Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Year's resolution list for small business owners......

In the spirit of the holidays I've decided to give small business owners a ready made, no assembly required, New Year's resolution list. It's only 5 items and it's designed for every business owner.

Here's your list............ yes that means you!

  1. Smile more - business life is never as bad as it seems when things aren't going well. From a business perspective there is always a way out...always.
  2. Read more - I don't care how long you've been in business nor how smart you think you can learn something from someone else. I suggest that you read things that are not directly related to your industry. Skimming your trade journal every month to see who got fired is not real reading.
  3. Plan more - Set aside specific blocks of time, away from the office, where your only job is to think about your business 6 -12 months in the future. In spite of what you may believe, planning is not the same as updating a to do list.  
  4. Say thank you more - to your spouse, your parents, your kids (yep, I said kids), to your customers, to your employees, to your vendors, etc. You get the idea, right?
  5. Wish less, Do more - I recently read (see #2 above) that the best productivity tool in the world is to do something. Makes sense to me, we can talk about doing something or we can actually do something. If we're talking about doing something it's still on the to do list, if we actually do golly the list is shorter.
There's your ready made, easy to use list. And by the way it's my list also for 2011. And... thank you for reading this blog, I'll try to make it better than ever in the new year.

If you don't use this list I'd love to see your list! 

Happy New Year!!!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Holiday Reading Ideas for a Better Business

My New Year's resolution (well, one of them anyway!) is to provide more tools for small business owners to start or buy a business, then grow it profitably and sell it! As part of that I am kicking off the New Year with a specific book recommendation. Although I can't say I agree with everything in this book it is loaded with ideas that might help get you focused on creating a business that you run, instead of a business that runs you.

Making Money is Killing your Business contributes greatly to the argument that running a business by the seat of your pants is not always a great idea.

A core and unique concept of the author Chuck Blakeman is that a business should throw off money and time. If you start thinking about your business this way I think it will change some of your decision making. In an earlier post, 'Tis the season...  I warned about creating an atmosphere in your business where you are cynical about your business and you lean on an "it's me against the world" view of ownership.

This book gives clear ideas and examples of how to mange that natural tendency.
Don't get hung up in the references to a specific industry. Analyze the concepts and I think you'll be able to apply improvements to your business quickly. Good luck and let me know what you think about the book.

Friday, December 24, 2010

‘Tis the season for presents…..want to give yourself one?

This post is for all the hard working business owners and those who one day hope to become business owners.

Far too many business owners live in a constant state of stress. Their reasoning is “it’s a good stress”. I’m no doctor but I doubt that stress 24/7 is really good for your health.

What do small business owners worry about most? Here’s my list based on discussions with thousands of business owners:
  •  Cash flow – too many bills at the wrong time.
  •  Employees – too many need baby sitters, not bosses!
  • Customers – Is perfection a reasonable expectation?
  •  Family – Why doesn’t my family appreciate me working 7 days a week? After all, I’m doing it for them.

Ok, here goes. You knew it was going this way didn’t you. The Uncle Joe talk… know, the uncle who told you exactly what he thought about your hair brained thinking when you were 12 years old. Well, I’m your Uncle Joe.

Here’s my recommendation for your New Year’s resolutions for 2011.
  1. Stop feeling sorry for yourself.
  2. Stop using your business as an excuse for not doing the family things that you just don’t want to do. Helping your family hate your business is not a good plan.
  3.  Start thinking about your cash flow problems before you have them instead of waiting until you have them.
  4.  Give your employees written and detailed systems so they know what you expect and how to do it. Believe me, they’d rather not listen to your rants any more than you claim you don’t want to give your rants.
  5. Only promise your customers what you KNOW you can deliver… then do it. Most unhappy customers are created by you. Did you tell the customer what to expect? Did you deliver? Did your employees deliver (see #4 above)?

There’s your simple 5 step program to giving yourself a Christmas present that will benefit you, your family, your employees and your customers.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

M&A Due Diligence from Seller Perspective

Here's an article that shows how M&A Due Diligence preparation can dramatically improve a seller's position.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Uh Oh... 13 million people have a surprise tax bill coming.....

Here's an article about confusion and mis-calculation for another overly complicated Federal Tax process of the governments re-distribution of income. Might want to keep this article to show to your employees when they blame you, the employer, for the problem!  CLICK HERE

Friday, December 17, 2010

New Tax Law is ready to go but.......................

The new tax law extending current tax rates and spending a couple of hundred $$Billion$$ more is headed for the president's desk.

However, FYI - the bill does not rescind the obligation for businesses issuing 1099s that was passed in the Obama care bill. Soooo............. unless something changes look for small businesses being burdened with many 1000s of 1099s to be issued. I saw an IRS estimate that they would get over 1 BILLION more 1099s under the new law!  By example, for my business I'll need to go from about 15 issued 1099s now to about 300 required under the new law. Geeeezzz..............................

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Are you a business owner that wants to grow? Part 1

This is Part 1 of what will be several posts about growing your business. I'll cover some free ways to grow and I'll also talk about growth opportunities that aren't free.

I meet many business owners who want to grow but very few know how to grow.  Let's look some common ways to grow your business.

Low cost/no cost growth.

Train your people better so they get the most sales out of every customer encounter. 

        Example - How many times would you have ordered dessert in a restaurant if someone would just ask? At a restaurant that is missing opportunity, the server sees that I am finished with my dinner and the server walks up and asks "Would you like anything else?" My response, "No thanks."

At a different restaurant, the server sees I've completed my meal and asks "how would you like a slice of blueberry pie or a hot fudge sundae?"  I don't know about you but for me it's a lot easier to say no to the first server than the second one.

What's it mean to the business owner? If a dessert costs $5 and the restaurant serves 100 people per night, getting just 4 more people out of 100 people per night to order dessert means $7,300 per year in additional sales and the cost on that sale is the lowest you can have. All the help is already paid, rent doesn't go up, light bill is the same, etc. So the owner of that business could make $7,300 more per year because his servers just asked the same question a different way. That's as close to free money as a business owner can get.

Every business has these kinds of opportunities regardless of the industry. Take a close, a very close, look at your business and you will find opportunities to increase sales to your existing customers. Often the secret to good selling is knowing how to ask good questions. Are your people asking the good questions?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Small business owners and risks related to employees work claims

This morning at a meeting I was talking to an employment attorney I know and the topic got around to small business employment practices and the risks that small business owners might not realize they are taking.

Among many items we discussed 3 stood out. Many small business owners we meet with are unaware of the consequences that could result from their lack of attention to human resource (HR) legal issues. Here's my list and my take on each one of the topics the attorney reviewed. Obviously seek competent legal advice before taking any actions:

  1. Getting Confidentiality Agreements from employees - I rarely see businesses that have taken this step but I have seen many, many cases of businesses who were damaged and could not go after the offender. The more important the employee the more important this could be.
  2. Documenting overtime practices, payments and procedures - failure to properly pay employees for overtime can have expensive and painful consequences. Those painful consequences could, in some cases, go to the business owner personally, without the corporate shield so many depend on.
  3. Making sure that employees who are not paid by the hour are classified, managed and have responsibilities that are appropriate for the hourly exemption requirements in employment laws. According to the attorney, just because a business owner and an employee agree to weekly pay, instead of hourly, it doesn't necessarily mean the business owner is not obligated for other expenses and claims which may include back pay for overtime and the significant penalties that could be assessed.
This is a good time of year to start reviewing your employment practices and get good advice from an HR professional or attorney. Also, this is not just an issue for big companies. If you have employees you have risks, generally it's wise to spend a little money now to avoid a bigger problem later.