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Posts Tagged ‘Startups’


Small Biz Resource Tip: The Company Corporation

November 3rd, 2010 :: Rieva_L

Incorporate.com

S Corporation, LLC, partnership or something else altogether? How you structure your business not only affects your taxes, it also protects your personal financial and legal assets. Once you choose a legal structure, changing that structure is not a simple feat-so do your research beforehand and learn all you can. The Company Corporation website contains pages and pages of helpful information to help you decide on the right structure for you. The site also contains personalized information by industry. Then, once you’ve decided which route to go, you can incorporate or register your LLC right online. The Company Corporation is a one-stop shop where you can also purchase the appropriate business licenses and permits for your business, along with registering your business name and more.

DISCLAIMER: The information posted in this blog is provided for informational purposes. Legal information is not the same as legal advice — the application of law to an individual’s specific circumstances. The information presented here is not to be construed as legal or tax advice. Network Solutions recommends that you consult an attorney or tax consultant if you want professional assurance that the information posted, and your interpretation of it, is appropriate to your particular business.

Three Key Things to Start Your Business on the Right Track

January 8th, 2010 :: Steven Fisher

This month our theme across our blogs is “Planning/Starting Your Business”. To kick that off here on Grow Smart Business, we have a guest contributor, Richard Greenberg of “State of the Startup” to give some great advice on starting up.

bla07031So you’ve decided to start a new business? Congratulations! Let’s be sure you start on the right track in your endeavor.

First, we will assume you already have your idea, you product, service or profession. And moreover, let’s assume you already have sufficient capital (money) to create your business, and last long enough to pay your personal iving expenses and the costs to run your business until profitable. If you are single, this can be tough, if you have no other source of income. If you are married, and your spouse or significant other has a steady job, this usually makes things much easier and less stressful.

Where do we go from here? Well, having just your idea or product does not make a business. You need to consider these 3 key things:

1. Company Name: There are several local, state and federal agencies where you should check to see if the desired name for you business is already in use. The County Clerk-Recorder, the Secretary of State, the Federal TradeMark office, are most important. Looking on Google, and checking domain URL availability is not an official, legal check of business name use. If you are simply using your own name, such as in freelancing, then searching name availability isn’t typically necessary.

2. Type of Business Structure: From the simplest Sole Proprietorship, to the more complex Corporation or LLC, any business needs to be officially established, founded and registered with the local or state government. Just saying you have a new startup company holds no clout legally nor financially unless your venture can show verifiable existence through some government department as proof. Yes, this includes paying filing fees, though they are often modest. In some areas, $25 gets your business registered, and in others, it may cost $200 to $300.

3. Address: For the registration of your enterprise, no matter how small, you need a physical address to indicate to the government. You don’t need a huge live/work loft or high-rise office. Even just a co-working space at one of many shared office spaces around the country would be sufficient, as long as they allow you to receive mail there.

Once you have these 3 items completed, which can take a week to ten days in most cases, you’re solidly on your way. Other items which would then need to be attended to typically are:

  • Obtain a Federal Tax ID
  • Open a Bank Account
  • If hiring employees, open the state and federal employer ID/Withholding Accounts and Unemployment Insurance
  • If selling merchandise, obtain a State Sales Tax/Reseller permit

Remember, not all ventures start out complex and costly. The simplest and least expensive scenario is the Sole Proprietorship, where you yourself run all aspects of the business and perform all work personally. Then, as your product or service needs grow, change the business structure, move into bigger headquarters, hire employees and then the sky’s the limit!

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rgreenbergRichard Greenberg is a startup advisor in San Francisco CA, founder of SeedPort and www.StateofTheStartup.com , and has over 20 years experience of business formation, management and speaking.

His specialty is working with California-based companies, Corporate, LLC and Nonprofit startups. Prior to SeedPort Inc, Greenberg was founder and CEO of CaliforniaCompany.com, a startup service provider which operated between 1999 and 2006. He is on twitter at @RGreenberg

Eight Things To Keep In Mind For Your Websites Search Engine Optimization

November 19th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

If content is King then your Search Engine Optimization efforts are your King’s Herald. The guy who is out there, once people are listening, giving out the valuable information about your King. But instead of the shiny horn and scroll of lineage, the Search Engine Optimization Herald uses text and links to allow the web crawlers, the cute name for the automated programs that source out websites and index their content in their lists.

Let me be clear, this isn’t the silver bullet that will push your website to the top page ranking. There are a lot of variables that get that there and with multiple search engines there’s more detail than can be fit in this list of eight things.

What we’re going to go over today are just a few things that will help helps search engines, like Google, be able to better index your site.

1. Title each page with your business name and section title. – Search engines use your title as the top link so it only makes sense you would have your companies name here. Don’t get too wordy and try to fill this space with extra words to try to help. You have between 60 to 70 characters (that’s letters, spaces, and symbols) so use that space wisely.

2. Use keywords on your pages that relate to that pages content. – This is where you leverage your key points in your content to, initially, draw attention to your content. You also want to take this time to also include words and two word phrases revolving around your industry and target markets.

3. Give each page a description based on the pages content. Ok, we’ve gone over the title and keywords, but the description is on more part of the sight that most people don’t keep in mind as they are looking at a search engine. By definition, this is the text that the search engines will display below the link to tell you a little about the site you are looking to find. By describing the content on that page, and a little about your company. Just like the title of your site, depending on the search engine you choose, you have roughly between 156 to 250 characters (letters, spaces, and symbols) to relay the information you want. This isn’t the place you want to get cute and fill it in with words that will boost your site. Your keywords are for that.

4. Name every image…photos and buttons. – This helps for more than search engines. This will help the disabled review your site. By namin>g the alt attribute, commonly referred to as the “alt tag”, you are giving a corresponding text title for every non-text element on your site. If this isn’t making sense, find your local web designer and they’ll go on for hours explaining it. Or you can just shoot me a message.

5.Give your site…a map– Site maps are great, because they help you organize your site as you go through the creation process, but they also provide a page of reference links for the search engines to review your site. The site map will also give viewers a place they can go where there a clean, and clear, direction to the content on your site without all the bells and whistles.

6.Breadcrumbs aren’t just for the birds. – Breadcrumb Navigation is often seen just below the header, and navigation (if it is horizontal), and just above the title of the content. It is a great way for visitors to see the path that took them to this page, but this also provides additional links, just like your site map, for the search engine web crawlers to use when indexing your site. Breadcrumb Navigation will often look like this:

Home > Main Content > Sub Content

7.Leverage free analytics tools. – There are paid analytics tools, but just if you are starting out there are tools like Google Analytics available to you simply for the time of setting up a Gmail account. This will help you determine where people are going on your site and what keywords are working for your site.

8.Remember your King. – The content of your site (the text, the links you create, and even images) help your search engine optimization as well. You may be able to get away with just a title, keywords, a description, and a single image, but you’ll get so much further making sure all of the things we talked about above are in line with the content on your website.

These are just a few efforts that you can implement early on, or even in your current website if you haven’t yet, to help make your site more appealing to web crawlers. Remember, this isn’t the silver bullet to the top page rankings, but it will help.

You can also reach me on Twitter by following me @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

Eight things to keep in mind on during your project

October 8th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

It’s time for another excited edition of “Mike Dougherty’s Eight Things”. In other posts in this series, I’ve gone over things to have figured out before you meet your designer, things to help you choose your next marketing piece, and things to think about before you start your logo. I’ll get back to other things about different pieces, like websites and such, but for now we’re going to talk about things to keep in mind during the project.

A project is much more than just figuring out what you want and hiring a designer. You have a place, and a job to do, in the project as well. Without any further ado, here are eight things to keep in mind during your project.

  1. Home Runs aren’t common. As a designer, there are reasons we do comps (mock-ups of the possible project design) and ask a lot of questions. It happens, but very rarely, that a designer will nail the exact nuances of a project on the first try. The main reason for that is we, designers, are not mind readers. We’re more like detectives trying to figure out what the final image will be by asking you for your input. We’re more like archeologists of imagination. We keep working till we find that magical, mysterious beast that is your project.
  2. The Milestones of your project. There are steps, in any project, that deliverables and notes are required. Make sure you, and your team if you have one, are keeping on schedule so that when it’s time for your approval, or notes, the window of time for response doesn’t turn into a gaping hole.
  3. Your approval process. It is critical for you to be fully, mentally and physically, present for the approval process. If you sign off on a design know now that you have just completed that portion of the project. Going back to make changes, because you didn’t invest the full amount of time you needed to make it right…is going to cost you time and money. Before you put your pen to paper to approve…see #8 of this list.
  4. That your scope isn’t being “creeped”. You, and your designer, agreed to a list of certain items, and tasks, that would make up this project. Adding things, after the project has been agreed upon and started, will cost you time and money as well. Rather than go on about it here, read my previous post “It’s called a SCOPE of work, you CREEP” here on GrowSmartBusiness.
  5. Your friends won’t live your choices.  I’ve seen, time and time again, people take the comps, the designer gave them to approve, to their friends for feedback. Bottom line, you have to live with this design…not your friends. Very rarely will your friends be brutally honest with you. More often than not they will not want to hurt your feelings. A better source of feedback is your current, or prospective, clients. If you are unsure yourself it might mean that you aren’t happy with the design and can’t articulate why…which is ok, but work with your designer to see what you can do to get you to #8.
  6. The designers’ time is just as valuable as yours. When it comes time to meet with your designer, for the first time or on Milestone steps, make sure you dedicate that time to your designer. They cleared their schedule for you, and your project, the least you could do is do the same. Let the phone go to voicemail or someone else get it. The emails will be there after the meeting to be addressed. And for, Pete’s sake, do not try to close a sale while your designer is present. Yes, all of these things have happened in my presence and I’ve actually had to say, “If this project, and my time, is not important to you…then maybe we should put this on hold”.
  7. If you want to add more…it’s a new project. I know you love your designer and you two have become friends. Or you think you’re designer is such cool frood who knows where his towel is (if you get that reference award yourself 20 geek points…I’m keeping track), but anything beyond what was agreed upon, I hate to say this, is a new project and will add time and money (gee…do I sense a theme) to your project. Take a minute, if you haven’t already, and review the eight things to help you choose your next marketing piece. These could help ensure that you, and your designer, successfully get you to #8.
  8. You have to be happy with the results. This process takes time, but at the end of the day you, the client, ultimately have to be happy with the results. It’s partially your job to make sure you are. You need to be so excited about your marketing piece that you want to tell it to the mountains. If you aren’t, keep working with your designer to get there…as long as it is within the agreed scope of the project of course.I, personally, don’t believe in the “these are your only three choices to pick from” game that some designers play. I know that’s going to make me very unpopular, but ultimately we’re providing a service. IF your designer wants to keep you in a “only three choices” box that only allows you so much room…get a new designer, but know that you have to respect #6 to get to #8.

I want to know if there’s anything you think I’ve missed. Who knows, you could inspire another “Eight Things” list, which you would be credited for.

You can always reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As always dear reader, thank you for reading and stay wicked.

Book Review: Why does Tee Morris’ book have me “All A Twitter”?

October 6th, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

I constantly source out material for post ideas or unique ways marketing/social media are being brought to the masses. My main source for this is books. I will admit for a tech guy, I like my resource material a little on the old school side, but these are the things I like to read when I disconnect from the laptop.

Lately there seems to be a flood of books about using the tools of social media, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the rest. Some books feel like they are trying to talk to everyone, new users to the experienced, and have left me feeling like I have been missed. I often feel like there are questions that I still had at the beginning that were never answered. There are things, as a moderately experienced user, that I wished wouldn’t have been glossed over or should have been included.

“All A Twitter” by Tee Morris, in my opinion, and mind you that’s worth a lot to me, has hit the mark for all possible users of Twitter. The main reason for this, and he explains this himself in the beginning of the book, is that he, like you and I, is a user of the technology he’s writing about. Not to say other authors on this tool aren’t, but “All A Twitter” doesn’t come across as an instruction manual. “All A Twitter” feels like is a conversation with a friend who has scouted out the terrain way ahead of you and has come back to tell you all about it.

One of the impressive aspects about the entire experience of reading this book is that it did not end when I hit the last page. Tees has built into the book actions to take what you’ve learned, such an experience with hashtags, and apply what you’re learning as you read. This, to me, is something that can break down the fears that a new user would experience and get them to roll up their sleeves to start tweeting. I even find myself going back and searching out those steps I took and seeing how others experienced them.

Tee covers everything that you could imagine from a book on Twitter and, as Tee himself writes, “follows a logical progression with Twitter”. From setting up your account, which mobile phones handle Twitter best, to proper etiquette, Tee covers everything you would need to get the most out of the online tool. The book even has ways to expand the information, such as the “A Little Birdie Told Me…” which are tips on the in’s and out’s of the tool or the “Fail Whale Says…” tips which are there to help prevent you from falling into traps that could derail your enjoyment, and success, with Twitter.

Now, I haven’t written a review on marketing/social media books on GrowSmartBusiness before, but after reading Tee Morris’ book “All A Twitter” that has changed. Once month I will source out a book, new or established, and give you my thoughts on it. At the very least, these books could help expand your idea bank of marketing tips or ideas. To me, the best education in the world is one that comes from more than one teacher.

This book was good enough, for me, to follow the advice offered in the forward, written by Chris Brogan, which was to “give it to someone else”. I’m not going to go giving away multiple copies, not just yet anyway, but what I will do is send the first person who comments here a free copy of the book. And this has to be a relevant comment about either the book or this post. You can’t just put up “First” or some variation of “Give me my free book”. I mean I have standards…well, some what, but the comment has to be relevant at the very least.

To make this easier, your comment needs to be twenty words on if you have read “All A Twitter”, or why you would like to, and provide a valid email that I can contact you with to get the address to send it to. I would love to hear your thoughts in a comment below regardless of who is first.

You can also reach me on Twitter by following me @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As all ways, if you have been reading, thank you and stay wicked.

It’s Customer Experience…Not Just Customer Service

October 1st, 2009 :: Michael Dougherty

My posts here generally circle around marketing, design, and social media, but today I am going to go off the beaten path. I am going to talk about something that creates its own marketing whether you plan for it or not. That, my dear readers, is customer service. There is an old marketing rule that I am fond of that relates perfectly to customer service as a marketing to help you understand what I mean. I am going to paraphrase, but “give one person a good experience and they will tell one person, but give one person a bad experience and they will tell ten people.”

My wife will tell you, if you ever get the chance to meet her, that I am a stickler for customer service. It might embarrass her when I’m more than vocal about it when it’s bad, but it is a major pet peeve of mine.

Customer service has been severely abused and taken for granted. It’s been seen from everything as yet another opportunity for a sale to the last reason anyone in the company should pick up the phone. I’ve sat in more than enough consulting meetings where they are worried about customer retention or new customer acquisition, but at no point is customer service ever brought up. It’s as if the reaction to customer service, for some companies, is “Give them a link to the FAQ and if that doesn’t work…let them send an email.” If you’re wondering, I heard that in a meeting that I eventually walked out of when it was obvious the client did not get it.

To be fair, and honest, I have been guilty of it. Looking back, it is a driving force now as to why I’m crystal clear about details of an agreement. It’s also the reason I get so frustrated when I see other companies do it. I want to jump over the counter and scream “Do you know how much money, and reputation, you are costing your company by giving me bad service? Trust me…I know!”

Customer service is one of the interactions with a client/customer that could sway a negative customer to a loyal one or kill any future interactions your company may have with them …and it’s swept aside in planning meetings for “more profitable solutions”.

Think about this, you plan for how to guide a prospective, or current, client/customer to your website, take an action, or make a call, through marketing pieces. You plan on what your messaging will be to gain their attention. You plan on how to make sure every dollar you spend has a great return on the investment. You plan for all the bells and whistles, but do you plan on how to service your customers beyond that step?

I hear the cries now…but Mike, how can we plan for this?

It’s simple, really. Do you plan on what your sales people or receptionist will say if they get a call? Or how many steps a customer will have to go through when trying to address an issue? Do your people know the right person to send customers to?

Decide, here and now, that the people who have invested their time and money into your company/product are just as valuable now as they were when they first gave you their business. Once you make that decision, make sure each person on your team feels the same way, because one weak link in the armor could cause the whole image of your company to be seen negatively by your potential/current customer.

In my previous post “Just take the black eye with a smile”, here on GrowSmartBusiness, I talked about what you can do when you get negative reactions to your business in social media, but good customer service will help those black eyes be fewer and fewer. Customer service isn’t the silver bullet solution, but more like an extra effort to help your marketing strategies be bullet proof.

I would love to hear your customer service experiences, good and bad, here in the comments. You never know, you could be helping someone else see ideas that they could improve or adopt.

You can always reach me on Twitter by sending a message to @wickedjava, or on Facebook at facebook.com/mcdougherty.

As always, thank you for reading, dear reader, and stay wicked.

Great Resources for Funding Your Business

September 9th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

You probably have figured out by now that I am resource and tip junkie. If there is anything that will help me run my business better and learn from others so I don’t make the same mistake, I am all in.

I recently came across this web site from Microsoft as part of the “Startup Zone“. This section of the site is an amazing list of blog posts, links to templates and great articles on raising capital. This is not limited to the venture capital side of fund raising but covers raising capital from banks, angels and government. It also includes great stuff on writing your business plan, building a financial model and doing your pitch.

You can find it at http://www.microsoftstartupzone.com/Resources/Pages/Get_Funding.aspx and I would take a few hours and dive into this stuff. You will learn a ton.

Social Media: 10 Tips on Jumping In Feet-First Without Drowning

August 11th, 2009 :: Michelle Riggen-Ransom

This post comes from one of our Grow Smart Business Expert Network members Michelle Riggen Ransom. She is Communications Director of BatchBlue Software.

There are a lot of resources out there explaining how to use social media for small businesses. Heck, we’ve even published an in-depth paper about it! But sometimes it’s nice to hear directly from someone who’s out there trying all this stuff to see what’s really worked for them.

How we do it

BatchBlue Software is a small company that makes BatchBook, a social CRM software for small businesses. Because we’re a growing company, we don’t have much of an advertising or marketing budget. Social media’s appeal for us has been that it is inexpensive (usually free except for time) and allows you to grow your network quickly. And once you get the hang of it, it’s actually pretty fun.

We’ve been in business for about three years and have enjoyed some great press, made some amazing connections and grown our business primarily by using social media.

Here’s what’s worked for us in helping our business get started with social media:

  1. Start a Twitter account. You’ll hear this from anyone and everyone talking about social media. That’s because it really is the best tool of them all for connecting with people, finding new contacts, even providing customer service. There are many, many posts out there about how to get started with Twitter for business. Here are just a few.
  2. Listen. Familiarize yourself with the main social media channels out there such as Facebook and LinkedIn. Ask your customers which ones they are using on a regular basis. For more options, check out BatchBlue’s Blue Paper or Mashable, a blog focused on Web 2.0 and social media news. Create accounts in a couple of social networks and just observe how people are interacting. You’ll learn a lot this way.
  3. See what your competitors are doing. Go to Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and have a look at your competitors are doing in these spaces. If they’re not there, think about if it makes sense for you to be there (is the network you want to reach in that particular space? Maybe not.) If they are not there yet, this could be a tremendous opportunity for you and your business to be the first ones in your industry using some of these tools.
  4. Be nice. The real fun begins once you start participating. Social media is very much about helping others succeed, not just going after your own personal success. Karma goes a very long way online – if you help someone in some way (by providing a resource, a link, an answer to a question), they’ll both remember you and view you as an asset to their network.
  5. Share. Whatever your industry, you have knowledge that other people don’t. Run a fireplace supply store? Blog about when people should get their chimneys swept. Own a pet grooming business? Tweet some quick tips about clipping kitty nails (hint: there’s a lot of pet lovers on Twitter!). Social media is about communication: the more you share what you know, the more you’ll get interest in your company and the product or service you are providing.
  6. ABC (Always Be Communicating) The sales industry has the term “Always Be Closing.” Well, you should be doing that, too, but with regard to social media, the more information you put out there, the better (as long as it is relevant, interesting and not spammy!) At BatchBlue, we use our blog to talk about what’s going on behind the scenes with BatchBook, we use our Twitter account to communicate if our site has any downtime and talk about upcoming events, we share photos of staff events and conferences using Flickr. People want to do business with companies they feel they know; it was true 100 years ago and it is true today even though the rules and the tools have changed. Be open and honest about who you are as a company and that will earn you customer loyalty that no advertising dollar will ever buy.
  7. Don’t be creepy. There are a lot of great ways to use social media, but there are a lot of inappropriate ways as well. We call these people “Sleestacks”; folks who use social media to spam people, spy on people or in other nefarious ways. I wrote a post about Sleestacks here; read it so you know what to watch out for and how not to become one.
  8. Try new things. Something that has been very successful for us is starting the SBBuzz Twitter chat, where we host a weekly, two-hour chat session on Twitter for small business folks looking to connect with others. Our company president Pamela O’Hara and I started this just about a year ago at the Small Business Technology Conference in New York City and we now have over 9,000 followers on the sbbuzz Twitter account. We had never done this before, and, in fact, we’re still learning the technology ourselves, but we saw a need for this type of discussion and we’re excited to jump in and try and fill it. If new for you is simply joining Twitter or opening a YouTube account and putting up some product demos, try that. As I always tell my mom (who’s a small business owner herself) “You can’t break the Internet just by trying something out!”
  9. Manage your time. This is one I’m, admittedly, still learning. Social media can be very addictive and thus very time-consuming. The always helpful Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs and a prolific writer on the topic of social media, recently wrote a great piece as part of a recent newsletter about how he manages his daily workflow when much of it involves being active various social media channels. I’m working on adopting some of his strategies to make my work day more efficient and productive.
  10. Go to social media-related events. You’ll find that you start making real connections with certain people online due to shared interests, sense of humor, etc. If you have a chance to meet with folks “IRL” (in real life!) at conferences or meet-ups, definitely do so; it will strengthen these connections and turn virtual friends into real ones. Eventbrite is a good place to find events that you may be interested in attending. You can search by industry, topic or location or even create an event of your own.

I hope you find these tips helpful. BatchBlue will be blogging here on the topics of social media for small business and managing your contact network on a regular basis, so please let me know in the comments if there are specific things you’d like to read more about. Thanks for reading!

ABOUT THIS GROW SMART BUSINESS CONTRIBUTOR:

As overseer of all things editorial and champion of the overall user experience, Michelle works as Communications Director for BatchBlue Software and ensures that the products meet BatchBlue customers’ needs. Prior to joining BatchBlue Software, her work as a consultant for web communications helped clients connect to their employees and customers using innovative technologies such as virtual user groups, intranets, and rich media.

Michelle honed her on-line customer advocacy skills at Amazon.com, where she worked as a project manager in the Customer Service department. After four years at Amazon, she joined Washington Mutual’s Corporate Communications department developing and managing web-based communications projects.

Michelle holds a Master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Washington and a degree in communications from Boston University. Originally from Cape Cod, she enjoys exploring the beach with her four-year old son and collecting children’s book illustrations. Descended from a long line of birders, she’s destined to become a crazy bird lady. For now, she’s named her new daughter after a songbird that heralds the arrival of spring.

Starting a Business as a Milennial (or Generation Y or Generation O)

June 9th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher
The Newest Entrepreneurs: Credit All American Blogger

The Newest Entrepreneurs (Credit: All American Blogger)

As you may know, on of our new contributing bloggers is Jessie Newburn, a generational marketing expert who just published her framework on “What is Generational Marketing?” and “Generational Communication Styles”.

Recently, the newest generation of entrepreneurs have been taking on the roughest economy. This generation, according to Jessie is called “Millennials” but have been called Generation Y and, with the election of Barack Obama, have been dubbed “Generation O. This generation is born from 1980 to 2000, they are as different from as my generation (Generation X) and their parents (Boomers) in how they view starting a business as well as the economy in general.

When I started my first business 10 years ago, I was 29 years old and the Interent boom was roaring upward (soon to crash) and things were fantastic. With Mark Andresen and Mark Cuban becoming billionaires overnight, everyone my age with a little risk taking tolerance and some savings were going to start the next great dot-com and retire by 35. Sounded sweet but as we all know, it wouldn’t last.

According to Jessie, my generation are a bunch of nomadic people caught in between a generation that won’t get out of the way (boomers) and one that wants to save the world (Gen-Y). Generation X was about “Doing it Differently” because we had the Internet and we could raise a few million and get the business to IPO in 18 months while knocking out the established businesses who had been doing things solidly for decades. Because our boomer or silent generation parents were either stuck in their way of doing things differently or won’t allow us to sit at the table. We built our own shiny table with new toys for the world to play with – Re: Yahoo, Google, Netscape, Broadcast.com, etc. While it is true that my generation created some truly spectacular flops – re: Pets.com, Kozmo, every dotcom that failed, we did break new ground and put in place the systems and services that run most of the worlds businesses today.

According to Inc. Magazine, Millennials look at starting a business in a different way. In their article “The Gen-Y Spin on Startups” they see Gen-Y as the entrepreneurial generation that at its core believes it is about “Doing it Better”. When I look at this new generation of entrepreneurs I see improvements to our initial innovations. We eventually got Quicken Online but they went and created Mint.com, we got the newspapers online and they created Digg, we got people searching the web and they enabled everyone to connect through Facebook.

To quote All American Blog, technology has transformed how they interact with each other and the world. Not only are they computer literate, but the Internet has allowed them to have friends from around the world who are available at the touch of a keystroke. Think about – 15 years ago there were very few cell phones, just dial up per-hour Internet, no Twitter, no Facebook so this generation is naturally tuned to using these systems and seeing how to improve on them faster than anyone else.

While they ironically face an economic challenge similar to what their great-grandparents faced in the 1930′s and 1940′s. The also have the advantage of lower startup costs than ever before and a strong desire to make change happen on their own without any one telling them they should or they can’t.

Luckily, my generation as survivors and ones who adapt will be innovating to keep up with this generation and will be awesome to see what businesses they start over the next decade. More on this in future post and if you are a milenial starting a business or have a perspective on this topic please leave a comment, we would love to hear from you.

Grow Smart Business Webinar Interview with Anita Campbell of Small Business Trends

April 27th, 2009 :: Steven Fisher

anitacampbell-sm1Anita Campbell, Editor of Small Business Trends will be one of five panelists on the GrowSmartBusiness Webinar (next Thursday, April 30 at 2pm ET). Her well-rounded expertise will shed light on two of the biggest challenges for small businesses –marketing and finance – as revealed in the Small Business Success Index. We asked Anita to address some of these issues in advance of the webinar.

1.    What do you think is the most challenging aspect of raising capital for a small business?

It depends on the age of your business.

(1)    STARTUPS — If you are a startup, uncertainty about the future is your biggest financing challenge.  Your business is unproven and you don’t have a track record yet.  Emotionally it may feel much riskier as a startup entrepreneur to seek funding, because you don’t know what the future holds.  How do you predict sales? How fast will your business be able to grow?  Are your expense predictions realistic?

You know what they say about a startup seeking money:  divide your sales projections by half and double your expense projections.   It always takes longer and costs more to get a new business off the ground.  And I’ve found that to be true when I started my own business and in many startups I see.

The problem is that because the future is uncertain, too many startups underestimate their capital needs.  Then they give up just before the dawn, because it looks darkest then.  And that’s a shame.

Startups need to get creative about alternative financing sources. Common sources of funding for a startup:

•    Personal savings
•    Side business (while still employed full time)
•    Working spouse (whose salary pays living expenses which in effect subsidizes the business startup period)
•    Family and friends (available even during recessions)
•    Angel investment (again, available even during recessions)
•    Credit cards (just be careful – easy to overextend and get into trouble)
•    Home equity loan (but you may be putting your family at risk)
•    Public grants (often through your local community or philanthropic organizations)
•    Venture capital (only for very high growth business models)

(2)    ESTABLISHED BUSINESSES
– Established businesses that have been around for at least a few years, tend to have one of two challenges.  (i) Growth demands more cash than you have, or (ii) you need cash just to survive during a recession.

Your business may get caught in a catch-22.  Growth eats cash.  Here you may need capital to expand your business and hire staff or invest in marketing and R&D in advance of sales coming in.  In some businesses, higher sales actually can cause there to be LESS cash in the business in the near term.

Or, the other situation is that your sales may have slowed so dramatically due to the recession, that you need cash to make up the shortfall just to survive.  You may not be able to cut expenses fast enough or without eviscerating your business.

And if your bank has cut back on its small business lending, you could feel the pinch and need to look at other options.  Some available financing options are:

•    Bank loans (if larger banks are unable to lend, seek out smaller community banks or credit unions – they’ve not been hit as hard with the credit crisis)
•    Revolving lines of credit, or charge cards like American Express (disclosure:  I write for their site)
•    Trade credit (2/10/60 and the like can ease up cash flow if volumes are sufficient)
•    Credit cards
•    Cutting expenses and raising prices (the two-punch can ease cash flow concerns)
•    SBA loans
•    Invoice factoring

2.    Why do small businesses struggle to effectively market their products/services?

It’s the double whammy of complexity and cost.  Marketing (especially online marketing) has gotten much more complex with so many more options today.  The choices alone are mind-boggling.  Plus, there’s a cost to everything – either time or money or both.  Even social media, which typically costs little in hard dollars, often can be costly in terms of time devoted to it, as its very hands on and time intensive.

When you think of the range of skills and expertise needed to carry out marketing today, it’s pretty daunting for a small organization with a few people who have to wear many hats and may be generalists rather than specialists.

3.    What is your mantra for successfully running a profitable small business?

Stay on top of your numbers.  Know exactly how much you have to sell each week in order to hit your sales goals – and measure it weekly.  Monthly or quarterly isn’t enough because you may not have time to react if sales fall seriously off track.  And keep close tabs on expenses and receivables.

Also, it helps to have a cash flow budget, especially if you are in a business where customers tend to pay slow (e.g., 60 – 90 days or more).  Tracking sales isn’t enough if you aren’t getting paid right away for those sales – you have to know what your available cash level is at all times.

There’s nothing like sitting down with a cup of coffee and your books to set your priorities straight.

Register for the GrowSmartBusiness Webinar at www.growsmartbusiness.com/webinar.

Find out YOUR marketing and finance score by taking the survey – your results will be benchmarked against the Small Business Success Index.