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The Essentials: Sales, Legal, Accounting

Monday, October 22, 2012   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Ester Venouziou
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Class notes, Weeks 3-5

Classes 3-5 at the St. Petersburg Chamber's fall 2012 Entrepreneurship Academy focused on three topics new business owners try to dodge, because they're not necessarily the fun or glamorous portions. Yet these are the things that can most likely make or break your business: sales, legal, accounting.

Jim Marshall
The president and owner of Sandler Training in Tampa has worked with hundreds of sales executives, managers, business owners and corporations, including some of the best-known companies in the Tampa Bay region. His expertise ranges from sales and management training to business development.

  • Everyone you meet is a potential customer or knows a potential customer. So you need to be "on" at all times.
  • No one cares what you do or why you do it -- so don't waste time on that. Instead, focus on the other person.
  • People react based on three things: those that induce excitement, those that alleviate fear and those that can help avoid pain. Of those three, the pain factor is the strongest, so a good sales pitch will induce pain and immediately show the potential customer
  • The format for your Perfect 30-Second Pitch: "Hi. This is (name here) with (business name here). You might know someone who (describe 2 or 3 unpleasant situations that your target consumers might be facing). We help people avoid those problems."

Carlton Fields
Lee H. Rightmyer and Kimberly Gustafson are lawyers with Carlton Fields, founded in 1901 in Tampa and now with offices in St. Petersburg, Tampa, Orlando, Miami, West Palm Beach, Tallahassee, Atlanta and New York.

  • High-profile lawyers are also pricey lawyers. And unless your situation is especially complicated, you don't need the "best" lawyer. Most business lawyers are more than capable of helping you set up your business structure (LLC? Non-Profit? Partnership? etc.)  and go over contracts and other materials. Find a lawyer that has experience in your industry, though. That will save you much time and money, since he or she will be able to get things done faster.
  • Websites to check out: (state licenses and permits), (federal licenses and permits)
  • Don't try to be all-encompassing in your contracts. For example, if your employee contract says "All information is confidential," and you find out later an employee is leaking  information to the competition and try to sue them, you're likely to lose because the contract language is so vague it loses meaning. For example, if all information is confidential, that means salespeople can't disclose sales prices. And so how can they do their job? A better approach? Be very descriptive in what constitutes as "confidential."
  • Don't send out a letter or email unless you'd be OK with having it show up on a billboard. Stay clear of sarcasm. It does not always work in writing.
  • Make sure your marketing material can't be used against you. For example, if a testimonial thanks your company for going above and beyond and fixing a product after the warranty expired, someone else could sue you -- and win -- if you don't do the same for them.

Gregory, Sharer & Stuart
Victoria Bartlett, Robert Boos Jr., Anne Tedesco, Ellen Janz and Kim Lee are certified public accountants and business advisers in the firm.

  • Consider the entity choice: partnership, LLC, corporation, etc. Each has its own regulations and tax implications. Not sure which is best for you? Ask your CPA.
  • Employee vs. Independent contractor: There are vastly different rules governing these two, and deciding whether someone can be one or the other.
  • Keep personal and business accounts completely separate. It helps substantiate your business entity and avoids the top issue found in IRS audits of small businesses.
  • Pricing strategies: cost plus profit, value-based, competitive, "going rate." Too low and you're diminishing the perceived value or quality; too high and you might be pricing yourself out of the market.
  •  Do a break-even analysis -- figure out what the cost  per product would have to be for you to break even. Then calculate in your fixed costs (ie; website, rent, etc. and figure out how many products you'd need to sell to cover those costs. Can you sell enough units to make a profit? If not, does the market support a higher per-unit item?

Nichole Morales
Morales & Associates is a full-service accounting firm and Nichole specializes in QuickBooks training services.

  • Get on QuickBooks. It will make your life easier. Courses are available through the St. Petersburg Chamber, city and private companies to help businesses learn how to navigate through the program.  You might consider contracting an accounting company to help you set up. Cost varies (about $200 and up), depending on the company and how complicated your books need to be. This will save you money in the long run. When it comes time for taxes, if you have everything on QuickBooks your CPA can go through it all relatively quickly. Show up with a bag full of receipts and you'll be paying quite a bit for what essentially is data entry.


Ester Venouziou, founder of LocalShops1, is taking the St. Petersburg Chamber's 2012 Entrepreneurship Academy and blogging about the classes.  She can be reached at or 727.637.5586