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2/21/12 9:47 AM

SBT Houston Staff JUNE 2012




Leaders Must Empower Others Greetings All! I must tell you that I am really enjoying going one-on-one with our cover story honorees. I am learning a great deal about their road to success and what kind of challenges they all faced on the way to the top. Believe me, they all faced adversity. I am beginning to believe that “there is no success without adversity!” What do you think? The entrepreneurs selected for the cover honor are sharing some incredible words of advice on wealth, success and happiness. You might have even noticed that we have started adding a page of those words of wisdom for all entrepreneurs at the end of each cover story. I thought that this was a pretty cool idea. One of the things that all three cover honorees have shared is you must be able to empower others if you hope to achieve success. No one builds a successful business on their own. Whether it is the support from your staff or employees, or from that entrepreneurs family, friends or sphere of influence a successful business owner needs to empower others help them build their business. This month’s cover honoree, Mr. Phil Morabito of Pierpont Communications is a perfect example of an entrepreneur with the right focus on the empowerment of his staff to serve their clients. Phil has been well recognized and rewarded for his efforts and success. It has truly been my pleasure getting to know, learn from and befriend Phil. He really is an amazing guy. Speaking of “getting to know, learn from and befriending amazing people”, you have probably noticed the Profiles of great people and companies that you really need to get to know that we have showcased in each of our last two issues They have chosen to be profiled in SMALL BUSINESS TODAY, because THEY want to get to know YOU! Each one is someone that I (personally) know and would recommend to you for your business. In this, our June issue we are profiling some more of my personal favorites for your consideration. They are Matt Brown/ Encompass Lending Group, StarTex Title Cypress, Derek Taylor/Cherry Creek Mortgage and Todd Woodruff/Mr. Electric. These companies as well as our clients in the magazine just want the opportunity to assist you in whatever way they can and truly “earn” your business! Won’t your consider giving them that opportunity? Well, it is time to let you get started with this very special issue of SMALL BUSINESS TODAY! Good Reading, Good Sales and Success to You Always, Steve Levine Executive Publisher

President John Cruise Executive Publisher Steve Levine Business Development/PR Anthony Norris Bill Huff Donna K. Rooney Alvin Terry Graphic Design Vanessa Vara Photographers Eric Kleiman Contributing Writers Cyndi Barnett Ron Consolino Barbara Davis David T. Domzalski Len Faucher Erich Fruchtnicht Jeff Jones Bruce Hurta Craig Klein Hank Moore Mike Muhney Erica A. Murray Amy Olivieri Monica Russo Rita Santamaria Jane Seaman Alvin Terry Pam Terry Jack Warkenthien Aimee Woodall Aaron Young Chief Advisor Hank Moore Publisher’s Advisory Board Debra Bann Cyndi Barnett John Cruise Maya Durnovo Kathie Edwards Leonard Faucher David Holt Richard Huebner Jeffrey Jones Craig Klein H. Quincy Long Imaad Mahfooz Hank Moore Mike Muhney Dan Parsons Neil Polansky Susan Repka Monica Russo Rita Santamaria Allen Shapiro Pam Terry Jack Warkenthien Doug Winnie R.D. Yoder Aaron Young Phone: 832-460-2020 E-Mail: Or Write: Small Business Today 5380 West 34th Street, Ste 230 Houston, TX 77092 See us on the web at





Matt Brown Senior Mortgage Consultant By Woodie Stephenson


enior Mortgage Consultant Matt Brown understands the challenges that have affected the mortgage industry in recent years. With his philosophy of patience and accessibility, Matt never takes his referralbased business for granted. “2010 was an extremely difficult year—a lot of mortgage professionals left their careers behind,” recalled Matt. “I never deviated from my business plan and continued my customer focus by providing each client with a unique personalized service.” The Finance and Marketing graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University offers a decade of experience in mortgage lending to his clients. Matt credits his service, work ethic, and positive attitude for his business growth during the recent recession and aftermath. “All of my business is referral-based, so I maintain the highest level of service that I can to generate continued referrals,” he explained. “I take great pride in my ability to guide clients through a transaction from start to finish.” “I do a lot of preparation for each meeting with clients. I maintain close communication with them so they know exactly what’s happening during every step. Through my cell phone, I am easily accessible and

readily available.”

“He did thorough research, got us a fantastic rate, and even showed up at the closing to assist and answer any questions that came up. I’ve given his card to several friends with complete confidence. He’s an asset to both his clients and the industry he represents,” David concluded.

Matt’s emphasis on transparency, communication, and availability has made him a go-to referral. “Many of my real estate associates tell me that I’m invaluable to their first-time buyers. These agents specifically mention my thoroughness, When Matt is not spending time with his wife attention to detail, and rapport with diverse of 19 years and 7-year old son, he cherishes clients.” his industry relationships. He serves as an affiliate member of the Houston Association “Matt is an asset to both his of Realtors, the Greater Tomball Area clients and the industry he Chamber of Commerce, the Women’s Council of Realtors, Texas Association of represents.” Mortgage Professionals and the National ----Client David Lemel Association of Mortgage Brokers. Matt recognizes his impact on his clients’ lives. “I love working in a business where you can build so many relationships. Most of all, I’m gratified to arrive at a closing and see someone so happy to own their first home. The home-buying process can be very trying and stressful, but I make it my mission to give my clients the utmost support.” Client David Lemel commented on Matt’s calm and detailed approach: “My wife and I worked with Matt Brown during our recent new home purchase. His knowledge and hands-on approach made us feel extremely comfortable.”


For more information on Matt Brown and his services through Encompass Lending Group, dial (281) 630-3777, email ( or visit him on the web at NMLS# 347067




IN THIS ISSUE Advertising - Choosing Words That Sell 8 Reviewing the Status of Business 9


Financing Your Business "Where's The Money?" Part 2 10


Derek Taylor Cherry Creek Mortgage Company

"Exceeding His Clients/ Expectations With His Winning Ways"

Phil Morabito/Pierpont Communications

The Southwest's Largest Integrated Marketing Firm: Built From Scratch

How to Talk to a Web Designer 101 (Part 3) 11 Your Next Step: 7 Sure-Fire Ways to Improve Your Sales Performance 12


Growth by Acquisition 14

Todd Woodruff Mr. Electric of Midtown

“Helping Realtors® & Home Builders Make Homes That Shine”

Write a Book (or Two) to Build Your Credibility 16 Why Disablility Income Insurance Could Be the Most Important Insurance You Don't Have 17 Turn Meaningless into Meaningful 18 Selling Has Changed Forever - In a Good Way! 19 Do You Have Charisma? 20 Tips for Starting a New Business 22 How to Select a Merchant Processing Service for Your Business 24 Proven Management Expertise is Critical for SBA Loan Approval 26


Matt Brown Encompass Lending Group

"A Dedicated Lender In It for the Long Haul"


Facebook Timeline: Not as Bad as Nickelback 34 The Color Of It! 36

StarTex Title-Cypress "A Locally-Owned Title Company Attuned to Service and Community”

Getting Social with Email Marketing 38 Franchising - Good for America! 40 A Mentor Will Tell You Like It Is 42
















By Barbara R. Davis f you were to combine the creative punch of an ad agency, the media savvy of a PR firm, and the leading edge of an internet marketing firm, the end result would be Pierpont Communications which offers integrated marketing communications by design. Built from scratch by Madison Avenue refugee Phil Morabito, Pierpont Communications has become one of the largest independent communications firms in the Southwest and is celebrating its 25th Anniversary. Helping Fortune 500 companies, government and non-profit organizations, and high growth entrepreneurs thrive and grow, Pierpont has won enough awards over the years to fill a small efficiency apartment. Phil Morabito grew up in Rochester, New York. His dad worked for Eastman Kodak for 33 years but was an entrepreneur on the side. Undoubtedly, Phil was greatly influenced by his father's creative efforts to support his large family of seven. Phil's father's love of ice fishing led him to make fishing lures and then sell them along with bait to the fishing stores to make extra money for the family. He would buy bait in bulk, piece it out, and then sell it to the stores who would in turn sell to their customers. After getting a degree in marketing at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, Phil spent a year traveling the country as a troubleshooter as a national consultant for his fraternity, Sigma Phi Epsilon. Then he went right to graduate school at 22 and got his MBA at 24 from the University of South Florida in Tampa. After graduating in 1979, Phil decided to go to New York City to seek fame and fortune. He interviewed with companies in marketing research, management consulting, advertising, and just for the

heck of it, sent his resume to the CEOs of the top 30 PR firms at that time. As it turned out, one of these CEOs was looking for an MBA assistant. This was 1982 and MBAs were far and few between and in great demand. It also helped that whatever Phil did, he was a high achiever and it reflected in the leadership skills he already had displayed as a member of Who's Who in college, President of his fraternity, and President of his business club. Although he didn't realize what an incredible experience it was at the time, Phil started out as an account executive and as an assistant for the CEO of one of the hottest PR shops in the country, Robert Marston and Associates, working for Fortune 500 Companies such as Pillsbury, Anheuser-Busch, Levi Strauss, Dean Witter, and many, many more. Timing is everything and was a very important contributing factor to Phil's success early on. “I had an entry point that was at a very, very high level and after a few months, the CEO realized he needed more of an administrative assistant than an MBA. I had entered at the right point so I started getting passed around to the senior partners. I was in a wonderful position to learn and to move up very quickly,� reflected Mr. Morabito. After working on Madison Avenue from 1982 to 1985, Phil decided to go out on his own and began freelancing from New York using his extensive contact list. He had friends down in Houston and they connected him with an oil company in Corpus Christi and a CPA firm in Houston. It went so well that one of his investment banker friends in Houston

Within three years, Phil had a dozen employees.

From there, Pierpont Communications' growth took flight. Along with the growth, the recognition came. Phil won the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2006, something he is most proud of. “That is a very high-bar award. You really have to have your act together. It took me four times to win it. They were calling me Susan Lucci,” laughed Phil. The company’s mainstay has always been business public relations but as the company became more successful, Phil added public affairs and then a marketing practice, giving the business three very strong pillars. Morabito explained, “Public relations and advertising are two different disciplines but it's still a similar thing; you're trying to raise the level of awareness of your customers. One of our most common areas of work is thought leadership. It’s about putting our clients on the leading edge of the thought process in whatever industry they are in so they become the go-to people for media on topics within their area of expertise.”

Phil named his company after the street that ran beside his elementary school.

said, “You really ought to come down here. Madison Avenue refugees don't migrate to Texas.” Phil had been to Houston two or three times on business and really liked it. He thought to himself, “No state tax; no city tax. You live in Manhattan; you get half your pay. I'm 29 years old; I'll give it a shot.” So 25 years ago, Phil Morabito began Pierpont Communications on a shoestring budget. For the first seven years, he traded services for everything he could including his office space, secretaries, and a place to stay; the ultimate bootstrap! He was then able to reinvest in the growth of the business with the money that he saved. Phil was a one-man show. He may have started from scratch but he was quite capable of marketing himself. Always a big networker and speaker, Phil would go out into the marketplace and make connections. Then he began to offer internships for students from the University of Houston as well. He told one of the interns to inform the head of the department that if a class ever opened up, he would be willing to teach it. So sure enough, that semester a class opened up and they had Phil teach principles of public relations. He's now in his 24th year teaching as an adjunct in the MBA program in a class called Integrated Marketing Communications that he designed from scratch.










As the business began to grow over the course of five years, Phil was able to start hiring people including his first employee, a past intern. A couple of months after that, Phil needed someone to start handling the billing and office-related dealings EBRATIN so he hired an employee who took on the task L E of office manager and chief, cook, and bottle washer, who eventually became the COO. EXCE



“In advertising, you are going to design an ad, create a message or messaging, and then pay to place it, but you're able to control the message; In the media, you don't control the message, you guide the message to the best of your ability because a reporter is going to write what they are going to write,” continued Phil. This year, Pierpont's annual revenue will be approximately $6 million. The company has roughly 40 employees throughout all of its four offices around the state which makes it one of the largest PR agencies in the state and in the South. 2007 was the company’s best year before the recession hit. It did close to $7.5 million in 2007 and is on track to do that again next year. It has always been a successful and profitable business. Pierpont has been selected six times for the Houston Business Journal's Best Place to Work Award. Phil firmly believes in creating a work-life balance for his employees. “It's a very important part of what we do and I've had great luck at employee retention. I said years ago that I always wanted to have a business that people wanted to work for,” stated Phil. Pierpont works for a number of large companies including Walmart, Verizon Wireless, Capital One, and Waste Management. Over the years, Pierpont has worked for just about everybody in the energy industry. In addition, they work for clients locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally depending on their needs. Continued on page 28


Advertising - Choosing Words That Sell


By Rita Santamaria


hen it comes to writing marketing pieces for promotion and advertising both you and your product or services, there are some words that just do a better job of “call to action”. The following words will help you do the selling: You or Your – “You” is the most powerful word you can choose. It is more powerful than the word money. So instead of writing for example, “my clients say working with me is the best thing that ever happened to them”. Write, “You will notice a huge difference between my professional experience and that of any agent you have worked with in the past”. “You are the most important part of my job. Keeping you happy is my goal.” Money – right after “you” is the word money. People love to save money, and earn money. Therefore, using the words, “save you money” makes a huge statement in any advertising piece or campaign.

human ear. Use yes often with your clients. They enjoy hearing they were right or, you are just agreeing with them, or yes, the work can be done. Quick/quickly – at every turn people want things done quickly. Whether waiting for loan approval, for an inspection, survey or appraisal to be delivered, clients want tasks done quickly. For example, “you can be assured that I will follow up to make sure all tasks are done quickly and we stick to our time table of 30 days to closing and funding”. Benefit – everyone wants to know “what’s in it for me?” The extra that is received by this selection needs to be presented. “The benefit of buying in this neighborhood is there is a community pool at no extra charge in your homeowner’s fees.” “The benefit of buying this house is the school bus stops right in front of your home.”

• Love • Results • Safe/safety • Proven • Fun • New Continued on page 36


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Guarantee – people want to feel like they have assurance with their purchases with as little risk as possible. In real estate there are few times we could ever “guarantee” anything. However, if there were a new roof or foundation repair that came with a guarantee for a period of time, with the guarantee in writing, you could promote and advertise that guarantee.

Real Estate, Loan Origination, Appraisal and Home Inspection

Easy –everyone has a hurried pace in today’s world. People want things and tasks to be easy. Using the word easy and phrases such as “your process from buying to closing is easy with the Villareal Team of specialists”.

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Yes – is one of the most pleasing words to the

Other powerful words include:


Health/healthy – people want products, services that help them retain good health or make them healthier. Advertising the amenities of a neighborhood that have golf, tennis, jogging trails, bike paths, pools add to their desire to acquire that property. Using the phrase, “you will maintain your healthy lifestyle by using the bike paths, jogging trails in the highlands subdivision…” would be good use of wording in your ad.

Free – whether it is a free market analysis, free consultation, free estimate, free report try to put something free into your marketing materials.

Person’s name – people love to hear the sound of their own name. Use it often during your conversation, “Marie, what do you think of the landscaping?” Always address marketing pieces to an individual’s name not “resident or occupant”.


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Reviewing the Status of Business


By Hank Moore / Corporate Strategist™


hese are the points at which a company must conduct a planning retreat to assess its own Big Picture and chart the process forward:


The Big Picture

The environment in which the organization competes is rapidly changing.

The organization is not now what it started out to be. There seems to be a need to change the direction of the organization. No Vision was actually created...the organization just rolled with the flow. Management is concerned that resources are not concentrated on important things. Management of the organization seems tired or complacent. Growth Management is cautious and uncertain about the company's future. The company has grown too rapidly. No-growth or slow-growth has occurred. There is a need to step up growth and improve profitability. People-Productivity Apathy, low productivity and discord are exhibited. Management seeks perspective and needs to be recharged. There is a need to develop better information to help management make better decisions. Individuals are more concerned about their own areas than for the overall organization. Processes There is a sense that company operations are out of control. Management expresses a need for better internal coordination of company activities.

External forces threaten the status quo...and open up new opportunities.

Did you ever wonder why some people have good ideas, and others make them succeed profitably? Would it surprise you to know that one third of your efforts, money and resources will go toward reducing problems in your business this year? And if you don't tend to issues as they occur, your high costs could multiply as much as six times per year. Small business owners need all the tools they can get. Big corporations don't have all the answers. Small businesses, in reality, have more flexibility to do something well and be more successful more quickly. What Big Picture Growth Programs Accomplish


Here are 15 sure-fire steps to begin putting this information to immediate use in your business. Number 1....Business cannot exist in a vacuum. You must put everything that you produce into a Big Picture context. Number 2.....Recognize that there is a Big Picture, and be skeptical about niche consultants and vendors who purport that their approach is the only one. Number 3.....Choose your advisors very carefully. Insist that they benchmark everything they do for you toward a Big Picture of your business. Number 4.....You must have both a Sales Plan and a Marketing Plan as sub-sets of your Strategic Plan. Number 5.....Advertising is a process, part of marketing and a cousin of sales. Running an ad here and there does not constitute advertising.

Number 6.....Have concurrent programs in your plan, including direct marketing, sales promotions, advertising, internet presence, specialty advertising, public relations and other marketplace presence. Number 7.....Running a small business is tough. You cannot be a Lone Ranger. Develop a support system of friends and colleagues. Surrounding yourself with employees and consultants is not enough. Number 8.....Always think about new products to create. Number 9.....Never stop changing. Change is 90% positive. Every person and company changes 71% per year anyway. You might as well benefit from it, rather than become a victim of it. Number 10.....Find ways to measure the success of every new initiative that you adopt. Number 11.....Use my Business Tree as a way of always looking at the whole of any situation...then at the parts...and back to the whole again. Number 12.....You never stop paying dues. It doesn't get easier...yet, creative opportunities create more successes. Number 13.....Take ownership of planning programs, rather than abdicate them to human resources or accounting people. Number 14.....Predict the biggest crises that can beset your company. 85% of the time, you'll prevent them from occurring. Number 15.....Challenge yourself to succeed by taking a Big Picture look...while others are still thinking and acting small-time. Your biggest resource is a wide scope...and the daring to visualize success and then all of its components. Hank Moore/Corporate Strategist™ Phone: 713-668-0664 Website: http://www. Email: hankmoore4218@



Financing Your Business: "Where's The Money?" Part 2


By Alvin E. Terry, MBA / Business Consultant, Dynamic Business Builders


ow that you have been exposed to the first stages of StartUp Capital and your Business is ready to go to the next level, or if you are already there, then this information can be useful for you. “Commercial Financing” can take on a variety of shapes and forms. The vocabulary that is necessary in order to navigate through the maze of terms is like taking on a Finance class in itself. This article will include a lot of terms that may or may not be relevant to your business organization, but for the readers it just might open up a new world of financing possibilities that you never knew existed. All of the definitions have been omitted for the sake of research for yourself. These terms are widely used in the industry. It is always best to know the lingo as you proceed with the growing of your business. Here we go with the different levels of investing: • Start-up • Seed Money • Accounts Receivable Financing • Mezzanine Financing • Buyout • Acquisition • First Stage Expansion • Second stage Expansion

• Third Stage Expansion • Capital Improvement Financing • Venture Capital Firms • Private Equity Firms • Commercial Lenders • Credit Unions • Hard Money lenders • Stock Buyouts • Investment Bankers • Factoring • Money management Firms • Life Insurance Companies • Bank Loan • Bridge Financing • International Trade Financing • Lines of Credit • Franchising • Licensing • Limited Partnerships • Joint Ventures • Public Offerings • Off-Balance-Sheet • Real Estate Loans • SBA Loans • Single Use Property Loans • Sale/Leaseback Financing • Syndication • Working Capital • Equipment Lease Financing • Debt Financing • Asset Based Lending • Trust Accounts • Private Placements • Secured Lines of Credit • Recourse Paper • Non-recourse Paper • Exchange Rates • Employee Stock Ownership Plans • First Mortgages


• Second Mortgages • Contract Financing • Purchase Order Financing • International Banking • Prime Rate • Fixed or Floating Rates • LIBOR • Inventory Financing • Grants • Foundations • Endowments • Industrial Revenue Bonds • Barter • TIRZs • Prepayment Penalty • Faith Based Lending • Base Rate or Floor Rate • Ceiling Rate • Cap Rate • Adjustable Rate If you are in Business odds are some of the terms will apply to you at some time in some form or fashion. I hope that the above list will help you get organized financially. I know that it will help you talk to the people who have the money. Remember “Knowledge is Power”. You can contact Alvin E. Terry, MBA Directly at 713-392-9107 or by email at alvin.terry@rocketmail. com www.dynamicbusinessbuilders. biz


How to Talk to a Web Designer 101 (Part 3) By Erich Fruchtnicht


e have now covered how to find a website designer and how to communicate with the designer on a basic level regarding the general features and software capabilities you might want to consider for your site. The next step in the design interview is usually the graphical design of your site itself. After all, the best software in the world is only as good as its interface, and your site's graphical design is that interface. In my opinion, there are at least three major categories of considerations when dreaming up your design: 1. Your personality 2. Your branding 3. Your potential customers Your personality As a small business owner, your customers are doing business with you on a much more personal level than some big box store or large corporation, and I always recommend that the personality of the owner be incorporated into the site design for this reason. This can be done in a number of ways such as: • choosing a particular accent color that you really like that is outside of your normal branding, or • you could develop the "feel" of the site to match your upbeat, happy personality or your downto-earth, no nonsense approach to

doing business. A good designer will have suggestions on how to include "you" in your design. Your branding I tell everyone who will listen, "keep your branding consistent." If you develop a logo you need to use it, and if you have company colors, they need to be incorporated in a meaningful way. When a potential customer navigates to your website after having looked at your ad or business card, you want them to immediately know that they are in the right place. Consistent branding will guarantee that they do. Your potential customers Once you decide how much and in what way you intend to include your personality into your site, and how you will implement your consistent branding, you need to take a moment put yourself in your customers' shoes. Would they want to look at what you have designed? As an example, I had a customer whose company colors were bright pinks, silvers and black, and another whose colors were intense green, white, and black. There is nothing wrong with those colors if they are used properly. Using too much of any intense color without enough muted or calming colors to balance will make your site visitors want to leave. You need to ensure that your customers will spend time on your site reading through your materials and viewing

the information you have taken the time to put there. A good way to use intense colors are as accent colors or highlights. For instance, you could use several shades of gentle neutral earth-tone colors to cover most of your visual real estate, but then use your bright greens or pinks in an accent to drawn you potential customer's eyes toward key information. This more subtle approach makes the accent colors "pop" and will be sufficient to maintain your consistent branding. With bright or overly intense colors, less is more. Another tip is that large areas of a single color are very visually boring and will make people bored with your design even if they can not put their fingers on why. Try to use texture, slight gradients, or highlights that emulate a light source to make large areas of a single color have very subtle changes throughout that keep it fresh. It can be undetectable if you don't know it is there, but you will notice with it is not. In the next installment, I am going to address a commonly overlooked portion of the website creation process: website hosting. I will talk about some options and things to look for when selecting a hosting provider. Having a great website is only useful if your hosting provider allows your potential customers to see it. Until next time! Erich H Fruchtnicht is President / Principle Designer at TGDesign, LLC or email him at



Your Next Step: 7 SureFire Ways to Improve Your Sales Performance By Jack Warkenthien


re great salesmen and saleswomen born or made?

Though I’ve worked with hundreds of sales professionals blessed with impressive intuitive skills, I firmly believe that selling is both an art form and a science. There are lessons you can learn--when applied properly--that can dramatically improve your entire sales experience. From more than 30 years of experience, I’ve distilled the selling process down to its essence, identifying your lucky 7 techniques that will produce sales earlier and more often. 1. Research the candidates’ business before saying a word. Go on-line. This is why God invented the internet (sorry Al Gore). If it’s a public company, there will be a host of links and directories to review. Read articles that have been written in newspapers and trade journals. The Web puts vast resources a few clicks away. Before you knock on the door or pick up the phone, make sure you know about their position in the market, most pervasive competitors, and especially their wants/ needs/roles/goals. 2. Speak to decision-makers. There are usually three types of people you encounter when making sales calls: (a) Decision-makers. They’re the ones who have the authority to say “Yes” and sign the order. (b) Influencers. They are important because they’re often asked to support your recommendation or proposal. But you never want to present just to an influencer if you can help it. Why? Influencers can only say “No” by themselves. You really want the decision-maker in the meeting. (c) Then there are Foxes, who are tougher to recognize. They may answer the phone, or greet you, as you enter. Don’t jump to conclusions. (S) he may be the spouse of the decision-maker. There’s no substitute for doing your homework. Know who you’re talking to before you begin. While you’re at it, familiarize yourself with the “decision process” as well.

3. Approach candidates with confidence. At least 80% of the time, the person that you meet, will already visualize themselves as one of your customers. They want to buy, so don’t spend your time talking them out of it. Here are the three words you must commit to memory: ASSUME THE SALE. After all, this isn’t your hobby! By visualizing the candidate as already being your customer, a sale WILL be made—they’ll sell you on “No” or you’ll sell them on “Yes”. You will exude confidence and they will be more likely to buy your product or service, at the conclusion of your meeting. 4. Discover your candidate’s true needs and wants. The only way you can apply your Unique Value Proposition (U.V.P.) to their Dominant Buying Motive (D.B.M.) is if you understand their needs and wants. Here’s the proper sequence for structuring your call: question first, listen second, talk third. Here’s where you give a little T.L.C. (Test/Listen/ Continue). Act like a good doctor and don’t prescribe until you diagnose. There’s a word for that in medicine: malpractice. Don’t do it in your sales “profession” either. 5. Make me feel important (MMFI)! Imagine every one you meet with those initials stamped on their foreheads. Deliver sincere compliments, ask for opinions, and remind them how important they are. You are constantly building and nurturing the relationship. When I first came to Houston, I hosted a daily morning business talk show, “Where Wall Street Meets Main Street”. It was a very good show, in my humble opinion. However, everyone you meet will have their own two favorites—an FM station—WII/FM (“What’s In It For Me?”), and an AM station— MMFG/AM (“Make Me Feel Good About Myself”). Now that you know, help them tune in, every chance you get. 6. Communicate compelling messages. There are two—and only two—reasons people buy anything: PAIN or GAIN. Of the two, pain is, by far, the most compelling reason. You win if you can remove or prevent pain, from occurring in your candidate. On the gain side, you show how you can provide gain now, or promise it, in the near future.


Anticipate the customer’s central concern(s), and gear your message towards it. What benefits can they expect to receive? How do you deliver those benefits and how will you achieve results? Your ability to communicate effectively on such points, is as important as your ability to “open” the relationship. 7. Do yourself a F.A.B.R.E.--make powerful statements that instill confidence. Most “ordinary” Sales professionals can be accused of feature flashing—and there’s always enough evidence to convict them! That’s when they “show up and throw up” everything they know about their product and/or service. There’s a far better way to sell: F.A.B.R.E. stands for Feature/ Advantage/Benefit/Response/Evidence. For every feature you volunteer (“our patented formula…”), share an advantage (“why us v. the competition”). Then, remind them of a benefit (“it makes you money….saves you money…..removes your pain…..etc”). Next, elicit a response (“does that make sense to you….do you see how that applies?”). Finally, deliver evidence, that your solution works (testimony, scientific data, white paper, etc). You’ll not only do yourself a favor, but you’ll do one for your future customer as well! If you weren’t born with that valuable Sales gene, take heart. You CAN learn the skills necessary to be highly effective and successful in the oldest and most noble profession--Sales. There are no magic pills that will guarantee results. It takes planning, preparation and practice. As we enter our Summer Season of Selling, try rolling the dice on these 7 steps, and take the risk out of wasting your (sales) time. I’m confident they’ll help you make more sales, more money and derive more enjoyment from the sales game. Jack Warkenthien, CEO, NextStep Solutions. Email him at or call him at 832-344-6998

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Growth by Acquisition By Jeffrey D. Jones, ASA, CBA, CBI


very company, big or small, is concerned about growth. One of the more successful methods for growth of small to midsize companies is through acquisition of other existing companies. Expanding through acquisition has been a method frequently used by large closely-held and publicly-held companies. For many of the same reasons large companies buy existing businesses, small companies can often benefit from this practice. These reasons include: • SYNERGISM WITH YOUR EXISTING BUSINESS • OPEN NEW GEOGRAPHIC MARKETS FOR EXISTING PRODUCTS & SERVICES • EXPANSION OF RELATED LINES OF BUSINESS • EXPANSION OF NEW PRODUCT OR SERVICE LINES IN EXISTING MARKETS Some of the advantages of acquiring an existing business include: • Being able to review a company's exiting track record as reflected in P & L's, tax returns and other financial records can be very helpful in determining expansion plans. Growth potential can be measured based on actual experience rather than conjecture associated with start up ventures. • The need for additional working capital is reduced due to the immediate cash flow being generated by the acquired company. • Obtaining skilled employees who are familiar with the business operation and market a major benefit of any acquisition. • Gaining established customers significantly reduces the time it would otherwise take to attract an adequate number of customers to support the

overhead of a new operation. • Obtaining existing licenses and permits can often reduce the time and cost of making application, gathering information and conforming to required regulations. • Sources of capital to purchase existing businesses are more readily available than start up ventures. It is very common for the owner of an acquired business to finance part of the purchase price. Banks and other financial institutions prefer to loan money on existing operations that have a proven track record. Buying an existing business can be a much faster and less expensive method for growth than starting or trying to expand through normal marketing methods. WHERE TO FIND EXISTING BUSINESSES FOR SALE Finding profitable businesses for sale at reasonable prices can be difficult. Often business owners have an inflated idea as to the value of their business due to articles in the Wall Street Journal describing the high multiples of earnings obtained by some of the publicly owned companies. The primary resources for finding profitable businesses for sale include the following: • Ads in local newspapers, Wall Street Journal, and trade publications are a source of businesses for sale. Business owners or brokers representing owners describe their business offerings in these publications. By continuously following these publications, it may be possible to find a business that meets your criteria. • Suppliers may be good sources of information regarding businesses for sale within the specified industries. Calling or writing to these suppliers and vendors and making them aware of your acquisition criteria may surface several prospective


sellers that are not actively on the market, but would consider selling. • Using direct mail to contact business owners whose businesses meet your general acquisition criteria can generate potential seller prospects. This method is frequently used by business brokers to seek out business owners who desire to sell. A short coming of this method is that you are contacting owners who may not be actively for sale and therefore, their motivation to sell may not be very strong which often results in unreasonable prices and terms of sale. • Business Brokers can be a valuable resource of businesses for sale. Their full time job is to contact business owners and find those who are motivated to sell. Brokers have usually helped the business owner with determining a reasonable value for the business. Business brokers usually are aware of the financing resources and can help direct buyers to those sources best suited for specified business investments. The broker’s fee is typically paid by the seller and is usually based on the selling price. • Searching the Internet is the newest method for finding businesses for sale. Most business brokers have web sites where they provide a list of businesses they have for sale. There are several national web sites where both brokers and business owners list their businesses for sale. These sites include:,, and Businessesforsale. com. In addition to providing a list of businesses for sale, these sites also provide educational material regarding how to buy, sell, and value a business. Jeff is President of Advanced Business Brokers, Inc. 5500 Katy Fwy., Houston, TX 77007 713-401-9110, jdj@advancedbb. com


Write a Book (or Two) to Build Your Credibility By David T. Domzalski


s business owners, we all know how difficult it is to differentiate ourselves from competitors. It seems like there is always somebody who has more television and radio spots or who has a larger impact on the local community. However, there are many ways to set yourself and your business apart. One of those ways is by writing a book. As I have come to learn in my own business, writing a book (even if it’s self-published) gives you instant credibility. It lets people know that you are an expert in your field and have something legitimate and worthwhile to say. Furthermore, it gives you another way to get an interview with a member of the media and get your face in front of more potential customers. I started putting together my first book in July 2011. What I wanted to do was create a resource that aspiring entrepreneurs could use to learn about what it takes to start and grow a business. Using, I received roughly 100 responses to a query I posted asking people to submit their stories. Each entrepreneur

talked about the successes and failures they faced as they attempted to launch their respective companies. After reviewing each submission, I got the final number down to the best 28 entrepreneurs and small business owners. When I launched the book in November 2011, I already had a list of customers – the contributors themselves. On top of that, a few of them had a list of clients they wanted to send the book to. So, that led to another set of customers. What this opportunity did for me was nothing short of amazing. I reached out to radio hosts and producers and got interviews on their programs. I was able to expand my network and learn from many fantastic people. On top of that, it was through writing my first book that I am able to write this article for all of you. If this is something that interests you, then check out and Create Space allows you to offer your book in paperback form. With BookBaby, you get the ability to offer books for various e-readers, including


Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and the iBookstore for your iPad. And all of this can be done for just a few hundred dollars. There’s really no excuse for you to not give it a try or at least research it more. My experience with my company’s first book led me to put together two more books, both of which will be released in 2012. The contacts that I made with the first book I can use again to market the second and third. It’s just a matter of taking the time to learn how to do it all and connect with other people. In reality, it’s pretty simple. Taking the time to put a book together (even if you do not write it yourself) will open up plenty of doors. But, like anything else, you must put the time in. David T. Domzalski is the founder of Financial Bin, a media company focused on personal finance and entrepreneurial education for Generation Y. You can contact David through email or visit his website: FinancialBin. com and david@financialbin. com


Why Disability Income Insurance Could Be the Most Important Insurance You Don't Have


By Cyndi Barnett


re you going to live forever? Of course not. As someone once said, life is terminal – and no one gets out alive. Most of us understand that and have accepted it. We all want to leave this world with our financial affairs in good order. So we draft a will and an estate plan, and we purchase life insurance. But few of us consider disability insurance – the coverage that can help us maintain our income and quality of life while we are alive. Do you think you don’t need disability coverage? Think again. What are the chances that you will be disabled at some point in your life? Statistically, the chances are much higher than you might expect. • The Social Security Administration estimates that a 20yr old worker has a 3 in 10 chance of becoming disabled before reaching retirement age. (Soc Sec Disability Benefits, SSA Pub Number 05-10029, July 2011) • In 2009 alone, payments were made to 12.2 million people aged 18-64 on the basis of their own disability. (Fast Facts & Figures about Soc Sec, 2011, US Soc Sec Admin Office of Retirement & Disability Policy) As these statistics show, your chances of being disabled are great. Of course, statistics can

be misleading- you might never become disabled. But then again, how many of your friends and family members have been in car accidents? Disability can be caused by illness as well as injury. How many people do you know who have suffered a heart attack or stroke? A fate worse than death? In financial terms, maybe. Consider this… when you die, your income stops. But so do your expenses. If you are severely disabled and cannot work, your income stops too… but your expenses do not. In fact, due to the cost of medical treatment, your expenses may likely increase. About 25% of bankruptcies (and nearly 50% of foreclosures) occur after a serious injury or illness. Everyone who works and earns a living should consider purchasing disability income protection. Will the government take care of you? Many disabled people discover that they don’t qualify for state assistance. Others find that the amount or length of coverage available is not sufficient to support them or that their employer doesn’t offer Disability Insurance. Or they find out the hard way, that the time it takes to get federal disability support takes too long and the damage to the family and lifestyle is already done. It’s an all-too-common story. Whether or not you choose to rely on government assistance is up to

you, but I would recommend having a back-up plan. It’s time to start thinking about disability insurance. We’d all like to believe that we’ll never be disabled. But the reality is… it could happen to you. If it does, will your family be taken care of? Will you be prepared? Cyndi Barnett, GPS Wealth Management, a Certified Financial Planner™ and Certified Tax Specialist™. Email Cyndi@ to discuss your particular situation for Investments, Retirement, Insurance, Taxes, and Estate Planning. Registered Representative and Investment Advisor Representative. Securities are offered through Questar Capital (QCC), Member FINRA/SIPC.  Advisory Services offered through Questar Asset Management (QAM), A Registered Investment Advisor.  GPS  Wealth Management is independent of QCC and QAM.  This material was prepared by Emerald. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is not a solicitation or a recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such.



Turn Meaningless into Meaningful By Mike Muhney


uccessful business is the result of meaningful relationships. As a businessman, I’m always looking to capitalize on every possible opportunity, but when I consider the potential value that Facebook and LinkedIn are capable of providing from a business perspective, I am often met with disappointment by those who presumably want to “connect” with me. Why? Because the very purpose of these products is to facilitate more effective relationships. I know that this may sound heretical, but I don’t think that they do. In fact, I first thought about titling this article “LinkedIn’s Missing Link and the Fallacy of Facebook,” but I decided against it because I don’t have a cynical or negative view of those specific products. In fact, they are universally recognized success stories in today’s fiercely competitive market. Instead, I chose the title I did because at the core of all that we do, we are in business to establish meaningful relationships. The tool, it seems, has itself defined the relationship status but instead is merely the mechanism to help facilitate one. And even with that, more often than not it seems to get off to a bad start or effectively none at all. So what’s the problem? These social networking tools are designed to help people forge closer relationships, but users often fail to harness their true potential. I refer to this failure

as “LinkedIn’s missing link” and the “fallacy of Facebook” because these products, which are designed to facilitate more personal interaction, often start out in just the opposite manner. If your experience is anything like mine, you no doubt receive requests to connect on various social networking platforms. More often than not, I seem to receive the impersonal, default message, rather than a personal, customized message. It’s disappointing because at the very creation of the relationship, the other party fails to indicate a genuine interest in establishing a true connection. Isn’t this the most crucial time to personally and enthusiastically demonstrate a genuine interest? I think so. To not do so to me indicates a self-serving interest, which is not the basis upon which to even suppose that this relationship will ever have legs. Most of the time, living in today’s hyper-connected world, people seem to be taking less time to develop quality relationships but invest their time and energy seeking to increase their Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections, and Twitter followers. Presumably, all for the sake of appearing popular or indemand. Ask yourself this question: “Does my personal livelihood, and the success of my business depend more on the quantity or the quality of my connections?” If you are in the more-quality camp, then both sending as well as accepting these


invitations by the default settings is counterproductive. Invitations with generic messages serve the opposite purpose of your ultimate goal. It is a message to the other person fraught with high risk that it really is, well, a meaningless connection. Now if you are my competitor, I love the fact that your interest in connecting with others is only superficial. And that is how I hope you remain. You may appear as if you are building relationships and relationship value when in fact you are doing very little, if any, such thing. On the other hand, if you will make a little extra effort to use these social networking platforms to their full potential, then I’m going to have a harder time competing against you. Always remember, there is no traffic jam on the extra mile. Success demands that you go above and beyond what your competitor is doing. You can start by taking the time to convey your sincere interest in establishing meaningful connections by crafting personal invitations to connect. Distinguish yourself from your competition. Turn meaningless invitations to meaningful expressions of your sincere interest. Don’t expect anyone to respond to that generic invitation with great expectation. If you do, you just might be missing a valuable link. Mike Muhney is the CEO of VIPorbit Software and the co-creator of VIPorbit Mobile Relationship Manager app for iPhone and iPad.


Selling Has Changed Forever - In a Good Way! By Craig Klein / CEO,


eb 2.0, Sales 2.0, Social Media, etc. If you’re a sales person or manage sales people, you can see the tidal wave coming.

Even Selling Power magazine recently predicted an over 80% reduction in the sales profession’s ranks by 2020! Business owners can find this vision of the future perplexing. Sure, we can all see the trend toward automation of more and more of the buying process. However, in many businesses, when you look at how customers are identified and “closed” today, it’s difficult to imagine how any of today’s process can be automated. It’s so subjective. In the Energy Patch here in Houston, the universe of potential buyers can be very small which gives the seasoned sales pro the upper hand due to his or her relationships. In businesses where finding entirely new customers is where growth comes from, the process of finding and connecting with those new customers is inevitably the most time consuming and expensive. And of course, this is where most sales training and selling methodologies focus. Sales people are trained to dedicate time to prospecting through networking, cold calling, referrals, etc. Then the real art is qualifying prospects quickly and effectively so more time can be focused on the most valuable prospects with the highest likelihood of purchasing in the near term. But, for big ticket items and for highly complex products or services, the sales person continues to have a crucial role in understanding the customer’s needs, suggesting the appropriate solutions, establishing trust and credibility and differentiating from the competition. Most business owners know that the Internet can be an effective way to connect

with more prospects. But, imagine that you’re very successful at that! There is a tremendous risk for a traditional sales team… For instance, prospects that find your business by virtue of your Google ranking might become a tremendous source of new leads – more and more people calling in, emailing you or signing up for your free offer on the website. The risk is that these new leads can begin to distract your sales team from closing highly qualified opportunities. After all, although getting referrals or going to networking events can be far more time consuming, the benefit is that the sales person has control over which new contacts get added to the prospect list and warrant his/her valuable time. Anyone can find your website and contact your business. Not all of them are great prospects. And this is where selling has changed most dramatically. If your business generates new opportunities via the web, search, social media, email blasts, etc. even in small measure, there is even more pressure on the sales person to aggressively qualify opportunities early in the process. And this is probably the most difficult of selling skills. After all, people are people. Sales people like people. They have trouble saying no. They see opportunity in everyone. That’s why they’re salespeople and that’s why we love them! Unfortunately, while there are many experts in driving traffic to your site and generating leads, there are very few “experts” who truly understand the risks to a sales team posed by too many unqualified leads. You can find plenty of people that will take your hard earned cash and create great looking web presence and make sure people find you on the web. But few understand how to make sure the website itself and the processes you follow when a

lead comes in help your sales team qualify opportunities up front. The good news is that it’s not difficult or costly. The bad news is that it’s tough to outsource qualifying customers. If you’re stepping into Internet marketing, you’re going to have to take ownership of filtering leads. Your web guy probably won’t be familiar enough with the nuances of your business and your customers to get it right without a lot of input. An example of how your website can prequalify leads is by offering more than one “call to action”. Instead of “Request a Quote” being the only option, also offer “Download our Feature Comparison” where the latter may be a comparison of your products/services with the competition or a comparison of the various options within your product family. The result is that “less qualified” prospect will download the comparison and only those that are truly ready to start the buying process will request a quote. After all, creating a quote is one of the MOST time consuming thing your sales team can do generally. There are other techniques that can be employed on your site, in your social media efforts, in emails, even in your phone menu. What’s most important is that businesses with sales people take ownership of qualifying leads in an automated way. This let’s your sales team focus on where they add the most value – Building relationships of trust and maintaining them. Don’t let them spend all their time trying to find the right relationship. Craig is the founder of For more information visit www.SalesNexus. com



Do You Have Charisma?


By Pam Terry


hat exactly is charisma? It's an attraction factor, an identifiable magnetism. Charismatic people, like Gandhi, Clinton, Jesus, Martin Luther King and Churchill, all have lots of loyal, devoted followers to this day. Yet, each of these people is vastly different from each other. One common thread, however, is the ability to connect to others.

and important humanitarian issues. Jesus was freeing people from the bonds of the temple priests and showing them a new and much needed way. King was passionately galvanizing support long overdue for civil rights. Churchill's military brilliance and superb oratory skills were exactly what people needed during World War II. Each of these men was excellent and persuasive in their presentation skills.

Connecting to others in their cases is largely based on the context of the time. Whatever they were expounding on was what people were wanting and has stood the test of time. For Gandhi, he was standing up for people's much needed freedom. As President, Clinton represented the middle class who felt abandoned. President Clinton still has charisma and is even more popular with his Clinton Global Initiative which is addressing globally recognized

Connecting with people is the single most important element in having charisma. Without connection, there is no charisma. So, does that mean that charisma is simply connection. In a way, yes. But there are things that amplify that connection such as the X-factor. People with charisma are exceedingly attractive and looks aren't necessarily a part of it. It's what comes from within. They are confident without coming off arrogant. And, confidence is

highly attractive. But, it's more than that. In my research, I came across several characteristics that I believe are key for anyone to develop charisma: 1) Confidence - nothing is more attractive or compelling than confidence. When you are truly confident about something, you are unshakeable. Public speaking success is all about developing confidence. The more you truly know something, have experienced it, practiced it, lived it, the more confident you become. False confidence is an oxymoron. You are either confident or

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not (about something); there is no middle ground. Anyone can build confidence in any area and develop charisma.

that person feel that they were important to him. It is said that Clinton has that attraction factor with all people however.

2) Passion - true passion is an all consuming drive for something. It inspires you and when you are truly passionate about something, time seems to stand still. It's your true joy; your truth. It's something that you are authentically enthusiastic about. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek root of in - theos meaning God within. You could say that enthusiasm is a God thing which is powerful. "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm," a truth quoted from Ralph Waldo Emerson. Charisma and passion are understandably interlinked. People with charisma typically have strong emotions and cause them in others; yet they are not easily influenced.

4) Authenticity - Being authentic, saying what's true and being transparent about your objectives creates an atmosphere of honesty and vulnerability. People relate to vulnerability although we typically do not like to show it. When someone does show it, it engages us and endears us to them. When you are authentic, It shows that you are courageous and daring which is more of that attraction factor.

3) Eye Contact - President Clinton is said to have incredible eye contact where when you meet him, he makes you feel that you are the only person in the room. I read a story where women were lined up to meet him and as he shook each person's hand and spoke with them, his eye contact was sincere yet not invading. And, when he went to the next person, he would look back at the last person for one more glance, making

5) Be About Change - Charismatic leaders stand for something that has to do with being different or changing something. They are authentic, passionate and confident in their stand. Charismatic leaders are not about the status quo; they defy it. 6) Strong Speaker Skills - All charismatic leaders today and in history have/had strong oratory skills. They exude confidence, are well-prepared, persuasive, authentic and passionate. 7) Care About Making a Difference - Charismatic people don't try to be charismatic. They care about making a

difference; they want to matter and typically have a strong drive to help others. I think about Marilyn Monroe. I don't believe she wanted to make a difference so much as she wanted to matter. She is said to be one of the most charismatic people; but, probably she simply had a huge dose of the X-factor, the attraction factor. There is really no magic about charisma. It may be something some people are born with or born to have, but anyone can develop their own attraction factor and magnetism. Some people seem to have it more easily. It would be wildly interesting to be in a room with the most charismatic people of all time. Imagine being in a room with Martin Luther King, Gandhi, President Clinton, JFK, Mae West, Marilyn Monroe, Margaret Thatcher, Jesus, Churchill, the Dalai Lama and all the rest. Yet, we all have the potential to develop charisma by being our most authentic selves. Pam Terry is a speaker coach and communications trainer in Houston, Texas. She can be contacted at 832-276-4153 or Visit her blog and website at

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Tips for Starting a New Business


By Aaron Young


f you recently lost your job or have always dreamed about being your own boss, you may be getting ready to take matters into your own hands by starting your own business. Naturally, this can be a risky proposition, especially during these turbulent times, but also a really exciting one! In order to succeed and ensure your business

has staying power, just make sure to do your homework. Here are some practical suggestions to help you flourish: • Be realistic. Don't expect your business to be immediately successful. In fact, you should be prepared, both mentally and financially, for the worst-case scenario. Recent statistics from

the Small Business Administration (SBA) show that about one-third of new business start-ups fail to make it through two years and over onehalf fold after four years. Give your business time to grow and prosper. And, most importantly, ensure you have enough money saved to get you through the first few years of your business’ development.

       Discover how you can‌ Ward off potential lawsuits Dramatically slash your taxes Greatly reduce your chances of an IRS audit Gain a more credible business image Protect your assets and family for the future Since 1972 we’ve made it our business to make sure you get the most out of your small business. Reap the rewards. Savor your privileges. Join the ranks with the mega successful. Start now with a complimentary consultation from a Laughlin Associates business advisor today.



• Minimize your risk. Even if you're encouraged by the initial results, don't tie your fortunes completely to this undertaking. If you're still gainfully employed somewhere else, keep the job and operate the new venture as a sideline business. If you’ve taken a package from your current employer but want to launch a new career with a new business make sure you establish some barriers for asset protection first. You have a lot to lose and making sure you protect your personal assets should be a top priority in your business plan. • Choose the proper form of ownership. Depending on your circumstances, it may be best to operate the business as a C corporation, a partnership, an S corporation or a limited liability company (LLC). Make sure you discuss this choice with someone qualified, like a business consultant

or attorney. A CPA can also help you to assess which entity will be most advantageous for you regarding your yearly tax deductions as a business owner. • Carve out a niche. Your business should fulfill a specific need in the market that is difficult for chain stores or other broad-based businesses to meet. In other words, if you try to compete directly with the corporate giants, you're likely to lose. Remember, when you start a new venture you don't have to go it alone. After all, companies like mine, Laughlin Associates, were founded on the entrepreneurial spirit! Many of the experienced corporate consultants that work in my industry either own or have owned successful businesses in the past; they know the challenges you will face and they have those

much needed answers. Research what companies are out there and determine which is the best fit for your needs. When you discuss your new business with a consultant, make a checklist beforehand with your top questions to gain some insight using their expertise. Employ the support out there and leverage it to your advantage! After all, many of the mega successful business men and women that I’ve encountered in my life have much of the same advice: track down a mentor, find out everything they know about business, and recreate your own success using what you’ve learned! Aaron Young, CEO, Laughlin Associates, Inc.aaronyoung@ 1-800-648-0966



How to Select a Merchant Processing Service for Your Business


By Monica Russo


hether you’re looking to make a switch or picking one for the first time, choosing a merchant processor is a very important decision and can be vital to the overall success of your business. One of the most important ways to make your business thrive is to please your customers and, many times, that means offering a variety of payment methods. According to one estimate, businesses forfeit up to 80 percent of consumer impulse buys if they don't accept credit cards. But, before making the switch, or picking one for the first time, business owners need to select their merchant processing service with care. To date, in 2011, BBB has received more than 1,700 complaints against credit card merchant and processing services. Accepting credit cards gives customers options, whether it’s to charge a purchase and pay it off over time, or to use a debit card rather than write a check. By offering your customer options, you are opening the doors for increased revenue. However, before selecting your merchant processing service, it’s imperative that you do your research to avoid putting your business and its

success at risk. BBB recommends the following tips to consider when selecting a merchant processing service: Ask around. Like with any important business decision, always make sure to get at least three estimates and check the BBB Business Review® of the merchant processing service. It may also be worth asking other fellow business leaders what service they use to get a feel for its track record. Know where to turn. Make sure the merchant processing service has a solid support team. Can you contact them 24 hours a day? This is very important to business owners who are trying to process a card outside of the typical business hours. In any case, technical support is a must and it’s vital to your business’ success to make sure that the merchant processing service you choose has it. Have a clear understanding of fee structure. Generally speaking, a base rate of 2% on each bill is relatively good. Unfortunately, there is no one resource for comparing processing prices-and the fee structures are often confusing. Entrepreneurs don’t always realize that some


transactions may command higher rates. For example, fees on phone or online orders (where the customer isn’t usually present) might cost in the 5% to 8% range. Make processors spell those out before giving them your business. Beware of “too good to be true” rates. Processors must pay a typical fee of 1.65% to Visa and MasterCard for a normal credit card transaction. If a processor offers a super-low base rate of 1%, watch out. The company is probably making up for that loss by adding on other fees. Don’t forget about termination fees. A typical processing contract is one to three years long. Getting out early could cost you a few hundred dollars. Any more than that is probably too steep. Try them out. Don’t settle without a trial period. By making sure that the merchant processing service you choose has a 100 percent money-back guarantee before selecting them, you can save yourself a lifetime of hassle. See how the service tries out. Do they keep every promise that they made to you? For more business information you can trust, visit www.bbbhouston. org or give us a call at 713-8689500.




By Woodie Stephenson


ost lasting businesses are built on friendship,” says Todd Woodruff, franchise owner of Mr. Electric. “I’ve always strived to befriend the people I have business relationships with and the result has been a successful business.” A Master Electrician by trade, Todd had been doing electrical work in Houston since 1980, In 2001, he received an engineering degree from the University of Houston. Looking to explore business ownership, Todd purchased his own Mr. Electric franchise over two years ago because of the company’s proven business model and abundant resources. “We have a proven expertise in electrical repair work and lighting design, but most of all we specialize in customer service. We take extra care to find out what our customer’s needs are and we follow through with the job, satisfaction guaranteed.” Todd stresses that each electrical job is an opportunity to build a relationship with the customer and represent his company’s core values.

“Todd is very knowledgeable about homes and all things electrical. When I refer my clients to him, I am always confident that he will take the best care of their needs and repairs.” ----Don Jones, Broker, Keller Williams Realty Pearland

“We don’t just go in and take somebody’s money; we take the time to get to know our clients and make sure they are completely informed so there are no surprises. We make sure we are in agreement before we start work on a job, and we make sure our clients are completely satisfied before we leave the job.”

We take our client’s security seriously and we keep our promises when it comes to the level of service we offer.” Todd enjoys working with Realtors and Home Builders because he values their professional dedication and the symbiotic relationships they can build in providing exceptional service. “I sincerely enjoy working with Realtors, helping them get their homes ready to show in the market. We like to help them create a house that shines.”

Todd offers competitive advantages to Realtors by providing inspections to help bring a home up to date with the latest LED and fluorescent technology, green energy-saving fixtures, surge Todd assures his clients that they will always be protection, and products that help cooling and treated to professional and punctual service in a heating equipment to operate more efficiently. profession where customers are too often left at the mercy of unreliable contractors who sub out the hands-on work at the customer’s expense. “All of our electricians go through a rigorous screening procedure and background check. We care about who we work with and whom we send into our client’s homes and businesses.

To schedule a consultation, contact Todd Woodruff and Mr. Electric at (713) 823-1994, on the web at or Email us at Visit us on Facebook


Proven Management Expertise is Critical for SBA Loan Approvals By Bruce Hurta


he SBA 7(a) governmentguaranteed loan program is more popular than ever during these times of economic uncertainty. A constantly changing business environment has caused conventional bank lenders to exercise much more caution in granting loans to small businesses in America. Businesses can qualify for SBA loans with lower down payments, longer repayment terms, and easier qualifying criteria than are required for conventional bank loan applications. The SBA loan program, once considered the loan product of last resort, has become a much more popular vehicle for funding small business credit needs and for fueling the job growth so desperately needed in our economy at this time. What You Should Know About the Approval Process The SBA loan application process is probably one of the most consistent models for approving and declining small business applications, but SBA lenders are constantly challenged to make their credit approval processes most effective. Statistics produced by the U.S. Small Business Administration have proven that a primary reason for a business failure, and a loan default, is inadequate management experience. For that reason, it is of prime importance for the participating SBA lender to document the SBA loan file with evidence of business management expertise. Industry Experience Matters The ideal applicant is a business owner who has already produced consistent profits in the business applying for the loan, or in a previous related industry. The least qualified applicant is a person who has never owned or managed a business

before. For all the applicants who demonstrate a range of experience between these two extremes, it is incumbent upon the lender to document their investigation of the applicant’s educational background and practical experience to successfully manage the business borrowing the SBA loan funds. The body of proof may include one or more of the following ingredients which sway the loan decision in a positive manner: • If the primary owner/manager of the company does not have a track record of successful business management experience, a personal guarantor may be added to the loan, because his or her credentials display characteristics which are conducive to an effective advisory role in the business. • The loan application should focus upon the strengths of the primary owner/ manager for the borrowing entity which are relevant to the successful management of the borrowing entity • The borrower should provide a business plan and financial projections which are so thoroughly researched and documented that the lender is swayed toward a positive assessment of their management abilities. • A new business owner may structure a short term management contract with the seller to assure a smooth ownership transition. • The borrower may affiliate with a franchise to strengthen the management model for the business. In some cases, a proven franchise system prefers less experienced franchisees, because they are more trainable for the franchise management model. SBA lenders research the successes of a franchisor, and they may accept less experienced borrowers


for franchise businesses if the franchise has proven itself. Communication is Key Some industries require more specific industry experience to be successful than others. Once again, this is a judgment call for the lender, and not all lenders will reach the same conclusion. As you can see from the examples above, the SBA loan approval process provides the participating lenders with abundant flexibility to assess and approve SBA loan applications. The best small business borrower will communicate effectively with the SBA lender. They will keep providing additional information, until the lender has a well-documented file to justify the SBA loan approval. Borrowers who work with proven SBA lenders should be prepared to listen carefully for all possibilities in structuring a successful loan application. SBA 7(a) loans may be used for any legitimate small business expenditure, including but not limited to the following activities: • Business real estate purchase • Business real estate new construction, remodeling, or expansion • Business acquisition. • Partner buyout • Business equipment acquisition • Refinancing and debt consolidation • Business expansion and working capital For more information about SBA real estate loans for small businesses, please contact: Bruce Hurta is Business Lending Manager with Members Choice Credit Union. You can reach him at 281-754-1112 or by email For other educational articles on SBA loans, see Bruce Hurta’s blog at

Continued from page 7

Phil's former boss, Robert Marston of Robert Marston and Associates, who is still in business today, was one of his first mentors and he observed him running a very successful business in New York. Phil patterned what he does at Pierpont from what he learned from Marston and he learned long ago that what customers want is results. “They don't want a pretty press release; they want results, so we've always been focused on results,” remarked Morabito. Phil also counts Bill Spitz as a mentor. Bill ran a company called Big State Pest Control, the largest pest control company in the state at the time. Phil met Bill through the Silver Fox Advisors Program. Bill mentored Phil and Pierpont until Pierpont became an Inc. 500 Company in 2001. Phil learned a great deal about customer service and customer retention from him. “Customer service is something that all businesses need to work on continually because it will help them retain the gain,” remarked Phil. Mentorship has been important to the company’s success. Being an educator, Phil has always been a firm believer in continuing education. Recently he flew to Portland, Oregon for an annual meeting of like-minded CEOs from around the country. They've been friends and colleagues for years. They don't compete but they meet with people who have firms like Phil's that are in different parts of the country and they come together and learn. Phil has mentored a lot of people over the years and has spawned many entrepreneurs. Phil is on many boards in Houston including his children's school, John Paul II. He's on the College of Liberal Arts Board and he's involved with the School of Communications at University of Houston. He's a Trustee at the University of Charleston in West Virginia where he went to college. He's on business related boards including the Small Business Development Center Board and the Houston Technology Center Advisory Board. His charity work includes the Advisory Board of the San Jose Clinic.

That's a very unique proposition especially for somebody who wants to do something across the state of Texas. You have to look at all the different competitors and define what you can do that is clearly going to differentiate you from those competitors and provide things that they don't provide. Then you need to become the best at what you are doing and hammer it and stay focused on it."

Phil stated that he is very big on lead generation. “When you have your niche focused and your target audience focused and you hammer them consistently, then you will generate leads from that particular audience. You need to get a feel for whether or not you're getting a response from an individual tactic and determine whether a tactic will work or not.” Morabito believes that networking and building a database are crucial to business success and networking tools are readily available today that weren't available years ago like LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. In one click, you can invite someone to join your network. If you can be aggressive and use the social media tools that are available today, you will shine greatly. Another way that a small business can touch its target audience on a regular basis when they have a limited budget is to develop a reputation as a thought leader which is very important today. One should be able to speak on specific topics and do webinars and the internet plays a crucial role in small businesses' PR and advertising. The internet is a great equalizer; the more relevant your content can be to your audience, the higher you will appear on search engines. You have to schedule time for things like creating blog content and commit to it. Using some of these cost-effective tactics can make a big difference. An important key element is to stay in touch after meeting people, whether it is in person or on the web. Phil tells people, “This is the age of high tech but little high touch. Writing a personal note is a very nice thing. We have note cards and we encourage people to write notes and reach out and touch people. If you get yourself some real nice cards and a nice pen, your note is going to stand out when somebody gets it in the mail.”










Phil expounded, “Differentiation is a very key point in marketing. Everybody needs to think about differentiation, whatever it is. For me, the differentiation was that I worked on Madison Avenue and I had a New York background. In all my years, I might have run into less than two to three people who had the same background that I had here in the Southwest. Today, our key differentiating point is that we're the only ones that we know of with our background who have offices in all four major Texas cities.


Morabito stresses the importance of a small business staying focused, “Someone who makes a good hamburger needs to do what they do best. If you make a good hamburger, you need to make the best hamburger.” Phil believes small businesses can lose their focus by getting dragged into different areas that might not necessarily be the core of their expertise. Small businesses often try their hand at something new and if they experience some degree of success they keep Phil has an amazing creative team that works with him at Pierpont Communications. They doing it but they risk spreading their resources too recently purchased boxes of Girl Scout cookies to brand with their 25th anniversary info thin and diluting their efforts. They're better off and give to their clients and friends! being the best at a specific niche, whatever that specific niche is, and becoming the absolute best that they can and then expanding from there.





WITH CREATIVITY, YOU CAN DO ANYTHING When asked about the secret to his success in building his company, Phil answered, “Tenacity.” For many years, Pierpont's tagline was, "Creative, resourceful, fearless." He elaborated, “With creativity, you can do anything; you just have to be resourceful and figure out a way to make it work. Successful entrepreneurs run into obstacles all the time and they have to figure out how to overcome them. You're going to get turned down-- being turned down is okay. So tenacity, staying the course, and being willing to fight it out and be willing to take risk-a lot of people don't like to take risks.” Phil added, “I always joke around with people and say, ‘I'm a father of four. My kids are 17, 15, 13, and 11. You want an owner of the business that you're working for to have four kids because you know he's got to produce.”

KEY TAKE AWAY POINTS TO POSITION YOURSELF FOR SUCCESS: 1) Be creative. Think outside of the box. 2) Stay focused. Choose a tactic and then stay with it. 3) Make sure your messaging is correct and accurate. Create three or four key messages about who you are and what you do. 4) Differentiate and have a distinctive approach. You really don't want to look like the others. Be the best you can be in your field. 5) Be the go-to person for something. 6) Networking is crucial to build your database.

8) Stay in touch. Always follow up with some form of written communication. 9) Be actively involved with your community and charities. Do what you already do, just do it for them. 10) It takes time to build up momentum. Don't quit. Stay the course. 11) Never stop learning; then share it with others through mentoring. 12) Be tenacious, creative, resourceful, and fearless. Successful entrepreneurs run into obstacles all the time and they just have to figure out how to overcome them.

7) Touch your target audience on a regular basis.








As part of the Integrated Marketing Communications course Phil designed, he summarizes, “One doesn't get results immediately in marketing. It takes time. You have to be patient and build momentum. People take the pasta approach to marketing. They throw something against the wall. If it sticks, they do it again. That's not the way to do it and then they blame the marketing but what they should do is blame themselves because they don't give it a chance. I have multiple examples of things that I have stuck with that have paid off many, many times over but to get those good results, I had to stay the course and stay with it. You have to be focused on what you're doing that particular day but you also have to be focused on your longer term vision. There are going to be bumps in the road but if you stay to true to what you are focused on, you're going to be able to achieve what EBRATIN you set out to do.” Phil Morabito had a plan and EL stayed the course and the success in his design has made Pierpont Communications the SouthS OF LL west's largest integrated marketing firm. The EXCE C O PIERPOINT S best of part all, he did it from scratch! M MUNIC ATIO N Phil is seen here with a small representation of the many awards that he

and his team have garnered over the last 25 years. SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE JUNE 2012 | PG 29


Facebook Timeline: Not as Bad as Nickelback


By Aimee Woodall


f you have a personal Facebook page, you’ve probably noticed your friends gradually adopting the new timeline format. It’s possible that you’ve already made the switch yourself – and why not? It’s so pretty! But if you own a business page, your incorporation of the timeline is unavoidable. On March 31, the switch was made, so make sure you’ve taken the necessary steps. We know people love to complain about Facebook changes. It ranks third after “cancer” and “Nickelback” in an informal survey of our closest business colleagues. And, while this will require a little extra work in the beginning and a short adjustment period, we think this new format opens up a world of possibilities. Featured Content It’s safe to say that not all Facebook posts are created equal. Some need to make lasting impressions and impose a call to action, while others are less time-sensitive. The new timeline allows you to “pin”

posts at the top of your timeline or “star” updates, extending content or images across your entire page. Now your important messages won’t get sucked into the stream or overpowered by other content, creating a targeted focal point for your page. Cover Photos The most obvious difference from the traditional format is the new cover photo feature. It’s big and bold and makes old pages look sad and boring, like something from 1997. Select an artistic photo or design that celebrates your brand appropriately – but don’t break the rules. Cover photos should not include prices, purchase information, contact information or calls to action (“like,” “share” and “tell your friends” are out). And don’t even think about incentivizing people to upload your image. You will get slapped by the Facebook police, and they don’t mess around. Milestones Storytelling is an essential part of any marketing campaign – or at least we think it should be.


The new timeline makes sharing your brand’s story super easy. Now you have the opportunity to go back in time and add major events and milestones in the history of your company (or the world) and feature them in your timeline. So if you were too busy to record your first dollar earned or your company retreat in 2004, now is your chance. But be prepared – you’ll probably get a little misty-eyed reminiscing. Or was that just our social media team? It’s exciting to see how businesses have already begun to transform their pages and change their social media experience offerings. We’re excited about exploring the new ways to share great content with our network, and we love a good challenge. Take advantage of the opportunity to become an early adopter (not an avoider), and embrace change before your competition does. Aimee Woodall/Black Sheep Agency Contact her 832.971.7725 or email at a i m e e @ t h e b l a c k s h e e p a g e n c y. com

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Be Aware of Legal Issues in International Business By Erica A. Murray


lthough it is readily apparent that the globe is shrinking in terms of conducting business, the standards of law in many aspects are still worlds and worlds apart. Despite the influence of globalization, entrepreneurs and business owners must remain focused on the various legal systems that they will encounter when conducting business abroad. The legal systems in most countries have an extensive impact on the various aspects of the business activity that takes place for both domestic and foreign companies. For example, local business activities and cross-border relations are both affected by national laws; additionally international treaties and conventions will most likely govern transactions that are cross-border, but this should always be confirmed. With that stated, the day-to-day business operations may be challenged by legal regulations, which in-turn will challenge business growth. Entrepreneurs must acknowledge the existence and correlation between these two elements, which translate to a crucial impact on business growth and development for multinational enterprises (MNEs). Furthermore, these regulations can also impact the competitive business environment‌long term. The goal of a private enterprise for the most part is to create a consistent cash flow portal for the sustainability of the business. Thus, there are a few operational matters that business owners should be knowledgeable about when considering foreign legal environments and business. Consider the following as the 4 Steps to Alleviating Legal International Business Disasters: (1) Understand the complexity of developing an international business entity; (2) Endorsing contracts‌.Be careful what you sign; (3) Establish the right workforce; (4) Quitting can be a costly process in international business.

Understand the Complexity of Developing an International Business Starting an international business is sometimes not quite that simple. One must ensure that they are aware of the efforts that it will take to start up a business internationally. In some regards, it is a relatively easy process to start a business, but on another note, it can be difficult as well. To establish a business in Australia, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Jamaica, or Sweden, these countries require that you complete a three step company registration process at most. Australia is best at two days if your paperwork is in proper order. However, on the contrary, Chad, Columbia or Barbados may require twenty or more procedures. You must understand all of the legal aspects of starting a company in a foreign land before you leap! Endorsing Contracts‌.Be Careful What You Sign Erasing your signature from a contract in international business may not be an option for a multinational enterprise once executed and business owners must not be careless when endorsing an agreement. There are certain guidelines established by the United Nations Convention of Contracts for the sale of international goods, which forms the rules for the enforcement of contracts amongst the signers. Depending on the legal systems and structure, contracts may be required to be more precise and/or detail by other governing bodies. The more details, the better, as it removes ambiguity! Keep in mind, signing contracts domestically or internationally is not a union that should be entered into lightly or unadvisedly and proper due diligence will always prove to be less costly for the future. Most importantly, engage an attorney that specializes in international law and contracts for your protection. Establish the Right Workforce Hiring international workers abroad is not difficult for foreign investors, however, depending on the region, terminations can be a dire process for MNEs. It is imperative


that business owners and entrepreneurs investigate thoroughly the laws for hiring and firing in a foreign land! The quality of a worker is always better and far out weighs cheap labor! Cheap labor can backfire and the cost to terminate an employee could end up costing more than one bargained. Quality is the better choice! Quitting Can Be a Costly Process in International Business If by chance your business doesn't survive the international market for any reason, deciding to dissolve it can prove to be more stressful than establishing the company. Not every region embraces bankruptcy protection and these laws vary from country to country depending on the type of legal system that governs the territory. In some instances, these laws may fail to exist at all, leaving the business owner at a disadvantage, financially. Be certain to understand the laws surrounding dissolving a business, before you establish your international enterprise. Although there are legal risk involved in cross border expansions, international business is important because of the interdependence that it fosters for growth; however, business owners must be aware of the legal ramifications of indulging in cross-border expansions. MNEs should be careful to always have a cost effective exodus from a foreign market if necessary and this begins with understanding the rules of engagement before entering the game! Erica A. Murray is an International Business Consultant and is the owner of a boutique consulting firm, Erica A. Murray Consulting and may be reached at 800-580-2113 x 2200 or you may visit her websites ( or www.



The Color of It! By Jane Seaman AICI FLC


It may seem a little 'off the wall', that the color of your office can actually affect the way we do

business. But it's true: The colors we surround ourselves with while we work can greatly affect our mood and that in turn can affect the direction of our business. It's important we surround ourselves with colors that promote creativity, high energy and a touch of relaxation. So what colors can we use that will achieve this without becoming too distracting? Orange is often used in fitness centers because it evokes excitement, enthusiasm and energy. It would be beneficial to add some orange to your work area. No need to paint every wall bright orange, a pale orange or terracotta could be used as accent wall, or add some great orange accessories. Red is known to increase a room's energy level and stir up a little excitement. It is also recognized as a stimulant to conversation and collaboration and will bring people together. So adding some red to a room where synergy takes place is a great idea. Consider a deep red accent wall color, or red chairs. Pale colors don't tend to evoke the same feelings of creativity and energy, but they do help us stay focused and productive and add that touch of relaxation. Blues and greens promote meditation, tranquility, and peace

and can actually slow us down a little. Brown is often interpreted as 'soothing' and evokes a feeling of security, credibility and reassurance. There are some colors to avoid using too much of: Yellow, as this has been identified to be frustrating to work in. Purple has a tendency to stir up romantic feelings. Bright greens, reds, pinks and turquoise are great high energy colors but if used too much it has been recognized that these colors can be distracting and overwhelming. Whatever colors you decide on, it is important that they create a comfortable and revitalizing place that inspires you first and foremost. If you would like to know more about the Image Consulting services I provide, then please visit me at

Continued from page 8

• Now When you advertise in the newspaper, remember to use the AIDA formula for best results. A = Attention Short vision-creating words that will entice the reader to go further. I = Interest Create interest in the next several words to motivate them to read the rest of the ad. D = Desire Now that you have their attention you have to deliver a benefit to create a need for them to own this property. Choose a major feature of the property for building desire. “The perfect family room for gatherings by the fireplace on a cool night.” A = Action

Now that you have the reader’s attention you must ask them to move or take action on their feelings. “Call Tina today.” “Easy terms available, call now!” To maximize results from your property ads, follow these 10 Tips to Effective Advertising: Collect as much information as you can about the property. Analyze the property to be advertised.

Never exaggerate. Avoid over used words like: beautiful, spacious, immaculate, nice, lovely. They are the 5 most over used words in real estate advertising. Never use industry jargon or abbreviations. Always tell the truth. The headline should be attention getting and eye-catching. “What’s in it for me?” Write the ad as though you were having a face to face conversation with the buyer.

Determine the target audience for the ad. Don’t aim your ad for everyone. Who is the buyer prospect for this house or farm or office building?

Close with a call to action. “Call Henry today”

Remember people buy benefits not features. How will the buyer benefit from this house?

Keep a copy of all your ads and make notes as to which ones work for you better than others do. Which one inspired the buyer to pick up the phone and call? This will help in the future for all of your ad writing.

Every ad should have the location, price and the indication of size of the house. In a survey of what is most important to buyers, 99% stated they wanted to know the location of the property, 75% wanted to know the price and 66% of them wanted to know number of rooms in the house.


After writing the ad review it and ask yourself, “does it inspire enthusiasm?”

Rita Santamaria is the owner of Champions School of Real Estate. For more information

Making Connections Count


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olor! it plays a vitally important role in the world we live in. It can sway the way we think, change our actions, and cause reactions. It can raise our blood pressure, or suppress our appetite. Many people think color is just a matter of how things look, it's often dismissed as being purely cosmetic. The truth is, color is light. The source of life itself and our instinctive, unconscious response to it is a vital element in our survival. As a commanding form of communication, color is irreplaceable. Red means 'stop' and green means 'go'. Traffic lights send the same message all over the world. Likewise the colors used for a product, web site, business card, or logo cause powerful reactions. On a wider level, the colors of our environment affect our behavior and mood. When yellow daffodils and bluebells appear, we immediately begin to feel livelier. When grey skies and rain surround us we instinctively draw in and tend to hibernate. The colors of the interior environment where we live and work affects us in just the same way as those in the natural world does. Science has long recognized the link between color, mood and behavior.

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Getting Social with Email Marketing


Easy Ways to Build Stronger Customer Relationships with Social Media and Email Marketing By Amy Olivieri, Regional Development Director, Constant Contact


mail is one of the best ways to get your message heard, and social media is one of the best ways to get that message to spread. Small businesses often struggle trying to choose one form of marketing over the other because of lack of resources or time constraints, but what they may not realize is that it’s not an “either/ or” proposition: success comes from a combination of email marketing and social media. When businesses leverage both together, they really start to increase visibility and reach new customers. Following are tips to help you integrate email and social media marketing into one unified communications strategy:

repurpose newsletter content. If you archive emails or post newsletter content to your website, you can use your subject line or headline as the text for your tweet or Facebook post, with a link to the original piece. If your newsletter contains multiple articles, break each issue into chunks and share one piece daily on social media. Almost effortlessly, you have multiple days' worth of content to feed your social channels. Social Media to Email Social media can also be used to generate content for your newsletter.

If customers ask questions on a social media site (or you see a question whose answer would benefit your audience) use them and your answers as the basis for newsletter articles. Also watch for industry-related trends on your social media sites and comment on them in your newsletter. By implementing even just a few of the simple tactics outlined above, you’ll reap the rewards of having an integrated marketing strategy. Amy Olivieri is Regional Development Director at Constant Contact

Announce Your Presence After you set up your social media accounts, let people know you're there, and that your readers should join you there, too. Connect your Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn accounts, inserting the appropriate logos, so all readers have to do is click and find you (and hopefully join your networks). Put similar links in your email signature, which makes it easy for people to find and connect with you. Email to Social Media Adding social media to your marketing mix does not have to mean more work. You can— and should— SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE JUNE 2012 | PG 38


Franchising - Good for America!


By Len Faucher


hole industries in mass moved their manufacturing to China, raising the question as to the benefits of free trade. CEO's in every sector continue to earn huge salaries and bonuses while multinational corporations earn large profits and, instead of hiring, increase their cash positions and invest abroad. In pursuing a second term President Obama pledges the creation of new quality jobs. I wonder how can this happen unless there is a shift in the attitude of all those involved towards the need to significantly support small business. We are told that if we do not learn from history we are doomed to repeat it. In the 1990’s I made investment presentations to Highland Capital and to the MIT Sloan School of Management. Using the examples of True Value and Ace Hardware in the Hardware industry I detailed a bright picture of franchising and compared them to the inefficient box stores of Home Depot and Lowes. While the investors seemed to like my business plan, I am now sure that the business school communities ignored the modest profit picture I had projected in favor of much richer profits of business concepts such as the Staples model. The Staples management team and Romney’s Bain Capital all emerged from the Harvard Business School mindset, which chose to expand new companies exclusively through

IPO’s. As the result, the office products industry today consists of only three large superstores that control 92% of the retail industry. While the world is aware that the company founders and stockholders have earned billions of dollars as the result of their IPO, they also put over 12,000 smaller independent store owners out of business. The superstores put the US office products manufacturers out of business in favor of importing their Chinese made inventory costing less than a tenth of what they paid to U.S. Manufacturers on the shelves of their stores. Unlike Wal-Mart and other giant retailers, the cost savings never were passed to the customers. Staples and the other box stores lined their stockholders pockets with huge profits and used every means possible to destroy viable competition. This is why today there are no office products franchises in the industry. The office supply industry is just one example of a tidal wave of businesses that were moved off shore...all for the benefit of "Free Trade". The franchising business model in the U.S., for many industries, provides independent owner support, group purchasing power, coop advertising, and entrepreneurship by focused, energetic new business owners. As small business leaders, they become sponsors of local youth and non-profit organizations, and


an integral part of helping their communities. Instead of creating new levels of wealthy jet set billionaires, one now running for President, franchising the office products industry would have provided better pay to employees and passed on more savings to customers from the low cost of cheaper products made in China. It may not be too late to change this landscape, however, as Sears is one example of a corporation that recognizes the importance of franchising. Recently having created a separate retail franchise, they have created a powerfully new model for franchising in which franchise owners own and operate their own Sears stores while Sears supports and maintains their inventory. Entrepreneurs should also evaluate the cash potential of Superstores like Staples. Hopefully, they will identify the box store inefficiency and recognize the huge profit margin of easy to obtain consumer products. Replacing low paid and unmotivated employees with store owners, entrepreneurs of the future will see the opportunity for a new and better alternative in the circle of retailing….a franchise operation. Leonard Faucher is Sr. Managing Partner for Franchise Innovators International. Contact him at 832886-2757 or email him at lfaucher@ www.



By Woodie Stephenson

StarTex Cypress Team


tarTex Title President Sid Terry is proud of the camaraderie, experience and professionalism his partners at the Cypress office have shown as the office has grown in its community. “I love my employees and I cannot give them enough praise,” Terry says. “The leadership team of Elise Adam Buck and Tom Hartman is top-notch. They are people who have not only lived in the Cypress community, but come from generations of family who have worked in the title business. Elise and Tom have grown up in this business, so they understand what it takes to provide excellent service and clearly enjoy doing what they do.” With an independently-owned company, excellent compensation programs, state-of-the-art technology and strong underwriting support from Stewart and Old Republic Title Companies, Terry feels that his Cypress office is positioned to provide the best service. “We deal with the largest financial transactions most people will experience in their lifetimes and we understand that it’s a very stressful time. It’s our job, as a neutral party, to make sure our clients understand everything they are signing. “When you pick up the phone and call our office, you won’t be speaking with somebody in a foreign country or another state you’ll be talking to members of your community who understand your transaction and your needs.

Our status as a locally-owned company gives us many advantages, among them responsiveness and an ability to make decisions on the spot in best interest of our clients. We also have the unique advantage of having more than one underwriter; we continually search out the best underwriters to provide our clients with the best service and greatest financial strength.”

“The team at StarTex Cypress has been invaluable to my clients and business. They are always courteous, professional, extremely personable, and they treat my clients and co-opting agents with the greatest respect.” ----Rhonda Williford, RE/MAX Realty Center Vice President Tom Hartman reiterates Terry’s message of service and locality. “What sets our office apart from others in our field is our attention to detail and our mutual respect for one another coupled with a drive to please our customers first. Our processing is done in our office, by our people, and with an attention to detail that surpasses the competition.”

Mangers and title examiners who have been in their respective roles an average of 15 to 30 years. Branch Manager and Escrow Officer Elise Adam Buck says, “Generations upon generations in the real estate industry are what allow Tom and I to have such a wonderful office with such loyal clients. We feel that StarTex is a driving force in the title industry because of its hometown roots very similar to those of our own.” Faith Julian, Business Development for the Cypress office takes much pride in her office as well, citing the overall philosophy of a “commitment to excellence” as being what sets her office apart from the competition. Faith also feels that the residents of the Cypress area truly appreciate and have a respect for the commitment which StarTex has to its community. For more information on StarTex Cypress and their services: (281) 373-0878 or

A company with local ties and strong family values, StarTex Title Company prides itself on a well tenured staff of Escrow Officers, Branch SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE JUNE 2012 | PG 41


A Mentor Will Tell You Like It Is By Ron Consolino


ost small business owners should have mentors. But what exactly is a mentor and where do you

product or service that will reach your potential customers. They may suggest some record keeping procedures to reduce the chaos in your office and improve the overall productivity of your business.

A mentor is someone whose hindsight can become your foresight. Mentors have experienced many of the things you are or will be going through or have witnessed others struggle through those experiences. So, they can guide you on the best path forward to business success.

Mentors are particularly useful to those just starting out. But they are also useful to business owners who are more experienced and just need to bounce ideas off someone whose judgment they respect.

find them?

They can be objective when advising you. They will tell you what you are doing right and, more importantly, what you are doing wrong or shouldn’t be doing at all. They can be supportive and encouraging at the right time. When you may be wondering if your business can succeed, they will hopefully have the judgment to recognize your potential and give you that little extra boost to reach your goals. Mentors may suggest that extra substance to your business plan to make it more appealing to the bank lending officer. They may give you some other ideas for promoting your

Mentors can be anyone you trust. They can be friends or members of your family – but, be sure that relatives or friends are telling you what you need to hear and not just what you want to hear. A mentor may be your CPA, your banker, or anyone else who has accomplished goals that might be similar to yours or have expertise needed that you don’t have. You can find mentors at SCORE which is a nonprofit association that provides free and confidential small business mentoring and counseling. And good mentors will arrange other advisors who may have more experience or expertise in a particular subject than they have. No one person knows all the answers. You may need a mentor for


marketing and another for finance and cash flow management. Find someone who is open to providing time and energy to help you achieve your goals; someone whom you are willing to listen to even when you might not want to. No matter how pressured your time is in running your business, you need to carve out time to meet with your mentors and consider their suggestions. It’s just like exercise— you’ll be reluctant to get started, but you’ll be glad that you did it and will feel energized when you finish. So, if you are on the entrepreneurial journey and you don't currently have a mentor, find one and see your entrepreneurial dreams come true! Ron Consolino is a business counselor for SCORE, a non-profit association whose volunteers help start small businesses and reach new levels of success in existing businesses. Send questions or volunteer enquiries to , call 713-773-6565, or visit www.


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Integrated Communications in Texas | Pierpont Communications, Inc. Pierpont Communications knows how to influence the way people think about you and your brand — and this helps you grow your business. With offices in Houston, Austin, Dallas and San Antonio, Pierpont understands how businesses communicate in the Texas market.

Find out how Pierpont can help your business grow and flourish. Visit for more information.

Pierpont Communications, Inc. Houston Office 1800 West Loop South, Suite 800 Houston, Texas 77027 Phone: 713 627-2223 Fax: 713 627-2224

Pierpont Communications, Inc. | Public Relations At Pierpont, we know that being a market leader isn't about having the most press releases, or the most colorful brochures.

Pierpont Communications, Inc. | Public Affairs Public Affairs—Civic Engagement—Community Relations—whichever term you prefer, the simple truth is that people do business with companies they know and like.

Pierpont Communications, Inc. | Marketing Pierpont Communications offers a variety of marketing and corporate communications services to companies in the technology, health care, ...

Pierpont Communications, Inc. | Investor Relations Pierpont Investor Relations offers a comprehensive portfolio of services designed to provide public companies and those engaged in the IPO process... SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE JUNE 2012 | PG 44


E .R . F. xcitement


un Because you deserve it. Look what’s waiting for you! Imagine dog sledding on top of a glacier, swimming with dolphins or reaching places that very few get to see. This is the new style of cruising and somewhere out there is a ship with your name on it. And the best part is you pack and unpack once!

Come one, come all We also specialize in land and tour vacations as well as group travel. Whether it’s a group for seniors, church, fraternal, school, alumni, hobbyists, or just a bunch of friends or family getting together, you could not ask for a more perfect way to vacation. We can also plan great fund-raising cruises for churches, schools, and nonprofit organizations. We take care of it all for you! Plus, you can even cruise for free. Put together a group and you could be eligible for a FREE CRUISE!

Go where you want to go at unbeatable prices! Caribbean • Hawaii • Alaska • Europe • South America Far East • South Pacific • New England / Canada Cruise Planners is an American Express Travel Services Representative agency that specializes in cruise, land and tour vacations. As a result,we have access to AMEX Mariner Club benefits and more. We have achieved “Top Producer” status with virtually every cruise line. This allows us to offer the best prices available along with professional personalized service. Cruise Planners is licensed, bonded and insured, and is a member of the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), National Association of Cruise Oriented Agencies (NACOA) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB).

We plan your vacation as if it’s our own. Quality Hospitality Travel 281.257.2800 | 855.257.2800 SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE JUNE 2012 | PG 46











Advertiser’s Index Advanced Business Brokers.........................................32

Laughlin Associates.......................................................22

Better Business Bureau....................................................1

Matt Brown/Encompass Lending Profile.......................4

CHI.....................................................Inside Back Cover

Northwest Mutual...........................................................33

Champions School of Real Estate................................8

Murphy & Vickers............................................................38

Churchill Mortgage...............................Inside Front Cover

Pam Terry........................................................................20

Courthouse Direct.........................................................48

Pierpont Communications..............................................44

Derek Taylor/Creek City Mortgage Profile.......................15

Quality Hospitality Travel dba Cruise Planners...............46

Eric Kleiman Photography.............................................23

RAC Conference Center.................................................27

Fidelity National Title.......................................Back Cover

SBT Advertising..............................................................43

Fiterman Sports..............................................................39

StarTex Title Profile..........................................................41

G Ernest Designs...........................................................13


GPS Wealth Mgmt..........................................................45

Todd Woodfruff/Mr. Electric...........................................25

Gateway Credit...............................................................21

WBEA Expo 2012..........................................................37

HCC/Goldman Sachs......................................................2

Westpark Communications............................................31



Fidelity National Title



Fidelity National Title – Galleria

“Exceeding Everyone’s Expectations with a Big Smile!”

“The moment I first walked in, I felt like I had just returned home to my family after being gone for awhile. They immediately acknowledged my arrival with a big hello and smiles on their faces. They introduced me to each of their staff and made me feel like I was important and that my clients were equally important. I love that they are so warm and friendly and that they are so detailed in every little thing they do...the snacks, the warm cookies, the ambiance. They did everything they possibly could to accommodate me and my clients achieve a stress-free transaction.” ----Yvonne Walker, Realtor® for RE/MAX Space Center

For more information, contact Kelli Owens by phone at 713-966-4050 or by email at 3005 W. Loop South, Suite 250, Houston, Texas 77027 Become a fan of their FaceBook Community Page at!/pages/Fidelity-National-Title/210076055718002

Small Business Today Magazine - June 2012 Edition  

Small Business Today Magazine - June 2012 Edition