100 Ways to Be a Better Entrepreneur

Topics 76-90

Who Should You Be Marketing To?

76. The Military Market
The armed forces are a massive market, says Christopher Michel, president of Military.com, a San Francisco-based military affinity marketing company that connects public- and private-sector clients to military audiences. With about 3 million active armed forces members and reservists, he estimates the tangential markets of veterans, family members, defense workers and the like to be as high as 50 million.

Serving the special needs of this mobile, family-oriented audience is one way to get their attention--and their dollars. Training companies (which may qualify for reimbursement through military education benefits) as well as relocation services, financial consultants, consumer goods shops and furnishings retailers are some businesses that are a natural fit, says Michel.

Saying you're patriotic is all well and good, but lip service isn't going to cut it. Michel counsels his clients to back up "thank you" with some sort of discount or tangible benefit, such as a free gift, or even going beyond the call of duty and hiring veterans or support reservists to work in your company. And the best way to reach this market, says Michel, is word-of-mouth. Because of the close communities on many bases, people talk to each other about companies that support military members, so the word spreads quickly.

77. The Hispanic Market
Some 38.8 million Hispanics live in the United States, according to 2002 Census Bureau estimates, and their influence is huge and growing. Hispanics control about $653 billion in spending power, and that number is expected to top $1 trillion by 2008, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia in Athens.

Entrepreneurs can find numerous niches in this vast market. Populations of Americanized, predominantly English-speaking second- and third-generation Hispanics are on the rise. This group wants to be marketed to as part of the mass market--not as a separate entity, says Luis Garcia, president of Garcia 360°, an advertising firm in San Antonio, Texas, specializing in the Hispanic market. So speak to cultural differences subtly in your marketing messages (for example, cast a Hispanic family in ads--complete with grandparents in the home, which notes the large family influence). Consider using Spanglish, English mixed with Spanish words or phrases, to communicate to this market. Don't be superficial, though: Garcia recommends getting into grass-roots campaigns by sponsoring Hispanic community events or charities.

Opportunities exist in nearly every industry segment--from food and entertainment to financial services and Web services. Adding new flavor lines to existing food products, for example, is one way to enter this market. Or partner with a manufacturer in a Latin American country to distribute its products here in the United States.

78. Boomers
Baby boomers-the 80 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964-have a lot on their minds these days. Their kids are going off to college. They're watching wrinkles and stubborn pounds pile on. They're worried about retirement after losing $8 trillion in the stock market. And their parents are passing away, leaving some boomers with inheritances to manage.

Their life changes can be your gain. Boomers comprise half of the $7 trillion in consumer spending every year, says Ken Gronbach, president of KGC Direct LLC, a Higganum, Connecticut, company that specializes in generational marketing. The key to capturing boomers will be helping them feel comfortable with themselves--because their worst fear is turning into their parents. Aging "is very painful for them," Gronbach says.

Boomers will spend whatever it takes to boost their confidence, feel more secure and recapture their youth. Opportunities abound in retirement and financial planning, spa and fitness, comfortable clothing, motor homes, luxury homes, low-maintenance pets and classic cars.

79. Seniors
For many seniors, the golden years represent a period of relaxation--a breath of fresh air after a lifetime of work and responsibility. For today's entrepreneurs, meanwhile, the golden years also mean a golden opportunity. Visible on the horizon is an unprecedented demand for senior care and other senior services. During the next 30 years, the number of people 65 and older is expected to double, and the number of people over age 85 will triple, according to James Firman, president and CEO of The National Council on the Aging. "There will be a huge expansion in the need for services to help people stay at home or in whatever facilities they're in," he says. The senior-care industry will "definitely be a major growth industry."

According to Steve Barlam, president of the National Association of Professional Geriatric Care Managers, 60 percent of those seeking a care manager's services are managing their parents' care from a distance, while the remainder live nearby but don't have time to handle all the arrangements. In other cases, there's a conflict between family members, and an objective third party is needed. This translates into a growing need for products and services to help this "sandwich generation." These can range from providing senior day-care centers to in-home care services, companionship and even in-home beauty services.

80. Women
Marketers of any product or service can adopt a service philosophy that delivers the product design elements and customer service that women want. Once you translate these expectations to your market niche, you'll win the hearts and pocketbooks of women.

Women's earning power is escalating: They comprise over half of all college students and about 38 percent of small-business owners, according to 2002 figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. A February 2002 study by Prudential Financial found that, of the 400 American women surveyed, 37 percent live in households with incomes of $50,000 to $100,000, and 12 percent live in households with more than $100,000 in annual income. Nearly half of adult women are solely responsible for saving money for their households.

So what can you do to make sure you attract women to your business? Try these tips:

  • Get the little stuff right, and the big stuff will take care of itself. Women develop a collage of impressions about a business from a hundred small factors. Everything from its cleanliness to the design of the shopping bag gets a woman's attention. Smart business owners turn this to their advantage by investing in small amenities women can appreciate.
  • Women have so many work and family responsibilities, they don't have time to research and ponder every buying decision. Offering carefully selected choices will have women choosing your business over an overwhelming A-to-Z plethora.
  • Whether buying for themselves or for the businesses they own or manage, women make final purchasing decisions based on their relationship with the seller, not on statistics and quantitative data. Given a choice between two nearly identical products, women are likely to decide based on customer service and the ongoing relationship with the vendor.

Work/Life Balance

81. Chill Out
Unfortunately, building a business doesn't come easy. There are tough choices to make, a million things to do, and stress, stress, stress. Before you pull your hair out, take a deep breath and try these tips for reducing your stress:

  • Create a master list of goals. Break your larger goals into realistic short-term goals, and break short-term goals into realistic steps you can take immediately.
  • Remember, happiness is your end game. Instead of stopping when you become frustrated, simply decide on the best action you can take, and take it.
  • Evaluate and learn from your actions. At the end of the day, congratulate yourself for what you've accomplished, and let go of what you have not.
  • Realize you don't have to do this alone. As you grow your business, many tasks become routine and can be accomplished by someone else. Develop a list of these tasks, and delegate them so you can concentrate more on growing your business.

82. Get Out of Town
Everyone needs a break, even entrepreneurs. But if you're just not comfortable leaving your business in someone else's hands for a few weeks while you sip cocktails on the beach, take baby steps. How about a mini-break? For some business owners, it's easier to get away if they think of their trip as a long weekend rather than a full-fledged holiday.

If you do manage to get away, it might still be difficult to leave it all behind. On vacation, set clear limits on how long you'll work-if at all. Remember, you need to get away from the office, not bring the office with you. So schedule your vacation time, delegate what you can and just go.

Here are some easy ways to make your vacation dreams into a relaxing reality:

  • Vacation during the slowest time of the year.
  • Take three-day weekends as mini-vacations.
  • Discover new, fun activities close to home.
  • Turn off that cell phone and leave the laptop behind.
  • If you must work, limit it to just one hour a day.
  • Throw caution to the wind. Just go!

83. On the Home Front
For homebased entrepreneurs, making the distinction between home life and work life is the most difficult because work takes place in the home. To maintain the stability of your home life, and, possibly, your sanity, follow these seven tips to keep your office from completely invading your home.

  • Clearly differentiate your workspace from the rest of the house.
  • Set definite work hours.
  • Have a signal that makes it clear when you don't want to be disturbed.
  • Learn how to say, "No, I'm working now," and stick to it.
  • Use a separate business phone line.
  • Soundproof your office.
  • Have a separate outside office entrance.

84. Watch the Clock
There are never enough hours in the day. While you can't slow down time or make the day longer, you can make the most out of the 24 hours you do have. Use these five steps to take the crunch time out of your workday:

  • Plan tomorrow today. At the end of each workday, take a blank sheet of paper and write down everything you must accomplish tomorrow in the order the tasks should be done. The next day, you won't have to decide what to do first, and crossing off the things you accomplish will give you great satisfaction.
  • Learn to prioritize. All your daily activities can be broken down into three categories. The first, the "A" list, represents prospecting for new business. Next is the "B" list-growing and expanding current business. This includes activities that build on existing relationships and generate more business from current clients. Lastly, there's the "C" list, nonselling activities that include writing reports, proposals, follow-up letters and thank-you notes.
  • Don't waste travel time. One of the most valuable time-management tools is the tape recorder. When driving, speak into a recorder, dictating notes and reminders of things you have to do. The next best travel tool is your cell phone, which you can use to make or return calls when riding to a destination.
  • Don't put off 'til tomorrow . . . One time-management expert's favorite tip involves eliminating procrastination. To get his staff ready to go first thing each morning, he suggests they spend 20 minutes on the ride to work listening to motivational tapes and then get started making calls as soon as they get to their desks.
  • Give yourself a break. Time-management techniques aren't going to provide effective solutions if you don't have the energy to give 100 percent. So take a few minutes and walk around the office or around your building, go out to lunch. The ideas that wouldn't come to you in the office might pour out once you're in a new environment.

85. We're a Happy Family
Even if you're not running a family business, your business still impacts the lives of everyone in your family. So how do you manage to be a good spouse, parent and child while powering your way to the top of the business world? Here are some tips that, while they won't guarantee happiness 24/7, will help harmonize your home and work lives:

  • Call a "family meeting." Discuss ways you can share the responsibilities of the home, including childcare, cooking and cleaning. If you and your spouse are reaching your limits, are there other adults in the family-aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandparents-or friends who can provide some help?
  • Don't try to be a superhero and handle everything alone. Ask yourself, "Is my spouse doing all they can? Are the children pitching in?" Have you divided both childcare and housework in your household?
  • Take advantage of technology. Stay accessible via cell phones, pagers, e-mail and fax capabilities. If something happens at home, how easily can you be reached?
  • Watch for burnout. Live by the motto "If I don't take care of myself, I won't be able to take care of another."

Get Involved With Your Community!

86. Encourage Employees to Give Back
A big part of community involvement is giving employees the freedom to do charitable work as well. One simple way is to offer paid time off for volunteer work. Whether it's eight hours a year or 40 hours, your gift of time will encourage their charitable natures.

"At our company, any employee can take off 40 hours a year to do charitable work, so if they want to spend a week to build a house with Habitat for Humanity, we'll pay for it," says Craig Hall, author of The Responsible Entrepreneur and owner of Hall Financial Group. "Most times, if companies encourage employees to volunteer, those employees will take them up on it. Now, as a smaller company, maybe you can't be that extreme, but you could allot a smaller amount of time-say, 20 hours-for volunteer work."

87. Create a City Where People Want to Live
As an entrepreneur, the first thought on your mind might not be the health of your city, but it should be. If your town thrives, your business is rewarded with a larger customer base and a better potential work force. Your business then gives back by hiring more local workers and contributing more taxes. And one of the key elements to fostering a healthy city is to attract the creative folks who will start and work in innovative businesses.

The newest generation of workers, says Kip Bergstrom, executive director of the Rhode Island Econommic Policy Council, want quality cities and the chance to help build those cities. "By being part of that [building process], entrepreneurs are modeling a behavior that's attractive to their current and prospective workers." For example, members of the Rhode Island Technology Council, a private/public partnership designed to stimulate technology and innovation, have worked hundreds of hours with local secondary schools and colleges to help create a tech-savvy work force.

Donate your time and know-how to help new companies get a leg up. Sponsor arts events. Look into a new location in an area undergoing redevelopment. Join planning committees. You've built a great business; now use that knowledge to help build a great city.

88. Share the Riches of Your Business
Are you interested in doing community work that directly involves your business? Try these ideas:

  1. If you're in the food business, donate excess food to homeless shelters.
  2. If you're in the music business, arrange for small, free concerts at homes for the elderly.
  3. If you're a financial person, offer to give some counseling sessions or seminars at a neighborhood center on budgeting or debt management.
  4. If your business provides an infrastructure-related skill--plumbing, electrical, construction and so on--you have ample opportunities to satisfy your community improvement urges by donating your skills to impoverished families or local nonprofit agencies.
  5. If you offer professional services like dentistry, tax preparation or attorney services, donate your time to those who can't afford it.
  6. If you're a b-to-b service provider--marketing, PR, financial, Web design, IT and so on--offer your expertise to local nonprofit agencies.

89. How to Get Involved
There are no end of good causes that can use a helping hand. Every community--no matter how small--offers scores of avenues for an organization to get involved. Here are just a few ideas that might work for your company:

  1. Join an adopt-a-highway program.
  2. Offer high school or local college students the opportunity for real-world experience with an intern program.
  3. Provide food for the elderly or homeless: Help financially or by serving meals.
  4. Sponsor broadcast public-service announcements.
  5. Host an American Red Cross blood drive at your place of business.
  6. Help with fundraising for any number of good social causes.
  7. Get involved with a high-profile telethon for your local public television.
  8. Work with a local environmental group to clean up a nearby natural area.
  9. Consider sports sponsorships, especially for teams from disadvantaged neighborhoods.
  10. Get involved with a walk, bike or run for disease research.
  11. Approach a service group in your community and ask them to develop a project for your umbrella sponsorship.
  12. Look into mentoring programs for local young people.

90. Why You Should Be a Do-Gooder
By their very nature, small businesses depend more on their local communities than do large corporations. You don't succeed in a community without getting involved. It's good for business, it's good for the community, and, ultimately, it's good for you. To enhance your job satisfaction and enjoyment of your local community, you and your company should become good corporate citizens.

There's a range of rewards for good corporate citizenship, including these:

  1. 1. It brings personal satisfaction, since you can really choose the public service arenas in which you and your company will become active.
  2. 2. You'll meet other business leaders and get to know them face to face, often outside their normal "business personalities." This interaction can be personally rewarding--and it expands your network of business contacts.
  3. 3. You'll keep from being too one-dimensional through your work. If you don't have time for community involvement, you need to make time for community involvement.
  4. 4. If you're running your own business, you've likely been luckier than most on the way up. Making your company a good corporate citizen is a way to "give something back."
  5. 5. When businesspeople go out of their way to make an impact on the community, that's news. You may garner positive press coverage for your efforts.
  6. 6. You can increase the quality of the people you draw to your company. Your high-minded community commitment will attract other hard-working, like-spirited employees.
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