Our First-Time Visitors

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."

Monday, May 25, 2009

Giveaway: A Memorial Day Tribute-Free Business Plan

Today is Memorial Day, the day proclaimed a legal holiday in the United States as a day of remembrance for those who have died while serving the nation. Today, all over Ohio, different counties are celebrating the day with parades that end at various cemeteries.

To do our part, Isaac Business Services will honor our fallen soldiers in the best way we know how:

If you or someone you know, has lost a spouse, child, relative, or close friend while in the line of duty to America, we will offer you a FREE business planning relationship. Yes, you heard me right. If you are starting or have started a business AND someone close to you has lost their life while in the military, we will offer our business planning service to you FREE of charge.

Here's how this will work:
  1. To qualify, you must have lost a spouse, child, relative, or close friend while he/she was in the line of duty to America
  2. So that we ensure that we are getting an inquiry from a real person who is legitimately interested in business, you will need to first follow this blog publicly. (Link is on the right, click on the link follow)
  3. You will then have to go to www.IsaacBusinessServices.com , go to the contact us link, enter your information (make sure to include email and phone number) and I will get back to you. (I don't enter my email on here due to spammers)
  4. You will need to already have an idea in mind, have notes prepared, or already have a business that has been in existence less than 3 years.
  5. So I ensure that we are correctly commemorating our fallen soldiers, I will ask for some indication that you do have a loved one who passed (i.e. a funeral agenda, picture with some indication, copy of eulogy or local newspaper clipping, etc). I apologize in advance if this seems painful.
  6. We will then start your consultation and walk you through the process like we do every paying customer.
  7. We will help you formulate your business planning process, write a business plan for you, and form a six-month relationship with you so that we ensure your plan is not static, and that your process works. Again, there is no catch, this is all FREE of charge as our tribute to our fallen soldiers.
We will only choose one business owner so when you inquire with us, please be sure to follow ALL the steps required so that you are the one chosen. The deadline for this valued service will end Monday, June 1, 2009; inquirers will then be notified if their business has been chosen.

Please pass this along to anyone you know who could qualify and we will be glad to assist. Happy Memorial Day!

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and a Startup Business Consultant & Owner of Isaac Business Services, an agency that offers startup concierge & business planning services for small businesses (http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/)

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Banks Catering to Women Business Owners

Some of what we do at Isaac Business Services includes connecting our business clients with the right resources. Most times this includes having them meet their local bankers to start developing meaningful relationships. Naturally, this involves us staying abreast of local banking news, as well as networking with bankers.

In the past couple of years in working with business women, we have run across some resources targeted to business women and I thought I'd share a couple with you.

Most banks are now specializing services for women business owners but take a look at two uniquely packaged programs offered by banks for women in business:
  • Key4Women®: Services offered by Key Bank. Key4Women® is a club established for women business owners who bank with Key Bank. The club has its location in Albany, Ohio but meets frequently in different cities to help foster relationships among women. Women are assigned special bankers who help them build and develop their businesses. Key Bank has also had a goal of lending a few million to women business owners and have exceeded their goal. "In April 2007, Key announced that it would lend $2 billion to women-owned businesses over a five year period. As of April 2009, Key has surpassed its goal, three years ahead of schedule, and is committed to lending another $3 billion by 2012. This is the second time that Key has exceeded its goal for lending to women-owned businesses. In 2005, the bank pledged $1 billion to women-owned businesses and surpassed that number in 2007". You can learn more about the club at https://www.key.com/html/women-owned-business.html
  • WEDO®: Banking services for women provided through National City Bank/PNC Bank. Women’s Economic Development Outreach, is a coalition of business experts working in collaboration to provide resources that help women owned and managed businesses flourish. Established in 2002 with key support from women business advocates at National City, the organization partners with the public and private sectors to provide support for women business owners. WEDO also has yearly tours that highlight great speakers with great resources for women owned businesses. To learn more, visit their website at https://www.nationalcity.com/wedo/default.asp?WT.svl=1

If you know of any other great resources for women business owners, please leave a comment. We would love to hear from you.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and a Startup Business Consultant & Owner of Isaac Business Services, an agency that offers startup concierge & business planning services for small businesses (http://www.isaacbusinessservices.com/)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Does your business need a Sales License?

Depending on your business, products and the services you provide, your business may also need a business license (sometimes referred to as vendor's license); in addition to your state registration/incorporation. This license process is usually overseen by the state agency that collects taxes, and sometimes issued by county auditors. For Ohio business owners, this will be the Ohio Department of Taxation and the County Auditor from the county you do business in.

You may need an Ohio sales license if your business falls into one of these categories:
  1. Vendor: If you have a fixed place of business in Ohio and you charge sales. Check with your county auditor for license issuance.
  2. Service Vendor: If you provide automatic data processing, computer services, telecommunications services, lawn care services, private investigation, security services, building maintenance and janitorial, employment placing, extermination, broadcasting and snow removal services. The license will be issued by the Ohio Department of Taxation.
  3. Transient Vendor: If you transport stock of goods to temporary places of business in order to make sales. You would want to check with the Ohio Department of Taxation.
  4. Delivery Vendor: If you do not have a showroom, or concrete location where merchandise is offered for sale; or when merchandise is displayed in catalogs, or can be picked up by customers. This license is issued by the Ohio Department of Taxation.
  5. Seller: If you are a retailer outside of Ohio who makes retail sales of property or service for storage, use or consumption in Ohio.
  6. Direct Pay Permit Holder: Manufacturers or other consumers who purchase tangible personal property for which the tangible status cannot be determined at the time of purchase.
About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and a Startup Business Consultant & Owner of Isaac Business Services, an agency that offers startup concierge & business planning services for small businesses

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From Entrepeneur to Infopreneur

By now you've heard most business experts stress the importance of writing a book or e-book. If you own your business, you know something that most people don't know. Even if you don't own a business, if you think about it, you can do something better than the average person can. As the saying goes, people always want to "pick your brain." Having some form of informational product is a great way to start.

Whether you're starting a business whose purpose is to disseminate information, or you're an entrepreneur expanding into informational products, the book From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur by Stephanie Chandler is meant for you.

I've read a couple of books from this author and one thing I can assure you is that you will get tons of information, references, and website links from any of her books.

The book From Entrepreneur to Infopreneur helps walk you through the process of:
  • Self publishing your book
  • Publishing an e-book or a "special report"
  • Efficient delivery of your books or e-books to consumers
  • Having industry leaders like Amazon sell your products
  • Publishing newsletters and tip booklets (i.e. 50 Things for the Pre-Law Student
  • Establishing course materials and/or teaching classes via email
  • Public Speaking and becoming a paid presenter
  • Up-selling and cross-selling your products
What makes this book different: it's written by someone who has run a business and successfully entered the informational industry. Every chapter has numerous links and references to reliable sources; unlike any other business book out there. The information is concise and simple, broken down in easy-to-read bullet points by topic; while also including some narrative that makes it intriguing.

It also has interviews from other infopreneurs who list their experiences on entering the information industry. One thing they all agreed on is that they should have started sooner because the business turned out to be easier than they had envisioned.

I'll be putting the information that I learned from this book to use. So what are you waiting for? To learn more about becoming an infopreneur, visit http://www.businessinfoguide.com/

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10 Tips to Follow when Searching for Office Space

Last month, I signed the lease to my new and beautiful downtown office. Throughout the search process, I had disappointments and I learned some things and just thought I'd share some perspective. Here are ten tips for you when searching for office space:

  1. Get a commercial realtor. Regardless of how much you think you know, or your inability to let go, you need to get expert advice. The truth is, we're all experts at different things and should not try to dabble in everything. It's simply not cost-effective. A commercial realtor is free of charge to you, they have access to information that you will never be made privy to, they make a living negotiating office space deals, and they know all about the do's and don'ts of the industry. They can explain the difference in lease agreements (i.e. triple net lease vs. gross) They can help you decide whether to lease or buy. Plus, they make the process easier; you can concentrate on your business day-to-day affairs while they sweat out the details for you. Why not?
  2. Know your customers. What does this have to do with anything? Well, if you know your customers and their buying patterns, you know the areas to avoid. Also, you know how to ensure that you have necessities like ample parking space, handicapped parking, centralized or suburban locations, access to freeways, etc.
  3. Be realistic about what you can afford. I suggest looking at your business break-even number (this could be in the forms of units or dollar amount). How much more would you have to sell, plus pay this new rent, plus cover expenses and employees (fixed costs) plus those costs that may be variable (like the additional business drive every other month, etc)After analyzing, jot down a figure that you cannot exceed and stick to it. Hold your ground and don't bulge!
  4. Get an attorney. You will want to preferably search for a real estate attorney; however most attorneys most likely understand leasing contracts. Don't be afraid to spend money to do this, some attorneys may only charge you a fee for a couple of hours to ensure that your commercial realtor has covered all the terms. An attorney could also add additional provisions to assist you that would not have otherwise been mentioned. Do your due diligence.
  5. Don't be afraid to negotiate. Now if you have a commercial realtor and attorney like I suggest, you would leave the initial work up to those two. However, keep in mind our current economic state. Business experts everywhere are screaming "No new overhead expenses!!" So if your business is ready to expand, take a calculated risk and negotiate rent, length of lease, etc properly. With the current economy, landlords need you. Be sure that they "woo" you a little.
  6. Make sure you understand "CAM" charges (Common Area Maintenance). For retail businesses, this feature proves to be especially important. You will want to understand fixed versus variable charges and how it will be applied to your final rent bill or yearly bill.
  7. Negotiate utilities. Most tenants forget that utilities can pose a financial threat also. Depending on the business, your costs may skyrocket. Try to negotiate a lease with utilities included, this could help ease your burden and eliminate additional check writing.
  8. Request changes or improvements. Don't be afraid to ask for what you want. If the carpet or walls are faded, ask that they be replaced, cleaned or painted. If your business requires a buildout (features added) have your realtor and attorney negotiate the pricing.
  9. Compromise and expect compromise. Just because landlords are strapped, does not mean they will give away office space. On the other hand, if a landlord refuses to compromise, walk away. They don't want your business. No place is that great (you'll probably drive by in a year and still see it vacant anyway).
  10. Visit the property alone. You may want to drive by during peak hours and after-hours. Observe the area, the parking and the customers from other businesses. Talk to current tenants if you can; they may give you some valuable information. Check the cleanliness of the building and parking lot (if it's during the winter, look for snow removal. If during the summer, look for landscaping activities or abuse).

Remember, no lease is ever "blanket" and like my realtor says, everything is "up for negotiation."

Stay tuned for my leasing mistakes and tips on leasing don'ts....

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Startup Business Consultant & Owner of Isaac Business Services; an agency that offers startup concierge & business planning services for small businesses.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Can you Risk losing something you own to Gain something you've never had?

Every week I meet with people starting businesses or trying something new within their existing businesses. Since majority of my clients are smaller startups, the complaint always centers around money.

How can I start if I don't have money? How will I be able to continue in business without money?

Financial woes is always a tough subject. I can definitely empathize with financially strapped aspiring entrepreneurs. However I know one thing: my lack of funding or finances did not stop me and it shouldn't stop you. You have to plan around fixed costs and budget. What is your personal breakeven? A lot of people don't know this answer. Your entire lifestyle would have to change and that change starts with you.

Today was a "pep talk" day for me so I decided to blog about the topic. See, depending on what business an individual starts, they may have to bear more financial risk than others. For example, a daycare center has to have its location ready to go before it can get approved to open. If this facility does not get approved, or there is some major glitch, the startup owner could be stuck with a lease or a mortgage. Another example is a beauty salon. The salon needs to meet permit requirements and have its structure and blueprints in place in order to get approved for opening. If the application is not approved, the owner assumes the risk.

Now I work with commercial realtors and attorneys who help with minimizing some of these risks for clients, but just imagine the turmoil some business owners have to go through.

There are entrepreneurs who strive to minimize financial risk as much as they can and in doing so, they end up structuring their businesses improperly because of this cautiousness.

Stephanie Chandler in her book, The Business Startup Checklist and Planning Guide, talks about financing. "Locating financing for your business is perhaps one of the most daunting tasks you face," she says and then continues, "but if you want your business badly enough and you put forth the effort, you should be able to find a way to...even if that means you have to start small."

Start small. Think Big. This is what I advise my clients. I tell them, "bootstrap a business but don't you dare look cheap doing it." You have to think big and the threat of no money cannot be the factor that holds you back from your dream. Take the extra money for eating out and make your business cards.

Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham state it wisely when they say, " to be successful you have to get over your panic....you have to accept a never ending flood of complications as a normal part of the business process..."

Seth Godin, the king of bootstrapping advice, urges to "sell a product in a way that makes sense to people who want to buy it."

My advice?
  • Start small by funding your business through customer acquisition. Get your first customer, and train yourself to redirect a percentage of each sale back into marketing and product/service enhancement. Start in a shoe box, watch your sales, and move your office size up accordingly.
  • Think big by spending a portion of your customer acquisition income on marketing materials, advertising costs, product/service enhancement, etc. Don't cheat your product or service because this should be what differentiates you. Unless you want to be known as a business owner that produces the worst end product. Good luck building your business then. If you're working in your garage and selling an amazing product, your clients should not be able to tell you're bootstrapping a business by looking at your product.
  • Study your market thoroughly. If you're wondering what this has to do with making money, the answer is "everything." By researching your target market, how they buy, what solutions they need, what your competitors offer clients, you can figure out how to create a product or service that makes people spend.
  • Learn what matters to your target audience and only spend money towards these items.
  • Don't overcharge. Just because you need money desperately, doesn't mean clients will pay anything for your service. Don't try to pass on your costs and problems to your customers. If you do, they'll just go to the big companies and pay for their extended resources.

Just keep one thing in mind, you will always have some risk. If you're not prepared to give up something in order to gain your business, then I'm afraid entrepreneurship is not for you.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is the writer of this blog and the Startup Business Consultant & Owner of Isaac Business Services; an agency that offers startup concierge & business planning services for small businesses.

Monday, May 4, 2009

What Kind of business can I start in this economy?

MSNBC lists the fastest growing recession industries:
  1. Medical facilities. What this means to you: start a business that can partner with a medical facility (i.e. selling medical products, equipment, training or marketing materials). You could also start a smaller medical facility if you have the training (i.e. a dental office).
  2. Refurbished goods. What this means to you: your business can include selling on EBay or you can open a used clothes store. Start a business selling refurbished phones or used computers. Or open a pawn shop. If you were thinking of selling children's clothing, now consider collecting used, gently used clothing from family and friends. This way, you would have saved on your inventory overhead, and you'll now be able to charge decent prices.
  3. Education and Health. What this means to you: if you own a service based business, maybe you can start teaching your trade. Start selling seminars or educational tools. Host workshops. You can also start a business that in some way encompasses health (i.e. home health aide, nursing training, nurse temporary staffing, etc).

Other industries to consider: pet care, accounting, bookkeeping, commercial cleaning, etc.

Meanwhile, a BizJournals study lists the 100 Best Metro areas to open a venture. The top seven cities on this start-up business-city-to-be-list are:

  1. Raleigh
  2. Charlotte
  3. Seattle
  4. Austin
  5. Boise, Idaho
  6. Salt Lake City
  7. Orlando

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