Jane Applegate is the author of 201 Great Ideas for Your Small Business
, a Bloomberg Press book published by John Wiley & Sons. The third edition of this best-seller was released in April.
Jane is a former syndicated columnist for the Los Angeles Times and an award-winning writer and producer. The Applegate Group Inc. creates customized small business content for corporate clients including American Express, Pitney Bowes, Cox Communications and Montecito Bank. She is also founder of The Great Ideas Network, featured on 201greatideas.com, which showcases great business ideas.
1. Q: Why was it a good time to rewrite your best-selling book?
A: So much has changed in the past five years. Small business owners now have access to so much affordable great technology and equipment. I rewrote the tech section to include Facebook, Twitter and all social media platforms. Even the tiniest company can now appear much bigger online.
2. Q: Thousands of small businesses failed during the Great Recession. What did the savvy ones do to survive?
A: Although many companies went under, hundreds of thousands made it through by cutting their overhead costs, moving back into their homes and garages and reaching new customers online. With cash flow being the toughest business challenge, keeping some cash flowing is essential to survival.
3. Q: Is this a good time to be starting a new business?
A: This is a great time to be starting a business. Technology has never been more affordable or accessible. In fact, I’ve been speaking about how easy it is to start a business in ONE day with only $2,000. You can wake up in the morning with a great idea, register a website, buy a powerful computer, order a smartphone, design a basic website and sign up for a marketing platform like Constant Contact, all before you go to bed. I’m working with several great online companies including Elance.com, a virtual talent agency, and HubSpot.com, which built my website and helps us generate inbound traffic.
4. Q: What are some of the easiest businesses to start on a small budget?
A: Anything you can do to help a busy person or family is very hot right now. Pet sitting, tutoring, being a personal or social media assistant are all businesses you can start in a day with no capital. Most two-career families need help running their lives and if you have any marketable skills, you can parlay them into a small business.
5. Q: What are some of your favorite ideas from the book?
A: My favorite idea is “never work with anyone who gives you a headache or a stomachache.’ You will never be successful if you are working with toxic clients, customers or employees. Life is too short to deal with people who make you sick.
I also like the chapter on ‘in’ days and ‘out’ days. One way to boost productivity and reduce stress is to stay in and do your writing, thinking, bill paying and proposal writing on some days. Then, spend other days out and about, going from one meeting or appointment to another.
6. Q: What advice do you have for someone who has lost their job and wants to start a business?
A: Try to get a part-time job in a similar business. This way, you can learn as much as you can about running that business on someone else’s dime. You really want to know what you are getting into before you invest your own time and money. If you can get a paying job, offer to work as an unpaid intern.
7: Q: How important is social media for a small business?
A: It’s only important if your customers use social media to make buying decisions. So, the first step is asking them what channels of communication they use. It sounds simple, but so many business owners don’t do this and waste time and money doing things that don’t matter. If your clients don’t use Facebook or Twitter, why should you? You have to match your marketing strategy to your target market.
8: Q: Do you these platforms?
A: I have customized social media platforms to promote my book. I tweet only when I have some important to share. For instance, when President Obama repealed an onerous law that would have required small business owners to file 1099 forms for buying things rather than for hiring freelancers, I sent out a tweet. I don’t tweet about my personal opinions but I do tweet about my speaking events if they are open to the public.
9: Q: What about Groupon and LiveSocial promotions?
A: I have spoken with dozens of companies that love using those companies and an equal number who said signing up was a financial disaster. Again, you absolutely have to match your marketing to your target market. If you own a restaurant or bakery and want to attract new customers by offering a discount, it’s probably a good idea. But, it didn’t work at all for the owner of a summer camp who tried Groupon to bring in new kids. He told me he lost money because too many signed up for just one session and never came back. They took up spaces he could have filled with kids registering for the whole summer.
10: Q: What’s the biggest mistake small business owners make?
A: Spending too much money on a fancy office or car. You have to keep your overhead extremely low to survive the first few years in business. You also need to have savings to pay your living expenses because you probably won’t be able to draw any salary for years.
11: Q: What is your favorite small business?
A: I love the people at Gnomon Press in Hanover, New Hampshire. I could pay less for my printing online, but I appreciate the personal service and great attention to detail they provide. They also love my son, Evan’s graphic designs.
12: Q: Any final advice?
A: Take good care of yourself. Take at least an hour day to walk, exercise, meditate, call a friend, etc. You will never work harder than when you work for yourself so you have to be physically and mentally fit.