Monthly Archives: September 2012

Paul Vento on Launching a Business or Franchise

In these turbulent economic times, successful businesses stand out like a sore thumb. Creative, ambitious observers feel that they too could have launches such an attractive franchise, if only they had put their minds to it.

However, it takes more than just a good idea to build any business; it requires, patience, research, good people skills and leadership. Paul Vento, a small business entrepreneur and owner of Transworld Business Advisors, recently offered some advice to those looking to take the leap.

“Have a list of really good question that help you vet the specific franchising opportunity you are looking into,” he suggests. “You want to find out up front whether this franchise is right for you and what you are looking to achieve.” He adds, “If you think you know everything, then why are you entering into this business? To be successful in any venture, you need to ask the right questions before going into it and then be prepared to listen to answers.”

He continues, explaining that a successful entrepreneur knows his or her strengths and uses them to find a suitable niche.

Finally, “Your success is a direct outcome of your drive, your passion, and your commitment. It is not that of the franchise itself. It is ultimately you,” Vento says.

Oil Prices Drop as Stock Markets Falter

Oil prices dropped below $91 per barrel this week, mirroring the falling stock markets as economic outlook takes a turn for the worst.

According to BusinessWeek, “Benchmark crude was down 59 cents to $90.78 a barrel by midmorning London time in electronic trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The contract dropped 56 cents to settle at $91.37 a barrel Tuesday in New York.

“Oil failed to get a lasting boost from an improvement in U.S. consumer confidence to its highest level since February. Markets were overshadowed by comments from Charles Plosser, president of the U.S. Federal Reserve’s Philadelphia branch, indicating that the Fed’s efforts to support the world’s biggest economy would likely fall short of its goals.”

The Plosser’s comments boost lingering pessimism regarding growth prospects and falling stocks on Wall Street and Asia. Spain, and the rest of Europe, have also seen disappointing results recently.

According to the Commodity Research Team at Commerzbank, “the renewed escalation of the debt crisis in the Eurozone, with violent protestors in Spain against the planned new austerity measures, has sparked gloomier sentiment on the financial markets once again and is also putting oil prices under pressure.”

A Successful Entrepreneur

Carroll County Times’ Mark Luterman recently wrote an article discussing the most successful entrepreneurs in today’s economy.

He explained that the best business owners thrive because “they see challenges as opportunities.” Most entrepreneurs do not, however, and their responses are often detrimental to their businesses.

Luterman offers three tips:

  • When you’re mentally paralyzed with fear, you’re not moving forward. In fact, you remain stagnant.
  • The most important six words for any entrepreneur or aspiring entrepreneur to remember, as the legendary Earl Nightingale so eloquently stated, are, “We become what we think about.”

If you think of bad outcomes, the negative economy and how hard it is to succeed, guess what happens? Do you think you’ll succeed? No. You create fear and anxiety, which leads to an unclear mind and your inability to be creative and produce positive solutions for success.

Ask yourself this question: “What is my vision of the future?” If you expect that you’ll be successful, then that’s what you’ll receive. If you expect to fail, then that’s what you’ll receive. You control your own destiny.

  • Mistakes come from acting in fear or doubt.

More people became millionaires in the Great Depression than in any other time in American history. That’s because talented entrepreneurs used their skills and know-how to take advantage of the crisis while the majority of companies went out of business.

So this illustrates that hiding under a bed is a self-fulfilling prophecy and taking continuous action in the present and believing that you will make it no matter what is critical. Then and only then will you succeed.

Consumer Federation of America & Primerica Report: Middle Class Decline

In a new, comprehensive report called “Financial Status and Decision-Making of the American Middle Class,” by the Consumer Federation of America and Primerica Inc., they found that middle class families are suffering more today than they were in 2007.  As John Addison, co-CEO of Primerica, explained, “Middle income families are the fabric of America, and they are struggling more than ever. We hear about the challenges families face. Too much month at the end of the money, and being sick and tired of being sick and tired.”

The study looked at a national survey that was conducted by ORC International in July which included 2,015 American adults. It also looked at the Federal Reserve Board’s 2010 Survey of Consumer Finances that was conducted by Catherine Montalto from Ohio State University.

Middle-class families, defined as those with an annual income of between $30,000 and $100,000, had $38,800 in savings in 2007, while they had only, on average, $27,300 in non-retirement assets by 2010.

Certainly, declining home values were a major part of the declining net asset of the American middle class. On average, they suffered a 35% decline in their home values from 2007 to 2010.

Interestingly, the study also looked at how middle-class families rate their financial decisions-making. Most said that they were “excellent” or “good” on making such decisions. Very few, however, said that they use concrete sources of information for making financial decisions. This included a surprising number (23% of the least educated and 10% of the most) who said they don’t seek out any outside information about savings or investing before making a decision for themselves.

How to Manage Business Adrenaline

USA Today’s Rhonda Abrams recently discussed a common problem among small business owners- the addiction to business adrenaline. Of course, the ability to handle crisis situations and challenges is a must when it comes to management, but Abrams claims the thrill may actually push entrepreneurs to create their own obstacles.

She lists a few ways to keep the feeling positive and beneficial instead of stressful:

  • Accept it positively:

Face is, you’re not suddenly going to be Zen-like. Recognize that challenges motivate you, and structure your business so you can undertake positive new tasks while still taking care of routine business. Give yourself hard-to-reach goals, especially sales objectives.

Get energized- and get your adrenaline going- by giving yourself big audacious goals you have to reach and a reason to get up every morning.

  • Prioritize:

It’s true that squeaky wheels get the grease as well as getting your adrenaline wheels spinning, but sometimes the quiet engine requires the most tending.

Identify the most important ingredients for your success and make sure you’re concentrating on those. Don’t let urgent but unimportant matters keep you from the really important stuff.

Develop mechanisms for making the truly vital activities also the urgent ones, perhaps by manufacturing deadlines with consequences even if no external deadlines exist.

  • Redefine boredom:

I once asked a former neighbor, a young emergency-room physician fresh from school, how work was that day.

He replied, “Awful. Everyone only had minor injuries; nothing was very interesting.” What a dismal way to view one’s work. Things had to be bad to be good.

Be careful you’re not seeking the business equivalent. Concentrate on the big picture.

I used to feel bored if I wasn’t really, really busy- phones constantly ringing, huge to-do list, and one emergency after the other. It took a while to realize that all that busy-ness didn’t add up to productivity.

I acknowledged that what really keeps me from being bored is constantly learning new things. And it doesn’t take an emergency for that.

  • Add risk to your life:

If you’re addicted to adrenaline, give yourself adrenaline rushes through appropriate nonbusiness risks.

It doesn’t have to be a physical risk, like skydiving or bungee jumping. It can be simple, such as joining the local Toastmasters to overcome your fear of public speaking or auditioning for community theater.

  • Get a happy life:

When your life is going really well, you won’t want to spend your energy on problems.

It’s amazing how much perspective you suddenly get on business crises when you have other, wonderful ways to spend your time. Having a happy life doesn’t mean you won’t have real business emergencies, you’ll just be less interested in creating them.

So if you spend all of your time putting out business fires, get out of the office and take care of the rest of your life. You may find some of the work fires extinguish themselves.



Customer Service Helped A Better Bugman Succeed

Customer Service Rules at A Better Bugman

Yes, the economy is in the doldrums and all that, but it doesn’t mean some great companies with good business sense can’t succeed, even in a downturn environment.

Down in the Sunshine State in Fort Myers, two entrepreneurs have been controlling the pests in Lee County, Florida, on their own for the past five years, and doing an excellent job.

Clifford Daniels and Jim Lambeth, co-owners of A Better Bugman, LLC since 2007, were co-workers first at other pest control companies, big and small, since the 1980s. As they came to know the residents of the communities their companies served, and also came to know the companies, they came to the realization that despite the success of these other companies there was a certain fatal flaw in their business models, and that was the dismissal of the importance of customer service.

That’s when they decided to go out on their own and created A Better Bugman, and now it’s been five years.

A five-year anniversary “means that we’ve been able to provide good customer service for five years and our customers appreciate it,” Daniels said. “And we’ve been growing every year.”

It is interesting, and even significant, that this anniversary also comes on the heels of A Better Bugman’s highest single-month revenue in their history: in August they earned $30,574. In 2012 they grossed $186,225 in sales, year to date, a nice increase over 2011’s gross over the same period of $151,154. That is a 23 percent increase.

The partners also have a non-traditional approach to pest control in some cases. Two years ago, instead of killing bees that were causing problems, they began to capture them. Today they have 32 hives in Lehigh Acres, and collected 150 pounds of honey last year. Their aim for this coming year is to get 400 to 600 pound of honey from their bees.

“People think pest control guys are polluters of the environment,” Daniels said, “but actually we’re protectors because we regulate what’s used, where it’s used and we’re even trying to protect the honeybees.”

Perhaps their attitude, and not just their great business sense, is a contributor to the growth of their company over the past five years.

“We have been growing for five years,” Lambeth said. “We’ve been doing fairly well, so it’s only fair that you give back to the community that helped you grow for five years.”

Christine Lagarde at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit

Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, has warned about the United States’ fiscal conditions numerous times. Her most recent discussion took place at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit in Russia, where she explained that the nation’s tax increases and spending cuts are likely to have significant negative impact on the global economy.

Lagarde told reporters:

“We discussed over lunch with the leaders of APEC, the global economic situation, with the three key risks that we see on the horizon…a combination of factors that could also increase the vulnerabilities of emerging economies.”

Lagarde confirmed the IMF’s support for the European Central Bank’s newest project, and expressed their interest in helping with the program design and monitoring.

“Clearly when we get involved we want to be involved both in the design and monitoring of programs. We don’t particularly like to do monitoring without having participated actively in the design.”

Inger Rood Among Honorees at Breakfast Event

Recently, twenty impressive women including Inger Rood were honored at an awards breakfast on September 6th at the University of North Florida University Center. They were the Northeast Florida 2012 Women of Influence honorees and were recognized for their achievement in business and their involvement over the past year with the Northeast Florida community.

The event took place from 7:30 to 9:30 am and was the 9th Annual Women of Influence event.  Sponsored by the Jacksonville Business Journals, the award honorees included:

* Erika Alba, Foley Lardner LLP
* Rochelle Bailey Price, Colo5 LLC
* Inger Rood, Florida Blue
* Jeanette Toohey, University of North Florida Division of Continuing Education
* Lisa Strange Weatherby, Wells Fargo Advisors LLC

Investing in a Post-QE3 Economy

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke

Ben Bernanke, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, was in Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Friday discussing the intentions of the Fed to help the faltering US economy. Still undecided about another round of quantitative easing, Bernanke did not announce bond buying by the Fed to stimulate the economy, nor did he rule it out.

Labeled QE3 as it will be the third round of easing over the past few years, the idea of easing is to boost the economy by pumping it up with cash and keeping interest rates low so that more people will be willing to take out loans to buy homes and cars.

Although it is not clear if the economy will react the same way to QE3 as it did to QE1 and QE2, here are some ideas in how investors should react to the implementation of QE3 if it should happen.

Precious metals and commodities are usually a good bet when the economy is stimulated with cash or when inflation looms in the picture.

"QE3 will likely have a play for everyone," the analysts wrote. "Odds-followers should buy silver. Contrarians should look hard at owning detested coal stocks. And for those who want to participate in a QE3 rally, but with less volatility, buy gold."

Economist Expecting Slight Growth in Service Sector

Economists are preparing for the announcement by the Institute for Supply Management’s announcement which will show whether or not the US economy is in fact growing.

The analysts are predicting that the ISM rose slightly from July to August, reaching 52.8; a slight increase from the 52.6 July figure. This analysis was based on a survey conducted by FactSet. Any number above 50 indicates the economy is expanding, even if it may be very slowly.

The official report of the ISM should appear by 10am on Thursday.

This survey looks at non-manufacturing companies, as the ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers. Service companies make up about 90 percent of the US workforce including retail and construction jobs to health care and financial services companies.