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Why Traditional Advertising Still Matters

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: January 3, 2017 Updated: January 11, 2017

Online, mobile and other forms of digital advertising are top-of-mind for most marketers these days. But in the rush to digital, are you forgetting a vital part of marketing? Two recent studies reveal recent that traditional advertising—including print, TV and radio—still has an important role to play in attracting customers. In fact, it may be more important than digital advertising in some cases.

That’s because consumers like and trust traditional advertising much more than digital advertising. For example, eight in 10 consumers in a MarketingSherpa study say they usually trust print advertising (82 percent) and television advertising (80 percent) when making a purchasing decision. Direct mail advertising (76 percent), radio advertising (71 percent) and out-of-home advertising (69 percent) followed close behind in terms of trustworthiness. In fact, the top five most trusted ad formats are all traditional media.

In contrast, online pop-up ads are the most hated and least trusted kind of advertising. Just one-fourth of respondents in the MarketingSherpa study trust pop-ups, and 73 percent of consumers in a separate HubSpot survey dislike them.

Meanwhile, MarketingSherpa found, consumers engage with traditional ads to a surprising degree. For instance, more than 50 percent say they “often” or “always” watch television ads from companies they’re satisfied with. Half also read print ads they get in the mail, and 48 percent read print ads picked up in-store. Email is the only digital format with similar engagement levels: Half of survey respondents say they “often” or “always” subscribe to emails from companies they like.

What kinds of ads don’t customers engage with? HubSpot’s survey shows 57 percent of those surveyed dislike online pre-roll ads (ads that play before a video), and 43 percent don’t watch them. In addition, many consumers block online ads altogether. Common complaints about online ads: they’re intrusive, they make websites load more slowly or they cover the entire website.

Pop-up ads or ads that require customers to click in order to close them are especially annoying. Some 90 percent of consumers in the HubSpot survey say they dislike such ads. Mobile phone ads earn disdain as well—seven in 10 HubSpot respondents hate them.

Essentially, consumers dislike online ads that keep them from accomplishing what they’re trying to do—read an article, browse a website or watch a video. Perhaps traditional ads seem more appealing because they’re also more controllable. Consumers can choose to look at your print ad, flyer or direct mail piece at a time and place convenient for them.

Of course, digital advertising should be part of your marketing plan—it’s essential these days (not to mention affordable). But how can you take advantage of traditional advertising’s power, too?

  • Integrate your online presence into your traditional advertising. Say your website URL multiple times in your radio ad, show it at the bottom or your cable TV ad or print ad, and include it in direct mail pieces.
  • Create different landing pages for different ad campaigns. This enables you to craft a more effective call to action. If you just send a visitor to your home page, he or she may get lost along the way to making a purchase.
  • Track the results of your advertising. Use codes in print ads and custom URLs in digital ads to see which campaigns get the best results. That way, you can focus more of your budget on the formats that are most effective for you.
  • Be sure your branding is consistent. Whatever the format—online or offline—your advertising should convey a consistent brand message, using the same colors, fonts, style and taglines throughout.

By advertising both online and offline with an integrated approach, you get the best of both worlds. You can boost trust in your business, get customers to spend more time with your ads, and improve customer acquisition and sales.

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

The Right Way to Think About Credit Lines for Business

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: December 20, 2016

Access to cash via a line of credit is an important safety net for a small business. Although there are various types of credit lines available, it is the flexibility it provides that makes it so popular among small business owners.

A line of credit is more like cash on demand for a set amount. You can draw funds up to the credit limit set when your company needs it, and you only pay interest on the funds you withdraw. Best of all, every dollar of principle you pay back becomes available for the company to use again.

The important thing to remember is credit lines for businesses have received an overhaul in the past several years. No longer is a credit line being issued just by banks down the road. Today, there are completely different lines of credit issued to businesses from alternative lenders rather than by banks alone. In addition, small business owners can also get credit lines secured by specific types of collateral such as equipment and accounts receivables.

Here’s how I’ve learned to think about credit lines for business by following three simple rules.

Rule 1: Diversify your access to credit lines

When you rely on one bank or one type of credit line as the sole source of funding it may put your company at risk. When there is no backup plan if the company loses access to credit it can devastate a small operation. “A few years ago, losing a line of credit was a crisis - today, it's the new normal,” says Marilyn Landis, a board member of the National Small Business Association in Washington, D.C.

Ask yourself right now what you’ll do if your existing line of credit gets shut down or drastically reduced tomorrow. To combat this, you need to diversify your access to credit lines through banks and alternative lenders. Remember, the credit lines your company has access to will be there when you need it, and you don’t have to use it or pay for it if you don’t. The National Federation of Independent Businesses says, “Think of it as an insurance policy that never needs to be paid until you need it.”

Rule 2: Use your credit line for what it’s good for

Recognize that credit lines provide an advantage over regular business loans. You only pay interest and fees on the portion of funds you use. If your credit line is for $20k and you don’t withdraw any funds, you won’t have any interest to pay. The entire $20k is available for the business to use but you only make payments on the money you’ve actually used.

The fact is a credit line for a business is a much more affordable option to fund short-term finance needs, like buying inventory, paying business expenses, or purchasing new equipment compared to applying for a business loan.

Rule 3: Practice Self-Discipline

Stay on top of your payments when it comes to paying back the funds you used on your credit lines. The use of credit lines in the company’s name provides the business an opportunity to establish a business credit rating – which can be very valuable for future financing. Although credit lines provide many benefits, their downside is accumulating debt which can lead to costly interest in the long term. While debt can definitely be a useful tool for certain aspects of a business, business owners need to make sure their debt is working for them and not against them.

On a final note, it’s essential to understand that credit lines for businesses are constantly evolving and changing. Sometimes unexpectedly. That doesn’t mean you need to go along with every funding option. Do your research and outweigh the pros and cons of each credit line product. Develop a diversity of access to credit lines for your business, and leave the anxiety and fear behind. 

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 Community, and All His articles and blog; Business Credit, 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’.

Your Company’s Charitable Giving

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: December 8, 2016 Updated: December 8, 2016

“Giving is its own reward” said social activist Dorothy Day, but the tax law also provides some benefit to those who give. At this time of the year, attention to charitable giving is more important than ever because there are so many individuals who have suffered from disasters this year; others continue to face economic challenges and still others just need a helping hand during the holiday season. Here’s how your business can help those in need, and what you can gain tax wise.

Giving cash

Cash donations, which includes donations by check, credit cards, and electronic transfers, is the most common type of donations. You can deduct the amount given to IRS-recognized charities. Use the IRS’s Search for Charities to make sure the organization you’re donating to is tax-exempt. You cannot deduct gifts directly to an individual, no matter how needy the person may be.

Owners of pass-through entities report their share of the company’s donations on their individual returns. Cash donations are deductible by those who itemize up to 50% of adjusted gross income. Donations by C corporations are limited to 10% of taxable income.

Giving inventory

Giving inventory may benefit the charity as well as your business. You can, for example, dispose of excess or obsolete inventory (that still has value), which is still very useful to a charity. Tax-wise, your donation is limited to your tax basis (typically your cost) if the fair market value of the property is greater.

C corporations. Donations of inventory items to a charity that cares for the ill, the needy, or infants receives an enhanced donation. This is your basis (cost), plus one half of the profit that would have been recognized if you’d sold the inventory at its fair market value. The deduction, however, cannot exceed two times your basis.

Food inventory. For all types of entities there’s also a similar enhanced deduction for donations of apparently wholesome food. Again, the donation must be made to an organization that uses it for the care of the ill, the needy, or infants.

Encouraging employees

If this is a slow time of the year for your business, consider giving employees time off. While you can’t require them to use the time for charitable purposes, you can encourage them to do so. For employment tax purposes, this paid time off is treated as any other compensation.

You cannot deduct the value of your time. So, for example, if you have an electrical business and do wiring for a local charity, you cannot deduct what you would have charged for labor. However, any materials you use for this activity is deductible as an unreimbursed out-of-pocket expense.

Other ideas

The actions you and your staff can take to benefit charities are endless. Here are some ideas:

  • Participate in local charitable activities, such as being a drop-off point for Toys for Tots.
  • Hold a blood drive. During the holiday season, local blood banks routinely find themselves short of blood and can use the donations.
  • Attend fundraisers. Your donation is limited to the amount that exceeds the benefit you receive.
  • Leave-based donations. Set up an in-house fund to which employees can donate their unused vacation, sick, and personal days. These unused days can then be used by an employee in need. Generally, the donated leave time is still taxable compensation to employees, and subject to employment taxes. However, from time to time the IRS let’s employers donate the unused leave time to charities benefiting victims from specific disasters, such as the Louisiana floods  and Hurricane Matthew this year. If so, employees aren’t taxed on their donated leave time and the company gets a charitable contribution deduction.

Final thoughts

If you give any money or property, be sure to properly substantiate the donation if you want to claim a write off. You must receive a written acknowledgment for a donation of $250 or more and retain checks or other proof for a smaller donation. For more information, see IRS Publications 526, Charitable Contributions.

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

Why December is a Great Time to Review Your Business Plan

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: December 1, 2016 Updated: December 1, 2016

While December is a busy time for small businesses trying to end the year on a high note, it should also be a time for introspection and review. After all, December is National Write a Business Plan Month!

You might think this occasion is reserved for new, aspiring business owners. But a business plan is so crucial for success that it’s also a good idea to take time to review your plan on a regular basis. This month is a great time for that.

Here’s how to review your business plan to prepare for success in the coming year.

1. Set aside one hour to review your business plan

Yes, you can make progress in just one hour! Set aside quiet time to read through your business plan — no matter how old it is — cover to cover.

Don’t be hard on yourself if your current business reality isn’t the same as your plan projected. Celebrate your successes, of course! But your real task here is to read and contemplate your plan. Pay attention to how you feel as you do this, and jot down any ideas or thoughts that come to mind.

2. Step away from your plan for a short time

Don’t rush to any conclusions or judgments when you finish reading your plan. Set aside the document. Take a walk. Get back to work for a few hours.

See what thoughts bubble up about your plan. Do any ideas spring to mind to improve your business plan?

If you find yourself feeling frustrated during this step, remember that your business plan is a living document that can be changed at any time. No plan is set in stone unless you want it to be.

3. Set goals for 2017

It’s time to set goals for 2017. What do you hope to accomplish? Do those goals fall in line with your original business plan, or is it time to draft a new version?

One of the best ways your business plan can guide you in setting new goals is by reviewing your weaknesses.

Your business plan includes a SWOT analysis, evaluating the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for your own business compared to your competition. Go back to the “weaknesses” portion of that report. Do you still agree with what you listed for your business? Are those weaknesses still true for your business, yourself as the boss, or both? Whether you’ve added skills and strengths to your business endeavor or you’re still struggling, think about how you can grow — or ask for more help — in 2017.

When you’re finished, you’ll probably have a lot of ideas for your business for 2017 and years to come. The beginning of the year is a great time to set up a meeting with a SCORE mentor to talk about how to help your business grow. Anxious to get started right away? Don’t wait! Volunteer mentors work all year round — including around the holidays — to support small business.

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.

10 Reasons All Business Owners Should Plan

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: November 30, 2016 Updated: November 30, 2016

Whether you're just starting out, growing your business or seeking outside help, good business planning will help you achieve that goal. And take note: this means you, business owners. The startups know why they need a plan, but we business owners often think planning is just for startups. That’s not the case.

Also, to be clear, I’m writing about planning, not just a plan. That’s an important distinction. It’s almost 2017. Planning means planning process, a lean business plan with monthly reviews and revisions to guide management. Planning is not a document that you use once and throw away. It’s an ongoing management process.

Furthermore, I’m not talking about a big formal business plan. I’m talking about lean business planning, with a simple plan that is just big enough to manage the business.

  1. Manage cash flow. Profits are accounting creativity, while cash flow is your bank balance. You can’t spend profits. Plan cash flow with linked projections of sales, spending, and cash. It’s the number one essential of business planning.
  2. Set strategy. Strategy is focus on specific differentiation points, target market, and business offerings. Most business owners want to do everything for everybody; but success requires focusing on doing the right things for the right market segments. So we write down the key points. Then we refer back to them, regularly, as reminders.
  3. Match tactics to strategy. Tactics are decisions you make on product or service, marketing, pricing, promotion, financing, and so forth. Too often we forget the strategy while executing tactics. Does pricing match differentiation and target marketing? Does promotion?
  4. Set specific milestones, metrics, tasks, responsibilities, dates, and deadlines. Management is about setting expectations, tracking results, and comparing the two. So expectations need to be specific, trackable, written down, and communicated. So do results. Accountability requires specific metrics and task responsibilities. All of this happens with planning. Use planning to get everybody in your team on the same page. Communicate expectations and results as part of the planning process.
  5. Deal with displacement.  You can’t do everything. You have your strategic focus laid out, so then you decide what you can and can’t do, realistically, in the context of strategy. The principle of displacement says that everything you do rules out something else that you can’t do because you are doing that first thing.
  6. Manage fixed costs, locations, and spending.  Use your planning process to put numbers on key concepts to guide decisions about new locations, upgrades of equipment, and so on.
  7. Know when and why to hire new people. Use your planning process to pinpoint needs for new hires, functions required, and related expenses.
  8. Manage a team. People work better when they know their specific metrics, tasks, and expectations. Use the planning process to keep those clear and share with the team. Accountability is a lot easier when you have numbers and tracked results. Your review process gets a boost when it links to the plan vs. actual numbers in your planning.
  9. Plan and execute financial needs. Know ahead of time before you need a loan or seeking investors. Understand the relationship between growth and working capital. Fill financial needs before your back is against the wall.
  10. Grow your business. Your planning gives you a forum to review strategy and results, review tactics, and develop plans for growth into new markets or into new business offerings.


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 .

22 Holiday Marketing Ideas for Local Businesses

By Rieva Lesonsky, Guest Blogger
Published: November 29, 2016

Small Business Saturday is over, but it’s not the only opportunity for local small businesses to capture customers’ dollars this holiday season. Whether you’re a retailer, restaurateur or own a service business such as a hair salon, there are plenty of opportunities to market your biz for holidays. Here are 22 ideas to get you started.

  1. Check in with last year’s customers. Who bought from your business during the 2015 holiday shopping season? Reach out to them with email marketing messages, special offers or direct mail pieces. This is a great tactic for service businesses who sell services needed annually, such as carpet cleaning or HVAC servicing.
  2. Partner with other businesses near you to host a holiday shopping event, such as a sidewalk sale. Restaurants can sell small portions of their menu items to attract even more traffic.
  3. Hold a contest or raffle. This is a great way to get customers involved with your business and increase foot traffic.
  4. Team up with another local business and offer discounts for people who have a receipt from your partner store (and vice versa). You can make it a complementary business (such as a toy store and a children's clothing boutique) or just base the partnership on proximity (such as a restaurant next to a movie theater).
  5. Add entertainment to your store. Take it one step beyond holiday decor and music by actually hosting musicians, storytellers, face painters or magicians—whatever makes sense for your business. Promote the performance online and with outside signage to attract passersby.
  6. Display art from local artists on your walls (and let customers buy it). You can change the offerings every few weeks to keep it fresh. Have an art opening with invitations and refreshments whenever you add a new artist.
  7. Create a photo op. Get creative with holiday photos with Santa. They’re not just for kids: Set up a time for pets to have their photos taken too. Don’t have room for Santa photos in your location? Team up with other local businesses and your Chamber of Commerce and find a space nearby that can host Santa (and drive traffic to your businesses in the process). For example, on one retail shopping street near me, Santa greets children in front of a local bank every year.
  8. Teach your customers how to do something holiday-related. Holiday crafts, a gift wrap clinic, or lessons in cooking a special holiday dish are all ideas for holiday how-tos.
  9. Hold special holiday hours. Your customers have busy lives, and you're competing with e-commerce businesses that are open 24/7. Expand your hours if possible to accommodate as many customers as you can. Be sure to promote the extended holiday hours on your website.
  10. Get social. In addition to promoting all your sales and events on social media, you can also share useful tips related to your business. For example, a retailer could share various gift guides (such as gifts for teachers, grandparents, boyfriends). A catering company could share ideas for party planning and decor. A carpet cleaning business could suggest ways for making a house guest-ready (including, of course, cleaning the carpets).
  11. Hold VIP events for your best customers. Tap into your customer data to determine which customers are your big spenders. Then hold events just for them, such as an after-hours sale where your store is open only for VIPs or a holiday open house.
  12. Develop special holiday-themed offers. For instance, an auto service station could offer a “Going to Grandma's House” tune-up to get the car in shape before a long trip. A hair salon can promote a “New Year’s Party Package” to do people’s makeup and hair on New Year’s Eve day.
  13. Use socially responsible marketing. Choose a local charitable organization to help for the holiday season. You can donate a percentage of sales from one day, or all proceeds from one specific product purchase, to that charity.
  14. Think of the children. Your neighborhood undoubtedly has at least one charity organization that provides holiday gifts to underprivileged children. Get your customers to participate by making donations or donating gifts they buy at your store.
  15. Get customers to gift themselves. Most people end up buying at least a few presents for themselves while they’re doing their holiday shopping. Capitalize on this tendency by offering specials to encourage it, such as “buy one, get one free” or “buy one, get one for a friend.”
  16. Give away free gifts with purchases over certain amounts. This is a great way to encourage customers to spend a little bit more than they otherwise would.  You can even offer different gifts at different spending levels, such as a small gift for a purchase of $50 and a larger gift for purchases over $100.
  17. Sell gift certificates or gift cards. Gift cards are perennially one of the most popular gift ideas for holiday shoppers. If your store isn’t already offering them, you’re missing out on a huge potential source of income. Put gift cards close to the checkout register and promote them with signage throughout your store.
  18. Sponsor or participate in holiday-related events in the community, such as a Christmas parade or New Year's Day fun run. You can donate money, product, or have a presence at the event, such as a restaurant selling refreshments at a parade.
  19. Do a “12 Days of Christmas” or “Countdown to Christmas” promotion with something different every day. For example, you can offer 50 percent off a different popular product or menu item each day, a different gift with purchase each day or a different percentage off the total purchase each day.
  20. Use direct mail. Most people are swamped with promotional emails at the holidays. Stand out from the pack by using direct mail. Keep costs down by mailing postcards. You can even send out gift cards, such as a card good for $15 off a $75 purchase—these often motivate customers more than percentage off coupons do.
  21. Distribute door hangers to targeted households in local neighborhoods.  If your business is very neighborhood-oriented, such as a restaurant that delivers, door hangers can create awareness among your target customers.
  22. Use time-sensitive offers. During the holidays, everyone is shopping on a deadline—whether that's Christmas, Hanukkah or just the day of a holiday party they’re planning to attend.  That makes time-sensitive offers especially effective.

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

Tax Credit for Hiring Veterans

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: November 10, 2016 Updated: November 10, 2016

Many employers have come to learn that veterans make excellent employees. They usually are easily trainable and possess desirable characteristics, such as honesty, loyalty, and responsibility. If these attributes were not enough to induce employers to hire veterans, the tax law offers even more. The tax law encourages employers to hire certain targeted groups of workers by offering a tax credit tied to the wages of these new employees, and certain veterans are treated as a targeted group. Here are the special rules to know when hiring so that you may take credit where credit is due.

Which veterans qualify?

As a small business owner, you qualify for the work opportunity tax credit (WOTC) if you hire a veteran who falls into any of the following categories:

  • Having a service-related disability
  • Unemployed for a specified period
  • Receiving SNAP (food stamp) benefits

However, even if a veteran does not fall within any of these categories, he or she may still be a member of another targeted group. This would still allow you to take a tax credit. For example, a veteran who has been a member of a family that received TANF payments for at least 18 consecutive months is treated as a member of a targeted group for long-term family assistance recipients.

What is the tax credit amount?

The tax credit reduces your tax bill dollar-for-dollar, so each $1 of WOTC saves you $1 in taxes. The credit is based on the amount of wages paid to an eligible veteran in the first year of employment. The maximum tax credit is based on a set percentage of maximum first-year wages, which is fixed by law, and the number of hours worked. For example, for veterans, the basic percentage of first-year wages is 25% for those who worked at least 120 hours but fewer than 400 hours; it is 40% for those who worked at least 400 hours.

The maximum credit for a veteran working at least 400 hours is:

  • Service-related disability and unemployed at least 6 months in the year ending in the hiring year: $9,600 ($24,000 in wages x 40%).
  • Service-related disability and hired within 1 year of discharge or release from active duty: $4,800 ($12,000 in wages x 40%)
  • Unemployed at least 6 months: $5,600 ($14,000 in wages x 40%)
  • Unemployed at least 4 weeks: $2,400 ($6,000 in wages x 40%)
  • Receiving SNAP benefits: $2,400 ($6,000 in wages x 40%)

There is no limit on the number of eligible employees you can hire for the credit. For example, if you hire 3 veterans with service-related disabilities who are unemployed at least 6 months, your credit is $28,800 ($9,600 x 3).

The WOTC is set to run through 2019, and you can take the credit year after year as you expand the size of your staff. Thus, even if you take a tax credit for hiring a veteran in 2016, you can do so again next year.

Other rules

Being eligible for the credit isn’t enough to claim it on your return. To take the tax credit, you must submit IRS Form 8850 to your state workforce agency within 28 days of the first day of employment. Also submit ETA Form 9061, or ETA Form 9062 if the employee has already been conditionally certified as belonging to a targeted group at the same time. The purpose of these submissions is to confirm that your new employee is indeed a member of a targeted group.

The credit is claimed on IRS Form 5884, which is attached to the employer’s income tax return.


When hiring, keep the WOTC in the back of your mind. While it may not be a primary factor in making a hiring decision, it may just be the tipping point in favor of one applicant over another.

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

A Brief Guide to Fixing an Incomplete, Outdated or Incorrect Credit Report

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: November 9, 2016

One of the first steps to identifying any issues on your credit report is becoming aware of the information being reported as fast as possible. This is why it is recommended that you review your personal credit reports on a regular basis.

As you know a credit report contains detailed information on your credit history and activity. The consumer credit reporting agencies are businesses that collect this data from public records, lenders and creditors with whom you have accounts with.

Credit reporting agencies then sell your report to creditors, insurers, employers, and other companies that use it to review your applications for credit, insurance, employment, or other financing needs. Because the information on your report affects so many aspects of your life it’s crucial that the information is accurate, complete, and up-to-date.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) released a report stating that Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion each have more than 200 million files on consumers. In a typical month, they receive updates from approximately 10,000 information “furnishers,” which are the entities that supply data on consumers. The furnishers do this on more than 1.3 billion “trade lines,” which are individual information sources on a consumer report such as a consumer’s accounts for a car loan, mortgage loan, or credit card.

With all the enormous amounts of data being furnished mistakes do happen. The Federal Trade Commission 2012 study found that one in five consumers had an error that was corrected by a credit reporting agency (CRA) after it was disputed on at least one of their three credit reports. The study also found that about 20 percent of consumers who identified errors on one of their three major credit reports experienced an increase in their credit score that resulted in a decrease in their credit risk tier, making them more likely to be offered a lower auto loan interest rate.

So how do you order your personal credit report?

The Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA) requires that each of the major consumer credit reporting agencies – Experian, Transunion, and Equifax – provide you with a copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months absolutely free.

To request a free copy of your credit report visit You can request your reports from each of the major consumer credit reporting companies at the same time, or you can order from only one or two if you prefer.

What steps do you take if you discover any incomplete, outdated or incorrect information?

Contact both the credit reporting agency and creditor that provided the information to the agency. Both of them are responsible for correcting any information that is incorrect or incomplete under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The good news is all three credit reporting agencies now allow you to submit disputes online. To get started go to each credit reporting agency’s website and follow the online instructions to initiate an investigation. Remember, a credit reporting agency is legally required to investigate your dispute and will typically do so within 30 days of receiving the notification.

Ultimately, you are responsible for ensuring that the information being reported on your credit report is accurate and up-to-date. It’s up to you to clear up any mistakes so it’s essential to stay on top of your credit reports and monitor them on a regular basis. Consider a credit monitoring service so you can receive alerts to any new changes to your credit reports and scores. 

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 Community, and All His articles and blog; Business Credit, 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’.

Veterans Business Outreach Centers Success Stories

By Barbara Carson, SBA Official
Published: November 3, 2016 Updated: November 3, 2016

During National Veterans Small Business Week, the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Office of Veterans Business Development is highlighting three outstanding veteran entrepreneurs who received training at a Veterans Business Outreach Center (VBOC). 

VBOC Success Story: Ray Jardine



Dr. Ray Jardine, Jr.

Position and Company:

Chairman, CEO & President, Native Hawaiian Veterans, LLC (NHV)

Service History: 

U.S. Army, Colonel (ret.)

SBA Programs used:


VBOC, SBA Loans, 7J, training, seminars, Mentor-Protégé Program, HUBZone, 8(a)


How did your service have an impact on your path to entrepreneurship?

Being an enlisted soldier, then becoming a non-commissioned officer, and finally a commissioned officer provided me the people and leadership skills to become an entrepreneur.  The training and schools I attended also allowed me to deal with adversity and problem solving.

Tell us about your company.

In 2005, we built a resilient company and increased revenue every year for 11 consecutive years, expanding worldwide with work in 20 countries, 50 states and four territories. We advocated for other Hawaii small businesses, Native Hawaiian-owned companies, veteran-owned small businesses and service-disabled small businesses in Hawaii and on the mainland.  We have grown NHV to be one of the top 250 companies in Hawaii.

What advice would you give a veteran, service member, or military spouse who is thinking about starting a business?

Be, Know and Do the following:

  • Have a vision and work hard.  In other words, have a strong work ethic
  • Be ambitious. Be a calculated risk taker
  • Grow your knowledge, skills and those around you
  • Perseverance.  This is not for the meek!  Apply the Kina’ole approach: Doing the right thing, in the right way, at the right time, in the right place, to the right person, for the right reason, with the right feeling – The First Time!


VBOC Success Story: Staci Redmon



Staci Redmon

Position and Company:

President and CEO, Strategy and Management Services (SAMS)

Service History: 

U.S. Army, Sergeant

SBA Programs used:


VBOC, Patriot Express, Veteran-to-Veteran-Entrepreneur Group (V2VE), Procurement Technical Assistance Centers, Small Business Development Centers, SCORE, Veterans Institute for Procurement, and Community Business Partnership (CBP).


How did your service have an impact on your path to entrepreneurship?

I believe that veterans are well suited for entrepreneurship. In the military we learn and develop behaviors such as leadership, strategic planning, creative problem-solving, task execution, and resiliency—all traits essential to business ownership.  Veterans are not afraid to take risks and we understand perseverance like no one else. 

Tell us about your company.

SAMS has achieved significant growth since its inception in 2008 to over 120 employees at 26 locations throughout the United States and internationally. SAMS has been listed on Washington Technology’s Fast 50 for three years in a row and has received the SmartCEO Future 50 award twice.

What advice would you give a veteran, service member, or military spouse who is thinking about starting a business?

Ask questions.  Find the resources.  Never give up!  We have all overcome so many challenges in our lifetimes.  Never give up and have patience and persistence.


VBOC Success Story: Quiana Gainey



Quiana Gainey

Position and Company:

Owner, Securetech360

Service History: 

U.S. Air Force, Staff Sergeant

SBA Programs used:




How did your service have an impact on your path to entrepreneurship?

The military helped me realize that entrepreneurship was possible by introducing me to my first leadership classes.

Tell us about your company.

SecureTech360 was started in 2010 based on a former employer encouraged me to go after my dreams.  We are an IT & cybersecurity firm that has had 300 percent growth in the last three years with the assistance of the Northern Virginia Community Business Partnership and the Small Business Development Center  in Springfield, Virginia.  Their mentorship and classes were key to us winning our first contract, learning how to manage our finances and assisting us with putting together a business and marketing plan.

What advice would you give a veteran, service member, or military spouse who is thinking about starting a business?

Don't be afraid to take a risk.  Utilize the SBA and other SBDC opportunities to learn more about the type of business you want to start. And it may sound too simple, but use the Nike motto and "Just Do It."


Celebrate National Veterans Small Business Week by visiting and learn more about resources built to support your entrepreneurship success. Join the conversation online using #MyVetBiz.


About the Author:

Barbara Carson
Barbara Carson

SBA Official

Barbara Carson is the Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development.

We're Fighting for Veterans this National Veterans Small Business Week

By Barbara Carson, SBA Official
Published: November 2, 2016

Our veterans and military families deserve our utmost respect and gratitude for their service. At the same time, their government has a responsibility to serve them as well as they have served us.

They fought for the American dream – now it’s up to us to help them achieve it.

From October 31 to November 4, Joining Forces and the U.S. Small Business Administration are celebrating National Veterans Small Business Week by highlighting the many ways we are working to help build bridges to the future our veterans deserve – while tapping into the skills, values and abilities they honed as members of the finest military in the world.

The U.S. military has a global reputation for producing leaders who are: disciplined, motivated, focused, risk-tolerant, resistant to stress, and accustomed to constantly changing roles and responsibilities.

These happen to be the same traits that describe the most successful small business owners.

1 in 10 business owners in America is a veteran.

Nearly 6 million Americans owe their job to a vet.

And veteran-owned businesses produce annual sales north of a trillion dollars a year.

We want to continue to build on that economic, job-creating power by helping the nearly 200,000 service members that continue to transition each year and their families turn their dreams into reality.

Michael Sacks, an active duty service member in the U.S. Navy, launched his dream of starting his own brewery, by enrolling in an SBA Boots to Business class before his military retirement date. We’re proud to say that Michael is one of 50,000 service members and military spouses to participate in our B2B entrepreneurial counseling and training program since January 2013 – and Bold Mariner Brewing Company is now a thriving business in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Torrance Hart, also active duty, in the U.S. Air Force, reached out to her local Veterans Business Center to help launch her custom gift box business Teak & Twine. The customized advice she received, with business counselors who helped her fine tune her supply line and promote her website, helped her to grow her business.

These are just a few examples of the ways that we supporting our nation’s heroes.

We also help veterans and service members gain access to the capital they need to launch and grow their businesses – in fiscal year 2016, the SBA guaranteed nearly $1 billion in loans to veterans. We are working to increase these numbers by continuing to zero out all bank fees to veterans on loans of $350,000 or less – while cutting the fees in half for larger loans.

In addition, we help ensure that Uncle Sam does business with veteran-owned businesses and, over the past four fiscal years, we’ve surpassed our 3 percent procurement goal for service-disabled veterans.

We believe that this goal must be our floor and not our ceiling. Our Veterans Institute for Procurement (VIP), an in-residence training program that focuses on procurement, aims to give more veterans the training and resources they need to do work with the government.

Our Boots to Business program is just one of our specialized counseling programs for service members, veterans and their families. Veteran Women Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship (V-WISE), a program offered in partnership with the Institute for Veterans and Military Families, provides resources for women veterans, active duty and female family members to become entrepreneurs. The service-Disabled Entrepreneurship Development Training Program (SDVETP) supports organizations that deliver entrepreneurship training to service-disables veterans who own or aspire to own their own businesses. 

All this is done in coordination with our Veterans Business Outreach Centers, one-stop shops located nationwide that work hard to give our veterans everything they need to find entrepreneurial success.  

Across the country, veterans, service members and their families are continuing with their legacy of service. This week, and in the weeks to come, we hope to spread the message that their government is here to help build a better future for them, their families and our nation.

You can share your veteran small business success story or show your appreciation for veteran entrepreneurs by joining the conversation at #MyVetBiz.

For more information about NVSBW events visit or to learn more about opportunities for veterans available through the SBA visit  

About the Author:

Barbara Carson
Barbara Carson

SBA Official

Barbara Carson is the Associate Administrator for the U.S. Small Business Administration Office of Veterans Business Development.


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