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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.

March is Red Cross Month- Learn How to Prepare Your Business in the Case of an Emergency

By James Rivera, SBA Official
Published: March 12, 2014 Updated: March 12, 2014

Following a tradition begun by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1943, President Barack Obama has proclaimed March as American Red Cross Month.

Since July 2011, the U.S. Small Business Administration has supported a partnership with the American Red Cross, participating in events to promote the importance of disaster preparedness for individuals and businesses.  Getting the word out about the Red Cross Ready Rating program has been a focus of the American Red Cross/SBA relationship. 

Ready Rating is a free, self-paced, web-based membership program that helps a business measure its ability to deal with emergencies.  All you have to do is answer the questions, based on what you know about your company and its operations, and Ready Rating gives customized feedback on how to start or improve your business continuity planning.

A recent report by the Small Business Majority and the American Sustainable Business Council estimates the average cost of downtime from small businesses affected by an extreme weather event is $3,000 per day.  Since small businesses don’t have the resources of large corporations, it’s a good idea to build a resilient organization by creating a solid disaster preparedness plan.  And Ready Rating is a great, easy-to-use emergency planning tool.

At the Ready Rating site (www.readyrating.org), you can:

  • Complete an assessment to measure the overall preparedness level of your business
  • Create a custom-made emergency plan for your organization
  • Access tools to help you complete a hazard vulnerable assessment
  • Get tips on implementing your emergency response plan
  • Download the Free First-Aid app

Red Cross Month is a good time to take a step to protect your employees, customers and your community by joining Ready Rating, becoming an organization that’s prepared to save both lives and livelihoods.

In the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, the SBA provides recovery assistance in the form of low-interest, direct loans to businesses of all sizes, homeowners, renters, and private non-profit organizations.  Visit the website for more information about SBA’s disaster loan program.

About the Author:

James Rivera
James Rivera

SBA Official

James Rivera was named Associate Administrator for SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance in November 2009 after serving for several months as Acting Associate Administrator. In a typical year, his office approves about 20,000 loans totaling about $1 billion. This is the SBA’s sole direct lending program.

Is Bad Credit Stopping You from Getting Business Loans?

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: March 11, 2014 Updated: March 8, 2016

In a recent report, over 63% of business owners attempting to find funding say they most often targeted banks. Unfortunately, the success among these respondents of actually getting a business loan was a low 27%.  

However, recent news suggest small business owners considered creditworthy are discovering it to be easier to get business loans from traditional banks. This is good news for the economy since access to funding for small businesses is a part of job and economic growth.

Unfortunately, bad credit plagues a large percentage of small business owners as a result of the financial crisis several years back. The fact remains that it’s harder for smaller businesses ­– even with stellar credit ratings ­– to get traditional bank loans than it is for larger businesses.

Access to capital is the single largest roadblock most business owners face when growing their business. With a business loan, these businesses can hire new employees, purchase additional inventory, buy or upgrade equipment and increase their marketing efforts.

So what can a business owner do if bad credit is preventing them from getting a business loan?

The good news is there are alternative funding programs and solutions providing business owners the opportunity to obtain a business loan or line of credit regardless of having bad personal credit. Instead, other factors are taken into consideration such as bank deposit history, credit card sales, credit partners and other data sources.

Here are several factors that can get you a business loan regardless of having bad credit:

Bank deposits – A business with regular bank deposits can put its cash flow to work with revenue-based loans. This program is based on the deposits going into the business bank account on a monthly basis. Typically, a business can obtain a business loan equal to 10% of its annual gross deposits regardless of having bad credit. Another benefit of this program is the time it takes to get funded, which is approximately 7 business days.

Keep in mind the loan term can be as long as 18 months with this program, with rates slightly higher than a traditional bank rate. It requires no collateral, financials or tax returns. Repayments are made in small increments every day via ACH from the business bank account.

Credit card sales – This type of funding program, known as a merchant cash advance, provides businesses with upfront cash in exchange for a portion of future credit card sales. For businesses that have regular monthly credit card sales but struggle with bad personal credit, a merchant cash advance may be a viable option.

However, be very selective on what merchant cash advance provider you select. Some providers can cost as high as 38% while others can be as low as 12%. In addition, when it comes to repayment, the majority of merchant cash providers take a fixed percentage of your daily credit card receipt volume until the advance you took is paid back. Other business cash advance providers may offer a fixed monthly installment payment for its repayment method.

Credit Partner – Using a business partner(s) as a credit partner for obtaining lines of credit in the form of business credit cards can be a viable solution to overcome a personal credit challenge. A business partner who has strong credit scores is the best place to look. You may also want to consider someone who may be interested in participating in your business as a potential credit partner.

This method does bring risk to the credit partner because they are cosigning with the business to obtain funding. However, it’s important to note the type of unsecured business credit cards I am referring to will not appear on the personal credit reports of the cosigner unless they go into default.

There are many other types of funding programs that offer small business owners the opportunity to get business loans or access to cash without having perfect credit or subjecting themselves to all the rigorous analysis, cumbersome paperwork, lengthy process and aggravating timelines that comes with a traditional business loan.  

About the Author:

Marco Carbajo
Marco Carbajo

Guest Blogger

Marco Carbajo is a business credit expert, author, speaker, and founder of the Business Credit Insiders Circle. He is a business credit blogger for Dun and Bradstreet Credibility Corp, the SBA.gov Community, About.com and All Business.com. His articles and blog; Business Credit Blogger.com, have been featured in 'Fox Small Business','American Express Small Business', 'Business Week', 'The Washington Post', 'The New York Times', 'The San Francisco Tribune',‘Alltop’, and ‘Entrepreneur Connect’.

Is There a Form for That? An Introduction to Commonly Used Exporting Forms for Your Small Business

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: March 10, 2014 Updated: September 26, 2016

If you’re a small business owner interested in exporting – or are already navigating the international arena – you know there’s a lot to get organized. The resources available from Export.gov can help you with all the stages, from training and market research to information about financing. Export.gov also offers a wealth of information about documents that are used in exporting. Here’s a rundown of a few of the most common.

Common Export Documents

Commercial Invoice: A commercial invoice is a bill for the goods from the seller to the buyer. Governments often use them to determine the true value of goods when assessing customs duties.

Export Packing List: An export packing list features much more detail than a standard domestic packing list. It lists the seller, buyer, shipper, invoice number, shipment date and more. It also itemizes quantity, description, type of package (such as a box or crate), the weight and even more details.

Pro Forma Invoice: An exporter prepares a pro forma invoice before shipping the goods. It lets the buyer know the goods to be sent, their value and other key information. It also can be used as an offering of sale or price quote.

Transportation Documents

Airway Bill: Airway bills are required for any airfreight shipments and are shipper-specific. For example, USPS, Fed-Ex, UPS, etc. have individual airway bills

Bill of Lading: A bill of lading is a contract between the owner of the goods and the carrier. A straight bill of lading is non-negotiable. A second, negotiable type is known as a shipper's order bill of lading. This can be bought, sold or traded while the goods are in transit. The customer usually needs an original as proof of ownership to take possession of the goods.

Electronic Export Information (EEI): This is the most common of all export control documents. It’s required for shipments above $2,500 and for shipments of any value requiring an export license. It has to be electronically filed via the AES Direct online system, which is a free service from Census and Customs. If you’re shipping to Canada, you don’t need an EEI unless an export license is required.

Export Compliance

Export Licenses: An export license is a government document that authorizes the export of specific goods in specific quantities to a particular destination. Some countries require an export license for most or all exports; others require it only under special circumstances.

Certificates Of Origin

Generic Certificate of Origin: Some countries require a Certificate of Origin (CO) for either all or just certain products. In many cases, a statement of origin printed on company letterhead is sufficient, although some countries require that it be notarized. You should verify if a CO is required with the buyer, an experienced shipper/freight forwarder or the Trade Information Center.

Check out Export.gov  for more information about these and more, including documents required for shipping specific products and destination-specific requirements. You can also visit Business USA’s Exporting Portal for additional resources.

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!

10 Ways to Maximize Your Home Office for Productivity

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: March 6, 2014

If you run one of the 14+ million home-based small businesses in the United States, congratulations. You’ve got lower overhead, a shorter commute and the opportunity to be more productive than your office-based competitors.

 

Still, working from home isn’t all eating peanut butter out of the jar and wearing your fuzzy slippers. There are plenty of pitfalls that can distract you from getting your work done. Here we look at 10 ways to ensure you’re set up for success in your home office.

 

1. Carve Out a Workspace

 

Not every entrepreneur is fortunate enough to have a spare room to turn into an office. That’s okay. You can use part of a room separated by a curtain or even a closet. The point here is to ensure you have a dedicated space that is only for work.

 

2. Set Up Your Day

 

The more routines you have, the more you’ll get done. If you have small children at home with you while you work, plan to work when they nap or when they’re quiet; otherwise you won’t be productive. Plan out your work hours; they don’t have to be 9 to 5, but they should be fairly consistent. Also, consider your attire. Some people love working in pajamas or sweats. Other people (like me) get more done by getting dressed in “business casual” – for some reason getting dressed to be seen by the world makes me feel more professional, even if it’s just me.  

 

3. Figure Out When You Work Best

 

Part of those routines you need to set up involve determining when you’re most productive. Some people are night owls, and some are early birds. Some need quiet time without phones and instant messages, so getting up early avoids that. You might need complete quiet in your home office. Whatever your needs, don’t fight against them.

 

4. Have an Ergonomic Set Up

 

You need a comfortable chair with good back support, a decent computer monitor you can easily see and a keyboard at the right height to avoid awkward pressure on arms and wrists. Don’t forget your eyes. Your computer should be at the right distance to see without strain; if necessary, see your eye doctor for “computer glasses” that are made for viewing a computer properly. Two monitors also can help productivity (less time spent jumping between applications), so if you can afford an extra monitor, by all means try it out.

 

5. Use Smart Tools

 

There are so many free or affordable software programs and apps for small businesses! Find the ones that help you do more. A few options:

 

6. Remove Distractions

It can be tempting to fold the laundry that’s in the middle of the floor, but pretend you’re at an office and ignore it. It’s important to designate certain hours for work, and certain hours for home life. Occasionally, it’s fine to take a break and run an errand, but don’t let it encourage you to procrastinate on a project.

 

7. Get Out of the House

 

Many people can’t bear being alone all the time in their home offices. Fortunately, we’ve become a mobile society, and you’ll always see plenty of people at your local coffee shop working on their laptops. Get a change of environment. Try working from a park or restaurant, if you can be productive there.

 

8. Find Support in Person or Online

 

It can be nice to meet other home-based entrepreneurs too. Find a local meetup of people like you or a local event where you can share your stories and find support in your small business endeavors. If you spend any time on Twitter or other social media sites, you’ll find plenty of folks who, like you, are working out of their homes. #HomeBiz is a great hashtag to follow to find content and conversations geared toward people like you.

 

9. Keep Learning

 

Find as many opportunities as you can to develop your business and industry knowledge. This can come in the form of online webinars, Twitter chats, in-person conferences, seminars, books, blogs and magazines.

 

10. Meet Regularly With Staff

If you have employees who also work from their homes, make a point to meet once a week or month so you reap the benefits of face-to-face time. While it’s completely possible to work virtually, nothing can make up for that in-person relationship-building time.

About the Author:

smallbiztrends
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.

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