• Guide

    It's been a couple of weeks since we last did a weekly roundup of good business reading - and there is a reason. We were taking the time to launch our new series: The Yahoo Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Business. This is an ongoing series of articles that is going to tackle every aspect of a small startup business. We will be running it for most of the rest of the year and you should expect to see a new part come out every week or two. So far we have parts 1 and 2 live - covering everything from the original idea to refining a business concept.

    Each part consists of a solid introduction to the topics to be discussed along with practical examples and advice, plus a very concrete worksheet that walks you through the issues, problems and solutions for that topic - and finally a set of resources - background reading, courses and more that you could think of as extra credit or homework.

    Here are the first two parts - six articles in all.

    Is it time to start up that startup business?

    Read More »from Our Smart and Simple Guide to Starting a Small Business and more: Small Business Reading for March 29th
  • Five signs you are in a toxic office

    Bad Office Culture

    If you’ve been a cubicle-dweller any length of time, chances are you’ve experienced an office culture that stinks: Unhappy workers, cheerless managers, and a generally dismal vibe. And what is toxic for the office is toxic for you if you work in the environment.

    Kevin Kuske, Chief Anthropologist and General Manager for office furniture company turnstone, tours the country studying small businesses that boast highly productive, well functioning workspaces. They’re inspiring, he says, “but the minute you leave them you start to see the inverse in others. Unfortunately, you don’t have to look too hard to find a bad work culture.”

    Turnstone helps well-intentioned business leaders who’ve inadvertently established dysfunctional workplaces to transform their office environments. Based on his experience, Kuske says, “Culture is something you shape, not change. You can coax it, you can enable it. But you can’t flip a switch.”

    If you’re a worker in a bad office culture, the good news is

    Read More »from Five signs you are in a toxic office
  • Initiative will support “the entrepreneurial revolution”

    Think the government is not crucial to fostering entrepreneurial success? Some experts would beg to differ.

    A national American Express OPEN initiative that launched today in Milwaukee is based on the idea, conceived by renowned entrepreneurship thinker Daniel Isenberg, that public sector leaders, including government officials, are key to boosting the development of entrepreneurship ecosystems. Milwaukee is the first of several select U.S. urban areas where the new program, called OPEN for Enterprise: Coalitions for High-Growth Entrepreneurship, will attempt to channel government power to supporting entrepreneurship and existing businesses with great growth potential.

    OPEN for Enterprise uses a model developed by Isenberg, professor of entrepreneurship practice at Babson College and founding executive director of the Babson Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Project, also known as BEEP. BEEP is dedicated to promoting high-growth entrepreneurship by “pioneering a new way of thinking and acting

    Read More »from Initiative will support “the entrepreneurial revolution”
  • Apps that set successful entrepreneurs free

    When Ted Steen and Claudia Bouvier decided to make a major lifestyle change to raise their young daughters away from the hustle and bustle of the New York metropolitan area, they thought they might have to sell the events and banquets business they had been operating for a decade in Stamford, Conn.

    RocketLawyer's app lets Kim Berry and Carole Sinclair do business from a '51 Chevy

    Instead, last summer they loaded their iPhones with apps including Dropbox, SuperCam Pro, and Honeywell thermostats, and loaded a box truck with their life’s possessions. They now manage their catering staff and coordinate weddings and bar mitzvah celebrations at Bank Street Events in Stamford from their new home in Boulder, Colo.

    YEC founder Scott Gerber relies on a fleet of business apps

    Steen and Bouvier are part of a new breed of small business owners who use apps to operate their companies on the go or from altogether remote locations. Scott Gerber, founder of the Young Entrepreneur Council, says that entrepreneurs in the under 35 age group are especially savvy about adopting apps to be more productive and grow their businesses more

    Read More »from Apps that set successful entrepreneurs free
  • From ironworker to entrepreneur, and a quintupled income

    How teaming helped a small startup win big deals

    As a laborer with Ironworkers Local 40 in New York City, Marc Alleyne made a good living on major construction projects at World Trade Center, Battery Park City, and Madison Square Garden. But after a 250-pound steel beam crushed his leg in 2011, he got to thinking about getting into a new line of work.

    In May 2012, after a nine-month recovery from his injury, Alleyne started a demolition company in Rosedale, NY, and quickly won a $99,000 contract to contribute to the renovation of a City University of New York library. Progressively bigger contracts have followed for his six-person firm. He expects his take-home pay this year to be between five and six times his former union wages.

    Alleyne says he named his company Spartan Demolition for the Greek warriors with determination to surmount all obstacles. But he attributes his rapid rise to partnerships with larger companies.

    Marc Alleyne's company Spartan Demolition got off to a great start by teaming with bigger businesses

    “The key to success really has been teaming,” he says. “A lot

    Read More »from From ironworker to entrepreneur, and a quintupled income
  • Tax deductions you shouldn’t try

    Tax accountants advise against trying to take a deduction for your dog's wardrobe

    Nobody knows better how to raise flags for an IRS audit than tax accountants. And boy do they have stories to tell. The online accounting software provider Xero surveyed its network of accounting partners to find out about the most ill-advised deductions small business owners have tried to take. They also asked accountants to point to deductions you might be missing out on.

    Out-of-pocket expenses and auto expenses, including gas, parking, and tolls, are the number one and two most overlooked small business deductions, according to Xero's online survey of 400 US accountants, conducted last month by Zogby Analytics. Also on the list of deductions business owners are prone to miss out on: depreciation, office improvements, and new hires.

    Among the strangest deductions accountants say they've seen small businesses try to take: family vacations, pets and pet food, deadbeat relatives, traffic tickets, spaghettios, a daughter's wedding, alcohol, clothes for the dog, and gambling losses.

    Read More »from Tax deductions you shouldn’t try
  • What your email says...

    If you're running a small business, especially one that relies on the Internet for at least some of its marketing, mastering the art of email is as essential as cranking up the coffee machine and hanging an Open For Business sign on the door.

    Your email can speak volumes. But if you're not careful, it will do it in a squeaky voice or an incomprehensible accent. There are four key components to every email: your address, subject line, message text, and signature. Screw any of them up and you could look foolish and unprofessional to the world at large. Here's how to avoid that fate.

    1. Your Email Address, Your Self

    To the 2.4 billion strangers who occupy the Internet, your email address is your identity. Yet you'd be surprised how many small business owners mess this up. For example:

    If your email address is...

    It tells the world
    CrankyBob1912@aol.com You were born in 1912. You are using a dial-up Internet account and probably still own a rotary phone.
    Read More »from What Does Your Email Say About You?
  • Surprising business choices: Brain surgeon or famous chef?

    poached sablefish with spicy dakon

    Hooni Kim made up his mind to become a doctor during college when he worked in the neurosurgery department at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. He graduated from medical school and was on his way to a grueling 6-year neurosurgery residency when he decided to first spend a year relaxing with his new bride in New York City.

    A 9-month course at the French Culinary Institute seemed a good way to unwind, he thought. Long story short: Kim ditched the medical career, and 10 years later he is the celebrity chef-owner of two of Manhattan’s hottest new restaurants.

    His mother didn’t forgive him for leaving medicine until he won a Michelin star—the first ever for a Korean restaurant. “I thought I’d be doing brain surgery, and here I am cutting pigs and calves’ heads,” Kim says. But he has no regrets.

    “I think I work the same amount of hours as my doctor friends,” Kim says, “but I can’t imagine working this hard and not having the satisfaction of pleasing so many people at the end of the night.”

    Read More »from Surprising business choices: Brain surgeon or famous chef?
  • Business Loan: Approved

    Applying for a business loan can be intimidating and stressful, and it can be confusing to have an application rejected with little explanation. There are steps company executives can take to avoid some of the possible confusion and to develop a more positive experience while applying for a business loan. Two of these steps are described below, and should be completed prior to approaching a financial institution about a loan.

    1) Research Lender Options

    Like any business operator, financial institutions want to make money in their business. While they want to lend money, they don’t want to approve credit that will ultimately result in loss. Further, regulatory requirements often influence the types of loans that can be approved. As a result, a major concern of any institution considering approving a business loan is whether the owner and the business are good risks.

    “Good risks,” however, can mean different things to different lenders, which is why it is a good idea to do some basic

    Read More »from Three Tips for Getting a Business Loan: What You Need to Know
  • Shaking the Bode Tree: How to get a bank loan for your small business

    Signed In Blood

    It’s no secret that every business, small or large, needs funding in order to operate. Unfortunately it’s getting tougher and tougher for the average small business owner to secure a bank loan. In fact, 43% of small business owners were denied funding at least once over the last four years. Worse yet, one in three businesses had their existing credit lines slashed and one in ten had loans called in early.

    Given the economic uncertainties faced by small businesses, it’s likely that bank financing will remain scarce. Nevertheless, it is still possible to get a bank loan...you might just need to work harder.

    Banks, credit unions, and investors are looking for the same thing – a return of capital and a return on capital. The only difference is that lending organizations have limited upside (only the return of capital plus pre-defined interest) whereas investors can participate in the upside (return on capital is theoretically unlimited). Both carry the downside risk of not being paid

    Read More »from Shaking the Bode Tree: How to get a bank loan for your small business


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