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Survival skills for companies

Also: Saving both money and the environment, and finding mentors for fledgling entrepreneurs.

July 28, 2009|Karen E. Klein

Dear Karen: Is there something I can do to increase my company's odds of surviving this recession?

Answer: Executives of top companies share certain best practices, said Renny Ponvert, founder of Management CV, a Washington research firm that ranks chief executives of public companies.

"We invariably see three overarching traits in top management of successful firms," he said. "One is a structured and disciplined approach to the way they go about their business."

Another is focus and tenacity: "There's an amazing capacity to stay focused on the prize and persevere through adversity," Ponvert said.

Successful business leaders also rely on a network of trusted individuals that they repeatedly use to fill key positions. A combination of focus, consistency and structure "helps these individuals go the distance without the volatility that might otherwise confuse or distract them," Ponvert said.


Save both money and the planet

Dear Karen: I want to make my company "green," but I also need to cut my budget.

Answer: You can make your workplace more environmentally responsible without hiring consultants or implementing costly programs. Many green practices naturally save you money, said Kim Carlson, an author who writes about green businesses.

Save energy costs by putting work spaces near windows and using fluorescent lighting. "Paint interior ceilings bright white to reflect more natural light," Carlson said.

She also recommended reducing your paper, copier and mailing costs by using e-mail and doing electronic billing and payments.

"Turn machines, including computers, screens and power strips, off overnight and on weekends," she said.

If your employees commute long distances to work, offer them a carpooling network so they can ride together whenever possible.

"Better yet, work from home and encourage employees to telecommute at least one day a week to help reduce your workplace's carbon footprint," she said.


Help for fledgling entrepreneurs

Dear Karen: My son has a product he believes has great appeal and potential for success, but he's frustrated by his inexperience. Can you put us in touch with organizations that mentor entrepreneurs?

Answer: Many organizations and online resources provide mentoring, training and education for new entrepreneurs. Your son should explore several groups and then contact one. If it's not right for him, encourage him to try another; he may not find the perfect fit on his first try.

The Small Business Administration sponsors Small Business Development Centers around the country. To find one near you, look under "Local Resources" at

The SCORE organization, a group of retired executives who mentor entrepreneurs, also has counseling locations in Los Angeles (

There are also peer advisory groups for entrepreneurs, such as the Entrepreneurs Organization (, networking clubs and industry-specific mentoring and counseling programs.


Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

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