Tag Archive: Small Business Startup

8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

8 Signs of An Entrepreneur8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

8 Signs of an Entrepreneur. Do you have the right personality type to successfully run your own business? It takes an entrepreneurial fire in your belly to start a business and make it succeed. Not everyone has it.

How do you know if you have what it takes to start a business? There’s really no way to know for sure. But I do find things in common among the emotional and family fabric of people ready to consider an entrepreneurial venture.

You don’t have to fit all seven of these categories to be a good candidate for entrepreneurship. But it probably wouldn’t hurt. In general, the more you have in common with these characteristics, the closer you probably are to being ready to try going out on your own. 

1. You come from a line of people who couldn’t work for someone else. I don’t mean that in a negative way. People who are successful at establishing their own business tend to have had parents who worked for themselves. It’s usually easier to get a job with a company than to start your own business; people who strike out on their own often have the direct example of a parent to look to.

2.You’re a lousy employee. No need to sugar-coat this one. People who start their own businesses tend to have been fired from or quit more than one job. I’m not saying you were laid off for lack of work or moved from one job to a better-paying one. You were asked to leave, or you quit before they could fire you. Think of it as the marketplace telling you that the only person who can effectively motivate and manage you is yourself. 8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

3.You see more than one definition of “job security.” I am truly envious of the few people I know who have stayed with one employer for 25 or 30 years. They look very secure. But how many people do you know who are able to stay with one company for that long? In a rapidly changing economy, job security can be frighteningly fleeting.

4. You’ve gone as far as you can go, or you’re not going anywhere at all. Sometimes the motivation to start a new venture comes from having reached the top of the pile where you are, looking around, and saying, “What’s next?” Early success can be wonderful, but early retirement can sometimes drive energetic and motivated people totally crazy.

5. You’ve done the market research already. Don’t even talk to me about your great business idea if you haven’t put the time into figuring out if there’s a market for your product or service. As the people behind any number of failed Internet ventures will tell you, “cool” doesn’t necessarily translate into “profitable.” Don’t bother building it if you haven’t figured out whether there’s a good chance the customers will come. 8 Signs of an Entrepreneur

6. You’ve got the support of your family. Starting a business is stressful under the best of circumstances. Trying to do it without the support of your spouse or other significant family members or friends would probably be unbearable.

7. You know you cannot do it alone. You might excel at promoting a business. Maybe you love running the financial end of the enterprise. You could be someone who starts a business because you have unique creative or technical know-how to create a product.

8. You must have passion, energy, drive, and love your business and the work you do!

Any of the above is possible, but it’s unlikely that you are going to excel at all of these tasks — or at all of the tasks involved in running any business. Forget all that doing it alone stuff. You are going to need some help sometime.

The willingness to get that help — having employees, partners or consultants for those areas in which you are not an expert — is one indicator of likely future success. “No successful entrepreneur has ever succeeded alone,” development consultant Ernesto Sirolli writes in “Ripples From the Zambezi.” “The person who is most capable of enlisting the support of others is the most likely to succeed.” 

This article is provided by Apple Capital Group, Inc.

10 Financial Yardsticks for Your Small Business by Tim Jacquet

10 Financial Yardsticks for Your Small Business by Tim Jacquet.

10 Financial Yardsticks for Your Small Business by Tim Jacquet. Time and again, accountants and consultants who specialize in small businesses say that such enterprises don’t pay enough attention to cash flow. That’s the measure of how much money you really have in the business.

Be Wary of Big Contracts

“Small entrepreneurs wind up taking big orders that get them in trouble,” says Ronald Lowy, who heads a college business administration department. “They want the big contract, but they’re not getting enough money at the front end of it and they don’t have the cash reserves to pay workers and other bills while they’re waiting to get paid themselves. They might show a profit on an accrual basis, but from a cash-flow standpoint, they don’t.”

Judith Dacey, a certified public accountant, calls a cash-flow statement “probably the most important thing in telling you if your business is on or off target.” As an example she describes how board members of a non-profit group were not examining their cash-flow statements.

“They were hiring people and spending money on membership campaigns, and doing all of these things based on money they thought they had from looking at the profit-and-loss (P&L) statements,” Dacey says. “They didn’t realize that the profit-and-loss statement was an accrual statement, which basically means you are including paper promises of payments to come, not money that you have in the bank.”

The non-profit board became aware of the difficulty only when the organization bounced a check. Employees had to be laid off, and belts were tightened. “That could have been avoided if they’d seen the cash-flow statements,” Dacey says. “A cash-flow statement tells you here’s the cash that has actually come in and that you can work with.”

A statement of cash flow starts with the bottom of your profit and loss statement — the line that shows your net income. Several adjustments are made to that number. The details are a little complex but a good accounting program that does a P&L and a balance sheet will also calculate this statement for you.

Tracking the Big 10

If you’ve established a way to track cash flow, then you can go on to organize and track 10 financials for your business. That’s a big list, but don’t panic: As with profit and loss statements, you can take advantage of software programs to automate tracking for many of the following:

Your Assets

Tracking your equipment, furniture, real estate and other holdings should be easy. But to have a true idea of the value of your business, you also have to track changes in the value of those assets. More than one small business has found itself located on a piece of land that’s worth more than the business itself. Similarly, you also will want to track the declining value of assets such as computers and office furniture.

Your Liabilities

On the face of it, this is easy — liabilities are what you owe. But what you owe isn’t always as obvious as a bill from your landlord. Payroll taxes are a liability that depend on the size of your payroll. Loans are a clear liability, but in repaying them you’ll want to be able to track how much of a payment is applied against principal and interest.

What does it Cost You to Produce What You Sell?

If you’re buying a finished item for resale, this is relatively easy. It’s trickier if you have to calculate all the factors, such as labor, that go into manufacturing a product.

What’s it Costing You to Sell What You Sell?

Advertising, marketing, labor, storage and the catch-all category of overhead — it’s useful to know how much it costs you to get a product sold as well as what it costs you to create it.

What’s Your Gross Profit Margin?

This is calculated by dividing your total sales into your gross profit. If your gross profit margin is staying consistent or trending upward, you’re probably on track.

Being able to track a declining margin can give you a heads-up that you must adjust your prices or your costs. In the worst cases your gross profit and profit margin disappear altogether. At that point, you’ll be like the fellow who lost money on every sale but figured he could make it up in volume. Don’t do it.

What’s Your Debt-to-asset Ratio?

This ratio can let you know how much of the stuff you have in your company is actually owned by someone else — your lender. Having this ratio climb can be a bad sign. It can happen as part of a major expansion, but it can also indicate that you’re getting in over your head.

What’s the Value of Your Accounts Receivable?

This is the money you are owed. If accounts receivable are on the rise, you may be getting a warning that the folks you sell to are starting to stumble.

What’s Your Average Collection Time on Accounts Receivable?

This is probably one of the most aggravating pieces of information for cash-strapped businesses, because it tells you how many days you’re acting as ‘banker’ for the people who owe you money.

What Are Your Accounts Payable?

The flip side of accounts receivable. An increase in your accounts payable may merely reflect a larger amount of purchases overall. But an increase that hasn’t been planned or managed can be an internal warning that your company’s financial strength is waning.

What’s Happening With Your Inventory?

There are occasions, even in this just-in-time business world, when building up a significant inventory can be a good thing.

If prices for items you sell or use in production are relatively low, putting some of your money into inventory may make sense.

Being able to track your inventory can tell you whether business is increasing or slowing down. It also tells you how much money is tied up in this unproductive asset.

Knowing what’s up with your cash flow is essential to your business. But sometimes the figures can be difficult to understand. Don’t ever be afraid to turn to professionals for some help.

4 Tech Must-haves For Your Mobile Office by Tim Jacquet

4 Tech Must-haves For Your Mobile Office by Tim Jacquet

4 Tech Must-haves For Your Mobile Office by Tim Jacquet, Everything changes when you trade in your desktop for a laptop and your office for a hotel room.

Sometimes this is for the better: You’re liberated from your cubicle and free to go where your work takes you.

But sometimes things change for the worse. Productivity suffers when you’re in an unfamiliar place. The way a laptop keyboard cramps your hands is sometimes enough to keep you from getting the job done right.

Here are four technology “must-haves” for the mobile office, plus some tools that can boost your productivity while you’re away.

The Right Software

It isn’t just downloading the necessary applications onto your laptop or PDA, it’s also knowing whether the programs are suited to a mobile office. Is your email program built for the road or adapted from a bigger application meant for a corporate network? Do the programs work together on your laptop or do they freeze when your processor gets busy?

These considerations can become big issues when you’re travelling. That’s something Tab Stone, a doctor from Los Angeles, knows all too well. He installed a new email program on his laptop before leaving on a recent trip, but it wasn’t suited for mobile use. He had to uninstall it shortly before takeoff, but that disabled his backup email program. That meant he couldn’t download any messages to his PC. “I could not fix whatever was corrupted with either a fresh download or a copy downloaded from the internet,” Stone recalls.

The latest: Contact-management software programs let you integrate data with your PDA, so you can download and synchronise contacts, calendar appointments and notes to your Palm Pilot or Pocket PC. There’s also a web-based version for travellers who either lose their laptops or prefer to work from a desktop at their destination.

What’s next? Look for more integration between applications for wireless users. Contact managers are already assuming the role of email program, address book and database. The next step is making it more accessible to people who are using cell phones or PDAs.

The Right Hardware

I’m not talking about owning the newest laptop computer. I’m talking about hardware that’s created for life on the road. Let’s face it: A lot of the gadgets on which mobile professionals depend aren’t made with travellers in mind. For example, when Joachim Martin’s laptop battery ran out on a recent flight, a helpful flight attendant offered to recharge it in a “secret” outlet in the back of the plane. “The batteries charged,” remembers the software developer. “But when I got home, they were dead.” The power source had to be replaced. Blame the airline, the battery manufacturer or even the unfortunate business traveller for not knowing better, but this kind of thing happens often. Phone plugs don’t always fit; neither do power outlets. And a lot of the gadgets we rely on are traveller-hostile, impractical or both.

The latest: Some hardware manufacturers are meeting the demand for traveller-friendly hardware with add-ons such as the Stowaway XT Keyboard. I’ve also been impressed with Microsoft’s Mini Optical Mouse, which frees you from the restrictions of your laptop’s finger-cramping pointer.

What’s next? As the convergence between cell phones, PCs and PDAs continues, it wouldn’t surprise me to see devices that offer the ergonomic comfort of a desktop with the portability of a PDA. It won’t come a moment too soon for many road warriors.

The Right Connections

Connections are everything to the mobile office.

Remember Stone, the doctor without email? He eventually accessed his messages through an unwieldy web connection. Spencer Field, who recently returned from a trip to Melbourne, can also tell you about email trouble. He learned upon arrival that the dial-up numbers to his internet service provider (ISP) didn’t work. “I thought that was probably the end of my online access,” he says. “As a last-ditch effort, I let my fingers do the walking and checked out the Melbourne Yellow Pages for a local ISP.” He found one and signed up for a one-month email account which gave him access to local numbers on his entire itinerary.

It isn’t just internet connections that matter, but also hooking up to other devices such as cell phones, PDAs and laptops. Technologies such as Bluetooth let you communicate with other devices in an office or hotel room without the need for cables.

The latest: According to a recent AT&T study, the top barrier to working from a remote location is access to a high-speed data connection. Fast wireless networks are springing up everywhere — in hotels, airport lounges and coffee shops. And even though Bluetooth got off to a slow start, the concept behind it — which is to lose the wires — is fundamentally sound.

What’s next? It won’t be long before Wi-Fi is as ubiquitous as cellular coverage and a majority of devices are Bluetooth-enabled. That’s good news for those of us who work in a mobile office.

The Right Web Applications

Web-based applications are so important to the mobile office that I’ve decided to give them their own category, even though they technically belong in the “software” section. The web is one of the most efficient ways for a mobile worker to gain access to a back-office system, intranet or database.

My ISP offers a rudimentary application that lets me check my email from the web. I can’t remember how often I’ve had to use it because my email program failed to work properly. But I do remember the last time. I was stuck at a meeting out-of-town and my email account had sustained a spam attack — thousands of unsolicited messages — that would have taken hours to download. Instead, I logged on to the web and deleted them all in seconds. Were it not for the web application, I would probably still be downloading the spam.

The latest: One of the most innovative Web applications is GoToMyPC , which lets you access the desktop in your home or office through the web. Another useful application for mobile users is web conferencing services such as Microsoft Office LiveMeeting.

What’s next? Expect these applications to become cheaper, more reliable and even more sophisticated.