RICH SLOAN: START UP, KEEP GOING
Rich Sloan is co-found-er of StartupNation.
nation.com), a leading
business advice and
networking site for
Get a hold on
HOME-BASED BUSINESSES represent just over 50
percent of all businesses registered in America.
Extra bedrooms, kitchen tables, garages and windowless basements play host to a growing number
of entrepreneurs who are making a living—or living
a little better—by running a business from home.
If you’re home-based, here are some pointers
you should add to your home-based “hot list.”
Turn up the technology. Make the most of
your opportunity by leveraging key technologies.
You’ll save time, be more professional, stay organized, increase revenue and ultimately enjoy your
work much more. At the top of the list, get online.
No matter what kind of business you have, a Web
presence can be a huge asset. Whether used as
a brochure or a store, a Web site can help you
develop relationships with customers via a blog
and e-mail marketing. This form of “permission”
marketing keeps you in sight and in mind among
Think small to grow big
IN 2001, COSTCO member Tom C. Egelhoff of
Bozeman, Montana, wrote and self-published a
book covering the basics of marketing and advertising for small businesses in small towns (www.
smalltownmarketing.com). The book’s premise
was that marketing approaches that work in large
metropolitan areas may not be suitable in small
communities. A member profile in The Connection
helped to build awareness of the book, and
Egelhoff was contacted by publisher John Wiley &
Sons. Now, How to Market, Advertise, and Promote
Your Business or Service in Your Own Backyard
( Wiley, 2008) is out (and available on costco.com)
with updates on the increased role of the Internet
in running a business.
Egelhoff walks readers through a 10-step process that looks at positioning the business, defining
the customer base, creating a marketing plan,
advertising and measuring results. Then he adds a
list of more than 100 marketing and advertising
tricks, tips and ideas.
The nature of small towns requires different
strategies, he stresses. For example, when it comes
Also, get a smart phone that has calendar,
contact address, e-mail and task-list functions and
can be synced up with your computer. This keeps
all the key information and connectivity you need
to stay organized in the palm of your hand, even
from the sidelines of the kids’ soccer games.
Get connected. In the past, home-based
entrepreneurs were off the grid, isolated from
other like-minded folks and the rest of the
marketplace. But today, with the explosion of
social networks online, you no longer have to
be a hermit. Look at the big-name networking
sites, such as Facebook and LinkedIn, which
provide ways to interact with people you know
or want to know. Also consider much smaller,
niche-oriented options. Want to meet and learn
from other pet sitters? There’s ThePetSitters.org,
a discussion board made just for you. Interested
in connecting with people who are passionate about fashion? Head over to the forums at
Fashion-Bulletin.com. And on and on it goes.
Set ground rules. Many home-based businesses are created so the owner can spend more
time with family. But it’s important to nail down
ground rules when it comes to your important
work. To minimize friction, frustration or interruptions, have a talk with the home team to establish
policies and procedures. Clearly specify times
that you’re unavailable for home stuff so you can
focus on the business. Have a “knock-first” policy.
Organize your day (and the people and pets who
share it) so that you create more quality time with
your f amily and your business. C
IN ANY CHALLENGING
small-business owners need
to optimize their business
cornerstones in order to
remain competitive and continue to grow.
is the number-one tactic,
according to a
recent survey by
Here are some tips
• Collect payments from customers as early as
possible, and hold on to
money as long as possible.
Keep detailed records of the
money due and the money
• Allow customers to have
payment options. Give customers flexible payment
methods and terms. For
example, allow customers to
pay by credit card so that you
get cash faster and customers can take their time paying their credit-card balance.
For repeat customers, offer a
small discount for prepay-ment or early payment.
• Most small-business
owners can benefit from an
improved collection process.
In a downturn, your com-
pany will need to access
payments quickly to ward
off a cash crunch. To speed
payment, research and
understand the billing pref-
erences and procedures of
• Bad credit can be contagious; don’t let a bad customer ruin your own credit.
Protect yourself from late-payers and no-payers by putting a reputable intermediary
in the middle. Designate a
reliable bookkeeper, accountant or even a chief financial
officer to handle accounts-receivable functions. Allow
this person or company to
approve credit, make collection calls, receive payments
and make deposits. C
to advertising, “it’s like an aquarium. The larger the
aquarium (i.e., the large city), the more mistakes
you can make and the fish survive. The smaller the
aquarium, the fewer mistakes it will tolerate
before the fish die.”
This concept applies to nearly every aspect of
business m arketing. Fo r ins tance, when it comes
t o positio ning your business,
“in a smal l town, more people
know you and may alread and may alread y
have form ed a perception o f
you before you even start your business. If this perception is that you don’t
know the business, you
will have a challenge,”
But th e smaller community siz e also has its upsi d e.
“Theverystrengthofasmalltownisthekeyto your success in it,” says Egelhoff. “Small towns have
people, whereas large cities have numbers, constituents, inhabitants—they are the public.” C