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Don't Buy Stock in the Company You Work For - It is never wise to invest money in a company that you work for. What happens if the company...

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Ideas For Setting-Up A Consultancy

Q:I'm considering setting up a marketing consulting company specializing in guerilla-type marketing for small businesses and non-profits. I'd like to "test" this idea part-time before leaving my full-time position. I live in a mid-sized (2.5 million) metropolitan area. Does anyone have ideas on how to best go about this? How do I secure clients? How much can I charge to develop a marketing plan? Do small businesses care enough about marketing and have the resources to support a consultant?

A:During your initial start-up phase, I'd recommend you write up a good speech about something that small business owners will want to hear and then talk to your area small business associations on giving that speech to their membership. Have someone come with you (ideally an attractive woman) that will hand a leaflet to people as they enter. On one side of the leaflet, there's the key points of your speech and the order they'll be given in. This is the side that needs to be face up when the helper hands out your leaflet. On the other side of the leaflet is your "credentials". Your credentials are simply a veiled ad for your consultancy. After you get done giving that speech to as many business associations as possible, come up with another topic for a speech and repeat. Repeat until your client base is what you want it to be. One thing you might like to see if the associations will let you do is send out postcard announcements to their entire membership about the speech and when it will be given. If you pitch it right, the association will bite because they always want high attendence to all their meetings. Show them the postcard you want to send out and get their approval of it. Make any changes they ask for and re-submit it to them again. Offer to print up as many as they'd like and pay for the postage or if they'll give you the mailing list to their membership, you'll take care of it all for them. If they turn over their mailing list to you, do NOT use that mailing list for any other purpose, no matter how tempting, or that organization will hate you for doing so, and never allow you to speak to their membership again. "What I recommend you do is determine what your sales territory is. What's its radius? Double that and add a healthy 10% more distance then go and talk to people out that distance that are in the same business you want to start up. Literally, drive there. Do not do the following over the phone or email or through snail mail. Show up on their doorstep during the slow time of their business day. Tell them that you want to start up a similar business at such-and-such a location and if they would consider you competition. If they say you would be, drive further away from your proposed business location until you find a business that says you're not. If you have to go to a different country, do so. Once you find a business that says your two territories won't overlap, ask if they wouldn't mind answering some questions about how to start and run a business like theirs. Play to their egos and they'll love to talk to you. Everyone likes to feel important and worth listening to, especially business owners when it comes to their businesses. Have a list of questions written out on a notepad, but do NOT write down their answers. Instead, bring a tape recorder (yes, put it right out in the open, no need for spyware, and besides it plays to their egos as their words are being treated as worthy of being recorded) and concentrate on getting as much information out of them as possible, as well as picking up the other half of the answers they give in body language. If they say something you don't understand, speak up, and ask for clarification. Let them wander off your list of questions since where they wander to might be a place you never thought of asking questions about and should have been. However, keep an eye on the questions you've written down and try to ask them all before the interview concludes. Of course, always yield to customers that come in. After you've interviewed one owner, go home and digest what was said. Listen to the tape on your way home. Think over it all. Adjust your business plan accordingly. Adjust the questions on that notepad and then on your next free day, head off in another direction and do the same thing. Try to interview at least twenty businesses. A hundred businesses would be ideal. Interview the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you're lucky, you'll interview one that is going out of business or has just went out of business so you can hear about the dark side. Likewise, interview those businesses you think are bad. Keep in mind that since they're still in business, they are probably doing something right, if just being the only game in town for your products/services.

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