What a strange, wild trip it has been for Bill and the boys! Has it been good for computing and all of us - that is an interesting academic debate and bar discussion topic. Send me your thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll post a follow-up.
This book summary and review of The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-up Businesses by Michelle Girasole, Wendy Hanson, and Miriam Perry was prepared by Jude Scaglione while an Accounting student in the College of Business at Southeastern Louisiana University.
The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-up Businesses is a very relevant, useful tool for anyone interested in being her (or his) own boss. The book takes the idea of starting a business and breaks it down into steps. The authors use the metaphor of a journey to aid the entrepreneur in starting down the road.
The book starts off having the prospective business owner visualize a variety of things. She should visualize herself performing the job she has chosen and where that will get her in her life. It also encourages the use of positive thinking and has her change negative thoughts to positive affirmations. In each chapter there is encouragement, bolstered by pertinent advice.
Throughout the book and at the end of each chapter there are exercises to maintain focus to accomplish the task at hand. The questions posed at the end of each chapter ask not only to state what was discussed, but how the business owner will apply the ideas put forth, to her particular endeavor. The exercises require a good amount of thought and provide a practical means to accomplishing each individual step. Approached properly, performing these exercises would seem to make the business start-up process almost fool-proof.
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Not only do the authors offer advice, they have quotes of other successful women in business throughout the entire book. At many points the authors give their own personal opinions on a topic, many times differing from one another greatly. The other women business owners reinforce the ideas the authors are conveying and expand on them to foster a deeper, more precise basis of the information offered to the reader.
Charts are used extensively throughout the book. They offer information in a format that is easy to read and allow for simple comparison of information given. The charts offer information about an item, along with a basic description, resources to find out more about a given topic or item, and the pros and cons of the item.
Appendices are used for many of the chapters. These provide examples of the ideas put forth within the corresponding sections. A sample email is provided in one appendix that could be used as a template for correspondence the business owner would use to contact potential business associates or clients. In another appendix, samples of simplified financial statements along with explanations of them are useful for the new business owner to gain a better understanding of the economic position of the business.
Resources are listed at the end of every chapter. They provide the reader with the ability to further research things that are most relevant to her needs. The resources include websites, movies, videos, books, magazines, articles, and products. With each resources listed, a brief synopsis is given to clarify what that resource has to offer. The Sassy Ladies website is a resource used in all the chapters; each web page has more in-depth information on the chapter’s subjects. They also provide links to more worksheets and exercises that could be helpful.
The book was well written and very well organized. It took the reader through each step of the process, explaining in detail the actions that should be taken at the appropriate time. There was constant encouragement along the way. The authors have found success through trial and error, and in this book, pass along knowledge and insight gained from their own journeys.
The Ten Things Managers Need to Know from The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit
1. Managers should have a positive outlook and encourage the same in those they manage.
2. With regard to the above, managers should know how to make use of negativity. A negative remark should be used as a challenge or it should be used to give the manager insight as to the potential weakness(es) of a plan.
3. A manager should always be aware of the competition. Whether the manager is a top level manager at a large corporation, viewing the competitive forces within the market, or a candidate for a position within the firm, attempt to know as much as possible about the competition.
4. It is always in the best interest of the company to have a plan of action. Whether it is a five year plan or a daily to-do list, planning is essential.
5. Contingency planning is also essential. There are so many things that can go wrong; anticipating what can be done to counteract, circumvent, or directly address problems should be considered.
6. Organization is absolutely required. All aspects of business require some degree of organization, but two key areas are workspace and time management.
7. All businesses have weaknesses and so do the individuals who manage them. It is best to discover and be aware of weaknesses and compensate for them in some way. What a manager cannot do for herself can be done by others who are more competent at performing the task.
8. There are many new and emerging technologies that could be put to use to the manager’s advantage. There are, however, some drawbacks to many of them, and the manger should be aware of these also.
9. Networking is important. Having a group of business acquaintances is extremely useful in the business world.
10. Realizing that “No” should not be considered a dead end. It should be taken as an opportunity to be creative and discover new ideas or avenues to accomplish goals.
Full Summary of The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit
DREAMING ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS
I. Define what the dream is.
A. The business owner should identify some ability, product, or specialized knowledge that is marketable.
B. She should also identify the values that she desires in her business and her life.
II. Focus on making the dream a reality.
A. Practice visualizing the dream.
1. The business owner should imagine herself in her business, performing the required tasks.
2. She should see the benefits that she will reap from being her own boss.
a. She could be in control of her time.
b. She could have more quality time for her family, because she has allowed herself the flexibility to do so.
B. Think positively about the plan
1. Negative self-talk should be avoided. Change phrases from, “I can’t do this”, to, “I’ll learn and try my best”.
2. The business owner should surround herself with supportive people who encourage her to attain her goals.
C. The business owner should perform exercises that properly place her on her desired path. She could do this by answering questions like, “What small things can I do consistently to keep me on the road I’ve chosen?”
DETERMINING THE FEASIBILITY OF YOUR BUSINESS
I. A customer base should be identified early on in the business planning process.
A. The business owner should aim at a potential target market.
1. Decide whether the business should sell consumers or provide its services to other commercial entities.
II. The business owner should research similar businesses in the market, against which she might be competing.
A. Determine competitors’ pricing structures.
B. Make note of the market’s openness to new entrants.
C. Note positive and negative characteristics of competitors and decide which to mimic and which to avoid.
III. A pricing structure needs to be established.
A. Identify fixed costs that the business will incur, such as rental expense and utilities
B. Identify variable costs per item or per unit of time.
C. Determine a mark-up that allows for profit.
IV. Identify negative feedback and use it to the business’ advantage.
A. By receiving any negative feedback, the business owner will be able to address shortcomings that she may have overlooked.
V. Test the business idea by polling family, friends, and colleagues.
A. An “elevator pitch” should be created.
1. A basic overview of the business that should take the approximate amount of time it would be spent on an elevator ride. The speech should not be too long because most listeners will lose interest quickly. She should practice the pitch on people close to her who she trusts to be honest and offer suggestions for improvement.
PLANNING YOUR BUSINESS
I. An action plan should be created to establish the course taken to establish the business.
A. Decide what needs to be done within the coming year.
B. Narrow down the “year list” to decide what should be done within the month.
C. Take action today on an item you have planned to do within the month.
II. The business owner should take steps to be better informed and prepared to go into her chosen field.
A. She could enroll in a course that teaches general business principles.
B. She should subscribe to journals and other publications that relate to her field.
C. She should attend networking events to gain understanding of local business conditions.
III. The business owner should create a viable business plan.
A. She should write a mission statement defining the business’ purpose.
B. She should include any experience and credentials she has.
C. The organizational structure (i.e. sole proprietorship, LLC) should be included in the plan.
WORKING FROM YOUR HOME OFFICE
I. The business owner should establish a base for operations. In the beginning, that would most likely be a home office.
A. A dedicated office space should be established. This could be a spare room, a closet, or small part of a kitchen counter.
B. In order to run a business a means of communication is a necessity. Setting up telephone service should be a priority, whether a cell phone, her home phone, or a dedicated business line.
C. In the wired world, Internet presence is also a necessity. If a web site is not possible at start-up, a professional-sounding email address will suffice.
D. Equipment needed to run the business should be purchased.
1. A computer and printer are a must.
2. Filing cabinets are very useful for organizing records and storing office supplies.
II. Time management is a challenge that must be addressed early and regularly in the business process.
A. A daily schedule should be established.
B. Down time should be included in the schedule for many reasons, such as unexpected occurrences.
C. Allow time in the daily schedule for both business and personal errands. Doing this will free your time on weekends.
III. The business owner should use technology to her advantage.
A. A Smartphone or PDA keeps information on hand, and is very portable.
B. A business card scanner could be a useful gadget to carry in a briefcase. This is a simple way to manage business contacts that might otherwise be lost.
MARKETING YOUR BUSINESS
I. An appropriate name for the business should be chosen.
A. Ideally, the name should be descriptive.
B. If the owner chooses to use her name, without any additional descriptions, a tag line should be used. Examples of tag lines are: “BMW – Sheer driving pleasure”, “Pampered Chef – Discover the chef in you”.
II. A marketing plan can be developed by the owner, or if finances allow, a marketing firm.
A. A good first step in marketing your business is to establish a brand. This is a way to gain recognition for the business.
B. The marketing plan should always include “the four P’s” of marketing, and those are: product, price, place, and promotion.
1. Promotion is the single most difficult of “the four P’s” for a business owner to tackle. Promoting a business can be accomplished by a number of different means.
a. Promotion by word-of-mouth is the easiest means of promotion. An additional benefit is that it is free.
b. Web marketing allows the business to be seen by anyone with access to the Internet. This type of marketing has many drawbacks, two of which are potential for a significant financial outlay and the need to tend to it often to keep information current.
III. Logos and graphics can aid in branding, and could incorporate the business name and/or tag line.
A. Colors, shapes, graphics, and interesting fonts arranged in a unique fashion will form an image which will aid potential customers in identifying the business.
B. Logos can be placed in various conspicuous areas, including websites and company stationary, to keep the brand visible.
SELLING YOUR PRODUCT – AND YOURSELF
I. Establishing trust is essential for selling.
A. Making direct eye contact shows that a person in forthright and attentive.
B. Attire can be important. To establish professional presence, it is best to dress conservatively.
II. The business owner should be aware of exactly what she is selling. The physical item or service is not the only thing for sale; convenience, luxury, or peace of mind is frequently a more important selling point.
III. The response to a sales pitch oftentimes is, “No.” To counteract this reply, or possibly gain insight, there are some things a business owner should do.
A. Take steps to understand where the product or service is failing to meet the potential customer’s need.
1. Determine if price is a concern.
2. Inquire as to whether she has shopped elsewhere, and how that product or service compares to the business’ own offerings.
I. Research should be done to find networking groups in the near geographic area of the business.
A. A local Chamber of Commerce meeting might be a way for a business owner to gain understanding of the networking process.
II. Before attending a meeting, some preparations should be made.
A. Being comfortable with, and rehearsing the “elevator pitch” is a good start.
B. Knowledge of current events is useful; not every conversation will be about business.
C. View the list of attendees of events prior to going. Make note of those attendees that are of particular interest.
D. Business cards should be brought and placed somewhere easily accessible.
E. Set guidelines for behavior.
1. The business owner should attend the event having the mindset that the goal is to establish mutually rewarding relationships with other members. Consideration and helpfulness will pay off in the long run. These events are not necessarily the place to practice aggressive selling.
2. The business owner should be attentive to each individual she encounters.
III. After each event the business owner should follow up with the people she has met. One way would be to send an email offering to send her company’s newsletter to her new acquaintance in the future, and ask if the other will do the same.
I. Hire the professionals that are essential to running a prosperous business. Getting references from trusted friends and colleagues will aid in this process. Initial consultations are normally free.
A. Unless the business owner is a financial whiz, hiring a competent accountant should be the top priority.
1. The accountant should aid in choosing the most beneficial business structure. There may be tax advantages to doing business as a sole proprietor instead of a corporation.
2. Tax laws are extremely complicated. Without a proficient accountant tax time could be disastrous.
B. A reliable attorney is another great business aid.
1. An attorney is essential to review of contracts and other legally binding documents.
2. She may also assist in deciding whether a patent or trademark is in order, and secure it for you.
II. Some form of license or permit is required to do business. Determine what types of these are needed to operate the business.
III. Insurance is also a business necessity. General liability is a must, and depending on the circumstances other types might also be needed.
A. If the business has employees, workers’ compensation is required.
B. Health insurance should be purchased whether or not the business has employees.
C. Property insurance would be beneficial also. It is helpful in cases of theft or natural disasters.
With business conditions today, what the authors wrote is true. I feel this way because, although business conditions are ever-changing, this book addresses the basics of business start-up. The authors wrote this book as a type of road map, using metaphors like, “If your first year of business is a journey, setting up your home office is like packing for the trip.” Each of the eight chapters uses the metaphor, breaking the trip down into steps. Had this book been written thirty years ago, all of the steps along the way would have been the same. Some of the means to accomplish the steps would certainly have been different, with the less advanced technologies; however, each step would still have been very relevant. Without knowledge of years to come, I would guess that this book could be used thirty years from now, with changes only in the technologies that are used at that time.
If I were the author of this book, I would have done these three things differently:
1. I would not have explained or defined simple terms, like feasibility, or the example, “I need to make $x per scarf to reach my revenue goal (x being the amount of money you’d need to make on each scarf).”
2. I believe in the power of positive thought and making your own destiny, but they were a little too “new agey” for me in this area. I would have been much less “spacey” on these topics.
3. Most of the examples and scenarios were well written, but in reference to the first bullet point, they over-explained simple concepts, yet lacked detail necessary to convey other, more complicated ideas. I would have attempted to give sufficient details where needed, and not explain the self-explanatory.
Reading this book made me think differently about the topic in these ways:
1. The Sassy Ladies made me realize that a plan is probably not complete without an exit strategy. When starting a business, I would not think of closing it. When an entrepreneur sees a new opportunity, or decides that it is time to retire, having an idea of the actions necessary for that eventuality decided ahead of time is very wise.
2. Naming a business did not seem like a complicated issue, so I would not have thought of having a “naming party” to decide what to call my business. This seems like a good idea – getting trusted friends together, giving them the idea and type of business, and asking what a good name would be. Depending on the type of business, this is probably a great way to have many creative names to choose from.
3. The position of manager is all-encompassing. A manager needs to have some knowledge of every aspect of the business. Some knowledge may be very in-depth, while a basic familiarity with other areas will suffice, as long as she has people or processes to aid in areas she is lacking.
I’ll apply what I’ve learned in this book to my career by:
1. Using my time more efficiently. Looking to the coming days and weeks to plan my agenda. I will also attempt to end my work day assessing what I have done, so I can better plan the next day.
2. Realizing that, “No”, and other negative feedback can be useful tools. They will challenge me to think differently about issues, and see pitfalls in my plans and remedy things I might not have otherwise realized.
3. Throughout the book the authors encourage the reader to seek support and assistance when needed. I usually do things on my own, but having someone else to share the burden, or at least give me moral support, will be to my benefit.
Here is a sampling of what others have said about the book and its authors:
When you’re thinking about starting a business, you need to know what specific things you can do RIGHT NOW that are going to set you on the straight and narrow. The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-up Businesses is THAT book, leading you down the path of courage, change and success. If you’re ready to take that walk, then you simply must have this book with you. Lena L. West, CEO and chief strategist at xynoMecdia Technology, and business advice expert for Entrepreneur.com.
The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-Up Businesses is THE book that will take you step-by-step to start your business. It’s a must-read for anyone wishing to succeed in her first year and grow for years to come. This book is refreshing and informative, and it will give you the burst of confidence you need to say, ‘I CAN DO THIS!”’ –Patti Salvucci, executive director, Business Networking International (BNI) Massachusetts
Every entrepreneur at every stage of business needs The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit. It not only provides practical business advice, but also offers inspiring stories of women who have shaped their destinies by choosing the path of entrepreneurship. –Carol Malysz, former director, Center for Women & Enterprise, Rhode Island
This book rocks! You have a business idea and need to know what s next — The Sassy Ladies have your answer. If you want to attract the wisdom of women who have been there before, The Sassy Ladies are serial entrepreneurs. What’s better than learning and laughing at the same time? Learn the secrets of success from three women with a sense of humor and a focus on business! –Jeanna Gabellini and Eva Gregory, co-authors of Life Lessons for Mastering the Law of Attraction with Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen
Girasole, M., Hanson, W., & Perry, M. (2009). The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-up Businesses. Minneapolis: Two Harbors Press.
Salvucci, P. (2009). [Review of the book The sassy ladies’ toolkit for start-up business]. http://www.amazon.com/Sassy-Ladies-Toolkit-Start-Up-Businesses/dp/1935097458.
Contact Information: To contact the author of this “Summary and Review of The Sassy Ladies’ Toolkit for Start-up Businesses” please email Jude.email@example.com.
David C. Wyld (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the Robert Maurin Professor of Management at Southeastern Louisiana University in Hammond, Louisiana. He is a management consultant, researcher/writer, and executive educator. His blog, Wyld About Business, can be viewed at http://wyld-business.blogspot.com/.