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4 Steps to Changing Your Business Structure

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: January 28, 2016

There are many reasons to consider a business structure change. With a different business structure, would your business be more successful? Could your sole proprietorship or partnership use more liability protection? Do you want to avoid excessive fees and bookkeeping requirements for your LLC or corporation? If your answer to any of these questions is yes you may want to reconsider your business structure. If you are considering a change to your business structure, be sure to understand all of your options and weigh the pros and cons of a switch.

1. Assess Your Options

Your business structure determines the amount of regulatory paperwork you have to file, your personal liability for business decisions and how you are taxed on your business income. Sole proprietorships, partnerships, limited liability companies, and corporations are examples of popular business structures. It is important have an understanding of each before you make the decision to change your current structure.

Learn more about business structures.  

2. Things to Consider

Businesses typically change their legal structure because of a change in business need. That might mean a need for more or different business liability, growth in your business, etc. Sole proprietorships and partnerships enjoy simple management and operations. LLCs and corporations enjoy limited liability to their personal assets.

If you are considering a switch, first reassess the pros and cons of your current business structure and weigh the importance of the following five characteristics to your business:

  • Liability
  • Taxation
  • Fees and Forms
  • Investment Needs
  • Operational Continuity  

Read more about filling and paying taxes. 

Business Liability Insurance: It’s Not One Size Fits All - Tips for Choosing the Right Coverage

3. What to Expect: Changes in Business Operations

From Sole Proprietorship or Partnership to LLC or Corporation

If you (and your partner) make the decision to change your business structure, your business will change from unlimited personal liability to limited. Expect to file more paperwork, including your articles of incorporation and bylaws. Fees and expenses will also increase.

From a LLC or Corporation to Sole Proprietorship or Partnership

Changing from an LLC or corporation to a sole proprietorship or partnership is more difficult. If you own a corporation, you must first convince shareholders to get on board with the plan and liquidate your business assets. As an LLC, you only will see changes in your tax obligations if you file as a corporation. You will need to adhere to specific state policies like licensing requirements and inform the IRS to the change, as your filing requirements will change.

4. Next Steps

  • File a DBA with your government agency.
  • Register with the IRS. You will most likely need to apply for a new Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Register with Local and State Agencies.
  • Reapply for Licenses. Some states require you to reapply for licenses when your business structure changes.
  • Notify your bank and insurance company of the change. Your bank may require you to transfer assets. Also, make sure you inform everyone you do business with, including suppliers, customers and employees, if the change affects them in any way.

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor

10 Benefits of Business Planning for all Businesses

By Tim Berry, Guest Blogger
Published: January 26, 2016 Updated: February 1, 2016

It's a shame that so many people think business plans are just for startups, or to back up loan applications, or for getting investors. The truth is that business planning offers serious benefits for everybody in business.

And I'd like to point out that none of these benefits require a big formal business plan document. A lean business plan (as in What Business Plan Type is Best for Me) is usually enough. It takes an hour or two to do the first plan, then just an hour or two to review and revise monthly.

Here are those top ten benefits.

  1. See the whole business. Business planning done right connects the dots in your business so you get a better picture of the whole. Strategy is supposed to relate to tactics with strategic alignment. Does that show up in your plan? Do your sales connect to your sales and marketing expenses? Are your products right for your target market? Are you covering costs including long-term fixed costs, product development, and working capital needs as well? Take a step back and look at the larger picture.
  2. Strategic Focus. Startups and small business need to focus on their special identities, their target markets, and their products or services tailored to match.
  3. Set priorities. You can't do everything. Business planning helps you keep track of the right things, and the most important things. Allocate your time, effort, and resources strategically.
  4. Manage change. With good planning process you regularly review assumptions, track progress, and catch new developments so you can adjust. Plan vs. actual analysis is a dashboard, and adjusting the plan is steering.
  5. Develop accountability. Good planning process sets expectations and tracks results. It's a tool for regular review of what's expected and what happened. Good work shows up. Disappointments show up too. A well-run monthly plan review with plan vs. actual included becomes an impromptu review of tasks and accomplishments.  
  6. Manage cash. Good business planning connects the dots in cash flow. Sometimes just watching profits is enough. But when sales on account, physical products, purchasing assets, or repaying debts are involved, cash flow takes planning and management. Profitable businesses suffer when slow-paying clients or too much inventory constipate cash flow. A plan helps you see the problem and adjust to it. 
  7. Strategic alignment. Does your day-to-day work fit with your main business tactics? Do those tactics match your strategy? If so, you have strategic alignment. If not, the business planning will bring up the hidden mismatches. For example, if you run a gourmet restaurant that has a drive-through window, you're out of alignment.
  8. Milestones. Good business planning sets milestones you can work towards. These are key goals you want to achieve, like reaching a defined sales level, hiring that sales manager, or opening the new location. We're human. We work better when we have visible goals we can work towards.
  9. Metrics. Put your performance indicators and numbers to track into a business plan where you can see them monthly in the plan review meeting. Figure out the numbers that matter. Sales and expenses usually do, but there are also calls, trips, seminars, web traffic, conversion rates, returns, and so forth. Use your business planning to define and track the key metrics.
  10. Realistic regular reminders to keep on track. We all want to do everything for our customers, but sometimes we need to push back to maintain quality and strategic focus. It's hard, during the heat of the everyday routine, to remember the priorities and focus. The business planning process becomes a regular reminder. 

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 .

7 Ways to Improve Your Website Homepage

By smallbiztrends, Guest Blogger
Published: January 21, 2016 Updated: February 27, 2019

Your website is your virtual place of business.  Just like your regular place of business, you want it to be neat, clean, attractive, inviting and professional looking.

Here are 7 low cost ways to improve a homepage to meet today's standards -- and they may be easier than you think.

1. Freshen the Content Regularly

Just yesterday I saw a restaurant website highlighting its Thanksgiving menu -- and it’s January! That restaurant had a great idea to add a special seasonal menu to the front page. However, they didn’t execute well, and let it stay up too long. Schedule a monthly reminder to check your website and update the content on the homepage.

2. Make Sure It Has a Call to Action

Ask yourself: what’s the top action you want visitors to your website to take?  Here are three examples of common calls to action:

  • Sign up for your email list - When people sign up for your email list, you create an ongoing connection allowing you to market to them. Most email marketing software (e.g., MailChimp which is free for small lists, or Constant Contact) offer an easy way to insert a signup box.
  • Shop in your e-Commerce store - If you sell products online, either embed pictures of a few products on your homepage to entice buyers to click through, or add a prominent “Shop Now” button.
  • Fill out a lead form - If you sell services instead of products, encourage visitors to fill out what’s called a lead form. It captures contact information so you can follow up.

3. Add Contact Information Prominently

Examine your homepage objectively. Are you making visitors hunt or guess to figure out how to reach you?

Many small businesses add contact information in the header or footer of every page. At a minimum, include an email address and phone number. If you receive customers at your location, add your address. If you’d rather use a separate “Contact” page, add a large prominent link to your Contact page.

4. Add Images and/or Video

Look at your home page. Is it text heavy?  Images break up big blocks of text -- and they are more inviting to visitors. Include at least one photograph showing your business, team or products. If no one in-house is a competent photographer, invest in professional photography. In most locales you can hire a professional photographer at rates starting at a few hundred dollars.

Videos are also excellent. So create a how-to video or one demonstrating your product, or of you welcoming visitors. Load it on YouTube or another video platform. Then embed the code to put it on your site.

5. Update Your Design to Current Standards

A website designed in 2005 will look dated compared with one designed in 2015. An outdated web design gives the impression your business is not up to date, either. It’s best to update the whole website. But if time and money are in short supply, at least redesign the homepage to create a great first impression. Update other pages later as time and money permits.

Contact your Web developer and ask for a homepage facelift. Or if you are a do-it-yourselfer, purchase a low-cost template -- you can buy a professionally designed template for under $100 from places like ThemeForest or TemplateMonster.

6. Improve Page Speed

If your home page loads slowly, visitors may never go beyond it. And very slow pages can even negatively affect rankings in search engines. Take the speed test here. The best part: you’ll get suggestions for how to improve the speed.

7. Make it Mobile Responsive

Last but certainly not least, today’s websites need to be viewable on mobile devices. This is especially true for local businesses where customers may be searching on a smartphone from their car for a business nearby. A website that is not set up for mobile devices can be negatively downgraded in search engine results. If you give your site a facelift, make sure the new design is “responsive,” meaning it is responsive enough to adjust to mobile devices. The same goes if you purchase a template. 

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.

Is Your Small Business Mobile Ready?

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: January 20, 2016

More and more people are browsing, shopping, and doing business on their phones and tablets. Currently, 11.3% of the digital population uses mobile only, compared to 10.6% desktop only use*. This may not seem significant now but these numbers will continue to grow as mobile capabilities advance and mobile devices become more and more integral to day-to-day life.  Seriously, if you are not mobile ready you are missing an opportunity to connect with mobile users who may be future customers and partners.

So how do you get started? You see, mobile is really about your audience. Here are some tips to help you get started.

Optimize Your Website

There are simple steps that you can take to optimize your website. Not all devices have flash capability. Not using it or working with a flash alternative will make your site more compatible with all mobile devices. Extremely high-resolution photos and colored backgrounds can also hinder viewing. Optimize your photos for the web, so that they don’t take forever to load. Chances are your audience is not going to wait for that. In the same vain colored backgrounds can hinder, not help the image download process, so keep it simple.

Now as far as responsive vs. adaptive, that really depends on what your users are coming to your mobile site for. (More about personas below). If you are going with adaptive you’ll need user personas to understand where and what content to put on your mobile site.

Keep Online Listings Up-to-Date

When I’m not in front of my computer the first thing that I do when I’m looking for a restaurant, shop, or business referral is check out online reviews.

Make sure you update all your business directory listings to include a simple description of your services, your hours of operation, your phone number, your address and a link to your website. Additionally if there are any other industry specific databases, make sure that your information is uploaded there as well.

Build Personas

Mobile users have different goals and content priorities than desktop users ​and many times they prefer different content formats ​than desktop users. Putting together personas will help inform your mobile strategy. As previously mentioned if you are using an adaptive template, user personas are essential for ensuring you have the right content. Your mobile site analytics should also inform your content decisions as well.

Take a look at your contacts and identify trends about how they find and consume your content. Did they request a quote through your website? Were they referred through a friend? Or did they find you online? Your website analytics will also help you sort out these questions.

When creating forms for your website, use form fields that will help you capture important persona information. Take into consideration your sales team's feedback on the leads they're interacting with most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?

Once you have all this information, identify patterns and use the personas to tailor your content.

*Source: comScore Media Metrix Multi-Platform, March 2015 (Traffic data captured by the platform)​

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor

Mark Your Calendar: Employer Tax Filing Deadlines

By BarbaraWeltman, Guest Blogger
Published: January 14, 2016 Updated: January 14, 2016

As an employer, you have various tax-reporting responsibilities. These responsibilities have expanded. What’s more, the deadlines for some filings have or will be changed. Here’s what you need to know.

W-2s

You must furnish to every employee who worked for your company during the year a statement of wages and certain benefits on Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement. You also have to send copies of all your W-2s to the Social Security Administration so it can log employees’ work credits for purposes of Social Security and Medicare eligibility.

Reporting for 2015 wages in 2016. The W-2 must be furnished to each employee or former employee no later than February 1, 2016. This deadline applies whether you give employees a paper form or send it to them electronically (after obtaining their prior permission to receive the form in this manner). You must send copies of all your W-2s, along with a transmittal, IRS Form W-3 (Form W-3SS  if filing paper copies), to the Social Security Administration. The deadline for paper forms is February 29, 2016. The deadline for electronic submissions is March 31, 2016.

Find details about sending the forms electronically from the Social Security Administration.

Reporting for 2016 wages in 2017. The form is the same. What’s different is your filing deadline. You must furnish the form to the employee or former employee and submit copies, along with the transmittal, to the Social Security Administration on the same date: January 31, 2017. This filing deadline applies whether you submit copies on paper or electronically.

1095s

Under the Affordable Care Act, employers have a new reporting obligation for health coverage in 2015. The purpose of providing information returns to employees is to enable them to determine their eligibility for the premium tax credit and whether they owe the shared responsibility payment for not having required minimum essential health coverage.

Employers with 50 or more employees must provide Form 1095-C to employees. They must also transmit copies of the forms, along with Form 1094-C, to the IRS. Employers with 50 to 99 employees use these forms even though they have no penalty for not providing coverage for full-time employees and their dependents in 2015. Smaller employers who have self-insured plans (e.g., health reimbursement arrangements) use Form 1095-B and 1094-B. If these smaller employers only have coverage for staff with insurance, there is no filing obligation; the insurer completes the form.

Deadline delayed. The filing deadlines for the forms and transmittal technically is the same as those for W-2s. However, because this is the first year of mandatory reporting, the IRS has postponed the deadline.  The applicable forms must be furnished to employees by March 31, 2016 (instead of February 1, 2016). They must be submitted to the IRS by May 31, 2016 (instead of February 29, 2016) if filed by paper, or June 30, 2016 (instead of March 31, 2016).

For information returns about 2016 coverage that are due in 2017, the same deadline for W-2s will apply (assuming the IRS does not again extend the deadline).

Penalties. If you fail to meet the deadlines, you can be penalized. However, the IRS has said it will consider whether you’ve taken reasonable steps to meet reporting requirements when determining whether to abate penalties.

940, 941, etc.

February 1, 2016 (January 31 is on a Sunday) is the deadline for submitting other employer filings:

  • Form 940, Employer’s Annual Federal Unemployment (FUTA) Tax Return
  • Form 941, Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return
  • Form 943, Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return for Agricultural Employees
  • Form 944, Employer’s Annual Federal Tax Return, which can be filed by small employers who have been notified by the IRS that they qualify to file this form rather than the quarterly 941

There are also state-level filings for employers. Check the requirements and due dates of these filings for your state.

If you fail to file on time, you can be penalized. However, the quicker you remedy the delinquency, the smaller the penalty will be.

Conclusion

If you handle payroll responsibilities in-house, make sure to mark your calendar for all filing obligations. If you use a CPA or outside payroll service, make sure that your required forms have been submitted on a timely basis.

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

Top 10 Traits of Successful Business People

By Marco Carbajo, Guest Blogger
Published: January 12, 2016 Updated: January 12, 2016

Setting out to become an entrepreneur requires a great deal of determination and hard work. You will need to set goals, take action, assess your progress, make adjustments, and have a clear financial map drawn out.

Motivational speaker, personal finance instructor, and self-help author Tony Robbins says, “Success leaves clues, and that people who produce outstanding results do specific things to create those results.” Regardless of your definition of success in business, there are common traits that are shared among many successful business people. Here are the top ten most common characteristics:

  1. Passionate – “If you just work on stuff that you’re passionate about, you don’t have to have a master plan with how things will play out” says Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Successful entrepreneurs aren’t driven by money, they are passionate about their idea, by the opportunity to solve a problem and make a difference.  
  2. CourageousStarting a business and accepting the fact that you will have challenges on the way takes courage. It shouldn’t surprise you that being fearless is a trait shared among many successful entrepreneurs. The good news is everyone has the capacity for being courageous. 
  3. Trustworthy – Building trust is paramount to the success of a business. Successful business owners know the value of building trust. They understand that people don’t invest in companies, they invest in people. Whether they are pitching an idea to potential investors or convincing a banker to issue a business loan or line of credit, successful entrepreneurs exemplify trustworthiness.
  4. Tenacious – Ever hear the expression the journey to success is a marathon not a sprint? Entrepreneurs who have achieved success are persistent and have that never give up attitude. They push through those times of uncertainty and tackle obstacles for years on end. “Timing, perseverance, and ten years of trying will eventually make you look like an overnight success,” says Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter.
  5. Accountable – Being accountable starts when you assume responsibility for the outcome of your actions. When it comes to accountability in business, successful business owners know the buck stops with them. Taking responsibility and being accountable for financial decisions you make or don’t make is the key to business success.
  6. Flexible – Be willing and prepared to wear many hats as an entrepreneur. You may need to jump into all aspects of your business. It’s all about being able to adapt, improvise and overcome any of the challenges you face as you grow your business.
  7. Confident – Entrepreneurs face doubt and fears throughout their entrepreneurial journey, not only from other people but also from themselves. It’s the successful entrepreneurs who have confidence when the going gets tough, and stick with it, that reach the highest level of success.
  8. Self-Disciplined – Being in business for yourself requires discipline since you’re the only one looking over your shoulder. Successful business people are notorious for staying on task and avoiding distractions. They work hard and long hours and continue to strive to take their business to the next level.
  9. Decisive – You’ll need to develop a comfort-level with uncertainty at times. Successful entrepreneurs work at gathering as much information as possible, and then make a move. They don’t sit around being indecisive; they are decision makers and get things moving in a timely and efficient manner. “The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing” says Walt Disney, co-founder of the Walt Disney Company.
  10. Forward thinking – Entrepreneurs see things so much differently than most people do. Where people see problems, they see opportunities. The most successful entrepreneurs all started with a great idea but most importantly had the mindset and vision to see that idea through. They are thinkers, innovators and doers that blaze a trail. Entire industries have started from ideas that others once thought were crazy. Some of our country’s most successful entrepreneurs are the most ambitious and creative people.

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’.

What to Consider Before You Price Your Products

By bridgetwpollack, Guest Blogger
Published: January 7, 2016 Updated: January 7, 2016

Pricing your products as you launch your small business? It may be worth taking a second look at your pricing strategy.

Sure, you could count your material costs and base your price on that alone, leaving yourself a small profit margin. But have you included the cost of your time and labor? How about transportation, shipping, and taxes?

A holistic approach is necessary to ensure the long-term viability of your business. Failure to consider the full scope of your pricing needs could mean smaller profits, a customer base that dwindles, or even that you might not get a paycheck.

Before you start printing price tags, consider taking an hour to explore a few pricing lessons. The SBA’s Introduction to Pricing self-guided course takes about 30 minutes and illuminates the impact of your pricing strategy on your overall business. SCORE’s Pricing Products and Services webinar lasts about an hour and reviews a variety of pricing scenarios you may encounter.

Whatever your product or service, here are a few items to remember when you’re considering your pricing strategy:

Research the market

Developing a pricing system that works for your business requires taking a critical look at both your competitors and your target market. What are customers willing to pay for what you have to offer? Checking out how much they’re paying at your competitors can help you figure out whether it’s best to compete on price, quality, or overall value.

Consider your sales method

Are you selling directly to customers, or wholesaling your products to retailers? Are you paying sales representatives, or closing deals on your own? Direct sales can ensure that more money stays in your business, but your product may have limited reach.

If you’re selling directly to customers, can they purchase online, or in-store only? If the former, you’ll want to consider the costs of shipping supplies in your pricing formula.

Consider value

If your product or service is unique, don’t feel pressured to lower your price. Instead, focus on the value of your unique product so potential buyers understand what they’ll get for their investment.

Avoid one-size-fits-all pricing

Think about how you like to purchase products or services. Can you offer packages and a la carte buying options for your customers? Having a variety of options ensures that customers find the right fit for them. In addition, offering a package at a slight discount can serve as a low-pressure opportunity to upsell.

Account for sales

If you plan to offer discounts during special promotions, anticipate those discount rates to make sure you won’t lose money during those periods. You may have to raise your prices slightly to account for any discounts offered.

Have a question about how to price your product or service? Call a SCORE mentor to talk through your pricing strategy.

About the Author:

bridgetwpollack
Bridget Weston Pollack

Guest Blogger

Bridget Weston Pollack is the Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the SCORE Association. She is responsible for all branding, marketing, PR, and communication efforts. She focuses on implementing marketing plans and strategies to facilitate the growth of SCORE’s mentoring and trainings services. She collaborates with SCORE volunteers and develops SCORE’s online marketing strategy.

Start the New Year Off Right: 5 Resolutions for Better Business

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: January 4, 2016 Updated: January 8, 2016

Happy New Year! While everyone is making a slew of personal resolutions it is time for you to make some resolutions to get your business on track. The New Year is the perfect time to reaffirm your business lifestyle and make changes for the betterment of your business. Here are a few tips and resources to help you get started and continue to make progress.

1. Hire New Employees the Right Way

If the New Year means new hires for your business learn more about the process from start to finish. Beginning with the job description all the way to making sure the lines of communication are open with clients and existing employees. The key to this resolution is transparency. Keeping the lines of communication open between all parties benefits everyone in the end.

New Year, New Hires – Growing Your Business With New Employees

2. Review Your Benefits Package

Tailor your benefits plans to the needs of your staff and to your pocketbook. Remember that health coverage and retirement plans are the top two most-valued employee benefits. Having a well thought out, robust plan can be a draw for gaining new employees and maintaining existing ones. Of course you must stay within your means, but reviewing your options before the enrollment period especially with a growing workforce is best.

New Year, New Benefits

3. Invest in Marketing

In the New Year it is time to upgrade your marketing efforts. Now is the perfect time to take stock of the previous year and set some new goals for this year. Investing a little more time and money can go a long way. Set a few goals and be sure to check in regularly to make sure you stay on track.

4 Smart Marketing Resolutions

4. Reach Out More

While your chugging along with day-to-day business it’s easy to forget about the smaller things that can make a real impact on your business. Take some time out to schedule things like networking and training for you and your employees.

Tips for Entrepreneurs

5. Get Serious About Expanding Your Business

There are a number of ways to expand your business. Learn how to decide what the right choice is for your business and how to get started.

Ideas for Growing Your Business

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor

6 Steps for Opening a Fitness Center

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: December 23, 2015 Updated: December 23, 2015

Getting fit and staying fit is a state of mind and an entrepreneurial opportunity. According to IHRSA, in the beginning of 2015 there were almost 35,500 U.S. Health clubs, which was up 6.4% over 2014. In 2014, this accounted for a total U.S. Industry Revenue of over $24 billion!

The success of the fitness center Industry has been fueled by many factors – not the least of which is the growing trend among the 80 million plus baby boomers who see staying fit and healthy as an absolute necessity and daily routine.  Also, attrition has gone down because members are reluctant to give up their health club memberships choosing to save money instead on big ticket items such as vacations – reaffirming the fact that “buying” fitness is no longer perceived as a luxury item but a fundamental part of our everyday lives.  

If you are interested in serving this large and ever growing market, below are some things to consider while starting your fitness business.

1. Do Your Homework

Before you get a loan and open your doors, do your market research. You will need this information for your business plan. SBA offers a guide to writing your business plan for help getting the foundation of your business built.

Two of the most important factors you will consider are:

Deciding on your Target Market

You will need to decide which group of people you will serve and how you will serve them. For instance, you may decide that your passion is in indoor cycling and your research shows that there is a need for indoor cycling studios in your target location. You can use free consumer demographic data available through SBA.gov for your research as you narrow down your target market.

Location, Location, Location

Having the right location for your fitness center can make or break your success. If you are difficult to get to or don’t have easy parking you may lose your members. Given that rent may be your biggest expense, finding the right place for the right price in critical. Read ‘Tips for Choosing Your Business Location’ to get more information and explore any additional information you may need.

2. Staffing Your Fitness Center

The next biggest expense after rent is staff costs. You may choose to hire your own fitness instructors, trainers, membership and maintenance staff. Each of these employee groups could be structured differently. Some as full-time employees, some as part-time employees and other as contractors. Choosing and managing this employee structure can be daunting as each has their own taxation and regulatory requirements.

Below are some resources to help you in this process:

3. To Hire or Buy Fitness Equipment?

With fitness technology evolving everyday, how do you balance expenses while still providing your members with the latest fitness equipment and technology. This will depend on your business goals and strategy. But to better understand the leasing process read “Leasing Business Equipment”.

4. Understand Your Financing Options

If traditional financing options aren’t for you, you may look to a government-backed loan. The Small Business Administration (SBA) provides a guaranty to banks and lenders for money lent to small businesses, rather than lending the businesses money directly. 

There are many different types of loans, including the SBA express loan that offers small businesses the chance to get an SBA-backed loan of up to $350,000 to start-up or expand. The “express” piece refers to the fact that your loan can be turned around in 36 hours. 

Read more about SBA loans here and even search for a business loan that fits your need using this small business loans and other financial assistance.

5. The Critical Steps to Starting A Business

Just like any other business, there are a few steps that every entrepreneur needs to take when starting a business. Make sure to have all your boxes checked before opening your doors. Read “10 Steps to Starting A Business” to ensure that you have covered all your bases.

6. Business Insurance

One last thing to ensure that you have covered is your business. Look into the insurance requirements for your state and the available insurance to protect you against workplace injuries and accidents. To learn more about Small Business Insurance read:

Additional Resources

The International Health, Racquet & Sports club Association (IHRSA) offers a wealth of information for fitness center owners including:

About the Author:

Mariama Bramble

Contributor

The Dos and Don’ts of Conducting Background Checks

By mbramble, Contributor
Published: December 16, 2015 Updated: December 18, 2015

There are many negative consequences of making the wrong hire. And you want to make sure that you have all the right information before you make the decision. Skipping out on this process can affect your employee’s morale, productivity and impact customer relations. Not to mention the cost of replacing experienced workers can be extensive.

There are many things you can do to ensure you make informed decisions and hire quality employees and one of them is to use background checks.

Of course if your employees work with children or in other care positions, it is worth doing the most extensive check possible and make sure you know what the state requirements are.

The most important aspects are to always stay within the law and to do your due diligence so that you don’t allowing hiring to become a headache.

Do conduct a pre-employment background check. A background check can also provide insight into an individual’s behavior, character, and integrity. Making the right hiring decisions for your company is critical to your business success.

Do conduct a criminal background check. To what extent, will vary state by state. Since it is not consistence you should consult with a lawyer or do further legal research on the laws of your state before exploring whether or not an applicant has a criminal past.

Do communicateIf and when you find something on a background check that may impact the decision to hire an applicant, you should — at a minimum — engage in a conversation with the applicant.

Do outsource to an agency to perform complete background checks. Great screening companies will do a far better job of locating the information you want. They have the experience and processes to be accurate and efficient. They also prevent you from viewing data that might be a violation of state or federal law.

Don’t run a limited search yourself. You can’t find everything online. So much of the concrete, legally obtained data for background checks can only be conducted by a licensed firm.

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Mariama Bramble

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