Category Archives: Small Business

Are you getting in your own way 

Building a business can have its challenges. There are always obstacles to overcome and competitors to stay ahead of.  

In order to overcome challenges one must always be aware of the trends and best practices that help lead businesses owners to success. 

Some of this seems obvious as long as you are paying attention.

But there is something that is not so obvious one should pay attention to. The internal processes that may be getting in the way of your success.

For example, I am in the book publishing business. I prefer print books. I like the process of holding a book in my hand, turning the pages and making notes in the margins. So when I promote new titles, I put the bulk of my effort into print books. 

But this is the electronic age and today’s readers prefer ebooks. They provide instant access, are more environmentally friendly than print books and they save space because they can be uploaded to a reading device or cloud storage.

Most book publishers don’t even invest in print books unless they are doing book tours or book signings. 

My resistance to promoting ebooks over print books is hurting my business’ bottom line. Because of my personal preference I am not as successful as I should be and now I’m playing catch up. 


How can you avoid getting in your own way?

  • Pay attention to trends in your industry 
  • Think outside the box 
  • Realize doing things “your way ” may not always be the best way 
  • Revisit your business goals and think of new ways to reach them 
  • Don’t be afraid of change 

Are you getting in your way when it comes to your business?

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You are not there yet: making decisions based on where you want to be instead of where you are. #allihaveisalaptopandadream

If you are like me, you have a list of goals that you have for your business. In order to reach those goals my business has to be at a certain level.

One of the goals I have is to publish another author by the end of the year. Before that goal can become a reality I have to have the capital in order to enter into a contract with the author, produce and publish their book.

In spite of knowing this, I put a call for new authors on my website. To my surprise I got a few responses and I wasn’t ready to offer a publishing contract.

Needless to say I felt a little fraudulent, telling potential authors that I was not in the position to publish their books even though I put out the call for manuscripts.

After this experience I started going over my goal list and I came up with a few things I can do so I don’t get too far ahead of myself.

  1. Break down each goal into action steps.
  2. Make sure any money I’m spending on a goal is a good investment.
  3. Ask myself is this really a goal or something I think I “should ” be doing.
  4. Don’t place hard time lines on reaching a particular goal. Personally I don’t do well with hard time lines. Instead I have check in dates so I can see if I’m making progress and make the necessary adjustments.
  5. Focus on where my business is in the moment and how I can capitalize on it.
  6. Revise my business plan to make sure my focus hasn’t changed.

As business owners, we all want to grow our businesses into self sustaining entities. The desire to get there may have us jumping the gun from time to time. But if we take time to look at our goals and focus on where we are in the moment we can avoid wasting time energy and money.

What decision have you made based on where you want your business to be?

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Bookstores are the worst place to sell books #allihaveisalaptopandadream

It’s the dream of every author and publisher to see their books in a bookstore. To have your work carried by a bookstore chain is prestigious but how is it for book sales?Ironically bookstores aren’t the best places to sell books. Unless your book is on a best seller list or there is specific promotion for your book around them being carried by a bookstore chain, getting a major sales from a bookstore may not be as realistic as you may think.

Here are a few reasons why bookstores are the worst place to sell books

  • Competition-your books are shelved with other books of the same category. Unless your book has an elaborate book cover or you are having a book signing. Having other books compete with yours, lowers your chances to make sales
  • Promotion-bookstores are into housing books, not promoting them. Once your book gets into a bookstore it just gets space on the shelf
  • Short shelf life-books don’t sit on bookstore shelves for long. As new titles become available, room has to be made on the shelves for them, so before your book can be discovered it may be on its way back to you in a box
  • Discounts-bookstores usually take up to a 40% discount off the retail price on titles they carry. This can also impact your bottom line on book sales.

Seeing my books carried in a bookstore chain is a goal of mine. I want to be able to walk into a bookstore and see one of my titles on the shelf. I know this is more of a goal for legitimacy than to generate sales. If my books do make it into a bookstore, I will try to capitalize on it by doing a book signing and sending promotional materials, like posters or banners to the bookstore to help promote them.

What are your thoughts about selling books in bookstores?

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If it’s easy, let it be easy: My struggle publishing a book using CreateSpace #allihaveisalaptopandadream


When I first got into self publishing the emphasis was on creating a book that would be accepted by the trade and would end up in book stores. There was a very labor intensive process and timelines are of the essence.

You have to plan your book a year ahead to promote to the trade before you even market to the reader.

Then the price of finding a printer and having books produced that may or may not sell and in most cases you end up with books taking up space in your basement or garage.

So going through this process a couple of times with my first two books, you would wonder why I was so resistant to using CreateSpace to publish my latest book.

CreateSpace is a print on demand service owned by Amazon that allows self publishers and small publishers to produce books and have them printed and distributed without the overhead costs of going directly to a printer or entering a distribution contract you have to pay yearly fees for. You don’t even have to purchase ISBN numbers for your books, CreateSpace will provide on for you and if you use their ISBN you get a library distribution option that is not available if you use your own ISBN number.

You can also publish your book to Kindle through CreateSpace. There are no upfront fees for their service. They take a small percentage off your book sales and pay you a royalty. And you retain all the rights to your books.

So with that being said, what was my resistance?

  • I don’t like change. As hard and as costly the old book model is, it is the way I started in publishing.
  • Ego. I never was successful with the old model and I wanted to master it before embracing the new way of producing and selling books
  • Branding. Somehow I thought producing books through CreateSpace would make my publishing company seem less legitimate. The truth is, the fact no one is buying my books makes my publishing company less legitimate.

The bottom line is, if there is no bottom line, you have to go with what your budget allows, so CreateSpace it is.

The process is easy. If all you have is a double spaced manuscript they have templates for different book sizes you can  paste your book into. They also have a free book cover design feature where you can create your own book cover from a selection of cover templates. You can proof your book online or order a proof copy.

They also offer editing and cover design  for a fee if you prefer to have some professional help.

Once you are satisfied with your final product, you approve the proof choose your distribution options and in a few hours your book will be available on CreateSpace (they give you a customizable page on their site for your book and they give you more royalties for books sold through their site). A few days later your book will appear on Amazon.

So I finally got through the process and I Know How to Lose Weight, So Why Haven’t I was born.

Even with this new way of producing books, I realize I still have a lot to learn about marketing and generating sales. I am thankful that I don’t have a box full of unsold books sitting in my basement.

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A Dream Deferred?

dreamAfter two years of trying to build my publishing empire, I have returned to the workforce. For practical reasons I am very grateful that I have the means to make ends meet, but the entrepreneur in me is demoralized.

I had to console myself: “no, you are not a failure”, “this is only a means to an end”, “having steady income is going to help you get where you want to go faster”, “success doesn’t happen overnight, any thing worth having is worth working for”. And so on.

I had to also look on the bright side, and see what this opportunity was giving me as a writer. I work in an office of characters and situations that provide me with material to keep me creating for days. I also have an opportunity to write about the job I do and maybe come up with “best practices ” or information on the industry I am in (a textbook may be in my future). I am also meeting people who want to become writers, that I can mentor or create a seminar and share my experience with writing and self publishing, and possibly find authors to publish in the future.

One thing I have learned in life is that change happens and instead of resisting it, I am trying to embrace it. “Just because things aren’t working the way you want them to, doesn’t mean they are not working the way they are supposed to.” @allihaveisalap Twitter post 2014

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Why Small Business With No Employees Should Have Policies and Proceedures in Place

Statistics published by the SBA (Small Business Administration US) indicate that most small businesses fail within the first 3 years of inception.  One of the main reasons small businesses fail is due to a lack of proper business planning.  A good business plan needs to be realistic and accurate.  It should contain all aspects of the business including HR policies. Many small business owners do not develop any written policies or standards that highlight expectations for employee behavior or performance in the workplace.

I am in the process of changing the way my business is taxed from sole proprietor taxation to partnership taxation so I can get full liability protection from my LLC. During this transition, I’m learning that it is more than tax status that provides liability protection for a business. The more business structures that I put in place to distinguish my business as its own entity, the stronger my liability protection will be. To achieve this, I need to have HR policies even though I don’t have any employees, so I have addressed four questions:  What are HR Policies? Why should a small business with no employees have HR policies in place?  How to develop HR Policies? What are the Benefits of Having HR Policies with no employees?

What are HR Policies?

Human resources policies are formal guidelines and regulations that businesses implement to employ, train, evaluate and compensate employees. Clearly defined HR policies help prevent misunderstandings about the employer and the employee’s role and rights in the workplace.  If a court dispute occurs between the employer and the employee, the employer is at a disadvantage if he doesn’t have a sound human resources policy.

Why should a small business with no employees have HR policies in place?

First and foremost, a small business owner officially or unofficially is an employee of their company.  Most small business start off with the owner performing all aspects of the business, performing all jobs until profits allow for the business owner to hire employees. The next progression in the evolution of a small business is for the owner to hire employees.  If the owner of a small business is the only employee in the company, the thought of having “official” standards or policies, may seem a bit crazy.  So why should an owner/ employee of a small business worry about having HR policies, because not having HR policies and procedures in place can have consequences in all progressions of a small business.

Failure to create and adhere to HR policies often leads to reduced productivity and initiative, compensation practices that could lead to costly tax obligations or even an audit.

One of the benefits of owning a small business can also be a curse. The ability to set your own hours and work in pajamas is a definite benefit.  Not having established hours of operation, or workdays could hurt a small business by confusing or frustrating customers; certain times of the day or days of the week could be better for business than others, and a relaxed approach to the workday could hurt a small business’ bottom line.  If employees are hired under a relaxed workplace structure where there are no guidelines in place to outline expected duties and workplace behaviors, and if issues arise concerning amount of work or compensation, or conduct of other employees, the business owner has no legal protection and can be sued.   HR policies address payroll policies and issues most small business owners overlook.  Having a payroll process in place can help business owners separate money used for personal and business expenses.  Comingling of funds is a major reason small business end up getting in trouble with the IRS.

Establishing workplace structures through HR policies and procedures helps to keep my focus on building my business and establishing a presence with potential customers and authors.  It also helps me fight the urge to procrastinate.  I have a structure in place to outline how I want to run my business on a daily basis.  I pay myself a salary to avoid comingling funds  and spending profits that should be reinvested in my business.

How to develop HR Policies?

Workplace policies do not have to be long and complicated documents that no one can understand. Standards can be easily summarized starting with the policy title and a brief paragraph which highlights expectations.  A small business’s HR policy should start by outlining the following:  employee classifications, such as nonexempt or exempt; equal employment opportunity guidelines; workdays; pay period dates and paydays; paycheck advances; overtime pay; break and meal periods; payroll deductions, including statutory and voluntary deductions; safety and health regulations; fringe benefits, such as vacations, holidays and sick and personal time; performance evaluations and pay increases; and terminations. The HR policy may also include other issues, such as timecard regulations; use of company resources, such as the Internet and telephone; sexual harassment; drug testing; dress code and complaints. It is good to start off with the basics even though they might not apply to your current situation.

Developing HR policies was daunting at first.  I started with the basic policies as a foundation of how I would govern myself as an employee.   I also thought of potential employment positions I may have at some point in my business.   Then I expanded to how the business operates.  The majority of my “workforce” will consist of authors under contract whose books will be published by my company.  The authors will not be employees per se nor will they be considered independent contractors.   I thought of the roles that authors I publish play in relation to the company and created policies addressing those issues.  Such as social media policies, authors will be using the platform my company provides (such as a website, Facebook page) for marketing and promotion.  I also created a policy around conduct, when authors are attending social gatherings promoting their books and book signings.

What are the Benefits of Having HR Policies?

Human resources policies that are properly established and maintained can be advantageous to a small business.  A well-written and fair policy can provide guidance on how to run day to day operations, supervise and manage future employees during the employment, training, promotion and compensation processes; and serve as a communication tool to recruit good employees regarding job expectations and behavior.  HR policies help establish a small business as more than just a hobby in the eyes of the IRS.  If the business owner needs to apply for a loan or line of credit, having a fully realized HR policy to show the bank officer may go a long way to establish credibility.

One of the biggest benefits of creating HR policies is discovering policies that are related to a business and tailoring them to fit the business needs.  HR policies provide a blueprint to a business structure from the operation standpoint.  Like most small business owners my focus was on taxes, deductions, and profit.  I didn’t realize the importance of record keeping, record storage, and intellectual property until I started developing my HR policies.

Record keeping

HR policies should comply with federal record-keeping laws.  Employee records should include job application proof of citizenship (such as, birth certificate, photo id, and social security card), résumé, performance appraisals, and salary or wage changes.  It is also important to keep leave or vacation requests, medical and payroll records.  Along with employee records, sales record, invoices and expense records should be kept.

My business records will be kept in a LLC kit.  I will be paid as an author of my company, so my file will include:

A signed Publisher/Author contract

A book submission form with attached manuscript

A signed receipt of HR policies and Procedures form

A direct deposit form

Copies of photo id, social security card, and birth certificate

Copies of required tax forms

Income statements

New hire/author checklist

I will use accounting software to keep track of my sales, invoices, inventory, and payroll.

Record storage

How certain employee records are filed, the length of time certain records have to be kept on file, if and when to destroy old employee records, are all components of record storage. For instance, Employee files containing personal information should be kept in a separate secure place from other business records and only authorized personnel should have access to those files.  Records can also be stored electronically.  With initiatives for businesses to go green and paperless,  scanning hard copies of various types of employment documents and retaining only the electronic copies is becoming more and more popular.  Electronic storage systems should be secure, accurate, reliable, and accessible.  File backup systems that can store files in more than one place and contain metadata that can be authenticated for legal purposes.

Record storage is more important than I realized.  Along with business and employee records, manuscripts, bar codes, and book cover art are records that require proper storage.  My plan for record storage is to keep hard copies of records as well as electronic records stored on a hard drive, back up drive, and online storage.  Additionally all files pertaining to one book (manuscript, cover art, and barcode) will be stored on a data disk.  I also plan to purchase a PC for my business operation because I’ve read that PC’s provide more storage capacity and file protection than a laptop.  Ninety percent of my business consists of online sales, emails and uploading files, all these records need to be stored in a safe secure way.  A solid record storage policy and procedure will be an attractive feature for future authors and employees.

Intellectual property

Intellectual property is a legal concept which refers to creations of the mind for which exclusive rights are recognized. Under intellectual property law, owners are granted certain exclusive rights to a variety of intangible assets, such as musical, literary, and artistic works.  Common types of intellectual property rights include copyright, trademarks, and patents.

Publishing is a business that deals with intellectual property.  The Publisher/ Author contract outlines the percentage of rights based on who contributes what to a literary work (the author for creating the work and the publisher for manufacturing and registering the work).  Creating a policy that addresses this is just good business.

Deadlines and attention to detail are key factors in running a successful publishing business.  There is a lot of behind the scenes work that goes on to get a book from acquisition to publication.  By having HR policies in place, that address the behind the scenes processes, the day to day operations, and expectations,  I am able to run my business more efficiently and avoid the mistakes that poor planning cost most small business.  Also when I am ready to hire employees, or publish other authors, I have workplace standards established that will protect my business.

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What You Speak/Think into Existence

Louise Hay, I Can 2014
Louise Hay, I Can 2014

Words have meaning and they are powerful. What you speak/think into existence happens in some form or another. On those days when deals fall through, sales slump, the marketing campaign you put so much thought and effort into flops, what are you saying/thinking about your business? Are you having second thoughts? Are you dooming your business to fail? Or do you take the outcome as a learning experience, affirm all is well, and try something different? Instead of speaking/thinking a negative cloud over your business when things don’t go the way you plan, try saying/thinking this:

  • There is no such thing as failure, every experience good or bad is an opportunity for growth and learning
  • I am learning how to handle setbacks and think on my feet
  • I am one step closer to finding what works for my business
  • This deal did not work out because it wasn’t meant for my business
  • The beauty about being my own boss is when one thing doesn’t work, I can try something different
  • The more challenges I face, the better business owner I become
  • I am in preparation for success

Remember, starting the business was the hard part, the rest is just an initiation. Stay focused and stay positive!

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