Thursday, November 29, 2007

Aim High, But Not Too High

If you think you’re going to build a successful company overnight, you’re setting yourself up for a big let down. If you think you’re going to do it in a year, you are again setting yourself up for a big let down. Think realistic. Most goals take time to achieve.

Why not make a 5 year plan outlining small goals that will lead to your big goals? Five years is not a long time at all, and is a very realistic time-frame to achieve what it is that you want.

Many are okay with the idea of taking 4 years to earn a high school diploma, and another 4 years to earn a college degree. But they feel that 4-5 years to build their company is just too long too wait.

The point is to aim high, but be reasonable about how high you are aiming. It wouldn't make much sense for a high school bound student to have the goal of earning a diploma in one year. This is a 4-year process.

Likewise, building a company is a process.

You should set high standards, and you should challenge yourself to do the unthinkable. However, setting unachievable goals will only discourage you.

When you want to accomplish something, don't ignore the odds that you're up against. Rather, consider them and realize that you can beat these odds within reasonable standards - keeping in mind that you are not superhuman.

Building a successful business is a process that requires a lot of time and energy. How high you are aiming should be based on a realistic timeline.

Besides, doing too much at once can backfire on you. Yes, growing too fast can be a bad thing.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Don't Be Distracted By The Holidays

The holiday season can be fun and relaxing, but don't let it distract you from business. Generally, things tend to slow down for most businesses at the end of the year. So stay focused, and take advantage of the extra time you have.

A great thing to do is to plan for 2008. What are your new marketing strategies? How can you avoid making the same mistakes that you made this year? How can you get more clients? How can you minimize your overhead, without lowering the quality of your products and services?

True entrepreneurs view the holiday season and the end of the year as a time to brainstorm, blueprint, and plan their next move.

Business is a game of chess, and not everyone knows how to win at chess. The few that do know how to win have studied the game, and have come to realize that it is an art.

Likewise, being a successful entrepreneur is an art. The moment that you begin to develop a "Work Now, Play Later" attitude - that is when you really start to become a smart business man (or woman).

Patience is important, but sacrifice is everything.

Community Banks May Be A Better Option For Entrepreneurs

Entrepreneur Magazine reports that the recent boom in community banks could mean better lending options for business men and women.

According to the article, "An increase in newly chartered community banks is providing entrepreneurs with an alternative to banking with the big guys. In the past seven years, more than 1,000 of these new institutions, known as de novo banks, have opened their doors. Last year saw the startup of 191 new banks, the most since 2000. Top states for new-bank openings include Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Washington."

To read the full article, Click Here

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Learn How To Screen People

Everyday I receive phone calls from people proposing or promising to "partner" with me and help me grow my business. These aren't telemarketers either; These are other entrepreneurs supposedly "networking" with me.

The problem is that very few of them actually follow up on what they propose, and some turn out to be very shady. Therefore, I've learned over time to "screen" people.

I've learned that just because someone tells you that they want to do business with you, doesn't necessarily mean that they are serious. Many just want to tell you their life story. Others want something for free. And others are trying to take advantage of you with unfair barter proposals.

Don't let these people waste your time. I'm not saying not to trust anyone, or to be over-sensitive about people. Just be careful with people you don't know, even if its a well-known celebrity.

Sometimes people will try to earn your trust by bringing up their credentials. However, this doesn't necessarily make them legit.

We live in a world full of murderers, child abusers, drug addicts, and more. Don't think for one second that shady and dishonest entrepreneurs don't exist!

Ask them what their purpose in calling is, and find out upfront what exactly they want you to do for them. If it doesn't sound fair, thorough, or meaningful - That person is wasting your time.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

The 5 Biggest Tax Deduction Myths

I'm not a tax expert, but I did find some interesting information from a 2004 CNN article. This information may be outdated, but I thought it was interesting to share anyway.

Please consult with your tax preparer or accountant to see if these are actually true.

The article outlined the following as personal and business tax deduction myths:

1) Uncle Sam will help you buy that SUV. That may be what a dealer told you, but since when is a car dealer your go-to source for tax information? Some consumers, apparently, have come to believe they can get a tax credit just for buying an SUV, according to the National Association of Tax Professionals. Not so.

However, there is a tax break for SUV buyers who are small business owners. In a controversial move, the U.S. government decided to allow taxpayers to write off up to $100,000 for the purchase of a new SUV in the year it is purchased so long as the vehicle is used for business purposes and weighs more than 6,000 pounds.

2) Hey, honey, guess what? We can write off the house. For some who run home-based businesses, "the myth is you can write off 100 percent of your home," said enrolled agent David Mellem of Ashwaubenon Tax Professionals. The truth is you can only write off the portion of your home that is dedicated to your business.

3) Have medical receipts; will deduct away. Medical expenses may be deductible if -- and it's a huge "if" -- they exceed 7.5 percent of your adjusted gross income (AGI).

That's a higher threshold than you may think and the payoff once you reach it may not be huge. That's because if you do manage to spend 7.5 percent of your AGI in out-of-pocket medical expenses, you'll only be able to deduct the amount above that 7.5 percent.

Remember, "out-of-pocket" means expenses that are not eligible for reimbursement from your health insurer or from your flexible spending plan. "You can't double dip on that," Perlman said.

4) I've dieted, now I'm ready to deduct. That weight-reduction program has done wonders for your waistline, but it probably won't shrink your tax bill.

A weight-loss program may qualify as a deductible medical expense, but only if it meets certain requirements. You can't deduct it unless it your physician prescribed it and it was intended to treat a particular disease.

5) I got the nicest dress for work. I can't wait to write it off. Just because you have to get dressed for work, doesn't mean you get to deduct the cost of your clothes as a work expense.

There is one exception, though. You may deduct the cost of your work clothes if your employer requires you to buy clothing that is specifically not made for everyday wear, such as a uniform or clothing with a company logo.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Should You Personalize Your Web Site With An Animated Character?

There's a unique service called SitePal that allows you to add a human touch to your web site. The company allows you to design a speaking animated character, that can easily be added to your website or blog. You can program the character to look just like you, and say anything you want.

The service is very popular, but is it effective? My answer would be yes and no. In some cases, it can be effective to have an animated character talk to your web site visitors. In other cases though, it can be very annoying.

It all depends on what kind of site you have. I wouldn't recommend it for corporate web sites, online newspapers, online research sites, or anything in that arena.

However, I would recommend it for web sites that are used to promote an individual. For instance, the personal web site of an author, a radio host, a blogger, or even a motivational speaker. In these cases, people want to hear your voice, and likely wouldn't find it annoying that you're talking to them online.

For instance, Black Enterprise columnist Brian Leary uses the service for his web site. He says that he has been "surprised by the amount of positive comments [he's] received, as well as new subscribers [to his podcast]."

I think for what he's doing, it's a great fit. The key is to be realistic about how your web site visitors will respond to it.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

How To Be A Freelancer

Freelancers (or freelance workers) are self-employed individuals who pursue various professions without a long-term commitment to any one employer. Basically, they are independent workers that get paid on a project-by-project basis.

Freelancers can be photographers, graphic designers, journalists, publicists, web developers, and even business coaches. Really anyone with a skill in demand can be a freelancer.

If you are interested in freelancing, here are some great web site tools:

1) - the #1 online workplace where businesses find and hire people "on demand" to get work done quickly and cost effectively. This is a great place for freelancers to list themselves as available.

2) - the #2 online marketplace for freelancers and companies looking to hire freelancers. This is also a great place to list your profile.

3) - the #3 online destination for freelancers and employers to interact. It would definitely be worth listing your profile here as well.

Being a freelancer can be a very financially rewarding career. One great benefit is that you are your own boss. You can work at home, at your own flexibility.

However, a major downfall is that you are responsible for keeping your work steady. You have to make sure that business is consistent, so that your cash flow is constantly flowing. In addition, you have to file taxes as a business - which is very different from personal taxes.

For information on how to be successful as a freelancer, it may be wise to join the Freelancers Union. They are a non-profit organization that represents the needs and concerns of America’s growing independent workforce through advocacy, information and service.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Should You "Sell Out" To A White Company?

This is where I may lose some fans. My answer to this question is: "It depends."

Don't get me wrong, I am all for Black entrepreneurship and empowerment within the community. I fully understand that ownership is everything to a race that virtually has nothing. However, there are some scenarios when selling your company to a non-black company makes perfect sense.

You should "sell out" to a white company when...

A) Your business is in serious trouble, and no Black-owned company is offering to buy you out. The only one making bids is a white company.

B) A Black-owned company is offering you $100,000 for your business (what you make in a year), and a white-owned company is offering you $5 million.

C) When the same white company that wants to buy you out, is also powerful enough to duplicate your services, and put you out of business.

D) When a white company makes you a very reasonable offer, and you have shareholders who deserve to finally reap financial rewards.

E) When the white company that acquires your business, can actually enhance your business like no other Black company can.

Clearly, these are reasons where one should be excused from "selling out". Many people have criticized Bob Johnson for selling BET to Viacom for $3 billion. However, when you look at it from the business angle - it made perfect sense for him to do that.

Viacom was a bigger and more powerful media company that has sense turned BET from an African-American brand to an American brand. The channel still features Black content, but now with a global appeal. Believe it or not, but the value of BET has actually increased since the Viacom acquisition.

In addition, BET was a public company and Bob Johnson had to ethically and sensibly do what was best for his investors.

At the end of the day, business is business! You have to do what is best for your company. Not making a smart business decision because you may be labeled a "sell out" may cause a financial disaster for you and your shareholders (if you have any).

And who said that every Black entrepreneur is out to save Black America?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

How to Get Minority Business Grants

Business grants aren’t easy to come by. Even more difficult is finding minority business grants. But with a little determination, finding the grant you need for your business can be easy. There are numerous places to search, including the Internet and your local library.

Some organizations that specialize in helping businesses, such as the Small Business Administration (SBA) have a wealth of information to assist small business owners with everything from business registration to grants. The SBA will guide business owners through the sea of information, taking the time to ensure the road to a productive business doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

The government also specializes in grants and loans to assist with every aspect of a business. is one of many resources that provides grants for various organizations, including small businesses. also gives small business financial assistance to businesses that qualify.

There are numerous local government organizations that provide grants and loans to businesses within the same field. For example, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service provides grants for related businesses. Their objective is to help build a particular field in the community in an effort to build or revitalize a much needed resource.

Each state has valuable resources for minority business owners. The local government typically sets aside a portion of its funds for grants to help build a city or state. These funds are a huge part of building economic viability in a particular area, ensuring there are enough jobs and resources for the people. Most major corporations in these areas also have a foundation that specifically provides funds for various outside projects related to the organization, or its social or political leanings. Research that many Fortune 500 companies and you might be surprised to discover that most of them provide funding for a host of things.

Don’t forget to visit your local library. There are dozens of books that give detailed listings of every foundation in existence, as well as grant opportunities nationally.

There ARE grants out there for minority businesses; one just needs to put in a little leg work to locate them.

Here are some additional resources:

1) Minority Business Development Agency -

2) National Minority Business Council -

3) Minority Business Entrepreneur Magazine -

4) 2008 Grants For Women -

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

How To Fail In Business

You likely have heard about the 2001 report from the U.S. Census Bureau that states that African Americans are more likely to start a business, than their white counterparts.

That same report reveals that African Americans are also more likely to fail in business within the first five years.

If you are interested in joining the thousands of other Black-owned firms that flop every single year (I'm being sarcastic), pay very close attention to what I have to say.

Here's what happens step-by-step:

1) A wealth-conscious African American decides that he wants a better life for himself and his family.

2) He/she decides to start a small business, or join a network marketing company.

3) Because he/she is so excited and zealous (either of self-motivation or from listening to motivational speakers), they begin to focus more on what they're selling - instead of how to sell it and who to sell it to.

4) Most of their time and energy is spent on preparation (web site development, business cards, letterhead, etc.), but little to no time is spent on realistically planning the marketing strategies and demographically assessing the market they plan to target.

5) Months will go by. Little (if any) revenue has been generated. He/she decides to give it one last try and invest more money into it. They randomly pick an advertising method - such as taking out an ad in a newspaper or passing out flyers. This, again, generates little revenue for them.

6) Now, they're tired and frustrated - and have decided to give up on pursuing a better life, and join the masses of Black entrepreneurs who never made it.

The Major Pitfall: They never had a realistic marketing plan that made sense.

The Solution: Business is 10% what you're selling, and 90% who you're selling it to. Do not spend most of your time and energy on the product. Spend it on the marketing campaign.

It doesn't matter what you're selling; If you don't know how to market to potential buyers (more than just family and friends) - you really aren't selling anything.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Four Mistakes To Avoid When Raising Money For Your Company

Brad Sugars, columnist and founder of Action International, recently outlined some major blunders on He says that, "Steering clear of these missteps can increase your chances of success, both in obtaining startup funds and keeping the money flowing."

Here they are:

1) Poor business plans: When you go to meet with investors (family, friends, or investment firms), make sure you are prepared. If you don't put the time and energy into it, the people with the cash won't put the time into evaluating your proposal. The SBA is a good source for learning how to write a business plan as well as sample formats.

2) Not asking for enough money: In a 2004 U.S. Bank study of reasons for small business failures, 79 percent cited "starting out with too little money" as one of the causes of their collapse. That's often because entrepreneurs who are wet behind the ears don't realize that they should calculate their borrowing needs based on their worst-case scenario instead of their best-case forecast.

3) Having too many lenders or investors: One of the hazards of securing financing from multiple sources is managing too many relationships and expectations. It takes time away from your core business. These not-so-silent partners may have conflicting interests or demands and the consequences can be devastating. This is particularly true when you raise money from friends and family.

4) Failing to get the proper legal agreements: Every lender or investor eventually will need his money back, and a legal document covering everything from the terms to the timing can avoid a disaster.

Sugars says, "There are other pitfalls to avoid, but the bottom line is this: Play by the lenders' rules to get them to open their checkbook, but protect yourself at the same time. There's no point in launching a business that will eventually sink under the weight of your investors' demands. If your business plan is good enough and you approach the right people, you should be able to whistle all the way to the bank."

For the complete article, visit: