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.
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.
December 15, 2009 |
Dear Karen: I am writing a screenplay and plan to shoot the film next fall. When should I open the LLC? Answer: Unless you are seeking private investment, there's no need to form a business entity immediately, said Jeffrey Unger, founder of EMinutes, a law firm that focuses on small-business and entity formation. "We have so many situations where the LLC is formed, the plans fall apart, and then the entrepreneur is stuck with the LLC. This is particularly true in entertainment," Unger said.
August 25, 2009 |
Dear Karen: Sales are down but service calls are up at my firm. How can I fund labor costs with sales revenue dropping? Answer: Service companies have a longer cash cycle than product-based firms because they pay employees well before they collect invoices. You need to raise capital to bolster cash flow. Traditional sources include loans from friends, family and angel investors, bank loans and factoring. A bank loan is cost-effective but difficult to get today. Factoring involves selling your invoices to a financing company that pays you upfront, collects your revenue and charges you a fee, which can be costly.
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.
March 14, 2011 |
Dear Karen: How can I save for retirement? Answer: There are simple retirement plans designed for entrepreneurs. You set them up and deduct contributions yourself, without a plan administrator or complex tax reporting, said Margaret A. Kruse, assistant vice president of Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America. SEP- and SIMPLE-IRAs are tax-advantaged retirement plans. If you have employees, you can contribute amounts equaling up to 25% of their compensation into the SEP-IRAs.