Keep 2010 safe

Wow the holiday season has flown by and the new year is here and just like the cold weather the number business opportunity pitches has blown in with the new year. Magazines, radio, TV and the Internet are replete with pitches to help us be our own boss, own our own business, be financially independent or perhaps make millions in just 15 minutes a day. Oh brother!

So what is an honest, ambitious person to do to start a business and not get ripped off? Good questions here are some thoughts and ideas that might help you separate the real opportunities from the bogus ones.

1. Use common sense. Many pitches say no experience needed or something to that effect. Great! You may not need any experience but do the customers you will be selling to want it? For example, I saw an ad for becoming a business finance consultant. The pitch promoted how the parent company will give you all you need to sell loans and leases to businesses. Fine....but do you think that someone who is running a businesses is going to jeopardize her business entering into a financial transaction that could, if done wrong, wipe out her business? Of course not. So before entering into a franchise or buying into a business consider both sides of the business transaction to think through if its right for you. Ask friends and people who may be your future customer what do they look for when considering purchasing the product or service you plan to sell.

2. Critically look at how they sell the opportunity. Is the material or website upfront and honest? Honest in the sense that they are not clever or cute about hiding fees and costs. Sticking with the business financial professional pitch, the materials pitched how businesses are looking for capital (true) and that the government is pumping in money (conditionally true) to help businesses. [Reader thinks: wow this is great!...tell me more] The pitch claimed "no franchise fee" and as the reader browsed the website the price of this great opportunity was conspicuously missing. Digging into the website I found the first reference to cost on the request more information page... you have to make an investment of nearly $15,000 for training. (A little misleading I think). I personally would not go any further because in my opinion if the company is not upfront and direct about the cost are they going to be just as allusive when I need their help to get the business moving forward? I would have much preferred to see the cost discussed upfront with a clear explanation and value proposition. Hey, if they have a great opportunity then its worth the price and they should be able to discuss this clearly and upfront.Rule of thumb is that a pitch company is not going to have questionable behavior in one aspect of the business and be golden in another. They are who they are and don't hope that after you buy in that all of a sudden the company is going to change their spots to help you. So carefully determine if the company is being honest and clear with you or are they allusive and tricky?
3. Good companies answer good questions. I recently called on an ad and the first thing the company representative did was start filling out an information sheet on me. I tried to interject that I had one questions...a yes or no question at that. The rep said, "ok" and then asked the next question on his questionnaire. Leaving me to wonder what was their focus: helping me choose their opportunity or get my phone and email for some other pitch they could send me? A company that is offering a solid business opportunity knows they have a good opportunity because they have the experience and customers (franchisees/owners) to prove it and therefore will be focused on helping you come to that same understanding. They are focused on answering your questions because they know the more you ask they better they are going to look. If the follow up is all about getting you to send your money and get answers later then punt! You can do better elsewhere
4. Lastly, a good company does not want just your money they want you to be successful. A good company is looking for people who will be a good representative of their product or service. I know they cannot know what effort you will put into a business or how successful you will be, but they do know what others have had to do to be successful and can discuss that upfront with you. Here is what I mean. Look online at all the Internet marketing gurus/teachers. No matter what "system" or "program" they are selling they tell you you will be rich. They do not know that! And, the truth is you will only make money if you can successfully find and convince people to buy your product. It is at this point that so many programs turn into scams. It does not matter if its selling vitamins, loans or cleaning products if you do not know how to find and convince customers to buy, you are not going to succeed. I can count on one hand the number of sales pages I have read that have given the reader a complete and unbiased presentation on what a prospective business owner will have to do to be successful. An ad or web page that is all hype and pitch with little or no substance should be avoided. An another sign of a good company is the follow up you receive. If you have not bought but have asked for information what kind of follow up emails are you getting? If you bought, what follow up are you getting? Does someone check in with you to see what help you need? Don't over look this.

Good luck on your business ventures and I hope this will help you as you evaluate your opportunities.