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

How do I satisfy my entrepreneurial itch?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Dear Norm,
I’ve had the entrepreneurial bug since I was in college fifteen years ago. Now I’m happily married with two sons. Those relationships bring joy and meaning to my life, as well as a lot of responsibility. For that reason, I plan to keep my day job as an executive of a Fortune 500 company, but I feel I must also honor my entrepreneurial itch. I have a great deal of experience and knowledge that I feel would be useful to someone launching a new venture. I’m thinking about volunteering in a startup, donating up to twenty hours of my time per week. In return, I’d ask that I be treated like a partner, but with no salary or equity. What do you think?

Dear Gregory,
I think you should be applauded for making a tough life decision, putting your family obligations first. A lot of people couldn’t do that. And yes, I think your idea has a lot of merit. I also love starting businesses, and I’ve found that I can satisfy my itch by helping other people start theirs. But twenty hours a week sounds way too ambitious. Instead, I’d offer to meet once or twice a week with an entrepreneur to offer advice and serve as a sounding board. You’ll be doing a great service and learning lessons you can put to use when you start your own business—after the kids leave home.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Family, Startups

Does a startup need a board of advisers?

Monday, May 18th, 2009

Dear Norm:
My husband and I own a consulting business that we’ve run successfully for fifteen years. Now we’re planning to start a retail wine business, and we think we need a board of advisers. What do you think?

Dear Leslie,
If you’re talking about an official group that meets regularly, I doubt you need one. A board is useful when you want to take an established business to the next level and you don’t have a management team with the experience to guide you. You might also need a board at some point to enhance your credibility with investors or important customers. For the majority of start-ups, however, a formal board of advisers just gets in the way. On the other hand, it’s always smart to get advice from experienced businesspeople. I’d talk to as many people as I could find with experience in wine retailing and similar businesses. You don’t need a board to do that.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Startups

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 hire the right salesperson?

Monday, January 12th, 2009

Dear Norm,
My partner, Jon, and I have a two-year-old technology start-up. Our problem is that neither one of us is a salesperson. Jon is an engineer, and I’m a systems analyst. I’d rather have dental surgery without Novocain than go out and sell. So we need a salesperson, but I’m worried about hiring someone who will give away the store. We offer a one-year, complete-satisfaction-or-your-money-back guarantee. If we wind up buying too much back, we’ll go out of business. With our reputation at stake, we can’t afford to go the gold-chains-red-sports-car route. How can we make sure we get the right type of salesperson?

Dear Eric,
You need to begin by recognizing that you are, in fact, the best salesperson for your product. You know it better than anyone else, and you have a passion for it. You probably have trouble making the initial contact with prospective customers. Fine. Hire someone to do that for you. Look for a personable individual who is good at cold-calling, turning up leads, and identifying prospects—and who can deal with the hardest part of selling, namely, rejection. Let that person bring you prospects who are pre-qualified and ready to buy. You’ll become the closer. That way, you’ll have control over their expectations.
Yours truly, Norm

Permalink  |  Posted in Hiring, Sales, Startups

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