Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Last Word on Country Music Inspiration

As I put up Radney Foster's song last night, it didn't feel right to do so without mentioning another inspiring tune I listen to when I'm feeling discouraged.

At the risk of being cheesy, here's Ryan Shupe & the Rubberband performing "Dream Big" on YouTube.

I won't go further sharing my favorite music, but I know there are other aspiring or struggling business owners who love music as much as I do and will appreciate having these performers in their collection.

Besides, even Presidential campaigns have theme songs. If I were to have a theme song, this would be it.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Country Music Inspiration

Are you on the brink of starting your own business? In a low spot after a discouraging day?
While I was working late tonight, I had iTunes on shuffle and found my spirits lifting as I listened to Radney Foster's "Never Gonna Fly."
Here is an excerpt to give you a lift. (click to hear the sample)
You wanna feel the wind, you gotta take the ride
You better dream big, you wanna touch the sky
You can't be scared to risk it all
No, you're never gonna fly if you're afraid to fall

Monday, October 29, 2007

The Joy of Bookkeeping

October has been the month of QuickBooks.

I'm learning how to keep my business's books and all the component parts included with that responsibility: setting up the chart of accounts; viewing and reading reports; customizing invoice templates; and creating the record-keeping systems that will help me track my profitability, sales, and inventory.

Because the extent of my knowledge about QuickBooks, accounting, bookkeeping, and business reports could fit in a sandwich baggie, I planned on hiring professional help to get me up and running when I launched my new businesses. I wanted to be trained and at a conversational--if not fluent--level of competency by the time we were done. After all, I'm the CEO of one company and the sole proprietor of another. I should know my books like the back of my hand.

With a $2,500 budget for my first year's accounting expenses, I expected to be able to get the training and set-up I needed, plus my first year's taxes. Since I'm only going to be open for business for two or three months of the entire fiscal year, it seemed like plenty of money.

So in August I had a junior associate at my financial firm come and spend two hours with me setting up my chart of accounts--which she did incompletely. A week or so later, I opened a business bank account and in September I had to write my first check. Stumped as to how to enter my equity contribution and bank information into QuickBooks, then how to write a check, I called my firm and spoke for 20 mintues with another junior associate about how to complete those tasks.

Then last week, I received my first bill from my firm. It's more than $1,000.


At this rate, the $500 online course from Intuit sounds like a bargain.

But I'm a hands-on learner, not someone who retains and integrates information gleaned from a computer screen. Reading about the nuances of double-entry bookkeeping on a white window doesn't sound wise knowing my learning style.

It was time for a new strategy or a new accountant! I opted to seek less expensive help from someone who could walk me through the basics of QuickBooks and save the financial firm for tax time.

I reached out to Richard Witherspoon, of Witherspoon and Heath business consulting. My friend and fellow business owner had introduced me to Richard several months ago and I was impressed at the time by Richard's knowledge of IT systems and QuickBooks. How I wish I had begun my QuickBooks learning curve with him first!
For 1/3 of the price tag, I've been able to spend several hours with Richard setting up my systems and operations. Without fear of what it will cost me, I've been able to ask questions. What's even better, he's given me written, customized, step-by-step instructions. If I forget what we did together, I have typed notes from him after our session.

A god-send!

Plan A sounded good and looked good on paper, but like every part of my business plan so far, the reality didn't match the paper image. Thanks to Richard's help, however, I'm likely to stay within my budget, and even more importantly, I'm ready for business.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Market to Previous Customers: Look to the Past to Build Toward the Future

...or Happy Halloween from Your Real Estate Agent

Real estate agents, like other commission-based sales professionals, know that staying in touch with everyone in their address book is essential to growing their business. Referrals are a salesperson’s bread-and-butter; sales are easier to make when you have a prospect’s friend or relative greasing the tracks for your deal.

Dana Griggs, my parents’ real estate agent with Hasson Company Realtors, knows that one of the cardinal rules of successful marketing is to stay in front of people. And she does it so well.

More than a decade after she helped my parents find and buy their home, she continues to regularly send cards to them. Last winter, Dana sent my mother a holiday greeting that was customized with a picture of my parents’ house on front. My mother, who really loves her house, told me it was her favorite card (after the one she received from me and her grandchild, I’m sure).

This morning, my father sent me Halloween greetings via an email forwarding of an electronic card from Dana.

Every time you reach out and stay in front of your previous customers or clients, you give them the opportunity to pass on your information to others. Not only have my parents talked to me about Dana and her cards, they’ve shared her name to many other people as well. And now, I’m sharing her information with you.

By consistently making yourself visible to those you’ve served in the past, you remind them of what you do and how you helped them. It keeps fresh the positive feelings they associate with your assistance and skill. And because of those positive feelings and your past relationship, they are your best source for repeat and new business.

There’s no need to be pushy or glitzy. Even a simple letter on stationery can be effective. But to ensure your business is remembered, thought of, talked about—and maybe even displayed on your customers’ refrigerators—the key is to find timely, thoughtful, and simple ways to remind them of you and your business.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I Win, I Win!

** For Immediate Release ** Contact: Tara M. Bloom Communications

Local Writer Wins Honorable Mention in One of the World's Largest Writing Competitions

Portland, Or.--Portland essayist and professional copywriter Tara M. Bloom received an exciting letter in the mail last week from the editor of Writer's Digest, the world's most popular magazine for writers.

Her entry to the 76th Annual Writer's Digest Writing Competition was awarded Honorable Mention in the Memoirs/Personal Essay category.

Ms. Bloom's manuscript, Blues Dancers, was among more than 19,000 entries to the contest.

Her name will be listed in the December 2007 issue of Writer's Digest magazine, among the top 100 winners of the contest's 10 categories. Bloom will also receive mention in the competition collection book, published by Outskirts Press.

"It's ironic to admit that I don't have words to capture how proud I am,” says Bloom. “Receiving this acknowledgement from Writer's Digest is an amazing accomplishment. It's not only an honor from my peers, but it's also a nod to my work's market appeal. My next step is to submit the manuscript for publication."

Tara M. Bloom is a copywriter and marketing consultant who helps small businesses break through sales plateaus, turn around poor sales trends, and realize more profit from their marketing dollars. In 2003, she won First Place in the Non-Fiction category of Whidbey Island Writers Conference's Celestial Writing Contest for her manuscript, The Pill: Revolutionizing How We Feel.

About Writer’s Digest:
Writer's Digest is the world's leading magazine for writers, founded in 1920. Writer's Market, the bible for writers seeking to publish their work, was first published in 1921. Together, they form the foundation of a wide range of informational, instructional and inspirational offerings for writers.


Friday, October 12, 2007

Make Your Life Easier: (Nearly) Instant PDF Conversion

Have you ever wanted to upload to your web site a report or examples of your work? Maybe a coupon for your customers to print out or your restaurant’s latest menu?

Have you ever spent too much time trying to figure out how to acquire and run Adobe Acrobat Distiller so you could make your own PDFs? Or maybe you don’t even know what I’m talking about when I ask you that question?

Take a look at the left bar of my blog for the widget labeled, “Biz Tool: Make a PDF.” Although it doesn’t fit perfectly into the Blogger layout, this tool is completely useable and indispensable for the small business owner.

The little gadget brings PDF conversion capability to your fingertips.

To use it, simply type your email into space that’s entitled, “Email,” and use the “Browse” button like you would on any Microsoft Windows Explorer navigation to find the document on your computer that you want to convert. After clicking “Convert and Send,” you’ll receive an email that has the newly created PDF as an attachment for you!

The conversion is done is in less than 30 seconds and works with any Word document (and probably any NotePad, WordPad, text file, or WordPerfect document—I haven’t tested those).

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Another Great Small Business Resource

I love one-stop shops. With so much to do each day in getting my businesses off the ground, finding a destination that provides me with numerous resources in one location is a boon ~ and noteworthy enough to pass on to you!

I visited this morning. With an entire catalog of Forms & Agreements, do-it-yourselfers will find inexpensive and professional templates ranging from press releases (starting at $15 to download) to domain name purchase agreements to instructions for registering a trademark (only $5).

The site's extensive categories of business advice include very useful articles on the essentials of business ownership ~ legal, hiring the right people, choosing the right accounting software and method ~ as well several sections that other sites ignore, such as business travel, developing your management skills and franchising.

In an earlier blog post (Sept 12), I mentioned the importance of belonging to trade associations for your industry. Round out your industry tracking efforts by subscribing to your profession's periodicals. Find a directory of industry publications under "Professional Journals."

I especially love the "Business Answers" section under Tools & Services. Who among us doesn't have a question in mind that we think is too minor or too obvious to ask about? Find the answers to those unasked questions there. You'll also find a Franchise Directory, Glossary, Podcast Library and more in Tools & Services.

I'm in business web heaven. And to show my gratitude, I'm adding the AllBusiness web widget to my blog. Enjoy!

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Sustainable Venture Capitalists: OSA

Be part of the sustainable economy!

Check out Oregon Sustainability Angels (OSA). An invitation-only membership organization, OSA exists to “provide investment capital, strategic advice and mentoring to early-stage companies to help them achieve market leadership in 'sustainable' business opportunities, with a particular focus on clean energy.”

Start-up companies seeking investment capital should be based in Oregon or Washington. Instructions for submitting your business plan are given online.

For more resources related to social entrepreneurship, read “Save the World and Make Money” and check back here for additonal updates and resources as I find them.

Friday, October 5, 2007

Air Your Commercial on YouTube

I received an interesting email yesterday from a small business. They wrote to their newsletter subscribers to invite us to watch their home-made commercial on YouTube.

First of all, I love the novelty of writing to people to invite them to watch your commercial!

And second, what a clever way to harness the power of the Internet and today's tech fad to inexpensively spread the word about your business.

My hat's off to A Natural Home for the small business innovative marketing idea of the week.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Celebrate Your Successes

Yesterday I hit an important and exciting milestone on the way toward my upcoming major deadline. Because I was in such a good mood about the accomplishment, I bought myself a bottle of wine and a bouquet of flowers when I went grocery shopping.

As I shared news of the milestone to my friends last evening and sipped a glass of wine, I realized how good it felt to pause and celebrate the day’s success.

I still have the deadline looming in the not-so-distant future, but keeping myself encouraged is important.

I don’t want my enthusiasm for the project to wane. I want to keep my energy up for the hurdles I face on the way toward my goals. Taking the time to pat myself on the back for the progress I’m making helps keep me energized and excited for what’s to come.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Don't Stop Marketing!

This morning I had coffee with a fellow entrepreneur who launched his business just over a year ago.

As we talked about how things had been going for us with our respective companies, he mentioned that many of the sales efforts he and his partner had made in the very beginning were just starting to pay off.

As promote my copywriting services, I notice something similar. Contacts or advertising efforts I made in the first weeks and months of being self-employed are only recently yielding contracts.

The moral of today’s story: stay dedicated to ongoing marketing efforts. While it may not seem to be doing any good, it will.