Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Truth About LLCs

Many entrepreneurs, when first launching a company, will form an LLC. That is, a Limited Liability Company.

In theory, if a limited liability company goes out of business, then landlords and other creditors cannot come after the owners' personal assets. They can collect only from the assets of the actual company.

While this is a great protection, be careful because there are some ways to screw this up. For instance, if you sign as a personal guarantee with a landlord or creditor - then you are personally responsible for money owed, even if your company fails.

Liability protection also would not be available to you if you intentionally committed fraud or failed to deposit taxes withheld from employee wages.

According to BusinessWeek.com:

In general, having an LLC operating agreement, maintaining a separate business bank accounts, obtaining a federal employer identification number, and properly funding the LLC can all help to protect individual owners from liability. It is also always smart to have business insurance in place to protect business owners in cases like yours.

I strongly recommend that you talk with a lawyer and/or your accountant to make sure that your personal assets are protected if something ever happened.

For more information about LLCs, visit:

Monday, June 29, 2009

Local, Not Federal, Government Agencies Provide Business Grants

By The National Institute of Business Grants

A business grant is essentially free money given to entrepreneurs and business owners to start and/or expand a business. A common misconception is that business grants are given away by the federal government. This is not true at all. Grants available through the U.S. government are generally reserved for non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, state and local governments.

However, there are plenty of state and local government agencies as well as private organizations and foundations that offer business grant money. A good place to begin is within your own state.

The U.S. Government's Official Web Portal (www.usa.gov/Agencies/State_and_Territories.shtml) is an excellent online resource that enables you to click on your state and search for state grant money within all kinds of areas, such as agricultural, environmental quality, health, law, and cultural affairs. You can also search the office of the Governor of your state, or search through various state offices such as Affordable Housing, Transportation Dept., Soil and Water Conservation, Education or any other department whose focus best aligns with the nature of your business.

Local sources of funding may include Lions Club, Rotary, Kiwanis, Veterans Administration, Community Development Foundation, Regional Planning Commission, colleges and universities, and hospitals. Civic organizations often have foundations that manage requests for grant money, and the objective must align with their mission and values and benefit the community in some way.

Another local source of business grant money is your state's or city's chamber of commerce, your mayor's office, your congressman's office, and even your governor's office.

In addition to local government agencies, The Foundation Center (www.foundationcenter.org) provides a directory of over 200 corporate grantmakers. Major corporations often establish trusts and foundations to give business grant money to companies and organizations that engage in efforts that are aligned closely with their mission and values. A few examples are General Electric, Ford, Wal-Mart, the Gates Foundation, the Lilly Endowment, Ford Foundation, Hasbro Industries Charitable Trust, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Kipling Foundation, Clorox Company, Allstate Foundation, and International Paper Company. Each company’s foundation has specific criteria on the business focus that meets their criteria for receiving grant money. Grant money can range from $500 to $5 million, depending on the size of the foundation.

The National Institute of Business Grants (www.BusinessGrants.org) is a free online resource for details and FAQs about small business grants and other financing options.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

The Michael Jackson Business

Everybody knows that Michael Jackson was a legend, but here are some stats to show you that he's even bigger than you thought he was.

1) He sold more than 750 million albums worldwide, and his album Thriller continue to be the best-selling album of all time with over 109 copies worldwide.

2) He sold more than 350,000 copies of his documentary The Making of Michael Jackson's Thriller.

3) He sold more than 100 million concert tickets worldwide.

4) He sold more than 5 million copies of his autobiography Moonwalk.

5) He sold millions of action figures and toys.

Even more, USA Today reports the following stats since his death:

Amazon.com was sold out of its supply of Michael Jackson and Jackson 5 CDs and DVDs within minutes of media reports announcing his death and it then saw sales of mp3 downloads begin to spike. By late Friday afternoon, Jackson-related product sales at the company's music store accounted for 19 of the top 25 best-selling CDs; the top seven DVDs; seven of the top 10 mp3 albums; and six of the top 10 mp3 songs — roughly 60% of all music sales.

Even a collection of Jackson Five Christmas songs made the top-25 CD list, which was topped by a 25th anniversary edition of Jackson's Thriller.

Barnes and Noble's website and retail stores also reported being sold out of most Jackson products.

Jackson's music also accounted for 9 of top 10 albums on iTunes, six of its top 10 songs (led by Man in the Mirror at No. 2), and nine of its top 10 videos (led by Thriller). No Jackson music registered in the top 10 in any of those categories a week prior.

That, my friend, is the business of Michael Jackson.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recession Confession: "I Take The Train"

I have to admit that since the economy went sour, I've taken quite a few measures to minimize my business expenses.

For instance, when I'm out of town for business - I try as much as possible to avoid paying for expensive cab fares. Many times I will either walk, or take the local metro train.

Because I travel quite a bit, $40 - $70 cab rides can add up to a couple hundred dollars very quickly.

Fortunately, in most cities that I travel to - like New York, Newark, Atlanta, and DC - you can take the metro from the airport right in to downtown.

In other cities like LA or Miami though, the metro doesn't run to the airport. In those cases, you have to take a cab - but when traveling from your hotel to your meeting or conference, you can take the metro.

Of course, not all cities even have a metro system. In such cases, I just end up walking. I've found that a 1 or 2 mile walk isn't that bad at all.

I haven't resorted to taking the bus yet, but I'm thinking about it. Laugh all you want, but I know I've saved at least a thousand dollars this year already.

I'm not proud to ride the bus. Well, maybe a little.

What is your recession confession?

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

2009 Black MBA Association Business Grant Competition

The National Black MBA Association (NBMBAA) and Wells Fargo have joined together to recognize and empower the visionaries that are a vital component of the Black community.

You can nominate an entrepreneur or business that demonstrates the vision, leadership, innovation and perseverance necessary to be called a 2009 NBMBAA/Wells Fargo Entrepreneur Excellence Award winner.

The two winning entrepreneurs will each receive a commemorative award, a $5,000 grant, and be honored at the 2009 National Black MBA Association Conference in New Orleans.

You can not nominate yourself, but you can get someone else to nominate you.

Here are the eligibility qualifications:

* Must be African American
* Must be at least 18 years of age
* Must have been a business owner for at least 3 years
* Must be an active principal with at 51% interest
* Must be a legal resident of the United States.

The deadline is July 3, 2009.

For more details, visit:

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Don't Waste Time With Unprofitable Customers

That's right I said it, and you can quote me on it! But really I'm just regurgitating what was highly recommended in an article entitled "When, Why, and How to Fire That Customer" from the November 2007 issue of Business Week Magazine.

The article encourages entrepreneurs and business owners to "[get] rid of the unprofitable, the time wasters, and the crazy-makers in your midst."

Most of us can relate to having a customer who is loyal, but is such a nuisance that they are actually a distraction to our motivation - and thus, our profits.

For example, the client that pays for one service but keeps insisting on getting another service for free. Or the client who wants to tell you his life story every time he gets you on the phone. Or the client who nitpicks and is overly critical. Or even the client who acts like he's your only client - as if your entire company revolves around him.

Here are some snippets from the article:

Yes, breaking up may be hard to do, but when a client is costing you money or making you crazy, it can be a smart move. Severing unprofitable or exhausting relationships can, after the initial fallout, boost your company's revenues.

Of course, you don't want to let a profitable client go if losing that revenue could sink you. And no one is advocating firing clients just because they are demanding or you simply don't like them. This situation demands objectivity.

That means it's time for a cool-headed assessment of your clients - how much you're bringing in from each, as well as how much each really costs your company.

"Entrepreneurs have this horrifying sense of scarcity, that the customers they have are the only ones in the world," says G. Richard Shell, professor of legal studies and management at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School. "That is not true. But [firing clients] takes courage."

Yes, even in a bad economy - giving up a worrisome client make be a very good idea.

To read the full article, visit:

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Interest-Free Loans For Small Businesses?

It may sound too good to be true, but it's actually very creditable via the U.S. Small Business Administration. The federal government is, in fact, offering interest-free loans of up to $35,000 to try to keep smaller companies from going out of business.

For businesses that need a lending hand, the SBA is offering the loans with no required payment for 18 months and no interest for more than six years.

They are called ARC loans as part of the federal stimulus package. ARC is an acronym for America's Recovery Capital. There are only 10,000 ARC loans available around the country. That breaks down to only 200 loans per state, making the process extremely competitive.

The loans are also only available to companies that made a profit at least one of the last two years - not start-ups.

The SBA says that businesses interested in the loans should act fast.

For more details, visit: www.sba.gov/recovery/arcloanprogram/index.html or www.arc-loans.com

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Book Review: "Peaks and Valleys"

I recently read a great book called Peaks and Valleys by international best-selling author Spencer Johnson. Johnson is best known as the author of Who Moved My Cheese? and The One Minute Manager - which are also great books to read.

This book, while not his best work, is still worth reading. It's essentially a fictional story about an unsatisfied young man who lives in the valley who meets a very satisfied old man who lives on the peak. Through principles and practical advice, the old man helps the young man adjust his thinking - convincing him that he too can live on the peak.

I like the book because it's short and to-the-point, but also because it easily allows you to apply the principles to your own personal situation. Johnson is a genius at telling a story in a way that makes you think about YOU.

My favorite part of the book is when the old man is helping the young man to see that life is naturally full of ups and downs for everyone. The old man explains that every valley is between peaks - meaning that when you are in a valley, you just came from a peak and are headed to another one.

The key, he says, is to adjust your attitude and change your way of thinking. He also says that by carefully managing resources and having a giving spirit - one can maximize their time on a peak, and minimize their time in a valley.

I highly recommend that you read this book. It's perfect for entrepreneurs who may be experiencing a slow down in business.

The book is available for 10% off at http://tinyurl.com/n5lx7s

Monday, June 15, 2009

Did You Get Your Facebook Username?

I'm not a big fan of using Facebook for business purposes, but a lot of people do this and I've heard some pretty good success stories. If you do use Facebook to grow your business, you may as well maximize on it.

They have a new feature that allows you to personalize your Facebook URL (web address) by selecting a unique username. It will appear in the location bar of your browser after "http://www.facebook.com/" when you view your profile.

For instance, my personalized URL is www.Facebook.com/DanteLee

Since so many people use Facebook, this is a really neat feature because it makes it very easy for people to find you. In addition, over time your page will start to show up in search engine results whenever people "google" you.

Don't procrastinate though because if someone takes the username you wanted, there's nothing you can do about it. If this happens though, consider other options. For instance, I could have also registered Facebook.com/LeeDante or Facebook.com/Dante.Lee or even Facebook.com/DanteMLee. Which ever one you go with, just remember that you can not change it later - so get it right the first time around.

Also, don't even think about name squatting - that is, trying to capitalize on someone else's name. Facebook reserves the right to remove and/or reclaim any username at any time for any reason.

To choose and activate your username, visit: www.facebook.com/username

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Are You Twellowing and TweetBeeping?

I blogged several months ago about why all entrepreneurs should be using Twitter.com - an extremely popular web-based micro-blogging tool. Hopefully, you listened because Twitter has been growing exponentially and still remains to be a very useful way of getting and retaining new clients. It's also a great way to stay in-the-know.

To enhance your Twitter experience, there's a site called Twellow.com that helps you easily find relevant people to follow on Twitter. Essentially, it's a Yellow Book directory for Twitter profiles and it's much more extensive than the search feature on Twitter's web site.

I use this site all the time to find people who are connected to the industry that I work in. For instance, relevant keywords for me are "supplier diversity", "minority business", "diversity recruiting", etc. When I find people, I start following them and interacting with them - and eventually, they'll inquire about my services.

I also recommend that you use another site called TweetBeep.com that allows you to get email alerts when ever someone twitters about you or your company. You can also specify other keywords that may be of interest to you.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Never Too Late to Be An Entrepreneur

I was recently reading an article on BusinessWeek.com, and found it very interesting that there are of tons of "older" people who are entrepreneurs.

According to economists and small business observers, the number of individuals starting their own companies during what is usually considered the "retirement years" has been rising.

According to the nonprofit AARP Public Policy Institute, in 2008, 21% of the self-employed were between 55 and 64, while 10% were 65 and older.

A 2005 study by the Center on Aging & Work/Workplace Flexibility at Boston College found that workers 50 and older are more likely than younger folks to own their own businesses.

This should be very motivational for those who are of age. Whether you're approaching 40, 50, 60, or 70 - it's never too late to pull up a chair to the table of business. It's wide open to anyone who has a passion for their ideas.

A thousand mile journey starts with the first step.

Monday, June 8, 2009

First Black Woman To Head Fortune 500 Company

When Anne Mulchay steps down as CEO of the Xerox Corporation, a black woman will head a Fortune 500 company for the first time. The company released a statement stating that Xerox Corporation President Ursula Burns will be replacing Anne Mulcahy effective July 1.

Ms. Burns, who has been with Xerox since 1980, started with the firm as a summer intern focusing on mechanical engineering. She was named president of the company in 2007 and has been instrumental in helping to revive the company’s financial health after shares plummeted 80 percent in 2000.

Ms. Burns will also join the list of four other black CEOs and 15 other women CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. She is widely credited with helping turn around the company after it came close to bankruptcy.

Ms. Burns has played a pivotal role at Xerox in recent years: overseeing corporate strategy, global accounts, IT and human resources. She has been at Ms. Mulcahy’s side during her efforts to revitalize Xerox. Ms. Burns is credited with negotiating with the company’s unions to cut thousands of jobs.

Xerox’s share price is still low, but the company is profitable again and has gained market share. Ms. Burns talked about the company’s turnaround at Oregon State University in September.

“We are poised for greatness and for success. We have pulled ourselves back from the brink of bankruptcy and taught ourselves that we can do just about anything we aspire to do, if we work hard and put our head down.”

Ms. Burns, 50, grew up in a New York City housing project and went on to get a master’s degree in engineering at Columbia University. She started at Xerox as a summer intern in 1980.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Don't Oversimplify Business

Business is simple, but don't oversimplify it.

Whether you're planning to launch a company or already running one, always remember that it takes hard work and smart thinking to stay afloat.

Often I hear people say "all you have to do is...", but this is the wrong way to start a sentence when referencing how to build or manage a company. It's not about one or two steps, or some type of overnight solution. It's about patience and long-term diligence. It's about strategizing and blueprinting, and properly managing your resources.

Business is only simple in the sense that it can be defined in one statement: the exchange of currency for products and services.

However, business involves many components. There's advertising, public relations, sales, logistics, accounting, management, human resources, law, and more - and staying on top of all of these doesn't always ensure profitability.

Don't be mistaken: Simplicity does not mean that it's super easy.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Recession Strategy: Speak Your Mind

People are always hungry for valuable information from a respectable voice. This is where YOU come in to play. You're an expert, a guru, a genius - and people are just waiting to hear what your opinions, thoughts, and ideas are.

The best way to meet their demands is to write relevant columns and distribute them to the media.

For instance, if you're a business coach - write about how the economy is affecting small businesses and what your solution to the problem is. If you're a health practitioner, write about your solution to a current health issue - such as the spread of Swine Flu. If you're a technologist, write about the latest technological development and why you think it's huge. If you just authored a book about love and relationships, write about...well, love and relationships.

How does this help you? Well, many newspapers and magazines will print your columns for free, and many radio stations will want you to come on-air to further discuss the topic. This, my friend, is free advertising for you. Essentially, by doing this, you're drawing attention to yourself and to your company.

Remember though to avoid self-promoting techniques within the body of the column. This will be deemed very unprofessional. You want to remain unbiased, and only want to mention your company, services, and contact info briefly at the very bottom of your column in your tag line.

When finished writing your column, forward it to all your colleagues and ask them to forward it to all their colleagues. Also, consider distributing it through newswire services such as BlackPR.com or PRweb.com.

If done correctly, writing good columns regularly (weekly or monthly) will lead to more publicity for your business - and thus, more revenue.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Bill Gates Vs. Nintendo Wii

Microsoft is planning to release a camera accessory for the XBox 360 that will create an experience similar to that of the Nintendo Wii. It's called "Project Everyone" and it lets players use a wider range of movements, as well as voice commands, while they play games. According to BusinessWeek, users will be able to play games without even having to touch a controller.

In demos, Microsoft showed the camera using face recognition software to detect individual players and voice commands to launch programs. In one game, players could use any part of their body to smack a ball into a wall of collapsible blocks.

This is their attempt to compete with Nintendo, who to-date has sold more than 50 million Wii units - almost double the amount of XBox 360 units sold.

Ironically, Nintendo must have already been on to this type of technology because they too are planning to release Wii Motion Plus technology, which it says more accurately captures complex motion such as the twirling of a wrist during a tennis match.

Whether or not Microsoft can compete, only time will tell - but they do have a lot of catching up to do. Nintendo practically owns the motion-detecting video game industry, much like Apple owns the MP3 industry.

Interesting though, how our country is in a recession with thousands of jobs being lost every week - but the video game industry is alive and kicking.