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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.

Business Cards Still Matter. Here’s How to Make Yours Stand Out

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

It’s hard to believe with all the options we have for sharing contact information electronically, but the good old-fashioned business card is not going away any time soon. According to a survey by global crowdsourcing marketplace Designcrowd, a whopping 87 percent of Americans still exchange business cards when they meet someone for the first time.

If you think this is an empty gesture done out of habit, think again. More than two-thirds of survey respondents say business cards are useful because they either enter the information into their smartphones or file the cards in a Rolodex. In fact, Designcrowd says the number of business card design projects created on its website grew by 357 percent last year.

Personally, I can see the benefit of quickly exchanging a card along with a handshake, as opposed to fumbling with your smartphone to input someone’s information. Clearly, lots of businesspeople feel the way I do and are churning out business cards.

So how can you make your business cards stand out from the crowd? Here are some trends to consider in business card design for 2014 and beyond.

Incorporate QR codes. QR codes haven’t quite panned out as digital marketing tools, but they can work for business cards as an interactive lead generation tool. If your company sells B2B products or services or is in an industry with lots of tech-savvy, early adopters, a QR code might be worth a try. To make the most of a QR code, make sure it goes to a special landing page on your website where the user can learn more about your business and contact you for more information. For instance, it could be an About page with a video about your business and a click-to-call button or a form they can fill out to get a call from a sales rep.

Focus on branding. Your business card should convey your brand at a glance. This means your logo should be prominent and the overall feel of the card should harmonize with the rest of your marketing materials in terms of colors, fonts and images. The cleverest card in the world won’t do its job if the message it conveys doesn’t jibe with your brand.

Spend more on quality. Generic business cards are a dime a dozen (or 250 for $10), but they blend in and convey a “blah” message that your business is just like everyone else’s. By spending a little more on high-quality elements such as handmade or textured paper, rounded corners, colored edges or embossed print, you can convey an image of quality that makes your business cards—and your business—memorable.

Keep it simple. Business cards packed with information, images and multiple colors look dated and tacky today. Today’s trendy business cards feature clean lines and clear, legible fonts inspired by the “flat design” trend currently popular in website design. Flat design is characterized by a minimalist look. Instead of shadows or 3-D effects, flat design features strong lines; solid, saturated blocks of color; and creative use of typography.

Choose the right font. Clean, sans-serif fonts fit into the flat design trend. They look modern and are easier to read. Use fonts at least 12 point or larger. Also consider how your fonts stand out against the color of your card—if they’re too similar, the card will be hard to read. In contrast to minimal fonts, another hot trend is fonts that look handwritten; these can work great for a business that prides itself on unique, quirky or artisanal products.

Both sides now. How do you reconcile simplicity with the need to include your business website, office and cell numbers, email and tons of social media handles on your card? Try keeping the front of the card clean with just your logo or other image, your name and your business name, then putting the details on the back.

Get professional help. Sure, you can pick your business cards using an online template, but it’s worth spending a bit more to get something uniquely yours. There are dozens of crowdsourcing business card sites where you can get graphic designers to compete for your project, or talk to colleagues to get recommendations for a good designer in your area.

What matters most about your business card is that it reflect your brand and your industry. Here are some cool examples of creative cards I’ve seen:

  • Business cards made out of cloth for an apparel designer
  • A travel agency with business cards shaped like luggage tags
  • Pet groomer business cards shaped like dog tags
  • Business cards embossed with 3-D seeds for a landscaper
  • A photographer featuring one of her photos as the background for her business cards

You get the idea. Get creative, and your cards will get results! Once you’ve got your cards, check out this post for ideas on how to use them.

About the Author:

Rieva Lesonsky
Rieva Lesonsky

Guest Blogger

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

SBA’s HUBZone Program- Helping Urban and Rural-Based Businesses Succeed

Published: March 3, 2014 Updated: March 3, 2014

SBA’s Historically Underutilized Business Zone, or HUBZone Program, helps small businesses in urban and rural communities gain preferential access to government contracting opportunities. If your business is located in an area where business development and growth has been fairly limited, you may qualify.

Location, location, location

The first step to determining your HUBZone Program eligibility is to locate your place of business on our HUBZone maps. By entering your address, you can quickly find out if your business operations are in a HUBZone. You’ll see a clear message on the results screen telling you whether the location is or is not qualified.

Am I eligible?

Once you determine that your business is located in a HUBZone, there are a few additional eligibility requirements to consider. Generally, businesses must:

  • Be a small business by SBA standards
  • Be owned and controlled at least 51% by U.S. citizens, a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative or an Indian tribe
  • Have its principal office within a HUBZone, which includes lands considered “Indian Country” and military facilities closed by the Base Realignment and Closure ActNote:  HUBZone regulations define “principal office” as the location where the greatest number of the concern's employees at any one location perform their work. For businesses whose primary industry is service or construction, the determination of principal office excludes the firm’s employees who perform the majority of their work at job-site locations to fulfill specific contract obligations.
  • Have at least 35% of its employees residing in a HUBZone

What are the benefits?

Along with the growth you’ll help bring into your community, there are unique benefits to the HUBZone Program. Because of specific government set-asides that require a certain percentage of work to be obtained from HUBZone businesses, you’ll gain a competitive edge in the contracting arena. And when your business competes among other HUBZone-certified companies, you’ll be competing within a smaller pool of contractors – so you’re chances of winning are greater. Additionally, you’ll also receive a 10% price evaluation preference in full and open contract competitions. 

Need additional assistance?

Interested in more HUBZone help? HUBZone offers eligibility assistance on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 2-3pm (eastern time) at-888-858-2144 (access code 3061773#). The staff facilitates the discussion – which is driven by participant questions – by providing the answers and introducing specific topics as time allows. You’ll learn how to maintain eligibility and decrease the possibility of an initial application being declined or being decertified after obtaining the HUBZone certification.

If you’re looking for status information, need help in resolving technical difficulties or need individualized assistance, you can email hubzone@sba.gov.

 

About the Author:

Mariana Pardo
Mariana Pardo is the Director of the HUBZone Program. She is responsible for issuing final determinations on applications for HUBZone certification, for the continuing monitoring of certified HUBZone firms and for resolving eligibility protests in connection to HUBZone contracts.

When and Why Should You Stick to the Plan?

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: February 24, 2014

There was a time, a few decades ago, when I thought sticking to the plan was a good for business. “Because that’s the plan” seemed like a good thing. But I’ve changed my mind.wall and ladder istock.com

Having a plan is absolutely a good thing. And sticking to the planning process — which means regularly checking results, evaluating progress, and revising a plan — is absolutely a good thing too. But sticking to a plan? Just because it’s supposedly something people do? No.

Years ago, I was one of four friends taking a two-week road trip in Europe. We were young, single and having fun. Three of us were fairly flexible about things, so if we liked one spot we’d want to stay there longer; if we didn’t like another, we’d want to take off early. But the fourth always wanted to stick to the plan. And that was such a pain. We’d made the plan before we left, and our trip meant learning. I remember the arguments: he’d say “but we have a plan” and we’d say “but when we made the plan we didn’t know what we do now.”

Fast forward to today and the first thing we can all see is that business time frames have changed. Business moves faster than it used to. And the business landscape has changed too. There’s still a lot of consolidation at the top, and those huge enterprises need to manage longer-term plans in order to be able to steer. But there’s also huge fragmentation at the bottom, too, with more than 20 million U.S. companies having no employees, and six or so small businesses, and they move faster. They have to.

So assumptions change very quickly. And that, to my mind, is the key to managing a business plan and keeping it useful.

First, do a plan that has concrete specifics you can track. Include not just the obvious numbers for sales, costs, and expenses, but also other manageable numbers like web traffic, visits, leads, presentations, calls, downloads, likes, mentions, updates, and whatever else drives your business.

Second, set a regular schedule for reviewing plan vs. actual results. Have a monthly task to look at progress and identify problems.

Third, learn to distinguish problems of execution from changed assumptions. If assumptions have changed, then the plan should change. If assumptions still hold true, then the difference between plan and actual results is a matter of execution. React to surprises according to what direction they go and what cause and effect you see. Usually, unexpectedly good results are a good reason to look at shifting resources towards the positive; unexpectedly bad results are a good reason to shift resources to correct a problem.

And that’s what I call the good side of sticking to a plan: have a plan, review it regularly, and revise it as needed. It’s way easier to correct your course if you have a plan than if you’re just reacting to whatever happened yesterday. 

(Image courtesy of stockphoto.com)

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 .

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