• How to set respectful professional boundaries to avoid burnout.

    In a rebounding economy, where many professionals and business owners are still trying to find their footing, it may be tempting to simply be grateful for opportunities and refrain from doing anything that might make you look like anything less than a team player. However, if your goals include moving forward in your career or growing your business, being a “yes person” is counterproductive.

    Protecting your assets

    Your three most valuable resources, as a professional, are your time, energy, and money. Leveraging each allows you prospects for growth. However, there is an opportunity cost whenever one is invested. When you agree to help a slacking co-worker finish his project before deadline, you cannot spend that time on your own project or bonding with upper management at a charity on the same day. If you are a business owner who constantly agrees to coffee meetings that are free “brain picking” sessions, then you cannot

    Read More »from The Underappreciated Art Of ‘No’ in Business
  • Stanford Graduate School of BusinessBob Moog, MBA '84, is CEO of University Games. The San Francisco company employs 70 people and sells 300 products, including 60 board games and other kid-friendly hits such as Colorforms and Glow-in-the-Dark Stars.

    In 10 words or fewer, what is the big idea behind your business?

    An entertainment company focused on learning and fun for all ages.

    What is the best advice you've ever received?

    It is easier to be critical than correct. It was originally said by Benjamin Disraeli, former Prime Minister of the U.K., but my father must have said it to me hundreds of times growing up. For example, I would come home from school and say a teacher is dumb because she gave me a bad grade. My dad would say, "Well, maybe she was right. Did you proofread it?" Or I would overgeneralize. I would say, "No one ever listens to me!" or "Everyone is going to see 'Easy Rider!'" He would also say, "Generalizations are generally wrong."

    It is very easy to criticize but it is very hard to be correct and figure

    Read More »from He Who Laughs, Lasts: Stanford Business interview with cofounder of University Games
  • If they had asked you, you could have told them so, but a new study from Manta and Dell confirms that money is not what motivates most small business owners.

    “Personal achievement” or “fulfilling a lifelong dream” easily outranks “financial stability” as the driver of business owners’ success, a joint survey revealed. In connection with Dell’s The Power To Do More campaign celebrating the humble beginnings of great businesses, the two companies polled more than 3,000 members of Manta’s online small business community last month.

    The poll, which asked entrepreneurs about motivations, milestones, and memories around starting their businesses, found that just about half were at their last job when they decided to start their own business. More than 1 in 6 were at their own kitchen table when inspiration struck.

    What business owners consider their key milestones reveals more what drives them: Winning their first repeat customer was the biggest for 36 percent of owners; marking their first

    Read More »from Happy: Most Small Business Owners Would Do It Again
  • Minority-Owned Businesses Spend More to Win Government Contracts

    source: American Express OPEN

    The payoffs of a government contract for a small business are usually worth all the hard work that goes in to winning one, says Julie Weeks, a global expert on women’s enterprise development. “The government is a steady customer once you break in and understand the rules. They pay more steadily, they provide referrals, and the people you meet can lead to a lot of other business,” she says.

    But federal procurement is a unique market with a big learning curve, which is often even bigger for minority-owned businesses, Weeks’s research shows. And a decline in the federal contracting budget—which is down $35 billion (6 percent) since fiscal year 2009, is making competition fierce.

    Weeks is president and CEO of Womenable, a research, program, and policy development consultancy whose mission is to improve the environment for women-owned businesses worldwide. As an American Express OPEN research advisor, she produces annual reports for the American Express OPEN for Government Contracts

    Read More »from Minority-Owned Businesses Spend More to Win Government Contracts
  • An Entrepreneur Builds a Multimillion Dollar Business with Lego Pieces

    Ranan Lachman, founder and CEO of Pley

    Ranan Lachman says his million-dollar business idea came to him in “one of those moments you realize you’re doing something wrong as a parent.” His mistake? Spending more than $5,000 on Lego toys over the years.

    It’s not that he doesn’t enjoy seeing his son build Super Star Destroyers. “I’m proud of him,” Lachman says. “He drops everything else for two to six hours and can say, ‘look at what I’ve done.’ But then he moves onto something else and you’re stuck with a $400 piece of plastic.”

    Lachman decided it would be more cost effective, as well as environmentally sound, to lease Lego sets and return them when his son tired of them. Of course, no such service existed. So he built one.

    His Lego subscription business, Pley, started small. Lachman invested his own savings to establish an e-commerce website and buy hundreds of new game sets. He began a year ago shipping them to renters from his garage. But what he calls “the Netflix for Legos” has grown 50 percent per month. Now Pley

    Read More »from An Entrepreneur Builds a Multimillion Dollar Business with Lego Pieces
  • About two-thirds of nearly 1,000 business owners surveyed recently by Pepperdine University’s Private Capital Markets Project expect to transfer their ownership in the next 10 years. But will those owners be able to sell the fruits of their years of labor for an acceptable amount? Maybe, maybe not.

    The large majority of companies in the U.S. are privately held, and valuing private companies is particularly tricky, because of the difficulty of estimating their future financial performance.

    Investment bankers and business brokers in the Pepperdine survey said that about 1 in 3 of their engagements to sell companies (presumably public and private) terminated without a deal closing last year. The top reason? Investment bankers reported the cause was most often a valuation gap in pricing.

    For business brokers, a valuation gap was tied for the top reason, along with what was described as unreasonable non-price demands by one of the deal parties. In fact, roughly 20 percent of the busted

    Read More »from Is Your Business Worth As Much As You Think?
  • The trend to mobile e-commerce and Yahoo Live Web Insights

    The future for the majority of our electronic communication and transactions is increasingly mobile. Phone and tablet sales have been eclipsing desktop and even notebook computer sales for several years. And that trend is even stronger outside the US. In some of the world’s most emerging markets in Africa and Asia, the average consumer and small business person never had a computer with wired access to the internet. They went straight to wireless access via a smartphone.

    In a world where we are ever more connected, ever more accessible, the same is true of the small business owner, not just the customer. Yahoo Small Business has launched a mobile app, Yahoo Live Web Insights, that lets small business owners manage their websites on the go. It works with most e-commerce platforms, not just Yahoo Small Business, so anyone can use the app to get connected to their online business.

    What does the app do? Users can view customers on their website, the pages they’re browsing, and products

    Read More »from The trend to mobile e-commerce and Yahoo Live Web Insights
  • In the initial stages of any business, there is a chance that you will see very rapid growth in the number of employees that you have. While this can be an exciting time, it can also be very stressful and frightening. Team members might come directly to you for advice and guidance because you have the overall vision about what needs to be done.

    Your first instinct might be to keep them at arm's length, but it is your job to inspire and manage the team. Here are some ways that you can help empower your employees and give them the tools necessary to become the successful individuals that you want them to be. Don't tell them to get off your back -- urge them to join you!

    1. Respect the individual. Each person on your team has their own set of skills and experiences. And if you are a young or first-time entrepreneur, chances are pretty good that you're going to be guiding people who are older than you. Don't see this as a challenge, but an opportunity to use their experience and knowledge

    Read More »from 4 Ways to Lead Your Employees Toward Success
  • Want to know how to optimize your new CRM setup? Start by finding a stellar CRM administrator on your team.

    Nearly 60% of Salesforce implementations are unsuccessful, always due in some part to an adoption problem. Rolling out a heavy new piece of software involves changing your employees’ processes, behavior and expectations.

    Having an internal champion to shepherd it through can make a substantial difference.

    How do you pick this person? Here’s who it should NOT be:

    • A member of your IT team: While this person is working with a solid piece of technology, your administrator needs to be someone who is familiar with your sales process and your sales team. This role is much more about hand-holding people than coding new fields into Salesforce. So don’t make the mistake of trapping your CRM know-how in the IT department.
    • The entire team: Putting everyone in charge of CRM means that nobody is really in charge. Democratizing Salesforce is a surefire way of ending up with duplicate, outdated
    Read More »from 10 Qualities your Salesforce administrator should have
  • How To Write Email Subject Lines Every Customer Wants to Open

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    Writing Email

    With dozens of emails hitting your inbox at 9am, how do you pick which ones to open? A more important question is how your clients and customers — the people whose attention will make or break your business — choose which emails to open. If you want to increase your open rates and deepen your relationships with new and existing customers, you have to focus on the most visible aspect of your email — the subject line.

    To help you with your writing process, try incorporating these three tips into your subject lines:

    Avoid Symbols

    Even if it describes a huge benefit to the reader, don’t include a symbol in the subject line. Why? Because it can earmark your email as spam. A 50% off coupon, for example, is highly likely to get filtered straight out of your recipient’s inbox and into their spam folder. According to business coach Jason Womack, “It’s best to avoid symbols in your subject line, unless you’ve gone back and forth with someone several times, and your risk of being considered

    Read More »from How To Write Email Subject Lines Every Customer Wants to Open

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