How to Start a Business in 10 Easy Steps: Step Three

After you have completed your market research, you have successfully identified your competitors and know what your demographic wants from your product then you are ready to begin the third step. The third step is fairly easy, but it requires some thought about what the future looks like for your company and where you see yourself. You need to figure out what the legal structure of your business is going to be.

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The type of legal structure you choose for you business will affect your taxes, how you pay them and how much you pay. There are several types of different legal structures to choose from, you should know the advantages and disadvantages to them all before you decide. The different types are as follows:

Sole Proprietorship

Partnership

Corporation

S Corporation

Limited Liability Corporation (LLC)

This step is definitely not difficult, but it is something that you need to think about before you begin moving forward with financing and other logistical things.

Client of the Month: Thai Fresh

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Thai Fresh has been serving the Austin area with delicious, home cooked meals since 2008 down in the hip and trendy area of South Congress. Jam grew up in Thailand, where she learned to cook and fostered a deep love for food that she wanted to share with others. She moved to Austin and that’s where she met her partner, Bruce. His experience in the restaurant industry mixed with her passion for cooking has made them a power house in the Austin restaurant industry. BiGAUSTIN is proud to have been a partner with Thai Fresh during the normal growing pains of expanding a business.

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If you have any sort of love for food, and you should, you will love their dishes. Not only are they a culinary experience, they transport you to the streets of Thailand with amazingly fresh ingredients. They work with local farms to provide only the best ingredients from grassfed beef to local pasture raised eggs to organic spinach. Not to mention they have a coffee bar serving coffee straight from local producers in Brazil with organic soy milk to add to their daily french pressed coffee. I’m telling you, if you are a coffee snob, you don’t want to miss this.

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For those of you vegans out there, you’re in luck! They have vegan ice cream with rotating flavors like Sweet Potato Pie, Texas Corn, and Mango Lime. They use coconut milk with organic fair trade evaporated cane juice and local seasonal fruits for that added sweetness. They also have a variety of gluten-free and vegan deserts ranging from vegan salty caramel brownies to fruit pies to Thai sweet sticky rice. All of their ingredients are farmed from local, organic farms whose number one concern is the quality of their products. These people take pride in their food, and it shows.

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Want to learn how to make these fresh dishes at home so you can enjoy some Pad Thai without leaving the comfort of your home? Go take a private or group class from Thai Fresh and learn the tricks of the trade. Tip: Register early because classes fill up quickly and can be booked a couple of months out. If you have the extra dough, splurge and get a private lesson for one or two (or more if need be). Private lessons can be done in your home or in the Thai Fresh commercial kitchen.

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Wait! There’s more! Thai Fresh also offers a catering service to those of you who are having a party, wedding, divorce celebration, or whatever it may be! Seriously, who can resist delicious, fresh catered Thai food? Well, maybe some people can, but not me! How can they provide all these services you ask? The answer is by being amazing, hardworking, and maintaining their passion for food.

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The reason I picked Thai Fresh as our Client of the Month is because they have been incredibly successful at building a business that not only reflects their passion, but it makes a positive impact on the local economy. Their success is Austin’s success, and Austin’s success is the United States’ success.

Thai Fresh came to BiGAUSTIN because they needed help getting their business started, keeping it running, and dealing with issues like funding and planning. Because of their ability to effectively plan, budget, and make goals they have steadily grown and became more and more popular. So if you are looking for some good, local grub go check out Thai Fresh and let us know what you think!

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How to Start a Business in 10 Easy Steps: Step Two

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So, you’ve identified your business idea and have somewhat narrowed down who your demographic is going to be and the services/products that you will offer. Now you need to do some extensive research. You might be thinking, “RESEARCH?!?! That is WAY too complicated!” But, wait! It really is not as hard as you think, especially since now you can utilize my BFF Google for pretty much everything you need to know.

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Before writing a business plan it is best to do some research on the market. Think about questions like, who is doing what you want to do? How do they differ from what you will be doing? Will they be an ally or competition? What are they doing well and what could be improved? Who is their demographic and how does that compare to yours? This will allow you to get a good idea about what is happening in the environment, what businesses already exist, and what you can do to set yourself apart from the competition. This does not need to be enough research to write a dissertation about your particular industry, spend 15-20 minutes a day for about a week and you will have a pretty good idea of what’s going on locally and nationally.

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The second step of step two is to do some more research!! You have to find out more information about what your demographic wants and how they think. If you are targeting teenage girls, you will want to do some research to figure out the latest trends, what they are interested in, and how they think. You are not expected to understand every little detail about how your demographic feels, but you should have a good understanding of how to reach them and how to get them purchase your service/product. For example, it would be very difficult to sell a 401(k) policy to a teenage girl, she just has no interest nor is she worried about retirement at this point in her life. Instead think of where teenage girls hang out and when, like how long do they spend on Instagram and what times are they most likely to be online. See below for some ideas about education, income, gender, etc.

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Now you have an outline of who your competitors are, how your demographic thinks and what they’re interested in, and a good understanding of the local market. You can use this information to revise your business idea, add new products/services, or maybe you decide to change your idea altogether. The important thing is that you now understand what your customers want and how they want it, which makes marketing that much easier. It’s always good to meet people within your industry and talk to professionals, network, and ask one or two of them to be your mentor. This way you have a professional who you can contact with questions or concerns regarding your business.

How to Start a Business in 10 Easy Steps: Step One

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Want some concrete, tangible steps that you can take today to get your business off the ground and running? Then keep reading because you are not going to want to miss this. This blog series is not just another random list of things that every other blog talks about for how to start a business. I am going to outline a task list for those of you who have an idea, but you just don’t know how to put that idea into action. These are easy steps that you can take while working a full time job, taking care of your kids, or whatever else you might be doing throughout the day. Remember, no one else will start your business for you, so get off the couch and do something for your future.

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Step One:

Identify your idea, think about what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. Write it down, make a list of products and services you will offer. Don’t forget to make a list of things you won’t do, for example, if you want to be a graphic designer will you do print and web or only one? Will you do logos or design websites? Once you know exactly what you will and won’t do, you can more easily do your research to find out information about the industry. Also, when a customer comes to you wanting you to redesign their logo you can easily say if that is a service you offer and exactly what you charge for it. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list of every product or service you will ever offer, this is just a starting point for you to really think about what your business will look like and any tools you may need to get started.

A Champion Within Our Own Backyard: Lulu Flores- Attorney, Political Activist, Community Leader, and Volunteer

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What does an attorney, political activist, women’s rights advocate, yogi, and lifetime achievement award winner have in common?

Answer: Lulu Flores.

Lulu is an ambassador for BiGAUSTIN’s WOW1000 (Women of Worth 1000) campaign that specifically supports women who have been victimized by domestic violence and human trafficking to start a business and achieve self-sufficiency through training, business education, and one-on-one business consulting.

She has also done some pretty amazing things in her career. “Thanks to the efforts of Lulu, the legislature passed a bill that created temporary protective orders that are still used today in domestic violence cases, and for the first time in Texas history, provided state funding to domestic violence shelters (UT Law Magazine).” This is thanks to Lulu’s hardworking, never give up type of attitude. Not only has she fought for the rights of domestic violence victims, but she has been active with the National Women’s Political Caucus (NWPC), a national political non-profit that aims to increase the number of progressive, pro-choice women in local, state, and national offices. No matter what she is doing or where she is serving, Lulu is fighting for equal treatment of women whether in a political atmosphere or in the community.

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This amazing woman is fluent in three languages, serves as the Commissioner for the Austin Arts Commission, is a member of the UT Center for Women and Gender Studies Advisory Committee, and recently won the Austin Woman of the Year Lifetime Achievement Award.

I could go on and on listing her numerous awards, but that would be boring.

More importantly, she has mastered the art of following her passions, something most people spend an entire lifetime trying to figure out. Determining her passions early on allowed her to take a strategic approach to her career, making each role she played meaningful for her. This is not to say she became this successful on a whim. Sure, she’s had to shatter some glass ceilings and dust herself off a few times, but the key is she never gave up.

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Lulu values some of the very things BiGAUSTIN is built on, including women’s empowerment and entrepreneurship. We are incredibly proud (and lucky) to have a woman on our team who isn’t afraid to fight for what she believes in.

As the next generations of women are growing up and looking for role models, they need look no further. Don’t look to Britney Spears, don’t look to Lindsay Lohan, and please, do not look to Snooki. We have a champion in our own backyard. Someone who fights for women, who fights for equality, and fights to say that we have a voice.

Happy Employees=Productive Employees

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In lieu of it being Thanksgiving week I decided it was important to touch on the importance of family, especially when it comes to the workplace.  The majority of people in the U.S spend over 40 hours per week at work, this is at the expense of their family, friends, and other loved ones.  Even if you love what you do it can be difficult to spend this much time away from the people that mean the most to you.  Something that is consistently taken for granted in America is the amount of time and effort that people put into their jobs; not only do you show up everyday, but you give it your all.  As an employee you want your employer to respect and understand how important it is to have time away from the job to spend with family and friends, especially around the holidays.

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As an entrepreneur/small business owner you may or may not have employees.  Just for fun, pretend you have at least a few employees even if you don’t.  It’s incredibly important for a business owner to be aware and respectful of the fact that your employees do have a life outside of the regular 9-5 (or whatever crazy hours you might work).  It seems almost everyone has had that job where your employer only cares about what you can do for them and how much work you can get done for them.  Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on the year and give thanks for everything that you have like friends, family, and yes, even our jobs.  It is also a time when employers need to thank their employees and show their gratitude for everything that they do, because let’s face it, without employees most businesses wouldn’t survive.

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Maybe you own Best Buy and as much as you want to you just can’t give your employees Black Friday off.  That’s okay!  There are tons of other ways to show appreciation to your employees.  I worked at American Girl for a couple of holiday seasons (for those of you who don’t know, American Girl is an expensive doll store for girls) and never once had Black Friday off.  But, I still felt that my work was appreciated and that they were sincerely grateful for the hard work that I put in day in and day out.  Every employee, whether simply seasonal or full time, got an amazing gift basket filled with doll goodies.  We aren’t talking one or two items, we are talking a huge box filled with furniture, games, clothes, books, and more.  Not only did they give this to every single employee, but all day Black Friday they would have a Thanksgiving meal for everyone who was working that day so you didn’t have to worry about bringing or buying food.

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Even though most people did not want to be working on Black Friday, the majority of us felt really lucky because of the appreciation from staff and management, all the way from the CEO down.  They also were really good about scheduling people for only 6 hour shifts so you weren’t spending your entire day being drained by crazy customers the day after inundating yourself with turkey.  So, why am I rambling about a doll store and my last experience working retail?  The reason this is important is because a.) I wanted to work harder for this company that appreciated me and b.) I was more likely to show up, do my best, and not run off all the customers.

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Amidst all the warm feelings of Thanksgiving and the holidays many people still get caught up in the consumerism of corporate America and fail to remember that everyone needs time off to have fun, relax, and live life.  As an employer instead of thinking, “That’s a whole week of profits and sales lost due to closing the store/office!”, you should be thinking, “By giving my employees this week off, I am strengthening our relationship and giving them a reason to come back to work and do the very best they can.”  Research has even shown that employees who have more freedom and flexibility are more productive and loyal, why do you think Richard Branson just gave all his U.S Virgin employees unlimited vacation?

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I guess my point here is, it can be easy to forget that your business isn’t the center of your employees world and you shouldn’t expect it to be either.  Remember that your employees are human and by treating them as such can get you a long way in maintaining happy, productive employees.

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Client Of The Month: Gaye Jones, CEO of TeenWatch Alert

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Gaye Jones is not only passionate about teen driver safety, but she is a mother who cares deeply about her children.  She wanted some sort of support system to help monitor her teen’s driving as soon as they left the driveway, someone who could potentially help prevent an accident. Not only did she want this for her own children, but she wants this for everyone’s children. According to her website, motor vehicle accidents are currently the leading cause of death for teenagers in the U.S. This is an incredibly powerful statistic. What if there was a way to help decrease the number of teen accidents? Gaye’s solution may not solve the entire problem, but has the potential to make an impact in your teenagers driving habits.

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Her idea is simple and has been practiced across the United States for some time now. I’m sure you would recognize the phone numbers on the back of commercial vehicles asking, “How’s my driving?” You can call this number and report any issues (or good habits) that you notice. The same concept can be used for TeenWatch Alert. Simply sign up on their website, TeenWatch Alert, and receive a decal to put on the back of your teenager’s car. If there are any issues, someone can call that 1-800 number to report your teenager. TeenWatch Alert will then inform you via phone, text, or email about any problems with your teens driving. This means if your teenager is driving recklessly, someone can call the number and report them, you will then be notified and can talk to them about the issue and hopefully resolve any bad habits before they turn into a real accident.

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Gaye Jones has spent a significant of time researching teen driver safety and knows that something needs to be done to protect the youth of America. If we can help provide some accountability for our teenagers, then maybe we can help to develop better habits while on road, thus reducing accidents. As a mother, Gaye understands the importance of your teenagers safety and decided to do something. This is why BiGAUSTIN is proud to announce Gaye Jones our Client of the Month.

The Not-So-Secret To Success: Guest Blog Post by Shannon Malone, Business Development Coordinator

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There are many lists that discuss the keys to success as if it is on the other side of some Victorian door twiddling its thumbs and waiting patiently for you to find the right key, unlock the door, and set it free.   While these lists enumerate many well intended tools to help us reach our goals, they have the paradoxical effect of making success seem locked away and easily attainable.  Courage to take risks, persistence to stay the course, and determination to see it through are undeniably the qualities we need to reach our goals, but do not reveal the whole truth about success.  By now, of course we know that we must possess these attributes or “keys” to reach our goals.  The real truth is success is right in front of you, constantly evolving with you, and only attainable to those who consistently reach for it.  The biggest mistake people make is letting outside forces, like their family or society, dictate what success looks like for them.  For some women it will be running their own Fortune 500 Company, for others it will be staying at home and raising healthy, happy children, for many others it may be both.  It is completely within our power to define success, shape it into the best fit for ourselves and the lives we imagine.

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We must reclaim that power.

Once we have taken ownership of defining our benchmarks for success, we should accept and appreciate that it will change.  How I defined success in my late teens looks completely different in my late twenties and my criteria for success in my thirties.  As we experience more, gain more wisdom, and try new things, our goals will change and how we define success will change with it.  A beautiful part of life is being open to growing, seeing things differently, and changing our minds.  Success is no different.  It was and will always be a reflection of our values, of our dreams.

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Success changes as we change.

As I work with the Women of Worth 1000 (WOW1000) at BiGAUSTIN to empower and equip women with the tools they need to start and run a successful business, it is important to keep in mind that it will look different for each and every woman.   Every woman who walks through our doors will have her own dream or idea.  As she embarks on that journey, whether her goal is to be financially independent, to be her own boss, to have more flexibility for herself or her family, or to increase resources for her community, at BiGAUSTIN we help these women reclaim the power to define and reach their dreams.  As the market changes, as women grow, WOW1000 is there to prepare her for and support her during those changes.  Being a part of this journey is how I have defined success for myself as a BiGAUSTIN team member.

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My success is symbolized by each woman who embodies WOW1000’s vision, a prosperous Central Texas where all women are empowered to shape their own destinies.

Written by: Shannon Malone, Business Development Coordinator at BiGAUSTIN

Client of the Month: Deborah Main Designs

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Deborah Main Designs has been working with BiGAUSTIN for a couple of years now and came to us needing capital to take her business to the next level.  Deborah needed money to take her product to the 2013 International Home & Gift Show in Atlanta, within a matter of days she was able to obtain her loan from the BiGAUSTIN family for custom shelving to display her pillows in the juried High Design section.  Not only did BiGAUSTIN provide her with a loan, but we were able to provide her with training and one-on-one business consulting to make sure that she was headed on the right track for success.

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You are probably wondering how successful Deborah Main has been after receiving her loan.  Deborah was just selected as a nominee for the 2014 Martha Stewart American Made awards, which takes her to the national level of success.  But, being nominated for a national award isn’t the only way to measure success.  Deborah says that she has always, “been inspired by fashion for the home.”  Part of her success comes from being an excellent sales woman and having an eye for one of a kind designs.  The pillows that Deborah makes are special, they are made out of anything from a 1950’s cocktail dress to vintage curtains embellished with a vintage brooch.

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Success can be defined in many ways, ranging from financial success to emotional success and anything in between.  The BiGAUSTIN family defines success as being financially independent while achieving emotional happiness.  Given this very simple definition, we can easily say that Deborah has been incredibly successful.  She was able to take her passion for fashion and turn her dream into a reality, this doesn’t mean there weren’t jumps and hurdles that she faced along the way.  It simply means that she took those challenges and rose up to the occasion.  Being successful doesn’t mean that you were never faced with adversity, but how you acted when you are faced with it.

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The BiGAUSTIN family is extremely proud to have Deborah Main as a client and we are thankful to have such a great relationship with an amazing woman.  If you ever get the opportunity to meet this fabulous woman, you will immediately feel like an old friend.  Deborah Main is truly a leader in the community and is a role model to many other women out there who are trying to start their own business and achieve financial stability.

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“I design each pillow as if it were the only pillow in the world. Whether it’s using a cocktail dress my mother would have worn in the 1950’s, or a dazzling vintage Schiaparelli brooch, I create each pillow with passion and love. As if it were sitting on a couch in a gorgeous mansion beside Grace Kelly or Ava Gardner smoothing out her satin gown, the romance of bygone eras truly fascinates me. Perhaps I’d like the pillow to charm a Fifth Avenue hostess or a San Francisco socialite at the height of her social glory, back in the day. When I discover a classic Chanel brooch or simply touch an antique piece of French silk passementerie, it sends me into an exciting creative orbit around the past and the future. Handcrafting luxury pillows is my passion! I love this art form, and sharing the beauty of it with the world gives me great joy.”
–Deborah Main, Austin, Texas 2013deborah

How To Deal With Difficult Co-Workers

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Let’s face it, everyone knows that there’s always that one person in the office who’s a little bit crazy.  Maybe they aren’t medically crazy, maybe they are, but the one thing that they have in common is that these people are the difficult ones.  You know who I’m talking about, the one who sends out crazy emails to people who forget to wash their bowl for more than 20 minutes; they’re the ones that stomp around exacerbated by, well, no one really knows why.  This person is the one that you try to avoid the most and when you are forced to interact with them, you find yourself whispering quietly as you walk away, “Woosaaaaaaw.”

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So, other than listening to your iPod at excessive levels or pretending to be on an important phone call, how do you deal with these people?  How do you really learn to manage these relationships so that every day isn’t a battle.  Let me tell you, it will always be a battle because you will constantly be coming into contact with difficult people, and they will continue to test you.  Now, everyone is different and some methods work better than others.  You just have to read their body language and really get to know how this person works.  This doesn’t require much more than simple observation.  See how they interact with other co-workers, listen to their phone conversations (to a certain extent, some things are really not meant to be over heard), and most importantly figure out what’s important to them and learn how to appeal to their bottom line.

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I was given some advice a couple weeks ago about how to get what you want in life, in the work place, and with your boss.  Learn what your bottom line is, know what you want to get out of a situation, and be very clear about both these things.  Learn what this person’s bottom line is and appeal to it, show them how what you want will benefit them.  So, doesn’t sound too bad right?  Or, maybe you’re thinking that this advice is crazy and doesn’t make sense.  Try some of these other tips and see what works best for you in your specific situation.

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1. Get to know this difficult person through observation, learn what makes them crazy, this makes it easier to avoid being the one they lash out on.

2. Figure out what their bottom line is and learn how to appeal to it.  If you know this person has to go smoke a cigarette at exactly 3pm everyday, don’t schedule a meeting during that time.  Tip: This does not mean that you are giving them what they want, it means that you learn what their goals are and then you frame what you want in a way that benefits those goals.

3. Don’t talk badly about them behind their back.  I know, I know, this is obvious.  But, you would be surprised at how often it happens and we all know offices are worse than middle schools so, please, keep it to yourself.  Go home, vent, move on.

4. Learn patience.  This is extremely hard and can be very trying.  However, that being said, it is one of the most underused methods in dealing with difficult people (this is not a fact, but simply a matter of opinion).  Not only will patience allow you to work more effectively, but it will benefit you in many other areas in your life.  Think of it as an opportunity to practice a virtue that takes a lifetime to learn.

5. Be kind.  This might actually be harder than being patient with someone who you just want to scream at.  “Kill them with kindness” did not become a saying for nothing.  Don’t be overly fake, but be kind.  Kindness can go a long way and you never know who is watching what you’re doing in an office setting.  I don’t know if you believe in karma, but I do and if you try to make their life a living hell, it will come back to bite you in the butt.

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Another thing to remember is that everyone has a past and you never know what is going on in a person’s life.  I have dealt with many difficult people and have found it very hard to find compassion for them.  However, if you are able to do this it will help you release your anger and resentment from them, thus allowing you to make emotional room for other feelings (like happiness, for example).

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What have you found to work when dealing with difficult people?  What are some creative ways to learn how to work harmoniously together?