The HBS Blog offers insight on Delaware corporations and LLCs as well as information about entrepreneurship, start-ups and general business topics.
Every small-business owner should continue to run his or her business cautiously and prudently. There will be more tough times ahead. Look for growth opportunity.
Over the coming months, more of your competitors will probably fail, and that presents an opportunity to attract new customers to your shop.
This can be an excellent time to expand and take advantage of a larger market share. If you do expand, continue to bootstrap and try to keep your use of debt to a minimum.
This is no time for excessive leverage because of the uncertainty of the economic outlook.
Whether you are a new entrepreneur or a seasoned business owner, more than ever before remember, cash is king. Given the uncertainty of the economy, entrepreneurs should try to keep enough cash on hand to cover at least 30 days of monthly expenses -- and up to 90 days of cash on hand is not a bad idea, either.
I recently went on a trip to Asia and I wanted to share with you my experience. After a 16-hour flight directly from Newark, NJ, I arrived in Hong Kong. I had the wonderful opportunity to stay with a family who has lived in Hong Kong for almost 55 years. Since this was my first time in Asia, I was not sure what to expect, but I knew going into this trip that I was going to be open to everything.
Hong Kong means Fragrant Harbor; it was formerly a British Colony and was handed over to the People’s Republic of China in 1997. Even though it is now part of China, it has its own currency (Hong Kong Dollar) and the Hong Kong government is financially independent from the government of The People’s Republic of China. The city of Hong Kong is very industrialized and is growing by the year. As of today, there are currently 7 million people living in Hong Kong; most people speak both English and Cantonese and it is known as the safest city in Asia.
One of the things I enjoyed most about Hong Kong was how genuine the people are. They make you feel at home and welcome you with open arms. During my 10 days there, I saw a great deal of the city. Hong Kong has it all; from great restaurants to great markets\, to magnificent views. Even for me, a person whose biggest pet peeve is to shop, I enjoyed shopping in Hong Kong, and the best part was I could bargain the price and walk away feeling good about what I paid for it.
I found Hong Kong to be one of most fascinating cities I have ever been to; one of the main reasons I went there was to educate myself on the potential business opportunities Asia has to offer. On my plane ride over, I read a really interesting article called “Asia Holds Growth Potential”. The article talks about how the recent recession has whet U.S. companies' appetite for growth in Asia. In 2008, nearly half of the U.S. companies surveyed saw their China-based businesses perform better than the overall company, according to a U.S.-China Business Council poll of its members. The percentage of U.S. companies whose China operations are profitable is 84% to 16% not profitable. The results show that the once-prevalent notion that U.S. companies “cannot be profitable in China is a myth,” says John Frisbie, the council’s president. American companies that are able to break into the Asian market will have the potential to leverage the consumer base of some of the fastest growing economies in the world. Some of the American industries that are betting on Asia are pharmaceuticals, autos, casinos and consumer products.
I highly recommend all entrepreneurs visit Asia if possible, but especially Hong Kong, as it is a one-of-kind city and full of opportunity for the global enterprise.
Growing your business in today’s market will start with a fine-tuned business plan. Business plans and strategies can and will change along the way, however a strong business plan is the template for your business success. A business plan is a wonderful tool whether you are looking to start or grow your business. Picture this as the road map for your business. As important as it is to know how to grow your business, it is just as important to know when. Whether you started off with the intentions of growing, or the demand for your product or service has increased dramatically, certain questions must be answered before this important business decision is made. Can you afford the growth? With growth, comes the need for more product, more employees, more insurance, etc.. The company’s financials will make up a big part in this decision. Do you plan on financing the growth, or using cash from the company’s funds? The answers to these questions will depend on your personal goals and business plan. We bring it up at this time to simply note that it must be addressed. Where you are versus where you want to be needs to be addressed on a quarterly basis at the minimum. In their five minute “Strategies for Growth-Preparing for Growth” video, the Small Business Administration talked to Carey Wilson of the Maryland Small Business Development Center who offers five valuable tips for growth.
In this video, he explains that “Strategy is really bout answering the fundamental questions of why you’re in business: What’s our business? Who’s our customer? Why are we special? Why are we better than our competition?
Are you a businessman who travels frequently to locations that require a passport/visa? This can be a huge hassle and take up a lot of time. Recently, I needed to obtain a Chinese visa for an upcoming business trip. For a while I was under the impression the only way to get a Chinese visa was by physically going to the Chinese Consulate in New York, which was an inconvenience to me. Little did I know that the answer was right online. It is called Travisa and their motto “When You Need It Fast” is exactly what you get, fast and efficient service! Since, 1981 Travisa has been helping individuals, travel agents and corporate travel departments to expedite passports and visas. What makes this service so convenient is not only do they have locations all over the world, but everything is done over the Internet and by mail. So the next time you’re in need of a passport/visa let Travisa help you.
Marketing can be a tough area for small business owners to tackle. Most of the time marketing plans are too company-centric and not customer-centric. Blogging Innovation just published a great article entitled "How to Write a Marketing Plan with Five Questions," which features 5 simple questions to ask yourself before you create a marketing plan. These questions will help you focus on your customer's perspective. Below is an excerpt: