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2012

Body_DomesticPartner.jpgby Jen Hickey.

 

Just a decade ago, outsourcing to China seemed like a no brainer—with wages below one U.S. dollar an hour and a seemingly limitless labor pool, everybody was doing it!  But the advantages have begun to narrow. Rising wages and currency fluctuations, along with higher shipping and freight costs and the unforeseen risks of doing business in a foreign country, have led to a shift in thinking and the return of certain manufacturing jobs. For small business owners in particular, the total cost of doing business, not just the cost of labor, must be considered before sourcing your production overseas.

 

According to a 2011 report from the Boston Consulting Group, any cost savings from sourcing overseas is being steadily eroded by rising wages in China, higher U.S. productivity, a weaker dollar, and increasing transportation costs. By 2015, BCG expects any savings to be negligible and that costs may even be higher in certain instances due to those unforeseen expenses. “Small businesses should not be outsourcing to a China unless there’s a lot of labor involved in their product,” says Dr. George Harris, president of Calyptus Consulting Group in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “All the other costs—transportation, tariffs, staff for logistics, inventory and warehousing—and when you factor in turnaround time and customer responsiveness, it’s a wash in terms of savings in many cases.”

Buying in bulk can be costly

PQ_DomesticPartner.jpgBecause so much lead time is needed for overseas shipments, businesses have to keep large inventory to be able to meet demand. “To be cost-effective when it comes to shipping, you have to buy in large quantities to pack a container and keep a lot of money in inventory,” notes Jason Piatt, president of Praestar Consulting, a lean management and Six Sigma consulting firm based in Waynesboro, Pennsylvania. “Tying up so much capital can put a strain on the resources of smaller firms.”  And because there’s such a lag between when an order is made and when it’s received by the customer, a deeper or additional line of credit is needed to cover payment lags, which is still hard to come by for many small businesses.

 

So, the cost of warehousing that extra inventory should be factored in along with the chance of product changes. “If there are a lot of changes to a product, outsourcing offshore can become problematic,” Harris points out. “Once the order is placed, there’s a limited window to make changes and then once the order is shipped, it takes at least a month to reach a U.S. port.” And for many small businesses, their completive edge over larger firms is their ability to respond more quickly to customer demands and shifts in the market. “Especially in this economic climate, need and requirements have fluctuated,” says Piatt, “Those businesses that have been able to streamline their production [domestically] have been better equipped to adapt and be more responsive to these changes.”

Customer choice plays a role

For Ryan Hamilton, President and CEO of Akron, Ohio-based toy distributor Geared for Imagination, sourcing some of his production here rather than overseas was prompted by customer demand. “We kept getting a lot of questions from our retail customers if any of our products are eco-friendly and/or made in the U.S.,” recalls Hamilton. “Me and my partner decided to find toys we could make here in an economical and eco-friendly way.” Their Topozoo line of 3-D mix-and-match animal puzzles, made from recycled wood, are manufactured and packaged in northern Ohio, home to other toy makers such as Ohio Art Company, maker of the Etch-A-Sketch, and Little Tikes furniture and toys.

 

“While it requires physical setup getting the wood into the machine and post-processing labor, like sanding, finishing and quality control, all the cutting is done by a computer hooked up to a saw,” Hamilton points out. “Once you get it set up, you just let it run.” The mechanization of some of the labor allows for more pieces to be produced in less time, making it more economical to keep production stateside.

 

Though Hamilton’s stuffed animals are still manufactured in China because they’re so labor-intensive to produce, he says it has become increasingly challenging to conduct business overseas. “What used to be a relatively inexpensive and fairly seamless transaction has become unpredictably slow and expensive,” he explains. “Things are taking longer to get here due to higher fuel costs and once they get here, we’ve seen delays because ports are more tightly controlled.”

 

Having production nearby has made it easier to meet demand for their Topozoo products, which have been selling well since being introduced in 2010. “Because they’re manufactured within an hour of our warehouse, the products can be assembled and shipped more quickly and it has been easier for us to come up with new products and get them to market faster,” notes Hamilton. “We just launched a new series of aquatic toys for the summer and are doing some custom pieces for a few customers. This would not have been possible if we produced overseas, as it would be too cost prohibitive and too slow.”   

Long supply chains can be harder to fill and to fix

When Jane Angelich, CEO of Bright IP Concepts based in Novato, California, started her company, part of her mission was to bring a safe, effective pet product to market that was also made domestically. Just as the design phase for her product, the supercollar, a dog collar with a built-in leash, was completed in 2008, the economy was on a rapid downward spiral. Manufacturers were reluctant to do business with a startup unless they were promised a lot of inventory, but Angelich eventually found a manufacturer willing to grow with her at a pace she felt comfortable with. In addition to sales through its web site, the supercollar has been picked up by other online retailers like Sharper Image, Brookstone, and SkyMall, and sales have steadily increased.

 

Angelich could have saved on labor by sourcing her product in China, but she was well aware of the unforeseen costs of doing business overseas. “I would always need an interpreter to communicate, and then you need to pay for someone to live there and watch over production,” Angelich points out. “As a small business, we don’t have the resources to do that.” And there are extra concerns about quality when bringing a new product to market.  “If there was a part we needed to look at or something’s failed, we would need to see it, talk to the people putting it together, try to come up with a strategy to fix or replace it,” notes Angelich. “But when there’s 12 to 14-hour time difference, it may be too late to fix it before hundreds or thousands of units are made.”

 

Angelich, who lived in Toyko as part of her previous career with a Wall Street firm, also recognizes the cultural challenges that startups, in particular, will face when outsourcing to Asia. “It’s too expensive to fly over there on a regular basis,” says Angelich. “But it’s also not proper etiquette to just show up without notice. It would be considered an insult.” Her manufacturer in Chicago, on the other hand, is only a short plane ride away. “We made a design change based on customer feedback, and our COO went to the factory and met with people on the line and within a few days, everything was up and running,” notes Angelich. “That would not have been possible with an overseas factory.”

 

“Even for those businesses with a labor-intensive, high-volume product, a flexible customer base, and access to reliable transportation, it’s not a slam dunk,” Calyptus’s Harris says of the decision to outsource manufacturing overseas. After a small business crunches the numbers, he emphasizes that they also factor in intangibles like supplier responsiveness and the time devoted to handling all the logistics of the process. “For a small business, that’s a lot to take on,” he notes. And then there are the unknowns, like production or shipping delays and changing economic and political conditions. “There are a lot of ‘ifs’ to consider when working with an overseas producer,” adds Angelich. “Too many things would have to work perfectly to realize any savings.”

 

Top five things to remember when contemplating overseas production
  • Beyond Labor: Labor costs should not be the determining factor. Consider the total cost of production per unit, including shipping/freight, productivity, warehousing, and additional staff.
  • Higher Operational Costs: Don't overlook the need to keep a larger inventory of overseas-based products to make up for the time it takes to transport products and the extra expense of staff to handle logistics.
  • Flexibility: Product and order changes take longer when working with overseas factories.
  • Quality Control: Difficult to monitor quality unless you have a key person in-country to oversee production.
  • Unforeseen Costs: Transportation delays, changing economic and political climate can cause major supply chain interruptions.

Body_ExitStrategy.jpgby Susan Caminiti.

 

Think about the time and effort you’ve spent building your business. There have been countless hours devoted to creating a startup plan, pulling together the finances, hiring the right employees, and, of course, attracting—and keeping—customers. Now ask yourself: How much thought have I given to an exit strategy?

 

If you’re like most entrepreneurs, the answer is probably very little. Despite the intoxicating fantasy of cashing it all in to move to some warm tropical island, the reality is that most business owners aren’t thinking about the (far-off) day when they’re no longer in charge. John Brown, president of the Business Enterprise Institute (BEI), a firm that helps business owners successfully exit their companies, says most surveys show that only between five and 30 percent of business owners have done some type of exit planning. And that lack of foresight could be a big mistake, say business advisors.

 

“It’s very difficult to get an entrepreneur, especially when the business is fairly new, to think about the day when they’re going to give it up,” explains Dan Bowser, president of Value Insights Inc., a business valuation and exit strategy-consulting firm based in Summerville, Pennsylvania. “But the truth is that when you begin a business with an exit strategy in mind, you wind up with a better economic return when it does come time to sell or leave the business.”

 

PQ_ExitStrategy.jpgThe good news is that the very nature of starting and running a business means that you’ve already put in place some of the essentials of a smartly-planned exit strategy. Among them: a solid business plan, financial reporting functions, and a map for future growth. “All of these are needed to run a successful business and to sell one,” Bowser adds.

 

Even so, many entrepreneurs push aside the planning necessary to exit a business for a multitude of reasons—not all of them business related. “If you’re running a successful, profitable business, there’s no reason to think about what you’re going to do in the next chapter of your life, so the thought of leaving is scary and you don’t do anything about it,” says Brown. Bowser adds that he has counseled entrepreneurs who felt that without their company, they had no identity.

 

Choosing the Right Exit

Before planning a graceful goodbye, it’s important to understand the various options for stepping away from your company and what they entail. Some of the most common are:

 

  • An acquisition
  • A management buyout
  • Passing it down to your children

 

If the choice is an acquisition, then another company will buy your business either with cash, stock in the acquiring company, or a combination of both. That was the exit strategy for Ken Graul, 62, who started Mechanical Maintenance Inc. with two partners in 1985. The mechanical contracting business, based in Chandler, Arizona, grew over the years, reaching $34 million in revenues and over 200 employees by the mid-2000s. It was around this time that Graul says he spoke to his partners about selling the business. “I was frustrated with them over the direction and strategy for the company and wanted out,” he says. “I loved the work, but not the arrangement.”

 

In October 2009, Graul and his partners sold the company to Midstate Enterprises, a larger firm that was looking to expand into the areas that Mechanical Maintenance had experience in. Graul is now executive vice president at Midstate Mechanical, a division of the the parent company, doing the work he loves, and his partners were able to cash out. “It’s the best of both worlds,” he says.

 

Keeping it In House

In a survey of 700 exit plans prepared by the Business Enterprise Institute, more than 40 percent involved selling the business to a management team. The upside of such an arrangement, says Bowser, is that it keeps the business going, yet allows the owner to cash out. The downside: employees rarely have the money to purchase the business outright so the transaction is often financed with debt that is collateralized by the assets of the business. Even so, the transition is often smooth since the basic structure of the company remains the same.

 

Passing it to the Kids

In years past, this was the most common exit strategy for business owners, but not anymore. In BEI’s exit planning survey, just 24 percent of the respondents were interested in passing the company on to their kids. That’s because the third-party marketplace for small businesses—those with revenues between $2 million and $50 million—has grown substantially over the past two decades, says Brown, making it possible to do something other than pass the business down to the next generation.

 

But for those entrepreneurs who envision the grandkids running the family firm someday, there are some guidelines to follow. First off, don’t leave on Friday and expect your kids to run the show solo on Monday. “Chances are the second generation hasn’t really been given the chance to fully spread their wings yet so you want to be around, at least part-time, to make sure everything is okay,” says Bowser. Taking on the title of chairman is often a good idea. “You’re involved with setting goals and objectives of the company, while allowing the next generation to run the daily operations,” he says.

 

Of course, there are some business owners whose exit strategy is to run their company until the bitter end. “About six percent of our survey respondents said they’re never going to leave,” says Brown. Eventually when the end does come, the business is typically liquidated and the proceeds passed on according to a will or estate plan.

 

But for most entrepreneurs, having an exit strategy is a smart thing to do. And just think—even if you don’t want to sip margaritas on a beach for the rest of your life, isn’t it nice to know you’ve got a plan in place in case you change your mind?

 


Of course, since the details of each business situation are unique, you should always seek the services of a qualified financial planner and tax advisor.

The economic conditions of recent years have undoubtedly impacted the way small business owners run their business. Despite encountering market, consumer and capital issues, visionary owners have looked for opportunities amidst all the uncertainty.

 

 

 

While it is difficult to generalize what they have in common, I do think there are several common qualities that successful small business owners share. In the video below, small business owner Royalyn Reid shares tips to navigate an uncertain economy, innovative ways to market and creative methods to reward staff.

 

 

Aside from the tips from Royalyn, here are a few more ways to position your company for success:

 

  1. A laser-like focus on the customer: Sure, we all know that it is our job to serve the market and take care of our customers, but successful small business owners prove that “great customer service” has to be more than words.

    They live it. They breathe it.  One thing is clear: success comes in large part by, not only understanding what your customers need, but by staying in touch with them, rewarding them for their loyalty and amending your business as necessary to provide the best service.
  2.  

  3. The willingness to step out of the box: So often in business we get stuck in a rut. We stick with the comfortable, tried and true approach that has worked. While that may be a recipe for sustainability, it is not the recipe for growth. Small business success comes from doing what you do, and then doing something else.

    That creativity and innovation leads to new product lines, new marketing ideas and new profit centers. Of course the downside is that not every new idea will

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    work. That’s to be expected. But the good news is the ideas that work tend to be big and lead to further growth.
  4.  

  5. The ability to adapt to change: The best small business owners are not afraid of change, but rather, they adopt and embrace it. While many of us (myself at the head of the pack) were slow to realize how significant social media was going to be, the owners who were early adopters got a jump on the rest of us. They didn’t whine about how much time it took, or complain that getting results was a slow process. Instead, they did what they had to do to stay ahead.
  6.  

  7. Remembering old-fashioned values: It is so easy in this 24/7, always-connected, turbo-charged, e-world to forget that at the heart of business is people. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you. It may seem quaint, but offering something as basic (and yes, expensive) as a full benefits package helps foster employee loyalty and the end result of that is that your employees become, not just your employees, but your teammates for success and your loudest cheerleaders.
  8.  

 

 

Taking care of your people doesn’t cost, it pays.


So, what creates small business success? Could it be as simple as asking what they want (they being customers, employees, spouses, the market and investors) and then giving that to them? Yes, it just may be that simple. What types of business tactics do you find works the best for your small business? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.

 

 

 

 


 

 


About Steve Strauss

Steve Strauss is one of the world’s leading small business experts. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. Steve is also the author of the Small Business Bible and his latest book is Get Your Business Funded: Creative Methods for Getting the Money You Need. A popular media guest, Steve is a regular contributor to ABC News Now and frequently appears on television and radio. His business, The Strauss Group, creates unique, actionable, entertaining, and informative multi-media small business content.

 

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

A friend of mine recently completely, and radically, changed how he does business. This guy has been in business for 10 years and has a staff of 10. So, whaSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngt does he do differently now? He shut the doors of his office to go completely virtual. He rarely sees any of his staff face-to-face anymore, save for an occasional breakfast meeting at a local coffee shop. And – it’s working. He doesn’t miss his monthly rent payments, and he actually feels that his staff is more efficient working remotely from home than they otherwise would be because they are not commuting or getting distracted by the shuffle of an office environment.

 

Similarly, in the book, The 4 Hour Work Week, author Timothy Ferris explains that he was able to whittle his hectic schedule down to only four hours a week in large part by hiring and training part-time remote virtual assistants. But as much of a fan as Ferris is of this method of business, he cautions that when people try to adopt it, one of the first mistakes they make is one of poor communication.

 

Although open, consistent communication is important, there are other areas to consider when managing remote employees. While the idea of working with and using remote workers is one that is definitely catching on, it takes both some getting used to and some trial and error to get it right.

 

Here are the four most common mistakes small business owners and managers make when working with remote employees and here’s how you can navigate these tricky areas.

 

1. The owner or manager is not ready: Even though there is no shortage of innovative technological tools that enable an entrepreneur to work with and handle remote employees – smart phones, texting, software, collaboration tools, etc.  – The fact is, if the manager is not ready, no amount of high-tech gadgetry will make a difference.

 

So what does being ready mean?

 

  • It means being clear about what is expected of the employee: You cannot expect an employee to be able to handle the freedom of working remotely if you are not clear about how the job will be handled, what the benchmarks will be, and so forth.
  • It means being committed to the process: If you are going to let employees work remotely, then you need to be enthusiastic about it, what it offers your company, and how it can benefit your staff. You set the tone.
  • It means being a clear communicator: Understand that having people work virtually requires that you need to communicate exactly what you will need, and when. If not, too much is left to chance and without the face-to-face ability to check in, costly mistakes can easily be made.
  • It means being available: Your staff will need to be able to check in with you when they need to, and not when it’s convenient for you.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

 

2. The remote worker does not get enough support: If you want people to be able to do a job on their own, without direct supervision from you and the benefits of having a main office, you need to equip them with the tools necessary to do their job right.

 

First, this means having the right technology. Whether it’s an iPhone or expense tracking software or an intranet, you will need to equip your employees with the right tools. Second, support means just that – support. Is there tech support in place? Do they have virtual office space available to meet clients or prospects? Remote workers work best when they have the tools and support they need to succeed.

 

3. The owner or manager is too hands-off: There is a fine line when handling remote workers between giving them the room they need to do their job and not managing them at all. Remember, these folks are still employees. They need guidance and direction. After all, even with the most diligent employee, there is a tendency for the mouse to play while the cat is away, so be sure that they know that the cat is still around. By the same token, providing regular guidance, support, and feedback will also give you the confidence that they are on task and not wasting their time and your money.


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4. The owner or manager is too hands-on: This may be an even bigger problem than the previous one. One of the beauties of working remotely is that you get to do your work in your way, as you see fit. But if the manager constantly requires the remote employee to check in, if the owner loves minutiae and insists on correcting every little thing the remote employee does, you will risk making the employee feel less empowered in their work, or may lose them altogether.

 

Bottom line: Companies that have the best success with remote workers establish ground rules and protocols, create routines and processes, and then communicate consistently and effectively. Do you have any remote workers? What have you found works and doesn’t work? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

Body_QAnoamwasserman.jpgby Jen Hickey.


 

Noam Wasserman is an Associate Professor of Business Administration and Tukman Faculty Fellow at Harvard Business School (HBS) and the author of the bestseller The Founder’s Dilemmas: Anticipating and Avoiding the Pitfalls That Can Sink a Startup. Dr. Wasserman received the HBS Faculty Teaching Award and the Academy of Management’s 2010 Innovation in Pedagogy Award for “Founders’ Dilemmas,” an MBA elective he developed and teaches. In 2011, the course was named one of the top entrepreneurship courses in the country by Inc. magazine. Recently, business writer Jen Hickey interviewed Prof. Wasserman via email to discuss some of the common pitfalls facing founders of start-ups.

 

 

JH: The focus of your research and book is on the problems faced by founders of "high-potential' startups (high-tech and life sciences). How do some of the dilemmas these founders encountered and the lessons learned apply to those not in such high-growth industries?

NW: While my quantitative data come from high-potential startups, from everything I've seen, most pitfalls I study are relatively universal. No matter what industry or type of company, a core founder has to figure out if and when to become a founder, whether to found alone or attract co-founders, with whom to co-found and how to divide the roles and equity, whether and whom to hire, etc. The biggest differences are probably the financing issues. A founder in high-growth industries will usually have a different set of investor options and face different exit issues and options.

 

PQ_QAnoamwasserman.jpgJH: What are the most important things a would-be entrepreneur needs to consider before striking out on his or her own to launch a business? Also, why is it important for an entrepreneur to understand his or her motivations for starting a business?

NW: First, founders need to understand where the pitfalls lie. Of the failures in high-potential startups, 65 percent are due to early decisions about the people (co-founders, hires, advisors, and investors). My research on 10,000 founders revealed a striking pattern: The most common people decisions, which I’ve dubbed “The Three Rs,” were the most hazardous:

 

  • Relationships (i.e., choice of co-founders) – More than half of the teams in my dataset co-founded with friends and family, which on average happens to be the least stable of all types of founding teams and may be an even more common decision in non-high-growth industries.
  • Roles – Positions taken by each founder or hire and how they make collective decisions.
  • Rewards (in particular, how equity is split among the co-founders) – 73 percent of teams split equity within a month of founding but do not allow for adjustments due to changes in the company or team.

 

Second, by understanding the potential pitfalls in advance, entrepreneurs can take steps to avoid them. For example, someone co-founding with friends or family should be creating firewalls that help protect the business while building a tight-knit team. Similarly, if splitting equity, clear early actions—too rarely taken—will keep them from getting burned by drop-out founders and other problems that destroy founding teams.

 

Third, founders need to be aware of their own motivations. Do they want to become “rich or king”? Becoming rich will likely mean losing kingship (control) within the venture, whereas aiming to remain king usually means becoming less rich. Self-aware entrepreneurs should also consider how their early passion and confidence can potentially turn into Achilles heels if left unchecked. Knowing your strengths, and especially your weaknesses, is vital to attracting the best-fitting co-founders, hires, and investors.

 

Figuring things out as you go along is too easy and problematic, as it is far harder to undo the damage caused by ill-considered ‘3 Rs’ decisions. Instead, entrepreneurs need to make sure they anticipate and avoid those pitfalls to improve their chances of success.

 

JH: How can a founder's optimism and confidence cloud their decision making?

NW: There are a lot of psychological elements that manifest early as strengths, but become detrimental down the road. Optimism and confidence are two of those elements. Left unchecked, they can lead to a founder’s demise by introducing hazards in almost every important area of the startup. Operationally, founders underestimate the time needed to develop their product or service. Financially, they underestimate the resources they will need. Strategically, they discount negative information that should spark a rethinking of their original plans.

 

Within the team, they underestimate the holes in their skills and fail to bring onboard the right people to complement those shortcomings. They also can overestimate their abilities to manage the difficult interpersonal issues that arise between co-founders. Likewise, founders often run out of money long before hitting their milestones because they did not devise plans for less-than-rosy scenarios.

 

JH: Describe the ‘3 Rs’ system and how it can serve as both a positive and negative force?

NW: The ‘3 Rs’ system highlights the most critical people-decisions founders must consider during the early stages of their company. As described, they include relationships, roles, and rewards. Within each ‘R,’ there are often better and worse decisions, and founders have to carefully consider those costs and benefits.

 

Founders must also consider three more complications. First, decisions within each R cannot be made independently of the other Rs, since those decisions are often linked. If made independently they risk being out of alignment with each other, and misalignment can bring destructive tensions to the team. Second, startups often experience important changes as they evolve, and things may also change for individual founders (e.g., changes in a founder’s commitment). Thus, even when the early ‘3 Rs’ decisions are in alignment, they can often become misaligned if the team doesn’t pay attention. Third, the inclination to avoid conflict leads people to allow the ‘3 Rs’ to become the ‘elephants in the room’—the looming issues no one is willing to bring up until things are on the verge of disaster.

 

Instead of ‘punting’ those issues, teams must tackle them and have those deep discussions key to preventing team tensions from becoming destructive.

 

JH: Explain ‘rich vs. king’ and why it's so difficult for founders to achieve both?

NW: First-time founders will almost always be missing some skills or resources needed to fully pursue their opportunity. To fill those holes, founders usually try to attract people: co-founders, hires, investors, and others. Each time, they are facing a ‘rich vs. king’ decision, because those people will want ownership and some measure of control over decision making. If founders decide to resist giving up that ownership and control, they risk not attracting the key people and resources needed. Alternatively, if founders opt to relinquish ownership and control to attract the best people, they imperil their control.

 

As each decision accumulates across the stages of the entrepreneurial journey, founders can be swayed from one outcome and toward another. Founders who wait until the end of the journey to figure out which outcome is more important might end up with the opposite outcome from the one they wanted, so early self-awareness about motivation is key to helping a founder achieve his or her goals.


JH: What conditions must exist for a founder to increase the value of their company without giving up control?

NW: At the company level, if there is no rush to develop the business—e.g., no real competitive threat or reason why the window of opportunity will slam shut soon—and if the company requires few resources—i.e., not capital intensive—it is often easier to grow the business while keeping control.

 

At the founder level, if the founder has the skills, contacts, and other resources needed to pursue the opportunity, the founder can keep control because he or she does not have to attract other people to fill holes in each of those areas.

 

Both highlight the importance of the pre-founding decisions: Choosing an industry that fits what the founder wants to—and can—do and founding at the right time.

JH: In the years you've studied the dilemmas founders face, what has most surprised you?

 

NW: I have been most surprised by the recurring pattern of the most hazardous decisions being the most common decisions (e.g., founding with friends or family; splitting the equity early, quickly, and equally). Also surprising is that the most successful founders are often fired even sooner than those who have achieved middling success—what I call the "paradox of entrepreneurial success."

Yes, we have all heard it many times before, “exercise regularly, eat in moderation and see your doctor once a year.” Some of us follow this advice, but if you are like many small business owners, investing the time to do so, especially when you are self-employed, often seems impossible. Everyone is busier than ever these days, and small business owners are no exception.

 

However, consider the consequences:

 

  • Heart attacks, while always a concern for middle-aged men, are on the rise for middle-aged women Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png
  • Due to an obesity epidemic, rates of diabetes have increased for both sexes recently

 

While finding the time to exercise and eat right is not always easy, as Nike so aptly puts it – “just do it.”  You’ll benefit in the end.

 

Here are five easy tips that can help you make time to maintain your health:

 

1. Schedule it: So maybe your Outlook or Google calendar does rule your life. Use that to your advantage. Studies show that people who actually schedule their workout time in their calendars are more effective at following through with their commitment to exercise regularly.

 

It doesn’t really matter when you schedule your exercise time. It could be three days a week for 45 minutes at lunch or every morning for a half-an-hour. The important thing is that you actually schedule it. This achieves two things:

 

  • It reminds you to do it
  • It prevents you from scheduling something else at that time

 

2. Mix it up: As long as you are scheduling it, know this too: Mixing up your exercise routine offers the best chance of long-term success. Doing yoga one day, cardio the next and shooting hoops the day after increases the likelihood that you will stick with your routine than if you head to the treadmill day after boring day.

 

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

 

3. Eat smart: Maintaining a healthy diet may be easier than you think. The President’s Council on Physical Fitness puts it this way:

 

“Balance your food choices - don't eat too much of any one thing. You don't have to give up foods like hamburgers, french fries and ice cream to eat healthy. You just have to be smart about how often and how much of them you eat. Your body needs nutrients like protein, carbohydrates, fat and many different vitamins. Balancing food choices and checking out the Nutrition Facts Panel on food labels will help you get all these nutrients.”

 

4. Drink up: It used to be thought that if you wanted to be healthy you needed to cut a lot of great things out of your diet. Recent research indicates that the opposite is actually true:

 

  • Drink red wine: A glass of red wine a night is actually good for you. Red wine contains a substance called resveratrol, which, in moderation, has been shown to reverse aging, help with your heart and ward-off cancer. Cheers!
  • And have that latte too: The health benefits of coffee are many: It fights depression, lowers the risks of cancer Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and more.
  • Don’t forget your water: Do you really need eight glasses a day? Maybe not, but drinking plenty of water flushes your system and helps with weight control.

 

5. Get ergonJune 12 Quote.pngomic: These days so many people work in front of a computer that health problems stemming from bad posture have almost become epidemic. Having the right tools and not overworking muscles will also prevent the onset of repeated motion injuries. Consider purchasing an ergonomic chair and positioning your monitor at eye level. Also, make sure to take frequent breaks to avoid eye and neck strain.

 

Bottom line: A few changes in your health habits can have long-term beneficial results. Dr. Steve says that’s an order.

 

What do you do to maintain a healthy work life?  Share your thoughts below with the SBOC community.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

For many small businesses, summer can be a sort of feast or famine time of year. Depending on the nature of their small business, they are either super busSteve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.pngy, or for the same reason, extremely slow. Regardless of the type of business you own, you will probably benefit from some low-cost ways to increase revenue. For the slower seasonal businesses the reasons are self-evident, and for the busier summer ones, summer promotions are a great way to stay ahead of the competition, which is likely stronger this time of year for them as well.

 

Here then are 5 cool and affordable ways to increase revenue this summer:

 

1. Have a summertime contest: In line with the vibe of summer, contests are a great way to get noticed and bring people in the door. I once had a client who was a baker and summer was her worst time of year. That was, until we devised a “Best Banana Bread Contest.” She brought in some local celebrities as judges, got the newspaper interested in the event, and for a month every summer, created fantastic buzz around her contest. Summers were no longer slow after that.

 

For you, think of a contest that ties with what you do and create a summer contest around that.

 

2. Get some press: A correlation to #1 is the idea that some free PR can go a long, long way to both building your brand and raising your revenue. Tips:

 

  • Come up with a newsworthy idea; the contest above for example, or the sponsorship of a local event or some charity work you are doing. Use the summer angle to your advantage. Whatever the case, it has to be newsworthy.
  • Find the reporters or producers who cover that topic.
  • Send them an email, and then a follow up email a day or two later. It may also behoove you to send them some sort of chunky package – something with information about the event and a knickknack in it. I say “chunky” because that package will be different and what you want is to get noticed.
  • Follow up.
  • Then, after you get that press, leverage that story– post it in your store window, on your website, tweet it, etc.

Click here to read more articles from small business expert Steve Strauss.

3. Create a summer rewards program: Many major retailers give customers rewards card to get discounts and deals. They help attract customers, especially when business would otherwise be slow.  So, if it works for them, why not try it yourself?

 

Model your program similarly. Give people a card or have some other way to track them, and then provide incentives for shopping with you this summer. Once they reach a certain level of “points” offer discounts and giveaways, or maybe a special sale one night in late summer (see below).

 

The key is to have an expiration date on the program (Labor Day for example), that way, you encourage people to take advantage of the deal.

 

4. Ask for, and get, referrals: In my dad’s carpet warehouse, he had a banner that said, “Our word of mouth advertising starts with you!” That was a not-so-subtle way of reminding people to send him referrals. Another example: I have a pal who wrote an advice book. Whenever someone emails him, asking for help, he says “I would be happy to help once you post a review, good or bad, about my book on Amazon.” He has over 100 reviews (mostly positive). Those are a powerful form of referrals.

 

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One more example: Back when I had a law firm, one slow summer I decided to open a new area of practice. I wrote to 100 former clients explaining what I was doing and asked them for referrals. Results from that letter kept me busy well into the next year.

 

But the thing is, if you want referrals, you gotta ask for them.

 

5. Have a summer sale: What do you love – what do all shoppers love? A sale! A sale draws people in, generates buzz, increases revenue and creates customers. The secret is to take your products that are especially popular this time of year and have enough margins built in and offer them for less. Get the word out via signs, newsletters, flyers, ads and social media. Have a start and end date.

 

Do you have any tried and tried ways to increase your revenue during the summer? Did this article spark any new ideas for you? Share your thoughts with the SBOC community below.

 

About Steve Strauss

Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss

You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.

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