Good customer service keeps customers coming back for more; bad service will undoubtedly do damage to a company’s reputation. Few clients will applaud someone who went out of their way to assist, but when poor service is extended, its rare that a business owner doesn’t hear about it. As it is common for entrepreneurs and supervisors to be puzzled when this sort of employee issue comes up, use these suggestions to get a mediocre employee back on track again.

Defining What Poor Service Is

Good customer service is hard work, and oftentimes difficult to define. Therefore start dealing with an employee issue regarding bad service by explaining what customer service is to the organization. If there is already a human resources policy in place – excellent. If not, try saying, “Customer service to Company EFG is about helping solve problems.” By sharing this kind of succinct information, a business owner is saying to the staff member that poor service matters to everyone, not just the customer. Additionally, it conveys that customer service is more than just a smile and a nod; it can encompass fixing something, providing information, or just listening when someone needs to vent.

How To Talk About Bad Customer Service

When a staff member is apathetic or uninterested in providing anything but bad service, use the situation as an opportunity to explain how a change in mindset will benefit them personally. The reasoning may not be personal, as business owners want to keep their competitive advantage with attentive and friendly staff members that soar above the competitors. But when it comes to talking to staff members about a poor service complaint, the easiest way to get the message across is to get personal. Explain to the person in question that there will be nothing more important in their career than good communication, and the only way to ensure long term success in the business world is to cultivate their customer service skills.

What To Say To An Employee About Bad Service

Start the conversation by sharing with the staff member the reason for the interaction. Explain that customer service was good at one point in time, and give an example. Then, share that things seem to have waned since then, using specific examples such as appearing uninterested or refusing to assist with troubleshooting customer problems. Then ask the staff member for their interpretation of the poor service situation. Wait, and listen carefully.
Then, ask the staff member a question such as, “Its understood that bad service can happen sometimes. So how can this poor service be turned around into something more positive again?” Use the staff member to solve the employee issue, and take notes if need be regarding their suggestions. Inquire more about anything that isn’t clear, and ask for specifics where applicable.

Next, explain the difference between good and bad customer service for the company, using the discussion that just occurred to drive the points home on a personal level. Explain that communication is the cornerstone to any staff member’s success with the organization, and that to stand out will require lots of learning with regards to problem solving and trying to get into the customers’ head.

End the conversation by confirming the steps the staff member suggested to remedy the employee problem, and invite them to discuss any issues or concerns that crop up along the way. This way the staff member can feel empowered to deal with poor service issues, while the business manager or entrepreneur can feel like concrete expectations can be met.

Deciding which type of business structure you’d like to employ in your entrepreneurial venture is a very important decision. Some of the business structures are more suitable towards raising capital, while others offer flexibility and fewer demands on an entrepreneur’s time. So which option is the best for your business? Let’s explore your options.

Business Structure Option #1: Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is a business that runs under either the entrepreneurs’ name or a fictitious one, and who pays taxes on their business profit using their own personal tax return. The most common of business structure, sole proprietorships account for more than three quarters of all businesses in the US, according to U.S. Census data from 1990-2004 (see: PDF). Yet these business owners are also only making a fraction of the net income that corporations are making, and therefore aren’t the best choice for every entrepreneur.

Business Structure Option #2: Partnership

There are two different kinds of partnership business structures: the general partnership and the limited partnership. An advantage that a partnership provides (other than the fact that there are two people sticking out their necks to begin a business) are that any taxes paid on the business aren’t paid at the partnership level, but rather by each partner, and only as a percentage of their business ownership.

Business Structure Option #3: Corporation

Corporations aren’t as commonly-used of a business structure as the others in this list, yet they create more profit than any other business entity out there (again, according to U.S. Census Data; see above). Any business that needs to raise capital will most likely choose a corporate or LLC business structure, because they both allow for a wide variety of financing options.

Business Structure Option #4: Limited Liability Company

An LLC is very similar to a corporation, in that it requires much of the same paperwork — and more. What’s different is that an LLC can choose to either run its business in a variety of different ways for taxation purposes: if there is only one person running the LLC for instance, the taxes for a sole proprietorship apply. However, the rules regarding a sole proprietor’s liability change completely with an LLC, making it a viable option for those wanting more flexibility when it comes to income creation, profits, and liability options.

Business Structure Option #5: Nonprofit Corporation

There are as many different types of nonprofits as there are business structures, but for the most part when discussing nonprofits with regards to entrepreneurship, we mean nonprofit corporations: those companies that aren’t for-profit, but are run like for-profit companies in order to keep their membership informed and apprised of where their donations, gifts and grants are going to.

Obtaining success as a business entrepreneur isn’t easy. There is a lot that can bring your business venture down easily and quickly these days. In this article I will share the 5 secrets to prevent that from happening and in turn bring you success. Many businesses start out without a plan; a plan is very important, but what’s more important than a plan? Read below at the secrets that will help you have a great plan and much more.

Have a clear mind, goals, and values.

If you’re ready to start of as an entrepreneur it is likely that you have a lot of things going on in your head. A lot of plans, details that you want to remember, ideas, and even suggestions that you’ve received from the people you’ve told. It is important though to start out with a clear mind. The way to obtaining this is by sitting down and getting on paper what you want out of your business. Make sure to get everything down and maybe even carry that piece of paper with you to continue adding to it. The business you want to start definitely has one goal at least it wants to accomplish and that is to earn money. Like I said, all business have AT LEAST that one goal, but there are many other goals that you may have and it’s good to have all of those written down as well as your values that you want to implicate with your business.

Be good at what you do. Have some credentials.

If you’ve made up your mind that you want to start out as an entrepreneur then you should definitely know that you’re good at what you want to do and have something to back that up. Your backup can be schooling, certifications, references, or even just testimonials. You do not want to start out a business without something that will give your potential customers the confidence to trust in you and buy your product or service.

Be creative. You must have the ability to think of innovative ways to succeed.

Creativity is very important and is definitely key to a successful business. You must be able to adapt to new technologies and ways of thinking to bring your business ahead of your competition or even just to grow it. You must also have the ability to come up with new ways yourself to market, produce, and sell your products better on a regular basis. Being able to try new things should also be something that you don’t run away from. Obtaining this trait (creativity) isn’t easy, but it’s definitely doable; just take time out of your week or month to think of new creative things that you can implement or try out.

Be courageous. Go for it, do whatever you want don’t be afraid, just do it and never stop.

Having the courage to start a business takes a lot. It’s not easy to give all of you to something because the fear of failing is always there. That should not stop you though; you should always be willing to be courageous and not be afraid of failure. If you know that you’re doing something right but it’s not working then keep going. Don’t stop no matter what if you know that you have a good idea. Sometimes it just takes time but you will get results from your courageous acts.

I hope that these 5 secrets will be something that you cherish and keep in mind when starting a business. Good luck to all of those who are going to become entrepreneurs and even to those who are already. Remember that there are no rules to success, but these secrets would definitely be in the rule book if there was.

The following post is a guest post from Houston, Texas area real estate developer and entrepreneur Tracy Suttles. Tracy can be best contacted for questions, comments and concerns on Twitter at @tracydsuttles.

FHA mortgages are provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to help low income families and first time house buyers get a foot on the property ladder. They cater for those who have a bad credit history and/or are able to only offer a low mortgage down payment. The maximum amount that can be borrowed is 115% of the median house price in the local area. This means that home buying help is available for those who live in the more expensive parts of America, such as central New York. It is important to make an assessment of the pros and cons of FHA loan mortgages before proceeding.

Advantages of an FHA Mortgage

  • Low mortgage down payment. A first time house buyer will normally need to find a house deposit of 20%. However, an FHA loan mortgage means that only 3.5% is required as an up-front payment.
  • Bad credit history. Those with missed and late payments may still be able to get approval. Individuals who have filed chapter 7 bankruptcy may be able to get their loan approved once 2 years have elapsed since they were discharged. The figure rises to 3 years following foreclosure.
  • Debt to income ratio. Whilst conventional home mortgages require the ratio to be below 36%, it can be up to 43% with an FHA mortgage. Affordability can also be established on the basis of mortgage payments expressed as a percentage of net monthly income – up to 31%.
  • Mortgage types. There are a number of different loans available, including fixed rate mortgages. There are also a number of different options, such as the growing equity mortgage and the graduated mortgage. There are fewer limitations than with other federal programs.
  • No prepayment penalty. Unlike other mortgages, there is no early redemption penalty.

Disadvantages of an FHA Mortgage

  • 1.75% Mortgage Insurance Premium (MIP). As well as finding a 3.5% mortgage down payment, it is also necessary to find a further 1.75% of the mortgage value to cover the risk of default.
  • Property type restrictions. It is only available for an existing single family home, one to four family homes, condominium units or a manufactured home on a permanent foundation.
  • FHA mortgage processing. It typically takes longer to process than conventional loans due to the additional government regulation and paperwork.
  • Selling a home. The higher cost of helping a first time house buyer is likely to mean that the seller is less likely to reduce the sale price.
  • Loan origination fee. There is typically a loan origination fee of 1% on FHA loans.

FHA Loan Mortgages – Home Buying Help for First Time House Buyers and Low Income Families

An FHA mortgage is an excellent way for first time house buyers or those with a bad credit history to get a foot on the property ladder with a minimal mortgage down payment. However, individuals looking at more expensive property or have really bad credit history are unlikely to be eligible. It is sensible to consult a mortgage advisor to identify all suitable options prior to making a decision.

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Business planning involves gather information from observation, reading, and testing a firm’s core functions to identify risks to operations and business transactions. Risk analysis can reveal a firm’s project completion problems, security problems, and market-use problems.

Assessing a Firm’s Core Business Functions

Security and control risks are identified through observation and testing. Risk areas include internal operations, customer service, legal, and financials. In today’s high tech business environments, special attention is placed on assessing automated and technology systems.

“You do risk analysis for only one reason: Would you manage the product differently if any of your risks happen?” says Johanna Rothman, a technology product development consultant at Rothman Consulting Group, Inc..

Business intelligence used by risk analysts come from workers, managers, customers, and vendors. It is also derived from a firm’s operational, environmental, and market functions. A qualitative use of business intelligence may reveal actual firm threats and vulnerabilities that require business disaster recovery planning.

Quantitative business analysis can translate business intelligence into a numerical determination of the probability of a future firm risk occurrence. This may be as precise as predicting a 13.5% likelihood of a particular outcome under existing operating factors. Quantitative business analysis is frequently used in the financial business markets.

Business Risk Management: Recovery Planning After Risk Analysis

A good business analyst’s report will include business continuity planning. This is the section of the business assessment report where recommendations are made. It may suggest that the firm develop and implement certain written policies and procedures or secure a particular type of business insurance coverage in light of revealed operational risk. The business continuity plan will also include a cost-benefit analysis comparison of quantitative risk factors against the costs of the business either: 1) doing nothing, 2) retraining or retooling the firm, or 3) insuring against the risk.

Business policies and procedures can correct operational vulnerabilities and ensure that a firm is in operational compliance with the law. Creating a sound employment policy and procedure, that is regularly updated to comply with applicable regulations, can save a firm on needless litigation or reliance on payouts from employment practices liability insurance.

Additionally, business continuity planning may include obtaining additional insurance. Some types of insurances are mandatory for firms based on the applicable international, national, or state law; or whether the firm is operating in a highly regulated industry. The types of business insurances are extensive, but business recovery planning may include securing one of the following insurance policies:

  • Aviation
  • Bid and Performance Bond
  • Business Owner Policy – BOP
  • Commercial Auto
  • Commercial General Liability
  • Commercial Property
  • Commercial Umbrella
  • Course of Construction/Builders Risk
  • Directors and Officers Insurance (D&O)
  • Earthquake Residential
  • Employment Practices Liability Insurance (EPLI)
  • Errors and Omissions Insurance (E&O)
  • Health Insurance
  • Health Insurance Group
  • Home Owners Insurance
  • Inland Marine Equipment
  • License Bond
  • Life Insurance Personal
  • Life Insurance Group
  • Pollution Liability
  • Truckers
  • Workers’ Comp

Business risk analysis can be devised internally or contracted out to a business consultant. Greater market exposure, both domestically and internationally, translates into a need to manage business security risks. This makes business risk assessments essential to any size firm.

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For many freelancers, the tedious little jobs are the ones that cause the most problems. Invoicing, writing reports, updating their freelancer’s blog or site, even house-cleaning – the list is endless. There always seems to be more and more work waiting to be done. Instead of encroaching on family time for these non-billable items, there is another option.

Many people believe only large corporations should outsource, but that’s totally untrue – small business owners (such as freelance writers) can benefit tremendously by outsourcing.

Here are some suggestions:

  1. Hire a virtual assistant. Administrative work can take up more and more time as your business grows. Hiring a virtual assistant can alleviate much of this burden. In the majority of cases they will be experienced, and may even be able to suggest tasks they can help you with. It’s easy to find someone – begin by typing “virtual assistant” into any search engine.
  2. Hire a part-time cleaning service. Housework constantly stares you in the face when you work at home. Instead of worrying about it or infringing on business hours, hire a professional to take care of your cleaning tasks. The beauty of having a regular service is that once they know the routine required, they’ll work quietly in the background, virtually unnoticed.
  3. Secure someone to update your blog or website. This can often be a slow process, especially for someone not well versed in updating blogs and/or websites. Securing someone to do these types of tasks frees up time and allows freelance writers concentrate on actually meeting deadlines or finding new places to market your business.
  4. Ask family to help out. Enlist the aid of kids, husband and other family members with tasks that can be shared. Ask hubby to take over dinner duty a few days a week. Set up a reward system (such as gold stars) for the kids when they help by picking up toys and keeping their rooms clean.
  5. Find a marketing expert. Marketing is the bane of every freelancer’s life. Ask other freelancers for contact details of someone they trust with their marketing. Although it may seem like this service would be expensive, that isn’t always the case. Often when using outsourcing services from foreign countries, the cost is much lower – simply because the wages are lower. This could be a viable option, and one that will help your business not only grow, but also thrive.

Growth is great but it can affect productivity and billable work. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day to handle everything alone. Use the tips above to start outsourcing and free up time.

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In the case of Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC), the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a conservative non-profit corporation, which produced the film, “Hilary: The Movie.” The FEC had blocked the airing of this political attack ad, citing a previous 1990 Supreme Court ruling, Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce.

In addition to this previous ruling, the ad was found to be in violation of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA), also known as the McCain-Feingold Act, which bans corporations and unions from funding political ads that favor a particular candidate.

McCain-Feingold Violates Free Speech

Critics of campaign finance reform, such as Robert Samuelson of The Washington Post, claim such legislation violates the first amendment by refusing to offer constitutional protections of free speech for corporations.

Richard Epstein of Forbes writes that there are laws that protect from fraud and abuse by corporations, and often pressure from shareholders, public opinion, and opposing funding from other corporations work to maintain integrity in the system.

The CEO of Whole Foods Market Inc. enraged his liberal customer base with his stance on Obama’s health care. His op-ed piece criticizing health care reform prompted a campaign of boycotting his company, as reported by Emily Friedman of ABC News.

Activist Judges Overturn a Century of Established Law

In the decision Austin v. Michigan Chamber of Commerce, the Court sought to uphold portions of BCRA by regulating “soft money” (money given by corporations to a political purpose with the intent of supporting a specific candidate) and “issue ads”.

Previous to this decision, the Tillman Act of 1907 was the first law passed to forbid corporate funding for elections.

David Corn of Mother Jones argues that this decision goes against everything the Court and legislatures have been working toward for nearly a century, and severely alters the balance of power in government. His opinion is shared by some of the Justices on the Court itself.

Justice Stevens wrote in his dissenting opinion that this decision was “misguided” in its attempt to rewrite law regarding campaign finance reform and attribute the identity of personhood to corporations. He makes the case that corporations do not hold the same rights as a natural human citizen, and furthermore, are open to influence by nonresidents or foreign nationals.

Foreign Influence over American Politics

During President Obama’s State of the Union address, Justice Alito was seen to mouth the words “not true” in response to the President’s assertion that this ruling opens up the possibility that foreign governments can now influence American elections.

Attorney Ted Olson refused to rule out the possibility of foreign influence on campaign finance when Justices Stevens and Ginsburg inquired about the considerations of defining multi-national corporations as citizens of the U.S. with constitutional rights.

During the 1990s, the Clinton administration came under fire for having allowed Chinese money to influence important political discussions.

Shift in Power to Favor Republicans and Big Business?

In Obama’s press to pass health care reform, many of the most vocal opponents were reported by news agencies such as MSNBC to have been funded in part by health insurance companies. Many progressives see this as a trend in current politics where special interest groups influence important policy decisions that might affect their profit margins.

Already, the coal and oil industry is spending millions on ads to persuade people to call their congressional representatives to urge them to vote against any environmental reform considered by the legislature. Many fear an equally intense battle over the finance industry reform bills now being considered.

Progressive lawmakers such as Senator Charles Schumer (D) claim that the voice of the American people will be drowned out by corporate America, who has shown that they are willing to spend liberally to fight against legislation that affects them directly.

Traditionally, Democrats have always held the opinion that strong government counteracts abuses by large corporations. Republicans have argued that government should stay clear of corporate growth because a free market economy will eventually eliminate all abuses.

Congress Responds to Concerns

President Obama appealed to Congress during his State of the Union address to offer legislation that would put the balance of power back into the hands of the people and hopefully prevent foreign and special interest an undo amount of influence in U.S. elections.

Senator Barney Frank (D) has asserted that the congressional finance committee, which is responsible for corporate law, can and will do something to limit the power of big business in politics.

Senator Mike Capuano (D) has presented legislation that would hope to counteract this decision by requiring shareholders of a company to vote on the use of treasury funds to participate in political campaigns.

This decision represents a firm interpretation of the law by the Supreme Court, and cannot be overturned except by Constitutional amendment or subsequent decision by a future Supreme Court. Regardless of this, lawmakers and political activists are working hard to find ways of counteracting what they have called a devastating change in the political climate.

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There are countless parenting and birthing resources in the country. In San Francisco, a small business named Natural Resources stands out among many. While one can obtain many of the small store’s product offerings at other retailers, Natural Resources customers receive thorough product knowledge from friendly staff who take the time to get to know parents walking them through all of the items available for sale.

Natural Resources is more than a parenting and birthing store. It’s a great resource for prenatal and early parenting classes taught by kind, compassionate educators who truly enjoy their jobs. Additionally, the store offers a library, open houses to meet doulas and midwives, and a comfortable supporting atmosphere for breastfeeding mothers.

Parenting and Community Support as Business Strategy

Parenting and community support are not just a business strategy at Natural Resources, but the way the team does business every day. “We support the families and our community with a carefully chosen selection of products and class offerings,” explains Amy Hyams, one of Natural Resource’s childbirth educators. Products are chosen based on practicality, fair wage and manufacturing practices and toxin-free materials that are earth-friendly.

Hyams continues to say that the center’s customers are viewed as valuable contributors to the growth and success of the business. “We measure success by our customer’s positive birth experiences and thoughtful parenting, by our staff members’ excellence, and by our contribution to the improvement of the environment.”

Natural Resources offers a membership program with access to a library and opportunity to lend a sling or baby carrier before buying it. The center welcomes customers to use the in store baby scale and changing table. Or one can enjoy a cup of tea while perusing one of the many local resource binders to find information about nannies, doulas, midwives, and many other local providers.

Individual Customer Service Lead to Business Success

Small business success is not easy to come by. In a fierce competitive market, Natural Resources’ strategy focuses on the basics by strongly emphasizing individual customer service. A small store like Natural Resources is easily underpriced by big box stores which carry a larger inventory at lower price. Yet, Natural Resource’s business model of individual customer service holds strong and customers don’t seem to mind the slightly higher product pricing.

Hyams offered this example to illustrate this point: “Recently, a customer came to us looking to buy a breast pump. She shared with us that she saw the same product at Target for $25 less. Yet, she came to Natural Resources because we were able to provide detailed product information, explain how it worked, how to store milk, and more.”

The model works. One can’t deny the high level of customer service and compassion, paired with detailed product knowledge are indeed rare to find elsewhere in the retail environment.

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Why is this? What is so magical about the number – 10%? Here are some examples that can be found in many organizations today.

The Ten Percent Solution

  • Increase sales by 10%
  • Reduce the accident rate by 10%
  • In crease market share by 10%
  • Remove the bottom 10% performers
  • Address and explain all budget variances in excessive of 10%
  • Improve profits by 10%
  • Reduce labor costs by 10%

When examined in this fashion, questions surface like: “Why not 11%”? or “Why not 15%? 25%” If the number of 10% is arbitrary in that it has no basis in facts about the history of performance, why not go for a bigger number? Wouldn’t that be better?

This is the problem with the use of numbers like this in setting goals and measuring performance. Rather than serving as a goal or benchmark, it is an indication that the management group is out of touch with the key performance levers of the organization. Management is not looking at performance from a systems point of view and that limited perspective can often lead to a punishing result.

The bottom line here is all performance can be measured so the measurement is not the issue, the goal is. The problem with an arbitrary number like 10% is just that, it’s arbitrary. A closer examination will often reveal that it is either significantly too high or too low, depending upon the circumstances.

Getting to the Basics of Meaningful Performance Measurement

Getting to a more fundamentally sound goal requires a systems outlook. Getting started by going back and looking at the measurements themselves can do this. As with any measurement in nature, there will be variation in what is being observed and measured. Some of that variation will be normal and there lies the problem with an arbitrarily chosen 10% goal. It could very well lie in the domain of what can be considered normal performance.

The solution from a management point of view is to apply some statistical thinking to the measures to separate what can be expected to occur normally from what is unusual, not normal, and hopefully better. With this process it is less likely that “lucky” performance which is normal but over that 10% hurdle will get rewarded and more likely that only significant improvements to performance will get this attention and the rewards.

A simple example of how this works is consider a monthly market share analysis report. Plot at least 20 months of past history and then look forward. A simple signal for significant and real performance improvement will now be 7 points in a row above the average for the first 20 months.

Challenging groups for improvement under this type of measurement process typically stimulates the serious group problem analysis and solving work that leads to the necessary significant improvements. These are smart people and they know when a goal is real and challenging and when it is just arbitrary.

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The late-Larry Burkett was a well-recognized Christian financial consultant and founder of Christian Financial Concepts. In his book, Business By The Book, Burkett outlined a number of foundational and timeless principles for business, including what he called the six biblical minimums.

The First Biblical Business Minimum: Reflect Christ in Your Business Practices

The first foundational business principle postulated by Burkett was to reflect Christ in every business practice. To reflect Christ in every practice means to do things in such a way that are consistent with Christ’s character and makes Christ look good in the sight of others. Burkett explains that putting Christ may cause a company to lose money in the short-term, but will reap benefits for the long-term.

The Second Biblical Business Minimum: Be Accountable

The second foundational principle put forth by Burkett was to be accountable. Accountability has become a bad word in organizational and private circles, but the accounting and housing scandals call this practice back into the limelight. To be accountable means to have checks and balances in place to ensure responsible business practices.

The Third Biblical Business Minimum: Provide a Quality Product for a Fair Price

The third foundational principle suggested by Burkett was to provide a quality product for a fair price. Burkett wrote: “The value of the products and services a company offers says more to the public about the real character of the company and its people than perhaps any other aspect of the company’s life.” Repeat business comes with trust; trust is won by quality products at fair prices.

The Fourth Biblical Business Minimum: Honor All Creditors

The fourth foundational principle talked about by Burkett is to honor all creditors. This means to pay all debts on time whether it is borrowed merchandise or money. Too much debt and the related interest can eat into profits and jeopardize the long-term viability of a business. Not paying debts also takes erodes a company’s reputation.

The Fifth Biblical Business Minimum: Treat Employees Fairly

The next foundational minimum is to treat employees fairly. Employees are the backbone of the business. They are in the trenches every working day to help the company fulfill its mission. A company that understands the worth of its hired help inspires those employees to give their best and receive a positive return on investment.

The Sixth Biblical Business Minimum: Treat Customers Fairly

The last foundational business principle set forth by Burkett is to treat customers fairly. No organization or business can survive without customers. When customers are treated well, they will come back.

These are the six biblical business minimums Burkett postulates for a prosperous long-term Christian-based business. The last five apply to any business.