate in entrepreneurship programs demonstrate increased initiative and self-confidence. They saw that school interests such students more because they see how acquiring practical skills and learning to solve problems contribute to future success. To date, some schools have infused the concept and theory of entrepreneurship into their curriculum, others have gone further to offer specific courses and degrees. Better yet, some institutions infuse both theory and practicality into their curriculum; giving students some realistic idea of entrepreneurship by bringing in real-world entrepreneurs and by creating workshops that includes common practices of entrepreneurs; because let's face reality, a subject becomes more realistic to us when we have someone who relates and although professors and teachers are great at their craft, they are not all entrepreneurs.

Some schools in Ohio have adjusted their curriculum to offer degrees in entrepreneurship. I personally prefer the program offered by the University of Dayton. They offer a B.S. in Entrepreneurship and a key feature of this entrepreneurship major is the sophomore experience in which student teams create micro-businesses and actually run them during their sophomore year. Recently, The Ohio State University has also been in discussion about creating an entrepreneurship curriculum; but to date, they might start by simply including a couple of classes to accommodate future entrepreneurs. Another university that has opened its doors to entrepreneurship is Ohio Dominican University. They offer a few courses through their Business Administration curriculum that can aid in building the entrepreneurial mindset: like their courses in Innovation & Entrepreneurship, one titled Building a Family Business and a seminar in Organizational Strategy that they offer with the goal of having students formulate a strategic business plan for entrepreneurship ventures. Hopefully with the changing times, entrepreneurship will become a continued focus of the collegiate experience.

The effort to create future entrepreneurs is beginning to have its ripple effect from the high school level as well. The leader of entrepreneurship education, The National Foundation of Independent Business (started by Steve Mariotti, a former New York City high school teacher and entrepreneur) has a Young Entrepreneur Foundation that promotes the lessons of free enterprise in the classroom. Their goal is to encourage young people to start small businesses and begin their careers there. They have developed a three-module curriculum: module 1 examines the meaning of entrepreneurship, module 2 deals with the steps necessary to turn an idea into a business, and module 3 explores the steps of starting a business; like writing a business plan and obtaining funding. The foundation makes this curriculum available to teachers, entrepreneurs and schools willing to teach entrepreneurship.

So far, I am curious to see how Ohio develops this quest in high schools. The Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education (NOCHE) met late 2007 to discuss developing entrepreneurs. Their idea is to bring entrepreneurship to the classroom via small experiments in middle and high school classrooms. I believe that we will continue to see similar discussions transpire as relates to entrepreneurship and that schools--both at the high school and college level, will start to develop this niche area. How else can we increase future employers in Ohio if attention is not paid from the bottom up?

Questions, comments? Post here...


Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Chief Executive Officer of Isaac Business Services.

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