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Ever wondered what to give the "Person Who Has Everything"? A Gift Basket could be just the thing. Have you been from shop to shop and thought "Yes This is It" and then discounted the gift because it wasn't really what you wanted.

My best friend has everything and when I say everything, "I Mean Everything". She has either been given or purchased every conceivable gadget available in the last 5 years. She loves to shop. One of her motto's is "Shop Til you Drop, Spend Til the End". And she lives by that rule!

When it comes to gifts for my friend -- she is "The Hardest Person to Buy For". Oh did I tell you, she even has a kitchen sink on her car key tag !

It was while looking for a present for my friend that I thought "What About A Gift Basket". I was in a specialized shop and the sign said "For the Person Who Has Everything" and the light turned on.

I'm not sure if you are aware but these days gift baskets have changed. No longer are they the old style cane baskets (although there are some very attractive cane baskets available on today's market). Today Gift Baskets came in all shapes and sizes. In fact, it is basically up to your imagination as to what a "Gift Basket" should be. You can use old shoes, buckets, calico bags, pot plant holders in fact anything that holds what items you purchase to fill the basket with.

Gift Baskets are lots of fun to create and very easy to make. Gone are the days of saying... oh I'm not creative enough to make a professional looking basket. Anyone can make a professional looking basket -- as long as you have some imagination and a willingness to give it a try.

If you are stuck for a present for that "Person Who Has Everything" then a Gift Basket is for you!

Firstly decide on a theme or if you aren't sure then write down the interests of the recipient ie. golf or tennis, shopping etc. You could even base it around a coming event. Once you have made the list, work your way through it until you find something that stands out that would fit into your Gift Basket "theme".

For today's basket lets say your friend loves to entertain and one of her favorite meals is "Italian" food.

You could choose a selection of baskets for this theme; today we will use a large pasta bowl as our "basket" or a large cooking pot. Our basket needs to be large enough to hold the goodies that we are going to purchase so that we can then turn this into a Professional Looking "Gift Basket". If neither of these ideas appeals to you, let your imagination take over and choose something that fits into your theme selection.

Next take yourself down to the local supermarket or deli who specialize in gourmet foods. Set yourself a budget as to what you want to spend and then go about buying non-perishable items to fill the basket. Speak to the shop attendant to ensure that the items you are purchasing fit into your theme. Buy different colors and types of pasta to give variety of color and shape to your basket.

Next take yourself to a department store or kitchenware shop and purchase some really great utensils to go with the other items that you have purchased.

You could also add an "Easy Step by Step Guide" if they need cooking help, or send them to a "Cooking Lesson" for something extra.

Once you have gathered these items, it is time to begin to assemble your gift basket.

Depending upon the type of basket you have chosen you may need to fill the bottom of the basket with some shredded paper, as this will give the basket height. Place the items in the basket to give a layered effect. Layering items at different heights in the basket makes the overall design more pleasing to the eye.

Use small pieces of tape to hold items in place. Next wrap clear cellophane around the outside of the basket and tie the top with wired ribbon or curling ribbon to match the color scheme of your gift.

To finish off our basket make a gift tag and tuck a small item into the ribbon around the basket to give a professional look.

Congratulations, you've done it... "A Present For the Person Who Has Everything" -- A Gift Basket!

Copyright Donna Hamer

About Donna: Donna Hamer is the author and publisher of 101 Gift Basket Ideas. For a Free 5 part Mini Course on how to create your own "Personalized Gift Baskets", visit

We've all felt stress in our lives. And we're left wondering what's the best way to try and deal with it.

Some exercise, others veg out in front of the TV, I however have discovered the amazing zen of charm bracelets.

Charm bracelets are both a way to collect memories without large obtrusive knick knacks everywhere and is also a fun hobby for people that like collecting things.

It's almost like a treasure hunt looking for new charms to add to your collection and display like a trophy to everyone you come in contact with for them to admire your work and your chance to tell them all about the history of each charm.

See, it's not just about collecting the charms simply to collect them, it's about what they mean to you.

Much like someone that gets many tattoos, there's a story that goes behind them and a memory of when they got it.

It's the same with charms, there is a certain story, a certain reason for having the charms you have and everytime you look at them, they remind you about the things that are special to you.

You can collect charms that remind you of a trip you went on, of a certain belief you have, or a special time in your life. And best of all, these can all be worn on your wrist.

You can even make multiple bracelets for different periods in your life or for different moods.

It's a relzxing, almost theraputic hobby that will help you relieve stress and live your life with great joy and happiness. And all those memories are a short glance away.

I would reccomend this hobby to anyone, and once you've got you're very first charm, you'll know what I mean.

The charms are endless just like your memories. Carry them with you always.

Copyright Juliette Adams

About Juliette: Juliette is the nation's leading expert on the creation of charm bracelets and rare charms. Her site is

One of the biggest and hottest growing trends in the art of tattoo design is Hawaiian arm or leg band tattoos. As this trend goes a lot of people think to themselves, well of course." At least that is what I said to myself at first. You can hardly drive more then 10 minutes on the freeway in southern California where I am from and not see a big SUV like a Lincoln Navigator or a Cadillac Escalade and not see a Hawaiian sticker. Things with flowers designs, or turtles, dolphins. Ya see it started off with the sticker and then the car seat covers with hibiscus flowers everywhere and it just grew from there.

This trend of Hawaiian design has then met it's match with the whole tribal tattoo movement. Tribal tattoos have been the hottest thing in the tattoo world since sliced bread or the old school WWII era Hula dancer. You see these influences have been all around us for a long time my grandpa even has one of those Hula Girls tattoos still. Granted it is a little saggy and faded now but he still has one on his forearm nonetheless.

So the whole tribal tattoo and the growth in interest for Hawaiian designs have combined to make a hot and growing market for Hawaiian tattoos. This is really an up and coming thing and it not huge yet. However many tattoo artists are spotting the trend and jumping on it already.

Of course there is a lot of controversy on this subject also like anything. If you look on the internet there is a controversy about getting Kanji and Japanese Tattoos also. Anytime you try and take the designs of a culture and do not depict them accurately it creates a sense of bastardization or what I call the "Disney Effect" towards the culture. I mean how would you feel if you were in China and someone said, oh you should try this hot new restaurant out it serves this great food that is really American. They have fried chicken and apple pie that is the best." Well, at first you would be excited right? Sure it would be nice for a good home cooked meal if you have been out of the US for a long time. However once you get there you see the place has really tacky and awful reproductions of 50's art and the all the food tastes kind of strange. It would probably bee kind of close or resemble what you were thinking of but it would be missing something or a few key ingredients. I bet this would leave you feeling a little sad and like your culture was not totally understood.

Well, I can not speak for you and maybe you will feel different but I was pretty sad when after staying in Japan for 3 months I was invited to a 1950's classic hamburger joint. When we got there it was Elvis with a funny accent playing on the jukebox and when my hamburger came it had a fried egg on top of it with teriyaki sauce. WOW what a surprise that was for me. I kind of felt weird about being in the place that had tried to recreate something from my own culture.

So, the same controversy rolls on in the world of tattoos. Anytime you get a tattoo design from another culture just make sure you go with a professional. Do not have your friend trace out some Kanji in a book for a tattoo and don't go and rip some design of the internet because it states that it is Hawaiian. Go to a real custom tattoo designer and have them do the research and come up with some designs. After all this is going to be on your body for the rest of your life and since Hawaiian arm band tattoos and leg tattoos are typically big it will be a significant investment in pain, time and money to get the thing done. So you should consult with a professional and get top notch work done.

Copyright 2005 Chris Ryerson

About Chris: Chris is the owner and webmaster of where you can find custom tattoo artists waiting to design a tattoo for you. Either a Hawaiian Arm Tattoo or some other tattoo design.

This success mistake has cost me so much money that I'm almost embarrassed to tell you.

"So Mike, why are you telling me?"

Because I know that if you can steer away from this success mistake, it can help you improve your income and change your life. That's my goal.

Here's how this came about:

Yesterday, I was reading a book about investing from the very successful money manager Peter Lynch.

Even though he was talking about 'investing', he zeroed in on a success principle that so many people miss.

I did.for 7+ years and it cost me a fortune.

And it caused me a bunch of stress.

What's so interesting is that Warren Buffett used this same success insight to become the 2nd richest person in the world.

Here's the deal:

I used to be so 'short-sighted' and wanted immediate gratification.

If my new 'business idea' didn't work out in 30-60 days, I quit.

Then I'd try something else and, after a week, I went onto something else.

This downward spiral happened for a while because I was 'ruled' by a short-term vision and the desire for immediate gratification.

This is how 98% of the world operates.

THIS is why only 2% of the world live their dreams.

Here's what Peter Lynch was saying and what Warren Buffet knows.

Also, Michael Dell knows this, Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Oprah and others all know this.

***One of the biggest 'secrets' to success is taking the LONG-TERM VIEW.

(Let me say that again)

***One of the biggest 'secrets' to success is taking the LONG-TERM VIEW.

When Warren Buffett makes an investment, he's looking 5-15 years out, sometimes more.

All great entrepreneurs understand that in order to WIN BIG they must take the long-term view.

3-years, 5-years, 15-years, 20-years+.

You need to give yourself time for your idea or business to grow.

Most people never do this - it's unfortunate. AND it's also never too late to start.

You need to EXPAND your horizon.

Change your perspective.

You need to take the NEXT STEP today and keep in mind your long-term view. Not necessarily a specific long term goal, but a longer term VIEW.

There's a season for everything.

Take the time to plant the seeds, water them, and be patient for your harvest.

Stay disciplined.

I know you can do it.

Copyright 2005 Mike Litman

Resource box: If you're scattered, if you procrastinate too much, and if you want to 'rev up' your income, see Mike Litman's site at:

Only about 20% of your copy is going to get read. The rest will simply be scanned. I'm sure you've heard the statistic before. It's nothing new. While it might sound frightening or frustrating, it's a fact of copywriting life. So what do you do next? Give up? What difference does it make if only about 20% will be read anyway?

It makes a world of difference. Especially if you understand that there are some sections of your copy that are practically guaranteed to get read. If you know what these are and work to reinforce them, you'll see your conversions increase dramatically whether your copy is geared toward online or offline promotions.


Headlines have always been and will always be the most important section in any copy. They are the first thing to get read and have the greatest impact on whether any of the other copy gets read. Those stories you've seen floating around the Internet about marketers who have made minute changes to a headline and tripled their conversion rates are true. It happens all the time. In fact, it's happened to me.

Headlines and sub-headlines can guide your visitors to read deeper into your copy. If you set up a structure of progressive headlines (, you'll have a better shot getting your point across. Pay a lot of attention to your headline. It's the powerhouse of your copy.


Captions started with newspaper journalists. When they would run a picture with a story, they would add a few words underneath to explain what or who the picture was of. People got into the habit of looking for the captions in order to relate the importance of the image with the information they were receiving. This still holds true. Captions in advertising pieces are highly read. Don't waste the space!


When you scan something -- an article, a book, a newspaper, a magazine, a website -- what do you read? Almost everyone reads the first sentence of each paragraph. These sentences are vitally important in order to get your potential customers interested enough to keep reading. If you create exceptional first sentences, one of two things will happen. One: The prospect will be more likely to continue reading the copy. Two: The first sentences in each paragraph will be enough to convince him/her to buy.


Just as with the first sentence in each paragraph, people also almost always read the first entry in a bulleted list. If it hits home, they might keep reading. But, knowing that you have their attention for at least one second, always make sure your first bullet point is extremely powerful and enticing.


Writing a direct mail or Web sales letter? The PS is another hot spot. Take advantage of this real estate. Repeat offers, remind readers of bonuses, reinforce guarantees or recap limited-time offers. This section is the final pitch before your reader either acts or trashes your copy so make it count.

Have you noticed something about these five sections? Why do you think they are virtually guaranteed to get read in any piece of copy? They are unusual. They are limited. They stand out. They are eye-catching.

You only have a limited number of headlines and sub-heads in copy. They are almost always offset by bolding or underlining so they easily catch the eye of the reader. Captions only appear when there are images. They do not appear all throughout the copy. First sentences are also rare. Only one sentence in each paragraph can be the first one. This tells the reader to keep going or jump to another section that might be of more interest. First entries in bulleted lists are unusually formatted and catch the eye of the reader. PS's? There's only one, and since it's the last thing on the page, most often, it stands out too.

These rare elements give you five guaranteed shots at building curiosity, promoting benefits, generating interest and closing sales. If you haven't done it before, now is the time to review your copy to be sure you're making the most out of these opportunities.

Copyright 2005 Karon Thackston

About Karon: Karon Thackston is a veteran copywriting pro who specializes in SEO copy. Learn how to write SEO copy that impresses the engines and your visitors at Get more tips on incorporating keyphrases into your copy with Karon's latest e-report "How To Increase Keyword Saturation (Without Destroying the Flow of Your Copy)" at

I began the journey of owning a home based business several months ago. Like many others, I found the task of marketing my business overwhelming and frustrating. Without marketing, you don't make sales, and without sales, you can't profitably run your business.

After spending countless hours on the computer and throwing many dollars down the drain, I learned one very important thing: You must combine mass marketing with a personal touch.

There are many great marketing tools you can use to achieve mass marketing including pay per click engines, placing ads, buying leads, banner advertising, and exchanging links just to name a few. While these methods can produce positive results, they lack the personal connection many new business owners need to build a true customer base.

On the other hand, personal touch methods such as emailing your family and friends about your new business can be a great way to start spreading the word, but this approach may not help you reach enough people to give your business the jump start it really needs.

So where did this lead this flailing entrepreneur? Message boards.

I initially visited message boards to get help with my marketing dilemma. In the process, I realized this was not only a place to exchange valuable information with other home business owners, but this was also a great place to market my own online business.

Not only did I find plenty of message board group members willing to give information, I found many interested parties for my own business. Soon, I realized that not only was I becoming a more educated marketing guru, I was introducing my new business to many new friends (and customers).

By joining message board groups, not only will you find a new outlet to advertise your business, but you will also build credibility among your peers.

Follow these simple steps to begin utilizing message boards to market your home business today:

  1. Visit a search engine and do a search on message boards.
  2. Click through to the message boards and search for forums related to work from home and/or your specific type of business.
  3. Join a few message board groups. (Note: Some message board groups will allow you to post without being a member, but membership increases your credibility).
  4. Post information about your business. Remember to give specific instructions about how to reach you including email address, Web URL, etc.

Message boards are an efficient and effective way to reach a targeted market with direct contact, and, best of all, they are free. As you will soon see, these message boards are quite powerful as there are thousands of subscribers who receive posts from message board groups in their email boxes each day.

Start joining message board groups now and take your home business to new heights!

Copyright 2005 Leslie McGuirk

About Leslie: Leslie McGuirk is a CPA and holds a Masters of Business Administration. For additional information on home business and marketing ideas, subscribe to or http://visit If you are interested in getting a free website to market your own home business, visit

Too often, when we say we are "taking care of business", we think about the paperwork, the accounting, the inventory, etc... the trivial things that are important to get done in order for our business to run smoothly and efficiently. While necessary, they are not the most important.

We need to change our thinking about what "taking care of business" means. We need to make sales in order to have a profitable business, and we know without our customers or consultants, we don't have a business. They are our lifeblood, they are what keeps us moving forward, and meeting their needs should be our primary mission.

Without consultants or customers, there are no sales. Without sales, there is no revenue... without revenue, there is no business and we might as well go back and get a j.o.b. It is crucial that we take care of our customers and consultants. CRM (customer-relationship management) is a buzz-word in "big business". Many large corporations have implemented systems and technology to supposedly create customer care. Some have been successful, many have not.

Most of these systems simply give the illusion of customer care, but have failed miserably in actually providing it.

How many times have you been through the "round robin" of "press 1 for this" and "press 2 for that", only to spend an hour or more and never actually speak to a live person or get your problem solved? You hang up in the phone in frustration and vow never to spend money with XYZ Company again. This approach to customer care continues to baffle me as to why large companies believe this is effective. How can they possibly think that customer relationships can be created and nurtured by a recording?

Are those who make these decisions that far removed up the "corporate ladder" they can't see this isn't customer care at all and having the opposite effect?

Each and every one of our customers and consultants should be made to feel like they are our most important one. If we don't take care of them, someone or some other company will. Small and home businesses have an incredible opportunity to take back customer care and relationships the way it is supposed to be. We are in an incredible position to "take care of business".

Technology is wonderful. Without technology, there would be no internet and many of us would not be in business. However, there is no technology on this earth that can replace human connections. Technology will never replace our customers knowing that there is someone who truly cares about their needs.

So, how about you? Are you taking care of business?

Copyright 2005 Patty Gale

About Patty: Patty Gale is a successful entrepreneur who specializes in personalization and customer care for all her clients. She exchanged her suits, hose and heels for working at home in her "jammies" and is on a mission to empower other women to do the same. She can be reached at: or

10 Classic E-zine Advertising TipsKen Hill

1. Target your advertising.

The more targeted the e-zine is for your offer, the greater your response will be for your proven ad.

2. Track your ads.

Don't leave your ad campaigns to guesswork. Use ad tracking to show you exactly which e-zines and ads are most profitable.

3. Run your ad for multiple issues.

You'll get a better response, and possibly save money as many publishers offer special deals on bulk advertising.

4. Spend lots of time writing your headline.

An effective headline will successfully grab your reader's attention and target your audience.

Your winning headline will also get people to read the rest of your ad, leading to more traffic and sales.

If you're new to writing headlines, and need some help check out my "9 Power Packed Headline Formulas" at:

5. Don't try to sell your product from your ad.

Write your ads to create interest and get people to visit your site.

From here, your powerful sales page will do the selling for you, and you'll be able to get people to join your e-zine or mailing list for successful follow up.

6. Don't use all caps in your headline.

You'll appear like your yelling at your reader, and your ad will come off as amateurish.

7. Include a "call to action."

At the end of your e-zine ads, include a call to action that tells your reader what you want them to do next (i.e., visit your site or subscribe to your e-zine).

8. Don't be cute or funny with your ad.

You might put your reader in a good mood, but don't count on that translating into more visits to your site or more sales.

9. Offer something for free.

Provide an incentive for visiting your site such as a free ebook, sample chapter, or trial.

10. Subscribe to or view the archives of the
e-zines you would like to advertise in.

You'll be able to see the quality of the content provided, how many ads are published in each issue, and you'll get a good idea of the products those readers are interested in by the ads being run.

Copyright 2005 Ken Hill

About Ken: Ken's articles have been published in numerous e-zines and web sites all over the net. Keep up to date on his latest articles, and get more new valuable tips by visiting him at:

11 Creative Ways You Can Use AutorespondersShery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

1. Pick 4 or more articles you've written that have a common theme and put them in an autoresponder series. Announce it on your site as an e-mail course on the go.

2. If you have a page for related links, create a related links file and put it on autoresponder. This can be a one-page e-mail containing 15-50 links that are of interest to your visitors. Put your own promotional texts or blurbs at the top, middle and bottom of the e-mail.

3. Create a fun or trivia quiz, put it up on your site and put the answers in an autoresponder that your visitors can request. This way, you'll know the people who took your quiz.

4. Write reviews of books, music, e-books, sites, software or anything you can think of and put each review (or related reviews) in an autoresponder. If what you are reviewing have affiliate programs, use your affiliate links in the autoresponder.

5. Run a contest on your site or e-zine, then have your visitors or subscribers send their responses to your autoresponder. This way, you won't have to worry about manually sending them a confirmation receipt.

6. Create a frequently updated autoresponder and let your visitors and/or subscribers know about it. You can put in weekly tips or links to useful resources in the autoresponder and a reminder to the people who request it that you update it every week or on a regular basis (e.g. tell them to request for the same autoresponder again a week from now). You can use this method instead of using autoresponders with limited follow up messages.

7. If you've written 20 or more articles and you have them on separate autoresponder accounts, create a master list for your articles. In this master list, list the titles of your articles, their autoresponder addresses and their short descriptions. You can then just promote this master list.

8. Put excerpts or free chapters of your e-book, book or paid e-mail courses in an autoresponder series, then include your follow up sales letters at the end.

9. If you're selling your own products, put your testimonials on autoresponder, along with the description of your products, an excerpt or a free chapter. This will increase your credibility.

10. Keep track of people who download your free e-book, e-report, or free software by putting their download links in an autoresponder. When you promote your free product, you can just promote the autoresponder address.

11. Put links to your hidden pages on autoresponder. A hidden page could be the affiliate page where you have all the graphics, text links, promotional articles that interested affiliates can use. Let people know they can have free access to your affiliate page by requesting the autoresponder. This way, you can have a list of people who are interested in becoming your affiliates.

Copyright 2005 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

About the author: Shery is the developer of creative, motivating and fun e-mail courses for writers at She also authored the e-book that lets you create your own original and profitable E-mail Workshops, eCourses and Tutorials in only 3 days. Visit for more info.

Running a contest for your e-zine subscribers or web site visitors is one way you can generate interest and give more exposure for products or services you want to promote.

A contest could be as simple as spotting a word or a set of words within an e-zine's issue or searching for a graphic on a site. A contest can run for one issue, or it can last for a month or more.

If you plan to run a contest, make sure you have a "contest management response system" in place.

This could be as simple as an automated e-mail receipt to let your participants know their entry has been received.

Run a contest that asks your participants to send their responses to specific e-mail addresses. Then create an automated receipt confirmation for each account. Include a link to your products, affiliate links, or services in your confirmation receipt. Every time someone enters your contest and sends her entry, she receives a confirmation message. Thus, you've just exposed your products to your contestant.

Encourage multiple entries and your contest participants get exposed to your promotional texts multiple times.

Ok, what about contest prizes?

If you publish an e-zine and you sell advertising space, you can give away free ad space to the winners.

If you have your own product, or a product you have resell rights to, you can give away free copies of it to your winners.

If you have a service, why not put that up as a prize?

In any case, though, let your prospective contestants be interested in the prizes. Yes -- put the complete prize descriptions, along with the contest mechanics, on autoresponder too.

And then include links where they can purchase the prizes. Hey, some people might not want to wait to win your contest! So it's good to cover all bases.

Run a contest that lets autoresponders handle entries and confirmation receipts and you'll have a promotional tool that can bring in profits for you!


Copyright 2005 Shery Ma Belle Arrieta-Russ

About the author: Shery is the developer of creative, motivating and fun e-mail courses for writers at She also authored the e-book that lets you create your own original and profitable E-mail Workshops, eCourses and Tutorials in only 3 days. Visit for more info.

For many people, interviewing is not a natural act any more than going on a blind date is. You are asked a bunch of questions about your work. You answer them. They ask a bunch more; you answer them. Youre graded on your performance (you receive a job offer or not). Yet interviews are predictable processes and as such can be planned for

What does an employer want to know about you?

  • Do you have the skills to do the job that needs to be filled?
  • How will you fit in with my company?
  • If I hire you, are you someone I will need to worry about?

How does this get determined in an interview?

  • By asking questions about what you have done and how you did it or decided it should be done.
  • By asking behavioral questions that will give an employer a sense of the scope of your experiences
  • By asking concrete questions to ascertain your knowledge
  • By observing your body language or physical response to questioning to observe whether it is consistent with a successful person.

The fourth way (observing body language or physical response to questions) is particularly interesting because it is not skill or experience based and is completely subjective and emotional. AND it is part of the decision process.

And want are firms trying to find out about you? Leadership. Honesty. Trustworthiness.

You can practice with a friend or family member but they may not be much better than you. So how do you practice you presentation and get immediate feedback in order to improve your presentation and demonstrate these attributes?

Toastmasters ( offers people an opportunity to practice how to speak throughout their program. Whether you answer extemporaneous questions off the cuff for 1-2 minutes in Table Topics ("Its warm! Its summer! People start to go to the beach and spending time outdoors. Tell us about a time you had fun at the beach, Jeff." Notice that you only find out when you will speak at the end when you hear your name) or by doing actual 4-6 minute speeches, Toastmasters offers concrete opportunities to get used to being "on the spot" as happens in an interview. It also gives you an opportunity to observe others and learn from them and from the evaluations that are given.

There are Toastmasters clubs throughout the world. To find one, you can go to

Copyright 2005 Jeff Altman, Concepts in Staffing

About Jeff: Jeff Altman has successfully assisted many corporations identify management leaders and staff in technology, accounting, finance, sales, marketing and other disciplines since 1971. He is also co-founder of Your Next Job, a networking group focused on assisting technology professionals with their job search, a certified leader of the ManKind Project, a not for profit organization that assists men with life issues, and a practicing psychotherapist. For additional job hunting or hiring tips, go to

If you would like Jeff and his firm to assist you with hiring staff, or if you would like help with a strategic job change, send an email to him at (If youre looking for a new position, include your resume).

I've got good news and bad news. The good news is that 98% of businesses are small businesses. That bodes well for the entrepreneurial spirit that has made our nation great. The bad news is that 80%, that's right, four out of five new businesses will fail in their first five years.

After years of building my own companies and consulting growing businesses, I've come to the realization that too many business owners can't see their business through an objective eye, which often leads to their demise. It takes an incredible amount of intense drive, determination and a strong ego to breathe life into a business and create products from scratch, but it's also that same ego that won't let a business owner be objective about what their business needs to succeed. The business is up and running at light-speed and management doesn't have the time or willingness to stand back and take a real look at what they have created. They are too close to the problems to see them. Just like a proud parent, they have spent sweat and time creating this "baby," and they refuse to believe that it might be less than perfect.

I call this the "business parent trap." It is in this trap that business owners often create and introduce products that would not test out in the marketplace. There's an attitude of "Hey, it's gotta be great because I thought of it."

I've found that there are usually two basic things wrong with a business: the product (the Baby) and the management (the Breath).

So how do you assess your business? Are your employees going to tell you that you're headed in the wrong direction? Not likely. Occasionally a consultant will be brought in to review the company's performance in a given area. Unfortunately, when management does bring in a consultant, they often are really looking for affirmation not straight-forward constructive criticism. Sadly, some consultants are more than willing to "affirm for a fee."

If you're going to succeed, then someone needs to tell you if your baby's ugly or you've got bad (corporate) breath. So here are some blunt yet truthful thoughts for your business, and perhaps you:

GET OVER YOURSELF: Know yourself, trust yourself, believe in yourself...then Get Over Yourself. You're really not the smartest person in the world. You built the business and know it better than anyone else, but no one else really cares how much you know.

SPECTATOR SPORT: Conversation with you should not be a spectator sport for others. Remember that there's a huge difference between listening and merely waiting for your turn to talk. You hired your employees and perhaps a consultant because you assumed they had brains, so let them use them. Ask questions and listen to answers.

JUST ANOTHER PRODUCT Realize that even though you think that your new product or service is the greatest thing since the flip-top beer can, the world just sees one more product and must be convinced. You created this product and you know every function of it, but customers do not buy functions, they buy only benefits. Whether your product is a high tech internet service or office furniture, you must show how it is uniquely beneficial to your customer. Functionality makes your products work, Benefits make them sell.

PAPER WEIGHT: If you have the high tech inventive skills to create a product, chances are that you don't have the skills to market and sell it. Many small business owners think that marketing and sales are the simplest part of their business, so it is almost an afterthought. There is only one reason that inferior products outsell better ones; and that is successful marketing. Think of your marketing plan as the complete story book that sells your product. If your story book is a best seller, then your product will be a best seller. Without the right story that will build sales and distribution, your wonderful product is just another paper weight head for a land fill.

STAND BACK: Your competitors are not all stupid. Guess what? They think their babies are cute too, and they may tell better stories that make them look even better than yours. So stand back and look at yourself and your baby and try to look through the eyes of a disinterested party, because believe it or not, the world is a disinterested party.