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."

Friday, October 30, 2009

What Do you Do Now? 3 Tips to help you Unleash your "crawling" business plan

My favorite part of the planning process is helping people plan a new business as they go along. This usually means that they've incorporated some steps, they are familiar with their target audience and their buying habits, and they have some confidence in their abilities. I sometimes also get a different group: those that hesitate; either due to fear or because they have the kind of business that can only be started with certain things in place. Those may tend to hug the business plan and planning process a little too closely.

Think of it this way: your business is a child. You and your business planning process have been through the baby phase of the early morning feeding, the crying, the new parents "depression phase," the changing of the diapers (because you've probably tweaked your model a few times), and the numerous doctor visits (you've probably met with your advisor, an attorney, an accountant, banker, funder, business leaders, etc).

Now, your baby is growing up a little and is ready to crawl. Quit holding on to your plan and the idea of perfection, and let it go! You still must watch it carefully, however here are three tips to help you unleash your business plan:

Start with one service or product. In order to avoid overwhelming or confusing yourself, start with one small aspect of your business. When I started, I started with small roundtables and gathered opinions and informal surveys that way. I also got my first client that way. Use your first product or service as a tester. One way to do so is to start with free trials with an expiration date, or start with lower prices. Make sure to always note that your prices or trial runs are introductory for a limited timeframe. However, you will want to be wide-eyed during this period. Observe your clients and observe your time. How long is it taking you to produce your service/product? How much does it cost? What do most of your clients seem to be missing? Is this something that you can provide easily without over-extending yourself and your business? What will your current client pay the most money towards? This first product or service trial run will help you figure out how to modify your business plan numbers, market and price points. Don't wait for the "big boom" or fireworks launch. Your planning process involves testing. There's nothing glamorous about a start-up; it's hardwork, no pay, and usually involves some sweat and tears. Just start already!

Try to make money first vs. get money. I'm aware that most businesses require a lot of start-up capital in order to launch. I help start-ups analyze their numbers frequently and the lack of financing options for them takes an emotional toll on me also. However, I hate when money is brought up first before an idea is constructed properly. The fact is, no one wants to fund a poorly-thought-of idea. If you can't get money, how can you make money? If you require a retail location but can't get the funding, start producing your products at home first. If your business will receive contracts from a big company or the government, locate the contracts first. Then, call your banker and tell them that you have a pending contract (that you can show them) for $50,000 and you need a warehouse or office space in order to collect payment. You'd be surprised at how interested that banker will become. If no one will come to you, start making them come to you. Host fundraising events at your home for your non-profit. Host informational sessions for your new business and include some free giveaways. Whatever you do, don't let your dreams die because someone won't give you money. Find a way to earn it first.

Start Talking. I'm sure you've run across a few people who sometimes hint that they've been starting a business or developing a business idea. You then ask them a question or two and you get a few muffled responses. If I were to take a bet, I'd bet that they've probably completed a business plan and done some work, but are still unsure of themselves or the idea. So they talk about it in hushed tones. No matter how small your start-up is, or how unfinished your development is, believe in it and start doing what it takes to spread the word. Think about it: when a new house is being built, what would happen if the builder didn't let the new owners see the foundation, and initial construction? How would they believe in it then or continue to wait for the end result? Show your business plan to a few "worthy"individuals. Tell your friends and family that you're starting a business. Attend business meetings and talk about your new business. Make your new website public (even if your business is not launched yet). Big companies pre-launch products and services, why shouldn't you? Hit the pavement running because no one else will do it for you.

Cheryl Isaac is a business start-up strategist to service businesses going online. She contributes to Forbes here and blogs about Making Business Personal here.  

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The 9 Super Simple Steps to Entrepreneurial Success

I'm proud to announce that Isaac Business Services Small Business Institute will be using this book as one of its course materials for business seminars taught. (In case you missed it, we had an Open House this month and our new location now includes classrooms for seminars).

To give you a little background: I built my business on hosting workshops and seminars for start-ups and aspiring entrepreneurs (my husband/business partner and I would host start-up workshops for the community). Then, we started to get requests from business owners who wanted to learn more about specific topics. Well, the seminars started including colleagues from different backgrounds, and the idea for the Small Business Institute was started; as a means to provide continuing education in seminar format for business owners.

The book; The 9 Super Simple Steps to Entrepreneurial Success, written by successful millionaire entrepreneur Marty Grunder, will be given to seminar participants and the steps covered in our seminars for new business owners.

In 2008 you saw me blog and rave about this book after reading it for the first time. What I love about this book is the fact that it's an easy read and the steps cover the core entrepreneurial principles in an easy-to-understand manner. I find it to be a great tool and guidebook for a new or emerging business owner and I'm excited to be able to have it as a part of our course syllabus! (You can view the steps in detail by clicking here).

I'm ecstatic to have been granted the permission from the author, Marty Grunder. Marty is one of Ohio's celebrated entrepreneurs. He is the President of Grunder Landscaping Company: an award-winning landscaping company he started himself with little money. It is now a recognizable brand and employs over forty people. He is also the President of Marty Grunder! Inc., a business consulting company that provides speaking, training and consulting services to entrepreneurs and business leaders. He also hosts an annual conference that I will be talking about soon because you don't want to miss it. He is one of the most down-to-earth business men I've encountered, a genuine and caring person, someone I've learned a lot from, and a huge supporter of my business.

So, I'm absolutely THRILLED to be able to share his expertise with my clients and business peers.

I'll be bringing you more updates on the Institute and seminars offered. We will also be hosting a One-Day Institute in January that I'll be talking about. So please stay tuned...

Cheryl Isaac is a business start-up strategist to service businesses going online. She contributes to Forbes here and blogs about Making Business Personal here.  

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Great Research Tools to help with your New Business Idea

Here are some great research tools and websites that I have used along the way and wanted to share with you. These websites can help you find information that will aid you in structuring your new business. So before you skip the process because it seems "hard," start with these helpful tools:

  1. IBISWorld. This site prides itself as being "the world’s largest independent publisher of U.S. industry research, IBISWorld’s team of expert analysts covers 700 different market segments. Each industry report is presented in an objective, easy to understand format, providing hard-to-find answers to top market research questions. Each market report is available online in HTML, PDF, or Word format." I've used some of their industry reports and would recommend it for a start-up entrepreneur who wants to gather specific information about their industry and competitors. What I really like about them is the "keys to success" reports about each industry and the industry leader profiles they list. Their information is valuable and also comes with a price. Visit the website and learn about different price options.
  2. City-Data.com. This research site analyzes data from different sources to give you city-specific information. If you need to research a city or neighborhood for a startup business idea, this is the website that can help. What I really like about this website is the breakdown of city-specific demographics given; simply by typing in a zip code. The information given can be used for employment, business research, marketing research, feasibility studies, family move information and much more. I've used their website to help gather information for a startup business expanding to another state.
  3. Answers.Com. This website has an international directory that helps you find company history quickly and easily. It helps you learn the startup stories of companies easily, and also gives you up-to-date information about industry leaders. What I really like about the website is the easy navigation, easy search, and great historical information. With a simple search for a name or phrase, you can get tons of information about leading companies. I've used this website for article-writing and references.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is a Startup Business Planner & Owner of Isaac Business Services, The Business Startup Company. She is also the creator of The 12MonthBizPlan.com; an online business planning center where business owners can work with a personal advisor who writes a business plan that moves with their business for up to a year.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

My New Book

For those of you who have followed my blog since 2008, you know that I've always mentioned my love of reading and writing. In fact, I have had a few people meet with me at my office and tell me that they've bought a few of the books that I've recommended from this blog.

Well, just recently I decided to transform my words into a book. That's right! You heard right. My very own book!

I've read tons of books and I've written quite a few articles of my own. So, I've decided that it is now time to transport my thoughts to a book of my own; a book that will help and educate my target audience. I wanted to provide a support system and some encouragement for business ownership through my old paperback friend.

My book will aim to help aspiring entrepreneurs starting a business and small business owners remodeling their business. It is directed towards those who aim to build a business that surrounds their purpose. It will serve as a guidebook that provides steps, resources, and advice as relates to business planning and building unique business models.

Basically, I plan on providing motivation PLUS resources as I talk about my personal experiences in becoming an entrepreneur, give some case studies from helping startups, and providing some of the resources that I provide my clients on a regular basis. I don't plan on making this book a how-to book. Instead, it will speak directly to the reader and in simple terms, explain that if I can do it, if the clients I help can do it, then my readers can do. It's as simple as that.

After working with aspiring entrepreneurs and business owners, I've realized that some people dive into entrepreneurship despite insurmountable odds stacked against them. These people do so because they really believe in their purpose. They start their business and defy the odds because they believe in their dream, their passion, and a sense of achieving their purpose; so they move forward trying to build a business around the three. They believe that their business or start-up will serve a need that's much bigger than them. They are not afraid to start a different kind of business.

I wanted my book to help someone else do the same. I will keep you updated as things progress. Thanks for all your support.

Cheryl Isaac is a business start-up strategist to service businesses going online. She contributes to Forbes here and blogs about Making Business Personal here.  

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Female Entrepreneur & Business Financials

This week I had the honor to speak on the topic of business financials at a panel discussion held by WELD (Women For Economic Leadership & Development). The discussion centered around the importance of women entrepreneurs becoming comfortable with assessing business financials, and exploring financing opportunities in order to grow a business.
There were a few points raised and I would like to discuss three of these points with you guys:
  • Conflicting information about whether or not a certain business or business owner needs a business plan. Well, I think you know the answer to that. Yes! Every business needs a business plan! My entire business model was formed around the idea that smaller or service based businesses were limiting their potential by avoiding a business plan. How can you start small to finish big if you don't plan. You'll instead start small and finish small. If you've been a frequent reader of this blog, you can see in older posts that I've outlined specific reasons to get a business plan. In short, a business without a business plan lacks a model or structure. So if you don't have one, you might as well stop referring to yourself as an entrepreneur; because entrepreneurs are innovators and dream builders. It takes a plan to invent and build upon a dream. And if you are someone telling an entrepreneur that they don't need a business plan, shame on you! Better yet, if you are a female entrepreneur, please do not limit yourself.

  • Fear and uncertainty about getting any kind of business debt. Some of this fear for women stems from the reality of becoming a personal guarantor of the business. Without "sugar coating" anything, the reality is you may just have to be. Unless your business is a registered corporation that has been in existence for about ten years or so, a bank will also most likely have you guarantee a loan. Of course, you have to be disciplined in how you use financing: use it to enhance your cash flow by saving your cash "cushion" (i.e. instead of using cash from sales to purchase inventory until you get paid from your client, use your line of credit and pay it back at the end of the month. If by then your client hasn't paid you, pay off most of the line of credit until you receive your payment. That way, you use your cash for fixed costs: rent or salaries; and you were not dependent completely on your client. Make sense?) It just comes down to this: no one wants to give you anything without getting something in return. There's no such thing as "free money." (Refer to my past posts about banking specificity). Women, you take calculated financial risks frequently for the family: The house was a risk, the private schooling for your child was a risk; what if they never graduate, the contractor you paid to remodel was a risk; what if he didn't complete the job? What about taking a risk on you? You'll get the job done too won't you?

  • Cash flow. Why cash flow is important in simple terms: it lets you know if your business can avoid a short-term pitfall in order to make it long-term. You don't want to be a part of the SBA's negative business statistic. This is the financial statement (found in your business plan) that gives a financier some idea of your short-term viability; by looking at a month-to-month snapshot of cash coming in and going out of your business. This should show months of inventory you have to keep on hand, how long it takes for you to receive money from your contractors, clients, etc. This is also where you figure out if your startup will need more money before you open your doors. It is the same statement that lets you know when you may be in trouble of falling short of cash or needing to borrow more money. Still think you don't need a business plan? Females tend to be more thorough in evaluating a concept, this is why women entrepreneurs can benefit from understanding cash flow.
The simple fact is: you will need to give something in order to get something. You will need to invest in your business if you want to ask others to invest (and this means personal guarantee, money, etc) and you will need to take a risk to realize your dream. Just make sure to educate yourself about financing risks, banking guidelines, investor requirements, etc. By educating yourself, you know when your business cannot afford a loan. Then don't ask for one. By educating yourself, you know the risks when dealing with an investor.
At the end of the day, it's not just about taking a risk. It's about taking a calculated risk.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is a Startup Business Planner & Owner of Isaac Business Services, The Business Startup Company. She is also the creator of The 12MonthBizPlan.com; an online business planning center where business owners can work with a personal advisor who writes & updates their business plans on a monthly basis for up to a year.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Start-up Sales Mishap

A couple of months ago I was on a conference call with Key Bank's Key 4 Women Club. The featured speaker was Jennifer Openshaw; author of Millionaire Zone; 7 Winning Steps to a Seven-Figure Fortune.

Among other things, Jennifer stressed the importance of building relationships by remembering to "give, not just take." Ahhh, the forbidden words...Have you ever experienced the "sales madness syndrome?" That's when someone presents their product or service to you and for some reason, the sale is not closed. Perhaps you weren't interested at the time or didn't have the budget for it...but as a consequence, the salesperson or business owner gets mad at you! They may say something vocal, or give you the "mean eye" or maybe decide to not return a call or request. Odd right? Well...it happens!

You know why this happens? Well, because most times we see sales as a result-oriented process and we forget that it's also a relationship-building process. Startups particularly find it difficult to separate themselves from the process. It's almost as if they relive the relationship-breakup process where the other person says, "it's just not working...it's not just you, it's me." It also happens because people forget that it is their responsibility to show how their business will benefit the potential client; and this may take more than just a meeting.

If you're a new business owner and you've experienced the "sales madness syndrome," stop and read these tips so that you strengthen your relationships. Jennifer Openshaw suggested a few tips on the call but I will stress two:
  • Create simple advertisements for potential clients or partners. If your business is involved in business-to-business sales, this could work via your newsletter, your blog, an event you may have, etc. For me, I find solace in being surrounded by other entrepreneurs so whenever I host a seminar or conference, I try to include people who have shown some support for my business. I also recommend their services to my clients and peers. Since I help startups, I've also started hosting events quarterly to allow them to showcase their services.
  • Keep in touch with people after you've introduced your services. If you use social networks, say hello once in a while. If someone mentions your business, product or book, take the time to say a simple thank-you. Mention people who are supporters, potential clients, clients or friends. Have coffee or lunch every once in a while. Send an occasional email or make a phone call. People want to know that they are dealing with people who care. This is how you build the know you-like you-trust you feeling.
  • Maintain contact information. Keep a database of leads, partners, centers of influences, etc. You can do this through Microsoft Outlook or Live, Salesforce.com or Webex.com
  • Remember that achieving a new customer is not always immediate. If I were to give you one single piece of advice, this would be it. Your process could be immediate or it could take a few months. It could start with your least costly service, only to sprout into more. So instead of "stomping off" if someone does not want to buy, concentrate on making them comfortable with you and your business.
Once you've done your part, leave it up to the other person to complete the process; but you must do your part by "giving and not just taking."

The Startup Sales Mishap may also occur for the colleague or peer that you try to "give to." You may have figured out that either your peer does not offer services that you can buy, or that they may need your services down the line. So you decide to build a "give and not take" relationship by helping them advance their business. The problem that may occur could be:
  • The follow-up. You've invited them to an event you hosted or you've advertised for them via your blog or newsletter. Or maybe, you've mentioned their services to a peer or client. You may have even encouraged them to distribute their materials to your clients and friends. Or you could have invited them to an event so that you introduce them to a potential client. You know what usually ends up happening? The person neglects to do the proper follow-up. They leave without a follow-up statement that could sound like this: "I'll give you a call next week" or they fail to give the potential client more information to make them comfortable. In this case, you've done all you can. Relax. You never want to be a pushover (you know, the kind of person that always offers your platforms to others to advance their businesses but they never do the same for you).

We all fall short sometimes but as long as we remember that sales is like a contract where both parties have to benefit, we will be on the right path.

About the Author: Cheryl Isaac is a Startup Business Planner & Owner of Isaac Business Services, The Business Startup Company. She is also the creator of The 12MonthBizPlan.com; an online business planning center where business owners can work with a personal advisor who writes their business plan and conduct market research.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Space & Updates for Isaac Business Services

(The inside foyer of my new office space in downtown Columbus)

I haven't posted for over a week (which is unlike me because I try to post at least once a week) so I am deeply apologetic to you my precious readers. I've been so engrossed in planning my business and helping others plan theirs, that I've lost track with you guys but I am back with updates.

Before I go further, I must advise that if you haven't started work on your 2010 business plan yet, now is the time. We are in the Fourth Quarter of 2009; the quarter when most analysts have predicted a slightly better change in the economy. By 2010, things should start to "look up" and you don't want to be starting to plan when you should instead be implementing. Start planning!

Well, we finally had the Open House on Thursday, October 1st. Things went well, friends and partners stopped by for some fun and wine. I was able to showcase the site for the new Institute--Isaac Business Services Small Business Institute; where we will host short seminars and continuing education classes for small business owners and aspiring lawyerpreneurs.

Also as most of you are aware, my newest project: The 12MonthBizPlan.com is up and running. This is the online business planning platform that allows startups and business owners a more convenient way to plan to start a new business, or start something new in business. So far, I've had people ask for a "Frequently Asked Questions" page so we should have that on the website soon.

Our family law firm: The Isaac Firm; (owned and run by my other half) will also offer specialized legal attention to my clients at Isaac Business Services. What this means for you is: you sign up for one low yearly fee and after that you have the benefit of calling to ask legal questions concerning employee problems, handbook procedures, workers compensation matters involving an employee, unemployment employee matters, contracts, policies and procedures, etc. As you can imagine, this usually costs a lot but Isaac Business Services' clients get special treatment.

I will also be updating the blog and website to "showcase" my Business Startup company and all the resources that we have grown over the last couple of years to help you.

I will keep you updated with that website and MANY more updates to come. As I am a HUGE proponent of business planning, I don't just "talk the talk" I try to "walk the walk." I've revisited and revamped my business plan and will be doing so again at the close of the year. Basically folks, we don't just talk at you, we're building a system to walk with you! Since I started in business, I've been helping startups and business owners and will continue to do so. I cannot emphasize how much I LOVE what I do! Unlike most others, this is not something we're "testing" or "trying" for the time being; or better yet, just deciding to do because it seems like a great idea. No. This is what we do!

What about you? What is your business passion and purpose and How are YOU planning for a newer, better business in 2010?

Cheryl Isaac is a business start-up strategist to service businesses going online. She contributes to Forbes here and blogs about Making Business Personal here.  

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