Good small business reads #20: Exit planning, habits to break, and sales terms and personality types to avoid

It’s March! With spring right around the corner this month’s issue of good small business reads has plenty of great information that I hope will plant some seeds in your mind about how to build a stronger business as the year progresses.

First up is an article about a very important topic that gets far too little attention from many small business owners: exit planning. In “Could your business survive without you,” from, Joanna Krotz reports on what happened when the founder of a small Long Island vineyard died in an accident while on vacation in Brazil. I’ll let you read the rest of the story, but the chief point here is that advance planning of how your business will continue after you step out of the way (hopefully not via accidental death in a foreign country!) is of critical importance.

Answering questions like “What would happen here if I were suddenly not around?” or “What’s going to happen to the business when I want to retire?” may not be the most fun you’ll ever have, but it is something that should not be ignored. For one thing, you need to be prepared for the tax consequences if you plan to eventually sell you business upon retirement. Here’s a white paper I wrote for an investment banking firm on this topic. (Don’t be put off by the title; although it refers to saving millions on taxes, even if your business isn’t in that category, the same advice applies to your estate planning.)

Now on to a lighter topic. In “Say what? 10 meaningless sales terms,” Jeff Haden of points out terms that have been so overused that they have lost their meaning. I would argue that some of them were meaningless to begin with. Check out the list and see if you are using any of these words or phrases in your marketing materials. This article has drawn over 1,000 comments, with many people adding their own most hated sales term. Those are worth a read, too.

Speaking of avoiding, in “10 people who will drain your energy,” Martin Zwilling, CEO and founder of Startup Professionals, Inc., describes the various types of people who can drain energy from a company by their obnoxious behavior. For example, there is the person who interrupts you throughout the day – each and every day – by asking “Can I have a moment of your time?” Usually, they take far longer than a minute.

One type he left off the list is at the top of my personal list of people to avoid. It’s the ones who make a habit of responding to every new idea with something along the lines of “We tried that before and it didn’t work” or “We’ve always done it this other way and that works just fine.” When other people hear this often enough, they’re likely to start putting forth new ideas.

Finally, I recommend checking out “7 bad business habits to break this year” by journalist Rieva Lesonsky, who I was fortunate to meet and work with on a presentation at a national conference last year. Rieva not only mentions the habits but also includes ideas for tools that will help you make improvement. For example, for Bad Business Habit No. 2: Being disorganized, she recommends using online project management tools like Basecamp or Zoho Projects to get everyone on the same page. One of my clients recently began to use SmartSheet, which we’re finding to be a very helpful tool for managing what is a very full agenda of marketing initiatives. I also wrote about my experience with Basecamp and Dropbox, another such tool, here.

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