George Otte’s Top 4 Tips on How to Pick Your Moment

Is starting a business high on your to-do list this year? Your timing might be impeccable — or it might be a good idea to reassess.

How can you tell the difference? Entrepreneur George Otte suggests that you use these four tried-and-true tactics to determine whether it really is the best time for you to strike out on your own.

Wait Till You’ve Spotted the Perfect Opportunity

Even if you’re not a certified expert, it’s possible to spot a business opportunity in virtually any industry. Has there been a major shift in consumer tastes that you can make use of? Are there existing products or services that you can bundle in value-added fashion? Does your local market lack some essential product or service? If you’ve said “yes” to any of these questions, you might be onto something.

Be Bold. Be Confident

After a stock market sell-off, bargains are bound to be found amid the wreckage. The same principle can work for general business, too. After an economic downturn or sector contraction, your industry’s incumbents are likely to be under pressure. Some may be willing to sell out for less than their business is worth, or at least sell you some assets on the cheap. Others may go out of business entirely, creating a vacuum that your new business is primed to fill.

Have a Top-Notch Team in Place

These days, many companies begin as one-man or -woman operations. But if you’re going into a more labor-intensive niche, it helps to have a quality team in place before you hang your shingle and announce your intentions to the wider world. If you can’t sell your vision to prospective employees, your timing might not be right.

Make the Business Case

Businesses fail for many reasons. One of the most common: money — or the lack thereof. Before you invest a great deal of time, energy and personal resources into your business idea, make sure that others are (literally) interested in what you’re selling.

On the one hand, you’ll need to confer with investors (who may well be your friends and family) to determine whether you’ve really got a killer product (or app). Are they willing to put their money where their faint words of praise are?

On the other, you’ll need to do some market research (or old-fashioned prospecting, depending on your line of business). Do theoretical customers really want to buy your products or services? Or is your business going to be DOA?

The two sides of this coin are linked, of course. Investors aren’t likely to support a business idea that doesn’t have much support on the consumer side. And, though they might not be able to tell right away, customers aren’t likely to stick with an underfunded business that can’t meet their expectations for service or quality.

Your Best Employees Will Have These 5 Traits

How’s business these days?

If you’re still in startup mode, chances are you’re struggling to find the right talent for your expanding operation.

The United States faces a talent shortage of epic proportions. Employers everywhere are struggling to fill skilled jobs, whether they’re on the front lines of healthcare or responsible for bringing goods from point A to point B. According to a recent Manpower survey, one in three of all U.S. employers struggled to fill jobs last year, and nearly 50 percent say these troubles had an adverse effect on their businesses.

Virtually no industry is unscathed. No matter what your company does (or hopes to do, let’s be real), it’s probably suffering from a lack of top-tier candidates with the smarts and skills necessary to keep your company one step ahead of the competition.Before you jump into the hiring game, set some basic expectations for job candidates — and don’t compromise.

Entrepreneur George Otte suggests that you look for soon-to-be-employees with these five basic skills and competencies. As your business grows, they’re likely to be the ones pushing it forward.

  1. Willingness to Learn New Skills

These days, even the biggest businesses require employees who are willing and able to learn new skills as the times demand. As technological advances shake established industries to their foundations, it’s critical to seek out talent that understands the value of staying one step ahead of the latest trends. In an upstart business, this is doubly important — and could make the difference between life or death.

  1. Honesty and Accountability

Inc Magazine notes, correctly, that companies need to be able to hold their employees accountable for their actions — good or bad. It’s often said that it’s better to ask forgiveness than permission, but it’s even more important to remember that — at least in the modern workplace — the cover-up is worse than the crime. Don’t hire employees who do their best work when they’re looking for ways to pawn off their failings on others.

  1. Creativity and Perspective

If you’re choosing between two equally qualified candidates, the tie should always go to the one who exhibits the greatest range of perspectives and breadth of creativity. You never know when such “soft” skills will come in handy. They could form the basis of your company’s next big thing.

  1. Levelheadedness

There’s much to be said for employees who are calm under pressure, even when a million different signals are screaming at them to be otherwise. Ask yourself this: When all the chips are down and it’s make or break time, would you rather have a cool cucumber or a hot potato by your side?

  1. Diligence and Perseverance

When you’re fighting tooth and nail to get your business off the ground, you need employees who are willing and able to go to the mat for you — employees who you can trust to do what you say, when you say it, and maybe throw in a few extra bells and whistles for good measure.

Ready to Sell Your Business? Follow George Otte’s 5 Exit Strategy Tips

All good things must come to an end. No matter how much you love your business or how hard you’ve worked to build it into something that’ll endure long after you’re gone, there comes a point when you’re no longer willing or able to carry it on.

Don’t reach that point without a plan — or “exit strategy,” as it’s called in the business world. Every exit strategy looks different: some involve transfers to heirs, others require outright sales, and still others are simply glorified liquidations.

As you start thinking about your exit strategy, keep these five tips from entrepreneur George Otte in mind. They’ll guide you to the right conclusion for your needs — and your employees’, customers and heirs.

  1. Make Sure You Have a Fallback Plan in Place

You’ll hopefully have many healthy, prosperous years left after your exit. Make sure you have the resources to stay in it for the long haul by setting up and contributing to a tax-free retirement plan well in advance (at least 15 years) of your exit. Ideally, you’d do this as early as possible — starting in your 20s, for instance, can make a huge difference over a lifetime.

  1. Consider a Succession Arrangement

If you have kids or a trusted group of employees, consider handing over the keys after an appropriately long transition period. Before you do, though, be sure to talk to a succession planner who can help you deal with potentially thorny legal issues, such as how to transfer ownership shares.

  1. Analyze Your Competitive Landscape

Normally, your goal as a business owner is to stay ahead of the competition. But, in this case, it might be better to work with the competition. If your company has something to offer competing businesses, consider putting it up for sale.

  1. Take Care of Your Employees

No matter how you choose to exit your company, remember to take care of the folks who made it what it is (or was). Give your employees plenty of warning about any impending ownership change or closing, and be sure to provide fair compensation to anyone who’s been let go.

  1. Maximize the Value of Your Inventory and Assets

If you’re shuttering your business for good, take pains to maximize the value of its inventory and assets: unsold merchandise, equipment, real estate, vehicles, you name it. Consult with a finance professional to determine the best way to dispose of your assets quickly and fairly.

Heading for the Exit?

When starting a business, it’s absolutely critical to follow tried-and-true tips for building a business, even if you think you have everything figured out.

But it’s arguably even more important to honor conventional wisdom when you’re on the way out. So, when in doubt, consult the experts. Start by giving the Small Business Administration a ring. They have a host of resources for business owners thinking about closing up shop (or actively in the process of doing so), and they’re happy to provide advice and guidance. You’ll be glad you took the time to speak with the experts about your options.