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2/21/12 9:47 AM

SBT Houston Staff AUGUST 2012




Patience & Persistence Patience & Persistence If starting up or growing an existing small business was easy, then any one would do so. If you ask any of our past cover honorees including our current cover honoree, Kathie Edwards, if their road to success in their business was easy and without major challenges, I assure you they would say that they had more than their share of major challenges along the way. For many entrepreneurs, before starting their business they shared their dream with friends and family and did not always receive the words of encouragement that they were seeking. You see, quite often there are people around you who want to protect you from failure and/or want you to be doomed to their level of mediocrity especially when they haven't achieved their own goals or dreams. Many of the successful Realtors® (over 125 so far) and entrepreneurs that I have interviewed over the last decade shared that if they believed in something strong enough and gave it a 110% effort, then success would be theirs. So, if your plans are to start your own business and/or to “grow” your existing small business, then don’t listen to the naysayers. For me, it was about not listening to that little voice in my head that kept telling me to quit. Almost every endeavor I embarked upon (apartment leasing and marketing, residential real estate, public speaking, advertising sales, and publishing), that little voice within would tell me to quit after having a few disappointments. Luckily, there was someone there each time to talk me out of quitting. Those were the people who believed in me when I did not believe in myself and saw something that I did not see in myself. So, surround yourself with these kinds of people who are in your life; have patience; be persistent; and don’t give up. Your success is always proportionate to your efforts. Westpark Communications is a 24-Hour/7 Day a Week, Customer Service Call Center that offers a live telephone answering service to individuals and corporations both small and large. For this month’s cover honoree, Kathie Edwards of Westpark Communications, it was entering into her mom’s business (founded it 1968) and growing it by the establishment of systems, identifying new clientele, and harnessing technology. Sometimes, for an entrepreneur, working IN your business does not always afford you the opportunity to work ON your business. Kathie believes that a big mistake a lot of entrepreneurs make is that they don't think about all the different pieces of a business and offers this piece of advice in her “Capture” page (on Page 29 in this issue)… “You can't run a business being totally in the business. You do have to think about how you can hire someone to take over so that you can see the business and see where the holes are and work on the business instead of in it.” Great advice from our first woman cover honoree, wouldn't you agree? Good Reading, Good Sales, and Success to You, Steve Levine Publisher


President John Cruise Executive Publisher Steve Levine Editor/Creative Director Barbara Davis-Levine Business Development/PR Jenna Devers Bill Huff Bill Krull Donna K. Rooney Alvin Terry Graphic Design Vanessa Vara Photographers Eric Kleiman Contributing Writers Errol Allen Don Brown Barbara Davis David T. Domzalski Erich Fruchtnicht Ruben Gonzalez Steven Kay Craig Klein Hank Moore Mike Muhney Amy Olivieri Rita Santamaria Jane Seaman Chairidee Smith Sarma Taylor Alvin Terry Aimee Woodall Aaron Young Jack Warkenthien 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 Rita Santamaria Allen Shapiro Pam Terry Jack Warkenthien Doug Winnie R.D. Yoder Aaron Young Phone: 832-460-2020 E-Mail: Steve.Levine@SBTMagazine.net Or Write: Small Business Today 5380 West 34th Street, Ste 230 Houston, TX 77092 See us on the web at www.SBTMagazine.net






Clay Bohannan

IN THIS ISSUE HOA's, Their Operations and Levels of Power 8 Venture Capitalists 10


Hosting: Connecting All the Dots 11 What Makes a Good Media Call to Action? 12 Conducting Institutional Reviews 14 Pros & Cons of Buying & Leasing Your Office 16

Kathie Edwards / Westpark Communications


Clay Bohannan - Encompass Lending Group An Experienced Leader In It for the "Long Haul"

Hiring Locally and Operating Locally but Handling Businesses From Around the World

Would you or your company like to be profiled in our next issue? TODD WOODRUFF—



Go For the Gold: What's Holding You Back? 17

By Woodie Stephenson

Bridging the Gap Between Perception and Reality 18 Want to Sell More...Find Your Persona! 19 How to Shop on a Budget 20 Should You Choose a Friend to Be Your Business Partner 22 The Priority Box: How to Get What You Want Out of Work and Life 26 Signing On: Getting the Best Agency for Your Buck 30 Leadership According to Ms. Mogul™ 31 Let Go and Stand In Faith 32 5 Keys to Customer Retention 36 You Sell. They Sell. We All Sell. 38 A Business Advisor Can Make the Difference 40


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 www.houstonmidtown.mrelectric.com or Email us at todd.woodruff@mail.mrelectric.com Visit us on Facebook www.facebook.com/pages/Mr-Electric-of-Houston-Midtown/172985366047439

For more information contact Steve Levine at: 832-460-2020

Steve Bertram - Oasis Bank

Going the Extreme Mile Guiding Foreign Nationals with Trust and Hospitality




continued on page 28


HOA's, Their Operations and Levels of Power


By Rita Santamaria


nder the Texas Property Code 209.002(7) a homeowners association is defined as an incorporated or unincorporated association that (A) is designated as the representative of the owners of property in a residential subdivision; (B) has a membership primarily consisting of owners of the property covered by the dedicatory instrument for the residential subdivision and (C) manages or regulates the residential subdivision for the benefit of the owners of property in the residential subdivision. The primary purpose is to help protect the values of the neighborhood within the subdivision by enforcing the rules and restrictions for the subdivision. HOA’s set and collect maintenance fees for the upkeep of the neighborhood. These fees pay for landscaping, maintaining and building recreational facilities, sport fields, parks, streets, sidewalks and just about anything in a subdivision except the house itself. However, the HOA can dictate the size, style, construction, maintenance and use of the property if the restrictions allow for such specific details. When HOA’s take their duties seriously by enforcing the restrictions the overall appearance of the neighborhood should increase each property’s value and the overall value of the subdivision. The Texas Property Code allows an HOA to load up its Dedicatory Instrument with whatever rules it deems appropriate. The buyer will receive a copy of the Deed Restrictions and other Restrictions pertaining to their subdivision’s HOA when they go to their property closing. The HOA’s operate as a government entity where it has enforcing capabilities. This particular installment of power within the HOA has very often irritated homeowners to the point of taking issues to legislation, or the courts to change, do away with some of the rules and restrictions placed on property owners in a subdivision. The 2011 Legislative Session made quite a few changes to the power of the HOA’s. House Bill 2761 made law that all HOA’s must establish written policies for requesting,

producing, charging copies of HOA records, as well as policies for record maintenance and retention. HOA’s may not hide them, or protect them from disclosure. A homeowner who has requested records from the HOA may sue in JP Court with the additional help of being reimbursed for any attorney fees if he wins the case. There must be annual meetings open to their members of the subdivision they represent. If the HOA does not do this, a committee may call a special meeting to elect new directors. HOA’s must open their board meetings to members and provide members with sufficient notice of the meetings. It also defines “what is a board meeting”, and allows for electronic meetings. It also defines under what circumstances an HOA may use “executive session” to exclude members

from discussion. Senate Bill 472 provides that an HOA declaration may be amended by a vote of 67% of the association’s members. House Bill 1821 states that HOA’s must record their governing documents in the real property records of the county were they are residing as an HOA. “Get it recorded or it’s useless” is the outcome of this change. If the HOA maintains a website the dedicatory instruments, restrictions and rules, must be available online. These above Bills also made provisions to change how fees are applied when coming from a delinquent property owner. In the past the HOA might apply the partial payment to attorney fees while the delinquent HOA fees continued to remain delinquent. The


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Bill amended Chapter 209 of the Property Code to provide an order of application for payment by delinquent homeowners. And House Bill 1228 protects homeowners from obnoxious collections practices such as contingency fees and HOA’s can no longer assign assessment claims, except for loan collateral. A number of bills were passed that prevent Texas HOA’s from prohibiting or attempting to prohibit certain conduct or activity on the part of the homeowner. These include flying certain flags (U.S., Texas, military branches), displaying political signs, installing rain harvesting systems, displaying religious insignia on the front door, installing certain kinds of roofing shingles that are rain, hurricane, wind resistant, or installing solar panels. Under the new bills an HOA can no longer outright prohibit the above; they can under certain circumstances regulate the conduct of such. House Bill 2761 allows for any member to run for a seat on an HOA’s Board of Directors. At the same time, HOA’s may not re-appoint members whose terms have expired; instead, those board members would have to run for re-election. These provisions overturn term limits, and spouses


being prohibited from serving at the same time.

until the resale certificate is prepared and delivered to the purchaser.

Under House Bill 1228 the members of an HOA can remove the Associations right or power of foreclosure. This is a huge change. Owners holding at least 10% of all voting interest can petition the association and call for a vote. They need a vote of at least 67% to pass. Equally significant is a procedural change for foreclosures by HOA’s and effectively doing away with nonjudicial foreclosures. Now, HOA’s must use “expedited foreclosure” procedures to obtain a court order before they may conduct a foreclosure sale – unless the homeowner waives this right. The Texas Supreme Court is expected to have completion of procedures which will be similar to the Home Equity Loan liens procedures. HOA must give 60 day notice to cure the delinquent recorded liens on the lot. HB 1127 provides protection from active duty military personnel by requiring notification of certain rights under federal law.

There is also a change to the TREC Addendum for Property Subject to Mandatory Membership in a Property Owners’ Association. The new addendum allows the parties to decide if the buyer is going to obtain the Subdivision Information or whether the seller will deliver it, as has been the historical method of delivery. The buyer has 3 days after receipt of the addendum to terminate the written offer to purchase. It was a 7 day window to terminate. And, there is now a place for the parties to opt out of requiring the Subdivision Information.

Under HB 1821 HOA’s have 10 days from the date of request to issue the resale certificate. Resale certificates are good for a maximum of 60 days. The HOA can charge the purchaser but cannot process the fee

HOA’s rights, rules and authority are always important to the buyer and especially on move-in when they are now the homeowner in the subdivision. The feeling of “having no control over one’s private property” has been limited by the changes in Texas law. Rita Santamaria is the owner of Champions School of Real Estate and has campuses in Houston, Dallas, Austin, San Antonio, Statewide through Champion’s Online Campus and soon to be opening in Ft. Worth. For more information www. ChampionsSchool.com; find us on facebook



Venture Capitalists


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


s Investment Bankers they exist with the sole purpose of funding projects that may bring a return for their investors. They actively seek new startups on a daily basis. They can fill the void between sources of funds that might not be readily available from your local Bank. They believe in the entrepreneurial spirit and the passion that drives the businesses of the future. They embrace the leaders of tomorrow hoping that they will be responsible for launching that next success story that brings added value and changes lives. Investors in Venture Capital firms are typically from Pension Funds, Financial Firms, Insurance Companies, University Endowment Funds, Corporations and Private Individuals. They usually expect a return between 25 to 35 percent per year over the life of the loan. Venture Capitalist possess a wide latitude of understanding. They must like the “story”, the Management Team (Partners) with confidence. High quality ideas that generate high profits will always be their target focus. The “Markets” that the project focusses on must be able to show returns in the near term. They believe in good industries that are competitive. They have investment profiles established in order to fund

the deal. Each deal is structured individually. They do not invest in low growth markets. They identify with competent management, for this is the key to their success. They are interested in projects that are on the cutting edge in their prospective industries or projects that bring totally innovations that they can take to the market first or just in time to reap the early profits that may be there. The investors that place money into the fund will be industry specific. The amount of direct investment into the fund may range from $1,000,000.00 to $20,000,000.00 or more depending upon the industry, the innovation and the size of the target market. Their commissions range from 6–8 percent of the total amount of the fund expended. Venture Capitalist firms receives between 2-3 percent for its annual operating budget of the pools total capital as a management fee. Sometimes they may partner or group together to diversify portfolios to spread the risk and the dollars. At times they like to get others involved in • • • •

Assessing the risks Decreasing the workload Assisting in doing Due Diligence Managing the deal

This adds credibility to the deal for future Investors. How do they spend their time for the fees that they earn? Below is an example of the activities


that take place on a daily basis. • Soliciting Business 10% • Selecting Opportunities 5% • Analyzing Business Plans 5% • Negotiating Instruments 5% • Servicing as Directors and Monitors 25% • Acting as Consultants 15% • Recruiting Management 20% • Assisting with outside Relationships 10% • Exiting 5% Their incentive is to manage as much money as possible. Sometimes they do not have enough time to nurture and advise. At times they may have a virtual pool of CEO’s to add value and effectiveness to their arsenal. There are many upsides for the Entrepreneurs. • Not using your own money • Management Teams that come from Corporations or Universities Realizing that there is a lot of the heavy lifting that comes with the territory, it’s good to know that with the right minds collaborating together, true dreams can be realized. You can contact Alvin E. Terry, MBA Directly at 713-392-9107 or by email at alvin.terry@rocketmail.com www.dynamicbusinessbuilders.biz



Hosting: Connecting All the Dots By Erich Fruchtnicht


f you have been following this series, then you have seen the 30,000 foot view of a website's development from concept to near completion. The last hurdle to clear before launch is selecting and purchasing a hosting account on which to install and display your site. The following points are features that differ depending on hosting providers and are good things to consider when planning a hosting purchase: • • • • • • • •

percentage uptime server backups and redundancy or data centers included server storage included bandwidth included FTP access included emails included domain name tech support

The percentage of the time that your host is able to keep the servers operating properly or "up" is the uptime. Knowing the percentage uptime on any hosting provider is important because if the server on which your site is hosted crashes or becomes unavailable, then your website disappears with it, which is not a good thing. You will want to be sure that backups of the server are regularly scheduled so that your data can be restored in the event of a catastrophic server crash. These major crashes are rare when the server is operated by a competent technical team, but better safe than sorry. www.SBTMagazine.net

Server storage is not critical for most of my clients as their sites do not require much in the way of hard drive space, but be sure to know your storage requirements in case your site has special software or you plan on doing a lot of streaming audio or video. Bandwidth is often difficult for many people to fully understand and it can be very expensive if not planned for properly. Again, 90% of the websites I have built do not require more than the included bandwidth but know what you need. Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be downloaded from your site per month. Every time someone views your site their computers are downloading all of the images that make up your design, any videos you are streaming and any browser based software needed to run your site. All of that data transfer counts toward your total bandwidth allotment. If your site is going to stream video or audio, have a very large amount of traffic, or be very image heavy (picture galleries, etc.) then it may be wise to talk with your web designer and/or hosting provider about bandwidth needs. Most web designers worth their salt will have hosting options for you to review or at least be able to help you start looking. The FTP access will be how your site gets uploaded to the server and makes things much more convenient than using a proprietary browserbased uploading portal. It is less

important than the points above, but still important enough to request it. Most hosting accounts will come with email addresses that you can tie to your domain. Depending on the size of your organization you may need more email accounts than are offered with the hosting service and it is better to know any restrictions up front rather than find out once you are already committed. As mentioned in the previous writing, many hosting accounts will come with a free domain name. If you have already purchased a domain name, then you will simply "point" your domain name to your hosting account in order to make your site visible online. This "pointing" is usually a simple process that will take 24-72 hours to complete. It is good to ensure that you have access to tech support in the event something goes wrong with your account. You may not ever need it, but better to have tech support and not need them than need tech support and not have them. As always, send me your questions and I will help out as best as I am able. Next month I will write about search engine optimization (SEO) tips to help your site be found now that it is online. Until next time! Erich H Fruchtnicht is President / Principle Designer at TGDesign, LLC www.trinitygroupdesign.com or email him at erichf@trinitygroupdesign. com



What Makes a Good Media Call to Action?


By Amy Olivieri, Regional Development Director, Constant Contact


f you have children, then you know how important it is to give them clear directions about what to do. They may know they have clothes to wear or that there’s food on the table, but until the parent says, “Put on your shirt,” or “Eat your broccoli,” those things will just sit there untouched. Similarly, your customers, clients, and supporters need a little nudging if you want them to take action — specifically, if you want them to go from your email newsletter to social media. After all, it’s one thing to have a Facebook Page or a Twitter handle, for example, but if you don’t give people a reason to engage and interact with you there that complements your email marketing efforts, they may just pass you by.

compelled to: • Learn more about your business, organization, offerings, or services • Tell friends about you • Share your content • Read an article you wrote or published • Write a review • Marvel over your industry expertise The more straightforward you are, the easier it will be for your audience

to act. “What do you think of this topic? Share your thoughts on our Facebook Page.” “Have you ever experienced this situation? Tweet about it and mention our Twitter handle.” “Want to learn more? Visit my profile on LinkedIn.” Give your supporters a reason to click from your emails to your Facebook Page, or to Twitter, or LinkedIn, and soon they’ll be interacting with you in multiple places. Amy Olivieri is Regional Development Director at Constant Contact

On the most basic level, a good social call to action should tell people where to go, give them an easy way to get there (i.e.: a link), and most importantly, give them a reason to go there. It should be clear, simple, and easy to accomplish. The better your call to action is, the better and stronger the link between your email marketing and your social media presences will be. Think back to your original goal for your campaign. What is your “dream ending?” Does your call to action encourage customers, clients, and supporters to act as you would like them to? For example, will they be SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012 | PG 12


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| PG 13


Conducting Institutional Reviews


By Hank Moore / Corporate Strategist™


n Institutional Review is a look at activities that contribute to an organization's success and well-being. This transcends a traditional audit and identifies factors that already contribute well to the organization, rather than simply looking for ways to cut, curtail or penalize. It is more than just trimming the fat and criticizing incorrect activities in the organizational structure.

to be recharged.

This review is the basis for most elements that will appear in a strategic plan, including the organization’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats, actions, challenges, teamwork, change management, commitment, future trends and external forces.

Management expresses a need for better internal coordination of company activities.

These are the points at which every company must assess its own status and chart the process forward:

The environment in which the organization competes is rapidly changing.

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.

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

relations, special events, video production, promotional specialties, graphic designproduction and website design-production. Category 6: Business performance reviews, research, quality management programs, government relations, public policy, community relations and re-engineering. Category 7: Corporate strategy, visioning, strategic planning, futurism, thought leader program and emerging business issues. Expected Results of an Institutional Review:

What a Review Could Include:

* Your service is efficient and excellent, by your standards and by the publics. You are sensitive to the public's needs, and you are flexible and human in meeting them.

The organization is not now what it started out to be.

Among the components and professional specialties that could be represented in a performance review, per each branch on the Business Tree, include:

* Your staff is likeable and competent. They demonstrate initiative and use their best judgment, with authority to make the decisions they should make.

There seems to be a need to change the direction of the organization.

Branch 1: Core business, core industry.

* You have a good reputation and are awake to community obligations. You contribute much to the economy. You provide leadership for progress, rather than following along.

The Big Picture

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

Branch 2: Environmental, safety, IT systems design and computer software, training for computers and technology, architecture, engineering and legal Branch 3: Accounting, banking, investments, financial planning, benefits programs, real estate, fund raising for nonprofit organizations and investor relations services for public companies. Branch 4: Training for diversity, team building, professional education and development, motivational and executive development-mentoring. Human resource administration, employee testing, behavioral research, executive search, talent pools, reorganizations, downsizing, executive outplacement, labor issues and negotiating. Branch 5: Sales strategy, sales training, marketing strategy, customer service, advertising, direct marketing, public


* You always give your customers their money's worth. Your charges are fair and reasonable. * You are in the vanguard of your industry. * You provide a good place to work. You offer a promising career and future for people with ideas and initiative. Your people do a day's work for a day's pay. * The size of your organization is necessary to do the job demanded of you. Your integrity and dependability make the public confident that you will use your size and influence rightly. What Well Run Companies Accomplish: * Prestige or favorable image...and its



practice. The same analogy holds true for accountants, engineers, doctors and architects. All are taught professional skills but must absorb along the way the business talents necessary to run their practices.

* Promotions of products and sales. * Good will of the employees. * Prevention and solution of labor problems. * Fostering the good will of communities in which the company has units. * Good will of the stockholders, board of directors, and owners. * Overcoming prejudices.



* Good will of suppliers.

Authority figures must be effective disciplinarians. They must also be recognizable role models in order to inspire commitment from their team members. The best leaders are adept at the balancing acts of business priorities. Organizations are collections of individuals, team clusters, operating units, departments, management philosophies

and ideologies. To gauge the company's future direction and avoid roadblocks to success, independent reviews must be conducted. The objective is to benefit from changes, rather than become the victim of them. By spotting trends and recognizing inner strengths of your existing company, you can compete and excel more effectively than without any strategy at all. Hank Moore/Corporate Strategist™ Phone: 713-668-0664 Website: http://www.hankmoore.com Email: hankmoore4218@sbcglobal.net

* Good will of government. * Good will of the rest of your industry. * Attraction of others into the industry. * Ability to attract the best personnel. * Education of the public to the purposes and scope of the product. * Education of the public to a point of view. * Good will of customers (and their friends and colleagues). * Seeing that the industry is properly represented in the curricula of schools and colleges. Assisting educators in teaching about the industry. * Creating public support for legislative proposals that the industry favors or public opposition to legislation that it opposes. * Obtaining public recognition for the social and economic contributions that the industry makes. * Addressing outside interference competition with the industry.


* Public understanding of the regulation of the industry by the government, in order to assure equitable treatment. * Consumer understanding of how to use the product. Grounding Factors for Business: Being stable does not mean that an organization stands still. Upholding traditions does not necessarily mean that one vehemently resists change. Being a family run company does not mean that outside stakeholders do not exist. Lawyers go to school to study the law, not how to become a lawyer and run a legal




Pros & Cons of Buying & Leasing Your Office By David T. Domzalski


ou’re at the point where things are picking up. You’ve generated enough revenue and profit to be able to expand to a new facility. Now, you have to consider whether you should buy that new place or rent it. Before you go ahead and do so, here are a few points to consider:

You’re stuck there. If you buy your own space, you have to consider many factors. What is the neighborhood like? Is your target demographic well-represented here? Is the area a solid place for growth, housing development, and unemployment? You have to remember that if you are the owner, it will not be easy to just pick up and move. You have to sell the establishment first.

Buying Pros

Leasing Pros

You own it all. By owning the property outright, you can enjoy the benefits of having your own place. You can do anything you want to it without having answer to a landlord. Aside from government regulations, you will generally be free to do with your property as you see fit.

You can save on taxes and maintenance. If you have a landlord, guess what? You’re not responsible for the taxes and maintenance! Granted the landlord will probably pass some of those costs off to you in a lease, but you’re monthly payment will still generally be less. On top of the cost savings, you won’t have to be responsible for finding somebody to fix things. That is all on your landlord.

Think of it as an investment. On top of owning the whole pie, you will be able to take advantage of tax breaks for small businesses as well as appreciation of your property. After all Ray Kroc, the architect of the McDonald’s empire, often said, “I'm not in the restaurant business; I'm in the real estate business.” If you have extra space, you could even become a landlord yourself and lease it out to another business.

Small amount of upfront cash. With a commercial property, you are likely to have to put down 25% to 30% when purchasing the property. However, with leasing, you may only have to shell out the first month’s lease and security deposit. Furthermore, you won’t have to pay for an inspection, appraisal, and other fees as you would when purchasing the property.

Buying Cons

Leasing Cons

You own it all. Just as you can consider it a pro, owning the whole operation can be costly. You’re responsible for all taxes and utilities. Additionally, if something breaks – it’s all on you.

You don’t own anything. Since you’re leasing the property, you don’t own anything. Not one thing (except maybe some supplies or office furniture). Therefore, you will not get to enjoy the benefits of appreciation or potential tax


breaks. Also, your landlord would have the ability to raise your rent after the lease is up. So, you would either have to find a cheaper place or deal with the increase in monthly payments. It’s a binding agreement. It’s difficult to get out of the lease. Plus, you put a lot of time and work into getting the place up and running. So, if you have issues with cash flow, with your landlord, or the neighborhood isn’t supporting your business as you thought it would, it might be tough to just pick up and move. Granted, you’re not locked in as much as if you owned the place, but it could still be difficult to get out of a lease agreement that isn’t working for you. Now, you may be saying to yourself: “Well, thanks. But, this doesn’t help me at all.” This article is meant to help you start the brainstorming process. Some of these things you may have considered and some you may have just learned. The point is that this is something to start with. I suggest you consult with other business owners in your network, a small business attorney, and a tax accountant before you do anything. They will help you find out what will work for you and your business. Good luck! 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 www.SBTMagazine.net


Go For the Gold What's Holding You Back?


By Four-time Olympian Ruben Gonzalez


ost people, look at their obstacles and all they see is a reason why they can't make their dream a reality. They look at the obstacle, get discouraged (they lose heart), and they quit. Winners look at the obstacles, get mad and then become determined to overcome them.

to create a team. Most of the time the roadblock is internal - lack of belief and doubt that you can pull it off.

When I decided to take up the sport of luge and train for the Olympics four years away, I knew I had two major obstacles to overcome. Two things that HAD to happen or else I would be watching the Olympics on TV: first, I had to learn how to luge (back then I couldn't even spell luge) and second, I had to be ranked in the top 50 lugers in the world to qualify to compete in the Olympics. I would only have only two luge seasons to learn how to slide, because the last two seasons I needed to race internationally to work on my world ranking. Most people would have looked at those obstacles and quit before they got started!

What's keeping you from realizing your dreams? What's the one thing that's slowing down all your progress? Your job is to identify the roadblocks and focus all your energy on doing whatever it takes to remove them. Once you do that, your dreams will be there for the taking.

You can read the story of how I did it in "The Courage to Succeed." What's more important than the rest of the story is how YOU can develop the mental toughness to look at an obstacle and become fired up and excited about the challenge ahead. Many times all you have to do to overcome your roadblocks is to simply learn some new skills. Other times, you might have to refine some skills. You might have to enlist the help of other people. I did! Big time! You might have www.SBTMagazine.net

The roadblocks are not a bad thing. They are simply road signs that tell you what you need to work on next. Where your focus needs to be. Your roadblocks help define what your goals need to be.

Ruben Gonzalez is an award-winning keynote speaker and the author of the critically acclaimed book, “The Courage to Succeed.� His experiences as a three-time Olympian and as the owner of two businesses give him a unique perspective on how to conquer the corporate struggles of today. For his free 10-Part Success eCourse, visit www. StartWinningMore.com or contact him at 832-689-8282.

Put it into action: List the three main things that are keeping you from your dream. What can you do today to overcome those challenges? Who do you know that has had and has overcome those challenges? Call them up, take them out for coffee, and find out how they did it they'll be glad to help. Successful people like to talk about their success. Make it an Olympic Day! SMALL BUSINESS TODAY MAGAZINE AUGUST 2012 | PG 17


Bridging the Gap Between Perception and Reality By Mike Muhney


usiness-to-Business is dead. We now live in the world of P2P, or People-to-People. As you come to grips with this reality, you might as well go ahead and acknowledge that B2C is gone, too. Given the plethora of software products and apps generally categorized as social media, one would naturally assume that individuals must be closer than ever with those in our networks. However, that is simply not true with regard to our real relationships. Perception and reality are at even greater odds in today’s competitive business landscape. As a professional in the small business world, your success depends on how well you adapt to this disparity between perception and reality, in both your views and in your subsequent efforts. I doubt there is any danger in assuming of most business owners, that their primary goal is to satisfy their customers so as to obtain the highest percentage possible of repeat business from them. Unfortunately, examples abound to the contrary. The gap between an organization’s published mission statement and the perception of their customers can be very wide indeed. Is this true of your business? What are you doing to ensure your customers have an accurate perception? Or if you’re not sure they do, what are you doing to change it? When I speak to audiences I often ask this question, “What is your most important asset, business or personal?” If you were in the audience,

how would you answer that question? Typical audience responses include the following: my degree, my experience, my family, my time, my friends, my unique skill, my network, my credentials, etc. I agree that each of those things is valuable and truly important. But as important as they are, though, I asked for the most important asset. None of those are the correct answer. Let me give you a few hints. It’s something that every one of us possesses, though most don’t value it as they should. It’s something that we can manage, but we can’t control it. It precedes us. It follows us. Once it’s established, it never leaves us. Perhaps you’ve guessed by now. It’s our reputation. More specifically, it’s your reputation. Even when we are fully aware of the importance of our reputations, we might not fully realize the discrepancy between the perception of our reputation and the reality of our reputation. One of the most universally understood conditions is the disconnect that occurs when our “left hand” doesn’t know what our “right hand” is doing. Consider your business: Is your “right hand” (the primary goal) working in cooperation with what your “left hand” (the delivery) is doing? How accurately can your customers describe your primary goal based on the product/service/follow-through they receive? How wide is the gap between perception and reality? Small business owners are customers, too. You have, no doubt, encountered people and the companies they


represent who have treated you, as the customer, in varying degrees along the spectrum of quality customer service. We’ve all been treated magnificently and reprehensibly. As a result, we choose whether or not to do business with that person and/or their company again. Yet, we allow that perception/reality gap to exist in our own organizations all too often. Instead of applying the principles and employing the best practices of those magnificent experiences, we settle for maintaining the status quo. We all know how we like to be treated. We remember the places we’ve been treated well. In fact, we vote for them with every dollar we spend. Or withhold votes by selecting for their competition. Unfortunately, we don’t maintain this mindset when we’re vying for the votes of our customers, and we fail to establish the mindset as an absolute amongst everyone else in our company. Make no mistake, the most valuable “asset” we have is our reputation. It precedes us. It follows us. It must be perfected and guarded. But the first step is bridging the gap between the reputation we think we have with others and the reputation we actually have with others. Closing that gap will determine how much we actually achieve in the brutal battlefield otherwise known as the marketplace. Mike Muhney is the CEO of VIPorbit Software and the co-creator of VIPorbit Mobile Relationship Manager app for iPhone and iPad. viporbit.com



Want to Sell More...Find Your Persona! By Craig Klein / CEO, SalesNexus.com


eter Drucker was known to say, “The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.” Marketers have used the concept of “personas” for years. The idea is to create virtual customer profiles to represent your target customers. Sketches of their traits, including demographics, likes and dislikes, needs and objectives. These personas are very helpful in clearly visualizing the customer you’re speaking to in greater detail. Developing strong marketing campaigns, headlines and calls to action is made much easier when it’s clear who you’re talking to. A business might develop multiple personas for each product they offer and for each specific market they target and then develop specific advertising and marketing campaigns for each persona, in each market. A web site might ask you to identify yourself on the home page by offering several options – “If you’re an executive in a public company, click here.” Or “If you own a small business, click here.” This allows the website to provide the information that match the visitor’s specific interests and needs based on the persona the business has developed and to offer products specifically designed for their needs and budget.


Sales people, on the other hand, are trained from cradle to grave to treat each potential customer as special, unique and equally valuable. In fact, the concept of what is commonly known as “consultative selling” is to ask numerous questions and essentially build a customized persona for each and every customer so that the benefits and features of the product or service can be communicated to the customer in terms that best highlight their value to that customer. But, in a world where customers find you on the Internet, when they need you, time is of the essence. They often have their own list of specific questions about your product or service and don’t have the time to explain themselves to the sales person. They are also aware there are several competitors just a click away. That’s why a sales person can be greatly served by understanding the profiles of the most valuable or common personas their company targets. Understanding those generalized customer profiles allows the sales person to quickly categorize the customer and provide information in the proper context, by asking 2 or 3 simple questions right up front. Often, asking a customer some basic demographic questions lets the sales person know which products and services are even an option for the customer and thereby quickly get them the information that will be most useful.

Of course, in some cases, the customer will warrant and want more in depth discussion of their specific situation. But, all too often, sales people spend too much time with prospects that can’t afford or don’t want their products or services. Using personas can help a sales person quickly qualify or dis-qualify prospects and maximize time spent with the most valuable prospects and customers. A simple question about the customer’s industry could quickly determine whether the prospect should be quickly put on an automated email marketing campaign or a sizable sales opportunity should be created in the CRM software to add it to the sales forecast and on-going sales planning. The trick is in developing your personas in enough detail. Can you truly visualize this prototypical customer? Can you see where they live? Can you see what they drive? Where they went to school? What keeps them up at night? Where do they see themselves in 5 years? There may be a large number of similarities in your various personas but, going the through the exercise of “drawing” them clearly can help identify which characteristics tend to indicate the need, or lack of need, for specific products or services. Craig is the founder of SalesNexus. com. For more information visit www.SalesNexus.com



How to Shop on a Budget By Jane Seaman AICI FLC


mage is important. It reflects who we are. It tells our story. Maintaining a high standard of image can also come at a high price, so here are my top ten quick tips on how to shop well on a budget: 1. We often have a tendency of focusing only on the price of an item, which often leads to purchases based upon "wow, this is so cheap", versus "wow, I'll get so much wear out of this". The price of an item just reflects its price; it does not reflect its value. We should base the true value of an item on how much we will actually wear it! Try practicing the cost per wear formula; it's a simple equation, just divide the cost of the item by the number of times you'll wear it in any given period. For instance: a $100 shirt worn 20 times has a cost per wear of $5. 2. Shopping at mall outlets of your favorite stores and designers can save you a bundle. Houston has a good selection to choose from: Katy Mills, Houston Premium Outlets and the new Harwin Outlet Mall. 3. Remember the 70/30 rule: 70 per cent of your closet should be classic pieces, 30 per cent trendy pieces. Invest as much as you can afford on your classic pieces as these form the foundation of your closet collection. Don't make big investments for the 30% trendy pieces that keep your closet collection current, as these items have a short closet life span.

4. When purchasing your classic pieces such as slacks, skirts, blazers or dresses, remember that this type of style will endure for a long time and can be paired with many other items and this is key to extending your closet collection. Choose grey, black, brown, blue and taupe colors for these items, and then add some great sweaters and cardigans finished with leather shoes. 5. Purchase clothing out of season. Attempt to get to your department store at the time when clothing and accessories are marked down considerably. Look for 50 to 80 per cent off fashions. The downside is that you may not get the best selection, but you can get some great deals anyway. 6. Beware of the "buy 2 get one 1/2 off " price advertisements. While this may seem like a good deal, just ask yourself whether or not you need two items? If the answer is no, then you are not really getting a deal. 7. Buy only what you really like. There is a tendency when bargain shopping, to buy clothing just because it has been marked down considerably. This is not smart shopping. 8. Copy it. If it’s designer clothing you like, you can dress in style without breaking the bank. There are online shops that offer copies for much less. Try to find low cost versions of designer clothes in department stores or online. All


you really need is a genuine looka-like to be in style. 9. Try before you buy: Even if you are buying an item for $5 as opposed to $100, you still need to ensure a proper fit. Often when we buy at bargain prices, we are not concerned about fit because we somehow think that if it doesn't fit there is no great loss. However, a sensible shopper should also count the cost of buying unwanted clothing that is not the right fit, color and style. 10. Pay a visit to the wonderful variety of consignment stores Houston has to offer. You’ll be amazed at the high standard of barely used clothing items you'll find at great prices. To find a consignment store near you check out www.resalehouston.com that lists consignment stores by type and zip code. You probably know any number of people who you admire for their fashion sense and style in clothes. Perhaps you have wondered how it is possible for them to dress so fashionable all the time? You may think they spend a lot of money on clothing until you find out that they are avid bargain hunters with an eye for style. If you are still searching for help with shopping, I invite you to visit my image consulting services at http://www.imagineconsultancy. com.



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Should You Choose a Friend to Be Your Business Partner ?


By Aaron Young


lanning to start a business partnership with a friend? Prudence demands looking at the pitfalls as well as the potential strengths of such relationships. Here are a few questions to consider.

• What will my friend contribute to the business? Does he or she have strengths that will clearly enhance the business abilities, knowledge, or resources that you don't possess or aren't willing to acquire by other means? Say, for example, you're

a crackerjack salesman, but not too good with numbers. If your friend loves details and is clever with records, the partnership may make sense. If, on the other hand, your pal really can't offer something that would round out the business or make it more

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profitable, you might want to consider partnering with someone else. • Are you willing to lose the friendship? This is a tough question, but one that's critical to consider. After all, you and your friend will be working together, day in and day out, to make the business succeed. Such relationships can bring out the best - and worst - in people. If maintaining your friendship is one of your highest priorities, partnering with someone else may be a better choice. • What's expected from each partner? Developing a profitable business is hard and often unrewarding work. You and any potential business partner should honestly discuss expected work

hours, contributions, and responsibilities. Resentment can creep into any business relationship when partners feel that workloads and rewards aren't fairly distributed. • Can you communicate effectively? Like a good marriage, a long-term business partnership takes honest communication to succeed. Ask yourself, for example, whether you can handle constructive criticism from your friend/business partner. Even the closest business partners don't always see eye to eye, so it's important to take an honest look at how you both handle disagreements. Will you work through difficulties for the firm's sake, or bury your head in the sand and hope for the best? Answering this question is crucial

to the success of your partnership. Friends can be great business partners, but it's wise to proceed with caution. In most cases you should at least have a Buy/Sell Agreement between the partners. The buy/sell agreement outlines the steps a member has to go through to sell their ownership interest, or if a member dies or becomes ill. It lays the ground work to avoid future legal battles over control and ownership. Aaron Young, CEO, Laughlin Associates, Inc.aaronyoung@ laughlinusa.com 1-800-648-0966 www.laughlinusa.com

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The Priority Box: How to Get What You Want Out Of Work and Life By Jack Warkenthien


ome people believe they can “compartmentalize” their lives, thinking they can choose times to focus on business, health or personal concerns while putting the others on hold. I believe that is foolish and unrealistic. The various dimensions of our lives are inter-related. If one area is neglected, the others will suffer. To remind you of the need for balance, you must develop your own “Priority Box.” It should include the essence of success in business as well as achieving happiness and fulfillment in the rest of your life.

What’s in a Priority Box? Three ingredients are a balanced life, a clear vision and a concrete plan. All three elements must be included to perform at the highest level possible. A balanced life is the result of assessing and adjusting the personal, professional, psychological, physical, and spiritual aspects of your life. A clear vision vividly describes your desired outcomes. A concrete plan is the sequence of detailed action steps necessary to carry out your vision. The proper combination of these elements will help ensure stronger results in today’s hectic and constantly changing world. It is common for busy people to ignore one or more areas of their lives such as health or personal relationships. This creates an inner conflict that drains your energy. There is a tendency to look too far ahead when a clear vision requires a focus on the desired outcome for each day. Operating with a vague plan — or no plan — will force you to work long and hard with no guarantee of results . The Priority Box will help you take charge of your life. How do you go about developing one? Start by following these five steps to map out a customized plan to

meet your individual goals and objectives. 1. Know what your values are. Values are the principles and issues most important to you. You must establish values and priorities to build a life that is satisfying and rewarding. Examples include family, financial security, love and affection, spirituality and faith, and good health. 2. Evaluate all areas of your life and create a plan to achieve balance. Conduct a self-assessment. How balanced are you in each of these five areas — professional, personal, physical, psychological and spiritual? Rate each one to five, with five representing most balanced and one the least balanced. 3. Clarify your vision with goals. Goals provide a road map to success, both personally and professionally. They help us get where we want to go because they are related to everything we strive to achieve and they represent self-discipline that must be practiced daily. In other words, they are dreams with deadlines. 4. Develop S-M-A-R-T goals to stay focused. Goals are not all equal. To maximize your success, set S-M-A-R-T goals with the following guideposts. Specific: Precise actions and events that can be reviewed and recognized. Measurable: Quantifiable and countable; you can’t manage what you can’t measure. Action-oriented: First-person verb tense demonstrating momentum toward achieving goals. (i.e. I will lose ten pounds in the next ninety days.) Realistic: Must be within the realm of the possible or it becomes a disincentive. Timely: Must have specific start and finish dates. A timetable of one year or less is best for professional goals.


5 . Monitor your progress consistently and frequently. Although there is no guarantee you will achieve all of them, if you don’t keep goals constantly in front of you, you limit the chances of success. Reinforce your resolve by writing goals down and carrying them with you everywhere you go. Read them out loud for 21 days. (It will take you 7 to 12 days to memorize most of them.) Identify one or two people with whom you can share these goals, who will be supportive and heighten your sense of commitment. Are we going to be able to have everything we want in life? Probably not. But by thoroughly and honestly examining and re-examining our lives, our needs, our aspirations and our dreams, the outlook is greatly improved. Keep in mind that filling your Priority Box is far from a static exercise. As your life and the world in which you live changes, the elements in your box change with it. It is imperative that you continually assess and update your requirements for a balanced life, a clear vision and a concrete plan. A Priority Box can really make a big difference. Address all segments of your life — business and personal. Set S-MA-R-T goals and fully commit to them. Doesn’t this make good business sense? People who know where they are going in their lives have a much better chance of getting there than those who don’t. Besides, within your box are all the things you really need anyway. Jack Warkenthien, CEO, NextStep Solutions. Email him at jwarkenthien@ nextstep-solutions.com or call him at 832-344-6998 www.nextstep-solutions. com


continued from page 7


Signing On: Getting the Best Agency for Your Buck


By Aimee Woodall


his one goes out to the business owners of the world. Yes, you! You might be thinking that it’s time to take your marketing and PR out of the house to (gasp!) hire an agency. Don’t worry, it doesn’t have to be scary. But forking over money to pay for something that will help you get more money is scary. It’s an investment, and investments are often unpredictable. In many ways, the risks you face as a personal investor are the same as those you face as a business owner, but in many ways they’re not.

for you and your staff. Your “savings” is strictly monetary. But that’s not all. While there is risk in hiring an outsider to handle your marketing, there’s an even greater risk in doing it yourself. You may think that you have some good ideas (and you probably do!), that you know how to write and send emails and that you’ve seen a few episodes of “Mad Men.” Unfortunately, this does not qualify you as a professional. While many of the principles of marketing are innate (not to mention fun), you’re an expert in your own business, and there’s no way you can expect to keep up with all of the changes in this industry while maintaining focus on your own.

Allow me to elaborate. As an individual, you can typically spend, save or invest your money. Since businesses have to spend, I’ll take that out of the equation. In this scenario, saving means that you’ll put money aside without interest (and without risk of loss) and investing means that you have the potential to gain interest (but also to lose). When thinking about hiring a PR firm, the options are not so diametric. You can “invest” by hiring a firm, choosing the firm that you believe will result in the greatest dividends, or you can “save” by keeping things in-house. But whereas saving money in your mattress (as an individual) has no real negative result (unless your house burns down), “saving” on PR can mean extra work

So now you’re thinking this: “Maybe I can just hire someone to help a little. I’ll find the cheapest option and go with that.” This could be your biggest mistake yet. To effectively and professionally market a company it takes a number of resources (databases, monitoring software, several employees, etc.), and if those expenses are not apparent in your invoice’s bottom line, your business could not only be missing out – it could suffer. I’m not saying that the most expensive firm is automatically the best. As with anything, a fancy name rarely translates to value. But a certain amount of time and complexity should go into your company’s marketing, and cutting corners could be disastrous. So as you ponder letting some outside agency come into your business’ life,


ask yourself what that agency has to offer. Here’s a checklist of items to consider. Keep in mind, there aren’t really right or wrong answers, just opportunities for thought. - Does the agency quantify their results? - How will activities and results be reported? - Do they know about or have experience in your industry? - Do they have resources that you don’t have? - Are they well connected in your community? - Do they have relationships with vendors? - Do they have relationships with media? - Will you be working with the same person who sold the account? - Have you seen past work? - Does the dollars/hour ratio in their proposal make sense? There are a lot of good agencies out there, but there are also a lot of people trying to capitalize on a service industry. Beware predatory marketing firms. Steer clear of any agency that doesn’t seem to have you and your business’ best interests in mind. Consider your budget and find the best agency your money can buy. Leave the marketing to the experts and get back to doing what you do best – running your business! Aimee Woodall/Black Sheep Agency Contact her 832.971.7725 or email at aimee@theblacksheepagency.com Theblacksheepagency.com



Leadership According to Ms. Mogul™ By Chairidee Smith, Ms. Mogul™


any definitions and meanings have ascribed to leadership, many of which are erroneous. Simply put, leadership is the investment in and development of people with the expectation of them in some way replacing your current position. I can already see the eye brows lifting and some of you just spilled your gourmet coffee while casually perusing this article. I will say it again. True leadership always causes the leader to be replaced thereby forcing him or her to always be in a state of perpetual professional and personal states of growth. Here are a few points regarding the tried and true conditions to invoke leadership and how to garner its best outcome: First, a true leader does not have to create leadership. I believe opportunity collides with preparedness and the two create the perfect petri dish for the organic evolution of leadership. Leadership often happens naturally. It is a natural social process in response to a personal or organizational need. Natural does not mean the process is without effort, or is in any way easy. It is however, the internal response and appropriate corresponding action to an outward need. The primary duty of a true leader is to guide the process of leadership and never to force it. Secondly, there is a distinct difference in the methodologies of leaders versus managers. It is my belief that managers do not necessarily evolve into leaders nor do they necessarily have the “it” which makes a leader a leader. In my experience, managers are consumed with the day to day minutia of operations and outcomes. This leaves little time to experiment with or to discover how to better those around them because an imminent deadline of some kind is always in view. Now, managers are absolutely


necessary for the success of any project or enterprise. We can’t have everyone looking at the “big picture.” The devil is usually found in the details and managers are keenly aware of that. However, the freedom to allow others the space or latitude to develop into leaders is commonly not afforded the manager or those being managed. This is unfortunate but necessary realty tends to lend itself to managers who operate daily with a level of insecurity in developing those around them. One might think, if someone else becomes the “keeper of the oracle,” where does that leave me? This question is part of a more pressing problem. The manager is not internally prepared to progress. There is no internal picture of personal growth or, the picture is not clear. There is no preparation to become a visionary or a leader, otherwise, the manager would have prepared via training, self-imposed learning opportunities, and self-started enterprise of some kind which minimizes the threat of those on the team seizing opportunities. Managers are vital to the success of a project or enterprise but should be encouraged to develop their inner leadership voice as they “keep the scroll.” Next, leaders, authentic leaders are in a perpetual state of servant-hood. Leaders are in the business of people-development. Effective leaders think less about their titles and tend to focus more on how to help people reach goals and enjoy the process to achievement. We are people of influence. We encourage the evolution of people and in turn they promote the positive evolution of the organization. I have come to learn this. Leadership is not the brute enforcement of one’s personal will. It is power under control; it is power’s management for the betterment of the team. The second leaders lose sight of why they have been given the awesome privilege of leadership, they can easily become a tyrant, or ogre who NO ONE will follow or respect. Authentic leaders tend to esteem humility and approachability as the desirable qualities. Let me tell you, there is

nothing more gratifying as a leader than to see those take on challenges without being asked, or invest time with mentoring a newcomer without the promise of compensation of some kind. Then we will be assured of the effectiveness and that the right message concerning true leadership is being sent to the team. Finally, leadership isn’t leadership if it can’t be accountable and modeled by others. A level of transparency is key in building a community and culture of trust with your team. I am not naïve to say that every detail requires full disclosure, but what I am saying is that a promise made should be a promise kept. Honor your commitments to your team once made. Give them clear communication regarding developments. Empower those under your leadership with knowledge and overview. Get them to buy in. They are your best allies when “glitches” happen in the system and are the best advocates of keeping team morale high when objectives do not go according to plan. Allow those following you to see your values at work and encourage them to develop their own value system. When times grow challenging in your organization, and they will from time to time, you will need a core system of values that keeps you grounded and grounds your team to stay the course. Leadership is an on-going evolutionary and learning process. The day you as a leader stop learning your possibilities and the potential of those around you is the day you are now an irrelevant leader. Chairidee Smith, Ms. Mogul™, is President and Founder of KMF Business Group and The Global Mogul® Center for Women’s Leadership and Development. www. chairideesmith.net . 281.865.9441 – direct. chairidee@chairideesmith.net or kmf_ businessandrealty@live.com . Follow Ms. Mogul™on FB, Twitter, and LinkedIn.



Let Go and Stand In Faith


By Steven Kay


hen I look at where I am today and who I’ve become, I quickly realize how blessed I have been. I have the pleasure of doing what I love, in a career that I purposely chose, and have been able to maintain a living doing so. Please understand that does not mean my life is easy, far from it. I work very hard through the ups and downs of striving to achieve the goals and dreams that God has placed in my heart. However, this was not my first dream. I had other ventures I had worked toward before this. Why didn’t any of those work out?

it was this very experience that gave me the lessons I would not have learned otherwise. Yet if that was the result, if I never had to close that business, would I be living the life I have now?

I remember when I bought my first real business. It was a hockey rink, and my wife and I sank everything we had into it. After successfully tripling the revenues within 18 months we were closing the doors, up to our eyeballs in debt and practically bankrupt. In hindsight, there were countless mistakes I had made that today I would just know better, enough to say that I probably could have kept that business running, but

That’s when we need to stand back and allow the moment to take place. That’s when we need to let go of the past and stand in faith, knowing there is something greater waiting for us than where we are right now. Something better than what we could have ever imagined for ourselves.

Sometimes we fight very hard for our current goals and they still don’t work out. We’re not sure why, and we don’t know what to do or how to handle it, so we just act (or should I say react). We think we need to MAKE something happen, so we try anything that comes to mind, even the wrong things, and if we’re not careful that can lead us down a dark path and it just seems harder and harder to find our way out again.

If I hadn’t had to close that hockey business, I would have not gone into the insurance business,


where I got my introduction to talk radio, and I would have never had the broadcast media career that I have now. I was lead down a path where if I was not willing to let go and move beyond the previous steps I had taken I would not have been able to experience what was still ahead for me. Each day I awake, always curious about and open to what God has in store for me next, and He continuously amazes me more and more throughout my life. 1 Corinthians 2:9 – “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him.” What dreams have been placed in your heart? What are you excited about and look forward to? Steven Kay, Talk Show Host & Producer / Media Buyer & Consultant, Steven Kay Media LLC, 713-STEVEN-K (713-7838365), me@StevenKayLive.com, www.StevenKayLive.com.




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Integrated Communications in Texas | Pierpont Communications, Inc. www.piercom.com 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 www.Piercom.com for more information.

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Pierpont Communications, Inc. | Investor Relations www.piercom.com/Investor-Relations.aspx 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 AUGUST 2012 | PG 34





5 Keys to Customer Retention By Errol D. Allen


he purpose of being in business is to grow your business over time. I can’t think of too many businesses (not any really) where the goal is to open and remain exactly the same size. The most effective way to grow your business is by retaining your present customers. Customer retention is important to the long –term success as the cost to gain a new customer is anywhere from 5 to 10 times the cost of retaining an existing customer. According to the Technical Research Assistance Program (TARP), 68% of customer defections occur because the customer feels poorly treated. This next statement is shocking: only 4% of the defecting customers bother to tell the business owner why they chose to do business elsewhere – the other 96% of defecting customers just silently disappear. Retention efforts must be a priority for the following reasons – 1. Retention is the key to long-term growth. 2. Retention efforts create loyal customers. 3. Loyal customers help to establish your brand in the marketplace. 4. Loyalty leads to referrals. According to a TARP study when interviewing marketing executives from 200 companies, all state that at least 25% (and in some cases as high as 75%) of their new customers were obtained via referrals. Here are 5 keys to customer retention that will turn your customer into a low cost marketing department: 1. Determine what’s important to your customers. This is done during the initial contact with your customer. Assess what your customer needs/wants and get agreement on what your customer expects to receive. This sets the tone for

the relationship. 2. Meet or exceed your customers’ expectations. Deliver what you agreed to deliver and what your customer expects you to deliver. You must be consistent here if you hope to retain customers. Get this one right! Your reputation is at stake. How much will it cost you to fix any issues in order to meet your customer’s expectations? Let’s do the math: if your service is worth $75.00 per hour and it costs you 2 hours to correct an issue, that’s $150.00. Now remember, you could have possibly utilized those 2 hours to service another customer, so that’s an additional $150.00. The inability to meet customer expectations may result in a lost customer. How much is that customer worth? Let’s get the calculator out again! If your customer spends an average of $150.00 per month, that’s $1800.00 annually. Not much you might say, but what if that number increases to 10 lost customers? That’s possibly $18,000.00 in lost revenue! Now remember, customers talk to others about your business, even more so when their experience is negative. If 10 other people are told about the not so pleasant experience, that’s another possible $18,000.00 in lost revenue. 3. Communicate regularly with your customers. Provide timely updates and progress reports. Solicit performance feedback via customer service surveys or phone calls. Your customer feels valued when you seek out their opinion. Advise your customer of new offerings, upgrades or product/service enhancements that create a better experience for your customer. Find ways to say “Thank You” on a regular basis.


4. Empower your employees. Provide your employees with the proper “tools” to service your customers. The “tools” that I am referring to include product/service knowledge training and customer service skills training. Give your employees options for resolving customer issues. Proper “tools” create confident employees who in turn create loyal customers. 5. Value customer complaints. A complaining customer is your best friend. I can already hear you saying “Come on Errol, how is a complaining customer my best friend?” Glad you asked! A complaining customer provides an insight into areas of opportunities within your business before a negative pattern develops, possibly resulting in a defection of customers. In bringing their dissatisfaction to your attention, the complaining customer is providing you with the opportunity to retain their business by correcting the issue versus just silently disappearing and telling 10 to 20 others about their negative experience. Create a database to monitor complaints by type and occurrence. Develop corrective actions to insure that you are consistently providing a great customer service experience. Take the time to focus on your customer retention strategy. Your long – term success depends on your ability to get your present customers to be your referral ambassadors! Errol Allen – Customer Service Engineer – Errol Allen Consulting errol@ errolallenconsulting.com 1-800-8304167 www.errolallenconsulting.com


WBEA 16th Annual

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The event includes opportunities for everyone with a golf clinic, four person scramble tournament, silent auction, and networking dinner. Additional recognition opportunities available through volunteering, goodie bag and silent auction donations, and sponsorships.

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You Sell. They Sell. We All Sell. By N D Brown


hen I was a kid I loved Robert Louis Stevenson. He's the guy who wrote adventure books boys like me devoured and whose stories helped Disney make even more money!

really very good at sales."

Mr. Stevenson's creativity begat the fictional lives of Long John Silver, Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and a bunch of other guys. He was a master story teller who could take his readers to places they had never seen and give his made up his characters live on a printed page. His work was writing and creating. So I was surprised to see Mr. Stevenson quoted in a business context.

Every one of us is creative and every one of us sells. All the time.

Mr. Stevenson's imagination transported his readers to the South Seas and the gritty, foggy streets of Victorian London but he also knew about the practicalities of living. His pithy quote: "Every one lives by selling something." He knew it as a fact of life. Unfortunately many of us don't believe it. We are positive we are not sales people. There are two statements that get under my skin. Ok. I admit it's a much bigger list but here are the top two. "I am not creative." And. "I am not

Mr. Stevenson, who proved his creativity by writing 12 novels and an endless stream of poems and essays, summed up the other statement by saying, "Everyone lives by selling something."

Think about the last time you took a different route driving home. Creativity. Think about the last time you walked down a grocery aisle, list in hand and seeing a new product plopped it into the grocery cart. Instantly you had a thought about how you might use it. Creativity. Remember the last time you said something like, "You know I am really in the mood for seafood. Aren't you? Let's try the new place that just opened on Maple Street. Whaddaya say?" Selling AND creativity. Being creative is not hard. Your brain will take you there naturally. And you are selling every day, you just don't realize it. All you have to do is stand back and watch yourself. If you are a start up you probably have already put them to work. You just might not realize it.

hoping to grow then you need to nurture them every day. Every small business owner faces problems that were never anticipated. To many they might even be daunting but if you look at each problem as a way to use your inborn creativity it will be solved. Look at it from a different angle. Put your mind on something else for awhile and from some hidden crack in your brain something will come to you. Really! The problem wins if you stress over it. It can be solved and your inborn creativity will help you do it. Over worrying the problem stifles your own creativity. Every time you sweat about selling something remember how you convinced the love of your life to ... well you can fill in the rest. Repeat every day. I am creative .. I can sell anything. N D Brown is the Principal of brownchild ltd inc, 3754 Sunset, Houston, TX 77005 You can contact him at 713 807 9000 or cell 713 822 8370 don.brown@brownchild.com, www. brownchild.com

If you have been in business awhile



Clay Bohannan




A Business Advisor Can Make the Difference By Sarma M. Taylor


ould you trust a cardiologist to handle a problem with your feet? Would you go to a sports car mechanic to repair a bus? Why would you hire a corporation vice president to evaluate a small business? One of the greatest problems that we experience as business advisors is that everyone involved in any type of business believes they can diagnose and repair a small business. Motivational speakers are not business advisors. While they may be inspirational and help promote a segment of your business, they do not offer all the core fundamentals needed to guide a small business. These fallacies are at the heart of why small business owners often retain the wrong person to help them work through their issues. Small business is a beast of its own. It requires dynamic individuals experienced with small business that will enable entrepreneurs to maneuver and follow appropriate avenues that lead to success. Like the construction of a building, it is the foundation of a small business that is so vital to find its place in a very competitive market. Of course, this begins with the entrepreneur, who must always be seeking to learn as much as he or she is able in order to gather the ammunition for forthcoming battles that are sure to be experienced. Too many small business owners attempt to find the answers to questions that they may already know by going to perceived specialists who have many years of success in their respective areas of expertise. However, a corporate

vice president of marketing who has little understanding of the fiscal restraints and issues of small business could lead the entrepreneur to a path of failure. This applies to anyone who lacks personal experience in small business. In business school, they teach you that you should never let your attorney or accountant make business decisions for you, as it is the entrepreneur who has a firm grasp of the issues of their business. My personal experience is that most businesses have insufficient experience and understanding of their own financials. The financial statements, as most successful business owners know, carve the roadmap to success. Therefore, a good business advisor should have a solid understanding of how every activity in the business translates into dollars and cents. Without that ability, there is little chance that a small business would be able to accurately identify its future projections. Small business owners should be careful when they are offered “free” business advice that may involve very experienced individuals that lack the important fundamental criteria of understanding financials. The old adage “you get what you pay for” can also apply to business advising. Making sure that the foundation of hiring a business advisor is understood, the small business owner should seek the type of individual that will not dictate strategies and action items, but rather draw them out from the entrepreneur. In my experience is most business owners have the ideas and thoughts within them, but need assistance in expanding and refining these strategies. A skilled advisor will help the entrepreneur identify


their critical financial metrics and ratios. These financial cornerstones will assist in stabilizing the growth of the company. Key qualities of a good business advisor must include being a good listener, an empathetic individual who is quick to understand the general concepts of all business. The relationship between a business advisor and the business owner must be cordial and respectful of each other’s contribution to the strategy. No matter how good a business advisor is, without good communication skills, the small business owner will not be able to adequately absorb the guidance and recommendations. A simple checklist to use in selecting a business advisor • Small business ownership experience • Understanding of financial principles • Empowers the entrepreneur’s own philosophy • Communicates effectively and well thought out strategies By retaining a well-qualified and experienced business advisor, the small business owner significantly increases the potential to reach the dreams and goals they set for themselves when they originally launched their company. Sarma M. Taylor is a graduate of Boston University, a former vice president of MFS Investment Management, Owner of Santa Fe Music & Piano, Managing Partner of Franchise Innovators International and currently Lead Business Advisor for the Goldman-Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses Initiative in Houston.





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Advertiser’s Index Advanced Business Brokers.........................................21

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

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

Main Street Chamber.....................................................17

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

Murphy & Vickers...........................................................12

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


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

Oasis Bank Profile..........................................................41

Clay Bohannan/Encompass Lending Profile................39

Pierpont Communications..............................................34

Courthouse Direct.........................................................44

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

Quality Hospitality Travel dba Cruise Planners...............15

Sales Nexus....................................................................25

Eric Kleiman Photography...............................................9

SBT Advertising..............................................................24

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

Steven Kay Media.........................................................42

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


GPS Wealth Mgmt..........................................................35

VIP Orbit.........................................................................43

Gateway Credit..............................................................23

WBEA Golf Tournament................................................37

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

Westpark Communications..............................................1



Fidelity National Title



Fidelity National Title – Galleria

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

“It was about 6 months ago I was introduced to Fidelity Title. Of course I was skeptical on what they could do or how they would do it so I entered my first contract with all alarms on and ready! From the moment we started the process until the completion of our first closing every thing ran like a well oiled machine. Excellent communication,Extended hours of service,Courtesy closing locations and abilities far above any other Title company I have experienced so far! All parties involved from the front desk manager to my Title Rep to the Title manager and all the support staff in the building they all contributed to this outstanding teamwork and service! Fidelity Title you have Earned my Business!!!” ---- John Buchanan REMAX CITYVIEW

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