Outside Consultant

How to make sure performance reviews will help workers improve

Our employees have said that our current employee review process does not provide enough direction on ways to improve. What are some effective ways to uncover and communicate specific improvement areas?

To attract workforce of the future, make your company a cause

November 3
Forward-thinking executives are strategically helping new hires deepen and connect their sense of purpose.

Juggling millennials, Gen Z in the workplace

October 28
The newest generation to enter the workforce is very different from millennials.

Do benefits of being a benefit corporation outweigh costs?

October 22
Can you explain the pros/cons for entrepreneurs wondering if a benefit corporation classification is right for them?

For successful hiring, look at wage data outside your company

October 8
I am looking at hiring a couple of new employees. How should I set wage levels? What else should I offer in terms of compensation?

To maximize profit, businesses sometimes need to fire a client

October 1
Q: How do you balance getting the right customers and maximizing profit?Roslyn McKenna, brand managerSH Data CentersA: The well-known rule of thumb is that 80…

Can you manage a team if you don't like managing people?

September 24
Q: How do you move from being a solopreneur to growing and managing a team if you don't enjoy managing people?Gina Horkey, founderHorkey HandbookA: Our…

When it comes to taxes, 'startup cost' is a narrow category

September 16
Q: As an entrepreneur, what do I need to know about deducting startup costs, and what qualifies as such? Anonymous A: Business ventures generally…

Outside Consultant: Taking an American-themed product to international markets

September 10
Our product has a distinctive American theme; however, we are getting some attention and requests from the United Kingdom and Australia. Can you please share some marketing dos and don'ts for international audiences?

Keys to making sure a merger works

September 1
The history of business integration has taught us that this process takes a good deal of thought and effort.

To build out client base, focus on what you can offer

August 27
Q: As an independent consulting firm that has mainly consulted early stage technology innovation, I am looking to build out my client base to…

Scouting inventory system options for small businesses with a tight budget

August 20
Q: Our business processes hundreds of transactions a day. What is the best way to manage and track inventory for a small business…

Small firms that expand face culture, communication challenges

August 13
As a business that is scaling up from a three-person staff, what are some unexpected challenges that we will face? What can we do to prepare for these challenges?

How to generate leads without having to buy them

August 6
The key question to launch your search is, "What is the problem I'm trying to solve?"

How much debt is too much for your company?

July 29
Q: I need to apply for a line of credit for cash-flow purposes. At what point is there too much debt? Revenue is 20 percent…

Flexible work arrangements aren't going away

July 23
Is the recent news of IBM calling remote workers back to the office a trend or an anomaly in the future of how and where people work?

How small businesses can keep big-time workers

July 16
Q: What tips and advice do you have for small trade businesses to attract and retain great people?Rob Satrom, ownerFeedbackWrenchA: Nearly every organization finds it…

When is it time to drop the day job and go all out in your business

July 9
When starting a business and working at the same time, when do we know it is time to give the business all our attention and stop working a day job?

Get your company's story together to land growth investment

July 1
Q: What is the best way to receive funding to grow my company without losing control of it? Christina Flach, CEO Pretty Girl Makeup  …

Outside Consultant: How to target a slice of the over-55 market

June 25
What is the most effective way to reach people over 55 and retirees who may be downsizing? Also, how can we appeal to the children of seniors who are helping their parents transition into retirement communities?

How to move your business beyond a solo act

June 18
As I look to build my business beyond sole proprietorship and bring on other team members, how should I lay out expectations if some tasks might go beyond the usual job descriptions?

Ask an expert: Budget basics for new nonprofits

June 10
Q: I am in the start-up process for a nonprofit. What should I consider when forecasting a budget for a 12-month business plan? LaTonia E.…

How entrepreneurs shape ideas into products

June 4
Q: I have an idea for a product, but am not sure how to get started in making the idea a reality. What are…

In addressing internet security issues, make sure to provide solutions

May 28
Q: How do I overcome public apathy to internet security, even after revelation after revelation about security failures?Greg Scott, authorA: Step 1 is determining whether…

The need to be genuine incorporating your social mission with your corporate brand

May 21
As a social venture start-up, what is the most effective way to incorporate our social mission in our branding strategy and client presentations?

There is no hard and fast rule when it comes to spending on marketing

May 14
Q: What percentage of our budget should be going toward marketing efforts?Vitaliy Vinogradov, CEO, Modern Lighting PlaceA: There are no hard and fast rules regarding…

Launching new brand requires thinking about sales, distribution channels

May 7
My company is close to launching our own skin care brand. Do you think we should focus on online sales? And would offline sales help support online sales?

Key questions to ask prospective fulfillment partners

April 30
When thinking about selecting a fulfillment partner, you should start by setting measurable objectives and standards.

Brands that pick targets wisely can connect on social media

April 23
Q: How can brands stand out among the growing abundance of misinformation that exists on social media sites, like Facebook, today?AnonymousA: Can brands save…

Side project is close to something your employer is doing. Now what?

April 16
Q: Over the past six months, I've been publishing an SEO-specific newsletter tied directly to my name/brand. My employer runs something similar (I'm not…

Due diligence key to avoiding late-paying clients

April 9
What are your options when a client doesn't pay on time? And if the relationship worsens, what is the best way to fire a client?

New firms should use advisory board to build brand trust

April 1
Ashley Garner, owner and designer, Violet Wears Q: How do you build brand trust with a new business? A: I love this question.…

When does an office make sense for a start-up?

March 26
Q: A lot of start-up businesses are not clear whether they need to get an office after working out of their homes. When should a…

Using social media to increase sales of a niche publication

March 19
Q: I'm co-owner of a company that publishes medical guides written by physicians who are also mothers. What are some best practices for…

How to market a professional services business

March 12
What is the best marketing strategy for a business that requires a high level of trust between client and provider before working together?

Your business clicks with boomers, so how to target the younger consumer?

March 5
We currently appeal to baby boomers because they typically have discretionary money, more flexible time and grown children. How can we attract younger clients?

To boost your productivity, weed out those negative routines

February 26
Q: A goal for myself personally, and for the benefit of my business, is to be the most productive and effective I can possibly…

Documentary maker wants to build audience in a new market

February 19
I'm the filmmaker of an award-winning documentary, "Church of Felons," which exposes the severe drug and alcohol addiction epidemic of Polk County, Wis. How could we better reach over the border into Minnesota to gain support, book screening events and direct attention of influencers toward our project?

Keys to keeping independent contractors accountable to your organization

February 11
Q: My company is looking to improve accountability for self-employed agents. What is the best way to set up accountability for independent contractors? Adam Kruse,…

Sorting out tax implications of advancing expenses to clients

February 5
Q: I frequently advance expenses to clients that total as much as 25 to 50 percent of their final invoice. These fees are reimbursable,…

Outside Consultant: Broadening the reach of your firm's speaking platform

January 28
Q: I want to expand the reach of my consulting business’ speaking platform. What is the best way to reach buyers who are interested…

When expanding to new markets, best to bet on direct sales

January 22
Q: My company sells specialized drones for commercial use. We would like to grow sales in Minnesota and the Midwest. Should we first have direct…

Deciding when it's time to seek outside investors

January 13
Q: How does an entrepreneur or business owner know when it is right to gut it out and self-fund their business vs. when it is…

Building partnerships between corporations and nonprofits can produce big payoffs

January 8
Q: What are some good ways to find corporations who are interested in becoming partners with nonprofits?Hussein Farah, Founder & executive directorNew Vision Foundation A:…

Some keys to getting your brand known in new markets

January 1
Q: What is the fastest way to achieve brand awareness in markets outside of Minnesota?Jess Tiffany, presidentMarketing and Networking UniversityA: First, know what you mean…

How to market to a skeptical online audience

December 25, 2016
Q: Marketing on a business-to-business (B2B) level requires a completely different approach from business-to-consumer (B2C) campaigns. Could you advise on ways to pitch to an…

An airline and a sub shop offer good brand awareness lessons

December 18, 2016
Both Subway and American Airlines successfully used loyalty programs to cost-effectively increase brand awareness.

How to shift a small business into a higher gear

December 11, 2016
As the adage goes, if your company is in a growing market and you are not growing with the market, then your portion of the market is shrinking.

How should a small business approach seasonal hires?

December 4, 2016
Q: We're a small business, but generally become much busier during the holiday period. I've often thought about taking on extra staff during this period,…

To get more from workers, focus on factors that drive intrinsic motivation

November 27, 2016
Motivation can be thwarted in many ways. Fortunately, the research provides some great tools for diagnosing and improving motivation.

Keys to attracting top talent in a tight labor market

November 20, 2016
Q: In today's economy, with very low unemployment rates, it can be very difficult to find qualified applicants for jobs that require a skilled workforce.…

To find new customers for your business, consider 3 key questions

November 13, 2016
Q: What is the most effective and inexpensive way to find new customers?Zondra Wilson, OwnerBlu Skin CareA: Generally, the more effective, less-expensive approach to acquiring…

How owners can find new ways to market their business

November 6, 2016
Q: How can I find marketing opportunities? Other than online marketing with search engines, how else can a business owner market their business? Speaking of…

How to decide if it's time for your small business to hire employees

October 30, 2016
Q: As a small company experiencing growth, it has been really exciting and challenging. How do we gauge the decision to hire production work and…

How to decide whether your company should stay general or go niche

October 23, 2016
Q: In looking at our clients over the last six years, about 40 percent are in the architectural, engineering and construction (AEC) industries. While…

Outside Consultant: Where to invest in marketing

October 16, 2016
Q: What is the best online channel for us to invest our money in? We can't afford to market across social media, e-mail and search,…

Finding top talent for your business is a three-step process

October 9, 2016
Q: What is a proven process to hire top talent? I know you don't want to wait until somebody leaves. Who are some unexpected people…

Key questions businesses need to consider before expanding

October 6, 2016
Q: What are the points to consider before scaling the brand? Gaurang Naik, CEO Dollar Rows  A: There is certainly not a cookie-cutter approach to…

Making sure a growth opportunity won't trip up the core business

September 25, 2016
Q: Some investments look attractive, but they also take the company's capital and focus away from its main line of business. How can entrepreneurs stay…

Weighing the tax implications of LLC vs. S-Corp

September 18, 2016
Q: We currently have a partnership LLC, but have heard that for tax purposes, it's better to organize as an S-Corp. We've received different opinions…

Outside Consultant: Financing options when you have negative cash flow

September 21, 2016
  Q: How do I raise financing for a new brand with negative cash flow? Gaurang Naik, CEO Dollar Rows   A: When a business…

Making sure your marketing matches up with your target consumer

September 4, 2016
Q: I co-own Momosa Publishing LLC, publisher of the Mommy MD Guides and other books, www.mommymdguides.com and other websites, and the Mommy MD Guide app.…

Is it time to upend the business model to jump start profits?

August 28, 2016
Q: Should I change my company's individualized education program to more group programs for more profits?AJ, Owner, Suprex Private TutoringA: The challenge for Suprex Tutoring…

When can you quit your day job when starting a small business?

August 21, 2016
Q: When you're starting a small business, when is the right time to quit your day job — financially speaking? If you're starting your own…

Generating more sales without hiking your marketing budget

August 14, 2016
Q: How can I generate more sales without spending so much on marketing (advertising and promotion) that I break the bank?Ashley Valencia, ownerThe Printer Depot…

Tips for small businesses looking to land those first few sales

August 7, 2016
Q: They say those first few sales are always the toughest to get. What are some key tips that help small and midsize businesses, and…

Does your company need an HR department?

July 31, 2016
Q: How do I know whether I need an official human resources department or if I can do everything myself? Is it a matter of…

Company has new product to tout, but little money for marketing

July 23, 2016
Q: We can do better in social media. Online giveaways and contests seem to be working. We still have a long way to go —…

Sorting out funding options for entrepreneurs

July 17, 2016
Accessing capital is one of the central problems all ventures face.

Outside Consultant: Pet sitting site wants to better target its market

July 10, 2016
Q: How can we better target pet parents to use our site?Ashley Jacobs, OwnerSitting for a CauseA: As a socially responsible company, you want to…

Outside Consultant: On the hunt for a volunteer advisory committee

July 3, 2016
Q: What are some tips or best practices for recruiting and then supporting a volunteer advisory committee?Jennifer Radke, CEONational Institute for Social MediaA: The purpose…

Outside Consultant: Should a small business invest in PR?

June 26, 2016
Q: Does investing in public relations make sense for small businesses? Is there a certain size, profitability-wise, that a company should achieve before it makes…

The right message is key to reaching 'influencers'

June 19, 2016
Q: How do we get information in front of influential organizations/sites/blogs whose ­readers would find our service helpful? David Mercer, founderSME PalsA: Getting in front…

Emphasize 'who,' not 'what,' when recruit sales help to small firm

June 12, 2016
Q: How do I hire more employees when no one seems to want to sell printers and/or work for a small business?Ashley Valencia, owner,The Printer…

How many marketing channels are right for smaller company?

June 5, 2016
Q: Would a smaller company benefit more from having numerous marketing channels or should it just have one or two?Vladimir Gendelman, founder and CEO, Company…

What's the best sales hire option for growing company?

May 29, 2016
Q: Our company is growing a lot, and we are faced with a dilemma: We need another inside sales coordinator to help keep all of…

Outside consultant: What is the value of a brand?

May 22, 2016
Q: What is the value of a brand? How do we know it's valuable to a business? Alternatively, what does a world without brands look…

Sometimes you should ignore customer feedback

May 15, 2016
Q: How do you know when to implement customer feedback vs. ignore it?Bryan Clayton, CEO of GreenPalA: Customer feedback is an excellent source for ways…

What are financing options for your business if you have bad credit?

May 8, 2016
Q: We sell laser jet printers and design jet plotters, and parts and accessories to go with them. We also do service on printers throughout…

Picking the right growth path for your already successful online venture

May 1, 2016
Q: Just under two years ago, I started an e-commerce website. The website has been spectacularly successful, with tens of thousands of sales and a…

Consider several factors when deciding where to incorporate your business

April 24, 2016
Selecting a home for your business is a complex decision and depends on a variety of factors.

How engaged should your business be with social media?

April 17, 2016
Q: Do you have any advice on how to stay productive and focused when there is so much distraction from social media? How can we…

Small business needs to figure out which business to be in

April 10, 2016
Q: Should we keep our focus on trying to growing our personalized baby business or should we focus on more lucrative jobs, such as acting…

Making the most of a very small ad budget

April 3, 2016
Q: How can we get our products seen with a very small advertising budget?The Clean Witch Natural Cleaning productsA: As they say, "it depends." It…

Outside Consultant: How to determine if you can undercut the competition

March 27, 2016
Is it better to underbid the competition and not make much money on an account, or price for quality service and be more selective?

Outside Consultant: Hire full-time help or freelance? What start-ups need to consider

March 22, 2016
Q: What factors should a start-up company think about when deciding to hire its first full-time employee, vs. freelance? Scott Gabrielson Founder, Oliver Cabell  …

Outside Consultant: How to find the right partners for your company

March 22, 2016
Anyone considering a partnership with you will go to the Web to find out more about New Level Seminars.

Outside Consultant: Can a business add benefits for 1099 workers?

March 22, 2016
Q: We are a midsize remodeling company that values its workers. Many of the workers are 1099 or open-source labor, and we would like to…

Outside consultant: Is renting school-district bus transportation a possibility for my business?

February 29, 2016
I take people on backpacking trips into the remote wilderness and think that school districts would like the extra income from shuttling people using buses that would otherwise just be sitting in a lot.

Outside Consultant: For start-ups, not all investors are created equal

November 15, 2015
questionI have sunk my entire savings into a great idea and it's launching soon, but I think it could be more successful with more capital…

Outside Consultant: How to respond to campaigns to raise the minimum wage

November 8, 2015
Question As a small business, how should we handle the Fight for $15 campaign (minimum wage), especially if some of our competitors prefer to hire…

Outside Consultant: What's the best way to get media coverage for a small company?

October 9, 2015
questionMy company, Access Now, just launched its first guidebook for wheelchair users and travelers with limited mobility. My question is about marketing. As a small…

Outside Consultant: On pay ceilings and keeping good managers

September 13, 2015
questionGiven that I have no formal business training, the simple questions in running the show always get me. Is there a ceiling for salaries for…

Outside Consultant: Can't get to core tasks? Time to hire some help

August 30, 2015
questionI am a solopreneur, wearing every hat from CEO and marketing director to shipping specialist and social media strategist. I spend more hours working in…

Outside Consultant: Three things to consider before outsourcing work

August 23, 2015
questionWhen is the right time to expand a business and begin to outsource tasks? How should I decide on the tasks within my business to…

Outside Consultant: How to reach a target market

July 27, 2015
question I recently launched an online fitness business that will help mommies lose baby weight from the comfort of their home. What are some ways…

Outside Consultant: To grow customer base, understand your target market

July 12, 2015
questionI run a building maintenance company and would like advice on how to grow my customer base. Ryne Cleaning Rynecleaning.comanswerI would begin by thoroughly understanding…

Outside Consultant: Finding a cost-effective marketing plan for a small business

June 21, 2015
questionMarketing our small business is one of the greatest challenges to allocate funds. What is the most effective marketing strategy for a small business that…

Outside Consultant: Using social media to reach an old media market

June 17, 2015
questionOther than the "standards" in social media, what are some ways of connecting the new tech-savvy customer of the future to business in a ­market…

Outside Consultant: Four key elements to taking your business national

May 31, 2015
questionOur business has been growing and maturing in the Twin Cities. We're now beginning to consider expanding with additional locations around the country. What…

Outside Consultant: Making sure your new e-commerce site gets noticed

May 24, 2015
questionWhat is the best way to market a new e-commerce site? How do I get more visitors to my site who will actually…

Outside Consultant: Making sure an applicant has the necessary skills

May 17, 2015
questionWhen hiring, how can you confirm that the person actually possesses the skill set that she/he lists on the résumé, particularly when it is very…

Outside Consultant: Deciding when to hire, when to outsource

May 10, 2015
questionOftentimes, small-business owners have such a passion for their craft, they try to do everything themselves. How do you know it's time for a small…

Outside Consultant: What's the best low-cost marketing option?

November 23, 2014
questionLooking at the full spectrum of advertising mediums available, from traditional print and radio to newer sponsored social media posts, it can be a little…

Outside consultant: Where to start a branding campaign

October 5, 2014
questionI am an entrepreneur who started my own insurance business. I know that branding is important, especially in the age of social media. On a…

Outside Consultant: Do you need insurance for online assets?

September 19, 2014
Q: We run a mostly online business. Do we need insurance that protects online assets as well as offline? Jason Fisher, co-owner, BestLifePlans, www.bestlifeplans.com

Outside Consultant: Equity-based payments for vendors

September 7, 2014
Q: As a start-up founder, what is the best way to develop an equity-based vendor agreement? For example, when working with IT developers, marketing consultants,…

Outside Consultant: Interviewing strategies

August 17, 2014
questionAre there questions that could be asked during the interview process that would reveal if a potential employee is looking for a long-term job or…

Outside Consultant: Recruiting strategies

July 21, 2014
question I am part of a small but growing digital agency. As most small businesses know, hiring is a massive expense. We’ve gone through the…

Outside Consultant: Think twice about a corporate foundation

June 30, 2014
questionWhen starting a charity foundation for a business, what are some important factors to be considered and questions to be asked to ensure a successful…

Outside Consultant: Will new hires fit in?

June 23, 2014
question We are a growing New York City-based video production film company that’s on the verge of hiring several employees in a short period of…

Outside consultant: Checking an applicant's social-media history

June 16, 2014
question Regarding a prospective new hire, is it appropriate to examine the person’s social-media activity? Nathan Munn Mediagrif Technologies nmunn@mediagrif.com   answer In this time…

Outside Consultant: Are there good rewards programs for customers?

June 9, 2014
question I am the owner of Your Pet Chef, a personalized dog food company. What are some creative ways to thank or reward customers who…

Outside Consultant: New tools but old principles in age of social media

June 2, 2014
Q: What is the future of in-person, face-to-face sales and marketing for the small service businesses, in the era of social media? Demographically? Geographically? -…

Outside Consultant: Managing cash flow

May 26, 2014
Question How do we go about finding resources to cover a temporary monthly cash shortfall, before generating revenue? We are a technology platform that has…

Outside Consultant: Balancing the workplace culture

May 18, 2014
Question How do you develop a culture that is fun but also demands the most for employees? We strive to create an enjoyable work environment,…

Outside Consultant: Overwhelmed by digital noise

May 11, 2014
Q: While I can certainly appreciate the value of Twitter to a start-up, I’m overwhelmed by the amount of ‘‘noise’’ there is. Are there practical…

Outside Consultant: Avoiding tax overpayments

May 4, 2014
Question How do I assess whether or not I am overpaying my taxes? Is there a common approach I, or other small business owners, can…

Outside consultant: How to gauge success of marketing efforts

April 27, 2014
Question As a business owner of a career coaching/résumé writing firm, I struggle with knowing when to abandon an idea or a type of marketing.…

Outside Consultant: Going public

April 18, 2014
questionDo you believe that becoming public is a viable step toward obtaining the funding that is much needed by start-up and early-stage growing companies?Stephen ReplinThe…

Outside Consultant: Tracking systems for small business

April 14, 2014
Question I run a blog and a few other online niche sites and have a constant stream of money coming in, sometimes every day. What…

Outside Consultant: Financial statements

March 30, 2014
Question I design, import and sell market baskets handwoven in Morocco. I think my business is doing well, but sometimes it’s hard to really know…

Outside Consultant: Reading his tea leaves

March 23, 2014
Question I own a tea company in Detroit by the name of Eli Tea. I have been in business for one year and have built…

Outside Consultant: Go where the fish are

March 16, 2014
Question Our company, Haydenville Broomworks, crafts handmade traditional brooms. So far we have built a successful online marketplace and have attended small craft fairs. We…

Outside Consultant: Real estate strategies

March 2, 2014
Question I’m a real estate agent in NYC. Do you have any advice for how I can generate more leads in 2014? It seems like…

Outside Consultant: Networking models

February 23, 2014
Question I work with entrepreneurs who start “free” or “freemium” models before they decide (not with my advice) that a membership revenue stream is a…

Outside Consultant: Developing an online community

February 17, 2014
Question What marketing strategy would you recommend for popularizing a local online business that brings together a community (in this the case dog-owner and dog-lover…

Outside Consultant: Setting up a franchising network

February 13, 2014
Question I have run a boudoir photography business and recently relocated it to a different state. The process of rebuilding the same brand in a…

Outside Consultant: Are smartphones helping or hurting businesses?

January 26, 2014
Question Do you think smartphones are helping business owners to better serve customers, or are they causing customers to have higher expectations than what is…

Outside Consultant: Conducting market research on a budget

January 19, 2014
Question When examining a potential new market for my products, how do I establish the size of that market? Susanne Riehle, Studio Productions Inc. Creative…

Outside Consultant: Company cultures

January 13, 2014
Question How do you establish and maintain a company culture when you have multiple offices and some employees working remotely? Karen Eschebach, Co-Founder of Clever…

Outside Consultant: Trademark strategies

January 5, 2014
Question: How important is it to trademark my business name? I’ve created a new online presence, and want to make sure I’m taking the right…