April 19, 2010 |
Dear Karen: Can you give me some tips for starting a gardening business? Answer: Make sure you are passionate about gardening and knowledgeable about the industry. Be persistent in setting and meeting start-up goals. "Change can only occur when you make a conscious decision to make it happen," said Tamara Monosoff, author of a new book, "Your Million Dollar Dream." Research the top issues for gardening businesses, and write down how you will approach each one. This will be the beginning of your business plan, which you should formalize before you start.
November 15, 2010 |
Dear Karen: I'm planning to open an online advertising business. Can you give me some suggestions? Answer: It's important to prove your concept: Can you make a profit as an online ad broker? What are your expenses and startup costs? When will you break even? Use Freecycle and Craigslist to find equipment and supplies, said Dal LaMagna, founder of Tweezerman. "Don't buy anything new and don't spend any money if you don't absolutely have to," he said. "The key to launching a micro-business is to keep expenses under control and fully accounted for," he said.
January 3, 2011 |
Dear Karen: I want to make more overseas sales in 2011. Do I need a foreign distributor? Answer: It certainly helps, said Kathleen Brush, an international business consultant based in Seattle. "Finding a good local partner in the country you're targeting will help you understand business and legal details you would have tripped over," she said. Brush recommended using the Gold Key Matching Service offered by the U.S. Commercial Service. "They do credit checks, criminal checks, they walk you through the distribution process and advise you about what you need to look for" in any country where you want to start selling, she said.
May 9, 2010 |
Dear Karen: How can we improve sales? Answer: Track sales performance. See where your sales leads originate and which ones are most effective. You can't identify what's working if you're not monitoring it closely. "Identify the real drivers of your business, and stop throwing away money on what's not working," said Jeff Solomon of Leads360, a Los Angeles software firm. "Chances are, one or two sources generate the bulk of your revenue." Instruct your sales staff to respond to inquiries within five minutes, send follow-up e-mail and stay in touch with potential customers.
May 16, 2011 |
Dear Karen: Can you explain the new use-tax law for small businesses? Answer: Use tax is not new, said Brad Graves, an accountant and partner at Haskell & White in Irvine. Longstanding tax law requires consumers to report and pay use tax on goods purchased from out-of-state vendors, such as online retailers, who do not collect California sales tax. What is new is the 2010 requirement that taxpayers with more than $100,000 in business gross receipts register with the state's Board of Equalization.
January 31, 2011 |
Dear Karen: I'm 20, and no one takes my business seriously. What can I do? Answer: Overcome negative perceptions about your youth by running your company in a professional and serious manner. Don't cut corners on things such as licensing or legal agreements. You may be tempted to design your own website to save money, but unless you can produce high quality, don't. "I would say it's twice as hard, at least, to be considered a legitimate and stable business" when you are a young entrepreneur, said Andi Enns, a college student and marketing consultant in Kansas City, Mo. She recommended that you present your youth as an advantage by including compelling stories about your journey into entrepreneurship in your marketing campaign and on your website.