http://www.sba.gov/community/blog/rss/13751/feed/RK%3D0/RS%3DT9jgoPVXuJFWOg8HDPZfjuBk7tc- en 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 http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/825991 The Industry Word Business Laws Managing Taxes Thu, 17 Apr 2014 15:49:45 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 825991 at http://www.sba.gov 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 http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/820821 The Industry Word Starting Tue, 15 Apr 2014 12:22:30 +0000 FranchiseKing 820821 at http://www.sba.gov 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 http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/820541 The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Mon, 14 Apr 2014 14:04:42 +0000 bridgetwpollack 820541 at http://www.sba.gov 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 http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/818031 The Industry Word Financing Starting Wed, 09 Apr 2014 17:28:52 +0000 Marco Carbajo 818031 at http://www.sba.gov 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 http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/814211 The Industry Word Managing Mentoring and Training Starting Thu, 03 Apr 2014 15:46:24 +0000 smallbiztrends 814211 at http://www.sba.gov 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 http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/812661 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 01 Apr 2014 15:00:09 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 812661 at http://www.sba.gov Growing Importance of Business Plan Competitions http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/growing-importance-business-plan-competitions <p>Are you aware of business plan competitions? If you&rsquo;re an entrepreneur, they&rsquo;re an excellent opportunity to present your business and compete for cash and in-kind prizes or, worst case, really good feedback from serious business people. If you&rsquo;re lucky enough to be invited to judge, it&rsquo;s a chance to spend a few days reviewing real-world startups.</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve been judging business plan competitions for almost 20 years. As I write this I&rsquo;m looking forward to another season judging venture competitions including the University of Texas&rsquo; <a href="http://www.mccombs.utexas.edu/centers/texas-venture-labs/investment-competition" title="Link to Venture Labs Competition">Venture Labs Investment Competition</a>, the <a href="http://alliance.rice.edu/rbpc.aspx" title="Link to Rice Business Plan Competition">Rice University Business Plan Competition</a>, and the University of Oregon <a href="http://nvc.uoregon.edu/" title="Link to New Venture Championship">New Venture Championship</a>. Each of these three events pit grad-level business students from all over the world against each other as they compete for cash and in-kind prizes. They submit business plans, do business pitches and answer detailed questions.</p> <p>I find judging these competitions fun, interesting and for me a great way to keep up with the evolution of high-level startups, business planning and entrepreneurship education.</p> <p>The University of Texas started this, as far as I know, with the first &ldquo;Moot Corp&rdquo; in 1984. Moot Corp became Venture Labs Competition three years ago. It&rsquo;s the oldest and possibly most prestigious &ndash; although Rice University is a serious rival. All of its entrants have won other business plan competitions to get to that one.</p> <p>The Rice University contest is the richest. Recent winners have won cash prizes of hundreds of thousands of dollars and total prizes of more than $1 million including in-kind services (like free rent, consulting, legal work, etc.)</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve been judging the University of Oregon competition since 1997. I&rsquo;ll never forget arriving on a Thursday morning to discover, to my horror, that I&rsquo;d committed myself to all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My horror changed to real interest as the teams began their pitches. By Saturday I had enjoyed it so much I made sure to stay on the list for the future years. And I&rsquo;ve missed only one year since then.</p> <p>One obvious change I&rsquo;ve seen in this area is the tremendous growth in the number of contests, the interest in contests, the prize money and the seriousness of the startups that enter.</p> <p>The most important change is an amazing increase in the viability of the competing startups. The early Moot Corps were almost entirely hypothetical business plans developed by students as academic exercises. Nowadays most of the entrants in the major business plan competitions are real companies with real prospects. Of the three I judge, a clear majority of the startups that enter will eventually get financed and launch. Both Rice and Texas track angel investments and venture capital financing landed by former contestants in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Winners almost always have viable products, believable management teams, and credible growth prospects.</p> <p>Another change is the length, style and content of the business plans submitted. Today&rsquo;s business plans are much shorter than they used to be, as page limits have gone from 30-40 to 10-20. Judges have to read plans and they want shorter, sharper and more summarized. And &ndash; sadly, in my opinion &ndash; financial projections seem to be less rigorous.</p> <p>Another development is that because of the continuing increase in interest, there is now a good website dedicated entirely to listing competitions, at <a href="http://bizplancompetitions.com" title="Link to bizplancompetitions.com">www.bizplancompetitions.com</a>. You&rsquo;ll be amazed at how many events they list. And I hope you find one you can attend, enter or judge. If you have any interest in startups, it&rsquo;s a great experience.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/growing-importance-business-plan-competitions#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/810581 The Industry Word Starting Wed, 26 Mar 2014 20:30:41 +0000 Tim Berry 810581 at http://www.sba.gov How to Write-off Business Expenses You Pay For http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-write-business-expenses-you-pay <p>As an owner, your company may not pay for every expense you incur on its behalf. Your out-of-pocket costs may be legitimate business expenses that you&rsquo;ll want to deduct. How you do this depends on your business&rsquo; entity type &hellip; and more.</p> <p><strong>Deducting your out-of-pocket costs</strong></p> <p>The legal entity for your business dictates how you deduct the expenses not covered by your company.</p> <ul> <li> <em>Sole proprietors. </em>Independent contractors and other sole proprietors and their businesses are one and the same; in effect there are no unreimbursed expenses. All deductible items are reported on Schedule C. Limited liability companies (LLCs) with a single owner (member) are treated the same as sole proprietors; they too report business expenses on Schedule C (unless they make a special election to be treated differently for tax purposes, which most don&rsquo;t).</li> <li> <em>Corporations</em>. Shareholders can only deduct their out-of-pocket expenses as unreimbursed employee business expenses on Schedule A. This means only amounts in excess of 2% of adjusted gross income become deductible and, if they are high-income taxpayers, a portion of the deductible amount is lost. What&rsquo;s more, if they are subject to the alternative minimum tax, then <em>none </em>of the unreimbursed expenses are deductible. The same treatment applies to shareholders in C and S corporations.</li> <li> <em>Partners and LLC members.</em> Out-of-pocket business expenses that an owner is required to pay on behalf of the entity are an offset to business income; they are subtracted on Schedule E (the deduction is labeled &ldquo;UPE&rdquo; for unreimbursed partnership expense). There are no separate limitations on these deductions as there are on business deductions claimed by shareholders on Schedule A. However, as the <a href="http://ustaxcourt.gov/InOpHistoric/MCLAUCHLAN.TCM.WPD.pdf" title="Links to Tax Court.gov"><u>Tax Court has pointed out</u></a>, no deduction is allowed for the owners if the entity would have paid the expense under the terms of the partnership agreement or past business practices but the owners failed to ask for reimbursement.</li> </ul> <p><strong>Reimbursement arrangements</strong></p> <p>You can sidestep the need for personal deductions if your business agrees to cover all of the expenses you incur on its behalf. It&rsquo;s advisable to put this arrangement in writing, specifying what you need to do to receive reimbursement.</p> <p>Corporations can set up accountable plans to reimburse employee business expenses. The plans create tax savings for both the corporations and owners because reimbursements are not treated as taxable compensation; there are no employment taxes on the reimbursed amounts. To be treated as <a href="http://www.irsvideos.gov/TaxabilityCertainFringeBenefits/pdf/Accountable_v_Nonaccountable_Plans_Methods_of_Reimbursing_Employees_for_Expense.pdf" title="Links to IRS.gov site"><u>an accountable plan</u></a>, all of the following three conditions must be satisfied:</p> <ol> <li> Expenses reimbursed under the plan must have a business connection (a condition that is usually easily satisfied).</li> <li> Employees must adequately account to the company for expenses within a reasonable time (generally within 60 days after the expenses were paid or incurred). Accounting means providing the company with proper documentation of expenses (e.g., an expense account form or other statement&mdash;on paper, electronically or via mobile).</li> <li> Employees must return to the company any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable time (generally 120 days after the expense was paid or incurred). Advances usually can&rsquo;t be made more than 30 days before the time of the expenses.</li> </ol> <p>While most employee benefit plans have nondiscrimination rules, such rules don&rsquo;t apply to accountable plans. There is nothing in the conditions of accountable plans that would bar a corporation from limiting reimbursements to owner-employees (i.e., not reimbursing other employees) if it makes business sense to do this.</p> <p>Technically accountable plans cannot be used for the expenses of self-employed owners (such plans are limited to reimbursement of employee business expenses). However, partnerships can have a reimbursement arrangement for owners. Partnership agreements should specify their reimbursement policy, which may include or exclude certain reimbursements. For example, if partners want to deduct unreimbursed expenses, there should be a reimbursement policy stating that partners are required to cover such costs and that the partnership will not pay for them. Unreimbursed costs can include indirect partnership expenses, such as partners&rsquo; cell phones and local travel (e.g., between the office and clients and customers).</p> <p><strong>Keep good records</strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s easy to lose track of items you pay for on behalf of your business unless you have a recordkeeping system. You may want to use a separate credit card on which you charge only business-related items. Take advantage of apps that let you track business expenses and capture receipts on the go.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>Questions? Be sure to ask your tax advisor about the best way to handle business expenses so you&rsquo;ll maximize your business deductions for legitimate business costs.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-write-business-expenses-you-pay#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/808301 The Industry Word Taxes Thu, 20 Mar 2014 12:38:11 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 808301 at http://www.sba.gov Is The Green Franchising Scene Still Active? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/green-franchising-scene-still-active <p>Maybe my radar screen just needs a bit of a tune-up.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s because the word &ldquo;green&rdquo; hasn&rsquo;t been on it as of late.</p> <p>For a while, it seemed like <a href="http://www.sba.gov/green-business-guide" title="sba article on green business">everybody was talking about green</a>.</p> <p>Green energy. Green chemicals. And, green franchises.</p> <p>A few short years ago, I was talking and writing about what&rsquo;s turned out to be an entire new sector in franchising. I was very excited about the business possibilities. I launched a green franchise web directory. I helped a solar energy franchise get the word out about their opportunity. I tried to learn all I could about all things green. A good friend of mine in Florida, experienced with green energy and technology, brought me up-to-speed on the latest and greatest developments. I was seriously &ldquo;energized&rdquo; by all of it.</p> <p>Solar energy intrigued me, and still does. Before the recession, there was pretty much only one solar energy company offering franchises. Now there are several. I just don&rsquo;t hear about them much. What does that mean? Is interest in solar energy fading?&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>I wrote about green franchising <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/green-franchise-business-scene" title="green business link sba.gov">on SBA.gov</a> back in 2010. The article included a couple of different green franchise concepts. I think my enthusiasm showed back then.</p> <p>Included in that article was information about environmentally-friendly cleaning agents.&nbsp;</p> <p>&ldquo;Residential and commercial cleaning services (of the franchise variety) are jumping on the green bandwagon. Some of them are starting to use cleaning products that are non-toxic, and that won&#39;t hurt our environment.&rdquo;</p> <p>If my memory serves me correctly, Maid Brigade, a franchisor who I had done some work for, was really the first residential cleaning franchise to get serious about the green movement. As a matter of fact, <a href="http://www.maidbrigade.com/green-house-cleaning/green-cleaning-services" title="link to maid brigade website green cleaning product use">they still are</a>*. But, I&rsquo;m not hearing about the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning solutions as much as I used to. What&rsquo;s changed?</p> <p>Maybe the seemingly waning interest in green and the business opportunities that surround it have to do with <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2009/03/25/news/economy/depression_comparisons/" title="link to article about the recession">the great recession</a>*, and the necessary belt-tightening that went on during that time. Green products and services generally aren&rsquo;t cheap. Maybe our priorities have changed because of the hit we took when the economy took a turn for the worse.</p> <p>I have another theory. Maybe we&rsquo;ve all gotten so used to hearing about solar energy, wind energy, and safe chemicals, we are just well...used to hearing about green things. What do you think? Are green initiatives so commonplace now that we&rsquo;re just used to hearing about them?</p> <p>&nbsp;<strong>Green Franchises</strong></p> <p>There are plenty of opportunities you can choose from in the franchise world that are considered green. <a href="http://www.franchisesolutions.com/earth-friendly-franchises.cfm" title="link to green franchise opportunity examples">Here is an entire page of them</a>*. Just make sure they&rsquo;re truly green.</p> <p>A writer for Franchise Direct wrote about what&rsquo;s called &ldquo;greenwashing,&rdquo; which is when companies aggressively market themselves as green, but aren&rsquo;t.&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;&ldquo;When selecting a green franchise, make sure they are truly green. A lot of &ldquo;greenwashing&rdquo; occurs as franchisors try to profit from the hype without putting forth the effort required to be truly green. In some cases a franchise spends their entire green budget on promoting the fact that they are a green company rather than using the money to implement green practices. Also be aware that some green &ldquo;awards&rdquo; displayed may not be legitimate.&rdquo;</p> <p>Make sure the green franchise you&rsquo;re interested in truly is green.</p> <p><strong>The Future Of Green Franchising</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/green-businesses" title="sba.gov link to green biz info">Businesses that offer and use green products and services</a> are going to win in the long-run. As more people get educated about the importance of clean and sustainable energy, more of them are going to demand it in their everyday lives. There are franchise businesses out there right now that provide it. One day there may even be franchises that sell and install wind farms. The opportunities are endless.</p> <p>In the not too distant future, almost all of the cleaning agents we use around our homes and offices will be free of damaging toxins. Franchises in the residential and commercial cleaning sectors that aren&rsquo;t using green chemicals will have to&hellip;again because of consumer demand.</p> <p>Green franchising isn&rsquo;t going away. The sector just needs to be re-energized a bit.</p> <p>*Non U.S. Government links</p> <p>&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/green-franchising-scene-still-active#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/807591 The Industry Word Starting Tue, 18 Mar 2014 12:01:42 +0000 FranchiseKing 807591 at http://www.sba.gov Is Bad Credit Stopping You from Getting Business Loans? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/bad-credit-stopping-you-getting-business-loans <p>In a recent <a href="http://www.colemanreport.com/capital-wanted-but-only-from-preferred-sources/?utm_source=September+19%2C+2013+CRAM&amp;utm_campaign=082412+AM&amp;utm_medium=email" target="_blank" title="report" type="report">report</a>, over 63% of business owners attempting to find funding say they most often targeted banks. Unfortunately, the success among these respondents of actually getting a business loan was a low 27%. &nbsp;</p> <p>However, recent news suggest small business owners considered creditworthy are discovering it to be easier to get business loans from traditional banks. This is good news for the economy since access to funding for small businesses is a part of job and economic growth.</p> <p>Unfortunately, bad credit plagues a large percentage of small business owners as a result of the financial crisis several years back. The fact remains that it&rsquo;s harder for smaller businesses &shy;&ndash; even with stellar credit ratings &shy;&ndash; to get traditional bank loans than it is for larger businesses.</p> <p>Access to capital is the single largest roadblock most business owners face when growing their business. With a <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/08/14/unsecured-business-loans/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="unsecured business loan info">business loan</a></strong>, these businesses can hire new employees, purchase additional inventory, buy or upgrade equipment and increase their marketing efforts.</p> <p>So what can a business owner do if bad credit is preventing them from getting a business loan?</p> <p>The good news is there are alternative funding programs and solutions providing business owners the opportunity to obtain a business loan or line of credit regardless of having bad personal credit. Instead, other factors are taken into consideration such as bank deposit history, credit card sales, credit partners and other data sources.</p> <p>Here are several factors that can get you a business loan regardless of having bad credit:</p> <p><strong>Bank deposits </strong>&ndash; A business with regular bank deposits can put its cash flow to work with <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/09/16/revenue-based-financing/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="revenue based loan info">revenue-based loans</a></strong>. This program is based on the deposits going into the business bank account on a monthly basis. Typically, a business can obtain a business loan equal to 10% of its annual gross deposits regardless of having bad credit. Another benefit of this program is the time it takes to get funded, which is approximately 7 business days.</p> <p>Keep in mind the loan term can be as long as 18 months with this program, with rates slightly higher than a traditional bank rate. It requires no collateral, financials or tax returns. Repayments are made in small increments every day via ACH from the business bank account.</p> <p><strong>Credit card sales</strong> &ndash; This type of funding program, known as a merchant cash advance, provides businesses with upfront cash in exchange for a portion of future credit card sales. For businesses that have regular monthly credit card sales but struggle with bad personal credit, a merchant cash advance may be a viable option.</p> <p>However, be very selective on what merchant cash advance provider you select. Some providers can cost as high as 38% while others can be as low as 12%. In addition, when it comes to repayment, the majority of merchant cash providers take a fixed percentage of your daily credit card receipt volume until the advance you took is paid back. Other <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2012/04/26/business-merchant-cash-advance/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business merchant cash advance info">business cash advance providers</a></strong> may offer a fixed monthly installment payment for its repayment method.</p> <p><strong>Credit Partner </strong>&ndash; Using a business partner(s) as a credit partner for obtaining lines of credit in the form of <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-credit-cards-what-every-business-owner-should-consider" target="_blank" title="sba blog" type="business credit card info">business credit cards</a></strong> can be a viable solution to overcome a personal credit challenge. A business partner who has strong credit scores is the best place to look. You may also want to consider someone who may be interested in participating in your business as a potential credit partner.</p> <p>This method does bring risk to the credit partner because they are cosigning with the business to obtain funding. However, it&rsquo;s important to note the type of unsecured business credit cards I am referring to will not appear on the personal credit reports of the cosigner unless they go into default.</p> <p>There are many other types of funding programs that offer small business owners the opportunity to get business loans or access to cash without having perfect credit or subjecting themselves to all the rigorous analysis, cumbersome paperwork, lengthy process and aggravating timelines that comes with a traditional business loan. &nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/bad-credit-stopping-you-getting-business-loans#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/805661 The Industry Word Financing Starting Tue, 11 Mar 2014 23:24:42 +0000 Marco Carbajo 805661 at http://www.sba.gov 10 Ways to Maximize Your Home Office for Productivity http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/10-ways-maximize-your-home-office-productivity <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you run one of the 14+ million home-based small businesses in the United States, congratulations. You&rsquo;ve got lower overhead, a shorter commute and the opportunity to be more productive than your office-based competitors.</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Still, working from home isn&rsquo;t all eating peanut butter out of the jar and wearing your fuzzy slippers. There are plenty of pitfalls that can distract you from getting your work done. Here we look at 10 ways to ensure you&rsquo;re set up for success in your home office.</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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">1. Carve Out a Workspace</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Not every entrepreneur is fortunate enough to have a spare room to turn into an office. That&rsquo;s okay. You can use part of a room separated by a curtain or even a closet. The point here is to ensure you have a dedicated space that is only for work.</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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">2. Set Up Your Day</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">The more routines you have, the more you&rsquo;ll get done. If you have small children at home with you while you work, plan to work when they nap or when they&rsquo;re quiet; otherwise you won&rsquo;t be productive. Plan out your work hours; they don&rsquo;t have to be 9 to 5, but they should be fairly consistent. Also, consider your attire. Some people love working in pajamas or sweats.&nbsp;Other people (like me) get more done by getting dressed in &ldquo;business casual&rdquo; &ndash; for some reason getting dressed to be seen by the world makes me feel more professional, even if it&rsquo;s just me. &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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">3. Figure Out When You Work Best</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Part of those routines you need to set up involve determining when you&rsquo;re most productive. Some people are night owls, and some are early birds.&nbsp;Some need quiet time without phones and instant messages, so getting up early avoids that. You might need complete quiet in your home office. Whatever your needs, don&rsquo;t fight against them.</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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">4. Have an Ergonomic Set Up</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">You need a comfortable chair with good back support, a decent computer monitor you can easily see and a keyboard at the right height to avoid awkward pressure on arms and wrists. Don&rsquo;t forget your eyes. Your computer should be at the right distance to see without strain; if necessary, see your eye doctor for &ldquo;computer glasses&rdquo; that are made for viewing a computer properly.&nbsp;Two monitors also can help productivity (less time spent jumping between applications), so if you can afford an extra monitor, by all means try it out. </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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">5. Use Smart Tools</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">There are so many free or affordable software programs and apps for small businesses! Find the ones that help you do more. A few options:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <ul style="margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"> <li dir="ltr" style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 13px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><a href="http://drive.google.com/" title="Link to Google Drive"><span style="font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Google Drive</span></a></span></p> </li> <li dir="ltr" style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 13px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><a href="http://www.dropbox.com/" title="Link to Dropbox"><span style="font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">DropBox</span></a></span></p> </li> <li dir="ltr" style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 13px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><a href="http://www.skype.com/" title="Link to Skype"><span style="font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Skype</span></a></span></p> </li> <li dir="ltr" style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 13px; font-family: Arial; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><a href="http://www.freshbooks.com/" title="Link to FreshBooks"><span style="font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">FreshBooks</span></a></span></p> </li> </ul> <p><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">6. Remove Distractions</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It can be tempting to fold the laundry that&rsquo;s in the middle of the floor, but pretend you&rsquo;re at an office and ignore it. It&rsquo;s important to designate certain hours for work, and certain hours for home life. Occasionally, it&rsquo;s fine to take a break and run an errand, but don&rsquo;t let it encourage you to procrastinate on a project.</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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">7. Get Out of the House</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: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Many people can&rsquo;t bear being alone all the time in their home offices. Fortunately, we&rsquo;ve become a mobile society, and you&rsquo;ll always see plenty of people at your local coffee shop working on their laptops. Get a change of environment. Try working from a park or restaurant, </span><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">if you can be productive there. </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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">8. Find Support in Person or Online</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: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It can be nice to meet other home-based entrepreneurs too. Find a local </span><a href="http://www.meetup.com/" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link to the Meetup site"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">meetup</span></a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> of peopl</span><a href="http://www.meetup.com/" style="line-height: 1;"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(26, 26, 26); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">e like</span></a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> you or a </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/events" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link to small business events calendar"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">local event</span></a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> whe</span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/events" style="line-height: 1;"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(26, 26, 26); vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">re you can</span></a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> share your stories and find support in your small business endeavors.&nbsp;If you spend any time on Twitter or other social media sites, you&rsquo;ll find plenty of folks who, like you, are working out of their homes. </span><a href="https://twitter.com/search?q=%23homebiz&amp;src=typd" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link to Twitter Homebiz hashtag"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">#HomeBiz</span></a><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> is a great hashtag to follow to find content and conversations geared toward people like you.</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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">9. Keep Learning</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: 13px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Find as many opportunities as you can to develop your business and industry knowledge. This can come in the form of online webinars, Twitter chats, in-person conferences, seminars, books, blogs and magazines.</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: 13px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">10. Meet Regularly With Staff</span></p> <p><span id="docs-internal-guid-a85d790b-97c0-f5c0-8637-de1206483d58"><span style="font-size: 13px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">If you have employees who also work from their homes, make a point to meet once a week or month so you reap the benefits of face-to-face time. While it&rsquo;s completely possible to work virtually, nothing can make up for that in-person relationship-building time.</span></span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/10-ways-maximize-your-home-office-productivity#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/803921 The Industry Word Managing Starting Thu, 06 Mar 2014 14:23:49 +0000 smallbiztrends 803921 at http://www.sba.gov Business Cards Still Matter. Here’s How to Make Yours Stand Out http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-cards-still-matter-here%E2%80%99s-how-make-yours-stand-out <p>It&rsquo;s hard to believe with all the options we have for sharing contact information electronically, but the good old-fashioned business card is not going away any time soon. According to a <a href="http://www.examiner.com/article/study-finds-most-americans-still-handing-out-business-cards?cid=rss" type="homepage">survey</a> by global crowdsourcing marketplace <a href="http://www.designcrowd.com/" type="homepage">Designcrowd</a>, a whopping 87 percent of Americans still exchange business cards when they meet someone for the first time.</p> <p>If you think this is an empty gesture done out of habit, think again. More than two-thirds of survey respondents say business cards are useful because they either enter the information into their smartphones or file the cards in a Rolodex. In fact, Designcrowd says the number of business card design projects created on its website grew by 357 percent last year.</p> <p>Personally, I can see the benefit of quickly exchanging a card along with a handshake, as opposed to fumbling with your smartphone to input someone&rsquo;s information. Clearly, lots of businesspeople feel the way I do and are churning out business cards.</p> <p>So how can you make your business cards stand out from the crowd? Here are some trends to consider in business card design for 2014 and beyond.</p> <p><strong>Incorporate QR codes.</strong> QR codes haven&rsquo;t quite panned out as digital marketing tools, but they can work for business cards as an interactive lead generation tool. If your company sells B2B products or services or is in an industry with lots of tech-savvy, early adopters, a QR code might be worth a try. To make the most of a QR code, make sure it goes to a special landing page on your website where the user can learn more about your business and contact you for more information. For instance, it could be an About page with a video about your business and a click-to-call button or a form they can fill out to get a call from a sales rep.</p> <p><strong>Focus on branding.</strong> Your business card should convey your brand at a glance. This means your logo should be prominent and the overall feel of the card should harmonize with the rest of your marketing materials in terms of colors, fonts and images. The cleverest card in the world won&rsquo;t do its job if the message it conveys doesn&rsquo;t jibe with your brand.</p> <p><strong>Spend more on quality.</strong> Generic business cards are a dime a dozen (or 250 for $10), but they blend in and convey a &ldquo;blah&rdquo; message that your business is just like everyone else&rsquo;s. By spending a little more on high-quality elements such as handmade or textured paper, rounded corners, colored edges or embossed print, you can convey an image of quality that makes your business cards&mdash;and your business&mdash;memorable.</p> <p><strong>Keep it simple.</strong> Business cards packed with information, images and multiple colors look dated and tacky today. Today&rsquo;s trendy business cards feature clean lines and clear, legible fonts inspired by the &ldquo;flat design&rdquo; trend currently popular in website design. Flat design is characterized by a minimalist look. Instead of shadows or 3-D effects, flat design features strong lines; solid, saturated blocks of color; and creative use of typography.</p> <p><strong>Choose the right font.</strong> Clean, sans-serif fonts fit into the flat design trend. They look modern and are easier to read. Use fonts at least 12 point or larger. Also consider how your fonts stand out against the color of your card&mdash;if they&rsquo;re too similar, the card will be hard to read. In contrast to minimal fonts, another hot trend is fonts that look handwritten; these can work great for a business that prides itself on unique, quirky or artisanal products.</p> <p><strong>Both sides now.</strong> How do you reconcile simplicity with the need to include your business website, office and cell numbers, email and tons of social media handles on your card? Try keeping the front of the card clean with just your logo or other image, your name and your business name, then putting the details on the back.</p> <p><strong>Get professional help.</strong> Sure, you can pick your business cards using an online template, but it&rsquo;s worth spending a bit more to get something uniquely yours. There are dozens of crowdsourcing business card sites where you can get graphic designers to compete for your project, or talk to colleagues to get recommendations for a good designer in your area.</p> <p>What matters most about your business card is that it reflect your brand and your industry. Here are some cool examples of creative cards I&rsquo;ve seen:</p> <ul> <li> Business cards made out of cloth for an apparel designer</li> <li> A travel agency with business cards shaped like luggage tags</li> <li> Pet groomer business cards shaped like dog tags</li> <li> Business cards embossed with 3-D seeds for a landscaper</li> <li> A photographer featuring one of her photos as the background for her business cards</li> </ul> <p>You get the idea. Get creative, and your cards will get results! Once you&rsquo;ve got your cards, check out <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-ways-make-most-marketing-with-business-cards" type="homepage">this post</a> for ideas on how to use them.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-cards-still-matter-here%E2%80%99s-how-make-yours-stand-out#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/801821 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 04 Mar 2014 08:21:08 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 801821 at http://www.sba.gov When and Why Should You Stick to the Plan? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/when-and-why-should-you-stick-plan <p>There was a time, a few decades ago, when I thought sticking to the plan was a good for business. &ldquo;Because that&rsquo;s the plan&rdquo; seemed like a good thing. But I&rsquo;ve changed my mind.<img alt="wall and ladder istock.com" src="http://timsstuff.s3.amazonaws.com/blogs/Wall%20and%20ladder%20iStock_000002393930XSmall.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 197px; float: right;" /></p> <p>Having a plan is absolutely a good thing. And sticking to the planning process &mdash; which means regularly checking results, evaluating progress, and revising a plan &mdash; is absolutely a good thing too. But sticking to a plan? Just because it&rsquo;s supposedly something people do? No.</p> <p>Years ago, I was one of four friends taking a two-week road trip in Europe. We were young, single and having fun. Three of us were fairly flexible about things, so if we liked one spot we&rsquo;d want to stay there longer; if we didn&rsquo;t like another, we&rsquo;d want to take off early. But the fourth always wanted to stick to the plan. And that was such a pain. We&rsquo;d made the plan before we left, and our trip meant learning. I remember the arguments: he&rsquo;d say &ldquo;but we have a plan&rdquo; and we&rsquo;d say &ldquo;but when we made the plan we didn&rsquo;t know what we do now.&rdquo;</p> <p>Fast forward to today and the first thing we can all see is that business time frames have changed. Business moves faster than it used to. And the business landscape has changed too. There&rsquo;s still a lot of consolidation at the top, and those huge enterprises need to manage longer-term plans in order to be able to steer. But there&rsquo;s also huge fragmentation at the bottom, too, with more than 20 million U.S. companies having no employees, and six or so small businesses, and they move faster. They have to.</p> <p>So assumptions change very quickly. And that, to my mind, is the key to managing a business plan and keeping it useful.</p> <p>First, do a plan that has concrete specifics you can track. Include not just the obvious numbers for sales, costs, and expenses, but also other manageable numbers like web traffic, visits, leads, presentations, calls, downloads, likes, mentions, updates, and whatever else drives your business.</p> <p>Second, set a regular schedule for reviewing plan vs. actual results. Have a monthly task to look at progress and identify problems.</p> <p>Third, learn to distinguish problems of execution from changed assumptions. If assumptions have changed, then the plan should change. If assumptions still hold true, then the difference between plan and actual results is a matter of execution. React to surprises according to what direction they go and what cause and effect you see. Usually, unexpectedly good results are a good reason to look at shifting resources towards the positive; unexpectedly bad results are a good reason to shift resources to correct a problem.</p> <p>And that&rsquo;s what I call the good side of sticking to a plan: have a plan, review it regularly, and revise it as needed. It&rsquo;s way easier to correct your course if you have a plan than if you&rsquo;re just reacting to whatever happened yesterday.&nbsp;</p> <p><em>(Image courtesy of stockphoto.com)</em></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/when-and-why-should-you-stick-plan#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/798621 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Starting Tue, 25 Feb 2014 02:45:41 +0000 Tim Berry 798621 at http://www.sba.gov 5 Payroll Tax Mistakes to Avoid http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-payroll-tax-mistakes-avoid <p>If you have at least one employee, you&rsquo;re responsible for payroll taxes. These include withholding federal (and, where appropriate, state) income taxes and FICA tax from employees&rsquo; wages as well as paying the employer share of FICA tax and federal and state unemployment taxes. The responsibility is great and the penalties for missteps make it essential that you do things right.</p> <p> <strong>1.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Misclassifying workers</strong><br /> Perhaps the hottest audit issue today is misclassifying workers. There&rsquo;s incentive to treat workers as independent contractors rather than employees because payroll taxes and employee benefit costs are high; a company&rsquo;s only tax responsibility for an independent is issuing a Form 1099-MISC if payments in the year are $600 or more.</p> <p> You don&rsquo;t have the freedom to select the label for the worker; classification depends on whether you have sufficient control over the worker. This essentially means having the right to say when, where, and how the work gets done. Having an independent contractor agreement is helpful in showing that you and the worker do not intend any employer-employee relationships, but it doesn&rsquo;t bind the IRS, who is not a party to the agreement.</p> <p> Find information about worker classification <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee" target="_blank" title="Links to IRS.gov">from the IRS</a>. When in doubt, consult your tax advisor.</p> <p> <strong>2.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Not using an accountable plan for employee reimbursements</strong><br /> If you normally pay for travel, entertainment, tools or other business costs for employees, you&rsquo;re wasting employment tax dollars if you don&rsquo;t use an accountable plan. With this arrangement, you deduct the expenses but avoid all payroll taxes on reimbursements; employees do not have any income from reimbursements.</p> <p> To be an accountable plan, the employer must formalize the arrangement and set reasonable times for action (the following times are reasonable to the IRS but you can adopt shorter time limits for action):</p> <ul> <li> The reimbursable expense must be business related.</li> <li> Advances cannot be made before 30 days of the expense.</li> <li> Employees must account for the expenses within 60 days of the expense.</li> <li> Employees must return excess reimbursements to the employer within 120 days of the expense.</li> </ul> <p>Find details on accountable plans <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee" target="_blank" title="Links to IRS.gov site">from the IRS</a>.</p> <p> <strong>3.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Failing to keep payroll records</strong><br /> You are required to maintain payroll records and have them available for IRS inspection. These include time sheets, expense accounts, copies of W-2s and other payroll records. Usually, you should keep information for at least four years.</p> <p> You should also retain copies of <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/sites/default/files/files/form/i-9.pdf" target="_blank" title="Links to USCIS.gov site">Forms I-9</a>, which shows an employee&rsquo;s eligibility to work in the U.S. States may also have certain hiring forms that should be retained (e.g., E-verify forms). Details about retaining I-9s can be found at the <a href="http://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/retain-store-form-i-9/retaining-form-i-9" target="_blank" title="Links to USCIS.gov site">U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Department.</a><br /> &nbsp;<br /> <strong>4.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Choosing to pay creditors before the IRS</strong><br /> When a business gets into a cash crush, it may be tempting to pay the landlord, vendor, or utility company before the IRS; don&rsquo;t! As a business owner, you are a &ldquo;responsible person&rdquo; who remains 100% personally liable for &ldquo;trust fund&rdquo; taxes (amounts withheld from employees&rsquo; wages). This is so even if your business is incorporated or is a limited liability company.</p> <p> <em>Best strategy:</em> Set aside cash to cover payroll taxes so you won&rsquo;t use these funds for any other purpose. Find more information about the trust fund recovery penalty <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Employment-Taxes-and-the-Trust-Fund-Recovery-Penalty-TFRP" target="_blank" title="Links to IRS.gov site">from the IRS</a>.</p> <p> <strong>5.&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;Failing to monitor payroll company activities</strong><br /> Many small businesses use outside payroll companies to handle the job of figuring withholding as well as transferring funds to the U.S. Treasury to cover payroll taxes. However, some of these companies may not do their job, by error or intentionally. As an employer, even if you use an outside payroll company you remain responsible for payroll taxes.</p> <p> <em>Best protection</em>: Monitor your tax account to see that funds are being deposited on time and in the correct amount. If deposits are made electronically using <a href="http://www.eftps.gov" target="_blank" title="Links to EFTPS.gov ">EFTPS.gov</a>, you can easily see activities in your account.</p> <p> <strong>Conclusion</strong><br /> Stay on top of your employer responsibilities to avoid any penalties or entanglements with the IRS, the Department of Labor, or your state&rsquo;s agencies.<br /> &nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-payroll-tax-mistakes-avoid#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/797631 The Industry Word Business Laws Taxes Thu, 20 Feb 2014 13:56:32 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 797631 at http://www.sba.gov In A Franchise, When Does The Money Start Rolling In? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-when-does-money-start-rolling <p>You need to know how long it&rsquo;s going to take to start recouping your investment in the <strong>franchise</strong> concept you&rsquo;ve chosen. You certainly shouldn&rsquo;t have to guess how long it&rsquo;s going to take for you to see some green.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;d like to find out when the money will start rolling in, keep reading. I&rsquo;m going to show you how to get that money question answered.</p> <p><strong>Open For Business</strong></p> <p>The day you open your <strong>franchise</strong> business up, you should see some money rolling in.</p> <p>That day&hellip;Grand Opening Day should be a day to remember, especially if the marketing department at franchise headquarters did its job. Customers should be everywhere. Wallets should be out. Money should be rolling in. And, when word gets out that <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-businesses-can-and-do-impact-local-communities" title="link to article about local business activity">there&rsquo;s a new business in town</a>, you should see a good amount of foot traffic (if it&rsquo;s a retail or food franchise) going in and out of your new business.</p> <p>Money will be flowing in. It will feel good. You&rsquo;ll feel like a million bucks. Enjoy that feeling. Savor it like a fine wine or a corn-fed steak.</p> <p><strong>The Money Can&rsquo;t Roll Into Your Pocket Yet&nbsp; &nbsp;</strong></p> <p>The money that&rsquo;s rolling into your new business can&rsquo;t go into your pocket. Not yet. It needs to go back into your business. You&rsquo;ll have expenses to cover&hellip;things like rent, inventory, advertising and utilities. Of course there&rsquo;s payroll. And don&rsquo;t forget that you have to repay <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/sba-sets-fees-new-loans-under-150000-zero-getting-loans-hands-more-entrepreneurs" title="link to sba news article about loans">the small business loan</a> you received.</p> <p>That probably won&rsquo;t leave much&hellip;and it&rsquo;s not supposed to. You own a brand-new business&hellip;a startup business. Before you can pocket some of the money that will be coming in, <a href="http://www.thefranchiseking.com/break-even-in-a-franchise" title="link to franchise king blog article on breaking even in a franchise">you need to get your franchise business to break-even</a>.* That should be your short-term goal.</p> <p><strong>What Is Break-Even?</strong></p> <p>That&rsquo;s the point in which your revenue pays your business expenses. Only then can you start thinking about pocketing some of the money that&rsquo;s coming in.</p> <p>But, you knew that.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s because you took the time to write a proper business plan. One that included your <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-sales-forecast" title="business planning topics">sales forecast</a>. A good business plan will include projections. You&rsquo;ll have an idea of when you&rsquo;ll be breaking even, what your sales will have to be to get there.&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Franchise Ownership Is A Long-Term Thing</strong></p> <p>You&rsquo;ve got to be in it for the long haul.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re looking to replace your salary quickly, it probably won&rsquo;t happen. You&rsquo;re going to have to be patient. Your family will have to be patient too. Hopefully, you&rsquo;ve set aside some funds to get you through those first few months&hellip;or longer.</p> <p>I know you want to see the money rolling in.</p> <p>Choose a franchise that&rsquo;s a good match for your skills. Make sure it&rsquo;s well within your means. Talk to a lot of existing franchisees, and chose one or two to visit in-person. Write a formal business plan. Consult with a franchise attorney.</p> <p>If you do enough right things, the money may well roll in.</p> <p>I&rsquo;m pulling for you.</p> <p>*Non-US Government link&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-when-does-money-start-rolling#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/796361 The Industry Word Starting Tue, 18 Feb 2014 14:28:49 +0000 FranchiseKing 796361 at http://www.sba.gov Developing a Content Marketing Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/developing-content-marketing-strategy <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">While some of online marketing is trendy and will inevitably fade away, there&rsquo;s no disputing that content marketing is here to stay. If you&rsquo;ve heard this buzzword, but aren&rsquo;t really clear on what it includes, that&rsquo;s probably because its definition is expanding as marketers find new ways to provide content to their audience.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-family: Cambria; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">In general, content marketing includes:</span></p> <ul style="margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Blogs</span></span></p> </li> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Videos</span></span></p> </li> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Infographics</span></span></p> </li> <li style="list-style-type: disc; font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline;"> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Whitepapers/Ebooks</span></span></p> </li> </ul> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span><span style="vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">​</span></span></p> <h2 dir="ltr" style="line-height: 1; margin-top: 0pt; margin-bottom: 0pt;"> <em><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">How to Get More Readers (and Thereby Customers)</span></span></em></h2> <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-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">The point of content marketing is to attract new potential customers to your site. You&rsquo;re providing useful information to them (in whatever format you choose), and ultimately, you&rsquo;re working to build trust. Once they feel they can trust you, that relationship moves into the sales funnel. </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 id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">But first you want to get as many readers or viewers of your content as possible, since they won&rsquo;t all buy from you. Here&rsquo;s how.</span></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;"> <em><span id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; font-style: italic; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Share Content on Social Media</span></span></em></h2> <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-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Each blog post, video, infographic or ebook you create should be trumpeted through your social network. And not just once! Schedule several updates -- across all channels -- encouraging your followers to click to view the content you have created. Ask your followers to also share the update with their followers to reach a wider audience.</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: Cambria; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So what&rsquo;s the ideal number of times to share? There is none. Just be mindful of your audience, and don&rsquo;t alienate them by posting multiple updates every day begging them to read your content. A few times a week is a good place to start.</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: Cambria; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Post Content to Bookmarking Sites</span></h2> <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-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">For many people, social bookmarking sites like Stumbleupon and </span><a href="http://www.bizsugar.com/" title="BizSugar.com, a content sharing site just for small businesses"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(0, 0, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">BizSugar</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> are where they get their content. The benefit of doing so is that the content has already been vetted, so to speak. The most popular content has the most votes, so a quick skim through the top links should net the best content.</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: Cambria; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">For you, social bookmarking sites offer fabulous opportunity to connect to readers you wouldn&rsquo;t otherwise have found. The more places you can pick up new readers, the more customers you&rsquo;ll get.</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: Cambria; font-size: 16px; font-style: italic; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Set Up an RSS Feed</span></h2> <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-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It needs to be stupidly simple for visitors to your blog to easily get updates every time you post a new article. That&rsquo;s where </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/06/what-is-rss.html" title="Information on RSS feeds and how they work"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(0, 0, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">RSS feeds</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> come into play. When a visitor signs up to get your blog updates, she can either read them in an RSS feeder with her other favorite blogs, or get your updates via email. That way, she doesn&rsquo;t have to remember to check back on your blog for new content.</span></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 id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Set Up a Success Measurement Plan</span></span></h2> <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-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">All this hard work in developing and sharing your content will be for naught if you don&rsquo;t measure results! Paying attention to how many visitors you&rsquo;re attracting with your content can help you know if you&rsquo;re doing a good enough job in marketing and sharing that content. And knowing which topics people are reading or viewing the most can help you generate future content ideas.</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 id="docs-internal-guid-11c29c6d-2bb2-6b23-05c9-129d69649244"><a href="http://www.google.com/analytics/" title="Google Analytics, a free tool to measure your website performance"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; color: rgb(0, 0, 255); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Google Analytics</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Cambria; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> is the easiest tool to provide data on all of this. Plus, it&rsquo;s free to use.&nbsp;With Analytics, you can also look at traffic over time and make sure it&rsquo;s steadily rising the way you want it to. You can also look at conversions, if you sell products online. In other words: is the traffic that&rsquo;s arriving on your blog converting into paying customers? If not, you should analyze your site to determine the disconnect.</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: Cambria; font-size: 16px; line-height: 1; white-space: pre-wrap;">These days, it&#39;s not enough to throw blog content out into cyberspace. You need a plan for your content marketing strategy so you draw in the right people with your content and turn them into loyal customers.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/developing-content-marketing-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/795891 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Thu, 13 Feb 2014 14:51:47 +0000 smallbiztrends 795891 at http://www.sba.gov Build Business Credit Reports You Can Be Proud About Having http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-business-credit-reports-you-can-be-proud-about-having <p>Business credit reports play an integral role in credit risk assessment and company research. Access to detailed information about a business such as background info, financial data, payment trends, company size, payment history and public filings provide the necessary details lenders, suppliers, investors and potential business partners need. <img alt="build business credit" src="http://media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/34/5b/7a/345b7a4b9a272237867cae232ae3e1b3.jpg" style="width: 198px; height: 162px; float: right;" /></p> <p>Your company credit reports and scores are constantly changing based on a variety of factors, including payment history, number of trade lines and outstanding balances. It&rsquo;s essential to keep a close eye on your reports and watch out for changes that could affect your ability to acquire credit.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s vital to build and maintain business credit reports you can proud of. Did you know potential business partners and investors may evaluate your company credit files to acquire background information on your business, evaluate financials and review what other companies you&#39;re working with?</p> <p>Building and improving the depth and diversity of your business credit reports will have lasting benefits financially and provide greater financing opportunities. While it may take time to <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/12/18/how-to-build-credit-for-your-business/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit info">build business credit</a></strong> that has depth and diversity, it&rsquo;s equally important to take the time to manage and protect the good credit your company has already established. To accomplish this you should monitor your reports on a regular basis.</p> <p>Here are five reasons to build strong business credit reports:</p> <ol> <li> <strong>Creditworthiness</strong> - Lending institutions, creditors and suppliers will check your business credit reports prior to extending or increasing your company&rsquo;s line of credit. Additionally, they monitor your reports routinely to assess your company&#39;s ability to pay and may adjust credit terms prior to financial difficulties emerging.</li> <li> <strong>Customer acquisition</strong> - It&rsquo;s not uncommon for potential customers to check a business&#39;s credit record to see if a company is a legal and credible business before working with them. This is not an unusual practice in today&#39;s business environment.</li> <li> <strong>Partnerships &amp; joint ventures</strong> - Various other companies could evaluate your reports if they are thinking about collaborating with you. For example, by recognizing one of the most creditworthy companies, a business could supply first-time consumers a line of credit at very little risk.</li> <li> <strong>Insurance premiums</strong> - Company insurance policy costs are based upon information acquired from your company reports. Insurance companies make use of business credit reports for underwriting insurance policies. Factors that play a role in just how they forecast danger include industry classification, payment trends, trade experiences, and debt to credit ratios.</li> <li> <strong>Government contracts </strong>- Federal government departments also assess company credit records for companies wanting to do business with the government, collecting taxes, and fulfilling government deals. For instance, in order to obtain a federal contract your company must be registered to start marketing to government agencies. This registration process includes <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/01/08/get-a-duns-number/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="get a duns number">getting a DUNS number</a></strong> from Dun &amp; Bradstreet.</li> </ol> <p style="margin-left:.25in;">It&#39;s crucial to keep track of the health of your business credit reports as it is the basis for decisions other businesses, lenders, suppliers, government agencies, insurance firms and consumers make concerning your company. Monitoring your reports is important so you should regularly check and ensure details regarding your company are accurate and up to date.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-business-credit-reports-you-can-be-proud-about-having#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/795221 The Industry Word Financing Starting Tue, 11 Feb 2014 19:20:58 +0000 Marco Carbajo 795221 at http://www.sba.gov Focusing Your Business’s Social Media Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/focusing-your-business%E2%80%99s-social-media-strategy <p>You&rsquo;ve heard time and again that social media marketing is the key to your business&rsquo;s success. But, do you know where the corresponding lock is? Or how to use it? Social media can seem like a behemoth of a marketing strategy sucking up all your time with results that trickle in at first. Well, fear not; we&rsquo;re here to set you on a clear, strategic path of the right ways to make social media work for your particular enterprise.</p> <p><strong>Start with the Big Picture</strong></p> <p>Is anyone on Google+? Will all these social media efforts even make a dent in my bottom line? What time of day should I post to get maximum exposure? You&rsquo;ve got questions and we&rsquo;ve compiled the answers. The new infographic, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/2013-small-business-social-media-trends-infographic" title="http://www.score.org/resources/2013-small-business-social-media-trends-infographic">2013 Small Business Social Media Trends</a>&rdquo; answers all the questions you&rsquo;ve been pondering regarding social media&rsquo;s effectiveness for small businesses, recommended posting frequency, emerging social networks and tips to keep in mind to get the biggest bang for your social buck.</p> <p><strong>Just &ldquo;Be Likeable&rdquo;</strong></p> <p>Sounds easy enough, right? Today&#39;s consumers are looking for businesses to display certain qualities on social media: accessibility, responsiveness, value, authenticity, adaptability and more. In his recent SCORE LIVE webinar, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results">Why it Pays to Be Likeable - 7 Simple Social Media Concepts To Drive Results</a>&rdquo; best-selling author &amp; CEO of Likeable Local, Dave Kerpen, shared his 7 tips for harnessing these traits to become more likeable and ultimately see greater business results.</p> <ol> <li> 1. Listen</li> <li> Be Responsive</li> <li> Tell, Don&rsquo;t Sell</li> <li> Be Transparent</li> <li> Be Authentic</li> <li> Be a Team</li> <li> Be Grateful</li> </ol> <p><a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/why-it-pays-be-likeable-7-simple-social-media-concepts-drive-results">Listen in</a> as Dave shares examples, anecdotes and quotes explaining why each of these 7 concepts is critical to your business achieving social media success.</p> <p><strong>Handle Negative Comments</strong></p> <p>You&rsquo;ve tried your best to be likeable but somehow it&rsquo;s happened: the dreaded negative comment! It&rsquo;s not the end of your social media efforts and definitely isn&rsquo;t the end of your business. In her recent blogpost, co-founder of IgnitorDigital.com, Carrie Hill, walks you step-by-step through <a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/carrie-hill/dealing-with-negative-comments-in-social-media/" title="http://blog.score.org/2014/carrie-hill/dealing-with-negative-comments-in-social-media/http://blog.score.org/2014/carrie-hill/dealing-with-negative-comments-in-social-media/">dealing with negative comments</a> on your business&rsquo;s social media pages. As Carrie says, &ldquo;The benefits of being online and active in social media far outweigh the negative aspects &ndash; but when the negative does rear its ugly head &ndash; you need to be ready with a solid strategy that your whole team is aware of.&rdquo;</p> <p>In the end, you&rsquo;ve probably come to realize that the social realm is a place your business needs to be. Like really needs to be in order to survive. As with all initiatives in your business, your best bet is to make a plan, follow through, get everyone on the same page, analyze and revise....and get a S<a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="www.score.org/mentors">CORE business mentor</a> to help you!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/focusing-your-business%E2%80%99s-social-media-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/794201 The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 06 Feb 2014 21:52:25 +0000 bridgetwpollack 794201 at http://www.sba.gov Creating a Marketing Action Plan http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/creating-marketing-action-plan <p>We all know marketing is key to small business survival and success. And these days we&rsquo;re so inundated with marketing platforms and tools that it can be overwhelming to know what to do to be an effective marketer.</p> <p>What you need is a marketing action plan so you can lay out a path to follow. First though, warns Hal Shelton, a business executive, SCORE board member and author of <em>The Secrets of Writing a Successful Business Plan</em>, you need to define your company&rsquo;s buying cycle.</p> <p>As an example Shelton offers this cycle:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Awareness. Potential customers know about your business, but aren&rsquo;t sure you have the products or services that fit their needs.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Discovery. The research stage when consumers try to learn more about your company.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Engagement. Potential customers take some action that may (or may not) lead to sale. It&rsquo;s important at this stage to get some customer contact information, like an email address.</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Active customer. The prospect has become an actual customer and made a purchase from you.</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Successful customer. The consumer has become a regular, loyal and satisfied customer.</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Referrals. When customers are so happy with you and your business, they&rsquo;re willing to share their good experiences and offer testimonials and referrals.</p> <p>Now you can move on to creating a marketing action plan. Shelton says make sure you include steps in your plan that &ldquo;focus on customers in each of the steps of the buying cycle.&rdquo; And he adds, &ldquo;While some of the &lsquo;instruments&rsquo; might be the same, the messages may be different. For example, in a direct marketing campaign to gain awareness, you might want to steer potential customers to your website, but for active customers, you may offer a store coupon.&rdquo;</p> <p>So what should your action steps consist of? Of course, they&rsquo;ll vary depending on your type of business and stage your business, but here are some steps you might consider making part of your marketing action plan.</p> <p><strong>Market research</strong>. Market research isn&rsquo;t something to do only when you start your business; you need to continually stay on top of your target customers&rsquo; demographics, needs, desires and lifestyles. Draw from your own experience talking with your customers, as well as any customer data you have&mdash;sales records, website analytics, social media interactions&mdash;to see what they are researching, browsing, doing and buying. Also use third-party sources of research such as Census data to keep up with trends in your target market, and contact media properties where you&rsquo;re considering advertising to see who their readers/viewers/listeners are.</p> <p><strong>Develop a marketing plan.</strong> Once you know what your customers want and where they are spending their time, you can develop a marketing plan that reaches out to them where they live&mdash;whether that&rsquo;s outdoor advertising, social media, radio ads, online pay-per-click ads, public relations and more. Focus most of your budget on the avenues your research suggests will be most effective and affordable. Your marketing plan should cover the coming year and should include specific goals.</p> <p><strong>Create a marketing calendar.</strong> Break down your marketing plan more specifically into a calendar that shows what type of marketing you will do each month, each week and even each day. This can include ad placements, PR campaigns, social media posts and more. By putting your plan on a calendar, you&rsquo;re committed to carrying it out and things won&rsquo;t fall through the cracks.</p> <p><strong>Measure results.</strong> To make sure your marketing efforts deliver ROI, you need to track the results of each type of marketing you do. For example, you could put a code in an online or print ad (&ldquo;Mention code TREAT1 to get a free dessert!&rdquo;) and keep track of who mentions the code. Online, you can use analytics to see which ads or mentions attract customers to your site and to track which customers end up making a purchase. Regularly (once a quarter, at minimum, or ideally once a month) assess which marketing methods are driving sales and which are not.</p> <p>Shelton says other marketing action steps might include email marketing, using affiliates and distributors, building a website, direct mail, buying ads in assorted media outlets (newspapers, radio, etc.), social media and web marketing.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/creating-marketing-action-plan#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/793241 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 04 Feb 2014 17:35:48 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 793241 at http://www.sba.gov Use Your Sales Forecast and Expense Budget to Define your Startup http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/use-your-sales-forecast-and-expense-budget-define-your-startup <p>I&rsquo;ve been working on a new startup with some long-time friends and just discovered &ndash; again, for the umpteenth time &ndash; how the interaction between words, concepts, and numbers often demands the concrete logic of core business plan numbers.</p> <p>Specifically, a sales forecast and an expense budget can do wonders for early start-up discussions. Putting specific numbers to things forces definitions and decisions. For the record, our new plan isn&rsquo;t a restaurant; it&rsquo;s a high-tech web-based offering. But it&rsquo;s still confidential. So I&rsquo;m using examples here from a business everybody can understand: a restaurant business.</p> <p><strong>1. The Sales Forecast Defines the Offering </strong></p> <p>I just saw it again but I&rsquo;ve seen it before many times. The co-founders get together and share ideas. If it were a restaurant, it would be about things we could do for breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner; it would be about price points, cuisines, menus, reservations and so on. And these general discussions become specific when you get to the forecast. They have to get specific about units and prices. That forces founders to focus in on realistic plans we can actually execute.</p> <p>Not that we&rsquo;d define every menu option &ndash; absolutely not. But a good forecast has to summarize at least on average revenue and average cost per meal, and that leads to defining whether meals are breakfasts, lunches, dinners or drinks, etc. The numbers move the general ideas forward.</p> <p><strong>2. An Expense Budget Defines Tasks and People </strong></p> <p>We need to focus practically on what and when we can afford to spend. For a restaurant, we&rsquo;d need to start paying two or three people and we need to pay contractors for remodeling the location, developing the branding, doing menus, and people to start developing the kitchen and such. All of that takes deciding on priorities.</p> <p>The way we do that, in practical terms, is to look at our expense budget. We develop it together step by step: From the first to the twelfth month, how much do we need to pay out, and to whom? We all have different ideas on this, so when we get together, the actual expense budget&mdash;which we can all see and agree on&mdash;helpfully steers us back to the plan.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion: Numbers Define Concepts</strong></p> <p>Particularly when the startup founders&mdash;such as in our case&mdash;all have a lot of experience, love the topic area and are full of ideas, it&rsquo;s really hard to make progress moving from brainstorming to execution. My experience with the sales forecast and expense budget reminds me, once again, how much I like planning as a vital part of the process of starting a business.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/use-your-sales-forecast-and-expense-budget-define-your-startup#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/791781 The Industry Word Managing Starting Wed, 29 Jan 2014 20:39:08 +0000 Tim Berry 791781 at http://www.sba.gov Customize Your 401(k) Plan http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/customize-your-401k-plan <p>Nearly a quarter (24%) of small businesses today offer 401(k) plans to enable their employees to save for retirement, and the number is growing, according to a *<a href="http://www.sharebuilder401k.com/news/pressrelease.aspx?newsID=183" target="_blank" title="Links to ShareBuilder site"><u>ShareBuilder national survey</u></a>. You don&rsquo;t need a staff in order to have a 401(k) plan for yourself; self-employed individuals working alone can have what&rsquo;s called a solo 401(k). The plans may have certain features prized by owners and participants. The law does not require all plans to have them; it&rsquo;s up to the business to decide whether they should be included. Here are some options that you can add to your plan this year.</p> <p><strong>Loans</strong></p> <p>You can allow participants to borrow from their accounts. The tax law limits the extent of borrowing to the lesser of 50% of vested benefits or $50,000. For most loans, funds have to be repaid in level amounts over a period no greater than five years, with a reasonable rate of interest.</p> <p>If the plan allows it, owners are permitted to borrow from their accounts. They can use the funds to help with cash flow or for other purposes. &ldquo;Key employees,&rdquo; which includes owners, cannot deduct interest on the borrowing. Find more details about plan loans from the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Retirement-Plans-FAQs-regarding-Loans" target="_blank" title="Links to IRS site"><u>IRS</u></a>.</p> <p><strong>Designated Roth accounts</strong></p> <p>Contributions to a 401(k) by participants are made on a pre-tax basis; the portion of salary added to the plan is not currently taxable. The contributions as well as the earnings on them become taxable when funds from the 401(k) are distributed to participants. However, the plan is allowed to include a Roth component, called a designated Roth account. Here, employee contributions are made on an after-tax basis but distributions can become fully tax free.</p> <p>Contributions to designated Roth accounts are made only by participants. Total contributions to both the regular and Roth 401(k) are capped annually. No employer contributions can be made to these accounts.</p> <p>Find more details about designated Roth accounts from the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Designated-Roth-Accounts" target="_blank" title="Links to IRS site"><u>IRS</u>.</a></p> <p><strong>In-plan rollovers</strong></p> <p>Like traditional IRAs that can be converted to Roth IRAs, basic 401(k)s can allow for conversions by participants to designated Roth accounts. These are called in-plan rollovers.</p> <p>From the employee perspective, amounts transferred to the designated Roth accounts are immediately taxable. However, there is no 10% early distribution penalty for employees under age 59-1/2 who make in-plan rollovers. Once the conversion is made, it cannot be undone.</p> <p>From the employer perspective, the frequency of these conversions can be limited (e.g., one a year). The plan can also cap the dollar amounts that can be converted to designated Roth IRAs. The 20% mandatory withholding on 401(k) plan distributions does not apply to in-plan rollovers.</p> <p>If you want to add an in-plan rollover option, generally you must amend the plan no later than the last day of the plan year in which the option becomes effective. The IRS has provided more <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-drop/n-13-74.pdf" title="Links to IRS site"><u>guidance</u></a> on in-plan rollovers.</p> <p>Note: If your plan is a safe harbor 401(k) in which employees are automatically enrolled unless they opt out or choose a lower contribution amount than automatically specified, normally you cannot make a change&mdash;even a favorable one&mdash;during the year. However, under a special rule, you can make a mid-year change to add the in-plan rollover option in 2014.</p> <p><strong>More investment options</strong></p> <p>Plans are required to offer a menu of investment options from which participants can select for their own accounts. The minimum number of options is three, each of which is a distinct type of investment (e.g., a money market fund, a stock fund, and a bond fund), although some plans may have as many as 100 choices. According to <a href="http://www.finra.org/Investors/SmartInvesting/Retirement/Smart401kInvesting/investing" title="Links to FINRA site"><u>FINRA</u></a>, the average is 10 choices.</p> <p>Review your plan&rsquo;s investment options to see whether changes are warranted, factoring in the fees related to these options. For example, you may want to add new choices to your existing menu of investment options. Be sure to provide <a href="http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/newsroom/2013/ebsa072213.html" target="_blank" title="Links to DOL gov site"><u>required disclosure</u></a> to participants about fees associated with these investment options.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>Talk with a benefits expert to learn more about these and other plan options that you can use to customize your 401(k) plan. Also, make sure to update the plan to reflect any plan options you select. Find general information about 401(k) plans from the <a href="http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/401kplans.html" title="Links to DOL site"><u>Department of Labor</u></a> and the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/IRC-401(k)-Plans-Operating-a-401(k)-Plan" title="Links to IRS site"><u>IRS</u>.</a></p> <p><em>*Denotes non-governmental website link</em></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/customize-your-401k-plan#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/790511 The Industry Word Business Laws Taxes Thu, 23 Jan 2014 14:01:33 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 790511 at http://www.sba.gov 3 Ways To Look At Franchising http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/3-ways-look-franchising <p>Wherever we go, our baggage comes with us. It&rsquo;s there, you know. We just don&rsquo;t always realize it.</p> <p>Take <strong>franchising</strong> for instance. All of us look at franchising in a very personal way. That way is based on our past experiences with franchising. Either as a customer of a franchise business, or as a&hellip;allow me to explain.</p> <p><strong>How We Look At Franchising</strong></p> <p>Another word for baggage is experience. Our experiences dictate our views on things.</p> <p>For example, if you ate a lot of fast food growing up, you bring that experience with you when you think about franchising. For you, a franchise is a fast food restaurant.</p> <p>Another example of how you may view franchising&hellip;albeit an extreme one could have to do with <a href="http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/loans-grants/small-business-loans/disaster-loans" title="link to business grants information">a disaster</a>, like a flood or a hurricane that you may have been directly impacted by.</p> <p>You may have had a local franchise owner do the much- needed cleanup and *<a href="http://www.franchisedirect.com/homeservicesfranchises/restoration-franchises-0706/" title="top restoration franchises for sale">restoration</a>. So, when you think of franchising, you picture the truck or van that sat in front of your house for a few days.</p> <p>Are you stating to see where I&rsquo;m coming from?</p> <p>One more example.</p> <p>Let&rsquo;s say that you had an aunt and uncle open a franchise, and fail. Whatever the name of the franchise was that they had to close, it will always be embedded in your mind, even if your aunt and uncle were the ones that contributed to the franchise&rsquo;s closing more than the franchisor. Maybe they forgot about <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/most-new-franchise-owners-forget" title="link to article about what most franchise buyers forget about">this</a>.</p> <p>Stuff happens. Businesses open and business close.</p> <p>Try not to let other people&rsquo;s experiences cloud your judgment. You are not them.</p> <p>Hopefully, the examples I gave you helped cement what I&rsquo;m trying to teach you here:</p> <p>Open your mind. There are a lot of opportunities out there.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>3 Ways To Look At Franchising</strong></p> <p>Here they are. See if they make sense to you.</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Job Replacer</p> <p>Lots of people think about buying a franchise if they&rsquo;ve been downsized.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s no fun being unemployed; I was a few times myself, and it can be quite scary. But, it&rsquo;s also a great time to look at other options. Maybe one of them will involve looking into franchise business ownership. But, there&rsquo;s something you need to know if you&rsquo;re going to buy a franchise instead of get a new job. Your salary is going to be lower than you&rsquo;re used to at first. Read about <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/your-salary-franchise-owner" title="what is your salary as a franchise owner">your salary as a franchise owner</a>.&nbsp;</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Goal Achievement</p> <p>This one is for the &ldquo;<em>I&rsquo;ve always wanted to own my own business</em>&rdquo; crowd. &nbsp;</p> <p>Whether you&rsquo;ve lost your job, or are just of working for someone else, this is how a lot of people look at franchising, and how it may work for them.</p> <p>Those looking at franchising in this way need to make sure that they are suited to own a business that doesn&rsquo;t offer a lot of latitude. Franchising is a rule-based business model, and that&rsquo;s why it works. Prospective franchise owners need to have <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/do-you-have-special-personality-needed-be-franchise-owner" title="having the right personality for franchising">the right personality</a>.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Legacy Creation</p> <p>Some of the people I&rsquo;ve worked with over the years have expressed a real desire to leave a legacy for their children.</p> <p>They&rsquo;ve seen jobs come and go over the years, and don&rsquo;t want their kids to have to go through a lot of ups and downs in their careers. They&rsquo;d rather have them be employers as opposed to <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/new-year-new-hires-%E2%80%93-growing-your-business-with-new-employees" title="adding new employees to a business">employees</a>.</p> <p>Franchising is looked up (<em>by these people</em>) as a way of creating a secure future for their kids. A place where they&rsquo;re children can hang their hats.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a noble thing to do, and some franchise businesses are great family businesses.</p> <p>As you can say, there are a few ways to look at franchising.</p> <p>Just make sure you do so from a place that&rsquo;s uncluttered with baggage from your past.</p> <p>*Non US Government link</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/3-ways-look-franchising#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/790231 The Industry Word Starting Wed, 22 Jan 2014 03:03:29 +0000 FranchiseKing 790231 at http://www.sba.gov Advanced Strategies to Get People to Sign Up for Your Email Marketing List http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/advanced-strategies-get-people-sign-your-email-marketing-list <p>You already know that email can be highly effective in reaching potential customers and getting repeat business. In fact, despite the constant barrage of trendy new social sites, mobile marketing, and other channels opening up, email remains the top preferred channel for sending and receiving marketing messages, according to <a href="http://www.exacttarget.com/email-marketing/best-practices/consumers-prefer-email-marketing" title="link to ExactTarget">ExactTarget</a>.</p> <p>While email has proven itself effective, the real challenge lies in growing your contact list. People have become reluctant to part with their email addresses, out of fear of being barraged by unwanted daily messages.</p> <p>However, if you put your focus on delivering value through your email list and only sending emails when necessary, you&rsquo;ll see an increase in subscribers and opportunity to develop relationships with people who are more likely to convert into customers.</p> <p><strong>1. Popover Sign-Up Forms</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve visited a site and seen a box hover above the site inviting you to subscribe to emails, you&rsquo;ve seen a popover form.</p> <p>These forms can be highly effective, if used correctly. You&rsquo;re interrupting a visitor&rsquo;s experience on the site, but in a meaningful way. If you were visiting a marketing blog, for example, you probably wouldn&rsquo;t appreciate being interrupted by a popover inviting you to sign up for free dog training tips. But, on the other hand, if you were offered the opportunity to get more marketing content only available to subscribers (the way you are in the <a href="http://www.marketingprofs.com/" title="link to MarketingProfs">MarketingProfs</a> example above), you might be inclined to sign up.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s also important here to make it super simple for visitors to remove the box by clicking &ldquo;close&rdquo; or an &ldquo;X&rdquo; in the corner. I&rsquo;ve seen some popovers that have no obvious way to remove them from my screen, and you can bet I&rsquo;m not a big fan of those sites.</p> <p><a href="http://www.marketingprofs.com/short-articles/2480/are-popover-forms-right-for-you" title="link to popover forms article">Results vary with popover forms</a>: AWeber clients have reported a 10x increase in subscribers when using a popover form, while some Mailigen and GetResponse users have seen a 200-400% increase in subscribers.</p> <p><strong>2. Offer a Series of Useful Content</strong></p> <p>People want information. And while yes, you can provide it on your blog, sometimes they want a bit more. That&rsquo;s where email autoresponders work extremely well.</p> <p><a href="http://www.seobook.com/" title="link to SEOBook">SEOBook</a> offers email subscribers a free &ldquo;7 Days to SEO Success&rdquo; mini-course when they sign up. Because this is descriptive of what it will encompass, and specifies how long subscribers should expect to receive the autoresponder, you can imagine that SEOBook&rsquo;s email subscription tactic is fairly successful.</p> <p>Once you take the time to write a series of emails with really deep information on a topic, you can set it to send emails on a regular basis to new subscribers. Your work is done, and you&rsquo;ll keep attracting new subscribers, thanks to your exclusive content offered only to email subscribers.</p> <p>Another example of this is on <a href="http://www.copyhackers.com/" title="link to CopyHackers">CopyHackers</a>. Sign up for the copywriting tips, and they never run out. Rather than just a few days of great advice, site owner Joanna Wiebe sends a constant stream of useful tips, mixed in with the occasional announcement for a webinar or ebook.</p> <p><strong>3. Use the HelloBar</strong></p> <p>Here&rsquo;s a fairly new, innovative tool to help you grow your subscriber base. <a href="http://www.hellobar.com/" title="link to HelloBar">HelloBar</a> encourages visitors to take action on your site, whether that&rsquo;s to subscribe to your email list or visit a specific page. You can customize the copy and link it directs to.</p> <p>By thinking outside the &ldquo;email subscription box,&rdquo; you can create opportunities to connect with potential customers in unique ways through email. Test a few ideas individually and see which sends you the most subscribers.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/advanced-strategies-get-people-sign-your-email-marketing-list#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/787271 The Industry Word Marketing Wed, 15 Jan 2014 12:39:59 +0000 smallbiztrends 787271 at http://www.sba.gov Small Business Startup: 10 Essential Ingredients Every Startup Needs http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/small-business-startup-10-essential-ingredients-every-startup-needs <p>So. You think you&rsquo;re ready to start a business. You chose your business name. You got your business logo designed. Your business cards are at the printer.</p> <p>But you&rsquo;re not done. You also must ensure that your business has all of the essential ingredients it needs so it has a fighting chance to succeed. Doing so will enable you to establish the proper business foundation so you can legitimize the operation and credibility of your business.</p> <p>The ingredients listed below are essential for a small business startup and also play a key role in the business credit building process.</p> <ul> <li> <strong>Choose an entity structure</strong> &ndash; Pay careful consideration as to which type of structure you select. Whether you choose an LLC, S-Corporation, C-Corporation or Limited Partnership, knowing which structure is best for your income and tax situation is key for your business.</li> <li> <strong>Obtain a Business Tax Identification Number</strong> &ndash; Also known as a <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/why-your-company-needs-business-tax-identification-number" target="_blank" title="business tax identification" type="business tax identification">Federal Tax Identification Number</a> or EIN, it&rsquo;s the corporate equivalent to a social security number but used for businesses. This nine-digit number is assigned by the IRS to business entities operating in the U.S.</li> <li> <strong>Choose a business address</strong> &ndash; A <a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/10/28/business-virtual-office/" target="_blank" title="virtual business address" type="business virtual address">virtual business address </a>or commercial location is ideal for small businesses. It&rsquo;s important to note that your physical business address and business mailing address may be two different locations.</li> <li> <strong>Set up a business phone number</strong> &ndash; Either a toll free number or local phone number is a reliable source for a company&rsquo;s communications. It&rsquo;s key to dedicate a phone number exclusively for business that can also be listed in major directories.</li> <li> <strong>Establish a web presence</strong> &ndash; A company web site and social media presence is just as important today as having a business phone number or email address. The easier a customer or lender can verify and learn more about your business, the better.</li> <li> <strong>Open a business bank account</strong> &ndash; A <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-open-small-business-bank-account-online" target="_blank" title="small business bank account " type="small business bank account">small business bank account </a>will be your most important tool for managing your company&rsquo;s finances. This will also allow you to completely separate your personal banking activities from your company&rsquo;s.</li> <li> <strong>Obtain a merchant account</strong> &ndash; Accepting credit cards from customers is an essential part of doing business today. From mobile credit card readers to virtual terminals, a merchant account is what is utilized to accept credit cards, get cash and make money as a company.</li> <li> <strong>Get a business credit card</strong> &ndash; <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/10/16/top-business-credit-cards/" target="_blank" title="business credit cards" type="business credit cards">Business credit cards</a></strong> have many benefits such as higher limits, perks &amp; rewards, business credit reporting and expense tracking. For real personal and business separation, a business owner needs a credit card exclusively for business purchases.</li> <li> <strong>Get a business debit card</strong> &ndash; A useful and convenient tool as opposed to writing business checks. Make sure you add overdraft protection to your small business bank account to avoid and potential overdrafts.</li> <li> <strong>Plan a business funding strategy</strong> &ndash; Many businesses fail due to lack of funding. <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/12/05/business-credit-analysis/" target="_blank" title="business credit analysis" type="business credit analysis">Analyze your business credit</a></strong> and plan out a short-term and long-term funding strategy. Access to credit is crucial to your business as it may experience unforeseen expenses.</li> </ul> <p>This <a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/01/06/small-business-startup/" target="_blank" title="business checklist" type="business checklist">small business checklist</a> of essential elements is to help you structure your business in a successful way. The last thing you need is to wonder whether your business has everything it needs to satisfy potential customers and/or lenders. Now with this list you can evaluate your startup at a glance and be sure it has every element it needs to operate as a real business.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/small-business-startup-10-essential-ingredients-every-startup-needs#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/787111 The Industry Word Financing Starting Tue, 14 Jan 2014 19:51:53 +0000 Marco Carbajo 787111 at http://www.sba.gov February 25 Deadline for BizClips Video Contest to Win Great Prizes and Free Publicity for Small Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/february-25-deadline-bizclips-video-contest-win-great-prizes-and-free-publicity-small-business <p>What small business challenges are you facing this year? Help transform these challenges into successful opportunities by making and uploading your small business video story by midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. You could win great prizes and free publicity to improve your small business productivity.</p> <p><strong>Enter the Small Business Productivity Makeover Contest Today</strong></p> <p>You could win the grand prize, valued at $3,500, by sharing your story through &ldquo;BizClips: The Small Business Productivity Makeover Video Contest&rdquo; at <a href="http://www.bizclips.score.org" title="www.bizclips.score.org">www.bizclips.score.org</a>. The Contest is sponsored by SCORE and Brother International, a premier provider of print and communications products and services. The Contest celebrates SCORE&rsquo;s 50 years of helping more than ten million small businesses learn how to start a business, grow, and achieve their business goals through free business assistance and education.</p> <p><strong>MAKE a Video about Your Small Business</strong></p> <p>The Contest is easy to enter, but the entry deadline is approaching quickly. Make your 30-60 second video, describing your need for a business makeover and how SCORE could help address your challenges. Or you can also tell how SCORE previously helped your small business. The video can be simple or fancy, as long as it meets the minimum requirements. Here are some great tips on how to make a video: <a href="http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo" title="http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo">http://bizclips.score.org/additionalinfo</a>.</p> <p><strong>UPLOAD your video to the BizClips Contest website before midnight, February 25, 2014.</strong></p> <p>Don&rsquo;t be left out. The deadline to create and upload your video at <a href="http://www.bizclips.score.org" title="www.bizclips.score.org">www.bizclips.score.org</a> is midnight, Eastern Standard Time, on February 25, 2014. Late entries will not be accepted.</p> <p><strong>VOTE online for your video and ask others to help you get to the final round.</strong></p> <p>Voting is easy, too. All videos that meet the minimum requirements will be eligible for online voting beginning April 1, 2014. Spread the word of your video and ask your friends, family, customers and supporters to vote for you, too. They can also help you win by spreading the word. Public voting makes up 40 percent of the judging criteria. Voting closes at 11:59 p.m., Eastern Standard Time, on April 30, 2014.</p> <p><strong>WIN great prizes and free publicity for your business.</strong></p> <p>The top 25 vote-getters will become finalists, gain significant free national media exposure, and win a <a href="http://bizclips.score.org/prizes" title="http://bizclips.score.org/prizes">Brother P-Touch prize</a>. The Grand Prize winner will be selected by a <a href="http://bizclips.score.org/judges" title="http://bizclips.score.org/judges">panel of small business experts</a> to receive a business makeover with up to $2,500 of products and services from Brother. The Grand Prize winner and a companion will be flown to Washington, D.C. in September 2014 for a special national announcement and awards ceremony at the 2014 SCORE Awards Gala. The grand prize winner will have a professional business makeover video created to be shown at the Gala and promoted by SCORE. The winner can also use the video for its own promotion. The total value of the grand prize is $3,500.</p> <p>&ldquo;This is a unique opportunity for your small business to be in the limelight in front of a national audience. We&rsquo;ll be thrilled to help make the winning small business better, stronger and more productive to meet its challenges,&rdquo; said Ken Yancey, <a href="http://www.score.org" title="www.score.org">SCORE</a> CEO.</p> <p>BizClips, The Small Business Productivity Video Contest launched on November 25, 2013. Don&rsquo;t miss the deadline for this opportunity to help your small business turn its challenges into opportunities. Complete details are at <a href="http://www.bizclips.score.org" title="www.bizclips.score.org">www.bizclips.score.org</a>.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/february-25-deadline-bizclips-video-contest-win-great-prizes-and-free-publicity-small-business#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/786951 The Industry Word Managing Marketing Mentoring and Training Starting Tue, 14 Jan 2014 14:12:20 +0000 bridgetwpollack 786951 at http://www.sba.gov 4 Marketing Resolutions to Make This Year http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/4-marketing-resolutions-make-year <p>If there&rsquo;s one area of operations most small businesses can stand to improve, it&rsquo;s marketing. As a small business expert, I get more questions about marketing than any other aspect of business&mdash;and it&rsquo;s been that way for the last 30 years. Since the New Year is all about improving oneself, how about making some marketing resolutions for your business? Here are four to consider.</p> <ol> <li> <strong>I resolve to make a marketing plan.</strong> Many small business owners market haphazardly, throwing time and money at one marketing method and then, when it doesn&rsquo;t pay off immediately, switching gears to the &ldquo;next big thing.&rdquo; This scattershot approach does nothing but waste your resources and leave you frustrated and frazzled, convinced that marketing doesn&rsquo;t pay off. Instead, resolve to sit down and set goals for your marketing this year. What exactly do you want to accomplish&mdash;more leads, more sales closed, more inquiries? Once you&rsquo;ve got goals on paper, figure out the marketing methods that are most likely to get those desired results. Finally, figure out how you&rsquo;ll track results from each marketing method so you can see what&rsquo;s really working.</li> </ol> <ol> <li value="2"> <strong>I resolve to market consistently.</strong> It&rsquo;s easy to fall into the trap of marketing only when you&rsquo;ve got the &ldquo;spare&rdquo; time for it (which often means &ldquo;never&rdquo;). Or maybe you market wildly right before your busy season, then do nothing for months on end. As a result, your sales pipeline slows down. Keep your pipeline full by marketing consistently all year long. That doesn&rsquo;t mean you need the <em>same</em> level of marketing year-round&mdash;for instance, a toy retailer would obviously market more before and during the holiday shopping season than in, say, July&mdash;but it does mean you need <em>some</em> level of marketing all year. Create a marketing calendar that sets out what you&rsquo;ll do each month and breaks it down further into weekly and even daily marketing efforts. Then put someone in charge of making sure it&rsquo;s all carried out.</li> </ol> <ol> <li value="3"> <strong>I resolve to keep learning new things.</strong> Is your marketing stuck in the past? Advertising only in the print Yellow Pages might work if your clientele is solely seniors&hellip;and even seniors are increasingly going online to find businesses instead of letting their fingers do the walking. If you want your business to grow, you&rsquo;ve got to keep up with the (marketing) times. Resolve to regularly read industry blogs and publications, attend networking events and conferences, and take webinars and seminars to learn more about new marketing trends and how they&rsquo;re affecting your industry. Pledge to learn something new every month, and at least try some of it. Marketing is moving fast, and if you don&rsquo;t keep up you&rsquo;re going to get left behind.</li> </ol> <ol> <li value="4"> <strong>I resolve to do market research.</strong> Many small business owners see market research as something they do once&mdash;when starting their companies&mdash;and then never do again. But what happens when your market changes? The 20-somethings you might have targeted with your extreme sports company in 1998 are now in their 40s. Even if they&rsquo;re still buying extreme sports products, the way you market to them needs to be different now from what it was then. Keep tabs on the demographics of your target market so you can adjust your marketing approach to changes in their incomes, lifestyles, media consumption habits and buying behaviors. Use both secondary research from other sources and primary research&mdash;that is, simply asking your customers what they want and need.</li> </ol> <p>These four simple resolutions will make a big difference in your results&mdash;I promise.</p> <p>What are your marketing resolutions for 2014?</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/4-marketing-resolutions-make-year#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/785041 The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 07 Jan 2014 15:18:12 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 785041 at http://www.sba.gov 5 Tax and Financial Planning Actions for the New Year http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-tax-and-financial-planning-actions-new-year <p>With 2013 almost over, it&rsquo;s time to focus on 2014 and get the year started off right. Here are some actions to take now or in early January that will help you optimize your tax and financial results for the coming year.</p> <p><strong>1.&nbsp; Revisit your recordkeeping practices</strong></p> <p>Records are vital for both business and tax purposes. They help know whether or not you&rsquo;re profitable and provide key information to help you take business actions, such as adjusting prices, cutting expenses, or raising money.</p> <p>What&rsquo;s more, in order to take all the deductions and credits to which your business is entitled in 2014, you&rsquo;ll need good books and records. Often business owners fail to pay attention to this detail until it&rsquo;s too late and the IRS is questioning write-offs claimed on a return.</p> <p>Set up a recordkeeping system that satisfies tax law requirements, and make sure that employees know what to do. Check <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p583.pdf" target="_blank" title="Links to IRS.gov site"><u>IRS Publication 583</u></a> for details on recordkeeping rules for tax purposes. Consider using apps that can help with recordkeeping, such as those for capturing receipts for travel and entertainment expenses. Some may be available for use with, or provided by, your current bookkeeping software or cloud solution.</p> <p><strong>2.&nbsp; Note your odometer on January 1</strong></p> <p>If you use your personal vehicle for business, you can deduct the cost of business driving only if you have the records to back this up. This means noting your odometer at the start of the year and then tracking your business trips regularly.</p> <p>Again, consider using an app for tracking mileage. Some are free; others entail a modest fee.</p> <p><strong>3.&nbsp; Review your business plan</strong></p> <p>Your business plan should include projections for sales and expenses in the coming year. If you haven&rsquo;t yet updated these for 2014, do so now, advises SBA blogger <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/do-end-year-planning-refresh" title="Links to SBA.gov article"><u>Tim Berry</u></a>. The projections aren&rsquo;t carved in stone, but they serve as a very useful benchmark against which to measure your results.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a good idea to check projections monthly so you can make adjustments as needed in a timely manner. For example, if you&rsquo;ve been expecting gasoline prices to remain low but they suddenly spike, you may need to reduce another expense, such as advertising, to keep your budget in check.</p> <p><u><a href="http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/starting-managing-business/starting-business/how-write-business-plan" title="Links to SBA.gov article">SBA tool</a>s</u> can help you create a business plan.</p> <p><strong>4.&nbsp; Fix your withholding/estimated taxes</strong></p> <p>If you work for your corporation, make sure that withholding for 2014 will cover your projected tax obligations. Be sure to take into account the 0.9% additional Medicare tax on taxable compensation over a threshold amount that depends on your filing status (e.g., $200,000 for singles; $250,000 for joint filers) as well as the 3.8% additional Medicare tax on net investment income.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;re self-employed, your estimated taxes will have to cover roughly what you expect to owe for the year. These taxes should include not only the additional Medicare taxes if you&rsquo;re a high-income taxpayer, but also self-employment taxes (to cover your Social Security and basic Medicare tax obligations).</p> <p>The IRS offers guidance on withholding and estimated taxes in <a href="http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p505.pdf" title="Links to IRS.gov article"><u>Publication 505</u></a>; the 2014 version should be available early in 2014.</p> <p><strong>5. Plan to work closely with your tax and financial advisors</strong></p> <p>Make it a New Year&rsquo;s resolution to stay in touch regularly with these professionals. While there are fees for these services, likely they will save you money and trouble in the long run.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>The economy and taxes are continually changing. Make it your top resolution to stay informed about new developments that can affect your business and impact your actions throughout the year.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-tax-and-financial-planning-actions-new-year#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/781771 The Industry Word Business Laws Managing Taxes Thu, 19 Dec 2013 16:33:48 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 781771 at http://www.sba.gov Easy Video Tutorials on Business Planning http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/easy-video-tutorials-business-planning <p>I&rsquo;d like to call your attention to a <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials">series of video tutorials</a></strong> I did not that long ago as a donation to this community. They are all here and I&rsquo;d like you to be aware of them. They are organized into modules, 2-10 minutes each. You can pick and choose and jump around, or run through them in the original order. They are here as a resource for you. <em>(Note: the text in bold here highlights links to the videos)</em></p> <ol> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-introduction-and-orien">Introduction and orientation</a></strong>. 2 minutes 13 seconds (2:13). What&rsquo;s planning, why do you care, why the planning is more important than the plan.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-planning-modular">Planning is modular</a></strong>. 1:26. Think of your business plan as a matter of blocks, like interrelated pieces. You don&rsquo;t have to have the whole block structure done before you take any next steps. Start your blocks where you like.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-form-follows-function">Form follows function</a></strong>. 4:45. Keep it short and simple in the beginning, and grow it as you grow your business. It might be projections plus slides, bullet points, or whatever serves the business need.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-planning-management">Planning is management.</a></strong> 1:20. It&rsquo;s not a document, it&rsquo;s planning process, which is about steering your company. Goals, metrics, milestones, review and revise.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-strategy">Strategy</a></strong>. 8:04. Strategy is focus. Focus your business offering to your target market, and use planning to develop and manage priorities and steps. Strategy is the heart.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-business-plan-flesh-an">Flesh and bones</a></strong>. 10:25. About the plan document itself. Milestones, metrics, responsibilities, and getting things done.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-sales-forecast">Sales forecast</a></strong>. This one is so important &ndash; and causes so much fear and doubt &ndash; that it&rsquo;s not a single video, but three of them. The first is 4:51, second 3:10, and third is 9:27. I promise you, sales forecasting is far easier than you fear. Anybody who can run a business can do it.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-dress-and-grow-your-bu">Dress and grow your business plan</a></strong>. 12:15. As your company grows, your planning grows. As you grow, if you add people to your team, then you want to bring them into the process and make sure you&rsquo;re on the same page. You bring in skills. The business gets more complex as it grows. Cash flow gets more sophisticated.&nbsp;</li> <li> <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/business-planning-tutorials/business-planning-formal-business-plan-d">The formal business plan document</a></strong>. This is another with three videos: 5:39, 8:48, and 2:26. How you can fine-tune your plan to appeal to specific needs of raising investment, applying for a loan, working with partners, etc.&nbsp;</li> </ol> <div> I went through these recently and I think all of it still applies. And it&rsquo;s all free, with no selling, on this site.&nbsp;</div> <div> &nbsp;</div> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/easy-video-tutorials-business-planning#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/781591 The Industry Word Managing Starting Wed, 18 Dec 2013 17:09:48 +0000 Tim Berry 781591 at http://www.sba.gov Healthy Food Franchises: Take a Bite Out of One! http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/healthy-food-franchises-take-bite-out-one <p>In the<strong> franchise </strong>world, I&rsquo;m often watching trends in what types of businesses are becoming popular and successful. Take the frozen yogurt trend for instance; it&rsquo;s still going strong. New franchises are opening every day. It will be interesting to see how long the buzz in frozen yogurt continues.</p> <p>I&rsquo;ve noticed another recent trend toward healthier food options. With statistics like the fact that <a href="http://www.cdc.gov/obesity/data/adult.html" title="link to CDC website">more than ⅓ of adult Americans are obese</a>,* it&rsquo;s no surprise, really, that the franchising world would respond in kind.</p> <p><strong>Move Over, Burgers</strong></p> <p>Used to be, salads were the thing you <em>didn&rsquo;t</em> want to order on a fast food menu featuring <a href="http://www.franchisedirect.com/foodfranchises/burger-franchises-0698/">hamburgers</a>.* They were wilted, waterlogged and anything but appetizing. Then a few years ago, <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/about-food-franchises" title="link to sba.gov food franchise article">fast food franchises</a> like Wendy&rsquo;s started offering better-tasting salads. And they sold pretty well.</p> <p>Now those old standby fast-food chains have to compete with franchises that specialize in salads. Consumers are increasing their demands for healthier options and more and more franchises that focus on healthy eating will continue to spring up.</p> <p><strong>Changing the Formula for Fast Food</strong></p> <p>Not only are we seeing a trend in franchising away from traditional burger franchises, we&rsquo;re also seeing a shift in expectations. &ldquo;Slow&rdquo; fast food brands like <a href="http://www.chipotle.com/">Chipotle</a><u>*</u> have appeared on the scene in the last few years, focusing not on delivering food in seconds but rather customizing orders and using quality ingredients. As long as consumers can wait for &ldquo;slower&rdquo; fast food because they can see and taste the difference, franchises will emerge that specialize in this way of cooking and presenting food.</p> <p><strong>Thinking Outside the Traditional Franchise</strong></p> <p>We&rsquo;re not just seeing new restaurant concepts popping up in the area of healthier eating. There are now healthy vending machine franchises being offered. Healthy options that can now be found in vending machines include fruit juice, smoothies, fresh fruit, granola bars and organic and gluten-free options. For franchisees, these are particularly enticing because of the premium people seem to be willing to pay for some of these &ldquo;healthy&rdquo; snacks.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Forget About the Kids</strong></p> <p>More and more parents are becoming concerned about the unhealthy options offered in school cafeterias. While the government has made great strides in <a href="http://www.letsmove.gov/healthy-schools" title="let's move website">improving school meal standards</a> over the past few years, some schools are taking matters into their own hands by partnering with franchises like <a href="http://wholesometummies.com/" title="link to franchise website of wholesome tummies">Wholesome Tummies</a>.*</p> <p><strong>Back to the Question</strong></p> <p>So will these healthier food franchises make America healthier? Or are they simply a reflection of a movement that is already in place: one of making more conscious choices about what we eat? Either way, there seems to be plenty of room for franchisors, franchisees and customers alike to benefit.</p> <p>And the increase in the number of these healthy franchise options really has the attention of the fast food moguls. <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/life-style/eats/mcdonald-offer-fruit-salad-sides-article-1.1469468" title="link to article on McDonald's healthy side dishes">McDonald&rsquo;s announced it would offer healthy options as sides</a>* this year in all locations worldwide by 2020. That might not be soon enough, judging from the speed at which the healthy food franchise niche is growing!</p> <p>I&rsquo;ll be keeping my eye on this industry to see what comes up in the next few years.</p> <p>You should too.</p> <p>*Non-US Government link</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/healthy-food-franchises-take-bite-out-one#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/780941 The Industry Word Starting Tue, 17 Dec 2013 13:39:41 +0000 FranchiseKing 780941 at http://www.sba.gov Grow Your Small Business with an e-Commerce Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/grow-your-small-business-with-e-commerce-strategy <p>As we ramp-up to the gift-giving holiday season, I wanted to take a minute to focus our efforts on retail businesses and specifically how they can maximize their returns. Nearly every type of retail business can benefit from the increased exposure and audience size afforded by an e-commerce site, so we&rsquo;ve compiled our top resources for adding or improving your e-commerce site.</p> <p><strong>Get Started</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re currently using your website as a marketing tool or to give customers valuable information, the next obvious step is to add e-commerce capabilities. Selling products or services online isn&rsquo;t as hard as you might think and creates a new source of cash flow for your business.</p> <p>SCORE&rsquo;s guide, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/how-add-ecommerce-your-website" title="http://www.score.org/resources/how-add-ecommerce-your-website">How to Add eCommerce to Your Website</a>,&rdquo; will walk you through how to:</p> <ul> <li> Brainstorm ideas of what you should offer online</li> <li> Choose your payment solutions</li> <li> Choose a shopping cart solution</li> <li> Investigate e-commerce software</li> </ul> <p><strong>Get Found </strong></p> <p>Next, you&rsquo;ll want to have a plan for how to draw customers in. Having a solid domain name strategy can play a big role in helping your online business to succeed. It all starts with choosing the right domain name, or Web address, to represent your business on the Web. Have you considered the strategy of having multiple domain names pointing to your single website? Dan Beldowicz, creator of Social Media BS, <a href="http://blog.score.org/2013/dan-beldowicz/how-the-right-domain-name-or-names-can-help-your-online-business/">recommends tools and strategies</a> for establishing your main domain name and helping you brainstorm additional domain names that will benefit your business. Dan says, &ldquo;Think about purchasing domain names that represent different aspects of your business, such as product names or taglines.&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Build Relationships </strong></p> <p>Finally, get your web visitors to click that &ldquo;purchase&rdquo; button. Filling shopping carts is about &ldquo;building relationships with your customers and your potential customers.&rdquo; says Shawn Pfunder, Go Daddy Web Expert and small business guru. &ldquo;The hard part about that is: how do you do that with just a computer? Websites have gotten a bad rap for being very de-personalized.&rdquo; In preparation for the upcoming retail surge, Shawn shared his <a href="http://www.score.org/workshops/selling-online-10-tips-fill-holiday-shopping-carts" title="http://www.score.org/workshops/selling-online-10-tips-fill-holiday-shopping-carts">10 tips to fill holiday shopping carts in your e-commerce store</a>, including:</p> <ul> <li> #1 Write remarkable descriptions</li> <li> #4 Solicit and publish reviews</li> <li> #7 Cross-sell the smart way</li> </ul> <p>There&rsquo;s still time to take advantage of the upcoming retail rush by getting your business started selling online or improving your current e-commerce strategy. Use these resources combined with the know-how of a <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors" title="http://www.score.org/mentors">SCORE mentor</a> to get your business harnessing the selling power of the internet today.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/grow-your-small-business-with-e-commerce-strategy#comments http://www.sba.gov/crss/node/777001 The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 12 Dec 2013 20:03:15 +0000 bridgetwpollack 777001 at http://www.sba.gov