Successful Businesses without Business Ideas

Let me quickly give you a few businesses that were very successful without a novel business idea.

  • McDonald’s certainly was not the first, or last, hamburger joint, so clearly that business idea—“Let’s open a restaurant selling hamburgers!”—wasn’t what made McDonald’s successful.
  • Starbucks wasn’t the first coffee retailer, nor the only means to get coffee. In fact, when Starbucks was founded, you could get coffee at nearly every convenience store, Dunkin’ Donuts, or even at home if you preferred. The business idea of opening coffee stores on every corner certainly wasn’t the reason why Starbucks was successful.
  • Then, there is the Snuggie—the blanket with arms that’ s basically just a bathrobe that you put on backward. This wasn’t a new idea— bathrobes have been around for a long time— and Snuggies aren’t even attractive (you look like a monk when you wear one), but they are marketed brilliantly and more than $100 million worth of Snuggies have been sold in a year’s time. It may be more of a product than a business, but whatever you want to call it, the basic idea is not what made Snuggie successful.

As you can see from the aforementioned examples, the business ideas had very little influence on the outcomes of the various businesses. Basically, the ideas are just a starting point to help you get focused. It is what you do afterward that creates the value.

Nobody whose head is screwed on straight will buy a business idea from you, or anyone else, because any value related to a business idea is in its implementation. Maybe if you give someone a business idea, they will one day send you a coupon for a free product, but that is about it. The further something gets away from an idea, the more value that exists. Things like customers, profits, and competitive barriers to entry create value. The reality of the lack of value in business ideas is a shock and a disappointment to many people who want to get compensated for thinking of “the next big thing.” If I haven’t persuaded you yet, then the best way that I can illustrate to you why, in the grand scheme of business, the idea has such little value is through the chart on the next page. I have taken some, but certainly not all, of the facets required to run a business and broken them down. A few of the tasks are specific to certain types of businesses, but most are required by all businesses.

So, in looking at this whole thing we call a business, would you place a lot of value on a one-time idea that took no risk to produce, or on the other thirty-plus tasks that have to be done indefinitely, day in and day out, that take a ton of risk and hard work? Hopefully, that answer is crystal clear, and my breakdown gives you more insight on why business concept ideas have no value so that you, like me, can also make peace with not getting compensated for them.

Top Tasks for Testing a Business Idea

One of the hardest things for many retirees to get used to is not collecting a regular paycheck. For that matter, raises, bonuses, promotions and other perks are also gone. This can be disconcerting to say the least. Add to that the fact that most financial experts are recommending to have at least $1 million in retirement savings (a number that’s quite unrealistic for many) and it’s no wonder that many  people approaching retirement are stressed out because of their financial situation. They don’t think they have enough money and, in comparison to what the experts believe, most are correct.

While retirement may look a bit scary to you (and believe us you’re not alone), the good news is that there are going to be quite a few things that you’ll start saving money on after you retire.  In fact, we’re not so sure that the experts are right on this one and it’s possible that, because of the savings that were going to tell you about, you may be able to retire comfortably on much less income. Let’s take a look.

Depending on the type of work that you do, it’s possible that you’ll be saving hundreds if not thousands of dollars a year on clothing. There won’t be a need for those three-piece suits, a closet full of shoes or a new outfit every week.  White color and blue-collar workers alike can save quite a bit of money just from this one factor as the uniforms needed for many different occupations can be quite expensive.

Most people will definitely be saving on their commuting costs,  including the cost to drive your car to work, take a train, use a bus or even take a taxi. For example, if you drive 40 miles to and from work every day you’ll save almost 20,000 miles a year. At 56.5 cents a mile, that’s a savings of  almost $10,000.

Speaking of commuting costs, you may even be able to get rid of one of your automobiles. Most households today have at least two cars but, if you and your spouse will be spending much more time together, there might not be a need to have more than one. The savings here can be substantial  when you factor in the cost of the car itself, insurance, gasoline and maintenance.

If you live in one of the more expensive states like New Jersey or California you always have the option to move  from that state to another where the cost of living is much more economical. Now we won’t try and say that this is an easy option but, depending on your financial situation and also where your family resides, moving to a state with a lower cost of living may be an excellent option. It actually kills two birds with one stone as, if you’re living in a big house but you don’t have need for it, you can move to a new state and a smaller house.

While some financial advisors will tout this next factor, the reality is that it depends on the family and the type of household that you have. In any case, many retirees are able to save thousands of dollars simply for the fact that they don’t have any children living at home.  This cuts down on several expenses including groceries and energy for electricity and hot water, or even the additional burden of finding an affordable home security system.

The reality today however is that many adult children are moving back in with their parents and, in some cases, this is actually beneficial for both. The adult child gets an economical place to live and possibly built in babysitters while the parents have the security of a younger person around in case of any type of emergency.

If you’re lucky enough to have saved sufficient money to do some traveling, the  even better news is that, since you don’t have a time clock stopping you, you can travel midweek, out of season and any other time when rates for airline tickets, hotel rooms and rental cars are lower. Indeed, the freedom to travel during off-peak hours, days and seasons can literally save you thousands of dollars.

Although the savings here are minimal, everything counts in retirement. With that in mind, don’t be shy about using your age to get senior discounts wherever and whenever you can. Practically every retail store, every restaurant and every tourist attraction in the United States has some type of senior discount and, while it may mean visiting during certain hours and following specific rules, the savings are real. In some cases there are events that are completely free for seniors including lectures, exercise classes and so forth.

Finally, there’s the fact that youdon’t have to pay  Social Security anymore since you’re actually on the receivingend now. Not only that but the 10 to 20% that you were putting aside for retirement is no longer necessary. All in all, the savings potential due to all of these changes when you retire can easily equal thousands of dollars a year.

We hope this blog gave you some helpful and valuable advice and also called your fears a little bit. Retirement can be a little scary but, if you plan ahead and prepare, you should do just fine. Remember to come back and visit us often for more financial information on many different topics. See you then.

Tips for the New Tech Startup

These days there are tech companies starting every day. Problem is, many of them fail before they even begin to get any traction. It’s with that in mind that we put together today’s blog. We’ve taken a lot of advice and tips that we found from all over the net, including tips from people who successfully started their own tech company. If you’re keen on doing the same then this blog is definitely for you as it has lots of excellent advice and tips that you can follow (from people who have already done) to make sure that your tech startup is a great success. Enjoy.

One of the best bits of advice that we’ve heard is simply this; don’t be in a huge hurry to get your new tech product out the door and into the public’s hands. In many cases going ahead with a product that isn’t ready for the market can be much worse than waiting a few extra weeks (or even months) until it’s really ready to go.

As cofounder of Yesware, an email provider for salespeople, Matthew Bellows advises that you shouldn’t sell your product too soon and that you should also hold back on your sales and marketing until you are quite sure your product is ready to go and it also has tons of inbound interest going for it.

Another common mistake that many startups make is that they start hiring people right away to take over certain roles in the company before learning fully about those roles themselves. While this might help as far as lowering your workload it also takes away any chance that you might have two actually see how many things are done and, indeed, need to be done when starting a new tech business. Without this experience it’s going to be hard to measure if you are employees are successfully taking care of their part of the job.

One of the cofounders of Apptegic, Karl Wirth, agrees with the above advice wholeheartedly. He admits that, for the first year and a half that his tech startup was in business, he was the only salesperson. This helped him to not only learn how to sell his product but also how to determine a prospective customer from someone who’s just kicking the tires. Mr. Wirth says that he knew that sales would be important but that he had no idea it would help to shape and refined his business so profoundly.

Most new tech company founders agree that as engineers it’s hard to know exactly what other tasks need to be performed in order to actually bring a product to market and then successfully sell it. Doing it all yourself, they agree, is one heck of a great way to learn. As the engineer and then also the product manager, sales manager and fund-raiser you find exactly what needs to be done and then, using that experience, you can start hiring people to fill the positions and already I have a very good idea about exactly the kind of people you need.

That leads to a point that most tech startup founders will agree on; people are your most important asset but hiring them to quickly is the best way to burn through your startup capital. What most recommend is that, while you hold off on hiring, you start looking for talent and interviewing ahead of time.

Another point that most are keen to make is simply that you have to focus on the end user of your new product more than any other group of people. Matt Bellows agrees and notes that the days of sales and marketing driven companies are almost attheir end. Any new tech startup today must be in tune with their end-user and must be listening to them with both ears.

Finally, many a tech startup founder or cofounder will tell you that you should prepare to see your first version of any new tech fall flat on its face. That’s right; be prepared to fail. The simple fact is, any new tech is going to need hundreds if not thousands of beta testers in order to get out all the bugs and present a solid product to the world. If you know this going and then you will be better prepared when negative feedback and bugs send you back to the drawing board.

We hope that you enjoyed this blog and that, if you’re developing a new mobile app or any other kind of new tech, you’ve gotten some insight and some good ideas. Please come back and join us again soon for more and best of luck with your new business. See you soon.

The Top 5 Franchises for 2013

If you’re an entrepreneur at heart and you’d like to run your own business  one of the best, least risky ways to do so is to purchase a franchise. The reason is simple to understand; a franchise brings with it a structure and process that has already been researched and perfected. Like a ‘plug & play’ electronic device, when you purchase a franchise you get a business that is already known to the public and ready to start serving them right out-of-the-box. (Ray Kroc was a brilliant guy, you gotta’ admit.) (He was the founder of McDonald’s, btw.)

With that in mind and with franchising on the rise again according to Entrepreneur magazine, we decided to put together a blog about the Top 5 franchises for 2013. Frankly, most of you reading this blog won’t have the financial ability to purchase into any of these franchise opportunities. That being said, we believe that the examples that they set as far as their marketing schemes, customer service and franchisee / franchisor relationships are well worth reading about. No matter what type of franchise or business you decide to open, these examples will help you and guide you. Enjoy.

Hampton Hotels

If you drive down any major highway in the United States you’re bound to see a Hampton Hotel. They take the top spot because of something that they call ‘Hamptonality’,  a word they used to describe their unique culture and obsession with customer service. Indeed, for a mid-level hotel they have service that borders on four star and aren’t ashamed to let people know about it either using YouTube, Facebook and their own website. Throw in their money-back guest satisfaction guarantee and you can see why they  are the envy of many other hotel chains.


Once the butt of jokes on a par with the Starbucks coffee chain, Subway comes in at number 2 because of their ability to figure out the most unconventional locations to place their sandwich shops including hospitals, truck stops and  sports stadiums. Amazingly, subway has been in business for 47 years and the franchise continues to offer customers something new. Leaving the revenue-doubling charge is  their new breakfast menu, a huge success since its 2010 launch. The fact that the American Heart Association also awarded them their ‘heart check’ for a healthy menu is only icing on the cake for a franchise that opened 2500 units in 2012 and expects to beat that number this year.

Jiffy Lube

How did Jiffy Lube make the list? By using an old marketing standard; television. When this car maintenance franchise began its first franchisee funded national television advertising campaign in more than 20 years in 2012 they increased awareness for the brand across the United States and specifically in many small-market areas. One of the major reasons that Jiffy Lube continues to grow is that, unlike many franchises, they have no franchise fee. That has been the impetus for many maintenance centers to switch flags and help increase their growth, a fact that should soon make Jiffy Lube the largest quick-lube franchise in the United States and Canada.


If you notice that your local 7-Eleven owner seems to perpetually have a smile on his face the reason is that  last year more than 2000 of these  ubiquitous  mini markets had extensive makeovers on the company’s dime. That’s right, 7-Eleven  itself picked up the tab and in 2012 began offering upgraded system technology that won’t cost the franchisee a penny. They also offered internal financing for their franchise fee and began offering multi-unit deals as well, something practically unheard of in the franchise world. Add that to the 10% increase in their private label 7-Select line and it’s easy to see why their franchisees are always happy.


With a 65 billion domestic industry to fall back on making it as a hair salon franchise would seem to be relatively easy. The fact is however that it’s not and  many budget salons fail.  Supercuts hair salons, owned by Regis Corporation, are the lucky recipient of quite a bit of attention since a management change was made in 2011.  Improving their candidate selection process is one of the reasons that 65 new Supercuts were opened in 2012, bringing the total unit number in the United States to 2268. With the aforementioned $65 billion opportunity in front of them, this aggressive change is paying off in a big way and the chain should continue to do well, well into the future.

We hope that these five examples have given you, as an entrepreneur, some insight and information that is of value. No matter what type of franchise you ultimately choose  make sure to do your due diligence and research. If you can find one that looks and acts similar to the five excellent examples above you probably have found a winner. Good luck no matter which franchise you choose and we’ll see you back here soon.

The Beginner’s Guide to Starting an Online Business

Today we’d like to present a guide for the budding entrepreneur who’s not exactly sure where to start.  There are a lot of things that you need to do in order to start an online business, to be sure,  but there are scarce resources for telling you what they are.  This guide will help you to get started and, with that in mind, we hope you find it useful and a good read. Enjoy!

First things first, you need to focus on what’s truly important when you start your new online business. One of the top things you need to do is simply this; take action.  In the beginning it’s easy to get lost in all of the tasks that you need to accomplish and end up getting nothing done at all.

Don’t get caught in the paper chase.  Hey, it’s an onlinebusiness. Do you really need a letterhead, business cards and brochures printed?  Maybe in the future but certainly not now so don’t get them until it’s absolutely necessary.  Save your money to invest in the business and,  if you meet someone in the ‘real’ world, do it the old fashioned way and write their email down on a napkin or other piece of paper.  Just make sure to follow up ASAP.

While it’s OK to save money on some things educating yourself shouldn’t be one of them.  If you’re going to become an expert at something you will sometimes need to spend money to learn the trade.  The internet is no different.  If you want to make a living as a Blogger buy an eBook about it from an expert.  The same goes for affiliate marketing, eBay selling and everything else.  Spend money on your business education now and it will pay of down the road.

While we’re on the subject of education, one of the most vital things that you need to learn is marketing. Whether online or offline once you know how to market a product or service you can do it from anywhere with just a few tweaks and changes.

Education doesn’t have to come from an eBook or a seminar either.  If you know someone who is successful online ask them for their help, their advice and their expertise.  Yes you may feel a little embarrassed to need help but I’d rather be a little embarrassed and successful than broke and quiet. The truth is, many people will gladly give you their time and advice if only you just ask.  Most people love talking about what they do, especially to others who are keenly interested in listening.

By the way, if and when you ask for help by email make sure to follow the ‘5 sentence’ rule and keep your query to no more than 5 brief, concise and understandable sentences.  You’ll be much more likely to get a response if you do.

Finally get out into the community and let people know who you are and what you do. (Even if you don’t have cards.) The more people you meet and mingle with in the ‘real’ world the more successful you’ll be online. Good luck!


How to Start Your Own Business

So you’ve got the idea, you’ve picked out the names, you’ve created a plan for your business, and you have some sort of an idea and thought about where you go from here regarding sales, profits, marketing, and more. That’s great! You’re well on your way to starting a new business. But… what do you do to, you know, make it official? And how can you really start a business and make sure everything gets done right, and legally, to proceed?

Here are just a few tips that you need to know and remember when it comes to starting a business, so that no matter what you may go through or what you may do from a day to day standpoint, you can effectively create the perfect business and do it within legal and ethical realms, as well.

Start with an LLC, a corporation, or a non-profit organization

Is your business a for-profit or a non-profit organization? If it’s a non-profit, you’ll need to apply for special 501(c)3 exemption status. For for-profit companies, you can either create an LLC or a corporation (Inc.). Both can work, depending on the size and scope of your business itself, though an LLC (limited liability corporation) is typically cheaper to form, allows for pass through taxation to you, and protects you and your personal assets against business suits and other legal problems that may arise in rare cases.

Do you know the permit requirements in your state and city?
Depending on the state and city in which you live, your business may be required to hold some type of permit to conduct business, make sales, and more. While these permits are relatively easy to obtain, and incredibly cheap to purchase and renew year to year, they nevertheless have to be produced; without them, it can be illegal to run your business and move forward with sales. Research your state, county, and city permit laws before deciding to open up a business, to ensure that you do so on the right side of the law from the start!

What about your logo, business name, web domain, and branding materials?

Part of the fun – and challenge – of starting a business is the need to effectively and perfectly brand yourself and your company, so that customers recognize it and react accordingly over time. This starts with your business name and logo, which need to be branded smartly so that you get the most out of your unique name and visual marketing pieces for customers. This extends, then, to your web domain – before you begin your business, make sure you have a website lined up and at least purchased (if not created in full), so that your customers can find you, and you can be made to look good and professional.

It can be complicated starting a business, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things that you will ever do. Make it a point to follow all the rules of law regarding permits and more, but know that when you start your business, you are on the way to achieving financial freedom and all of your personal and professional dreams.

Why You Should Start Your Own Business

It can seem daunting to do it, but if you have a great idea, a passion for an industry or specific niche, or a unique and wonderful product or service that provides value to people, you should start your own business. Surely, more considerations must be undertaken than just that before you begin, but by starting your own business, you are not only paving a way to your own financial freedom, but helping the economy and doing a great deal for your local community, as well.


In fact, there are several major reasons why you should consider starting your own business, regardless of the industry or niche that you may find yourself in. Let’s review just why it’s so important to start your own business, and see if you can find the passion and channel it into a profit and a company.


America is a nation built by entrepreneurs and small businesses

Face it – business is in our blood. For better or worse, and usually better, capitalism has been a dominant force in America over the past two hundred years, and it continues to this day. You starting a business is forging along a great tradition set by men and women before you, who have all had success and reached the “American Dream” with their business acumen.


Sure, it’s more than just history when you look to start your business, but you’re in the right place to do it. No country like this one works to help small business owners and entrepreneurs, and no other country in the world values business start-ups quite like the environment here in America.


Bring your passion to people, and provide value for them every day

Part of the reason you are considering starting your own business is that you have passion about something. No matter what the passion is about, you are clearly envisioning how you can help others, and provide value to their everyday lives with your goods and services. That’s a good thing! Channel it and move forward.


Your passion invigorates those around you, and you starting a business and doing what you love not only makes your community tangibly stronger with jobs and an improved economy, but it also makes your community psychologically stronger, as it has one more person following their dreams and doing what they love, no matter the obstacles that may come up in your path.


Jobs, Jobs, Jobs!

That’s part of the point of starting a business, isn’t it? Jobs, profits, and success in the marketplace are huge drivers for so many people. That can be you, too, helping your community with jobs brought on by your small business. And even if it’s just a single job or two, that still makes a difference for an individual and a family, and you can move forward knowing that you have created the perfect environment for somebody in which to grow and develop their career. That is truly something you can hang your hat on as a businessman or woman.

Growing An International Business

So your business has grown to the point where your client base is strong and people around the country know your reputation as a sharp company. 

Pat yourself on the back and congratulate yourself on a job well done. Now think about how much more you could make if you grew your business overseas.

Going across the border to Canada or Mexico, or across the oceans to other countries, is a sure-fire way to attract new customers and clientele to your business. However, it can also provide unwanted pitfalls or unforeseen problems that may make your life a little complicated until they are settled.

Remember the red tape you had when you created your business in the United States? Now imagine that red tape, maybe multiplied by 10. Creating a business and getting things started in an unfamiliar country can create headaches, especially when you are walking on eggshells as it is.

A recent article in Business Insider cited examples of expanding internationally to business in China, and a lot of the examples work well when inserted into other countries.

Think about it. You probably have brushed up on your foreign-language skills, or at the least hired an interpreter, but one slip-up of the tongue could translate “It is a pleasure doing business with you” into something far worse, possibly something insensitive. Communication skills are vital when it comes to cutting through that red tape and finding success at your new business.

The culture may require you to spend more time together than you really are used to doing here in the United States. Here, you may close a business deal over dinner at a restaurant, 18 holes of golf or a simple face-to-face office meeting. In other countries, you might have to attend someone’s ballet recital, have dinner with the family, etc.

You don’t have to be experienced to have the skills to grow your business elsewhere. A fine example of someone that took their skills to the next level is Ehsan Bayat of Telephone Systems International. After spending his childhood and teenage years in his native Afghanistan, he overcame American language and cultural barriers to get an engineering degree. He then founded wireless companies in Afghanistan and built a charitable foundation that reached out across the borders to other countries.

The thought of growing a business like that may give you sweaty palms. You may think this is growing your business in the states all over again. Still, you have to stick with it.

If you do it the right way, you will have more than one place where business is booming. That will open more opportunities for the future and help your business grow around the world.

Turning a Business Idea into an Actual Business

Everyone has business ideas but, unfortunately, most of them never come to fruition.  That’s because an idea without the plan to back it up is just that, an idea.  If you’re keen on turning your business idea into a business reality the following advice will help you and, hopefully, give you a lot to consider and think about.

One of the first things that you should do is to settle on 1 idea and 1 idea only.  The truth is, many people never get their business dreams off the ground because they’re too busy trying to decide which of their ideas to follow.  If you have a few and they are all good you should pick one and run with it because if you don’t your chance of success is much lower.

If this seems to difficult what you should do is write out each idea and take it as far as you can, on paper, to see which of them is the ‘best’. If you see what an idea could possibly involve and then you compare those unknowns together sometimes the best idea of the bunch will stick out like a sore thumb.

The next thing you need to do is validate your idea.  What we mean is that you need to see your actual product, even if it’s a prototype, in use and get customer feedback about the product to make sure it’s the solution to the problem that you are trying to solve for your customers.  All the market research in the world can’t do as well as some solid feedback on your actual product from as many customers as possible.

Don’t wait until you’re sure you have a million dollar idea. Execute a launch, get your product out there and tweak it as you go if necessary.   Very few businesses were hits right out of the gate but you can bet your sweet bippy that they all started and then worked their way to the top. If your product isn’t perfect right away you can improve it on the fly.

Of course having a target market is vital and, if your idea has a small target market, you may need to expand it so that many people will find it helpful, useful or even adorable (like Webkins for instance). Also keep in mind that the idea should be scalable so that, when orders eventually do start to flow, you’ll be able to take up the slack.

Finally whatever your product is if you can make it the next ‘must have’ item you’ll do well for yourself so make sure that you keep that in mind during the design phase.  The more people that really need your product the better chance of success it will have.  Good luck!

Nervous About Starting Your New Start-up? These Tips Will Help

Going into business on your own is a nerve-wracking experience, to say the least.  If you’re ready to let your new idea fly loose on the world, even if you have a solid business plan and you prototype is ready to go, you should take one last step back to make sure that everything is in order, including you, before making that last push. We’re not saying stall, just a last minute pre-flight check. With that in mind take a look at these Tips for the entrepreneur that’s got the opening-day jitters.

If your product needs to be presented in any way, shape or form by you then you need to practice, practice, practice.  Practice your presentation, practice overcoming objectives and practice handling price questions. Practice on family and friends until you really feel confident. And then practice a little more.

Don’t start with a big prospect (unless the opportunity is handed to you) but instead with a smaller client that, if lost, won’t hurt your new business as badly.  Besides, when you actually use your sales pitch on a real world client you’ll see all of the areas that you still need to improve right away.  Learn from them for when that big client is ready to talk with you.

Start to love the idea of cold calling.  Listen, it’s just a simple business fact.  You will have to make cold calls when your business is first starting.  You may not need to always make them but, no matter what, you’d better make them if you need them to succeed in your industry.  It’s a numbers game and if you put in the numbers eventually it will pay off. Suck it up and do it.

If you’re not Blogging yet it’s time to start.  Blogging is one of the most powerful tools on the internet for branding yourself, getting noticed, building a following and creating revenue. If you want to brand yourself as an expert you need a Blog.  If you want people to refer to you, talk to you and ask questions to you (that lead to sales later) you need a Blog.

Networking, in the real world and online with social media, is another task that’s vital to your success. Get out there, meet people, go to trade shows and conventions.  Join some professional organizations in your town and go meet your neighbors. This may take some time but will always pay off in the end.

Finally, set a deadline.  Yes, you need to practice and try to perfect your baby but there comes a time when it has to leave the crib.  Set that time and you’ll be amazed how ready you are when the day finally comes.  Good luck.