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Focusing Your Business’s Social Media Strategy

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: February 6, 2014 Updated: February 6, 2014

You’ve heard time and again that social media marketing is the key to your business’s success. But, do you know where the corresponding lock is? Or how to use it? Social media can seem like a behemoth of a marketing strategy sucking up all your time with results that trickle in at first. Well, fear not; we’re here to set you on a clear, strategic path of the right ways to make social media work for your particular enterprise.

Start with the Big Picture

Is anyone on Google+? Will all these social media efforts even make a dent in my bottom line? What time of day should I post to get maximum exposure? You’ve got questions and we’ve compiled the answers. The new infographic, “2013 Small Business Social Media Trends” answers all the questions you’ve been pondering regarding social media’s effectiveness for small businesses, recommended posting frequency, emerging social networks and tips to keep in mind to get the biggest bang for your social buck.

Just “Be Likeable”

Sounds easy enough, right? Today's consumers are looking for businesses to display certain qualities on social media: accessibility, responsiveness, value, authenticity, adaptability and more. In his recent SCORE LIVE webinar, “Why it Pays to Be Likeable - 7 Simple Social Media Concepts To Drive Results” best-selling author & CEO of Likeable Local, Dave Kerpen, shared his 7 tips for harnessing these traits to become more likeable and ultimately see greater business results.

  1. 1. Listen
  2. Be Responsive
  3. Tell, Don’t Sell
  4. Be Transparent
  5. Be Authentic
  6. Be a Team
  7. Be Grateful

Listen in as Dave shares examples, anecdotes and quotes explaining why each of these 7 concepts is critical to your business achieving social media success.

Handle Negative Comments

You’ve tried your best to be likeable but somehow it’s happened: the dreaded negative comment! It’s not the end of your social media efforts and definitely isn’t the end of your business. In her recent blogpost, co-founder of, Carrie Hill, walks you step-by-step through dealing with negative comments on your business’s social media pages. As Carrie says, “The benefits of being online and active in social media far outweigh the negative aspects – but when the negative does rear its ugly head – you need to be ready with a solid strategy that your whole team is aware of.”

In the end, you’ve probably come to realize that the social realm is a place your business needs to be. Like really needs to be in order to survive. As with all initiatives in your business, your best bet is to make a plan, follow through, get everyone on the same page, analyze and revise....and get a SCORE business mentor to help you!

About the Author:

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 Disaster Assistance During FY 2013

By James Rivera, SBA Official
Published: February 5, 2014 Updated: February 5, 2014

Fiscal year 2013—the period between October 1, 2012 and September 30, 2013—was one of the busiest in recent memory for SBA’s disaster assistance program.

SBA approved a total of 46,817 disaster loans for $2.8 billion during FY 2013.  The majority of those loans were made to homeowners and renters recovering from the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy, which hit the Atlantic coast on October 29, 2012—nearly a month after the beginning of the new fiscal year. 

Here are some interesting stats:

  • For Hurricane Sandy alone, SBA approved more than 36,500 disaster loans for a total of $2.4 billion by the end of FY 2013
  • Of those, more than 32,000 loans went to homeowners and renters for a total of $1.9 billion
  • The number of business disaster loans approved was 4,082, for a total of $478 million.
  • In terms of SBA disaster loan volume, Hurricane Sandy is the third largest natural disaster in U.S. History
  • The bigger disasters were the Gulf Coast Hurricanes of 2005 (Katrina, Rita and Wilma), with 169,900 loans approved for $11 billion, and the Northridge (CA) earthquake of 1994 (124,262 loans approved for $4 billion)

Meanwhile, 89 percent of the number of loans approved (41,698), and 80 percent of the dollars in disaster lending ($2.2 billion) went to homeowners and renters. 

About 10 percent of the number of loans approved (5,119) and 19 percent of the dollars ($550 million) in loans made went to businesses.

SBA quickly increased its staffing to support the Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.  In October 2013, prior to Sandy, there were 1,100 SBA disaster personnel.  By January the number had grown to more than 2,400.

The number of disaster survivors using SBA’s Electronic Loan Application (ELA) increased from 36 percent in FY 2012 to 55 percent during FY 2013. Marketing outreach and a simplified application process made the ELA more attractive to users.

In the aftermath of natural or man-made disasters, the SBA provides recovery assistance in the form of low-interest, direct loans to homeowners, renters, businesses of all sizes 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.

Creating a Marketing Action Plan

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: February 4, 2014

We all know marketing is key to small business survival and success. And these days we’re so inundated with marketing platforms and tools that it can be overwhelming to know what to do to be an effective marketer.

What you need is a marketing action plan so you can lay out a path to follow. First though, warns Hal Shelton, a business executive, SCORE board member and author of The Secrets of Writing a Successful Business Plan, you need to define your company’s buying cycle.

As an example Shelton offers this cycle:

1.      Awareness. Potential customers know about your business, but aren’t sure you have the products or services that fit their needs.

2.      Discovery. The research stage when consumers try to learn more about your company.

3.      Engagement. Potential customers take some action that may (or may not) lead to sale. It’s important at this stage to get some customer contact information, like an email address.

4.      Active customer. The prospect has become an actual customer and made a purchase from you.

5.      Successful customer. The consumer has become a regular, loyal and satisfied customer.

6.      Referrals. When customers are so happy with you and your business, they’re willing to share their good experiences and offer testimonials and referrals.

Now you can move on to creating a marketing action plan. Shelton says make sure you include steps in your plan that “focus on customers in each of the steps of the buying cycle.” And he adds, “While some of the ‘instruments’ might be the same, the messages may be different. For example, in a direct marketing campaign to gain awareness, you might want to steer potential customers to your website, but for active customers, you may offer a store coupon.”

So what should your action steps consist of? Of course, they’ll vary depending on your type of business and stage your business, but here are some steps you might consider making part of your marketing action plan.

Market research. Market research isn’t something to do only when you start your business; you need to continually stay on top of your target customers’ demographics, needs, desires and lifestyles. Draw from your own experience talking with your customers, as well as any customer data you have—sales records, website analytics, social media interactions—to see what they are researching, browsing, doing and buying. Also use third-party sources of research such as Census data to keep up with trends in your target market, and contact media properties where you’re considering advertising to see who their readers/viewers/listeners are.

Develop a marketing plan. Once you know what your customers want and where they are spending their time, you can develop a marketing plan that reaches out to them where they live—whether that’s outdoor advertising, social media, radio ads, online pay-per-click ads, public relations and more. Focus most of your budget on the avenues your research suggests will be most effective and affordable. Your marketing plan should cover the coming year and should include specific goals.

Create a marketing calendar. Break down your marketing plan more specifically into a calendar that shows what type of marketing you will do each month, each week and even each day. This can include ad placements, PR campaigns, social media posts and more. By putting your plan on a calendar, you’re committed to carrying it out and things won’t fall through the cracks.

Measure results. To make sure your marketing efforts deliver ROI, you need to track the results of each type of marketing you do. For example, you could put a code in an online or print ad (“Mention code TREAT1 to get a free dessert!”) and keep track of who mentions the code. Online, you can use analytics to see which ads or mentions attract customers to your site and to track which customers end up making a purchase. Regularly (once a quarter, at minimum, or ideally once a month) assess which marketing methods are driving sales and which are not.

Shelton says other marketing action steps might include email marketing, using affiliates and distributors, building a website, direct mail, buying ads in assorted media outlets (newspapers, radio, etc.), social media and web marketing.

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 and visit 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

Use Your Sales Forecast and Expense Budget to Define your Startup

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: January 29, 2014

I’ve been working on a new startup with some long-time friends and just discovered – again, for the umpteenth time – how the interaction between words, concepts, and numbers often demands the concrete logic of core business plan numbers.

Specifically, a sales forecast and an expense budget can do wonders for early start-up discussions. Putting specific numbers to things forces definitions and decisions. For the record, our new plan isn’t a restaurant; it’s a high-tech web-based offering. But it’s still confidential. So I’m using examples here from a business everybody can understand: a restaurant business.

1. The Sales Forecast Defines the Offering

I just saw it again but I’ve seen it before many times. The co-founders get together and share ideas. If it were a restaurant, it would be about things we could do for breakfast, lunch, drinks, dinner; it would be about price points, cuisines, menus, reservations and so on. And these general discussions become specific when you get to the forecast. They have to get specific about units and prices. That forces founders to focus in on realistic plans we can actually execute.

Not that we’d define every menu option – absolutely not. But a good forecast has to summarize at least on average revenue and average cost per meal, and that leads to defining whether meals are breakfasts, lunches, dinners or drinks, etc. The numbers move the general ideas forward.

2. An Expense Budget Defines Tasks and People

We need to focus practically on what and when we can afford to spend. For a restaurant, we’d need to start paying two or three people and we need to pay contractors for remodeling the location, developing the branding, doing menus, and people to start developing the kitchen and such. All of that takes deciding on priorities.

The way we do that, in practical terms, is to look at our expense budget. We develop it together step by step: From the first to the twelfth month, how much do we need to pay out, and to whom? We all have different ideas on this, so when we get together, the actual expense budget—which we can all see and agree on—helpfully steers us back to the plan.

Conclusion: Numbers Define Concepts

Particularly when the startup founders—such as in our case—all have a lot of experience, love the topic area and are full of ideas, it’s really hard to make progress moving from brainstorming to execution. My experience with the sales forecast and expense budget reminds me, once again, how much I like planning as a vital part of the process of starting a business.

About the Author:

Tim Berry
Tim Berry

Guest Blogger

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

To request a copy of the archived documents listed below, please contact the Office of Advocacy via email at

Radon in Drinking Water

November 2, 1999 - Proposed rule, National Primary Drinking Water Regulations; Radon-222, published in the Federal Register

April 23, 1999 - Transmittal letter to Charles Fox, Assistant Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), providing public comments on Health Risk Reduction and Cost Analysis for radon in drinking water.

Interested in Exporting? These Four Resources Can Help

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 27, 2014 Updated: July 6, 2016

Did you know that nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside the United States? And two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. As the numbers show, the international marketplace is a big one. So if you’re interested in exploring the world of exporting – or have gotten started but could use some guidance – check out these resources to help.

Export Assistance Centers

Did you know that assistance centers across the United States exist to help small business owners and entrepreneurs exclusively with exporting topics?

United States Exporting Assistance Centers (USEACs) are staffed by professionals from the SBA, the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. Export-Import Bank and other public and private organizations. USEACs can help you understand the global marketplace and get you organized to join in and succeed. Some USEACs also have SBA representatives who are available to help you with your SBA export financing needs.  

Export Business Planner

The Export Business Planner is a downloadable tool that you can save and customize as you explore your exporting options.

The Planner starts with an introduction to exporting and helps you determine your export readiness, then walks you through training and counseling information; marketing plan and financial materials; transportation and documentation details and more.

The Planner also provides practical worksheets, templates and forms, in addition to a glossary of industry terms and even more helpful resources.’s FAQ is an ideal export resource. And its frequently asked questions page is great to browse, as they’ve organized responses by categories. From exporting basics to trade agreements and regulations, this is a good place to start if you’re looking to learn more but aren’t quite sure where to start.  

USTDA Consultant Database

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) maintains a database of companies and individuals who provide fee-based consulting services to small businesses interested in importing and exporting.

Almost all contracts with USTDA are reserved for small businesses, most of which are opportunities for technical experts qualified in the areas of energy and power; project finance; health; manufacturing; mining & natural resources; telecommunications and information technology; transportation; and water and the environment.

Your business may be small, but there’s a big opportunity in selling your product or service overseas. And this handful of resources can help put you on the path to international success.

Related resources

About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the 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!

Customize Your 401(k) Plan

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: January 23, 2014

Nearly a quarter (24%) of small businesses today offer 401(k) plans to enable their employees to save for retirement, and the number is growing, according to a *ShareBuilder national survey. You don’t need a staff in order to have a 401(k) plan for yourself; self-employed individuals working alone can have what’s called a solo 401(k). The plans may have certain features prized by owners and participants. The law does not require all plans to have them; it’s up to the business to decide whether they should be included. Here are some options that you can add to your plan this year.


You can allow participants to borrow from their accounts. The tax law limits the extent of borrowing to the lesser of 50% of vested benefits or $50,000. For most loans, funds have to be repaid in level amounts over a period no greater than five years, with a reasonable rate of interest.

If the plan allows it, owners are permitted to borrow from their accounts. They can use the funds to help with cash flow or for other purposes. “Key employees,” which includes owners, cannot deduct interest on the borrowing. Find more details about plan loans from the IRS.

Designated Roth accounts

Contributions to a 401(k) by participants are made on a pre-tax basis; the portion of salary added to the plan is not currently taxable. The contributions as well as the earnings on them become taxable when funds from the 401(k) are distributed to participants. However, the plan is allowed to include a Roth component, called a designated Roth account. Here, employee contributions are made on an after-tax basis but distributions can become fully tax free.

Contributions to designated Roth accounts are made only by participants. Total contributions to both the regular and Roth 401(k) are capped annually. No employer contributions can be made to these accounts.

Find more details about designated Roth accounts from the IRS.

In-plan rollovers

Like traditional IRAs that can be converted to Roth IRAs, basic 401(k)s can allow for conversions by participants to designated Roth accounts. These are called in-plan rollovers.

From the employee perspective, amounts transferred to the designated Roth accounts are immediately taxable. However, there is no 10% early distribution penalty for employees under age 59-1/2 who make in-plan rollovers. Once the conversion is made, it cannot be undone.

From the employer perspective, the frequency of these conversions can be limited (e.g., one a year). The plan can also cap the dollar amounts that can be converted to designated Roth IRAs. The 20% mandatory withholding on 401(k) plan distributions does not apply to in-plan rollovers.

If you want to add an in-plan rollover option, generally you must amend the plan no later than the last day of the plan year in which the option becomes effective. The IRS has provided more guidance on in-plan rollovers.

Note: If your plan is a safe harbor 401(k) in which employees are automatically enrolled unless they opt out or choose a lower contribution amount than automatically specified, normally you cannot make a change—even a favorable one—during the year. However, under a special rule, you can make a mid-year change to add the in-plan rollover option in 2014.

More investment options

Plans are required to offer a menu of investment options from which participants can select for their own accounts. The minimum number of options is three, each of which is a distinct type of investment (e.g., a money market fund, a stock fund, and a bond fund), although some plans may have as many as 100 choices. According to FINRA, the average is 10 choices.

Review your plan’s investment options to see whether changes are warranted, factoring in the fees related to these options. For example, you may want to add new choices to your existing menu of investment options. Be sure to provide required disclosure to participants about fees associated with these investment options.


Talk with a benefits expert to learn more about these and other plan options that you can use to customize your 401(k) plan. Also, make sure to update the plan to reflect any plan options you select. Find general information about 401(k) plans from the Department of Labor and the IRS.

*Denotes non-governmental website link

About the Author:

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

How to Maximize the Effectiveness of Facebook for Your Small Business

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 23, 2014 Updated: September 27, 2016

Does your small business maintain a Facebook page? Are you thinking about venturing into social media with a presence on this ever-growing social network? Mari Smith, often referred to as “The Queen of Facebook,” offers some insight to help you use it most effectively.

Understand the fundamentals

Before jumping head first into Facebook, consider some fundamental questions. Ask yourself:

  • Why am I on Facebook in the first place?  
  • What am I trying to do here?
  • Am I trying to just generate fans and get better sentiment for my brand or actually sell product or improve customer service or just get visibility?

Have a clear idea of what your goals are with your Facebook account so that you can measure your successes properly – and not based on standards that don’t fit what you’re trying to accomplish.

Think strategically

Smith says, “It’s really a matter of strategically thinking through what content you are posting in a manner that people are top of mind. You are top of mind because they have built this relationship with you and you’re in their news feed, sharing valuable content and sparking interest.”

Be smart about what you decide to post on Facebook – what are you trying to achieve with each update? Smith adheres to an 80/20 rule. So, 80% of the time you engage on Facebook, you’ll share “a mix of your content, articles, resources and tools.” For the other 20% of the time, you’ll post content that asks for the sale or lead.

This mix can add a lot of value to your page, which Smith suggests updating once or twice a day. With a varied approach, you won’t be bombarding visitors with requests for sales all the time, but you’ll be memorable because of interesting content that resonates with people and gives them a positive impression.

Be realistic

“One thing to keep in mind as a small business owner is that just because you have 1,000 fans, all 1,000 of those people are not seeing your posts. It could be a fraction of those.” Smith warns that the misconception of views is something she sees a lot with Facebook use. In reality, she says, only between 2% – 48% of page fans will see your updates.

So what’s Smith’s recommendation for small business Facebook use? She suggests approaching it “from the standpoint of generating email leads and gently guiding people to cross into your funnel, your e-mail list, your blog, your website and looking into your offers.” Used effectively and realistically, Facebook can be a powerful contender in your arsenal of marketing tools.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the 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!

Business Loan Opportunities for Military Veterans in 2014

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: January 22, 2014 Updated: January 24, 2014

The service of veterans has done a tremendous amount for the United States – on our own soil and around the world. Many continue their contributions to the country by channeling their skills and leadership into entrepreneurial endeavors that help strengthen our economy.

And now through the rest of the fiscal year, SBA’s Express Loan Program will make it easier to get loans in the hands of veterans so they can succeed in their business ventures.

Loan fees

Through the end of September, SBA has set the borrower upfront fee to zero for all veteran loans authorized under the SBA Express program, which supports loans of up to $350,000.

Additionally through the end of the fiscal year, fees on all loans (and not just for veterans) $150,000 and under are set to zero. 

These initiatives make the loans cheaper for the borrower, which is just another way SBA is looking to serve small business owners – and those veterans who have served us – as they look for ways to access capital.

About the Express Loan Program

One great feature of the Express Loan Program is that it has an accelerated turnaround time for SBA review. You’ll receive a response to your application within 36 hours.

With a fast turnaround, streamlined process and easy-to-use line of credit, this program is SBA’s most popular loan delivery method – nearly 60 percent of all 7(a) loans over the past decade being authorized through the program. Since the program began, it has also been one of the most popular delivery methods for getting capital into the hands of veteran borrowers.

Getting started

Interested in exploring loan options to get your business started? Check out these loans that fall under Express Program standards. Our business loan checklist can also help prepare you for the application process, in addition to taking a look at the credit factors lenders will consider when you apply for an SBA-backed loan.

In the transition from military service to customer service, you’ll find great resources from SBA to help you find success. And if you’re looking for funding to get your business off the ground, these loan perks may make it possible to do just that.

Related Resources

About the Author:

Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the 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!

3 Ways To Look At Franchising

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: January 21, 2014

Wherever we go, our baggage comes with us. It’s there, you know. We just don’t always realize it.

Take franchising for instance. All of us look at franchising in a very personal way. That way is based on our past experiences with franchising. Either as a customer of a franchise business, or as a…allow me to explain.

How We Look At Franchising

Another word for baggage is experience. Our experiences dictate our views on things.

For example, if you ate a lot of fast food growing up, you bring that experience with you when you think about franchising. For you, a franchise is a fast food restaurant.

Another example of how you may view franchising…albeit an extreme one could have to do with a disaster, like a flood or a hurricane that you may have been directly impacted by.

You may have had a local franchise owner do the much- needed cleanup and *restoration. So, when you think of franchising, you picture the truck or van that sat in front of your house for a few days.

Are you stating to see where I’m coming from?

One more example.

Let’s say that you had an aunt and uncle open a franchise, and fail. Whatever the name of the franchise was that they had to close, it will always be embedded in your mind, even if your aunt and uncle were the ones that contributed to the franchise’s closing more than the franchisor. Maybe they forgot about this.

Stuff happens. Businesses open and business close.

Try not to let other people’s experiences cloud your judgment. You are not them.

Hopefully, the examples I gave you helped cement what I’m trying to teach you here:

Open your mind. There are a lot of opportunities out there. 

3 Ways To Look At Franchising

Here they are. See if they make sense to you.

1.      Job Replacer

Lots of people think about buying a franchise if they’ve been downsized.

It’s no fun being unemployed; I was a few times myself, and it can be quite scary. But, it’s also a great time to look at other options. Maybe one of them will involve looking into franchise business ownership. But, there’s something you need to know if you’re going to buy a franchise instead of get a new job. Your salary is going to be lower than you’re used to at first. Read about your salary as a franchise owner

2.      Goal Achievement

This one is for the “I’ve always wanted to own my own business” crowd.  

Whether you’ve lost your job, or are just of working for someone else, this is how a lot of people look at franchising, and how it may work for them.

Those looking at franchising in this way need to make sure that they are suited to own a business that doesn’t offer a lot of latitude. Franchising is a rule-based business model, and that’s why it works. Prospective franchise owners need to have the right personality.

3.      Legacy Creation

Some of the people I’ve worked with over the years have expressed a real desire to leave a legacy for their children.

They’ve seen jobs come and go over the years, and don’t want their kids to have to go through a lot of ups and downs in their careers. They’d rather have them be employers as opposed to employees.

Franchising is looked up (by these people) as a way of creating a secure future for their kids. A place where they’re children can hang their hats.

It’s a noble thing to do, and some franchise businesses are great family businesses.

As you can say, there are a few ways to look at franchising.

Just make sure you do so from a place that’s uncluttered with baggage from your past.

*Non US Government link

About the Author:

Joel Libava

Guest Blogger

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


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