With the likes of Ken sharing business success tips, how can an entrepreneur say "how can I create success in business?". Be sure to pull out your calander and note pad. With each relevant tip that Ken shares, the who, when and hoW many needs to be considered. Business planning may start with the "what" but must include ALL of the elements you find the what I call the 7 W's.
Now, on with Ken's business success tips:
So the economy is tough and you’re not able to find that great job right away. But you’ve got skills, you’ve got a network, and you’re not the type of person to sit around and be unemployed…
Maybe you can make some money and rack up some accomplishments while finding the right opportunity. Lots of people are doing this but many look second rate. So here are some tips to make you look legit for very little money.
- Get a Name for your business: Don’t agonize over this one, but you’ll look more serious if you name your company. Think about who you would like to market your services to and the type of names that would sound good to them. Are you a high tech consultant, a graphic artist, a medical device regulatory expert? Just think it through from your potential customer’s perspective and bounce it off of a few people you trust. Personally I recommend going for something easy to spell and I recommend against using your name or initials. Another consideration is to choose a name for which the domain is available on the web (see the next tip)
- Get a web domain and email address: This is very easy and inexpensive. I’ve used www.1and1.com and www.godaddy.com. You might also want to think about setting up a few email addresses, such as email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d personally recommend going for a .com domain and avoid, for example, getting the .net for a name where somebody else already owns the .com.
- Don’t use the web email screen that comes with your domain: Instead, have your email come to an email client that you like better (this should be easy to set up from your webmail and their tech support people can help you out). In my case, I use gmail. Key note – to look legit you need to be sending your email from your business email name because it doesn’t look legit for someone to send email to your business and get a reply from your @yahoo, @aol @gmail, etc. One of the reasons that I like using gmail (which is free) is that you can go into settings on the upper right, and then “accounts and import” and then look for the part that says “send mail as”. This will walk you through a couple steps to validate that you are entitled to send from email@example.com. You also should set the checkbox “Reply from the same address the message was sent to” – this ensures that when you hit reply, you’re replying from the right account.
- Build yourself a quick but classy website: When people get your email they might want to check out your company so they’re likely to go to www.yournewco.com. It looks good to have a simple site up, which you can probably build for free using the free website builder that comes from your domain. Another reason that I recommend doing this is that it’s a good exercise to help you transition from your corporate job to being a free agent. Your former company might have had marketing people to build a website or IT people to get you an email address. It’s good to learn how to do things for yourself.
- Get some business cards: Since you’ll probably going to networking events or calling on prospective clients, a business card helps you to look legit. There are a few ways to to this quickly and inexpensively such as using www.vistaprint.com or even quicker if you do them at www.staples.com.
If you do the above five steps, you’ll look much more professional and confident than a lot of the others out there and it will have cost you about $50. As a bonus, here are a couple more things you can think about doing next:
Get a Conference Call Bridge: I’d recommend using www.freeconferencecall.com. Then you can have a dial-in number for conference calls. Your free number won’t be toll free, but it really doesn’t matter anymore.
Use Free Templates for the Forms you need: You can get very nice templates for things like invoices or expense reports for free. Don’t create things from scratch or spend money you don’t need to.
Think about creating a company: With the steps you’ve executed above, you can get contracting jobs and your employers can pay you via the “1099 process”, but again, you’ll look more legit if they can pay your company. As a free agent, I’d recommend setting yourself up as a limited liability company (LLC). This gives you certain tax advantages and protections but it will cost you some money (here in Massachusetts it’s $500 a year – tax deductable of course). Note also that you don’t need a separate tax return for your LLC. This is one that you can hold off on until you’re going to get paid.
Lots of Legal Documents can be borrowed: If you need things like a non-disclosure or an agreement template, think of someone in your network who has one that might serve your purposes versus creating one from scratch or paying a lawyer to do it. Note that there are times when you need a lawyer, but not for the everyday things.
Be smart with your travel: Book in advance, find the best airfares, look for package deals (like booking your flight and hotel at the same time on sites like Orbitz will usually save you a good amount of money). Also, there are a lot of empty hotel rooms out there and you can often get a great room on a site like hotwire for much less than retail. Also, you can often take a train from the airport to downtown faster and cheaper than a cab. This isn’t really about being legit, but is rather about being a smart free agent and saving money.
Good luck getting your business moving. Even if your goal is to find a new job, you’ll feel more self-confident running a legit business in the interim. Also, there’s a good chance that one of your consulting gigs will lead to a job or that you’ll like working in free agent nation.
Ken Accardi is the CTO of Ankota, Inc., a Software as a Service company committed to improving the delivery of healthcare outside of the hospital setting. Learn more at www.ankota.com or read Ken’s blog focused on better care for the elderly at www.ankota.com/blog. Ken is on twitter at @AnkotaCTO. The post above is based on Ken’s personal experience. In 2007, he left his position as VP of Engineering and Quality at Tele Atlas when the company was sold to Tom Tom. At that point he started Albion Ventures LLC and worked as a consultant for three different companies before landing his position as CTO of Ankota one year later.
Everyone, take a visit to Ken and give him a huge pat on the back. Say "great job!" and show appreciation for stepping up with a pen in hand to share this business success tip. Thank you Ken! Do you have something to share? Be a guest blogger here!