Thursday, September 27, 2012
The % of ownership can be determined by a financial contribution, or a donation of effort in the form of hours at zero cost to the company, carefully accounted at an agreed upon rate and yielding a resulting ownership share, or some other means of valuing an investment in the firm.
Yet a third factor to consider in specifying the ownership % is the long term role of each partner in the operation of the firm.
An operating agreement is a separate document, not controlled or required by the state or the federal government but very important to your company. It should be a simple, straightforward document you and your prospective partner(s) can draft yourselves, addressing such matters as % of ownership, how revenue will be distributed and other general matters, as well as who can commit the company in the form of credit cards, who signs checks on the company account and other administrative matters. Buying out a partner should also be covered as well as adding new members if the need arises down the road.
I have seen many enterprises fail or go through terrifically hard times due to lack of an operating agreement. The parties should sign it after a review by a lawyer. It should then be notarized and made an official part of the company file.
You can download a free, generic operating agreement with instructions from the second vertical Box Net cube in the left margin of the below site. You can feel free to borrow from the sample or supplement it as you see fit to make it your own. It is fairly comprehensive in order to cover most business situations and there may be elements of the example you feel are not necessary.
The role of the individual in the on-going operation of the company is a major factor to consider in the ownership equation as well as initial financial or labor contributions. The operating agreement process is the way to achieve equity and commitment among the parties.
Courtesy Of Kenneth Larson, SCORE Mentor
Tuesday, September 25, 2012
Part of the problem is that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration, 72 percent of workers at small companies (companies with less than 100 employees) have no employer-sponsored retirement plan available to them. By starting a retirement savings plan, you will help your employees save for the future, help you attract and retain qualified employees and even gain significant tax advantages for your business and your employees. All while helping you secure your own retirement.
- Today small businesses can offer a retirement plan for about what we pay per month for cable television – even if you have just a handful of employees.
- Business owners can also take advantage of a tax credit for the costs of setting up a retirement plan. The credit equals 50 percent of the cost to set up and administer the plan up to a maximum of $500 per year for each of the first three years of the plan.
- Employee contributions are deductible from the employer’s income and employee contributions (other than Roth contributions) are not taxed until distributed to the employee. Money in the plan grows tax-free.
- A plan can be put in place in less than a week and will only require about an hour a month of on-line maintenance time. And you don’t have to set up an employee match unless you choose to do so.
Monday, September 24, 2012
Mumpreneur must be a British thing, as when I Googled it most of the sites were .uk. Never heard the term here in the states and I find it a bit derogatory. I've owned a recruiting business for over twenty-five years and prior to that was a free-lance graphic designer before taking a job as a recruiter. I was a single mom and worked from home, and I would have been horrified to be singled out as a mumpreneur. I was as viable a solopreneur or freelancer as any man with or without children, a Professional Woman with clients, deadlines, meetings, billings and taxes owed.
If one runs a legitimate business, whatever that business is, and it is successful, turns a profit, and pays taxes to the government, then you are a Professional Woman. If you run a Cottage Industry, you are still a business woman, but it's a smaller endeavor, selling more one of a kinds, or handmade items to a smaller audience. But that is a legitimate business too.
I take umbrage with that term. Are the many women on Etsy.com mumpreneurs? I doubt they would see themselves that way. And that is a highly successful international site with handmade goods from all over the world from small firms, individuals or companies that often work out their homes. They see themselves as businesses.
A Professional Woman is known by her code of ethics, business practices, decorum and the ability to deliver on time and within budget what she promises. Just like any Professional Man. They are one and the same.
Where did this term originate and who is using it? Distasteful to me. As a woman I would be embarrassed to say it out loud. Demeaning.
Courtesy of Cheryl Roshak
I think it depends on who you ask- My site is called "Mompreneur Mogul".
It's not derogatory. It's not degrading.
Anyone who is a mother knows that the term is a total gift. Period.
Some women flip out about it - I think that's silly. ( of course that is my opinion I know other women get upset if you call them mommy, or in this case mompreneur- I don't.
And as far a gender discrimination I don't see how it applies in any way.
To me a Mompreneur is obviously a mother and she is a professional woman.
Even if she never had a business just being a mom would make her professional. Anyone who is not a mom should try it for 24 hours. Most would come out crying. Moms are professional believe me.
As a matter of fact I think it's funny at times that people who have racked up degrees and are in high positions in companies ( some not all) look down on a mother. Funny if it wasn't for theirs they wouldn't even be in that company.
It's one of the most challenging most rewarding jobs on the planet. Nothing compares really.
I've performed on stage in front of 40,000 people. I shook the hands of Steve Wynn. Chuck Schwab, Michael McDonald, Larry The Cable Guy and others. I've toured the world and been in the company of the elite and the most poor- I've written a book, been on tv, run my blog and business and I love my business however being a mom beats it all.
Simply put a Mompreneur is a woman with a business who also has children and she is profesional.
Oh and there is no shame in my name ;) None whatsoever-
Courtesy of Lisa Cash Hanson
I think mumpreneurs are defined as mothers with children who run a business, usually from home and this business is often web-based, allowing flexibility for childcare arrangements. In my experience of it, mumpreneurs also often create products and services for pregnancy, babies, children and childcare once they see the need for it after going through these stages themselves.
A professional woman may have her own business, but she is less likely to be based at home with children within this business, having opened her own offices, salons or consulting rooms If she does not have her own business, she is likely to have a senior role in a government or publicly-listed company.
The overlap is that they both work incredibly hard! And happen to be women.
Thursday, September 20, 2012
NO MARKETING PLAN
NO MARKETING CAMPAIGNS
NOT TESTING MARKETING EFFORTS
NOT MEASURING MARKETING EFFORTS
Too many business owners look at marketing as an EXPENSE when it's actually one of the best INVESTMENTS you can make for your business!
You can't open the doors of your business and expect customers to find you. I have seen businesses spend tens of thousands of dollars on a new retail location and/or to build a new shinny website and then EXPECT customers to find them. You can have the best website in the world but if no one knows about it or can't find it how will increase sales?
ATTENTION ALL BUSINESS OWNERS!
Marketing is ONLY a Expense if you are doing it incorrectly! Maintain active marketing campaigns and make sure you can MEASURE all of your marketing efforts. Don't just throw money at your marketing and think its going to work itself out. Test your marketing and advertising and measure everything. Large corporations can afford to throw money at marketing they can't measure but most small businesses can't afford this.
Successful businesses only risk a small amount in testing an idea with a high potential return .... e.g. adwords to get traffic to a squeeze page or survey .... then only do they create the product if the test indicates it is profitable else they fail quickly. They only take major risks like renting a shop or hiring staff when they have a proven idea that is cashflowing well. Successful businesses plough 10% of turnover into building the business and another 10% into personal & professional development of manager & staff.
Most startups fail in year 1 by developing a product before discovering there is a market for it .... and taking large risks like opening a store for low returns (physical goods have a margin of 10-20%) or risking their home for a loan.
Year 2 taxation is the biggest killer of startups because employees are used to spending all their income once they have it. But when switching to a business taxes are not due till the end of the year. Forgetting to pay themselves first (instead of last) compounds the issue.
Year 3 loss of focus causes problems because too many business owners use a business plan as just a tool to get money from friends, family & fools instead of as a working guide.
Year 4 + the biggest traps include failure to do what only you can do & delegate the rest resulting in burnout.
Business owners are outsiders in society because they have not accepted the social conditioning of working hard for others for 40+ years in the hope of getting a pension of less than half of what was not enough to support your life while working. So they need a support network from successful business people.
A business plan is needed based on the owner's requirement for funding his desired lifestyle *10 ... to give the minimum target profit level of the business.
The successful people/businesses have different accounts and budgets for asset building 10%, education 10%, contribution 10%, play10%, long term saving (eg for new car) 5%, savings/debt reduction 5%, necessities 50%. In other words, budget all your expenses, needs, and desires and stick to it.
Above is not a "Does It All" recipe for business success but should at least give you a few tasty dishes to sic your teeth into.
Monday, September 17, 2012
Out of the top 10 teams in the course, they were from a variety of regions.
Women did just slightly better than the men (differences are not statistically significantly different).
The team score was not significantly higher for those with larger teams. At the beginning I recommended teams of 3-4 people. Once teams got too large there appears to be some decline in performance, but otherwise, team size did not significantly influence the average score. A team that is too large can have difficulties with fast decision making and coordination/communication.
Finally, here's a cool photo of a set of customized, handcrafted soaps from one of the teams that is producing eco-beauty products and soaps:
Often they fail because the owners don't know anything about running a business.
They may be experts in the TYPE of business they have, e.g., a great chef may open a restaurant, a great athlete may open a sporting goods store, a great fashion designer may open a clothing store.
But they know nothing about running a BUSINESS.
I find that business owners don't make it because they:
--somehow think that passion will get them through everything,
--listen to people who have no right to give them advice,
--are too emotionally attached to their business,
--try to do everything themselves
-- they haven't yet moved from being self-employed to running a business -- because they don't know what they don't know.
Marketing wise, most don't understand that "less IS more, when it comes to creating an ideal client profile." They market to "everyone who breaths and make no one special. And we as clients want to feel special.
The bottom line is that the principal reason for failure is ...
Lack of a sound business plan. It is just as much for the business planner as for the investor.
What's the best measure to protect yourself?
Completing the business planning process will convince the most important individual that a viable business vision exists for the enterprise. That individual is the owner.
When the owner has completed a business plan, he or she will be able to pitch it with confidence to people who can help. It will be the road map to a business future that you can slide across the table to a banker, partner or investor. The owner can address it with verve because he or she owns it by having done it.
These links provide free tools and examples on business planning as well as free counselors to assist, worldwide.
How To Write A Business Plan
Sample Business Plans
Friday, September 14, 2012
A cowboy named Bud was overseeing his herd in a remote mountainous pasture in Montana when suddenly a brand-new BMW advanced toward him out of a cloud of dust.
The driver, a young man in a Brioni® suit, Gucci® shoes, RayBan® sunglasses and YSL® tie, leaned out the window and asked the cowboy, "If I tell you exactly how many cows and calves you have in your herd, will you give me a calf?"
Bud looks at the man, who obviously is a yuppie, then looks at his peacefully grazing herd and calmly answers, "Sure, why not?"
The yuppie parks his car, whips out his Dell® notebook computer, connects it to his Cingular RAZR V3® cell phone, and surfs to a NASA page onthe Internet, where he calls up a GPS satellite to get an exact fix on his location which he then feeds to another NASA satellite that scans the area in an ultra-high-resolution photo.
The young man then opens the digital photo in Adobe Photoshop® and exports it to an image processing facility in Hamburg, Germany ...
Within seconds, he receives an email on his Palm Pilot® that the image has been processed and the data stored. He then accesses an MS-SQL® database through an ODBC connected Excel® spreadsheet with email on his Blackberry® and, after a few minutes, receives a response.
Finally, he prints out a full-color, 150-page report on his hi-tech, miniaturized HP LaserJet® printer, turns to the cowboy and says, "You have exactly 1,586 cows and calves."
"That's right. Well, I guess you can take one of my calves," says Bud.
He watches the young man select one of the animals and looks on with amusement as the young man stuffs it into the trunk of his car.
Then Bud says to the young man, "Hey, if I can tell you exactly what your business is, will you give me back my calf?"
The young man thinks about it for a second and then says, "Okay, why not?"
"You're a Congressman for the U.S. Government", says Bud.
"Wow! That's correct," says the yuppie, "but how did you guess that?"
"No guessing required." answered the cowboy. "You showed up here even though nobody called you; you want to get paid for an answer I already knew, to a question I never asked. You used millions of dollars worth of equipment trying to show me how much smarter than me you are; and you don't know a thing about how working people make a living - or about cows, for that matter. This is a herd of sheep."
"Now give me back my dog."
Thursday, September 13, 2012
I was introduced to Nilofer Merchant by a colleague at Stanford's Engineering School when I was looking for a new guest speaker and mentor for my class on Technology Entrepreneurship.
Nilofer kept my entrepreneurship class of Stanford students enthralled for a full 90+ minute class. In short, she was terrific! I asked her to come in and talk to them about marketing as the first guest speaker in E145 (Intro to Technology Entrepreneurship) for a crowd of engineers skeptical about the value of marketing in startups. By the end of her talk, she not only had given the students concrete things they could do in their own startups, she also had a line of students out the door staying after class to talk with her for longer!
The book opens with a NYT-style obituary to the old ideas about Traditional Strategy still taught in some business schools.
The tools are not the issue. Establishing processes that are efficient and then selecting to the tools is the challenge I encounter time and again with small business.
As a counselor I have noticed the symptoms of the technology monkey, particularly among the younger (Generation X and Y) entrepreneurs.
There seems to be a belief that automation, the Internet and social networking can make the business succeed when in fact the real design of the enterprise itself is lacking (niche, market base, business plan, competitive analysis and financial forecasting)
I hear from many clients who ask, "What Now?" having launched an enterprise that is going nowhere because they are driving the tools and not the car.
I take them back to the garage, design the auto to see if it can run and then apply the wrenches retroactively if that is possible. It is usually a traumatic experience and could have been avoided with strategic and business planning before launch.
Above courtesy of Kenneth Larson, SCORE Mentor
Monday, September 10, 2012
Just my opinion, but in my mind this is how I see it:
Entrepreneur = visionary
Business Owner = does what needs to be done
I feel a business owner could be successful at something they don't necessarily love, whereas an Entrepreneur is always creating and pushing the boundaries
He or she possesses:
1. An Idea
2. A market niche
3. The desire to control individual destiny
4. The willingness to learn how to run an enterprise
5. Ability to work hard.
6. The desire to build unique entities that are individually their own
B. BUSINESS OWNER:
The person or persons registered on the Articles of Incorporation with the state as the rightful holders of employer and tax I.D. numbers for an enterprise when it is registered to become a business.
A may = B but not always.
There are silent partnerships, financing arrangements, operating agreements and other circumstances whereby the entrpreneurial drive behind an enterpirse is not vested in the owner.
Holding companies and similar corporate identities make owners removed from the entrpreneurial level and public companies sell stock making the stock holders owners in businesses.
Warren Buffet and Berkshire Hathaway's entrenrurial niche, in fact is finding entrpreneurs and good long term investments that pay off.
Most business owners start there businesses because they are very good at what they do! They run the business and are more technical in nature with a large leaning to opertional duties in the business as well as all getting involved in all aspects of the business from Admin, Accounts, HR, Strategice Development, Personal Dev, IT, Marketing and Sales etc
An entrepreneur is somebody who is "opportunity obsessed". He has the ability to take the opportunity, look for recources to exploit the opportunity and most imortantly if a team is needed an entrepreneur has the ability to identify people who compliment his weaknesses with the aim to build a profitable enterprise that can be sold or harvested for a capital gain. An etrepreneur will then seek out further ventures with similar aim.
Personally I think entrepreneurs and business owners represent two very different populations but there is some overlap (represented by an intersection if they were represented in a ven diagram).
The big differences I've seen can be summed as:
Business owners are focused on execution.
Entrepreneurship are focused on vision.
Additionally, entrepreneurship is a way of looking at the world that is more about creation, innovation, and (re)imagination and less about P&L and the operating aspects of running a business.
There are plenty of examples of entrepreneurs who have started successful businesses but rarely do they stick around once their vision has been realized.
Big companies are beginning to see the value which entrepreneurs can bring to a business and there is a big push in corporate America to foster Intraprenuership within big corporations. I think this trend will make great strides to blur the lines between the 2 further and make businesses more entrepreneurial.
I guess my final comment would be that even though the two may be different in all the ways mentioned, both of them need to imbue similar aspects into their journey to really succeed - Passion, Motivation, Know their North Star, Know Why they're on that Path, be able to Grow Professionally as well as Personally and so on. So they may be differently orientated, but still need the same impetus's in their own individualistic way.
Friday, September 7, 2012
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Thursday, September 6, 2012
Think process first and then technology. Consider the projected future needs of your projects, what the customer demands in the way of invoice backup for services, rates and the like if you work on time and material jobs.
Write a specification that details these needs and send it to tool vendors. Ask for competitive quotes and on-line demonstrations or trials if they are available. Select your tool carefully and let your specification drive the tool, not the other way around.
1. An electronic computer software package is not a system. One cannot acquire a system by acquiring computer capability.
2. One acquires a system by conducting systems analysis, achieving a design and processes by working with the people who will run the system. This is hard work and time consuming. Processes are improved and made more efficient by modifying user behavior not by automating it.
3. Once system and analysis and system design are complete one chooses tools to assist in running the system. The adequacy of a computer tool is driven by the requirements of the most efficient system design.
4. The biggest mistake implementation teams make is to believe they are buying a system when they buy a software tool or let the software drive the systems analysis process. That is like asking a mechanic to drive a wrench from New York to St. Louis. It has resulted in millions of dollars wasted and plummeting efficiency in many organizations, large and small.
5. It is necessary to design a system and processes unique to the company to meet user requirements before going shopping for computer tools. If you do not you will be pigeon-holing your company into a COTS mentality and become a slave to the company that owns the source code. If you want anything changed it costs a big buck.
Depending on the size of your business, you could use either QuickBooks (Pro, Premier, Enterprise) or Sage 50 (formerly Peachtree, Complete, Premium, Quantum). Both have most of the small business market for accounting and they offer industry specific applications (Manufacturer, Contractor, profesional services firms, etc). They both allow for invoicing clients by email straight from the accounting software.
Wednesday, September 5, 2012
We look forward to seeing you in the next classes. Meanwhile, please spread the word to your colleagues and friends and on social networks.
PS. Until we migrate your information to the new site, you can access the data from Spring's class on spr2012.venture-lab.org.
Monday, September 3, 2012
This video offers even more background on exactly why Obama hates business and America so much ... and just what kind of dangerous person actually occupies the White House (at least until November 2012). Whatch and listen closely ... it's VERY disturbing.
Outsourcing to India, or anywhere, can be really great and at times really frustrating too.
Following are the things that you need to look out for:
1. History of the company / individual
2. Rate the company is offering (based on your budget)
3. Experience of the outsourced vendor to accomplish the specific desired work, etc.
It is always best to follow an organized process. Following is a simple sample process you could start with .....
1. Initial discussion
2. Project requirement analysis
3. Submission of Time and Cost estimates
4. Negotiations and iterations (estimations and team members)
5. Finalization and contract
6. Introduction of Team
During the development process get involved with regular communication (phone, email, written), team meetings (internat as well as joint via video conference), and a beta testing phase. Don't just jump right into it. Contact, communicate, test, verify, and make sure your expectations are clear and met. I'd also suggest to include agreed upon penalities in any agreement in the unfortunate case of unmet deliverables or performance expectations.