A few years ago I was privileged to meet the producer of MSNBC’s show titled “Your Business” when he came to Dallas to interview me for one of their segments.” Frank Silverstein is a real pro at interviewing entrepreneurs (you can see the clip on my website) and getting them to share their successes and failures.

So I was delighted when he contacted me recently about his upcoming book titled: Think Small… Grow Big: Practical Advice for Small Business Owners with No Time to Waste, It’s a book of business tips which come from the people who’ve been featured on his show. Now doesn’t that title hit home with all of you busy entrepreneurs and managers?

He asked me to share some wisdom I’ve gained over the years of starting and growing four pet companies. He wanted concrete advice with tangible take home value. I had so much fun coming up with these, that I wanted to share them with e-update readers:

1. Options are not Optional. Having proven options and choices in terms of vendors, suppliers, and customers will keep your stress levels low and your success levels high. There is no power in one choice. Sometimes when you put all your eggs in one basket, it will turn you into a Basket Case.

2. I am a firm believer in scheduling phone calls in advance. Trying to catch someone when they have time to devote to talking with you is a huge crapshoot. Instead, schedule an appointment to talk at a time that is convenient to both of you. The easiest way to do this is to e-mail the person in advance and ask for a time to talk. Or e-mail or call that person’s assistant and ask to get on his/her boss’s calendar.

3. Unless that person is the owner, never have the person that writes the checks balance the checking account. I have a friend who wasn’t paying attention and later discovered that his office manager had stolen $300,000 from him. His bookkeeper was not only writing checks, but she was also balancing the checking account so he didn’t notice when she had set up a bogus vendor with fake invoices. In my book “Do As I Say, Not As I Did!” I wrote about an entrepreneur, Michele, who turned over all over her personal and business finances to her bookkeeper, who turned out to be embezzling $5000-$10,000 per month because Michele wasn’t paying attention. Especially when you are a small business, it is critical that you keep a close eye on both your checking and your credit card accounts.

4.  Intellectual Property Protection can be your only barrier between poverty and prosperity.  Don’t think it won’t happen to you – people copy other people’s ideas all the time.  It seems especially rampant in our industry.  Patents, Trademarks, and Copyrights all add tremendous value to your business, especially when you go to sell it.  I am so passionate about this subject, that I just completed a webcast for APPA on it. You can download the audio and handout on the archived webcasts page: http://appa.peachnewmedia.com/store/provider/provider09.php

5.  A verbal agreement isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.  Get it in writing!  No matter how close a relationship you have with that person, when you have your agreement in writing, it provides a clear roadmap that details where you can and cannot go in your relationship.  This goes for partnerships, suppliers, and clients.  My favorite Chinese proverb:  “The palest of ink is stronger then the best memory.”