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Articles filed under Kendall, Jim

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  • Small businesses help drive sustainability issues Dec 15, 2014 12:02 PM
    The holidays are greener than they used to be — which has little to do with the weather and more to do with the fact that many business owners “really do care” about sustainability, energy efficiency and popularly labeled green initiatives.

  • Niche marketing: How many websites do you need? Dec 8, 2014 5:20 AM
    Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall talks to local experts about marketing and selling in today’s digital marketplaces.

  • Owner misses buyer’s stress, company sale falls through Dec 1, 2014 5:36 AM
    Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall looks at the idea of selling a business.

  • Advice as health care heats up: ‘Hold tight’ Nov 24, 2014 5:08 AM
    For employers, the best what-to-do advice when it comes to the Affordable Care Act is to hold tight, according to an attornety that Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall talks with.

  • Business owners, what will you do better next year? Nov 18, 2014 5:42 AM
    Business columnist Jim Kendall says even though Santa already has been sighted at more than one suburban mall, there’s plenty of time for business owners to plan for next year:

  • Businesses create internships to meet specific needs Nov 10, 2014 5:11 AM
    There’s more than the prospect of low-cost labor that makes internships interesting to small businesses. Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall looks at the issue.

  • Unusual succession plan works for two attorneys Oct 27, 2014 5:54 AM
    Finding a successor to bring into your solo practice isn’t often as easy as looking across the hall, but that’s where Glen Ellyn attorney Rick Lofgren found Charles Wentworth. That’s only part of the story, however: Lofgren gave Wentworth a piece of the business to come aboard. Yes. Gave. “I didn’t make him buy in,” Lofgren says, “and he’s not an employee. He was a shareholder right out of the gate. It’s a small share, but it’s a share.” The two are not exactly equal owners at Glen Ellyn-based Entrepreneur’s Legal Resources. “I kept his percentage low,” says Lofgren, who is super majority owner in the firm, “but I told (Wentworth) I would take care of his compensation. “What I want Charles to get is almost all of the business he generates, less expenses. I want to make sure he’s around a long time.” Perhaps more importantly, the two share decisions and the inevitable investments in the business. Investments, whether new equipment or the hiring of a marketing firm, are 50-50, Lofgren says. “We’re building something together.” Nearly two years in, Lofgren’s succession plan seems to be working. “I watched (Wentworth) from across the hall for a couple of years,” Lofgren says. “I’ve had my own practice for 20 years, and I’ve had several small partnerships. I had been searching high and low” for an attorney who could become Lofgren’s successor when Wentworth, fresh from leaving a large downtown law firm, opened his own practice across the hall. In the casual way that compatible professionals get acquainted, “We got to know each other,” Wentworth says. “(Lofgren) even said I could borrow his (law) books if I needed to.” Wentworth eventually moved to assist another local attorney who was preparing to retire, but the two would “bump into each other” and talk. In the meantime, other attorneys were noticing Wentworth. “It took me a long time to pull the trigger,” Lofgren says now. “He had done some work for some of my colleagues, and they all wanted him badly. And a larger firm offered him a job,” but, Lofgren says, by that time Wentworth “had caught the entrepreneurial bug.” “Rick offered,” Wentworth relates. “And I got a call from a headhunter, and another firm out here was interested. “I’d been out a while and I liked being my own boss. I had learned how to make a go of it, and I had no desire to go back” to a larger firm environment. Lofgren won out, and succession became less of a concern. “I’m certainly the junior partner,” Wentworth says, “but I don’t have plans to go anywhere. “Rick’s offer wasn’t a huge surprise. It was more of a natural progress in our relationship. It felt right. “We get along really well. We have similar ideas on the work-life balance. We even both wear polo shirts and jeans” to the office. • Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. Listen to Jim’s Business Owners’ Pod Talk at www.kendallcom.com. © 2014 Kendall Communications Inc.

  • As 2014 begins to wane, consider 2015 budget Oct 20, 2014 6:01 AM
    Unless yours is a holiday-dependent business, you probably know how your 2014 results will look, and you’ve either had or are about to have a talk with your accountant about final 2014 taxes. But what’s the outlook for 2015?

  • How to smooth family business relationships Oct 13, 2014 5:21 AM
    Families can build great businesses - productive, profitable and long-lasting. But family businesses can end badly, too - flaming out in generational issues or squabbles.

  • Planning to hire? Maybe you should check with Ella Oct 6, 2014 5:18 AM
    Small Business Columnis Jim Kendall looks at the Employment Labor Law Audit, a four-inch binder with 28 sections on federal HR compliance processes.

  • How, when to reach out to customers, prospects Sep 29, 2014 5:14 AM
    There presumably are differences between your client and prospect lists, but there’s an important similarity many entrepreneurs overlook: Customers and prospects both need to hear from you on a reasonably regular basis.

  • How to become a successful podcaster Sep 15, 2014 6:01 AM
    So you’re thinking about becoming a podcaster. Good idea. Here, from those already there, are some tips.

  • Culture change can drive growth, profit gains Sep 8, 2014 5:15 AM
    Paul Vragel seems to approach business growth and change backward — or, more politely, in a nontraditional way. Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall talks to him about his approach.

  • Newsletters still an effective business tool Aug 25, 2014 5:16 AM
    Back in the not-so-long-ago day, glossy four-color newsletters with high production and mailing costs were an integral part of many small business marketing campaigns.They still are, says Small Business Columnist Jim Kendall.

  • Structure helps draw potential franchise owners Aug 18, 2014 5:12 AM
    Franchises are more than burgers and subs. Small business columnist Jim Kendall looks at the topic.

  • How to get a bank loan: Know the language Aug 11, 2014 5:20 AM
    You’ll have a better chance of getting a loan from your bank if you understand the banker’s sometimes arcane language. Rosetta Stone can’t help, but a good accountant can. Small business owners, especially startups, often “don’t have the right understanding of what a bank can do,” says Greg Dowell, managing partner at Bass, Solomon & Dowell LLP, a Palatine CPA firm. “The bank is your lender, not an equity investor.” That’s a huge difference. “Bankers want to lend on one of two things — receivables or inventory. Sometimes equipment. The banker is interested in being paid back.” Bankers always have wanted to get their money back, but a regulatory tightening of lending rules following the near financial collapse in 2008 has banks still on a short tether. Consequently, it’s worth paying attention to comments from Larry Jones, vice president at First State Bank, St. Charles, one of 21 locations of Mendota-based First State Bank. Business owners “don’t know how to ask for money,” Jones says. “They must understand the nature of the loan business’ requirements and be aware of how the different loans work and cost.” Among the different loans Jones lists are real estate loans, including the SBA’s 504 loan program; accounts receivable; construction loans; and work-in-progress loans. If you don’t understand the differences, which for a non-banker isn’t especially surprising, “Go to your accountant for some help,” Jones suggests. Typically, “The business owner has something he enjoys and thinks he can make money with — but he doesn’t know how to manage the business,” Jones says. “A loan officer will be able to figure out whether the business owner knows his business.” When hopeful business borrowers “come in, meet with a commercial lender, lay out their plans for the business and say, ‘I need $100,000,’ it’s the loan officer’s job to ask, ‘Why?’” Jones seeks a stronger answer than, “So I can grow.” Although a sensible presentation about the business is a logical part of a request for funds, numbers count. For example, “Your P&L (profit and loss statement) must indicate an upward projection,” says John Lafferty, president, CFO-Pro, Naperville. Among Lafferty’s thoughts on what to take to the bank: * A short business plan that describes what you’re trying to achieve. If growth is the intent, the plan should explain how you will reach that goal. * An explanation of staffing costs that will be necessary to support growth. * Anticipated revenue streams, with assumptions fully explained and market data that support projections. * Competitive factors. * Details on margins and overhead. Lafferty has more, but that’s a decent sample of the information he says bankers want to see. Dowell “will counsel (firm) clients before they go to the bank,” as will Lafferty. Illinois Small Business Development Centers are another good source of support. So is SCORE, SBA-affiliated retired business executives committed to counseling. • Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn, Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Jim@kendallcom.com. © 2014 Kendall Communications Inc.

  • How many bird houses can a retiree make? Aug 4, 2014 5:33 AM
    With retirement scheduled for year-end 2015 and son-in-law Colin Murphy apparently in good position to take over management of Simmons Engineering Corp., a Wheeling manufacturer of cutting blades, a smooth transition to retirement seems a sure thing for Bruce Gillilan. Except ... “I’ve assumed that I’ll set up a small woodworking shop in my new Door County home and start doing things with wood,” Gillilan says. “My Dad was quite a woodworker, and I have a long list of projects. “Now, though, I’m starting to appreciate that there might be a limited number of bird houses that I’ll want and can give away. The point,” Gillilan continues, “is that I don’t have a plan. I should have been working on this earlier. I’ve not really looked down the barrels of this topic.” Nonetheless, Gillilan’s big picture seems OK: • The Wisconsin home was built with retirement in mind. • Gillilan and Murphy seem compatible. “I’ll be as available as he’s comfortable with,” Gillilan says, recalling that “my father-in-law wouldn’t go away.” • Gillilan has given thought to “what 40 years of work might do — maybe programs to help veterans.” Still, many entrepreneurs have a bird house issue, which led me to conversations with two thoughtful transition pros: Joel Goldberg and Harry McCabe. Goldberg is principal of G2G Strategies, Northbrook, and half of Goldberg-Heinze Business Advisors, a duo that helps business owners with transition. McCabe is ownership transference adviser, Harry McCabe Advisors, Westmont. “People end up in this predicament because they don’t think about what they’re going to do next,” says Goldberg, who suggests planning for the post-working life should begin five years before it arrives. Among Goldberg’s considerations: • Your spouse. “You’re meeting on a different level,” Goldberg says. “Thirty years have passed, and you’re different people. Try date nights. Know that it’s OK some days for you to go one way and your spouse another.” • Inventory your interests. “Look at the things you’ve always been interested in but didn’t have the opportunity to pursue.” • Develop conversations with people in your age group. “The whole group has issues,” Goldberg says. “Join a men’s (or women’s) group. Play cards at the park district. Put together a group that gets together for lunch.” McCabe suggests a more structured “re-engagement plan — an outline, written in pencil so it is easy to change — that crafts the next chapter.” One suggestion: Use business skills to build onto a hobby. Bird houses, for example, might morph into bird baths and feeders — perhaps “donated to a cause you really believe in” that can use the proceeds from selling the products. Another McCabe idea: “Help someone. Give time, not just money. Pack school lunches” for needy kids. There’s more to discuss, of course, because McCabe, Goldberg and their emphasis on transition planning make sense — especially if, like me, you’re all thumbs in the wood shop. • Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn, Twitter and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. © 2014 Kendall Communications Inc.

  • Entrepreneurs offer tips for business startups Jul 28, 2014 4:58 AM
    Be prepared to do some bootstrapping, which in the startup world typically means providing your own money. When you have employees, get them engaged in the business. And try not to become a bank for customers who have more resources than you do. That’s the core of advice for startups from three successful entrepreneurs who were among those responding to an email I sent asking business owners for their thoughts on a variety of subjects. Starting up was one of the subjects. The three whose comments follow are Tom Walter, chief culture officer at Tasty Catering, Elk Grove Village; Kathy Miller, president, Total Event Resources, Schaumburg; and Bob Podgorski, principal, RPP Enterprises, Hoffman Estates. One way or another, each pointed to regulation, taxes, funding and staffing as issues startups must manage. Starting up “is not easy,” Miller, an event planner, responded in her email, “but nothing good is.” However, a lack of people resources often makes startup life harder. “There are many opportunities (to grow)” Miller wrote, “but the small business owner doesn’t have the manpower to take advantage of those opportunities.” Manpower nearly always is an issue. Walter, nationally known for his approach to participatory management, suggests a blend of culture, people and marketing. “Employee engagement is the leading indicator of a company’s health; finances are the lagging indicator,” Walter responded. “The best way to build a sustainable, successful organization is through employee engagement.” One of “many steps” Walter suggests is to “Have decision-makers at all levels, so that opportunities are easily transformed into revenue.” Revenue also is an issue, especially when governments need funding. Podgorski, a career guidance specialist, noted “The unsure regulatory and legislated impositions impacting business and markets.” Walter wrote about “Government regulation and taxation pressures that limit sales and (the) resulting profitability.” Although Miller covered similar ground, her message centered on “Large corporations that expect small companies to provide longer billing cycles — billion dollar companies expecting million dollar companies to fund their cash flow.” Miller’s concern is echoed by many small business owners, especially those just starting out. In spite of the standard 30-day clause on invoices, many companies, often larger ones with the clout to pay when they want, stretch payments to 60 and 90 days. “Corporations (must understand) that we are not their bank,” she wrote. “We are entrepreneurs who can save them money in other ways.” That’s one reason Podgorski emailed that startups will “need to bootstrap in the early years, make more of less, grow (through) will, brains and muscle.” Bootstrapping may not be what most new entrepreneurs envision, but creating a product, or service, takes time and money. Finding customers rarely happens quickly; selling them takes even more time. Startups, Podgorski said, “should know they will need to be highly customer centric.” In other words, no one is going to come because you’ve built a mousetrap; you have to find customers with mice. • © 2014 Kendall Communications Inc. Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com.

  • The disconnect between unemployed and businesses Jul 21, 2014 8:50 AM
    Logic says the still large pool of unemployed workers should be a good source of employees for small businesses, but talks with two deeply involved employment experts indicate that’s not the case: Except among younger individuals, who apparently see more of the potential and less of the risk, small businesses are deemed too risky by many jobseekers. Fear seems to rule. “Go into a small business as an employee? Start their own business?” repeats Mayer Smith. “The white collar, middle income professional who has been at Lucent or Navistar the past 10 or 15 years, has never looked for a job before but has been laid off — well, they don’t want to work for a small business. They assume that business doesn’t have the money to pay them what they need. “And they don’t have the capital to start a business. They’re scared to do it. “We haven’t seen too much transitioning to small businesses,” Smith says. Smith is a volunteer PATH Group facilitator at Naperville’s Compass Church. PATH assists people with career changes, most not of their own choice. During the day, Smith is an employment specialist at the Association for Individual Development, Aurora, which seeks employment for the developmentally disabled. “Entrepreneurs know there is good talent out there, and I know several who have tried to lure unemployed workers (into the small business sector),” Smith says. “They’ve had some success, but they’re in the minority.” There is interest in small business opportunities, however. In the northwest suburbs, for example, Bob Podgorski sees “a continuous flow of people interested in startups and employment in small businesses.” Who’s attracted is somewhat surprising. The most interested demographic is “Younger — and almost anxious to avoid larger enterprises,” says Podgorski, principal of RPP Enterprises, a career programming consultancy in Hoffman Estates; longtime mover behind the Saint Hubert Job and Networking Ministry; and developer of an embryonic employment support center for Schaumburg Township. “We’re seeing young people out of college, living at home, don’t have a lot of expenses and see just as much risk of being laid off at a large company as working for a smaller one,” Podgorski says. “There’s risk in small business, but there’s also excitement and potential,” especially in a market where, according to Podgorski, 40 percent of the jobs are contract or part-time. Nonetheless, the aversion to risk among the unemployed is understandable, especially if you’ve walked in their footsteps. “Corporate guys can’t think entrepreneurially,” Smith says. “They have families, mortgages, tuitions, bills. They tell me, ‘I’m gonna go flip burgers or go back to school and get retrained in a new field.’” Smith does have an option for potential employers, however — if your business has the right type of project: The developmentally disabled who work at AID facilities in Aurora and Elgin. “Small assembly jobs are ideal for us,” Smith says. “Our people are very happy with repetitive work.” • Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. © 2014 Kendall Communications Inc.

  • Nobody said owning a business would be easy Jul 14, 2014 4:59 AM
    Decisions are difficult. • Will putting time and money into a social media campaign really grow the business? • Fire Mike? His family needs the income and he was recommended by an employee, but Mike can’t get a handle on his duties. How much damage will he do if I keep him on? • We need more space, but that’s more overhead. Will we be that much more efficient? • An offer to buy the business came out of the blue. What should I do? Accept? Seek other potential buyers? Talk to a lawyer? There’s no doubt that decisions can be tough, but neither is there any doubt that business owners must make them — everyday. “Step back,” suggests Gail Sussman-Miller. “Look at the big picture. Look at how the decision fits your business’ mission — and your personal mission. “If money were no object, what would you really want to do?” A conversation with Sussman-Miller, chief obstacle buster at Inspired Choice, Chicago, is at least interesting and potentially downright helpful. She won’t make your decisions, but she offers some interesting thoughts on how to approach the process. “Most people have trouble asking for help (in the decision-making process),” Sussman-Miller says. In fact, she adds, “Not asking for help is a small business weakness. Our ego gets in the way. We don’t want to appear stupid.” But, she asks with a nod to TV’s Dr. Phil, “How is what you’re doin’ working for ya?” Pause for a moment: That’s a key question. The fear of making the wrong decision can be paralyzing, but keep in mind, Sussman-Miller says, that doing nothing is a decision. “A decision to not act is one of the choices,” she states. An option, Sussman-Miller says, is to ask for help — from a mentor, specialist in your industry or professional adviser. Another is to detach. “Don’t personalize the issue,” she says. “Detach. Put on a white lab coat, pick up a clipboard and pen, and observe your behavior. Remember another time when you had to make a decision. “The mind will always over think an issue. Disconnect your mind. Find some silence to quiet your mind and sort out any emotions that are present. “Take five deep breaths. Inhale through the nose, then exhale through the mouth. That stops the chatter. That calms us, gets us centered.” Even the most uncertain decision-maker has strengths, Sussman-Miller says. “Remember the times when you did something courageous.” Sussman-Miller, who admits to a fear of heights, walked San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge, which at mid-span is about 270 feet above the water. You may not have a trek across a bridge to fall back on when one of those difficult decisions must be made, but Sussman-Miller’s point is valid: if you’ve done something difficult before, call upon that experience to help you make the business decision you’re facing today. • Follow Jim Kendall on LinkedIn and Twitter, and at Kendall Communications on Facebook. Write him at Jim@kendallcom.com. © 2014 Kendall Communications Inc.

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