Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Being part of your community...

Over the course of this blog we have talked about various ways in which you can have a competitive advantage over the big box stores. Today we are going to take a little different approach and talk about not only competing but also doing something for the community as a whole.

While I know that you are busy with running your business plus many of us have family to think about, but you should also think about your community.

Take a look at opportunities to help your community which could be anything from helping sponsor a little league team to being part of community partnership. Not only will be helping your community but you will also have the opportunity to network with other business people and promote your business.

Be sure that you find an avenue that you can not only support but really enjoy being a part of. If you have a child playing little league ball that could be your best opportunity. If you like getting involved in making your community a better place to live there is many community partnerships that you can join a part of making your community better.

What you must do is be behind what you are doing. If you are doing it only to find customers then it will not work, so be sure to find an outlet that you truly care about and want to be a part of.

While you competitors may throw some money at things here and there, in the long run the chain stores are not part of the community but you are and you can make a difference that will not only help the community by you in the long run.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Yesterday on my Biz Plan Hacks website I discussed Outsourcing.

Outsourcing for small businesses is nothing new. We are not talking about the outsourcing that is getting a bad rap right now such as sending your customer service to India but instead are talking about such items as secretarial services.

What I mentioned in that blog was outsourcing is fine, just do not outsource an area that deals directly with your customers. This is were many technology companies are making a mistake as they outsource customer service and tech support.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Starting A Small Business Series Part III

In the previous entries we talked about finding the right business for you. Now we are going to get into the finances of your business.

So what are you going to need to start your business?

Today we will not talk about an actual building but what would be needed to go inside the building or other things you may need.

Some items to take into consideration:

Fixtures: What kind of fixtures are you going to need? If you’re running a store you may need display racks, display cases, clothing racks, cash register or POS system, etc.

Office Furniture: If you will just have a office then you would need just office furniture but this could include a desk, desk chair, guest chairs, rugs, file cabinets, white boards, cork boards, etc.

Computer Equipment: No matter what kind of business you’re looking to open up your going to need computer equipment. If you are starting a retail business you should consider a POS system which QuickBooks has for $1500 or more. If not then you should still have a computer to keep track of customers and finances. Remember it’s just not the computer itself but you will also need a printer, possibly a scanner, and other computer related supplies.

Other Supplies: Along with the above mentioned you need to take into consideration the supplies you will need to get started. Office supplies can consist of paper clips; file folders, pens, pencils, janitorial supplies, and much more.

This is just a basic list and will vary with the type of business you are looking to open. For fixtures and office furniture you should be able to find items used from a variety of stores that will save you money.

This will get you started. Figure out the cost of each item you’re going to need and then next week we will start working on financial statements.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

What Niche?

One of things you will here me talk about all the time is how important it is for you to have a niche to drive your customers base. Wal-Mart has it’s low price niche (even if it really doesn’t have the lowest prices), Nordstrom is known for it’s customer service, and K-Mart is know for?

Now let’s look at one type of chain store that none of the competitors have set themselves apart and that is office supplies. There are three big stores when it comes to office supplies and that is OfficeMax, Office Depot, and Staples.

The problem is what sets these stores apart? I have to admit I used to work for OfficeMax, my wife worked for Office Depot at one time and her sister worked for Staples. So in other words we have all three covered.

If you ask a majority of their customers, they would say that they shop at the store that is most convenient for them. If there is a couple of stores close to each other people may choose one store over the other because of customer service but beyond that they have done little to set themselves apart. In fact I have never seen a market segment in which customers will when writing a check will not remember what store they are in and mistake it for a competitor.

While OfficeMax has tried to set itself apart by not having mail in rebates and Staples is pushing its Easy Button advertising, there is still little to set these stores of apart. They pretty much have the same product and services, at pretty much the same prices.

So what could these stores do to set themselves apart?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Capital Budget Needs...

In a previous entry I talked about the importance of having an emergency fund consisting of six months of expenses. This is not to be touch except in an extreme emergency. Today I am going to talk to you about another savings account you should have but this one you will tap into on a regular basis and that is your capital equipment fund.

Depending on the type of business you have you will either have a great need for capital or a small need but you still need to have a fund set up to save the money for these important purchases.

One regular reoccurring capital expense is computers. Computers either have to be replaced or heavily upgraded every three to five years. Every month you should be setting aside money for future computer needs. This not only includes the computer itself but also printers, copiers, scanners, etc. and anything else your business may use.

Here are the steps to take in order to start saving for your capital needs. First thing to do is figure out when you’re going to need a new piece of equipment. Then you set a budget for how much you’re going to spend. If it’s something that you buy on a regular basis you have a good basic idea on cost. If not, do some research and add a little padding incase of price increases or changes in needs.

The rest is pretty simple. Just divide the amount you need by the number of time periods before the purchase and you have the amount you need to save each time period. If you need a $1000 in 10 months and you will put away money every month then you need to put away $100.00 each month.

By using this system you will be ready for those major purchases and they will not take you by surprise. By budgeting for your big purchases and having your emergency fund, you will be ready when something major happens. After all like Dave Ramsey says, it’s when your not financial prepared that Murphy will come calling.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Starting A Small Business Series Part II

In the first part of the series we talked about getting ideas for you to start your own business. Now that you have a general idea of what direction you want to do, now we will see how marketable the idea is and where you should go with it. We are keeping this very basic for those going from a blank sheet.

Here is a series of questions to ask to start developing your business plan and to insure that your idea is something to run with.

  1. Who would buy your product or service?
  2. How big is the market for your product or service?
  3. Who is your competition?
  4. How will you set yourself apart from your competition?
  5. What is your niche?

Once you answer these basic questions you will have a better idea of were to go with idea for a product of service.

Be sure that you are very detailed when answering your questions. We will go through each of these questions in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Business Events Calander from the Seattle Times

Coming business events

What Kind of Business Should I Go Into?

So you have decided to start your own business because you are tired of corporate culture, you want to control your destiny, or a range of other reasons for starting your own business.

So what kind of business should you go into?

Maybe you already have some ideas of what you are going to do but if you don’t here are some helpful hints to find that right business for you.

Ask yourself some questions:

  1. What kind of experience you have?
  2. What are your hobbies?
  3. Do you have an innovative product or service that is not out there yet?

Look deeply into yourself to figure out what would be the best options for you.

In my case, I had a varied amount of experience from different fields and I could never find a job where I could put all of my assets to use, or I should say find a company that was willing to allow me to use all my experience and knowledge. After some deep thinking I decided to become a consultant so I could put all of my assets to use.

The most important thing to remember when deciding what business you are going into is to find something you are going to enjoy. When you start your own business you are going to be working many hard hours so it is so important that you enjoy what you are doing. If you do not enjoy what you are doing in the long run you will not be a success at it.

There is many opportunities out there, so do a deep search to find what is right for you.

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Winemaking That Doesn’t Require a Mortgage

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