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5 Major Reasons to Monitor Your Business Credit Reports

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: May 24, 2019

Similar to personal credit reports and scores; business credit reports are constantly changing because of a variety of data. This ongoing change is based on a variety of factors such as the number of reported transactions, outstanding balances and payment activity to name a few.

The accuracy of the data being reported about your business is crucial. It shows your company’s ability to meet its financial obligations with vendors, suppliers, lenders and other businesses.

Your business credit report impacts the following decisions:

  • The amount of credit issued to your business
  • What the terms of repayment will be 
  • The interest rates you will pay
  • What your insurance premiums will be

It’s important to realize an established business credit report and score is an invaluable asset for your company. Like all assets it’s necessary to take certain steps to protect and manage them. 

The first step is to order a copy of your company’s credit reports and review the information being reported about your business. Business credit agencies such as Dun and Bradstreet allow you to view your business credit report and update your company information all online via iUpdate.

To order your reports from each of the major business credit agencies you will need to purchase one of their profile report products. While there are a variety of reports you can order it’s important to obtain a full company report in order to review all the information that is being reported about your business.

Here are five key reasons to monitor your business credit report:

1) Ensure your company’s credit report is complete and accurate

2) Stay notified on any changes to your report that could impact your business

3) Identity any issues or areas in your report that can be improved upon

4) Be aware of who is inquiring about your business (inquiries)

5) Prevent identity theft by monitoring inquiries into your report

If you identify any inaccurate information on your company reports you will need to take the proper steps to initiate a dispute. Any type of inaccurate information will require that you contact the business credit reporting agency and initiate an investigation.

Other protective measures you can take include having spending limits and control measures on business credit cards issued to employees. By having certain control measures in place, you can reduce the risk for credit card abuse and avoid a potential loss.

As a business owner, it’s essential that you take a proactive approach and monitor your business credit profiles on a regular basis.  You’ve worked hard at establishing a creditworthy report, it’s important to work equally hard at protecting and managing it. With the proper steps and protective measures in place you can easily avoid potential threats to the business.

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’.

How to do a Practical Lean Business Plan in Four Easy Steps

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: May 10, 2019

One of the most common reasons for business owners not getting the benefit of business planning is putting off doing a plan because it seems too hard. People still think of a business plan as a big formal document, hard to do, and — sadly — not worth the effort. But what they miss with that attitude is the lean planning that could steer their business better.

Here's how to do a lean business plan in four easy steps:

Step One: Strategy is Focus

You can summarize business strategy with a few key points: the problem you solve, your unique solution to that problem, your choice of target market, and your unique business identity.

Don’t worry about big text, editing, or the document. Just write down your key strategy choices. Make it as simple as a bulleted list. Consider it for your use only, not an academic exercise; and not the big formal business plan you heard about years ago. If you know your business, then you know your strategy. You write it down as a reminder, to help prioritize.

Step Two: Tactics to Match Strategy

Strategy needs tactics for execution. Tactics are what you do to execute strategy: the product or service, the marketing, pricing, distribution, personnel, financing, and so on.

Here too, as with strategy, your lean plan doesn’t mean long texts with a lot of editing. It’s as simple as writing down, usually in a list of bullet points, the most important elements.

You are looking for strategic alignment. That means tactics match strategy. That’s hard to define but easy to see when it works. You are linking what you mean to accomplish(goals) with the key action steps for each of those goals. Does your pricing match your product-market mix? Do the distribution tactics match the product and market?

For example, if your restaurant is targeting high disposable income diners for fine dining, you don’t have discount pricing, half-off coupons, or a kids’ playground, but you may have reservation-only meal hours, valet parking, and glamorous dinning room décor.

Step Three: Specifics on What, When, and How Much

I call these milestones: smaller action items that you can put on the calendar to measure progress as you make it. These normally include tasks, deadlines, budgets, and responsibility assignments. Think of milestones as things like reaching the first 1,000 customers, launching the new website, hiring the new sales manager, opening the branch store, landing the exclusive representation contract.

The underlying assumption is that teams and even individual business owners work better when they see tangible goals to work towards. Make the next milestone.

Furthermore, for most people, it’s easier to imagine the progress towards long-term goals of a business in a series of steps. What’s the next step? And the one after that? What steps can you identify for product or service? For marketing? For administration.

Make this a simple, practical list.

Step Four: Essential Numbers

Hard as it might be to forecast essential business numbers, it’s still easier than trying to run a business without a forecast. You don’t have to be CPA or MBA to be able to make educated guesses about future sales, costs, expenses, and cash flow.

We’ve posted detailed help for your essential numbers in previous posts on this same blog.

Step Forever: Regular Review and Revise

The point of the business plan, for real business in the real world, is not the plan itself but the planning process. The goal of planning is to steer a business better. For that, you have to keep your lean plan fresh with monthly review and revision as necessary. If business were navigation, then the plan sets the destination and route, but you still need a GPS with real-time traffic and weather to decide when to change the planned route. The GPS factor is the regular review and revision of the plan, to keep it fresh.

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 .

How to Create Marketing Content That Gets Attention

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: May 10, 2019

The human attention span is evolving and that has important implications for marketers. What type of marketing content gets and holds people’s attention—and how can you create it? Here’s what you need to know.

Attention spans are evolving

While there’s lots of lamentation about how our attention spans are being destroyed by the internet, a recent study by Prezi suggests attention spans aren’t shrinking—they’re just evolving.
 

Surprisingly, six in 10 respondents in the survey of more than 2,000 professionals say their ability to maintain focus has actually improved in the past year and they’re better able to give content their undivided attention. Millennials are actually more likely than Gen X or boomers to say that the right content can hold their attention for a long time.
 

There’s a catch, though: Not every piece of content gets that undivided attention. In fact, 49% of respondents say they’ve become more selective about what they give their attention to in the past year. With so much stimuli to choose from, it’s harder for your business’s marketing message to get through.
 

How to get your marketing message across

Marketing content that gets attention has some things in common. First, it tells a story. Second, it’s personal. Third, it’s visually stimulating. Here’s a closer look at how to incorporate those factors in your marketing.
 

Tell a story

Telling a story with your marketing might sound tough. But really, a story just requires three basic elements:

  1. A setup or situation that piques interest
     
  2. A challenge or conflict that arouses curiosity
     
  3. A resolution that brings satisfaction (and in the case of your marketing, gets prospects to buy/call/visit your website).
     

The setup

What’s a common situation that your target customers find themselves in? For instance, maybe they have trouble making a healthy dinner for their families every night, they struggle to lose weight and stay in shape, or they can’t get their lawns as green as they want them to be. Starting your story with a setup that your target customers will relate to will get their attention.
 

The challenge or conflict

What’s standing in the way of the customer getting what they want? Maybe they want to lose weight and exercise more, but they have a long commute and no time for the gym. Or they’re too tired at the end of a long work day to cook healthy meals. Perhaps they don’t want to spend hours on the weekend seeding and watering the lawn to get it green.
 

The resolution

What does your business do for your customers? How does it help them overcome the challenge or conflict? For example, your home fitness equipment eliminates the drive to the gym. Your pre-prepared cooking kits let even busy working parents cook healthy meals. Your lawn-care service can handle all the work involved in getting that green lawn.
 

How to tell your story

Tell your story in the way that your target customers want to hear it. That might be a live video, a social media post with a photo, a brochure, an animated video with cartoon characters…it all depends on your target customers. You’ll need to do some research to see what type of content they like most. You can also track the results of your content marketing to see what gets the most interaction and engagement.
 

How not to tell your story

What makes people disengage?

  • No substance: More than half of respondents in the Prezi survey say a story that does not challenge them mentally or lacks substance will cause them to disengage.
     
  • Too much information: Too much text (even if it’s formatted in bullet points) can cause overwhelm and make it hard to retain information.
     
  • Too long: Keep in mind your audience might be reading or viewing your marketing message on a smartphone. Don’t make them scroll down to get the message.
     
  • Too many words: Images are highly effective at retaining attention. Try putting your data in an infographic format or making a video instead.
     
  • Make it authentic: Using real customers’ testimonials or user-generated content can strike a chord if your prospects can relate to the customers and their challenges.

Last but not least, don’t forget to tell the story of your business. Use your website’s About Us page, your social media feeds, and your marketing materials in general to remind customers what your business is all about. Humanizing your business will make you more memorable and help you keep prospects’ attention.

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

Multiple Computer Monitors: Advantages and Disadvantages

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: April 18, 2019 Updated: April 25, 2019

Are you looking to increase productivity in your small business? Some entrepreneurs and professionals find it helpful to have access to multiple computer monitors. This type of setup can potentially improve collaboration, productivity and even location flexibility. But there are also some potential drawbacks, from money and space constraints to the potential for distractions. If you’re considering investing in dual monitors for your own office, here are some of the pros and cons to consider.

 

Pros of Using Multiple Computer Monitors

 

Easy Switching Between Programs

As you work to grow your business, you’ll likely need to use multiple programs to perform your daily operations, from internet browsers to presentation builders to bookkeeping software. Constantly switching back and forth between those tools can take up valuable time and lead to confusion. Multiple monitors are especially popular with designers and coders who often switch between programs and applications. This type of setup allows you to work in PhotoShop and Illustrator simultaneously without constantly having to click out of each one. Or for developers, the second screen could come in handy to preview changes while editing code on the other.

 

Improved Communication

According to a recent study from IWG, 70 percent of professionals work remotely at least one day per week. And with those changing work environments, Skype, Zoom, and similar video conferencing programs have become a major component of the workplace. With one screen, you would need to constantly click away from your video chat program if you need to reference important documents during your call. But with multiple screens, you can keep that chat window open for the whole conversation while still referencing all of your necessary materials on the other monitor.

 

Flexible Workspaces

Dual monitors can also be useful for those professionals that work mainly on a laptop, but also need to occasionally work on more in-depth projects. For an example, a web developer could handle most of their admin work on their laptop as they travel or work from their favorite coffee shop. But then when they’re finishing up editing a large project, they can plug their laptop into the extra monitor to make sure they have a comprehensive view before submitting it to a client. According to a Business.com survey, almost 73 percent of small business owners use laptops. So this option could be useful to a lot of entrepreneurs.

 

Cons of Using Multiple Computer Monitors

 

Added Costs

Using an additional monitor does require you to purchase some extra equipment. Aside from the monitor itself, you may also need a stand and some other accessories to get your desk to function the way you want it. It’s not necessarily a huge expense, as you can sometimes find monitors for as little as $100. But for solopreneurs or brand new businesses without a lot of resources, it can be difficult to dedicate finances to creating this type of setup.

 

Less Desk Space

Two monitors are obviously going to take up more space on a desk than one monitor. Modern monitors aren’t necessarily as bulky as older options, but they do still leave you with less space for documents, planners and other items. Unless you’re a total neat freak, it can be really easy for whatever small amount of your desktop is leftover to get very cluttered. And according to a study out of the University of New Mexico, a cluttered environment can lead to less efficient thinking, poorer mental health and a host of other issues. Depending on the size of your current desk, this setup can also require you to purchase a new one, which represents another possible expense.

 

More Opportunity for Distractions

One of the things that draws many people to the idea of dual monitors is the thought that it could help them multitask. But for many, that would simply mean working on one monitor and having the other constantly focused on email or social media. In most cases, all of those notifications and messages are really only going to distract you from the task at hand. Furthermore, scientists have found that multitasking isn’t even an effective strategy.

 

MIT neuroscientist Earl Miller said in an interview with The Guardian, “When people think they’re multitasking, they’re actually just switching from one task to another very rapidly. And every time they do, there’s a cognitive cost in doing so.”

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.

18 Ideas for Marketing a Seasonal Business in the Off-Season

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: September 27, 2018 Updated: September 27, 2018
Does your business rely on seasonal customers? Whether you own a surf school, a patio furniture store or an ice cream shop, you know how slow business can get during the off-season. Try these marketing ideas to keep customers engaged (and buying) all year long. 
 
  1. Offer off-season specials. There’s a reason desert resorts slash prices when it’s super cold or hot. Reducing prices during the off-season is the easiest way to attract customers. Try holding a “flash sale” or one-day sale. Nothing sparks spending like a really limited time offer! 
  2. Upsell and cross-sell existing customers. Reach out to existing customers to offer them special packages for next season, or products and services to get them ready for next season.  
  3. Promote early payment specials. To keep cash coming in, try offering discounts for early payments for next season. For example, if you run a children’s summer camp that starts in June, you could offer a discount to parents who sign up pay in full by April 1. 
  4. Hold a giveaway or contest. People might not be ready to buy surf lessons in January—but they would still be open to winning them. Use a contest to collect email addresses and get permission to send emails to the entrants. You’ll build your list of leads for the busy season.
  5. Work on getting referrals. Contact satisfied customers and ask them to refer you to someone else who might want your service or product. You can offer a reward for referrals, such as a discount coupon or a gift card.
  6. Grow your online reviews. Ask past customers to review your business online. Make it easy by emailing them a link so all they have to do is click and type. Then be sure to pay attention to your reviews and deal with any negative ones.
  7. Hold an event for your loyal customers. Build goodwill by rewarding your seasonal customers with a fun event. It could be a preview of next season’s offerings (with the option to buy early at special prices) or just a party to thank them for their business.
  8. Market a different product or service. For example, a lawn care business could offer snow removal services in the winter. An ice cream store could add hot coffee drinks or hot chocolate to the menu. 
  9. Target a new geographic market. If your seasonal business is weather-related, use the off-season to reach a new market with different weather. For example, if you sell patio furniture in Boston, you could ride out the slow season by expanding to Florida.
  10. Target a new demographic market. When the tourist season slows down, a bed and breakfast owner could promote their location as a site for business offsite meetings or church retreats.  
  11. Switch from consumer to corporate. If you have a consumer-oriented business, try targeting corporate customers during your off-season. For instance, a food truck owner could look for corporate catering jobs or find trade shows and events where they can set up a food booth. 
  12. Partner with local businesses. If your business is in a tourist area so everyone is in the same boat during the off-season, put your heads together. Work with other local business owners and the chamber of commerce to brainstorm ideas for marketing the town as a destination during the off-season.
  13. Focus on local customers. If you’re in a tourist town, hold a blowout sale for local residents to clear out last season’s merchandise. They’ll enjoy the savings without the in-season crowds.
  14. Educate your customers. What can you teach customers to help them make the most of your products or services? If you hold sailing classes during the warmer months, for example, you could offer boat maintenance classes during the winter.
  15. Find out what your customers want. Is there a product or service that your seasonal customers frequently ask for that you don’t offer? If not, conduct a customer survey and see what other products or services customers are interested in, then do some market research on the feasibility of adding them.
  16. Focus on low- or no-cost marketing methods. Your sales will be slower and your budget smaller in the off-season, so concentrate on marketing channels that require more time than money, such as social media, public relations and email marketing.
  • Use email to stay in touch with customers during your off-season. If you sell off-season products or services, customers won’t know about them unless you keep in contact. Even if you essentially shut down in the off-season, you don’t want to “go dark” until next season. Get customers’ permission to send them emails; then create a regular cadence of marketing emails (say, once a month) to promote off-season specials or build anticipation for next season. 
  • Use both social media and email marketing to provide useful content for customers and stay on their radar. What is your business really all about? A bed-and-breakfast is about providing a place for couples to connect. A summer camp is about creating lifetime memories. How can you help your customers achieve the same goals in the off-season? The summer camp could create content on how to keep the kids entertained on a rainy day or fun winter sports to try with your kids. The B&B could share tips for creative date night ideas. 
  • For public relations, know that it takes a lot of time to get on the media’s radar and develop relationships. Print media, in particular, work several months ahead. If you want to get publicity for your tax preparation service in February or March, for example, you should start making connections with appropriate media now.

    17. Find out what your customers want. Is there a product or service that your seasonal customers frequently ask for that you don’t offer? If not, conduct a customer survey and see what other products or services customers are interested in, then do some market research on the feasibility of adding them.
    18. Create your marketing plan for the coming season. You’ll have more downtime during the off-season. Use it to fine-tune your marketing plan for the next season and take care of marketing projects you don’t have time for when you’re busy, such as redesigning your business website or finding a freelancer to help with 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 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

Checklist for Choosing Business Software

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: June 26, 2018 Updated: June 27, 2018

Good software can enable your small business to increase sales by saving time and money while expanding capacity.

But you must choose wisely — because the wrong software can be an expensive mistake.

Here is my tried-and-true checklist for choosing software to support your business operations:

Testimonials from Businesses Like Mine

Find vendors with a meaningful number of testimonials from other small business owners. Look for testimonials from businesses like yours — businesses of roughly the same size, in similar industries and trying to solve similar problems.

A software package might work just fine for some businesses, however, it may not help fix your problem.

Financially Strong Vendor

For mission critical processes, I hesitate to put my company’s future in the hands of software or an app that may or may not be updated a year from now.

You see this problem with some mobile apps and content management system plugins. A year or two goes by and the plugins appear abandoned and don’t play nice with newer versions of the software. Plugins may have security issues that leave your business vulnerable to hackings. Or perhaps an app looked promising, but it’s still buggy and unreliable a year later. The more mission critical the need, the more you should insist on financially stable vendors that are committed to their software.

Easy to Use

When you use, for example, an inventory management package meant for large corporations, it might seem good because you’re getting lots of features and functionality. And isn’t more always better?

Not necessarily. If you have a small team, getting more features and functionality can leave you worse off. Why? Complexity.

Complexity means it can take your small team more time than they can spare to master the software because they wear six other hats. The result? Resentment, frustration, failure. Complexity also adds more cost to get the software installed and configured, — especially if you must hire a consultant to set it up or have to pay overtime.

Automation with Other Systems

Today you get the most value from cloud software that passes data and transactions automatically to other systems you use. Doing so lets you harness automation — and that saves money. The last thing you want is to have to manually re-enter data from one system to another.

Always look for software that integrates with other software in your business. Many vendors today list all third party integrations on their websites. Avoid developing your own custom integrations, because they can get costly.

Ability to Upgrade Seamlessly

Find software that meets your needs when you are small, but grows with you. When choosing software, I like to start with a simple affordable package, then upgrade to more features or capacity later. And you want to be able to do it seamlessly without switching vendors or going through a manual conversion process.

Free Trials and Low Risk Terms

Free trials enable you to do a hands-on evaluation for a week or two. After that, with a month-to-month payment plan, or the ability to cancel at any time, you’re not locked in. If the software doesn't work out, you at least don’t have to be stuck paying for it long term.

Follow the above six checklist points and you too can improve your operations with software.

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.

5 Best Risk Management Strategies

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: June 12, 2018 Updated: June 12, 2018

Being in business is exciting but it also means facing challenges and risks every day. These risks and threats to your business can come from innumerable sources, including economic conditions, lawsuits, competitors, and the weather. In order to be able to sleep at night, it’s essential that you adopt a variety of risk management strategies. These are designed to avert catastrophe and provide you with protection to the extent possible. There’s no single action to shield you from the consequences of risks to your business. You need to take a holistic approach and cover your bases. Here are five strategies to consider.

1. Choice of entity

You start a business to make money, but things don’t always work out as planned. If, for example, you can’t pay the remainder of your lease, you may be personally liable for what’s owed. One way to protect your personal assets—your home, your personal car, your personal bank account—is to use a business entity that provides personal liability protection.

A sole proprietorship or general partnership does not provide personal liability protection, but a limited liability company (LLC) or corporation does. The cost of setting up an LLC or incorporating and complying with other administrative tasks associated with having the entity is small compared with the potential personal liability exposure for not having the entity.

2. Insurance policies

There are many statistics showing that it’s not a matter of if but rather when you’ll experience an occurrence that could have been covered by insurance. Carrying adequate insurance coverage can go a long way in protecting you from property losses as well as liability claims. Consider the following types of policies for optimum protection:

  • Business owners policy (BOP). This policy for small businesses provides protection for your property (except for excluded events and amounts over the policy limit) as well as liability protection for claims by third parties (e.g., a customer slips and falls on your premises). The policy may also cover employee theft and other occurrences.
  • Professional liability coverage. This policy protects professionals from client claims of mistakes (malpractice), negligence, or unfinished work.
  • Business interruption policy. This policy provides funds to cover your fixed costs (and possibly loss of profits) following an event that shuts you down (e.g., a hurricane).
  • Workers’ compensation insurance. This protects the business for claims when employees have a job-related injury or illness.
  • Employer practices liability insurance (EPLI). This covers you for claims by employees and former employees for such actions as discrimination and wrongful termination.

3. Contracts and agreements

Put it in writing…whatever you consider important to your business. This can be requiring employees to sign nondisclosure agreements protecting your trade secrets (client lists, pricing, etc.).

In some cases, you can’t even sue unless you have a written contract:

  • Sale of goods over $500
  • Leases over $1,000
  • Agreements creating a security interest (e.g., a right to collateral)

If you draft contracts and agreements yourself, be sure to have an attorney review it so you’re protected to the extent you expect.

4. Disaster preparedness plans

What will you do when disaster strikes? What steps will you take to recover from a disaster? These actions should be specified in a plan you create for your business. The SBA offers guidance on crafting a preparedness plan.

5. Best business practices

All of the actions listed above are best business practices, but this list isn’t exclusive. There are numerous business practices that you can use to minimize risk. Here are some ideas to get you started in developing your own list of best business practices:

  • Hire right. Be sure to find the right person for your job opening. For example, if you’re hiring someone who’ll be driving on company business, check the driving record.
  • Enhance safety in your facility. This will minimize accidents by customers and staff.
  • Check your computer security. Avoid ransomware and other threats that can damage your data and cost you a lot of money to repair.
  • Stay compliant. Federal, state, and local laws are constantly changing, but you must stay up to date so you can remain compliant.

Conclusion

Be an offensive player when it comes to running your business to minimize your risks. Work with knowledgeable professionals, such as an attorney and an IT person to help you in this regard. Stay vigilant!

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

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

Five Strategies for Winning at Working Solo

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: May 14, 2018

Eighty percent of all U.S. small businesses have no employees. The number of non-employee businesses is expected to grow in coming years, due in part to the expansion of the gig economy (e.g., Uber, TaskRabbit, Thumbtack) and favorable economic conditions. Being in business with no employees means you don’t have to deal with payroll, minimum wage rules, and other employer-related responsibilities. But it doesn’t mean you are relieved of all business-owner obligations. You must wear all the hats in your business and see that what needs to be done gets done.

Here are five strategies you can use to make your business work — even though you don’t have any employees working with you.

1. Outsource daily chores

There are only 24 hours in a day, and you can’t work every one of them. You have to let others handle certain matters for you. This may be doing your bookkeeping, handling your calendar, or dealing with customers. Outsource to individuals or companies that can address your needs. For example, consider engaging a virtual assistant who can spend the hours you require each month on your business activities.

Also, be sure to arrange good help (including backup) with personal responsibilities—caring for a child, an elderly parent, or a disabled spouse. This will free you to concentrate on your business.

2. Put together a team of experts

As a one-person business, you don’t have a legal department, an accounting department, a marketing department, or an IT department. But you likely need the help of experts in each of these and other areas. I recommend a team that includes:

  • Attorneys. Likely you’ll need different ones for different purposes (e.g., ones specializing in contracts, in intellectual property, in employment-related matters).
  • CPA. You need an accountant to provide financial guidance to your business. This expertise extends beyond filing tax returns. It covers business practices you can use to improve your bottom line.
  • Insurance agent. You can to discuss the coverage you have and what you need, especially if your business changes over time.
  • Banker. It’s helpful to establish a relationship with your local banker. It may help you if you ever need a loan, and your banker likely is a good source of referrals to experts in your location.
  • IT. It’s essential today for a business to have an information technology expert on call. This person or company can advise on cybersecurity and handle problems with hardware and software.

 

3. Automate whatever you can

Your time is limited. The more you can automate your activities, the more time you’ll have for other matters. Today’s apps enable you to do all sorts of tasks from a mobile device wherever you are that used to be done manually in an office. Some examples:

  • Banking (e.g., making deposits remotely)
  • Customer relations
  • Email marketing
  • Invoicing
  • Scheduling appointments, meetings, etc.
  • Social media marketing
     

4. Stay connected

Working alone can be isolating. Yes, you may spend time with customers and clients. But you don’t necessarily have the same connection you do with colleagues and associates. Working alone may keep you from hearing about what’s going on in your industry or with your competitors. Staying connected can be easily remedied by being proactive. Consider:

  • Joining a local chamber of commerce (meet other business owners in your area and learn about local developments that may affect your business, such as a new road or the arrival of a megastore)
  • Network via trade associations and business groups
  • Schedule lunches, or even just coffee, with colleagues
    ​​​​​​​

5. Separate yourself from your business

When working alone, it’s all too easy for your personal and business lives to get tangled up. Keep things separate. First and foremost, separate your finances by using a business bank account and credit card solely for your business activities.

Also, be sure you’re not working every waking hour. Shut the door, don’t check email continually, don’t answer a business call after hours, and take a Saturday, Sunday, or other day off each week. It may take effort to make personal time, but you can’t survive for the long term without it.

Final thought

It’s great to run solo, if you take steps to make it work. Most important: take a deep breath and enjoy the ride.

 

About the Author:

BarbaraWeltman
Barbara Weltman

Guest Blogger

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

What Is a POS and Why Does Your Business Need One?

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: May 9, 2018

The term Point of Sale (POS) describes the place where retail transactions are made. Think of it as the equivalent of a cash register. POS includes the hardware and software related to transactions, such as the cash drawer, credit card swipe bar, barcode scanners, receipt printers, and more. 

POS is an important feature for all businesses that sell products, whether it’s in a store or online. But a good POS does more than just ring up the customer. Today’s POS systems are often integrated with other systems, streamlining operations. A POS can also automatically help with merchant transactions, and assist with analyzing data in your business for greater success. 

Investing in a POS system is hailed as being one of the best things you can do for your business.

Here are six benefits of a good POS and why your business needs one.

1. Increase Functionality

POS systems are comprised of various hardware, software, and levels of sophistication and complexity. However, as Investopedia notes, even the most basic POS systems, which include an electronic cash register and software to coordinate sales data, allows businesses to increase their functionality.

With a modern POS system, businesses can improve their flow and function.

As Yamarie Grullon, of POS provider ShopKeep, explained “Modern POS systems do more than just offer flexibility when processing daily transactions. They improve a merchant’s chances of success by providing them with the tools to streamline business operations.”

2. Streamline Sales from Multiple Locations

A mobile POS system enables you to conduct business and sell products from multiple locations — and still be streamlined. By investing in a mobile POS system, you can expand the reach of your business and products, selling to consumers from locations other than a physical store.

Mobile POS software — together with a simple swipe device — can effectively turn your smartphone into a retail POS system, allowing you to accept transactions remotely, and consequently expanding business operations. Mobile POS systems can be useful for accepting credit cards and selling at fairs, craft shows, and farmers markets.

3. Track Real-Time Data About Sales Performance

POS systems simplify business data management related to sales. You can log, track, and access real-time data quickly, efficiently, and securely.

Rather than requiring you to transfer data from one system to another, a good POS will be integrated and offer real-time dashboards to see sales performance and metrics at any moment. 

4. Improve Inventory Control

Modern POS systems are comprised of a database which enables merchants to keep track of the items they have in stock. With advanced inventory data stored within the POS software, retailers can use their POS to look up previous transactions, track their best-selling items, and reorder products when they get low in stock. Look for a POS that either integrates with your inventory system or offers its own centralized inventory management.

5. Get Greater Control of Employee Management

POS systems can be an effective way to track sales by individual employees. As well as the employer monitoring the performance of sales teams, employees can use such systems to track their own sales statistics. By tracking sales statistics, employees become more aware of their own personal sales targets and objectives.

As well as being a powerful motivator in achieving individual sales targets and objectives, a POS can act as an effective tool in identifying where sales can be improved, through means such as improving customer service.

6. Manage Taxes

Managing taxes can be time-consuming, complex, and confusing. An advanced POS system for retailers calculates the tax for you, including across states, providing simple tax management and therefore saving you time. It will help you reduce errors, too.

A modern POS system will help make your business more cost-focused, will save you time, can improve your relationships with customers, make your business more flexible and mobile, and record vital inventory and revenue data.

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.

How Much Energy Do You Need to Own and Operate a Franchise?

By FranchiseKing, Guest Blogger
Published: April 26, 2018

There’s hard work, and there’s really hard work. Owning and operating a franchise business falls under “really hard work.” Are you prepared for it?

 

Owning a Franchise

If it was so easy, everyone would do it.” That’s a true statement, especially when it comes to being the active owner of a franchise business. Most franchises require their owners to be active — to be working in the business. But some, like these, don’t. In this post, I’m going to focus on active, full-time franchise owners.

 

Leadership

When you own and operate a franchise business, you’re going to put in very long hours — especially at first. That’s because you need to oversee many aspects of your business, including:

  • Interviewing and hiring employees
  • Planning your grand opening
  • Ordering inventory/supplies
  • Setting up the technology
  • Doing “dry-runs” with employees before you open

 

If you own a franchise that requires employees, they’ll need leadership. Initially, that leadership will come from you. You’ll set the tone. You’ll let your employees know what you expect from them, and what they should expect from you, as the owner.

After some time, you may be able to delegate some of the management/leadership aspects of the business to an employee. Doing so can free you up to other thingshandle other business matters, like business-building.   

 

The Hours

For the most part, expect to put in 10-12 hours a day, six to seven days a week, depending on the type of business you own. For example, if you own a food franchise, 12 hours a day is pretty much the norm. And most of those hours are going to be spent on your feet, since food-service work is very physical at its core.

Similarly, retail franchise ownership requires lots of 12-hour days, with most of those hours being in an upright, standing position.

On the other hand, if you own a B2B franchise, although there is physical work involved, you’re probably not going to be working 12 hours a day. Plus, since most B2B franchise businesses tend to only be open Monday through Friday, your total hours will be less than a food franchise or a retail franchise business.

Tip: As you search for a franchise to own, ask the franchisors you contact about the hours you’ll have to work in order to be a successful owner.

 

On Energy

Working long hours requires you to have lots of energy. But owning and operating a successful franchise business requires more than just physical energy. You’ll also need:

1. Mental energy

You’re going to need a lot of mental energy to get you through the daily twists and turns all franchisees experience. Things like equipment breakdowns, employee no-shows, and technology problems — to name just a few — can and do happen. You’ll need to handle them quickly and professionally.

2. Positive energy

To be a successful franchisee, you need to be positive. You need to believe in your business, and the products/services you offer. You need to believe in your talents, and in the talents of your team.

Because when you are positive, your employees and your customers will feel the positive energy you’re putting out. The result: Your employees will be more cooperative and more energetic, and your customers will gladly hand over some of their money.

The bottom line: If you have the physical and mental energy needed to run a franchise business, and you can tap into your leadership abilities, the sky is the limit.

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.

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