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By Barbara Corcoran

November 3, 2016

Posted in: Blog, Advice

I teamed up with OnDeck to answer your burning business questions. With over 200 entries, the decision was tough, but I picked the top 10 questions that my no-nonsense, straightforward advice can help. Thanks to all the small business owners who participated!

Untitled design (6) Latisha Sohai, Chef, Health & Wellness
Any suggestions on staying focused and motivated on my business, while working a 9-5? I’m a wife, mother of two, and love what I do but I had to take on a 9-5 position to help at home.

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
You have a lot on your plate. Holding a full time job while being a mother of two is hard enough, never mind adding the tremendous challenge of building a business! We all do better with less time if we’re extremely careful about what we focus on. With moms, kids always come first. I use a rating system to prioritize the many things I must attend to at work and home.

I rate my items an A, B, or C (A being the most important) and try to make sure to get all of my As & a few of my Bs done each day. This sort of organization & daily practice helps me stay focused and move my business ahead while still doing a good job as a mom. Last, think about getting another mom as a partner, ideally someone with an opposite skill set to help you build your business. I had my partner Esther and could never have had my family without her.

Untitled design (6) Kayln Wolf, Digital Media Strategist
Hi Barbara! How do I stay one step ahead of the competition and fight stagnation for my business?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
Stagnation happens when you’re working too hard, doing too many of the same less enjoyable things at the office, contending with one bad customer or employee that drains you, or you haven’t had a vacation in awhile. When you feel stuck mentally, it’s impossible to move your business ahead so it’s time to take a break, regroup, and get rid of the stuff you don’t like doing. Everyone knows what they don’t like so ask yourself the question, ‘who do I know that could take over this task/responsibility for me?’ There’s always someone, but you need to step back to see it and figure it all out.

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Untitled design (6) Dione Monroe, Jewelry Business
Hi Barbara, what are some inexpensive ways to advertise my business and drive traffic to my website? I own a small jewelry Internet business and I’m trying to grow the business, but I need ways to let people know that I exist, outside of my town where most of my customers are from.

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
Instagram & Pinterest are free and it’s a great forum to reach a specialized audience. You can highlight your beautiful products and drum up interest with great photography. One of my most successful Shark Tank companies, Grace & Lace, makes sexy knitwear that young women adore and the majority of their sales are online. This year they’ll hit $10 million in sales and they’ve only been in business for 3 years. Take a look at their social media and mimic what they do. Melissa, the designer, is a genius both in fashion and in sales.

Untitled design (6) Mike Snyder, Quantum Supply
What qualifying questions do you ask that help you decide if someone is being truthful and a good hire?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
Other than checking the references, which I always forget to do, the best way is to ask the right questions in the interview. I like to ask questions about their mother, father, friends, interests, or anything that has nothing to do with work. These are things that applicants don’t practice where as the usual interview questions people can get pretty good at and can use their answers to create a more favorable and less truthful impression. In short, when you talk shop, people’s guards are up, but when you talk family you’ll usually see the real person.

Untitled design (6) Jennifer Minkiewicz, Restaurant Owner
We have an opportunity to move our restaurant to a better location with more tourist, shoppers, and businesses but we’re afraid of losing our loyal customers. What advice do you have on letting our customers know we’re moving locations without losing them?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
When your business is doing well, you have no choice but to see how far you can go so moving your little restaurant to a better street with more tourists and shoppers is a smart move! Provided you’re within a 20-minute drive of your old location, you should have no problem keeping your loyal and happy clientele. All you need to do is announce your moving well in advance, ‘Moving to an even happier home on January 1st!’ And every time a loyal customer comes in, give them a gift certificate for dinner for two at your new place. That will get them coming back.

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Untitled design (6) Ryan O’Connor, Construction & Small Business Owner
Hi Barbara, I’m a general contractor that’s owned my own company for the last 15 years. I like construction, but my passion lies in real estate … and I have my license. I would love to get your advice on where I should focus my attention – my passion or my construction business (where I’m making money)?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
Following your passion always makes you happy! I think you can both follow your passion and continue your construction business. Construction and real estate are natural bedfellows. How about you sell real estate and when you locate a neglected property, buy it for yourself, renovate it, and either flip it or rent it to a tenant. Most of the wealth in this country was made through real estate, but very little of it was made through general contracting.

Untitled design (6) Vidhunesh Krishnan, Small Business Owner
Hi Barbara, does an MBA help at any stage of business?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
MBA’s are expensive and take time. What you learn in business school gives you a broad picture of business, what works and doesn’t work. It will also land you a good paying job working for someone else, but if you want to be an entrepreneur it’s street smarts & hustle that will take you a lot further than an MBA.

Untitled design (6) Rachel Ashton, Small Business Owner
When you were a real estate agent just starting out, what was the most successful method of prospecting new leads and how would you change it to fit today’s market?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
All the best leads in every business come through referrals because the customer is already prejudice towards you and expecting great results because they were recommended by another satisfied customer. So the most successful method of prospecting new leads is getting your last customer to recommend you.

Untitled design (6) Andrea Mackey, Small Business Owner
How can a small business owner increase a seasonal business during slow times?

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
Without knowing the nature of your business, it’s a hard one to answer. I suggest you talk to your customers in the busy season and ask them how they spend their time, what they like to do, what services they have a hard time finding in the off season and then try to build a business based off of one of their needs.

Untitled design (6) Nancy, Sweet Pea Cloth Diapers
Hi Barbara, how do you take your business to the next level without significant cash flow? I feel like I’m struggling to continually grow my business.

Untitled design (9) Barbara Corcoran, Entrepreneur and Shark Tank Judge
A shortage of cash is part of every business and it’s a problem that never goes away. That’s the bad news. But the good news is a lack of cash forces you to spend every penny wisely and the best money you’ll spend is on things that directly lead to sales. Anything else is a waste of hard earned dollars.

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