Jump to Main Content
USA flagAn Official Website of the United States Government
Comment Count:
6

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

8 Tips for Adding Public Relations to Your Marketing Mix

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 8, 2012 Updated: April 30, 2012

Do you engage in public relations to market your business?

Public relations, or PR, isn’t just for large companies or something for times of crisis. A well-planned public relations strategy can reap the following benefits:

  • It can extend word of mouth news about your business beyond the reach of any advertisement, flyer, postcard or email, and help you reach new markets.
  • It reaches both influencers (journalists and bloggers) and those they influence (your customers), giving credibility to your business.

However, PR is more than just press releases, spin and schmooze; it takes time and investment to get it right. Here are some tips for promoting your business through public relations.

1. Have a Business Pitch

The first part of having a story to tell about your business is defining who you are and how you’re different in a few sentences. Think of it as your elevator pitch. To help you craft your message, follow the steps in this article: Why Your Business Needs an Elevator Pitch (and Tips on How to Target it to your Audience).

2. Have a Plan to Connect PR to Your Business Goals

What can PR do for you? Whether you are opening a business, reaching a business milestone, launching a new product line, or have an incredible success story to share, PR can help deliver your message to people you want to reach. But you’ll need a plan. As you review your annual or quarterly business goals, consider how PR can play a part. For example, if you’re launching a new product, consider using PR to encourage journalists and bloggers to review your offering. How about gaining publicity for your business by becoming an expert in your field? If you’re looking to attract new talent, PR can help you showcase your business as a great place to work.

3. Who Are You Trying to Reach?

What is the best media outlet for your business? What are the best events for showcasing your business? Refer back to your marketing plan and your target market. What are their demographics, their lifestyle choices, their business needs? Identifying your target market will help you understand the best media outlets for reaching them.

4. Identify Media Targets and Influencers

You probably know your market quite well. Use this knowledge to identify a list of publications, blogs, radio stations, and even journalists who are knowledgeable in your field or who can connect you with your audience. Most local newspapers or industry publications have editors or writers who cover specific industries and these contacts are listed online or in print. If you can’t find a contact, ask around; use your network or local business group for tips on what’s worked for them.

Pitching to bloggers is another great way to get publicity. Small business expert Rieva Lesonsky explains how to do this in her article How to get Bloggers to Write about your Business.

5. Be Newsworthy

A story will resonate best if it’s newsworthy, relevant and actionable. Try to come up with story angles that relate to something topical and gain publicity by association. For example, if you’re launching a new product line that’s tied to something current – a new trend, a health concern, or technological advancement – be sure to make that connection.  Give people a reason to want to talk about your business. 

6. Making the Pitch – The Art of the Press Release

Getting people to pick up on your story can seem like an impossible task. But you don’t need a PR agency to help you craft a meaningful press release. These tips can help:

  • Start by determining your tone and content. It should reflect your business identity but also the profile of your target media list, i.e. what they write about.
  • Consider hiring a copywriter if this is your first time. If you offer proper guidance, press release writing fees are minimal.
  • Don’t embellish. You want to help the reporter quickly determine the newsworthiness and value of your story and its relevance to his or her publication.
  • Use formatting to clearly tell your story. Stick to one page, use double-spacing, and include an eye-catching but informative headline. You can find examples of press releases online.
  • Review, review, review. Ask someone else to review the headline and the content. Is it compelling? Does it align with your goals? And double check for typos.
  • Submit your release over a PR wire service. If you are focusing on local news outlets, consider emailing them the release directly with an accompanying note. There are lots of wire services out there and they range drastically in cost. For most small businesses, submitting your release over a local (versus national) wire will suit you just fine and save you money.

7. Follow-Up

Once you’ve sent your press release, follow up and respond immediately if you get an inquiry.

8. Be Persistent

PR takes time. Follow the tips above and refine your plan continuously. If your story is good and your releases are well written, something will eventually stick!

PR is also so much more than a press release, for more tips, read these blogs:

 

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
1

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Growing Access to Capital in Indian Country

By Christopher James, SBA Official
Published: March 7, 2012

The Obama administration has made growing access to capital a top priority for Native American small businesses. I recently took part in a roundtable discussion on access to capital in Indian Country with nearly 150 Native American small business owners, representatives from eight federal agencies, and the White House Domestic Policy Council. We had an open dialogue about ways to provide better federal resources and improve federal capital access programs at the 2012 Reservation Economic Summit and American Indian Business Trade Fair in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The Capital Access Roundtable, hosted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the U.S. Department of Interior and the U.S. Small Business Administration, brought together federal representatives, and Native American and lending organizations to look at how to better meet the needs of tribal and Native American businesses in need of financial support that spurs business growth and development.

The summit included Native American entrepreneurs, tribal economic and business development decision-makers, tribal leaders, corporate managers and government administrators to talk about a range of issues that impact Indian Country.

The discussion during the Capital Access Roundtable focused on the opportunities, challenges, best practices, and ways we can improve small business lending in Indian Country. The roundtable exchange also focused on lending institutions that provide financing to Indian Country businesses, and the tribal perspective was a key part of the discussion. We addressed some of the issues that exist in commercial lending to Native American and tribal businesses.

I was happy to share the progress that has been made by the working groups represented, and I was motivated to hear from the entrepreneurs who have used our programs. They freely shared their suggestions and advice on how we can improve those programs and resources.

As we listened to the small business owners we met, we were reminded of the vital role of Native Americans in growing our economy. Going forward, we will expand on our ongoing efforts, take back what was heard at the roundtable, and work to identify policies that will continue to improve economic development in Indian Country.

This is a collaborative process, and we will continue to expand assistance to tribes as we develop systems to access credit and capital. We are committed to fill the gaps to meet the financing needs of Native American small businesses.

About the Author:

Christopher James

SBA Official

Global Chef and Entrepreneur

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
4

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Entrepreneurial Mentoring: Support for Entrepreneurs

By Marie Johns, Former Deputy Administrator
Published: March 7, 2012 Updated: January 9, 2013

At SBA we work every day to provide entrepreneurs and small business owners with the tools they need to create an economy built to last.  From the main street restaurant to the startup clean energy company, small businesses create 2 out of every 3 new jobs in America. 

A mentor can be one of the most valuable resources for startups and small businesses looking to start, grow and create jobs. Throughout my career, I have had privilege of mentoring several dynamic and innovative entrepreneursThe relationships I formed with those small business owners not only supported their growth and development as businesses, but also had a profound impact on me as a businesswoman. And those experiences remain with me today.

Mentors are crucial to the success of entrepreneurs and small business owners.  Mentors work through a variety of organizations and help their communities create and grow great businesses with one common goal – to help their peer entrepreneurs and small business owners succeed by supporting their efforts through teaching, training, and consulting.  SBA is proud to support the roughly 14,000 counselors that work with our resource partners all across the country that do this on a daily basis, as well as the countless other mentors and counselors we collaborate with on a regular basis.

Today SBA and the administration are celebrating entrepreneurial mentors at an event at the White House.  I’m fortunate to be able to help recognize these Champions of Change – leaders in their communities who are examples of great entrepreneurial mentors.  Our Champions range from a successful corporate program manager who is volunteering her time to mentor small businesses win supply chain business to a decorated Vietnam War veteran now running a veterans entrepreneurship program in the Midwest.     

All of these champions help entrepreneurs develop business plans, project growth, provide advice on tackling tough issues and so much more.   They are examples of some of the great leadership across the country and I hope you’ll take the time to learn more about them at http://www.whitehouse.gov/champions.

About the Author:

Marie Johns

Former Deputy Administrator

Marie Johns is a former Deputy Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. 

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
10

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Selling Online – Is It a Hobby or a Business?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 7, 2012 Updated: March 7, 2012

Are you doing business on the Internet? Selling on eBay? Promoting or advertising someone else’s products on your website or blog?

Online money-making opportunities are plentiful – from selling your old books via online auction to promoting products and services for online merchants, or becoming an online merchant yourself. But at what point does this mean you are in business yourself and, since you are making money online, what are your tax and regulatory obligations?

Here’s some guidance about ways you can make money online, along with the tax and regulatory obligations tied to each:

When Is Selling on eBay a Business?

Many of us sell items on eBay or dabble in online money-making activities, but at what point does this become a business and how does this affect your taxes?

If you’re selling on eBay, for example, you can claim this activity as a hobby and deductions against it as long as you’re not buying and selling goods with the intention of making a profit.  Read more about determining whether an activity is a business or hobby from the IRS here.

If you make a profit from an eBay sale, you are required to report it to the IRS – income is income, after all. Now, neither eBay nor PayPal reports transactions to the IRS, so it’s up to you to report your profits.

If you are serious about your eBay venture, consider setting up a business to reduce your tax liability and the threat of penalties for failing to report income (you can then claim business deductions).

What about Affiliate Marketing?

Another popular way to make money online is through affiliate marketing. This is an arrangement by which individual website owners receive a sales commission by promoting products and services of other companies. Most affiliate marketers are individuals looking to make some extra money on their blogs, for example, or website owners who want to generate revenue from their site without selling products directly.

In the eyes of the IRS, affiliate marketing is comparable to being a commissioned salesperson; as a result, the money paid to you must be reported on your taxes as income. Make sure your affiliate companies send you an IRS 1099-MISC form showing your earnings for the previous tax year by February 1; then report these earnings as income on 1040 Schedule C.

Starting an Online Store or e-Commerce Site

If you’re starting a business online, you must follow the same basic steps any business owner needs to take. This involves registering for an Employer Identification Number (EIN), registering your business with the appropriate agencies, getting a license or permit, paying sales taxes, and complying with online regulations such as privacy laws, advertising laws, and intellectual property laws.

SBA offers two guides to walk you through the process of starting a business and understanding the specific obligations of online business owners:

Other useful guides include:

Related Articles

 

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
8

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

8 Ways to Develop Online Content for Your Business – Even if You Hate to Write

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: March 6, 2012

These days, “content marketing” is a hot online marketing strategy. But why does the thought of sitting down to write an article strike fear into the hearts of so many small business owners? To hear some people talk, it ranks right up there with public speaking as an anxiety inducer.

There’s no need for it to be that way. We know how to use stories and content to attract customers. We do it all the time. Don’t let an important-sounding term like “content marketing” intimidate you. Here are eight ways to develop, repurpose and/or share content to market your business even if your mind is drawing a blank and you hate to write:

  1. Participate in Question and Answer sites relevant to your industry and customers.  Some good ones to consider for those in B2B businesses (such as consultants, business accountants, and those who sell business solutions) are:  LinkedIn Answers; Quora; and Focus.com. Register to be a member (all are free). Then search by topic or keywords to find others who have asked questions relevant to your industry. Then respond and share some of your expertise in short answers. 
  1. Do an email interview of someone you admire for your blog.  Interview articles can be easier to write than standard articles, because you only have to think up 5 to 10 questions and a brief introduction paragraph. Your interviewee will actually do more of the writing. Interviews are a nice way to vary your blog content, too. And they’re a good way to network with others in your industry because it gives you a reason to develop an email correspondence with others.
  1. Find Forums and Discussion Boards – and participate.  There are some very popular discussion boards on the Web, covering just about every conceivable interest. You position yourself as a thought leader and expert by answering questions. Usually you don’t have to write long answers – a paragraph in length usually is sufficient. Forums are a great way to not only connect with potential clients and customers, but the questions that people ask can trigger ideas for blog posts, too, that you may wish to write.
  1. Contact podcast hosts and volunteer to become a guest.  Many podcast hosts are thrilled to be contacted by a well-prepared guest willing to share his or her expertise. Find them through a good podcast list, or scope out BlogTalkRadio.com.  When you contact the host, have one or two suggested topics you are willing to speak on – and make sure they are relevant to the host’s audience.  After the podcast, you can write a post on your own blog about the show.  Include a few bullets in your post outlining key points and link to the audio file.  You can even have the transcript prepared using an inexpensive service like CastingWords.
  1. Create a downloadable Tips Sheet.  A Tips Sheet might be nothing more than a collection of brief tips on some topic relevant to your customers. It can be simple bullet points and as short as one page. Create the Tips Sheet as a document (say a Word document or PowerPoint). Include your website address and some contact info – but keep it informative and not a hard sell. Spend a little time to make it look attractive, and then save it as a PDF (this is very easy to do with Microsoft Office 2010 products). Put it on your website, and give the link as a thank-you when people sign up for your email list. 
  1. Tweet out your best blog posts from the past.  Why should good quality content stay buried in your blog archives? Occasionally go back into your blog archives, find a good post you’re proud of from the past, and tweet out the link on Twitter, along with a pithy observation like “On this day one year ago I wrote about ZYX [link]. I see my prediction came true.” Or just tweet it out without reference to it being older – many posts are timeless.
  1. Create a video.  If the thought of writing ANYTHING causes your mind to go blank, then maybe you’re one of those people whose words flow more freely by just talking. You’ll need your webcam, or a good quality video camera on your mobile device, or even better, a good-quality small video camera (you can find these on Amazon or elsewhere online). Keep the video short – no more than 3 minutes in length – and then upload it to YouTube. Be sure to write a good description, and then embed it into your blog or website. Voila! Easy content without all the writing.
  1. Pin some image content. OK, now this tip is for those who don’t want to write more than a couple of words. Pinterest is one of the hottest social sharing sites at the moment. With it, you simply “pin” or share content visually (you only need to write a brief description about the image – words are at a minimum).  One thing that savvy small business owners are doing is developing a Pinterest Board related to their businesses. 

Think outside the box when it comes to content.  It doesn’t always have to mean writing a 500-word blog post or a lengthy article.

About the Author:

Anita Campbell

Guest Blogger

My name is Anita Campbell. I run online communities and information websites reaching over 6 million small business owners, stakeholders and entrepreneurs annually, including Small Business Trends, a daily publication about small business issues, and BizSugar.com, a small business social media site.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
4

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Business Lending Showing New Signs of Strength

By Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
Published: March 5, 2012 Updated: March 12, 2012

Over the past three years, the Obama administration has made it a top priority to increase access to capital for small business owners across America.  When I came to SBA in early 2009, small business owners would say to me, “I need a loan to survive.”  Since that time, SBA has worked hard to provide small businesses with access to capital – even during the depth of the recession.  Thanks to the Recovery Act and the Small Business Jobs Act, SBA had a record year in FY2011, supporting more than $30 billion in small business lending across the country

Now we’re getting encouraging news that business lending is showing new signs of strength.  You may have seen that the FDIC recently released data showing that banks had their biggest increase in business lending in four years.   And the Wall Street Journal recently wrote “At Last! Banks Are Making New Loans.” Lately, small business owners are no longer telling me they’re fighting for survival; they’re talking about needing a loan to take advantage of a new opportunity, hire another worker or buy more inventory. There are additional signs that more money is getting into the hands of business owners.  The Department of Treasury began receiving reports from the banks that participated in the Small Business Lending Fund (SBLF).  Already these financial institutions, mostly community banks, have increased their small business lending by $3.5 billion.  And, the 27 states participating in the State Small Business Credit Initiative are also putting the funds to use, supporting lending to small businesses and small manufacturers.

Of course, we all know that even though lending is on the rise, there’s still more to be done.  That’s why SBA is working hard to continue filling gaps in the market place.  For example, we’re working with some of the largest lenders around the country, who last year committed $20 billion for small business lending over the next three years.  We’re also working to streamline our processes and make it easier for small businesses to benefit from our programs.  We recently revamped the CAPLines program to provide a working line of capital to certain businesses, including manufacturers and government contractors.  We also created new programs, such as Small Loan Advantage and Community Advantage, which incentivizes lenders to make small-dollar loans and opens up SBA programs to new lenders, such as CDFIs.  

We’re confident that this is just the beginning of the momentum small businesses need to keep growing and creating jobs.  Everyone at SBA recognizes that this is a critical time for small businesses, and we’re committed to helping them get the financing they need so they can lay the foundation for an economy built to last.

 

About the Author:

Karen Mills

Former SBA Administrator

Karen Gordon Mills is the Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
4

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

How To Calculate and Make Estimated Tax Payments

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 5, 2012

As a new business owner, understanding your tax obligations is critical and one of the first requirements you’ll need to understand are estimated tax payments.

What are estimated taxes? Who must pay them and how? Below are some facts from the IRS Estimated Tax Guide to help new small business owners understand their estimated tax obligations.

What Are Estimated Taxes?

The IRS and your state’s treasury department require that individuals and businesses pay taxes almost as quickly as they earn income. If taxes aren’t withheld from wages or other payments, then you will likely need to pay estimated tax payments each quarter.

Think of estimated taxes as a “pay-as-you-go” tax. Four times a year (quarterly), you are required to send Uncle Sam enough of your revenues to cover your income tax and your self-employment tax (Social Security and Medicare) obligations.

If you don’t pay enough tax throughout the year, either through withholding or by making estimated tax payments, you may have to pay a penalty for underpayment of estimated tax. However, the IRS knows that calculating earnings isn’t easy, so it offers a safe harbor rule – if you pay at least as much as your previous year’s liability or pay within 90 percent of your actual liability, there’s no penalty for underpayment. 

Who Pays Estimated Taxes?

If you are self-employed and expect to owe $1,000 or more when you file your annual return, then you must pay estimated taxes on income.  If it’s not through withholding, then it has to be done by quarterly estimated taxes. If your business is structured as a corporation, you’ll need to pay estimated taxes if you expect to owe $500 when you file. 

How Much Should You Pay in Estimated Taxes?

Calculating what you owe each quarter requires figuring out your expected adjusted gross income, taxable income, taxes, deductions, and credits for the year. Each business situation is different, especially if you are a new business owner, so it’s worth spending some time with a tax advisor to understand the best calculation method for your situation.

You have a number of options when it comes to calculating what you owe each quarter:

  • Use Form 1040-ES – You can calculate your quarterly estimated tax payment using Form 1040-ES (the same form used to pay estimated taxes), which includes a worksheet that helps you estimate how much you owe for the current year. Corporations should use Form 1120-W to calculate estimated taxes.
  • Refer to Last Year’s Return – If you have been in business for a while, you can refer to your previous year's federal tax return. Include all the income and deductions you expect to take on your current year's tax return and refer to the total tax you paid so that your estimated tax payments are in the same range as last year’s taxes (100-110 percent is the range to shoot for to avoid underpayment problems).
  • Make a Quarterly Calculation – If you are a freelancer or independent contractor and face fluctuating or cyclical income, you might prefer to calculate your estimated taxes on a quarterly basis.

The IRS offers more advice in its Estimated Taxes Guide on how to calculate your payment and adjust estimates if you think you are paying too much – or too little – as the year progresses.

When Are Payments Due?

For estimated tax purposes, the year is divided into four payment periods. Payments for each year are due on the 15th day of April, June, September and the following January. You should try to pay at least the minimum owed by the due date (with the remainder paid on April 15), or risk incurring penalties from the IRS or your state.

How To Pay Estimated Taxes

Paying your estimated taxes is an easy process. If you are filing as a self-employed individual, use Form 1040-ES, which includes quarterly payment vouchers to submit with your payment. Corporations can deposit the payments by using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System for deposit coupons (Forms 8109). Once you are in the system, the IRS will send you payment vouchers at the end of each tax year so you won't have to worry about downloading the latest forms.

Paying Estimate Taxes to Your State?

You need to pay your estimated state income taxes at the same time you pay your federal taxes. Find links to your state's tax office for the appropriate forms here.

Talk to a Tax Specialist

Spend an hour with a tax specialist to help you understand what the best calculation methods are, how to appropriately track and deduct expenses, and how to maintain good records. Many will provide this initial consultation for free simply because they hope you will return and use them come filing season.

Additional Resources

 

 

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
10

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Small Manufacturers Driving Job Creation, Economic Growth

By Karen Mills, Former SBA Administrator
Published: March 2, 2012

Made in America is hot.  More than 400,000 manufacturing jobs have been created since the start of 2010 and there are currently about 229,000 job openings in the manufacturing sector, according to data from the Labor Department.

America’s small manufacturers are a critical part of that.  According to BLS and Census data, 98 percent of America’s manufacturing firms are small.  More than one in three Americans who work in manufacturing, work at a small business.  

Everyone from the President on down has been working very hard to make sure these firms have the tools they need to grow and create jobs.

For example, in 2010, President Obama signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act.  One of the most important provisions was increasing the limit on SBA loans from $2 million to $5 million.  The higher loan limits directly helped nearly 2,500 small businesses – including nearly 450 small manufacturers – with access to over $10.2 billion to help buy new buildings, buy more equipment, and hire more workers. 

We’re building on that momentum by taking even more steps to help small manufacturers.

For example, a recent study shows that access to a supply chain can help employers increase revenues by more than 250 percent and create 150 percent more jobs. That’s why SBA is working with America’s biggest companies to develop easier access to those critical supply chains.

In addition, the federal government itself is working to make sure we meet the goal of 23 percent of federal contract dollars going to small businesses, including small manufacturers.  Already, we have had two consecutive years of increases, with nearly $100 billion going to small businesses last year.

Also, a recent report on the state of capital access from the Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) – a program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology - shows a lack of available capital to manufacturers has “restricted the ability of many small manufactures to grow and compete.”  We’ve heard this and have developed new tools to support access to capital including a redesigned Supply Chain loan program (CAPLines) that provides low-cost, short-term financing to help small contractors and sub-contractors get the working capital they need to fulfill the contract, including creating jobs in the short-term. 

And finally, for those manufacturing small businesses that are poised for significant expansion and growth, the Small Business Investment Company (SBIC) program has been a great source of long-term, patient capital.  It had a record year in 2011, and over the past several years, more SBIC dollars from the debenture program have gone to manufacturing than any other sector. 

Through our continued work with the White House Office of Manufacturing Policy, the MEP, and many other partners, we will continue to help manufacturers create good jobs here over the long term.

About the Author:

Karen Mills

Former SBA Administrator

Karen Gordon Mills is the Former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration. The SBA helps both Main Street and high-growth small businesses get access to capital, counseling, federal contracts, disaster assistance and more.

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
31

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

How to Choose the Best Location for Your Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: March 1, 2012 Updated: January 9, 2013

Whether it’s Main Street or Silicon Valley, your business location can mean the difference between success and failure. But more than that, your business location is the linchpin for your reputation, your brand, and your profits.

In fact, choosing a business location is perhaps the single most important decision a small business owner or startup will make, so it requires precise planning and research. It involves looking at demographics, assessing your supply chain, scoping the competition, staying on budget, understanding how state laws and taxes might impact you, and so much more.

Here are some tips to help you choose the right business location.

What are your needs?

Most businesses choose a location that will provide exposure and drive foot traffic or volume to their location.  That makes features like parking, pedestrian and vehicular access, the reputation of the neighborhood, and the proximity of other businesses all factors to consider.

However, there are other less obvious factors and needs to consider as well. For example:

  • Brand image – Is the location consistent with the image you want to maintain?
  • Competition – Are the businesses around you complementary or competing? Some businesses, such as retail stores, benefit from being in a retail hub alongside the competition. Others may be at a disadvantage if located close to competition.  
  • Local labor market – Does the area have what you need in terms of potential employees? Can they make it into work without encountering hellish traffic?  
  • Plan for future growth – If you anticipate further growth, preempt the need for multiple moves by looking for a building that has extra space you can expand into should you need it. Your budget should also include cost estimates for furniture, utilities, and IT needs. 
  • Proximity to suppliers – They need to be able find you easily, too.
  • Safety – What’s the crime rate? Will employees feel safe alone in the building or walking to their vehicles?
  • Zoning regulations – These determine whether you can actually conduct your type of business in certain properties or locations. You can find out how property is zoned by contacting your local planning agency.

What about the money factor?

Besides working out what you can afford, you’ll need to be aware of some other financial considerations: 

  • Hidden Costs – Very few spaces are walk-in ready.  Don’t forget to include costs like renovation, decorating, IT system upgrades, and so on in your budget.
  • Taxes – What are the income tax and sales tax rates for your state? These vary greatly. What about property taxes? Could you locate your business across a nearby state line and pay less in taxes? This article on AOL Small Business from SBA guest blogger, Barbara Weltman, stacks up The Best and Worst States for Small Business Taxes.
  • Minimum Wage – While the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour, many states have a higher minimum. For example, in Washington state the minimum is $9.04 per hour. If you are re-locating your business, this might negatively impact payroll costs. View the Department of Labor’s list of minimum wage rates by state.
  • Government Economic Incentives – Business location can determine whether you qualify for government economic business programs, such as state-specific small business loans and other financial incentives.

Does the state or community offer business support resources?

Getting good advice about laws and regulations on business ownership in a particular location is essential. Likewise, as you look to grow your business, it can be advantageous to work with a small business specialist or counselor. Check what programs and support your state government and local community offer to small businesses. Many states offer online tools to help small business owners start up and succeed. Virginia.gov’s Business One Stop is just one example. Local in-person community resources that specifically support small businesses include SBA Offices, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers and other government-funded training, mentoring and counseling programs. Find out if there are any in your location here

What’s the bottom line?

Do your research, because getting your business location wrong can be costly. Talk to other business owners and potential co-tenants, work with a mentor, and use available resources, such as these free demographics from SBA.gov, to help in your efforts.

Related Articles

About the Author:

Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Comment Count:
4

Comments welcome on this page. See Rules of Conduct.

Five Due Diligence Questions That Are Worth Asking Before You Buy That Franchise

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: March 1, 2012 Updated: January 3, 2013

Before you write out a check for $30,000 (the average amount of the upfront franchise fee), it’s important to ask lots of questions.

Some are questions that you can only ask yourself; they’re the ones that have to do with courage. I really can’t help you with those.

But, I can help you learn which ones you need to ask the franchisees when you’re calling them to learn more about the opportunity.

The Five 

Let’s say that you’ve landed on a franchise business opportunity that you feel is “The One.” You’ve done some preliminary research and have learned that, as far as you can tell, it’s a viable business. Great! Now, let’s find out if the current franchise owners, the franchisees, feel that way, too.

Ask them these important questions:

1.  When you were doing your due diligence, did you discover any competitors to the franchise you now own?

Asking this question will help you find out who the current competitors are. You may even learn of others that you may have missed.

2.   How are you dealing with your competitors?

Are the competitors in the marketplace worthy? In other words, are the franchisees that you’re talking to facing stiff competition? Are you about to enter an extremely crowded market, or is there room for you to do business, too?

3.   How long did it take for you to break even?

The franchisee on the other end of the line may not be willing to share this information, but it’s worth it to ask this important question. You really need to know when you can expect your revenue to pay for your business expenses. That’s because after you break even, you can start to anticipate some profit…maybe not immediately, but at least you’ll know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

4.   How much can I make?

This crucial question needs to be asked correctly, or you’ll end up upsetting the franchisee, and your call may end shortly thereafter.

And, please don’t to ask this question too early in the conversation. When it comes to money and earnings, you never know how the franchisee will react.

Here’s how to ask the money question.*

5.  "If I were a member of your family, would you recommend this franchise?"

I promise that no one has ever asked the franchisee this question.

As bizarre as this question may sound, and as awkward as you may feel asking it, the answer that the franchisees give to it may reveal a lot about the opportunity. This question could turn out to be a lot more important than it seems to be on the surface.

Before you buy a franchise, make sure that you spend a lot of time on the phone with current franchise owners of the franchise that you’re thinking of buying. Believe it or not, lots of people don’t do this.

Don’t be like them. Do your homework. That way, you’ll know what to expect when you finally do become a franchise owner.  

 

* Non-US Government website  

 

 

About the Author:

Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and is a franchise ownership advisor. He shows people how to carefully choose and properly research franchises.   

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to leave comments. If you already have an SBA.gov account, Log In to leave your comment.

New users, Register for a new account and join the conversation today!

Pages

Subscribe to The U.S. Small Business Administration | SBA.gov RSS