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Entrepreneur 101:
Starting and Running a Profitable Business - Part 2
“Expert Interview with Susan Ratliff”
By Debbie Christofferson, CISSP, CISM

"Entrepreneurism is the heart and soul of the U.S. … and … other countries as well."
-Francine Hardaway, FastTrak, 3/1/07, "The Revolution of Marketing" conference at Grand Canyon College in Phoenix

Debbie: What professional support do you utilize, and in what stages did you add them?

Susan: Turning point was when I hired CPA, instead of trying to do books on the tools available earlier. Keeping good books especially supports an exit strategy.

I have an attorney who is not used much, but good to phone up for professional advice as the need arises. My experience in hiring business consultants has not been good. Many of my colleagues successfully use business coaches. Mastermind groups offer professional support that can be helpful.

Sales staff are hired as contractors, and I work with a staffing company to lease employees part or full time.

Debbie: Do you use a business plan?

Susan: I never used one for any of my businesses, but I view it as a tool for strategizing how you want your business to evolve. They're excellent and a requirement if you need to borrow money.

If your company is successful, and you make a profit, you won't have any trouble getting credit. I have multiple lines of credit, because my business is successful.

I am an avid goal setter, I always have a plan, now where I want to go, and position myself that way. The plan is not formalized, but the goals are written, along with an exit strategy. A business plan will never hurt anyone.

Debbie: What is the biggest business failure you've had to overcome?

Susan: Trusting people too much. People I trusted who were partners left me holding the bag and forced me out of business. Other trusted employees who were also personal friends tried to steal my business, customers and vendors.

Business stealers don't succeed, but can devastate you emotionally. Don't lock into partnerships and contracts too early. Check references and do background checks.

You need a trusted employee to keep their ear out for discrepancies. Check up after a year, for those working for you, to get inside information on their attitude. Have an employment contract, and don't divulge everything.

Check up after a year, for those working for you, to get inside information on their attitude. If things go bad, move on.

Debbie: What would you do differently if you were starting a business today?

Susan: Delegate more work. Concentrate more on my strongest areas, which is sales. Avoid getting tied up with menial, management, bookkeeping, in the beginning.

Hire out office work and a manager. Stay focused on sales. My expertise is sales & marketing. This will focus you on activities that make you money.

Debbie: What standout piece of advice would you share, to benefit small business owners?

Susan: Don't let what you don't know stop you. We doubt ourselves and do not put enough value in what we know and take credit for. Focus your talents in direction of business and what makes money in your business.

Cut your losses and don't look back. When you fail, make a change, and look for success in a new direction. Create your own luck and position yourself to be successful.

Associate with those you admire. Be generous with your time and sharing your knowledge.

Conclusion and Call to Action

Susan's most important advice: Tune out negative people. Go forward and find your dream.

Susan can be reached for questions or for exhibit training or support by visiting her site.


  • NAWBO -National Association of Women Business Owners-visit for a chapter in your locale.
  • NAWBO SmartBrief, no-charge leading edge news bits for female and small business owners--sign-up here
  • US Small Business Administration
  • NAFE -National Association of Female Executives
  • SCORE is across the nation for small business counseling, start-up, and business plan assistance at no charge. Seminars are offered for nominal fees. Across the nation.
  • National Association for the Self-Employed
  • Free business cards for only the cost of shipping at www.VistaPrint.com
  • Phoenix has the new Grand Canyon College, focused exclusively on Entrepreneurs, and led by Michael Gerber, the famed e-Myth author.
This interview was recorded live. For an Audio CD, $25 that includes FREE shipping. Send me your email and phone, and I'll invoice you through Paypal and ship immediately upon payment in priority mail.

Coming Next: Women are leaving in droves and staying out of the pipeline to fill future technology jobs. What does it take to recruit and retain females in the technology sector? Join us and find out-inputs welcome on this hot topic -phone or email me today: 480-988-4194 or www.Sapphire-Security.com

Debbie shares 20 years of Fortune 500 management experience across the US, Europe and Asia. She consults, speaks and writes on security, technology and career growth strategies.

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