Pittsburgh Offers Available, Affordable Sites for New Facilities

"Expansion Management magazine just issued its list of Top 40 Real Estate Markets for 2006. The Pittsburgh Region ranks 14th, ahead of competitor areas like Atlanta, Charlotte, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Raleigh, and many others.

Their list was developed from the perspective of a business executive looking for a site for a major facility, who wants to find readily available properties at an affordable price."

Read more in this post from Pittsburgh's Future.


What Holds You Back? Examine Your Core Beliefs

"Brenda has always wanted to have her own business. She's had numerous innovative ideas for new ventures, so many that her friends have dubbed her 'the idea lady'. Trouble is, each time she considers putting one of her ideas into action, her mind automatically goes to either 'Most small businesses fail in the first few years' or 'I don't have enough business education to manage it correctly' or 'I don't have enough capital to make it happen, and what bank is going to give me a loan?'

Brenda stops herself from acting before she even begins. Her heart is telling her that having her own business would express her potential and be a joyous, fulfilling experience, but she pulls back every time.

She can't even consider taking a business course to bone up on her skills, or doing some market testing, or having someone help her write a business plan so she can present it to a potential investor. She can't get this far, because her erroneous core beliefs arrest any further consideration...

No matter how long these erroneous core belief have been with us, no matter how deeply implanted they are in our subconscious, they can be uprooted. The process of uprooting begins with identifying the erroneous core beliefs as mere perceptions, then discovering the truth which is hidden behind them...

We live in a world that repeatedly tells us...life is a crap shoot, and most businesses and marriages fail. It tells us that only a few individuals have the power and it's those who will ultimately determine our fate. It tells us we need to aggressively compete with each other in order to win in the game of life. It tells us to grab for what we can, because there's not enough to go around. This world tells us to fear our neighbors and to be suspicious of everyone we meet.

No wonder we're terrified of trying anything new, be it a relationship or career change... We have accepted these pernicious lies for so long they have become our reality...

[A]way of discovering our core beliefs is to examine the attitudes or feelings we have about certain situations. Often, this is where our core beliefs are reflected. The following are examples of some common human attitudes and the limiting core beliefs which may be reflected in them. After the core belief is revealed, a statement of Authentic Truth is

Attitude: 'Look at the rude guy driving that expensive car. Does he think he owns the entire road? Who does he think he is? Why can't I have a cool car like that? I'll bet he cheats people to make his money.'

Possible Core Beliefs: The Universe isn't fair because it makes it easy for some to get what they want and tough for me. Rich people are rude. You have to be ruthless to make money. Therefore, I'll never get what I want unless I compromise my values.

Authentic Truth:...If this individual can manifest a beautiful car, then so can I. The same principle that brought it to him will bring it to me. Therefore, I can be happy for this person. Also, I know that many people make money doing worthwhile things. If they can do it, so can I...

Attitude: 'I hate this job. They don't appreciate me. I work too hard -- and for what? I'm too talented/smart for this. I'm bored, but I can't leave because I need the insurance, got to pay my bills, need the steady paycheck, etc. Also, the economy is so bad right now, no one is hiring.'

Possible Core Belief: The Universe is limited. I'm not being taken care of. There's too much competition. Doing what I love doesn't pay the bills. I'm too old, didn't get the right education, didn't follow the correct career path, am not smart enough, not motivated enough, etc., etc. I don't have what it takes to succeed.

Authentic Truth:...I was created as a magnificent, intelligent, and talented individual with a unique gift to give this world. It is natural for me to be fulfilled, satisfied, successful and happy...I am open, and am being guided, to new opportunities which are unfolding in my life right now...

Remember you have dominion over the core beliefs that occupy your mind and you have the power to change them!"

Quoted from the book Mastering Your Desires ©1998, by Victoria Loveland-Coen, founder of Self Mastery Press. For more information visit Journey Toward Selfmastery.

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Useful Startup Questions...and Documents

Jeffrey Stewart provides 180 Useful Questions for Launching a Business that also includes this:

"List of Useful Documents, Charts and Models for Launching Businesses

• Business Plan
• Business PowerPoint
• Branding Standards
• Projected Balance Sheet
• Break-even Analysis
• Projected Income Statements
• Cash Flow Projections
• Team and Advisor resumes
• Customer Sponsor bio
• Open Job descriptions
• Sales PowerPoint
• Letters of Intent
• Projected Organizational Chart (by quarter)
• New Hire Orientation Packet/Presentation
• Intellectual Property Protection Plan
• Press Kit
• Product Specifications
• Product Road Map
• Competitive Analysis
• Related Reading list
• Funding Plan"

Stand Out in a Crowd

"How do you set yourself apart from the competition?...The key to making your mark is to:

Acquire powerful allies – people in high places that believe in you and your product...
Create an angle – whether it’s a David and Goliath story or a ‘first’...
Know your customers...
Have a plan – have goals set out, long and short term, where you can gauge your success...
Always talk about it...In every conversation at every chance talk about your business and your goals..."

Read more in the post from Mind Petals: Young Entrepreneur Network.


Employers Must Battle Identity Theft Threat

"Identity theft is not only a growing problem for consumers across the country, but it is clearly a growing danger for the unwary employer as well."

So states John Emerson in this excellent article from Nexsen Pruet. Attorney Emerson offers these suggestions for reducing the risk of liability related to the theft of employee personal information:

"First, employers should carefully consider how much information is actually required for each employee...

Second, employers should ensure that sensitive information is stored in well-secured files with limited access...Files containing personal data should not be stored on a central network accessible by all employees.

Third, employers should take simple though often overlooked steps such as locking file cabinets, deleting social security numbers from personal files...and ensuring that fax machines and mail depositories are in secure locations.

Fourth, employers should conduct training sessions...

Finally, in addition to the selfimposed changes employers can implement to improve information security, employers should know that, under Federal Trade Commission Regulation, consumer information that is contained in or derived from a consumer report must be disposed of in a very specific manner..."

Found via the Employment Law Information Network newsletter.


Take Risks But Don’t Cut Corners

"Entrepreneurs take risks all the time. It’s just part of running a business. There’s almost no such thing as a business that runs with no risk. So entrepreneurs are aware of, and often comfortable with taking risks.

But cutting corners is a different story.

Cutting corners is doing things less than your best to achieve some end goal. It’s usually not a good idea. It may feel like you’re making progress by cutting corners, but at the end of the day you’re not. You’re not building up enough value in your business, for the long haul, when you start to cut corners.

It’s important to recognize the differences between legitimate risks and cutting corners. Risks need to be assessed on a number of factors: probability, impact, reward. Risks need to be clearly identified so that they can be managed and treated. Cutting a corner is a form of risk, but it’s a silly one to take. More often than not if you really assess the significance of the risk and reward of cutting a corner, you’d realize it’s not worth it."

Read more in this post from Instigator Blog.


Podcasts for Technology Entrepreneurs

"Northeastern University has a collection of podcasts on entrepreneurship. The focus is more on technology entrepreneurs than non-tech. I'm not a podcast person, but if you are into them, check it out."

See this Businesspundit post, from which the foregoing was quoted, for a link to the podcasts.


Naming Your Business

"There's a lot of room for personal and professional creativity when choosing a business name, but there are three main considerations to keep in mind:

Will your business name receive trademark protection?

Is your proposed business name available?

If your business will have a website, is a similar domain name available?"

So states this article from nolo.com that offers these additional guidelines:

"Make your name memorable. A creative, distinctive name will not only be entitled to a high level of trademark protection, but it will also stick in the minds of your customers...

Your name should be appealing and easy to use. Choose a name that's easy to spell and pronounce, and that is appealing to both eye and ear...

Avoid geographical names...especially if you plan to sell products on the Internet...

Don't...choose a name that might not be representative of future product or service lines...

Get feedback. Before you settle on a name, get some feedback from potential customers, suppliers and others in your support network..."


The CEO as Startup Coach

"You cannot just be a CEO, focused on executing your business plan and keeping your investors happy. You must also be a coach for your team.

Think about it. Coaches motivate their teams before, during and after games. You are now the coach of your team and you need to be sure your team is correctly motivated through both the good and bad times. To do this, you, like any other coach will need a game plan..."

Read more in this post from A VC in Vacationland.

Negotiating a Technology Executive Employment Contract

"There are 10 critical areas that executive candidates and software companies should consider negotiable. During negotiations, issues in these areas need to be raised, discussed, and resolved to assure that both parties are being treated fairly...The resulting employment contract should reflect the above-board style and approach of both parties and lay a foundation conducive to getting the best for all concerned."

So states this article by Robert Adelman that offers valuable insights into the executive's perspective versus typical company realities regarding the following topics of negotiation:

1. Signing bonus
2. Meaningful Equity
3. Tax-favored Equity
4. Relocation Assistance
5. Position, Duties, Support
6. Expense Payments
7. Non-Compete and Non-Disclosure Agreements
8. Term/Termination
9. Reasonable Severance
10. Good Vibrations


Intellectual Property Nuts and Bolts

Here are links to resources that provide basic information about patents, trademarks, copyrights and trade secrets that I am sharing with the students in the entrepreneurship class I am teaching this semester. I thought I would share them with you as well.

Intellectual Property Primer from Sitepoint.com

Trademarks 101 from About.com

Guide To Patents from About.com

Copyright Basics from the U.S. Copyright Office

Trade Secret Basics FAQ from Nolo.com


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Questions Founders Should Ask Each Other

"The following are some of the most important questions that should be resolved as early in the [startup] process as possible. In most cases, these issues only get more difficult over time...

1... Who gets what percentage of the company?...(and the right answer is rarely “divide them equally amongst the co-founders”).

2. How will decisions get made?...Common areas to address are decisions around capitalization, executive hiring/firing, share issuance (dilution) and M&A...

3. What happens if one of us leaves the company?...The last thing the company needs is a co-founder that is no longer engaged but is hanging around out of guilt or ambiguity.

4. Can any of us be fired? By whom? For what reasons?...

5. What are our personal goals for the startup?...

6. Will this be the primary activity for each of us?...

7. What part of our plan are we each unwilling to change?...

8. What contractual terms will each of us sign with the company?...

9. Will any of us be investing cash in the company? If so, how is this treated?...

10. What will we pay ourselves? Who gets to change this in the future?..."

Read more in this excellent post from onstartups.com.

Competitive Advantage Interactive Workshop

SCORE "Counselors to America's Small Business" offers this fun and informative interactive workshop on Creating a Competitive Advantage that is well worth a look.

Included in the presentations are a series of competitive advantage worksheets that provide useful questions and suggestions including the following:

"The following questions are designed to help you determine whether you have an identifiable competitive edge and whether you are currently capitalizing on it:

1. Have I clearly defined my company and my target market?

2. Who are my competitors?

3. What is my company's specific strategy for success?

4. Do I regularly track my competitors' moves?...?

9. Does my company possess a uniqueness that easily separates it from my competitors? What, specifically, is it?...

16. What trends do I see for my industry in the future? Is my company – and my product mix – aligned with those trends?...

Ask yourself the following questions about your product or service:

1. Does my product perform?

2. Is it durable?

3. Is it reliable?

4. Is it fairly priced?

5. Does it consistently live up to its reputation?

6. Am I known in my industry for producing quality goods/services?

7. Does my product have brand recognition?

8. Can I create ways to ensure that my product/service is in demand?

9. Is my product a trendsetter?

10. Can I think of innovative ways to encourage more people to buy my product?

11. Can I market companion products/services?

Marketing Strategies

In devising your plan, keep in mind the following:

Ask yourself what the primary goal of your marketing strategy will be: Increased sales? Better brand-name recognition? A public relations effort?

Remember to whom you are selling and keep your message targeted

Focus on your product's or service's benefits rather than features

Don't be afraid to tout your successes

Be sure your plan is attainable

Perform a detailed market analysis (obtain pertinent demographic facts, figures and other relevant data) before you put your plan into action

Have a back-up strategy in mind, especially if your primary one is risky..."

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Exporting Tips

"A smart organization...will invest time and money building the proper administrative and sales structure before they begin [export] operations...

how to avoid major problems with your export business...

2. Create an export strategy before you begin to export. Don’t get sucked into exporting by “accident”...

4. Make everything perfectly clear with customers. Don’t assume anything, don’t work with suppositions.

5. Learn and understand the business culture of your export market and customers before you begin...

10. Use caution about exclusivity agreements. Everyone wants exclusivity, will that exclusivity support your entire export production? Will it limit your ability to grow?...

14. Create an export price strategy. Know where you are going, and how you want to get there, your costs and required profit margins before you begin to quote prices...

20. Discipline, planning and order. Production planning, raw material purchasing decisions, financing, infrastructure investment, human resources, sales and marketing all must be planned and coordinated, at all times.

Added Oct. 1, 2006 - Bonus legal reminder: Know the law of the country to which you are exporting concerning: retention of documents for litigation, product quality and manufacturing and product safety before you begin sales and shipping. Understand your responsibility and liability for recalls, retrofitting, refunds or destruction of the product. Learn about your legal responsibility and relationship with brokers, agents and distributors and your products."

Just a few of the useful pointers found in this Lee Iwan post that is well worth reading in its entirety.

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