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It’s your Business so do what you want to-Part Two

[picapp align=”right” wrap=”true” link=”term=sunshine%2blandscape&iid=5276696″ src=”6/0/b/1/Rays_of_sunshine_8254.jpg?adImageId=9515058&imageId=5276696″ width=”234″ height=”156″ /]See the sun peeking through the trees?  There is hope for spring to come and there is good news in this conversation.  *This is Part Two of a 2-part post: It’s your Business so do what you want to.

PART TWO: It is your BUSINESS so do WHAT you want to.

Yesterday I took a break at noon to have lunch and while eating my sandwich [I’m one of those people who just loves sandwiches…my favorite is on homemade white bread with mayo, a couple of green leaf lettuce leaves, slice of provolone cheese, Virginia baked ham slices and thinly sliced yellow onion – good!] I watched the latest episode of Castle.  I’m such a fan of Nathan Fillion – ever since Firefly.  Anyway, the commercials were from Blackberry and their newest tag line is Love what you do and Do what you love. Great advice.  Especially for small business folks – those of us with tiny businesses…the less than 5 employees and the solo-preneurs.

Yes 2009 – even 2008 – simply was awful economically.  However I don’t want to talk about that today.  I’m one of those people who suffer from sunshine deprivation in the winter and we’ve had over a week straight of rain and clouds and I’m missing the sun…I do live in California after all…so I want to bring some sunshine into this conversation.  It’s not all bad out there and there is hope.

One of the proofs of that was in my morning newspaper’s business section.  A medical device maker is going to call my community “home” this year.  In fact it was the second company in two weeks to announce a move to my city.  According to the article by George Avalos five companies have done significant things in the past few months that will bring jobs and commerce to my community.  The companies are Bridgelux IncJLA Inc.Wiley X Inc. Enray Inc. and Admedes Inc. This is good news.  The newest mention is Admedes, a medical equipment maker and, according to the article:

  • “…Admedes has bought an 18,000-square-foot office and research building that it will use for a manufacturing center and a showcase for its medical products. The company makes miniature components for medical devices…’Our plan is to get to 50 employees in about five years,’ said Eric Veit, a vice president with Admedes Inc. ‘We are looking at and interviewing a number of people right now.’….”

There are more positive notes out there in the ether

In an article at Forbes.com, Mark Wolf wrote about “…A remarkable trend is emerging in the U.S. job market–one that will greatly impact the workplace of tomorrow. Women are becoming the nation’s job-creation engine, starting small businesses and stimulating new jobs at a rate that outdistances their male counterparts and disproportionately exceeds their current contribution to U.S. employment….”  He was referencing a newly published report by The Guardian Life Small Business Research Institute and summarized it by saying, “…Specifically, the Institute expects that women who own small businesses will create from 5 million to 5.5 million new jobs across the U.S. by 2018, and in the process transform the workplace of tomorrow into a far more inclusive, horizontally managed environment….”

I know I’m a woman business person and chose this tidbit for inclusion in this post, but don’t take it that I don’t see that men who start new small businesses aren’t also a positive factor for this year because they are.  There are only two genders and we’re all in this together.

INC.Com has a great article, 9 Home based Businesses You Can Start In Your Pajamas In 2010, and gives a short description of the 9 people who are making a go of it:

This article tells me two things: 1) there are innovative and interesting niche markets that people are creatively finding ways to have businesses in – I, for one, had never considered “Online Content Aggregation” prior to this and love the way Chris Jordan has approached the insurance business.  and 2) have you noticed that I was able to find a link to each and every one of those businesses?  Just a marketing hint: no business is too small to have a presence on the web.

Small Business Trends had an article earlier this month by Dawn Rivers Baker, Top Microbusiness Trends for 2010. She says, “…there’s no reason to imagine that there are no opportunities to be had in a sluggish economy, as any astute student of entrepreneurship will tell you. And right now is a particularly good time to run a lean, efficient microbusiness that doesn’t need a bank loan to chase growth prospects….”  Of the trends she mentions the one I’d like to highlight:

  • “…Federal contracting. Plenty of people will tell you that microbusinesses are too small to fulfill government contracts but I’m not one of them. There is still plenty of money appropriated for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) projects that hasn’t gone out the door yet. For microbusiness contractors in construction and related sectors, there will be plenty of contracting and subcontracting opportunities….”
  • Also, in the comment section following the article Ms. Baker responds to a commenter in part: “…nonemployers are a subset of the microbusiness universe. Micros are defined as firms with fewer than five employees. Nonemployers are firms with no paid employees outside the business owner(s), which means they certainly fit the micro definition. They are, in fact, the largest portion of the microbusiness population, comprising about 80% of it….”

I found this article interesting because (a) it reminds us that the government [in the U.S.] does have money to spend on contractors and why shouldn’t the tiny businesses be included?  And (b) I found it a very interesting statistic that 80% of micro-businesses are what I call solo-preneurs…a business that is comprised of me, myself and I.  Just like the business here in my community where my husband and I take our vehicles for maintenance – Ron’s Valley Brake & Auto Repair.  Ron has a shop downtown and he’s the owner and only employee.

Another article at Small Business Trends, this one by Anita Campbell, 10 Small Business Trends and Opportunities, speaks to solo-preneurship; her trend #10:

  • “…More Sole Proprietorships – One thing that we know is that during and in the aftermath of recessions, more  people who are out of work will turn to starting their own businesses…If you are looking for businesses to start, these typically require little startup capital and may not require highly-specialized training or degrees:  pet businesses;  kids products;  Web businesses; consulting for your former employer or industry; virtual assistants; apps development; home based franchises.…”

Again, there is a mention of small business ideas I hadn’t thought of like apps development.  Interestingly, my husband’s cousin is currently developing just such a small business.  This is very cool to learn of an industry about which I previously had not known and discover it is a trend.  Cool.

Even in my industry, fine arts – I consider myself an artist-preneur – there is hope.  This Friday I will participate in the first art event of the year and who knows maybe there will be a sale or two.

So all-in-all there is hope regardless of the screaming headlines.  The sun will indeed shine again and I won’t have to rely on my Ott Lite.

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Let’s make Courtesy the Hallmark in Business for 2010

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=new+years+++ball+2010&iid=7442881″ src=”8/a/6/2/Ball_Drop_In_dc39.jpg?adImageId=8778463&imageId=7442881″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]A hallmark is a distinctive characteristic or attribute.  Kind of like a stamp used on gold and silver coins to mark them for purity and excellence.  If you get a gold coin with this hallmark, then you know it’s pure.

Courtesy, in a simple definition, is a polite gesture.  You say “thanks” when someone picks up the coin you dropped on the floor at the cash register or you say “no, you go first” when approaching a door and the person next to you has their hands loaded with packages.  Simple courtesy.

Since we just finished the major shopping season of the year for 2009 and most of us braved the stores amid madding crowds I wonder if you can recall moments of simple courtesy?  How many business people extended courtesy when the crowds were at their crush-iest and most demanding?  And, did you return courtesy for courtesy?  One example I participated in was to allow a pedestrian to cross the lane in a busy shopping center…I could have just plowed ahead pretending not to see this woman standing there hoping for a break in traffic.  But I reasoned that if it were me, I sure would appreciate having a car stop so I could cross…so I stopped.  She not only acknowledged my effort at courtesy, she returned it by saying loudly, “thank you so much.”

Last year, 2009, wasn’t a fun year in business.  Not a jolly year for the economy.  Too many people suffered job loss and paycheck shrinkage.  2010 may not be much better.   What could be better, however, is our combined efforts at being kind one to another.

  • sales staff people could acknowledge shoppers with a smile and a “how is your day?”
  • counter staff people could say “thank you for your business” and “is there any other way I can be of service today?”
  • on-site managers could both be kind to the employees and the customers – give the employees much needed positive reinforcement such as “you did a great job on that report,” or “I appreciate how you handled that situation with that customer,” or even “is there anything I can do to make your job easier?” [in some cases this could be a better chair or new keyboard or some added training]; the on-site manager could come out of his or her office and help customers…in a retail setting, the manager does not get sales compensation and shouldn’t take anything away from the commission-earning sales staff, but maybe the manager could help to tidy up the sales counter or do a little stocking of shelves to help
  • business leaders could literally lead in this effort by making courtesy a hallmark of doing business this year: acknowledge that raises may not come this year and no one might get a bonus, but that doesn’t mean that positive reinforcement needs to dry up.  Business leaders could do everything within their current budget creatively to make their businesses a positive place to work for the employees and a positive place for customers and clients to do business
  • solo-preneurs [single person businesses and home-based business owners] can also adopt the hallmark of courtesy in their relations with clients, customers, suppliers and competitors

What about the consumer? I’m not leaving them out either.  We’re all consumers, every one of us.  We all shop at the grocery store and gas station.  We all purchase food for our pets and visit our health care providers.  In every instance we can say “thank you for taking your time,” and “I appreciate your finding this,” and “yes, please” and even “no, thank you.”

Simple courtesy practiced and perfected by all of us on both sides of the business plate just might make this New Year a bit more pleasant for all.

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Standing for the tiny business sector

[picapp align=”left” wrap=”true” link=”term=paperboy&iid=75238″ src=”0072/8b6b57a7-cc06-4e2d-b8ac-6459166865c6.jpg?adImageId=8110054&imageId=75238″ width=”234″ height=”351″ /]There exists a business segment that I’d like to hear and read about more – the tiny business sector.  Businesses with 10 employees or less. Businesses with only one person – the solo-preneur.  Just like the newsboy in the photo, there are millions of people working [or trying to] around the world to make their living out of their home office or garage or a corner of the kitchen.  Or they have a small shop downtown with two or three employees.   You don’t read about federal government bailouts for owners of lemonade stands or taco lunch trucks do you?

I’ve been noticing some articles around the news that seem to be addressing small business, but most seem to be in the jobs creation department rather than the stimulating more consumer spending department which is what the tiny business sector needs.  One interesting article is at  The Huffington Post [dot com], written December 3 by Shahien Nasiripour and titled, “No Easy Jumpstart to Get Small Business Hiring Again.”  There was one spot in the article that caught my attention and I thought was right on the money [so-to-speak]:

  • “…The two leading small-business advocacy organizations – the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) and the National Small Business Association (NSBA) – have differing views. The NSBA points to the lack of credit as one of its top priorities. But in a report released last month based on survey data, the NFIB noted that while its members were having difficulty getting loans, it was far from a top priority. ‘Too many [business] owners have no reason to borrow,’ the authors wrote. ‘The biggest problem was a dearth of customers.’…” [note: I kept Mr. Nasiripour’s links intact in this excerpt except one]

What I want to point out is the last statement of that excerpt: “…’The biggest problem was a dearth of customers.’…” – For the tiny business sector getting a business loan seems pointless…what for?  What we need are customers, cash-in-hand paying consumers.  I read a comment on an article somewhere yesterday [forgive my faulty memory as I’m fighting a cold and laryngitis this week] that suggested the U.S. federal government give all taxpayers a monthly ATM card pre-filled with $500 that has to be spent within the 30 days.  The idea was given as a way to boost consumer spending.  An interesting one.

Another article I found today at the Wall Street Journal online by Diana Ransom and titled, “The White House Works It,” summarizes the most recent ideas to create jobs.  Small business owners, about 130 of them, were among those who met at the White House with others representing differing business segments and sectors.  But in looking at those top ideas, none seemed to benefit the tiny business sector – the one sector most probably not expected to be part of  job creation.  The top ideas from the article:

  1. Work Share Tax Credit – the one comment I found relevant was “…Micro-businesses (firms with fewer than 20 employees) would likely be left out, says Dean Baker, a co-director at the nonpartisan Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, D.C. “Presumably, you would want to aid firms other than ones that employ close friends and family members,” he says….”
  2. Jobs Tax Credit – solo-preneur businesses will not benefit from this as this type of business does not hire or job share.
  3. ‘Cash for Caulkers’ “…Depending on how many property owners take up the initiative, the plan could not only provide jobs to the hard-hit construction sector, it would limit carbon emissions and reduce owners’ energy costs….” My thought on this one was that if you had a fellow who was an independent contractor, this could be a help to him…and I know two personally; however, this idea does depend on property owners having the budget to hire the work done. [As an aside, it is one thing to offer home owners tax incentives to participate in this type of initiative, but the reality is that they still must have the budget to afford it in the first place.]
  4. Public Works Projects – This one might be valuable to solo-preneurs if there are people with their own business who have these skills and if the initiative would include the solo-preneur.
  5. Payroll Tax Holiday – again this idea is vested in job creation rather than increasing consumer spending.
  6. Capitalizing Community Banks “…would give small businesses a greater chance of landing loans…” – this idea is grounded in the getting loans for expansion which would result in more hiring.  Tiny businesses might need loans for improvement or supplies…what about that kind of loan?

As followers of this weblog may have noted, recently I changed my own solo-preneur business from that as an independent distributor of a direct selling company’s product to being the direct seller of my own [art] product(s).  Life is a journey and it has been interesting to me to watch my own understandings and ‘light bulb’ moments as my business has grown and changed.  I have friends who remain in that other business and this past year their customers have been buying less or dropping as customers altogether.  If any reader is familiar with the art market, for the home-based artist-preneur, the art market for the past two to three years has been like a desert.  I participated in a huge Open Studios tour in 2008 that the previous year had been a financial success for many artists…last year sales were dismal and attendance was down 50%.  People just weren’t buying art.  Even the artists at the event who normally can expect a portion of their annual income went home greatly disappointed and in the red.

So. In all the plans and discussions about economic recovery and helping small business, where are the ideas for the tiny business sector and for jump-starting consumer spending?

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Home-based business owners are solo-preneurs

“Hey mom,” offered my daughter over the phone recently, “did you know you were a solo-preneur?”  I, of course, had no way of knowing if she hyphenated ‘solo-preneur,’ and frankly I didn’t know she was aware of the concept.  But I should have as both my daughters are extremely bright and brilliant young women!

A note about being a Baby Boomer and mom to two extremely bright and brilliant young women…it’s a challenge!  Kim, the older of the two, attended and graduated from Chico State University in northern California getting her degree in music.  She then taught high school music [this included classroom, choirs and marching band] for 5 years.  Then along came Matthew.  Now she is the busy mother of a 2-year old, teaches piano in her home and has turned her creative muse to mosaic art – something she and I share.   Jenn, the younger, is an actress, just building her resume.  She has some impressive Indie work already and she and I are looking to do some kind of collaboration regarding my fiction novel…more to come about that.  Jenn has a mind sharper than an ancient samuri sword and continuously amazes and humbles me with her keen insights into politics and world affairs.  Both girls have always given me worthwhile input in my endeavors.  So, to have one of them offer her opinion that I, as the owner of a home-based business, am a solo-preneur – well, I had to run to my laptop and look that up.

I found what I think is the perfect definition of solo-preneur. [I hyphenate the word…but that’s me.]  Abacus Coaching Ltd. [find their homepage here] defines it as:

  • “An entrepreneur who works alone, “solo”, running their business single-handedly. They may use Associates or Contractors yet they have full responsibility for the running of their business.”

I love what Bryan Leslie, owner this business consultancy in the UK says about the responsibilities of being a solo-preneur: “…you are responsible for the following activities within your business, either by doing the work yourself, or by outsourcing a combination of your businesses primary, secondary and support functions….”

He lists these as Primary:

  • Sales
  • Marketing
  • Operations
  • Customer Services

As Secondary:

  • Finance
  • Quality Control
  • Statistics
  • Continuous Improvement

As as Support Functions:

  • Research
  • Human Resources
  • Systems
  • Training and Development

This list seems overwhelming at first blush for the person who is going their business alone and does no outsourcing at all.  There are millions of small home-based businesses where every one of Bryan Leslie’s responsibilities are piled, one atop the other, on the lone soldier looking out over the battlefield of commerce.

However.  It’s do-able.  Being a solo-preneur requires certain gifts and skills:

  1. determination above all…the will “to do”
  2. diligence and discipline...keep at it
  3. a positive mental outlook that feeds the emotional engine…like the little train, tell yourself “I think I can,” then you’ll know you can and you will
  4. belief in your business and yourself…you had a big “why” that caused you to start your business in the first place; keep that dream alive and real and know that you are the best person to make it come to pass through the vehicle of the business that you chose to build

As a home-based business person, you can ask yourself:

  • Am I an entrepreneur? Someone who saw a need or an opportunity and through innovative thinking found a way to meet or fill that need or op?
  • Am I a small business owner? This is certainly so…you own and operate your business…there is no one else’s name on the dotted line.
  • Am I a business leader? Many business owners claim to be business leaders through the semantics of ownership…however, a leader carries the vision and sets the direction.  If you have given your business a vision and mission, then consider yourself a business leader.
  • Am I an innovator? Not everyone can see the possibilities of a home business; and not everyone can shoulder the responsibilities of being the leader, the manager and the worker bee all in one person.  So, yes, you are an innovator of your business.

Entrepreneur + small business owner + business leader + innovator equals solo-preneur in the world of the single-owner home-based business.

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