President Biden announced important changes to the PPP, including a two-week window for businesses with fewer than 20 employees.
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February 10, 2000 - Final rule, Control of Air Pollution From New Motor Vehicles; Tier 2 Motor Vehicle Emission Standards and Gasoline Sulphur Control Requirements; Diesel Fuel Quality Controls, published in the Federal Register.

November 8, 2002 - Final rule, Control of Emissions From Nonroad Large Spark-Ignition Engines, and Recreational Engines (Marine and Land-Based), published in the Federal Register.

August 14, 2002 - Proposed rule, Control of Emissions from Spark-Ignition Marine Vessels and Highway Motorcycles, published in the Federal Register.

July 12, 2001 - Letter to Dr. James Reisa, Director, Board of Environmental Studies and Toxicology, National Research Council regarding the scientific integrity procedures and the Arsenic Update Subcommittee.

June 19, 2001 - Letter to Dr. Bruce Alberts, President, The National Academy of Sciences regarding the conflict of interest/bias disclosure concerning the Arsenic Update Subcommittee.

3 Ways Business Planning is Like Dribbling a Ball

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: January 24, 2013

Think of basketball or soccer. In both of these popular sports, dribbling is what the players do to move the ball in the right direction. It's not the point of the game, it doesn't score baskets or goals, but it's an important skill, right? I think of dribbling as a great analogy for business planning. And here are some reasons why—and some lessons I suggest we can take from that.

  1. Dribbling is a means to an end—not the goal. Planning is like that too. It's about results, running a business—not at all about the plan itself. Good planning is measured by the decisions it causes. It's about managing, allocating resources and accountability. I’ve written this in several places: “You measure a business plan by the decisions it causes.” And this: “Good business planning is nine parts execution for every one part strategy.”
  2. Think of the moment when the player gets the ball in the wrong end of the court or field. That’s either a defensive rebound in basketball or a missed shot on goal in soccer. The tall player gets the basketball and gives it to the one who normally dribbles up court. Or the goalie gets the ball and gives it to a defender. At that moment, in a well-coached team: 1) there is a plan in place and 2) the player knows the plan but is completely empowered to change the plan instantly depending on how the play develops. Business planning done right is very much like that. The existence of a plan—take the ball up the side, pass to the center—helps the team know what ought to happen. But changes—the opponents do something unexpected—are also expected. The game plan doesn’t lock the players in to doing the wrong thing or not responding to developments. It helps them make the instant choices, changing the plan correctly...and when they do, the other players can guess the next step better because of the plan.
  3. Dribbling involves simultaneously looking up, at the field, and developments going on; and down, at the ball, hands, and feet, to manage the details. Proper business planning, in very much the same way, requires looking up at the figurative horizon—­threats, opportunities, competition, market developments, etc.—and down at the details: tasks, deadlines, budgets, accountability, and of course cash flow and plan vs. actual.

I’ve always liked this analogy because it dispels the myth that having a plan reduces flexibility to react to developments. Planning isn’t voided by change; on the contrary, having a plan makes reactions easier. There is no virtue in following a plan just because it’s the plan. Proper planning means regular review and revision. 

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 .

6 Tips for a Fiscally Fit and Successful Freelance Business in 2013

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 24, 2013 Updated: January 24, 2013

Thinking of becoming a freelancer or hoping to make this year’s freelancing more fiscally fruitful than last? Freelancing is a money game and cash flow is king. And while there may be times when your cup runs over, there will no doubt be other times when it looks ominously dry.

To be a successful freelancer—in addition to being good at what you do—you need to be agile, tenacious, a consummate planner and equipped to deal with fiscal downtimes.

Here are some money-saving and business growth strategies that you can use to ensure the fiscal fitness of your freelancing business this year.

Have a Financial Cushion

Every freelancer needs a financial cushion; in fact, you shouldn’t quit your day job unless you have one. It can take up to six months to build your client base and develop consistent income. Instead, start your freelancing activities “on the side” until you are ready to transition to full time business ownership.

How big should your cushion be? Start by factoring in your living expenses for the next six months and allow for any emergencies that may arise. Next, assess what percentage of your income you’ll need to put aside to make your estimated taxes, social security and Medicare payments. Consider setting up a separate bank account and allocate 30-35 percent of every check you receive for work done into that account. This will help you avoid any day-to-day temptation to dip into it while ensuring you have the money to pay your estimated tax requirements when the time comes.

Reduce Your Overheads

Most freelancers can work from home. If you really need social interaction or want to leverage the brainpower of fellow freelancers, consider a co-working space (now available for a low-cost in many cities) or even your local coffee shop. 

Likewise, buy as little as you need. If you’re not commuting anymore, do you really need an expensive 4-wheel-drive SUV or truck in the driveway? Do you really need the latest high-end smartphone or laptop or could a cut-price one do the job just as well? What about computer software—could you cut costs by using a free email service or a low-cost word processing app? What about buying surplus office furniture?

For more lean spending tips, read: 6 Tips to Rein in Spending and Be a Lean Start-Up.

Invest in Good Back-Up and Use it

If there’s one thing that any freelancer can be sure if in their business, it’s that one day your PC will succumb to the dreaded “blue screen of death,” be infected by a virus or taken over by malware. Without an IT department to turn to, you’ll end up throwing cash at an expensive fix and risk losing all your work and business records in the process. Regularly backing up your work, both to a standalone hard drive and to an online location (providers like DropBox, Symantec, and Carbonite offer free or low-cost services) will ensure your data is protected and always accessible. Get more tips here: Finding the Best Backup Option for Your Small Business Data.

Look for Ways to Expand Your Business on the Back of Existing Work

Growing a freelancing business is a challenge. Networking often takes you away from existing work, while developing and nurturing new relationships into profitable clients takes time. Instead, look for to expand your business and earn more money with existing clients, based on the work and track record that you already have. Check out some tips for doing just this in my earlier blog, 5 Ways to Become an Indispensable Freelancer and Earn More Money from Your Clients.

Collaborate with Others

Growing existing business is good, but it’s also important to have multiple streams of income. One option for growing your business this way is to team with complementary businesses. For freelancers, for example, work on building relationships with those who serve your target customers. Photographers could collaborate with wedding planners, or graphic designers could team with marketing consultants.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ditch Unprofitable Clients

Freelancers often price their services at different rates in order to secure business. But if a low-paying client is also your most demanding and tricky client—whether based on the work you are required to do or the nature of the relationship—it might be time to cut your losses, walk away from this type of low-margin work and concentrate on deepening other relationships.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
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

Meal and Rest Breaks – What Small Business Employers Need to Know

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 23, 2013

Should you pay employees for rest and meal breaks? Are you even required to offer such breaks?

We all need rest and meals during work hours and the law stipulates standards for these breaks, including whether your employees should be paid for them. Here’s what you need to know:

Federal Wage and Hour Laws

Under the Fair Labor Standards Act of the U.S. Department of Labor, non-exempt employees can take short breaks (although it’s not mandatory). A short break is typically considered to be 20 minutes or less, and employees must be paid for these as hours worked. When it comes to meal breaks, anything more than 30 minutes does not generally need to be compensated as work time (although again, meal breaks aren’t required under federal law). But here’s the caveat – if your employee does any kind of work during that meal break, such as answering email or taking a business phone call, then you must pay them for that break.

Bathroom breaks, which are required under the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, are excluded from the definition of rest breaks.

To avoid any legal hassles, be sure you communicate your break policy to employees. For example, employers have been known to come under the spotlight for permitting certain workers to take frequent (paid) cigarette breaks, while other employees do not. If employees are taking unauthorized breaks, or unauthorized extensions of authorized breaks, you are not required to count the unauthorized time as hours worked (so long as the terms of what is authorized/unauthorized have been expressly communicated to employees).

State Wage and Hour Laws

Even though meal and rest breaks aren’t required under federal law, some states do impose mandatory breaks for employees in specific industries after a certain amount of hours worked. For example, in California, a meal break must be provided no later than the end of the employee’s fifth hour of work. So giving employees the option of skipping lunch to get out of work early is breaking the law.

Generally, state laws stipulate a 30-minute paid meal break. For laws in your state, check this consolidated breakdown of state meal break requirements and rest break laws from the Department of Labor. You can also refer to your individual state labor office.

Related Resources

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About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
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

Balancing Work and Personal Life with Your Business

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: January 22, 2013

January is the month when we promise ourselves we will change for the better…we say we will eat better, work out more and spend more time with our loved ones. And by February, we find ourselves right back into our old habits.

If you’re really lucky, the holidays may have provided a mental and physical break and rejuvenated your fervor for your business. Hopefully, you were able to spend time with family and friends and were reminded about what you work so hard for, and proved that time away from your work can do your work good.

But as an owner who has dedicated all you have to your business, it can be difficult to know how to juggle work and play. In the 2012 U.S. Bank Small Business Annual Survey, small business owners reported that “more owners in 2012 said their business is their life and their life is their business–up from 34 percent in 2011 to 45 percent in 2012.”

As with many things, the most important step in achieving work-life balance is to simply be aware of it. Know what your work and personal goals are and regularly take stock of where they stand and what needs to change.

It’s helpful to think of your life as a business, too. Its profits may not be measured in any currency and its benchmarks may not be defined by tangible assets, but it too has goals to achieve and plans to help you get there. Just like a business, to sustain yourself and your personal life over a long period of time, it needs to be analyzed, planned and dedicated time. Only once this “business” is made sustainable and profitable can it properly bolster your actual business.

As an entrepreneur who has laser-focused vision on the ultimate bottom line, it can be easy to forget about managing the personal aspects of your life. Similarly, if you have employees, you may slip into the role of the boss who demands that same 150% dedication from their employees as well. While they are most likely passionate, dedicated and hard workers, they need their own work-life balance as well. Try to make sure they have adequate time during the year to take their own leave and address their own personal goals and needs. The Golden Rule certainly applies: Treat your employees how you wish your boss had treated you.

The question then becomes, “What is adequate time to provide to myself and my employees?” and “How do I let go of some of the business aspects to focus on my own life?” These questions can have varying answers depending upon your personality, needs and the business that you are in. This is where it is helpful to have a mentor—someone who understands your business, but is removed from the situation so that they can see different aspects from you, the owner, who is engrained in all of the components.

Take the beginning of this new year as an opportunity to make a plan for your small business, your personal life and how you will balance the two throughout the next 12 months. Work with a mentor from SCORE or the Small Business Development Centers to evaluate this plan. Don’t beat yourself up if you happen to show up late for dinner or miss that deadline in lieu of a soccer game. If you haven’t already learned this in your small business endeavors you certainly will:

“When you aim for perfection, you discover it's a moving target.” -George Fisher

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.

SBA Announces Changes to Contracting Program to Help Women-Owned Businesses Compete for Federal Contracts

By TiffaniC, SBA Official
Published: January 22, 2013 Updated: December 30, 2013

Are you a woman-owned business looking to get a slice of the more than $400 billion dollar federal contracting pie? Under the new National Defense Authorization Act of 2013, the SBA will make changes to its Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contract Program to help women-owned small businesses get more federal contracts and help the federal government meet and exceed its statutory five percent women’s contracting goal.  

How Will the National Defense Authorization Act of 2013 Affect Women-Owned Small Businesses?

Prior to the new law, the anticipated award price of a contract for women-owned (WOSB) and economically disadvantaged women-owned small businesses (EDWOSB) could not exceed $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts and $4 million for all other contracts. The new law removes these thresholds for WOSBs and EDWOSBs allowing them greater access to federal contracting opportunities without limitations or restrictions to the value of a contract. 

The law also requires the SBA to conduct another study to identify and report industries underrepresented by women-owned small businesses. As a result, more eligible women-owned businesses may be able to participate in SBA’s Women’s Federal Contract Program and compete for and win federal contracts.

How Do You Know If You Are Eligible for the Women’s Contracting Program?

To be eligible for the program, you must meet the following criteria:

Third Party Certification and Self-Certification

Every firm that wishes to participate in the WOSB program must meet the eligibility requirements and either self-certify or obtain third party certification. There are four approved third-party certifiers that perform eligibility exams: El Paso Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, National Women Business Owners Corporation, U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce, and the Women’s Business Enterprise National Council.

Contracting Opportunities for Women-Owned Businesses

The WOSB Program identifies eighty-three four-digit North American Industry Classification Systems (NAICS) codes where WOSBs are underrepresented or substantially underrepresented. Contracting officers may set aside contracts in these industries if the contract can be awarded at a fair and reasonable price and the contracting officer has a reasonable expectation that two or more WOSBs or EDWOSBs will submit offers for the contract.

About the Author:

Tiffani Clements

SBA Official

I'm a Public Affairs Specialist in the Office of Communication & Public Liasion and the media liaison for SBA's Office of Government Contracting.

Business Loans – What Lenders Look for and Tips for Winning Them Over

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 22, 2013 Updated: July 14, 2016

Securing small business financing can be challenging. Whether you are just starting out or looking to grow, banks and lending institutions can be rigorous in their lending review practices.

For example, businesses with few assets to their name may find it hard to secure a traditional loan. Other business owners may not be able to provide the reassurance that lenders seek to alleviate their concerns that your business may fail and the loan won’t get repaid. So when you approach a lender, it’s just as important to understand the basis on which loans are made as it is to stack up your financials and business plan.

So what are lenders looking for in a potential loan applicant? Here’s what you need to know.

Loan Applicants Need to Check off Several Boxes

What are loan officers looking for when approached about a loan? Here are some basic “must-haves” that the ideal candidate might be expected to evidence:

  • That you have sufficient assets, financial reserves and personal collateral to endure business fluctuations (and still pay off your loan)
  • As an existing business owner, you’ll need to show that you have solid cash flow, sufficient to repay the loan
  • New businesses need to evidence that they have a track record of profitability and success in a  similar business endeavor

Let’s face it, that’s a tricky list for any prospective or existing small business! So what are your options? Proving your creditworthiness is still possible, with some planning and preparation.

How to Prove Your Creditworthiness

Bankers need to make money, and while they may have an ideal candidate in mind, even they have to compromise­—this is where your opportunity lies. The trick is to demonstrate, using other means, that you are a creditworthy business owner. For example, if you are new to this business, can you show success in managing a similar business another field (even if you weren’t the owner)? Perhaps you’ve owned or managed a profitable business in a different industry? Lending officers might be more agreeable to your application if you can show that you supplement your own experience with that of someone who also has success in the field.

Putting yourself in the lender’s shoes is a good starting point. It’s much like a job interview, where you form an understanding of the type of candidate the employer is looking for and prepare your application and anticipate questions accordingly. Ask yourself: “Why should this lender think my business can succeed where others have failed?” and have a thorough answer prepared, plus a detailed explanation of how the money will be used and your plan for paying it off.

Step Back and Prepare

Key to this preparation is a solid business plan, good personal and business credit, and some expert help. The following SBA resources and tools can help guide you down this preparation path:

  • Build a Business Plan Online Tool – Putting pen to paper to write a business plan isn’t the easiest of tasks. Check out this new tool from SBA that guides small business owners through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan—and offers pointers on essential elements like cash flow and financial projections. The great thing about this tool is you can build a plan in smaller bites, save your progress and return at your leisure.
  • Clean Up Your Credit – Business credit is an asset and considered an economic resource that makes up the financial foundation of a company. Lenders look for assets. SBA guest blogger Marco Carbajo blogs regularly about how to build your business and personal credit to help secure financing. Check out his article, How To Build Business Credit For Your Start Up, and view more of Marco’s articles here (you’ll need to log into the SBA Community to follow this link).
  • Consult an Expert – Whether you need help finding the right loan for your business or a guiding hand that can help you through the application process, don’t feel that you have to go it alone. Local Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, and SCORE (a mentoring organization for small businesses) can help you through the process. Find one of these groups in your community.

Can’t Get a Business Loan? Consider Alternative Financing from SBA Loan Programs

If you or your lender decides that you aren’t the right candidate for a traditional business loan, you still have options. Consider an SBA Loan Program. The SBA doesn’t lend businesses money; instead, these programs take the risk away from the banks and encourage them to make loans to small business owners by guaranteeing part of the loan.

Check out these additional online learning resources that can help you navigate the SBA loan process:

  • How to Prepare a Loan Package
  • Video interviews with successful entrepreneurs who share the lessons they've learned about owning a small business and securing an SBA loan

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
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

How to Train Your Sales Reps to be Superior Subject Matter Experts

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: January 17, 2013 Updated: September 21, 2016

Do all your sales reps sing off the same hymn sheet? Are they all equally knowledgeable about your products and services?

If you’ve ever worked in retail sales, you’ll know how difficult it is to remember your training and apply it in critical moments. After all, products are constantly evolving and inventory is always shifting. This is why it’s critical that small business owners ensure their sales teams are well trained and knowledgeable. It can make the difference between winning and losing a sale.

Thanks to the Internet and the proliferation of online reviews from experts and consumers alike, the average customer is more informed than ever—and your sales reps should be one step ahead of them. Here are some tips for ensuring your sales teams are armed with the knowledge they need to support your sales goals.

Give training the time and depth it deserves

Training is worth the investment; the nicest sales rep in the world is useless without product knowledge. This means not just knowing your products, but your competitors too.

A single training session is rarely enough, as people learn through practice and from their mistakes. If you don’t have time to handle the training yourself, pair each new rep with a mentor. This should be someone on your team who’s already knowledgeable, and willing to spend several weeks training, shadowing and observing your trainee—before that person ever gets in front of a customer. In addition to teaching, be sure to test, quiz and role play to challenge your trainee’s know-how. And don’t just emphasize product knowledge; for example, if your products are complex or technical, role play situations where a rep’s knowledge may be insufficient and it’s time to bring in the business owner or someone from your technical team. No one expects a sales rep to know everything, but they do expect them to know where to find the right answers, rather than fudge their way through a sale.

Include competitor training

If your product line or similar products are sold by a competitor, be sure to train and test your trainee reps on these. Educate reps on the competing product lines, their strengths and their weaknesses. Have them do their own research and present comparisons of your products versus those available elsewhere. Help them identify differentiators and encourage them to role play a sales pitch that involves a competitive sell.

Monitor, check in and refresh

Knowledge retention and true learning is a fine art, especially in today’s information-driven world where data is quickly consumed and just as quickly forgotten. This is why it’s important to stay on top of your sales reps performance once they are out selling on behalf of your company. Ask your customers for feedback, use customer surveys to gauge satisfaction levels and listen in on sales pitches. Commit to holding regular training sessions with your entire sales team to ensure they are up to speed on new developments, new product lines and new marketing campaigns. (Sales and marketing should always be aligned.)

Encourage continuous learning and sharing

A good rep will always look for further learning opportunities, whether through external classes, industry publications, or trade shows. Encourage this behavior, budget permitting. A low-cost alternative would be to hold monthly “lunch ‘n’ learn” training sessions where you encourage a rep to make an informal 10-15 minute learning moment presentation. This could be about a new industry development that might impact your business; sharing best practices from an external training course (a train-the-trainer concept); or providing insights on a deal or transaction that went well (or otherwise).

For more tips read 8 Tips for Training your Small Business Employees on a Budget.

What training practices have worked for your sales teams? Leave a comment below!

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About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
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

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