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Entrepreneurs could give their budding companies a powerful financial boost by using a source of funding usually considered off limits--the retirement kitty. The author, a certified financial planner, does, however, caution company builders to leave a portion of those funds intact, using more accessible sources first. Thereafter, he argues, tax-deferred assets in a 401(k), SEP, or IRA comprise a personal venture capital fund that can do as much for an individual's business as for his or her golden years.
Accepting a loan from the most respectable source of business financing--namely a commercial bank--is a mistake for some entrepreneurs, argues the author, who recounts the tale of her company's demise subsequent to her signing a bank loan with overly stringent terms. She includes four pointers that can help you flag loans likely to go bad.
As what is known as one-to-one marketing takes hold, entrepreneurs must take the measure of customers as individuals and provide precisely what each customer craves--or risk extinction. The author advises consumer-oriented businesses to listen, probe, and touch, gathering information about each potential buyer, asking open-ended questions, and keeping in contact on a regular basis.
Never underestimate the power of a strong and authentic personal connection with another person, especially in the context of business. Why is a one-to-one relationship so gripping and powerful? Precisely because it is unexpected, it is very welcome.
When you get out there thinking you're the most important member of the team, you're headed for failure, says Wally Amos. The founder of Famous Amos Cookies found out the hard way that you can't just indulge your whims and let the chocolate chips fall where they may. How he developed a spiritual understanding, recovered his good name and started a new, more successful company serves as a great recipe for other entrepreneurs.
A company's name is a major intangible asset--but even a federal trademark may not be enough to protect it. This entrepreneur, owner of a media services business, discovered the difficulty in defending his intellectual property against a competitor with deeper pockets. Although he expected to win his case, the prohibitive cost of going to trial led instead to a settlement.
Obtaining financing to commercialize intellectual property is tricky, because intangible assets may have value independently of the business built upon them. In a dot-com world where knowledge is currency, cost and revenue are no longer adequate measures of value. Inventor David Martin's business is soaring on the wings of software that factors new elements into the equation for putting a price on intellectual property.
Businesses become more valuable when they have certain characteristics that add up to strategic advantages in the marketplace. Regardless of a company's ultimate objective--growth, acquisition or IPO--its owners can create, maximize and sustain value by driving it toward those characteristics. A management consultant explains the tools of his trade and reminds readers that price and value are not identical. Some factors, such as growth, are industry-specific, which is why new-economy companies and their stocks are fetching such extraordinary prices.
A cutting-edge biotech company using transgenic mice to produce treatments for life-threatening diseases can spend years working hard toward a sensible business goal before seeing real profits. Still, when its stock soars 4000 percent in one year, investors sit up and take notice. Under the circumstances, a strategic plan and statistical models go a long way toward keeping the real value of the business in perspective.
Kay Koplovitz saw few peers in broadcasting when she negotiated national cable rights to major-league sports as the founder of USA Networks. Today, as chair of the National Women's Business Council, she's working to help other entrepreneurial women form the networks they need to gain access to financing. To make sure more doors open wider, women's venture-capital forums and investment clubs are building strategic connections, providing money and changing the way lenders keep score. Still, says Koplovitz, there's more to accomplish in the coming years.
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