The Reality vs. The Dream of Owning Your Own Business

So many of us dream of owning our own businesses. Even in an economic climate where small businesses are closing at such a rapid rate or even if we are not sure exactly what KIND of business we would like to own and operate, we dream. We might make notes of how we would do things differently if we owned the business or keep a file or notes of types of businesses we would like to own. The first challenge, of course, is to make that dream a reality and THEN comes the challenge of reconciling reality with all those dreams we carried around with us for years!

It can be extremely enlightening to sit down with a small business owner who is 1-2 years into a new business and ask them to share their experiences around “What the reality of owning the business has been like compared to the dream?” You might be surprised at the things they say are much more difficult or much easier than what they had anticipated. Many novice small business owners underestimate the amount of time, effort and resources that will go to initial licensing and getting the business set up and operational. They may think that is just a matter of getting the funding and opening the doors but there are often multiple government agencies and licenses and other details to tend to prior to the business ever making its first dollar.


Others find that the expenses of maintenance, upkeep and replacement of equipment and supplies far surpass what they anticipated. For example, a new small coffee business owner may anticipate the initial cost of acquiring all the equipment to operate but underestimate how much it will cost when things break down or need to be repaired or replaced.


There is a place for those lofty dreams of how fabulous life will be as you serve up plates of food in your own restaurant or build houses or whatever business you dream of owning, but there is also a place for getting down to the gritty details of reality. As you draw up your business plan and organize budgets and details for your future small business, be sure to allow for conversations and preparations for reality as well. Talk to other business owners, ready articles and books and try to anticipate where the challenges, surprise expenses and pitfalls might be in order to have a more realistic expectation of what being a small business owner will entail.

Cost Cutting Tips Yield Greater Profits in Small Business’ First Year

Starting a new business can be scary and many small business owners are challenged to overcome the obstacles of finance and pricing to ensure a profit is returned at the end of the year. If you are starting a new small business this year, it is important to consider some key aspects of pricing and cost cutting techniques to ensure your business finances are protected as much as possible in the first year.

In the first year of your small business, one of the most important aspects of your business structure should be your pricing. To ensure your branding and your business are presenting the best image possible, it should be important that you avoid underpricing your products or services at all cost. Being the least expensive service or product does not mean you will get the best possible customers or the best possible return on your business investment. Therefore, price your business services accordingly, even overpricing if you need to until you have a chance to test the waters in your business vertical.


Another area of concern for many small business in the first year involves the use of print mailers. Because print media is wasting and falling behind to online media advertising, it is recommended that you avoid spending valuable dollars on print mailing and, instead, consider investing your first year business dollars into expenses that are more driven toward a global online market.


Keep in mind that your first year of business will be challenging in terms of time management. Because referrals and loyalty are what will make or break your bsuiness, be sure that you are not spreading your time over too many projects or services and try to focus on the few valued clients you have secured, especially if they will make additional referrals to your business. In the long term, this is how you will build your buisness and prosper into the second year.


Starting a new business can be overwhelming and for many buisness owners many mistakes are made in the first year. Following these tips and advice, you can garner a far better outcome to your business gains or losses as the first year of your business comes to an end. In practicing these techniques, you can overcome your hurdles in the first year and make the second year of your business start off ahead of your strategic business plan development.


Sources: Business Connections, January 2010, p. 15.

How to Beat Recession with Cleaning Business

World recession has led us to realize that having a side business to supplement your income is definitely a good idea. You may sometimes need to supplement your income to get a better standard of living or maybe sometimes you may feel like changing your job. Whatever the situation may be, a cleaning business is just the right thing for you.

If you’re ready to start a cleaning business, here are some tips that can help you get customers even in uncertain and poor economic times. I have a prospering cleaning business that has been running for four years now. It was started during the time when people were keeping a tight hand on their pockets. Therefore, probably I am the best person to suggest tips on how to prosper your cleaning business in hard economic times.


The basic requirement, as in any other business, is to think outside the box. If you ask someone about cleaning business, the first thing that comes to mind is housecleaning. However, if you limit yourself to home cleaning only, you will never be able to go beyond that.


Home cleaning clients provide enough funds for your business, but if you’re willing your business to stay steady then you need to realize that others are failing because their focus is too very narrow. Therefore it is required that you explore other sides of cleaning business.


Some of the ideas you can implement in your cleaning business:

Office cleaning

Windows cleaning

Apartment cleaning

Cleaning when it is like cars, boats, etc

one-time jobs like cleaning of garages or basements

cleaning on certain occasions such as birthday parties or other parties


This list could go on and on and the limit is unknown. You can every time think of something new and supplement your business. I feel that one-time jobs can be quite lucrative. However it is not wise to count on them for your bread-and-butter.


It is also important that you make note of charges taken by your competitors. It may happen that you charge more than your competitors and end up in getting no jobs or lesser jobs than them. You must also take note of whether they charge cancellation fees or any hidden extras. It must also be found that whether they give any discount to their regular clients and whether they charge extra if they have to travel past a certain distance. Knowing the form of payments that they accept may also help you perform better than your competitor in the cleaning business.


The last thing that you should consider when starting a cleaning business is about its marketing. Word of mouth does work here. Another good way to market your cleaning business is by giving classified ads in newspapers and on internet.

The Hardest Part of Owning Your Own Business


The media will present to you a much skewed look at owning your own business because it is either trying to sell you on opening one and buying into that sales pitch or the horrible pitfalls of owning your own business and how their products can help you avoid all of their scare tactics. I have found that the problems as usual lie somewhere in the middle and can be managed if dealt with properly. And these issues are not the kind of exciting issues that make the headlines, so help is not easily found in the main stream venues.

Time Constraints: Ah, the allure of having your own time in your own business, hmmmm, I thought working for someone else was time consuming, until you have your own business, you really don’t get a good clue as to the 24/7 babysitting job you have signed up for. After a certain period of success and some good decisions and good management; you can cut back a bit. But as competitive as business is you do have to keep on your toes or you can become a dinosaur overnight.


Rules and Regulations: Depending on your business there can be so many governmental drawbacks you don’t even get out of the gate or you could have very few. Just know them, not what pertained 5 years ago; it’s up to you to be current.


Employees: Some people can have hundreds of employees and make tons of money with them; some have been sued and lost their entire businesses over 1 or 2 employees. I also know many people who just work by themselves in their business and thrive that way.


Management: If you are a super-duper-cooper manager already, then great; your business will only prosper from your expertise; but if you are not, this is not the playing field to find out, hire someone who can do a better job than you. No matter what widget you are selling or service you are pedaling; bad management will suck your business dry if you don’t keep an eye on it. If you are seeing that as a whole the business is not a well run entity it is time to regroup and find the holes.


Some people take to owning a business like a duck to water. It’s an inborn talent kind of skill, the born entrepreneurs and pioneers of our times. There are those who have worked for mismanaged companies and started their own business to make a better success of the business the way that they could see it could be. As long as you can come up with some formulas to keep your passion or your light shining through the dark times, you know in your heart of hearts whether it is a right decision for you to own your own business.

Take Your Time and Be Patient when Starting Your Own Business

It all starts with an idea. Remember, even though it will be your own business and you will be, in effect, working for nobody but yourself, it must be treated like a real business and taken very, very seriously in order to succeed. So keep in mind that this is your opportunity to actually do something you truly enjoy all day long. The idea can be a hobby, an interest, or even an area where you have just noticed a real need in your community. They possibilities are virtually endless, so focus only on the ones that you are passionate about and you feel you can dedicate yourself to turning into reality.

You will want to begin to build your own business slowly, ensuring that you have a written plan, complete with anticipated dates of achievement for each action step you lay out. It is important for you to go slow so that you can nurture your idea and avoid the frustration that comes with setting unattainable goals for yourself. Some companies fail because they grow too fast and then they can’t deal with the rapid change. Because you are so excited about the prospect of having your own business, the excitement will come through in your voice when you speak about it to potential customers. That is what will sell it initially, and later the reputation of your company and testimonials from satisfied customers will carry the business forward. But you must be cautious in the initial stages when you enjoy some success, as the inclination will be to spend the profits too quickly rather than reinvesting appropriately back to the business. Further, you may be ready to spend limited resources in the company but in places and ways that may be best, as you have failed to do your due diligence. Keep your feet firmly planted and remember that as quickly as you have managed to have these successes you can just as easily lose them and sour yourself for self-employment altogether.


When it comes to getting started, you don’t want to take on a lot of work at once before you are able to learn how to manage the workload. Sure, the excitement will carry you forward at the onset, but you can quickly burn out by taking on more than you can handle before your small business has properly gotten off the ground.


There is a certain element of supply and demand in every business, so be careful to try to balance this aspect of your company. If your community, for example, has no child care program and many working parents, you can consider providing a baby-sitting service. However, although 20 mothers may call you about potential openings, you cannot closely and safely provide care for 20 or more children every day, at least not if you are the sole owner with no employees. Although you will really want to make as much money as possible, you will want to make sure that you do not lower the quality standards of your work. Once you are able to have a good customer base you can then raise the prices and create your supply and demand curves. You will see that this scenario applies no matter what area of business you choose.


Most importantly, you will want to make sure that you have thought everything through before you open the doors to your small business. Do a lot of research on your perceived customers and even more research on your competition in order to ensure your business will run smoothly. What is it that makes these businesses successful? What provides the most satisfaction for customers that will keep them from shopping around for services or products from another company? You may feel rushed for time, but by building your ideas slowly and therefore more thoroughly, your business is more likely to succeed.


Contrary to what you may have heard, it does take money to make money. You will want to make sure that you pay close attention to all of the details of the business and products or services and speak to experts in the field to ensure you are truly spending each dollar wisely. Do not spend more money than you and your family are completely comfortable with spending. Putting additional pressure on yourself and your business to recoup extremely limited resources too quickly is a recipe for failure. Carefully consider all costs before you start the business. Once again, you should always begin small and then slowly build the business. You will find that you can create a strong foundation when you go slowly, and you will find it is just like building a house — it is less likely to crumble when the inevitable storms hit.


Built properly, a business of your own can be not only the ticket to financial freedom, but also the most generous form of inheritance for future generations.


Melissa Burton is a successful home business entrepreneur, owner of She currently mentors hundreds of affiliates in internet marketing and home business setup  amp; management. Sign up now for her free newsletter and join a winning team!

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


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: