Skip to content
December 15, 2011 / Tony Arena

Rainstorm with Hands

December 13, 2011 / Tony Arena

Merry Christmas!

October 20, 2011 / Tony Arena

Steve Jobs Cartoons

October 10, 2011 / Tony Arena

Steve Jobs – Some thoughts

Steve Jobs, Apple co-founder and technological visionary, was well known for his words as well as his creations. Here are some of his thoughts over the past 25 years. 

On life

“Remembering that I’ll be dead soon is the most important tool I’ve ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything – all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure – these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.”
? Stanford commencement speech 2005

On Macintosh

“I don’t think I’ve ever worked so hard on something, but working on Macintosh was the neatest experience of my life. Almost everyone who worked on it will say that. None of us wanted to release it at the end. It was as though we knew that once it was out of our hands, it wouldn’t be ours any more. 

“When we finally presented it at the shareholders’ meeting, everyone in the auditorium stood up and gave it a 5-minute ovation. What was incredible to me was that I could see the Mac team in the first few rows. It was as though none of us could believe that we’d actually finished it. Everyone started crying.”
? Playboy magazine 1985

On customers

“There’s nothing that makes my day more than getting an e-mail from some random person in the universe who just bought an iPad over in the UK and tells me the story about how it’s the coolest product they’ve ever brought home in their lives. That’s what keeps me going. It’s what kept me five years ago [when he was diagnosed with cancer], it’s what kept me going 10 years ago when the doors were almost closed. And it’s what will keep me going five years from now whatever happens.” 
– AllThingsD Conference, 2010 

On technology

“We think the Mac will sell zillions, but we didn’t build the Mac for anybody else. We built it for ourselves. We were the group of people who were going to judge whether it was great or not. We weren’t going to go out and do market research. We just wanted to build the best thing we could build.

When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood on the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.”
? Playboy magazine 1985

On motivation

“That’s been one of my mantras ? focus and simplicity. Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains.” 
? Business Week 1998

On money

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me ? Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful ? that’s what matters to me.”
? Wall Street Journal 1993

On internet start-ups

“The problem with the internet start-up craze isn’t that too many people are starting companies; it’s that too many people aren’t sticking with it. That’s somewhat understandable, because there are many moments that are filled with despair and agony, when you have to fire people and cancel things and deal with very difficult situations. That’s when you find out who you are and what your values are.

“So when these people sell out, even though they get fabulously rich, they’re gypping themselves out of one of the potentially most rewarding experiences of their unfolding lives. Without it, they may never know their values or how to keep their newfound wealth in perspective.”
? Fortune magazine 2000

On design (1)

“Design is a funny word. Some people think design means how it looks. But of course, if you dig deeper, it’s really how it works. The design of the Mac wasn’t what it looked like, although that was part of it. Primarily, it was how it worked. To design something really well, you have to get it. You have to really grok what it’s all about. It takes a passionate commitment to really thoroughly understand something, chew it up, not just quickly swallow it. Most people don’t take the time to do that.”
– Wired magazine, 1994 []

On design (2)

“In most people’s vocabularies, design means veneer. It’s interior decorating. It’s the fabric of the curtains and the sofa. But to me, nothing could be further from the meaning of design. Design is the fundamental soul of a man-made creation that ends up expressing itself in successive outer layers of the product or service.”
? Fortune magazine 2000

On Apple

“My position coming back to Apple was that our industry was in a coma. It reminded me of Detroit in the 70s, when American cars were boats on wheels.”
? Fortune magazine 2000

On innovation

“Innovation comes from people meeting up in the hallways or calling each other at 10.30 at night with a new idea, or because they realised something that shoots holes in how we’ve been thinking about a problem. It’s ad hoc meetings of six people called by someone who thinks he has figured out the coolest new thing ever and who wants to know what other people think of his idea.

“And it comes from saying no to 1,000 things to make sure we don’t get on the wrong track or try to do too much. We’re always thinking about new markets we could enter, but it’s only by saying no that you can concentrate on the things that are really important.”
? Business Week 2004

On home computing

“The most compelling reason for most people to buy a computer for the home will be to link it to a nationwide communications network. We’re just in the beginning stages of what will be a truly remarkable breakthrough for most people ? as remarkable as the telephone.”
? Playboy 1985

On desktop computers

“The desktop computer industry is dead. Innovation has virtually ceased. Microsoft dominates with very little innovation. That’s over. Apple lost. The desktop market has entered the dark ages, and it’s going to be in the dark ages for the next 10 years, or certainly for the rest of this decade.

“It’s like when IBM drove a lot of innovation out of the computer industry before the microprocessor came along. Eventually, Microsoft will crumble because of complacency, and maybe some new things will grow. But until that happens, until there’s some fundamental technology shift, it’s just over.”
? Wired magazine 1996

On instinct

“You can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future. You have to trust in something ? your gut, destiny, life, karma, whatever. This approach has never let me down, and it has made all the difference in my life.” 
? Stanford commencement speech 2005

On work

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.”
– Stanford commencement speech 2005

October 6, 2011 / Tony Arena

Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address

July 22, 2011 / Tony Arena

Buyers Information Night


FREE EVENT – Buyers Information Night

Buyers Information Night

Come to this free event and hear Tony Arena,

a business broker with 25 years experience teach you:

1.      What you should pay for a business

2.      Hot to Avoid the Seven Mistakes business

         buyers usually make

3.      How to find “The Right Business” for you

4.      How to investigate a business opportunity

5.      Should you buy franchise or non-franchise


Also hear short presentations from our quality franchise companies, Mortgage Choice and Expense Reduction Analysts.


Book early as seating is strictly limited and your seat will be reserved only after your registration is made through this site.


If you book by Friday 29 July you will receive our free book

“So You’re Thinking of Buying a Franchise”

Event Details

Time: 6pm to 7.30 pm

Date: Tuesday 9 August 2011


BCI Business Brokers

1 Alexander Street

Crows Nest NSW 2065


Parking at Woolworths Car Park. 



May 17, 2011 / Tony Arena

Tips to Consider When You’re Ready to Sell

HARO founder Peter Shankman shares insight from the sale of his business.

About a year ago, Peter Shankman, the founder of HelpAReporterOut, faced a choice entrepreneurs both dream about and dread. He could work on his own to continue growing HARO, an ad-supported, web-based service that connects reporters with expert sources. Or he could accept a buy-out offer and have access to money and resources but work for someone else.

Like many entrepreneurs, Shankman readily admits, “I don’t play well with others.” As a serial entrepreneur, he likes getting ideas off the ground better than running a business. An acquisition would give him resources to grow with but also relieve the administrative hassle of running a business and let him focus on the creative and strategic work he enjoys. So over martinis at Morton’s Steakhouse, he accepted an offer for an undisclosed sum from Vocus Inc., a large marketing technology company in Lanham, Md. Since then, Shankman, who is 38 and based in New York, has added to the site’s features and about 175,000 sources and reporters are using the list, up from 100,000 at the time the deal closed about a year ago.

According to online small-business marketplace BizBuySell, 3% more small-business sales closed in 2010 than in 2009. This number is expected to continue to rise as credit eases and financials improve along with the recovering economy.

Related: Video — How to Get the Press to Write About Your Company

Shankman spoke with about why he took the deal. If you are thinking about putting your company on the block, there are lessons to learn from his experience. Excerpts from our interview follow.

Peter Shankman

Peter Shankman

HARO started as a Facebook page in 2008. At what point did you start thinking of it as a business?
HARO was supposed to be for fun. I was making enough with my speaking and consulting. Then people asked to advertise and I can’t turn down money, so I started to sell advertising. The first time I realized it could be something was when we made $20,000 in revenue in one week. I thought, ‘holy mackerel.’

You considered selling it almost as soon as it started to take off. Why?
When I ran my PR firm [before HARO], I had 15 to 20 people working for me. At that point, it was more about getting people health insurance than about building the company. It was no longer fun and exciting. After a year and a half, HARO had become a full-time business, but it was still fun and exciting, and I didn’t want to get to the point where it wasn’t. Also, I wanted to make the company bigger and knew I couldn’t do that easily on my own.

How did the sale go down?
There were some other offers but none were as serious and straightforward as Vocus. They were the nicest. They “got” me; they told me they didn’t want to change a thing.

The first meeting was over martinis at Morton’s.

We came up with a basic premise of how much it was worth by taking the revenue it was generating, adding some multipliers and coming up with a number that worked for all of us. Then there was four months of lawyers.

What was the biggest challenge?

There was a lot of due diligence, producing documents and getting things notarized.

I thought I would show them revenues and Quickbooks statements and that would be enough, but nope. They asked for details around when we made a certain change and why. I don’t do things in a formal way, that’s not my style. I would have to go dig out emails.

Related: When You’re Ready to Sell the Business

One example: They asked why we offered a “good mood” discount on a particular day, and my answer was, “I don’t know; I guess I was in a good mood.” Then I had to dig out the emails about it.

The next time around, I would be a better bookkeeper and take better notes about everything I did as I went along.

  • Keep good records of your finances, but also of key business decisions, special offers, customer growth and changes in your strategy or product. A buyer will want to know these kinds of operations details as part of its due diligence.
  • Sell for the right reasons for both you and the company; don’t make the decision impulsively in response to a temporary setback.
  • Hold out for the deal will provide the resources your business needs most. These could be more money, more people, better distribution or technology, association with a stronger brand, or a back-office staff to handle administrative tasks while you focus on your product or service.
  • If you plan to stay at the company, make sure you feel good about the people you’ll be working with. And make sure everyone agrees on what your role will be.
  • Expect the deal to take longer to close than you would like. Be prepared to sit tight and do nothing while you wait for the process to run its course.

How did you decide which details to leave to your advisors?
I was happy to let my lawyer handle everything. I had to get him the data and details they wanted, but then he handled everything. I’ve had him for 13 years. That’s what you do as an entrepreneur; you find people you like and trust and hand things off to them.

Still, the last couple of weeks were really tough. You get to a point where there is nothing you can do but sit and wait for other people to get things done. I spent a lot of time on my Stairmaster trying to not go insane while I was waiting for that to happen.

What’s changed and what’s stayed the same since the deal closed?
The things that were important to me were that I stay in New York and that my two employees stay working for me. And I wanted to still have time for my speaking and consulting.

In practice, they do pretty much let me do what I want on my own. I still write the ads. I had two employees. I still work with them. Everyone up here still works from home, same set-up as before.

But Vocus takes care of bills and payments. It’s easier to run a company when you have someone taking care of that stuff.

We’re bringing on more editors in the corporate office [in Maryland]. The technology is better, so there’s quicker service and better ways to access it. We’re building more tools related to HARO. Vocus also owns PRweb [a website that offers press release distribution to small businesses]. So we’re working with them to build tools for small businesses.

What advice do you have for entrepreneurs looking to sell in order for the companys to grow?
Ask yourself if selling the company is really what you want to do, and make sure you’re selling for the right reason. If you’re having a crappy day, that’s not a reason. If you wake up one morning and don’t love what you’re doing, that’s a reason. If you want to get your company to the next level and don’t have what it takes to do it on your own, that’s a reason.

Also, make sure the company is fun to work for. Because we’re in the same industry, I’d had conversations with people from Vocus in the past, and they seemed nice. So I expected them to be nice, but you never really know. I also knew who else they had acquired in the past, and it seemed like a good fit overall. So my gut feeling was that it would work. And it has.

Originally posted on:

March 14, 2011 / Tony Arena

10 Business Investments to Make Now

Business owners reveal the expenditures that paid off — big-time.

Salaries, technology, supplies. Every day, you spend money and time on your business. But do you know which investments are giving you the most bang for your buck?

Taking a close look at what is actually helping your business grow and generate revenue can help you make wiser decisions that pay off for your company.

Here are 10 of the top investments in which business owners can get the best return for their money.



1. Publicity
Before opening upscale Berkeley, Calif., bakery, Cinnaholic, Shannon Radke launched a blog chronicling the details about location-hunting, permit challenges and difficult landlords. Within a couple of months, the frank, but funny blog was getting 15,000 hits per month and led to coverage in popular regional publications like SF Weekly and East Bay Express. The duo also invested about $3,000 dollars in a website and spends $150 a month on Facebook ads. When the bakery opened last June, there were “lines around the block,” says husband and co-founder Florian Radke.

2. Customer research
Brett Brohl spent a month and about $300 polling healthcare professionals about their preferences before launching his Minneapolis-based online scrubs and medical uniforms retailer, Through the online-survey service SurveyMonkey, he asked about favorite brands, buying volume and preferred media. That research helped improve his understanding of the brand-driven nature of his business and his target customers. He was then better able to make a range of decisions from inventory selection to marketing.

Brett Brohl of Scrubadoo

Before starting up, Brett Brohl, the founder of, a medial scrubs retailer, used SurveyMonkey to poll what exactly his target audience would buy.

3. Automation
When Brohl first launched his site, he logged every transaction by hand. With tens of thousands of barcodes to manage, it took precious time away from selling to bigger accounts. A $1,500 investment in software to automate his ordering system paid for itself in three to four months, Brohl says. An added benefit: He can take a vacation. Automating features and writing out procedures for repeat tasks allows others to step in when you can’t.

4. Outsourcing
Sometimes, it pays to offload tasks that don’t need to be done in-house, says Jennifer Crews, founder of Pearl Advisory Partners, an Asbury Park, N.J., business-consulting firm. If you can generate more money in an hour spent doing these tasks than it would cost you to pay someone to do it for you, you’re losing money, she says.

5. Better book-keeping
Organizing your books is critical. Tapping a freelance bookkeeper or even just investing in accounting software, which can cost anywhere from $39.95 to $1,000 or more, can help you take advantage of early-payment discounts and avoid late-payment fees and finance charges, Crews says. You’ll also keep your credit history sterling, which can help when negotiating for better terms with vendors and rates on loans and lines of credit, she says.

Sean Clemmons of Piraeus Data

Sean Clemmons upped the training he and other execs offered Piraeus Data’s 40-person staff. That training has turned neophytes into managers in half the time.

6. Training
For those activities that you can keep in-house and delegate, training is essential, Crews says. Sean Clemmons found that to be true. He owns a 40-person business-intelligence consulting firm,Piraeus Data in Seattle. He upped internal training, spending more time with employees and offering daily feedback sessions, and productivity surged. He estimates that the time it takes a new hire to become a manager has shrunk from more than a year to just two or three months. The cost? About $1,000 in staff time per week.

7. Technology
When Radke was designing his bakery, he wanted the hip factor to carry through to point-of-sale. So, instead of buying a big, boxy cash register or computer system, which would have set him back more than $3,000, he opted for a $600 iPad equipped with Square, a free app and reader that turns iPad, iPhone, and Android devices into credit card payment systems with no contracts or merchant account required. Though cash purchases can be processed for free through the Square app, credit card transaction fees, which range from 2.75% to 3.5% plus 15 cents, still apply. “So, in addition to saving hundreds of dollars, it helps our brand, and we’ve gotten a lot of publicity because it’s unusual,” he says.

8. Sales data
Even though Clemmons and co-founder Ethan Chin run Piraeus Data, which is a data-driven company, they realized they weren’t doing a good job of tracking customers and their buying habits. To remedy the problem, they now use a customer-relationship management tool from In exchange for roughly $4,000 a year, Piraeus’ salespeople can access more comprehensive and current customer data. Clemmons says the frequency of contact with customers and prospects has gone from as long as year to no more than 90 days, which has doubled the number of client meetings. Even in 2010’s tough environment for consulting firms, he says the firm’s revenue grew 5%.

9. ‘Scope creep’ curbs
Twenty percent of Piraeus’ consulting projects were suffering from “scope creep” — a term used to describe projects that grow beyond original expectations. Although particularly problematic for consultants and their ilk, scope creep can be a challenge for many companies, as they try to keep customers satisfied. Clemmons and his team spent approximately 160 hours — about $20,000 in billable hours — analyzing and evaluating how they manage projects and finding ways to prevent scope creep, saving nearly $200,000 in uncompensated work hours for the firm. “Now, it’s the project manager’s job to say ‘I’m sorry. That’s out of scope. Let’s talk about how we can do that in Phase 2,'” he says.

10. Quality suppliers
An ideal vendor will not only work to keep your business by keeping prices reasonable and provide timely deliveries, you may even benefit from pitching their products or services. Radke says the top-of-the-line ingredients he gets from his suppliers allows him to charge $5 to $6 for cinnamon rolls, while his competitors charge about $3.50.

Gwen Moran is co-author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Business Plans (Alpha, 2010).


March 6, 2011 / Tony Arena

How Aristotle Can Help You Sell Better

By Stephen Shapiro

I was recently in the market for a new car.  I had narrowed down my list of prospects and went out for some test drives.  At the car dealerships, each sales person immediately jumped enthusiastically into sharing the features and functions of the cars.  “It has cruise control, alloy wheels, and a cup holder.”  Exciting.  Interestingly, the same thing happened when I was looking to purchase some software. The sales person recited a well-rehearsed script.  “Our software will allow you to keep a record of every customer.”  My reaction: “Um, and so can all your competitors.” In both cases, I was uninspired and unmotivated to buy.


This got me thinking about the selling process.


Your ability to sell is fundamental to your success.  Maybe you want customers to buy a product or service that you offer.  Or maybe, as a leader in an organization, you might want your employees to embrace the latest management technique to help spur innovation.


Regardless of what you are selling, from my experience, most people sell incorrectly.


When you focus your selling strategy on features and functions, it positions you as a commodity.  It is well-known that people buy more often for emotional rather than logical reasons.  So why are you starting the sales process with logic?


A more effective way to sell involves a simple three-step process: ethos, pathos, and then logos.  Just in case your Greek is a little rusty, ethos, pathos, and logos are the three corners of Aristotle’s “Rhetorical Triangle” – the use of language to persuade.  Ethos is credibility, pathos is empathy, and logos is logic.


Selling your ideas using this construction, in that order, leads to more persuasive arguments.


Ethos: First, establish your credibility.


Get people to listen to your ideas.  They will listen only if you have credibility.  Why should they believe you?  Start with a story that establishes your authority.  “This car was rated No. 1 by JD Power.”  Gain testimonials and trusted references to build credibility.  Do this first, without sounding as if you are hyping yourself.  You are there to create value for others.

There is a reason why professional speakers always have someone introduce them before they take the stage.  Studies show that the quality of the introduction has a significant impact on how intently the audience listens and what they ultimately retain.


I know of a company that sells insurance door-to-door (yes, people still do that).  When someone opens the door, the first thing the agents are trained to say is, “Hi, my name is Bill. You may have heard of me.  I’m the one talking to all the families in the area about cancer.  I just met with your neighbors Sally and Joe and they suggested that I meet with you as well.”  This social proof gives him immediate entrance into most homes and leads to historically higher sales hit rates.


Pathos: Next, create an emotional bond with others.


Speak their language.  Address their needs.  Tell them what THEY will get out of buying your product or by paying attention.  Why should they care?  This is about context.  Remember, people rarely listen to the emergency procedures when an airplane is taking off, but they are highly attentive when the plane is about to crash.  You must get people to the point where they really want to hear what you have to say about the proposed solution product.


I love an old AT&T commercial in which a busy mother is always heading off to work.  The children don’t understand why they can’t spend more time with her.  The four-year-old daughter then says, “Mom, when can I be a client?”  In the next scene, you see the mother and daughter at the beach having fun.  When the cell phone rings and the four-year-old yells out, “Hey, everybody, it’s time for the meeting!”  They aren’t selling a phone, they are selling more time with family. A clear emotional pain that many individuals have.


Logos: Finally, present the solution.


This is where you get to share the features and functions of your products.  What does it do and how does it do it?  How will the change be implemented?  How will it affect them?  What do they need to do differently?  What actions do you want them to take?


The proverbial used car salesman has always gotten a bad rap.  But, personally, I think it should be for their inability to effectively influence. To sell your ideas, you need to understand how people make decisions.  People rarely make decisions intellectually. They make them emotionally.  Ethos, pathos, logos is a powerful, emotionally-driven, non-manipulative formula for persuading others to take action.

Stephen Shapiro is the author of Personality Poker: The Playing Card Tool for Driving High Performance Teamwork and Innovation (Penguin Portfolio).  You can read over 500 articles at,  play the free Personality Poker video game, or follow him on Twitter.



January 31, 2011 / Tony Arena

When You’re Ready to Sell the Business

Four tips to maximize profits and plan your exit.


For a number of small business owners who may be ready to sell their companies, the past few years have been a time to cut unnecessary expenses, make ends meet and to patiently wait for the market to rebound. There simply was no use in trying to sell the business when company revenues and profits were down. Low purchase-price valuations only made matters worse.

But 2010 saw a slight improvement in the business-for-sale market and many experts expect that 2011 will be a turning point for the industry. Financing options are improving for buyers and banks are putting a new focus on lending.

So, if you’re thinking of selling your business this year, here are four tips to maximize your profit.

Plan Ahead
Like they do for any big purchase, business buyers will do their research before signing on the dotted line. That means it’s important for sellers to be ready to demonstrate their business is worth the asking price. Make sure your financial records are in order. Keep a minimum of three years of documents, including tax returns and expense records. These are essential to establish buyer trust in the economic history of the business. Also, be sure to resolve any outstanding business issues. These can include short-term lease agreements, over-reliance on one or a few key customers and any outstanding legal issues.

Don’t forget the physical elements of the business as well. Take care of any building improvements such as painting the storefront, cleaning up the distribution facility or re-decorating the interior. The physical appearance is often the first impression a buyer gets, so make sure it’s a positive one.

Understand the Market
To set your asking price accurately, you need to know where your business stands in the market compared to other businesses for sale. Overestimating your value can lead to a long and difficult sale process, while underestimating will leave money on the table. Expect an improved selling environment in 2011, but don’t make the mistake of asking for pre-recessionary prices.

To determine the right price, find out what similar businesses have sold for or listed for recently. Websites like and allow you to search for similar listings based on factors such as industry, size and location. You can also purchase a valuation report to see detailed information on recent local sales.

Take a look at your own financials as well. If your business’ revenue and cash flow have declined, take that into consideration. Buyers will. Don’t be fooled into thinking they’ll pay you based on business results prior to the downturn. The goal is to set a price that will attract the greatest number of serious buyers and enable you to close a deal at the highest possible price.

Get the Word Out
One way to get a leg up on the competition and ensure the best possible outcome is to hire an accomplished business broker. Check broker references carefully and see if you can find additional references they don’t provide themselves.

If you choose to sell on your own then market aggressively. Put together a full marketing plan, including but not limited to getting your listings posted online, in the local newspapers and appropriate trade publications, and networking through friends and family.

Be Prepared To Offer Financing
In today’s market, seller financing is essential. While lending from local and national banks will continue to loosen based on the economic stimulus and the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, banks are still almost universally requiring that seller financing is part of any deal they fund.

That means you’ll be required to take a minimum of 20 percent of the sale price in the form of a buyer note that the buyer will pay back over time, with interest. This also means that you’ll have an investment in the business even after the sale. The buyer and lender will expect you to participate in a successful transition with the new owner and to help get them off to a strong start.

Mike Handelsman is Group General Manager of–located in San Francisco–and, two business-for-sale marketplaces. Both sites feature business valuation tools that draw from the largest databases of sales comparables for recently sold small businesses, and two of the industry’s leading franchise directories.



%d bloggers like this: