• Advance business using one secret strategy

    Do you sometimes get frustrated with offers expressed as seemingly helping you, but in reality do not value your time and experience?

    Secret Strategy

    Do you sometimes get frustrated with offers expressed as seemingly helping you, but in reality do not value your time and experience? Put in this situation, most people will either give away their services far below their worth or will walk away without trying to find a solution to the problem.

    The secret strategy is to ask that together you find a mutually beneficial solution for all.

    Begin by resetting perception and expectations

    Most often people will stand back when you politely but firmly let it be known you value your time and the experience you bring to your work. The sales term is “re-framing” due to putting a brand new perspective on the offer.

    When you stand up for who you are and what you may contribute to helping your peer, they then understand a different conversation needs to take place. And when this occurs, their perspective of your capabilities is reset and their thinking adjusts to focus on how you may work together.

    Does this work 100% of the time? Very little works

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  • Neetzan Zimmerman is a genius at creating viral content. For the past two years he’s worked at Gawker, one of the world’s biggest blogs. Month in and month out, he generated more traffic than all of Gawker’s other writers combined. He just got poached away from Gawker by Whisper, a hot social networking startup in Los Angeles, where he will be editor-in-chief.

    Not bad for a guy with no background or training in journalism, who started out by simply creating his own blog where he could post funny videos about cute cats and other crazy stuff.

    “It’s the best job in the world,” he says. “I get paid to have fun.”

    I asked Zimmerman to share some of his secrets. Some things he does are downright surprising, and go against the conventional wisdom in the world of marketing. For example, Zimmerman has a Twitter account (@neetzan) but he rarely posts anything there. For another, while he’s a master at creating content that spreads like wildfire on social networks, he never goes on Facebook or

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  • Anatomy of an IPO


    On January 31, 2014, 16-year-old dot-com darling Coupons.com filed for an IPO. To put this event in perspective, PayPal was founded in the same year. While PayPal filed for its $70 million IPO in 2002 and received an acquisition offer of $1.5 billion from eBay later that year, Coupons.com made the decision to remain private. In general, the average company takes six to seven years to reach IPO readiness. Sixteen years is rare.

    Strike When the Iron Is Hot

    When 4-year-old PayPal filed for an IPO, its trailing 12 months revenue was $138 million, while 16-year-old Coupons.com had trailing 12 months revenue of approximately $153 million at filing. One could argue that Coupons.com did not have strong enough revenue growth to warrant an IPO in 2002. I would tend to agree with this. If Coupons.com revenue growth of 50 percent, as evidenced in its S-1 filing, has been consistent, it's fair to reason that they may have had less than $5 million in revenue in 2001.

    The Long and Winding Road

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  • Avoid Chasing Away Your Best Employees

    Employee Reward

    Retaining talent requires planning, and careful attention to avoiding complacency. It’s easy for a small business owner to feel as if everything is going fine, especially when the money is rolling in, but too often the reason (great employees) behind why profits are soaring is sorely neglected. And, by the time the talent feels underappreciated, it may be too late. Here are five ways to keep your best people engaged, and coming back every day for new challenges.


    In a scramble, small businesses hire with the singular purposes of solving immediate problems--we need someone to keep the books, we need someone to post updates to social media, etc.--but not a lot of thought is put into charting a pathway for that employee’s long-term success, at least not until frustration is expressed or a notice is put in. Think beyond those short term, immediate needs, and consider how your best employees can grow with your small business. There doesn’t need to be anything meticulous in place

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  • Will “Made in Rural America” Initiative Help Your Business?

    Nearly 40 small businesses in sleepy villages from Oregon to New York are part of MaryJane Butters’ Project FARM—short for “First-class American Rural Made.” Butters, an organic farmer in northern Idaho, conceived the idea of putting a Project FARM label on qualified goods made in rural America as a way to support people "struggling to maintain a rural lifestyle" as "rural communities fade and farmers continue to disappear from our landscape."

    According to the Council of Economic Advisors, the American farming industry isn’t in such bad shape. The Council forecast net farm income at $131 billion in 2013. Adjusted for inflation, that’s a 46 percent increase from 2008 and the highest net U.S. farm income since 1973.

    Still, the Farm Bill that President Obama signed on Friday includes a major new initiative to help small businesses in rural U.S. “The importance of the Farm Bill goes well beyond the role of agriculture, by providing technical assistance and financing for long-term

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  • Proto Labs Gives Entrepreneurs with Cool Ideas a Kickstart

    Floome, a handheld blood-alcohol detector, won a Cool Ideas Award

    For aspiring product designers, 201 Mulberry Street in New York City was the place to be last Thursday night. The Cool Idea Award Gallery event in the vacant storefront there showcased nine inventors and their novel products—each one clever enough to make you say, “I wish I had thought of that!”

    Proto Labs is a Minnesota-based maker of custom CNC-machined and injection-molded parts with operations worldwide that we reported on here last month. Its Cool Idea Award gives up to $250,000 each year in Proto Labs tooling services and parts production to entrepreneurs developing new products in the U.S. and Europe. Proto Labs says its intention is to help innovators bring their ideas to life. Seventeen awards have been made since 2011.

    The Everpurse cell-phone charging station is another Cool Ideas award winner

    The Cool Idea Award-winning products featured at the event last week were:

    • r-one: Robots that communicate with their users and with each other using an internal computer, motors, lights and sounds were designed by a Rice University professor and his students
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  • A Startup Wants to Deliver Happiness in Packets of Pills

    Twenty-seven-year-old entrepreneur TJ Parker wants to bring Zappos-style customer service to your medicine cabinet.

    As a youngster working in the New Hampshire pharmacy that his family owns and operates, Parker developed empathy for people who must take multiple pills, supplements, and other medicines every day. Refill dates never seem to be synchronized, pharmacy check-out lines can be long, and who wants to ask the pharmacist a private question with other customers in earshot? Even worse, medication times are hard to stick to, drugs are easily confused, and bottles can be a hassle to open. For the elderly, very ill, or parents with sick children, daily dosing can be misery.

    Parker went to pharmacy school bent on figuring out a modern solution to the growing problem. When he found one, he teamed up with Elliot Cohen, 30, a former Microsoft engineer whom he met at a H@cking Medicine event in October 2012. By February 2013, they had won a slot in the Boston startup accelerator

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  • Lonely BusinessPeople often say that if you make it five years in business, you’ve beaten the odds. What they don’t often share with you are the things that happen in those first five years that contribute to the high number of people whose businesses don’t make it.

    I’m here to tell you about the personal hardships you’re likely to face in the early stage of business ownership. If someone had told me about these, I might have saved some tears, prevented an early wrinkle and lowered my blood pressure. These tips are straight from my personal experiences starting various companies in the past five years:

    1. It's lonely. Whether or not you have a partner, it can be lonely starting a business. Your hours will become nontraditional, you may be working out of your home or in a small office, and you will focus your attention on work. None of these factors make for a great social life early on. Realize that this stage is temporary and try to make time for people who have been there before. They can demonstrate
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    With more than 359 million users as of May of 2013, Google+ continues to grab the attention of consumers and brands as it becomes the second largest social network.  A presence on Google+ is being aggressively pursued by some of the world’s leading brands, which in turn is causing SMBs to consider if they also need to get on board.

    With more limited resources, these smaller firms might worry about managing another social network and questioning if the potential reward is worth the effort. SMBs should understand that Google+ is used by leading brands to both engage customers and build SEO, and is an important part of their social strategy.

    There are several big brands successfully using Google+ by incorporating visual elements and sharing content that has a high degree of relevance to their intended audience. Small and medium-sized firms can learn a significant amount about Google+ best practices by reviewing the work of established brands that are building real followings on the

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  • Would Minimum Wage Hike Help or Hurt Small Business?

    President Obama said on Tuesday evening that he will raise the minimum wage for new federal contracts to $10.10 per hour. And, in the case that a Democratic proposal to raise the national minimum to the same level or where state governments haven’t already raised the minimum (as 14 states have this month), the President urged private sector employers to take the initiative to raise wages on their own.

    Many argue that the federal minimum of $7.25, unchanged since 2009, is not a living wage in the current economy. With the average price of a gallon of gas at $3.28 and a gallon of milk at $3.50, it’s hard to imagine how the 2 million or so people who earn that wage are able to support themselves, let alone families. MIT’s living wage calculator and anecdotal reports, including one describing a Hartford, Conn., Dunkin’ Donuts manager with three children, indicate they simply can’t.

    A CBSNews report this week pointed out that “adjusted for inflation, $7.25 an hour is 23 percent lower today

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