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Doing business with people you don’t like

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Editor’s note: This article, by Inman News Publisher Bradley Inman, was originally published at BradInman.com. Click here to view the original item.

My good friend, Kris Inman (and former wife) and I started Inman News more than 25 years ago. It was a family business, a mom-and-pop, built around the syndication of my consumer newspaper column. Inman News has grown since and has been the incubator for many other businesses including TurnHere and HomeGain.

The trade publication — Inman.com — began in 1996 when I posted short stories on the Internet — a blog really. The audience suddenly grew when I covered a failed technology venture at the National Association of Realtors, dubbed RIN. Real estate professionals were looking for more transparency about their industry and they were eager to learn more about new technologies. They became our readers and our Real Estate Connect conferences soon followed.

The beauty of a small business is just that. You never have to do business with people you do not like. Another way of putting it is that you never have time to do business with people you do not like. Our business was like the Korean grocer, working downstairs and living upstairs. My children were raised living our business life, helping with direct mail, traveling to events and enduring dinner-time chatter about business travails.

Small has drawbacks — you never have the cash flow to hire people to take the load off yourself, hence you work most of the time. Banks brag about loving small business but snub them like Republicans treat immigrants. In the early 1990s, I applied for a business loan at a major bank and the loan officer asked what I was using for collateral. I explained I was in the digital content business and that my collateral was intellectual property. He was confused but eager to help. He asked where I stored the information, and I said on disks. He inquired as to how much disks cost, as their value might be considered for collateral. When I said that my disks cost less than $100, he said that was the approximate value of my collateral and presumably the amount he would lend me. My impulse was to drive his gold Mont Blanc pen through his monogrammed shirt pocket.

Today, small businesses are even more challenged, because of government requirements and reporting. I am not an ideologue, but the burdens on small businesses are real. Last week, President Obama announced some bennies for SMB; in the past, such announcements rarely added up to much.

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My other businesses have grown larger than Inman News, but the team there has made a commitment to grow it and I have promised to support it and fund it. Here are some basic steps for growing a business.

  • Figure out your vision, what the company stands for and develop a clear strategy. …CONTINUED