How To Negotiate Successfully

Negotiation Secrets

Who among us couldn't stand a little improvement . . . whether in our waist- lines, our wallets or the way we do business? After all, the urge to better yourself is what motivates most business start-ups, so it stands to reason you should constantly seek to improve your business.

But that doesn't always mean working harder; sometimes it just means working smarter. With this in mind, we asked experts for their top tips on doing everything better, from closing the sale to cutting costs. Learn from their words of wisdom--instead of learning the hard way--and you'll soon find business is better than ever.


Effective negotiating skills could be the key to your business success in the '90s and beyond, believes Roger Dawson, a former real estate broker and author of Roger Dawson's Secrets of Power Negotiating (Career Press). But how do you get what you want? Dawson and author Nicole Schapiro (Negotiating for Your Life, Henry Holt and Co.) offer 10 tips that will put you in the driver's seat.

1. Understand the difference between negotiating, bargaining and arguing. "Bargaining is usually tit for tat," says Schapiro. "Arguing is when you're not listening to each other. Negotiation is about the psychology of relationships; it's mutual education."

2. Know what you want. Both parties must be clear about specifically what they are negotiating for. Is it price? A delivery date? Special treatment from a supplier? A combination of all three?

3. Be prepared. Determine what you want, what you are willing to give up and under what circumstances.

4. Consider what the other side wants. In any negotiation, Schapiro contends, people look for four things: control, safety, respect and inclusion. If you fulfill these needs, you will be able to close any deal.

5. Partner with the other side as soon as possible. State the purpose of the negotiation in "we" terms ("We both want to come to a satisfactory agreement on this") rather than "I" terms. This creates trust and the feeling that you are clearly working toward the same goals, says Schapiro.

6. Get the other side to commit to a position first. If you don't, cautions Dawson, you are at a serious disadvantage. It's common for customers to say, "Give us your best price, and we'll tell you whether we'll take it." In this instance, remain noncommittal by saying, "In most cases, XX price is the best we can do. However, if you make me a proposal, I'll see what I can do for you."

7. Use a vague higher authority. Even as a business owner, Dawson says, you can often negotiate better deals by delegating decisions to someone else. If you're not satisfied with an offer, say something like, "Let me check with my marketing people."

8. Ask for more than you expect to get. After all, you just might get it. This also gives you a negotiating range because you can always come down in price, but you can't go up.

9. Have other options, and be prepared to walk away from the negotiations. If you're negotiating an equipment purchase, for example, Dawson suggests researching two other pieces of equipment you would be just as happy with.

10. Maintain a sense of humor.

Raising Money For Your Business

How To Raise Money For Your Business

"Stop wasting time whining that your bank won't lend you money," says Graeme Howard, an investment banker in Rock Hall, Maryland. "Take a walk through your balance sheet to figure out precisely where there is room for creative financing." Here, Howard offers a few suggestions.

1. Ride that float. You can successfully keep a negative balance in your checkbook, Howard says--and, by doing so, gain access to more money than you really have. The key is staying one step ahead of your bank's payment of the checks you write. "There's simply no reason to keep extra money in a bank," contends Howard.

2. Set up a bonded warehouse. If you need capital for inventory, Howard recommends setting up what is known as a bonded warehouse on your property. "The inventory is maintained on your property but continues to be owned by the vendor, and you are not invoiced for it until it leaves the warehouse," he says.

3. Tap friends for unfinanced receivables. Selling receivables to a third-party factor is old hat for many. Typically, a secured lender will advance 50 percent to 80 percent of your receivables. Then, says Howard, tap friends for an advance on the remaining 20 percent to 50 percent. "You will get a yes fairly often," Howard says, "because you're not simply holding out your hand for a loan, and the risk is fairly low."

4. Go to a venture leasing company. The difference between these companies and traditional equipment lessors, says Howard, is venture leasing companies will "take a risk on a semicreditworthy company in exchange for higher rates and some form of equity participation in your business." If you need office equipment, they're out there looking for deals.

5. Move in with a friend. If you need office or factory space, "move into someone else's," says Howard. "It's foolish to add to your own [facility] when there are so many companies out there with excess capacity."

6. Finance prepaid expenses. "Business insurance usually is paid in advance for the full year," says Howard. Ask your agent for the name of a company that finances insurance premiums. One of two favorable results will occur, according to Howard: "They'll either give you the name of a company or finance it themselves by changing their billing plan."

7. Sell rights. If you have a proprietary technology, process or product, Howard recommends selling the rights in other parts of the world. "If you're never going to sell your product or service in Argentina," he says, "you might as well sell those rights to someone who will pay you cash for them."

8. Ask for extensions. Moving over to the right-hand side of the balance sheet, where the liabilities are, Howard suggests asking creditors for extensions. "Some people will say no," he says, "but others will say yes."

9. Sell equity. Heading south on the balance sheet into the shareholder equity section raises the specter of selling a part of your company. An enterprise's potential is worth something, and this value can be sold to investors who want to cash in on your future growth.

10. Analyze yourself. Get a pencil, pad and an Annual Statement Study from Robert Morris Associates, a commercial lender in Philadelphia that provides information on how to compare your company with others in your industry. "This will either give you solid evidence that you are a good credit risk and deserve a loan," says Howard, "or tell you in a New York minute why you need to apply yourself to steps one through nine."

Keeping and Attracting Employees

How To Maintain Loyal Employees

Want more specifics about attracting and keeping workers? Check out these expert tips:

1. Sell job applicants on working for you. Desirable job applicants usually get multiple job offers. Up your chances of winning the best workers by using the interview to sell them on your company, says Roger E. Herman, an Akron, Ohio, management consultant and author of Keeping Good People (Oakhill Press). "You'll hire more of the applicants you want if you take time to tell them why your company is right for them," Herman says.

2. Know your mission. The more dramatically you state your business's mission--whether it's to make the world's best bagel or to outperform Wal- Mart--the easier it will be to hire and retain good employees, according to Charles Garfield, a management consultant in Oakland, California, and author of Second to None (Avon Publishing). "Employees want to know why they are working so hard," Garfield says. "The mission [statement] tells them." Bonus: Being part of a business on a mission is exciting for most workers.

3. Get your name in the local newspaper. People want to work for businesses they have heard about, so getting local publicity can be a big plus in recruiting staff, says Winning. Just a little ink will win you visibility and enhanced credibility with prospective employees.

4. Offer benefits. Many small businesses scrimp on benefits. Big mistake. "You won't attract quality workers if you offer nothing. You don't have to match what big corporations offer, but cover the basics," says Winning, who considers health insurance and paid vacations mandatory.

5. Give employees the right tools. "Without the proper equipment, employees can't perform to their or your expectations," says Mary D. Lee, a performance consultant with Creative Courseware Inc. in Kansas City, Missouri. Don't pinch pennies on computers, photocopiers, phones and the like. The money you save on equipment may be spent replacing lost workers.

6. Give regular feedback. "Employees want to hear how they are doing, and they really value pats on the back," says Lee. Research is emphatic that one of the best--and cheapest--motivators is sincere, specific praise for a job well done. So when workers perform, tell them!

7. Train for success. "A terrific way to reward workers--and benefit the com- pany--is to invest in them by paying for training," says Christopher Hegarty, a Novato, California, management consultant. Training pays off by boosting loyalty and job performance.

8. Match the worker with the job. Whenever possible, Lee urges, "put workers on tasks they want to do and are good at." The payoff is a happier worker--and better work.

9. Let workers design the work. "Whenever a worker can choose how to do a job, let him. It substantially raises satisfaction," says Hank Karp, a management consultant in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

10. Give bonuses. Money talks when it comes to keeping high-performing employees, and the best way to reward them is with bonuses, says N. Elizabeth Fried, a Dublin, Ohio, compensation consultant. "When employees are performing at high levels, they'll prosper--and so will the business."

Effective Cost Cutting

How To Cut Costs In Your Business

"Don't wait until you're in trouble to cut costs," says Marge Lovero, president of the Entrepreneurial Center Inc. in Purchase, New York. "Cost-cutting should be an ongoing process, built into the framework of your business." Here are 10 proven tips to help:

1. Review your production methods monthly. "Routinely analyze your production methods, looking for ways to reduce costs and improve productivity," advises John Mullins, assistant professor of marketing at the University of Denver. "[Cost-cutting] may require scrapping present equipment and purchasing a new model to save money in the long run."

2. Eliminate marginally profitable products and markets. If a product isn't selling, find out why. Is it the product, or is it the market you're trying to reach? If it's the product, improve it or eliminate it, says Mullins. If it's the market, "cut your losses and concentrate your energy on markets with growth potential," he says. Concentrating on winners trims expenses.

3. Sell excess inventory. The longer inventory sits, the more it costs you--and the less likely you are to get rid of it. "Clean house regularly," says Mullins. "Better to take losses on aging inventory than to have it eat up space that could be used for profit-making products."

4. Pare payroll. It's no fun terminating loyal employees, but "lean and mean is the only way to survive in this tough marketplace," says Lovero. The best tactic: Don't overstaff in the first place. Thoroughly assess your needs before hiring full-timers, and you shouldn't have to fire.

5. Outsource whenever possible. "Why do something yourself if it can be done better and cheaper on the outside?" asks George Howick, director of the Management Center at Bowling Green State University in Bowling Green, Ohio. Look at the numbers and see how you can save money while still keeping tight reins on essential operations.

6. Improve efficiency by getting technologically up to speed. If you're a technological Neanderthal, step into the '90s. "Why pay an accountant a monthly fee to keep your books when, in many cases, you can do it yourself with user-friendly accounting software?" says Lovero. "Just punch in the right numbers, and the software does the rest." There's inexpensive software for almost every business function.

7. Buy prudently. Comparison shop suppliers and vendors. "Find out the best times to buy. It pays to wait and make big purchases then," advises Lovero. "Also take advantage of volume discounts."

8. Confine buying to a few suppliers. Show partiality to a few vendors, and you're in a good position to get better prices and terms.

9. Watch petty cash expenditures. Paper clips, paper, envelopes, stamps and daily mailings add up. The average small business spends thousands of dollars on such items each year. "Apply the same cost-cutting brakes you apply in other areas of your business," says Lovero. "First, figure out what you need; then determine whether you're overpaying." Consider making bulk purchases at discount office supply outlets.

10. Involve employees in cost-cutting programs. "Just as you reward employees for exceptional performance, create an award system for great cost-cutting ideas or campaigns," says Lovero. "The reward could be anything from cash or dinner out to a weekend vacation."

Secrets on Closing a Sale

How To Make A Sale

When I entered the selling profession 25 years ago, I had no idea how to close a sale. Now, after years in the sales trenches, I've learned to follow my instincts, use common sense, and simply ask the prospect to tell me the truth. Here are my 10 best ways to close a sale:

1. Prepare well in advance, and you'll close effortlessly. Create a pre-close questionnaire, including as many questions as you can think of that the prospect may ask. For example: Is your product as good a value as the com- petition's? Be sure you can back up your reply in a way that doesn't knock the competition but exhibits impressive knowledge of both the competitor's product and your own.

2. Assume closing the sale is good for both you and the customer. As the closing process unfolds, a feeling should materialize of "There is no turning back. I have created so much desire in the customer, it would be cruel to stop now."

3. Create opportunities for prospects to disclose objections. Say: "Is this price out of the ballpark?" The more prospects trust you, the more likely they are to confess their true objections. Until they confess, you cannot close the sale.

4. Team close. Your past satisfied customers are more than happy to help you clinch the sale. Tell the prospect: "Don't just take my word for it. You deserve to hear it straight from the source--a current customer. Give them a call this morning."

5. Create urgency. Caution: Don't play games. When you tell a prospect you have people waiting in the wings to buy, you'd better be telling the truth.

6. Cut to the chase. Ask direct questions: "Are you getting the right answers from me to help you come to some conclusions?" "What kind of budget are we working with?"

7. Listen for the close. Sometimes it happens in silence. All the questions have been answered. Don't break the spell with meaningless conversation. Say, "This is exciting." Then begin to write the order.

8. When you can't close, ask for a confession. When out of the blue a prospect becomes resistant to buy, the hard sell is not the answer. Take all the pressure off and say, "Based on our discussions, I assumed you were ready to make a decision. If that's not the case, it won't be the end of the world for either of us. Feel free to tell me your thoughts. What direction do you want to go in?" (Say nothing until the prospect responds.)

9. Close on the relationship, not the product. Here's my favorite closing script: "Certainly it would make no sense for me to recommend you purchase something you will someday regret. It would damage our relationship and my credibility--two things that mean more to me in the long run than this sale. I am so sure that someday you will thank me that I can only recommend we move forward on this. Shall we proceed with the paperwork?"

10. Communicate a passionate belief in your product or service. If there is no gap between your inner belief and the outer language you use to close, that alignment produces a natural confidence and a strong presence that inspires the customer to buy. (Daniel Kennedy)

How To Make An Irresistible Print Ad

Create A Winning Print Ad

The following 10 pointers assume you've already addressed a simple, but very important, prerequisite: identifying the right publication with the right audience for your ad. Although that seems like a no-brainer, you'd be surprised how failing to meet that requirement has derailed many an otherwise great piece of advertising.

1. Create a headline "to die for." This is the most important part of an ad, bar none. It must be compelling enough to grab the reader's attention as he or she "surfs" through the publication. How can you stop people in their tracks? Appeal to the reader's self-interest, promising to improve his or her life in some important way.

2. Avoid headline clich[Theta]s; use unexpected words instead. It helps to use a word or words not usually seen in advertisements. For example, instead of calling your sale a "Spring Sale," why not call it a "Spring Price Thaw"? I call such approaches "speed bumps" that get the reader's attention. Another example: (before) "Lose weight without dieting"; (after) "Lose weight on strawberry shortcake."

3. Support the headline with a strong subhead. This is typically a sentence in boldface type that follows the headline and adds a little more information. It's an important element because even if people don't read the fine print, they're usually willing to scan headlines and subheads to get the gist of your message. So use these two elements to communicate the essence of your sales pitch while "teasing" the audience enough to read further. For example, the dieting headline above might have a subhead like this: "Discover how easy it can be to lose 10 pounds in 10 days and still eat the foods you love."

4. Use an arresting visual. Support the headline and subhead with a complementary--and, ideally, arresting--photo or illustration. Again, aim for the unexpected. For example, a dry cleaner could trumpet, "We specialize in spot removal" in an ad using a cartoon of a spotless leopard trying to cover up as if naked. If your ad is small, an interesting border treatment can make it stand out visually.

5. Use direct-response elements. Unless you simply want to build name recognition and not get an immediate response to your ad (perish the thought!), you need to add elements that motivate a response. A prize drawing can increase retail traffic and also give you a database of names to mail to. A free bonus of some kind--for example, a bottle of special spot cleaner as a gift to offer your rug-cleaning clients--can differentiate you from the competition and get people to try your product or service. A free publication on "after-care" of any home or business service can be an incentive, too. Free information can generate leads if it has a high perceived value.

6. Sell with testimonials. What you say about your product can never carry as much weight as what satisfied customers say about it. So always try your darnedest to include at least one or two testimonial quotes--including the person's name--in your ad. (Ask permission first, of course.)

7-10. Use YOU, YOU, YOU, YOU through and through. You can't say "you" too often. Addressing the reader as "you" throughout your ad elicits far more attention than talking about what "we"--meaning your company--can do. Let's face it: By constantly referring to "you," you'll be talking about the reader's favorite subject.

Secrets on Getting Organized

Secrets on Being Organized

Getting organized is easy for some people, while others struggle to set up files, plan each day, and find what they need when they need it. These 10 tips will help you save time and improve your productivity.

1. Take a close look at your office, and remove anything that is not used for business. Even if you are using part of a guest bedroom or den as an office, make sure everything in your "office" is business-related.

2. Take control of your day by using a daily, or at least weekly, to-do list. It provides an overview of what to expect each day or week and gives you time to make any changes in advance. Determine whether a paper-based system, electronic organizer or computer program best fits your needs; then find the right system for you.

3. Choose an office arrangement that lets you reach everything you need in seconds. Use a table next to or near your desk to hold your computer, printer, fax and telephone so your desk is free for you to handle paperwork and projects.

4. Resist the urge to jot down phone messages on the nearest scrap of paper. Instead, use a phone log notebook within your daily planner or contact management program to enter phone numbers and messages. When you're ready to return a phone call, you'll know exactly where to find the number.

5. Store papers vertically in files rather than horizontally in piles. If you know what's in each stack of paper on your desk, you've shuffled through the stacks too many times.

6. Forget the saying "Handle paper once." Instead, do something to move each piece of paper forward. Either take action on it, file it, pass it on to some- one else, toss it, or make a note on your to-do list of what you need to do with it before you file it.

7. Keep hanging file folders to a minimum. Group three to five related manila folders inside and label the hanging folder with a main category. Periodically go through your files and throw away papers you no longer use.

8. Fight the urge to stash supplies wherever they fit. Instead, designate a specific place to store your extra supplies, stationery and other office products.

9. Save office space by using stacking bins to hold magazines and papers to file. Bins work better than stacking trays because they are larger, and there is more space between each bin. In addition, you can place them next to or under your desk, not on it, leaving you ample room to work.

10. At the end of each day, take a few minutes to file the loose papers on your desk, put away supplies and plan for the next day. You'll save valuable time the next morning, and you'll start your day feeling in control and on the right track.

Guerrilla Marketing Tips

Guerilla Tactics In Marketing

HOW MUCH YOU INVEST in marketing doesn't mean nearly as much as how that investment pays off. Guerrilla marketers don't waste a cent of it. They know marketing isn't costly, but marketing mistakes are. That's why they carefully measure the effectiveness of each weapon they try--and they try a heap of weapons.

Here are 10 ways guerrillas get maximum marketing bang from minimum marketing bucks:

1. They stick with one marketing campaign. Discard the notion that you must change your marketing often. Change your offer, your price and your headline as much as you want, but don't change your media, your identity, your visual format, or your presence as a business. Doing so wastes money twice over: 1) by abandoning your original marketing investment before it has a chance to pay off, and 2) by investing in new marketing materials.

2. They realize small is beautiful. As a small company, you're likely to be a very important client to a small ad agency. You won't be as important to a big one. Also consider using individual marketing consultants and freelancers; many provide high-end talent at low prices. Use small ads and increase fre- quency, short commercials and more of them, postcards instead of letters.

3. They use a media buying service. Guerrilla-run companies know media buying services have access to more data and better negotiating skills than they do.

4. They obtain all the free research they can. Guerrillas scan the Internet for data about their target market and find the information superhighway paved with gold--bulletin boards teeming with information, mailing lists of people who want your materials, and statistics on tiny but crucial details. And don't forget old-fashioned customer questionnaires, which can provide just as much information.

5. They use reprints of PR stories. They also use posters, mailers, signs and framed copies of these publicity gems.

6. They create timeless brochures. Quality brochures are costly, and the last thing you want to do is make that investment again next year. So instead of saying, "We've been serving America for 10 years," which means producing a new brochure next year, say, "We've been serving America since 1985," because that will be true forever.

7. They find multiple uses for marketing materials. If you have to pay through the nose for a first-rate photograph, think twice before dismissing the idea. You can use that photo in a future ad, in a brochure, on a sign. It can be the basis for a poster, a mailing, a circular. Looked at this way, the photo fee is quite reasonable.

8. They spend no more than $1,000 to produce a TV spot. The secret: Start with a powerful idea. If you have that, you don't need a sports hero, movie star or killer jingle to get it across. Cable TV companies produce $1,000 spots every day.

9. They experiment. Guerrillas test marketing campaigns, themes, offers, prices, headlines, packaging, media, mailing lists, follow-up and optimum frequency. Only testing gives you the certainty needed for commitment.

10. They market more to customers than to prospects. It costs one-sixth as much to market to an existing customer as to a noncustomer.

Blindfold Robbery In Your Office

How Your Employees Rob You

Ask the average small-business owner if he or she is concerned about embezzlement, and you'll probably get a response like "I don't have to worry about that because . . .

" . . . my employees are all good, honest people."

" . . . we're just a small company."

" . . . my people have all been with me a long time, so I know whom I can trust."

" . . . we don't handle cash."

If your answer matches any one of these statements, you're probably operating under a few misconceptionsumisconceptions that could prove deadly to your business. You may believe that if there were an embezzler in your company, you'd somehow intuitively know it. You may believe an employee's attitude and demeanor are sufficient proof that he or she can be trusted with large sums of money. And you may not realize how common embezzlement is in small businesses.

"Small businesses are at greater risk than large businesses for embezzlement and other kinds of employee theft," says Joseph T. Wells, a CPA in Austin, Texas, and chairman of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. "In fact, I doubt there is a business in America that doesn't have thieves working for it in some capacity."

Because embezzlement appears to be a "clean" crime, it attracts a wide variety of people, including many who would never consider other types of crime. For example, psychological profiles of embezzlers show they are more likely to be female, married, and span a wider range of ages than other criminals. They are typically employed with a company for four to eight years before they begin to embezzle. Frequently, the embezzler is "the last person you would suspect."

Causes Of Crime

Like any kind of employee theft, embezzlement is the result of motivation combined with opportunity. In the past, experts advised business owners to limit the opportunities for embezzlement through the business's internal controls (more on this later). While this is still an important prevention method, paying attention to employees' possible motivations may be just as critical. "We previously believed embezzlers were most often motivated by a true financial need," Wells says. "Now we're finding that the most common factor in embezzlement is employee dissatisfaction."

Employees who turn to embezzlement are usually people with major morale problems. They see an increasing disparity between their work and the owner's work, between their compensation and the owner's compensationuand they consider embezzlement a way of evening out that disparity.


You can avoid countless problems by examining your company's practices in each of four areas:

1. Hiring practices. Ideally, you should begin thinking about employee theft prevention before hiring your first employee. In reality, though, first employees are usually hired at a time when the business is incredibly busy and little time is available to consider theft prevention. You may be so relieved to have some help, you don't even think about potential problems.

This is especially true when hiring a secretary/bookkeeper. You probably didn't go into business for yourself out of a love of record-keeping, and you may be overjoyed at finding someone to take over that responsibility. Because you are so eager to get this help, you may forego the normal background and reference checks and may give the new employee more responsibility than is prudent.

Take precautions when hiring. Begin by defining what it is you want in a new employee. Write a job description, and determine what education and experience are needed. Carefully interview several applicants, keeping in mind that character is more important than job skills. You can teach a person new skills; you can't teach good character.

Most people come to your company with good intentions, only to begin embezzling years later. However, some people who seek employment have crime in mind from the start. A job seeker may be someone who has embezzled in the past without being prosecuted. It's a simple matter to check on an applicant's employment history and to question their reasons for leaving each previous job.

If a former employer is reluctant to give detailed information, try asking, "Would you hire this person again?" Be alert to unexplained lapses in an applicant's work history. The applicant may be concealing a previous job to hide a problem.

When filling particularly sensitive positions, such as controller, bookkeeper or sales manager, consider performing additional background checks. These can include checking police records and credit histories. Many investigative firms can provide this information quickly and at a very reasonable cost. Considering the investment you make in a new employee, the cost of background checks is well worth it.

If your new employee will handle cash or do your banking for you, contact your business insurance agent about having the employee bonded. This is also known as employee dishonesty insurance; again, the cost is very reasonable.

2. Work environment. Promoting high employee morale and management ethics is critical to preventing embezzlement.

One advantage of owning a small business is you can get to know your employees well. Understanding how costly morale problems can be, you should always stay alert to potential problems brewing and take steps to nip them in the bud.

Management ethics refers to a company's code of morals and level of honesty, which is set by management and is demonstrated by example as well as by discussion. If your company normally deals with customers, suppliers and employees in ways that are unethical or seems concerned only with short-term profitability, this attitude will filter down to employees. The result? An increased probability of theft and fraud.

On the other hand, employees who see you returning overpayments from customers, telling the bank about errors made in your favor, and generally dealing fairly and honestly with others will adopt the same attitudes. Management sets the tone for ethics within a company. Remember, fraud is contagious, and many a business owner has taught young employees by example that dishonesty is acceptable in their business.

3. Internal controls. Internal controls are the procedures used to ensure the correctness and completeness of a company's accounting records, as well as to guard against fraud, theft and errors. These are what most people refer to as the "checks and balances" within a business. A weak system of internal controls is an invitation to embezzlement.

Ron Jennings has seen plenty of small-business embezzlements. The Corpus Christi, Texas, CPA recommends small-business owners incorporate at least the following minimal internal controls:

* Sign outgoing checks yourself.

* Open bank statements yourself. Examine the canceled checks; see if the deposits appear to be reasonable. Look for unusual debits, such as ATM withdrawals.

* Try to "segregate duties" between employees if possible. Segregation of duties means different employees perform the tasks of authorizing transactions, recording the transactions on the books and safeguarding the assets. For example, you might have separate people authorize bills for payment, write the checks and reconcile the bank account. Or you could have one person approve employees' timecards, another prepare the payroll, and a third distribute the signed paychecks.

Obviously, while segregation of duties works in some businesses, it has limited use in very small ones. If only one or two employees are involved in your accounting operations, you as the owner must take on certain responsibilities. It is essential that employees see you are involved in the financial aspects of the business. Employees steal only when they feel that they can do so without getting caught. By being involved in your company's financial operations, you reduce the likelihood that your employees will think they can get away with stealing.

If you truly cannot take the time to perform certain control tasks, you must at least give the illusion that you are watching over your company's assets carefully. This can be accomplished by opening the bank statements, questioning certain canceled checks and deposits, and asking occasional questions of employees to make it appear that you are more involved than perhaps you really are. Again, this "illusion" is no substitute for actual involvement in daily operations, but it's better than letting employees think they can steal without getting caught.

Requiring all employees to take at least one week's vacation each year is another important control measure. Many embezzlement schemes come to light in the absence of the schemer.

Devising a sound system of internal controls requires a good knowledge of accounting systems, as well as the ability to think like a crook. Most employers need the assistance of a good CPA to devise internal controls. The strength of these controls is the single most important factor in preventing embezzlement, so don't overlook this area.

4. Fraud awareness. Simply being alert to the possibilities of theft within your type of business is an important aspect of preventing embezzlement. Know the signs of embezzlement, and keep an eye out for them. (See "Red Flags" on page 150.)

By taking these steps, you'll not only protect your business's assets, you'll help your employees stay honest as well.


Whatever your business, these 12 danger signs can alert you to an employee who may be embezzling funds:

1. Rewriting records for the sake of "neatness"

2. Refusing to take vacations; never taking personal or sick days

3. Working overtime voluntarily and excessively, and refusing to release custody of records during the day

4. Unusually high standard of living considering salary

5. Gambling in any form beyond ability to withstand losses

6. Refusal of promotion

7. Replying to questions with unreasonable explanations

8. Getting annoyed at reasonable questions

9. Inclination toward covering up inefficiencies and mistakes

10. Pronounced criticism of others (to divert suspicion)

11. Frequent association with, and entertainment by, a member of a supplier's staff

12. Excessive drinking or associating with questionable characters (Terri Singer)

How To Find Lost Computer Files

Finding Lost Files

How many times have you spent hours writing a proposal-or been up all night putting together a sales presentation-only to discover the next day that the file is nowhere to be found? You accidentally saved it to the wrong subdirectory on your hard disk . . . and now you have no idea where it is.

What about when you're working with documents on a network, and you need to quickly locate a crucial document to complete a sale? Or you have a mass of documents on your hard drive, and you need to find all the ones that contain information on a particular company?

In each case, you'll save considerable time by developing a strategy for finding your files before you actually need them. You may already have all the tools you need right in your operating system or in your application software. Or, if you often need to quickly search information by key words from a wide range of documents, you might want to consider more specialized software.

Help From Windows

Windows 95 users have access to substantial file-finding features right within the operating system. Unlike the older version of Windows, which allowed for file names of up to eight characters only, Windows 95 lets you save your files with long, descriptive names of as many as 255 characters.

A dedicated file finder utility on Windows 95 allows you to search for files and folders anywhere on a network by file name, date, specified text, file size, location or other search criteria. Windows 95 also lets you save the results of a complex search as an icon you can use over and over.

Many people who use Windows 3.1 have installed Symantec's Norton Desktop and PC Tools to replace Windows' Program Manager and File Manager. These products offer substantial tools for locating and retrieving files. Both have enhanced file managers so you can search for documents by name, type and time of creation. You can also search within documents for a particular word or phrase and view the contents of the file without even opening it.

Using Your Word Processor

If you create documents with a word processor, start by using the tools your word processor provides to help you find files. Both Microsoft Word and WordPerfect for Windows, for example, come with built-in capabilities to help you easily find saved files.

Word helps you find files by name, subject and key words by providing a Summary Info dialog box. You can specify a title, subject and key word fields for each file as you save it. Later, you can use any of these criteria to find a file stored in any subdirectory on your hard drive through the Find File command on the File menu. When the list of matching files pops up, you can sort them and display their contents.

WordPerfect for Windows provides a Document Summary dialog box for each file it creates. To find the files, use the Advanced Find command under the WordPerfect File Manager.

WordPerfect differs from Word in that you can conduct "full text" searches that allow you to match any word in your documents rather than looking only for previously specified key words. And to speed things up, WordPerfect offers a separate QuickFinder File Indexer to index documents. Like a book index, this feature allows the software to go directly to a particular word in a document rather than having to search through the entire document each time it looks for a particular word. Just select Find Files, enter the desired word or phrase, and then click on the appropriate index to find the document.

Utilities And Databases

If your word processor doesn't come with built-in features for finding files, consider an add-on utility like Worldox from World Software Corp.

Worldox works by intercepting the File/Save and File/Open commands of popular Windows applications and replacing them with dialog boxes that control the document storage and retrieval process. It allows you to use file name descriptions of up to 70 characters rather than the standard eight-character DOS names. You can save documents with a document profile that stores standard information such as the creator and the date, or you can make a custom profile that includes information such as the department name or a description of the docu-ment's contents.

Worldox also offers document viewers that let you browse through a document's contents, and it indexes documents so you can easily locate files based on their contents.

Another category of products is text databases-such as AskSam from AskSam Systems-that let you import files as ASCII text and find them again using a powerful database that allows you to search for any phrase you might remember. AskSam can handle entire documents and can search any text so you don't have to rely on key words or fields. But if you'd prefer to include key words, AskSam lets you define an entry screen with fields and field names. You can then append the document's entire text to the data-entry screen.

Overall, AskSam is great because it lets you perform very powerful text searches. However, its database origins make it more difficult to use than some of the other utilities mentioned here.

With any of these packages, the next time you lose a file, you'll no longer have to go fumbling through your hard disk. Just perform a simple search and go on with your work.

How To Manage Your Anger

How To Manage Your Anger

Don't blow your top: Turn your hostile reactions into positive solutions.

How many times have situations like these happened in the course of your business?

* You lose a major account because a competitor underbid you.

* Without consulting you, your partner made a key decision you don't support.

* A vendor's late delivery means you and your staff will spend the weekend working.

These and thousands of similar scenarios that happen every day are enough to make entrepreneurs very angry. This common and understandable human emotion is usually perceived as negative, but it is possible to turn your work-related anger into a positive and productive force in your business.

To accomplish this, you need to understand what happens if you don't use your anger constructively. Orlando, Florida, career consultant Barbara Adler says unmanaged anger can interfere with your ability to function in a rational manner, inhibit effective communication, and create external and internal distress by negatively affecting your relationships with your customers and employees, not to mention your physical health and well-being.

"Anger is a cue that something in a situation isn't working for us," Adler says. "The reason we sometimes experience difficulty is we don't separate out the cue that tells us something isn't working from the process that enables us to figure out how to correct the situation."

When you feel yourself becoming angry, an important first step to take is to acknowledge your emotions. You can't manage something if you deny it exists. Then decide what you need to do to maintain control in the situation.

Adler says you may be able to simply take a few deep breaths, mentally count to 10, and then deal with the situation. Or you may need to put some physical space between you and the others involved to regain your perspective before you say or do something you'll regret later.

"That may mean you tell the other person something like 'I am very angry about what has just happened. I need to step down the hall and get a drink of water and then come back and talk with you about it,' " Adler says. "Or you could say, 'I am very angry about this, and we need to discuss it. Can we take a break and come back in five minutes?' "

This gives you a chance to determine whether the situation itself needs changing or whether you can resolve the issue by changing the way you perceive the particular circumstances. "In your timeout, clarify for yourself what it is about the situation that is stimulating anger in you," Adler advises. "Does it have something to do with the nature of the interaction between the people involved? Does it have something to do with what your goals and expectations are? Or is it something that doesn't have anything to do with that situation at all? Maybe you're feeling anger that really belongs someplace else."

In the latter case, the simple realization that you are transferring anger from one situation where your feelings are justified to another where they aren't may be enough to resolve your feelings.

On the other hand, even though it's important to maintain a professional demeanor, don't make the mistake of always hiding your angeruas long as you can control it. "You can communicate anger through effective use of voice tone and body language," Adler says. "You don't have to scream or throw the pencil sharpener or otherwise indicate that you have lost control. If you need to take a timeout, do it, but you also need to evaluate what's really going on so you can analyze what's not working and think about what has to happen to resolve it."

The key to managing anger is to direct the energy it generates toward productive rather than destructive action. Both you and your business will be healthier because of it.

How To Develop New Business

Think More. How To Develop New Business

A NEW YEAR. Another 365 days; another 31,536,000 seconds. Will you treat these measures of time as a meaningless concept or as a precious allotment of space filled with golden opportunities for you to carve out a giant share of the marketplace?

Here are two important ways to turn your sales from a vague concept into a concrete tool:

1. Think less; develop more business. Stop reliving your 1995 sales successes. For some people, no matter how good last year's sales were, they still torment themselves with such thoughts as: "I wonder if last year was a fluke. There's no way I can pull off another year like that one."

Then there's the small-business owner who sits at his or her desk projecting self-defeating thoughts into the future: "I hate rejection. Will I ever get better at this? How long will it be before I know if I'll get anything out of this effort?"

Concentrating on outcomes can drive you insane. If you're having a hard time shaking off your negative thoughts, force yourself to take a break and do something physical. Take a brisk walk around the block, or go shoot a few baskets.

2. Expand your prospecting horizons by multiplying your niches.Take out a blank sheet of paper and a pen, and start writing down untapped niches in the marketplaceuones you have either refused to cultivate or were too lazy to develop in the past.

Write with abandonment. Put no constraints on yourself. Think broad. Go global. Never doubt the importance of tapping multiple niches in your business development efforts.

Know, however, that some niches have a quicker payback than others. Be aware of where the payoffs are, and monitor your time and efforts accordingly. Consider the following five niches and how soon you can expect returns on your efforts:

1. Niche: Door-knocking.

Turnaround time: Usually one year or more.

Judi Sheppard Missett, founder of the Carlsbad, California, Jazzercise exercise franchise, found door-knocking as natural as dancing during her company's start-up. Along with her 10-year-old daughter and her nieces and nephews, Missett went from door to door, distributing fliers to homes throughout her community. Today, Jazzercise is in more than 34 countries, and door-knocking in neighborhoods worldwide is one of the ways Jazzercise owners and instructors continue to find good prospects.

While out door-knocking, Missett discovered a lot of things about her prospects, even learning why certain people were not good candidates for Jazzercise. For instance, some people told her that since she didn't offer child care, they couldn't attend her classes. This gave her the incentive to make child care available, thus doubling her clientele.

Missett believes she never would have discovered what her prospects' objections were if she hadn't been out pounding the pavement. Knowing her prospects' objections gave her the opportunity to improve her services and, as a result, expand her market.

Keep in mind, this activity doesn't always result in quick returns. A deadly, demotivating thought often surfaces: "I wonder if this is a waste of my time." Missett received some immediate feedback, but in other cases, it took time to see the fruits of her labor. Many of her future students didn't come to her classes until months later, but they told her how much they appreciated her knocking at their doors because it started them thinking about implementing a regular exercise routine.

Of course, Missett did not depend on door-knocking alone. She was active in her local chamber of commerce and the Get Fit program, a community outreach program for elementary-age children. She also sought out existing customers for referrals.

Some niches bring returns faster than door-knocking, but working the territory is all part of the big picture. To stay objective and avoid the danger of depending on a few prospects you hope will bring you business, you must continue to develop multiple niches.

2. Niche: Past customers.

Turnaround time: One hour to 10 years.

You cannot communicate enough with your existing customers. These customers can help usher you across invisible boundaries to new markets for your products and services. But so few people take advantage of this niche.

Ask existing customers to help you with new prospects who are sitting on the fence. You may be just a phone call away from winning over a client. All it takes is a third party (your customer) who has an established trust with your prospect to create that opportunity for you.

You could be wasting precious time trying to get through to a decision maker or convince a prospect of your product's worth. You may not get that account without a strong third-party endorsement.

Understand that you get "hired" and "fired" every day. Every time you talk to a new prospect, you are out on a job interview. Your chances of getting hired improve dramatically when you have some serious cloutuexisting satisfied customers. But time must be spent developing that clout.

If you have ignored business development for many months, existing customers are your only hope for quickly getting your client list back in shape. Because your credibility has already been established with existing customers, your contact is often a wake- up call for them to give you a lead or a helping hand to get an order.

Last year, I was making calls off a customer list, and within 24 hours, two of my past clients arranged to bring me into their cities to do a "lifetime customers" workshop. On their own, they set up sponsors to help raise the funds. And all it took was a phone call.

3. Niche: Targeted lists.

Turnaround time: A few months to a few years.

A participants list is an excellent resource. Did you speak at or attend a trade show or convention recently? Do you have the list of attendees, or can you obtain it? Ideally, you should make these calls no more than 30 days after the event.

When I spoke at a sales convention not long ago, I phoned every name on the list, including heads of companies and media people. The editor of a major magazine asked me to send him more information about one of my new projects. I jumped on his request and followed up a week later with a phone call.

He informed me he had decided to do a feature story about me and my newest product in his magazine. The story is six pages with color photos. The magazine has a circulation of 168,000, and its readers hire people like me every day.

All this publicity resulted from one follow-up call off a targeted list.

4. Niche: Past acquaintances.

Turnaround time: A few years.

Reconnect with people further back in your historyunot necessarily business contacts. Maybe you're missing out on a lot of business from people who have trusted you since childhood.

How about your eighth-grade class reunion list? High school? Fraternity or sorority? Dig deeper into your past through letter writing, brief notes or a newsletter to help keep those who knew you way back when informed of your successful business, products and services.

Working the past acquaintance niche is often effortless because the relationship is unpretentious, with an unspoken trust that exists for no other reason than old time's sake.

5. Niche: The random niche.

Turnaround time: Whenever.

Stay aware. Every day of your life a name or a lead may come to mind. How many times have you thought to yourself "I should call so-and-so"? Then you do, and he is glad to hear from you and tells you he was just thinking about calling you yesterday. It's time for him to change his insurance/buy a new copier/move to a new location.

And how many times have you not paid attention to those gut feelings, only to discover later that the person who came to mind two months ago has gone down another path to do business with a competitor. She didn't think you wanted or needed her business anymore.

Are you spending too much time wasting time? Vow to eliminate common sales time wasters such as long phone conversations explaining unnecessary details or long handwritten journal entries after every phone conversation. Sure, note the important facts, but comments such as: "Seemed really nice over the phone. Didn't make me nervous and gave me the opportunity to say my spiel" are meaningless in the grand scheme of things. Besides, if you hadn't taken those notes, you could have made 50 calls in two hours instead of four. Cut to the chase. (Daniel Kennedy)

How To Interview Job Applicants

How To Interview Job Applicants. Applicants: Watch out

Nobody's been trained to interview job candidates. That's why most managers do it poorly," says Ethan Winning, a human resources consultant in Walnut Creek, California.

Sound familiar? Floundering through job interviews is the norm among many entrepreneurs, but it's no way to grow a business. Every bad hire costs you time and money. Make enough good hires, on the other hand, and you'll find your business expanding fast.

Step one in better interviewing is to make fewer mistakes. What errors do entrepreneurs commonly make in job interviews? There's no shortage of examples, say the experts:

* Talking too much. "Many interviewers talk so much, applicants cannot tell about themselves," says N. Elizabeth Fried, a Dublin, Ohio, executive search consultant and author of Sex, Laws & Stereotypes (Intermediaries Press).

How much of the time should the candidate be talking? About 75 percent is the yardstick recommended by most experts, who caution that the norm is the exact oppositeu"Far too many entrepreneurs dominate the interview," says Winning.

* Giving away the answers. Winning recalls a manager who invited him to sit in while the manager interviewed applicants for a secretary position. To each candidate, the manager said, "We're looking to pay $1,800 per month for this position. How much salary do you want?" Each candidate in turn looked thoughtful, then said, "About $1,800."

"He just didn't understand that he was feeding them the answers," says Winning. This occurs frequently in job interviews, and on more than money matters, too. Tell applicants knowledge of Quattro Pro is essential, then ask if they know Quattro, and don't be surprised if everyone claims they can make that spreadsheet program sing.

* Not taking notes. Research emphatically shows that applicants who come in for interviews near the end of the process are much more likely to be hired. Why? Bosses have simply forgotten about the earlier candidates. The only way you'll accurately remember every applicant is if you take detailed notes during every session.

* Not using written questions. Another big mistake made by interviewers: "They get off track," says Winning. This can mean that when a 30-minute interview closes, you've learned a lot about the candidate's high school soccer career . . . but nothing pertinent to the job at hand. Write out questions beforehand, and stick to them, even if that championship soccer game sounds fascinating.

* Relying on superficialities. Plenty of research shows tall, good- looking candidates get more job offers than less physically attractive applicants. Are they necessarily better workers? Of course not. "If you want to hire good employees," urges Winning, "you've got to look past physical features and make the hiring decision [based] on qualities that really matter for the job."

All The Right Moves

The key to interviewing successfully is simply this: Concretely know what you want in a job applicant, then ask questions designed to discover if this is who you want. "If you know what you want in specific terms, not just a vague mental picture, the interview goes much more smoothly," says Winning.

It goes more quickly, too. A well-run half-hour is typically plenty of time for interviews for lower-level staff. An hour might be needed for higher-level positions.

That's if you have in hand a detailed job description for the opening before sitting down to interview and if you have a clear idea of the qualifications the right applicant will possess. These are simple prerequisites, "but so many managers never bother to take these steps," says Winning. "No wonder they have trouble interviewing."

Beyond that, go into the interview with a smartly selected list of questions to help the candidate tell you about himself or herself. Such as? Good interviewers work out their own lists over time, but here are some proven winners:

* What's your most noteworthy achievement?

* Tell me about a time you interacted with an irate customer. How did you handle him or her?

* Why are you right for this position?

* What are the risks you've taken on the job? When you failed, why did you fail?

* Of your past bosses, who was your favorite? The least favorite? Why? (For teenagers, ask about teachers.)

Notice a common characteristic of these questions? None has a built-in right answer. All are open-ended, designed to move the candidate beyond pat, rehearsed answers and into showing off his or her true personality.

"You want to discover people's passions, what really excites them," says Fried. "That's how you find out what motivates them and if their chemistry blends with yours."

The Inner Game

As your business grows, you'll probably be interviewing many internal applicants for promotion. Are the interviewing rules any different? Not very. The key difference is that the interview can go faster, mainly because "there's no need to explain what the company is about," says Winning.

The cardinal sin in internal interviews: using the interview to talk about the candidate's past job achievements instead of how he or she suits the opening. "That's why terrific salespeople get promoted into sales manager jobs in which they fail," says Winning. The antidote? Again, "it's knowing the specifics of the new position and the traits a person needs to excel at it."

Incidentally, don't be surprised if many internal candidates apply for an opening not because they really want it but because they don't like what they are doing now. "That's the rule of thumbu30 percent of applicants apply only because they don't like their job," says Winning. Should this exclude them from consideration? Not if they truly would be better suited to the new position. So keep an open mind even when you detect an incumbent grumbling about his or her current job.

Interview No-Nos

Ask the wrong questions, either of internal or external applicants, and it can cost you in both money and legal pains. Federal and state laws provide job applicants with a wealth of protections against job interviewers who pry into their personal lives. The pitfalls are often subtle. For instance, it is usually legal to ask "Have you ever been convicted of a crime?" But it's illegal in most cases to ask "Have you ever been arrested?" More broadly, questions about marital and family status ("Do you plan to have children?") are verboten.

Advice from employment law experts on this subject fills thick books, but one guideline will usually steer you into the clear: "Keep questions focused on the job opening and the applicant's work history," says Winning, who advises clients that today's times are so litigious, it's good policy to avoid even tried-and-true icebreakers like "Who do you think will win the Super Bowl?"

A plus of this narrow focus, says Winning: "You don't waste time on the extraneous, and you have more time to talk about what really mattersuthe applicant and the job opening."

The Big Sell

Careful interviewing has uncovered terrific candidates. Now it's your turn to sell them on working for you. "Few employers understand this. Most still think hiring is their unilateral decision, but you aren't the only game in town anymore," says Roger E. Herman, an Akron, Ohio, management consultant and author of Keeping Good People (Oakhill Press). "A person you want to hire will probably have many job offers. That's why you have to use the interview to sell candidates on working for you."

Don't the unemployment statistics tell us there are millions of job-hungry workers? Even so, good jobs still sit vacant because applicants can't do high school algebra, write a grammatical sentence or operate basic computer programs. "Our educational system isn't preparing workers for the jobs that exist," says Herman. "Usually, there just aren't that many people who have the qualifications you need."

So be prepared for the applicant who asks "Why should I take this job?" Warns Herman: "You've got to know what to say. Once you know what kind of employee you want to hire, ask yourself what employer qualities will turn on that worker.

"Today's interview has become a mutual conversation in which both the applicant and the employer size up how they will fit together. That's how smart hiring happens." (Robert Mcgarvey)

How To Preserve Your Costumer

Keeping Your Customers

THERE ARE many reasons customers don't want to change the way they're doing business. They're happy with what they have, they have too many products in their line already, or they don't see the value in what you're selling. Most of all, they've become set in their ways, and that's what seems to get in the way of your selling.

We all need to get through the obstacles that stand in the way of selling customers on the benefits of changing to our product or service. Here are 10 simple steps to help you sell change, even when customers want to stay the same:

1. SHOW THEM WHAT THEY'LL GAIN FROM THE CHANGE. Pointing out the return on investment is a valuable way of making your case; provide numbers, examples, facts and figures, a statistical analysis--whatever it takes to help them visualize how making the change will benefit them. Just remember: Nothing is stronger than your belief in the idea you're presenting. You must have faith in your product or service in order to give customers the confidence to make the change.

2. DON'T BE AFRAID TO CLOSE. Asking a closing question too early is not a crime. In fact, it usually brings out the problem or specific objection your prospect has ahead of time so you can deal with it and qualify the opportunity right from the start.

3. SELL THE CHANGE WITH TESTIMONIALS FROM SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN THERE, DONE THAT. Hand prospects a list of your clients, and tell them to call anyone on the list. They can talk about why they do business with you and how they've benefited from the change they made by going with your company.

4. UNDERSTAND YOUR CUSTOMER'S CUSTOMER. Understand their competition. Understand their marketplace. This will give you more opportunities to tie in the value of your product and how it impacts their industry challenges.

5. LET THEM TRY OUT THE PRODUCT. Testing your product gives prospects a taste of things to come.

6. MAKE SURE YOU'RE ALWAYS BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP. When someone likes you, trusts you and respects the knowledge you bring to the table, he or she will be much more open to making a change.

7. QUESTION EVERYTHING. "Why is that important?" "What does that mean to your customers?" "Can you expand on that?" Getting the customer to give you the right in-depth information gives you the ammunition to make an intelligent presentation on why changing to your business will make all the difference.

8. DO YOUR RESEARCH. Find out what other areas of their business they made changes to in the past, why they did it and what benefits they received from making those changes.

9. BREAK THROUGH BARRIERS WITH CONVICTION, BELIEF AND CONFIDENCE. Whenever a new idea is introduced, you're bound to encounter some resistance. Customers who have been doing things the same way year after year aren't necessarily open to alternative ways of thinking. Selling the change means being relentless and empowered by the passion within. When you believe in your case, so will the customer. Don't forget that they are buying you, and you are part of the change.

10. LEARN TO LISTEN, AND LISTEN TO LEARN. Only when we're really tuned in to the customer can we find out the real reasons they're averse to change.

How To Start Your Own Business

How To Start Your Own Business

WITH all of the talk about corporate downsizing, it seems that now is a good time to become your own boss.

But starting a business requires a lot more than dreams of independence, unfettered creativity and a pot of money at the end of the rainbow. It requires would-be entrepreneurs to map out a plan for success and to stick with it.

While it's good to have a certain degree of caution about branching out on your own, experts like Walt F.J. Goodridge, author of Turn Your Passion Into Profit, says that wariness can sometimes result in paralysis, or "entrepreneurophobia." The solution, according to Goodridge and other financial experts, is to tackle the thing you're most afraid of. "It may not always be easy, but it will always be worth it," Goodridge writes. "Remember, you can always find excuses not to do something you're afraid of."

The following are six tips from financial experts that will help you plan your business venture:

Develop a Unique Idea. Experts agree that a successful business needs to satisfy distinct needs or interests. Use the problems you have experienced at past jobs, or in life in general, to develop an entrepreneurial idea. Consider turning your passion into a business. Focus on a segment of the community that is underserved and develop ways to provide needed or desired services to that segment.

Define and Research Your Market. Know your target market. Define age, race, income level, and any other category of consumers you want to reach. Targeting your market makes it easier to design your products or services to meet consumer needs. You can always expand your business to other groups. Before launching a product or service, study the market to predict the necessity for your services. Information can be gathered at the library and online.

Develop a Business Plan. Experts strongly warn against skipping this step. Although a plan can be mapped out mentally, experts say you should put your ideas on paper. Record your ideas in a notebook, and map out a step-by-step plan to start your business. Call schools in your area or check newspapers for classes on developing business plans.

Finance Your Business. This is the biggest hurdle for most would-be entrepreneurs. Start your business part-time, while keeping your full-time job. This route ensures a steady income, health insurance, and stability until your business is self-sufficient. Save enough cash to last at least six months if you plan to quit your job. Other options include bank loans, grants and borrowing from family or close friends.

Location, Location, Location. When choosing a location, consider the cost of utilities and rent. Other factors include foot traffic, accessibility to targeted customers, competition, demographics and proximity to other businesses. As a cost-saving move, consider starting as a home-based business. Ask local organizations such as churches, schools and community centers to lease you space for less money than traditional means or in exchange for your volunteer services.

Media Campaign. Experts advise exploring all possible avenues to make people aware of your business. Word of mouth is one of the most productive advertising tactics. Other strategies include newspapers, flyers, business cards and developing a Web site.

These tips could put you on that road to the financial security you have always dreamed of, but be cautious. "Success in business is never automatic," according to the United States Small Business Association. "It isn't strictly based on luck--although a little never hurts. It depends primarily on the owner's foresight and organization. Even then, of course, there are no guarantees."

How Your Business Can Get Exposure in Media

How Your Business Can Get Exposure in Media

SO YOU WANT TO LAND YOUR BUSINESS message on the pages of The Wall Street Journal or Vogue. Sound impossible? Not really. You can hire an experienced publicist or PR firm with established media contacts, or you can go it alone and still achieve media-relations success--just so long as you follow some basic rules. Here are six practical tips for getting media coverage:

1. Set clear goats. Who do you want to reach, and what do you want them to remember about you? Ideally, your media-relations program should help your company achieve better penetration of its core message. Rather than a one-shot attempt at coverage, make communicating a central message or idea to your target audience a long-term goal. Focus on reaching your best prospects and customers, and use your media-relations program to repeatedly drive your message home.

2. Create a plan. A written plan is essential to keeping your program on track. It doesn't have to be elaborate. Briefly outline your goals, media-relations themes, the tactics you plan to use, a schedule of activities and a rough budget. Take, for example, the owner of a home-improvement company who has a $400 budget. If his goal is to be known as a resource for upscale contemporary remodels, he might plan to send press kits with photographs of completed projects four times per year to editors at select magazines and producers of cable TV remodeling shows, and then follow up by phone.

3. Lay the right foundation. Effective media-relations programs don't exist in a vacuum. They need support. Add a section to your website that's devoted exclusively to the needs of the press, with information about your company, its executives and products, as well as a contact page. Also, prepare your staff by keeping them up-to-date on your media-relations plans and messages, and designate individuals who may speak directly with the press.

4. Shape your story. One of the most critical components of a successful media-relations program is providing content that fits the needs of specific media outlets. Journalists and newsrooms are bombarded with hundreds, if not thousands, of press releases and phone calls each day. And they're looking for news and information of interest to their unique readers, viewers or listeners. For best results, become familiar with the media you plan to target. Figure out what they want most, and tailor your story accordingly.

5. Make it easy to cover you. From print journalists to radio and TV news directors, everyone in the media is pressed for time. And much of what they use comes from press releases announcing new studies or statistics, video news releases, radio tours, or even photos supplied by businesses or their PR firms. Winning coverage often depends on going beyond a basic release. For example, you can provide a page of tips that journalists can quote from or use as a springboard for interviews with you. You can supply product photographs to magazines, win high-tech reviews by c-mailing links to an online demo, or position yourself as an expert in your field by scheduling a radio tour on a newsworthy topic.

6. Build relationships. Sometimes "blasting" a press release to thousands of media outlets is called for. But for most entrepreneurs, media-relations success depends on one-on-one interaction--selecting key media, becoming familiar with their needs, providing materials and then following up by phone or e-mail. You can assemble your own list of local media that cover your type of story or, for larger lists, you can find help in media directories such as Bacon's MediaSource ( and Gebbie Press (, where you'll find a free, searchable database of media links. (Kimberly McCall)

Secret Service Style on Starting Business

Secret Service Style on Starting Business

The U.S. Secret Service was first organized in July 1865. What the Secret Service does best: intelligence analysis. It leaves no stone unturned.

The parallel here for entrepreneurs? To generate topnotch business contracts, you need to prospect C-level decision-makers. No need for dark suits and glasses--according to the Society of Competitive Intelligence Professionals, 95 percent of competitive intelligence information is publicly available. Some techniques to try:

1. TACTICS PLANNING AND PROSPECTING: Build company lists and characterize key C-level decision-makers with Hoover's Lite (www.hoovers. com). Also, stake out the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Watch basic patent and trademark applications for the inside scoop on a company's next potential move.

2. PROFILING: They Rule (www. provides a roster of corporate executives and their corporate board leadership connections. Or try Patricia Gardner's new book, The Million Dollar Sale, which explains how to find "company code-breakers"--external, internal and customer resources.

3. PENETRATION: Selling to Big Companies (www.selling can help you penetrate big accounts with incisive business development techniques. Entrepreneur readers get a 20 percent discount on e-books, sales tools and audio programs in June (use code 047015643). (Kirsten Osolind)