Find help online for website
Dear Karen: Where can I find people to do websites for my company?
Answer: Before you hire anyone, determine whether you need a site designer or a Web developer. A developer can design and program your site, doing things such as integrating a shopping cart for e-commerce or a database for inventory management.
Next, look at other sites in your industry and contact the designer or developer listed on the ones you like best. Get referrals from other entrepreneurs. And search online for “website design and development,” limiting results to your city, says Caroline Melberg of Melberg Marketing.
“Another great tool online is Guru.com, a freelance marketplace where you can search the profiles of freelancers,” Melberg said. “You can also post a job listing for your specific project.”
Get a drop on the competition
Dear Karen: How can I know when the time is right to enter a competitive industry?
Answer: You must have a better value proposition than the established players and you must be able to turn a profit on your business model, said Blake Patton, chief executive of Atlanta-based IKobo Inc., an international money-transfer firm. When Patton founded IKobo in 2001, he entered a marketplace dominated by large corporations such as Western Union and MoneyGram.
“You have to know you can significantly improve the product or service for the customer. Mature companies do things the same way they’ve always done them, and they’re highly invested, so they may not want to change quickly,” Patton said. “It’s the same thing for the customer who is attached to an established product. They may be hesitant to change even if the product or service you offer is better.”
By introducing an electronic money-transfer option into an arena where transactions had been largely paper-based, Patton was convinced he had an innovation that would transform the industry and lure hesitant customers. “You have to be able to provide the new proposition while still ensuring that your company has a financial advantage,” he said.
Want a vacation? Learn to delegate
Dear Karen: I want to take some time off this year, but my business is so demanding it seems I never can get away. What do I do?
Answer: Delegate some business activities to employees, starting with administrative tasks and moving to marketing, operations, human resources and sales, said Brian Blomgren, owner of ActionCOACH in Atlanta. “Write up a catalog of all the critical activities that you do for your company, identify which are repetitive and create routines for those activities so they can be delegated consistently.” Train employees to take over nonessential tasks, and groom a manager to take over daily operations for short periods. Start with a few days and work up to a week or two. If your employees are rewarded for good performance, their job satisfaction will be high and they’ll stay with your firm, enabling you to get away more.
“As a fellow entrepreneur, I know how hard it is to start delegating responsibilities to others. Businesses are like children; as they grow, they take on new forms, and we have to let certain responsibilities go in order for them to thrive,” Blomgren said.
Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to karen.e.klein@ latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012