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Meet Doug & Polly

Doug and Polly White love working with small businesses. Through their columns, which appear weekly in several online publications including Entrepreneur.com, their books, videos and speeches, Doug and Polly focus on helping small business owners and their managers grow and improve profitability, understand and manage their people and their finances and achieve organizational efficiencies.

Doug White
Doug White spends his time solving business problems for entrepreneurs and their organizations. His background in physics, math, engineering and business gives him an ability to go beyond the easy, surface solution; to dig deeper and find unique answers to the problems that plague small businesses. Read more ...
Polly White
Polly White spends most of her time on the "folks." Whether it is helping owners and managers learn how to get the best out of their people or walking companies through a complex HR situation, Polly's expertise is unparalleled. She has that unique ability to understand people, their behaviors and personalities. Read more ...
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Latest Articles

How to Use Assessments to Hire People



Q.  I have been having a difficult time hiring good people. They look good on paper and they interview well, but their performance doesn’t meet expectations. Can and should I use assessments to help me hire?

Hiring the right people is challenging for many small businesses. No one will get it right every time, but we have helped many companies improve their hiring results.

The short answer to “can I use assessments” is, yes. You can use assessments to help you determine who to hire. As usual with employment practices, there are a few caveats we need to mention. First, if you are going to use assessments make sure they are scientifically “reliable” and “validated.” This is necessary to ensure that the assessment meet the requirements set forth by the Department of Labor as well as the EEOC, ADA, etc. If you are not sure about a particular assessment, ask the person supplying the product or seek out a knowledgeable employment attorney or human resources practitioner. Second, you should never choose or eliminate a candidate based solely on the results of an assessment. Rather, the assessment should provide one piece of the puzzle. 
Read more ...

No One is Irreplaceable

Q.I have an employee who is critical to the operation of my small business. He knows how to do things that no one else knows how to do. At the same time, he’s become very disruptive to the business. I would like to fire him, but I’m afraid my business will fall apart without him. What should I do?


A.It’s appropriate for small business owners to hand off various tasks and responsibilities to others as their businesses grow. After all, you can’t do everything. If you want your business to grow, you must be willing to let go of some of the tasks you handled personally when the business was smaller. In most cases, this process works well. However, sometimes the person who has taken over critical duties becomes a disruption or problem within the business. When this happens, the business owner may be reluctant to make a personnel change, especially if he or she believes the business cannot function without this employee. This seems to be the dilemma you face. Read more ...

Business Plans



Q.Some friends have told me that I should have a business plan for the small business I am planning to launch in the fear future. What do you think?







What is the formula for a successful business? You know the ones we mean, the ones that thrive. These are the businesses that throw off a lot of cash and provide a great lifestyle for the owner and his/her family. Then there is the other kind of business. Those that struggle and never seem to reach their potential. Doug and Polly’s award winning and best-selling book, Let Go to Grow: Why Some Business Thrive and Others Fail to Reach Their Potential uses real life examples gleaned from their more than 100 interviews with small business owners and entrepreneurs.

LET GO TO GROW
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A.You will most assuredly need a plan for your business. You may, or may not, need a formal business plan. 


Every business must answer three questions. They are:

1.  Why should a prospective customer buy your product or service rather than a competitor’s?

2.  Is there a segment of the market that values what differentiates your offering and is it large enough to support your business? 

 


3.  How will you reach this segment with your marketing message?
Every business, no matter how large or small must answer these three questions, either implicitly or explicitly. However, once you resolve these very basic issues, whether you need a formal business plan is a function of cash flow. If your business will have significant negative cash flow before it starts to throw off cash, or if you need your business to throw off cash from day one (say to pay the bills), a formal business plan may be in order.
Read more ...

A Quick Guide to Owner Compensation

Q.  I have a small business. It is growing nicely and is profitable, but I haven’t paid myself anything yet. I have been living off of savings. When should I start paying myself a salary? How should I set my salary?

A.  When we began working with Joe’s lawn care business, we asked to see the financial statements. He proudly showed us that the company had made a profit of $10,000 to $15,000 in each of its first three years of operation. There was only one problem. Joe hadn’t paid himself a nickel in any of those years. Had he compensated himself at market rates for the 60-hour weeks he was working, the business would have lost money in each of those years.

One of the most frequent mistakes small business owners make is not paying themselves and thinking that their business is profitable. Entrepreneurs should compensate themselves at market rates as soon as the business can afford to do so. Read more ...

Ancillary Functions of Small Businesses

Q.  I have worked for several years as an automobile repair technician. I know this field well and I enjoy my work. I’m thinking about opening my own business. Do you have any words of caution?

A.  We often advise people not to open a bakery because you love baking cakes. If you love baking, get a job as a baker. The minute you open a bakery, you’ll discover that there is a lot more to running such a business than baking cakes. You’ll have to wait on customers, keep the books, order inventory and sweep the floors. Open a bakery because you want to run a business and you happen to have a great cake recipe. We offer the same advice about opening an automobile repair shop.

There are many functions associated with running a business. Before you quit your day job, make sure that you know how each of these functions is going to be handled. In most cases, the founder will need to be good at doing the primary work of the business. It sounds as though you fit this mold. It is important to remember that this most often includes sales and marketing. You’ll need to figure out how you will drive business to your shop. Further, you will need a plan for how to accomplish the ancillary functions (e.g., accounting, information technology, etc.). Read more ...
Q.  I have worked for several years as an automobile repair technician. I know this field well and I enjoy my work. I’m thinking about opening my own business. Do you have any words of caution?

A.  We often advise people not to open a bakery because you love baking cakes. If you love baking, get a job as a baker. The minute you open a bakery, you’ll discover that there is a lot more to running such a business than baking cakes. You’ll have to wait on customers, keep the books, order inventory and sweep the floors. Open a bakery because you want to run a business and you happen to have a great cake recipe. We offer the same advice about opening an automobile repair shop.

There are many functions associated with running a business. Before you quit your day job, make sure that you know how each of these functions is going to be handled. In most cases, the founder will need to be good at doing the primary work of the business. It sounds as though you fit this mold. It is important to remember that this most often includes sales and marketing. You’ll need to figure out how you will drive business to your shop. Further, you will need a plan for how to accomplish the ancillary functions (e.g., accounting, information technology, etc.).

“I HIGHLY recommend Polly and Doug. They have wonderful insight to help small business owners prioritize and identify strategies for growth and improvement. Wish I had met them 20 years ago!”

Sharon MaderePresident / Premier Pet Products

My team and I have had the privilege of working with Polly on our business. Polly's keen business insight and savvy is something special. She was honest, direct, and tactful about her observations and recommendations for our team and how to grow our business. It was a pleasure having her help us and I would tell anyone that’s serious about growing their business to call Polly. She’s great!

John O’Reilly, Broker/OwnerBase Camp Realty

“Doug and Polly, I want to thank both of you! The past few months have been enlightening and overwhelming all at the same time. Your guidance, direction, wealth of knowledge, and wisdom have exceeded all my expectations. No words could ever completely describe just how amazing of a “dynamic duo” you two really are!”

Dawn Beninghove, RN, CCM, CRP, PNChief Executive Officer / Companion Extraordinaire Nursing Network, Inc.

“Doug White took on an unfocused operation (in the financial services sector) and created an efficient, centralized system dedicated to excellence. He did this not by driving change from the top down, but by helping the entire team see how their part of the process could be improved. Doug then mentored us toward effecting the changes ourselves. He taught us all how to bring our “A game,” and how to take ownership and pride in what we do.”

Donna LevinVice President of Operations / care.com

"I have had the privilege of working with Polly White for several years on a variety of projects. She consistently provides clear direction on how to resolve a wide range of employment-related issues. I look forward to my continued relationship with Polly."

Elizabeth WilkinsBusiness Manager / Manorhouse Management, Inc.

I have known Polly for more than ten years. As an HR Manager, I have utilized Polly’s training expertise at my former company and with my current company. Polly exceled at assessing the needs of our management teams and tailoring training programs that resulted in visible positive change. I also know I can count on Polly as a resource on any HR topic or bounce ideas off of her when I need a second opinion. Polly has been a mentor to me and I have always appreciated her willingness to listen and offer valuable advice and expertise.

Leigh McCullar, HR Business PartnerUniversity of Richmond

I am truly impressed with the abilities of Doug and Polly White, thank you! What a difference your expertise have made in helping Associates grow in their careers. Your dedication to excellence through empowering the individual and strengthening the Company is enlightening. I do and will continue to recommend Whitestone Partners to the Executive Market.

Suzanne Pittman, MEd VAMAC, Inc.
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