For sanity's sake! All work and no play makes you a dull entrepreneur, so find a healthy balance between your life and your business
by Nichole L. Torres



THE STARTUP PHASE CAN BE THE CRAziest, most harried time in the evolution of your business. But you don't have to say goodbye to your health and sanity. "You actually can bridge business and spirituality into having the full and rich life you want," explains Jeff Burrows, co-author of Myth to Reality: The Spirit of the Entrepreneurial Adventure (Bridgewood Press).

"Create your primary aim; understand your primary essence," Burrows adds. "Ask yourself: What are the things you don't want to be doing? What are the things you like? Dislike? [That's] how to really get in touch with who you are and what your purpose is." Delving into the particulars of what you want your life to be while structuring your business strategies is a necessary step toward creating balance.

The key, though, isn't to segment your day into "me time" and "business time" says Kenny Moore, co-author of The CEO and the Monk: One Company's Journey to Profit and Purpose (John Wiley & Sons). "I think people approach it as an either/or situation," he explains. "I can live a life that's integrated--I can do work stuff at home and personal stuff at work. Especially for entrepreneurs and creative people, inspiration and connectedness surface at the most [unlikely] moments--while listening to a concert, for instance. That's when people make bizarre connections about market niches--when they weren't thinking about business at all."

That kind of flexibility will help you balance your personal needs with those of your business. You should also set aside some time to breathe and take part in the things you enjoy--such as attending pottery or floral arrangement classes, hiking or attending an arts or car show--anything to recharge your batteries and keep your creative juices flowing. "A leader needs to take care that he's not draining himself," says Moore, "[or] you end up offering your tiredness and your bitterness [to your business]--nothing nurturing."

Michael Wohl's personal reflection time actually helped inspire his business. He started a line of instructional yoga DVDs suitable for anyone, from the most inflexible beginner to the advanced yoga practitioner. He had owned a candle business years before, but says, "Not being mindful of myself or my body or my health, I ended up rupturing a disc from working so hard and all the stress."

Sure not to repeat that mistake with his second endeavor, Wohl founded Bodywisdom Media Inc. in 2000. His yoga DVD production company now has sales in the seven figures. Wohl, 37, says he made a conscious effort to maintain his spiritual balance during the startup phase of his Bethesda, Maryland, company by doing yoga and meditation.

"When you're in the middle of being stressed, it helps you remain centered and get some distance from what you're doing to remind you of what is important," Wohl explains. Although he confesses it's still a challenge, maintaining his center is important to Wohl's life--and business--success.

Nice to Meet You

THESE ENTREPRENEURS PROVED YOU CAN FIND BUSINESS PARTNERS IN THE STRANGEST PLACES.

PAIGE GOLDBERG TOLMACH ON HOW SHE met fellow thirtysomething Mary Kumble, to found Swoon, their home decor company in Los Angeles:

"We [met] on a plane to New Orleans, "Tolmach, 36, recalls. "We'd both been working in the entertainment field. We both wanted to try something new, and we had the same sort of ideas in mind--to do something creative, fun and feminine. We were both ready to [decorate] our homes; we wanted to create a line of products we wanted to buy."

Brian Reynolds, 31, on how he met co-founder Jason Moody, 28, to start PowerHouse Timing LLC, a company that provides race tinting equipment and software in Cambridge, Massachusetts:

"We were beating the hell out of each other trying to get a seat in a boat race at U.S. Rowing Nationals Championship and then the Head of the Charles [regatta] later in the year. We ended up seat-racing each other both times--really going at it, this brutal style of selection. The first time Jason won, the second time I won. [In] rowing, the competitions are generally spread out, so we often had six-hour car rides. It's amazing how quickly you get to know someone when you're traveling and competing with them."

Bobby Rodriguez, 45, on how he first met co-founder Scott Ginsburg, 51, to start Boardwalk Auto Group, which includes Audi and Porsche dealerships in Plano, Texas, and a Volkswagen dealership in Richardson, Texas:

"I met Scott in 1997. I was a sales manager for a Porsche-Audi [dealer ship]. He came in to buy a car. He was a Type A personality and wanted to talk to the manager right away. [Our] relationship was built out of the fact that when I made representations, I kept doing what I said I would do for him.

"I recognized him as someone who would be buying a lot of product. I've always said work every day like today's the day you kiss your frog. When I met Scott, I just wanted to work hard, and it just so happened that I met someone who wanted to be in the car business."

Put It to the Test

WANT TO SEE IF YOUR PRODUCT WILL BE A HIT? A TRIAL RUN ON eBAY CAN SHED SOME LIGHT ON THE SUBJECT.

IF YOU WANT TO SELL A PRODUCT, GO TO eBay. If you want to test a product's viability, you can go to eBay, too.

That's what Richard Crouse and Pamela Phillips did when they wanted to gauge the demand for their newly invented BagLight, a small, convenient light that attaches to the insides of handbags. In 2002, "after producing the first BagLight prototypes and receiving positive feedback from friends and family, Crouse, 46, and Phillips, 43, wanted to see exactly what the average eBay handbag purchaser would think about their unique product. "EBay's the big marketplace now on the Internet," says Crouse. "It looked to me like a great way to jump-start my project."

Because they knew eBay customers wouldn't be searching for a purse with a light, Crouse and Phillips listed their product with purses and handbags. This kind of strategy is important when testing any new product on eBay, says Marsha Collier, author of eBay for Dummies, 4th Edition and Starting an eBay Business for Dummies (John Wiley & Sons).

"List [your product] in categories where people would look for a similar type of product," she says. If, for instance, you sell a shampoo that removes chlorine from hair, list it in the "Health & Beauty" section as well as the "Swimming" section. "People need to see the item, and remember, eBay is a rotating market," Collier continues. "To hit people, you have to stick with it. If you're not successful in the beginning, keep listing that product, and get creative with your marketing."

When your product is a new spin on an old idea, use eBay as a research haven. Check for listings of products like yours, and determine how much those items are selling for, says Corey Rudl, president of The Internet Marketing Center in Blaine, Washington. "I'd recommend testing one listing at a time," he says. "Try listing your first unit with a low starting price with a reserve price. At the end of that auction, post a new listing with a higher starting price but no reserve, and keep all other aspects of the listing identical. See which starting price results in a higher winning bid, then use that starting price for your next set of testing."

Crouse, for instance, found that BagLight sold well at an $8 price point. He also discovered that women would buy upwards of four or five as holiday gifts. And although he'd had some experience with online selling before, Crouse took full advantage of all the services eBay provides to sellers--such as help setting up a seller's financial account and listing product photos.

All this preparation and testing have really paid off, and today, Crouse and Phillips still sell on eBay as well as on their own Web site and in specialty stores across the country. The partners currently project 2004 sales to reach $250,000.

Though eBay is a great place to start and offers a wonderful way to get your products to a large demographic at once, if you're selling like mad, you should consider creating your own Web store on your own site to sell the product, says Collier. Then apply the pricing and marketing strategies you learned to the brick-and-mortar world as well. And gather all the information you can. "Make sure that even during your testing phase, you are collecting the e-mail addresses of your winning bidders," says Rudl. "This way, you will start to build a group of loyal customers you can continue to market to once you take your efforts beyond eBay."

For more advice on using eBay in your business, check out Entrepreneur magazine's Start-Up Guide #1824, How to Start a Business on eBay (www.smallbizbooks.com).

Pinch Those Pennies

HOW DO YOU START A BUSINESS ON A BUDGET? ON E AUTHOR SHARES HIS THOUGHTS ON THE SUBJECT.

EVERY STARTUP ENTREPRENEUR WANTS to know how to spend as little as possible while building his or her business. We asked David Caplan, author of How to Start a Business for Free: The Ultimate Guide to Building a Money-Making Something From Nothing (Silver Lake Publishing), for a few tips.

What kinds of things do entrepreneurs often overspend on or misuse their resources for?

DAVID CAPLAN: Being [overly] optimistic on what you think your profits are going to be and spending too much on rent, equipment and long-term contracts. You have to pretend you won't make a profit for two years.

It seems that a lot of free services have hidden costs, especially on the Internet--like pop-up ads Or spam. How can a startup find the best and most reputable free services?

CAPLAN: If I want to find someone to work on Web sites, I would [search for] "built Internet sites and ratings"; and there are sites that will rate different services. CNET.com will rate software, and it's a free service. It's a great site to find free software. Now, not everything is absolutely free, but you can find out what sites are the least expensive and the [ones] rated very highly.

You conclude your book with the concept of "free mentality." Please describe what that is.

CAPLAN: We recommend spending very little, starting small, seeing if you have all the pieces of the pie that will make it work. You have to be able to do all the aspects.

The free mentality, it's a success mentality: being willing, as a business owner, to do everything from conceiving the idea to [taking] out the garbage to [typing]--to do whatever is necessary.

BREATHE EASY

TAKE A DEEP BREATH, AND USE THESE TIPS TO FOCUS ON YOURSELF.

* Get a clear picture in your head of what you really want from both your personal life and your business.

* Have somebody, such as a coach or a mentor, help you achieve balance--don't go it alone.

* Consistently check to see if you're on track.

* Align other people with your vision of balance in your company--especially your employees.

* Be sure to recharge by engaging in creative or fun activities. Whether it's a class, a sport or a Broadway show, pick something that engages your mind and body in something outside of your business.

CHECK IT OUT

New from Entrepreneur Press: The revised and updated third edition of Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-Up Book you'll Ever Need ($24.95), by Rieva Lesonsky and the editors of Entrepreneur magazine, walks you through every single step of the startup process, from evaluating your business idea to laying the groundwork to running day-to-day operations. Available at all major bookstores and online booksellers.
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