Starting a Business All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition book cover

Starting a Business All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition

By: Georgette C. Beatty Published: 03-28-2022

This six-books-in-one volume has everything you need to help you transform your dream into reality. Learn how to choose the best business model for you and create a solid business plan. Once you're up and running, use this guide for accounting, marketing, hiring, dealing with taxes, and much more.

Articles From Starting a Business All-in-One For Dummies, 3rd Edition

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Starting a Business All-In-One For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Cheat Sheet / Updated 02-08-2022

Starting and running your own business can be one of the greatest joys in life. It can also be the hardest thing you ever do. The fact that no one is going to be standing over your shoulder telling you what to do can be simultaneously exhilarating and frightening. Finding sources of inspiration for great business ideas can keep you going in the absence of that voice over your shoulder. Nailing down a handful of basic, fundamental practices can keep you on the right track. And getting a grip on the money constantly flowing in and out of your business is one of the big keys to success.

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Job Coaching Tips to Promote Career Growth and Success in Your Employees

Article / Updated 10-26-2019

Job coaching plays a critical part in the learning process for employees who are developing their skills, knowledge, and self-confidence. Your employees don’t learn effectively when you simply tell them what to do. In fact, they usually don’t learn at all. With the right guidance, anyone can be a good job coach. This article considers what effective job coaches do and how they do it so that you can coach your employees toward successful results. Serve as both manager and job coach Even if you have a pretty good sense of what it means to be a manager, do you really know what it means to be a coach? A coach is a colleague, counselor, and cheerleader, all rolled into one. Based on that definition, are you a coach? Why or why not? Surely you’re familiar with the role of job coaches in other realms. A drama coach, for example, is almost always an accomplished actor or actress. The drama coach’s job is to conduct auditions for parts, assign roles, schedule rehearsals, train and direct cast members throughout rehearsals, and support and encourage the actors and actresses during the final stage production. These roles aren’t all that different from the roles managers perform in a business, are they? Coaching a team of individuals isn’t easy, and certain characteristics make some coaches better than others. Fortunately, as with most other business skills, you can discover, practice, and improve the traits of good coaches. You can always find room for improvement, and good coaches are the first to admit it. Following are key characteristics and tasks for coaches: Job coaches set goals. Whether a small business’s vision is to become the leading pizza franchise in the city, to increase revenues by 20 percent a year, or simply to get the break room walls painted this year, coaches work with their employees to set goals and deadlines for completion. They then go away and allow their employees to determine how to accomplish the goals. Job coaches support and encourage. Employees — even the best and most experienced — can easily become discouraged from time to time. When employees are learning new tasks, when a long-term account is lost, or when business is down, coaches are there, ready to step in and help the team members through the worst of it. “That’s okay, Kim. You’ve learned from your mistake, and I know that you’ll get it right next time!” Job coaches emphasize team success over individual success. The team’s overall performance is the most important concern, not the stellar abilities of a particular team member. Coaches know that no one person can carry an entire team to success; winning takes the combined efforts of all team members. The development of teamwork skills is a vital step in an employee’s progress in a company. Job coaches can quickly assess the talents and shortfalls of team members. The most successful job coaches can quickly determine their team members’ strengths and weaknesses and, as a result, tailor their approach to each. For example, if one team member has strong analytical skills but poor presentation skills, a coach can concentrate on providing support for the employee’s development of better presentation skills. “You know, Mark, I want to spend some time with you to work on making your viewgraph presentations more effective.” Job coaches inspire their team members. Through their support and guidance, coaches are skilled at inspiring their team members to the highest levels of human performance. Teams of inspired individuals are willing to do whatever it takes to achieve their organization’s goals. Job coaches create environments that allow individuals to succeed. Great coaches ensure that their workplaces are structured to let team members take risks and stretch their limits without fear of retribution if they fail. Job coaches are available to advise their employees or just to listen to their problems, as needed. “Carol, do you have a minute to discuss a personal problem?” Job coaches provide feedback. Communication and feedback between coach and employee is a critical element of the coaching process. Employees must know where they stand in the company — what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong. Equally important, employees must let their coaches know when they need help or assistance. And both parties need this dialogue in a timely manner, on an ongoing basis — not just once a year in a performance review. Firing someone doesn’t constitute effective feedback. Unless an employee has engaged in some sort of intolerable offense (such as physical violence, theft, or intoxication on the job), a manager needs to give the employee plenty of verbal and written feedback before even considering termination. Giving employees several warnings offers them opportunities to correct deficiencies that they may not be able to see. Identify a job coach’s tools Job coaching isn’t a one-dimensional activity. Because every person is different, the best job coaches tailor their approach to their team members’ specific, individualized needs. If one team member is independent and needs only occasional guidance, recognize where she stands and provide that level of support. This support may consist of an occasional, informal progress check while making the rounds of the office On the other hand, if another team member is insecure and needs more guidance, the job coach must recognize this employee’s position and assist as needed. In this case, support may consist of frequent, formal meetings with the employee to assess progress and provide advice and direction as needed. Although you have your own job coaching style, the best coaches employ certain techniques to elicit the greatest performance from their team members: Make time for team members. Managing is primarily a people job. Part of being a good manager and coach is being available to your employees when they need your help. If you’re not available, your employees may seek out other avenues to meet their needs — or simply stop trying to work with you. Always keep your door open to your employees and remember that they are your first priority. Manage by walking around. Regularly get out of your office and visit your employees at their workstations. “Do I have a minute, Elaine? Of course, I always have time for you and the other members of my staff.” Provide context and vision. Instead of simply telling employees what to do, effective job coaches explain the why. Coaches provide their employees with context and a big-picture perspective. Instead of spouting long lists of do’s and don’ts, they explain how a system or procedure works and then define their employees’ parts in the scheme of things. “Chris, you have a very important part in the financial health and vitality of our company. By ensuring that our customers pay their invoices within 30 days after we ship their products, we’re able to keep our cash flow on the plus side, and we can pay our obligations such as rent, electricity, and your paycheck on time.” Transfer knowledge and perspective. A great benefit of having a good job coach is the opportunity to learn from someone who has more experience than you do. In response to the unique needs of each team member, coaches transfer their personal knowledge and perspective. “We faced this exact situation about five years ago, Dwight. I’m going to tell you what we did then, and I want you to tell me whether you think it still makes sense today.” Be a sounding board. Job coaches talk through new ideas and approaches to solving problems with their employees. Job coaches and employees can consider the implications of different approaches to solving a problem and role-play customer or client reactions before trying them out for real. By using active listening skills, coaches can often help their employees work through issues and come up with the best solutions themselves. “Okay, Priscilla, you’ve told me that you don’t think your customer will buy off on a 20 percent price increase. What options do you have to present the price increase, and are some more palatable than others?” Obtain needed resources. Sometimes coaches can help their employees make the jump from marginal to outstanding performance simply by providing the resources those employees need. These resources can take many forms: money, time, staff, equipment, or other tangible assets. “So, Gene, you’re confident that we can improve our cash flow if we throw a couple more clerks into collections? Okay, we’ll give it a try.” Offer a helping hand. For an employee who is learning a new job and is still responsible for performing her current job, the total workload can be overwhelming. Coaches can help workers through this transitional phase by reassigning current duties to other employees, authorizing overtime, or taking other measures to relieve the pressure. “Phoebe, while you’re learning how to troubleshoot that new network server, I’m going to assign your maintenance workload to Rachel. we can get back together at the end of the week to see how you’re doing.” Effective job coaches teach through show and tell Besides the obvious job coaching roles of supporting and encouraging employees in their quest to achieve an organization’s goals, managers as coaches also teach their employees how to achieve an organization’s goals. Drawing from your experience, you lead your workers step by step through work processes or procedures. After they discover how to perform a task, you delegate full authority and responsibility for its performance to them. For the transfer of specific skills, you can find no better way of teaching, and no better way of learning, than the show-and-tell method. Developed by a post–World War II American industrial society desperate to quickly train new workers in manufacturing processes, show-and-tell is beautiful in its simplicity and effectiveness. Show-and-tell coaching has three steps: You do, you say. Sit down with your employees and explain the procedure in general terms while you perform the task. They do, you say. Now have the employees do the same procedure as you explain each step in the procedure. They do, they say. Finally, as you observe, have your employees perform the task again as they explain to you what they’re doing. As you go through these steps, have employees create a “cheat sheet” of the new steps to refer to until they become habit. Good job coaches make turning points big successes Despite popular impressions to the contrary, 90 percent of management isn’t the big event — the blinding flash of brilliance that creates markets where none previously existed, the magnificent negotiation that results in unheard-of levels of union-management cooperation, or the masterful stroke that catapults the firm into the big leagues. No, 90 percent of a manager’s job consists of the daily chipping away at problems and the shaping of talents. The best coaches are constantly on the lookout for turning points — the daily opportunities to succeed that are available to all employees. The big successes — the victories against competitors, the dramatic surges in revenues or profits, the astounding new products — are typically the result of building a foundation of countless small successes along the way. Making a phone-prompt system more responsive to your customers’ needs, sending an employee to a seminar on time management, writing a great sales agreement, conducting a meaningful performance appraisal with an employee, meeting a prospective client for lunch — all are turning points in the average business day. Although each event may not be particularly spectacular on its own, when aggregated over time, they can add up to big things. This is the job of a coach. Instead of using dynamite to transform the business in one fell swoop (and taking the chance of destroying their business, their employees, or themselves in the process), job coaches are like the ancient stonemasons who built the great pyramids of Egypt. The movement and placement of each individual stone may not have seemed like a big deal when considered as a separate activity. However, each was an important step in achieving the ultimate result — the construction of awe-inspiring structures that have withstood thousands of years of war, weather, and tourists. Incorporate job coaching into your day-to-day interactions Job coaches focus daily on spending time with employees to help them succeed — to assess their progress and to find out what they can do to help the employees capitalize on the turning points that present themselves every day. Job coaches complement and supplement the abilities and experience of their employees by bringing their own abilities and experience to the table. They reward positive performance and help their employees learn important lessons from making mistakes — lessons that, in turn, help the employees improve their future performance. For example, suppose you have a young and inexperienced, but bright and energetic, sales trainee on your staff. Your employee has done a great job of contacting customers and making sales calls, but she hasn’t yet closed her first deal. When you talk to her about this, she confesses that she’s nervous about her own personal turning point: She’s worried that she may become confused in front of the customer and blow the deal at the last minute. She needs your coaching. The following guidelines can help you, the job coach, handle any employee’s concerns: Meet with your employee. Make an appointment with your employee as soon as possible for a relaxed discussion of the concerns. Find a quiet place free of distractions, and put your phone on hold or forward it to voice-mail. Listen! One of the most motivating things one person can do for another is to listen. Avoid instant solutions or lectures. Before you say a word, ask your employee to bring you up-to-date with the situation, her concerns, and any possible approaches or solutions she’s considered. Let her do the talking while you do the listening. Reinforce the positive. Begin by pointing out what your employee did right in the particular situation. Let your employee know when she’s on the right track. Give her positive feedback on her performance. Highlight areas for improvement. Point out what your employee needs to do to improve and tell her what you can do to help. Agree on the assistance you can provide, whether your employee needs further training, an increased budget, more time, or something else. Be enthusiastic about your confidence in the employee’s ability to do a great job. Follow through. After you determine what you can do to support your employee, do it! Notice when she improves. Periodically check up on the progress your employee is making and offer your support as necessary. Above all, be patient. You can’t accomplish job coaching on your terms alone. At the outset, understand that everyone is different. Some employees catch on sooner than others and some employees need more time to develop. Differences in ability don’t make certain employees any better or worse than their co-workers — they just make them different. Just as you need time to build relationships and trust in business, your employees need time to develop skills and experience.

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Basic Accounting Terms for Small Business Owners

Article / Updated 10-14-2019

Are you looking to start your own small business? Before you can take on bookkeeping and start keeping the books for your small business, the first things you must get a handle on are key accounting terms. The following is a list of accounting terms that all bookkeepers use on a daily basis. Accounts for the balance sheet Here are a few basic accounting terms you’ll want to know: Balance sheet: The financial statement that presents a snapshot of the company’s financial position (assets, liabilities, and equity) as of a particular date in time. It’s called a balance sheet because the things owned by the company (assets) must equal the claims against those assets (liabilities and equity). On an ideal balance sheet, the total assets should equal the total liabilities plus the total equity. If your numbers fit this formula, the company’s books are in balance. (Flip to Chapter 3 in Book 3 for more about the balance sheet.) Assets: All the things a company owns in order to successfully run its business, such as cash, buildings, land, tools, equipment, vehicles, and furniture. Liabilities: All the debts the company owes, such as bonds, loans, and unpaid bills. Equity: All the money invested in the company by its owners. In a small business owned by one person or a group of people, the owner’s equity is shown in a Capital account. In a larger business that’s incorporated, owner’s equity is shown in shares of stock. Another key Equity account is Retained Earnings, which tracks all company profits that have been reinvested in the company rather than paid out to the company’s owners. Small, unincorporated businesses track money paid out to owners in a Drawing account, whereas incorporated businesses dole out money to owners by paying dividends (a portion of the company’s profits paid by share of common stock for the quarter or year). Accounts for the income statement Here are a few accounting terms related to the income statement that you’ll want to know: Income statement: The financial statement that presents a summary of the company’s financial activity over a certain period of time, such as a month, quarter, or year. The statement starts with Revenue earned, subtracts out the Costs of Goods Sold and the Expenses, and ends with the bottom line — Net Profit or Loss. (See Chapter 2 in Book 3 for more about the income statement.) Revenue: All money collected in the process of selling the company’s goods and services. Some companies also collect revenue through other means, such as selling assets the business no longer needs or earning interest by offering short-term loans to employees or other businesses. Costs of goods sold: All money spent to purchase or make the products or services a company plans to sell to its customers. Expenses: All money spent to operate the company that’s not directly related to the sale of individual goods or services. Other common accounting terms Some other common accounting terms include the following: Accounting period: The time for which financial information is being tracked. Most businesses track their financial results on a monthly basis, so each accounting period equals one month. Some businesses choose to do financial reports on a quarterly basis, so the accounting periods are 3 months. Other businesses only look at their results on a yearly basis, so their accounting periods are 12 months. Businesses that track their financial activities monthly usually also create quarterly and annual reports (a year-end summary of the company’s activities and financial results) based on the information they gather. Accounts Receivable: The account used to track all customer sales that are made by store credit. Store credit refers not to credit card sales but rather to sales in which the customer is given credit directly by the store and the store needs to collect payment from the customer at a later date. Accounts Payable: The account used to track all outstanding bills from vendors, contractors, consultants, and any other companies or individuals from whom the company buys goods or services. Depreciation: An accounting method used to track the aging and use of assets. For example, if you own a car, you know that each year you use the car its value is reduced (unless you own one of those classic cars that goes up in value). Every major asset a business owns ages and eventually needs replacement, including buildings, factories, equipment, and other key assets. General Ledger: Where all the company’s accounts are summarized. The General Ledger is the granddaddy of the bookkeeping system. Interest: The money a company needs to pay if it borrows money from a bank or other company. For example, when you buy a car using a car loan, you must pay not only the amount you borrowed but also additional money, or interest, based on a percent of the amount you borrowed. Inventory: The account that tracks all products that will be sold to customers. Journals: Where bookkeepers keep records (in chronological order) of daily company transactions. Each of the most active accounts, including cash, Accounts Payable, and Accounts Receivable, has its own journal. Payroll: The way a company pays its employees. Managing payroll is a key function of the bookkeeper and involves reporting many aspects of payroll to the government, including taxes to be paid on behalf of the employee, unemployment taxes, and workers’ compensation. Trial balance: How you test to be sure the books are in balance before pulling together information for the financial reports and closing the books for the accounting period. Check here to see a short list of important financial documents for your small business.

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What You Need to Know about Starting Your Own Work-from-Home Business

Article / Updated 10-14-2019

Are you ready to put that work-from-home idea to work? (Take our work-from-home quiz to assess your readiness.) Not surprisingly, a work-from-home business is a business based in a home. Whether you do all the work in your home or you do some of it on customers’ or third-party premises, whether you run a franchise, a direct-sales operation, or a business opportunity, if the center of your operations is based in your home, it’s a work-from-home business. Determining the kind of work-from-home business you want to have After you decide you’re going to start your own small business, you have to answer two questions: What kind of work-from-home business do you want to start? What’s the best way to market your products or services? You basically have two types of work-from-home businesses to choose from: businesses you start from scratch and businesses you buy. The latter category is further split into three types: franchises, direct-selling opportunities, and business opportunities. Whether you prefer to march to your own drum and start your business from the ground up or get a business-in-a-box depends on your personal preferences. The advantage of a business you start from scratch is that you can mold it to fit your preferences and the existing and emerging markets, which provides you with a boundless variety of possibilities. Businesses started from scratch account for the majority of viable, full-time businesses — in other words, they tend to be more successful over the long run than businesses you can buy. Each type of home business that you can buy, on the other hand, has its own spin. The following information illustrates how the three types are different from one another. Franchise A franchise is an agreement in which one business grants another business the right to distribute its products or services. Some common home-based franchises include the following: Aussie Pet Mobile (mobile pet grooming) Jani-King (commercial cleaning service) Jazzercise (dance/exercise classes) ServiceMaster Clean (cleaning service) Snap-on Tools (professional tools and equipment) Direct selling Direct selling involves selling consumer products or services in a person-to-person manner, away from a fixed retail location. The two main types of direct-selling opportunities are Single-level marketing: Making money by buying products from a parent company and then selling those products directly to customers Multi-level marketing: Making money through single-level marketing and by sponsoring new direct sellers Some common home-based direct-selling opportunities include the following: Shaklee (household cleaning products) Pampered Chef (kitchen tools) Green Irene (green products and consulting) Mary Kay (cosmetics) Fuller Brush Company (household and personal-care products) Business opportunity A business opportunity is an idea, product, system, or service that someone develops and offers to sell to others to help them start their own, similar businesses. With a business opportunity, your customers and clients pay you directly when you deliver a product or service to them. (Another way to think of a business opportunity is that it’s any business concept you can buy from someone else that isn’t direct selling or franchising.) Here are several examples of business opportunities that you can easily run out of your home: Astro Events of America (inflatable party rentals) Debt Zero LLC (debt settlement) ClosetMaid (storage and organizational products) Interested in how to find more companies and how to get in touch with them? Entrepreneur Media and Go Small Biz have extensive information on business opportunities you can buy. You can also do a search on Google or your favorite search engine, using the keywords business opportunity. After you decide on a work-from-home business, you have to find the money to get it started. Then you have to market your products or services and persuade people to buy them. You can choose conventional methods of promotion, such as advertising and public relations, or you can leverage new selling opportunities, such as the Internet, to your advantage. Or you can (and probably should) do both. It’s your choice — you’re the boss! Managing your money as a work-from-home business owner Money makes the world go ’round, and because you’re talking about your financial well-being here, it’s very important that you have a handle on your business finances. To get the handle you need, do the following: Find the money you need to start your business. The good news is that many work-from-home businesses require little or no money to start up. If you decide to buy a franchise or business opportunity from someone else, however, you definitely need some amount of start-up funding. To find this funding, consider all your options, including friends and family, savings, credit cards, bank loans, and more. Keep track of your money. In most cases, keeping track of your money means using a simple accounting or bookkeeping software package (such as Quicken) to organize and monitor your business finances. Set the right price for your products and services. If you set your prices too high, you’ll scare customers away; if you set them too low, you’ll be swamped with customers, but you won’t make enough money to stay afloat. Be sure to charge enough to cover your costs while generating a healthy profit. Obtain health insurance, and plan for your retirement. When you have your own business, you’re the one who needs to arrange for health insurance and set up IRAs, 401(k)s, or other retirement plans for the day when you’re ready to hang up your business and stroll off into the sunset. Pay taxes. As someone famous once said, “The only things you can count on in life are death and taxes.” Well, taxes are a definite, so make sure you pay all the taxes you owe for your home-based business. Avoiding problems in your work-from-home business Eventually, every business — home-based or not — runs into problems. Whether the problems are being late on a delivery or hitting a snag with the Internal Revenue Service, as the owner of your own business, you need to avoid problems whenever possible and deal with them quickly and decisively when you can’t avoid them. Some of the problems you may deal with include the following: Legal issues: After a good accountant, the next best friend of any business owner is a good attorney. Keep one handy to help you deal with legal issues when they inevitably arise. Issues with support services: Finding skilled and reliable outside support services — lawyers, accountants, bankers, business consultants, and insurance brokers — isn’t necessarily an easy task, especially if your business is in a small town where you’re pretty much stuck with what’s down the road. Scams and rip-offs: More and more work-from-home business scams seem to appear every day, so don’t rush into any business opportunity. Take your time and fully explore every opportunity before you sign on the dotted line. And remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Moving ahead with your small business idea One of the best things about owning your own business is watching it develop, mature, and grow. After all, a growing business is the gift that keeps on giving — all year round, year after year. To keep your business moving ahead, consider doing the following: Make the web work for you. Doing business and generating sales and interest in your business via the Internet is practically a given for any work-from-home business today. You can make the web work for you in any number of ways, from starting a blog or website to networking with others through online forums or social networking sites, such as Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Maintain a serious business attitude. Just because your business is located at home instead of in a big office building downtown doesn’t mean you shouldn’t treat it like the business it is. Although you can have fun and work all kinds of creative schedules, don’t forget that the business part of your business is important, too; you have to treat your business like a business if you hope to be successful. Look for ways to grow. For many businesses, growth can turn an operation that is doing well financially into an operation that is doing great! Growth allows you to take advantage of economies of scale that may be available only to larger businesses, to serve more customers, and to increase profits. For these reasons and more, growing your business should always be on your agenda. Leaving your full-time job for your part-time business An important, basic consideration that many fledgling, part-time work-from-home business owners face is whether or not to leave a full-time job in favor of a work-from-home business. Before you give up your full-time job, ask yourself these questions: Has there been a steadily growing flow of new customers in your home-based business? Has your business, even though it’s only been part-time, produced a steady flow of income through seasonal or other cycles typical of the business? Are you turning away business because of limits on your time? If not, do you think business would increase if you had the time to market or take on more customers? Being able to answer at least two of these questions in the affirmative is a good sign that it would be safe to leave your full-time job. Of course, you should also be aware of any developments that could worsen the outlook for your business to grow, such as pending legislation, new technology, the movement of the kind of work you do outside the U.S. (outsourcing or cloud computing), or the decline of an industry your business depends on. If your day job has been providing you the contacts you’ve needed to build your part-time business, you need to find ways to replace them before you leave your job. Breaking the umbilical cord of a paycheck is an uncomfortable step for most people. So the closer the current income from your business is to the amount of money you need to pay your basic business and living expenses, the more confident you can be. Regardless of which work-from-home business you choose, make sure you have considered all eventualities before taking the leap.

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Want to Start a Work-from-Home Business? Take this Quiz to See if You’re Ready

Article / Updated 10-14-2019

Many people talk about starting a work-from-home businesses, and many dream about becoming their own bosses. Making the transition from a full-time career to self-employment, however, is a big change in anyone’s life. Are you really ready to make the move to a home business, or should you put the idea of having your own work-from-home business on the back burner for a while longer? To help you decide, take the following work-from-home business quiz. Circle your answer to each of these questions, add up the results, and find out if you’re ready to take the plunge! How strong is your drive to succeed in your own work-from-home business? I can and will be a success. Period. I’m fairly confident that if I put my mind to it, I will succeed. I’m not sure. Let me think about it for a while. Did I say that I wanted to start my own business? Are you sure that was me? Are you ready to work as hard as or harder than you have ever worked before? You bet — I’m ready to do whatever it takes to succeed! Sure, I don’t mind working hard as long as I get something out of it. Okay, as long as I still get weekends and evenings off. What? You mean I’ll still have to work after I start my own business? Isn’t that why I hire employees? Do you like the idea of controlling your own work instead of having someone else control it for you? I don’t want anyone controlling my work but me! That’s certainly my first choice. It sounds like an interesting idea — can I? Do I have to control my own work? Can’t someone control it for me? Have you developed a strong network of potential customers? Yes, here are their names and numbers. Yes, I have some pretty strong leads. Not yet, but I’ve started kicking around some ideas with potential customers. I’m sure that as soon as I let people know that I’m starting my own business, customers will line up. Do you have a plan for making the transition into your work-from-home job? Here it is — would you like to read the executive summary or the full plan? Yes, I’ve spent a lot of time considering my options and making plans. I’m just getting started. I don’t believe in plans — they crimp my style. Do you have enough money saved to tide you over while you get your work-from-home business off the ground? Will the year’s salary that I have saved be enough? I have six months’ expenses hidden away for a rainy day. I have three months’ worth. I’m still trying to pay off my college student loans. How strong is your self-image? I am self-esteem! I strongly believe in my own self-worth and in my ability to create my own opportunities. I feel fairly secure with myself; just don’t push too hard. I don’t know — what do you think? Do you have the support of your significant other and/or family? They’re all on board, are an integral part of my plan, and have been assigned responsibilities. They’re in favor of whatever makes me happy. I’m pretty sure they’ll support me. I’m going to tell them about it later. If it’s a necessary part of your plan, will you be able to start up your work-from-home business while you remain in your current job? Sure — in fact, my boss wants in! If I make a few adjustments in my schedule, I can’t see any other reason why I can’t. Would you please repeat the question? Maybe I’ll be able to work on it for a couple of hours a month. What will you tell friends when they ask why you quit that great job? I’m free at last! That the benefits clearly outweigh the potential costs. I don’t know; maybe they won’t ask. I’ll pretend that I’m still working for my old organization. Give yourself 5 points for every 1 answer, 3 points for every 2, –3 for every 3 (should be easy to calculate), and –5 for every 4. Now tally up the numbers, and compare your results with the following ranges of numbers. By comparing your total points with the points contained in each of the six following categories, you can find out whether you’re ready to jump into your own work-from-home business: 25 to 50 points: Assuming you were honest with yourself as you answered the preceding questions (you were, weren’t you?), you’re ready to start a work-from-home business! You just need to decide whether to drop your day job or work into your new business gradually. 1 to 24 points: You’re definitely warming up to the idea of starting your own work-from-home business. Consider starting your own business in the near future, but make sure to keep your day job until you have your venture well under way. 0 points: You can go either way on this one. Why don’t you try taking this test again in another month or two? Read this book in the meantime. –1 to –24 points: Unfortunately, you don’t appear to be quite ready to make the move from career to work-from-home business. You should do some additional research and then take this test again in a few months. Maybe working for someone else isn’t the worst thing that can happen to you. –25 to –50: Forget it. You were clearly born to work for someone else. A work-from-home business isn’t for you. Are you ready to make the move to starting a work-from-home business? If the quiz indicates otherwise, don’t worry — you’ll have plenty of opportunities in the future. When you’re ready for a work-from-home job, they’ll be ready for you. If you’re ready now, congratulations! If you’re ready, use these tips to succeed in your work-from-home business.

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How to Be a Great Interviewer: Interviewer Tips for Hiring Good People

Article / Updated 10-14-2019

If you want to hire great people for your business, you’ll need to hone your interviewer skills. After you narrow the field to the top applicants, the next step is to start interviewing. What kind of interviewer are you? Do you spend several hours preparing for interviews — reviewing résumés, looking over job descriptions, writing and rewriting questions until each one is as finely honed as a razor blade? Or are you the kind of interviewer who, busy as you already are, starts preparing for the interview when you get the call from your receptionist that your candidate has arrived? The secret to becoming a great interviewer is to be thoroughly prepared for your interviews. Remember how much time you spent preparing to be interviewed for a job you really wanted? You didn’t just walk in the door, sit down, and get offered the job, did you? You probably spent hours researching the company, its products and services, its financials, its market, and other business information. You probably brushed up on your interviewing skills and may have even done some role-playing with a friend or in front of a mirror. Don’t you think you should spend at least as much time getting ready for the interview as the people you’re going to interview? Ask the right interview questions More than anything else, the heart of the process is the interviewing questions you ask and the answers you get in response. You get the best answers when you ask the best questions. Lousy questions often result in lousy answers that don’t really tell you whether the candidate is right for the job. A great interviewer asks great questions. According to Richard Nelson Bolles, author of the perennially popular job-hunting guide What Color Is Your Parachute?, you can categorize all interview questions under one of the following headings: Why are you here? Why is the person sitting across from you going to the trouble of interviewing with you today? You have just one way to find out — ask. You may assume that the answer is because he or she wants a job with your firm, but what you find may surprise you. Consider the story of the interviewee who forgot that he was interviewing for a job with Hewlett-Packard. During the entire interview, the applicant referred to Hewlett-Packard by the name of one of its competitors. He didn’t get the job. What can you do for us? Always an important consideration! Of course, your candidates are all going to dazzle you with their incredible personalities, experience, work ethic, and love of teamwork — that almost goes without saying. However, despite what many job seekers seem to believe, the question is not, “What can your firm do for me?” — at least, not from your perspective. The question that you want an answer to is, “What can you do for us?” What kind of person are you? Few of your candidates will be absolute angels or demons, but don’t forget that you’ll spend a lot of time with the person you hire. You want to hire someone you’ll enjoy being with during the many work hours, weeks, and years that stretch before you — and the holiday parties, company picnics, and countless other events you’re expected to attend. You also want to confirm a few other issues: Are your candidates honest and ethical? Do they share your views regarding work hours, responsibility, and so forth? Are they responsible and dependable employees? Would they work well in your company culture? Of course, all your candidates will answer in the affirmative to mom-and-apple-pie questions like these. So how do you find the real answers? You might try to “project” applicants into a typical, real-life scenario and then see how they’d think it through. For example, ask the prospect what she would do if a client called at 5 p.m. with an emergency order that needed to be delivered by 9 a.m. the next morning. This way, there’s no “right” answer and candidates are forced to expose their thinking process: what questions they’d ask, what strategies they’d consider, which people they’d involve, and so forth. Ask open-ended questions and let your candidates do most of the talking. Can we afford you? It does you no good to find the perfect candidate but, at the end of the interview, discover that you’re so far apart in pay range that you’re nearly in a different state. Keep in mind that the actual wage you pay to workers is only part of an overall compensation package. You may not be able to pull together more money for wages for particularly good candidates, but you may be able to offer them better benefits, a nicer office, the option of working from home, extra time off, a more impressive title, or a key to the executive sauna. Interviewer do’s So what can you do to prepare for your interviews? The following handy-dandy checklist gives you ideas on where to start: Review the résumés of each interviewee the morning before interviews start. Not only is it extremely poor form to wait to read your interviewees’ résumés during the interview, but you miss out on the opportunity to tailor your questions to those little surprises you invariably discover in the résumés. Become intimately familiar with the job description. Are you familiar with all the duties and requirements of the job? Surprising new hires with duties that you didn’t tell them about — especially when they’re major duties — isn’t a pathway to new-hire success. Draft your questions before the interview. Make a checklist of the key experience, skills, and qualities that you seek in your candidates, and use it to guide your questions. Of course, one of your questions may trigger other questions that you didn’t anticipate. Go ahead with such questions, as long as they give you additional insights into your candidate and help illuminate the information you’re seeking with your checklist. Select a comfortable environment for both of you. Your interviewee will likely be uncomfortable regardless of what you do. You don’t need to be uncomfortable, too. Make sure that the interview environment is well ventilated, private, and protected from interruptions. You definitely don’t want your phone ringing off the hook or employees barging in during your interviews. You get the best performance from your interviewees when they aren’t thrown off track by distractions. As you have no doubt gathered by now, interview questions are one of your best tools for determining whether a candidate is right for your company. Although some amount of small talk is appropriate to help relax your candidates, the heart of your interviews should focus on answering the questions just listed. Above all, don’t give up. Keep asking questions until you’re satisfied that you have all the information you need to make your decision. Take lots of notes as you interview your candidates. Don’t rely on your memory when it comes to interviewing candidates for your job. If you interview more than a couple of people, you can easily forget who said exactly what, as well as what your impressions were of their performances. Not only are your written notes a great way to remember who’s who, but they’re an important tool to have when you’re evaluating your candidates. And try to avoid the temptation to draw pictures of little smiley faces or that new car you’ve been lusting after. Write the key points of your candidates’ responses and their reactions to your questions. For example, if you ask why your candidate left her previous job, and she starts getting really nervous, make a note about this reaction. Finally, note your own impressions of the candidates: Top-notch performer — the star of her class. Fantastic experience with developing applications in a client/server environment. The best candidate yet. Geez, was this one interviewing for the right job? Interviewer don’ts If you’ve gone through the hiring process a few times already, you know that you can run into tricky situations during an interview and that certain questions can land you in major hot water if you make the mistake of asking them. Some interviewing don’ts are merely good business practice. For example, accepting an applicant’s invitation for a date is probably not a good idea. Believe it or not, it happens. After a particularly drawn-out interview at a well-known high-tech manufacturer, a male candidate asked out a female interviewer. The interviewer considered her options and declined the date; she also declined to make Prince Charming a job offer. Avoid playing power trips during the course of the interview. Forget the old games of asking trick questions, turning up the heat, or cutting the legs off their chairs (yes, some people still do this game playing) to gain an artificial advantage over your candidates. Get real — it’s the 21st century. Some blunders are the major legal type — the kind that can land you and your company in court. Interviewing is one area of particular concern in the hiring process as it pertains to possible discrimination. For example, although you can ask applicants whether they are able to fulfill job functions, in the United States, you can’t ask them whether they have disabilities. Because of the critical nature of the interview process, you must know the questions that you absolutely should never ask a job candidate. Here is a brief summary of the kinds of topics that may get you and your business into trouble, depending on the exact circumstances: Age Arrest and conviction record Debts Disability Gender or gender identity Height and weight Marital status National origin Race or skin color Religion (or lack thereof) Sexual orientation Legal or illegal, the point is that none of the preceding topics is necessary to determine applicants’ ability to perform their jobs. Therefore, ask questions that directly relate to the candidates’ ability to perform the tasks required. To do otherwise can put you at definite legal risk. In other words, what does count is job-related criteria — that is, information that’s directly pertinent to the candidate’s ability to do the job (you clearly need to decide this prior to interviewing!).

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You and Your Startup Business’s Money

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

Of course, you want your business to make money. Duh! That shouldn’t be the only reason you’re starting a business, but it’s certainly a big one. You spend money on your business, your customers pay you money, money goes out for this, money comes in for that . . . one glance at your books should remind you that the sheer money aspect of running a business can get complicated. You have to stay on top of it, or it will climb on top of you and stress you out. Keeping three pieces of advice in mind can help focus your mind when to comes to handling the money for your business. Charge what you’re worth. No matter how hard you work, if you charge your customers less than you’re worth, you won’t be able to stay in business for long. Why would you charge less than you’re worth? Well, some people do so because they don’t realize exactly how much they are Others charge less than they’re worth because they’re embarrassed or afraid to ask for an amount that reflects their true worth. Whatever the reason, if you don’t get paid what you’re worth, you may very well drive yourself out of business. If you don’t know what you’re worth, find out what other companies charge for similar products or services by researching catalogs, price lists, stores, and e-commerce and auction websites. If you can’t find written prices or listings on the web, call or email the companies for information. From there, develop a pricing or fee structure that will help you attain your personal goals. Avoid unnecessary expenses. Spend your company’s hard-earned money only when you have to. You can often get a lot more mileage out of stuff than your itchy spending urges would prefer. A good example of this is your personal computer. Every other week, computer technology makes another great leap forward, which may constantly tempt you to upgrade to the latest and greatest and fastest computer with all the latest bells and whistles. Unless your older, slower, and less flashy computer — and the software within it — is actually getting in the way of your ability to do business efficiently, stick with it for as long as you possibly can. Do your best to hold the line on all the other expenses that simply drain your financial reserves while bringing in little or no additional revenue. If you’re going to eat out, for example, go to less expensive places. Save the expensive meals for your highest-paying customers. Or consider inviting your best customers over as dinner guests in your home. Manage your cash flow. Cash, or the lack of it, is one of the key indicators of a company’s success over the long run. If you have cash, you can buy and stock new products for your customers, develop innovative new services for your clients, pay for your day-to-day operations, and expand your business. If you don’t have cash, your business will certainly suffer, and so will your customers and clients. You may even jeopardize your own personal or family financial situation. Simply watching your cash flow — the money going in and out of your business — isn’t enough; you have to actively manage it. Managing your cash flow means looking to the future, planning and scheduling your projected cash inflows and outflows, billing quickly, staying on top of money owed you, and paying attention to the money that goes in and out of your business.

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Sources of Inspiration for Starting a Business

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

Maybe you’ve been talking about your great business idea for a long time now. You know you can do it — so what’s stopping you? Or maybe you started taking steps toward making your idea a reality, but something came up and you just haven’t gotten around to committing yourself. The following suggestions can help you get some traction on your idea for starting a business. They can also serve to inspire you and spur you on in your business endeavors. Join a community business organization. Almost every community has an organization where you can meet and talk with other business owners. If you get involved, you’ll have no trouble finding people who offer encouragement to take the next step in starting your business. You’ll also find people who can help you take that step. One highly respected community organization is Rotary International, a humanitarian group of businesspeople who dedicate themselves to improving their communities and providing scholarships and other benefits. The advantage of Rotary is that wherever you travel in the world, you are likely to find a local chapter. To become a member of Rotary, you need to be nominated by a current member. If you don’t know anyone who is a member, start by joining your local Chamber of Commerce and the various trade organizations for your industry. Chances are you’ll find a Rotarian in one of these organizations as well. Rotary membership is a great way to start feeling comfortable about wanting to become a business owner. Tell a friend. If you announce to a friend that you intend to start a business, that friend will ask how it’s going every time you meet. The need to report progress should be enough to motivate you to make at least some headway. Nothing is better than to have a friend keep nagging you about your great idea — that’s what friends are for! Leave your job. Leaving your job is a pretty radical step, but some folks can never quite get up the courage to start the businesses they’ve been dreaming about without having a cataclysmic event push them into doing it. Leaving a good job is a major decision that must not be taken lightly, and it needs to be considered only after you’ve done your homework on the business concept you want to execute. You can do all the feasibility work for your new business while you’re still at your job and not leave until you’re ready to devote full attention to the new business. Spend time with someone who has already started a business. What better way to get inspired to start a business than to spend time with someone who has done just that? Spend a day with an entrepreneur or business owner you admire — perhaps someone in your favorite industry. Shadow that person, observing what he or she does on a day-to-day basis. Entrepreneurs love to talk with fellow entrepreneurs, especially budding entrepreneurs. Your chosen person can give you personal advice based on his or her experience on how to get started, what pitfalls to look out for, and how to balance your personal and business lives. Find a mentor. When you’re starting a business for the first time, it’s wonderful to have someone you can turn to when you need advice, when you’re frustrated or discouraged, or when you want to share a small win. Mentors come in all shapes and sizes, but the best mentors are ones who believe in you and can be honest with you, who introduce you to important people you need to meet, and who pick you up when you fall down. A mentor may be someone who has had a successful business in the industry in which you’re interested or someone whom you admire regardless of whether he or she happens to have experience in the same area as you. That’s why it’s so important to network, get out there and meet new people, because you never know when you’ll meet your mentor, the person who ultimately starts you on your way. Do something — anything. Leap into your opportunity with both feet and start doing something that makes your business happen. File for your DBA (“doing business as”) or your incorporation papers with a business name. Set up your home office to accommodate the new business until it’s ready to move to a more formal site (or like many entrepreneurs today, keep your business at home and operate it virtually over the Internet). Get your domain address for the web. Have some business cards made up. It doesn’t take much to start building a critical mass of activities so that, before you know it, you feel like you’re honestly in business.

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6 Tips for Success in Starting a Business

Article / Updated 06-02-2019

Although no one can guarantee that your business will be a success, if you work hard, price your products and/or services right, and keep your customers satisfied, you stand a good chance of starting and building a successful company. The results you get out of your business are a direct result of the work you put into it. The most successful owners — those who get the results they hoped for — share many of the following traits. Do what you love To do what you love, you first have to know what kind of work you really want to do. This discovery requires deep introspection and an understanding of which kinds of work get your creative juices flowing and which kinds dry them up. Doing what you love also sometimes requires that you ignore what other people want you to do for a living. You may decide, for example, that you’d really like to start a photography studio, but your spouse or best friend may think something more practical, such as buying a successful pet store in the local mall, makes more sense. Ultimately, you must decide what you really want to do for a living. It’s your dream — you’re the one who gets to choose it (and live it!). No one else has the right to tell you what kind of work you should love — and do. Treat your business like a business If you want your business to be a real business — an organization that generates the kind of money that will allow you to become financially independent — you have to treat it like one, and not like a hobby or a momentary fling: If you’re starting at home, set aside an entire room in your home — not just a closet or a shelf — exclusively for your business. Make a serious investment in business equipment and supplies: a decent computer, a fast Internet connection, and whatever else is required to effectively and efficiently run your operation. Create a marketing plan and follow through with it. Publicize your company’s products and services to a wide audience of potential customers and clients. Build a strong customer base and make plans for future growth. Become an expert People naturally respect those who know more than they do. By specializing in a particular area of expertise — whether it’s where to dig a new water well, how to scrapbook, or what to do in a financial crisis — you assume the role of a presumed expert, even if you’ve just started your business. It makes good business sense for your clients to hire an expert instead of someone less experienced. By avoiding the mistakes and dead ends that someone with less experience may make, you can help your clients spend less money by hiring you, even if your hourly rates are higher. Don’t be shy Although you may never have had to sell yourself or your products before, you can’t avoid doing so when you own your own business. After you generate momentum and build a strong customer base, then you can rely more on referrals from your happy clients to do the marketing for you. But when you’re getting your business off the ground, consider and attempt every possible method for getting the word out about your products and services. Build a solid customer base One of the most important ways to establish a successful business is to build a solid base of customers who stick with you through thick and thin. This solid customer base becomes the foundation on which you grow your business. Of course, building a solid customer base is much easier said than done. At the heart of the process is creating an organization that values its current customers and goes out of its way to ensure their satisfaction and happiness. Ask for referrals The word-of-mouth referral is probably the least expensive and the most effective way of getting new business — for any business. That makes referrals the most important way for businesses to market themselves. Here are some of the best ways to earn great referrals from customers: Do great work. When you do great work, your clients are happy to give you great referrals. When you do less-than-great work, you’ll be lucky to get a kick in the pants, much less a referral. Do your work on time and within budget. If you consistently deliver on your promises, you’ll soon have more business than you ever thought possible. And you’ll earn your clients’ referrals at the same time. Keep your clients well informed. When clients spend their money on you, they want to be kept apprised of your progress, not only to stay in touch with the project, but also to keep a watchful eye out for problems before they get out of hand. Whether the news is good or bad, your clients and customers appreciate forthrightness and candor. Be dependable. Always keep your word — even when it hurts. If you promise to do something, do everything in your power to keep your promise, no matter what it takes. Be flexible. Customers and clients appreciate vendors who are flexible and willing to meet their needs — and they often pay more for it. Think about what you can do in your business to better meet your customers’ needs, and then do it. Thank your clients for their referrals. Everyone likes to be appreciated for what they do. Your customers are no different. Thank them for their referrals with a hand-signed card or small gift. Many small businesses get the vast majority of their new business through referrals. They really are worth their weight in gold!

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