Consulting Topics

We offer consulting advice and wisdom on how to become a successful entrepreneur.

Congratulations on making the decision to become an entrepreneur!

Owning your own business is a wonderful undertaking and can result in a lifetime of enjoyment. For those of us who love our freedom and control of our own schedule, owning our own business has a multitude of advantages. Unfortunately, owning your own business can also result in servitude and slavery. Uncontrollable variables such as availability of quality labor, seasonality, increasing costs, competition, taxes, changes in banking and even acts of God such as floods and fires can and will attempt to derail even the most saavy of business owners.

How do I know? Because my wife and I built our own freedom plan in the form of our own spa/salon over 12 years ago in Downtown Pittsburgh and have seen all of these things and many many more attempts to sabotage our entrepreneurial dream of freedom. All of these issues are bound to occur to you sooner than later with your new business. Once you conclude that these things will happen, you must begin to determine if you will make a plan to avoid and go around these obstacles or if you’ll allow them to catch you by surprise and undo all of the hard work you’ve put in.

Owners are the only people at your business who are not allowed to quit. The risk rises and sets on you on a daily basis. You go to sleep on a nightly basis worrying about the things you know could go wrong and fearing those you haven’t even considered. You will find most things that happen in your business are not your fault BUT are still your responsibility to fix. There will be many times when you wonder how you’ve managed to create an environment that is so fantastic for all of your employees but absolutely isn’t paying off for you.

This program has been put in place “By the Owner” and “For the Owner”. It has been tailored to the needs of the owner who is just beginning the journey of getting to doors open to the seasoned owner who has seen the issues, made the mistakes, gotten lost, been found and hoping they are now doing it right because freedom remains a goal that is very worth achieving.

Our risk-free, limited engagement, fee-based approach provides our clients with decades of experience and a network of industry professionals. We review all aspects of your business thoroughly including concept, business model, revenue lines, financing, company structure, competition, marketing and human resources.

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What type of business do you own?

What type of business to you want to own?

What are your specialties?

What does your community need?

How will your business operate on a daily basis?

How will the concept change over time to accommodate changes in the market or growth of the business?

All of these questions are of key concern when we are in the dreaming phase of a new enterprise. You obviously need to determine where it will be located and what color the walls and shelves will be but you need to be equally concerned with how you will pay the rent, what your long term intent for the business is and if your concept will have staying power to last at least 10 years before needing to be revamped or altered.

The concept is key as it will act as a guide to many other key points we will need to discuss including competition, business model, revenue lines and human resources.

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Business Model

If you happen to be independently wealthy or are planning to run a non-profit business, this page can be skipped. If you are like the other 99.9% of the world, the business model is the life blood of your concept. If the Concept is the Brain, the model is the guts. If you don’t feed your new machine the right food, nothing is going to go well. What do you feed a business model? You feed it lots and lots of revenue and as little expense as possible. While the adage you have to spend money to make money is accurate, you have to make more than you spend.

Top level entrepreneurs review their model on a daily basis. They check their revenue and expenses and they spend countless hours checking and rechecking that their projections are coming to pass.

Business models are essential for financing purposes and they are the only way an entrepreneur will ever be able to make long term decisions regarding what to do to grow, expand, fix or sell their enterprise.

Models deal with all revenue streams, fixed costs, variable costs and everything in between. By building a model, it forces the owner to confront many important issues before they are in over their head and drowning in a sea of excessive expectations. Horror stories of owners spending 12 hours a day at work 7 days a week just to get the bills paid are the result of bad models. Entrepreneurs with failing models have completely missed the freedom train and are now on the slow boat to a lifetime of servitude.

Getting the business model right is an absolute must for any entrepreneur. It will act as your guide and your light in the darkness when things don’t go as planned.

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Revenue Lines

What are you going to sell?

Can these services be performed easily and inexpensively with local manpower?

You get to keep all of the money if you do all of the work right? I guess if you shovel snow or ride your bike on your newspaper route, this is the case. Howeverin the world of business, there are many expenses that whittle away at your hard earned dollar. In fact, you will find that there will be months where you work full time and actually have less at the end of the month than when you started. It’s bad enough to be aware that this can and will happen. It’s much worse if you don’t know why it’s happening, how long it will continue or how to fix it. Making money in the serviceindustry is a pretty simple equation.

Volume of Clients x Average Ticket = Revenue

Revenue – Expense = Profit

While the equation is simple, there are many variables that can derail either side of the equation. Here are a few questions to consider.

1) Are my service offerings seasonal?

2) What is the going rate for labor in my market?

3) How much will my supply costs cut from my profits?

4) How much of each dollar will be left over after other costs such as insurance, taxes, credit card fees, maintenance and marketing are paid?

The most wonderful services you canoffer are those that you can charge the most per minute to do, carry little supply cost and have ample amounts of inexpensive labor in your location. All revenue isn’t equal. Margins are important to be projected and tracked so that you don’t find yourself hitting all of your revenue goals and still not having your freedom.

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Most new owners will needsome help with a business loan to get going. If they don’t need a business loan to begin, they will surely need to open up lines of credit and other back up finances sooner than later. There will be many times over the history of a small business where expectations are not fulfilled or the unexpected occurs. At that crossroads, the owner will be forced to decide between walking away from the business or staying the course, fixing the issue and getting back on track. Money makes the world go around and you as the owner are dead in the water without back up streams of it when unexpectedly needed.

Most service providers are wonderful with their craft and with their clients but are completely at a loss when it comes to what is needed to succeed in acquiring financing.

Unfortunately, banks and other lending institutions aren’t in the habit of handing out loans based on a good story. I’ve found in my experience that a root canal is generally more fun than dealing with a bank when it comes to commercial funding for a business. It just so happens that funding is usually needed when things aren’t up to speed which is exactly when banks begin to question the long term horizon of your business. However, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Banks base their decisions on many factors including but not limited to the following items.

  • Business Plan
  • Business Model
  • Credit Scores
  • Lease Review
  • Collateral
  • The Type Of Business You Are In
  • Risk Aversion To Your Industry

The good news is that many of these items can be adjusted or improved so that financing can be completed. We’ve done this many times over our 12 years. Additionally, there are many other lending networks other than traditional banks thatcan be tapped in your case. Our network of professionals has been instrumental in oursuccess and can easily be of help to your dreams as well.

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Company Structure

Company structure is a question that occurs on page 1 of your business plan and is intrinsic in setting the navigational goals of the company. Is this a sole proprietorship? Are you a Partnership? What are the short and long term goals of your new company?Are you building it so that you don’t have to work for somebody else? Are you building it for future generations to staff? Do you want to sell it someday and if so, when? These questions need to be discussed and sorted out before you put pen to paper in writing down your goals. If there is dissention in the goals of the business between partners or a lack of clarity in the head of the sole owner there will be problems. It’s hard enough to get where you’re going when you know where you want to go. It’s almost impossible to walk out of your house with no idea where you are going and end up where you meant to go.

Our business was built to generate cash flow with the intention of installing systems that helped it run while we weren’t there. Our intention was not to generate job for ourselves. Our intention was to generate a wonderful business which gave a wonderful opportunity to those that were looking for and appreciated it. The long term goal was stability of revenue with the ability to decide to keep our wonderful business and reap the benefits of a well run and stable cash flow or to sell it and move onto the next thing if our wants and wishes changed over the years. You don’t want to start your own business to get away from working for somebody else just to find that you are still working for somebody else with no way out.

We can help with working you through the basic questions and coming to conclusions. This item represents a major step in the construction of your new venture.

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Who will your company compete with? If you offer multiple revenue lines, you may compete with multiple business’s who have been in the area much longer than you. How do they do things? Does your competition sell on quality or price? Is there a market for what you are offering? Is there enough business to go around? Is the neighborhood satisfactory for your current business and can you be confident it will be a better place to do business in 10 years? All of these questions and many more need to be considered before you decide where to locate your business..

At the end of the day, you don’t necessarily have to be the only game in town to be successful. However, you do need to understand your niche within the landscape that you are planning to do business. Thekey to success is to find a problem and solve it with your unique offering or solution. What problem are you solving? What separates you from your completion? Once you have established your turf, how do you plan on defending it against the next entrepreneur that thinks they can do it better than you?

You may not know all of the answers when you get started but you better begin to consider that there are many more factors at work around you that will influence your ability to build and maintain clients than just your hard work and smiling face.

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It’s been said that marketing is a lot like Rogaine. You don’t really know if it’s working but you’re afraid to stop using it. Marketing is a wonderful concept until you realize that you as the owner pay the bill and are 100% at risk for the results even if they are totally out of your control. If you are in a commission based business, it’s even a more dangerous proposition. You take the entire risk, share the rewards, use up the time of your employees doing the work and have to bring in morethan double the initial investment just to break even. After you succeed in making back your return, it is now up to your people to build relationships and retain the new clients long term. If they are unsuccessful, you just took a major risk only to haveeverybody get paid except you. Do you still think marketing sounds like fun?

How do you plan to let the world know about your new business? In today’s age of technology, you have many more options than the traditional print and radio routine. If your business is a local neighborhood shop, you may find you have to find inexpensive or free ways to only market to a very local group. Print, radio, TV, website, signage, business cards, logo stamped giveaways, facebook, instagram, google, yelp and hand deliveredflyers are only a few of the options that are available to today’s entrepreneur. All of these require time, money or both. The best advertising is the free kind. How can you build a wonderful business that continues to build upon itself without spending additional resources to keep the momentum going? There isn’t a magic answer but we’ve dealt with this issue for over a decade and are happy to share what we have learned.

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Human Resources

So you are now an entrepreneur and you are planning to get busy. You have the wonderful idea. You’ve gotten the entire business concept nailed, modeled and mapped out. Clients are lining up to pay you money and you are ready to start ringing the register. In a short time, you’ll be able to take a vacation whenever you feel like it because there is no end in sight to the cash machine that you have built. You just need somebody to open the door and ring the register. What’s next? Hire somebody to open the door and ring the register right? Easy.....

Remember when we mentioned that this advice will be given “by the business owner” and “for the business owner”. We meant it. This is a group effort and employees and owners are both needed for team work to make the dreamwork. You as the owner hold all of the risk so you deserve to be compensated. Employees are required to perform certain tasks for a certain agreed upon payment and they deserve to be compensated as promised. Now that we’ve gotten the ground rules down we’re going to have to discuss a laundry list of things including but not limited to:

  • Types of Employees that will perform their promised tasks well for an extended period of time.
  • Breakdown of Departments and responsibilities.
  • Company Structure Near and Long Term.
  • Firing and Firing. Who’s doing it? When do they do it?
  • Unemployment Review. Do you understand the unemployment claims process and how it affects your bottom line?
  • Non –Competes. The owner deserves to be protected from his employees. There are rules to this game. The players aren’t allowed to play for whoever they want once promises have been made.
  • Handbook. Nobody wants to talk about this but you’ll need one
  • Payroll. Who’s handling the calculation and tax withholding?
  • Employee Disputes?
  • Dealing with poisonous employees to destroy the attitudes of their co-workers on their way out the door.

The most successful people on the planet solve the largest problems with as few variables as possible. Guaranteed wonderful results is what we are striving for. Unfortunately, most small business’s require large amounts of unpredictable employees to run them. Employee’s are the single variable that can completely wreck all of the hard work and dreams put in by the founders.

Additionally,most if not all employees think they are “only” sticking it to the owner when they don’t try their hardest, poison others and ultimately walk out the door. The truth of the matter is that poor employee behavior hurts the entire organization including all of the other employees who enjoy their position and are working together to make it better each and every day.

We cannot of course promise that many or all of these things won’t happen at your business. However, our team has spent over a decade refining our process so that the only issues are the ones that are truly unpredictable.

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