Lessons for the Small Business from Avatar: Trends and Growth Lead to Change, a Closed Mind May Lead to Failure

ShowAs the story line unfolds, there are those who insist on doing things the way they have always been done. Closed minds lead to the inability to see possibilities. These individuals are incapable of seeing past the norm and accepting anything different.

As in most story lines, there is the other side. There are those who seek to understand, and are willing to open their minds to new possibilities. They are willing to consider something other than the norm.

How does that apply to the business world?

Building something from the ground up can have an emotional impact on individuals. When a business owner struggles to bring an idea into reality, they can fall in love with that creation. As the business fulfills the needs of a family, putting food on the table and sending the kids to school, a bond is established. That bond, between the creator and the created, is easy to see but difficult to break.

In some cases, it is a sad fact that a business will go under, due to the lack of an open mind and a willingness to accept change. Accepting change can become easier, if the creator of the business is willing to see the creation as something that can grow and change as needed.

While small business trends tend to change from year to year, it is a good idea to stay on top of the current issues which small business owners may face. Subscribing to Business Growth Trends will allow for access to this type of information. Along with information concerning business trends; this website also includes information on business resources and financial information.

Below are a few ways to help establish an open mind and ensure a better a transition toward growth and new industry trends.

Attend Trade Shows

Stay on top of the newest trends in the industry. Attend trade shows and conventions. This a great way to discover what others are doing, and learn more about new technology that may be making an impact on a particular customer market.

Read and Subscribe

Subscribe to magazines and other trade publications. Don’t stop there, locate the most popular websites within a trade industry and register to receive updates. This allows for information to flow into the business on a daily basis.

Join Associations

Opening a business is just the beginning. As the world changes, so does the technology within the business world. By joining associations and organizations that are dedicated to certain industries, a business owner is more likely to learn about the newest and hottest trends.

Continue to Learn

It is important to realize that as technology and knowledge increase, the business owner must keep up. Make education within your field a priority. According to Connie Podesta, many choose not to change out of fear. Reading her article, Why Accepting Change is Vital to Your Professional Success. can be a step toward having an open mind.

Bring New Ideas and Services to Customers

By putting a company at the front line of new products and services, a business owner is able to increase the value offered to customers. Customer loyalty and confidence can be built when new advancements in a business, create a greater perceived value.

Be Willing to Educate

Although new ideas and new ways of doing things are easier to accept for some people, there are those that have difficulty accepting change. Take the time to educate your customers about the reason for any changes. Allow them to voice their concerns or uneasiness, while reassuring them that the business has not changed, only the way some things are done.

Have an Attitude of Growth

With new trends, and cutting edge technology, may come some very expensive changes. An attitude of growth will allow a professional to see beyond the current customer base and recognize the needs of the community. There are always ways to improve. Reach out to the community, letting people know about the positive changes made and how they may be served by them.

Accept Change with an Open Mind

Having a closed mind does not allow for personal growth, or the acceptance of change. Looking beyond today and into tomorrow will allow for any needed changes. Competition can be difficult, economic downturns are not easy, but there is always room for an open mind.

Evaluate Business Trends Today

Take the time to evaluate the business as it is today. The evaluation process will be different for every field of interest. However there are a few steps that can lead to being better prepared.

  • What changes have come within this field and how have they impacted the business as a whole?
  • What changes can be seen on the horizon?
  • Will the changes make an old system obsolete?
  • Will the changes create new opportunities and a new customer base?
  • What type of education will be needed to stay on top of the changes that are coming?
  • Will the business be able to survive without incorporating the changes that are coming?
  • If so, how will it impact the business as a whole?

Change does Come

As the movie Avatar points out, changes do come. How a business deals with change and the impact, will have a lot to do with the survival of that business. Although survival may be important, economic stability is extremely important. A business that is merely surviving may be a business that needs to evaluate where it stands.

Owning a business can be a great experience. A successful business will continue to grow with the trends. The way it has always been done, may not always be the answer to growth. Look to the future, with an open mind and willingness to learn and grow.

Business Ideas: Hobby Services: Service Industry Business Ideas

YogaIn today’s marketplace, convenience is key. Consumers want what they need, when they need it, without having to rearrange their busy schedules to get it done. That’s partially why service businesses are always in hot demand – if they can find a niche market and then serve it well.

What follows is a list of some service industry business ideas that will get your creative juices flowing while providing you with several opportunities to explore, brainstorm and research further to see if one of these business ideas is the perfect entrepreneurial venture for you.

Business Idea: Searching for Collectibles and Antiques

This is a highly specialized niche market, but for the right collector, it’s a business idea that can provide great financial rewards. For those who already have a specific hobby they are passionate about collecting – such as stamps, paintings, comic books, dolls and antique scales – opening up a service business that caters to similarly inclined shoppers may be a logical step. Continue doing what you normally do to find the items you collect (garage sale hopping, flea markets, eBay) but instead of merely looking for yourself, look for your clients, too. Finding clients isn’t that challenging either, as you’ll probably already know where people with similar interests spend their time: reading collectors magazines, in the eBay forums, searching the Internet and in flea markets themselves.

Business Idea: Cleaning Golf Clubs

If you are already an avid golfer, then you know how important it is to keep your golf clubs clean. Yet, how often to you actually make the time to keep them in tip top shape? That’s where a golf club cleaning service can step in. By giving clients a very specific service – cleaning their golf clubs – while they get changed after a game or at any other time that is convenient to them – you are saving them time, energy and probably the cost of a new set of clubs after their poorly maintained ones have rusted, pitted or become discolored with use.

Business Idea: Yoga, Pilates or Self-Defense Instructor

Although the services are quite different, the intention is the same: offer clients a way to get into shape or defend themselves by showing and guiding them in ways to take control of their bodies and minds. Your schedule should be somewhat flexible for these types of business ideas, since your intended audience will likely require classes at varying times, and you’ll need to take some intensive training before teaching anything at all. But once you’ve completed those necessary steps, contact either other instructors in town to ask them how and where they began teaching, or make a call to your local recreation center and find out what you’ll need to do to use their facilities for a course.

Business Idea: Seamstress

For those who already love to sew and have all of the necessary items in place, starting a sewing business is quite straightforward. Put up some flyers around town announcing your services, contact local tailors and dry cleaning companies to let them know you’ll work with for them as a contractor, and get a cell phone that is only used for work purposes. Then, create a list of set prices for all different kinds of sewing needs such as hemming, repairs or creating a prom dress from scratch. Before you know it, your phone will be ringing off the hook.

Business Idea: Personal Chef

There are as many opportunities for providing cooking services to clients in your community as there are types of cuisine to choose from. Elderly clients may want someone to come into their home and cook for them, and young families overloaded with responsibilities may cherish a couple of hours of cooking time off from a pro. Expecting parents may like to sit down with a chef to work out meals they can prepare in advance and freeze for when the baby comes, and busy singles who travel often may lust after a home-cooked meal. You could even teach a specific kind of cooking that normally takes a bit to master, right in the intended chef’s home. How’s that for convenience?

What is a Social Entrepreneur?

SocialWhat is a Social Entrepreneur?
Defining the term ‘social entrepreneur ‘ is no easy task. Simply put, social entrepreneurs are those who identify social issues and use enterprise to help solve those issues. Social entrepreneurs act as agents of change and transformation for whatever problem they are trying to solve. This definition is clearly broad and open to interpretation.

Social entrepreneurship sounds a lot like non-profit work, but the two are actually quite different. Typical non-profits focus on immediate efforts, often taking on the task of disaster relief or providing immediate aid to those in need. Social entrepreneurship, on the other hand, involves trying to create long-term change, such as creating work opportunities for women in third-world countries to help eliminate poverty. Social entrepreneurship is not limited to the non-profit world; many for-profit ventures exist as well.

Famous Social Entrepreneurs
What, exactly, a social entrepreneur does is perhaps best illustrated by some of today’s most well-known social entrepreneurs. The founding father of microfinance, Muhammad Yunus, started Grameen Bank in Bangladesh in 1976. Yunus was teaching economics when a terrible famine hit the region, leaving people starving to death in the streets. His solution was to provide collateral-free microloans to the very poorest people in the area, allowing the poor to fund their own small businesses and stop the cycle of poverty. The result has been nothing short of incredible; with $4.7 billion dollars provided to 4.4 million families in Bangladesh, Yunus has kept millions of people out of poverty. Today more than 250 other institutions follow the same mico-lending model.

A second notable social entrepreneur is Mimi Silbert, founder of the Delancey Street Foundation. Delancey Street rehabilitates former felons and drug addicts and teaches them to live productive and crime-free lives. Everyone who enters Delancey Street spends up to four years in the facility earning at least a high school diploma and training for a particular occupation. Delancey Street is 65% funded by the businesses operated by its graduates, including Delancey Street Moving Company and Delancey Street Restaurant. By taking former criminals off the street and giving them a fresh start, Mimi Silbert helps to end the cycle of crime that can often last a lifetime.

Interested in Becoming a Social Entrepreneur?
If you are interested in learning more about social entrepreneurship, many colleges now offer both undergraduate and graduate studies in the area. Check the colleges near you to see if any courses are offered.

Don’t want to head back to school? If you have a way to solve a social problem, you can start your own social enterprise at any time. Starting a social enterprise will vary in complexity depending on the task at hand, non-profit or for-profit status, and funding. Seek the guidance of friends, business professionals and fellow social entrepreneurs, and you could be on your way to changing the world in no time.

Planning your web site

HtmlBuilding your web site is a serious time commitment. Each business is unique, and therefore has unique needs for a web site. With this in mind, I will generalize the process to building your site by breaking it down into three stages: the Planning Stage, the Building Stage, and the Maintenance Stage. This article discusses the Planning Stage.

Stage 1: Planning it all out

Ultimately, everything we do in relation to our businesses comes down to making a living for ourselves. You know, that “bottom line” thing. While we enjoy our work and enjoy our independence, as business-owners we always need to remember that our time is important–at least, it is to us! Because our time is so valuable, careful planning will save you a lot of trouble in the long run.

Generally, when planning your site, you’ll need to do the following:

  1. Decide your web site’s purpose. (Why do you want a web site?)
  2. Collect/create the information you want to include on your web site.
  3. Map out your web site.
  4. Pick your programs. (Which web creation tools will you use?)

Purpose: Why do you want a web site?

You may have a number of reasons for building your own web site, and you should try to list all of them. (I recommend actually writing them down, and keeping this list for future reference.) Your purpose(s) will depend largely on the type and size of your business, and might include the desire to advertise your business, to sell your products, to reach a larger customer base, and so forth.

Collecting your information

You’ll need to decide on the information to include in your web site. I suggest starting off with a brain-storming session that includes you, and possibly a few of your key employees (if you have them). Think about the questions your customers ask you most often, about the products/services you want to highlight, and about the information that is most related to your purposes (see #1 above).

Mapping out your web site

This stage is also known as “story-boarding,” and is similar to the processes used in film-making, advertising, and other similar fields. The idea is to build a map of your site that you can use to visualize the entire system you’re working on. I find maps useful when working on web sites because they allow me to see my progress–to keep track of what I’ve finished and what I still need to do.

Selecting your tools

The tools you use to build a web site are entirely up to you because there are so many available. Generally speaking, you’ll need an HTML editor (text or “WYSIWYG“*), an FTP program, a graphics editing program, and a server on which to house your web files. Some HTML editors come with the FTP and graphics functions within them. Most newer computers come with all the programs you’ll need.

Shock Disinfection of Your Well: Eliminate Harmful Well Bacteria

The following is a guest post from Houston, Texas real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles.

I have stated in multiple articles that well supplied water in rural residential properties can be a source of concern. Having water contaminated with E. Coli or Coliform bacteria can drastically impact the sale of your home, by making the water unsafe to drink.

Most municipalities have testing facilities so you can check prior to the sale of your home to see if the water is safe. Regardless of whether you are selling or not it is a good idea to test your water supply twice a year.

Testing will return a numeric result based PPM (Parts Per Million) found in the tested sample of E. Coli and Coliform bacteria. The preferred reading is 0 E. Coli and 0 Coliform but up to 5 PPM Coliform is considered a safe level.

There is a method that doesn’t require the expensive addition of adding a reverse osmosis system or UV system to clean the bacteria out of the water supply before it exits the tap. This method is called Shock Disinfections or chlorinating your well.

Shocking your well supply is recommended if,

  • Lab results indicate a level of bacteria,
  • After you’ve replace or repaired the pump,
  • When the water distribution system is opened for repairs
  • Flood waters have reached the well supply and possibly contaminated the system

Shock Chlorination is recommended in these circumstances to ensure that bacteria contamination is controlled.

In order to shock your well there are a few simple steps you must take,

  1. Fill a five-gallon container with fresh water. If concentrated chlorine comes in contact with your skin or eyes use fresh water to flush the effected areas for several minutes. If contact is with your eyes go to the nearest medical facility for treatment immediately.
  2. Next ensure the well construction is able to prevent the direct entry of contaminates. Fin and eliminate any direct sources of contamination.
  3. Disinfect any well components that could be a source of future contamination.
  4. Isolate portions of the well system that could be degraded by the Chlorine solution.
  5. Mix sufficient chlorine-based chemical (I personally use household bleach) with the well water to create a solution containing 200 milligrams per litre (mg/l), of chlorine throughout the entire system. So mixture of ½ gallon of bleach to 5 gallons of fresh water is usually adequate.

Drain as much water from the system as possible. A good rule of thumb is to run the taps in the house until you no longer smell bleach in the water supply.

Research Tax Liens

TaxWhen the owner of a piece of real property fails to pay the proper amount of taxes due, the governmental entity to which the taxes are owed places a claim, or tax lien, on the property to ensure payment.

The tax liens will allow the taxing authority to sell the property, usually in a public auction and often for the taxes owed or even less. This creates an opportunity for a person with the time to properly research this issue and the willingness to invest a little cash to obtain real estate at bargain basement prices.

Researching a tax lien is easy, once you determine the area in which you want to find a property being sold for a tax lien. All, or at least a significant portion, of the taxes on which the lien is based will likely be local taxes, so a visit with the taxing authorities in that area is the best place to start. Typically, tax liens are imposed by city or county governments, as well as school districts.

An internet search using the name of the area and the terms “tax assessor, “taxing authority,” “property taxes”, and “tax liens” and “property tax,” will provide a good starting point. In addition, the courthouse and the sheriff’s office normally have bulletin boards on which they lst dates and times of tax lien auctions.

Once the taxing authority is located, they should be contacted first by email or telephone. Upon request, the entity will provide either a list available in their office or a location online where the properties to be sold are listed.

Once a property is located that has potential, the prospective buyer should visit the property to determine the condition as well as any other characteristics which might play into a decision to bid on the property.

Since the buyer is not likely to want to invest the money into a full, professionally done title search on a piece of property which is not yet purchased, a quick title search in the county land records should be done. This may reveal any obvious problems with the property, such as easements that are undesirable, lack of access, and any federal liens. If the buyer is unable to conduct these cursory title searches themselves, many paralegals will do this for a small fee, or an attorney can be hired to conduct the search or, even better in the long run, teach the buyer how to do it themselves.

While at the property records office, notes should be made on the legal and physical descriptions of the property. These offices often have plat maps showing the location of the property as well. Property in the western United States use a block, grid survey system while those in the east, including Texas, use a variety of formats.

The current owner’s contact information will also be available at the office of the taxing authority. Often, a good deal can be struck if a buyer contacts the owner directly, preventing the need for an auction.

Jody Kriss, Embattled Real Estate Developer, Has One Lawsuit (Of Many) Dropped Against Him

It has been over three years since a real estate development consultant accused former business partner Jody Kriss of utilizing mob tactics to put his life in danger. Last week, developer turned Mob informant Sal Lauria withdrew a $5 million lawsuit against Kriss, stating that he wished to move on with his life and distance himself from the scrutiny brought on by connections with President Donald Trump.
Salvatore Lauria, who worked for the Bayrock Group several years ago, sued East River Partners principal Jody Kriss for allegedly putting his life in harm’s way with persistent legal suits against Bayrock themselves. Bayrock Group worked on several Trump-branded developments, including the Trump International in Fort Lauderdale and the Trump SoHo in New York City.
In the lawsuit, Jody Kriss was accused of illegally handing over sealed government files to a lawyer representing mob members who Lauria assisted with putting behind bars. Allegedly, this led to a Mafia member assaulting Lauria in the middle of the day at a restaurant in Brooklyn. According to the lawsuit, the Mafia member then threatened Lauria’s life.
Regardless of these accusations against Jody Kriss, Lauria did not actively pursue this case in court. In March 2016, Erika Edwards, Supreme Court Judge for the state of New York, requested Lauria to respond to discovery requests by April 3, and then to appear for a deposition the following month. On the deadline day, Lauria changed attorneys, filing for extensions on both the deposition and discovery requests.
In an affidavit, Lauria told the courts that he did not wish to further pursue the suit, as the pain Jody Kriss had caused had faded. Salvatore Lauria added that he felt vindicated, as two frivolous lawsuits Jody Kriss had filed against him and hundreds of others (including President Donald Trump) had been dismissed from the courts with prejudice.
“When this action was commenced in 2014, the physical and emotional pain that I was feeling due to the actions of Mr. Kriss was fresher in my mind, and my desire to hold him accountable was stronger than it is now,” Lauria wrote. “My desire to hold him accountable is no longer strong enough to justify the continuing expense and other problems… that continued litigation would entail.”
Lauria also stated that he wished to distance himself from media scrutiny that was amplified by the election of Donald Trump.
Jody Kriss denied Lauria’s claims, stating that the lawsuit’s purpose was only to further damage his spotted reputation, which includes involvement in billion dollar legal suits, a case of child endangerment, unlawful tenant eviction, and potential involvement in a real estate scam led by former NBA star Tate George. Kriss has been accused on multiple occasions of using his affiliations to President Donald Trump to persuade sales and potentially commit fraud.
There have even been allegations of Kriss having connections to the Russian Mafia, and funneling Mafia money through East River Partners to use in real estate transactions. As written in Georgia Today in June 2016:
Kriss’ current financial backing must come from other sources, which, in turn, poses the question that journalists and law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and other countries are trying to answer.

Playing to Your Strengths: How to Make the Most of Your Talent

strYou’re told to play to your strengths, but what are they and how do you do it? Many people are not fully aware of their strengths. When people get feedback about a strength, they often look surprised. They say it is just their job or they ask “Doesn’t everybody do that?” This shows that we discount the things we find easy to do or enjoy doing. Then we assume that everyone can do them. This is poor self-perception if you are overly aware of one or two weaknesses but unaware of your core strengths.

Strong self-confidence is the most important benefit of changing this imbalance so that we are more aware of our strengths. Confidence is our number one strength. Without confidence, we struggle to make full use of our strengths. When we are under pressure, we revert to our natural selves, but if we lack confidence, we freeze and cannot perform. Think of a golfer, baseball pitcher or tennis player who has an abundance of talent but who has lost confidence. These otherwise excellent performers can’t do their stuff if their confidence is lacking.

How to Assess Your Strengths

The first step in assessing your strengths is to determine which ones are most important in your role and your line of work. These are your strategic strengths, the ones most critical for success in your current job or next one. When you have a list of core competencies for the role, list them in order of strength for you from top to bottom. Ask yourself which ones you enjoy using the most and find easiest to use. This is a good way of identifying what you are good at. You could rate yourself on a five point scale for each competency but you might be tempted to give yourself overly high or low scores across the board. It is harder but more accurate to rank order them in a list. If you have some colleagues who know you well and are willing to give you honest feedback, ask them to do the same for you. Keep in mind, however, that they may not know you well enough to assess you accurately. Ask your boss to rate you too. You might include a few blank spaces for your raters to add extra competencies. It also helps to have questions on your feedback form where you ask people to list three things they would like you to start doing, three to stop doing and three to do more of.

How to Play to Your Strengths

If you are a manager whose strengths revolve around product development but you don’t like managing people, then you may simply have to set up a personal development plan for this area. However, if you have weaknesses in budgeting, planning, innovation or strategic thinking, you could delegate some of these tasks. You might cover off innovation and strategic thinking by brainstorming future possibilities with your team. The point is to apply the 80-20 rule. You should spend 80 percent of your time making use of your key strengths. This is just wise investment strategy. You need to invest your resources where you will get the best return.

Cutting Business Expenses in a Hurry: How to Achieve Fast Short Term Cost Reductions in a Company

reductionsWhen a company is having a problem with a drop in sales, or a cash shortfall, management needs to find real reductions in expense. Many strategies will work in a number of industries.

Reducing Salary Cost

In many industries, salary and benefits are major components of expense, up to 80% of total cost of business in some sectors. A reduction in work force (RIF) can reduce cost, but generally takes time to take effect. There can be the immediate cost of severance, outplacement assistance or benefits that delay savings.

A better short term effect is the reduction of hours from full to part time, or cutting the work day, for example from eight hours a day to seven. Lunches can be expanded in order to maintain coverage.

Reducing overtime is a key strategy for immediate savings. Hourly employees, especially those on time clocks can earn incidental overtime, loosely defined as extra tenths or quarters of an hour by clocking in early or out late.

Any kind outside labor, or contract labor should be reviewed. Companies pay a premium for contract labor, and unless the contract stipulates a certain number of hours, these hours can be reduced quickly in a crisis.

Some industries utilize bonuses for coverage or payments for employees to be on-call. These should always be watched closely, and if not needed, can be cut first.

Position controls are listings of employees and positions listing the scheduled hours for an employee. If a position control exists, management should compare the actual worked hours to what is scheduled. They may find that some part-time employees are working full time hours.

Cutting Supply Expense

Another large area of cost in many companies is supply expense. During a major downturn, businesses can save cash by spending down inventories of supplies.

If an item is recognized as inventory on the balance sheet, cutting into inventory will not result in an expense saving, since this will just reduce an asset the next time supplies are inventoried. It will save cash, however, and this generally the most important goal.

If the supply is expensed when purchased, using up excess stock will reduce both general ledger expense and cash outflow.

Reducing Other Expenses

Short-term savings can be achieved by cutting other non-necessary items:

  • Purchased Services – Anything that is bought from vendors outside the company should be questioned. If an service can be brought inhouse using current staff, employees are better utilized and expenses reduced.
  • Travel and Seminar Expense – Cutting education may be a negative in the long run, but surviving to make the long run may require cutbacks. Alternatives such as webinars and distance learning may prove to more efficient and equally valuable.
  • Preventative Maintenance – This tactic may prove to be short-sighted, because not maintaining equipment will be costly later on. It may be necessary to postpone cosmetic repairs or delay others. Equipment that is vital to core operations should be maintained in top working order.

Getting past a difficult period for the company will involve tough choices, but strengthening the business can help the business survive the downturn.

Fostering Team Work: What kind of team do you really want?

teamTeam work is rightly regarded as vital for success at work today. But before you launch into a team building exercise, think carefully about exactly what sort of team work you want. Do people reporting to you need to collaborate to get things done or do they operate autonomously? If the latter, then what cooperation do you need from them? Maybe you just need them to participate more fully in meetings with you. Improving team work must add value to your overall output, not be done just for the sake of it.

If you decide that team work really is critical in your organization, there are 3 key steps you should take. The first is to spend a bit more time together socially, and on a regular basis, so everyone relaxes and gets to know each other. Next, do some analysis of style differences so team members better understand where their colleagues are coming from, what is important to them and how to communicate with them effectively.

The third, and most important, step is to talk through with them what team work should mean in your organization. Everyone in your team should have input into what, for them, counts as good team work. Your team should discuss how they will behave with each other, what type of support and cooperation everyone wants, how they want to communicate and what they want from you. It’s a good idea to agree how you will deal with conflict, how you will deal with criticism nondefensively and how you will foster openness. This means agreeing to thank people for saying unpopular things instead of putting them down or arguing. It’s a matter of defining the success criteria or values you will live by as a team. You should also agree how to measure your performance as a team and how you will reward and celebrate successful team work. To monitor your effectiveness as a team, you might draw up a list of success criteria and assess yourselves as a team against your criteria at least once a quarter, but more often if improving team work is really vital and you have a lot of work to do to reach the level of team performance you need. To change the way your team behaves, it is vital to reward and celebrate team work. The old saying, ‘’you get what you pay for’’ applies here. So, if you constantly reward superstar individual efforts and foster competition between people, that is what you will get, not better team work.