Profit Minded
  • Silk Road

    China has held a fascination for traders ever since the Silk Road first opened its markets to the world, but never more than now. The items swapping hands may have changed from spices and silks into mass-produced consumer goods, but for newcomers to international sourcing much of the Middle Kingdom’s mystery remains.

    Linguistic and cultural differences can conspire to overwhelm the uninitiated. New entrepreneurs often approach China with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, the opportunity on offer weighed against fears of being conned or nightmares about causing mortal offense with a misplaced chopstick.

    Alizila asked three old China sourcing hands to share their experiences of dealing with the mainland. Here are the lessons they learned the hard way:

    Lesson 1: Don’t believe all the horror stories

    We all know what happens when you do business with a Chinese company. If they don’t rip you off or screw up your order you end up eating monkey brains in a backstreet restaurant and

    Read More »from Global Trading Tips: 7 Practical Lessons for Doing Business With China
  • Transparency, one of the biggest buzzwords in business right now, is about conducting business in an open and forthright way, and it is driven by recent trends in technology, society and financial markets.

    The last 15 years have brought scandals, bailouts, accidents and financial crises that have shaken Americans’ trust in businesses. Enron. Adelphia. Lehman Brothers. AIG. Bernie Madoff. The BP oil spill.

    But the newest trend in business is transparency, and it’s helping companies rebuild and maintain trust with customers and partners.

    Internal transparency to track progress

    Some businesses find that increasing financial transparency within the company can improve the bottom line. For example, Eric Holtzclaw, CEO and founder of marketing and product-strategy firm Laddering Works, began sharing specific dollar amounts for budgets to many employees within his organization, even though he was originally reluctant to do so.

    “I had to learn through trial and error,” Holtzclaw says in a

    Read More »from Making transparency a priority in your business
  • Who would win the Small Business Bracket?

    Infographic: Radius. Click on image to enlarge.

    What if there were March Madness playoffs for small businesses? We asked Darren Waddell, VP of Marketing at Radius, to show us what his bracket would look like. Waddell dove into the massive Radius databank, which indexes information about small businesses all over the country. Based on aggregated customer ratings available from sources such as Yelp, Citysearch, Open Table, and others, Waddell ranked the performance of small businesses in each of the college towns that host teams that made it into the NCAA Sweet 16. Since some rating systems use 4 stars and others 5, Waddell normalized for that.

    The scores aren’t necessarily predictors of profitability, Waddell points out. “They’re more about performance—the business patrons’ satisfaction with customer service, the quality of the product or craftsmanship, and the trustworthiness of the business,” he says.

    With 6 percent of its businesses getting 4 and 5 star ratings, Michigan’s Ann Arbor is top-ranked for happy customers—making it the

    Read More »from Who would win the Small Business Bracket?
  • Internal Partnership

    The term customer is most commonly associated with someone who purchases goods or services, but Joseph Juran, the famous management consultant, taught that organizations have both internal and external customers, and internal customers have a direct link to a positive external customer experience.

    The external customer is the person who purchases the goods or services, while the internal customer is anyone within an organization who at any time is dependent on anyone else within the organization.

    We all know the importance of taking care of the external customer (the people who purchase our products and services), but successful organizations recognize the importance of taking care of the internal customers – employees and any other stakeholders. For example, if a secretary is dealing with computer issues, the IT department considers that person an internal customer and makes as much of an effort to meet her needs as the call center person does to take care of the external customers

    Read More »from Internal Customers: Do You Know Who They Are?
  • Credit Accountability

    It was hailed as the deathblow to unfair credit card practices. In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Credit Card Accountability Act. The law contains several strong provisions aimed at protecting cardholders. But it doesn’t cover business owners using corporate cards.

    While the law may have been a victory for the consumer, it has it its critics including business owners who point out that the law does not apply to corporate cards. That is because the law is an amendment of the Truth in Lending Law and that applies only to consumer loans, not credit lines for businesses.

    The Act was designed to ensure that credit card companies do not take advantage of consumers through unfair rate hikes. Credit card companies may not charge additional fees for payments made over the phone or online; cannot charge inactivity fees if the card has not been used for months; and must include a minimum payment disclosure statement that clearly explains how long it will take you to pay off the balance

    Read More »from Does the Credit Card Accountability Act Protect Small Business Owners?
  • What most small business owners still don’t get about blogging

    An organic farmer and sustainable agriculture expert told me recently that the proprietor of a farm-to-table restaurant in her community had asked if she would be willing to write a blog about farming for the restaurant’s website. He told her the blog need not make any mention of his restaurant or its menu at all—just write about farming, he said.

    She was delighted, but also befuddled. Why would the restaurant want a blog that didn’t market the restaurant?

    This savvy restaurateur understands something many small business owners have yet to grasp. The trick to reeling in new customers in the age of online search is to provide content—useful, informative, engaging content that answers the questions your potential customers enter in their browser’s search field.

    If you’re unfamiliar with it, the increasingly popular tactic is called “content marketing.” Search the term itself to find reams of information about how it’s done.

    I pointed my farmer friend to the most concise and brilliant

    Read More »from What most small business owners still don’t get about blogging
  • 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
  • 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

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ABOUT PROFIT MINDED

Profit Minded is the Yahoo! Small Business Advisor blog that looks at ideas, trends, commerce, and noteworthy developments that can help small business owners develop and grow their organizations.

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Owen Linderholm

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