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Happy birthday, Charlie Brown

Things I’ve learned over the years… 5/24 SOHO Synapses hed: Happy birthday, Charlie Brown dek: Things I’ve learned over the years by Joe Farace

This week I celebrated my 60th birthday, a milestone of sorts. Now straddling geezerdom and the wisdom that comes with old age, I want to share some of the useful tidbits and tips that have helped my own SOHO business over the past 20-plus years.

Apply the golden rule to employees, but never lose sight of what they owe you as well. You should expect honesty as well as a fair day’s work for wages paid. In return, you owe them loyalty and flexibility to help them through the ebb and flow of their careers and family lives. Cutting them slack when the need it, and giving them paid time off for family emergencies will repay you many times over what it costs in the short run.

Apply the golden rule to clients, too. Never forget, though, that so-called clients who don’t pay their bills are not clients; they’re deadbeats. From time to time, all clients have cash-flow problems–as long as they keep you in the loop and send partial payments, you should try to work with them. When their current crisis passes, they’ll remember who helped them. Otherwise I think bad clients, like bad employees, should be fired.

Technology is your friend–embrace it. When you hear of any technology, be it Microsoft’s Hailstorm or anything new that could increase your operation’s productivity, decrease overhead, or allow you to expand into new markets, put it in place and start making and saving money right away.

Never, ever stop marketing: Keep your Web site fresh. Buy a New Beetle, get it wrapped with company graphics, and give it to a valued employee to drive. He or she will appreciate the wheels, and over time it’s cheaper than a billboard. Sponsor a golf tournament or health drive, so that when people think of your product or service, your name is the first to come to mind.

Be a joiner. Networking pays big dividends. Join the local Chamber of Commerce and the professional groups for the field you work in. And make community involvement part of your business and marketing plan.

Write a book. It will increase your credibility in the local business community as well as with your clients. Some time ago I promised a column on this subject and will get around to it. In the meantime, check out for inexpensive ways to self-publish.

Stay informed. Make time to read about what’s going on in the world around you, looking for trends that affect present and future business opportunities.

Too busy for all this? Hire a personal assistant, if only part-time. It will make you more efficient and minimize the potential of premature health problems brought on by too much stress. Investigate intern programs at local community colleges for a low- or no-cost assistant.

Lastly, I’d like to pass on advice that legendary photographer Don Feltner gave me years ago when I started a SOHO business in the spare bedroom of my condominium: Expect the best, but prepare for the worst.

Contributing Editor Joe Farace has written more than 20 book and 1000 articles related to his experience as a SOHO photographer and graphic artist.

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