Airport Club Lounges – Your Office Away from the Office

For the business traveler, Frequent Flyer programs are much more than just First Class upgrades and ticket rewards. The largest perk by far in the Frequent Flyer game is the airline lounges located in most major airports.

While definitely a convenient respite from the bustle encountered at most airports, most are also fully equipped business centers ready to become your satellite office and turn that layover into constructive work time.

 

Meet Me at the Airport

 

While club lounges provide quiet areas to place business calls and work on projects, many hold private conference rooms.

 

Airport conference centers are convenient meeting locations, and use is not limited to traveling club members. Flying into an airport and using the on-site facilities can potentially reduce commuting travel time and costs and facilitate in/out trips, eliminating the need for an overnight stay.

 

Airline conference rooms usually require advance reservations and/or rental fees. Non-flying conference attendees may access the lounges for scheduled meetings, but arrangements must be made to obtain passes and/or escorts to get non-ticketed individuals through airport security. Additional business equipment, such as flip charts and overhead projectors; and services, such as conference calls and catering, may be available with conference room rental at an additional charge. Be sure to discuss your particular needs with the individual airline when making reservations.

 

Flyer Beware

 

As with all good things, there are usually caveats.

 

Some benefits come with stipulations, and all benefits are subject to change at the discretion of the individual airline.

 

If you are flying on one airline but are a member of another’s club program, inquire with both your airline of travel and your airline of membership to ensure that you will have access to a lounge. If you are flying with a spouse, family member or colleague who is not a club member, make sure that guest privileges are available.

 

Confirm that the lounge is available for your intended use. Rules for use of the lounges vary by airline. For example, Delta only allows business meetings and job interviews to take place in rented conference rooms, not in general public areas.

 

On a Personal Note

 

With business club memberships, personalized concierge services are available at most airports. Business club attendants can facilitate everything from ticketing and seat assignment to helping you find hotel accommodations and restaurants in unfamiliar cities. In many of the busiest airports, business club members may find private security lines available to facilitate boarding.

 

Families traveling with members are generally welcome in the lounges. American’s Admirals Club and Continental’s Presidents Club have family rooms available at several locations.

 

Amenities at the various lounges are similar. Most have complimentary snacks and non-alcoholic beverages, internet access, copiers, and fax machines. Many have food and alcoholic beverages available for purchase. Current newspapers and periodicals are usually on hand.

 

Delta Airlines, as the Official Airline of the PGA Tour, offers a unique perk. Putting greens have been installed at Sky Club locations in Atlanta, Cincinnati, Dallas, Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, New York (JFK), Orlando, Salt Lake City, Washington DC (National), and West Palm Beach. No clubs? No problem. Members will find top-of-the-line Nike Golf equipment available for their use.

The Bottom Line

 

Initial club fees range from $300 annually to $4,200 for a lifetime membership in Continental’s Presidents Club. Rates are often dependent on the level attained with an airline’s Frequent Flyer membership program. Renewals may be discounted. Most programs allow for reduced priced spousal memberships, which can also include spousal equivalents and domestic partners.

 

American, Delta, and United allow members to pay fees with accumulated miles.

 

Try It Before You Buy It

 

Many airlines offer first class passengers a pass to their club lounges. If not readily offered one, ask – especially if your flight is delayed. In addition, one-day passes may be available for purchase, and the cost is usually credited against a full membership price if purchased within a specified time after the one-day use. They run from $30 for Alaskan Airlines to $50 for entrance to American Airlines Admirals Club or Delta’s Sky Club. Delta also offers a 30-day pass for $90, and US Airways offers a 90-day pass for $120.

 

Where are They?

 

If you are flying into a hub city on a major airline, you can be assured that there is a lounge available. Many smaller airports are now housing club lounges as well, so check before you fly. Alaska Airlines has six lounges but provides access to 51 other locations through its affiliate program. Continental’s President Club operates 25 facilities but passengers can enter any of 159 other clubs through its partnerships with other airlines. Delta’s Sky Club consists of 58 lounges, with affiliate access to another 55.

 

Sources: All information was compiled from airline websites (Fall ’09) and deemed to be accurate at the time of publication but is not guaranteed.

Buisness Planning for Hard Times

Overview

When you start a business you want to make sure that it grows to be as successful as it possibly can. Which means that no matter whether you’re just starting out or if your company has lasted for years, you want to make sure that should hard times hit then your business will not only be able to bounce back but thrive. You can check out a compiled list of methods and applied scenarios in the book Business Planning for Turbulent Times. In the meantime there are a few steps that you can look at now before you decide to buy the book.

 

The Fundamentals of Building a Business

 

As you’re most likely aware the best chance to make sure that a business hold strong through hard times is to make sure that’s it’s built that way from the very beginning. So the obvious step to take, if you didn’t start out that way, is to go back and look at the fundamentals that make up your business. The planning is actually more important than the plan itself. If your final plan backfires that’s alright since it’s to be expected. The important aspect is the process by which you reached it in the first place. Planning takes reviewing, revisions, and corrections a process that is repeated over and over again.

 

This allows for the chance to watch how conclusions change which is an important step when looking at the development and future changes in your company. Also pay close attention to your planning process so that you can pick up on any changes or unexpected surprises that might pop up. Planning can act as an early warning system which is invaluable when planning not only for the short term but the long term as well. Watch the flow of cash in and out of your business. Profit isn’t always cash and any changes in the cycle of your money (customers having to wait longer to pay their bills etc.) can be detrimental since a business requires an extra financing every 30 days that customers hold off payments.

 

Your next step would be to watch the metrics. Since you’re looking for early warning signs then sales, costs, and expenses can be used as metrics. Measure what you’re able to and watch for any sign of changes. Improve your communication with your customers, employees, and vendors. If your payments will be made slower than usual then let your vendors know when they’ll get paid instead. Making sure that you’re your customers know that they’re appreciated keeps them coming back. Never let anyone working with you or for r you have to guess what you’re thinking or what you intend. These assumptions could cause problems later on that you don’t need, plus a steady flow of communication can make your employees and customers happier to be involved in your business. Also be aware that your business plan will usually be wrong, but even so it is never done which brings us back to our first point.

Things to Consider when Preparing a Business Proposal

A person proposing the startup of a business needs to first decide which type of financial institution they want to do business with. There are two main types; first, there are banks which are privately owned and are for profit institutions. These are governed by a board of directors who are appointed to oversee the operations. Secondly, there are credit unions, which is a nonprofit institution that is owned by the members and are governed by a board of directors that is made up of the membership. It might be a good idea to apply at both types of institutions to see which will give the best rate and accommodations. The procedure used to summit a proposal is very similar with both institutions. In the next few paragraphs we will discus this process as seen from the lenders perspective. The first topic will address the factors that a lender feels is important to a small company’s success. The next will be what factors they feel could cause a business to fail, and finally, we will close with what a lender needs to see in a startup before they will consider lending money for the venture.

The factors that a lender feels are important are the type of business that is being opened, the location, and the potential market. If it is a new company, the lender would then investigate the perspective owner’s personal credit standings. They would also want to know what experiences they have in that particular industry, if any. A detailed business plan would be required showing at least the first three years of projections. It is important to show the type of relationship that exists with your current financial institution. If the relationship was in a questionable state, then that would be a factor to consider and could have an impact on the institutions decision. The amount of cash flow could also be a consideration, especially with existing companies looking to expand. The lender is looking for a stable foundation to build on. It is important for you to do all you can to show stability and strength in your plan. Finally, the lender is going to want to see any financial statements, both personal and business, that will support your proposal. These may consist of balance sheets, tax returns, and profit and loss statements. It is also important to remember, as stated above, any business plans submitted must have at least a three year projection.

 

In conclusion the outline above addresses the factors looked at by lenders for a small company’s success, failure and what it takes to prepare a proposal that would be viewed positively through the eyes of a perspective lender.

Your Competitive Edge Can Be a Detailed Marketing Plan

You have just been offered a great business opportunity. Now what do you do next? First you need a business plan; a business plan is a blue print to follow as you build your business. It must be flexible but yet stable. Next there comes the marketing plan; your marketing plan is the foundation in which you are building your business. It must be detailed, smartly done, and pleasing to the consumer. I hope to cover four significant points that should be addressed in a successful marketing plan. The first is the geographical region chosen for your clientele. The second is identifying your target market. Third is your competitive advantage, if any, and finally, if you as a business owner have completed a formal marketing plan and you had to change it along the way, why?

You might ask yourself what a geographical area has to do with establishing your target market. This is the beginning; ask yourself whose needs are you trying to meet? Are you trying to keep it local, or are you trying to reach out nationally? With the location you have chosen what type of competition do you have, and how diverse is that competition? You need to know what will pull the costumers in, and what you can do to convince them that your business is the better choice. This knowledge comes after narrowing down your target market.

 

Let us take a look at your target market; you need to make sure it is not too general. The needs of the customers must be determined. This is accomplished by conducting a market research. Market research can be accomplished in many ways. It must have a clearly defined objective and one-on-one data must be collected. The way this data is collected can be as easy as a survey, focus groups, or simple daily transactions. After the data has been gathered and analyzed then any competitive advantage should be clearer. “Most of the restaurants in this area sell pizza and are not open for breakfast”, said a deli own in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He recently opened a small town deli serving both breakfast and lunch. He feels his competitive advantage is that his deli is open for breakfast and his menus are more diverse than the local pizza restaurants. What is a competitive advantage you might ask? It is anything that a business may do, offer, or implement that their competitors do not. This should give them an edge over their competitors and help them to find their niche in that particular market. Joseph had also mentioned that he began with a detailed marketing plan, but it was flexible enough to help him alter it when he needed to, in order to overcome unforeseen obstacles that might occur. The key point here is that it is crucial to have a detailed marketing plan. Do not forget it must be flexible and if possible have a back up plan. Proper planning is the key to success when opening a business. As I said earlier, your marketing plan is your foundation to build on, but it is up to you to wisely choose your tools to aid in your success.

The Troubling Mind of the Young Entrepreneur

Being young is hard. Everywhere you go, people are telling you what you should be doing and how to go about doing it, just when you thought you were growing up a little. From the time we, as humans, were first born, our freedom has been taken from us. Our parents have kept us alive, yes, but also stifled us with their rigid ways and continuously trying to mold us into something they, themselves, want to be.

After first learning to walk around and maybe speak a little, we are abruptly thrust into the life someone else created for us. That’s right, elementary school. There, you may interact with fellow slaves or maybe learn how to read. That’s great, learning to read and spell and the like. But, couldn’t you simply learn to read and spell independently of the school, instead of being forced into this atmosphere that you don’t want to be in?

 

What gives anyone the right to tell us what we will do with our lives? I think the average person doesn’t realize how little freedom we have. We are forced to go to school from the ages of 5 to 18 years old, our entire childhood and adolescence has been pegged out for us.

 

After you do graduate, if you choose to have your freedom taken from you for two additional years, you will be pushed and shoved into a new direction: college or working-class. If you try to stray from this path, you will be met with angry resistance from your parents, your teachers, your friends, your trusted guardians, pretty much any adult person, or person who has been brainwashed into believing that there are only a few paths in life.

 

Yet, you don’t see happiness anywhere around you. You have friends in college, and they hate it more than they hated high school. Maybe you try working the 9 to 5 job for a little while, only to realize your soul is being slowly drained away by the long hours and pointless trifles employers put you through. To must of these places, you are simply a tool.

 

Employers don’t usually care about you, as a person. They care about what you can do for them, and their company, and their paycheck. That’s it. If they show concern for your well-being, it is really only concern for their own well-being. Eventually, you figure this isn’t the life for you.

 

After 18, or even 20, you are sick and tired of being shoved around and told exactly what move you should be making. Maybe you snap, and quit your job, and rant about your coworkers and your boss for months after the fact. Maybe you continue to work there for ten more years, only to realize you’ve wasted so much time, and then you regret it.

 

The thing about freedom, however, is that it’s actually hard to be in control of your own fate when others have been throwing it at you ever since you came out of the womb. You feel so much confusion, you wonder if you are doing the wrong thing. Your mom is growing sick and tired of you mooching off her, and your friends what you to get a job so you guys can go do things…things that require money, which you do not have, because you don’t know how to get it without being enslaved again, and you certainly don’t want that.

 

So, what are you to do? Freelance! Build your own business! Take control of your own fate. Ask yourself constantly if you are working you hardest for yourself, or someone else. Do you think it’s best for you to go to a job you hate for a good portion of your waking life, or find your own path?

 

A good place to start is here: Stevepavlina.com

Patrick Mackaronis Presents: So, You Want to Become an Entrepreneur?

The following is a guest post from Patrick Mackaronis, director of business development for New York City social network startup Brabble. For further reading on Pat’s ideas, please check out Home Business Mag’s pieceĀ Patrick Mackaronis Reveals Six Options for Ideal Startup Investment.

Why would anyone want to become an entrepreneur is beyond me. Working at the beckon call of your clients, putting in late hours, accounting and other tasks you wouldn’t have to do working for someone else, Why in the world would anyone wish this upon himself or herself?

The list I mention above contains issues to become an entrepreneur. There are good and bad things to consider. For some, the benefits to become an entrepreneur outweigh the bad. For instance being free when you want, going where you want and when you want, and choosing your place of work, dictating your own hourly wage, being your own boss and being creative and opininated.

The question is, are YOU ready to become an entrepreneur?

If you want to become an entrepreneur, here are some things to consider:

Passion – What do you want out of life? Will working for yourself or having a business match your goals and dreams? If your dream is to enjoy the rewards of working your way up the corporate ladder, entrepreneurship may not be for you. However, if you want to feel the accomplishment of building a business up from nothing, then entrepreneurship would be perfect for you.

Time – Do you have the time to commit to a new business? Alternatively, if not would you be willing to sacrifice some time each day to become an entrepreneur? You will need time to build a business. Nevertheless, if you have spare money you can pay some one else to use their time to help you. This is leverage.

Money – Although you may not need any money to create a business, some money may be needed. This will depend on what type of business you want to start. An internet business could be started with no money or a business with direct selling of another company’s product can be started with a couple hundred dollars.

Support – Do you have supportive friends and family? Again, this is something that you may not need but it is helpful. If you have family that will be discouraging you, you can still find support through joining industry groups and associations.

Discipline – This is something that you cannot do without. You must be disciplined if you want to be successful. You must be disciplined to take action. Without action, there will be no movement towards advancement. I will say it again; discipline is something you cannot do without.

Humility – I mention this because you will have customers that will beat you down to get what they want. Some of the customers I would recommend you fire; however, some may have paid for the advantage of bossing you around. It really depends on how you set up your business to decide the best way to handle these types of customers.

Ethical – You must be ethical to run an honorable and successful business. Customers will trust you to follow thru on your promises and you must abide. This is a trait that you should have whether you decide to become an entrepreneur or work for someone else.

Determined – There will be good times and bad times, as always in life. When you are an entrepreneur, the bad times seem more magnified. Even though the bad times may happen just for a little while when the good times last longer, people will point out your down time and not remember your good times. This will hurt you and make the bad times seem worse, but you must stay determined. The bad times always become good times. If you cannot stay determined to succeed, then it will never happen.

There are many more things to consider when deciding to become an entrepreneur. This will give you a good start. It is a personal decision and is not to be taken lightly if you want to succeed. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone, but the ones who choose to become an entrepreneur, and are determined to make it work, reap many rewards.

Farrah Gray, Entrepreneur

Farrah Gray, born 1984 into the housing projects of Chicago’s South Side, answered the call and reported for duty at a young age in order to support his struggling family.

As a precocious six year old, young Farrah Gray peddled homemade lotion from door to door for $1.50. The youngster also discovered a bourgeoning market for hand-painted rocks that were sold as paperweights, doorstops, and bookends. With his first $50 in profits, our self-starting businessman treated his family to a restaurant meal.

 

Mr. Gray demonstrated the ability to organize and lead seemingly from birth. The second grader’s business card read ’21st Century CEO,’ and by the age of 10 he had established The Urban Neighborhood Economic Enterprise Club, a group designed to pool and allocate capital towards small businesses. By the age of 12, Farrah had also emerged as a player on the speaking circuit, commanding $10,000 per appearance and co-hosting Backstage Live, a nationally syndicated radio program that was to reach 12 million listeners.

 

Gray soon established Farr-Out Foods, a New York specialty food retailer targeting a young clientele. Farr-Out Foods was to become the largest coup for the then fourteen year old founder, as sales of the enterprise tallied up at $1.5 Million within the first year. Farrah Gray eventually negotiated the sale of the company at the age of fifteen at over $1 Million.

 

Mr. Gray had officially become the youngest self-made, African American millionaire – all before being licensed to operate a motor vehicle.

 

The serial entrepreneur has written the international best seller Reallionaire, established The Realty Pros asset management firm, and is a syndicated columnist through the National Newspapers Publishing Association.

 

Farrah Gray has evolved from a determined youngster hawking loose, painted rocks from door to door, into a recognized ambassador betwixt the worlds of both commerce and philanthropy. The story is nothing short of truly inspirational.

Find Your Passion and Your Entrepreneurial Spirit Will Follow

The best way to start a successful business is to do something that you are passionate about, something that interests you. Many people say that they don’t know what interests them but that’s because they’re not thinking deep enough. If you honestly believe that you have no skill or knowledge than you are selling yourself way short. Every single person reading this article has some sort of skill or knowledge that could be the foundation for a successful business.

The key is to stop and think about all of your life experiences and how they’ve shaped you into who you are today. Create lists and think about the following:

 

  • What hobbies have you ever pursued?

 

  • Have you ever done any volunteer work?

 

  • Is there a time when you have helped someone with the problem and felt good about?

 

  • What types of things are you interested in or that you’re good at?

 

Sometimes you must think carefully about all your interest, hobbies, and areas that you excel in. This exercise may even require writing down and answering a series of questions to really get your thoughts moving.

 

Consider the following questions to get an in-depth perspective of where your individual skills and interests lie:

 

  1. What types of sports do I play?

 

  1. If you had $1 million and a month’s worth of free time to do whatever you like, what would you do? Be as specific as possible and write down whatever comes to mind

 

  1. When you’re surfing the web, what sites do you find yourself frequenting the most? What topics do these sites cover?

 

  1. Have you ever won a championship or an award of some sort?

 

  1. Have you ever been recognized for some sort of contribution or service that you performed? What was it?

 

  1. Do you have any pets? What kind?

 

  1. Do you have children or siblings? What do you like most about being a parent or brother or sister? What is the most challenging?

 

  1. What type of education do you have? What types of hobby classes have you taken?

 

  1. What kind of experience in volunteer work do you have?

 

  1. What accomplishments in your life are you most proud of?

 

  1. Do you have any illnesses?

 

  1. Are you a collector of any sort?

 

  1. What do you watch on television? What’s your favorite kind of music? Are you a fan of the arts?

 

  1. Is there anything that you’ve ever wanted to know more about but felt that you lacked the time?

 

Once you answer these questions, look for the answers that gave you the strongest responses as these will most likely lead you to the market that you should target with your business.

Entrepreneurial Business 101

The practical implementation of the “business model” concept dates back to the earliest days of organized business when businessman sought to have a better return of their investment, a more practical and efficient way to open markets, and a pragmatic manner to “see” into the future of their business ventures to counter the unpredictability of markets, costs, and sales.

A business model simply depicts in detail the company plans to make money by offering a service, or a product. Depending on your own natural concept and your quintessential idea of a business model, your business model can be very simple, narrow, and straightforward, or it can be very complex, detailed, wide-ranging, and far-reaching, as you want to make it. A supermarket’s business model is to make money by offering customers as many products as possible beneath one roof, in a convenient and pleasant place, putting the convenience and speed on the side of the client. An internet based business model such a website can be potentially confusing, and with wide-reaching objectives since there are too many different ideas and concepts on how this atypical class of companies try to engender profits. At the end, all these companies will offer products or services like anyone else.

 

A business model then, is an eclectic term brought into play to illustrate a profit-generating scheme. This business method is in most cases, independent from the set of business models within the same endeavor, although it is an integral part of the general business objectives of a company.

 

The expansive and flexible structure of the business model is the recipient of an all-encompassing range of pinpointing sales strategies, offering tactics, managerial structures of the human capital, descriptive approaches to attain the purpose of the plan, operational and implementation methods, flexible navigational courses of action, new-fangled market penetration stratagems, original infrastructures models, re-deployable commercial tactics, and updated trading practices to deal with the relentlessly evolving market forces.

 

What is a Business Concept?

 

A business concept is a theoretical and intangible design, an abstract idea that represents at its best the company’s offering of the product or services to the market. This sketched business concept must capture in its entirety the purpose and object of the business model. The business concept must lead concisely and evidently a set of activities that define in a distinct, different, and innovative way of presenting the service or product to the market. This should be a 3-minute vocal concept capturing a brand new concept of marketing, which must be swayed into the minds of investors and marketers.

 

The business concept then must outline exactly what the company will deliver to all relevant targeted constituents. This includes the tangible value that the service or product will provide, the vertical market that will be able to access to, and the sustainability of its business model in the sought-after marketplace. The business concept is the cornerstone for all and each activity supporting the business endeavor. It is fundamental that your business concept soundly testify to your business plan and its original value proposition

 

Back to the Business Model

 

The active implementation of a new business model under the guidance of the business concept, will allow companies to have a better and more controlled administration of their products and services, and a better handling and monitoring over manufacturing, marketing, sales, and distribution strategies.

 

One critical element of particular importance that should never be overlooked in the development of a business model, it is its essential chronology. In developing a business model for a new product or service, the lack of careful and logical planning and timing of investment vs. expenses and cash flow, will always discredit the expected delivery of profits and revenue. The critical path and implementation table of your business concept delivered by your business plan, must be logical, convincing, and most of all, realistic. Investors can smell wishful thinking a mile away and will keep your business at a safe distance from their dollars.

To avoid a certain concept-to-reality failures, some of the issues you need to cautiously percolate are:

 

– Determine how much of the product or service has to be constructed or established before a customer makes a purchase decision or a purchase commitment. Most mayor clients will not buy more than 10% of your total proven capacity of production. For the client, this will circumvent strategic dependency from you or the product.

 

– Define the amount of investment that will be necessary to secure contracts and commitments from customers. Clients need to see your financial stability and capacity of deliverance before they entrust you with a long-term obligation. This decision also entails strategic dependency and risk for the client business.

 

– Extrapolate the dimension of the investment’s cumulative risk factor before achieving net positive cash flow, evaluate contractual to upfront investment, and define an acceptable timeframe to penetrate and secure a steady sales market to generate revenues. The investors must see clearly how you are going to protect their money, how you will amortize the investment, and how you will generate profits within a levelheaded agenda.

 

The above mentioned topics of concern when not addressed properly, time and again will make, or break your new venture. The business models that call for a reduced and less risky upfront funding need to be optimized to be reasonable, and realistically quicken the intake of revenue, receivables, and cash inflow. Business models that implement consequential actions across the board to minimize and shorten the exposure (in time) of the investment at risk will have a better chance of, and a faster prospect of success.

 

In the car manufacturing industry, a new model has to be produced and stocked away before any resulting revenues from sales can be obtain. This is an elevated upfront investment with an inherent risk of sales market failure. However, you can’t sale cars by parts to secure a market, so your investment overflows into other areas such as manufacturing facilities, parts, materials, equipment, marketing, etc.

 

In the food industry, the upfront financial risk is a fraction of the car industry if you are trying to sell bread because of the lower cost of infrastructure, and also because you can start with a scalable strategy by selling small amounts of bread until you can build a steady and growing market.

 

In both cases, a reasonable, well-thought business model will determine the viability and accessibility of the target market, and the possibilities of success in it. Also, a car is a higher ticket-price item than bread, so the fundamentals of economies of scale also change and differ, and its integration into the business model is of utmost importance.

 

Not in all business the popular adage “built it and they will come” actually works. If you are risking a lot, you need a more comprehensive, realistic, judgmental, less vulnerable, and proactive means to factually measure risk and success.

 

To Sell or Not To Sell: The Question is Diamonds or Potatoes?

 

Here is a little story about two entrepreneurs who decided to go in business by themselves roughly at the same time, but in two distinct industries, and how it worked for them. The stories are real, so I am concealing the actual names of those performing the business, and the places where they performed their business at, because I have no way to ask for their permission to make these elements public.

 

Meet Pedro. Pedro finished college and he could not find employment for his career anywhere due to the regrettable state of the economy and lack of opportunities in the country where he lived. His father did not own a business and Pedro really had no place to go, so he decided to start his own business.

 

Meet Carlos. Carlos also completed college but his father wants him to work in the family business as resellers of Caterpillar equipment. Carlos had a place to go, but he disliked the family business so he decided to start his own. Carlos shared the same lack of opportunities that Pedro had.

 

Carlos’ Short Story

 

Carlos was used to a fairly good life. His family’s business was not great, but provided for a comfortable living standard. Once Carlos decided to start a new venture, his family helped him with advise, contacts, and capital. Carlos went into the luxury car business. Carlos did not know much about this business, but he figured that with all the help, contacts, family support, and money available for him, he could have a good business up and running fairly quick. And he did it. After jumping through the trade ropes, permits, and regulations, after 4 months he had a flamboyant European sports car dealer. After the inauguration party of his new and exclusive dealership, and after a few sales to family members, to close friends of the family, and a few sales within a niche market of affluent people in the area that followed the first 2 months after he opened, no one else came to his dealership to buy cars.

 

In spite of the efforts of Carlos and his family, the glitzy car dealership closed, leaving Carlos and his family with debts and losses. Like most people in that country, I was in no position to buy one of those expensive and non-practical cars (for the economic environment) Carlos used to sell, so I couldn’t contribute. A few months later I run into Carlos and he explained to me the long list of mistakes he made before and after his failed venture.

 

In short, he did not have a clear business model, nevertheless a sound business plan. Carlos learned dearly from this awful and expensive experience, and so did I.

 

This might sound unbelievable, or even dumb, but do not be surprised because many business are started this way. In the country where Carlos lives, some people start a business because they “heard people saying that is a good business”.

 

Pedro’s Less Short Story

 

Pedro lives in the same country than Carlos, in a different city. Pedro did not have capital, or a family that could help him, neither he knew the business in which he was about to start. But Pedro had an idea, and he took the time to dig out knowledge about his idea, and to see how it could fit it in the business environment he was targeting, and how could he fund his idea. After about a year, Pedro was ready to flight. Pedro explained his business concept to an uncle, he got a small investment and a partner with him, and both went into the French fries business!

 

This is what Pedro did. Pedro prepared a different kind of French fries. He peeled and grinded the potatoes, then he mixed them with a secret minced compound to make a sort of dough; protruded the mix through a small machine in the form of French fries, next he fried them, and afterward sold them at the beach during the summer.

 

Pedro and his uncle had an old beaten pick up truck (a re-formatted Studebaker) that they loaded every summer morning with potato sacks, machinery, other paraphernalia needed for the business, and him, his uncle, and a helper went off to sell French fries to the beach. I tried his potato contraption. He offered several flavors: spicy, non-spicy, salty, non-salty, hot-mild, hot-hot, and of course the regular nonsense French fry. His product was exquisite. He named his business “The King of the French Fries”. Little he knew…

 

I intermittently observed Pedro and his crew almost every day during the hot summer of 1970, and I noticed that he didn’t stay long in the beach we use to frequent as he did at the beginning of the season. He just dropped off his uncle with a helper and after a while he and other person who accompanies him went off somewhere else. Close the end of the summer I learned that Pedro had a total of 7 little stands, just like the one in our beach, in 6 other beaches. “The business went well, but is a lot of hard and hot work”, he told me once after the summer. “I have to get ready for the next summer,” he said, and that was the last time I saw Pedro.

 

By the following summer I had totally forgotten about “The King of the French Fries” until I did see a small, but colorful add in a local paper at the city I used to spent my summers. The add portrayed a big French fry guy with a crown, in shorts and a Hawaiian shirt standing by a small cart with a awning saying “Make your summer unforgettable, starting with your tummy”. That summer he had grown his business reaching to a staggering 22 beaches! His French fries were the sensation at the beaches and everyone had, at least once, eaten one of his products. That summer went fast as my money, and I catch a glimpse of Pedro’s business now and then in the papers, TV, and radio. Pedro had become the BONA FIDE KING OF THE FRENCH FRIES, the real McCoy.

 

I have no details, but I know that Pedro became the biggest seller of (these) French fries in the country, and he was dominating the industry at this time not just during the summer, and according to the rumors, he had at least one stand of French fries in each and every beach in the country. As indicated by the local papers, Pedro was still working hard, but now supervising the operation with his uncle aboard of an Italian Red Alpha-Romeo sport car… I couldn’t prevent learning a lot from Pedro. He started his Human Capital Team with 2 people and a business concept, and I believe by the end of the summer of 1973, he had more than two hundred people in his potato Kingdom, and a flourishing business.

 

Neither Carlos nor Pedro had a business plan to start with, but Pedro had a Business Concept. Pedro never developed a business plan, but he did evolve his business concept into a working tool. Today, Carlos is working in the family business and he is doing just fine, and Pedro, well… Pedro sold the business, retired, left the country, and now he lives comfortably with his family in Florida.

 

Of course there are many details, and countless boring steps missing in these two stories that I did not bother to include, but the point is that a little serious and responsible preparation and planning can go a long way in your new venture.

 

The Mighty Human Capital

 

In my view, Human Capital is the only and sole dynamic resource of indispensable value any company will ever posses that will evolve synchronically with its business model. Pedro would have never been able to grow his business without the support of his reliable human capital.

 

What is the Capital Value of the Human Element?

 

When writing a business plan, normally a great apportion of its content deals with industry, sales, projected revenue, competition, the product or services, investment opportunities and capital amounts, risks, local and foreign markets, and market availability among other valid points, however, very little of the business plan is devoted to the most important element of the entire system: The Human Capital.

 

The real risk of an investment does not reside in the speed of recuperating the money, or how much inventory will be sold, or what size of the market can be captured, or how profitable the company will be in the years ahead. At the end of the day, the entire risk of the company rests on the shoulders of its human capital and its ability to make it all work. All your money is bet on you managers and their dedicated and loyal crews.

 

You always end up investing in a management team, and if you don’t, your business venture is condemned before starts. The business hell is full of entrepreneurs without crews. Why do you invest in your management team, your essential human capital? Because what is established in the business plan will not come to fruition, or will never will be executed without an adaptable management, capable of carry out the objectives of the business plan that are always in need of change and adaptation. Business plans are like a vehicle. It doesn’t matter its size or capacity, they all need a skilful driver to maneuver them safely to their final destination. That driver is you human capital!

 

The single most important understanding of an entrepreneur is to recognize, appreciate, and embrace his/her human capital strategic potential, so he/she can utilize it and apply it towards the success of the business. You need to comprehend the important characteristics and virtues your human capital provides as a whole, and how it stands out compared to other management teams.

 

As long as you acknowledge that the human capital is the most important positive feature your company will ever have, you will be not alone, but empowered to conquer a successful future. It is important to groom your work force to work as a team, to work together, evaluate its past performance, and use the learned lessons to put the teams’ work in perspective for the future. It is important to ask yourself who’s missing in the team. It is important to find natural leaders among your lineup, it is important to publically or privately recognize manifest member’s abilities and skills, it is important to promote advancement and progress, and it is important to multiply these capabilities as much as you can among your human capital members.

 

The Capital Value of the Human Element is the entire investment in the endeavor.

Avoid Single Points of Risk

 

No business model is guarantee of success. Only humans dare to guarantee things, knowing that there are no guarantees for anything. The only guarantee in business is that risk will be ever-present.

 

Some people think because he or she is the only person that can perform well a specific task, because it is difficult, or requires and advanced level of skill, or otherwise they are the only ones capable to execute such task, they have achieved job security. This can’t be farther from reality! As a business owner or responsible manager of an industry, you can not bet the future of the enterprise in one single point. If that employee becomes sick, or goes on vacations, or dies, then the industry stops. Ridiculous! If that “critical employee” decides to ask for more money or other benefits, he or she will hold the company hostage until the demands are satisfied. Ridiculous! If you are the only one able to perform certain tasks in a company, you are at the highest risk to be eliminated as soon as possible if not before. And this includes the entrepreneur.

 

Make sure your team is interchangeable, capable, well trained, and everyone of its members is taken care of. Good management and good care of the human capital can be de most decisive and accelerating reason for success or failure. Always consider making available prospects for growth and opportunity for your work force.

 

Our glorious US Marines are lethally effective in their indivisible team cohesion. Any member of the team can and will perform the other member’s duties at any time and with the same efficacy, they work together, they support each other, they relay blindly on each other, they all fight for the common goal, and they deliver. This is a perfect example of the ideal strength for a human capital team. Turn your human capital into a Business Marines Team.

The Perfect Business Model

 

The perfect business model is your own business model. Think about it. You will give birth to this baby in any and each way you want this business to be. You will plan every piece of it, maneuver every decision, design every strategy, define each goal and purpose, architect your human capital, and impregnate your business plan with your ideas, wishes, desires, objectives, output, and imagination. You have the exceptional opportunity to create the perfect business model for your own business.

 

In order to accomplish this, you must honestly apply sound business principles, market knowledge, and experience. You need to bring to existence a solid, cohesive, and well organized management team (human capital) to help you to fill all the blanks within the lack of knowledge and expertise you might have. You will not find honesty, loyalty, or responsibility in any market, product, or service. These virtues can only be provided and embraced by your human team, and if you are the chief leader of your human team, you must lead with those principles deeply rooted in your conduct first.

 

Your business model is not a logistic regression where you can predict the probabilities of success of your venture, but a carefully crafted document, a detailed roadmap, a planned strategy, a calculated input and output, a blueprint of the market, a tactical assessment of the risks, an archetype configuration for human capital, a powerhouse for accomplishment, an exact compass for direction, a financial chronograph, and your legitimate keystone for success. Design it well!

 

Perhaps we all need to be a little like Pedro, but carrying our business endeavor preparation to the next higher, logical steps, and turn it into an innovative Business Concept, a solid Business Model, and an accomplished Business Plan.

Quenching of America’s Entrepreneurial Spirit

The following is a guest post fromĀ Brabble Director of Business Development Patrick Mackaronis.

In America we pride ourselves on our freedoms. The great American dream tells the world we are the land where hard work can obtain a successful life. It is a fact that the poorest Americans have higher living standards than scores of people in third world countries around the world so we are indeed a land in which to prosper. This is a country built by hard labor and enterprising minds. Inventors and small business men worked diligently to make America the super power it has become. Individual spirit and drive made up the country’s unstoppable spirit of moving forward doing things better and faster than ever before. However, government regulations and big box retailers have quenched the entrepreneurial spirit and made it more challenging than ever for an individual to realize the great American dream of becoming a self made success and sent them to the time clock to follow the orders of managers.

In India Wal-Mart sits poised at the doors begging for entrance which at least for the foreseeable future has been denied in their original form. They have entered under another name as a wholesale bargain center selling to retailers but not to consumers, in the way that Sam’s club does here in the states. The reason why India has not slung the doors wide open for the retail giant is for the protection of their vendor’s who would not be able to compete with it. When looking at the Indian government’s actions and the laws they produce to protect their local vendors the natural question becomes why it is our government does not offer protection to small businesses. The resounding answer from those who tend to hate big government would have to include statements on free enterprise and fears of the government over stepping their bounds by entering into the private owned businesses. However those statements would be ignoring the fact the government is already heavily involved in every industry by heavily regulating every step of production, delivery, sale, and use of any product you can think of. Perhaps to an extend of regulating the small business out of business by driving cost to meet government regulation to the point of outrageous expectation for a small business trying to compete with retail giants.

While the government tends to over regulate the small business owner they turn a blind eye to the corporate giant’s who step all over the smaller competitors. These retail giants rob consumers of choices by forcing producers to cut corners and streamline production at the cost of quality and variety. Consumer’s are trained to think cheaper is better and quality is a luxury that can’t be afforded by the average family. Consumers are challenged with marketing, packaging, and display tricks that are designed to make it impossible for the best deal to be found. All of these tactics hurt not only the consumer of goods but make it next to impossible for the small business owner to draw the weary consumers into their shops without the smoke and mirror tactics. When you take into consideration the way the cards are stacked against the entrepreneur who wants to try and start a business from scratch the overall view can be discouraging. Whereas other countries such as India have took steps to protect their smaller business people it appears that the green fields of America have been left to the wolves.

Understandably persons will argue that regulations are meant to protect the consumer and the health of our environment. All regulations are not bad, it is over regulating that is the problem. For example while it is helpful for health inspectors to visit the local eatery to ensure foods are being served in a safe clean environment, the equipment regulations are often so expensive to meet that mom and pop eateries are becoming a thing of the past. If a mom and pop eatery can keep foods in safe temperature zones using cheaper equipment they should be allowed to serve their food. The regulation oversteps safety and declares only the more expensive commercial grade food equipment is acceptable even though we as consumers eat daily food prepared on standard equipment. Lofty regulations squash many entrepreneurial spirits who can’t raise the money to buy high dollar commercial equipment but can produce a quality product that given the option many consumers would safely purchase and consume.

The entrepreneurial spirit of American’s has suffered many blows including overly regulated business practices, high dollar marketing schemes by larger retailers and training through repetition to the American people that cheapness is preferable to quality. Even though a highly crafted piece of furniture may last it’s purchaser a life time overwhelmingly Americans are choosing to buy cheaply made furniture that will need to be replaced many times over during their lifetime. Choosing to pay less upfront can cost more over a period of time. In countries where vegetable vendors, clothes makers, and bakers still offer their products in open air street markets there are families who pass down their skills to their children and provide for their families through their own entrepreneurial efforts. Globalization could threaten these countries entrepreneurial spirits as large retailers move in and take over if individual countries do not protect their people as India has done. On the other had perhaps the information age that has came along with globalization will give a view to us in America that will cause us to demand protection for our own entrepreneurs. One can only hope that the result of that would result in revival of the entrepreneurial spirit in America. Additionally benefits would include an enhancement of our cultural experiences with an explosion of individual enterprises popping up on every corner.