Dear Karen: I'm shooting educational foreign language videos. Where can I get information on pricing, Internet sales and grants?
Answer: Write a simple business plan and you'll learn about all the issues you must address as a start-up business owner. Diligent research -- online and at your local library -- can help you answer questions about pricing structure, sales and funding, all of which will come up in the planning process, said Bryan Howe, chief executive of MasterPlans, a professional business planning firm based in Portland, Ore.
A business plan will also make you confront important issues you might not otherwise think of, such as intellectual property protection. "We refer people to BPlans.com, which is a good resource center with free sample plans, templates and lots of information," Howe said.
You can check government grant opportunities at Grants.gov, but typically no grants are available to for-profit businesses.
"Unfortunately, grant hucksters exist who promise to sell you something to help you get a grant, but be smart -- don't fall for that," Howe said.
Software may help lower costs
Dear Karen: We have cut expenses but my company is still losing money. Besides layoffs, what else can we do?
Answer: You may find additional ways to save if you reassess your current software and technology vendors, said Steve Kolbe, chief executive of AnalySYS, an information technology services provider in Baltimore.
"Replace outdated hardware with the latest energy-efficient, most reliable and faster solutions," Kolbe said. Power-saving surge protectors and other green technologies can cut your overhead significantly, as can moving your network infrastructure online. "Bundled features allow you to seamlessly reduce the number of physical servers you need," Kolbe said.
If you haven't already, consider renegotiating contracts with your suppliers and service providers. If your current vendors will not accommodate your company's need to save money, get competitive bids from new providers.
Do you have a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to email@example.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.