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Category Archives: Uncategorized

Candle Business

One area that has been popular among those looking to augment their reduced income or even replace their entire income after being laid off has been candle making. At first this trend began with hobbyists because the line between candle hobbyist and candle business is easily blurred. But now there many folks entering candle making that have no interest in it as a hobby.

Candle making as a business has much to be said for it – you are your own boss, you can be creative, make your own hours, and best of all you are out of the corporate rat race. It also has its difficulties – you will work harder than you would as someone’s employee, success or failure rests on your own shoulders.

The first step in entering the candle business is learning to make good candles. Although it is easily learned, candle making is far more complex than most people realize. Those who think it is just melting wax and pouring it into a mold with a wick are in for a rude awakening. It is vital to make good candles if you want to succeed in this business. Do some research, buy a good book or two, or even take a course such as those offered at Artisanschool.com

Next, practice. When you are done, practice some more. Test burn and give away as many candles as possible. But request honest feedback, because it’s important to know what others think of your products. Never sell a single candle until you are sure it is as good as you can make it because it takes 10 satisfied customers to offset the damage to your business done by one dissatisfied customer (unhappy customers talk about it to friends much more than happy customers).

Specialize – Select one type of candle and do it well. This is called niche marketing and for a start up candle business, is the best way to go. You will not be able to produce or supply a vast product line so don’t try. Select a small segment of the candle market and try to dominate it. Preferably this niche will be something large manufacturers can’t or won’t make. Trying to compete with huge manufacturers or cheap imports is a recipe for failure.

Marketing is an area where you can get really creative. Popular marketing strategies include word of mouth, craft fairs, home parties, open houses, web site, and fund raisers to name a few. A retail storefront is also within range of those who desire a full time business, but has greatly increased overhead making it that much harder to turn a profit. Don’t limit yourself to common marketing strategies since creative marketing may sell far more candles.

Scented candles are the largest portion of the market and the easiest candles to sell in most cases. Your scented candles should have a strong scent throw when burning or you will not get much repeat business.

 

Tips to Manage Your Assets

Healthy habits with regards to book keeping and accounting practices will always save you time and money in the long run. When dealing with your cash accounts and assets, you need to keep exact track of income and spending – irrespective of how small or insignificant the dollar value may be. Every cent added up over a period of time can make a vast sum.

Following of a good accounting practice and asset management is extremely important, especially when you are required to submit tax to the government. There are numerous cases where small issues that appear insignificant come under the eye of scrutiny and can haunt you for years with the IRS on your back.

Accounting is also essential when you require loans/grants for business expansion/development. Such loans require submission of detailed accounting books. Under these circumstances, possession of proper documentation and books with accurate records enables you to establish your credentials as a responsible member of the business community.

Often, small business owners tend to overlook certain items, not realizing that they are actually assets. Anything worth money, or that can be sold, is considered an asset. For instance, most of us know that our computer equipment is an asset, but we may overlook the desk or even the chair we’re sitting on. Take a look around and see if you’ve missed any assets in your reconciliation.

Managing and properly reporting your physical assets needs to take several things into account. One of these is depreciation. When we talk about cars, the concept of depreciation becomes very clear. When you buy a car brand new at $15,000 you can’t expect to sell it five years later for the exact same price. As soon as car is driven off the lot it deprecates in value. Mileage, wear and tear, and any accidents also play a role in the depreciation of the car. The same goes for almost anything else you may be considering an asset. Property is an exception to this rule and in many areas goes up in value.

Office equipment and most other equipment purchased for a small business does follow the deprecation rule and must be taken into account when you are recording your assets. You may be feeling confused and overwhelmed at this point, but asset management can be fairly easy, given the proper tools.

The mature business market offers numerous software programs that can assist you with your asset management and book keeping. While most of these are heavily documented and are very user friendly, some assistance from a software expert can get you customized solutions too. However, when choosing to seek external assistance for your asset management and accounting, then the right choice would be a qualified CPA.

The main point to remember that asset management in small businesses is just as important as it is in large ones. Be sure to take this into consideration and document everything. You may end up paying a high price if you don’t.

 

How to Avoid Legal Mistakes in Small Business?

There are many web sites that offer legal advice for the small business owner. Here are just a few situations that may arise where you should know your legal rights. In all these situations you may find it necessary to contact an experienced corporate attorney.

Service Agreements – Conducting business involves drafting up a Statement of Work or a Written Agreement. Without a contract, it is difficult to enforce the law. Carefully draw up the business terms, draft it in the company’s favor, and provide flexibility and protection.

Your service agreement should definitively state exactly what you’re agreeing to do and the specifics of that. It should detail the definition and scope of your service. You should also define what is not included in your service and if any extra charges may be applicable. Don’t leave anything out.

Employment Termination- To keep overhead costs down, a major percentage of small businesses begins with a low number of employees. Staff members come and go, as business growth changes. It makes no sense to keep staff on the payroll if the business can’t support the wages.

In order to avoid unlawful discharge law suits carefully select your employees and read up on the proper procedure for terminating employees. This may be a situation were you should immediately contact a corporate attorney.

If you need some additional help many small businesses choose to hire independent contractors. Hiring independent contractors can seem like a simple choice since you’re not responsible for reporting their earnings to the IRS.

You should know that some jobs are actually considered to be an employee’s job regardless if it is done by an independent contractor or not. The IRS has its own definitions that you should be aware of before hiring any independent contractor. Protect yourself and your business and be fully aware of any legal ramifications before making any business decisions.

When starting your business you need to know how your business is classified. You may be a sole proprietor or perhaps in a partnership. Each of these designations carries its own legal ramifications. For instance as a sole proprietor you are vulnerable to legal action taken against your company.

A better choice would be to start a business as a limited liability corporation. This means that if your business is sued, any personal finances and funds can be excluded from the ruling.

No matter what sector your company is in you need to be concerned with intellectual property issues. It is important that you know and understand the term and issues surrounding copyrights, registered trademarks, confidentiality agreements, and invention assignment agreements.

Accounting and record keeping are vital to any company. Failure to do so can get you into serious trouble with the IRS. Keep proper paper and electronic copies of all business transactions.

You may want to hire a bookkeeper or accountant to deal with accounting issues. If you can’t afford to do so be sure to take a course on business accounting to ensure you have proper records of everything.

Do your research and compare fees. The long term relationship you build with your corporate attorney will have its value. All businesses should make an investment in a “good” corporate attorney.

Choose an attorney that you’re comfortable with and can afford. It is important to build a relationship with your attorney so that in times of need he or she will better understand your situation.

Common Mistakes New Small Business Made

1. Improper or No Research

The most fundamental thing to do before starting a small business is to do a market research to find out whether there is sufficient demand for the product or products you have to offer.
Perhaps the reason for the failure to generate the funds is that there is no market for your product or the market is saturated. The need for your product in your area of business activity should be your prime consideration before starting a small business. Only if there is sufficient demand for your products, you will be able to generate the funds necessary to help you run your small business, survive and succeed.

2. Improper or Under Funding

Quite often the urge to start a small business is so great that the very vital aspect of funding is not given due importance. Businesses are started on a shoe string budget and shops open with very little stock and offices with insufficient equipment. To ensure the purchase of stock and equipment it is absolutely essential to have proper funding in place before commencing your business. Furthermore your business might take several months to start making a profit and hence funds are necessary to help your small business survive and keep your morale up during these early months.

If you don’t have sufficient funds of your own, it will be wise and proper to obtain a loan before starting your business. This could be obtained from your bank or you can seek the assistance of the Small Business Administration which offers numerous loan programs to assist Small Businesses.
It is important to note that the SBA acts primarily as a guarantor of loans made by private and other institutions.

Taking huge loans out of proportion to your needs can also be detrimental to your small business since provision has to be made for higher interest payments.

3. Insufficient Advertisement and Promotion

No Business can be successful unless the public is made aware of the existence of your small business and its products. The best of equipment and stocks cannot generate sales unless the public is made aware of it. Hence advertising your small business and the products before the commencement of your business and thereafter should be a major consideration. Failure to do so has been the cause of failure of several small businesses.

4. Unnecessary expenditure

One of the major causes for the failure of a small business is the improper handling of the funds. Extravagant expenditure at the initial stages such as the purchase of expensive cars, equipment and expensive business lunches completely out of proportion to your needs can eat into the capital and leave your small business with very limited working capital. Hence proper and wise handling of funds especially at the early stages can make all the difference between success and failure.

 

Small Business Sins

1) Poor Business Planning
Most small businesses do not have even a summary business plan, and of those that do, many are cookie cutter business plans built with the help of a piece of software. At a minimum a business plan should have an executive summary; a company overview with company history and it’s current status; the companies strategic objective; a description of the companies products and services; a list of the companies intellectual properties including patents, copyrights, trademarks, processes and know-how; a market analysis; a competitive analysis, which includes competitors and their market position, and their strengths and weaknesses; a marketing plan, which includes your marketing strategy, product strategy, sales strategy, and pricing strategy; your customer service plan; sales projections by product, in units, for at least three years; and finally a set of financials which include projected income and balance sheets with a Performa sales forecast.

Here are some other important suggestions and facts related to business planning:

– Less than a third of small business startups have a business plan
– A business plan does not have to be incredibly detailed for operational purposes
– It should be a work in progress updated on a periodic basis
– Particular attention should be paid to the marketing plan
– A business plan is part of the first fifteen percent of the business development process which will assure the last eight-five percent will go smoothly
– The executive summary should be written last, after the rest of the plan is in view.

2) Lack of Strategic Objectives
A business strategy is made up of carefully crafted words making up templates, which in turn act as filters through which all planning, tactics and decisions are passed through before implementation. A strategic objective is therefore, a business strategy developed to guide an organization in meeting business objectives. A strategic objective is developed from the owner’s vision, passion, core competencies and values for the business. Contact Emerald Business Services or go to our website for a worksheet you can use to develop these critical business development tools.

3) Lack of Marketing Strategies and Tactics
Marketing strategies govern the development of tactics, which in turn provide the actions items contained within your planning process. The most important aspect of your marketing plan is the development of promotion strategies and tactics, which feed your promotion planning and provide you with sales forecasting data. The promotion plan should also detail costs and anticipated unit volume so you can set priorities and provide sales forecasting data.

4) Management in the Place of Leadership
So why is leadership so important in growing a business? Because leadership is about doing the right things, management is about doing things right . In many ways, it is leadership that will grow your business from a sales and a stability perspective, and management that will make, or keep it profitable. Also, consider that the best companies focus ninety percent of their attention on external issues, not internally , leadership is primarily a focus on the external issues.

5) Poor or non-existent Systems
Most people think of computer systems when they hear the word “system.” But in the since it is used here it means all systems, including the system you use for selecting the right employee, for decision making within a department and so on. One of the more telling statistics in this area is the fact that ninety-four percent of all task or project failures are system failures2. Some of the more common reasons for system failure include:

– Islands of automation verses integrated systems
– Absent or non-existent policies, procedures and user manuals
– Poor training.

6) Lack of Development of Leadership Style
Developing leadership ability has a lot to do with understanding the type of leadership required at different stages of your company’s development. There are at least six different leadership styles identified to be effective at different stages of a company’s development including; Visionary; Coaching; Affiliative; Democratic; Pacesetting; and Commanding . Understanding which leadership style to employ has been found to significantly increase the effectiveness, growth and heath of the companies in which leaders utilized multiple styles. Just as important is the understanding of what a leaders personal profile is. Armed with these vital bits of information a leader is equipped to pursue the right leadership style for the task at hand.

7) Care and Feeding of Sacred Cows
I do not have a statistic on the amount of money, time and energy expended on the sacred cows lurking in American businesses, but it has to be staggering. This list details some of the types of sacred cows you can look for in your business:

– The way we have always done it
– The product or service you keep pouring money into because you just know it will take off and be your future, (these are almost never accompanied by market research or even a promotional plan)
– Resistance to growth through change
– Idleness within the ranks, some experts believe ten percent of the poorest performing people should be let go each year to make room for people with fresh insights and ideas
– The company airplane, automobiles, and other perks, which drain company recourses
– The dead weight relatives and friends of the family who would be better off elsewhere, act as distractions, and add nothing to your bottom line
– The “expert” that no one can live with, who holds a noose around the companies neck in the form of some expertise or an unwritten code of loyalty.

You could call this business “101,” however, most of the issues developed in this paper are rarely taught in schools, much less heeded. These “seven deadly sins” can impede your company’s ability to successfully navigate through the turbulent waters of business development. If you do not understand all the issues summarized in this paper, do the research; find a business advisor to help you navigate these storms , you owe it to yourself, your business and the people who count on you.

Conquering the devil in the details is what management is about, concurring the “seven deadly sins of small business” is what leadership is all about. The beauty of developing top-level leadership skills is that there is no downside, only opportunity for growth in both your business and your personal development. Leadership is what the entrepreneurial spirit is all about.

 

Small Businesses Free Advice

SCORE – The Service Corp of Retired Executives (SCORE) has been established to help small business owners just like you. As a nonprofit entity recognized by the US Small Business Administration, SCORE consists of successful retired executives who have already been there and done that. Chapters are located all across the country and low cost seminars are helpful too. You can find one to one counseling with a former CEO, a VP of banking, a furniture store owners, etc. So many people volunteer to help ease the burden of business owners. Google a search for SCORE and you’ll find what you want.

Business Expos – Chambers of Commerce, business associations, and local governments will sometimes organize a business expo to attract business owners. Most people know that the U.S. was built on the backs of small businesses and it is these small businesses which help to propel our economy. The success of businesses such as yours is critical to helping new ventures get started, inventions to come to market, new ideas to be brought forward, and so much more.

Trade Associations – Depending on your field of expertise, your affiliated trade association can help you empower your business. Some associations work closely with small businesses to help them get established with their local, state, and federal government; write up a business plan; offer tax counseling; discuss the hiring and management of employees; and so much more. Whatever field that you are in, it could pay to join the association created to help you succeed at your business.

So, if you have a small business or are contemplating starting one, then any or all three of these choices can help you out. Your taxes and knowledge helps the economy and it is to the benefit of many that you succeed at what you do. Seek expert help, but do it through an established and proven entity that can deliver to you cost effective results.

 

How to Improve Craft Show Profit?

1.) Simple products – OK, a pet rock might be a little too simple (however, it might come back), but living room furniture goes a little bit beyond the standard craft show item. When you are thinking about simple crafts it doesn’t have to be simpleminded. Here is a good rule of thumb – it should be something that someone COULD make at home, but might be just out of the reach of most people who come to a craft show.

What this does is ensure a couple of things: first, it probably isn’t that complicated to make.

Second, it probably won’t cost you a fortune to produce because the components are relatively few, and inexpensive.

2.) Make them quickly – Let’s go back to the living room furniture example for a moment. How long would it take someone to do that? Let’s just say a nice rocking chair… a few weeks? You need to work for a year in order to make enough chairs to satisfy the demand!

The key to profitability is to make something that takes very little of your (or a helpers) time to make. This reduces any potential labor costs and it also ensures that you can produce enough of the craft to meet the need you will have at any of your craft shows.

3.) A great markup – Figuring out the price of a craft is going to be a tricky one. It might even differ between craft shows. When everything is accounted for, you should try to double or even triple the dollar value that it costs you to make the product. So, for example, if you produce something that costs $1 to make, you should be selling it for a minimum of $2 or $3 dollars.

This tip goes hand in hand with the others. If your craft is simple, and you can produce a quality product in very little time, chances are your cost for each item is going to be relatively low. The lower you reduce the cost to make a quality craft, the HIGHER your profit will be when you sell.

For anyone looking to profit from craft shows, this is a start. At first, it might look like it limits the choices you have for profits. That solely depends on you and the profit margin that you are expecting. It shouldn’t prevent you from making a craft that you enjoy, but it should give you a better understanding of what you might need to do in order to make your craft show business as profitable as possible.

 

Lesson Learned about Contractors in Business

The experience did introduce me to an interesting class of entrepreneurs collectively called, “contractors.” I don’t mean to generalize, but the contractors I’ve been dealing with are a stereotypically bunch who drive really big pickup trucks and wear worn work boots and dirty jeans and torn t-shirts and sport three-day whiskers and go by names like Buddy, Bubba, Junior, Earl, and of course Tiny, who was the largest guy on the crew.

Side note: naming a fat guy Tiny is like naming a three-legged dog Lucky or a one-armed man Lefty or a bald guy Harry. Sure, it’s funny at first, but then the joke, like the seat of Tiny’s pants and the fuzz on Harry’s head, wears thin.

So I gave my wife the OK for the pool and the contractors started coming out of the woodwork. There was the pool contractor, the concrete contractor, the landscaping contractor, the fencing contractor, the dirt removal contractor, the pest control contractor, the electrical contractor, and the plumbing contractor and contractors whose specialty I’ve forgotten.

Then the fun began as the contractors started to disrupt our lives. And the one question that kept going through my mind throughout the entire ordeal was this: how do these guys manage to stay in business since they apparently don’t give much thought to the usual rules of business, ignoring little things like scheduling, punctuality, employee management, licensing, quality of work, etc.

Now I mean no disrespect to the contracting industry as a whole. I’m sure there are many upstanding, honest, hard-working contractors in this world who take great pride in their work and do business by the book and give more than a cup full of tobacco spit about their customer’s satisfaction. Then there was the crew that took up residence in my backyard for the better part of the summer.

From them I learned a few valuable lessons about the contracting business that I’d like to share with you now. If you’ve ever dealt with a contractor of any kind I’m sure these lessons will ring familiar to you.

When a contractor says, “Yes, sir, we’ll be out first thing in the morning,” he really means, “Well, sir, if you’re lucky we’ll be out here at some point over the next 6 to 12 months and we won’t bother calling to let you know that we’re not coming or to reschedule. We’ll just show up and act like everything is alright and work a few hours before we disappear on you again.”

When a contractor says, “Yes, sir, that’s probably gonna be about a thousand dollars,” he really means, “Well, sir, I have no idea how much that’s gonna cost, but I can guarantee you it’s gonna be way more than you expect to pay. We’ll start at a thousand dollars and work our way up, how’s that?”

When a contractor says, “Yes, sir, we can get ‘er done in about a week,” that really means, “Well, sir, I can’t predict the future. The thing will be done when it’s done, period.”

When a contractor says, “Of course I guarantee my work,” he neglects to add, “If you can find me…”

Contractors are like renegade entrepreneurs, they want to be in business for themselves, but on their terms. If you and I approached our businesses with the same lackadaisical attitude we wouldn’t be in business very long.

Here are the lessons learned. When you offer a bid on a job, honor its terms. When you promise a price, don’t go over it. When you set an appointment with a customer, be there on time. When you commit to a schedule, stick to it. When you get the job, finish it. When something goes wrong, fix it. Now how hard is that?

So, now that I’ve ticked off every contractor within firing distance, let me say this: according to my deeply-tanned wife and shriveled up kids the end result was worth the hassle.

Even I have to admit, the pool turned out great. My wife is happy. The kids are happy. The contractors are happy. And I’m told that I should be happy because my family is happy and that’s what counts.

Tips to Start a Convenience Store

The term convenience store denotes the idea that you are providing convenience to your customers. And the first way that you can address this need is to be in a location that is convenient. You might want to survey your local vicinity to see where people might be aided by the placement of a store. Look at the local businesses as well as traffic patterns in the area. Where are most people driving and where might you be able to place your business. And while you want to be in the most popular areas, realize that these areas can also be troublesome in terms of traffic and parking. Think of your business as though you were visiting it – where would you actually stop?

Places near highways and main roads tend to have the most success. This is because more people are driving in these areas and will generally need to stop at some point or another. You might also want to set up a small gas station as a part of your convenience store to really get your profits up – though with gas prices, this might not be the best move at this time.

The next step is to determine the kinds of products that you will sell. You want to sell basic goods that everyone uses. Things like staples – milk, bread, some medications – are always going to be necessary for people. If you’re in a large tourist area, you might also want to provide maps and small souvenirs. A large variety of beverages and snack foods will also be helpful, as well as hot coffee and tea.

You will also want to carry items that people might need at the last minute. Things like ice and cold cases of beverages come in handy when someone is having a last minute gathering. You might also want to carry things for automobile repair – oil and fuses, for example. Windshield wiper fluid and scrapers are also good items for colder climates. Batteries and camera film are also good items to carry.

Pricing is a large part of whether or not your convenience store will be successful as well. You will want to price your items slightly higher if you’re in a location where people do not have a choice for another retailer, but not so high that people will not pay the prices. Try to mark up more than you would if you were at a regular supermarket, but still slightly lower than the local gas stations and merchants.

You are offering convenience to customers that can’t find another retailer, so try to think of the things that you have run out for at the last minute. It’s think kind of thinking and planning that will make you a success.

 

Business Strategy to Optimize Your Profit in Your Own Business

You need to utilize a business strategy to optimize your profit. The first step is to analyze your current business strategy. What tasks yield you the most profit? What marketing strategies result in profit? Which time management strategies work for you and which ones don’t?

It may be helpful to write down your current business strategies. You may already have a written business plan. Carefully go through it and note the strategies that have worked for you in the past. Then focus on those successful strategies and make them even more successful. Periodically review your business plan so you are achieving the highest level of success you can.

The second step is to understand that you need focus on two main areas: Lead Generation and Profit Generation. These two areas are crucial to your success. You will crush your competition if you focus on Lead Generation and Profit Generation. As a one man shop you have very little room to waste money or effort. Therefore, an organized plan is the best way to go.

Lead Generation involves brining in new leads every day. You need to figure out ways to attract customers. For example, you may have to modify your marketing plans and/or engage in joint ventures.

Profit Generation focuses on activities that yield a profit. Don’t just look at your revenues. If you just look at revenues you may be missing the big picture. For example, a revenue of $100,000 means virtually nothing if you overhead expenses are $99,999.

To generate profit you need to center your attention on fast cash. What activities will bring in quick cash? How much quick cash do you want? Think of a number and then work backward to determine how you can achieve this amount. Build your client list around this idea or activity. Start with your end goal or product in mind and then do everything you can to achieve it.

Get your one man business on track by following these tips. Your business will run more smoothly and your pocket book will be filled with profit.