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Entrepreneurs could give their budding companies a powerful financial boost by using a source of funding usually considered off limits--the retirement kitty. The author, a certified financial planner, does, however, caution company builders to leave a portion of those funds intact, using more accessible sources first. Thereafter, he argues, tax-deferred assets in a 401(k), SEP, or IRA comprise a personal venture capital fund that can do as much for an individual's business as for his or her golden years.
Accepting a loan from the most respectable source of business financing--namely a commercial bank--is a mistake for some entrepreneurs, argues the author, who recounts the tale of her company's demise subsequent to her signing a bank loan with overly stringent terms. She includes four pointers that can help you flag loans likely to go bad.
As what is known as one-to-one marketing takes hold, entrepreneurs must take the measure of customers as individuals and provide precisely what each customer craves--or risk extinction. The author advises consumer-oriented businesses to listen, probe, and touch, gathering information about each potential buyer, asking open-ended questions, and keeping in contact on a regular basis.
Never underestimate the power of a strong and authentic personal connection with another person, especially in the context of business. Why is a one-to-one relationship so gripping and powerful? Precisely because it is unexpected, it is very welcome.
As his online entertainment business became successful, founder David Ellington needed more employees with mid-level technical skills. Filling those jobs with well-trained young people of color became this entrepreneur's way of giving back to his community by creating a model program that benefits everyone. Not only that, he's creating wealth as he brings disadvantaged youth into the high-tech mainstream with good salaries and stock options.
When every start-up you're involved in grows quickly and you're working all the time, how do you manage to squeeze in philanthropic activity? Searching for a way to support his community, a company president got together with other successful business owners to establish the Austin Entrepreneurs Foundation. They endowed it the same way they rewarded employees, consultants and investors: with equity. And, as a result of their business success, the AEF now has plenty of options.
When you get out there thinking you're the most important member of the team, you're headed for failure, says Wally Amos. The founder of Famous Amos Cookies found out the hard way that you can't just indulge your whims and let the chocolate chips fall where they may. How he developed a spiritual understanding, recovered his good name and started a new, more successful company serves as a great recipe for other entrepreneurs.
When Michele McGeoy sold her first software start-up, she thought she was doing the best thing for her stakeholders. But, a few years later the new owners resold the company out of state, leaving her and her employees out of work. Having lost control by giving up ownership, McGeoy found a better solution for her next venture: She empowered employees by making them stakeholders and created a culture that promotes healthy growth.
Passionate about her business and experienced in number-crunching, entrepreneur Carol Frank nonetheless neglected to patent her product and to insist on a signed contract from her supplier. Next thing she knew, a competitor was copying her design. In the litigation that followed, the U.S. Customs and Frank's insurance company turned out to be surprisingly helpful.
A company's name is a major intangible asset--but even a federal trademark may not be enough to protect it. This entrepreneur, owner of a media services business, discovered the difficulty in defending his intellectual property against a competitor with deeper pockets. Although he expected to win his case, the prohibitive cost of going to trial led instead to a settlement.
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