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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, September 27, 2008

My September Business PowerTalk Event

by Cheryl Isaac

A couple of months ago, I decided to launch a series of Small Business Events that I have deemed PowerTalk Events. These two-hour events are framed as panel discussions and networking events. I have decided to use the same framework that forms my business--I bring in experts from different backgrounds that can give useful advice to an emerging or start-up business owner. The first 45 minutes is usually dedicated to introductions and answers to questions from topics that affect small business owners, and the last part is usually a question-and-answer session that involves the audience.

The framework of these events closely parallels my business concept and trademark. My company is formatted to offer business start-up services in time frames from 3 -12months because upon starting and test driving my idea, I learned one thing: that although there are a lot of useful and valuable resources available to small business owners through governmental agencies like SCORE and the SBA and Small Business Development Centers, those centers do not stay with clients, or hold their hands through the process. I decided that this is something my company would do. I also realized that aspiring entrepreneurs were being told what to do, but no one was actually doing these things for them; for a nominal fee at least. As a result, I decided to build a company that would combine affordability and resources within a one-stop-shop- framework for anyone starting a business and I decided that instead of simply telling, we would actually do the work for people.

So, my September PowerTalk event was comprised of a marketing specialist, Kelly LeFevre of Focal Point Alliance (www.focalpointalliance.com), a business banker and SBA lending specialist, Chad Fondriest of Huntington Bank (www.huntington.com), a financial planner with Wachovia Securities, Joshua Young (www.JoshuaYoung.wbsec.com), a sales coach, Yvette Alexander Slate of Carried The Bag, LLC (www.carriedthebag.com), an insurance agent, Wes Buchanan of Buchanan Insurance & Financial Group (www.buchananinsgroup.com) and a small business attorney and my husband, Kendall Isaac of The Isaac Firm (www.theisaacfirm.com).

My panelists touched on a range of subjects that revealed just how vital learning how to: sell yourself and your business, market your products and services through the proper channels, meet an attorney before drawing up contractual documents or hiring that first employee, speak with an insurance agent before starting that home-based business or before giving professional advice to someone, build and develop a relationship with a business banker who can show you what needs to be done to get your financing, and set up your very own 401k plan for you and/or your employees can be for start-ups.

My Huntington Banker panelist, Chad Fondriest, who is also my strategic banking partner stressed how important it is to have a business plan. In response to a previous answer from a panelist, he also added, "I won't help you if you don't have a plan." I can't stress enough how important a plan is to my customers. To me, it is the "life of your business." I can't count how many times I've decided on an additional service to add to my business and I have tried to play around with my business plan and numbers to see if this idea would work. Most times I have found that it won't work, at other times, I have found that I could offer a service at a certain price range and still manage to keep my current ratios and gross margins intact. In case you are wondering, a current ratio is the measure of a company's ability to meet its short-term debt obligations and gross margin is the percentage of profit you make after covering the cost of whatever it is that you are selling. Every business owner should know how to read these numbers.

So what did I learn from this event? (although it was my event) I learned that an aspiration to start a business from scratch is a difficult road to travel, so why go it alone? It also dawned on me that as business owners, we need to ensure that potential clients fully understand what our business is about and how forming a relationship with us could be beneficial. Most times, people are just uncertain and their uncertainty leads to their hesitation to deal with us.

What about you? What professionals have influenced your business or business idea?

Questions? Comments? Post here...

Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the CEO of IBS-Isaac Business Services.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

The Dilemma of Starting your Business: Owning your company vs.owning your location

by Cheryl Isaac
I sometimes have prospective clients ask, " do I start my business as a franchise or should I start my own company?" I almost never have a straightforward answer for that because oftentimes, the answer lies in the personality, character and background of an individual. Also, I think that if someone wants to start their own company, they already have what I like to call "the gut feeling"--that business instinct that gnaws at you despite the odds, the business idea that you want to mold into your very own niche. To help clients assess whether a start-up or franchise is the right choice for them, we usually go through some initial screenings.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:
  • Do you want to own your company or own a location in someone's company? If you started a business to someday pass the business ownership to your family, or so that you see your name frequently associated with this business, then a franchise is not for you. However, if you are content with some ownership rights and being able to run your very own location of a huge company, a franchise is the route to take.
  • Can you follow rules or are you the type who wants to make your own rules? If you are the kind of person who would want to build your own value systems for your business and establish your own rules a franchise will not suit you. For example, think about Burger King, you expect it to open at certain times, you expect certain menu items when you go in, and you would expect to see a drive-thru. As a franchisee, you would be expected to follow those same rules.
  • Do you want to be your own boss? For some this is a definite YES! For others, they are not certain. A franchise provides that hybrid mix--you are your own boss but you have a boss to answer to. You would have to answer to the franchiser and you may have to pay him/her royalties regardless of whether or not you make a profit.
  • Do you want to assign a manager to head things or do you want to be there yourself? Someone once said, "a true entrepreneur is always hands-on." Matter of fact, this is the good and bad aspects of entrepreneurship--us entrepreneurs wear many hats. We repair our copiers and computers, answer our own phones, prepare marketing materials, clean the bathrooms, and make our own rules and set our own work schedules. We decide whether one or two employees is our goal. So, if you do not desire to be hands-on in this way, or if you do not have the ability to be, a franchise is definitely the option for you.

Here are some benefits to franchise ownership:

  1. Some franchises have a proven track record, therefore it is not uncommon to turn a profit quickly. You would have to be mindful of which franchise you choose because not all franchises have a good track record. Find a good broker or advisor who you trust to help you make the best choice.
  2. Franchises could be considered turn-key operations because unlike a start-up, they already have systems in place.
  3. Unlike a start-up that has to get its name recognized, the advertising costs for a franchise could be lower because of help from the parent company. Think about Dunkin' Donuts--the slogan immediately comes to you, the world runs on Dunkin--a franchisee doesn't have to explain to someone what Dunkin' Donuts consists of.

Keep in mind that if you have the traits of someone who wants to get muddied up in the process of starting a business and who wants to be involved in every changing system and rules, a start-up business of your own is where you are headed. George Nadaff, Chairman of the KnowFat chain of restaurants and the creator of Boston Market Franchise, said that he remembered graduating from the KFC University a while back and having the CEO tell them, "just imagine that I'm taking a paintbrush and making a line right here on the floor. Never go off that white line....If you do different things, you will fail."

Let that saying be your rule of thumb: If you want to follow the white line that someone else gives to you, start a franchise. If you want to create your own white line, then start your own business. For more information on franchises, visit the franchise association at www.franchise.org.

Questions? Comments? Post here...

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

Monday, September 15, 2008

Marketing Tips for Your Business

by Cheryl Isaac
I attended a webinar on September 3 that was hosted by BusinessBuildingRoundtable.com and its co-founders, Kelly LeFevre and Molly Luffy. Although I hate to say that the hustle and bustle of the day; like phone calls and employees bursting into my office kept me a little distracted, there were a few things I learned from this webinar that I would like to share.

Kelly and Molly referred to marketing as the process of creating awareness of your product or service, and sales as the process of converting awareness of your product or service into money. So in order to create awareness of your product through marketing so that it successfully turns into sales, they stated that you must create an irresistible offer. Why? Well they explained that there are usually a few questions that your audience normally asks themselves mentally when presented with information about your business. They think:
  1. What are you trying to sell me?
  2. How much is it?
  3. Why should I believe you?
  4. What's in it for me?
And as business owners, we are constantly asking ourselves these questions when we are presented with a proposal or product. So how do we ensure that we answer these questions for our clients? Kelly and Molly had a few suggestions but I'll mention the couple that caught my attention. They advised to capture people's attention through a powerful headline and sell to your potential clients' pain by:
  • Incorporating a question into your marketing headlines
  • Including a testimonial
  • Including a number system (i.e. 10 steps to...)

Now I must admit that the testimonial part is where I have slacked. This is an important factor for any business owner because it adds to your credibility. I admit that I have hesitated because of the many websites that have used fake testimonials and I've always wanted to include a website, phone number or the likes with my testimonials. Since I deal largely with start-up business owners, my non-disclosure agreements have hindered me from including contact information and descriptions for a certain time frame but I promise that by January 2009, this information will be included on my website in some similar shape or form!

So, how are you marketing your business through your website, direct mail, blogosphere, etc. What's working and what's not?

For more information on the business building roundtable, visit www.businessbuildingroundtable.com

Questions? Comments? Post here...

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

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A downturn in the economy could mean an upturn for aspiring entrepreneurs

by Cheryl Isaac
We are surviving a tough economy right now and one of the results is an increase of anxiety in the workplace. Job security is not a phrase used anymore as employees try to recession-proof themselves. According to a survey taken by Yankelovich Inc., a consumer trends research company, the number of people who reported feeling high or severe economic anxiety increased from 33 to 54 percent between April 23 and May 5.

So far, some employees are turning this uncertainty into a peace of mind for themselves through entrepreneurship. They are finding that they can create their own jobs, start their own 401k plans, work out their own schedules, and are comfortable knowing that the buck stops with them. Some are even pleased that they can create jobs for others. In his interview with The Daily Reporter in May 2008, George Stahl of GCS enterprises said that he had been able to hire friends and acquaintances who had also been laid off from white-collar jobs and that they were "not worried about what the next day is going to come to."

So how can you as an employee recession proof yourself? Start a part-time business. There are industries that have lower overhead costs for start-up business owners: the culinary services industry, the personal services industry, the consulting industry, are a few choices. There are always telltale signs when one is about to be downsized. Why not use that time to plan a part-time business that could become full-time? Most victims of down-sizing have years of experience within a certain industry--use that experience to start a consulting company. Starting a part-time business could give an employee time to plan a business, build clientele, save money, and have a piece of mind.

Questions, Comments? Post here...

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

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