So What Exactly is a Business?

In simple terms, a business is an entity that sells goods or services to customers in exchange for money. However, I would like to make a case that the definition of a business should be changed to: a business is an entity that sells goods or services to customers in exchange for money and whose existence is not dependent upon any one person or small subset of employees .

If you take a business like Walmart, any person within that organization could leave, and the business would still exist and probably not feel any impact. The CEO could leave, the head of the marketing department could leave, the cashier at any given store could leave; yes, any of the employees could leave and Walmart would still be Walmart. It would still have value, and its shareholders would still have the opportunity to make a return on their investment. There are a lot of entities labeled as businesses when this is really not the case. Take Tommy’s Massage Therapy Inc. Tommy provides a service—massage therapy—in exchange for money. There are no other employees in this business; it’s just Tommy and his clients.

However, if Tommy doesn’t want to do massage therapy anymore, or if he is hit by a bus, then Tommy’s Massage Therapy service has absolutely no value. In fact, it ceases to exist. So, regardless of whether or not there is a corporate “business” entity around it, Tommy doesn’t really have a business, Tommy has a job. This is a job that is unlike any other. At a regular job, Tommy doesn’t have much at risk. He may have to pay for a uniform or put gas in his car to get to his place of work, but basically that is all he is risking.

The worst thing that can happen, the extent of the risk that Tommy bears, is that he gets fired and has to look for another job. But at Tommy’s job-business, he has to pay for the privilege of having a job (plus he has to deal with all of the other issues that come along with running a business, which we will be discussing later). He actually risks his own money to be able to have his own job-business. In addition to spending money, time, and effort to create a job, with a job-business you are not building equity value, which I believe is the really compelling reason to create a business. In a true business, you as the owner have an entity with value that is separate from you. This is the value that you create for the business as a going concern, above and beyond the strict value of your assets minus your liabilities, which makes owning a business worthwhile.

That means you can eventually leave the business (down the road, after many years of hard work) or sell the business (again, after many years of hard work) and get value for it. That is how most successful entrepreneurs make the “big bucks,” by capitalizing upon the value of their business entity.

Nolo’s Form Your Own LLC – Book Review

Going about starting your own Limited Liability Company (LLC) can be a pretty daunting and intimidating task, especially your first time around when you absolutely no idea what you’re doing.

Fortunately, before I started the process of putting together my LLCs I bought a copy of Nolo’s Form Your Own Limited Liability Company, and I have to say, it was probably one of the better purchases I’ve made in quite some time and I would certainly recommend it to anyone who is interested in either learning more about or forming their own LLC.

One of the reasons why I found this book to be so useful is because it does a very good job explaining the legal ins and outs of an LLC, what its benefits and downfalls are, and why you should or shouldn’t choose it as your legal structure.

As I was putting together my businesses, I wasn’t sure whether to choose an LLC or an S-Corp as my business’ legal structure and this book went a long way towards helping me figure that stuff out.

Form Your Own Limited Liability Company 4th Edition

Despite the usefulness of this background information, I think the most helpful resource in this book was the included CD, which contained all of the forms necessary to make your business legally legit. This way I didn’t have to search all over the internet to find all of the forms that I needed to fill out, which saved me a lot of time and aggravation.

Anyway, if you’re interested in forming a business or you would just like to learn more about LLCs, I would certainly recommend this book; I definitely think it’s the best LLC resource out there!

Think Like a Billionaire

I hope that at some point in my life I will be able to tell you what it feels like to think as a billionaire, but in the meantime, I will tell you a little bit about Donald Trump’s Think Like a Billionaire, the latest business/motivational book I’ve picked up and read.

I’d just like to preface this by saying even if you don’t particularly care for “The Donald”, this is a book worth reading. Without a doubt, Donald Trump is one of the single greatest self promoters in the world, not to mention one of the most business savvy people around.

Yes, some of his antics are over the top (coming out with his own clothing line, telling everyone who will listen how great he is, etc.), but at the same time, don’t you think those over the top antics are what made him a household name?

Can you name even three other billionaire real estate magnates? I know I can’t. But, we all know the Trump name.

Anyway, back to the book.

I think the book was a good read and gave a lot of pointers on how to get yourself on the path to becoming wealthy. For example, if you want to be successful in business, you have to be willing to trust your gut and take risks. You also have to be willing to accept your failures, learn from them and then move on.

The only thing I would have changed about the book is it tends to focus on getting rich through real estate. Don’t get me wrong, I expected that, after all, it is how Trump made his fortune. But I was also hoping it would delve more into entrepreneurial sorts of things (starting a business, brand and image building, etc.).

All things considered, it was certainly worth picking up from the library and I would recommend it to all Trump fans as well as anyone who dreams of making tons of money.

How Irresistible is The Irresistible Offer?

Another book I had an opportunity to read while relaxing on the beach was The Irresistible Offer – How to Sell Your Product or Service in 3 Seconds or Less by Mark Joyner. I thought the title was catchy enough, so I went ahead and gave the book a try.

All things considered, I thought this was a pretty decent read. Although much of the information given is kind of common sense, Joyner does a good job of presenting the information from the viewpoint of both the buyer (your customers) and the seller (you).

Without going in to too much detail, Joyner believes that in order to turn a potential customer into a paying customer, you have about three seconds to capture their attention and make them believe your product or service is just as valuable (or more valuable) than the money you want from them.

The reason behind having such a short amount of time to convince a potential customer is because consumers are so bombarded with advertising and product information, they have instinctively learned to tune out items that are of little or no interest or offers that are just plain awful.

Most of The Irresistible Offer focuses on what an “irresistible offer” is and how to go about creating one.

Again, without going in to too much detail, according to Joyner, an “irresistible offer” consists of high ROI offer (a customer will get more from owning your product than they would just keeping their money or buying someone else’s product), a touchstone (something that quickly explains what you’re selling, how much it costs, why the customer should buy and why they should believe you) and believability (people know that if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is).

So, if you can bring these items together, you have put together an irresistible offer and will have a much better chance of making a sale.

Joyner’s classic example of an “irresistible offer” was the old Domino’s Pizza “30 minutes or it’s free” guarantee. According to Joyner, the offer had a high ROI (if you’re hungry, you don’t have to wait long), a touchstone (you’re getting pizza in 30 minutes or less, or you don’t pay anything) and believability (Domino’s followed through on the offer).

All things considered, I thought this was a pretty good basic marketing book. While I don’t know if I will be rushing to add this to my own personal collection, it was certainly worth grabbing off the library shelves.

Millionaire Republican Review

While I was at the beach this past weekend, I read a couple of interesting books in regards to business, entrepreneurship and just wealth in general.

One of the more interesting books I read was Millionaire Republican – Why Rich Republicans Get Rich – And How You Can Too! by Wayne Allyn Root. While I don’t classify myself as a Republican (I’m more of a fiscally conservative, socially liberal moderate), this looked like a pretty interesting read.

All things considered, I’m pretty glad I read the book. While Root was a bit over-the-top in regards to his Republican stance and self boasting, Millionaire Republican was an easy read that had some valuable points.

The core of the book is very pro-entrepreneur, which I liked. I’ve said it time and time again, if you want to make it big (I’m talking tens of millions of dollars) you need to own a business, and Root does a good job of driving this point home.

Another point Root really harps on (to the point of almost going overboard) is the fact in order to succeed at business, or anything for that matter, you have to be an optimist (Republican) because if you are a pessimist (Democrat) you will do nothing but drag yourself and your business down.

I full-heartedly agree with the point Root makes regarding the need to look on the bright side, however I’ve known enough pessimistic Republicans and optimistic Democrats to know that he is using faulty logic in equating the two political parties with the two different outlooks on life.

The other item that rubbed me the wrong way was Root’s boasting, in particular his claim that his company was the only publicly traded gambling site on Wall Street. That sounded a bit fishy to me (oh God, the pessimist is emerging) so I checked it out. It turns out, his company is traded on an Over-The-Counter board, so it’s not even a “real” stock.

Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with people bragging about their accomplishments. I certainly wish I had this guy’s money. My problem lies with the embellishment of the truth. Don’t try to make yourself sound bigger than what you are.

In summary, I would recommend this book for anyone whose political views skew to the right and is looking for a quasi-entertaining, quick read.

Feel The Fear and Do It Anyway

The latest audio book I got from the library is Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway by Susan Jeffers. While I’ll be the first person to quickly dismiss so called “self help” books, I thought the overarching concept of this book was pretty good.

Essentially, people who are able to overcome their fears, whether it’s by simply ignoring them or by training themselves to think positively, are more likely to be successful in their endeavors.

The biggest point that I’ll take away from listening to this so many people prepare for the worst, and live in fear that the worst is going to happen. The problem is, 90% of the time, the worst doesn’t happen! Well, I guess that’s not really a problem, but you catch my drift.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a book to help give you some intertia to get off your butt and get things done, I’d recommend this one highly.

Your Marketing Sucks

Lately, in an effort to try and kill two birds with one stone, I have been listening to books on CD while driving to and from work. Your Marketing Sucks by Mark Stevens is the latest book I’ve listened to and it’s an absolute gem.

Stevens, who runs MSCO, Inc., provides a very straight forward and brunt synopsis of how most people attempt to market their business and, in the process, how most people screw up their marketing.

It’s not cheap to market your business or product, and Stevens gives plenty of ideas of how you can get the most bang for the buck.

The most important thing I took away from Your Marketing Sucks is how important it is to put together an all encompassing marketing plan. It’s not just enough to advertise via TV or radio commercials (as a side note, you also learn that marketing and advertising ARE NOT the same), but that you have to create an effective plan that uses all applicable forms of marketing for your company.

For example, you may write several press releases in the hopes of getting free marketing in a local newspaper. Once you have secured a story in the local paper, you go ahead and buy advertising space in the business section. This way, the press release will add validity to the advertisement; anybody can pay to advertise, but this business has an ad AND the paper wrote a story about them.

Essentially, it’s all about figure out what works together and will help you effective get your name and product out in front of the people most likely to become your customers.

After reading (or in my case, listening to) this book, the ultimate goal for your marketing plan is to get more than $1 in business for each $1 you spend in marketing. Sounds simple, but a lot of people forget the purpose of marketing is simply to help you make more money.

All in all, this is a great resource for someone who is trying to put together a marketing plan for their business or for someone who’s a marketing pro and just wants a different point of view.

The Art of War

For years I had heard about what a great read The Art of War, by Sun Tzu, was for anyone interested in running a business. For the longest time I resisted reading it, but this past week I finally picked up a copy at the library.

Needless to say, it was worth the read and lived up to the hype.

Essentially, The Art of War was written by Sun Tzu, a great Chinese military general from around 500 BC. When the book was written, obviously it was meant as study material for people in the military, not people in business. However, over time people began to realize that much of what Tzu was applying towards war was also applicable towards business.

For example, Tzu stresses the importance of proper planning. According to Tzu, if you knew yourself, knew your enemy and knew the lay of the land where you were fighting, you would know the outcome of every single battle even before you fought it.

Much is the same in business. If you properly plan your business, know it inside and out, know the competition inside and out and know your market, you should have a pretty good idea how well you’re going to do.

All things considered, this was a relatively quick read and should be a MUST READ for anyone who plans on running their own business.

Don’t Make Me Think

While I’ve been reading a lot of different articles and books related to Search Engine Optimization, I recently picked up what many will argue is the best book on web usability:

Don’t Make Me Think by Steve Krugg

This book should be on the must read list of anyone that plans on starting an online business or even just a website in general.

While I currently use the templates and software to publish my blogs, at some point in the future I would like to be able to design, create and maintain my own templates and sites, independent of Blogger or WordPad. I think this book will give me a good start when I start to map out what I would like my sites to look like.

While many of Krugg’s points are just plain common sense, the way he lays everything out makes it easy to see how you could implement the changes throughout your site.

The most important thing I took away from the book was that a website (specifically an e-commerce site) is set up in pretty much the same way as a store; there are lots of different ways to get to the product you want. The key is to make the shopping experience as simple as possible, so simple that you shouldn’t even need to think about it. If the customer has to think, they’ll go somewhere else.

Make sure that you pick up a copy of this from Amazon and add it to your “must have” collection of business books.

How to Become a Marketing Superstar

Apparently I drank too much coffee yesterday because I wasn’t able to fall asleep. So instead of editing my business plan, I read another book.

Last night I read How to Become a Marketing Superstar by Jeffrey Fox. It was pretty much along the same lines as Purple Cow but, as the title might indicate, Fox’s book was more geared towards marketing your business as opposed to differentiating it.

I thought Marketing Superstar was a good read and was better to read before I start marketing In My Memories.

There were a bunch of interesting points regarding advertising (never use the word “we” and don’t tell the customer what they’re gaining, tell them what they’re not losing) but the most important thing I took away was the important role good customer service plays in your advertising.

By simply having good customer service and sending a nice thank you note, you will create incredible word of mouth advertising, something that will probably increase your sales more than any other form of advertising.

Take care of your customers and they’ll take care of you.