Business plans… for better for worse, for richer for poorer

February 6, 2012

By Peter Justen –

One of the debates I hear most often revolves around the need for a Business Plan. Love them or hate them…everyone has an opinion. I’ve heard VC’s say they never do anything without one, and I’ve heard them say they are a waste of time.

My opinion? Yes. No. Absolutely. No way. Without a doubt. Maybe.

I think it all depends on what you are going to use it for. I’ve seen hundreds (and written dozens) of business plans over the years and I can’t think of one where everything went according to the plan that was so carefully written. So why bother with them? Simple. I think the highest value to be gained from putting thoughts to paper lies in helping the writer think through their models.

Top 5 Reasons to Write Them

1. Make mistakes on paper before you make them with dollars. It’s a really good exercise to really think through your business model.  (more…)

Starting a business is not an easy decision.

February 4, 2012

The risk and stress involved can be overwhelming and can take it’s toll on the entrepreneur. At the end of the day, if all goes well it will be the most rewarding decision an entrepreneur will ever make.

Giving up a comfortable corporate job with excellent benefits and perks is truly a tough decision. A decision not to be lightly.

Transitioning out of the military and not having a job lined up can be extremely stressful. For many Veterans this is the reality. Especially for an Army Reserve or National Guard soldier that has just returned from a long deployment.

Many of the soldiers today find it hard to maintain long term employment because they don’t know if/when their next deployment is going to happen. A lot of young soldiers have taken on the role of a part time Active Duty soldier bouncing from deployment to deployment. Eventually they tire of the life or the deployments dry up and they are forced to seek full time employment.  (more…)

Why young entrepreneurs don’t have to start with BIG loans

February 3, 2012

In a recent study published by the Kauffman Foundation, young people listed two main challenges in becoming entrepreneurs: access to entrepreneurial training and access to capital.

There are many resources for young entrepreneurs to gain knowledge about starting their own business. The idea of funding your enterprise through sales is “The Lemonade Stand”approach. This idea can also be applied to funding entrepreneurial learning. Here are seven ways to get affordable entrepreneurial enlightenment without risking it all.

1.      Work for another entrepreneur to learn the ropes.

2. Read as many books and publications about entrepreneurship, start-ups and business as possible.

3. Volunteer for a company that needs extra assistance. See if there is a problem you can solve in a unique way, and take action.  (more…)

Free E-Guide to Help Your Business Prepare for Disaster

January 31, 2012

What runs through your mind when you flip on the evening news or catch the headlines on your mobile device and see that another tornado or hurricane has devastated town “X”, leaving countless businesses, not to mention residents, in dire straits? I’m guessing you feel empathy, perhaps followed by the question, “Wow, if that happened to me, would my business survive?”

Well, these are actually really important questions to be asking yourself, regardless of whether you live in an area prone to natural disasters. Disasters can happen anytime, anywhere, and they’re not just physical. Virtual disasters that wreak havoc on IT networks can be just as destructive as physical catastrophes, paralyzing businesses and threatening their survival.

In fact, the U.S. Department of Labor estimates more than 40 percent of businesses never reopen following a disaster and, of the remaining companies, at least 25 percent will close in two years. Furthermore, with fewer resources than larger corporations, SMBs have a harder time recovering from virtual and physical disasters than their larger counterparts.  (more…)

Veteran Entrepreneurs: Demonstrating Our Gratitude Through Acts of Support.

January 29, 2012

They served and fought on our behalf. They devoted years of their lives and many endured repeated deployments. Now is our opportunity to help them in return. 26% of returning veterans are not looking for a job or a degree: they’re looking to get into business for themselves, and we should all be contributing in one way or another to help. We can help returned vets build new lives and thrive as they launch new business and grow their piece of the “American dream” in these tough economic times.

Imagine the impact it would have if millions of experienced business people individually stepped up and did just one thing, like mentoring, coaching, investing, creating strategic partnerships, making introductions to contacts and connections to help further an enterprise, donating or discounting equipment or materials, office space, and so much more that might be needed. What a powerful thing it would be to show our gratitude in this way and pay it forward to help support local veteran entrepreneurs in our towns and neighborhoods all across the country. Imagine if the rest of us were to make a point of buying their products and services and do whatever we can to help give them a leg up.  (more…)

7 Ways to Make Your Kick-Off Gathering a Successful One

January 25, 2012

Hosting an event is a great way to kick off the New Year.  No matter the type, an event gives your business or organization an opportunity to make a more personal connection with the people you meet.  This can give you a huge advantage, especially in a tough economy.  Here are 7 ways to make your event a successful one and start 2012 off on the right foot:

1. Get the word out early. Sending a save-the-date email as soon as you firm up your event details allows invitees to reserve the time. You can follow up later and ask people to RSVP and register in advance. If you’re charging, ask people to pay in advance as well– they’ll be more likely to be there.

2. Create a sense of excitement and exclusivity. Everyone wants to feel like a VIP. Email a coupon to attendees that they can redeem at the door, or if there will be a cash bar, send a free drink ticket that attendees can redeem if they bring the coupon.

3. Increase the urgency when needed. As the registration deadline nears, send a reminder email to anyone you’ve invited who hasn’t signed up yet. For example, “Only 5 spots left. Register today!”  (more…)

Small Business… the Hope for America’s Future.

January 23, 2012

By Peter Justen –

When I’m asked to speak on small business, it always amazes me how few people realize the role small business plays in our economy.  Here are some interesting stats from the Small Business Administration.

  •  Small businesses Generate $5 Trillion in business in the US
  • Represent 99% of all employer firms
  • Pay 44% of total US payroll
  • 68% of employment
  • Employ 50% of private sector employees

These are the numbers that helped build our country, that keep our economy running strong, that create the jobs.  We don’t need bailouts or government assistance…all we need is the opportunity and the drive to make it happen.  (more…)

Essential Apps Every Small Business Should Use

January 23, 2012

Success in the small business arena can be measured many ways.  However, one of my favorite barometers is tied to the speed at which a business owner can adjust his business to the ever-changing needs of his customers.  And making those decisions quickly is directly tied to having the right information at the right time.

Today’s smartphones empower business owners with real-time access to this information.  But, with literally millions of apps competing for space on your phone, which programs should earn a spot?  Following, are my four favorites that I use every day.

Toodledo.com
I used to keep a small slip of paper in my pocket, my to-do list.  However, at the end of the day, it would disappear along with all of my undone tasks.  Now, I don’t have that problem anymore.  With toodledo, I can access my list from anywhere and any device. Their incredible iPad and smartphone apps sync, so every task is only a click away. All tasks are organized in folders of your choice to help separate, say, home tasks from office errands. This one app keeps me focused!  (more…)

America The Land of Opportunity

January 19, 2012

America is the land of opportunity and nobody knows that better than the men and women who have served in the Armed Forces protecting our Freedom both here at home and in foreign lands. We understand it because we have seen what it is like when people don’t have Freedom, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Personally, I’ve served in both Bosnia and Afghanistan. In Bosnia I witnessed as people who had lived under a communist dictator for decades, suffered through a brutal civil war and then tried to learn the values of Freedom and capitalism. Fast forward 5 years and I found myself in Afghanistan which, while completely different culture, terrain and ethnic background, was undergoing the same transition after we ousted the Taliban. Witnessing and enabling the transition to a FREE society is an amazing experience and I believe that without it success is not possible.

The first step in Success stems from the three important factors that I believe are critical for success. First, as I mentioned, you need FREEDOM. Freedom is essential to allowing people the opportunity to be successful. The day I realized what freedom meant was a very hot day in Afghanistan. I was pulling security on the street while my team was inside a building. A small girl probably 5-6 years old approached with an older gentleman. Every bad thought was running through my head. Like does she have a bomb strapped to her?  (more…)

Youth Entrepreneurship: The Equation for Success

January 18, 2012

By Amy P. Kelly

People always ask, “What is youth entrepreneurship? Is it just some kid that starts a business?” During 2012, this column will explore various topics in relation to youth entrepreneurship. It will be analyzed through an equation that applies to all the successful youth entrepreneurs in recent history.

“Youth” is a concept defined by the observer. If someone thinks you are young, then you are youthful to them. This means you could be 9 or 29 – but either way, motivated to start your own business. Therefore, a “youth entrepreneur” is someone that is considered a youth and is an entrepreneur.  

(O + R)∞ + Pr – F + Ac = Ye    

The key to being a successful youth entrepreneur is the equation above, and young entrepreneurs have never been more important to the world. So let’s break it down, and start actualizing this equation today.  (more…)