Form Your Own Board of Directors
So your company is small, privately held and doesn’t make big waves in the world of business. Does that mean you shouldn’t have your own board of directors?
Absolutely not. Every business—large or small—can use an advisory board—a group of savvy business people acting as a sounding board. We’re not talking about recruiting Warren Buffett, but about local businesspeople. And there’s no reason to limit the recruiting to people in your field. Most, in fact, should be from outside your industry. Their only qualifications: They should be smart, interested in business and able to think “out of the box.”
Where can you find them? Try local CPAs, your banker (or, better yet, your bank’s biggest competitor), local business owners, a stock broker, your major suppliers and customers, and members of the local Rotary club or other business-related organizations. It’s important to network—ask colleagues and friends for suggestions.
Pay the board members a small fee and occasionally send them gifts (business books, golf balls or a fine wine). Meet with them at least once a quarter at the best restaurant in town.
Important: Share your business ideas with them—and that includes your hopes and enthusiasm.
If you’re lucky enough to be invited to join such an advisory board, don’t hesitate to accept: You’ll probably get as much out of it—if not more—than you’ll give.
Save on Phone Charges
Long-distance phone service has become so competitive it’s worth your while to check prices every six months or so and compare them with those of your current supplier.
A rule of thumb for hotel stays: Everything—the room rate and all the extras—is negotiable. And this is especially true now that hotel occupancy rates in many cities have dipped a bit, making it a slightly better buyers’ market.
Advise staff members who travel that, in many cases, they can negotiate discounts not only on the room rate but also on those nuisance fees for using the telephone—including local, toll-free and calling card calls.
When checking into the hotel—even if a price was quoted when you made the reservation—ask the desk clerk if a less expensive room rate is available. At the time reservations are made, the hotel usually quotes the so-called rack rate—the top-price fee for the room. To add leverage to your request for a better rate, don’t hesitate to note your frequent stays at the hotel or its chain.
Another way to save is to check with the local chamber of commerce or visitors’ center—they often have hotel discount coupons.
In some cases, if you ask, a hotel will upgrade your stay to the special business-class service at no extra charge. That could entitle you to, among other things, a gratis continental breakfast and use of the fitness center facilities.
But you have got to ask.