What you believe about starting your own business may be wrong

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In a new article, Monster Working collects insights from small business owners who share the “lies” and “misconceptions” people have about starting their own business. Here are three of the most common:

You’ll be your own boss
“Not only will you not be your own boss, but more people than ever will have a critical stake in your success, including customers, vendors and staff. If you think your boss makes unreasonable demands of you now, just wait until a good customer calls you to handle a major issue at 2 a.m. — and you have to be the one to resolve it.”

You control everything
“You don’t — your customers control everything you do. You will realize this when you see zero dollars in the bank account. That is the day you learn to listen and adjust to their demands. Remember that if customers don’t pay you, you can’t pay rent, staff, insurance, office supplies, etc. The customers are your bosses, and they control everything. ”

Most businesses fail
“I’m always hearing these statistics that show a huge number of businesses must be failing every day. But while I’ve seen plenty of companies evolve, change names, pivot or otherwise change, I don’t see that many entirely shut down. I love hearing these statistics so I can poke holes in them.”

Read the whole list of 9 here.

I would add a #10 as follows:

You need a lot of money to start

While certainly there are businesses that do require venture capital — a manufacturing company, for instance — or franchising fees, there are other businesses that require very little in the way of funding. You can get started in a business which doesn’t require a lot of money to get your feet wet if you aren’t sure that running your own business is right for you.

 

Pros and cons of working for a small business

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I’ve had work experience at smaller and larger companies and have owned and operated a small business myself. From this perspective today’s article on the MonsterWorking blog seems to hit the nail on the head. The article, published to coincide with National Small Business Week on May 12 to 16, notes that 57% of survey respondents prefer to work for small businesses (1 to 100 employees).

These are some of the benefits of working at a smaller company:

Apple or Microsoft can afford to pay high salaries to its employees at various levels of skill and experience. A nascent company, however, may only have enough to fully finance a handful of employees who will in turn have to put in some serious hours.

But during those hours, the employee will find himself or herself learning about every aspect of the company, gaining experience in multifaceted ways.

This is how Nellie Akalp, CEO of CorpNet, an online legal document filing service based in Westlake Village, Ca., views compensation at her company.

“As a small business, I can offer job candidates the chance to get amazing experience in a variety of different positions,” she says. “If they start on the sales team, but become more interested in business development then with time they have the chance to try out different jobs and see what is best for them.”

Also, it never hurts to learn (a lot) on the job.

“I can also offer mentorship with my employees who strive for more,” Akalp continues. “Whether they want to grow within the company, or perhaps have their own business ownership dreams, I am always available to chat and encourage my employees to go after anything they want in life.

Read the whole article.

After graduating college, it’s time to brush up your personal brand

Messiah College Class of 2005 GraduationMillennial expert Chelsea Krost offers advice for college graduates on building their own career personal brand, says Kelly Clay of PayScale. If there’s a new college graduate in your life, here are some pointers to pass along:

“Focus on what makes you unique,” she suggests. Consider asking yourself what you do really well, if you’re outgoing, or what you actually like to do — such as write or research. Essentially, try to discover what you’re good at.

Use your passion to guide you into a career. Do you dream of working outdoors or for the government? While you may not have much experience, you can leverage the experience you do have to establish your personal brand. What leadership roles have you assumed during college? Be sure to highlight these in your portfolio, on your resume, and especially on LinkedIn.

Speaking of online social networks, it’s especially important to be sure those are clear of any photos or updates that could damage your reputation. While college may have been fun, a potential employer looking to find any reason to not hire you (which they do) might not think that photo of you doing something irresponsible will represent the company well should you get hired.

Create new content to establish your expertise. If you use the right combination of blogging and social media, you could land your dream job within a matter of minutes, as Charlie Loyd, a self-described satellite image enthusiast, did using his portfolio and Twitter.

Become your own PR and marketing agent. Ask if you were a hiring manager, would you hire you? Also, be sure to promote your own brand. Join and participate in local meet ups, tweet-ups, and industry groups to help promote yourself in ways that highlight your unique talents.

Read the whole article.

The 7 rules for submitting your résumé to your prospective employer

email_envelopeHow do you get your résumé to prospective employers or recruiters? Should you mail them, fax them, E-mail them, or upload them to a job search board? When distributing your documents online, which file format do you use? There are two versions of Microsoft Word files (.doc and .docx), Adobe Acrobat files (.pdf), and ASCII or plain text (.txt) files. Which file format is best to send?

Not surprisingly, there are a variety of opinions on these topics and even the experts disagree. I’ve formed my own opinions over the past 10+ years of assisting clients with the job search process. Not every recruiter, HR manager, or résumé expert will agree with every one of my suggestions, but I hope you will take them seriously.

  1. If the employer or recruiter states a preference for receiving files in a certain format (mailed, faxed, or e-mailed), always provide the document in that format. Make them happy.
  2. It is NOT necessary to send out paper resumes these days in most job markets for most companies. However, for very important prospects, it is worth considering distributing the résumé in both hard copy and electronic formats. Aren’t you more impressed when someone takes the time to write out a letter instead of sending you an email? Your future employer might be similarly impressed. Our work culture is on the edge of making printed résumés obsolete, but there are still some employers who prefer them and many others who accept them. Print the documents ONLY on plain bright white bond paper. Southworth is one good brand of résumé paper. After all, e-mail delivery and the postal service are not 100% reliable, and you don’t want to risk getting your application lost in a spam folder or gobbled by gremlins. Use a high quality laser printer rather than an inkjet or dot matrix, even if it takes a trip to Kinko’s. If you are sending a photocopy of a laser-printed résumé, then be sure that the copy is neither smudged nor blemished by marks from the copier. Do not staple your résumé and cover letter.

Note: If you are reluctant to send out hard copies of your résumés out of “green” concerns, you do have other options. E-mail your resume first, and if you receive a response e-mail informing you that the résumé has been properly received, then do not mail. However, if you don’t receive confirmation of receipt, consider following up with a phone call to ensure that the document was received. Even then, be warned that you may be missing opportunities if you don’t deliver hard copies to your top prospects. Use 100% recycled paper.

  1. When distributing hard copies, it’s important to try to make the document stand out in the pile. Put the résumé unfolded in a large envelope addressed to the hiring manager (not the Human Resources staff). If the prospect is local, then personally deliver the envelope. Ask for the hiring manager at the front desk and attempt to deliver it personally. If that is not possible, then leave it with the receptionist or H.R. staff. Just the fact that it is unstamped will make the package stand out and call to the hiring manager’s attention your strong interest in the position. If it is not practical to personally deliver the documents, then send the hard copies by Express/Overnight Mail (if it’s within your budget) or First Class Mail.
  2. If you are uncertain of the format that the employer or recruiter desires, always submit your file electronically, whether or not you choose to deliver a hard copy. When sending an employer or recruiter an electronic version of your résumé, and they ONLY accept one file (usually this is because their Web site only allows you to upload one file), then upload a Microsoft Word (.docx) file. The .docx format has its disadvantages (the formatting is impossible to control perfectly because the appearance of the document is dependent on the display and printer settings of the employer’s computer); however, it is the most universally accepted format. Only a few years ago I advised clients to go with the DOC format over DOCX because many employers had not yet upgraded to Word 2007, but by now virtually everyone knows about the DOCX format.

Note for Apple Fans: Never send documents in Apple-only format. Use DOC, DOCX, or PDF.

Note for Open Source Fans: If you are in the software development field and feel it’s  important to your personal brand to avoid the use of proprietary document formats such as Microsoft Word, then by all means substitute a RTF or PDF file for a DOC. No other substitution is recommended. Don’t risk it.

  1. If you are uncertain of the format that the employer or recruiter desires, and they allow you to send them any number of files, then send your résumé in two different formats: Microsoft Word (either .doc or .docx) and Adobe PDF. Some experts advise that you submit several different formats, but I feel that two is enough (any more is overkill and could be perceived as annoying to the recipient). You can create PDF files from Microsoft Word by downloading any number of free utilities (you can go to download.com to find CutePDF or doPDF and install it on your computer) or by visiting Adobe’s Web site and using their PDF creation service. Adobe may allow you to create a limited number of PDF files for free before paying for the service. Not all free utilities are as accurate as Adobe Acrobat, so if you use a freeware PDF converter, be sure to proof the file carefully for formatting glitches. It’s not enough to proof the PDF file on the screen; you need to print it.

Tip: If applying for a job at Microsoft, then submit the file only in .docx (Microsoft Word 2007 and later). Using the older .doc file format could subliminally send the signal that your technical acumen is behind the times. By the same token, if you’re applying to Adobe, then submit the file only in PDF format. Why not show that you are familiar with the prospective employer’s technology? Don’t send files created using open source products. You might offend the reader if they are politically opposed to the open source technology movement.

  1. If your employer or recruiter requires that you submit your résumé in ASCII (.txt) format, do so. You can easily convert your Microsoft Word document to ASCII format. In Word, use the “Save As” command and select “Plain Text (*.txt)” in the “Save as type” box. When prompted by the dialog box for a specific version of ASCII, use only “Windows (Default)”. Note that when Word files are saved as plain text, the formatting is eliminated and some of the symbols used in the résumé will be replaced with garbage characters (often the “?” symbol). It is therefore necessary to open the .txt file in a text editor such as Notepad and perform a global search on any garbage characters that you see to replace them with a known character (the “*” symbol is good to use for this purpose). If you are uncomfortable with any aspect of this process, ask a tech savvy friend or your Professional Résumé Writer for assistance.
  2. Optimize the text file so that it is easy on the eyes. Another side effect of the text conversion is that the spacing in the document becomes difficult to read and any tables or columns used in the document will be messed up. Therefore, it is a good idea to manually reformat the document using printable characters and manual line spaces to break up the text in a manner that is visually appealing. The most powerful documents use a very simply designed header for the file so that your name and contact information is easy to read and stands out visually. Although computers may be reading the plain text data, eventually it gets read by a human reviewer who will tend to be more favorably disposed to résumés that are easy to read. When saving the file in Notepad, be sure that “Word Wrap” is turned ON or the final file could wind up a visual mess (Windows could insert line breaks in unexpected places depending on the size of the Notepad window at the time the file was saved.)

Make your social networking F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.

peacock-new-zealand_10933_990x742You’ll never run out of conversation openers if you remember this one word. Writing on the Personal Branding Blog, Maria Elena Duron gives a great tip that will help you to avoid awkward gaps of silence in important networking situations:

You need to be better in real life than you are in social media – not the other way around. [tweet this]

Hopefully, these tips and this little formula will help:

First, remember whoever is the one asking the question is the person controlling the conversation.

Then, spend more time listening to people than talking at them. From their responses, this will help shape the context of the conversation.

Be F.A.B.U.L.O.U.S.

Ask about their:

F = Friends and Family

A = Aspirations and Accomplishments (what are they hoping to do; what have they done lately)

B = Business

U = Understandings (what have they learned lately)

L = Loves (interests, hobbies, passions)

O = Organizations (non-profits or industry associations they’re involved with)

U = Undertakings (latest activities)

S = Sports

If you can do this when you’re in a conversation that’s seeking a topic, then you’ll see that people will find you to be – a great person to speak with.

Make it all about them. Put structure in your conversation without sounding like you’re interrogating them and you are one step above everyone else in making friends and influencing people.

Read the whole article.

And if you’re really bold, substitute Spirituality for Sports. One way to do this is to mention the latest spiritual book you’ve read — or your favorite — and ask if they’ve heard of the author. Not everyone is comfortable going there with a stranger, so use your best judgment.

When negotiating a salary, don’t look desperate

sundheim-ken-suit2Negotiating a salary or raise can be one of the most stressful things any of us ever do. Ken Sundheim, CEO of KAS Placement Sales and Marketing Recruiters, says that for best results we ought to base our plan on facts rather than emotion.

He writes on the Personal Branding Blog:

Considering the following 6 salary negotiation factors should give you an educated guess about the best course of action in your situation.

1. What is your current compensation structure? Running a recruiting firm, when I see that an employer is offering a new job applicant the same or only slightly higher (less than 10%) of a salary than they are currently making, it typically leaves room for successful negotiation. In the majority of circumstances, you can be successful negotiating a compensation package that is up to 15% higher than what you are currently pulling in.

2. Have you held more than 3 jobs in the past 2 years? If you have held numerous jobs in the past few years, employers will view you as less of a long-term investment and thus will give you less wiggle room when attempting to ask for additional compensation. Luckily, this can be prevented if you have sound reasoning for departing those past positions and you broach the topic earlier in the interview process, as opposed to waiting until you receive the offer.

3. Has the job been open for more than 2 months? The more desperate a company is to get a job search over with, the more flexible they are going to be when approached for more money. Our executive recruiters have noticed a significant change in flexibility around the 2-month mark, as by this time an employer has spent numerous hours trying to find the right applicant and has most likely endured a lot of disappointments during the recruitment process.

For more tips, read the whole article.

Facts are fine things to bring into a negotiation process. But they are no replacement for having confidence in yourself and conviction that you are asking to be paid a fair and appropriate amount.