Here’s an interesting puzzler. How is it possible for a profitable business to be growing and failing at the same time? The all-important answer to this conundrum lies in the company’s cash flow. 

Hot product companies that experience rapid sales growth have to purchase and assemble inventory months in advance of shipment to retailers and distribution partners. This eats up a company’s cash. And just when customers get around to paying for past product shipments, the company has to invest its available cash in the next inventory production run. Fast-growing companies also pay out higher sales, taxes and insurance bills too.  This is how too much success can quickly lead to an empty bank account.

Sadly, if a commercial bank doesn’t step in to help a company catch up, ...Read more

I once went to a seminar on how small retailers could convince their competitors' clients to switch and do business with them. The speaker outlined several strategies for cultivating relationships with prospects loyal to other brands to eventually win them over as customers. How long should they keep trying these strategies, one lumberyard owner asked? "Until they buy...or they die," the speaker replied. If the construction-company buyer you were targeting died, of course, then a new buyer would be hired -- and you could start trying to win the company's business all over again. The process of trying to increase your market share is a continuous one. You can never stop trying to win new customers. After all, your competitors are probably trying to win your customers over right now. And in this economy, let's face it -- where else are you going to get customers than by taking them away from your competitors? This all came to mind as I perused author/speaker Ross Shafer's new book Grab More Market Share -- How to Wrangle Business Away from Lazy Competitors. The book lays out a slew of strategies for growing your business by stealing away competitors' customers. Here are five of Shafer's tips for snatching more market share, even now, when the economy is expanding by just 1 percent:

  1. Stay relevant through innovation. One great way to gain market share is to spot new... Read more


When it comes to small-business money problems, it's often not the sales volume that's an issue -- it's the cash flow.

Money simply isn't there at the time when you need it to pay bills. It straggles in next week or next month, or even next quarter. You end up borrowing to keep the business afloat until those late payments finally turn up. This raises expenses, and causes more cash-flow problems.

How can you escape the cash-flow trap? Here are seven tips from John Formento Jr., an analyst with the business-information firm Sageworks -- plus a few of my own.

  1. Monitor accounts receivable. Do you know whose bills are overdue right away? ... Read more

 Is there a statute of limitations for past jobs? If so, then I have a slight confession about the last corporate job I had.

During my last three months at that job, which was around the time when I decided that I was going to go out on my own, work wasn’t very important to me. If I took a long lunch break, it didn’t matter. If I wasn’t productive every hour I was at work, I didn’t care. No one was going to nominate me for employee of the year, which was fine…I didn’t deserve the title.

I can’t say the same about working for myself. As a business owner, every minute counts. If I make a mistake, whether large or small, it can potentially cost me time, money and aggravation.

All of us make mistakes. Without them, how would we learn anything. Save yourself from stress and anxiety by considering (and avoiding) these common business mistakes.

Mistake #1: Spending too much money on overhead
A suite of offices may make you feel that you’ve made it. It may also make your friends and family stop asking ... Read more

QuickBooks 2012 continues to enhance its reputation as an easy-to-use financial management software solution with greater ease at start-up, improved importing functionality from Excel and a more robust reporting engine... Read more