Published March 16th, 2015 by

A good business manager knows how clients or customers should be treated. He or she will play the part or have the receptionist do it. The important thing is to make people feel welcome when they enter your space. After the first hellos, in white-collar companies in particular, it is most polite to offer a beverage. This seems to be the epitome of classy greetings and sophisticated accommodations. The person who has entered may have a bit of a wait for an appointment—you know how many people arrive early—and enjoying cool water or hot coffee is a nice way to pass the time.

In the morning, coffee is the rule, absolutely. Later in the day it can be brewed tea or cold water. If you have a water filtering system, you can bring your visitors a nice glass filled with ice. Any way you slice it, or pour it I should say, you are taking care of business while business awaits.

There was a time when everyone had a rented water dispenser. It would be sitting in the kitchen area, and if you were willing to pay up, it had cold and hot water taps. It was plugged into the wall and was ready, willing, and able to serve employees and clients alike as needed. Then as more and more people got into hydrating all day long (when did that happen? In the 80s?), and more and more water was used, economically minded owners decided to filter right on the spot. There was never a question of regular tap water, God forbid! Health was part of the issue, of course, and also taste. Most water has a chlorine flavor or is cloudy and who wants to see that.

As a result, the water one selects in one’s enterprise has become a major decision. Should you go to Costco and buy cases of Evian or buy a nice water filter system instead. Then people can make coffee, grab a drink from the dispenser in the fridge, or even wash their hands in pure clean liquid. What a nice world we live in and business is at the forefront of progress. Water becomes the hallmark of civilization. You see people walking about the streets of America with water in hand. They never let those precious bottles go, even while driving or exercising. It is natural that this fad has translated to the business arena.

Cost is a concern for every entrepreneur whether it has to do with how long you keep the lights on, how much water you use, or how often you use the copy machine. Utilities are a fundamental part of any budget. The expense for a grade A water filtering system thus comes into play. Doing the math will show the difference between 20 cases of bottled spring water per month versus installation and outlay for replacement cartridges. I suspect over the long haul there is a benefit to the in-house system. It depends on the size of the company, of course, and the bigger it is, the more it makes sense to self filter. Go for it.

Published February 24th, 2015 by

Starting a mom and pop business from scratch is no easy task. You have to have a business plan, preferably in writing, some capital, and the guts to see it through. People start small businesses every day. It is a far cry from a corporation or even an Internet enterprise. They are usually family-run and full of spirit and hope for the future. It is always a pleasure to see small businesses succeed. They can be passed on for generations.

Let’s say you want to begin a landscape service and sell the plants you are recommending to customers. It is a little different than a nursery in that you will have a sales force out in the field. You will not have a client base in the beginning. Once a good one is secured, through cold calling, advertising, or word of mouth, the supply and plant portion can come to the fore. You have to decide if you want to invest in more than trees, bushes, and flowers and go for the big stuff like stocking the best lawn mowers and leaf blowers. It is all about how much inventory you want to have and tools are expensive. In the early days it is hard to know how fast merchandise will move. Consulting an out of state business of a similar type will help (no local entrepreneur will want to share secrets with the new competition).

After a location has been established, a lease is signed, staff is hired, and an attractive display is in place, you are ready to face the world with your wares. Plants are seasonal, but seeds, potting mix, rakes and hoes are not. You need to stock hoses, sprinkler heads, soil, bricks, shovels, gloves, and much more. You also need a marketing plan to reach your target customers. Are they builders, apartment managers, housewives, students looking for a hanging ivy, or retirees? All the while you are looking to add clients with large landscaping jobs. That is where the money lies and the rest is supplemental.

A bookkeeper is warranted if you don’t have the knack. You have to file a tax return as a Schedule C under your own name or incorporate if business is sufficient. In most states, it will cost an annual fee for the privilege of the tax deductions. Your regular accountant can be of help in making the right decision. A great name for your new business is also important in establishing an identity in the community. Don’t be trite with names like “The Plant Shop” or “Plant Paradise.” Trust me, just don’t.

Donating flowers to local restaurants will make them mention you with appreciation. You can often leave business cards at their entrance desks. This is valuable public relations. Also consider hospitals and nursing homes. I bet the local press would love to do a story on that. You can frame it and display it prominently in your shop. Your landscaping reps can carry around a notebook of such clippings as testimonials to support their sales efforts.

As you can see, you can make starting a business simple or complex. In any case, it will have a mind of its own after you start. Enjoy the process. It can be fun, stimulating, and above all lucrative.

Published January 14th, 2015 by

Water businesses are many. There are ample ways to make a living from the sea. People who earn their livelihood fishing, for example, often follow in the footsteps of ancestors or at least family going back a few generations. It is not exactly a modern enterprise, but rather an old learned art. It also takes a heavy investment in boats and gear. (You would want to inherit it all for sure.) Entrepreneurs who live on the coast can operate marinas, restaurants and inns, shops, and related boating services. Every type of business has its licensing and safety issues when it comes to existing on or near water. It can be a labor of love or a big lucrative industry.

Tourism is what I associate most with such activities. There are seasonal business and then those that exist profitably all year round. Alaska is certainly of the former type while Santa Barbara, California is one of the latter. I also think of Boston, Bermuda, the Bahamas and other resort islands. You can operate a circle line cruiser in Manhattan if you are city folk! No doubt if you are thinking along these lines, you have preferences. You don’t usually start from scratch. There is some kind of reasoning to your madness to begin a challenging new career.

Those who love to fish can start a deep sea company or work on a trawler. If you are a landlubber, you can work on a pier and sell t-shirts or rent out the best inflatable boats on the market to tourists who can afford to pay the premium to rent. You can open a bed and breakfast in a quaint cove or serve homemade chowder in a café. I have a friend who sells marine insurance which includes mega yachts. He meets a lot of very interesting people! Anyone who owns a boat needs his help and the business flourishes anywhere from the lake area in Michigan to Florida. It all depends upon your available capital and income expectations. You can just make hippie shell jewelry if you are so inclined. It is such an open-ended realm of possibilities. Artists in Carmel for a century have explored the sea in paintings and sculpture. They take advantage of the village atmosphere that attracts visitors from all over the world. The Oregon coast has its own draw right up to Vancouver.

First and foremost, you should assess the need for your enterprise and the local competition. Demographics will dictate ideas that work best in a given locale. You may elect to take on a partner and staff to avoid round-the-clock hours. If you have a spouse and children, consider their role. Financing is available from venture capitalists and banks. Writing up a good business plan that tells your story will be what is needed to sell your concept.

I probably have not included all the options here in regard to water-related businesses. Let your imagination roam as long as it stays practical and earthbound. I don’t care if you rent Jet skis or rafts. There has to be a need and the right time and place. Go big and start a coastal retreat, go small and whip up a hot dog stand. The ski is the limit, and the water, too!

Published October 5th, 2014 by

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Franchises are everywhere, but sometimes are disguised as sole proprietor affairs. A franchise is simply a business that is owned by an existing company that hires local owners to operate within their community. Think 7-11. If you have lived in a neighborhood for a length of time, the local 7-11 probably has had a number of owners. The product lines have remained the same for the most part, but the layout and prices have stayed the same. Each owner has an investment in the operation and profitability of their local store, but they do not own it.

The question is whether a franchise is a serious consideration for you. There are obvious advantages. The first is that it is a ready-made business. You will have to pay a franchise fee to get started, and there are mandatory training classes you will have to attend before you are allowed to start the business. But overall, the company takes care of the business. They will have accountants come in to do the books and any issues such as security are handled by the company. So, once you complete the training and pay the franchise fee, you can begin working immediately.

Having a quick start means that you can start seeing a consistent income immediately. Contrasted to starting up your own business, you do not have to develop a customer base. When choosing a famous brand name franchise such as 7-11, the advertising is taken care of and people immediately trust the products you sell because of the household name. You may have to build local advertising, but anyone who sees your franchise name is a potential customer.

You will have to do your own ordering of products, but since there is a standard list to choose from, it is a simple process. You will also have the freedom to hire your own employees, subject to the company hiring policies, but basically you have control of one of your most important assets – your employees. Most people realize the turnover rates for franchise employees are usually high (think McDonald’s) so expect this reality to come to your door as well.

But not all is roses. Besides the potentially high turnover rate, franchises can lose business because of something that happens in another location 1000 miles away. Fast food restaurants have had their public perception tainted through employee negligence or outright criminal behavior. Because you are connected by brand name more than your personal ownership, your success will rise and fall based on the public perception of the company.

Finally, you are really only half of the business because you are tethered to the company. Even if you are successful in the operation, the company may choose to close down the store. A decision to change one of your most profitable product lines is out of your control. So before walking down the franchise path, keep in mind that there is a built in safety and success factor, but the final decisions are primarily made at the corporate level.

Published September 17th, 2014 by

Whoever started the current craze for beards is a genius. An entire industry has ballooned overnight. We have always had a lot of male accoutrements, but there is a barrage of must-have new items on the scene every day. Male cosmetics are no longer a dirty word, and websites are burgeoning with grooming and manscaping advice. All this is adding up to big revenues for lucky entrepreneurs.

What constitutes the shaving industry? To begin with, there are all the salons, spas, and specialty boutiques that offer related services. They employ staff and stock wares. Can you see the dollar signs? Then you have websites with all the latest info on how to trim a beard or grow the perfect mustache. Ad banners abound. When you do go forward with the fad yourself, you need razors, blades, state-of-the-art high-tech electric shavers & beard trimmers (both one for home and a portable one for the car or travel). Furthermore, shaving cream and after shave are a rich gravy that adds enormously to the bottom line.

If you love opportunities, it is not too late to jump in somehow. Write an ebook about making your own shaving cream at home or open a cool fragrance store just for men. Become a rep for a big electronics purveyor like Phillips or Braun. If you want to participate from afar, add a few stocks to your portfolio like Panasonic or Gillette. I expect to see a rally in this sector in the near future. Who knew that stodgy blue chip stocks could offer real investment growth! If individual stocks make your spine tingle with fear, try diversified mutual funds that include this industry in a good concentration.

If you are a trend follower for fashion purposes, a budding inventor or entrepreneur, a potential investor with a few thousand to spare hoping for a better retirement, or just a blogger like me, you have a new focus with the new obsession with beards. The photos are great: every conceivable hair color, density, shape, and length. People come from all walks of life from athletes to executives with a few dated hippies in between. Who doesn’t love a new passion in our culture? It’s a boring time otherwise. There was nothing but talk about beards during the lasts World Series, for example. Even mathematicians are busy pounding out statistics about the new fad while psychologists are pondering why. Those with a view toward economics can see the forest from the trees. It’s always about money.

There are some funny observations you can make about beards: food gets stuck, it’s a sweater for your face in the winter, women love manliness, etc. But when it comes down to it, I am watching the rewards reverberate from advertising promotions and big sales. It’s got to be in the billions worldwide. It is not a small bubble in the history of fads. I think this time the savvy marketers knew the time was right and moods were ripe for a big change. It’s a fact of life: people will spend lavishly ion themselves.

Published September 15th, 2014 by

I have a friend, Barbara, who wanted to invest in a retail business for the first time designed for her unique tastes. She likes people and enjoys the sales process. Furthermore, she envisions the pleasure of buying of merchandise several times a year at the various accessory marts around the world. Selecting backpacks as a timely focus, she opened a modest luggage/handbag enterprise that speaks to her love of and admiration for luxury. Since her rent has been negotiated and is under control, she can offer good prices and reap the rewards other retailers are not achieving in a damaged economy. Other sectors are performing far better at this time in many parts of the US.

Stores are closing right and left, but hers is working nonetheless. She created a good business plan, limited the number of staff, and made it hands-on and profitable. Everything was carefully thought out. She designed the space herself–modern and well-lit with rows of clean class shelving accented with metal edges. There is a well-crafted sisal area rug for texture and visual appeal. The tones are natural and soft, universally appealing. The world is turning toward sleek spaces and businesses that don’t comply are getting passed by. The old barn wood floors and funky orange wall coverings are passé. Barbara has done her homework.

The goods are the latest and greatest. She knows what people want from research and she has to compete with e-tailers and discounters. That takes some real doing. She buys limited, sure to sell, items – popular styles of cool backpacks and no risks. She can’t offer only what she would wear. That sounds the death knell of retail. She goes for good quality suede and leather and avoids cheap synthetics. If people are going to buy a new backpack, they want it to last. Shelling out a lot of money requires a feeling of self-indulgence and a special treat. She aims to please in this regard.

To her credit Barbara knows where to shop to get the best deals for her low-volume business. She has resources to invest back into the store. This is crucial to keep pace and stay current. Styles change and she knows to keep abreast of trends. Because backpacks last for years, her marketing must create incentives to buy this ubiquitous item. An advertising PR campaign is in the works. It sounds intimidating and complicated, but isn’t really. Opening and running a business is latch key if you follow basic guidelines.

  • Set aside the required capital and additional emergency funds
  • Create an adequate inventory for the initial opening
  • Regularly review the business and marketing plans for necessary revisions
  • Invest back in the business to keep it growing.
  • Analyze sales. What are the most popular items? Can you increase prices?

There are other considerations, of course, but these will set you on the best path to revenue progress and ensure a successful business. There are many rewards whatever you choose to sell. Find out what presses your hot button and go for it!

Published September 10th, 2014 by

Moe’s Generators & Equipment are a local business in Lavonia that are definitely worth emulating if you’re thinking about starting up your own small business.

Moe’s Generators & Equipment is proud to announce the opening of a new 6,000 square foot showroom in the central downtown area. Within easy reach of surrounding suburbs, residents far and wide can view the latest models and accessories for home and recreational use.

Fueled by an upsurge in demand over the last six months, Moe’s envisions serving both wholesale and retail customers with generators of all types. Special discounts and incentive programs will be the hallmark of the grand opening on October 15th.

Moe’s prides itself on customer service and top quality. As in the past, the new merchandise will represent the best in the industry with the latest in battery-operated and gas-powered generators. Related equipment will be available by catalogue if not already in the current inventory.

Owners, Jean and Loren Price, are members of the Lavonia Chamber of Commerce and have been active in the community for 17 years. Their school lunch program has been recognized as a model of its kind. Furthermore, their annual camping session for teens is an on-going enterprise to which local youth look forward with anticipation each summer. As always, the Prices promise expert instruction in the care and maintenance of generators to participants and their parents. Effective and proper usage will be demonstrated prior to the trip in the showroom.

Donations for the youth lunches are collected in the store and on line at www.mygenset.net. The public is encouraged to help fund the vital program. A raffle will be conducted at the grand opening with a master generator as the prize. Rumor has it that it is a pricy Yeti 1250 by Goal Zero. All proceeds will go to the local schools targeted exclusively for meals. The winner of the unit will be welcome to join the camping outing and bring family member of all ages.

Moe’s had been a purveyor of commercial and residential building materials for twenty years segueing into generators and equipment five years ago, including mains backup systems. The niche the company fills is growing as people learn the value of generators in everyday life as well as in emergency situations.

The new showroom is adjacent to the company warehouse making product delivery fast and easy. You can come in, select your preference, and drive home in less than an hour. If you don’t see what you need, they will find it for you! While repairs are infrequent, any service is also on premises. Parking is ample and can accommodate RVs.

Ten local employees can be found assisting customers seven days a week at Moe’s Generator’s and Equipment. With over twenty-five years of experience, the family-operated business knows the needs of the community when it comes to generators. Local farmers, business executives, fire and police forces, and school administrators all testify to the value of Moe’s presence in the area. Evening hours are available on Fridays.

Published September 5th, 2014 by

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There are those people who have considerable management experience in a corporate environment and want to get into business on their own. Their problem is that they do not have an idea to develop a new product or service. There is still hope to start your own business – buy an existing business. In order to accomplish this feat, you should have a solid knowledge of both the local interest in the market and the value of the specific business you are thinking of buying. Here are a few major points to consider when taking the plunge.

In a brick and mortar situation, the key concept is location, location, location. As you drive around your neighborhood, look around and see where businesses have thrived based on their location, and where you see a constant transition of businesses opening and later shutting their doors. It is obvious that you do not want to buy a business that has a key competitor right next door to you unless the product or service is exceptionally better than the competition or the demand is high enough to allow both businesses to co-exist and be profitable. As an example where this situation can work is two restaurants that serve two very different types of food. But each business location needs to be weighed on its own merits. A corner location is often the best site, but there are corner locations where no type of business can survive.

A second consideration is the value of the current owner. More than a few businesses are successful because of the reputation of the owner, and purchasing their business can be disastrous. Getting a personal endorsement from the current owner and advertising that throughout the community can be a first step towards developing goodwill. As I said in an earlier post, the owner is the company until it establishes itself through a history of quality products or services. The chances are that the current owner is close with many of their customers, so developing a rapport with them will go a long way when you take over.

Approach purchasing an existing business with the idea that it will grow with the current local economy. One simple thing to do when driving through the community is to look at how many small businesses exist, regardless of what they are doing or selling. Small businessmen tend to work together since in most cases they are competing with larger companies or franchises. If you see few small businesses or the general economy of the area is declining, opting to buy a business will be risky.

Earlier the issue of location was stressed as the most important factor in deciding whether to buy a specific business. One major consideration is timing, but this can be tricky. If the timing in buying a business is near perfect, you will see huge revenues and likely an expanding business in short order. Depending on what type of business you buy, an error in timing can have almost no impact or it could end up as a bad investment. More conservative industries such as supermarkets are places will tend to buy from regardless of the economy. Newer industries such as technology stores may come and go, depending on the success of its product lines.

Buying your own business is a considerably safer way to go because the clientele is already built in to the purchase. There are a number of factors to consider, and the best guide is honestly evaluating your own expertise in the industry and looking around to see the general business and economic environment of the area.

Published August 19th, 2014 by

I love to buy wedding gifts. It means a wonderful couple is about to begin a long, happy life together (I am always optimistic in the beginning). It means an elegant event is taking shape that I will eagerly attend. It is like a reunion where I can see old friends and maybe even family. It is a place to meet new people. A wedding is largely about nostalgia, future success, the formation of a new life, and more. As mundane and common as they are, each and every one is unique and promising.

The process of selecting an appropriate gift is usually pretty easy. You get a list from which to choose and you can sense the priorities. If you are an early shopper, there is more available and you aren’t stuck with the last, least popular item (or most expensive). Money isn’t always a factor for me, but there is a budget range I follow depending upon the closeness of the couple.

I go online as everyone else does and scan the product images and read the reviews on sites like AppliancesReviewed.com. So much is practical like kitchen appliances, but there are glamor gifts like bone china, silver place settings, crystal glasses, and serving pieces. Sometimes it takes me a while to imagine each item in their home. I don’t click and run. I take this job seriously as you can tell. I see it as a kind of responsibility and not a quick, snap decision. My friends will forever associate me with my gift, and there is also a bit of ego in that.

The deluxe mixer looks nice. Everyone needs a good one. They are so much more attractive these days. A bread maker is more unusual. I can just smell the aroma. What do they really need? Everything no doubt. Who buys this stuff when they are single? I suppose they will be used with frequency. I am of a different mind about it, however. I want an investment gift, not a blender. Something of value that will retain its worth. Maybe a complete set of solid silver for 6. The prices are going up, up, up. There is nothing in gold, of course, unless you count gold trim on china.

If I choose silver, it will be a big, classy investment on my part. I do want it to seem that way. I start to look more closely at the extensive list. I hadn’t paid attention to the crystal vases because they are so common, but there it was. A gorgeous Lalique stunner of etched glass and the most amazing details. It is a gift of love to be sure and pretty pricey. But how lovely it will look filled with long-stemmed roses on the dining table for all to see and admire. I have a momentary second thought as I stare at the utilitarian and very modern mixer, but no. This is it. My version of an investment gift, and also one of taste and discernment. How can I go wrong?

Published August 5th, 2014 by

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More than a few people place little emphasis on the money required to get up and running. Instead, they are focusing on how much money they will be making. There are industries where the amount of capital needed to start up is very low or zero. The other side of the coin is using someone else’s money, either borrowed from friends and family or from a more formal source such as a bank. Each of these has their own set of advantages and disadvantages.

First, you have to determine if startup capital is necessary for your product or service. Products generally require an initial investment, since either you will have to invest in the assembly plant to make the product or you will have to pay someone else to make the product for you. Depending on the size and complexity of the product, initial investment can run well into the high six figure range. Contracting a company to make your product will likely be less expensive, but then your production and delivery times will be depending on someone else. Services can require zero startup investment, especially if you already have purchased the equipment, such as the case of developing computer programs. One thing to avoid with service industries is the immediate purchase of office space or a brick and mortar store. This is a luxury at the beginning and in most cases is an unnecessary expense that significantly reduces your profit.

Another consideration with zero startup funding is how you expect to keep the business running during its infancy. One rule of thumb is to think big but start small. Many people have a job that will pay their basic living expenses until there is a consistent source of revenue from the business that will allow them to commit themselves full time. Thinking big will keep you motivated and working the long hours at the beginning, while not expecting that you will become world famous in six months.

Should you be able to get initial funding for zero percent interest with no set repayment terms, usually from friends and family, these sources are not without their downside. Optimism is great, and support is needed, but stop to consider how these well wishers will respond should your business fail to take off. Yet another rule of thumb is not to go into business with a close friend or family member because of the long term problems that await, whether you are successful or not. There may not be an interest rate or repayment terms to the free money, but the personal capital invested can have a greater impact on your life than paying interest from a more formal source.

Probably the best way to zero finance your business from the beginning is on the Internet. I know that sounds so obvious, but the advantage of using the Web is that most of the tools you need to construct and build your web site are available for free or next-to-nothing. Again, service industry businesses are much more likely to take hold with zero startup capital unless the product is one that you act as a reseller for. Traffic and advertising revenue are two potential additional sources of revenue on the Internet, as opposed to advertising being an expense in the traditional business environment. If you have a general understanding of web development you do not need to learn much more to create a space for your product or service that will cost you nothing.

Published July 16th, 2014 by

I might recommend an IPO if it looked really fantastic and wasn’t just touted by the issuing brokerage firm. It would be something less risky than the usual fare, something that would appeal to most people so price escalation could be expected down the road—in the not too distant future.

After years of lousy penny stocks and browsing the pink sheets, I found a company that recycles kitchen faucets called Finest Faucets. It is small but had gone public the month before so publicity about it is available and it caught my attention. It is part of a group of companies actually that manufactures home appliances, but one owner is into conservation for some reason and favors recycling. It is a popular concept with many who do care about trash dumps and waste. (People buy stocks and mutual funds all the time for this reason.) It is not listed on the New York Stock Exchange but is publicly-traded. So why not?

These are some of the things I look for in my private investing or to recommend to others. It is fun to see growth in new areas and you get some real surprises. It is never boring, always dynamic and open-ended. You have to imagine, if it is about a product, who would want it, how many, and how often. In other words, what is the nature of the market and the typical consumer? How does the company attract them and keep them coming back? I spent some time checking out their web site at www.finestfaucets.com and thought it was a really imaginative and creative idea that they’ve bought to market.

How a company is run is as important as the items or services offered. If you can’t create a market, you can’t make a profit. In the world of investing, this is always what it is about. I thought about where the product in this case would be sold: online, in stores (chains would be great), by catalog, etc.? Expansion had to be in the business plan. When and how had to already be in the wind. Planning ahead is the way to grow. As a company reaps revenues, how much is for re-investment and product development? How much is for advertising and PR? What are the salaries and sales commissions?

With blue chip stocks and well-known companies, much of this research is done for you. Thus other people jump on the band wagon with you. With the more obscure companies and OTC stocks, you have a chance to get in early with fewer fellow investors. They do jack up the price, but you want to buy low before that happens. It is all about timing.

While recycled kitchen faucets mean as much to me as anything else, I simply find this a good practical product with a unique message for our green era. If there is a story to tell, the brokers can tout the stock with ease. People can retell the same story, and it goes on and on. The insider game is in play for those who like to be in on the ground floor.

If you can’t stomach risk, stay with the tried and true DOW. But if you want a great pastime, look at the OTC stocks and get ready for a roller coaster ride.

Published July 12th, 2014 by

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More than a few people try to take what they do as a hobby and turn it into a business. One example of this is someone who writes computer programs for friends and gets rave reviews from everyone, suggesting that they start a business. Obviously there a many factors that enter into making such a decision, but the real question is whether what essentially is a hobby can turn into a viable, long term business.

The issue here is what separates a hobby from a business. Luckily for us, the IRS has a list of 21 considerations they check to determine whether an enterprise is merely a hobby or an actual business. While you technically can have a business without meeting the IRS guidelines, not being able to deduct expenses or having all your income taxed as ordinary income are definite barriers to growth and profit. Setting aside the tax issues, a business demands that you focus more on the customer than the product. Conventional wisdom says that the product quality is essential to business success, but making a product customers do not like or evolve into something customers do not buy has less to do with quality than consumer interests.

More than a few people try to take what they do as a hobby and turn it into a business. One example of this is someone who writes computer programs for friends and gets rave reviews from everyone, suggesting that they start a business. Obviously there a many factors that enter into making such a decision, but the real question is whether what essentially is a hobby can turn into a viable, long term business.

The issue here is what separates a hobby from a business. Luckily for us, the IRS has a list of 21 considerations they check to determine whether an enterprise is merely a hobby or an actual business. While you technically can have a business without meeting the IRS guidelines, not being able to deduct expenses or having all your income taxed as ordinary income are definite barriers to growth and profit. Setting aside the tax issues, a business demands that you focus more on the customer than the product. Conventional wisdom says that the product quality is essential to business success, but making a product customers do not like or evolve into something customers do not buy has less to do with quality than consumer interests.

Published July 9th, 2014 by

Investing is for growth long-term, income now, tax-savings, and more. You can’t start any too soon if you want to retire in style. The money slips away, and then there is the mad dash called “the run for the roses.” But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. There are times when investing in yourself means more in the present moment than worrying incessantly about the future.

You “invest” by paying attention to your needs and planning accordingly. You create a road map that measures your progress along the way. The goal can be anything: a college education for your kids or grandkids, retirement, a grand vacation blowout, etc. You also invest in yourself by attending to your psyche and mental states by finding ways to stay happy and healthy.

Some people, women in particular, love to indulge in physical pleasures like facials, massages, spa treatments, etc. If you are relaxed and stress-free, you can be more productive at home and on the job. Your family will notice your positive mood and respond in kind.

One of my great secret guilty pleasures is a pedicure. I mean a deluxe version with a rosewater foot soak, scented enriched lotion, and long-lasting nail polish. I want an hour-long session of bliss with the best foot rub in the world. I make sure I have the time, money, and energy for it at least once a month. It is part of my budget and I recommend it to be part of yours. Go to the best salon in your area—no expense is too much to attain happiness. It has to be special.

I look forward to it so much that I was crestfallen when one month I saw that I had acquired a toenail fungus and the manicurist recommended a toenail fungus treatment called ZetaClear. How could I forego even one moment of my favorite pastime? I didn’t know that it actually meant four months of no pedicure or polish. Can you really get depressed about your toes?

I got a laser cure from a dermatologist, but lost many valuable hours of the relaxation I needed to keep going at my usual pace. Sometimes you get caught up in your busy life, so missing time off for yourself can be harmful. Investing in yourself means a regular program of beneficial activities and perks. Your feet get a lot of beating—standing, constant walking, stair climbing, etc. Not to mention those tight, but stylish shoes.

I appreciate my indulgence more than ever having foregone it for a period of time. Try my philosophy and find something that you like in particular and make it a must in your life. The benefits will be legion: you will notice the results. If you are not physical in orientation and don’t even like sports, you can take up a hobby or craft you can do sitting down. Whatever you choose, consider it an investment in yourself and a surefire remedy for everything that ails you and threatens to diminish your day.

Published July 5th, 2014 by

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A lot of people think or want to have their own business. Some think they can make a go of it after being in the corporate world for a while, while others think they have the next great idea for mankind. What many people do not realize is that starting your own business has more to do with your personality than it does your skills and experience. I know that may not go over well, and will have opposing views, but that is the general rule.

We are not talking here about just starting a business, but creating a successful business. The opposite of that is a crap business, meaning one that really never had a chance from the beginning. A good idea does always translate into a successful business. One sure fire way of having a crap business is to think small and start big. That is often seen with people who open bookstores or “antique” stores that are nothing more than someone else’s leftovers from days gone by. These types of businesses are often seen in strip malls or small brick and mortar stores. In the 21st century, a brick and mortar business better have a solid idea, business plan, and some backup financing to get it off the ground.

The successful business, or one that has a better than average chance of succeeding, needs to fill a gap that exists in the consumer market. One example is to build a better mousetrap, that is, to take an existing product and make it significantly better. An astute businessperson will recognize these possibilities every time they shop. Another example is to see a small niche market in a large existing one, such as noticing that a better surface for a computer mouse than a desktop is a mouse pad. It is not very expensive, so many people may think there is not a lot of money to be made. But it has filled a gap and even with touchpads on laptops, the mouse pad is often seen.

But the most important part of a successful business is what you see when you look in the mirror. The reality is, at the beginning, you are the business. Therefore, you need to ask yourself whether you have the drive and commitment to endure in the long term, when things get difficult, when you cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel, when everyone is waiting for you to fail and call it quits. Beyond tenacity, it takes mental flexibility to change with the times, the ability to manage people and projects, the willingness to do multiple tasks equally well, and the foresight to know when to expand the business and when not to.

You can take self-employment evaluations on a number of web sites to determine if you have the basic personal and professional tools to start your own business. But in the end, there is no guarantee of success even if you have the right product and personal make up. Sometimes it is a bit of luck, and other times it is being in the right place at the right time. Above all, recognize it is taking a risk with your money and time.