http://www.sba.gov/community/blog/rss/all/feed en Should You Look At Pet Franchise Ownership? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/should-you-look-pet-franchise-ownership <p>Some of the best advice I can give to you if you&rsquo;re looking to someday own <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-franchising-began" title="start franchises">a franchise business</a> is to look at industries that are growing. The pet industry is one of them, and I have the stats to prove it.&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>The pet industry is huge....and it continues to grow, with or without a strong economy. Not many industries can claim to do that. But, is that reason enough for you to consider owning a business in the pet industry?</p> <p><strong>Pet Industry Statistics</strong></p> <p>Take a look at how much money U.S. pet owners spend on their pets, year in and year out. Notice 2009-2010. The big recession took place then, and pet owners still increased their spending, according to the American Pet Products Association (APPA) numbers below.</p> <p>Total U.S. Pet Industry Expenditures:</p> <p>Year&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Billion</p> <p>2014&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $58.51 Estimated</p> <p>2013&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $55.72 Actual</p> <p>2012&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; &nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;$53.33</p> <p>2011&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $50.96</p> <p>2010&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $48.35</p> <p>2009&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $45.5</p> <p>2008&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; $43.2</p> <p>The actual number of pet owning households is significantly higher than it was 20 years ago, according to the same 2013-2014 <a href="http://www.americanpetproducts.org/press_industrytrends.asp" title="pet products survey">APPA National Pet Owners Survey</a>*. It shows that 68% of U.S. households own a pet, which equates to 82.5 million homes. In addition, approximately four out of ten pet-owning households in the U.S. are multiple pet owners.</p> <p><strong>Pet Franchise Types </strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re thinking of getting into the pet industry, the franchise sector offers several choices &ndash; different franchised concepts that offer a wide variety of pet products and services. Some of these franchises can be started as <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/community-blogs/small-business-matters/starting-home-based-franchise-business-6-st-0" title="sba blog starting a home based business">home-based businesses</a> with a modest investment. Some require a brick and mortar location. Here are some examples of pet franchise opportunities:</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Petland &shy;&shy;&shy;&ndash; Franchisees offer pet supplies, products and services to pet lovers in a retail setting. The company has been servicing the needs to pet owners for 45 years from their 500+ franchise locations.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Pet Supplies Plus&reg; &ndash; Another retailer of pet products, supplies and services, Pet Supplies Plus has a large array of items that are produced in the U.S. In addition, stores partner with local animal rescue organizations hosting pet adoption events.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Zoomin Groomin &ndash; Franchisees of the concept bring pet grooming services right to their customers&rsquo; doors. Pets can experience full grooming services in the comfort of their own home or inside the Zoomin Groomin mobile washing and grooming vehicle.&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Splash And Dash Groomerie And Boutique &ndash; This brick and mortar franchise offers a safe and comfortable environment for pet owners to bring their dogs and cats. They even offer unlimited monthly &ldquo;bath and brush&rdquo; packages for pets that seem to always get dirty.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Pet Butler &shy;&ndash; Speaking of &ldquo;dirty,&rdquo; there are certain duties that all pet owners have, and some of them are rather unpleasant. For pet owners that are willing to pay, Pet Butler provides pet waste cleanup and removal services, and has been doing so since 1988.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Zoom Room &shy;&ndash; Another brick and mortar franchise, Zoom Room offers dog training classes. In addition, Zoom Room franchisees offer agility training, educational seminars and Canine Good Citizen obedience training and testing.</p> <p><strong>Learning More</strong></p> <p>The pet franchise sector of franchising is unique in the fact that franchisees really need to have a love for pets. It would be difficult not to. In other words, if you don&rsquo;t like dogs and/or cats, a pet franchise isn&rsquo;t the one for you!</p> <p>If you can see yourself in a business in which you&rsquo;d be spending most of your time with animals &shy;&ndash; along with a few humans of course &ndash; consider looking into a pet franchise opportunity. Learn all you can about the industry, and talk to a lot of franchisees that are doing what you may want to be doing yourself.</p> <p>Finally, make sure to <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/franchise-lawyers-when-use-one" title="hire a franchise attorney article sba.gov">talk with a franchise attorney</a> before you enter into a franchise agreement. Working with pets can be rewarding, and even fun, but it&rsquo;s still a business. You need to understand your responsibilities as a franchisee as well as the franchisor&rsquo;s responsibilities. &nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>* Non-U.S. Government link</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/should-you-look-pet-franchise-ownership#comments The Industry Word Starting Tue, 29 Jul 2014 13:29:01 +0000 FranchiseKing 1100901 at http://www.sba.gov/community Seminarios en línea en Español Acerca de la Ley de Atención a la Salud para Pequeñas Empresas con Empleados http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/seminarios-en-l%C3%ADnea-en-espa%C3%B1ol-acerca-de-la-ley-de-atenci%C3%B3n-la-salud-para-peque%C3%B1as-empresas-con-empleados <p>La Agencia Federal para el Desarrollo de la Peque&ntilde;a Empresa (SBA por sus siglas en ingl&eacute;s), el Departamento de Salud y Servicios Sociales (HHS por sus siglas en ingl&eacute;s), y la organizaci&oacute;n Small Business Majority ofrecer&aacute;n una serie de seminarios en l&iacute;nea en espa&ntilde;ol acerca de la Ley del Cuidado de la Salud para propietarios de peque&ntilde;os negocios. Empleadores de habla hispana podr&aacute;n &ldquo;reunirse&rdquo; con representantes de la SBA, HHS y Small Business Majority cada otro martes durante el verano y el oto&ntilde;o para beneficiarse de los seminarios en l&iacute;nea en espa&ntilde;ol. Dichas sesiones les proporcionar&aacute;n a los peque&ntilde;os empresarios una visi&oacute;n general de la ley e informaci&oacute;n sobre c&oacute;mo pueden inscribirse en el Mercado de seguros de salud para negocios peque&ntilde;os. Otros t&oacute;picos que se discutir&aacute;n incluyen reformas al mercado, cr&eacute;ditos tributarios asociados con el cuidado de la salud para los negocios peque&ntilde;os, y las estipulaciones que controlan la responsabilidad compartida de los empleadores.</p> <p>Despu&eacute;s de cada presentaci&oacute;n habr&aacute; una sesi&oacute;n de&nbsp; preguntas y respuestas.</p> <p>Abajo aparecen los enlaces electr&oacute;nicos para los pr&oacute;ximos seminarios en l&iacute;nea en espa&ntilde;ol.</p> <ul> <li> Martes, 5 de Agosto a las 4 pm. <a href="https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=oe8q957l2n0r">Haga clic aqu&iacute; para inscribirse</a></li> <li> Martes, 19 de Agosto a las 4 pm. <a href="https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=llb3918xp9ul">Haga clic aqu&iacute; para inscribirse</a></li> </ul> <p><strong>Sobre la autora</strong></p> <p>Meredith K. Olafson es Asesora Principal en material de Pol&iacute;tica de la Agencia Federal para el Desarrollo de la Peque&ntilde;a Empresa, y supervisa los esfuerzos de la agencia en cuanto a divulgaci&oacute;n y educaci&oacute;n sobre atenci&oacute;n a la salud y la Ley del Cuidado de la Salud.</p> <p style="margin-left:.25in;">&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/seminarios-en-l%C3%ADnea-en-espa%C3%B1ol-acerca-de-la-ley-de-atenci%C3%B3n-la-salud-para-peque%C3%B1as-empresas-con-empleados#comments Health Care Business Pulse SBA News and Views Fri, 25 Jul 2014 23:38:33 +0000 Meredith K. Olafson 1100271 at http://www.sba.gov/community A Bank's Gift Demonstrates the Power of Small Business Innovation http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/banks-gift-demonstrates-power-small-business-innovation <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Today on Capitol Hill, I joined leaders of JP Morgan Chase as they announced a five-year, $30 million philanthropic investment to support the pioneering work of American small businesses joining &ldquo;regional clusters.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Clusters are public-private partnerships that convene a region&rsquo;s corporations, small businesses, universities, investors and regional economic organizations to achieve synergies and productivity levels that a single company could not. Chase&rsquo;s commitment is believed to be the largest private-sector contribution to date in support of clusters.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">SBA was the very first federal agency supporting this regional growth strategy back in 2010. Since then, we&rsquo;ve played a leading role in interagency efforts to create and support clusters. We&rsquo;ve provided more than $21 million in government grants and contracts, and we&rsquo;ve organized forums for cluster leaders to discuss strategies to increase the commercialization of new technologies created by small businesses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Clusters are supporting entrepreneurs who work in some of the key emerging industries of the 21</span><sup>st</sup><span style="font-size: 13px;"> century. This matters, because it&rsquo;s our small businesses that have emerged as America&rsquo;s leading innovators, producing 13 times more patents per employee than large firms. Small businesses employ more than 40 percent of America&rsquo;s high-tech workers, and their size and nimbleness allows them to quickly adapt to emerging science and changing commercial realities.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">While smaller firms house some of this nation&rsquo;s brightest minds, what they usually don&rsquo;t house are large development departments that specialize in securing grants and new contracts. As a result, highly qualified small businesses often miss out on opportunities to gain entry into promising new markets.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">That&rsquo;s where clusters come in. They convene all the major players, who pool resources and expertise to attract funding and research dollars, which in turn helps small firms scale up and hire. Clusters also train the local labor pool in specific skills sets that are in high demand &ndash; usually, in the STEM disciplines (science, technology, engineering and math). In short, clusters help regions harness what makes them special to drive breakthroughs in emerging industries with the potential to help power the American economy for generations.</span></p> <p>The SBA currently supports clusters focused on advanced power and energy in Minnesota, geospatial technologies in Mississippi, defense and aerospace in Alabama, smart grid technologies in Illinois, electrochemical energy storage in Connecticut, cyber security and defense technologies in San Diego, and flexible electronic products in Ohio.</p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">A third party evaluator just completed the </span><a href="http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/aboutsbaarticle/SBAClusters_Year3_Report.pdf" style="font-size: 13px;">third year of a performance report</a><span style="font-size: 13px;">, comparing small businesses that participated in an SBA-funded cluster with their local competitors that did not. Entrepreneurs in clusters created jobs and grew their payrolls four times faster than their industry peers.&nbsp; And over the three-year period, they attracted an additional $161 million in private capital and grants to support their work. Nearly 9 in 10 entrepreneurs said they were unable to obtain similar support outside of the cluster.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Chase&rsquo;s commitment is powerful evidence that major players in the finance world are now seeing the light on clusters. And that&rsquo;s good news for the small businesses that are quietly powering our economy&rsquo;s high-tech transformation. These are exciting times to be both an innovator and an entrepreneur in America. Who knows where the next Silicon Valley may spring up?</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/banks-gift-demonstrates-power-small-business-innovation#comments Open For Business Financing Managing Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:00:33 +0000 Maria Contreras-Sweet 1099731 at http://www.sba.gov/community Get Over These Dangerous Business Planning Myths http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/get-over-these-dangerous-business-planning-myths <p>If you don&rsquo;t plan your business because you don&rsquo;t need a formal business plan document for a loan application or investors, you&rsquo;re missing out. Planning is a tool for steering and managing your business &ndash; something that benefits all businesses, whether they need the formal document or not.</p> <p>That fear and doubt so many business owners have (are you one of them?) is associated with several dangerous myths about business planning. So I want to dispel those myths with this post.</p> <h2> 1. It&rsquo;s about the management, not the plan.</h2> <p>Your plan exists to help you manage. It includes only what you need for its function, which is setting strategy, tactics and concrete specifics. You use it to track performance against plan, review results, and revise regularly, so the plan is always up to date. And that&rsquo;s not a big document; it&rsquo;s a collection of lists, bullet points, reminders and projected business numbers. I hope it&rsquo;s gathered into a single place, as if it were a document, but it doesn&rsquo;t have to be. And it&rsquo;s only as big as you need, as polished as you need, as formal as you need.</p> <p>Your business plan document, if and when needed, adds a lot of description and supporting information that&nbsp;aren&rsquo;t in the main plan. That&rsquo;s additional dressing. You add it when you have to in order to show a plan document to outsiders.</p> <p>Every small-business owner suffers the problem of management and accountability. It&rsquo;s much easier to be friends with your coworkers than to manage them well.</p> <p>Correct management means setting expectations well and then following up on results. Compare results with expectations. People on a team are held accountable only if management actually does the work of tracking results and communicating results, after the fact, to the people responsible.</p> <h2> 2. Not all business planning needs rigorous market analysis.</h2> <p>Contrary to the myth, a business plan doesn&rsquo;t have to include supporting information to analyze or prove a market &mdash; at least, not until later, if and when the business purpose requires it. Not that you don&rsquo;t have to know your market &mdash; but you don&rsquo;t have to describe it or prove it for a lean plan. You don&rsquo;t have to show some outsider who you are, what you own, or any of that.</p> <p>You don&rsquo;t have to do a rigorous market analysis as part of your plan if you know exactly what you&rsquo;re offering, and to whom. So what about market analysis? Think about the business purpose. Do you need the market analysis to help determine your strategy? Then do it. Are you ready to go with that&nbsp;strategy regardless? Then don&rsquo;t sweat the market analysis.</p> <h2> 3. Good planning doesn&rsquo;t reduce flexibility. It builds flexibility.</h2> <p>People say, &ldquo;Why would I do a business plan? That just locks me in. It&rsquo;s a straitjacket.&rdquo;</p> <p>And I say: wrong. The dumbest thing in the world is to do something just because it&rsquo;s in the plan. There is no merit whatsoever in following a plan just for the plan&rsquo;s sake. You never plan to run yourself into a brick wall over and over.</p> <p>Instead, understand that the plan relates long term to short term, sales to costs and expenses and cash flow, marketing to sales, and lots of other interdependencies in the business. When things change &mdash; and they always do &mdash; the plan helps you keep track of what affects what else, so you can adjust accordingly.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s not like change undermines planning; actually, planning is the best way to manage change.</p> <p>So running a business right requires minding the details but also watching the horizon. Eyes down, eyes up. At the same time.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/get-over-these-dangerous-business-planning-myths#comments The Industry Word Managing Starting Mon, 21 Jul 2014 21:01:55 +0000 Tim Berry 1099581 at http://www.sba.gov/community Spanish-Language Affordable Care Act 101 Webinars for Small Employers http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/spanish-language-affordable-care-act-101-webinars-small-employers <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">The U.S. Small Business Administration, the Department of Health and Human Services, and Small Business Majority will launch a series of Spanish-language webinars for small business owners on the <a href="http://www.sba.gov/healthcare">Affordable Care Act</a>.&nbsp; Every other Tuesday throughout the summer and fall, Spanish-speaking small employers can join representatives from SBA, HHS and Small Business Majority for ACA 101 webinars in Spanish.&nbsp; The webinars will provide small business owners with an overview of the law and information on how they can enroll in the small business health insurance Marketplace. Other topics discussed include market reforms, the small business health care tax credit, and the employer shared responsibility provisions.&nbsp;</span></p> <p>A question and answer period will follow the presentation.</p> <p>Below are the registration links for the upcoming Spanish-language webinars<strong>.&nbsp; </strong>SBA&nbsp;Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet will kick off the first webinar on July 22.</p> <ul> <li> Tuesday, July 22 at 4&nbsp;PM&nbsp;ET:&nbsp;<a href="http://links.govdelivery.com:80/track?type=click&amp;enid=ZWFzPTEmbWFpbGluZ2lkPTIwMTQwNzIwLjM0MjYzMjQxJm1lc3NhZ2VpZD1NREItUFJELUJVTC0yMDE0MDcyMC4zNDI2MzI0MSZkYXRhYmFzZWlkPTEwMDEmc2VyaWFsPTE2ODY5Mzc1JmVtYWlsaWQ9bWVyZWRpdGgub2xhZnNvbkBzYmEuZ292JnVzZXJpZD1tZXJlZGl0aC5vbGFmc29uQHNiYS5nb3YmZmw9JmV4dHJhPU11bHRpdmFyaWF0ZUlkPSYmJg==&amp;&amp;&amp;112&amp;&amp;&amp;https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=ec8cdctd8ydg">Click to Register</a></li> <li> Tuesday, August 5 at 4&nbsp;PM&nbsp;ET:&nbsp;<a href="http://links.govdelivery.com:80/track?type=click&amp;enid=ZWFzPTEmbWFpbGluZ2lkPTIwMTQwNzIwLjM0MjYzMjQxJm1lc3NhZ2VpZD1NREItUFJELUJVTC0yMDE0MDcyMC4zNDI2MzI0MSZkYXRhYmFzZWlkPTEwMDEmc2VyaWFsPTE2ODY5Mzc1JmVtYWlsaWQ9bWVyZWRpdGgub2xhZnNvbkBzYmEuZ292JnVzZXJpZD1tZXJlZGl0aC5vbGFmc29uQHNiYS5nb3YmZmw9JmV4dHJhPU11bHRpdmFyaWF0ZUlkPSYmJg==&amp;&amp;&amp;113&amp;&amp;&amp;https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=oe8q957l2n0r">Click to Register</a></li> <li> Tuesday, August 19 at 4&nbsp;PM&nbsp;ET:&nbsp;<a href="http://links.govdelivery.com:80/track?type=click&amp;enid=ZWFzPTEmbWFpbGluZ2lkPTIwMTQwNzIwLjM0MjYzMjQxJm1lc3NhZ2VpZD1NREItUFJELUJVTC0yMDE0MDcyMC4zNDI2MzI0MSZkYXRhYmFzZWlkPTEwMDEmc2VyaWFsPTE2ODY5Mzc1JmVtYWlsaWQ9bWVyZWRpdGgub2xhZnNvbkBzYmEuZ292JnVzZXJpZD1tZXJlZGl0aC5vbGFmc29uQHNiYS5nb3YmZmw9JmV4dHJhPU11bHRpdmFyaWF0ZUlkPSYmJg==&amp;&amp;&amp;114&amp;&amp;&amp;https://cc.readytalk.com/cc/s/registrations/new?cid=llb3918xp9ul">Click to Register</a></li> </ul> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/spanish-language-affordable-care-act-101-webinars-small-employers#comments Health Care Business Pulse SBA News and Views Mon, 21 Jul 2014 20:32:56 +0000 Meredith K. Olafson 1099541 at http://www.sba.gov/community Getting Started With Exporting: Training and Educational Resources to Help You Take the First Steps http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/getting-started-with-exporting-training-and-educational-resources-help-you-take-first-steps <p>With two-thirds of the world&rsquo;s purchasing power in foreign countries, exporting represents a big opportunity to tap in to new markets, expand your customer base, and grow your business.</p> <p>However, getting started with exporting can sometimes feel like a complex maze of regulations, policies, and other barriers. To help small businesses understand how to overcome these barriers and prepare to sell internationally, the federal government has several free training and educational resources that enable entrepreneurs to chart the path to exporting success.&nbsp;</p> <ul> <li> The <a href="http://www.sba.gov/" title="link to SBA.gov">Small Business Administration</a> provides a wide range of online and in-person training related to exporting. The <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/sba-learning-center/training/take-your-business-global-introduction-exporting" title="link to course">Introduction to Exporting </a>course helps determine if exporting makes strategic sense for your business and whether you are ready to take the next steps. The <a href="http://www.sba.gov/exportbusinessplanner" title="link to Business Planner">Export Business Planner</a> is a free, customizable document that enables you to work through the critical processes of export planning.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> Through its network of trade finance specialists located in 19 U.S. Export Assistance Centers (USEAC) throughout the country, the SBA provides training and counseling on trade financing and U.S. government export financing programs to both lenders and small businesses. USEACs are a valuable resource for small business exporters, combining the international marketing expertise of Commercial Service staff with the trade financing expertise of SBA (and in some cities, the Export-Import Bank) staff in one location. <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/eac" title="link to Export Assistance Center information">Find an Export Assistance Center near you</a>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> Free and low-cost training and counseling on exporting is also available through the Small Business Administration&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/districtoffices" title="link to district offices">District Offices</a>, <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/sbdc" title="link to Small Business Development Centers">Small Business Development Centers</a> and <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/wbc" title="link to Women's Business Centers">Women&rsquo;s Business Centers</a>. <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance" title="link to local training resources">Find local training and counseling resources in your area</a>.</li> </ul> <ul> <li> <a href="http://business.usa.gov/export" title="link to BusinessUSA">BusinessUSA</a> has a full set of free tools to help you <a href="http://business.usa.gov/export" title="link to exporting information">explore exporting</a>, including a <a href="http://business.usa.gov/begin-exporting" title="link to BusinessUSA exporting wizard">step-by-step wizard</a> that determines how prepared you are and finds customized resources for your specific needs. <a href="http://business.usa.gov/expand-exporting" title="likn to exporting tool for financing">Another wizard</a> helps you find resources on how to finance exporting that will enable you to expand your business. The site&rsquo;s <a href="http://business.usa.gov/export/basic-guide-to-exporting/basic-guide-to-exporting" title="link to Exporting 101">Exporting 101</a> section is a comprehensive overview of how to sell overseas and includes <a href="http://business.usa.gov/export#learn-research" title="link to market research tools">market research tools</a>, <a href="http://business.usa.gov/export#learn-consulting" title="link to consulting support">consulting support</a> and other <a href="http://business.usa.gov/export#learn-information" title="link to additional exporting information">information</a> that enables you to learn about exporting. In addition, you can locate <a href="http://business.usa.gov/events/?f%5B0%5D=bundle%3Aevent" title="link to training and exporting events">free training and other exporting events</a> in your area.</li> </ul> <p>For more on exporting, including information on Small Business Administration export loan programs and other financial assistance, go to <a href="http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/exporting-importing" title="link to sba.gov/exporting">sba.gov/exporting</a>.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/getting-started-with-exporting-training-and-educational-resources-help-you-take-first-steps#comments Small Business Matters International Mon, 21 Jul 2014 14:32:55 +0000 plester 1099511 at http://www.sba.gov/community Employee Fraud: What You Can Do About It http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/employee-fraud-what-you-can-do-about-it <p>Employees are one of your biggest assets, even though they don&rsquo;t appear on your balance sheet. They help you operate your business and are the faces of your company brand. But employees can also be a big liability if they steal from you. What can you do to protect yourself?</p> <p><strong>Acknowledge the problem</strong></p> <p><a href="http://www.acfe.com/rttn/images/cost-of-fraud-infographic.pdf" title="Links to ACFE.com"><u>*Recent statistics</u></a> found that companies lose 5% of their revenues each year to employee fraud. Companies with fewer than 100 employees had 28% higher fraud losses than larger companies.</p> <p>Fraud can take many forms, including outright theft of property (from paper clips to expensive inventory items), subtle theft by wasting time (focus on personal matters, sports events or other distractions), to embezzlement of company funds. Employees can be very creative in devising ways to steal from you, including creating bogus customers and invoices to siphon funds from the company.</p> <p><strong>Wise staffing practices</strong></p> <p>Having the best employees on your staff can go a long way in minimizing or avoiding fraud inside your company.</p> <ul> <li> <em>Do background checks before hiring anyone new</em>. You can check public records to look for bankruptcies and criminal records without permission from the job applicant. If you want to do a credit check (there&rsquo;s debate about whether a bad credit rating is any indication of potential employee fraud), you&rsquo;ll need permission. <em>Note</em>: About a dozen states bar employers from doing credit checks of job applicants and employees and Congress is considering similar federal legislation (<a href="http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/BILLS-113s1837is/pdf/BILLS-113s1837is.pdf" title="Links to gpo.gov">see <u>S. 1837</u></a>).</li> <li> <em>Get to know your staff</em> so you can detect potentially bad situations. Those with financial difficulties, such as an employee experiencing a home foreclosure or one with a gambling problem, may feel impelled to steal. Those displaying unaccounted wealth, such as a <em>Lamborghini suddenly being driven by an employee who was previously driving a Ford Focus, may raise suspicions.</em></li> <li> <em>Create the right company culture. </em>Let employees know how seriously you view any theft.</li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Implement systems for protection</strong></p> <p>As with the three branches of the federal government, checks and balances can prevent an employee from manipulating financial data. The less opportunity that employees have to steal, the lower the incidence of such action will be.</p> <p>Frequent inventories can monitor and detect any employee theft of company property. Bring your accountant in to review your inventory and other financial information.</p> <p>Make it clear that employee theft will not be tolerated and that violators will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Unfortunately, some small business owners ignore illegal activity, which then breeds more of the same.</p> <p><strong>Be vigilant</strong></p> <p>As the business owner, it&rsquo;s up to you to oversee what&rsquo;s going on in your business. Look for clues that something nefarious may be going on, such as a bookkeeper who never takes a vacation or declines to delegate work. Limit review of the monthly bank statement to you and, perhaps, your accountant; don&rsquo;t leave it to the bookkeeper to review the statement before you see it.</p> <p>Create an anonymous reporting system for employees to tell you about suspected fraud without fear of retaliation. Tips are the *<a href="http://www.acfe.com/rttn-summary.aspx" title="Links to acfe.com"><u>most common method of detection</u> </a>(), yet fewer than 20% of small companies have a system in place, compared with 70% of larger firms. If you want to implement a reporting system, it can be a web-based system or a special phone hotline for this purpose.</p> <p>And keep your ears open to any talk from staff members about possible thefts that may be going on.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>* <em>Denotes non-government website</em></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/employee-fraud-what-you-can-do-about-it#comments The Industry Word Business Laws Managing Thu, 17 Jul 2014 12:30:16 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 1098531 at http://www.sba.gov/community My 100-Day Progress Report http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/my-100-day-progress-report <p>It has been an exhilarating first 100 days on the job. When I was sworn in as SBA Administrator in April, I promised to &ldquo;get more loans into the hands of entrepreneurs who reflect the diversity of America by making it easier for community banks and microlenders to become our partners.&rdquo;</p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Following up on this promise, I recently announced a transformative new plan to automate SBA lending and streamline and simplify the agency&rsquo;s underwriting process to attract more lending partners and open up new markets for small business owners who need capital to expand and grow.&nbsp; Days after this announcement, which will ease the burdens on lenders approving small-dollar loans to entrepreneurs, I appeared at a Clinton Global Initiative conference in Denver to help announce an exciting commitment called the Century Club. Eight Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) each pledged to make at least 100 small business loans a year for the next 10 years, which will inject $1 billion of additional capital into America&rsquo;s small business ecosystem.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Last week, we continued our progress in expanding access to capital. At the White House, I joined President Obama to announce a new initiative called <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/new-strategy-%E2%80%9Cdrive%E2%80%9D-small-business-growth-0">SupplierPay</a>. More than two dozen major corporations pledged to pay their small business suppliers faster and offer other creative financing solutions to get entrepreneurs access to affordable working capital so they have the payment certainty to make new hires and grow their companies.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">We&rsquo;ve also been focused on creating new opportunities for our veterans who wish to translate their military leadership skills into opportunities to serve their country as civilian job creators. We &ldquo;rebooted&rdquo; our popular <a href="http://www.boots2businessreboot.org/">Boots to Business </a>entrepreneurship program &ndash; a two-day crash course in starting a small business followed by an eight-week, instructor-led online course. We&rsquo;re now conducting this program for transitioning service members at more than 200 military installations worldwide. And last week at the White House, we expanded this initiative to serve veterans who&rsquo;ve already transitioned out.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">At Twitter headquarters, the SBA launched a new <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/global-accelerator-network-and-sba-co-host-accelerator-demo-day-austin-and-unveil-competition">competition for entities</a> &ndash; university incubators or local nonprofits &ndash; that help seed start-ups by offering up office space, mentoring, networking, business-plan assistance, and sometimes startup capital, too. We&rsquo;re exporting the Silicon Valley support model to communities in Middle America. The competition will fund up to 50 accelerators that are focused on key industries like clean energy and health care, as well as those focused on underserved populations, including women entrepreneurs, minorities, and small business owners in distressed urban and rural areas.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">In recognition of the reality that there are still communities disproportionately struggling in the aftermath of the Great Recession, I also launched <a href="https://www.fbo.gov/index?s=opportunity&amp;mode=form&amp;id=23bc2de2cb2b37e5b9c12e86667c5da5&amp;tab=core&amp;_cview=0">Scale-Up America</a> &ndash; another competitive program that will bring intensive SBA assistance to up to 14 cities with strong small business growth potential. We&rsquo;re excited about this program, because more than 90 percent of new jobs generated by small businesses come from the expansion of existing businesses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">Finally, as an immigrant myself, I was proud to represent the United States in El Salvador to meet with the country&rsquo;s new leadership and recognize the peaceful succession of President Salvador S&aacute;nchez Cer&eacute;n. I had the opportunity to meet with Salvadoran small business owners, who provide 70 percent of the country&rsquo;s jobs, and promote the bilateral Partnership for Growth plan signed by both nations in recognition of the increasingly important role Latin American nations are playing in the global economy.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 13px;">These first 100 days have been a whirlwind, and I am buoyed by the energy and optimism of all the entrepreneurs I&rsquo;ve met in cities across America. There&rsquo;s still so much more to do. I hope you&rsquo;ll contact me on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/MCS4Biz">@MCS4biz</a> to keep the dialogue going as we continue our forward momentum into the fall.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/my-100-day-progress-report#comments Open For Business SBA News and Views Tue, 15 Jul 2014 18:15:04 +0000 Maria Contreras-Sweet 1097851 at http://www.sba.gov/community A New Strategy to “Drive” Small Business Growth http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/new-strategy-%E2%80%9Cdrive%E2%80%9D-small-business-growth-0 <p>Three years ago, entrepreneur Maurice Brewster made one of the best business decisions of his life: He signed his limousine company, Mosaic Transportation, up for IBM&rsquo;s Supplier Connection &ndash; a collaboration between small businesses and the supply chains of Fortune 500 corporations</p> <p>It was a wise decision because small firms that enter the supply chains of major corporations grow their revenue by an average of 250 percent and their workforce by an average of 150 percent.</p> <p>In three years, Maurice has signed contracts with seven major corporations, grown Mosaic from 20 to 46 employees, and tripled his annual revenues. His company had lost half of its business during the Recession, but now it is reaping record profits. Maurice credits this remarkable turnaround to two things: he joined a corporate supply chain, and all seven of his new clients pay him up front with a corporate credit card.</p> <p>Unfortunately, most Mosaic clients take far longer to pay; it took one company seven months to cut his check. Maurice says if every client paid him on time, he would expand tomorrow to New York and Los Angeles and create dozens of new jobs.</p> <p>This is a common complaint from America&rsquo;s small business owners. Timely payments and the cost of working capital can make or break a small business. And these ingredients are essential to job creation and economic growth.</p> <p>Today, SBA Administrator Maria Contreras-Sweet joined President Obama at the White House to announce the launch of <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/supplierpay_pledge.pdf">SupplierPay</a>. It&rsquo;s a new project dedicated to giving America&rsquo;s entrepreneurs access to affordable, consistent working capital. It&rsquo;s about paying them on time and keeping their interest rates low, so they can invest in new equipment, new products and new people.</p> <p><a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/07/11/president-obama-announces-new-partnership-private-sector-strengthen-amer">Twenty-six major corporation</a>s have already signed up. They&rsquo;ve pledged to shorten payment times or provide other creative financing solutions, so their small business suppliers have the confidence to hire more workers and expand their operations.</p> <p>SBA will take the lead in recruiting additional corporations to join this endeavor.&nbsp; We have a great case to make, because SupplierPay is a win-win for small businesses and their corporate partners. Supply chains are often shared across an entire industry, so there&rsquo;s a positive spillover effect when capital costs are lowered. It reduces the price of goods and services. It allows investments in human capital that reduce preventable errors. It increases returns on cash and improves the overall stability of supply chains.</p> <p>President Obama promised the American people he would use the power of his office to make progress on their behalf. Whether you&rsquo;re a limo company, an auto parts maker or an IT services company, getting paid faster and on more favorable terms is a surefire way to drive job growth and help put America on the road to a more prosperous future.<br /> &nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/new-strategy-%E2%80%9Cdrive%E2%80%9D-small-business-growth-0#comments Open For Business SBA News and Views Fri, 11 Jul 2014 16:17:36 +0000 John Spears 1096721 at http://www.sba.gov/community How to Encourage Customer Loyalty in Your Small Business and Why It’s Critical to Your Success! http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-encourage-customer-loyalty-your-small-business-and-why-it%E2%80%99s-critical-your-success <p>You&rsquo;ve probably heard the adage that &ldquo;keeping an old customer is cheaper than converting a new one.&rdquo; But just how much cheaper is it? According to survey data presented in the new <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/winning-them-over-key-growth">SCORE Infographic</a> out this month, securing a new customer is six to seven times more expensive than keeping an existing one. And loyal customers are worth up to 10 times the amount of their first purchase! Given these findings, it becomes obvious that customer loyalty is a worthwhile goal for your business to aspire, not only for marketing and branding reasons, but because of its impact on the bottom line as well.</p> <p>If you&rsquo;ve ever wondered how much of an impact customer loyalty really makes to a small business, check out the infographic, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/winning-them-over-key-growth">Customer Loyalty: Winning Them Over is the Key to Growth</a>&rdquo; for the full visual rundown in terms of real dollars and cents.</p> <p>Since it&rsquo;s clear that customer loyalty is imperative to your enterprise&rsquo;s success, let&rsquo;s further explore the options and techniques others have used to cultivate strong customer devotion. The experts at the SBA recently offered &ldquo;4 Tips for Customer Loyalty Programs&rdquo; including:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Loyalty Punch Cards</strong></p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Opt-In Programs</strong></p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Digital Days</strong></p> <p>But, the SBA warns, &ldquo;there&rsquo;s no &lsquo;one size fits all&rsquo; approach for all businesses. Observe customer trends and listen to what they say so you&rsquo;ll be able to think of ways to make your incentives and rewards as unique as your business.&rdquo;</p> <p>Check out the <a href="http://www.blog.score.org/2014/sba/4-tips-for-customer-loyalty-programs">full blog post</a> to learn how to best employ these tactics and how to determine what is really important to and impactful on your specific customer base.</p> <h2> Tips to Employ Everyday</h2> <p>Seasoned SCORE mentor Stephen Engelhardt recently shared his &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/expert-tips-sales-and-customer-loyalty">Expert Tips for Sales and Customer Loyalty</a>&rdquo; in which he discusses how to embrace the sales process as a small business owner and how to foster a long-term relationship with your clients and customers. Stephen addresses the hard questions such as:</p> <p><strong>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>How can you turn a problem or complaint into an opportunity to win over or win back a customer?</strong></p> <p><strong>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </strong><strong>What are some simple ways to build customer loyalty so that they&rsquo;ll keep coming back and hopefully spread the word about your small business?</strong></p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Should you be up front about wanting to do more for customers, or is a more subtle approach better?</strong></p> <p>He shares experienced advice like, &ldquo;I made thousands of dollars in sales from problem clients because I read their mindset and what was needed to make them happy.&rdquo; <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/expert-tips-sales-and-customer-loyalty">Read the interview</a> for all of Stephen&rsquo;s expert insights gained as a business owner and a SCORE mentor.</p> <h2> Boosting Customer Loyalty with Big Data</h2> <p>Finally, like most aspects of your business, it&rsquo;s important to periodically take a step back and survey your internal statistics regarding customer loyalty to evaluate trends and see what can be improved.</p> <p>&quot;Customer data gives businesses, especially smaller ones, a great opportunity to reward customers with loyalty programs that pay attention to their specific purchase preferences,&quot; said Tyler Roye, CEO and co-founder of e-gift card retailer eGifter. &quot;[This can] include products purchased, channels viewed and purchased through, and even currencies used to purchase. Drilling down in those specific areas allows businesses to offer the most-enticing deals and programs for customers, not only making them more likely to spend with the business, but also making them feel valued as individuals.&quot;</p> <p>In <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/boosting-customer-loyalty-big-data">her article on the topic</a>, Nicole Fallon, Assistant Editor of Business News Daily, suggests two places to focus your data collection relative to customer loyalty: social network analysis and cross-IT integration.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>You may have noticed that all of these experts have agreed upon the fact that knowing a customer&rsquo;s needs and catering to them wins you their trust and repeat business. Knowledge is power and having that knowledge specific to your target customer may be the key to generating up to 10 times more revenue in your small business. Worth the investment, no? If you&rsquo;re getting stuck on new incentives to offer your customers or how to delve deeper into analyzing your current tactics, tap into the knowledge and experience of a SCORE mentor who has been there and done that. <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">Connect with a SCORE mentor</a> online or at a local chapter today!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-encourage-customer-loyalty-your-small-business-and-why-it%E2%80%99s-critical-your-success#comments The Industry Word Marketing Mentoring and Training Thu, 10 Jul 2014 01:25:59 +0000 bridgetwpollack 1096341 at http://www.sba.gov/community 5 Reasons Your Business Credit Scores Don’t Get You the Credit You Need http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-reasons-your-business-credit-scores-don%E2%80%99t-get-you-credit-you-need <p>When you apply for a new credit line or request a credit limit increase for your business, suppliers, creditors and lenders want to see how your company has handled its existing credit obligations in the past. This enables them to determine if they should approve your request and to help determine what terms they should offer.</p> <p>Lenders often use <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2011/05/10/business-credit-ratings-2/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit scores">business credit scores</a></strong> to help them assess the level of risk a company presents. Business credit scores are calculated based on the information in a company&rsquo;s credit report. In most cases, higher business credit scores mean lower risk to a lender when extending credit to a business.</p> <p>Your business credit scores are calculated by a statistically derived algorithm, designed to calculate risk based on a variety of factors. Although each <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2010/12/17/business-credit-reporting-agency/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit reporting agency">business credit reporting agency</a></strong> has its own unique scoring models, scores and ratings, other types of information &ndash; such as financials, payment history and credit diversity &ndash; all play a role in the strength of your business credit reports and scores.</p> <p>Here are five reasons that may prevent your business from getting the credit it needs:</p> <p>1) <strong>A weak or incomplete business credit profile</strong> &ndash; The report and demographics of a company play an important role in how creditors assess creditworthiness. A business with issues such as poor financials, outdated registrations or high-risk industry classification codes can trigger a denial of credit or unfavorable credit terms. So it&#39;s vital that your company&rsquo;s documents, financials, filings, and registrations are complete, accurate and up to date.</p> <p>2) <strong>Limited or negative payment history</strong> &ndash; Your payment track record demonstrates how well your company handles its current and past credit obligations. A company with limited or negative payment history will have a difficult time getting credit.</p> <p>Aside from paying invoices in a timely manner, keep your credit usage consistent. Regular purchases and timely payments are what establish a positive payment history; it&rsquo;s what lenders want to see.</p> <p>3) <strong>Low credit limits</strong> &ndash; Low credit limits across multiple accounts plainly reveal to creditors that a business has limited credit capacity. However, a business with high credit limits reveals that it has the ability to handle large credit obligations. As a result, a business will receive much larger credit limit recommendations, especially if the company has low revolving debts. If your company has a positive payment track record with an existing supplier or creditor, it may be in your company&rsquo;s best interest to request a credit limit increase.</p> <p>4) <strong>High credit utilization ratio</strong> &shy;&ndash; While the size of credit limits reveal what amount of credit your creditors are willing to extend to your company, credit utilization ratios show how well your business manages it. Creditors view a high credit utilization ratio as a business with excessive debt with a greater risk of default.</p> <p>Keep credit utilization ratios at 50% or below to avoid falling into this high risk category. Low credit utilization is a clear indication that your business can handle its credit obligations. Doing so will ultimately benefit you during the credit application process.</p> <p>5) <strong>Lack of credit diversity</strong> &ndash; The types of trade lines your business has reporting play a substantial role in the credit granting process. Limited credit diversity may limit your company&rsquo;s ability to qualify for certain types of funding. Having short term financing, revolving accounts, installment loans and open accounts reveals to creditors that your company can manage various types of credit responsibly.</p> <p>Bear in mind your business credit scores will certainly have the tendency to fluctuate with each business credit agency, so it&#39;s vital to monitor your <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/06/16/business-credit-profile/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="business credit profile">business credit profiles</a></strong> on a regular basis. While business credit reports and scores are an essential tool for lenders, suppliers and creditors to assess credit risk; other factors such as banking history, revenues and personal credit scores may play a larger role if a business lacks depth, diversity and density in its files.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/5-reasons-your-business-credit-scores-don%E2%80%99t-get-you-credit-you-need#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Tue, 08 Jul 2014 21:41:21 +0000 Marco Carbajo 1095961 at http://www.sba.gov/community Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR): How it Works and How to Qualify http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/small-business-innovation-research-program-sbir-how-it-works-and-how-qualify <p>Small businesses are the key to advancing America&rsquo;s economy by bringing cutting-edge, high-impact technologies to the marketplace that improve health care, strengthen our military and protect the environment. However, small businesses often have difficulty competing with larger technology companies due to lack of capital for research and development (R&amp;D) work that is critical for moving products from the planning to deployment stages.&nbsp;</p> <p>To help entrepreneurs successfully commercialize their products and services, the federal government established the <a href="http://www.sbir.gov/" title="link to sbir.gov">Small Business Innovation Research/Small Business Technology Transfer</a> program, commonly known as SBIR. Eleven federal agencies including the departments of<a href="http://www.hhs.gov/about/smallbusiness/sbir_sttr.html" title="link to Health and Human Services site"> Health and Human Services</a>, <a href="http://www.acq.osd.mil/osbp/sbir/" title="link to Defense site">Defense</a> and <a href="http://science.energy.gov/sbir/" title="link to Energy site">Energy</a> participate in SBIR, which provide small businesses competitive funding for projects that meet government research needs and boost technological innovation in the public and private sectors. The <a href="http://www.sba.gov/offices/headquarter/oca/resources/6827" title="link to related SBA page">Small Business Administration</a> doesn&rsquo;t directly administer the SBIR funding awards, but it oversees and manages the SBIR program by coordinating with other agencies, reviewing progress and reporting to Congress.</p> <p>Much like the product development process, SBIR is structured in phases:</p> <ul> <li> Phase 1 establishes the technical merit, feasibility and commercial potential of products or services and lasts for six months.</li> <li> Phase 2 supports continued R&amp;D efforts and extends up to two years. Funding levels are based on the success of Phase 1 work.</li> <li> Phase 3 enables the small businesses to commercialize products or services. Although SBIR does not fund Phase 3, some federal agencies may provide additional financial assistance for products and services that help achieve government research goals.</li> </ul> <p>To be eligible for SBIR assistance, businesses must:</p> <ul> <li> Be organized for profit and be located in the United States.</li> <li> Be at least 50% owned and controlled by U.S. citizens or permanent residents. &nbsp;</li> <li> Have no more than 500 employees.</li> <li> Not be controlled by a venture capital firm, hedge fund or private equity firm that owns a majority of the stock.</li> </ul> <p><a href="http://sbir.gov/sites/default/files/elig_size_compliance_guide.pdf" title="link to eligibility requirements">Learn more about eligibility requirements</a> and <a href="http://www.sbir.gov/solicitations" title="link to solicitations site">explore open and future solicitations</a> from agencies throughout the federal government to find SBIR funding opportunities for your small business. Also, <a href="http://www.sbir.gov/" title="link to sbir.gov">go to SBIR.gov</a> for more information about the program including <a href="http://www.sbir.gov/success-stories" title="link to success stories">small business success stories</a>, <a href="http://www.sbir.gov/events" title="link to webinars and events">free upcoming events and webinars</a> and <a href="https://public.govdelivery.com/accounts/USSBA/subscriber/new?topic_id=USSBA_10&amp;pop=t" title="link to email updates from the Small Business Administration">email updates from the Small Business Administration</a>.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/small-business-innovation-research-program-sbir-how-it-works-and-how-qualify#comments Small Business Cents Financing Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:43:26 +0000 plester 1095521 at http://www.sba.gov/community Do You Have A Marketing Plan? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/do-you-have-marketing-plan <p>Does your small business have a marketing plan? A <a href="http://www.marketo.com/reports/marketing-trend-watch-2014-planning-edition/">study by Marketo</a> shows that companies with a documented marketing plan are more likely to be satisfied with their marketing efforts. As you might expect, however, smaller companies are less likely than large ones to have marketing plans. Overall, slightly more than one-third of the companies polled don&rsquo;t have a marketing plan. But only 56 percent of small businesses (fewer than 50 employees) have one, while among companies with over 1,000 employees, 81 percent have one.</p> <p>Marketing plans aren&rsquo;t the only thing that some companies are missing. Although 71 percent of respondents say they sometimes or always meet their marketing goals, 23 percent admit they don&#39;t <em>have</em> specific marketing goals. As the saying goes, if you don&rsquo;t know where you&rsquo;re going, how are you going to get there?</p> <p>Clearly, creating a marketing plan makes a big difference in achieving your goals. Here&rsquo;s what you should include in your marketing plan:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Who are your target customers?</strong> Do your market research to understand where your target customers live, their demographics (age, sex, marital status, income, etc.), their spending habits and anything else that makes them ideally suited for your product or service.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Who are your competitors? </strong>Which companies compete with you for your ideal customers? How do they market themselves, what are their Unique Selling Propositions (USP) and what differentiates your business from theirs? How will you need to market your business to stand out from the competition?</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>Where do your target customers get their information?</strong> To determine what marketing methods and channels will work best for you, you need to know, for example, if your target customers read newspapers or get news online, use social media or don&rsquo;t even know what that is, watch TV or listen to the radio and what websites/publications/stations they read, watch and listen to.</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>What are your marketing goals?</strong> If you&rsquo;re launching a brand-new product, your goal might simply be to raise awareness of what you sell and build your brand name. If you&rsquo;ve got a long-standing business with a well-established brand, your goal could be to sell more to existing customers. Be sure your goals are measurable&mdash;not just &ldquo;to sell more&rdquo; but &ldquo;to increase sales to existing customers by 10 percent per quarter&rdquo; or other specific numbers.</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>How will you market the business?</strong> Based on your understanding of point #3, your marketing plan should list the different marketing and advertising methods you&rsquo;ll use, such as social media, print advertising, online advertising, event marketing, etc.</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>What&rsquo;s your marketing budget? </strong>It&rsquo;s important to set a budget for your marketing plan. Measure what you actually spend against your budget forecast.</p> <p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <strong>How will you measure success and how often? </strong>Marketing takes time to work, so don&rsquo;t assume that a campaign isn&rsquo;t worth the money if you don&rsquo;t see immediate results. However, it&rsquo;s a good idea to measure results quarterly and see which marketing tactics are working best (or not working at all). That way you can redistribute your budget as needed.</p> <p>Review your overall marketing plan at least once a year. Today, the world of marketing is changing at lightning speed, and your business needs to keep up.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/do-you-have-marketing-plan#comments The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 01 Jul 2014 16:19:38 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 1093951 at http://www.sba.gov/community SBA Hosts Youth Entrepreneurs from Junior Achievement for Forum on Entrepreneurship http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sba-hosts-youth-entrepreneurs-junior-achievement-forum-entrepreneurship <p>Last Wednesday, June 18th, SBA had the pleasure of hosting <a href="https://www.juniorachievement.org/web/ja-usa/home">Junior Achievement USA </a>and the teen competitors of Junior Achievement&rsquo;s National Business Plan Challenge. Junior Achievement is the world&#39;s largest organization dedicated to educating students in grades K-12 about entrepreneurship, work readiness and financial literacy through experiential, hands-on programs. The organization has a reputation for preparing America&rsquo;s best and brightest youth for entrepreneurship and business ownership and I was thrilled by their visit. We were able to talk to the students about how the SBA can help them be successful as they start and grow their businesses. These students embody all of the characteristics great entrepreneurs have&mdash;they are smart, inquisitive, dedicated and goal oriented&mdash;which should set them up for success in the future.</p> <p>During their visit, I had the opportunity to sign a Strategic Alliance Memorandum with Junior Achievement USA to solidify our mutual commitment to preparing our country&rsquo;s young people for entrepreneurship and financial success. SBA&rsquo;s Office of Advocacy&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/newsletter_April-2014_0.pdf">April 2014 Newsletter</a>&nbsp;<span style="font-size: 13px;">noted that youth entrepreneurship has dropped around 23% over the last ten years and that only 2% of people under age 25 are self-employed. However, studies also show that a record number of young people are interested in entrepreneurship.</span></p> <p>The SBA is constantly looking for ways to encourage young people to consider entrepreneurship and small business ownership. One way to do that is by helping young people see the possibilities available to them through entrepreneurship at an earlier age, and we are proud to count Junior Achievement USA as an ally in that effort.</p> <p>Any young person who is interested in starting a business should seek support along the way. SBA has several resources to assist. Additional resources for young entrepreneurs can be found at<a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/young-entrepreneurs-series"> www.sba.gov/young</a>. We&rsquo;re also excited to be introducing new initiatives for youth in the upcoming weeks so stay tuned!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sba-hosts-youth-entrepreneurs-junior-achievement-forum-entrepreneurship#comments Open For Business Mentoring and Training SBA News and Views Fri, 27 Jun 2014 16:05:28 +0000 Tameka Montgomery 1092821 at http://www.sba.gov/community True Story: Why You Don’t Want a Business Plan Writer http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/true-story-why-you-don%E2%80%99t-want-business-plan-writer <p>It&rsquo;s been years since I was making a real living off of business plan consulting (I migrated to business plan software instead), but I had an exchange last week that reminded me of one of the biggest problems &ndash; and most common misunderstandings &ndash; related to business plans.</p> <p>Not that you, in your situation, should never hire a business plan writer, consultant or coach. In some cases that&rsquo;s a good idea. But let me explain that after I tell this story.</p> <p>One of my first engagements in business planning was as business plan consultant to a startup with three experienced founders. I met with them several times, listened always, and did their business plan. I built the financial model, wrote the text, and produced the document as a business plan document. But I wasn&rsquo;t part of the team. I wasn&rsquo;t able to promise to go full time. I was just the business plan writer.</p> <p>It was a good startup. It had a good idea and, much more important, a market window, differentiation and experience to make it happen. The three founders had about 40 years of computer company experience between them. And it was a good plan too.</p> <p>But there was a problem with the plan: The founders didn&rsquo;t know it. They thought it was enough to have a plan, but it wasn&rsquo;t. In every meeting I attended along with the founders, when there were critical questions, I had to answer them. I knew the plan. They didn&rsquo;t. It was my plan.</p> <p>And, in fact, the plan failed. My clients didn&rsquo;t get financed, and the venture never launched. Of course I was disappointed because I spent a long time developing and revising that plan. I repeatedly changed financial assumptions and revised text.</p> <p>So here is my advice about hiring a business plan writer, consultant or coach:</p> <p>The best business plan is one you do yourself. Hiring out is threatened by the fact that good business plans in real business use last a few weeks at best. Business planning is about regular review and revision.</p> <p>Consider hiring somebody from the outside only if you have the budget for it. It is conceivable that you don&rsquo;t want to do it yourself and your time is better applied to other business functions. Cheap business plan writing strikes me as about as good an idea as cheap surgery, cheap dentistry, or discount sushi.</p> <p>If you do hire somebody, look for a relationship more like coaching than consulting. Hire somebody who shares expertise and experience, makes suggestions, but doesn&rsquo;t do the task so you don&rsquo;t have to.</p> <p>Don&rsquo;t believe ever that having a business plan written is any good for more than a few short weeks. Business plans get old and useless very quickly. If you don&rsquo;t have one you can keep alive, then you don&rsquo;t have one at all.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/true-story-why-you-don%E2%80%99t-want-business-plan-writer#comments The Industry Word Managing Starting Wed, 25 Jun 2014 15:41:11 +0000 Tim Berry 1092701 at http://www.sba.gov/community Small Business, Big Impact: Celebrating Our Country and Small Businesses http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/small-business-big-impact-celebrating-our-country-and-small-businesses <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Independence Day is right around the corner, and across the U.S. we&rsquo;re preparing for our favorite 4<sup>th</sup> of July festivities &ndash; a day off filed with backyard barbecues, pool parties, fireworks and fun.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">While we celebrate our country and the challenges we&rsquo;ve overcome to achieve what we stand for today, there&rsquo;s no doubt that this profile of greatness includes our small business owners and entrepreneurs. Facing difficulties from every angle with passion and perseverance, these businesses may be small, but they have a big influence on our country.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>By the numbers</strong></span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><a href="http://www.sba.gov/sites/default/files/FAQ_March_2014_0.pdf" title="link to Office of Advocacy info">According to SBA&rsquo;s Office of Advocacy</a>, small businesses make up a whopping 99.7 percent of U.S. employer firms, and have accounted for 63 percent of the net new jobs created between 1993 and mid-2013! Since the end of the recession (from mid-2009 to mid-2013), small firms accounted for 60 percent of the net new jobs.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">In fact, <a href="http://blog.hud.gov/index.php/2013/11/27/small-businesses-the-backbone-of-the-american-economy/" title="link to Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Official Blog">over half of America&rsquo;s workers</a> either own or work for small businesses, which create two out of every three new jobs across the country. This strengthens not only local communities and economies, but bolsters the foundation of the economy nationwide.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>A sense of trust</strong></span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">In <a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/04/small-business-owners-trusted.html" title="link to Small Business Trends article">this article from Small Business Trends</a>, Scott Shane cites findings from a 2010 Pew Foundation survey that demonstrates how highly we regard our small business owners. Seventy-one percent of Americans see small business &ldquo;as a positive influence on the way things are going in this country.&rdquo; In the United States, small businesses are viewed more favorably than most institutions.&rdquo;</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Additionally, 86 percent of American respondents indicate that they trust small businesses &ldquo;a great deal&rdquo; &ndash;&nbsp;nearly thirty percent <em>more</em> than they indicated trusting big businesses. Clearly, small businesses and their owners are held in high esteem.</span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">From the quantitative to the qualitative, it&rsquo;s easy to see the positive impact of small businesses. And at SBA, we support and celebrate those entrepreneurs. For instance, our annual <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/recapping-national-small-business-week-2014" title="link to National Small Busienss Week blog post">National Small Business Week</a> events recognize the contributions of small businesses. And all year round, our staff, partners and <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance" title="link to local assistance">resources are available</a> to make sure you have what you need to succeed in your business ventures.</span></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">So this Independence Day, we&rsquo;ll be counting your entrepreneurial spirit and hard work as we celebrate what makes this country great.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/small-business-big-impact-celebrating-our-country-and-small-businesses#comments Small Business Matters Wed, 25 Jun 2014 11:54:22 +0000 kmurray 1092661 at http://www.sba.gov/community Celebrate Pride Month by Making Your Workplace LGBT-Inclusive; SBA Sponsoring Events for LGBT Business Owners and Allies http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/celebrate-pride-month-making-your-workplace-lgbt-inclusive-sba-sponsoring-events-lgbt-business-owners-and-allies <p><span style="font-size:14px;">In honor of LGBT Pride Month, the SBA is teaming up with the Human Rights Campaign, America&rsquo;s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) equality, and the National Gay &amp; Lesbian Chamber of Commerce to provide free trainings for small business owners.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:14px;">A schedule and instructions on how to sign up are below:</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:14px;"><a href="http://ems.intellor.com/?p=205068&amp;do=register&amp;t=71">Webinar: Making Your Small Business Workplace LGBT-Inclusive</a></span></p> <ul> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Wednesday, June 25 at 2:00 PM ET</span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">SBA is teaming up with the Human Rights Campaign to present a free training for small business owners on making your workplace inclusive for LGBT employees. Attendees will learn:</span> <ul> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Why fostering an inclusive workplace can make employees more productive,</span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">How to provide safeguards for you and your employees by creating a non-discrimination policy, and</span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Where to find the latest information about changing laws and regulations.</span></li> </ul> </li> </ul> <ul> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;"><a href="http://ems.intellor.com/?p=205068&amp;do=register&amp;t=71">Register now</a></span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-size:14px;">National Gay &amp; Lesbian Chamber of Commerce Conference Calls</span></p> <ul> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Along with the National Gay &amp; Lesbian Chamber of Commerce, SBA will present three conference calls for LGBT business owners and allies on key topics:</span> <ul> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Securing Federal Contracts &ndash; Monday, June 23 at 1:00 PM ET</span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Accessing Capital &ndash; Tuesday, June 24 at 1:00 PM ET</span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">Innovation and New Programs (SBIR, Accelerators, Crowdfunding) &ndash; Thursday, June 26 at 1:00 PM ET</span></li> </ul> </li> <li> <span style="font-size:14px;">To register for any of the NGLCC conference calls, please email Theara Coleman at <a href="mailto:tcoleman@nglcc.org">tcoleman@nglcc.org</a> and include your name, company, and which presentation you are registering for.</span></li> </ul> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/celebrate-pride-month-making-your-workplace-lgbt-inclusive-sba-sponsoring-events-lgbt-business-owners-and-allies#comments Open For Business Business Laws Managing SBA News and Views Thu, 19 Jun 2014 18:48:11 +0000 Stephen Morris 1090531 at http://www.sba.gov/community Worker Classification: What’s at Stake? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/worker-classification-what%E2%80%99s-stake <p>When you need help to run your business, you have to decide whether to hire an employee or outsource the work to an independent contractor. For the most part, independent contractors are on their own when it comes to taxes, insurance, and retirement savings. In contrast, employees are largely your responsibility for these costs. You&rsquo;re free to opt for the arrangement that works better for your business. But you can&rsquo;t simply attach a label to a worker and make it stick; it all depends on the degree of control that you exercise. Here&rsquo;s what&rsquo;s at stake for your decisions and actions:</p> <p><strong>Employment taxes</strong></p> <p>As a rule of thumb, it costs about 10% of a worker&rsquo;s pay to cover employment taxes, which include the employer&rsquo;s share of FICA (Social Security and Medicare taxes) and federal and state unemployment taxes. What&rsquo;s more, in most cases you have to carry worker&rsquo;s compensation insurance. So it costs more to have an employee than an independent contractor.</p> <p>The <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Independent-Contractor-Self-Employed-or-Employee" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>IRS uses various factors</u></a> to determine worker classification. These factors are grouped into behavioral control (whether you have the right to tell the worker when, where, and how the work gets done), financial (whether you or the worker controls such matters as when payment is made, if there is reimbursement for expenses, and who pays for the tools of the job), and the type of relationship created by you and the worker (what both envision, whether there is a written agreement, and the permanency of the arrangement).</p> <p>If the IRS challenges your treating a worker as an independent contractor and you lose (you should have classified the worker as an employee), you face back taxes and serious penalties. However, you can voluntarily reclassify workers as employees using the <a href="http://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&amp;-Self-Employed/Voluntary-Classification-Settlement-Program" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>Voluntary Classification Settlement Program</u></a>. If eligible for the program, the cost is only 10% of the tax for the most recent year, with no interest or penalty. Or you may be able to rely on a safe harbor (called Section 530 relief).</p> <p><strong>Employee benefits</strong></p> <p>If you have employee benefit programs, such as a qualified retirement plan, you must include employees. Independent contractors are on their own for retirement savings. The cost of employee benefit programs can add another 10% or more of compensation to your payroll costs.</p> <p>At present, you don&rsquo;t have to offer health coverage to employees, but that may change. Whether you will be subject to the employer mandate depends on the number of your full-time and full-time-equivalent employees. Starting in 2016, if you have 50 to 99 such employees, you must provide health coverage of your full-time staff or pay a penalty (companies with 100 or more employees face the employer mandate in 2015). The IRS explains <a href="http://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/Questions-and-Answers-on-Employer-Shared-Responsibility-Provisions-Under-the-Affordable-Care-Act" title="Links to IRS.gov"><u>how to figure full-time employees</u></a>, which means essentially working 30 hours per week.</p> <p><strong>Government mandates</strong></p> <p>Employees are protected by a number of <a href="http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/lawsprog.htm" title="Links to DOL.gov"><u>federal workplace laws</u></a> (some only apply if the company has a certain number of employees as indicated in parentheses), including:</p> <ul> <li> Age Discrimination in Employment Act bars workplace discrimination of those age 40 and older (20 or more employees)</li> <li> Americans with Disabilities Act barring discrimination on the basis of a physical, mental, or emotional disability and requiring reasonable accommodations for the disability on the job (15 or more employees)</li> <li> Civil Rights Acts bars discrimination in the workplace on the basis of a variety of factors (e.g., race, gender) (15 or more employees).</li> <li> Equal Pay Act mandates equal pay for men and women performing substantially the same work (2 or more employees)</li> <li> Fair Labor Standards Act for minimum wage and overtime rules (2 or more employees)</li> <li> Family and Medical Leave Act for unpaid time off (50 or more employees)</li> </ul> <p>Companies that violate these laws can be subject to government penalties and lawsuits by workers. Employment laws do not apply to independent contractors.</p> <p><strong>Conclusion</strong></p> <p>In figuring the real cost of employment, add 15% and 50% of compensation to your budget for taxes, insurance, and benefits for employees (e.g., a $40,000 employee costs you at least $46,000 and, depending upon the benefits package, as much as $60,000). Think about the cost before you add workers to your payroll. And make sure that if you decide to outsource, you do it right. Work with an employment law attorney so that the arrangements you make conform to law requirements.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/worker-classification-what%E2%80%99s-stake#comments The Industry Word Business Laws Taxes Thu, 19 Jun 2014 12:53:51 +0000 BarbaraWeltman 1090281 at http://www.sba.gov/community Business Capital and Electronic Payments: Insights from National Small Business Week 2014 http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-capital-and-electronic-payments-insights-national-small-business-week-2014 <p>As a small business owner or entrepreneur, you know how important access to capital is to success. And we know it, too! During last month&rsquo;s National Small Business Week (NSBW) events, which were held across the country and online, it was a topic addressed by our speakers and panelists as they shared experience and insights. One of those speakers was Janet Zablock, Head of Global Small Business at Visa, who talked about using electronic payments for your small business. Here&rsquo;s a look at what she had to say.</p> <p>Whether you&rsquo;re a looking to start a new business or running an existing operation, Zablock starts, entrepreneurs face challenges when it comes to access to capital &ndash; an understood foundation to success, given that so many cite lack of funds as a reason for failure in the first few years. But the second piece to this access-to-capital puzzle? The <em>flow</em> of capital on a daily basis, or the &ldquo;lifeblood&rdquo; of small businesses, as Zablock puts it.</p> <p>Citing Visa&rsquo;s recent quarterly survey of small business owners, in the top five concerns of small business owners is how to manage cash flow. &ldquo;If a small business lacks a secure, reliable and convenient way to pay and be paid, there&rsquo;s a good chance you&rsquo;ll be in a tough place,&rdquo; Zablock says. You won&rsquo;t have funds you need to buy inventory, meet payroll or pay bills. And no matter how great customer service is to bring in good business, without capital flow, it can be a recipe for disaster.</p> <p>That&rsquo;s where using electronic payments can come in to help. Zablock touts this method as a way to meet daily needs and to address a lot of pain points she&rsquo;s heard from small businesses. There&rsquo;s time <em>and</em> cost savings associated with not having to handle cash or checks; not needing to count money; and skipping trips to the bank and avoiding cell phone use for deposits.</p> <p>Zablock mentioned another interesting finding from the survey &ndash; that the top desire of small business owners is to attract new customers and grow their businesses. Until recently, the most important thing on business owners&rsquo; minds was to simply stay afloat, not necessarily grow. In more optimistic economic times, entrepreneurs are broadening their looks ahead.</p> <p>So what&rsquo;s the connection between wanting to grow your business and electronic payments? Zablock points out that an entire customer base &ndash; young adults &ndash; are much more inclined toward electronic methods than their parents&rsquo; generation of cash or check. Many don&rsquo;t carry checkbooks or even cash, so supporting electronic payments opens your business up to a different kind of customer. This is increasingly relevant when you consider the use of mobile technologies as well (smart phones, tablets, etc.)</p> <p>The potential benefits of electronic payment that Zablock mentions are clear: efficiency, cost savings and growing your business. So it may be worth researching further to determine if it&rsquo;s something you should implement for your small business venture. SBA is also here to help if you have questions about capital. Check out <a href="http://www.sba.gov/tools/local-assistance/districtoffices">a district office near you</a> and get in touch if you&rsquo;re looking for financial guidance.</p> <p>Interested in more insights and stories from National Small Business Week? If you missed the excitement last month, don&rsquo;t worry &ndash; you don&rsquo;t have to wait until next year! We&rsquo;ve got a <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/recapping-national-small-business-week-2014">recap here with a highlights reel</a> you can check out to hear from our guests and small business experts.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/business-capital-and-electronic-payments-insights-national-small-business-week-2014#comments Small Business Cents Financing Wed, 18 Jun 2014 17:00:16 +0000 kmurray 1090081 at http://www.sba.gov/community Searching For A Franchise? Don’t Complicate It http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/searching-franchise-don%E2%80%99t-complicate-it <p>It&rsquo;s easy to do. It&rsquo;s easy to search for a franchise. Looking for a franchise...or even a couple of <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/franchise-businesses" title="link to sba article">franchise opportunities</a> to investigate isn&rsquo;t hard. There&rsquo;s no pressure. You&rsquo;re just &ldquo;looking.&rdquo;</p> <p>It only starts to get difficult after you find one or two franchise concepts that actually make sense to you. I&rsquo;m talking about franchises that you can &ldquo;see&rdquo; yourself owning.</p> <p><strong>Let The Fun Begin</strong></p> <p>A lot of things happen internally when you start to see franchise opportunities that you can visualize owning.</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Your <a href="http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/adrenalinew" title="definition of adrenaline">adrenaline</a>*&nbsp;levels increase. You start getting excited. More energetic. Nervous, too.</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; You change from &ldquo;casual looker&rdquo; to &ldquo;would-be franchise owner.&rdquo; Things start to feel a bit more serious.</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; You start thinking.</p> <p><strong>Don&rsquo;t Complicate Your Franchise Search</strong></p> <p>Once you find a franchise you&rsquo;re interested in, your wheels start spinning. You start thinking about lots of things. Like:</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Where can my new business go? What would be <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/finding-location-your-franchise-business" title="about franchise locations">the best location</a> for it?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; How many other franchises of the concept I&rsquo;m interested in are there around my area?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Will I be able to secure a small business loan?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Will I make enough money?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Could I lose all of my money in this venture?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Will my family be okay with me buying this franchise?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Should I just get a job instead of risking my money now?</p> <p>&middot;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Etc. Etc.</p> <p>Stop.</p> <p>None of those things matter. You&rsquo;re complicating your search for a franchise.</p> <p><strong>First Things First</strong></p> <p>There will be plenty of time for you to ask those questions. But, you&rsquo;re wasting your time, and a lot of energy, if you start asking yourself questions like the ones I wrote above before you find out if the opportunity you&rsquo;re interested is even a viable one.</p> <p>In other words, don&rsquo;t put the cart before the horse.</p> <p>Instead, do this:</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Go to the franchisors website</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Look for the &ldquo;contact&rdquo; link</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Fill out the contact form</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Wait to get contacted</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Arrange a call with a member of the franchise development department</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; On the call, share your story-and listen to theirs</p> <p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Decide if you&rsquo;d like to continue learning more about the franchise</p> <p>8.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Follow the franchisors &ldquo;next steps&rdquo;</p> <p><strong>Take the steps</strong></p> <p>If you&rsquo;re still interested in possibly buying the franchise, continue down this list. If not, start your search for a franchise again.</p> <p>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Call several franchisees, and <a href="http://www.thefranchiseking.com/two-franchise-research-questions-are-better-than-one" title="asking questions on franchising">ask questions like these</a>*&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p> <p>2.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Visit franchisees-spend a day with one or two of them</p> <p>3.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; <a href="http://www.franchisebizdirectory.com/article/found-a-franchise-to-buy/" title="link to article on business plans for franchises">Start writing a business plan</a>*</p> <p>4.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Find a franchise attorney</p> <p>5.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Visit franchise headquarters&nbsp; &nbsp;</p> <p>6.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Have your attorney look over the franchise agreement</p> <p>7.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; Make your decision</p> <p><strong>Your Wheels </strong></p> <p>It&rsquo;s right before your decision that your wheels will be spinning. Sometimes, they&rsquo;ll spin out of control. Things like self-doubt will creep into your head. Fear&hellip;real-live fear will also appear on your doorstep. But, don&rsquo;t worry. It&rsquo;s completely normal.</p> <p>If you ask the franchise development director, the franchise executives at headquarters, and existing (and former) franchisees great questions, and their answers are satisfactory, it may be time for you to become the owner of the franchise you&rsquo;ve been focused on for the past few months.</p> <p>But, you don&rsquo;t have to say yes. You always have a choice. Don&rsquo;t complicate your search for a franchise-the right franchise.</p> <p>Keep it simple. Go step-by-step. Don&rsquo;t get ahead of yourself.</p> <p>Are you ready to start searching for a franchise?</p> <p>*Non-US Government links.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/searching-franchise-don%E2%80%99t-complicate-it#comments The Industry Word Starting Tue, 17 Jun 2014 13:00:13 +0000 FranchiseKing 1089511 at http://www.sba.gov/community Hire, Maintain and Terminate Seasonal and Long-Term Employees with Care http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/hire-maintain-and-terminate-seasonal-and-long-term-employees-with-care <p>With the summer season right around the corner, you may be considering hiring extra hands to help out in your business, perhaps some of the first employees you&rsquo;ve taken on in your venture. Even if you&rsquo;re a seasoned employer, it&rsquo;s always advisable to take stock of how you&rsquo;re doing as a manager and how you might be able to improve in ways that will benefit your business overall.</p> <p>Just in the nick of time, Daniel Kehrer, founder and managing director of BizBest Media Corp., offers &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/6-tips-and-tactics-hiring-seasonal-help">6 Tips and Tactics for Hiring Seasonal Help</a>.&rdquo; His advice on hiring teens, creating an internship program and correctly paying the minimum wage will make sure your business optimally and legally utilizes a temporary hire and vice versa. Other tips, like &ldquo;Treat temp, part-time and seasonal positions like you would any other and make it clear what the job entails,&rdquo; will apply to and benefit all employees. Check out <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/6-tips-and-tactics-hiring-seasonal-help">Daniel&rsquo;s article</a> for his recommendations of a wealth of resources on the topic of hiring and maintaining employee relationships like NFIB, the Department of Labor, Internships.com and more!</p> <p>Once hired, set your employees up for success by investing in their high morale. Janet Flewelling, managing director of Service Operation at Insperity says to think beyond high pay or temporary perks: &ldquo;Items such as pizza parties, flowers and doughnuts do not sustain morale and no salary figure can compensate for low morale. These ideas should be seen as an extension of that satisfying work experience strategy.&rdquo; She goes on to say that beyond these material items, it is just as important in creating high morale &ldquo;to have open and honest communication and respect.&rdquo; Janet recommends several strategies for creating this atmosphere including assessing leadership, clear communication, understanding expectations and setting goals. Read <a href="http://blog.score.org/2014/janet-flewelling/investing-in-employee-morale-is-key-to-a-companys-success/">Janet&rsquo;s full blog post</a> to gain a better understanding of how and why you should invest in your employees&rsquo; morale.</p> <p>Unfortunately, even the best laid plans don&rsquo;t always work out the way you&rsquo;d like. You may find yourself in the unenviable position of terminating an employment relationship and if you do, make sure you take the proper steps to protect yourself, the business and the employee. Paychex addresses the <a href="http://www.score.org/resources/better-employee-management-employee-separation">8 critical areas</a> for small businesses to pay attention to during an employee separation. Items include proper documentation, exit interviews, notification processes, insurance, severance and more. Download the guide, &ldquo;<a href="http://www.score.org/resources/better-employee-management-employee-separation">Better Employee Management: Eight Critical Areas for Small-Business Success</a>,&rdquo; to make sure all your bases are covered.</p> <p>To help translate these resources and advice into direct application for your specific business, <a href="http://www.score.org/mentors">connect with a SCORE mentor</a> who will do exactly that &ndash; absolutely free &ndash; today!</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/guest-blogs/industry-word/hire-maintain-and-terminate-seasonal-and-long-term-employees-with-care#comments The Industry Word Mentoring and Training Thu, 12 Jun 2014 15:41:31 +0000 bridgetwpollack 1087181 at http://www.sba.gov/community A Flag Day Salute to U.S. Veterans http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/flag-day-salute-us-veterans <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">This Saturday, we celebrate Flag Day, a day that commemorates the adoption of the flag of the United States on June 14, 1777.&nbsp; The United States Army also celebrates its 239<sup>th</sup> birthday on June 14, 2014.&nbsp; The U.S. Small Business Administration wants to take this opportunity to wish the Army a Happy Birthday, while expressing our gratitude to all the men and women, in every branch of U.S. military service, who serve our country.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Veterans deserve to live the American Dream they helped to defend, and the SBA is committed to ensuring that veterans have every opportunity to succeed as business owners.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><a href="http://www.sba.gov/about-offices-content/1/2985">SBA&rsquo;s Office of Veteran Business Development (OVBD</a>) is devoted exclusively to promoting veteran entrepreneurship.&nbsp; Through veteran-entrepreneurship training programs, a network of localized Veteran Business Outreach, and specialized loan programs through SBA partners, OVBD works to provide veterans, service-disabled veterans, reservists, active duty service members, transitioning service members and their spouses, dependents and survivors with the training, counseling and access to capital they need to start and grow a small business.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Take a look at this video about opportunities for veterans through SBA&rsquo;s Office of Veteran Business Development:&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="//www.youtube.com/embed/w4WOIw8e8_0" width="560"></iframe></p> <p><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Visit <a href="http://www.sba.gov/veterans" style="font-size: 12px;">www.sba.gov/veterans</a> to learn more about how SBA helps veterans succeed with their business ventures. &nbsp;&nbsp;</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/flag-day-salute-us-veterans#comments Open For Business Mentoring and Training SBA News and Views Wed, 11 Jun 2014 19:52:22 +0000 Rhett_Jeppson 1086411 at http://www.sba.gov/community Success With Online Reviews Tour = Great Success! http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/success-with-online-reviews-tour-great-success <p dir="ltr" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;"><em>Editors note: This article was originally posted on the <a href="http://officialblog.yelp.com/2014/05/success-with-online-reviews-tour-great-success-.html">Official Yelp Blog</a>.</em></p> <p dir="ltr" id="docs-internal-guid-c08e6edd-d216-140d-2cf0-a38f9f4dadf7" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;">Yelp and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) hit the road&nbsp;<a href="http://www.webpronews.com/yelp-and-sba-team-up-on-online-reviews-initiative-2014-01" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">back in January</a>&nbsp;to educate small business owners across America on what it takes to have success in a world where more consumers are using online reviews to make&nbsp;<a href="http://officialblog.yelp.com/2013/06/nielsen-4-out-of-5-yelp-users-visit-the-site-when-preparing-to-spend-money-at-a-local-business.html" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">purchasing decisions</a>.</p> <p class="rtecenter" dir="ltr" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;"><img alt="DCB_8759BenHider140113.jpg" class="rtecenter" src="https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/FM6GqYTKWL8faQtPTuBRiJ69eC2-uOTWy-7vhj9R2Twob2k5FfK0T6Hwd-fiLuA_86viMm5T4PfEe8BjJR-VF_siFndKoN_D-tTAL8nGPSQTD977K1LBBJ7ImZJ7VGcp6w" style="background-color: transparent; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; font-size: 13px; line-height: 21px; margin: 5px; padding: 0px 0px 5px; border: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; max-width: 100%; display: block; width: 400px; height: 267px; float: left;" /></p> <p dir="ltr" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;">We concluded our Success With Online Reviews tour last week in Miami, where we were joined by partners from the Small Business Development Center, the Coral Gables Chamber of Commerce, and 880 AM the Biz radio host, Pete De La Torre, who broadcasted live from the event. Our panelists included Vic Ruiz, owner of&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yelp.com/biz/sweet-dogs-miami" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">Sweet Dogs</a>, the highest rated hot dog joint on Yelp in Miami, and Julio F. of the&nbsp;<a href="http://www.yelp.com/elite" style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">Miami Yelp Elite squad</a>. Vic told the audience he built his online reputation by focusing on solid customer service and a great product. As he puts it, &ldquo;I don&rsquo;t ask for reviews, I let my food speak for itself.&rdquo; Julio (who has written over 200 reviews) says he&rsquo;s motivated to write reviews for the same reason many other Yelpers get involved on our site -- a desire to share his experiences with the community in the hopes it helps them find great local businesses.</p> <p class="rtecenter" dir="ltr" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;"><span style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: small; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; font-family: arial, helvetica, sans-serif; background-position: initial initial; background-repeat: initial initial;"><img alt="Collage of business owners" src="/sites/default/files/images/PicMonkey Collage.jpg" style="width: 500px; height: 500px; margin: 5px;" /></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;">From Portland, OR to Atlanta, GA, the Success With Online Reviews tour hit seven major cities and featured two nationally webcasted events. Several thousand small businesses registered for these workshops and attendees walked away with some valuable insights.</p> <p dir="ltr" style="margin: 0px 0px 12px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-size: 14px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: rgb(255, 255, 255); color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: 'Helvetica Neue', 'Helvetica Neue LT Std', 'Helvetica LT Std', Helvetica, arial, sans-serif; line-height: 21px;"><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">Want to learn more but didn&rsquo;t get a chance to join one of these events? Don&rsquo;t worry, there are still plenty of opportunities for small business owners to learn valuable online marketing tips. Yelp hosts free webinars every other week which businesses can register for&nbsp;</span><a href="https://biz.yelp.com/webinars_and_videos" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">here</a><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">. Meanwhile, the U.S. Small Business Administration just announced the schedule of events for&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/let%E2%80%99s-celebrate-national-small-business-week-%E2%80%93-across-country-and-online-0" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">National Small Business Week</a><span style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px;">&nbsp;which will be held May 12-16, 2014. For future updates on the Success With Online Reviews initiative, be sure to check out&nbsp;</span><a href="http://www.sba.gov/onlinereviews" style="font-size: 14px; line-height: 21px; margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; vertical-align: baseline; background-color: transparent; color: rgb(59, 101, 167);">www.sba.gov/onlinereviews.</a></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/success-with-online-reviews-tour-great-success#comments Open For Business Managing Marketing Mentoring and Training SBA News and Views Wed, 11 Jun 2014 18:36:04 +0000 Stephen Morris 1086361 at http://www.sba.gov/community 10 Can't-Miss Business Credit Profile Tips for Small Business Owners http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/10-cant-miss-business-credit-profile-tips-small-business-owners <p>If you run a company, your business credit profile is related to your reputation. With a strong business credit profile, you have access to much greater financing opportunities with favorable terms and lower interest rates.</p> <p>For lenders, a company with a creditworthy profile is considered a good risk. Whether you own a startup or existing business, managing and protecting your profile with all three major business credit reporting agencies is crucial.</p> <p>Here are ten essential tips for establishing, maintaining and protecting your business credit profile:</p> <ol> <li> Keep all company data identical &ndash; Whether <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/05/08/apply-for-a-duns-number/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog" type="duns number info">applying for a D-U-N-S Number</a></strong>, submitting a credit application or <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/how-open-small-business-bank-account-online" target="_blank">opening a business bank account</a></strong>, provide all the same information in order to avoid any potential issues. Inconsistent data can cause a denial of credit due to mismatched data or even cause your company to have a duplicate credit file.</li> <li> Leverage the good credit you already have &ndash; If your business has existing trade references not reporting on its file, then consider adding them to your report. Currently, only one business credit reporting agency enables you to <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2013/11/05/dun-and-bradstreet-credit-builder/" target="_blank" title="business credit blog " type="trade reference info">add trade references to your file</a></strong> via a paid program.</li> <li> Make certain your profile represents a real business &ndash; The information you supply about your company, its background, banking history and operations plays an essential role in the credibility and creditworthiness of your business. With a complete profile, creditors will get an accurate portrayal of your business.</li> <li> Pay better than terms &ndash; By paying invoices 10, 15 or 20 days ahead of the due date you get a much greater impact to your overall business credit ratings. Paying better than terms shows creditors that you manage your financial obligations promptly and are a good credit risk.</li> <li> Have a diversity of credit accounts &ndash; The types of credit your company use are seen as a sign of stability and credit responsibility. Whether it&rsquo;s short-term financing, installment loans, <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/04/29/unsecured-business-line-of-credit/" target="_blank" title="business credit " type="revolving lines of credit info">revolving lines of business credit</a></strong> or leases, each type of account plays a role in establishing a diversity of credit usage.</li> <li> Monitor your business credit profile regularly &ndash; While it&rsquo;s crucial to <strong><a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/build-business-credit-reports-you-can-be-proud-about-having" target="_blank">build a strong business credit profile</a></strong>, it is equally important to protect what you have built. Each business credit agency offers its own monitoring services so you can be alerted to any recent changes, inquiries into your file or fluctuations in your scores.</li> <li> Correct any inaccurate or outdated information &ndash; If you identify any mistakes on your company&rsquo;s profile, be sure to take the necessary steps to update and/or correct it. Each agency has its own procedures for submitting updates, corrections or disputes.</li> <li> Select the appropriate industry classification code &ndash; The <strong><a href="http://www.businesscreditblogger.com/2014/06/03/business-sic-codes/" target="_blank" title="business credit " type="sic code info">SIC/NAICS Code</a></strong> you select for your business describes the principle activity of your business to creditors. Lenders use these codes to help identify the industry affiliation of a company so it is vital to select the code that best describes what you do.</li> <li> Improve your score by submitting financials &ndash; Financials that show an improvement in cash flow, current assets and net worth can have a significant impact to a company&rsquo;s overall creditworthiness. You can upload financial statements to impact the strength of your reports by following the on-screen instructions available on the business credit agency&rsquo;s site.</li> <li> Update and maintain your company&rsquo;s internet presence &ndash; Information that goes into creating a business&rsquo; credit profile comes from primary and secondary sources such as web mining, news and media. It&rsquo;s imperative that your company&rsquo;s website and its contact information are consistent with the data collected from other primary and secondary sources.</li> </ol> <p>Your business credit profile is a report card on your company&rsquo;s finances. Your profile and business credit history can affect your day to day business operations &ndash; from how much you pay for a business loan, company credit card, lease or business insurance. Use these tips to build, manage and protect your company&rsquo;s financial reputation.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/10-cant-miss-business-credit-profile-tips-small-business-owners#comments The Industry Word Financing Starting Wed, 11 Jun 2014 15:43:15 +0000 Marco Carbajo 1086231 at http://www.sba.gov/community SBA Announces Boots to Business: Reboot http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sba-announces-boots-business-reboot <p><span style="font-size:12px;">The <a href="http://www.sba.gov/" style="font-size: 12px;">Small Business Administration (SBA)</a> will host <a href="http://www.boots2businessreboot.org/" style="font-size: 12px;">Boots to Business: Reboot, </a>an entrepreneurship training course for Veterans in twelve cities across the U.S.&nbsp; Each event, led by SBA Resource Partners and industry experts from Syracuse University&rsquo;s Institute for Veteran and Military Families (IVMF), will host up to 100 Veterans for a two-day Introduction to Entrepreneurship class.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">Boots to Business: Reboot, will introduce veterans to the fundamentals of business ownership, and lead participants through the key steps for evaluating business concepts and developing a business plan.&nbsp; The program will also introduce participating Veterans to a network of lifetime&nbsp; business support available locally across the U.S. by introducing them to SBA&rsquo;s network of <a href="http://www.vboc.org/">Veteran Business Outreach Centers,</a> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/women%E2%80%99s-business-centers">Women&rsquo;s Business Centers,</a> <a href="http://www.sba.gov/content/small-business-development-centers-sbdcs">Small Business Development Centers</a> and <a href="http://www.score.org/">SCORE Counselors. </a></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">Boots to Business: Reboot will adapt the curriculum from the SBA-sponsored <a href="http://www.boots2business.org/">Boots to Business:</a> From Service to Startup, a worldwide program offered as a component of the <a href="https://www.dodtap.mil/index.html">Department of Defense&rsquo;s redesigned Transition Assistance Program (TAP) renamed Transition GPS.</a>&nbsp; The curriculum, developed to introduce transitioning service members to business ownership and connecting them to resources in their local communities, will now be available to more than 22 million Veterans who have already transitioned into civilian life.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">Following the two-day training, participants will also be eligible to register for &ldquo;Foundations of Entrepreneurship&rdquo; an eight-week, online course led by instructors from IVMF that offers in-depth instruction on the elements of a business plan and techniques and&nbsp; tips for starting a business.&nbsp;&nbsp; After completing Boots to Business: Reboot, participants will have the tools and knowledge they need to identify a business opportunity, draft a business plan, connect with local resources and launch their small businesses.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">The Boots to Business: Reboot events will kick off at the White House on July 11 -12, 2014 and culminate on August 25 -26, at the American Legion National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.&nbsp; Throughout the month, ten additional events will be held in the following cities:</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><strong><u>CITIES AND DATES</u></strong></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">July 11 &ndash; 12: Washington, D.C.</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">July 24 &ndash; 25: Dallas- Fort Worth, Texas</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">July 29- 30: Miami, Florida</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">July 31 &ndash; August 1: Chicago, Illinois</span></p> <p><span style="font-size: 12px;">August 1&nbsp;</span><span style="font-size: 11.818181991577148px;">&ndash;</span><span style="font-size: 12px;">&nbsp;2: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 5 &ndash; 6: Boston, Massachusetts</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 6 &ndash; 7: Albuquerque, New Mexico</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 8 &ndash; 9: Kansas City, Missouri</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 13 &ndash; 14: Detroit, Michigan</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 15 &ndash; 16: Los Angeles, California</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 20 &ndash; 21: Seattle, Washington</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">August 25 &ndash; 26: Charlotte, North Carolina</span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;">For more information, or to register for the events visit the <a href="http://www.boots2businessreboot.org/">Boots to Business: Reboot event website.</a></span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/sba-announces-boots-business-reboot#comments Open For Business SBA News and Views Tue, 10 Jun 2014 17:17:58 +0000 Rhett_Jeppson 1085741 at http://www.sba.gov/community Are You Prepared to Be A Leader When A Disaster Hits Your Small Business? http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/are-you-prepared-be-leader-when-disaster-hits-your-small-business <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Most employees at small businesses worry about their safety in the event of an emergency, according to a <a href="http://investor.staples.com/phoenix.zhtml?c=96244&amp;p=irol-newsArticle&amp;ID=1937172&amp;highlight=">recent survey by Staples, Inc.</a>&nbsp; And those fears range from &ldquo;does my company have an emergency plan in place?&rdquo; to &ldquo;what happens to my paycheck if this place had to close for a few days because of a power outage?&rdquo;</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">The Staples survey&mdash;conducted online in May 2014&mdash;found that workers at businesses with fewer than 50 people are less sure of who is in charge of emergency planning than employees at larger companies.&nbsp;&nbsp; Most of the more than 400 office workers interviewed said their companies were less likely to do safety drills, and didn&rsquo;t have the plans or equipment in place to deal with catastrophic events like earthquakes, hurricanes or tornadoes.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">As a small business owner, you know that everything begins and ends with you. You also understand that your responsibility as a leader extends to your clients and your employees.&nbsp; Protecting them is essential, and failing to do so is a cause for the failure of your company.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Building a disaster preparedness plan is essential to the survival of any small business. But having a plan is not enough:&nbsp;</span></span></p> <ul> <li> <span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Your employees must understand the disaster plan, while also having a good grasp of your company&rsquo;s critical functions, systems and processes.</span></span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">The emergency plan must be rehearsed. Doing an annual exercise will help your team uncover flaws in the system.</span></span></li> <li> <span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Put the plan on paper, and stick to the plan, while building contingencies, considering worst-case scenarios.</span></span></li> </ul> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong style="font-size: 12px;"><u>Webinar</u></strong></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">There&rsquo;s a lot more to establishing yourself as a leader your employees and clients trust to lead them and the community through a crisis.&nbsp; Join the SBA and Agility Recovery on Tuesday, June 17 at 2 p.m. EDT for the free &ldquo;Leading with Resiliency During a Disaster&rdquo; webinar.&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Former Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator R. David Paulison will discuss how he managed the leadership challenges he faced when he joined FEMA during the Hurricane Katrina recovery.&nbsp; He&rsquo;ll also share tips on how to provide calm leadership and smart direction when a crisis hits.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">Please sign up soon, since space is limited. The webinar will be recorded and archived on Agility&rsquo;s <a href="http://www.preparemybusiness.org/">PrepareMyBusiness</a> site.</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>Date:</strong> Tuesday, June 17, 2014</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>Time:</strong> 2 &ndash; 3 p.m. ET</span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;"><strong>Register:</strong> <a href="https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/150368993"><strong>https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/150368993</strong></a></span></span></p> <p><span style="font-size:12px;"><span style="font-family:arial,helvetica,sans-serif;">In the meantime, you can get a head start by visiting <a href="http://www.preparemybusiness.org/planning">Agility Recovery&rsquo;s disaster planning</a> page.&nbsp; There you&rsquo;ll find practical checklists that can help you with crisis communications, risk assessment, and disaster planning for specific disasters--be it earthquakes, fires, floods, tornadoes or hurricanes.</span></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/official-sba-news-and-views/open-business/are-you-prepared-be-leader-when-disaster-hits-your-small-business#comments Open For Business Emergency Planning SBA News and Views Thu, 05 Jun 2014 21:27:11 +0000 Carol Chastang 1083311 at http://www.sba.gov/community Using a "POEM" to Improve Your Social Media Strategy http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/using-poem-improve-your-social-media-strategy <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-de06145e-6da2-a9d6-c4e4-0d80afd4664a"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">It&rsquo;s frustrating to see small businesses give up on social media as a marketing channel after just a few months of effort. Usually the heart of the problem is a weak or nonexistent content marketing strategy. Without a strategy, there can be no meaningful, long-term engagement.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Engagement doesn&#39;t happen like spontaneous combustion. Content is at the center of engagement.&nbsp;But it&rsquo;s not as simple as just slapping up some content on your social channels or blog. A small business needs a content strategy to create highly targeted content assets for fans and followers to engage around. &nbsp;</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">The Importance of Understanding Your Audience</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Your business also needs a content strategy in order to outline the messaging and brand impression you want to convey. Is your business known for providing helpful advice to other businesses or consumers in your niche? &nbsp;Then you&#39;ll need a lot of helpful content around issues your target market cares about. On the other hand, if your business is known for providing fun products, you&#39;ll want fun and entertaining content. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">This is where understanding your audience comes into play. You have to know what your audience wants and expects from you before you can build a content strategy around it.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Now for that Concept&hellip;</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span id="docs-internal-guid-de06145e-6da2-a9d6-c4e4-0d80afd4664a"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Here&rsquo;s what you need to succeed in using social media to find new customers and engage your followers, and it&rsquo;s not a secret: </span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">POEM.</span></span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">That&rsquo;s </span><a href="http://smallbiztrends.com/2013/08/what-is-owned-earned-paid-media.html" style="line-height: 1;" title="Link toPaid, Owned Earned Media article"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; color: rgb(0, 37, 229); text-decoration: underline; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Paid, Owned, and Earned Media</span></a><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">. Essentially, it involves diversifying the types of content you publish through social channels. Let&rsquo;s dive into each.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Paid media:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">This comes in the form of sponsorships or advertising on third-party sites to better reach your audience.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">Owned</span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;"> </span><span style="font-size: 16px; font-family: Calibri; font-weight: bold; vertical-align: baseline; white-space: pre-wrap;">media:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">You likely already have and are using your owned media, or the channels that you create and control. They include (but are not limited to) your company blog, your YouTube channel, all social profiles, and your website.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; font-weight: bold; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Earned media:</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Here you let your customers and the press spread the word about your business. It&rsquo;s also known as word of mouth. If you&rsquo;re doing a good job of marketing your business (and offer stellar products or services), your fans will do the legwork.</span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So by combining all three, you reach a wider audience and help grow your fan base on social media. Let&rsquo;s look at an example. If you create a whitepaper on &quot;10 Ways to Start a Business&quot; that you give to new email subscribers, you&rsquo;re off to a good start with your owned media. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">Only no one&rsquo;s downloading it. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So you invest in paid media and place an ad on Facebook and Twitter to get your whitepaper in front of more eyeballs. Because it&rsquo;s so inherently valuable, once people download and read it, they share it with their followers, resulting in your earned media. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: 1;">So you see how the three forms of media can play together nicely and help you increase your base of influence. </span></p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p dir="ltr" style="line-height:1;margin-top:0pt;margin-bottom:0pt;"><span style="font-family: Calibri; font-size: 16px; white-space: pre-wrap; line-height: normal;">Before you give up on social media altogether, I encourage you to revisit your content strategy (or maybe visit it for the first time) and determine a way to fit in paid, owned, and earned media into the equation.</span></p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/using-poem-improve-your-social-media-strategy#comments The Industry Word Marketing Thu, 05 Jun 2014 20:09:14 +0000 smallbiztrends 1082891 at http://www.sba.gov/community Recognizing AAPI Community Leaders and Organizations http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/recognizing-aapi-community-leaders-and-organizations <p>In honor of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, the SBA&rsquo;s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives highlighted the role of AAPI community leaders in promoting and assisting local economic growth on Main Street, strengthening America as a global leader and helping develop the next generation of startup entrepreneurs and business leaders.<br /> <img alt="AAPI" src="/sites/default/files/images/AAPI(2).jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 184px; float: right;" title="AAPI" /><br /> As President Obama stated in his <a href="http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/05/01/presidential-proclamation-asian-american-and-pacific-islander-heritage-m" title="proclamation">proclamation</a>&nbsp; &ldquo;During Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month, we celebrate the accomplishments of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders, and we reflect on the many ways they have enriched our Nation. Like America itself, the AAPI community draws strength from the diversity of its many distinct cultures -- each with vibrant histories and unique perspectives to bring to our national life. Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have helped build, defend, and strengthen our Nation -- as farm workers and railroad laborers; as entrepreneurs and scientists; as artists, activists, and leaders of government. They have gone beyond, embodying the soaring aspirations of the American spirit.&rdquo;</p> <p> The SBA is proud to support and work with Asian American and Pacific Islanders across the country. AAPI community leaders and organizations are crucial partners as educators, conveners and advocates for small business networks at the local and national level.</p> <p> On May 20, I was honored to participate on a panel at the Korean Churches for Community Development Annual Legislative Summit in Washington, DC&nbsp; to share our commitment to the AAPI community, and highlight some of the important programs where we are working closely together:&nbsp; the <a href="http://www.sba.gov/category/navigation-structure/8a-business-development-program" title="8(a) Business Development Program">8(a) Business Development Program</a> that assists disadvantaged businesses in their growth, the <a href="http://www.sba.gov/hubzone/" title="HUBZone Program">HUBZone Program</a> that encourages business development in historically underutilized business zones through contracting opportunities, and the <a href="http://www.sba.gov/advantage" title="Community Advantage Loan Program">Community Advantage Loan Program</a>&ndash; just to name a few.</p> <p> I was particularly excited to meet with and hear from a group of student Ambassadors from colleges and universities across the country as many are graduating this month and were interested to learn more about how the SBA is helping launch and support&nbsp; the next wave of entrepreneurs and startups.</p> <p> The highlight for me was serving as a judge in a mock funding pitch competition, and getting to hear many of the students&rsquo; incredible ideas and impressive launch, marketing and growth strategies.</p> <p> We know how important training and mentorship opportunities like this can be for young professionals and hopeful entrepreneurs, and recognize organizations like KCCD and many others across the country that help support and facilitate them.</p> <p> You can learn more about SBA resources at <a href="http://sba.gov" title="SBA.gov">SBA.gov</a>.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/recognizing-aapi-community-leaders-and-organizations#comments Open For Business SBA News and Views Wed, 04 Jun 2014 17:02:47 +0000 Sarah Bard 1081271 at http://www.sba.gov/community 4 Ways to Market Your Business This Father’s Day http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/4-ways-market-your-business-father%E2%80%99s-day <p>Father&rsquo;s Day is less than two weeks away, and if this year is similar to last in predictions for spending, it can be a profitable time for your business. A 2013 survey by the <a href="https://nrf.com/">National Retail Federation</a> indicated that shoppers would spend more than $100 on a gift for Dad &ndash; more than $12 billion in total spending. Here are a few ways to get in on the action this year.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"><strong>Give the gift of togetherness</strong></p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">When it comes to Father&rsquo;s Day gifts, we often think of getting something for Dad that he can enjoy on his own. Consider an approach that lets him have a good time with the family as well. For example, if you own a restaurant or caf&eacute;, try a father-child special for a dine-in experience. Or if you have a hardware store, hold a workshop that allows kids to come in with their fathers to make something they can take home. They&rsquo;ll walk away with a great experience &ndash; and a birdhouse (or something) as a memento.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"><strong>Cater to kids</strong></p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Own a brick-and-mortar store? Highlight merchandise for Father&rsquo;s Day by bringing it front and center. Arrange your items so that kids can see and reach what they might buy Dad. Like kids&rsquo; cereal in a supermarket, bringing things to eye level can go a long way to attract attention. Even if they&rsquo;re not spending their <em>own</em> money, they can certainly carry purchasing power in influencing the other parent!</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"><strong>Make it easy</strong></p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">Buying gifts is never easy, so help your customers out by creating a gift guide. You can offer suggestions by price, interest or audience (child, spouse, parent). With emails and social media, especially, you can get the word out that you have the perfect gift for Dad. You can also highlight particular gifts you think may be hot-ticket items. If you can, take the extra step by offering free gift-wrapping (or shipping, if you run an online store) as an extra incentive as the holiday gets closer.</p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;"><strong>Create a buzz</strong></p> <p style="margin-left:.5in;">If you don&rsquo;t think you&rsquo;re in the business of offering specific Father&rsquo;s Day specials, you can still acknowledge the occasion! Get in on the action with social media, for instance. Ask fans on Facebook or followers on Twitter to share photos of special moments with Dad, funniest pictures of Dad, etc. It&rsquo;ll be a great way to engage your customers and foster a sense of community.</p> <p>Regardless of your type of business, what you provide or sell, there&rsquo;s a way to incorporate Father&rsquo;s Day into your marketing and sales tactics. Check out our <a href="http://www.sba.gov/community/users/rieva?viewall=blog-posts">insight from marketing expert Rieva Lesonsky</a> for additional ideas and inspiration for holiday marketing.</p> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/4-ways-market-your-business-father%E2%80%99s-day#comments Small Business Matters Marketing Wed, 04 Jun 2014 14:44:00 +0000 kmurray 1081021 at http://www.sba.gov/community Why Direct Mail Still Matters and How to Make It Work for Your Business http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/why-direct-mail-still-matters-and-how-make-it-work-your-business <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;"><font face="Calibri" size="3">Do you think direct mail has gone the way of the dinosaur? Think again. In 2013, nearly two-thirds of all consumers bought something as a result of a direct mail piece, according to the Direct Mail Association (DMA). Not surprisingly, people age 65 and older are prime candidates for direct mail, since they tend to stay at the same address for many years and they enjoy reading their mail. What might surprise you is that young adults aged 18 to 34 are also highly responsive to direct mail, according to Epsilon. Why? Because young people are constantly inundated with email, spam and social media messages, direct mail stands out as something different.</font></span><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;"><font face="Calibri" size="3">&nbsp;</font></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;"><font face="Calibri" size="3">If you&rsquo;re still not convinced direct mail is worth adding to your marketing mix, consider this: Direct mail costs no more than print or pay-per-click advertising, according to the DMA, and has an average response rate of between 2 and 6 percent, depending on factors such as whether it&rsquo;s four-color, optimized or personalized. Compare this to email marketing, which has an average 0.12 percent response rate, according to <i style="mso-bidi-font-style: normal;">Direct Mail News</i>, and there&rsquo;s no excuse for not giving direct mail a try.</font></span></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3">How can you test direct mail without breaking the bank&mdash;and with great results? Here are some ideas. </font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">1. Choose your format:</span></b></font></span></p> <ul style="list-style-type: circle; direction: ltr;"> <li style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-top: 0in; margin-bottom: 0pt; mso-list: l1 level1 lfo2; mso-add-space: auto;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">Do you have a simple, easy-to-understand offer?</span></b><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"> Consider postcards. They come in different sizes, so they stand out from letters and news circulars, and they&rsquo;re affordable to print and mail. Keep your design simple and eye-catching; use both sides of the postcard to maximize information.</span></font></span></p> </li> <li style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-top: 0in; margin-bottom: 0pt; mso-list: l1 level1 lfo2; mso-add-space: auto;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">Is your sales pitch more complex? </span></b><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">If you&rsquo;re selling a pricey product or service that requires more convincing, a sales letter is the way to go. Get it opened by making the outside mysterious. Experts say that envelopes with no marketing copy at all on the outside often work best&mdash;people will open it to see if it&rsquo;s something important, instead of throwing it out as junk mail.</span></font></span></p> </li> <li style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal;"> <p style="color: rgb(0, 0, 0); font-family: &quot;Calibri&quot;,&quot;sans-serif&quot;; font-size: 12pt; font-style: normal; font-weight: normal; margin-top: 0in; margin-bottom: 0pt; mso-list: l1 level1 lfo2; mso-add-space: auto;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;">On a really tight budget?</span></b><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"> Printing a simple flyer, then folding it in thirds and sealing it can be a cost-effective way to get the word out. Use a bright color so your piece doesn&rsquo;t get lost in a pile of mail. </span></font></span></p> </li> </ul> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">2. &nbsp;Make an offer they can&rsquo;t refuse. </span></b><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">Direct mail typically needs to include some type of special offer or savings to be effective. In general, it&rsquo;s better to offer dollars-off than a percentage off&mdash;for some reason, it seems more valuable to customers.</span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><span><strong>3. Create a sense of urgency. </strong>Time-limited offers get customers moving to contact you and buy. However, don&rsquo;t send an offer every month, or customers learn to devalue what you sell and consider the discount price the &ldquo;regular&rdquo; price. Make your deals really special by offering them infrequently. Another alternative is to offer a free gift or other extra with purchase; make it something that costs you little or nothing, but has value to the customer.</span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">4. Personalize it. </span></b><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">The best direct mail calls on the recipient&rsquo;s past experience with your brand. For example, if a customer comes to your auto repair shop for an oil change, get their information and send them a reminder postcard with a special offer a month before their next oil change is due. You&rsquo;re offering something of value (helping make car care more convenient) in addition to offering a discount. Free meals on birthdays are another standard direct mail piece that works (who comes in to a restaurant alone?). </span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><span style="mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Times;"><font color="#000000" face="Calibri" size="3"><b style="mso-bidi-font-weight: normal;"><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">5. Test and track. </span></b><span style="color: rgb(49, 49, 49); mso-ascii-font-family: Calibri; mso-ascii-theme-font: major-latin; mso-hansi-font-family: Calibri; mso-hansi-theme-font: major-latin; mso-bidi-font-family: Arial;">Test different wording on your mailings, different offers and even different designs until you find out what works best. Use coupon codes on your mailers and have customers bring the mailer in or refer to the code when they call so you can track which campaigns pull customers in. Or add a URL that leads to a custom landing page so you&rsquo;ll know which mailer drives online traffic best.<span style="mso-spacerun: yes;">&nbsp; </span></span></font></span></p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;">&nbsp;</p> <p style="margin: 0in 0in 0pt;"><br type="_moz" /><br /> <span style="display: none;">&nbsp;</span></p> <div id="cke_pastebin" style="left: -1000px; top: 22px; width: 1px; height: 1px; overflow: hidden; position: absolute;"> &nbsp;</div> http://www.sba.gov/community/blogs/why-direct-mail-still-matters-and-how-make-it-work-your-business#comments The Industry Word Marketing Tue, 03 Jun 2014 14:46:31 +0000 Rieva Lesonsky 1057171 at http://www.sba.gov/community