In May we invited readers to send in business questions and problems on which they wanted advice from other INC. readers. We promised to publish the most interesting queries in a new section that would run each month after the Letters section. Numerous readers responded, and so we are launching the Network section with this issue. Here are some of the queries we received:
Help for Inventors
I'm an inventor with a product that I'm getting ready to manufacture and market. Traditionally, inventors in my situation either set up their own in-house production or license the product to an established manufacturer. I wonder if there are any other options. I know that accounting and shipping are functions that can be contracted out. What about parts ordering, order taking, and some of the other housekeeping functions? If outside contractors could be found to handle these functions, the inventor would be free to focus on marketing and planning.
Bob Winter Designs Inc.
I own a company that provides employment-screening videotapes for corporate clients. That is, we videotape interviews with job applicants, which our clients then use to select employees. We are not a search firm. The job candidates are identified by our clients. But prospective clients often assume we are a search firm, and we find it difficult to differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. Does anyone have a suggestion?
Corporate Interviewing Network
How to Organize a Business
As a young entrepreneur, I've had a hard time finding information on the way to structure a business. I'm the senior partner of an investment company that provides capital for real-estate and business ventures. I also own and manage a small gift shop. But I don't even know what my title should be ( entrepreneur is too hard to spell).
I believe in being structured and organized, and I would like to start off on the right foot while both of my companies are still young. Could someone please supply me with flow charts of company command? I'm looking for models of a sole proprietorship, a partnership, and a corporation.
Robert J. Connolly
The Connolly Investment Co.
New Castle, Del.
My company does direct marketing and consulting work, mainly for Fortune 500 high-tech companies. Our services are fairly complex. We work on developing sales-lead management capabilities, integrating marketing information, and creating direct-order distribution channels for low-end products. We would like to "productize" our services -- that is, package them as products that we could market more easily to prospective clients. We'd appreciate advice from readers who have successfully done that with complicated consulting services.
Advanced Marketing Solutions
Educating the Public
About a year ago I opened a food kiosk in a predominantly blue-collar part of town. We feature pizza, subs, and salads, all made fresh according to the customer's order and served promptly at a reasonable price. I'm a hands-on manager, and I feel that overhead and sales are in line. I've never sacrificed quality to increase margins. I've received numerous compliments and get a lot of word-of-mouth and repeat business.
Nevertheless, I'm having a hard time increasing my customer base. My problem is the intelligence level of the general public. People will ask questions like, "How large is a 12-inch pizza?" Or they will order items that a previous owner offered two years ago. I've tried to promote healthy food, but nobody is interested. Coupons don't work either. Frankly, I just don't know how to get through to these people. Do your readers have any ideas?
Bolero Pizza, Subs & Salads