Can I successfully immigrate to America and start a business?

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

Dear Norm,
I am a Korean-born female. I majored in sociology as undergraduate and worked as magazine reporter. After that, I spent two years in U.S.A., got my M.B.A. at Wharton, and came back to Korea. I did business planning at Citibank Korea for five years. I left due to boredom and joined an established Internet company in Korea. Here is my problem. My husband got a job offer from a Korean-run start-up in Los Angeles. I want to go with him and start my own business in U.S.A., but I’m not sure I can be successful, since I have very little connections, knowledge, and some language limitation. What do you think?

Dear Jeongwon,
I think you should follow your dreams. To me, success isn’t about achieving a specific goal but rather about having the courage to try. Of course, you want to build a successful business, and you probably will. The factors you consider handicaps are easily overcome in this day and age. Given your background, I’m sure you’ll have no trouble with language or connections, and your experience is fabulous. More important than the company you build, however, is the life you lead. If you have a dream and don’t follow it, you’ll regret it forever.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Family, Startups

What do I do when my company outgrows my managerial abilities?

Monday, June 8th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I’ve been in executive recruiting for fifteen years. Two years ago, I formed an alliance with one of my clients, and it’s working out great. I’ve had to hire two new recruiters to keep up with the demand. My annual revenues have already gone from $150,000 to $800,000, and we’re barely scraping the surface. I see only one thing that can stop us from building a substantial organization: me. I’ve come to realize that I don’t have the ability, the patience, or the know-how to manage and grow this franchise. What should I do?

Dear Bruce,
First, don’t be too hard on yourself. You’re lucky you came to this realization before getting your company in trouble. It took some tough experiences to teach me that I didn’t have the qualities required to manage a business, patience being perhaps the most important one. I eventually learned that I can take a company only so far and don’t enjoy running it beyond that point. I need to bring in real managers—patient, detail-oriented people. They aren’t good at starting businesses, and I’m not good at managing them. We get along just fine. Just remember that you’ll need to have a good working relationship with the person you bring in. That means both of you have to be open to learning from each other.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Growth, Management

Do I have the resources to take these opportunities?

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Dear Norm,
My sisters and I started a bath-and-body company on a shoestring three years ago. This year we’re on target to hit $4 million in sales. We have great distribution, sell to every major department store in the country, and have been approached by Disney, Warner Bros., and others to create private-label products. We’ll soon be entering the mass market under a different name. The problem is that our opportunities are outstripping our resources. What do you advise?

Dear Sara,
I’ll give you the advice I wish someone had given me before I took my first company to $120 million—and wound up in Chapter 11. Your core business must always come first. No opportunity is worth going after if it jeopardizes your core business even one iota. It’s not just about money. You also have limited time. Ask yourself two questions about each new opportunity: Will it keep me from putting in the time required to build or maintain my core business? And, if the opportunity turns into a financial disaster, will my core business be crippled? If the answer to either question is yes, you probably should rethink whether or not this is a good opportunity.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Growth

Should I handle my own sales?

Monday, February 16th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I am the owner of a small handbag company that is facing a tremendous amount of competition. My business was doing very well until about a year ago, when sales started to slip. I have received wonderful editorial credits in the top fashion publications and have had placement in the finest stores in the country with good sell-through. Last year I decided to take sales in-house, because I thought I could be the best spokesperson for my product. My primary goal is to build a solid brand. How can I get to the next level?

Dear Nancy,
Handling your own sales is not how you build a brand. You need to develop a certain mystique as the person whose name is on the product. You can’t do that if you’re spending your time qualifying leads, making sales calls, getting doors slammed in your face. To build a brand, increase your sales, and grow the company, you need to turn responsibilities over to other people. That can be hard, I admit, particularly when you believe you can do the job better than anyone else. I was the first dispatcher in my delivery business, and I always thought I was the best at it. But if I were still dispatching, I’d have a very small company today.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Sales, Startups

How do I handle the off seasons?

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Dear Norm,
I have a three-year-old company that produces job fairs, and we’re riding a roller-coaster. Business is great for three or four months in the spring and again for two or three months in the fall. In between, there’s nothing. Our cash flow falls to zero. Meanwhile, we still have to pay our employees. We’ve tried attracting customers by offering off-season discounts—to no avail. The cash crunch gets so bad that we spend most of the good months just recovering. This problem is crippling the business and my emotional stability.

Dear Kent,
First of all, off-season discounts usually don’t work and may undermine the profitable part of your business. Instead you should look for ways to diversify. Are there other types of shows you could produce in the down months? Could you do consulting during those times? You have to be creative, but diversification is generally the best solution to seasonal fluctuations. Meanwhile, deal with the cash-flow problems directly. Can you negotiate to pay your leases during the months when you have more money in the bank? Can you speed up your collections when cash is tight? Also try explaining the problem to your employees and asking for their suggestions. They may well come up with ideas you’d never think of.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Business Success, Sales

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