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Author Archive for Howard Greenstein

Want to Reduce Stress? Pretend You Are On Vacation

Vacation View

Photo by Howard Greenstein

There’s a certain exquisite irony about writing a piece on reducing stress as a small business owner while on vacation. And yet, here I am, while my family is out shopping or playing golf, sitting poolside with a laptop. Yep, I’m that guy. I hope I’m getting a good tan from the glare off the screen.

Still, I’m happy, and my stress level is significantly lower than it was last week, sitting in my cold NY office worrying about how to manage all the things I needed to do on vacation. Stress was making my neck tense up, and causing me to jump from one task to another. Even though I have a full schedule of clients and teaching, a vacation is exactly what was needed.
Continue reading “Want to Reduce Stress? Pretend You Are On Vacation” »

Creating a Banking Relationship

Money cash

Money cash (Photo credit: @Doug88888)

Money is the key to keeping your business going. You may be in an early stage, just planning or incorporating your business, but you should have thought through the issue of money, including how you’re going to make it, keep it coming in, and keep that cash flow increasing over time.

In the past, banks were a natural choice for loans, as most people had their own personal accounts in a bank and had relationships with the bankers there. While some of that has changed, there’s still a lot to the idea of creating a relationship with your banker, according to Jay DesMarteau, Head of Small Business, SBA, Restaurant, & Government Banking at TD Bank, one of the 10 largest US banks, with branches in 15 states and the District of Columbia. Continue reading “Creating a Banking Relationship” »

Run Your Business Like a Community

community

community (Photo credit: planeta)

I attended two meetings about Community Managers this past week, and both got me thinking about how businesses always benefit from connecting with their customers like a community.

What is a community manager, you may ask? Tim McDonald of the Huffington Post Live likens it to being like a “magnet” that brings people toward your business. Community managers typically work on the social media and web presences of companies, helping guide conversation with a light hand and keep fans of the company engaged. If you could add in great friendly communicator, customer service maven, metrics fan and a desire to get everyone on board with your company’s brand – that would be a community manager. Sounds like a helpful role for someone who is starting a business.

At New York’s Social Media Club (which I run), a panel of community managers including McDonald, Ilana Kapan of Digitas, Edward Ford of Thompson Reuters, and Todd Olmstead of Mashable discussed their jobs and insights. (An excellent full summary of the meeting is at ProfNet Connect.)

I also attended the Community Manager UnConference, co-run by McDonald and the team at MyCMGR.com (My Community Manager), where I learned from some of the best in the industry about how community managers help grow business connections, positive feelings about brands, and customer retention. Continue reading “Run Your Business Like a Community” »

Why Your Startup Needs an NDA

Secret

Photo via Flickr user ValPearl

If you are starting a business, you may be lucky or smart enough to have a truly unique business idea. Perhaps it is a method or product that can be patented, or a unique way of doing business. Very few people in the world know the secret formula for Coca-Cola, or the exact combination of herbs and spices that Col. Sanders put into his fried chicken.

The trusted employees who know those trade secrets most likely have signed an NDA, or non-disclosure agreement. NDAs are very standard forms in many areas of business. You might not need one if you’re starting a pretty standard nail salon, but if you’ve created your own way of making nail polish, do you want one of your employees taking that method?

If you’re creating a product that may be patented, such as computer software, a manufacturing method, a new machine, or an improvement on one of these things, that item needs to be protected. Continue reading “Why Your Startup Needs an NDA” »

Starting Your Business In the Cloud

cloud computing

Photo by Flickr user kei51

There’s a lot of techno-babble these days around the phrase “the Cloud” or “Cloud Computing.”  Use of the terms have made them so generic as to be almost useless. I’ll provide you with a translation and give you a few simple to-dos so you can benefit from “the Cloud” as you start your business.

Let’s define terms. Cloud computing is just using computer resources delivered as a service over the Internet. While there are many, very technical ways to use this kind of power, common examples are “Software As A Service.”

Software As A Service
What do I mean? If you’ve used Google Docs, or have tried Microsoft’s latest version of Office, called Office 365, both are “software as a service.” Your web browser displays a spreadsheet or wordprocessing program and the interface elements, like a ruler, buttons to make text bold or italic, and the like.

The software looks very much like a desktop version of your word processor, but the software is actually running on a server computer elsewhere. Your browser is letting you see the controls, but when you save the document, it is stored “in the cloud” – actually on the Google or Microsoft server.  Continue reading “Starting Your Business In the Cloud” »

Why Google+ is Important for Small Businesses

GPlus Circle FollowingSM.001A recent Wall Street Journal article states “There’s No Avoiding Google+.”  If you’re starting a business, especially a web-centric or local business, you should pay a bit of attention to Google+, and for some businesses, you should embrace it fully. It has the potential to increase your exposure to customers and improve your search ranking.

First, what is Google+? Simply put, it is a set of tools that is part of Google. Things that are connected to Google+ go right into the search engine and are data for the algorithms Google uses to determine if they should give your business as a result when someone does a search. The data from Google+ can make your shop show up better on Maps, Places, improve your results in Ads and in other Google products as well.

Who’s using Google+? If you want to review a place you’ve found via a Google search result, you need a Google Profile – and hey, you’re using Google+. Are you using an Android phone? You have a Gmail account linked to it, and that has a profile, which is also your personal Google+ profile. Using Gmail? You have a profile - here’s mine, add me to a circle. Your profile is part of the Google+ social network, which has characteristics similar to Facebook and Twitter. On Google Plus, you can follow people by putting them into Circles, which are like groups on Facebook or lists on Twitter. People don’t have to circle you back, but if they don’t you’ll only see their public post. Continue reading “Why Google+ is Important for Small Businesses” »

How to Find a Coach

Coach Fitz

Photo via MarkFive on Flickr

Several years ago when I was running continuing education programs in business at NYU, two faculty members approached me about creating a program in coaching. As an intrapreneur, I championed the program and also took the classes. Coaching is a very valuable skill set, so as an entrepreneur, I’ve benefited from having coaches to hold me accountable, set and keep goals for starting a business and running it.

I’ve been out of the “business” of coaching for a while, but I asked one of my former classmates, who has since taught in the NYU program about the best way to find a coach. Cindy Cornell, Principal of the Hoshin Group, told me that, these days, coaching can mean different things to different people.

What To Expect 

“As a coach, I focus on the individual having their own answers, and I facilitate them getting those answers. They can’t expect me to have better answers than they do about their own business or their life,” said Cornell.

Continue reading “How to Find a Coach” »

Should I Create an Advisory Board?

Board Meeting

Photo by Flicrk user NateOne

Many of our CorpNet readers looking to incorporate or start a business are doing this for the first time. Way before you’re ready to have a full outside Board of Directors, you may need some good advice, on a regular basis, from people you look up to or value in business. An advisory board is a group of people who want to see your business succeed, and who believe in your idea. They could easily be called your “sounding board.”

Why Advisors?

An advisory board advises you about areas of your business you may not know well. Jennifer Iannolo, Founder and CEO of Zenfully Delicious, has an advisor who works in international finance.
Continue reading “Should I Create an Advisory Board?” »

Practical Goals For Entrepreneurs in 2013

The new year is always looked at as a “fresh start,” though as an entrepreneurs most of us never stop. Starting a business is often a goal that tends to either contain or subsume all other goals. So it is worth taking a moment to focus on what we want to accomplish for the year. Many of us have goals, both short and long-term, and the beginning of the year is often a time for setting new ones or modifying old ones. Continue reading “Practical Goals For Entrepreneurs in 2013” »

Turn that Cupcake Business into an Empire

White Chocolate Turtles Top Vanilla Vanilla Cupcakes  and Ancho Chili Chocolate Cupcakes for Terp WeddingSometimes, someone starts a business by accident. A friend bakes cupcakes for another friend’s event, and they’re fantastic. People at a party ask for the recipe. Even better, they ask if she’ll make cupcakes for their party or corporate event. Before she knows it, your friend is baking up a storm, from her own kitchen, and bringing in money she wasn’t expecting. From such humble beginnings come the entrepreneurs of tomorrow.

Not so fast. This is a great start-up story, but it is destined to stop quite short if just one person gets sick from your cupcakes. As I recently wrote about keeping your home-based business legal, there are licenses needed for most business, especially ones that serve food. There are even different licenses for wholesale and retail sale in many states. And many of these licenses require equipment and procedures that would be financially prohibitive and keep our friend from starting her cupcake business in the first place.

That’s why kitchen incubators are all the rage. Take the Hot Bread Kitchen in New York’s Harlem neighborhood. Hot Bread is the anchor tenant,  but others benefit from their success. The two production kitchens, prep kitchens, and storage facilities provide space for people with small, artisanal and ethnic food businesses to make the transition from their own kitchens to a fully equipped professional facility. Training and assistance are facilitated in a city-sponsored arrangement that also provides access to staff to help with business plans, sales, operations and market research. Continue reading “Turn that Cupcake Business into an Empire” »