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So you want to start a business, but you don’t want to go it alone. A partner might be a good way to split the work, risk and profits from a new venture, but working with others (even people you know and trust) can be a dicey proposition. Many a friendship has been destroyed over sharing a business; even families can be damaged through partnership efforts in the workplace. So how can you share your business with your potential partner and not become a victim of the many pitfalls involved?

The Wall Street Journal’s how-to guide for starting a business suggests that, before you go in with a partner, be VERY sure you want or need a partner in the first place. You should only partner up with someone when the partnership is vital to the success of the endeavor. If you’re leery about the partnership, you can possibly hire the other person or even ask them to do contract work for you; that way, you can still benefit from their expertise without worrying about splitting the business in half.

If you really want to create a partnership for your new business, the number one thing to keep in mind is communication. Partners MUST communicate and be comfortable enough with each other to talk about whatever might come up. The experts at eHow suggest you sit down with your potential partner and hash out your roles, strengths, responsibilities, etc. BEFORE you get started. Recognize your own weaknesses and admit to them. If, for example, you’re not so good with creativity but you balance a mean budget, stick to the money duties and let your partner handle the ideas.

Before taking on a whole new business, you might want to try a smaller project with your partner to see how well you work together. Can you focus on common goals and compromise when needed? Can you overcome obstacles together without assigning blame or pointing fingers? If you can successfully complete a smaller business project together, then you might be ready to try a full partnership together.

Don’t forget to play the “what-if” game as much as you can up front, to avoid potential issues later. For example, what if one of you has a child or spouse who might later want to join the business? What if one of you wants to move the company elsewhere, but the other doesn’t? What if one of you is caught doing something unethical, immoral or illegal? Talk out as many possible scenarios as you can think of, even the ones that make you chuckle from ludicrousness… You might be surprised at the points on which you and your partner differ, and it’s better to get everything out in the open now.

Still not sure about partnering up? You could always go old-school and check each other’s references. Talk to your potential partner’s colleagues, friends and family members. Find out if your potential partner is trusted and respected by others. Character references, professional opinions and honest assessments can go a long way toward putting your mind at ease about the person you might be working with. And if it’s someone you’ve known a long time, look to your own experiences with that person in previous social or business situations. Did he or she ever bail out of a tough spot and leave others holding the bag? Do they have a tendency to party hard or run through money fast? No matter how close you are to someone or how much you like them personally, this is business; you must consider the health of your potential company before sharing an office space with someone.

Once you’ve decided on a partnership, have a lawyer and accountant help you with the partnership agreement. Do NOT say, “We’re friends, so we don’t have to sign anything,” or “We trust each other, so there’s no need to put it in writing.” Put everything in writing that you can to avoid confusion, disputes and major problems. The written partnership agreement is a must. It should include who is investing what, who owns what percentage of the business, how and when partners get paid, how much they get paid, exit clauses, responsibilities and roles, at the minimum. It should also include how the agreement could be adjusted as the business evolves, and it should contain an outline for what to do if both partners want to get out.

How do you think your business should be run? Set up a plan with your partner and stick to it. Work out a routine for talking to each other, checking in on projects, updating each other on developments and assessing how the company is doing. Establish your separate roles and stick to them so that there’s no confusion about who does what or who reports to whom. Plan to have a meeting every few months to make sure the business is still on the right track and to determine the next steps and direction. You really can’t overcommunicate when you have a partner!

If possible, keep the business side separate from the social side. Your partner might be your best friend in the world, but you should try not to let business topics (or worse, business arguments) get in the way of your friendship. And of course, don’t forget why you chose this particular partner in the first place. You must like and trust him or her, so when the going gets tough, remind yourself of what’s positive about the arrangement and what good may still come out of it.

In a lot of ways, a healthy business partnership is like a good marriage: lots of give and take, lots of compromise, and above all, lots of communication. Good luck!


The Wall Street Journal has a great collection of resources for small business owners, offering advice for everything from finding angel investors to crafting a disaster plan. Here, we’d like to share some of their advice for choosing a credit card that’s right for your business. Use these tips to help get your business off on the right financial footing.

First, why get a business credit card? There are a few reasons: one, start-ups can often get a credit card set up much faster and easier than the time it takes to get a line of credit from a bank, and two, having a business credit card helps to create credit in the name of the business. In addition to all that, the options available for small business owners seeking to get credit cards have become more numerous, giving you a selection of possibilities when choosing your own business credit card.

How do you get started in choosing a card for your business? Before you choose, figure out your own needs. What are your spending habits going to be like with this card? Will you be paying off the balance every month, or carrying a balance over time? Check the annual percentage rate if you intend to carry a balance; some cards will give you rates as low as 0% at the beginning if you have good credit, and others feature fixed rates, which might be a good idea if you’re concerned about the rate going up over time.

If you plan to pay off your business credit card each month, you might consider looking into a card with more rewards or a longer grace period, since the interest rate won’t be an issue for you. Paying your entire balance each month doesn’t give you a lot of flexibility in your spending, of course, but the trade-off for your financial discipline is that you don’t end up facing down a growing balance and increasing interest charges.

I mentioned rewards in the last paragraph, and credit cards today have a variety of rewards programs for customers. You could get a card that gives cash back for purchases (anywhere from 1%-5%, depending on the card and the types of purchases you make). If you travel a lot, you could look into a card with airline miles as rewards. Still other cards use point systems that accrue towards larger rewards, and some come with discount and benefit programs attached, like special discounts for hotels or retail shops. The key for any rewards program is to ALWAYS read the fine print so that you know exactly how you’re earning the rewards and where they can be used once earned.

Should you get a card with an annual fee? The knee-jerk response is no, but sometimes, cards with annual fees have other benefits. Some annual-fee cards have longer grace periods to pay off balances each month, and others have lower interest rates than the no-fee cards. It’s worth looking into a card with an annual fee if you intend to carry a balance or if you think you could benefit from the longer grace period, provided that the annual fee is reasonable to your budget, of course.

One last thing to consider: what happens if you miss a payment, make a late payment or otherwise drop the ball on your credit card? You need to know what the penalties are for whatever card you choose in the event of a problem. In some cases, card issuers will jack up interest rates (up to 30%), remove rewards, add fees and even drop your personal credit score if you miss a payment on your business card. Be sure you know what you’re getting into before you sign on the dotted line.

In the end, it’s up to you to determine your business’s needs when it comes to a credit card. There are several sites that allow you to compare various cards in order to determine what’s best for you:, and are the ones listed in the Wall Street Journal article. You can even apply for the card of your choice online, once you’ve made up your mind.

Keith Harrell, renowned motivational speaker and former top sales and training instructor at IBM, passed away on Monday, October 18, 2010 after a battle with spinal cancer. He was 52.

Keith was a Seattle native who played high school and college basketball. He led his high school to an undefeated season in 1973-74 and helped them with the state title, gaining all-state and all-city accolades. At Seattle University, he captained the basketball team and played with future NBA draft picks, including Clint Richardson, Jawann Oldham and Carl Ervin. Keith, nicknamed “Silk,” averaged 16 points per game in a season.

Despite being a basketball star in his youth, Keith’s life took him in new directions as he grew, and he earned his Bachelors degree in Community Service. He spent 14 years in sales at IBM, eventually distinguishing himself as one of their best trainers. From there, he went into the world of motivational speaking, where he excelled right until the end. He worked with clients such as McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Merrill-Lynch and Boeing, speaking at more than 120 events annually and earning the nickname “Dr. Attitude.”

The nickname fit him; if you ask those who knew him, you’d hear that Keith’s attitude was what really made him special, in motivational speaking and in life. The Wall Street Journal noted, “What sets Keith apart is his driving ambition and an attitude that refuses to flag.” Keith’s website notes that “attitude is everything,” and his enthusiasm and positive spirit were contagious. His catch-phrase was one that those who spent time with him heard often: “Have a super-fantastic day!”

Fellow speaker Steve Siebold made this comment about Keith: “Keith Harrell wasn’t just a motivational speaker, he was THE motivational speaker in corporate America. We spoke on stages all over the country together, and he was the best of the best. The world has lost one of the great ones.”

There really isn’t enough room to talk about how great a speaker, motivator and person Keith was, so this will have to suffice: He will be missed. He was an energetic personality who lit up rooms with his smile and his attitude, and the motivational speaking world is the poorer to have lost him.

If you never knew Keith personally, I hope this paints a small picture of the great guy he was, and why his lessons still matter, even though he’s passed on. Here’s what Keith really wanted people to know, in his own words:

“I believe attitude is the cornerstone, the foundation of everything you do with your life and everything I do. It all starts with what you believe. Your attitude determines your altitude. I help people and business and in life choose the right attitude for the situation to accomplish their goals and their dreams.”

Rest in peace, Keith Harrell. We’ll all keep trying to have a super-fantastic day!

Sources:, Garfield Messenger, Seattle Examiner