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201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business

201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business

by Jane Applegate


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Completely revised and updated edition of this very popular and successful small business book

The first edition of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business was hailed by management guru and author Tom Peters as "Brilliantly researched. Brilliantly written. A gem of priceless value on almost every page. Read. Inhale. Absorb. Great Stuff!"

In this completely updated third edition of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business, renowned small-business expert and consultant Jane Applegate shares new, powerful, creative, simple, and proven approaches for building a better small business.

  • Details how business owners can use online marketing and social networking more effectively
  • Offers timely strategies for thriving in challenging economic times
  • Includes scores of real-life success stories and all-new interviews with small-business owners, experts, and VIP's including Guy Kawasaki, Kay Koplovitz, and Michael Bloomberg

It may be small, but your business is a big deal to you, your customers, and employees. 201 Great Ideas provides lively, practical strategies to help you manage, grow, and promote your business.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780470919668
Publisher: Wiley
Publication date: 05/03/2011
Series: Bloomberg Series , #126
Edition description: Original
Pages: 336
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

JANE APPLEGATE is one of the nation's most respected business journalists and an award-winning writer and producer. A successful small business owner in her own right, she is the CEO of The Applegate Group, a multimedia communications and production company that produces original small business content for clients, independent films, documentaries, promotional videos, and events.

Read an Excerpt

201 Great Ideas For Your Small Business

By Jane Applegate

Bloomberg Press

Copyright © 2002 Jane Applegate
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1-57660-117-X

Chapter One

Since I began writing about the entrepreneurial market in 1988, I've compared business owners to plate spinners in the circus. It seems that as soon as you get one plate spinning, another starts wobbling and crashes to the floor.

No matter what kind of business you're managing, you face big and small challenges every day. Hands-on managers wear many hats but rarely have time to hang any of them on a hat rack.

For instance, one morning when I arrived to have my hair cut at the Total Image salon in New Rochelle, New York, the owner, Frank Como, was already facing an enormous pile of wet towels because his clothes dryer wasn't working. Several minutes later, the real estate broker working a few doors away ran into the salon in a lather because the basement of her building was filling up with water. That wasn't all. Between clients, Frank was soothing an upset hairdresser. Just a typical day, we agreed.

While Frank's business is tiny compared to some of the other business owners you'll meet in this book, you'll see that no matter what size your company is, you can always use fresh management strategies.

One of the most successful entrepreneurs I know has bigger headaches than Frank's. In recent years, she's dealt with the unionization of herassembly line workers after a very nasty battle. During that incredibly stressful time, she was being wooed by one of the biggest corporations in her industry to manage their West Coast manufacturing center.

Although she's one of my closest friends, we communicate mainly via voice mail, exchanging detailed messages at odd hours because she rarely has five minutes free for a live conversation. But, like Frank, she loves being an entrepreneur.

It doesn't matter whether you're running a fast-growing factory or a cozy suburban beauty salon-I have great ideas for you.

In this chapter, you'll learn how to woo clients and find great places to meet with them, even if you don't have a fancy office. You'll find out how to set up an informal advisory board to help solve tough problems and how to streamline your meetings so you have more time to work.

You'll learn how to hire great attorneys, accountants, and consultants, and how to create a safer workplace so you stay out of trouble with health and safety authorities.

You'll be inspired to plan a company retreat to rethink your priorities, move your business from home into a business incubator, invest in good office furniture, and improve your telephone skills.

Maybe you're feeling lost and want to find a mentor? I'll tell you how.

I've also included some thought-provoking ideas on dealing at a higher, less stressful level, and why it's so important to tell the truth and have more fun, despite the incredible demands on your time.

I've been an affordable management consultant for years. For the price of a newspaper, you can get a weekly dose of practical advice in my syndicated column. Or you can check out the websites where I operate in cyberspace, including my own site, But for now, you can have my greatest management ideas in one place-right here.

Always Deal with Decision Makers


THE ENTREPRENEUR'S CHALLENGE IS ALWAYS TO operate at the highest level possible; present proposals to the top decision maker, not the gatekeeper; elicit a prompt response; and move on quickly if the answer is "no."

Even when our company was based in the den of my suburban Los Angeles home, and later in a converted garage, we always resolved to deal directly with the very top people. Sure, it raised eyebrows because most of our consulting clients were Fortune 100 companies, but they wanted to work with us because they were eager to sell into the fast-growing entrepreneurial market.

I am convinced we have been so successful because we've insisted on dealing with the top decision makers or managers with high-level access. No matter who you are, you can practice this approach. You can write directly to the president or chairman. Briefly outline your product and what you can do for his or her company. In many cases, the top person, or an assistant, will make a note on the letter and direct it back down through the ranks. That notation carries weight.

There are, of course, other ways to make the initial contact. Voice mail is a terrific tool for getting through to the person in charge. Most executives have a direct line. Ask to be put through by the receptionist. Call early in the morning or late in the evening-they often work longer hours than their secretaries. Try phoning during the lunch hour, too.

I should warn you that the "easier at the top" strategy does have pitfalls. Even if the top person signs off on your project, middle managers will sometimes exercise their powerful veto power. And at times they'll try to sabotage you.

After one project I had nurtured nearly to completion died a slow death from lack of middle management support, I learned that any outsider proposing a new idea to a major corporation must be very aware of the "not invented here" syndrome. It's a deadly corporate virus that can wipe out a good idea in no time. I share that not to discourage you, but to emphasize how critical it is to have solid support from the decision makers.

That said, be persistent-e-mail a provocative message describing your product. I'm living proof that it pays to start at the top and deal with whoever is signing the checks.

Don't Be Afraid to Recreate Your Business


WHEN ANTHONY'S FISH GROTTO DROPPED THE zabaglione cake from its menu, Rick Ghio feared his dear, departed grandmother, Catherine, would send a lightning bolt down from heaven in protest.

"But we were throwing away more cake than we were selling," said Ghio of the traditional sponge cake served with a rum custard sauce. Now Anthony's serves trendier tiramisu and fresh fruit tarts.

After fifty years, Anthony's also dropped rosé from the wine list, switching to white Zinfandel. These menu changes are just part of the major facelift under way at the famous San Diego-based restaurant chain.

Today Rick, a co-owner, manages the financial aspects of the company. His brother, Craig, and three other family members are the third generation to run the family-owned business founded by their grandparents.

Rick and his counterparts are giving the business a total makeover, inside and out. But why would a famous San Diego institution like Anthony's reinvent itself?

"We were losing our market share," he said. "Our reputation was still strong, but people were not dining at Anthony's as frequently as they did in the past."

Families still booked tables for major celebrations and holidays, but the younger, twenty- and thirty-something crowd did not consider Anthony's a hip place to eat.

"Competition is fierce, relentless, and unforgiving," said Craig Ghio, who oversees seafood purchasing and recipe development. "Diners have more choices than ever, and tradition is no longer enough to keep them coming back."

At first they changed advertising agencies, updated the menu, and did a little remodeling, but sales stayed flat.

The company, which started out in 1946 with one eighteen-seat diner, decided to completely rethink its purpose. The family hired two respected restaurant consultants who urged them not only to remodel their La Mesa location but also to turn the management of the company upside down.

The family had always made all the key decisions. Now Anthony's is managed by interdisciplinary teams, led by trained "integrators" who conduct frequent discussions about everything from service to what kind of food and drinks to serve. The company's 400 employees all serve on one or more of the teams.

Everything at Anthony's has dramatically changed in the past year or so, Rick said. For example, "You always paid your bill at the cash register on the way out," he said. "Now you pay your server, which slows down turnover, but on the upside, it gives the server an excellent way to close out the meal."

They spent $1.3 million turning the lakeside La Mesa location into a fantasy grotto, complete with a video game arcade built on a thirty-six-foot Criscraft boat, a trellis-covered patio, and cascading waterfalls.

They created two new characters for kids: Sandy the fish and Diego the octopus. Kids have their own menu and free beverage cups to take home.

"We learned to scan the environment," said Rick, "to stay in front of current trends. For the first time, we extended our hours. We are now open until 10 PM on weekdays and 11 PM on weekends."

Sales increased 35 percent shortly after the remodeled La Mesa restaurant opened. "People of all ages love it," Rick said.

While retooling the management and remodeling, they also worked hard to control food costs and boost profits. "For every dollar we took in, we used to spend 44 cents on food," he said. "Now it's down to 36.5 cents, and we've become more profitable." Anthony's, which is privately held, has revenues of about $18 million a year.

Although it has taken thousands of hours and more than $1 million, Rick said the total revitalization program was worth it.

"It is the scariest darn process," he admits. "We literally had to reexamine things that were done the same way for fifty years. There's a huge risk in saying goodbye to some of the things we had been doing ... but we are truly blessed by the initial response."

Check out Anthony's website at

Hire a Great Lawyer


WHEN YOU'RE STARTING A BUSINESS, IT'S natural to try to save money at every turn. But it doesn't pay to scrimp when it comes to getting solid legal advice.

Most business owners' first encounter with legal forms comes with a DBA, which means "doing business as" and is legally known as a fictitious name statement. After this first step, you'll need good legal advice to buy or sell real estate, form a partnership, create job applications, and write employee handbooks.

A good small business attorney will protect you and your business from legal troubles involving staff, vendors, and customers. He or she can also help when you are looking for investors or dealing with bankers.

Finding a good attorney is not as challenging as you may think. According to Brad Carr, spokesman for the New York State Bar Association, there are about 729,000 practicing attorneys in this country, with three out of four working for themselves or for a small firm. The best way to find a good lawyer is to ask other small business owners if they would recommend their own attorney. Your banker and your accountant may have some recommendations; ministers and rabbis are also good sources of referrals because they know so many people in the community.

Another way to find one is through legal directories. The reference section of most larger public libraries should have the Martindale-Hubbell Law Directory. This directory provides brief biographical information about lawyers in your area. Some listings also include the names of their clients, so you can call for references.

Most state bar associations offer free referral services. Call the bar association in your state for information. Most lawyers listed through the referral service charge a modest fee for an initial consultation.

Remember, hiring an attorney is a very personal thing. Be sure to choose someone you can confide in, who makes a good impression, and who has experience in your industry.

Some good news: A glut of attorneys, especially in big cities, has forced many to reduce their fees to beat the competition. Most are happy to work by the project and do not expect to be put on a monthly retainer. Some attorneys who specialize in working with entrepreneurs will take you on as a client in exchange for stock in your company or profit-sharing down the line. If an attorney is willing to work on this basis, consider making him or her a part of your strategic team.

The hourly fees you'll pay depend on where you live. For instance, business owners in New York City and Los Angeles generally pay higher legal fees than those living and working in Omaha, Nebraska.

When you are interviewing prospective attorneys, here are the questions to ask to get you started:

* Are you a member of the state bar and licensed to practice law in this state? (If your company does a lot of interstate commerce, you might want to hire an attorney who can practice in the federal courts as well.)

* What kinds of small businesses do you represent?

* How long have you been practicing law?

* Could you give me some references?

Turn to Spiritual Leaders and Science for Management Advice


ENTREPRENEURS LOOKING FOR A NEW SPIN ON management might want to read two provocative books: Moses on Management (Pocket Books, 2000), by Los Angeles-based Rabbi David Baron, and Leadership by the Book (William Morrow, 1999), by Ken Blanchard.

In this confusing and unsettling time, it's no surprise that two revered spiritual leaders have been tapped to provide modern management advice. If you've tried traditional management books and are open to a new spin, here's what you'll find:

In his book, Blanchard, with coauthors Bill Hybels, senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, and Phil Hodges, managing director of the Center for FaithWalk Leadership, explain the principles of "servant leadership" by telling a scary story with a happy ending. Michael, a hard-driving, workaholic executive who has neglected his family, friends, and spiritual life, has a serious heart attack. His collapse brings two longtime friends back into his life: The Professor (a thinly disguised Blanchard) and The Minister. What Michael learns during the course of the 197-page story is that true leaders think of themselves as servants to their customers and employees. Anyone who runs a small business is in the service business and can apply these parables.

Rabbi David Baron, founder of Temple Shalom for the Arts in Beverly Hills, said he started writing sermons about how the Bible relates to business issues as a way to reach out to members of his busy congregation. He said many people would like the companies they own or work for to reflect values they cherish.

Often entrepreneurs are too busy running their businesses to think about incorporating important values into their day-to-day management decisions. Yet, a truly successful business has to operate based on the ethics of its owner and employees. For example, if you cheat or short-change your customers, you shouldn't be surprised if your employees do, too. If you tell white lies about why you were late or missed an appointment, your employees will think it is OK if they do the same.


Excerpted from 201 Great Ideas For Your Small Business by Jane Applegate Copyright © 2002 by Jane Applegate . Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction xvii

Chapter 1 Management Strategies 1

1. Always Deal with Decision Makers 2

2. Never Work with Anyone Who Gives You a Headache or a Stomachache 3

3. Don’t Be Afraid to Reinvent Your Business 5

4. Add Spirituality to Your Business Life 7

5. Ask for a Quick “Yes” or “No” 9

6. Say Goodbye to Corporate Life 10

7. Create an Informal Advisory Board 12

8. Move Your Business into an Incubator 14

9. Organize a Company Retreat 16

10. Create a Greener and Safer Workplace 17

11. Think Ergonomically 19

12. Make Meetings More Productive 21

13. Meet Clients in Elegant Public Places 21

14. Work the Phones or Walk the Floor 22

15. Join or Create a Peer Support Group 23

16. Know When to Reach Out for Help 26

17. Hire a Great Lawyer 27

18. Seek Help from a Restaurant Consultant 29

19. Thank Everyone You Work With 32

20. Move Your Business into a Main Street Revitalization Zone 32

21. Ask Your Staff to Evaluate You 34

22. Cross-Train Your Employees 35

23. Create a Disaster Recovery Plan 36

Chapter 2 Money Matters 39

24. Become a Profit Enhancement Officer 41

25. Write a Killer Business Plan 42

26. More Insider Tips to Woo Investors 43

27. Find Yourself an Angel 44

28. Hire a Virtual Chief Financial Offi cer 47

29. Choose the Right Bank 48

30. Create a Sensitivity Analysis 50

31. Find a Good Accountant 50

32. Work with an Enrolled Agent to Do Your Taxes 52

33. Find a Strategic Partner to Invest in Your Company 53

34. Even Out Your Cash Flow 55

35. Consider Buying a Franchise 56

36. Franchise Your Business Concept 57

37. Barter for Goods and Services 59

38. Seek Vendor Financing 60

39. EB-5 Visas for Foreign Investors 61

40. Invest in Yourself by Tapping Your 401(k) 63

41. Apply for a Government-Backed Bank Loan 64

42. Invoice Bimonthly and Add an Overhead Charge 65

43. Ask for a Deposit 66

44. Lock Your Supply Cabinet 66

45. Set Up a Retirement Plan 67

46. Establish an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) 68

47. Find a Good Independent Insurance Broker 69

48. Buy Disability Insurance 70

49. Hire a Debt Arbitrator 72

50. Collect the Money People Owe You 73

51. Accept Credit Cards 74

52. Work Part Time to Support Your Business 75

53. Expand Your Vendor Network 77

54. Check Out Economic Development Incentives 78

55. Produce an Independent Film 79

56. Buy Prepaid Legal Insurance or Make a Deal with a Law Firm 82

57. Find the Right Offi ce Space 82

58. Hire a Savvy Real Estate Broker 84

59. Share Space with a Compatible Business 85

60. Buy Used Offi ce Furnishings 86

61. Sell Your Business at the Right Time and Price 87

62. Sell Your Company to an Industry Giant 88

Chapter 3 Technology and Telecommunications 91

63. Twitter for Business: Tips from Guy Kawasaki 94

64. Facebook Tips for Business Owners 95

65. Use Skype for Business 96

66. Set Up a Teleconference 97

67. Make the Most of Voice Mail 99

68. Don’t Let E-Mail Rule or Ruin Your Life 100

69. Take This Technology Checkup 101

70. Smart Technology and Telecommunication Toys to Buy for Your Business 102

71. Post Videos and Photos on Your Web Site 103

72. Consider a Cloud-Based Telephone Service 103

73. Create a Dynamic Web Site 104

74. The Truth about Search Engine Optimization (SEO) 106

75. Hire a Great Web Designer 107

76. Run Your Business in the Cloud 109

77. Use Online Mailing Solutions 110

78. Train Employees Online 111

79. Sell Products Online 112

80. Visit My Favorite Web Sites 113

Chapter 4 Develop and Launch New Products and Services 115

81. Create a Fad 117

82. Import Something New and Diff erent 118

83. Turn Your Hobby into a Successful Business 119

84. Become an Exclusive Importer 121

85. Launch a Green Product 123

86. Build a Working Model of Your Product 124

87. Make a Model with 3-D Software 126

88. Serve the High and Low Ends of the Market 127

89. Partner with a Big Company for Distribution 129

90. Take Advantage of an Online Technology Exchange 130

91. Have Your Product Mandated for Use by the Government 134

92. Create a Business Based on a Personal Challenge 135

93. Sell Your Wares in a Farmer’s Market 135

94. Set Up a Cart in a Shopping Mall 137

Chapter 5 Marketing Strategies 141

95. Strike a Deal with a Giant 143

96. Look Bigger Online 144

97. Take Advantage of Co-op Advertising 145

98. Market to Callers on Hold 147

99. Consider Multilevel Marketing: Send Out Cards 148

100. Cross-Promote Your Products or Services 150

101. Sell through a Dealer Network 152

102. Create a Cool Business Card 153

103. Create a Dynamic Database 154

104. Package Your Products for Success 155

105. Give to Charity 156

106. Use Coupons to Attract Customers 158

107. Use Food as a Selling Tool 159

108. Set Up a Strong Referral Network 160

109. Give It Away 161

110. Design a Great Sign for Your Business 162

111. Produce an Infomercial 163

112. Put a Pig in Your Window 165

113. Put Your Company Name on Everything 166

114. Free Up Your Sales Team to Sell 167

115. Hire a Celebrity Spokesperson 168

116. Publish a Newsletter or Blog 169

117. Market Your Consulting Services 170

118. Host an Open House 171

119. Use Great Public Relations to Promote Your Business 172

120. Coproduce a Seminar 175

121. Ask for Two Business Cards 176

122. Treat Your Best Clients Well 176

123. Invite Associates to a Trade Show 177

124. Know Your Competition 178

125. Tap the Growing Hispanic Market 181

126. Make Your 800 Number Ring 182

127. Attend Charity Events to Make Contacts 183

128. Publicize Your Specialty Food Business 184

129. Market to Uncle Sam and Other Agencies 185

130. Get Certifi ed as a Woman- or Minority-Owned Business 187

131. Don’t Forsake the Yellow Pages 188

132. Send Pizza to Potential Clients 189

133. Think BIG—Why Not? 189

Chapter 6 People 193

134. Cast a Wide Net to Attract Good Employees 195

135. Write Clear Job Descriptions 196

136. Know What Not to Ask Job Applicants 197

137. Recruit Great Employees 198

138. Look Far and Wide for the Best Person 199

139. Work with People You Like 200

140. Hire Talented Seniors 201

141. Hire Teenagers 202

142. Use the BATH System for Hiring 203

143. Perform a Personnel Checkup 204

144. Hire a Welfare Recipient 206

145. Hire Ex-Cons 207

146. Telecommuting as an Option 209

147. Tailor Benefi ts to Employees’ Needs 210

148. Off er Classes in English as a Second Language 211

149. Find Out How Disney Does It 211

150. Ask Your Best Clients to Meet Key Job Candidates 213

151. Hire an Experienced Labor Attorney 214

152. Hire an Interim Executive 215

153. Train Your Employees 217

154. Off er Employees the Right Incentives 218

155. How to Deal with Domestic Violence 219

156. Be Serious about Your Sexual Harassment Policy 221

157. Rely on Temps and Freelancers 222

158. Work with a Virtual Talent Agency 223

159. Send Gifts to an Employee’s Spouse 225

Chapter 7 Time and Personal Management Ideas 227

160. Get Organized—Right Now 228

161. Appoint a Personal Information Offi cer 231

162. Plan “In” Days and “Out” Days 231

163. Beat Your Deadlines 232

164. Spend an Hour a Day Thinking 233

165. Five Quick Time Management Tips 234

166. Work Hard and Play Harder 234

167. Tell the Truth 235

168. Overcome a Fear of Public Speaking—Join Toastmasters 236

169. Find a Mentor and Be a Mentor 237

170. Do Something to Reduce Stress 239

171. Put on a Happy Face 240

Chapter 8 Customer Service 243

172. Customer Service the Zappos Way 244

173. Quick Customer Service Quiz 246

174. Hire a Mystery Shopper 246

175. Listen to the Telephone Doctor 248

176. Don’t Make Your Customers Angry 249

177. Make House Calls or Have a Trunk Sale 250

178. Make Apparel to Order 251

179. Demand Great Service from Vendors 253

180. Get to Know Your Customers Personally 253

181. Wrap It Up 255

182. Customer Service at Its Best 256

Chapter 9 Going Global 259

183. Return to Your Homeland to Export Products 261

184. Move Your Manufacturing to Mexico 263

185. Forge an International Alliance 265

186. Do Business in India 266

187. Explore Opportunities in Russia 268

188. Do Business in China 269

189. Meet U.S. Safety Rules for Products Made Abroad 270

190. Learn about a Culture before Going Abroad 271

191. Translate Your Marketing Materials 272

192. Abide by the Etiquette of International Trade 273

Chapter 10 Great Ideas and Insights from VIPs 275

193. Herb Kelleher—Be a Maverick 275

194. Lynn Tilton—Be a Modern Industrialist 277

195. Mike Bloomberg—Keep It Simple 278

196. Tom Peters—Forget Credentials 282

197. Kay Koplovitz—Leverage a New Technology 283

198. Wally Amos—Reinvent Yourself 284

199. Lillian Vernon—Advice from the Mail-Order Queen 285

200. Charles Shackleton—Follow Your Passion 287

201. Set Your Ego Aside and Ask for Help 288

Conclusion 289

Resources 291

About the Author 305

Index 307

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"I wish I had this kind of invaluable information when I launched my company forty-seven years ago. It took me a decade to learn these important tips for managing a successful business. From one entrepreneur to another, don't start your business before reading Jane Applegate's book."
—Lillian Vernon
Chairman and CEO, Lillian Vernon Corporation

"The most comprehensive book I've ever read for the owner of a small business. If you are in business for yourself, make sure you get your personal copy. It could prove to be your biggest asset."
—Wally Amos
Founder of Famous Amos Cookies and Uncle NoName Muffin Company

"Just one of these smart ideas can help boost your business. Glean a dozen and you'll cream your competition."
—Martha Rogers
Coauthor of The One to One Future and Enterprise One to One

"Brilliantly researched. Brilliantly written. A gem of priceless value on almost every page. Read. Inhale. Absorb. Great stuff."
—Tom Peters
Author of The Circle of Innovation and coauthor of In Search of Excellence

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