Business Owners Toolbox Blog Discussions and articles to help the small business owner solve the challenges they face as they grow their business.

April 3, 2012

How to Thrive in Tough Times

14 quick lessons, based on the actions of successful small business owners I work with:


Banish doom and gloom

Keep your customers

Ask “Who’s buying?”

Go for cash flow

Don’t take unprofitable work

Watch your money like a hawk.

Collect money faster

Don’t keep unnecessary labor, but sustain your team


Take care of yourself

Don’t stop paying yourself

Focus on running your business

Envision your recovery

Seek new opportunities

Ready your recovery fund

Inspire your team

Snap up resources


Details on these in my new ebook “How to Thrive in Tough Times—Lessons from Successful Business Owners.”

April 2, 2012

Small Businesses Are Growing Again!

I’m hearing good news from the owners I work with–from all kinds and sizes of businesses. Here are a few things from our plan workshop participants:

  • “I have my business back! New clients are coming in. We’re getting referrals. Our energy is back up. Customers are calling and asking for more services. It’s back to the way it was before the downturn.
  • “It’s looking like a big year. Big projects of various types. We’re again looking for a second location to expand into.
  • “I’ve always self-financed. But this growth spurt will take some outside financing. Three of my customers have offered to put money in.”

I’m sharing these because too many of you are still playing the doom and gloom song. It’s time to snap out of it and start looking at how you can prepare to take advantage of the upswing. Here are a few more:

  • “This time last year I was nose down in production. Now I’ve got two good production managers—one for each shift—and I’m focusing on getting our new retail location ready for the April launch date.
  • “My client list is full. The danger is, I’ll get complacent and stop marketing.
  • “I took my nine managers offsite last Monday to brainstorm the details of opening our new place this spring. What I see is that the only way I can be a real CEO of my company is to work with them in this way and stay out of day-to-day management.
  • “They asked if I could give them a lower rate, since times are tough. I responded, ‘Sorry I just can’t do that.’ They talked for a minute, then responded, ‘Okay.’ Since then they’ve started giving me even more work—at my regular price!”

Want to see some more of this? How to Thrive in Tough Times—Lessons From Small Business Owners is my newest ebook, just posted on Amazon for Kindle, iPad, etc. for $2.99. Worth every cent!

February 20, 2012

What Does Sustainability Mean for Business?

Filed under: Entrepreneurship,Profit — Tags: , , — Mike Van Horn @ 11:19 pm

Question from James McErlean on LinkedIn

My response: Great question! Sustainability means using a resource so that it lasts and renews, doesn’t get used up, and doesn’t have a negative impact on its environment.

For a business, this would mean that it is self-sustaining and self-renewing.

It has to make a profit.

It has to provide support for its owners and employees, and contribute to their long-term well-being.

It must generate a surplus to carry it through tough times and to provide a fund for growth.

It must provide a benefit to its community of customers; otherwise it cannot operate profitably.

It must innovate (i.e., “evolve”) in order to stay competitive and keep attracting its customers.

It must be a vehicle for the creative energies of its owners and other key people, so that it will retain their interest.

A business—especially a small business—is a reflection of the skills and passions of the entrepreneur. It is his/her vehicle to provide value to the community of customers. The more it thrives, the more people are benefitted—customers and employees and other stakeholders.

In this way, a successful business does more than just sustain itself and the resources it draws upon. It becomes an increasing source of wealth. A community of such businesses builds a strong multiplier effect throughout the community and economy.


February 5, 2009

Economic stimulus for small business?

Filed under: Political rants for entrepreneurs — Tags: , , , — Mike Van Horn @ 5:15 pm

Three rules for Washington economy rescuers to live by:

“First, do no harm.”   (Hippocratic oath for fiscal policy makers)
“It’s got to work, stupid.” (From Clinton’s “keep it simple, stupid”)
“Targeted, timely, and temporary.” (From Obama’s economic policy advisors)

I want to hear from you.

What specific items in the economic stimulus package wending its way through Washington would benefit small businesses and independent professionals? Why? How?

What elements of the package would not be helpful–or could hurt you?

No conservative or liberal rants, please. Be specific. Relate it to your situation.

Below are ideas and responses on this topic–starting with my answers to my own question.

December 15, 2008

Kill the golden goose with taxes?

Filed under: Entrepreneurship — Tags: , , , — Mike Van Horn @ 4:50 pm

Convincing blog post on the “Doing Business” blog on the importance of entrepreneurship for innovation and economic well-being. We all knew that!

Business Owners Toolbox

Business Owners Toolbox

Read the full post at

But small businesses also bear the brunt of taxes! And the more we pay in taxes, the less we can afford to invest in our businesses. So our government is damaging our ability to create jobs and innovation, the very things they say are essential to boost the economic well-being of all of us.

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