Corrections or additions?
This article was were prepared for the June 27, 2001 edition of
U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.
Great Ideas for Small Business
Syndicated business columnist Jane Applegate, above,
one of the panelists at Merrill Lynch’s June 28 small business
has just published a book of advice for entrepreneurs. Called 201
Great Ideas for Small Business (Bloomberg Press, $14.95) is full
of practical suggestions. Here are some excerpts:
was based in the den of my suburban Los Angeles home, and later in
a converted garage, we always resolved to deal directly with the very
top people. Sure, it raised eyebrows because most of our consulting
clients were Fortune 100 companies, but they wanted to work with us
because they were anxious to sell into the fastest-growing
I am convinced we have been so successful because we’ve insisted on
dealing with the top level decision makers or managers with high-level
access. No matter who you are, you can practice this approach. You
can write directly to the president or chairman. Briefly outline your
product and what you can do for his or her company. In many cases,
the top person, or an assistant, will make a note on a letter and
direct it back down through the ranks. The notation carries weight.
learned that a quick and honest `no’ is as important as a `yes’ in
many, many business situations. While we all love to sign on a new
client or make a huge sale, too much time is wasted in discussion
and negotiation because folks are afraid to just say `no.’
If someone isn’t interested in buying what you are have to sell, it’s
painful but more efficient to know the truth and move on.
The challenge is this: Most people don’t like to say no, so they
stall, mumble, and don’t return your phone calls, faxes, or E-mails.
This adds to your frustration and wastes your time.
One strategy I’ve found to be extremely efficient for getting a timely
answer is setting a clear deadline. You may think this takes a lot
of nerve, but it works very well in most situations. We set response
deadlines on proposals submitted to even the biggest Fortune 500
ache. If I had a motto, this would be it. Life is too short to
work with people who make you miserable. This isn’t emotional hogwash.
You can’t do your best work when you hate the person managing you
or your project.
I know. I’ve tried. Without naming names, I’ll share a quick story.
A very big company interested in selling its services to entrepreneurs
asked me to come up with some good ideas to get them started.
I came up with a concept the company believed was a winner. My former
partner and I wrote a formal proposal for funding. After months of
`yes, it’s happening,’ then, `no, it isn’t,’ we were awarded a
But it wasn’t time for champagne. During the rocky negotiations, I
realized that while my idea was embraced by the top brass, his second
in command hated it. Why? Because it was `not invented here.’ The
guy felt obligated to manage my project because his boss told him
to, but he hated it from day one and set out to sabotage it.
He hired another consultant to manage my consulting contract. He added
layers of bureaucracy and B.S. He second and third guessed everything
we did. In short, he made it nearly impossible for us to function.
I had a headache and a stomach ache nearly every day for two years!
When it was finally over, I felt as if I had been run over by a truck.
No amount of money is worth the pain. Success will evade you if you
are working in a poisoned atmosphere.
Overload in Santa Monica, California, helps small, fast-growing
manage rapid growth. To manage his own cash flow, he says, `I rent
a financial genius once a month.’
Relying on this kind of outside expertise helps him keep track of
his big financial picture.
`These temps have proven to be exceptional,’ says Wiesman, who pays
about $250 to $300 an hour for savvy financial advice. `For many
owners, these finance managers do a good job at managing the resources
the company already has. Sometimes they will tackle or identify a
potential problem, like when a business owner doesn’t know whether
he’s making or losing money.’
Many businesses can’t afford, or don’t need, a full-time chief
officer. If that’s the case, you can rent a very competent one.
everything if he or she is temporarily unable to work and is not
insured. Yet insurance executives estimate only 30 to 40 percent of
the nation’s small business owners have disability insurance. This
is a chilling statistic, especially when you consider that at age
37 — the prime age for an entrepreneur — the probability of
becoming disabled is three and a half times higher than the
reporter, my beat was white collar crime. I chased after the slickest,
sleaziest business criminals in the country as they defrauded
out of millions with precious metals scams, stock frauds, and
The one thing they all had in common — other than a passion for
stealing money — was a passion for glitzy, opulent offices. To
impress prospective victims of their schemes, they always rented
space on the top floor of the nicest buildings, with a spectacular
city or ocean view . . . To this day, I still equate fancy offices
with criminal behavior. And that’s one of the reasons I urge smart
business owners to outfit their offices with as much used equipment
and furniture as possible.
business cards on your desk and just see a mess — look again.
What you’re really looking at is potential income.
No matter how small your business may be, you should be creating and
updating a database. With simple software, a current database allows
you to easily mail newsletters and sales information to customers.
You can also target prospective customers by renting mailing lists.
Add telephone numbers, and your database becomes the basis for a
Collecting detailed information about people and their companies is
easier than you think. Business cards, sales invoices, catalogs,
and magazine and newspaper articles all contain valuable information
The easiest way to create and maintain a database is with a simple
software program. There are many affordable programs on the market
that keep track of information and allow you to cross-reference and
access it in several ways.
I know work hard and play even harder. This work hard/play hard
fits the entrepreneurial lifestyle perfectly. In the start-up years,
as most entrepreneurs know, you rarely get a day or weekend off —
and a vacation is totally unthinkable. There are so many personal
sacrifices involved in running a small business. So, when things
do take off, it’s time for you to take off.
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