What can you learn from Zappos.com’s $1.6 Million Mistake


If you are not standing by your core values at the time of crisis and instead take a myopic view of the situation you will miss out on building a long-term, thriving business. Just look at what Zappos, the popular shoe site, went through on May 23, 2010. It lost $1.6 Million dollars within matter of hours. But it’s what it did afterward that is the real story.
For those who don’t know Zappos; it is an online web site that sells shoes. In the process it has built a Billion dollar business!! It has done this by focusing on core tenets of providing exceptional customer service at any cost. Amazon.com just bought the company last month for $928 million.
So what happened?
[Read more…]

How to Succeed at Multi-unit Operations


Despite its lure of higher sales and profit the multi-unit operation is hard work and can be prone to failure. If you are not careful you may end up losing it all. In our previous blog we laid out the pros and cons of multi-unit operations. Here we will outline some of the steps you can take to make multi-unit operation succeed. I will say it again – operating multi-unit business is challenging. At the same time if you take care of the pitfalls that come with it you can not only succeed; but thrive.

The basic philosophy you have to adopt when moving from single unit to multi-unit operation is to take advantage of your scale; while at the same time standardize and apply the proven formula at multiple locations. These are the principles behind the concept of franchise; which is essentially multi-unit operation on steroids. If you want to learn how to succeed at multi-unit business; study how any franchise you operates.

Let’s look at the steps you need to take in more detail:

[Read more…]

Pros and Cons of Multi-unit Operations


Many of the business owners who expand from a single unit to multi-unit operations fail and even end in a worse situation than before. It’s human nature to think of a simple math – if you are making $100K from one unit; you should be able to make $200K from two, right? They may go even further thinking that the outcome should be more than $200K when you include all the synergy you can derive from multiple units.
Even though there is some truth in this argument the reality is operating a multi-unit business is hard work. You need to think long and hard before expanding and consider the pros and cons of multi-unit operations before making a decision. Below I have tried to highlight some of the key points to consider in terms of the benefits and pitfalls.
[Read more…]

Does Your Business have Social Media Strategy?


If you don’t have a strategy to deal with Internet and social media you might be in a danger of losing lot of business. Just look at this article in Detroit Free Press past Saturday. To summarize the article – a student from Western Michigan University claims his car was illegally towed from his apartment complex by the tow truck company. He created a Facebook page to fight with the towing company and attracted 11,000 “fans” on the page; who joined him in the revolt saying they too had similar complaints against this company. The result was that that towing company lost half of its commercial accounts.
[Read more…]

Do NOT Hire a Close Friend to Work in Your Business


Here is an advice for all small business owners – DO NOT HIRE FRIEND OR RELATIVE TO WORK IN YOUR BUSINESS, if at all possible. I know it sounds harsh and may be even counter-intuitive. After all, in small business you need someone who you can trust with your money and who else would be better suited than a close friend or a relative who you know very well and can trust.

I am not arguing with the benefits of having a trusted friend or relative in the business who can watch for your good. However, you have to weigh this against the downsides that come with it. From what we have seen and experienced the downsides exceed the benefits; which calls for avoiding the situation, if possible.

So what are the problems and issues that come along with the hiring of a close friend or a relative in your business? Wall Street has good examples of the problems here. Here is my list based on my experience and that of some of our business colleagues:
[Read more…]

How to Make Partnership Work


Statistics show that more than half of partnerships usually end up in failure. This is a reason enough to discourage many would be partners from getting into business with partners. However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Given sufficient precautions the partnerships can not only avoid failure; but can thrive.

There are a number of successful partnerships at a larger scale that have worked well. For example, the triumvirate at the helm of Google – Sergey Brin, Larry Page and Eric Schmidt has grown the company’s sales to more than $23 billion in 2009. So what makes a partnership successful and how can you use it in your situation? Below we have identified several traits of successful partnership from our own experience and that of others.
[Read more…]

5 Reasons to Establish Partnership


The failure rate of businesses with partnership is much higher than those managed without partnership. So why would anyone want to get in the partnership? Despite what statistics shows there are some valid reasons why you should consider establishing partnership. As I mentioned in my previous blog there are pros and cons of partnerships. As long as you take steps to make it work you can get what you want out of partnership.
Here are 5 reasons why you should consider getting into partnership. In some cases there may be multiple scenarios depending on the situation and number of partners involved.
[Read more…]

Pros and Cons of Partnership


Many people would love going in the business with a partner for variety of reasons. At the same time you will find equal number of others who hate the idea of working with a partner and losing independence. What is it about the partnership that brings different reactions from different sets of people? In this article we will highlight the pros and cons of being in a partnership.

[Read more…]

How can you beat large business with deep pockets?

Customer Service
It is not only possible to fight with large business; but to win big in this battle. Are you the owner of small business that is fighting for customers and sales with the big, national chains? How do you win the battle when you know you are outnumbered in every way? I just found out how one such business is doing one customer at a time.
I was at the auto mechanic shop the other day to fix the coolant leakage on my old car. The service I received there made me think what it takes to make a first-time customer come back for the rest of his life. Let me explain…
[Read more…]

Is this a good time to buy a business?

This question keeps coming up in many conversations with existing business owners and prospective ones. In almost all situations I encounter two diverging opinions. In one camp you have those who say the economy is so bad; consumers are spending very little money, banks are not lending and many other issues facing small businesses today. In the opposing camp there are those who say this is the best time to start a business because you have many businesses for sale at good price, your business will be ready to take advantage when things start looking up and so on.

These conversations remind me of a story of two shoes salesmen who are sent to an African village to explore business opportunities for shoes. One salesman goes to the village and finds that nobody is wearing any shoes. She sends a message to the headquarters – stop this project. No one here wears any shoes. The other salesman goes to the village and finds the same situation. However, she sends an urgent message to the headquarters saying – crank up the production in full force. No one here wears any shoes. As you can see the opportunity is in eye of a beholder!!!

Many of the well-known businesses of today were started in bad times.
[Read more…]