Dear Karen: I need new marketing materials but can't spend a lot. Where do I look?
Answer: Personal referrals are the best way to choose service professionals. Ask other entrepreneurs what graphic design and printing firms they use, meet with two or three and choose the best quality and service for your budget.
Note how long it takes to get responses, said Andrew Field, president of PrintingForLess.com. "You want a fast answer when you first approach them. If they can't answer quickly, they can't do other things well either," he said.
As you place your order, consider that most of the cost is in set-up, Field said, so you should get prices for larger quantities than you may need immediately. "For instance, you may be able to get 2,000 full-color brochures for only 10% more than the price for 1,000," he said.
An environmental concern: Look for a printer who is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council ( www.fscus.org) for using recovered materials or products from sustainably managed forests.
Handling injuries in the workplace
Dear Karen: I've had some work-site injuries at my company. What should I do?
Answer: Promptly report any injuries to your insurance carrier, said Glen Pitruzzello, vice president of claims at Hartford Financial Services Group. "Research shows that the longer it takes to report a claim, the more expensive the claim ultimately becomes," he said.
Work closely with your claims agent because managing a workers' compensation claim is time-sensitive.
Find opportunities for the injured employee to come back to work as soon as possible, perhaps on a limited schedule. "People want to return to a productive life, and work can often be the best therapy. The absence of a skilled, experienced employee also represents a loss of productivity" for your firm, Pitruzzello said.
No substitute for doing research
Dear Karen: I'd like to open a small enterprise, either selling T-shirts and sunglasses or operating a 24-hour laundromat. Can you direct me?
Answer: Before you invest or borrow to fund a business venture, do you have the personality to be an entrepreneur? The Small Business Administration offers an online test at www .sba.gov/smallbusinessplanner /plan /getready/index.html.
If you have the right stuff, do your homework. Read books, scour the Internet and talk to successful entrepreneurs about what it takes to run a small business. Research the particulars of the business you're contemplating. What are the start-up costs? Where will you get funding? What's the profit margin? How many hours will you put in?
Take a class on entrepreneurship offered by your local community college or Small Business Development Center (to find such centers, go to www.sba.gov/sbdc) or at www .myownbusiness.org. Take a job at a business similar to the one you'd like to open and learn about daily operations.
Even before you start your business, look for industry associations you can join and read their trade publications. Attend entrepreneurial workshops and networking meetings. Talk to other business owners about their good and bad experiences. Get counseling from SCORE.org, a nonprofit group of retired executives who do volunteer counseling to help small businesses.
Got a question about running or starting a small enterprise? E-mail it to ke.klein@ latimes.com or mail it to In Box, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.