By Sandra Pesmen
(Q.1.) I HAVE A REALLY GOOD IDEA for a new small business, working out of my home, but I'm at a loss about the technicalities of setting it up. I know how to make the product and I think I can sell it, but I'm not giving up my day job until I see some profits. Can you give me some help?
(Ans.) ALMOST EVERY DAY AN ENTHUSIASTIC ENTREPRENEUR thinks he has a business idea that will work, and some manage to pull it off. Others--not so much. But Thomas Gray, author of Business Techniques in Troubled Times: A Toolbox for Small Business Success, suggests some steps to take to launch a business in these tough times. Vision and planning - learn how to express your dream, make a business plan, target your market, analyze competitors, and forecast sales; Financing the business - learn about your financing options, types of lenders, and angel investors; Effective marketing - learn how to bundle your services, create a product roadmap, choose pricing, find distributors, and use media; Day-to-day operations - learn to manage family employees, use your numbers, improve processes and profits; Growing and exiting - learn to prune away unprofitable parts of the business, and how to use Employee Stock Ownership Plans so everybody wins. Also analyze a distressed business for turnaround or closing.
(Q.2) WHAT CAN A YOUNG EXECUTIVE do to make sure I will eventually get into the soft carpet section of the executive suite? I went to the best schools and was chosen for great internships and from those got this job. But I'm sitting here and wondering how I move up.
(ANS.) IF YOU'VE BEEN MOVING ALONG SO quickly you seem to have the right DNA and Robert S. Murray, author of It's Already Inside: Nurturing Your Innate Leadership for Business and Life Success, believes that's the key to moving forward and up in the organization. He feels everything needed to become a great leader already is inside each one of us. But don't stop there. Murray also suggests you: get a mentor, become a mentor; turn into a habitual personal planner, stay abreast of business news and always consider what you'd do if you were CEO of the companies you read about. Also learn to say "no", go to workshops and learn "the sweetness of imperfection in yourself and others."
(Q.3) I'VE HAD A BEAUTIFUL "PERSONAL/ PROFESSIONAL" relationship for many years with the man I handle part-time communications projects for and I know he respects me and appreciates my work. Over this time I've even helped his son with job searches after he graduated from college. Recently that son lost his job and my friend told me he was letting the young man work with him. Today when I called to ask about one of our projects, he said, "I'm letting my son take care of that." Should I feel paranoid? If not, what can I do to maintain our friendship and keep the business?
(ANS) IT'S NOT PARANOID TO CONSIDER that he may want to bring his son into the business and handle some work, and sometimes that work may slide into the territory you fill. Try and be graceful about it, and continue to call each morning to see what work he has for you. You can't stop him if he transfers some of your work to the young man, but if you continue to do that work best, he'll have to consider retaining you to do that.
(Q.3) I WORK WITH "'EMOTIONALLY CHALLENGED" CHILDREN in middle school, and our social worker continues to behave inappropriately. She always interrupts our classes, and this week she came in to demand one girl go with her for a therapy session while the girl was taking a test. That's difficult for her, and when I told the social worker she needed some time to finish, and to please wait, she started an argument in front of my class. It disturbed everyone. I don't know if I can go to the principal, who likes and respects me, and report this and other such incidents-or if that will make me look like a tattletale.
(ANS) YOU ARE OBLIGATED TO TEACH AND protect the youngsters in your care, and if this social worker has been behaving in a way that is harmful to them or to their learning process, you must report it. Ask to meet with the principal to tell him or her what's been going on. Ask colleagues if the social worker has disturbed their classes, and if so, bring them along to that meeting. There's always more strength in numbers.
(Q.4) SEVERAL OF MY CO-WORKERS ARE getting married and feel they have to invite everyone in the office to showers and the actual event. It's costing a lot, even though I'm not actually part of the wedding party. By the time I buy all the required gifts I'm broke. Also, the invitations usually direct me to their "bridal website" where they list things they'd like to have, in addition to store registries that carry their choices. I really get angry being told what to give, especially since some of those registries now list "contributions to our down payment on a house fund" and "a 46-inch flat TV." How am I supposed to respond to this without showing anger?
(ANS.) RATHER THAN BE ANGRY, FEEL SORRY for their lack of good manners. Etiquette experts clearly state no one should ever make any reference to gifts in any invitation. If asked, the hosts may refer you to the registries, where they can ask for the moon. That doesn't mean anyone is obligated to give it to them. Go to your favorite store, buy something within the price range you can afford without sacrifice, and hold your head up high as you enjoy the reception. You are not the one in the wrong here.