All posts by Steve C

Customer Stories: Storing Credit Card Numbers

We take our privacy policy very seriously with our online store. Due to liability reasons, we make an active effort to not store any payment information or credit card numbers in our database. This way, if our website ever gets hacked, the hacker will only be able to obtain a few names and addresses that we have on file. We also never sell customer information to any third party. Most customers expect a strict privacy policy when shopping at any online store which made it surprising when this one customer called in asking us to blatantly violate our...

Why Writing A Business Plan Is An Overrated Practice

All of the books I’ve read on how to start a business always focus on writing a thorough business plan prior to taking any other action. Having read quite a few of these books and having written a fair share of business plans, I’ve found that writing these documents have largely been a waste of time, especially for small businesses. While the principle of writing down a business plan is fundamentally sound, I’ve found that things rarely go as planned and that your business plan practically goes obsolete the minute you are done writing it. Sure, you...

Customer Stories: The Customer That Was Too Nice

It’s always refreshing to have a nice, considerate customer every now and then. I really enjoy speaking to our customers when they are polite on the phone, even if they are just calling to complain about something. 90% of the time, if they state their case clearly and politely, I’ll try and help them out in some way or form. The tactics that I wrote about here on how to negotiate with vendors applies to small businesses as well and is worth a read if you have the time. In any case, the customer I’m going...

5 Ways To Get New Customers And Grow Your Online Business

Is your business growth starting to plateau or stagnate? Once your business is making a good profit, it’s easy to sit back, slack off and watch the money roll in, especially if you are satisfied with how well you’re doing. But keep in mind that if you slack off too much, your competitors will soon catch up and eventually put you out of business. With that in mind, you need to be constantly innovating and making active efforts to grow your business. There are 2 main ways to do so. Find new customers and new untapped markets to pursue. Sell...

Are You Cut Out To Be An Entrepreneur?

I used to think that entrepreneurship was only about creating unique and groundbreaking technologies and coming up with new and innovative products. Having studied entrepreneurship in graduate school, I was always surrounded by gung-ho entrepreneurs. Some of my peers went on to start web technology companies whereas others created startup companies in biotechnology. Almost every one of them had some unique idea or take on a particular technology and ran with it. Having studied entrepreneurship in this environment was quite intimidating. Looking back, the main mental barrier I had to starting my own...

How To Determine If Your Online Business Idea Even Has a Chance

Before you begin any sort of implementation, it’s important to assess the viability of your business plan. Is there a large enough market for you to take a small slice of the pie? Are there too many competitors for you to be successful? Determining your target customer and the size of the market you are pursuing is crucial in determining whether you can make enough money to sustain a profitable business. Instead of just guessing, you should try and make a concerted effort to quantify your earning potential as best you can. Figure Out...

How to Burn Yourself Out in 2 Weeks When Starting Your Online Business

Entrepreneurs love creating businesses from scratch because of the excitement and unfettered determination of starting something brand new. I remember when my wife and I first started our online store, we ate, drank and slept with the business 24/7. Practically every meal, we discussed at length our products, our strategy and our execution plan. Even in bed, we constantly came up with new ideas and discussed our goals for the following day. The atmosphere was intense, almost too intense. Intensity is good but there’s always a fine line that you must not overstep or you...

How to Negotiate With Vendors When You’re Just a Small Business or Individual

Because you will be purchasing many items throughout the life of your online business, it is inevitable that you will run into a dispute at some point in time with a store, vendor or service that you regularly use. Especially in the early stages of your business, you’re likely to have very little clout with your vendors which makes even showing up on their radar screen a challenging task. The unfortunate reality is that small business owners and individuals often get screwed by customer service reps of larger companies because they simply do not know how to...

The Realities of Using Adwords Effectively

I regularly help out my friends and answer questions on various shopping cart forums regarding how to advertise effectively using Adwords. What I discovered in the course of helping these people was that almost all of them had incorrect preconceived notions on how to use Adwords effectively. I’d say that probably 90% of these people believed that Adwords would just magically bring profitable conversions to their online store with very little effort and time. Because these notions were so prevalent, I just thought that I’d take the time to set a few things straight. Reality #1 – You...

Business Ideas That Didn’t Pan Out For Us – Part 1

Anyone who tells you that they got their business right on their first try is probably lying, forgetful, or trying to sell you something. My wife and I went through a multitude of ideas in the first month alone that went absolutely nowhere. A few of these ideas actually made us a few bucks but in the end didn’t work out for various reasons. While most of the ideas we came up with were very viable options and I’m sure you could make a decent living with some of the businesses below, they just weren’t right...

How To Start a Business While Throwing Up (A Satire)

Starting a business when you are pregnant is not the most ideal situation. It would have been a lot easier had we planned for this more ahead of time. Ironically, I always knew I was going to quit when we had kids, but for some reason, the lost income from quitting my job didn’t hit us until we ran the numbers. In any case, the startup phase of our business was characterized in 3 distinct trimesters. The First Trimester You are going to feel like shit. This is the period where you’ll need the most support from your...

Customer Stories: The English Major Who Couldn’t Read

The one downside of running an online store or business is that inevitably you’ll encounter a customer who is extremely abrasive and condescending. This particular lady placed an order with us, misread the description and then accused us of misleading her into making a purchase. Customer: Yes, I’m calling because my order was not delivered correctly? Me: Oh really? We apologize for that ma’am. What is your order number? Customer: Order xxxx. Me: Yes it shows here that you ordered a single four corner embroidered lace handkerchief. Was that not the contents in your package? Customer: The type...

Why You Should Worry About Your Topline More Than Your Bottom Line

My wife and I constantly discuss different ways to build our overall wealth. Our goal is to retire and be able to spend all of our time with our children. We’ve tried a lot of different things over the years, but our most miserable experience arose when we decided to drastically cut back on our bottom line expenses. I think we started doing this after I read the book “The Millionaire Next Door” which is a book about how most millionaires become wealthy by being extremely frugal and compounding their money over time. So we tried being frugal,...

5 Reasons Why You Should Quit Your Job

For some reason, it was especially difficult for me to get up out of bed this morning to get ready for work. As I was getting dressed, I stood there looking at my wife who was sleeping blissfully on the bed and I couldn’t help but feel a little jealous. My wife was sleeping in because she recently quit her day job in order to spend her full time with the kids. “Okay honey, I’m going off to work now!” I hollered hoping she’d stir a bit. “Hey, did you know that I was trying...

How to Choose a Shipping Carrier (USPS, UPS, FedEx)

Assuming you ship physical goods to your end customer, at some point you’ll need to figure out how you will be getting your products to their destinations. There are a multitude of different ways to ship packages and it can get quite confusing deciding what the best option is for your online store. I’ll provide a breakdown of the 3 biggest shipping carriers and when or why you should ever use them. I will rate these 3 services based on following criteria: price and reliability. United States Postal Service (USPS) Price USPS is by far the cheapest shipping option...

Customer Stories – Should I Go Through With the Marriage?

I don’t know why, but for some reason, our customers always want to tell me their life story when they make a purchase over the phone. They nonchalantly ask me about the merchandise and then slowly steer the conversation towards what’s going on in their life. In some extreme cases, they ask me for advice, not on the products mind you, but on personal life decisions. My wife says that I’m extremely polite on the phone with customers but I don’t think that I come across as a psychiatrist! In any case, the following lady clearly...

Customer Stories – The Customer Who Didn’t Care

We get a lot of customers who purchase our linens on behalf of a large organization or for a specific event. This particular customer managed a local charity that supports children born with a certain disease (I’m keeping the specific charity anonymous for privacy reasons). She was looking for personalized handkerchiefs to congratulate all of her kids for persevering at an annual charity picnic. Sounds like a very sweet gift right? Customer: Yes, I’m looking for some handkerchiefs that I can purchase in bulk and have a short message embroidered on them. I run a local charity...

Corporate Structure: Is a Limited Liability Company (LLC) For Me?

I think of limited liability companies or LLCs as a hybrid between an S corporation and a sole proprietorship. LLCs, like S Corps and sole proprietorships, are pass through tax entities in that taxes on income are filed under an individual’s income tax return. The LLC also provides limited liability protection. The main advantage of LLCs is that it can provide you with limited liability protection without the hefty paperwork requirements of corporations. So what questions should you ask yourself? Corporate Structure Legal Structure Overview Sole Proprietorship Limited Liability Company S Corporation C Corporation Do You Really Need Limited Liability? The LLC is very...

Corporate Structure : Is a C Corporation for Me?

I used to think that C corporations were meant only for large successful companies. When I think of C Corps, I think of big names like Microsoft, Google and IBM and definitely not a small business. In reality, it’s pretty easy to become a c corporation. Anyone can file for C corporation status, but typically small businesses shy away from C corps until they are solidly profitable. Because the C corporation is probably the most complicated corporate structure that you can possibly have, there are a lot of questions that you should ask yourself before you...

Corporate Structure : Is an S Corporation For Me?

In general, S Corporations are valuable when you require the limited liability protection that a corporation provides and when your business is not profitable. S corporations are pass through entities which means that all income is passed directly to the shareholders who pay taxes under their own individual income tax rates. As a result, the S corporation itself does not have to pay any federal income taxes. Before electing to create an S corporation, here are a few questions that you should be asking yourself. Corporate Structure Legal Structure Overview Sole Proprietorship Limited Liability Company S Corporation C Corporation Do You Absolutely Require...