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QAwendyveatch_Body2.jpgby Erin O’Donnell.

As director of outreach programming for the Center for Entrepreneurship at Wichita State University, Veatch is in daily contact with business owners in search of resources, from startups to established firms. Her job is to connect entrepreneurs throughout Kansas with training, tools, and upgrades. The center, established in 1977, was one of the first academic programs in the United States focused specifically on entrepreneurship. Writer Erin O’Donnell spoke with Veatch about how entrepreneurship has gone a long way in shattering the glass ceiling for women in business.


What is the number one reason women go into business for themselves? How often is it because of "glass ceiling" experiences in other workplaces?

I think when women are going out and starting their own businesses, the glass ceiling has little to do with it. Women in particular usually have a passion. They have an idea. And they’re seeking to make a difference with it. Maybe they have worked in a business for 10 or 15 years, and a client says to them, ‘Your company really isn’t serving my needs, but you serve my needs.’ They find that they have a skill set that’s valuable, and they realize that it’s a business. Or they might be saying, ‘I want a more flexible schedule for my family. I could consult three days a week on my own schedule.’ Then word of mouth gets around, and the next thing they know, they have three clients and they need to hire someone. The economy has also spurred a lot of entrepreneurial activity. Women who have been laid off are saying, ‘I’m going to take that risk now.’


Are women more likely today to take risks as entrepreneurs, compared to 20 years ago?

I think inherently there has to be more risk-taking. What if you’re just getting out of college and you’re trained and you have a good degree, but there are no jobs? You make your own opportunities. I firmly believe in that. What do you have to lose? It’s not about risk; it’s about survival. They’re thinking, ‘How am I going to pay my student loans? What skills do I have? How do I make sure I don’t have to live with Mom and Dad? Maybe I should start my own business.’


What is empowering for women specifically about entrepreneurship?

It depends on your personality: are you a leader or a follower? Are you looking for job security? You can get  that corporate job and build  security with the long-term goal of eventually opening your own firm. But if you’re in a firm that’s successful and moving forward, they’re going to do whatever they can to retain you. It depends on your level of satisfaction and what experiences you’ve been exposed to, I think. Are you a person who absolutely wants autonomy and control over your work? Or do you want to be part of a larger organization? Did you take an entrepreneurship course in college, or a product development course?


The benefit, the beauty, the allure of having your own business is that at the end of the day, whether it works or it doesn’t work, it’s yours, and nobody can ever take that away. It becomes very personal. You really are committed to it. That’s what ends up driving it. You’ve never given up on that idea. What’s empowering is knowing ‘I can do that.’


QAwendyveatch_PQ.jpgWhere can women look for inspiration?

There are so many women out there who are role models. Look at Marissa Mayer at Google, and now Yahoo! [where she is president and CEO]. She’s on a mission. She worked her way up in a male-dominated industry. Other women are looking at her too, saying, ‘That could be me.’ I know of women in their 50s who want to start a business they can hand down to their grandchildren. Who is better to model after than another successful female doing the exact thing you want to do someday?


Are there particular industries where women have made gains as entrepreneurs vs. as employees?

I'm thinking of traditionally male-dominated fields, where women have sidestepped that ‘boys' network’ by launching their own ventures. In construction, there have been significant inroads. It’s not as locked down as it used to be. Women and minority contractors get opportunities to bid on those contracts. Equal Employment Opportunity laws make an allotment for woman-owned businesses to bid on all kinds of government contracts. As a female, you have lots of power as far as negotiating contracts.

I also think a lot of women still don’t know about resources that are available, like organizations that give startup loans and microloans, such as the Small Business Administration or regional economic development corporations. They’re not being exposed to them.


Do women still face discrimination as entrepreneurs?

Women business owners have the freedom to choose their clients. If someone doesn’t want to do business with a woman just because she’s female, an entrepreneur can say, ‘Well, maybe I shouldn’t be doing business with you.’ You can pick those relationships.


What can women business owners gain from networking with each other?

Informal networking and word of mouth are some of the most powerful things for women. Groups that are formed specifically for networking aren’t incredibly effective. Everyone there is selling. I’m part of an email listserv for women in Rotary Club, and I get more from that simple listserv of everybody sharing information with me: who’s in a new position, where someone is going, who needs an executive assistant—we’re sharing all of that. You don’t have to agree or disagree, but it’s great to hear about lessons learned and what worked.

Franchise-Pitfalls_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.


If you plug “successful entrepreneur” into the GPS system of life, the number of roads to get to that destination are plentiful. One road many eagerly decide to follow involves buying a franchise. Enticed by a pre-tested business model, built-in structures, and, often, a known brand, new franchisees believe their journey to wealth will be a smooth and comfortable one. However, the highway to a successful franchise can be filled with potholes, which, if you aren’t careful, could put you on a direct detour to failure. So, to help you chart your path, we’ve identified the main roadbumps to avoid as a franchise owner.


1. Choosing the wrong franchise--or any franchise

With so many franchises out there, it’s easy to be attracted toward those with the most monetary success stories, but that shouldn’t be what drives your franchise selection. “Don't just follow the money, follow your heart,” says Troy Hazard, serial entrepreneur, owner of 11 businesses over 20 years, and author of the book Future-Proofing Your Business. “Look to do something you love or that you have an interest in first, Hazard says. “There is no use running a dog washing franchise if you don't like animals, or a fast food franchise if you have no affinity with cooking or preparing food. Love what you do, and your customers will love you. The money is a byproduct of your passion for the business.”


Stephen Bienko, president of Bienko Enterprises and owner of the College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving franchise, agrees. “You need to have passion for the industry first and the brand you are investing in second,” he advises. “At the end of the day, you are still in the food industry, or automotive, or cleaning, or finances.” The brand can change, but the industry will stay the same. Before jumping in, picture yourself five or 10 years in the future to get a feeling if you will still enjoy being around that industry. “Those that don't love their industry with a burning desire and then have the customary first three-year bumpy road begin to feel buyer's remorse, which will deeply affect your bottom line,” notes Bienko.


In addition, remember not everyone is cut out to be a franchise owner. Examine if the franchise business model is a good fit for your own strengths and weaknesses as an entrepreneur. Do you like following rules or are you more of an innovator? Do you enjoy being held accountable and having oversight, or do you prefer the feeling of being your own boss? Figure out if you have core qualities that a franchise owner needs, no matter what industry it may be.

Franchise-Pitfalls_PQ.jpg2. Not knowing the business model or the contract terms

Each franchise has a distinct business model with specific agreements and territory rules--do due diligence and work through every angle of running the franchise before you invest. “One of the most common problems for new franchise owners is not understanding the business model, thinking that understanding the product is good enough,” says Adam Heitzman, managing partner at “The truth is, the business model of that franchise is going to determine whether you sink or swim. That means understanding things like staffing and overhead, revenues and profits, expenses, and the order in which everything occurs, he adds. “It will take some time to get the hang of things, but this knowledge is going to be incredibly valuable as you work to grow and be successful.”


Managing partner at SG Law Group Senen Garcia counsels business owners on franchises and advises his clients to know all elements of the agreement contract, everything from large issues such as the territory where you can or can’t promote your business to smaller concerns such as how the franchisor will expect to be paid (direct deposit, wire transfers, etc.). Those details impact not only your day-today operations, but also your profit margins. “Consider vendors,” says Garcia. “All franchises are supposed to look similar to provide a certain amount of continuity. To achieve this continuity, franchisors normally select vendors to achieve this goal. On many occasions, franchisors may not allow franchisees to go outside the use of these vendors even if you find identical items for much less. It is imperative to communicate with your franchisor before any financial hardships arise.”

3. Believing the franchisor will always be there for you

You have a vision for your success. As a franchisee, be sure the franchise opportunity you choose also has a vision--especially for when they aren’t around. “If the franchisor doesn't know where they are going, then how can they possibly lead you?” points out Hazard, who encourages possible franchisees to perform a detailed analysis of the franchisor. “Ask questions about their one-, two-, five-, and 10-year business plans and any exit plans they have for the business. Do they know what they are going to do when they want to get out of the business, and how will their exit affect you, should you still be part of the group at that time?”


Relying too fully on the franchisor for business knowledge and tactics is a common pitfall Bienko sees new franchisees suffer. “You cannot sit back and assume the franchisor is going to have all the answers for your success,” says Bienko. Remember the resources and leadership you have now may not always be available--the profitability of your franchise is ultimately up to you.


SBC newsletter logo.gif4. Not getting professional help

When kicking off this journey into the world of franchise ownership, you will talk with your family and friends, all of whom will inevitably offer advice. Helpful? Possibly, but what you really need is the wisdom of professionals. “Get some advisors involved in the process--your accountant, your attorney and maybe an external consultant for another objective professional and qualified opinion,” says Hazard. “Don't rely on family and friends to help you with this process. They have an emotional interest in you, and, in many cases, their opinions will be based on the romance of you being in that business rather than a true perspective of your financial future.”


“Hiring professionals is one area where you should really splurge for your potential franchise,” suggests Heitzman. “Remember that this is a huge investment of both time and money, so you don't want any surprises when you finally take the plunge. Gaining professional assistance such as accounting, banking, insurance, and even legal is going to help you make sure that success is in your future. Find professionals that have experience with franchise and small business matters.”

5. Failing to tap into the power of your employees

As the owner of the franchise, you are responsible for every aspect of it, but that doesn’t mean you should be a one-person franchise machine. Your employees are not only the face of your franchise, but a key element in its success. “Work on the business and not in the business from day one. Build your inside team so you can concentrate on growth and sustainability,” says Bienko. “You must attract the very best people you can find in your industry--your pot of gold is held by the team members you hire. Their education in the workplace and self-development will be the deciding factor to your success. They must be successful first, and then the company will follow.”

One thing about owning a small business today (aside from the fact that you probably work more than 9 to 5) is that it requires being a lifelong learner. Gone are the days when you could simply go to school, go out and get a job and some experience, and eventually start a business. Not anymore. These days, you have to stay up-to-date on the latest technology, be a social media maven and keep abreast of all of the laws, regulations, taxes and other administrative directives that affect your business. Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png


And all of that requires that you maintain a learning mindset. For many small business owners, having to stay up on the latest and greatest is both time-consuming and inconvenient.


However, the fact is, you can’t just run your business anymore. Indeed, let me suggest that you take that mindset a step further. While it’s almost back to school time for the kids, why not have it be back to school for your business as well? Consider the possibilities:


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



1. Take a new class (as long as it isn’t Algebra!): Undoubtedly, you have plenty of strengths when it comes to running your business. But we can safely say with equal assurance that there are areas of your business where you have weaknesses. Adopt the ‘back to school’ mentality this fall and take some classes online or at your local community college and brush up or learn those things you need some help on.


Also, consider offering the same benefits to your staff. Additional training is an easy and affordable way for your employees to learn new work skills and your business will benefit from having both a more engaged workforce, as well as a better trained one.


2. Go on some ‘field trips’: OK, let’s admit it: Field trips were sometimes the best part of school. The anticipation of getting to go someplace new and break the routine of school, and learning about something you never even knew about were all great things.

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Business field trips are not that different. Again, it is important to keep in mind that learning new things is necessary to succeed in our business ventures. Therefore, the idea of a business field trip makes perfect sense. In the valuable book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,” author M. Scott Peck explains why it is so important to “sharpen your saw.” If given the task of cutting down a tree, it would be much more effective if you took the time to sharpen your saw before sawing, thereby making the tree-cutting experience faster and easier. The lesson here is that being prepared before diving into tasks saves time and energy.


Another option would be to pick a business that you are interested in learning more about and set up a time to take the owner to lunch. Pick his/her brain. Tour his/her business. Learn something new.


Or what about organizing an outing for your entire staff to the local courthouse or zoo? This would combine education for education’s sake with a team building exercise to create a memorable bonding experience. Added bonus: Such excursions are very affordable.


3. Pick a major: Maybe there is something new that your business needs to master this year. Then get to it! Drill down, come up with a plan, bring in the resources you need to get everyone on the same page, and launch your attack. Just as picking a major in college allows you to become proficient in a narrow field, so too would picking a “small business major.” It would give you the opportunity to sharpen your saw and brand your business as superior in this new area.


School: It’s not just for students anymore.


How have you recently expanded your small business knowledge? Share your story 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



For many people, the upcoming fall season heralds many other changes as well: Kids headed back to school, folks starting a new job, and for many, it is time to finally start that new business. Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png


That makes sense of course. A lot of people contemplating a startup choose not to begin their new businesses in the summer, knowing that people are usually distracted and that getting their attention – critical for a new business – is not easy. So, instead of competing with warm weather, vacations, and days off, these savvy entrepreneurs know that waiting until the fall is almost always the way to go.


But that is not the only thing they need to be smart about. Starting a new business is always a challenge, and it is the smart entrepreneur who navigates around the following five easy to make, yet also easy to avoid, common startup mistakes:


1. Not having a good plan: I know a real estate broker who can tell exactly when he is going to make a sale. There are times, he says, when clients fall so in love with a piece of property that they sort of suspend all rational thought. They “fall under the ether,” as he puts it. “Once they are under the ether, they just have to have this piece of property, and I almost always close the sale at that point,” he says.


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


Well, new entrepreneurs can have that same experience, but they need to avoid it. It’s a mistake when entrepreneurs get too excited at the thought of having a new business that they jump in too fast without fully thinking through the venture.

Avoid the ether!


2. Not having enough funding: There are few things in business worse than starting a new company and having a cash crunch within the first few months. However, that is exactly what will happen if you start a business without having enough funding. You need to have sufficient money in the bank (at least six months’ worth) for:


  • Rent
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Labor
  • Paying yourself


So have a plan, work with your lender, and make sure that you have sufficient capital to cover  expenses until you are able to establish the business, get clients, get them to pay, and begin being cash flow positive.


3. Not knowing how you will get customers and clients: Similar to #1 above (not having a good plan), this is more specific, and maybe even more important. Before you ever start a business, before you ever throw that “Grand Opening!” party, you simply must have a very clear idea where you will get your business from.

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How will you market it? Where will you advertise? You better know this going in or you will be going out before too long.


4. Not having an e-strategy: Even today, at least of half of all small business do not have a website. That is business malpractice. Not only do you have to have a website for all sorts of reasons (legitimacy, so people can find you, to get business), you also have to have a social media strategy from the start.


The good news is that you don't have to cast a wide social media net – you don't need to be on all platforms – but you should cast a deep one. Pick one platform, be it LinkedIn, Facebook or whatever, and master it. Later you can branch out into others.


5. Not having a team behind you: There are a lot of people out there that you should enroll to be on your new business team: Your banker, a mentor (check out the SBA, SBDCs, and SCORE), an online or offline network, and a lawyer and/or accountant for starters. There is a lot to know, but a lot of help is available. Make sure you tap into that.


What lessons did you learn when you started your business? Share your story 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

EndofSummer_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.


Every summer there is one song that you seemingly hear almost everywhere—the radio, TV ads, and countless YouTube videos. But why shouldn’t your company have a summer hit, too? These warmer months sometimes translate into slower sales for many businesses, but there are a few ways you can retune a lackluster revenue season into a blockbuster bottom line. Do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti, do are notes in a scale—we used them as inspiration for sales tips that are sure to make your end-of-summer revenues sing.


Do create a sense of urgency

Though customers may be going at a slower pace during summer, nothing gets them moving faster than thinking their time may expire. Hannah Marr, content director of the online marketing platform company BizBrag, says summer marketing that creates a sense of urgency is key. “By creating a special offer with an expiration date, customers will feel a greater need to take advantage of it before time is up,” suggests Marr. “Everyone wants to savor the last few weeks of summer, so creating a marketing tactic around this idea will make them feel as though they have to take advantage of it before the temperatures drop. This can be especially fitting for restaurants, pool or department stores with summer products, and hotels.”


Re-energize your social media and website content

Your phone may not be ringing as often, and there may not be as many sales, but that doesn’t mean you can’t engage customers during the end of summer. Jeff Kear, owner of the online software business for small creative agencies and freelancers Planning Pod, uses the dog days of summer to concentrate on adding content and updating social media profiles. “I know things are going to be slow from a sales and customer support standpoint from June through August, so I spend more time blogging, tweaking my social media profiles (such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+), and interacting on social media,” says Kear. This not only reaches those potential clients surfing on websites by the pool, it provides a nice diving board into the pool of autumn sales. “I find that this activity actually sets me up nicely for the fall because it enables my site to be found in a wide variety of ways by my target audience,” notes Kear.


EndofSummer_PQ.jpgMix in some new ideas

Rethink that new, perhaps somewhat off-the-wall marketing idea and give it a shot—the more leisurely business pace of summer gives you a unique ability to see how it works. “The end of summer could be a great time for experimenting with new strategies for putting your small business out there,” says Steve Hamm, digital marketing solutions pro and owner of digital marketing and business solutions company MaaS Pros. Says Hamm: “Start that blog you've been thinking, launch a new product or service that you've been on the fence with, or try your hand at viral videos or guerrilla marketing tactics.”


Fabulous customer service is essential

Vying for a piece of the vacation spending pie is the focus for many small business owners. Ensuring customers use their dollars at your store means keeping your business running at its peak level. Deborah Sweeney, CEO of the document filing service company, says her summer sales success is all about focusing on her employees. “The biggest sales secret weapon is an emphasis on excellent customer service,” says Sweeney. “The difference between an okay customer service experience and an excellent customer service experience is the quality of conversation your sales team can provide your customers. As the summer winds down, I tell my sales team to keep their conversations with customers especially kind, genuine, and informative. Don't be afraid to talk about hometowns, baseball, pets, anything—spark a real connection between you and the customer.”


Solidify and bump up “business as usual”

Customers may go on vacation, but they will return. Keep doing what you normally do to stay on their radar, but add a little more oomph. Terri Toner, co-owner and sales representative for Pirate Jonny’s, a Clearwater, Florida-based business that specializes in gluten-free, soy-free, MSG-free and low-sodium gourmet food, stays with a proven marketing technique and then enhances it. “We usually send newsletters to our current customers every four to six weeks, but now we send them every three weeks with blowout specials,” says Toner, “It’s successful because these are people who have already expressed interest, and we just keep that interest going by offering re-ordering specials, as well as new product information and specials for later dates.”


SBC newsletter logo.gifLay the groundwork early

Kick up your end-of-summer sales with key marketing before the season begins. Scott Spizer, founder and director of the Manhattan-based test prep and tutoring company Origins Tutoring, sends out his summer marketing and discounts well before the warm weather hits. “The students we’re aimed at need test prep or remedial work,” he says. Spizer attracts parents and students before the school year ends with email blasts about summer learning loss and the importance of using summer 'down time’ to do test prep. “We include discounts for buying bulk sessions in these areas, such as ‘Sign up and get 10 percent off a package of 10 SAT prep sessions this summer’ deals,” says Spizer.


Time spent now will pay off later

Use the slower months to tackle those areas you don’t usually have time for and prepare for the busier fall and holiday season. Organize your stockroom, revamp your computer systems, change your logo – any task, large or small, you check off your To Do list now translates into revenue boosts later in the year. Spizer uses the slower summer months to expand his employee base and hone their skills. “We use the down time to interview and hire tutors for the coming year. That way, we are in a position to reap the rewards when school starts,” says Spizer.

Do catch the back-to-school bus

Summer ends when kids don those backpacks and sharpen their No. 2 pencils. Back-to-school sales can be a perfect way to boost your seasonal revenues. “Grocery stores, boutiques, electronics stores, and more can take advantage of back-to-school time,” notes Marr. “By making customers feel as though they need your product before their kids go back to school, they are more likely to make the purchase to feel prepared.”

AllintheFamily_Body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.


For some small business owners, being partnered up with a family member can be the best of all possible worlds. The familiarity factor, coupled with a trust that has built up over time can be a decided advantage over working with someone you barely know.


Yet, that same element of familiarity can also, at times, be a drawback. Attitudes that might not be freely expressed with a non-relative partner might be given free reign with someone who’s a relative. The reason is obvious: Business partners who are relatives might be more forgiving or lax toward the misdeeds of those whom they know very well versus non-related colleagues. Or they might feel they have no other recourse but to accept the unprofessional behavior of their partner because he or she is a family member.


How then can small business owners learn to work effectively with partners who are also relatives? What tips—and caveats—should they heed to create an effective and harmonious work environment?


Be transparent in your communication

Having a family-based partnership that ends up resembling a twisted dysfunctional family dynamic will never work. If both partners are serious about wanting their business to succeed, they will need to be honest with one another from the start.


Marilyn Schlossbach, who as co-owner of Kitschens Hospitality Group, operates five restaurants at the New Jersey shore with her brother Richard, strongly echoes this takeaway.


“You have to be very clear what your weaknesses and attributes in business are,” she says. “Whether it’s a husband or a relative or a really close friend who’s your partner, there’s a tendency to get emotional because you’re intimate with one another. So you really have to be honest [when you communicate]; but also keep attitudes in check so you can be more professional in your operations.”


AllintheFamily_PQ.jpgImplement HR-related guidelines

When a small business owner is partnered with a relative, there might be a temptation to take advantage of this relationship by taking unapproved absences or excessive sick leaves. That would be a strategic mistake. Treat your familial partner with the same professional courtesy as you would a regular colleague. That means coming up with a working calendar that will be acceptable to both you and your partner.


Marc Lewandowski, vice president of the Rockville, Maryland-based Planning Needs Financial Group, agrees. He run his independent insurance agency with his father Charles, who founded the company 26 years ago. “You need to take those processes from an HR perspective that many larger companies [take for granted],” he advises. “For example, I enjoy taking off for golf maybe once a month, especially in the summer months. It’s hard to play golf in the winter. [My father] doesn’t approve of that because golf is not a reason why one should take off for work,” he notes, laughing.


Lewandowski, who joined his father three years ago at the firm, has resolved this problem by formally accounting for his hours. “I’m now in the process of doing a spreadsheet where I’m logging my time,” he says.


This doesn’t mean that Lewandowski is fully in the clear when he needs to take a sick day.


“If I’m ever sick, my father will often call me and ask how I’m doing and feeling,” he says “I’m sure a lot of it has to do with him really wanting to know that I’m feeling better. But there are instances where he has said, ‘Okay if you feel better, then it’s good enough for you to come to the office.’ That can be trying sometimes.”


Have a strategic plan for your future

Whether it’s to map out future goals or family succession, it’s imperative that you and your family partner have in place a strategic plan for your business. Schlossbach is an ardent advocate of this best practice.


“My brother and I hired a strategic planner to help us put our vision on paper and lay out what the next six months, one year, five years, ten years, would look like for each of us,” Schlossbach says. “This takes into account what I want out of this partnership and business and what he wants out of this because we have different needs and goals for ourselves. It’s just to make sure we’re clear on this so it doesn’t get crazy because at some point I might want something different.”


SBC newsletter logo.gifDon’t be afraid to have the majority interest

Having a partnership with a family member that’s completely equal is ideal in the abstract, but may be impractical in real life if both sides become embroiled in a seemingly irreconcilable disagreement on an issue. To prevent an impasse, it may be necessary for someone to have a majority-controlling stake in the business.


Schlossbach says this is a rule about partnerships she learned years ago from a mentor. “One person always has to have a 51 percent stake in the business,” she notes. Schlossbach knows whereof she speaks, since she has the controlling stake in her business. “Somebody has to have that extra one percent of control so that if there is a breakdown or if you’re not totally on the same page about something 100 percent, the person who has the majority vote has to say this is how it’s going to go,” she explains. “And it may not be right—it may be wrong. But it’s also very hard to come to conclusions when people are too equal in the conversation.”


Make sure your personalities mesh well together

It stands to reason that if you go into business with a family member, just as would be the case with a non-related colleague, you’ll want to make sure you both get along and can spend long hours in each other’s company. Certainly, pairing up professionally with a relative with whom you invariably have heated altercations will not make for a fruitful professional union.


Lewandowski feels a key reason why he and his father thrive as partners is because they’re both “easygoing.” Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t disagree on some items, particularly marketing. Lewandowski is a champion of nontraditional marketing channels such as search engine optimization, while his father favors more traditional marketing tools. But despite that, Lewandowski hails the partnership as a reciprocal exchange of respect and admiration.


“I’m actually honored to be working with him,” he says. “It’s a great pleasure.”


Becoming business partners with a relative can lead to disaster if neither party is clear or realistic about their expectations. However, if both take the union seriously, treating it with the same respect and courtesy they would accord to a non-related associate, then the partnership could yield immeasurable rewards, both personally and professionally.

Summertime is a reminder that more and more people are no longer working from an office on a regular schedule. Whether they are on vacation, at their child’s soccer game, or just sitting at a Starbucks, most small business owners are now working remotely.


Consider this from

“By next year (2014), mobile phones will overtake PCs as the most common Web access device worldwide. Does this mean mobile devices will replace PCs? Yes and no. Some IT departments may only need to support mobile devices for specific workers whose jobs require them while the rest continue to use PCs. . . . By 2015 media tablet shipments will reach around 50% of laptop shipments.”


This mobile revolution has great ramifications for your business, both in terms of how you will manage daily operations, as well as how you will respond to the demands and expectations of your customers and employees that you offer mobile solutions to.


So just how do you take advantage of the fact that mobile technology now rules the day? Here are five essentials:


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



1. Master mobile marketing: Mobile marketing is a fast-growing, wide-ranging topic that will affect your business, no matter what industry you work in. Smartphones are overtaking desktops and laptops as the screen of choice. Therefore, as small businesspeople, we have to be where the eyeballs are: on smartphone screens.


So just as you once mastered offline marketing, and then online marketing, this change in habits means that you must now master mobile marketing. Whether it is a Twitter campaign or a text-marketing campaign, mobile marketing is the next great frontier for small businesses.


If you want the next generation of customers, use mobile marketing.


2. Get a handle on mobile search: Google reports that mobile searches now outnumber desktop searches, and in fact, last fall, the number of desktop searches deceased for the first time since 2006. What this means is that your potential customers are using their mobile phones to search for businesses like yours. So it is your job to make sure that when they search, they find you.


You need to master local mobile search, period.

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3. Enable your business to take mobile payments: The ability for small businesses to accept credit cards through their smart phones and other mobile devices is widespread. Personally, I knew that the era of the mobile payment had arrived when I went to a local farmer’s market recently and every farmer, cheese monger, and hand-made soap vendor accepted mobile payments.


If you are not accepting them yet, invest in mobile payment options as a way to increase profits.


4. Have the right apps: The other side of the mobile coin is that not only do your customers now require that you be mobile proficient, but also, that you can run your business using the right apps.


When looking for the right apps for your business, it is important to find ones that can do the following:

  • Money and finances
  • Project management
  • Cloud storage
  • Document management and editing
  • Social media
  • Customer support


5. Log off: At the end of an article about tapping the mobility revolution, it seems odd to tell you that a key to success is to log off, but it is. It is sort of like the TV newscaster Howard Beale, in the great movie Network, when he says, “So turn off your television sets. Turn them off now. Turn them off right now. Turn them off and leave them off! Turn them off right in the middle of the sentence I’m speaking to you now!”


I think we can all agree that this newfound ability to work when, where, and how we want is a welcome relief from sitting at a desk at an office from 9 to 5, but there is also a real danger in plugging in too often. If you don’t want to burnout, if you don’t want your employees to burnout, if you don’t want your spouse and kids mad at you, then draw a bright line. There is a time to work and a time to play. Don’t confuse the two.


Even though you can work any time from any place now, it doesn't mean you have to.


How have you used mobile technology to help your business? Share your story 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

BacktoSchool_Body.jpgby Heather Chaet.



It’s that time of year when supermarket aisles are stocked with No. 2 pencils, protractors and loose-leaf paper, and kids everywhere are squeezing in the last hours of summer freedom. However, they aren’t the only ones who should be thinking about going back to school. Chances are the business landscape has changed drastically since you last set foot in a classroom, and your skill set may not be serving your company as well as it once did. When should you dust off that backpack and spend some time in school? We have a quiz to help you decide if you need to hit the books to boost your business skills. (No need for test anxiety; there are only three questions).


Q: Are you missing something (or someone)?


Examine your strengths: is there a hole in your entrepreneurial toolbox? Perhaps you’re a rock star at sales, but when you think about a marketing plan, you draw a blank. Maybe you can work up advertising contracts in your sleep, yet knowing how to motivate your team is a challenge. A Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree can provide that essential layer that’s missing in order to build your business and move it to the next level—as well as increase your personal credibility as an industry leader.


However, keep in mind that an MBA can be a serious financial commitment. Financing what can amount to a six-figure tuition tab is perhaps the prime consideration when evaluating how to refresh your skills. Also to consider: the return on investment (ROI). Articles in the Wall Street Journal and the Economist detail why an advanced degree may not carry the same weight in the workplace as it used to. So, before taking on student loan debt or using business revenue to pay hefty tuition costs, compare other, less expensive methods to hone your specific skill set with the benefits of an MBA.


David Filipi, CEO of the custom breakfast granola mix company, suggests that small business owners look not only at their own skills, but also at the skill set of those they work with. “If I don’t have enough knowledge about my business in a certain specialized area, do I have somebody to help me with that in my company?,” says Filipi. “If yes, then I ask myself: ‘Will he or she always be here?’”


If your answer is “no”, it might be a smart idea for you to become more well-rounded by going back to school or seeking out resources that can help you add certain skills. “I knew I wanted to start my own company, but I decided not to go back to school because I like to learn ‘on the go’,” says Filipi. “You can gain knowledge in different ways. Buy some good books and tap into networking opportunities.”


BacktoSchool_PQ.jpgQ: How do you plan to maintain success?


It’s what you always dreamed: your business is taking off, your customer base is expanding daily, partnerships and orders from around the world are pouring in. In this exciting time, you and your team are encountering new companies, systems, and even cultures. Why would you need to head back to school? An additional degree or even certificate may be vital to maintain that growth, whether it’s learning a new language or gaining insight into larger corporate structures.


K.G. Scheessele, executive vice president of the entrepreneurial professional services firm Mastering Business Development, Inc., went back to get her MBA 14 years after starting a company with her husband, at the point when it was thriving. “Since I didn't have an undergrad business background, the MBA education helped me greatly,” she explains. “I gained a better understanding of the problems facing large corporations we had as clients. Many of my classmates worked for big companies as well, so interaction with them also gave me insights into their world from their perspective.”

Q: How will you fit school into your already too-busy schedule?


For almost every entrepreneur, time is a precious commodity. From getting up early to tackle emails at 4:30 a.m. to rescheduling three virtual meetings to make it to your kid’s baseball game, there is zero room on your calendar for one more thing. So how might you handle the work-school balance?


Before you consider jumping into a full-time MBA program, figure out how going back to school will impact your business and personal life. Unless you envision that degree from an Ivy League school making a huge change in your company’s future, you may want to rethink what kind of formal refresher you actually need. Many higher education institutions offer flexible schedules, weekend or evening courses, and truncated “Executive MBA” programs that allow you to better balance running your company and being a student. (Organizations such as the United States Association for Small Business and Entrepreneurship and the U.S. Small Business Administration have information on many courses and educational programs aimed specifically at small business owners.)


SBC newsletter logo.gifTeana McDonald, president of the social media, PR and marketing firm Get It Done Divas, suggests developing a custom continuing education program that works within your business and personal life. “Most entrepreneurs have a certain mindset that places them ahead of the curve,” she says. “It's the drive to excel, succeed, and create the life that we want for ourselves.” For McDonald, that mindset drives her to attend several conferences a year, network with professionals in the field, read industry articles, and stay current on what's evolving in the industry. “If you commit to continuous learning and self-improvement,” she notes, “there’s no need to go back to school. It's good for some, not for all.”


So, how’d you do on the quiz? Just like the educational path to success, there is no right answer.  But asking these questions can help you grade how well your skills are helping your company. If you didn’t make an A, heading back to school can move you—and your business—to the top of the class.

Disability_Body.jpgby Erin McDermott.


Mike Paravente used to start his day by breezing down to his corner news shop, grabbing a coffee and a copy of the New York Post for his Yankees updates, and then getting on the road to manage his investment real estate.


That was three years ago, before a fall on icy January steps left him with crushed vertebrae and partial paralysis. The recovery and rehabilitation were painful, but he says the more difficult aspects are now, when he tries to negotiate a walker or mobility scooter through his favorite stores. Shopkeepers that he has known for years freeze up at the sight of him, he says. “It’s either that they see me and don’t want to make eye contact, or, worse, they’re just ignoring me,” says the 62-year-old. “It hurts either way.”


The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 aimed to improve accessibility to the nation’s public spaces and establish standards for including everyone. Yet, people with physical or mental impairments still report struggles in the day-to-day encounters that many take for granted. They are stymied by awkwardly high countertops in retail establishments, e-commerce sites that lack visual or hearing enhancements, or staffers unaccustomed to the effects of Parkinson’s disease, cerebral palsy, or multiple sclerosis.


“I’ve had some very interesting conversations with counter and desk clerks, including being told the phrases ‘Right over there,’ ‘Right by that mirror,’ when I’m standing there with a white cane in my hand,” says Steve Hoad, a Windsor, Maine management and sales consultant who has been blind since birth. “I wish they knew what a white cane means.”

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates one in five Americans have some form of disability, or will experience one in their lifetime. Put another way: 20 percent of potential customers could walk away from your small business because of an inability to effectively engage.


Below are some situations and issues that people in the disabled community believe could improve engagement for everybody:


Hearing Have you seen this symbol? It indicates the presence of an audio induction loop, a form of assisted listening that works by connecting with a hearing aid or cochlear implant via an electromagnetic field. More companies are installing the systems at service counters, to engage people with hearing loss. By communicating through a built-in microphone, a person with residual hearing can hear the sound directly in their hearing aid or other device when they switch their hearing aid to the T-switch, which engages the wireless antenna (known as a telecoil) that connects to a sound system. The hearing aid regulates the volume. There’s also the lowest-tech solution: For the simplest of transactions, the ADA’s website recommends just pencil and paper to communicate via written notes when there’s no other alternative.


Disability_PQ.jpgVisual Hoad says he wishes all Web developers adhered to World Wide Web Consortium standards—the protocols set by the Internet’s international governing body, commonly known as WC3. Specifically, there’s Section 508, which lays out rules for designers to adapt their sites for everything from screen-reading devices for the blind to contrast controls for people who are colorblind to guidance on controlling video flickers that may trigger epileptic seizures in those who are susceptible to them. 


Physical access Start with Washington state architect Aaron Murphy’s suggestion: Grip a tennis ball and then stuff your hand into a sock. Can you still manage to open your front door? That’s what someone with severe arthritis would experience at the entrance to your shop. That and mobility is something to think about now, as America’s huge Baby Boomer population enters their senior years, he says. Murphy specializes in Aging in Place residential design and has worked on more than one-million square feet of ADA-compliant space. He says people with mobility issues wish businesses would think about their “paths and maneuvering in a space, what type of clear area they need to change direction or turn around, and that flooring materials and transitions can be a burden or an outright ‘no go’ for access.”


SBC newsletter logo.gifAutism spectrum You know that squeak in the automatic doors, or the flickering fluorescent bulbs that are on the repair to-do list? What may be merely annoying to some can be torture for people with highly attuned sensory systems, says Marie Porter, a Minneapolis cake designer, food stylist, and blogger who has Asperger syndrome. “There is a grocery store nearby that’s convenient for location, price, and offerings, but I will usually drive well out of my way just to avoid shopping there,” she says. Why? “The checkout conveyor belts are not well maintained and emit a constant high-pitched squeal. For people with sensitive hearing—like many on the spectrum—this can feel like someone is digging a sharp knife into the brain, via the ear.” Says Porter: “I wish businesses knew that a few simple repairs or general upkeep can make the difference in where we choose to shop.”


The best suggestion? Hoad says the simplest solution is to just ask how you can help. “The first question should be ‘Do you need help?’ I’ll give anyone an A+ who takes that approach,” he says. “It seems like the easiest business question in the world. If they never take that step, they never learn.”

Partnerships_Body.jpgby Iris Dorbian.


When Jules Taggart teamed up with Krystina Feucht to launch Kickstarter Kitchen, a provider of marketing and business coaching services for women entrepreneurs in May 2012, she thought the pairing would be auspicious based on their mutual interests, strengths, and background. Both were not only marketing experts but also former work colleagues at a prior company.


However, shortly after Kickstarter Kitchen launched, the partnership derailed. According to Taggart, the founder and owner of the San Diego, Calif.-based amp&pivot, a marketing and branding company, the rupture had nothing to do with temperamental differences. Rather, the dual culprits were priorities and profits.


“My partner and I were making enough to provide one person with a full-time income, but not two people,” admits Taggart. “Because of that, we were stretched very thin in other areas. I was still running my marketing and social media business while Krystina was still working in a corporate job full-time.”


After discussing how certain assets—in this instance, online communities and business components—would be divvied up between both parties, Taggart and Feucht ended their partnership smoothly and without legal and/or adversarial complications. In fact, the termination was so amicable that Taggart even penned a blog post on it.


Unfortunately, many small business partnerships don’t often end so harmoniously. To prevent a bitter, divisive outcome, what are some best practices that small business owners should employ when considering a parting of partners?


Partnerships_PQ.jpgThink about the end at the start

This might sound counterintuitive, even defeatist, for business owners on the cusp of entering a partnership they hope will be fruitful, but it is a realistic necessity. Just as a person with sufficient means might ask a prospective spouse to sign a pre-nuptial agreement as a precautionary measure, a business owner might likewise need to have a legal document drawn up that will equitably divvvy up the assets and profits of a business should a split be necessary.


Mark Chatow, founder and principal of Chatow Law, a legal firm based in Newport Beach, Calif., strongly endorses this takeaway. “By planning ahead, partners can agree to fair and reasonable ways to part as friends-- before things get emotional,” he says. However, things can get dicey if one partner wants to remain with the business and buy out the other’s stake in it. Charnow, a business lawyer who has helped many small to medium sized businesses (including some of his own) legally terminate partnerships, points out that the partner who is staying, might “want to pay less to buy out the partner who is leaving than that partner feels their ownership is worth.” If the business is a startup or still in a nascent stage of development and has not yielded profits, it can be problematic trying to put a “fair value” on the business.


Chatow suggests that both partners should agree ahead of time on a price they can invoke to buy out the other. At the same time, the other should have “a first right of refusal” to buy the other partner instead at that price.


“This forces the partner who is staying to offer a fair price for the buy-out or to risk getting bought out themselves,” notes Chatow. “The same process can work after the fact even if it wasn't part of the original partnership agreement as long as both partners are willing to use it.”


Take stock of your emotional attachments

If you don’t have a dissolution agreement with your partner, then Taggart advises the small business owner to have an honest and “uncensored” conversation about the areas in his/her business that he/she feels an affinity for. For example, this can be clients that a small business owner has carefully cultivated or programs for which a small business owner has developed proficiency.


“Once you figure out where you feel attached, you can determine the areas where you’re willing to let go in order to get the things you really want,” says Taggart. In Taggart’s case, it meant her taking ownership of an online community, Thrive Hive, which both she and her former partner built from the ground up.


“This is a community that earns a little bit of money each month but not enough for either of us to get wrapped up in the outcome,” she reveals. “We are both tied to this community emotionally, though. In the end, we decided that it made more sense for me to continue to run Thrive Hive instead of Krystina because the community of women entrepreneurs is the same target market I’m trying to reach with my other company, amp&pivot.”


Use a mediator

Sometimes an impartial third-party, such as a judge or attorney with experience resolving partnership terminations, might be crucial to keep the process of business divorce from running into snags. This is key if one partner finds a loophole in a dissolution agreement. Having a person at the table who has no vested interest in either side can be a great way of quelling potential snarls.


Says Chatow: “Mediation is accessible to small businesses, much less expensive than arbitration or court, and can potentially turn an ugly business breakup into a friendly parting of the ways.”


Make sure everything is accounted for

This means before you end a partnership, it’s imperative that all debts and taxes be paid, insists Chatow. Even if you and your partner have had an amicable parting of the ways, the penalties that can occur if creditors and government agencies have not been dealt with can quickly trump the peace and turn the process stressful. Be responsible and make sure there are no dangling liabilities. Wrap up your business with the same care and caution you exercised when you launched it.


SBC newsletter logo.gifTo bolster his point, Chatow cites the following example. “I recently worked with a small business that had failed to dissolve their corporation when the business was no longer active,” he recounts. “One partner assumed that the other had taken care of everything but they had failed for years to file a simple $25 a year document with the state called a ‘Statement of Information.’ We were able to get the non-filing penalty down to just one year at $250 rather than the multiple years it could have been. But that's not always going to be the case. Fortunately, they had paid all but the current year's taxes so they were just liable for $800 in taxes plus a relatively small penalty that had accrued.”


Ending a business partnership can be a trying, emotionally-fraught undertaking. But if proper procedural care is taken both before and during the process, then parting ways does not have to be as unpleasant as it might otherwise be.



Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and interviewees.  You should consult a qualified professional to assist you in determining the most effective business partnership arrangement for your business.

In the past, business owners were often dismissed as people who might do “anything to make a buck.” This is not the case today. One of the best things about small businesses is that more people understand the value of entrepreneurship. Steve-Strauss--in-article-Medium.png


Indeed, entrepreneurs and small business owners are far more likely to be seen as hard-working dreamers, creative problem solvers and pragmatic idealists than ever before. Whether we are talking about Steve Jobs or Richard Branson or the woman down the street who opened that new restaurant, entrepreneurs are people to emulate and envy. They are truly inspirational leaders.


The latest issue of the Bank of America Small Business Owner Report (SBOR) is accompanied by a cool whiteboard video that shares the story of George Montilio, a 3rd generation baker and owner of Montilio’s Baking Company in Massachusetts.



What I love about Montilio’s story is that he didn't create the “Next Big Thing” or an innovative Internet startup. Instead, he simply lives the American Dream - He is his own boss, runs a successful small business, treats his employees well, creates a valuable (and by the looks of things, very tasty) product, and is part of a family-owned business. That is what it’s all about.


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


It got me thinking about the four small business owners that that have inspired me throughout my career:


Barbara Winter: Barbara Winter changed my life. About two years after I finished law school and was working at a big law firm, I was ready to break away and start my own practice. But I couldn't figure out how. Then one day I wandered into a bookstore and picked up a book called “Making a Living Without a Job” by Barbara Winter. Barbara’s book explained how anyone could become, what she called, “joyfully jobless.”


How sweet does that sound?


Her secret is that to stay joyfully jobless, you must create “multiple profit centers.” This means that to keep customers interested in your company, you must have multiple products and services to sell them. Think about Starbucks: When coffee sales are down, CD sales may be up. When CD sales are down, food sales may be up.

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Multiple profit centers are the secret.


AJ Leon: I just met AJ a few weeks ago when I interviewed him for my podcast, and he jumped to the top of my list of favorite entrepreneurs. About five years ago, AJ was a finance executive in Manhattan with a six-figure income and a bad attitude. He hated his career and who he had become.


As AJ tells it, on December 31, 2007, he quit his job and decided to live the life he always wanted, not the one he had been “programmed” to live. He wanted to travel and work and do something that made a difference in other people’s lives. Today his “nomadic design shop” has no home office, but employs nine people around the globe. He will be spending the next few years circumnavigating the globe with his wife, while running his remote business remotely, on his terms.


AJ’s story taught me that entrepreneurship requires taking risks and pursuing a career that you are passionate about.


Stone Melet: My friend Stone is a serial entrepreneur, who used to be a television anchorman. One day, he decided to, moved west, got some VC funding and he started a dotcom business in 1998. But unlike so many others at the time, when the bubble burst, his business survived because he had concentrated on creating a real business with real products. In the end, instead of going bust, he sold his intellectual property to eBay and has since stared several other businesses.


Overall, it is important to create value in your business to be successful.


Kah Walla: Kah Walla is a woman I know from the country of Cameroon, who may be the most dynamic person I have ever met. She owns an international consulting company from her base in Africa, and ran for President of her country last year. She recently spoke at the Clinton Global Initiative and is constantly in demand.


Kah is a reminder that entrepreneurs see opportunities where others see obstacles, and it is people like Kah Walla, Barbara Walter, AJ Leon, Stone Melet and George Montilio who inspire us with their examples of how to change the world for the better.


What have fellow small business owners taught you about running your own business? Share your story 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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