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When you have a small business, should you hire your family or friends? Here are some pros and cons to consider:Pros:You know them; and they know you so the getting-to-know learning curve is non existentYou trust themYou know what they can do and their area of expertiseThey know how important this business is to youThey know how you work (whether you are intense, easy going or high strung)They know how to deal with you and they can offer you the work complement you need (e.g. your father may be a great accountant and you need the expertise while you are great with marketing)You may be able to
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get the labor and expertise at a lower rateCons:They know you and may not take you seriously when you ask them to do the work Relationships can be affected if you are not satisfied with their performance or they are not happy with how you are treating themIt's harder to ask them to do something because you might be shy to ask them to do an errand and you will do the work insteadThey might not be prepared to deal with a different you -- not as the friend or family member they know but as the bossDifficulty in adjusting to this new relationship and dynamicsIt really depends on the extent of work and your relationship with them. In my opinion, though, generally, hire your friends and family IF AND ONLY IF the two of you knows when to separate the family/friend relationship from the boss/employee relationship. And that you both understand what you expect from each other, and know that it will not always be easy.It also helps if you know that the family member or friend you are hiring can be a positive contribution to your business (e.g. if you know your friend is extremely flighty and unreliable, you are better off hiring someone more dependable and knowledgeable).

Whether you are thinking of starting a new business, buying an existing business or a franchise, it is important to understand the customer base of the business. The most successful businesses are those who know and deeply understand their customers; afterall, the goal of every business is to get and keep customers.Here are some questions to ask to help you understand the customers of the business:Does the business cater to individual customers or businesses? Or is it the government?If individuals, do you know the demographics of the target market?If businesses, how big are these companies? Ar
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e they micro, small, medium or Fortune 500 type of businesses?How do the customers decide to buy this type of product/service? If the customers are the government or businesses, what is the purchasing process in the organization?Is the business heavily dependent on one or few customers? Are the customers in a growing market, or is the market shrinking?Are there possible changes or shift in the industry that could affect their purchase from the business?

I have just been released from the hospital for an emergency surgery last Wednesday. Everything went well, and I am now back home recuperating.But I have not been able to post anything in my blogs, which brings me to the question: If you are hospitalized or get sick, do you have a back up plan for your business? Or will your business take a sick day as well?Lucky for me, I have several dependable folks helping out with and our other sites. But solo entrepreneurs may not have such luck. Imagine if you're a web designer who has committed to a client the completion of their proje
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ct at a certain date, only to find that you cannot do it because you're in the hospital. Or if you are running an ecommerce store and orders are pouring in, but you can't do anything with fulfillment as you are too sick to do so. Unfortunately, for many of us, no work means no pay.We don't want to think about getting sick or hospitalized, but it is important to create a back up plan for your business, especially if you are working solo and your family depends on you. Here are some things to consider:Run as many processes of your business on auto-pilot as much as possible. An information site or blog earning from Adsense can survive days without getting new content or being updated -- and yet income can still come in. But if you sell advertising or products or services and new orders are coming in, you must at least have an autoresponder telling customers that their order has been received and will be processed within the next two business days (or whatever duration you are comfortable with). That way, your customer can be assured that you have received the order and hopefully processing it.Invest in technology. Buy a laptop to allow you work wherever and whenever you need to work -- even in hospitals. More importantly, get a wireless broadband Internet access to allow you to be online anywhere. Verizon Wireless Internet costs about $49 per month -- and in the case of my hospitalization, this service is a definite life saver. These are business expenses so you can deduct these items from your tax bill. Or at least get a smartphone like Blackberry or Palm Treo with Internet and email access so you know what is happening to your business.Get a helper. Or at least someone you can rely on who can help things running in your business while you are unable to do so. It can be as simple as your wife or husband calling your clients that you may be a little delayed in fulfilling your obligations to them because you are sick. Or a back up person who can work on your projects for you until you get better (properly compensated, of course). Or even your family members to help pack and ship the items ordered by customers.Eat right and be healthy. Of course, the best advice is to make sure you avoid being sick by taking care of yourself. Find ways to release stress from your business. Relax and sleep right.

Blogs have become very popular nowadays. With its more casual and laid back approach, it seems that a lot of people have something to say and start a blog. Even the homeless man who took up residence in a sidewalk near Union Station in Washington DC has a blog!The next question of course is, how can you make money from your blog?If you look at some of the top blogs and the advertising rates they charge, you'd drool with envy. Well, they're the top and get lots of media play and significant traffic.One of my favorites, Duct Tape Marketing, which receives 160,000 pageviews per month, charges $36
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per CPM for leaderboards and skyscraper, while medium rectangle costs $40 per CPM. Assuming that the inventory for medium rectangle is sold out at $40 per CPM, then the blog stands to earn $6,400 for one ad format alone (umm ... ok, that's not much, but still, that's only for 1 ad format).Another favorite, TechCrunch, receives about 5,360,000 pageviews per month. Their medium rectangle is also priced at $40 per CPM, so assuming that this is sold out every month, the blog earns $214,400 for one ad format alone! Add to that the earnings from their full banner ($12 CPM), wide skyscraper ($36) and leaderboard ($36). Now, that's some serious dough!If you want to earn even a fraction of what TechCrunch and other top blogs are earning, read the article "How to Make Money from Blogs"

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