http://www.sba.gov/community/blog/rss/13751/feed en Should You Look At Pet Franchise Ownership? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/should-you-look-pet-franchise-ownership <p>Some of the best advice I can give to you if you&rsquo;re looking to someday own <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-franchising-began" title="start franchises">a franchise business</a> is to look at industries that are growing. The pet industry is one of them, and I have the stats to prove it.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The pet industry is huge....and it continues to grow, with or without a strong economy. Not many industries can claim to do that. But, is that reason enough for you to consider owning a business in the pet industry?</p> <p><strong>Pet Industry Statistics</strong></p> <p>Take a look at how much money U.S. pet owners spend on their pets, year in and year out. Notice 2009-2010. The big recession took place then, and pet owners still increased their spending, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) numbers below.</p> <p>Total U.S. Pet Industry Expenditures:</p> <p>Year&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Billion</p> <p>2014&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $58.51 Estimated</p> <p>2013&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $55.72 Actual</p> <p>2012&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;$53.33</p> <p>2011&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $50.96</p> <p>2010&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $48.35</p> <p>2009&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $45.5</p> <p>2008&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $43.2</p> <p>The actual number of pet owning households is significantly higher than it was 20 years ago, according to the same 2013-2014 <a href="http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp" title="pet products survey">APPA National Pet Owners Survey</a>*. It shows that 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes. In addition, approximately four out of ten pet-owning households in the U.S. are multiple pet owners.</p> <p><strong>Pet Franchise Types </strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re thinking of getting into the pet industry, the franchise sector offers several choices &ndash; different franchised concepts that offer a wide variety of pet products and services. Some of these franchises can be started as <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/starting-home-based-franchise-business-6-st-0" title="sba blog starting a home based business">home-based businesses</a> with a modest investment. Some require a brick and mortar location. Here are some examples of pet franchise opportunities:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Petland &shy;&shy;&shy;&ndash; Franchisees offer pet supplies, products and services to pet lovers in a retail setting. The company has been servicing the needs to pet owners for 45 years from their 500+ franchise locations.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Pet Supplies Plus&reg; &ndash; Another retailer of pet products, supplies and services, Pet Supplies Plus has a large array of items that are produced in the U.S. In addition, stores partner with local animal rescue organizations hosting pet adoption events.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Zoomin Groomin &ndash; Franchisees of the concept bring pet grooming services right to their customers&rsquo; doors. Pets can experience full grooming services in the comfort of their own home or inside the Zoomin Groomin mobile washing and grooming vehicle.&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Splash And Dash Groomerie And Boutique &ndash; This brick and mortar franchise offers a safe and comfortable environment for pet owners to bring their dogs and cats. They even offer unlimited monthly &ldquo;bath and brush&rdquo; packages for pets that seem to always get dirty.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Pet Butler &shy;&ndash; Speaking of &ldquo;dirty,&rdquo; there are certain duties that all pet owners have, and some of them are rather unpleasant. For pet owners that are willing to pay, Pet Butler provides pet waste cleanup and removal services, and has been doing so since 1988.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Zoom Room &shy;&ndash; Another brick and mortar franchise, Zoom Room offers dog training classes. In addition, Zoom Room franchisees offer agility training, educational seminars and Canine Good Citizen obedience training and testing.</p> <p><strong>Learning More</strong></p> <p>The pet franchise sector of franchising is unique in the fact that franchisees really need to have a love for pets. It would be difficult not to. In other words, if you don&rsquo;t like dogs and/or cats, a pet franchise isn&rsquo;t the one for you!</p> <p>If you can see yourself in a business in which you&rsquo;d be spending most of your time with animals &shy;&ndash; along with a few humans of course &ndash; consider looking into a pet franchise opportunity. Learn all you can about the industry, and talk to a lot of franchisees that are doing what you may want to be doing yourself.</p> <p>Finally, make sure to <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-lawyers-when-use-one" title="hire a franchise attorney article sba.gov">talk with a franchise attorney</a> before you enter into a franchise agreement. Working with pets can be rewarding, and even fun, but it&rsquo;s still a business. You need to understand your responsibilities as a franchisee as well as the franchisor&rsquo;s responsibilities. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>* Non-U.S. Government link</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/should-you-look-pet-franchise-ownership#comments The Industry Word Starting Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:29:01 +0000 FranchiseKing 1100901 at http://www.sba.gov/community Get Over These Dangerous Business Planning Myths http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/get-over-these-dangerous-business-planning-myths <p>If you don&rsquo;t plan your business because you don&rsquo;t need a formal business plan document for a loan application or investors, you&rsquo;re missing out. Planning is a tool for steering and managing your business &ndash; something that benefits all businesses, whether they need the formal document or not.</p> <p>That fear and doubt so many business owners have (are you one of them?) is associated with several dangerous myths about business planning. So I want to dispel those myths with this post.</p> <h2> 1. It&rsquo;s about the management, not the plan.</h2> <p>Your plan exists to help you manage. It includes only what you need for its function, which is setting strategy, tactics and concrete specifics. You use it to track performance against plan, review results, and revise regularly, so the plan is always up to date. And that&rsquo;s not a big document; it&rsquo;s a collection of lists, bullet points, reminders and projected business numbers. I hope it&rsquo;s gathered into a single place, as if it were a document, but it doesn&rsquo;t have to be. And it&rsquo;s only as big as you need, as polished as you need, as formal as you need.</p> <p>Your business plan document, if and when needed, adds a lot of description and supporting information that&nbsp;aren&rsquo;t in the main plan. That&rsquo;s additional dressing. You add it when you have to in order to show a plan document to outsiders.</p> <p>Every small-business owner suffers the problem of management and accountability. It&rsquo;s much easier to be friends with your coworkers than to manage them well.</p> <p>Correct management means setting expectations well and then following up on results. Compare results with expectations. People on a team are held accountable only if management actually does the work of tracking results and communicating results, after the fact, to the people responsible.</p> <h2> 2. Not all business planning needs rigorous market analysis.</h2> <p>Contrary to the myth, a business plan doesn&rsquo;t have to include supporting information to analyze or prove a market &mdash; at least, not until later, if and when the business purpose requires it. Not that you don&rsquo;t have to know your market &mdash; but you don&rsquo;t have to describe it or prove it for a lean plan. You don&rsquo;t have to show some outsider who you are, what you own, or any of that.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t have to do a rigorous market analysis as part of your plan if you know exactly what you&rsquo;re offering, and to whom. So what about market analysis? Think about the business purpose. Do you need the market analysis to help determine your strategy? Then do it. Are you ready to go with that&nbsp;strategy regardless? Then don&rsquo;t sweat the market analysis.</p> <h2> 3. Good planning doesn&rsquo;t reduce flexibility. It builds flexibility.</h2> <p>People say, &ldquo;Why would I do a business plan? That just locks me in. It&rsquo;s a straitjacket.&rdquo;</p> <p>And I say: wrong. The dumbest thing in the world is to do something just because it&rsquo;s in the plan. There is no merit whatsoever in following a plan just for the plan&rsquo;s sake. You never plan to run yourself into a brick wall over and over.</p> <p>Instead, understand that the plan relates long term to short term, sales to costs and expenses and cash flow, marketing to sales, and lots of other interdependencies in the business. When things change &mdash; and they always do &mdash; the plan helps you keep track of what affects what else, so you can adjust accordingly.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s not like change undermines planning; actually, planning is the best way to manage change.</p> <p>So running a business right requires minding the details but also watching the horizon. Eyes down, eyes up. At the same time.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/get-over-these-dangerous-business-planning-myths#comments The Industry Word Managing Starting Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:01:55 +0000 Tim Berry 1099581 at http://www.sba.gov/community Employee Fraud: What You Can Do About It http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/employee-fraud-what-you-can-do-about-it <p>Employees are one of your biggest assets, even though they don&rsquo;t appear on your balance sheet. They help you operate your business and are the faces of your company brand. But employees can also be a big liability if they steal from you. What can you do to protect yourself?</p> <p><strong>Acknowledge the problem</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.acfe.com/rttn/images/cost-of-fraud-infographic.pdf" title="Links to ACFE.com"><u>*Recent statistics</u></a> found that companies lose 5% of their revenues each year to employee fraud. Companies with fewer than 100 employees had 28% higher fraud losses than larger companies.</p> <p>Fraud can take many forms, including outright theft of property (from paper clips to expensive inventory items), subtle theft by wasting time (focus on personal matters, sports events or other distractions), to embezzlement of company funds. Employees can be very creative in devising ways to steal from you, including creating bogus customers and invoices to siphon funds from the company.</p> <p><strong>Wise staffing practices</strong></p> <p>Having the best employees on your staff can go a long way in minimizing or avoiding fraud inside your company.</p> <ul> <li> <em>Do background checks before hiring anyone new</em>. You can check public records to look for bankruptcies and criminal records without permission from the job applicant. If you want to do a credit check (there&rsquo;s debate about whether a bad credit rating is any indication of potential employee fraud), you&rsquo;ll need permission. <em>Note</em>: About a dozen states bar employers from doing credit checks of job applicants and employees and Congress is considering similar federal legislation (<a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s1837is/pdf/BILLS-113s1837is.pdf" title="Links to gpo.gov">see <u>S. 1837</u></a>).</li> <li> <em>Get to know your staff</em> so you can detect potentially bad situations. Those with financial difficulties, such as an employee experiencing a home foreclosure or one with a gambling problem, may feel impelled to steal. Those displaying unaccounted wealth, such as a <em>Lamborghini suddenly being driven by an employee who was previously driving a Ford Focus, may raise suspicions.</em></li> <li> <em>Create the right company culture. </em>Let employees know how seriously you view any theft.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Implement systems for protection</strong></p> <p>As with the three branches of the federal government, checks and balances can prevent an employee from manipulating financial data. The less opportunity that employees have to steal, the lower the incidence of such action will be.</p> <p>Frequent inventories can monitor and detect any employee theft of company property. Bring your accountant in to review your inventory and other financial information.</p> <p>Make it clear that employee theft will not be tolerated and that violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, some small business owners ignore illegal activity, which then breeds more of the same.</p> <p><strong>Be vigilant</strong></p> <p>As the business owner, it&rsquo;s up to you to oversee what&rsquo;s going on in your business. Look for clues that something nefarious may be going on, such as a bookkeeper who never takes a vacation or declines to delegate work. Limit review of the monthly bank statement to you and, perhaps, your accountant; don&rsquo;t leave it to the bookkeeper to review the statement before you see it.</p> <p>Create an anonymous reporting system for employees to tell you about suspected fraud without fear of retaliation. Tips are the *<a href="http://www.acfe.com/rttn-summary.aspx" title="Links to acfe.com"><u>most common method of detection</u> </a>(), yet fewer than 20% of small companies have a system in place, compared with 70% of larger firms. If you want to implement a reporting system, it can be a web-based system or a special phone hotline for this purpose.</p> <p>And keep your ears open to any talk from staff members about possible thefts that may be going on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>* <em>Denotes non-government website</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/employee-fraud-what-you-can-do-about-it#comments The Industry Word Business Laws Managing Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:30:16 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 1098531 at http://www.sba.gov/community How to Encourage Customer Loyalty in Your Small Business and Why It’s Critical to Your Success! http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-encourage-customer-loyalty-your-small-business-and-why-it%E2%80%99s-critical-your-success <p>You&rsquo;ve probably heard the adage that &ldquo;keeping an old customer is cheaper than converting a new one.&rdquo; But just how much cheaper is it? According to survey data presented in the new <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/winning-them-over-key-growth">SCORE Infographic</a> out this month, securing a new customer is six to seven times more expensive than keeping an existing one. And loyal customers are worth up to 10 times the amount of their first purchase! Given these findings, it becomes obvious that customer loyalty is a worthwhile goal for your business to aspire, not only for marketing and branding reasons, but because of its impact on the bottom line as well.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve ever wondered how much of an impact customer loyalty really makes to a small business, check out the infographic, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/winning-them-over-key-growth">Customer Loyalty: Winning Them Over is the Key to Growth</a>&rdquo; for the full visual rundown in terms of real dollars and cents.</p> <p>Since it&rsquo;s clear that customer loyalty is imperative to your enterprise&rsquo;s success, let&rsquo;s further explore the options and techniques others have used to cultivate strong customer devotion. The experts at the SBA recently offered &ldquo;4 Tips for Customer Loyalty Programs&rdquo; including:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Loyalty Punch Cards</strong></p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Opt-In Programs</strong></p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Digital Days</strong></p> <p>But, the SBA warns, &ldquo;there&rsquo;s no &lsquo;one size fits all&rsquo; approach for all businesses. Observe customer trends and listen to what they say so you&rsquo;ll be able to think of ways to make your incentives and rewards as unique as your business.&rdquo;</p> <p>Check out the <a href="http://www.blog.score.org/2014/sba/4-tips-for-customer-loyalty-programs">full blog post</a> to learn how to best employ these tactics and how to determine what is really important to and impactful on your specific customer base.</p> <h2> Tips to Employ Everyday</h2> <p>Seasoned SCORE mentor Stephen Engelhardt recently shared his &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/expert-tips-sales-and-customer-loyalty">Expert Tips for Sales and Customer Loyalty</a>&rdquo; in which he discusses how to embrace the sales process as a small business owner and how to foster a long-term relationship with your clients and customers. Stephen addresses the hard questions such as:</p> <p><strong>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>How can you turn a problem or complaint into an opportunity to win over or win back a customer?</strong></p> <p><strong>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>What are some simple ways to build customer loyalty so that they&rsquo;ll keep coming back and hopefully spread the word about your small business?</strong></p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Should you be up front about wanting to do more for customers, or is a more subtle approach better?</strong></p> <p>He shares experienced advice like, &ldquo;I made thousands of dollars in sales from problem clients because I read their mindset and what was needed to make them happy.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/expert-tips-sales-and-customer-loyalty">Read the interview</a> for all of Stephen&rsquo;s expert insights gained as a business owner and a SCORE mentor.</p> <h2> Boosting Customer Loyalty with Big Data</h2> <p>Finally, like most aspects of your business, it&rsquo;s important to periodically take a step back and survey your internal statistics regarding customer loyalty to evaluate trends and see what can be improved.</p> <p>&quot;Customer data gives businesses, especially smaller ones, a great opportunity to reward customers with loyalty programs that pay attention to their specific purchase preferences,&quot; said Tyler Roye, CEO and co-founder of e-gift card retailer eGifter. &quot;[This can] include products purchased, channels viewed and purchased through, and even currencies used to purchase. Drilling down in those specific areas allows businesses to offer the most-enticing deals and programs for customers, not only making them more likely to spend with the business, but also making them feel valued as individuals.&quot;</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/boosting-customer-loyalty-big-data">her article on the topic</a>, Nicole Fallon, Assistant Editor of Business News Daily, suggests two places to focus your data collection relative to customer loyalty: social network analysis and cross-IT integration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You may have noticed that all of these experts have agreed upon the fact that knowing a customer&rsquo;s needs and catering to them wins you their trust and repeat business. Knowledge is power and having that knowledge specific to your target customer may be the key to generating up to 10 times more revenue in your small business. Worth the investment, no? If you&rsquo;re getting stuck on new incentives to offer your customers or how to delve deeper into analyzing your current tactics, tap into the knowledge and experience of a SCORE mentor who has been there and done that. <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">Connect with a SCORE mentor</a> online or at a local chapter today!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-encourage-customer-loyalty-your-small-business-and-why-it%E2%80%99s-critical-your-success#comments The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 10 Jul 2014 01:25:59 +0000 bridgetwpollack 1096341 at http://www.sba.gov/community 5 Reasons Your Business Credit Scores Don’t Get You the Credit You Need http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-reasons-your-business-credit-scores-don%E2%80%99t-get-you-credit-you-need <p>When you apply for a new credit line or request a credit limit increase for your business, suppliers, creditors and lenders want to see how your company has handled its existing credit obligations in the past. This enables them to determine if they should approve your request and to help determine what terms they should offer.</p> <p>Lenders often use <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2011/05/10/business-credit-ratings-2/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit scores">business credit scores</a></strong> to help them assess the level of risk a company presents. Business credit scores are calculated based on the information in a company&rsquo;s credit report. In most cases, higher business credit scores mean lower risk to a lender when extending credit to a business.</p> <p>Your business credit scores are calculated by a statistically derived algorithm, designed to calculate risk based on a variety of factors. Although each <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2010/12/17/business-credit-reporting-agency/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit reporting agency">business credit reporting agency</a></strong> has its own unique scoring models, scores and ratings, other types of information &ndash; such as financials, payment history and credit diversity &ndash; all play a role in the strength of your business credit reports and scores.</p> <p>Here are five reasons that may prevent your business from getting the credit it needs:</p> <p>1) <strong>A weak or incomplete business credit profile</strong> &ndash; The report and demographics of a company play an important role in how creditors assess creditworthiness. A business with issues such as poor financials, outdated registrations or high-risk industry classification codes can trigger a denial of credit or unfavorable credit terms. So it&#39;s vital that your company&rsquo;s documents, financials, filings, and registrations are complete, accurate and up to date.</p> <p>2) <strong>Limited or negative payment history</strong> &ndash; Your payment track record demonstrates how well your company handles its current and past credit obligations. A company with limited or negative payment history will have a difficult time getting credit.</p> <p>Aside from paying invoices in a timely manner, keep your credit usage consistent. Regular purchases and timely payments are what establish a positive payment history; it&rsquo;s what lenders want to see.</p> <p>3) <strong>Low credit limits</strong> &ndash; Low credit limits across multiple accounts plainly reveal to creditors that a business has limited credit capacity. However, a business with high credit limits reveals that it has the ability to handle large credit obligations. As a result, a business will receive much larger credit limit recommendations, especially if the company has low revolving debts. If your company has a positive payment track record with an existing supplier or creditor, it may be in your company&rsquo;s best interest to request a credit limit increase.</p> <p>4) <strong>High credit utilization ratio</strong> &shy;&ndash; While the size of credit limits reveal what amount of credit your creditors are willing to extend to your company, credit utilization ratios show how well your business manages it. Creditors view a high credit utilization ratio as a business with excessive debt with a greater risk of default.</p> <p>Keep credit utilization ratios at 50% or below to avoid falling into this high risk category. Low credit utilization is a clear indication that your business can handle its credit obligations. Doing so will ultimately benefit you during the credit application process.</p> <p>5) <strong>Lack of credit diversity</strong> &ndash; The types of trade lines your business has reporting play a substantial role in the credit granting process. Limited credit diversity may limit your company&rsquo;s ability to qualify for certain types of funding. Having short term financing, revolving accounts, installment loans and open accounts reveals to creditors that your company can manage various types of credit responsibly.</p> <p>Bear in mind your business credit scores will certainly have the tendency to fluctuate with each business credit agency, so it&#39;s vital to monitor your <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/06/16/business-credit-profile/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit profile">business credit profiles</a></strong> on a regular basis. While business credit reports and scores are an essential tool for lenders, suppliers and creditors to assess credit risk; other factors such as banking history, revenues and personal credit scores may play a larger role if a business lacks depth, diversity and density in its files.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-reasons-your-business-credit-scores-don%E2%80%99t-get-you-credit-you-need#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Tue, 08 Jul 2014 21:41:21 +0000 Marco Carbajo 1095961 at http://www.sba.gov/community Do You Have A Marketing Plan? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/do-you-have-marketing-plan <p>Does your small business have a marketing plan? A <a href="http://www.marketo.com/reports/marketing-trend-watch-2014-planning-edition/">study by Marketo</a> shows that companies with a documented marketing plan are more likely to be satisfied with their marketing efforts. As you might expect, however, smaller companies are less likely than large ones to have marketing plans. Overall, slightly more than one-third of the companies polled don&rsquo;t have a marketing plan. But only 56 percent of small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) have one, while among companies with over 1,000 employees, 81 percent have one.</p> <p>Marketing plans aren&rsquo;t the only thing that some companies are missing. Although 71 percent of respondents say they sometimes or always meet their marketing goals, 23 percent admit they don&#39;t <em>have</em> specific marketing goals. As the saying goes, if you don&rsquo;t know where you&rsquo;re going, how are you going to get there?</p> <p>Clearly, creating a marketing plan makes a big difference in achieving your goals. Here&rsquo;s what you should include in your marketing plan:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Who are your target customers?</strong> Do your market research to understand where your target customers live, their demographics (age, sex, marital status, income, etc.), their spending habits and anything else that makes them ideally suited for your product or service.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Who are your competitors? </strong>Which companies compete with you for your ideal customers? How do they market themselves, what are their Unique Selling Propositions (USP) and what differentiates your business from theirs? How will you need to market your business to stand out from the competition?</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Where do your target customers get their information?</strong> To determine what marketing methods and channels will work best for you, you need to know, for example, if your target customers read newspapers or get news online, use social media or don&rsquo;t even know what that is, watch TV or listen to the radio and what websites/publications/stations they read, watch and listen to.</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>What are your marketing goals?</strong> If you&rsquo;re launching a brand-new product, your goal might simply be to raise awareness of what you sell and build your brand name. If you&rsquo;ve got a long-standing business with a well-established brand, your goal could be to sell more to existing customers. Be sure your goals are measurable&mdash;not just &ldquo;to sell more&rdquo; but &ldquo;to increase sales to existing customers by 10 percent per quarter&rdquo; or other specific numbers.</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>How will you market the business?</strong> Based on your understanding of point #3, your marketing plan should list the different marketing and advertising methods you&rsquo;ll use, such as social media, print advertising, online advertising, event marketing, etc.</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>What&rsquo;s your marketing budget? </strong>It&rsquo;s important to set a budget for your marketing plan. Measure what you actually spend against your budget forecast.</p> <p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>How will you measure success and how often? </strong>Marketing takes time to work, so don&rsquo;t assume that a campaign isn&rsquo;t worth the money if you don&rsquo;t see immediate results. However, it&rsquo;s a good idea to measure results quarterly and see which marketing tactics are working best (or not working at all). That way you can redistribute your budget as needed.</p> <p>Review your overall marketing plan at least once a year. Today, the world of marketing is changing at lightning speed, and your business needs to keep up.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/do-you-have-marketing-plan#comments The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:19:38 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 1093951 at http://www.sba.gov/community True Story: Why You Don’t Want a Business Plan Writer http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/true-story-why-you-don%E2%80%99t-want-business-plan-writer <p>It&rsquo;s been years since I was making a real living off of business plan consulting (I migrated to business plan software instead), but I had an exchange last week that reminded me of one of the biggest problems &ndash; and most common misunderstandings &ndash; related to business plans.</p> <p>Not that you, in your situation, should never hire a business plan writer, consultant or coach. In some cases that&rsquo;s a good idea. But let me explain that after I tell this story.</p> <p>One of my first engagements in business planning was as business plan consultant to a startup with three experienced founders. I met with them several times, listened always, and did their business plan. I built the financial model, wrote the text, and produced the document as a business plan document. But I wasn&rsquo;t part of the team. I wasn&rsquo;t able to promise to go full time. I was just the business plan writer.</p> <p>It was a good startup. It had a good idea and, much more important, a market window, differentiation and experience to make it happen. The three founders had about 40 years of computer company experience between them. And it was a good plan too.</p> <p>But there was a problem with the plan: The founders didn&rsquo;t know it. They thought it was enough to have a plan, but it wasn&rsquo;t. In every meeting I attended along with the founders, when there were critical questions, I had to answer them. I knew the plan. They didn&rsquo;t. It was my plan.</p> <p>And, in fact, the plan failed. My clients didn&rsquo;t get financed, and the venture never launched. Of course I was disappointed because I spent a long time developing and revising that plan. I repeatedly changed financial assumptions and revised text.</p> <p>So here is my advice about hiring a business plan writer, consultant or coach:</p> <p>The best business plan is one you do yourself. Hiring out is threatened by the fact that good business plans in real business use last a few weeks at best. Business planning is about regular review and revision.</p> <p>Consider hiring somebody from the outside only if you have the budget for it. It is conceivable that you don&rsquo;t want to do it yourself and your time is better applied to other business functions. Cheap business plan writing strikes me as about as good an idea as cheap surgery, cheap dentistry, or discount sushi.</p> <p>If you do hire somebody, look for a relationship more like coaching than consulting. Hire somebody who shares expertise and experience, makes suggestions, but doesn&rsquo;t do the task so you don&rsquo;t have to.</p> <p>Don&rsquo;t believe ever that having a business plan written is any good for more than a few short weeks. Business plans get old and useless very quickly. If you don&rsquo;t have one you can keep alive, then you don&rsquo;t have one at all.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/true-story-why-you-don%E2%80%99t-want-business-plan-writer#comments The Industry Word Managing Starting Wed, 25 Jun 2014 15:41:11 +0000 Tim Berry 1092701 at http://www.sba.gov/community Worker Classification: What’s at Stake? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/worker-classification-what%E2%80%99s-stake <p>When you need help to run your business, you have to decide whether to hire an employee or outsource the work to an independent contractor. For the most part, independent contractors are on their own when it comes to taxes, insurance, and retirement savings. In contrast, employees are largely your responsibility for these costs. You&rsquo;re free to opt for the arrangement that works better for your business. But you can&rsquo;t simply attach a label to a worker and make it stick; it all depends on the degree of control that you exercise. Here&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s at stake for your decisions and actions:</p> <p><strong>Employment taxes</strong></p> <p>As a rule of thumb, it costs about 10% of a worker&rsquo;s pay to cover employment taxes, which include the employer&rsquo;s share of FICA (Social Security and Medicare taxes) and federal and state unemployment taxes. What&rsquo;s more, in most cases you have to carry worker&rsquo;s compensation insurance. So it costs more to have an employee than an independent contractor.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>IRS uses various factors</u></a> to determine worker classification. These factors are grouped into behavioral control (whether you have the right to tell the worker when, where, and how the work gets done), financial (whether you or the worker controls such matters as when payment is made, if there is reimbursement for expenses, and who pays for the tools of the job), and the type of relationship created by you and the worker (what both envision, whether there is a written agreement, and the permanency of the arrangement).</p> <p>If the IRS challenges your treating a worker as an independent contractor and you lose (you should have classified the worker as an employee), you face back taxes and serious penalties. However, you can voluntarily reclassify workers as employees using the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Voluntary-Classification-Settlement-Program" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>Voluntary Classification Settlement Program</u></a>. If eligible for the program, the cost is only 10% of the tax for the most recent year, with no interest or penalty. Or you may be able to rely on a safe harbor (called Section 530 relief).</p> <p><strong>Employee benefits</strong></p> <p>If you have employee benefit programs, such as a qualified retirement plan, you must include employees. Independent contractors are on their own for retirement savings. The cost of employee benefit programs can add another 10% or more of compensation to your payroll costs.</p> <p>At present, you don&rsquo;t have to offer health coverage to employees, but that may change. Whether you will be subject to the employer mandate depends on the number of your full-time and full-time-equivalent employees. Starting in 2016, if you have 50 to 99 such employees, you must provide health coverage of your full-time staff or pay a penalty (companies with 100 or more employees face the employer mandate in 2015). The IRS explains <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Questions-and-Answers-on-Employer-Shared-Responsibility-Provisions-Under-the-Affordable-Care-Act" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>how to figure full-time employees</u></a>, which means essentially working 30 hours per week.</p> <p><strong>Government mandates</strong></p> <p>Employees are protected by a number of <a href="http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/lawsprog.htm" title="Links to DOL.gov"><u>federal workplace laws</u></a> (some only apply if the company has a certain number of employees as indicated in parentheses), including:</p> <ul> <li> Age Discrimination in Employment Act bars workplace discrimination of those age 40 and older (20 or more employees)</li> <li> Americans with Disabilities Act barring discrimination on the basis of a physical, mental, or emotional disability and requiring reasonable accommodations for the disability on the job (15 or more employees)</li> <li> Civil Rights Acts bars discrimination in the workplace on the basis of a variety of factors (e.g., race, gender) (15 or more employees).</li> <li> Equal Pay Act mandates equal pay for men and women performing substantially the same work (2 or more employees)</li> <li> Fair Labor Standards Act for minimum wage and overtime rules (2 or more employees)</li> <li> Family and Medical Leave Act for unpaid time off (50 or more employees)</li> </ul> <p>Companies that violate these laws can be subject to government penalties and lawsuits by workers. Employment laws do not apply to independent contractors.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>In figuring the real cost of employment, add 15% and 50% of compensation to your budget for taxes, insurance, and benefits for employees (e.g., a $40,000 employee costs you at least $46,000 and, depending upon the benefits package, as much as $60,000). Think about the cost before you add workers to your payroll. And make sure that if you decide to outsource, you do it right. Work with an employment law attorney so that the arrangements you make conform to law requirements.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/worker-classification-what%E2%80%99s-stake#comments The Industry Word Business Laws Taxes Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:53:51 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 1090281 at http://www.sba.gov/community Searching For A Franchise? Don’t Complicate It http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/searching-franchise-don%E2%80%99t-complicate-it <p>It&rsquo;s easy to do. It&rsquo;s easy to search for a franchise. Looking for a franchise...or even a couple of <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/franchise-businesses" title="link to sba article">franchise opportunities</a> to investigate isn&rsquo;t hard. There&rsquo;s no pressure. You&rsquo;re just &ldquo;looking.&rdquo;</p> <p>It only starts to get difficult after you find one or two franchise concepts that actually make sense to you. I&rsquo;m talking about franchises that you can &ldquo;see&rdquo; yourself owning.</p> <p><strong>Let The Fun Begin</strong></p> <p>A lot of things happen internally when you start to see franchise opportunities that you can visualize owning.</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Your <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adrenalinew" title="definition of adrenaline">adrenaline</a>*&nbsp;levels increase. You start getting excited. More energetic. Nervous, too.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; You change from &ldquo;casual looker&rdquo; to &ldquo;would-be franchise owner.&rdquo; Things start to feel a bit more serious.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; You start thinking.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Complicate Your Franchise Search</strong></p> <p>Once you find a franchise you&rsquo;re interested in, your wheels start spinning. You start thinking about lots of things. Like:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where can my new business go? What would be <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/finding-location-your-franchise-business" title="about franchise locations">the best location</a> for it?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How many other franchises of the concept I&rsquo;m interested in are there around my area?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Will I be able to secure a small business loan?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Will I make enough money?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Could I lose all of my money in this venture?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Will my family be okay with me buying this franchise?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Should I just get a job instead of risking my money now?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Etc. Etc.</p> <p>Stop.</p> <p>None of those things matter. You&rsquo;re complicating your search for a franchise.</p> <p><strong>First Things First</strong></p> <p>There will be plenty of time for you to ask those questions. But, you&rsquo;re wasting your time, and a lot of energy, if you start asking yourself questions like the ones I wrote above before you find out if the opportunity you&rsquo;re interested is even a viable one.</p> <p>In other words, don&rsquo;t put the cart before the horse.</p> <p>Instead, do this:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Go to the franchisors website</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Look for the &ldquo;contact&rdquo; link</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Fill out the contact form</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Wait to get contacted</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Arrange a call with a member of the franchise development department</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; On the call, share your story-and listen to theirs</p> <p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Decide if you&rsquo;d like to continue learning more about the franchise</p> <p>8.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Follow the franchisors &ldquo;next steps&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Take the steps</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re still interested in possibly buying the franchise, continue down this list. If not, start your search for a franchise again.</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Call several franchisees, and <a href="http://www.thefranchiseking.com/two-franchise-research-questions-are-better-than-one" title="asking questions on franchising">ask questions like these</a>*&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Visit franchisees-spend a day with one or two of them</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.franchisebizdirectory.com/article/found-a-franchise-to-buy/" title="link to article on business plans for franchises">Start writing a business plan</a>*</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Find a franchise attorney</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Visit franchise headquarters&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Have your attorney look over the franchise agreement</p> <p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Make your decision</p> <p><strong>Your Wheels </strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s right before your decision that your wheels will be spinning. Sometimes, they&rsquo;ll spin out of control. Things like self-doubt will creep into your head. Fear&hellip;real-live fear will also appear on your doorstep. But, don&rsquo;t worry. It&rsquo;s completely normal.</p> <p>If you ask the franchise development director, the franchise executives at headquarters, and existing (and former) franchisees great questions, and their answers are satisfactory, it may be time for you to become the owner of the franchise you&rsquo;ve been focused on for the past few months.</p> <p>But, you don&rsquo;t have to say yes. You always have a choice. Don&rsquo;t complicate your search for a franchise-the right franchise.</p> <p>Keep it simple. Go step-by-step. Don&rsquo;t get ahead of yourself.</p> <p>Are you ready to start searching for a franchise?</p> <p>*Non-US Government links.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/searching-franchise-don%E2%80%99t-complicate-it#comments The Industry Word Starting Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:00:13 +0000 FranchiseKing 1089511 at http://www.sba.gov/community Hire, Maintain and Terminate Seasonal and Long-Term Employees with Care http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/hire-maintain-and-terminate-seasonal-and-long-term-employees-with-care <p>With the summer season right around the corner, you may be considering hiring extra hands to help out in your business, perhaps some of the first employees you&rsquo;ve taken on in your venture. Even if you&rsquo;re a seasoned employer, it&rsquo;s always advisable to take stock of how you&rsquo;re doing as a manager and how you might be able to improve in ways that will benefit your business overall.</p> <p>Just in the nick of time, Daniel Kehrer, founder and managing director of BizBest Media Corp., offers &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/6-tips-and-tactics-hiring-seasonal-help">6 Tips and Tactics for Hiring Seasonal Help</a>.&rdquo; His advice on hiring teens, creating an internship program and correctly paying the minimum wage will make sure your business optimally and legally utilizes a temporary hire and vice versa. Other tips, like &ldquo;Treat temp, part-time and seasonal positions like you would any other and make it clear what the job entails,&rdquo; will apply to and benefit all employees. Check out <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/6-tips-and-tactics-hiring-seasonal-help">Daniel&rsquo;s article</a> for his recommendations of a wealth of resources on the topic of hiring and maintaining employee relationships like NFIB, the Department of Labor, Internships.com and more!</p> <p>Once hired, set your employees up for success by investing in their high morale. Janet Flewelling, managing director of Service Operation at Insperity says to think beyond high pay or temporary perks: &ldquo;Items such as pizza parties, flowers and doughnuts do not sustain morale and no salary figure can compensate for low morale. These ideas should be seen as an extension of that satisfying work experience strategy.&rdquo; She goes on to say that beyond these material items, it is just as important in creating high morale &ldquo;to have open and honest communication and respect.&rdquo; Janet recommends several strategies for creating this atmosphere including assessing leadership, clear communication, understanding expectations and setting goals. Read <a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/janet-flewelling/investing-in-employee-morale-is-key-to-a-companys-success/">Janet&rsquo;s full blog post</a> to gain a better understanding of how and why you should invest in your employees&rsquo; morale.</p> <p>Unfortunately, even the best laid plans don&rsquo;t always work out the way you&rsquo;d like. You may find yourself in the unenviable position of terminating an employment relationship and if you do, make sure you take the proper steps to protect yourself, the business and the employee. Paychex addresses the <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/better-employee-management-employee-separation">8 critical areas</a> for small businesses to pay attention to during an employee separation. Items include proper documentation, exit interviews, notification processes, insurance, severance and more. Download the guide, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/better-employee-management-employee-separation">Better Employee Management: Eight Critical Areas for Small-Business Success</a>,&rdquo; to make sure all your bases are covered.</p> <p>To help translate these resources and advice into direct application for your specific business, <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">connect with a SCORE mentor</a> who will do exactly that &ndash; absolutely free &ndash; today!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/hire-maintain-and-terminate-seasonal-and-long-term-employees-with-care#comments The Industry Word Mentoring and Training Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:41:31 +0000 bridgetwpollack 1087181 at http://www.sba.gov/community 10 Can't-Miss Business Credit Profile Tips for Small Business Owners http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/10-cant-miss-business-credit-profile-tips-small-business-owners <p>If you run a company, your business credit profile is related to your reputation. With a strong business credit profile, you have access to much greater financing opportunities with favorable terms and lower interest rates.</p> <p>For lenders, a company with a creditworthy profile is considered a good risk. Whether you own a startup or existing business, managing and protecting your profile with all three major business credit reporting agencies is crucial.</p> <p>Here are ten essential tips for establishing, maintaining and protecting your business credit profile:</p> <ol> <li> Keep all company data identical &ndash; Whether <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/05/08/apply-for-a-duns-number/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="duns number info">applying for a D-U-N-S Number</a></strong>, submitting a credit application or <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-open-small-business-bank-account-online" target="_blank">opening a business bank account</a></strong>, provide all the same information in order to avoid any potential issues. Inconsistent data can cause a denial of credit due to mismatched data or even cause your company to have a duplicate credit file.</li> <li> Leverage the good credit you already have &ndash; If your business has existing trade references not reporting on its file, then consider adding them to your report. Currently, only one business credit reporting agency enables you to <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/11/05/dun-and-bradstreet-credit-builder/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog " type="trade reference info">add trade references to your file</a></strong> via a paid program.</li> <li> Make certain your profile represents a real business &ndash; The information you supply about your company, its background, banking history and operations plays an essential role in the credibility and creditworthiness of your business. With a complete profile, creditors will get an accurate portrayal of your business.</li> <li> Pay better than terms &ndash; By paying invoices 10, 15 or 20 days ahead of the due date you get a much greater impact to your overall business credit ratings. Paying better than terms shows creditors that you manage your financial obligations promptly and are a good credit risk.</li> <li> Have a diversity of credit accounts &ndash; The types of credit your company use are seen as a sign of stability and credit responsibility. Whether it&rsquo;s short-term financing, installment loans, <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/04/29/unsecured-business-line-of-credit/" target="_blank" title="business credit " type="revolving lines of credit info">revolving lines of business credit</a></strong> or leases, each type of account plays a role in establishing a diversity of credit usage.</li> <li> Monitor your business credit profile regularly &ndash; While it&rsquo;s crucial to <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-business-credit-reports-you-can-be-proud-about-having" target="_blank">build a strong business credit profile</a></strong>, it is equally important to protect what you have built. Each business credit agency offers its own monitoring services so you can be alerted to any recent changes, inquiries into your file or fluctuations in your scores.</li> <li> Correct any inaccurate or outdated information &ndash; If you identify any mistakes on your company&rsquo;s profile, be sure to take the necessary steps to update and/or correct it. Each agency has its own procedures for submitting updates, corrections or disputes.</li> <li> Select the appropriate industry classification code &ndash; The <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/06/03/business-sic-codes/" target="_blank" title="business credit " type="sic code info">SIC/NAICS Code</a></strong> you select for your business describes the principle activity of your business to creditors. Lenders use these codes to help identify the industry affiliation of a company so it is vital to select the code that best describes what you do.</li> <li> Improve your score by submitting financials &ndash; Financials that show an improvement in cash flow, current assets and net worth can have a significant impact to a company&rsquo;s overall creditworthiness. You can upload financial statements to impact the strength of your reports by following the on-screen instructions available on the business credit agency&rsquo;s site.</li> <li> Update and maintain your company&rsquo;s internet presence &ndash; Information that goes into creating a business&rsquo; credit profile comes from primary and secondary sources such as web mining, news and media. It&rsquo;s imperative that your company&rsquo;s website and its contact information are consistent with the data collected from other primary and secondary sources.</li> </ol> <p>Your business credit profile is a report card on your company&rsquo;s finances. Your profile and business credit history can affect your day to day business operations &ndash; from how much you pay for a business loan, company credit card, lease or business insurance. Use these tips to build, manage and protect your company&rsquo;s financial reputation.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/10-cant-miss-business-credit-profile-tips-small-business-owners#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Wed, 11 Jun 2014 15:43:15 +0000 Marco Carbajo 1086231 at http://www.sba.gov/community Using a "POEM" to Improve Your Social Media Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/using-poem-improve-your-social-media-strategy <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-de06145e-6da2-a9d6-c4e4-0d80afd4664a"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It&rsquo;s frustrating to see small businesses give up on social media as a marketing channel after just a few months of effort. Usually the heart of the problem is a weak or nonexistent content marketing strategy. Without a strategy, there can be no meaningful, long-term engagement.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Engagement doesn&#39;t happen like spontaneous combustion. Content is at the center of engagement.&nbsp;But it&rsquo;s not as simple as just slapping up some content on your social channels or blog. A small business needs a content strategy to create highly targeted content assets for fans and followers to engage around. &nbsp;</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">The Importance of Understanding Your Audience</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Your business also needs a content strategy in order to outline the messaging and brand impression you want to convey. Is your business known for providing helpful advice to other businesses or consumers in your niche? &nbsp;Then you&#39;ll need a lot of helpful content around issues your target market cares about. On the other hand, if your business is known for providing fun products, you&#39;ll want fun and entertaining content. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">This is where understanding your audience comes into play. You have to know what your audience wants and expects from you before you can build a content strategy around it.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Now for that Concept&hellip;</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-de06145e-6da2-a9d6-c4e4-0d80afd4664a"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Here&rsquo;s what you need to succeed in using social media to find new customers and engage your followers, and it&rsquo;s not a secret: </span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">POEM.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">That&rsquo;s </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/08/what-is-owned-earned-paid-media.html" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link toPaid, Owned Earned Media article"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Paid, Owned, and Earned Media</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">. Essentially, it involves diversifying the types of content you publish through social channels. Let&rsquo;s dive into each.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Paid media:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">This comes in the form of sponsorships or advertising on third-party sites to better reach your audience.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Owned</span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> </span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">media:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">You likely already have and are using your owned media, or the channels that you create and control. They include (but are not limited to) your company blog, your YouTube channel, all social profiles, and your website.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Earned media:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Here you let your customers and the press spread the word about your business. It&rsquo;s also known as word of mouth. If you&rsquo;re doing a good job of marketing your business (and offer stellar products or services), your fans will do the legwork.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So by combining all three, you reach a wider audience and help grow your fan base on social media. Let&rsquo;s look at an example. If you create a whitepaper on &quot;10 Ways to Start a Business&quot; that you give to new email subscribers, you&rsquo;re off to a good start with your owned media. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Only no one&rsquo;s downloading it. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So you invest in paid media and place an ad on Facebook and Twitter to get your whitepaper in front of more eyeballs. Because it&rsquo;s so inherently valuable, once people download and read it, they share it with their followers, resulting in your earned media. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So you see how the three forms of media can play together nicely and help you increase your base of influence. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: normal;">Before you give up on social media altogether, I encourage you to revisit your content strategy (or maybe visit it for the first time) and determine a way to fit in paid, owned, and earned media into the equation.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/using-poem-improve-your-social-media-strategy#comments The Industry Word Marketing Thu, 05 Jun 2014 20:09:14 +0000 smallbiztrends 1082891 at http://www.sba.gov/community Why Direct Mail Still Matters and How to Make It Work for Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/why-direct-mail-still-matters-and-how-make-it-work-your-business <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;"><font face="Calibri" size="3">Do you think direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur? Think again. In 2013, nearly two-thirds of all consumers bought something as a result of a direct mail piece, according to the Direct Mail Association (DMA). Not surprisingly, people age 65 and older are prime candidates for direct mail, since they tend to stay at the same address for many years and they enjoy reading their mail. What might surprise you is that young adults aged 18 to 34 are also highly responsive to direct mail, according to Epsilon. Why? Because young people are constantly inundated with email, spam and social media messages, direct mail stands out as something different.</font></span><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;"><font face="Calibri" size="3">&nbsp;</font></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;"><font face="Calibri" size="3">If you&rsquo;re still not convinced direct mail is worth adding to your marketing mix, consider this: Direct mail costs no more than print or pay-per-click advertising, according to the DMA, and has an average response rate of between 2 and 6 percent, depending on factors such as whether it&rsquo;s four-color, optimized or personalized. Compare this to email marketing, which has an average 0.12 percent response rate, according to <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Direct Mail News</i>, and there&rsquo;s no excuse for not giving direct mail a try.</font></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3">How can you test direct mail without breaking the bank&mdash;and with great results? Here are some ideas. </font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">1. Choose your format:</span></b></font></span></p> <ul style="list-style-type: circle; direction: ltr;"> <li style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-top: 0in; margin-bottom: 0pt; mso-list: l1 level1 lfo2; mso-add-space: auto;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">Do you have a simple, easy-to-understand offer?</span></b><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"> Consider postcards. They come in different sizes, so they stand out from letters and news circulars, and they&rsquo;re affordable to print and mail. Keep your design simple and eye-catching; use both sides of the postcard to maximize information.</span></font></span></p> </li> <li style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-top: 0in; margin-bottom: 0pt; mso-list: l1 level1 lfo2; mso-add-space: auto;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">Is your sales pitch more complex? </span></b><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">If you&rsquo;re selling a pricey product or service that requires more convincing, a sales letter is the way to go. Get it opened by making the outside mysterious. Experts say that envelopes with no marketing copy at all on the outside often work best&mdash;people will open it to see if it&rsquo;s something important, instead of throwing it out as junk mail.</span></font></span></p> </li> <li style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-top: 0in; margin-bottom: 0pt; mso-list: l1 level1 lfo2; mso-add-space: auto;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">On a really tight budget?</span></b><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"> Printing a simple flyer, then folding it in thirds and sealing it can be a cost-effective way to get the word out. Use a bright color so your piece doesn&rsquo;t get lost in a pile of mail. </span></font></span></p> </li> </ul> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">2. &nbsp;Make an offer they can&rsquo;t refuse. </span></b><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">Direct mail typically needs to include some type of special offer or savings to be effective. In general, it&rsquo;s better to offer dollars-off than a percentage off&mdash;for some reason, it seems more valuable to customers.</span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><span><strong>3. Create a sense of urgency. </strong>Time-limited offers get customers moving to contact you and buy. However, don&rsquo;t send an offer every month, or customers learn to devalue what you sell and consider the discount price the &ldquo;regular&rdquo; price. Make your deals really special by offering them infrequently. Another alternative is to offer a free gift or other extra with purchase; make it something that costs you little or nothing, but has value to the customer.</span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">4. Personalize it. </span></b><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">The best direct mail calls on the recipient&rsquo;s past experience with your brand. For example, if a customer comes to your auto repair shop for an oil change, get their information and send them a reminder postcard with a special offer a month before their next oil change is due. You&rsquo;re offering something of value (helping make car care more convenient) in addition to offering a discount. Free meals on birthdays are another standard direct mail piece that works (who comes in to a restaurant alone?). </span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">5. Test and track. </span></b><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">Test different wording on your mailings, different offers and even different designs until you find out what works best. Use coupon codes on your mailers and have customers bring the mailer in or refer to the code when they call so you can track which campaigns pull customers in. Or add a URL that leads to a custom landing page so you&rsquo;ll know which mailer drives online traffic best.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span></span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><br type="_moz" /><br /> <span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></p> <div id="cke_pastebin" style="left: -1000px; top: 22px; width: 1px; height: 1px; overflow: hidden; position: absolute;"> &nbsp;</div> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/why-direct-mail-still-matters-and-how-make-it-work-your-business#comments The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 03 Jun 2014 14:46:31 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 1057171 at http://www.sba.gov/community Maximize Cash Flow in Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/maximize-cash-flow-your-business <p>We&rsquo;ve finally turned the corner on tax season and as a small business owner you may be thinking, <em>if we made that much in sales last year, where did it all go?</em> and <em>How will we hang on until this year&rsquo;s busy season is in full swing?</em> If you&rsquo;ve had thoughts like these you are certainly not alone. As if running a small business weren&rsquo;t hard enough, seasonality makes it even tougher. Use the following advice from financial experts to help you plan ahead for the inevitable ebbs and flows of cash.</p> <p><strong>Avoid the Cash Flow Pitfalls</strong></p> <p>To start off, learn from your mistakes (and those of others) and get a map for the bumps in the road ahead. Nathan DauSchmidt, COO of Bankmybiz.com, highlights 7 opportunities seasonal small businesses should take advantage of to ease the strain of cyclical cash flow. Nathan says, &ldquo;One of the only benefits of having a slow-season is that you have more time to work on business development.&rdquo; Take this time to negotiate with vendors, plan ahead, try alternative funding methods and even &ldquo;leverage your future revenue.&rdquo; How? Read Nathan&rsquo;s full blog post, &ldquo;<a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/nathan-dauschmidt/7-cash-flow-pitfalls-of-seasonal-businesses/" title="link to &quot;7 Cash Flow Pitfalls of Seasonal Businesses&quot; article">7 Cash Flow Pitfalls of Seasonal Businesses</a>&rdquo; to learn all 7 tips for staying afloat.</p> <p>Get Comfortable with Financial Management Basics</p> <p>Lou Davenport, a long-time SCORE mentor who&rsquo;s helped hundreds of small business owners succeed through sound financial management, says, &ldquo;By learning basic financial management skills, you can learn what the numbers mean, why they&rsquo;re important, and what you should do about them.&rdquo;</p> <p>To investigate why last year&rsquo;s revenues may have looked drastically different from last year&rsquo;s profits, Lou says to keep tabs on the most important financial statistic: Gross Profit Margin as a Percentage of Sales. He explains why this metric is so critical: &ldquo;1. Sales alone aren&rsquo;t real money. You can&rsquo;t pay expenses with them. 2. If the standard for your industry is 40% and you&rsquo;re only at 30%, you have a serious problem. You&rsquo;re either pricing poorly, making inaccurate cost estimates or working inefficiently.&rdquo;</p> <p>Gain even more of Lou&rsquo;s firsthand knowledge on cash flow and financial analysis by reading his recent <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/use-financial-management-basics-help-your-business-succeed" title="link to ExpertAnswers interview">ExpertAnswers interview</a>. And if you&rsquo;ve been curious about how a SCORE mentor can help get your financial management in order, Lou also describes specific ways he and other mentors guide small businesses to success.</p> <p><strong>Strategize for Next Tax Season</strong></p> <p>Finally, though you&rsquo;re just catching your breath from this tax season, it&rsquo;s the perfect time to plan ahead for the next one.</p> <p>Dominique Molina, President of the <strong>American Institute of Certified Tax Coaches,</strong><strong>​ </strong>returned to SCORE this tax season to present her popular, info-packed webinar updated with info for 2014: &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/instant-tax-relief-last-minute-tax-strategies-business-owners" title="link to &quot;Instant Tax Relief - Last Minute Tax Strategies for Business Owners&quot; article">Instant Tax Relief - Last Minute Tax Strategies for Business Owners</a>.&rdquo; Listen in from the comfort of your headphones to learn tips to pay less business tax, including:</p> <ul> <li> <p>Taking advantage of home office deductions you don&rsquo;t know about like an &ldquo;on-premises employee athletic facility&rdquo; (aka swimming pool)</p> </li> <li> <p>Properly accounting for auto and healthcare expenses</p> </li> <li> <p>Choosing the right business entity</p> </li> <li> <p>Employing family members including young children</p> </li> </ul> <p>Cash flow can make or break your business; one of the most common reasons small businesses fail is because they run out of money. Keep your business on track, no matter the season, by knowing your financial status, planning ahead, and taking the experts&rsquo; advice. At the low cost of free, <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="link to SCORE mentor page">working with a SCORE mentor</a> is a great way to accomplish all 3 of these tasks without spending a single dime.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/maximize-cash-flow-your-business#comments The Industry Word Managing Fri, 30 May 2014 16:22:20 +0000 bridgetwpollack 979991 at http://www.sba.gov/community 5 Simple Steps for Better Management http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-simple-steps-better-management <p>Good news: Here&#39;s a simple process, five easy steps, to improve your business. It&#39;s easy to do. And, if you&#39;re not doing something like this already, then this simple addition to your process offers you substantial business improvement.</p> <p><strong>Step 1: Visualize your main story </strong></p> <p>Take a step back for the business and visualize the main business story. Imagine the ideal customer, what they want from your business, how they find you, and how what you do matches your business&#39; unique qualities and what that specific person wants.</p> <p>Don&#39;t make this hard. Don&#39;t sweat the details. You don&#39;t even have to write it down, although writing down a few key bullet points can be really valuable for reminding yourself and others, later, about strategy.</p> <p>Do make it strategic. Strategy is focus, so it&#39;s a lot about what you don&#39;t do and who isn&#39;t in your market. Real business strategy has three elements mixed together: identity, which is what&#39;s unique about your business; target market, which you want to define strategically; and business offering, which should also be strategic. Who isn&#39;t in your market is as important as who is. What you aren&#39;t doing is also important. For example, if your restaurant is about a quiet, leisurely, gourmet dining experience, don&#39;t offer take-out or drive-though, and don&#39;t have kids eat free.</p> <p><strong>Step 2: Identify your main assumptions </strong></p> <p>Don&#39;t make this one hard either. Take a step back from the business for a moment, and think about the assumptions you make all the time. Are you assuming a healthy economy, for example, or strong regional growth, or good weather for growing lemons? List these key assumptions. Don&#39;t go into too much detail; you&#39;ll run into diminishing returns. What you want is a good list to help with regular review and revision (my step 5 below).</p> <p><strong>Step 3: Set your milestones and performance metrics </strong></p> <p>Milestones have to do with dates, deadlines, and specific task responsibilities. You write these down for yourself and, if you have a team, for your team members. You don&#39;t really get accountability into the business without writing down and agreeing on what&#39;s supposed to happen, when, and who is supposed to do it.</p> <p>Even if you&#39;re running your own business entirely by yourself, you still list milestones so you can track progress later. I&#39;ve learned the hard way on this one, both in my one-person consulting business that I ran for 14 years, and for the 50-person product business it became. If we don&#39;t write our intentions down, we lie to ourselves later about what we thought we were going to do. I hope that&#39;s just me and not you; but I doubt it.</p> <p>Performance metrics add backbone and accountability. Some are about basic business performance including sales, direct costs and expenses. But many others are also valuable. For example, leads, website visitors, traffic, meals served, trainings, trips, conversion rates, orders, presentations, incoming calls, minutes per call and so forth. These key performance metrics help you stay on top of the pulse of your business.</p> <p><strong>Step 4: You need to manage your business cash </strong></p> <p>Profits alone don&#39;t guarantee cash. For example, you can be profitable, but have too much cash tied up in accounts receivable, or inventory, so you end up without enough money to make payroll or cover necessary expenses. To manage cash, you need to project sales, direct costs, expenses, extra spending (for loan repayment or buying assets and such) and extra income (from borrowing, bringing in new investment, or selling assets and so forth).</p> <p>On this one too, don&#39;t try to accurately predict the future. Instead, try to lay out how sales, costs and expenses relate to each other, so later when sales are different from expectations, you have an easy time of identifying the related changes you need to expect in direct costs and make in expenses. Think of what drives sales, such as pricing, marketing expenses, traffic, conversions, leads, pipelines and so forth. And don&#39;t go into too much detail because, as with assumptions above, you&#39;ll run into diminishing returns if you do. For example, a restaurant shouldn&#39;t project sales for every menu item, but summarize and aggregate for dinners, lunches, drinks and other. And a bookstore doesn&#39;t project sales by title or author or subject, normally, but rather hard over, soft cover, magazines and other. Keep your categories manageable.</p> <p><strong>Step 5: Review, revise, repeat </strong></p> <p>Set a specific day of the month, such as every third Thursday of the month, to review results and revise as necessary. If you&#39;re working with others, make sure they know about this regular monthly meeting and miss it only when they have to miss it for good business reasons.</p> <p>Start your review meeting with your list of assumptions. Identify whether assumptions have changed, and how, and what that means for your business.</p> <p>Include a review of milestones for the past month, including whether or not expected milestones were reached. Then look at milestones for the next month, to review expectations and compare the milestones with the underlying assumptions.</p> <p>Finally, review performance metrics. Track and manage the difference between actual performance and established expectations.</p> <p><strong>And now, lo and behold, you have a business plan</strong></p> <p>I didn&#39;t use the words &quot;business plan&quot; in the title or first paragraph because I don&#39;t want you to dismiss it because of the myth of the formal business plan document. Too many business owners read the words &quot;business plan&quot; and dismiss the idea, thinking of some hard-to-do term-paper-like formal document that they don&#39;t need unless they are applying for commercial credit, seeking investment, or dealing with issues like selling the business or managing a divorce settlement.</p> <p>The real business plan, however, is as simple as these five steps. You keep this business plan fresh and up to date and it optimizes management of your company. And when you do need a formal plan, you take this real business plan and dress it up with more description and explanations for outsiders, and print it as a formal business plan document.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-simple-steps-better-management#comments The Industry Word Managing Marketing Starting Wed, 28 May 2014 17:12:40 +0000 Tim Berry 938501 at http://www.sba.gov/community 5 Traps in Paying Estimated Taxes http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-traps-paying-estimated-taxes <p>Having business income but being unable to cover anticipated taxes on the income through wage withholding means you&rsquo;ll have to pay estimated taxes. You&rsquo;ll have to project what you think you&rsquo;ll owe for the year and then pay them in four installments to the government. If you underpay, you can be subject to penalties. If you overpay, you&rsquo;ll effectively have made an interest-free loan to Uncle Sam and will have to file your return after the close of the year to recoup the excess tax payments. Unlike withholding on taxable compensation, which is regimented by IRS tables and up to employers to deposit their withholding, it&rsquo;s entirely up to you to figure your estimated taxes and pay it to the government. Here are five potential pitfalls that can cause you trouble and money when paying estimated taxes&mdash;<em>and what to do to avoid problems</em>.</p> <ol> <li> <h3> <strong>Failing to have cash on hand</strong></h3> </li> </ol> <p>One of the greatest challenges for many small business owners is having the money ready when the dates for estimated taxes roll around. Adopting a payment strategy can help:</p> <ul> <li> Make monthly payments even though you&rsquo;re not required to do so this frequently. It may be more manageable to handle smaller payments each month rather than larger payments on the less frequent usual payment due dates.</li> <li> Set aside funds in a separate account for estimated taxes. Don&rsquo;t touch the funds for other purposes, no matter how tempting.</li> <li> Explore wage withholding options. For example, if you have an S corporation, you can increase withholding on taxable compensation to cover what you expect to owe on your share of corporate profits (there will, of course, be withholding on your salary and other taxable benefits). Note: When starting a business, it may be worth considering becoming an S corporation rather than a limited liability company because of the ability to use wage withholding for tax payments.</li> </ul> <ol> <li value="2"> <h3> <strong>Not covering all tax obligations</strong></h3> </li> </ol> <p>In addition to factoring in taxes on net earnings from self-employment, include S corporation owners&rsquo; shares of their business profits, taxable compensation from being an employee (although there usually is income tax withholding on this compensation), and other reportable income for accurately estimating taxes. &nbsp;Estimated taxes also cover:</p> <ul> <li> Self-employment tax to cover Social Security and Medicare taxes on net earnings from self-employment (profits in a sole proprietorship and a partner&rsquo;s distributive share of partnership profits)</li> <li> Additional Medicare tax on earned income (employers must withhold this tax on taxable compensation over $200,000, but self-employed individuals must address this tax themselves)</li> <li> Additional Medicare tax on net investment income. Income from businesses in which you materially participate is not subject to this tax, but your business income can boost your modified adjusted gross income, triggering or increasing the tax on your other investment income.</li> </ul> <ol> <li value="3"> <h3> <strong>Believing each quarterly payment falls evenly</strong></h3> </li> </ol> <p>While estimated taxes are referred to as quarterly payments, they do not fall evenly throughout the year. The due dates for 2014 estimated taxes are:</p> <ul> <li> April 15, 2014 (for income received from January 1, 2014, through March 31, 2014)</li> <li> June 16, 2014 (for income received from April 1, 2014, through May 31, 2014)</li> <li> September 15, 2014 (for income received from June 1, 2014, through August 31, 2014)</li> <li> January 15, 2015 (for income received from September 1, 2014, through December 31, 2014)</li> </ul> <p>Thus, there are only two months between the first and second required payments. Set aside sufficient funds for each required installment.</p> <ol> <li value="4"> <h3> <strong>Paying too much, too early</strong></h3> </li> </ol> <p>It&rsquo;s not unusual for income of small business owners to vary&mdash;sometimes greatly&mdash;throughout the year. The IRS gives this example: A shop owner at a marina receives sizable income in the summer but not so much at other times of the year. If you are like this shop owner, you avoid incurring estimated tax penalties by using the annualized income installment method. Under this method, installments in one or more payment period may be less than one-fourth of required annual payments. Details about the annualized income installment method are in <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p505.pdf" title="Links to IRS.gov site"><u>IRS Publication 505</u>.</a></p> <ol> <li value="5"> <h3> <strong>Reporting the payment under the Social Security number of the wrong spouse</strong></h3> </li> </ol> <p>If you&rsquo;re paying estimated taxes under your Social Security number through the <a href="http://www.eftps.gov" title="Links to EFTPS.gov">Electronic Federal Tax Payment System</a> but your spouse is listed first on your tax return, this can delay a refund or cause greater scrutiny of your tax return. The reason: IRS computers only apply automatically estimated taxes paid under the Social Security number of the first spouse on the return. The IRS must manually look further into estimated tax payments if they don&rsquo;t match up. You can address this problem in three ways:</p> <ul> <li> List yourself first on the return; the tax law does not require any special order, such as a male spouse listed before a female spouse.</li> <li> Change your EFTPS.gov account to reflect the Social Security number of the first spouse listed on the return, even if this spouse is not the one earning the income or paying the estimated taxes.</li> <li> Continue to pay estimated taxes under your Social Security number but ask the IRS to credit your payments to your spouse&rsquo;s Social Security number; do this before you file your income tax return.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>Your best strategy for avoiding estimated tax problems is to work with a knowledgeable tax advisor who can help you craft appropriate installments and ways to handle them.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-traps-paying-estimated-taxes#comments The Industry Word Business Laws Taxes Thu, 22 May 2014 12:04:00 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 847301 at http://www.sba.gov/community Which Unsecured Business Lines of Credit are Best for Your Business? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/which-unsecured-business-lines-credit-are-best-your-business <p>Whether you&rsquo;ve been in business for a couple of weeks or five years, access to cash is a crucial element of survival for a business. When the going gets tough, a business can fail unless it has access to cash on demand.</p> <p>For business owners, getting <strong>unsecured business lines of credit </strong>is by far the best choice for having that cash on demand. The fact is that business owners want access to funds &ndash; whenever they need it, at a competitive rate and with flexible payment options. The National Federation of Independent Businesses says, &ldquo;Think of it as an insurance policy that never needs to be paid until you need it.&rdquo;</p> <p>It&rsquo;s important to note there are two main types of unsecured business lines of credit one needs to consider: traditional and non-traditional.</p> <p>So how do you determine which one is best for your business?</p> <p>The traditional business line of credit issued by a bank calls for a substantial amount of documentation in order to qualify such as financials, personal tax returns, business tax returns, bank account information, business registration documents, etc.</p> <p>In addition, once a line is issued an annual financial review is required to maintain the line of credit. While a traditional credit line offers various benefits such as check-writing privileges, it tends to be the most difficult line of credit to obtain and maintain.</p> <p>In a recent survey conducted by the National Small Business Association, &ldquo;29 percent of small business owners report having their lines of credit reduced in the last four years and nearly 1 in 10 had their line of credit called in early by the bank.&rdquo;</p> <p>In my opinion, a non-traditional line of credit in the form of business credit cards are the <a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/04/29/unsecured-business-line-of-credit/" target="_blank" title="Business Credit Blog" type="unsecured lines of credit "><strong>best unsecured business lines of credit</strong></a> a company can get. It provides the fast access to cash and payment flexibility associated with a traditional credit line but without all the drawbacks.</p> <p>Qualifying for this type of revolving credit line is FICO&reg; driven and doesn&rsquo;t require the yearly reviews, excessive documentation and level of scrutiny that comes with a traditional credit line.</p> <p>Some of the advantages of non-traditional <strong>business lines of credit</strong> are as follows:</p> <p>1) Access to cash quickly &ndash; With <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/10/11/unsecured-business-credit-card/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="unsecured business credit card">unsecured business credit cards</a></strong>, you can utilize as much or as little credit from your line as you want to, anytime and anywhere</p> <p>2) High credit limits &ndash; Business credit cards carry high credit limits, making it extremely convenient to finance larger business purchases. Many cards even offer 0% APR for the first 12 months.</p> <p>2) Flexibility &ndash; With business credit cards you have flexible payment options compared to a fixed month-to-month payment that comes with a business loan. When you tap into your credit line, you have three options every month. You could pay the full amount due, pay at least a minimal portion of the balance or pay greater than the minimum amount due.</p> <p>3) True separation &ndash; Business credit cards enable business owners to separate personal and business expenses while benefiting from business credit reporting. This makes it possible for business owners to establish the creditworthiness of the business itself.</p> <p>4) Personal credit protection &ndash; <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/08/22/small-business-credit-cards/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="small business credit cards">Small business credit cards </a></strong>that report solely to the business credit agencies allow business owners to protect their personal credit ratings while building their business credit.</p> <p>While a non-traditional business credit line provides all the convenience and flexibility a business needs, there are some negative aspects to consider. The major drawback is the ability for a business to accumulate debt. Without a fixed payment schedule, business owners may be tempted to simply pay the minimum monthly payment on its outstanding balances. By carrying debt, compound interest can really add up, especially if a company carries large balances.</p> <p>No matter what type of <strong>unsecured business lines of credit</strong> you decide to obtain for your business, it&rsquo;s crucial to manage any debt responsibly. Traditional and non-traditional business lines of credit are essential tools for any business to have in its financial arsenal.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/which-unsecured-business-lines-credit-are-best-your-business#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Wed, 21 May 2014 14:53:17 +0000 Marco Carbajo 846891 at http://www.sba.gov/community Investigating Feel-Good Franchises http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/investigating-feel-good-franchises <p>We all want to feel good. We all want to have pleasant experiences. And, we&rsquo;re willing to pay for them. We&rsquo;re willing to pay to ensure we get our fair share of the good things in life.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re looking to become <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/3-ways-look-franchising" title="link to sba blog post">a franchise owner</a>, have you thought about targeting opportunities that provide feel-good products and services?</p> <p><strong>Feel-Good Franchise Opportunities </strong></p> <p>Opportunities that make people feel good run the gamut from franchises in the spa industry to franchises that promote fitness.</p> <p>Here are some examples of franchises in the spa category:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Massage Heights</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Massage Envy</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Hand And Stone Massage</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The Woodhouse Day Spa &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Seva&reg;</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Planet Beach Automated Spa</p> <p>Credit must go to the people at Massage Envy for putting spa franchises on the map. In addition to helping energize a not often-mentioned franchise category, the executives at Massage Envy came up with a membership model. For a set monthly price, clients are entitled to receive one massage and can purchase additional ones at discounted prices.</p> <p>Read this from the <a href="http://www.abmp.com/textonlymags/article.php?article=283" title="article on spas">Associated Bodywork &amp; Massage Professionals website</a>:*</p> <p><em>After 30 years in the fitness industry, John Leonesio saw the opportunity massage offered and in 2002 designed the Massage Envy concept in Scottsdale, Arizona, to resemble the health club membership model. Now owned by Sentinel Capital, a middle-market private equity firm, Massage Envy&rsquo;s original concept&mdash;to make the health benefits of massage both convenient and affordable&mdash;remains and has earned the company several distinctions</em>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Fitness Franchise Examples</strong></p> <p>Fitness franchises have been around a long time. Jack LaLanne, considered to be the &ldquo;Father of Fitness,&rdquo; opened what is thought to be the nation&rsquo;s first health club in Oakland, California in 1936.</p> <p>Today, people want to get in shape and stay in shape, but there&rsquo;s a big difference between doing so in the 1930&rsquo;s and now.</p> <p>That difference is <em>time</em>. We just don&rsquo;t have as much time to get physically fit as we used too. We have too many constraints&hellip;time constraints. We&rsquo;re all busy, busy. Sometimes, it&rsquo;s really difficult to go to a fitness club and work out on a regular basis. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>A few entrepreneurs &ndash; innovators, really &ndash; have been able to capitalize on the problem&hellip;the issue of not having a lot of time to get in shape and stay in shape.</p> <p>Chuck Runyon, Dave Mortensen, and Jeff Klinger founded <a href="http://www.anytimefitness.com/franchise-opportunities/accolades" title="link to anytime fitness franchise website">Anytime Fitness</a>* in 2002. They realized that consumers were starved for time and were having problems finding fitness clubs that were open when they needed them to be. Anytime Fitness was born, and they, along with several others in the space, have been able to serve those clients, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.</p> <p>Below, you&rsquo;ll find several fitness franchises to investigate if you&rsquo;re interested in these types of feel-good franchises.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Snap Fitness</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Koko FitClub</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Title Boxing Club</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; FitZone&reg; For Women</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Fitness Together</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The Zoo Health Club</p> <p><strong>Feeling Good About Feel-Good Franchises</strong></p> <p>A lot of the people I work with share their desire to provide products and services that bring positive change to people&rsquo;s lives.</p> <p>Franchises that make people feel good provide positive things that today&rsquo;s busy consumers want.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;d like to own a franchise that makes people feel good, you have lots of choices. Narrowing those choices involves serious research. Thoroughly investigate franchises you&rsquo;re interested in. Talk to existing franchisees. They&rsquo;re the ones who have already invested their money and their time into the franchises you&rsquo;re thinking of buying. That way you&rsquo;ll feel good about what you may end up doing.</p> <p>Here are a few articles which include dozens of tips designed to help you do great franchise research.</p> <p>Entrepreneur Magazine: <a href="http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/199090" title="entrepreneur mag article">Researching Franchises</a>*</p> <p>SBA.gov: <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/researching-franchise" title="sba.gov article ">Researching That Franchise</a></p> <p>Franchise.org: <a href="http://www.franchise.org/franchiseesecondary.aspx?id=52637" title="ifa website article">How To Investigate A Franchise</a>*</p> <p>*Non-US Government links</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/investigating-feel-good-franchises#comments The Industry Word Starting Tue, 20 May 2014 12:17:06 +0000 FranchiseKing 846191 at http://www.sba.gov/community The Entrepreneur's Guide to Getting Work Done While Traveling http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/entrepreneurs-guide-getting-work-done-while-traveling <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-1311144d-dc04-fbfc-dfbe-701973a6dbf1"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you travel in your work, it can be a challenge to get much done in between catching flights, attending meetings and trying to get a little shuteye. And yet, the wheels of your business are still churning.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Here&rsquo;s how to stay on top of your email and task list so that it doesn&rsquo;t overwhelm you when you get back into the office. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Don&rsquo;t Overestimate Your Ca​pacity</span></h2> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">Most people vastly overestimate how much work they will get done while traveling. </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">I find I almost never have as much time to handle my regular workload while traveling as I expect to. That&rsquo;s because we don&#39;t account for all the little things that eat up our time (such as trying to find a restaurant to get something to eat, figuring out how to get online at that hotspot, dealing with a slow connection in your hotel room, or trying to figure out how to get from point A to point B in your rental car in an unfamiliar city). </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">We also won&rsquo;t have our same level of energy, because travel can sap it.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So step one to managing your business while traveling is not to assume you can carry on much of your regular workload remotely while you&rsquo;re away.&nbsp;Anyway, you won&rsquo;t be able to enjoy your conference or have productive meetings if you have to spend all your time holed up in a hotel room trying to keep your business going. </span></p> <h2 dir="ltr"> <span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Plan Several Weeks Out</span></h2> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">You must plan in advance, at least several weeks out. If you wait until two days before you&rsquo;re about to leave, you won&rsquo;t have enough time to make arrangements. </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">Take care of any assignments that will be due during your travel period by working harder ahead of time. </span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">Let your clients know they shouldn&rsquo;t expect any work from you that week, and for a day or two&nbsp;after you return. Certainly, you may be available for a phone call or to answer a quick email, but you don&rsquo;t want them pressing you to deliver that huge presentation or important proposal in the middle of your trip.</span></p> <h2 dir="ltr"> <span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap; color: rgb(63, 63, 63);">Hand Over the Keys</span></h2> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">If you have staff, select someone to take your place in your absence. Sometimes delegating is the hardest part for business owners.&nbsp;However, consider this a good opportunity to evaluate whether an employee is ready for more responsibility on a permanent basis.</span></p> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">This person should be able to answer questions from clients and other employees, and handle any issues with confidence. Keep in mind, your replacement will likely need more than a day or two to learn what he or she needs to know to take over for you, so plan accordingly.</span></p> <h2 dir="ltr"> <span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1; color: rgb(63, 63, 63);">Use Snippets of Time Wisely</span></h2> <p dir="ltr"><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">If you&rsquo;re traveling to attend a conference, consider planning some time to work quietly in your hotel room. You certainly don&rsquo;t want to travel just to sit in a hotel room and work, but some conference schedules build in extra time.&nbsp;Rather than frittering it away by sitting in a lounge at a convention center for 2 hours, use it to get some work done. </span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Don&rsquo;t neglect plane time on long flights. Many planes offer wi-fi, so subscribe to a service like </span><a href="http://www.gogoair.com/" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link to airplane Wi-fi, GoGo Inflight"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">GoGo Inflight Internet</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> if you need an Internet connection to work. And if nothing else, plane&nbsp;time is great for strategy planning and thinking about your business. </span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">You can also wake up an hour earlier to sort through your email before your day begins. </span></p> <h2> <span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">Prioritize Your Emails</span></h2> <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">In a given week, you might receive hundreds of emails. When you&rsquo;re busy with work travel, focus just on the important emails. Save the rest to read when you return.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1; color: rgb(63, 63, 63); font-weight: normal;">The easiest method is to quickly skim the emails in your inbox and delete any newsletters or promotional emails. Then open the ones from your clients or contacts based on the level of urgency or importance you feel they have.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Google Mail has a </span><a href="https://support.google.com/mail/answer/186531?hl=en" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link to Priority Inbox feature"><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Priority Inbox</span></a><span style="font-size: 15px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> feature that allows you to sort your mail based on who they&rsquo;re from and level of priority.</span></p> <h2> <span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Don&rsquo;t Forget Your Email Autoresponder</span></h2> <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">If your contacts are accustomed to receiving a response via email from you quickly, it&rsquo;s wise to let them know you might be slower to respond while traveling. Set up your autoresponder to let people who email you know you are traveling, with limited access to email. </span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">While you won&rsquo;t not get as much done while traveling as on a typical work week, you don&rsquo;t have to come back to the office to stacks of work to do. </span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Arial; font-size: 15px; white-space: pre-wrap;">With a little planning, you can better manage your workload, and ensure the smooth continuation of your business, no matter where you happen to be.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/entrepreneurs-guide-getting-work-done-while-traveling#comments The Industry Word Managing Thu, 08 May 2014 13:35:22 +0000 smallbiztrends 837731 at http://www.sba.gov/community Is Your Business Brand Outdated? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/your-business-brand-outdated <p>Sometimes, it&rsquo;s tough for a business owner to see what everyone else does. Like an elderly person happily ensconced in a house they last redecorated in 1972, you don&rsquo;t realize your website is the design equivalent of an avocado green refrigerator, or your logo looks about as current as orange shag carpeting. Is your business brand outdated? Here&rsquo;s how to examine your brand with a critical eye and see if it needs a refresher.</p> <p>First, understand what a <em>brand</em> is. More than your logo, font or website colors, more than your advertising and marketing, your brand is the &ldquo;personality&rdquo; of your business. It&rsquo;s what people think of when they think of your business&mdash;whether that&rsquo;s innovation (like Apple), glamour (like Versace) or an affordable little luxury (like Starbucks). Advertising and marketing support and enhance your brand&mdash;but they aren&rsquo;t your brand.</p> <p>Next, ask these questions:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Does your brand convey your business&rsquo;s current mission?</strong> It&rsquo;s natural for a business&rsquo;s mission to evolve as the company grows. Maybe your business started out as a simple coffeehouse, but along the way you expanded your mission to include a focus on fair-trade, sustainably farmed coffees. You also donate part of each purchase to organizations supporting sustainable farming in the third world. If social responsibility is now a hallmark of your mission, is that clearly conveyed by your brand?</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Do customers see your brand the way you do?</strong> Consider conducting focus groups or online surveys to explore how customers see your brand. Ask them to choose from different descriptors or attributes&mdash;&ldquo;fun,&rdquo; &ldquo;affordable,&rdquo; &ldquo;trustworthy,&rdquo; &ldquo;exciting&rdquo; or whatever attributes you believe your brand has. If customers&rsquo; perceptions of your brand are way off from how you want to be perceived, it&rsquo;s time to rebrand.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>How does your brand compare with your competitors&rsquo;?</strong> Check out your competition&rsquo;s advertising, websites, social media presence and marketing materials. If all your competitors are using muted colors and sophisticated fonts while you&rsquo;re using purple Comic Sans, perhaps you&rsquo;re standing out in the right way&mdash;but chances are you&rsquo;re standing out in the wrong way, as someone whose brand hasn&rsquo;t kept pace with the times.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Has your customer base changed?</strong> As your customers evolve and change, your brand should change with them. Maybe you started out marketing to &ldquo;slackers&rdquo; in the 1990s and your &ldquo;extreme&rdquo; branding reflected that target market. Now, however, those former slackers are parents in their 40s. Your branding needs to change to reflect the changes they&rsquo;ve gone through. Even if you marketed to teens 10 years ago and still market to teens today, what teens consider cool has changed immeasurably (10 years ago, social media didn&rsquo;t exist). Keep up with what your customer base values and adjust your brand to reflect that.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Is your business website up-to-date?</strong> Your website is such an important part of your branding that it deserves its own mention. Simplicity is key in websites today, with icons and images replacing overly wordy site design. In addition, if your website is still using outmoded technology such as Flash or if it doesn&#39;t display well on mobile phones and tablets, your online brand will seem hopelessly out of date.</p> <p><strong>Are you planning to expand?</strong> When you&rsquo;re adding new products, new services, new locations or new markets, it&rsquo;s a natural time to re-evaluate your brand. Always assess your brand before an expansion so that if a brand revision is needed, you can add this into the costs.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/your-business-brand-outdated#comments The Industry Word Marketing Wed, 07 May 2014 01:03:21 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 837041 at http://www.sba.gov/community 5 Keys to Angel Investment http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-keys-angel-investment <p>With this post I&rsquo;d like to give my personal answer to the frequent question, &ldquo;What do angel investors look for in a business plan?&rdquo; I can&rsquo;t promise that what I think applies to anybody else. But I&rsquo;ve been in an angel investment group for five years now, and I&rsquo;ve seen a lot of businesses evaluated. Here are five things I say matter.</p> <p><strong>1. A believable market definition </strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s not just the numbers. Especially not huge numbers that lack definition. Too many of the several dozen business plans I&rsquo;ve read this year lack a good market-defining story. Market numbers are useful, yes, but they don&rsquo;t stand alone. Investors want to believe the story first, then get the numbers.</p> <p>The story is about the use case, also called &ldquo;why to buy,&rdquo; and market need.</p> <p>I like the business pitches that put a picture on a slide and explain how that person has a problem that this business solved. For example, one recent pitch starts with a picture of a middle-aged woman and explained how this new business creates a channel for her to sell her craft goods effectively. Another pitch I saw showed a picture of the garbage area behind a restaurant to pitch a system to save unused food and make it available to people who need it. Then they go to the numbers, after explaining the need.</p> <p><strong>2. Believable growth plan </strong></p> <p>Startups become good for the early stage investors by growing. While there are some extremely rare cases where traffic and position alone created value (such as Amazon in its early days, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.), for most of us it takes sales growth.</p> <p>Investors want to see and believe the growth plan. For example, if it&rsquo;s a physical product to be sold in retail stores, there should be a plan for getting the product into distribution, and a sales forecast based on sales per store and stores&rsquo; growth by year. Or if it&rsquo;s a mobile app, then sales growth based on potential user base and ways to drive traffic to the app via the various download stores.</p> <p>Sales forecasts based on details are more credible. I liked a plan I saw recently that presented a forecast of sales of a product related to bars by showing actual sales in the first four bars and extrapolating those to all bars in the U.S. The methodology made sense.</p> <p><strong>3. Defensibility </strong></p> <p>Defensibility is whatever quality keeps a startup from being overwhelmed by competition that stunts its growth. Most investors look for proprietary technology, such as patents &mdash; when they are good patents that experts say will be reasonably defensible &mdash; or trade secrets. This is also called &ldquo;barriers to entry.&rdquo; There&rsquo;s limited value to an idea that any other business can just copy.</p> <p><strong>4. Scalability</strong></p> <p>The lack of scalability in most service businesses is why investors generally prefer product businesses and why the classic service businesses aren&rsquo;t as attractive. The test is whether it can double sales without doubling fixed costs and employees. Most service businesses don&rsquo;t scale: the classic consulting business, for example, or attorneys, graphic design, programming for hire&hellip; these service businesses are hard to scale.</p> <p>With product businesses, when a widget starts selling in most cases you can make more widgets with automation.</p> <p>And there are some service businesses that are scalable. Generally, they relate to software services over the web. The travel buyer sites are services, but they scale.</p> <p><strong>5. Potential exit </strong></p> <p>Angel investors make money by investing money in a business today and getting money back from that business in a few years when it grows, increases its value and sells out to a larger company or registers its stock for sale on a public market.</p> <p>What many people don&rsquo;t realize is that outside investors don&rsquo;t make money just from owning a small portion of stock in a successful business. Theoretically, there could be dividends eventually, but growing companies don&rsquo;t normally generate dividends. Angel investment assumes that the businesses create some way for the investors to sell their shares.</p> <p>Having a minority share in a healthy, happy company &ndash; one that doesn&rsquo;t need any more outside investment and has no reason to invite a larger company to purchase it &ndash; offers no return on investment for the early investors who aren&rsquo;t employees.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-keys-angel-investment#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Tue, 29 Apr 2014 21:36:49 +0000 Tim Berry 832051 at http://www.sba.gov/community Make Your Small Business Easily Found Online http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/make-your-small-business-easily-found-online-0 <p>If you&rsquo;re looking to ramp up your business&rsquo;s online presence and help your potential customers find you more easily, you may have considered a variety of web advertising options: banner ads, social media ads, pay-per-click sponsor ads, SEO, SEM, etc. What&rsquo;s the most effective route to take? What&rsquo;s the least costly?</p> <p>The new infographic, <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/online-advertising-go-right-audience-and-youll-see-real-results">Online Advertising: Go for the Right Audience and You&#39;ll See Real Results</a>, compiled research on the effectiveness of various types of online advertising options for small business owners. It found that one-third of small and mid-sized businesses buy online advertising, spending an average of $6,800 annually. Some interesting findings to note in your own online advertising pursuits:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; A typical person sees 1,700 banner ads&nbsp;per month, but clicks just 0.1% of the time.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 3% of small business owners think that pay-per-click ads are effective</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 77% of ads are never seen</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Investment in social media ads has increased from $3.8 billion in 2011 to $5.9 billion in 2013. This amount is projected to increase to $9.8 billion in 2016.</p> <p>Check out the <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/online-advertising-go-right-audience-and-youll-see-real-results">infographic</a> for the full story on how small businesses like yours are taking advantage of online advertising and to see how Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn compare in terms of click-thru rates and ROI.</p> <h2> Pay for Traffic or Get it Free?</h2> <p>Given those survey results, you might be wondering if paid ads are worth the financial investment. SCORE mentor and owner of <strong>A&amp;E Advertising and Web Design, </strong>Edison Guzman<strong>,</strong> answers exactly that question in the (appropriately titled) online workshop, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/pay-traffic-or-get-it-free-difference-between-sem-and-seo">Pay for Traffic or Get it Free? (The Difference Between SEM and SEO</a>).&rdquo; Edison says the key to choosing the right strategy is: &ldquo;before starting any campaign, you need to know the result.&rdquo; What type of online presence are you looking to promote? Who and where is your target audience? How much are you willing to spend? Who will implement this strategy? These questions will help you determine the right approach for achieving your goals.</p> <p>Listen in to this <a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/pay-traffic-or-get-it-free-difference-between-sem-and-seo">online workshop</a> to find out:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The tools needed to get the most out of your time and investment in online advertising</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO and how to maximize both</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; The 7 parts of your website that tell search engines how to rank you</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How social media plays a role in your search engine ranking</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; And&hellip; the only guaranteed way to rank on Page 1 of search engine results in less than 1 day</p> <h2> Make Content Work for You</h2> <p>You&rsquo;ve certainly heard that content marketing is the next big thing for positioning yourself as the go-to resource in your industry. But it&rsquo;s also an absolutely critical (and often free) way to get your business better known to the search engines. In his 4 part series, <a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/bill-merrow/how-to-win-the-new-game-of-semantic-search-part-i-of-iv-8-steps-to-effective-volume/">How to Win the New Game of Semantic Search</a>, Bill Merrow, co-founder of Synergy Sales and Marketing, covers everything you need to know to get search engines to authenticate your website and, ultimately, bring you more and better visitors. Bill says &ldquo;In September 2013, Google&rsquo;s Hummingbird update rocked the world of every business concerned with search marketing, as simple keyword strategies were detonated and Google stopped reporting keywords in Google Analytics.&rdquo; Therefore, he explains, content marketing is a necessary tactic for effective SEO.&nbsp; In the series, Bill details the 4 components to properly implementing an effective content strategy: volume, velocity, variety and veracity.</p> <p>The more you know about effective online advertising, the more you realize what a powerful tool it can be for bringing potential customers in the virtual door. It doesn&rsquo;t have to be costly but it can require a time investment to learn the tools at your disposal and decide what works best for reaching your target audience. If you&rsquo;re not sure who that is or how to reach them, <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">reach out to a SCORE mentor</a> for free, expert help.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/make-your-small-business-easily-found-online-0#comments The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 24 Apr 2014 18:55:10 +0000 bridgetwpollack 829381 at http://www.sba.gov/community Virtual Currency and Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/virtual-currency-and-your-business <p>Bitcoin is a digital currency now used as medium of exchange by more than 10,000 businesses. Last year Apple applied for a patent on iMoney, another form of virtual currency, so it&rsquo;s likely that using virtual currency as another payment method is something to be considered. How does this impact your business? The <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-14-21.pdf?utm_source=3.31.2014+Tax+Alert&amp;utm_campaign=3.31.14+Tax+Alert&amp;utm_medium=email" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>IRS says</u></a> that convertible virtual currency, which is digitally traded between users and can be purchased for, or exchanged into, U.S. dollars or other real or virtual currencies, is property, not currency. Here&rsquo;s what this means for you.</p> <p><strong>Receiving payment in bitcoin</strong></p> <p>If you receive bitcoin as payment for goods or services, you&rsquo;re taxable on this payment in the same way you&rsquo;d be taxed if you&rsquo;d received any other type of property. You must include in gross income the fair market value of the bitcoin on the date it is received. For example, if you are an independent contractor paid in bitcoin, its receipt is income, and it is also subject to self-employment tax.</p> <p>Determining fair market value may not be so easy. If the virtual currency is listed on an exchange and the rate is set by supply and demand, then this rate &mdash; on the day it is received &mdash; can be used for fair market value. There are several exchanges for bitcoin; both the buyer and seller must be listed on the same exchange to give and receive payment in this virtual currency.</p> <p>The customer may have a gain or a loss when making a payment to you; it all depends on his or her basis in the bitcoin. If this is less than the cost of the goods or services, then the customer has a gain. For example, the customer bought the bitcoin for $5 and used it to pay for your cupcake costing $7. The customer&rsquo;s basis is $5 and effectively acquired property for $7, so there&rsquo;s a $2 gain. If the opposite is true, then there&rsquo;s a loss. Whether the gain or loss is capital gain or loss or ordinary gain or loss depends on the person (usually capital gain or loss unless the person is a trader in bitcoin) and not on what is being bought with the bitcoin. &nbsp;If the customer has a capital transaction, then whether it&rsquo;s short-term or long-term gain or loss depends on how long the bitcoin was held (more than one year is long-term).</p> <p><strong>Using bitcoin as payment for employees</strong></p> <p>If you pay an employee in bitcoin, it&rsquo;s treated as an &ldquo;in-kind payment&rdquo; and the fair market value of the payment subject to payroll taxes. This means you have to withhold income tax on the payment as you would for any other compensation made in property. And you must take the payment into account for FICA (Social Security and Medicare) taxes and FUTA (federal unemployment) tax. For withholding purposes, check with your payroll company if you use one or <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p15.pdf" title="Links to IRS.gov publication"><u>IRS Publication 15</u></a> for more on noncash wages.</p> <p><strong>Information reporting for bitcoin</strong></p> <p>The fact that you&rsquo;re making payments in something other than money does not mean you&rsquo;re relieved of reporting transactions to the IRS. Some information returns you may need to file or will receive:</p> <ul> <li> Form 1099-MISC if you pay an independent contractor in bitcoin and total payments for the year to this person are $600 or more. If you&rsquo;re a contractor being paid in virtual currency, expect to receive a 1099.</li> <li> Form 1099-K if, as a merchant, you have more than 200 transactions totaling more than $20,000 for the year; the bitcoin exchange will issue this to you.</li> <li> Form W-2 if you pay an employee in bitcoin, regardless of amount.</li> </ul> <p>Customers using bitcoin may have to complete Form 8949 to list all of their purchases with virtual currency and then transfer the total to Schedule D of Form 1040; the IRS hasn&rsquo;t given guidance about this reporting. Once they learn about this onerous reporting (if this becomes the requirement), they may not want to do business using bitcoin.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>As businesses adapt to changing technology, the tax law won&rsquo;t be far behind. If you have particular questions about how bitcoin may impact your business, contact your tax advisor.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/virtual-currency-and-your-business#comments The Industry Word Business Laws Managing Taxes Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:49:45 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 825991 at http://www.sba.gov/community Franchise Ownership Success Starts With Great Training http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-ownership-success-starts-with-great-training <p>When you buy a franchise, you&rsquo;re paying for the right to use the franchisors proprietary systems. Some of these include their marketing systems, computer and software systems, inventory management systems and more.</p> <p>But, you won&rsquo;t be able to use any of their business systems unless you know how to use them. That&rsquo;s where the franchisors formal training program comes in. It&rsquo;s part of what you&rsquo;re paying for when you <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/franchise-businesses" title="link to franchise article on sba website">purchase a franchise</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Are Franchise Training Programs Good?</strong></p> <p>I can&rsquo;t think of one occasion in which a client of mine told me the training they received from their franchisor was disappointing. But, since this is <em>your</em> money we&rsquo;re talking about&hellip;it&rsquo;s you that will be buying the franchise, it&rsquo;s important for you to make sure the training you&rsquo;ll receive from franchise headquarters will be good. Here&rsquo;s how:</p> <p>Call existing franchisees of the franchise concept you&rsquo;re thinking of buying and ask them to share their views on the training they received. It should be part of your <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/researching-franchise" title="researching a franchise due diligence ">due diligence</a>.</p> <p><strong>Types of Franchise Training</strong></p> <p>These days, technology plays a major part of company training programs. Expect the franchisor to utilize technology in their training program.&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>One way <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/franchisees-need-have-great-technology-their-fingertips" title="link to article on franchise technology">franchisors use technology</a> to train their franchisees is to have some setup online. That&rsquo;s right: Part of your training may be online. I&rsquo;ve seen franchisors do what&rsquo;s called pre-training online. Pre-training takes place a few weeks before you arrive at franchise headquarters for in-person training. I&rsquo;ve found pre-training to be a great way for new franchisees to get their feet wet and have a head start on what&rsquo;s to come when they arrive at headquarters for more intensive formal training.&nbsp;</p> <p>The formal, in-headquarters training will end up having the biggest impact on you. The training that takes place at headquarters is pretty intensive. It&rsquo;s designed to prepare you for all of your day-to-day activities as a franchise owner. You&rsquo;ll go through the entire operations manual. You&rsquo;ll be trained on things like:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Computer systems</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Inventory systems</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Point of sale systems</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Payroll management</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Sales</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Marketing</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Advertising</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.franchisebizdirectory.com/article/the-importance-of-great-customer-service-in-franchising/" title="customer service in a franchise">Customer service</a> *</p> <p>You&rsquo;ll learn a lot in a short period of time. (Training programs at franchise headquarters are usually 3-5 days in length)</p> <p>If the thought of learning everything about running your new franchise business in a few short days sounds overwhelming, you&rsquo;re not alone. Every franchisee before you thought the same exact thing, and their businesses are up and running. Yours will be too.</p> <p>You could always ask some of the existing franchisees if the training they received prepared them to open and run their businesses adequately. The answers you get will give you a good idea of the quality of the franchisors training program. And, you&rsquo;ll get a good idea of what to expect as a new franchise owner early on in your business.&nbsp;</p> <p>Franchisors want you to be successful. They know you&rsquo;ll be apprehensive in the weeks and days before you actually open. Their training programs are designed to make sure you&rsquo;re ready.</p> <p>*Non-US Government link.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-ownership-success-starts-with-great-training#comments The Industry Word Starting Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:22:30 +0000 FranchiseKing 820821 at http://www.sba.gov/community Build Your Business with a Great Web Presence http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-your-business-with-great-web-presence-1 <p>47% of small businesses don&rsquo;t have a website. Can you believe it? Establishing a web presence is easier than ever these days and there are so many tools out there that will make it quicker and more influential on your bottom line than ever before. Here are 3 resources that will not only convince you that every small business should have a great website, but guide you in exactly how to make that a reality &ndash; as painlessly and effectively as possible.</p> <h2> Make Your Website Work for You</h2> <p>Do you have one of the 95% of small business websites that isn&rsquo;t mobile-optimized? Get ahead of trends, stand out from your competition and make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business by providing them with an easy, enjoyable web impression. The new infographic by SCORE, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/making-your-website-work-when-online-youre-in-business">Making Your Website Work</a>,&rdquo; shares the real, hard numbers that put the value of mobile-friendly small business websites, online marketing and SEO into perspective. Did you know:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 97% of consumers look online for local products and services?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 70-80% of searchers <em>ignore</em> paid ads and focus on search results?</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/making-your-website-work-when-online-youre-in-business">infographic</a> compiles 9 statistics about small business website usage into 3 actionable tips to help you make the most of your business&rsquo;s web presence.</p> <h2> Optimize Your Site Design</h2> <p>So you&rsquo;re finally convinced - you have a website, but how can you tell if it&rsquo;s really adding to your bottom line? And adding the absolute most that it could be? SCORE mentor and entrepreneur Dan Beldowicz presents an online workshop, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/winning-websites">Winning with Websites</a>&rdquo; in which you&rsquo;ll learn:</p> <ul> <li> How website design can make or break your online success</li> <li> Why going mobile is a MUST</li> <li> The truth about mobile apps</li> <li> How &amp; when to hire a web developer</li> </ul> <p><a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/winning-websites">Listen and watch</a> as Dan explains how to optimize your web presence.</p> <h2> Create a Great Customer Call to Action (CTA)</h2> <p>Finally, you&rsquo;ve got to tell customers <em>exactly</em> what you want them to do next. If it&rsquo;s unclear or if there are too many competing options, they&rsquo;ll navigate away from that one important click you really want them to make. Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com, says, &ldquo;A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.&rdquo; How does that translate for your specific business? He says,&nbsp;&ldquo;Your approach depends on the action you want to motivate. For example, if the goal is to spur a purchase, and you&rsquo;ve already communicated benefits, a simple &lsquo;Buy Now!&rsquo; might be all you need.&rdquo;&nbsp; Daniel explains in further detail and shares <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/how-create-great-customer-call-action">10 tips for creating strong calls to action</a> to help you turn your heard-earned web visitors into revenue.</p> <p>By now, I hope you are completely convinced that a user-friendly, informative and helpful website is a must for your business and you know how to convert your newfound prospects into loyal customers. The online experience really does reflect the way you would drive sales at your storefront on Main Street: have an easy to find location, create an enjoyable, uncluttered experience and communicate exactly how customers can follow through to your end goal. And to make sure you stay on the right path to your end goal, be sure to get a <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">SCORE mentor</a> to be your sounding board.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-your-business-with-great-web-presence-1#comments The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:04:42 +0000 bridgetwpollack 820541 at http://www.sba.gov/community Build Your Business with a Great Web Presence http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-your-business-with-great-web-presence-0 <p>47% of small businesses don&rsquo;t have a website. Can you believe it? Establishing a web presence is easier than ever these days and there are so many tools out there that will make it quicker and more influential on your bottom line than ever before. Here are 3 resources that will not only convince you that every small business should have a great website, but guide you in exactly how to make that a reality &ndash; as painlessly and effectively as possible.</p> <h2> Make Your Website Work for You</h2> <p>Do you have one of the 95% of small business websites that isn&rsquo;t mobile-optimized? Get ahead of trends, stand out from your competition and make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business by providing them with an easy, enjoyable web impression. The new infographic by SCORE, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/making-your-website-work-when-online-youre-in-business">Making Your Website Work</a>,&rdquo; shares the real, hard numbers that put the value of mobile-friendly small business websites, online marketing and SEO into perspective. Did you know:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 97% of consumers look online for local products and services?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; 70-80% of searchers <em>ignore</em> paid ads and focus on search results?</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/making-your-website-work-when-online-youre-in-business">infographic</a> compiles 9 statistics about small business website usage into 3 actionable tips to help you make the most of your business&rsquo;s web presence.</p> <h2> Optimize Your Site Design</h2> <p>So you&rsquo;re finally convinced - you have a website, but how can you tell if it&rsquo;s really adding to your bottom line? And adding the absolute most that it could be? SCORE mentor and entrepreneur Dan Beldowicz presents an online workshop, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/winning-websites">Winning with Websites</a>&rdquo; in which you&rsquo;ll learn:</p> <ul> <li> How website design can make or break your online success</li> <li> Why going mobile is a MUST</li> <li> The truth about mobile apps</li> <li> How &amp; when to hire a web developer</li> </ul> <p><a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/winning-websites">Listen and watch</a> as Dan explains how to optimize your web presence.</p> <h2> Create a Great Customer Call to Action (CTA)</h2> <p>Finally, you&rsquo;ve got to tell customers <em>exactly</em> what you want them to do next. If it&rsquo;s unclear or if there are too many competing options, they&rsquo;ll navigate away from that one important click you really want them to make. Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com, says, &ldquo;A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.&rdquo; How does that translate for your specific business? He says,&nbsp;&ldquo;Your approach depends on the action you want to motivate. For example, if the goal is to spur a purchase, and you&rsquo;ve already communicated benefits, a simple &lsquo;Buy Now!&rsquo; might be all you need.&rdquo;&nbsp; Daniel explains in further detail and shares <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/how-create-great-customer-call-action">10 tips for creating strong calls to action</a> to help you turn your heard-earned web visitors into revenue.</p> <p>By now, I hope you are completely convinced that a user-friendly, informative and helpful website is a must for your business and you know how to convert your newfound prospects into loyal customers. The online experience really does reflect the way you would drive sales at your storefront on Main Street: have an easy to find location, create an enjoyable, uncluttered experience and communicate exactly how customers can follow through to your end goal. And to make sure you stay on the right path to your end goal, be sure to get a <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">SCORE mentor</a> to be your sounding board.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-your-business-with-great-web-presence-0#comments The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Wed, 09 Apr 2014 18:32:44 +0000 bridgetwpollack 818071 at http://www.sba.gov/community Make Your Small Business Easily Found Online http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/make-your-small-business-easily-found-online <p>If you&rsquo;re looking to ramp up your business&rsquo;s online presence and help your potential customers find you more easily, you may have considered a variety of web advertising options: banner ads, social media ads, pay-per-click sponsor ads, SEO, SEM, etc. What&rsquo;s the most effective route to take? What&rsquo;s the least costly?</p> <p>The new infographic, <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/online-advertising-go-right-audience-and-youll-see-real-results" title="http://www.score.org/resources/online-advertising-go-right-audience-and-youll-see-real-results">Online Advertising: Go for the Right Audience and You&#39;ll See Real Results</a>, compiled research on the effectiveness of various types of online advertising options for small business owners. It found that one-third of small and mid-sized businesses buy online advertising, spending an average of $6,800 annually. Some interesting findings to note in your own online advertising pursuits:</p> <ul> <li> A typical person sees 1,700 banner ads per month, but clicks just 0.1% of the time.</li> <li> 3% of small business owners think that pay-per-click ads are effective.</li> <li> 77% of ads are never seen.</li> <li> Investment in social media ads has increased from $3.8 billion in 2011 to $5.9 billion in 2013. This amount is projected to increase to $9.8 billion in 2016.</li> </ul> <p>Check out the <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/online-advertising-go-right-audience-and-youll-see-real-results" title="http://www.score.org/resources/online-advertising-go-right-audience-and-youll-see-real-results">infographic </a>for the full story on how small businesses like yours are taking advantage of online advertising and to see how Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn compare in terms of click-thru rates and ROI.</p> <p><strong>Pay for Traffic or Get it Free? </strong></p> <p>Given those survey results, you might be wondering if paid ads are worth the financial investment. SCORE mentor and owner of A&amp;E Advertising and Web Design, Edison Guzman, answers exactly that question in the (appropriately titled) online workshop, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/pay-traffic-or-get-it-free-difference-between-sem-and-seo" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/pay-traffic-or-get-it-free-difference-between-sem-and-seo">Pay for Traffic or Get it Free? (The Difference Between SEM and SEO)</a>.&rdquo; Edison says the key to choosing the right strategy is: &ldquo;before starting any campaign, you need to know the result.&rdquo; What type of online presence are you looking to promote? Who and where is your target audience? How much are you willing to spend? Who will implement this strategy? These questions will help you determine the right approach for achieving your goals.</p> <p>Listen in to this <a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/pay-traffic-or-get-it-free-difference-between-sem-and-seo" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/pay-traffic-or-get-it-free-difference-between-sem-and-seo">online workshop</a> to find out:</p> <ul> <li> The tools needed to get the most out of your time and investment in online advertising</li> <li> The difference between on-page SEO and off-page SEO and how to maximize both</li> <li> The 7 parts of your website that tell search engines how to rank you</li> <li> How social media plays a role in your search engine ranking</li> <li> And&hellip; the only guaranteed way to rank on Page 1 of search engine results in less than 1 day</li> </ul> <p><strong>Make Content Work for You </strong></p> <p>You&rsquo;ve certainly heard that content marketing is the next big thing for positioning yourself as the go-to resource in your industry. But it&rsquo;s also an absolutely critical (and often free) way to get your business better known to the search engines. In his 4 part series, <a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/bill-merrow/how-to-win-the-new-game-of-semantic-search-part-i-of-iv-8-steps-to-effective-volume/" title="http://blog.score.org/2014/bill-merrow/how-to-win-the-new-game-of-semantic-search-part-i-of-iv-8-steps-to-effective-volume/">How to Win the New Game of Semantic Search</a>, Bill Merrow, co-founder of Synergy Sales and Marketing, covers everything you need to know to get search engines to authenticate your website and, ultimately, bring you more and better visitors. Bill says &ldquo;In September 2013, Google&rsquo;s Hummingbird update rocked the world of every business concerned with search marketing, as simple keyword strategies were detonated and Google stopped reporting keywords in Google Analytics.&rdquo; Therefore, he explains, content marketing is a necessary tactic for effective SEO. In the series, Bill details the 4 components to properly implementing an effective content strategy: volume, velocity, variety and veracity.</p> <p>The more you know about effective online advertising, the more you realize what a powerful tool it can be for bringing potential customers in the virtual door. It doesn&rsquo;t have to be costly but it can require a time investment to learn the tools at your disposal and decide what works best for reaching your target audience. If you&rsquo;re not sure who that is or how to reach them, <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="http://www.score.org/mentors">reach out to a SCORE mentor for free, expert help</a>.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/make-your-small-business-easily-found-online#comments The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Wed, 09 Apr 2014 18:31:00 +0000 bridgetwpollack 818061 at http://www.sba.gov/community Crowdfunding Sites: Top 3 Tips to Get Funding Once and For All http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/crowdfunding-sites-top-3-tips-get-funding-once-and-all <p>The internet has fundamentally changed the way we do business on a national and global scale. With over 2 billion internet users and growing, the speed and the way in which we communicate, share ideas, and even invest in businesses have changed forever.</p> <p>Now anyone with a computer or mobile device and an internet connection can research, review and become an investor in a business with a push of a button. With the growing popularity of <strong>crowdfunding sites</strong>, it&#39;s clear the idea of advertising to the general public through a crowdfunding platform is far more effective at drawing in investors as opposed to finding traditional investors the old fashion way.</p> <p>To put it bluntly, crowdfunding empowers entrepreneurs.</p> <p>It offers them the ability to raise capital without giving up equity or accumulating debt. Instead, these rewards-based crowdfunding platforms allow entrepreneurs to raise capital from the public in exchange for tangible products or other relative rewards.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s simply one of the best ways to cast a huge net for attracting investors to a business. However, with all the hype and popularity buzzing around the internet, many entrepreneurial hopefuls need to be aware that just because launching a crowdfunding campaign is simple doesn&rsquo;t mean it&rsquo;s easy.</p> <p>There is a big misconception on what it really takes to reach a funding goal and achieve <a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/04/08/successful-crowdfunding-campaigns/" target="_blank" title="crowdfunding resource" type="crowdfunding article"><strong>success in crowdfunding</strong></a>. It&rsquo;s not as simple as creating a campaign and clicking the submit button and waiting for an idea to go viral. The <em>set it and forget it</em> attitude is the number one reason why crowdfunding campaigns fail.</p> <p>Did you know of the roughly 60,000 unsuccessful crowdfunding campaigns launched, about 40,000 failed to reach even 20% of their funding goal? The good news is you can succeed in crowdfunding, you just need to know how to prepare for it.</p> <p>Here are three key tips for crowdfunding success:</p> <p><strong>1) Perfect Your Pitch </strong>&ndash; An incredible pitch is crucial for crowdfunding and can make or break landing an investor. People have to be sold on you, your idea and your vision before they will ever invest in your business.</p> <p>For starters, write up your preliminary draft, include pictures and record a video explaining your vision, the offer and why you should <a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/12/12/how-to-get-funding-for-a-small-business/" target="_blank" title="business funding " type="business funding information">get business funding</a>. Let your passion shine through!</p> <p>Send your pitch to family and friends so you can get feedback and make any necessary changes. Once you perfected the pitch, start locating initial backers before launching your campaign.</p> <p>Remember, you don&rsquo;t have to swim with the sharks; in crowdfunding, you get to swim with the goldfish.</p> <p><strong>2) Test Your Rewards</strong> &ndash; Every successful campaign started with a dedicated following. The obvious rewards would be to provide backers with a digital copy, physical product, souvenirs, combined rewards, etc. depending on your business idea.</p> <p>Start by testing your reward ideas with your personal network, make necessary adjustments and perfect your rewards package so it is unique, eye-catching and memorable.</p> <p><strong>3) Get Pre-Pledges</strong> &ndash; Pre-pledges are commitments from those people who fully support your business idea and will be there to invest on day one when you launch your campaign. Since the majority of crowdfunding sites provide a 30-90 day time frame for each campaign, it&rsquo;s vital to launch with momentum.</p> <p>Did you know the most <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/04/08/successful-crowdfunding-campaigns/" target="_blank" title="crowdfunding success" type="crowdfunding success resource">successful crowdfunding campaigns</a></strong> had their campaigns go live only after they had 20-30% of their business funding secured by initial backers? Let&#39;s face it; nobody wants to be the first person to fund money into a newcomer&#39;s campaign.</p> <p>Once you perfect the pitch, test your rewards, get pre-pledges and choose a reputable crowdfunding platform, you will need to establish a marketing strategy to reach your target audience so you can advance the momentum of your campaign once you go live.</p> <p><strong>Crowdfunding sites</strong> are a strong stepping-stone for acquiring investors for a business. While for some it can be a viable option, entrepreneurs do need to conduct their due diligence to decide if this <a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/01/27/business-funding/" target="_blank" title="Business Funding" type="business funding resource">business funding</a> option is best for them.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/crowdfunding-sites-top-3-tips-get-funding-once-and-all#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:28:52 +0000 Marco Carbajo 818031 at http://www.sba.gov/community How to Use Business Books To Grow Yourself, Your Team, Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-use-business-books-grow-yourself-your-team-your-business <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-c3be48f1-283f-ee23-846d-8b8ada4a3659"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Business books are valuable in that they do more than simply teach you how to run your business more smartly. They&rsquo;re conversation starters, continuing education tools for your staff and more.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Educate Yourself</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-c3be48f1-283f-ee23-846d-8b8ada4a3659"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The primary benefit of business books is, naturally, that they help you achieve better results in business.&nbsp;Don&rsquo;t know a thing about social media marketing? Pick up a book and teach yourself. Curious about the latest leadership technique? A book can help you with that too.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Books only help if you commit to reading them. You&rsquo;re busy. We all are. But if you set a goal for yourself to leverage the knowledge inside books, you end up a smarter business owner.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">It&rsquo;s not necessary to fly across country or spend lots of money on expensive conferences to glean information from business experts. Instead, budget about $150 a year to buy a book each month on Kindle and get all that knowledge (probably more) from the convenience of your favorite easy chair. Don&rsquo;t have a budget for books? Then don&rsquo;t forget your local library. Many even offer digital books these days.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Share Your Knowledge</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">If you blog for your business, books provide great subject fodder. Writing about what you learn is also a wonderful way to process that information and really understand it. As you read, take notes or bookmark pages (yes, you can digitally bookmark as well) so you can come back to pull quotes for your content. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">As you continue to master your industry as an expert, you&rsquo;ll end up imparting what you&rsquo;ve learned. So that book knowledge can be translated into content for speaking engagements, webinars, social media updates ... even data for your own authored book! </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Give It as a Gift</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-c3be48f1-283f-ee23-846d-8b8ada4a3659"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Business books also make fantastic business presents. When you run across a great book, buy copies for key members of your team who you think would benefit and give the books as gifts to each. You could even start a mini book club within your organization and discuss the principles in a book. Not only does this make your team smarter, but it also helps you bond. </span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Clients appreciate good books too. Send a book you&#39;ve read to a favorite client along with a note about what you&#39;ve enjoyed in it (e.g., &quot;I especially loved Chapter 7!&quot;) &nbsp;Doing so will build relationships with your clients, and they will appreciate your ongoing investment in your business expertise. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Pay attention when talking to clients or contacts to get clues about what topics they&rsquo;re interested in. For example, if a long-time client mentions he struggles with analytics, that&rsquo;s the perfect cue for you to send him your favorite book on the subject. People notice when you pick up on their interests, and it makes for a more personalized gift. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Thirst for More</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">There will never, ever be a shortage of books. Every day, new ones are published, especially with the surge of self-published authors. It can be a challenge to know which ones are worth reading, and which aren&rsquo;t. At the next Chamber of Commerce meeting or industry mixer you attend, ask others if they&#39;ve read any good business books recently. Get recommendations from friends and colleagues. Ask your social network what to read. Join </span><a href="https://www.goodreads.com/" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link to Goodreads"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">GoodReads</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> and see what your friends are reading. &nbsp;And check out the </span><a href="http://bookawards.smallbiztrends.com/" style="line-height: 1;" title="Small Business Book Awards"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Small Business Book Awards</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> to see what the community believes are top books for entrepreneurs and small business people.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Make time for reading business books, just like you make time for marketing, sales, and other components of your business. While the results may not be directly obvious, books do help you succeed as a business owner.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-use-business-books-grow-yourself-your-team-your-business#comments The Industry Word Managing Mentoring and Training Starting Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:46:24 +0000 smallbiztrends 814211 at http://www.sba.gov/community How to Work With Freelance Designers http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-work-with-freelance-designers <p>Small business owners often outsource to freelance designers to create their logos, marketing materials and more. While using online services where hundreds of designers bid on your project at the lowest possible price can have its place, there are times when you need an ongoing, personal relationship with a designer&mdash;someone you can work with over and over again and count on to deliver every time.</p> <p>How can you develop this kind of working relationship? Here are some tips.</p> <p>Start by choosing your designer wisely. Your local chamber of commerce, personal and business connections, other small business owners and social media networks are good places to look for designers. If you see a small business with a marketing piece, ad or signage that really stands out to you, contact the business owner and ask where he or she had it done. Good designers will have professional websites where you can check out their portfolios to see whether they&rsquo;ve done projects similar to yours. Ideally, you want to look for a designer who is not only familiar with current design trends, but also has some experience in your industry and working with small businesses.</p> <p>Make a shortlist of several options and contact them for more information about their services. Find out:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How does the designer charge? Some designers charge by the hour, others on a per-project basis. If the designer uses a standard contract, ask to see it. Check out factors such as how many revisions are included in the price, whether you will own all rights to the finished product (very important if the designer is creating your logo), and whether the designer charges a percentage of the fee even if you aren&rsquo;t satisfied with the work.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Who will be working on your projects? Is this a one-person shop or does the designer have partners or employees? You might be impressed with one designer&rsquo;s skills, only to find out a much junior person will be working on your projects. Does the designer outsource to other designers? This isn&rsquo;t necessarily bad, but if the designer is outsourcing to the same type of online design services you were trying to avoid, there&rsquo;s not much point to hiring him or her.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; What other companies does the designer work for? Asking about clients will give you an idea not only of whether the designers is conversant with your industry, but also where you may fall in the pecking order. If a designer has lots of big clients, the reality is you may find your projects falling to the bottom of their priority list. Be sure to address this concern honestly.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where is he or she located? Today, it&rsquo;s possible to work well with designers across the country or even across the globe. However, communicating about design issues can be difficult for small business owners. It&rsquo;s often easier to discuss visual issues in person, and if this is the case for you, you&rsquo;ll want to choose a local designer who can come by your office.</p> <p>Once you&rsquo;ve selected the designer, keep the relationship happy and successful by:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Clearly communicating what you want. Find examples of the type of design you like and explain what you like about them&mdash;is it the color? The use of type faces? The graphics or photos?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Being open to suggestions. You hired a designer for his or her expertise, so use it. You don&#39;t have to accept designs you hate, but do give the designer a chance to explain the reason behind the design. Perhaps he or she will change your mind.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Limiting your requests for revisions. There&rsquo;s nothing a designer hates more than umpteen emails asking to change this, that and the other. It&rsquo;s OK to have a lot of input into the design, but instead of sharing every thought as it pops into your head, take some time to review the work, think about it and discuss all the changes you&rsquo;d like at one time.</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Setting clear expectations and deadlines. As with any working relationship, be sure you are clear about your standards. Using project management and scheduling tools like Zoho, Trello or Google Drive is a great way to ensure you have the latest versions of files all in one place so everyone can look at them and share their input.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-work-with-freelance-designers#comments The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:00:09 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 812661 at http://www.sba.gov/community