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What to Do After Selling

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Super Bowl ads: The verdict. "Beer solves a lot of problems, women hold men back from their dream, and this year, pants are optional." That's what NewTeeVee took away from last night's ads. AdAge, on the other hand, thinks most of the marketers should have stayed home. And Slate says, Google wins, talking babies lose. If you missed any of the good ones switching over to the Puppy Bowl, Hulu and The Wall Street Journal will let you watch--and vote on--all the ads, including spots from two Inc. 500 alums: flat-screen TV maker Vizio and domain name registrar Go Daddy, which built its brand name around risque Super Bowl stunts. Currently, The Journal has Audi's "Green Car" ad as tied for both best and worst ad, which sounds about right to us. If you didn't have millions to spend on a halftime ad for your company, take a page from Pepsi and go the community investment route instead.

You've sold your business. Now what? That's the question posed by a commenter on Reddit, who explains that he or she sold their start-up for $20 million and now is wondering what to do with all that money in the bank? A problem most people would like to have. The readers' responses range from practical ("Leave it there and live off the interest") to the more fanciful ("Hop on Amazon.com and just randomly one-click buy stuff that looks cool.") More than a few people suggested that the person become a VC with all that spare cash. What would you do with $20 million in the bank?

Giant small-business lender gets new big-name chief. Just a few months after it filed for bankruptcy protection and its CEO said he was stepping down, the prominent small- and mid-sized business lender CIT Group has a new CEO, The New York Times reports. His name is a familiar one on Wall Street, and it just might shock you.

Inside a controversial business. Is Demand Media the future of online journalism or is it a "content farm" that pays writers pennies and makes its money by gaming search engines? David Carr of The New York Times takes on the company's controversial practice of paying its writers below market rates--$15 for a how-to article; $30 for a video--and concludes that there is definitely a demand for what Demand is doing. Demand has raised more than $300 million in private equity funding and is booking an estimated $200 million a year in revenue. Meanwhile, similar business models are being employed at a host of start-ups and at AOL. For more on the company, check out this profile from Wired.

Business advice, short and sweet. Perhaps taking his cue from Thoreau who told us all to "Simplify, simplify," tech entrepreneur Neil Patel has put together a list of 54 business tips and pointers, all summed up nicely in three words. Here are just a few examples: Don't waste money, Listen to customers, Never stop networking, Coolness is overrated, Hire hungry employees, and Failure is acceptable. Who says advice has to be complicated to be worth following? As Patel explains, "I have found that the best advice is typically the simplest."

B-school competition rewards medical technology start-ups. The Olin School of Business at Washington University hosts the Olin Cup each year, awarding start-up companies up to $50,000 in seed investments. This year's cup was won by a company called Quartz, which manages lab inventory for the academic life-sciences community. "It's like eBay for researches, where the items are peptides or antibodies instead of used clothing or DVDs," explained one judge to The New York Times. Runner-up IV Diagnostics sells cancer-diagnostic technology that measures cancer cells and drugs in blood noninvasively. Other finalists included a company that manufactures a track-and-trace system to help manufacturers combat counterfeiting of prescription drugs; a social media website that aggregates information about campus events and communities; and an open-source video game development site.

For a new type of company, mission trumps money. CNN Money has a story about an emerging but controversial type of business entity called an L3C, which enables companies with a social purpose to receive funding from charities. So far, at least five states, including Vermont and Illinois, have signed legislation allowing companies to incorporate as an L3C, while several others have similar legislation pending. "We're trying to create an LLC whose very DNA insists that it has to put its beneficial activities in front of making money," says Robert Lang, a former cosmetics business owner and one of the original creators of the concept. But the fact that L3Cs are still for-profit establishments, and therefore still eligible to receive regular investments, is raising a few eyebrows. According to the article, last year, a government group called the National Associations of State Charity Officials sent a letter to Senator Max Baucus, wanting to know "how L3Cs will be monitored to make sure that the profit purpose remains secondary to the charitable purpose." Do you think it's wise to mix for-profit business with non-profit goals?

Newspapers may acquiesce to pay-per-inquiry advertising. Television, radio, and websites long-ago agreed to be paid for advertisements based on how many people respond to the ads. Now, some newspapers have also started to give this strategy a shot. Advertising Age reports that the Christian Science Monitor's print weekly, as well papers owned by Heartland Publications, are running pay-per-inquiry ads supplied by an online marketplace called MediaBids.com. "My feeling was we as a newspaper company needed to offer an option to the appropriate businesses that would emulate what they're getting from an electronic source," says the president and publisher of one of the newspapers.

Finding success in an increasingly solo business world. From consulting, to freelancing, to contracting, many businesspeople - which includes up to 23 percent of the current U.S. workforce - are now testing out their occupational expertise by going solo, reports The Wall Street Journal. And now, because of the current economic climate, there are plenty of consultants and the like who are enjoying successful, well-paid careers, rather than temporary stints throughout various industries. The WSJ offers five suggestions for turning your freelancing gig into a profession. First and foremost, they advise thinking of your freelance job as long-term, rather than passing. They also recommend continually attending workshops or training courses to help you stay fresh on your game, and joining a network to keep in touch with clients and competition. Finding your own work space is also crucial for success, and thinking like an entrepreneur - for instance, by coming up with a business plan or mission statement - will help you develop your business or career goals for the future.

Business plans for creative types. If you're anything like Karen Leland, you put off tackling your business plan each year until the absolute last moment. So the president of Sterling Marketing and Consulting Group, a firm specializing in working with entrepreneurs and SMBs on PR and social media, sought out Christy Strauch, the author of "Passion, Plan, Profit: 12 Simple Steps to Convert Your Passion into a Solid Business." You can see their whole exchange over at Web Worker Daily but Strauch has bad news for all you procrastinators: even if you slog through that annual review, it's not enough. "Do a monthly and quarterly review process. Because things begin to change right after you remove your pen from the paper," she says. Check out Inc.com for the skinny on how to write a business plan or the best books for business owners.

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Last updated: Feb 8, 2010




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