Dr. Laura
Dr. Laura, America's #1 Relationship Talk Radio Host
On: SiriusXM Triumph Channel 111
Call 1-800-DR LAURA (1-800-375-2872) 11am - 2pm PT
Blog
PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconWhen Selling A Business, Neither A Borrower Nor A Lender Be... By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "Last year, we sold our small-sized, family business corporation to two individuals. The deal was that they both pay us half of the purchase price for the business and get equally 50% ownership. While the first person paid his share all in cash, the second person chose to pay his share in 10 monthly installments. The year passed by and he (the second person) did not pay a penny. Now, the new owners aren't talking to each other - they can't agree on even basic business transactions. Unfortunately, the first person can't get out because he personally guaranteed the retail lease for the business. The second person has a poor credit score, due to a prior bankruptcy, so the second person can't put the lease in his own name. It feels like we are stuck. What are the available options to solve these disputes?" Let's take this one step at a time. First, if I understand your e-mail correctly, you sold your business to the two individuals, not to a corporation or a limited liability company (LLC). This means that they purchased the business as a partnership, which means that they have "joint and several liability" for the purchase price and all other partnership debts. In plain English, each partner is liable for the whole purchase price (not just the amount he paid you at the closing), and you can pursue either or both of them if payment is not made. Clearly, the second person is at fault for not paying his share of the purchase price. But you have every legal right to collect the entire balance of the purchase price due from the first person, or from both partners, unless you promised the first person in writing you wouldn't do that. The first person can then bring a legal action against his partner seeking reimbursement for his share of the purchase price - lawyers call that a "contribution and indemnity suit". Given the second person's poor financial condition, the suit probably won't be successful, but as the teenagers say nowadays, "that is SOOOOOO not your problem!" Why did you wait for the second person to miss all 10 of his installment payments before bringing the subject up with him and his partner? If I were in your shoes, I would have been yelling at the top of my lungs and demanding payment the minute the first installment date was missed. It appears to me that you have become a little too friendly with the first person: you have been listening with a little too much sympathy to his "tale of woe", and are reluctant to hold him accountable for his partner's default. Nevertheless, you sold your business in good faith and have every right to collect the full purchase price due to you. What happens between the two partners has nothing to do with the debt owed you, and you have a duty to yourself and your family to collect that debt from whoever has a pocket deep enough to pay. Assuming that neither partner has the resources to pay you at this point, you have to look at the possibility of taking control of the business back from them. Hopefully, when you sold the business, you insisted that the partners put up some collateral - their stock in the corporation or the assets of the business - for the second person's loan. If the loan transaction was properly drafted, you can "foreclose" on that collateral, take back the business, and satisfy your debt out of the business' future income. Of course, this will mean you will have to reassume the lease of the retail space where the business is being conducted. If the two partners owe any back rent or other amounts to the landlord, you probably will have to pay these current in order to stay at that location. You also need to look at the paperwork you and the two partners signed at the closing - if they "subleased" the retail space from you for the duration of the lease term, you may still be on the hook as a "guarantor" of their lease obligations until the lease expires - that's the way the law works in most states. My strong suspicion is that this was a "handshake deal" with no lawyers on either side, and you probably are "stuck". Aren't you glad now you saved a few bucks in legal fees? Here are a few lessons from this experience: never sell or buy a business without competent legal help; whenever you agree to "loan" money to someone, get it in writing and be sure to take collateral in case there's a default; when assigning or transferring a lease, make sure the landlord releases you in writing from any future lease obligations; never buy a business as a partnership - form a corporation or LLC to act as the purchaser; and never go into business with someone who has a prior history of cheating his creditors. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconPaved With GoodIntentions... By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com #147;For the past several years, I have been making doll clothes and teddybear outfits in my spare time and selling them on eBay, Amazon andother more specialized handicrafts sites such as etsy.com. I understandthere's a new law that would require me to have my productsprofessionally tested before I sell them to make sure there are noharmful chemicals or lead in them. While the law applies primarily tomass market 'manufacturers', such as Chinese toy companies, there seemsto be no exception for small businesses like mine. There's no way I cancomply with this law #150; is the Government trying to put me out ofbusiness?#148; Until Friday (January 30, 2009), the short answer to this reader'squestion was "yes". In August 2008, Congress passed the Consumer Product Safety ImprovementAct (CPSIA) which, among other things, prohibits the sale of certainitems intended for consumption by children 12 years of age or younger.Specifically, beginning February 10, 2009, children's products cannotbe sold if they contain more than 600 parts per million (ppm) of lead.Also, certain children's products manufactured on or after February 10,2009 cannot be sold if they contain more than 0.1% of certain specificphthalates (chemicals that are added to plastics to give them moreflexibility). CPSIA requires manufacturers of children's products to have them testedfor compliance with the law, and to certify in writing to distributorsand retailers that the CPSIA's requirements have been met. There's onlyone problem: the CPSIA did not define - and still has not defined --the term "manufacturer". Clearly, a toy factory in Asia qualifies. Butso does someone working out of their home making doll clothes fromleftover cloth. Now, I don't think anyone can argue with the basic premise of CPSIA -that keeping kids away from lead and harmful chemicals in toys, dollsand other kid stuff is a REALLY good idea. But the people who drafted CPSIA forgot one thing. One of the few lawsthat will never be repealed, amended or superseded is the "law ofunintended consequences." Perhaps the best expression of this law isthe old saying "the road to Hell is paved with good intentions",attributed to the medieval cleric Bernard of Clairvaux (1091-1153).Sometimes, when trying to do good for some people, legislators andlawmakers effect harm on other people. Most of the time, this isunintentional - laws and regulations are often passed quickly, underdeadline pressure and heat from the media, to respond to an immediateneed or public concern. But when it happens, it still hurts. Last month, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), thefederal government agency responsible for implementing and enforcingCPSIA, began to get the idea that the "testing and certification"requirement wasn't going to work for a lot of people. It issued apolicy statement clarifying that "sellers of used children's products,such as thrift stores and consignment stores, are not required tocertify that those products meet the new lead limits, phthalatesstandard or new toy standards." Good news for people selling doll clothes and teddy bear outfits oneBay, but only if they didn't actually make the stuff themselves. Eventhen, there could be trouble. The CPSC added the following crypticwarning: "resellers cannot sell children's products that exceed thelead limit and therefore should avoid products that are likely to havelead content, unless they have testing or other information to indicatethe products being sold have less than the new limit. Those resellersthat do sell products in violation of the new limits could faceciviland/or criminal penalties." So, are resellers off the hook as long as they stay away from certaintoys -- such as metal soldiers -- that are likely to contain some lead,or must they educate themselves to recognize the CPSIA's bannedchemicals? How many questions must they ask their vendors orconsignors, who probably don't know the answers themselves? No answers,at least not yet. Even assuming resellers are off the hook, what about the homehandicrafters, who could still be considered "manufacturers" underCPSIA? Since Congress did not give any guidance when they passed thelaw, the CPSC did the only thing they could do under the circumstances: They deferred the "testing and certification" requirement for one year,until February 10, 2010, in order to "give the [CPSC] staff more timeto finalize four proposed rules which could relieve certain materialsand products from lead testing and to issue more guidance on whentesting is required and how it is to be conducted." Whew! So is it safe to start sewing teddy bear outfits again? Probably.But if you're making children's jewelry items, make sure there'sabsolutely no lead in them - that specific ban is not subject to theone-year stay. For more information on CPSIA, go to www.cpsc.gov/about/cpsia/cpsia.html .But don't expect answers, orclarity. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconSetting Up A "Venture"Limited Liability Company The Right Way By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "Three friends and I are going off on our own to set up an informationtechnology consulting business. We want to form a limited liabilitycompany for this business, but we want it to be flexible enough that wecan grow and attract venture capital investors. What are some of thethings we should be thinking about legally?" Limited liability companies (LLCs) are very easy to set up when thereare only one or two people involved in the business, or the business isnot likely to grow rapidly (for example, a family owned retail orservice business). When people who aren't related and don't know eachother very well go into business together, things get a bit morecomplicated. Here are some of the things you and your friends should discuss beforecommitting to this venture: Who Will Own This Business? Right off the bat I see a problem --thereare four of you. If you divvy up the LLC ownership equally, you'resetting up a situation where if two of you want to "zig" and the othertwo want to "zag", the LLC cannot function. We lawyers call that"deadlock". Try to divide up the equity so that one or two of you own51% or more of the LLC ownership shares (called #147;membershipinterests#148;). Who Will Run This Business? You should consider forming a "boardofmanagers" to run the LLC business, similar to a corporation's board ofdirectors. Three of you should serve as the "managers" of the business to avoid"deadlock" situations. So the fourth person won't feel left out, youcan add a "supermajority voting" clause to your LLC Operating Agreement(similar to a partnership agreement) requiring that the four LLC ownersunanimously approve major decisions affecting the LLC business (such asthe admission of a new member, a merger or acquisition, or investmentsover a certain dollar amount). Your lawyer can provide you with a listof common matters that are covered in a "supermajority voting" clause. Capital Contributions. At some point, your LLC will needadditionalinfusions of cash. If you do not make these "pro rata" (in proportionto your respective LLC ownership percentages), then your percentageownership of the LLC will change depending on the amount actuallycontributed by each member. To keep this from happening, consider aclause in your LLC Operating Agreement requiring that any additionalinfusions of cash be made in the form of "loans" - that way if one ormore members cannot pay their fair share, the others can make up for itwithout changing the ownership of the LLC. Compensation. Since all of you will be working in the business,youwill want to make withdrawals from the LLC checking account from timeto time to pay your living expenses (called "draws"). Work out aformula now as to how each of you will take "draws," or put a provisionin your LLC Operating Agreement requiring the members to voteunanimously on "draws" each month. Voluntary Withdrawal. If one of you has trouble meeting hisobligationsto the LLC, or comes under family pressure to "get a day job" if theLLC business isn't providing him with a decent living, you will have tofigure out a way for him to "withdraw" from the LLC. You should agreeto pay him fair compensation for his LLC ownership interest if hewithdraws, but make sure (1) the LLC pays him over a period of five to10 years so as not to burden the LLC#146;s cash flow, and (2) he or she isbound by a noncompete clause not to steal business from the LLC orotherwise compete unfairly with the remaining members. Involuntary Withdrawal. If one of you dies, becomes disabled, isdivorced from his or her spouse, or files for bankruptcy, there#146;s achance a "stranger" will end up owning a piece of the LLC. Have yourattorney draw up a "buy-sell" agreement requiring the LLC to purchasethe ownership interest of any member who dies or becomes disabled, orany person who acquires a piece of the LLC in a divorce or bankruptcyproceeding. As soon as possible after you form the LLC, the LLC should purchase"key person" life insurance and "disability buyout insurance" on eachof the four owners (or those owners without whom the business couldn'tfunction). That way, if one of you dies or becomes disabled, theproceeds of the insurance policy can be used to purchase his or herownership interest without impairing the LLC's cash flow. Watch Out for Noncompetes. Since it appears some or all of youareleaving "day jobs" to start this new business, make sure you haven'tsigned any "noncompete" or similar agreements with your currentemployer. Even if you haven't, try to avoid contacting your employer'scustomers, suppliers or employees for at least a year after you startthe new business. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconThe Right Way to LetFranchisees Out Of Their Commitments By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com A lot of corporate executives who have been "downsized" in the recenteconomy downturn, especially those in their 40s and 50s, are looking tobuy franchises. Their thinking seems to go something like this: "my 401(k) has lost a ton of value, there aren't any safeinvestments out there right now, so why not use at least some of what'sleft in my 401(k) to provide an income stream and a future for myself?"; "franchises are generally safer than standalone small businesses- you get lots of hand-holding and support from the franchise, andthere's a 'structure' to running a franchise that's similar to what youhave in a corporate environment"; "franchises aren't forever - the typical franchise term isbetween 10and 20 years #150; but that's okay in my case since all I'm looking for isa 'bridge' until I can retire at age 65 or 70 #150; at that point I'll sellthe franchise to someone else and have some fun before I die."Still, the question had to be answered. I did it by talking about twowords - two simple words - that you should write down on a Post-itNotereg;, put it on your computer, your bathroom mirror or anywhereelse you will see them several times a day. Make them your dailymantra, for these are the words that will help you get through whatevereconomic troubles we have to live through the next few years. All well and good, but . . . what happens if the franchise doesn#146;t workout? Most franchise agreements do not allow franchisees to terminate therelationship before the franchise term has expired. The idea is that ifthings don't work out for whatever reason: it was your fault #150; you weren't a sufficient "fit" for thefranchise, or didn't give it the old college try; and you should sell your franchise to someone who can do a better jobwith the franchise territory than you did. That's okay if we're talking about an established franchise likeMcDonald'sreg; or Burger Kingreg; -- hey, if you own one of these andare having trouble making money, you must be on Mars somewhere. But the franchises most people are looking at nowadays are "earlystage" franchises #150; with fewer than 100 franchisees, and sometimes lessthan 50 #150; that are still testing their business models. If a franchiselike THAT doesn't work out, there's just as good a chance it's thefranchise's fault as it is yours, and the franchise should let you outof the deal. That's easier said than done, though. Not only do most early stagefranchises not give you an opportunity to get out of the franchise ifthings don't work out, they actually impose penalties #150; sometimes LARGEpenalties -- if you ask to be released early. For example, if thefranchise imposes a "minimum monthly royalty" requirement on theirfranchisees, the franchise will require you to prepay all monthlyminimum royalties for the balance of the franchise term, sometimes in asingle lump sum installment. Crunch the numbers: if you have a 10-year franchise term, your minimummonthly royalty is $500, and you elect to terminate the franchise atthe end of Year Three, that leaves seven years remaining on thefranchise term, or 84 months. Multiply that by $500, and it will costyou $42,000 just to get out of the franchise and get on with your life(the franchise will discount this amount to "present value," of course,but the reduction won't be more than a couple thousand dollars). I recently reviewed a franchise program #150; a very early stage programwith fewer than 30 franchisees nationwide #150; where the franchise gotthis right. Here's how this program works. When a franchisee signs up, she commits to a monthly royalty of 8% ofher gross sales, and signs a "promissory note" agreeing to pay thefranchisor a total of $200,000 in royalties (without interest) duringthe 10-year franchise term. As the franchisee pays royalties eachmonth, the amount paid is applied to reduce the note so that once hertotal royalty payments reach $200,000, the "promissory note" ceases toexist. If the franchisee wants to quit the franchise before the $200,000"promissory note" is fully paid, she has two choices. She can either(1) agree not to compete with the franchise for a three-year period, or(2) refuse to sign the noncompete agreement. If she chooses to sign the"noncompete", the $200,000 "promissory note" is forgiven. If she electsto compete with the franchise, however, the balance due on the $200,000"promissory note" becomes payable in monthly installments at 6%interest per annum over a five-year period. If the franchisee elects to quit the franchise after the $200,000"promissory note" is paid in full, the noncompete period is reduced toone year and the franchisee doesn#146;t owe anything to the franchise. An approach like this one not only gives franchisees a choice of "exitstrategies" if the franchise doesn't work out, but it also demonstratesa little humility on the franchise's part #150; an acknowledgment thatnobody really knows whether the franchise model will work in alllocations, in all economic climates, and under all circumstances. Sadly, most franchises are not as enlightened as this one. If you areplanning to buy a franchise anytime soon, be sure you understandclearly what your "exit strategy" will be if things don't work out. Anddon't buy a franchise if there#146;s even the slightest doubt you can lastout the full franchise term. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconTwo Little Words That Will Get You Through The Coming Rough Times By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com I had the privilege of speaking this week to the local chapter of SCORE (the Service Corps of Retired Executives), a volunteer organization of senior and retired business people who devote a portion of their time to providing free advice and counseling to struggling small businesses (contact www.score.org to find the chapter nearest you). After all of the usual questions about legal and tax issues, a woman in the back of the room raised her hand and asked: "Cliff, we appreciate your advice, but we need some inspiration too. Everything we read in the media and see with our customers is scaring the heck out of us. Can you tell us anything that will give us some comfort and help us through these extremely difficult times?" I admit I was a little thrown by the question. Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously answered this question 76 years ago by saying "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but heck, I'm no Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Still, the question had to be answered. I did it by talking about two words - two simple words - that you should write down on a Post-it Notereg;, put it on your computer, your bathroom mirror or anywhere else you will see them several times a day. Make them your daily mantra, for these are the words that will help you get through whatever economic troubles we have to live through the next few years. Humility. Let's face it, the past 50 years have been a wonderful party. Three successive living generations - Baby Boomers, Gen Xers and Millennials - have known nothing but good times. There have been stressful times, of course - several recessions, the Vietnam War - but these things never really impacted most of us personally. War, famine, epidemics, and suffering were things that happened to other people far, far away - we watched them on television, and the better-minded of us tried to muster support to stop them, but we never actually experienced them ourselves. And a lot of us were arrogant and deluded enough that we thought this would never change. The idea of real hardship - not knowing where your next meal is coming from, losing your house or being evicted from an apartment, not having enough money to do what you want to do in life, accepting less out of life than we want because we simply can't have it - is totally alien to us, and as a result we are not as emotionally prepared for it as our parents and grandparents were. To them, hardship and suffering were an accepted part of the cycle of life; to us, they are an aberration. Add to that the Baby Boomers' outlook on personal sacrifice and self-restraint, best expressed in the Grass Roots' classic 1969 pop hit "Live for Today" ("Sha la la la la la live for today . . . there's no worries, 'bout tomorrow, heeeyyyyyy . . . . ), and it's no wonder a lot of people in America have been feeling invulnerable. If it did nothing else, the past year has brought all of us back down to Planet Earth. A lot of people - including some with wonderful track records - have shown themselves to have feet of clay, and even some very good, intelligent people have done some very bad, silly and downright stupid things. And KNEW they were doing them at the time. If after 2008 you still think you know what you are doing, think again. Entrepreneurs are particularly prone to believe their own marketing shtick, but now is not the time for arrogance or self-delusion. It's time to take a sober assessment of your business and yourself, find out who you really are, what you really can and cannot do, and avoid selling yourself as something better unless you can back it up with action. Discipline. The current living generations of Americans have, as a rule, not been very disciplined about a lot of things. We are a rather soft, easygoing, self-indulgent and forgiving lot, inclined to "get along by going along" and accept that anything anyone wants to do is "okay" as long as it doesn't hurt anyone. The idea that you shouldn't do something even though no one will throw you in jail for doing it (what our ancestors referred to as "sin") is alien to us. The idea of personal discipline strikes us as being vaguely authoritarian and manipulative, imposed as it was in days past by religious institutions to keep people in line -- something to be resisted, ridiculed and ignored. Make no mistake - surviving in these times will require TONS of discipline, self-restraint, and personal sacrifice. Aside from being morally wrong, your "sins" these days can kill your business. It's time to take a close look at your company and ask yourself: are we running tight enough? Do we let things slide? Are we too forgiving of people's mistakes or ambivalent about our values as a company? Do we not insist hard enough on work, performance and results? Are we demanding enough with our people? And are we willing to punish those who don't live up to our expectations? While you're at it, ask these questions of yourself as well . . . Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconSome Surefire Survivial Strategies For Tough Times By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com No doubt about it - it's getting pretty scary out there. People are cutting back on expenses, doing more things themselves that they used to "outsource" to small businesses like yours, and slowing down their payments for your products and services. In an economy like this one, survival is all about cash flow. Keep a positive cash flow at all times, and you will make it through the tough years to come. While cutting costs will help you maintain a positive cash flow, at least for a while, sooner or later you run out of things to cut. The tougher, but longer term, way to maintain your cash flow is to do everything you can (short of selling below cost) to keep business flowing in the door. I recently conducted a very informal (and very unscientific) poll of some local small businesses to find out what they were doing to cope with the current economy. Here are some of the survival strategies they've come up with - not only do they seem to be working, but some of these businesses are actually growing! Strategy # 1: Don't Be Too Picky About the Work You Take On. A couple of weeks ago I had a plumber over to my house to fix a leaking faucet in one of our bathtubs, and I asked him how his business was doing. "Well, it's tough, but we're managing," he said. "There's no construction work being done right now, so we're not doing any big jobs. But there are lots of little, 'emergency type' jobs out there, and we're doing okay with those - you are my fifth call today." You can make money doing a few big jobs. You can also make money doing lots of little ones. Since the little jobs require less money, people are more likely to pay to have them done, especially if they're "emergencies". Strategy # 2: Find the "Dirty Jobs" People Are Still Willing to Pay For. I've always said that succeeding in a service business is a two-step process: (1) find a dirty job that no one likes to do but has to get done; and (2) charge lots of money for doing it. The same process applies in difficult times, except that if the job isn't really all that dirty (mowing the lawn, for example), people will start doing it themselves. You've got to find the really filthy jobs people will still pay others to do for them. Here are some local businesses that are not only surviving but growing right now, to give you some ideas: "pooper scooper" services that come to your home and clean up after your large, vicious dog; "water damage" services that clean up your basement after you've had a flood; tax return preparation services; home health care aides for elderly people; and automobile service stations that specialize in one or two popular makes or models (so as to compete more effectively with the auto dealerships' service departments). Strategy # 3: Turn Your Customers Into a "Family". Lois Mirabella of Mirabella Miniatures in Fairfield, Connecticut ( www.miniaturecorner.com/retailers/ct.htm ) sells dollhouses, dollhouse furniture, and miniature reproductions of household objects. In an economy like this one, you would think her store is failing, especially since she doesn't have a Website or a presence on eBay. But you would be wrong. Her store is always packed with customers who come from all over New England to check out her merchandise. What's the key to her success? "I treat each of my customers as if they were family," Mirabella explains. "With this economy, people want hobbies they can do as a family, and dollhouses are perfect for that." But it's not just a question of increased demand: Mirabella keeps detailed track of each item her customers purchase, calls them on the telephone (no e-mail, because "it's too cold") when she receives new items she knows they will be interested in, introduces her customers to other customers with similar interests, and hosts "events" at her store where customers can meet the craftspeople who make their favorite miniatures. Create a "community" where none currently exists - it's easy to say "no" to a vendor, but it's a lot tougher to say "no" to a friend. Strategy # 4: Convert Your "Luxury" Products Into Affordable "Splurges". A French gourmet restaurant saw a sudden downturn in business earlier this year. Rather than shut down, they downscaled their entire menu, losing their $50 entrees and offering "bistro fare" at $15 to $20, along with an expanded wine-by-the-glass selection and "appetizer size" portions of their traditional gourmet fare. Most of the lost business came back, and they are picking up new customers that wouldn't have considered eating there under their old business model. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
05/07/2010
IconNavigating the Web 2.0 Universe By Cliff Ennico www.creators.com "I am looking to market a consulting business, and am very interested in the various 'social networking' websites such as Facebook and MySpace as potential marketing vehicles. I confess, though, that I'm a bit confused by the sheer multiplicity of sites that are available now - there are at least 10 social networking sites that might be a marketing venue for my business. How do I choose between them, or do I simply sign up for all of them in an effort to reach the maximum number of people?" If you are serious about marketing your business on the Web, there are three New Year's resolutions you need to make right now: (1)set up a "profile" page on at least one of the major Web 2.0 social networking websites; (2)mention your "profile" page everywhere else you have a presence online (such as your Website and "blogs") and offline (such as your business card, office stationery and telephone answering message); and (3)resist the temptation to be "everywhere, all at once" by spreading yourself too thin. At first glance, resolution # 3 seems to contradict the first two resolutions, but it really doesn't. There are four things you need to know about social networking websites: (1)certain sites attract certain types of people - while many people have multiple "profile" pages, certain sites develop stronger followings with some people than others, and you want to focus your marketing efforts where the people you want to reach "hang out"; (2)social networking sites can be "time vampires" - you will be creating profiles, taking part in discussions and responding to messages virtually every day; and (3)social networking sites are interactive - you are not in control of your marketing message on any of them - people will comment on your products and services, and some people are more interested in expressing their own opinions than in helping you build your business. (4)social networking sites overlap a lot -- hardly a day goes by in my office without receiving an e-mail from a Facebook "friend" who wants me to join his profile page on LinkedIn, and vice versa. A lot of the people you are reaching on Website A are the same people you are already reaching on Website B. So how you do decide where to "plant your flag" in the Web 2.0 universe? I've looked at most of the major sites, and here is my totally unscientific, personal, opinionated view of the major ones: MySpace - this is where the kids are hanging out. Great for rock bands and others who are targeting the "tween and teen" markets, and for celebrities, authors, sports stars and others who are looking to build a mass fan base (good book: "MySpace Marketing" by Sean Percival). This is where I want to be if I want to build readership for this column. Facebook - great for personal networking with family and friends. If you have an extended family and want to keep them all up to date on your latest adventures, this is the place to be. Several friends of mine used their Facebook profiles to send out holiday messages this year (bad news for Hallmark) (good book: "Facebook Marketing" by Steven Holzner). LinkedIn.com - great for businesspeople and professionals who are interested in "serious" networking. This is where I want a profile tied to my law and business development consulting practice (a new e-book from marketing expert Jan Wallen, "LinkedIn in Seven Days or Less", available at janwallen.com/works.htm ). Plaxo.com - originally an online address book and calendar manager for people who use Microsoft Outlook (and still probably the strongest product in that area), Plaxo has developed a Web 2.0 site (called "Plaxo Pulse") with a look and feel very similar to Facebook but with a little stronger focus on business networking (no books yet on Plaxo, sorry). Squidoo.com - great for subject matter "experts" who want to create interactive wikis (called "lenses") on specific topics of interest to build "niche interest" communities (good e-book: "Do You Squidoo?" by Joel Comm). Twitter.com - a "microblogging" site where you can post short announcements (called "tweets") of things you are doing elsewhere on the Web (good book: "Twitter Means Business" by Julio Ojeda-Zapata). Specialty sites - "special interest" Web 2.0 sites are exploding right now - such as feng.com for financial services executives - and may help you build followings within tightly targeted niches. If you must - absolutely MUST - be on multiple social networking platforms, be sure to use a "social networking automation" product - such as friendfeed.com or secondbrain.com -- to automatically update all your profiles without having to log into each platform. Also, use "Google Alert" or a similar product to notify you of new postings on your profiles, so you can respond promptly to someone who's broadcasting to all your "friends" what an idiot he/she thinks you are. Cliff Ennico ( cennico@legalcareer.com )is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS televisionseries 'Money Hunt'. This column is no substitute for legal, tax orfinancial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualifiedprofessional licensed in your state. To find out more about CliffEnnico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit ourWeb page at www.creators.com .COPYRIGHT 2009 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE,INC. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com. More >>

PERMALINK | EMAIL | PRINT | RSS  Subscribe
Make an Appointment
Stay Connected
or connect at a place below
Normal Gear
Latest Poll
What do you do if your toddler gets hurt?
Archives  |  Results
Programs
About Dr. Laura
Letters
E-mail of the Day
From Listeners
Audio & Video
YouTube Videos
Stay at Home
Parenting
Relationships
Simple Savings
Work at Home
Tip of the Week
Subscription
Membership
Help & Support
Family Premium Help Center
Podcast Help
Contact Us
Legal
Terms of Use
© 2019 DrLaura.com. Take on the Day, LLC
Dr. Laura is a registered trademark of Take On The Day, LLC.
Terms & Conditions  |  Privacy Policy
Powered By Nox Solutions