Business advice

Watch out for those tips
August 27, 2008, 8:10 pm
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Everyone is worried about the slow economy and the high prices that are driving us all nuts. Nightly news spotlights keys to help with gas and where to eat out.

Family oriented magazines are quick to tell us how to make a little extra cash. All of this is well and good, but I ran across a newsletter that made me scratch my head in wonderment, to say the least.

It suggested that this might be a good time to start a company because many are closing their doors and this would mean you would have less competition.

Advice on these types of issues is only wise if economically sound. In other words, does it adhere to economic principles? The person writing this newsletter obviously didn’t have a clue about economic competition.

In a competitive market things are going well if more businesses are opening. That means there are more sales available. If businesses are shutting down, this means a shrinking market and that it is definitely not a place to think about a startup. The basic misunderstanding is that people think that competition means you can’t get as much. Competition in all other parts of life means someone wins and someone loses. In an active competitive market there can be a lot of winners.

Startups require funding and that is nigh to impossible to come by these days with the state of the credit markets.

The other tip that I see in several places deals with real estate. We all know that the real estate market is a mess. Therefore, it is being advised if you have the money, invest since prices are lower.

The problem I fear is even more horrendous than has been talked about. I have a friend with a financed condo with a mortgage scenario so awful she may never be able to refinance, let alone keep the home she worked hard for. Not only did she buy with no money down, but she has two mortgages. One bank isn’t going to finance the total value of the property. Well, since she had the condo the value of the property has gone down $65K. Can you imagine?

She only had three more years before her mortgages change to adjustable rates. There are government programs out there to help. But the bottom line is no one can refinance when the value has gone down. That would leave her holding the bag for the difference. I can’t see property values recovering that much that fast.

I am sure as I know the sun is going to come up tomorrow that she isn’t the only one holding such a mortgage package.

This leaves the question for potential investors. You buy when the value is down. How long will it be before you can make a profit? There is no one out there with a crystal ball for the real estate market.

Keep your ears open on tips to help us get through this time. But ask yourself before jumping; does this make sense in the long run?


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Taking a job at lest than your rate
August 16, 2008, 7:23 pm
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Times are tough and it is even tougher trying to find jobs if you are a self-employed consultant, not matter what the field. Wages and fees for projects just keep going down.

I have many friends who consult, write and design various projects for a complex mix of vendors. No one I know can get the wages they did just a few years ago. It is indeed a big conundrum. It is the same for employees.

A friend recently considered going along with a proposed ongoing assignment because it would get her some more credit working in an area where she needed credentials. On the surface, that sounds ok, if you are not forced into making a long-term commitment.

Self-employed people have to dedicate a good portion of their time to finding new clients. Marketing is always a part of the mix. It’s even more so when the economy slows. If you hand over a big slice of your time to a job that only pays pocket change, you may lose out on the right job that comes along and the time to find the clients that will be the right fit. (Lest you think that I exaggerate about pocket change, I’m not. Some writing projects are headed just that way.)

Lately, it also seems as if the trend is the cheaper the pay, the more they want. If you are approached with such a project you might try negotiating how much you are comfortable doing in a week. Don’t agree to more work than you want just to land this job. If they like you, they will be willing to listen to a negotiation. Additionally consider asking for quick payment with such gigs. Back, when accepting such projects, I would ask those in charge for payment to FedEx me the checks. Nowadays, we have paypal to make and receive speedy payments.

There are a couple of other things to consider when taking low-paying jobs. It is very easy to allow this to effect your feeling of self-wroth. You’re reduced to working for a ridiculous amount of money. Keep in mind that this is temporary. Also, if this is a situation where you are working for a start-up or a company that hasn’t built a reputation yet, you might want to take on this project only for the money. You don’t want to add a company to your resume that down plays your other accomplishments.

Do not, despite bad economic times, allow yourself to fall into a trap of continually selling your services for a discounted rate. After once or twice to the same vendor, you can let them know that your rate had been discounted and it is now time to up to a fairer rate. If they are not willing to play along, it is time to move on.

It’s not easy. I know as I have been marketing for private clients for 30 years. You have to trust that your accomplishments and your reputation will bring in the right clients that will keep you on the profit side of your business

If you are continually finding jobs/projects below your acceptable rate, then you might need to find new locations to network. Social networking is an outlet you might not have considered. Check out Linkedin, Facebook, Marzar and

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Business communications 101
August 5, 2008, 6:30 pm
Filed under: Blogroll, Business Advice | Tags: ,

If you are still in the habit of using ‘corporateease’ when you write memos, brochures, pamphlets and other materials related to your business, it is time to get over it.

I was recently asked to write a direct marketing piece for an upcoming seminar for practicing real estate agents for their continue education requirements. I was sent the text of the brochure and came away pulling my hair and shaking my head. Phrases like “comprehensive technology strategy” were thrown around generously. Deployment and web marketing were also used.

The text seemed to all boil down to how to use the Net, specifically the Web, to get ahead in the real estate game. While we are at it, let’s make sure the rest of the office is on board. We are also going to show you how to do it cheaply. What the text tried to get across was simple, but the jargon made it difficult.

If your memos sound similar, you have a problem. There is another whole group of consumers, potential clients, etc., that don’t talk like that. It makes no common sense to rattle on with ‘corporateease’ that should have been abolished 20 years ago. Apparently, there is a group that didn’t get the memo.

Of course, another explanation could be that the loss of secretarial and assistants has thrown the efficient use of language back a decade or so. I spent many days as a secretary. The executive that could compose his own letters in anything sounding like logical English was as rare as an untapped source of oil.

If you are working in a corporate environment that rattles on like this, you can make some changes that will make the world a much better place.

It is my firm belief that one of the reasons corporate types revert back to this type of language is because the effect is confusing. I had to read this brochure more times than I want to mention to try and figure out what the actual important points were. The bottom line was the brochure really didn’t say anything specific. The wording infers that some sort of teaching will be happening. It doesn’t, however, say exactly what. So, if the seminar doesn’t go off well, the attendees really can’t complain.

The best way to describe what is lacking in this type of communication is the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the idea. I got that notion from an editor many years ago. “You don’t have enough nuts and bolts to get your idea across.” It was and still is very helpful advice.

If you are going over some written communication you are about to send out, ask yourself this one question, “Can the main point be summed up in a sentence or two?” If not, then you have some work to do.

On the cautionary side, most corporate folks and some entrepreneurs don’t like having their communications criticized. So, in order to affect any change, you are going to have move cautiously. Openly stating that a memo doesn’t say anything specific will only cause ruffled feathers. Change a few sentences into your own wording and eventually, light bulbs will flash.

You will be glad you did. Effective communication, with the right amount of nuts and bolts, makes every phase of business run smoother. Good communication saves money. A first reading that gets the point across gets the job done faster.