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Is It Time to End Your Business Partnership? Here's How

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: September 16, 2013 Updated: September 16, 2013

Partnerships fail for many reasons. Misalignment of personality is possibly the first reason that springs to mind, but according to Michigan law firm Family & Aging Law Center , the two most common reasons that business partnerships fail is 1) failure to make an adequate plan, and 2) more importantly, from a legal perspective, failure to have a written partnership agreement that outlines in detail the partnership structure.

Why is the partnership agreement so important? Most partnership agreements are written up at the beginning of the business venture and outline how the partners will run the business – how business decisions are made, how responsibilities are divided, how disagreements will be resolved and so forth. A good one will also include a dissolution strategy, like a prenuptial agreement. Although not required by law, it can be extremely risky to operate without one. Essentially, a good agreement brings structure and agreement to the partnership – without one, partnerships run the risk of being run like separate businesses within the business, with each partner doing (or not doing) their own thing!

Without a partnership agreement, dissolving a partnership can get nasty and carry a lot of risk. For example, if a partner isn’t paying bills on time or making regular contributions to pay off a business loan. Lapses and disagreements like these can quickly spiral out of control and impact your creditworthiness, relationships with vendors and so on.

Even if you do have a partnership agreement, you are carrying an element of shared liability. Each partner is liable for the actions of the business, its debts, and of course, you also have to split profits.

So what are your options when it comes to dissolving a partnership that’s gone bad? Here are some considerations to bear in mind for those who have partnership agreements and those who don’t:

  1. Change the weighting of the partnership agreement

You don’t have to dissolve the partnership entirely. Perhaps you might change the weighting of the partnership so that you assume a majority share and with it more control over decisions and/or finances, while your partner agrees to remain involved, but to a lesser extent than currently.

  1. Buy out your partner or sell your share

If you want to continue the business, you could buy your partner’s share, or sell yours if you want out but your partner doesn’t.

  1. Legally dissolve the partnership

If you have a partnership agreement, revisit it and review your dissolution plan. Then take a look at the current state of your business to ensure a clean break. For example, have all partners completed all agreed duties? What’s your business worth (use a third party valuation firm to help pinpoint this number)? What about leases, loans, and other contracts – how will the dissolution affect them and who will own the continued liability?

As you can see, there are many considerations, so make sure you consult a lawyer to help protect your interests in any dissolution or restructuring of the partnership. They can also help draft a dissolution agreement that protects you from future disputes or claims that may be brought against you.

It’s also important to note that any dissolution of that partnership is governed by state law. Visit your state’s website for more information about the process and the forms you’ll need. It can take up to 90 days for the dissolution to become official. Once your partnership is dissolved, you can typically expect each partner to assume business assets and liabilities based on percentage of ownership.

  1. When there’s no partnership agreement

If you didn’t have a partnership agreement that outlined a dissolution strategy, try to work out terms together. If not, an intermediary may be able to help you resolve your dispute through mediation. Many law firms offer these services. Your final resort is a court-dictated decision which could be costly and may not provide the result you were looking for. Courts often divide assets and liabilities 50-50 regardless of any disputes.

Other factors to consider

Don’t forget to let the IRS and state revenue office know that you are no longer in partnership the next time you file a return. Notify customers, vendors and others that your business structure has changed or dissolved. You’ll also need to take care of other loose ends such as business licenses, permits and canceling a trade name or “doing business as” name with your local government. Refer to SBA’s Closing Your Business guide for more information.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

3 Signs That Social Media Might Not Be the Right Fit for Your Small Business

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: September 9, 2013 Updated: September 12, 2016

Small-business social media use has become a barometer of our times for industry analysts who are eager to gauge the impact the economy and new technologies have on the way small firms do business.

And despite a few sluggish years, the latest data suggests that small businesses are turning to social media in droves in an effort to increase sales (source: Forbes and Manta). The problem is, no matter how much time they spend, some small businesses are not reaping rewards.

Why is this? The problem is that small businesses are expecting leads and sales, and while social media can definitely be a lead generator, Forbes reports that the expectations that small businesses have of social media is completely out of whack with how they are actually using it. Setting up a social media page, then posting promotions and events and hoping the sales will follow just isn’t going to cut it. Social media is not another direct marketing channel; it’s a patience game. It’s a place to answer customer service questions, to get to know your followers and build community.

But the question, “What should I be doing on social media?” is one that won’t go away for small business owners, eager to take advantage of Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites. So if you’ve ever asked what your business should be doing on social media, take a step back and consider whether it’s actually a good fit for your business at this point in time.

To help you decide, here are some signs that social media may not be right for your small business:

Do you have a website?

Do you have a website to act as a hub of information and back up your social media presence? Social media should never be considered the be all and end all of your online presence. If a user can’t find out more about who you are or what you sell online, then don’t get social. In addition, your website functions as a repository of other content that supports your social media strategy – blogs, white papers, and ebooks should all be housed on your website and then amplified and shared on social media networks. Your website is also home to lead capture devices that you promote on social media such as your newsletter sign-up page, customer surveys, event registration pages and so on.

Bottom line: a website lends your business and your social media presence credibility. Build that first before you get social. 

How are your other marketing activities doing?

Think of social media as the outer circle of your marketing efforts (your website is at the core). Between the two, there are a number of marketing must-haves that you should put in place before you get going on social media. Social media may be free, but it only works as part of a wider, integrated marketing strategy.

  • Get your logos and brand imagery in order – Make sure you have and are happy with your company logo and any other brand imagery that you use and that they are implemented consistently across all your marketing materials. Sounds obvious, but growing small businesses can sometimes go through frequent iterations of their corporate look as they try to establish a brand identity. Google Plus, Facebook and Pinterest are highly visual, so it’s important to get it right.
  • Claim your profile on search listing profiles – If you are a local business, claim your listing on Google Plus, Bing, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, etc. When people search for your business or the types of services you offer online, these listings are likely to show up prominently and help you get found. Add basic information to build out your profile.  Don’t forget to add your personal profile to LinkedIn, too.
  • Start a newsletter – eNewsletters are a great way to connect directly with those who want to hear about your business. You have a captive audience there; your message is delivered to their inbox and allows for a deeper conversation. It’s also a useful tool to help you spread the word about your social media presence.

Do you have the staff and resources to support social media?

Social media is a commitment that you shouldn’t take lightly. It may be free, but if you are going to be successful at it, you need to commit the right resources. Getting online once or twice a day and posting an update isn’t enough. If you want social media to work for you as a lead generator, then you’ll need to throw some headcount at it – someone who can write blogs, search and listen to what is being said about your industry, your business and your products or services. Someone who can gauge and track what type of content people are responding to.

I mentioned earlier that answering customer service questions is going to be a big part of  your social media efforts. This means that whoever is monitoring and posting content needs to be qualified – they don’t need to be a social media whiz, but they should know something about your company, its values, goals and customers.

Furthermore, be prepared to involve them in team meetings so they are informed about all elements of the business. In the same vein, make sure that each department – from sales to billing to product development ­– are aware and engaged with your social media efforts so that they can provide the appropriate responses to issues, learn from feedback and hear what the customers are saying.

Social media is not just some throwaway marketing strategy; it’s a public face of the company. So be prepared to understand the commitment you are making.

Related Articles

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

Can Your Retirement Plan Own Your Business?

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: August 30, 2013

You may have built up considerable money in your 401(k) at a job or in your IRA and now you want to start a business or turn your sideline venture into a full-time activity. Can you use the money in your retirement account as capital for your business without incurring a tax bill? If you follow the rules carefully, the answer is a qualified yes.

ROBS

Rollovers as Business Startups (ROBS) are a way to optimize the use of money in your retirement account as a funding mechanism to start a business. It works if you have a 401(k) or other qualified retirement plan account with a balance that’s sufficient for your funding needs and you adhere to the tax rules.

Here’s how a ROBS operates: You incorporate your new business and have that corporation set up a qualified retirement plan (usually a profit-sharing plan permitted under the terms of the plan to invest in employer stock). Then you roll over your 401(k) or other retirement account to the new retirement plan (the rollover is tax free). That plan then buys shares in your corporation (i.e., the plan becomes an owner of your business). What ROBS does:

  • Avoids immediate taxation on retirement plan funds. If you wanted to use the funds without the rollover, the distribution from the 401(k) would be immediately taxable, leaving you less after tax to invest in your company.
  • Provides funding for the new company. Regardless of your credit rating or any other factors, you gain access to the money needed to get started.

Downside to ROBS. While there are benefits to this funding mechanism, there are drawbacks to consider:

  • Putting retirement savings at risk. All of your eggs are in one basket; if the business fails, you lose your livelihood and your retirement savings.
  • Increased IRS scrutiny. The IRS’ Employee Plans Compliance Unit ran an audit project that concluded in 2010 to help identify sponsors (promoters) of ROBS that may be noncompliant with tax rules. Since owners of many of the new retirement plans examined by the IRS did not make any new contributions to the plans, these arrangements were dubious. If the IRS can successfully challenge the ROBS, all of the funds rolled over would be a taxable distribution.
  • Costs. You should use a company that specializes in ROBS. Such a company usually charges a hefty fee for helping to set up and administer the arrangement. And there’s annual reporting for the plan.

Annual filing. Qualified retirement plans, such as the new plan set up in the ROBS, are required to file an annual information return in the Form 5500 series. There is an exemption in the requirement to file if the assets of the plan are less than $250,000. However, this exemption does not apply to ROBS. The exemption applies to plans of businesses owned by an individual (or individual and spouse). In the case of ROBS, the plan, not the individual, owns the business. Thus, you must see to it that the plan files annually, regardless of the amount of assets within the plan.

Use a ROBS? While the IRS has concluded that ROBS are not abusive tax avoidance transactions per se, they can be disqualified if they are not properly administered. If you are considering a ROBS, be sure to have your own tax advisor review a sponsor’s program.

IRAs

ROBS are not the only way to own stock in a company you control. You can use a self-directed IRA for this purpose. The IRA can own stock in any publicly-traded or closely-held corporation. But watch for traps that can be viewed as prohibited transactions. These transactions cause the IRA to become disqualified and all of the funds in it immediately taxable to you. Before you do any transaction in your IRA, run it by your tax advisor, something one IRA owner, who was the subject of a recent Tax Court case, failed to do.

In the case, an IRA owner had his account buy shares in a corporation that he set up. That corporation (“corporation A”) then bought shares in another corporation (“corporation B”) with cash and a note guaranteed by the IRA owner. B flourished and A sold the shares for a considerable profit. According to the Tax Court, the personal guarantee of the A’s debt amounted to an indirect extension of credit to the IRA, which is a prohibited transaction. The result to this IRA owner was that all of the gain that A reaped was taxable to him (and not tax-deferred in the IRA).

Conclusion

It may be tempting to use funds in retirement plans to buy businesses. But caution is advised. The tax savings and ready access to cash—the benefits—may not work out. You could face a big tax bill, and even worse, lose your retirement savings.

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

Small Business Exporting – Insights from National Small Business Week

By kmurray, Contributor and Moderator
Published: August 14, 2013 Updated: August 26, 2016

“When you – as a small business – export, you strengthen our economy back here at home and help create real jobs for real people.” –Cory Simkek, Director, USEAC (Dept. of Commerce) St. Louis, MO

This year, small businesses across the country were celebrated during the 50th National Small Business Week, an annual event acknowledging the contributions of America’s entrepreneurs. Of the many topics discussed during the sessions, expert panels and Google + Hangouts, insights about exporting abounded during the daily “Growing and Going Global” panels.

So, how can you take your business to the next level by selling overseas? What do you need to be successful in exporting? What resources are available to help your small business export endeavors? These experts came together to answer these questions and more. Here are highlights from their discussions.

What kind of help can I find – especially if I’m in the early stages of exploring exporting options for my small business?

The value of mentoring and networking can’t be overstated. Many of the panelists encouraged aspiring exporters to reach out to their local resources for expert help from SCORE and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). The skilled volunteers at these organizations provide counseling and guidance – at no cost to you – to help you get started or guide you in the right direction toward export success. You can use SBA’s Local Assistance Tool to find your nearest office.

Another resource mentioned during the session in Seattle came from Pru Balatero, Washington Regional Manager of SBA International Finance Programs. He’s a fan of the “Take Your Business Global” training course, available in the online Learning Center. It can help you generate questions that you may not have previously thought of before you meet with a potential mentor or program representative, he explained.

Danielle Ellingston of the Washington Department of Commerce STEP Grant Program touted the benefits of visiting business.usa.gov/Export and using its “Country Commercial Guides” to help you conduct research. Business.usa.gov/export offers information about trade shows, training, finances and more.

Are there financial resources or programs available to help my exporting efforts?

Yes! SBA has a number of programs to help, and again Balatero gave us the scoop. The International Trade Loan Program (ITL) provides small businesses with financing options for a combination of fixed asset, working capital and related debt refinancing. Do you need additional equipment, machinery or improved facilities to meet an order request? The ITL can help.

Are you looking for working capital to support labor or to buy raw materials to produce more of your product? The Export Working Capital (EWCP) loan can be tailored specifically to a purchase order, contract or multiple contracts on a revolving line of credit basis. It also has a quick processing time.

John Brislin, Director of Seattle’s Regional Office of Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank, also shed some light on products available to help finance and in insure your exports. The Ex-Im Bank website has a section devoted to small business owners, so check out the programs and offerings they have, including Global Credit Express (a working capital line of credit) and various trade credit insurance options.

These SBA programs can help you access the capital you need to export, and the bank will also help you work through other questions you may have about your finances and exporting. On the St. Louis panel, we heard a few examples. For instance, what are your precise capital and cash flow needs? To what extent is there foreign exchange risk? What happens if things don’t go as planned? You can discuss these kinds of issues with your bank to mitigate the credit and foreign exchange risks you’ll face as a seller.

How can I best prepare for when I use one of these resources?

“What’s critical to understand is that when you go to one of these resources – whether it be a mentor or organizations that have the resources you need to complete that transaction – is that you be prepared to effectively talk with them.” – Terry Chambers, SBDC, International Trade, Export Readiness Center

“Do your homework,” says Ellingston. Make sure you really know your product or service that you’re planning to export. Have an idea of the market you want to go into and make sure to have done research. Get a good sense of where you want to go so your mentors and advisors can help you figure out how to get there.

A business plan was another agreed upon essential during the Seattle panel. Brislin also highlighted the importance of providing recent financial information or analysis with your plan. Wondering where to get started with yours? Check out SBA’s “Build Your Business Plan” tool, which guides you through the process of creating a basic, downloadable business plan. You can develop your plan in smaller chunks of time, save your progress and return at your leisure.

How do I figure out where I should I export my product or service?

Ellingston indicated that people generally explore exporting starting with countries they’re familiar with, where they have spent time growing up or have family. This is a good place to start, she says, but you should also be aware that there might be other markets that are a better fit for your product. Ask yourself: Where have I been successful already? Where does that market exist elsewhere in terms of GDP per capita, culture of the people, what kinds of products those people are looking for, etc.? Again, check out Business.usa.gov’s “Country Commercial Guides” to help you examine your market.

Another way you can gain insight about where there may be success – or where you should maybe avoid exporting – is by checking out industry association meetings, according to Brislin. And Tony Clayton of Clayton Agri-Marketing, Inc. suggested also attending trade shows. See who’s there, what kind of products they’re exporting and find out what problems they’re facing. With everyone in one place for a few days, he said, it’s a great time to learn secrets and gain insight about market interests.  

 

Additional Resources:

About the Author:

kmurray
Katie Murray

Contributor and Moderator

I am an author and moderator for the the SBA.gov Community. I'll share useful information for your entrepreneurial endeavors and help point you in the right direction to find other resources for your small business needs. Thanks for joining our online community here at SBA.gov!

Maternity Leave Benefits – What Are Your Small Business Obligations and Options?

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: July 31, 2013 Updated: September 15, 2016

Do you know what your legal obligations are to provide maternity leave to your employees? There are laws that dictate what maternity leave benefits you should be providing to your employees. However, they don’t apply to all business owners.

For example, under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), certain companies are required to provide unpaid, job-protected leave for family and medical reasons with continuation of group health insurance under the same terms and conditions as if the employee had not taken leave. This includes 12 workweeks of leave for the birth and care of a child in its first year.

However, FMLA only applies to companies with more than 50 employees – a fact that excludes many small businesses and their employees. 

Federal law aside, your state may have more favorable laws for maternity leave. In California, for example, women may collect state temporary disability payments of about two thirds of their wages for the time during which they're physically disabled due to pregnancy and childbirth (usually six to eight weeks). To find out what laws apply in your state, check out this list of State Pregnancy, Childbirth, and Adoption Leave Statutes published by the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Should You Provide Maternity Leave if the Law Doesn’t Require It?

If your business is not covered by FMLA or state laws, what steps can you take to ensure that employees get the appropriate level of maternity leave?

Providing maternity leave is a smart option for small businesses.  Even if FMLA does not apply to you, according to a U.S. Department of Labor survey, providing both maternity and medical leave is proven to make a positive impact on the lives workers without placing an undue burden on employers. Abuse of these policies is also much lower than expected, and 90 percent of workers return to their jobs after taking FMLA leave.

Setting a Maternity Leave Policy

If you decide to offer maternity leave benefits (and assuming you don’t already have to comply with federal or state maternity leave laws), the FMLA and state laws are useful models on which to base your policy. Consider the following guidelines (as set by FMLA):

  • The employee has been in your employment for at least 12 months and works a regular work week (FMLA requires an average work week of around 24 hours to be eligible, although state policies often don’t require an hourly minimum).
  • The policy applies to both men and women to give them reasonable time to bond with the child (newborn, adopted or fostered).
  • The leave must be taken as a continuous block of leave.
  • Determine the amount of time off you wish to offer and whether it will be paid, unpaid or paid in part. FMLA allows for up to 12 weeks a year. State laws vary between 6-12 weeks.

Whatever you decide, apply your policy consistently with no special favors for certain employees. Include your policy in employee handbooks and terms of employment.

If you think this will be too much of a stretch for your business, consider alternatives such as allowing new parents to work from home or part-time during the initial weeks of new parenthood.

Prepare Your Business

The thought of doing without any employee for several weeks can be daunting, but there are a few things you can do to ensure your business stays productive during an employee’s period of extended leave:

  • Get High Performers to Step Up – If someone on your team is looking for an opportunity to take on extra responsibility or has shown an aptitude for growth, consider asking them to step into the shoes of employees who take maternity leave. Plan the transition in advance and be sure to have a plan to hand back the role when the absent employee returns to work so that they don’t feel that the position is in jeopardy.
  • Cross Train – Cross training should be a key part of any business and will help your business handle the strain of short and extended leave more seamlessly. Your employees don’t need to be able to do everything; instead, spread the load by Identifying a back-up team member for certain key tasks.
  • Hire Independent Contractors – Contractors specialize in being able to come into a company and learn the ropes fast. It’s always worth building relationships with contractors across several disciplines just to ensure you have coverage – both for maternity/medical leave situations or to help out when you need an extra pair of hands.

Related Resource

 

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

10 Tips to Help You Build and Grow a Stand-Out Small Business Brand

By Caron_Beesley, Contributor
Published: July 29, 2013 Updated: March 4, 2015

The United States loves small businesses – it’s official! That’s according to a survey by the Pew Foundation (reported here on SmallBizTrends) which found that 71 percent of Americans view small business more favorably than any other institutions, including religious organizations.

Why is this? Well, small businesses are seen as a positive influence “on the way things are going in this country.” But it’s more than that.

Small businesses are in a unique position to create valuable customer experiences. Their products and services are often niche; the target customer is very defined; and business operations are agile and unconstrained by corporate rules and processes. Small businesses are also trusted for their integrity, community engagement and customer service. When was the last time you called a small business and got put through to an automated call center? These seemingly small things come together to create a hugely competitive value proposition – and are the lynchpin of your brand.

But what can you do to leverage these experiences and grow the appeal of your brand – without breaking the bank? Here are 10 tips that can help:

  1. What is Your Brand?

First, it’s important to understand that your brand is much more than your logo, merchandising or products. As I mentioned above, it is about the sum total of the experiences customers have with your business. This includes the visual elements of your business, but it also includes what you do, how you do it, what your customer interactions are like, the type of information you share in your marketing and on social media. All these elements help establish the trust and credibility of your business.

  1. Stand Out

Standing out means being different. If your brand is going to be strong, you need to be able to pinpoint what it is that makes what you do unique. What differentiates you from others in your industry? Read 5 Tips for Using Competitive Differentiators to Build Your Business Brand. Don’t forget to weave your differentiators into your company’s messaging and marketing. Here are some tips for doing that: 7 Tips for Getting your Marketing Message Right.

  1. Have Great Products and Services

Word of mouth is often a small businesses greatest lead generator, so having great products and services that people talk about is a critical part of your brand and why you are in business.  Even the most outgoing and charming small business owner is not going to succeed in bringing customers back, unless the product or service they provide delivers and exceeds expectations. Don’t lose sight of your product – keep refining it, testing new offerings, and making sure you always put product first, not the money it brings in.

  1. Make Sure Your Customers Know the Face Behind the Product

One of the biggest reasons that small businesses fail is because of the persistent absence of the business owner. You only need to look at a few episodes of business makeover TV shows like Ramsay's Kitchen Nightmares and Tabatha Takes Over to witness what can go wrong if a business is left to run itself. Without an actively engaged owner, employees lose motivation and structure, which can quickly lead to sloppy service, a poor product and customer churn. Yes, your business needs to be able to function without your constant presence, but it’s important to strike a balance – find ways to make sure your customers know you and connect with the face behind the business. Businesses really thrive when the energy of the owner is there.

  1. Get Your Name and Logo Right

This is essential to brand recognition and it’s important to get it right the first time (changing your name and logo can be costly down the road). Your logo and name should be easily recognizable and reflect the nature and tone of your business as well as appeal to your target market. I’m a dog owner, and two of my absolute favorite small businesses cater to pet owners – Woofies (my local provider of dog walking services) and Doggone Natural (a healthy pet food store). The names and logos of both these businesses reflect the personality of their brands, what they stand for, the products they offer, their market (people and their pets) and the overall tone of their businesses. When I see their logos, it makes me feel good; I feel an affinity with them – and that’s what you need to shoot for.

  1. Have a Distinct Voice

A great way to ensure your distinct brand message is delivered consistently across your business is to focus on how you and your employees interact and communicate with customers – in-person, on the phone and on social media. Not sure what your “voice” should be? Look to other brands. What do they do that you’d like to emulate? How do they greet and interact with you? What is it that they do that makes you feel good about doing business with them?

  1. Build Community Around What you Do

A successful brand is one that is trusted and respected by customers – building a strong community online and off can help you achieve this.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to do this. In fact, many successful brands concentrate almost exclusively in online and offline community building as opposed to traditional advertising. Facebook and Twitter are great outlets for this, as is your blog. Offline participation in community activities such as local events, fundraisers, charities, as well as hosting your own events such as workshops or loyal customer events, can all help you build community and extend the trust you’ve earned to your brand.

  1. Be an Advocate for Your Business – Not Just a Salesman

You don't have to be the greatest salesman to succeed in business. Selling takes many forms – and being a brand advocate gels them all together. For example, many small business owners strive to be the number one salesman, the number one cheerleader, and the number one fan of their own business (you’ve got to be excited about it if you want others to be excited too). If you are passionate about your business, be an advocate for it. Use many of the tips in this blog to make sure people understand what you do, the story behind your products, what your products have done for people, your methods and mission, and all that good stuff. Invite people in!

  1. Be Reliable

Letting your customers down by failing to live up to your own promises and brand standards can be particularly harmful for small businesses that depend heavily on referrals. The foundation of brand loyalty lies in great service – a happy customer is a loyal customer. So make sure you aren’t making promises that you can’t keep – whether you run a pizza business and pledge to deliver within 30 minutes, or are a painting contractor who promises to start a job on a Monday at 9:00 AM sharp. Stand by your promises.  

  1. Have a Value Proposition

Value, not to be mistaken with price, can help define your brand and differentiate you from the competition. This goes back to my second point about standing out. What niche do you serve? What do you do well in that niche that makes you different from everyone else? What are the emotional benefits of what you do? The answers to these questions will help define what your value is to your customers – it could be your great customer service, product quality, innovation, or any combination of these.

About the Author:

Caron_Beesley
Caron Beesley

Contributor

Caron Beesley is a small business owner, a writer, and marketing communications consultant. Caron works with the SBA.gov team to promote essential government resources that help entrepreneurs and small business owners start-up, grow and succeed. Follow Caron on Twitter: @caronbeesley

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