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05/07/2010
IconThe Biggest "Hidden Cost" In Any Business www.creators.com #147;My husband and I both retired last year, and were looking to supplement our income by buying and selling things on eBay. We have been working at it about 30 hours a week for the past 10 months, but looking at our year-end results, we seem to have made only about $30,000 after expenses. Do you have any tips to help us get a better result out of this business?#148; Boy, do I. But first I have to lay some bad news on you #150; if what you#146;ve just told me in your e-mail is true, you haven#146;t made $30,000. You have actually lost money. The biggest #147;hidden cost#148; in any business #150; not just an eBay business #150; is the cost of your time. Time is extremely precious stuff, and is actually more valuable than money, because no one gives you any more of it once it#146;s spent. Looking at your results, I see that you and your husband have spent 30 hours a week (that#146;s 60 hours for the both of you) for the past 10 months. Assuming an average of 4 weeks in any calendar month, that comes to a total of 2,400 hours (60 x 4 x 10). You have made only $30,000 during this 10-month period. This means each of you has been working for only $12.50 an hour ($30,000 divided by 2,400). A little bit better than minimum wage, and of course you have all of the joys and pleasures of running your own business rather than slaving for someone else, but based solely on numbers you#146;d both be better off signing on as shift managers for McDonalds. Sure, the work at McDonalds isn#146;t very fulfilling and will not make full use of your superior education, intelligence and training, but the hours are a lot more predictable, you go home at the end of your shift (whereas when you run your own business it#146;s with you 100% of the time, all the time), and you get some basic benefits to boot. Don#146;t get me wrong #150; I#146;m not saying you shouldn#146;t be running an eBay business out of your home. For a lot of retired folks and other #147;stay at home#148; types, eBay is an absolute God-send for making some extra bucks in your spare time (full disclosure #150; I am on the faculty of eBay University and travel the country teaching people how to do just that). But running an eBay business is extremely #147;labor intensive#148;. That means you need to put in a lot of person-hours. Think of all the individual, separate activities you have to do to make an eBay business successful. Here are some examples, and I#146;m sure you can think of more: going to flea markets, tag sales, garage sales, estate sales, liquidation sales, police auctions and Heaven-only-knows-why sales to find affordable stuff you can sell on eBay; photographing each item; researching the price of each item on eBay; finding out enough about each item so you can write a halfway-decent description in your auction page; keeping records of your inventory, so you know just what you#146;ve got in stock at all times; creating your auction pages, one at a time; packaging each item; weighing each item and determining the postage and insurance costs; sending customized e-mail messages to the successful bidders; entering each successful auction on QuickBooksreg; or your favorite accounting program; standing on line at the Post Office, or your neighborhood UPS Store, making sure the stuff gets shipped out the right way. Man, I#146;m getting tired just writing all that! If you#146;re going to be a success on eBay, you#146;ve got to learn to make the most of your time, which means doing things in such a way that you can put up the maximum number of auctions in the minimum amount of time. Marsha Collier, who writes the #147;eBay for Dummies#148; series of how-to books ( www.coolebaytools.com ), has a few tips, among many others: make sure you#146;re selling stuff that gives you big profits #150; if you#146;re only making $1.00 profit on each item, you#146;re going to have to post hundreds of individual auctions before you see a real return on your investment of time; if you#146;re posting a lot of auctions, use #147;auction management#148; software programs such as www.auctionhelper.com , www.auctionworks.com and www.manageauctions.com , to save time and #147;standardize#148; the process of posting auctions so you can #150; forgive me #150; grind them out like sausages; use a standardized auction page #150; call your local community college#146;s Graphic Design department and have one of their seniors (preferably an #147;honors#148; student) design a standard template for you, and use it in each of your eBay auctions so you only have to #147;fill in the blanks#148; with each new auction (this will also give your auctions a distinctive #147;look and feel#148; which can set you apart from your competitors); use eBay#146;s #147;relist#148; option when an item doesn#146;t sell so you can get it back in circulation fast with only a few changes (such as a better photo or a lower reserve price). Remember that your time is the biggest #147;hidden cost#148; in any business. None of us is getting any younger, folks, and I don#146;t want to spend my Golden Years pouring plastic peanuts into cardboard boxes, no matter how much fun it may be the first couple of hundred times. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2004 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe Three Keys To Success In A Service Business Cliff Ennico cennico@legalcareer.com A lot of downsized executives from corporate America are looking to start consulting practices these days, and a majority of them want to go back to corporate America and pitch themselves as #147;independent contractors#148; doing the same old job they used to do as corporate employees. A lot of them are disappointed, though, when they find out their old companies won#146;t hire independent contractors to do these jobs, because these jobs either are no longer necessary (due to advances in information technology), or are so sensitive that they can be handled properly by full-time employees. Still, it isn#146;t impossible to work for corporate America as an independent contractor or 1099. You just have to be a little more flexible in the type of work you accept. A frequent complaint I hear from consultants-who-were-once-corporate-executives is #147;gee, I am getting work from corporate clients, but the projects are really dogs, the lowest of the low, involving long hours and really mind-numbing detail work.#148; Well, here#146;s a news flash for you: corporations (like all customers) don#146;t want to delegate the fun stuff. The work that#146;s enjoyable, fun, sexy, state of the art, ground breaking, career enhancing, etc., etc, is precisely the work that will be kept in-house. Tell me, if you really enjoy working on cars as a hobby, do you let someone else work on your car? This seems so elementary, but you#146;d be surprised how many people forget it. Take me, for example. It says #147;business attorney#148; on my business card, so what do you think people pay me for? Lofty advice and research on complex legal questions? Sophisticated business advice which I offer while attending my clients#146; board meetings? As the comedian Steve Martin used to say, naaaaaaaaah . . . What people pay me for is document production #150; the ability to churn out legal documents on relatively short notice to engrave in stone the business deal they#146;ve spent weeks putting together and negotiating with other people. Client never ask, #147;Cliff, how should I structure this deal?#148; What they ask instead is, #147;Cliff, we#146;ve struck a deal with XYZ Company. We#146;re e-mailing the term sheet over to you now, how long do you think it will take to get the legal documents done?#148; Basically, I#146;m in the #147;documents on demand#148; business, as far as most of my clients are concerned (there are exceptions, of course). Why are clients willing to delegate this work to me, and pay significant amounts of money for me to do it for them? Well, let me answer this question with another: wouldn#146;t you? I mean, do you really enjoy staying up late every night wordsmithing complex business agreements in technical Legalese, knowing that if you get one word or phrase wrong, the whole thing could come tumbling down on someone#146;s head and you could be sued? Of course not! Nobody does (not even moi). But the job has to be done, and it has to be done well, and therein lies an opportunity for someone like me. Which brings us to the moral of this week#146;s column. If you truly want to be successful running your own business, especially a service business like mine, the path to success lies in three (3) easy steps: Step One:#147;Find a dirty job . . . #147; Step Two:#147;. . . that Has to Be Done, But That No One Wants to Do.#148; Step Three:#147;Charge Lots of Money for Doing It.#148; You may laugh, but it#146;s really that simple. People (and corporations) don#146;t delegate the work that#146;s enjoyable. What they will delegate is work that#146;s tricky, detailed, painful, boring, mind numbing, risky, and generally unpleasant. You will never make money asking people to pay you for stuff they enjoy doing. You can make TONS of money doing the stuff they won#146;t dirty their hands with. Which brings us to one last point. Every once in a while, when you are pitching consulting jobs to corporations, you will get the sense that the project you#146;ve been asked to work on is a #147;tar baby#148;. The name comes from a famous #147;Uncle Remus#148; fable, #147;The Wonderful Tar Baby Story#148;, written by the 19th century American author Joel Chandler Harris (to read the original story on the Web, go to #147; xroads.virginia.edu/~UG97/remus/tar-baby.html #148;). In the business world, #147;tar baby#148; is a project that is (a) politically sensitive within the company, and (b) has a high probability of failure no matter who does it. A #147;tar baby#148;, if not done 100% perfectly, will cost someone within the organization their job. It makes sense to hire an independent contractor to work on a #147;tar baby#148;, because if they fail, they simply don#146;t get paid and will never work in the company (or perhaps the industry) again, and no one within the organization loses their job. If you sense that a client is offering you a #147;tar baby#148;, I would suggest not taking it if you value your reputation. If you are desperate for income, or are willing to take the risk of failing on a #147;tar baby#148; project because your failure isn#146;t likely to make page 1 of the industry newsletters and #147;no one will ever know,#148; I have one piece of advice for you: charge several times what you normally would charge for other projects. If the project truly is a #147;tar baby#148;, and the people you#146;re dealing with are desperate to unload #150; I mean, delegate #150; the project to an outside consultant, they shouldn#146;t get a bargain on top of it. Make them pay, make them bleed money, make it worth the misery, and don#146;t apologize #150; you are performing a truly great service for that company, and if they#146;re the right kind of people, they will appreciate it. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2004 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconIs A Cottage Industry For You? By Sharon Nani customerservice@theknittree.com A home based business can be service oriented or product oriented. If you produce a product as a sole proprietor business owner, you have a cottage industry. Having a business in your home requires pre-planning and investigation. There are several different federal, state, county, and city laws that regulate a cottage industry and they may each have different requirements or restrictions dependant upon where you live and the product that you wish to produce. The following list is not all inclusive. It is meant as a guide to get you started in the right direction. Your Tax Assessment Number on your property tax bill will lead you to the first information you will need. Do you meet the legal requirements to have a business in your home? Call the County Department of Resource Management: Planning Division and ask: What is my #147;Building Zone?#148; Then check that Zone#146;s requirements for a home based business. These might have requirements for public access, amount of public access, parking space, amount of space in your home that you can dedicate to the business, etc. This is also the place that you apply for your #147;home occupation#148; permit, which will list your restrictions for the zoning in your area. Do not despair if you do not meet these requirements. There are alternatives such as renting a spot in someone else#146;s business as your customer contact point or applying for a zoning change. A certified public account can help you determine what your license requirements might be. He will also help you set up your book keeping system dependant upon whether you wish to claim that you are a #145;hobby business#146; or a business. It is to your advantage to apply for a Fictitious Name Statement from the County Clerks Office for your cottage industry. This is inexpensive and you will need this if you open a Business Bank Account or have a business phone. If your product is sold retail, you may also need a #147;Sellers Permit#148; from the State Department of Equalization. Every cottage industry owner knows the importance of their Bread Butter Basics . These are the items that are usually easier to make, in great demand, and economical to the consumer. Check out some ideas for Bread and Butter Basics from this web site : hand loomed slippers, baby blankets, caps, hats, booties, sweaters, lighthouse placemats, hair scrunchies, and scarves. They might even be mascot stadium blankets: bears, knights, or leopards. Bread and Butter Basics also includes learning about the specialty techniques that add the finishing polish to your product. Don#146;t forget, you need to know how to determine the selling cost of your products before you start to market them. Get all #147;your ducks lined up#148; and you too can have a successful cottage industry. The Knit Tree is a small family owned company on the outskirts of Redding, California#151;right at the tip of the Sacramento Valley#151;surrounded on three sides by beautiful mountain ranges. It is operated by David and Sharon Nani. It all began in 1970 when Sharon, as a young mother, received a knitting loom as a gift from her husband. The first item Sharon learned to make was the unique knit slippers which you can still find today in the showroom Bread and Butter Basics. As Sharon quickly became known as "The Slipper Lady" she realized what a wonderful opportunity had been given to her. She could add to the family income and still be at home to care for their two young children. E-mail: customerservice@theknittree.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconKeeping Your Employees Happy Without Getting Soft Cliff Ennico cennico@legalcareer.com It#146;s one of the classic #147;Goldilocks#148; problems in running any business. If you push your employees too hard to get results, they resent you. They talk about you behind your back, and complain bitterly about working in a #147;sweatshop environment#148; where their lives are sacrificed to make you rich. The first chance they get, they bolt to another company, probably a competitor. Read any installment of the cartoon strip #147;Dilbert#148; and you#146;ll see what I mean. Yet if you are too nice to your employees, and bend over backwards trying to make your workplace as happy, nurturing and fun-filled as you possibly can, what happens then? Your employees start thinking you are a #147;soft touch#148; and start taking advantage of your good nature. They ask for more, more and more, even though what you#146;re giving them as compensation is quite generous by industry standards. They start showing up drunk for work, or not at all, and play to your sympathies when you try to pull them up short or criticize them. They start second guessing your management decisions, and insist that you justify everything you want or need them to do. How can you get your employee relationships #147;just right#148;? How can you build a positive, healthy working environment for your employees without giving away the store? Someone who#146;s wrestled long and hard with this problem is Bob Weiner, founder of Constantine Carpet ( www.constantine-carpet.com ). Constantine Carpet is a leading manufacturer of commercial and residential carpeting, employing about 270 blue- and white-collar employees in several northern Georgia mills, that is widely praised in its industry for the #147;cult-like#148; positive attitudes its employees bring to their work each day. Here are some of Weiner#146;s tips on handling employee relations: You#146;re Not #147;The Boss#148; . #147;My employees should be thinking of the company and its well-being, and not dealing with me as an individual at all,#148; says Weiner, explaining that today#146;s workers have been taught to #147;question authority#148; at all levels and will resent you presenting yourself as an authority figure. #147;You can#146;t just tell people to do something because #145;you#146;re the boss#146;, because that won#146;t cut it anymore,#148; says Weiner. The key, according to Weiner, is to make sure your employees don#146;t see you as #147;someone who is generous or stingy#148; but rather someone who is smart and able enough to build a successful company and who will make sure that if the company is prosperous, the workers who make a difference will become prosperous as well. But You#146;re Not Their Friend, Either . Weiner recalls that when Constantine Carpet was just getting off the ground, #147;I was very close to certain individuals, and that was sometimes a problem for me, like when I had to fire them.#148; Weiner stresses the importance of setting up policies once a company has grown beyond the startup phase, and letting employees know that their success will depend upon their adherence to the policies- and not their personal relationship with you. Make the Company the #147;Third Person in the Room#148; . #147;Employees should be thinking of the company#146;s well being, not mine,#148; says Weiner, explaining that he makes a point of telling employees that thus-and-such a goal will benefit the company as a whole, and therefore benefit everyone. #147;You put the company in the room along with you and the employee, and tell the employee that if that artificial third person is happy, you will be happy as well,#148; says Weiner. Make Incentives on a Group Basis, Not an Individual Basis . Weiner feels strongly that bonuses and other incentives should be based upon the company#146;s performance, not only or solely the individual employees#146; performance. As an example, Weiner cites Constantine Carpet#146;s productivity bonus: #147;we set output goals for the tufting or the dying operation, and make sure people know if the whole plant produces more stuff per employee-hour and meets the quota, then everyone benefits; if the quantity is surpassed, everyone in that plant gets a bonus for the week.#148; One of the side benefits of this approach is that all employees are guaranteed to be tough on slackers, whiners and other drags on productivity, knowing that substandard performance will affect them personally. Be Humane . #147;It gets really hot in Georgia in the summertime,#148; Weiner observes, #147;so I#146;ve put fans and water coolers all over the place in every one of our plants, as well as #145;blow fans#146; with evaporated water that fees like air conditioning.#148; Weiner says you should do things like that without your employees having to ask. Make Your Employees #147;See the Logic#148; . Finally, Weiner says that while you shouldn#146;t have to explain yourself constantly to your employees, it#146;s important to make employees see the logic in what you#146;re doing. #147;If people can see why what you#146;re doing makes sense, if they can see the logic of what you#146;re doing, and that it does make business sense and does create value, they will not view it as an arbitrary #145;order from the boss#146; that has to be challenged,#148; says Weiner. Or, as Benjamin Franklin said back in 1776, as British forces approached the fledging colonial capital of Philadelphia, #147;gentlemen, if we do not hang together in this time of crisis, be assured that we will all hang separately.#148; Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2004 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHow to Launch a Successful eCommerce Web Site From Home Jennifer Fallon jennifer@myweddingfavors.com In January 2004, my husband Brad and I launched our first online store using a $50 per month Yahoo Store. After we built the store and I entered our initial products, we sold over $10,000 our first month. But by April we had over $80,000 in monthly sales and had to find a warehouse to hold our inventory. By May, our sales had reached $132,000. By June, we were bringing in over $150,000 per month and had to upgrade our warehouse, and now we have a full-time staff of six #150; but I still work at home. Our gross sales have already reached $1 million. One thing I know for sure is that despite the setbacks of the 1990s, you can still open an eCommerce business and have it be a huge success. But there are some factors to consider when you are getting started. Step 1: Find a High Demand Niche MarketBrad and I were married in May of 2003. I wanted to be able to have children and stay at home, but without giving up my income. I had a corporate software sales job with a lot of travel. The initial idea for my new business came to me when I was planning my own wedding and was looking for place card holders for our reception. As I surfed the web looking for wedding favors and place card holders, I thought to myself . . . what a great internet business #150; wedding favors. People are looking to purchase large quantities for the entire guest list, and you can#146;t exactly walk into a store and buy 150 personalized candles. Plus there are so many items on your wedding planning checklist and it#146;s ideal to be able to go to the internet on a Sunday night in your pajamas and knock an item off the list. We decided to do more research on this online market and, using the free #147;Search Term Suggestion Tool#148; at www.overture.com , we found that over 100,000 people per month are searching for the term #147;wedding favors#148;. That#146;s high demand! Of course when I typed that in myself, I was a bit concerned about the amount of competition but I knew the concept was good; I knew it had potential. My husband has experience in helping web site owners get their web site to the top of the search engines. That#146;s called Search Engine Optimization, so it seemed that an online business selling wedding products was going to be a great fit. Having a great idea is a lot different from making that idea happen. I knew very little about retail and certainly had a lot to learn about the wedding favor market. Our first step was getting our retail tax ID and seeing if I could find products. The most challenging part of this was going to be product pricing. Since brides are purchasing for an entire guest list, the price point is extremely important; most people are not going to pay more than a few dollars per favor. So I headed off to the wholesale Atlanta Mart, looked around and took home over 40 catalogs from different gift wholesalers. That was the fun part! Every night after work I would go through the catalogs and mark which products I thought would work as a wedding favor. The next step was to build the website, which was a Yahoo store. Templates are provided, software is provided, and the shopping cart is provided. The majority of work was going to be taking pictures of the products and writing the website content and the descriptions. We wrote all the descriptions for the products and then had a sample of each product that we photographed on tablecloths just as they might appear on reception tables. So after a lot of long nights and weekends, we had a website! Now what? Step 2: When you have what people want...make sure they know about it.100,000 people a month may be searching for what we were selling but how were we going to be found. That is where my husband and I began to strategize with this new business. Brad had been experimenting with different techniques to get a web site a higher ranking in the search engines. Brad put into practice some theories he had developed as one of the leading experts in the search engine field. We started moving up in the search results almost immediately. We first noticed we were coming up on page 3 on Google, kept working at it and the next thing we knew, our web site, myweddingfavors.com, was coming up in the #1 slot on Yahoo! and #2 on Google when somebody was searching for #147;wedding favors#148;. Very shortly thereafter our profits started to soar. We went from 6-10 orders a day to 50-60 orders a day selling over $160,000 per month! Our little side business was now a million dollar business with 6 employees. It was quite comical #150; we went from having a few products in our basement with my retired father helping with shipping to a large warehouse with 6 employees. There were many growing pains, but I still work from home. I think that our success is mostly due to search engine marketing. Think about it#151;people perform a web search for a product when they are ready to buy it. It#146;s the best form of targeted marketing there is. In our case the word #147;wedding#148; is the fifth most commonly searched phrase on the Internet. It is searched for more than 3,000 times a month on Google alone. And out of more than 822,000 listed web sites that sell wedding favors, our site comes up well ahead of our competition. The power of advertising using search engine marketing has proven to be so powerful to us that it is now our primary form of marketing and advertising. And Brad has gone on to start his own company devoted to creating high search engine rankings for web sites, SEO Research. Step 3: Know when to outsource I originally started this business as a sideline endeavor. It quickly started to take over my life. One of the first lessons I had to learn was that if my business was to remain a success, I couldn#146;t do it all by myself. Orders were piling up (which was a good thing). But there was no way I could handle order processing, shipping, bookkeeping, and still maintain a high level of customer service. And I believe quality customer service makes the real difference in this kind of business. In an Internet environment, a customer will have a certain anxiety level dealing with a business they have never seen with their own eyes. This is why you must go the extra step when it comes to keeping your customers happy. I realized that in order to do this, I had to outsource the daily operational details of my business. I hired a full time staff of six people (including 2 of my relatives) to handle order processing, packing, shipping, customer service, etc. This freed my time to focus on searching for new and unique products. This also gave me the ability to keep a close watch on my manufacturing vendors to make sure product quality met my specifications. Even though this is an online company, certain basic components of good business practice still apply: quality products, attentive service and the ability to respond to customer requests with a personal touch. Now that I have a #147;staff#148; to handle the more labor-intensive details, this is quickly becoming the work-at-home opportunity I dreamed of. I have the freedom to do the things I want in life, and the satisfaction of owning my own business. While I would never say that running this type of company is easy (because it isn#146;t), I do know that it can be intensely rewarding and personally satisfying. If you#146;re looking for a home-based business with a high-yield potential, then I highly recommend eCommerce as the way to build your path to success. Jennifer Fallon runs her own home-based business, My Wedding Favors, www.myweddingfavors.com . Jennifer works from home 4 days a week using the internet and phone to manage her 6 employees. Brad Fallon founded SEO Research, the scientific search engine authority with proven strategies to deliver top rankings. Brad used his knowledge of search engine marketing to help Jennifer propel www.myweddingfavors.com into a million dollar a year enterprise #150; in the first nine months. More information about Brad and SEO Research can be found at www.seoresearch.com and Brad#146;s blog at www.bradfallon.com . To see the story of My Wedding Favors and learn how you can get your web site to the top of the search engines, visit www.instantseoexpert.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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05/07/2010
IconThe #147;Four Horsemen#148; of Corporate America By Cliff Ennico www.cliffennico.com Anyone who took Art History 101 in college remembers at some point seeing a slide of Albrecht Durer#146;s woodcut, #147;The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse#148;. This masterpiece depicts four ghostly riders on horseback, charging ahead in full stampede and waving their fearsome weapons over their heads, trampling over the bodies of the highborn and lowborn equally, while angels float overhead egging them on (you can see a terrific reproduction on the Web at www.apocalipsis.org/artwork/durer4horse.html ) These mythic figures, who made their first appearance in the biblical Book of Revelation, are symbols of the four plagues that have devastated mankind since the beginning, the evils that no human can prevent or avoid -- War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death. As the economy heats up, a lot of downsized executives and frustrated business owners are thinking about making a return to the #147;Fortune #147;1000#148; corporate world, where the living is easy, the money flows like wine, and you actually get benefits. Well, before you dust off your suits, polish up your resume, and google the Web to learn more about Six Sigma, be aware that corporate America is facing #147;Four Horsemen#148; of its own right now, and these plagues are likely to be hanging around for the next couple of decades at least. Now more than ever, it is important to hang on to your entrepreneurial dreams, for dear life, and resist the siren call of the corporate cubicle. Horseman # 1: The Computer Revolution . These days, if a big company can buy computers to do the work of people, it buys the computers and eliminates the people. With today#146;s information technology, it is entirely possible to run a $1 billion corporation with fewer than 100 employees, and large corporate staffs are a thing of the permanent past. Horseman # 2: The Rise of Asia . If a big company must hire people to do a job, because no computer is good enough, it is likely to hire the cheapest people it can in far-flung corners of the globe. Our global economy often forces corporations to hire people overseas who can work for a fraction of the salaries and benefits their American counterparts need. It is not an exaggeration to say that we are witnessing the dawn of an #147;Asian Century#148;, with China, India and some of the smaller Pacific Rim nations becoming the economic powerhouses of the future. American industry will have to struggle hard to survive, much less maintain its dominance. Horseman # 3: The Outsourcing of Nonessential Functions . If a big company really must hire Americans, because no foreigner is good enough, it will #147;outsource#148; them as independent contractors rather than employees, especially if the job is perceived by senior management to be a #147;staff function#148; that is not essential to the company#146;s success. That way the company doesn#146;t have to pay them benefits, health insurance or other employee #147;perks#148;. Horseman # 4: The Obsession with Productivity . If you perform such an essential function for a big company that they absolutely must hire you as an employee, not an independent contractor, be prepared to work harder than you ever have in your life. Big corporations these days are obsessed with #147;maximizing productivity#148;, which often translates into English as #147;getting the maximum amount of work out of your employees for the minimum amount of compensation#148;. For example, in an effort to cut employee health care costs, many big companies are modifying their health insurance plans so as to decrease their mandatory contributions and increase the deductibles, copays and other amounts employees must pay before coverage kicks in. While no doubt many corporate employers will take seriously their #147;social welfare#148; obligations to their employees, some will take advantage of the availability of cheap overseas labor and the weakness of American labor unions to create a sweatshop environment for their employees in which one #147;lives, breathes, eats, sleeps and excretes the Company#148; with little time for outside pursuits, and is expected to be grateful for it. And a Fifth Horseman: Our Increasingly Volatile Economy . And if due to some miracle of enlightened management a company resists the temptation to be run down by the #147;Four Horsemen#148; and is actually a great place to work, always remember that even the most #147;employee friendly#148; company can be taken over by a competitor, lose a key product due to obsolescence or loss of a key patent, or fail due to poor management. In some industries, all it will take is one successful terrorist attack on American soil, or one decline in an economic indicator, to drive every company into a tailspin. The marketplace these days is extremely unforgiving, and small mistakes frequently lead to big disasters, which are immediately broadcast to the entire world in real time by our 24/7 media. Even if you stay employed with a big company until age 65, you will still need to keep your entrepreneurial dream alive if you expect to survive your retirement years. Corporate retirement plans are a lot less generous than they used to be, and many corporations have cut back, or eliminated altogether, the medical insurance they provide to their retirees. The Government won#146;t be there to bail you out, either. Social Security, Medicare and other government programs that helped your parents and grandparents either won#146;t be there when you are ready for them, or they will be so scaled back that only the most poverty-stricken Americans will qualify for them. And you won#146;t be able to fall back upon blue-collar or service jobs, because there#146;s a massive wave of new immigrants from Asia, Africa and Latin America who are only too willing, for a lot less money, to take the jobs we educated Americans are too proud to do. To sum it all up, even if you do make a successful return to corporate America, you cannot count on your employer #150; or indeed, anyone other than yourself -- any longer to provide you with a generous living over the long term. Big companies, facing tough foreign competition, have learned that they have to keep their costs as low as possible to stay alive. Since people are a corporation#146;s biggest cost, they try to run their businesses with as few employees as possible, and try to get as much work out of those people as they legally can without overpaying for it. My prediction for all of you, dear readers #150; no, my guarantee #150; is that sooner or later (maybe next year, maybe when you turn 50, maybe when you retire) you will find yourself once again responsible for generating the income you need by running your own business. My advice to all of you is to begin preparing for that day now. If you are running a business and do get a corporate job, don#146;t shut down your business completely; keep it running on #147;life support#148;, perhaps with the help of stay-at-home relatives, so you won#146;t have to start it up again from scratch if the new job doesn#146;t work out. Develop new skills and other interests on the job that you can turn into profit making businesses or consulting practices someday. Make business contacts that can not only help you in your current job, but provide customers, financing or other support to your future entrepreneurial venture. Keep up to date about new techniques for running successful small businesses, and don#146;t cancel your subscription to HomeBusinessJournal under any circumstances. Look for opportunities to get back into the entrepreneurial life, and don#146;t wait until the #147;time is right#148; before you launch. The sooner you get started, the sooner you will be able to support yourself without having to rely on anyone else for your income. And then you can get on with the fun stuff you#146;ve always wanted to do in life #150; without fear, without anxiety, without ever having to wonder if things would have been better had you stayed on the corporate ladder. CLIFF ENNICO, best known as the host of the PBS television series #147;MoneyHunt#148;, is the author of the nationally syndicated newspaper column #147;Succeeding in Your Business#148; and the legal correspondent for the Small Business Television Network at www.sbtv.com . You can find out more about him at www.cliffennico.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
IconHow Not To Do A Trade Show Cliff Ennico cennico@legalcareer.com There have been entire books written on how to survive your first trade show. My current two favorites are by marketing expert Steve Miller: #147;How to Get the Most Out of Trade Shows#148; and #147;How to Design a #145;Wow!#146; Trade Show Booth Without Spending a Fortune#148;, both of which should cost you less than $25.00 at your favorite bookstore. Sometimes, though, you can sweat the details of your trade show booth so much that you lose sight of the more important stuff. At a recent trade show I attended, one particular booth was generating huge crowds. The sponsor, an e-commerce company, had obviously spent a good part of their investors#146; money in reserving one of the best and most visible locations on the trade show floor, with lots of foot traffic. The exhibit was a knockout #150; a full scale replica of a beachcomber#146;s hut, surrounded by what looked like about 10 yards of trucked-in sand and imitation palm trees (with coconuts, no less). The staff of about 10 were all dressed in Hawaiian shirts and shorts (for the guys) and hula outfits (for the ladies). Most of the staff were nubile young men and women with buff figures who, it seemed, had been recruited from a modeling agency. The theme of the booth screamed at you: #147;if you use our service we make life really easy for you, so easy you can retire to Tahiti and forget you even run a business.#148; The booth was a winner, don#146;t you think? It certainly impressed the people running the trade show, who gave the booth its #147;best design#148; and #147;best overall effect#148; awards. And yet . . .Like a lot of folks, I was very impressed by the booth, and wanted to learn more about this company. I had to stand in a line five people deep to even get close to one of the staff. When I did, she said, in her best Valley Girl accent, #147;dude, you wanna portable fan?#148; (they were giving out portable fans, again a tie-in to the Tahiti image). I asked this young lady about the company and what it did, expecting to hear an #147;elevator pitch#148; about the company, its products and services. Instead, the lady stared at me blankly, and said coldly #147;I#146;m sorry, sir, I#146;m just working the booth. You have to speak to one of our engineers#148;. She pointed to one of the young men in the Hawaiian shirts, and went back to handing out portable fans. Strike One. I approached the engineer, who was sitting at a laptop computer explaining something really technical to a few people. All I could hear was #147;implementation#148;, #147;e-commerce solution,#148; #147;asynchronous#148;, and a few other words. When I finally got through to this fellow, I told him I was writing a column for small business owners and asked him to explain, in simple English, what his company#146;s service was all about. He launched again into his technical spiel about #147;unidimensional focus#148;. Strike Two. Now, I#146;m a forgiving guy. I work with a lot of tech companies, and sometimes you just have to see their product in action to really understand what it does and how it adds value to people#146;s lives. So I interrupted his spiel, and asked him to show me on the PC what it does. He looked at me with a little blush, and said, #147;I can#146;t do that right now. Our T-1 lines here aren#146;t very good, and we can#146;t get through to our Website.#148; Strike Three. I walked away, portable fan in hand. Now, here was a company that did everything #147;by the book#148; when it came to setting up a #147;must see#148; trade booth. Yet they totally blew the follow-up. Here are some lessons this company should have learned: your booth should be eye-catching, but the focus should be 100% on explaining to people what your products and services are all about, and how they improve people#146;s lives; always use your own employees to run the booth; if you must use #147;mannequins#148; or hired actors, train them in your company#146;s message so that they can communicate it; your staff should always be accessible, no matter how big the crowd; always have marketing people on hand (rather than engineers) to explain your product or service; and if you are demonstrating your product or service at the booth, make 100% sure the bloody thing works. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com ) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com . COPYRIGHT 2004 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com More >>

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05/07/2010
Icon5 Common Mistakes of Old School Persuaders Kurt W. Mortensen kurt@persuasioninstitute.com Have you ever had someone try to persuade you with those old, outdated, offensive tactics? You know the ones I am talking about. Before you are even close to purchasing a product I am sure that you have been asked: #147;Do you want it in green or black?#148; I am sure you have also heard: #147;If I could show you how to become financially independent, you#146;d be interested wouldn#146;t you?#148; This backs you into a corner and you don#146;t even want to answer the question. You wonder, does this person really think I#146;m that dumb? You don#146;t buy from these people. You don#146;t even like these people. You never go back to their store. Do these tactics still work? Sure they do. It is the law of averages. Eventually you can find someone who will bend to any persuasive technique. Great persuaders are not smarter; they just have the right tools. You have heard the adage, #147;If you are a hammer, everyone is a nail.#148; You can't treat everyone exactly the same. You have to customize the presentation to every customer. I want to give you a new set of tools because one tool will not fit all your prospects. You can#146;t use the old school tactics and force every prospect into the same mold. The more tools you have, the more successful you will become. Research shows that most persuaders use three to four persuasive techniques. High producers still only use seven to eight persuasive techniques. Did you know there are over 100 techniques? If you look at persuasion like it#146;s a piano, most are playing chopsticks when they could be playing Mozart. Why haven#146;t many persuaders caught up with the times? Why are so many still using the old tools that would best be put to rest? Are you one of them? First, you must understand persuasion and influence have changed in the past twenty years. Your consumer, prospect, and customer have changed. They are bombarded with over five thousand persuasive messages a day. Your prospect is more educated and more skeptical than ever before. Think about it. When you are approached by a sales rep or called by a telemarketer you automatically put up a huge wall. You are already resisting before anything has been communicated. If you try those old style tactics, you will lose prospects, which results in lost sales. What good is a sales tool that works only part of the time? Imagine if the brakes on your car only worked part of the time. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever had a prospect that you were working with and you knew they needed your product or service, they wanted your product or service, they could afford it, but they still didn#146;t buy from you? What happened? It was a perfect fit for both parties. We live in a fast-paced world. We don#146;t even have time to think. So your prospect comes in and everything is perfect but they don#146;t buy and they say, #147;I need to think about it.#148; We don#146;t have time but the knee-jerk reaction is to think about it. Do you want to know why your prospects aren#146;t buying from you? 1. My clients/customers trust me Wrong. We have done studies at the persuasion institute and found most people do not trust you. The persuader thinks and feels that he or she has developed trust, but when we talk to the customer/prospect, there is no trust. Here#146;s the deal: Forty years ago, people were more trusting. The attitude was, #147;I trust you. Give me a reason not to.#148; Now it#146;s, #147;I don#146;t trust you. Give me a reason to trust you.#148; So now you#146;re starting well below zero. On average, depending on your occupation, over 70 percent of the time you did not develop trust with your customer/prospect. Ouch. Even if they like you, if they don#146;t trust you there will be no deal. The ability to gain and keep trust is a vital factor in influencing others. Research has shown, time and time again, that trust is always a contributing factor in the ability to influence others. When a person trusts you, trust alone can cause them to accept your message. On the flip side, if people don#146;t trust you, all the evidence, reasoning, facts, or figures in the world won#146;t get them to budge. Trust can be an ambiguous concept, but certain things are quite clear: You can#146;t get others to trust you unless you trust yourself first. Your message will not be convincing to others unless it#146;s convincing to you. Whenever someone tries to influence us, we ask ourselves, #147;Can I trust this person? Do I believe him? Are they really concerned about me?#148; We are less likely to be influenced if we sense that the person is driven solely by self-interest. Never assume that people trust you. Always show the world you are someone to be trusted, no matter what the circumstances are. 2. I need more closing skills Sure it is nice to have a few closing skills in your persuasion tool box, but shouldn#146;t you spend more time opening up your prospect before you even think about closing? In fact, great persuaders don#146;t even have to use closing techniques. The consumer is ready to purchase before the end of the conversation. The only time you really need a closing skill is when you have blown it and you have not followed the proper persuasion process. You need to be able to connect, be sincere and empathic, and show you have their best interest in mind. You should spend more time on connecting, building rapport, finding needs and wants, positioning your product, and answering questions. Persuading a customer/prospect occurs throughout the whole process, not just at the end of the presentation. Studies show it is much more important how you open a sale rather than close it. Research shows that hard closes not only offend but have also lost their effectiveness. Hard closes work less than five percent of the time and over half of those prospects had buyer#146;s remorse and returned the product. It is said that the first and most lasting impression is made in about the first four minutes. Be sure you demonstrate confidence in those first four minutes, because the cement dries fast! Nothing can replace a bad first impression, even if you try to make it up later. Fixing a first impression is like fixing a wrecked car. Even after exhaustive time, effort, and expense, you still know it was wrecked, and you#146;re more apt to detect anything that might be wrong with it. We have all had the experience of meeting someone who, after just a few seconds of being in their presence, we have felt an instant connection or bond to. This is the Law of Connectivity. Conversely, we have probably all met someone who we instantly did not like and did not want to be around. This process is caused by a lack of connectivity and usually takes only a few seconds to become apparent. The Law of Connectivity states that the more we feel connected to, part of, liked by, or attracted to someone, the more persuasive they become. When you create an instant bond or connection, people feel comfortable around you; they will feel like they have known you for a long time and that they can easily relate to you. When we feel connected to someone, we feel comfortable and a sense of trust evolves. 3. Focusing on price rather than building value Many persuaders tend to focus on price rather than building value. When you are finished with your presentation your prospect should think, that#146;s it? That#146;s inexpensive! What a great value! Even if they can#146;t afford it, they can see the value of what you are offering. Discussing price creates fear in many persuaders. It#146;s often where the sale begins to sink. Three things happen. Prospects know it is a great way to get rid of you, they can postpone making a decision, and it is a knee-jerk reaction. You have not built the value of your product or service. We often feel like lost sales come down to price. It is not the price issue! It#146;s that they don#146;t see the value. Think about it. If price was always the issue, we would all be driving yugos, drinking kool aid, staying at Motel Six, and shopping at thrift stores. If you do hear the price objection too frequently, try asking, #147;Compared to what?#148; They will usually give you a blank stare because there is nothing to compare it to. It is your job to help them compare your product or service to a Rolls Royce, not a used economy car. It#146;s all about human perception. The human mind has to find a benchmark of comparison to make judgments, especially when we are talking about unfamiliar situations. People make comparisons based on knowledge and past experience. By showing your prospects contrast, you are creating comparisons for them. The mind can't process everything at once, so it develops shortcuts to help make decisions. Instead of making a completely internal judgment, we look for boundaries, patterns, and polar opposites. We want to know the difference between our options, so we naturally contrast the two items. We mentally place things in our mind from best to worst, first to last, or highest to lowest. Do you want your prospects to compare your product or service to the second-hand thrift store or a shop on Rodeo Drive? You get to decide where you want them to start their benchmark. When using this technique, keep in mind the powerful differences between positive and negative information. Psychologists have asserted for years that people automatically and subconsciously have extremely high expectations for the good over the bad. Because of this consistent tendency, negative information, when it comes, always seems to be given considerable weight because it is such a jarring contrast to what was expected. For example, have you ever had a salesperson get you all excited about some incredible product you were about to purchase? You're totally thrilled with all the things this product is going to do for you, and then BAM! The salesperson hits you with the ghastly price. Suddenly the hefty price tag #150; just one negative detail #150; outweighs all of the twenty other terrific features. Negative information has taken precedence over all the positive information. In fact, now this one negative detail totally consumes your thoughts. You drive home only able to think about how the precious item is going to cost you an arm and a leg. 4. Persistence is the key Persistence is an incredible quality to have. Persistence is the number one reason why people are successful in life. It's also the driving force that determines why certain people are wealthy. Their success is not due to financial backing or education. They owe their achievements to persistence. There's an old sales adage: "Some will; some won't. So what? Who's next?" I want to focus on smart persistence. If you get lots of no#146;s, you might be wasting your time and the prospect#146;s time. There is a fine line between smart persistence and being a pain in the butt. You need to be able to sense when and where the best time to contact is, how to make contact, and if you should continue contacting your prospect. When you are doing it the right way, your customer will let you know they appreciate your correspondence. You can be persistent trying to break down the brick wall with your head, but there is a time and place for good, smart persistence. Don#146;t make it a badge of honor counting up your rejections. Sure rejection is part of being a persuader. Let#146;s just keep it down to a manageable level. We know we can#146;t persuade all the people all the time. We should know when to walk away and find other prospects to spend time with. I could be in NYC handing out $100 bills to pedestrians and many would not take the bills. They would not have the time to think about it#133;there has to be a catch, etc. Working harder is useless if the prospect doesn#146;t see a need for your product or service. Find your ability to read what they need and the best way to be persistent. Are they a qualified buyer? Persuaders contact prospects almost everyday and wonder why they don#146;t return their calls. The persuader feels they have a great potential buyer and they are interested and it is just a matter of time. They know the sell is inevitable. Then we contact the prospect to get the truth. This is what we find out: They have not had intentions of buying, they are sick of all the messages; they did not have a need, want, interest, or even the money to buy. But our faithful persistent persuader did not take no for an answer. Again persistence is a great trait, but let#146;s add the smart aspect to it. Another important point is when you are contacting your prospect again, remember the emotion has left the building and you need to revisit why they were interested in the first place. Maybe they were going to think about it, but they probably have not had the time to think about it or to look at your beautiful literature. You have to recapture their interest and needs when you make the second contact. If they are no longer hot, you have to restart the fire. If you do leave a message, make sure you give them a great and legitimate reason to call you back. Do you have more info? Has there been a product enhancement, has the pricing changed? Get them involved as much as possible. 5. I#146;ll figure it out on my own This phrase has cost me millions of dollars. It was a great day when I realized that all the problems and obstacles I was having in life, or in persuasion, had already been solved or figured out by someone else. That means these people have answers! Poverty thinking is #147;I will figure it out on my own and take three years of time and countless money trying to reinvent the wheel.#148; The big challenge is that we cannot coach ourselves. We can#146;t see all our strengths and weakness, what we need to improve and work on. All great players have mentors and coaches. Look around you. Who can you talk to, who can you take to lunch, who can be your coach? We know getting the book is a great start and will teach you great things, but if it is true excellence that you#146;re going for, you need coaching. If you want to learn how to play basketball from reading a book, you would never achieve greatness on the court. You need to interact with the best. The best growth in my life has come from mentoring and coaching with the best. You don#146;t have the time or resources to wait to figure it out on your own. It amazes me how many persuaders go down this road. Persuasion is not rocket science, but you do need to learn how to master your craft. In the past we would be able to get along, slowly learning, but times have changed. The train is picking up speed. We used to be able to play and miss the train and run and catch up if we were late. But the speed the world is moving at and the competition you are facing will not allow you to figure it out on your own. You can invest in yourself right now and find the best to teach you the skills or be on the long road to little income, few skills, and the inability to persuade. If you wanted to rebuild the engine in your car, learn how to fly, or rewire your house, would you just try to figure it out on your own? Would you get the best book on learning how to fly and just hop in a plane and learn along the way? NO! Then don#146;t treat your career or your ability to persuade the same way. I remember going to a stock market seminar about learning how to trade. It cost over $10,000 to attend this training. I got burned when I decided I#146;d just figure it out on my own and lost three times that amount in the market. The students attending the class invested upfront and learned the skills and became great traders. I lost and did not learn the right skills. The answers are there, closer than you think. You would be surprised by how much people can help you succeed. Pay the price to become a professional in your field. Don't settle for mediocrity; become the best you can be at what you do. Who is the best in basketball? Right #150; Michael Jordan. He knew he could not become the best without daily practice of fundamental skills along with the addition of new skills. He also knew he could not excel without a team, and especially not without a coach. True excellence comes from knowledge, continuing education, and consistent practice. Conclusion Learning how to persuade and influence will make the difference between hoping for a better income and having a better income. It is the missing puzzle piece that will crack the code to dramatically increase your income, improve your relationships, and help you get what you want, when you want, and win friends for life. Ask yourself how much money and income you have lost because of your inability to persuade and influence. Think about it. Sure you#146;ve seen some success, but think of the times you couldn#146;t get it done. Has there ever been a time when you did not get your point across? Were you unable to convince someone to do something? Have you reached your full potential? Are you able to motivate yourself and others to achieve more and accomplish their goals? What about your relationships? For a free persuasion IQ analysis to help you see where you rank and what you need to improve visit www.persuasioniq.com . Kurt W. Mortensen ( kurt@persuasioninstitute.com ) is one of America#146;s leading authorities on persuasion, motivation and influence. He offers his speaking, training and consulting programs worldwide, helping thousands achieve unprecedented success in business and personal endeavors. Visit our website at www.maximuminfluence.com . Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

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