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How to Work With Freelance Designers

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: April 1, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014

Small business owners often outsource to freelance designers to create their logos, marketing materials and more. While using online services where hundreds of designers bid on your project at the lowest possible price can have its place, there are times when you need an ongoing, personal relationship with a designer—someone you can work with over and over again and count on to deliver every time.

How can you develop this kind of working relationship? Here are some tips.

Start by choosing your designer wisely. Your local chamber of commerce, personal and business connections, other small business owners and social media networks are good places to look for designers. If you see a small business with a marketing piece, ad or signage that really stands out to you, contact the business owner and ask where he or she had it done. Good designers will have professional websites where you can check out their portfolios to see whether they’ve done projects similar to yours. Ideally, you want to look for a designer who is not only familiar with current design trends, but also has some experience in your industry and working with small businesses.

Make a shortlist of several options and contact them for more information about their services. Find out:

·         How does the designer charge? Some designers charge by the hour, others on a per-project basis. If the designer uses a standard contract, ask to see it. Check out factors such as how many revisions are included in the price, whether you will own all rights to the finished product (very important if the designer is creating your logo), and whether the designer charges a percentage of the fee even if you aren’t satisfied with the work.

·         Who will be working on your projects? Is this a one-person shop or does the designer have partners or employees? You might be impressed with one designer’s skills, only to find out a much junior person will be working on your projects. Does the designer outsource to other designers? This isn’t necessarily bad, but if the designer is outsourcing to the same type of online design services you were trying to avoid, there’s not much point to hiring him or her.

·         What other companies does the designer work for? Asking about clients will give you an idea not only of whether the designers is conversant with your industry, but also where you may fall in the pecking order. If a designer has lots of big clients, the reality is you may find your projects falling to the bottom of their priority list. Be sure to address this concern honestly.

·         Where is he or she located? Today, it’s possible to work well with designers across the country or even across the globe. However, communicating about design issues can be difficult for small business owners. It’s often easier to discuss visual issues in person, and if this is the case for you, you’ll want to choose a local designer who can come by your office.

Once you’ve selected the designer, keep the relationship happy and successful by:

·         Clearly communicating what you want. Find examples of the type of design you like and explain what you like about them—is it the color? The use of type faces? The graphics or photos?

·         Being open to suggestions. You hired a designer for his or her expertise, so use it. You don't have to accept designs you hate, but do give the designer a chance to explain the reason behind the design. Perhaps he or she will change your mind.

·         Limiting your requests for revisions. There’s nothing a designer hates more than umpteen emails asking to change this, that and the other. It’s OK to have a lot of input into the design, but instead of sharing every thought as it pops into your head, take some time to review the work, think about it and discuss all the changes you’d like at one time.

·         Setting clear expectations and deadlines. As with any working relationship, be sure you are clear about your standards. Using project management and scheduling tools like Zoho, Trello or Google Drive is a great way to ensure you have the latest versions of files all in one place so everyone can look at them and share their input.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

Rieva Lesonsky is CEO and President of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Follow Rieva at Twitter.com/Rieva and visit SmallBizDaily.com to sign up for her free TrendCast reports. She's been covering small business and entrepreneurial issues for more than 30 years, is the author of several books about entrepreneurship and was the editorial director of Entrepreneur magazine for over two decades

SBA's Disaster Loan Program Explained

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 31, 2014 Updated: April 1, 2014

Did you know that in the wake of a disaster, SBA provides low-interest disaster loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes and private, nonprofit organizations? In the aftermath of hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, tornadoes and other disasters, SBA is the primary source of money from the federal government for long-term recovery assistance.

Am I eligible?

SBA’s Disaster Loan Program is not exclusively for small businesses. These low-interest, long-term loans are available for damage to private property owned by individuals, families, businesses of all sizes and private nonprofits not fully covered by insurance.

While property owners usually have some insurance coverage, often it does not cover all losses or even the type of hazard that caused the damage. And that’s where a disaster loan comes into play.

What can I use the loan for?

There are actually a few different types of disaster loans available. SBA can provide up to $2 million in disaster assistance for businesses.  This includes loans to cover physical damage and economic injury losses. Some applicants will qualify for both an economic injury loan and a physical disaster loan.  Meanwhile, the dollar limit for the combined loans is $2 million.

Physical damage is probably what you think of first when it comes to a disaster – the more tangible damages done during a disaster. Businesses and nonprofit organizations of all sizes can apply. A physical disaster loan can address losses not fully covered by insurance and can go toward repairing or replacing:

  • Real property
  • Machinery
  • Equipment
  • Fixtures
  • Inventory
  • Leasehold improvements

Economic injury means that because of a disaster, you’re unable to meet your business obligations and pay ordinary and necessary operating expenses. So, an economic injury disaster loan (or EIDL) provides the necessary working capital (of up to $2 million) to help your small business or private nonprofit organization survive until normal operations resume after a disaster.

Renters can also apply for disaster loans of up to $40,000 to repair or replace their disaster damaged personal property (like furniture, rugs, clothing, appliances—anything damaged by the disaster).  Homeowners may borrow up to $200,000 to repair or replace disaster damaged real estate, plus an additional $40,000 to cover personal property losses.

How does the process work?

  • After a presidential disaster declaration, first register with FEMA. In most cases, you'll be referred to SBA for possible loan assistance. Then you should apply online, which is the fastest way to receive a decision about your loan eligibility.
  • Your loan processing is next. SBA will conduct a credit check and an onsite inspection to determine your losses. A loan officer will work with you to approve or decline a loan.
  • Generally, within five days of signing SBA’s loan closing documents, your first disbursement is made. A case manager will work with you to meet all your loan conditions and schedule the rest of your disbursements until you receive the full loan amount.

So when disaster strikes, remember that SBA is here to help. Check out this short video to learn more about how, and get more details here about the disaster assistance program.

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Growing Importance of Business Plan Competitions

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: March 26, 2014

Are you aware of business plan competitions? If you’re an entrepreneur, they’re an excellent opportunity to present your business and compete for cash and in-kind prizes or, worst case, really good feedback from serious business people. If you’re lucky enough to be invited to judge, it’s a chance to spend a few days reviewing real-world startups.

I’ve been judging business plan competitions for almost 20 years. As I write this I’m looking forward to another season judging venture competitions including the University of Texas’ Venture Labs Investment Competition, the Rice University Business Plan Competition, and the University of Oregon New Venture Championship. Each of these three events pit grad-level business students from all over the world against each other as they compete for cash and in-kind prizes. They submit business plans, do business pitches and answer detailed questions.

I find judging these competitions fun, interesting and for me a great way to keep up with the evolution of high-level startups, business planning and entrepreneurship education.

The University of Texas started this, as far as I know, with the first “Moot Corp” in 1984. Moot Corp became Venture Labs Competition three years ago. It’s the oldest and possibly most prestigious – although Rice University is a serious rival. All of its entrants have won other business plan competitions to get to that one.

The Rice University contest is the richest. Recent winners have won cash prizes of hundreds of thousands of dollars and total prizes of more than $1 million including in-kind services (like free rent, consulting, legal work, etc.)

I’ve been judging the University of Oregon competition since 1997. I’ll never forget arriving on a Thursday morning to discover, to my horror, that I’d committed myself to all day Thursday, Friday and Saturday. My horror changed to real interest as the teams began their pitches. By Saturday I had enjoyed it so much I made sure to stay on the list for the future years. And I’ve missed only one year since then.

One obvious change I’ve seen in this area is the tremendous growth in the number of contests, the interest in contests, the prize money and the seriousness of the startups that enter.

The most important change is an amazing increase in the viability of the competing startups. The early Moot Corps were almost entirely hypothetical business plans developed by students as academic exercises. Nowadays most of the entrants in the major business plan competitions are real companies with real prospects. Of the three I judge, a clear majority of the startups that enter will eventually get financed and launch. Both Rice and Texas track angel investments and venture capital financing landed by former contestants in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Winners almost always have viable products, believable management teams, and credible growth prospects.

Another change is the length, style and content of the business plans submitted. Today’s business plans are much shorter than they used to be, as page limits have gone from 30-40 to 10-20. Judges have to read plans and they want shorter, sharper and more summarized. And – sadly, in my opinion – financial projections seem to be less rigorous.

Another development is that because of the continuing increase in interest, there is now a good website dedicated entirely to listing competitions, at www.bizplancompetitions.com. You’ll be amazed at how many events they list. And I hope you find one you can attend, enter or judge. If you have any interest in startups, it’s a great experience.

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

Founder and Chairman of Palo Alto Software and bplans.com, on twitter as Timberry, blogging at timberry.bplans.com. His collected posts are at blog.timberry.com. Stanford MBA. Married 46 years, father of 5. Author of business plan software Business Plan Pro and www.liveplan.com and books including his latest, 'Lean Business Planning,' 2015, Motivational Press. Contents of that book are available for web browsing free at leanplan.com .

SBA’s 8(a) Certification Program Explained

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 26, 2014 Updated: September 2, 2016

Did you know that the SBA has a program designed to help small, disadvantaged businesses compete in the federal marketplace? If you’re interested in government contracting, the 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program offers a broad scope of assistance to small businesses for which you might be eligible.  

The 8(a) BD Program has been essential for helping socially and economically disadvantaged entrepreneurs gain access to the economic mainstream of American society. Ultimately, the program helps thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs to gain a foothold in government contracting.

Am I eligible?

Generally, to be approved into the 8(a) BD program and become certified, your small business must be owned and controlled at least 51% by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals who are American citizens.

You should also be able to demonstrate potential for business success and possess good character. You can read more details about eligibility requirements by visiting this page on our site.

What are the benefits?

So, how can the program help you? Once certified, you can take advantage of specialized business training, counseling, marketing assistance and high-level executive development provided by the SBA and our resource partners. You may also be eligible for assistance in obtaining access to surplus government property and supplies, SBA-guaranteed loans, and bonding assistance for being involved in the program. You can receive sole-source contracts (up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing). While SBA helps 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, the agency also encourages you to participate in competitive acquisitions.

8(a) businesses can also receive sole-source contracts (up to a ceiling of $4 million for goods and services and $6.5 million for manufacturing). While SBA helps 8(a) firms build their competitive and institutional know-how, the agency also encourages you to participate in competitive acquisitions.

In addition, 8(a) businesses can form joint ventures and teams to bid on contracts. This enhances your ability to successfully compete for and perform larger prime contracts. You can also participate in the 8(a) BD Mentor-Protégé Program which allows companies to learn the ropes from other more experienced businesses.

What else should I know?

Participation in the 8(a) BD Program is divided into two phases over nine years: a four-year developmental stage and a five-year transition stage; the overall goal of which is to graduate 8(a) businesses that will go on to thrive in a competitive business environment.

While participating in the program, you’ll have to maintain a balance between your commercial and government business. There’s also a $100 million (or five times the value of your primary NAICS code) limit on the total dollar value of sole-source contracts that you can receive while in the program.

To make sure you stay on track to accomplish goals and follow requirements, the SBA district offices monitor and measure the progress of participants through annual reviews, business planning and systematic evaluations.

 

Related Resources

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

SBA Hosts Webinar Series to Help Small Businesses Learn How to Apply for the 8(a) BD Program

Published: March 25, 2014 Updated: March 25, 2014

If you’re a small disadvantaged business seeking to be certified in the U.S. Small Business Administration’s (SBA)’s 8(a) Business Development (BD) Program, the SBA has good news for you!

The SBA will host a series of 8(a) webinars from April through August to help small disadvantaged businesses learn how to successfully apply for the 8(a) BD Program. 

The 8(a) Program – What is it?

The SBA certifies small businesses considered to be socially and economically disadvantaged under its nine-year 8(a) BD Program.  Individuals who are members of certain minority groups are considered to be socially disadvantaged.  These groups include: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Asian Pacific Americans and Subcontinent Asian Americans.  Firms owned by Alaska Native Corporations, Indian Tribes, Native Hawaiian Organizations, and Community Development Corporations are also eligible to participate in the program.

The 8(a) BD Program helps these firms develop and grow through one-on-one counseling, training workshops and management and technical guidance.  It also provides access to government contracting opportunities, allowing them to become solid competitors in the federal marketplace.  In fiscal year 2012, small businesses received more than $15.8 billion in 8(a) contract dollars.

8(a) Webinar: How to Prepare and Submit Your 8(a) Business Development Application – Tips for Success | April 9th and August 27th | 2:00-3:00 pm EST

  • This webinar will focus on how the 8(a) BD Program works, its eligibility requirements, and its benefits.  It will also provide helpful tips on completing an 8(a) application. 
  • Registration is free, but required.  Please refer to the following links:

           April 9, 2014 – http://emsp.intellor.com/login/414419

           August 27, 2014 - http://emsp.intellor.com/login/414423

8(a) Webinar: How to Prepare and Submit your 8(a) Application – Tips for Success (Entity–Owned Firms) | May 21st | 2:00-3:00 pm EST

  • This webinar will focus on how the 8(a) BD Program works, its eligibility requirements, and its benefits.  It will also provide helpful tips on completing an 8(a) application. This webinar is for firms that are Alaska Native Corporations (ANC), Native Hawaiian Organizations (NHO), Community Development Corporations (CDC) and Tribally Owned. 
  • Registration is free, but required. Please refer to the following links:

            May 21, 2014 - http://emsp.intellor.com/login/414420

8(a) Webinar: Keeping Your 8(a) Business Development Certificate Compliant | June 18th | 2:00-3:00 pm EST

  • This webinar will focus on how 8(a) firms continue to meet the eligibility criteria for the 8(a) BD Program.
  • Registration is free, but required. Please refer to the following links:

           June 18, 2014 - http://emsp.intellor.com/login/414421

8(a) Webinar: Overview of the 8(a) Business Development Program | July 23rd | 2:00-3:00 pm EST

  • This webinar will focus on the overview of the 8(a) BD Program along with its benefits. It will also discuss if the 8(a) BD Program is right for you.
  • Registration is free, but required.  Please refer to the following link:

           July 23, 2014 - http://emsp.intellor.com/login/414422

The webinars are designed to help small disadvantaged businesses get and maintain their 8(a) certification and compete in the federal marketplace.

To learn more about the 8(a) BD Program, visit: http://www.sba.gov/content/about-8a-business-development-program.  

 

 

 

About the Author:

How to Write-off Business Expenses You Pay For

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: March 20, 2014

As an owner, your company may not pay for every expense you incur on its behalf. Your out-of-pocket costs may be legitimate business expenses that you’ll want to deduct. How you do this depends on your business’ entity type … and more.

Deducting your out-of-pocket costs

The legal entity for your business dictates how you deduct the expenses not covered by your company.

  • Sole proprietors. Independent contractors and other sole proprietors and their businesses are one and the same; in effect there are no unreimbursed expenses. All deductible items are reported on Schedule C. Limited liability companies (LLCs) with a single owner (member) are treated the same as sole proprietors; they too report business expenses on Schedule C (unless they make a special election to be treated differently for tax purposes, which most don’t).
  • Corporations. Shareholders can only deduct their out-of-pocket expenses as unreimbursed employee business expenses on Schedule A. This means only amounts in excess of 2% of adjusted gross income become deductible and, if they are high-income taxpayers, a portion of the deductible amount is lost. What’s more, if they are subject to the alternative minimum tax, then none of the unreimbursed expenses are deductible. The same treatment applies to shareholders in C and S corporations.
  • Partners and LLC members. Out-of-pocket business expenses that an owner is required to pay on behalf of the entity are an offset to business income; they are subtracted on Schedule E (the deduction is labeled “UPE” for unreimbursed partnership expense). There are no separate limitations on these deductions as there are on business deductions claimed by shareholders on Schedule A. However, as the Tax Court has pointed out, no deduction is allowed for the owners if the entity would have paid the expense under the terms of the partnership agreement or past business practices but the owners failed to ask for reimbursement.

Reimbursement arrangements

You can sidestep the need for personal deductions if your business agrees to cover all of the expenses you incur on its behalf. It’s advisable to put this arrangement in writing, specifying what you need to do to receive reimbursement.

Corporations can set up accountable plans to reimburse employee business expenses. The plans create tax savings for both the corporations and owners because reimbursements are not treated as taxable compensation; there are no employment taxes on the reimbursed amounts. To be treated as an accountable plan, all of the following three conditions must be satisfied:

  1. Expenses reimbursed under the plan must have a business connection (a condition that is usually easily satisfied).
  2. Employees must adequately account to the company for expenses within a reasonable time (generally within 60 days after the expenses were paid or incurred). Accounting means providing the company with proper documentation of expenses (e.g., an expense account form or other statement—on paper, electronically or via mobile).
  3. Employees must return to the company any excess reimbursement or allowance within a reasonable time (generally 120 days after the expense was paid or incurred). Advances usually can’t be made more than 30 days before the time of the expenses.

While most employee benefit plans have nondiscrimination rules, such rules don’t apply to accountable plans. There is nothing in the conditions of accountable plans that would bar a corporation from limiting reimbursements to owner-employees (i.e., not reimbursing other employees) if it makes business sense to do this.

Technically accountable plans cannot be used for the expenses of self-employed owners (such plans are limited to reimbursement of employee business expenses). However, partnerships can have a reimbursement arrangement for owners. Partnership agreements should specify their reimbursement policy, which may include or exclude certain reimbursements. For example, if partners want to deduct unreimbursed expenses, there should be a reimbursement policy stating that partners are required to cover such costs and that the partnership will not pay for them. Unreimbursed costs can include indirect partnership expenses, such as partners’ cell phones and local travel (e.g., between the office and clients and customers).

Keep good records

It’s easy to lose track of items you pay for on behalf of your business unless you have a recordkeeping system. You may want to use a separate credit card on which you charge only business-related items. Take advantage of apps that let you track business expenses and capture receipts on the go.

Conclusion

Questions? Be sure to ask your tax advisor about the best way to handle business expenses so you’ll maximize your business deductions for legitimate business costs.

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

Barbara Weltman is an attorney, prolific author with such titles as J.K. Lasser's Small Business Taxes, J.K. Lasser's Guide to Self-Employment, and Smooth Failing as well as a trusted professional advocate for small businesses and entrepreneurs. She is also the publisher of Idea of the Day® and monthly e-newsletter Big Ideas for Small Business® and host of Build Your Business Radio. She has been included in the List of 100 Small Business Influencers for three years in a row. Follow her on Twitter: @BigIdeas4SB or at www.BigIdeasforSmallBusiness.com

How to Calculate the Cost of Food for Your Culinary Business Venture

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 19, 2014 Updated: September 6, 2016

Are you hungry for information about launching your food-service small business? While there’s a lot of shared information to get started across all industries, the food industry poses unique opportunities and questions. One of the most common we see is how to calculate the cost of food.

Here’s one approach from small-business expert Sam Ashe-Edmunds, who dishes out food-cost calculations into nine steps to help ensure that you’ll be able to keep a consistent menu, please customers and remain profitable. Here’s what he has to say:

Step 1: Pick a dish to start and list all of its ingredients – even condiments and garnishes. You’ll want to make sure that the portion for each dish is the same so that it always costs the same.

Step 2: Calculate the cost of each ingredient. Take a head of lettuce, for example. If it costs 75 cents and you get 30 leaves, the lettuce cost for a dish that includes one lettuce leaf would be about 2.5 cents. Ashe-Edmunds reminds us to include a proportion of any expenses directly related to purchasing foods, such as delivery fees or interest.

Step 3: Add up the costs of all the ingredients for the dish, but don’t include costs for labor or actually serving the dish.

Step 4: To start figuring out if you’ve priced the meal right, divide the menu price by the food cost to calculate the percentage of the price that comes from food. If you charge $10 for a meal for which food costs are $5, then your food cost is 50 percent.

Step 5: Now, you’ll want to determine overhead cost per meal, which includes everything not related to food that’s required to run your restaurant. This includes things such as labor, rent, marketing, taxes, etc. So, consider what it will cost to run your restaurant on a daily basis – then divide that number by the number of customers you think you’ll serve every day. If your overhead is $1,000 per day and you have 200 customers each day, your overhead per person is $5.

TIP: Keep employee meals and food theft in this overhead figure as well, because they’re not included as direct costs to serve a meal but can’t be left out.

Step 6: Using your overhead costs as a guide, decide your ideal food-cost percentage. If you charge $10 for a meal and your overhead cost is $6, then your food costs can’t be more than $4 to break even. Want a $2 profit per meal? Then you’ll have to charge $12 for that particular dish.

Step 7: Take a look at the prices listed in your menu to figure out if they’ll cover your overhead and food costs – and if you’ll be able to make a profit. So if you’ve calculated an ideal food-cost percentage of 20 percent and a dish uses $4 of ingredients, you can’t sell that dish for any less than $20.

Step 8: You may need to calculate different food-cost percentages for different services or items, such as a breakfast menu versus dinner menu, because of different requirements – some less, some more – to satisfy each dish.

Step 9: Finally, examine your sales by item to determine if your food-cost percentages are adequate to keep your restaurant in business. If it turns out you’re selling at primarily a low cost, you might need to raise prices (or lower food costs) to be profitable.

TIP: Get a more complete picture of your food costs by checking out total food costs per service and dividing them by total sales. Then you won’t have to calculate the actual cost of each menu item.

Ashe-Edmunds’ offers just one approach to determining the cost of food. You can explore these additional resources from around the web for more insight:

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Is The Green Franchising Scene Still Active?

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: March 18, 2014

Maybe my radar screen just needs a bit of a tune-up.

That’s because the word “green” hasn’t been on it as of late.

For a while, it seemed like everybody was talking about green.

Green energy. Green chemicals. And, green franchises.

A few short years ago, I was talking and writing about what’s turned out to be an entire new sector in franchising. I was very excited about the business possibilities. I launched a green franchise web directory. I helped a solar energy franchise get the word out about their opportunity. I tried to learn all I could about all things green. A good friend of mine in Florida, experienced with green energy and technology, brought me up-to-speed on the latest and greatest developments. I was seriously “energized” by all of it.

Solar energy intrigued me, and still does. Before the recession, there was pretty much only one solar energy company offering franchises. Now there are several. I just don’t hear about them much. What does that mean? Is interest in solar energy fading?  

I wrote about green franchising on SBA.gov back in 2010. The article included a couple of different green franchise concepts. I think my enthusiasm showed back then.

Included in that article was information about environmentally-friendly cleaning agents. 

“Residential and commercial cleaning services (of the franchise variety) are jumping on the green bandwagon. Some of them are starting to use cleaning products that are non-toxic, and that won't hurt our environment.”

If my memory serves me correctly, Maid Brigade, a franchisor who I had done some work for, was really the first residential cleaning franchise to get serious about the green movement. As a matter of fact, they still are*. But, I’m not hearing about the use of environmentally-friendly cleaning solutions as much as I used to. What’s changed?

Maybe the seemingly waning interest in green and the business opportunities that surround it have to do with the great recession*, and the necessary belt-tightening that went on during that time. Green products and services generally aren’t cheap. Maybe our priorities have changed because of the hit we took when the economy took a turn for the worse.

I have another theory. Maybe we’ve all gotten so used to hearing about solar energy, wind energy, and safe chemicals, we are just well...used to hearing about green things. What do you think? Are green initiatives so commonplace now that we’re just used to hearing about them?

 Green Franchises

There are plenty of opportunities you can choose from in the franchise world that are considered green. Here is an entire page of them*. Just make sure they’re truly green.

A writer for Franchise Direct wrote about what’s called “greenwashing,” which is when companies aggressively market themselves as green, but aren’t. 

 “When selecting a green franchise, make sure they are truly green. A lot of “greenwashing” occurs as franchisors try to profit from the hype without putting forth the effort required to be truly green. In some cases a franchise spends their entire green budget on promoting the fact that they are a green company rather than using the money to implement green practices. Also be aware that some green “awards” displayed may not be legitimate.”

Make sure the green franchise you’re interested in truly is green.

The Future Of Green Franchising

Businesses that offer and use green products and services are going to win in the long-run. As more people get educated about the importance of clean and sustainable energy, more of them are going to demand it in their everyday lives. There are franchise businesses out there right now that provide it. One day there may even be franchises that sell and install wind farms. The opportunities are endless.

In the not too distant future, almost all of the cleaning agents we use around our homes and offices will be free of damaging toxins. Franchises in the residential and commercial cleaning sectors that aren’t using green chemicals will have to…again because of consumer demand.

Green franchising isn’t going away. The sector just needs to be re-energized a bit.

*Non U.S. Government links

   

 

About the Author:

FranchiseKing
Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

The Franchise King®, Joel Libava, is the author of Become a Franchise Owner! and recently launched Franchise Business University.

How to Buy an Existing Business

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 18, 2014 Updated: March 18, 2014

Are you ready to enter the business world but nervous about starting from scratch? You may be considering buying an existing business, which certainly has its perks when compared to establishing your own, brand-new operation. But there’s still plenty to keep in mind, and success isn’t guaranteed by simply writing a check and getting the keys. Here are a few tips to help you do your due diligence as you explore buying a business.

Considering the pros and cons

There are many favorable aspects to buying an existing business such as an existing customer base, a team of employees and drastic reduction in startup costs. You may be able to jump start your cash flow immediately because of existing inventory and receivables.

But there are also some downsides to buying an existing business. Purchasing cost may be much higher than the cost of starting a new business exactly because the initial business concept, customer base, brand and other fundamental work has already been done. Also, be aware of hidden problems associated with the business (like debts the business is owed that you may not be able to collect).

Choosing a business

There are many different types of businesses to buy. To narrow down the list of potential businesses you might be considering, ask yourself:

  • What are my interests? If you have absolutely no idea what business you want to invest in, first eliminate businesses that are of no interest to you.
  • What are my talents? Being honest about your skills and experience can help you eliminate unrealistic business ventures.
  • What are my conditions for a business? Consider if a business has a condition that is unfavorable to you, such as location and time commitment.

Doing your research

Once you have found a business that you would like to buy, it is important to conduct a thorough, objective investigation and to determine a fair and equitable price for the sale of the business. You’ll want to examine information such as tax returns, financial statements, employee files, contracts, leases and any other important documents related to the business.

TIP: You should enlist a qualified attorney to help review the legal and organizational documents of the business you are planning to purchase. Also, an accountant can help with a thorough evaluation of the financial condition of the business.

Buying a business

When you’ve decided to move forward with buying a business, the sales agreement is the key document you’ll need to finalize the purchase. This agreement defines everything that you intend to purchase including business assets, customer lists, intellectual property and goodwill. If you do not have a lawyer to help you draft the terms of the sale, you should at least have one review the agreement before you sign it.

Closing on a business

The closing is the final step in the process of buying a business. Once again, you should have legal counsel available to review all documentation necessary for the business transfer. This page details items you should address during your closing

If you think buying an exiting business could be the right path for you, there’s a lot of information available to help you succeed, including this article from Entrepreneur.com and additional guidance from NOLO.com.

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Build Your Business with a Great Web Presence

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: March 12, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2014

47% of small businesses don’t have a website. Can you believe it? Establishing a web presence is easier than ever these days and there are so many tools out there that will make it quicker and more influential on your bottom line than ever before. Here are three resources that will not only convince you that every small business should have a great website, but guide you in exactly how to make that a reality – as painlessly and effectively as possible.

Make Your Website Work for You

Do you have one of the 95% of small business websites that isn’t mobile-optimized? Get ahead of trends, stand out from your competition and make it as easy as possible for customers to connect with your business by providing them with an easy, enjoyable web impression. The new infographic by SCORE, “Making Your Website Work,” shares the real, hard numbers that put the value of mobile-friendly small business websites, online marketing and SEO into perspective. Did you know:

  • 97% of consumers look online for local products and services?
  • 70% of smartphone owners have connected with a local business after a search?
  • 70-80% of searchers ignore paid ads and focus on search results?

The infographic compiles 9 statistics about small business website usage into 3 actionable tips to help you make the most of your business’s web presence.

Optimize Your Site Design

So you’re finally convinced – you have a website, but how can you tell if it’s really adding to your bottom line? And adding the absolute most that it could be? SCORE mentor and entrepreneur Dan Beldowicz presents an online workshop, “Winning with Websites” in which you’ll learn:

  • How website design can make or break your online success
  • Why going mobile is a MUST
  • The truth about mobile apps
  • How & when to hire a web developer

Listen and watch as Dan explains how to optimize your web presence.

Create a Great Customer Call to Action (CTA)

Finally, you’ve got to tell customers exactly what you want them to do next. If it’s unclear or if there are too many competing options, they’ll navigate away from that one important click you really want them to make. Daniel Kehrer, founder of BizBest.com, says, “A strong CTA makes it clear what action the customer is expected to take, and why.” How does that translate for your specific business? He says, “Your approach depends on the action you want to motivate. For example, if the goal is to spur a purchase, and you’ve already communicated benefits, a simple ‘Buy Now!’ might be all you need.” Daniel explains in further detail and shares 10 tips for creating strong calls to action to help you turn your heard-earned web visitors into revenue.

By now, I hope you are completely convinced that a user-friendly, informative and helpful website is a must for your business and you know how to convert your newfound prospects into loyal customers. The online experience really does reflect the way you would drive sales at your storefront on Main Street: have an easy to find location; create an enjoyable, uncluttered experience; and communicate exactly how customers can follow through to your end goal. And to make sure you stay on the right path to your end goal, be sure to get a SCORE mentor to be your sounding board.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

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