Category Archives: Entrepreneurship

Basic Skills Ease Start-Up

A few years ago you could elbow your way into business with a sharp pencil and a calculator. Technology has changed all that. Now it’s hard to imagine writing a business plan or running a business without a computer, email, and the Internet.

A few basic skills in the following areas will make it easier to start or grow a business.

1. Computer. A decade ago, just 10 percent of my business-planning students knew how to use a computer; today more than 90 percent are computer savvy and almost all own computers. If turning on a computer still causes beads of sweat to form on your brow, and if you’re planning to own a business, it’s time to bite the technology bullet and learn how to use a computer.

2. Email. Email has revolutionized business communications. Got a quick question for someone in a different part of the globe? Need an efficient way to communicate with your customers? Want to get a research document mailed to you, fast? Email makes these and many other tasks easy and inexpensive. If you can manage file attachments, you will save even more time and energy.

3. Internet. You have, at your fingertips, a vast global library. Search engines are now simple enough that you can practically teach your pet ferret to use them. At this writing the US Census population counter indicates there are more the 6.7 billion people in the world; one click later another favourite site reveals that more than 1.4 billion are now using the Internet. For business owners, the Internet is the ultimate source of information, whether for market research or to keep tabs on your competitors.

4. Word processor and Keyboard. You can probably get by without these skills in today’s environment, but it’s bound to be limiting and costly as you hire others to compensate for your lack of expertise. If you’re hunting and pecking your way into business, a tiny investment in learning how to keyboard will definitely help. If you simply wish to improve your typing speed or accuracy, you can download any of a number of free typing tutor applications from the web. It seems that most businesses use Microsoft Word™ for word processing, but there are other applications available. For example, Open Office offers a free downloadable option called Writer, available at

5. Spreadsheet. When it comes to determining whether or not your business will make money, a spreadsheet will definitely reduce your stress level. You don’t have to know how to design complex worksheets in order to enjoy the benefits. All you really need are a few navigation skills and some reliable forecasting templates. Most businesses use Microsoft Excel™, but OpenOffice also has a great spreadsheet called Calc (Did I mention it’s free?).

If you’re planning to start or grow a business, or simply looking for ways to make yourself more employable in today’s job market, these skills are sure to benefit you, both immediately and over the long term.

Age Didn’t Stop The Colonel

Age is not always a man or woman’s best friend.

If you’re getting long in the tooth and trying to get a loan to start a business, you might have a tough time borrowing money. Age means more risk for lenders. Unless you have solid, accessible security to offer, or unless you’ve got photographs of your bank manager committing indictable atrocities under the influence of tequila, you are going to have a tougher time nailing down business loans once you’re beyond your prime.

Other issues arise as you approach the 3-digit age bracket whilst simultaneously experiencing wholesale reductions in the number of functioning follicles on your head. For example, you might have less energy as time passes. On the best days we can smugly claim that slow and steady wins the race. I swear by that one more and more lately… But on bad days, there’s no doubt that we simply produce less than we did 10 or 20 years ago. Continue reading Age Didn’t Stop The Colonel

Ten Points to Consider When Choosing a Business Location

LocationThere’s an aged saying in the business world, “There are three rules of marketing—location, location, location.” If you want to catch fish, you need to position yourself where there’s fish. If the fish can’t find your bait, if customers can’t find your shop, you’re out of luck and probably out of business. No customers, no sales, no go.

Selecting the right location means different things to different businesses. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the right location for your business.

  1. Clarify Your Business Vision. Determine what you see for your business in 1, 3 and 5 years. Envision what size it will be, what sort of traffic you want and who you want for neighbours.
  2. Identify Your Target Customer. You need to know who your customers are in order to pinpoint your business location. High foot traffic doesn’t automatically convert to lots of customers. Ensure the foot traffic is comprised of folks who match your customer profile and who will stop by to throw money into your cash drawer.
  3. Determine Where The Customer Traffic Is. And then place your business there. This is as true for physical locations as it is for virtual positioning. Whether you’re hoping for foot or click traffic, your business has to be visible to customers. Fish where the fish are.
  4. Locations Can Change. If you position your retail store between a major bank and a Starbucks because of the high foot traffic numbers—the game can change if either business closes, possibly triggering moving or upgrading costs for you.
  5. Consider Delivery Accessibility. While locating near customers is critical, accessibility to offload or pick up goods can be equally important. Is there a loading dock, and is it covered?
  6. Speak With Other Small Business Owners. Once you’ve narrowed your search to a few locations, check in with neighbouring leaseholders. They may have insights to help guide your decision.
  7. Assess the Location’s Impact on Your Marketing Costs. The less visible your location, the more it will cost to get customers to your site. While a highly visible mall location will have higher lease payments, a remote, free-standing location with lower rent payments is sure to have higher marketing costs.
  8. Check Your Neighbours. Determine whether the neighbouring businesses will be complimentary to yours and assess whether they will have an effect on your business once you’re set up. Will the anchor businesses attract the right traffic for your business?
  9. Assess Other Costs and Concerns. Will you be responsible for paying for signage and leasehold improvements? Make sure the location is zoned for your type of business, and that you’ll have access to washroom facilities, parking and sanitation services. As well, check out the crime rate in the area and familiarize yourself with any restrictions on hours of operation.
  10. Scrutinize Lease Agreements. Lease agreements are usually thick and thorny enough to warrant having your lawyer review them to ensure your interests are covered.

Setting up in a new location is not an inexpensive endeavor. It is sure to take a bite of your time, money and energy. The points above will help ensure you make the right choice and get your business on the path to success.

Perseverance is the Key to Small Business Success

successPerseverance is a cornerstone to all business success; in its absence, many new business owners strike out before getting a chance to hit that cherished home run. Success is determined by your drive to succeed, how hard you’re willing to work to get what you want, and having the patience and endurance to stick with your vision until it either bears fruit or proves to be a bad idea.

Perseverance is never easy. The way never seems to be straight forward or clear. It’s up to each entrepreneur to know whether to hold or fold.

It’s not surprising that many owners cut and run just short of success. The path to business success is littered with traps, including disgruntled customers, cash flow shortfalls, burnout, economic downturns, failed partnerships, plain old bad business ideas, and unworkable business models. These are just a few of the demons faced by business owners as they run the gauntlet.

Business killers can beat an entrepreneur down, opening the dark door to a business failure. Most issues can be remedied, and most failing businesses can be turned around if the owner has the vision and the drive to stay the course.

As always, it’s easy to look at bad situations and shout out remedies, but for those mired in a business, the view can be blurred and it’s sometimes harder to see solutions.

For the average working person, economic survival is always a driver; lack of money is easily a top reason to jump ship. Family problems trigger a number of other business failures. Debauchery, overspending, plain old laziness—there’s never a shortage of reasons to stray from your business plan. Only the entrepreneur in charge can identify what’s truly most important and therefore the right path for him or her to follow.

In The Dip, A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (And When to Stick), Seth Godin writes about how those who aspire to become the best must stay focused and go through incredible hardship to reach their goal. He also speaks to the importance of dropping the losers, having the courage to discontinue projects or directions that prove to be duds. This puts pressure on those who tackle long-term goals or aspire to any sort of greatness, because the critic within you will always question whether you’re headed for success or setting yourself up to look like an idiot.

So, how much perseverance is enough? That is something each business owner must decide for himself. Small business owners, particularly start-ups, walk this tightrope every day in the life of the enterprise.