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Wednesday, June 25, 2014


Steve Cole's thoughts on general business.

1. I was watching Shark Tank and some woman said that her business was not making money and she desperately needed cash from the sharks to keep going. Let me get this right. Your business is steadily losing money and your plan is for us to give you money that you will use to cover the losses and your living expenses until somehow your business starts to make money. Do you actually have a plan to change what you're doing into a profitable model? No? Then you don't need an investor. You need a psychiatrist.

2. Here's a scam to avoid. A local radio station calls up, wanting you to pay for "public service announcements about missing children." Never do this! While it's two steps above an outright scam, it is designed to make profit for the radio station more than find kids. (If you want to donate money to missing and exploited children, find an appropriate charity and give them the money. The radio station is basically selling you an advertising campaign that spends most of its time talking about something other than your business.)

3. Here's another scam to avoid. If you have to pay for your own trash service, expect to get a price increase every year if not every six months. After a few of those, call the company and pretend to be a new customer wanting to sign up. You may well find that the "starting" price for a "new" customer is the same you were paying years ago. At that point, tell them who you really are and demand to be given the "new customer" price before you call their competition.

4. In a lot of businesses, plans are discussed for some future event months away. Such discussions are often tentative, incomplete, and may well include casual thoughts that would never be approved by a formal process. When it's time to execute some plan discussed long ago, whatever status that plan had way back then, it needs to be reviewed again (by everyone involved) before it is executed. (This may include operations, logistics, budget, legal, marketing, and other departments.) Things may have changed, the plan may never have been finished, and people may have said things in humor that were never intended to be taken seriously.

5. A friend of mine called for help after receiving a rather "firm" phone call from a bill collector for a debt she had no connection to. After doing some research, I called the place back on her behalf since I know how bill collectors work and I can't be bullied by them. I told them she wasn't responsible for the debt and they needed to never call her again. The research I did started with the 800-number left for a return call. In two seconds on Google it turned up everything about the bill collecting company and their illegal and unethical tactics. While this prepared me for anything they might try, I did not jump straight to confrontation, but remained calm and professional. I gave them what information we had about the deadbeat (whom she had not seen in over 20 years) but refused to give them any information about my friend. (I was not surprised when the first thing they said was "We need to confirm your social security number." They were surprised when I said "no.")